Killing State by Judith O’Reilly #BookReview #BlogTour (@judithoreilly) @HoZ_Books @LoveBooksGroup #LoveBooksGroupTours #KillingState

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I am really excited to be on the blog tour today for Killing State, the new thriller by Judith O’Reilly. I have been a huge fan of Judith’s non-fiction writing, so I was eager to see what she would produce when she turned to fiction. It was not what I expected, I can tell you! My thanks to Kelly Lacey at Love Books Group Tours for inviting me to take part and to Head of Zeus for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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WHAT IF THE PERSON YOU’RE ORDERED TO KILL IS THE WOMAN YOU WANT TO PROTECT?

Michael North, assassin and spy-for-hire, is very good at killing bad guys. But what happens when his shadowy bosses at the dark heart of the post-Brexit British government, order him to kill an innocent woman and North can’t bring himself to do it?

The woman is a rising political star, Honor Jones, MP.  She has started asking dangerous questions about the powerful men running her country. The trouble is, Honour doesn’t know when to stop. And, now that he’s met her, neither does North…

Well, this book has it all going on! Right from the opening pages, the action never lets up for a second and we find ourselves in a labyrinth of cross and double-cross, people switching sides in the blink of an eye, assassinations, explosions, fights, intrigue, paranoia, shadowy organisations and political machinations (do those of you who grew up with Blackadder always want to finish that phrase with ‘of the evil Pitt. Lord Baldrick’ or is that just me? Blackadder the Third, Episode 1: Dish and Dishonesty, in case you were wondering.)

The main character here is ex-soldier, Michael North, a man damaged both physically (a bullet lodged in his brain) and mentally who is now working as an assassin for a shadowy political organisation that has him getting rid (in the most permanent sense of the word) of people they believe threaten the security of the country and he does this without question until he is instructed to kill MP Honor Jones. Something about her makes him question his mission, and then everything changes for him and he begins to wonder if he might be on the wrong side after all.

The action then takes off at a cracking pace and doesn’t let up until the shocking climax which will take your breath away so you had better buckle in as you are in for a bumpy, wild ride through the book. The book involves a feisty teenage cyber-genius, thugs on both sides, prisoners of war, blackmail, storms at sea and a million other excitements. It reminded me of every Mission Impossible, Tom Clancy and Jason Bourne thriller I have seen all mashed together in an explosion of events. At times it was quite hard to keep up with what is going on because everything is happening so quickly and the action bounces around between characters and settings, so you need to pay attention. It is also a big book and requires and investment of time and attention but, if you are fans of action and poetical thrillers by the likes of James Patterson and Lee Child, you will enjoy this novel.

Michael North is a grizzled, damaged but sympathetic action hero in the best traditions of the genre and there are enough surprises and take-your-breath-away moments to hold the tension. A rip-roaring read. A sequel is already planned for release later in the year so, if you enjoy this, there is more to come. Watch this space.

Killing State is out now in hardback and ebook formats and will be available in paperback on 11 July. You can buy a copy here.

To follow the rest of the tour, check out the details on the poster below:

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About the Author

Judith

Judith O’Reilly is the author of Wife in the North, a top-three Sunday Times bestseller and BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week. Judith is a former political producer with BBC 2’s Newsnight and ITN’s Channel 4 News, and, when she isn’t writing novels, she writes for The Sunday Times.  Judith lives in Durham.

Connect with Judith:

Website: http://www.judithoreilly.com/p/home-page.html

Facebook: Judith O’Reilly

Twitter: @judithoreilly

Love Books Group Tours (1)

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She’s Mine by Claire Lewis #BlogTour #Extract (@CSLewisWrites) @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books #NetGalley #ShesMine

She's Mine

She was never mine to lose…

When Scarlett falls asleep on a Caribbean beach she awakes to her worst nightmare – Katie is gone. With all fingers pointed to her Scarlett must risk everything to clear her name.

As Scarlett begins to unravel the complicated past of Katie’s mother she begins to think there’s more to Katie’s disappearance than meets the eye. But who would want to steal a child? And how did no-one see anything on the small island?

I’m very happy to be kicking off the blog tour today for She’s Mine by Claire Lewis. My thanks to Victoria Joss at Head of Zeus/Aria for my copy of the book and for allowing me to share the below extract from the book with you.

Extract

That’s the truth, but not the whole truth. What I don’t reveal to her is an incident that took place in Christina’s bedroom the week before we flew out to the British Leeward Isles. I don’t disclose it because the incident doesn’t put me in a good light either! On Tuesdays, Katie does a full day at kindergarten so I have a little time to myself. I’ve got into the habit of using Christina’s en-suite, luxurious, walk-in power shower and expensive beauty products following the weekly hot yoga class that I go to after dropping off Katie. So last Tuesday, I had just finished my shower and wrapped myself in Christina’s bathrobe when I heard her bedroom door opening and then the sound of her antique roll top desk being unlocked.

I thought she must have come back early from work for some reason. There was nothing else for it but to come clean (literally!) and apologise for taking the liberty of using her bathroom without asking first. So I took off her bathrobe, draped a towel around me and opened the door. But it wasn’t Christina. It was Damien with his back to me, checking the contents of the desk. Caught in the act. Hearing the catch he started and turned in alarm. He reddened but quickly composed himself and went on the offensive. 

‘What a vision of beauty!’ he sneered as I stood there, my wet hair dripping onto the carpet. ‘I didn’t realise you and Christina were so intimate.’

‘And I didn’t realise you made a habit of going through her private papers!’ I snapped back. I know very well that the desk, an old family heirloom shipped over from the UK, is a strictly no-go area that she keeps locked at all times. He just laughed and then cool as a cucumber, he slipped some documents into a green cardboard file under his arm, locked the desk, pocketed the key and marched out of the room.

‘Just mind your own business and keep out of our affairs. Or you’ll be going the same way as the previous nanny,’ was his parting shot.

I understood this was no idle threat. Christina’s so possessive and distrustful that I knew if she got wind of this brush with Damien, she would imagine the worst and I’d be out of a job. So I said nothing to Christina in New York and I say nothing to the police officer now as she converses with me in the hotel bedroom.

I decide to keep my suspicions about Damien to myself – for now.

*

For something that was supposed to have been a ‘friendly chat’ the questioning is intense. After asking about my relations with Christina and Damien she embarks on a list of questions clearly aimed at working out a timeline for my movements this afternoon. What time did I arrive at the beach with Katie? Did I speak to anyone? Did anyone approach me or Katie? Did I notice anyone watching her? What time did I fall asleep? What time did I wake up? When did I become aware Katie was missing? What did I do next? Did I see anyone on the beach when I was looking for her? How long did I spend searching the beach before raising the alarm? What time did I tell Christina her little girl was missing? 

My head is pounding and I feel like a criminal by the time the family liaison officer finally puts her notepad away.

‘These questions are nothing to worry about,’ she assures me. ‘We just need to establish the timeline for the disappearance of the little girl.’ She ends the conversation by encouraging me to contact her ‘any time, any place’ if I need support or if I ‘remember’ anything else that may be relevant to the investigation. I half expect her to clap me in handcuffs and announce that she’s putting me under arrest, when at last she says that I’m at liberty to go.

*

In a waking nightmare, we struggle on through the grief-stricken hours of the day making calls, badgering the search team for any new scrap of information and giving interviews to reporters in the belief that getting Katie’s story out there might somehow help in her rescue.

The worst moment comes just after midnight when the operation is called to a halt. I collapse onto a chair in a quivering heap. All the strength has gone from my legs. Christina appears distraught, begging members of the police and emergency services to go on searching. 

‘There’s nothing more we can do tonight. We’ll resume at dawn. You should get some sleep,’ says the commander sternly. Holding our despair at bay and unable to contemplate the thought of sleep, we pace the beaches and the rocky headland for the next two hours, tripping over stones in the darkness, our steps lit only by the moon and stars in the cloudless black sky and the light from our mobile phones. 

I am lightheaded with exhaustion by the time I accompany Christina to her room in the early hours of the morning. We sit out on the balcony mesmerised by the sound of waves rolling on to sand. We are too tired to speak. I make tea and give her three sleeping tablets from a packet I find in her wash bag. Once the tablets take effect, I steer her to bed, her expression vacant and confused, as she lets me pull the covers over her. It’s not until I shut Christina’s door and go down the corridor to the room I’m sharing with Katie that it strikes me again. Where the fuck is Damien? I haven’t seen him all day, not since he handed me the cocktail at the pool. 

When I open the door, there is Katie’s blue bunny, propped up on her newly-made bed. The tears stream down my face. The bedtime story I was reading to her last night is still open at the page we got to when her eyes finally closed. It’s a beautifully illustrated copy of Peter Pan that Christina discovered in a quaint little bookshop called the Book Cellar, one of her favourite haunts for second-hand books. I glance down at the page. ‘The Mermaids’ Lagoon’ – Katie’s favourite chapter. She loves the colour illustrations of the mermaids diving in the waves. The doors to the balcony are open. I shiver in the sea breeze and step out through billowing curtains. 

I stand there for a few moments still clutching Katie’s bucket. 

Lost. Drowned.

If this extract has whetted your appetite to read the book, which I am sure it has, She’s Mine is out today and you can buy a copy here.

To follow the rest of the tour for alternative reviews and exciting articles, check out the poster below:

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About the Author

Claire S. Lewis

Claire Simone Lewis studied philosophy, French literature and international relations at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge before starting her career in aviation law with a City law firm and later as an in-house lawyer at Virgin Atlantic Airways.  More recently, she turned to writing psychological suspense, taking courses at the Faber Academy. She’s Mine is her first novel. Born in Paris, she’s bilingual and lives in Surrey with her family.

Connect with Claire:

Facebook: CS Lewis Writes

Twitter: @CSLewisWrites

Desert Island Books: The Edge by Dick Francis @felix_francis #BookReview #racingcrime #thriller #crime #bookbloggers #bookblog #desertislandbooks #readinggoals

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Tor Kelsey, an undercover agent for the Jockey Club’s security service is involved in the attempt to rid racing of one of its most notorious villains, Julius Apollo Filmer. The court however, does not go along with their beliefs, but Tor knows that to let Julius even suspect the service are still on his tail would mean certain death for a number of witnesses.

Meanwhile, several racehorse owners have planned a luxurious train trip across Canada, with race meetings fixed for every major city. Julius Apollo Filmer and Tor are on the passenger list. The beautiful journey through the Rockies gets uglier by the minute and Tor finds himself pushed to dangerous limits to defeat Filmer’s wily scheming.

I can’t remember exactly when I read my very first Dick Francis novel, but I know it was some time early in my horse-mad, teenage years. I know that it was lent to me by my friend, Mary, and that the first one I read was one of his books featuring racing detective, Sid Halley. I also know I was hooked from that very first book and quickly raced through his back catalogue. I then waited eagerly each September for his latest book to come out and bought every new one in hardback. He wrote 44 thrillers before his death in 2010, the later ones with his son, Felix, as co-author. Since his death, Felix has continued to write racing thrillers under the Francis name, and I have continued to buy them.

I have huge nostalgic affection for these books, as Dick Francis was one of the first authors I discovered for myself, without the books being parentally approved, and he was an author that was just my own. No one else in my family was particularly a fan, I didn’t have to share the books with my sisters (who never took care of my books properly- remember the Freya North book you left in Australia, Catherine? Remember the book you dropped in the bath, Rebecca?), these were just mine.

Do you want to see my Dick Francis shelf? Of course you do, here it is:-

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Anyway, of all of these excellent books, The Edge is my standout favourite. I must have read it at least a dozen times over the years. In fact I could probably recite it off by heart by now, but I never get bored of it and it was a no brainer as one of my Desert Island Books.

The blurb of this book singularly fails to do the plot justice, so I will try and explain to you what exactly is so marvellous about it, even to people who are not remotely interested in horses or racing.

Although Dick Francis is dubbed the king of the racing thriller, his books are about so much more than horse racing. His plots have involved stories centring around reporters, photography, gold mines, movie-making, wine experts, air taxis, art fraud, diamond dealers, authors, medical experiments, hurricane-chasing and toy making, amongst many other subjects, all of them meticulously researched. To say that he writes racing thrillers does not do his imagination justice, and The Edge is one of the best examples of this diversity in his writing.

The book follows Jockey Club investigator, Tor Kelsey, a man who works undercover investigating racing crimes. When the Jockey Club believes the biggest villain in racing might be plotting a major sting, Tor is sent on the trip of a lifetime across Canada to try and discover and foil his plans.

So far, so ordinary. However, there are things about the book that make it a cut above the average thriller. Firstly, it has the topsy-turvy plot device of the reader knowing who the villain is from the off, but both the investigator, and the reader, not knowing what crime he is planning and having to find this out together. Secondly, the action is set mostly on a glamorous train travelling coast-to-coast across Canada with the elite of the racing world, plus their horses, aboard. There is also a murder mystery being acted out on board for the entertainment of the passengers, so there is fun in trying to work out which parts are the real mystery and which are part of the entertainment. There is also a love interest sub-plot for added spice. A huge cast of great characters, descriptions of a great train journey visiting some of the amazing sights of Canada, and a gripping mystery plot which delivers continual twists and turns and highs and lows – what’s not to love?

This book has a special place in my heart. It has also inspired one of my top Bucket List destinations which I will be blogging about later in the week (picture below might give you a clue!). Having read it again, I am also struck by how well the book has stood the test of time, despite it being 30 years old and not featuring cell phones, the internet or other modern equipment. There are not many crime books that I can read over and over and still enjoy, despite knowing whodunnit, but all of Dick Francis’s books fall into this category and this is the best of the crop IMHO. Definitely a keeper.

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The Edge might be difficult to get your mitts on new now, but try your local library or you should be able to track down a copy in some format here. Sorry, there is no way I am lending out my copy, no matter how much you beg!

About the Author

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Richard Stanley Francis (31 October 1920 – 14 February 2010) was a British crime writer, and former steeplechase jockey, whose novels centre on horse racing.

After wartime service in the RAF, Francis became a full-time jump-jockey, winning over 350 races and becoming champion jockey of the British National Hunt. He came to further prominence in 1956 as jockey to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother riding her horse Devon Loch, which fell when close to winning the Grand National. Francis retired from the turf and became a journalist and novelist.

Dick Francis was widely acclaimed as one of the world’s finest thriller writers. His awards include the Crime Writers’ Association’s Cartier Diamond Dagger for his outstanding contribution to the crime genre, and an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Tufts University of Boston. In 1996, Dick Francis was made a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master for a lifetime’s achievement and in 2000 he received a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton #BookReview @AuthorSJBolton @TheFictionCafe @TrapezeBooks #FictionCafeBookClub #FictionCafeReadingChallenge2019 #amreading #bookbloggers #challenges

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Devoted father or merciless killer?

His secrets are buried with him.

Florence Lovelady’s career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Glassbrook of a series of child murders 30 years ago. Like something from our worst nightmares the victims were buried…ALIVE.

Larry confessed to the crimes; it was an open and shut case. But now he’s dead, and events from the past start to repeat themselves.

Did she get it wrong all those years ago?
Or is there something much darker at play?

The third category for the annual reading challenge in my online book group, The Fiction Cafe Book Club is ‘A book you received as a gift.’ You can see details of the challenge in this post.

For this challenge I have chosen The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton, which my mum bought me for Christmas (admittedly after much heavy hinting on my part!) This book has received rave reviews from my fellow bloggers, being included in a fair few of their ‘top books of 2018’ lists, so I was excited to get to it.

I finished this a few days ago but I have only just been able to sit down and consider writing my review, as I am still processing my thoughts about this book. It is so much more than a crime novel; there is so much going on that has left me with so many thoughts and feelings. I can understand why this book has received so many rave reviews, I haven’t read such a multi-layered, complex, thought-provoking and gripping thriller for quite a while.

Where to start, where to start. Okay, let’s go with the basics. This is a dual timeline crime novel that follows the investigation into the disappearance and murder of three children in the 1960’s. On this very basic level, the book works brilliantly. The crime is deeply disturbing, the horrors being revealed slowly, the clues to the investigation snuck in to the prose subtly for the reader to pick up, with plenty of dead ends and red herrings. I truly had half a dozen suspects for the crime throughout the course of the book and was equally convinced each of them was right until a new piece of information sent me spinning off on a different course. Exactly the kind of plotting that crime novel aficionados love. But there is so much more going on.

Next, there is the setting of the book, in the small, isolated town of Sabden in Lancashire, at the foot of Pendle Hill. Sharon presents a community that is insular, wary of outsiders and full of secrets and closely woven relationships that anyone not local will find hard to penetrate. And so it proves for the protagonist of the book, WPC Florence Lovelady – young, female and Southern, she doesn’t fit, isn’t trusted and has to work hard to understand the town and its inhabitants. In addition, the first mention of Pendle Hill brings to mind the witch trials and the suggestion of the supernatural immediately permeates the story, creating an extra layer of mystery and suspicion and fear throughout. Sharon also makes reference early on to the crimes of Hindley and Brady which happened close by just prior to the original crimes in the novel, which brings its own sense of menace, and a certain oppressive atmosphere to the book. It is all very deftly done.

As mentioned, this is a dual timeline novel. We begin in 1999, when Florence returns to Sabden for the funeral of the man who was convicted of the murders back in 1969. However, certain events take place that lead her to begin to review the original investigation, so we are taken back to 1969 and relive that investigation through Florence’s memory of it, when she was a young WPC newly working in an area where she is an outsider. This was also a time when women were rare in the police, and she faces overt sexism and huge obstacles to being involved in the investigation and being taken seriously. Florence is a strong, intelligent, determined woman with instinct and flair for police work, but she has to fight every step of the way, against all the disadvantages of her age, sex and background, to be heard. Given these obstacles, she sometimes has to take unorthodox steps to explore her suspicions and none of this endears her to her colleagues. One also wonders whether she is being sidelined because she is getting too close to the truth. Florence is a brilliant character to lead the story, and I had total empathy for her from the beginning.

The most unusual element in this book, is the supernatural one, and I am guessing that some people may have an issue with this as a device in a crime novel. However, here there is a specific, underlying reason the author has used this and it is because Sharon is, to a degree, using the witchcraft as a metaphor for the oppression of women throughout history. This whole book has a strong message of feminism and the empowerment of women running through it, at least for me. I don’t want this to put anyone off, it is not a book that is anti-men, but it is definitely a book about the strength, resourcefulness and intelligence of women and how men have been afraid of this and tried to suppress it through the ages, the persecution of women as witches being one of the most overt ways. The treatment of Florence in her role as police officer in the 1960’s is another example of this, and as a piece of social commentary, this book is also a riveting read. I don’t know if it was just me, but by the end, I was shaking my girl power pom-poms in the air and shouting, ‘Yay!’

There are so many things to unpack in this book, I really don’t think I have done it justice. This is a book about love, and the things people will do for it; how it can be used to control others and how it can bring out the best, and worst, in all of us. It is a book about family, and the strength of the bond between parent and child. It is a book about community, and how people will band together to support and protect one another. It is a book about ambition, and how far people will push boundaries to achieve their goals, and it is a book about finding the strength within ourselves to do what needs to be done in the most adverse of circumstances. The more I think about it, the more things I find going on, and this book works on every level.

This book is terrifying, gripping, entertaining, intelligent, informative and complicated. I am sure it is also one that will reveal additional secrets on subsequent readings. I am in awe of how much the author has managed to layer into this novel and everyone should definitely read it.

The Craftsman is now available in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Sharon (formerly SJ) Bolton grew up in a cotton-mill town in Lancashire and had an eclectic early career which she is now rather embarrassed about. She gave it all up to become a mother and a writer.

Her first novel, Sacrifice, was voted Best New Read by Amazon.uk, whilst her second, Awakening, won the 2010 Mary Higgins Clark award. In 2014, Lost, (UK title, Like This, For Ever) was named RT Magazine’s Best Contemporary Thriller in the US, and in France, Now You See Me won the Plume de Bronze. That same year, Sharon was awarded the CWA Dagger in the Library, for her entire body of work.

Connect with Sharon:

Website: https://www.sharonbolton.com

Facebook: S J Bolton Crime

Twitter: @AuthorSJBolton

Instagram: @sharonjbolton

Inceptio by Alison Morton #BlogTour #GuestPost (@alison_morton) @PulcheriaPress @annecater #RandomThingsTours #RomaNovaSeries

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New Yorker Karen Brown is caught in a tangle of hot foreign agents, vicious maniacs and tough families. Running for her life, she flees into the alien culture of Roma Nova, the mysterious last outpost of the Roman Empire in Europe. Apart from kidnapping, heartache and a close encounter with Latin grammar, she must contend with a fascinating but arrogant Praetorian special forces captain.

Plus a crazy killer wants to terminate her for a very personal reason.

Roma Nova is Karen’s dead mother’s homeland. Founded sixteen hundred years ago by Roman exiles and now ruled by women, it gives her safety, a lover and a ready-made family – but at a price. And the enforcer is still pursing hers her. Desperate to find out why he is hunting her so viciously and unable to rely on anybody else, she undergoes intensive training, develops fighting skills and becomes an undercover cop. But crazy with bitterness at his past failures, the enforcer sets a trap for her, knowing she has no choice but to spring it.

I am delighted to be kicking off the blog tour today for Inceptio by Alison Morton, book one in the Roma Nova series of thrillers featuring Carina Mitela. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the author for featuring on the blog today with a fascinating guest post.

Now it’s over to Alison to tell us more about her writing process for Inceptio.

Writing ‘alternatively’

An avid reader of spy, thriller and crime stories from childhood and a life-long devotee of all things Roman, I yearned to write a Roman thriller with a true-hearted heroine imbued with Roman virtue but a tendency to go off-piste. But I wanted women to run this New Rome. There was only one solution:  I brought it up to the 21st century.

When I produced my first manuscript, I didn’t know I was writing in a genre called alternative history (“althist” for short). I was inspired by Robert Harris’s Fatherland, a tense, shocking and beautifully written thriller with a heart-wrenching ‘secret’. Twisting history was allowed and used by acclaimed writers! 

Of course, a thriller must be exciting, intriguing and full of emotional punch, but althist stories have their own ‘rules’. The most important are to identify the moment where history as we know it veers off onto a different path forever, and to weave into the story how the alternative timeline has developed since. 

How to do this

1. Make the point of divergence logical. It doesn’t have to be a single grand event like a battle or assassination; it can be a private incident, or a new law passed. My first four books are set in 21st century Roma Nova, but the country’s origins stretch back to AD 395 when the Christian Roman emperor Theodosius banned all pagan religions on pain of death. This sparked the trek north by twelve families to found Roma Nova.

2. Research the divergence point. You have to know your own timeline history before attempting to “alternate” it. Roman civilisation lasted over 1,200 years; things were significantly different in AD 395 from how they had been in 200BC. Serstertii, the classic silver Roman coin, had been replaced by AD 395 by the gold solidus as the standard unit, so my 21st century Roma Novans use solidi but as notes, debit cards and via internet banking as well as coins.

3. Reinforce the divergence point story. People often refer back to a significant event, e.g. “the war”, in their country’s history. Roma Novans are no different and often quote the courage of how their ancestors trekked north out of Italy sixteen centuries ago to find their new home.

4. Steal from the historic record. In my books, I reach back and pluck the Praetorian Guard forward into the 21st century. Not only does this build on the image of toughness, a dash of ruthlessness and a sense of duty and glamour that we may already have, but it also anchors them as Romans guarding the ruler and the state. Sadly, like their historical counterparts, modern Praetorians can become corrupt and plot against the state – a gift for a writer! 

5. Think through the setting that has formed your characters. How do people make their living? How are they educated? What kind of industry and transport are there? Is the government representative? Are laws authoritarian, permissive and strictly enforced? What’s the food like? Are there markets, little shops, big chains? What’s growing in the fields, does the countryside consist of plains, valleys or mountains? And what’s the weather like? And the big question – who holds the power? You don’t need to mention any of this unless it impacts on the story, but you should have it all worked out in your head. 

6. Make sure your characters live naturally within their world. Your characters know where they live; this is their normality, so writers need to remember to view things through their characters’ eyes rather than their own. As The temptation to explain what is everyday to your characters should be resisted!  

The keys are plausibility and consistency. 

Almost every story hinges upon implausibility – a set-up or a problem the writer has purposefully created. Readers will engage with it and follow as long as the writer keeps their trust. 

One way to do this is to infuse, but not flood, the story with corroborative detail so that it verifies and reinforces the setting. Honey cake is more common than digestive biscuits – honey was important for the ancient Romans. We might call law officers ‘fuzz’, ‘the Old Bill’, ‘filth’ or ‘rozzers’, but the Roma Novan public call their police, the custodes, ‘scarabs’ – hard-shelled dung beetles having to deal with a lot of nasty stuff. But the custodes wear a dark blue uniforms and clamp flashing blue lights on the car roof when chasing the bad guys.

A vital way to connect to readers is to make sure characters display normal behaviour. Human beings of all ages and cultures have similar emotional needs, hurts and joys, often expressed differently, sometimes in an alienating or peculiar way. But romantic relationships, (whether painful, instant or intense), grief, friendship, impatience, fear, frustration and triumph are emotions that connect us all, whether reader or writer.

Thank you for sharing insights into the process of writing ‘althist’ today, Alison, it is absolutely fascinating to get a peek into the work and research that went in to writing the book.

If your curiosity has been piqued by this post, the resulting book, Inceptio is out now and you can buy a copy here.

To follow the rest of the tour, make sure you visit the blogs listed on the poster below on the relevant date:

Inceptio Blog Tour Poster

About the Author

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Alison Morton writes the Roma Nova thriller series featuring modern Praetorian heroines. This springs from a deep love of Roman history, six years’ military service and a life of reading crime, adventure and thriller fiction.

All six full-length novels have received the BRAG Medallion. SUCCESSIO, AURELIA and INSURRECTIO were selected as Historical Novel Society’s Indie Editor’s Choices. AURELIA was a finalist in the 2016 HNS Indie Award. SUCCESSIO featured as Editor’s Choice in The Bookseller.

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison has misspent decades clambering over Roman sites throughout Europe. She holds an MA History, blogs about Romans, social media and writing. Oh, and she gives talks.

She continues writing, cultivates a Roman herb garden and drinks wine in France with her husband. To get the latest news, subscribe to her free newsletter https://alison-morton.com/newsletter/

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Connect with Alison:

Website: https://alison-morton.com

Facebook: Alison Morton Author

Twitter: @alison_morton

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One Last Prayer for the Rays #BookReview #BlogTour (@MarkinWes) @RaRaResources #RachelsRandomResources #OneLastPrayerForTheRays

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Today is my turn on the blog tour for One Last Prayer for the Rays by Wes Markin. Thank you to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for my place on the tour and to the author for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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DCI Michael Yorke faces his most harrowing case yet.

When 12-year-old Paul disappears from school, Yorke’s only clue is a pool of animal blood. Fearing the worst, he turns toward the most obvious suspect, recently released local murderer, Thomas Ray.

But as the snow in Salisbury worsens, Ray’s mutilated body is discovered, and Yorke is left with no choice but to journey into the sinister heart of a demented family that has plagued the community for generations. Can he save the boy? Or will the evil he discovers changes him forever?

I had no idea what to expect going in to this book as it is a debut from a new, and potentially exciting, crime novelist. The blurb doesn’t give a huge amount away about the book, so I went in to in with an open mind and was treated to a rollercoaster of a ride  of a book with a few niggling issues.

The plot of this book clever; the writer comes up with some ingenious twists and turns and devilish ways of torturing both his fictional victims and his readers as he tugs them through the book before revealing what is going on. The book opens with a shocking abduction at a school and the action doesn’t really let up all the way through as the police of Salisbury, led by DCI Michael Yorke, try to fathom who has kidnapped the boy, and why, which proves difficult given the very strange nature of the crime. I have to warn readers, there are some very graphic, gory and disturbing scenes in this novel, so the book will delight crime readers who like their murders explicit, but may turn the stomaches of some.

The crime centres around the notorious Ray family, who have a brutal and twisted history in the area, to the extent that seems to be a curse on the family. Is this why one of the last of the Rays has been abducted and is this in revenge for crimes committed in the past? This is a labyrinthine plot that readers will enjoy trying to decipher, alongside the police, and it romps along at a goodly pace.

There are some great characters in this book, particularly amongst the ‘baddies’ whose personalities and motivations are, by and large, are clear and fully fleshed out. I got the feeling that the author really enjoys and has great fun writing these characters. The exception to this seemed to be Lacey Ray who, although a character I enjoyed very much, seemed to be lacking a clear motivation for her actions other than – ‘she’s a psycho’ – which seems a little simplistic. Parts of what were happening to her, such as the Blue Room, were not fully explained and her story left hanging so I got the feeling that the author was possibly being deliberately vague so she could return for another instalment, but I would have liked a little more development of her psychopathy to make this instalment fully satisfying.

The main police protagonist, Yorke, seemed a down to earth and solid policeman with good relationship with his colleagues and he was dogged in his efforts to solve the crime. What he was lacking though was a fully fleshed out personal story and the lack of this made it hard to really invest in him as a character. Again, I really feel that the author enjoyed writing and devoted more time to developing the baddies and their stories. I believe the author has written a prequel featuring Yorke, and that this is the beginning of a series, so no doubt more will be revealed in future books but here he seems curiously devoid of any life or interests outside of his job.

There are a lot of other minor characters on the police side of the story. Way too many in fact, it was practically impossible to keep up with them all and, aside from Jake Pettman, none of them were developed at all. People were given names and job titles that were repeated that really didn’t warrant that level of identification based on their relevance to the story. People’s full job titles and roles were repeated and repeated in a way that dragged parts of the story to a crawl and didn’t add anything to the narrative. However, I think this eased towards the end of the book and comes down to the experience of the writer. Time, practice and a good additional edit could eliminate this issue in future volumes and doesn’t take away from the fact that here is a talented writer who has real potential to produce gripping and addictive crime fiction.

This is a strong debut with a gripping plot and a real flair of imagination, marred slightly by some rookie errors that can easily be addressed and I expect to see this author go from strength to strength. I would recommend you give this book a go for its inventive plot, and watch out for exciting future books from this writer.

One Last Prayer For The Rays is available by following this link.

To read some alternative reviews of the book, make sure you follow the tour as detailed below:

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About the Author

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Wes Markin is a hyperactive English teacher, who loves writing crime fiction with a twist of the macabre.

​Having released One Last Prayer for the Rays he is now working on the second instalment of DCI Michael Yorke’s wild ride, The Repenting Serpent. He is also the author of Defined, a prequel to his DCI Yorke novels, which takes the reader back to his blood-soaked university days.​​

​Born in 1978, Wes grew up in Manchester, UK. After graduating from Leeds University, he spent fifteen years as a teacher of English, and has taught in Thailand, Malaysia and China. Now as a teacher, writer, husband and father, he is currently living in Harrogate, UK.​

Connect with Wes:

Facebook: Wes Markin Author

Twitter: @MarkinWes

Flowers Over The Inferno by Ilaria Tuti #BookReview #BlogTour (@Ilaria_Tuti) @wnbooks @gigicroft @orionbooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #FlowersOverTheInferno #NetGalley

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An idyllic village in the alps.
A legacy of sin.
An evil lurking in the woods.

In a quiet village surrounded by the imposing Italian Alps, a series of brutal assaults take place.

Police inspector Teresa Battaglia is called in when the first body is found. Soon more victims are discovered – all horrifically mutilated – and when a new-born baby is kidnapped, Teresa’s investigation becomes a race against the clock.

But Teresa is also fighting a battle against her own body, weighed down by age and diabetes, and her mind, once invincible and now slowly gnawing away at her memory…

Delighted to be rounding off the blog tour today for Flowers Over The Inferno by Ilaria Tuti. my thanks to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting me on to the tour and to Virginia Woolstencroft of Orion for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is the debut novel by Ilaria Tuti, and the first novel featuring Detective Teresa Battaglia, and I have to say it is impressive to see such a strong and unique novel coming from the pen of a brand new author. Everything about this book is accomplished and confident, you would be forgiven for believing that this is a writer who has been doing this for years.

There is so much to enjoy about this book if you are a fan of the Euro-crime genre. Firstly, and probably the strongest aspect of this book, are the main detective duo. Teresa Battaglia is a really refreshing change to the standard grumpy male or feisty, young, ambitious female detectives you find carrying these stories. A woman of middle years, not beautiful, not thrusting, not particularly stand out in any way except through her intellect, her dedication to her job and the devotion she inspires in her team. I absolutely loved her, and was willing to follow her through whatever ups and downs she might face throughout the novel. She is brutal and forthright in her opinions, no nonsense, dedicated. She has personal issues, health issues, issues with relationships, but battles all these quietly and with dignity to get the job done.

She also does not suffer fools gladly, which appears to be a problem when she gets a new, young, male wet-behind-the-ears inspector to add to her team. To begin with there is the usual chalk and cheese friction between the two, but this has the makings of a great partnership for future books and the two will find that their differences can be an asset, as they have lots to learn from each other.

There is a great supporting cast for this book, but these two carry the book, along with the third standout star of the novel, which is the setting. Forget Scandi-noir, here we have Italy as a back drop for the drama, but not the picturesque coastal towns of Amalfi or Sorrento or Portofino; not the glamorous cities of Rome or Venice or Florence; not the rural beauty of Tuscany or the Italian Lakes. This is the remote, forgotten, mountainous area on the Italian-Austrian border which very rarely has the literary spotlight shone upon it. This author, however, obviously has a great fondness for the region, she brings it vividly to life throughout the book, illuminating the forests, gorges, peaks, rivers and isolated villages making the landscape an integral part of the story, a character in its own right.

The setting of this book is what gives it its atmosphere, and that atmosphere is deeply claustrophobic and unsettling. This is a place cut off from the outside world to a large degree. They are insular, superstitious and extremely suspicious of outsiders. Protective of their community and any perceived external threat, they close ranks and shut out interlopers, protecting their secrets, even if that means protecting a serial killer from the police. This makes the investigation more complicated, and the diplomatic skills of Teresa Battaglia vital to crack the case. The area is sparsely populated, mountainous, heavily wooded, large areas unexplored or long forgotten. The intrusion of the modern world into this ancient wilderness, upsetting the dynamics unchanged for centuries, is one of the fascinating themes of the book and adds to the air of menace and threat.

The case itself is gruesome and deeply disturbing. It is hard to say too much about it without including any spoilers in the review, but there are links to unpleasant echoes of a unedifying era of the area’s past. Some aspects of the book are quite graphic and upsetting, but the plot is completely gripping from start to finish and the reader will find it very hard to break away from the story without finding out what happens. I am still thinking about the plot, even now the book is finished and I have moved on to my next read. There are some moral questions raised in the book that will get you thinking more deeply than is often the case in a standard crime novel, a deeper dimension to the narrative.

The book is written from a few different perspectives, in a variety of time periods, and through different mediums, such as diary entries. As it hops around quite a lot, I did find it tricky to keep up in places. Some of this was due to the way my review copy was formatted on my Kindle I think, but I do believe that this is one of those odd books that would be more easily and enjoyably read in physical format, rather than on an e-reader. Fortuitously, this is also a book where I would suggest that the story is worth the investment in an actual book. This was something new and different and interesting din would highly recommend it. A brave new voice in the crime genre.

Flowers Over The Inferno is out now and you can buy a copy here.

To follow the rest of the tour and read some alternative reviews of this book, check out the blogs on the poster below:

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About the Author

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ILARIA TUTI lives in Friuli, in the far north-eastern part of Italy. FLOWERS OVER THE INFERNO, her debut novel and the first book in the Teresa Battaglia trilogy, was a top 10 bestseller on publication and the biggest debut of 2018 in Italy. Rights for the novel have been sold in over 15 countries, making her one of the most internationally successful Italian authors of recent years.

Connect with Ilaria:

Twitter: @Ilaria_Tuti