#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 |

 

 

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Girls in the Water by Victoria Jenkins (@vicwritescrime) @bookouture

The Girls In The Water cover image.jpg“When the body of Lola Evans is found in a local park on a cold winter’s morning, Detective Alex King and her new recruit Chloe Lane are called in to lead the hunt for the killer. 

Days later, a second girl goes missing. It seems the two shared a troubled history, and were members of the same support group. Who is the monster preying on these vulnerable girls? 

As the detectives start to piece together the clues, Chloe realises that she too is in danger – as she uncovers secrets about her own brother’s death which someone will kill to keep hidden. 

Alex and Chloe are soon fighting for their lives, and in a race against time to reach the next victim before it’s too late… 

Chilling and totally compelling with an utterly surprising twist, The Girls in the Water is perfect for fans of Robert Bryndza, Sarah Hilary, and Patricia Gibney.”

I am absolutely delighted to be kicking off the The Girls in the Water blog tour today alongside Marina at licence2read.  The Girls in the Water is author Victoria Jenkins’ debut novel and is published by Bookouture in eBook format TODAY!  Happy book birthday to Victoria and the gorgeous folk at Bookouture.

I was immediately drawn to this book thanks to that stunning cover.  And then I read the blurb and knew it would be a match made in heaven (that’s me and the book, by the way!).  There’s nothing I like more than a gripping police procedural/serial killer thriller but when the two lead female protagonists are feisty, head-strong, kick-ass detectives then I know I’m in for a corker of a read.

As soon as you start reading you are hurled, by the well-constructed prologue, into a harrowing scene of mental child abuse.  Your heart goes out to the unknown boy who is being berated by his mother for something that, whilst distressing, is blown all out of proportion in order to serve the mother’s own needs.  The boy’s attempts to distance himself from the hurt were a tough read and I felt incredibly sad for this unnamed character.  I admired this debut author’s ability to create such a heart-wrenching and intriguing opening to her novel.

Before long you meet DI Alex King and DC Chloe Lane.  I wanted to fall head over heels in love with both characters but I’m afraid it didn’t happen immediately.  It was much more of a slow build over the course of the novel.  I initially warmed more to DC Lane as she felt more spontaneous, more outgoing and a lot more fun to be around than her superior.  However, as the story progressed I felt I had a lot more in common with DI King (plus she’s more my age, obv.!).  She felt like a safe and trusted pair of hands and she shone that little bit brighter for me.

DC Lane becomes quite distracted with an older case at an early stage in the story which creates an interesting discord between Chloe and her senior officers.  It’s clear to see there has been a lot of careful planning in creating the character’s back stories as these all add real value and link seamlessly as you approach the conclusion.  For a debut, this book is incredibly well plotted and the characters felt very credible.

Would I recommend this book?  I would and I plan on pre-ordering the next book in the series as soon as it is available. There is one twist in this book that I really didn’t see coming and it knocked me sideways.  As an avid crime reader I will always appreciate the books that can do that!  A brilliant debut and I look forward to reading more from Victoria Jenkins in the near future.

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an eARC of The Girls in the Water.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.  My thanks to Kim, Noelle and the Bookouture team for asking me to join the blog tour.

The Girls in the Water by Victoria Jenkins was published in the UK by Bookouture on 3rd August 2017 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads | Book Depository |

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about the author3

Victoria Jenkins Author Pic.jpgVictoria Jenkins lives with her husband in South Wales, where she writes crime fiction and teaches English. The Girls in the Water is her debut novel, the first featuring Detective Inspector Alex King and Detective Constable Chloe Lane. The second book in the series will be published in late 2017.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Other Twin by L.V. Hay (@LucyVHayAuthor) @OrendaBooks

The Other Twin cover.jpg“A stunning, dark and sexy debut thriller set in the winding lanes and underbelly of Brighton, centring around the social media world, where resentments and accusations are played out, identities made and remade, and there is no such thing as the truth

When India falls to her death from a bridge over a railway, her sister Poppy returns home to Brighton for the first time in years. Unconvinced by official explanations, Poppy begins her own investigation into India’s death. But the deeper she digs, the closer she comes to uncovering deeply buried secrets. Could Matthew Temple, the boyfriend she abandoned, be involved? And what of his powerful and wealthy parents, and his twin sister, Ana? Enter the mysterious and ethereal Jenny: the girl Poppy discovers after hacking into India’s laptop. What is exactly is she hiding, and what did India find out about her? Taking the reader on a breathless ride through the winding lanes of Brighton, into its vibrant party scene and inside the homes of its wellheeled families, The Other Twin is startling and up-to-the-minute thriller about the social-media world, where resentments and accusations are played out online, where identities are made and remade, and where there is no such thing as truth…”

I am thrilled to be one of two stops today for The Other Twin blog tour.  The Other Twin is the debut novel from L.V. Hay and was published by Orenda Books on 3rd July 2017.  I was privileged to have L.V. Hay feature as one of the authors on my #damppebblestakeover last year. Hay wrote a fascinating piece on the ‘star rating system’ which still, to this day, has more views than most other posts on the blog.  If you missed it the first time then please click here.

I was excited when I heard Orenda Books were going to publish Hay’s debut novel, The Other Twin.  I couldn’t wait to get my mitts on a copy of this book.  And I wasn’t the slightest bit disappointed.  I was expecting something a little different to my usual reads and flipping heck, I got it!  This is a psychological thriller.  But this is also so much MORE than your standard psychological thriller.  It was a breath of fresh air.

The Other Twin focusses partly on the LGBTQIA scene in the vibrant seaside town of Brighton. Poppy’s younger sister, India has recently committed suicide but despite a lack of contact over the years, Poppy knows India would never take her own life.  As the story unfolds we follow Poppy as she attempts to discover exactly who wanted her sister dead and the twisted reasons why.  The only evidence to hand are coded blog posts written in the lead up to India’s death.  Poppy has to work out exactly who they refer to and what part, if any, they played in India’s demise.  What I wasn’t expecting but was (unusually for me) pleasantly surprised by was the romance aspect of this novel. Returning to the place she grew up Poppy has to confront old friends as well as her ex-lover. The end of the romance was particularly unpleasant which normally dictates the reunion should be equally as unpleasant, which it is.  But the chemistry between Poppy and Matthew just won’t go away.  I loved the friction between these two characters.  There was a sense of deceit, of wrong-doing oozing from Matthew which I loved.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  I loved the nest of lies and deceit this story was built upon.  I really enjoyed Poppy’s determination to find the truth for her sister and the muddle of secrets she has to wade through to do so.  A great, brilliantly written, confident mystery and I can’t wait to read more from L.V. Hay.

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an ARC of The Other Twin.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.  My thanks to Orenda Books and Anne Cater for asking me to join the tour.

The Other Twin by L.V. Hay was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 3rd July 2017 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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about the author3

Lucy Hay author photo.jpg

Lucy V. Hay is a novelist, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. She is the associate producer of Brit Thrillers Deviation (2012) and Assassin(2015), both starring Danny Dyer. Lucy is also head reader for the London Screenwriters’ Festival and has written two non-fiction books, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays, plus its follow-up Drama ScreenplaysShe lives in Devon with her husband, three children, six cats and five African Land Snails.

Author Links: | Website | Facebook | Twitter |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Deadly Friendship by Tara Lyons (@taralyonsauthor) @Bloodhoundbook

Deadly Friendship 3 .jpgWho can you really trust?

Detective Inspector Denis Hamilton is dragged into a gruesome murder investigation, while on annual leave in Lake Windermere. A handwritten note, with a woman’s name, is found inside the corpse.

When a direct link to London is unidentified, Hamilton must race against the clock to make the connection before the body count rises.

Meanwhile, four friends with strained relationships, are reunited. What past event do they want to keep buried and is there something linking them to the murders?

Then, when a person from Hamilton’s past returns, he must ask himself: how well do we really know our friends?

London’s murder investigations team returns in this third novel from the bestselling author of In the Shadows and No Safe Home.

I am delighted to be closing down the Deadly Friendship blog tour today alongside Caroline over at Bits about Books.  Deadly Friendship is the third book in the DI Denis Hamilton series, is written by talented author Tara Lyons and was published by Bloodhound Books on Sunday 23rd July 2017.

I have read and reviewed both of the previous books in this series and absolutely loved them.  If you would like a quick refresher then please click here for my In the Shadows review (book #1) and here for my No Safe Home review (book #2).  So there was a significant amount of expectation and pressure in starting the third book in the series. And I wasn’t disappointed.

I have a real soft spot for DI Denis Hamilton.  The more we discover about this character, the more I like him.  He is different to my usual damaged detectives but that doesn’t mean that tragedy hasn’t touched his life.  There is a heartbreaking back story there but it is fully explained if you are new to this series.  I also enjoyed the way in which DI Hamilton was immediately thrown into the investigation despite being on holiday in the Lake District with his wife and mother.  Hamilton is a dedicated member of the force and a little bit of R&R won’t get in the way of an intriguing case.

The members of his team once again shone through, each one individual and with their own foibles.  I was desperate to know more about DS Kerry Fraser after the last book and Lyons has given a sneak preview into her home life which I hope will be expanded on in the next book.  DS Yasmine Dixon is a new addition to the team and I found myself feeling surprising cagey towards her.  I can’t quite explain why that is but I hope to warm to her over time (although at one point I thought she was one of the poor red jersey wearing ensigns in Star Trek!  If you’re a tragic nerd like me then you may get what I mean, lol).

I really enjoyed the plot of this book; it felt more ‘my thing’ than a number of other police procedurals I have read of late.  By that I mean there is a rather twisted serial killer out to exact revenge on a tight-knit group of friends.

One thing I will say about this author’s books is that she knows how to write a cracking prologue. I can clearly remember the early scenes set by the author in No Safe Home and I must have read that book over six months ago now.  Once again, Tara Lyons gave me chills with her dramatic opening scene and I flipping loved it!

Would I recommend this book?  I would but, as always with a series, try to start with the first book.  You won’t lose anything by diving straight in with book three (it works well as a standalone) but it really adds to the reading experience, and they’re brilliant books! Tara Lyons gets better with each book which makes Deadly Friendship my favourite of the series, so far.

Five out of five stars.

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

Deadly Friendship by Tara Lyons was published in the UK by Bloodhound Books on 23rd July 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Foyles | Goodreads |

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about the author3

71yZzqlsnIL._UX250_.jpgTara is a crime/psychological thriller author from London, UK. Turning 30 in 2015 propelled her to fulfil her lifelong dream of becoming a writer. In the Shadows is Tara’s debut solo novel published in March 2016. She co-wrote The Caller and Web of Deceit: A DI Sally Parker novella with New York Times bestselling author, M.A Comley.

In August 2016 Tara signed a two-book contract with Bloodhound Books. The second book in the DI Hamilton series, No Safe Home, was published in January 2017.

When she’s not writing, Tara can be found at a local Wacky Warehouse stuck in the ball-pit with her young, energetic son.

Sign up to Tara’s monthly newsletter for exclusive news, previews and giveaways: http://eepurl.com/bN2KoH

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | Website |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Her Deadly Secret by Chris Curran (@Christi_Curran) @KillerReads

her deadly secret.jpg“A FAMILY BUILT ON LIES…

A dark and twisty psychological thriller, in which a young girl is abducted and her family is confronted with a horror from deep in their past. 

A young girl has been taken. Abducted, never to be seen again.

Joe and Hannah, her traumatized parents, are consumed by grief. But all is not as it seems behind the curtains of their suburban home.

Loretta, the Family Liaison Officer, is sure Hannah is hiding something – a dark and twisted secret from deep in her past.

This terrible memory could be the key to the murder of another girl fifteen years ago. And as links between the two victims emerge, Joe and Hannah learn that in a family built on lies, the truth can destroy everything…”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today as it’s my stop on Chris Curran’s Her Deadly Secret blog tour.  I was absolutely delighted when asked to feature on the tour for her latest release as Chris was one of the incredible authors who took part in my #damppebblestakeover last Summer.  (I can’t quite believe that was a year ago!) Back then, Chris wrote a fantastic piece on ‘Amnesia Noir’ which I urge you to read (click here).  Particularly if you are looking for a few book recommendations!

I couldn’t help myself and I HAD to read and review Her Deadly Secret.  We are first introduced to Joe, father of missing school girl, Lily and husband of Hannah. The news doesn’t appear to be good and the sorrow you feel for this one character is immense. But this is only the very tip of the iceberg in what proves to be a multi threaded and intricate tale of secrets and lies.

The story is divided into three POVs.  You have Joe, father of missing daughter Lily. Loretta, who is the Family Liaison Officer (FLO) for Joe and his wife, Hannah.  And finally, Rosie, whose sister Alice was murdered when she and Rosie were just children.  I loved Curran’s multi point narration but couldn’t for the life of me work out how Rosie fitted into the plot.  It’s only as you progress through the book do you discover exactly how detailed and intricate a tale the author is telling.  I confess, I did get a little muddled by the number of characters but once I’d written them all down, I was well away and had no further problems.  More to do with me and my ageing memory than anything else I think!

In a story about terrible things happening to normal people, I couldn’t understand why there was so much emphasis on the FLO, Loretta and her own fractured home life.  It WAS interesting and I enjoyed reading about her but it did feel a little like ‘filler’ in some scenes.  I understand that she was there as part of an ongoing investigation but she did feel a little superfluous at times (as the characters tend to make the big case breaking discoveries more than those that are employed to do it).  She’s a great character but at times I wanted her to step away from the limelight so I could focus more on Joe, Hannah, Rosie and her parents.

Would I recommend this book?  I certainly would.  It’s a tense tale about family secrets and not really knowing those we claim to love.  Great twists, one of which I didn’t see coming and it blew my socks off! I would pick up another book written by Chris Curran in a heartbeat.

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an eARC of Her Deadly Secret.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Her Deadly Secret by Chris Curran was published in the UK by Killer Reads, Harper Collins on 21st July 2017 in eBook format (with the paperback to follow in August 2017) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Book Depository | Foyles | Goodreads |

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DSCF1459.JPGChris Curran lives in St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex. Her first two psychological thrillers, Mindsight and Her Turn To Cry, were both Amazon bestsellers.

She also writes short stories one of which was recently shortlisted for the 2017 CWA Margery Allingham award.

Her latest novel, Her Deadly Secret, is published as an ebook on July 21st 2017 and a paperback in August.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Unforgivable by Mike Thomas (@ItDaFiveOh) @BonnierZaffre

Unforgivable.jpg“Bombs detonate in a busy souk, causing massive devastation. 
An explosion rips apart a mosque, killing and injuring those inside. 
But this isn’t the Middle East – this is Cardiff . . . 

In a city where tensions are already running high, DC Will MacReady and his colleagues begin the desperate hunt for the attacker. If they knew the ‘why’, then surely they can find the ‘who’? But that isn’t so easy, and time is fast running out . . . 

MacReady is still trying to prove himself after the horrific events of the previous year, which left his sergeant injured and his job in jeopardy, so he feels sidelined when he’s asked to investigate a vicious knife attack on a young woman. 

But all is not as it seems with his new case, and soon MacReady must put everything on the line in order to do what is right.”

I am thrilled to welcome you to damppebbles today as I’m kicking off the Unforgivable blog tour. Unforgivable is the second book in the DC Will MacReady series, is written by author Mike Thomas and will be published by Zaffre on 27th July 2017.  Oh, and it’s a corker of a crime thriller!

I am delighted to have a guest post from Mike Thomas to share with you today.  I also have my four and a half star review (which really does fade in comparison to this MEGA guest post!).  So without further ado, I’ll hand over to Mike…

Why Writing a Crime Novel is Like Prepping a Case File for the CPS

There’s a lot of paperwork in the police force. Endless forms and labels and booklets, most of it designed to collate data or appease the suits in HQ or the Home Office, and a lot of it simply to cover your own arse when, as they say in The Job if trouble begins, ‘the wheel comes off’. It’s tedious in the extreme, but there was one part of the written work that I always found enjoyable: assembling a case file for the Crown Prosecution Service.

What struck me, especially when I began juggling being a copper with writing novels, were the similarities between putting together an air-tight case file for the Crown Prosecution Service (or CPS) and constructing a readable novel. I believe that all those days and weeks and centuries – or so it seemed – spent writing reports and liaising with overworked solicitors and collating evidence and cobbling it all together (to use the technical term) into a presentable, cogent case against the defendant was excellent grounding for creating a book.

The, ahem, evidence for this:

The Build-Up

The Crime – As with a novel, your prosecution case file will begin with an offence that has taken place.  The crime is where it all begins, where the ‘story’ starts. It is the centre point, and everything spins out from this one act, be it a theft from a vehicle or the murder of a spouse during a drunken argument over borrowing a cigarette. The offence, whatever it is, will appear on the front cover of your case file, just as the crime in a fictional novel will appear in the jacket blurb and be alluded to in the strapline beneath the book title. And in the CPS paperwork, the offence will appear on the charge sheet – or MG4 – in all its statute-heavy glory when it is handed to the defendant once they have been formally charged with the matter in the custody suite.

What Do We Believe Happened? – did we mention the jacket blurb? Oh good. Because this is where its equivalent can be found in a CPS case file: towards the front of the paperwork on the ‘MG5 Summary of Evidence’ form. This is where you sell your case, much as you’d try to flog your novel with an oh-so-intriguing handful of paragraphs on the back cover, designed to draw your reader in to the world you’ve created. There’s not as much hyperbole – it can be a very dry affair – but it is essentially the same: you are, as concisely yet – cough – arrestingly as possible, telling the solicitor (your ‘reader’) exactly what you have served up for them. And you hope they bite. You hope they proceed with your case. You hope they enter your world.

Introducing the Characters – your cast list in the case will appear on what the fuzz call the ‘MG9’ form, or the ‘Witness List’. It will start with the major players – the defendant, the IP (or Injured Party) – and continue onwards to include even the smallest bit-part character who may or may not have been at the scene (we don’t know if he’s lying) and is prone to making stuff up just so he can have some attention from the Old Bill so we’ve got to include him anyway or someone will complain. Possibly the guy’s mother. But this is where your ‘thespians’ start to bring your case file to life, with their names and relationships and a hint at what part they are about to play as you read what they have done and what they have to say…

The Investigation

Witness Statements – characters in a crime novel can be open and honest or harbouring myriad secrets; you can never tell which at first, and it is only as the story progresses do you unravel what can often be a complex web of truths, half-truths and downright lies. The same goes for real people in real cases. Witness statements make for absorbing reading. For whatever reason – protecting family and friends, not wanting to get involved, hating the police so deliberately misleading them – human beings can be as helpful or unhelpful as their fictional counterparts. It is down to you, as the investigating officer – the protagonist – to work out what really happened and ‘whodunit’, much as your heroine DI or maverick, heavy drinking (if you must) DS will do in your favourite series of crime novels. People are fascinating, and flawed, and often bloody infuriating, and it is through their statements you will – hopefully – piece together what really happened, and your solicitor counterpart will see it also, and will be able to convince a magistrate or jury that what you have found is the truth.

The Good Evidence – it’s all well and good having three witnesses who can place your defendant at the scene of a street robbery, but a seasoned defence barrister will always muddy the waters so hard forensics is where it’s at. Fingerprints, footprints, blood splatter? Just like your protagonist would, get it if you can. Any CCTV cameras on nearby shops and houses? Your heroine would seize them all, review the video, find the bad guy. Did the defendant grab the IP? Your fictional DI would always remember Locard’s exchange principle and seize the IP’s clothes for examination because he might find the defendant’s DNA all over them, proving he was at the scene of the crime. You, as the SIO (Senior Investigating Officer), will collate the witness statements and write your own to tie everything together but the clincher – the evidence that solves the case, that sells it to your ‘reader’ as authentic and convincing – will be forensics, and as much of it as you can muster.

Your Statement – this should be the icing on the cake. This is where you, the protagonist in this little tale, deftly tie it all together in a professional, objective, authoritative manner: what you saw, what you heard, what the defendant said to you after you arrested and cautioned him. How he behaved, any unsolicited comments he made while under caution that you immediately noted in your pocket notebook. What he said during the recorded suspect interview, and what he disclosed. What he said once you’d formally charged him and handed him the MG4 and a court date and turfed him out of custody with his plastic bag of personal belongings. This is the point where you box it all up so it’s neat and squared away and the file can be sent to the CPS for review. And where you start counting the hours before it comes back to you asking for further investigation…

Proving Your Case and The Resolution

Defendant Interview – this is where you sit in a bright, windowless and well-ventilated room with hi-tech recording equipment and politely interview – sorry, Detective Inspector Gene Hunt fans – your suspect, offering them frequent ‘comfort breaks’ and opportunities to make shit up confer with their solicitor. This, much like the denouement of a novel, is where all the evidence comes together and is put to the defendant, albeit in a less-exciting-than-a-climactic-car-chase kinda way. You question, and question, and question, and show them the CCTV images of them hitting that guy, and the blood splatters on their shirt, and their DNA found under the IP’s fingernail where they tried to push you away, you naughty man. This is the climax, the end, the part where chummy throws his hands in the air and says how he would have got away with it if it wasn’t for you meddling kids and your dog. Sorry, I meant the police.

Fine-tuning – anyone who’s published a novel will tell you about editing. Editing your first draft. The second, fifth, twelfth. Editing it until you can’t look at it ever again, until the mere mention of the book’s title sends you into a murderous, climb-a-clocktower-with-a-rifle rage. Then sending it off, utterly relieved at it finally being over, only for your publisher to email you with Great! We’ll be back in touch with edits ASAP! It is no different with the CPS. They will want another witness. They will want an old witness re-interviewed. Again. They will want to ‘cut’ a witness who does not help the ‘story’. The forensic evidence needs more forensic evidence. They have misplaced the defendant’s interview recording DVD, can we have another copy by yesterday please? As with a novel, there’s a lot of toing and froing, a lot of haggling and cutting and moving stuff around, some of which can take the better part of a year. There’s a reason novels can take a few years to see the light of day, and that same reason applies to court cases and why they drag on for so long…

In short, what you’re doing with both a CPS case file and a novel is creating a storyline that hopefully sustains reader interest and propels them towards a suitably rewarding climax. But after all your work is done, what does ‘the jury’ decide? Does your case/novel get the defendant convicted in court/get your book onto the bestseller lists? Or does the CPS discontinue the case/does your book sink without trace?

In reality, it doesn’t matter how hard you’ve worked on either, the end result is out of your hands…

Quite possibly my favourite guest post, EVER!  Seriously, how good was that?  I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post, Mike.  My thanks for such an interesting true crime/crime fiction focused piece!

my review2

I have had the first book in the DC Will MacReady series, Ash and Bones on my TBR since it was published.  I remember thinking at the time how drawn I was to the book, how gritty and real the blurb felt. Unfortunately time has not been on my side and I have (so far) completely failed to read it.  So when I was given the opportunity to read the second book, Unforgivable it was a no-brainer for me.  It didn’t matter that I hadn’t read the first in the series, I wanted to be a part of the launch tour.  And oh wow, I wasn’t the slightest bit disappointed.

This book opens with a catastrophic bang and I was immediately hooked.  The scenes of chaos, the terror…my heart ached for the families, the normal everyday people caught up in a cataclysmic event.  The author has expertly created an incredibly tense opening to what proves to be a terrifying yet realistic story, one I thoroughly enjoyed.

I’m still unsure exactly how I feel about DC Will MacReady.  I do like him, but there are certain aspects that left me feeling cold.  I loved his determination, his work ethic, his budding relationship with his newborn son and his utter distaste towards his thuggish, wife-beating brother.  What left me feeling was cold was his extra-marital affair with a television journalist and his frostiness towards his wife.  However (and it’s a big however) MacReady has been through some emotionally traumatic times, that’s clear for the reader to see.  But whether these painful incidents permit him to pursue his affair…well, I don’t know.  The author has put MacReady in a marital situation that would test the most devoted of couples.  And it’s an interesting one.  Really, really interesting.

There were several mentions of an event which occurred in the first book.  At certain points, I wish I had been able to read Ash and Bones before Unforgivable so I could find out the intricacies of the previous investigation and exactly how it had played out, as it spills over ever so slightly into Unforgivable.  Saying that, the author has done a great job of ensuring you have just enough of the back story for the book to make perfect sense.  I would say, if anything, I now want to read the first book in the series more than ever!

Would I recommend this book?  Absolutely!  You can tell from early on that the author is ex-police.  There is no messing around in Unforgivable, you’re thrown head first into the melee and it is BRILLIANT!  A terrifying tale of revenge and bitterness expertly narrated by an author who has lived life on the front line.  A must read for crime thriller fans!

Four and a half out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Unforgivable.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Unforgivable by Mike Thomas was published in the UK by Zaffre on 27th July 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Foyles | Goodreads |

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about the author3

mike thomas.jpg

Author image and bio taken from https://mikethomasauthor.co.uk/ with thanks.

His teenage years were spent breakdancing, spraying graffiti around the town’s walls and office blocks and just about staying on the right side of the law, until his early twenties when, inexplicably, he joined the local constabulary and began locking people up for spraying graffiti around the town’s walls and office blocks.

“…inexplicably, he joined the local constabulary and began locking people up for spraying graffiti around the town’s walls and office blocks…”

While working as a plod in Wales’ capital city of Cardiff, Thomas continued with his childhood passion: writing. As a freelance he produced articles for local newspapers, various websites and national travel magazines, while in 2007 he was one of the winners in the annual Rhys Davies Short Story Competition organised by Literature Wales. After completing a Master’s degree in Creative Writing at the University of Wales between 2007 and 2009, Thomas published his debut novel, Pocket Notebook, in 2010 with William Heinemann/Penguin Random House.

The author was on the prestigious list of Waterstones’ ‘New Voices’ for that year, while Pocket Notebook was longlisted for the Wales Book of the Year and optioned for television by Carnival Films, the producers of Downton Abbey. His second novel, Ugly Bus, was released by Heinemann in 2014 and is currently in development as a six part television series with the BBC. Both novels deal with the uglier side of policing.

“…He currently lives in the wilds of Portugal with his wife and children…”

Thomas left the police in the spring of 2015 and grew his hair and a pathetic attempt at a beard. He currently lives in the wilds of Portugal with his wife and children. Alongside chopping wood, cementing crumbling house walls and trying to find somewhere that sells his beloved Marmite, he continues to write articles and web pieces for a variety of sites and publications, and is contracted to London’s Bonnier Publishing for three new novels, the first of which – Ash and Bones – was released August 2016. The second in the series, Unforgivable, is due for publication in the summer of 2017.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Ice Lake by John A. Lenahan (@johnlenahan) @KillerReads

ice lake.jpg“…WHERE EVERYBODY LIES. AND SOME PEOPLE KILL…

An electrifying debut crime novel and the first in a new series featuring psychologist Harry Cull. Perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride, Mark Billingham and Peter May.

AN ABANDONED BODY
Deep in the woods of Northeastern Pennsylvania, the body of a man is found – shot three times, dumped under the trees where the local kids will find him.

A HAUNTED PSYCHOLOGIST
Psychologist Harry Cull, tormented by his past, arrives in the picturesque town of Ice Lake to help with the murder investigation. There he unravels a web of lies and deceit that leads to the dark heart of a community torn apart by fracking, drugs and murder.

A DESPERATE KILLER
It’s not long before the second corpse turns up, this time a lawyer left for dead in the forest, and Harry finds himself on the trail of a twisted killer – who will do anything to keep the town’s darkest secrets buried.”

I am delighted to welcome you to damppebbles today as it’s my turn to host the Ice Lake blog tour.  Alongside me are two fabulous bloggers, Helen at Life of a Nerdish Mum and Alison at Ali the Dragon Slayer.  Both blogs are brilliant so please make sure you pop over and say hello!  Ice Lake is author, John A Lenahan’s debut crime thriller and was published by Killer Reads on 7th July.

And what a cracking crime debut! I really liked Lenahan’s lead protagonist, ex-cop turned psychologist, Harry Cull.  I’ve always been interested in the study of body language and what your subconscious is revealing about you, the secrets it discloses. Those little ‘tells’ that indicate to a professional that you’re lying.  And that’s exactly what Harry does. Having experienced Harry’s ‘powers’ at a conference, he is drafted in by Trooper Ed Cirba to assist in a murder investigation which has rocked the picturesque town of Ice Lake.  Harry and Trooper Cirba are at a loss.  Then another body is discovered, this time a lawyer left for dead in his car.  Will Trooper Cirba and Harry be able to discover who is lying and who the murderer is before a third victim is found…?

There is a lovely level of humour in this book and the banter between Cirba and Cull really adds to the story.  As regular readers of the blog will know, I’m one for the characters in a story and Ice Lake is chock full of some really interesting people.  I particularly liked Todd, the miserable local gossip who also happens to own the local shop.  Todd to his face, Toad behind his back!  And then there’s MK, the love interest.  I don’t tend to enjoy reading about budding relationships in my crime novels but I warmed to MK so much that their smoochy moments didn’t really bother me.  I appreciated that the author stopped narrating the action as soon as it became a bit frisky too.

Would I recommend this book?  I would and I can’t wait to read the next in the Harry Cull series.  This is a really promising start to what could become one of my future favourite crime series.  Great pacing, lots of wonderful dialogue between this cast of appealing characters and a great ‘didn’t see that coming’ twist.  I really liked Ice Lake.

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Ice Lake.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Ice Lake by John A. Lenahan was published in the UK by Killer Reads on 7th July 2017 and is available in eBook format (with the paperback to follow in August 2017) | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Goodreads | Book Depository | Foyles |

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about the author3

John Lenahan came to Britain from his native Philadelphia for a short trip and has never quite made it back.

 John originally grabbed the headlines as the first person in 85 years to be expelled from the Magic Circle. The 3-card trick he exposed on How Do They Do That? is no more than a gambling con, but John took the rap and enjoyed the publicity.

 2004 saw him staring in a new primetime BBC1 show, Secrets of Magic. His own BBC2 series, Stuff The White Rabbit, achieved record ratings for the slot. Other TV credits include presenting the travelogue Open Road, playing the voice of the toaster in Red Dwarf, and guest appearances on everything from TFI Friday to Celebrity Squares. He also fronted HoaxBusters, an ITV network show lifting the lid on scams and hoaxes.

John has performed onstage all over the world, from Beijing and Dubai to Dublin. He has toured alongside Jack Dee, Victoria Wood, Lenny Henry and Michael Ball.

Besides all this, Lenahan is one of the most successful corporate entertainers in the country. Apart from his show-stealing cabaret, he has made kitchens appear, taught Bank of England staff to juggle, read thousands of minds and levitated a 20-pound Toblerone bar. He was the first person on record to perform magic live over the Internet, for BT.

John has been described by The Guardian as ‘the mascot of a magical renaissance’ – and by Jackie Collins as ‘extremely good looking’.

John Lenahan lives in Cricklewood, London. In a world dominated by awards, he is proud to have once been voted Time Out Street Magician of the Year.

John’s novels: Shadowmagic , The Prince of Hazel & Oak and Sons of Macha are now available in one omnibus –The Shadowmagic Trilogy – published by Harper Collins and is out in paperback iBook, Nook and Kindle formats.

The Magic Circle has finally  recognised their mistake and reinstated John.

Author bio from http://podlit.wixsite.com/site-4

Author Links: | Facebook | Website | Twitter |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Nemesister by Sophie Jonas-Hill (@SophieJonasHill) @urbanepub

nemesister.jpg“An American Gothic thriller of deception and obsession, slicked in sweat and set in the swamps of Louisiana. 

It’s a psychological mystery where the female protagonist stumbles into a deserted shack with no memory but a gun in her hand. There she meets an apparent stranger, Red, and the two find themselves isolated and under attack from unseen assailants. 

Barricaded inside for a sweltering night, cabin fever sets in and brings her flashes of insight which might be memory or vision as the swamp sighs and moans around her. 

Exploring in the dark she finds hidden keys that seem to reveal her identity and that of her mysterious host, but which are the more dangerous – the lies he’s told her, or the ones she’s told herself?”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the Nemesister blog tour.  Nemesister is written by debut author, Sophie Jonas-Hill and was published by Urbane Publications earlier this week.

That blurb!  It was the blurb which initially drew me to this book.  An American gothic thriller set in the sweaty swamps of Louisiana?  Here, take my (measly) life savings because I am well and truly sold!  As you can imagine, I started reading Nemesister full of nervous excitement.  And I’m sorry to say that it didn’t quite have the oomph I was hoping for.  Now, it may just be me but I found the first half of the book slower going than I had hoped.  I had built this book up in my own mind so the blame for that rests totally at my door.  However.  And it’s a big ‘however’ so prepare yourself.  The second half of this book totally blew my socks off.  Wonderfully twisted and dark, it felt like a real indulgence.  Our main protagonist, we’ll call her Margarita – that’s not her name but it’s easier that way – is sassy, fiery and a bit of a badass.  Having lost her memory and stumbled on a secluded shack, Margarita comes to with a gun in her hand and a stranger trying to coax her down.  Locked in the shack overnight with the mysterious stranger, Margarita decides to search for clues, as well as a key to open the padlocked door.  What she thought she knew and what she actually know turn out to be two very different things…

There isn’t a lot else I can say without dishing out some rather large spoilers.  Nothing is as it seems and I love it when an author can trick me into thinking the story is heading one way, only to take a massive about-turn and take me somewhere completely unexpected.  I’ve heard a rumour that this may be the start of a series and if that’s the case then please consider this my pre-order for book 2!  I loved the language, with the ain’ts and darlin’s and that distinctive Louisiana feel which the author writes so well.

Would I recommend this book?  I would but I can’t get away from the fact that I found the first half such slow going.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.  Jonas-Hill is setting the scene exactly as she should.  Without that first half nothing else would make sense!  But oh, that second half is SUBLIME!  If there had been a touch more oomph in the first part I would have given this book five stars.  I can’t help thinking the problem was more down to me than the actual story telling so I’m going to give it four and a half stars out of five.

Four and a half stars out of five.

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

Nemesister by Sophie Jonas-Hill was published in the UK by Urbane Publications on 6th July 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | Goodreads |

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about the author3

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Author Image and Bio from Urbane Publications with thanks.

I’ve always written and told stories, for as long as I can remember. My first self published work at the age of seven, fully illustrated in felt pen and crayon. I continued with a series of insightful ‘When I grow up I want to be an author’, essays, and an attempt at a ‘Bonk-buster’ series of supernatural thrillers written from a position of utter ignorance on all topics, until I was distracted by Art college. A never ending, or never finished, fantasy epic kept me going through my twenties, but it was motherhood in my thirties which concentrated my mind enough to actually finish a novel. It’s amazing what a bit of life experience and the sudden curtailing of your free time can do to concentrate the mind.

After that I began giving myself permission to take my writing seriously enough to spend time on it and actually listen to critiques. The writing festival in York proved invaluable, and time and disappointment got me to the point of producing something readable, which I was lucky enough to have read by Urbane publications.

If you make or write anything, the number one question you get asked is ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ In answer to that question, it’s an easy process which combines working on your craft every hour you can for as long as possible – hard graft – reading as much as you can of everyone else’s work – stealing – and inspiration, which is just one of those things that just happens. The inspiration for ‘Nemesister’ comes from a dark episode of family history, and a moment from a dream; an image of a man standing in the doorway of what I knew was an abandoned shack, which was gone as soon as it came and yet lingered, the way some dreams do.

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #BookReview: Hunting Angels Diaries by Conrad Jones (@ConradJones) @EmmaMitchellFPR

“When an author is asked to help the police with the investigation into a double murder by identifying occult symbols, which had been carved into the victims, he is plunged into nightmare and forced to go on the run. Hunted by law and a powerful cult, he has to stay one step ahead to survive.”

I am thrilled to welcome you to my stop on the Hunting Angels Diaries blog tour.  I had the pleasure of reading Brick, one of Conrad Jones’s crime thrillers last year (and if you click here you can read my review).  I discovered whilst prepping that post that Conrad Jones is also the author of a number of horror thrillers and you know me, I can’t resist a horror novel!  So when the opportunity to read the Hunting Angels Box Set arose, well….I would have been a fool to pass it up.

Now before I go any further, I should add that this is part one of my review.  Somehow, time has gotten away from me and I’ve only managed to read the first book in the box set, A Child for the Devil.  So look out for part two which will feature the second book, Dark Angel coming your way very very soon.

I enjoyed reading A Child for the Devil.  I can’t compare it to any of the my previous reads as I don’t think there is anything even vaguely similar.  What struck me as ‘standout different’ is that the author mentioned in the blurb is, well, the author.  This is the story of Conrad Jones’s dealings with the devil.  Or to be more specific, his encounter with an occult loving group of satanists.  And they are everywhere; your local councillor, the headteacher of the primary school, your librarian, your parents….  Having previously referred to this particular group in one of his crime novels, they now know exactly who Conrad is and he is the skurge of their lives, the stain to be removed.  He is a writer and all writers must be destroyed.  At points throughout the book you are advised to Google the cult if you don’t believe what you’re reading.  I couldn’t do it.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I was too scared to look!  And I think that says a lot.

It is gory and it is violent but I got the feeling the author knew where the limits were and made sure the explicit content was pulled back.  In all honestly, I probably would have liked a little more gore but then I’m strange!

I didn’t really feel anything for the characters.  Although I do not know Conrad Jones personally, I know of him and see him interacting in several bookish Facebook groups. Having pondered on it I’m pretty sure that is why I felt no connection to the characters, I had trouble separating the real person from the fictional account.  I guess I invest more in characters that are new and I can shape them in my mind as I wish.  Although I would like to know exactly how much of this book is autobiographical (and I don’t mean the toting of the sawn-off shotgun*!).  Other readers may not have this problem.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  I can’t wait to make a start on the second book in the box set and find out what is going to happen next.

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review a copy of A Child for the Devil (Hunting Angels Diaries). The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

*I can’t recall if the shotgun was sawn-off or not but it sounds so much better when it is!  Apologies if the shotguns mentioned in this book are not sawn-off.

Hunting Angels Diaries by Conrad Jones was published in the UK by GerriCon Books on 28th November 2013 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | #1 amazon.com | #2 amazon.com | Goodreads |

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about the author3

conrad jones.jpgConrad is the author of seventeen novels, eight author guides and two biographies. He has three series;
* The Detective Alec Ramsay Series; seven books Gritty Crime Thrillers
* The Soft Target Series; Gritty Thrillers six books (Reacher Style)
* The Hunting Angels Diaries; three books Horror Thrillers
You can find out more; http://www.conradjonesauthor.com | jonesconrad5@aol.com

I am Conrad Jones, a fifty-year-old author, originally from a sleepy green-belt called Tarbock Green, which is situated on the outskirts of Liverpool. I spent a number of years living in Holyhead, Anglesey, which I class as my home, before starting a career as a trainee manger with McDonalds Restaurants in 1989. I worked in management at McDonalds Restaurants Ltd from 1989-2002, working my way up to Business Consultant (area manager) working in the corporate and franchised departments.
On March 20th, 1993, I was managing the restaurant in Warrington`s Bridge St when two Irish Republican Army bombs exploded directly outside the store, resulting in the death of two young boys and many casualties. Along with hundreds of other people there that day I was deeply affected by the attack, which led to a long-term interest in the motivation and mind set of criminal gangs. I began to read anything crime related that I could get my hands on.

I link this experience with the desire to write books on the subject, which came much later on due to an unusual set of circumstances. Because of that experience my early novels follow the adventures of an elite counter terrorist unit, The Terrorist Task Force, and their enigmatic leader, John Tankersley, or `Tank` and they are the Soft Target Series, which have been described by a reviewer as ‘Reacher on steroids’; You can see them here;

I had no intentions of writing until 2007, when I set off on an eleven-week tour of the USA. The Day before I boarded the plane, Madeleine McCann disappeared and all through the holiday I followed the American news reports which had little or no information about her. I didn’t realise it at the time, but the terrible kidnap would inspire my book, The Child Taker years later. During that trip, I received news that my house had been burgled and my work van and equipment were stolen. That summer was the year when York and Tewksbury were flooded by a deluge and insurance companies were swamped with claims. They informed me that they couldn’t do anything for weeks and that returning home would be a wasted journey. Rendered unemployed on a beach in Clearwater, Florida, I decided to begin my first book, Soft Target. I have never stopped writing since. I have recently completed my fifteenth novel, ‘Brick’, something that never would have happened but for that burglary and my experiences in Warrington.
The Child Taker was the 6th book in the Soft Target Series but it also became the first book in the Detective Alec Ramsay Series when I signed a three-book deal with London based publishers, Thames River Press. The series is now seven books long with an average of 4.8 stars from over 2000 reviews. The first two books are always free with over 1100 5-star reviews. You can see them here;

As far as my favourite series ever, it has to be James Herbert’s, The Rats trilogy. The first book did for me what school books couldn’t. It fascinated me, triggered my imagination and gave me the hunger to want to read more. I waited years for the second book, The Lair, and Domain, the third book to come out and they were amazing. Domain is one of the best books I have ever read. In later years, Lee Child, especially the early books, has kept me hypnotised on my sunbed on holiday as has Michael Connelly and his Harry Bosch Series.

#BlogTour | #GuestPost: Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear (@CazziF) @BonnierZaffre

Sweet Little Lies.jpg“WHAT I THOUGHT I KNEW

In 1998, Maryanne Doyle disappeared and Dad knew something about it?
Maryanne Doyle was never seen again.

WHAT I ACTUALLY KNOW

In 1998, Dad lied about knowing Maryanne Doyle.
Alice Lapaine has been found strangled near Dad’s pub.
Dad was in the local area for both Maryanne Doyle’s disappearance and Alice Lapaine’s murder – FACT
Connection?

Trust cuts both ways . . . what do you do when it’s gone?”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the Sweet Little Lies blog tour.  Sweet Little Lies is written by debut author, Caz Frear and was named the winner of the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller competition in conjunction with retailer WHSmith.  To celebrate the release of this engrossing crime thriller not only do I have my four and a half star review, I also have a fantastic guest post (yay! I do love a guest post!) on a subject close to my heart.  Well, sort of anyway!  So without further ado, I’ll hand over to Caz…

Do female protagonists in crime fiction always have to have a ‘love interest’?

‘A love interest nearly always weakens a mystery because it introduces a type of suspense that is antagonistic to the detective’s struggle to solve the problem.  The only effective love interest is that which creates a personal hazard for the detective….’

“Casual Notes on the Mystery Novel” (essay, 1949), first published in Raymond Chandler Speaking (1962)

I’ll be honest, I’m with Raymond on this one.  But as nearly seven decades have passed since he first offered his thoughts, I thought, what the hell, maybe it’s time to play devil’s advocate and see if I can make a case for the ‘love interest’ in female-led crime fiction.  After all, women, more than ever, are the primary readers of crime fiction and they also remain the primary readers of romance fiction, so what harm in combining the two, right?  A twisty, disturbing crime thriller and a romance sub-plot all under the same roof.  What more could we ask for, eh?

Er, no. 

Although I’d kind-of-just-about-maybe agree with this if we could at least change the profile of the ‘love interest’ for a start.

In fairness, the injection of a ‘love interest’ isn’t just peculiar to female-led crime fiction.  Morse was always mooning over someone – trying, and usually failing, to seduce some posh lady with his Mark II Jag and mournful eyes. DCI Banks always has a girlfriend – usually they’re significantly younger and significantly hotter than he is, but somehow they’re always completely gaga over the wiry, aging jazz fan.  Even DI Frost, with his prickly manner, even pricklier moustache and decades-old grey coat, is never without an attractive (and usually younger) woman trying to bed him, and more-often-than-not, domesticate him.

But therein lie some crucial differences – the‘love interest’ in female-led crime is almost always…

  • Older, or at least of a similar age – for example, how many 40-something female protagonists have a twenty-something male model-type go completely nuts about them, all on the strength of their charismatic personality? NEVER. HAPPENS (but regularly happens the other way round)
  • Their boss or superior colleague (again, very rarely happens the other way round)
  • More, or at the very least as successful as the female protagonist, in their chosen field.
  • Aesthetically anonymous – much less focus on how gorgeous they are, and when their physical characteristics are described, they quite often aren’t gorgeous at all – our female protagonist simply loves them for their wrinkles/soft paunch/balding head etc, (I’ll say it again, very rarely happens the other way round.)

But in the interests of challenging Raymond Chandler (!) I’ll step down from my soapbox for a minute and share a few thoughts about why it’s sometimes good for our female protagonist to have a ‘love interest.’

  • No woman is an island. Very few are a Billy-no-Mates.  Realistically, everyone has someone they can turn to, and arguably an intimate romantic relationship has more dramatic potential than the ‘chatting-with-a-best-friend-over-a-bottle-of-wine’ scenario, within the context of a crime novel.
  • In a genre where men don’t always get the best press – a lot of crime fiction focuses on male violence against women – a well-characterised male love interest serves as a reminder of the Good Men around.
  • Romantic relationships showcase a character’s vulnerability – you often open up to a lover in ways you don’t with other people.
  • Most women want/need sex from time to time, even if they don’t want steady romance, and therefore if you’re not comfortable creating a female lead who has quite a casual approach to hook-ups, you’re going to have to give her some sort of formal ‘love interest.’ It’s just not realistic for our female protagonist to live like a nun.
  • Sexual tension is fun. It’s interesting.  It’s delightful to write.  The will-they-won’t-they has never lost its appeal and when it simmers just beneath the surface, it can add a new level of tension to a crime novel (I’m thinking here of the brilliant dynamic between Derwent and Kerrigan in Jane Casey’s fantastic series – I actually enjoy this aspect more than the Maeve-and-Rob romance.)

Finally, just to say that despite my earlier talk about not loving the ‘love interest’, there is one in Sweet Little Lies, in the form of dishy Aiden Doyle (I know, I know….hypocrite…)  However, in my defence I will add (with a cryptic smile) that only time will tell how much of a “personal hazard for the detective” Aiden becomes…….

Let’s just say Raymond Chandler wouldn’t judge me too harshly….

Brilliant post, thank you Caz.  Regular visitors to the blog will know that I’m not a fan of slushy mushy romance in my crime thrillers so I found your arguments for a love interest fascinating.  Have I changed my stance?  Not quite, but the rather lovely Aiden Doyle COULD change my mind…. 😉

my review2

Whilst on holiday in Ireland with her family, eight year old Catrina is unwittingly drawn into a missing persons investigation.  Teenager, Maryanne Doyle; loud, brash and very much in your face, goes missing.  Catrina doesn’t know what happened to Maryanne but she is sure of one thing.  Her father lied to the police.  He claimed to not have known the teenager but Catrina vividly remembers Maryanne hitch hiking and her dad picking her up.  After all, Catrina was in the car as well.  Fast forward 18 years and Catrina is now DC Cat Kinsella with the Met’s Murder team.  Called to investigate the brutal murder of Alice Lapaine, the team find nothing but a secretive husband and a lot of dead ends.  Can Cat find out what happened to Maryanne all those years ago, exactly what part her father played in her disappearance AND solve a motiveless murder at the same time…?

So many delicious secrets!  This is a wonderfully intricate tale which I found hard to put down.  I was immediately drawn to the feisty Cat Kinsella.  She absolutely made the book for me and I couldn’t tear myself away from reading about her exploits.  How I loved her dry wit, her gutsy determination and her adorable relationship with Acting DI Luigi Parnell.  I found myself caring about what was going to happen to Cat, whether she would discover the truth and whether it would be the truth she actually wanted to hear.

For me, the characters in a book are one of the most important factors.  I feel Caz Frear deserves high praise for the cast of characters she has created in this novel.  After finishing the book I can still bring to mind certain scenarios, conversations and interactions between her creations.  They all stand tall, each one an individual.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  It’s an excellent debut and I’m excited to see what Caz Frear has in store for us in the future.  It’s a gripping read, full of suspense and intrigue, chock full of lies and deceit from a sometimes dubious cast of characters.

Four and a half out of five stars.

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

Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear was published in the UK by Bonnier Zaffre on 29th June 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads | Foyles | Book Depository |

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Caz Frear.jpgAuthor Links: | Twitter |