Alex South is a high-functioning alcoholic who is teetering on the brink of oblivion. Her career as a television journalist is hanging by a thread since a drunken on-air rant. When a series of murders occur within a couple of miles of her East London home, she is given another chance to prove her skill and report the unfolding events. She thinks she can control the drinking, but soon she finds gaping holes in her memory and wakes to find she’s done things she can’t recall. As the story she’s covering starts to creep into her own life, is Alex a danger only to herself – or to others?
The pressing need to talk to DI Brook takes over. When I turn around, I spot him lingering behind the tent, so I fill my lungs with air and shout his name as loudly as I can, but to no avail. He has clearly decided not to hear me.
‘They not listening to you, love?’
An elderly woman dressed in black with silvery blue hair and a lively red setter has suddenly appeared beside me. Her face is half hidden behind what look like very expensive sunglasses. ‘Such terrible news to wake up to this morning.’
I nod silently, unsure of what to say. The last thing I need right now is a member of the public asking me silly questions. I have a job to do, and sometimes they just get in the way.
‘I’ve seen you before, haven’t I? You live around here?’
She pulls her glasses forward, resting them on the end of her nose, to reveal watery grey eyes. ‘I know you, you’re on the news. Although I haven’t seen you on for a while. Not since that…’
She stops herself. I know what she’s going to say. Not since that time you were pissed on air ranting about how the system had failed us all.
‘I’ve been busy doing research for a new investigative report I’m working on.’
‘So you got lucky today because you live around here? That it? I know how it goes, the pecking order. Worked in broadcasting when I was younger. Couldn’t take the cynicism and got out after a few years.’
‘Right.’ I really don’t need this now. It’s only midday, and my nerves are shot. She’s not going away, though.
‘I love watching the news and talking about politics. You really must come for tea. I don’t get many visitors these days. I live on Navarino. Right on the corner of the park.’
‘That’s very kind of you, but I imagine I’m going to be quite busy with this story.’
‘Of course. I didn’t mean today, silly. Number three, the red door. Just knock.’
Audrey is back, looking purposeful, her eyes willing the pensioner to move on.
‘Sorry to interrupt, but they want a two-minute hit into the lunchtime bulletin. What we know now.’
‘Goodbye then, Alex. Please make sure you come and see me.’ The woman pushes her glasses back up her nose and shuffles off with her dog.
‘Who was that?’ Audrey nods towards her. ‘A neighbourhood pal?’
‘Just a dog walker.’
‘Not the dog walker?’
‘Oh. Okay. So, the report?’
‘It’s fine. Have you spoken to the police? I can’t seem to attract their attention.’
‘Managed to grab DI Brook at the press conference earlier, but only to get his business card.’ She hands it to me. DI John Brook, Serious Crime Division. There’s a mobile number on it. I already have it in my phone from dealing with him on previous cases, but I decide not to mention it. Best to let Audrey think she’s on it, which she is. In fact, I don’t know why I didn’t just call him before, rather than shout at him like a complete loser. I’m embarrassed to say my memory fails me more often than not, especially after a big night out.
‘Thanks, Audrey, you’re a star.’
‘No worries. I don’t think he’s going to talk to the media again today – at least that’s what he said – but give him a call. I did mention you might.’
‘It’ll be the first live report from the scene for us, so the editors say just keep it simple. They’re leading on it.’
‘I have done this before, Audrey.’
‘Yes, of course, sorry.’
She looks a bit hurt by my reaction, which happens when I’m not fully in my right mind. Greg used to get on me for that all the time. Snapping at people. I should say something nice.
‘Sorry. Didn’t mean to sound short with you. It’s my first live for a while, and I suppose I’m a little nervous.’
‘You’ll knock ‘em dead, Alex. You’re great at this job.’
‘That’s very kind. Thank you.’
‘We all have bad days. We’re only human after all.’
She is being very sweet and understanding. Buttering me up. That’s nice even if she doesn’t mean it because it’s exactly what I need today.
‘Thanks, Audrey, but today is going to be a good day.’
With the business card in my hand, I put my headphones on and pull up DI Brook’s number from my contact list, then hit dial. While it’s ringing, I check my Facebook page. Two thousand and fifty-three people have wished me happy birthday. Wow. I guess many people feel like Audrey does, ready to give me a second chance. I mean, it wasn’t so bad what I did, bitching about the government live on air. There were a lot of people who wrote to me afterwards saying well done for speaking honestly. Didn’t help me with the editors, though. Anyway, that’s behind me now.
DI Brook isn’t answering, and I hang up. Just then my phone buzzes. It’s a message from Richie, the chap I’m planning to meet later. I met him on a dating site, just like I met Nigel.
Hey, sorry to do this to you, Alex, but something’s come up at work. Afraid I can’t make it tonight. Can we reschedule?
It’s annoying, but I don’t bother to respond; there’s really no point. That’s how online dates go sometimes. They don’t always materialise, and if I’m honest, I can’t be bothered anyway, not now that I have a huge breaking news story to contend with. This is much more important.
A suspenseful plot, an authentic setting and an unreliable protagonist guarantee that I would read ‘I Never Lie’ and it didn’t disappoint.
Fast-paced it moves between Alex a TV journalist’s point of view and diary entries of a recovering alcoholic whose dark issues become apparent as the story unfolds.
Alex, a London based TV journalist, is on the precipice of career success. She moves to London to further her career but also because personal life implodes, and now threatens to impinge on her career.
Alex is an alcoholic in denial, and it makes her vulnerable in all area of her life. Someone is murdering women in London, and Alex’s involvement seems serendipitous but is she in danger?
Alex is challenging, her constant denial of her alcoholism is tedious but authentic and an essential catalyst to the thriller’s plot. The plot is well- executed with twists, some of which you may not see coming. I enjoyed trying to work out what is real and what is part of Alex’s alcohol delusional state.
The final twist is a little disappointing for me; I imagined something different. However, full of suspense it does answer the questions raised by the plot.
Written by a TV journalist, the setting is authentic and absorbing and makes the perfect backdrop both for the murders and Alex life’s disintegration.
Originality, cleverly built suspense and realistic characters are evident in this thriller, even if using an alcoholic as an unreliable protagonist is popular in many psychological thrillers currently.
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Jody Sabral is based between the South Coast and London, where she works as a Foreign Desk editor and video producer at the BBC. She is a graduate of the MA in Crime Fiction at City University, London. Jody worked as a journalist in Turkey for ten years, covering the region for various international broadcasters. She self-published her first book Changing Borders in 2012 and won the CWA Debut Dagger in 2014 for her second novel The Movement. In addition to working for the BBC, Jody also writes for the Huffington Post, Al–Monitor and Brics Post.
Meg simply doesn’t have time for men in her life. Instead, she has a strictly one-date rule, survives on caffeine and runs one of the biggest model agencies from her smart office in London. That is until she collapses one day at work and the doctor orders her to take some R&R in the country…
Sarah is used to being stuck behind tractors and the slow pace of her cosy village life. But now her children are all grown-up (and her ex-husband long forgotten) she’s ready to change things up a bit – starting with taking back her old job in the city!
After a devastating falling out, the sisters haven’t spoken in years. Swapping houses, cars, everything is the only option – surely they’ll be able to avoid bumping into each other?
Meg and Sarah estranged for twenty years. Both sister’s lives changed because of a devastating family tragedy. They led different lives, Meg’s career driven, Sarah’s, forsaking her career for her family. Illness and the prospect of an empty nest make both sisters assess their lives. They make contact and agree to swap their houses but will they become family again?
Both characters are flawed, Sarah on first acquaintance appears to be the most selfless, but as the story progresses it’s clear Meg’s colleagues like and respect her, which Sarah finds surprising. Living in a different setting makes them realise something is missing from their previous life and gives them a new perspective.
There is a mix of comedy, romantic and thought-provoking moments in this story. Your empathy with the characters increases as the story progresses and by the end you want their new lives to succeed.
Just the book for a lighthearted beach read.
I received a copy of this book form HQ Digital via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Welcome to Rosie Lee’s cafe in the heart of the East End – where there’s not an avocado, slice of sourdough or double-shot no-foam soy milk caramel latte on the menu!
Rosie-Lee’s owner Abby is a woman without a plan….and her beloved little cafe is a business with a serious lack of customers. The Rosie Lee’s fry-up is legendary, but cooked breakfasts alone – however perfectly sizzled the bacon – aren’t going to pay the bills.
Fast approaching forty and fighting a serious case of empty nest syndrome, Abby realises it’s not just her menu that needs a makeover. And when Jack Chance, her The One That Got Away, saunters through the cafe doors and back into her life things definitely look set to change…
Abby has always believed a cup of strong builders tea makes everything better, but Jack’s reappearance is a complication even the trusty sausage sarnie can’t resolve…
Rosie Lee’s Café is a typical example of what a good café can be like – as long as it’s 1988. That’s probably the last time the décor or the menu was updated. This reviewer suspects that the owner may be waiting until its particular interior design style comes back into fashion. They may be in for a long wait.
‘Bollocks!’ I exclaimed. The positive review I’d been hoping for obviously wasn’t about to materialise. I forced myself to read on.
Despite it being located just a stone’s throw from Old Spitalfields Market, a newly regenerated hub of all things creative and on trend, the tide of urban regeneration seems to have passed Rosie Lee’s by. I ordered the traditional breakfast fry-up and, I will say, the food didn’t disappoint. The breakfast was cooked to perfection and my cup of good old ‘Rosie Lee’ (tea) was hot and freshly brewed. And the toast, although not sourdough, was crisp and very tasty. I should mention, though, that there is no gluten-free option.
I winced at the memory of the day this reviewer had visited us. He’d asked Flo for gluten-free bread and she’d told him that if he wanted anything fancy he could take his hipster beard and bugger off somewhere else.
All in all, Rosie Lee’s Café is fairly uninspiring, but it won’t give you food poisoning. Just for that, this reviewer is giving it one teapot out of a potential five. Now, on to more interesting territory. Bare Naked Coffee is an artisanal bakery and coffee house…
I closed the newspaper. I didn’t need to read about how fabulous their unleavened hemp bread was, or how their primo coffee blend ‘was to die for!’
‘Bollocks,’ I repeated.
‘Abby! The coffee machine’s not working! Come and do that thing you do with it, would you, love?’
‘What’s up with it now, Flo?’ Her cries for help brought me out of the kitchen and into the café. A frazzled and sweaty-looking Flo stood in front of the offending machine.
‘The steam’s not working. I’m not getting any froth!’
‘Brilliant,’ I said, reaching for the spanner under the counter. This was the fourth time in the last week that the bloody machine had died on us, so I’d taken to keeping tools handy. There was a small queue of people all waiting for their orders, and I brandished my spanner at them, like some demented warrior queen.
‘Sorry for the wait, folks, let me just try and get this sorted for you.’ They looked at me and then at the spanner, undoubtedly expecting me to do something highly technical with it. Instead, I lifted it up high and brought it down heavily onto the top of the machine. Once, twice, three times. It hissed and wheezed for a few seconds and I held my breath.
‘I think you might have killed it completely this time,’ said Flo from her new, safer position on the other side of the counter.
‘Just wait for a minute, hold on.’ Taking a metal jug full of milk from beside the machine, I dipped the end of the steam nozzle into it. With one eye closed, I turned the handle that forced the steam into the milk and prayed that it wouldn’t explode in my face. From somewhere inside I heard gurgling, then the machine let out a high-pitched whistle as the milk began to bubble. Problem solved. The little queue of customers gave me a small ripple of applause and I turned to take a modest bow.
Flo came back around the counter and took the jug out of my hands.
‘Here, give us that. That bloody thing needs replacing. One of these days you’re gonna take a swing at it and it’ll go off like a rocket.’
‘I can’t afford a new machine, Flo, you know that. I’m barely making enough to cover costs as it is, let alone have any spare.’
‘Maybe you’ll have a bit extra once you’ve finished this catering job?’ she asked, hopefully.
‘Making desserts for some random corporate event isn’t really going to help much,’ I said. ‘Besides, I really only did it as a favour to Liz.’
‘I did tell you to charge her more, didn’t I?’
‘Yes, Flo, you did. Several times actually.’
‘Well, she took the right piss, all that faffing about changing her mind, leaving it all to the last minute. I know she’s your friend, but she was a pain in the arse. Uppity little madam.’ I marvelled at how Flo managed to deliver this speech whilst simultaneously serving customers and wiping up spills on the counter. She was seventy years old, but she was still as feisty and energetic as ever; I couldn’t manage without her, despite her occasional bouts of rudeness towards anyone with too much facial hair.
‘Look, it’s done now. I’ve just got to drop off the last batch of tarts and then it’s over with. No more corporate catering for me.’ I draped my arm around her tiny shoulders and dropped a kiss on her head. I’d known Flo all my life. She was one of my mother’s oldest friends and although she might look tiny and fragile, she was formidable.
‘Well, bugger off, then, go and get rid of those cakes.’
‘I’ll be back as quick as I can,’ I said, pulling on my jacket. Now, where did I leave the van keys? I rifled through the pockets, pulling out old tissues and other assorted bits of crap until Flo jingled the missing keys in front of my face.
‘What would I do without you?’ I said, taking them from her and heading into the kitchen.
‘You’d manage. Look, there’s no need for you to rush back. I can take care of everything here. We’re not exactly rushed off our feet, are we?’
I looked back out to the café. It was true; business hadn’t been brisk. I had been hoping that a glowing review in the local paper might drum up a bit more trade, but there was no chance of that now. The development of the nearby market had been great for anyone in its immediate vicinity, but not for us. We were just that little bit too far outside the ‘development zone’. It wasn’t just my café either – all the shops in this little-forgotten corner of East London were struggling to stay afloat. I pushed those thoughts to the back of my mind. There’d be plenty of time to obsess about my failing business later, hopefully, whilst relaxing in a hot bath with a glass or three of wine.
‘Are you sure you’ll be all right on your own?’ I didn’t want to take liberties; Flo might be mighty, but she was still seventy years old after all.
‘Positive. You’ve worked hard on all this.’ She gestured at the last batch of boxes I’d wrestled into my arms. ‘You deserve a few hours off.’
‘Okay. I might go and see if I can find a nice going-away present for Lucy.’
‘Lovely. Off you go, then, and I’ll see you in the morning. And tell Liz I said she got you cheap.’
I took the boxes and pushed my way through the back door. Flo was right of course; Liz had got me cheap, but she was my best friend. What was I supposed to do? She’d begged me to help her out after her other caterers had let her down; I wasn’t going to say no, was I? Charging her more would have felt like taking advantage of her desperation. It would have come in handy though, there was no doubt about that. Between my daughter’s imminent departure for university, the temperamental coffee maker and, now as I stood there looking at it, a delivery van that was on its last legs, my finances were stretched to the limit. The van, with its faded green paintwork and peeling pink cupcake on the side, sat in the yard looking old and knackered. Fifteen years of trips to the cash and carry and school runs in London traffic had taken their toll on the old girl. I knew how she felt. I secured the last of the boxes into the back of the van and shut the doors.
If you’re expecting a story that revolves around a cafe, you’ll be disappointed; the cafe does feature in this tale of second chances, family secrets and organised crime but its more about the heroine’s emotional journey than hearty breakfasts and afternoon tea.
Abby is a likeable protagonist, despite having a difficult childhood and teenage, she has enough people around her that care to make a success of life but she finds it difficult to trust and when her first love returns, even though she feels the emotional and sensual pull she runs the other way.
Jack is a dreamy hero, but he finds despite his entrepreneurial success, true love alludes him. He too has an emotional journey to travel, and he struggles to understand Abby and her conflicting signs and what he has to do, to get her in his life again.
Family and indeed community secrets are the backbone of this story, and they come across as believable, organised crime threatens everything Abby holds dear and as the secrets unravel the danger increases.
A mix of romance and crime make this an absorbing read, even if it’s not the feel-good cafe story I expected.
I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Born in London, Jane’s writing career began in cable TV, writing true crime documentaries. More recently, Jane has contributed to an anthology of short stories and written two weekly crime serials. When she’s not writing, Jane loves to read good books, binge watch TV boxsets and drink tea. And wine.
Paula Smith could have had it all. Hugely successful in her fashion business, she lives the kind of life she could never have imagined. Her world should have been an idyllic one if it weren’t for her husband Danny who is resentful of her success and increasingly prone to alcoholic rages. Paula knows she should leave him but she if she did, he would pick up the phone to the police and her life would come crashing down around her.
Sarah has found the kind of happiness with Martin she never thought possible. He is everything she could have wished for in a man. Caring, sensitive and loving, yet he has a secret that could threaten everything they share. But he is not the only one with a secret….
DI Annie Parker, mother, grandmother and widow, has plenty of baggage of her own, but she’s still determined to be the best police officer she can be. When she and her sergeant Nisha Patel hear about a 20-year-old murder that nobody knew about, nothing will stop them from tracking down the killer, even if it brings them up against one of the most dangerous crime families in the country.
Extract 1 Annie North Derbyshire I am so not in the mood for this! A silver Range Rover has slipped into the parking spot I am reversing into. The last space close enough to the supermarket entrance to avoid a long and slippery trudge over ice and snow. ‘You selfish bastard!’ I shout over my shoulder, as I hit the brakes – and the car horn. A dark-haired lad in his late teens springs out of the driver’s side of the 4×4. He’s an Adonis. Tall, broad and way beyond handsome. Despite it being minus three, he’s in a skin-tight white T-shirt that shows off muscled arms, bouldered shoulders and a broad chest. I roll down my window and shout, ‘Hey, I was going in there! You’ve taken my space.’ ‘Then you should’ve been quicker, grandma,’ quips Adonis with a cheeky smile. ‘It’s mine now, innit?’ I want to kill him. And that’s despite the fact that I am a grandma. A very proud one – though I do quickly tell people that I’m only forty-four, which I’m sure is exceptionally young to be a grandparent. And secondly, he’s right, the parking place certainly is his. Possession is nine-tenths of the law, as I certainly know, given my particular line of work. So, that should be the end of the matter. But no bloody way is it going to be. I get out and stomp towards him. ‘I’d like you to move your vehicle, please. You could see me backing in.’ He laughs in my reddened face. Not a slight snigger. Nor a cynical smirk. Oh no, this is a full-on chuckle. The 4×4’s passenger door opens. An older man, with sandy hair, eases himself out. ‘What’s going on?’ ‘Granny ’here is ’avin a laugh, i’n’t she?’ He nods in my direction. ‘Wants me to shift the motor coz she says she was ’ere first.’ ‘I’m picking up medicine for my sick granddaughter,’ I announce, defiantly. The passenger’s blue-grey eyes study me as he tugs on a brown leather jacket. ‘Do as she says,’ he tells his friend. ‘Get it moved.’ Adonis looks shocked. ‘What d’you mean?’ ‘You heard me, thick lad, get it shifted.’ He thinks better of arguing and instead tells me, ‘Back up, then, or I can’t get out, can I?’ ‘Thank you!’ I boom sarcastically. As I get back in my car and start reversing, I guess the older man knows who I am. Right now, he’s probably telling his young friend my full and awful story. ‘That’s Annie Parker,’ he’ll be saying. ‘A year ago, her husband and daughter-in-law died in a car crash, not far from here. A bus driver fell asleep. Ploughed right into them. It tore the family apart. Her son had a mental breakdown and tried to kill himself. Now that poor bitch is looking after him and his little kiddie.’ I am getting a parking space out of pity. It’s the last thing I want. But I’ll take it. Maybe it’s because we’ve just had Christmas and it’s close to the anniversary of their deaths, but right now everything seems to remind me of my husband, Jack, and daughter-in-law, Lily. I think the only reasons I don’t fall apart are the need to work for a living and to look after my son, Tom, and granddaughter, Polly. The Range Rover reverses out quickly. Adonis slams it into first and sprays icy slush everywhere. A stupid, final gesture of anger. And then a thought hits me. I might have got this all wrong. I hit a speed-dial number on my mobile and switch to hands-free as it connects. ‘Control, this is Detective Inspector Annie Parker. I need a PNC check on a licence plate. Registration Bravo, Mike, Zero, Two, Mike, Alpha, Mike.’ Before the reply comes, I’m forsaking the newly won space, slaloming around shoppers and heading for the exit. ‘DI Parker, the plates belong to a black Audi A6,’ says a male controller. ‘It’s registered to a Mark Andrew Mason and was reported stolen in Westminster.’ Stolen. ‘Then I need back up, please. I’m in my own car, a blue Golf, and in pursuit of a silver Range Rover bearing that registration.’ Pulling onto the main road, I catch a glimpse of the 4×4. It’s at a set of traffic lights, some five vehicles ahead. ‘DI Parker, this is Control. Please state your exact position so we can get officers to you. Over.’ The lights change, and traffic moves. ‘I’m at the crossroads of Vincent Street and Main Street, heading east, towards the A515. Over.’ There was something about the older man. What was it? Is he on a Wanted List? Have I seen his face on a recent police circular? I just can’t place him. We pass through another set of lights and turn onto a dual carriageway. The Range Rover shifts into the outside lane and glides away. I glance at the speedo. My little car’s doing seventy, meaning their disappearing 4×4 must be clocking ninety, maybe a hundred. ‘Control, this is Annie Parker, I’m on the A515 heading south. Suspects’ vehicle is now doing excessive speed, and I am unable to keep up.’ ‘DI Parker, this is Control. Two traffic vehicles are already dispatched.’ Colin Ronald Richardson. That’s who he is! Armed robber. It’s all coming back to me. The last time I saw Richardson, I was a new PC, and part of an early morning raid that saw him pulled out of the scraggy bed of a very scared young hooker called Sharon Croft. Poor girl made the mistake of running for the bathroom, and a police dog bit her ankle and brought her down face first on the landing. I call it in. ‘Control, I believe one of the suspects to be Colin Ronald Richardson, a known criminal who has in the past been armed. Please advise local CID and Tactical Firearms.’ ‘Will do. Over.’ There’s a roundabout ahead, and the traffic is slowing. I have a siren, but I don’t want to use it. It would clear a path for me but also blow any chance of a covert follow. I switch lanes as we slow to a halt, turn the wheel sharply and take the Golf up onto a grass verge, hoping to skip a good hundred metres of traffic. The back end bumps up along the frozen turf and for a second the tyres spin. It’s a long time since I did my skid pan course but I remember not to accelerate too viciously. The car gains traction, and I start to make progress. Stranded drivers, amazed and enraged by my manoeuvre, blare their horns. Up ahead, I see the end of the backed-up cars. And a problem. The banking is cut off by a crash barrier. I’m going to have to rejoin the traffic. And you can be absolutely certain no one is going to let me in. At the last moment, I spot a gap. A fanfare of horns accompanies my certifiably insane manoeuvre. But I get away with it and hit the roundabout traffic flow at about twenty miles an hour. There’s no sign of the Range Rover. It could have gone left, right or straight on. I have no idea which exit to take. I circle for the second time. Up on the brow of a hill, I catch a glimpse of a silver roof. I turn off and follow. The chase is still on.’
If you’re a crime thriller reader, it’s always exciting to find a new detective you like, and DI Annie Parker is such a character. Reminiscent of ITV’s ‘Vera’, but more conventional, she has a family albeit one fractured with grief but she has the same tenacity, kind heart and innate skill of finding the truth.
The plot is deliciously sophisticated but easy to read. The main characters tell their stories in headed chapters. There are many connections and just as many twists as the plot weaves and intertwines seemingly separate characters and events. Historic and real-time stories make this absorbing, and the final court case chapters are authentic and suspenseful.
DI Annie Parker’s personal life gives essential insight into the woman who gives herself tirelessly to her career, the final scenes are beautifully poignant and provide an extra dimension to this fast-paced crime thriller.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
D.L. Michaels is a former award-winning TV executive, who married in Tuscany, has one teenage son and lives on an old converted farm in the Peak District. Favourite writers include Harlan Coben, Patricia Cornwell and Nicci French.
‘It’s not my habit to seduce impoverished widows…’
The Duke of Greyland lost his heart – and a princely sum – to a charming, beautiful and destitute widow who, after one passionate night, vanished without a trace. Cassandra Blair grew up on the city streets, picking pockets to survive. Greyland was a rich mark – to be fleeced and forgotten – only she’d never forgotten him.
Years later, chance brings them together again, in a London gaming hell. Grayland is desperate to have her… never suspecting everything about his lover was a lie. But finding herself in dire financial straits, at risk of losing everything, Cassandra has no choice but to beg the man she betrayed for help.
The proud Duke will assist her under one condition: she doesn’t leave his sight until her debts are paid! But can the real Cassandra – the smart, streetwise survivor – steal his heart all over again?
Book one in the Scandalous Ladies of London series
A different trope from the usual Regency romance, this story has some originality, an anti-heroine character rather than an anti-hero. The story creates an interesting relationship between the Duke and the con- artist, but even though she fools him once, Cassandra ultimately needs his help and position to survive, which detracts from her independence.
The Duke of Greyland lacks the arrogance customarily associated with his rank in Regency romance. He has many appealing traits, not least his passionate nature and support of those less fortunate than he. However, he does lack authenticity.
This story scores highly for sensuality, the connection between the Duke and Cassandra is hot, and the love scenes leave little to the imagination. They explain why the Duke acts as he does and their deepening emotional attachment underlines every kiss.
Overall this is a lovely story, which superficially explores the seedier side of Regency England while delivering a passionate love story.
I received a copy of this book from Mills&Boon via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Even though this is the sixth in the detective daughter series, you can read as a standalone.
The story begins with the circumstances surrounding the first murder in 1977. After the disappearance of another girl in 1999, the body of the first victim is found. Stella and Jack are offered the case by another detective’s daughter whose father wants them to prove that the murderer is still at large. Other members of the team are not sure if they should take the case, but someone closer to home is keeping secrets that will need to be solved too.
The characters’ stories are sketched out in the first part of the story, so even if you are new to the series, like me you get a feel for who they are. Quirky is the word that sums up both Jack and Stella, both are good people but are damaged by life and find it difficult to relate to others outside their immediate team. There is a good team dynamic both in the ‘Clean Slate’, cleaning company and the detective agency. Everyone has a role and it more of a family than a business.
The crime-solving takes place in the last two-thirds of the story. It is a detailed and lengthy book but is well-paced. The factual details seamlessly merge with clues, misinformation and the characters’ internal and external conflicts. I liked the dynamic between Stella and Jack, they are vividly described and come across as believable.
The plot is intricate with numerous twists, even when you think you’ve solved it something alters to move the goal posts, and you discover you’re only partly correct. Atmospheric and suspenseful twists make ordinary events and settings menacing and chilling.
The ending leaves no loose ends and manages to retain its surprises.
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A headmistress is found strangled in her East London school, her death the result of a brutal and ritualistic act of violence. Found at the scene is a single piece of card, written upon which is an ancient Buddhist precept:
I shall abstain from taking the ungiven.
At first, DI Maya Rahman can’t help but hope this is a tragic but isolated murder. Then, the second body is found.
Faced with a community steeped in secrets and prejudice, and with a serial killer on her hands, Maya must untangle the cryptic messages left at the crime scenes to solve the deadly riddle behind the murders – before the killer takes another victim.
Set London’s East End, with a likeable female detective, ‘Turn a Blind Eye’, is a police procedural mystery that explores the positives, pressures and problems of contemporary East End society.
Focusing on a murder that takes place at a local school, DI Maya Rahman investigates who killed the headteacher through her understanding of the fears, loyalties and secrets of this multi-racial culture, while coming to terms with her devastating, personal tragedy.
Maya is a sympathetic character, she is committed to making a difference and her keen observation skills and knowledge of the local culture, make her an excellent detective character. Dan, her number two, an Australian fast track officer brings a different perspective to the case and complements Maya’s skills. They make an unusual but exciting detective team.
The well- written thought-provokingplot has many poignant moments and is compelling and realistic. It keeps its secrets until the final scenes and has a credible ending. The pacing is slow at times, but this reflects the police procedure.
I received a copy of this book from HQ via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Fast-paced, totally addictive suspense fiction that draws you in from the first lie until the final terrifying twist. Written from Finn and his missing girlfriend’s point of view, you learn their past and current thoughts, without slowing down the story.
Finn is troubled he has a shady past that occasionally resurfaces with devasting results, his obsessive love of Layla his missing girlfriend makes him an obvious suspect in her disappearance but his well-placed lies and excellent legal advice leave him free to rebuild his life. Twelve years later, Finn has moved on, but random events collide to make him believe the past hasn’t done with him yet.
Focusing on Finn, his current girlfriend, a longtime friend and ex-girlfriend, the cast of this sinister thriller is small. As the menace escalates, Finn cannot trust anyone, and this sense of isolation builds his anger to boiling point.
The gripping final chapters reveal an unexpected twist, with horrific consequences for the story’s major players. I guessed this before the end, but even then, the ultimate revelation is not quite as I envisaged. For me, part of the enjoyment is trying to foresee the outcome before the story’s end.
The tagline #forgetsleep is true. I read this book through the night yesterday.
I received a copy of this book from HQ books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Life was hard in 1930s England for most people. During ‘the depression’, women had little or no say in their lives, forced into domestic drudgery or menial factory jobs, paying less than men and with few prospects.
Hillie Hardwick is a young woman, she works in the Candle Factory with her best friend Gert Parker, and hands over most of her wages to her father to help support their large family. Money is tight, and her home life is far from idyllic, Hillie’s father is abusive, and Hillie seeks solace with Gert’s family who financially are no better off than the Hardwicks but happy. The tone of this story realistically reflects the period, full of angst, despair and hardship, which will not be the everyone’s reading tastes.
Jimmy offers Hillie a lifeline to a better life but is she moving in the right direction or following a different path to the same disastrous end? Romance, friendship and mystery are all explored in this saga. Abusive behaviour and crime also feature and the last few chapters are sinister and action-packed, Hillie’s life is in turmoil and changes irrevocably.
Intrinsic historical detail brings the story to life, but you do spend a lot of time in Hillie’s head which does slow the story’s pacing and makes it daunting to read in parts. Overall, if family sagas that showcase the best and worst of life, full of realistic but often mundane events are your thing, this will be an enjoyable read. The ending is lovely and romantic and gives Hillie the type of life she deserves.
I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Delaying her childhood dream of writing historical novels until her family had grown up, Tania eventually completed a series of published stories based on her beloved Dartmoor. She is now setting her future sagas in London and the south-east
A detective with no one to trust A killer with nothing to lose
18 months after the ‘Ragdoll’ murders, a body is found hanging from Brooklyn Bridge, the word ‘BAIT’ carved into the chest.
In London a copycat killer strikes, branded with the word ‘PUPPET’, forcing DCI Emily Baxter into an uneasy partnership with the detectives on the case, Special Agents Rouche and Curtis.
Each time they trace a suspect, the killer is one step ahead. With the body count rising on both sides of the Atlantic, can they learn to trust each other and identify who is holding the strings before it is too late?
I haven’t read ‘Ragdoll’, the first book in this series but I still found the first five chapters of ‘Hangman, an absorbing, easy read. The grisly, mysterious, quirky, thriller has an extensive body count, even in the early chapters. The killer or killers wants Detective Chief Inspector Emily Baxter to make the connection and draws her back into the killing zone.
Flawed and secretive, Emily Baxter is hard on herself and others, especially her bosses but she values her colleagues, and they reciprocate.Written in manageable chapters, timed and dated, you feel part of the action, conflicts and decision making. If like me you are a fan of adrenaline-fuelled thrillers with an eccentric, forceful protagonist, take a deep breath and read ”Hangman, I’m sure the rest of the book will be as riveting as the sampler I’ve just read.
I received a sampler of the first five chapters from Trapeze Orion Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest review.