Book Review: The Village by Caroline Mitchell

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Ten years ago, the Harper family disappeared. Their deserted cottage was left with the water running, the television playing cartoons, the oven ready for baking. The doors were locked from the inside.

Overnight, the sleepy village of Nighbrook became notorious as the scene of the unsolved mystery of the decade, an epicentre for ghoulish media speculation.

For crime journalist Naomi, solving the case has turned into an obsession. So now, with Ivy Cottage finally listed for sale, it’s her chance to mount an investigation like no other. And her husband and stepdaughter don’t really need to know what happened in their new home… do they?

But Nighbrook isn’t quite the village she expected. No one wants to talk to her. No one will answer her questions. And as she becomes increasingly uneasy, it’s clear that the villagers are hiding something―that there is something very dark at the heart of this rural idyll. And the deeper she digs, the more it seems her investigation could be more dangerous than she ever imagined… In raking up the secrets of the past, has she made her own family the next target?

I am delighted to be sharing my review today of The Village by Caroline Mitchell. My thanks to Katrina Power for asking me to review the book and providing me with a copy for that purpose. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially as always.

There is nothing more sinister than an abandoned, neglected, isolated house buried deep in the looming woods, is there? It’s a premise that has been quite popular in novels in recent years, and you might think the trope has been done to death, but don’t let that put you off picking up a copy of The Village by Caroline Mitchell, because this book takes the storyline to the next level of creepiness with a historic disappearance and a village full of unfriendly locals that will do anything to see the back of you. Think an adult version of Hansel and Gretel meets The Wicker Man. That is the level of creepiness we are talking about with this book.

Crime journalist, Naomi, has always been fascinated by the story of the Harper family and their unsolved disappearance a decade ago, so when the chance comes to buy the very cottage in the New Forest from which they disappeared, she can’t resist. Dragging along her hostile step-daughter, Morgan, who has secrets of her own, she moves her family there to see if she can solve the mystery, only to meet silence and hostility from the locals. What are they hiding?

This book starts off with tension between Naomi and Morgan, and it does nothing but ramp up and ramp up throughout the book until your nerves are twanging like a banjo string in the duelling scene in ‘Deliverance’ and you will be physically unable to put the book down until you find out what happened to the Harper family. You will find yourself sharing Naomi’s obsession with the disappearance, as well as her fear and distaste and conflicted emotions. This book is a masterclass in keeping the reader on the edge of their seat.

I must warn you, this book is dark. Very dark. It covers some disturbing issues that are going to make you uncomfortable as you read. The author plumbs the murky depths of human behaviour in this story, but stick with it to the end. There is hope. There is some light at the end of the tunnel. All is not darkness and despair is you keep trying. I got a lot more from this book than I was expected when I started it, and it has haunted me more than I anticipated now that it is finished. Affecting and surprising, it has made me want to pick up further books by this author, and I can highly recommend it.

The Village is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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A New York Times, USA Today and Amazon No.1 bestselling author, Caroline originates from Ireland and now lives with her family on the coast of Essex. A former police detective, Caroline writes full time, with over 1.3 million books sold worldwide.

As well as her crime series, Caroline also writes stand-alone psychological thrillers. Her books have won first place as best psychological thriller in the US Reader’s Favourite Awards, been shortlisted for the International Thriller Awards in New York and been shortlisted for ‘Best Procedural’ in the Killer Nashville awards. Her crime thriller, Truth And Lies is a No.1 New York Times best seller and has been optioned for TV. 

Connect with Caroline:

Website: https://caroline-writes.com

Facebook: Caroline Mitchell Author

Twitter: @Caroline_writes

Instagram: @caroline_writes

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Blog Tour: Bitter Flowers by Gunnar Staalesen; Translated by Don Bartlett

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I’m delighted to be taking part in my first blog tour of the year for the new book in the Varg Veum series by Gunnar Staalesen, Bitter Flowers. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for offering me a place on the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially as always.

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PI Varg Veum has returned to duty following a stint in rehab, but his new composure and resolution are soon threatened when three complex crimes land on his desk.

A man is found dead in an elite swimming pool. A young woman has gone missing. Most chillingly, Veum is asked to investigate the ‘Camilla Case’: an eight-year-old cold case involving the disappearance of a little girl, who was never found.

As the threads of these three apparently unrelated cases come together, against the backdrop of a series of shocking environmental crimes, Veum faces the most challenging, traumatic investigation of his career.

What a fabulous way to start off the blogging year. This is my first Varg Veum novel, but it definitely won’t be the last one I read, as I was completely sucked in to his world.

Coming in to the series completely cold, it took me a little while to sort out what Varg’s situation was and who he was as a character, but that just made me more intrigued by the book. We are dropped straight into the action as there is the discovery of a corpse and a disappearance in the first couple of pages, and we are introduced to Varg’s fractious relationship with the local police in Bergen. In the best traditions of hard-boiled PIs, Varg can’t resist getting involved in situations that should really be left to the police and inveigles his way into the heart of the investigation, managing to get information that the police struggle to access, because he doesn’t have to do things by the book.

There were three particular aspects of this novel that particularly made this book stand out from a run-of-the-mill PI novel. The first was the intricacy and complexity of the plot. Taking the very topical issue of climate change and ecological protest as one of its central plot points, Gunnar weaves together two different crimes to make a story of such devious twistedness that I truly had no idea what was behind the crimes or who was the perpetrator at any point and I would never have got to the conclusion by myself in a million years. The author clearly has a mind like a fiendish labyrinth and how he managed to keep it all straight as he was writing is a skill I would like to learn. I think I need to go back and try and find all the clues I missed the first time now I know how it unravels.

The second aspect I loved was the writing. For a dark crime novel, the writing is utterly poetic. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book in this genre where the author manages to wax so lyrical about landscape, people and feelings and have it sit so naturally beside the darker aspects of the plot. It was a real pleasure to read, and made the book stand out for me as a literary cut above the herd.

Finally, and probably most appealing to me, was the beautiful evocation and exploration of the landscape of Norway. The book really brings it to life and it is fascinating to me as a country that is so vastly different to our own. A place of vast wilderness, where travel by ferry is as natural as taking a bus or train. Where being surrounded by nature is the norm and the populace really appreciate and revel in the natural landscape that surrounds them. It is a place that fascinates me and which features at the top of my bucket list, and I thoroughly enjoyed losing myself in the sense of place which this book evoked. A book that was transportative in so many different ways.

This book has set a high standard for the coming year and I highly recommend it to fans of Nordic Noir, who are looking for a novel that represents the pinnacle of the genre.

Bitter Flowers will be published on 21 January and you can pre-order your copy from all good bookshops or online here.

Please do check out the rest of the tour as detailed below:

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About the Author

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Granite Noir fest 2017. Gunnar Staalesen.

One of the fathers of Nordic Noir, Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway, in 1947. He made his debut at the age of twenty-two with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg Veum series. He is the author of over twenty titles, which have been published in twenty-four countries and sold over four million copies. Twelve film adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring the popular Norwegian actor Trond Espen Seim. Staalesen has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour); Where Roses Never Die won the 2017 Petrona Award for Nordic Crime Fiction, and Big Sister was shortlisted in 2019. He lives with his wife in Bergen.

About the Translator

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Don Bartlett lives with his family in a village in Norfolk. He completed an MA in Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia in 2000 and has since worked with a wide variety of Danish and Norwegian authors, including Jo Nesbø and Karl Ove Knausgaard. He has previously translated The Consort of DeathCold HeartWe Shall Inherit the WindWhere Roses Never Die and Wolves in the Dark in the Varg Veum series.

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Book Review: The Jealousy Man by Jo Nesbo; Translated by Robert Ferguson

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Murder. Assassination. Revenge.

Discover the first short story collection from the King of Scandi Crime.

Meet a detective on the trail of a man suspected of murdering his twin; a hired assassin facing his greatest adversary; and two passengers meeting by chance on a plane, spelling romance or something far more sinister.

In his first ever collection of short stories, this master of crime delivers a gripping, edge-of-your seat read that you won’t be able to put down.

The first short story collection by Jo Nesbo and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this collection really blew me away with the range and depths of the ideas the author explores in these stories. He really mines the darkest and most base instincts of human kind here, and delves into some very dystopian ideas that are all the more disturbing for not being entirely incredible.

Normally I race through a book of short stories quite quickly, because they are consumed in easily digestible chunks – like grazing on snacks rather than consuming a three course meal. This book didn’t unfold that way for me. Firstly, many of the stories are not short, a couple are more like short novellas. Secondly, every one of them is dense and complex, in characterisation, theme and development so, for me, it was just impossible to race through them quickly. Each of them needed slow and careful reading to unpack and appreciate all the nuance contained within. This is a book which has to be read in a considered and thoughtful fashion. A pause after the end of each was necessary to fully absorb what the author have revealed in the story, and I even broke off halfway through and read something a little lighter to break up the experience because of the effect the book was having on me.

Because I found this book quite bleak in general in the issues it explores and the conclusions that are drawn in the stories. These are not tales of uplifting experiences and positive affirmations of human nature. They are all dark, even fatalistic, in tone and paint quite a negative view of humanity. They feel quite appropriate for the way things are developing at the moment, maybe even prophetic, so if you are looking for a book to cheer you up when the current news gets too heavy, this isn’t it. It is, however, brilliantly written, thought-provoking and a masterclass in how to write a complete and satisfying short story. I am more impressed than ever by Nesbo’s writing, and his fans will love it.

The Jealousy Man is available in all formats here.

About the Author

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Jo Nesbo is one of the world’s bestselling crime writers, with The Leopard, Phantom, Police, The Son and his latest Harry Hole novel, The Thirst, all topping the Sunday Times bestseller charts. He’s an international number one bestseller and his books are published in 50 languages, selling over 33 million copies around the world.

Before becoming a crime writer, Nesbo played football for Norway’s premier league team Molde, but his dream of playing professionally for Spurs was dashed when he tore ligaments in his knee at the age of eighteen. After three years military service he attended business school and formed the band Di derre (‘Them There’). They topped the charts in Norway, but Nesbo continued working as a financial analyst, crunching numbers during the day and gigging at night. When commissioned by a publisher to write a memoir about life on the road with his band, he instead came up with the plot for his first Harry Hole crime novel, The Bat.

Connect with Jo:

Website: https://jonesbo.com

Facebook: Jo Nesbo

Instagram: @jonesbo_author

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Blog Tour: Murder at the House on the Hill by Victoria Walters #BookReview

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It is my turn on the blog tour today for Murder at the House on the Hill by Victoria Walters and I want to thank Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for giving me a slot on the tour, and to the author and the publisher for providing me with a digital copy of the book for the purposes of review. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

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Once Upon A Crime…

Nancy Hunter and her grandmother Jane Hunter run the Dedley Endings Bookshop, selling crime, thriller and mystery books, in a small, quiet Cotswold village where nothing ever happens…

That is, until the wealthy and reclusive Roth family open up their mansion for the first time in twenty years, inviting the people of Dedley End to a lavish engagement party.

While everyone is thrilled to finally look around the mansion on the hill, the festivities are quickly cut short when beautiful Lucy, recently married to young Harry Roth, is found dead after being pushed over the first-floor balustrade.

But who among the guests could have been capable of her murder – and why?

Nancy and Jane decide to investigate – after all, not only do they own a crime themed bookshop, they were also both named after famous literary detectives – but soon wonder if they’ve taken on more than they can handle. Especially when it seems the killer has worked out that they’re hot on their heels…

Can they catch the murderer before the murderer catches up with them? Or will there be a deadly ending to this story?

I really love a cosy crime novel and the cover of this one drew me in straight away, I absolutely love it, it’s one I will be buying to grace my shelves and the marketing team have done a great job to reflect the book here. Kudos to the cover artist as well. The hook of the book also got me – a mystery-solving grandmother and granddaughter duo who own a crime book shop? Who wouldn’t want to read that?

I absolutely loved the dynamics in this book between Nancy and her grandmother, they make a great team. The author is fabulous at characterisation, and all of the players in this book are interesting in their own way. Nancy’s best friend, Jonathan, is also a fantastic character and his relationship with Nancy was one of my favourites.

The setting of the book in a quaint Cotswold village where nothing much happens is perfect and, Dedley End, what a great name that is. It just encapsulates this books completely, clever and funny, not taking itself too seriously at all.

This book was a really easy, quick read for me because the writing is clear and the plot so entertaining and pacy that I just rattled through it at speed. I did not work out the ending in advance and thoroughly enjoyed the journey of getting there. There was nothing about this book that was not a pleasure and I really look forward to reading more in the series. I really hop all the other covers are as good as this one. If so, I’ll be a paperback devotee!

Perfect as an autumn read now the days are getting shorter and chillier and fans of cosy crime will love it. Highly recommended.

The book is out in ebook and paperback now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do check out some of the other blogs taking part in the tour for alternative reviews:

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About the Author

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Victoria Walters writes up-lifting and inspiring stories. She’s the author of the bestselling GLENDALE HALL series, which continues with its third book HOPEFUL HEARTS at GLENDALE HALL in September, as well as two other standalone novels – SUMMER at the KINDNESS CAFE, and THE SECOND LOVE of my LIFE. She has been chosen for WHSmith Fresh Talent and shortlisted for two RNA awards. Victoria was also picked as an Amazon Rising Star, and her books have won wide reader acclaim.

Victoria is a full-time author. She lives in Surrey with her cat Harry, and loves books, clothes, music, going out for tea and cake, and posting photos on Instagram.

Connect with Victoria:

Website: https://victoria-writes.com/

Facebook: Victoria Walters

Twitter: @Vicky_Walters

Instagram: @vickyjwalters

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Book Review: The Chateau by Catherine Cooper #BookReview

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They thought it was perfect. They were wrong…

A glamorous chateau

Aura and Nick don’t talk about what happened in England. They’ve bought a chateau in France to make a fresh start, and their kids need them to stay together – whatever it costs.

A couple on the brink

The expat community is welcoming, but when a neighbour is murdered at a lavish party, Aura and Nick don’t know who to trust.

A secret that is bound to come out…

Someone knows exactly why they really came to the chateau. And someone is going to give them what they deserve.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for the purpose of review, for which they have my heartfelt thanks. As always, I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

I really enjoyed Catherine’s debut novel, The Chalet, when I read it last year (you can read my review here) so I was very much looking forward to this follow up, and I can tell you it didn’t disappoint.

The story is a dual timeline, narrated by a married couple, Aura and Nick, who have just purchased a ramshackle chateau in France to renovate. I’d say ‘happily married,’ except that wouldn’t be accurate. They have moved to France after some issues in the UK, the nature of which are gradually revealed through Nick’s narration of the past timeline and their marriage still seems a little shaky, or certainly it looks that way to Aura who is the narrator of the present tense timeline.

As well as the issues in their marriage, they have all the difficulties of integrating into a new community in a new country, and things are certainly a lot livelier and more interesting that a person might imagine life in a quiet rural area of France to be! There are plenty of surprising revelations gradually fed through the story in both the past and present timelines to keep the reader on the edge of their seat throughout.

The characters in the book are drawn in a very interesting way, because none of them are particularly likeable. This is quite a brave step by the author, because it is quite easy to lose the readers if you don’t love any of the characters, but she has given us enough intrigue to keep us hooked regardless. I had no idea really where the story was going, I didn’t see the ending coming and I think the denouement was a surprising and left field step by the author which really worked for me.

All in all, a gripping and entertaining thriller which will delight readers who enjoyed the author’s first book and new readers alike. Highly recommended.

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

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 was 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: Dead Secret by Noelle Holten #BookReview

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Psycopaths can take root in the unlikeliest soil…

DC Maggie Jamieson crosses paths once again with Probation Officer Lucy Sherwood when a domestic violence survivor stumbles into her new refuge, unable to speak, desperate for help.

Then another case hits Maggie’s desk. A young man has been murdered, and a curious constellation of black dots has been inked onto his cheek.

That’s when DCI Hastings goes missing and Maggie uncovers a shocking connection that turns the case on its head.

Every family may hide secrets, but not every family buries them…

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for the paperback release of Dead Secret, Book 4 in the maggie Jamieson thriller series by Noelle Holten. It is no secret that I LOVE this series ( you can read my previous reviews here, here and here.) My thanks to Sarah Hardy of Books on the Bright Side Publicity for giving me a place on the tour, and to the author and publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Maggie Jamieson has become one of my favourite characters in detective fiction over recent years, so I was very keen to get back to finding out what was going on in her world. This time, one of their own is caught up in some trouble, just to ramp up the drama.

This book has two distinct storylines to follow. Firstly, Lucy has found an unidentifiable beaten woman at the gates of her as-yet-to-be-opened refuge and feels obliged to take her in. The woman is scared and reluctant to reveal her story; as a survivor herself Lucy sympathises and doesn’t pressure her, but is curious about what she has gone through. Then there is the body of the young man, killed in the woods by a blow to the head. Whilst the investigation into this is going on, it becomes apparent that Maggie’s DCI and his family are missing and may be in terrible danger. Is this enough chaos to keep you entertained?

It definitely was for me as, along with the police, I tried to follow the threads of the different investigations they were juggling. There seemed to be so many loose ends to follow and red herrings to eliminate, and the small team were pulled in all directions trying to follow the different leads, none of which made much sense to begin with. Quite how the author managed to plot all this out and keep it straight I have no idea, in my imagination the plot looks like an impossibly tangled ball of wool with just a few loose ends trailing out which, eventually and with great skill, Noelle manages to gently pull until it all unravels neatly and beautifully into a straight line. So clever.

I was honestly flummoxed through most of the book. I even had a suspicion about someone close to Maggie that has always been one of my favourite characters and now I feel quite guilty about that! Although I did guess one tiny aspect of the outcome, the big reveal I had no idea about and it came as a complete shock, which only happens in the best type of thriller.

Alongside the mystery, we delve further into Maggie’s complex love life and her own tussles with her relationship status and how she feels about it. The portrayal of Maggie as a confused and vulnerable person in her love life contrasts sharply with her confident, maverick work persona and lends her a depth that makes her a more likeable and relatable character. She is someone I become more and more fond of as the books progress, and it parts of what makes me so eager to come back to them each time a new one is released.

All in all, this is an entertaining thriller that makes for compulsive reading. If you are already a fan of the Maggie Jamieson thrillers, this new one will not disappoint. If not, what are you waiting for? Dive one now, you won’t regret it.

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

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour and visit some other fab blogs:

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About the Author

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

Connect with Noelle:

Website: https://crimebookjunkie.co.uk

Facebook: Noelle Holten Author

Twitter: @nholten40

Instagram: @crimebookjunkie

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Blog Tour: Blooming Murder by Simon Whaley #BookReview

Blooming Murder

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for Blooming Murder by Simon Whaley. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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MURDER IS BLOSSOMING IN THE WELSH BORDERS.

Aldermaston’s having a bad day. A falling hanging-basket has killed the town’s mayor, and a second narrowly missed him. His wife wants him to build her new greenhouse in three days, and some nutter is sending him death threats.

This isn’t the quiet life he expected as the new Marquess of Mortiforde.

It’s the annual Borders in Blossom competition, and Mortiforde is battling with Portley Ridge in the final. But this is no parochial flower competition. The mayor’s mishap looks like murder, and there’s another body in the river. Someone desperately wants Portley Ridge to win for the fifteenth successive year.

So when a mysterious group of guerrilla gardeners suddenly carpet bomb Mortiforde with a series of stunning floral delights one night, a chain reaction of floral retaliation ensues.

Can Aldermaston survive long enough to uncover who is trying to kill him, and why? And can he get his wife’s greenhouse built in time?

This is the first book in a new cosy mystery series featuring, Aldermaston, the Marquess of Mortiforde. Mortiforde is a small market town on the Welsh borders and, at the start of the book they are taking part in the annual border towns flower competition, which they have lost the past fourteen years in a row. This year, they are desperate to break their duck, but someone in their rival town of Portley Bridge seems equally determined to stop them, even to the extent of murdering prominent citizens involved in the campaign. There is something very fishy going on, and Aldermaston is determined to get to the bottom of it.

This book is very, very funny. It is the literary equivalent of slapstick, where one ridiculous thing happens after another in the quest to win the accolade of most blooming market town. I mean, the whole premise if ludicrous, that people would be prepared to murder over a gardening competition, which makes it funny from the off. Of course, there is much more to the story than that, involving dark deeds and money, so the plot goes on convoluted twists and turns that make the story more and more ludicrous, which is all part of the fun. We do get to the bottom of who has been carrying out the murders and why at the end, but by this time we barely care, because we’ve had so much fun along the way. 

The best thing about the book are the characters. The author has created a cast of the most unusual and entertaining characters you can think of in this book. Aldermaston, newly made Marchioness of Mortiforde, is a reluctant inhabitor of the title and seems a little out of his depth through much of the book. His wife, Felicity, has been taken unexpectedly from her old life and thrust into society, where she is uncomfortable and unfulfilled. She makes a new friend in Letitia, who is my favourite character in the book and has set some old lady goals for my life for sure. Lisa and Mark are a great couple of supporting characters who I look forward to seeing more of, Lisa playing a kind of Watson to Aldermaston’s rural Sherlock. The villains are suitably ruthless, there are some other great cameos (‘Hortie’ being a particular highlight), and they all get up to some fabulous shenanigans.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it is a piece of ridiculous, riotous fun. If you are a fan of Midsomer Murders, with it pretty settings, eccentric characters and bizarre and convoluted murders, you will absolutely love this novel. I am really looking forward to the next in the series and can recommend this as a great few hours’ entertainment.

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

Please visit the other blogs taking part in the tour for this book for alternative opinions:

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About the Author

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Simon Whaley is an author, writer and photographer who lives in the hilly bit of Shropshire. Blooming Murder is the first in his Marquess of Mortiforde Mysteries, set in the idyllic Welsh Borders – a place many people struggle to locate on a map (including by some of those who live here). He’s written several non-fiction books, many if which contain his humorous take on the world, including the bestselling One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human and two editions in the hugely popular Bluffer’s Guide series (The Bluffer’s Guide to Dogs and The Bluffer’s Guide to Hiking). His short stories have appeared in Take A Break, Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special, The Weekly News and The People’s Friend. Meanwhile his magazine articles have delighted readers in a variety of publications including BBC Countryfile, The People’s Friend, Coast, The Simple Things and Country Walking.

Simon lives in Shropshire (which just happens to be a Welsh Border county) and, when he gets stuck with his writing, he tramps the Shropshire hills looking for inspiration and something to photograph. Some of his photographs appear on the national and regional BBC weather broadcasts under his BBC WeatherWatcher nickname of Snapper Simon. (For those of you who don’t know, they get a lot of weather in Shropshire.)

Connect with Simon:

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

Facebook: Simon Whaley Author

Twitter: @simonwhaley

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Blog Tour: A Cut For A Cut by Carol Wyer #BookReview

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DI Kate Young can’t trust anybody. Not even herself.

In the bleak countryside around Blithfield Reservoir, a serial murderer and rapist is leaving a trail of bloodshed. His savage calling card: the word ‘MINE’ carved into each of his victims.

DI Kate Young struggles to get the case moving—even when one of the team’s own investigators is found dead in a dumpster. But Kate is battling her own demons. Obsessed with exposing Superintendent John Dickson and convinced there’s a conspiracy running deep in the force, she no longer knows who to trust. Kate’s crusade has already cost her dearly. What will she lose next?

When her stepsister spills a long-buried secret, Kate realises she’s found the missing link—now she must prove it before the killer strikes again. With enemies closing in on all sides, she’s prepared to do whatever it takes to bring them down. But time is running out, and Kate’s past has pushed her to the very edge. Can she stop herself from falling?

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for A Cut For a Cut by Carol Wyer, the second book in the Detective Kate Young series. I loved the first book, An Eye For An Eye (you can read my review of that book here) so I was really looking forward to reading this one. My thanks to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me on to the tour and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Having stormed my way through this book, I am in awe of the fact that Kate Young is still functioning. She has so many different things to juggle in her life that the mere thought of them all has left me exhausted, but it sure makes for exciting reading.

Having solved the strange and brutal murders in the first book of this series, Kate is now faced with a series of equally violent and disturbing rapes scattered across her patch. With nothing more to link the victims than a physical similarity, and clues thin on the ground, the investigation is an uphill struggle, and she can do without the added pressure being placed upon her by her superiors. Particularly as there seems to be some blocking of her investigation going on from within the service. Is someone trying to make her fail?

As well as giving us a new tense investigation to follow, Carol cleverly weaves in the unsolved mystery from the previous book dealing with possible police corruption. Those of us who have been left hanging at the end of book one eagerly pounced on the fresh threads of the investigation into some of Kate’s colleagues, started by Kate’s deceased journalist husband, Chris. We know the stakes are high, and probing too deep could cost Kate her job, and possibly more, so the tension throughout the book is on a knife edge. The internal battles she has with herself, and her wavering mental state, are also gripping to read, and make for an interesting twist on the detective crime novel. Fans of Line of Duty will love this series!

An additional storyline features Kate’s estranged step-sister returning from Australia with her delightful nephew in tow. The girls have a complicated history, and there are bridges to be built, so it makes for an interesting personal perspective on Kate and her past, and a further difficult incursion on her work to read of. There is nothing better in a detective story than to be able to see the investigators as fully rounded and complex people, rather than just tools of investigation, it really makes the reader invest in the person and their success in solving the mystery. I defy any of you to read the book and not become personally involved in Kate’s life, both professionally and personally.

Carol has pulled off the great achievement again of giving this book a satisfactory conclusion, but leaving the door open for the next book and the reader needing  to know what happens next. She’s a crafty minx, that one. I also loved the fact that the books are set around the areas of Staffordshire & Derbyshire I know well – my partner currently living in Alrewas and myself having previously lived in Ashbourne- it is always interesting to see someone else’s perspective on familiar places (I had never heard of the Horn Dance though, I need to check this out!)

A fully satisfying read in a great series, when can I get the next one, please?

A Cut For A Cut is out now and you can buy a copy here.

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

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About the Author

Carol Wyer - Fence

USA Today bestselling author and winner of The People’s Book Prize Award, Carol Wyer writes feel-good comedies and gripping crime fiction.

A move from humour to the ‘dark side’ in 2017, saw the introduction of popular DI Robyn Carter in LITTLE GIRL LOST and demonstrated that stand-up comedian Carol had found her true niche.

To date, her crime novels have sold over 750,000 copies and been translated for various overseas markets.

Carol has been interviewed on numerous radio shows discussing ”Irritable Male Syndrome’ and ‘Ageing Disgracefully’ and on BBC Breakfast television. She has had articles published in national magazines ‘Woman’s Weekly’, featured in ‘Take A Break’, ‘Choice’, ‘Yours’ and ‘Woman’s Own’ magazines and the Huffington Post.

She currently lives on a windy hill in rural Staffordshire with her husband Mr Grumpy… who is very, very grumpy.

When she is not plotting devious murders, she can be found performing her comedy routine, Smile While You Still Have Teeth.

Connect with Carol:

Website: https://www.carolwyer.co.uk/

Facebook: Carol E. Wyer

Twitter: @carolewyer

Instagram: @carolwyer

Pinterest: carolewyer

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Friday Night Drinks with… Brian Stewart

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Welcome to the end of another week and it’s time to unwind with drinks and chat with another fabulous literary guest. Tonight I am joined for Friday Night Drinks by author… Brian Stewart.

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Brian, thank you so much for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Friday evenings are usually beers. I subscribe to a beer club so I’ll be sampling one or two of them. (They’re almost all delicious, though I’m not a fan of the fruity sour ones.) I may sample the odd glass of rum later!

If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

There are so many options in Dundee these days for food, drink and entertainment. The Dundee Rep is always interesting and quirky, the DCA great for food, and the rum cocktails at the King of Islington are amazing! In Broughty Ferry itself, we love Sol Y Sombra for tapas, and the Fisherman’s Tavern has a great range of beers. The Fort Hotel’s beer garden has been a godsend during lockdown, especially on a sunny evening.

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Sounds like Dundee is the place to be! If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

Stephen Fry for sure. He has such a breadth of knowledge and has made it cool for an arts/media person to be knowledgeable about science. Previously people in the media were totally ignorant about anything scientific and treated it as a jokey item at the end of the news. I’m sure he would be fantastic company, though I’d struggle to get a word in.

US politics both fascinates and appalls me – the Trump years were unbelievable – so I’d like Kamala Harris to be there so that she can explain both it and her place in the whole thing. Has she any real hope for the future of that country?

Great choices. So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

The most recent novel that I (self-)published was quite dark, involving fake news and online abuse. Around October 2020, when we were heading back into lockdown after a month or so of hope, I was quite depressed by the whole situation and also by the world I was writing about. 

I decided that the only thing to do was to write something a bit lighter! So I started a novel which is almost a comedy-crime caper story, and I’m firing on with that now. I’m a pantster when I write, so I’ve written several chapters and thrown loads of odd characters into the mix. I now need to clarify the crime so that I can get it all done. (The hero is writing a novel and has exactly the same issues!)

Life imitates art! Sounds like fun. What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

After I self-published my first novel, friends told me they really liked it – and I mean, really liked it, even though they said they’d been prepared to lie and tell me they liked it. That was great. My daughter-in-law’s uncles have read my books and raved about them. Every positive review gives me a glow of pleasure. These are the best moments.

The biggest challenge has been trying to get a break in a very crowded field. I’ve seen other authors manage it but I’ve never quite done it myself. There is always hope though.

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

I’d like recognition as being a good writer and someone who produces something a bit different, with a bit of an edge and serious social/political commentary underlying it. Almost all the reviews of my books acknowledge this, but I’d like it to be more widely known. And my sister reckons there’s a great TV series ready to be made out of my books!

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

Getting this novel finished, getting the two manuscripts that are almost ready out there, then re-edit the new novel and get it out to agents and publishers (I’ll tell them it’s the first in a planned series, and if it gets picked up I’ll quickly do some planning!). Also excited about travel – see the next question!

I like your style (although your secret is out now, you do realise?). I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

So many places we’ve been to and loved! We adore Canada (and Canadians); Australia was just so wondrous; China was really interesting. I’ve an ongoing love affair with the Algarve and Lanzarote – I could happily spend several weeks of the year in each of those places.

But if pushed I’d go for New Zealand. We were there in 2020, getting home just as COVID struck. The scenery is amazing – like a bigger version of Scotland – and the people are lovely. There’s so much space. Great beer, wine and food too! We know people who made the move there, and others who wished they had, and I can see why – despite that huge distance.

Bucket list? At present we have plans to do an Antarctic trip, and also a tour of Japan, though these are currently pending due to COVID. I still have a fantasy about driving an open-top Thunderbird down the Florida Keys or the Pacific Highway…

I can highly recommend driving the Overseas Highway in an open-top car, finishing with a strawberry daiquiri in Sloppy Joe’s – one of my favourite trips ever! Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I generally like to know what’s going on! I could never do a trip where the next two nights’ accommodation wasn’t booked. And when we have a settled, agreed plan for something, I do freak out a little if the plan changes. I have an issue with spontaneity, I suppose, but I’m getting better (though my wife would probability disagree).

You and I sound like birds of a feather; I am a mega-planner and have to be in charge of all our holidays. It is part of the reason I used to plan holidays for other people! Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

This is just so difficult! Most of the books I’ve read have their own merits, and many are unique in so many ways. Some authors – Terry Pratchett and Jasper Fforde amongst them – have broken completely new ground and need to be read. Others who have written long series of novels have hit moments of absolute brilliance – Chris Brookmyre with Black Widow, Ian Rankin with In a House of Lies.

If pushed, I would say that His Bloody Project by Graeme MacRae Burnet was a must-read: different and just perfect.

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The year is 1869. A brutal triple murder in a remote community in the Scottish Highlands leads to the arrest of a young man by the name of Roderick Macrae. A memoir written by the accused makes it clear that he is guilty, but it falls to the country’s finest legal and psychiatric minds to uncover what drove him to commit such merciless acts of violence. Was he mad? Only the persuasive powers of his advocate stand between Macrae and the gallows.

I loved this book, it is a stunningly original piece of writing. So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

I wish! Too much red wine kills me, especially if I don’t take on enough water, so I watch that – I only drink it with a meal, with maybe a final glass afterwards. Too much strong beer is bad. I can only handle one or two whiskies of an evening. Generally I’m OK with rum and coke (or gin and tonic) so if I’m in it for the long haul, I stick to that. 

The only hangover cure is time: have a slow, easy day afterwards with lots of fluid, lots of sugar, several naps, and a couple of beers in the evening before an early night.

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

If I was somewhere warm then a day on the beach would be ideal. But in Scotland it would be a walk or a cycle to enjoy the peace and the space. A good film in the evening is always nice.

Brian, thank you for chatting with me this evening, it has been great fun.

Brian’s latest book, The CalDat Investigation, is a techno thriller set in Scotland. It is available in ebook format and you can buy a copy here. The book formats part of a three book series, but they can be read in any order.

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Glasgow PI Grant Cairns is asked to investigate a company called Caledonia Data (CalDat) which is suspected of being a conduit for dark money and fake news. As he follows a lead, he finds himself linking with an old colleague, ex-DS Amanda Pitt, who has become obsessed with explaining a murder at a Glasgow hotel, where the murderer could not possibly have known the victim and who died at the scene.

The two of them find their investigations are linked, and that an online hate campaign against an MSP could have fatal consequences for her.

Meanwhile, Martin McGregor’s past life comes back to haunt him, and the world of online abuse becomes very personal for him.

Brian Stewart was born in Rutherglen (near Glasgow) and brought up in Grangemouth. He went to Glasgow University and Jordanhill Teacher Training College, and taught in Edinburgh before moving north to the Highlands. He lived and worked there for many years in education in various roles, including as an OU maths tutor. In 2017 he and his wife moved to Broughty Ferry to be nearer their families.

Having retired from education, he is focused on my writing.

He and his wife enjoy travelling. Highlights have included cycling in Alaska, swimming in the Blue Lagoon, and climbing Vesuvius. They’ve seen Uluru at dusk and at dawn, and swum in the Olympic pool under Sydney harbour bridge. Furthest north they’ve been was North Cape, west was the Pacific coast of Vancouver Island, and of course New Zealand took them furthest east and south. All of that background will seep into his writing in due course in some way or another.

When not writing, he tries to keep fit and to play the guitar and golf (not simultaneously). He is in Broughty Ferry Rotary and also supports his District in his role as Assistant Governor in District 1010. One of the great bonuses of being a Rotarian is the ability to visit other clubs – most recently in Hong Kong and in Blenheim (South Island). He keeps in contact with other writers through social media, writers’ events, and the Angus Writers’ Circle, whose members are a really supportive bunch.

He self-published Digital Circumstances and Digital Investigations. The next in the series, The Deaths on the Black Rock, was published by ThunderPoint on October 23rd 2018. For the follow-up he went back to self-publishing, and The CalDat Investigation came out in February 2021.

You can find out more about Brian and his writing via Twitter and Instagram.

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Blog Tour: A Racing Murder by Frances Evesham #BookReview

A Racing Murder

Delighted to be taking my turn on the tour today for A Racing Murder by Frances Evesham. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part, and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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A winning horse. A fierce rivalry. A sudden death. 

Belinda Sandford thrills to the cheers of the crowd as her beautiful grey racehorse, ‘Butterfly Charm’, thunders past the finishing post first at Wincanton Racecourse. She feels like the luckiest girl in the world.

But joy soon turns to despair as a stewards’ enquiry overturns the result and awards the race to her long-time rival, Alexandra Deacon.

When Alex is found dead in suspicious circumstances, a host of accusing eyes turn to Belinda and her distraught mother begs Adam Hennessy, her neighbour, retired police officer and publican, to help clear her daughter’s name.

As Adam, and local hotelier Imogen Bishop, dig deep into the murky and powerful undercurrents of the horse racing world, they lay bare the lives and loves of local jockeys, grooms, trainers and owners. 

They soon uncover a web of secrets hidden within the spectacular Somerset countryside as they strive to find the killer in time to prevent more murders.

I absolutely love a mystery set in the world of racing – Dick Francis is one of my all-time favourite authors – so I jumped at the chance to read and review this book, despite the fact that I had not read the first Ham Hill mystery book. The fact that I was new to the series did not matter at all, this book works perfectly well as a standalone, but it did make me want to go back and read A Village Murder, which is the first book.

The book is set in a quaint, rural village in Somerset, as you would expect for a cosy, murder mystery, with picturesque houses, a lovely hotel and snug pub… and all the usual bickering, rivalry and intrigue that seems to abound in such backwaters. I live in a small village in Yorkshire and we never have any murders, but the rest of the plot rings very true as to the goings on in a rural setting. They are always gossip central, and no one can ever keep anything quiet, so the idea that a group of locals could solve a murder through wagging tongues and their personal contacts I find entirely feasible!

I really love the gang of characters that the author has created here, especially Imogen and Adam and the friendship between them. They are very authentic, well-rounded and likeable characters, and I love the way Frances has included intrigue and tension in their personal lives, as well as the murder mystery, to push the plot along. In fact, it is the characterisation in particular that has made me want to go back and read the first book in the series and find out more of their back stories, although there is enough information contained in this book to enable the reader to enjoy this storyline without making that necessary.

The murder plot is gentle, not especially gory, but entertaining and diverting and kept me guessing throughout. I loved the peek inside the world of racing and thought Frances had captured that world very well compared to other books I have read written by people actually involved in it (as I said, I am a fan of the genre, and I come from a town where horse-racing is one of our biggest industries). Frances’s writing is very engaging and extremely easy to read, so the pages just slip by. This is a book you can easily devour in one indulgent afternoon without any strain, and you will probably want to as you race to find out whodunnit.

A great book for fans of M.C. Beaton, Betty Rowlands and other cosy mystery writers. Lovely setting, attractive characters and an enticing and gripping plot, what more can you ask for from a book? Thoroughly enjoyable.

A Racing Murder is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Please do visit some of the other blogs taking part in the tour for this book:

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About the Author

IMG_1626 frances evesham

Frances Evesham is the bestelling author of the hugely successful Exham-on-Sea murder mysteries set in her home county of Somerset, and the Ham-Hill cosy crime series set in South Somerset.

Connect with Frances:

Facebook: Frances Evesham Writer

Twitter: @FrancesEvesham

Instagram: @francesevesham

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