#GuestPost | #BookReview: Ward Zero by Linda Huber (@LindaHuber19)

I am thrilled to welcome Linda Huber back to the blog today to celebrate the release of her brilliant new book Ward Zero on 1st October 2016.  Linda has written a piece about the shocking scam she used as inspiration for Ward Zero.  It’s heartbreaking to think that so many elderly people fall for this heartless con.  Over to you Linda…

The Grandchild Trick

Several years ago, I was watching a popular consumer programme on Swiss TV. As well as giving us info about the best kind of toothpaste, and how much nitrate is in which kinds of pre-packed salad, they uncover conmen and their scams, so it makes for interesting watching. And one report had my ears sky-high…

It was about an old woman, and she had lost most of her savings. Why? Because someone had called her on the phone, and when he said he was a distant relative in need of a cash injection, she believed him.

I was gobsmacked. Firstly, that anyone would have the temerity to target an old person in this way, and secondly, that the woman had fallen for it. Not only that, she’d gone to the bank, withdrawn a huge amount of money, and given it to him. Personally. By the time her family realised what had happened, the cash was long gone.

Then, over the next several months, there was an absolute rash of such crimes – old people were contacted, mostly on the phone, given some sob story about a friend or relative, and asked for cash. A horrifyingly large number of them fell for it, and the newspapers started calling it The Grandchild Trick.

The conmen/women were clever – they manipulated the initial conversation in such a way that it seemed to the old person that this was someone who knew all about the family. And of course, so many older people are lonely, vulnerable, only too pleased to chat to a friendly voice on the phone…

It’s such a cruel scam, and unbelievable as it sounds, it’s still happening. Nowadays, fortunately, banks are watching out for it, and if an older person arrives and demands a large cash sum, the bank will inquire further. But that doesn’t help if the victim uses a cash dispenser…

The sheer audacity of it fascinated me and a shimmer of an idea for a book started in my head. How did the conman plan his attack? How would he persuade his victims that he knew them? How would the victims react? What kind of older person would fall for this?
And then – where would be a good place for the conman to find his victims? In a hospital, yes. What if…

And that was the start of Ward Zero. It’s the story of Sarah, who arrives home expecting to go on holiday with her foster mum, then finds herself in the middle of a con trick centred around the local hospital. Before long, Sarah’s life is in danger…

My crime info for this book came mainly from Switzerland, while my hospital info came from my own jobs as a physiotherapist in Scotland and Switzerland. The book is set near Manchester, England, where friends live… it was a pretty international project! And it was very nearly finished, when early this year I discovered that someone I know was almost a victim of The Grandchild Trick herself.

It’s a small world – and a dangerous one.

***

Thank you, Linda.  It’s not on the same scale at all but I remember being very upset to discover that my grandfather (who is no longer with us) had fallen for numerous charity scams of a similar ilk. People turning up on his doorstep requesting money for ‘Feed the Garden Gnomes’ and that sort of thing. Heartbreaking that people could do that really.

As well as Linda’s brilliant guest post I have my review of Ward Zero to share with you today.  But first the cover and blurb to whet your appetite:

51qagdtl-al“Horror swept through her. Had she been buried alive?

On Sarah’s first visit to see her foster mother, Mim, in Brockburn General Hospital, she is sucked into a world that isn’t what it should be.

Someone is lying, someone is stealing. And someone is killing – but who? With a grieving child to take care of, as well as Mim, Sarah has to put family first. She doesn’t see where danger lies – until it’s too late.

If you think you’re safe in a hospital, think again.”

Smith & Sons (9)

First off, I love that cover.  I think it’s creepy and it gives me the heebie jeebies. Which meant I had high expectations for Ward Zero, also my first Linda Huber read.  I am delighted to confirm that those expectations were well met and I can’t wait to make a start on Linda’s other books.

Petra and her young daughter, Frankie are in a panic.  Having suffered a number of strokes, Wilma, Petra’s grandmother, is ensconced in hospital for the foreseeable future. That however doesn’t stop the rent from being due.  Thankfully, Petra has taken on the majority of Wilma’s affairs including paying her rent on time.  But there’s no money.  All of Wilma’s savings have gone.  Just vanished!  Whilst visiting Wilma in hospital, Petra bumps into Sarah and her foster mother.  Sarah recognises Petra immediately as Petra’s daughter has also spent time in her foster mother’s care.  By being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Sarah is unwittingly thrown into a tale of deceit and murder.  The bodies begin to pile up, but can Sarah work out who the ‘con artist turned murderer’ is before it’s too late…?

I love books where everyone you meet along the way ‘could’ be the killer and this is one of those books.  Who would be so heartless as to steal the life savings of the elderly hospital patients?  The guy who works in the hospital bank?  The incredibly secretive staff nurse?  Oh there are plenty of suspects.  I did manage to guess who the killer was before the reveal but Linda Huber’s writing kept me on my toes.  You make an educated guess at the suspect, only to be convinced otherwise a few pages on!

This book had a lovely family feel about it; a real ‘them versus us’, ‘good versus evil’ which I really enjoyed.  It’s a strange thing for me to say on this blog but the family feel gave the story warmth and a sense of camaraderie.  I really liked Sarah and was cheering her on all the way.

The closing chapters were creepy and I was on the edge of my seat, wondering whether Sarah would manage to escape her predicament. I was drawn into the story and was fascinated to see where the plot would go.

Would I recommend this book?  I would. It’s a jot gentler than my usual reads but it was very enjoyable and I’m keen to move Linda’s previous books to the top of the TBR.  I enjoyed Linda’s writing and characters and look forward to reading more soon. 

Four out of five stars.

Many thanks to Linda Huber for providing me with a copy of Ward Zero…the Dead Ward in exchange for an honest review.

Ward Zero…the Dead Ward by Linda Huber was published in the UK on 1st October 2016 and is available in eBook format | amazon.co.uk | amazon.com | Goodreads |

Smith & Sons (11)

LindaHuber

Linda Huber grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, but went to work in Switzerland for a year aged twenty-two, and has lived there ever since. Her day jobs have included working as a physiotherapist in hospitals and schools for handicapped children, and teaching English in a medieval castle. Not to mention several years spent as a full-time mum to two boys and a rescue dog.
Linda’s books are psychological suspense novels, and the ideas for them come from daily life. The Paradise Trees and The Cold Cold Sea were traditionally published in 2013/2014 before she self-published The Attic Room in 2015 and Chosen Child in early 2016.
Ward Zero, her fifth book, was inspired by a Swiss TV programme and a hospital in the UK…

Author Links:  Amazon UK | Amazon US | Facebook | Twitter | Website | Blog |

Guest Post: Linda Huber (Psychological Thriller author) #damppebblesTakeOver

I am absolutely thrilled to welcome another fabulous author to damppebbles today.  There are certain names that as soon as you see them on amazon, you sit up and you take notice.  That is definitely the case when it comes to Linda Huber.  Linda is the author of four novels; The Paradise Trees (currently part of the Kindle Summer Sale on Amazon UK and is 99p until the end of August), The Cold Cold Sea, The Attic Room and her latest release, Chosen Child.  Here is the blurb for Chosen Child:

CHOSEN CHILD EBOOK COVER COMPLETE.jpg

“A disappearance. A sudden death. A betrayal of the worst kind.

Ella longs for a child of her own, but a gruesome find during an adoption process deepens the cracks in her marriage. A family visit starts off a horrifying chain of events, and Ella can only hope she won’t lose the person she loves most of all.

Amanda is expecting her second child when her husband vanishes. She is tortured by thoughts of violence and loss, but nothing prepares her for the shocking conclusion to the police investigation.

And in the middle of it all, a little girl is looking for a home of her own with a ‘forever’ mummy and daddy…”

If you would like to view the YouTube trailer for Chosen Child, please click here:  https://youtu.be/vEVbY7H0Cko

Chosen Child is only 99p from Friday 15th to Sunday 17th July on Amazon UK/US/Eurozones.  Make sure you get a copy!

Linda has very kindly offered to share her book memories with us today.  I have to say that I can’t remember what I was reading a couple of months ago, let alone what I read as a child!

(Book) Memories…

What’s the first book you remember reading?

My first book memory is a Noddy book. I must have been three or four, and I was lying on the floor, squeezed into the space between my mum’s chair and the wall, with this Noddy book – and in the picture, Noddy was crying. (Something had happened to his car…) My mum laughed at me – I don’t remember what she said, but the gist was, I was an odd child to enjoy a picture of poor Noddy crying.

Looking back now (hindsight is a wonderful thing), I know why I ‘liked’ this picture. It was the emotion. Noddy’s car was broken and he was crying, and I could empathise with that – most kids my age cried when things got broken. And although I couldn’t read the story, I could ‘read’ the pictures. A picture paints a thousand words, they say. I guess this is why so many people cry over films, too. In a film, the emotion is right in front of you, often with music to strengthen it.

But I think books are even better. If you can lose yourself in a book, you can imagine a whole new world. It’s gobsmacking to think that every single person who reads a book will have their own mental picture of the characters and the setting, and all these pictures will be different. A reader can get right into the soul of well-written characters, feel what they’re feeling, and it doesn’t matter if that reader is four, fourteen or forty-plus.

As an older child, I devoured Noel Streatfield’s books. Her characters jump off the pages. In my head I would wander through London with Polly, Petrova and Posy Fossil (Ballet Shoes), and run along an Irish beach with the children in The Growing Summer.

One book from my teenage years stands out – A High Wind in Jamaica, by Richard Hughes. It was a school reader one year. A family of children are en route from Jamaica to England when they land in a pirate ship. Most of what happens is seen through the eyes of ten-year-old Emily, and it’s simply amazing writing – you can feel Emily’s wonder at the world, her non-comprehension of the adults’ actions, her growing self-awareness. The ending is one of the most shocking I’ve ever read – and yet it isn’t an ‘unhappy end’.

Nowadays I’m into crime fiction, and there are so many great writers in this genre I wouldn’t know where to start talking about favourites. But we’ll give an honourable mention to the late great Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine. She was expert at making her readers feel with the characters, even when her characters weren’t likeable people.

The biggest compliment I’ve ever received for my books was – ‘You made me cry!’ Wow. Someone cared enough about my paper people to cry when it all came right. So then I cried because they’d cried; it was all very emotional… And in the same way, it’s the emotion that makes me remember that picture of poor Noddy crying, even after all these years. Or maybe my mum was right and I was just an odd child…

***

Thank you so much Linda.  I still haven’t managed to remember the first book I read.  There are vague memories of Topsy and  Tim, then the Worst Witch when I was approaching my teens but that’s about all I can remember!  How about you?  Can you remember the first book you read?  Let us know in the comments.

Smith & Sons (11)

LindaHuber.JPG

Linda Huber grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, but went to work in Switzerland for a year aged twenty-two, and has lived there ever since. Her day jobs have included working as a physiotherapist in hospitals and schools for handicapped children, and teaching English in a medieval castle. Not to mention several years spent as a full-time mum to two boys and a rescue dog.

Linda’s books are psychological thrillers. The Paradise Trees (2013) was inspired by her father-in-law’s struggle with dementia, and she started writing The Cold Cold Sea (2014) after learning that a child in her extended family drowned in the 1940s, aged eleven. The Attic Room (2015) begins in one of her most-loved places, the Isle of Arran on the west coast of Scotland, and the idea for her latest book Chosen Child came during a chance conversation at a wedding.

Linda’s amazon.co.uk author page | Linda’s amazon.com author page | Linda’s Facebook author page | Linda’s website | Linda’s blog | Linda on Twitter (@LindaHuber19)