Murder on the Marshes by Clare Chase #BookReview #PublicationDay (@ClareChase) @bookouture #MurderOnTheMarshes #NetGalley

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“As the sun rises, a wealthy young woman – Samantha Seabrook – is found drowned in the ornamental fountain of a deserted Cambridge courtyard, the only clue – an antique silver chain wound tightly around her throat. 

It’s Tara Thorpe’s job to discover what happened to Miss Seabrook – but the case becomes personal when she learns that Samantha had been receiving death threats… rather like the one that landed on Tara’s doorstep the night the woman died.

Together with Detective Inspector Garstin Blake, Tara tracks the killer to the dank and dangerous fens on the outskirts of the city. But there’s something Tara can’t quite admit to Blake about her past – and it could make all the difference to whether they live… or die.”

I have always been intrigued by books set in the exclusive university cities of Oxford and Cambridge, especially detective books, and especially ones that provide a glimpse into the exclusive and archaic world of the elite universities that most of us never get to see. My love was initially sparked by the brilliant novel Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers and prevailed through my abiding devotion to the great Inspector Morse novels by Colin Dexter. I think I have found another fabulous series to add to my favourites if this book is anything to go by.

Murder on the Marshes is the first in a new crime series set in Cambridge and I absolutely loved this book. I have read it cover to cover in less than a day and I cannot wait to get my sticky mitts on the second book.

The central character in the book is Tara Thorpe, a journalist working for a sensationalist online paper. When a successful, young, glamorous and attention-seeking professor from the university is found murdered on college grounds, Tara is tasked with getting the in-depth story. She has an added interest in finding out who might have killed Samantha Seabrook, as it seems the same killer may have Tara in his sights.

This book grabbed me by the throat from the opening chapter and refused to let go until the very end. It has absolutely everything connoisseurs of the classic crime novel could want and I am seriously excited to have discovered this great new writer. The story was a fantastic puzzle, filled with twists, turns, red herrings, esoteric clues, dubious characters, tensions, rivalries, all set against the beautiful backdrop of Cambridge and the menacing emptiness of the surrounding Cambridgeshire fens. The author uses the setting and landscape to great effect in the book and it really ramped up the atmosphere. I loved the way she made the flat emptiness of the fens feel claustrophobic, as this is something I have felt myself when visiting that area.

As well as having a great setting and plot, the characters in this book are most appealing and really make the book the compelling read it is. Tara Thorpe, who has a difficult and unresolved past, is very likeable and is a great character to carry the series. I was really involved in her family history and her moral dilemmas and personal struggles and enjoyed the way that the author has left certain issues open to be developed and resolved in future books while at the same time giving this novel a satisfying conclusion, it is very neatly balanced. DI Garstin Blake is also a complex and interesting character and a nice foil for Tara and I really hope that we see more of him in future books and that their relationship develops further.

I have nothing negative to say about this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, it was an accomplished crime novel and I really look forward to reading the next one.

Murder on the Marshes is published today and you can purchase a copy here. The second book in the series Death on the River will be published on 17 October and I will be reviewing it on the blog on October 19. You can preorder a copy here.

My thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

About the Author

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Clare Chase writes mysteries set in her home city of Cambridge and is fascinated by the location’s contrasts and contradictions. She’s worked in diverse settings – from the 800-year-old University to one of the local prisons – and lived everywhere from the house of a Lord to a slug-infested flat. The terrace she now occupies presents a good happy medium.

As well as writing, Clare loves family time, art and architecture, cooking, and of course, reading other people’s books. She lives with her husband and teenage children, and currently works at the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Connect with Clare:

Website: https://clarechase.com

Facebook: Clare Chase Author

Twitter: @ClareChase_

Instagram: Clare Chase Author

Goodreads: Clare Chase

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena #BookReview (@sharilapena) @penguinrandom @TransworldBooks

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“We can’t choose the strangers we meet.

As the guests arrive at beautiful, remote Mitchell’s Inn, they’re all looking forward to a relaxing weekend deep in the forest, miles from anywhere. They watch their fellow guests with interest, from a polite distance.

Usually we can avoid the people who make us nervous, make us afraid.

With a violent storm raging, the group finds itself completely cut off from the outside world. Nobody can get in – or out. And then the first body is found . . . and the horrifying truth comes to light. There’s a killer among them – and nowhere to run.

Until we find ourselves in a situation we can’t escape. Trapped.”

As soon as I plucked this book off the shelf in the supermarket and read the blurb, I knew I had to read it so I spirited it home and started it immediately. I read it in one sitting, as I simply could not put it down.

The ‘trapped in a remote house which you can’t leave with a killer on the loose’ is a favourite trope in suspense fiction but it’s popular for a reason, it is a really compelling premise. What would you do if you were stuck somewhere remote and could not escape from a rampaging killer? Until recently, I would have thought that it was all too convenient. Is there anywhere so remote that you can’t get a phone signal these days? However, having just spent a week on a writing retreat in a remote part of Shropshire where there was no phone signal, at the top of a hill that could easily be cut off in bad weather with 17 people I’d never met before, I can see this could actually happen. In fact, the first night we were all sat there in the lounge, introducing ourselves, it felt like it could be the start of an Agatha Christie novel. Later in the week as I was walking after dinner in the quiet woods around the house when there was rusting in the undergrowth. It turned out to be a fox but at the time I wondered, if someone jumped out of the bushes and strangled me, how long would it take the others to realise I was missing and what would they do? (The perennial ‘what if’ that is grist to the mill of the writer’s mind). This recent experience made the book all the more chilling.

The book is peopled with an interesting cast of characters. the first few chapters did feel a tiny bit contrived, as the author had to introduce all the people who were staying at the remote hotel before she could get to the meat of the story, but they were sufficiently interesting, and the set up was intriguing enough for me to not let this bother me too much and once this was past, I was totally engrossed. The pace then moves fast enough to keep you turning the pages to find out – what next, what next?

I thought she did a great job of switching the initially perfect-seeming setting of a charming and elegant old hotel high in the Catskills into something suddenly menacing and sinister (if you can get past the location of the Catskills which, for me, immediately conjures images of Kellermans and I suspect always will!). The abrupt switch of the cosy and welcoming to hostile and dangerous accentuates  the creepy horror of the story as the murders start to happen and I was on the edge of my seat for most of the book. The knowledge that one of these normal-seeming people is a killer is fascinating, and we start looking for clues as to who it could be in the individual personalities and behaviours.

Shari is very adept at slowly revealing aspects of the different personalities and drip feeding in tiny bits of information about them, small clues, gradually revealing the secrets they have all been keeping from each other in a way that is designed to keep you reading and it is completely effective. These people morph before our eyes from what they appeared to be at the start to what they truly are by the end of the book. As well as a great thriller, it is also a fascinating exploration of human nature and relationships, how we hide things about ourselves from even those closest to us. We are left with the question – can you ever really know another person?

The final reveal of the killer was a surprise and it felt a bit to me like the end of an episode of Midsomer Murders; the murderer is the person you least expect and the method and reasoning is so convoluted that you would never have guessed it in a million years and you wonder how you missed all the clues. Which is why I love Midsomer Murders so much. I need to read this book again, knowing whodunnit, to see if I can spot the clues the second time around. A re-read for me is the ultimate sign of a good book.

An Unwanted Guest is out now and you can buy a copy here.
About the Author

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Shari Lapena worked as a lawyer and as an English teacher before writing fiction. Her debut thriller, The Couple Next Door, was a global bestseller. Her second thriller, A Stranger in the House, has been a Sunday Times and New York Timesbestseller. Her third book, An Unwanted Guest, is out in 2018.

Connect with Shari:

Website: www.sharilapena.com

Facebook: Shari Lapena

Twitter: @sharilapena

Instagram: @sharilapena

Goodreads: Shari Lapena

 

Hunter’s Chase by Val Penny (Edinburgh Crime Mysteries #1) #BlogTour #BookReview (@valeriepenny) @crookedcatbooks @RaRaResources #HuntersChase #EdinburghCrimeMysteries

Hunters Chase

Delighted to be one of the blogs opening up the tour today for the first in a brand new crime series set in Edinburgh, Hunter’s Chase by Val Penny. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on to the tour.

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Hunter by name – Hunter by nature: DI Hunter Wilson will not rest until Edinburgh is safe.

DI Hunter Wilson knows there is a new supply of cocaine flooding his city and he needs to find the source but his attention is transferred to murder when a corpse is discovered in the grounds of a golf course. Shortly after the post-mortem, Hunter witnesses a second murder but that is not the end of the slaughter. With a young woman’s life also hanging in the balance, the last thing Hunter needs is a new man on his team: the son of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable. Hunter’s perseverance and patience are put to the test time after time in this taught crime thriller.”

I haven’t read a good, straight forward police procedural for a while so I was delighted to be invited to take part in the blog tour for this book, the first in a new series called The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries and I was not at all disappointed. This book was in the best traditions of crime novels set in Scotland – ‘tartan noir’ I have seen to referred to (I think the phrase was coined by James Ellroy originally but please correct me if I’m wrong), which I absolutely love and am going to shamelessly steal for future reference. It is hard to believe it is a debut, such is its accomplishment.

The central figure is DI Hunter Wilson, a roguish police officer who I am sure will worm his way into the hearts of readers in a similar way to Rebus, Hamish Macbeth or Jimmy Perez. He has a cheeky charm that I really warmed to, as well as being a confident and authoritative detective. He believes his life is about to me made trickier by the addition to his team of a new detective, Tim Myerscough, who is not only young but also the son of Hunter’s old enemy and former chief constable. However, Tim is his own man and also extremely likeable and, over the course of a complicated investigation into a series of deaths, the two men get to understand each other better.

I really enjoyed seeing the relationship between the two detectives play out, along with all the other members of the Lothian and Borders Police Force detective team. There were a lot of interesting characters and the author took time to make them fully fleshed out people with complete lives outside of their police work which I really liked, and I loved the way this shed light on how this informed their roles in the police work and how they approached it.

The crimes themselves were sufficiently twisty and devious to make it fun to try and work out what was going on and who was to blame and it kept the pages turning with ease until the big reveal at the end. There was also enough emotional content to make us actually care about the characters involved and have us rooting for the police to solve the murders, it is very well done.

There were some areas where there was a lot of repetition of information that I felt could have been cut without affecting the success of the story, indeed it would have improved it and there were also parts that amounted to a bit of spoon feeding of information that again could have done with a bit of editing. However, these did not substantially detract from the pleasant pacing of the novel or my enjoyment of it and this is a debut so I am sure there minor niggles will be ironed out with experience.

This book is a really well-crafted crime novel with likeable characters and an engaging plot that will carry you through effortlessly and hold your interest to the last page. It is compelling, without being too dark for those who like their crime novels on the lighter side of gritty, without it becoming too cosy. It found it perfectly pitched and I really look forward to reading the next in the series.

Hunter’s Chase is out now and you can buy a copy here. The second book in the Edinburgh Crime Mysteries series, Hunter’s Revenge will be published on 9 September and you can pre-order it here. I will be reviewing this on the blog on 10 September, so check back then.

If you would like to follow the tour and see what my fellow bloggers make of the book, here are the details:

Hunters Chase Full Tour Banner

About the Author

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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 ballet dancer or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her first crime novel, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ set in Edinburgh, Scotland was published by Crooked Cat Books on 02.02.2018. The sequel, ‘Hunter’s Revenge’ will be published on 09.09.2018.

Connect with Val:

Website: https://authorvalpenny.com

Facebook: Valerie Penny

Twitter: @valeriepenny

Instagram: @valerieepenny

Goodreads: Val Penny

 

The Daughter of River Valley by Victoria Cornwall #BlogTour #BookReview (@VickieCornwall) @ChocLituk @RaRaResources #TheDaughterOfRiverValley

The Daughter of River Valley

Today is my turn on the blog tour for The Daughter of River Valley by Victoria Cornwall. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for my spot on the tour and to the publishers for my copy of the book.

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“Beth Jago appears to have the idyllic life, she has a trade to earn a living and a cottage of her own in Cornwall’s beautiful River Valley. Yet appearances can be deceptive …

Beth has a secret. Since inheriting her isolated cottage she has been receiving threats, so when she finds a man in her home she acts on her instincts. One frying pan to the head and she has robbed the handsome stranger of his memory and almost killed him.

Brought together by unknown circumstances, and fearful he may die, she reluctantly nurses the intruder back to health. Yet can she trust the man with no name who has entered her life, or is he as dangerous as his nightmares suggest? As they learn to trust one another, the outside threats worsen. Are they linked to the man with no past? Or is the real danger still outside waiting … and watching them both?”

I only jumped on this blog tour at the last minute when a space suddenly became free as this is not normally a genre that I read much. However, I’m really glad I did because I absolutely adored this book to a degree that really surprised me for something outside my normal genre comfort zone.

I was in love with the heroine, Beth, from the opening scene and if you read the book you’ll understand why. Anyone who is prepared to act that way when living alone in an isolated valley and faced with an unknown male intruder is a woman worthy of finding out more about, especially given the time she was living in when women were expected to be meek and subservient, In fact, one of my favourite things about the book was the strong line of historical accuracy running through the book, one of which is the role of women in society in the mid-1800s and what happens to women who refuse to fit into the role that the times and customs dictated at that time.

Joss was another character that was easy to warm to and the developing relationship between he and Beth was one that I was rooting for from early in the book. He will have fans of Poldark swooning with his swarthy good looks and gentlemanly nature, with just the right whiff of mystery and intrigue surrounding him by virtue of his amnesia and unknown identity.

The setting of the book is really well drawn and appealing; I could very clearly envisage the beautiful River Valley and its position on the wild Cornish coast and I understood why Beth did not want to leave it. There were also lots of well drawn and intriguing characters fleshing out the book and it felt like an authentic and well-rounded community that was portrayed.

Aside from the focus on the plight of unmarried young women in this period, there is also a thread of commentary on the divide between rich and poor at this time and also the ambitions of the middle classes who are looking to better themselves by education and endeavour rather than just money but also the impossibility of this path for people who could not afford to educate their children to improve their chances. The theme of social injustice was really interesting and elevates this book beyond just a historical romance.

This book was an enchanting mix of historical commentary, interesting characters, compelling mystery and a dash of romance that held me from first page to last and I enjoyed every minute of it. The author is a very accomplished writer and I intend to hunt out more of her work.

The Daughter of River Valley is out now and you can buy a copy here.

If you would like to follow the rest of the blog tour, the details are below:

The Daughter of River Valley Full Banner

About the Author

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Victoria Cornwall can trace her Cornish roots as far back as the 18th century and it is this background and heritage which is the inspiration for her Cornish based novels.

Victoria’s writing has been shortlisted for the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romantic Fiction and her debut novel reached the final for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Joan Hessayon Award.

Victoria likes to read and write historical fiction with a strong background story, but at its heart is the unmistakable emotion, even pain, of loving someone.

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Connect with Victoria:

Website: https://victoriacornwall.com

Facebook: Victoria Cornwall Author

Twitter: @VickieCornwall

Instagram: @victoria_cornwallx

Goodreads: Victoria Cornwall

Staying On by C. M. Taylor #BookReview (@CMTaylorStory) @duckbooks #StayingOn

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“Tony Metcalfe, Yorkshireman and retired expat, is going through a three-quarter life crisis.

Viva Espagñe – his bar at the heart of a small mountain village beyond the Costa Blanca – is failing. He wanted it to be a home away from home for British expats to enjoy some well-deserved rest under the Spanish sun. But now Brexit has the pound falling, pensions are frozen and the property crash hasn’t done them any favours. Tony loves his wife, Laney, and can’t bear to tell her of Viva’s problems. He secretly wishes he could sell the place and move back to his childhood home, but Laney would never go for it and England dredges up unresolved issues in their marriage. Besides, nobody would buy a struggling business during a recession.

Tony’s only chance is to turn his bar to profit, which looks impossible until his son, Nick, arrives for a surprise visit with his wife, Jo, and their son in tow. With the extra help, Tony has faith that things are on the up, but Jo has brought along more baggage than just their family’s suitcases. Painful revelations threaten to break apart a family already on the brink of collapse.

With the overarching theme of what it is to find home – wherever you are – Staying On is a tragi-comic geriatric coming-of-age story and a deep, loving portrait of the English working class.”

When I was offered the chance to read this book, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The blurb and some of the other information I was given gave me the impression that it might be more political commentary on the influence of Brexit on the ex-pat community in Spain than anything else, but this was not the case. This book is a beautiful, deeply moving portrayal of a family whose current problems are largely caused by issues in their past that they are afraid to confront and what happens when they are forced to address them by outside influences.

I really loved the book, it affected me very deeply. The issues explored of family relationships and tensions and how people can be pushed apart by a failure to communicate, are ones that we can all relate to to a greater or lesser degree and we can all feel great empathy for these characters. They are all so well written and truthful that it is impossible not to be drawn in to their story and be compelled to find out what becomes of them over the arc of the book.

The main characters are Tony and Laney Metcalfe, living the ex-pat dream in a small hillside village inland from the coast of Costa Blanca, running a small, struggling bar and moving in a circle of other ex-pats in an enclave which has been developed for the incoming immigrants. They have not really integrated into the local Spanish community and, as the effects of the 2008 financial crash and the looming threat of Brexit cause a trickle of their community to sell up and return to Britain, they find their world is shifting and becoming unsettled. The arrival of their son, Nick and his wife Jo, who seems intent on stirring things up, lead to seismic shifts in the status quo that force Tony and Laney to face issues in their marriage that have been buried for years leading to startling revelations and events.

Tony and Laney are recognisable as ordinary working class Brits who have, in their thousands, sold up and retired for their dream life in the Spanish sun, only to find it is not so dreamy after all. But of course, like all of us, they are not ordinary at all, but have extraordinary relationships and dynamics that are unique to each of us and drive us to behave the way we do, in a way that is invisible to the outside world, creating pressures and tensions and motivations that are mysterious to outsiders. The author does an amazing job of revealing these individual foibles in a way that is completely believable and compelling.

The setting was beautifully created and peopled with a fascinating cast of characters, there is some fantastic use of language and imagery that I savoured throughout, but it is the gently drawn and played out family drama which is at the heart of this story and which will draw you through the book to the very last page. It is soft and melancholy and totally true and I just fell in love with this book and the every day, unimportant but totally enthralling drama between its pages. This is a book about my life and your life and the life of everyone who is both unimportant but vital in the world, people who don’t do startling things or things that have newsworthy impact on anyone else, but who are central to the worlds of those around them and I wish there were more books like this in the world.

Staying On is out now and you can purchase a copy here.

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book that I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

About the Author

C M Taylor

C M Taylor lives in Oxford, lectures at the Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies and is a freelance editor of fiction. He is the author of Premiership Psycho and Group of Death, two-thirds of a satirical trilogy described as ‘Brilliant’ by The Sun, and ‘Horribly entertaining’ by The Mirror.

Connect with the author:

Twitter: @CMTaylorStory

Instagram: @cmtaylor

Goodreads: C. M. Taylor

Chasing Black Gold by Robert Stone #BookReview #BlogBlitz #Giveaway (@rstonecbg) @TheHistoryPress @RaRaResources #ChasingBlackGold

Chasing Black Gold

Excited to be taking part in today’s Blog Blitz for the non-fiction title, Chasing Black Gold by Robert Stone, the incredible true story of a fuel smuggler in Africa. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part. Make sure you scroll down and enter the giveaway to win one of ten signed copies of the book.

Chasing Black Gold Cover

“ROBERT STONE was a serial entrepreneur – an enterprising individual, mostly on the wrong side of the law, who spent twenty-five years operating all over the world, before being arrested in Switzerland as a result of an international manhunt led by an Organised Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. Over the course of his career, Stone earned and lost several lifetimes’ worth of fortunes, went to prison on three continents, used dozens of aliases, saw men die, and masterminded one of the biggest marijuana smuggling operations in criminal history. Fuel smuggling in Africa, trading fuel with generals, rebels and businessman, was both his career high and, ultimately, what brought him down.”

If this book was fiction, you’d dismiss the plot as being entertaining but too far-fetched to be believable. This story is stuffed with exotic locations, memorable characters, outstanding twists and turns of fate and luck, good and bad, and, at the centre, a man who takes unbelievable risks in pursuit of money. And it’s all true.

Honestly, I was gripped from start to finish just because I could not believe that this is the way some people live. The book explores a world of criminals, smugglers, bandits, corrupt officials, dictators, con artists, double crossers and every other type of scoundrel you see in the movies but struggle to believe exist in real life, but the author spent his youth consorting, in fact leading, such people in the pursuit of the fortune and lifestyle he’d dreamed of having during his difficult and impoverished childhood in Canada and it is utterly compelling, It reveals in bald detail a world that is totally alien to most of us; a world filled with private jets, yachts, Swiss bank accounts and apartments in Rio on one hand, but also squalor, danger, bribery, corruption, being held  at gunpoint, repeated arrest, constant fear of death and finally a long period spent in prison and the US legal system. If you ever want a morality tale, this is it, and an entertaining one to boot.

The author, who writes in the first person and hence is the main character, is what my granny would have called ‘ a rascal’ who is out for a fast buck and even millions in the bank is not enough to make him stop his pursuit of more, even given the huge risks he is taking. In fact, I would say the adrenalin rush he gets from the danger, and the sense of satisfaction he has from spotting an opportunity and making the most of it is as important to him as the money. Any psychologist, amateur or otherwise will have a field day picking apart his motivations. He is also quite charming and as likeable as any confirmed rogue can be, given he is not quite as ruthless as some criminals you read about can be and does have a certain level of loyalty and morals to draw on, albeit of a different caste than those of us who are law-abiding citizens. Reading it can me an interesting moral dilemma since I found him quite likeable in parts.

The destinations covered – Brazil, West Africa, Europe, USA – are all well drawn and fascinating. In found the parts describing West Africa particularly riveting as it is not a part of the world you often read about and is one of the remaining truly undemocratic and lawless parts of the planet left. I have family who work in oil, on the legitimate side, so it was especially interesting to me to see the dark side of this industry.

The writing is fairly straight forward, written as if he is just telling the story, and without frills but I think that makes it all the more immediate and compelling. It jumps around from country to country and time to time so you have to pay attention to start with so as not to get lost and the pace is extremely fast, sometimes leaving you breathless. There were parts which were skimmed over and I didn’t quite get to grips with why certain things happened but overall it was well written and really gripping and fascinating.

I felt very sorry for his wife and wondered why she stuck it out so long, especially with the small children but we’d have to read the story from her perspective to understand that. I was glad it ended the way it did, but I was left with one question – Is the container still resting on the seabed in Alaska and does the book with its co-ordinates in still exist? Could he be tempted to go back and retrieve it? That’s another story.

It was very refreshing to read a non-fiction memoir for a change and as they go, this is a goodie. It would appeal to fans who enjoyed The Wolf of Wall Street or Catch Me If You Can and I would highly recommend it for something a bit different.

Chasing Black Gold is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Giveaway

To enter the draw to win one of ten copies of Chasing Black Gold signed by the author, please click on the Rafflecopter link below:

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494113/

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

About the Author

CBG -Getting ready to bury Kruggerands and money

Author Robert Stone first came to Aberdeen Scotland in 1973 as a pioneer saturation diver in the early dangerous days of the North Sea. Retiring from diving in the mid 80’s he became a serial entrepreneur –mostly on the wrong side of the law. He spent the next decade operating businesses all over the world from his Aberdeenshire home. 

Stone earned and lost several fortunes, went to prison on three continents, used dozens of aliases, and masterminded one of the biggest marijuana smuggling operations in criminal history. Fuel smuggling in Africa, was only one of his many exploits. 

His Scottish wife and young children knew nothing of the dark side of his life until the day they were all arrested in Switzerland as a result of an international manhunt led by an Organised Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.

Connect with Robert:

Twitter: @rstonecbg

Barnabas Tew and The Case of the Missing Scarab by Columbkill Noonan #BlogBlitz #BookReview (@ColumbkillNoon1) @crookedcatbooks @RaRaResources #BookBirthday

Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab

Delighted to be taking part today in the blog blitz to celebrate the book birthday of Barnabas Tew and The Case of the Missing Scarab. Happy Book birthday, Columbkill Noonan and a big thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part.

Barnabas Tew - Cover

“Barnabas Tew, a detective in Victorian London, is having a hard time making a name for himself, probably because most of his clients end up dead before he can solve their cases. His luck is about to change, though, for better or worse: Anubis, the Egyptian god of the dead, notices him and calls him to the Egyptian underworld. A terrible kidnapping has occurred; one that promises to put an end to the status quo and could perhaps even put an end to the entire world. It is up to Barnabas (along with his trusty assistant, Wilfred) to discover the culprit and set things to right. Can he turn his luck around and solve the most important case of his life?”

First off, I just want to congratulate Columbkill Noonan for having the best author name to appear on my blog so far – isn’t it fabulous! I have no idea if that is her real name or just a pen name but I really hope it is the former.

Now to the book, which might just be one of the maddest but most fun books I have ever read. I mean, the plot is literally insane and I wonder if she jotted it down on the back of a cocktail napkin after a heavy night on the creme de menthe but if you can get your head around that and run with the sheer lunacy of the idea, this is a really entertaining read, particularly for anyone who is interested in myths and legends and Egyptology.

The hero of the book is Sherlock Holmes-wannabe, Barnabas Tew who aspires to be a private detective as astute and famous as his literary hero. He has the clothing, including deerstalker, he has the Victorian setting, he has his Watson in the shape of his erstwhile sidekick, Wilfred. Sadly, he is lacking Holmes’ sharp intellect (although he himself is oblivious to this deficiency) which has led to a lack os success in his cases so far. In fact, an alarming number of his clients have ended up dead. He is ever hopeful that his luck will change though, and his adventures in the Egyptian Land of the Dead may prove the turning point.

I absolutely loved the characters in this book, the author has drawn them brilliantly. The Victorian setting, dress and speech are pitched perfectly for authenticity (with a few minor colloquial slip-ups, possibly but I found them forgivable in the grand scheme of the book) and they were great fun. Barnabas has grand ideas which sadly fall short and it is really his assistant, Wilfred, who is the brains of the outfit, though neither of them seem aware of this and the author does a fabulous job of fully drawing the humour from this relationship. It reminded me of Hong Kong Phooey and his cat, Spot, who was the real superhero of every show (I apologise to Columbkill, whom I am sure did not spend the 1970’s watching British children’s Saturday morning cartoons and anyone not old enough to remember this show – it’s worth a catch up online if you’ve never seen it!)

The pair get into loads of scrapes and ridiculous situations, partly due to the ludicrous setting of the book and partly due to Barnabas’ often intemperate outbursts and the book has a lot of laugh out loud moments. It wasn’t perfect. There were parts that could have done with more editing to avoid superfluous phrases and repetition that slowed the pacing and there were so many twists and turns that by the end I had started to get confused to the point where I was in danger of no longer caring who had committed the crime. However, my overall experience was a good one, the book was original, funny and engaging with a really novel concept and fun characters. Columbkill is tackling Norse mythology next and I am intrigued to see where she goes with that.

Barnabas Tew and The Case of the Missing Scarab is out now and you can buy a copy here.The next book in the series, Barnabas Tew and The Case of the Nine Worlds will be published on 4 September and is available for pre-order here.

About the Author

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Columbkill Noonan lives in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, where she teaches yoga and Anatomy and Physiology.  Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines. Her first novel, “Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab” by Crooked Cat Books, was released in 2017, and her latest work, “Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Nine Worlds”, is set to be released in September 2018.

In her spare time, Columbkill enjoys hiking, paddle boarding, aerial yoga, and riding her rescue horse, Mittens. 

Connect with Columbkill:

Website: https://columbkill.weebly.com

Facebook: Columbkill Noonan

Twitter: @columbkillnoon1

Instagram: Columbkill Noonan Author

The Second Cup by Sarah Marie Graye #BlogTour #BlogBlitz #BookReview (@SarahMarieGraye) @RaRaResources #Giveaway #TheSecondCup #FictionCafeWriters #TheButterflyEffect

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Delighted to be reviewing The Second Cup by Sarah Marie Graye, my fellow Fiction Cafe Writer, on the blog today as part of it’s first anniversary blog blitz. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey from Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part. Please make sure you scroll down and enter the giveaway to win one of three copies of the book, signed by the author, below.

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“Would your life unravel if someone you knew committed suicide? Theirs did. 

Faye knows her heart still belongs to her first love, Jack. She also knows he might have moved on, but when she decides to track him down, nothing prepares her for the news that he’s taken his own life.

Faye is left wondering how to move forward – and whether or not Jack’s best friend Ethan will let her down again. And the news of Jack’s death ripples through the lives of her friends too. 

Abbie finds herself questioning her marriage, and wondering if she was right to leave her first love behind. Poor Olivia is juggling her job and her boyfriend and trying to deal with a death of her own. And Jack’s death has hit Beth the hardest, even though she never knew him. 

Is Beth about to take her own life too?”

Oh, this is such a difficult book to review because there were bits about it I loved and bits about it I didn’t like and I think it will appeal to some readers and not others so I think I’ll just tell you what I did and didn’t like and why and you can make up your own minds about whether or not this is for you.

This is the story of four friends, Faye, Beth, Abbie and Olivia who are all at complicated junctures in their lives with different problems and difficult decisions to make and they are all affected and incited differently by hearing about the suicide of Jack, Faye’s old boyfriend, even though some of them never even knew him, aside from through Faye talking about him.

I really loved the voices and characters of these four women, they were all very different and distinct and extremely well drawn and detailed. They are very complex women and I think the author has done an amazing job of creating these characters and getting authentically inside their heads in a way that makes us understand them.

That being said, the first stumbling blocks of this book and the most major one for me was the narrative construct of the book. It is told in alternating chapters between the four women which would have been fine, but then each different woman’s story was told in a mixture of third person and first person. I have never seen a book done this way before, although I read a lot, and I think there is good reason for this because I found it extremely confusing and very jarring to read. The constant hopping between characters and viewpoints took far too much concentration and broke up the flow of reading for me to the point that it almost killed the book for me, although I guess it may not be quite so much of a negative for other people. Maybe it is personal taste.

Just while we are on the negatives, there are large parts of this book where there is far too much exposition, with the characters explaining what they are doing, thinking and feeling rather than showing us and it can get a little tedious and make the book a bit draggy in places. This is something I think that is naturally improved on with time and work and experience.

These points aside, I actually loved the authors writing in all other ways. She has the most fabulous turn of phrase and included a lot of really beautiful imagery that had me highlighting phrases and paragraphs in my Kindle so that I could go back and enjoy them again later. I really think she has a lot of skill, and I am excited to see what she does next. You can tell this is a debut by a fairly young and inexperienced author with a lot of potential and there is much to be hopeful about for the next book.

The Second Cup is out now and available here.

Giveaway

To enter the competition to win one of three signed copies of The Second Cup, please click on the Rafflecopter link below:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494107/

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

You can find the details of the rest of the bloggers taking part in the blitz below:

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About the Author

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Sarah Marie Graye was born in Manchester in 1975, to English Catholic parents. To the outside world Sarah Marie’s childhood followed a relatively typical Manchester upbringing, until aged nine, when she was diagnosed with depression. 

It’s a diagnosis that has stayed with Sarah Marie over three decades, and something she believes has coloured every life decision, including the one to write a novel. 

Sarah Marie wrote The Second Cup as part of an MA Creative Writing practice as research degree at London South Bank University – where she was the vice-chancellor’s scholarship holder. 

Sarah Marie was diagnosed with ADHD in November 2017 and published an extended edition of The Second Cup in February 2018 that included character interviews so she could diagnose one of her characters with the same condition.

Connect with Sarah:

Website: https://sarahmariegraye.com

Facebook: Sarah Marie Graye

Twitter: @SarahMarieGraye

Instagram: @sarahmariegraye

Goodreads: Sarah Marie Graye

An Oriental Murder by Jane Bastin #BlogTour #BookReview (@JaneJanebastin) @CrookedCatBooks @RaRaResources #AnOrientalMurder #RaRaResources

An Oriental Murder

Delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour for An Oriental Murder by Jane Bastin. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for my place on the tour and to the publishers for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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“The Pera Palas hotel in Istanbul, Turkey plays host to the Agatha Christie Writers’ Congress when real life imitates fiction. The bodies of the Prime Minister and his occasional mistress are found dead in one of the hotel’s locked rooms surrounded by bodyguards. Seemingly, no one could get in or out, and yet… 

Inspector Sinan Kaya is convinced that foreign agents are culpable, and that the murders are linked to the recent spate of killings of Turkish government officials.

Within this complicated, crime riddled city, Sinan Kaya’s moral compass never falters. Not concerned with threats of dismissal from the force, he cuts his own path through the investigation, determined to uncover the truth.”

I love to travel, actually and vicariously when I can’t be jet setting around the world (ha ha, I wish my life was more jet set -y) so I jumped at the chance to read and review this book with the exotic back drop of Istanbul. This is a city that has always fascinated me, given its rich history and its unique position straggling the border between east and west and I am desperate to visit so I am happy to say that, for me, the major strength of this book is the way the setting is so vividly encapsulated and the narrative is infused with the life and sights and smells and FLAVOURS of the city. (You’ll understand why I have capitalised this in the next paragraph.) In fact, the whole nature, politics and ethos of the city and Turkey are crucial to the plot and I loved that this was the case and that the author has truly used the setting as an essential cog in the book, rather than as just a token location to draw people in.

An gourmands out there will also love this book as food features heavily and is extremely well described by the author. The central character of Inspector Sinan loves to eat and seems slightly obsessed but this is good news for anyone who enjoys descriptions of food in novels, which I do, as it will make you long to visit Turkey and sample the local cuisine. Just don’t read it on an empty stomach or you will be constantly raiding the fridge.

On to the central issue of the book as a crime story. It focuses around a convention of crime writers who are paying homage to the grande dame of crime fiction, Agatha Christie. They meet annually in a city that is somehow connected to on of her books – a great premise, I wonder if this is the start of a series along those lines? – so they are in Istanbul because this is part of the setting for her most famous work, Murder on the Orient Express. However, anyone expecting a lot of references to Agatha Christie or that this is somehow going to be very reflective of her work will find that this is not the case. Whether or not that is a disappointment will be down to the individual reader I guess but it is not a negative comment on the writing or story at all.

The author has drawn the characters very well. Inspector Sinan I loved. He is a very upright and moral man, fixated on solving the crime and he finds himself in some very testing situations, particularly in the nature of an internal struggle with his conscience, when it turns out the crime has political implications. He is obviously a proud citizen of Turkey and wants to do the best by his country and I found that an interesting conundrum in the book. I was not quite so taken with his relationship with Bea. Both she and mother are extreme characters, teetering on the edge of pastiche at times and I could not entirely tell whether or not this was deliberate but they were slightly OTT for my tastes and it may it hard to buy into the relationship between her and the upright Inspector, so this was a jarring note in the novel.

I enjoyed the plot and was carried along most of the time by the twists and turns, although it did drag in places and I found my mind wandering a bit and having to re-read parts to get back on track. I’m sure the slightly uneven pacing is something the author will address in her next book and it is not entirely fatal to the success of the novel so bear with it. Some of the names were a little confusing to sort out, but i think this is largely due to the unfamiliarity of them as Turkish and I did sort them out eventually but this also had a tendency to slow the pace. There were also a lot of references at the beginning to another character that Sinan had obviously had a relationship with which made me think I was reading a sequel to begin with but this is a minor issue. The ending paid off the persistence, I promise. There were times when I found the book quite comical too, mainly because of the previously referred to big characters, so I am hoping this was deliberate. I’m sure it was and I did not dislike it as a tone in the book, I only raise it so people will understand that this is not a gritty crime thriller but one for those who like their crime fiction a little lighter – in the vein of the great Miss Christie herself.

All in all, I enjoyed the book, I was glad I had read it and I look forward to seeing what is next from this author.

An Oriental Murder is out now and you can buy a copy here.

For other opinions on the book, please catch up with my fellow bloggers on the tour below:

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About the Author

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Jane is a storyteller, writer, traveller and educator. Having lived and worked for over thirty years in Turkey, Jane has amassed a breadth of experiences that have led to the writing of the Sinan Kaya series of novels. Of course all characters and events are fictitious!  

Fluent in both English and Turkish, Jane writes in both languages and has had a range of articles published in Turkish periodicals and magazines alongside British newspapers. 

Jane now divides her time between rainy Devon and sunny Turkey,

Connect with Jane:

Facebook: Jane Bastin

Twitter: @JaneJanebastin

Goodreads: Jane Bastin

 

Do No Harm by Lucy V Hay #BlogTour #BookReview (@LucyVHayAuthor) @OrendaBooks @AnneCater #DoNoHarm #TillDeathDoUsPart #OrendaBooks #RandomThingsTours

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Till death do us part…

After leaving her marriage to jealous, possessive oncologist Maxwell, Lily and her six-year-old son have a second chance at happiness with headteacher Sebastian. Kind but vulnerable, Sebastian is the polar opposite of Maxwell, and the perfect match for Lily. After a whirlwind romance, they marry, and that’s when things start to go wrong…
Maxwell returns to the scene, determined to win back his family, and events soon spiral out of control. Lily and Sebastian find themselves not only fighting for their relationship, but also their lives…”

I am feeling a single word review coming on today for this book and that word would be – labyrinthine. (I’m thinking this might be my new hook – one word book reviews. A departure, I know, as I tend to be fairly verbose. Any blog tour hosts going for this idea?)

On the basis the above idea is not going to prove popular, I guess I should expand a little on the above but that word definitely sums this book up perfectly. It is the most twisty-turny (see, labyrinthine is much better – I’m nailing this writing lark) of all the twisty-turny books I have read this year to the point I had no clue which way was up or down and my brain was meeting itself coming back the other way. It is the novel equivalent of playing a game of Snake (does that mean anything to anyone else or am I really showing my age now?)

I had so many different theories about where this book was going at multiple points during the story but then something else would happen that would completely throw me off track and I would change my mind, only to come back to my previous theory two chapters later. I did actually consider the outcome that proved to be the eventual resolution of the book a couple of times but I absolutely was not sure what was going to be the ending before it was upon me because there were several that were equally as likely throughout. It is really cleverly done.

The book is written from three different perspectives throughout – Lily, Sebastian and a mystery voice. To begin with, I kept getting a little confused at the beginning of the chapter about whose voice was speaking. I did eventually sort it out, as Lily was written in the first person and Sebastian in the third, but until I picked up on that rhythm I had to keep stopping to check which prevented the story flowing in the early chapters, but this was a minor niggle.

It was really fascinating to try and put yourself in Lily’s shoes as she tries to work out why such unpleasant things are happening and who is behind them and see the disintegration of trust she has in the people she is closest to. I began to wonder how quickly I could be made to doubt people I thought I knew and loved and hoped not that quickly but the premise is that one simply does not know until one is in that position.

The setting of the book and the people are fairly ordinary – teachers and doctors in suburbia – and the upsetting events when looked at dispassionately are not that dramatic, until they are happening to you, and that is the genius of it. The author manages to weave tension and menace and deceit and doubt into very ordinary scenarios, so you can put yourself in the shoes of this woman who is no one special but is thrust into an extraordinary situation that turns her life upside down in a very short period of time.

There were points in this book where I did have to stretch to suspend my disbelief to allow myself to be carried along by the story and I found the writing at the beginning a tad bald in places but it was most definitely gripping and had me turning the pages until late in to the night to get to the end and see which of my theories was the correct one, which is all you can really ask of a book of this kind and anyone who liked a psychological thriller will be hooked because it is a tricky one!

Do No Harm is out now and you can buy a copy here.

If you would like to follow the rest of the blog tour for this book, you can find the details here:

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About the Author

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Lucy V. Hay is a novelist, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. She is the associate producer of Brit Thrillers Deviation (2012) and Assassin(2015), both starring Danny Dyer. Lucy is also head reader for the London Screenwriters’ Festival and has written two non-fiction books, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays, plus its follow-up Drama Screenplays. Her critically acclaimed debut thriller The Other Twin was published in 2017.

Connect with Lucy:

Website: https://linktr.ee/lucyvhayauthor

Facebook: Lucy V Hay Author

Twitter: @LucyVHayAuthor

Instagram: Lucy V Hay Author

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