Tempted by… Between The Pages Book Club: Are You Watching? by Vincent Ralph

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Ten years ago, Jess’s mother was murdered by the Magpie Man.

She was the first of his victims, but not the last.

Now Jess is the star of a YouTube reality series and she’s using it to catch the killer once and for all.

The whole world is watching her every move.

And so is the Magpie Man.

Today’s Tempted By… is a book I picked up after reading a review by Gemma on her blog, Between The Pages Book ClubI don’t read huge amounts of Young Adult literature (probably because I’m a middle-aged adult!), but Are You Watching? by Vincent Ralph sounded like a book that would appeal to all ages.

This book was recommended to Gemma by a fellow blogger and, as good books always are, Gemma’s subsequent recommendation appealed to me for a number of reasons. Gemma’s review makes it sound like the kind of book you can’t put down, and I really like the premise of a girl using a reality TV show to hunt down the killer of her mother. It sounds very different to anything I have come across before, and I am intrigued to see how the plot plays out. I think the blurb is really clever at being enticing without giving too much away!

I like the thought of the plot being terrifying, who doesn’t enjoy a good scare from time to time, and Gemma says that she didn’t guess who had done it, so the mystery sounds complex too. When an admired blogger gives a read five stars, calls it one of her books of the year and tells you she read it all in a day, it is definitely something I want to pick up!

Make sure you pop over and check out Gemma’s review of the book and her blog in general. I really love the quote she has at the top of her homepage, it is a sentiment I could not agree with more!

Are You Watching? is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Blog Tour: Final Verdict by Sally Rigby #BookReview

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The judge has spoken……everyone must die.

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

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

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

Delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Final Verdict by Sally Rigby, the sixth book in the Cavendish and Walker series. My thanks to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connect with Sally:

Website: https://sallyrigby.com

Facebook: Sally Rigby

Twitter: @SallyRigby4

Instagram: @sally.rigby.author

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Book Review: Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens #BookReview

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For years, rumors of the ‘Marsh Girl’ have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl.

But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved.

When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life – until the unthinkable happens.

Unless you have been living under a literary rock for the past few months, I’m sure you have heard of this book. You’ve probably already read it, as I seem to be a little late to the party but, if not, I suggest you pick up a copy as soon as possible because this is one of the best things I have read for a long while and will definitely be one of my top books of 2020.

This is the story of Kya, a young girl abandoned at a young age in the marshes of North Carolina who learns how to survive on her own by studying the wildlife that surrounds her on all sides. Her life is touched by a few souls from the nearby town, but largely she is an outcast, misunderstood and feared by local residents so, when a local man is murdered in the marsh, she is the prime suspect.

This book is a masterpiece in so many ways. It begins as a mystery story with the body of the man discovered in the marsh, so we are immediately engrossed in trying to discover, along with the local police, who is responsible. In this way we are introduced to Kya, the ‘Marsh Girl,’ an outsider who has lived alone in the marsh since she was a child and who is deeply misunderstood by the local townsfolk. The book then runs along two timelines, the current investigation of the murder, and Kya’s past as she grows up in the marsh. The  mystery is compelling and involves many twists and turns and false paths, so the reader can’t really know who did it until the very end. However, despite the fact the mystery is well-developed, this is probably the aspect of the novel that drew me the least.

The things that make this book so special are the exploration of Kya as a character and how she survives alone in the marsh from childhood and how this life affects her emotionally, and the vivid and immersive descriptions of the landscape and nature of the marsh where the book is set. The author writes so captivatingly and movingly about both that the reader cannot help but be swept away in the story.

The development of Kya’s story from her abandonment by her entire family as a young child and how she has to learn to survive alone in a hostile environment with very little contact with or help from her nearest neighbours is tender, believable and completely heart-breaking. It is a damning commentary on the way society frowns upon anyone who chooses to live a lifestyle outside the mainstream and how such choices invite disdain and a cold-shoulder. How people are largely concerned only with themselves and quick to ignore problems they don’t want to address. The only people who have the good heart to help Kya are others who are similarly shunned for their differences, or who want to use her for their own ends.

Kya is a fascinating and wholly endearing character. Her stalwart determination to survive alone, learning from the creatures that surround her, adapting their habits and survival skills to help her and, in doing so, falling in love with the life and creatures of the marsh and studying them in a way few people ever do. The way the author draws parallels between humans and the wildlife of the marsh and uses those parallels to inform the reader about both is deft and clever. We fall in love with both Kya and her delicate and unique environment and come to care deeply about the survival and protection of both by the end of the book.

The marsh, then, is an integral part of the book, as essential to the story as any of the characters. In fact, it becomes a character in its own right, as intricately described and developed as any of the human participants, a living, breathing organism that is vital to Kya’s happiness and well-being in a way no human has ever been. It is the one thing she loves, trusts and knows will never let her down. Their lives are so intertwined that, when she is forcibly separated from it, it feels like a form of death to her. Like removing a fish from the ocean, she feels like she cannot breathe. If you ever wanted to read a book that really transports you to an environment you have probably never experienced but into which you will completely disappear, this is the novel for you.

The writer’s prose is lyrical and flowing. I know some people have found the book a little slow, and it is true that is is very descriptive and languid, but this is a huge part of the beauty of the novel and, if you stick with it, I am sure you will find the whole story as beautiful, heart-rending but, ultimately, uplifting as I did. The languorous nature of the prose is entirely fitting to the plot and the setting, mirroring the slow, warm, unchanging days in the Carolinas and will envelope you in the mindset if you let it. Just kick back and go with the flow and let this exceptional novel float you on a magical journey that will leave you fundamentally affected by it.

Where The Crawdads Sing is out now in all formats here.

About the Author

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Delia Owens is the co-author of three internationally bestselling nonfiction books about her life as a wildlife scientist in Africa including Cry of the Kalahari.

She has won the John Burroughs Award for Nature Writing and has been published in Nature, The African Journal of Ecology, and many others.

She currently lives in Idaho. Where the Crawdads Sing is her first novel.

Connect with Delia:

Website: https://www.deliaowens.com

Facebook: Author Delia Owens

Instagram: @authordeliaowens

Tempted by…The Book Review Cafe: The Home by Sarah Stovell

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One more little secret … one more little lie…

When the body of a pregnant fifteen-year-old is discovered in a churchyard on Christmas morning, the community is shocked, but unsurprised. For Hope lived in The Home, the residence of three young girls, whose violent and disturbing pasts have seen them cloistered away…

As a police investigation gets underway, the lives of Hope, Lara and Annie are examined, and the staff who work at the home are interviewed, leading to shocking and distressing revelations … and clear evidence that someone is seeking revenge.

A gritty, dark and devastating psychological thriller, The Home is also an emotive drama and a piercing look at the underbelly of society, where children learn what they live … if they are allowed to live at all.

Normally on Tempted by…, I highlight books I have bought as a direct result of seeing a post by another blogger on their blog, but today’s book came to me via a more circuitous route. Some of you may be aware of a weekly feature I run on my blog called Friday Night Drinks, where I chat with authors, bloggers and other bookish folks, trying to winkle out their deepest, darkest secrets. I always ask for a book recommendation during these sessions and, when Lorraine from The Book Review Cafe appeared on Friday Night Drinks on 9 February, the book she recommended as a ‘must read’ was The Home by Sarah Stovell.

Of course, having read Lorraine’s gushing praise of the book, I immediately headed over to her blog to read the full review (which you can see here.) Once I had read Lorraine’s impressions of the book in more detail, I knew I just had to get a copy. It sounds like everything you could possible hope for in a book and then some. Any book which manages to stand out so completely to someone who reads as voraciously as Lorraine, and so widely, must be something special and something that I need to read for myself. Lorraine awarded it her first ‘Book Hangover Award’ of 2020, and that is sufficient endorsement from me.

I absolutely love Lorraine and her blog. Her site is beautiful, , easy to navigate and absolutely packed full of delights for the book addict. Her reviews are always thoughtful, detailed and enticing and I usually agree absolutely with what she has said about books we have both read. As well as all this, she is a friendly, kind and extremely generous blogger and I feel very fortunate to have her as a member of my bookish circle. Make sure you pay her fabulous blog a visit soon. In fact, no time like the present, here is the link: https://thebookreviewcafe.com

If you would like to grab a copy of The Home for yourself, it is available in all formats here.

Blog Tour: Wilderness by B.E. Jones #BookReview

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A dream road trip turned dark nightmare.

Two weeks, 1,500 miles and three opportunities for her husband to save his own life.

It isn’t about his survival – it’s about hers.

Shattered by the discovery of her husband’s affair, Liv knows they need to leave the chaos of New York to try and save their marriage. Maybe the road trip they’d always planned, exploring America’s national parks – just the two of them – would help heal the wounds.

But what Liv hasn’t told her husband is that she has set him three challenges on their trip – three opportunities to prove he’s really sorry and worthy of her forgiveness.

If he fails? Well, it’s dangerous out there. There are so many ways to die in the wilderness; accidents happen all the time.

And if it’s easy to die, then it’s also easy to kill.

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for the paperback launch of Wilderness by B.E. Jones. My thanks to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is going to be a hard book to review without giving away too much plot, but this book is a wild ride in so many different ways. From the narrator to the locations to the intertwined timelines, to the exploration of relationships, infidelity, how people react to it and whether we can really ever know the people we are with, there are so many amazing facets to this brilliant thriller.

The book is narrated by Liv, who has just found out that her husband, Will, has been having an affair. Her seemingly perfect life ripped apart, she decides that they will take a road trip to try and mend their marriage, exploring some of America’s beautiful National Parks. But does a trip in to the wilderness heal or expose the rifts in their relationship, and where does the greatest danger really lie. Liv is a fantastic character to lead the book. The quintessential unreliable narrator, Liv is a deeply flawed and troubled soul dealing with a situation that has rocked her world and it is immediately apparent that she may not be psychologically equipped to cope with what has happened to her, Throughout the book, as we dive backwards through the events surrounding the revelation of the affair, and forwards through Liv and Will’s road trip, all the layers of Liv’s psyche are peeled back, and more and more surprising facets of her character are revealed, so we are always on our toes and never know what to expect.

But Liv is not the only troubled character in this book, demons seem to haunt everyone, secrets are everywhere and it is impossible to know whose version of events to trust and who is telling the truth. The author builds up such a complex web of lies and deceit that, even the most heinous of characters end up with seemingly ‘reasonable’ justification for their immoral behaviour and one of the main questions becomes, who are the real bad guys here, and who amongst them deserves the consequences they end up suffering. Being able to make the reader feel some sympathy and solidarity with characters who are less than clean cut takes some skill, and is brilliantly done here.

The settings of the book really grabbed me too, and perfectly reflected the events taking place. The author makes the teeming city of New York and its vast skyscrapers feel both like a place where it is possible to hide and get lost in order to carry out nefarious deeds, uncaring and impersonal, and a tiny community where you cannot avoid the consequences of your actions at the same time. Then, when the couple hit the open roads of the American West, the vast empty landscapes are actually made to feel claustrophobic and menacing, because of the danger that lurks along every step. The book has an extremely oppressive atmosphere, which really ramps up the tension throughout. There was actually one point where, reading this in bed late at night, one of the WTF Moments (more later) happened, and I actually physically jumped, as I would when watching a scary scene in a movie. Making a book so vivid and immediate is a gift. This book is a joy for an armchair traveller, really bringing a sense of place to the narrative, albeit an ominous one at times.

There were so many themes in this book that are there for unpicking, I think it will reward multiple readings. How well do you know the ones we love? How well do we know ourselves? What are we capable of when under threat, and are we always looking in the right places for danger in our lives? This book has so many twists and turns, and so many things I did not see coming. Just when I thought I could see where things were going, the author spins us off on a completely different track and there was more than one point in the book where I was actually internally shouting, ‘WTF just happened?!!” at the pages. And the ending? OMG. This book is a fantastic and creepy thriller that I read in a single day and had to force myself to set aside in the wee small hours of the morning because I really did not want to put it down.

I absolutely loved this book, it was an extremely rewarding, edge-of-your-seat thriller that did not disappoint on any level. I can’t wait to read more from this author.

Wilderness is out now in all formats, and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you visit the other fabulous blogs taking part in the tour as detailed below:

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About the Author

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Beverley Jones was born in the Rhondda Valleys, South Wales, and started her ‘life of crime’ as a reporter on The Western Mail before moving into TV news with BBC Wales Today. 

She covered all aspects of crime reporting before switching sides as a press officer for South Wales police, dealing with the media in criminal investigations, security operations and emergency planning.

Now a freelance writer she channels these experiences of ‘true crime,’ and the murkier side of human nature, into her dark, psychological thrillers set in and around South Wales. 

Wilderness, her sixth crime novel follows the release of Halfway by Little Brown in 2018.

Bev’s previous releases, Where She Went, The Lies You Tell, Make Him Pay and Fear The Dark are also available from Little Brown as e-books. 

Connect with Bev:

Facebook: Bev Jones

Twitter: @bevjoneswriting

Instagram: @bevjoneswriting

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Tempted by … Macsbooks: Scorched Grounds by Debbie Herbert

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In the eighteen years since her father went to prison for killing her mother and brother, Della Stallings has battled a crippling phobia. Her fear only grows when her father’s released. She still believes he killed her family, but the police don’t have enough evidence to arrest him again.

When new grisly murders occur—each bearing the telltale signs that seem to implicate her father—Della begins to wonder if the real murderer is still out there. Could her father have been framed?

To find the truth, Della must face her greatest fears and doubts—not only to find justice for her family but to ensure her own survival.

Today’s Tempted By… involves me being enticed to buy not one, but two books by the same author, after reading this review on the blog, Macsbooks.

I have mentioned repeatedly on the blog before my love of books set in the South of the USA, so the opening lines of the review immediately caught my attention. However, the books I normally pick up set in this region tend to be romances, family sagas or historical fiction, so I was drawn to the fact that Scorched Grounds is a dark, Southern noir thriller, quite unlike other Southern literature I’ve read, so I knew I had to grab a copy. In addition, who wouldn’t want to read a thriller set in a town called Normal, which promises to be anything but. When I saw that this was the second book set in this location, I decided to get them both and read them in order, so you can see my copy of Cold Waters peeping out underneath.

Is it me, or does anyone else really want to go and see what the real Normal, Alabama is like after reading this review, or is that an odd reaction to have after seeing this creepy cover?

I really enjoy following Mac’s blog as, being in the States, she often reviews books that I am not coming across on many of the blogs run by UK bloggers and I really enjoy that diversity. She also has a very approachable reviewing style, and I enjoy catching up with her mini reviews. Her blog always seems fresh and vibrant, make sure you check it out if you haven’t done so before. You can find her at https://macsbooks311.wordpress.com

If you now fancy taking a literary trip to Normal, Alabama yourself via Debbie Herbert’s writing, you can grab your own copy of Scorched Grounds, here.

 

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel Of The Year 2020: International Shortlist Revealed For Crime Writing’s Premiere Prize

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The shortlist for the 16th Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year has been announced, taking the reader on an international crime spree from New York to Calcutta, London to Lagos via Glasgow and the Australian outback.

Chosen by a public vote and the prize Academy, the titles in contention for this most prestigious of prize’s – which feature five Theakston award alumni and one debut novelist – showcase exceptional variety and originality, including spy espionage, historical crime, gallows humour, outback noir and serial killing siblings.

The news coincides with updated lockdown reading research from Nielsen Book showing that the genre is continuing to soar in popularity, a trend led by younger readers and men. Alongside an increase in the overall number of crime and thriller novels in the bestseller charts, even more people are turning to the genre in lockdown, particularly younger readers (18-44). Of the three quarters saying that their fiction interests have changed, 26% say that crime and thriller has become their genre of choice.

Marking a meteoric rise since being selected by Val McDermid as a spotlight author in the 2019 Festival’s highly respected ‘New Blood’ panel, Oyinkan Braithwaite remains in pursuit of the coveted trophy with the Booker nominated My Sister, the Serial Killer. Based in Nigeria, Braithwaite is the only debut author remaining, and one of the youngest ever to be shortlisted. Inspired by the black widow spider, Braithwaite turns the crime genre on its head with a darkly comic exploration of sibling rivalry, exploring society’s feelings towards beauty and perfection.

The remaining five authors on the shortlist are all previous contenders hoping 2020 is their year to claim the trophy. The legendary Mick Herron, likened to John Le Carré, has picked up a fifth nomination with Joe Country, the latest in his espionage masterclass Slough House. A former legal editor, Herron’s commute from Oxford to London led to the creation of this much-lauded series, which is currently being adapted for television with Gary Oldman taking on the iconic role of Jackson Lamb.

Scottish-Bengali author Abir Mukherjee is vying for the title with Smoke & Ashes, described by The Times as one of the best crime novels since 1945. Accountant turned bestseller, Mukherjee was shortlisted in 2018 for the first book in the Wyndham & Banerjee series set in Raj-era India, The Rising Man. Smoke & Ashes – the third  instalment – is set in 1921 in Calcutta, where Mukherjee’s parents grew up and where he spent six weeks each year during his childhood.

Authors making it through to the shortlist for the first time include Glasgow’s Helen Fitzgerald for Worst Case Scenario, which marks her first appearance on the Theakston list since The Cry, adapted into a major BBC drama starting Jenna Colman, was longlisted in 2013. Packed with gallows humour, Worst Case Scenario takes inspiration from Fitzgerald’s time as a criminal justice social worker in Glasgow’s Barlinnie Prison, alongside her experiences with depression and going through the menopause.

Despite receiving international recognition, before Belfast’s Adrian McKinty started writing The Chain – for which he picks up his second Theakston nod – he had been evicted from his home and was working as an Uber driver to make ends meet. Persuaded to give writing one last go, McKinty started on what would become the terrifying thriller that sees parents forced to kidnap children to save their own, and for which Paramount Pictures has acquired the screen rights in a seven-figure film deal.

The final title on the shortlist is The Lost Man by former journalist Jane Harper, who was previously longlisted for her debut The Dry in 2018, for which the film adaption starring Eric Bana is due to be released this year. Inspired by the beautifully brutal Australian environment, The Lost Man explores how people live – and die – in the unforgiving outback and is a moving – particularly topical – study in the psychological and physical impact of isolation.

The full shortlist for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2020 is:

 

–                 My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Atlantic Books)

–                 Worst Case Scenario by Helen Fitzgerald (Orenda Books)

–                 The Lost Man by Jane Harper (Little, Brown Book Group, Little, Brown)

–                 Joe Country by Mick Herron (John Murray Press)

–                 The Chain by Adrian McKinty (Orion Publishing Group, Orion Fiction)

–                 Smoke and Ashes by Abir Mukherjee (VINTAGE, Harvill Secker)

Executive director of T&R Theakston, Simon Theakston, said: “Seeing the huge variety and originality within this shortlist, it comes as no surprise to hear that crime fiction is dominating our lockdown reading habits. Offering both escapism and resolution, these exceptional titles transport readers around the world and I can’t wait to see where we settle on 23 July when one of these extraordinary authors takes home the 2020 Theakston Old Peculier cask.”

The award is run by Harrogate International Festivals and supported by T&R Theakston Ltd, WHSmith and the Express, and is open to full length crime novels published in paperback from 1 May 2018 to 30 April 2019 by UK and Irish authors.

The shortlist was selected by an academy of crime writing authors, agents, editors, reviewers, members of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Programming Committee, representatives from T&R Theakston Ltd, the Express, and WHSmith, alongside a public vote.

The shortlist will be promoted in a dedicated online campaign from WHSmith, digital promotional materials will be made available for independent bookstores, and the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival’s online community – You’re Booked – features exclusive interviews and interactive content. This forms part of the Harrogate International Festival virtual season of events, HIF at Home, which presents a raft of live music, specially commissioned performances, literary events and interviews to bring a free festival experience to your own digital doorstep.

The public vote for the winner is now open on www.harrogatetheakstoncrimeaward.com, with the champion set to be revealed in a virtual awards ceremony on Thursday 23 July marking what would have been the opening evening of the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. The legendary gathering – which formed part of Harrogate International Festival Summer Season – was cancelled, with much sadness, due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The winner will receive £3,000 and an engraved oak beer cask, hand-carved by one of Britain’s last coopers from Theakstons Brewery.

 

Blog Tour: Strangers by C. L. Taylor #BookReview

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Ursula, Gareth and Alice have never met before.

Ursula thinks she killed the love of her life.
Gareth’s been receiving strange postcards.
And Alice is being stalked.

None of them are used to relying on others – but when the three strangers’ lives unexpectedly collide, there’s only one thing for it: they have to stick together. Otherwise, one of them will die.

Three strangers, two secrets, one terrifying evening.

Today I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Strangers by C. L. Taylor. Huge thanks to Sanjana Cunniah of Avon Books for inviting me to take part and for my digital copy of the book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This thriller has a fantastic construction, as it opens with the three main characters standing over a dead body, so we know immediately they are involved in a death, but not who is dead, which one killed them or why . The plot then scoots back a week and follows the separate stories of the three individuals who we quickly realise don’t know each other at this point, so we spend the rest of the book trying to find out how three strangers come together in a week to be involved in a death.

I found this story really compelling in so far as the three protagonists are very ordinary people leading fairly dull lives, who all get dragged into something extraordinary through a series of unremarkable occurrences. It makes you wonder how far any of us are from becoming embroiled in something way out of our control through a tiny twist of fate. From the beginning it is hard to see how any of these simple people could become involved in a violent death, but the plot slowly and cleverly draws the disparate threads together that bring them all to one place. It is very skilfully done, and fascinating to follow. I loved the series of false trails that were laid to trick us into following them and coming up only with red herrings. I didn’t guess where the story was going to end up until quite close to the conclusion.

As well as being a gripping thriller, the story builds three very believable ordinary characters that it is easy for the reader to relate to. Although not individually remarkable, they all dealing with a series of every day problems that any one of us may face at any time – grief, loneliness, infidelity, divorce, money worries, internet dating, sexual assault, unemployment, family illness, troubled teenagers, domestic abuse, psychological distress, workplace stress – which of these triggers, small or large, are the ones that push these people to the place where they find themselves in a terrifying situation.

This is a book that propels you through the story and holds you tightly in its grip until you get to the end. I read it in two sittings (it would have been one if I’d not started it late one evening and fallen asleep before I could finish.) It is a domestic drama, than a thriller filled with whizz bangs and explosions, but it actually all the more gripping for it. This could happen to you or me. Maybe we should be afraid.

Another fantastic and gripping thriller from Cally Taylor, fans of her books will not be disappointed.

Strangers is out now in hardback, audio and ebook formats, and you can buy a copy here.

This book is taking a mammoth blog tour, so make sure you check out some of the other stops as detailed below:

 

About the Author

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C.L. Taylor is an award winning Sunday Times bestselling author of seven gripping psychological thrillers including SLEEP, a Richard and Judy Book Club pick for autumn 2019.

She has also written two Young Adult thrillers, THE TREATMENT, which was published by HarperCollins HQ and THE ISLAND, which will be published in January 2021.

C.L. Taylor’s books have sold in excess of a million copies, been number one on Amazon Kindle, Kobo, iBooks and Google Play and have been translated into over 25 languages and optioned for TV.

SLEEP won the ‘best ebook’ award in the Amazon Publishing Readers’ Awards. THE ESCAPE won the Dead Good Books ‘Hidden Depths’ award for the Most Unreliable Narrator. THE FEAR was shortlisted in the Hearst Big Book Awards in the ‘Pageturner’ category.

Cally Taylor was born in Worcester and spent her early years living in various army camps in the UK and Germany. She studied Psychology at the University of Northumbria and went on forge a career in instructional design and e-Learning before leaving to write full time in 2014. She lives in Bristol with her partner and son.

Connect with Cally:

Twitter: @callytaylor

Instagram: @cltaylorauthor

 

Blog Tour: Dead Wrong by Noelle Holten #BookReview

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Three missing women running out of time…

They were abducted years ago. Notorious serial killer Bill Raven admitted to killing them and was sentenced to life.

The case was closed – at least DC Maggie Jamieson thought it was…

But now one of them has been found, dismembered and dumped in a bin bag in town.

Forensics reveal that she died just two days ago, when Raven was behind bars, so Maggie has a second killer to find.

Because even if the other missing women are still alive, one thing’s for certain: they don’t have long left to live…

I really loved Noelle’s debut novel, Dead Inside, last year so I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for the second book in the Maggie Jamieson series, Dead Wrong. My thanks to Sarah Hardy of Books On The Bright Side Publicity 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.

Which part of the intriguing blurb for this book would not make you want to pick this book up? A series of murders that has been solved by a confession from the killer, but then body parts of the alleged victims start turning up years later, revealing they’ve only just been killed, AFTER the killer is behind bars? Sign me up!

Maggie is now back with her original squad, after her secondment to the Domestic Violence unit in book one, and she is immediately thrust under the spotlight because she was responsible for putting the original killer away in what now looks like a miscarriage of justice. What an amazing preface for ramping up the tension for the protagonist and making the investigation personal for Maggie from the off. It also raises all kinds of queries as to whether she is being suitably dispassionate about the new investigation or is making bad decisions based on saving her own reputation. It is a clever idea and really well executed.

The accused serial killer, Bill Raven, is a great nemesis for Maggie in this novel. Aside from being an alleged murderer, he is just s deeply unpleasant man, smug and antagonistic, and we, the reader, loathe him from the beginning, regardless of whether he actually committed the crimes or not, which puts us firmly in Maggie’s corner even when she is making unwise decisions. The pace of the book is frenetic, we race through it to find out what is going on in this baffling case and can’t wait to get to the conclusion but when we go OMG! What is happening? You can’t leave it like that! I need Book 3 now, I tell you!

One of the main strengths of Noelle’s books, which is clearly present here, is the way she shows the involvement in an investigation of many different people from different specialisations within criminal justice to bring a case to a conclusion. Too many crime novels have murders being solved start to finish by one or two individuals, with everybody else a faceless sidetone. This is obviously not the way things work and, the fact Noelle has worked in this world and understands the importance of everyone in the process, not just the lead officers, shines through and gives the story a real ring of authenticity, even though it is clearly a piece of entertaining fiction.

A great, pacy and gripping crime thriller that will keep you hooked from beginning to end. Can’t wait for the next one.

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

Please do follow the rest of the fantastic blogs taking part in the tour as detailed below:

Dead Wrong (1)

About the Author

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

Connect with Noelle:

Website: https://crimebookjunkie.co.uk

Facebook: Noelle Holten Author

Twitter: @nholten40

Instagram: @crimebookjunkie

Blog Tour: Sister by Kjell Ola Dahl; Translated by Don Bartlett #BookReview

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Oslo detective Frølich searches for the mysterious sister of a young female asylum seeker, but when people start to die, everything points to an old case and a series of events that someone will do anything to hide…

Suspended from duty, Detective Frølich is working as a private investigator, when his girlfriend’s colleague asks for his help with a female asylum seeker, who the authorities are about to deport. She claims to have a sister in Norway, and fears that returning to her home country will mean instant death.

Frølich quickly discovers the whereabouts of the young woman’s sister, but things become increasingly complex when she denies having a sibling, and Frølich is threatened off the case by the police. As the body count rises, it becomes clear that the answers lie in an old investigation, and the mysterious sister, who is now on the run…

Today I am posting my review for Sister by Kjell Ola Dahl, the latest in the Oslo Detectives series. My huge apologies to the author, publisher and tour organiser for the lateness of this review. I was unable to post on my scheduled date due to an accident, but I hope you enjoy it now. My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to review the book and to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This was my first introduction to the world of Detective Frolich, despite being the the fact that it is book eight in the series. However, it works perfectly as a standalone, although I would like to know more about Frolich’s back story, as he is a fascinating character. In this book, we meet Frolich as he is working as a private detective, having been suspended from the police, and is trying to find his footing in this new world and work out how to make a living. Despite this, he gets involved in a case that is set to be hugely unprofitable for him at the behest of his new girlfriend, and a woman who begs him to help a refugee she is working with. The fact he accepts gives us great insight into Frolich’s character and what drives him. It is a sense of justice and wanting to help people that is his biggest motivator, rather than money.

The book takes Frolich across the Norwegian landscape, from Oslo to more remote places, and I found the descriptions of the locations enticing, if a little bleak. It felt like there was a darkness seeping into every corner of this novel, not just the crime but the setting and the characters too. In fact, the word that really encapsulated the feel of the book for me was melancholy. There was a sadness seeping from the pages; from Frolich and his situation; from the plight of the subjects of the investigation; and from the very landscape itself. The references to unfortunate things that have happened in Norway may have contributed to this throughout, the book felt sad and a little hopeless.

This is largely due to the driving narrative behind the story, which is the problem of refugees in Norway and the desperate situations in which they find themselves. Fleeing from places of war and persecution, they risk a lot to reach countries they believe they may be safe, only to find that they may be in as much danger where they have arrived than the place they are left. Subject to prejudice and at risk of exploitation, they find they have not reached the nirvana they were hoping for. The book is a damning indictment of how Western societies are failing these vulnerable people, as well as an illuminating social commentary on the risks that they face at either end of their journey. A very modern and relevant story, as well as being a gripping thriller.

I was hooked o this book from start to finish, although I did find it a heart-rending and thought-provoking read. I just wanted to mention the skill in the translation of this novel from Norwegian. It was seamless and barely noticeable, which is the great skill in translating fiction, I was not distracted by the translation at all. Another great, new writer to me from the astonishing Orenda stable, I can’t wait to catch up on the instalments I have missed and see what is next. Intelligent writing.

Sister is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do make sure you check out the rest of the tour, as detailed below:

Sister BT Poster

About the Author

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One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.

Connect with Kjell:

Twitter: @ko_dahl

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