FCBC Reading Challenge 2020: Neon Empire by Drew Minh #BookReview

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In a state-of-the-art city where social media drives every aspect of the economy, a has-been Hollywood director and an investigative journalist race to uncover the relationship between a rising tide of violence and corporate corruption.

Bold, colorful, and dangerously seductive, Eutopia is a new breed of hi-tech city. Rising out of the American desert, it’s a real-world manifestation of a social media network where fame-hungry desperados compete for likes and followers. But in Eutopia, the bloodier and more daring posts pay off the most. As crime rises, no one stands to gain more than Eutopia’s architects—and, of course, the shareholders who make the place possible.

This multiple-POV novel follows three characters as they navigate the city’s underworld. Cedric Travers, a has-been Hollywood director, comes to Eutopia looking for clues into his estranged wife’s disappearance. What he finds instead is a new career directing—not movies, but experiences. The star of the show: A’rore, the city’s icon and lead social media influencer. She’s panicking as her popularity wanes, and she’ll do anything do avoid obscurity. Sacha Villanova, a tech and culture reporter, is on assignment to profile A’rore—but as she digs into Eutopia’s inner workings, she unearths a tangle of corporate corruption that threatens to sacrifice Cedric, A’rore, and even the city itself on the altar of stockholder greed.

This is Book 6 for the 2020 Reading Challenge for my online book club, The Fiction Cafe Book Club. The category was ‘A book which is a dystopian novel.’ The eagle-eyed amongst you will note that I have not reviewed book five in the challenge, ‘A book from my favourite genre.’ Unfortunately, the book I chose for this category was not to my tastes so, in line with my policy of not including negative reviews on the blog, i have decided I will not be reviewing it.

Neon Empire is a dystopian novel set in a not-too-distant future where the world’s increasing obsession with social media status has developed to the next level and a whole city has been constructed where popularity and social media influence are the sole currency and where flocks of people gather to pursue fame and fortune and hedonism. But the maintenance of status becomes all-consuming, and people’s desire to achieve or maintain their position drives them to further and further extremes and the corporations in control go to ever more desperate lengths to monetise experience to the last degree, regardless of the danger to human life. This all leads to a tautly-wound society that is only ever seconds away from violence and civil disobedience and it is only going to take one wrong move for the tinder-box to erupt.

The pace of the book is frenetic, and the story arc is spliced and jumbled and told by different voices and all angles, to reflect the fast, constantly-changing, crazy world of utopia, where things move and change from second to second and everyone is constantly reacting to changing stimuli and running to catch up. The world-building is detailed and evocative, in my mind Eutopia is a cross between Las Vegas on acid and Minority Report and, for some reason, a place where it is permanently night. Sometimes the text provides too much information to take in, and your brain is chasing the detail, unable to keep up, but again this is deliberate, to reflect the reality that the book presents, which makes for an exciting read, but it is not remotely relaxing!

This is an interesting exploration of where our society could go, given the trajectory we are on at the moment. Bearing in mind the scandals there have been with regard to data-mining and social media influencing of our decision-making in recent years, of how susceptible we all are to online marketing and rumour, how we know that the internet seems to predict our every move by monitoring our online interactions, the world portrayed here is no so far-fetched as to be unimaginable. It is not, however, a pretty or comfortable picture and should give us all pause for thought.

A future of online manipulation, superficiality and artifice is not a place I want to live, or for my children to grow up in. This book made me want to get out in the fresh air and touch something real.

Neon Empire is out now and you can buy a copy here.

 

Taking A Chance On Love by Erin Green #BookReview (@ErinGreenAuthor) @Headlinepg @RNATweets @NetGalley #NetGalley #TakingAChanceOnLove

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One question can change everything.

Meet Carmen, Polly and Dana – all happy and successful women, with very different views on relationships.

Carmen has made a life with Elliot for the past eight years. She’s ready for the next step but a proposal seems to be as far away as ever.

Polly is devoted to her family. But after her parents’ bitter divorce, she’s wary of marriage – even after sharing twenty years and one son with Fraser.

Single mother Dana longs for companionship, despite her dedication to raising her son Luke. Finding the right person to bring into their lives feels impossible – until a unique way to select a potential Mr Right comes along.

With 29th February fast approaching, will they each take the chance this Leap Year to take control of their fates?

So, it’s a leap year and we’ve been given an extra day to play with. What an earth should we do with it? Well, tradition dictates that this is the one day every four years where women can propose to the man in their lives. The Irishman keeps dropping hints that he has certain expectations of me on Saturday, but let’s gloss over that for now and concentrate on a book which has this tradition at its heart.

This book follows the story of three different women living in the same small town who are all at different stages of their lives and relationships, but for each of whom February 29th is going to be a day that alters their futures forever. It’s amazing what a difference a single day can make.

This book is a fun but thoughtful read that weaves together the lives of three diverse characters which touch each other lightly at various points in the book and offer us a myriad of individual issues to consider. Polly has been with Fraser for twenty years but it still scared of marriage, having see how her parents ended up. But as the birthday of her almost-grown son approaches and she watches him dealing with relationships in his own life and how it affects them all, it makes her take stock. Dana hasn’t had time for love between juggling her floristry business and being a single mum to her son, but decides it is time to take a risk and put herself out there again, but chooses a very unusual way of doing it. Carmen is desperate for the fairytale wedding and future and decides to take matters in to her own hands in the face of her boyfriend’s apathy.

The author draws some beautiful and believable characters to carry us through the book and then uses them cleverly to explore many facets of love and relationships, from romantic love to parental and filial relationships, and the special bond between parent and child. Everyone will be able to find one of the ladies, and some aspect of the challenges they face, to relate to and make the book pertinent to them. I felt most keenly for Polly, because of my current situation in life, and I am sure the author would be as interested as I am to find out which of the characters spoke most to other readers of the book.

I found the book very touching in places, particularly the relationship between Dana and Luke and Dana’s parents, and also the situation that Carmen finds herself in towards the end of the book. I found myself staying up very late one night in order to finish the story, desperate to know what the outcome was going to be for each of the ladies, always the sign of a great book that has managed to bring a story and characters to life and make them important to the reader.

I always enjoy Erin’s novels, they are consistently approachable, honest and full of warmth and this was no exception. I would highly recommend this book to all lovers of romantic fiction, and, you never know, it might give some ladies out there some ideas (although, not me, sorry to disappoint, N!)

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

Taking A Chance On Love is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Erin was born and raised in Warwickshire. An avid reader since childhood, her imagination was instinctively drawn to creative writing as she grew older. Erin has two Hons degrees: BA English literature and another BSc Psychology – her previous careers have ranged from part-time waitress, the retail industry, fitness industry and education.

She has an obsession about time, owns several tortoises and an infectious laugh!
Erin writes contemporary novels focusing on love, life and laughter. Erin is an active member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and was delighted to be awarded The Katie Fforde Bursary in 2017. An ideal day for Erin involves writing, people watching and drinking copious amounts of tea.

Connect with Erin:

Website: http://www.eringreenauthor.co.uk

Facebook: Erin Green Author

Twitter: @ErinGreenAuthor

Instagram: @erin_green_author

A Springtime to Remember by Lucy Coleman #BookReview #BlogTour (@LucyColemanauth) @BoldwoodBooks @RaRaResources @NetGalley #RachelsRandomResources #Giveaway #NetGalley #ASpringtimeToRemember

A Springtime to Remember

I am thrilled to be one of the blogs taking part in the tour for A Springtime to Remember by Lucy Coleman. A warm romantic read set in a lovely overseas location is just what I needed to counteract the grey weather! My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on to the tour, and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially. Make sure you check out the giveaway further down the page.

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Paris and the Palace of Versailles have always meant a lot to TV producer Lexie. Her grandma Viv spent a year there, but her adventures and memories were never discussed, and Lexie has long wondered why they were a family secret.

When work presents the perfect excuse to spend Springtime in Versailles, Lexie delves into Viv’s old diaries and scrapbooks, and with the help of handsome interpreter Ronan, she is soon learning more about the characters that tend to the magnificent gardens, now and in the past.

In amongst the beauty and splendour of the French countryside, a story of lost love, rivalry and tragedy unfolds. Can Lexie and Ronan right the wrongs of the past, and will France play its tricks on them both before Lexie has to go home? Will this truly be a Springtime to Remember…?

If you are looking for something sweet, uplifting and really easy to read when you are snuggled up against the weather on a Sunday afternoon, this is the book to pick up. Have you ever seen one of those TV adverts where someone opens a book or a holiday brochure and a beam of sunshine bursts out of the pages? This book feels just like that. You will feel the warmth on your face, hear the birds singing and know that all is right with the world whilst you are between its pages.

This isn’t the most complex of stories, but that isn’t a negative as far as this book goes. Don’t you sometimes just want something undemanding that you can let wash over you like a gentle wave as you revel in the descriptions of somewhere stunning and bask in a happy glow? Not every book has to be challenging and intellectually demanding. This is really a book to relax with, not worry that there is going to be a very unpleasant twist to deal with and be confident that it will probably turn out okay. That’s not to say it doesn’t deal with difficult issues, because it does, but it is at a step removed from the main protagonists which allows the reader to have some distance from the trauma.

The setting is a place I have visited once but do not know intimately, and I really enjoyed exploring it a little more through the excellent writing and finding out a bit more about the place and its environs. The author really brought the place to life, and how delightful it would be in the spring. She made the location charming and peopled it with fantastic and likeable characters that brought the plot to life in support of Lexie and Ronan who carry the story beautifully.

A tender and touching story that was a pleasure to read and left me with a happy, warm glow. (By the way, does anyone else think that the girl on the cover bears an uncanny resemblance to Scarlett Johansson?)

A Springtime to Remember is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Giveaway

Springtime PrizeTo be in with a chance of winning a paperback copy of The French Affair and a brass bookmark, click on the Rafflecopter link below:

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*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter link above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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

A Springtime to Remember Full Tour Banner

About the Author

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From interior designer to author, Linn B. Halton – who also writes under the pen name of Lucy Coleman – says ‘it’s been a fantastic journey!’

Linn is the bestselling author of more than a dozen novels – including Summer on the Italian Lakes, Snowflakes over Holly Cove, The French Adventure and A Cottage in the Country. She is represented by Sara Keane of the Keane Kataria Literary Agency.

When she’s not writing, or spending time with the family, she’s either upcycling furniture, working in the garden, or practising Tai Chi.

Living in Coed Duon in the Welsh Valleys with her ‘rock’, Lawrence, and gorgeous Bengal cat Ziggy, she is an eternal romantic.

Linn is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the SoA and writes feel-good, uplifting novels about life, love and relationships.

Connect with Lucy:

Website: https://linnbhalton.co.uk

Facebook: Lucy Coleman Author

Twitter: @LucyColemanauth

Four Weddings and a Festival by Annie Robertson Narrated by Ellie Heydon #BookReview #audiobook (@annierauthor) @EleanorHeydon @orionbooks @TheFictionCafe @NetGalley @audibleuk #FictionCafeBookClub #FictionCafeReadingChallenge2020 #challenges #NetGalley #FourWeddingsAndAFestival

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Four months. Four weddings. One happy ending…?

Lifelong friends and rom-com fans Bea, Lizzie, Hannah and Kat have curled up with Bridget Jones, sobbed at Love, Actually and memorised the script to Notting Hill. They always joked about getting married in one summer – their own Four Weddings – and it seems like this might just be the year . . .

That is, until Bea turns down her boyfriend’s proposal. Is her own Hugh Grant waiting for her amid the champagne and confetti? Can real-life romance ever live up to a Richard Curtis movie?

As the wedding – and festival – season gets into its swing, can all four friends find their happy ever after…?

This is the third book I have chosen for the 2020 Reading Challenge for my online book club, The Fiction Cafe Book Club. The third category for the challenge is ‘A book which includes a wedding.’ Well, what is better than one wedding? Four!

I’ve chosen this book because it also represents a step forward in my other goal for 2020, which is to reduce my NetGalley backlog. My thanks to the publisher for my digital copy of this book, received via Netgalley, and I have reviewed it honestly and impartially.

Okay, so you’ll get the immediate impression that this book is inspired by the Richard Curtis movie and you wouldn’t be wrong. The author is obviously a fan and there are a number of references to his films throughout, so if you enjoyed those films you’ll enjoy this.

This was s fun read, following the weddings across one summer as three of them get married and Bea, having turned down the proposal of her perfect-on-paper boyfriend, tries to decide what she is going to do with the rest of her life, now all of her friends are settling down.

The details surrounding the four weddings are fun to read about, especially the unexpected one, and my favourite part was the description of the festival they all attend. Festivals in books have been a bit of a thing for me this week, after the Dave Holwill one.) I completely sympathised with Bea’s predicament, not wanting to settle and also not wanting to be left behind and alone. Life is tricky to navigate when you are in your twenties, I sometimes think people should be banned from marrying until they hit 30!

The thing that made this book for me was the character of Aunt Jane, she is a total legend and a role model for women of a certain age. I fully intend modelling myself in my seventies on a cross between her and Zillah from This Could Change Everything by Jill Mansell.

All in all, an enjoyable romcom for fans of Richard Curtis-esque movies and novels about female friendship. and finding The One.

Four Weddings and a Festival is out now and you can get your copy here.

About the Author

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Annie Robertson trained in London as a classical musician, then worked as an assistant for an Oscar winner, an acclaimed artist, a PR mogul and a Beatle. After several years of running errands for the rich and famous, she went to medical school where, hiding novels in anatomy textbooks, she discovered her true passion for writing, and went on to complete a Creative Writing MA with distinction.

Annie now lives back home in Scotland. When not writing Annie enjoys playing the piano, swimming with her young son, and visiting antiques markets with her husband.

Connect with Annie:

Twitter: @annierauthor

 

The Holiday by T. M. Logan Narrated by Laura Kirman #BookReview #Audiobook (@TMLoganAuthor) @laurakirman @ZaffreBooks @AudibleUK @NetGalley #NetGalley #TheHoliday

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Seven days. Three families. One killer.

It was supposed to be the perfect holiday, dreamed up by Kate as the ideal way to turn 40: four best friends and their husbands and children in a luxurious villa under the blazing sunshine of Languedoc-Roussillon.

But there is trouble in paradise. Kate suspects that her husband is having an affair, and that the other woman is one of her best friends. One of these women is willing to sacrifice years of friendship and destroy her family. But which one?

As Kate closes in on the truth in the stifling Mediterranean heat, she realises too late that the stakes are far higher than she ever imagined.

Because someone in the villa is prepared to kill to keep their secret hidden.

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

It’s a nightmare scenario, isn’t it? Being trapped on holiday for a week with people you aren’t getting on with. Even if some of those people are your lifelong best friends, once you have to share living space with them 24/7 for a week, along with their husbands, whom you may not love quite as much, and their children who may not have the same expectations in behaviour as yours do – tensions are bound to arise. Add in too much sun, too much wine, and you have a powder keg ready to explode.

Then, on top of this, imagine that you suspect your husband is having an affair, and his mistress is on elf the very same lifelong friends you are taking a holiday with, the situation will inevitably boil over before the week is out, in a very public setting.

This is the premise behind The Holiday, which was a book widely feted last year, and it certainly provides a book full of intrigue and strain with many twists and turns before its thrilling conclusion. And because it is a scenario so many of us can imagine for ourselves, or may even have experienced (although to a lesser degree, I hope!), it causes an intimate level of stress in our imaginations. ‘There too but for the grace of God, go I’ is always a powerful hook for a novel.

There is a fascinating array of characters in this novel, a lot of personality flaws explored and exposed, and some morally dubious behaviour in evidence, even from the people who are supposedly the ‘good guys.’ It begs the question, what would I do to protect my family, to protect my children from harm? How far would I be prepared to go if I found myself in this situation? Are my principles really as strong as I believe, when faced with a serious dilemma. Thinking of these things can make for an uncomfortable reading experience if you allow the book to take you there.

This book was a great, entertaining read with a fabulous rope of tension running through it and enough twists and turns and revelations to keep the reader hooked. highly recommended.

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

About the Author

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Bestselling author TM Logan was a national newspaper journalist before turning to novel-writing full time. His latest thriller, The Holiday, is a Richard & Judy Book Club pick and spent ten weeks as a Sunday Times top ten bestseller in paperback, selling more than 200,000 copies to date. The Holiday takes place over a sweltering summer week in the south of France, as four best friends see the holiday of a lifetime turn into a nightmare of suspicion, betrayal and murder…

Tim’s debut thriller LIES was one of Amazon UK’s biggest ebooks of 2017, selling more than 400,000 copies and winning a Nielsen Bestseller Award. Together with his second standalone thriller, 29 Seconds (2018), his books are now published in 14 countries around the world including the USA, South Korea, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Poland, Hungary, Serbia, Romania and the Netherlands.

His next novel, The Catch, is due to be published on June 11, 2020.

Tim lives in Nottinghamshire with his wife and two children, and writes in a cabin at the bottom of his garden.

Connect with T. M. Logan:

Website: https://www.tmlogan.com

Facebook: T M Logan Author

Twitter: @TMLoganAuthor

Instagram: @tmloganauthor

Single All The Way by Karen King #BookReview (@karen_king) @bookouture @NetGalley #NetGalley #SingleAllTheWay

 

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Snow is falling, bells are ringing… and my heart is broken. I pick up the phone to tell my mother about Oliver and me. Then right after I explain, she says, ‘I don’t exactly know how to tell you this, but you’re not the only one who is single again.’

Single together for the first time, 34-year-old Meg and her warm-hearted mother Sally decide to cancel Christmas, and run away to a tiny cottage on the Cornish coast. For Meg, it is the perfect place to heal, away from all the mistletoe, while for her mother it has a special, and secret, place in her heart – from a love story that seems a lifetime ago…

Meg and Sally find they’re getting to know themselves, and each other, better than ever before. But as they are unable to resist getting involved in the village Christmas celebrations, they encounter two handsome local strangers.

Sometimes, it’s being away from home that helps you realise where your heart is. What neither woman knows is that, by the time the new year rolls around, one woman will have fallen in love with their ex all over again, and one relationship will be over for good…

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

This is another ‘catch up’ post, where I try and review all the books I neglected in December! The only problem with this tardiness is, of course, that this is a Christmas book and it isn’t Christmas any more! Still, some people read festive books all year round. Or, maybe you are just looking for a nostalgic read to take you back to the sparkling, joyful days of the holidays and away from the depressing gloom of January. Or maybe you are starting a list for next Christmas. Hopefully this will help somebody, somewhere, somehow!

There are quite a few ‘running away from Christmas’ books around, but I have never read one that involves both a mother and daughter running away together. This USP of the book gives it a really interesting and different dynamic, and explores issues that are perhaps not something much of us give much thought to on a daily basis, beyond the normal mother-daughter relationships to thinking of our parents as separate human beings who have their own relationship problems. This leads to some awkward issues for the pair which the author thoroughly exploits to the benefit of the story.

I loved the location of a cottage in a Cornish village (always a winner!) and the couple getting involved in the local village celebrations. The book has a gorgeous, cosy, festive feel that is just the thing to warm your cockles on a cold, winter day, even when it isn’t Christmas. Beyond the festive fun, though, the book explores some difficult relationship issues with affection and sensitivity. It really moved me in parts, these are extremely common problems that people are dealing with on a daily basis, so I am sure the difficulties experienced by the characters will resonate with readers and give back a little more than festive froth.

The author’s voice is warm and approachable, the book was an easy read, but rewarding as well. A welcome addition to my roster of Christmas reading. I highly recommend it next time you are in mood for a festive book, whatever time of year that is.

Single All The Way is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Karen King is a multi-published, award-winning author of romantic novels and children’s fiction. She has had eight romance novels published to date, 120 children’s books, and several short stories in women’s magazines. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Society of Authors and the Society of Women  Writers and Journalists.

Connect with Karen:

Website: http://www.karenking.net

Facebook: Karen King Romance Author

Twitter: @karen_king

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley #BookReview (@lucyfoleytweets) @harpercollinsuk @NetGalley #NetGalley #TheHuntingParty

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In a remote hunting lodge, deep in the Scottish wilderness, old friends gather for New Year.

The beautiful one
The golden couple
The volatile one
The new parents
The quiet one
The city boy
The outsider

The victim.

Not an accident – a murder among friends.

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

Books about murders amongst groups of people in remote settings seemed to be a bit of a thing for me last year. First up was In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware, then In The Dark by Loreth Anne White, both of which I enjoyed very much. This kind of story, with a whiff of Agatha Christie’s Then There Were None about them, must have been having a bit of a moment. Or maybe it was just me and what I was drawn to. Anyway, The Hunting Party was the last one I got to and I did wonder whether there could be a new twist on a set up that I’d already read twice last year. However, this book had so much hype that I was still looking forward to reading it, and it did not disappoint.

Firstly, the author managed to create a great sense of place in this novel. I have spent a lot of time in very remote parts of Scotland, and the sense of isolation and loneliness that can surround you once you get that far from civilisation, particularly during bad weather when places can really get cut off, is very oppressive and quite unsettling for people who are used to living on our densely populated little island. It is quite hard to believe that such remoteness and inaccessibility can exist at not too great a distance from our crowded cities, and its perils and difficulties can be hard to comprehend for those who have never experienced it before. This atmosphere, expertly captured and magnified in the writing, used to its utmost menace in the plotting, really gives the book a gripping and intense sense of threat.

The characters are brilliantly drawn and imbued with depth and understanding. They feel like real people, and not all particularly pleasant ones, which gives us a rich buffet from which to select our murderer, but it is very hard to choose with the plentiful array of suspects served up. I honestly think I suspected every individual at different points within the novel and had no true idea who was going to be guilty at the end, or what their motive was. I must have changed my mind a dozen times as to who had done it, and turned the pages quicker and quicker to get to the resolution. The pacing was perfect and propelled me to the end without any dip in tension.

I set aside one quiet, lazy Sunday to read this book, and I devoured it cover to cover in a single sitting, with only short breaks for food and beverages and a dog walk. This is the perfect book in which to indulge in a proper reading session, one where you forget the outside world and totally immersive yourself in the narrative the author has created until you feel like you are part of the story and as desperate to find out who is the killer as the characters in the book. A fantastic whodunnit in the best traditions of the genre with a modern flair.

The Hunting Party is out now and you can get your copy here.

About the Author

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Lucy Foley studied English Literature at Durham and UCL universities and worked for several years as a fiction editor in the publishing industry, before leaving to write full-time. The Hunting Party is her debut crime novel, inspired by a particularly remote spot in Scotland that fired her imagination.

Lucy is also the author of three historical novels, which have been translated into sixteen languages. Her journalism has appeared in ES Magazine, Sunday Times Style, Grazia and more.

Connect with Lucy:

Facebook: Lucy Foley Author

Twitter: @lucyfoleytweets

Instagram: @lucyfoleyauthor