Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Books I have read

Twin Truths – Shelan Rodger #BlogTour

I was thrilled to be asked to be part of the blog tour for Twin Truths because for those of us who aren’t part of this special type of twosome, there is something fascinating about twins. Fortunately the author Shelan Rodgers agrees with me and has written a little post about the phenomenon.

Twin intrigue

Why are we fascinated by twins? Especially identical twins. No matter what they look like, they never go unnoticed; there is something magnetic about them, something that makes us want to stare and see inside them. Is it because we are brought up on difference – the idea that everyone is unique, individual, different – and the physical similarity of identical twins challenges all that? What would it be like to exist ‘in duplicate’? The very idea plays havoc with our preconceptions about personal identity. And if two people are the same on the outside, what about the inside?

In Her, a memoir by Christa Parravini, Christa says she and her identical twin ‘were like an apple sliced in half: two halves of the same fruit, one with more seeds, one with fewer.’ The idea of a connection so strong that single selves no longer exist also exerts a strange and compelling pull. How often do people seek completion through someone else? How often does love fail because we are looking for ‘our other half’? As if we were born with half of ourselves missing. As if we were part of a divine jigsaw puzzle and just need to find the piece that fits and makes us whole. In reality, we are born and die alone – unless we are twins. Even if they die alone, twins are born together and, whatever happens in their lives, their shared beginning intrigues us, makes them different to the rest of us.

And their shared beginning, their shared genes turn them into a readymade social experiment. Nature versus nurture. If they turn out to be very different on the inside, despite being exposed to similar paths and experiences, does that mean that nature has the upper hand? What about the ones who are separated at birth and live completely different lives, yet turn out to be uncannily similar in some of their habits and behaviours? Twins fascinate us, I think, because they enable us to speculate about the whole question of what it is that shapes us, what it is that gives us our sense of personal identity.

But what do they think about all this? Both my brother and sister have fraternal twins and I asked my 18-year-old nephews (separately) what it was like to be a twin. I realised from their independent answers that this was a bit like asking someone with two legs what it is like to have two legs! For them, it is simply the norm, there is nothing exceptional about it – it is other people who treat them like a riddle, constantly comparing them, as if they were looking for clues. And yet, for all their rationalism, it was apparent in different ways with each of my nephews, that there is a connection, a sense of responsibility for the other, an empathy or awareness of the other, which – however normal for them – is something beyond the norm for someone who is not a twin.

Jenny and Pippa, my ‘paper twins’, are very different and yet they complete each other, much like Christa Parravini and her sister Cara. When Cara dies of an overdose, Christa writes that it ‘is impossible for surviving twins to differentiate their living body from their twin’s; they become a breathing memorial for their lost half.’ And so it is for Jenny, when her sister disappears. They drew me in, as twins, from the moment they were born in my head. Whether you are a twin or not, I hope you enjoy them!

My Review

Psychological Thriller
4*s

I’m clocking up the books about twins this year and I’m pleased to say that this powerful novel really did have a surprise in store for me.

Pippa and Jenny are identical twins and as children their lives were firmly entwined but at the point the story opens we meet Jenny far away from home, and Pippa. Jenny has gone to Argentina to teach English to the locals and I have to say, at first I struggled to warm to this young woman who seemed oblivious to others. Jenny is also in therapy although she seems to prefer to play games with the therapist than actually engage but then this is not so different to her interactions with her English friends, none of them know the truth about Jenny either.
This first section of the book was written in an engaging style even though to be honest I had my doubts about whether this was really ‘my kind of book.’ I am so glad I didn’t put what turned out to be a perceptive and intelligent novel aside.

In the second part of the novel we meet Pippa who gives us the background to Jenny’s trip to Argentina by taking us back to childhood. There we find what is at times an upsetting tale, but the interesting part is how the two girls reacted. Even though they were twins the way they reacted was entirely different and almost certainly that reaction led to their adult lives. Whereas Jenny’s tale jumps around in a somewhat disjointed fashion, imitating Jenny’s life, and mindset, Pippa’s story is far more linear, full of emotion alongside the almost memoir style of her story. It doesn’t hurt that Pippa is a booklover and so I’m drawn to this shy and thoughtful young woman, whilst her sister is brash Pippa goes for the almost invisible option in life.

In part three the book undoubtedly gains its psychological thriller but it does far more than that – with this not just being incredibly clever on the surface but opens up some of the bigger questions we all have about identity, love and loss even if we aren’t half of a twin.

Twin Truths can be hard to read in parts but it is truly that overused phrase, a multi-layered story. The assured writing altering during the course of the novel and yet still absolutely clear that it comes from the same pen. It is a clever writer who can purposely write a book that makes you question the veracity of what you are being told and yet convincing you of other elements at the same time. It is rare that this genre has that almost poetic style of writing which I love, but in this book with its ribbon of sadness it lifted the novel, there was simply so much to admire.

This haunting tale has embedded itself on my memory, not bad at all especially since I was really unsure about the content and the characterisation in the opening few pages.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Dome Press for providing me with an advance copy of Twin Truths, this unbiased review is thanks to them and the author Shelan Rodgers for an intriguing and beguiling read.

First Published UK: 15 March 2018
Publisher: Dome Press
No of Pages: 256
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Shelan’s life is a patchwork of different cultures and landscapes; she was born in northern Nigeria, growing up among the Tiwi – an aboriginal community on an island north of Darwin, and moved to England at the age of eleven. She then travelled to Buenos Aires after graduating in Modern Languages from Oxford, and stayed for nine years. Then another chapter in England, followed by six years in Kenya on flower farms by Lake Naivasha and the lower slopes of Mount Kenya.

Now, Shelan lives in Andalucia, Spain. She has learnt in and outside many classrooms around the world, teaching in some of them too. Her professional career has revolved around international education, learning and development, with an emphasis during her time in Kenya on anti-discrimination.

Shelan’s first book, Twin Truths, was published by Cutting Edge Press in 2014, followed by Yellow Room, also in 2015.

As of 2017, The Dome Press acquired the rights to these two titles and Yellow Room was released in October 2017, with Twin Truths following in March 2018.

Social Media & Links

Twitter: @ShelanRodger
Website: www.shelanrodger.com

Don’t forget to check out the other posts on this blog tour!

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Dark Waters – Mary-Jane Riley #BlogTour #BookReview

I was absolutely delighted when Mary-Jane Riley asked me to kick-off the Blog Tour to promote her latest book, Dark Waters having been a huge fan of the previous two books in this series which features journalist Alex Devlin.

I have interrogated Mary-Jane Riley about Dark Waters in the following Q&A Session.

Well Mary-Jane Dark Waters is the third in the journalist Alex Devlin series; is it getting easier to write the books now the character is developed or does it sometimes curtail how you’d like her to behave?

Hmm, interesting question, Cleo. I’ve always found Alex pretty easy to write. It’s like I’ve always known her, perhaps because there’s a bit (a lot?) of me in her. I do usually know how she will react to events, and that’s what makes writing the novels with her centre-stage so satisfying. It’s not what I want to happen but what Alex wants to happen, how she reacts, the decisions she makes. I hope she always behaves true to character, and there’s no point in making her do something she wouldn’t. Does that make sense?

Tell us a little about Dark Waters, was there a Eureka moment which inspired the novel?

Dark Waters begins with the discovery of two bodies on a boat on the Norfolk Broads. The idea of using the Broads wasn’t so much of a eureka moment of inspiration as a slow realisation…. The Bad Things is set on the Suffolk coast, After She Fell on the crumbling cliffs of North Norfolk, so for my third I felt I wanted to go inland. And then I thought about the atmospheric Broads and how a boat could stay moored for several days before anyone would wonder what was going on….. That was the basic premise and I built the novel up from there! Sometimes that’s all you need, and I asked myself the usual questions: who were the people who had died? How had they met their end? Why were they on the boat? Did they know each other? And so on. I think I have probably done a disservice to the Broads, though, it really is a gorgeous place to visit!

Do you have an idea what situations you are going to place poor Alex in next? Yes, that’s me checking that there is another book in the pipeline!

Yes. Oh, you want me to say more? Well… no, you’ll have to wait….

How long does it take to produce your first draft of each book? Yes, this is me trying to work out how long I have to wait for the next book!

It varies, and though I would love to be one of those people who writes the whole story as a first draft, I’m not. First of all I think about the story. A lit. Then I write bits, some of which will be scrapped. After that, when I think I know what I’m doing, I tend to write a third, then go back over that and edit. After the second third I’ve just about got the story I want to tell in my head or in my notebook as bullet points and can write the last third pretty quickly…or at least that’s what I’m telling myself as I’m just past that stage now! Then I read it through again and edit, and for my final edit I print it out and go through it. It probably takes about nine months in all.

You chose to set the series mainly in Norfolk with the memorable opening of two bodies being found on a barge in the county, however we also travel across the county boarder to Cambridge University. How much research do you do on the settings to make them feel so authentic?

I’m glad they feel authentic, thank you! I’ve lived in East Anglia for many years, and when I was a BBC reporter I travelled quite widely across Norfolk and Suffolk, so I know the area pretty well. My husband and I do take day trips out to the main places where the books are set – so Southwold for the The Bad Things, a village called Happisburgh for After She Fell and Wroxham and Ludham for Dark Waters. We do an awful lot of walking around and I take photos, and we usually ending up eating fish and chips. For the Cambridge section of Dark Waters I went to Cambridge, and I also spoke to a good friend who was at the university, so she could give me some insights!

In this episode, without giving too much away, Alex is having family problems. She really hasn’t had an easy ride so far in this area so I’m wondering do you secretly hate her or is it more that you enjoy showing her tenacious nature?

I love Alex! In Dark Waters she really suffers from being in the sandwich generation, don’t you think? Still trying to look after her son, Gus, and also her parents, particularly her father whose health is failing. I think it’s true of the lives of many women between, say, forty and fifty, don’t you? I do love how she battles through and survives both mentally and physically.

This book delves way back into the past in one strand of the storyline. I find this kind of storyline very appealing but wonder how hard is it to choose how much to reveal of the past when the main action is taking place in the present?

That’s another great question! I write the different strands separately and I’m not sure I actually ‘choose’ how much to reveal, it sort of happens naturally…. I suppose, thinking about it, that I look to that storyline as an echo of the past – I don’t want to overwhelm the present action. I usually end up cutting a lot of the past story, making it, hopefully, tighter.

Do you have a writing routine?

A very loose one…. I like to get some writing done in the morning after I have walked the dogs, even if only a little because at least I’ve got started. Hopefully I’ll do a couple of hours (with frequent breaks!) then maybe an hour after lunch and another hour early evening….that is in an ideal world….one I don’t really inhabit!

Do you read books in the same genre that you write in?

I do, I love the genre….reading and writing it. I enjoy a good thriller too and a long, rich saga!

What was your last read?

I have a couple of books on the go…. Wendy Cope’s new poetry collection Anecdotal Evidence, and an interesting spy thriller The Language of Secrets by Asuma Zehanat Khan, but that’s not what you’re asking is it! I have just finished Skitter by Ezekiel Boone, which is about man-eating spiders and the end of the world. I love a good sci fi /dystopian thriller…..

My Review

Crime Fiction
5*s

Wow, having fallen a little bit in love with tenacious journalist Alex Devlin at the start of this series; Where the Bad Things Are, there is always a tiny worry that your heroine can let you down. Oh no, this book opens with a frankly gruesome description of bodies decay and didn’t stop twisting my emotions hither and thither until I sadly turned the last page.

Two bodies are found dead in a barge on the Norfolk Broads and Alex just happens to be in the area at the time. Seeing a chance to make a scoop she chats to the boat owner and the police ringing her old boss Bud Evans to see if he’s willing to run a piece. Within a day or so the verdict of suicide being the one the police are going with unsurprisingly as the deceased connected over the internet on a suicide website. Now I love it when crime fiction takes in (the often depressing) contemporary twists and although I’d vaguely heard of such sites, I was interested to see the character’s take on them too.

As always Mary-Jane Riley spoils her readers with a number of different strands all being played out simultaneously giving the reader no chance to catch their breath. We have the most recent past covered to give us some idea of what has happened in the gap between the end of After She Fell and the start of Dark Waters. We see the family continue to come to terms with the actions of her sister which dominated the first book and we also visit Cambridge University in the early 1970s, in haunting extracts from a first year’s foray into this great place of learning.

I love the fact that Alex is a journalist rather than a Police Officer as that way she isn’t so bound by procedures, or the need to act as a team. Some of the lighter scenes see her negotiating a way to stay on the story when Bud dispatches Heath from the crime desk to file the story. The battle between doing a more worthwhile story rather than extreme coupon is so compelling that Alex, much to the disgust of her friend Lin, is prepared to use her free time to dig into the lives of those who died on the barge but only if Heath lets her in on what he’s found out so far. I wonder how often this kind of dynamic plays out in the world of the freelance journalist.
As in the previous two books, you can’t doubt that any of these characters are anything other than real people.

With so much action going on it must be easy for the author to lose the oomph that makes the characters who they are, but not Mary-Jane, each one from primary to secondary characters are absolutely alive and kicking (well apart from the dead ones!) The plotting is ingenious with the steps along the way being revealed at just the right point to keep the storyline moving forward without ever feeling that the author is holding out on us.

I raced through Dark Waters, thrilled to catch up with Alex, delighted with the twists and turns that this tale took us on and so I turned the last page, sad to say goodbye, until next time!

First Published UK: 16 March 2018
Publisher: Killer Reads
No of Pages: 332
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK

Alex Devlin Series

The Bad Things
After She Fell


Synopsis

DARK WATERS is the third crime thriller in the series featuring journalist Alex Devlin. It begins with a macabre discovery on board a pleasure cruiser on the beautiful Norfolk Broads – the decomposing bodies of two elderly men. It appears the dead men did not know each other and police suspect an internet suicide pact.
Alex’s search for the truth reveals a darker story. She finds a connection between the two men and possible links to other unexplained deaths.

As she investigates further, the stakes rise and her own family becomes embroiled in the mystery. Her inquiries lead her to the University of Cambridge. Could the roots of the puzzle lie there with a tragedy that unfolded amongst a group of carefree students many years before?

Long-buried secrets come to the surface and Alex’s life and the lives of her family are on the line. As the past and the present collide, Alex questions everything she thinks she knows about those she loves.

Find Mary-Jane Riley on social media

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/maryjanerileyauthor/
Twitter: @mrsmjriley
Instagram: maryjanerileyauthor

Bio

Mary-Jane wrote her first story on her newly acquired blue Petite typewriter. She was eight. It was about a gang of children who had adventures on mysterious islands, but she soon realised Enid Blyton had cornered that particular market. So she wrote about the Wild West instead. When she grew up she had to earn a living, and became a BBC radio talk show presenter and journalist. She has covered many life-affirming stories, but also some of the darkest events of the past two decades. Mary-Jane has three grown-up children and lives in Suffolk with her husband and two golden retrievers.

DARK WATERS is her third crime thriller featuring investigative journalist, Alex Devlin.

If you like what you’ve read the links to buy the books are here!

Dark Waters
After She Fell 
The Bad Things 

 

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Come A Little Closer – Rachel Abbott #BlogTour #GuestPost #BookReview

The publication of another DCI Tom Douglas always provokes excitement and so I was thrilled to take part on the BlogTour to promote its publication on 15 February 2018.

Before we get to my review of the latest thrilling episode Rachel Abbott kindly agreed to tell me about her last five reads – spookily so many of these, well all in fact, also sit on my own bookshelf. How many are on yours?

My Last Five Reads by Rachel Abbott

I have just finished a book called Hell Bay by the wonderful Kate Rhodes. I have been a fan of her books for a number of years, and nobody gives a better sense of place or character than this author. The body of a teenage girl is washed up on the shore of a small island in the Scilly Isles and a new detective – DI Ben Kitto – is asked to investigate. I suspect this is not the last we will see of Kitto – I certainly hope not.

 

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell is another of my recent reads. Such a clever plot, and the strands slowly come together to a dramatic conclusion. It’s another story about a teenage girl who goes missing, but ten years later, when her mother has given up all hope of finding Ellie, she meets a new man and her heart almost stops when she meets his daughter. She is the image of Ellie. It is rare when a thriller also breaks your heart, but this one does just that.

This book isn’t out until April, but it’s available for pre-order now. I was lucky enough to be able to get a pre-release copy. As with all books by Sharon Bolton, one of my favourite authors, The Craftsman delivers compulsive reading. Dark and disturbing, it is the story of a Larry Glassbrook who confesses to a series of child murders. But now he is dead, and the young policewoman who originally arrested him returns to the scene. Did she get it wrong all those years ago, or is history about to repeat itself?

Although there is nothing current about this book, I recently reread Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I was asked to run a workshop on How to Write Suspense, and I wanted to use examples from a single book. Rebecca was the first novel to come to mind, and reading it with the specific purpose of focusing on the language was a wonderful experience. I have always loved the story – which I suspect needs no introduction to readers of this blog – but this time I enjoyed it for du Maurier’s amazing choice of words.

One of the books I have been looking forward to since I first heard of it is Anatomy of a Scandal (and what a brilliant title!). It is the story of a junior Home Office minister, James, who is accused of rape by one of this colleagues. The point of view shifts between James, his wife and the prosecuting barrister, and author Sarah Vaughan manages to combine all the elements of a psychological thriller with a tense and exciting court room drama. It was certainly worth waiting for; the plot twists and turns to the very end.

 

All I can say is that Rachel Abbott has very good taste in books!

My Review

Crime Fiction
5*s

Well we are already up to number seven in the DCI Tom Douglas and all I can say is Rachel Abbott keeps coming up with original ideas for our dear detective to solve. This book is dark and yet delicious.

I’ll admit I was a tad confused at the beginning. First there is a dead body in a twitcher’s hide with no clue how she got there, next there a young woman is jetting away from her awful boyfriend to visit Myanmar in memory of her dearly missed grandfather and lastly and most confusingly there are some women, who don’t talk and listen for footsteps. All very weird and if I didn’t trust Rachel Abbott as much as I do, I’d swear she’d lost the plot so to speak. Fortunately she hasn’t, it’s all under control, careful control with more than a dash of inspirational writing.

As always I was drawn into the story, ok I might not have had a clue what was unfolding but that doesn’t mean that each separate strand wasn’t compelling in its own right and I was more than happy to follow wherever it took me. Well that was a mistake, this book freaked me out! This author knows how to pull the spook out of the bag without any warning. Give me blood and gore any day to something that is completely crazy on one level, but absolutely believable on another. This is all the harder because the book is jam-packed full of action and so you barely have time to catch your breath following revelations in one strand when you are hit with something big in another strand.

As you can probably tell, I’m not able to give much away of what the plot consists of as that would entirely spoil the surprise for you. What I can say is we have the same characters in the Manchester CID. Becky is pregnant and not willing to sit back and watch Tom have all the excitement, the junior officer is a clever cookie and will clearly go far sitting back and putting the clues together to move the investigation forward and the chief is still urging Tom to attend meetings about crime figures. The other characters are brilliantly drawn with Ian the awful boyfriend being a composition of men you will have met in your lifetime however lucky you’ve been. Callie his girlfriend is far too nice but just finding the guts to do what she wants, hence the solo trip to Myanmar. The women in the shadows are also real women, once they speak, underlining one of the trademarks of these books that even the minor characters are not skimped. The look and behave as people you meet do. Ok so hopefully the people you meet aren’t in quite so much danger, but you know what I mean.

If you’re reading this series you really don’t want to miss out on this episode, it starts well and builds into such a crescendo it had me gasping for breath. If you aren’t reading this series and you enjoy brilliant crime fiction, why not?

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Rachel for providing me with an advance review copy of Come A Little Closer and for agreeing to provide an insight into her own reading habits. This unbiased review is my thank you to her.

First Published UK: 15 February 2018
Publisher: Black Dot Publishing Ltd
No of Pages: 406
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Discover Rachel Abbott here

Web : http://www.rachel-abbott.com
Blog: rachelabbottwriter.com
Twitter: @RachelAbbott
Facebook: RachelAbbott1Writer
Video: https://vimeo.com/253996703

 

The Rachel Abbott DCI Tom Douglas Books in order:

Only The Innocent
The Back Road
Sleep Tight
Stranger Child
Nowhere Child (Novella)
Kill Me Again
The Sixth Window

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Last Day – Claire Dyer #BookTour #GuestPost #BookReview

I was delighted to be invited to take part in this blog tour especially as the author generously offered to write an exclusive post.

Read what Claire Dyer has to say about polyamorous relationships!

The love triangle bug

Like many authors, I’ve caught the love triangle bug.

It all started when I took part in one of those ‘sum up your book in three words’ things on Twitter. I’d just begun the novel that was to become The Last Day and replied, ‘Crazy Love Triangle’ but I didn’t really know at that stage how this particular love triangle would play out.

I’d also been aware of features in the press about polyamorous relationships which seem, on the face of it, supremely glamorous but, being a monogamous type, I do struggle to understand how these might actually work out.

But, in the spirit of tapping into the zeitgeist, I wanted to blend the two and so in the novel I have my three main characters living in the same house as one another and all loving each other in slightly different ways, the result of which is that decisions get made and choices are taken that change their lives forever.

And, what I also decided to do in The Last Day was to alter the standard dynamics of the love triangle and make my two heroines like each other. As Vita says about her husband’s new lover, ‘… it would have been easier if I’d hated her’ but she doesn’t. What I wanted to do in this book was to talk above love in its many colours and so in my love triangle, there are no clear lines. In fact, it’s less of a triangle and more of a Venn diagram with a number of interlocking sections.

However, let’s just think about some other love triangles. There’s Scarlett, Ashley and Rhett in Gone With the Wind; Ilsa, Rick and Victor in Casablanca; Bella, Edward and Jacob in The Twilight Saga; Bridget, Mark and Daniel in Bridget Jones’s Diary and the huge array of triangles in Jane Austen’s novels, including: Elizabeth, Darcy & Wickham; Marianne, Brandon and Willoughby; Elinor, Edward and Lucy, and let’s not even get started on Shakespeare! The list, it seems, is quite endless.

What is it that makes love triangles so beguiling? Personally, I love writing them because they’re a challenge: can I write from three different points of view and make each one so that the reader believes in them and wants what they want, so that if there is a ‘happy ever after’, even if someone has to lose out in the end, the reader is on the side of all three?

The plot possibilities of love triangles are infinite and that’s what makes writing them such a wonderful thing to do.

 

My Review

Contemporary Fiction
5*s

The Last Day is a poignant and beautifully written novel and although it is quite different to my normal choice of reading matter, I loved it.

The synopsis had me wondering what I’d let myself in for. We have Boyd in his forties moving in with his wife along with his twenty-seven year old new girlfriend. The cynic in me doubted whether this was really a likely scenario but what Claire Dyer excels at is characterisation, and boy did these characters get under my skin.

Boyd and Vita have been separated for six years and the reader has to wait quite a while to find out what their last day consisted of before the decision was made to go their separate ways. Honey the young girlfriend works with Boyd at his Estate agency along with the steadfast Trixie. Honey is far more likeable than I’d imagined she would be but like all of the protagonists in the book has secrets. As the book progresses I wondered which one of these was going to blow the roof off the set-up. Boyd, Vita and Honey are people with faults and pasts, but they are also incredibly real and ultimately ‘nice’ people. If you are looking for a tale of discord, this isn’t the book for you.

The story is told from different viewpoints with each chapter devoted to one or other of the characters. This is done so very well as we slowly get to know all the different aspects to each one. I’ll admit I was drawn in by the excellent writing; this was one of those books that I started and knew that I would enjoy whichever direction the book followed. This isn’t a typical tale of dysfunction, it is actually a sympathetic portrayal of marriage, love the way life changes and grief. Now I usually steer well clear of books concerning grief because this is a topic I don’t like to dwell on but perhaps because the grief in this novel is not raw and the characters concerned have an understanding of the journey they’ve been through, I found it in accordance with my own experiences in some of the smaller details. I certainly think it helped that the author somehow manages to acknowledge that everyone grieves differently.

This is a reflective book which if I were reading those words in another person’s review I’d take to mean slow, but this book isn’t. Instead it is one of those rare novels book that allows you to think about what you’ve read, sometimes by reading between the words, a difficult skill to pull off but so very effective when it is done as well as it is in The Last Day. I doubt whether there will be many readers that don’t happen upon a situation or characteristic that they recognise either in themselves or someone close to them.

As I said earlier the characters make this book, there is a certain amount of looking back which I think is common once we get to a certain age, but plenty to keep the reader entertained with the emotions that lie behind the characters actions. There is a mystery, a secret – or two or three – and a bit of danger to spice things up so there is no time to get bored. I was very sad to say goodbye to all the characters but particularly Vita and her pet portraits as she entertained me with her no-nonsense attitude, one that hides a multitude of complexities.

I’d like to say a big thank you to The Dome Press who provided me with an advance copy of The Last Day. This unbiased review is my thank you to them. Even better I realised that I have one of this author’s previous books The Perfect Affair on my kindle and it now won’t be long before I read that one too.

First Published UK: 15 February 2018
Publisher:The Dome Press
No of Pages: 256
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Close to Home – Cara Hunter #BlogTour

I was delighted to be asked by Poppy from Penguin to be part of the blog tour for this debut crime novel which was published in December 2017. Close to Home introduces DI Adam Fawley in this nail-biting crime fiction novel. But before we get to my review I asked the author Cara Hunter why she chose Oxford as the scene of the crime.

Why is Oxford such a capital of crime?

It’s all Morse’s fault, of course. The books started it, but it was the TV series starring John Thaw that really sealed the city’s fate. And since then, of course, we’ve had Lewis and Endeavour too. If you believe even half of what you see there can’t be a (thinly disguised) college that hasn’t lost at least half a dozen dons to murderous revenge or professional rivalry. Don’t get me wrong, I am the most immense fan of the whole franchise, but it does make Oxford a mite crowded for anyone wanting to set their own crime series here. I could have chosen somewhere else, of course, but I live in Oxford, and whoever it was who said ‘write what you know’ is dead right. That was one important reason I wanted to set the Fawley books here; the other is because there’s a lot more to Oxford than ivy-clad quads.

Being a university town definitely shapes the sort of place this is: there’s a big student population, and a high proportion of academics, many of them from overseas, and some of them (like the students) only here for a few years. And surrounding the ancient beautiful centre you have a ring of very different communities, from the industrial area round the Cowley car plant, to the genteel suburb of Summertown, to areas like Osney and Jericho, which bear witness to the city’s industrial past (the two-up-two-down Victorian cottages in Jericho originally housed workers at the nearby Oxford University Press).

These different ‘satellites’ have their own distinctive atmosphere and appearance, but even if the geographical areas are clear and self-contained, the same doesn’t go for the people. I’ve always been intrigued how much intermingling there is here between very different groups of people – how many connections there are that you wouldn’t necessarily expect. It makes this beautiful city a rich and diverse place to live and work in, but it also makes it fertile ‘terroir’ (as the French say), for conflict, misunderstanding and tension. Everything you need, in fact, for the perfect crime….

Cara Hunter January 2018

My Review

Crime Fiction
5*s

Wow! This is one of the most nail-biting crime fiction novel I have read for quite some time. DI Adam Fawley presides over a police investigation into eight year old Daisy Mason’s disappearance one summer night while her family were holding a barbecue. No-one saw her go but how can a child disappear into thin air?

This was a compelling read, a real page-turner with twists and turns aplenty. These and many of the other well-worn phrases apply to Close to Home and once again I’m going to struggle to explain what exactly this book offers that makes it stand out from a crowded genre.

I really liked the use of different types of written material in the book, within pages of Daisy’s disappearance the news is out and the twitter feed, oh so realistically created is recreated on the page, just check out those twitter handles, the sentiments shared in the 140 characters and compare them to everything you see, even if you don’t want to, on your own social media feed. A few pages further on we have the transcript of a police interview with a suspect, we have bulletin’s from the media, a birthday message and a story written by a child, all of which adds to the texture of the book, it tells a story without needing to verbalise some of the conflicting views the reader themselves may have.

The characters are also well-formed. I have a feeling some will be universally disliked but Adam Fawley is a likeable detective, not an alcoholic although he does have a bit of baggage, but who doesn’t and it’s the kind of problem which is likely to produce a hefty amount of sympathy. He has a good team who are in the main supportive of each other, a fairly inoffensive bit of rivalry between a couple of officers but not the angst ridden teams with endless pressure piled on from above that is the normal crime fiction fare.

The plotting is meticulous, I actually went back to the beginning to check some facts and I’m convinced that this book has undergone some rigorous editing to make sure that all the strands line up perfectly. The reason why I mention this aspect is because the storyline switches direction a number of times with a piece of evidence turning everything about-face and yet the structure of the book means it has gaps. We see one part of the investigation while elsewhere another piece of evidence is being investigated and so the simultaneous actions taking place are partly told with the answers not necessarily being revealed for a few pages.

All of this gives a fresh feel to this crime fiction series because I am delighted to announce that DI Adam Fawley will be back in the summer in Cara Hunter’s second novel In The Dark, a book that I am really looking forward to reading.

I’d like to thank the publishers Penguin for providing me with a copy of Close to Home thereby allowing me to get hooked on another crime fiction series! This unbiased review is my thanks to them and Cara Hunter for presenting me with a puzzle to entertain me.

First Published UK: 14 December 2017
Publisher: Penguin 
No of Pages: 385
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Cara Hunter is a writer who lives in Oxford, in a street not unlike those featured in her series of crime books. Her first book, Close to Home, was picked for the Richard and Judy Book Club, and this is her second featuring DI Adam Fawley and his team of detectives.

To find out more about Cara Hunter, follow her on twitter @CaraHunterBooks.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Books I have read

Turning for Home – Barney Norris #BlogTour #BookReview

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

A Grandfather on his eightieth birthday and his grand-daughter a mere quarter of a century old are the figureheads for the talented Barney Norris’s latest book, Turning For Home but don’t be mislead this is far deeper than the conventional birthday gathering where memories are both revived and made.

Robert Shawcross is eighty and despite the loss of his wife the year before he is holding his annual birthday party, the one Hattie his wife instigated when he was forty, originally conceived as an opportunity for the scattered family to gather. The party itself has diminished over the last few years with the decline in the older family members but Hattie’s sister Laura has taken up the baton and is there preparing the food for the gathering.

Robert is moved to reflect on his life, a civil servant he spent much of his time in Belfast and was there at the time of the Enniskellen bombing on Remembrance Sunday in 1987. A bomb which killed many civilians, missing the British Troops it was planned to kill. The reflection of this time is prompted by the arrest of the Sinn Fein Leader in 2014, the news hitting the press just before Robert’s big party. The Boston Tapes were recordings of interviews carried out with Loyalist and Republican paramilitaries between 2001 and 2006 on the understanding that they would not be published until the interviewee was dead, what it seems no-one had appreciated was that these men could implicate those still living, leading to the arrest of Gerry Adams following a police probe.

So we have real life events based on the ‘Troubles’ with both the Enniskellen bombing and the Boston Tapes but Barney Norris chooses smaller more intimate stories against this gigantic backdrop. We have Robert’s story, the part he thinks he played in the negotiations towards peace along with recognition that he was one small cog in a whole bigger wheel, told alongside his Grand-daughter, Kate’s tale whose far shorter life hasn’t been without its own struggles. Her story is less clear to begin with but with incremental revelations we see a young woman who had much to live for until tragedy struck and her life derailed leading to a spell in hospital. Kate’s story is of loss and of her search for something that perhaps will never materialise. This is a story of families who never really know the truth about each other and individuals who struggle with the gaps between the truth and hope.

And I think perhaps it’s very human as well. Isn’t the life of any person made up of the telling of two tales, after all? People live in the space between the realities of their lives and the hopes they have for them.

This is a deeply poignant book, as books about characters nearing the end of their life are bound to be in some respects but it also has a message of hope. That just because the space between reality and dreams is wider than we’d like shouldn’t stop us from trying. Kate’s story is painful to read at times but worth persevering with, seeming just as relevant to this reader as the wider canvas that is its backdrop.

Barney Norris gives us both stories, interspersed with extracts from the Boston tapes, with lyrical prose and real depth. The struggles the two character’s face being unique to them but the language used will strike a chord as it charts the rise and fall of human emotions that are common to all of our lives.

A fantastic tale of betrayal, of love and hope and all the great emotions we ride throughout our lifetimes bought down in scale reflected through two people’s eyes, hearts and minds.

I’d like to thank the publishers Transworld who allowed me to read a copy of Turning for Home before publication on 11 January 2018, a book I was keen to read having thoroughly enjoyed Barney Norris’s debut novel Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain as well as Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and of course the author, Barney Norris.

First Published UK: 11 January 2018
Publisher: Transworld Books
No of Pages:272
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Don’t forget to catch the other stops on the Turning For Home Blog Tour which runs until 17 January 2018!

Posted in Blog Tour

I’ll Keep You Safe by Peter May #BlogTour #BookExtract

When I heard that Peter May was publishing another book set in the Outer Hebrides my excitement knew no bounds so I was absolutely thrilled to be contacted by Midas PR to see if I would like to be part of the blog tour to celebrate publication.

Peter May has kindly provided extracts from I’ll Keep You Safe which starts in Paris, so don’t forget to catch yesterday’s extract at Anne bonny book reviews before moving on to this, the second extract of the blog tour.
Extract 2

By the time she got to the lobby, Ruairidh and Irina had left the hotel. Through glass doors that gave on to the square, Niamh saw them getting into Irina’s car, a white A-Class Mercedes, its hazard lights flashing.

Niamh sprinted through the lobby, pausing breathlessly to let two sets of sliding doors open, before running out on to the pavement, assailed by a thousand city smells and sounds carried on cooling night breezes. The Mercedes was already accelerating away, past the lines of police vehicles, towards the traffic lights at the far end of the Place.

A classical-looking building on the block beyond the Crowne Plaza was clad in scaffolding, and simmered darkly behind mesh screening. Workmen’s trucks and a couple of skips lined up along the pavement in front of it, abandoned for the night.

Niamh ran out into the middle of the street, past a classic revolving Morris column, with its domed top, advertising a rerun of Le Fusible at the Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens. Several armed police officers turned to look at her, suddenly alert. But she didn’t even see them. The brake lights of the Mercedes glowed red as it stopped at the lights beyond the workmen’s trucks, and the left indicator began to flash. Niamh glanced across the square, beyond the thirty-foot statue of Marianne picked out by symbolic red, white and blue spots, and thought that if she ran a diagonal across the slabs, she could reach the far end of the square in time to cut the car off before it was gone for good. If only the lights would stay red long enough.

She ran past the graffiti-covered red containers that lined the nearside of the pavement, sprinting beyond Marianne and the steps that led down to the Métro République. Off to her left she was only vaguely aware of the diners who sat out at green metal tables at the Café Fluctuat Nec Mergitur. Destroyed by fire early in 2015, it had been reopened, and renamed with the motto of Paris following the terrorist attacks later that same year. Tossed by the waves but never sunk. It was about to be tossed once more.

Niamh saw the lights change to green and the Mercedes start to turn left across the flow of traffic. And then she was blinded. A searing, burning light that obliterated all else, just a fraction of a second before the shockwave from the blast knocked her off her feet. As she hit the ground, sight returned. She saw glass flying from the broken windows of the Fluctuat Nec Mergitur, tables and chairs spinning away across the square. As she rolled over, the Mercedes was still in the air. Later she would remember it as being ten feet or more off the ground. But in fact it was probably no more than eighteen or twenty inches. Flaming debris showered down across the Place de la République as the car slammed back on to the road, a ball of flame.

While her sight had returned, her hearing had not. The tinnitus was deafening. Then somewhere beyond it she heard a voice screaming. It was some moments before she realized it was her own. She pulled herself to her knees but did not have the strength to stand up, supporting herself on her arms and transfixed by the blazing vehicle on the road. Somewhere in her peripheral vision, beyond awareness, she saw dark figures running in the night. Long, flickering shadows cast by the light of the burning car.

Screams still tore themselves from her throat. Repeated, hysterical bursts of them. Before she understood that it was his name she was shrieking at the night. She felt hands grasp her arms on either side, men in uniform and dark body armour lifting her to her feet. One of them was shouting at her. His lips were moving, but she couldn’t hear him. And then a woman moved into her field of vision. A woman with long dark hair cascading over shoulders draped in silk, a shawl wrapped around her above a pencil skirt and high heels. She flashed a wallet from her bag at the men who held Niamh. With the blaze behind her, Niamh couldn’t see the woman’s face. And yet somehow her voice cut through everything else. A commanding voice edged with concern.

Niamh felt tears burning tracks down her cheeks and stopped screaming to draw breath. Although she could now hear the words, she couldn’t understand them. She shook her head hopelessly. Then suddenly there was clarity. The woman was speaking English.
‘You are English?’

She almost certainly only wanted to know that Niamh understood her. But Niamh had never been able to think of herself that way. ‘Scottish,’ she said, her voice was hoarse already. Then she thought what an absurd distinction it was in a moment like this.
‘You were running towards the car.’
‘Yes.’
‘Why?’
‘Ruairidh . . .’ Just saying his name caused her throat to close and fresh tears to scald her face. She took a moment to find her breath again. ‘My husband.’
‘Your husband was in the car?’
Niamh nodded vigorously. ‘And Irina.’
‘Irina?’
‘Vetrov. The fashion designer.’ She found light now in the woman’s eyes. ‘They’re dead, aren’t they?’
The woman nodded.
Niamh broke down again. Sobs contracting in her chest, almost completely blocking the flow of air to her lungs. The woman put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. ‘Why were you running towards the car?’ It was a refrain that would repeat itself often in the hours to come.
‘They were . . .’ In her shock and confusion she searched hopelessly for the right word. ‘Lovers.’ She sucked in air between sobs. ‘All this time and I never knew it.’ She searched the light in the eyes that gazed at her, looking for . . . what? Sympathy? Reason? ‘Now I’ll never be able to ask him why.’

I think you’ll have to agree that it’s all a little bit tense… You can read my review of I’ll Keep You Safe tomorrow, the date of publication.

Amazon UK
Amazon US

Peter May pendant le salon Polars du Sud à Toulouse en 2013

About Peter May

Website: www.petermay.co.uk
Twitter: @authorpetermay

Peter May is the multi award-winning author of:

– the Lewis Trilogy set in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland;
– the China Thrillers, featuring Beijing detective Li Yan and American forensic pathologist Margaret Campbell;
– the Enzo Files, featuring Scottish forensic scientist Enzo MacLeod, which is set in France. The sixth and final Enzo book is Cast Iron (January 2017, Riverrun).

He has also written several standalone books:
– I’ll Keep You Safe (January 2018, Riverrun)
– Entry Island (January 2014, Quercus UK)
– Runaway (January 2015, Quercus UK)
– Coffin Road (January 2016, Riverrun)

May had a successful career as a television writer, creator, and producer.

One of Scotland’s most prolific television dramatists, he garnered more than 1000 credits in 15 years as scriptwriter and script editor on prime-time British television drama. He is the creator of three major television drama series and presided over two of the highest-rated serials in his homeland before quitting television to concentrate on his first love, writing novels.
Born and raised in Scotland he lives in France.

His breakthrough as a best-selling author came with The Lewis Trilogy. After being turned down by all the major UK publishers, the first of the The Lewis Trilogy – The Blackhouse – was published in France as L’Ile des Chasseurs d’Oiseaux where it was hailed as “a masterpiece” by the French national newspaper L’Humanité. His novels have a large following in France. The trilogy has won several French literature awards, including one of the world’s largest adjudicated readers awards, the Prix Cezam.

The Blackhouse was published in English by the award-winning Quercus (a relatively young publishing house which did not exist when the book was first presented to British publishers). It went on to become an international best seller, and was shortlisted for both Barry Award and Macavity Award when it was published in the USA.
The Blackhouse won the US Barry Award for Best Mystery Novel at Bouchercon in Albany NY, in 2013.

Posted in Blog Tour

When A Killer Strikes by R.C. Bridgestock #blogtour #AuthorPost

I was thrilled to be asked to be part of the blog tour to celebrate the publication of the eighth in the DI Dylan series: When A Killer Strikes by R.C. Bridgestock which was published on 19 October 2017.

One half of RC Bridgestock, Carol agreed to share with me the important books that shaped her childhood and I hope you’ll agree it’s a fascinating, and for me, full of familiar and much-loved books.

One of my earliest memories is sitting on the woollen carpet, in the Children’s Corner at King Cross Library. It was to the right, inside the door but was cut off from the rest of the library by open book shelves that even I could see over for that reassuring smile from my mum choosing her own library books. I remember feeling safe and warm, those big cast iron radiators the colour of the mahogany woodwork didn’t half blast out some heat! Many-a-time, after a long day at school and the walk from school I recall laying on my tummy on the floor, the smell of old books that I’d pulled from the shelves to surround me and the quietness, the solitude would nearly lull me to sleep. The little solid, wooden chairs that slid underneath a child sized dark wooden table were always shiny and clean. I hung onto my library cards, with pride. The librarian had put my name on them, they belonged to me. I think I loved the books from the library more than I loved the books my mum and dad bought for me. Library time, was my time and space to explore and dream, sitting on that old, worn carpet… I loved the fact that the corners of the books pages were worn and thin from being thumbed so much. The books were alive to me, and the proof was the marks left on them by those who had read the books before me. I could feel in them the time that had passed since they’d read them. And now it was my turn.

             King Cross Library – Source Calderdale Libraries

 

My mother loved reading, still does, although her eyes are failing – thank goodness for technology, her iPad her best friend. It was on her knee that I recall being read the Five Little Kittens. I loved that book. I don’t forget the books I read when I was a child. They are burned in my brain, and each has its own scent, its rhythm and beat, which has stayed with me all that time. I remember where and when I read them, their shape, their thickness of the paper, the picture on the cover, if there was one. I even remember if the pages had come loose, or had been torn out and mended by the concerned, diligent librarian, the healer and surgeon of tattered books, it told me it was a much loved story book and one I knew I wanted to read. I even loved the yellowing pages and the stains, but most of all, I loved the notes written in the margins in many strange and different hands, and the drawings, and pictures – they made me smile. I could well imagine a few cross words from mum if I’d have done that. Last year I purchased an original copy of Five Little Kittens, which is in our bookcase and I now read it to our grandchildren.

 

It’s a simple storyline, mother cat goes to town to do some shopping whilst the kittens try to help clear up at home. It all goes terribly wrong but everything works out fine in the end. It’s beautifully illustrated and the pictures alone tell the story for me without the need for words, although it does have them.

Yes, I had a copy of this book with the self-same cover.

I learnt to read with the help of the Janet and John books, at Warley Road Infant School. Our teacher was a little old lady, who tied her grey hair up in a bun that sat in the nape of her neck. I can’t recall her name but what I do remember was that she was as round as she was tall. If we did well at reading she would let us choose a treat from her rusty old tin, that she kept in the right hand drawer of her desk. A sugar coated pineapple cube, a pear drop, a mint, or a thrupenny bit… What fun!

Your teacher sounds wonderful Carol my learn-to-read gurus were Peter and Jane.

Famous ‘Five On Treasure Island’: This was the book that lured me hook, line and sinker into the reading world. I still remember it like yesterday; my mum, dad, brother and I had just moved south. Away from my all friends, and my grandparents… I was eight, I was lonely. We lived near the sea, a harbour and I could see the Isle of Wight across The Solent. Little did I know that nearly forty years later the Island that I had called my ‘Treasure Island’ would become our home. Ah, the mysterious world of Julian, Anne, Dick and my favourite George made me forget my loneliness, and soon I made new friends and we had our own little adventures. Thank you Enid Blyton for bringing me to a world of limitless imagination.

Yes, another snap I credit the entire Famous Five series for my enduring love of crime fiction which may well be why I’m currently reading When A Killer Strikes.

The book from childhood that had the greatest impact on my life was The Diary of Anne Frank. This diary of a truly courageous young woman. Born June 12, 1929, was a German-Jewish teenager who was forced to go into hiding during the Holocaust. She and her family, along with four others, spent 25 months during World War II in an annex of rooms above her father’s office in Amsterdam. After being betrayed to the Nazis, Anne, her family, and the others living were arrested and deported to Nazi concentration camps. In March of 1945, nine months after she was arrested, Anne Frank died of typhus at Bergen-Belsen. She was fifteen years old – the same age as me. Her diary was saved by one of the people who helped the family. It made me feel very lucky, and grateful for all I had, and thankful that I was living in the now, not then.

And another yes! When I read this book I was aware of my Jewish ancestors, my immediate family having moved to the East End of London from Amsterdam. Much later I visited the Anne Frank Museum and found many of the family names in their book of those who were sent to concentration camps from the city.

The book I love reading to my grandchildren is, ‘Guess How Much I Love You?’ (Little Nutbrown Hare)

I think that this is one of the greatest books ever written. If it were required reading for all, the world would be a much better place!

I don’t have any grandchildren yet but when I do this book will also go on my bookshelf.

When A Killer Strikes by R.C. Bridgestock 

Blurb

“Boss, we’ve got a body”.
Detective Sergeant Vicky Hardacre, greets him at the scene, but what awaits them behind the blood red door of Colonial House is undoubtedly a murder. The approach identifies several prime suspects. But who is telling the truth; and who is lying?
Before the killer can be caught, another body is discovered, this time in a putrefying mixture of mud and slime, lain among the remnants of decaying food within a waste-bin shelter. Now it’s the task of the man in charge to make the call.
Are the two murders connected?
There’s only one way to find out, and that’s by working long hours, within strict budgets, and the usual pressure from above to obtain quick results.
However, Dylan is distracted by personal matters, with Jen being keen to seal the deal on a renovation project. He suggests they delay finalising the purchase; until he discovers the significance of the house, and that it’s about to be demolished.
In his absence, Jen’s pleas for help from his estranged siblings are answered, resulting in hidden secrets coming to light, as Dylan continues, through a twisting and turning plot, to ensure justice is done in respect of the murder victims, whose bright hopes for the future were cruelly snatched away. Amazon

Sounds good doesn’t it? My review will be up shortly but you can buy your own copy from:

Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Book of Forgotten Authors – Christopher Fowler

Non-Fiction
5*s

If you are looking for a gift for a bibliophile you can’t go far wrong with this wonderful book that I know I will treasure and refer to for years to come.

Christopher Fowler has collated ninety-nine authors who for one reason or another are no longer seen on the bookshelves of bookshops or libraries but somehow glimmer on our collective consciousness, and their works fluttered at the edges of many when he kicked this project off. Unlike so many such lists that are produced this collector of these forgotten authors has brought together a set of authors from the Victorian times up to the more recent, the entire range of genres taking in slapstick comedy through Sci-Fi, poetry, literary fiction and crime. Obviously with so many authors each one gets a brief mention detailing the often prodigious output, why they were popular and why they may well have fallen out of favour as the years rolled on.

As is likely with a collection of this kind there were many authors I knew, some whose name I’d heard of, but many that had never crossed with my life – the brilliance being I loved reading the author’s succinct comments about those I’d known while having a real interest in seeing what I may have missed out on with those unknown to me.

The second chapter covers Virginia Andrews which is included for those of us of a certain age, I honestly remember seeing this book in all the houses of my contemporaries for many years when they were the certain finds in charity bookshops.

It seems that the feverish hothouse atmosphere of life in the attic appealed to the temperament of teenaged girls, who clearly wanted to have their most macabre fears about sex confirmed and bought the books in their millions.

Many of the links indicate those authors whose work was used for TV or films or radio series including Leslie Charteris who wrote nearly one hundred of the Saint adventures:

Simon Templar, the man who used Catholic Saint’s names as false identities. He is the world’s greatest thief, but he uses his powers against despots and villains, although the police are forever trying to put him behind bars. He leaves his calling card at the scenes of his crimes, comprising a stick figure with a halo.

Some authors included were collectors who passed on the baton to others following their demise including Harry Hodge who was the author of Notable British Trials series which included one of the criminals, Madeline Smith, who has popped up in much of my reading around poisoners. Madeline Smith was put on trial for poisoning her lover with arsenic laced cocoa. A latter contributor to the series was John Mortimer who provided the 1984 collection.

Apart from the wonderfully surprising mix of authors interposed between the authors themselves there are chapters that cover subjects as diverse as The Forgotten Booker Winners, The Forgotten Disney Connection and my favourite The Forgotten Nonsense Writers which includes a wonderful piece about the trick book Mots d’Heures: Gousses, Rames – The D’Antin Manuscripts, the English-language nursery rhymes written homophonically in nonsense French. Even the manuscript’s title, when spoken aloud, sounds like “Mother Goose’s Rhymes” with a strong French accent, a copy of which had graced my bookshelf as a pre-teen but that I’d completely forgotten about.

This truly is a book that will resurrect unique memories for every bibliophile as well as providing a wealth of information as well as a long list of books to seek out from their forgotten place in English literature. I will leave you with another author in the Forgotten Nonsense Writers, Hilaire Belloc and his Cautionary Tales for Children:

squarely aimed at terrifying middle-class children into good behaviour with gruesome moralistic poems which included… and Matilda who Told Lies and was Burned to Death.

The latter a poem my mother was often found to be quoting to the young Cleopatra amid some transgression and for which hearing about Matilda yet again meant I probably should have had a heavy dose of counselling to omit the memories – sadly this book bought them flooding back but also noted

It rather makes you wish for modern-day versions: Darrell who Stared at his Phone and was Crushed by a Cement Mixer.

I was honoured to receive a copy of The Book of Forgotten Authors as part of the blog tour promotion – this review is my heartfelt and honest thanks to all involved.

First Published UK: 5 October 2017
Publisher: Riverrun
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Non-Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

CHRISTOPHER FOWLER

A typical example of the late 20th century midlist author, Christopher Fowler was born in the less attractive part of Greenwich in 1953, the son of a scientist and a legal secretary. He went to a London Guild school, Colfe’s, where, avoiding rugby by hiding in the school library, he was able to begin plagiarising in earnest. He published his first novel, Roofworld, described as ‘unclassifiable’, while working as an advertising copywriter. He left to form The Creative Partnership, a company that changed the face of film marketing, and spent many years working in film, creating movie posters, tag lines, trailers and documentaries, using his friendship with Jude Law to get into nightclubs.

During this time Fowler achieved several pathetic schoolboy fantasies, releasing an appalling Christmas pop single, becoming a male model, posing as the villain in a Batman comic, creating a stage show, writing rubbish in Hollywood, running a night club, appearing in the Pan Books of Horror and standing in for James Bond.

Now the author of over forty novels and short story collections, including his award-winning memoir Paperboy and its sequel Film Freak, he writes the Bryant & May mystery novels, recording the adventures of two Golden Age detectives in modern-day London.
In 2015 he won the CWA Dagger In The Library award for his detective series, once described by his former publisher as ‘unsaleable’.

Fowler is still alive and one day plans to realise his ambition to become a Forgotten Author himself.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Books I have read

The Many Deaths of Mary Dobie – David Hastings – Ngaio Marsh Awards 2017

Non-Ficiton
4*s

I was thrilled to be asked to be part of the blog tour to celebrate the Ngaio Marsh Awards 2017 and even more excited when the book I was asked to review was one in the true crime genre, one that I have been exploring with a passion over the last few months.

David Hastings takes us back to 1880 New Zealand when a young woman, Mary Dobie was found lying dead under a flax bush near where she had been walking, possibly finding a place to sketch, as she was a talented artist one who had provided some illustrations for her brother’s book about ferns.

As I have found in so many books in this genre, the book doesn’t just focus on the investigation into the murder itself but explores the life of the victim, and her family who were on a three-year trip to New Zealand from England, and puts the death into the context of the social history and politics of the time and place, the latter I knew very little about.

Mary had travelled to New Zealand on a boat with her sister Bertha and her mother Ellen and we hear about the trip in part from the notebook that the two sisters wrote and drew in on the long trip. These entries are fascinating as neither sister behaves in quite the way we expect young Englishwomen to behave in the Victorian age. They were curious women, eager to learn about life and so on the ship they learnt about the sails and navigation from the crew crossing the social barriers normally in place. This was important in the context of the crime itself, not for the purpose of stating that Mary had put herself in the face of danger but more to give a real feel of the woman she was, outgoing and confident with a range of experiences that rival what most women of her generation would have experienced.

By the time of the murder Ellen and Mary were in Opunake on the Taranaki coast area to say goodbye to Bertha who had married during their extensive trip which also took in Samoa and Fiji. The Taranaki area was in a state of tension by this time, facts that David Hastings explains in detail and far more clearly than I can summarise here, between the settlers and the Maoris. The settlers had staked a claim to the land some twenty years previously but only more recently had started building roads carving up the area causing the Maoris to retaliate with their own non-violent protests. Both sides feared the next move the other may make and it was against this background that Mary was murdered. The timing of the murder was key and for a while it wasn’t clear whether the crime was committed by a Maori or a Pakeha let alone whether the motive was robbery, rape or a political act.

The author does a fabulous job of explaining all of the details of the political background, the characters of those involved and in the end taking us through the trial and the (mis)use that was made of Mary Dobie’s death after the event by those in power.

I read my copy of The Many Deaths of Mary Dobie in eBook format and would advise those of you who like the sound of this book to buy the physical copy as there are many wonderful pictures, those drawn by the Dobie sisters as well as some photographs which would be better seen alongside the text as unfortunately I have yet to master the flicking backwards and forwards to a satisfactory degree on my kindle.

I applaud the author for making the politics of the area so easily understood, and for bringing to life an unfamiliar region to his readers. This book held my attention throughout the voyage, the social history explored during the family’s travels and the trial itself. A very welcome addition to my true crime reading indeed.

First Published UK: 30 October 2015
Publisher: Auckland University Press
No of Pages:  240
Genre: Non-Fiction – True Crime
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Don’t miss out on the rest of the blog tour – there are some fantastic books, and blogs, to discover!

2017 Ngaio Marsh Awards Finalists

BEST CRIME NOVEL
• Pancake Money by Finn Bell
• Spare Me The Truth by CJ Carver (Zaffre)
• Red Herring by Jonothan Cullinane (HarperCollins)
• Marshall’s Law by Ben Sanders (Allen & Unwin)
• The Last Time We Spoke by Fiona Sussman (Allison & Busby)

BEST FIRST NOVEL
• Dead Lemons by Finn Bell
• Red Herring by Jonothan Cullinane (HarperCollins)
• The Ice Shroud by Gordon Ell (Bush Press)
• The Student Body by Simon Wyatt (Mary Egan Publishing)
• Days are Like Grass by Sue Younger (Eunoia Publishing)

BEST NON FICTION
• In Dark Places by Michael Bennett (Paul Little Books)
• The Scene of the Crime by Steve Braunias (HarperCollins)
• Double-Edged Sword by Simonne Butler with Andra Jenkin (Mary Egan Publishing)
• The Many Deaths of Mary Dobie by David Hastings (AUP)
• Blockbuster! by Lucy Sussex (Text Publishing)