#BlogTour | #Extract: The Cover Wife by Dan Fesperman #TheCoverWife @HoZ_Books @SofiaSaghir @midaspr #damppebbles

The latest sophisticated, suspenseful, and intensely human spy thriller from master of the genre Dan Fesperman transports the reader to Paris and Hamburg, and deep into the conspiracy behind the 9/11 attacks.

Paris, October 1999. CIA agent Claire Saylor’s career has stalled, thanks to unorthodox behaviour in her past. So when she’s told she’ll be going undercover in Hamburg to pose as the wife of an academic who has published a controversial interpretation of the Quran’s promise to martyrs, she assumes the job is a punishment. But when she discovers her team leader is Paul Bridger, another Agency maverick, she realizes there may be more to this mission than meets the eye – and not just for professional reasons.

Meanwhile, Mahmoud, a recent Moroccan émigré in Hamburg, has become involved with a group of radicals at his local mosque. The deeper he’s drawn into the group, the more he is torn between his obligations to them and his feelings toward a beautiful westernized Muslim woman.

As Claire learns the truth about her mission, and Mahmoud grows closer to the radicals, their paths are on a collision course that could have disastrous repercussions far beyond the CIA.”

Hello and a very warm welcome to damppebbles. Today I am joining the blog tour for The Cover Wife by Dan Fesperman and sharing an extract from the book. The Cover Wife was published by Head of Zeus on 6th July 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats with the paperback to follow in 2022. My grateful thanks to Sophie and Sofia at Midas PR for my blog tour invitation.

Put the kettle on, put your feet up and enjoy a snippet from this gripping spy thriller…

As directed, Claire proceeded down a hallway to a room where someone had written “Training Session” in block letters in French on a sheet taped to the door. She knocked twice, already feeling a twinge of guilt. Despite her distaste for these sorts of gatherings, she knew she’d be embarrassed if the door were to open onto a roomful of waiting participants. She had already spent far too much of her professional life seated before men who habitually checked their watches.

A male voice, vaguely familiar, called out from inside.

“Yes?”

“Claire Saylor.”

“Enter.”

She opened the door. The only occupant was seated with his back to her at a small table, next to a single empty chair. He wore chinos and a wrinkled black blazer. Like his voice, something about the shape of his head was familiar. The walls were bare except for a thermostat, a fire safety notice, and a closed door on the far side of the room. As if oblivious to her entry, the man scribbled on a legal pad, his pen making a sound like a mouse gnawing at the baseboard. She waited as he stood and turned to face her.

It had been ten years since she’d last seen Paul Bridger, but she recognized him right away. She immediately felt younger, and a little flushed.

“Paul! What a … pleasant surprise.”

He flicked his eyes toward the opposite wall, as if to signal that they were not alone, or maybe he was just nervous. Just as well either way, because she wasn’t yet sure what sort of greeting to offer. Their last time together had ended in a mix of complicated events and emotions, some of which they had never shared with their superiors. Or she hadn’t, anyway. As for the personal repercussions, even Bridger still had no idea, mostly because he had never asked. Since then, he’d moved up the ranks, and he now managed selected ops across most of Europe. And now here they were, face-to-face in a silent room, alone but probably not alone.

For a moment, neither of them spoke. His eyes shone with eagerness even as he seemed to hold himself in reserve. She wondered who or what might be hiding behind the thermostat, the fire notice, or the closed door. But her earlier annoyance with the idea of becoming part of a team was gone, because now she felt certain her talents would not be wasted. Bridger wasn’t flawless—who was?—but he was known throughout the Agency as a man who knew how to run an op, and who always got the most out of everyone. He could be stingy with information, but that was the nature of their trade. Need to know. Compartmentalize. Tell me, but no one else.

He was also a master of the calculated risk, comfortable out on the crumbling ledge where only the nimble kept their footing and you were never sure when you might have to jump. Not unlike where Claire had been only an hour earlier, although in Bridger’s case it always seemed to count as a plus.

“Shall we get down to business?” he said crisply, gesturing to the nearest chair.

Ten years, and those were the first words out of his mouth. What a careful performer. It was a little disconcerting. Then he smiled warmly and she felt better.

Claire took a seat, certain that life was about to get interesting.

Wow, I cannot wait to read The Cover Wife! This extract has hooked me right in so I’m moving this one up the TBR straight away.

The Cover Wife by Dan Fesperman was published in the UK by Head of Zeus on 6th July 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, 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 | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop |


Dan FespermanDan Fesperman’s travels as a writer have taken him to thirty countries and three war zones. Lie in the Dark won the Crime Writers’ Association of Britain’s John Creasey Memorial Dagger Award for best first crime novel, The Small Boat of Great Sorrows won their Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for best thriller, and The Prisoner of Guantánamo won the Dashiell Hammett Award from the International Association of Crime Writers. He lives in Baltimore.

#BlogTour | #Excerpt: The Night Gate by Peter May (@authorpetermay) @riverrunbooks @midaspr @SophMidas #TheNightGate #damppebbles

“In a sleepy French village, the body of a man shot through the head is disinterred by the roots of a fallen tree. A week later a famous art critic is viciously murdered in a nearby house. The deaths occurred more than seventy years apart.

Asked by a colleague to inspect the site of the former, forensics expert Enzo Macleod quickly finds himself embroiled in the investigation of the latter. Two extraordinary narratives are set in train – one historical, unfolding in the treacherous wartime years of Occupied France; the other contemporary, set in the autumn of 2020 as France re-enters Covid lockdown.

And Enzo’s investigations reveal an unexpected link between the murders – the Mona Lisa.

Tasked by the exiled General Charles de Gaulle to keep the world’s most famous painting out of Nazi hands after the fall of France in 1940, 28-year-old Georgette Pignal finds herself swept along by the tide of history. Following in the wake of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa as it is moved from château to château by the Louvre, she finds herself just one step ahead of two German art experts sent to steal it for rival patrons – Hitler and Göring.

What none of them know is that the Louvre itself has taken exceptional measures to keep the painting safe, unwittingly setting in train a fatal sequence of events extending over seven decades.

Events that have led to both killings.

The Night Gate spans three generations, taking us from war-torn London, the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, Berlin and Vichy France, to the deadly enemy facing the world in 2020. In his latest novel, Peter May shows why he is one of the great contemporary writers of crime fiction.”

Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to be kicking off The Night Gate blog tour alongside the fabulous The Book Magnet. The Night Gate is the seventh and final book in Peter May’s The Enzo Files series and will be published later this week on 18th March 2021 in hardcover, audio and digital formats by Riverrun.

To celebrate the books release I am thrilled to be sharing the prologue with you today. So pull up a comfy chair, put the kettle on and enjoy…

PROLOGUE

Emile Narcisse is pleased by his appearance. Vanity has always been a weakness. Where, perhaps, others see him as just another old man, he still perceives himself as the young Emile whose smile won hearts, whose blue-eyed looks turned heads. And after all, sixty-five is not so old. Vintage. Like a good wine, some men just get better with age.

Were he not so focused on his reflection in the mirror as he adjusts his tie and straightens his collar, he might have been able to look beyond it and see the certainty of death that lies in wait. But pride and greed blind him to his fate.

He has chosen a room at the back of the hotel with a view of the river.

Or, rather, its black slow-moving backwater broken only by the reflection of trees on the sliver of island beyond. On the far side of the island the River Dordogne, swollen by recent rains, makes a stately but more rapid progress towards the Atlantic two hundred and fifty kilometres to the west. But it is dark now, and he can see nothing beyond the glass.

He glances at his watch. Time to go. He feels a tiny, excited frisson of anticipation. But also doubt. Is it really possible that fate could have sent such good fortune his way? It is hard to believe. And, yet, here he is.

Floorboards creak softly beneath his shoes as he descends lightly to reception. The hotel is quiet, the tourist season a distant memory. A notice on the counter reminds customers that the hotel will be closed in just a few weeks for a full month. The annual congés . It will reopen in December in time for Christmas and  la nouvelle année , if indeed Covid will allow for a celebration of either.

Narcisse glances through double French windows that open into the restaurant. Empty tables beneath cold yellow light, the chill October night pressing darkly against windows all along the far side. Not yet seven-thirty. Too early for the French to dine. But on his return he expects to eat, and crack open a celebratory bottle of Bordeaux. A car passes in the street outside. He drops his key on the counter, pleased that there is no one around requiring him to wear his mask. He fingers it in his pocket, glad to keep it there. He detests the damn thing, stuffy and claustrophobic. Yet, he knows, it is a significant barrier against the virus. And at his age he cannot afford to take any risks.

He does not see the man sitting in the bar, face obscured by a local newspaper, a half-drunk beer on the table in front of him. But as Narcisse steps out into the frosted air, the solitary drinker lowers his paper, rising to cross quickly to a door that leads to the terrace. From here he watches the art dealer make his way towards the palisade, breath billowing in the street lights. Anger burgeons in this man’s breast, a seething rage close to boiling point. The duplicitous peacock has no idea that Bauer is even here. Bauer knows he is not expected for another thirty minutes.

But he knows, too, that beyond the gate opposite, a path will lead him through a garden straight to the top of the hill, where another gate will provide direct access to the terrace at the side of her house.

Narcisse turns left at the post office, before he reaches the palisade.

Above it, the château cuts a shadow against the starlit sky, and Narcisse shivers, pulling his collar closer to his neck. Medieval shuttered stone dwellings crowd him on either side, reducing the sky to a ribbon of black overhead. The icy air is almost heady with the sweet-smoke smell of autumn oak, the cold of it burning his nostrils.

Where the road opens out left and right, the gate to the small park at the top of the hill lies open. Some work in progress near the war monument has been taped off, and Narcisse sees the thin strip of plastic catch light from the street lamps as it flutters gently in the cold air that snakes through these fifteenth-century streets. But before he reaches the park he turns off to climb the long flight of stone steps to the house that overlooks it. A small covered landing at the door lies in shadow. He pauses and takes a deep breath before slipping on his mask, as if to hide his identity. This is the moment of truth, perhaps the moment to which his entire career has led him. The window shutters to the left of the door stand open, but only darkness lies beyond. There is not a light to be seen anywhere in the house, and Narcisse experiences his first sense of apprehension. He lifts the cast-iron knocker and sharply raps it twice against the wood. Inside he hears the echo of it smothered by the dark. Apprehension gives way to irritation as he knocks again, louder this time. Irritation burgeoning to anger, and then frustration. Is it all just some elaborate hoax? He tries the door handle and to his surprise feels it yield to his hand. The door swings into darkness.

‘Hello?’ His voice seems strangely disconnected from his body.

There is no reply. He steps into the doorway and reaches around the wall, searching for a light switch with his fingers. He finds it. But it brings no light to this world. He curses softly behind his mask and calls again.

‘Hello?’

Still nothing. He takes another step forward. He knows that he is in the kitchen because he was here earlier. A door at the far end, beyond a long table, leads to a short hallway, and then the grand salon. But he can see almost nothing, his eyes made blind by the streets lights he has just left behind. The house feels cold and empty, and his anger becomes incandescent, as if that might light the way ahead. He takes less cautious steps further into the kitchen, his fingertips finding the tabletop to guide him. Shapes are starting to take form around him now.

A sound that whispers like the smooth passage of silk on silk startles him. Movement in the darkness ahead morphs into silhouette.

Momentary light catches polished steel, before he feels the razor-like tip of it slash across his neck. There is no real pain, just an oddly invasive sensation of burning, and suddenly he cannot breathe. His hands fly to his neck, warm blood coursing between cold fingers. He presses both palms against the wound as if somehow they might keep the blood from spilling out of him. He hears it gurgling in his severed windpipe. Just moments earlier he had been consumed by anger. Now he understands that he is going to die, but somehow cannot accept it.

It is simply not possible. Consciousness rapidly ebbs to darkness and he drops to his knees. The last thing he sees, before falling face-first to the floor, is his killer. Caught in a fleeting moment of moonlight. And he simply cannot believe it.

Wow, I cannot wait to read The Night Gate! The prologue has hooked me right in so I’m moving this one up the TBR straight away.

Peter May is heading out on a virtual book tour later this week. You can find out when and where by clicking this link: https://maypeter.com/. You’ll also be able to book tickets!

The Night Gate by Peter May was published in the UK by Riverrun on 18th March 2021 and is available in hardcover, audio and digital formats (please note, 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.ukWaterstonesFoylesBook Depositorybookshop.orgGoodreadsthe damppebbles bookshop.org shop |

Peter May is a Scot living in France.  Winner of two major French literary awards, May’s books have also won Crime Novel of the Year awards in France, Scotland, the UK, and the United States.

With more than 4 million copies of his books sold, he is best known for his acclaimed “Lewis Trilogy“, set in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. His series of  six “China Thrillers” and six France-based “Enzo Files” are currently enjoying best-selling success in reprints.

His most recent works have been the standalone stories: “Entry Island“, “Runaway“, “Coffin Road“,  and “I’ll Keep You Safe“.

Peter May started his writing career as a journalist, winning a national award at the age of 21. Still in his twenties, he switched to writing drama for UK television. He created three major drama serials in the UK and has credits for scriptwriting or producing more than 1,000 episodes of ratings-topping shows. He quit TV in the 1990s to concentrate on his first love, writing books.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Nope.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘You’ve got the wrong girl.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘I needed a change of pace.’

‘What’s the real reason?’

‘Doctor’s orders.’

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

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

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

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

‘I’m all set.’ Darby took a seat.

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

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

‘What’s your verdict?’ he asked.

‘She’s dead.’

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

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

The Snow Girls Blog Tour

about-the-author3

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

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

Author Links:Website | Twitter | Facebook |

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No good could come from it.

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

“Edith? You awake?”

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

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

“What are they saying?”

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

“Oh. That doesn’t sound good.”

“How much do you remember?”

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

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

“The Star Wars guy?”

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

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

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

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

“You’re mad at me. I can tell.”

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

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

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

Edith’s jaw fell. “You think?’

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

“It scares me.

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

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

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

Edith looked at her curiously. “Where?”

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

“Okay.”

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

“Shirl?”

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

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

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

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

“Do you trust me?”

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

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

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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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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.

Author Links:Twitter |Facebook | Website |