When the victim of a car crash begs journalist Alex Devlin for help before disappearing without trace, Alex finds herself caught up in a mystery that won’t let her go.
Determined to find the missing man, she is soon investigating a conspiracy that threatens some of the most vulnerable members of society.
But will Alex be prepared to put her own life on the line to help those who can’t help themselves?
This is the fourth book in the Alex Devlin series, and let me tell you Alex Devlin is a character you would want on your side should you really want the truth. A little unusually for a crime fiction series, Alex is a journalist and someone who has investigated the painful truth about the deaths of her niece and nephew. This fact means the reader can be sure that nobody nor anything will stop her pursuing the leads to find the truth…
This is just as well because when Alex is given a proposal for a story she believes it is going to be relatively straightforward, oh Alex, how wrong can you be? Cora’s brother Rick has gone missing and she believes the fact that he slept rough will result in a lack of interest by the police. Alex was already casting her net in search of a story to write for the local East Anglian paper, and when she finds out that more of the homeless appear to have disappeared she follows the trail.
This is a bang-on contemporary story which avoids the pitfalls that I find some author’s fall into . This storyline doesn’t feel forced, I didn’t ever feel that the issue came first and then repeatedly shouted from the rooftops. Nevertheless the book necessarily shines a light on those members of society that are often invisible because we do not wish to see them. Fortunately Mary-Jane Riley does what all good authors do, she made me want to find out the truth alongside Alex (and others who she persuades to assist her) so that I became invested in the storyline too.
One of the reasons why I fell in love with this series, is the characters; Alex Devlin has the qualities I admire but this is an author who is able to create both obvious baddies and villains of the more subtle variety too. Boney in this book was one of the obvious variety but believably so – I know we are always told that criminals don’t have their trade stamped across their forehead but that doesn’t mean that there are those out there that most of us would instinctively give a wide berth to! This creation of a wide range of characters right across the spectrum and ensuring a large percentage have depth means that the whole book is given a backdrop of realism to play out the at times most gripping of scenes.
If you haven’t read any of the Alex Devlin series, I do urge you to start at the beginning because although each one will read most satisfactorily as a standalone, I know you will want more and all good bibliophile’s know that you really should read a series in order if you are going to read them all!
Previous Books in the Alex Devlin Crime Fiction Series
I want to finish by stating just how delighted I was to be asked to take part in this blog tour; a huge thank you Mary-Jane for ensuring I was included despite my absence from the blogosphere and of course to Dampebbles for putting me at the end of the tour as requested so that I could fit in a wedding and read the book and remember how to write a review…
First Published UK: 3 May 2019
Publisher: Killer Reads
No of Pages: 330
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series Amazon UK Amazon US
It wouldn’t be overstating things to say I have been very excited to see what fellow book blogger Ronnie Turner would come up with for her debut novel and so I couldn’t have been more delighted to be invited to take part in the blog tour to celebrate its publication on 1 October 2018. I’m pleased to delclare that the result was not what I expected with her creation being more subtle and yet far more satisfying than many offerings in the psychological thriller genre.
Lies Between Us is three stories in one, with each one having a separate narrator. Their tales arouse both sympathy and horror along with firing up my nosiness as the author slowly reveals the secrets and lies that are lurking, sometimes in plain sight.
Miller’s story is downright creepy and begins in his childhood in the 1980s. Miller is the child that everyone avoids. Clearly disturbed he carries around the seven deadly sins in a rucksack on his back. But, as he grows he learns to hide these, not because he wants to be nice but because he knows it will allow him to get exactly what he wants.
In the present, successful writer John is happily married to Jules and they have a beautiful daughter Bonnie then one ordinary day while the two are having a minor tiff in the kitchen, Bonnie disappears. The despair is overwhelming and the police have few clues to pursue but they cling to hope as the kidnapper gives them proof that Bonnie is alive, for now.
Also in the present, Tim is in a coma and as his wife Heidi and young daughter visit daily, Masie the ICU nurse is on the side-lines, efficiently doing her job. Maisie is drawn to Heidi and the two begin a friendship as they sit beside the silent man watching and listening to the endless bleeps of the machines keeping him alive. But, Maisie has her own secrets and she thinks she detects that Heidi does too.
These separate stories were clearly signposted and each one had me enthralled in their own right but of course what I really wanted to know was how they were connected.
It was genuinely hard to believe that this book was the author’s debut novel, it was expertly structured with the pacing even throughout. I didn’t get the feeling that I was on a roller-coaster as I do with many in this genre only to find the final swoop is disappointing compared to the rest of the ride, it wasn’t that type of read which in my mind is to be applauded. Instead there was plenty to interest me not only in each of the narrator’s individual stories, but my mind was kept busy trying to connect the seemingly disparate dots.
Ultimately this is a story of obsession but we also meet love, loss, despair and damage to along the way. The genuine exploration of the effects of these was one of the things I enjoyed most about Lies Between Us. Too often I find, having read a wealth of books in this genre, the pointers to the emotions we have all met in our lives are used to move the story on but when examined in the cold light of day, are revealed as just that, devices. Ronnie Turner in slowing the pacing has allowed us to examine them in more detail and therefore experience them second-hand, with feeling.
Ronnie Turner grew up in Cornwall, the youngest in a large family. At an early age, she discovered a love of literature and dreamed of being a published author. Ronnie now lives in Dorset with her family and three dogs. In her spare time, she reviews books on her blog and enjoys long walks on the coast. She is currently working on her second novel.
Martin Edwards is an expert in classic crime springing from the Golden Age so I was thrilled to be asked to be part of the blog tour to celebrate the publication of Gallows Court, a book written in the model of all the greats. His study of the sub-genre combine with the fact that I have experienced nothing but pure joy when reading his modern crime series set in the Lake District set my expectations high; they were met.
The main setting is London in the smog but we are also drawn back to the past to an island off the coast of Ireland by way of some letters. Two more atmospheric places would be hard to find and Martin Edwards sets his pen about making sure we know it.
On the Island of Gaunt a young girl, Juliet Bretano pens her thoughts on Rachel Severnake, the woman she believes murdered her father. Ooh I love a female killer, particularly from this age as you know that there has to be some ingenuity involved.
But then in London the headless corpse of a woman is found and Scotland Yard are determined to find the killer. Meanwhile Jacob Flint has been trying to make his name at the crime desk for The Clarion and he has his eye on Rachel Severnake who recently solved a high profile case to Scotland Yard’s embarrassment. Rachel Severnake is the daughter of the man who was known as the ‘hanging judge’ but as he aged his behaviour became something of a concern and he took himself off to the island of Gaunt with his young daughter. But Rachel is in London, a London where no respectable lady would dream of walking in the particular darkness of the smog where visibility is so poor you don’t know who is lurking around the next corner.
That’s all I am going to say about the plot itself. The writing as you might expect is brilliant. The plot is complex and depends on those false clues not least what part does Gallows Court play? The fantastic scene setting mentioned earlier has a big part to play, the author using both the dangerous darkness of London and the remoteness of Gaunt to their full advantage. The characters are for the most part wily and definitely not those you should put your trust in and also for the most part are of the higher reaches of society. So far so Golden Age but I felt that the bodies piled higher and the murders more ‘on stage’ with some more modern themes as motives than perhaps you’d expect to see from that time. It is a clever author indeed who can play such obvious flattery to a style and yet gently update it for the more modern taste in crime writing. This book did have the feel of a more modern day thriller with the tension perhaps higher than those solved by our favourite crime detectives from the age. Make no mistake the stakes are high for our characters and no-one is safe until the culprit is found!
I absolutely modestly raise my cloche hat to the ingenuity of Gallows Court. I was totally immersed in trying to solve the puzzle and would like to say I was ‘on it,’ but I wasn’t really until fairly near the end.
First Published UK: 6 September 2018
Publisher: Head of Zeus
No of Pages: 416
Genre: Crime Fiction Amazon UK Amazon US
Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the Blog Tour and before anyone points out to me that I’ve posted this on the wrong day – let’s just say there was some confusion!
September 13 is Roald Dahl Day so put it in your diaries. As a child I adored Danny the Champion of the World, was fascinated by the awful characters in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and as I made my way through a predictably turbulent adolescence was delighted and terrified by Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. I was particularly lucky as Roald Dahl continued to create brilliant stories for children and The BFG was a huge hit with my daughter who read this as her first chapter book at the tender age of four. From then on our trips to London referenced The BFG although her exceptional love of this book didn’t mean that she could visit the Queen at Buckingham Palace. Seeing the delight my own children gained from his books just meant that my admiration for the author grew and grew so imagine my delight when I was given four of the books in the adult collection as part of the celebrations.
Recollected for the first time since their original publication; FEAR, INNOCENCE, TRICKERY and WAR depict some of Dahl’s most sinister tales, including those he greatly admired, focussing on aspects of the human condition that he found most fascinating. Complete with stunningly thought-provoking illustrations, courtesy of renowned artist Charming Baker, Britain’s most seminal author reveals even more about the darker side of human nature.
Fear – Tales of Terror and Suspense.
Following an insightful introduction to this collection by Roald Dahl of how he read all the ghost stories he could lay his hands on marking each one out of ten. He’s not one to fool his audience and cheerfully admits that many received nothing at all so you can be sure that this collection is the cream of the crop of ghosts. Not being a great lover of ghouls and ghosts I was easily tempted in when I saw that the first story was written by the author L.P. Hartley of The Go Between fame.
L.P. Hartley’s story called W.S. features a writer who receives postcards signed off with the intials W.S., coincidently the author’s own initials his name being William Streeter but he brushes this aside commenting that Shakespeare also shared them. Then the pictures on the postcards get closer until they get to Gloucester, very close to where William Streeter lived. The police are convinced they are a hoax, the author wonders whether he is schizophrenic but what is there is another explanation – when the doorbell rings William Streeter finds out. Although I declare myself immune to ghosts and ghoulies I must admit there was a frisson of fear to accompany my delight at this clever tale.
These fourteen classic spine-chilling stories are collected from Dahl’s extensive research of over 700 ghost stories. Fear includes timeless and haunting tales such as Sheridan Le Fanu’s The Ghost of a Hand, Edith Wharton’s Afterward, Cynthia Asquith’s The Corner Shop and Mary Treadgold’s The Telephone.
Innocence – Tales of Youth and Guile
The largest part of this book is given over to Roald Dahl’s autobiographical book Boy which I had previously read but some years ago now. If anything I enjoyed this re-reading far more, being charmed all over again by the stories from childhood that would work their way into his books for children. brilliant to read the flashes of inspiration as he plundered his own memories of mice and gobstoppers and chocolate tasting to create the wonders of The Witches and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The illustrations that accompany the stories give us more hints and a glimpse at the author’s Norwegian heritage.
What makes us innocent and how do we come to lose it? Combining autobiographical stories from his childhood – such as the much-loved, Boy – as well as four further tales of innocence lost, Dahl touches on the joys and horrors of growing up. Among other stories you’ll read of the wager that destroys a girl’s faith in her father and the landlady who has plans for her unsuspecting young guest.
Trickery – Tales of Deceit and Cunning
The ten stories within this book vary in length from a single page to far more substantial ones and they all tell of the kinds of daring deeds that don’t rely on strength and brute force but the cunningness of a fox. Once again my favourite was the story which was clearly the forerunner to Danny the Champion of the World – a story I loved when it was read aloud to my primary school class aged seven or eight. Once again I chuckled as two grown men in Champion of the World (no Danny in this version) doctored the raisins to poach the pheasants thereby neatly outwitting the gamekeeper and giving the pheasants a far better send off than being blasted by a gun!
To what depths of deception would you stoop to get what you want? In these ten dark and twisty tales, Dahl reveals that we are at our smartest and most cunning when we set out to deceive others – and sometimes ourselves. Here you will read of a husband and wife and the parting gift which rocks their marriage, the light fingered hitch-hiker and the grateful motorist, and discover how sleeping pills can aid a little bit of serious poaching.
War – Tales of Conflict and Strife
The last of the four books I received is again given over to Roald Dahl’s autobiographical work with Going Solo detailing his career as a trainee fighter pilot and then his time in active service. As the book progresses you can’t help but visualise the harsh reality of war which the author punctuates with brilliant descriptions of the people and places he met along the way. Although incredibly moving in places and much darker than the other books in the collection for dint of this being real life I was once again amazed at the breadth as well as depth of Roald Dahl’s story telling prowess.
Including famous short stories such as Over to You, War presents the gripping
autobiographical account of Dahl’s experiences working in East Africa as well as his life as a fighter pilot during WWII. As he travels across the British Empire, you’ll read about the pilot shot down in the Libyan Desert, the fighter plane lost in mysterious fog and the soldier who returns from war irrevocably changed.
Roald Dahl, the brilliant and worldwide acclaimed author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,James and the Giant Peach,Matilda and many more classics for children, also wrote scores of short stories for adults. These delightfully disturbing tales present a side of Dahl that few have seen before; this stunning collection is most certainly a darker side of Dahl.
I was delighted to be invited to take part in the blog tour to celebrate all the finalists in both the Best Novel and Best First Novel categories for the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards. The winners will be announced at WORD Christchurch festival on 1 September.
BEST CRIME NOVEL
• Marlborough Man by Alan Carter (Fremantle Press)
• See You in September by Charity Norman (Allen & Unwin)
• Tess by Kirsten McDougall (VUP)
• The Sound of Her Voice by Nathan Blackwell (Mary Egan Publishing)
• A Killer Harvest by Paul Cleave (Upstart Press)
• The Hidden Room by Stella Duffy (Virago)
BEST FIRST NOVEL
• The Floating Basin by Carolyn Hawes
• Broken Silence by Helen Vivienne Fletcher (HVF Publishing)
• All Our Secrets by Jennifer Lane (Rosa Mira Books)
• The Sound of Her Voice by Nathan Blackwell (Mary Egan Publishing)
• Nothing Bad Happens Here by Nikki Crutchley (Oak House Press)
It was therefore with great pleasure to do a short Q & A with author Vivienne Fletcher whose YA novel is one of those finalists but first lets take a look at the book, Broken Silence:
A stranger just put Kelsey’s boyfriend in a coma. The worst part? She asked him to do it. Seventeen-year-old Kelsey is dealing with a lot – an abusive boyfriend, a gravely ill mother, an absent father, and a confusing new love interest. After her boyfriend attacks her in public, a stranger on the end of the phone line offers to help. Kelsey pays little attention to his words, but the caller is deadly serious. Suddenly the people Kelsey loves are in danger, and only Kelsey knows it. Will Kelsey discover the identity of the caller before it’s too late?
• I’ll start with the obvious question: When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? Did you write stories as a child?
I made up stories as a child, but I struggled a lot with spelling and learning to write, so getting them down on paper didn’t come until later. I was fortunate enough to have a fantastic teacher when I was around seven or eight, who helped me work through my blocks and learn to love writing. That was the first time I said I wanted to be a writer. I cycled through a few other career ideas as I grew up, ranging from air hostess to child psychologist, but writing was something I always came back to.
• What were your five favourite childhood books?
Oh wow – so many to choose from, but these were the first ones that came to mind, which shows they must have stayed with me. Ranging from picture book to young adult novel:
1) The Choosing Day by Jennifer Beck
2) The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger
3) Under the Mountain by Maurice Gee
4) To the Dark Tower by Victor Kelleher
5) Dare Truth or Promise by Paula Boock
• Tell us a little about your novel, what readers can expect from it?
Broken Silence is a fairly dark and gritty young adult thriller. Seventeen-year-old Kelsey is dealing with a lot – an abusive boyfriend, seriously ill mother, an absent father, and the beginning of an eating disorder. When she moves in with her brother, things are supposed to get better, but instead she begins receiving strange phone calls. The caller is protective of Kelsey, wanting to help her, but plays this out by attacking and sometimes killing anyone he perceives to be a threat to her.
I’ll be honest, this isn’t one for the faint of heart, but I think it’s a book that many people will enjoy for the high stakes and fast pace. The idea first came to me, when I was thirteen and spent an evening watching Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer with my best friend. Obviously the concept evolved and matured over the years, before I eventually wrote it down, but that should hopefully give readers an idea of the type of genre to expect.
• How important is the setting to your book?
I wanted Broken Silence to be set in New Zealand, while also be relatable to readers in other countries. There are little nods to it being set in Wellington, which those familiar with New Zealand will recognise, but it’s not overly important to the story. Kelsey is written as Kiwi, but first and foremost she’s written as a teenage girl just like those in many other places around the world.
• Where do you find the inspiration for your lead character?
There’s a lot of me in Kelsey … or at least teenage me. I have of course changed as I’ve grown up, but I remember the intensity of being a teenager and those memories have inspired her character.
The way I write, the story comes to me first, then I spend some time piecing together who the events happen to. There are bits of many women I’ve met in there. In the past, I worked as a youth support worker and later as a mental health phone counsellor. Kelsey isn’t based on any one person I spoke to during that time, but many of stories I heard from people influenced how I wrote her, and her reactions to the situations she faces during the course of the story.
• How would you introduce them at a party?
This is Kelsey. *subtle whispered aside, behind a cupped hand* She’s been through a hard time recently, so please be gentle with her, and excuse her if she’s a little rude!
• Do you have a writing schedule? Perhaps you have a target of a set number of words per day?
For me it depends from project to project. If I’m working on a first draft, I write from 10am-midday at least three days a week (usually more, but depends on other work commitments.)
Right now, I’m working on editing a second draft, so I’ve been setting a goal of editing one chapter per day, however long that takes to get it to where I want it to be.
• Where do you write?
At the moment, I write sitting on the floor with my dog in my lap. She’s a wonderful helper. She keeps me warm and on track, as I can’t get up from the computer until she wakes up. It’s a great place for editing, though it may not be so comfortable once I’m on to the next project and writing longer blocks of text!
• Are there any more books in the pipeline?
Yes – at the moment I’m working on my third YA novel. This one has paranormal elements, so a bit of a different direction from Broken Silence and Underwater, but it still has dark themes and a mystery running through it which I hope readers will enjoy.
Thank you so much Vivienne, some brilliant answers to my questions, and I particularly love that introduction to Kelsey!
About Helen Vivienne Fletcher
Helen Vivienne Fletcher has been writing for children and young adults for the past ten years. She has won and been shortlisted for several writing competitions, including making the shortlist for the 2008 Joy Cowley Award. In 2015 she was named Outstanding New Playwright at the Wellington Theatre Awards for her play How to Catch a Grim Reaper. Her e-picture books have been sold worldwide, and translated into French, German and Spanish. Helen is the author of three picture books for children, two young adult novels – Broken Silence and Underwater, and a short story collection for adults, Symbolic Death. You can find more about Helen’s books on her personal website:
I was absolutely delighted to be asked to take part in the blog tour celebrating publication of Wrong Way Home, thank you Anne Cater. I’ve long been a fan of this author and I rate this series amongst my favourite of the contemporary crime series.
In this, the fourth book in the DI Grace Fisher series, our likeable protagonist has a breakthrough using familial DNA to hunt for the man who raped and killed a girl twenty-five years ago.
Heather Bower was just nineteen years old when she visited Southend for a night out with her friends and on a night that should have been full of fun, she became separated from the group and was found dead in a park the following morning.
Freddie Craig is an aspiring journalist who has always felt a link to the fire on Southend Pier the same night that Heather died. The fire was started by two teenagers who dropped a cigarette in a boarded up building. Fortunately for them taxi driver Larry Nixon was on the scene and pulled the boys to safety so becoming something of a local hero. As the fire raged Freddie’s mother gave birth to him. Freddie is inspired by the death of Heather to make a series of podcasts about the murder and his links to my favourite fictional journalist, Ivo Sweatman. Ivo and Grace have a history of being mutually supportive but she is fully aware that this must not become common knowledge. The excerpts from Freddie’s podcasts veer from factual to wacky and then downright disturbing and made for an interesting perspective and an unusual one keeping the story bang up to date.
As the DNA profile links to a woman, Deborah Shillingford, who was arrested for drink driving, Grace now has her family members to investigate to the DNA left all those years before and she sets to work with her partner Sergeant Blake Langley. Grace and Blake have history which has caused a bit of an undercurrent but they are both professional as they interview Deborah and learn that she has two brothers and a father still alive. At the same time they have to inform Heather’s mother advising that this lead may not lead to an arrest but hopeful that the knowledge that they are still seeking justice for Heather will be of some comfort.
This is a multi-layered crime fiction novel of the highest standard. Isabelle Grey has plotted superbly, and so even though all the characters are fully rounded the story is undoubtedly led by a series of events in the present that threaten to derail the investigation. That’s not to say there is just action there are moments to pause and wonder at the bonds within a family as various tit-bits are revealed. The plot is held up by spot on timing; this is a book that gives the reader time to consider the evidence and stick a stake in the ground before it is blown away by a new piece of information.
Reading Wrong Way Home I remembered quite why I enjoy this series so much. DI Grace Fisher is my idea of the perfect protagonist, a determined woman and yet, she behaves like a woman and it is so refreshing to see a woman who can cry at a wedding and then walk away to review evidence before leading her team to find a killer, and she does it with style.
I’d like to thank the publishers Quercus for allowing me to read a copy of Wrong Way Home and to Anne Cater for the invite to the blog tour and those thanks extend to the author for such a brilliant, plausible novel that had me enthralled by all its twists and turns. As always this review is unbiased and freely given.
First Published UK: 17 May 2018
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series Amazon UK Amazon US
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Isabelle Grey is a television screenwriter whose credits include Jimmy McGovern’s BAFTA award-winning Accused: Tina’s Story as well as over thirty-five episodes of Midsomer Murders, Casualty, Rosemary and Thyme, The Bill and Wycliffe. She has also written non-fiction and been a magazine editor and freelance journalist. Isabelle’s previous novels include two psychological thrillers, The Bad Mother and Out Of Sight as well as the first two books in the DI Grace Fisher series, Good Girls Don’t Die, Shot Through the Heart and The Special Girls. Isabelle grew up in Manchester and now lives in north London.
One of the best things about being a book blogger is finding those hidden treasures of a book, one of which is The Dissent of Annie Lang. Anne Cater asked if I would like to be part of this Blog Tour and I jumped at the chance to find out more about Annie, the daughter of a strict religious father who dissents against all she was bought up to believe, especially as the setting is the 1920s and 1930s. I read the entire book in one day, something I rarely do unless I’m sick – that’s how much I enjoyed it and so I’m delighted to be kicking off this Blog Tour with my review.
The book starts with a tantalising prologue where we meet Annie in 1932 on her return from France where she’s been studying. Here she learns that her brother Fred is in the asylum with nervous exhaustion and this stirs memories from her childhood which she’s never fully understood.
The story is told from Annie’s perspective through all three parts of the book; 1926, 1926 to 1932 and finally 1932. Her earliest memories we are told are backed up by journals she wrote as a young girl following the death of her mother when Annie was just six. Annie has an older sister Beatrice and a brother Fred and a dog Nana. She remembers happier times when her mother was alive but following her death Annie is labelled troublesome and in need of a firm hand. A housekeeper Agnes is employed to take the household in hand. Her Grandfather is the pastor at the fundamentalist church he set up in Nottinghamshire. Sundays are spent worshipping and strict adherence to the bible is expected at all times.
It didn’t take me long to become immersed in Annie’s world and the doses of cod liver oil and maids lighting fires, boarding school for Fred and visiting the sick for Agnes, who soon became the second Mrs Lang, all set the time period nicely without the author making her meticulous research obvious. In fact for much of the book, I was convinced that this was based on a true story as it felt so authentic.
Although part of The Dissent of Annie Lang is set in her early childhood and she isn’t a particularly precocious child, the reader is well aware that she is noting the events that she believes will solve the mystery, of what became of her Sunday School Teacher Millie Blessing. She turns the memories this way and that for clues and this clever device means that although we are told of her initial delight when Nana sprayed the new wallpaper with beetroot juice by wagging her tail, and witness her dismay when the punishment means that the dog is banished to a kennel in the garden, it is the undertones of this household that are brought to the fore. This is a house where young Annie understands that some things are never to be mentioned, what she doesn’t understand is what subjects are banned, and as for the reason why, she has no clue. Her sister, older by six years, knows more but is tight-lipped and far more religious than Annie believes she will ever be.
The characters are brilliantly depicted, Annie’s friendship with Marjorie Bagshaw in particular, the two girls thrown together because of where they live have little in common and the delicate tussle of power is shown as both keep secrets when it will be to their advantage, at one point Annie admits that neither particularly likes the other. Of course Annie herself is everything I enjoy in a character, spirited and determined and absolutely realistic, she holds her own against the seemingly impervious pillars of religion and the point in history where children, and women, have a very small voice indeed.
This historical story is definitely one of my finds of the year. The language so persuasive, the story grabbed me from the start and I was as anxious as Annie to know the fate of Millie Blessing and her beautiful blue shoes. I often try to avoid speaking about the ending of a book for obvious reasons but this one hit absolutely the right spot – there isn’t a neat wrap-up, but there is certainly enough to be absolutely satisfying given what has gone before.
I am grateful to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour for Muswell Press, this unbiased review is my thanks to them and of course a huge thank you to Ros Franey for creating such a memorable story, this book is one that really does deserve to be shouted about. If you love history and a mystery, then I wholeheartedly recommend The Dissent of Annie Lang.
Don’t forget to follow the rest of the Blog Tour to learn more!
First Published UK: 19 April 2018
Publisher: Muswell Press
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Historical Fiction Amazon UK Amazon US
About the Author
Ros Franey grew up in Nottingham where this book is set. She is a maker of award-winning documentaries, including two films about the Guildford 4 which, along with the book she co-authored Timebomb, contributed to the quashing of their case. This is her second novel. She lives in Camden, North London.
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.
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!
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.
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…..
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
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.
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!
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!
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