#BlogTour | #Extract: Good Friday by Lynda La Plante (@LaPlanteLynda) @BonnierZaffre @ed_pr

good friday.jpg“Every legend has a beginning . . . 

During 1974 and 1975 the IRA subjected London to a terrifying bombing campaign. In one day alone, they planted seven bombs at locations across central London. Some were defused – some were not. 

Jane Tennison is now a fully-fledged detective. On the way to court one morning, Jane passes through Covent Garden Underground station and is caught up in a bomb blast that leaves several people dead, and many horribly injured. Jane is a key witness, but is adamant that she can’t identify the bomber. When a photograph appears in the newspapers, showing Jane assisting the injured at the scene, it puts her and her family at risk from IRA retaliation. 

‘Good Friday’ is the eagerly awaited date of the annual formal CID dinner, due to take place at St Ermin’s Hotel. Hundreds of detectives and their wives will be there. It’s the perfect target. As Jane arrives for the evening, she realises that she recognises the parking attendant as the bomber from Covent Garden. Can she convince her senior officers in time, or will another bomb destroy London’s entire detective force?”

I am thrilled to welcome you to damppebbles today as it’s my stop on the Good Friday blog tour.  Good Friday is the third book in the Tennison series written by the Queen of Crime Drama, Lynda La Plante and was published by Bonnier Zaffre on 24th August 2017.  The Tennison series focusses on the early career of the incredibly popular television character, Jane Tennison and is a must read for fans of the acclaimed drama.

To celebrate the release of this third book in the series, I have an extract to share with you.  So make yourself a cuppa, sit back and put your feet up…

Jane took the Circle line from Baker Street and changed at King’s Cross St Pancras to take the Piccadilly line to Covent Garden. From there it was just a short walk to the Bow Street station.  It was eight thirty when Jane arrived at Covent Garden station, right at the peak of the early morning rush hour. There were groans from the other passengers when they saw that the lift wasn’t working, but Jane didn’t mind as she wasn’t in any great hurry. She followed the throng of people walking up the 193 steps of the spiral staircase, trying her best not to bump into the people heading down the stairs in the opposite direction. Behind her was a woman with a pushchair and a baby in her arms.
‘Can I help you?’ Jane asked.
‘Oh, yes please, thank you, love. These lifts here are always out of order.’
Jane carried the pushchair, and as there were so many people up ahead of her, they moved very slowly. On reaching the top stair she unfolded the pushchair so the woman could put her baby in the seat. Jane paused at the ticket barriers to search her handbag for her warrant card. The area surrounding the faulty lift was heaving with people moving in both directions, and a guard was on duty checking and taking tickets. Behind Jane were queues of passengers waiting impatiently to show their tickets so they could leave the station, and she found herself being pushed forward.
The guard shouted, ‘Please do NOT push! We apologise for the lifts being out of order and ask for your patience. Please proceed in an orderly manner through the ticket barriers!’
Jane made her way through the ticket barrier and out into the packed foyer.
‘Excuse me, sir, you forgot your bag.’
Jane turned to see an elderly woman pointing to a rucksack that had been left on the floor next to the ticket box.
‘Hey, you left your bag!’ the woman repeated. Jane followed her gaze and caught sight of a man wearing a hooded winter coat, walking away with his head down. Instead of turning to acknowledge the old lady he pushed people out of his way as he hurried
towards the Long Lane exit.
‘I just saw him put it down!’ the woman said loudly. Jane hesitated. Was it just a mistake, and the man had simply not heard the woman calling out to him? She hurried after him, in the hope of stopping him and reuniting him with his bag.
‘Excuse me, sir! I’m a police officer and . . .’
The man kept on moving quickly through the throng of people and Jane picked up her pace as she called out for him to stop. Just as he reached the exit, Jane managed to grab hold of his sleeve. He half turned towards her and she had a momentary glimpse of his
profile, but he twisted out of her grasp, batting her away. He pushed people aside as he ran out of the station. Jane stumbled backwards, and then turned to look for the abandoned rucksack. She could feel the panic rising as she realised it had gone, but then calmed down as she reassured herself that the old lady must have been mistaken and the real owner had picked it up. Jane turned around in a circle, searching for anyone carrying the rucksack. Then she saw the ticket barrier guard holding it against his chest, heading towards the guards’ office. She immediately sensed that something was very wrong. For a second she was paralysed with fear, but then she started pushing people aside and screamed at the guard to put the rucksack down, shouting for everyone to evacuate the area. Some people began to run. But it was too late.

Good Friday by Lynda La Plante is out now, published by Bonnier Zaffre in hardback. RRP £18.99.

Oh-my-flipping-goodness!  I don’t know about you but my heart is pounding.  How good was that?  I NEED to read more so will be making a start on my copy sooner rather than later.  I hope the extract has piqued your interest too.  WOW!

Good Friday by Lynda La Plante was published in the UK by Bonnier Zaffre on 24th August 2017 and is available in hardcover, eBook and audio formats with the paperback due for release in 2018 | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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about the author3

Lynda la Plante.jpgLynda La Plante was born in Liverpool. She trained for the stage at RADA and worked with the National Theatre and RDC before becoming a television actress. She then turned to writing – and made her breakthrough with the phenomenally successful TV series WIDOWS.

Her novels have all been international bestsellers. Her original script for the much-acclaimed PRIME SUSPECT won awards from BAFTA, Emmys, British Broadcasting and Royal Television Society as well as the 1993 Edgar Allan Poe Writer’s Award.

Since 1993 Lynda has spearheaded La Plante Productions. In that time the company has produced a stunning slate of innovative dramas with proven success and enduring international appeal.

Based on Lynda’s best selling series of Anna Travis novels, Above Suspicion, Silent Scream, Deadly Intent and Silent Scream have all adapted into TV scripts and received impressive viewing figures.

Lynda has been made honorary fellow of the British Film Institute and was awarded the BAFTA Dennis Potter Writer’s Award 2000.

On 14th June 2008 Lynda was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List (Writer and Producer for services to Literature, Drama and to Charity).

On 3rd October 2009, Lynda was honoured at the Cologne Conference International Film and Television Festival with the prestigious TV Spielfilm Award for her television adaptation of her novel, Above Suspicion.

Books penned by Lynda La Plante include: The Legacy, The Talisman, Bella Mafia, Entwined, Cold Shoulder, Cold Blood, Cold Heart, Sleeping Cruelty, Royal Flush, Above Suspicion, The Red Dahlia, Clean Cut, Deadly Intent and Silent Scream, Blind Fury (this entered the UK Sunday Times Bestsellers List at number 1 having sold 9,500 copies in its first two weeks), Blood Line, Backlash, Wrongful Death, and Twisted, which have all been international best-sellers.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

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#BlogTour | #Extract: Witch Dust by @marilyn_messik | @matadorbooks | @TAsTPublicity

Witch Dust. High Res. Front Cover.jpg“A red gash of a mouth rimmed with impossibly tiny, razor-sharp teeth yawned wide, then swift as a snake, she bent and struck . . . “

“For Sandra, daughter of illusionists, Adam and Ophelia, life’s never been run of the mill. But when Adam’s wandering eye lights on yet another conquest, it proves a chorus girl too far, and Sandra’s caught in the reverberations of her parents acrimonious parting. Coerced into restoring her depressed Mother to the bosom of a family Sandra never knew existed, she’s sucked into a situation that even for her is unnerving.

From being without a single relative, she suddenly acquires several she’d rather do without, and learns a few home truths she’d prefer not to know. Ophelia it appears, has not been entirely honest about any number of things. There’s no doubt in Sandra’s mind, the sooner she puts as much distance as possible between herself, her newly discovered nearest and dearest, their peculiar tendencies and their failing hotel business, the very much happier she’s going to be.

Dire straits call for desperate measures and Sandra reluctantly rises to the occasion. A hanged housemaid, a fly-on-the-wall documentary, The Psychic Society and a quasi co-operative journalist all handled correctly should, she reckons, get the family business up and running, which will allow her to do the same – as fast as she can, and in the opposite direction. Things unfortunately move swiftly from bad to farce and then get a hell of a lot darker. One moment Sandra’s struggling to save the family’s income, the next, she’s battling to save their lives.

Turns out, some darknesses, once buried, are best left undisturbed.”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the Witch Dust blog tour which I share with the lovely Juliet over at Bookliterati.  Witch Dust is written by Marilyn Messik and was published on 28th August 2017 by Matador Books.

In order to celebrate the release of this brilliant new paranormal thriller, I have an extract to share with you today.  So without further ado…

You’d probably recognize my Mother if you saw her, my Father too – Adam Adamovitch and the lovely Ophelia. You might have been to one of their stage shows, more likely you’ll have seen them on television – they did a Christmas Special for years; or perhaps you caught them, not that long ago on Graham Norton. Most people have simply got used to seeing them gazing adoringly at each other in innumerable red-carpet press shots – a premiere here, a society bash there or simply champagning it on the slopes of Gstaad. Adam and Ophie, or as the media love to label them, Mr and Mrs Magic. Purveyors of illusion; delusion; sparkling eyes; flashing teeth; little-left-to-the-imagination costumes and death defying stunts. Sword; flame; guillotine; water-tank; all thrillingly enhanced with their trademark sizzling chemistry although naturally, that’s not an aspect on which a daughter likes to dwell. Not a shred of doubt though, a fair old amount of high voltage smouldering took place, both onstage and off. His tall, olive-skinned good looks charmingly offset by her petite, curved blonde ones had, over the years, put the extra into some extraordinary performances, resulting in consistent bookings, a vertical career path and egos the size of the national debt.

Me? Well no, you wouldn’t recognize me, why should you? Mind you, I believe I did do a turn or two, way back when I was small. I vaguely remember, toddler-sized, being hauled out of a hat rabbit-fashion then befrilled and becurled, tottering across the stage arms outstretched, to be scooped up by one and tossed, uncomplaining to the other. The audience loved it, clapped their hands sore, rocking with excitement that Adam and the lovely Ophelia – looking no more than a child herself – had sealed their union with a predictably gorgeous baby. But of course, a baby’s one thing, a sulky six year old, quite another. And unsurprisingly, as time passed and stomachs had to be held in ever more tightly, buttocks clenched ever more constantly and make-up applied with an increasingly lavish hand, a spottily awkward teenager was the last thing they wanted in the public eye.

No, don’t get me wrong, I’m not grumbling, I certainly wasn’t neglected, it’s just some people aren’t natural parent material, and whilst there was never any shortage of loving hugs and expensive gifts there was, it has to be said, a corresponding and disconcerting degree of absent mindedness. As a child, I was accustomed to being regularly, if inadvertently, left behind at numerous hotels, stations or airports. The Stage Manager would assume I was with the PR people, the PR people would be convinced I’d gone on with Props and my parents generally omitted to give it much thought one way or another. Whilst never thrilled by this evidence of my importance on the scale of things, I was fairly philosophical and would wait patiently, never fearing abandonment. I knew, sooner or later, someone would come rushing back in a panic to get me, and such incidents were invariably followed by Ma and Pa descending briefly into darling-we’re-such-terrible-people-you-musthate-us-what-can-we-possibly-do-to-make-it-up-to-you mode. This was generally the most tiresome part, because I then had to spend time and effort reassuring them they were the best parents anyone could ask for – which we all knew wasn’t remotely true – but it drew a line under the whole thing, until the next time.

On the whole, I suppose my relationship with my parents wasn’t so very different from the norm, although birthday parties, for which they usually insisted on providing the entertainment, were pretty excruciating. There can’t be many of us who spend our formative years hissing at our Mother, ‘For God’s sake, put some proper clothes on!’ But like most children, I did want to shine in their eyes and whilst fully anticipating, was invariably disappointed when they were unable to make school plays, sports days and prize-givings. Mind you, their rare attendance could be considered a mixed blessing. They once arrived at a Nativity play I was in – complete with film crew and sound team to record the performance. That’s not a comfortable memory. When it came to the finale Pa, channelling Spielberg, insisted on four re-takes. The whole thing turned so stressful that the English teacher came over all unnecessary, Herod got into a fight with the donkey and the Virgin Mary threw up over two of the three Wise Men. As I said, a mixed blessing.

I’m really liking the sound of this one!  In fact, I’m going to add it to the terrifying TBR for one of those moments when I want to read something a little different to my usual detective fiction fare.  I think I’d really enjoy this one.

Witch Dust by Marilyn Messik was published in the UK by Matador Books on 28th August 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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about the author3

marilyn_m_030 (1).jpgMarilyn was a regular feature and fiction writer for various national magazines when her children were small. She then set up her first business, selling toys, books and party goods from home, before opening first one shop then another. When she sold both shops she moved into the world of travel, focusing on Bed and Breakfasts and Country Inns in New England, USA. Her advisory, planning and booking service flourished and she concurrently launched a publishing company, producing an annual, full-colour accommodation guide. In 2007 she set up a copywriting consultancy, to help businesses shape their messages to optimum effect.

She’s the author of the Little Black Business Book series and the novels Relatively Strange and Even Stranger. She’s been married to her very patient husband for more years than he deserves and they have two children, five grandchildren and, somewhat to their surprise, several grand-dogs. Her writing style has been described as ‘A cross between Stephen King and Maureen Lipman.’ although, as she points out, she’s not sure either of them would be remotely thrilled to hear that!

Author Links: | Facebook | Goodreads Author Page | Website | Twitter |

 

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Nothing Stays Buried by #PJTracy | @MichaelJBooks #Monkeewrench

Nothing Stays Buried.jpg“There’s a search for a missing girl, and another for a serial killer: death holds all the cards . . .

When Marla Gustafson vanishes on her way to her father’s farm, her car left empty on the side of an isolated country road, even Grace MacBride and her eccentric team of analysts are baffled.

Meanwhile in Minneapolis, homicide detectives Gino and Magozzi have a serial killer on their hands – two women murdered in cruelly similar fashion, with playing cards left on the bodies. But one card is an ace, the other is a four – it seems the killer is already two murders ahead.

With both teams stumped, it slowly becomes clear the evidence is inexplicably entangled. And they have little time to unravel the threads: a twisted killer is intent on playing out the deck…”

I am absolutely delighted to welcome you to my stop on the Nothing Stays Buried blog tour.  Nothing Stays Buried was written by P.J. Tracy, a mother and daughter writing team and is the eighth book in the Monkeewrench series.  In my opinion, if you like crime fiction then you will have heard of P.J. Tracy before.  Their books feature the über intelligent crime fighting team, Monkeewrench, headed by the strong yet emotionally scarred superwoman that is Grace McBride.  I LOVE these books and I have a particular soft spot for Grace, so I was thrilled to be asked to join the blog tour.

I was excited to make a start on Nothing Stays Buried.  So much so I ended up walking across the Norfolk Broads while on holiday, trying to find a wi-fi signal so I could download the book!  I eventually managed and threw myself straight into the story.  And oh my, that prologue certainly grabs your attention!  I had so many questions after that opening chapter that I wasn’t going to let grumpy, squabbling kids in the back of the car distract me (bad mummy!).  I was hooked from the first page, from the moment Marla Gustafson was introduced to us.  Marla is pretty perfect.  So perfect, she wants to help others by removing dumped trash bags from the freeway.  What she doesn’t expect is…well, you’ll have to read the book for yourself to find out but let’s just say that she immediately regrets stopping.  Especially when she’s chased through the woods by a stranger (read: maniac!).

The Monkeewrench crew are drafted in by Jacob, the local Sheriff who has a romantic interest in the victim, and her desperate, elderly father, Walt.  It’s not on the scale of their usual cases and they tend to come with a high price tag but sometimes it feels good to just help people.  Meanwhile, Detectives Magozzi and Gino are investigating the case of what they believe to be a serial killer.  I love a serial killer thriller.  I mean, I REALLY love a serial killer thriller.  The only clue the detectives have is that the killer leaves a playing card on the victim.  It may just be me but if a book contains a serial killer who either collects trophies or leaves a calling ‘card’, then I am hooked!  Is there a link between the missing Marla and the frenzied serial killer?  Can a connection be found before another victim meets a horrific death…?

Nothing Stays Buried is packed full of lovely, edge-of-your-seat suspense.  Obviously, I love the Monkeewrench team anyway but this book reminded me how fond I am of Detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth.  And how their relationship has become such a key part of the Monkeewrench series.  The humorous banter between the two characters added a wonderful lighthearted note to proceedings which I appreciated.  The supporting characters also won through for me.  I particularly liked Marla’s farmer father, Walt with his love and concern for his missing daughter and his undying love for his deceased wife. I found Jacob, the Sheriff, equally appealing.  All great characters who I would return to again and again.

Would I recommend this book?  Most definitely.  If you haven’t discovered the Monkeewrench series yet then what are you waiting for!?  There are eight wonderful books out there for your delectation.  It’s perfect crime fiction reading and a MUST READ for all crime thriller fans.  Nothing Stays Buried is a book I really thoroughly enjoyed as it reminded me exactly how much I LOVE this wonderful, suspenseful series.

Four and a half stars out of five.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Nothing Stays Buried.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.  My thanks to Jenny at Michael Joseph for including me in the blog tour.

Nothing Stays Buried by P.J. Tracy was published in the UK by Michael Joseph, Penguin Random House on 24th August 2017 and is available in hardcover and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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about the author3

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Photo: © Pamela Stege

P.J. Tracy was the pseudonym for the mother-and-daughter writing team of P.J. and Traci Lambrecht. Together PJ and Traci were authors of bestselling thrillers Want to Play? (Richard and Judy Book Club pick), Live Bait, Dead Run, Snow Blind, Play to Kill, Two Evils and Cold Kill.

Author Links: | Website | Facebook |

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

the sister.jpg‘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?”

It gives me great pleasure to wish the incredibly talented Louise Jensen the happiest of publication days.  Today, Louise’s debut The Sister is published in paperback by Sphere (Little, Brown).  It’s an astonishingly good read and I heartily recommend you do EVERYTHING you can to get a copy.  Congratulations Louise ❤.

Here’s my five-star review from August 2016 just to prove how much I love this book (and to convince you to purchase a copy if you haven’t already done so!).

my review2

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.

The Sister by Louise Jensen was published in the UK by Sphere on 24th August 2017 and is available in paperback format.  Previously published in eBook and audio formats by Bookouture| amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

about the author3

 

Louise Jensen is a No. 1 bestselling author of psychological thrillers. Her debut novel ‘The Sister,’ was published by Bookouture (Hachette) in July 2016 and reached No. 1 in the UK where it stayed for over 5 weeks, and it also hit No. 1 on the Canadian Amazon chart, No.1 in Apple’s iBooks and is listed as a USA Today Bestseller. It was the 6th biggest selling book on Amazon in 2016. Due to The Sister’s phenomenal success it will be republished by Sphere (Little, Brown Book Group) on August 24th 2017 and be available in all good bookshops.

‘The Sister’ is a book about a grieving girl who thought there was nothing as frightening as being alone – she was wrong.

‘The Gift’ Louise’s second book, was published in December and within a week of release gave Louise her second No. 1 in 2016 both in the UK, where it stayed for over a 5 weeks, was No. 1 in  Canada and is also a USA Today Bestseller. In Amazon’s half-year trends report The Gift is reported as the 3rd biggest selling ebook in the UK in 2017.

‘The Gift’ is a book about a perfect daughter and how a secret is eating her family alive…

‘The Surrogate’ is Louise’s third novel and is due for publication on September 27th 2017 and is available to preorder now.

‘The Surrogate – is a book about everything you have, she wants. ‘You know that feeling? 

When you want something so badly, you’d kill for it?’

To date Louise has sold over 750,000 books and her novels have been sold for translation in sixteen territories. Louise was nominated for the Goodreads Debut Author of 2016 Award.

Louise also writes flash fiction, and features and articles for both magazines and online publications. Louise specialises in writing about mindfulness, chronic pain and mental health.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

 

#Giveaway | #BookReview: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (@blakecrouch1) @panmacmillan @ed_pr

Dark Matter new paperback cover.jpg“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.”

Back in August 2016 I reviewed the riveting, complex thriller Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.  It’s one of those books where, once you’ve read it, you know you won’t forget it in a hurry.  I am thrilled to share that review with you again today as Dark Matter is now available in paperback!  I also have a copy to giveaway to one lucky winner.  But first, my review…

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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, an 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 EDPR, the publisher and the author for providing me with a copy of Dark Matter.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Giveaway: To win a copy of Dark Matter please visit my twitter page by clicking here and retweet the pinned tweet.  Nice and simple.

The winner will be chosen at random. There is no cash alternative.  You will need to provide your mailing address which I will then pass on to EDPR so they may send the book to you.  Competition closes at 8pm (BST) on Saturday 26th August 2017.  Only retweets of the pinned tweet will count.  Good luck!

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch was published in the UK by Pan on 24th August 2017 and is available in hardback, paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

 

about the author3

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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.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: If I Die Tonight by A.L. Gaylin (@alisongaylin) @arrowpublishing

If I Die Tonight“There was a time when Jackie Reed knew her sons better than anyone. She used to be able to tell what they were thinking, feeling, if they were lying… 

But it’s as though every day, every minute even, she knows them a little less. Her boys aren’t boys anymore, they’re becoming men – men she’s not sure she recognises, men she’s not sure she can trust.

So when one of her son’s classmates is killed in suspicious circumstances, people start asking questions. 

Was it really a hit and run? A car-jacking gone wrong? Or something much more sinister? 

Now Jackie must separate the truth from the lies.

How did that boy end up on the road? 

And where was her son that night?”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the blog today as it’s my turn to host a stop on the If I Die Tonight blog tour.  If I Die Tonight is the latest release from A.L. Gaylin and is published TODAY!  Happy book birthday to both the author and the lovely folk at Arrow Publishing.  I read and reviewed Gaylin’s What Remains of Me last year and was pretty smitten with it (and by the book’s lead, Kelly Lund).  So when I heard A.L. Gaylin was about to release a suspenseful psychological thriller…well, I had to take a look!

Regular visitors to the blog will know that I am a big fan of crime thrillers set in small town America.  If I Die Tonight is set in Havenkill, a small Hudson Valley town where little happens and that’s exactly how the residents like it.  Except tragedy is heading to Havenkill in the form of a hit and run accident.  When Liam Miller is tragically mown down one wet October night following a carjacking, all eyes fall on Jackie Reed’s eldest son, Wade.  Wade is different to his classmates.  He’s artistic, secretive and a bit of a loner with no friends to fight his corner.  His younger brother, Connor is on his side though and will do anything Wade asks of him.  Even dispose of a tied carrier bag in a dumpster at the local Lukoil.  The same bag Wade had hidden in Connor’s closet the night of Liam’s accident.  Jackie soon begins to realise that she doesn’t know her children anymore.  That they have their own lives, their own secrets.  It’s down to Jackie to clear Wade’s name before he’s arrested and made into the local pariah.

One of the things you can always guarantee with an A.L. Gaylin novel is GREAT characters. Some readers are all about the plot, others the setting.  Personally, I’m all about the characters (and the plot and the setting!).  Jackie Reed was someone I could immediately understand and relate to a little.  She’s a working single mother, with little support from her ex-husband.  What I liked most about Jackie though was her heart. There are times throughout the book when the reader is made to question Wade’s innocence. Jackie has a small wobble here and there but she’s pretty steadfast in her belief that her son is innocent.  I loved that.  I could feel her love and belief emanating from the page.  There are a whole host of other brilliant characters in this story too (however, Jackie will remain my favourite!).  I also really liked Jackie’s youngest son, Connor.  Connor’s life changes when his friends suddenly start treating him differently.  I can imagine how much this would hurt as an adult so I was interested to see where Gaylin would take the emotions of a young teen.  He’s an admirable young man and I really liked him.

I was pleasantly surprised by one of the twists.  I had convinced myself that I knew where the story was going but I was actually quite far off of the mark.  The amount of suspicion in the pages of If I Die Tonight was really rather thrilling.  I mentioned before how much I love books set in small town America and that’s because I love the claustrophobia and how the characters suddenly become suspicious of friends and family, always looking over their shoulders.

Would I recommend this book?  Absolutely.  I thoroughly enjoy Gaylin’s writing style, her characters are well written and more believable than most and it’s a GREAT plot, chock full of suspense.  After reading two of this author’s books she is now firmly on my list of authors to keep an eye out for.  Highly recommended.

Four and a half out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an ARC of If I Die Tonight.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.  My thanks to Jasmine at Arrow Publishing for asking me to be part of the blog tour and for my ARC.

If I Die Tonight by A.L. Gaylin was published in the UK by Arrow Publishing, Penguin Random House on 24th August 2017 and is available in eBook format with the paperback available in December 2017 and the hardcover to follow next year | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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about the author3

AL Gaylin.jpgAlison Gaylin’s first job was as a reporter for a celebrity tabloid, which sparked a lifelong interest in writing about people committing despicable acts. More than a decade later, she wrote and published her Edgar-nominated first novel, HIDE YOUR EYES.

She’s since published eight more books, including the USA Today and international bestselling Brenna Spector suspense series, which has been nominated for the Edgar, Anthony and Thriller awards and won the Shamus award.

She lives in upstate New York with her husband, daughter, cat and dog.

Author Links: | Goodreads | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Dead to Me by Stephen Edger (@StephenEdger) @bookouture

Dead-To-Me-Kindle.jpg“How do you catch a killer who knows your every move?

The woman lay flat on the table, her face to one side, her wrists bound with thick tape. Deep scratches marked the wood beneath her fingers, now resting cold and still…

When a woman’s body is found in an abandoned bar near the Southampton docks, Detective Kate Matthews is called in to lead the investigation. She must solve this case to prove she is coping with the death of a close colleague. 

Kate knows a pile of ripped up newspaper cuttings discovered at the victim’s house must be a piece of the puzzle, but her team keep hitting dead-ends… Until she finds a disturbing clue that convinces her of three things: The murder is linked to the body of a man found hanging in a warehouse, she is on the hunt for a calculated serial killer, and the killer is watching her every move.

Kate realises there will be another victim soon, and that her own life is in grave danger, but no one else believes her theory. Can she find and stop the most twisted killer of her career, before another life is lost?

An absolutely NAIL-BITING thriller that will keep you guessing to the very last page. Perfect for fans of Robert Dugoni, James Patterson and MJ Arlidge.

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the Dead to Me blog tour today, which I share with the very lovely Rachel over at Rae Reads.  Dead to Me is written by established author Stephen Edger, is the first book in the new DI Kate Matthews series and was published by Bookouture on 17th August 2017.

I was very keen to read Dead to Me, Stephen Edger’s first release under the Bookouture banner. In all honesty, I’ve been wanting to read Edger’s books for a while now as a highly thought of blogger friend of mine is a rather large fan of his books.  And seeing as I only get to read blog tour books at the moment, this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

We meet DI Kate Matthews who is soon to be divorced (once she signs the papers!), mother to one and recently transferred from the Met to Southampton due to a previous case gone wrong.  So wrong it ended in the death of a young DC colleague.   The kind of wrong that you find it impossible to walk away from.  Kate is a mess; she’s not making her name in Southampton, colleagues have already turned against her and she’s a disastrous mother. All in all, I couldn’t find a lot to like about her.  I like my detectives to be a little, shall we say ‘damaged’ by the job.  I like them to have flaws but oh my, Kate is something else altogether.  I felt there was room for improvement though, that she could grow on me as the story progressed…but then her ex-husband was called away and Kate’s daughter, Chloe was left in her ‘care’.  Chloe is six years old and was the standout character in the book for me.  It may be because I also have a six-year-old but Kate’s decision to leave her child with her ex-husband hit a bit of a raw nerve with me.  Instead of growing to like her, I went the opposite way and my dislike grew dramatically.  However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that I did enjoy this book.  Just because you don’t warm to, or like a lead character, that doesn’t mean you will end up hating the book.  This is certainly the case for me, anyway.

The plot was pacy and I appreciated the very different way the author had of killing off one of his victims.  There is also another gory death towards the start which appealed to my darker side.  I really enjoyed Kate’s perseverance, her desire to figure out if and how three very different cases fitted together.  I also really liked her DC, Laura Trotter who felt very real and relatable.  Other members of the team were a little too distant from the main storyline for me to be able to make a judgment.  Although I will say, at one point, I suspected two totally innocent key characters as the murderer.  I was very, very wrong.

This is a good book and I really enjoyed Edger’s story (if not so much his lead protagonist).  However, what I found very hard to digest was the ending of this book and the big reveal.  I really can’t say much as I don’t want to spoil it for future readers.  So I will say that yes, the big reveal came like a bolt out of the blue but it was a little…unbelievable.  It had me sat there for a few minutes, shaking my head and muttering ‘what…?!’ under my breath.

Would I recommend this book?  I would, yes.  I would, without a doubt, read another book written by Stephen Edger.  It’s a great story and others may be able to warm to Kate in a way I wasn’t able to.  And of course, I may be being overly critical of that ending.  After all, it is fiction and if you can’t do the odd out of left field twist, then when can you?

Three and a half stars out of five.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Dead to Me.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Dead to Me by Stephen Edger was published in the UK by Bookouture on 17th August 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

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about the author3

Stephen Edger Author Pic.jpgStephen Edger is a British crime writer, who has been writing since 2010. In that time he has written and published eleven novels, and five short stories. He writes mysteries and thrillers focused on crime.

Stephen was born in the north-east of England, grew up in London, but has lived in Southampton since attending university in the year 2000. Stephen works in the financial industry, and uses his insider knowledge to create the plots of his books. He also has a law degree, which gives him a good understanding of the inner workings of the UK justice system.

Stephen is married, has two children, and two dogs. He is passionate about reading and writing, and cites Simon Kernick and John Grisham as major influences on his writing style.

Author Links: Facebook | Twitter | Website |

#BookReview: The Last Resort by Steph Broadribb (@crimethrillgirl) @OrendaBooks

the last resort.jpg“Done with a life of exploitation and violence, Lori Anderson is training to be a bounty hunter. Holed up in the Georgia Mountains with her reclusive mentor, JT, Lori is determined to put her new skills into practice. Behind JT’s back, she breaks his rules and grabs the chance she’s looking for. Will her gamble pay off, or will she have to learn the hard way?

The Last Resort is the first in the Rookie Bounty Hunter series of short stories, marking the nail-biting start to a high-octane series of thrillers featuring one of the most unforgettable and fearless female protagonists in crime fiction.”

Eeeeekkkk!!  Imagine my joy when early on Sunday morning I received a tweet telling me that a Lori Anderson short story had been published (thank you Christine!) and was mine for the taking, in exchange for 99p of course!  I was over the moon and a little giddy.  Actually, quite giddy because I ADORE Lori Anderson.  If you missed my review of Deep Down Dead earlier this year then click here.  And more recently, if you missed me shouting about my favourite Summer crime read over on Northern Crime, then click here (it’s Deep Down Dead by the way!).

I couldn’t wait to get my paws on The Last Resort and oh wow, if you want an introduction to the world of kick-ass bounty hunter Lori Anderson then this is the way to do it.  This is the first in the Rookie Bounty Hunter series of short stories and I cannot wait for the next instalment.  We meet Lori and her trainer JT as JT pummels and pounds her into the Georgia mountain soil.  With an increasing number of bruises on her butt, our girl just keeps getting up to take more of the same.  After all, training to be a bounty hunter means you’re going to get hurt.  If you haven’t met Lori before you will soon learn pretty much everything you need to know about this strong, determined, feisty young woman.

JT is out on a job leaving Lori alone in his cabin.  The phone rings and she is told about a bail skipper who needs to be caught; he’s missed his court date.  Lori decides it’s time. She’s had enough training, she can handle this on her own.  But can she…?

One of the things I love the most about the Lori Anderson books is how deliciously American they are.  Even in a short story Steph Broadribb is able to transport you effortlessly to the Georgia mountains; the heat, the dust, the isolation.  I flipping love it and despite only being a short story it was a wonderful thing to be united with one of my favourite characters in crime fiction, the magnificent Lori Anderson.

Would I recommend this book?  Absolutely!  Lori has quickly become a firm favourite and I can’t wait for more.  It’s a punchy, fast paced short story and I absolutely loved it. More please, Steph Broadribb, and soon.

Five out of five stars.

The Last Resort by Steph Broadribb was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 1st August 2017 and is available in eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

about the author3

steph broadribb.jpgSteph Broadribb was born in Birmingham and grew up in Buckinghamshire. Most of her working life has been spent between the UK and USA. As her alter ego – Crime Thriller Girl – she indulges her love of all things crime fiction by blogging at www.crimethrillergirl.com, where she interviews authors and reviews the latest releases.

Steph is an alumni of the MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) at City University London, and she trained as a bounty hunter in California. She lives in Buckinghamshire surrounded by horses, cows and chickens. Deep, Down, Dead is her debut novel.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook | Blog |

 

#BlogTour | #Extract: She Be Damned by M.J. Tjia (@mjtjia) @Legend_Press #HeloiseChancey

9781785079313.jpg“London, 1863: prostitutes in the Waterloo area are turning up dead, their sexual organs mutilated and removed. When another girl goes missing, fears grow that the killer may have claimed their latest victim.

The police are at a loss and so it falls to courtesan and professional detective, Heloise Chancey, to investigate.

With the assistance of her trusty Chinese maid, Amah Li Leen, Heloise inches closer to the truth. But when Amah is implicated in the brutal plot, Heloise must reconsider who she can trust, before the killer strikes again.”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the She Be Damned blog tour.  She Be Damned is the first of the Heloise Chancey Mysteries, is written by M.J. Tjia and was published by Legend Press on 1st August 2017.

To celebrate this new release I have an intriguing extract in the form of the first chapter to share with you today.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Chapter One
The bedroom door closes softly behind him. I then hear the front door close. Thank Christ. I sit up in bed and rub at the crick in my neck. I’ve been lying in the same decorous pose for some time, pretending to be asleep, conscious of his admiring gaze. Two hours ago, while it was still dark and he’d snored and farted on his own side of the bed, I’d taken a pee and chewed on mint washed down with water so my breath was fresh when he woke. I’d reclined, eyes closed, amongst my silk pillows, one arm flung above my head, mouth gently clamped shut. I lay slightly to the side, so that the fullness of my cleavage was accentuated. My sheer night dress fell away to reveal one rosy nipple, which tautened in the crisp morning air and I’d wondered if he would take it into his warm mouth, willed him to, almost squirmed with the anticipation of it, a giggle spiralling up my chest. But I hadn’t initiated anything. I was the sleeping kitten, the sleeping beauty, after all. My night dress slips to the floor as I step out of bed and I look at my reflection in the dresser’s mirror, tilting my head from one side to the other. I pull my tousled dark hair forward, so that only the lower curve of my breasts are visible. Running my fingers over the small triangle of hair between my legs, I wish it was a shade lighter, so that I could colour it yellow or blue. That would amuse my lovers. I pose for a moment, a cross between the Greek nude I’d sneaked in to see at the Exhibition of ’51, and the girls ironically named Chastity and Faith in the photographs I keep in the bottom drawer of the nightstand. I pivot to see the reflection of my pale bottom. I hate it, I’m embarrassed by it. It’s small and firm. I will never be a Grande Odalisque. I want it to be rounded and heavy like the base of a vase. I want his fingers to be able to knead it like it’s biscuit dough. Taking a step closer to the mirror I scrutinise my face. I’m vain, and I am not vain. I know I’m beautiful, but I know my beauty is to be utilised, tended. The winged eyebrows, the high cheek bones, and the full bottom lip that I pout as I gaze at myself. The colour of my eyes are changeable, depending upon my mood, or maybe even upon how much wine I’d enjoyed the night before; sometimes they’re as smooth as a hazelnut, other times flecked with gold. They are perfectly set off by my heart-shaped face, so I’m told. ‘Shimmering pools of melancholy, making thy heart ache’. Isn’t that how that ridiculous poet had described my eyes? More like ‘shimmering pools of colic, making thy middles ache’. I grin, a deep dimple puckering my left cheek. I own my face, but so do others. I’m almost famous, infamous. When I think of this I feel a flutter of excitement in the pit of my stomach, but I also feel a little sick. I’ve worked towards this for a long time, even before I knew what could be achieved. And of course, now I have other strengths to work with besides this beauty. I have more to trade than just my body. I hurry into my dressing room and tug on the bell pull. Wrenching open the door I call for Amah to come and help me dress. We will have company soon. I’m already tying the ribbon on my silk underwear when Amah Li Leen enters. She’s a plump, middle-aged woman from the East. She’s wearing a plain, white blouse and black skirt, and her shiny black hair is coiled into a low bun. I never cease to be irritated by how she dresses. We’ve often argued about it. I want her to dress in colourful sarongs from Malaya or those heavy Chinese smocks with the mandarin collars. I want her to fit in with the Oriental décor of my house. Furniture and art from the Orient are very much in style at the moment, and many men, especially those in shipping and diplomatic work, admire how I’ve decorated my rooms. So she could at least look the part if my guests are to catch a glimpse of her. But she won’t. She says she doesn’t want to stand out, although it’s almost as if her sober apparel accentuates her almond-shaped eyes, her bronzed skin colour. “What is Sir Thomas visiting for, Heloise?” she asks as she helps me shrug into a sheer chemise. The faint cadence of a Liverpool accent is discernible in her speech. “His missive just said something about a number of suspicious deaths in the Waterloo area.” “Why does he think this would be of interest to you?” I gasp as she tightens my corset.
“I am hoping he wants me to investigate.”
“Ridiculous,” she mutters, helping me step into a voluminous, crinoline hoop. “Nearly as ridiculous as this contraption.” Amah’s skirt is far narrower than what’s fashionable.
“I would be mortified to be seen in your skirt, Amah.”
“Well, I’m used to it, aren’t I?” I laugh.
“That’s a lie. If it were not so cold here, you would wear much less.” I look for an answering smile from her but, not receiving one, I sit down at my dressing table. Tears smart in my eyes as Amah Li Leen brushes and pulls my hair into loops, tutting that there is no time to curl the ends.
“What will you wear today?” she asks, as she moves to the dressing room that houses my vast collection of gowns. Gone are the days of wearing the same gown until it’s stiff with grime and drudgery – that one I had of grey batiste, bought for a song from the Belgian girl grown too large in the belly, that hid stains yet showed sweat under the arms or, later, the blue silk, which was more expensive but acquired the shine of poverty and overuse. I don’t even want to think of the creased, brown sheathes of leather I wore as shoes. The sour reek that wafted from my feet, embarrassing, distracting, as I grimaced with feigned pleasure pressed against a brick wall.
“How about the new lilac one with the orange-blossom trim?”
“I think maybe the dove-grey would be better for a meeting with Sir Thomas,” says Amah. She comes back to the dressing table carrying the heavy gown across both her forearms and deposits it onto a plush armchair. I frown slightly.
“I suppose you’re right. But I will wear the crimson petticoat beneath it.” She pulls the petticoat, then the dress, over my body. Although it does not reveal my shoulders, it is gathered at the waist and cut low over my breasts. I dab perfumed powder across my neck and bosom.
“Maybe just a little lace at the front,” I say, smiling. “I don’t need to show so much flesh for the work Sir Thomas offers me.” I go to add something gay to my apparel, a flower or a feather, but there’s a hard rap on the door knocker and I can hear Bundle, my butler, on his way to answer it. I’m clasping down the sides of my gown to fit through the doorway when I notice the stiff expression on Amah’s face. I squeeze her arm and lean down to kiss her on the cheek.
“One day we’ll be back in the sunlight.” I’m surprised to find two men in my drawing room. Sir Thomas Avery I know well. He is a man of maybe forty-five years, a little shorter than me, with thick, frizzled mutton chop sideburns. He steps forward and takes my hand in greeting. He then introduces the stranger standing by one of the windows which overlooks the street below.
“This is Mr Priestly,” he says. The other man doesn’t approach me but bows his head.
“Pleased to meet you, Mrs Chancey,” he says. His lips widen a little, but he makes no real effort to smile. A thin frame and large ears preclude Mr Priestly from being a handsome man, but he is well, if soberly, dressed and gentlemanly. His eyes flick over my figure and then, with more leisure, he looks around my drawing room. His gaze follows the pattern of the Oriental rug, the scrollwork on the mahogany side board and the richly damasked sofas with intricately worked legs. He takes in the assortment of Chinese blue and white vases in the dark cabinets and the jade figurines on the mantelpiece. Finally his gaze rests on the large mural that adorns the furthest wall. A painting of a peacock, sat on a sparse tree branch, fills the space. The peacock, a fusion of azure, green and gold leaf with a regal crown of feathers, displays its resplendent train so that the golden eyes of its plumage can be admired. It might be a trick of the light and artistry, but the peacock’s tail feathers seem to quiver.
“How very… exotic,” he says. He moves towards the fireplace and studies the painting in the gilded frame above it. The portrait is of a young woman dressed in Javanese costume. Her hair is pulled into a low bun, silver earrings decorate her lobes, and she holds a white flower behind her back. Richly decorated batik is wrapped around her breasts, and a tight sarong swathes her lower body.
“Is that you?” he asks me, surprise in his voice.
“Yes.” I stand by him and look up at the portrait. “My friend Charles Cunningham lent me the fabric for the sitting. His father brought the lengths of silk and batik back from Java, after one of his assignments with Raffles. Such beautiful, earthy colours, aren’t they?” Mr Priestly steps a few feet away from me.
“I’m afraid I don’t follow this fashion for aping savages.” I feel a prick of resentment at the insult to my drawing room and portrait – the insult to me. But I learnt long ago to hold my temper in check, I have learnt to behave with decorum, for I no longer work in a Liverpool back-alley. Smiling sweetly as I lower myself and my wide skirts carefully onto the sofa, I say,
“Oh, don’t feel bad. Not everyone can be a la mode, can they?” Sir Thomas clears his throat loudly.
“Maybe we should discuss the purpose of our visit, Mrs Chancey.”
“Yes, let’s,” I answer, patting the sofa cushion next to mine. “Please have a seat.” Sir Thomas sits down and looks at Mr Priestly expectantly. However, rather than speak himself, Mr Priestly gestures for Sir Thomas to proceed.
“Well, Mrs Chancey,” says Sir Thomas. “I have come to ask you to do a spot of work for us again.”
“Wonderful. Who will I need to be this time?” Sir Thomas smiles.
“Certainly your prior experience as a stage actress has benefitted us, Mrs Chancey. And it is true. We do need you to do some covert investigating for us.” One of Sir Thomas’ many businesses includes a private detective agency. Although he has a surfeit of male detectives, he has found it very difficult to find females willing or able to sleuth. Having both the willingness and ability, I’ve worked on and off for Sir Thomas over the last eighteen months. I’ve posed as a sewing woman to gain access to a noble house, I’ve rouged and revealed myself as a street prostitute in order to spy on a group of young men and I have even performed as a harem dancer in order to reconnoitre at a foreign embassy. Sir Thomas clears his throat again.
“Yes. Well, maybe the task we ask of you this time will not be so enjoyable, I’m afraid.” He glances at Mr Priestly, who nods him on. “As you know, we are investigating the deaths of several women in the Waterloo area.”
“How did they die?” I ask. Sir Thomas waves his hand. He won’t go on. Mr Priestly stares hard at me for a few moments.
“Sir Thomas assures me I can broach any subject with you, Mrs Chancey.”
“Of course,” I smile. He means because I’m a whore, of course, but I won’t let him think his sting has broken skin. He turns and gazes out the window as he speaks.
“It seems that each of these women – well, really, they were prostitutes – had terminated a pregnancy and died soon after from blood loss and infection.”
“Well, unfortunately that happens far too frequently.”
“That is so, but luckily the body of the last prostitute who died in this manner was taken to the hospital to be used as a specimen, and they found that…” He glances over at me, his eyes appraising.
“What?” I ask.
“They found parts of her body missing.”
“What parts?”
“Her uterus was gone, but so were her other… feminine parts.” Revulsion curls through my body and I feel the pulse of an old wound between my legs. I glance at Sir Thomas whose eyes fall away from mine.
“What makes you think her death is connected to the other deaths in Waterloo?”
“It was the fourth body they had received in this condition in the last seven weeks.”
“What? And was it not reported to the police?” My voice rises in disbelief. Mr Priestly shrugs.
“Well, they were only prostitutes, after all. At first the hospital staff thought they were the victims of amateur hysterectomies, but when they found that each of the women was also missing…”
“Missing…?” I shake my head a little, hoping I’m not about to hear what I think is coming, although a part of me, tucked away beneath the horror, wonders how he’ll describe it. Mr Priestly straightens his collar.
“Apparently all their sexual organs were missing. Inside and out. I am positive you know to what I am referring, Mrs Chancey.” I can’t help but press my knees together. I nod. “Accordingly, it became apparent that there was a pattern to these deaths,” he continues.
“And what do the police think now?”
“Obviously someone in the area is butchering these unfortunate women, whether accidentally or in spite is uncertain. However – and it’s not surprising – the police don’t want to waste too much time investigating the deaths of prostitutes when the rights of decent, law-abiding Londoners need to be protected.” Indignation sharpens my thoughts, but I command my body to relax. After all, what else is to be expected? If I’m to mix in polite society I need to mimic their ways. I force a languid smile to my face, eyes narrowed, as I watch Mr Priestly.
“So, what on earth do you want to look into these deaths for? If the police are not interested, why should we be?”
“A friend of mine heard of these cases and has become immensely interested. It is on behalf of my friend that I have engaged Sir Thomas’ services.”
“And why has your friend become so interested?” Mr Priestly takes his time seating himself in an armchair, crossing one leg over the other. He scrutinises my face for a few moments before answering.
“My friend has a special concern. It is for this reason we ask for your assistance.”
“What is this special concern?”
“My friend is a respectable gentleman, well known to his peers. A short time ago he found out that his daughter was in an unhappy condition. She is not married.” Mr Priestly pauses to let the awful truth of his statement sink in.
“Ah, I see. And what did he do?” I ask. Mr Priestly frowns.
“Naturally he disowned her. He allowed her to pack some of her belongings and had her taken to a convent near Shropshire.”
“Naturally,” I repeat, my voice dry.
“Yes, but she did not make it to Shropshire. She bribed the coachman to take her to a hotel in Charing Cross, and from there she has disappeared.”
“Do you know why she wanted to be left at that hotel?”
“Apparently her… the other party… was staying there. He is a Frenchman.” He nods, as if this fact alone throws light on the cause of her predicament.
“But nobody knows where she is now?” Sir Thomas takes up the thread of the story.
“At first Mr Priestly required my men to look into her activities at the hotel, but upon questioning Monsieur Baudin, we learnt she had left his care most swiftly.”
“I suppose he did not want her now she was in trouble?”
“Something like that, it would seem. Since then he seems to have flown the coop,” says Sir Thomas. “My detectives have since found out that the young lady took a cab to Waterloo where she spent a little over three weeks in a boarding house before moving into another well-known establishment nearby.”
“What establishment?” Mr Priestly purses his lips for a moment.
“A house of illrepute, it would seem. She moved to an abode owned by one Madame Silvestre.”
“Ah yes, I’m aware of her services,” I reply, thinking of how it’s been many years since I have had the pleasure of the old cat’s acquaintance. “Do you need me to fetch her?”
“If only it were that easy. It seems she has since disappeared. Nobody knows where she has gone.” The sudden realisation dawns on me.
“Are you concerned that she too has been mutilated?”
“We are not sure what has become of her,” says Sir Thomas. “Madame Silvestre might just be hiding her, or maybe the young lady has moved on to another place.”
“Or maybe she is one of the butcher’s victims,” says Mr Priestly. He withdraws a card case from his pocket and carefully takes out a small photograph. He hands this to me. “Eleanor Carter.” The likeness is of a very fair, young woman. Her face is small and serious and the bodice of her gown is buttoned tightly to the base of her throat.
“How old is she?” I ask.
“She is only seventeen. She is quite small and pretty – this photograph does not do her justice,” says Mr Priestly. “My friend is worried for her safety.”
“He might have thought of that before he threw her out onto the street,” I say, before I can help myself. Mr Priestly’s brow lifts as he looks across at me coldly.
“Although it is out of the question for her to return to her familial home, naturally my friend is troubled. He would like to see her ensconced safely at the nunnery.” I glance from Sir Thomas to Mr Priestly.
“You want me to find her?” Sir Thomas sits back into the sofa and extends his legs out before himself. He studies his shoes as he says,
“Well, as you now know, I have already had my detectives scouting for information on Miss Carter, but they have failed to find her.”
“And you think my womanly touch might avail?” I ask, amused. Sir Thomas resettles himself again.
“As simple questioning has not sufficed, we wondered if you could possibly discover Miss Carter’s movements with more covert methods.”
“Such as…?” Mr Priestly makes an impatient motion with his hand.
“You seemed interested in picking up the mantle of another character again, Mrs Chancey, and that is what we are asking of you. I believe it won’t be too much of a stretch for you, for we would like you to pose as a…” he glances at Sir Thomas, “a ‘gay girl’, I think they’re called.” I stop breathing for a moment as annoyance flushes through my body. It’s true that I posed as a street prostitute for Sir Thomas, but that was just a lark, and it’s also true that in the dim past I’d worked in many places, both good and bad, but I choose not to think of that now. So, for this absolute pig of a man to refer to me as a mere gay girl makes me angry. I’m no longer a lowly grisette, willing to flatter or implore my way to a few more pennies or ribbons while I try to hide my desperation.  I lift my chin.
“You want me to pose as a prostitute?”
“Precisely.”
“At Madame Silvestre’s?”
“If they would have you, certainly,” says Mr Priestly, his voice even. “What better place for you to be situated in order to find out where Miss Carter is?” I heave myself up from the sofa and stride to the bay window. My skirt bumps a side-table causing a figurine of a Chinese goddess to totter. Go back to work in a brothel, for the sake of a little detection? I’m not so sure. Sir Thomas puts his hands out entreatingly.
“Mrs Chancey, not only can you investigate the disappearance of Miss Carter, you can also look into the other deaths. You can try to find more information about the monster who is harming these women.”
“Who knows?” interrupts Mr Priestly. “You could even pretend to be pregnant and see where that takes you.”
“Be your bait, you mean?” I ask, my voice flippant.
“Whatever it takes, Mrs Chancey, whatever it takes.” Mr Priestly slips his fingers into his gloves. “You may put it about that Miss Carter is a young relative of your own, but in no way must her name be connected back to my friend. Sir Thomas will take care of the case from now on. I am sure you will be remunerated…” he glances around my sumptuous drawing room, “as grandly as possible.” I turn from the window, the smile on my face fixed.
“I don’t work for Sir Thomas for the money, Mr Priestly. I have my own independent means. I follow inquiries for Sir Thomas purely for the pleasure of it, and in this I would find no pleasure. I’m afraid I will need to decline your kind offer.” He stops pulling on his remaining glove and eyes me for a few, long moments.
“I must assure you that I do not request you to take this case – I insist you take this case.”
“Insist? You cannot make me take this case, Mr Priestly.”
“Mrs Chancey, I know the local magistrate, Sir Herbert Brimm. I know for a fact that he and others are interested in your mysterious activities in the Limehouse area. One word from me and you will be examined by the local police and the doctor in their employ.” I can feel anger drain the colour from my cheeks and my fingers quiver with adrenalin. I’ve heard of this movement to examine prostitutes for contagious diseases. He would menace me with this detestable law that terrorises prostitutes and offends even righteous women? He would dare threaten me with a disgusting doctor probing my body for sickness?
“That will never eventuate, Mr Priestly. I know far more important and powerful people than you.”
“Ah, you must mean your protector,” replies Mr Priestly. “Tell me, how would he like an examination of your private life smeared in the newspapers for his wife and esteemed friends to see? Think of his poor children. Be sure, Mrs Chancey, the damage can be done before he is able to assist you.” I grip my waist, my fingertips digging into the unyielding corset. My popularity with patrons is closely tied to my discretion. It has always been so. But in this trembling moment of rage I have nothing to lose.
“Do it then, sir. Do your worst,” I say, struggling to keep my voice low. Sir Thomas steps between us, his hands raised.
“Please, Mr Priestly, there’s no need for these threats.” He turns to me. “Mrs Chancey, surely we can come to an agreement on how you can investigate this in a manner with which you are comfortable. We really do need your assistance.” I look into Sir Thomas’ flushed, kind face and then shrug one shoulder.
“Allow me to think it over. And if I do decide to proceed,” I glare at Mr Priestly, “I will only deal with Sir Thomas.”
“That suits me perfectly,” says Mr Priestly. He leaves the room without bidding farewell. Sir Thomas thanks me profusely and presses my hand goodbye between his clammy ones.
“I will be in touch.” He follows Mr Priestly to the front door as swiftly as his short legs will take him.  From the window I watch the men descend the few front steps down. I make sure to stand a little behind the silk drapes so that they can’t see me. Stopping on the last step Mr Priestly turns to Sir Thomas and says,
“What on earth do you think a little dollymop like her can achieve?”
“She’s done some very good work for us…” Sir Thomas protests. The rest of the conversation is drowned out by the arrival of their carriage. I stand very still for a few minutes, watching the carriage pull away, until I sense someone behind me.
“What are you thinking?” asks Amah. “Are you wondering how you will investigate this dreadful affair?” I turn my head slightly, and meet her eye.
“No. I am considering in what way I will repay the precious Mr Priestly for his insults.”

I hope that’s piqued your interest.  Mrs Heloise Chancey doesn’t sound like a lady to be messed with, does she?  And I absolutely love that cover.  This one will definitely be added to the TBR.

She Be Damned: A Heloise Chancey Mystery by M.J. Tjia was published in the UK by Legend Press on 1st August 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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about the author3

Mirandi by Red Boots Photographic (46 of 136)web.jpgM.J. is a Brisbane-based writer. She has been shortlisted for the Josephine Ulrick Short Story Prize and the Luke Bitmead Bursary (UK), and longlisted for the ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize and CWA (UK) dagger awards. Her work has appeared in RexPeril and Shibboleth and Other Stories.

She is the author of She Be Damned: A Heloise Chancey Mystery, (2017) with the sequel to follow in 2018.

Author Links: | Twitter |

 

 

#BookReview: Little Sister by Isabel Ashdown (@IsabelAshdown) @TrapezeBooks

little sister.jpg“After sixteen years apart sisters Jessica and Emily are reunited. With the past now behind them, the warmth they once shared quickly returns and before long Jess has moved into Emily’s comfortable island home.

Life couldn’t be better. But when baby Daisy disappears while in Jess’s care, the perfect life Emily has so carefully built starts to fall apart.

Was Emily right to trust her sister after everything that happened before?”

I’ve been wanting to read Little Sister since its release in eBook earlier this year.  Those clever PR types did a stonking job of ramping up my FOMO* by handing out sampler copies over on NetGalley.  Not the full book, you understand, just a short taster of what you could get if you were lucky enough to receive a copy.  And readers were buzzing!  A large proportion of the bloggers who I completely adore and (obviously) whose opinions I 100% trust, loved this book.  So I was rather pleased to get my mitts on a full, start to finish, prologue to epilogue copy.  Unfortunately, my blog tour reads have taken all of my spare time since then so I haven’t been able to make a start on this highly anticipated novel….until now!  Thankfully, due to the August holiday lull, I have managed to read Little Sister, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I always become a little more excited about a book if, after reading the prologue, I have a case of the chills.  The prologue of Little Sister gave me goosebumps and nearly broke my heart, all in one.

We are introduced to estranged sisters, Emily and Jessica, who meet for the first time in years at their mother’s funeral.  Jessica is the younger sister, sent away several years ago by her family for an unforgivable incident which brought shame upon her strict Catholic family.  Emily has since carved a wonderful home life for herself with a new baby, Daisy, a loving partner, James and a teenage stepdaughter, Chloe on the peaceful Isle of Wight. The reunion between the sisters is a positive one and before long Jess has moved in with Emily’s family as Daisy’s nanny, enabling Emily to return to work.  But on New Year’s Eve, whilst Emily and James are out enjoying themselves, Daisy is taken right from underneath Jess’s nose.  Slowly and surely the family begin to unravel, suspicions run high and secrets are the mainstay of this once-loving family.  Was Emily right to trust Jess?  And will Daisy be found before it’s too late…?

This is one of those novels where you can never be sure who to trust, who is keeping a monumental secret hidden within and exactly where the story will take you.  Pure fictional bliss, in other words!  I immediately disliked Jess and was incredibly wary of her.  I couldn’t understand why this sensible, practical new mum had decided her estranged sister was the right person to be in charge of her young baby.  Purely convinced of the fact by a simple, quick lie from Jessica about being a nanny in Canada whilst  travelling!  But as this twisty story progressed, my allegiance changed.  I began to dislike Emily and warm a lot more to Jessica.  Strange things were happening.  As the author laid out her character’s lives, new ‘clues’ became unearthed, points I hadn’t taken into consideration before suddenly became…well, significant.

The story is told from three POVs; Emily, Jess and a third narrator who shall remain nameless for the sake of this review (and to avoid spoilers).  There are glimpses into the past and the terrible incident which drove Jess away from her family, told from Jessica’s side and also from Emily’s.  These flashbacks give the reader a much clearer understanding of the shaky foundation this sisterly bond was built upon and provides the reader with a greater insight into these two women.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  It’s twisty, emotional and a darn good tale of sisterly love gone ‘off track’.  I loved the uncovering of the secrets, the clues left along the way and the gradual unravelling of one of the key characters.  I enjoyed Ashdown’s writing style but at times was longing for a little more dialogue (but that’s just me!). Intricate, seamless and wonderfully intense.  A thoroughly enjoyable read.

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Little Sister.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

*FOMO = Fear of Missing Out

Little Sister by Isabel Ashdown was published in the UK by Trapeze Books on 27th July 2017 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

about the author3

 

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Author image and bio (c) isabelashdown.com

Isabel’s writing career was first launched when she won the Mail on Sunday Novel Competition in 2008, with judges Fay Weldon, Michael Ridpath and the late Sir John Mortimer describing her work as ‘magnificent.’  The completed novel, Glasshopper (Myriad Editions), went on to be named among the Best Books of 2009 by both the Observer and the London Evening Standard.  Her latest novel, Little Sister, is out with Trapeze (Orion Publishing) in 2017.

In 2017/18 she will be a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Chichester, where she previously studied as a mature student, gaining a first class BA in English and a masters in Creative Writing with distinction.  Her essay on the subject of voice features in Writing a First Novel by Karen Stevens (Palgrave MacMillan 2014).

Isabel grew up on the south coast and now lives in West Sussex with her carpenter husband, their two children and their dogs Charlie and Leonard.  Together with Leonard the dachshund, she is a proud volunteer for the Pets as Therapy Read2Dogs scheme, an initiative aimed at nurturing confidence in young readers and promoting a lifelong love of books.

Isabel is a member of the Society of Authors.

Author Links: | Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook |