#BookReview: The Ringmaster by Vanda Symon | @VandaSymon @OrendaBooks @AnneCater #TheRingmaster #SamShephard

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About the Book

Death is stalking the South Island of New Zealand

Marginalised by previous antics, Sam Shephard, is on the bottom rung of detective training in Dunedin, and her boss makes sure she knows it. She gets involved in her first homicide investigation, when a university student is murdered in the Botanic Gardens, and Sam soon discovers this is not an isolated incident. There is a chilling prospect of a predator loose in Dunedin, and a very strong possibility that the deaths are linked to a visiting circus…

Determined to find out who’s running the show, and to prove herself, Sam throws herself into an investigation that can have only one ending…

 

My Thoughts

I adored getting to know Sam Shephard in Overkill and I’m thrilled to have the chance to share my thoughts on the brilliant second book in the series featuring her, The Ringmaster!

The Ringmaster follows Sam as she investigates the murder of a university student. In the course of the investigation Sam ends up looking in to the circus that’s in town as it seems possible that there is a link. Sam has recently been promoted and has moved to Dunedin but her superior officer isn’t happy with this and makes Sam’s work life difficult but she is determined to prove herself.

Throughout The Ringmaster I loved seeing Sam build a working relationship with her fellow Officer Smithy and hope to see more of him in future novels. I also enjoyed seeing her tentatively embarking on a new romantic relationship. Sam is such a down to earth woman – she isn’t perfect but she’s very likeable and works really hard – so that seeing her go about her day having the sort of mishaps that happen to me at inopportune moments just really endears her to me. I feel like I could be friends with her. I said in my review of Overkill that I thought I might have found a new detective to fill the Kinsey Millhone-shaped hole in my life and now I can absolutely confirm that I absolutely have! Sam Shephard is such a brilliant character!

The opening of The Ringmaster is shocking, perhaps not quite as shocking as the opening chapter of Overkill, but very nearly! It seems a young woman may have been lured to her death and there’s something so terrifying and devastating about the idea of someone being killed like that by someone they trusted and cared about.

The Ringmaster is a novel that really explores at how it is to be other, to feel on the outside, to be marginalised. Sam is new to the Dunedin and made to feel like an outsider at work, she’s also having to stay with her friend Maggie’s family so doesn’t have a home of her own at the moment. The circus workers that get questioned over the murder are of various nationalities and this seems to heighten suspicion around them regarding the murder. I know what it is to other and it’s so hard when you feel that people have pre-judged you on something you can do nothing about. My circumstances are very different to the workers from the circus but I still felt an empathy for them as they tried very hard to fit in.

I struggle with understanding circuses that use animals, it doesn’t sit right with me at all. I was felt particularly sad reading about Cassie the elephant in her enclosure. In one part of the novel something really awful happens at the circus, which leads to heartbreaking scenes and I found myself in tears at this part of the book. Vanda Symon has such a brilliant way of writing scenes such as this though – she doesn’t shy away from the harsh reality of the situation but at the same time there is a real sensitivity to her writing that makes me want to keep reading.

The Ringmaster has an underlying tension running through it as you look with suspicion at quite a few characters wondering if they might be the murderer. I enjoyed the psychology aspect of the investigation as Sam, with help from Maggie, tries to profile the murderer in order to try and get a lead in the case. This is definitely a whodunnit crime mystery but it’s also very much a whydunnit so even if you think you know who the murderer is you’ll still have to work out the why. I loved that there was more than one element and it certainly kept me on my toes as I was reading. The why was more of a shock to me than the who but I was still left utterly reeling by the end!

Vanda Symon is such a brilliant writer who brings something really fresh to crime fiction, a genre that I read a lot of but Vanda’s books really do stand out in the crowd.  The Ringmaster is an emotional, powerful and gripping novel. I loved it and highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Orenda for my copy of the book and to Anne for the blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

The Ringmaster is out now and available here.

 

I’ve previously reviewed Overkill, the first book in this series, here.

 

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 Shephard series has climbed to 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.

 

 

You can follow the rest of the tour at the following blogs:

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#BookReview: The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman by Mindy Mejia #BlogTour @MejiaWrites @MeadOlivia

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About the Book

Eighteen-year-old Hattie Hoffman is a talented actress, loved by everyone in her Minnesotan hometown. When she’s found stabbed to death on the opening night of her school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of the community.

Sheriff Del Goodman, a close friend of Hattie’s dad, vows to find her killer, but the investigation yields more secrets than answers: it turns out Hattie played as many parts offstage as on. Told from three perspectives, Del’s, Hattie’s high school English teacher and Hattie herself, The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman tells the story of the Hattie behind the masks, and what happened in that final year of her life. . .

My Thoughts

This novel opens with Hattie in an airport trying to get a flight out of her hometown. She fails in her endeavour and ends up alone in her car upset and trying to work out what on earth she will do next. From then on the novel has three narrators – Hattie, the local Sheriff Del, and Hattie’s teacher Peter. The book flits back and forth in time as we see what Hattie was up to in the months leading up to her death, and also in the days following her murder as the Sheriff, and others in her life, try to figure out who killed her and why.

A picture is gradually built up of Hattie and it’s very apparent that in many ways she was a typical teenage girl but also that she is much more ambitious for life than her peers. Hattie wants to move to New York and become an actress, and it’s this ambition that ultimately leads her astray. She joins online forums, and in her naivety about the way other people can hide themselves online, gets chatting to a man. This sets in motion a series of events that Hattie feels she is orchestrating but she doesn’t fully grasp that it’s not only her life that she is playing with.

The town Sheriff, Del, has known Hattie her whole life as he is very good friends with her father. This leads to us seeing Hattie through his eyes as a detective but also as a father-figure. It shows Hattie’s innocent side, and the depth of feeling that people had for her.

Peter’s narration is enlightening. He gets pulled into Hattie’s game but you never stop forgetting that he is her teacher and should take more care of her. He notices what she is doing with other people but doesn’t allow himself to truly see it, or perhaps doesn’t want to really to see it.

The title of this book is so perfect. Hattie’s last acting role is in Hamlet, where her character wears a white dress and ends up covered in blood, which is chillingly prescient, and behind the scenes she is pulling the strings to make things go her way. It feels like Hattie was a doomed character from the start- there is a real sense of fate in this novel, that she stepped on a path and it led her to her death. She wants to be an actress and spends her whole life playing the part that other people want her to be. She is one person with her friends, and another with her boyfriend. She doesn’t seem to know who she really is, while at the same time appearing all-knowing. This made me feel so sad for her, and even though you know from the beginning of this book that Hattie will be murdered, I couldn’t stop myself wishing that someone would notice something, would pull her off the path she was on, would save her. She really got under my skin and I feel like Hattie will stay with me for a long time to come.

I also loved the way that this novel bought the location of the book to life and the way that all the characters, even the more peripheral ones, felt real to me. By the end of the book I felt like I’d been to this town, that I knew these people in real life. The writing is beautiful and I already can’t wait to read what ever Mindy Mejia writes next.

This isn’t a fast-paced thriller but it is completely and utterly gripping and compelling. I read this in two sittings (and I really begrudged needing sleep otherwise I would have read it in one go!) and I still feel haunted by Hattie now, over a week after I finished reading.

I highly recommend The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman! The novel is out now and available from here.

I received a copy of this book from Quercus in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

Mindy Mejia

Mindy received a BA from the University of Minnesota and an MFA from Hamline University. Apart from brief stops in Iowa City and Galway, she’s lived in the Twin Cities her entire life and held a succession of jobs from an apple orchard laborer to a global credit manager.

She’s currently working on a project set in Duluth and the Boundary Waters that may or may not be a trilogy.

(Taken from author’s website: MindyMejia.com

 

You can follow the rest of the Hattie Hoffman blog tour at the following dates and blogs:

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#BookReview: The Girls Next Door by Mel Sherratt@writermels @bookouture

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About the Book

One warm spring evening, five teenagers meet in a local park. Only four will come out alive.

Six months after the stabbing of sixteen-year-old Deanna Barker, someone is coming after the teenagers of Stockleigh, as a spate of vicious assaults rocks this small community. Revenge for Deanna? Or something more?

Detective Eden Berrisford is locked into a race against time to catch the twisted individual behind the attacks – but when her own niece, Jess Mountford, goes missing, the case gets personal.

With the kidnapper threatening Jess’s life, can Eden bring back her niece to safety? Or will the people of Stockleigh be forced to mourn another daughter…?

My Thoughts

I’m a huge fan of Mel Sherratt and have read and very much enjoyed all of her novels to date and this one is no exception!

I have to start by saying that I loved Eden Berrisford and I think she may have the potential to overtake Allie Shenton (from Mel’s other series) in my affections! I really enjoyed reading about Eden and I can’t wait to read more in the future. It’s brilliant to find such strong, interesting women in crime fiction novels.

I was expecting this novel to focus more on what happened in the woods but that is just the catalyst for what happens to the characters next – one in particular is Jess, who is Eden’s niece, gets caught up in something way bigger than she’s expected when she started dating a new boyfriend. This novel has some twists and turns – some I saw coming but others had me quite shocked.

There is always a real sense of community in Mel’s novels, and this novel is no different. There are the bad guys, as there are anywhere, but there is also a sense of a tight-knit community who look out for their own and that always adds a warmth to a story that is about teenage gangs and the terrible crimes that some people commit.

I also have to mention that I really enjoyed how this had little references to the Estate series and so some of the setting for this book already felt familiar to me and it was lovely seeing Josie the housing officer from that series pop up in this book too. You don’t need to have read the Estate series to read this one but it’s a lovely bonus if you have.

I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

About the Author

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Mel Sherratt write police procedurals, psychological suspense and women’s fiction with a punch – or grit-lit, as Mel calls it. Shortlisted for the prestigious CWA (Crime Writer’s Association) Dagger in Library Award 2014, my inspiration comes from authors such as Martina Cole, Lynda la Plante, Mandasue Heller and Elizabeth Haynes.

Mel live in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, with her husband and terrier, Dexter (named after the TV serial killer) and makes liberal use of her hometown as a backdrop for some of her books. You can find out more at Mel’s website www.melsherratt.co.uk

 

#BookReview: Last Light by CJ Lyons @cjlyonswriter @canelo_co

Last Light by C. J. Lyons

About the book:

A brutally murdered family… a wronged man in prison 

1987: Lily Martin is horrifically murdered along with her young child in Texas.

Today: Life should be easy after leaving the FBI –  but not if you’re detective Lucy Guardino. Lucy has always seen herself as a normal mum who happened to have a job chasing the worst of the worst. But after a violent predator targets her family and she’s injured, Lucy sacrifices her career at the Bureau.

She joins the Beacon Group, a firm that specializes in cold cases. Lucy fears she’s traded the elite for shepherding a team of amateurs.

She is sent to rural Texas to investigate a case that’s already been closed with the killers behind bars for twenty-nine years.

But who really killed Lily Martin and her infant daughter? Why was an entire family targeted for annihilation? What price will Lucy pay when she fights to expose a truth people will kill to keep buried?

My thoughts:

I very much enjoyed reading this novel. I especially loved that there were two really strong female characters in this novel and both were interesting. Lucy has a warm personality but is a very steely investigator. On a personal note, it was interesting to read about her AFO – I wear a similar leg brace (although my disability is very different) so I had real sympathy when she had no nice shoes to wear with her new work outfit. I have to wear men’s velcro trainers two sizes too big with mine as nothing else will go over it! TK is also a character that I’m looking forward to learning more about as this series progresses – she’s a former marine that has obviously had a very traumatic time whilst serving but her record is classified so not much is known. She’s fascinating though as she’s very good at aspects of her new job but is also slightly hot-headed at times so is far from being perfect.

I did find this to be a novel of two halves in a way – the first half was really interesting as we learn about the team of investigators, and find out more about the crime and the man who was convicted of the murders. It almost felt like it could be a real life murder case. I felt that in the second half I had to suspend my disbelief a little bit as it did feel like some things were ramped up in a way that was great to read and it was still well written and so fast-paced. I couldn’t put the book down and read this half of the book in a couple of hours, I was so keen to find out if the suspect was really the killer and if they would be caught and punished.

This is the first in a new series – the Beacon Falls series – but I believe Lucy’s career in the FBI was another series in its own right so I’m tempted to go back and read all of those now too as I enjoyed this novel so much. Last Light had me engrossed from the prologue all the way through to the end. It’s a fast-paced and tense read that you’ll find very hard to put down once you’ve started reading!

This is a brilliant start to a new crime thriller series and I can’t wait to read the next book!

I received a copy of Last Light from Canelo via Ed PR in exchange for an honest review.

 

About the Author:

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CJ Lyons has lived most of her life on the edge. New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-one novels, former pediatric ER doctor CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart.

CJ has been called a “master within the genre” (Pittsburgh Magazine) and her work has been praised as “breathtakingly fast-paced” and “riveting” (Publishers Weekly) with “characters with beating hearts and three dimensions” (Newsday).

She has assisted police and prosecutors with cases involving child abuse, rape, homicide and Munchausen by Proxy. She has worked in numerous trauma centers, on the Navajo reservation, as a crisis counselor, victim advocate, as well as a flight physician for Life Flight and Stat Medevac.

A story-teller all her life, CJ has always created stories about people discovering the courage to make a difference. This led her to coin the term: Thrillers with Heart.

Her novels have won the International Thriller Writers prestigious Thriller Award, the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Golden Gateway, Readers’ Choice Award, the RT Seal of Excellence, and Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense.

(Biography details and photo taken from CJ Lyons’ website)

Crime series or Standalone novel? A guest post by Chris Curran #HerTurntoCry

Today I’m thrilled to welcome Chris Curran (author of Mindsight and brand new novel, Her Turn to Cry) to my blog! Chris has written this brilliant post for me all about crime series versus standalone, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did!

 

When I first started writing crime the received wisdom from publishing professionals was that readers wanted series detectives. So that was what agents and editors were looking for. But as someone who preferred Ruth Rendell’s psychological suspense novels (often written as Barbara Vine) to her Inspector Wexford series and whose favourite Christie was the sinister standalone, Endless Night, it was this kind of book I wanted to write.

Although it was before the Gone Girl phenomenon, Gillian Flynn had already written her first brilliant psychological thriller, Sharp Objects, which went on to win two CWA daggers.  Other wonderful writers of standalone crime, like Laura Wilson, were also having success so I knew there must be a market. In the event I had just completed my first novel, Mindsight, when psychological crime, domestic noir, grip-lit or whatever you choose to call it, became big news.

Crime series are still attracting hordes of readers of course and I love many of them myself. There’s something enormously satisfying about following a detective, professional or amateur, through a series of books. In effect you get two stories for the price of one: the immediate crime the sleuth is tasked with solving and the ongoing saga of their own, usually complex and often troubled, life.

Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brody, CJ Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake, Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway and Sarah Hilary’s DI Marnie Rome all have fascinating back stories and personal lives that become more intriguing with each book. Who doesn’t want to know everything about Jackson Brody’s lost sister or to follow each new twist in Ruth Galloway’s on-off relationship with DCI Harry Nelson?

And then there are the side-kicks and the detective’s family and friends who often have their own enthralling and messy storylines. Marnie Rome’s sergeant, Noah Jakes, Shardlake’s assistant, Barak, and Ruth Galloway’s druid friend, Cathbad, as well as her gorgeous daughter, Kate.  In fact several of these characters seem complicated and vivid enough to head their own series.

Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad novels are interesting because they straddle the divide between series and standalone as a different detective takes centre stage with each new novel. It’s a clever ploy although, like many readers, I’m still dying to know the rest of Rob Ryan’s story, which was left tantalizingly open-ended in the first novel.

So what are the virtues of the standalone? One advantage is that readers can come to each book in any order with no previous knowledge required. This means that the author doesn’t have to hold up the narrative to reveal details of the ongoing saga. And, although one of the delights of the series is following the development of recurring characters, there is a danger that these can become so enthralling that they overwhelm the criminal case featured in this particular book. Alternatively the author may withhold too much and alienate readers by refusing ever to satisfy their curiosity.

In contrast all readers of a standalone start the book knowing nothing about any of the characters. No pattern has been established in previous novels so anything could happen. Since we are not looking at events through the perceptions of a trustworthy and familiar detective it can feel as if a safety net has been removed, which adds a delicious sense of menace. Anyone could die and anyone, including the narrator, could be deceiving us. Could even be the murderer.

There is a heightened intensity to many standalones because the characters are usually ordinary people intimately involved with the crime and are often blundering around feeling terrified and helpless. Or of course they might be hiding a guilty secret or even turn out to be a manipulative psychopath.

The standalone writer is not restricted by an established location or set of procedures and is at liberty to travel in time and space both between books and within a novel. My first book, Mindsight, was set in contemporary Hastings on the south coast of England, whereas my second, Her Turn To Cry,  moves from the variety theatres of the 1950s to the heart of swinging 60s London.

In fact writers of standalones do tend to follow certain themes in their work. Flynn is obsessed with dysfunctional families and manipulative women, Cathi Unsworth explores popular music culture, and the dark underbelly the 20th century, whilst Megan Abbott’s compelling and unsettling novels often deal with hyper-competitive teenage girls.

For the reader it’s a matter of choose your poison or, like me, have it both ways. Nor must it be either/or for the writer. Like Ruth Rendell and Agatha Christie, Laura Wilson began a detective series with Stratton’s War. And I have a police character in mind for my own next book – so who knows.

About Her Turn to Cry

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London, 1965. Top model Joycie Todd lives a glittering life with photographer Marcus Blake. But her childhood tells a different story…

When she was eleven, Joycie’s mother disappeared. Run away with another man, so everyone says. But Joycie can’t forget the thumps she heard in the night, or the bloodstained rug hidden under the bed. A rug that was gone the next day.

Twelve years later, Joycie has left her past behind. But when an old friend dies, Joycie is left a letter beseeching her to find out the truth. Unable to keep the door locked any longer, Joycie sets out to discover why her mother left her – if she ever really did.

As she travels to the shabby seaside towns of her childhood, Joycie soon finds that it’s not just her mother who vanished all those years ago. Joycie knows the disappearances are connected, she just doesn’t know how. But there’s someone out there who does – and they will do anything to keep it buried.

Her Turn to Cry is out now in ebook and is due to be published in print on 8th September 2016 in the UK. Available from Amazon

About the author

Chris Curran

I was born in London but now live in St Leonards-on-Sea near Hastings, on the south coast of England, in a house groaning with books. I left school at sixteen to work in the local library – my dream job then and now – and spent an idyllic few months reading my way around the shelves. Reluctantly returning to full-time education I gained my degree from Sussex University. Since then I have worked as an actress, script writer, copy editor and teacher, all the time looking forward to the day when I would see my own books gracing those library shelves.

 

 

You can find Chris on her blog: chriscurranauthor.com

Twitter: @Christi_Curran

Facebook: Chris Curran

 


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I’m linking this post up to Talk of the Town, please check out the other posts on there and share your own. #TalkoftheTown

 

Review: The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza (audiobook)

The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza

Her eyes are wide open. Her lips parted as if to speak. Her dead body frozen in the ice…She is not the only one. 

When a young boy discovers the body of a woman beneath a thick sheet of ice in a South London park, Detective Erika Foster is called in to lead the murder investigation. 

The victim, a beautiful young socialite, appeared to have the perfect life. Yet when Erika begins to dig deeper, she starts to connect the dots between the murder and the killings of three prostitutes, all found strangled, hands bound, and dumped in water around London. 

What dark secrets is the girl in the ice hiding? 

As Erika inches closer to uncovering the truth, the killer is closing in on Erika. 

The last investigation Erika led went badly wrong…resulting in the death of her husband. With her career hanging by a thread, Erika must now battle her own personal demons as well as a killer more deadly than any she’s faced before. But will she get to him before he strikes again? 

A pause-resisting thriller packed with suspense. If you like Angela Marsons, Rachel Abbott, and Karin Slaughter, discover Rob Bryndza’s new series today.

I was thrilled to be offered the chance to review the audio version of this novel. I listen to a lot of audio books but I don’t usually review them, this is the first! I find it easy to follow audio books but have to admit that I’ve never listened to a crime/thriller novel before as I worried it would be harder to keep track of the characters.

I loved listening to this novel. The narrater, Jan Cramer, has done a brilliant job of bringing great characters to life. She does a different voice for each character and this made the novel so easy to follow, I soon knew which voice belonged to which character and could relax and enjoy listening to the novel.

The novel as a whole is great – it kept me engrossed and I found that when I stopped listening for the day I was couldn’t wait to get back to it. I found Erika Foster really interesting as a character and although she falls into the trope of troubled detective to a degree, it didn’t feel like a stereotype. Her character, and what she had been through, felt completely believable and the way she was coping felt very realistic and that was a refreshing change from a lot of crime/detective novels.

I found the whodunnit element very good too – I only worked out who the killer was shortly before it was revealed and I think that was the point the reader is supposed to realise. I loved that I hadn’t been able to work out who it was earlier – I had my suspicions at various points in the book but I wasn’t sure.

The novel itself is a brilliant start to a new series and I’ll absolutely by buying the next book. I’ll also definitely look out for audio books narrated by Jan Cramer in the future.

If anyone reading this review has never listened to an audio book before or, like me, was put off listening to a crime novel in case it’s harder to follow as an audio book then please consider this one. The characters are so well written that you can tell them apart plus Jan Cramer’s narration is such that all the voices sound different from each other so you very quickly know who’s speaking. It’s a brilliant audio book all round.

I rated this audio book 4.5 out of 5 and I’m very much looking forward to reading, or listening to, the next book in the series.

I received a complementary copy of this audiobook from Audible via the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Girl in the Ice is published by Bookouture. It’s out now and available in ebook, paperback and audiobook formats.

Blog Tour | Review: The Safe Word by Karen Long

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There are rules that every player of every game must abide by, no matter how dangerous the sport.

Toronto has become the backdrop to a macabre set of artistic installations: women kidnapped, tortured and horrifically displayed by a killer with a vision. 
Only someone capable of understanding the killer’s creative desire will be able to stop the murders and D I Eleanor Raven is uniquely qualified. Driven by a complex personality she pursues only the facts, only the things she can see, but never casts a judgement. 

But she also has a dark and dangerous secret – one that will threaten her very survival.

I’ve heard quite a lot about this book so when I got the chance to sign up for the blog tour I couldn’t type quick enough to say yes!

I really enjoyed this novel, it’s unusual for me to be engrossed in a crime novel from the first page but this one grabbed me straight away and I didn’t want to put it down.

I found it really refreshing to read a detective novel where the lead character doesn’t seem to have relationship or alcohol problems, as seems to be par for the course in many novels like this. I really liked Detective Eleanor Raven – she is who she is and she doesn’t apologise for it. She seemed like a strong female who doesn’t yield when she know she’s right, she also seems really interesting and I want to know more about her.

I enjoyed seeing how Eleanor interacted with a new partner after her long-standing colleague was off on sick leave. I get the feeling that she will warm to Laurence as time goes on but I loved the dynamic between them – she didn’t make things easy for him but at the same time it felt like deep down she was giving him a chance to prove himself.

The murder scenes in this book are sinister and gruesome but are so intriguing that I couldn’t stop reading as I wanted to find out who was killing these people and what their motivation was. It was a fascinating crime story.

I rated this novel 4 out of 5 and am happy to discover that this is the first book in a series and am now very much looking forward to reading the second book.

I received this book through Brook Cottage Blog Tours in exchange for an honest review.

The Safe Word is out now and available from:

AMAZON UK

AMAZON US

B & N

About the Author

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Karen Long was born and raised in the English midlands, educated at Bangor University and taught English and Drama for fifteen years. During her teaching years she studied biology and neurology with the Open University and this interest in medicine, forensics and forensic psychology is reflected in her writing. She is an enthusiastic traveller and has spent time in Toronto, which became the backdrop and inspiration for The Safe Word.

She is a keen amateur naturalist with a deep and abiding love for the crow family. She has dedicated time, love and several fingers in an effort to rehabilitate crows, magpies, rooks and ravens.

Karen is happy to correspond with readers and can be contacted through her website KarenLongWriter.com, where she posts regular blogs.

The Safe Word is Karen’s first novel and was an Amazon bestseller, soon to be joined by the second in the Eleanor Raven series, The Vault. Karen is working on the third novel in the series.

AUTHOR LINKS

FACEBOOK

WEBSITE

BLOG

TWITTER

GOODREADS

All author or review enquires please contact Karen Long’s Personal Assistant J.B. Johnston – brookbooks@hotmail.co.uk

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Check out Book 2The Vaulthttp://amzn.to/1WSnlDn

 

Guest post by Sandra Nikolai (author of Fatal Whispers)

So you know whodunit. Now prove it.

When it comes to solving murder mysteries, dedicated fans of the genre have developed an innate sleuthing ability that seems to improve with every additional book they read. True to their passion, they join groups of like-minded readers where they exchange comments about the books they’ve enjoyed—or not. They contribute to the community by posting book reviews, ratings and recommendations on Goodreads and online retailer sites.

In other words, the perception of whodunit readers presents a formidable challenge to mystery writers like me.

As any author of the genre will tell you, writing a mystery novel is not an easy task. It demands the creation of a complex plotline and a logical unfolding of events so that all things come together at the end. It entails choosing a cast of characters, including potential suspects, and ensuring that the real perpetrator isn’t too obvious.

A writer is well aware that readers expect nothing less than a genuine challenge when it comes to solving murder mysteries, but what happens if a reader guesses who the real culprit is before the end of the story? Should a writer feel less competent? Not really. The true test in trying to solve a mystery is not only in guessing who did it but also in proving how and why the crime was committed.

Let’s look at a real-life murder investigation as an example. Crime investigators might interview several suspects and have a gut feeling about one of them, but unless they can prove guilt, their assumptions are useless. Without viable witnesses or valid clues to help bring the perpetrators to justice, these offenders will continue to roam free. The pile of unsolved cases in law enforcement offices supports the fact that the how and why aspects are fundamental criteria in solving murders.

Part of a mystery writer’s task is to present the clues in a way that makes each potential suspect in the story look guilty. Attention to specifics regarding motive, means and opportunity is essential. A writer needs to be fair and open in planting the information, offering it in doses here and there, and in a manner that can’t be construed as hiding the facts from readers. A writer can use red herrings, but these false clues should be details pertinent to the story—details that can be open to misinterpretation and that readers will need to figure out. Connecting the dots to get to the truth is an important part of the reader’s journey and one that a mystery writer needs to test run beforehand to ensure it works.

Yes, readers are a clever bunch. To stay a step ahead, a writer needs to devise a plot that will outwit fans of the genre and leave them wanting more. If a writer has done a good job of it, readers will be scratching their heads, wondering how and why the crime could have been carried out, until the story’s resolution is presented in the last few pages.

And that is a reader’s true challenge in solving a murder mystery.


About the Author:

SandraNikolai_blog2

SANDRA NIKOLAI graduated from McGill University in Montreal and worked in sales, finance and high tech before devoting her days to writing. She is a member of Crime Writers of Canada and has published a string of short stories, garnering awards along the way.

False Impressions, Fatal Whispers and Icy Silence are the first three novels in a mystery series featuring ghostwriter Megan Scott and investigative reporter Michael Elliott. When not plotting mysteries, Sandra shares her thoughts and experiences about the writing world on her blog and has been a frequent guest writer on other websites. She lives with her husband near Ottawa and is currently at work on her next mystery novel in the series.

Social Media Links:

Website and blog: www.sandranikolai.com (Sign up for Sandra’s exclusive newsletter!)

Email: Sandra@sandranikolai.com

Twitter: @SandraNikolai

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6282913.Sandra_Nikolai


About the Book:

Fatal Whispers July 15

A millionaire’s beautiful young wife.

A homeless woman.

A parish priest.

Three baffling deaths within days. No sign of foul play. No police leads. Even medical authorities can’t explain the cause of death. An unprecedented occurrence in Portland, Maine.

Ghostwriter Megan Scott and investigative reporter Michael Elliott look for answers when their trip to this alluring New England town coincides with the mysterious deaths. As they probe deeper, they discover ominous secrets buried decades ago and ruthless killers who won’t let anyone get in the way of revenge.

Buy Links:

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Sandra-Nikolai/e/B0087RR4XY/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B0087RR4XY/ref=dp_byline_sr_ebooks_1?ie=UTF8&text=Sandra+Nikolai&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=Sandra+Nikolai&sort=relevancerank

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-ca/search?query=Sandra%20Nikolai&fcsearchfield=Author

Apple iBooks UK: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/false-impressions/id957443950?mt=11

 

Review: The Missing by C. L. Taylor

The Missing by C. L. Taylor

You love your family. They make you feel safe. You trust them.

But should you…?

When fifteen-year-old Billy Wilkinson goes missing in the middle of the night, his mother, Claire, blames herself. She’s not the only one. There isn’t a single member of Billy’s family that doesn’t feel guilty. But the Wilkinson’s are so used to keeping secrets from one another that it isn’t until six months later, after an appeal for information goes horribly wrong, that the truth begins to surface.

Claire is sure of two things – that Billy is still alive and that her friends and family had nothing to do with his disappearance.

A mother’s instinct is never wrong. Or is it?

Sometimes those closest to us are the ones with the most to hide…

I loved C. L. Taylor’s previous thrillers, The Lie and The Accident, they were both incredibly gripping and Cally is now one of my automatic must-read authors! I’ve had The Missing on pre-order since I first heard it was coming out but in the meantime I had the chance to get a review copy from Net Galley and couldn’t resist (I do still have a print copy on pre-order and am looking forward to adding it to my bookcase)! As soon as I found out I’d been approved I downloaded The Missing and started reading! 

I was hooked from the beginning of this novel right until the end. The harrowing experience of a child going missing is one all parents must dread and to be trapped in a nightmare for months and for there to be no real leads must be a living hell. This is captured so well in this novel, I could really feel this family’s pain and the way they were slowly falling apart. I liked the fact that Billy was a teenager, as it made this novel a bit different and gave more scope for what might have happened to him – as with a younger child he could have been kidnapped –  but he also may have chosen to run away from home and could be hiding out with friends or living rough somewhere. As a reader, it made the chance of him still being alive more realistic and so I was desperate to keep reading and find out where Billy actually was and what had happened to him.

The fugues that Billy’s mum Claire began to have were fascinating to read about, I was so curious about where she was finding herself and how she had got there. I couldn’t decide if she had perhaps killed her son and her brain was blocking it out, or if she knew who had killed him and her mind couldn’t cope with it, or whether she was just so distressed by his disappearance that her brain was switching off for periods of time. I found it completely believable as I have experience of PTSD, which I know is a different condition but it can cause periods of absence whereby the sufferer loses chunks of time and can come to not knowing how they got to a particular place or how much time has passed. I can see how it would interest a writer and it certainly makes for a very interesting and very unreliable narrator (and I do love an unreliable narrator!). The suspense that came from not knowing everything Claire was doing while in a fugue state really kept me hooked.

This novel is more of a psychological mystery novel than a thriller but it’s still a very intense read and one that will keep you turning the pages to find out what happened to Billy! I had my suspicions about who might know things about his disappearance but I didn’t manage to work it all out – I love it when a novel has an ending that I wasn’t able to figure out beforehand.

I rated it 4.5 out of 5 and definitely recommend it – The Missing is such an intense and fascinating novel, it’s one you absolutely won’t want to miss! I’m now already eagerly anticipating C. L. Taylor’s next novel… 

I received a copy of this book from Avon via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

The Missing is due to be published on 7th April in the UK and is available for pre-order now. 

Review: Sisters and Lies by Bernice Barrington

Sisters and Lies by Bernice Barrington

One hot August night, Rachel Power gets the call everyone fears. It’s the police. Her younger sister Evie’s had a car crash, she’s in a coma. Can Rachel fly to London right away? With Evie injured and comatose, Rachel is left to pick up the pieces of her sister’s life. But it’s hard fitting them together, especially when she really doesn’t like what she sees. Why was Evie driving when she doesn’t even own a licence? Who is the man living in her flat and claiming Evie is his girlfriend? How come she has never heard of him? The more mysteries Rachel uncovers the more she starts asking herself how well she ever really knew her sister. And then she begins to wonder if the crash was really the accident everybody says it is. Back in hospital, Evie, trapped inside an unresponsive body, is desperately trying to wake up. Because she’s got an urgent message for Rachel – a warning which could just save both their lives . . .

As soon as I read the synopsis for Sisters and Lies I was keen to read it, and it did not disappoint. Evie has been in a car crash and is in a coma; her sister Rachel is just back from an overseas book tour when she gets the call about Evie. Due to Rachel having been away for a while she isn’t fully up to speed about what has been happening in Evie’s life of late and so when she arrives at Evie’s flat, having visited her at the hospital, she doesn’t know what to make of finding a man there claiming to be her sister’s boyfriend. Immediately I was hooked because there is suspicion straight away over this man and I wanted to know more. 

The novel is told alternately by Rachel, in the present day, and through Evie’s thoughts, who whilst in a coma is finding her memories are beginning to come back to her from a few months previously and she’s trying to piece together to work out what happened to her. 

I felt drawn both to Rachel and Evie and really empathised with the way they behaved because they had recently lost their mother. In the face of such pain it can make siblings close off from each other if they have different ways of coping so it was entirely plausible to me that Rachel would have no idea about her sister’s life while she was off on a book tour on the other side of the world. There were some small aspects of this book that didn’t feel completely plausible but often with thrillers you do need to be prepared to suspend disbelief to a degree – all I want to get swept up in a great story when I’m reading and this book does just that!

Sisters and Lies starts off as more of a mystery novel but the tension builds so fast that by the second half I found myself racing through the pages wanting to know what was going to happen and to find out if I was trusting the right people! The red herrings along the way did cause me to doubt myself on more than one occasion about who they bad guy might be.

Sisters and Lies is a brilliant debut novel – it’s thrilling, it’s twisty and it doesn’t disappoint! I rated it a solid 4 stars and I highly recommend it. I can’t wait to see what Bernice Barrington writes next!

Sisters and Lies is due to be published on 24th March and can be pre-ordered now.

I received this book from Penguin Books via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Theseus Paradox by David Videcette

 

The Theseus Paradox

Synopsis

We accepted it was terrorism.
What if we were wrong?
What if London’s 7/7 bombings were the greatest criminal deception of our time?

July 2005: in the midst of Operation Theseus, the largest terrorist investigation that the UK has ever known, Detective Inspector Jake Flannagan begins to ask difficult questions that lead to the mysterious disappearance of his girlfriend and his sudden suspension from the Metropolitan Police.

Who masterminded London’s summer of terror?
Why can’t Flannagan make headway in the sprawling investigation?
Are the bombings the perfect ploy to mask a different plot entirely?
Is Jake’s absent Security Service girlfriend really who she claims to be?

While hunting for the answers to the most complex terrorist case in British history, one man will uncover the greatest criminal deception of our time.

Terror, extremism and fear of the unknown,
Sometimes the answer is much closer to home.

David says, ‘I can’t tell you the truth, but I can tell you a story…’

My Review

I read a review of The Theseus Paradox and was immediately intrigued by the book so when I was offered a copy by the author, I couldn’t refuse.

This novel is a work of fiction based on the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005. It’s a very intriguing novel and held my attention from start to finish. I haven’t read many works of fiction that are so closely based on real life events, and at times it’s difficult to get your head around the fact that this is fiction because the real life events of 7/7 are still so fixed in memory, and Videcette’s writing is so good that it makes the fictional elements feel entirely believable.

DI Jake Flanagan is a brilliant character, like many fictional detectives he has his flaws and vices – in Jake’s case it’s alcohol and women, but he is a very likeable character and I was willing him to hold it together to find out what and who was behind the bombings. Jake bends, and sometimes breaks, the rules but everything he does is for the greater good. He desperately needs to solve this crime.

The short chapters, each headed with a time, date and location stamp, kept the novel moving at a very high pace and the book never lost intensity for a second. There wasn’t any filler in this novel, everything was relevant to solving the crime and I found that very impressive.

The way the book ended came as a complete surprise to me – I thought I had some of it worked out but I was completely wrong!  The things that Flanagan finds out do make absolute sense though and it was a very plausible ending. After I finished reading this book I found that I couldn’t stop thinking about it for a while afterwards, my mind was mulling it all over and I can see how all the pieces fit together to get the ending.  This novel is still swirling around in my head even now, a couple of weeks after finishing it. It was such a great read!

I really hope that there will be more books featuring Jake Flanagan. I enjoyed this novel immensely and will definitely be looking out for more by David Videcette. I rate this 5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Theseus Paradox is out now and available from Amazon.

 

About the Author

David Videcette

Former Scotland Yard investigator, David Videcette, has searched hundreds of properties, placed bugs on countless vehicles, chased numerous dangerous criminals and interviewed thousands of witnesses.

He was a lead investigator in the London terrorist bombings and is a former Scotland Yard detective with twenty years policing experience, including counter-terrorist operations and organised crime.

He currently consults on security operations for high-net-worth individuals and is an expert media commentator on crime, terrorism, extremism and the London 7/7 bombings.

David also now puts his police knowledge to good use in his crime novels.

Blog tour | Review: The Jazz Files by Fiona Veitch Smith

9781782641759

Today, I’m thrilled that it’s my stop on the blog tour for the fabulous The Jazz files by Fiona Veitch Smith.

My Review

The Jazz Files is a wonderful novel. From the moment I first saw the cover I was very keen to read the book, it’s such an eye-catching and memorable cover. The novel then opens with a poem by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, which meant it immediately appealed to me as she is one of my favourite writers. I was sure that I was going to be in for a real treat with this book and I was absolutely right.

Poppy Denby arrives in London to look after her ailing Aunt Dot, who was a part of the suffragette movement. Dot quickly encourages Poppy to go out and find herself a career. Poppy finds herself a job as an editorial assistant at The Daily Globe but is soon working as an investigative journalist after a reporter falls to his death in the newsroom.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I loved how spirited Poppy was, and her Aunt Dot was such a character. I really enjoyed the flashbacks to 1913 and all the references to the suffragette movement as it’s such a fascinating period in history. Smith acknowledges in the notes for this book that she played with the timeline of real events ever so slightly but it doesn’t affect your reading of the novel at all; there is so much truth and believability in this novel, it is impossible not to enjoy it. I love how the struggles that women had gone through, and were still going through, run through this book, and yet it remains such a celebration of what women were beginning to achieve. The female characters are at the forefront of this story; they all have such tenacity to achieve their goals that you just so want them to succeed and you can’t fail to admire them.

I loved Poppy’s friendship with the slightly eccentric Delilah; the things they got up to in the name of investigating the mystery were such fun and I was so engrossed in the story that I felt like I was along on the ride with them.

I very much enjoyed Poppy’s flirtations with Daniel too. I adored the way that she was falling for him and how she was so forward-thinking in many ways but then all of a sudden she would tell him off for being too bold. It was delightful to read and I can’t wait to see what might happen next for these two!

I was intrigued by Elizabeth and I very much enjoyed how the mystery around her and her family was revealed. I noticed what was perhaps another reference to Charlotte Perkins Gilman later in the novel when Elizabeth thinks the mould on the walls in her room is changing and moving, it reminded me of the woman losing her mind in The Yellow Wallpaper. It meant the reader was never absolutely sure about Elizabeth and what she had to tell, which heightens the sense of mystery.

I am thrilled that this is the first in a new series of books and I absolutely cannot wait to read more of Poppy’s adventures; I’ll be first in line to pre-order the next book as soon as it’s available. I can’t recommend this novel highly enough; I’m actually going to be putting it on my favourites shelf and there aren’t very many books that make it on to there. Even though this was a mystery novel and I now know the outcome, I will still re-read this because I loved the characters and the story so much. I’m also about to buy a couple of copies to give as gifts to friends who I know will enjoy this novel as much as I did.

I rate this novel 5 out 0f 5 and give it pride of place on my all-time favourites shelf!

This book was sent to me by Lion Hudson in exchange for an honest review.

The Jazz Files is out now and available on Amazon.

 

Blurb

‘The Jazz Files’
Book 1 in Poppy Denby Investigates series (Lion Fiction) By Fiona Veitch Smith

Release date: 17 September 2015 RRP: £7.99
Publisher: Lion Fiction
ISBN: 978-1-78264-175-9

Set in 1920, The Jazz Files introduces aspiring journalist Poppy Denby from Morpeth, who ar- rives in London to look after her ailing Aunt Dot, an infamous suffragette. Dot encourages Poppy to apply for a job at The Daily Globe, but on her first day a senior reporter is killed and Poppy is tasked with finishing his story. It involves the mysterious death of a suffragette seven years earli- er, about which some powerful people would prefer that nothing be said…

Through her friend Delilah Marconi, Poppy is introduced to the giddy world of London in the Roar- ing Twenties, with its flappers, jazz clubs, and romance. Will she make it as an investigative jour- nalist, in this fast-paced new city? And will she be able to unearth the truth before more people die?

“It stands for Jazz Files,” said Rollo. “It’s what we call any story that has a whiff of high society scandal but can’t yet be proven… you never know when a skeleton in the closet might prove use- ful.”

About the Author

 

Fiona Veitch Smith

Fiona Veitch Smith was inspired to write The Jazz Files by the centenary anniversary of the death of Morpeth’s Emily Wilding Davison, who died after being struck by the king’s horse in a suffragist protest in 1912. “I initially intended Poppy to be a suffragette reporter sleuth but decided instead to have her as a 1920s flapper inheriting the freedoms won for her by her aunt and other brave women of the time. The Jazz Files has feminist undertones and is an exploration of the challenges faced by a woman in the male-dominated workplace, but it is first and foremost – I hope – just a cracking good mystery,” said the author.


 

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Jazz Files 1: Author Fiona Veitch Smith will be hosting a launch of her new book The Jazz Files on 25 September. Here she is in Waterstones, Newcastle, with her vintage 1922 Remington type- writer just like the one her heroine reporter sleuth Poppy Denby uses in the book.

 

Poppy Denby 2

Jazz Files 2: Fiona Veitch Smith dressed like her character Poppy Denby, a reporter sleuth in a new mystery series set in the 1920s.


 

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Review: Time to Die by Caroline Mitchell

time to die

Time to Die is a real thriller of a book and the supernatural aspects of it will have you on the edge of your seat throughout! This is the second book in the series about psychic detective Jennifer Knight, but it’s the first one I’ve read and it works perfectly well as a standalone. Jennifer is working as part of Operation Moonlight, a group of officers who deal with cases that have a paranormal angle to them. They are currently working on infiltrating a particularly disrtubing cult known as The Reborners.

Whilst in the midst of that case Jennifer is called out to a suspected suicide but it soon becomes apparent that all is not quite as it seemed. Operation Moonlight begin to wonder if there could be a connection to The Reborners. The officers’ abilities are tested to the limit when they realise they have a serial killer on their hands, he is known as The Raven; he has psychic abilities of his own and can seemingly use his tarot cards to predict the deaths of everyone he reads the cards for. The more we learn about The Raven the more creepy and sinister the novel gets.

There is definitely a nod to Hitchcock throughout this novel, there are elements of Psycho and The Birds. The scene in the woods with the ravens and Jennifer is the stuff of nightmares, but even the way ravens seem to be following Jennifer or waiting for her when she comes home is incredibly creepy; it really is sinister.

I liked Jennifer, she was an interesting character and I’d like to know more about her. I found the way she and The Raven had little quirks in common made the novel fascinating, like they almost mirrored each other at times, with her on the good side and he on the evil. The Raven was always scratching at his skin and Jennifer has OCD when it comes to keeping her hands clean, they both had visions that at times seemed to be connected. I also liked that Jennifer’s past was delved into a little bit and also that we begin to see her form a relationship, it was great to see a well-rounded detective; it wasn’t just about her psychic abilities and her desire to solve the case.

The reason I haven’t read Caroline’s first novel yet, and why I put off reading this one is because I’m a total wimp, and the thought of anything supernatural or paranormal just absolutely terrifies me. I’m so glad that I was encouraged to pick this book up though because while it was the stuff of nightmares for me, I found I couldn’t put it down. It’s such a well-written novel that even though there were times I was quite literally on the edge of my seat, holding my breath with fear, I just had to keep reading. It is so good!

I rate this book 8 out of 10. This was the first book I’ve read by Caroline Mitchell but I’m definitely going to go back and read the first book in this series, and I absolutely can’t wait for the next book!

I received this book from Bookouture via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Time to Die is out now and available from Amazon.


I’ve read and reviewed this as part of #BookoutureThriller week, which is running on twitter from 31 October to 6 November. See the pic below for more details and please feel free to join in.

BookoutureThriller