Oxford Philosophy lecturer Dr Gideon Fuller is in the frame, but Hanlon is not convinced.
From the specialist brothels in Oxford and Soho, to the inner sanctum of a Russian people trafficker with a taste for hurting women, the trail leads Hanlon deeper and deeper into danger – until she herself becomes the killer’s next target…
Can Hanlon track down the killer before it’s too late?
This book was previously published as Cold Revenge by Alex Howard.
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The second book in the Hanlon series has her going undercover after the murder of a university student. There are many strands to this plot, all of which interweave as the story progresses. The story is atmospheric and full of locational detail so the reader can visualise the setting.
Hanlon now an acting DCI works with Demeril in a world of trafficking and abuse. The themes are noir crime and disturbing. The characters are well defined, yet the lines of good and evil are often blurred.
Hanlon continues to be driven and unrepentant. Her feelings about her friend Whiteside lying in a coma shows her vulnerability. The believable team dynamics are why this series works so well.
This is an addictive edition of this absorbing series.
Alex Coombs studied Arabic at Oxford and Edinburgh Universities and went on to work in adult education and then retrained to be a chef. He has written four well reviewed crime novels as Alex Howard.
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I’ve read a couple of this author’s later books featuring this character, and it’s interesting to explore her past career as a Detective Inspector in the Metropolitan Police. DI Hanlon is dedicated, effective and uncontrollable. If you were a crime victim, you would want her as your Senior Investigating officer.
Set in the second decade of the twenty-first century the story’s subject matter is contemporary and disturbing, parts are harrowing to read but integral to moving the story forward and showing Hanlon’s motivations. Hanlon is an advocate of justice rather than an upholder of the law and easy to empathise. Several investigations are running concurrently in this character-driven story. It focuses on Hanlon and how she is affected by the cases and her subsequent involvement.
The ending is fast-paced, gritty and ultimately satisfying.
Extract from The Stolen Child – Alex Coombs
The compact, concrete shape of the World War Two gun emplacement crouched, hunkered down into the shallow, gravelly soil above the beach on the Essex side of the Thames Estuary near Southend. It overlooked the wide, grey shallow waters on whose far side lay the Isle of Grain and Sheerness. Hanlon guessed it was somewhere out there in those cold, steely waters that the proposed island airport for London might one day take shape. She thought, fleetingly, it would be a pity in a way if it happened. The North Sea waters had a chilly quality that she found rather beautiful. She looked around her slowly, the sky above enormous after London’s claustrophobic horizons. A heron stood on a boulder near the beach, shrugging its wings like an old lady arranging a shawl around her shoulders. Cormorants bobbed along on top of the water and she could see guillemots, their wings folded back like dive-bombers, thundering into the water. The calls of the birds floated towards her on the stiff sea breeze.
The tarmac track that led down from the main road above them was old, cracked and weed-grown. The ex-army building’s pitted, grey, artificial stone surface was now camouflaged with yellow, cream and blue-grey lichens and grey-green moss, so that it seemed almost organic, a part of the landscape like a strangely symmetric rock formation. There was a fissured, concrete apron next to the bunker and Hanlon pulled up adjacent to the large, white Mercedes van that she guessed belonged to the forensics team, then got out of her car. She stood for a moment by her Audi and closed her eyes. She felt the cold, fresh sea air against her skin and the breeze tugged at her shoulder-length dark hair. She could smell the metallic warmth of her car engine and the salt tang of the sea. The sound of the small waves breaking on the stony beach a hundred metres or so away were nearly drowned out by the throbbing of the generator next to the Mercedes. She could hear the keening of seagulls, much louder now, wheeling above in the sky. Hanlon stretched the powerful, sinewy muscles in her shoulders and arms and opened her eyes, which were as expressionless as the North Sea in front of her. She looked out over the water, feeling its call. Hanlon loved swimming in the open sea. Earlier that morning, at 6 a.m., she had swum for a steady hour in her local swimming pool, but pool swimming was nothing compared to real salt water. She guessed at this time of year the temperature would be only two or three degrees, colder than a fridge. That wouldn’t deter her.
She could taste its saltiness, carried to her lips by the wind.
A red power cable looped its way from the generator through the heavy, open metal door of the bunker. The door was rusted and pitted by time and the elements, but still substantial. Hanlon stepped over the line of police crime-scene tape that secured the area, blowing like bunting in the sea breeze, and approached the building. Earlier that day, the place would have been bustling with her colleagues from Essex. Now the uniforms had gone and the outside of the bunker, included in the search area, reopened. She didn’t go inside through the forbidding-looking portal designed, she guessed, to be blast-proof, but walked instead along the side wall until she came to one of its long, slit windows that overlooked the beach and the far horizon.
Alex Coombs studied Arabic at Oxford and Edinburgh Universities and went on to work in adult education and then retrained to be a chef. He has written four well reviewed crime novels as Alex Howard.
Linnea felt a shiver travel the length of her spine.
It hadn’t been a joke – the runes really had shown her destiny.
Indulging her fascination for the Viking language and losing herself in an archaeological dig is just what Linnea Berger needs after her recent trauma. Uncovering an exquisite brooch, she blacks out reading the runic inscription, only to come to, surrounded by men in Viking costume, who seem to take re-enactment very seriously.
Lost and confused, Linnea finds herself in the power of Hrafn, a Viking warrior who claims her as his thrall and takes her on a treacherous journey across the seas to sell her for profit. Setting sail, she confronts the unthinkable: she has travelled back to the ninth century.
Linnea is determined to find a way back to her own time, but there’s a connection forming with Hrafn. Can she resist the call of the runes and accept her destiny lies here …
I received a copy of this book from Headline Books in return for an honest review.
Like the first book in this series, The Runes of Destiny is an atmospheric timeslip novel full of adventure, danger and romance. This story reads well as a standalone with intricate historical detail and vibrant characters. The sense of time place and culture is wonderfully described. The attention to detail and use of sensory imagery makes this an immersive experience for the reader.
Linnea is recovering from a devastating road accident her physical injuries minor, but the mental scars deep, especially the survivor guilt, as her friends’ parents died and she was badly injured. An academic she studies ancient Nordic languages and uses the archaeological dig as a way of escaping.
The timeslip element is well executed and Linnea’s confusion and need to make sense of the world she finds herself in believable. The characters are relatable and the adventures she experiences exciting and scary. The romance is gentle and believable.
The plot has clever twists and a satisfying ending.
Christina Courtenay writes historical romance, time slip and time travel stories, and lives in Herefordshire (near the Welsh border) in the UK. Although born in England, she has a Swedish mother and was brought up in Sweden – hence her abiding interest in the Vikings. Christina is a former chairman of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association and has won several awards, including the RoNA for Best Historical Romantic Novel twice with Highland Storms (2012) and The Gilded Fan (2014). The Runes of Destiny (time travel published by Headline 10th December 2020) is her latest novel. Christina is a keen amateur genealogist and loves history and archaeology (the armchair variety).
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While London burns she looks out for workmates and girlfriends but also uncovers a web of deception at the Depot where she works.
When the ruthless suspect knows she’s closing in, she must act fast to unmask the traitor and save her friends, herself, and the brave soldiers overseas whose lives are at risk.
The Deptford Girls is the fourth in the Lily Baker wartime series. This heart-wrenching story features courage, friendship, betrayal, compelling characters, and a captivating plot. If you like vivid stories that take you right into the world of the characters, you’ll love The Deptford Girls. Cuddle up with a cuppa and enjoy this exciting, warm-hearted read.
This is a frequent topic in writing magazines – how I write and where I write. Let me tell you both.
I write anywhere where I have my laptop – cafes, on a bus, in the garden, at my kitchen table. Call me weird, but I have no rituals and no lucky mascots. Often I have no plot either which is worrying for an author. I’m sometimes found wondering what on earth to write next. How I envy writers who say they have a hundred plot ideas in their heads!
How I write is another matter. My goal is to have a plot worked out in great detail before I start. Every single scene oven ready. This would work well because when I know where I’m going with a story I write fast. Five thousand words on a good day. But as I said, that’s the goal. The reality is, I have some plot ideas worked out, and optimistically think that’s enough. It never is – hence the dreaded writers’ block.
I have a few ways to break through the block. Number one is to take my husband Rick to a nearby coffee shop and mercilessly pump him for ideas. He’s not a writer; he’s a very down-to-earth engineer, but somehow he has more imagination than me. That’s just plain unfair. So he’ll often give me great ideas, but he sometimes gets frustrated when I twist and turn them to fit the plot. ‘But that’s not what I said!’ he complains. I can’t argue with that, but without his suggestions I’d still be looking at a blank screen.
My second method is to speak to my great writing buddy, Fran Smith. We speak at least twice a week about writing and marketing. Oh, and sometimes about our husbands, but we won’t tell them that. She’s a massively supportive person who writes brilliantly (head off to Amazon to read ‘Best wishes, Sister B’ you’ll love it! https://books2read.com/u/3Lg10M)
As with Rick, I often change her suggestions, but they are always inspirational. Both of us write period stories and find old photos aid the writing process. My Lily Baker series is set in World War Two England and France. There are hundreds of photos online that give me ideas and I love the BBCs People’s War web pages where people alive during the war tell their stories. Many of them have found their way into Lily’s novels.
While I was writing The Telephone Girls, which is set in England and France, I was absolutely stuck for a plot idea. Lily and her friends worked as telephonists in Paris for the British Expeditionary Force. They had to work right up until the German army entered the city, then they had a frantic race across France to avoid the murderous invasion. I’d already given them several horrible obstacles to overcome, then dried up. I asked for suggestions on a writing Facebook page I belong to, and someone came up with the perfect idea.
If you’d like to read The Telephone Girls, you’ll find it on Amazon now.
Patricia lives in Cambridge, England with her husband Rick. She first wrote non-fiction, mainly self-help books, but became inspired to try her hand at fiction. In addition to writing she volunteers for a local museum and Addenbrookes Hospital.
What do you do when your fake engagement starts to feel too real…
Aspiring clothes designer Victoria Scott spends her days working in a bar in Chelsea, and her evenings designing vintage clothes, dreaming of one day opening her own boutique. But these aspirations are under threat from the new department store opening at the end of her road. She needs a Christmas miracle, but one is not forthcoming.
Oliver Russell’s Christmas is not looking very festive right now. His family’s new London department store opening is behind schedule, and on top of that his interfering, if well meaning, mother is pressing him to introduce his girlfriend to her. A girlfriend who does not exist. He needs a diversion. Something to keep his mother from interfering while he focuses on the business.
When Oliver meets Victoria, he offers a proposition: pretend to be his girlfriend at the opening of his store and he will provide an opportunity for Victoria to showcase her designs. But what starts as a business arrangement soon becomes something more tempting, as the fake relationship starts to feel very real. But when secrets in Victoria’s past are exposed will Oliver walk away, or will they both follow their hearts and find what neither knew they were looking for…
I received a copy of this audiobook and Ebook from Mills and Boon via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
An audiobook read by the author is always good for the reader because the author’s interpretation of the characters has inherent authenticity. This engaging narration brings the characters to life, especially Victoria and immerses the reader in her life and romance.
This is a love story set in Chelsea, London. The book’s setting and characters are realistic and give the story a unique sense of place.
Victoria is recovering, from a relationship break up that damaged both career aspirations and her heart. Oliver is troubleshooting the opening of a flagship department store, for his family’s business but he’s doing it more out of loyalty than a vocation. Victoria is likeable and relatable. Oliver, although emotionally remote, has a kind heart. When they meet, in the bar the chemistry is quick to ignite although they keep their feelings hidden until fate brings them, together again.
This is a gentle romance catalysed by a fake engagement. It is passionate but conflicted as the couple keep secrets that threaten their future. The realisation that a fake engagement is not what the couple want, leads to internal conflict and sadness, but thankfully all the angst is rewarded with a happy ending.
What starts with the gruesome discovery of a severed head on the Tube soon becomes personal for former DI Cal Drake.
After one betrayal too many, Drake has abandoned the police force to become a private detective.
He’s teamed up with enigmatic forensic pathologist Dr Rayhana Crane and it’s not long before the case leads them to the darkest corners of the nation’s capital and in dangerously close contact with an international crime circuit, a brutal local rivalry and a very personal quest for retribution.
With the murder victim tied to Drake’s past, his new future is about to come under threat.
I received a copy of this book from Severn House Publishing in return for an honest review.
The second book of the Crane and Drake series set in London. This is an urban thriller with an enigmatic team of investigators who work in the private sector as they both have issues with the establishment. Cal Drake is an ex-detective inspector, who after a stint in undercover left the police force disillusioned. Ray Crane is a forensic pathologist estranged from her family.
The menacing atmosphere is established from the first page, as is the vibrant urban setting. The observations and characters in the early chapters give the novel a good sense of place. The plot pulls together elements from the first book in the series, and a current, seemingly unrelated case for the new investigative team. Ray’s background is exposed in this second story and the team dynamic becomes stronger.
The characters are authentic and diverse, and it’s easy to empathise with the two protagonists. The plot is intricate and cleverly layered to produce a relevant gritty thriller that exposes the crime in the city and beyond.
Parker Bilal is the pseudonym of Jamal Mahjoub, the critically acclaimed literary novelist. He is the author of the Makana Investigations series, the third of which, The Ghost Runner, was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award.
The Divinities, the first in his Crane and Drake London crime series, was published in 2019. Born in London, he has lived in a number of places, including the UK, Denmark, Spain and, currently, the Netherlands.
Alfie doesn’t forget… and he certainly doesn’t forgive. Can Nathan and Gemma’s marriage survive the mob boss’s return?
Nathan has tried to be a changed man for Gemma after they escaped gangster Alfie’s clutches, but it doesn’t take long for him to give into temptation… and now Alfie’s back to get what’s his.
Alfie doesn’t like losing. The gangster has been biding his time ever since Nathan and Gemma escaped his clutches, but he’s determined to collect his debt now. It helps that he knows about Gemma’s big secret…
Gemma’s been hiding something life-changing from her husband while they’ve been on the run. But now Alfie’s back in town, her lies could cost her Nathan… and her son.
I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction in return for an honest review.
The second book in the Risking it All series concentrates on a gangland family vendetta, Gemma and Nathan have escaped, but he continues to put them in danger. Told from a multiperson viewpoint the reader understands all the main characters actions, emotions and motivations.
Gemma’s secret threatens her family and gives Alfie leverage. Nathan remains weak and self-centred and the least likeable of the three main characters. The action is swift and not graphic, and the characters are flawed and relatable.
The plot is well written and the characters vibrant making this an addictive ganglit read.
Stephanie Hart is a debut author writing in the ganglit genre. She lives in London with her family. Twitter
Sarah Parsons has a choice ahead of her. After the trip of a lifetime she’s somehow returned home with TWO handsome men wanting to whisk her away into the sunset.
Pulled in two directions across the globe, it’s making life trickier than it sounds. Her gorgeous American, Josh, wants to meet Sarah in Hawaii for a holiday to remember. Meanwhile silver fox, James, plans to wine and dine her in London.
It’s a lot to handle for this Aussie girl, who had totally sworn off men!
Join Sarah after her adventure in One Summer in Santorini, for the heart-warming and uplifting third novel in The Holiday Romance series.
I received a copy of this book from One More Chapter and the Author in return for an honest review.
The love triangle that left us guessing at the end of One Summer in Santorini is back, and it’s decision time for Sarah. You need to read book one to find out how she meets James and Josh, but there is enough backstory to clue you into her dilemma.
The story takes place in London with James, Hawaii with Josh and then New Zealand and Australia. The travel is descriptive and gives this romantic comedy its edge. Sarah is a little like a child in a sweet shop wanting both, having both and then not sure which she likes best. However, her emotional journey is insightful. She decides, but is it who you thought? I confess to being slightly disappointed with her choice, but it’s the right one for her.
The characters are flawed and relatable there are lots of humorous moments which are easy to visualise and then there’s the romance what more do you need? Lovely.
I’m a writer and traveller with a lengthy bucket list and cheeky sense of humour, and many of my travel adventures have found their way into my books. I’m also an avid reader, a film buff, a wine lover, and a coffee snob, though my writing is mostly fuelled by copious mugs of strong, milky tea (no sugar).
Before Roxy found herself “Single in Buenos Aires,” she was a single girl in London in search of true love. The third instalment of The Polo Diaries series takes us back to that time, and we follow Roxy as she hires a love coach to help her navigate the dating scene. But the love coach comes up with an unexpected assignment: reconnect to a long-forgotten passion. For Roxy this means horses. Within weeks, she finds herself playing polo, thanks to a series of unforeseen events.
Torn between her desire to become the best polo player she can be and the dream of falling in love, Roxy steps fully into the exciting and demanding world of polo, where injury and recovery mix with hard training, and where celebrating the victory of a tournament comes at a high price. Will Roxy eventually become the polo player she dreams to be? And with polo being such a demanding sport, can there be any space left for love?
Roxana Valea -Find your passions or they’ll find you!
When I was ten, I had a dream. I wanted to ride horses. I didn’t own a horse and didn’t know anyone who did. I had no idea where this wish came from but it was there, coming to visit my dreams at night. I dreamed of riding horses.
My parents were not very open to the idea and it took a couple of years of convincing before they eventually took me to a club where I could learn how to ride. I met Samurai there, the first horse I ever rode. He was a black gelding, old and slow. Perfect for children, my trainer told my parents.
Samurai and I spend that summer together. I came to ride three times a week and felt my heart bubbling with excitement every time I met him. I saved apples and carrots for him but he couldn’t care less. For him, I was just another twelve-year-old learning to ride. I took a fall or two and made sure I concealed all evidence from my parents. I didn’t want to endanger my newly found passion and I was afraid if my parents found out about my falls, they would put a stop to all this.
But, in the end, it was I who put a stop. Winter came and we didn’t ride in the winter and by the following spring I had to focus on my exams and I somehow forgot about Samurai andthe riding club. He came into my mind a few times but every time I was pushing the thought further and further away and other things became more important. A new school, dresses, music. Friends. Going to university. More friends. More dresses. Holidays. And later, work. Career. Money. No time. Very little time, actually. No time for this type of things, anyway.
How often do we treat our passions that way? They come to us in childhood and draw us in with inexplicable force. They make us feel alive, whole, excited. We try them on and love every minute of the experience. But then, other things get in the way and we learn to live life as defined by others. We go on following a path that has been prescribed for us, leaving behind the passion we had found and sometimes a piece of our own soul with it.
But passions discovered in childhood don’t go away. They wait patiently in the dark corners of our mind, the places we have pushed them into. They wait and germinate and every now and then send a signal from down there. “Are you ready?” they ask. “Are you ready to come back to me?”
If we’re not, they don’t get angry. They keep on waiting. They’re patient, these passions. They know something we haven’t learned yet: they know they are part of our soul and there’s no way we can cut them out for good.
And year after year we keep them locked down there. Until one day. Because there’s always one day when things change. One day when we come face to face with this long-forgotten passion.
For me it happened in an office, in my mid-thirties, while I was working for a large multinational company. I had a meeting with a colleague to discuss the upcoming launch of a new technology. She worked in the legal department. I was a project manager. I headed over to that meeting carrying my laptop in one hand and the printed launch schedule in the other. My mind was busy recapping all the points we needed to cover during the meeting. The launch was near and I wasn’t going to let anything get in its way.
But something did. As I entered the meeting room she wasn’t there. I waited for a few minutes, feeling irritation bubbling up. I didn’t have any time to waste. And then, just as I wanted to leave, she came in walking slowly.
“Sorry for being late.” she said. “I can’t walk properly. I’ve got muscle pain. I had a riding lesson yesterday.”
And so, with no notice, no time to prepare and no possibility of denial, my old passion walked slowly back into my life. And the following week I went riding with my colleague.
And if you want to know more about what happens when you reconnect to an old childhood passion, read The Polo Diaries Series!
Roxana Valea was born in Romania and lived in Italy, Switzerland, England and Argentina before settling in Spain. She has a BA in journalism and an MBA degree. She spent more than twenty years in the business world as an entrepreneur, manager and management consultant working for top companies like Apple, eBay, and Sony. She is also a Reiki Master and shamanic energy medicine practitioner. As an author, Roxana writes books inspired by real events. Her memoir Through Dust and Dreams is a faithful account of a trip she took at the age of twenty-eight across Africa by car in the company of two strangers she met over the internet. Her following book, Personal Power: Mindfulness Techniques for the Corporate World is a nonfiction book filled with personal anecdotes from her consulting years. The Polo Diaries series is inspired by her experiences as a female polo player–travelling to Argentina, falling in love, and surviving the highs and lows of this dangerous sport.
Roxana lives with her husband in Mallorca, Spain, where she writes, coaches, and does energy therapies, but her first passion remains writing.
Natasha Mayston wasn’t expecting anyone to knock on her door so late at night. And she has no idea that the face staring back at her is the last one she’ll ever see…
As Detective Dan Lockhart is called to a wealthy London street to investigate Natasha’s death, he’s startled by the similarity to a previous case. Noticing the cable-tie restraints and the tiny scratches on Natasha’s wedding finger, Dan already knows what he will find if he looks in her mouth – the metal ball which choked her to death. He knows Natasha isn’t the killer’s first victim and is certain that he will strike again.
Months earlier, Kim Hardy was found in the same position in a run-down hotel across the city – an identical silver ball in her throat. But Kim’s murderer was caught and sent to prison – did they arrest the wrong man? And what connects the two victims? Fearing that he’s dealing with a psychopathic serial killer, Dan calls in psychologist Dr Lexi Green to help him to get into the perpetrator’s mind. Tough and smart, Lexi will stop at nothing to hunt down the man responsible for the deaths.
Then, another body is discovered, just as Lexi finds a clue online leading to the killer. Dan’s team aren’t convinced, but in pushing Lexi away from the investigation, they force her to dig further into the case on her own. Convinced that she’s on to something, she puts herself in unthinkable danger… but can Dan piece together the clues and identify the killer before it’s too late?
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A powerful fusion of police procedural and psychological suspense underpins this story to good effect. The beginning draws the reader into an unknown killer’s world. The killer’s on a crusade against women determined to impress their protector. The sense of menace felt from the start builds with the suspense, as the investigation continues and the deaths escalate.
Lockhart is a complex protagonist with emotional and mental health issues which he tries to address through therapy where he meets psychologist Lexi Green. The two characters make a connection that draws them together, on a professional level, and given the right circumstances, personally too.
Calculated grisly crimes make detection difficult. The impactful ending resonates.