Blog Tour: Playdate by Alex Dahl #BookReview

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It was meant to be your daughter’s first sleepover.
Now it’s an abduction.

Lucia Blix went home from school for a playdate with her new friend Josie. Later that evening, her mother Elisa dropped her overnight things round and shared a glass of wine with Josie’s mother. Then she kissed her little girl goodnight and drove home.

That was the last time she saw her daughter.

The next morning, when Lucia’s dad arrived to pick her up, the house was empty. No furniture, no family, no Lucia.

In Playdate, Alex Dahl puts a microscope on a seemingly average, seemingly happy family plunged into a life-altering situation.

Who has taken their daughter, and why?

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Playdate by Alex Dahl today. My thanks to Sophie Ransom of Midas PR for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publisher, Head of Zeus, for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This book gave me nightmares. I don’t mean that figuratively, I mean that I had an actual nightmare about being in a similar situation with my own youngest daughter the first night I started reading this book. The story is so profoundly realistic that I was actually able to imagine myself in the situation of Elisa in the book and my sub-concious acted that out in my sleep, jerking me awake in the early hours, sweating and heart pounding in panic. If you like a good horror story, this is it.

We are plunged almost immediately into a hellish scenario in the novel, which any parent will easily be able to relate to with a shudder. Remember one of those times where you lost sight of your child for a moment or two and felt a sudden panic that they were lost? Now imagine that was real and that you KNEW they were gone but had no idea where and how to find them. That they weren’t just lost but taken by someone whose motives were unclear. It doesn’t take much of a leap of imagination for a parent to put themselves in that position, and that is what makes this book so chilling. The way it happens is so completely plausible that it will give you palpitations thinking of how this could easily happen to you. There is nothing more nightmarish than reality at times.

If I hadn’t started reading this book so close to bedtime, I would have devoured it in a single sitting. As it was, it took me less than 24 hours to read the book from start to finish, I simply could not put it down. The narrative is addictive, I just had to know what happened. The book is written from many different perspectives, so we get a fully rounded picture of events from every side – the grieving mother, the confused child, the abductor themselves, and other peripheral but pivotal figures in the drama. Each chapter starts by telling us who we are hearing from, so it is easy to follow, and it works perfectly to slowly peel back the facts of the matter and, more fascinatingly, the motives behind the behaviour of the individuals involved. Just when you think you have a handle on what is happening and why, we are thrown another snippet of information which changes the course of the narrative and leads us down another path. It is totally engrossing.

The chapters are short and punchy, with no words wasted, which leads to a pacy reading experience. There is action and information on every page, no slow spots, no needless descriptions or detours. The tension never lets up for a second and it will keep you on the edge of the seat all the way through. I know this book will be one that haunts me for a long while after I have finished it. It is all too plausible a set of facts for us to able to dismiss as far-fetched the way you can with some more extreme thrillers, and this makes it all the more unsettling (although I did wonder at the very beginning what the mother thought she was doing, giving in to something on the spur of the moment, but I guess it just shows we are all fallible and how easily we can make foolish, impulsive decisions that come back to haunt us.)

This book is an absolutely fabulous and riveting read for anyone who likes a fast-paced, enthralling thriller based on a credible premise that will terrify any parent who has ever watched the news. Close the curtains, lock the door, hug your child and be glad that, in your world, this is only a piece of fiction.

Please do follow the rest of the tour for more great reviews (Meggy from Choc’n’Waffles wrote a much more eloquent one than this yesterday, you can read it here): 

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About the Author

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Alex Dahl was born in Oslo and is the critically acclaimed author of The Boy at the Door.  She graduated with a B.A. in Russian and German linguistics with international studies and went on to complete an M.A. in creative writing at Bath Spa University, followed by an M.S. in business management at Bath University. Alex has published short stories in the U.K. and the U.S. and is a serious Francophile.

Connect with Alex:

Facebook: Alex Dahl Author

Twitter: @alexdahlauthor

Instagram: @authoralex

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Blog Tour: The Dentist by Tim Sullivan #BookReview

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A homeless man. Violently strangled. No leads. Except his past.

An outsider himself, DS George Cross is drawn to this case. The discovery of the dead man’s connection to an old cold case then pulls Cross in further. Convinced this is where the answer to the murder lies, he sets about solving another that someone has spent the past fifteen years thinking they’ve got away with.

Cross’ relentless obsession with logic, detail and patterns is what makes him so irritatingly brilliant. It doesn’t exactly make him popular with colleagues or his superiors, though. He has numerous enemies in the force wanting to see him fail.

Red flags are soon raised as suspicious inconsistencies and errors in the original detective’s investigation come to light. Now retired, this ex-cop has powerful friends in the force and a long-standing dislike of Cross.

Set in picturesque Bristol in the Southwest of England, it’s not long before the city reveals its dark underbelly, in a case of intriguing twists and turns whose result astonishes even those involved.

Difficult and awkward, maybe. But Cross has the best conviction rate in Avon & Somerset Police. By far. Will this case put an end to that?

Delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for The Dentist by Tim Sullivan, the first book in the DI Cross series. My thanks to Emma Welton at damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part, and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

The title of the book doesn’t give much away, does it? Nor the blurb. I think I was imagining some gruesome murders involving horrible things being done to people’s teeth and jaws. Thankfully, the book wasn’t as traumatic as I was expecting, suitable even for the squeamish, but none the less engrossing for that.

This is the first in a projected series featuring DS George Cross, and I have to say that he is an absolutely brilliant creation and one who puts a really novel and fascinating spin on the detective character. He is a neurodivergent individual, with traits and behaviours that give him a different way of looking at a case which can give him an edge over his colleagues in his clearance rates, but his atypical behaviour can also make him difficult to work with. The exploration of how his character makes him a great detective, but also awkward in his social interactions, makes for a really riveting plot line, but is dealt with very thoughtfully. The author also gives him some other great characters to interact with – his partner who is learning to work with his processes, his father who truly understands him, his boss who has to manage him, and the new recruit who has to get to know his foibles. The latter, in particular, has great scope for development in future books I think.

The case itself was gripping, with enough twists and turns to keep the reader engaged and reading on. There were a few red herrings in the plot line, although I did feel one in particular was allowed to peter out rather than being pursued to its conclusion, but this was a minor complaint. This is an author who is an experienced screenwriter, feeling his feet in the world of novel writing. He does a good job but I am very confident that he will get better as he progresses and I look forward to seeing what he can do in the future if this is his debut effort.

I thoroughly enjoyed this new voice in crime fiction. The book was an easy but engaging read, with original and interesting characters and a lively and twisting plot with a satisfying conclusion. I would definitely pick up the next book by this author and look forward to getting to know DS Cross a lot better.

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

Please do make sure to visit the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour for alternative reviews and other content:

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About the Author

Tim Sullivan

Tim Sullivan made his first short film before graduating from Cambridge University. His ambition to become a screenwriter was formed not so much by this experience but as an attempt to foil his father’s determination to turn him into a lawyer.

Within weeks of leaving university armed with a law degree he had met the film maker Derek Jarman and persuaded him to commission an original screenplay from him entitled BOB UPADOWN and so a career was born.

A few months later he joined Granada Television as a researcher. Here he was commissioned to write the first of many television scripts for the company. Two sitcoms entitled THE TRAIN NOW LEAVING and THE GREASY SPOON followed by the crime dramas MYSTERIOUS WAYS and MAIGRET.

While at Granada he was selected for the prestigious Directors’ Training scheme when only 26. Previous encumbents had included Mike Newell, Roland Joffe, and Michael Apted, more recently Julian Farino. Among other credits he directed CORONATION STREET, MADE IN HEAVEN, THATCHER THE FINAL DAYS and THE CASEBOOK OF SHERLOCK HOLMES with Jeremy Brett.

During this time he also co wrote the screenplays for the movies A HANDFUL OF DUST starring Kristen Scott Thomas, Judi Dench and Alec Guinness and WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD starring Helen Mirren and Helena Bonham Carter, both with producer the legendary TV producer Derek Granger (BRIDESHEAD REVISITED).

Upon leaving the bosom of Granada and venturing into the wild wide world of the freelance film maker he wrote and directed the movie JACK AND SARAH starring Richard E Grant, Samantha Mathis, Ian Mckellen, Judi Dench and Eileen Atkins. This led to a commission from New Line Pictures to write the screenplay WALKING PAPERS based on the Jay Cronley novel of the same name.

This screenplay came to the attention of execs at Universal and Imagine who then asked Tim to do a page one rewrite of a western for Ron Howard entitled THE PRETENDERS. Tim enjoyed working with Ron for over a year on this.

He then wrote an original screenplay, PERSONAL SHOPPING, which was promptly snapped up by Paramount for producer Scott Rudin.

He spent four months working for and with Jeffrey Katzenberg at Dreamworks animation as a production writer on the movie FLUSHED AWAY. Impressed by his work Katzenberg commissioned him to write a script for SHREK 4 which wasn’t used as a different storyline was decided upon as a director came on board.

During this time he was actively involved in British television directing the last ever ninety minute episode of the BAFTA award winning series COLD FEET. As well as a TV movie for ITV called CATWALK DOGS written by Simon Nye.

He was commissioned by the BBC to write a pilot for a TV series he invented called BACKSTORY as well as another pilot for the ITV network entitled OFFSPRING.

He also wrote HIS MASTER’S VOICE for the BBC as a radio play starring Rob Brydon which was broadcast in 2015.

He recently wrote the screenplay for LETTERS TO JULIET starring Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave.

Oscar winning producers of The King’s Speech, Iain Canning and Emile Sherman then commissioned an original screenplay from him entitled THE WEDDING DRESS.

Tim is writing and co-producing and co-writing an animated feature screenplay for Hasbro and Paramount which is in production and scheduled for release in 2021.

He has now embarked on a series of crime novels featuring the eccentric and socially-awkward, but brilliantly persistent DS George Cross. Set in Bristol in the south west of England, Cross’ methods often infuriate his colleagues and superiors “not so much a thorn in my side as a pain in my arse,” according to his boss DCI Carson. But his conviction rate, thanks to his dogged persistence and attention to detail, is the best in the force. The DENTIST is in the first of a series.

Tim lives in North London with his wife Rachel, the Emmy award-winning producer of THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA and PIONEER WOMAN.

He is currently the UK chair of the Writers’ Guild of America (West).

Connect with Tim:

Website: https://timsullivan.uk

Facebook: Tim Sullivan

Twitter: @TimJRSullivan

Instagram: @timsullivannovelist

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Book Review: Wall Of Silence by Tracy Buchanan; Narrated by Moira Quirk #AudiobookReview

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Her children have a deadly secret. Can she uncover it before the police do?

Melissa Byatt’s life in Forest Grove seems as perfect as can be: a doting husband, three loving children and a beautiful house in a close-knit community. But appearances can be deceiving.

One evening, Melissa arrives home to the unimaginable: her husband lies stabbed on the kitchen floor, their children standing calmly around him…. With horror, she realises that one of them is to blame. But which one? And why would they attack their own father?

Her loyalties torn, in a split second she decides to protect her children at all costs – even if that means lying to the police. But when someone in the neighbourhood claims to know more than they should, Melissa discovers that some secrets are beyond her control….

Can she find out the truth of what happened before the rumours spread? And can the family unite to escape the spotlight of scandal – or are none of them as innocent as Melissa insists?

There was something about this book that I absolutely loved, above and beyond what I normally feel about this kind of psychological thriller. The bad news for you and this review is that I am still trying to work out exactly what it is that made it stand out for me so much!

I think a big part of it was the setting. I really loved the idea of an idyllic community set up in the heart of the forest, where everything is supposed to be perfect, but actually is beset with exactly the same problems as everywhere else because, as we know, people are people, wherever they choose to settle themselves and, wherever people live together, tensions are bound to arise.

Actually, the author has drawn a brilliant premise here because the citizens of this community, or many of them at least, believe they are a cut above everyone who lives outside their haven, and this makes them a self-satisfied and judgemental bunch who are quick to criticise and ostracise anyone who doesn’t toe the community line. Tracy evidences this really cleverly with use of the community Facebook group to display people’s inner characters and feelings. After all, people are far less guarded online than they are face to face. It gives a really good sense of the different factions within the community and how the battle lines are drawn as the town works through the shocking events surrounding the Byatt family at the heart of this story.

The author has drawn some brilliant characters in this book, focusing on Melissa Byatt as the main protagonist, and she is a thoroughly sympathetic character. I could easily put myself in her shoes as a mother and try and imagine what I would do in her position. I am not entirely sure I would make the same decisions she did, but I could understand why she did what she did, and feel for her as events played out. This story has tons of drama and plenty of shocks and surprises to keep the story moving along engagingly and I was completely engrossed in the story. I listened to it as an audiobook and it was another one that I found myself wanting to listen to so badly that I was seeking out tasks that allowed me to indulge myself.

This is an engrossing and shocking family-based thriller with an original and shocking premise, a marvellous sense of place and a searing examination of inter-personal relationships in a fairly closed community. I enjoyed it very much and would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys this type of book.

Wall Of Silence is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Tracy lives in Buckinghamshire, UK with her husband, little girl and (very naughty) dog, Bronte.

She travelled extensively while working as a travel magazine editor, and has always been drawn to the sea after spending her childhood holidays on the south coast visiting family – a fascination that inspires her writing.

She now dedicates her time to writing and procrastinating on Facebook.

Connect with Tracy:

Website: https://www.tracy-buchanan.com

Facebook: Tracy Buchanan Author

Twitter: @TracyBuchanan

Instagram: @tracybuchananauthor

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Blog Tour: The Night Lawyer by Alex Churchill #BookReview

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Sophie Angel is the night lawyer. Once a week, she’s the one who decides what the papers can and can’t say.

During the day, she’s a barrister. She struggles for justice in a system that’s close to collapse, where she confronts the most dangerous aspects of humanity. 

Her life changes when a wealthy Russian offers her the biggest case of her career, a rape trial with a seemingly innocent client.

But is someone manipulating Sophie from the shadows? With her marriage under strain and haunted by nightmares from the past, Sophie must find the answer to these questions before it’s too late.

This is a story about betrayal, trust, guilt and innocence, played out from the courtrooms of London to the darkest corners of Soviet era Moscow.

Delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Night Lawyer by Alex Churchill today. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my paperback copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I absolutely love books set in a legal setting, largely for reasons of nostalgia, and this was one of the better examples of the genre that I have read recently. I am hoping this is the first book in an exciting new series, because Sophie Angel is a character I could really become invested in.

There is so much to love about this book. First and foremost, it gives a very fascinating and truthful look into the workings of the English legal system and the trials and tribulations that it is currently facing, and for me this is the most interesting part of the book. The criminal justice system is woefully under-funded, but this seems to be something that very few people care about, until they become embroiled in it themselves. You often see articles in the press lamenting ‘fat cat lawyers’ and criminals ‘abusing the legal aid system,’ but this is so far from the truth and it is something we should all be very worried about. One of the cornerstones of a liberal and truly free society is an impartial and accessible justice system that provides fair trial for everyone, regardless of your financial means. If people cannot access good legal representation, then they cannot navigate the system with equality to people of means, and this is grossly unfair and dangerous. There are so many things that are currently being suggested as changes to the legal system, that threaten its impartiality, that it makes me very frightened, and you all should be too. This book goes some way to demonstrating some of the challenges faced, particularly by the Criminal Bar, and is a fascinating read that anyone interested in this subject matter will enjoy.

If that sounds a little dry, I apologise, because that is far from the case. All of this is wrapped up in a really exciting thriller. There are several plot lines to follow in the book that all add to the tension – Sophie’s family and past in Russia which is shrouded in mystery, Sophie’s relationship with her husband, another powerful barrister, her work on the newspaper at The Night Lawyer, the major trial she is defending, and the terrifying behaviour of a previous client. All of these things keep the plot moving along at a terrific lick, and provide plenty of moments of tension and high drama to keep the reader engrossed throughout.

Sophie is a really appealing and attractive character who carries the book beautifully. I totally believed in her and her behaviour throughout. Her reactions seemed entirely authentic and, as a reader, I was sympathetic to her in each of the situations in which she finds herself. I feel like there is much more to discover about her, her dual English and Russian heritage provides tantalising scenarios to be explored going forward. I really enjoyed the portion of this book exploring her Russian background and look forward to more of this. Her work of a barrister provides endless fodder for drama, and her work on the newspaper is a unique and interesting angle. I have high hopes of the next instalment from Sophie Angel.

If you are interested in the seemingly archaic and unusual world of the English legal system, and the Bar in particular will really enjoy this author’s writing. She explores it very well, without making the material seem dry and boring, and I thought the book was marvellous. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a legal thriller.

The Night Lawyer is out now in paperback and digital formats, and you can buy a copy here.

Please do be sure to follow the rest of the tour for alternative reviews and other content:

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About the Author

Alex Churchill was a barrister, specialising in serious crime for over three decades, and a writer. 

Connect with Alex:

Twitter: @_AlexChurchill

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Blog Tour: The Bellhop Only Stalks Once by Cat Hickey #BookReview

The Bellhop Only Stalks Once

Delighted to be taking my turn today on the blog tour for The Bellhop Only Stalks Once by Cat Hickey. Thanks for Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for my place on the tour and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Lies, secrets, and a sinister plot hide in broad daylight at the heart of the Club Pacifica.

A beautiful tropical resort, exciting new friends, and a handsome guest liaison – it’s the perfect getaway for Chloe, a free-spirited Baltimore girl just getting to know herself. But the vacation of a lifetime quickly takes a dark turn when a young, overly flirty bellhop starts following her everywhere. It gets even worse when he disappears, and Chloe is the sole witness.

As bellhop after bellhop goes missing, she struggles to figure out what’s happening. When suspicion falls upon her, Chloe must not only try to rescue the kidnapped bellhops, but also to clear her name.

Complicating things further is the relationship she forms with Mateo, Club Pacifica’s guest liaison. Charming and easygoing, he is everything that her fiancé at home is not, and she finds herself fighting a growing attraction to him. But can he be trusted?

She soon discovers that she’s landed herself in a world of secrets, and, worse, that these are not just those of others, but also the secrets she keeps from herself.

Can she find her way through all the lies to finally discover the truth before it’s too late?

Okay, so this book has THE most bizarre plot I think I have ever come across in a novel. It is a mystery story, but to say ‘with a difference’ does not really do justice to just how different this story is. I can honestly say, I have never read anything quite like it and I am still trying to work out where to file it away amidst my past reading experiences and how on earth the author came up with it.

I was really drawn to this book with its setting in a luxury beach resort in Costa Rica. This is a country that fascinates me and I am desperate to visit, and I always love a mystery book set in an exotic location, hence my addiction to Death in Paradise. I think this plot might be even too mad for them to use though! I did really enjoy the setting of the book, and Chloe’s escapades into the Costa Rican jungle, exploring volcanoes and other places of interest.

Chloe’s character is quite endearing, even if she is extremely slow on the uptake. Honestly, I could not believe she wasn’t more suspicious of a couple of the characters she met earlier on. The author left plenty of clues as to who might be behind the disappearances of the bellhops (although, you’ll NEVER get the why, I’ll eat my hat if you saw that coming before the end!) but she was slow on the uptake. Too distracted by the delectable Mateo and trying to pluck up courage to do what needs to be done with regards to Cooper I suppose, which is understandable. I really enjoyed the romantic element of the book.

This book is bizarre, but in a really fun way. I was strangely compelled all the way through to keep reading, even though I was just bemused by what was happening. It kept me intrigued, because I could not see at all where it was going. There are lots of twists and turns, and some really… unusual…. happenings, which will have you questioning your sanity, and possibly that of the author, but you should read it with your tongue firmly in cheek, which I suspect is how it was written. There were times where some of Chloe’s internal musings could have done with a bit of a trim, but all in all, it was a fun and original read.

Unique, amusing and entertaining, if you are looking for a book that is really out of the ordinary, maybe give this a go. You won’t have spent a couple of hours like this before!

The Bellhop Only Stalks Once is out now and you can buy your copy here.

Do please visit the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour for different perspectives on the book:

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About the Author

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Cat Hickey has a Master’s degree in Biology, and teaches Anatomy and Physiology at a university in Baltimore, MD, USA. She writes light-hearted mysteries and thrillers that are based, partly, on her extensive travels around the world. She is also an avid yogi who teaches aerial yoga and practices aerial circus arts, and spends the rest of her time with her four rescue animals, which consist of three cats and a horse.

Connect with Cat:

Facebook: Cat Hickey

Twitter: @CatHickey4

 

Tempted By…. Audio Killed The Bookmark: Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore

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Mercy is hard in a place like this. I wished him dead before I ever saw his face….

Mary Rose Whitehead isn’t looking for trouble – but when it shows up at her front door, she finds she can’t turn away. 

Corinne Shepherd, newly widowed, wants nothing more than to mind her own business and for everyone else to mind theirs. But when the town she has spent years rebelling against closes ranks she realises she is going to have to take a side. 

Debra Ann is motherless and lonely and in need of a friend. But in a place like Odessa, Texas, choosing who to trust can be a dangerous game. 

Gloria Ramírez, 14 years old and out of her depth, survives the brutality of one man only to face the indifference and prejudices of many. 

When justice is as slippery as oil and kindness becomes a hazardous act, sometimes courage is all we have to keep us alive.

This is the first time I have featured an audiobook on Tempted By…, but Berit of Audio Killed The Bookmark was so enthusiastic about the narrators of this book in her review of it that audio seemed the only way to go.

The blurb for this book doesn’t give much away, but it sounds intriguing, doesn’t it, and the book has had a lot of buzz about it. I mean, you only have to read Berit’s review, where she describes it as “authentic, profound, and beautiful” to know that it is a special debut, because whatever Berit says, I trust I am going to feel the same. I agree with her reviews about 99% of the time, so I knew this book was going to be worth the cost of an Audible credit.

Berit makes it sound like the book is totally immersive and evocative, which are things I am always drawn to in a novel. I love books set in the USA, but I read more set in the South Eastern states, so a book set in Texas will make for an invigorating change. It also sounds like it is extremely female-centric, something I also love, so I am really looking forward to listening to it soon. I am sure it will make the hours of housework and mucking out a little less tedious!

I love this blog, it is one I have been following for a long time. As I said previously, Berit’s thoughts seem to align to mine on most books that we have in common, and her reviews are always informative but succinct (something we do not have in common, as I tend to be quite long-winded, she has the advantage over me on this score!) I really love the way she sums up a book in emojis too, a quirky touch that I have fun figuring out. If you haven’t visited this blog before, please do pop over there and have a look around, I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I do. You can find it here.

And, if Berit’s review has tempted you to try Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore for yourself, you can get it in all formats here.

 

Blog Tour: Hinton Hollow Death Trip by Will Carver #BookReview

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It’s a small story. A small town with small lives that you would never have heard about if none of this had happened.
Hinton Hollow. Population 5,120.
Little Henry Wallace was eight years old and one hundred miles from home before anyone talked to him. His mother placed him on a train with a label around his neck, asking for him to be kept safe for a week, kept away from Hinton Hollow.
Because something was coming.
Narrated by Evil itself, Hinton Hollow Death Trip recounts five days in the history of this small rural town, when darkness paid a visit and infected its residents. A visit that made them act in unnatural ways. Prodding at their insecurities. Nudging at their secrets and desires. Coaxing out the malevolence suppressed within them. Showing their true selves.
Making them cheat.
Making them steal.
Making them kill.
Detective Sergeant Pace had returned to his childhood home. To escape the things he had done in the city. To go back to something simple. But he was not alone. Evil had a plan.

I am very excited to be taking part today in the blog tour for Hinton Hollow Death Trip by Will Carver. Huge thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for asking me to take part in the tour and to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Have you ever wondered why makes people do the terrible things they sometimes do? You must have. When you heard the last horrendous news story about someone doing something unthinkable to another person, you must wonder what makes them tick? How  did they end up in this place? Is there something wrong with them? Are they being driven by an outside force? I know I have. I’ve often wondered how people can be so….evil. Well, in this book, Evil tells you himself how a group of residents in the small, ordinary town of Hinton Hollow come to the point where they commit the series of crimes that take place here over five, intense days.

Except, things are never that simple with a Will Carver novel, as you will know if you’ve ever read one before. And, if you haven’t, pick up this extraordinary book and prepare to have your mind bent. Actually, bent isn’t the right word, corkscrewed round and round on itself until you don’t know which way is up and which is down, and you meet yourself coming back is a more accurate description. This author is fiendish in the way he twists and turns the plot and the ideas, feeding in little clues and prompts to flip on its head the thing you thought he was trying to say and forcing you to look at it from another angle. Reading the book almost made me dizzy, and left me reeling with questions and conclusions. Spending a few hours inside his head is quite a trip in itself.

I’ve always had a bit of an issue with the idea that good and evil are somehow separate entities that infect human beings and make us act in a certain way. It seems a bit of a cop out to me, an excuse for people not to take responsibility for their own choices, because the actions we take are always a choice. Not always an easy choice, or a pleasant choice or a good choice, but a choice nonetheless and, despite Will Carver actually giving us Evil as a separate character in this book who claims to be nudging people in a certain direction, I get the feeling that this is a clever way of saying he agrees with me. Because, sometimes, the people here don’t take any nudging at all, and Evil is just playing to their innate desires, making their natural instincts a little easier to act on, removing some of their inhibitions, revealing their true souls. That is what is really scary. This is who we really are, he is showing us what we are capable of and, by his twisted logic, telling us that the fact society is embracing these baser instincts more and more freely, becoming selfish and uncaring and lascivious and greedy, we are bringing out the evil in the world, to shock us, show us where we are going wrong. Without us, he isn’t needed. If we choose to be good, he has less to do. Perversely, Evil is not the wicked one, we are.

Does this sound twisted enough for you? I told you this book was a brain pretzel of a novel. Honestly, you will strain a neurone trying to figure all this stuff out, the man is an evil genius. All of these complex ideas are packed into a book that is filled with fascinating and quirky characters and a plot with a shock around every corner. Just when you think you have it all figured out, he pulls the rug out from under you and delivers another scene you never saw coming. How the guy managed to pull this together without losing the plot (literally and metaphorically) is the most baffling thing of all to me. I know I could not do it, I am in awe of the skill it has taken to pull this thing together, and the originality of his ideas, the audacity with which he has delivered them blows my mind. This is a quite unbelievable achievement of a novel.

I know it won’t be for everyone. There are very graphic scenes in this book, both violent and sexual. Some of the acts that take place are of a very disturbing nature, but that is the fundamental point of the novel. This is not an easy read, both from the point of the imagery and because it is a book that takes brainwork to digest. You can’t coast through this read if you want to wring the meaning from it but, boy is it worth the effort. A book that will stay with you long after you’ve read it, will haunt your dreams, will sit up and make you really think, if you choose to. When was the last time that a 400-page novel gave you this much bang for your buck?

Hinton Hollow Death Trip is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please make sure you visit some of the other fabulous blogs taking part of the tour for a variety of reviews:

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About the Author

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Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series. He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age eleven, when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company.

He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, and lives in Reading with his two children.

Good Samaritans was book of the year in Guardian, Telegraph and Daily Express, and hit number one on the ebook charts.

Connect with Will:

Facebook: Will Carver Author

Twitter: @will_carver

Instagram: @will_carver

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Tempted By…Traveling Sisters Book Reviews: Blackwood by Michael Farris Smith

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The small town of Red Bluff, Mississippi, has seen better days, but now seems stuck in a black-and-white photograph from days gone by. Unknowing, the town and its people are about to come alive again, awakening to nightmares, as ghostly whispers have begun to fill the night from the kudzu-covered valley that sits on the edge of town.

When a vagabond family appears on the outskirts, when twin boys and a woman go missing, disappearing beneath the vines, a man with his own twisted past struggles to untangle the secrets in the midst of the town trauma.

This is a landscape of fear and ghosts, of regret and violence. It is a landscape transformed by the kudzu vines that have enveloped the hills around it, swallowing homes, cars, rivers, and hiding terrible secrets deeper still. Blackwood is the evil in the woods, the wickedness that lurks in all of us.

Today’s Tempted By… is for a book that I bought following this review by Brenda of the Traveling Sisters Book Reviews blog, run by a trio of Canadian sisters. I often find that, being on a different continent, they review books that I might not come across on many UK book blogs, so their recommendations are a good way to inject some variety in to my reading. This book had already been raved about by the author, Sarah Knight, so once Brenda confirmed that she loved it too, I knew I simply had to get it. Plus, I just LOVE that cover.

The book I am talking about is Blackwood by Michael Farris Smith.

It is very hard to tell from the review, and from reading the book’s blurb, what genre of book this is. Is it a horror story? Supernatural? Romance? Crime? Thriller? A combination of all of them? This uncertainty is one of the things that drew me in, I have to say. I love the idea of going in to a book without really knowing what I am going to get.  And that mixture of emotions that Brenda describes – “a quiet feeling of bleakness, darkness and hope” – I am intrigued to know how this combination manifests itself in the story. It is a great skill to write a review that is so tempting without giving anything at all away!

You may have visited the Traveling Sisters Book Reviews blog without realising it, when it was known as Two Sisters Lost in a Coulee. If not, and you do take a look, you will find a friendly blog with a great mix of reviews in lots of different genres, author interviews and Q&AS, and plenty of other bookish stuff designed to keep bibliophiles delighted. You can find the blog here.

And, if you find yourself intrigued by the book after reading Brenda’s mysterious but glowing review, you can buy Blackwood in all formats, here.

Blog Tour: The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone #BookReview

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Haunted by their past, the Skelf women are hoping for a quieter life. But running both a funeral directors’ and a private investigation business means trouble is never far away, and when a car crashes into the open grave at a funeral Dorothy is conducting, she can’t help looking into the dead driver’s shadowy life.

While Dorothy uncovers a dark truth at the heart of Edinburgh society, her daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah have their own struggles. Jenny’s ex-husband Craig is making plans that could shatter the Skelf women’s lives, and the increasingly obsessive Hannah has formed a friendship with an elderly professor that is fast turning deadly.

But something even more sinister emerges when a drumming student of Dorothy’s disappears, and suspicion falls on her parents. The Skelf women find themselves immersed in an unbearable darkness – but could the real threat be to themselves?

Delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Big Chill by Doug Johnstone today. Thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for including me on the tour and to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my digital copy of the novel, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is the second book featuring the Skelf women, following on from A Dark Matterand I would recommend that you read that book before embarking on this one, because The Big Chill contains some spoilers for the first book. However, if that isn’t something that bothers you unduly, or you aren’t planning on reading the first book, The Big Chill works perfectly well as a standalone novel.

The book is told from the perspectives of, and in the voices of, three generations of Skelf women. Dorothy is the matriarch, running a funeral service and PI agency side by side, whilst trying to hold her family together in the aftermath of her husband’s death and the events of book one. Her daughter, Jenny, is embarking on a new relationship, whilst still coming to terms with her ex-husband being in prison. And Dorothy’s granddaughter, Hannah, is struggling with depression and anxiety following her father’s crimes. Each woman is battling her own demons, in her own way, but together they form a strong and fascinating unit.

As well as the lives of the three women, the author also presents us with a number of different mysteries to tussle with. Who was the homeless man killed in the car that crashes into one of Dorothy’s funerals? What has happened to Dorothy’s teenage drum student, missing from her parents’ house for several days? And what secret is Hannah’s professor hiding from his wife? Curious by nature and by profession, the Skelf women set about trying to get to the bottom of these puzzles, whilst exploring their own internal problems at the same time, so there is a lot for the reader to absorb.

The author paints the characters so vividly, that they are truly alive on the page. These are living, breathing, complex women who take no imagining to make believable, Doug has done all that work for you. I think Dorothy is my favourite, the Californian wild child, displaced to cold and rainy Edinburgh, still coming to terms with the fact that she is no longer young and drumming as a way to mindfulness. Cool doesn’t begin to cover it. She is one of those older women that we all aspire to be, and made me want to pick up a pair of drumsticks immediately. I absolutely loved her choice of music to drum to, too! She is definitely someone who is there for everyone else, putting the needs of all those she cares about before her own, but we get a glimpse under the surface to the turmoils she, herself, is experiencing, and hope that she may have found someone that she can share those with in the aftermath of widowhood. When I was younger, my mum always used to tell me that, no matter how old you get, you never feel any different inside. As I am not firmly ensconced in middle age myself, I understand what she meant, and Dorothy is a character who embodies this phenomenon to the full. I love her.

Hannah, at the other end of the scale, ponders her place in the universe and finds it small and insignificant, although its hard to tell whether this is a comfort or a cause for despair. She is seeing a therapist but, as a talented physics student, one gets the impression that she may be beyond the understanding of her counsellor. In their own way, all three women are pondering their place in the cosmos, trying to work out where they fit in after their lives have been shaken up and put down in a different place, a bit like an agitated snow globe, all their emotions and possibilities up in the air. The only thing holding them together in the maelstrom is the strength of their family bond and the certainty that, whatever else is happening, they can absolutely rely on each other.

This book is a gripping thriller, but it is also so much more. An exploration of family, of female strength, of ageing and death, relationships, community and where we fit in the world. There is so much depth and ideas to mine, but it is also pacy and darkly comic in places. In addition, Doug brings Edinburgh to life on the page. This is obviously a city he knows and loves, and that affection permeates every page of the book. I raced through the novel, loving every syllable, and I can’t wait for more. This writer has a natural talent and a keen eye and is someone that any fan of crime, thrillers or simply great writing should pick up.

The Big Chill is out now as an ebook and will be published in paperback on 20 August and you can get a copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour for this book:

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About the Author

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Doug Johnstone is the author of more ten novels, most recently Breakers (2019), which has been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year and A Dark Matter (2020), which launched the Skelfs series. Several of his books have been bestsellers and award winners, and his work has been praised by the likes of Val McDermid, Irvine Welsh and Ian Rankin.

He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions – including a funeral home, which he drew on to write A Dark Matter – and has been an arts journalist for twenty years.

Doug is a songwriter and musician with five albums and three EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s also player-manager of the Scotland Writers Football Club. He lives in Edinburgh.

Connect with Doug:

Website: https://dougjohnstone.com

Twitter: @doug_johnstone

Instagram: @writerdougj

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Blog Tour: Final Verdict by Sally Rigby #BookReview

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The judge has spoken……everyone must die.

When a killer starts murdering lawyers in a prestigious law firm, and every lead takes them to a dead end, Detective Chief Inspector Whitney Walker finds herself grappling for a motive.  

What links these deaths, and why use a lethal injection?

Alongside forensic psychologist, Dr Georgina Cavendish, they close in on the killer, while all the time trying to not let their personal lives get in the way of the investigation.

Delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Final Verdict by Sally Rigby, the sixth book in the Cavendish and Walker series. 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.

Although this is the sixth book in the Cavendish and Walker series, it is my first book by this author and I was looking forward to reading it as it revolves around deaths in a law firm which is always a draw for me (not because I hate lawyers, per se, but because I used to be one!) I also was intrigued by the partnership between the police officer and forensic psychologist, rather than a police duo. I always enjoy the approach to a case by different disciplines.

The plot of the book was just as gripping as I would have wished. Lawyers are being knocked off one by one by someone who wants the murders to look like heart attacks, but the motive for the killings, and indeed any links between the victims is a mystery. The team are sent off down plenty of false paths before they start to close in on the real reason for the killings and who is doing it, which kept me on my toes throughout and racing through to the end to get the mystery solved.

The characters were well-developed and interesting enough to carry the book. I enjoyed the dynamic between Whitney and Georgina and how they rely on each other. the author also gives them interesting and complex personal lives and problems to navigate at the same time, which adds an extra dynamic to the story and presents them as fully rounded people. The minor characters were fun, especially the two squabbling DCs which added a bit of light relief from time to time.i’m not sure the portrayal of the lawyers is going to endear the profession to anyone who already has an aversion to them, the dastardly bunch were all pretty much begging to be bumped off!

I did have a couple of minor niggles with this book, I’m afraid. There were times, especially near the beginning before the author sets to settle in to her stride, where there was a little too much description of things that didn’t really move the story forward, such as people’s hairstyles, the furniture in rooms etc, and the pace of the book would have benefitted from some of this being trimmed back. It seemed to become less of an issue as the story went on. The other thing which grated a little was the dialogue; in a number of places it was far too formal, and did not feel at all natural. It did not come across as the way people actually talk, especially to people they know well, and I found it quite distracting in places. These are, however, matters of style and may not matter so much to others, and do not detract from the fact that this is an entertaining crime novel with an interesting and gripping plot.

This book was a fairly easy read and will definitely appeal to anyone who enjoys books with strong female leads, an lively partnership dynamic and a cunning crime to solve. it can definitely be read as standalone but I would like to go back and read the previous books to learn more about how the partnership has developed and to find out what happened in previous cases that are alluded to here.

Final Verdict is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do make sure you follow the rest of the tour as detailed below:
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About the Author

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Sally Rigby was born in Northampton, in the UK. She has always had the travel bug, and after living in both Manchester and London, eventually moved overseas. From 2001 she has lived with her family in New Zealand (apart from five years in Australia), which she considers to be the most beautiful place in the world. After writing young adult fiction for many years, under a pen name, Sally decided to move into crime fiction. Her Cavendish & Walker series brings together two headstrong, and very different, women – DCI Whitney Walker, and forensic psychologist Dr Georgina Cavendish. Sally has a background in education, and has always loved crime fiction books, films and TV programmes. She has a particular fascination with the psychology of serial killers.

Connect with Sally:

Website: https://sallyrigby.com

Facebook: Sally Rigby

Twitter: @SallyRigby4

Instagram: @sally.rigby.author

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