#BlogTour | #GuestPost: The Devil’s Daughters by Diana Bretherick (@DianaBretherick)

TDD - paperback jacket.jpg“1888. When young Scottish scientist James Murray receives a letter from Sofia Esposito, a woman he once loved and lost, he cannot refuse her cry for help. Sofia’s fifteen-year-old cousin has vanished but, because of her lower-class status, the police are unwilling to investigate.

Accompanied by his younger sister Lucy, Murray returns to the city of Turin where he was once apprenticed to the world-famous criminologist, Cesare Lombroso. As he embarks on his search for the missing girl, Murray uncovers a series of mysterious disappearances of young women and rumours of a haunted abbey on the outskirts of the city.

When the body of one of the girls turns up bearing evidence of a satanic ritual, Murray begins to slot together the pieces of the puzzle. But as two more bodies are discovered, fear grips the city and a desperate hunt begins to find a truly terrifying killer before he claims his next victim.”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to my stop on The Devil’s Daughters blog tour. The Devil’s Daughters is the second book featuring Cesare Lombroso and his trainee criminal anthropologist, James Murray.  Those criminologists among you may recognise Lombroso’s name (well, you should do, anyway!) as Lombroso (1835-1909) was one of the founding fathers in the study of criminology.

Today I am delighted to share a guest post with you, written by the very talented author of The Devil’s Daughters, Diana Bretherick.  And to round things off, I have my review of this wonderful book.  So, without further ado, I’ll hand over to Diana…

Writing Crime Fiction.

Let me begin by telling you about my own ‘criminal past’. It began when I was about 11 and ‘stole’ my mother’s library books. Technically I suppose I borrowed them but as she didn’t know what I was doing and probably would have stopped me if she had, I was forced to go under cover – literally – with a torch under my bed sheets which made it all the more thrilling. She was an avid fan of crime writing, both fiction and true crime and I was immediately drawn into a dark world of murder, complicated puzzles and deception –a world that I have never really left.

I was particularly fascinated by old mysteries firmly rooted in a dark past where there was a doubt over the guilt of the accused, usually a woman – Florence Maybrick who was almost certainly wrongly convicted of poisoning her husband with arsenic and served many years in prison before her release, Edith Thompson hanged for the murder of her husband even though it was her young lover who wielded the knife, Alma Rattenbury who was acquitted of a similar spousal murder but committed suicide anyway – distraught at her lover being sentenced to death. Injustice, passion and misogyny lay at the heart of all of these cases and fired up my adolescent self, making me want to stand up for those falsely accused. Eventually I became a criminal barrister but reality never quite measured up to the drama of the past and the motivation behind a crime often took a back seat.

I wanted to know more. I took a sabbatical and trained as a counsellor, working with serious sexual offenders at Brixton prison as a volunteer. That was a fascinating though occasionally disturbing experience. It did answer some of my questions but not all, so I studied criminology. Here I found a whole host of theories none of which were completely satisfactory. As with all theories about anything they were always flawed in one way or another. I began to look at how crime was represented through media of various kinds. This led me to wonder if I could write my own crime fiction. I decided to study for a Masters in creative writing.

Thinking back to those stories from the past I focused on historical crime fiction. How did our ideas about criminals and their motivation begin? It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that crime was studied at all as a separate phenomenon. Then an Italian doctor called Cesare Lombroso discovered an anomaly in the skull of a criminal. Could it be, he wondered, that all offenders had similar characteristics? Lombroso was the world’s first criminologist and he suggested that some criminals were born with a propensity to offend, that they were throwbacks from a more primitive past and their physical characteristics would help us to identify them. He had his critics but many supported his ideas. He was the first to write about female criminals as a separate entity, something that didn’t happen again until the mid twentieth century.

I decided to make Lombroso my detective drawing on my fascination with both criminology and crime fiction. So far I have written two novels about him, giving him fictitious cases to solve assisted by a fictitious young Scottish doctor James Murray.

I am not sure that I have ever really found an answer to my question of what motivates someone to commit a violent crime. It is true that recent developments in the field of neuro-criminology suggest that some may have a propensity to violence identifiable from their genes although their criminality is almost certainly triggered by environmental factors.

Why then do people commit crimes, particularly of a violent kind? I doubt that we will ever find a conclusive answer. The thing about all of us, including criminals, is that we are all different as are the situations we find ourselves in. That is why both the study of crime and its fictional counterpart are so endlessly fascinating and why my ‘life of crime’ goes on.

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Who doesn’t love a bit of historical crime every now and then!  And if you don’t, can I suggest that you read this book?  It will totally change your mind!

James Murray receives a letter from his Italian love, asking for help but saying little else.  He’s a dashing and chivalrous kind of chap so he runs to her aide with his teenage sister, Lucy, in tow.  Upon arrival in Turin he discovers that Sofia is not keen to rekindle their love affair as hoped; all she wants is James’ help in finding her missing cousin, Chiara.  Broken-hearted, James sets out on the hunt for Chiara, only to discover the disfigured body of a girl.  Before long he and his mentor Lombroso, are on the hunt for a savage killer.  It doesn’t help that someone is out to discredit James and have him returned to Scotland.  It also doesn’t help that someone has their eye on his sister…

This is a fantastic book which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I try and avoid reading historical crime on a regular basis as it’s a special treat to myself, and this book goes to prove my theory about it being a treat.  What a treat The Devil’s Daughters is!  I loved the plot of this enchanting novel (enchanting makes it sound all light and fluffy – it’s not, it’s got just the right amount of blood, guts and a little bit of gore!).  I was drawn in from very early on and completely mesmerised by some wonderful characters who felt very real to me (yes, I know Lombroso was a real person!).  I adored James, what a kind hearted and chivalrous young man.  He, to me, felt like the main protagonist with Lombroso taking a back seat.  Lucy’s desire to become an accomplished writer of detective novels was so very charming, along with her desire to do what the blinking heck she wants to do, gender aside!  I even liked Miss Trott (what am I saying, I loved Miss Trott!).

Although I found the reveal of the murderer a little obvious, there were plenty of other surprises along the way to keep my interest.  Red herrings galore to keep you guessing, just the way I like my crime novels. It’s a brilliant book and, I’ll say it again, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I’m off to add the first book, City of Devils, to my wishlist!

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  It’s a wonderfully written historical crime novel, with an endearing cast of believable characters.  I hope there is more to come from James Murray and Lombroso, but we’ll have to see.

Four out of five stars.

Many thanks to Emma Dowson, Orion Books and Diana Bretherick for providing me with a copy of The Devil’s Daughters in exchange for an honest review.

The Devil’s Daughters by Diana Bretherick will be published in the UK by Orion Books on 25th August 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Orion Crime |

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Diana Bretherick

Diana Bretherick was a criminal barrister for ten years and is a former lecturer in criminology and criminal justice at the University of Portsmouth.

Her first novel, City of Devils (Orion, 2013) was selected for the 2013 Specsavers Crime Thriller Book Club. Her latest novel The Devil’s Daughters is recently published by Orion in paperback.  Connect with Diana via Twitter @DianaBretherick or Orion Crime @orion_crime.

*BlogTour: Guest Post* The Irish Inheritance by M J Lee (@WriterMJLee)

The Irish Inheritance Cover LARGE EBOOK.jpg“June 8, 1921. Ireland.
A British Officer is shot dead on a remote hillside south of Dublin.

November 22, 2015. United Kingdom.
Former police detective, Jayne Sinclair, now working as a genealogical investigator, receives a phone call from an adopted American billionaire asking her to discover the identity of his real father.

How are the two events linked?

Jayne Sinclair has only three clues to help her: a photocopied birth certificate, a stolen book and an old photograph. And it soon becomes apparent somebody else is on the trail of the mystery. A killer who will stop at nothing to prevent Jayne discovering the secret hidden in the past
The Irish Inheritance takes us through the Easter Rising of 1916 and the Irish War of Independence, combining a search for the truth of the past with all the tension of a modern-day thriller.

It is the first in a series of novels featuring Jayne Sinclair, genealogical detective.”

Today I am one of three blogs participating in The Irish Inheritance blog tour.  I am a huge fan of author M J Lee’s Inspector Danilov series (click here to read my review of City of Shadows), so I can’t wait to get my teeth into this new series.

I am delighted to share a guest post with you today.  Martin has written a fascinating piece on family secrets.  Over to you Martin…

WHAT’S YOUR FAMILY SECRET?

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All families have secrets. It’s one of those truisms that is undoubtedly true.

You only have to watch the mesmerising revelations on Who do you think you are? or The Will  to see that the deeper we dig into our families the more secrets we will find. Hidden by old aunties, buried in old photographs, or simply hushed up by drawing a curtain over the past.

My own family secret was not that common. My grandfathers fought on opposing sides during the Irish Civil War. One was a member of the Free State Army whilst the other was a Captain in the IRA. I often wonder whether they ever met.

Below you’ll find a chart of the most common family secrets in Britain today. By the way, I think Yorkshire has far more secrets than any other region, they are just less willing to admit it than most. It’s the classic Yorkshire belief of ‘Don’t say nowt to nobody.’

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Family secrets are a wonderful source for novelists, particularly people such as myself who write Genealogical Mysteries. Through the techniques of the genealogical researcher, secrets can be discovered, tales told, and the past revealed in a way that no other mystery can match.

In my latest novel, the Irish Inheritance, the detective, Jayne Sinclair, uses genealogical sources to discover the real parents of an American billionaire, adopted when he was just four years old. All she has to help her are an old library book, an adoption certificate and a photograph. But these few objects lead her on a chase through time all the way back to the Easter Rising of 1916, revealing a saga of murder, mystery, greed and despair. Her employer’s family has a whole host of secrets, the greatest which is hidden until the very end of the book.

What’s your family secret? Is there something exciting, strange or forbidden in your past?

One reader has already told me the story of her family. It will form the basis of the second Jayne Sinclair genealogical mystery appearing at the end of 2016.

I’d love to hear other stories. All will be kept confidential of course. Just drop me a line at the website below.

In the meantime, good luck with your genealogical searches, but be careful what you find. Some family secrets want to stay buried.

Martin Lee is the author of three previous historical crime novels. This book is the first time he has managed to combine two of his passions – crime and genealogy – into one novel. It is also the first in a new genealogical mystery series featuring the investigator, Jayne Sinclair.

He can be contacted at www.writermjlee.com, on Facebook at writermjlee and on twitter at @writermjlee. He’s nothing if not original with his names.

***

Thank you for such an interesting post, Martin.  My dad has been tracing our family tree for some time now so I’ll have a word with him and see what he has discovered (if anything!).

The Irish Inheritance by M J Lee was published in the UK on 15th June 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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Martin has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a University researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, tv commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites.
He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the North of England. In London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and London Festivals, and the United Nations.
Whilst working in Shanghai, he loved walking through the old quarter of that amazing city, developing the idea behind a series of crime novels featuring Inspector Pyotr Danilov, set in 1920s and 30s.
When he’s not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, practicing downhill ironing, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake and wishing he were George Clooney.

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#BookReview: Keep You Close by Lucie Whitehouse (@LWhitehouse5)

51WoqcT09UL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_“They said it was a tragic accident. She knows better…

When the brilliant young painter Marianne Glass falls to her death, everyone insists it was a tragic accident. But Rowan Winter, once her closest friend, knows it wasn’t. Marianne – and the whole Glass family – once meant everything to Rowan so though they haven’t spoken for ten years, she knows she has to find out what happened. The deeper into Marianne’s life she goes, however, the more convinced she is that something is terribly wrong.

Then she meets Michael Cory, an intense American who specialises in portraits of women on the edge… ”

I have a confession to make.  It took me a long time to get into this book.  I know the reason why and I will explain my reasons a little later on.  Despite my initial reservations, by the end, I really enjoyed Keep You Close.

Rowan Winter is devastated to discover her childhood best friend has committed suicide, by jumping from the roof of her four storey family home.  Talented artist, Marianne Glass, had everything to live for.  A blossoming career, a contented relationship with her art-dealer boyfriend and the love and support of her close-knit family.  It just doesn’t make sense.  Rowan knows that Marianne would never jump.  Marianne suffered from debilitating vertigo.  She could never bring herself to approach the edge, never.  So what really happened?  And exactly who is to blame for Marianne’s death…?

I hate that it took me a while to warm to this book.  It’s such a good book and my reasons are completely personal.  This book is set in Oxford and I am from Oxford.  I grew up in Oxford.  More recently I worked at an Oxford University college called Lady Margaret Hall. One of the main locations in the story is the Glasses house on Fyfield Road.  Lady Margaret Hall own the majority of houses on Fyfield Road.  I have been in most of the houses on Fyfield Road.  I couldn’t, despite trying very hard, get beyond what I know about the road, about the houses. Had the author decided to create a totally fictional location, I would have been able to connect with the story more than I did. My bad, I couldn’t separate fact from fiction.

When I reached the second half of the book I became more involved with the story.  And what a story!  The second half of the book felt more about the characters, than the location.  I fell totally in love with Rowan and her plight to solve the riddle of her best friend’s accident (or was it murder..?).  Despite everything being against Rowan, I was cheering her on.  She felt like the slightly less pretty, slightly less popular of the two friends. Always in Marianne’s shadow. I wanted her to shine as well. Does she? Well, you’ll have to read the book and find out for yourself. 

The majority of characters in this book are sinister and shady.  They all have their secrets and oh, the big twist is a whopper.  So big it took my breath away!

Would I recommend this book?  I would, most definitely!  It’s a fabulous read and I think it will be loved by many, many readers.  However, it felt too close to home for me; so many locations I know so incredibly well.  Places I’ve grown up in, places I’ve worked in.  I did grow to enjoy the familiarity, but there was something stopping me from fully believing in the story.  Great characters, great story, great twist!

Four out of five stars.

Many thanks to Joe Thomas at Bloomsbury for providing me with a copy of Keep You Close in exchange for an honest review.

Keep You Close by Lucie Whitehouse was published in the UK by Bloomsbury Circus on 11th August 2016 and is available in hardcover, paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Bloomsbury Circus |

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Lucie-Whitehouse-min-300x300Lucie Whitehouse was born in Gloucestershire in 1975, was brought up in Stratford upon Avon, read Classics at Oxford University and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. She is author of The House at Midnight, the TV Book Club pick The Bed I Made and Before We Met, which was a Richard & Judy pick and an ITV3 Crime Book Club selection.  Connect with Lucie via twitter @LWhitehouse5 #KeepYouClose

#Giveaway: Paperback copy of Keep You Close by Lucie Whitehouse

51WoqcT09UL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_“They said it was a tragic accident. She knows better…

When the brilliant young painter Marianne Glass falls to her death, everyone insists it was a tragic accident. But Rowan Winter, once her closest friend, knows it wasn’t. Marianne – and the whole Glass family – once meant everything to Rowan so though they haven’t spoken for ten years, she knows she has to find out what happened. The deeper into Marianne’s life she goes, however, the more convinced she is that something is terribly wrong.

Then she meets Michael Cory, an intense American who specialises in portraits of women on the edge… ”

I’m a little late in posting this giveaway so please accept my apologies!  A couple of weeks ago I reached 1,500 followers on Twitter and in a moment of (madness) unbridled generosity I promised a giveaway.  After searching for an appropriate prize, and after some brilliant suggestions from a blogger friend (thanks Jo @ mychestnutreadingtree), I have decided to go with the obvious and give away a book (is there anything better than a book? No, didn’t think so!).

I have a couple of other reasons to celebrate so the timing isn’t that ‘off’ after all.  It was my birthday on Wednesday (boo!) and my husband, as part of my birthday present, gave me damppebbles.com (I’ve lost my .wordpress).  It feels rather wonderful to know that the blog is mine now, all mine *evil laugh*.

So this is my 1,500 followers, damppebbles.com, birthday giveaway (which is a bit of a mouthful!) – taddah!  Just so you know, this is my review copy of Keep You Close and I try incredibly hard to keep my books in the very best condition, but it has been read.  Also, the closing date of the giveaway is 22nd August but I’m away then so the result may not be announced until I’m home again on 27th/28th August.  Everyone can enter, no matter where you live, just click the link below.  (Hope this works!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Pop back tomorrow to read my review of Keep You Close.  Good luck everyone x

#BookReview: Deadly Harvest by Michael Stanley (@detectivekubu)

51QjLBkBiqL“A young girl goes missing after getting into a car with a mysterious man. Soon after, a second girl disappears, and her devastated father, Witness, sets out to seek revenge. As the trail goes cold, Samantha Khama – new recruit to the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department – suspects the girl was killed for muti, the traditional African medicine usually derived from plants, sometimes animals, and, recently and most chillingly, human parts. When the investigation gets personal, Samantha enlists opera-loving wine connoisseur Assistant Superintendent David ‘Kubu’ Bengu to help her dig into the past. As they begin to discover a pattern to the disappearances, there is another victim, and Kubu and Samantha are thrust into a harrowing race to stop a serial killer who has only one thing in mind …”

I like an international flavour to my books; a little escapism to a far away land where life is different to mine.  In a literary sense, I feel well travelled.  So why can’t I think of a single book I’ve read that’s set in Africa?  Probably because Deadly Harvest was my first visit to the vast continent (how is that possible?!).  But what an introduction!  This was no gentle easing into the customs and the climate, oh no!  This was a smack-you-between-the-eyes visit to Botswana with body parts galore!

New recruit to the Criminal Investigation Department, Samantha Khama, volunteers to investigate a missing persons case involving a young girl.  Samantha is the first female employed by the CID and is not liked by her male colleagues.  Assistant Superintendent David ‘Kubu’ Bengu however sees ‘something’ in Samantha so offers guidance and his extensive knowledge base to help her solve the case.  Before long things have escalated with a second girl going missing.  Samantha is convinced the girls are being taken for muti, the traditional African medicine made from plants, animals and sometimes, horrifically, human body parts!  Can Samantha and Kubu track down the serial killer masquerading as a witch doctor before another girl goes missing? And will the Botswanan people assist the investigation, or will the fear of black magic strike terror into those who hold the answers…?

I was part of the blog tour for this book back in June and I featured the opening of chapter one.  You can read that post by clicking here.   I said then how excited I was to read this book and I was not disappointed, not one drop!

Detective Kubu is not my normal kind of detective.  For one, he’s happily married with a beautiful young family.  He’s not all that grumpy, nor is he riddled with addictions or fighting his own demons (this is book four of the series so forgive me if that isn’t the case and I’ve missed something in books one to three!).  He comes across as a normal sort of chap but with that drive and determination that every great detective has.  I really liked him!  Normally I would find such a ‘normal’ character a little on the boring side, but not Kubu.  There’s a real likeability to him.  Samantha, on the other hand, made me want to shake her. She certainly wasn’t doing anything to help herself fit in, with her confrontational attitude and determination to ‘bring about change’ in an aggressive way.

The story was well paced and kept my attention from start to finish.  There are red herrings along the way to keep you guessing.  It was only as I moved towards the closing chapters did it dawn on me who the killer was.  I enjoyed the subplot, with the father of one of the missing girls spiraling into madness and casting the blame at another door.  The story had an eeriness about it which I found truly fascinating.  That suspense coupled with my own macabre interest drove me on to read ‘just one more chapter, just one more and then I’ll stop’…

Would I recommend this book?  You bet’cha!  It’s a brilliantly written police procedural with a cast of chilling characters who draw you in from page one until the very end.  Detective Kubu has a new fan (in me!) and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, A Death in the Family, which I thankfully have on my TBR.  Creepy, spinetingling and oh so good!

Four and a half stars out of five.

Many thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books and the author for a copy of Deadly Harvest in exchange for an honest review.

Deadly Harvest by Michael Stanley was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 15th May 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Orenda Books |

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Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. Stanley was an educational psychologist, specialising in the application of computers to teaching and learning, and is a pilot. Michael specialises in image processing and remote sensing, and teaches at the University of the Witwatersrand. On a flying trip to Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill, and devour a wildebeest, eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their first mystery, A Carrion Death, which introduced Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards, including the CWA Debut Dagger. The series has been critically acclaimed, and their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’ award. The next in the Detective Kubu series is A Death in the Family, also published by Orenda Books.

 

#BookReview: Melody Bittersweet and the Girls’ Ghostbusting Agency by @KFrenchBooks

51mpT8O8bGL“Welcome to Chapelwick, home of the brand new and hilarious Girls Ghostbusting Agency series, where things really do go bump in the night.

When Melody “I-See-Dead-People” Bittersweet wakes up jobless and alone on her twenty-seventh birthday, she realises she can’t leave her life in the hands of her magic eight ball any longer. She starts her very own ghostbusting agency with best friend Marina, geeky, keen Arthur, and, of course, a one-eared pug called Lestat.

But the team’s very first job at the vast, gothic Scarborough House puts them in direct competition with Melody’s ex, the rakish, despicable Leo Dark.

The house is haunted by three eccentric brothers. Douglas was murdered in his prime (and his cricket whites), while melancholy Isaac and shifty Lloyd lived into old age. Was the family right to exile Isaac, or could someone else have had the means, motive and opportunity?

Whoever solves the crime and gets rid of the ghosts gets paid.

Can Melody and her crew untangle the mystery and bring the brothers peace before Leo? Or will his distracting sexiness, Melody’s bonkers family, and her “vintage” (read: shocking knackered) 1973 Ford Transit, cause the agency to fall at its first hurdle?”

Before we get into the nitty gritty of this review I would like to show a little appreciation to Emma Rogers for designing such a stunning cover.  Melody Bittersweet isn’t the type of book I would normally go for (sorry Kitty) and if it wasn’t for that gorgeous eye-catching cover, I don’t think I would have stopped and taken the time to read the blurb.  Once I had done that, I knew that I HAD to read this book and that I was in for something rather special!  (It also helped that I saw the word ‘murder’ in the blurb, so that did it for me really!)

Melody Bittersweet and her slightly eccentric family have a gift, ‘they-see-dead-people’.  It’s all very run of the mill for the Bittersweets, everyone else…struggles a  little with it.  At the grand old age of 27 Melody decides that she needs to ‘do’ something, make her mark on the world and stop messing around.  Starting a business sounds easy, right? Her family have been running Blithe Spirits for eons, but she doesn’t want to do that – they are unbearable enough, without having to work with them as well.  So Melody decides to start her very own business; her family help those still very much alive and left behind so Melody is going to help the ghosts…by becoming a ghostbuster (thankfully no hoovers or green gooey Slimers in sight!).  Can Melody make it as a business woman?  And get one over on her ex-love, Leo Dark, in the process…?

Loved it!  Sorry, let me repeat that, I LOVED THIS BOOK.  What a wonderful change for me to read something lighthearted and a little bit silly.  There are so many good things I want to say, I just don’t know where to start.

Melody is amazing; sassy, spirited (haha, ‘spirited’) and shed loads of fun.  Her family are beyond adorable.  Silvana, her mother, we first meet balancing precariously on a table wearing a teeny tiny negligee, coaxing a ghost from the loft!  Unfortunately, for Melody, we meet her mother at the same time as her date does.  That’s the date she has just brought home for ‘coffee’!  Melody’s grandmother, Dicey, is full of youth, vim and vigour with a great big handful of naughtiness.  Particularly as her husband died in a rather compromising position and his spirit is forever tied to their bedroom!  Oh, and then there’s Marina who is Melody’s best friend.  What an enviable friendship they have! Marina is Melody’s guardian angel (and bodyguard!), the voice of reason (and sometimes aggression) in her ear, plus she brings a delicious treat to the office every day baked by her wonderful Italian Nonna.  But oh my, Artie, the hired help and the only boy working for the agency.  He’s adorable and I loved to see him grow in confidence as the story progressed.  He went from being the shy new boy to (almost) superhero status by the end of the book.

The story moved at a great pace with lots of madcap shenanigans along the way.  I loved the relationship between Melody and Fletcher Gunn and I hope the author builds on this in book two.  The main story line involving the mystery (see, there’s a mystery!) of why the Scarsborough brothers couldn’t move on was interesting.  I enjoyed reading about Melody’s ace detective skills and think she could give a lot of my normal literary detectives a good run for their money.  The race against ex-boyfriend and daytime TV superstar, Leo Dark, to solve the mystery was quite enchanting.

Would I recommend this book?  Without doubt.  This is one of my favourites so far this year and I can see it riding high in my top reads of 2016 list.  It’s an incredibly funny book which is full of adorable characters who are packed to the gills with eccentricity and love for one another.  I have learnt by reading this book that it’s OK, every so often, to step outside of your (reading) comfort zone…you might just enjoy it!  Roll on book two…

Five out of five stars.

Many thanks to Bookouture, Kitty French and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of Melody Bittersweet and the Girls’ Ghostbusting Agency in exchange for an honest review.

Melody Bittersweet and the Girls’ Ghostbusting Agency by Kitty French was published in the UK by Bookouture on 14th July 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Bookouture |

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Kitty French lives in the Black Country with her husband, two young sons and two crazy cats. She’s a lover of all things romantic – songs, music, and most of all, books. Her USA Today best-selling Lucien Knight series topped the erotic chart on both sides of the pond, and she also writes romantic comedy as Kat French for Avon, HarperCollins. She’s over the moon to join Bookouture with her brand new paranormal romantic comedy series, Melody Bittersweet and the Girls Ghostbusting Agency.  Connect with Kitty on Twitter @KFrenchBooks or her website www.kittyfrench.com.

#CoverReveal: Inside The Whispers by A J Waines (@AJWaines)

Today I am delighted to share with you the cover of the brilliant new novel from crime fiction author A J Waines!  Alison’s fabulous new psychological thriller is called INSIDE THE WHISPERS and will be published on 20th October 2016.  However you can get ahead of the rest and pre-order it now (click here to do just that if you’re in the UK or here if you’re in the USA!).

Here’s the blurb to whet your appetite:

“Where the most Dangerous place – is inside your own head…

Following a London Tube disaster, three traumatised survivors turn to clinical psychologist, Dr Samantha Willerby, for help – but she’s mystified when their stories don’t add up. Her confusion turns to horror when one by one, instead of recovering, they start committing suicide.

When her partner, Conrad, begins to suffer the same terrifying flashbacks, Sam is desperate to find out what is causing them and a mysterious and chilling crime begins to unravel.

Then the flashbacks begin for Sam…

The first book in the Dr Samantha Willerby Series, INSIDE THE WHISPERS is a tense, haunting Psychological Thriller that will leave your nerves in shreds.”

And now for that cover…

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I can’t wait to read Inside The Whispers.  What a blurb and what a cover!  I’m also very pleased to confirm that I will be part of the blog tour for this book later this year so keep an eye out for my review.  Huge thanks to the lovely Alison Waines for asking me to be involved.

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#BookReview: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (@blakecrouch1)

51rA+eTMSqL“Are you happy in your life?

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he wakes to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before the man he’s never met smiles down at him and says, ‘Welcome back, my friend.’

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined – one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.”

This book is serious stuff.  I enjoyed reading it but oh my, it’s a bit of a mind flip.  There were times when I felt I needed to increase my IQ by 100 points to follow the story.

Jason Dessen is a pretty normal guy with a beautiful wife, teenage son, average job as a college professor and a nice(ish) house.  He’s happy….sort of.  Then one day he is mugged at gun point, taken to a disused dilapidated building and injected with some strange drug.  Upon waking life has completely changed for Jason.  No wife, no son, no mundane job, but he does own a very swanky house.  The same house he owned with his wife but it’s a lot nicer.  Can Jason find his wife and son?  And what extremes will he need to go to to do that…

I’m not one to swear but this book is a bit of a mind f*ck.  I would describe it as a sci-fi thriller.  However, looking on amazon.co.uk it appears to fall into the romance (yes!), time travel (no!), thriller (yes!), conspiracy (sort of!) categories.  If you took ten people and asked them to classify this book I think you would get quite a few different answers.

I really liked the lead protagonist, Jason.  He’s such a wonderfully normal person who unwittingly ends up on this MEGA adventure.  His mission is to find his wife and son, he’s guided by love and I really liked that.

It’s a fast paced read and I recommend that you are fully awake whilst reading this book (otherwise you may miss parts of the story and be even more confused than I was!).  I absolutely loved the closing chapters where Jason was fighting against his unbeatable foe, brilliant!

Would I recommend this book?  I would but be prepared for a bit of a mind flip!  A fast paced thriller cum sci-fi novel that takes you to places you never thought possible with a very likeable lead.

Four out of five stars.

Many thanks to Sophie at edpr, the publisher and the author for providing me with a copy of Dark Matter in exchange for an honest review.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch was published in the UK by Macmillan on 11th August 2016 and is available in hardback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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Blake Crouch is the author of over a dozen bestselling suspense novels, including the international runaway bestselling series Wayward Pines, which became a hit television series from Executive Producer M. Night Shyamalan, starring Matt Dillon, Melissa Leo, and Terrence Howard.

His short fiction has appeared in numerous short story anthologies, and his longer fiction has been shortlisted for the International Thriller Award.

Blake lives in Colorado. To learn more about what he is doing, check out his website, follow him on Twitter @blakecrouch1 or on Facebook.

#BookReview: The Sister by Louise Jensen (@Fab_fiction)

41K-xdIF5IL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_‘I did something terrible Grace. I hope you can forgive me …’

“Grace hasn’t been the same since the death of her best friend Charlie. She is haunted by Charlie’s words the last time she saw her, and in a bid for answers, opens an old memory box of Charlie’s. It soon becomes clear that there was a lot she didn’t know about her best friend.

When Grace starts a campaign to find Charlie’s father, Anna, a girl claiming to be Charlie’s sister steps forward. For Grace, finding Anna is like finding a new family and soon Anna has made herself very comfortable in Grace and boyfriend Dan’s home.

But something isn’t right. Things disappear, Dan’s acting strangely and Grace is sure that someone is following her. Is it all in Grace’s mind? Or as she gets closer to discovering the truth about both Charlie and Anna, is Grace in terrible danger?

There was nothing she could have done to save Charlie … Or was there?”

This is a psychological thriller and a half!  Huge congratulations to the author, Louise Jensen, as this is her debut novel, what an achievement!  No pressure Louise but you’ve set the bar incredibly high for yourself!

Grace and Charlie are childhood best friends.  On her first day at her new school Grace encounters a classroom bully who is immediately put in his place by the forthright Charlie.  From there builds an unbreakable friendship, BFF together forever.  But, six years after burying their precious memory box, Charlie is dead.  Grace finds it impossible to cope with the grief, pushing everyone away and gradually falling to pieces.  In a bid to help her accept Charlie’s death she decides to find Charlie’s wayward father.  It’s something Charlie always wanted to do herself and it feels the right thing for Grace to do.  That’s when the mysterious Anna walks into Grace’s life.  Anna claims to be Charlie’s half sister but before long she has ensconced herself firmly in Grace’s life.  Grace is overjoyed, she finally has a link to Charlie again.  Or does she…?

Wowsers!  This is a stonking, heart-stopping read and I loved it.  I couldn’t put it down (I refused to put it down more like!).  I loved Louise’s style and I wanted to keep reading, no matter what else was happening around me.  The story was so engaging that I became transfixed with Grace’s tale, wanting to discover what strange occurrence was going to happen next.

I didn’t really warm to any of the characters, except for Grace’s grandfather who was just lovely.  Grace was a little too needy for me.  Charlie would probably be my favourite but she’s only present for a small percentage of the novel so I’m not sure she counts.  As for Dan, Grace’s boyfriend, he needs to man up, grr!  Anna is just sinister with a capital S and thinking about her makes me shudder.  I didn’t want to like any of this lot though, that’s part of the appeal of a psychological thriller.  What’s the point in having likable characters?

The plot moves at an enjoyable pace.  There are twists and turns along the way which keep you on the edge of your seat.  It’s pretty darn perfect, in my opinion.

Would I recommend this book?  Oh yes, without a doubt.  It’s a creepy tale of when good intentions turn bad.  It had my heart racing and I didn’t want to stop reading for anything.  A fabulous debut and I cannot wait to see what Louise Jensen has in store for us next.

Five out of five stars.

Many thanks to Bookouture, Louise Jensen and NetGalley for providing with a copy of The Sister in exchange for an honest review.

The Sister by Louise Jensen was published in the UK by Bookouture on 7th July 2016 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Bookouture |

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15183346Louise lives in Northamptonshire with her husband, children, madcap spaniel and a rather naughty cat. The Sister is Louise’s debut novel.

Louise loves to hear from readers and writers and can be found at http://www.louisejensen.co.uk, where she regularly blogs flash fiction.  Connect with Louise via Twitter @Fab_fiction

 

#BookReview: Never Alone by Elizabeth Haynes (@Elizjhaynes)

510uL5rtumL“Sarah Carpenter lives in an isolated farmhouse in North Yorkshire and for the first time, after the death of her husband some years ago and her children, Louis and Kitty, leaving for university, she’s living alone. But she doesn’t consider herself lonely. She has two dogs, a wide network of friends and the support of her best friend, Sophie.

When an old acquaintance, Aiden Beck, needs somewhere to stay for a while, Sarah’s cottage seems ideal; and renewing her relationship with Aiden gives her a reason to smile again. It’s supposed to be temporary, but not everyone is comfortable with the arrangement: her children are wary of his motives, and Will Brewer, an old friend of her son’s, seems to have taken it upon himself to check up on Sarah at every opportunity. Even Sophie has grown remote and distant.

After Sophie disappears, it’s clear she hasn’t been entirely honest with anyone, including Will, who seems more concerned for Sarah’s safety than anyone else. As the weather closes in, events take a dramatic turn and Kitty too goes missing. Suddenly Sarah finds herself in terrible danger, unsure of who she can still trust.

But she isn’t facing this alone; she has Aiden, and Aiden offers the protection that Sarah needs. Doesn’t he?”

In case you missed it (YOU MISSED IT? *humph* – only kidding) Elizabeth Haynes appeared on damppebbles last Saturday, 30th July 2016, as part of her Never Alone blog tour.  Elizabeth wrote a fantastic piece about her early days as a writer and learning her craft.  Click here to have a look – trust me, you don’t want to miss it.  Today I am delighted to share my review of this wonderful book with you.

Sarah is lonely.  Her husband died in a tragic accident, her son despises her and her daughter has gone to university.  She has friends in the village and her two dogs but it’s easy to become cutoff from society when you live in a remote farmhouse on the North Yorkshire moors.  Thankfully all that changes when old flame Aiden Beck turns up looking for a room to rent.  Sarah leaps at the chance to have her ex-lover living in the farmhouse’s empty cottage, a stones throw from her.  But what is Aiden not telling Sarah? And exactly how close are Aiden and Sarah’s best friend, Sophie?  And where has Sophie suddenly disappeared to…?

This is a real page turner.  Elizabeth Haynes has once again done exactly what she does best and turned out a cracking psychological thriller that fans, old and new, will adore.  There is something about Elizabeth’s style that immediately draws you in; it feels familiar but with an edge and you know you are in for a twisty ride of a read.

It’s a little bit saucy in places.  Frequent visitors to damppebbles will know that I’m not a fan of bedroom naughtiness in my books.  But saying that, it fitted with the story and wasn’t too over the top so I didn’t find it an issue.  It’s certainly not Fifty Shades of Grey, put it that way!

Sarah was my favourite character in the novel.  Initially she felt quite dowdy but as the story progressed she seemed to shed that dowdiness and become more of a mumsy minx! Maybe that was due to Aiden’s arrival as, the way he’s described, I think most of us ladies would go weak at the knees.  I found Sarah’s relationship with her son, Louis, strangely upsetting and I wanted to know so much more about it (maybe there’s scope there for a novella?!).

The way Elizabeth Haynes describes the locations in the book, and particularly the area around Sarah’s farmhouse, was quite stunning.  Even more so when the snow storm hits. Elizabeth made me switch between wanting to live in Sarah’s beautiful farmhouse, to being absolutely terrified of being cut off from society in the blink of an eye.

Would I recommend this book?  Of course I would!  It’s a great read, very gripping and brilliantly written.  Full of dark suspicious characters and their well (or maybe, not so well) hidden secrets.  A real page turner from start to finish.

Four and a half stars out of five.

Many thanks to Emma Dowson, Myriad Editions and Elizabeth Haynes for providing me with a copy of Never Alone in exchange for an honest review.

Never Alone by Elizabeth Haynes was published in the UK by Myriad Editions in eBook format on 28th July 2016.  The paperback version will be published on 6th October 2016 | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Myriad Editions |

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elizabeth haynes mlibElizabeth Haynes is a former police intelligence analyst who lives in Norfolk with her husband and son. Her first novel, Into the Darkest Corner, was Amazon’s Best Book of the Year 2011 and is a New York Times bestseller. It has been published in thirty-seven countries. Her second novel, Revenge of the Tide, was published by Myriad in 2012 and her third, Human Remains, was published in 2013. She is also the author of two police procedural crime novels, Under a Silent Moon and Behind Closed Doors (Sphere).  Connect with Elizabeth Haynes via Twitter @Elizjhaynes.