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

No Smoke Without Fire Claire S. Lewis 4*#Review @CSLewisWrites @Aria_Fiction #Psychological #suspense #Noir #Crime #CrimeFiction #BlogTour #BookReview Q&A

You can’t run forever…

Celeste has been running from her past for seven years. But now her past has found her.

For seven years, Celeste has battled her guilt and shame over the tragic events that led to her little brother’s death. But when her high-school boyfriend comes back into her life just as she gains a stalker, she wonders if there’s more to the story than she realized.

Celeste is determined to discover the truth – but she’s about to find out that when you play with fire, you get burned…

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

My Thoughts…

This dark and twisty psychological thriller explores the effect of domestic crimes on the victim. Celeste’s past emotional trauma defines her. Cleverly written with a noir ethos and menacing undercurrents it is compelling reading.

The complex plot has many characters and differing timelines. The psychological detail is well- researched and adds to the story’s unpredictability. Its focus is on crimes that are difficult to read about it, but this element is vital to the plot and the action and motivations of the main character.

The story is rich in visual imagery that enhances the characters and events. It resonates and keeps you guessing right to the end.

Q&A with Claire S. Lewis- No Smoke Without Fire.

Thank you so much Jane, for inviting me to Q&A on your wonderful website and for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts in response to your fascinating and perceptive questions. 

No Smoke Without Fire explores humanity’s darker side, how do achieve balance in your plot between noir and lighter moments?

You are so right that No Smoke Without Fire explores the darker side of humanity. At the core of the plot there’s a family tragedy and a rape that together propel the damaged protagonist, Celeste, on a journey that will not have a happy ending nor bring redemption to any of the characters. The novel touches on bleak themes of patriarchy and female oppression and explores ideas of victim shaming and the ways in which false, repressed and recovered memories can alter perceptions of morality and the truth. So, there are undoubtedly dark elements to the novel. But as you suggest in your question, I have tried to create a balance between noir and lighter moments. For example, death is ever-present, not least in the sense that Celeste’s online business venture (CelestialHeadstones.com) involves delivering memorial flowers to headstones in graveyards. On the other hand, she is a florist and the scenes in the florist shop, Seventh Heaven, provide opportunities for vivid colour and brightness which contrast with the mournful descriptions of cemeteries. Even on Celeste’s visits to graveyards, I have tried to give a contrast of shade and sunlight. Some of these take place at night, when ghostly shadows of the statues of black angels seem to trip her up. Others take place in glorious spring sunshine when her heart is lifted by the sights and sounds of nature bursting into bloom and teeming with new life. The relationships between the characters also provide a balance in the plot between noir and lighter moments – the opening scenes at a Cuban nightclub and scenes at Celeste’s flat where she enjoys flirtation and fun and light banter with her friends, contrasting with the darkness of oppressive and abusive encounters between Celeste and her father and teenage boyfriend in the flashback sections, for example, or the sinister scenes involving Celeste’s stalker. I have quite a visual imagination, and I find the use of colour very effective in creating this balance. In the opening nightclub scene and the florist scenes, I focus on the colour red – Celeste’s red dress, the red mood lighting on the dance floor, the vivid red of the Valentine roses – whereas black and grey tones help to create an atmosphere of melancholia or menace in other scenes. Settings can also be used to create light in the narrative, and I hope that the descriptions of the beautiful city of Cambridge and picturesque towns in the Surrey hills, have this effect in No Smoke Without Fire.

This story, falls into the noir crime genre, what are the positives of writing this type of literature? Are there any negatives?

Characteristics such as the presence of violence; complex characters, plotlines and timelines; mystery; moral ambiguity and ambivalence – these all come into play in the noir crime genre and can be found in No Smoke Without Fire.  The positives of writing this kind of literature include the fact that characters are generally drawn in a way that is more nuanced, not two-dimensional, reflecting the real complexity of human relations in situations of conflict. The writer sets out the interplay between the characters without dictating moral judgements on their behaviour.  Readers are left to ponder and come to their own conclusions – or not. Like crime in real life situations, in this genre there is no simple black and white clear-cut line between right and wrong or between the goodies and the baddies. Again, in the real world, many crimes are never fully solved or only become solved after many years of investigation. There may always be a lingering doubt about the justice of a conviction or an acquittal. Even where the jury reaches a conclusion on innocence or guilt, the ‘standard of proof’ for such a ruling is not 100 percent certainty – the prosecution must prove its case ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. So fiction in the genre of crime noir which has the characteristic of moral ambiguity and allows the reader to ruminate on the rights and wrongs of the situations and the ‘truth’ or ‘integrity’ of the characters, is perhaps more interesting and a more authentic reflection of real life than stories which leave no room for doubt as to which character is the hero and which is the villain. I like the ‘smoke and mirrors’ aspect of the noir crime thriller in part because it feels truer to real life than the type of ‘whodunnit’ thriller in which all the loose ends are tied up neatly at the end. As for the negatives of writing in this style of fiction, one down-side may be that because the protagonists of noir fiction are a mix of good and bad, and a mix of selfish and altruistic motives etc, none of them are particularly likeable? Perhaps there are no heroes or champions or characters to engage or fall in love with? On the other hand, because the characters are nuanced and flawed this makes them in one sense more true-to-life and relatable.

You use flashbacks to give clues about the protagonist’s past, why do think this style of plotting works so well for psychological suspense?

I think the use of flashbacks is well suited to psychological suspense because it allows for the character to be gradually pieced together in a way which mirrors the way in which criminal trials gradually build up a picture of a defendant or of a crime scene by delving back into the past to gather evidence about a suspect and interviewing a number of witnesses. In the case of Celeste, I have portrayed her as a person who is very private about the tragedy in her past life when she was teenager and the sexual abuse that she suffered in the boathouse on the night that her little brother died. Seven years on, she has buried these traumas deep within her soul and she is trying to live a normal life as a single working young woman of twenty-four. If I had only the present timeline to tell the story it would be difficult to understand the reasons for which Celeste seeks revenge and for which CelestialHeadstones.com is so dear to her heart. The glimpses of Celeste’s backstory moving through her past allow me to gradually build up a picture of her troubled home life as a child (alcoholic mother, dysfunctional and aggressive father) and her sexually submissive relationship with Ben as a teenager, which helps the reader to understand the complexity of her character and perhaps to empathise with her behaviour and motivations in the main plot. The flashbacks also help to create the moral ambivalence that is characteristic of noir crime.

The plot has different timelines and an unreliable protagonist, do you plan your story in detail before writing? Can you give us an insight into your writing process?

I am not very good at planning which I find rather boring. I tend to launch straight in rather than plotting and mapping out scenes in detail before embarking on the writing. My starting point is a story idea – some situation or news item that sparks my interest and which I feel could be the basis of a good plot or the opening scene of a story but without really knowing how it will all play out. For No Smoke Without Fire (or ‘In Loving Memory’ as it was – in part ironically – called when I first thought up the idea and throughout the writing process) I did write a synopsis with an outline of the plot and an ending. As I write, I imagine the story spooling out like a film in my head and I think about what scene should be revealed next. My lack of planning does usually result in me having to do quite a bit of rearranging of chapters once I have more or less completed a first draft. In the case of No Smoke Without Fire for example, I did not write my backstory flashbacks in time order the first-time round. Instead I started with a date rape scene which was very central to the character development of Celeste. However, my editor advised that it was better to drop these backstory chunks into the main narrative in a chronological order as I already had a number of viewpoints and the lack of chronology in the flashbacks could be rather confusing for the reader.

Do you know how your story will end when you start to write? How easy is it to create an unexpected outcome for your characters? Have you any insights into the best way of creating a shock ending?

The ending I had in mind when I started to write the story is not the ending that made it to the final cut. The ending in my synopsis was inspired by my favourite Audrey Tatou French film ‘He Loves Me, He loves Me Not’, but I realised that in the novel form my planned ending would not work structurally and, moreover, I realised that the character of Celeste that I had written in the first half of the book was too sympathetic to allow for her transformation into an all-out psychopath as I had originally intended! When rethinking my ending, I wanted something that brought together all the characters in the novel as well as to some extent coming full circle to the opening page, whilst also being an unexpected outcome. I hope that the ending I have created is both a shock ending and one that will give pause for some reflection and pathos – but that’s for the readers and not for me to judge! As for insights into the best way of creating a shock ending – that is an interesting and difficult question. Obviously, the ending needs to follow naturally from what has gone before rather than being tacked on. Clues should be planted earlier in the story which once the shock ending has been delivered make the reader feel that there was a certain inevitability about it, so that on reflection the ending becomes believable as well as unexpected.

What surprises do you have instore for your next story?

My next story is also in the genre of psychological suspense and is set in post-pandemic north London and Tuscany. I am playing around with the idea of a ‘book-within-a-book’ along the lines of ‘Nocturnal Animals’. So, in addition to the uncertainty as to who did what, there will be an added uncertainty as to whether the secondary line of narration is intended to be true or imagined or a mixture of both.

Thank you again, Jane, for this lovely opportunity to take part in your Q&A!

Claire S. Lewis

Claire Simone Lewis studied philosophy, French literature and international relations at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge before starting her career in aviation law with a City law firm and later as an in-house lawyer at Virgin Atlantic Airways.  More recently, she turned to writing psychological suspense, taking courses at the Faber Academy. She’s Mine is her first novel. Born in Paris, she’s bilingual and lives in Surrey with her family. 

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Posted in Book Review, Crime, Mystery, Noir, Psychological Thriller

I Will Make You Pay Teresa Driscoll 5*#Review @TeresaDriscoll @AmazonPub #Revenge #Secrets #Journalist #Investigator #Mystery #CrimeFiction #PsychologicalThriller #Stalker #BookReview

Every Wednesday, like clockwork, the terror returns.

It seems like an ordinary Wednesday, until the phone rings. A mysterious caller with a chilling threat. Journalist Alice Henderson hangs up, ready to dismiss it as a hoax against the newspaper. But the next Wednesday, the stalker makes another move—and it becomes clear that this is all about Alice.

Someone wants her to suffer, but for what? Her articles have made her a popular local champion—could it be her past rather than her work that’s put her life in danger? Alice is determined not to give in to fear, but with the police investigation at a dead end, her boyfriend insists on hiring private investigator Matthew Hill.

With every passing Wednesday, the warnings escalate until it’s not only Alice but also her family in the stalker’s sights. As her tormentor closes in, can Alice uncover what she’s being punished for before the terrifying threats become an unthinkable reality?

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

My Thoughts…

Authentic and addictive, this story explores what it’s like to be the focus of a stalker. The suspense builds from the first disturbing, unexpected contact and ends in a heart-pounding conclusion.

Alice, the journalist fulfils the role of an unreliable protagonist. She hates feeling vulnerable, not being able to live her life as she wants to. Her independence is gradually eroded. Her family is small but supportive and she is protective of them. The familial love is a strong theme of this story in both viewpoints portrayed. Alice has secrets, which are not immediately obvious but make her unreliable.

The character notated as ‘Him’, you presume is the antagonist. His story is poignant but increasingly menacing. Again familial love is a predominant theme, but here it takes a dark focus. The plot has many twists and viable suspects. Multiple plot strands, make the investigation complicated, for the police and the reader.

For those who have read the author’s previous book ‘The Promise’, Mathew Hill, the investigator is also a pivotal character in this story. His family life with wife Sally we first met in ‘The Promise’, and his lively daughter, provide light relief, in this often dark story.

This is a page-turning read. Alice is easy to empathise, and you feel her fear and frustration. The plot is relatable and clever, there are no loose ends, with it’s just ending. There is a poignant echo of the sad little boy you meet early in the story.

Posted in Book Review

4*Review: Stalker – Lisa Stone

 

Someone is always watching…

Derek Flint is a loner. He lives with his mother and spends his
evenings watching his clients on the CCTV cameras he has installed inside their homes. He likes their companionship – even if it’s through a screen.

When a series of crimes hit Derek’s neighbourhood, DC Beth Mayes begins to suspect he’s involved. How does he know so much about the victims’ lives? Why won’t he let anyone into his office? And what is his mother hiding in that strange, lonely house?

As the crimes become more violent, Beth must race against the clock to find out who is behind the attacks. Will she uncover the truth in time? And is Derek more dangerous than even she has guessed? 

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My Thoughts…

Reading the blurb to this techno-thriller, you would be forgiven for thinking you are about to read a 21st-Century ‘Psycho’ but don’t be fooled.

A convoluted plot takes you in one direction in an almost predictable way but then leads you down an even darker road before reaching an action-filled conclusion. Even with all the twists, it’s the characters rather than the plot’s complexity that make this a readable thriller.

Derek Flint, a loner, still living with his mother is a voyeur but does he do more than watch? Initially, it appears that Derek is not a good person, but as the story progresses, you discover he is more naive than evil, but he still has the key to the crime wave hitting his hometown. Detective Constables Beth and Matt have a good team dynamic, and they’re a credible police presence in the novel.

Well researched crime description with believable characters that develop within the plot’s sinister ethos, created by cleverly built suspense. An original  21st- century angle on the Stalker trope.

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

 

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: Kate Ryder – Summer in a Cornish Cove – 5*Review

Oliver Foxley is an acclaimed movie star and global heartthrob. But under the glare of the spotlight his ‘perfect’ life – and marriage -is slowly starting to crumble.

Cara Penhaligon is a struggling young Cornish artist and widowed mother of two children. Life has been unbearably harsh to Cara, but meeting Oliver might just give her a second chance at the happiness she deserves. As each begins to heal the other, the pieces of Oliver’s frustrating jigsaw puzzle effortlessly fall into place. But as the Cornish summer draws to a close, Oliver faces the toughest of choices, and no one emerges quite as they were at the start.

 Links to buy

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2GdSsDC

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/summer-in-a-cornish-cove

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2I7acRB

iBooks: https://apple.co/2GbnobS

 

 

My Thoughts…

This story is so much more than the holiday romance the title suggests. The cove is a special place, aesthetically beautiful but with a tightly knit community looking out for one another. Not all of the inhabitants were born there, but they all recognise its importance.

Oliver is a famous actor, but like most people, he has both a public and private face. He battles endogenous depression, so at odds with his extrovert persona as an actor. His wife fiercely protects his image and their family but doesn’t understand this side of him. Cara is a working artist, whose talent knows no bounds but is restricted by her need to be there for her young family since the untimely death of her young husband.

The storytelling in this book is first class, instantly drawing you into the cove’s community, visualising the coastal setting and wanting to know more about the people who live there. The intricate plot reveals Cara and Oliver’s stories until serendipity draws them together. Internal conflict is paramount in this story but interspersed with mystery, suspense and romance. The characters are well written and believable, and more than one is a little sinister.

The final chapters are heartrending and poignant and maintain Cara and Oliver’s authenticity.

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

Kate Ryder has worked in a number of industries including publishing, mainly as a proof-reader/copy editor and writer for a national newspaper, magazines and publishing houses. A member of the New Writers Scheme with the Romantic Novelists Association, in 2013 she published her debut novel, ‘The Forgotten Promise’, a timeslip romance and mysterious ghost story, which was shortlisted for Choc Lit’s 2016 “Search for a Star” and also honoured with a Chill with a Book “Book of the Month” Award. Kate lives in a renovated 200-year-old sawmill in the beautiful Tamar Valley with her husband and a collection of animals.

 

Posted in Book Review

Our Kind of Cruelty Araminta Hall – 4* Review

Most of us spend our whole lives searching for the person who’ll make us feel complete.

But Mike and Verity know they’re different. They’ve found their soulmate, and nothing can tear them apart.

Not even the man Verity is marrying.

Because they play a secret game, one they call ‘the Crave’, to demonstrate what they both know: that Verity needs Mike, and Mike alone. But Mike knows that Verity’s impending marriage will raise the stakes of their game higher than ever before.

Because this time, for Mike and Verity to stay together, someone has to die…

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My Thoughts…

‘Our Kind of Cruelty’ is an unusual psychological thriller. The relentless plot isn’t full of the usual twists and misinformation.

Told from Mike’s point of view, the outcome is inevitable, but it’s the events that lead up to this that make this dark thriller absorbing and chilling. Drawn into the mind of a damaged man, whose obsession with Verity, his girlfriend since university colours every action, plan and thought. Mike is blinkered and driven; Verity is his only reference point. He lacks insight concerning everything outside the bubble that contains the two of them.

The first two-thirds of the story is overlong. While it is essential to relive Mike’s version of events, his lack of self-worth, his abusive childhood and his obsession with Verity make for exhausting reading and condensing this would make the story an easier read.

Mike’s character is undoubtedly well- written, but he lives in a warped reality, and it’s hard to empathise. Verity’s point of view is unknown, her action may be indicative of her differing perspective, but Mike’s perception of them always comes back to the two of them being inseparable.

It’s not until the book’s last third that the pacing picks up and the real point of the story becomes clear. The legal courtroom scenes are realistic and riveting, the lawyer’s cross-examination of their clients are fascinating. Mike’s barrister’s direction of his client illustrates that knowing how to play the legal game doesn’t necessarily equate to justice.The ending is suitably unsettling and highlights the inequities of the legal and other social systems, despite equality laws.

I received a copy of this book from Random House UK, Cornerstone via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

5* Review- Touched to the Depths – Elsa Winckler

The final book in the ‘Touched’ series

is a nail biting read.

 

 

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BLURB

He was the photographer, she the model and on a sunny beach on Mahé, she stole his heart. But Darryn isn’t ready for the powerful feelings Hannah elicits, so when another photographer implies he’s also slept with Hannah, Darryn uses it as the perfect excuse to walk away.

But when they meet again, he can’t ignore his instincts—Hannah is in danger. Lies and threats make targets of them both, and faced with a situation of pure terror, Darryn is forced to realize he’ll do anything to protect her. And to keep her with him, always…

Buy Links

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My Review -1

Touched to the depths

Finally, ‘Touched to the Depths’ explores the tantalising mystery hinted at in the first three books. With sinister elements, this story is darker than the earlier stories. Hannah is a model whose life has been lived in the shadows, since an unfortunate event two years previously. Her brief but passionate liaison with Darryn, the dark and moody Cavallo brother is part of the reason but Hannah’s secret is much darker and threatens her and those she loves.
There is a delicate balance of back-story and present day in this book, which elaborates on scenes from earlier stories but this time from Hannah’s point of view. Her secretive behaviour is borne out of love for her family and the surly Darryn but is it safe to share her secrets or must she face the danger alone?
There is a strong psychological thriller element in this final story due the unbalanced mental state of the antagonist. This coupled with Hannah’s independence and fierce loyalty to those she loves makes for a page turning read. Danger lurks in every page and Hannah although courageous is an exasperating heroine at times.
Darryn is the last Cavallo brother to admit he is in love and this almost costs him his future happiness. His arrogance and dismissal of Hannah’s career proves to be a major source of conflict and one that must be resolved if they are ever to be happy.
This is a great finale to an enjoyable series.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

Touched to the depths by Elsa Winckler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Touched to the depths by Elsa Winckler

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5* Review: The Waiting Game – Eve Devon

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 Five years ago a madman stalked her. Kidnapped her. Tattooed her.

When security expert Cameron Dexter—the man Brooke Bennett once loved—appears unexpectedly at her door with terrifying news, the former musician discovers she can no longer hide from her past. After five years, her vicious kidnapper is out of prison and on the hunt—for Brooke.

Now he’s returned to complete his art.

Cam failed to protect Brooke once before. Now he’d rather die than let her be captured. With her life at stake, Cam vows to keep her hidden and safe. Brooke, however, is done with running. Unlike Cam, she wants to stand and fight. Emotions both old and new roil between them, but addressing their heated past must wait. Together they set a trap in London to catch a killer. But they soon discover the enemy wears many faces.

And waiting is no longer an option…

 

The Waiting GameMy Review

 
‘The Waiting Game’ is a twisty, well paced story with a damaged but so courageous heroine – Brooke and a sexy, guilt ridden hero – Cam. Hooked from the first chapter I read this book in a couple of hours.
The stalker element in this story is menacing. The author conveys Brooke’s horrific experiences cleverly without resorting to descriptions of gratuitous violence. Sharing Brooke’s point of view brings the fear and lack of control she experiences vividly to life. The plot has lots of twists and a few nasty surprises for Brooke and Cam.
Cam’s need for control is a symptom of his guilt complex which proves an almost insurmountable barrier for Brooke to climb. The chemistry between the couple as Cam refuses to let his passion override his duty is sizzling. The emotional bond between the couple is tangible they so deserve their happy ending but will they get it?
Well written secondary characters enhance the story’s realistic edge. I would love to read Ellie and Alex’s stories.
The balance of romance and suspense in ‘The Waiting Game’ makes it an enthralling read.

The Waiting Game by Eve Devon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Waiting Game by Eve Devon
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Posted in Book Review, New Books

5* Review: Closing In – Sue Fortin

 

 

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Helen has had to leave everything she’s ever known behind; her home, her family, even her own name.

Now, returning to the UK as Ellen Newman, she moves to a small coastal village, working as a nanny for Donovan, a criminal psychologist. Attractive, caring and protective, this single father and his sweet daughter are a world away from Ellen’s brutal past. She thinks she’s escaped. She thinks she’s safe.

But Ellen can’t shake the feeling that something’s wrong.

Strange incidents begin to plague her new family, and their house of calm is about to become one of suspicion and fear. Who can be trusted? Who is the target? Who is closing in?

 

Closing InMy Review

‘Closing In’ is an atmospheric, romantic thriller.

Helen needs to escape but we don’t know why. She changes her name by deed poll to Ellen and walks away from her life and Toby her ex boyfriend.

Ellen’s new life is working out. She secures a job in sleepy seaside town as nanny to a sweet little girl who has a kind and desirable dad. Donovan’s love for his daughter defines him and makes him even more attractive to Ellen. His job as a criminal psychologist is a complication. Courageous despite her low self image Ellen is determined to enjoy a better life. Ellen’s inner battle as she strives to overcome her fears and find the true self is enthralling.

A series of untoward occurrences threatens their idyll but who is the target? This is a clever psychological thriller full of false clues and intrigue. The antagonist is menacing. The secondary characters enhance the mystery and tension in the plot.

‘Closing In’ is a beautifully written romance interwoven with dark elements of suspense which will hold your interest until the last page.

I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley.

Closing In by Sue Fortin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Closing In by Sue Fortin

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