Blog tour – Sleep by C.L. Taylor @callytaylor @AvonBooksUK @Sabah_K #daretosleep


I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Sleep by C.L. Taylor. I’ve read a few of Cally’s other books and absolutely loved them. Thank you to Sabah Khan at Avon Books for inviting me to take part.


The Blurb

All Anna wants is to be able to sleep. But crushing insomnia, terrifying night terrors and memories of that terrible night are making it impossible. If only she didn’t feel so guilty…

To escape her past, Anna takes a job at a hotel on the remote Scottish island of Rum, but when seven guests join her, what started as a retreat from the world turns into a deadly nightmare.

Each of the guests have a secret, but one of them is lying – about who they are and why they’re on the island. There’s a murderer staying in the Bay View hotel. And they’ve set their sights on Anna.

Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One deadly lie.

Someone’s going to sleep and never wake up…

Sleep cover

My Review

Oh my! Where do I begin? I’m not quite sure how C.L. Taylor manages it but she writes characters that seem to crawl into your head and take up residence. Anna is no exception. Even when I wasn’t reading the book, I was thinking about it and wondering how Anna was going to escape her nightmare scenario.

And being stuck in an isolated hotel, cut off from the rest of the island and the world by a terrible storm, is definitely a nightmare! I’ve read other books that have a similar set-up so it’s not easy to find a fresh approach. However, C.L. Taylor has managed to do so. Maybe it helped that Storm Gareth was crashing around outside when I read this novel but I really felt I was there, immersed in the storm and the story, panic rising all around me.

Multiple viewpoints add depth to the narrative as well as diversion. They also make great contrast with Anna’s paranoia and make you think about her reliability.

This is an outstanding book but the thing I liked about it the most is the exploration of guilt. When things go wrong, we look for someone or something to blame. Sometimes accidents are just accidents but we don’t seem able to accept that anymore. Blame culture is rife but as Sleep suggests, often the person responsible is more than capable of punishing themselves.

It’s hard to write about this novel without giving away spoilers. But what I can say is that I didn’t work out what was going on. It’s a very clever plot and I daren’t say more than that.

So, compelling characters, creepy setting and a clever plot – what more do you want? Sleep is definitely a contender for my top ten reads of 2019.

You can buy Sleep here.


The Author

C.L. Taylor

C.L. Taylor is the Sunday Times bestselling author of six gripping psychological thrillers. They are not a series and can be read in any order:

2015 – THE LIE
2018 – THE FEAR
2019 – SLEEP

She has also written a Young Adult thriller, THE TREATMENT, which was published by HarperCollins HQ and is currently writing her second, which will be published in June 2020.

C.L. Taylor’s books have sold in excess of a million copies, been number one on Amazon Kindle, Kobo, iBooks and Google Play and have been translated into over 25 languages and optioned for TV. THE ESCAPE won the Dead Good Books ‘Hidden Depths’ award for the Most Unreliable Narrator. THE FEAR was shortlisted in the Hearst Big Book Awards in the ‘Pageturner’ category.

Cally Taylor was born in Worcester and spent her early years living in various army camps in the UK and Germany. She studied Psychology at the University of Northumbria and went on forge a career in instructional design and e-Learning before leaving to write full time in 2014. She lives in Bristol with her partner and young son.




Blog Tour – Black Wolf by G.D. Abson @garry_abson @TheMirrorBooks #BlackWolf

BLACK WOLF blog tour banner

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Black Wolf by G.D. Abson.  It’s the second in the Natayla Ivanova series after Motherland. Thank you to Mel Sambells at Mirror Books for inviting me to take part. I have the opening extract for you but first the blurb.


The Blurb

A young woman is found dead on the outskirts of St Petersburg on a freezing January morning. There are no signs of injury, and heavy snowfall has buried all trace of an attacker.

Captain Natalya Ivanova’s investigation quickly links the victim to the Decembrists, an anti-Putin dissident group whose acts of civil disobedience have caught the eye of the authorities. And Natalya soon realises she is not the only one interested in the case, as government security services wade in and shut down her investigation almost before it has begun.

Before long, state media are spreading smear stories about the dead woman, and Natalya suspects the authorities have something to hide. When a second rebel activist goes missing, she is forced to go undercover to expose the truth. But the stakes are higher than ever before. Not only could her pursuit of the murderer destroy her career, but her family ties to one of the victims threaten to tear her personal life apart.

A captivating, pacy thriller that plunges right into the beating heart of Putin’s Russia.



The Extract

Prologue: September 2012

Sometime after six the train stopped at Vologda. The smokers got up. Diana Maricheva stood too, clutching her school rucksack. She edged past the compartments, their little tables overflowing with tea mugs, beer bottles and abandoned playing cards. Outside on the platform, hawkers were selling herbal teas and packets of dried noodles. Her stomach tightened when she walked past them.

Diana found the toilets and handed over a twenty-rouble coin to the attendant. She wanted to freshen up without inviting any searching questions from the women in her carriage. Inside, she took off her T-shirt to wash her armpits, cleaned her underwear using soap from a dispenser, and then pushed everything back into her rucksack: school uniform, phone and charger, toothbrush and toothpaste. On the platform, she waited for the provodnitsa – a conductor of about her mother’s age – to check her ticket, before re-boarding the train.

They set off again, and Diana stared out of her dirty window watching the never-ending columns of larch trees roll by. The autumn sun caught her carriage and she turned away, seeing children half her age clamber over the bags and coats spilling into the corridor as they raced each other. In the next four-bunk compartment she saw pink-faced women fanning themselves while listless, bare-chested men spoke in low voices. She tucked her rucksack under her head and went to sleep.

After the train left Tyumen, the carriage filled with the smells of eggs, garlic kolbasa, and smoked ham. The two Chinese girls sitting on the opposite bunk opened plastic containers full of rice and fish. One of them gestured to her, making an imaginary bowl with a palm and scooping the contents with chopstick fingers. Diana shook her head, although the two piroshki rolls she’d bought for the journey were long gone.

Yesterday her stomach had growled from lack of food. Now it cramped tight as a fist. There was comfort in the pain, the muscles squeezing the shrimp inside her. That’s what it had looked like on the internet: a pink, curved creature with a tail, not the start of a baby. Now it was a simple equation. The less she ate, the more the shrimp would disappear. And she was bigger. It would be gone long before her.

The hunger and heat made her drowsy. For much of the three-day journey a dull half-sleep had overtaken her. She yawned, rubbing a hand over her face.

The train jolted to a halt. The two Chinese girls were sitting on the bottom bunk, each with a packed suitcase pressed between their knees. The one watching her turned away sharply as the platskartny passengers fought to leave. She waited for them to go, then twisted her arms into the straps of her rucksack. She stood. Her limbs went slack and she felt herself fall back onto her bunk.

When her head cleared, the two Chinese girls were gone, along with most of the carriage. Only two flabby men in sailor’s telnyashka blue-and-white-striped vests remained. Their suitcases scraped as they dragged them along. They stank of vodka and sweat. She followed them out – at a distance.


I don’t know about you but I’m slightly worried about Diana! To find out what happens you can buy Black Wolf by clicking here.


About The Author

Garry Abson


G.D. Abson was born in County Durham and grew up on army bases in Germany and Singapore before returning to the North-East. He is the author of Motherland, the first in a series featuring Senior Investigator Natalya Ivanova, and was shortlisted for a Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger.

Blog Tour – The Dangerous Kind by Deborah O’Connor @deboc77 @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #TheDangerousKind #1in100People

Deborah O Connor Blogtour FINAL

I’m delighted to kick off the blog tour for The Dangerous Kind by Deborah O’Connor. This is Deborah’s second book but the first one I’ve read. I managed to get my hands on a proof last year at Harrogate and then it sat with all my other proofs in a bag that I dip into when I can! So I’ve only just read it. But I’m so glad I did as it’s a powerful read. Thank you to Tracy Fenton for inviting me to be part of the tour.

1 in100

The Blurb

One in 100 of us is a ‘potentially dangerous person’ – someone likely to commit a violent crime. We all know them: these charmers, liars and manipulators. The ones who send prickles up the back of our neck. These people hide in plain sight, they can be teachers, doctors, holding positions of trust, of power.

Jessamine Gooch makes a living tracking the 1 in 100. Each week she broadcasts a radio show that examines brutal offences, asking if more could have been done to identify and prevent their perpetrators.

But when she agrees to investigate a missing person case involving a young mother, she is drawn into a web of danger that will ultimately lead to the upper echelons of power, and threaten the safety of her own family.

What if the people we trust are the ones we should fear?

Dangerous Kind hb-template

My Review

Told through a variety of voices, this novel looks at the ‘dangerous kind’. The killers and abusers that no one saw coming. Those who wear a mask of civility to hide their sins. Jessamine Gooch is the main protagonist. A radio broadcaster of a ‘certain’ age, Jessamine is fighting to save her radio show whilst fighting her hormones. Having just read Worst Case Scenario by Helen Fitzgerald, it’s encouraging to read about women going through the menopause. It’s something  I increasingly relate to. Unfortunately for Jessamine, her hormones get the better of her and she finds herself ‘released’ from her show for a while. But that allows her time to look into the disappearance of Cassie Scolari.

Jitesh is an 18 year old trainee at Broadcasting House. Crippled greatly by a stammer, he has other ways of making friends. Ways that may not be entirely legal. I particularly loved Jitesh and his story. He and Jessamine make an unlikely pairing together in the hunt for the missing woman.

We also hear from Jessamine’s daughter, Sarah. She’s a typical 14 year old who spends too much time on her phone. But maybe she spends too much time on one particular app talking to one particular person.

The final thread of the story is set in 2003 whereas the other three are current. Rowena is 13 and in a care home. I don’t think I need say anymore. These sections are heart-breaking. I wanted to read them but not read them at the same time.  Deborah O’Connor’s writing is just stunning.

I’m always impressed by authors who can write multiple viewpoints. Deborah O’Connor makes this look easy. Somehow she manages to weave all four stories together for a painful but powerful climax.

At the core of the book is hidden abuse, both past and present. It’s been a common theme in novels for a while now. Finding a new way to look at this isn’t easy but through the character of Jessamine Gooch, Deborah O’Connor has achieved it.

I was fortunate to see Deborah O’Connor at First Monday Crime this month. It was great to hear how Deborah got the inspiration for her novel. For her it was a collision of ideas. She’d heard Laura Richards, a criminal behavioural analyst, talk about a list of people that the police have. A list of possible dangerous people who are yet to commit a crime but have the potential to do so. At the same time, two other things were going on – Operation Yew Tree and the terrible plight of teenage girls in Rotherham. These three threads became a plot in Deborah’s brain. Although these storylines are deeply harrowing, Deborah always holds out hope that it will be OK in the end for her characters.

And I think there are three ‘H’ words that sum up this book perfectly – harrowing, heart-breaking and hope.


To buy The Dangerous Kind click here.


About the Author

Deborah O'Connor

Deborah O’Connor is a writer and TV producer. Born and bred in the North-East of England, in 2010 she completed the Faber Academy novel writing course. She lives in London with her husband and her daughter. She has not worked at the BBC.


Euro Noir at West Barnes Library with David Young and Daniel Pembrey @djy_writer @DPemb @ZaffreBooks @MertonLibraries #Stasi77

Euro Noir 11
All photos by Beth Kluver

This was our fourth author event at West Barnes Library and joining us to discuss Euro Noir was David Young and Daniel Pembrey. David’s very successful Karin Müller series is set in East Germany and the latest book, Stasi 77, finds Karin dealing with some particularly difficult murder cases that initially looked like accidents. Daniel has previously written about his Dutch cop Henk van der Pol in The Harbour Master and Night Market but has also moved to Germany for his latest WIP (work in progress) as well as California. For both of them, having a European location actually allows greater freedom for imagination. It’s hard to be objective about a place you know too well.

Euro Noir eve 6

Imagination is one thing but they both felt it was vitally important to visit the place(s) they’re writing about. It’s one thing to look on Google Earth but quite another to actually be there and fully experience the sights, sounds and smells. As Daniel does a lot of travel journalism, he’s been able to utilise those trips for research purposes too.

Euro Noir eve 1

David and Daniel each have two threads to their stories. David’s main thread is with Karin in East Germany in 1977 and Daniel’s is contemporary California. Their other threads are both WW2 Germany. Apart from all the research, I also wanted to know if there’s added responsibility to get things right when dealing with historical matters. Both of them spent a lot of time looking at secondary sources to ensure accuracies in their writing. As David’s WW2 thread looks at an actual event, he took the time to visit the places where it happened.

Euro Noir eve 7

I asked how they created their protagonists. David had already set himself the hard task of writing about a closed European country set in the past, so why add the extra step of a female protagonist? David was keen to point out that women in East Germany were far more likely to be employed than women in the West. So it seemed quite natural to have a female police detective. He did have the benefit of checking with his wife and two female tutors on his MA Crime Writing course to make sure Karin was authentic. Daniel drew on his experience of living in the US for ten years to create his British private investigator who lives in LA.


I asked David and Daniel what’s next for them. David has written a book set in Japan. (I’ve also heard on the grapevine that there may be a book 5 for Karin – hooray!). Despite saying that it’s hard to be objective about a place you know well, Daniel has started something London-based but it’s very early days.

A big thank you to David and Daniel for entertaining us so well. Thank you also to the Friends of West Barnes Library for putting on the event.



To find out more about David Young and buy his books click here.

To find out more about Daniel Pembrey and buy his books click here.

We’ll be back quite soon on Monday 24th June with Vaseem Khan and Alex Khan as we discuss Murder Most Indian. Vaseem will explore the background to his Baby Ganesh Detective Agency novels, talking murder, priceless diamonds, and corpse-eating vultures. He will also answer the intriguing question: how do you fit an elephant into a crime story? Alex Khan meanwhile will take us behind the scenes of Bollywood where murder, sex and glamour are all in a days’ shooting. Literally.


First Monday Book Review – Their Little Secret by @MarkBillingham @1stMondayCrime @LittleBrownUK #TheirLittleSecret #ThorneIsBack

First Monday/Tuesday Crime is now just around the corner. Have you reserved your seat yet? If not click here.

To give you some idea of what to expect I’ve just read Mark Billingham’s Their Little Secret and it’s published today. So happy publication day, Mark! And thank you to Little, Brown for letting me read an advance copy through NetGalley. But before I share my thoughts, here’s the blurb.


The Blurb

She says she’s an ordinary mother.
He knows a liar when he sees one.

Sarah thinks of herself as a normal single mum. It’s what she wants others to think of her. But the truth is, she needs something new, something thrilling.

Meanwhile, DI Tom Thorne is investigating a woman’s suicide, convinced she was driven to do it by a man who preys on vulnerable women.

A man who is about to change Sarah’s life.

My Review

Now, I have a slight confession. Mark Billingham has written a ridiculous amount of books but this is only the third one I’ve read. I’ve previously read Sleepyhead (Tom Thorne) and Die of Shame (Nicola Tanner). The two characters come together in Their Little Secret and I love the way they work and wind each other up. Nicola has a very sensible down to earth approach whereas Tom’s life just resembles the Country and Western songs he loves so much – only happy when he’s miserable.

Thankfully both he and Nicola (who’s still grieving for her dead partner) have a case that stretches and tests them. Tom Thorne is called to a suicide at a Tube station. It’s meant to be an open and shut case but there’s something that bothers him. Something off kilter that niggles. As Tom and Nicola start to investigate, they discover that their perpetrator isn’t going to be easy to spot. How do you find someone who manages to transform like a shape-shifter and then hides in plain sight?

Mark Billingham has a writing style that’s easy to read, even with changes of viewpoints. I particularly liked it when we heard from Sarah, the single mum. Now (trying not to give any spoilers) if I’d come across Sarah at the school gate, I think I’d have rumbled her. I’ve been doing the school run for 14 years (!) but all schools work differently. At our school, the parents wait with their children by the classrooms but at others the pupils go in straight from the gate. I liked the slow reveal about Sarah and certainly at the beginning I was convinced by her.

I also like the little ironic touches Mark Billingham puts in, such as the congregation singing Amazing Grace at a Humanist funeral and the special reference to The Blacksmith and Toffee Maker pub, just across the road from City University. I’d like to think that Mark included it especially for First Monday Crime. The irony, of course, is that it’s currently shut and so we won’t be going there next Tuesday!

Although most of the story is tied up, there is one loose thread at the end. In one way, it’s really annoying but in another, it mimics real life cases where criminals keep their mouths shut, refusing to reveal their final little secret. There’s a particular real life case that Mark Billingham refers to (I won’t say as it’s a spoiler) and in the final chapters, the pain of the fictional victim’s family member is evident. But it made me think of the families of the real life victims and the terrible suffering they have gone through.

I don’t think you need to have read all the DI Tom Thorne books to enjoy this. It works well as a standalone as Mark Billingham adds in background information for his characters. I enjoyed Their Little Secret immensely.


If you’re able to get along on Tuesday 7th May then you’ll be able to buy a book and get it signed by Mark. If you can’t make it then you can buy Their Little Secret here.

And remember to reserve your seat if you want to come and listen to Mark Billingham discuss Their Little Secret with the First Monday (Tuesday) panel! Click here.


About the Author

Mark Billingham is one of the UK’s most acclaimed and popular crime writers. A former actor, television writer and stand-up comedian, his series of novels featuring D.I. Tom Thorne has twice won him the Crime Novel Of The Year Award as well as the Sherlock Award for Best British Detective and been nominated for seven CWA Daggers. His standalone thriller IN THE DARK was chosen as one of the twelve best books of the year by the Times and his debut novel, SLEEPYHEAD was chosen by the Sunday Times as one of the 100 books that had shaped the decade. Each of his novels has been a Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller.

A television series based on the Thorne novels was screened in Autumn 2010, starring David Morrissey as Tom Thorne and a BBC series based on the standalone thrillers IN THE DARK and TIME OF DEATH was shown in 2017.

Mark is also a member of Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers. Performing alongside Val McDermid, Chris Brookmyre, Stuart Neville, Doug Johnstone and Luca Veste, this band of frustrated rockers murders songs for fun at literary festivals worldwide.

Blog Tour – Picture of Innocence by T.J. Stimson @tessjstimson @AvonBooksUK @Sabah_K #PictureOfInnocence


I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Picture of Innocence by T.J. Stimson. Although Tess has written many books before, this is her first Crime novel. Thank you to Sabah Khan at Avon for inviting me to take part. I have an extract for you but first the blurb.


The Blurb

With three children under ten, Maddie is struggling. On the outside, she’s a happy young mother, running a charity as well as a household. But inside, she’s exhausted. She knows she’s lucky to have to have a support network around her. Not just her loving husband, but her family and friends too.

But is Maddie putting her trust in the right people? Because when tragedy strikes, she is certain someone has hurt her child – and everyone is a suspect, including Maddie herself…

The characters in this book are about to discover that looks can be deceiving… because anyone is capable of terrible things. Even the most innocent, even you.

Picture of Innocence

The Extract

No one who met Lucas and her separately would match them as a couple. And yet theirs had been a whirlwind romance, love at first sight. Four months after meeting in the jury room at Lewes Crown Court, they were married. Six years on, in defiance of the friends who’d said she had no idea what she was rushing into, they were as much in love as ever.

She’d known, of course, that Lucas must have baggage; as her best friend Jayne succinctly put it, no one got to thirty-four without a few fuck-ups along the way. But, recklessly, she hadn’t been interested in his past; only in their future, together. Even now, she still knew very little about his life before they’d met. He rarely talked about his childhood or adolescence, for good reason. When he was just thirteen, he’d rescued his four-year-old sister Candace from the house fire that had killed both their parents. Looking back now, Maddie wondered if their shocking bereavements had been part of what drew them together. She understood better than most that to survive tragedy, sometimes you had to close the door on the past.

But her first instincts had been right. He was a good husband, a wonderful father and stepfather. He brought her a cup of tea in bed every morning and rubbed her feet at night when she was tired. And they’d made beautiful children together, she thought fondly, as she put Jacob’s breakfast on the high chair in front of him. Both their sons were a perfect blend of the two of them, with ruddy chestnut hair and hazel eyes. Only Emily looked like she didn’t belong. She was growing more like her biological father with every passing year.


Sounds very intriguing! Is Lucas as good as he appears to be? Is there something Maddie is missing? And does Emily feel like a cuckoo? There’s only one way to find out what’s happening. To buy Picture of Innocence click here.


About the Author

Tess Stimson

T.J. (Tess) Stimson is the British author of ten novels, including top-ten bestseller The Adultery Club, and two non-fiction books, which between them have been translated into dozens of languages. Her first “proper” job after graduating from St Hilda’s College, Oxford (where she read English) was as a news trainee with ITN (Independent Television News). She reported and produced regional and world stories, travelling to hotspots and war-zones all over the globe.

In 2002, she was appointed Professor of Creative Writing at the University of South Florida and moved to the US. She now lives and works in Vermont with her husband, Erik, their three children, and (at the last count) two cats, three fish, one gerbil and a large number of bats in the attic.

First Monday Crime Interview with Vanda Symon @1stMondayCrime @vandasymon @OrendaBooks

We have an international line-up for you on Tuesday 7th May. As well as our two UK authors, Mark Billingham and Deborah O’Connor, Chris Carter will be flying in from the other side of the Pond. But Vanda Symon is coming from the other side of the world, all the way from NZ! Vanda writes the Sam Shepherd police procedural series and Orenda Books has published the first two here in the UK – Overkill and The Ringmaster. I was fortunate to take part in the blog tour for The Ringmaster and you can read my review here.

Since Vanda is making such a long journey to be with us, I thought it would be good to find out a bit more about her and her books.


So Vanda, how did you get into this Crime writing business?

My children drove me to a life of crime. Seriously! I embarked upon my dream of writing when I had a six month-old and a two year-old. I knew I wanted to write but was not sure what to write, as I loved historic fiction as well as crime fiction. In the end it came down to a pragmatic decision on how practical it was going to be to do the research. Researching historic fiction required going to libraries, museums and archives, which were not fond of babies and their abilities to make noise, poo and spew. Researching crime fiction was far more accessible, so crime won. And I have absolutely no regrets!


Why did you decide to write police procedurals and how did you create Sam Shepherd?

Police procedurals seemed like the natural thing to do at the time. My husband’s step-dad was a retired police detective and he had some pretty interesting stories, and I also loved to read detective fiction. Sam Shephard originally started out as a man, yep, can you imagine? I had started writing Overkill from the perspective of a male detective, and I admit I was struggling to find his voice. Then one day my husband did something completely dumb-nut, and I thought – I don’t even understand the man I married, how the hell do I think I can write from the viewpoint of a man. So, I thought bugger this, and changed him to a her, and lo and behold, Sam Shephard (the woman) arrived fully formed and full of the insecurities and sass that we love.


In Overkill, you had a small town setting but you’ve moved to the big city for The Ringmaster. What have been the pros and cons for the location change?

I do miss the small town setting of Mataura, and the intensity of the relationships between people that small town claustrophobia brings. But Sam did need to move on from being a small town girl, to finding her way in a larger pond. This stretches and develops her as a character, and also the city setting brings a different range of crime when taking the long term view across a series. Dunedin for me is the perfect location, as it is not a big city by any international standards, but it is for her. It combines the scale needed for her to feel slightly adrift, but still has the friendliness and that ‘everyone knows everyone’ vibe.


Are there any differences between New Zealand Crime books and British ones?

At the heart of all crime fiction is human drama, and human drama is universal, so there will always be commonalities. Where the differences come in are in the physical locations (and I love that my publisher Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books has given me carte blanche to go for broke on the “Kiwiness” of a New Zealand setting) and the cultural psyche of a country. New Zealanders have a particular way of approaching life that is low key and doesn’t take itself too seriously. We embrace our Maori culture, as well as the vast array of cultures that make up our people. We try to be as inclusive as possible, even if we don’t always succeed, and I think on the whole we are an optimistic nation. Hopefully this comes through in the novels.


On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you about appearing at First Monday Crime?

A thermo-nuclear 10!


Thanks Vanda for answering my questions!


If you haven’t yet booked, it’s not too late to reserve your seat! Just click here.

And remember it’s a Tuesday and not a Monday!


About The Author

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Vanda Symon is a crime writer, TV presenter and radio host from Dunedin, New Zealand, and the chair of the Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors. The Sam Shepherd series has hit number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best crime novel. She currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons.