I received a copy of this book from SilverWood Books in return for an honest review.
Based on a true crime, although ‘The Birthday House’. is a fictional interpretation of the events before, during and after the tragedy. The characters too are fictional, although the author did know the young girl who was murdered.
This is a short story, but it has depth and impact, more so because this is based upon a real, historical crime. Told from the viewpoints of the people involved it paints a picture, which is both poignant and inevitable. The housekeeper, who made the discovery, and its aftereffects on her. The wife, the child, the friend, the child’s best friend, the husband, who committed such a grievous atrocity, and the grandmother left only with her memories and regrets.
The story reads well, drawing you into the 1950s Dartmouth community. There is something fatalistic about it, so many opportunities to circumvent the eventual tragedy, but still, it happened. A well-written thought-provoking story,
I started writing in a red shiny exercise book
when I was seven years old. But in that time and place it was an ‘invalid’
activity, was overlooked, but never went away. It was many years before I felt
able to call myself ‘writer’.
But there came a day when the phrase ‘I am a
writer’ no longer sounded pretentious, but legitimate, and even necessary. Was
it because I had a writing room instead of the corner of a landing? Or because
I spent more time writing? Or because I’d got better at it? Or because I get
miserable and bad-tempered if I don’t write? Probably a combination of all of
Writing is my third career. The first was as a social worker with children and families, a job I loved but left because I could no longer cope with the system.
This led to a freelance career as an
independent management consultant, helping people to handle emotions in the
work context. I worked in the IT industry, in companies large and small, as
well as public organisations. Later I became involved in research projects
concerned with the multi-disciplinary approach to social problems such as child
abuse. So, in a sense, I had come full-circle.
All these experiences feed into the process of
writing fiction, while my non-fiction book ‘The Wise Woman Within’ resulted indirectly from the consultancy
work and my subsequent PhD thesis,‘Bridging Incommensurable
Paradigms’, which is available from the School of Management at the
University of Bath.
I live in Devon and visit Cornwall frequently
and these land and seascapes are powerful influences which demand a presence in
Writers’ groups and workshops are a further
invaluable source of inspiration and support and I attend various groups
locally and sign up for creative courses in stunning locations whenever I can.
I try doing writing practice at home but there is no substitute for the focus
and discipline achieved among others in a group.
I have written some short stories and recently signed up for a short story writing-course to explore this genre in more depth.
I live with my husband in South Devon and
enjoy being involved in a lively local community.
Buried in a woodland grave are a mother and her
child. One is alive. One is dead. DC ‘Charlie’ Stafford is assigned by her
boss, DI Geoffrey Hunter to assist with the missing person investigation, where
mothers and children are being snatched in broad daylight.
As more pairs go missing, the pressure mounts. Leads are going cold. Suspects are identified but have they got the right person? Can Charlie stop the sadistic killer whose only wish is to punish those deemed to have committed a wrong? Or will she herself unwittingly become a victim. like stories that keep you on the edge of your seat then this is for you’ ‘Kept me guessing right up to the end’
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is a powerful crime based thriller with a likeable female detective, and an authentic setting and details. The story features some unpalatable scenes, which I did not enjoy reading. They are however essential to the progression of the characters and the plot but be warned this is not an easy book to read.
The detail and the plot are well- written and the pacing fast and suspenseful. There are many criminals at work and a multitude of crimes for DC Charlie Stafford and her colleagues to solve. The characters are realistic, although as you would expect in this type of story not always likeable. The plot is well thought out and believable and it’s difficult to solve the crimes.
A suspenseful, menacing crime thriller with authentic police procedures and believable characters and plot, worth reading.
Guest Post – Sarah Flint:- The Power of Paperbacks
As a child,
one of my favourite trips was to the local library in Carshalton. It’s only a
small village library and I was allowed to walk there alone from quite a young
age. I would regularly take out my maximum four books to be read avidly in my
allotted time. The children’s library was always fun and noisy with regular
clubs and other activities – but the adult library was almost completely silent
– and it was with wonderment and reverence that I was occasionally allowed to
It opened up a whole new world to me, a world that
looked, sounded and smelt different; one where adults would glide silently between
rows of colourful, well-thumbed books, that in turn opened up the world to
It is a sphere that children still love to inhabit, if
we, as adults give them the chance.
Physical books are visual, inviting, and appeal to the
senses. If they are placed in shop windows, or at the entrance to transport
hubs, you cannot help being drawn to them, wondering whether they can transport
you to a place far away from the mundane.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my kindle too, but there can be nothing better than curling up on a sofa with a glass of wine – or in bed with a mug of hot chocolate, or, even better, on a sun-lounger with a cocktail in hand – and starting to read the opening sentences of a new book. The initial pages are turned rapidly, slowing slightly as the story ebbs and flows until the chunk of pages on the right-hand side grows thinner and thinner and the speed at which it disappears hastens to a sprint finish. When that final line is read and the covers of the book snap shut, the satisfaction is palpable. The book moves on, into the hands of the next person, on to the shelves of a hotel, a charity shop, a second-hand book shop. I’ve even seen old telephone kiosks decked out as ‘bring and borrow’ libraries.
It is hugely gratifying and addictive to hear about a
great read and then actually have the means in your hands to share in its
Technology is fantastic and has opened the doors,
particularly for the younger generation, to so many different experiences – but
nostalgia is still alive and kicking. People still love the feel of a book in
their hands, the sight of a classic car trundling down the road, the crackling
melody of an old 78 rpm record revolving on a deck.
I am a child of the 60s. I have watched the world change and develop beyond belief in the last fifty years and I embrace technology because it is the way forward, but sometimes it does feel a little insular. So many people are glued to their mini screens these days that communication becomes impossible. The back of a Kindle or laptop gives no insight into the world within it, whereas the cover of a book entices people to enter and devour its contents.
I will never forget the sight of my sister’s paperback on the shelf of my local supermarket; how excited I was to see a customer pick it up! I wanted to shout out loud that my very own sister had written it. It was exactly the motivation I needed to try writing myself, and I have never looked back. I love eBooks because they are so accessible, transferrable and straightforward, but my dream has always been to get on to a train or a bus, enter a cafe or station and see somebody reading one of my books. That is why it means so much to me, to be published in paperback.
With any luck, that wish might soon be granted!
Judging by the latest
development, maybe it hadn’t been going as well as he’d claimed.
Charlie checked which member of the office had dealt with the family. It was Colin. His desk was the other side of the room to hers. She got up to speak to him. He was the straight, white, middle-aged male member of their team, similar in age to Bet but as opposite, in every other way as was possible. He was divorced and now single, with barely any access to his two children, who had been taken off to Ireland by a vindictive ex-wife years ago. Thin, tight-lipped and sad, he had a dry sense of humour and made it his business to look after the rights of all fathers and their children. He worked tirelessly with social services, going above and beyond what was normally required to ensure each child could know both parents. Charlie fully expected to see him on TV one day, dressed up as Superman swinging from Big Ben. What he didn’t know about family law was not worth knowing.
He was poring over his
computer screen, his face serious.
‘Colin, have you got a
He looked up and nodded.
‘Do you remember dealing
with a family called the Hubbards? Quite recently?’
He leant back frowning,
before rubbing his chin with thin fingers.
‘Yes, I do. It was a
couple of months ago.’ He scratched his chin again. ‘If I remember rightly,
Julie Hubbard, the wife, had her wrist broken by her husband. She said she’d
tripped and broken it in a fall but then refused to co-operate any further. One
of their sons, Richard, said that his father had done it.’
‘I think I know who I’d
He shrugged. ‘Everyone
thought the same, but what can you do? Richard phoned the police each time. He
wanted to give evidence but Julie refused to let him and he did everything his
mother asked. With just the one juvenile son as a possible witness, it was
pretty much impossible to prove. Why do you ask?’
Charlie thought about
what Colin had just said. For a young boy, Richard had certainly been brave,
going up against his dad like that. The kid was protecting his mother in
whatever way he could. Maybe Keith had started bullying him too because he
resented the way he defended his mum. Maybe that was why Julie left and had
only taken him. Ryan was certainly less vocal. Maybe Ryan was safe and she’d
only had the time and resources to take one? There were too many maybes.
‘Because Julie and
Richard Hubbard are the mother and son that have gone missing.’
Colin frowned and shook
‘Really? Though I have
to say I’m not surprised. I always thought there was something strange going
on. The boy would plead with his mum to leave his father, but she just
wouldn’t; it was as if she had another agenda. On the last occasion I saw them,
Richard was literally begging her to leave Keith, but she whispered something
to him that I couldn’t hear and he shut up straight away and seemed happier. I
wouldn’t be at all surprised if she’d been waiting until the time was right.’
‘But why not take the
other son, Ryan, too?’
‘He kept out of it
really. Didn’t want to get involved. I think he sided with his father a bit
‘So did he have a good
relationship with Keith then?’
‘He probably had to
because he didn’t have as close a relationship with his mother as Richard did.’
‘So what would be your
gut feeling? Do you think Keith Hubbard could be responsible for Julie and
Colin pursed his lips
and looked straight up at Charlie.
‘I wouldn’t like to say.
He is a nasty bastard and could easily have done something, but you know what
some women are like. It wouldn’t surprise me if Julie Hubbard hadn’t been
planning this all along.’
With a Metropolitan Police career spanning 35 years, Sarah has spent her adulthood surrounded by victims, criminals and police officers. She continues to work and lives in London with her partner and has three older daughters.
Vicki’s husband Daniel once promised to love her in sickness and in health. But after a brutal attack left her suffering from epilepsy, he ran away with his mistress.
So when Vicki gets a call one day to say that he’s missing, her first thought is ‘good riddance’. But then the police find evidence suggesting that Daniel is dead. And they think Vicki had something to do with it.
What really happened on the night of Daniel’s disappearance?
And how can Vicki prove her innocence, when she’s not even sure of it herself?
A suspenseful psychological thriller, whose complicated plot and characters keep you enthralled and guessing right to the end. Told from multi-points of view the story demands concentration, but it’s worth the effort.
Vicki lives on a precipice, her past continually haunts her, and her health makes normal life difficult. The reasons for her emotional damage become clear as the story progressed and coupled with her life-altering condition, make her an unreliable protagonist. Is she telling the truth? Does she know what really happened? Does she have an agenda the reader is unaware?
Scarlett is a tragic character, the catalogue of misfortunes that she suffers are heartrending and delivered with authenticity and sensitivity underpinned by careful and detailed research. Scarlett’s relationship with her mother is key to her plight.
Helen is a catalyst for the book’s final chapters, she is streetwise and driven, but her motives are not immediately apparent.
The plot has numerous twists, it’s like sailing on a ship in a rough sea, just when you think you know what’s happening, another piece of information is dropped in, and you lose your way. What makes this a compelling psychological thriller is that the female protagonists are ordinary, strong women who are faced with terrible choices and outcomes. They are easy to empathise, and you want them to find peace of mind and happiness.
I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK, Viking via NetGalley in return for an honest review.