Book Review: 337 by M. Jonathan Lee

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337 follows the life of Samuel Darte whose mother vanished when he was in his teens.

It was his brother, Tom who found her wedding ring on the kitchen table along with the note. While their father pays the price of his mother s disappearance, Sam learns that his long-estranged Gramma is living out her last days in a nursing home nearby.

Keen to learn about what really happened that day and realising the importance of how little time there is, he visits her to finally get the truth. Soon it’ll be too late and the family secrets will be lost forever. Reduced to ashes. But in a story like this, nothing is as it seems.

I’m delighted to be one of the bloggers chosen to review the new book by M. Jonathan Lee in advance of its publication on 30 November. 337 is a tightly wound family drama, and I want to thank the publisher, Hideaway Falls, for providing me with an advance copy of the hardback for review.

Curiously, this book has a unique, double-ended, upside down format, so you can choose to begin reading from the front or the back. How and why this works, well, you’ll have to buy the book to find out. But, be warned, the double-ended upside-down opening for this book is available in books ordered in hard copy from UK booksellers only!

337 follows the story of, and is narrated by, Samuel Darte. Samuel is a lonely man who lives by himself in his old family home, works a job from home with minimal interaction with the outside world and doesn’t seem to have any friends. Why he ended up in this place is revealed as the book goes on, but it all stems back to the day his mother disappeared when he was a teenager. This is a story of how a single event can cause the lives of a family to completely unravel, and what can bring them back together again.

In some ways this is a small book. The action takes place in only two locations, inside Samuel’s childhood home, and the nursing home half a mile away where his estranged grandmother is dying. However, despite its limited location, this book ranges far and wide in its exploration of human emotion and the finite setting only serves to throw into relief the vast scope of feeling that Samuel experiences over the course of the novel, accentuating how he has chosen to limit his external environment in an effort to control his unbounded inner turmoil.

In addition to having a limited setting, the book also features very little actual action, as you would expect in a book that moves between only two locations and has a very small number of characters. However, rather than restricting the scope of the novel, this again serves to allow the reader to become deeply involved in the lives and psychological development of the characters, Samuel in particular. The author delves deep into the effect that the loss of his mother, and the events that followed on from her disappearance have had on Samuel, so that the reader feels that they are living this experience with him. I went through every emotion whilst reading this book, there is sorrow, humour, anger, love, pain, it is quite the rollercoaster. The author has really poured his heart onto the page, and you can feel every beat through his flowing, easy prose.

This is a book where perception is all, and it changes throughout the book. Perception of Samuel and his brother as to what is happening in their family, of their father and grandmother and their reactions to their mother’s disappearance, and of their grandmother as she lays dying. The perception of outsiders of their family in the aftermath of their mother’s vanishing, including friends, neighbours, police and society at large. The perception of the reader as we travel through the book and more and more facts are revealed – a perception that continues to change until the very last line of the novel. It is a lesson in how things are not always what they seem, how judgements based on limited facts are unwise and often wrong, and how we can never really know what goes on inside the hearts and minds of other people, even those who are closest to us. It is a book that will make the reader think about how we jump to conclusions about people, and how hard it is to change those once we have settled on them, unfair as that may be. But there are circumstances in which our minds can be changed, as Samuel finds out when confronted with his grandmother on her deathbed.

This is a very clever and unique book. It will not fit easily into any genre or niche you may be looking for, but it is a book that is definitely worth picking up and giving some time to. It really explores what it means to be a human, and the complex feelings and emotions we are confronted by day to day, simply by virtue of living in this world amongst other people, and how impossible it is to cut ourselves off from those emotions and connections, however hard we might try. And why, regardless of how hard it is, we shouldn’t want to.

I thought this book was really beautiful and surprising, although perhaps not in the way I expected. Vey different to anything else I have read this year. An intelligent novel.

337 is out on Monday and you can pre-order your copy here.

About the Author

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Jonathan Lee is a nationally shortlisted author who was born Yorkshire where he still lives today with his two children.

His debut novel, The Radio was shortlisted for The Novel Prize 2012. He has spoken in schools, colleges, prisons and universities about creative writing and storytelling and appeared at various literary festivals including Sheffield’s Off the Shelf and Doncaster’s Turn the Page festival.

His second novel, The Page was released in February 2015.

His much anticipated third novel, A Tiny Feeling of Fear was released in September 2015 and tells the story of a character struggling with mental illness. All profits from this novel are donated to charity to raise awareness of mental health issues. This was accompanied by the short film, Hidden which was directed by Simon Gamble and can be seen here.

In 2016, he signed for boutique publishers, Hideaway Fall and his fourth novel Broken Branches was released in July 2017, winning book of the month in Candis magazine for September.

He is a tireless campaigner for mental health awareness and writes his own column regularly for the Huffington Post. He has recently written for the Big Issue and spoken at length about his own personal struggle on the BBC and Radio Talk Europe. His fifth book, the critically acclaimed Drift Stumble Fall was released in Spring 2018.

Connect with Jonathan:

Website: https://www.mjonathanlee.com/

Facebook: M Jonathan Lee Author

Twitter: @MJonathanLee

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Blog Tour: The Chalet by Catherine Cooper #BookReview

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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

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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

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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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Book Review: Silent Night by Nell Pattison

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What happened while they were sleeping?

A school for the deaf takes an overnight trip to the snowy woods. Five teenagers go to sleep, but only four wake up. Leon is missing, and a teacher’s body is found in the forest…

Sign language interpreter Paige Northwood is brought in to help with interrogations. Everyone at the school has a motive for murder – but they all have an alibi.

As Paige becomes increasingly involved, she suspects there’s something sinister going on. With the clock ticking to find Leon, only one thing is certain: the killer is among them, and ready to strike again…

My thanks to the publisher for my advance digital copy of this book, received via NetGalley for the purpose of review. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

This is my first book by this author. I did see a lot of posts about the first Paige Northwood book, Silent Housewhen it came out earlier in the year but I never got round to reading it. However, the fact I hadn’t read the first book did not detract at all from my enjoyment of this one, although it did make me want to go back and read it to plump out the back story that is reprised briefly in this book.

From the title and cover, you might expect this to be a Christmas book, but it isn’t at all. It is a thriller set in the enclosed world of a school for the deaf. A child goes missing on a school residential trip, and a body of a teacher is found. The protagonist, Paige, is an interpreter brought in to assist the police in solving the crime within the close knit deaf community.

I have never read a book set within this world before and I thought it was absolutely fascinating and illuminating, shedding light on issues that many of us probably give very little thought to in our day to day lives if it is not something we are affected by directly. This is where novels come into their own, educating us without seeming to, which hopefully might give us all some additional insight and compassion into daily struggles we might otherwise unaware of.

I thought the author created a raft of really interesting characters in the novel and an intriguing dynamic. Watching the inter-play between the adult and teenage characters was gripping. You would assume that the children would prove to be the less reliable narrators, but this is not necessarily the case. There are also some interesting issues explored in the book, including recovering from abusive relationships and online child safety. Plenty of meat to get your teeth into here.

The plot was extremely twisty, I had absolutely no idea who was behind the crimes until the very end. If I had any criticisms, it might be that the novel was a little unevenly paced, with a flurry of frenetic action right at the end. There were also some decisions made by Paige in the story that frustrated me, because there didn’t seem to be any consistent logic behind them, other than to serve the plot. One minute she was revealing stuff to someone that she shouldn’t, the next failing to tell someone something that she should. However, this is really me nit-picking. On the whole, I enjoyed the book and the positives far out-weighed any minor niggles I may have. I would recommend this to anyone who likes a gripping thriller and is looking for something with a little more depth than the norm.

Silent Night is out now as ebook, paperback and audiobook and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Nell Pattison is the author of a crime thriller series featuring British Sign Language interpreter Paige Northwood. Her debut novel, The Silent House, was a USA Today bestseller.

After studying English at university, Nell Pattison became a teacher and specialised in Deaf education. She has been teaching in the Deaf community for 13 years in both England and Scotland, working with students who use BSL. Nell began losing her hearing in her twenties, and now wears hearing aids. She lives in North Lincolnshire with her husband and son.

Connect with Nell:

Facebook: Nell Pattison Author

Twitter: @Writer_Nell

Instagram: @writernell

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Publication Day: One By One by Ruth Ware #BookReview

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It’s finally here! It’s Publication Day for One By One by Ruth Ware, her fantastic new thriller. I am a massive fan of Ruth’s books, so I was absolutely thrilled to be invited to be part of the team promoting her latest novel. I want to thank Graeme Williams of Graeme Williams Marketing for the opportunity and Harvill Secker and Vintage Books for my advance copy of the novel, which I am reviewing for you today, honestly and impartially.

Have a very happy Publication Day, Ruth!

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Snow is falling in the exclusive alpine ski resort of Saint Antoine, as the shareholders and directors of Snoop, the hottest new music app, gather for a make or break corporate retreat to decide the future of the company. At stake is a billion-dollar dot com buyout that could make them all millionaires, or leave some of them out in the cold.

The clock is ticking on the offer, and with the group irrevocably split, tensions are running high. When an avalanche cuts the chalet off from help, and one board member goes missing in the snow, the group is forced to ask – would someone resort to murder, to get what they want?

I love to ski, but I’ve only ever stayed in ski hotels, in the heart of bustling resorts with lots of other cheery people and lively apres-ski activity. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to stay in an exclusive chalet, waited on hand and foot and with every luxury at your fingertips after a hard day on the slopes. Well, now I’ve read this book, oppressive, isolated and lonely are the words that spring to mind. I think I’ll stick to my cheap and cheerful accommodation!

Set in the tiny ski resort of Antoine 2000, the book opens with the two chalet hosts, Erin and Danny, setting up the luxury chalet for its latest guests, the management team of hip, music-sharing app, Snoop. The atmosphere begins off in a laid-back way, with Danny and Erin laughing and joking and relaxing in their surroundings, getting to enjoy the luxury themselves for a few hours. This all provides the reader with a false sense of warmth and security, which makes the flip to the nightmarish reality later in the book all the more horrifying.

Once the Snoop team arrive, it becomes clear that they aren’t an altogether pleasant bunch, and that there are tensions running rife through the group with regard to the running of the business and where it is headed. I loved the idea of Snoop, and being able to nosy in on what music other people are listening to in real time. Is this a little insight into who people really are, or would it make individuals feel they had to maintain a facade, even in their private time? This is an interesting theme explored in the book, the difference between the public face we choose to show the world, and who we really are underneath, what truths about ourselves are we hiding.

Anyone who has read any of Ruth’s books before will know that she is the queen of the page-turner. Her chapters are short and snappy, full of action, always driving the plot forward and it is so easy and tempting to read ‘just one more chapter, just one more,’ until your realise you haven’t looked up for a couple of hours and you are halfway through the book. There is always something at the end of one chapter that means you have to read the next, making the book very pacy and addictive. I could have read it in a single sitting, if sleep hadn’t got in the way.

I really loved One By One, it gave me everything I want from a gripping thriller. Fast-paced plot, oppressive atmosphere, clever set up that looks like it gives the protagonist no way out of their predicament, shocking turns of event, cleverly built and atmospheric location, secrets, lies, dilemmas, a mix of likeable and unlikeable characters and a shocking conclusion. I did have my suspicions about who was to blame for what was going on from quite early on, but this did not in anyway detract from my enjoyment of the book or the sense of tension built in the narrative. It is one of those books that you race through to get to the end because you have to know what happens, and then wish you could go back to the beginning and read it for the first time all over again. Excellent stuff.

One By One is out today in hardback, ebook and audiobook formats and you can buy a copy here.

Tonight I will be attending the online launch party for the book, so watch out for reports from that across my social media channels.

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About the Author

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Ruth Ware is an international number one bestseller. Her thrillers In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, The Lying Game, The Death of Mrs Westaway, The Turn of the Key and One by One have appeared on bestseller lists around the world, including the Sunday Times and New York Times, and she is published in more than 40 languages. Ruth lives near Brighton with her family.

Connect with Ruth:

Website: https://ruthware.com/

Facebook: Ruth Ware Writer

Twitter: @RuthWareWriter

Instagram: @ruthwarewriter

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Guest Post: One By One by Ruth Ware

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It’s Publication Week for the new novel by Ruth Ware! One By One is out this Thursday and, as a huge fan of Ruth’s books, I am thrilled to be part of the team celebrating publication of her new book. There is lots going on across social media this week, including my review coming on publication day, and coverage of Ruth’s launch party. But, for today, I am delighted to have some exclusive content to share with you.

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Snow is falling in the exclusive alpine ski resort of Saint Antoine, as the shareholders and directors of Snoop, the hottest new music app, gather for a make or break corporate retreat to decide the future of the company. At stake is a billion-dollar dot com buyout that could make them all millionaires, or leave some of them out in the cold.

The clock is ticking on the offer, and with the group irrevocably split, tensions are running high. When an avalanche cuts the chalet off from help, and one board member goes missing in the snow, the group is forced to ask – would someone resort to murder, to get what they want?

Doesn’t that sound amazing? Don’t you want to read it immediately? I can’t wait to share my review with you on Thursday. However, for today, I am just going to whet your appetite with an exclusive profile of one of the characters from the book, prepared by Ruth.

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So, now I know you want to read this book even more, don’t you? Well, there are only three days left to go before you can get your hands on your own copy of One By One by Ruth Ware. Pre-order your copy here now.

Please do keep watching the blog and social media for more news about Ruth’s latest book this week.

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Desert Island Books: Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers

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For my tenth, personal Desert Island Books, I have chosen Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers. Gaudy Night is the twelfth book in Sayers’ detective series featuring her aristocratic sleuth, Lord Peter Wimsey, and is, in my opinion, her best novel. I first discovered the book via a recommendation from my school librarian as a teenager. It was the first novel by this author that I encountered and, despite the fact that I have subsequently read all the Wimsey books and enjoyed them, this remains my runaway favourite. I have reread it numerous times during the past 34 years and have taken something different from it on each occasion. Because this is no normal detective novel, and I will explain why.

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Harriet Vane has never dared to return to her old Oxford college. Now, despite her scandalous life, she has been summoned back . . .

At first she thinks her worst fears have been fulfilled, as she encounters obscene graffiti, poison pen letters and a disgusting effigy when she arrives at sedate Shrewsbury College for the ‘Gaudy’ celebrations.

But soon, Harriet realises that she is not the only target of this murderous malice – and asks Lord Peter Wimsey to help.

There is so much going on in this novel, so many different layers and attractions to the story, that it rewards the reader with a new experience every time you pick it up, regardless of the number of times you have read it before. The first time I read it as a teenager, there was no possible way that I could have understood and appreciated all the themes and nuances of this novel, but that did not stop me falling in love with it immediately, and my affection and appreciation for the book has only deepened over the intervening decades.

This is no straightforward detective novel, although it works extremely well purely on that level. The mystery involves a vicious campaign of terror in a women’s college at Oxford University. The ‘terror’ is rather genteel by the standards of today’s crime novels, but the setting for this book is the Oxford of a bygone era. It is set in the inter-war years, where women were just finding emancipation and being admitted to such hallowed institutions as universities, where certain levels of behaviour were expected from women still, and the divisions between the sexes were more firmly delineated. Against this polite backdrop, the acts of the person with a grudge against the college seem almost deranged and dangerous and there is a high level of tension and fear running through the novel. The fact the author manages to make the plot so menacing without having resort to murder is the first evidence of her skill.

Aside from the detective aspect of the novel, this is also a passionate love story. Fans of Wimsey, particularly those who read the novels in order, will be aware that Harriet Vane was first introduced into the world of Wimsey in the novel Strong Poisonwhere she finds herself on trial for murder. She becomes the subject of Wimsey’s romantic affections, but resists his advances for five years. Gaudy Night is the book in which Harriet finally begins to realise that her feelings for Wimsey may not be as platonic as she has always believed, and she begins to explore them more deeply and honestly, and to see him in a new light. It becomes clear that her fears about entering into marriage, particularly to a wealthy, intelligent, successful and powerful man, will require her to give up her own independence and career may be unfounded, and that maybe Wimsey, despite his family’s ancient heritage and traditional background, maybe be a new breed of man who wants a wife who is an equal. Again, the romance and passion in the book are, due to the time at which this was written, are written coyly and through suggestion and innuendo, but this has the effect of somehow making them more intense, not less so. Another nod to the skill and genius of Sayers’ writing.

This leads neatly on to the main subject matter of the book, which is the exploration of female emancipation and what this means for the balance of power and responsibilities between the sexes. This is a world which is having to build relationships and expectations between the genders anew, where women are making choices between old gender stereotypes and fresh opportunities and men are having to adjust their attitudes to match, and there is resistance in some quarters, and from both sides. It is a fascinating window for those of us born into the modern era when these things are taken for granted onto what the struggle was like for those women who paved the way for our modern freedoms, and it is clear that this is something the author is passionate about herself. It has been suggested that Harriet Vane is an autobiographical character, through whom Sayers explored some of her own feelings about her place in the world. Sayers was one of the first women ever to receive a degree from Oxford, when females were admitted to these honours, and also admitted to a level of sexual freedom that was unusual amongst women at the time. Reading Gaudy Night, it is impossible not to conclude that the book is largely a treatise on Sayers’ view of women’s roles in the society in which she lived, how they were changing and the struggles they faced, both external and internal, and it is absolutely fascinating when read as such.

This is a hefty book, and densely written. The language is rich and descriptive and peppered with poetry, Latin and Greek quotations and musical and literary references. This is a scholarly work, written clearly by an academic mind and exceeds any expectations one might have of works of detective fiction. This is no pulpy crime novel, this is a book that is worthy of sitting alongside any classic novel on then bookshelves of the well-read, and I truly wish that it had a wider modern audience. Whilst the works of Agatha Christie are still widely read and celebrated, the works of Sayers seem more likely to slip into obscurity, and I think this is a crying shame because they are just as good in every way, and her skill may exceed Christie in some areas. Gaudy Night is the pinnacle of her work, and I cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone who enjoys detective novels set in this period, and enjoys some mental stimulation.

If you have never read any Sayers, I would advise either starting at the beginning with Whose Body?, the first book in the Wimsey series, or Strong Poison, the book which introduces Harriet Vane, and save Gaudy Night until you have eased your way into the world of Wimsey and fallen in love with him, then watch Harriet do the same in this truly astonishing achievement in detective fiction. I promise you will love it. Come back and call me out if you don’t.

Gaudy Night is available now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Dorothy L. Sayers was born in 1893. She was one of the first women to be awarded a degree by Oxford University, and later she became a copywriter at an ad agency.

In 1923 she published her first novel featuring the aristocratic detective Lord Peter Wimsey, who became one of the world’s most popular fictional heroes. She died in 1957.

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Blog Tour: The Murder Club by Nikki Crutchley #BookReview

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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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