Blog tour – Stasi Winter @djy_writer @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #StasiWinter

Stasi Winter

I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Stasi Winter by David Young. Thanks to Tracy Fenton for inviting me to take part. This is the fifth book in the Karin Müller series and she’s one of my favourite female police detectives. Before I give you my review, here’s the blurb.

 

The Blurb
In 1978 East Germany, nothing is at it seems. The state’s power is absolute, history is re-written, and the ‘truth’ is whatever the Stasi say it is.

So when a woman’s murder is officially labelled ‘accidental death’, Major Karin Müller of the People’s Police is faced with a dilemma. To solve the crime, she must disregard the official version of events. But defying the Stasi means putting her own life – and the lives of her young family – in danger.

As the worst winter in living memory holds Germany in its freeze, Müller must untangle a web of state secrets and make a choice: between truth and lies, justice and injustice, and, ultimately, life and death.

My Review

Stasi 77 (book 4) finished with Karin handing in her resignation. And for several months she enjoys being with her family but it’s time for her to find a new job. Perhaps teaching police cadets would be a good use of her skills. However, she discovers that her resignation was not accepted and she’s still a Major in the People’s Police. Moreover, she’s wanted back to investigate a suspicious death in the far north of the country on the coast. It means revisiting a place both she and Werner Tilsner (her deputy) have been to before. Although this could be read as a standalone, I would recommend you read Stasi Child first as there are some characters from that book making a return appearance.

This is epic storytelling. Although the suspicious death is the reason for Müller’s involvement, she’d drawn into something much bigger – an audacious escape from East Germany. I read this over the Christmas holidays. Thankfully our winter so far is not as cold as the one East Germany faced in 1978/9. David Young admits he’s taken a bit of poetic licence and borrowed some elements from the incredibly severe winter of 1962/63 when the Ostsee or Baltic Sea really did freeze hard enough for people to walk on and escape to the West. Just goes to show how desperate people were to leave the Communist regime. And this desperation comes across loud and clear in Stasi Winter.

The escape was my favourite section of the book. It was chilling in more ways than one and incredibly tense. It was easy to imagine even though it was a whiteout due to the weather conditions and the escapees camouflaged in white bedsheets. I could appreciate the muffled stillness; the waves rearing up, not to crash onto the beach, but frozen in huge chunks; the panic of getting lost. David Young has created an amazing atmosphere and I still get shivers just thinking about it.

Without giving anything away, the ending leaves us nicely set up for more Karin Müller tales. There’s still another decade of East German Communism to go. Please keep writing, David!

You can buy Stasi Winter and the rest in the series here.

 

The Author

David_Young_B_W

East Yorkshire-born David Young began his East German-set crime series on a creative writing MA at London’s City University. His debut – Stasi Child – won the course prize. The novel went to win the 2016 CWA Historical Dagger, and both it and the 2017 follow-up, Stasi Wolf, were longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. Before becoming a full-time author, David was a senior journalist with the BBC’s international radio and TV newsrooms for more than 25 years. Stasi Winter is the fifth novel in the Karin Müller series.

My Top Ten Reads of 2019 @LouiseWriter @deboc77 @adrianmckinty @JoGustawsson @FionaAnnCummins @callytaylor @writer_north @HayleyThough @william1shaw @LauraSRobinson

Oh man, this just gets harder every year. Just when I think I’ve nailed it I remember a particular book or read another great one. But I do have a definite top three. These three have stuck in my memory for different reasons and I’ll explain why later. Before we get to the top ten though, here are some others that were in the running – Red Snow by Will Dean, The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor, Black Summer by M.W. Craven, Violet by SJI Holliday, I Dare You by Sam Carrington and Deep Dirty Truth by Steph Broadribb. You can see now why it was so hard to choose! They’re all fantastic books and well worth adding to your Christmas list. So without any further ado, here are the first seven books in no particular order.

 

Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech

Although this novel came out in the spring, I had an early copy which I read last Christmas. It was a little present to myself. Even now, almost a year on, I can still feel the tension of this book. Told with multiple viewpoints and timelines, it weaves together the  past and the present for Stella with devastating results. It kept me guessing to the end. A beautifully written book. You can read my full review here.

To buy click here.

 

The Dangerous Kind by Deborah O’Connor

I really connected with Jessamine, the protagonist in this novel. Not least because we’re a similar age and experiencing the same things – someone pass me a fan! But that’s where the similarity stops. Jessamine is an investigative radio DJ looking at Cold Crime cases. Sacked for an on-air rant, she decides she can’t let go of the latest case she’s been given. This is an incredibly moving book dealing with a traumatic crime. You can read my full review here.

To buy click here.

 

The Chain by Adrian McKinty

I think you’d have to be living at the North Pole not to have heard about this book. And even then there’d probably be someone with a copy in their rucksack. This was a massive and very well-deserved hit for Adrian McKinty. This is the most tense book I’ve read all year, tapping into parents’ fears all over the world. The premise – you get a phone call. Your child has been kidnapped. To get them back you have to pay a ransom and kidnap someone else’s child. Your own child will be returned when your kidnapped child’s parents do the same. And so the chain continues. Don’t break the chain. If you do, your child dies. You can read my full review here.

To buy click here.

 

Blood Song by Johana Gustwasson

I’ve really enjoyed the Castells and Roy series but there was something extra special about Blood Song. The Spanish Civil War and what happened afterwards is often overlooked because of WW2 and the Cold War. And yet it’s a huge part of Spain’s history and as we saw recently with the removal of Franco’s body, it’s still part of a national shame. Johana has her own personal reasons for telling us about what happened to Republican women and children in the camps after the war. The suffering didn’t finish with the end of the war – it was only just beginning. Teaming it with a current murder case in Sweden makes for an emotive read. You can read my full review here.

To buy click here.

 

Sleep by CL Taylor

I’ve read a lot of CL Taylor’s books but this one grabbed me from the beginning. After being involved in a terrible car crash, Anna leaves London for the Isle of Rum and a job in a hotel. She hopes that here she can escape her guilt and the person who’s been leaving her sinister messages. Maybe she can finally sleep. This has all the ingredients for an excellent murder mystery – guilt-ridden protagonist, isolated hotel cut of by a storm and a long list of suspects in the form of guests. You can read my full review here.

To buy click here.

 

Blood & Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

Blood & SugarLaura Shepherd-Robinson

This is an outstanding novel and my favourite debut of 2019. I don’t even want to think about how much research Laura had to do for this because the level of detail is incredible. But more than that it’s a cracking story looking at slavery in the 1790s when it was still considered acceptable practice. You can read my full review here.

To buy click here.

 

Deadland by William Shaw

Well, it’s not a top ten of mine if it doesn’t feature William Shaw! It’s his own fault for writing such fantastic books. DS Alex Cupidi is back and this time investigating a particularly bizarre crime – a severed arm hidden in a piece of art. Really. Add to that the glorious Tap and Sloth (two teenage thugs) and Deadland is truly amazing. You can read my full review here.

To buy click here.

 

That’s the first seven. Now for my top three. And we start off with a proper Christmas book.

Coming in third…

 

One Christmas Night by Hayley Webster

Oh my. I’m not too sure where to start with this one. Beautifully written, keen observation and incredible empathy. This is a book that goes to the core of your heart. You’ll even forget that a crime has been committed because you’ll be so wrapped up in the lives of the residents on Newbury Street. It’s simply stunning. If you want a Christmas story to read then make it this one. You won’t regret it. Just make sure you have some tissues nearby. You can read my full review here.

To buy click here.

 

In second place (keep hold of the tissues) is…

 

The Whisper Man by Alex North

Why the tissues you may ask? Well, it is creepy. It is tense. Like The Chain, it also taps into parents’ fears about abduction. But moreover it’s a story about fathers and sons and there is one passage towards the end that made me bawl. And Alex North does not apologise for that. It’s also about grief and I thought this was handled particularly well. Although this is Alex North’s debut, we all know that’s a pen name for Steve Mosby. Like Adrian McKinty, Steve has not had the critical acclaim he deserves until now. Hopefully for both authors this is the start of an upward trend. You can read my full review of The Whisper Man here.

To buy click here.

 

So who’s my top read of 2019? Who was worthy of the word ‘extraordinary’? Like William Shaw, this author has featured a couple of times before. And each time, been so close to being my no.1 read. This year it’s finally happened.

In first place, my top read of the 2019 is…

 

 

The Neighbour by Fiona Cummins

I loved Rattle and The Collector and wondered how Fiona could possibly improve. Well she’s managed it in The Neighbour. Full of creepiness, atmosphere, a fantastic cast of characters and twists that just keep coming. It’s a masterclass in Crime writing. After reading this you might never look at your neighbours in quite the same way again. It is extraordinary. You can read my full review here.

To buy click here.

 

So there you have it – my top ten reads of 2019. It’s been so difficult to choose and 2020 isn’t looking any easier with some amazing novels due. I can’t quite believe that not only is it the end of the year but also the decade. This is me signing off for Christmas and New Year. I’ll be back in 2020 with more blog tours, library events and First Monday Crime. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Blog tour review – I Dare You by @sam_carrington1 @AvonBooksUK @Sabah_K #IDareYou

 

I-Dare-You-blog-tour-banner-P2I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for I Dare You by Sam Carrington. Thank you to Sabah Khan at Avon for inviting me to take part. Before I tell you about Sam’s latest book, here’s the blurb.

The Blurb

AN INNOCENT GAME. A SHOCKING CRIME. A COMMUNITY FULL OF SECRETS.

Mapledon, 1989
Two little girls were out playing a game of dares. Only one returned home.
The ten-year-old told police what she saw: village loner Bill ‘Creepy’ Cawley dragged her friend into his truck and disappeared.
No body was found, but her testimony sent Cawley to prison for murder. An open and shut case, the right man behind bars.
The village could sleep safe once again.

Now…
Anna thought she had left Mapledon and her nightmares behind but a distraught phone call brings her back to face her past.
30 years ago, someone lied. 30 years ago, the man convicted wasn’t the only guilty party.
Now he’s out of prison and looking for revenge. The question is, who will he start with?

I Dare You

My Review

I’ve long been a fan of Sam Carrington’s books and I think there’s only one I haven’t read even though I’ve got it. I Dare You is a standalone novel and once more is set in the South West of the UK albeit a fictional village. And just as well! The residents of Mapledon are a strange bunch and definitely a bit toxic. You can’t blame Anna for getting out of there as fast as she could. It’s a place full of secrets and shame. But a hysterical phone call from her mother draws her back to her childhood home.

Lizzie, a journalist, has a personal reason for heading to Mapledon. She’s not searching for a scoop but the truth. Anna and Lizzie team up to find out what really happened thirty years before.

I loved this book. It’s told in two timelines with multiple voices. The clever thing with the past timeline set in 1989, is that it starts with the event and works backwards, looking at the lead-up to it. I’ve not seen this done before and it’s very effective. I enjoyed seeing how the motives for the crime came about. In the present timeline, there are very creepy incidents of parts of dolls being hammered to Anna’s mother’s front door. When a copy of the book was sent to me for review, it even came with it’s own doll’s arm. Freaky or what! Of course it’s a clue but who is doing such a thing to a woman close to 70? As much as Anna wants to leave and go home to her own daughter, she has to stay and look after her mother.

Setting the story in a village means it has similar principles to a murder mystery in an old house – cut-off location (black spots for mobile phones), small cast of people and a classic denouement – or so we think. I’m not going to give away anymore than that!

I loved the characters of Anna and Lizzie. Neither of them could fully trust the other so although they work together, there’s this wonderful tension between them that Sam Carrington pushes to the max.

Short chapters and twists and turns aplenty kept me reading late at night. I couldn’t always work out what was going to happen which kept me on my toes and thinking about it when I wasn’t reading. As I wrote earlier, I’ve read almost all of Sam Carrington’s books. For me, this is her best book so far. Bravo Sam!

You can buy I Dare You here.

 

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 publishes in June 2019 with her fifth, I DARE YOU, due on 12th December.

 

First Monday Crime Christmas Extravaganza with Simon Brett @ShaminiFlint @samblakebooks @tarquinhall @inkstainsclaire Angela Clarke @JakeKerridge @1stMondayCrime @severnhouse @CorvusBooks

FM Dec 19.2

It was a cold and frosty night in London town and even the train strike didn’t stop us from getting to First Monday Crime. A huge thank you to Severn House for sponsoring the evening and providing drinks and mince pies. We also had great entertainment in the form of our Christmas panel – Simon Brett, Shamini Flint, Sam Blake and Tarquin Hall with Jake Kerridge asking the questions.

Jake started off with finding out a bit more about the authors and their books.

Simon Brett has written loo books (sorry – 100 books! Jake’s joke and too good to miss out) and has an OBE. He’s a former TV producer and has written for TV and radio. His new book Killer in the Choir is the latest in his Feathering series. It’s a fictional village but he’s based it on the villages near where he lives on the South Coast. He likes to write about how villages are now – mainly retired people and women in their fifties. In particular he likes to focus on how women of this age tend to become invisible when they’re anything but. For research, Simon went and sat in on rehearsals with choirs (his wife is a good singer but he’s tone deaf). Simon records his own audio books and towards the end of Killer in the Choir he had to sing ‘The Wheels on the Bus’. He apologises now to anyone who listens to that.

Shamini Flint used to be a corporate lawyer but gave it up to be a stay-at-home mum, writer, part-time lecturer and environmental activist to make up for her evil past in the law. She lives in Singapore and writes children’s books as well as Crime novels. She’s best known for her Inspector Singh series. Her latest book is The Beijing Conspiracy and is a standalone combining contemporary China and the events of Tiananmen Square thirty years ago. She didn’t think Inspector Singh was the right character to take on the issues of the new Cold War between China and the US, so she created Jack Ford. Shamini’s a bit embarrassed about her new protagonist. As a white man he’s very underrepresented in literature and she’s aware she’s used cultural appropriation in writing this fifty year old, alcoholic, ex-marine who can kill with his bare hands. Shamini used to kill her characters by a close range gunshot but she’s done this too often now and needed a new method so swapped to beating up. (As you can probably tell, Shamini was very tongue-in-cheek and hilarious.)

Sam Blake lives in Ireland and is the author of the Cathy Connolly series. Her latest, Keep Your Eyes on Me, is a standalone. Two women meet on a flight to New York. They’re both in First Class. They chat and discover that they have men in their lives that need sorting out – perhaps they could help each other out. One has a husband who’s got his mistress pregnant. The other woman is on her way to a job interview in NY but her brother dropped a bombshell just before she left – he’s been swindled out of the family business. A friend of Sam’s went on holiday to New York and helped with research by sending photos and videos of various things. Sam used to be a literary scout but says it’s a very different experience being a writer. Sometimes it’s hard to see what you’ve got on the page. She plots in quite a lot of detail and likes to see where the arc is going with its highs and lows.

Tarquin Hall is a journalist and used to live in Delhi. He’s written five books in his Vish Puri detective series and also a handbook – just in case you want to become an Indian private detective. Tarquin’s wife is originally from India so he’s spent a lot of time there. Some of his ideas have come from family members. One of his wife’s cousins, aged twenty five, still wasn’t married and they were looking through the matrimonial pages in the newspaper to find her a husband. She explained that prospective spouses are normally investigated by private detectives to make sure they’re suitable. Tarquin met some real life detectives who do this. He found they deal with bigger crimes as well such as kidnapping and murder. He originally wrote this as a newspaper article but a few months later decided to turn it into a crime series. Since the detectives dealt with diverse cases, Tarquin knew his detective had to have a big team helping him plus his domineering mother who tries to help as well. In The Case of the Reincarnated Client, Puri’s mother has found a witness to a cold case murder that Puri’s father had investigated and not solved. He’s delighted until he discovers the witness claims to be the reincarnated murder victim. Alongside this plot, there’s the problem of a snoring bridegroom and the bride’s family are holding Puri accountable for not discovering this before the wedding.

Jake then asked the authors – why do you write your books?

For Simon, it’s primarily to entertain – himself as well as others. Boredom is a strong instinct! He sometimes surprises himself when writing and loves it when he gets left-field ideas. He also finds that humour is a good way of sugaring the pill.

Shamini started writing as she thought she could change the world – what a disaster! The world is deteriorating rapidly! She likes to encapsulate entire Asian societies in her books for example, Malaysia or Bali.

Sam started writing when her husband went away for two months. She sent it out to everyone and was rejected. But she loved writing so kept at it until she got the writing book. Writing allows her to escape to different worlds.

Tarquin’s aim was to get rich and buy a super yacht! He has to have humour in his books as he can’t take himself or the world seriously. India is an exciting prospect as anything can happen there. He doesn’t really plot and often writes himself into a corner and then has to find a way out. As well as the humour (snoring bridegroom), he likes to add social commentary into his novels. The latest looks at the Sikh massacre in 1984 after two Sikh bodyguards assassinated Indira Ghandi. He tries to describe the place just as it is and include anything extraordinary. For example, all the diamonds in the world are sent to India to be cut and polished. But they’re not delivered by DHL but by family networks in a somewhat chaotic manner. India functions very well in a way that we in the West can’t grasp.

The authors kept us so entertained that Jake only had time for those two questions! But our evening wasn’t over. After a break to buy books and eat more mince pies and cookies, we had the extra part of our evening – a mash-up of Mr & Mrs and Criminal Mastermind. Angela Clarke and Claire McGowan were our contestants. They had three rounds of questions from Sophie and Katherine (questions by Liz and Katherine) – how well do they know each other’s books, specialist subject (Poirot for Claire and Miss Marple for Angela) and general crime fiction. It was very close and after some adding up, it was a tie. But there could only be one winner and after a tie-break question, Angela Clarke was crowned the Queen of Crime.FM Dec 19.4

 

And that was the end of our First Monday Crime Christmas Extravaganza. We’ll be back in 2020 with more fantastic authors. In the meantime we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

If you want to purchase or pre-order any of the authors’ books then please click on their names. Books make fabulous Christmas presents! And if you’re able to buy from an independent bookstore that’s even better.

Sam Blake

Tarquin Hall

Simon Brett

Shamini Flint

Angela Clarke

Claire McGowan

First Monday Crime Review – The Case of the Reincarnated Client by @tarquinhall @1stMondayCrime @severnhouse #thecaseofthereincarnatedclient

We’re now only a matter of days away from our First Monday Crime Christmas Spectacular! We have a great panel lined up for you with Shamini Flint, Sam Blake, Simon Brett and Tarquin Hall. Jake Kerridge will be moderating. We also have for your delectation, Criminal Mastermind with Angela Clarke and Claire McGowan. Who will win the coveted title? You’ll have to come along to find out! And there’s wine kindly provided by Severn House and cookies from yours truly. You can reserve your seat here.

I’ve had the chance to read and review the new novel from Tarquin Hall called The Case of the Reincarnated Client. Thank you to Natasha at Severn House for sending me a copy. Before I give you my thoughts, here’s the blurb.

The Blurb

A client claiming she was murdered in a past life is a novel dilemma even for Vish Puri, India’s Most Private Investigator. When a young woman comes forward claiming to be the reincarnation of Riya Kaur, a wife and mother who vanished during the bloody 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Puri is dismissive. He’s busy enough dealing with an irate matrimonial client whose daughter is complaining about her groom’s thunderous snoring. Puri’s indomitable Mummy-ji however is adamant the client is genuine. How else could she so accurately describe under hypnosis Riya Kaur’s life and final hours? Driven by a sense of duty – the original case was his late father’s – Puri manages to acquire the police file only to find that someone powerful has orchestrated a cover-up. Forced into an alliance with his mother that tests his beliefs and high blood pressure as never before, it’s only by delving into the past the help of his reincarnated client that Puri can hope to unlock the truth.

The Case of the Reincarnated Client

My Review

The main challenge in all murder investigations is to find the murderer and prove behind doubt that that particular person is responsible. Of course, only the murderer and the victim know exactly what occurred. Through forensics the victim is able to give certain information but what if he or she could actually tell the police what had happened? That’s the question for Vish Puri, private detective. Is reincarnation the answer?

This is the fifth book in Tarquin Hall’s successful Vish Puri series. As such, it’s not that easy to read as a standalone as the characters are now very established. So it took me a while to settle into it especially as Puri has nicknames for all his workers. Some are more obvious than others, for example, Handbrake is his driver. Puri is also a very busy man, juggling quite a few cases at a time. The reincarnation storyline is the main plot but there are also other issues for him to deal with including money laundering and a snoring bridegroom. I have to say that the latter was one of my favourite parts of the book and gave some light relief to the more serious crimes.

Riya Kaur’s mysterious disappearance in 1984 during the anti-Sikh riots is a case well-known to Puri. His father had been the original police detective investigating the missing woman which he’d been unable to solve. A young woman claiming to be the reincarnation of Riya might be able to provide the answers. Puri is sceptical but his Mummy-ji is convinced. The anti-Sikh riots were a dark part of modern India’s history. I’d forgotten about them until I read this. Hall has managed to capture the fear and horror that the Sikh community must have felt. I don’t want to give too much away but this plotline is particularly moving.

Apart from the snoring bridegroom, my other favourite part was Mummy-ji. She tests Puri with her stubbornness, her old mobile phone that’s never switched on (I know that one!) and her ability to take forty winks at the wrong time. I loved her as a character and she proved herself to be as good a detective as her son. I just hope that Puri’s wife, Rumpi, also gets a chance to take part in her husband’s business. She has the patience of a saint as she cooks amazing food for her husband who then doesn’t come home to eat.

If you’re after a lighter crime read with an international flavour then it’s worth looking at the Vish Puri series. But I do think it might be better to start at the beginning.

To find out more about Tarquin Hall and buy his Vish Puri series click here. Or come and buy on the night and get your copy signed.

 

The Author

Tarquin Hall

Tarquin Hall is a British author and journalist who has previously lived in the USA, Pakistan, India, Kenya and Turkey. He now divides his time between the UK and India, and is married to BBC reporter and presenter Anu Anand. He is the author of four previous Vish Puri mysteries.

 

Blog Tour – What She Saw Last Night by M.J. Cross @MasonCrossBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n @orion_crime #whatshesawlastnight

WSSLN Blog Asset

I’m delighted to be taking part in the tour for What She Saw Last Night by M.J. Cross. Although the author has written other books as Mason Cross, this is the first time I’ve read any of his novels. Thank you to Tracy Fenton and Orion Books for inviting me to take part. Before my review, here’s the blurb.

 

The Blurb

A secret that could kill her.

A truth no one believes…

Jenny Bowen is going home. Boarding the Caledonian Sleeper, all she wants to do is forget about her upcoming divorce and relax on the ten-hour journey through the night.

In her search for her cabin, Jenny helps a panicked woman with a young girl she assumes to be her daughter. Then she finds her compartment and falls straight to sleep.

Waking in the night, Jenny discovers the woman dead in her cabin…  but there’s no sign of the little girl. The train company have no record of a child being booked on the train, and CCTV shows the dead woman boarding alone.

The police don’t believe Jenny, and soon she tries to put the incident out of her head and tells herself that everyone else is right: she must have imagined the little girl.

But deep down, she knows that isn’t the truth.

What She Saw Last Night

My Review

For anyone who shares the delight of South Western Railways then you’ll know there’s a 27 day strike in December. But it’s OK as there are two books out this month about train journeys and once you’ve read them, you’ll never want to take a train again! I reviewed Violet by SJI Holliday last month and learnt about the pitfalls of travelling on trains abroad. M.J. Cross has gone one step further and has brought the horror to the UK.

Jenny Bowen has a lot on her plate. Her soon to be ex-husband is hassling her to sign the divorce papers and she has her late father’s estate in Scotland to sort out. All she wants to do is get to her cabin on the sleeper train to Fort William and chill. But just like on an airplane where there’s always one passenger struggling to get their luggage into the overhead locker, there’s a woman with a large suitcase blocking the corridor. Jenny notices a soft toy has been dropped and returns it to the woman. She sees a girl in the cabin and guesses it belongs to her. Early next morning, Jenny finds the woman dead and the girl missing. There’s no record of the girl as a passenger and she can’t be found on CCTV either. The police don’t believe her, apart from one – Sergeant Mike Fletcher. He and Jenny set out to find what’s happened to the missing girl.

Wow. Jenny Bowen is one tough cookie. She’s incredibly resourceful as I certainly wouldn’t know where to look first for a missing child. She has great tenacity as despite everything that happens (and a LOT happens), she never gives up. This is a fantastic thriller told by three people – Jenny, Mike and Klenmore. That last name tells you everything you need to know – it’s not the name of a good person. I don’t want to give too much away but this is an elaborate cat and mouse novel. I would say picture Tom and Jerry but this isn’t cartoon violence. It’s fair to say Jenny and Mike are in real danger. Having said that, there’s nothing gratuitous in the story. M.J. Cross has cleverly drawn enough of a picture for our minds to do the rest.

Considering there’s only one plotline, there’s a lot of depth to this book. You can tell it’s been well-researched and little details are observed. Short chapters and multiple viewpoints keep the pace moving and there’s no lag in the story.

I really enjoyed this book and there were times towards the end when I had to take little breaks because the tension was so great. I’m fairly certain this is a standalone novel but Jenny Bowen is such a great character I could easily see her in her own series as a private investigator. She’s definitely developed the right sort of skills. As I wrote earlier this was my first M.J. Cross read – it won’t be my last.

To buy What She Saw Last Night click here.

 

The Author

Mason Cross

M.J. Cross was born in Glasgow in 1979. He studied English at the University of Stirling and currently works in the voluntary sector. He has written a number of short stories, including A Living, which was shortlisted for the Quick Reads ‘Get Britain Reading’ Award. He lives in Glasgow with his wife and three children.

 

 

Blog Tour – One Christmas Night by Hayley Webster @HayleyThough @TrapezeBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #OneChristmasNight

OCN blog tour

IT’S CHRISTMAS!!!! Well, almost. In a month’s time it will be Christmas Eve, the day that One Christmas Night is set. Thank you to Trapeze and Tracy Fenton for inviting me to take part in the tour. Before my review, here’s the blurb.

 

The Blurb

Nine lives. One street. And a secret behind every door.

Christmas is ruined on Newbury Street, Norwich.

Presents have been going missing from resident’s homes. There are rumours going around that it’s one of their own who’s been stealing from the neighbours. Festive spirit is being replaced with suspicion and the inhabitants of Newbury Street don’t know who to trust. The police presence isn’t helping matters, especially when they all have something to hide.

But Christmas is a time for miracles… and if they open themselves up to hope and look out for each other, they might discover the biggest miracle of all.

One Christmas Night

My Review

Newbury Street has had more than its fair share of crime in the run up to Christmas. A lot of the houses have been targeted by a burglar. A reverse Santa Claus who’s stealing all the presents. In the most recent burglary, which starts the book, even the food is taken including the gingerbread people made by the children from the house. This is a callous thief whose aim isn’t just to rob but to disturb the victims. To remind them that their homes and lives have been violated. This makes for a very vulnerable neighbourhood. And we hear from eight of the residents – Joanie Blake, Tash Blake, Wendy Finch, Sue Winters, Cynthia Ellis, Irma Wozniak, Craig Mullany and Frank Blake as well as the investigating officer, DC Lucy Crane. Robbed of their safety, it’s only a matter of time before secrets spill out.

Although we have the mystery of the thefts, the real story lies with the nine people mentioned above. Hayley Webster has made each voice unique. She has incredible observational skills and her attention to detail is second to none. I’m not necessarily talking about physical details but emotional ones. Technically I’m not allowed to quote from a proof but there are a few lines that spoke to me so clearly that I had to stop reading. Joanie Blake’s mother, Ally, died earlier in the year. Joanie, a young mother herself, is facing her first Christmas without Ally. She and her sister, Tash, are struggling and are arguing over small things.

‘They’d already had one argument today, about the turkey of all things. Mum might have laughed about that. That’s the thing when someone dies. You can only imagine what they’d say or do in all the situations they are no longer here for, but, really, that’s the imaginary them you’ve created. It’s not really them. Everybody who loved them is imagining a different person. Much like when they were alive.’

I know how true that is and often we imagine that person’s response to fit our own purpose. Joanie isn’t the only one facing bereavement at Christmas. Wendy Finch has just lost her husband. Wendy’s one of my favourite characters (Cynthia Ellis is the other – more of her later) and her grief is so raw. The passages for this character are achingly and hauntingly beautiful. Wendy remembers Christmases past (Babycham glasses with the deer on) and has to summon up the courage to face the predicament she finds herself in now. Thanks to Joanie’s kindness in inviting her to stay, she’s able to do that.

Cynthia Ellis has it all. Doesn’t she? A lovely house, a successful husband and plenty of money. So why is she at home all the time? Why isn’t she at the fundraiser at the pub, raising money for the burglary victims, especially as she’s one of them? But Cynthia has been robbed every day for most of her life. Bit by bit, her ‘self’ has been reduced in size until she’s just a husk, unable to voice her own thoughts or opinions. She has been completely shaped by her husband. Hayley Webster has handled abuse and coercion in a very sensitive way. It’s a thing of beauty when Cynthia finally emerges from the cocoon John has kept her in, always telling her to stay home where it’s safer.

I became so wrapped up in these people’s lives that I almost forgot about the thief. There is an unveiling at the end bringing relief to some but anguish to others. I took my time reading One Christmas Night, absorbing the stories of the neighbourhood until I felt as though I lived there. This is a book crying out to be made as a TV Christmas Special so that everyone can share in the lives of the residents of Newbury Street, Norwich. A stunning book. And an absolute contender for my top ten reads of 2019.

To buy One Christmas Night click here.

 

The Author

Hayley Webster

Hayley Webster is a writer and teacher who grew up in Newbury, Berkshire. Her first novel, Jar Baby, was published by Dexter Haven in 2012 and, as Hayley Scott, three books in her Teacup House series for emerging readers were published by Usborne in 2018. She has written for Grazia, The Observer Magazine, and did a sold-out event at Edinburgh festival in 2018. She’s a mentor on the 2019 National Writers Centre Escalator scheme and she lives in Norfolk with her daughter.