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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Nope.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘You’ve got the wrong girl.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘I needed a change of pace.’

‘What’s the real reason?’

‘Doctor’s orders.’

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

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

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

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

‘I’m all set.’ Darby took a seat.

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

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

‘What’s your verdict?’ he asked.

‘She’s dead.’

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

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

The Snow Girls Blog Tour

about-the-author3

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

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

Author Links:Website | Twitter | Facebook |

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No good could come from it.

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

“Edith? You awake?”

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

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

“What are they saying?”

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

“Oh. That doesn’t sound good.”

“How much do you remember?”

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

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

“The Star Wars guy?”

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

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

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

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

“You’re mad at me. I can tell.”

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

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

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

Edith’s jaw fell. “You think?’

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

“It scares me.

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

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

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

Edith looked at her curiously. “Where?”

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

“Okay.”

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

“Shirl?”

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

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

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

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

“Do you trust me?”

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

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

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

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

Author Links: | Website | Twitter |

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Hello, Lucas.’

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

He wasn’t a boy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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about-the-author3

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

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook |

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PROLOGUE
EIGHT YEARS AGO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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about the author3

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

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

Author Links: | Website | Facebook | Twitter |

#BlogTour: We Have Lost The Chihuahuas by @QuiteFunnyGuy @WeHaveLostBooks | @emmamitchellfpr

WHLTChihuahuas_cover_small (2).jpg“London, 2046. The British Republic has a new First Lady. She’s Californian, ‘in-your-face, for sure’ and she’s got big plans for a Buckingham Palace refurb. When her three Chihuahuas go missing, one man is determined to avoid getting dragged into it all. His name is Pond. Howie Pond – presidential spokesperson, retired secret agent and cat lover.

Meanwhile, Howie’s wife Britt is handed her first assignment as a National Security and Intelligence Service rookie – to solve the mystery of the missing canine trio.

Will Howie manage to slope off to the pub before he can be roped into help? Will Britt unmask the dognapper and grab the glory? Find out, in the latest, crazy comedy-thriller from dog-loving British author Paul Mathews.”

I am delighted to be kicking off the We Have Lost the Chihuahuas blog tour alongside the fabulous Rae Reads and Bits About Books.  We Have Lost the Chihuahuas is book four in author Paul Mathew’s comedy thriller series ‘We Have Lost..’ and is published on 28th November 2017.

Today, I have an extract from the book to whet your appetite. So without further ado, grab a cuppa and have a read…

When it came to household pets, Howie had always been more of a cat-type of guy than a dog lover. And, as he stood shivering in the cold January air of London’s St James’ Park, watching a Chihuahua sinking his teeth into his chief press officer’s right ankle, he was pretty sure his views on the subject wouldn’t be changing any time soon.

‘Argh! Get off me, you four-legged eejit!’ screamed Conor O’Brean, yanking the dog’s lead so hard, it lifted off the ground and flew a metre in the air before rejoining terra firma.

Rather than risk his own ankles, Howie decided to beat a strategic retreat in the way that battlefield generals often did when things weren’t quite going to plan. He had full confidence in the Irishman under his command. Howie would allow Conor to regain control of the situation without a superior officer such as himself – who had no experience of hand-to-hand Chihuahua combat – getting in the way of the human-canine skirmish.

Once Howie was safely out of the line of fire, he noticed the other two dogs had also retreated. This clearly wasn’t the first time they’d seen their pack mate in full battle-mode.

‘Behave yourself, Donnie!’ yelled Conor, as he started to become entangled in the dogs’ leads.

The angry animal snarled with a ferocity that sent every bird within a fifty-metre radius fleeing for the treetops.

Conor upped the volume. ‘I mean it! Stop this nonsense or I’ll tell your mammy you’ve been a bad boy.’

Donnie stopped snarling and cocked an ear, as if daring Conor to repeat the threat.

‘I’m serious! I’ll tell your mammy and your pappy, too. And he’s the president, remember. You don’t want to get the wrong side of him, do you now? Or he’ll have you sent back to America.’

Donnie lowered his head slowly, flopped his tail between his legs in apparent surrender, and slunk up to Conor.

‘There’s a good little fella.’ Conor glanced at Howie. ‘I knew a bit of old-fashioned Irish diplomacy would make him see sense.’

Howie noticed the other two Chihuahuas were still keeping their distance, so he followed their example.

Conor reached down and patted the defeated dog on the head. ‘Peace has been restored to the fair land of Westminster. Hostilities have officially ceased. The battle of St James’ Park has been fought – and won – and shall never be forgotten by those who risked their lives so that three dogs could stretch their legs and empty their tanks.’

Howie made a mock salute. ‘We will never forget your sacrifice, Private O’Brean. I’ll be recommending you for a President’s gallantry award.’

Conor stared into Donnie’s chocolate-brown eyes. ‘We, who were once enemies … are now brothers in arms.’

Without warning, Donnie launched a counter attack and bit Conor’s right thumb, making him scream so loudly Howie had to pretend for half a minute they didn’t know each other.

The angry mutt then charged towards Conor’s left ankle. But the Irishman managed to block the advance with the sole of his boot. Amid all the conflict, the other two Chihuahuas sat shivering on the edge of the path watching their canine comrade – possibly also trying to pretend they didn’t know him.

‘Donnie, sit!’ shouted Howie from the safety of the grass verge – which was now doubling as an impromptu war room.

The dog froze – as if stunned that another human would be stupid enough to enter the fray. Once it got over the shock, it locked a wide-eyed stare onto Howie and raised its top lip to display an impressive arsenal of jagged yellow teeth. This dog was clearly a combat veteran.

We Have Lost the Chihuahuas by Paul Mathews will be published in the UK on Tuesday 28th November 2017 and will be available in eBook format.  If you would like to pre-order this fun-filled furry caper then please click HERE (amazon.co.uk link).

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about the author3

41lkaQvyNGL._SY200_.jpgPaul Mathews is a quite funny British guy who’s managed to escape his day job and is currently on the run as a comedy novelist. His sharp, satirical – often surreal – sense of humour draws on 20 years as a British Government press officer, during which time he encountered politicians, senior civil servants, HR managers, and lots of other people who really sucked at their jobs.

His popular ‘We Have Lost’ comedy-thriller series set in 2040s London, starring beleaguered presidential spokesman and wannabe secret agent Howie Pond, currently comprises four titles with more on the way. Paul has read all the books at least ten times and highly recommends them.

Make him happy by signing up for his ‘Very Funny Newsletter’ here: www.quitefunnyguy.com/newsletter. If you don’t want to sign up for it, stay calm and do nothing.

Paul also owns a cat, Lulu, who works as his assistant. All fan mail to her, please.

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