#BlogTour: CWA Anthology of Short Stories edited by @medwardsbooks @the_cwa @OrendaBooks

CWA_Cover_Image.jpg“Crime spreads across the globe in this new collection of short stories from the Crime Writer’s Association, as a conspiracy of prominent crime authors take you on a world mystery tour. Highlights of the trip include a treacherous cruise to French Polynesia, a horrifying trek in South Africa, a murderous train-ride across Ukraine and a vengeful killing in Mumbai. But back home in the UK, life isn’t so easy either. Dead bodies turn up on the backstreets of Glasgow, crime writers turn words into deeds at literary events, and Lady Luck seems to guide the fate of a Twickenham hood. Showcasing the range, breadth and vitality of the contemporary crime-fiction genre, these twenty-eight chilling and unputdownable stories will take you on a trip you’ll never forget.

Contributions from:
Ann Cleeves, C.L. Taylor, Susi Holliday, Martin Edwards, Anna Mazzola, Carol Anne Davis, Cath Staincliffe, Chris Simms, Christine Poulson, Ed James, Gordon Brown, J.M. Hewitt, Judith Cutler, Julia Crouch, Kate Ellis, Kate Rhodes, Martine Bailey, Michael Stanley, Maxim Jakubowski, Paul Charles, Paul Gitsham, Peter Lovesey, Ragnar Jónasson, Sarah Rayne, Shawn Reilly Simmons, Vaseem Khan, William Ryan and William Burton McCormick”

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to damppebbles today and to my stop on the CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour blog tour.  When an email arrived in my inbox headed ‘CWA Anthology blog tour’, well, my heart skipped a beat.  It’s the kind of invitation that this little crime blogger was made for.  I didn’t hesitate in replying with a big, fat ‘YES PLEASE’.  I just had to be a part of this tour.

I am a fan of short story collections and anthologies.  I enjoy the variety, the way the author has to make their point in a significantly reduced number of words and still make it interesting and believable.  I love that anthologies give the reader the opportunity to dip in and out as they choose.  In particular, I love THIS collection of worldly crime stories.  So much so that I would go as far as saying this is the best collection I have read for some time.

When it comes to reviewing an anthology I’m always in two minds.  Do I review each story individually or the book as a whole?  I normally end up reviewing the book rather than the individual works, after all, who wants to read a 2500 word book review?!  I’m going to stick to form and review the CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour as a whole.  However, I would like to say that it would be very easy to review each story individually.  In other collections, I have tended to find one or two stories where I wouldn’t know what to say.  That would not be the case with the CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour, which is truly a magnificent collection of crime fiction.

Editor and contributor, Martin Edwards, introduces the book to the reader explaining how the participating writers were given the Mystery Tour theme with many interesting and different interpretations.  Then we are thrown head first into the first offering, written by Ann Cleeves and titled ‘The Queen of Mystery’.  I loved this story and thought it was a chilling yet elegant way to start the collection.  It made me want to read more, I wanted to know whether the high standard shown by Cleeves could be backed up by her fellow contributing writers.  And it could, it was.

If I listed every story I enjoyed then I would be basically giving you the contents page!  And I’m sure you don’t need me to do that.  ‘Accounting for Murder’ by Christine Poulson demonstrated a very different way of telling a crime story which I found incredibly interesting.  At points, I wondered how the tale was going to be tied up but it was done well and felt strangely satisfying.  My absolute favourite story in the entire book was written by William Ryan and is titled ‘The Spoils‘.  The tale of a woman wronged and how deadly that can be – absolutely marvellous!

One of the other benefits of reading an anthology, and I find this quite often in the crime genre, is that writers who produce a series tend to include a short story featuring their main character.  I was delighted to meet Ed James’s Detective Scott Cullen for the first time in ‘Travel is Dangerous’, having wanted to read James’s work for some time now.  The same with Vaseem Khan’s Inspector Chopra in ‘Bombay Brigadoon’.  Not only are these short stories very satisfying for existing fans but they work as excellent taster pieces for new readers.

Would I recommend this book?  Absolutely.  I could go on for hours telling you about the cleverly crafted tales, about the obvious love and devotion the writers have for their craft.  I could include how much I, personally, appreciate crime writers and want to thank each and every one of them for the hours of enjoyment they give us readers (me!).  I could, but I won’t today because I’ve gone on long enough already!  Maybe I’ll save that for another time.

I love international crime so this was pretty much the perfect read for me.  Chock-full of GREAT stories, written by some remarkably talented people and the perfect Christmas gift for the crime fiction fan in your life.  This is a must-read book.  Don’t miss out!

Five out of five stars.

I chose to read and review an eARC of CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour.  The above review is my own unbiased opinion.  My thanks to Anne and Orenda Books for asking me to join the tour and providing me with a review copy.

CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour edited by Martin Edwards was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 15th November 2017 and is available in hardcover, paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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#BlogTour | #BookReview: The Girls in the Woods by Helen Phifer (@helenphifer1) @UKCarina

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28217989“Don’t go into the woods. Because you’re in for a big surprise…

In an old album there is a beautiful Victorian photo that captures three young sisters, staring silently at one another. Only the trained eye can see the truth hiding in plain view. One of the sisters is already dead.

Annie Ashworth is currently off duty. With her baby bump growing fast, she is under strict instructions to stay away from police work and look after herself, especially as she has a history of leading danger right to her door. So when her police officer husband, Will, is called to the discovery of a skeleton buried out in the local woods, Annie tries to keep out of the investigation. But as another body is discovered and her own niece suddenly goes missing, staying away just isn’t an option.

As Annie is soon to discover, a picture really does tell a thousand stories. But which one leads to a killer?

The gripping new detective thriller that will haunt you”

I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the The Girls in the Woods blog tour.  The Girls in the Woods is written by Helen Phifer and is book five in the Annie Graham series of paranormal crime thrillers.  I’ve only recently started to read and enjoy books with a paranormal twist to them (ghosts…pah!) and this was an enjoyable addition to my slowly growing list of spooky stories.

Annie Ashworth is on sick leave, which is a good thing seeing as she’s 6 months pregnant and seems to have a penchant for attracting the worst kind of trouble wherever she goes.  Being safely stowed away at home means she can’t get into any more trouble, can it?  Bored and looking for company Annie meets Jo, a woman she has things in common with such as an abusive husband (ex-husband in Annie’s case).  They form a bond but Annie is desperate to find out more about Jo and exactly how abusive her husband is.  Then a skeleton is discovered in the woods behind Jo’s house and the local community is put under scrutiny.  Heath, Jo’s agressive husband, is acting stranger than usual and is even more explosive towards her.  It’s not long before a second skeleton is found and things start spiral out of control.  Annie’s young niece goes missing, Annie is brutally attacked and hospitalised by a colleague only for that same colleague to step in front of a speeding car, almost killing himself.  Can Annie discover what’s going on before another body is found?  Any why does Heath have those large freezers in his photography studio…?

This was my first introduction to Annie Ashworth (nee Graham) and I’ve managed, once again, to start with book five in the series.  Book five!  I would however love to read the first four books in the series as I have one or two questions that I couldn’t find an answer to in The Girls in the Woods.  Of course, that raises the question, can this book be read as a standalone?  I think it can but my preference will always be to start with book one in a series (despite regularly ignoring my own advice!).

Annie can see and talk to ghosts following a blow to the head courtesy of her ex-husband.  So she’s not your usual paranormal lead who has had ‘the gift’ since birth. She’s a likeable character; gutsy, strong-willed and fairly independent and I would happily spend more time reading about her.

The plot has some great twists.  There were moments where I started to suspect one character of wrongdoing only to be thrown off the scent and my suspicions diverted elsewhere.  I do enjoy books that can make you think one thing and then immediately make you question your own conclusions.  The pace was good and I managed to read this book in one day (very quick for me!).

Would I recommend this book?  I would, particularly if you were looking for a spooky read to while away a couple of hours on an Autumnal evening.  I enjoyed it.

Four out of five stars.

Many thanks to Neverland Blog Tours, Carina, the author and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of The Girls in the Woods in exchange for an honest review.

The Girls in the Woods by Helen Phifer is published in the UK by Carina and is available in eBook format | amazon.co.uk | Goodreads | Carina |

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7106247Helen lives in a small town called Barrow-in-Furness with her husband and five children and has done since she was born. It gets some bad press, but really is a lovely place to live. Surrounded by coastline and not far from the beautiful Lake District. She has always loved writing and reading, she loves reading books which make the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. Unable to find enough scary stories to read she decided to write her own.

Her debut novel ‘The Ghost House’ was published by Carina UK in October 2013 and went on to become a best seller along with the rest of the Annie Graham series. The Secrets of the Shadows, The Forgotten Cottage, The Lake House and The Girls in the Woods. Her next book The Good Sisters which is a stand alone, ghost story is released on the 13th October 2016.

 

Author links: Website | Twitter | Facebook |

 

#BlogTour #BookReview: A Death in the Family by Michael Stanley (@detectivekubu) @OrendaBooks

51rRel5hflL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_‘There’s no easy way to say this, Kubu. Your father’s dead. I’m afraid he’s been murdered.’

“Faced with the violent death of his own father, even Assistant Superintendent David ‘Kubu’ Bengu, Botswana CID’s keenest mind, is baffled. Who would kill such a frail old man? The picture becomes even murkier with the apparent suicide of a government official. Are Chinese mine-owners involved? And what role does the US Embassy have to play?

Set amidst the dark beauty of modern Botswana, A Death in the Family is a thrilling insight into a world of riots, corruption and greed, as a complex series of murders presents the opera-loving, wine connoisseur detective with his most challenging case yet. When grief-stricken Kubu defies orders and sets out on the killers’ trail, startling and chilling links emerge, spanning the globe and setting a sequence of shocking events in motion. Will Kubu catch the killers in time … and find justice for his father?”

I am thrilled to welcome you to my stop on the A Death in the Family blog tour.  A Death in the Family is book 5 in the Detective Kubu series written by brilliant writing team, Michael Stanley (Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip).

It’s so good to have Kubu back!  At the start of August I had my first introduction to the very likeable Assistant Superintendent David ‘Kubu’ Bengu when I reviewed the wonderful Deadly Harvest.  If you missed that review, you can check it out by clicking here.  I was so looking forward to catching up with the man affectionately named ‘hippo’ once again and I was not disappointed!  It was a joy to read this book so soon after Deadly Harvest as the characters and the stunning setting of Botswana, were still fresh in my mind.

Assistant Superintendent Bengu receives a call in the middle of the night telling him that his father is dead.  A parent passing is bad enough but Kubu’s world crumbles when he discovers his father has been murdered.  He’s keen to start working on the case but Director Mabaku puts a halt on any involvement immediately.  Instead Kubu is tasked with investigating the apparent suicide of a government official.  Elsewhere the people of Shoshong are on the brink of catastrophe.  Having been offered jobs, the young men are keen to encourage the expansion of the local Chinese-run mine, but the Chief and Elders are more concerned about upholding tradition.  Anger starts to build and is set to erupt with explosive consequences.  Chock full of suspense, intrigue and corruption; will Kubu manage to find the cause of the official’s death, and more importantly, can he discover who killed his elderly father…?

I was surprisingly saddened by Kubu’s father’s death, having only met him once before in Deadly Harvest.  He seemed like such a kind gentle man that I found his murder quite unsettling (I’d read the back of the book and was fully expecting it – maybe I’m just a softie!).  I fell a little more in love with Kubu this time around, despite him being a relatively normal kind of guy and not my usual dark and dangerous detective.  You find out a lot more about him and what makes him tick in this book.  My feelings towards Samantha Khama haven’t changed one iota, I still dislike the woman!  She really doesn’t do herself any favours in my eyes. So I was rather pleased that Kubu was a touch colder towards her.

The plot was clever, intricate and interesting throughout.  My husband studied geology at university so we had a lovely chat about mining for minerals and rare earth elements (he chatted, I listened…I’m still none the wiser!).

I’m still amazed that two people can write so well together yet make it sound like one voice. Just goes to show what fantastic writer’s Mr Sears and Mr Trollip are!

Would I recommend this book?  I most certainly would.  I think it works well as a standalone.  I, however, enjoyed it more because the characters and the landscapes were familiar to me.  A cleverly written police procedural which is full of mystery and suspense featuring some wonderful characters – what’s not to love?

Four out of five stars.

Many thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for providing me with a copy of A Death in the Family in exchange for an honest review.

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

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A1tzuKdGl0L._UX250_Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. Stanley was an educational psychologist, specialising in the application of computers to teaching and learning, and is a pilot. Michael specialises in image processing and remote sensing, and teaches at the University of the Witwatersrand. On a flying trip to Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill, and devour a wildebeest, eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their first mystery, A Carrion Death, which introduced Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards, including the CWA Debut Dagger. The series has been critically acclaimed, and their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’ award. The next in the Detective Kubu series is A Death in the Family, also published by Orenda Books.  Connect with Michael Stanley via Twitter @detectivekubu.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writing Crime Fiction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Four out of five stars.

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

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

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Diana Bretherick

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

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

*Blog Tour: Review* Outside Looking In by Michael Wood

51-x44K35eL“When elderly George Rainsford goes to investigate a suspicious noise one night, the last thing he expects to find is a bloodbath. A man has been killed and a woman brutally beaten, left for dead.

The victims are Lois Craven and Kevin Hardaker – both married, but not to each other. Their spouses swear they knew nothing of the affair and, besides, they both have alibis for the attack. With nothing else to link the victims, the investigation hits a dead end.

The pressure is on for investigating officer, DCI Matilda Darke: there’s a violent killer on the loose, and it looks like her team members are the new targets. With no leads and no suspects, it’s going to take all Matilda’s wits to catch him, before he strikes again.”

I’m thrilled to be today’s stop on the Outside Looking In blog tour.  In true damppebbles style, this is the first DCI Matilda Darke book I have read despite it being the second book in the series (at least I’m not too late to the party with this one!).  And oh my gosh, I love Matilda Darke.  And I love Michael Wood’s style.  Totally readable and very engrossing.

The bodies of a couple are discovered in their car following what looks like a massacre.  He is dead, beyond resuscitating and she is barely hanging onto life.  DCI Matilda Darke is put on the case and soon discovers the victims are Kevin Hardaker and Lois Craven who were having a secret affair for over a year.  But why would someone kill these two fairly normal people, and why with such vengeance and hatred?  Suffering from negative publicity and her own demons, can Matilda discover who killed the couple and why, before anyone else is hurt…?

I should start by saying that DCI Darke has made it onto the illustrious damppebbles #girlcrush list.  I LOVE her.  She’s so wonderfully normal, the kind of person I’d like to pop down to Costa with for a coffee (I would say ‘pub’ and ‘white wine’ but she’s on the wagon!).  Thankfully I have the first book in the series, ‘For Reasons Unknown’ on my TBR so I can get my second fix of DCI Darke, ha ha!  Anyway, enough of my new womance…

The pacing of the plot is spot on with the story unfolding at a thoroughly enjoyable rate.  I wanted to keep turning the pages, I wanted to find out what was going to happen.  There was a moment where I felt pure dread for one character.  I won’t say anymore as I don’t do spoilers but oh my!

The conclusion is gripping and kept me on the edge of my seat.  There is encounter at the end of the book which I hope Michael Wood will be building on in the third book.  I’m looking forward to seeing where that particular story line goes.

This book does work as a standalone but I think it helps (no matter what the series or who the author) to read books in their correct order.  I wasn’t sure whether the missing child case that is mentioned often is something that was covered in book one or if it happened in the distant past.  I think going into a series partway through does leaving you feeling like you’ve missed a couple of important days at school!

I loved the nod to other great crime writers (being a crime fiction fanatic!).  I was hugely jealous of Matilda’s book inheritance and could immediately picture the bookcase she would need (boy, would it be big!).  If anyone would like to donate their crime fiction collection to me, the address is Emma @damppebbles….heh heh.

Would I recommend this book?  I most certainly would but I think starting at book one is the best way forward.  Outside Looking In is totally compelling, thoroughly engaging and you’ll really like DCI Matilda Darke.

Four and a half out of five stars.

Outside Looking In by Michael Wood was published in the UK by Killer Reads on 26th May 2016 and is available in paperback and eBook formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones | Goodreads |

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Michael Wood is a proofreader and former journalist in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. His first novel featuring DCI Matilda Darke, FOR REASONS UNKNOWN, was released in the autumn of 2015. The follow-up, OUTSIDE LOOKING IN, is released in May 2016 in ebook format by Killer Reads at HarperCollins.

 

*Blog Tour: Guest Post* My Husband’s Son by Deborah O’Connor

51bEoktfT3L“Heidi and Jason aren’t like other couples.

Six years ago, Heidi’s daughter was murdered. A year later, Jason’s son Barney disappeared. Their shared loss brought them together.

By chance, Heidi meets a boy she’s certain is Barney.

But Jason is equally convinced it’s not him.

Is Heidi mad? Or is Jason hiding something? And can their fragile marriage survive Heidi’s newfound quest for the truth . . .”

 

Today it’s my turn on the My Husband’s Son blog tour and I am beyond thrilled to share a superb guest post with you.  Deborah O’Connor had a few ideas for guest posts, things she wanted to write about.  As soon as I saw the title I had to have this post on damppebbles.  It’s amazing and the thing I love the most, it’s completely honest.  Over to you Deborah…

THE BUGABOO IN THE HALL: DOES HAVING KIDS MAKE IT HARDER TO BE A WRITER?

Halfway through my novel-writing course at the Faber Academy I asked our teacher, Louise Doughty, what she thought about Cyril Connolly’s infamous phrase: ‘There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall’.  At the time I had yet to have a baby but I was thinking about it and I was worried that, once it happened, I might struggle to ever find the time to write again.  Louise was her usual brilliant self and told us that she actually felt like she became a better writer after having her children, because her work was no longer just about her anymore.  As she saw it, the stakes were raised.  And the stakes being raised gave her even more impetus.  Now when she set pen to paper she wasn’t just doing it for herself she was doing it for her family, for all of them.

I finished the Faber course and continued with my first draft of My Husband’s Son, then I fell pregnant.  Suddenly I found myself holding down a busy full-time job, delirious with morning sickness and exhaustion, at the same time as trying to finish my book.  I was terrified.  I knew how hard I’d found it to carve out time while working.  How on earth would I manage once my baby arrived?  And so, even though all I wanted to do when I got home from work every night was, eat pasta lie down and go to sleep, I’d get home around 7.30pm, shove some food in my gob, then get out my laptop, arrange myself on the sofa and try to summon the energy to write.  I felt like I was in a race against time with my burgeoning bump.  I was convinced that if I didn’t manage to finish it before my contractions started it would be game over and the manuscript would be forever consigned to a dusty drawer, forgotten about, while I tried to contend with a baby and a job and a life.

Below is a picture of me on one of those nights.  My bump peeking out below my laptop.  At the time my husband posted this on Facebook with the caption #deadlines.

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And this is a picture of me in my actual hall with my actual Bugaboo we’d purchased from Mothercare (and dear reader, if you think my boobs look massive in this photo then you should have seen them when my milk came in.  Each breast was the same size as my head.  My actual head.  Remember that line from the kid in Jerry Maguire about the human head weighing 8 pounds.  I’ll leave that thought with you).

Deborah 2

Anyways, I managed to finish the first draft a week or so before my daughter arrived and then I entered the crazy all-consuming worm-hole that it the lot of any new mother.  We knew it would be hard but we hadn’t accounted for the horror that is colic.  For three months after Every Single Feed our daughter would scream in agony and then every night from about 5pm she would scream continuously for five or six hours, no matter what we tried to do to soothe her.  Nevermind reworking my novel, now I found myself struggling to find the time or energy to have a shower and a sandwich let alone puzzle over the bits of my plot that didn’t quite sing true.

When she reached four months our lives started to stabilise I little and I tried to go back to my writing.  But the baby would only nap for 40 minutes at once and the fact that I was getting only four or so hours sleep every night meant I couldn’t think straight.  Terrified my dream of becoming a writer was slipping away, I had another conversation with Louise.  This time on the phone.  She must have heard the fear and desperation in my voice because unprompted, she offered more sage advice.  ‘Don’t worry, you will get to write again.  It gets easier, the baby will get easier, I promise.’  I wanted to believe her I really did, but at that moment I couldn’t see how I’d ever have enough sleep, energy or time to ever write again.  Cyril Connolly’s words rattled around my brain.  Was he right?  Was it all over?

Then, when my daughter reached six months, everything changed.  Now she was napping for two, continuous gold-dust like hours every day.  Plus, I was getting a little more unbroken sleep at night.  For the first time in half year I read back through my first draft.  The distance had given me a much needed perspective.  Now I could see what was wrong with the manuscript and how to fix it.  My life took on a new rhythm.  Mornings were spent with my daughter, at baby yoga, in the park, at playgroups, then come midday, I’d put her down for her nap and race to my desk.  I guarded this time jealously.  People might suggest coming by for lunch and I’d politely put them off until later in the day.  These hours were everything.  I found I had a new focus, a new determination, a new efficiency that I didn’t have before I became a mother.  Now, whenever Cyril Connolly popped up in my head I gave him the finger.

The rewrite took time.  My maternity leave came to an end and I still had yet to finish redrafting the book.  I went back to work and my nap-writing times were curtailed to weekends.  It took another year but I finished my novel.  And I truly believe it was so much better than it would have been had I not had that forced six month hiatus.

Now my daughter is a little older and these days she prefers her scooter or bike over the Bugaboo, but this stage brings with it a whole new set of challenges on how to combine my job and my family life and my writing.  My husband gives me the time to write every Saturday and Sunday morning from 7am 12.30 but even though he’s busy entertaining her with jigsaws or building a den in the kitchen she knows I’m upstairs and every now and again she decides she wants to be with me and do what I’m doing.  That’s when I end up in a situation like this.  Writing fairly dark prose while a four year old with a purple laptop lies opposite me, also ‘writing’.

Deborah 1

I know now that having kids makes everything harder: being able to go out to a kettle-bell class, sleeping past the hour of 6.30am, hangovers.  But these are practicalities.  If you’re clever you can find ways around them: the soft play is your friend (at least one hour of writing time right there), Netflix is your friend (yeah I let my kid watch a movie sometimes while I knock out another 300 words. Bite me), anyone who offers you free childcare for a few hours is your friend.

Ultimately, Louise was right.  So if you’re currently in the middle of those dark, delirious sleep-deprived days, up to your elbows in sudocrem and shitty nappies then have faith.  You will go back to your writing.  You will write your book.  It is entirely possible.  It does get easier.  The bugaboo in the hall is bullshit.  I promise.

***

Totally amazing and so honest, I love it.  Thanks Deborah for taking the time to write this piece for me and for including your beautiful photos too.  My review of My Husband’s Son will be up on the blog soon.

My Husband’s Son by Deborah O’Connor was published in the UK by Bonnier Zaffre on 16th June 2016 and is available in eBook format (paperback to follow later this year) | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com |

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deborah-oconnorDeborah O’Connor is a writer and TV producer. Born and bred in the North-East of England.  In 2010 she completed the Faber Academy novel writing course. She lives in London with her husband and daughter.  Connect with Deborah on Twitter via @deboc77

 

*Blog Tour: Review* My Girl by Jack Jordan

51YyNoTecqL“Paige Dawson: the mother of a murdered child and wife to a dead man.

She has nothing left to live for… until she finds her husband’s handgun hidden in their house.

Why did Ryan need a gun? What did he know about their daughter’s death?

Desperate for the truth, Paige begins to unearth her husband’s secrets.

But she has no idea who she is up against, or that her life isn’t hers to gamble – she belongs to me.

From the bestselling author of Anything for Her, Jack Jordan’s My Girl is the new chilling thriller that you won’t want to miss.”

I’m delighted to be today’s stop on the My Girl blog tour.  I recently reviewed Jack Jordan’s debut novel ‘Anything for Her’ which I loved (you can find that review here). Once again Jack has done himself proud with another blistering psychological thriller.

Paige Dawson is a troubled woman.  Chloe, her teenage daughter is dead.  Ten years later Paige’s husband unable to cope with his own grief commits suicide ensuring Paige finds the body.  Understandably Paige finds it hard to cope after the death of her family so turns to alcohol and pills to get her through each day.  Then strange things start to happen; her husband’s face has been cut out of all the family photographs, her husband’s things are removed from her house.  She may be drunk, but she’s not mad…is she?!

The story grabs you by the throat and draws you in.  You get a sense of impending doom whilst reading about Paige and her terrible life choices.  But I started to feel real sympathy for the character as strange things began to happen.  She’s not particularly likeable, she has moments when she is very much to blame, but you can’t help but want things to turn out OK for her.  Do they?  Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out.

The story is punchy with twists and turns and I found it very easy to read, devouring it in under 24 hours (that’s speed reading for me!).  It is a dark story about a dark subject matter which is written brillantly by Jordan.

Would I recommend this book? Oh yes, but prepare yourself for quite a shock. I for one am very much looking forward to Jack Jordan’s next book.  It’s going to be very difficult to top this one (no pressure Jack!).

Four and a half out of five stars.

Many thanks to Jack Jordan for providing me with a copy of My Girl in exchange for an honest review.

My Girl by Jack Jordan is published wordwide on 4th July 2016 and is available in eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com |

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Jack Jordan lives in East Anglia, England. He is an introvert disguised as an extrovert, an intelligent person who can say very unintelligent things, and a self-confessed bibliomaniac with more books than sense. ‘Anything for Her’ is Jack Jordan’s debut novel.

Connect with Jack via Twitter @_JackJordan_

 

*Blog Tour: Extract* Deadly Harvest by Michael Stanley

51eyx2Lz7mL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_“A young girl goes missing after getting into a car with a mysterious man. Soon after, a second girl disappears, and her devastated father, Witness, sets out to seek revenge.

As the trail goes cold, Samantha Khama – new recruit to the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department – suspects that the girl was killed for muti; traditional African medicine.

She enlists opera-loving wine connoisseur Assistant Superintendent David ‘Kubu’ Benga to help her dig into the past. But as they begin to find a pattern, Kubu and Samantha suddenly find they are in a race against time…”

I am thrilled to be today’s stop on the Deadly Harvest blog tour.  Deadly Harvest, penned by writing team Michael Stanley (aka Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip) is book four in the Detective Kubu series. If you are a regular visitor to damppebbles then you will know that I adore books with an international flavour. I don’t think I have visited Botswana before (in a literary sense, of course!) so I am incredibly excited to read Deadly Harvest in the not too distant future.  Here’s an extract to whet our appetites:

Chapter 1
As she walked home, Lesego’s head was full of Christmas. She knew her sister would save some of her tips and buy her a small present. Lesego had no money, so she was making Dikeledi a doily from scraps of red material left over from her needlework class. She was trying to embroider ‘Dikeledi’ across it in blue, but she’d made the first letters too big, and the whole word wouldn’t fit neatly. She frowned. She was going to have to start it again.

Lesego was carrying a cloth bag heavy with shopping and another with her schoolbooks and, even though it was a threadbare hand-medown, her school uniform was hot. She was already tired when she came to the steep hill leading to her aunt’s house in the upper section of Mochudi. She sighed, and her eyes followed the road upwards causing her to miss her footing. She stumbled, nearly dropping her shopping. The two potatoes she’d bought rolled from the top of the bag towards the road, and her shopping list, which had been shoved between them, fluttered into the weeds on the verge. She gave a small cry and scurried after the potatoes; her aunt would be furious if she lost anything. Just as she retrieved the fugitive vegetables, a red Volkswagen pulled over and stopped next to her. The driver leant across and opened the passenger door.

‘Hello, Lesego,’ he said. ‘Jump in. I’ll give you a lift up the hill.’
She gave a grateful smile and wrestled her shopping and school books into the car. ‘Hello, rra. It’s very kind of you. It’s a long hill.’
He smiled back, put the car into gear, and started on the road up. There was a click as he engaged the door locks.
Lesego took no notice. She looked around. ‘This isn’t your usual car.’
‘You’re very observant, Lesego. My car is at the garage. They loaned me this one while they service mine.’
She nodded, wondering about people who were so rich that they could just lend you a new car with no trouble. But she thought it would be rude to say that, so instead she pointed at her supplies.
‘I got everything my aunt wanted except the two sweet potatoes. They were too expensive – and old as well – so I bought two ordinary potatoes instead, which were cheap. Do you think she’ll be cross?’
‘I’m sure she won’t be. It was a sensible decision.’
She nodded, relieved.
When they reached the top of the hill, she turned to the driver.
‘You can drop me here if you like, rra. I can walk home now. Thank you.’
But the car started to move faster now that it was on the level.
‘Let’s go for a short drive first,’ he said.

So what do you think?  I’m hooked and that’s only the first paragraph or two of the first chapter!  I think it’s time for me to move Deadly Harvest to the top of my TBR.  Review to follow soon…

Many thanks to Christine at #northern #crime who helped me select such a fantastic extract to share with you all.

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

Smith & Sons (11)unspecifiedMichael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. Stanley was an educational psychologist, specialising in the application of computers to teaching and learning, and is a pilot. Michael specialises in image processing and remote sensing, and teaches at the University of the Witwatersrand. On a flying trip to Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill, and devour a wildebeest, eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their first mystery, A Carrion Death, which introduced Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards, including the CWA Debut Dagger. The series has been critically acclaimed, and their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’ award.  Connect with Michael Stanley on Twitter @detectivekubu.

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*Blog Tour: Review* Where Roses Never Die by Gunnar Staalesen (translated by Don Bartlett)

415DfcTexyL“September 1977. Mette Misvær, a three-year-old girl disappears without trace from the sandpit outside her home. Her tiny, close middle-class community in the tranquil suburb of Nordas is devastated, but their enquiries and the police produce nothing. Curtains twitch, suspicions are raised, but Mette is never found. Almost 25 years later, as the expiry date for the statute of limitations draws near, Mette’s mother approaches PI Varg Veum, in a last, desperate attempt to find out what happened to her daughter. As Veum starts to dig, he uncovers an intricate web of secrets, lies and shocking events that have been methodically concealed. When another brutal incident takes place, a pattern begins to emerge … Chilling, shocking and full of extraordinary twists and turns, Where Roses Never Die reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world’s foremost thriller writers.”

I am delighted to be today’s stop on the Where Roses Never Die blog tour.  As you may be aware, I have a habit at the moment of coming to a series several books in.  I tend to start with book two or (heaven forbid!) book six.  I think this book and it’s beleaguered lead, PI Varg Veum, takes the biscuit though.  Gunnar Staalesen has been writing about Veum since 1977!  Granted, only a handful of his novels have been translated from their original Norwegian to English, but I intend to hunt down every single one of them!

It’s 1977 and a young girl is snatched whilst playing in the sand pit outside her home.  She and her family live in a remote but secure co-op, designed by one of the residents and surrounded by handpicked neighbours.  They all trust each other…to some extent.  After a thorough police investigation the family is none the wiser and Mette is not found.  As the statute of limitations approaches (25 years later), Maja, Mette’s mother contacts Veum hoping he will discover the truth, before time runs out.  All Veum discovers though is a community in pieces harbouring the most shocking of secrets…

Brilliant!  I have a real soft spot for translated books but have always tended to avoid Scandinavian authors and Nordic Noir (I can’t say why that is but it may be something to do with reading a novelisation of ‘The Killing’, which was written by a Brit!).  That won’t be the case in future!

I really warmed to PI Varg Veum despite his very obvious flaws and addictions.  He is quite a character and I feel a little jealous of Norwegian readers who have grown up reading his stories.  (There is a life sized statue of Veum in Bergen, that’s how you treat your most loved fictional characters!)

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Gunnar Staalesen and the statue of Varg Veum

One thing I will say, this is not a ‘fast paced, thrill-a-second’ book.  More of a slow build to a blistering conclusion (which is superb).  There are unexpected twists throughout the story which are cleverly placed to make sure you keep turning the pages.  It’s a very enjoyable read about a group of people who aren’t necessarily what they seem.

Would I recommend this book?  Definitely.  Thanks to Gunnar Staalesen’s Varg Veum, Nordic Noir has a new fan.  My Norwegian is pretty rusty (haha, read: non existent!) so I’m off to find Gunnar’s other translated-to-English Veum books so I can fall in love with him just a little bit more.

Five out of five stars.

Thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda books for my copy of Where Roses Never Die in exchange for an honest review.

Roses Never Die by Gunnar Staalesen (translated by Don Bartlett) is published in the UK by Orenda Books on 30th June 2016 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones |

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unspecifiedGunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway in 1947.  He made his debut at the age of 22 with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg Veum series.  He is the author of over 20 titles, which have been published in 24 countries and sold over four million copies. Twelve film adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring the popular Norwegian actor Trond Espen Seim. Staalesen, who has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour), lives in Bergen with his wife. The next instalment in the Varg Veum series – No One Is So Safe in Danger – will be published by Orenda Books in 2017.

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*Blog Tour: Review* Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus

51E1j1admpL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_“Jerry has a traumatic past that leaves him subject to psychotic hallucinations and depressive episodes. When he stands accused of stealing a priceless Van Gogh painting, he goes underground, where he develops an unwilling relationship with a woman who believes that the voices she hears are from God. Involuntarily entangled in the illicit world of sex-trafficking amongst the Hollywood elite, and on a mission to find redemption for a haunting series of events from the past, Jerry is thrust into a genuinely shocking and outrageously funny quest to uncover the truth and atone for historical sins.

A complex, page-turning psychological thriller, riddled with twists and turns, Epiphany Jones is also a superb dark comedy with a powerful emotional core. You’ll laugh when you know you shouldn’t, be moved when you least expect it and, most importantly, never look at Hollywood, celebrity or sex in the same way again. This is an extraordinary debut from a fresh, exceptional new talent.”

Welcome to my stop on the Epiphany Jones blog tour.  This book is something special and I am thrilled to be a part of the tour, along with some other fabulous bloggers.  Make sure you check out all of the other stops along the way.

Oh. My. Gosh!  I have never read a book quite like Epiphany Jones before.  From the moment I read the blurb I HAD to read this book.  And look at that cover!! Absolutely stunning. This is a brand new reading experience so I suggest you do everything you can to get hold of a copy.  Did I mention that I have NEVER read a book like this one before…??

Jerry suffers from figments, imaginary people who pop into and out of his life at the most inopportune moments.  This is due to his traumatic past; his young sister died of leukaemia and his father died in a horrific car accident, Jerry was also in the car at the time.  Oh, and he’s addicted to porn.  He can keep the figments at bay though by taking his meds, but there’s this one figment who keeps appearing.  She even appears in his dreams!

Whilst Jerry is at lunch one day a priceless painting goes missing from the museum where he works.  He is accused of the theft but only digs himself in deeper by lying when confronted.  Upon his return home he is aghast to find the stolen painting in his apartment.  Confused and wanting to distance himself from the booty he leaves his apartment only to bump into his figment, literally.  But that can’t happen.  Figments are created by his mind and they are not real.  Except this one is and she’s not really a figment.  She’s Epiphany Jones…

This book contains some pretty dark, gutsy themes and you do need a strong stomach for parts of it.  Saying that I am hugely impressed with the way Michael Grothaus has handled these themes within the story.  None of the sexual content felt gratuitous and it was very much necessary for the story.  Even the moments when Jerry is alone (I shall say no more and let your mind fill in the blanks)…

The story flows smoothly and at an enjoyable pace.  My interest was kept from the very first word to the very last.  I couldn’t predict where the story was going and I was always surprised by the twists and turns (full marks from me for that!).  The humour I adored. The blurb is correct, you do find yourself laughing at things which you know you shouldn’t.

I didn’t like Jerry, I did like Jerry and then I didn’t like Jerry again.  Now I have reached the conclusion of the book I definitely DO like Jerry.  The rest of the characters I’m not so sure about.  That is, except Epiphany.  Epiphany is an amazing character, quite possibly my favourite fictional character…ever!

I have to congratulate Michael Grothaus on his use of the word ‘mosey’.  It’s not a word I see often in books but it’s one of my favourites.  Thank you for using it with such aplomb Mr Grothaus.

Would I recommend this book?  I most certainly would.  I would, however, add a cautionary note about it not being for the faint hearted. There is a lot of bad language, copious amounts of sexual content (it’s about sex-trafficking and Jerry is addicted to porn, after all) and a fair amount of graphic violence that even made my tummy flip and that’s saying something as I love blood, guts and gore in my books!

Five stars out of five.

Thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my copy of Epiphany Jones in exchange for an honest review.

Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus was published in the UK by Orenda Books on 16th May 2016 and is available in paperback, eBook and audio formats | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Waterstones |

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Novelist and journalist Michael Grothaus was born in Saint Louis, Missouri in 1977. He spent his twenties in Chicago where he earned his degree in filmmaking from Columbia and got his start in journalism writing for Screen. After working for institutions including The Art Institute of Chicago, Twentieth Century Fox, and Apple he moved to the United Kingdom where he earned his postgraduate degree and began writing for The Guardian, Fast Company, VICE, and others. His debut novel is EPIPHANY JONES, a story about sex trafficking among the Hollywood elite, based on his experiences at the Cannes Film Festival. It will be published by Orenda in May 2016. Michael is represented worldwide by The Hanbury Agency in London, where he lives when not traveling. His writing is read by millions of people each month.

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