Blog Tour: In The Sweep Of The Bay by Cath Barton #BookReview

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This warm-hearted tale explores marriage, love, and longing, set against the majestic backdrop of Morecambe Bay, the Lakeland Fells, and the faded splendour of the Midland Hotel.

Ted Marshall meets Rene in the dance halls of Morecambe and they marry during the frail optimism of the 1950s. They adopt the roles expected of man and wife at the time: he the breadwinner at the family ceramics firm, and she the loyal housewife. But as the years go by, they find themselves wishing for more…

After Ted survives a heart attack, both see it as a new beginning… but can a faded love like theirs ever be rekindled?

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for In The Sweep Of The Bay by Cath Barton. My thanks to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is only a short novella, that took me a scant eighty minutes to read, but what a lot the author managed to pack in to the pages. Pretty much all of human life is here, as we explore the life of Ted and Rene over the course of half a century. From the dance halls of post-war Morecambe to the modern day, the book explores the nuts and bolts of the marriage of two ordinary people living in the confines of an isolated, seaside town.

The book does not run in a linear format, but dodges about through the relationship, between the perspectives of Ted and Rene and other important figures in their lives and the life of the town of Morecambe. Despite this, the book is not at all confusing, but works perfectly to illustrate the changing relationship and feelings that Ted and Rene have for one another over the course of fifty years.

This book is all about relationships, their complexities and mercurial nature, ever-changing over the course of a lifetime, as both internal and external factors but different pressures on them at different times. The feelings of the couple ebb and flow like the tides in Morecambe Bay, which provides the constant backdrop to their evolving lives, and the changing seasons and moods and fortunes of the town echoing the shifts in the moods of their marriage, the sadness coming from the fact that the times the two of them seem to be in synch are rare and fleeting.

The book felt so honest to me, so truly reflective of so many people’s lives, full of disappointment and compromise, with small moments of joy and shared triumph, but all the same looked back on through rose-tinted spectacles when it is over and viewed very differently by outsiders than those living within it. Right from the beginning, we see through the individual thoughts of Ted and Rene that they have not entered this marriage on the back of a grand passion, and this somewhat sets the tone. Their life is not filled with terrible disasters, but small sorrows, the like of which we all suffer, made sadder by their inability to address them from the same page. Overall, the feeling for me is one of melancholy, and I wonder how many people go through their lives in this way – probably many more than we realise.

This was a really beautiful story, told with understanding, tenderness and a deep empathy. I found the writing really moving, and I came away from the book feeling like I had read something profoundly truthful and illuminating. Triumphal.

The Sweep Of The Bay is out now and I can recommend highly enough that you buy it here.

Please do follow the rest of the tour as detailed below:

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About the Author

Cath Barton. Author pic. Feb 2020

Cath Barton lives in Abergavenny. She won the New Welsh Writing AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella in 2017 for The Plankton Collector, which was published in September 2018 by New Welsh Review under their Rarebyte imprint. She also writes short stories and flash fiction and, with her critical writing, is a regular contributor to Wales Arts Review. In the Sweep of the Bay is her second novella. 

Website: https://cathbarton.com/

Facebook: Cath Barton

Twitter: @CathBarton1

Publisher Website: https://www.louisewaltersbooks.co.uk/cath-barton

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Blog Tour: The Chalet by Catherine Cooper #BookReview

The Chalet Cover Image

French Alps, 1998

Two young men ski into a blizzard… but only one returns.

20 years later

Four people connected to the missing man find themselves in that same resort. Each has a secret. Two may have blood on their hands. One is a killer-in-waiting.

Someone knows what really happened that day.

And somebody will pay.

Delighted to be joining the blog tour for The Chalet by Catherine Cooper today. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part, and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Often in publishing you find books with a similar theme being published around the same time. Having recently reviewed One by One by Ruth Ware on the blog, also set in a ski chalet, one might wonder whether it is also worth reading The Chalet. However, the two books are quite different in plot and style and, as a reader, I took something quite different from each.

This is a story with multiple timelines, split in to three different parts. Firstly are the events of 1998, in the ski resort of La Madiere, France, where a young man goes missing on a ski run in a blizzard. We then return to La Madiere in the present day when four people find themselves caught up in events from the past that they thought were long buried. In the middle of the book is a section of unconnected happenings that might eventually connect the two timelines. The author does a skilful job of weaving the two timelines together, revealing little pieces of information throughout the plot, and keeping us straight as to who is narrating, as the book switched between characters – this is no mean feat.

It has to be said that there are a lot of very unlikeable characters in this book. Some so much so, that you are actually willing awful things to happen to them. The author was very clever at throwing the reader off the scent very early on, so that for at least half of the book I had no idea how the people in the two separate timelines were related to one another or the mystery of the skier’s disappearance at the beginning. In the final third, I had my suspicions about who was behind the mystery, but there were still other revelations that came as a shock, and one further red herring that made sure I was not one hundred per cent sure who had done what until towards the end. Overall, the book kept me on the edge of my seat throughout.

The wintery setting of the ski resort and the luxury chalet was well set up, it really transported me to the Alps and the whole skiing experience. I thought the way the author threw one of the characters into a ‘fish out of water’ scenario was interesting and very believable, she was one of only two characters I had much sympathy for by the end. The fact that I remained interested in a book where so many of the characters were deeply unpleasant is testament to the author’s writing and skill in plotting. This is a very strong debut and I greatly look forward to reading more by this exciting new author.

This book is highly recommended for anyone who loves a book set in an exotic locale, with tales of violence, loss and revenge and a twisty, turny mystery at its heart.

The Chalet is out now and you can buy your copy here.

Please do follow the rest of the tour for alternative reviews:

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About the Author

Catherine Cooper Author Pic

Catherine Cooper is a journalist specialising in travel, hotels, and skiing who writes regularly for the Telegraph and the Guardian among others. She lives near the Pyrenees in the South of France with her husband and two teenage children, and is a keen skier. The Chalet is her debut novel.

Connect with Catherine:

Website: http://www.catherinecooperauthor.com/

Facebook: Catherine Cooper Author

Twitter: @catherinecooper

Instagram: @catherinecooperjournalist

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Blog Tour: Problems With Girls by Kelly Creighton #BookReview

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Where are the young women here? Can you even see them?

After taking some leave, DI Harriet Sloane comes back to work at Strandtown PSNI station, East Belfast, to be faced with a murder case. A young political activist has been stabbed to death in the office of a progressive political party where she works as an intern.

The killer seems to have a problem with girls, and is about to strike again.

I am delighted to be posting my review today of Problems With Girls by Kelly Creighton as part of the book’s blog tour. My thanks to the author for inviting me to take part and for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is my first book by this author, although it is the second book featuring DI Sloane. Not having read the first book featuring this character did not detract from my understanding or enjoyment of this novel. In fact, there were a couple of shocking moments in this book which probably would not have stopped me in my tracks the way they did if I had been privy to more of Sloane’s back story. It did make me want to go back and read the first book though.

The story involves a lot of seemingly disparate goings on in East Belfast that may or may not be connected to the murder of a young political activist which is the crime central to the book. There is a whole parade of suspects, with a variety of motives and no clear path to a solution. To be honest, at times, the whole plot was really confusing because it was impossible to see how the crime could be solved without any obvious clues to the perpetrator. It did mean the book was totally gripping, because I was desperate to see how the author was going to untangle all the strands and tie it up. It looked for a large part of the book like a hopelessly knotted ball of wool that would never get sorted out within the confines of the pages.

Of course, it does get resolved in the end, and I was glad that my suspicions about one of the characters turned out to be true, it made me feel a bit like Miss Marple, a thoroughly enjoyable conclusion to any crime novel. I did have one complaint about the book, which was that the final showdown between Sloane and the antagonist was wound up far too quickly, and deflated the tension for me a little. I’d have liked more of a life-or-death, prolonged tussle please!

One of the great strengths of this book is the exploration of Sloane’s family life outside of the investigation. It really portrayed the struggle that working mothers have, balancing job and career in the modern world, accurately and with sympathy. This is particularly difficult in careers where the hours are erratic, and in traditional communities where women can be looked down upon for neglecting their motherly ‘duties.’

In fact, the exploration of modern feminism, and how it is still a constant struggle in certain communities and sectors, is the main theme running through this book. Here, women who are seen to be pushing back against patriarchal restraints and doing things that are traditionally unfeminine, and then end up as victims are blamed, subject to male rage or disbelieved by many. The protagonist and her colleagues are seen to be taking a stand against these attitudes, in the wake of protests in Northern Ireland and the Repeal the Eighth vote in the Republic. It is a topical plot line well handled and a timely wake up call for those in society who insist that women now have equality and there is nothing further to be done.

This is a fast-moving and intricately plotted crime novel that will please any fans of the genre. The author is skilled at creating character and place, and imbuing the novel with a real sympathy for the players. I came away from the book feeling quite sad. Sad for the victims of the crimes, sad for Sloane and the position she finds herself in, and just for women in general who are still having to struggle for basic human rights and respect in certain parts of the world. I’m not sure I’ve read a crime novel that has left me feeling this way before.

Problems with Girls is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Kelly Creighton is a creative writing teacher and the author of the DI Sloane novels, as well as the psychological thriller ‘The Bones of It’. She also writes short stories, having edited short story journal The Incubator for years.
Creighton published her first short story collection ‘Bank Holiday Hurricane’ to critical acclaim. She lives in Co Down, Northern Ireland.
Connect with Kelly:
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Blog Tour: The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus by Jaime Jo Wright #BookReview

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1928

The Bonaventure Circus is a refuge for many, but Pippa Ripley was rejected from its inner circle as a baby. When she receives mysterious messages from someone called the “Watchman,” she is determined to find him and the connection to her birth. As Pippa’s search leads her to a man seeking justice for his murdered sister and evidence that a serial killer has been haunting the circus train, she must decide if uncovering her roots is worth putting herself directly in the path of the killer.

Present Day

The old circus train depot will either be torn down or preserved for historical importance, and its future rests on real estate project manager Chandler Faulk’s shoulders. As she dives deep into the depot’s history, she’s also balancing a newly diagnosed autoimmune disease and the pressures of single motherhood. When she discovers clues to the unsolved murders of the past, Chandler is pulled into a story far darker and more haunting than even an abandoned train depot could portend.

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus by Jaime Jo Wright. Huge thanks to Kelly Lacey at Love Books Tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I am an absolute sucker for any book set around a circus. They have always fascinated me, and something that encapsulates childhood magic and fantasy, a feeling we all love to revisit when jaded adulthood and life stress gets us down. I barely even read the blurb for this, I just saw the title and the cover and said ‘sign me up.’

It’s my own fault then that the book wasn’t at all what I was expected! For some reason, I had got into my head that this was some kind of middle-grade, circus-set murder mystery. How wrong I was ! It was something much darker and more complex, a deeply nuanced novel exploring love, family, stigma, and finding oneself through independence. I absolutely blooming loved it.

This is a dual timeline novel, set in the small town of Bluff River, Wisconsin. The narrators are Pippa Riley, a young woman living in the town in 1928. She is an abandoned child of the circus, taken in by the rich owners and brought up as their daughter. Pippa finds herself irresistibly drawn back to the circus and the mystery of her parentage. But the circus can be a dangerous place to be for young women these days…

The second narrator is Chandler, a single mother struggling with parenthood, holding down a job and the ravages of an autoimmune disease. A troubled relationship with her own family leads to a sense of isolation, and she is wary of the friendly approaches of locals in Bluff River, where she has been sent to formulate development plans for the old railway terminus and other buildings connected to the long-defunct circus. But mysterious discoveries and strange goings on mean she has to team up with a handsome stranger to solve a decades-old mystery.

The lives of the two women have so many parallels across the years. Pippa is living at a time of new opportunities for women, but conservative societies are resisting their emancipation, and Pippa is struggling to balance her strict upbringing against her desire to embrace this newly-minted era of female liberation. Chandler is determined that her own independence will not be undermined by her illness or her single-parenthood, and she hides her struggles from everyone in fear of having restrictions placed on her by those who care about her. The book explores the complex dynamics of family and the struggles of women to balance the expectations and judgements of society with their own needs and desires. These dilemmas have not changed much for women over the centuries, and it is something we can all relate to.

The book also explores they way society views and treats people it views as different or abnormal, and how the circus became a refuge for misfits and loners. Often ridiculed as exploitative and voyeuristic, this book explores the idea that it actually provided a place of understanding and companionship for those on the fringes of society. It is a fascinating dichotomy that the author explores with interest and sympathy.

On top of this, there is a fascinating and quite terrifying murder mystery to be solved. A serial killer known as The Watchman seems to be stalking the circus, but years later, the community is questioning whether the real culprit was identified at the time and whether the stigma his descendants have carried through the years has been placed on the correct shoulders. The idea of disparate relations of a serial killer carrying the tarnish of their ancestor’s actions through the years is sad, but used to great effect for the plot of this novel and I thoroughly enjoyed the twists and turns of the story. The author weaves the two timelines together with great skill, slowly uncovering the truth across the years, and I was on the edge of my seat by the end, in both the 1920s and the present day!

The prose is richly textured, evocative and an absolute joy to read. It is one of those books that you can get totally lost in, so effective is the author in constructing the time and place in which she has set the novel. I was drawn through the book effortlessly, not wanting to break off and destroy the fictional bubble in which I has been ensnared by her skill. As soon as I had finished the book, I wanted to go and pick up her other novels and see if I could get that feeling back again. This was my first book by Jaime Jo Wright, but it definitely will not be the last. Oh, the joy of discovering a great new author with a back catalogue on which you can binge, is there any greater pleasure for an avid reader?

The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus is out now and you must absolutely get you copy here.

About the Author

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Jaime Jo Wright is the author of five novels, including Christy Award winner The House on Foster Hill and Carol Award winner The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond. She’s also the Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestselling author of two novellas. Jaime lives in Wisconsin with her cat named Foo, her husband Cap’n Hook, and their littles, Peter Pan, and CoCo. 

Connect with Jaime:

Website: https://www.jaimewrightbooks.com/

Facebook: Jaime Jo Wright

Twitter: @jaimejowright

Instagram: @jaimejowright

Pinterest: Jaime Jo Wright

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Blog Tour: Crime and Justice by Martin Bodenham #BookReview

Cover for Crime And Justice

What if we could no longer trust DNA profiling, the silver bullet of our criminal justice system? For years, we’ve relied on it to solve decades-old crimes, convict the guilty, and liberate the innocent from death row. But what happens to that trust when a crime lab scientist is leaned on to manipulate the evidence or, worse still, lose it altogether?

Ruthless Seattle mayor, Patti Rainsford, announces her candidacy for state governor. She’ll do anything to succeed. When her son is arrested for the rape and assault of a seventeen-year-old girl, Rainsford’s political career is in jeopardy.

Detective Linda Farrell is assigned to investigate. After twelve years working in SPD’s sexual assault unit, her career is drifting, not helped by the single-minded detective’s contempt for police protocol and the pressure of her failing marriage. The high-profile rape case is a rare chance to shine and maybe even get her life back on track. Nothing will stop her seeking justice for the young victim.

With a mountain of personal debt and his wife’s business on a knife-edge, Clark Stanton is facing financial meltdown. Then a stranger offers him a lifeline in return for a favor. As the manager of Seattle’s crime lab, all Clark has to do is make the rape kit evidence against the mayor’s son go away.

I am delighted to be one of the blogs kicking off the tour today for Crime and Justice by Martin Bodenham. My thanks to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

The action in this book kicks off from the very first page when Clark Stanton, manager of the Seattle crime lab, is approached by someone with unwelcome demands, and the reader is forced to ask themselves from the beginning, what would you do in this situation. Clark is put in a seemingly impossible position, with no good choices open to him.

I have to say, to begin with, I wasn’t one hundred per cent convinced by the path that Clark decides to take. I could see what the author was trying to do to convince the reader that what he did was reasonable under the circumstances, but I’m not sure he was totally successful in my case. However, if you can put this aside and try and suspend your disbelief as I did, what follows is a rollercoaster ride of action as Clark tries to dig himself out of the hole he has got himself into, while other people fight for justice, or to avoid being brought to justice, depending on their perspectives.

There are a lot of morally dubious characters in this book, in fact they outweigh the ones who are obviously likeable, which makes for an interesting dynamic in the novel. The most sympathetic characters in this novel are the minor ones, the ones who actually have very little voice and are the ones who end up suffering the most as a result of the protagonist’s actions. They were the ones, by the end, who had my thoughts, and I was left feeling saddened for them and the justice they never received.

And this is the main theme of the book. What is justice, and what is it reasonable to do in order to seek it? What lengths can a moral person go to in order to seek justice, and is doing morally dubious, or even downright illegal, things justified if it sees wrong-doers punished in the end? Do the ends justify the means? Would it be better for criminals to go free to spare innocent people pain and suffering, or is the sacrifice of innocents an acceptable side effect in the pursuit of justice? These are dilemmas that have taxed humans for centuries, and I’m not sure everyone will come up with the same answer after reading this book, but it gives the reader food for thought.

The other idea explored here, how far we should trust the conviction of people based purely on DNA evidence when it can easily be manipulated by unscrupulous humans, is also interesting, and I don’t think there is a good answer. It will make you ponder, if you are like me, how we do insure that the criminal justice system is as infallible as it can be, when it has to rely so heavily on the actions of humans who can make mistakes, or who are blinded by bias, prejudice, or open to outside manipulation. If you think about it for too long, it could give you sleepless nights, but I’m not sure that anyone has come up with a better alternative yet.

This book is a gripping thriller, with plenty of moral dilemmas for the reader to chew on, and lots of action to keep the plot rolling along. If the author has to perform some contortions in justifying the motivations of his main character to set up the premise for the book, most readers will probably find this a minor price to pay for a cracking read.

Crime and Justice is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do follow the rest of the tour for other reviews and other great content:

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About the Author

Martin Bodenham - Author

Martin Bodenham is the author of the crime thrillers The Geneva Connection, Once a Killer, and Shakedown. Crime And Justice is his latest novel.

After a thirty-year career in private equity and corporate finance in London, Martin moved to the west coast of Canada, where he writes full-time. He held corporate finance partner positions at both KPMG and Ernst & Young as well as senior roles at several private equity firms before founding his own private equity company in 2001. Much of the tension in his thrillers is based on the greed and fear he witnessed first-hand while working in international finance.

Connect with Martin:

Website: https://www.martinbodenham.com/

Twitter: @MartinBodenham

Instagram: @martinbodenham

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Blog Tour: Carrion by Graeme Cumming #BookReview

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CHOOSE YOUR WORDS CAREFULLY. WORDS HAVE POWER.

A sheet of black filled his vision as hundreds of birds dived at the cottage, pointed beaks thrust forward. From this angle, he couldn’t see many of them striking it, but the few he did see held nothing back as they hammered into the shutter. The scale of the attack was beyond anything he’d seen or heard of. And bloodied casualties littered the ground: skulls shattered, wings broken, innards spilling from them. The fact that so many of them continued with the onslaught in spite of this filled him with even more dread.

Salin has always wanted an adventure and, when the opportunity presents itself, he grabs it with both hands, taking his friends along for the ride – whether they want to or not.

With strange lands come strange creatures that stand between them and their goal. And that goal is the same for someone else, a man who believes the prize is worth every sacrifice – especially when the sacrifices are made by others.

The future is about to change. But who for?

I am so delighted today to be taking part in the blog tour for Carrion by Graeme Cumming. My thanks to Kelly Lacey at Love Books Tours for giving me a place on the tour, and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Let me tell you a little story. Two years ago, I agreed to take part in the blog tour for a book by an author I had never read before. I promptly failed to put the tour in my diary and blithely forgot all about it until the tour organiser emailed me the day after my post was due to ask me what had happened. This was the first time I had ever failed to post a review on time and I was absolutely mortified. I went and grovelled to the author, who was grace and charm personified, read and reviewed the book, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and I made a new friend.

That book was Graeme’s last novel, Ravens Gathering (you can read my review here), and since then, I have had the pleasure of meeting Graeme in person. He comes across as the most mild, kind, unassuming person you could wish to meet. Which leads to the question, where the hell is the part of him that wrote this book hiding day to day?

This book is impossible to categorise. Is it horror? (Bits of it definitely are.) Is it fantasy? Is it a thriller? Is it some type of dystopian morality tale? Is it just all of these things mixed together? It is certainly unlike anything you will have read before. The closest I can get to describing it is Lord of the Rings meets Game of Thrones meets The Birds. It was completely outside my reading comfort zone, but I was thoroughly gripped from start to finish.

The book starts of very Hobbit-like with four people (?) setting off on some kind of quest. I wasn’t sure who they were to begin with, and for the first few chapters you have to concentrate quite hard to sort out who is who and what is going on, as the narrative jumps between quite a few different viewpoints, and there is no clear definition of who is doing what or why. Eventually, all is revealed, but you do need to stick with it to begin with until it shakes itself out. There is plenty of action to keep you occupied while the strands arrange themselves, and I found the book really gripping from the off, and it only got more and more so as it went along. By the end, the strain on my nerves was almost too much to bear, because I absolutely NEEDED things to work out a certain way, such was my absolute loathing for one of the characters, but I wasn’t sure it was going to end to my satisfaction.

The book is a visceral read. I know I referred to LOTR, but the violence level is definitely more George R. R. Martin than J. R. R. Tolkein. Graeme is not shy about bumping off what appear to be central characters, or people you have grown attached to, and he does it in some imaginatively gory ways. There is a strong element of horror in the book, particularly in the first half, and I felt this very strongly. It was oppressive and nerve-shredding, not a book for relaxing in the bath with for sure. If you want something to get the adrenaline pumping, this is it.

Graeme has done some fantastic world-building in this book, I could really picture the setting for the novel and completely bought into it. There are a lot of interesting ideas explored here, and some really well-constructed characters. He may have created the most hateful antagonist of any book I have come across in a long while, which has the effect of making the reader totally invested in the outcome of the quest. The whole thing came together very effectively, and I am really pleased for him, because I know this book has been a labour of love.

This book isn’t going to be for everyone, but it is very original, action-packed, immersive and evocative. I hope lots of people pick it up and experience it for themselves, because it is unlike anything else you will have read this year.

Carrion is out now and you can buy your copy here, if you dare!

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About the Author

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Graeme Cumming lives in Robin Hood country, and has spent most of his life immersed in fiction – books, TV, movies – turning to writing his own during his early teens.

With his interests in story-telling sparked by an excessive amount of time sitting in front of a black and white television, his tastes are varied.  Influences ranged from the Irwin Allen shows (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, etc.) to ITC series (The Saint, The Champions, Randall and Hopkirk (deceased) and so many more), so the common theme was action and adventure, but crossed into territories including horror, fantasy and science fiction as well as crime and espionage.

 This diverse interest in fiction continued with his reading and his discovery of the magical world of cinema.  As a result, his stories don’t always fall into a specific genre, but will always maintain the style of a thriller.

When not writing, Graeme is an enthusiastic sailor (and, by default, swimmer), and enjoys off-road cycling and walking.  He is currently Education Director at Sheffield Speakers Club.  Oh yes, and he reads (a lot) and loves the cinema.

Connect with Graeme:

Website: https://www.graemecumming.co.uk/

Facebook: Graeme Cumming

Twitter: @GraemeCumming63

Instagram: @graeme_cumming_author

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Blog Tour: Coyote Fork: A Thriller by James Wilson #BookReview

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British journalist Robert Lovelace travels to California to report on the social media giant Global Village. He’s horrified by what he finds: a company—guided by the ruthless vision of its founder, Evan Bone—that seems to be making journalism itself redundant. Appalled, he decides to abandon the project and return home.

But as he leaves he has a disconcerting encounter that sends him off in a totally different direction. Soon he finds himself embarking on an increasingly fraught and dangerous mission. The aim: to uncover the murky truth about Evan Bone’s past and his pathological disregard for the human cost of the behemoth he has created.

Robert’s quest takes him from San Francisco to a small college town in the Midwest, to the site of a former hippie commune in northern California, introducing us to a range of vivid characters and confronting us with the price we pay—online trolling, the loss of privacy, professional ruin—for living in an “interconnected” world. Finally, he makes a startling discovery—and is thrown into a completely unforeseen existential dilemma.

A timely, stylishly written, and brilliantly conceived metaphysical thriller, Coyote Fork carries us on an unforgettable journey, before bringing us face to face with the darkness at the heart of Silicon Valley itself.

It is my turn today on the blog tour for Coyote Fork: A Thriller by James Wilson. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to Slant Books for my copy of the novel, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This book is a little too scarily prescient to be an entirely comfortable read at the moment. An interesting mix of thriller, dystopian tale and morality story, it is quite different to most thrillers you will read at the moment. It has distant echoes of one of my favourite authors, John Wyndham, in the way it blends a fascinating story with undertones of science fiction and a focus on warnings against fatal paths that the human race seems to be taking. If you are looking for something unsettling that will make you think whilst keeping you entertained, look no further.

Out narrator is Robert Lovelace, a journalist who has just lost his job when his newspaper was taken over by tech mogul, Evan Bone. Incensed by the way Bone’s gigantic media company seems intent on dominating the world, taking over from all traditional news and information channels (sound familiar?), bulldozing any obstacle in his path, whilst simultaneously failing to stop the online bullying rife on his platform, Lovelace travels to California to investigate Bone and see what dirt he can dig up. The journey takes him to unexpected and dangerous places.

The books has plenty of tension, and twists and turns to keep the reader on his toes. We travel from a tech billionaire’s mansion in San Francisco to a remote Indian settlement at the foot of a mountain. The mystery behind Evan Bone’s past centres around an abandoned commune in California that seems to have two different sides to it, depending on who you ask. In his quest to find out what has moulded and driven Bone to where he is, Lovelace has to unravel what went on at the commune before it fell apart, whilst at the same time running from the shadowy figures who seem to be following him and trying to discredit him before he can report his findings.

The most fascinating part of the book is the exploration of developments in technology and social media, where that is leading us as a society and if that is somewhere that we really want to go. The developments in the online world will be familiar to all of us, including the less savoury side. The perils that the author explores here are all too prevalent already – online trolling, fake news, grooming, underground communities that incite violence and hatred, polarisation of society – we can see how these operate to the detriment of our lives in some ways already. The author takes this further and asks where it is leading? How do we deal with it? Is there a way back? His conclusions are startling and unexpected but, even if you find them unbelievable, it will have to exploring your own ideas about where we might be headed.

A very different, thought-provoking and disturbing read, that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Definitely worth a read.

Coyote Fork: A Thriller is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour as detailed on the poster below:

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About the Author

James Wilson Author Pic

James Wilson is a London-based writer. His previous novels include The Dark Clue, The Bastard Boy, The Woman in the Picture, Consolation, and The Summer of Broken Stories. He has written BBC TV and radio documentaries, and is the author of a work of narrative nonfiction, The Earth Shall Weep: A History of Native America, which won a Myers Outstanding Book Award.

Connect with James:

Website: http://www.jameswilsonauthor.com/index.htm

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Blog Tour: One Kiss Before Christmas by Emma Jackson #BookReview

One Kiss Before Christmas - Blog Tour

I am delighted to be be taking my turn on the blog tour today for One Kiss Before Christmas by Emma Jackson. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s RandomResources 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.

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Could it be the start of her happy ever after?

Ashleigh could use a little Christmas magic. She’s still living in Brighton with her Nan — who could give the Grinch lessons in how to be miserable — her acting career has been reduced to playing one of Santa’s elves, and not even the prospect of a friend’s winter wedding can cheer her up…

That is until Olivier, the gorgeous French chef, reappears in her life. Or more accurately, next door.

When they were teenagers, Olivier would spend every other Christmas with his mother, who just happens to be Ash’s neighbour and owner of the best chocolate shop in England.

If anyone can bring a little sparkle back to Ash’s life, it’s Olivier. All she needs is one kiss before Christmas…

Gosh, these are stressful times, aren’t they? Another Covid-19 lockdown starts tomorrow. EU are sending final demands to Boris over Brexit. Terrorist attacks on our continental neighbours. And Election Night in the US with who knows what constitutional crisis looming over there, whichever side wins. It’s enough to give anyone sleepless nights.

The only thing to do is what I always do at such moments, and bury my head in a happy, stress-free, fictional world where none of the above things are happening and all the problems are of a romantic nature, which you just know will get resolved happily by the end of the novel. The book which has been fulfilling this need over the last few days is One Kiss Before Christmas by Emma Jackson, and what a beautiful job it did.

I was on board with this book from the first page where our heroine, Ash, is dressing as an elf. You heard correctly… an elf. She is going to spend the Christmas season working at a kind of Christmas pageant on a farm. This immediately reminded me of happy times as, every year I have taken my children to just such a place near Harrogate, where they have visited Santa, ice skated, Nordic skied through a forest lit with glowing, wintery light tableaux and solved a Christmassy maze. This book is the closest I will get to that experience this year I think, since Covid has killed all such frivolous, pleasurable activity stone dead, so thanks for allowing me that virtual experience, Emma!

Any character for whom the pinnacle of their year is dressing as an elf is going to have my sympathy, and Ash needs all the sympathy we can give her, as the rest of her life is a disaster. No real career (not sure being an elf counts, as it is fairly seasonal work!), not love life to speak of, a Christmas-hating Granny as a housemate and absentee parents. Not much to bring her comfort and joy this year. Until her childhood friend and neighbour, Olivier, rocks up from Paris to spend Christmas with his mum.

Ah, Olivier! He is everything you want in a sexy, three-quarters French romantic lead. Handsome, charming, courteous, slightly troubled and smelling largely of chocolate. Can’t think of much more to ask for there. Oh, and he can cook! Marry him on the spot, girl. It is like Emma has tapped into those fantasies you have in private moments. (Just don’t tell the Irishman, he is convinced he is my fantasy man!)

So all is set for a rekindling of childhood crushes, peppered with the problems of what will happen when Christmas is over, giving plenty of romantic tension to the plot. This is all set against the perfect, postcard backdrop of Brighton at Yuletide, with the glittering Pavilion, busy pier and quirky Lanes, all to be explored by our amorous pair as the reacquaint themselves. The author has wrung every bit of Christmassy joy from the setting, and I thoroughly enjoyed taking an armchair trip to the south coast for a few hours. Emma has come up with some great hooks for the story in this book. I particularly enjoyed their trip to the aquarium for inspiration for Olivier’s project (turtle poo, anyone?), and the drama of the covert Christmas lights operation. The book is full of sweet and funny moments that fulfil every wish you might have for a romantic Christmas story.

This is a charming, funny, touching and enjoyable festive romance that kept me occupied and distracted for a pleasant few hours this week. I loved all the characters, the plot and the setting, and relished every minute spent in the fantasy world that the author has created. If you are looking for a romance novel to transport you away from current, depressing reality, ease you gently into the Christmas spirit and fill you with romantic, Yuletide cheer, look no further. This is a great read.

One Kiss Before Christmas is out now as an ebook and you can buy a copy here.

Please do follow the rest of the tour as detailed below:

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About the Author

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Author of the Best Selling A MISTLETOE MIRACLE and contender for the Joan Hessayon Award 2020, Emma has been a devoted bookworm and secret-story-scribbler since she was 6 years old. When she’s not running around after her two daughters and trying to complete her current work-in-progress, Emma loves to read, bake, catch up on binge-watching TV programmes with her partner and plan lots of craft projects that will inevitably end up unfinished. Her latest romantic comedy, SUMMER IN THE CITY, was released in June 2020.

Emma also writes historical and fantasy fiction as Emma S Jackson. THE DEVIL’S BRIDE was published by DarkStroke in February 2020.

Connect with Emma:

Website: https://esjackson.co.uk

Facebook: Emma Jackson Author

Twitter: @ESJackson1

Instagram: @emma_s_jackson

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Blog Tour: The Murder Club by Nikki Crutchley #BookReview

The Murder Club

I’m so late posting my review for my stop on the blog tour for The Murder Club by Nikki Crutchley today. Massive apologies to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources and to the author for my tardiness, time has escaped me. I hope it is a case of better late than never. Thanks to the author and publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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‘Not all evil, on the surface, is ugly and menacing. It doesn’t always lurk in city centres after dark. It mows your lawns, frequents your local pub, takes its kids to school and contributes to communities.’

When the first letter arrives saying that ‘tonight it begins’, journalist Miller Hatcher ignores it. But then the body of a murdered woman is discovered, strangled, a scarf around her neck.

Cassie Hughes has always vowed to find the man who murdered her mother. Cassie knows he’s out there and wants him to pay, and Miller agrees to bring the cold case back into the public’s eye.

Logan Dodds has been obsessed with true crime ever since his sister was murdered thirty years ago. He has turned his obsession into a career and has created the True Crime Enthusiasts Club and his newest venture, True Crime Tours.

The lives of Miller, Cassie and Logan – all affected differently by murder – become entwined as The Scarf Killer, desperate for infamy, and Miller’s attention, makes his mark on the small town of Lentford.

Nothing is creepier than evil in small town. In a city, people expect it. The night is full of strangers with unknown motives and desires. We learn young to be fearful of strangers. How much worse is it when murders begin on your doorstep in a small town, where you know everyone? Everyone is a friend or neighbour. Who then should you suspect, be afraid of? How quickly will people become suspicious and turn on each other, pointing out how creepy they have always found one previously harmless character? How long before they start taking notice of their friend’s suddenly suspicious behaviour?

This is the premise behind The Murder Club and is definitely one that will get the hackles on your neck rising. Journalist Miller Hatcher has moved into the home of her mother in the small New Zealand town of Lentford where some people have lived for generations and you are outsider unless you have been a resident for at least a decade. When the murders begin, Miller is perfectly placed to view the crimes with an unbiased eye, but the murderer seems determined to draw her further in to the case that is comfortable. On top of that, she has also attracted the attention of the town’s weird murder groupie and the daughter of a murder victim, whose mother’s case remains unsolved after 14 years. Is there a link between all three?

I really enjoyed The Murder Club. I found Miller to be a fascinating and likeable protagonist, and her position as journalist, with an inside ear in the police investigation gave an interesting perspective on the case. The author’s portrayal of small town lives and prejudices felt very real and familiar to me, coming as I do from a close knit community, but at the same time with enough variety to keep me interested. As it is set in New Zealand, there were a lot of things that were unfamiliar and enticing to grapple with.

The novel was well-paced with plenty of twists and turns and red herrings. I thought I had solved things a couple of times, but I didn’t get it quite right, and the story kept me gripped until the very end. I particularly enjoyed the human angles of the story dealing with the trauma people suffer as a result of family members being victims of crime, or they themselves, and I thought the author dealt with this very well. I note that this is the second book featuring Miller Hatcher and, whilst it works perfectly as a standalone, I will definitely go back and read the first book, because I would like to know more about what happened to Miller in Castle Bay and why she ended up where she did. I feel that there is more to explore with this character and, despite the author saying she never intended Miller to end up as the centre of a series, I would be very interested in seeing more from her.

The Murder Club is highly recommended for anyone who likes a claustrophobic thriller with a strong dose of the exploration of human nature within it.

The Murder Club is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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After seven years of working as a librarian in New Zealand and overseas, Nikki now works as a freelance proofreader and copy editor. She lives in the small Waikato town of Cambridge in New Zealand with her husband and two girls.
Nikki has been writing on and off her whole life and before she turned to crime writing had success in flash fiction. She has been published in ‘Bonsai: Best Small Fictions from Aotearoa New Zealand’, and ‘Fresh Ink’ anthologies.
Crime/thriller/mystery novels are her passion. Her first novel, ‘Nothing Bad Happens Here’, featuring journalist Miller Hatcher, is set on the Coromandel Coast of New Zealand. It was a finalist in the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Award for best first novel. Her second book, ‘No One Can Hear You’, was long-listed for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best novel in 2019. ‘
The Murder Club’ is the second in the Miller Hatcher series.

Connect with Nikki:

Website: https://www.nikkicrutchley.com/

Facebook: Nikki Crutchley Author

Twitter: @NikkiCAuthor

Instagram: @nikkicrutchleywrites

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Blog Tour: The Creak On The Stairs by Eva Bjorg Aegisdottir; Translated by Victoria Cribb #BookReview

The Creak on the Stairs final HB cover

When the body of a woman is discovered at a lighthouse in the Icelandic town of Akranes, it soon becomes clear that she’s no stranger to the area.

Chief Investigating Officer Elma, who has returned to Akranes following a failed relationship, and her colleagues Sævar and Hörður, commence an uneasy investigation, which uncovers a shocking secret in the dead woman’s past that continues to reverberate in the present day…

But as Elma and her team make a series of discoveries, they bring to light a host of long-hidden crimes that shake the entire community. Sifting through the rubble of the townspeople’s shattered memories, they have to dodge increasingly serious threats, and find justice … before it’s too late.

I am delighted to be taking part today in the blog tour for the paperback release of The Creak on the Stairs by Eva Aegisdottir. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to Orenda Books for my copy of the novel, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This book is just fantastic. Full of tension, mystery and suspense and asking uncomfortable questions about what makes a person the way they are, who is to blame and whether punishment really falls on the shoulders of the correct person, it was a masterclass in intelligent crime-writing from start to finish.

You can’t have failed to notice the rising popularity in Nordic noir over the past few years. Such exciting work is coming out of this genre and if, like me, you have become pretty well addicted to the gritty, bleak worlds that populate these novels and the intriguing protagonists that the authors are creating, you will definitely want to check out The Creak on the Stairs. Elma is a complex character with a shadowy backstory that is slowly revealed over the course of the novel, whilst leaving some level of mystery to what the reader’s appetite for another instalment. At the same time, she is an intelligent, determined and resourceful police officer with a high level of intuition, intent on leaving no stone unturned in her quest to solve the murder of a lonely, young woman.

The author peels back the layers of the story slowly, oh so slowly, allowing the reader just a small peek at a time into the nature of the characters and the events that have led to the death being investigated. Hints, small clues, rumours and innuendo all feed into the narrative to confuse and obscure the truth, so we feel like we are truly experiencing the investigation as the police officer would. At the same time, a small voice from the past gives us additional insight into what is really going on behind the scenes, information that no one else has, which gives a sympathy to one of the characters that others do not possess. We are left in a complicated position of needing justice to be done, at the same time as realising that it truly never can be. When I was searching for a word to express how this story ultimately made me feel, the one I came up with was: sorrowful.

The author cleverly does not resolve every aspect of the dilemma with which she presents us. We are left still with questions that can never be answered and moral quandaries which will never fully be settled. It is a book that will make you think carefully, and tussle with your conscience. Who is at fault? Do two wrongs ever make a right? What steps could have been taken better to avoid the consequences that played out between the pages. This is more than just a shocking thriller, it is perhaps a cautionary tale about jumping to conclusions, turning a blind eye and accepting outward appearances of respectability and immorality at face value. I absolutely adored it, and cannot wait to read more by this talented author.

A book extremely worthy of your time and money.

Just a word about the translation as well, it was absolutely seamless. I would not have been aware that I was reading a piece of translated fiction if it had not said so on the cover. Flawless from a reader’s perspective.

The Creak on the Stairs is out now as a paperback, ebook and audiobook, and you can buy a copy here.

Please do follow the rest of the tours for more reviews and other great content:

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About the Author

Eva Author Pic

Born in Akranes in 1988, Eva moved to Trondheim, Norway to study her MSc in Globalisation when she was 25. After moving back home having completed her MSc, she knew it was time to start working on her novel. Eva has wanted to write books since she was 15 years old, having won a short story contest in Iceland.

Eva worked as a stewardess to make ends meet while she wrote her first novel. The book went on to win the Blackbird Award and became an Icelandic bestseller. Eva now lives with her husband and three children in Reykjavík, staying at home with her youngest until she begins Kindergarten.

Connect with Eva:

Facebook: Eva Bjorg Aegisdottir

Twitter: @evaaegisdottir

Instagram: @evabjorg88

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