Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Christmas Read, Family Drama, Festive Read, Friendship, Romance, Romantic Comedy

Snowflakes Over Holly Cove Lucy Coleman 5*#Review @LucyColemanAuth @Aria_Fiction #festive #ChristmasRead #RomCom #Family #Friends #Author #Interview #BookReview #BlogTour

#SnowflakesOverHollyCove

As the snowflakes start to fall, Holly Cove welcomes a new tenant to the beautiful old cottage on the beach…

For lifestyle magazine journalist Tia Armstrong, relationships, as well as Christmas, have lost all their magic. Yet Tia is up against a Christmas deadline for her latest article ‘Love is, actually, all around…’

So, Tia heads to Holly Cove where the restorative sea air and rugged stranger, Nic, slowly but surely start mending her broken heart. Tia didn’t expect a white Christmas, and she certainly never dared dream that all her Christmas wishes might just come true…

Set in Caswell Bay on the stunningly beautiful Gower Coast, the cottage nestles amid the limestone cliffs and the woodlands, where the emotions run as turbulently as the wind-swept sea.

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

My Thoughts…

If, like me, you’re a reader who likes to empathise with the story’s characters, feel every emotion, and experience something magical as you turn the pages this is the story for you.

Christmas has always been important to Tia, even when her life is hard, Christmas is time to celebrate and escape. After the death of her mother, Tia struggles to come to terms with her loss. Her job is busy, and she hopes this will get her through the grief that threatens to destroy her. Her latest assignment has her living in a picture-perfect cottage by the sea, the setting is breathtaking, and straight away she feels its healing presence. Life gets complicated, and she still has Christmas to face, but will Tia emerge stronger at the end of this experience?

The vividly described coastal setting comes alive the first time Tia visits the beach you can feel the sea spray on your face and appreciate the power of the sea. The characters are varied and realistically portrayed, you can imagine having a conversation with them. The perfectly orchestrated romance is lovely and gentle and full of magic in this poignant, story of coming to terms with life’s setbacks and valuing family and friendships. There are many lighthearted moments to offset the heartaches, rather like life itself.

A festive read that you can enjoy all year long with characters to treasure in a perfect Christmas card setting.

Interview Questions  – Lucy Coleman – Snowflakes Over Holly Cove

Do you enjoy writing festive stories?  If so why?

I’m lucky enough to have some truly wonderful childhood memories of Christmastime and when I had a family of my own, naturally I wanted my boys to have that, too. So, after I married, the wider family always came to our house. One year we even had to take off a door and turn it into a makeshift second table to fit everyone in! Memories like that are why I love it whenever Christmas features in a story of mine – it’s a magical time.

Festive stories are often written out of season, to fit in with publishing schedules, how do you get in the festive mood in the Summertime?

It’s always Christmas in my heart, so it’s easy. This summer I’ve been walking around singing and humming Christmas tunes as I write my Christmas 2020 novel. My family don’t think that’s strange for me. It does, however, see me counting down the months and wishing I could pop up to the loft and get out the trimmings!

What inspired you to write this story?

Whilst Holly Cove is a fictional place, the setting is real. Walking the headland between Caswell Bay and Langland Bay on the Gower coast is where I go to de-stress and relax. My husband and I stayed there in an apartment overlooking the sea almost ten years ago now and felt a real connection to the place. Like a spiritual home. On one of our walks, the idea popped into my head and when I sat down to write it, it virtually wrote itself.

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

It varies. My ideas are usually inspired by a one-liner thought. For Snowflakes over Holly Cove, it was the setting and the sense of healing I always feel whenever I’m in Caswell Bay. I found myself imagining a cottage, nestled in a tiny cove beyond the bay. Tia Armstrong’s story is about learning to focus on the happiness life can bring and the way a community pulling together has the power to heal. Kindness is all around us, but at Christmastime, many people go out of their way to share the joy. And that’s special.

What are the best things about Christmas for you? Is there anything about the festive season you don’t like? Why is this?

I love trimming up. Our trimmings are new, though, as on a recent house move some black sacks containing them were mistaken for rubbish and taken to the tip! It was gutting at the time, although most of the hand-made decorations made by our boys when they were young had already been handed back to them to grace their own trees.

So, it was new house, new decorations and as I’m not one to get attached to things, it simply meant a hurried trip to the shops. I’m rather minimalist, anyway, so it didn’t break the bank.

However, I’m not big on Christmas presents, to be very honest with you. I think it’s great for the kids and I love shopping for them – that’s a big part of my Christmas buzz. But as for the adults, I’d rather give money so they can treat themselves.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

Having a hectic writing schedule, I don’t get as much time to read these days as I would like. But when I do relax with a book it has to have that ‘feel-good’ factor. With bad news constantly grabbing the headlines these days, the good news is often side-lined. I’m all about good karma and positivity, as a reminder that the good outweighs the bad. Acts of kindness are an inspiration and I’m all for a happy ending. There truly are a lot of those out there in real life and that’s a cause to celebrate!

What are you currently writing?

I’m a third of the way through my 2020 Christmas novel, so I’m in my happy place. But having flown off to Lisbon in May, that story is clamouring to be written. I need to keep stopping to scribble notes, as a new set of characters are making quite a bit of noise in my head. Guess I’m just going to have to write quicker!

Thank you so much for the invite, Jane – it’s always a real pleasure to be here!

#LucyColeman

Lucy lives in the Forest of Dean in the UK with her lovely husband and Bengal cat, Ziggy. Her novels have been shortlisted in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards. Lucy won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award

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Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance, Saga

Good Girls Amanda Brookfield 5*#Review @BoldwoodBooks @ABrookfield1 #BlogTour #Author #Interview #Extract #FamilyDrama #ComingofAge #Sisters #Secrets #Romance #Saga

GOOD GIRLS NEVER TELL TALES…

Everyone that meets Kat Keating is mesmerised. Beautiful, smart and charming, she is everything a good girl should be.

Her sister Eleanor, on the other hand, knows she can’t compete with Kat. On the awkward side of tall, clever enough to be bullied, and full of the responsibilities only an older sibling can understand, Eleanor grows up knowing she’s not a good girl.

This is the story of the Keating sisters – through a childhood fraught with secrets, adolescent rivalries, and on into adulthood with all its complexities and misunderstandings.  Until a terrible truth brings the sisters crashing together and finally, Eleanor begins to uncover just how good Kat really was.

Good Girls is a love story, a coming-of-age story, a mystery and a tear-jerker. But most of all it’s a reminder of who to keep close and who to trust with your darkest secrets. 

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

My Thoughts…

Two sisters, once close, but who have become estranged as they grew older. Eleanor, the older has her own reasons, but she’s never understood her sister Kat’s. Drawn together again, by a cruel stroke of fate, is it too late to reconnect?

This is an excellent family drama, with dark family secrets that devastate the once close sisterly bond. The story begins with Eleanor rushing to be with her sister, and them drifts back in time to the mid-1980s when they were young girls, and then the early 1990s, when Eleanor left for university.

The historical events slowly illuminate the present discord and misunderstanding, but all is not revealed until it is in some ways, too late to make amends. Serendipity plays a part in this story, as it often does in reality, and Eleanor gradually comes to terms with her past and the possibility of a hopeful future.

The cast of characters resonate, they all play a part in Eleanor’s life but have their own motivations and flaws, which makes them real. The story is realistically peppered with laughter, sadness, anger and despair. It is a poignant reminder that you cannot sometimes trust those closest to you, and of the rollercoaster nature of life.

An emotional family drama, with a realistic plot and memorable characters.

Author Interview – Amanda Brookfield – Good Girls

What inspired you to write ‘Good Girls’?

My original idea was to write about two sisters who are driven apart and then re-connected by the same man, deciding to get in touch by email after twenty years.  But then the story took off in a hundred other directions, as stories do!

What interests you about family drama? Why are stories about sisters so absorbing?

We all come from families of one kind or another – our upbringings forge us, whether we like it or not – and I love looking at the myriad ways we try to deal with that.  Sisters are a prime and rich example (I have two of my own!), being a relationship that is full of rivalries and ups and downs.  But there are also, always, the ties of love and loyalty that continue to bind us as siblings, long after we have gone our separate ways in the adult world.  This is a fascinating seam to explore as a novelist.

Dialogue is very important in a family drama story.  How do you make your dialogue realistic?

You can have the most gripping plot, but if the voices of the characters do no ring true then it will fall flat.  The way I work is to hear my characters speak inside my head.  In fact, often snatches of dialogue – of how my characters would communicate – arrive at unexpected moments when I am away from my desk, driving the car say, or walking the dog.  I have learnt to trust these snatches and write them down – it is my imagination working overtime, and 9 times out of 10 it is absolutely right.  I guess it is like being an actor, trying to get inside the psyche of a protagonist.

How do you create your characters?  What makes them believable and real?

Constructing a character is a bit like doing a jigsaw.  You decide what they look like, and where they live; what age they are and what they do for a living.  You give them hopes, hobbies and fears.  Then you throw events at them and see what they do!  If there is enough substance to your creations, enough humanity, the the way they behave under pressure will feel real and credible for the reader.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I read as widely as possible – mostly fiction, but also memoir, travel and some history.  I love being surprised by what I find on the page and always have my antennae up to learn new things, both creatively and factually.  If someone recommends a book to me passionately enough, then I will always give it a go!  I also try to avoid reading books that I think might be similar to whatever I am working on – I hate the idea of being influenced or feeling that someone has already gone where I am trying to go.

What are you currently writing?

I am halfway through a novel about a woman plucking the courage to leave her abusive husband – one of those subtle monsters that no one else knows about.  I am writing the story from my heroine’s point of view, so it has an intensity that feels new and exciting.  It is important for me to feel that each new writing project is stretching the boundaries of what I have done before.

Extract from ‘Good Girls’ – Amanda Brookfield
CHAPTER ONE
January 2013

Eleanor decided to take a taxi from the station, even though she knew it would cost ten precious pounds and mean a wait. Being so rural, only a handful of cars served the area, but she didn’t want to be a bother to Howard, her brother-in-law. She texted both him and Kat to say she would be there within the hour and stayed as warm as she could in the small arched station entrance. It was a cold, dank morning, not raining for once but with air like icy metal against her skin.

The taxi driver who pulled up some twenty minutes later exuded an attitude of reluctance that made Eleanor disinclined to make conversation. When they hit a tail-back, thanks to a loop round the old Roman bridge, still not fixed from the heavy flooding over the New Year, he thumped his steering wheel. ‘A bloody joke. We can land men on the moon and still it takes three weeks to fix a few old stones.’ Eleanor murmured agreement but found that she didn’t mind much. The fields on either side of the road were still visibly waterlogged. After the grimy mêlée of south London, it was a visual feast – ethereal, shimmering silver bands engraved with the black reflections of leafless trees and smudgy January clouds.

The usual criss-cross of feelings was stirring at being back in such proximity to the landscape of her childhood. Just twenty miles away, her father was a resident in a small care home called The Bressingham, which he had once included in his rounds as a parish priest, days long since lost to him through the fog of dementia. Howard and Kat’s substantial Georgian house was ten miles in the opposite direction, on the fringes of a town called Fairfield. They had moved from Holland Park seven years before, a year after the birth of their third child, Evie. At the time, Eleanor had been surprised to get the change of address card. She had always regarded her little sister and husband as life-long townies, Kat with her posh quirky dress-making commissions to private clients and Howard with his big-banker job. It was because they saw the house in a magazine and fell in love with it, Kat had explained at one of their rare subsequent encounters, in the manner of one long used to plucking things she wanted out of life, like fruits off a tree.

But recently life had not been so cooperative. A small tumour had been removed from Kat’s bowel and she was in bed recovering. Howard had reported the event earlier in the week, by email, and when Eleanor had got on the phone, as he must have known she would, he had said that the operation had gone well and that Kat was adamant that she didn’t need sisterly visits. No further treatment was required. She would be up and about in a matter of days. Their regular babysitter, Hannah, was increasing her hours to plug gaps with the children and he was taking a week off from his daily commute into the City. ‘But I am her sister,’ Eleanor had insisted, hurt, in spite of knowing better. ‘I’d just like to see her. Surely she can understand that.’ Howard had said he would get back to her, but then Kat had phoned back herself, saying why didn’t Eleanor pop down on Saturday afternoon.

‘Nice,’ said the driver, following Eleanor’s instructions to turn between the laburnums that masked the handsome red-brick walls and gleaming white sash windows and pulling up behind the two family cars, both black, one a tank-sized station wagon, the other an estate. He fiddled with his satnav while Eleanor dug into her purse for the right money. I am not the rich one, she wanted to cry, seeing the visible sag of disappointment on his sheeny unshaven face at the sight of her twenty-pence tip; I am merely the visiting elder sister who rents a flat by a Clapham railway line, who tutors slow or lazy kids to pay her bills and who has recently agreed to write an old actor’s memoirs for a sum that will barely see off her overdraft.

Howard answered the door, taking long enough to compound Eleanor’s apprehensions about having pushed for the visit. He was in a Barbour and carrying three brightly coloured backpacks, clearly on the way out of the house. ‘Good of you to come.’ Brandishing the backpacks, he kissed her perfunctorily on both cheeks. ‘Brownies, go-carting and a riding lesson – pick-ups in that order. Then two birthday parties and a bowling alley. God help me. See you later maybe. She’s upstairs,’ he added, somewhat unnecessarily. ‘

‘The Big Sister arrives,’ Kat called out before Eleanor had even crossed the landing. ‘Could you tug that curtain wider?’ she added as Eleanor entered the bedroom. ‘I want as much light as possible.’

‘So, how are you?’ Eleanor asked, adjusting the offending drape en route to kissing Kat’s cheek, knowing it was no moment to take offence at the Big Sister thing, in spite of the reflex of deep, instinctive certainty that Kat had said it to annoy. At thirty-eight she was the big sister, by three years. She was also almost six-foot, with the heavy-limbed, dark-haired, brown-eyed features that were such echoes of their father, while Kat, as had been pointed out as far back as either of them could remember, had inherited an uncanny replication of their mother’s striking looks, from the lithe elfin frame and flinty-blue feline eyes to the extraordinary eye-catching tumble of white-blonde curls. ‘You look so well,’ Eleanor exclaimed, happiness at the truth of this observation making her voice bounce, while inwardly she marvelled at her sibling’s insouciant beauty, utterly undiminished by the recent surgery. Her skin was like porcelain, faintly freckled; her hair in flames across the pillow.

‘Well, thank you, and thank goodness, because I feel extremely well,’ Kat retorted. ‘So please don’t start telling me off again for not having kept you better informed. As I said on the phone, the fucking thing was small and isolated. They have removed it – snip-snip,’ she merrily scissored two fingers in the air. ‘So I am not going to need any further treatment, which is a relief frankly since I would hate to lose this lot.’ She yanked at one of the flames. ‘Shallow, I know, but there it is.’

‘It’s not shallow,’ Eleanor assured her quietly, experiencing one of the sharp twists of longing for the distant days when they had been little enough and innocent enough to take each other’s affections for granted. They had been like strangers for years now in comparison, shouting across an invisible abyss.

#AmandaBrookfield

Amanda Brookfield is the bestselling author of 15 novels including Relative Love and Before I Knew You, and a memoir, For the Love of a Dog starring her Golden Doodle Mabel.  She lives in London and is currently a Visiting Fellow at Univ College Oxford. Her first book with Boldwood, Good Girls, will be published on 8th October 2019.

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Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Noir, Thriller

The Quiet Ones – Theresa Talbot 5*#Review @Aria_Fiction @Theresa_Talbot #Crime #InvestigativeJournalist #OonaghONeil #Thriller#BlogTour #bookreview #author #interview

If only someone had listened…

When the supposed suicide of famous Scottish football coach Harry Nugent hits the headlines, the tabloids are filled with tributes to a charitable pillar of the community that gave so much back to sport and to those less fortunate.

But something isn’t right. Normally celebrities are queuing up to claim to have had a very special relationship with the deceased, but investigative journalist Oonagh O’Neil is getting the distinct impression that people are trying to distance themselves from Harry.

Oonagh’s investigation leads her to uncover a heartbreakingly haunting cover-up that chills her to the core… and places her in mortal danger from those willing to protect their sadistic and dark secrets at any cost…

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

My Thoughts…

The third in the series of the investigative journalist, Oonagh O’Neil, novels, once again tackles a heinous crime that is currently topical. The grisly death of a high-profile football coach opens a dark and powerful web of lies and secrets that exist in plain sight, yet no one appears to care.

The appeal of this story is its authenticity and topicality. There is no gratuitous description in this story, but the themes are dark and hard to read about. The story follows Oonagh’s investigation into the football coach’s death, and what lies behind it. It leads her into some dark places, with frightened victims, and powerful culprits, who will stop at nothing to save themselves.

Oonagh is a clever and tenacious investigator, who uses her contacts ruthlessly, and her personal experiences to get to the truth. Her flaws and overuse of alcohol, make her relatable, and real, Given what she sees and experiences in the course of her investigations, it isn’t surprising she needs to forget sometimes.

The language and behaviour give the novel’s setting authenticity and the plot is cleverly twisted and layered with menace and suspense. The ending ties up the investigation well and concludes this disturbingly poignant story convincingly.

Author Interview -Theresa Talbot – The Quiet Ones

Interview Questions – Theresa Talbot

What are the inspirations behind your Oonagh O’Neil series, and this story in particular?

All three of my Oonagh O’Neil books have been inspired by real-life events. As a journalist, I’m particularly interested in those crimes committed in plain sight – institutionalised crimes and injustices where often no-one will ever be convicted. The Lost Children was the first in the series and came about after research I was doing on the Magdalene Intuition – for those readers unfamiliar with the Magdalenes, there’s a wealth of information online. But they effectively were asylums to house so-called ‘fallen women’. I’d discovered there had been one in Glasgow and once I started digging, I was hooked and formed a crime novel around the circumstances surrounding its closure. Keeping Her Silent was inspired by the tainted blood scandal – again a google search will lead you down a wormhole which will shock you. I interviewed one of the victims and the story was the perfect backdrop for a crime novel. This latest, The Quiet Ones, came about after a chance meeting with a Glasgow Taxi driver who had been instrumental in the conviction of a football coach who had been abusing boys in his care. There’s nothing graphic in the novel – we all know how horrific such cases are – rather the story focuses on how a public figure can evade justice for so long. We only have to look at the likes of Jimmy Saville & Jeffrey Epstein to know that this is sadly a reality. 

How did you create your Oonagh O’ Neil, investigative journalist character? Is she based on someone you know, an imaginative creation, or a little of both?

I’ve grown so fond of Oonagh. Given my background (I’m a freelance journalist with BBC Scotland) it was easy for me to create the character. She’s not based on me, but some people recognise certain traits and characteristics. I wanted to make her a real, flesh and blood character. She’s flawed, she gets things wrong, she’s a bit of a mess at times – but she has integrity and always fights for the underdog. Professionally she’s top of her game – personally, she’s a train-wreck. Too often we shy away from flawed female characters – but they exist in real life, and should exist on the page too. I named her after Charlie Chaplin’s last wife – the love of his life. He’s a hero of mine, so I stole her name and changed the spelling. 

How do you make your characters believable?

I teach creative writing workshops and this is my favourite topic. Characters have to be allowed to have flaws and make mistakes. Also, they need to be on a journey, developing as the storyline progresses. How they deal with conflict is crucial – what’s their motivation? What’s the story BEHIND their motivation? And finally, give them a voice. Each character has to have a unique way of speaking. Read the dialogue aloud. Does it drive the story forward, does it fit with the character’s motivation? All of this will help shape your characters. I know some of the advice suggests know everything about your character – birthday, favourite colour, child-hood pet etc… I make it up as I go along.. but I know what drives Oonagh. I know what makes her tick. I know why she doesn’t suffer fools gladly, I know why she drinks too much and pushes the self-destruct button now and again. She has dark hair – I put that in the first novel, but other than that it doesn’t really matter what she looks like. The reader can decide that – that’s a personal thing between the reader and the character – it’s really none of my business.  

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

For my first book, the character and the plot became intertwined very quickly. Initially, I suppose it was the seed of an idea surrounding a riot that closed the Magdalene asylum in Glasgow – then I had a female journalist investigate the story behind it. But the end story is nothing like what I imagined it to be. Now it’s the character – Once I had Oonagh as a fully formed character I had to find stories for her to investigate.

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

I’ve wanted to be a writer since my late teens. I came from a family of storytellers, and I love listening to stories and reading of course. As a journalist, I’ve written every day of my professional life for the past 25 years so moving into fiction was the best stage for me. Crime genre was I suppose the obvious one – most journalists turn to crime eventually!

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I love crime books, especially Scottish crime fiction – but they have to have well-developed characters and gripping storylines and be devoid of sexualised violence. I know sexual violence exists, but I abhor when violence is sexualised.   I also love black humour, slice of life and uplit. Anne Tyler is an old favourite that I need to revisit. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is simply wonderful, and anything by George Orwell. I recently read Anne Griffin ‘When All Is Said.’ It’s her debut novel and beautifully written. I think my taste can be described as eclectic.  

 What are you currently writing?

I’m mortified to say I started three new books in one month – despite advice from other author friends not to!  I still embarked on this utter madness until I realised I had to narrow it down. The other 2 have been put on ice for now, and I’m working on a standalone about a woman who was involved in a terrible accident and suffers from the most horrific survivor’s guilt. By the time you read this, I may have ditched that idea and resurrected the other 2 from the drawer!

Theresa Talbot is a freelance writer, journalist and radio presenter, perhaps best known as the voice of Traffic and Travel on BBC Radio Scotland and as the host of The Beechgrove Potting Shed. Prior to working with the BBC, she was with Radio Clyde and the AA Roadwatch team. Theresa worked in various roles before entering the media as an assistant in children’s homes, a Pepsi Challenge girl and a library assistant. She ended up at the BBC because of an eavesdropped conversation on a no.66 bus in Glasgow. Her passions include rescuing chickens, gardening, music and yoga. Twitter Facebook

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

The Bad Place M.K.Hill 4*#Review @markhillwriter @HoZ_Books @Aria_Fiction #PoliceProcedural #DISashaDawson #Author Interview #CrimeFiction #Essex #BookReview

The newspapers called it The Bad Place. A remote farm out on the Thames estuary, where six children were held captive for two weeks. Five of them got out alive.

That was twenty years ago. Now, adults, they meet up annually to hold a candlelit vigil for their friend who died. The only rule is that no-one can talk about what happened the night they escaped. But at this year’s event, one of them witnesses a kidnapping. A young girl, Sammi, is bundled into a van in front of their eyes.

Is history repeating itself? Is one of them responsible? Or is someone sending them a twisted message?

DI Sasha Dawson, of Essex Police, is certain that the key to finding Sammi lies in finding out the truth about The Bad Place. But she also knows that with every second she spends trying to unlock the past, the clock ticks down for the missing girl…

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

My Thoughts…

The recent trend in police procedurals, is towards female detectives, with a family. This reflects twenty-first-century policing and is a welcome change from the hard-boiled male detectives, who often come across as cliched and stereotypical. DI Sasha Dawson has reached her rank, by dedication, intelligence, sacrifice and tenacity. She is a mother and a wife, and like most professional women suffers from the constant guilt of juggling her home and work life.

The story plays out in dual timelines, one historic, which provides the story with its dramatic beginning. It introduces Sasha Dawson, as a probationary police officer. The second, present-day timeline, brings the survivors of a traumatic event together in an annual ritual. One witnesses an abduction, reminiscent of what happened to them, and the plot begins its shocks and twists to an unexpected conclusion.

This is a good police procedural, which allows the reader glimpses into the lives of the suspects, police and victims. This coupled with its flawed and realistic characters gives the story its authentic feel. DI Dawson is a compassionate woman who wants to make a positive difference, and this reflects in the story’s ethos.

A great start, to what promises to be an addictive series.

#MKHill

It’s nice to see you here, thanks for coming. 

I’ve been a journalist and an award-winning music radio producer. I worked for about five minutes in PR. But I write the Drake and Crowley thriller series now, which is just as well because I love writing. It’s my dream job.

If you enjoyed His First Lie or It Was Her, do get in touch. There are plenty of ways to do it! 

It’s nice to see you here, thanks for coming. 

I’ve been a journalist and an award-winning music radio producer. I worked for about five minutes in PR. But I write the Drake and Crowley thriller series now, which is just as well because I love writing. It’s my dream job.

If you enjoyed His First Lie or It Was Her, do get in touch. There are plenty of ways to do it!  Facebook Twitter Instagram

 Interview with – M.K. Hill- The Bad Place

Is this story inspired by a real event or an imaginative creation?

The Bad Place is all made up! I’m afraid my mind tends towards the dark and twisted. I wanted to write about a group of characters who went through a very traumatic experience together and who came out the other side, but who may – or may not – be responsible for the death of one of their own.

This story is the first in your DI Sasha Dawson series, what characteristics are important to include to make your detective memorable? Do they need to be likeable too?

My first priority when I sat down to write The Bad Place was to make Sasha likeable. A lot of police novels make their protagonists interesting by giving them a dark secret or addictions, or to make them driven and obsessed, and I really wanted to write about someone who was just, you know – nice. I love a dark protag myself, I’ve got my own maverick detective in DI Ray Drake, who has so far appeared in my novels His First Lie and It Was Her. But I really wanted to go in the opposite direction with Sasha and make her optimistic, friendly and respected by her team. Of course, Sasha isn’t perfect, she’s often distracted by her chaotic home life and her timekeeping ain’t so good. But she’s quietly determined and wants the best for people, she’s someone you’d really want on your side in a fix. We’re all attracted to compelling characters, but I don’t think nice people in detective fiction have to be boring, and Sasha (I hope) is proof of that.

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

I think it’s a combination of both. You need a good hook for a book – adult survivors of an abduction fear the kidnappings have started again – but if you’re writing a series you also need a cast of recurring characters that people can get to know over time. And because Sasha has more of a sunny disposition, it felt right to place her in a sunny place, which is why she and her team solve crime on the Thames estuary. That part of Essex has huge potential for lots of crime fictiony fun. Sasha’s second investigation will feature my version of a certain TV reality show phenomenon…

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

I love my life as an author and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I grew up reading genre fiction  – crime, fantasy and science-fiction – and always wanted to write a series of my own. It’s such a thrill – and frankly a relief – to be able to say I’ve delivered three crime books, with another one on the way. I write crime fiction because it’s the perfect way of setting a fire under the bottoms of my characters, getting them into massive trouble and then – sometimes, if they’re lucky – getting them out of it.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

I’ll read anything, really. I’ll always have a book or a device on me. I read a lot of crime, obviously, but I try to change it up. Recent reads include books by Lisa Jewell, Blake Crouch, Kate Atkinson, Rosie Walsh, Taylor Jenkins Reid and Jonathan Coe.

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

There are so many good things about being a writer. You can write what you want, where you want. You can drink a lot of coffee – the cafes in my local area have made a mint out of me. It’s fun and cathartic to send your characters to some very bad places. But you also have an important responsibility to your book. You carry it around in your head for a year or so, and at inopportune moments it will transmit to you from a deep place inside of you. And when it wants your attention, it will not be ignored, so prepared to get very distracted at all times of the day and night. In the middle of a conversation, say, or a movie or an important meeting.

Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Christmas Read, Family Drama, Festive Read, Friendship, Romance

Christmas Every Day Beth Moran 4*#Review @BethCMoran @BoldwoodBooks #FestiveRead #Christmas #BlogTour #Author #Interview #BookReview #bookbloggers

When Jenny inherits her estranged grandmother’s cottage in Sherwood Forest, she has nothing to lose – no money, no job, no friends, no family to speak of, and zero self-respect. Things can only get better…

Her grumpy, but decidedly handsome new neighbour, Mack, has a habit of bestowing unsolicited good deeds on her. And when Jenny is welcomed into a rather unusual book club, life seems to finally be getting more interesting.

Instead of reading, the members pledge to complete individual challenges before Christmas: from finding new love, learning to bake, to completing a daredevil bucket list. Jenny can’t resist joining in, and soon a year of friendship and laughter, tears and regrets unfold in the most unexpected ways.

Warm, wise, funny and utterly uplifting, what one thing would you change in your life before Christmas comes around?

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


My Thoughts…

Jenny sees the rundown cottage, she’s inherited from a Grandmother, she hardly knew, as a lifeline from her imploding life. Romance, family and career disintegrate just before Christmas and she needs somewhere to heal and start again.

The cottage has issues and on first acquaintance seems to reflect her shattered life, but with help from the village community, she starts to repair both. There are lots of great characters in this story, the villagers and the members of the unusual Christmas book club are believable and in most cases lovely.

Romance realistically isn’t the focus of this story, but where it occurs, it is gentle and born out of friendship. The festive atmosphere is evident and given a quirky twist by the Christmas book club.

Humorous, poignant, with a romantic sparkle, this is a good festive read, that leaves you with a warm Christmassy feeling.

Author Interview – Beth Moran – Christmas Every Day

Do you enjoy writing festive stories?  If so why?

Christmas Every Day is the first festive story I’ve written, but as my other books are spread over several months, I always make sure I include some lovely Christmassy scenes. It’s one of my favourite times of the year, so I have great fun creating the warm, joyful atmosphere, and of course, it’s always a time when something magical might happen!

Festive stories are often written out of season, to fit in with publishing schedules, how do you get in the festive mood in the Summertime?

I wrote a lot of the festive scenes for Christmas Every Day in a summer heatwave. To get in the mood I listened to Christmas music in my car, guaranteeing I ended up with a festive tune stuck in my head! I drink a lot of tea while writing, so I swapped to spicy chai tea with cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg in my favourite Christmassy mug. It was also a great excuse to spend ages admiring a lot of beautiful decorations, trees and all things festive on Pinterest!

Image Credit Beth Moran #GettingInTheFestiveMood

What inspired you to write this story?

I wanted to write about someone who had grown up in a cold, unfeeling family and ended up becoming part of one that was the complete opposite – warm, noisy, chaotic and bursting with love. I also walk a lot in Sherwood Forest, and had this picture in my head of a run-down, ramshackle cottage in the middle of the trees, and wondered how a woman would cope if she suddenly found herself living there.

As someone who loves books, I could easily spend way too much time reading about other people’s stories, rather than getting out there to live some stories of my own, so that was how the Christmas Book Club Challenge came about. But all that is just for starters – like any writer I’m nosy, and always picking up new ideas or overhearing snippets of conversation that get me thinking. I used to carry a pen and paper to jot down interesting ideas as they came to me, but now I just add them to the dozens of notes on my phone.

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

My books are mainly set in and around Sherwood Forest where I live – I think for me to write with authenticity I need to stick to places I know, and my life doesn’t currently allow for many research trips elsewhere! So usually it starts with a plot idea – how would someone react to this happening to them, or what if someone did this. Then I start asking a lot of questions about who this person is, and who they might meet, and what would happen next, and it goes on from there. I got the inspiration for my first novel, Making Marion, while I was camping in France. I had a random thought about how a campsite would be a great place for a wounded woman to hide away and heal for a while. I then start wondering about this person – who is she, and what is she running from? – and took it from there.

What are the best things about Christmas for you? Is there anything about the festive season you don’t like? Why is this?

I love so much about Christmas! These days, one of the best things is that my two eldest children come home from university, so the house becomes full of noise and laughter again. I’m a huge foodie, so really enjoy planning meals, shopping for ingredients and then cooking and baking it all. On Christmas Eve my mum and sister-in-law come over with my nieces, and we chop vegetables, make stuffing and do all the other prep for Christmas dinner for 10 people, while the cousins hang out together. So – I suppose food and family, and all our quirky traditions that have built up around them are the best things. I think the only thing I don’t like is all the mess afterwards!

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

As a writer, I try to read a variety of different genres. I grew up reading my dad’s crime and thriller books and was a real Tolkien geek. Since then I’ve broadened into women’s fiction – I love how Cathy Lamb and Kristan Higgins write books that make you laugh one page and cry the next. I also became a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books several years ago – I love the detailed history, and how she’s written a powerful love story that takes places over several decades. Of course, I love a good festive read, and every December treat myself to Karen Swan’s new Christmas book. Generally speaking, I will give most things a go as long as they don’t leave me feeling too depressed afterwards!

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

The best thing is when other people let me know how much they’ve enjoyed one of my books. One of my greatest treats in life is discovering a new author who keeps me reading far too late into the night because I can’t put a book down, those books that make our hearts swell and our spirits soar. Knowing that what started out as a hopeful jumble of ideas in my head has become one of those books for someone else is priceless, and such a huge joy. I consider myself very blessed to get to do this for a living.

The worst thing is probably the inevitable moments of doubt. I take months to write the first draft, and in all that time no-one else reads the book apart from me, so when I hit a plot snag, or a character won’t behave themselves, it can be easy to get discouraged. That’s when the messages from people telling me they love my books become so helpful in motivating me to stop faffing about on the internet and get back on it!

What are you currently writing?

I’m currently writing a book about someone who as a teenager was a sporting celebrity, and then gave it all up for a man who promptly dumped her. She’s spent thirteen years raising her son alone while battling agoraphobia and crippling shame, but thanks to a scary invitation, a fabulous running club and a very lovely personal trainer, things are about to change…

#BethMoran

Beth Moran is the author of three previous books, including Making Marion. She regularly features on BBC Radio Nottingham and is a trustee of the national women’s network Free Range Chicks. She lives on the outskirts of Sherwood Forest.

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Posted in Author Guest Post, Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Festive Read, Friendship, Parenting and Famlies

One Day In Winter Shari Low 5*#Review @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books @sharilow #festive #relationships #serendipity #marriage #parents #children #secrets #lies #Paperback

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

My Thoughts…

I love stories that have an element of serendipity, and this story of four people, seemingly unconnected, is an engaging read. It follows Caro, Cammy, Lila and Bernadette through 24 hours just before Christmas. Some of the characters feature in other books, so if you are a fan of this author, like me, you may recognise them.

The day is divided into time slots, and each of the four main protagonists has a chapter within. As the story progresses, the reader realises they are connected, and eventually so do they. All of the main characters are complex and realistic. Some have more flaws than others, but they are all relatable, and most are easy to empathise.

The plot is cleverly written, it all fits together and the coincidences are realistic. Coupled with the beautifully written characters, the emotion and poignancy of the story make this is a page-turner that you won’t easily, put down.

The ending is satisfying, it fits, and everyone gets the outcome they deserve.

Guest Post – Christmas Blog Shari Low – One Day In Winter

Confession time! I’m one of those people who has a Countdown To Christmas clock and I check it regularly. Please don’t judge me. I know that I’m supposed to harrumph in disapproval at the frivolity and commercialisation of the festive season, but the truth is I love every flashing-elf-hat, neon-reindeer-on-my-roof, pass-me-a-red-hankie-because-I’m-going-to-watch-It’s-A-Wonderful-Life moment of it.

I embrace the tat and naffness of the season because I absolutely believe that there is no day that isn’t made better by a Santa snow globe.

On the first of December, I break out my favourite Christmas sweatshirt – the one that announces in large letters that I’m a Gangsta Wrapper.

I know the names of all the reindeers: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, Rudolph, Argos, Visa and Mastercard.

And now that my two little yuletide thespians have flown the nest (one who delivered a memorable performance as the third sheep from the left, and the other who had a starring role as that well known Biblical character, Humph the Camel), the younger members of my extended family know that I’m a shoo-in for a ticket and some enthusiastic audience participation if they invite me to their nativity play.

But my very favourite pastime during the season of goodwill? Deck the halls with big blooming piles of Christmas novels.

When I decided to write my first December-time book, One Day In Winter, I knew that I wanted to write stories that came together like a big pile of surprises under a tree. 

The novel follows four characters over the course of a 24 hour period on the Friday before Christmas. Caro sets off on a quest to find out if her relationship with her father has been based on a lifetime of lies. Lila decides to tell her lover’s wife of their secret affair. Cammy is on the way to pick up the ring for a proposal to the woman he loves. And Bernadette vows to walk away from her controlling husband of 30 years. As the hours’ pass, their lives intertwine and connections are revealed, with lots of shocks, twists and dramas along the way.

When it first came out in ebook, One Day In Winter was a number one bestseller, so I’m thrilled that it’s now being released in a glossy, shiny, gorgeous paperback.

I hope readers will love it because it makes them laugh, cry and captivates them from beginning to end.

And the extra little gift that the book delivers?

After the last page is turned, it makes the perfect stand for that Santa snow globe.

One Day In Winter is published by Aria in ebook and paperback.

Extract From One Day In Winter – Shari Low

When Gran and Granda passed away, their house had been left jointly to Mum and her sister, Auntie Pearl. When Auntie Pearl married and moved out, they’d worked out a rental agreement and Mum had stayed behind, living on her own until she’d met Jack Anderson at college, got pregnant, married him and he’d carried her over the threshold into the home she’d already lived in for twenty-two years.

Not that Caro could ever remember him being there full-time. He probably was for the first few years, but then he’d capitalised on the oil boom, and ever since then he’d been gone more than he’d been home. Some months he’d be home for a few days, sometimes two weeks, rarely more. She’d never felt neglected or that she was losing out in any way. It was what she’d always been used to and, as Mum always said, just one of the sacrifices they had to make because Dad had a Very Important Job.

The payback for the sacrifice? A couple of years ago, just as her parents should have been starting to contemplate cruises and bucket lists for their early retirement, Jack Anderson had walked out of the door to go to his Very Important Job and he’d never come back.

Caro felt the familiar inner rage start to build now and she squashed it back down. He’d left them a week before her thirtieth birthday, so she was old enough to process her parents splitting up by some mutual consent. Yet she couldn’t. Because it wasn’t mutual and he’d bolted when her mother had needed him most, walked out to a new life and he hadn’t looked back.

For a long time, Caro didn’t understand why.

Only now, did she realise that on the Importance scale, the job was up there with his Very Important Secret.

Maybe.

She still didn’t believe it to be true.

She must be wrong.

Mistaken identity.

Surely?

Yet, here she was, sitting on a train, on a cold December morning, on her way to Glasgow.

She pulled her iPad out of her satchel, logged on to the train’s Wi-Fi, then flicked on to the Facebook page she’d looked at a thousand times in the last few weeks.

It was one of those coincidental flukes that had taken her to it in the first place.

It had been late at night, and she’d been sitting beside her mum’s bed in the hospital, feeling like she’d been battered by the storm that was raging outside. She shouldn’t even have been there because it was outside of visiting time, but the nurses overlooked her presence because her mum was in a private room at the end of a corridor, and they made exceptions when it came to patients at this stage in their lives. Yvonne’s eyes were closed, her body still, but Caro wanted to stay, whether Yvonne knew she was there or not. It was the first night of the October school holiday, so she didn’t have to get up early to be the responsible Miss Anderson for a class of eleven-year-olds the next morning.

Instead, she could just be Caro, sitting there passing the time catching up with Facebook. She only dipped in and out of it every few weeks, caught up with a Carpool Karaoke, the launch of a new book, or maybe a movie trailer.

A promotional link appeared for the new Simple Minds tour, twenty dates around the country, yet another band riding the nostalgic affection for the eighties and nineties.

Before she could stop it, the opening bars of Jim Kerr’s voice belting out ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’ flooded her head and she felt the bite of a sharp-toothed memory. Her dad had been a big fan, their music playing alongside Oasis and Blur on his CD player when he was home or in the car on the few mornings he was around to take her to school, and that had been his favourite song.

The irony in the title didn’t escape her. Don’t You Forget About Me. If only she could forget he ever existed, then she wouldn’t have to deal with the soul-sucking fury that he wasn’t here.

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Shari Low is the No1 best-selling author of over 20 novels, including One Day In Winter, A Life Without You, The Story Of Our Life, With Or Without You, Another Day In Winter and her latest release, This Is Me

And because she likes to over-share toe-curling moments and hapless disasters, she is also the shameless mother behind a collection of parenthood memories called Because Mummy Said So. 
Once upon a time she met a guy, got engaged after a week, and twenty-something years later she lives near Glasgow with her husband, a labradoodle, and two teenagers who think she’s fairly embarrassing except when they need a lift.

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.

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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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