Review – The Shadow Friend by Alex North @writer_north @BooksJoel @PenguinUKBooks #TheShadowFriend #NetGalley

Happy publication day to Alex North for The Shadow Friend! Thank you to Penguin for letting me read a proof copy through NetGalley. Before I give you my thoughts, here’s the blurb.

 

The Blurb

The victim was his friend. So was the murderer.

Twenty-five years ago, troubled teenager Charlie Crabtree committed a shocking and unprovoked murder.

For Paul Adams, it’s a day he’ll never forget. He’s never forgiven himself for his part in what happened to his friend and classmate. He’s never gone back home.

But when his elderly mother has a fall, it’s finally time to stop running.

It’s not long before things start to go wrong. A copycat killer has struck, bringing back painful memories. Paul’s mother insists there’s something in the house.

And someone is following him.

Which reminds him of the most unsettling thing about that awful day twenty-five years ago.

It wasn’t just the murder.

It was the fact that afterwards, Charlie Crabtree was never seen again . . .

The Shadow Friend 2

 

My Review

Dreams have always mystified us. Whether it’s from Joseph interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams in the Bible to Leonardo DiCaprio starring as the dream-maker in Inception, our sleep-induced thoughts affect us. Lucid dreams are the premise of The Shadow Friend, the second book featuring DI Amanda Beck.

Paul Adams has returned to his home, Gritten Village, after being away for many years. He would have stayed away for longer but his mother is dying. Once back, he finds he can’t escape the secrets from the past. DI Amanda Beck is investigating the terrible murder of a teenager killed by two friends. What’s more horrific is that she discovers similar cases, starting with one in Gritten Village, twenty-five years before.

I could tell you more about the plot and the characters but I don’t want to give too much away.  Especially in relation to the lucid dreams – that’s something you need to experience yourself! But the thing that makes this book stand out for me is the emotional content. Alex North made me cry with The Whisper Man and he’s done it again with The Shadow Friend. He looks at grief once more but not just in terms of the loss of a loved one. He also considers grief over decisions made and the sacrifices a mother makes for her child. There were so many beautiful phrases that connected with me personally. I’m welling up again just thinking about it!

I thought The Whisper Man was pretty creepy but Alex North has turned up the tension  and chill factor significantly. In hindsight, reading this just before I went to bed might not have been the best plan! I had some pretty restless nights. But The Shadow Friend is utterly compelling and despite wondering if my nerves could take it, I had to keep reading. An outstanding book and one that is definitely going into my top ten reads of 2020.

 

You can buy The Shadow Friend here.

Or now that bookshops are open again, why not buy a copy from your nearest one, particularly if it’s an independent shop.

 

The Author

Steve Mosby

Alex North was born in Leeds, where he now lives with his wife and son. He studied Philosophy at Leeds University, and prior to becoming a writer he worked there in their Sociology Department.

 

 

Blog Tour – Dead and Gone by Sherryl Clark @sherrylwriter @Verve_Books #DeadandGone

Dead and Gone Blog Tour Poster

It’s my turn today on the blog tour for Dead and Gone by Sherryl Clark. It’s the sequel to Trust Me, I’m Dead. Thank you to Clare Quinlivan at No Exit Press and Verve Books for inviting me to take part. I have a guest post from Sherryl Clark but before you read that, let’s find out a bit more about the book.

 

The Blurb

There’s nothing more dangerous than revenge.

Judi Westerholme has been through it. Brave and strong-willed, she’s just about coping in her new role as foster parent to her orphaned niece, taking a job at the local pub to help make ends meet. Then the pub’s landlord and Judi’s friend, army veteran Pete ‘Macca’ Maccasfield, is murdered, and her world is suddenly turned upside down.

Despite warnings from the city police to keep out of it, Judi can’t help but get involved in the search for Macca’s killer. But she soon becomes deeply entangled with some ruthlessly dangerous men. She must act fast and think smart to work out what they want – before anyone else gets hurt…

Dead and Gone_Sherryl Clark cover

Guest Post

Crime writing is not my only job

Despite what readers might think, writers come from all kinds of backgrounds and have done dozens of different jobs on their way to writing (and many keep working to support their writing). It’s fascinating to see what people did before their novels sold well enough to earn them a living!

Ann Cleeves studied English at college but dropped out and had a number of different jobs such as cook, auxiliary coastguard, childcare officer, library outreach worker and probation officer. All of these have given her plenty of ideas for characters and crime situations. Her husband was an ornithologist so she includes lots of detailed bird references.

Val McDermid grew up in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, and studied English at Oxford University. She trained as a journalist and worked on various national newspapers for 14 years before becoming a fiction writer. After her first novel was rejected many times, an actor friend read it and encouraged her to make it into a play, which was then performed at the Plymouth Theatre Company. However, Val has never been a psychologist or a police detective!

Before becoming a full-time novelist, Ian Rankin worked as a grape picker, swineherd, taxman, alcohol researcher, hi-fi journalist, college secretary and punk musician in a band called the Dancing Pigs. He’s also taught at university.

Michael Robotham began as a journalism cadet in Sydney, Australia. He spent many years as a journalist, mostly in the UK where he eventually became Deputy Features Editor of the Mail on Sunday. After resigning he freelanced for a while and then began ghostwriting. He’s written the life stories of fifteen different people, including many celebrities. After he returned to Australia in 1996, he started writing fiction and his first crime novel was accepted for publication in 2002.

Like some of these writers, I’ve done quite a few different jobs over the years. I initially trained as a librarian – the best way to get my hands on lots of new books to read. I’ve also worked in lots of pubs and restaurants over the years, including one in London where I was doing 60-hour weeks for about 16 pounds! I’ve also been a secretary, a hospital cleaner (the only job I’ve been fired from, I think), a teacher and a community arts worker.

It’s funny how many little bits of these jobs creep into my stories. In Trust Me, I’m Dead and Dead and Gone, my character Judi has owned and worked in a pub and ends up working in the one in Candlebark. My waitressing days included good and bad experiences with chefs, some of whom threw tantrums almost as bad as Gordon Ramsay, so I’ve created a chef who’s just a little temperamental.

As I grew up on a farm, and lived in a very small place, I often use that sense of ‘everyone knows your business’ in my novels set in the country. There’s nothing like gossip and the country shop or pub as the centre of the community to make sure all the inhabitants are involved – and are potential suspects, too.

 

Thank you Sherryl for telling us a bit about how your life experiences have influenced your writing.

 

The paperback will come out end of August but the e-book is available to buy now. Click here.

 

The Author

Sherryl Clark photo

Sherryl Clark has had 40 children’s and YA books published in Australia, and several in the US and UK, plus collections of poetry and four verse novels. She has taught writing at
Holmesglen TAFE and Victoria University. She recently completed a Master of Fine Arts
program at Hamline University, Minnesota, and is now studying for a PhD in creative writing. Sherryl’s debut novel, Trust Me, I’m Dead, was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger. It is the first novel in the Judi Westerholme series, followed by Dead and Gone.

West Barnes Library Author Event Coming Up Soon! @GJMinett @TMLoganAuthor @WhittyAuthor @ZaffreBooks @MertonLibraries #SummerReading #WestBarnesLibrary

Summer Reading event

In just under two weeks on Tuesday 14th July, we’ll be having our next author event in conjunction with the Friends of West Barnes Library. Of course, current circumstances mean that we can’t meet as normal so we’re moving online to Facebook Live. It’s very simple to join in although you do have to be on Facebook. Just like the Friends of West Barnes Library page and then watch us on Tuesday 14th July at 7.30pm. Joining us will be TM Logan, GJ Minett and Chris Whitaker. To give you a flavour of their books, I have some reviews for you.

 

The Catch by TM Logan

The Blurb

She says he’s perfect. I know he’s lying . . .

He caught me watching, and our eyes met. That was when it hit me.
There was something not quite right about my daughter’s new boyfriend . . .

The doting father

Ed finally meets his daughter’s boyfriend for the first time. Smart, successful and handsome, Ryan appears to be a real catch. Then Abbie announces their plan to get married.

The perfect fiancé

There’s just one problem. Ed thinks Ryan is lying to them.

Who would you believe?

All of Ed’s instincts tell him his daughter is in terrible danger – but no-one else can see it. With the wedding date approaching fast, Ed sets out to uncover Ryan’s secrets, before it’s too late . . .

 

My Review

I have to confess this is only the second book I’ve read by TM Logan. I read The Holiday last summer and was instantly hooked by his writing. I’m happy to report that The Catch is just as gripping!

The Catch probably comes under the psychological thriller genre but I think it could easily fit into the sub-genre of domestic noir. It’s rare for a man to write in this area, even rarer to have a male protagonist. And rarest of all, it works brilliantly. Ed’s a typical father – over-protective of his daughter, Abbie. It’s going to take a remarkable man to win Ed’s approval as a son-in-law. Abbie thinks she’s found that in Ryan. Ed’s not so sure. And so the story begins.

I thought I knew how this book would go but I was so wrong. I was genuinely surprised by the twists and turns and even shocked at one point. I heard TM Logan say that he loosely based Abbie on his own daughter so those fatherly concerns feel very real. I’m not sure if that reassures his daughter or not!

I liked the setting of Nottingham and the Peak District. Having visited the latter a couple of times for holidays, I could tell that TM Logan has done his research. The wild expanse added to the tension of the story and I could easily imagine those scenes.

The Catch is very different to The Holiday and shows TM Logan’s versatility as a writer. I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next!

 

The Syndicate by GJ Minett

The Blurb

YOU THINK YOU’RE FREE, BUT THEY’LL NEVER LET YOU LEAVE . . .

Twenty years ago, Jon Kavanagh worked for a crime syndicate.
Then one night he made a mistake.
He left a witness at a crime scene. Alive.

Now, he is haunted by the memories of that young girl. Her face a constant reminder of the life he chose to leave behind. Time has passed and now he wants answers: What ever happened to her?

Anna Hill is an aspiring singer, but the bars and clubs she works in are far from exciting. When she is given the opportunity to work in Portugal, she takes it. This is her chance to finally kick-start her career.

But the job offer comes at a price; one that will endanger the lives of those she knows, and those she doesn’t. Becoming involved with the Syndicate is risky, and Anna will need her instincts to work out who to trust – and who not to . . .

 

My Review

The Syndicate tells the story of Jon Kavanagh, former hitman. He’s unique. He’s managed to escape the Syndicate and has been out of their clutches for twenty years now. Or so he thinks. But his last job still haunts him and time is running out for him to make amends.

On the face of it, I’m not sure this would be my normal read but I was drawn into it. Rather than chapters there are sections with different points of view, places and timeframes. It took me a while to get used to this. It was a bit like taking the layers off a pass the parcel, not knowing if a treat or a forfeit was waiting for you. And for Jon, there are definitely more forfeits than treats.

Hitmen aren’t always particularly likeable let alone loveable (except maybe Jason Bourne) but there’s something about Jon Kavanagh that makes you warm to him. Maybe it’s the remorse he shows for his final job for the Syndicate. Maybe it’s his traumatic childhood. Maybe it’s the injuries he sustained as a soldier. GJ Minett has pulled off the feat of making what should be a reprehensible character as someone you’d want fighting your corner.

I don’t want to say too much but the ending was not what I expected. But like so often with pass the parcels, that final layer doesn’t always reveal what you want.

 

We Begin At The End by Chris Whitaker

The Blurb

Thirty years ago, Vincent King became a killer.

Now, he’s been released from prison and is back in his hometown of Cape Haven, California. Not everyone is pleased to see him. Like Star Radley, his ex-girlfriend, and sister of the girl he killed.

Duchess Radley, Star’s thirteen-year-old daughter, is part-carer, part-protector to her younger brother, Robin – and to her deeply troubled mother. But in trying to protect Star, Duchess inadvertently sets off a chain of events that will have tragic consequences not only for her family, but also the whole town.

Murder, revenge, retribution.

‘You can’t save someone that doesn’t want to be saved . . .’

 

My Review

I never find it particularly easy to find the right words for reviews. It becomes even harder when the book shines with such brilliance. Tall Oaks showed us that Chris Whitaker can write a darkly comedic Crime story. All the Wicked Girls had the humour stripped away revealing a beautifully written tragic tale. I didn’t think it was possible for Chris Whitaker to step it up but he has in We Begin At The End. I read it slowly, desperate to eek it out, longing for it not to end.

Whitaker immerses us in the lives of Duchess Day Radley and her younger brother, Robin. Aged 13 and 5 respectively at the beginning of the story, their lot in life is pretty bad. Their mum, Star, is in a bad way and so Duchess looks after her little brother. They get by – just. Until one night when a beaten-up Star returns from her bartending job at a local club. Duchess makes a decision which leads to a chain of catastrophic events for her family and her home town of Cape Haven. Chief Walker, known as Walk, is the other main narrator who has to battle his childhood loyalties with justice and his failing body. I don’t want to tell you too much more about the plot as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.

I found myself totally wrapped up in these characters’ lives. I didn’t want it to end. It was like having a slice of the best chocolate cake in the world and choosing not to gobble it down in one go but eating just a small amount each time. And when I did finally finish reading it at bedtime, my husband looked at me and said, “Well, you won’t be going to sleep just yet.” My emotion was clear and if he hadn’t been there, I probably would have sobbed.

But it’s not just the characters and the plot that make this book so special. It’s the actual writing. All of Chris’ books have been set in small town America so his words have that lilting American tone. There were times when I just stopped reading because of the beauty of the words. As I’ve read a proof I’m not really allowed to quote but this sentence is so incredible and it doesn’t give any spoilers (and I checked with Chris’ editor).

‘At Caroga Plain a man with a guitar got on and asked the few if they minded and they all shook their heads so he sang about golden slumbers, his voice rough but something in it stripping the roof from the old bus and letting the stars fall in.’

See what I mean? How am I supposed to write a review that does this book justice? The truth is, I can’t. There is only one word I can give it – extraordinary. But more than that, Chris Whitaker is an extraordinary writer.

 

So as you can see, we have three very special books to discuss with our authors. Normally we have the books available to buy on the night but of course we can’t do that. Here are the Amazon links but maybe check out your newly-opened independent bookshops as well.

TM Logan – The Catch

GJ Minett – pre order for 9th July The Syndicate

Chris Whitaker – We Begin At The End

Hope you can join us on the 14th July at 7.30pm (BST) on Facebook Live. Apologies, especially to the authors, that I can’t give you all cookies!

Blog tour – Monstrous Souls by Rebecca Kelly @RKellyAuthor1 @AgoraBooksLdn #MonstrousSouls

Monstrous Soul Blog Tour Image

Today it’s my turn to share Monstrous Souls with you. Many thanks to Peyton Stableford at Agora Books for inviting me to take part. I was instantly intrigued by the premise for Rebecca Kelly’s debut novel. Before I give you my review, here’s the blurb.

 

The Blurb

What if you knew the truth but couldn’t remember?
Over a decade ago, Heidi was the victim of a brutal attack that left her hospitalised, her younger sister missing, and her best friend dead. But Heidi doesn’t remember any of that. She’s lived her life since then with little memory of her friends and family and no recollection of the crime.

Now, it’s all starting to come back.

As Heidi begins retracing the events that lead to the assault, she is forced to confront the pain and guilt she’s long kept buried. But Heidi isn’t the only one digging up the past, and the closer she gets to remembering the truth, the more danger she’s in.

When the truth is worse than fiction, is the past worth reliving?

An addictive thriller about a case gone cold and the dangers lurking on our doorsteps, Monstrous Souls will have you gripped to the very end.

Monstrous Souls eBook Cover

My Review

Imagine waking up after a terrible incident and finding you have no memory of what happened and little more of your life. Surely that must be one of your worst nightmares. For Heidi though, the nightmare begins when she starts to remember.

Monstrous Souls is told with three different points of view and in two timeframes – 2001 and 2016. Cleverly, Rebecca Kelly often shows us the actual events in 2001 and then we see how Heidi remembers and handles the memories in 2016. Heidi would prefer to push the rising images away but she knows she has to find justice for her friend Nina and discover what happened to her younger sister, Anna.

One thing I liked in particular in this story was the contrast between the hot summer of 2001 and the cold early winter of 2016. The heat gave the sense of brewing tensions until they reached boiling point. The cold created a chilling atmosphere where a stranger plays ‘cat and mouse’ with Heidi, ever creeping nearer.

This wasn’t always an easy read. As the title suggests, we’re dealing with some awful people here. However, Rebecca Kelly has written this with great sensitivity. I had to read on to discover the truth with Heidi. A compelling debut novel.

 

 

The Author

Rebecca Kelly Author Photo

Rebecca Kelly was brought up with books but denied the pleasure of a television. Although she hated this at the time, she now considers it to have contributed to a life-long passion for reading and writing.
After a misspent education, Rebecca had a variety of jobs. She’s spent the last years raising her children but has lately returned to her first love – writing.
Rebecca lives in the UK with her husband and youngest son and an over-enthusiastic black Labrador, who gives her writing tips.

 

Blog Tour – Strangers by C.L. Taylor @callytaylor @AvonBooksUK @SanjanaCunniah

Strangers_blog-tour-banner-5

I’m thrilled to be taking part in what is possibly the longest blog tour on record! I think the sheer amount of bloggers who wanted to join in promoting Strangers shows how much love there is for C.L. Taylor. Thank you to Sanjana Cunniah at Avon for inviting me to take part. Before I give you my thoughts, here’s the blurb.

 

The Blurb

Ursula, Gareth and Alice have never met before.

Ursula thinks she killed the love of her life.
Gareth’s been receiving strange postcards.
And Alice is being stalked.

None of them are used to relying on others – but when the three strangers’ lives unexpectedly collide, there’s only one thing for it: they have to stick together. Otherwise, one of them will die.

Three strangers, two secrets, one terrifying evening.

Strangers cover

My Review

I adore C.L. Taylor’s books. What I love most is that she takes the most ordinary of characters although ironically, since Covid-19, these three appear more heroic than they might have done. Ursula is a delivery driver and most definitely a key worker in today’s society. Gareth is a security guard at a local shopping centre and Alice is the manager of one of the clothes shops in the same place. Just three people who don’t know each other, getting on with their lives.

Although they may seem ordinary, they all have things going on. Alice, recently divorced, finds herself at the mercy of a stalker. Ursula is kicked out of her home by her friend and has to find somewhere new to live. Gareth has issues at work as well as dealing with his mother who’s suffering from dementia. For me, this is where C.L. Taylor excels. She takes characters already under pressure and cranks up the tension more. I liked the way the chapters swapped between Alice, Ursula and Gareth and I was always left wanting more from each individual thread. Although there is a prologue at the beginning giving a hint of what’s to come, I honestly had no idea where the story was heading and how the three characters would finally come together.

Although the book is largely about Alice, Gareth and Ursula, there is an underlying thread about a possible murderer. This is kept pretty low-key but I would have liked a bit more about it. Overall, this is another excellent book from C.L. Taylor. Ordinary people put in extraordinary circumstances, pushed to breaking point – it’s what C.L. Taylor does best!

 

You can buy Strangers here.

 

The Author

C.L. Taylor

C.L. Taylor is a Sunday Times bestselling author. Her psychological thrillers have sold over a million copies in the UK alone, been translated into over twenty languages, and optioned for television. Her 2019 novel, Sleep, was a Richard and Judy pick. C.L. Taylor lives in Bristol with her partner and son.

Review – Leonard and Hungry Paul by Ronan Hession @MumblinDeafRo @Ofmooseandmen @JanetEmson #LeonardAndHungryPaul

One thing I’m grateful for during lockdown is reading. Thankfully I’ve still been able to read although I know there are plenty of people who’ve found it difficult. I’ve still been tucking into my Crime and thrillers but I saw a competition tweet from the lovely Janet Emson on Twitter and on a whim I entered. Very surprisingly I won and my prize was Leonard and Hungry Paul. Now I know that Janet has been raving about this book for months so I decided to read it as soon as it arrived. So huge thanks to Janet! Before I give you my thoughts, here’s the blurb.

 

The Blurb

LEONARD AND HUNGRY PAUL is the story of two friends who ordinarily would remain uncelebrated. It finds a value and specialness in them that is not immediately apparent and prompts the idea that maybe we could learn from the people that we overlook in life. Leonard and Hungry Paul change the world differently to the rest of us: we try and change it by effort and force; they change it by discovering the small things they can do well and offering them to others.

Leonard and Hungry Paul

My Review

If you’re an avid book reader then you’ll probably know the ‘first line’ game where classic books are instantly recognisable from their opening sentence. I’d like to think in a few years’ time that Leonard and Hungry Paul will be added to that list with these immortal words:

‘Leonard was raised by his mother alone with cheerfully concealed difficulty, his father having died tragically during childbirth.’

Of course, the name ‘Leonard’ would be a massive clue but I certainly read this line twice and a wry smile appeared on my lips. It beautifully sets the tone of the book. As the blurb states, Leonard and Hungry Paul would normally be overlooked in society apart from their nearest and dearest. There’s nothing that sets them apart and yet, as we discover, these two men have much to give.

There’s not a plot as such but the story is leading up to Hungry Paul’s sister’s wedding. Although Leonard and Hungry Paul are the chief narrators, we also hear from Hungry Paul’s parents, Peter and Helen, and his sister, Grace. Like One Christmas Night by Hayley Webster, this book excels in observation. There were times when I laughed out loud and others when I winced with all too honest pain. So different from my normal choice, it’s gentle, funny, brutally honest but full of hope. For those of you wanting something to soothe you during this troubled time, I don’t think there’s a better book you could read.

But I think there’s a message in here for all of us, myself included, and that’s not to overlook the quiet people on the fringe. The ones who may not have the best fashion sense or know how to handle themselves at the Christmas party. For as the blurb says, it’s these people who will change the world ‘through their appreciation of all that is special and overlooked in life’.

You can buy Leonard and Hungry Paul direct from the publishers, Bluemoose Books here.

Or here.

 

The Author

Ronan Hession lives in Dublin with his partner and two children. His band Mumblin’ Def Ro was shortlisted for The CHOICE MUSIC awards.

 

 

Review – Grave’s End by William Shaw @william1shaw @riverrunbooks @QuercusBooks #GravesEnd

A big thank you to Riverrun at Quercus Books for giving me the opportunity to read and review Grave’s End, the latest book in the DS Alex Cupidi series by William Shaw. Before I give you my thoughts, here’s the blurb.

The Blurb

A BIZARRE DISCOVERY

An unidentified cadaver is found in a freezer in an unoccupied luxury house. No-one seems to know or care who it is or who placed it there. When DS Alexandra Cupidi is handed the case, she can have no idea it will lead her to a series of murderous cover-ups and buried secrets. Namely the discovery of the skeleton of public-school boy, Trevor Grey, beneath a housing development.

A HISTORIC CRIME

His disappearance twenty five years earlier had almost passed unnoticed. But as evidence surfaces that his fate was linked to long suppressed rumours of sexual abuse, Cupidi, her teenage daughter Zoe and her friend Bill South find themselves up against powerful forces who will try to silence them.
A BURIED LIFE

Digging deep into the secrets that are held underground leads to Cupidi’s realisation that crime and power are seldom far apart. There are dangerous connections between the two cases, which are complicated by Constable Jill Ferriter’s dating habits, a secret liaison and the underground life of Trevor Grey’s only friend.

The most riveting and atmospheric DS Alexandra Cupidi novel so far, Grave’s End confronts the crisis in housing, environmental politics, the protection given to badgers by the law. With meticulously mastered characters and a brooding setting, this third book in the series confirms William Shaw as one of the finest crime writers.

Grave's End

My Review

Ever since meeting DS Alex Cupidi in The Birdwatcher, she’s become my favourite female fictional detective. I’ve read all the books she’s featured in and it feels as though she’s finally more settled in Dungeness. She’s less worried about her work colleagues and her reputation and more focused on her family and friends. She may be the main character in Grave’s End  but she’s not the star. That role falls to the badger. Yes, you heard me correctly. When I first found out that one of the narrator’s was going to be a badger, I was a little surprised. However, William Shaw has absolutely pulled this off and those chapters were my favourite.

But of course, Grave’s End isn’t just about a badger. An amorous estate agent and his girlfriend find a body in a freezer in a large, empty house up for sale. This kicks off a story about house building on the greenbelt and the environmental impact – particularly on badgers – but also deals with corruption, bullying, and of course, murder.

Grave’s End is ingeniously plotted and there are more twists and turns than the rollercoaster at Margate Dreamland. And if it wasn’t for the badger, the truth may never have been discovered. William Shaw’s books have featured in my top ten reads for the last three years. I don’t see that changing this year. A brilliant read.

 

Grave’s End is due for publication in HB on July 23rd. To buy the currently available e-book click here.

 

The Author

William Shaw

William Shaw has been shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger, longlisted for the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year and the CWA Gold Dagger, and nominated for a Barry Award. A regular at festivals, he organises panel talks and CWA events across the south east.

His DS Alexandra Cupidi series – and the standalone bestseller The Birdwatcher – are set in Dungeness Kent. He also writes the acclaimed Breen & Tozer crime series set in sixties London. He worked as a journalist for over twenty years and lives in Brighton.

Blog Tour – The Weight of Small Things by Julie Lancaster @TheMirrorBooks #TheWeightOfSmallThings

TWOST Blogtour

A big thank you to Mel Sambells at Mirror Books for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for The Weight of Small Things by Julie Lancaster. When Mel sent out the initial email I was very intrigued by the premise of the story. But before I give you my thoughts, here’s the blurb.

 

The Blurb

Nine-year-old Frankie Appleton likes to count gates.

One day she hopes to design the perfect gate – a gate to keep the bad things out.

Little does she know that the bad things have already got in.

Now her mother is dead, and the only other person with a house key has disappeared.

Frankie thinks she knows who it is. But first she has to prove it.

A delicately brutal exploration of what lies behind closed doors, and of the secrets and lies that form the fabric of every family, The Weight of Small Things is as charming as it is chilling.

The Weight of Small Things COVER

 

 

My Review

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of him but there’s a man called Willard Wigan who produces the most incredible sculptures. They’re so tiny they fit on a pinhead or in the eye of a needle. To the naked eye they’re barely there but under a microscope there’s extraordinary detail. I very much had this in mind when I read The Weight of Small Things. This is a book that takes the lives of its characters and puts them under a microscope. Nothing is hidden, everything is laid bare and we see every tiny microscopic detail.

Frankie Appleton is a fairly precocious child. She has a wisdom beyond her years and a fascination for gates. But the battered gate leading to her house can’t keep out bad people and Frankie then has to face a life with no gates at all.

I don’t want to give too much away but Frankie and her mother, Peggy, are the main narrators of this very moving novel. It reminded me of Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson with Frankie taking a similar role to Ruby Lennox in narrating the family story. There are so many themes dealt with in this novel including postnatal depression and domestic abuse. But we don’t just hear from Frankie and Peggy. There are other characters’ stories to read, different patterns in this patchwork quilt of a book. The stories do link but I was left with more questions than answers. There was so much more I wanted to know.

Overall, this is a book that toyed with my emotions on many fronts. I was heartbroken for Frankie who never got the love she deserved from her mother. Peggy’s despair was very real and at times hard to read. Expect to be affected by this book, to be disquieted, to feel downright scared for Frankie. Expect the characters to stay with you for quite some time. Expect to be utterly amazed that this is a debut novel. I look forward to reading more from Julie Lancaster.

 

The e-book of The Weight of Small Things can be bought here.

The paperback will be available in August.

TWOST Blogtour2

 

About the author

Julie Lancaster author photo

Julie Lancaster lives in Staffordshire where she was born. She worked in academic and public libraries – writing in her spare time. She has been a travel agent, a university admissions assistant and a volunteer counsellor. She loves true crime and crime fiction. This is her first novel.

 

 

Review – The Beekeeper of Aleppo @christy_lefteri @ZaffreBooks #TheBeekeeperOf Aleppo

Thank you to Zaffre books for inviting me to read and review The Beekeeper of Aleppo. Before I tell you my thoughts on this wonderful book, here’s the blurb.

 

The Blurb

In the midst of war, he found love
In the midst of darkness, he found courage
In the midst of tragedy, he found hope

The Beekeeper of Aleppo

What will you find from his story?

Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life, rich in family and friends, in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo – until the unthinkable happens. When all they care for is destroyed by war, they are forced to escape.

As Nuri and Afra travel through a broken world, they must confront not only the pain of their own unspeakable loss, but dangers that would overwhelm the bravest of souls. Above all – and perhaps this is the hardest thing they face – they must journey to find each other again.

Moving, powerful, compassionate and beautifully written, The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a testament to the triumph of the human spirit. Told with deceptive simplicity, it is the kind of book that reminds us of the power of storytelling.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo

 

My Review

I’m not sure where to begin in reviewing The Beekeeper of Aleppo. Do I start with the beautiful prose? Or the ingenious way of switching between timeframes? Or the characters who left me heartbroken? Or do I start with, this might be fiction but it’s a very real experience for so many people even as I write this? I think this is the main thing you have to keep in mind the whole time you’re reading this outstanding novel.

Nuri and Afra had a good life in Aleppo. Nuri had a successful beekeeping business with his cousin Mustafa, producing honey and other honey-based products. Afra sold her paintings in the busy marketplace. Their son Sami was an absolute delight. Then the war started. And everything changed.

Christy Lefteri leaves us in no doubt as to the trauma suffered by Nuri and his family. But it doesn’t end with the war. In an attempt to reach safety, we travel with Nuri through battlefields and navigate treacherous seas. Then there’s the people whose hearts aren’t filled with altruism but greed. There were times when it was almost unbearable to read and that’s where Christy Lefteri’s beautiful prose came into play. Her words led me through the worst times.

I think reading this during lockdown heightened the experience for me. At first I wasn’t sure if I should read it during such a stressful time. However The Beekeeper of Aleppo helped to put things into perspective for me. All I have to do is stay home (I know this isn’t the same for so many keyworkers). I don’t have to flee my home, my country, with only a few belongings. I don’t have to trust people who you wouldn’t normally trust to feed your cat. I don’t have to cross a sea in a small boat with many other people or live in a camp or a park. The Beekeeper of Aleppo left me counting my blessings with a tear in my eye. A stunning read. Thank you for letting me read it.

To buy The Beekeeper of Aleppo click here

Or contact your local bookshop to see if they have a delivery service available during this time.

The Author

Christy Lefteri

Brought up in London, Christy Lefteri is the child of Cypriot refugees. She is a lecturer in creative writing at Brunel University. The Beekeeper of Aleppo was born out of her time working as a volunteer at a Unicef supported refugee centre in Athens.

 

 

Review – A Deeper Song by Rebecca Bradley @RebeccaJBradley #ADeeperSong

First off I’d like to thank Rebecca Bradley for sending me a copy of her latest DI Hannah Robbins novel – A Deeper Song. Second I need to apologise that it’s taken me so long to read and review! Before I share my thoughts, here’s the blurb.

 

The Blurb

How do you fight someone you can’t see?

Detective Inspector Hannah Robbins finds herself on the most perilous case of her career when a young man darts in front of her car. He’s covered in someone else’s blood and has no memory of how he got there.

Digging up the man’s past puts Hannah on a collision course with a dangerous stranger who wants history to remain hidden and who will stop at nothing to keep his secret.

Hannah finds herself in the biggest fight of her life.

Is this finally a case too far?

 

A Deeper Song

 

My Review

I really like this series not least because it’s written by a former police officer. There’s attention to detail without it being laborious and I always learn something new. This time it’s the reason why clothes go in a paper evidence bag and not a plastic one. Fabric in a sealed plastic bag can sweat and corrupt the evidence. But let’s talk about the actual story.

When Hannah accidentally hits a young man who runs out in front of her car, it sets off a chain of events that will place her in danger. It’s a case that will stretch Hannah and her team to breaking point. Along with that, Hannah has to address the subject of her estranged sister.

During this lockdown period, I’ve not found it easy to read. However as I’ve read most of the DI Robbins series, I know the characters well and it’s been easy to slip back into their world. Hannah has faced a number of different challenging cases but this is the most precarious one yet. I don’t want to give too much away but this book kept me reading into the night, something I’ve not done for a while.

Rebecca Bradley’s writing style makes this so easy to read. As I’ve already said, I learn vital things about police procedure from Rebecca’s novels but it’s never an info dump. The procedure is weaved seamlessly into the story so it continuously flows. A Deeper Song had me gripped from the beginning to the end. I hope Rebecca Bradley has more cases for Hannah and her team to solve.

You can buy A Deeper Song here.

 

The Author

Rebecca Bradley

Rebecca Bradley is a retired police detective. She lives in the UK with her family and her two cockapoo’s Alfie and Lola, who keep her company while she writes. Rebecca needs to drink copious amounts of tea to function throughout the day and if she could, she would survive on a diet of tea and cake while committing murder on a regular basis, in her writing of course.

She writes the DI Hannah Robbins police procedural series and has also released two standalone novels, Dead Blind, about a cop who acquires prosopagnosia, also known as face blindness and Perfect Murder about a crime writer who wonders if she could commit the perfect murder so sets out to see.

Sign up to her readers’ club for a FREE novella, the prequel to Hannah Robbins series. Find it on the blog at rebeccabradleycrime.com You’ll also be provided exclusive content and giveaways.