Blog Tour: The Bone Code by Kathy Reichs #BookReview

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Huge thrill to be on the blog tour today for the latest Temperance Brennan thriller by Kathy Reichs, The Bone Code. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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A storm has hit South Carolina, dredging up crimes of the past.

En route to Isle of Palms, a barrier island off the South Carolina coast, forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan receives a call from the Charleston coroner. During the storm, a medical waste container has washed up on the beach. Inside are two decomposed bodies wrapped in plastic sheeting and bound with electrical wire. Chillingly, Tempe recognises many details as identical to those of an unsolved case she handled in Quebec fifteen years earlier. With a growing sense of foreboding, she flies to Montreal to gather evidence and convince her boss Pierre LaManche to reopen the cold case. She also seeks the advice—and comfort—of her longtime beau Andrew Ryan.

Meanwhile, a storm of a different type gathers force in South Carolina. The citizens of Charleston are struck by capnocytophaga, a bacterium that, at its worst, can eat human flesh. Thousands panic and test themselves for a rare genetic mutation that may have rendered them vulnerable.

Shockingly, Tempe eventually deduces not only that the victims in both grisly murder cases are related, but that the murders and the disease outbreak also have a common cause . . .

I think I have to hold my hands up from the off and state that I am a massive fan of Kathy Reichs. A copy of every Temperance Brennan novel sits on my bookshelves and I am always eagerly awaiting the next in the series. Whether that makes me predisposed to enjoy one of her books or have higher expectations of her writing that someone who hasn’t been invested in Temperance’s story since the beginning, I don’t know, but I’ve tried my hardest to be as dispassionate in this review as possible.

As with every Kathy Reichs novel, we are thrown straight into the action with Tempe in Carolina, facing the imminent arrival of Hurricane Inara, when she is sought out by a woman wanting help establishing if a death mask features the face of her long-missing great aunt. Soon after, the storm washes up a medical waste container on the Carolina shore containing two decomposed bodies. When Tempe is asked to examine them, the details of the case ring alarming bells with bodies discovered in Canada years before. On top of all this, a flesh-eating virus has broken out…

If this all sounds like a lot to contend with, remember that we also have to factor in the fact that Tempe’s time and career is divided between South Carolina and Montreal, and there is her ever-complicated relationship with Andrew Ryan to contend with to. This book has the potential to become extremely complicated, but the genius of Kathy Reichs writing is that she manages to convey a lot of detailed plots and information in a way that is vey easy to follow and pull together complex and diverse storylines to form a coherent and nail-biting plot without seemingly breaking a sweat. This is why die-hard fans such as myself keep returning to her books and these characters after two decades, and why I have never yet been disappointed.

I couldn’t wait to get started on The Bone Code and, as soon as I dove in, I was back in Tempe’s world like I had never left, greeting all the characters like old friends (How have you been, Birdcat? I’ve missed you and your foibles) and desperate to catch up on what they have all been doing. How is the shift in dynamics between Ryan and Tempe working out since the last book? How is his new career going? Where is Katy now? These are all things I want to know, as well as what is going on in the latest cases. I love the fact that Tempe’s personal life is so inextricably wound into the narrative of these stories, as well as her work, since both make her fundamentally who she is and why we love her so much.

As for the plot, I keep waiting for one of these books to fall short – Kathy must be running out of ideas by now surely? – but I am delighted to say this doesn’t happen in this book. Quite how she manages to join together such diverse topics into a seamless, related narrative always amazes me, and I was hooked from start to finish. I was a little dubious about reading about a flesh-eating virus whilst we are still dealing with the Covid pandemic but Kathy’s writing is so engrossing that I soon forgot all about what was happening in the real world and was completely immersed in this one. I was on the edge of my seat all the way through, the pacy narrative and excellent writing carrying me along, even the complex medical and legal jargon not causing a stumble, reading it in record time, and I was sad when it was over and I have to wait another whole year for the next one.

Kathy has knocked it out of the park again with The Bone Code. Fans of her books will de delighted with the latest instalment. If you have never read a Temperance Brennan book, be warned, this book will get you hooked.

The Bone Code is out now in hardback, ebook and audiobook formats, and will be published in paperback in October. You can buy a copy here.

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

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About the Author

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Kathy Reichs’s first novel Déjà Dead was a number one bestseller and won the 1997 Ellis Award for Best First Novel. The Bone Code is Kathy’s twentieth entry in her series featuring forensic anthropologist Temper- ance Brennan. Kathy was also a producer of the hit Fox TV series, Bones, which is based on her work and her novels.

Dr. Reichs is one of very few forensic anthropologists certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology. She served on the Board of Directors and as Vice President of both the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, and as a member of the National Police Services Advisory Council in Canada.

Connect with Kathy:

Website: https://kathyreichs.com/

Facebook: Kathy Reichs Books

Twitter: @KathyReichs

Instagram: @kathyreichs

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Book Review: The Wild Girls by Phoebe Morgan #BookReview

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Four friends. A luxury retreat. It’s going to be murder.

In a luxury lodge on Botswana’s sun-soaked plains, four friends reunite for a birthday celebration…

THE BIRTHDAY GIRL
Has it all, but chose love over her friends…

THE TEACHER
Feels the walls of her flat and classroom closing in…

THE MOTHER
Loves her baby, but desperately needs a break…

THE INTROVERT
Yearns for adventure after suffering for too long…

Arriving at the safari lodge, a feeling of unease settles over them. There’s no sign of the party that was promised. There’s no phone signal. They’re alone, in the wild.

THE HUNT IS ON.

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital copy of this book via NetGalley for the purposes of review. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

Blimey, what a rollercoaster of a book this is! I sat down and started it one morning and I kept sneaking back to read it throughout that day, resenting the chores that took me away from the story, and by that night I had finished it. This is one of those books that you want to completely immerse yourself in and stay gripped by until you get to the end, it is absolutely blooming fabulous.

I was really excited by the whole premise of the book – four friends holidaying in a luxury lodge in Botswana – as I love a book that takes me armchair travelling and I’ve always wanted to go on a safari holiday. Hmmm, not sure I do any more. Phoebe has managed to imbue the pages with this book with a creeping, suffocating sense of menace and jeopardy that would have anyone running screaming from the situation, if it was possible to escape.

The dynamics of female relationships always make for a fascinating read for me, and the author has constructed a friendship group here that is clearly dysfunctional, for reasons that she very cleverly hints at throughout to keep reader enthralled but doesn’t fully explain until the end, so you spend plenty of time trying to work out what is going on from the sneaky clues she drops in to the story at cunning intervals. All of the girls have secrets, and problems in their private lives which they aren’t sharing with one another, and the whole lot comes together in a beautiful explosion when they meet up. The book is very cleverly plotted and was one of the main things that kept me reading.

The book is told from the perspective of each of the characters, and it jumps around in time from present to past, as the events leading up to the Botswana trip are revealed, but you will barely notice the changes and it is very easy to follow. the author has constructed it in a way that flows easily, with each character having a distinctive voice, and I felt we got to know them all really well. They aren’t all particularly likeable, but that didn’t impact my enjoyment of the book at all.

There are some difficult issues touched upon in this book, which might be triggering for some people, but they all serve the plot and Phoebe has dealt with them delicately. I have to say, the ending gets a bit mad, but I was fully invested in the book by this point so I just went with it and, if I did find the ending a bit far-fetched, I still came away from the book feeling that I had had a really enjoyable and satisfying reading experience. I think you can tell when a writer has had a really good time writing a book, it usually translates to a great time for the reader, and this was certainly true of The Wild Girls. I had been greatly looking forward to reading it, and it completely fulfilled my expectations and then some. A really entertaining, gripping, immersive read.

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

About the Author

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Phoebe Morgan is a bestselling author and editor. She studied English at Leeds University after growing up in the Suffolk countryside. She has previously worked as a journalist and now edits commercial fiction for a publishing house during the day, and writes her own books in the evenings. She lives in London.

Her books have sold over 150,000 copies and been translated into 10 languages including French, Italian, Norwegian, Polish and Croatian. Her new thriller The Wild Girls will be published by William Morrow in the US. Her books are also on sale in Canada and Australia. Phoebe has also contributed short stories to Afraid of the Light, a 2020 crime writing anthology with proceeds going to the Samaritans, Noir from the Bar, a crime collection with proceeds going to the NHS, and Afraid of the Christmas Lights, with all profits going to domestic abuse charities. Her four thrillers can be read in any order:

The Doll House (2017)
The Girl Next Door (2019)
The Babysitter (2020)
The Wild Girls (2021)

Connect with Phoebe:

Website: https://phoebemorganauthor.com/

Facebook: Phoebe Morgan Author

Twitter: @Phoebe_A_Morgan

Instagram: @phoebeannmorgan

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Book Review: The Dinner Guest by B. P. Walter

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Four people walked into the dining room that night. One would never leave.

Matthew: the perfect husband.

Titus: the perfect son.

Charlie: the perfect illusion.

Rachel: the perfect stranger.

Charlie didn’t want her at the book club. Matthew wouldn’t listen.

And that’s how Charlie finds himself slumped beside his husband’s body, their son sitting silently at the dinner table, while Rachel calls 999, the bloody knife still gripped in her hand.

I am delighted to be posting my review of The Dinner Guest by B. P. Walter today. I received an advance digital copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley for the purpose of review, and I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Have you ever read a book in which none of the characters were likeable? This is one of those books. Honestly, all of the characters are fairly awful, selfish people with a litany of faults and you’ll spend half the book wanting them to get their comeuppance. Especially the main two characters who takes turns in voicing the story, Charlie and Rachel. I didn’t like either of them from the beginning.

You’d think this would be the death knell for a novel, wouldn’t you, but you’d be wrong. The Dinner Guest had me hooked from first page to last in a way that I meant I could not look away and I raced through the pages. To achieve this with characters for whom I had practically no sympathy was nothing short of bare genius by the author.

The book thrusts us into the perfect world of Charlie, a man who has never known a day of hardship in his life and who seems to have everything anyone could wish for. Perfect home, great job, perfect husband, perfect stepson, no financial worries. Then he bumps into Rachel whose life is the exact opposite. For some reason, Charlie’s husband decides to take Rachel under their wing and, from then on, the perfect facade starts to crack and disintegrate, as if Rachel’s appearance has infected it with rot.

The book jumps around in time, beginning with the aftermath of the murder of Charlie’s husband and then going back to the introduction of Rachel into their lives, and exploring all the characters back stories until we understand what has happened and why. The author has been extremely clever with the plotting of this novel, building the tension as facts are revealed piece by piece, but taking us off in different directions, so it is impossible to guess what is the truth and who is responsible for what until the very end. Many times I thought I had worked it out, only to be proven wrong and sent off down another path, so I had to keep reading and reading to construct another theory.

This book is a great psychological thriller, whose very ending completely chilled me and the whole thing left me shaken and excited for what I had just read. This writer is clearly very talented and I will be looking out for more of his work to pick up in the future. A great addition to the genre that I would highly recommend to its fans.

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

About the Author

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B P Walter was born and raised in Essex, England. After spending his childhood and teenage years reading compulsively, he worked in bookshops then went to the University of Southampton to study Film and English followed by an MA in Film & Cultural Management. He is an alumni of the Faber Academy and works in social media coordination. His debut novel, A Version of the Truth, was published in 2019, followed by Hold Your Breath in 2020, and The Dinner Guest, which was chosen as a Waterstones Book of the Month, in April 2021.

Connect with Barnaby:

Twitter: @BarnabyWalter

Instagram: @bpwalterauthor

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Blog Tour: The Lynmouth Stories by Lucy V Hay #BookReview

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Beautiful places hide dark secrets … 

Devon’s very own crime writer L.V Hay (The Other Twin, Do No Harm) brings forth three new short stories from her dark mind and poison pen:

– For kidnapped Meg and her young son Danny, In Plain Sight, the remote headland above Lynmouth is not a haven, but hell.

– A summer of fun for Catherine in Killing Me Softly becomes a winter of discontent … and death.

– In Hell And High Water, a last minute holiday for Naomi and baby Tommy  becomes a survival situation … But that’s before the village floods.

All taking place out of season when the majority of tourists have gone home, L.V Hay uses her local knowledge to bring forth dark and claustrophic noir she has come to be known for.

Did You Know …?

Known as England’s ‘Little Switzerland’, the Devon village of Lynmouth is famous for its Victorian cliff railway, fish n’ chips and of course, RD Blackmore’s Lorna Doone.

Located on the doorstep of the dramatic Valley of The Rocks and the South West Cliff Path, the twin villages of Lynton and Lynmouth have inspired many writers, including 19th Century romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who honeymooned there in 1812.

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for The Lynmouth Stories, a short story collection by Lucy V Hay. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the author for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is a very brief book containing just three short stories but it packs a punch that greatly belies its length. Tightly woven with impressively realised characterisation in such a small word count, Lucy V Hay has produced here a masterclass in the art of the short story.

All three stories are set in the tiny, coastal village of Lynmouth, popular with tourists. However, we visit during the low season, when the village shuts down and empties out, giving it a deserted and melancholy air, which provides the perfect backdrop for this collection  of dark and brooding stories. Focusing on the kind of threats that lurk behind closed doors, they remind us that appearances can be deceptive and we never know what dangers are lurking unseen in the most ordinary of settings.

All three stories have female protagonists, who are all very different. Some strong and determined, some finding strength they never knew they had and some crumbling under pressure, the stories explore different reactions under stress and what women can do in protection of themselves and those they love. Probing the darkest aspects of the human psyche, the author manages to convey an awful lot about these women in a very compact word count so you can feel exactly what they are going through in that moment. I really enjoyed the fact that the focus here was entirely on the women and their experiences, with the men largely remaining nameless, shadowy figures whose feelings and motives exist only in relation to the women’s.

This book left me feeling very unsettled. The author has produced an oppressive atmosphere throughout the stories, asking the reader to put themselves in the far from comfortable shoes of the protagonists and walk a little way in them. The stories will shake you out of your complacency and ask you to think about what other women may be dealing with in places we don’t see, even in the cosy seaside towns that the rest of us visit on happy family holidays for reasons of pleasure. It’s easy to sail along, forgetting that our fellow women may be struggling and fighting against enemies we can’t envisage. Maybe we should be more alert for the signs that may be laying in plain sight. The stories are asking us to look and ask, to think about what we are actually seeing. 

A short, uncomfortable but enthralling read.

The Lynmouth Stories is out now as an ebook and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure to visit some of the other blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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Lucy V. Hay is a novelist, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. She is the associate producer of Brit Thrillers Deviation (2012) and Assassin(2015), both starring Danny Dyer. Lucy is also head reader for the London Screenwriters’ Festival and has written two non-fiction books, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays, plus its follow-up Drama Screenplays. Her critically acclaimed debut thriller The Other Twin was published in 2017.

Connect with Lucy:

Website: https://linktr.ee/lucyvhayauthor

Facebook: Lucy V Hay Author

Twitter: @LucyVHayAuthor

Instagram: Lucy V Hay Author

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Blog Tour: Don’t Turn Around by Jessica Barry #BookReview

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TWO STRANGERS. DANGEROUS SECRETS. THEIR ONLY CHANCE IS EACH OTHER.

Cait’s job is to transport women to safety. Out of respect, she never asks any questions. Like most of the women, Rebecca is trying to escape something.

But what if Rebecca’s secrets put them both in danger? There’s a reason Cait chooses to keep on the road, helping strangers. She has a past of her own, and knows what it’s like to be followed.

And there is someone right behind them, watching their every move…

On 6 April, I posted an extract from Don’t Turn Around by Jessica Barry and now I am delighted to be able to share my review of the book with you, as we celebrate the book’s paperback publication day. My thanks to Graeme Williams for inviting me to be part of the tour and to the publisher for providing me with a copy of the book for the purposes of review, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This book is a really interesting mix of genres and ideas that take it beyond mere thriller territory and into something more emotionally intense and thought-provoking. That being said, it works excellently as an edge-of-your-seat thriller too!

Cait turns up at Rebecca’s house at midnight to transport her 300-plus miles across Texas and into New Mexico. The two women have never met before. Why Rebecca needs escorting across state lines in the dead of night by a complete stranger is something than unfolds across the course of the book, as do the secrets that Cait herself is hiding, as we flip between the present and the two women’s pasts to learn how they came to be where they currently find themselves.

As they embark on their drive and begin to learn things about what another, it soon becomes clear that they are not alone on the empty, night-shrouded desert roads, and the person keeping them company has intentions that are far from benign. But which of the two women is their target and why? What do they intend to do? Finding these things out are what gives this book its nail-biting edge and will have you racing through the pages to solve the mystery and find out what happens. I have to say, the pursuit of the two women across the desert in the dead of night was extremely frightening and creepy. A terrifying mashup of the movies Thelma and Louise and Duel, if you remember either of those.

Aside from the psychological thriller aspect of the pursuit storyline, the books also explores some much deeper issues that are very topical. It looks at the #MeToo era, inceldom, pro-life activism and women’s rights amongst other things. One thing I really loved about the book was the solidarity and support that develops between women – even those that don’t know each other – when faced with adversity and attacks on their autonomy coming from the patriarchy. There are not many thriller novels that delve so deeply into the idea of women’s rights as this one does, and I think the author has been very brave to do it because the book touches on some areas of controversy, but I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that she didn’t shy away from exploring difficult topics and felt that it elevated the book out of the ordinary.

A great book for anyone who enjoys a scary, psychological thriller with a fierce bite, I highly recommend it.

Don’t Turn Around is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

The other bloggers taking part in the tour will also be sharing their reviews today, so make sure you visit their blogs too:

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About the Author

Jessica Barry is a pseudonym for an American author who grew up in a small town in Massachusetts and was raised on a steady diet of library books and PBS.

She attended Boston University, where she majored in English and Art History, before moving to London in 2004 to pursue an MA from University College London.

She lives with her husband, Simon, and their two cats, Roger Livesey and BoJack Horseman.

Connect with Jessica:

Facebook: Jessica Barry

Twitter: @jessbarryauthor

Instagram: @jessicabarry9

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Blog Tour: The Drowned City by K. J. Maitland #BookReview

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I am absolutely thrilled to be taking part today in the blog tour for a book I have been looking forward to reading so much, The Drowned City by K. J. Maitland. My thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Gunpowder and treason changed England forever. But the tides are turning and revenge runs deep…

1606. A year to the day that men were executed for conspiring to blow up Parliament, a towering wave devastates the Bristol Channel. Some proclaim God’s vengeance. Others seek to take advantage.

In London, Daniel Pursglove lies in prison waiting to die. But Charles FitzAlan, close adviser to King James I, has a job in mind that will free a man of Daniel’s skill from the horrors of Newgate. If he succeeds.

For Bristol is a hotbed of Catholic spies, and where better for the lone conspirator who evaded arrest, one Spero Pettingar, to gather allies than in the chaos of a drowned city? Daniel journeys there to investigate FitzAlan’s lead, but soon finds himself at the heart of a dark Jesuit conspiracy – and in pursuit of a killer.

I’ve just spent 24 hours of my life immersed in life in the flood-ravaged Bristol of 1606, caught up in the intrigues of the post-Gunpowder Plot Jacobean court and cutting through a web of spies, lies, superstition and religious rivalry to try and solve a murder mystery and I didn’t really want to come back to reality.

The Drowned City is a fantastic mix of historical novel and murder mystery set against the backdrop of a startling but little known event of Jacobean times – the flooding of Bristol by a freak tsunami or storm surge – that was believed by many to be a sign from God at a time when there was still friction between the Catholic church and the Protestant faith in the fairly-new reign of James I. This is not a period of history that I am very familiar with, being more of a Wars of the Roses obsessive, but I was completely gripped by this fascinating blend of fact and fiction to the extent that I had to keep breaking off to find out which bits of the book were based on actual events and characters and which bits the author had invented; the story-telling is completely seamless.

This is the story of Daniel Pursglove, a proponent of sleight of hand tricks, who has found himself in Newgate Prison awaiting trial on suspicion of witchcraft during the reign of a paranoid and superstitious monarch. He is given the chance of earning a pardon by a man claiming to be a close advisor of the King; all he has to do is go to a flood-blighted Bristol to investigate rumours that a priest who had a hand in the Gunpowder Plot is in hiding there, planning sedition. Faced with the prospect of losing his hands, if not his life, Daniel agrees and sets off, but finds himself investigating a string of murders in a city that is beset by suspicion against outsiders and religious superstition, making it a dangerous place for him and his mission.

To say that the author brings the setting of the book to life would be a massive understatement. I can’t remember the last time that I read a book which presents such a vivid portrayal of a different time and a different life. I felt like Harry Potter when his nose touches the surface of the Pensieve and he is pulled in to Dumbledore’s memory. I literally *fell* right in to the heart of Bristol, surrounded by the clamour and the squalor of the blighted metropolis. The author’s writing is vivid and textured and absolutely perfect. The descriptions she uses to evoke the pictures just filled my heart with delight (‘shave the beard from a herring’ was a particular favourite), I could mentally roll around in her language and revel in the feel of it for hours. To take such delight in not just a story but the very way in which it is told is a rare and particular joy to me.

The murder mystery itself is fiendish and full of suspense and tension; enough by itself to carry the story if the book offered nothing else to the reader and it will appeal to lovers of that genre as well as fans of the historical novel. But the setting of the mystery against the historical backdrop adds another layer of interest to anyone who enjoys that genre, and if you are a fan of both as I am, you will be in hogs’ heaven with this novel. It gave me the same joy as I felt when I first discovered the Cadfael novels by Ellis Peters which has a similar style of murder mystery peppered with actual historical fact.

On every level, The Drowned City worked perfectly for me. The writing, the story, the characterisation were all faultless, and I enjoyed this book as much as any I have read in a long time. This is one of the best books I have read so far this year, and I confident it will feature in my top ten books of 2021. Definitely one for the ‘forever’ shelf and I have bought myself a copy in hardback (which has the most beautiful cover too!). I can’t wait for the next in the series, and have no hesitation in recommending this book to anyone and everyone. Reading bliss, I want to do it all over again.

The Drowned City is out now in hardback, ebook and audiobook formats and will be published in paperback in November. You can buy a copy here.

Make sure you go back and visit some of the other blogs taking part in the tour for alternative reviews and other content:

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About the Author

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Karen Maitland is an historical novelist, lecturer and teacher of Creative Writing, with over twenty books to her name. She grew up in Malta, which inspired her passion for history, and travelled and worked all over the world before settling in the United Kingdom. She has a doctorate in psycholinguistics, and now lives on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon.

Connect with Karen:

Website: https://karenmaitland.com/

Facebook: Karen Maitland

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Blog Tour: Don’t Turn Around by Jessica Barry #Extract

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I am absolutely thrilled to be kicking off the Don’t Turn Around blog road trip for Jessica Barry’s new book, which will be published on 15 April. Over the next ten days, bloggers will be hosting extracts from the book, as well as other author features, leading up to publication of the book. I am delighted to be able to share Chapter 1 of the book with you today. Thanks to Graeme Williams for inviting me to be part of the tour and to the publisher for allowing me to share the extract with you today.

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Two strangers, Cait and Rebecca, are driving across America.

Cait’s job is to transport women to safety. Out of respect, she never asks any questions. Like most of the women, Rebecca is trying to escape something.

But what if Rebecca’s secrets put them both in danger? There’s a reason Cait chooses to keep on the road, helping strangers. She has a past of her own, and knows what it’s like to be followed.

And there is someone right behind them, watching their every move…

*********************

Now for the extract from Chapter 1 of Don’t Turn Around:

 

PROLOGUE

The smell hits her first: burnt rubber and gasoline. Then the pain

comes. The roar of blood in her ears, the gurgled strangle of her breath.

She squints out of the splintered windshield. For a split second, she

can’t remember where she is. When she does, fear rushes over her, a

black, suffocating wave.

And then she hears it: a long, shivering scrape of metal against

metal.

She sees a face at the window.

It’s him.

He’s outside, and he’s trying to get in.

 

LUBBOCK, TEXAS—

322 MILES TO ALBUQUERQUE

Cait kept the engine running.

She’d had the Jeep since college, bought it used the summer before her freshman year with the proceeds of hundreds of hours working retail at Richland Mall, and sometimes it acted up. Normally, she didn’t mind. She relished popping the hood and peering underneath, knowing more times than not that she would be able to fix the problem. Her father had her out in the garage from the time she was six. But at this particular moment, there was no way in hell she would risk the engine stalling.

Outside, there was a glitter of frost on the lawn. The house wasn’t what she was used to, though by now she knew that she should expect anything. Usually, the places were cramped and run- down, cinder block apartment buildings or chipped- stucco bungalows, in neighborhoods where she wouldn’t want to linger after dark.

There was one place about a month ago, on the outskirts of Abilene, that was tucked behind the railroad tracks on Route 20. She drove straight past it the first time, despite the number 22 painted clearly on the side of the mailbox. No way someone lived there, she figured— it wasn’t much more than a shack, and it looked abandoned, the windows boarded up, a rusted- out pickup truck squatting outside, tires long gone. She followed the road another quarter mile, watching for the house, but there was nothing but empty farmland. She double- checked the address: it was right, though she’d known that already. They didn’t make mistakes

about things like that back at the office. So she turned around and parked outside the shack, and sure enough, a girl who didn’t look a day over eighteen ran out from behind the house and climbed silently into the Jeep. Cait could still picture the girl’s nervous smile, the long shining braid that fell down her back, the halfmoons of dirt nestled beneath her fingernails.

But this place was different: a McMansion in a modern development, complete with a two- car garage and a light- up reindeer on the lawn. One of the tasteful ones made of wire and tiny white lights, not the inflatable kind her parents used to stick on top of their house back in Waco, two sagging reindeer pulling a bloated Santa across the roof. The house itself was built of red brick and topped with a series of peaked roofs, and there was a small paved path curving up to the imposing front door. Property was cheaper here than in Austin— most places were cheap compared to Austin— but this was definitely the house of someone who wasn’t shy with a few bucks.

It threw her off a little, this house.

Cait scanned the street for any sign of movement. The windows on the houses were squeezed shut, and the only light came from the pretty streetlamps that lined the sidewalk. A child’s red tricycle lay in a driveway, forgotten until tomorrow. She pictured a plump- cheeked toddler riding up and down the sidewalk, legs pumping, little fingers clutching the handlebars, wind rushing past as she sped up, shrieking with joy or terror, or maybe both.

The road had emptied out pretty quickly once she was out of Austin’s sprawl, and soon it was just her and a few fellow travellers driving along the long, flat, endless road. The view didn’t change much, just empty plains stretching out as far as she could see, briefly interrupted by the green of watered lawns and neatly plotted houses that signaled a town.

Eight hours later, and here she was, waiting. She shifted in her seat, scratched an itch, stifled a yawn. She’d need to get coffee once they were on the road. She didn’t want to stop until they were clear of the city.

She checked the clock on the dashboard: 12:10. Pickup had been at midnight, but she’d gotten there a few minutes early, just in case. She’d been waiting for a while now. It happened sometimes. People got nervous, had second thoughts. If they changed their minds, they were meant to give her a signal: flick the lights three times quick, and she’d know they weren’t coming. Two flicks meant there was trouble and she should call the police.

So far that night, there’d been nothing.

She wasn’t worried, at least not yet. She scanned the road again. All quiet in Pleasantville. Every car tucked up in its garage, every person tucked up in bed.

Out of the corner of her eye, she caught something. One hand gripped the wheel, the other the gearshift. This could be it. Her heart pounded in her chest.

She watched a possum slinking under a thick hedge and shuddered. She’d grown up with possums, but that didn’t mean she didn’t hate them. They were cute enough as babies, but when they were full- grown, they were mean little suckers. Still, a possum wasn’t going to give her any trouble.

Eyes back on the house. Still dark, still nothing. The clock read 12:15. She’d give it another five. They weren’t meant to linger. Lingering attracted attention. If one of the neighbors happened to get up to use the bathroom and see a beat- up old Jeep parked out front, they’d call the cops quicker than a lightning bug in July. And nobody wanted the cops involved in something like this. You never knew which way they’d swing.

One of the curtains in the house twitched, and a moment later, a light came on downstairs. This was it: now or never. She straightened up in her seat and wiped the mascara smudges from under her eyes.

Get ready. As soon as she gets in the car, you’ve got to go.

A few seconds later, a blond woman wearing a pressed white shirt and khakis emerged. She had a bag slung over her shoulder that looked expensive. Actually, her whole person looked expensive— slick and golden and whistle- clean. Cait watched the woman lock the door behind her, hesitate, check again that it was locked.

Sweat pricked at the small of Cait’s back. Comeoncomeoncomeon.

The woman stole glances at the neighboring houses and hurried down the path.

Cait reached over and swung the passenger door open from the inside. The woman’s face appeared.

“Hi, Rebecca?” Cait made sure to smile when she said the woman’s name. It was important to put them at ease as quickly as possible. The woman nodded and climbed in. Her smell filled the Jeep, cotton and vanilla and sandalwood. “I’m Caitlyn,” she said, though the woman would have known that already. “But you can call me Cait.” The woman nodded again and pulled her bag tight to her lap. “The seat belt comes from the back,” Cait said, and the woman frowned before reaching behind and snapping the belt into the clasp. She stared straight ahead, through the windshield, at the deserted suburban street.

Cait shifted into drive and pulled away from the curb. “Do you have a phone?”

The woman blinked.

“A cell phone,” Cait prompted. Sometimes they got nervous and froze. She had learned to coax them. “If you do, you need to turn it off.”

The woman’s eyes widened. “Why?”

“GPS.”

The woman’s frown deepened. “Is that really— ”

“Yeah, it is. Sorry, I know it seems a little extreme, but— ” She left the rest of the sentence hanging in the air. Both of them knew that these were extreme circumstances.

The woman fumbled around in her bag and pulled out her phone. Cait kept one eye on the road and watched until she’d switched it off.

“How long will the drive take?”

“About six hours. Maybe a little less. There’s bottled water in the back if you want it. Help yourself.”

Rebecca hugged her bag tighter to her chest. “I’m fine, thank you.”

In the rearview mirror, Cait saw a light snap on in a neighboring house and a face appear at the window.

Take it easy. Just drive normally; don’t read anything into it.

“Are you close with your neighbors?” She kept her voice casual.

Rebecca looked at her, surprised. “Not really.”

Cait’s eyes were locked on the rearview. The curtain fell back across the window, the light flicked off. She let out a sigh. “It looks like the kind of place where you’d all be friendly. Block parties, that kind of thing. Is there a neighborhood watch?”

Rebecca shook her head. “I don’t think so.”

“Good.” She’d run into trouble with neighborhood watches in the past. Give a guy a fake badge and a pinch of authority and things could go sideways fast. The rest of the houses stayed dark. No cars on the road, either. They were almost out of the development. It would be easier once they got on the major roads. “Do you mind if I put the radio on? It helps keep me awake.”

The woman shook her head. Cait reached over and clicked on the dial. The drone of a talk radio host filled the Jeep— the great scourge of Texas. She flicked through the stations until she landed on the local Magic station. The crooning voice of Billy Joel came through the speakers, singing about drinking alone. She left it on. She figured she couldn’t go wrong with Billy Joel.

The house was on the southeast side of Lubbock, so they had to pass straight through downtown to get to Highway 60. She turned onto Broadway and drove past a banner hanging in the window of a local law firm: WELCOME TO BEAUTIFUL DOWNTOWN! NO WIN, NO FEE! There were stoplights every other block, and all of them seemed to turn red as soon as they got close, plotting together to keep them within the city limits.

“C’mon, c’mon,” Cait muttered, hand tapping the wheel. She didn’t like how quiet it was. That was the hardest part about these night drives: the quiet. It was easier to blend in if there were other signs of life.

A man dressed in a Santa hat walked past holding a filthy cloth in one hand and a sign in the other: HUNGRY, PLEASE HELP. He knocked on the window as they waited for the light to change. Cait tried to wave him away, but he mimed the action of cleaning and started wiping the cloth across the windshield, leaving streaks of grease on the glass. She glanced over at Rebecca, who was cowering in the passenger seat, knuckles white on the straps of her bag.

Cait rolled down the window and shoved a couple of dollar bills at him. “Thanks for the sterling work.” He took them with a tip of an imaginary hat and shuffled off just as the light switched to green. “You okay?” she asked Rebecca.

Rebecca nodded, but her jaw was set tight and she was staring straight ahead, her eyes glassy and unseeing. She hadn’t so much as blinked since leaving the house. “Almost out of Lubbock now,” Cait said.

The wide double lanes were lined with the cash- and- carries and the megachurches and the little Mexican restaurants advertising Taco Tuesday, just like every other town in Texas. Occasionally, a neon- lit billboard would flood a sickly light down on them, conjuring up strange, flickering shadows. The Christmas lights were out— multicolored stars and pale blue snowflakes, an angel strung high above the avenue, her wings sparkling gold— and the signs in the shopwindows advertised half- price champagne and cheap diamond bracelets.

Cait hated Christmas. It was amateur hour for drinking, full of awkward office parties and old guys looking to cop a feel after one too many whiskeys. Her old manager had insisted on hanging a sprig of mistletoe at the edge of the bar, and every time she’d go to open the champagne fridge, there’d be some guy lurking, hoping to try his luck. There was a new manager now, a woman, so maybe it would be different, though given that the staff uniform involved mandatory crop tops and Stetsons, she wasn’t holding her breath. At least the tips would be decent.

She stretched, winced. Her back was killing her already. She’d been driving for hours, pushing through rush hour traffic out of Austin and on to 183. She’d lived in the city for eight years and every year it seemed to get worse, the roads thick with pickup trucks and beaters and shiny new sports cars, clogging up the city’s arteries, strangling its heart.

Friends talked about leaving the city. They said they couldn’t take the traffic anymore, or the ever rising rents for ever shittier apartments, or the Tesla charging stations that had sprung up like dandelions and were perpetually full. It was all talk, though. No one ever left. Where would they go? Someplace like this?

They passed Church’s Chicken and the Eleganté Hotel. The city was starting to lose its grip a little, pockets of land stretching wider between buildings and the buildings themselves growing longer and wider. Cait saw Rebecca’s shoulders inch away from her ears and the grip on her handbag start to loosen.

Finally, they saw the sign for the Lubbock city limit. “We’re out,” Cait said. “The hardest part is over now.” Rebecca cracked a smile.

They drove through Littlefield, past a John Deere dealership and a sign advertising vacancy at the Plains Motel. She’d done this stretch a couple times before— once with a sweet- faced college kid who spent the whole time cramming for her biology exam, and another with a woman from Odessa who wept for most of the journey.

That had been a tough one. But there had been worse.

Some of her clients— those who had jobs flexible enough to allow them a few days off, or partners who weren’t breathing down their necks— stayed within state lines, and she ferried them to Austin or Dallas or Fort Worth. Most went to New Mexico, where the rules weren’t so strict. It was a longer drive but quicker in the long run. Lubbock was in a dead zone: a five- hour drive no matter what direction she drove. It was the client’s choice. Tonight she was heading west.

She glanced in the rearview. There was a tractor trailer behind them. She stepped on the gas, and its headlights receded. No tail that she could detect. She allowed herself to relax a little. It was always most dangerous nearest the home. The more miles they had under their belts, the safer they would be. Until they got to where they were going, of course, but that was a headache she wouldn’t worry about until morning.

Cait had left in a hurry— late, as always— and hadn’t managed to get dinner. Hunger was mixed in with exhaustion, gritting her eyes and making her bones heavy. A cup of coffee and maybe a slice of pie would be enough to keep her going. “Do you mind if we stop once we’re over the border?”

Rebecca’s head snapped toward her. “Why?”

“I need a cup of coffee. I’ve been on the road since six o’clock.”

The corners of her pretty mouth turned down. “I guess. If you need to.”

“Thanks. It’ll be quick, I promise. I know you’re nervous, but we’re out of the danger zone now.”

“How do you know?”

“Ninety percent of all incidents occur within the first ten minutes of the journey. Most of the trouble I’ve seen has happened right outside the front door. Now that we’re out of Lubbock, it should be smooth sailing.”

Rebecca nodded but didn’t look convinced. She had the kind of profile that belonged on a Roman coin, all straight nose and firm jaw. Patrician. Cait smiled at her own description: it was good, she should write it down. Maybe she could use it.

In the meantime, she needed to work out that piece she’d been writing about labor conditions at the organic farm outside of Austin. The editor had been requesting the copy for weeks, but she hadn’t been able to land it. Not that he had much of a right to complain considering how much he was paying her, which was nothing. Still, she couldn’t risk pissing him off. It was rare that someone gave her a chance, especially these days.

A sign announced that they were leaving Littlefield. They were edging toward the desert now. Pretty soon there’d be nothing but scrub and sky. Her stomach rumbled. She couldn’t get to Clovis fast enough. It would be her last chance to get a decent cup of coffee that night.

She glanced over at the woman sitting next to her. “You comfortable? You want me to put the heat on or anything?”

Rebecca shook her head. “I’m fine, thanks.”

“Just let me know. It’s supposed to get down to the twenties tonight. They’re saying it might even snow.” She reached out and patted the dashboard. “Don’t worry, she’s good in the snow.”

Rebecca gave her a weak smile. “That’s good to know,” she said, before turning her face back toward the window.

So she wasn’t a talker. That was fine. There was plenty of time for that.

*******************

If this has whetted your appetite for the book, you can pre-order a copy here. 

Make sure you now head over to Susan Hampson’s blog, Books From Dusk Till Dawn for Chapter 2! The rest of the chapters and other content will be shared over the course of the week as detailed on the tour poster at the top of the post.

About the Author

Jessica Barry is a pseudonym for an American author who grew up in a small town in Massachusetts and was raised on a steady diet of library books and PBS.

She attended Boston University, where she majored in English and Art History, before moving to London in 2004 to pursue an MA from University College London.

She lives with her husband, Simon, and their two cats, Roger Livesey and BoJack Horseman.

Connect with Jessica:

Facebook: Jessica Barry

Twitter: @jessbarryauthor

Instagram: @jessicabarry9

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Blog Tour: A Beautiful Breed of Evil by Andy Maslen #BookReview

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I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for A Beautiful Breed of Evil by Andy Maslen. my thanks to Emma Welton of 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.

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He’ll never speak of the evil they did…

A former Swedish ambassador lies dead in his swanky Mayfair flat. With his tongue torn out and placed on a Bible. Competing theories swirl. A religious maniac? A psychopath? The truth is far darker than either. DCI Stella Cole’s search for the killer takes her to Sweden. There, she discovers a horrific chapter in the country’s history that throws the case into turmoil. And then more people start dying.


Teaming up with Swedish cops Oskar Norgrim and Johanna Carlsson, Stella pieces together Ambassador Brömly’s shocking past. And discovers the killer’s motive.

Meanwhile, Stella’s personal life is about to take a significant turn as her boyfriend, Jamie, suggests a change in their relationship. But as Stella tries to process what it means, she makes a fateful decision.

Why won’t the dead stay buried?

On the other side of the Atlantic, a kid practising BMX stunts over water finds a skeleton on a lake bed. When the victim is revealed to be a British cop, the FBI ask for assistance. Stella’s arch-enemy from her own department gets the case. She flies to Chicago and soon discovers the murderer’s identity.

The scene is set for a showdown in Sweden as DI Roisin Griffin pursues her vendetta against Stella all the way to the north of Sweden during the annual festival of Midsommar.

Although this is the fifth book in the series by Andy Maslen featuring DCI Stella Cole, it is the first one that I have read and it is obvious from reading this book that Stella has had quite an eventful career already and there have been some explosive goings on in her past that I really need to go back and read about. However, the fact that I haven’t read the previous books did not detract from my enjoyment of this book at all, it just made me want to go back and catch up! The author fills you in on everything you need to know to keep up with the plot here but, events from previous books feed quite heavily into parts of the story here so, if you are going to dive into the series, it would probably make sense to start from the beginning with Hit and Runwhich I have just downloaded to my Kindle.

The book opens with a very dramatic murder scene, so you know from the beginning that this is not a series for the shy and retiring. A Swedish ex-diplomat has been murdered in a very brutal way, and it is clear from the beginning that this is a complicated case which involves investigation across international borders. I loved this aspect of the case, as we follow Stella on her trip to Sweden to track down the killer in the victim’s homeland. It leant a different slant to the standard crime novel to see how international police forces work together across borders to solve a case, and to see how policing differs across countries.

The motives behind the case gradually become clear and are very shocking, and they touch on a topic which is very relevant to modern discourse in some circles but horrifying to most of us. The case is based on real events that happened in Sweden, but which I had no idea about until I did some investigation after reading this book. I absolutely love it when books teach me something I didn’t know before, just in the course of reading a piece of fiction, and the author gets this story across extremely effectively in this novel, really making you think about the issue and how it is relevant today. Reading around the subject taught me lots of things about a practice I had no idea was so terrifyingly widespread and ideas that we need to make very sure never gain traction again.

At the same time as she is in Sweden investigating the murder, Stella’s colourful past threatens to catch up with her as an arch rival doggedly pursues a line of enquiry which she hopes will bring Stella down. This also involves travelling to another jurisdiction and co-operating with a police force in another country, so the book is filled with action and interest. There was a huge amount of tension and urgency and threat in this book which made it one of those novels that is absolutely impossible to put down. There is no real let up in the impetus, so the reader is compelled to keep turning the pages from beginning to end, until you are at the final page before you know it. The sign of a really great, gripping thriller.

Stella Cole is not your ordinary DCI in the Met police. She is, to paraphrase Liam Neeson, in possession of certain skills that make her a formidable opponent. She has a healthy regard for the law, but also for stretching it to its limits when called for, in the mould of all great maverick cops in literary history, and a joyous disregard for her own safety that means the reader never quite knows what she is going to do next. It keeps her superiors, her adversaries and the reader on their toes throughout, and makes her a delight as a protagonist. I definitely want to read more about her and what drives her, and am very glad that I have four previous novels in the series to go back and enjoy.

For me, this series is a great discovery and I am grateful that blogging has allowed me to come across this author and this series. I would highly recommend this book to lovers of detective thrillers who like a feisty protagonist and an author who isn’t afraid to push the envelope and deal with some hard issues. But I’d say start at the beginning, which is where I am will be going back to as soon as I can.

A Beautiful Breed of Evil is out now as an ebook and in paperback and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you visit some of the other marvellous blogs taking part in the tour for this book:

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About the Author

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Andy Maslen was born in Nottingham, in the UK, home of legendary bowman Robin Hood. Andy once won a medal for archery, although he has never been locked up by the sheriff.

He has worked in a record shop, as a barman, as a door-to-door DIY products salesman and a cook in an Italian restaurant.

He lives in Wiltshire with his wife, two sons and a whippet named Merlin.

Connect with Andy:

Website: www.andymaslen.com

Facebook: Andy Maslen

Twitter: @Andy_Maslen

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Book Review: Under The Bridge: Book 1 -Liverpool Mystery Series by Jack Byrne #BookReview

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2004

The discovery of a body in the Liverpool docklands unearths long forgotten secrets. Reporter Anne McCarthy is keen to prove herself and dives into the case with abandon. There she finds Michael, an old Irish caretaker who knows far more than he’s letting on and may have
a connection to the body.

Vinny Connolly is starting a postgrad degree, researching Liverpool’s migrant history and a burgeoning Scouse identity. But Vinny has been neglecting his own family history and stranger Michael might know about
his father’s disappearance in the 70s.

1955

Escaping poverty in Ireland and fresh off the boat, Michael falls in with Wicklow boys Jack Power and Paddy Connolly, who smuggle contraband through the docks, putting them at odds with the unions. While organisers rally the dockworkers against the strikebreakers and rackets. A story of corruption, secret police, and sectarianism slowly unravels.
But will the truth out?

As the conflict heightens, Michael questions the life sprawling out ahead of him, while in the present, Anne races to solve the mystery, but is she prepared for what she’ll find?

I was asked if I would review this book by the publisher and was provided with a digital copy of the book for this purpose. My thanks to the publisher, I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

This book is a interesting mix of social history and murder mystery that provided a fascinating insight into cultural and social tensions in the Garston and Speke areas of Liverpool in the 1970s. It is really obvious from the writing that the author is passionate about presenting an authentic portrayal of the period and the area, and has done a lot of research into the time period; this shines through in the writing.

The book is a dual timeline story. The first timeline involves reporter, Anne, who is chasing down a story on the identity of a skeleton uncovered on a building site in the docks area of Liverpool in 2004. Her investigation takes her into the world of union activity around the docklands in the 1970s and criminal gangs that were active at the time. Her ferreting around in this history leaves her up against some people who would rather the past stay buried. At the same time, her friend, Vinny, who is working on a social history of Irish immigration into Liverpool post-war, fears the skeleton may uncover secrets that are too close to his own family history.

The second timeline takes us back to the 1970s and the life of Michael, an Irish immigrant who is drawn into the criminal world when he first arrives in Liverpool, until a dramatic event at the time leads him to reconsider the path he is on. When Anne meets Michael in the present, he becomes the key to unlocking the skeleton’s identity.

The dual timeline works really well, and I found the accurately researched and portrayed history of this time and this area of Liverpool really interesting. For anyone interested in social history, and who enjoys books with real historical fact woven into a fictional narrative, this book will be really appealing. It made me go off and do some further reading about one particular event that is referred to in the book, which is always a sure sign that a book has grabbed my attention. The mystery aspect of the book is also really well done and kept me turning the pages from beginning to end.

The one thing that let this book down a little was the characterisation, particularly of Anne and Vinny in the modern day. They just didn’t feel completely developed, to the point that I didn’t really become invested in what was happening to them or in their relationship. This was not true of the characters back in the 1970s, they were much more alive and vibrant on the page, and may these sections of the book more appealing. It really felt like the author was much more enthralled by the historical aspects of the story than the modern day, which gave the book a little bit of an uneven feel. Richer, more honest development of the younger characters was needed for this book to be a standout.

Overall, this was a really engaging mystery novel, with a strong sense of time and place that would make an excellent read for anyone who is interested in social history and likes this kind of fact-based fictional telling of it.

Under The Bridge is out now in ebook and paperback formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Jack was born and raised in Speke Liverpool, (Paul McCartney lived in the street behind him for a while) although his parents first lived ‘Under The Bridge’ in Garston, and all his family goes back to Wicklow in Ireland.

The Liverpool Mystery Series will be four novels. Under The Bridge is the first. He is writing Fire Next Time now, and The Wicklow Boys will follow next year. You can find The One Road prequel a collection of short stories on Amazon.

Connect with Jack:

Website: https://jackbyrne.home.blog/

Facebook: Jack Byrne

Twitter: @Jackbyrnewriter

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Book Review: Almost Damned by Christopher Leibig #BookReview

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Defense attorney Samson Young has an uncanny ability to get even the so-called worst clients off the hook, as he ably demonstrated in Almost Mortal. In Almost Damned, little does Sam know that his most challenging cases are all leading up to one monumental trial, in which he will lay before the Court the visceral complexities of good vs. evil.

As Sam navigates his cases in Bennet County, it becomes increasingly apparent that his clients-old and new-are surprisingly interconnected, especially when old clients rise from the dead. Literally. He and his office are besieged by death threats and mysterious invitations, each one a clue that compels him to dig deeper into his own past. With each new discovery, Sam leads himself and his team deeper into a nether world in an attempt to bring redemption to his toughest clients of all-the descendants of the biblical Fallen Angels who have been walking the earth as humans for centuries, unable to find peace.

Almost Damned is the second book by Christopher Leibig featuring defense attorney Samson Young, following on from Almost Mortal. I am grateful to publicist Sabrina Dax for inviting me to review the book and to the author and publisher for providing me with copies of both books for this purpose. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

Regular readers of the blog will know that legal thrillers are one of my favourite genres and I consider myself to be a bit of a connoisseur, having read pretty much every author of note over the years. However, I have never read one like this before. Christopher Leibig has combined the legal thriller genre with a paranormal twist to come up with something quite unique and intriguing.

Although Almost Damned can be read as a standalone, I would recommend reading Almost Mortal first, as it sets up events for the second book and will give you a great understanding of Samson and his past and why he finds himself in the position as lawyer for the Fallen Angels. It will also ease you in to Christopher’s style of writing, which is elaborate, complex and detailed and requires a certain level of concentration.

When you pick up the books, they seem quite thin, but they pack a huge punch. The world the author has built is rich and elaborate, mixing historical flashbacks and esoteric ideas with the very modern and immediate world of law. It is a juxtaposition that could be an uncomfortable jumble, but the author sorts through it with confidence and panache. However, it does require attention from the reader to keep up, this is not a quick easy read.

I thought the author’s portrayal of the legal world was very accurate, showing the hurly burly and every day jumble that legal defence practice is. Some books have lawyers focusing on one case at a time, with leisure to pursue every lead to their hearts content. This isn’t the reality. In reality, lawyers juggle dozens of cases all at once, jumping from one to the next in the blink of an eye and having to have recall of all the facts at their fingertips. This really comes across in the writing here, and I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the book.

When it comes to the other aspect of the novel, the trial of the Fallen Angels in front of a jury of Archangels, here we are reaching the heights of philosophy and religious dogma, and it isn’t going to be for everyone. Some of the ideas explored here are an intellectual reach, and had me pondering what he was saying for a long while after I had finished the book. It is a bold and brave idea to explore, and he carries it off very well, but I did wonder how he came up with it. It would not be a genre blend I would ever have contemplated attempting but it does make for a very fascinating and individual read.

I don’t think these books will be for everyone, they are a densely-packed mix of ambitious and elaborate ideas with frenetic activity, lavish language and numerous characters, all with more than one name. They require attention while reading, not an idle way to pass a lazy afternoon, but reward the reader with a new and beguiling world to explore. I would recommend them to someone who is always on the hunt for that outlier novel that pushes the boundaries of what has been done before.

Almost Damned will be released in ebook and paperback formats on 1 April and you can pre-order it here. The first book in the series, Almost Mortal, is out now and you can get it here.

About the Author

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Christopher Leibig is a novelist and criminal defense lawyer who lives and works in Alexandria, Virginia. His first two published books, Saving Saddam(a 2008 novel about the trial of Saddam Hussein) and Montanamo (a 2010 novel about Guantanamo Bay detainees being housed in a small Montana town’s prison) were published by Artnik Books in London. Saving Saddam was re-released in 2014 under its original American title, The Black RabbitChris also has several published short stories – Secret Admirer (The Cynic on-line magazine 2004) Coldcocked (Skyline magazine 2004), Fly (The Cynic on-line magazine 2009), Intervention (Traveller’s Playground Press 2014), and Paradise City (Traveller’s Playground Press 2014). The Black Rabbit, MontanamoIntervention, and Paradise City are also available on audiobook by Audible.

Chris’s law firm, the Law Office of Christopher Leibig, represents individuals charged with or being investigated for serious criminal offenses throughout Virginia and in Washington. DC. His firm has received numerous awards and recognitions, including inclusion in Washingtonian Magazine’s Top Lawyers in Criminal Defense every year since 2011. Chris has also published numerous articles on criminal defense and related politics – including in the Huffington Post and The Examiner – and appeared as a legal expert regularly since 2009 in print and television media – including Fox News, CNN, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Sports Illustrated. In recent years Chris has regularly handled high profile criminal cases in the DC area and travelled abroad to speak to law schools. Since 2012, Chris and his colleagues have lectured on criminal defense throughout Virginia, and in Scotland, Ireland, Trinidad, The Bahamas, Jamaica, and Denmark.

Connect with Christopher:

Website: https://chrisleibig.com/

Facebook: Chris Leibig

Twitter: @chrisleibig

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