Book Review – When I Was Ten by Fiona Cummins @FionaAnnCummins @panmacmillan

Happy publication day to Fiona Cummins for When I Was Ten. I had an early proof copy (pre-covid) as this book was originally due for release last August. I can tell you now though, this book is worth the wait. Before I give you my thoughts, here’s the blurb.

 

The Blurb


Twenty-one years ago, Dr Richard Carter and his wife Pamela were killed in what has become the most infamous double murder of the modern age.

Their ten year-old daughter – nicknamed the Angel of Death – spent eight years in a children’s secure unit and is living quietly under an assumed name with a family of her own.

Now, on the anniversary of the trial, a documentary team has tracked down her older sister, compelling her to break two decades of silence.

Her explosive interview sparks national headlines and journalist Brinley Booth, a childhood friend of the Carter sisters, is tasked with covering the news story.

For the first time, the three women are forced to confront what really happened that night – with devastating consequences for them all.

When I Was Ten

My Review

Model parents, Dr Richard Carter and his wife, Pamela, were brutally murdered by one of their young daughters. It shocked the country then and twenty one years on, the public are still fascinated by this macabre murder. A documentary is planned, including an interview with one of the sisters who is finally breaking her silence.

Brinley Booth, a reporter, is tasked by her paper to cover the story. But Brinley has an edge on all the other journalists – she knew the Carter sisters when they were children, growing up together in the same town.

I’ve read all of Fiona’s books and the one thing that links the first three – Rattle, The Collector and The Neighbour – is an incredibly creepy atmosphere. When I Was Ten is different. It’s disturbingly real. If you saw the BBC2 drama, Responsible Child, then you’ll have some idea what to expect. It’s still on iPlayer and well worth a watch.

As per usual, Fiona Cummins’ storytelling is breath-taking. Told in three sections of Who, Why and When, the story unfolds with two timelines and different voices – including one of the sisters and their childhood friend. It’s a tale of secrets, abuse and loyalty.

I actually read When I Was Ten at Christmas 2019 as it was originally due for a 2020 release. I thought I’d written a review at the time but when I checked, I saw I’d only written a couple of paragraphs. I couldn’t understand why I’d done that. So I decided to re-read the book and did so in a day. Then I remembered. I had no words then and little more now. How do I begin to tell you about this incredible book that played out so vividly in my mind? There are of course the excellent twists, the scarily believable plot, characters so real you could almost reach out and touch them. The first time I read this book, I did so slowly, drinking it all in. The second time I was on a deadline so I read quickly. But the impact was still the same. The emotional heft was not lost. I was just as invested the second time of reading as the first, if not more so. And I think that’s what I couldn’t describe over a year ago.

In January, I reviewed another book and said I had a dilemma. It was very early in the year to be using the ‘E’ word, not least because I had already read another novel that was worthy of it. And here it is. So, my top ten reads will look a little different this year because I have to use this word for When I Was Ten. Extraordinary.

You can buy When I Was Ten here. Or if you would like a signed copy then click here to see if copies are still available.

 

The Author

fionacummins_378

Fiona Cummins is an award-winning former Daily Mirror showbusiness journalist and a graduate of the Faber Academy Writing A Novel course. Rattle, her debut novel, has been translated into several languages and received widespread critical acclaim from authors including Val McDermid, Lee Child and Martina Cole. Marcel Berlins wrote in The Times: ‘Amid the outpouring of crime novels, Rattle is up there with the best of them.’
Fiona was selected for McDermid’s prestigious New Blood panel at the 2017 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, where her novel was nominated for a Dead Good Reader Award for Most Exceptional Debut. A sequel, The Collector, was published in February 2018 and David Baldacci described it as ‘A crime novel of the very first order’. Rattle and The Collector are now being adapted into a TV series by the Tiger Aspect, the producers of Peaky Blinders.
Her third novel – standalone thriller The Neighbour – was published in April 2019. Ian Rankin described it as ‘creepy as hell’. Her fourth novel When I Was Ten will be published in April 2021.
When Fiona is not writing, she can be found on Twitter, eating biscuits or walking her dogs. She lives in Essex with her family.

Book Review – #TrustMe by @TMLoganAuthor @ZaffreBooks

Happy publication day to T.M. Logan for Trust Me. Thank you to Zaffre Books for allowing me to read an early copy via NetGalley. Before I give you my review, here’s the blurb.

The Blurb

TWO STRANGERS, A CHILD, AND A SPLIT SECOND CHOICE THAT WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING . . .

Ellen was just trying to help a stranger. That was how it started: giving a few minutes respite to a flustered young mother sitting opposite her on the train. A few minutes holding her baby while the mother makes an urgent call. The weight of the child in her arms making Ellen’s heart ache for what she can never have.

Five minutes pass.
Ten.

The train pulls into a station and Ellen is stunned to see the mother hurrying away down the platform, without looking back. Leaving her baby behind. Ellen is about to raise the alarm when she discovers a note in the baby’s bag, three desperate lines scrawled hastily on a piece of paper:

Please protect Mia
Don’t trust the police
Don’t trust anyone

Why would a mother abandon her child to a stranger? Ellen is about to discover that the baby in her arms might hold the key to an unspeakable crime. And doing the right thing might just cost her everything . . .

Trust Me

My Review

This is the third T.M. Logan book I’ve read and I think it’s my favourite one so far. Ellen Devlin is on a train back to London after being told the devastating news that she can not have children. It’s almost too much to bear when a young woman sits opposite her with a gorgeous baby girl. Despite her pain, Ellen can’t resist the smiley baby and when the young woman asks Ellen to hold her while she takes a phone call, Ellen is more than willing to help. But when Ellen sees the young woman get off at the next station, she wonders just what has she agreed to.

I loved this book mainly because I couldn’t work out what was going on! There is clearly something special about baby Mia because quite a few people seem to be after her. Is she a clone (seriously, I did consider this) or important in another scientific way, like gene therapy (I also thought this)? Or is there an angry, deranged father who wants to hurt her? T.M. Logan throws up so many ideas that it’s hard to know which one to catch.

The writing is superb and the tension remains strong throughout. Ellen is a great character. She used to be in the Royal Navy so she can definitely handle herself. And just as well. There are quite a few action scenes.

Although Ellen is the main narrator, we do hear from others in the story. But which narrator do we believe? Who can we trust? More importantly, who can Ellen trust?

Trust Me is a fast-paced, intriguing story that will keep you guessing until the end.

You can buy Trust Me here. Or check out your nearest independent bookshop.

The Author

T.M. Logan

TM Logan’s thrillers have sold more than a million copies in the UK and are published in 19 countries around the world including the USA, South Korea, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Hungary, Serbia, Romania, Greece and the Netherlands.

Tim’s brand new thriller, TRUST ME, begins when a woman is asked to look after a stranger’s baby on a train – only for the mother to vanish. When she looks in the baby’s things, she finds a note that says: ‘Please protect Mia. Don’t trust the police. Don’t trust anyone.’ TRUST ME will be published in the UK on 18th March, 2021.

His previous novel, THE CATCH, is about a father who becomes convinced his daughter is about to marry a man with terrible secrets. Terrified that his cherished only child is about to marry a man who is not what he seems, Ed sets out to uncover the truth – before it’s too late…

His thriller THE HOLIDAY was a Richard & Judy Book Club pick and spent ten weeks in the Sunday Times paperback top ten. THE HOLIDAY takes place over a sweltering summer week in the south of France, as four best friends see the holiday of a lifetime turn into a nightmare of suspicion, betrayal and murder. Tim’s debut LIES was one of Amazon’s biggest selling e-books of 2017 and was followed by 29 SECONDS in 2018.

Tim was a national newspaper journalist before turning to novel-writing full time. He lives in Nottinghamshire with his wife and two children, and writes in a cabin at the bottom of his garden.

For exclusive writing, new releases and a FREE deleted scene from Tim, sign up to the Readers’ Club: http://www.bit.ly/TMLogan. You can also follow him on Twitter @TMLoganAuthor, find him on Facebook at /TMLoganAuthor, on Instagram @TMLoganAuthor or on his website at http://www.tmlogan.com

Book Review – The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel @4thEstateBooks #TheMirrorAndTheLight

In some ways, Hilary Mantel doesn’t really need a review from me. But after spending two months reading The Mirror and the Light, I feel as though I should share my thoughts. It’s been a real time investment! Just in case you don’t already know, here’s the blurb.

 

The Blurb

‘If you cannot speak truth at a beheading, when can you speak it?’

England, May 1536. Anne Boleyn is dead, decapitated in the space of a heartbeat by a hired French executioner. As her remains are bundled into oblivion, Thomas Cromwell breakfasts with the victors. The blacksmith’s son from Putney emerges from the spring’s bloodbath to continue his climb to power and wealth, while his formidable master, Henry VIII, settles to short-lived happiness with his third queen, Jane Seymour.

Cromwell is a man with only his wits to rely on; he has no great family to back him, no private army. Despite rebellion at home, traitors plotting abroad and the threat of invasion testing Henry’s regime to breaking point, Cromwell’s robust imagination sees a new country in the mirror of the future. But can a nation, or a person, shed the past like a skin? Do the dead continually unbury themselves? What will you do, the Spanish ambassador asks Cromwell, when the king turns on you, as sooner or later he turns on everyone close to him?

With The Mirror and the Light, Hilary Mantel brings to a triumphant close the trilogy she began with Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. She traces the final years of Thomas Cromwell, the boy from nowhere who climbs to the heights of power, offering a defining portrait of predator and prey, of a ferocious contest between present and past, between royal will and a common man’s vision: of a modern nation making itself through conflict, passion and courage.

The Mirror and the Light

My Review

The name ‘Thomas Cromwell’ has become synonymous with two very different people in recent years. I’m not sure anyone will forget the shock on Danny Dyer’s face when he was told on Who Do You Think You Are? that he was related to Thomas Cromwell and then through his son, Gregory, related to royalty. In some ways, Danny Dyer is the epitome of young Thomas Cromwell, the lad from Putney with humble beginnings; the rough diamond just waiting to be cut and polished, the spark of brilliance already showing. Then, of course, we have Hilary Mantel. Her Wolf Hall trilogy has done more for Thomas Cromwell’s reputation than the best PR company ever could. Instead of just being the man who got rid of the monasteries and lost his head over his Anne of Cleves blunder, Hilary Mantel has made him a very real and complex figure.

The story begins where it ended in Bring Up The Bodies – a sword slicing through the air, taking Anne Boleyn’s head off. Cromwell’s position is now secure. By writing in the present tense, we, the readers, are immediately there in Tudor England, the action happening all around us. Although some characters are fictional, there are plenty of familiar historical names – Thomas Howard – the Duke of Norfolk, Charles Brandon – the Duke of Suffolk and Thomas Cranmer – the Archbishop of Canterbury. Of course, foremost, is Henry VIII. Mantel has created a very complicated Henry – a real mixture of self-importance and vulnerability, and open to manipulation with the right whispers in his ear. I can’t help but wonder how much Henry regretted his decision to execute his right-hand man. Without doubt, no one else ever had as much power as Cromwell did during the rest of Henry’s reign.

This is a beast of a book and could easily have been three, making it a five part series instead of a trilogy. It would probably have earnt Hilary Mantel a lot more money if she had done so. As it stands, this third instalment is the equivalent of an eight course menu, with each dish as large and rich as the one before. I have to be honest and say I took a break halfway through as I had another book to read and review. The break did me good. Instead of feeling bogged down, I came back to it fresh and continued to enjoy the Tudor world. As the end approached, I found I didn’t want to leave that world, not least because I knew what the end would bring. 

So I’m bereft at leaving Thomas Cromwell behind. He may not be fully redeemed but I think he’s more understood. And in the historical notes at the end, Hilary Mantel cleared up something I had always wondered about. It turns out Thomas Cromwell was an ancestor of Oliver Cromwell. It’s ironic to think that after the worries and concerns of the nobility that Thomas Cromwell wanted to rule England himself, one of his descendants managed to do so. Of course, trying to turn Oliver Cromwell into a likeable figure might be a step too far. He cancelled Christmas after all.

You can buy The Mirror and the Light here. 

 

 

Blog Tour – Yield by @ClaireDyer1 @TwoRiversPress #Yieldpoetry #LGBTQ

Blog Tour - Yield

My thanks to Anne Nolan at Two Rivers Press for sending me a copy of Yield, a poetry collection, to read and review. This will be my last blog tour for a while and fair to say, a very different one. Before I give you my thoughts, here’s what the collection is about.

The Blurb

Three definitions of the word Yield give meaning to the odyssey undergone in Claire Dyer’s third collection: a journey which sees a son become a daughter, and a mother a poet for both of them. Charting these transitions, the poems take us through territories known and familiar landscapes of childhood, family and home into further regions where inner lives alter, outer ones are reimagined. Whether evoking clinic visits, throwing away old boyhood clothes, grieving over what’s lost, these honest and unashamed poems build to celebrate that place at the heart of motherhood where gender is no differentiator and love the gain.

My Thoughts

I’ve put my ‘thoughts’ rather than ‘review’ for a specific reason. I am not a poet. I have attempted them with little success. I’m still not very sure how I managed to get a good grade in my O-Level English Literature paper (yes, I am that old). I hated analysing every line and word looking for meanings that might not actually be there in the first place. I wanted to enjoy the poem as a whole without thinking about alliteration, line length, syllable count etc. When I was asked to review a collection of poems, I hesitated – am I really qualified to do this? In many ways, no. But as a reader I can appreciate the poems as a whole and so my ‘thoughts’ stem from that.

I listened to a radio interview that Claire Dyer did and for her the word ‘yield’ has three meanings that are then reflected in the collection. Firstly, to bring forth, or more specifically, to give birth or life. Secondly to surrender, give in. Lastly, a gain – not a financial one in this instance but an emotional one. As the above blurb says, Yield charts the journey that Claire travelled with her family when her son announced he was transgender. There’s shock, confusion, anxiety, grief and acceptance. As Claire said in her interview, this collection isn’t a political statement. Instead, it’s deeply personal and she had full permission from her family to publish.

There are so many wonderful poems here, and on second reading, I welled up more than the first time. There are lovely little lines such as ‘Etch A Sketch of shopfronts’ from In this town. More than that there’s the emotion that pours out of each poem – the goblin who comes at night to prey upon fear and anxiety, the memories that surface when emptying a wardrobe of clothes no longer needed and the thick skin that arrives like a parcel in the post.

Although the poems are borne out of one specific situation, many could relate to other issues people are going through. My favourite poem is Some Guidance on Leaving where the author goes down to the river and casts all her pain into it. This is a poem for anyone in a difficult situation. Even though I said how much I disliked English Lit., if I were to choose one poem from this collection to be on a GCSE syllabus, it would be this one. It is so beautiful, full of emotion and meaning and I know it’s one that I’ll return to again and again. 

The final poem, Afterword: Like This, highlights the final meaning of ‘yield’ – emotional gain. I’m not too sure what to write about this poem but there’s a sense of peace after being through such a turbulent time and surprise that peace is there at all. It’s the start of something new that will perhaps bring more joy than had life stayed the same.

So those are my thoughts. Thank you Claire for sharing such a difficult but precious time in your life. It would have been so easy to have kept these poems in a notebook. And to steal a refrain from some of your poems, thank you for being brave, wise and kind.

You can buy Yield here.

 

The Author

Claire Dyer

Claire Dyer holds a BA in English & History from the University of Birmingham, an MA in Victorian Literature & Culture from the University of Reading and an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London. She lives in Reading, Berkshire. Yield is her third poetry collection.  

First Monday Crime March Panel with @timglisterbooks @nadinematheson @FemiKay_Author @abigailsdean @LeyeAdenle @1stMondayCrime #RedCorona #TheJigsawMan #Lightseekers #GirlA

Welcome back to First Monday Crime! We took a break over the last couple of months but with spring almost round the corner, it’s time for us to come out of hibernation. And we have the most amazing panel for you. For the first time, all our panellists are debut authors. We’re particularly excited to see new talent emerging at this time. Our panellists are Tim Glister (Red Corona), Nadine Matheson (The Jigsaw Man), Femi Kayode (Lightseekers) and Abigail Dean (Girl A). Leye Adenle is moderating. So please come and join us on Monday 1st March at 7.30pm on our Facebook page where we will be live streaming our event.

To give you a flavour of what to expect I have a review of Red Corona by Tim Glister. Thanks to Margot Weale at OneWorld for a copy of the book. 

The Blurb

It’s 1961 and the white heat of the Space Race is making the Cold War even colder.

Richard Knox is a secret agent in big trouble. He’s been hung out to dry by a traitor in MI5, and the only way to clear his name could destroy him.

Meanwhile in a secret Russian city, brilliant scientist Irina Valera makes a discovery that will change the world, and hand the KGB unimaginable power.

Desperate for a way back into MI5, Knox finds an unlikely ally in Abey Bennett, a CIA recruit who’s determined to prove herself whatever the cost…

As the age of global surveillance dawns, three powers will battle for dominance, and three people will fight to survive…

Red Corona

My Review

I don’t often read spy thrillers but I really enjoyed Red Corona. Set in 1961, things are hotting up in the Cold War and in space. Supremacy in the galactic skies is no longer about scientific research but political power. The world of espionage is more important than ever. But can you really trust the people around you? For Richard Knox (MI5), Abey Bennett (CIA) and Russian scientist, Irina Valera, this is something they’re all about to find out.

Tim Glister skillfully weaves the three threads of the story together until they all culminate at the end. Richard Knox isn’t the typical MI5 recruit. He hasn’t entered the service via the normal route of private school and Oxbridge. Instead he hails from the East End of London. He never really fits in. Abey Bennett also knows what it is to be an outsider. Sick to death of being underestimated by her male colleagues, she takes matters into her hands. Irina Valera is a brilliant scientist who is disillusioned with her Soviet masters. She seizes the chance to change direction in her life but quickly discovers she’s become a pawn, her knowledge valued more than her life. I have to say that Irina’s sections were my favourite parts of the book. She’s a desperate but very clever woman. Her ability to survive kicks in big time.

One thing I particularly liked was the setting of London in the post-war era. London is far from being rebuilt at this moment, especially in the east, and I loved the references to new building projects such as the Barbican. It gives the sense of a country still struggling to recover but recognising that things need to change. In that, it mirrors Knox’s opinion of MI5. The obvious ‘watchers’ who fail to blend in are a sign that the service has to modernise fast if it’s going to keep up with its foreign counterparts.

Overall, this is an intriguing, fast paced, spy thriller that taps in to the paranoia of the Cold War in eloquent fashion. I don’t know what Tim Glister’s plans are but I hope we get to see Richard Knox again.

 

You can buy Red Corona here.

To buy The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson click here. 

To buy Lightseekers by Kemi Kayode click here.

To buy Girl A by Abigail Dean click here.

Or go to uk.bookshop.org to help out independent bookshops or contact your own local bookstore.

 

The Author

Tim Glister

Tim Glister is a novelist who wishes he was a spy. His debut thriller, Red Corona, is about three very different people caught up in the birth of the surveillance age during the height of the Cold War.

  

Book Review – Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd-Robinson @LauraSRobinson @MantleBooks

Happy publication day to Laura Shepherd-Robinson for Daughters of Night. Thanks to Mantle for letting me read an advance copy via NetGalley. Before I give you my thoughts, here’s the blurb.

The Blurb

From the pleasure palaces and gin-shops of Covent Garden to the elegant townhouses of Mayfair, Laura Shepherd-RobinsonDaughters of Night follows Caroline Corsham as she seeks justice for a murdered woman whom London society would rather forget . . .

Lucia’s fingers found her own. She gazed at Caro as if from a distance. Her lips parted, her words a whisper: ‘He knows.’

London, 1782. Desperate for her politician husband to return home from France, Caroline ‘Caro’ Corsham is already in a state of anxiety when she finds a well-dressed woman mortally wounded in the bowers of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. The Bow Street constables are swift to act, until they discover that the deceased woman was a highly paid prostitute, at which point they cease to care entirely. But Caro has motives of her own for wanting to see justice done, and so sets out to solve the crime herself. Enlisting the help of thieftaker Peregrine Child, their inquiry delves into the hidden corners of Georgian society, a world of artifice, deception and secret lives.

But with many gentlemen refusing to speak about their dealings with the dead woman, and Caro’s own reputation under threat, finding the killer will be harder, and more treacherous, than she can know . . .

Daughters of Night

My Review

I loved Laura Shepherd-Robinson’s debut Blood & Sugar and Daughters of Night is even better. Laura’s depth of research comes across well and I felt completely submerged into Georgian London. Just thinking about it now I feel myself pulled back into that world. But if you’re expecting a Jane Austen Georgian view, then think again. Yes, we have the aristocracy and the wealthy but we also have the underbelly of London’s streets. There are three main narrators – Caroline Corsham, wife of Harry Corsham from Blood & Sugar; Peregrine ‘Perry’ Child, former magistrate now turned thieftaker; and Pamela, a young maid who wants more out of life so decides to auction her virtue to the highest bidder. Definitely not Jane Austen!

When Caro discovers the body of a young woman, she’s determined to find the murderer. Her husband is away so she hires Perry Child to help her. Sounds simple enough but when it’s revealed that the young woman was a high-class whore and not the lady Caro thought she was, Caro and Perry find themselves plunged into a very sinister world.

There is so much going on in this novel and I genuinely couldn’t work out who was responsible. Just when I thought I knew, there would be another twist. Even Caro has her own secrets to deal with. This book combines, art, Greek philosophy, the aristocracy, war heroes, whores, taverns, jewellers and banks! And that’s just what I remember!

Caro is a wonderful character. Forget the simpering, modest Georgian wife as Caroline Corsham has a mind of her own and is not afraid to use it. I think I actually prefer her to Harry but I’d love to see them team up together in another book.

This is a truly magnificent novel and deserves to do incredibly well. After reading Daughters of Night, I tried to read a contemporary crime novel but I couldn’t settle to it. Instead I’ve started to read The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel and quite honestly, that should tell you something about the calibre of Laura Shepherd-Robinson’s writing. I eagerly anticipate her next book.

You can buy Daughters of Night here.  Or check out uk.bookshop.org or contact your local bookshop.

 

The Author

Laura Shepherd-Robinson

Laura Shepherd-Robinson was born in Bristol in 1976. She has a BSc in Politics from the University of Bristol and an MSc in Political Theory from the London School of Economics. Laura worked in politics for nearly twenty years before re-entering normal life to complete an MA in Creative Writing at City University. She lives in London with her husband, Adrian.

Well, this is scary… @bookouture

Five years ago on 18th January 2016, I started my blog and gave my first post the exact same title. I didn’t have a clue how to write a blog (still don’t really) so it was very scary putting myself out there. And now, I’ve reached a point where that title is applicable again. Yesterday, Bookouture revealed the cover and title for my debut novel, Last Seen. I still can’t quite believe this is actually happening after working and waiting for so many years. I’m still pinching myself!

Five years ago, I had almost finished my first novel and was starting to write the second. The first book, Unearthed, will actually be staying buried on my computer but it was the second one, originally titled Missing, that’s now going to be published. It’s been rewritten so many times and professionally edited. I think that final edit helped with getting an agent and a book deal. At some point I’ll write more about how I managed to get an agent and a publisher.

Five years ago, life with three children was quite chaotic and in some ways, it still is, especially at the moment with all three of them home! But we’re all in a better position for me to be writing full time. We’re currently having our garden done and hopefully we’ll be getting a summerhouse in the spring for me to work in. I’m very excited about finally having a dedicated place to write.

So things are changing and so will my blog. I have one more blog tour scheduled for February but then I probably won’t do many more after that. I’ll still put up reviews though and posts for First Monday Crime and my events with Friends of West Barnes Library. I’ll blog a bit about my writing as well, particularly around publication time. And of course, I’ll do my top ten reads of 2021. It’s looking like a corker of a year for publishing and I already have three books for my top reads!

And if you’re interested in a new police procedural series, then the first in the DI Bernadette ‘Bernie’ Noel series will be coming out on March 26th. In case you missed the reveal yesterday, here’s the cover for Last Seen. Hope you like it! And if you’d like to pre order then you can do so using the following links:

Amazon: geni.us/B08T6DNKTFCover Apple: ow.ly/WwXd50Dc8XW Kobo: ow.ly/HIF350Dc8W4 Google: ow.ly/LEQQ50Dc91M

Last-Seen-Kindle[2015]

Blog Tour – The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean @willrdean @HodderBooks #TheLastThingToBurn

Will Dean Blog Tour Banner

Happy publication day to Will Dean for the incredible The Last Thing to Burn! Thank you to Jenny Platt and Hodder & Stoughton for allowing me to read a proof copy via NetGalley and for joining the tour. Before I give you my thoughts here’s the blurb.

The Blurb

He is her husband. She is his captive.

Her husband calls her Jane. That is not her name.

She lives in a small farm cottage, surrounded by vast, open fields. Everywhere she looks, there is space. But she is trapped. No one knows how she got to the UK: no one knows she is there. Visitors rarely come to the farm; if they do, she is never seen.

Her husband records her every movement during the day. If he doesn’t like what he sees, she is punished.

For a long time, escape seemed impossible. But now, something has changed. She has a reason to live and a reason to fight. Now, she is watching him, and waiting …

The Last Thing to Burn

My Review

Where to begin? I haven’t read a book this devastating and claustrophobic since Room. As much as I wanted to keep on reading there were times when I had to stop and put the book down. I was so affected by the narrative and Jane’s (not her real name) terrible plight. Will Dean captures her voice beautifully. A woman desperately trying to hang onto herself and her sense of worth whilst systematically stripped of her few possessions and her humanity. A woman forced to slave for a man who claims to be her husband, watched by cameras when he’s out. A woman physically, sexually and mentally abused. A woman whose life seemed incredibly real to me. But in this dark, dark place there is a spark of joy for ‘Jane’. I’m not going to say any more about it but it’s this spark that lights a beacon of hope and points to a way forward.

I know Will Dean does a lot of research for all his books and aims to make them as accurate as possible. I’m sure he’s done the same here. As I’ve already said, this story was all too real for me. My hope is that people don’t just read this and wax lyrical about how wonderful it is (which it is) but will be spurred into action too. And that’s the whole point. This may be fiction but it’s a fact for so many people trapped in modern day slavery. The Last Thing to Burn highlights this so clearly and setting it in the Fens in the UK makes it our problem, something that can’t be ignored.

But there is one problem that I have. It’s only the beginning of the year and I’ve already read another truly magnificent book that should have been published in 2020 but was pushed back to April 21. My dilemma? There may be a tie for my top read of 2021. Does it matter? I guess not. So it may only be the first week in January but I’m going to say it – The Last Thing To Burn is truly extraordinary.

You can buy The Last Thing To Burn here.

Or check out your local bookshop or bookshop.org

If you want to know more about modern day slavery and how you can help then check out these charities to find out more.

Unseen

Hope For Justice

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants

The Author

Will Dean

Will Dean grew up in the East Midlands, living in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. After studying law at the LSE, and working many varied jobs in London, he settled in rural Sweden with his wife. He built a wooden house in a boggy forest clearing and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes.

Top Ten Reads for 2020 @william1shaw @ameranwar @Rod_WR @crimethrillgirl @richardosman @willrdean @MandaJJennings @AnyaLipska @WhittyAuthor @elisabeth04liz

Oh boy, what a year! There’s been more trauma and action in this year than in a crime novel! The one thing that’s helped me get through is reading. I haven’t done as many blog tours this year and next year it will be even fewer. Two of my own novels will be published in 2021 and I hope to bring you details about my debut soon. But I will continue to read! I’ve read some wonderful books that were first published last year so I can’t include them in my top ten. First up is Leonard and Hungry Paul by Ronan Hession. This is such a wonderful book and if you’re looking for a heart-warming read this Christmas then this is perfect. You can read my review here. If you can cope with a more traumatic story then The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri is superb. You can read my review here. Intensity and passion run through Mine by Clare Empson and you can read my review here.

Moving onto published books from 2020! It’s been another great year for novels but also frustrating. Some books have been pushed back until 2021 while others have made it out into the world but not with the fanfare they deserve. Cancellation of book launches and literary festivals has been hard for the party-loving Crime writers and bloggers. So giving an online shout-out is more important than ever. It’s been a difficult choice, as ever, but here are the first seven of my top ten reads in no particular order.

Grave’s End by William Shaw

William Shaw has been a steadfast feature in my top ten reads over a few years now. The problem is that he writes such fabulous books with my favourite female police detective – DS Alex Cupidi. In Grave’s End though she is upstaged by a very unusual narrator. You’ll need to read my review to find out more.

 

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

The Thursday Murder Club achieved something that no other crime book has done this year – it made me laugh, a lot! It’s a wondrous cosy crime mystery and more are planned! Here’s my review.  

 

The Storm by Amanda Jennings.

This brooding and intense novel deals with the theme of coercive control against the backdrop of Cornwall and is sensitively written. Read my review here.

 

Black River by Will Dean

We move north to Sweden for my next top ten read but thankfully it’s summer in Black River. Will Dean has brought Tuva Moodyson back to Gavrik to find her best friend, Tammy, who’s gone missing. Here’s my review.

 

Deep Dark Night by Steph Broadribb

Lori Anderson is back and reunited with JT. They’re coerced into doing a job for the FBI and what ensues is one of the best locked room mysteries I’ve ever read. Here are my thoughts.

 

Back to the UK for the next two and in particular, London.

Blood Red City by Rod Reynolds

I absolutely loved Rod Reynolds’ Charlie Yates series set in 1940s USA. But in Blood Red City, Rod has moved into the 21st century and London. His characters Lydia Wright and Michael Stringer make full use of public transport as they investigate a possible murder. To find out more, here’s my review.

 

Stone Cold Trouble by Amer Anwar

 

Zaq and Jags are back and it’s not long before trouble finds them again in Southall, this time in the form of a stolen necklace. This is a fast paced book and no one writes fight scenes as well as Amer. Read my review here.

So now we’ve reached the top three. Coming in third is…

 

Body Language by AK Turner

Cassie Raven is the new girl on the block in forensic crime novels but what a character! As a mortuary technician, she deals with what appear to be mundane cases. However, Cassie has a unique gift that reveals to her how someone may have died. It’s brilliantly written and I hope we hear more of Cassie in the future. Here’s my review.

 

In second place…

 

The Lost Lights of St. Kilda by Elisabeth Gifford

I don’t always read crime and my favourite non-crime novel this year is The Lost Lights of St. Kilda. It’s historical and romantic with a touch of thriller. It’s beautifully written with exquisite descriptions of the setting and the way of life for the inhabitants of St. Kilda. It is simply glorious. Here are more of my thoughts.

 

And so to my top read of 2020. There’s no surprise here really as I’ve been shouting about my love for this book for months now.

 

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

A sweeping, American saga with the best teenage character you will ever read. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you won’t want it to end. It is extraordinary. Here’s my full review.

There you go, that’s my top ten reads of 2020. If you want to buy any of them then, if possible, please consider using uk.bookshop.org as they’re helping to raise funds for independent bookshops. But of course, other options are available.

All I have left to say is that I really hope you’re able to have a good Christmas and I wish you a Happy New Year!

December First Monday Crime – The Open House by Sam Carrington @sam_carrington1 @1stMondayCrime @AvonBooksUK @SJIHolliday @AnyaLipska @deborah_masson

The fourth author on our December panel is Sam Carrington. Sam will be joining us from her home in Devon. The Open House is Sam’s sixth book and will be published on the 10th December. Before I give you my review, here’s the blurb.

The Blurb

Everyone’s welcome. But not everyone leaves…

Nick and Amber Miller are splitting up and selling their Devon family home. But despite the desirable location, the house isn’t moving. Not a single viewing so far.
 
When their estate agent suggests an open house event, Amber agrees, even as she worries about their gossiping neighbours attending and snooping around their home.
 
But Amber has more to worry about than nosy neighbours. Because thirteen people enter her house that afternoon, and only twelve leave.
 
Someone doesn’t want the house to sell, and is willing to do anything to stop it…

The Open House

My Review

Moving house is supposed to be one of the most challenging and stressful tasks you can undertake. But before you even move, you may have a property to sell. After splitting from her husband, Amber Miller is facing that problem and it appears no one wants to buy her house despite the best efforts of her estate agent. In desperation she agrees to hold an open house where several prospective buyers wander round the property. Watching on her smart doorbell app, she counts thirteen people in but only twelve out. At least she thinks so. As strange things start to happen in the house, Amber wonders if maybe she hadn’t miscounted after all. As much as she wants to sell her home, Amber’s not going to be forced out of it and begins to investigate.

Sam Carrington has done what she does best and takes an ordinary situation to a whole new dimension. Having strangers look at your house is bad enough but thinking they might still be there is beyond weird. I was starting to feel as creeped out and paranoid as Amber was.

The story is told by three people – Amber, her mother-in-law, Barb and a mystery narrator. As much as Amber wants to leave, Barb is doing her best to make sure Amber and the grandchildren stay in what had previously been her house. And the mystery narrator? Well that person is seeking the truth, regardless of the cost.

There are plenty of twists and turns in this book and the tension steadily builds. As I was reading I had a few ideas about it all and one of them was partially right. The ending still took me by surprise though.

Overall this is another fantastic psychological thriller by Sam Carrington.

You can pre order The Open House here. Or buy from your local bookshop from the 10th December.

Don’t forget to join us on Monday 7th December at 7.30pm GMT on our Facebook page when I’ll be chatting to Sam Carrington, Deborah Masson, Susi Holliday and A.K. Turner.

 

The Author

Sam Carrington

Sam Carrington lives in Devon with her husband, two border terriers and a cat. She has three adult children and a new grandson! She worked for the NHS for fifteen years, during which time she qualified as a nurse. Following the completion of a psychology degree she went to work for the prison service as an Offending Behaviour Programme Facilitator. Her experiences within this field inspired her writing. She left the service to spend time with her family and to follow her dream of being a novelist.

SAVING SOPHIE, her debut psychological thriller, published in September 2016. It became a Kindle eBook bestseller, with the paperback hitting The Bookseller Heatseeker chart at #8. Sam was named an Amazon Rising Star of 2016. Her second psychological thriller, BAD SISTER, published in 2017 followed by ONE LITTLE LIE in July 2018. THE MISSING WIFE published in June 2019 and her fifth, I DARE YOU published on 12th December. Sam’s sixth psychological thriller THE OPEN HOUSE will be publishing in December 2020.

You can find out about Sam’s novels, upcoming events and book news at samcarringtonauthor.com