July 22

The Art of Fear – Pamela Crane

A life no girl should endure. A father no daughter could love. A twist no one would predict.

From award-winning author Pamela Crane comes a terrifying tale of small-town secrets and murder.

Ari Wilburn’s life ended long ago–the day she watched her little sister die in a tragic accident and did nothing to stop it. Crippled with self-blame and resented by her parents, she stumbles through life … and onto an unexpected clue that casts doubt on whether the death was accidental.

Now a psychological wreck, Ari joins a suicide support group where she meets Tina, a sex-enslaved escapee who finds her long-lost father dead. Suicide, police ruled it. But Tina suspects foul play. As a bond develops between the women in their shared loss, they’re dragged into playing a dangerous game with a killer.

Faced with a murderous wake-up call and two possibly linked deaths, Ari’s investigation puts her next on the killer’s list. But she’s never been one to back down from a fight.

Needing closure, Ari must face her demons and the killer behind them … or lose everything she loves.

 

My thanks to Kate at Thick as Thieves for the opportunity to join the blog tour

 

At a suicide support group Ari meets Tina Alvarez.  Ari is struggling to contend with the guilt associated with the death of her younger sister ten years earlier, however, Tina comes to her group fresh from learning of the suicide of her father. Ari and Tina bond and Tina tells Ari that she does not believe that her father took his own life – the two women begin to investigate the suicide.

As the story develops it becomes clear to Ari that Tina’s father did not take his own life. Yet as Ari becomes drawn deeper into Tina’s life we learn more of the horrific ordeals she has had to suffer. Sold to a sex trafficker by her father, subjected to the worst abuse over a number of years Tina has managed to escape from her captor but he is looking to take her back – claiming that she has not yet earned back the money he paid for her.

Meanwhile Ari is spurred on to reconsider the events surrounding the death of her sister.  Her family firmly placed the blame onto Ari and it drove a wedge between Ari and her parents which could never be broken down.  However, as Ari reconsiders the events which led to her sister’s death she begins to question whether the blame was entirely her own.

As you can tell there are some dark topics holding the narrative together during The Art of Fear; but full credit to Pamela Crane for keeping it engrossing and tacking these difficult subjects with compassion and sympathy. She also writes a cracking story which features some very nasty people and you will get drawn into the lives of Ari and Tina.

One of the most disturbing elements of the story is that Ari has a countdown to her death in the chapter headings. As you read the story will switch timelines to show current events, circumstances from the time Ari’s sister dies and other key points in her (and Tina’s) life. However, when the narrative returns to the current time there are chapters which begin with the number of days that Ari has to live – and it is not many!  The deeper you get into the story and the more you come to like Ari the more worrying the death-clock is – lovely wee touch to keep me hooked.

So in summary – dark themes which are woven into a thrilling and engaging story that I thoroughly enjoyed.

 

The Art of Fear is published by Tabella House and is available in paperback and digital format.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fear-Little-Things-That-Kill-ebook/dp/B071R3M2J5/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

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July 17

The Last Place You Look – Kristen Lepionka

Sarah Cook, a beautiful blonde teenager disappeared fifteen years ago, the same night her parents were brutally murdered in their suburban Ohio home. Her boyfriend Brad Stockton – black and from the wrong side of the tracks – was convicted of the murders and sits on death row, though he always maintained his innocence. With his execution only weeks away, his devoted sister, insisting she has spotted Sarah at a local gas station, hires PI Roxane Weary to look again at the case.

Reeling from the recent death of her cop father, Roxane finds herself drawn to the story of Sarah’s vanishing act, especially when she thinks she’s linked Sarah’s disappearance to one of her father’s unsolved murder cases involving another teen girl. Despite her self-destructive tendencies, Roxane starts to hope that maybe she can save Brad’s life and her own.

With echoes of Sue Grafton, Dennis Lehane and the hit podcast Serial, The Last Place You Look is the gripping debut of both a bold new voice and character.

 

My thanks to Lauren at Faber for my review copy and the chance to join the tour.

 

I feel bad when I devour a book in just two sittings.  I know how much time and effort goes into the writing and editing and publication of a novel so to sit down and race through The Last Place You Look in just 4/5 hours of reading – I get a bit guilty. But when I read a book I am enjoying I just want to keep going so The Last Place You Look is a victim of its own success – it was too good to not read.

Roxane Weary is a Private Investigator.  As the book opens she is still reeling from the death of her father, a cop killed in the line of duty. Roxane has a fondness for whisky, a diminishing bank balance and a potential client who wants Roxane to find a missing girl.

But the “missing girl” (Sarah) has been assumed dead for 15 years – her boyfriend of the time (Brad) is on death row, guilty of the murder of his Sarah’s parents and, despite no body being found, of killing Sarah too.  Roxane’s client is Brad’s sister. She believes that she has spotted Sarah and that if Roxanne could find Sarah then it may be possible that Sarah could provide an alibi for Brad which would save him from his impending execution.

Realising that the chances of success are slim Roxane begins her investigation. Happily for readers it is not long before Roxane realises that she has taken on a challenge more complex than just finding a missing person.  Her investigations will overlap with a case her father had been looking into prior to his death and looking back into events which occurred more than 10 years ago will give Roxane the benefit of seeing other, seemingly unconnected, events which may actually have an impact on her case.

At the risk of spoilers I cannot give much more detail, however, I will confirm that Roxane is a fun lead character and she carries the story brilliantly. The investigation is really well structured and kept me guessing where it may lead next. The initial missing person search is never forgotten, however, Roxane’s digging will result in her search branching into unexpected areas and I got hooked.

The Last Place You Look is highly recommended, fun, thrilling and some nasty twists to keep a reader enthralled.  Go get this one!

 

The Last Place You Look is published by Faber & Faber and is available in paperback and digital format.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Last-Place-You-Look-ebook/dp/B06XCRC4W6/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

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July 1

Guest Post – Caz Frear (Sweet Little Lies)

Sweet Little LiesJust before Grab This Book begins a summer break and I get a couple of weeks of reading catch-up I have one last post to share.  First – an apology to Kaz Frear as this is a couple of days later than planned…sorry. But as I am not around to post any new features I am delighted that Caz’s guest post will be “front of house” for an extended period as I take a bit of a break.

So with no more delays I leave you in the safe hands of Caz Frear – there is more information on Sweet Little Lies below.

 

KEEPING FAMILY SECRETS

Not wanting to get too, “Eh, back in my day…” but to quote a well known book, and a less well known song (fist pumps to Queens of the Stone Age), there really is a lost art of keeping secrets these days.  There’s almost a negative connotation to the word.  Secrets have become synonymous with repressed emotion, the implication being that our fragile ‘snowflake’ hearts can’t take the weight of responsibility that secrets always carry and therefore we should be loud and we should be proud at all times.  We should expose the secrets of those who do bad things and we should shout about the good folk from the treetops (ok, from Twitter.)

It can’t be denied that speaking your truth is where it’s at now.  The confessional-style interview remains all the rage and if you’re a celebrity, you honestly haven’t made it onto the A-list until you’ve penned an ‘open letter’ where you spill your soul and usually your carefully PR-managed secrets.  And then for the rest of us, all the non-celebrities, Jeremy Kyle still exists (somehow) as a forum through which we can all air our dirty linen in a sweltering studio somewhere in Norwich.

I jest, of course.  But it does make me wonder if there’s no longer a place for secrets in this modern world?  Are we all really itching to offload our baggage, expose our friend’s transgressions, and run down our high-streets belting out, “I am what I am”, free from the weight of the crushing secrets that inevitably turn our insides ugly.

Well, no.

Because everyone has family secrets.  And these secrets are generally kept from the prying eyes of social media, daytime TV at all costs.  People guard family secrets like the crown jewels  And why?  Well sometimes, tragically, it’s for despicably awful reasons – reasons of fear and shame and expectations of ostracisation if they ever broke rank. But usually it’s not that dramatic.  It’s simply the belief that the sins of our father/brother/aunt/cousin/great grandma/niece somehow reflect badly on us too.  So If dodgy cousin Derek once robbed a Budgens with a toy pistol and did 6 months inside, we worry that people might think our whole family is like that too.

‘The apple doesn’t fall from the tree

‘Blood is thicker than water’

Yada-yada-bloody-ya..

In Sweet Little Lies, Cat is saddled with a monster family secret from a young age and it was so important for this to come out in her personality.  How might she behave if she could never give voice to her deepest fears?  Would she have an over-dependence on wine and junk-food – yes.  Would she have trouble sleeping sometimes – yes.  Would she have a slight desire to distance herself from her peers, the ‘nosy’ millennials who love to over-share and want to know every little thing about her – yes.

Caz FrearWould she be a neurotic, hateful, unpredictable ball of unmitigated angst – no.  Absolutely not.  She could have been, of course – she’s arguably got enough reason to be – but I have a firm optimistic belief that human beings are more resilient than that.  Most people manage to blunder along with their pain, trying not to create more as they go, and making the best of the cross they have to bear no matter how heavy that cross can seem at times.

Because we all have painful secrets don’t we?

So be kind.

xx

 

Sweet Little Lies – Caz Frear

WHAT I THOUGHT I KNEW

In 1998, Maryanne Doyle disappeared and Dad knew something about it?
Maryanne Doyle was never seen again.

WHAT I ACTUALLY KNOW

In 1998, Dad lied about knowing Maryanne Doyle.
Alice Lapaine has been found strangled near Dad’s pub.
Dad was in the local area for both Maryanne Doyle’s disappearance and Alice Lapaine’s murder – FACT
Connection?

Trust cuts both ways . . . what do you do when it’s gone?

Sweet Little Lies is published by  and is available in paperback or for Kindle here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sweet-Little-Lies-gripping-suspense-ebook/dp/B01N5WKRUY/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

 

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June 30

The Boneyard – Mark Sennen

BoneyardMalcolm Kendwick is charming, handsome – and a suspected serial killer.

When the partially clothed body of a woman is discovered on Dartmoor, all eyes are on one man.

There wasn’t enough evidence to convict Kendwick of his suspected crimes in America, but DI Charlotte Savage is determined to bring him to justice. She’s certain the woman’s murder, so soon after Kendwick’s return to Devon, is no coincidence. But Savage hadn’t anticipated one thing: Kendwick has a perfect alibi.

When more human remains are discovered at an isolated dumping ground, a full-scale murder investigation is launched. Savage realises it’s up to her to uncover the truth before the killer strikes again.

She knows Kendwick is hiding something.
Is there a limit to how far she’ll go to find out what?

 

My thanks to Sabah at Avon for my review copy and the chance to join the tour

As I was nearing the middle of The Boneyard I had decided that I really liked Mark Sennen’s writing and Charlotte Savage was a character I could get behind.  Then I hit a twist to the story I’d not expected and I suddenly realised that The Boneyard was going to get really dark – Fan-bloody-tastic. That’s how we like ’em.

Background – I own all the Charlotte Savage books, but this was the first I’d read.  One of the best bits about blogging is seeing what your pals read (and what they enjoy)! I bought the earlier books in the series on recommendations of friends but I just hadn’t found time to start reading them. Now I will need to make time and get caught up, I loved how Mark Sennen built up The Boneyard and he kept me hooked.

A  British man has been released from prison in the United States. He was accused of the murder of a number of young women but released on a legal technicality (his confession was obtained under dubious circumstances).

*no spoilers*

The killer (Kendwick) elects to return to the UK and Savage finds herself on escort duty, bringing him in to settle in her area in the South West. She is far from happy about the situation – particularly when Kenwick displays extreme contempt and arrogance and virtually goads the police about his background and the crimes he seems to have committed.

It is not long before a dead girl is found on the moors and suspicion inevitably points to Kendwick.  Is he so self assured that he believes he can get away with murder right under watchful eyes of the police?  Savage thinks so but proving it will be tricky.

Kendwick leaps off the pages and you cannot help but be repulsed by him. The reader is willing Savage to find the evidence she needs to have him returned to prison, but does she have the right man? The feisty interchanges between K and Savage make for captivating reading. As I eluded to above, this is a dark take on the behaviour of a serial killer and Sennen has spun a brilliant tale.

Got a holiday coming and want a cracking read for the beach?  Take The Boneyard with you, you’ll not be disappointed.

 

The Boneyard is published by Avon and is available now in paperback and digital format. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Boneyard-Mark-Sennen-ebook/dp/B01MFI395K/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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June 27

When I Wake Up – Jessica Jarlvi

When I Wake UpWhen Anna, a much-loved teacher and mother of two, is left savagely beaten and in a coma, a police investigation is launched. News of the attack sends shock waves through her family and their small Swedish community. Anna seems to have had no enemies, so who wanted her dead?

As loved-ones wait anxiously by her bedside, her husband Erik is determined to get to the bottom of the attack, and soon begins uncovering his wife’s secret life, and a small town riven with desire, betrayal and jealousy.

As the list of suspects grows longer, it soon becomes clear that only one person can reveal the truth, and she’s lying silent in a hospital bed…

 

My thanks to Yasemin at Head of Zeus for my review copy and the chance to join the blog tour

 

I am terrible at putting books into classifications but When I Wake Up didn’t strike me as the psychological thriller which the Amazon listing indicates it is.  However, I did think that it was a very strong domestic drama (is that a thing?) which put three households into the spotlight as Jessica Jarlvi shook their respective worlds upside down.

At the centre of the action is Anna.  She is a teacher – married and has two kids. She seems well liked and respected by her colleagues but is facing a bit of a problem at school with a troublesome pupil (Daniel).

Next spotlight family is Iris (a Librarian) and her artist husband Rolf.  They have an open relationship where both are free to sleep with any women they want.  Iris has seduced Lena and the two women have been having clandestine meetings in the library. But Iris wants to move on as Lena has become too dependent upon her – Lena is not so happy at this prospect.

Finally household three…Daniel (the problem pupil) and his drunken mother.  Daniel craves a “real” family and sees his teacher Anna as the ideal person to provide the stability and affection that he believes he is missing. Daniel’s attentions to Anna are both creepy and sinister and this makes for uncomfortable reading at times.

When I Wake Up opens with a violent attack on Anna by person (or persons) unknown. The book will pick up the story of events after Anna is hospitalised. She is in a coma so cannot reveal the identity of her attacker and it is not clear if she will even survive the ordeal.  However, the narrative will also slip back to events prior to the attack and the reader gets to see how the three spot-lit families will interact, where their stories overlap and we get to speculate over which of the cast of characters may have been responsible (directly or indirectly) for Anna’s attack.

Jessica Jarlvi does a great job of juggling her characters, each will fall under suspicion for Anna’s attack and I found it difficult to work out who may have been to blame. One word of caution for those with more prudish reading tastes – there is a fair amount of…let’s call it “nakedness” in this story so if you blush easily you may wish to skim a bit!

Entertaining and engaging story and the characterisation is spot on (which is essential to make a tale like When I Wake Up work for the readers). If you like a domestic drama this is one you should not miss.

 

When I Wake Up is published by Head of Zeus and is available now in digital format (with a Hardback version due for release in September 2017.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/When-Wake-Up-shocking-psychological-ebook/dp/B01N5VJFV3/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

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June 26

The Fourth Monkey – J D Barker

The Fourth MonkeyBrilliant. Complicated. Psychopath.

That’s the Four Monkey Killer or ‘4MK’. A murderer with a twisted vision and absolutely no mercy.

Detective Sam Porter has hunted him for five long years, the recipient of box after box of grisly trinkets carved from the bodies of 4MK’s victims.

But now Porter has learnt the killer’s twisted history and is racing to do the seemingly impossible – find 4MK’s latest victim before it’s too late…

 

My thanks to Sahina at Harper Collins for the chance to join the blog tour

 

I love a serial killer story and the majority of the serial killer thrillers that I read and enjoy are really well done. But sometimes a book comes along which just ticks all the right boxes and stands out from the rest – The Fourth Monkey is that book.

For years a Killer has eluded the police and cop, Sam Porter, has long been frustrated in his attempts to track down the Fourth Monkey Killer (4MK). The killer leaves gift wrapped boxes which contain body parts of the victims, an ear, their eyes and then their tongue.

The body parts of each victim are removed over a short period of time which prolongs the suffering and distress of their family. However the killer is delivering more than just body parts – they are leaving a message to someone close to the victim. The ear, eyes and tongue which are removed represent the See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil mantra which we all recognise. However there is a fourth monkey and his caution to Do No Evil drives this story.

A lucky break for the police gives them their first real clue in the 4MK murders. A road traffic accident kills the man en-route to posting the ear of his latest victim to their unsuspecting family. With the killer dead, the race is on for the police to locate the victim (where ever they may be hidden) before they perish alone.

The police have a tangible clue that may assist – the killer’s journal. A telling of a childhood incident which forged the path the killer would follow (and show what a twisted childhood he had).  The narrative will switch from present day to the killers childhood diary – both storylines are compelling reading (I am not normally a fan of flashback tales but in this case is is gloriously twisted and grim).

I cannot give away too much of the story as this is a book you really need to read to get the best impact from the reveals. What I will say is that The Fourth Monkey is without doubt one of the best Serial Killer Thrillers I have read for a long, long time. It is June – there is going to have to be a pretty spectacular book lurking in the latter months of 2017 to improve on The Fourth Monkey for sheer reading pleasure.

 

The Fourth Monkey is published by HQ on 27 June 2017 and is available in Hardback and digital format.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fourth-Monkey-Detective-Sam-Porter/dp/0008216991/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

 

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June 17

The Health of Strangers – Lesley Kelly

The Health of StrangersNobody likes the North Edinburgh Health Enforcement Team, least of all the people who work for it. An uneasy mix of seconded Police and health service staff, Mona, Bernard and their colleagues stem the spread of the Virus, a mutant strain of influenza, by tracking down people who have missed their monthly health check. Now two young female students are missing, raising question after question for the HET. Why were they drinking in a biker’s bar? Who are the mysterious Children of Camus cult? And why is the German government interfering in the investigation? Mona and Bernard need to fight their way through lies and intrigue, and find the missing girls – before anyone else does.

My thanks to Keara at Sandstone for my review copy

 

Meet the North Edinburgh HET.

The HET?

Well that would be the Health Enforcement Team, an agency set up in the aftermath of a viral outbreak which has caused the loss of millions of lives around the world. More on that in a second…

The Health Enforcement Team are our focus in The Health of Strangers and they are an endearing dysfunctional lot. Mona was a cop who was offered the opportunity to move to HET to make a name for herself but was she perhaps shunted off to keep her out the road?  Her colleagues Bernard and Maitland also have secrets in their background or their home life so collectively they may not come across as a well-oiled unit.  The conflicts and insecurities in the team does give Lesley Kelly plenty of opportunity to get some great dialogue going between her characters – love a bit of bickering between colleagues to lighten the mood!

So the virus – a flu strain which mutated. The first wave contaminated many of the population but lots of people recovered (albeit after much discomfort). But the virus mutated and the next wave claimed many lives – those that had contracted flu in the first viral wave developed an immunity but it also meant they saw friends and loved ones die when  the virus returned in its mutated form.

Society changed, some people turned to religion (new Chapters within the churches were formed), pregnancy increased the risk of dying from the virus, different countries adapted better to controlling and containing the spread of the disease. But everyone is now required to attend regular health screenings to ensure they are not unknowingly carrying the virus – miss a screening and you are reported to the HET who are expected to find you and take appropriate action to minimize any potential contamination risks.

I really enjoyed The Health of Strangers. The dystopian setting is nicely balanced not too bleak but Edinburgh is clearly a changed city. There has been an horrific event but life still continues – but it continues differently for the survivors.  People are adaptable and the human resilience shines through but they will be suffering and their grief will channel rage and distrust – characterization will make or break a story like this and Lesley Kelly has absolutely nailed it.

I realise that I haven’t even mentioned the missing girls – the ones that have missed their Health Check, the girls that the HET are tasked with finding. The missing girls will the team busy (and frustrated) and this is the crime story at the core of the book, the investigation is well constructed and there are all the distractions and unreliable witnesses to challenge the team.

So The Health of Strangers is a crime thriller in a dystopian and ravaged Edinburgh with a great cast and the pages which virtually turned themselves.  I bloody loved it.

 

The Health of Strangers is published by Sandstone Press and is available in paperback and digital format. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Health-Strangers-Plague-Lesley-Kelly/191098566X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497565274&sr=8-1&keywords=lesley+kelly

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June 17

The Cigarette Boy – Rebecca Cantrell

Cigarette Boy (Hannah Vogel Collection)Berlin, 1931.

Sexy cabaret star Ernst Vogel navigates the increasingly fraught world of Berlin in the last years of the Weimar Republic. Nazi Storm Troopers and Communists fight in the streets and in his club. Wealthy Jews and intellectuals think of fleeing. Desperate sexual and social outcasts cram the famous nightclubs to wring out one last dance.

Ernst makes a promise to help the new young cigarette boy, but the boy disappears while Ernst is on stage. On the way home, Ernst finds his bloody body in an alley. After realizing the police don’t care about the death of one young hustler, Ernst determines to find justice on his own.

His search leads him into the dark heart of Berlin, where he encounters the truth about the boy’s death, and fights to save his own life.

 

My thanks to Chantelle at 22 Literary for a review copy and the chance to host a tour leg.

Longer ago than I care to remember a 17 year old me sat in a classroom in the Highlands of Scotland reading about Germany in the 20th Century.  Not the Great War, that had been covered in depth since I was 14. Nor was I reading about the Second World War – I declined the chance to study those years.  Instead I concentrated on the years between those two great conflicts and life in Germany during the time of the Weimar Republic. I was such a cool 17 year old!

But that period of German history is fascinating – not least due the rise of one particular political party which would become a symbol of fear and hatred around the world.  The problem with school textbooks and other source material is that it can make for terribly dry reading.  What I would have given at the time to have had the chance to read Rebecca Cantrell’s fantastic Hannah Vogel series instead.

Spin forward to 2017 and everyone has the chance to spend some time in 1930’s Germany.  The first three in the Hannah Vogel series have been collected into a single volume and are joined by a short story (The Cigarette Boy) of which more shortly.  Books One to Three are A Trace of Smoke, A Night of Long Knives and A Game of Lies.  We will be introduced to Vogel and learn how she manages as a widow of the Great War, working as a crime reporter and frequently coming into opposition against the National Socialists as they grow in power and influence.

The treat for readers who pick up this collected volume of is that Rebecca Cantrell has included a new short story – The Cigarette Boy – which features Hannah’s brother (Ernst).

Ernst is a cabaret singer – the star of the show – and The Cigarette Boy is mainly set within the club. We see the club manager, the pianist, the guests and of course The Cigarette Boy (he has his own aspirations of success).  There is a powerful pull of the theatre and important people want to be seen – knowing what we do of the Nazis it was something of a surprise to me that some of the top generals and ministers are frequenting the cabaret and seeking the attentions of the young starlets.

At the end of one evening Ernst learns that the Cigarette Boy has left the club and taken his tray of wares with him.  Certain expulsion from the club beckons after-all there are a string of young hopefuls waiting to fill his shoes and try to gain success on the stage. But as Ernst heads home he stumbles across the body of the Cigarette Boy – brutally murdered and left abandoned.  Ernst believes he can work out the killer’s identity but it means laying a trap and further lives could be in danger possibly his own.

Having read The Cigarette Boy I am now determined to read more of the Hannah Vogel series.  I loved Rebecca Cantrell’s writing, the detail in the setting brings the story a vibrancy and the story captures a feel of the time.

If you are already a fan of this series then the opportunity to read The Cigarette Boy is a cracking reason to pick up the collection. If you are new to the works of Ms Cantrell I always advocate reading a series in order – here are the first three books to consider.

Rebecca has put an extract from The Cigarette Boy on her website – you can read that (and browse her other novels) here.

 

The Hannah Vogel collection is available now and can be ordered on the links below: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hannah-Vogel-Box-Set-Collectors-ebook/dp/B01ADW23MC/ref=la_B001MOS172_1_20?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1497647357&sr=1-20

 

 

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June 15

Exquisite – Sarah Stovell

ExquisiteA chilling, exquisitely written and evocative thriller set in the Lake District, centring on the obsessive relationship that develops between two writers…Bo Luxton has it all – a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name.

Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend.

When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops… Or does it?

Breathlessly pacey, taut and terrifying, Exquisite is a startlingly original and unbalancing psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

 

My thanks to Karen at Orenda for my review copy and to Anne for the opportunity to join the tour.

 

Bo is a writer, she will be running a writing class in the Lake District and is scanning submissions from hopeful candidates. One piece stands out from all the others, it is raw it is angry and edgy and it calls to Bo.  The author, Alice Dark, receives an invitation to attend the course and she gets her fees paid which makes it possible for her to attend.

For Alice the invitation to travel from the South coast to the Lake District gives her the chance to make a break from the rut which she has found herself in.  She is living with an artist, he is 10 years older than Alice and seems content to spend his time slapping out some touristy pictures to keep himself in beer and fags. He will drop everything to find a party and shows no sign of responsibility.  Staying with him has been the easy option for Alice but she recognises life is slipping by.

Alice scrapes what she can to get to the course, she is considerably younger than the other attendees but her natural charm and easy going nature ensures she is welcomed by the other attendees (particularly the males). But it soon becomes clear to the reader that Bo and Alice are going to click – even if Alice is slightly slower to realise the extent of Bo’s fascination with her until the course is drawing to an end.

The writing week ends and the two women part, for the present, but narrative of Exquisite switches to a series of email communications between the women. We see their lives continuing and watch pondering what the other may be doing but through their email we read of a developing relationship.  Bo is married but when her husband is due to leave on a business trip for a few days she implores Alice to return to the Lake District – uncertain of what the future may hold (and aware Bo is married with young children) Alice makes the trip.

What follows is a love story which then starts to spiral out of control. Bo’s husband is the “jealous type” so she asks Alice to keep their relationship a secret, delete emails and keep a low profile.  How each woman will handle the time they spend apart will dictate how the story unfolds, it’s no surprise that the path of “true love” will not run smoothly – but is it even love?

The reader will see both sides of the story. There are power-plays, manipulation, anxiety and many, many tears. Shall we say this is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster?

I am seeing lots of love for Exquisite and I can understand why – it is a troubled love story, brilliantly constructed and the writing is top notch – plus Sarah Stovell has thrown in some nasty twists for her characters.  I personally found it swung a little too far towards a love tale but didn’t pull it far enough into back into thriller territory. This means we are falling out of my comfort zone of reading and I find those books harder to consider objectively and comment upon accurately.

As I read I was looking for comparisons and two films sprang to mind (and when I name them you will realise how little I get to see films these days)…Single White Female and The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. Now I loved both those films – strong stories and formidable characters and I consider them good stories to be compared to, I don’t have a comparable book reference.

So Exquisite – loads going for it and it will be loved by many (but I don’t think I am a typical representation of the target audience).

 

Exquisite is published by Orenda Books and is available from 15 June in paperback and is already available in digital format. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Exquisite-Sarah-Stovell-ebook/dp/B06Y661QRC/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1497477225&sr=8-1

Exquisite blog tour poster (1)

 

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June 1

The Suicide Plan – Emma Clapperton

The Suicide PlanStanding up and welcoming everyone to the spiritualist church is something Patrick McLaughlin does most evenings. Most of the faces in the audience are familiar to him, except one. David Hopkirk walks into the West End Spiritualist church in Glasgow and slits his own throat in the middle of a demonstration. Buy why?

Patrick is then catapulted into a case, which sees the death of a child, a failed court case and a family torn apart.

Soon Patrick will have all the pieces of the puzzle but will he be able to fit them together in time?

 

My thanks to Sarah at Bloodhound books for a review copy and the chance to join the tour.

The Suicide Plan was a wee gem of a read. I don’t normally (well don’t ever) read short stories or novellas but I quite liked the sound of this one so decided to give it a go and I am glad I did.

The story was quite harrowing in places and Emma Clapperton is not pulling any punches as she puts her characters through the emotional wringer.  The story opens with a man who felt he had no one left to turn to for support. He takes his own life in a crowded hall in the presence of a spiritualist in the hope that his suicide will lead to his plea for help being heard from beyond the grave.
As shocking and traumatic as that incident may have been for the spiritualist, Patrick McLaughlin,  he reaches out to the deceased man to try to understand why he would take his own life. Some communication is possible and Patrick starts to look deeper into past tragedies.
No spoilers are allowed but The Suicide Plan is a cleverly delivered tale which I rather enjoyed. If you enjoy a supernatural twist to your crime stories this is one to pick up.
The Suicide Plan is published by Bloodhound Books and can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Suicide-Plan-Emma-Clapperton-ebook/dp/B072C5294G/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1496299531&sr=1-1&keywords=the+suicide+plan
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