Posted in Book Review, Crime, Family Drama

4* #Review – Dead Guilty – Helen H.Durrant @JoffeBooks @hhdurrant #crime #thriller #CalladineandBayliss

Detective Calladine and Bayliss hunt for a missing child in a mystery with a shocking ending. Sophie Alder is the three-year-old daughter of local factory owner, Richard Alder. Richard and his wife Annie are locals from the rough housing estate who’ve made it big. Plus, there’s a crime wave in Leesworth and the police can’t cope. One thief even dares to break into Calladine’s house. A number of local men have formed a vigilante group. On one of their patrols, they catch the burglar and he ends up dead. The investigation is complicated and the detectives keep hearing about a shadowy figure called “Street,” the mastermind behind the increase in drugs and theft. With two more murders and Calladine’s personal life in turmoil, the detectives’ race against time to find “Street” and the missing child. In an ending with a huge twist, the detectives find everything they believed is turned upside down.

DEAD GUILTY is book nine of a new series of detective thrillers featuring D.S. Ruth Bayliss and D.I. Tom Calladine.

THE DETECTIVES Tom Calladine is a detective inspector who is devoted to his job. His personal life, however, is not so successful. Having been married and divorced before the age of twenty-one has set a pattern that he finds difficult to escape. Ruth Bayliss is in her mid-thirties, plain-speaking but loyal. She is balancing her professional life with looking after a small child.

THE SETTING: The fictional village of Leesdon on the outskirts of an industrial northern English city. There is little work and a lot of crime. The bane of Calladine’s life is the Hobfield housing estate, breeding ground to all that is wrong with the area that he calls home. DISCOVER YOUR NEXT FAVOURITE MYSTERY SERIES NOW THE CALLADINE & BAYLISS MYSTERY SERIES Book 1: DEAD WRONG Book 2: DEAD SILENT Book 3: DEAD LIST Book 4: DEAD LOST Book 5: DEAD & BURIED Book 6: DEAD NASTY Book 7: DEAD JEALOUS Book 8: DEAD BAD Book 9: DEAD GUILTY THE DCI GRECO BOOKS Book 1: DARK MURDER Book 2: DARK HOUSES Book 3: DARK TRADE Book 4: DARK ANGEL 

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

So, I’ve found this crime thriller late on into the series. ‘Dead Guilty’, is book nine in the Calladine and Bayliss set of novels, but it reads well as a standalone. The crime and detection are completed within this book, and the necessary backstory for the main characters is carefully woven into the story.

Calladine and Bayliss are a likeable detective team, Believable characters they both have flaws and personal lives that cause them problems, but they are clever, dedicated professionals and work well together with a small team of interesting characters. This story covers a wide range of topics; child abduction, drug trafficking, corruption and murder. The plot is easy to follow, but complex, with many suspects, lots of false leads and an authentic, menacing ethos, as crime escalates to unmanageable proportions.

Did I identify the antagonist? Yes, I did, but not immediately. Although this story deals with gritty crimes, it is an enjoyable easy read, something for a lazy afternoon in the garden or the beach.



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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Family Drama, Noir, Psychological Thriller

Have You Seen Her – Lisa Hall #BlogTour @HQStories @LisaHallAuthor 5* #Review #Extract #PsychologicalThriller

Bonfire Night. A missing girl.

Anna only takes her eyes off Laurel for a second. She thought Laurel was following her mum through the crowds. But in a heartbeat, Laurel is gone.

Laurel’s parents are frantic. As is Anna, their nanny. But as the hours pass, and Laurel isn’t found, suspicion grows.

Someone knows what happened to Laurel. And they’re not telling.

Amazon UK

Waterstones

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

My Thoughts…

Everyone has secrets, in this fast-paced psychological thriller. Easy to read, it has a compelling plot, with many twists, and whilst there are clues, many of these just lead the reader astray, rather than focusing on the true antagonist.

A child abduction, has a profound effect on the parents, the child’s nanny and the community as a whole. This story is authentically written, with believable police procedures, and community involvement.

Against this setting, the story reveals two parents, who are riddled with guilt and secrets. A nanny, who is not what she seems to be, and three strangers whose behaviour is suspect.

Suspense is built up slowly and intertwined with an omnipresent sense of menace. There are no graphic descriptions in this, but the inference is there, and the reader fears for the child’s safety.

Anna is a well-written unreliable protagonist, she is hiding and keeping secrets, but she appears devoted to the child, so can her point of view be trusted? Fran and Dominic, the parents are career-driven and self-absorbed.

The final chapters have many revelations, and the ending is both, a moral dilemma and a triumph.

Extract from ‘Have You Seen Her’ – Lisa Hall

PROLOGUE

The fire crackles as the flames leap into the frigid November air, sending out showers of sparks. The wooden pallets that have been piled high by volunteering parents, eagerly giving up their Saturday afternoon, crumple and sag as they burn. The guy – the star of this cold, clear Bonfire Night – is long gone now, his newspaper-stuffed belly and papier mâché head only lasting a matter of seconds, the crowd cheering as his features catch alight, feeding the frenzy of the flames.

My breath steams out in front of me, thick plumes of white that match the smoke that rises from the bonfire, but I am not cold, my hands are warm and my cheeks flushed pink. The crowd of parents, teachers and children, five or six deep in some places, that gathers in the muddy field behind the school are transfixed as the first of the fireworks shoots into the sky, before sending a spectacular display of colours raining down through the night air. I watch as she keeps her gaze fixed onto the display, the heat of the bonfire casting an orange glow across her features, her hat pushed back on her head, so her view isn’t obstructed.

For a moment I feel a tiny twinge of guilt – after all, none of this is really her fault – before I remember why I’m doing this, and I bat it away impatiently. All I need to do now is wait. Wait for the realisation to dawn on her face, for the fear to grip her heart and make her stomach flip over as she realises what has happened. For her to realise that Laurel is gone.

CHAPTER 1

‘Here.’ Fran thrusts a polystyrene cup of mulled wine into my hand, fragrant steam curling into the cold November air. I don’t drink – not even cheap mulled wine with the alcohol boiled out of it – something I’ve told her repeatedly for the past three years that I’ve worked for her as a nanny, but she never takes any notice.

‘Thanks.’ I cup my hands around the warm plastic and let the feeble heat attempt to thaw out my cold fingers. Another firework shoots into the air, blue and white sparks showering across the sky, and a gasp rises from the crowd. Fran sips at her wine, grimacing slightly, before pushing her hat back on her head so she can see properly. She fumbles in her pocket, drawing out a slightly melted chocolate bar. ‘I got this for Laurel,’ she says, the foil wrapper glinting in the reflected glow from the giant bonfire behind the cordon in front of us.

‘Laurel?’ I say, frowning slightly. Laurel is a nightmare to get to bed if she has sweets this late in the evening, Fran knows that. Although, it’ll be my job to tussle Laurel into bed all hyped up on sugar, not Fran’s. I glance down, expecting to see her tiny frame in front of us, in the position she’s held all evening. She dragged us to the very edge of the cordon as soon as we arrived at the field behind the school, determined that we wouldn’t miss a second of the Oxbury Primary School bonfire and fireworks display.

‘Yes, for Laurel – you know, my daughter,’ Fran says impatiently, thrusting the chocolate towards me. She follows my gaze, and frowns slightly, biting down on her lip, before she opens her mouth to speak. ‘Where is she?’

I turn, anxiously scanning the crowds behind us, the faces of parents, family members and teachers that have all come out in their droves to watch the display. Laurel isn’t there. She isn’t in front of me, in the tiny pocket of space she carved out for herself, and she isn’t behind me either. I turn back to Fran, trying to ignore the tiny flutter in my chest.

‘I thought she went with you?’ I say, the cup of mulled wine now cooling quickly in the chilly night air, a waft of cinnamon rising from the cup and making my stomach heave. ‘With me?’ Fran’s eyes are wide as she glances past me, searching for Laurel.

‘Yes, with you.’ I have to stop myself from snapping at her, worry nipping at my insides. ‘You said you were going to get us a drink and pop to the loo, and Laurel said, “Hang on, Mummy, I’m coming with you.”’

‘She did? Are you sure?’

‘Well, reasonably sure,’ I say, a delicate twinge of frustration whispering at my breastbone. ‘I mean, I saw her follow after you because I shouted out to her to keep hold of your hand.’ There are hundreds, if not thousands of people here tonight, the display well known in the small patch of Surrey that we live in. It’s a regular annual event arranged by the PTA, and it’s well attended every year.

‘She didn’t,’ Fran whispers, her eyes meeting mine as the blood drains from her face. ‘She didn’t hold my hand. She didn’t catch up with me at all.’

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Literary Fiction

Lost Daughter – Ali Mercer -5* #Review @bookouture @AlisonLMercer #LiteraryFiction #Family #Secrets #MentalHealth

If you think photos aren’t important… wait until they’re all you have left of your child.

Your life isn’t perfect, but you’re still happy. Your husband has stuck by you and he’s a good dad. Your daughter Becca makes your heart explode with love. And then, in the time it takes to say ‘bad mother’, there’s no longer a place for you in your own family. Your right to see your child has disappeared.

Life goes on in your house – family dinners, missing socks and evening baths – but you aren’t there anymore. Becca may be tucked up in bed in Rose Cottage, but she is as lost to you as if she had been snatched from under your nose.

Everyone knows you deserve this, for what you did. Except you’re starting to realise that things maybe aren’t how you thought they were, and your husband isn’t who you thought he was either. That the truths you’ve been so diligently punishing yourself for are built on sand, and the daughter you have lost has been unfairly taken from you. Wouldn’t that be more than any mother could bear?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Losing your child is every parents’ nightmare, losing your child because of something you did, leaves you with a lethal cocktail of grief and guilt, and makes you wonder if you can carry on.

Lost Daughter’, follows Rachel’s tragic tale of being cut out of her teenage daughter’s life, because of one lapse of judgement. Written in a multi-point of view format, with flashbacks to the past, and more recent past, the story follows Rachel, and later Leona and Viv, as they try to live with themselves after being estranged from their children.

All three stories are unique, the women are from different generations, but they share a bond of guilt and loss. Two of the three main female characters in this story, Rachel and Viv are easy to empathise, they do have flaws, but that makes them believable. Leona is the hardest character of the three to empathise, but she does have redeeming features. The story has some surprising twists as the women’s lives’ become woven together.


Complex and poignant the plot engages you. This story is an emotional rollercoaster, you feel anger at the women’s acceptance of their fate, frustrated that they seem in a cycle of despair and guilt, and hopeful that through sheer determination, they are able to move forward and live rather than exist.

As a footnote, the only thing I found hard to believe is Rachel’s forgiving attitude to her self-absorbed, judgemental husband, but clearly, he is an authentic character because I disliked him so much.

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance

A Summer to Remember – Sue Moorcroft – 5* #Review @AvonBooksUK @SueMoorcroft #Romance #Family #Coastal #Friendship

COME AND SPEND SUMMER BY THE SEA!

WANTED! A caretaker for Roundhouse Row holiday cottages.

WHERE? Nelson’s Bar is the perfect little village. Nestled away on the Norfolk coast we can offer you no signal, no Wi-Fi and – most importantly – no problems!

WHO? The ideal candidate will be looking for an escape from their cheating scumbag ex-fiancé, a diversion from their entitled cousin, and a break from their traitorous friends.

WHAT YOU’LL GET! Accommodation in a chocolate-box cottage, plus a summer filled with blue skies and beachside walks. Oh, and a reunion with the man of your dreams.

PLEASE NOTE: We take no responsibility for any of the above scumbags, passengers and/or traitors walking back into your life…

GET IN TOUCH NOW TO MAKE THIS A SUMMER TO REMEMBER!

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

‘A Summer to Remember’ is romantic, full of angst with conflicts galore and a clever plot. It starts with a tragic event and this compounds six years later when Clancy finds her life and career in tatters, at the hands of those she trusted most. Serendipity draws her back to Norfolk, her only chance of sanctuary, but she is unsure of her welcome and once again is at the mercy of others for her happiness.

Clancy and Aaron are almost lovers, and so the tension between them is sizzling when they meet again, but it’s a slow burn, as events, the past, and most of the villagers get in the way of their chance of love. I like both characters, their only flaw is that they are so busy helping those closest to them they forget each other and their right to be happy.

There are lots of characters who I don’t like, because of their lack of insight into the needs of others. Having more than one antagonist character increases the opportunity for conflict and this a major theme of this story.

The village life is authentic and interesting and Harry and Rory’s story is particularly poignant and well written.

This story engages the reader from the first page and keeps your interest. An enjoyable read with refreshing originality.

Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Romance

The House at Hope Corner – Emma Davies @bookouture @EmDaviesAuthor #Romance #Farming #RuralLife #PublicationDay-5* #Review

The view across the valley takes her breath away; everywhere she looks tiny patches of colour – ochre, chestnut, lime and purple. The farmhouse behind her glows pink in the morning sun. It’s like stepping into a postcard, except that this magical place is real. It’s her new home.

With her beloved shop in danger of shutting down, meeting Ned, a gorgeous farmer with an irresistible twinkle in his eye, couldn’t have come at a better moment for a free-spirited florist, Flora Dunbar. But no one is more surprised than her when their whirlwind romance leads to the offer of a new life on Ned’s farm.

Arriving at Hope Corner, Flora sets about becoming the perfect farmer’s wife, but her creative, alternative thinking falls flat in a household built on tradition and strict routine. Even Ned is becoming more distant by the day…

Pulling up her signature striped socks and throwing herself into her chores, little by little Flora learns to love the order and patterns of life on the land. But the more she learns about her new home, the more she suspects it’s under threat, and worse, that Ned is hiding a heartbreaking secret from her.

But this time, Flora’s not going to run from her problems. Do Ned and his family trust her enough to let her stay and fight for love and the first house she’s ever truly called home? Does she trust herself?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Romance in a rural setting is always a pleasure to read, and the ‘House at Hope Corner’ is unashamedly poignant and romantic. It has a sentimental, old fashioned quality to it, that I love. A new beginning on a farm in beautiful Shropshire is just what Flora needs.

It turns out that it’s not quite the rural idyll it appears, and Flora has to learn to fit in but fight to retain her individuality. Her whirlwind romance with Ned didn’t prepare her for the battle ahead, but she is independent, optimistic and tenacious and determined her new life will succeed.

The setting is authentic and full of farming facts that give the story depth and interest. The romance between Ned and Flora is full of good intentions and conflicts. Secrets and lies threaten Flora’s new start but you want her to succeed and find her happily ever after with Ned.

Great characters that you believe in, numerous seemingly insurmountable conflicts, a villainous antagonist in designer clothes, all in a rural setting to die for, what’s not to love?

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Literary Fiction, Suspense, Thriller

The Porpoise – Mark Haddon @ChattoBooks @mark_haddon #LiteraryFiction 4* #Review #PublicationDay

‘I really am so very, very sorry about this,’ he says, in an oddly formal voice… They strike the side of a grain silo. They are travelling at seventy miles per hour.

A newborn baby is the sole survivor of a terrifying plane crash.

She is raised in wealthy isolation by an overprotective father. She knows nothing of the rumours about a beautiful young woman, hidden from the world.

When a suitor visits, he understands far more than he should. Forced to run for his life, he escapes aboard The Porpoise, an assassin on his tail…

So begins a wild adventure of a novel, damp with salt spray, blood and tears. A novel that leaps from the modern era to ancient times; a novel that soars, and sails, and burns long and bright; a novel that almost drowns in grief yet swims ashore; in which pirates rampage, a princess wins a wrestler’s hand, and ghost women with lampreys’ teeth drag a man to hell – and in which the members of a shattered family, adrift in a violent world, journey towards a place called home.


Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Random House UK, Vintage Publishing – Chatto & Windus in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I didn’t know what to expect when I started this book. I like literary fiction because if written well, it explores ordinary lives and finds the extraordinary. Characters have to be realistic and complex for this to work.

This is a different type of literary fiction, the characters are not ordinary, but rich, hedonistic and seemingly living outside the moral code ordinary mortals abide by. There is also large sections of the story where the characters are mythical, and you are unsure whether this an alternative reality, a story, or a journey back in time. These characters mirror many of the contemporary players.

The main focus of the story is an abused child, powerless with no voice, and no one to protect her, from her father, and his immorality. Reading what happens to Angelica evokes a myriad of emotions; anger, disgust, and sadness the most prevalent. This story is worthwhile reading because it gives her voice, and shows as she matures she attempts to take her life back into her control. Outsiders so-called heroes profess to help her escape but they don’t, she is ultimately the strength in this story.

There is an adventure, suspense and great storytelling in ‘The Porpoise’, it perhaps helps, to have some knowledge of the older stories that are weaved into the contemporary tale, but I didn’t, and I was still intrigued and motivated, to see what happens next.

Just dive in and let the stories absorb you. If you try to understand everything in this book, you will spoil the storytelling experience. Looking for something different to read? This is for you.

Posted in Book Review, Domestic Thriller, Family Drama, Noir, Suspense, Thriller

Little Darlings -Melanie Golding – 5* #Review – #Author #Interview @HQStories @HQDigital @mk_golding #Thriller #MentalHealth #Folklore #WednesdayWisdom #WednesdayThoughts

THE TWINS ARE CRYING. 
THE TWINS ARE HUNGRY.

LAUREN IS CRYING. 
LAUREN IS EXHAUSTED.

Behind the hospital curtain, someone is waiting . . .

Lauren is alone on the maternity ward with her new-born twins when a terrifying encounter in the middle of the night leaves her convinced someone is trying to steal her children. Lauren, desperate with fear, locks herself and her sons in the bathroom until the police arrive to investigate.

When DS Joanna Harper picks up the list of overnight incidents that have been reported, she expects the usual calls from drunks and wrong numbers. But then a report of an attempted abduction catches her eye. The only thing is that it was flagged as a false alarm just fifteen minutes later.

Harper’s superior officer tells her there’s no case here, but Harper can’t let it go so she visits the hospital anyway. There’s nothing on the CCTV. No one believes this woman was ever there. And yet, Lauren claims that she keeps seeing the woman and that her babies are in danger, and soon Harper is sucked into Lauren’s spiral of fear. But how far will they go to save children who may not even be in danger?

Amazon UK

 Little Darlings –  Blog Tour – Interview Questions – Melanie Golding

What inspired you to write this story?

I began with a re-telling of an obscure folktale which features in the book, A Brewery of Eggshells. After a while, I started thinking about who thought it up in the first place and why. I thought maybe it was actually about postpartum depression and psychosis. Either that or fairies were real….

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

Characters begin as amalgamations of people I know; maybe they have one or two opinions in common with someone in real life. After a while, they become real people that live in my head, with no connection to anyone outside of it apart from the few seeds I might have used to create them. Often they are or contain aspects of myself, extrapolated.

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

The story comes first, and the characters are part of that; the story wouldn’t be happening to anyone else, it’s always because of something the characters are or are involved in. The setting is very important, but it tends to grow up around the story.

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

I think writing for many people is unavoidable. However, I did make a conscious choice to switch from writing lyrics and music to writing novels, as performing never seemed to fit around my personal life. I’m so glad I did because it turns out I’m a lot more successful, for whatever reason, at writing novels than being a singer/songwriter.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

All books! I will read anything, everything, always. If there is text in front of my eyes it gets read. In the shower, I have to turn the shampoo bottle away or I’ll keep reading the back of it, over and over.

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

Best thing: solitude

Worst thing: loneliness

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

My Thoughts…

Where to start with this unusual thriller. It is a curious mix of folklore and medicine, seen from Lauren’s point of view, she is acting sanely to ensure her babies are safe. Seen from a medical perspective she has mental health issues, most likely puerperal psychosis. The question is what do you believe, and even at the end of the story, I’m not sure.

This story resonates. In Victorian times any non-conformist behaviour was considered a mental aberration, many young women incarcerated in mental institutions, just because they had children out of wedlock, So perhaps, in this case, the truth lies somewhere in between the folklore and the medicine?

Intense and suspenseful, you are torn between Lauren’s anxiety and need to find her children, and the prospect that if she isn’t stopped innocents will suffer. It’s an intelligent thriller, with many layers and possibilities and a poignant ending that makes you wonder what if.

Lauren is an unreliable protagonist, but she is easy to empathise, even though part of you believes she may be dangerous. Harper is a complex character, a police detective, who is drawn to the case by her own history, and even though she finds answers she is still not sure she’s discovered the truth. The cast of supporting characters are essential and give the story depth and diversion.

Prefacing each chapter with folklore concerning Changelings, .the reader compare them with what is happening in the story, adding to its complexity.

This is a creepy, unsettling thriller, exploring the grey areas of mental health and the power of folklore, why did it originate, was it to explain why some mothers seemed to endanger their children, or is there a twisted truth, we don’t understand?

‘Little Darlings’ is disturbingly different.

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

The Heart Keeper #BlogTour -Alex Dahl @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books @alexdahlauthor #Extract #FamilyDrama -3*#Review

How do you mend a broken heart?

It’s been three months since Alison Miller-Juul’s world fell apart when her six-year-old daughter, Amalie, died in an accident. Three months of sympathy cards, grief counselling and gritting her teeth, but it’s still only the vodka and pills that seem to help.

Across town, Iselin Berg’s life is finally looking up. Her seven-year-old daughter, Kaia, has survived a life-changing operation. After years of doctors, medication and hope, they can now start thinking about the future.

When Alison uncovers a dangerous secret, she is left in turmoil. She can now see a way to heal her broken heart, but will she risk everything to do so?

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Extract from The heart Keeper -Alex Dahl

Chapter One

Alison

I wake all the time, that is if I sleep at all. The alarm clock projects the time onto the wall on Sindre’s side of the bed and I lie staring at the pulsating dots separating the numbers. It’s just after two o’clock in the morning and Sindre isn’t here. He was here when I fell asleep. At least I think he was. I pull my hand out from underneath the warm duvet and stroke the cool, empty space where my husband should be.

A few nights ago, the same thing happened. I woke, suddenly, bursting from a dream I couldn’t remember into this black, silent room. I blinked repeatedly, trying to make out the bulky shape of Sindre in the dark – I didn’t want to reach for him in case he’d think I wanted something; I wouldn’t have been able to bear his warm, careful hands on my skin. It took me several moments to realize he wasn’t there. I got out of bed and sat on the windowsill, looking out at the forest and beyond, to the lights of the city rising up the hillsides to meet the stars. It was a very cold night for early October, and an orange moon hung low over Tryvann. I felt glad Sindre wasn’t there – it was good to not have to pretend to sleep, even if only for a while.

I was about to return to bed when I spotted something moving in between the trees directly opposite the house, off the gravel path. I moved slightly back from the window as Sindre came out of the forest, dressed in a light-blue shirt, half tucked into his trousers and his expensive leather loafers. His shirt was smeared with a streak of dirt across his chest and he stood a while in the narrow stretch in between the house and the car, as though he couldn’t decide whether to come back inside or drive away. He turned toward where I stood on the first floor, and only then could I clearly see his face, which was twisted into an uncensored, almost unrecognizable grimace. If the man standing outside our house hadn’t been wearing my husband’s clothes, I’m not sure I’d have recognized him.

Has he gone back out there tonight? I get up and stand a while by the window. Tonight is stormy, with gray, dripping clouds and a brisk breeze hustling leaves in the garden. The forest stands solid at the far end of our lawn, mist seeping from it and joining the wind in translucent coils. It might feel good to walk into that forest, listening to the whip of the wind cracking branches, to let the cold night inside me, to breathe its moist air all the way into my stomach. It might lessen the burning, even if only for a moment. I sharpen my eyes and focus on the spot from where Sindre emerged the other night, but without the light of the moon, I can’t separate the shape of a man from that of a tree, even if he were standing right there. He could be standing directly in front of me, looking at me, and I wouldn’t see him.

I walk over to the door and stand listening before opening it a crack. This house is rarely silent – it’s as though a faint hum reverberates from within its walls, the bass to every other sound our family layers on top of it – but it’s quiet tonight. I stand on the landing, my eyes smarting in the bright light from the overhead spotlights, listening for that comforting murmur, or for the reassuring signs of some of its occupants, but I hear nothing. I glance over at the door to Amalie’s room and am struck by a wild terror at the thought of what lies behind it. The burning flares up in my gut, as though live flames were shooting around the myriad, dark corridors inside me. I clutch my stomach and force my eyes away from Amalie’s room. I try to think of something to count, anything, and can only think of the steps. Seventeen. Seventeen steps, I can do it. I can go downstairs and get some water and then I can go back upstairs, past Oliver’s room, past Amalie’s room, just like that; I can do it, I’ve done it before, it’s just a bad night, that’s all, and when I get back upstairs I can take a pill from the bedside table and even if it won’t give me real sleep, it will give me dense, dreamless rest.

In the kitchen, I stand by the sink in the dark. I hear it now, that humming sound. My hands are still holding my abdomen, as though only they stop my insides from spilling out. The burning sensation is fading, and now it feels more like corrosion – as if I’d chewed through a battery.

Severe anxiety, says the doctor.

Alex Dahl is a half-American, half-Norwegian author. Born in Oslo, she studied Russian and German linguistics with international studies, then went on to complete an MA in creative writing at Bath Spa University and an MSc in business management at Bath University. A committed Francophile, Alex loves to travel and has so far lived in Moscow, Paris, Stuttgart, Sandefjord, Switzerland, Bath and London. Her first thriller, The Boy at the Door, was a Sunday Times Crime Club star pick. Twitter Facebook


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

My Thoughts…

I like the originality of this story, it is realistic and makes you appreciate why organ donations should be anonymous, with neither the donor family nor the recipients having knowledge of the other.

This is an intense family drama, rather than a Nordic noir thriller. It is slow-paced, and deep, dealing with the darkest and rawest of human emotions. Parents will relate to the grief the donor’s family feels. Although the mother’s action is extreme, so is losing a child, and her actions are believable.

Told from two viewpoints both mothers, their stories start off separate then become dramatically connected. The characters are complex and strange but mostly authentic. Understandably this is an emotional story, and whilst I admire its characterisation, delivery and the simplicity of the plot that resonates, I found it exhausting to read.

One to read if you like intense drama.

Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Historical Fiction

The Garden of Lost and Found – Harriet Evans 4* #Review @headlinepg @HarrietEvans #familydrama #historical #contemporary #fiction #secrets


Nightingale House, 1919. Liddy Horner discovers her husband, the world-famous artist Sir Edward Horner, burning his best-known painting The Garden of Lost and Found days before his sudden death.

Nightingale House was the Horner family’s beloved home – a gem of design created to inspire happiness – and it was here Ned painted TheGarden of Lost and Found, capturing his children on a perfect day, playing in the rambling Eden he and Liddy made for them.

One magical moment. Before it, all came tumbling down…

When Ned and Liddy’s great-granddaughter Juliet is sent the key to Nightingale House, she opens the door onto a forgotten world. The house holds its mysteries close but she is in search of answers. For who would choose to destroy what they love most? Whether Ned’s masterpiece – or, in Juliet’s case, her own children’s happiness.

Something shattered this corner of paradise. But what?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Like all saga’s this one has a great deal of scene setting and introduction of the players and their motivations. This makes the first half of the story slow-paced and detailed.

There is an intriguing mystery to solve and complex family dynamics. Told from two timelines, Lydia’s set in the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century and Juliet’s her Great- Grandaughter in 2014.

The prologue sets the ethos of the story and introduces the painting of the garden, which is rightly a significant character in this story, as it represents an ideal that shrouds secrets, which are ultimately revealed as the story progresses.

Many of the characters are difficult to empathise, they are self-centred and seem uncaring of how their actions affect those around them. Juliet and Lydia are drawn together through the actions of Juliet’s deceased Grandmother Stella when she bequeaths her the house and garden, years after her demise.

Modern themes of social media abuse and dysfunctional families are explored and contrasted against the family in the late nineteenth century. It is notable that censure of certain behaviour and imperfect marriages were just as common in the historical setting, just hidden better.

The depth of research and historical detail gives this story its richness and authenticity. The imperfection of the characters also makes it believable. It is possible to want them to have a hopeful future, despite that lack of likeability and their numerous flaws.

If you enjoy a mystery, like a historical and contemporary timeslip point of view, and want to completely escape, this story is for you.

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Literary Fiction

Swallowtail Summer – Erica James – 4* #Review @orionbooks @TheEricaJames #SwallowtailSummer #FamilyDrama #Friendship #Norfolk #Holidays

They thought they were friends for life – until one summer, everything changed . . . 

Linston End on the Norfolk Broads has been the holiday home to three families for many years. The memories of their time there are ingrained in their hearts: picnics on the river, gin and tonics in the pavilion at dusk, hours spent seeking out the local swallowtail butterflies. Everyone together.

But widower Alastair has been faced with a few of life’s surprises recently. Now, he is about to shock his circle of friends with the decisions he has made – and the changes it will mean for them all. For some, it feels like the end. For others, it might just be the beginning . . .

Amazon UK

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


My Thoughts…

When you look at a group of friends what do you see? The answer is you only see what they want you to. Rather like a swan in the water, the surface may seem smooth and easy going, but underneath the water, there is a furious paddling of feet, and turmoil, hidden from the casual observer.

‘ Swallowtail Summer’ is like this, three friends who have known each other since they were young, spend holidays together at a beautiful house in Norfolk, later they include their wives and eventually for some of them their offspring, but then someone dies and the following year even though they know it will be different they are unprepared for how different.

The beginning of the story introduces the characters; shows how they interact with each other and reveals some of their motivations. Even though this is a lot to assimilate and is slow-paced, it’s worth persevering, as it makes the rest of the book easier to follow. Allowing you to appreciate the complex characters and their diversity and secrets.

It is interesting to see how the characters interact, and how the group dynamics remain largely unchanged until Orla dies. This life event forces the group to change. The story’s essence is, will the friendships and family relations survive the need to change?

All of the characters are realistically flawed and many are not likeable, but this doesn’t detract from the story, just makes it more realistic. One of their favourite holiday activities is to search for Swallowtail butterflies. Their elusive quality equates to the finiteness of happiness, love and youth. It makes the story an interesting, but poignant read, with a lovely Summertime, feel.

Published 18 April 2019