Blog Tour: Dead Wrong by Noelle Holten #BookReview

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Three missing women running out of time…

They were abducted years ago. Notorious serial killer Bill Raven admitted to killing them and was sentenced to life.

The case was closed – at least DC Maggie Jamieson thought it was…

But now one of them has been found, dismembered and dumped in a bin bag in town.

Forensics reveal that she died just two days ago, when Raven was behind bars, so Maggie has a second killer to find.

Because even if the other missing women are still alive, one thing’s for certain: they don’t have long left to live…

I really loved Noelle’s debut novel, Dead Inside, last year so I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for the second book in the Maggie Jamieson series, Dead Wrong. My thanks to Sarah Hardy of Books On The Bright Side Publicity for inviting me on to the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Which part of the intriguing blurb for this book would not make you want to pick this book up? A series of murders that has been solved by a confession from the killer, but then body parts of the alleged victims start turning up years later, revealing they’ve only just been killed, AFTER the killer is behind bars? Sign me up!

Maggie is now back with her original squad, after her secondment to the Domestic Violence unit in book one, and she is immediately thrust under the spotlight because she was responsible for putting the original killer away in what now looks like a miscarriage of justice. What an amazing preface for ramping up the tension for the protagonist and making the investigation personal for Maggie from the off. It also raises all kinds of queries as to whether she is being suitably dispassionate about the new investigation or is making bad decisions based on saving her own reputation. It is a clever idea and really well executed.

The accused serial killer, Bill Raven, is a great nemesis for Maggie in this novel. Aside from being an alleged murderer, he is just s deeply unpleasant man, smug and antagonistic, and we, the reader, loathe him from the beginning, regardless of whether he actually committed the crimes or not, which puts us firmly in Maggie’s corner even when she is making unwise decisions. The pace of the book is frenetic, we race through it to find out what is going on in this baffling case and can’t wait to get to the conclusion but when we go OMG! What is happening? You can’t leave it like that! I need Book 3 now, I tell you!

One of the main strengths of Noelle’s books, which is clearly present here, is the way she shows the involvement in an investigation of many different people from different specialisations within criminal justice to bring a case to a conclusion. Too many crime novels have murders being solved start to finish by one or two individuals, with everybody else a faceless sidetone. This is obviously not the way things work and, the fact Noelle has worked in this world and understands the importance of everyone in the process, not just the lead officers, shines through and gives the story a real ring of authenticity, even though it is clearly a piece of entertaining fiction.

A great, pacy and gripping crime thriller that will keep you hooked from beginning to end. Can’t wait for the next one.

Dead Wrong is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do follow the rest of the fantastic blogs taking part in the tour as detailed below:

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About the Author

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Noelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk. She is the PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and was a regular reviewer on the Two Crime Writers and a Microphone podcast. Noelle worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering a variety of cases including those involving serious domestic abuse. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Noelle’s hobbies include reading, attending as many book festivals as she can afford and sharing the booklove via her blog.
Dead Inside is her debut novel with One More Chapter/Harper Collins UK and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson.

Connect with Noelle:

Website: https://crimebookjunkie.co.uk

Facebook: Noelle Holten Author

Twitter: @nholten40

Instagram: @crimebookjunkie

Blog Tour: Sister by Kjell Ola Dahl; Translated by Don Bartlett #BookReview

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Oslo detective Frølich searches for the mysterious sister of a young female asylum seeker, but when people start to die, everything points to an old case and a series of events that someone will do anything to hide…

Suspended from duty, Detective Frølich is working as a private investigator, when his girlfriend’s colleague asks for his help with a female asylum seeker, who the authorities are about to deport. She claims to have a sister in Norway, and fears that returning to her home country will mean instant death.

Frølich quickly discovers the whereabouts of the young woman’s sister, but things become increasingly complex when she denies having a sibling, and Frølich is threatened off the case by the police. As the body count rises, it becomes clear that the answers lie in an old investigation, and the mysterious sister, who is now on the run…

Today I am posting my review for Sister by Kjell Ola Dahl, the latest in the Oslo Detectives series. My huge apologies to the author, publisher and tour organiser for the lateness of this review. I was unable to post on my scheduled date due to an accident, but I hope you enjoy it now. My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to review the book and to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This was my first introduction to the world of Detective Frolich, despite being the the fact that it is book eight in the series. However, it works perfectly as a standalone, although I would like to know more about Frolich’s back story, as he is a fascinating character. In this book, we meet Frolich as he is working as a private detective, having been suspended from the police, and is trying to find his footing in this new world and work out how to make a living. Despite this, he gets involved in a case that is set to be hugely unprofitable for him at the behest of his new girlfriend, and a woman who begs him to help a refugee she is working with. The fact he accepts gives us great insight into Frolich’s character and what drives him. It is a sense of justice and wanting to help people that is his biggest motivator, rather than money.

The book takes Frolich across the Norwegian landscape, from Oslo to more remote places, and I found the descriptions of the locations enticing, if a little bleak. It felt like there was a darkness seeping into every corner of this novel, not just the crime but the setting and the characters too. In fact, the word that really encapsulated the feel of the book for me was melancholy. There was a sadness seeping from the pages; from Frolich and his situation; from the plight of the subjects of the investigation; and from the very landscape itself. The references to unfortunate things that have happened in Norway may have contributed to this throughout, the book felt sad and a little hopeless.

This is largely due to the driving narrative behind the story, which is the problem of refugees in Norway and the desperate situations in which they find themselves. Fleeing from places of war and persecution, they risk a lot to reach countries they believe they may be safe, only to find that they may be in as much danger where they have arrived than the place they are left. Subject to prejudice and at risk of exploitation, they find they have not reached the nirvana they were hoping for. The book is a damning indictment of how Western societies are failing these vulnerable people, as well as an illuminating social commentary on the risks that they face at either end of their journey. A very modern and relevant story, as well as being a gripping thriller.

I was hooked o this book from start to finish, although I did find it a heart-rending and thought-provoking read. I just wanted to mention the skill in the translation of this novel from Norwegian. It was seamless and barely noticeable, which is the great skill in translating fiction, I was not distracted by the translation at all. Another great, new writer to me from the astonishing Orenda stable, I can’t wait to catch up on the instalments I have missed and see what is next. Intelligent writing.

Sister is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do make sure you check out the rest of the tour, as detailed below:

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About the Author

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One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.

Connect with Kjell:

Twitter: @ko_dahl

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Blog Tour: Art and Soul by Claire Huston #BookReview

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I am so delighted to be taking part today in the blog tour for the debut novel by my fellow RNA New Writers’ Scheme member, Claire Huston, with her book Art & Soul. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on to the tour and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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There’s no problem Becky Watson can’t fix. Except her own love life…

Struggling single mother Becky Watson longs to revive her career as a life-fixer, working miracles to solve her clients’ problems, no matter how big or small. Since the birth of her two-year-old son she has been stuck preventing wedding fiascos for the richest and rudest residents of the Comptons, a charming, leafy area of southern England known for its artistic heritage.

So when semi-reclusive local artist Charlie Handren reluctantly hires Becky to fix his six-year creative slump, she’s delighted to set him up with a come-back exhibition and Rachel Stone, the woman of his dreams.

Though they get off to a rocky start, Becky and Charlie soon become close. But as the beautiful Rachel becomes Charlie’s muse, Becky is forced to wonder: will giving Charlie everything he wants mean giving up her own happily ever after?

A bit of love and warmth was just what I needed this week, as it has been a really tough one for a variety of reasons, so this lovely book which took me away from my everyday problems and gave me some positivity and hope was the perfect tonic. It was a really easy read, but made me feel a lot of different emotions too, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

This is the story of two people who are very different and meet in inauspicious circumstances, which is pretty much par for the course in romance novels, but what elevates this above the herd are the fantastic and believable characters that the author draws, and the novel and interesting situation she puts them in.

Our female protagonist is Becky, a life coach with a difference, because rather than just telling people what changes they can make to improve their lives, she is also kind of a fixer who sorts out ‘problems’ discreetly. Remember Winston Wolf from Pulp Fiction? She is kind of a female version, without the blood and crime! Some of the scenarios Claire created around this premise were really funny, I loved the wedding one with Virgil and his cousins. Do people like this really exist? Is this a real job? I’ve never heard of it but if it is, I think I missed my vocation!

Becky finds herself hired to help Charlie, an artist whose career is in the doldrums after a hatchet job in an art magazine and some personal traumas that have disrupted his work. To say he is reluctant to accept Becky’s help is an understatement, but boy does he need it. Their relationship gets off to a fiery start, but Becky is nothing if not persistent, and she has her own personal reasons for needing to keep the contract with Charlie.

I was really drawn in to the book by the genuine, complex relationship that develops between Becky and Charlie and the extended characters that surround them, and by the really interesting dynamics of the two worlds they inhabit, neither of which I know much about. The writing is clear and lively and engaging and I romped through the text, enthralled on every page. There are no dull moments in the book, so slack passages where the plot fails to move on. You can forget you are in the pages of a book and feel like you are listening to a friend telling you a story.

For anyone who enjoys a light but moving romance, this would be a perfect book to add to your list. I highly recommend it to you, one and all.

Art & Soul is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour for more great reviews and other fantastic content:

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About the Author

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My name’s Claire Huston (pronounced as in “Houston, we have a problem”).

I’ve written my first novel – an uplifting contemporary romance – and I’m getting ready to publish in April 2020. You can read more about that in Art and Soul.

I live in the Midlands, UK, with my husband and two children. I work as a Spanish-English translator and when I’m not struggling to write, I try to read, bake, and generally keep chaos at bay.

I’m a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme.

Connect with Claire:

Website: https://clairehuston.co.uk

Facebook: Claire Huston Author

Twitter: @ClaraVal

Instagram: @clairehuston_author

Blog Tour: You Will Be Safe Here by Damian Barr #BookReview

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A beautiful and heart-breaking story set in South Africa where two mothers – a century apart – must fight for their sons, unaware their fates are inextricably linked.

Orange Free State, 1901. At the height of the Boer War, Sarah van der Watt and her six-year-old son Fred can only watch as the British burn their farm. The polite invaders cart them off to Bloemfontein Concentration Camp promising you will be safe here.

Johannesburg, 2010. Sixteen-year-old Willem is an outsider who just wants to be left alone with his Harry Potter books and Britney, his beloved pug. Worried he’s turning out soft, his Ma and her new boyfriend send him to New Dawn Safari Camp, where they ‘make men out of boys.’ Guaranteed.

The red earth of the veldt keeps countless secrets whether beaten by the blistering sun or stretching out beneath starlit stillness. But no secret can stay buried forever.

This is a book I have had on my TBR for a long time so I am delighted to finally have read it and be reviewing it for the blog tour today. My thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This book is incredibly intense, moving, powerful, eye-opening and heartbreaking. It is a book set across multiple timelines and told by multiple voices, and at first it seems like the threads are unconnected, but at the end, all becomes clear and it is a fascinating, if difficult exploration of the history of a troubled country.

The book opens with the arrival of a teenage boy at a ‘safari camp’ in the veldt near Blomfontein, then immediately circles back to the experiences of a Boer farmer’s wife at the height of the second Boer War in 1901, as told through her diary entries. This historical part of the book is eye-opening and disturbing. This is a part of history that I did not know much about and, having read this, I am not remotely surprised that this is a part of British history that is not taught in our schools. It is a shameful thing to have to read about, and the writing here describes the suffering of the Boer women and children so vividly that it is extremely upsetting, but important and necessary, and you will come away from the experience with your perception altered.

The rest of the book follows the lives of one family from the 70s through to modern day as their history is told to the birth of Willem, the main protagonist of the modern part of the book, and the reasons he ends up in the ‘safari camp,’ where the writer draws disturbing parallels between the concentration camps used by the British in the Boer War and the way these misfit boys are treated in the modern day. You would believe this is an exaggerated story save for the fact that the book was inspired by the death of a real boy. The fact that these camps exist in modern South Africa is troubling.

Reading this book is extremely poignant in the modern era. The book explores the ongoing racial tensions in South Africa and the attitude of a section of the white population that believe a reckoning is coming for the historical wrongs done to them. This harking back to the past and a time that was perceived to be better than the modern day, is a scourge on our society and a flimsy camouflage for ingrained racism, intolerance and bigotry that fuels so much that is wrong in the modern world. This book is so powerful in the way it makes the reader think about these issues and will shake and complacencies you may have about how pure our history is as a country.

This is not an easy or comfortable read, but it is an important and thought-provoking book that I would highly recommend to anyone interested in history and social politics.

You Will Be Safe Here is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please make sure you check out the rest of the fabulous blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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 Damian Barr is an award-winning writer and columnist. Maggie & Me, his memoir about coming of age and coming out in Thatcher’s Britain, was a BBC Radio 4 ‘Book of the Week’, Sunday Times ‘Memoir of the Year’ and won the Paddy Power Political Books ‘Satire’ Award and Stonewall Writer of the Year Award.

Damian writes columns for the Big Issue and High Life and often appears on BBC Radio 4. He is creator and host of his own Literary Salon that premieres work from established and emerging writers. You Will Be Safe Here is his debut novel.

Damian Barr lives in Brighton.

Connect with Damian:

Website: https://www.damianbarr.com

Facebook: Mr Damian Barr

Twitter: @Damian_Barr

Instagram: @damianbarrliterarysalon

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Blog Tour: I Am Dust by Louise Beech #BookReview

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When iconic musical Dust is revived twenty years after the leading actress was murdered in her dressing room, a series of eerie events haunts the new cast…

The Dean Wilson Theatre is believed to be haunted by a long-dead actress, singing her last song, waiting for her final cue, looking for her killer…

Now Dust, the iconic musical, is returning after twenty years. But who will be brave enough to take on the role of ghostly goddess Esme Black, last played by Morgan Miller, who was murdered in her dressing room?

Theatre usher Chloe Dee is caught up in the spectacle. As the new actors arrive, including an unexpected face from her past, everything changes. Are the eerie sounds and sightings backstage real or just her imagination? Is someone playing games?

Not all the drama takes place onstage. Sometimes murder, magic, obsession and the biggest of betrayals are real life. When you’re in the theatre shadows, you see everything.

And Chloe has been watching…

A new book by Louise Beech is always something to get excited about so I feel very privileged to be taking part in the blog tour for her latest novel, I Am Dust today. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for including me on the tour and to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

“a moment when darkness falls, and the stage is lit; a moment when they might wonder if they even exist any more; when they forget everything for two hours.”

This is a quote from early on in I Am Dust, the new book by Louise Beech, when we first meet the protagonist, Chloe, in the modern day setting of the Dean Wilson Theatre where she is an usher. Chloe is talking about the moment just before the curtain rises on a show, where the audience hang in anticipation of being swept away to a new world, taken out of their mundane lives and transported and immersed in someone else’s for a while. Everyone who loves the theatre, and I certainly count myself amongst that number, recognises this feeling.

I have picked this quote out and included it here because this is also exactly how opening the first page of a new book by this author makes me feel. Breathless with anticipation and ready to be transported to somewhere completely different and, I have to say, that I Am Dust delivered on this sense of promise on every level. I read this book pretty much in a single sitting over the course of one day, ignoring everything around me because I was so captivated and consumed by the story that Louise placed between these pages that I could not bear to break the spell before it was over. A bit like when you emerge from a virtuoso performance, slightly disoriented and blinking in the alien light of the real world, I came out of this reading experience, preoccupied and slightly bereft, but with the horde of emotions the tale had stirred up in me still buzzing through my veins.

One of the things that makes Louise’s writing so unique is that it defies genre pigeon-holeing. Everyone is different and unique, and you never know quite what to expect, except that you know it is never going to be straight-forward and that it will touch you in a million different ways. Here we have a mystery, a ghost story, a tale of love and rivalry and an exploration of teenage angst, ambition, and sacrifice. It has so many levels of complexity that it takes a while to sort out how you feel about the book once you have finished it, and it made me immediately want to go back to the beginning and start again so I could savour the tiny details I missed on my first impatient read-through where I both couldn’t wait to get to the end and could not bear to be finished either. These dichotomies will be familiar to anyone who has read Louise’s work before, and feed through to many aspects of her stories, a case in point here being the theme that it is possible to both love and hate someone at the same time.

This is a dual timeline story, set in the present day Dean Wilson Theatre where a revival of the controversial musical, Dust, is imminent; a musical which has profound meaning for our main character, Chloe, and its return stirs up painful feelings and memories from the past for her. We also then have flashbacks to one intense summer during Chloe’s teenage years, the events of which are now bleeding through in to the present. The narrative construct works really well to reveal pertinent facts to the reader at the same time as they are recalled by Chloe and impact the present day events, and it delivers a level of tension and urgency that it one of the main reasons I was unable to set this book aside during the first reading.

This page-turning quality is only one small part of what makes this book so compelling, though. The character development and exploration is also exquisite. Chloe is so well drawn, so sympathetic and recognisable a person to carry this book that the reader cannot help but be taken along on her journey and feel all that she feels along the way. The pain of her teenage years, of intense, unrequited love and those instant, fierce, emotional swings are so vivid and familiar, the story feels absolutely real, even when exploring the supernatural elements. There have been many books and movies that have  used the link between unchecked teenage emotion and psychic happenings, but here Louise draws Chloe’s angst so honestly and believably that the occurrences seem almost inevitable, as does her reaction to them, and to the pain of just being as a teenager. The book explores some difficult topics, but always sensitively, and my heart was just beating along with Chloe’s, feeling deeply what she is feeling throughout the story.

The other quality that makes this book extra special is the one I pointed out at the beginning, how the author has managed to encapsulate absolutely perfectly the dream-like feeling of a theatre production and bring it to life in the pages of this novel. That sense of being held in a bubble, separate from the real world, disconnected from time for a while and completely captive to the story. This ethereal, surreal quality to the reading experience is something I am not sure I have experienced before and I am not sure how she has managed to do it, I could not pinpoint what it is about the text that makes this so, but it is so magical that it left me almost breathless. It is a quality that makes this ghost story believable, because the whole story seems illusory, both past and present, as if there is a gauzy curtain between what is happening here and reality. It is very hard to describe, I think you need to read the book yourself to experience it, but it is quite startling in its originality and something very special.

My love for this book is unbounded. It is deeply moving in parts, it almost brought me to tears at the end, because the emotions bleed off the page. I could wax lyrical about what makes this book special all day and still fail to really convey what makes it outstanding, but you are probably already bored. So I’ll just finish by saying, you will never have had a reading experience quite like this and Louise’s chameleon-like abilities as a writer continue to amaze me with every new book. I was blown away by I Am Dust and it has flown into my top ten books of the year, please, please read it for yourself.

I Am Dust is out now as am ebook and will be published in paperback on 16 April, and you can get a copy here.

To follow the rest of the I Am Dust blog tour, check out the details on the poster below:

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About the Author

Louise Beech Author pic

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. Her second book, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both of her previous books Maria in the Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost were widely reviewed, critically acclaimed and number-one bestsellers on Kindle. The Lion Tamer Who Lost was shortlisted for the RNA Most Popular Romantic Novel Award in 2019. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice. Louise lives with her husband on the outskirts of Hull, and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.

Connect with Louise:

Website: https://louisebeech.co.uk

Facebook: Louise Beech

Twitter: @LouiseWriter

Instagram: @louisebeech13

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Blog Tour: Rabette Run by Nick Rippington #GuestPost

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EMERSON RABETTE has a phobia about travelling on underground trains, so when he is involved in a car accident his worst nightmare is about to come true.

A middle-aged graphic designer and father of one, Emerson’s entire future depends on him reaching an important business meeting. Without an alternative method of transport, he has to confront his biggest fear.

Things immediately go wrong when Emerson’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder kicks in and his fellow passengers become angry at the way he is acting. Thankfully a young woman called Winter comes to his rescue and agrees to help him reach his destination.

Once on the train, she thinks her job is done. But Emerson can’t help feeling he is being watched by his fellow passengers, including a soldier, a woman in a hat covered with artificial fruit and a man with a purple goatee beard.

Is it just his paranoia kicking in, or are they all out to get him?

And Winter is taken totally by surprise when Emerson takes flight after reading a message scrawled on the train’s interior.

It simply reads: ‘Run Rabette Run’

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for a unique book, Rabette Run by Nick Rippington and to be bringing you a fascinating Q & A feature with the author. My thanks to Sarah Hardy of Books On The Bright Side Publicity for inviting me to take part and to the author for answering the questions for this feature.

Question & Answer with Nick Rippington, author of Rabette Run

Where did the idea for Rabette Run come from?
Working shifts as a sports designer on a national newspaper in London I quite often have to catch the underground train home late at night. At times you might be the only one on the carriage and I remember spotting the odd item of graffiti and thinking, ‘What if there was my name scrawled on there, together with a warning?’ The ball got rolling from there and within a few weeks I had an idea of how it was going to go. As often in these cases, the more I wrote, the more the idea developed. I was also a big fan of the TV series Lost and was choked at how poor the ending was having watched 5 or 6 series. I had come up with an alternative ending and I won’t say any more other than I ran with the idea…
Any thoughts on who you could see playing Winter & Emerson if it went to the big screen?
I would love to see someone like Ed Norton playing Emerson, though he might be a bit too old now. He’s one of my favourite actors and I thought he did a wonderful job in Fight Club, which in some ways has a similar feel to it in that you aren’t sure what’s real and what’s fiction. If I was going for someone younger it would have to be Kit Harrington who played John Snow in Game of Thrones. Another Game of Thrones actress, Sophie Turner who played Sansa, would make the perfect Winter, though I also think Jodie Comer, who is terrific in Killing Eve, would do a great job.
Did you spend much time going underground on the tubes for research?
I’ve worked in London since I joined the News of the World in 2009 and even before then I spent a few years living there, so it’s pretty hard to avoid the Tube to be honest. I wonder how Emerson managed to do it for so long because, believe me, driving is not a pleasant experience in the smoke.
Rabette Run is quite different from your Boxer Boys series. What made you turn to psychological thrillers?
I thought that the Boxer Boys had run their course, for the moment anyway, and I had several other ideas popping up in my head. I first attempted to write this a long time ago as a project for the National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo – so I’d already got 50,000 words down and it seemed logical to try to finish it off once Dying Seconds had been published. Rather than trying to weave my Boxer Boys characters into the series or, worse, make Emerson into a UK gangster type I just wanted to see how things would go if I attempted something different. I’m very happy with the way it worked out. I’m sure I’ll get the perfect storyline for another gangland tale in the future but for the moment I am taking a break. I interviewed the US thriller writer Karin Slaughter at the London Book Fair last year and she has managed to break away from her regular characters on occasion. It hasn’t hurt her as a writer. I know I’m not in that bracket but I think attempting something different can only help improve your writing. A past editor of mine said after reading Spark Out, a particularly gritty thriller, that some of the sections in it made her think I would make a great romance writer! Not yet…
What books and authors have you enjoyed reading over the last 12 months?
I’ve been doing quite a bit of research on another book so have been reading mainly factual books, but I am a massive fan of John Le Carre and a Delicate Truth didn’t disappoint. I love Angela Marsons’ Kim Stone series and also enjoyed The Child by Fiona Barton and Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh. I tend to find with all the Tube travel that audio books mean you can get through a lot more these days, very handy to relax and listen to someone reading when you’ve spent the whole day proofreading copy in front of a computer screen.
Can you tell us a bit about what you are currently working on?
I’m reluctant to say too much without giving away the ending – spoiler alert! – but let’s just say there is a serial killer involved!
Thanks for that fascinating insight into the inspiration for Rabette Run, Nick, and what is coming next.
If you would like to read Rabette Run for yourself, you can buy a copy here and to celebrate Nick’s blog tour my readers can get Rabette Run in digital format for the bargain knockdown price of 99p during the week April 7-14. What’s stopping you?
If you would like to read some extracts and reviews of the book, please do check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour as detailed below:
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About the Author
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Nick Rippington is the award-winning author of the Boxer Boys series of gangland crime thrillers.

Based in London, UK, Nick was the last-ever Welsh Sports Editor of the now defunct News of The World, writing his debut release Crossing The Whitewash after being made redundant with just two days notice after Rupert Murdoch closed down Europe’s biggest-selling tabloid in 2011.

On holiday at the time, Nick was never allowed back in the building, investigators sealing off the area with crime scene tape and seizing his computer as they investigated the phone-hacking scandal, something which took place a decade before Nick joined the paper. His greatest fear, however, was that cops would uncover the secrets to his Fantasy Football selections.

Handed the contents of his desk in a black bin bag in a murky car park, deep throat style, Nick was at a crossroads – married just two years earlier and with a wife and 9-month-old baby to support.

With self-publishing booming, he hit on an idea for a UK gangland thriller taking place against the backdrop of the Rugby World Cup and in 2015 produced Crossing The Whitewash, which received an honourable mention in the genre category of the Writers’ Digest self-published eBook awards. Judges described it as “evocative, unique, unfailingly precise and often humorous”.

Follow-up novel Spark Out, a prequel set at the time of Margaret Thatcher and the Falklands War, received a Chill With A Book reader award and an IndieBRAG medallion from the prestigious website dedicated to Independent publishers and writers throughout the world. The novel was also awarded best cover of 2017 with Chill With A Book.

The third book in the Boxer Boys series Dying Seconds, a sequel to Crossing The Whitewash, was released in December 2018 and went to the top of the Amazon Contemporary Urban Fiction free charts during a giveaway period of five days. A digital box set, the Boxer Boys Collection, came out in September last year.

Now Nick, 60, is switching direction feeling that, for the moment, the Boxer Boys series has run its course. His latest novel, Rabette Run, will be released in the Spring and Nick says, ‘It is a gritty psychological thriller with twists and turns galore. Think Alice in Wonderland with tanks and guns.’

Married to Liz, When Nick isn’t writing he works as a back bench designer of sports pages on the Daily Star. He has two children – Jemma, 37, and Olivia, 9.

Connect with Nick:

Website: https://www.theripperfile.com

Facebook: Nick Rippington

Twitter: @nickripp

Instagram: @rippington

Pinterest: Nick Rippington

Blog Tour: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell #BookReview

Hamnet Cover

TWO EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE. A LOVE THAT DRAWS THEM TOGETHER. A LOSS THAT THREATENS TO TEAR THEM APART.

On a summer’s day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home?

Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London. Neither parent knows that one of the children will not survive the week.

Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright. It is a story of the bond between twins, and of a marriage pushed to the brink by grief. It is also the story of a kestrel and its mistress; flea that boards a ship in Alexandria; and a glovemaker’s son who flouts convention in pursuit of the woman he loves. Above all, it is a tender and unforgettable reimagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.

I am privileged today to be taking part in the blog tour for Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. The book has been longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and is one of the most eagerly anticipated books of the year. Huge thanks to Anne Cater for my place on the tour and to the publisher for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I’m always a little wary about reviewing books as hyped as this one has been, and by authors as revered as Maggie O’Farrell. One wonders if the books, and indeed the authors, can ever live up to the advance accolades they receive, and whether, when the literary establishment is so in love with a novel or novelist, any positive review will be accepted at face value or perceived as just another acolyte toeing the party line. On the converse, would anyone dare post a negative review whilst anticipating the backlash that might ensue? After all, this book has been long listed for the Women’s Prize, a lot of people have rated it very highly. It might make one seriously consider whether just to keep one’s opinion to oneself.

I have to admit that I am not a devotee on this author’s work, simply because I have never previously got around to reading it. I have two of her titles on my TBR, but in the past three years madding rush of blog tours, they have remained there, untouched. So maybe I am ideally positioned to come at this with an open mind and no preconceptions, which is exactly what I did. I also had no expectations with regard to how this would compare to her previous work, I could judge this book purely on its own merits.

The author could not have foreseen when writing this book, which is a book she has said she has wanted to write for over thirty years, that it would arrive on the shelves at a time the world was being touched by a deadly pandemic, arousing in us the kind of fear and panic that is the mirrored in the family at the centre of the book, as they are touched in the same way by the plague in the sixteenth century. In fact, the vividness with which the author recreates this in the novel may strike too close to home for some to bear at this terrifying moment in this history. For others of us, what it manages to do is draw us close across the centuries to those who went before us and show us that, although much in the world has altered beyond recognition in those long, intervening years, human emotions of love, loss, grief, kinship, fear and fortitude are constant and unchanging. It allows us to relate to these long-dead people in a way we might otherwise be unable to do.

Of course, this is largely down to the skill of the author in the writing. The everyday world of Stratford at this time is brought to life in such detail, and with such incisive and graphic description that complete immersion in the story in unavoidable. I was totally transported, living and breathing this experience along with the characters, completely caught up in the emotions and events to the point where I resented being pulled back out to face the everyday. I wanted to stay there, living and breathing and feeling this story until I finished it, harrowing and difficult as that was in parts, because it became so important to me to know how it ended.

This is a very detailed book, full of languorous language, indulgent pacing and descriptions of the minutiae of life at this time. This is going to frustrate some readers, I know. We are used to life at a frenetic pace, we have no patience in the modern day. People’s attention span has been accustomed to sixty second sound bites, memes, instant fixes, instant gratification. We always want to move on, move on to the next thing, never satisfied. But life as we know it has stopped for a while. We have been forced to slow down, take a break, sit back and pause. Use this time to take in a book like this, when enjoying the language and indulgence of expression in this book to take you back to a time when life was slower, more considered and possibly more appreciative of the smaller, lesser pleasures, will pay off in spades with a deeper understanding of how people lived and worked and loved at that time. Allow yourself the space and time to feel the emotion that flows from the pages of this book and seeps in to your bones if you let it.

Anyone coming to this book expecting the story of Shakespeare is going to be disappointed. In fact, the author never mentions his name once throughout. He is referred to as tutor, son, brother, father, husband, playwright, and this is very deliberate, because this is not his story. He is not centre stage, he is not the main protagonist, he is off in the wings, a bit player, the occasional character who wanders in and out of the scene, even to the end where is is the supporting role in his own play, not the titular character. This is the story of his wife.

Anne Hathaway, known in this book as Agnes, as her father referred to her in his will, is the driving force in this novel. It is through her eyes that we see life in Stratford at this time, that we learn about the roles of the womenfolk who held the homes and families together as the men were away working and making the decisions. The heart of the story is in Stratford, where all the action takes place while Shakespeare is in London, and it is she who drives the plot, from the very first time they meet. She is portrayed as a remarkable woman with many skills that were underestimated by her peers, even treated with suspicion in some cases, skills of healing and understanding and uncanny intuition. She is also shown as possessing unbelievable strength of character, allowing her husband to leave her with two small children to go to London because she understands he needs to get away from the constraints of his family, the same family she is left to live within his absence, even though they are not her own. Maggie’s admiration for this unusual woman as she envisages her is apparent on every page. She uses her to show us intimate aspects of small town life in the sixteenth century and, more particularly, what life was like for women at that time. As a historical exploration, it is absolutely fascinating.

The main thing that makes this book so special though, is the portrayal of parental grief on the loss of a child. This is something of which I have personal experience and the depth of understanding the author displays for the thoughts and emotions a parent experiences in these circumstances was profound. Her descriptions aroused in me memories that remain painfully vivid but oddly treasured, it is very difficult to explain how reading something this accurate both hurts and is deeply comforting at the same time. To be so understood, to have such pain acknowledged and explored, explained and transmitted to that fortunate part of society that has never felt it, is oddly consoling. There were scenes in this book that rang so completely true with me that it both broke my heart and gave me succour at the same time. The passage detailing the procession to the churchyard in particular was like reliving a scene from my own life, it made me cry but also provided solace in the form of understanding by another person of this pain. This is what great writing can do, it can make us feel understood, it can make us feel less alone in a confusing and frightening world. Many of us are going to need much more of this in days to come.

I have waxed on at length in this review, I know, but I hope you have come to understand at the end why it is that I am telling you I have immeasurable love and appreciation for this book. Regardless of the hype, it has given me so much on so many different levels that I cannot praise it highly enough. As a historical text, as a celebration of the strength and fortitude of women, as an exploration and acknowledgement of grief and pain, of relationships between man and woman and parent and child, I adored every single thing about it. Every word, every feeling rewarded me beyond measure. It has moved me more profoundly than anything I have read in recent memory and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Read it, not because of who the author is, or because it is being feted high and low, or because it has been listed for prizes, but because it is a work of wonder and you deserve to give yourself the opportunity to experience it for yourself.

Hamnet is out now in hardback, ebook and audio formats and you can get a copy here.

The books is taking a huge tour, and there are loads of amazing blogs taking part so do make sure you check out some of the other reviews:

Hamnet BT Poster

About the Author

Maggie Author Pic

Maggie O’Farrell is the author of seven novels, AFTER YOU’D GONE, MY LOVER’S LOVER, THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US, which won a Somerset Maugham Award, THE VANISHING ACT OF ESME LENNOX, THE HAND THAT FIRST HELD MINE, which won the 2010 Costa Novel Award, INSTRUCTIONS FOR A HEATWAVE, which was shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Novel Award, and THIS MUST BE THE PLACE, which was shortlisted for the 2016 Costa Novel Award. Maggie has also written a memoir, I AM, I AM, I AM. She lives in Edinburgh.

Connect with Maggie:

Website: https://www.maggieofarrell.com

Facebook: Maggie O’Farrell Books

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