#Excerpt: The Watson Letters: Volume 5 – Murder on Mystery Island by Colin Garrow (@colingarrow) #damppebbles #TheWatsonLetters #MurderonMysteryIsland

The Watson Letters Vol 5 Murder on Mystery Island KDP Paperback COVER JULY 2019 EBOOK“Intrepid investigators Holmes and Watson continue their fight against crime in a not quite Post-Victorian, steampunk parallel universe.

When consumptive Doctor Edward Armstrong turns up at Baker Street with an invitation to visit a mysterious island, Sherlock Holmes smells a rat. Sounding deviously similar to the plot of a recent novel by celebrated lady author Mrs Christie, Holmes decides to send his inveterate side-kick Watson to the island, along with the Doctor’s lovely, but wonky-eyed wife, Mary, and a well-known Scotland Yard detective. Taking Armstrong’s place, the team determine to find out exactly what’s going on, but before they’ve even left the mainland, one of the guests is murdered.

Adult humour throughout.

‘The Watson Letters – Volume 5: Murder on Mystery Island’ is book #5 in this Victorian comedy adventure series.

If you love historical mysteries, buy something else instead, but if you’re into murder, fart-gags and innuendo, this’ll be right up your Victorian street.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. I have such a treat in store for you today! I am delighted to be sharing an excerpt from the brilliant The Watson Letters: Volume 5 – Murder on Mystery Island by Colin Garrow. If you’re looking for a fun-filled different take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes and Watson, then this series is an absolute must read for you!

Grab yourself a cuppa, put your feet up and enjoy (a word of warning though, if you haven’t read Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None but you plan too, you might want to look away now…..**SPOILER ALERT**)!

Diary of Doctor J. Watson
Thursday 28th January 1892

Our travel documents stated we must reach Dolphin Cove—a small village a few miles up the coast from Land’s End—by lunchtime on the following Friday. Some chap with a boat would meet us at the harbour and take us across to Huge Island (which apparently does not live up to its name). Whether we were to encounter our fellow travellers at that point was unclear, and it was for this reason, and several others, that I decided to spend our train journey reading a copy of Mrs Christie’s novel, in the hope it might shed light on our forthcoming adventure.

‘You do realise,’ said Mary, flicking through a copy of Detective Monthly, ‘We shall be horribly murdered?’

‘I should have thought that horribly was the only way to be murdered,’ I said, giving her a playful wink.

‘Don’t be obtuse, Johnny,’ she snapped. ‘The only reason I agreed to this mad outing is my belief that between the two of us and Mister Big Nose, we can solve this puzzle.’ She cast the magazine aside. ‘I do hope I’m right—if we all get killed, I’ll be so annoyed.’

Flipping to the end of my book, I said, ‘D’you recall who the culprit is in Mrs Christie’s version?’

‘The judge.’

‘Ah. So all we need do is look out for a wizened old magistrate or some such.’

Mary sighed and shook her head. ‘Really, husband, sometimes I despair of you.’

‘What on earth d’you mean, darling?’

‘Well, for a start, I’m not in the book and you’re not who you say you are. Don’t you think it’s probable none of the others will be who they say they are either?’

I ruminated on this for a moment. ‘Of course. But they’ll all have the same names as the characters in the novel. I mean, I am posing as Doctor Armstrong, the Harley Street Doctor.’

‘Yes, but the real Doctor Armstrong—the one with consumption—doesn’t work in Harley Street, does he?’

‘No. He’s a junior doctor at St Bart’s.’

‘There you are, then.’ She sat back, satisfied.

I gazed out of the window at the long gardens and allotments whizzing past in the fading afternoon light. ‘I hope the hotel’s nice.’

‘In any case,’ said Mary, avoiding my attempt to change the course of the conversation, ‘We’re not taking part in a book, are we? This is real, with real people and a real murderer.’

‘We don’t know for sure it isn’t some ghastly joke.’

‘Yes, darling, we do. No-one in their right mind would go to all this trouble to play a trick on a bunch of strangers.’

‘No, I suppose you’re right.’ I returned to my book with a view to finding out how my particular character meets his end and was a little disturbed to discover, a short while later, that Armstrong’s body washes up on the beach, having initially been suspected as the killer.

I persuaded myself there was nothing to worry about.  Sherlock Holmes would utilise his skills in observation, logical reasoning and all-round clever-dickiness to save the day. After all, he’d pulled us back from the edge of death many times before.

‘Besides,’ said Mary, butting into my musings, ‘Holmes won’t let you die—he’d have no-one to write up his adventures.’

‘I’m sure you’re right,’ said I, but my resolve had begun to slide away and I had the awful feeling that this time, Holmes had made a terrible error of judgement.

What a fantastic excerpt! And Then There Were None is one of my very favourite books so I can’t wait to read Colin Garrow’s fun, laugh out loud take on it.

The Watson Letters: Volume 5 – Murder on Mystery Island by Colin Garrow was published in the UK on 7th October 2019 and is available in paperback and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | SmashwordsGoodreads |

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Colin GarrowTrue-born Geordie Colin Garrow grew up in a former mining town in Northumberland and has worked in a plethora of professions including taxi driver, antiques dealer, drama facilitator, theatre director and fish processor, and has occasionally masqueraded as a pirate. Colin has published three stage plays, six adventures for middle grade readers, two books of short stories, the Watson Letters series and the Terry Bell Mysteries. His short stories have appeared in several literary mags, including: SN Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Grind, A3 Review, Inkapture and Scribble Magazine. These days he lives in a humble cottage in North East Scotland where he writes novels, stories. poems and the occasional song.

#BlogBlitz: Mercy by Stephen Bentley (@StephenBentley8) @Shalini_G26 #Mercy #damppebbles

Hello bookish friends and welcome to damppebbles. I am delighted to be taking part in the blog blitz for the first book in Stephen Bentley’s Detective Matt Deal thriller series, MercyMercy is currently available to purchase in paperback with the ebook to follow later this month on 30th November. Not long to wait now! Stephen is a new author to me but this book sounds right up my street. I can’t wait to read it!

Let’s find out a little more about Mercy

ResizerImage360X540 (1)His daughter was taken. He’ll never get her back.

Set in the near future, Matt Deal is a British businessman married into a wealthy Florida family.

Mercy, his fifteen-year-old daughter, is the glue in his rocky marriage to Lorey. His life is changed forever after Mercy is brutally sexually assaulted on a Destin beach leaving her in a persistent vegetative state.
Trusting the local detectives to bring the rapists to justice, mixed martial arts expert Deal concentrates in vain on his Florida gym business, only to have his world further explode on learning the men responsible for his daughter’s injuries may escape justice. Deal is isolated and at his wit’s end after his rich father-in-law sends death threats blaming him for all these ills.

Who can he turn to? Where can he go? What will he do? Who can he trust?
Will he return to a post-Brexit Britain or ultimately will he seek revenge?

Fans of Jack Reacher, Barry Eisler, and any vigilante justice novel will love this book.

Genre: crime fiction (noir)/thriller/urban fiction with some graphic scenes and language.”

And here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite…

As much as he tried to hide it, Deal felt nervous as he knocked on the door of Internal Affairs.

The voice resonated in his head. “Enter.”

It was the tone, the command, the authority in the voice that reminded him why he was nervous. One false word, one false move and I’m fired, he thought.

Reading the open file, Emily Breen looked up through heavy-rimmed glasses before speaking again. “We meet again, Detective Deal. Sit.”

Breen pointed to a regular-looking seat on the opposite side of the desk from her high-backed executive chair. She continued reading. Deal sat watching her in silence.

Peering over her glasses, Breen said, “Remind me. When was the first time we met?”

“I think you know. It’s all there in my file. Larry Etchwell, Coroner’s Court. I was still with the Human Trafficking Department.”

Breen was silent. She appeared to be deep in thought.

Her next words broke the silence. “The psych evaluation is all good. Says you are fit to remain on active duty.”

“Good. I knew that but it’s good to hear the experts say it too.” Deal emphasised experts. The sarcasm wasn’t missed by Breen.

“Deal. You know the score. Why do you make things difficult for yourself?”

Deal ignored caution. “I always do things the hard way. Haven’t you heard?”

Breen ignored him. “What is this thing with the stutter?”

“How do you mean?”

“You’ve seen the report. What you told the shrink.”

“Remind me. What did I say?”

“If you were a rattlesnake, the stutter would be your rattle.”

Deal smiled at the thought of that meeting with the shrink. “Yeah. That’s what I said. It’s a fact.”

“But why? Why a stutter?”

“I don’t fucking know why. Why does a rattlesnake have a rattle?”

“There you go again, Detective Deal.”

“What?”

“Not helping yourself.”

“Are we done?”

“No. We are not. I have to tell you, one more loss of control. One more death, self-defence or not, you are finished. Do you hear me?”

“I hear you.”

“Good. Is there anything else you wish to say?”

“Can I ask a question?”

“You may.”

“Why does a bird fly?”

“What do you mean?”

“Asking me why I stutter if threatened is like asking a bird why it flies. Why an elephant has big ears. It’s just so. And one other thing – ask these guys what they were going to do to me.”

“I can’t. You killed them.”

“Too right. Before they killed me.”

Doesn’t that sound fantastic?! I can’t wait to read Mercy myself.

Mercy by Stephen Bentley will be published in the UK on 30th November and will be available in paperback and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk (paperback)amazon.co.uk (ebook)Other eBook Stores |

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about-the-author3

Stephen Bentley is a former UK Detective Sergeant, barrister, and author of a bestselling undercover cop memoir. He also writes crime fiction.

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#BlogTour | #GuestPost & #Excerpt: False Prophet by James Hazel @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #FalseProphet #damppebbles

false prophet.jpg“A secret buried for two thousand years.
The rise of an ancient evil.
An invisible killer who will stop at nothing.

When a brutal serial killer defies all known methods, the police call in prolific lawyer and former homicide detective, Charlie Priest, to assist the hunt.

Working together they soon discover a link to a lost scripture that contains a secret so devastating that its custodians are prepared to die to keep it.

Tangled in a dark world of fanaticism, chaos and deadly secrets, Priest comes up against a nemesis more formidable and deranged than any he has previously encountered.

There is no Judgement Day. There is something far worse.”

Happy Friday. Welcome to damppebbles and to my stop (the final stop) on the False Prophet blog tour. False Prophet is the third book in James Hazel’s Charlie Priest series and was published by Zaffre Books in paperback, audio and ebook formats on 19th September 2019.  Today I am delighted to share both an extract from the book along with a brilliant guest post from author James Hazel.

Let’s get stuck in…

Prologue
The Snake and the Boy

There was once an angel named Samyaza. He was the leader of a band of angels known as the Watchers; the holy ones who descended from heaven to be with man.

It was propagated that, in the beginning, Samyaza changed his form into that of a snake: a copperhead serpent said to be the most cunning of all of God’s creatures. It is in this form that Samyaza took up his position in the Garden of Eden and enticed Eve into eating the forbidden fruit, telling her that the fruit’s consumption would give her the powers of God.

Like Prometheus stealing fi re to give to man, which angered Zeus because he knew that, with fi re, man would eventually find little need for gods, so the Christian God was enraged by Samyaza’s trickery. Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, but man’s ultimate punishment was to live forever under the crushing weight of his own morality.

From high above, Samyaza watched as God punished man, no longer welcome in the celestial outworld of Heaven. Resentment, anger and lust boiled within him. And something else too. Hatred of God, and the burning desire for revenge.

Then one day, Samyaza felt a cold hand on his shoulder. In his rage, he made to throw off the hand, break it, smash it, tear it apart. But when he turned, his eyes flooded with bloodlust, and he met the cool, unrelenting gaze of the only creature who still had any dominion over him. Satan. And into Samyaza’s receptive ears, Satan poured a devilish plan.

Later that day, in accordance with Satan’s plan, Samyaza proposed to his followers, one hundred and ninety-nine other Watchers, that they descend to Earth, permanently, and make wives for themselves of the humans below waiting for them. It was a dangerous enterprise, one that would draw the ultimate wrath of God himself; Samyaza would take personal responsibility if they were uncovered. But the one hundred and ninety-nine drew a pact together – they would not let their leader sacrifice himself alone.

And so a covenant was reached – each Watcher was bound to himself, his kin and to Samyaza. Together, they descended to Earth, and in so doing became the Fallen Ones. Others called them Demons. Each took a human woman as his wife. And they procreated. Their off spring, a hybrid race of demon and human, were known as Giants.

But the Giants were a blasphemy. Nothing has ever existed that was more malevolent. They were a union that was supposed to be forbidden in every sense. Soon, God’s greatest creation had become corrupted, ravaged and ruined. When the Giants began to outnumber the purebloods, they turned upon their cousins – devouring them like the monsters they really were. From his demonic castle in the clouds, Satan observed the chaos below with gleeful eyes, knowing that his tenure became safer with the death of every pureblood. He knew about the prophecy; the Bible told of it. Th e one to overthrow him will be a man. Well that can’t happen if there are no men left, can it . . .

In retaliation, God sent a flood to cover the Earth, and destroy all living things, including the blasphemous demon hybrids. But in order to preserve the purebloods, God saved Noah and his family. Noah, who was perfect in his generations. The purest of pure, whose lineage was untouched by the demons. The Earth’s last hope.

But Satan was not done yet.

Janus was the son of a farmer; honest and hardworking. The kind of man who would have lived and died in total obscurity, ploughing the oil seed fields or tending to cattle in the arid wilderness of southern Mesopotamia, now modern-day Iraq. That is, were it not for one fateful day.

On that day, Janus was sent by his father to recover a lost sheep, a journey which took him across the unforgiving wastelands for two days. Starving and dying of thirst, Janus was about to give up on his pursuit when he tripped and fell, a sharp pain rippling up his leg. When he looked up, he saw he had been bitten by a snake; a creature with deep crimson scales, the colour of the Arabian sunset. The same copperhead serpent that curled artfully around the Tree of Life, and who lured Eve into sin. This was God’s partisan, the wicked Samyaza.

Afraid, Janus was about to strike out with his crook, when, just as the serpent of the Garden of Eden had, the snake spoke to him, warning Janus of the forthcoming deluge. The snake advised Janus that there was no hope for his father and mother but that he, Janus, might survive if he were to stowaway on the Ark built by Noah, which was then nothing more than a wooden carcass, a giant timber skeleton jutting out of the desert.

Then the snake writhed away, and where it slithered, crops grew and water flowed. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Janus set off to find the Ark. When he did, he disguised himself as one of the labourers, but whereas those men hired by Noah to unwittingly build his vessel of survival went about blindly following Noah’s directions, Janus constructed a small, secret room below deck where he stayed until the Ark was complete.

There he remained, as the rain lashed and the wind hurled the Ark around for forty days and forty nights until the highest mountains were covered with black water and all life on Earth was extinguished, save for Noah, his family, the animals aboard the Ark and their stowaway.

When the clouds parted, and the rain relented, Janus picked his moment and crawled away, the demon bloodline pulsing through his veins.

Above him, Satan smiled. His plan had worked. It would not be long before Janus spread his demonic seed. Soon, the age of the demon would be born again.

Why the biblical story of the flood is weird on a whole other level

When it comes to religion, there’s one thing that we can all agree on, and that’s that no one can agree on anything.

Not even the data. I recently read two articles in a popular mainstream newspaper less than a year apart. The first article declared that “faith is becoming more and more popular”. The second purported to chart religion’s “continued decline”.

Both articles were peppered with carefully selected statistics and bold statements about their meaning.

Atheism may or may not be on the rise, depending on whose survey you read this week, but one thing is for sure: there are some very strange things going on in the Bible. From talking donkeys (Numbers 22:28-30) to bans on people with crushed testicles from being Christian (Deuteronomy 23:1), there is an awful lot to worry about.

It turns out that one of the strangest is also one of the most well-known.

The story of the Flood can be summarised roughly as follows: God looked upon the Earth and decided that it was permeated with evil and vice. Thus, He destroyed all living things with a deluge; all except of course for Noah and his family.

It is an early example of indiscriminate genocide.

There is, however, a part of the Flood narrative that is less well known. This is the story of a band of angels who fell from grace to fornicate with human women thereby producing a race of hybrid offspring known as ‘giants’.

It’s there: written in the Book of Genesis, hiding in plain sight, although, generally, it is omitted from the Sunday School account of Noah and the Ark.

~

To understand what’s going on here, it’s helpful to bear in mind that the Bible is not a comprehensive, flowing story. It is a collection of vaguely connected material written by multiple authors across a timespan of up to a full millennium. It is therefore not difficult to find inconsistencies in the chronicle.

Moreover, the stories in the Bible, especially those of the Old Testament, may be supplemented by other scriptures that aren’t deemed part of the canon.

In the case of the Flood, the true story cannot reasonably be understood without consideration of the Book of Enoch, an ancient Jewish work ascribed to the prophet Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah. The Book of Enoch is not considered part of the Christian Bible.

Enoch tells the story of the Watchers, a band of rebellious angels led by Samyaza who decided one day to visit Earth and take female humans as their wives (whether this is a story of divine love or mass rape is open to interpretation).

The union between the Watchers and such women, who were either blessed or the victims of preternatural sexual abuse depending on your viewpoint, produced a race of half-angel / half-human hybrids called the Nephilim.

This story might have been confined to the annals of obscure Jewish history, were it not for the fact that the Nephilim are referred to directly in the Book of Genesis (Genesis 6:4). The King James version of the bible uses the word ‘giants’, which is the Hebrew translation of the word Nephilim.

Enoch then has the giants running riot, ‘devouring mankind’ and sinning ‘against birds, and beasts, and reptiles, and fish’ while ‘devouring flesh’ and ‘drinking blood’ (Enoch Ch VII 1-6). This has led some to speculate that the hybrids might have ultimately become demons.

It begs the question: did God instigate the flood to rid the world of evil created by man, or to destroy the giants?

~

There may be some clues in the text, such as that describing the basis of God’s decision to burden Noah with the unenviable task of survival after the extinction of ‘every living thing’.

The orthodox explanation is that Noah was about the only decent soul around, the only one trustworthy enough to restart the human race after the deluge. He was a good-egg, immune from the unmitigated evil to which just about everybody else was seemingly predisposed.

That’s not quite accurate though. The actual text puts it slightly differently. Noah was chosen because he was ‘perfect in his generations’ (Genesis 6:9).

Was this a reference to Noah’s flawless character and devotion to God, or to his bloodline? Perhaps the point is that Noah’s ancestry was pure, untainted by demon DNA.

~

Whatever the truth of God’s intentions, all accounts seem to indicate that the plan (if that was the plan) failed. The giants are still around. The Bible is very clear on this (Genesis 6:4; Numbers 13:33).

Perhaps even Goliath, the Philistine behemoth slain by David, was a giant (incidentally, David’s slingshot was just about the deadliest weapon available at the time, and Goliath may have suffered from a disorder known as acromegaly, meaning he probably couldn’t see straight. Why David remains the underdog in this tale is beyond me. But I digress).

We must acknowledge that there are competing interpretations of all of this. Perhaps there were two races of giants, one pre-flood and one post-flood. Perhaps the giants were wiped out, but reintroduced by incubuses (demons that have sex with or rape women). Perhaps Noah’s son Ham was wicked, and his wife was a Pagan bearing the giants’ seed.

The latter explanation has some credence to it. Genesis gives an account of a rather strange incident wherein Noah plants a vineyard (Genesis 9:20). Pleased with himself, Noah takes to drinking an awful lot, leading to him falling asleep in a tent in a drunken stupor. During this period of incapacitation, Ham apparently sodomises him.

Even more curiously, Noah decides not to punish Ham for this act of gross indecency directly, but instead punishes (by way of a curse) Ham’s son, Canaan.

Whatever the explanation, the fate of the giants is left distressingly unresolved.

~

Given how the Bible was put together, perhaps this isn’t surprising.

The Old Testament once existed without a flood story. The account was added later by Jewish priests putting their own spin on the Sumerian / Akkadian / Babylonian cast of the same event. These additions and changes, introduced over centuries, constantly interrupted and disrupted the fluidity of the overall narrative.

Things were lost. The giants may well be part of that residue; their story was suddenly no longer relevant.

The debate about all of these matters rages on. Some people have pointed to a prophecy embroidered into the pages of Genesis: the one to overthrow Satan will be a man (Genesis 3:14-15). Perhaps it was Satan’s plan all along to contaminate the human bloodline with the divine seed of fallen angels so that there can be no pure man to overthrow him.

Perhaps the Biblical tale is just too convoluted, too confusing to make much sense of at all. It is ungraspable, like trying to catch fog in your hands.

~

None of this necessarily proves or disproves anything. All religions have an array of bewildering backstories. Many have flood narratives. Few have any cogent historical foundation. The lacuna between faith and evidence is staggeringly wide.

It’s easy to dismiss these stories as myth, the antiquated ramblings of an ancient sect. It’s easy to say that they have been misunderstood, misinterpreted by ignorant laymen who fail to grasp their deeper meaning. It’s easy to say that they have been taken out of context, ravished by flawed analysis and glossed over with misinformation. It’s easy to say that they shouldn’t be taken literally.

It’s easy to say that they’re just nonsense.

Perhaps all of these things are true to one degree or another. After all, what is proof, other than what we ourselves define it as? When it comes to matters of religion, just like metaphysics, we set our own bars.

There is a race of human-angels in the Bible; the same book that has codified the beliefs of billions of people throughout history. The same book that promotes misogyny, homophobia and a set of morals that seem utterly disconnected from a modern liberal social contract. The story of the giants isn’t proof of the Bible’s paucity when it comes to questions of credibility, but the lack of explanation does seem like an oversight when set against the vehemence with which certain Christian rhetoric is espoused, such as the insistence that God’s word is truth.

James Hazel is the author of False Prophet, out on the 19th September 2019 and published by Bonnier-Zaffre.

Many thanks to James for such an interesting guest post and allowing me to share an excerpt from False Prophet.

False Prophet by James Hazel was published in the UK by Zaffre Books on 19th September 2019 and is available in paperback, audio and ebook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which mean I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook DepositoryGoodreads |

FalseProphet

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james hazel.jpgBefore turning his hand to writing, James Hazel was a lawyer in private practice specialising in corporate and commercial litigation and employment law.

He was an equity partner in a regional law firm and held a number of different department headships until he quit legal practice to pursue his dream of becoming an author.
He has a keen interest in criminology and a passion for crime thrillers, indie music and all things retro.

James lives on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds with his wife and three children.

#BlogTour | #Extract: The Snow Girls by Chris Mooney (@cmooneybooks) @PenguinUKBooks #TheSnowGirls #DarbyMcCormick

the snow girls.jpg“It’s been eleven years since Claire Flynn disappeared – abducted without trace from a snowy hillside, leaving her parents heartbroken.

Investigator Darby McCormick remembers the case. She knows there’s only ever been one suspect, Father Richard Byrne, linked inconclusively to two similar disappearances.

Finally, terminally ill, Byrne is willing to talk. But he’ll only talk to Darby.

She’s expecting a confession – but what she hears is far more disturbing.

And it soon becomes clear that someone is willing to kill to keep this cold case on ice…”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on The Snow Girls blog tour.  I am a huge fan of Chris Mooney’s books and I’ve always had a bit of a girl crush on the fabulous Darby McCormick!  I can’t wait to read The Snow Girls which is the latest book in the series, published in paperback by Penguin Books on 15th November 2018.

Today I have a brilliant extract to share with you as part of the blog tour celebrations so make yourself a cuppa, sit back and enjoy…

Chapter 1

Darby hadn’t seen the inside of the Belham Police Station since her father was a beat cop. She had worked plenty of forensic cases in Belham, back when she was in the crime lab and then later, as a forensic investigator, but the last time she’d actually set foot inside? Had to be at least twenty years.

She parked her rental car in the lot shared by the station and the church. It was Friday, coming up on 7 a.m., the cloudless November sky already a bright, hard blue. Winter had come to New England this year, sending the temperature down to the low twenties and creating the kind of harsh, biting winds that made you question why anyone in their right minds insisted on living in such a climate. Thanksgiving was three weeks away, and the downtown area was already decorated with white Christmas lights strung around small bare trees planted on the sidewalks, the telephone poles holding green plastic wreaths and stringy, weather-beaten tinsel.

Some things from your childhood never changed. Belham Station was one of them. The outside still looked the same: an imposing brick building with tall windows that never seemed clean, no matter what time of season. It gave her the feeling she’d had as a kid, which was that this was the sort of place where you would never find comfort.

The security cameras, she noticed, were dented and banged up from the weather and from having people throwing stones, Belham having the distinction of not only becoming Boston’s most violent neighbourhood but also the leader in attacks against the police.

The station’s interior, amazingly, hadn’t changed  –  same concrete walls painted in light and dark blues; the same shitty black-and-grey-speckled linoleum floor and the same steam-heated air containing the same odd mixture of Lysol, body odour and . . . was that pork?

The desk sergeant sitting behind the dispatch-office window saw her sniffing at the air and said, ‘No, you’re not imagining it. It’s pork. Sausage, as a matter of fact.’ Darby picked up the clipboard. ‘Thought I might be having a stroke.’

‘No, that’s burnt toast, what people smell right before they have one. Look, I’ll tell you the same thing I told the last one, which is “No comment”.’

‘Okay.’ Darby signed her name and said, ‘I’m here to see Detective Chris Kennedy. He’s expecting me.’

‘You’re not a reporter from the Belham Tab ?’

‘Nope.’

‘They send the real pretty ones down here to ask their questions – like that’s gonna work. Your name?’

‘Darby McCormick.’ His face changed, went from mildly pleasant to turnaround-and-get-the-hell-out. It didn’t bother her as much any more. She had grown . . . not used to it but had simply accepted it. There was nothing she could do to change some people’s minds.

‘ID,’ he said gruffly, not looking at her. She handed over her driver’s licence, which was tucked in the same black leather wallet as her investigator’s badge and concealand-carry permits. He handed it back to her, along with a visitor’s pass, and then pointed to the bench near a couple of payphones. The bench had been painted, but it was the one where she’d sat as a kid, waiting for her father.

Darby sidled over to the bulletin board, the wall above it adorned with framed pictures of cops who had died in the line of duty. Her father, Thomas ‘Big Red’ McCormick, was in the top row, dressed in his uniform blues, the auburn-coloured hair she’d inherited from him hidden underneath his cap.

He looked down at her with a stern expression, as if to say, What are you doing back here, with these people?

Her gaze slid away, to the bulletin board full of papers advertising needle exchange and gun-buyback programmes, as well as a list of detox centres. Someone had tacked a torn piece of paper to the board, the handwriting neat and legible: This is the place where hope goes to die.

From somewhere inside the station  –  probably the holding pen, Darby guessed – she heard a long, drawnout scream: the raw, painful kind she associated with someone experiencing either a psychotic break or suddenly realizing the soul-crushing horror of his or her fate.

There had been a time when hearing such a sound would have caused her heart to leap in her throat. The skin on her face would have tightened and flexed across the bone; she’d feel cold all over, and have trouble thinking and concentrating. Now? Now, the sound was as harmless as radio static, and she wondered when this shift had happened. Wondered if she had simply become used to it or maybe had just stopped caring.

‘Should have been here an hour ago,’ Chris Kennedy said to her. ‘Woman came in here, a big ole smile on her face, carrying a pastry box. Guy manning the desk, Mr Personality back there, Charlie, he asked her how he can help her and she says, “I’m here to feed the pigs”.’

Darby walked beside him as they navigated the halls, heading to his office.

Then,’ Kennedy said, his eyes bright and mischievous, ‘she opens the box, takes out uncooked sausage and pork chops, starts smearing everything all over the window and counter.’

‘Wow. Clever and original. What a combo.’

Her sarcasm made him smile. He was the only cop who looked at her in a friendly way. Almost everyone else either averted their eyes or deliberately glared at her.

Kennedy’s face turned serious. ‘Stuff like that’s happening more and more these days in Bedlam.’

Back when Darby was growing up, people called the city ‘The Ham’. The downtown area where she had spent most of her youth had been replaced by cheque-cashing stores and pawnshops, and the vacant buildings had been taken over by the rampant homeless population, which was made up primarily of heroin addicts that came from all walks of life. Now kids were snorting, smoking, ingesting and injecting heroin and bath salts. They had abundant access to handguns, shotguns, semi-automatic rifles and hollowpoint ammo, and now almost every kid had ‘active-shooter’ drills at schools. The crime rate here had surged so much everyone referred to the city as ‘Bedlam’.

‘And you can forget eating anywhere in town if you’re a cop,’ Kennedy said. ‘People spit in your food, rub it on their genitals, sometimes even stick shit in it. And by“shit” I mean actual shit. We’re here to help them, keep everyone as safe as possible, and everywhere we go we’re treated like the Gestapo. Not a good time to be in law enforcement. What’s with the jacket?’

Darby wore a stylish black motorcycle jacket made of thick black leather. ‘You don’t think it makes me look like a badass?’

‘You are a badass. I just thought women with fancy Harvard doctorates got dressed up all fancy – you know, shirts, skirts and heels.’

‘You’ve got the wrong girl.’

‘No, I’ve got the right one.’ He smiled knowingly. ‘This is me, right here.’

His office had the look and feel of an underground war bunker  –  no external windows, the small space feeling even more claustrophobic on account of the boxes stacked high against the walls, full of case files and forensic reports. Kennedy, she knew, had recently been placed in charge of Belham’s cold-case squad.

He picked up a stack of files from one of the two chairs in the corner of the room. Darby looked out through the window, into the bullpen, where a handful of cops were openly staring at her in disgust and contempt.

Years ago, back when she was working an investigation for Boston’s Criminal Investigative Unit, she had uncovered a decades-long string of police corruption that extended up to the commissioner and the FBI’s Boston office. These same people who had sworn to protect and serve had also orchestrated the murder of her father, Big Red McCormick, who had discovered the seeds of a criminal enterprise operating within the Boston PD. He had been shot while on duty.

Her father was strong. He had lasted a month before her mother decided to take him off life support. Darby insisted on being at the hospital. She was thirteen.

The reason for the vitriol she was witnessing right now was a result of her committing the cardinal sin of law enforcement: going public with the truth instead of playing the role of the good soldier and keeping the matter confined within Boston PD, where the bureaucrats and spin doctors would work tirelessly to bury the matter. She was branded a rat, ostracized for not following their rules. Then she’d lost her job.

Kennedy saw where she was looking. ‘Ignore them.’

Don’t worry, I am. She said, ‘You must’ve made a helluva lot of friends, asking me to come here.’

‘You’re the best at what you do. Granted, you have the subtlety and grace of a wrecking ball, but you do get results.’ He chuckled. ‘Have a seat.’

Kennedy was well into his early fifties but except for his hair, which had gone from black to a steel-grey, and maybe an extra ten or so pounds, he still looked like the same beat cop she remembered from her days in Boston –  the tough and crafty baseball catcher who’d earned a free ride to Boston College. He would’ve gone pro if he hadn’t suffered a devastating knee injury, one that tore both his ACL and MCL, during his junior year.

‘Who’d you piss off?’ Darby asked, looking around his office.

‘That’s a mighty long list. Could you be more specific?’

‘You worked homicide; now you’re stuck in Bedlam working cold cases.’

‘I needed a change of pace.’

‘What’s the real reason?’

‘Doctor’s orders.’

‘High blood pressure?’ Every homicide detective she knew suffered from it. That or alcoholism. Depression. The list went on and on.

‘That and the two heart attacks that followed,’ Kennedy said.

‘Why didn’t you retire? You put your time in.’

‘And do what? Take up golf? Besides, my wife would kill me, having me around all day. Can I get you coffee? Water?’

‘I’m all set.’ Darby took a seat.

‘So,’ he said, hiking up his trousers as he lowered himself into the chair. ‘Claire Flynn.’

Two days ago, Darby had been in Long Island, New York, winding up her consulting gig on a possible serial killer who, over a three-year period, had dumped the bodies of six women, all prostitutes or runaways, in the dunes. Kennedy called her out of the blue, asked if she’d take a look at a case Darby had worked more than a decade ago, and one that still haunted her: Claire Flynn, a six-year-old Belham girl, who, on a snowy night eleven years ago, went up a hill with her slightly older friend and never came down. It had been Darby’s first case. She’d flown in yesterday morning and spent the next twenty-four hours poring over the evidence, the police reports, everything.

‘What’s your verdict?’ he asked.

‘She’s dead.’

Love it! Doesn’t that sound fantastic?! I want to know more!  I can’t wait to read this one and I hope you feel the same too.  If you’re a crime or thriller fan then you can’t go wrong with Chris Mooney’s books.

The Snow Girls by Chris Mooney was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 15th November 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats: | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

The Snow Girls Blog Tour

about-the-author3

chris-mooney-200.jpgHailed as “one of the best thriller writers working today” by Lee Child and “a wonderful writer” by Michael Connelly, Chris Mooney is the international bestselling author of ten novels, most recently the new Darby McCormick thriller Every Three Hours. His fourth book, The Missing, the first in the Darby McCormick series, was a main selection of the International Book of the Month Club and an instant bestseller in over thirteen countries. Chris’s third book, Remembering Sarah, was nominated for an Edgar for Best Novel by the Mystery Writer’s Association.

Chris has sold over one million books, which have been translated into more than twenty languages. He occasionally teaches writing courses at the Harvard Extension School and lives in the Boston area with his wife and son, where he is at work on the next Darby McCormick thriller.

Author Links:Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #Extract: Halcyon by Rio Youers (@Rio_Youers) @TitanBooks #Halcyon

halcyon.jpg“Nightmarishly compelling and flawlessly told horror for fans of Paul Tremblay and Joe Hill.

Halcyon is the answer for all Americans who want to escape, but paradise isn’t what it seems. A beautiful self-sustaining community made up of people who want to live without fear, crime, or greed, Halcyon is run by Valerie Kemp, aka Mother Moon, benevolent and altruistic on the outside, but hiding an unimaginable darkness inside. She has dedicated her life to the pursuit of Glam Moon, a place of eternal beauty and healing. And she believes the pathway there can only be found at the end of pleasure.

On the heels of tragedy, Martin Lovegrove moves his family to Halcyon. A couple of months, he tells himself, to retreat from the chaos and grind. He soon begins to suspect there is something beneath Halcyon’s perfect veneer and sets out to discover the truth, however terrible it might be, behind the island and its mysterious founder.”

I am absolutely delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on the Halcyon blog tour. Halcyon is written by Rio Youers and was published in paperback by Titan Books on 23rd October 2018.

If you’ve been with me for a while now you will know that I am a massive fan of horror novels. Yes, I am primarily a crime reader, but horror will always have a very special place in my heart. If I’m suffering from a dreaded reading slump (we’ve all been there) then I can guarantee reading a horror novel will reinvigorate my love of books. I don’t read enough really and I would love to immerse myself in more. I first saw Halcyon mentioned on another blog; it was this review of Abby’s over on Anne Bonny Book Reviews and I knew I had to read it. So look out for a review coming your way soon!

In the meantime, I have an extract to share with you today.

Shirley stood up from the top stair, where she’d sat for the last fifteen minutes listening to her parents’ conversation. She didn’t have to strain her ears, either; when Mom and Dad had one of their powwows in the kitchen, their voices— even if they whispered—carried into the hallway and swirled around the ceiling above the stairway. A cool acoustic quirk. Her music teacher once told her there was an area inside Grand Central Station where you could whisper into a corner, and no matter how much noise and kerfuffle there was around (and Shirley figured there was always a good deal of noise and kerfuffle at Grand Central Station), the person standing in the opposite corner would hear your voice like you were standing next to them. This was similar to the way Edith sometimes communicated with her—a direct, secret method, bypassing traditional routes. It was fun to begin with, but it wasn’t normal, and Shirley knew it had to stop.

No good could come from it.

Shirley eavesdropped on her parents until they started smooching—totally gross—then snuck along the landing to Edith’s room. She inched the door open and crept inside.

“Edith? You awake?”

The bedclothes shuffled and Edith sat up, her eyes bright and owl-like in the glow of the nightlight. She clutched Paisley Rabbit to her breast. He squeaked companionably. She was too old for Paisley, but he made an appearance every now and then. A comfort thing.

“They’re talking about us again,” Shirley said, and perched on the edge of Edith’s bed. “About you, mostly.”

“What are they saying?”

“That thing in Buffalo. The bomb. They think you saw it in your mind before it happened in real life.”

“Oh. That doesn’t sound good.”

“How much do you remember?”

“Nothing really.” Several shallow lines crossed Edith’s brow. “Just . . . ashes. Like trying to remember a dream.” They sat in silence for a moment, the only sounds coming from the other side of the blinds: the traffic coursing along Melon Road, a radio playing some catchy nerd-rock song, older kids shooting hoops beneath the lights in Oval Park Court. Just another cool spring evening in Flint Wood, New York.

“They’re worried about us.” Shirley looked at the wall where Edith had scrawled her symbols. Nothing there now but the fresh-paint tracks Dad had made with the roller. “Mom’s bringing in help. A specialist.”

“The Star Wars guy?”

“Not this time. It’ll be someone different.” She recalled her mom’s description. “Someone sympathetic.

Edith gathered Paisley a little closer. She appeared to take all this on board, and accept it, then her brow furrowed more deeply and her upper lip quivered, and all at once her face scrunched. Tears jumped from her eyes and she used Paisley’s floppy ears to smudge them away.

“It’s not my fault,” she sniveled, trying to keep her voice down. “I didn’t ask for this.”

Shirley shuffled closer, threw an arm around her little sister, and kissed her clumsily on the cheek. “Shhh . . . hey, I never said it was your fault.”

“You’re mad at me. I can tell.”

“No, it’s just . . . I told you, Ede, I can’t hold your hand anymore. Not up here.” Shirley pressed a finger to her forehead. “I thought I was helping you, but I’m not. I’m making things worse.”

“I was scared,” Edith moaned, mopping more tears away. “I know you said not to, and I tried, but it was too big.”

“Yeah, but we freaked Mom and Dad the hell out. They’re bringing in a specialist. There’ll be questions, examinations. I’m worried it’ll lead to more questions—smelly old men in suits digging through your brain.”

Edith’s jaw fell. “You think?’

“Maybe,” Shirley said. “ This thing . . . it’s not natural, Ede. It scares people.”

“It scares me.

“Right, which is why you need to control it. And I’m going to help you.” Shirley touched her forehead again. “Just not up here.”

A barking dog joined the evening chorus. It was loud and insistent. Shirley listened for a moment, lost in thought.

“I’m going to take you somewhere over the weekend,” she said.

Edith looked at her curiously. “Where?”

“My special place.” Shirley leaned closer, lowering her voice. “But don’t tell Mom and Dad. We’re in enough trouble as it is.”

“Okay.”

Shirley smiled. Not a full smile, certainly not a happy one, but better than nothing. She kissed her sister on the cheek again, then stood up and started toward the door.

“Shirl?”

She stopped, turned around. Maybe it was the way Edith’s eyes shimmered in the nightlight’s bluish glow, or the stuffed toy secured faithfully in her arms, but she looked so young. Five years old, not ten.

“This place,” Edith said. “Is it bad?”

Shirley bristled. She tried to keep her voice even, but it quavered just a little. “You need to stay out of my mind, Ede.”

Edith shook her head. “I didn’t, Shirl. I promise. I . . .” The rabbit in her arms squeaked. “I didn’t.

“Do you trust me?”

I can’t wait to read this book! I may even cheat and move it to the top of the TBR, just don’t tell anyone 😉.

Halcyon by Rio Youers was published in the UK by Titan Books on 23rd October 2018 and is available in hardcover, paperback and eBook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

Halcyon blog tour banner

about-the-author3

rio youers.jpgRio Youers is the British Fantasy Award–nominated author of Old Man Scratch and Point Hollow. His short fiction has been published in many notable anthologies, and his novel, Westlake Soul, was nominated for Canada’s prestigious Sunburst Award. He has been favorably reviewed in such venues as Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and The National Post. His latest novel, The Forgotten Girl, was released by Macmillan/St. Martin’s Press in June 2017.

Rio lives in southwestern Ontario with his wife, Emily, and their children, Lily and Charlie.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter |

#BlogTour | #Extract: Broken Ponies by Sophie Jonas-Hill (@SophieJonasHill) @urbanebooks @LoveBooksGroup #BrokenPonies #CrookedLittleSisters

9781911583707“THE PREY WILL BECOME THE HUNTER

‘Are you scared of him, Rita? Scared he might find you?’
‘No. I’m scared because I want him to find me.’

Ex-soldier Red and the mysterious Rita have been thrown together by a series of deadly events, each relying on the other not simply to survive, but to challenge the hand fate has dealt them. 

Having survived a night under siege in a crumbling house in the steamy bayou, Red and Rita go on the run, desperate to evade
their unknown pursuers. Details of Red’s past and Rita’s childhood are gradually revealed but can they really trust each other?

But the hunters have not given up the chase, and Rita unknowingly becomes the bait in a trap set for Red in a terrifying, storm-damaged fairground….

The second book in the Crooked Little Sisters series, Broken Ponies will thrill fans of dark gothic thrillers and readers of John Connolly, Joe Hill and Holly Seddon.”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the Broken Ponies blog tour.  Broken Ponies is the second book in the Crooked Little Sisters series written by Sophie Jonas-Hill and was published on 27th September 2018 by Urbane Publications.  I read and reviewed the first book in the series, Nemesister, last year and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I can’t wait to make a start on this latest instalment!

Today though, I have an extract from the book to share with you.

THE SAVANNAH HEIGHTS CASINO did its best. Above the two gaming levels, there were six floors of reasonably priced hotel rooms, which were reasonably clean and reasonably anonymous, a woefully under-used pool deck and a ‘skyline’ bar. This translated to a room that ran the whole length of the building, offering a panoramic sweep of the city, though the view was mostly the back of everything else, as if The Savannah Heights was a short kid come late to the school photograph.

At 3.30 a.m. above the background hum and trill of slots, the click of chips and the dull, subterranean thump of the generators, an angry noise began to rise from table four. I’d seen the guy playing there when I’d come onto the floor after my break and was pretty sure he’d been there long before that, though guys like him were pretty hard to distinguish from one another, or indeed the fixtures and fittings. This one had the same hard, chiseled expression as the faux, carved wooden Tiki heads dotted about the place, until of course he lost, which he just had – big time.

Like Mormons us security operatives are supposed to travel in pairs, but Olaf was still in the bathroom, which meant I alone was the sole representative of Savannah Heights law. With no time to wait for Olaf to wash up, I strode toward table four, nodding to its operative Barbara to let her know I’d seen what was happening.

‘You goddamn’ bitch–’ Tiki man, pot-bellied and crackling with anger, jabbed his finger at her face. ‘I said stick, and you goddamn went an’ hit me. What the hell you go and do a thing like that for? You deaf, well as stupid?’

Somewhere off to his right one of the slots chose that moment to pay out and play the opening chords of ‘Sweet Home Alabama’. It didn’t improve anyone’s mood.

‘Sir –’ I began, ‘Sir, is there a problem?’

Tiki man struck the table top, sending cards, chips, beer an’ all skittering to the floor as Barbara, trapped in the table’s central well, arms jammed across her chest, let out a yelp of protest.

‘You heard that then, you stupid bitch!’

The lucky few still awake at this hour turned to get a good look, necks craning out of plaid shirts and sports collars.

‘Sir!’ I tried again. My hand on his shoulder, I was dimly aware of Olaf hurrying through the archipelago of tables while doing up his flies. Then Tiki man swung round to face me. He was wearing a blue shirt crowded with images of pigs dressed in grass skirts and flower garlands – really, I thought, hula pigs? Now, did you buy that, or was it a gift? I mean, seriously, did you actually look at that and think – hey, now that’s the one for me?

‘Sir, you’re gonna have to calm down here …’

One of our boss Jose’s theories was that you need women on staff because men are more reluctant to hit them. As Tiki man threw a punch at me, I made a mental note to question this at our next team meeting.

‘Oh no you didn’t,’ I heard myself say. His blow connected with my left arm; I deflected it but was hit instead by a waft of aftershave and stale sweat. Tiki man didn’t get the hint. Backed into a chair he rounded on me quicker than I’d expected. He didn’t swear either; most start calling you names and threatening legal action, proving they’re more bark than bite. Tiki man said nothing, just went for me, hard and mean.

Time snagged on the bright lights and chatter of voices. The world stuttered to a halt, that god-awful shirt traced blue and pink on the back of my eyes, spreading out like an ink blot. I saw things both as if I were him and as if I watched him; Tiki man, still angry, still in that shirt, but in another place, his knuckles bloodied and broken, standing over someone else, someone smaller, someone weaker – someone Tiki man thought don’t got no right to sass mouth him that way. I was somewhere else for a moment, looking through Tikki Man’s haunted, piggy eyes.

Oh no, I thought, oh no you didn’t!

‘Oh yes he did,’ Margarita said.

Reality snapped back fast enough to flinch me away from Tiki man’s fist. I caught his punch with both hands letting the force of his blow carry him off balance. He was face down on the table before he’d time to catch his breath, arm all twisted up behind his back. That should have been it; I should have been calling him ‘Sir’ and warning him that the authorities had been called, only the hot-black, heartbeat moment twisted inside me and wouldn’t let him go.

There was the dull thud of impact, then the ricochet as its force crunched back through me. I lost Tiki man and the casino and everything as memory swelled up, molasses dark and rich, bringing the taste of river water, blood and the itch of fire. When Olaf ’s arms closed around me, it took everything I had not to slam my fist into his face.

‘Rita!’ he yelled from the edge of the void. ‘Rita, what the fuck?’ I made myself go limp, gasping for air as if I were breaking the surface again. Around me the casino hissed with exclamations, all those yellow white faces tutting and sniggering at the show. Barbara was jabbering that Tiki man ‘…deserved everything he got comin’ to him. Hell, I’d have slapped him myself, if I hadn’t been stuck inside this goddamn doughnut!’

‘Rita?’ Olaf, hands on my shoulders, steered me away as two other security guys darted in behind us, one to pick up Tiki man, now mewling like a stuck kitten, and one to try and calm Barbara.

‘It’s always me what gets shit like this, all the goddamn time. Hell, only the other week some bitch sprayed me with her Christian Dior. I hate that crap too, had to get my wig dry cleaned and who’s gonna pay for that?’

‘Rita?’ I slid my gaze back to Olaf. Margarita jubilant, her smile on my lips. I pulled from his grasp. ‘What the hell was that?’ he demanded, but I was already walking away.

I strode into the locker room and kicked door number seven. The boom it made did nothing to stop the roar echoing around my head. I threw myself down onto the bench and jammed my head into my hands.

‘Don’t act like you didn’t enjoy it,’ Margarita said. ‘You were lovin’ it, just the same as me.’

‘Shut up,’ I told her. ‘You’re gonna get us both fired.’

‘Oh hush now,’ she laughed. ‘You think they’d can your ass over a piece of shit like that? I know what he did, I could smell it on him and so could you.’

‘No I couldn’t,’ I said, but I was lying.

‘Oh really?’ she said. ‘You keep on tellin’ yourself that.’

‘Rita?’ It was Jose, who really didn’t seem to have a home to go to. I glanced sideways at him and saw he’d crossed his arms across his chest in the same way Barbara had at Tiki man. Which probably meant he wanted to give me a goddamn slap as well.

‘Aren’t you supposed to provide single sex locker rooms?’ I said.

‘What the fuck?’ he replied, his forehead creased in furious lines.

‘I know,’ I said, sitting back, hands held out in front of me. ‘I crossed the line.’

‘Crossed it?’ Jose’s eyebrows pitched a tent. ‘You gone an’ pissed all over the fuckin’ line, that’s what you done.’

‘He went for me,’ I said. ‘Check the tape.’ I got up and opened my locker, already knowing my shift was over.

‘Tape?’ Jose sniffed. ‘What tape would that be?’ Half way through yanking my rucksack out I stopped to look at him. He shrugged. ‘We don’t got no camera covering that table tonight, and you don’t know any different.’ He pointed at me. ‘Never again, you understand? Whatever shit you got going on here–’ he tapped the side of his head, ‘don’t bring it to work, alright?’

‘He means me,’ Margarita sniggered.

‘You want this job, you don’t want this job, all the same to me,’ he said. I got my bag free and pulled off my uniform jacket to hang in its place. ‘But you don’t go making work for me. That piece of shit you put down’s not gonna make no trouble, but the next time?’

‘There won’t be one,’ I lied.

‘Smart,’ he said, flicking his hand toward my locker. ‘You’re done. Go home, don’t come in tomorrow–’ he raised his finger before I could protest. ‘Don’t come in tomorrow, don’t come in till Thursday. Go sleep, go get fucked, whatever, but don’t bring your shit again. Jesus, what? You get your hair done and it rots your brain or something?’

‘I thought you liked me blonde,’ I said and yanked my sweat top free of my bag. He watched me pull it on, the hand that had been pointing at me now gripping the back of his neck, where the hair was longer and bushier than it had any right to be.

‘Where the hell you learn shit like that anyway?’ he asked. I shouldered my bag.

‘I was home schooled,’ I said.

I can’t wait to get reacquainted with Rita and Red once again.  Look out for a review coming to the blog soon.

Broken Ponies by Sophie Jonas-Hill was published in the UK by Urbane Publications on 27th September 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

about-the-author3

Sophie-Jonas-HillBW-200x300

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 | #Extract: Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia @QuercusBooks #LeaveNoTrace

leave no trace cover.jpg“Ten years after a boy and his father went missing in the wilderness of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters, the boy – who is no longer a boy – walks back out of the forest. He is violent and uncommunicative. The authorities take him to Congdon Mental Institution in Duluth, on the edge of mighty Lake Superior.

There, language therapist Maya Stark is given the task of making a connection with this boy/man who came back from the dead. But their celebrity patient tries to escape and refuses to answer any questions about his father or the last ten years of his life. In many ways he is old far beyond his years; in others, still a child.

But Maya, who was abandoned by her own mother, has secrets, too. And as she’s drawn closer to this enigmatic boy, she’ll risk everything to reunite him with his father who has disappeared from the known world – but at what cost to herself?”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on the Leave No Trace blog tour.  Leave No Trace is the latest release from author Mindy Mejia and was published by Quercus Books on 4th September 2018.  I read and reviewed Mejia’s fantastic The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman last March and thoroughly enjoyed it, so Leave No Trace sits high on the wishlist.

I am thrilled to have an extract from the book to share with you today.  So without further ado, grab yourself a cuppa and dive straight in…

The patient faced the back of the room with his hands on the cement block wall in a push-up position. From the way he stoodwith h is shoulders tensed and legs braced it looked like he was trying to move the entire wall. I took a step closer and noticed his hospital shirt was torn at the bottom and he’d used the missing strip to tie his hair back.

‘Hello, Lucas.’

He remained still for a second, but then surprised me by turning his head. I saw his face in person for the first time.

He wasn’t a boy.

My brain stuttered on that one thought for what felt like a stupidly long time as our eyes met and held. Why did all the media keep calling him a boy? Lucas Blackthorn looked at least as old as me and stood a foot taller. His cheeks were hollow and shaded with the beginning of a beard. His skin was a deep reddish tan, not the pasty white of most of our long-term patients, and his eyes conveyed things that no first session speech therapy could have drawn out: intelligence and caution mixed with undisguised curiosity.

Moving slowly and deliberately, I walked to the bare mattress between us. There was no table, so we’d have to start the flashcards on the bed. He watched my progress, studying my hair. The short, pixie-cut combined with its dyed color grabbed a lot of patients’ attention. One of the men in ward two, a lifer named Big George with a traumatic brain injury, even liked to touch the ends of it that swished in front of my ears. I made sure he stuck to the left side so he didn’t get distracted by the tiny silver hoop earrings along my right ear. Lucas noticed those, too. I watched him catalog every part of me, absorbing the appearance of this outsider to his room, like someone would analyze a newly discovered insect. His gaze paused on the blue fabric bag I carried, his expression unreadable now.

I put a hand on my chest and waited until his attention snapped back to my face.

‘I’m Maya.’ Three syllables. Slow rate, distinct pronunciation. I didn’t smile. I’d never trusted strangers who smiled at me – they always wanted something.   Patting the place where my pulse beat too fast, I nodded and said it again. ‘Maya.’

He swiveled back toward the wall, dismissing the insect. I glanced behind me where Stan was shaking his head through the lead glass. Shrugging, I started to pull out the flashcards when suddenly Stan’s face changed. His eyes widened and his mouth opened in a warning I couldn’t hear.

I hesitated and before I could turn around, a giant force threw me into the wall and something was being looped around my neck. The metal door shrieked as Stan wrenched it open and I was pulled back, my body turned into a human shield. The thing around my neck tightened and I panicked, unable to breathe. Lucas had my arms locked behind me in an impossibly strong grip. I fought against it, desperate to free myself.

‘Keys,’ he said in a hoarse voice. I bowed my body against his, trying to find some slack in the cord around my throat, but met only a column of unyielding muscle. If anything, the cord grew tighter.

My vision started to contract, black creeping in at the edges. I kicked viciously, striking his shins so hard they should have snapped in half, and used the rest of my oxygen in the process. The last thing I saw before everything went dark was Stan’s hand, holding out his ring of keys.

Doesn’t that sound good?!  I’m really looking forward to reading Leave No Trace.

Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia was published in the UK by Quercus Books on 4th September 2018 and is available in hardcover, paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, some of the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | BookDepository | Goodreads |

Leave No Trace blog tour poster updated (1).jpg

about-the-author3

mindy mejia.jpgMy name is Mindy Mejia and I’m a writer. I write because, ever since I was six years old, my favorite game has been pretend. My life doesn’t have symmetry, theme, symbolism, or meditated beauty and I gravitate toward these things like a houseplant to the sun. I love the perfect words; I love how “fierce” and “confounded” and “swagger” look on the page and how my chest expands when I read them. I write because I believe in the reality of my fantasies, the truth in my fabrications. I’ve always had stories sneaking around my head, thrillers like THE DRAGON KEEPER and EVERYTHING YOU WANT ME TO BE, and sometimes I inhabit those stories more than my own life. (Best not to mention that last part to my husband, kids, or boss.)

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook |

#BlogTour | #Extract: Dark Waters by Mary-Jane Riley (@mrsmjriley) @KillerReads #DarkWaters #AlexDevlin

Cover Dark Waters.jpg“Secrets lie beneath the surface…

Two men, seemingly unconnected, are discovered dead in a holiday boat on the Norfolk Broads, having apparently committed suicide together.

Local journalist Alex Devlin, planning an article on the dangers of internet suicide forums, starts digging into their backgrounds.

But Alex’s investigation soon leads her to a much darker mystery – one that will hit closer to home than she could possibly have imagined, and place the lives of those she loves in terrible danger.”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on the Dark Waters blog tour.  Dark Waters is the third book in the Alex Devlin series written by Mary-Jane Riley and published by Killer Reads.  I am absolutely gutted that I haven’t managed to get around to reading this series yet but, thanks to my iron-will (ha!) I have a bit of a blog tour break coming up soon so plan to make a start on The Bad Things (book one in the series) then.

I was fortunate enough to feature a guest post from Mary-Jane Riley back in 2016 as part of my #damppebblestakeover series.  Mary-Jane explains in her brilliant post how the nugget of an idea grows into a book (plus she declares a love of stationery *swoon*).  I wonder, Mary-Jane, have you looked into The Snowflake Method yet?

Anyway, I’m wittering.  To celebrate the release of Dark Waters in eBook I have a STONKING extract to share with you today.  So sit back, move your breakfast/lunch/dinner plate to one side (you’ll thank me!) and enjoy…

The Norfolk Broads – a haven of peace and tranquility simply waiting to be discovered and explored. And a boating holiday on the Broads opens up a world of beauty, cruising through reed marshes, woodland and meadow. Find hidden waterways teeming with wildlife. Moor close to welcoming riverside pubs, quaint villages, and market towns. Choose a Harper’s Holidays cruiser and start unwinding today!

Three Weeks Earlier

Decomposition sets in.

First, both hearts stop beating and the cells and tissues are starved of oxygen. The brain cells are the first to die – all that ‘being’ ended.

Blood drains from the capillaries, pooling in lower-lying parts of the body, staining the skin black. Rigor mortis has been and gone by now, the muscles becoming stiff three hours after death, but within seventy-two hours rigor mortis has subsided. The bodies are cool. They are pliable again.

As the cells die, bacteria begin to break them down. Enzymes in the pancreas cause each organ in each of the bodies to digest itself. Large blisters appear all over the bodies. Green slime oozes from decomposing tissue, and methane and hydrogen sulphide fill the air. Bloody froth trickles from the mouths and noses.

And all this time the insects are enjoying themselves. One fly can lay three hundred eggs on one corpse, and they will hatch within twenty-four hours. The hatching maggots use hooks in their mouths to scoop up any liquid seeping from the bodies. They are efficient, these maggots. Their breathing mechanism is located on the opposite end to their mouths so they can breathe and eat at the same time.

Within a day the maggots reach the second stage of their lives and burrow into the putrefying flesh.

The pleasure cruiser has been tied to the wooden mooring post on Poppy Island for at least three days. There has been no movement. The curtains are drawn. The doors and windows are closed. Somebody will find them soon.

Wowsers, what a brilliant extract!  I hope that’s piqued your interest.  The eBook is available to download now with the paperback to follow towards the end of May so make sure you grab a copy!

Dark Waters by Mary-Jane Riley was published in the UK by Killer Reads | Harper Collins UK on 16th March 2018 and is available in eBook format (please note, the following Amazon and Waterstones links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

about the author3

mary-jane riley (1).jpgMary-Jane wrote her first story on her newly acquired blue Petite typewriter. She was eight. It was about a gang of children who had adventures on mysterious islands, but she soon realised Enid Blyton had cornered that particular market. So she wrote about the Wild West instead. When she grew up she had to earn a living, and became a BBC radio talk show presenter and journalist. She has covered many life-affirming stories, but also some of the darkest events of the past two decades. Mary-Jane has three grown-up children and lives in Suffolk with her husband and two golden retrievers.

DARK WATERS is her third crime thriller featuring investigative journalist, Alex Devlin.

Author Links:Facebook | Twitter | Instagram |

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

good friday

“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?”

‘La Plante excels in her ability to pick out the surprising but plausible details that give her portrayal of everyday life in a police station a rare ring of authenticity’ Sunday Telegraph

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to damppebbles today and boy, do I have a treat in store for you! Back when the weather was warmer (only a smidge, mind you) in August I was part of the blog tour for Good Friday, the third book in the Tennison series written by the Queen of Crime Drama, Lynda La Plante. That was to celebrate Good Friday‘s release in hardback, eBook and audio. Tomorrow marks the book’s publication in paperback – the perfect excuse to reshare the stonking extract I featured in August.

So without further ado, brace yourself…

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.

I don’t know about you but I need a lie-down now and some calm, soothing music after that extract! WOAH!

Good Friday by Lynda La Plante was published in the UK by Bonnier Zaffre on 22nd March 2018 and is available in hardcover, paperback, eBook and audio formats (please note, the following Amazon and Waterstones links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

about the author3

Lynda la Plante

Lynda 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 |

#BlogBlitz | #Extract: The Babysitter by Sheryl Browne (@SherylBrowne) @bookouture #TheBabysitter

the babysitter cover.jpg

“You trust her with your family. Would you trust her with your life?

Mark and Melissa Cain are thrilled to have found Jade, a babysitter who is brilliant with their young children. Having seen her own house burn to the ground, Jade needs them as much as they need her. Moving Jade into the family home can only be a good thing, can’t it?

As Mark works long hours as a police officer and Melissa struggles with running a business, the family become ever more reliant on their babysitter, who is only too happy to help. And as Melissa begins to slip into depression, it’s Jade who is left picking up the pieces.

But Mark soon notices things aren’t quite as they seem. Things at home feel wrong, and as Mark begins to investigate their seemingly perfect sitter, what he discovers shocks him to his core. He’s met Jade before. And now he suspects he might know what she wants …

Mark is in a race against time to protect his family. But what will he find as he goes back to his family home?

If you loved reading The Girl on the Train, Behind Closed Doors and The Sister, you’ll love the suspense of The Babysitter. This unputdownable read will have you turning the pages until way after dark.”

I am delighted to welcome you to the blog today and to my stop on The Babysitter blog blitz, which I share with a plethora of fabulous bloggers so make sure you check them all out. The Babysitter is written by the very lovely Sheryl Browne and is published by Bookouture today! Happy publication day 🎉.

As part of the blog blitz festivities, I have a gripping extract from the book to share with you today. I don’t want to keep you waiting so without further ado…

PROLOGUE
EIGHT YEARS AGO

Oblivious to the slimy, wet mud oozing between her toes, Grace took a faltering step backwards, away from the house. Her huge cognac-coloured eyes illuminated by the light of the fire, she watched, mesmerised and helpless, as the flames licked hungrily at her parents’ bedroom curtains. She’d tried to tell them what happened to Ellie wasn’t her fault.

Constantly around her ankles, while their mum and husband number three had partied, her younger sister Ellie had been watching as she and her friends lit up their sparklers and drew their names against the dark blue ink of the sky. Ellie had wanted to do it, too. Later, Grace had promised her; anything to placate her and stop her ‘telling Mummy’ she’d been smoking, which would only add to Grace’s list of sins.

Ellie hadn’t forgotten. Still awake when Grace had crept up to bed, her sister had whinged until, urging her to be quiet, Grace had given in and tiptoed back downstairs to fetch a packet of leftover sparklers from the box in the kitchen.

Her eyes like big brown orbs, Ellie had watched in awe as Grace struck the match and lit the sparkler, igniting a thousand crackling slivers of light in their bedroom. She’d squealed like the foxes that scream in the night when her flesh had singed, despite how hard Grace tried to shush her. Grace hadn’t wanted to hurt her sister. But she knew nobody would believe her. They never did.

Grace took another step back, her heart skipping a beat as a figure appeared at the window, flames lashing at his flesh like hot vipers’ tongues. It wasn’t her fault. She’d tried to tell them. She’d told Ellie to hold the firework at arm’s length. They hadn’t been listening. Her mum’s eyes had been as wild as the fire. She’d still been wearing her lipstick, blood red, like an angry red slash for a mouth, as she’d cursed and spat, ‘You stupid creature. Look what you’ve done. Look what you’ve done!’

She’d been holding Ellie in her arms, clutching her plump little hand in her own and pointing it out towards Grace like an accusation. Ellie’s fingers had been blistered, her thigh, too, where the sparkler had landed.

Her stepdad had started after her as her mum swept past Grace to take Ellie to accident and emergency. ‘I’ll drive you,’ he’d offered, but he hadn’t wanted to. Grace could tell by the way his gaze drifted lewdly towards her that he hadn’t wanted to.

‘Don’t be ridiculous!’ her mum had snapped angrily. ‘You’ve drunk your own body weight in beer. Just… deal with her,’ she’d added, causing ice-cold dread to pool in the pit of Grace’s stomach. She hadn’t wanted to be alone with him, to watch him draw the blinds and turn from the window, that liquid, faraway look in his eyes as he unfastened his waistband.

Hearing the wail of the sirens growing closer, Grace tore her gaze from the window. Panic twisting her stomach and thick, choking smoke gripping her throat, she backed towards the denser foliage at the bottom of the garden.

Doesn’t that grab your attention?! It certainly made me sit up and take note. Watch out for a review of The Babysitter coming soon to damppebbles.

The Babysitter by Sheryl Browne was published in the UK by Bookouture on 8th March 2018 and is available in paperback and eBook formats (please note, the following Amazon links are affiliate links): | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

the babysitter.jpg

about the author3

sheryl browne.jpg

Sheryl Browne brings you powerful psychological thriller and contemporary fiction. SheryI’s latest psychological thriller THE BABYSITTER – the first of a three-book deal – comes to you from fabulous BOOKOUTURE. A member of the Crime Writers’ Association and the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and previously writing for award winning Choc Lit, Sheryl has several books published and two short stories in Birmingham City University anthologies, where she completed her MA in Creative Writing.

So why does Sheryl write in two genres? Quoting E. L. Doctorow, Sheryl says: “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights…” This she thinks sums up a writer’s journey, you never quite know where you are going until you get there. You might start with an outline, but a strong character will always divert from the plot. If Sheryl’s not sure where a character is going, she simply has to trust him to show her the way. Plus, according to one reviewer, she also has a scary insight into the mind of a psychopath.

Author Links: | Website | Facebook | Twitter |