#BookReview: Two Dark Tales: Jack Squat and The Niche by Charles Lambert @BelgraviaB

jack squat“A pair of disturbing novellas from the master of ‘the literary uncanny’.

In ‘Jack Squat’, unemployed Gordon and his partner Omar see a money-making opportunity helping expats buy homes in southern Italy. But their scheme catches up with them after the first home they sell, curiously built with four entrances but no connecting doors inside, is revealed to have a dark history.

In ‘The Niche’, mercilessly bullied schoolboy Billy Lender finds a hiding place in a nook in the school corridor and begins to hear whispers: the voice of a mysterious friend who will help him to plot a devastating revenge.”

When a call goes out on Twitter for book bloggers who like to indulge in the darker side of fiction, I leap arms waving, into action.  Well, I leap thanks to a lovely book blogger friend tagging me (thanks Kate!).  I adore horror fiction but don’t tend to indulge as often as I’d like.  So I jumped at the opportunity to read this novella of two short dark tales.

The first thing to say is that the paperback version of this book is gorgeous.  Both stories have their own cover and you need to flip the book over to see the cover of The Niche.  ‘Not much good for reading, though’ you may be saying to yourself.  Not the case I can assure you.  The stories are back to back.  The reader can read their first story of choice (in my case Jack Squat) and when finished flip the book over, open the cover of The Niche and off you go again.  My daughter thought I’d finally lost the plot when she saw me reading what she thought was a book upside down!

My preferred story of the two was The Niche.  My heart ached for terrified schoolboy, Billy Lender, as the bullies wore him down with their cruel, brutish behaviour.  My heart sank even further when Billy began to hear voices.  Never a good thing in horror fiction!

Jack Squat felt as though it’s meant to be the lead story in the collection.  I enjoyed it but found certain aspects of the piece bordering on comical.  It may be because I have children and certain bodily functions are hilarious rather than, well, anything else but I couldn’t help but giggle a little.  It is dark, it’s quite gory in places but it didn’t win me over as much as The Niche did.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  It’s a very quick read which I finished off one Sunday afternoon while the kids were hurtling around the local soft play!  I think I had expected a little more ‘dark’ than I actually got but that tends to be the case with most books I read.  I enjoyed the author’s style and would read another of his books if the opportunity arose in the future.  Enjoyable but didn’t knock my socks off.

Three and a half stars out of five.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Two Dark Tales: Jack Squat and The Niche.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Two Dark Tales: Jack Squat and The Niche by Charles Lambert were published in the UK by the Aarkvark Bureau on 16th October 2017 and is available in paperback and eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

about the author3

charles lambert.jpgCharles Lambert was born in the United Kingdom but has lived in Italy for most of his adult life. His latest novel, The Children’s Home, described by Kirkus Reviews as ‘a one-of-a-kind literary horror story’, is set in neither country. Earlier books include three novels, a collection of prize-winning short stories and a memoir, With a Zero at its Heart, selected by the Guardian as one of its top ten books from 2014.

Author Links: | Website | Twitter |

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#BlogTour | #BookReview: Fox Hunter by Zoë Sharp (@authorzoesharp) #CharlieFox

‘The dead man had not gone quietly … There was a time when I would have given everything I owned to be the one responsible for that.’

“Charlie Fox will never forget the men who put a brutal end to her military career, but she vowed a long time ago she would not go looking for them.

Now she doesn’t have a choice.

Her boss and former lover, Sean Meyer, is missing in Iraq where one of those men was working as a private security contractor. When the man’s butchered body is discovered, Charlie fears that Sean may be pursuing a twisted vendetta on her behalf.

Sean’s partner in their exclusive New York close-protection agency needs this dealt with—fast and quiet—before everything they’ve worked for is in ruins. He sends Charlie to the Middle East with very specific instructions:

Find Sean Meyer and stop him. By whatever means necessary.

At one time Charlie thought she knew Sean better than she knew herself, but it seems he’s turned into a violent stranger. As the trail grows more bloody, Charlie realises that unless she can get to Sean first, the hunter may soon become the hunted.”

I am thrilled to welcome you to my stop on the Fox Hunter blog tour.  Fox Hunter is the twelfth book in the Charlie Fox series and oh my gosh, I am absolutely kicking myself for not finding this series before now!  This high octane, international thriller was written by Zoë Sharp and is available to purchase in print, eBook and audio formats now.

Coming to a series part way through is always a risk.  I do consider myself quite the expert though and rarely find myself reading the first book in a series (the fourth, yes.  Or even the seventh!).  However, at no point, while reading Fox Hunter did I feel I had ‘missed something’.  The author does an excellent job of providing her reader with all the necessary background information to keep the story flowing and the reader engaged.  Does that mean that I will pass on the opportunity to read the first eleven books in this series? No, I would jump at the chance to read more (even if I’m breaking all the rules by reading out of sequence!).

Charlie Fox is my kind of character.  I always swoon a little over a strong, kick-ass, female protagonist and Fox ticked all the boxes for me.  I was glad to see Sharp hadn’t taken the route other authors seem to feel is necessary and given her feisty lead an equally tough male partner of the romantic sense.  I expect that may have been the case in previous novels as a relationship with her intended target, Sean Meyer, is referred to on several occasions.  It all feels very much like ancient history though and Fox is a realist, knowing to leave the past in the past.  Plus Sean’s traumatic accident and head injury mean he’ll never be the same man again.

The plot was fast-paced with some wonderfully choreographed gunfights.  I could easily picture the action in my mind and was drawn into the dangerous world of close protection.  There are several well-written characters who really stood out for me.  Particularly Fox’s newbie sidekick, Luisa Dawson, their loyal escort and driver, Moe and the mysterious Aubrey Hamilton.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  I thoroughly enjoyed my introduction to Charlie Fox and Sharp’s writing.  I don’t read enough of this type of crime fiction, tending to stick to my serial killer thrillers and police procedurals – what a mistake!  I will be making of point of adding more of the Charlie Fox series to my TBR in the future.  Thrilling, fast paced and well written.  What more could you want!

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review a copy of Fox Hunter.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Fox Hunter by Zoë Sharp was published in the UK by Zace Ltd on 12th September 2017 and is available in print, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

2017 Book Tour Blog.pdf

about the author3

ZoeSharp-copyrightNickLockett2015

Zoë Sharp was born in Nottinghamshire, but spent most of her formative years living on a catamaran on the northwest coast of England. After a promising start at a private girls’ school, she opted out of mainstream education at the age of twelve in favour of correspondence courses at home.

Zoë went through a variety of jobs in her teenage years. In 1988, on the strength of one accepted article and a fascination with cars, she gave up her regular job to become a freelance motoring writer. She quickly picked up on the photography side of things and her photo-journalism took her as far afield as the United States and Japan, as well as Europe, Ireland and the UK. She is now a full-time fiction author and creator of the Charlie Fox series of crime thrillers.

Zoë wrote her first novel when she was fifteen, but success came in 2001 with the publication of KILLER INSTINCT − the first book to feature her ex-Special Forces heroine, Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Fox. The character evolved after Zoë received death-threat letters in the course of her photo-journalism work.

Later Charlie Fox novels − FIRST DROP and FOURTH DAY − were finalists for the Barry Award for Best British Crime Novel. The Charlie Fox series has also been optioned for TV.

As well as the Charlie Fox novels, Zoë’s short stories have been published in anthologies and magazines, and have been shortlisted for the Short Story Dagger by the UK Crime Writers’ Association. Her other writing has been nominated for the coveted Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America, the Anthony Award presented by the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention, the Macavity Award, and the Benjamin Franklin Award from the Independent Book Publishers’ Association.

A keen library supporter and public speaker, Zoë blogs regularly on her Blog page. She also witters on Twitter (@AuthorZoeSharp) and fools about on Facebook (ZoeSharpAuthor). She was formerly a long-term contributor to the acclaimed Murderati blog—alas, now defunct. She’s a regular blogger at MURDER IS EVERYWHERE and also has a presence on goodreads.

Zoë lives in the English Lake District. Her hobbies are sailing, fast cars (and faster motorbikes), target shooting, travel, films, music and reading just about anything she can get her hands on

Author bio © http://www.zoesharp.com/meetsharp.htm
Author image © Nick Lockett

#BlogBlitz | #BookReview: Her Last Secret by Barbara Copperthwaite (@BCopperthwait) @Bookouture

Her-Last-Secret-Kindle.jpg“There are some secrets you can never tell.

The last thing to go through Dominique Thomas’s head was the image of her teenage daughter’s face and her heart lifted. Then the shot rang out.

They were the perfect family. Successful businessman Ben Thomas and his wife Dominique live an enviable life, along with their beautiful children; teenager Ruby and quirky younger daughter, Mouse. 

But on Christmas Day the police are called to their London home, only to discover a horrific scene; the entire family lying lifeless, victims of an unknown assailant. 

But when Ruby’s diary is discovered, revealing her rage at the world around her, police are forced to look closer to home for the key to this tragedy.

Each family member harboured their own dark truths – but has keeping their secrets pushed Ruby to the edge of sanity? Or are there darker forces at work?

This dark, gripping psychological thriller will have you holding your breath until the very last page. Fans of Behind Closed Doors, Sometimes I Lie, and The Girl on the Train will be captivated.”

A very warm welcome to the first day of the Her Last Secret blog blitz which I share with, well, some pretty awesome bloggers.  If you haven’t checked out any of the following then I heartily recommend you do so as they are all absolutely brilliant at this blogging lark; Compulsive ReadersChelle’s Book ReviewsBibliophile Book ClubMy Chestnut Reading Tree and CrimeBookJunkie.  The rest of the blitz also looks to be shaping up nicely with some of my very favourite book blogs taking part, so make sure you catch as many stops as possible!

I was thrilled to hear Barbara Copperthwaite was on the verge of releasing her second book with the mighty Bookouture.  I’m not shy in admitting that I am a huge fan of Copperthwaite’s work; check out my review of Flowers for the Dead and The Darkest Lies if proof is needed!  The bar was set, the standard required was pretty darn high and, Copperthwaite smashed it.

I’m not an overly emotional reader.  I don’t cry at books.  In fact, the last book to make me cry was….let’s see…..oh yes!  The Darkest Lies by Barbara Copperthwaite.  What I didn’t expect was for the same thing to happen again.  I like my books full of blood, guts and as much gore as you can cram in.  People die in the books I read, bad things happen to good people and it rarely (read: never) sets me off in floods of tears.  But Copperthwaite’s writing somehow manages to do something to me that others fail to do.  Once again, I was reduced to a pile of mush as I turned the final page, blubbering my eyes out for one character in particular (OK, maybe two).  Which is strange, seeing as the reader starts at the end of the story.  What Copperthwaite manages to do through the pages of her book is make you fall in love with her characters just a little bit.  I felt completely invested in the Thomas family.  Then the ending happened and WOW!  Just…..WOW!

As a fan of the character-driven novel, I was in my element reading Her Last Secret.  I felt disgust and loathing for husband Benjamin who needs to remove his head from his own bottom and start focussing on his family.  My heart ached for teenager Ruby who was crying (nay, screaming!) for attention from her parents but was sinking further and further away from them.  Young Amber (or Mouse as she’s nicknamed) was beautiful from start to finish and really shone from the pages.  It takes real talent to write a convincing eight-year-old voice but the author has excelled.  And then there’s Dominque; totally flawed, damaged by her past and failing her teenage daughter but oh my gosh, I loved her.

The opening chapter throws the reader straight into the action.  The police are called to a residential street in the early hours of Christmas morning.  Chief Inspector Ogundele doesn’t know what awaits him inside the house, all he knows is that gunshots have been fired.  From there the chapters countdown to Christmas day, giving the reader an insight into the ‘not so perfect’ Thomas family and how they have arrived at such a horrific predicament on what should be one of the happiest days of the year.  Brilliantly executed by the author.  In my view, Copperthwaite’s best novel yet!

Would I recommend this book?  Of course, without a shadow of a doubt!  You’d be a fool to miss out on this one.  Thrilling and heartbreaking in equal measure.  Superb storytelling, compulsive and impossible to put down.  I was hooked and you will be too!

(A very easy) Five out of five stars.

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

Her Last Secret by Barbara Copperthwaite was published in the UK by Bookouture on 13th October 2017 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

Her Last Secret - Blog Tour.jpg

about the author3

barbara copperthwaiteWhat people say about Barbara’s books:
“Will have you looking over your shoulder and under your bed… Original, gripping, with a deep psychological impact,” Sunday Mirror
“Enthralling, tense and moving,” Real People magazine
“Totally gripping, and scarily believable,” Bella magazine

Barbara is the author of psychological thrillers INVISIBLE and FLOWERS FOR THE DEAD. Both have been Amazon best sellers. She is also the author of THE DARKEST LIES, and her latest book HER LAST SECRET is out on 13 October.

Much of her success is thanks to her twenty-odd years’ experience as a national newspaper and magazine journalist. She’s interviewed the real victims of crime – and also those who have carried those crimes out. Thanks to people sharing their stories with her, she knows a lot about the emotional impact of violence and wrong-doing. That’s why her novels are dark, realistic and tackle not just the crime but its repercussions.

When not writing feverishly, she is often found hiding behind a camera, taking wildlife photographs.

Author Links: | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Website |

#BookReview: Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart (@elockhart) @HotKeyBooks

genuine fraud.jpg“From the author of the unforgettable bestseller WE WERE LIARS comes a suspenseful new psychological thriller – the story of a young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life. But how many times can someone reinvent themselves? You be the judge.

Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete. 
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two. 
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains. 
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.”

I confess.  I’m one of those people.  I judge a book by it’s cover.  Well, in a good way of course!  If the cover appeals to me then I will read the blurb and see if the story appeals as well.  That was the case with Genuine Fraud.  That cover is so eye-catching that I secretly hoped the blurb would be ‘my kind of thing’.

As you’re reading my review of Genuine Fraud I think it’s safe to say it ticked the right boxes!  And what a wonderfully fun read it was.  Yes…it’s a little dark, a little murderous but you can’t help but immerse yourself in this fast-paced, thrilling tale.

The first thing to say is that the story is told in reverse.  The reader starts at the beginning of the book with chapter 18.  Towards the end of the novel, you find a chapter 19 which fills in a few of the blanks.  I don’t think I have read a book presented in this format before and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was exciting and different, each chapter revealing a little more of what actually happened to the characters.  I was questioning everything.  I believed no one.  Wonderfully compulsive.

I’ve seen a number of mixed reviews for this book.  Many of the readers have previously read one or more of the author’s novels.  I don’t fall into that category and E. Lockhart was a brand new author to me.  From what I’ve seen, Genuine Fraud is quite different to the author’s other works and maybe that’s the problem?  Starting Genuine Fraud with no previous experience may have helped me.  I’ve also seen many comparisons to The Talented Mr. Ripley.  Well, here’s a bombshell for you, I’ve neither read the book nor seen the film!  I will be totally honest with you now and confess to absolutely no knowledge of the plot.  None.  Nada.  Zilch.  Maybe that helped me enjoy this book a little more than others, maybe I missed a number of subtle nuances others got.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  I managed to read Genuine Fraud in a day.  It would have been fairly easy to read it in less time than that had I not had a family to feed and care for.  I enjoyed my first experience of E. Lockhart’s writing and I’m looking forward to adding We Were Liars to the TBR in the future.  It’s a gripping, multilayered read which I found compulsive and thrilling.

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review a copy of Genuine Fraud.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart was published in the UK by Hot Key Books on 5th September 2017 and is available in hardcover and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

about the author3

e lockhart.jpg

Author Image and bio (c) http://www.emilylockhart.com/about-e/

I am the author of We Were Liars,  Fly on the Wall, Dramarama, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and the Ruby Oliver quartet: The Boyfriend List, The Boy Book,  The Treasure Map of Boys, and Real Live BoyfriendsHow to Be Bad was co-written with Lauren Myracle and Sarah Mlynowski.

 

Disreputable History was a Printz Award honor book, a finalist for the National Book Award, and recipient of the Cybils Award for best young adult novel. We Were Liars is a New York Times bestseller. It won the Goodreads Choice Award and was Amazon’s #1 YA novel of 2014.

I have a doctorate in English literature from Columbia University. My field was 19th-century British novel.  In 2013 I chaired the committee on Young People’s Literature for the National Book Awards. I currently teach creative writing at Hamline University’s low-residency MFA program in Writing for Children.

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

#BookReview: The Corruption of Chastity by Frank Westworth @BookGuild

the corruption of chastity.jpg“The solitary female sniper squints against the scorching desert sun. Takes the shot. Men die. 

The solitary female assassin slashes her target’s artery. Fades into the Alpine forest. Men die. 

The betrayed covert operative silences his sadness with the howl of blues music and carnal recreation. 

What will happen when Chastity, the ice-cold contract killer, encounters underworld investigator JJ Stoner?

The Corruption Of Chastity features characters from the JJ Stoner / Killing Sisters series.  You don’t need to have read any of the other stories in the series: you can start right here if you like.”

If you’re a regular visitor to the blog then you may have read my recent #CaseClosed post about cutting back on new books and blog tours so I can return to choosing my own reads and of course, to make a significant dent in the ole TBR.  And that is what I have done.  Sort of.  The Corruption of Chastity has been on my TBR waaaay too long.  D’you know, feels rather wonderful, rather liberating to be able to choose what I read again.  Although one book does not a dent make!

Published in 2015 by The Book Guild, The Corruption of Chastity comes with a health warning.  Not for readers under 18 or those adverse to a little bit of violence (quite a lot of violence).  The reader should also be aware that this is book two in the Killing Sisters trilogy featuring JJ Stoner.  The blurb assures you that you can dive straight in with book two and you don’t need to have read any other books in the series.  However, I disagree with this statement.  I disagree quite strongly.  I felt horribly lost and quite bewildered at times.  Even after having read First Contact, a JJ Stoner short story (which was fantastic by the way, an easy five-star read for me) I had assumed I had a little background knowledge of this character.  It didn’t help.  I really struggled to keep up at times, wondering what I had missed and wondering where great chunks of time had gone to.  I’m afraid to say I felt quite disorientated for the first one-third of this novel.

But then something clicked, and I sort of got it (although chunks of time still seemed to vanish without mention).  By the end of the novel, I had decided that this was a three and a half star read for me.  But then something strange happened.  I couldn’t stop thinking about the story, about the characters – it had really got under my skin.  To the point where I felt (and still feel) I must read the first in the series, A Last Act of Charity and the third book, The Redemption of Charm.

JJ Stoner is an arrogant arse but I couldn’t help but like him.  Chastity also appealed to me but then, she would!  She’s the type of character I tend to love; a kick-ass female lead who is as deadly and dangerous as the men in her life (not that there are many, mind you!).  Chastity is the lean, mean killing machine whilst her sisters, Charity and Charm pull the strings in the background.  Menace and Mallis must also get a mention.  The evil goth, techno prisoners who have unlimited resources at their fingertips to destroy lives and wreak havoc.

One more thing which I really must mention, I’ve already alluded to it at the start but I feel this needs saying.  This book contains some pretty explicit sex scenes which I found quite icky to read.  I’m not one for sauciness in my books; blood, guts and gore – yes.  Bring it on!  Sexy stuff leaves me cold.  If, like me, you feel the same then read with caution.  If you enjoy frisky contract killers getting it on with, well, everyone then this could be the book for you!

Four stars out of five (rounded up from three and a half because it got under my skin so much!)

I chose to read and review a copy of The Corruption of Chastity.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Corruption of Chastity by Frank Wentworth was published in the UK by The Book Guild on 20th August 2015 and is available in paperback and eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

about the author3

frank westworth.jpg

Frank Westworth shares several characteristics with his anti-hero JJ Stoner: they both play mean blues guitar and ride big, black motorcycles. Unlike Stoner, Frank hasn’t deliberately killed anyone. Instead, he edits classic motorcycle magazines and writes for the motoring press.

#BookReview | #Giveaway: The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell (@spookypurcell) @BloomsburyRaven

the silent companions.jpg“Newly married, newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband’s crumbling country estate, The Bridge.

With her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie only has her husband’s awkward cousin for company.

Or so she thinks. But inside her new home lies a locked room, and beyond that door lies a two-hundred-year-old diary and a deeply unsettling painted wooden figure – a Silent Companion – that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself…”

You wait ages for a historical crime fiction novel to turn up then TWO arrive on the blog in the space of a couple of weeks!  Okay, so maybe this isn’t a crime novel in the strictest sense but my copy made it’s way into my hot little hands via my Theakstons Crime goodie bag back in July.  That ‘sort of’ makes it a crime novel!  Okay, okay maybe I’m talking rubbish.  What this book definitely is is a wonderfully creepy ghost story which I absolutely devoured.  And you can too!  That Theakstons Crime goodie bag I mentioned?  Well, it was actually TWO goodie bags – both with a copy of The Silent Companions so I shall be giving one of my proofs away later on.  Hold tight for that though, I have my review to share with you first.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I started to read The Silent Companions.  I had put a couple of requests out on Twitter for some scary book recommendations and this book was mentioned.  More than once in fact; more than any other book which is something quite amazing when it hadn’t even been published at that point!  There is obviously a lot of love out there for The Silent Companions and, because of the hype, I really wanted to love it too.  And I did.

When reading a historical novel it sometimes takes me a little while to adjust to the author’s sentence structure.  After all, they spoke and acted quite differently to modern day life back in 1865.  But that wasn’t the case with Laura Purcell’s writing, I found it very easy to absorb and before long I was lost in this wonderfully dark and eerie tale. Purcell’s writing is expertly atmospheric and adds multiple creepy layers to her story.

Elsie Bainbridge is newly married, and newly widowed.  She is also expecting her late husband’s child so is sent away to the family estate to wait out her pregnancy.  The house, known as The Bridge, is nothing like what she expected.  The mansion is crumbling around her, the staff are sloppy and she longs to return to London and spend time with her younger brother.  Her husband’s cousin is her only companion, a dowdy woman named Sarah.  When Elsie hears a recurring noise late at night she is both curious and irritated.  Upon investigation, she discovers a locked door leading to the garret.  There is no key, the housekeeper is unable to provide any answers so Elsie decides to call someone in from the local town to open the mysterious door.  Before she is able to do that, however, she stumbles upon the door and it is curiously unlocked.  Elsie ventures into the room but what she doesn’t realise is that the door is locked to keep certain items in, rather than her out….

My imagination was running overtime picturing the vivid scenes created by Purcell.  I think this book is a prime candidate for being turned into a movie or a televised drama!  I did, unfortunately, see the twist in the story coming from fairly early on but that’s because I’m a sceptical, wannabe detective and others may not be as suspicious as me!

Would I recommend this book?  I would!  Don’t be put off if you’re not a fan of ghost or horror stories as this is well worth a read (and who knows, you may change your mind a little!).  Chilling, eerie and oh so good.  I’m looking forward to reading more from Laura Purcell in the future.

Four and a half stars out of five.

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

#GIVEAWAY

I have one paperback proof copy of The Silent Companions to giveaway to a UK/IRE winner!  All you need to do is click the Rafflecopter link below and follow the instructions.  Due to postage costs I’m afraid this giveaway is open to UK/IRE residents only.  The winner will receive a proof copy of The Silent Companions, there is no cash alternative on offer.  The competition will be open until midnight (BST) on 11th October 2017.  The winner will be required to provide their postal address so I may send their prize.  Their address will not be passed onto any third parties.  Give the link a click and GOOD LUCK!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell was published in the UK by Bloomsbury Raven on 5th October 2017 and is available in hardcover and eBook formats |

about the author3

laura purcell.jpg

Author image and bio (c) http://laurapurcell.com/

Laura Purcell writes biographical fiction about the Georgian Queens and ‘spooky’ Victorian novels. She lives in Colchester with her husband and pet guinea pigs. Laura is represented by Juliet Mushens at Caskie Mushens Literary Agency.

THE SILENT COMPANIONS will be published by Bloomsbury in October 2017 (US Penguin, March 2018).

QUEEN OF BEDLAM (2014) and MISTRESS OF THE COURT (2015) were published by Myrmidon and are available from all book retailers.

Author Links: | Website | Facebook | Twitter |

#BookReview: Sleep No More by P.D. James @FaberBooks #SixMurderousTales #ShortStories

sleep no more.jpg“The acknowledged ‘Queen of Crime’, P. D. James, was a past master of the short story, weaving together motifs of the Golden Age of crime-writing with deep psychological insight to create gripping, suspenseful tales. The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories contained four of these perfectly formed stories, and this companion volume contains a further six, published here together for the first time.

As the six murderous tales unfold, the dark motive of revenge is revealed at the heart of each. Bullying schoolmasters receive their comeuppance, unhappy marriages and childhoods are avenged, a murder in the small hours of Christmas Day puts an end to the vicious new lord of the manor, and, from the safety of his nursing home, an octogenarian exerts exquisite retribution.

The punishments inflicted on the guilty are fittingly severe, but here they are meted out by the unseen forces of natural justice rather than the institutions of the law. Once again, P. D. James shows her expert control of the short-story form, conjuring motives and scenarios with complete conviction, and each with a satisfying twist in the tail.”

It is my great pleasure to share my review of Sleep No More by the late Queen of crime fiction, P.D. James with you today.  This wonderful collection of six murderous tales is published by Faber & Faber today!  Don’t you just love that as a tagline, ‘six murderous tales’!  And that’s exactly what the reader gets, the demise of some very deserving victims and the ingenious souls who plot their downfall.

I’ve always found it hard to review short story collections (easy to read, harder to review!).  Do you review each story individually?  Do you write a piece covering the entire work and how well the stories gel, how the book starts and whether it finishes on a high note?  Well, I for one, never know the right way of doing these things so on this occasion I have chosen to write a general review of how I found this wonderful collection of crime.

I haven’t read The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories for which this new release is a companion read.  I will be making sure I get hold of a copy soon though, one for the Christmas wishlist maybe?  All of these six stories stand on their own merit, and they stand proud.  P.D. James was a master of suspense which she proves on each and every page of this novel.

The Yo-Yo is a great opening story which has a wonderfully atmospheric feel to it.  Despite being a regular reader of all things blood and gore I found myself shocked that such a young child was involved in such a dark and dangerous situation.

My favourite story was The Murder of Santa Claus which invites the reader to an old mansion for Christmas day.  One of the party goers is given a gift he would not choose for himself, a bullet to the chest.  This intriguing tale has all the classic threads of a whodunit mystery and it was delightful reading.

The Girl Who Loved Graveyards also scored high for me.  A creepy, gothic tale which appealed to my darker side.

All stories within this volume are riveting reads which crime fiction fans will devour.  Mr Millcroft’s Birthday, the very last story in the book, was the only one I was a little disappointed with (only a smidge, mind you!).  It’s a subtle story with the possible hint of a dastardly murder which fell a little flat for me.

Would I recommend this book?  I would.  This short book would make a great gift for the crime fiction fan in your life.  I find short story collections to be quite refreshing, a short sharp read you can pick and choose from as you wish.  And as short story collections go, you can’t get much better than P.D. James.

Four out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an ARC of Sleep No More.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.  My thanks to Sophie at Faber & Faber for sending me a copy of the book.

Sleep No More by P.D. James is published in the UK by Faber & Faber on 5th October 2017 and is available in hardcover and eBook formats (with the paperback to follow later this month) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

about the author3

pd james.jpgP.D. (Phyllis Dorothy) James was the author of over twenty books, most of which have been filmed and broadcast on television in the United States and other countries. She spent thirty years in various departments of the British Civil Service, including the Police and Criminal Law Department of Great Britain’s Home Office. She served as a magistrate and as a governor of the BBC. In 2000 she celebrated her eightieth birthday and published her autobiography, Time to Be in Earnest. The recipient of many prizes and honors, she was created Baroness James of Holland Park in 1991. She lived in London and Oxford.

Awards: 
International Crime Writing Hall of Fame, 2008
Grand Master Award from Mystery Writers of America, 1999
Diamond Dagger from British Crime Writers’ Association, 1987.

#BookReview: The Visitors by Catherine Burns (@C_Burnzi) @Legend_Press

the visitors.jpg“Marion Zetland lives with her domineering older brother, John in a decaying Georgian townhouse on the edge of a northern seaside resort. A timid spinster in her fifties who still sleeps with teddy bears, Marion does her best to shut out the shocking secret that John keeps in the cellar.

Until, suddenly, John has a heart attack and Marion is forced to go down to the cellar herself and face the gruesome truth that her brother has kept hidden.

As questions are asked and secrets unravel, maybe John isn’t the only one with a dark side.”

This is one of those books where I saw the cover, read the blurb and knew I HAD to read it.  Everything about Catherine Burns’s debut novel appealed to me.  And who doesn’t like the odd dark read now and again…?  Well me, actually.  I like to read dark fiction ALL OF THE TIME.  But maybe that’s just me!  Before I mosey on with my review I would like to wish Catherine Burns and the team at Legend Press a very happy publication day.  You can purchase a copy of The Visitors by clicking HERE.

We meet middle-aged Marion and John Zetland, brother and sister who live together in their family home.  The best word to describe the siblings is probably ‘odd’, or ‘strange’.  Maybe even ‘peculiar’ (maybe all three!).  The reader is made immediately aware that there is something not quite ‘normal’ going on here.  We see life from Marion’s perspective and if I’m honest, I really began to feel for her.  She has no real friends, she is dominated by her older brother, painfully naive in her approach to life and the product of a formal and loveless upbringing.

I did grow to feel a strange fondness for Marion.  I guess, most of all, I felt sorry for her.  She really is quite pathetic.  And as for John, well!  He’s a controlling, domineering bully towards his sister and she just takes it.  It’s all she knows.  That’s how their relationship has been since the loss of their parents.

You discover early on who The Visitors are.  Although it is not spelt out in big bold letters for the reader and it did take a little while for the penny to drop with me (doh!).  I found parts of the story wonderfully shocking and really quite disturbing and I loved it!  The way I felt about Marion changed as the story progressed.  To say anymore may result in this review wandering into spoiler territory so I will just say that I found the ending very satisfying and leave it at that!

Would I recommend this book?  I definitely would.  I’ve seen a mix of reviews so far; some absolutely love it, others not so much.  It’s going to appeal to readers who don’t shy away from the twisted, readers who want to spend time with characters who live on the darker side of life.  As a small side note:  I’ve seen this book listed on amazon as horror.  In my opinion, The Visitors is not a horror novel.  It’s a wonderfully dark and suspenseful read from a talented debut author and I am excited to see what Burns has to offer us in the future.

Four out of five stars.

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

The Visitors by Catherine Burns was published in the UK by Legend Press on 3rd October 2017 and is available in hardcover and eBook formats (with the paperback to follow next year) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

about the author3

catherine burns.jpg

Author Photo and Bio (c) http://www.legendtimesgroup.co.uk/legend-press/authors/1299-catherine-burns

Born in Manchester, Catherine Burns is a graduate of Trinity College Cambridge. She worked as a bond trader in London before studying at the Moscow Institute of Film, and teaching film theory at Salford University. The Visitors is her debut novel.

 

Author Links: | Twitter | Facebook |

 

#BookReview: Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear (@CazziF) @1stMondayCrime

Sweet Little Lies“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?”

Hello, my favourite crime fiction people!  I am delighted to welcome you to damppebbles today as I have another First Monday Crime review to tempt you with.  Today I am thrilled to feature my review of Caz Frear‘s awesome Sweet Little Lies.

Caz will be appearing alongside Mark Edwards, Ann Cleeves and Lilja Sigurðardóttir, not forgetting the lovely Rod Reynolds as moderator.  Make sure you reserve your FREE place at October’s event which takes place on Monday 2nd October at 6.30pm in Room AG21, College Building, London EC1V 4BP. Click HERE to book your ticket.  Only four sleeps to go….

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 hitchhiking 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 |

about the author3

Caz FrearCaz Frear grew up in Coventry and spent her teenage years dreaming of moving to London and writing a novel. After fulfilling her first dream, it wasn’t until she moved back to Coventry thirteen years later that the writing dream finally came true.
She has a first-class degree in History & Politics, which she’s put to enormous use over the years by working as a waitress, shop assistant, retail merchandiser and, for the past twelve years, a headhunter.
When she’s not agonising over snappy dialogue or incisive prose, she can be found shouting at the TV when Arsenal are playing or holding court in the pub on topics she knows nothing about.

Author Links: | Twitter |

#BlogBlitz | #BookReview: The Surrogate by Louise Jensen (@Fab_fiction) @bookouture

The-Surrogate-Kindle.jpeg“‘You know that feeling? When you want something so badly, you almost feel you’d kill for it?’ 

Be careful what you wish for…

Kat and her husband Nick have tried everything to become parents, and are on the point of giving up. Then a chance encounter with Kat’s childhood friend Lisa gives Kat and Nick one last chance to achieve their dream. 

But Kat and Lisa’s history hides dark secrets. 

And there is more to Lisa than meets the eye. 

As dangerous cracks start to appear in Kat’s perfect picture of happily-ever-after, she realises that she must face her fear of the past to save her family… 

From the no. 1 bestselling author of The Sister and The Gift, this is an unputdownable psychological thriller which asks how far we will go to create our perfect family.”

Yay!  The day has finally arrived when I can talk to you about Louise Jensen’s latest release, The Surrogate.  A very warm and squishy welcome to my stop on The Surrogate blog blitz which I share with two book blogging beauties, Emma at Emma the Little Book Worm and Meggy over at Chocolate’n’Waffles.

The Surrogate is Louise Jensen’s third novel and is published by Bookouture today.  A very happy book birthday to all, I just know this one is going to fly!  I am a huge fan of Jensen’s work; you can read my review of her debut, The Sister by clicking HERE and her second novel, The Gift by clicking HERE.  And I absolutely flipping ADORED The Surrogate!

Dare I say this is Jensen’s best book to date?  Y’know what, I think I dare!  The Surrogate has become my very favourite of Louise Jensen’s books knocking the incredible The Sister from the top spot.  If this one doesn’t end up on my list of top ten books of the year then there is something seriously wrong with me.

Kat is desperate for a baby.  Unable to have her own child she turns to adoption to fill the baby-sized hole in her heart.  But when it all falls through she is devastated.  After all, she has decorated the nursery for Dewei and is a familiar (rather too well-known) face in Mothercare.  The second attempt to adopt Mai also falls through leaving Kat at her wit’s end.  And then Lisa miraculously appears in her life.  Unsure of her intentions to start with, Kat is wary of her ex-best friend.  The women have a murky past which Kat fears has not been forgotten.  Before long, Lisa is entertaining Kat with tales of how she acted as a surrogate for a friend, how she gave birth to baby Gabrielle and then willingly handed her over.  How she feels more of an aunt towards the baby than the infant’s birth mother.  Kat can see a way out of her predicament, a way in which she can finally have the baby she so craves.  All she has to do is convince husband Nick and make sure she keeps Lisa happy and relaxed, totally stress-free.  But exactly how far is Kat prepared to go for that little bundle of joy…

There are so many surprises in The Surrogate that I became dizzy with joy while reading.  You think you know what’s going on, where the story will lead you but in reality, you know nothing!  Jensen has created a wonderfully intricate web of lies and half-truths with bucketfuls of creeping paranoia.  I loved it! (I may have said that already…)

The thread of malice woven through many of the character’s relationships was sublime.  The reader is frequently given glimpses into Kat’s teenage years at school and her interaction with the younger Lisa.  We also get to see how Nick, Kat’s husband was raised by his parents and how, due to injury and the inability to work, Nick’s father begins to mistreat his son.  Both episodes are unsettling and add so much emotion to the story.  I found myself becoming more and more invested in Kat and Nick, knowing something awful was heading their way but not knowing exactly what.

And WOAH, that ending.  Hugely satisfying, totally unexpected and I can guarantee it will stay me for some time to come.  I had my own ideas of how I wanted the story to end but what Jensen has given the reader blows everything else out of the water.  Absolutely superb!

Would I recommend this book?  Without a shadow of a doubt, I would.  If you are a fan of the psychological thriller then you MUST get yourself a copy of The Surrogate.  Louise Jensen just keeps getting better and better and I am so excited about what she has in store for us in the future.  You’ve set the bar even higher now, Louise.  No pressure!  A superb, twisty read that I wish I could give more than five stars to.

Five out of five stars.

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

The Surrogate by Louise Jensen was published in the UK by Bookouture on 27th September 2017 and is available in eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

The Surrogate - Blog Blitz.jpeg

about the author3

Louise Jensen author pic - no credit.jpegLouise Jensen always wanted to be Enid Blyton when she grew up, and when that didn’t happen she got a ‘proper’ job instead.

Several years ago an accident left Louise with a disability and she began writing once again, to distract her from her pain and compromised mobility. But writing turned out to be more than just a good distraction. Louise loves creating exciting worlds, dark characters, and twisted plots.

Louise lives in Northamptonshire with her husband, sons, a dog and a rather naughty cat, and also teaches mindfulness.

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