book reviews · Bookish

Who Is She? By V Clifford (Review)

Today, I am on the blog tour for “Who is She?” by V. Clifford. This book is the 5th installment in the Viv Fraser Mysteries and is available now in both Paperback and on Kindle – it is also available to borrow via Kindle Unlimited.

About The Book

Who is She? No one knows that the past is a strange country more than Scottish sleuth Viv Fraser. In this, the fifth Mystery, Viv is compelled to investigate a series of misadventures that are too close to home. Unravelling a veil of deception she discovers just how much of her past is in the present. No stranger to a challenge, she risks more than her pride hunting down the people who have threatened her family. Mac is on hand to help but will she let him?  

Viv Fraser is a hairdresser. She also has signed the official secrets act and has great technical prowess. “Who is she”? indeed?

This book is the fifth in a series, but it was my introduction to this character and series. It read perfectly fine as a standalone, but I feel I definitely would have benefited from reading previous installments. There is a dynamic between the characters and I feel like this would have added a lot more to my understanding of it, however, it wasn’t difficult to really pick things up and understand the bonds of the main character and those she interacted with. Viv Fraser is definitely up there as one of my favourite characters to date.

I really want to know more about Viv, and I am definitely looking forward to the next installment, as the book ended on an open note, paving the way for the next installment. Despite this, the plot of this book did all wrap up and conclude to a satisfactory ending.

I feel like it’s hard to talk about this book without spoiling it. Viv is an enigma. It would appear that she gets this from her mother! Viv’s mum, Trude, lives in a place not-so-affectionally referred to as “The Pound” by her daughters. A person had been looking in her mum under the pretense of window cleaning and Viv had been convinced her mum might be losing her marbles, but it turns out, she couldn’t be further from the truth, in fact, her mum was so incredibly on the ball, with a whole lot of history that Viv only so much as get a glimpse at.

Viv only got to glimpse this alter-ego as her mother ends up going missing and herself and her sister need to find out what is going on and if she is okay. It turns out, someone has been following Viv, her sister Manda and her mother, and they have an agenda.

I guess I’ll be leaving this review here – I never intend to give spoilers; and you can go and meet Viv Fraser for yourself if I’ve piqued your interest!

Bookish · Uncategorized

Hunters Revenge by Val Penny (Excerpt)

Today I am on the tour for Hunters Revenge by Val Penny, out now and available in Kindle and Paperback formats. It is also available on Kindle Unlimited (Use my link for 30 days free!). This book is the sequel to Hunters Chase; I recently shared a guest post from the author (Plotting in Novels) as part of another promotional tour for that book.

Much of the action in Hunter’s Revenge revolves around the car showroom and garage Thomson’s Top Cars. Here we meet Jamie and Frankie who are running the business while Jamie’s father, Ian, is in jail.

“I’m glad we’re doing this together,” Jamie said to his cousin. “I know having to leave us in charge is stressing Pop out!”

“Aye, probably more stress than his time in prison could ever have done. But at least you’ve passed your driving test now.”

Frankie could have been reading his uncle’s mind. Ian Thomson had just under two months to go before he was eligible for parole, and in the meantime could only hope that Jamie and Frankie didn’t do anything too stupid to ruin his business. At least the wee receptionist, Jenny Kozlowski, seemed to have a bit of common sense.

“I’ll be a bit late in today, Frankie, can you hold the fort?”

“Aye. What you up to, then?”

“Nothing much. It’s just that it’s Jenny’s birthday, and I’m going to pick up cakes for all of us for coffee break.”

“If it’s her birthday, she should buy the cakes. That’s what the rest of us all do,” Frankie protested. “You fancy her, don’t you?”

“Don’t be stupid!”

“Aye you do. Well, I won’t tell the guys in the workshop, if I can get a chocky doughnut.”

“Piss off, Frankie.”

“Am I getting a chocky doughnut, then?”

“Aye,” Jamie grinned.

***

Jamie was disappointed to see Frankie at the reception desk when he walked in.

“Where’s Jenny, cuz?” he called over to Frankie.

“Dunno. Not even a phone call. And she’s well late now.”

“Well, she must be somewhere, her coat’s here. She looks good in red.”

“Well she’s not anywhere, as far as I can see.”

“She’s usually early. Wonder what’s up.” Jamie rubbed his hands together. It might be spring according to the time of year, but with its wide glass front and the open garage at the back, the showroom was cold.

“She maybe went to get cakes,” Frankie suggested hopefully.

“Without her coat? I doubt it!” Jamie retorted.

“Well, she was probably out on the lash last night and slept in.”

“Could be, but I still can’t see her leaving last night without her coat.” Jamie shrugged and turned away, trying to hide his disappointment. “It’s fucking freezing in here. I’ll make us a coffee first to warm us up, then I’ll try phoning her.”

“Phone her first, Jamie. You know you want to.”

When Jamie wandered back to reception from the office he plonked a mug of coffee in front of Frankie.

“Her mam says she never went home last night. Do you know if she was going out with pals or the like?”

“I don’t know. You gave that guy a test drive in the Bentley and I went home. A fellow came in just as I was leaving, but Jenny said she would see to him because she would stay on and lock up with you.” Frankie smiled. “I thought, aye aye, nudge nudge, say no more. So off I went. I picked up the twins from their child minder on the way home. You know?”

Jamie frowned. “She wasn’t here when I got back, and the showroom wasn’t locked up. I was pretty pissed off about that. But I couldn’t see nothing missing, so when the guy said he wanted to think about the Bentley, I just locked up and came home.”

“Nothing was missing except Jenny, you mean.”

“I didn’t know that. I thought you’d both just buggered off.”

“Like we’d ever do that. Your pop would skin us alive when he got hold of us. Do you think I’ve got a death wish?”

“Funny accent the man had,” Jamie said. “European or something.”

“Jamie?” The head mechanic, Gary, called across the showroom. “Where’s that old blue Volvo that was waiting to go through its service?”

“What old Volvo? I don’t know. Don’t you keep a log of all the cars you work on?” Jamie asked angrily.

“Aye, but we didn’t get to this one yesterday. It was just waiting outside for us to get started this morning. The customer asked us to give it a service, then put it up for sale. Said he had a buyer for it who’d pay eight grand, but he might need a test drive first. I told him he’d need a brain test if he was paying that much for that car. But it seems like he was right; it must have been sold. ”

“So what happened to the paperwork?” Jamie shouted. “We’ve not sold any fucking old Volvo. Where is the damn thing?”

“No idea.”

“So what do I do now? Jenny’s not in, and a fucking car has gone missing. This is a truly rubbish start to the day. Pop is going to bloody skin me.”

Frankie shrugged, “Phone Jenny’s mam back? Maybe the man she spoke to took the Volvo.”

“I suppose I should. I don’t fancy it though. She shouts. I don’t think she likes me. Then what do I tell Pop about the car?”

“I think you’ll need a chocky doughnut before you do that. I know I will!”

“I’ll need more than a fucking chocky doughnut, Frankie, if we’ve lost one of his customer’s cars.”

About the Book

Hunter by name – Hunter by nature: DI Hunter Wilson will not rest until his friend’s death is avenged.

DI Hunter Wilson is called to the scene of a murder. He is shocked to find the victim is his friend and colleague, George Reinbold. Who would want to harm the quiet, old man? Why was a book worth £23,000 delivered to him that morning? Why is the security in George’s home so intense?

Hunter must investigate his friend’s past as well as the present to identify the killer and identify George’s killer. Hunter also finds a new supply of cocaine from Peru flooding HMP Edinburgh and the city.

The courier leads Hunter to the criminal gang but Hunter requires the help of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable, Sir Peter Myerscough and local gangster Ian Thomson to make his case. Hunter’s perseverance and patience are put to the test time after time in this taught crime thriller.

About the Author

  Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer.

However she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her crime novels, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ and Hunter’s Revenge are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Crooked Cat Books. The third book in the series, Hunter’s Force, follows shortly.

book reviews · Bookish

The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl (Review)

I’m pleased to be bringing you a book review as part of the #LoveBooksGroupTours for The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl. Available now on Kindle, in Hardback and Paperback editions.

The Boy at the Door is a psychological thriller based in Norway and goes between the perspective of Cecilia and Tobias. Cecilia, the main character, is married to Johan and has two daughters. She initially appears to be a snobby, obnoxious and entitled woman, but it turns out that there is way more to her than you’d think, and frankly, the blurb doesn’t do the tale justice.

Tobias is a young boy who met Cecilia when he was at the same swimming lessons as her daughter, and when nobody came to pick him up after his lesson.

This book was a strange read for me, although an enjoyable one. I felt a few parts dragged a little, but this negative point was far outweighed by the excellent way Dahl built up the characters and their world and the parts that dragged were a part of that. Can’t have it both ways! So while I wanted to get on with the “meat” of the story, I was happy to really get to know the characters. The writing style was different to what’s typical of the genre and may not appeal to people who dislike a direct sort of tone and prefer a more nuanced style of writing.

Cecilia is not a good person. She’s also clearly got some mental issues. She makes you mad but also evokes sympathy from the reader too. She’s hard to be angry at even though she’s clearly quite regularly in the wrong. Tobias is written so well that you will want to just scoop him up and soothe him at times. The other characters mentioned are easy to visualise – one in particular, Annika, have a very firm and significant presence through the book and her characters story is woven through and will give you a dose of “feelings” too.

The story hits you with a significant event fairly early on and from there, it’s a wild ride. I guessed a small portion of the outcome but there were a bunch of twists that were entirely unexpected. Cecilia is a master at deception. So much so, she manages even to convince the reader with her lies.

We get to the truth in the very end, and I found myself rooting for Cecilia, despite all that she had done. I wanted the ending to be happy, but instead, the ending felt unfinished and left me with so many questions. One significant question – What about Tobias? It felt a little like a see-saw. Up and down and up and down but then the other person gets off and you go down with a massive thump and you’re a bit stunned. It ended with a bang but personally, I find these types of endings a little unfulfilling – I’m bad at imagination, even though you can likely fill in the gaps yourself. This is the only thing about the book that bothered me personally. That being said, it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book as a whole and I would recommend it to anyone who likes thrillers that are a little bit different.

About the Book

On a rainy October evening, Cecilia Wilborg – loving wife, devoted mother, tennis club regular – is waiting for her kids to finish their swimming lesson. It’s been a long day. She can almost taste the crisp, cold glass of Chablis she’ll pour for herself once the girls are tucked up in bed.

But what Cecilia doesn’t know, is that this is the last time life will feel normal. Tonight she’ll be asked to drop a little boy home, a simple favour that will threaten to expose her deepest, darkest secret…

About the Author

Alex Dahl was born in Oslo, Norway, and is half American, half Norwegian, fully Francophile, and London resident.

Alex is the author of The Boy at the Door, published world-wide in 2018.

She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University, as well as an MSc in Business Management. Alex loves to travel and has previously lived in Moscow, Paris, Stuttgart, Sandefjord, Switzerland and Bath.


book reviews · Bookish

The Judas Tree by Susan Bacoyanis (Review)

The Judas Tree is the second book in the linked series by Susan Bacoyanis, available now, published by Endeavour Media. It is a short read [185 pages] suited for anyone who is a fan women’s psychological thrillers. It’s available both in Paperback and Kindle formats and is available on Kindle Unlimited. If you’ve not tried Kindle Unlimited before, you can get a free, 30 day trial here!

Mary, a 46-year-old divorcee, is a damaged woman who endured many years of abuse and buried it, never dealing with her issues or her feelings surrounding what she went through. She is convinced that she does what is best for the greater good and that her actions are justified.

Having been left for a younger woman, she moves to England. Beginning an affair with her new neighbour across the road, Jonas, she is now the “other woman,” in a relationship with a married man. A man who is nasty, taunting her with the nursery rhyme “Mary, Mary, quite contrary” and already a clearly unfaithful man, he goes on to betray her too. Watching out of her windows, she sees that Jonas has other regular female visitors and is cheating on her, so she sets out for revenge in this dark, psychological thriller.

The history of Mary Tudor is woven through the book and the author explores abuse throughout; some of the acts are taken from real life events in an attempt to generate awareness.

There are so many twists and turns, this book is a wild ride and will grip you from start to finish as you witness Mary’s crusade for revenge and how she deals with her “three blind mice.” Despite becoming a murderess, you can feel empathy for Mary and all she has endured and the series of events that led to her doing the things she did.

My only criticism is that some of the police procedural didn’t ring true, but it didn’t hinder my enjoyment at all as this book is not focused around a police investigation.

Filled with twists and turns, The Judas Tree will have you hooked from start to finish.

Mary Webster’s reaction to her lover’s betrayal is off the chart…Mary seems like an ordinary 46-year-old divorcee, beginning a new life in rural England, but she has depths of pent-up pain, the result of 20 years of marital infidelities and abuse. All she needs is a trigger to unleash savage emotions.


When she becomes entangled with Jonas, a married man, Mary suddenly finds herself in the opposite role of the ‘other woman’. Jonas has a nasty streak, however, and taunts with the nursery rhyme ‘Mary, Mary quite contrary…’.


But when Mary uncovers Jonas’s web of seductive lies, betraying not only herself but his wife and several young village women, she plots her revenge and acts out the real meaning of the nursery rhyme…
As things go from bad to worse, Mary is driven over the edge of normality. Because Mary is not normal … she is damaged. Her only redeeming quality is her belief that she is acting for the greater good …

Susan Bacoyanis’s intriguing psychological thriller The Judas Tree is a chilling tale of multiple acts of betrayal and the consequences of greed. It has deep echoes of Penelope Mortimer’s angry woman classic of the Sixties, The Pumpkin Eater.

book reviews · Bookish · mental health · Uncategorized

Start by Graham Morgan (Review)

Today, I am on the Love Groups Tour for Start by Graham Morgan, available now in both Kindle and Paperback editions. This is a non-fiction read about Mental Health, so I’m really pleased to have been given the opportunity to share this with you. Having poor mental health myself, I leapt at the chance to be a part of this tour.

Start by Graham Morgan is compelling read. It’s honest and brave but it doesn’t beg for sympathy or attention. You’ll be taken through a spectrum of feelings as Graham discusses his current life, his past and his journey with his mental health.

Life is messy as it is, life is extra messy when you’ve got mental illness in the mix and Graham does an excellent job at portraying this. Sometimes it’ll make you laugh and sometimes it will absolutely wrench at your heart. At one point, he talks about how some people are also suffering, and how it is horrific and unacceptable and why are we so suspicious of medication that helps?  “..so glazed and consumed that they cannot muster the energy to step foot outside the door, so lacking in confidence that they are unable to take the decision to make a cup of tea, then I think, ‘this is horrific’.” this in particular really hit me, because it resonates so strongly with myself; I felt awful for the people he was talking about, but at the same time, realised I was one of them, I just didn’t recognise it a lot of the time and then I realised Graham does this himself at points through the book too. It made me feel a little vulnerable but also I felt like I got some additional insight to myself, if that makes sense.

What is the “self”? What is “reality” and “truth”? What is “mental illness”? These questions spring to mind when Graham talks about how he is sick, but also, he talks about an “evil” inside of him and how he wants to keep it there and not spread it to others or unleash it on the world. He talks about talking about this to the people who would decide that he needs to remain detained. He talks about life, relationships, how mental illness can effect them, cause havoc and mayhem and how his life was effected all interwoven with being compelled to receive treatment for his struggles.

Graham puts an emphasis on the people around him, other people in his life and how he affects them – or thinks he affects them. It’s very personal and intimate but he is also very candid about his tale which is something I found quite comforting in itself. Mental illness can make you feel so alone; even in a room full of people – even those you love dearly, you can feel more alone than you could ever imagine and I found this book to be an excellent companion during that time.

Alongside all the struggles of life, Graham also talks about some of the absolute glories of life. Some things that many people don’t think about or take for granted. Every day things that are absolutely blissful. “It is lovely to be caught unawares by cliches and to feel that joy with which they can inspire you.” Reading a book and listening to the rain. The less extraordinary things of daily life can in fact be extraordinary if you just notice them and appreciate them.

I feel like I both understand Graham more, myself and other people with mental health struggles. It’s that extra perspective and insight. Mental illness is hard to accept, it’s another thing Graham talks about (alongside basically anything you may be wondering, I found), how basically it means accepting your reality is not quite true and these other people are right, that you are wrong, and how that is a horrible feeling. This really struck me as I found it the hardest struggle for myself when I first sought treatment for my poor mental health and I know it’s a common difficulty. The fear. The accepting that there is something wrong and that you’re not okay.

The book ends on the note that he is lucky for what he has and how so many people don’t have the support system that he has and that he would like that to change. Above everything, his concern for others shines through the darkness of his own struggles and to me that’s commendable but also inspiring.

This book is a must-read. It’s inspiring, it’ll make you giggle, it’ll make you wince and it will make you appreciate things you didn’t previously pay much mind to.

About the Book

Graham Morgan has an MBE for services to mental health, and helped to write the Scottish Mental Health (2003) Care and Treatment Act. This is the Act under which he is now detained.

Graham’s story addresses key issues around mental illness, a topic which is very much in the public sphere at the moment. However, it addresses mental illness from a perspective that is not heard frequently: that of those whose illness is so severe that they are subject to the Mental Health Act.

Graham’s is a positive story rooted in the natural world that Graham values greatly, which shows that, even with considerable barriers, people can work and lead responsible and independent lives; albeit with support from friends and mental health professionals. Graham does not gloss over or glamorise mental illness, instead he tries to show, despite the devastating impact mental illness can have both on those with the illness and those that are close to them, that people can live full and positive lives. A final chapter, bringing the reader up to date some years after Graham has been detained again, shows him living a fulfilling and productive life with his new family, coping with the symptoms that he still struggles to accept are an illness, and preparing to address the United Nations later in the year in his new role working with the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland.

About the Author

Graham was born in 1963 in York. He went to university as an angst- ridden student and was quickly admitted to one of the old mental asylums, prompting the work he has done for most of his life: helping people with mental illness speak up about their lives and their rights. He has mainly worked in Scotland, where he has lived for the last thirty years, twenty of them in the Highlands. In the course of this work he has been awarded an MBE, made Joint Service User Contributor of the Year by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and, lately, has spoken at the UN about his and other peoples’ experiences of detention. He has a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and has been compulsorily treated under a CTO for the last ten years. He currently lives in Argyll with his partner and her young twins. Start is his first book.

Bookish · Uncategorized

Too Close by Natalie Daniels (Excerpt)

Today, I am sharing an excerpt as part of the Random Things Blog Tour for Too Close by Natalie Daniels, out now in both Kindle and Paperback formats and also available as an audiobook. Be sure to check out the other tour spots to find out more!

Excerpt

It’s odd because everyone always calls her beautiful. Her beauty has become a fact; it has been said enough times for any doubt to have been forgotten. But the first time I saw her in the park all those years ago, I have to say she didn’t strike me that way; her beauty took a while to floor me. She was small with wispy blonde hair and pale blue veins that ran down her temples. She had dark bags under her dark eyes – which I know is just called parenting – and from a certain angle her freckled nose looked like someone had given her a good punch. She had a peculiar way of looking at you from the corners of those big dark brown eyes. And she blinked too much. All in all, she struck me as an anxious sort of person. No, I wouldn’t have called her beautiful at all. Not then.

I’d been late picking Annie up from nursery and had found my daughter sitting alone on the bench underneath the empty coat hooks, holding a wooden lollipop stick with a scrunched- up piece of red tissue bodged on to the end.
‘Darling, sorry I’m late,’ I said sitting down next to her, glad to get my breath back. ‘What have you made?’ I asked, looking at the lolly stick in her hand. Karl was better at this sort of thing than me; every shite offering they brought home from school he marvelled at as if the kids were little Leonardos. Left to his own devices, the house would look like one of those hoarder’s places you see on TV, full of clay rubbish and splodges of paint on crinkledpaper.
‘It’s a poppy.’

Of course it was. Remembrance Day was coming up and Annie’s nursery never missed a chance to get creative.

‘That’s lovely! Do you know why you’ve made it? Who is it for?’ I might be late, forget carol concerts and barbecue days, but my God, I do a bit of educating when I can.

She looked up at me and passed me the lolly stick. ‘For you?’
‘No,’ I said, ‘I mean, why have you made it? Who is it for ?’

‘It’s for remembering,’ she said.
‘That’s right.’ She was a genius, my child. ‘Remembering who?’

She had no idea. She shook her head, her cherubic curls bouncing this way and that. Not for the first time I marvelled that such a sweet being came from me.
‘It’s for all the soldiers who died in the war,’ I said, sounding incongruously cheerful about it. She looked up at me, eyes wide with wonder, lips opening in surprise as the mini cogs in her brain whirred. She frowned and turned slowly to examine the wall behind her, reaching out her little fingers to gingerly touch the bumps of roughly applied plaster beneath the clothes pegs.

‘In this wall?’ she asked.
Sometimes she was so adorable I could eat her. ‘Let’s get some sweeties and go to the park!’ I said.

So Annie had scooted ahead, cheeks full of Smarties. She was a kamikaze kind of child. By the time I caught up she was at the top of the slide, bottom lip out, face brimming with misery, staring down at the brightly coloured trail of Smarties bouncing off the ladder and on to the spongy tarmac. Another little girl was standing at the bottom of the ladder picking up the Smarties and popping them into her mouth as fast as she could.

‘No! No! No!’ Annie cried, furious at the nasty little opportunist below her. The mother was oblivious to the scene; she was busy making something on the bench with an older girl. I started picking up the Smarties and was shortly joined by the mother, who was looking down at her fat-cheeked child and making the right remonstrating noises.

‘Naughty, Polly. They are not yours.’
I’ll tell you something peculiar: I remember there was something about her voice that put me on alert; it wasn’t her tone, which was low and calm, or what she said, which was nothing unusual. It was a more intangible feeling: there was something about it that I found deeply comforting yet deeply disturbing at the same time. Church bells do that for me too. I’m not making any sense, am I?

For many years, I would remember that day as a fine example of how we must not trust our first impressions, how foxing they are. Because the truth was, just at the very beginning of it all, I felt an inexplicable and powerful aversion to her, like a tug from the wings, as if I were receiving a warning signal from the great puppet master.
We made polite child-soothing conversation for a while and were then forced to sit together on the bench as the three girls struck up an immediate kinship and went off to look for snails, dropping their grievances with that enviable childhood ease.

‘Do you live nearby?’ I asked.
‘Just beyond the swimming pool,’ she said, nodding vaguely in the direction. ‘We’ve just moved in.’

‘Oh! Which street?’
‘Buxton Road.’
‘Really? Which end?’
And so we discovered that we were neighbours. Shelived just around the corner from us – only four doors away. In fact, I could see her house from the back windows of my own. Our conversation shifted then, as it became evident our lives would be impacting on each other’s – screaming children, rows in the garden, perhaps noisy once- in- a- blue-moon lovemaking on a hot summer night. Why do we women feel impelled to forge intimacies? Two men probably wouldn’t have struck up a conversation at all.
I’d opened Annie’s snack box by now and was picking at some soggy strawberries as our talk moved smoothly from our surroundings and our progeny to ourselves.

‘What do you do?’ she asked me.
‘I write,’ I said.
And without a pause or a further question she said, ‘I write too!’ Something about the way she said it, so rapid a response, seemed rather competitive – I got that tug again.
‘What do you write?’ I asked, offering her a sweating strawberry which she declined.
‘Poetry.’ I looked at her afresh. That was interesting; no one admits to writing poetry. ‘When inspiration strikes,’ she added.

Well, excuse me for being a snob but that is not a writer. That is a dabbler. A writer doesn’t have the luxury of waiting for inspiration; a writer plods on regardless, a writer takes the gamble, lives in penury, gives every- thing up to be a slave to her art. I didn’t let my feelings show, but I suppose in my own way I went straight for the jugular.
‘Do you make a living from it?’
‘No, no.’
Precisely my point: she was not a writer. (We writers have to do any writing we can to fund the writing we want – I ghost-write, I interview, I copy-edit, in order to
afford the time to write books that no one wants to publish.)
‘I’m—Or rather, I used to run galleries. You’ve got some . . .’ She gestured that I had some strawberry juice on my chin. I wiped it. She shook her head and gestured again so I wiped it again.

And then – perhaps you’ll disagree, perhaps you’ll think this is what any mother does – she did something that seemed strangely intimate to me: she licked her finger and gently started to rub my chin with it. And as she did so – it was a stubborn stain – I couldn’t help but take her in: the freckles, the contrast of the blonde hair with those dark eyes. I was just going to ask her about this gallery business when she said, ‘You smell really good. What perfume are you wearing?’

Again, oddly intimate, no? But I’m a sucker for a compliment and I must have visibly brightened.

‘Thank you! It’s Jo Malone: Lime Basil and Mandarin.’
She smiled. She had good teeth, neat and white, like an advert mouth. ‘It’s gorgeous.’
I thought so too but it was very nice to have it pointed out. Looking back, it was probably the compliments that blinkered me to those palpable warning signs. How
pathetic is that?
‘What does your partner do?’ she asked me.
‘He’s a consultant in communications,’ I said, which never fails to shut people up.
‘What about your husband?’ I asked, after the pause.
‘Wife, actually. She works in TV.’
Well, that shut me up. She was a lesbian. How refreshing. This neighbourhood needed a bit of diversity wherever itcould find it; the school had got whiter and blonder with each passing year, the parents more homogeneous – a growing number of men in salmon cords with hearty laughs and women with salon-shiny hair being walked by dogs that didn’t moult. I immediately wanted to ask her about the girls: who was the biological mother? Who was the father? What do they call you? All those obvious questions that no one likes to ask but everyone wants to know. Then all the unobvious questions I wanted to ask, like how she knew she was gay. I was intrigued. I’d always been straight as a die. The idea of making love to a woman had never held any allure for me. I loved men. I loved their bodies, I loved their differences, I loved their masculinity. But I didn’t ask her anything, of course; I tried to give the impression of being cool.
‘I like your hair . . . your fringe,’ she said. ‘You’ll have to tell me where a good hairdresser’s is around here . . . I don’t know the area at all.’ She was patting her wispy locks, looking at me in that sideways way. I have to say, I’d only just had my hair cut and was feeling rather self- conscious about it. Potentially I looked a bit 1974 – and not in a good way. The hairdresser had been somewhat gung- ho and on leaving the salon, I’d caught a glimpse of myself from the side with what looked like a well-groomed guinea pig perching on my forehead.

‘Sure! There’s a good place up by the library,’ I said, leaning over to get a better view of Annie, who was roaming about in a way that made me suspicious – she
had been known to squat down for a crap in the bushes. She’s too feral, that child of mine.
‘I’m Ness, by the way!’ she said, holding out her hand.
‘I’m Connie,’ I replied, shaking hers.

And so the bond was made.
This all seems a very long time ago now. Six long years ago; like a different lifetime, back in the days when I would pass homeless people in the street curled up in urine-drenched corners and carelessly think how on earth did your life go so wrong? Well, now I know. The answer is:
quite easily, as it turns out. You’d think it might be a slow process of deterioration but the truth is it can turn in a moment, maybe even on a stranger’s whim – with a neighbour accepting an offer on a house in Buxton Road, for example.

Blurb

How close is too close?
Connie and Ness met in the park while their children played. As they talked, they realised they were neighbours. Perhaps it was only natural that they and their families would become entirely inseparable.

But when Ness’s marriage ends in a bitter divorce, she is suddenly at Connie’s house all the time. Connie doesn’t have a moment to herself, no time alone with her husband, not a second to chat to her kids.

It’s all too much. Something has to give.

Connie has woken up in a psychiatric hospital. They say she committed a terrible crime but she says she can’t remember a thing.

Author Info

Natalie Daniels is the pseudonym for screenwriter, author and actress Clara
Salaman who you may recognise as DS Claire Stanton from The Bill.

She lives in London and in Northern Spain.

Twitter: @natdaniels2018

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The Burning Hill by A.D Flint (Spotlight)

The Burning Hill is a new book by AD Flint, released on 13th December 2018 and published by Unbound. It will be available in both Paperback and Kindle formats. Check out the other tour spots to find out more!

The Blurb

On the run from unjust court-martial back home, a young British soldier gets robbed and shot on Copacabana Beach. The bullet in Jake’s head should have been fatal but, miraculously, it saves him from a previously undetected condition that soon would have killed him.

Jake doesn’t believe in fate, nor does he feel he owes anything to anybody, but he does hate injustice. Vilson, the teenage favela kid who fired the bullet, is a victim of injustice, in a deadly corner with a corrupt cop and a sadistic drug-lord after his blood.

With a turf war erupting in Vilson’s favela, fear stalks every narrow alleyway, and anyone dragged up to the notorious Burning Hill had better hope they’re dead before they get there. But it’s not just fear that shapes life in the favela: belief is also powerful, able to both save and destroy.

The Burning Hill is about the power of belief and one man’s desire for justice at any cost.

Author Bio

On a June afternoon in 2000 there was a robbery just a few blocks from where the author was living in Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro. It turned into a hostage situation.

The teenage robber had survived a notorious massacre of street children outside a Rio church years before, and the tragedy that played out in the aftermath of the robbery on live TV news was an embodiment of the desperation of life at the bottom of the heap. An ugly thing in this beautiful city, shocking, even to a society inured to everyday violence.

As a Brit new to Rio, the author was beguiled by the city, and found it profoundly disturbing to watch something happening just down the road that was so out of control and so wrong. The author spent a year in Brazil and now lives on the south coast of England with his Brazilian wife and two sons.

book reviews · Bookish · Uncategorized

Black Moss by David Nolan (Review)

I’m pleased to be kicking off the tour for David Nolan’s novel, Black Moss! Available now in both Paperback and Kindle formats, published by Fahrenheit Press and available now. Be sure to check out the other tour stops to find out more.

Black Moss is a story about “Danny Something” and his journey to discover the truth about a poor boy, murdered and left on the county border, only for nobody to really even care because the fame was elsewhere – the riot at Strangeways.
The story switches between 1990 and 2016, from the perspective of Danny, determined to get to the bottom of the child’s murder whilst working with a local officer named John and his daughter, Kate and then revisiting it again a quarter of a century later; where alcoholism takes it’s toll and his life becomes a literal car crash.

Gritty and gripping, I absolutely loved this book. The entire thing felt authentic. I have never been to Manchester, but I feel like the book was very immersive in that respect. The way the characters are written is fantastic, so much depth. They were affected by the things that occurred and I found them to be very convincing. I especially enjoyed the relationship between Danny and a police officer named John who seemed to be the only other person invested in the case. The way Nolan touches upon such substantial incidents such as murder, alcoholism and children in the care system were so well written, I’d never have guessed this was his debut novel and could have easily been led to believe this to be a true tale.

Nolan is a crime reporter and TV producer and he really seems to utilise his expertise to help bring this story to life and provides an interesting insight to 90’s journalism. I felt almost as if I were there, watching it unfold. Crime fiction is my go-to genre, but I still managed to find some surprises in this book, especially toward the final third – you’ll have to read it yourself to see what I mean. 😉

Compelling, convincing and utterly gripping. A must-read for anyone who enjoys crime-fiction and a read they can’t put down.

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Blurb

In April 1990, as rioters took over Strangeways prison in Manchester, someone killed a little boy at Black Moss.

And no one cared.

No one except Danny Johnston, an inexperienced radio reporter trying to make a name for himself.

More than a quarter of a century later, Danny returns to his home city to revisit the murder that’s always haunted him.

If Danny can find out what really happened to the boy, maybe he can cure the emptiness he’s felt inside since he too was a child.

But finding out the truth might just be the worst idea Danny Johnston has ever had.

NgJgWTON_400x400 (1) Author Bio

David is a multi-award-winning author, television producer and crime reporter. He has written a dozen books including Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil, the true story of the largest historic abuse case ever mounted by Greater Manchester Police. He presented a BBC Radio 4 documentary based on the book called The Abuse Trial. It won both the Rose D’Or and the New York International radio awards in 2016. Officers involved in the case helped David with the police procedures featured in Black Moss, particularly the way the system deals with missing children.

Bookish · Uncategorized

Favourite Character to Write (Guest Post)

Today, I am really pleased to be bringing you a guest post from fellow Staffordshire county…human JF Burgess, author of The Killer Shadow Thieves which is available now in both Paperback and Kindle formats; it’s also available on Kindle Unlimited. You can read his post and find out more below!



Favourite character to write.

That’s got to be the protagonist, 45-year-old widowed detective Tom Blake, whose wife and 10-year-old son was tragically killed in a fatal hit and run car crash ten years ago. Tom was driving at the time and his daughter Isabel was also in the car, both miraculously escaped the accident with minor cuts and bruises – but he still suffers from emotional flashbacks and neck pain from whiplash caused by the accident. They never caught the joyrider who killed his family but he vows to bring the perpetrator to justice once day.

He’s an intuitive, firm but fair detective who hates sitting hunched over a computer and loves the thrill of the chase and adrenaline rush you can only get from this type of job. A bit of a perfectionist, who thrives on the uncertainty of each new case and the thrill of the hunt, which brings out the dark side of his personality when good triumphs over evil?

He’s a great leader, but also quite vulnerable at times, which makes him very likeable and real. And like all good detectives, he has to fight tooth and nail for every bit of ground gained against the criminal underworld.
I really enjoyed developing his character and watching him grow. I see a lot of myself in him which is only natural I suppose. Ultimately, I think readers will enjoy rooting for him whilst trying to work out who the murder really is?
Heather Eames at Book Jar Journeys reviews sums the reader character connection up when she says…
“The characters and their development throughout the novel are a definite highlight for me. As the story progressed, I was more drawn in and intrigued by what was going on. I also enjoyed (perhaps the wrong word) the family drama that was introduced and think that it made the characters more human, I was reading with my heart in my mouth when his daughter was kidnapped!”

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Blurb

Widowed detective DI Tom Blake sets off a chain of events that change his life forever, when the brutal murder of an alcoholic skinhead, and arrest of a vicious Turkish loan shark, unwittingly disrupts an international gang’s daring plans to steal the world-famous Staffordshire Hoard.

In a cruel twist of fate, Blake’s daughter is kidnapped and the trail propels the bereft detective on a personal quest to Miami to save her life. Operating outside the law, he enters into an illicit showdown with a mysterious artefacts Collector, almost costing him his life.

As the body count rises, Blake and his team struggle to unravel the conspiracy of a shadowy killer who leaves no trace. With only circumstantial evidence against each of the suspects, they hit a wall, until twenty-six-year-old photographs linking them to the murdered skinhead emerge. It seems the victim’s depraved past is the key to identifying the killer.

Can the police uncover the truth through all the lies and deception, and crack the case before someone else gets killed? And will they recover a legendary national treasure, worth millions, before it’s lost forever?

jfburgess

Author Bio

I grew up in Stoke-on-Trent and spent many years doing less than ideal jobs in and around the Potteries five towns, before finally taking the plunge and quitting work to follow my creative side. As a keen horse-racing fan, I started off in 2007 self-publishing betting how-to manuals.

This is my main business, but my real passion is for crime fiction, both reading and writing.

Inspired by authors such as Mel Sherratt, Peter James, Val McDermid, James Oswald, Kate Ellis, Martina Cole and Ian Rankin, and in need of a new challenge, I decided to try my hand at writing crime fiction.

After months of hard slog and sheer determination, I finished my first novel: The Killer Shadow Thieves. This is the first in a planned series of gritty crime fiction books set in Stoke on Trent, involving charismatic DI Tom Blake and his larger-than-life sidekick DS Jon Murphy.

The follow up, The Deadly Legacy, is a cult serial killer thriller, with a 200-year-old secret at the heart of a plot full of unexpected twists, which push the relationships of a rich pottery family into life-threatening conflicts.

I write tense, gripping, crime fiction mysteries with a twist – or urban crossbreed, as I call it. My thrillers take you deep inside the criminal mind.

I live with my wife and family in Stoke-on-Trent, England. You can find out more about me at www.jfburgess.co.uk, or on Twitter at @burgess1012.

Bookish · Uncategorized

Stoned Love by Ian Patrick (Excerpt)

Today I’m bringing you an excerpt as part of a blog tour for Stoned Love by Ian Patrick, out now and available both in Paperback and Kindle editions. Be sure to check out the other tour stops to find out more!

Blurb

Detective Sergeant Sam Batford has been lying low at a remote safe house in the highlands of Scotland. He’s doing his best not to attract the attention of the enemies he made, on both sides of the law, during his last under-cover operation but Batford knows he’s just killing time until he’s called to account.

Inevitably the sharks begin to circle and as Batford is called back to front-line action in London he’s thrown into a deadly game of cat and mouse where it seems everyone is out to get him.

After having to endure a frustrating resolution to their previous undercover operation together DCI Klara Winter from the National Crime Agency is determined to prove that Batford has crossed the line into criminality and finally bring him to face justice.

All Sam Batford wants is to outwit his enemies long enough to stay alive and come out ahead of the game.

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Excerpt

This is 2020 and the consequences are kicking in. Times have changed since the public sector austerity measures were first imposed. The then home secretary became Prime Minister and still persisted with the draconian measures despite public backlash. Not even Thatcher touched the police and most thought she was brutal.

I put the kettle on the Aga and gaze out over the fields. I have a day to kill before my train from Edinburgh to London. I’ve enjoyed the break and the solitude. City life has ground me down. My problem is the pace and vibe of the city is in my blood. It’s part of my DNA. I love its tension coursing through my veins. I adore the adrenalin rush when a job comes off. I also enjoy the rich pickings from the criminals I infiltrate. I have no intention of completing thirty years service. I need to top up my pension pot before I leave though. I subconsciously check my leg and experience reassurance at the feel of titanium. I intend to upgrade and add to my prosthetic leg collection once this next job is over. Whatever my bosses have planned for me I always turn it to my advantage.

I watch the bull. He’s in the field for a purpose. His job is to fuck at every opportunity. He has no competition. He’s Mr Big surrounded by his bitches. He strolls over to a cow. She’s wary but carries on eating. As he approaches she flicks her tail. He takes the hint and mounts. A ton of muscle thrusts twice. Job done. Every bull has his day though. Old age will render him useless.

All lives have a price. The whistle indicates the water’s ready.

The thing I love about the police is they will always look after you. That’s unless you need to be further away than London for a cool off period. There are no mod cons or city flats to escape to here. The cottage has seen better days and lets just say the police estate doesn’t run to cover the costs of refurbishment or maintenance beyond a working fire alarm. Damp permeates the walls and paper hangs from the ceiling. The heating is oil and at least
they’ve kept up the contract to enable that still to work.


Ian Patrick Author Photo

About the Author

Ian spent twenty-seven years as a police officer, the majority as a detective within the Specialist Operations Command in London. A career in policing is a career in writing. Ian has been used to carrying a book and pen and making notes. Now retired, the need to write didn’t leave and evolved into fiction.

Rubicon is his debut novel published by Fahrenheit Press and Stoned Love the second in the series. Rubicon has been optioned by the BBC for a six part TV series.

He now lives in rural Scotland where he divides his time between family, writing, reading and photography.