August 1

The Pinocchio Brief – Abi Silver

A schoolboy accused of a brutal murder. A retired lawyer with secrets to hide…

A 15-year-old schoolboy is accused of the murder of one of his teachers. His lawyers, the guarded veteran, Judith, and the energetic young solicitor, Constance, begin a desperate pursuit of the truth, revealing uncomfortable secrets about the teacher and the school. But Judith has her own secrets which she risks exposing when it is announced that a new lie-detecting device, nicknamed Pinocchio, will be used during the trial. And is the accused, a troubled boy who loves challenges, trying to help them or not?

The Pinocchio Brief is a gripping, very human thriller which confronts our assumptions about truth and reliance on technology.

 

Click here to view a one-minute trailer for The Pinocchio Brief http://bit.ly/2uHzCzk

 

A murder mystery in a prestigious school leads to a fascinating courtroom drama and we also have an accused that is something of an enigma.

Ray is a schoolboy, quiet, bullied and a genius. He is also accused of the murder of his maths teacher after being found in his room, hands covered in blood and unable (or unwilling) to provide police or his legal representatives with any information which may help clear him of the crime.

The aforementioned legal representatives are Constance, a young and diligent solicitor and Judith. Judith is a courtroom veteran who retired from practice some years previous to the Ray’s trial.  Constance persuades Judith to come out of retirement to help defend Ray, but can the two combine the best of their skills to persuade a jury that the awkward loner did not kill his teacher.

What may be the biggest hurdle to overcome is the new Pinocchio technology which is being introduced to the courtroom.  Developed as a more reliable “lie detector” the Pinocchio machine is intended to read the movements and mannerisms of witnesses or defendants in court and provide accurate feedback on whether they have lied to the court.  Ray’s trial is the first big public test of the technology and Judith, for reasons of her own, is keen to have Pinocchio removed from the process.

Can a machine replace a jury? Why does Judith want the technology removed from the court? Why is Ray so unwilling to communicate with Constance and Judith? Who really killed the teacher, could it have been Ray – despite Judith’s conviction he is innocent?

All those questions kept me reading. Several hooks which all drew me in.  The Pinocchio Brief is a cracking courtroom drama but the murder story is also really well thought out. Shades of classic Christie with the murder in the school, a small suspect pool who all have very different backgrounds and each of the suspects has a reason for bumping off the teacher. This is the type of book I love to read.

Thoroughly enjoyed The Pinocchio Brief and hope this finds its way into many homes – seek it out…there is a handy link just below. 

 

The Pinocchio Brief is published by Lightning Books and is available in paperback and digital format. You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pinocchio-Brief-Silver-Abi-ebook/dp/B073QCN77F/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

 

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July 31

Holiday Reading 2017

I went on holiday with a few carefully selected books I had really wanted to read and a Kindle which I knew to be loaded with drama. I got through a decent number of books and didn’t entirely ignore my family so everyone was happy.

But then I got back from holiday and I found I had a wee change to my day job (ie a whole new gig for 3 months) and suddenly I am driving 3 or 4 hours per day and I will not have much time to write up comprehensive reviews for the holiday reads. 

The solution: A Holiday Roundup Post. I shall forsake my usual attempt to summarise the story and aim for brevity…this may get messy!

 

Echoes in Death – JD Robb

First up is the latest Eve Dallas thriller from JD Robb. I have been reading these stories for 6 or 7 years and there are over 50 books and novellas out there – this makes me very happy.  With so many books in the series I do tend to classify them as either A: Pivotal Story or B: Progressive Story.

The Pivotal books are the big impact tales which have huge implications for the ongoing continuity. The Progressive titles are the books which are fun to read and can generally be read out of sequence as they just move everyone along a little.  Echoes in Death is a Progressive read so one that you can pickup and enjoy – which is exactly what I was able to do.  I love these books and Echoes did not let me down.  Fun, thrills and characters I know better than some members of my own family – long may Eve and Roarke continue to kick ass.

 Order a copy here

 

Witness – Caroline Mitchell

As I was reading Witness I took to Twitter – mainly to give myself a little break from the words rushing past my eyes.  I had to share that Caroline Mitchell’s writing had totally freaked me out and made me uncomfortable and nervous as I sat reading in a dimly lit room somewhere in the wilds of The Netherlands.

Brilliant – you can’t ask for anything more from a book if you get so caught up in a story that you start to get apprehensive over what may (or may not) be in the room alongside you.  Checking over my shoulder every few minutes really slowed down my reading pace too!

A stalker drama with some very dark and unexpected twists – creepy is good.

 Order a copy here

 

Did You See Melody? – Sophie Hannah

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one and it didn’t grip me quite as much as some of the other books I read. What it IS, however, is a cleverly plotted drama with some larger than life characters but a lead character that I never really warmed to.

What Did You See Melody? Would be IDEAL for is a reading group.  There are elements of the story which I felt required total buy-in from the reader, without that buy-in it I can’t see it wowing everyone. I would love to see a book group discuss their thoughts on this book as I think it may be one which would spark debate.

Order a copy here 

 

Doctor Who: Plague City – Jonathan Morris

The Doctor (with his Capaldi face), Bill and Nardole. The trio find themselves in Edinburgh and they have broken curfew – imposed as a plague is laying waste to the city. As a Scottish type person I loved this story. As a Glasgow Scottish type person I liked that the plague was in Edinburgh 😊

Jonathan Morris has done a great job with the latest residents of the TARDIS. The story is well thought out and I wish the image of a doctor (not THE Doctor) in their plague masks could make the jump to a tv story.

Exactly what I want from a Doctor Who novel and Mr Morris always tells a good tale.

Order a copy here  

 

The Marriage Pact – Michelle Richmond

I have seen this getting a big push via online adverts.  It is another story which requires a big buy-in from the reader.  If you just go along with the assumption that the husband/wife lead characters are wholly embracing The Marriage Pact then this is a solid thriller which is ideal for a holiday read.  Again book groups on standby – not everyone is going to be happy with the concept that two successful professionals would accept The Pact without question and debate should ensue.

Some surprising twists and Michelle Richmond has some nasty ideas when it comes to ensuring her characters are compelled to obey their promises. 

Order a copy here 

 

 

 

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July 28

Her Deadly Secret – Chris Curran

A young girl has been taken. Abducted, never to be seen again.

Joe and Hannah, her traumatized parents, are consumed by grief. But all is not as it seems behind the curtains of their suburban home.

Loretta, the Family Liaison Officer, is sure Hannah is hiding something – a dark and twisted secret from deep in her past.

This terrible memory could be the key to the murder of another girl fifteen years ago. And as links between the two victims emerge, Joe and Hannah learn that in a family built on lies, the truth can destroy everything…

 

A story which unfolds from the point of view of three families. The key players in my eyes were Joe and Hannah, they are in a dark, dark place as their daughter Lily is gone.

The police are investigating Lily’s disappearance and they have Family Liaison Officer, Loretta, working with Joe and Hannah.  Loretta is there to provide support to the family at a difficult time but she is also expected to establish a bond with a view to obtaining information about Lily which could help the investigation.  Unfortunately for Loretta Hannah is virtually catatonic and hardly speaks. Meanwhile Joe is doing what he can to get Hannah to speak with him but he is acutely aware that the police suspect he may even be involved in Lily’s murder. Joe had been away from the house quite frequently prior to Lily’s disappearance so he finds he cannot answer Loretta’s questions about Lily’s behaviour of late.

Unable to gain any significant information from Hannah or Joe we see Loretta coming under increasing pressure from her boss. Not helping her situation is a bullying colleague and, at home, a recent separation from her husband problems with the behaviour of one of her kids.

Two families down and we turn to Rosie.  Years ago Rosie’s sister was murdered and her father was arrested and jailed for killing his eldest daughter. Now Rosie’s father is out of prison and she learns that her mother has allowed him to return home. Having cut off communications with her father years prior to events in the story, Rosie’s mother tries to encourage her to come meet her father – they both believe that someone knows her father is innocent of the killing…he received letters whilst in prison in which the anonymous sender indicated they knew he did not kill his daughter.  Rosie is determined to find out who may have written the letters.

With three narrative threads to keep track of I thought Chris Curran did a great job of keeping each of the families interesting and under pressure.  You want to keep reading to find out how they will overcome their immediate problems, plus you know that there is a reason there are three viewpoints to a single story – at some stage you expect paths to cross, I just didn’t know where that may happen. The only way to satisfy that curiosity was to read more and more chapters.

I read of many murders, kidnapping and violent attacks during the normal blogging year but the suffering of Joe and Hannah troubled me more than I am used to.  Perhaps it is because most tales focus on the killer or the investigation and less so upon the family of the victim?  Sharing Hannah and Joe’s grief and watching them struggle to comprehend the position they are in was unsettling and I put this entirely down to Chris Curran’s sympathetic unpicking of their lives.

I refer to books like Her Deadly Secret as “people stories”.  Now I know that most books are “people stories” but this is a tale which is very much driven by the characters and their lives, we don’t rely upon clever action set pieces. No witchcraft or demons are lurking in the cellar and is unlikely the TARDIS will land to allow The Doctor to put everything to right. This is pure human and emotional drama and it works very well. Highly recommended.

 

Her Deadly Secret is published by Killer Reads and can be ordered here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Her-Deadly-Secret-gripping-psychological-ebook/dp/B06Y5ZFF1Z/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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July 25

I Am Missing – Tim Weaver

When a young man wakes up bruised and beaten, with no memory of who he is or where he came from, the press immediately dub him ‘The Lost Man’.

Naming himself Richard Kite, he spends the next ten months desperately trying to find out who he is. But despite media appeals and the efforts of the police, no one knows him.

Richard’s last hope may be private investigator David Raker – a seasoned locator of missing people. But Raker has more questions than answers.

Who is Richard Kite?

Why does no one know him?

And what links him to the body of a woman found beside a London railway line two years ago?

Could Richard be responsible for her death – or is he next?

 

My thanks to Laura at Penguin for my review copy

 

I will start with the confession – this is the first of Tim Weaver’s novels that I have read. Having seen Tim at Bloody Scotland last September I promised myself that I would introduce his David Raker books to my bookshelves. Spin forward 10 months and I have just finished I am Missing.

Did it whet my appetite and leave me wanting to read more of Mr Weaver’s books? 

Hell Yeah.

Did it matter that I had not read the earlier books? Not one jot – I felt the story was complete and other than a slight suggestion that Raker had ruffled some feathers within the police during the course of his previous adventures I was happy I had a good feel for the character.

So what made me jump into a series without catching up on the earlier volumes?  Well I loved the premise of I Am Missing. Raker has proven that he is an accomplished investigator and can track down missing people but in this story he is approached by Richard Kite who wants Raker to find someone for him. Kite wants Raker to find out who Richard Kite really is – he has amnesia and cannot recall his own life prior to 10 months earlier when he was found washed up on a beach. A great twist on the missing person story and one which I initially found quite sad too.

As I was reading and Kite was explaining how so much of his life was a mystery to him I was very unsettled about his predicament. Tim Weaver dropped a tragic character into my lap and I was willing Raker to succeed even before he had ended his first conversation with Kite. Hooked I was!

What I had not expected was where Raker’s investigations would lead. As I got deeper into I am Missing I began to realise that there were several characters working to a secret agenda and that were hampering Raker at every turn. Soon I was suspicious of everyone and I was utterly engrossed.

I am reluctant to give much more detail regarding the plot for fear of spoilers – the joy of I am Missing was not knowing where the story was leading and having the mysteries teased out and explained as Raker himself pieces the clues together.

This was a treat and I would suggest a nice jumping in point for the David Raker stories if, like me, you are new to the series.

  

I Am Missing is published by Penguin and is available in paperback and digital format.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Am-Missing-David-Raker-Persons-ebook/dp/B071F2ZPV5/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1501021302&sr=8-2&keywords=tim+weaver+i+am+missing

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July 25

Marked For Death – Matt Hilton

It should be a routine job. Joe Hunter and his associates are hired to provide security for an elite event in Miami. Wear a tux, stay professional, job done.

But things go wrong.

Hunter is drawn into what appears to be a domestic altercation. When he crosses the mysterious Mikhail however, he soon finds something altogether more sinister…

Before long this chance encounter has serious repercussions for Hunter and his friends. Good people are being killed. On the run, in the line of fire, the clock is ticking.

 

My thanks to Canelo for my review copy

 

If you want an action movie in a book then Marked For Death should be on your “must read” list.

Matt Hilton has delivered a full adrenaline, breathlessly paced thriller which zip along and places returning hero Joe Hunter firmly in the thick of the action. He will face peril at every turn and it is all his own fault!

Hunter is helping an old friend and providing his services on a security detail at a luxury party. At the end of the evening he overhears one of the guests intimidating his date and, being the chivalrous type, Hunter steps in to ensure the woman is protected from any potential harm. Hunter is aware that confronting a guest will jeopardise future employment opportunities (both for himself and possibly for his friend’s business) however he steps into the fray and when the aggressor refuses to back down from Hunter’s challenge a short but very decisive scuffle breaks out.

Hunter leads the woman away from her date, intending to take her to safety, but it seems that the couple were more than casual acquaintances (as evidenced by a shiny ring). The woman (Trey Shaw) understands that Hunter has possibly saved her from an immediate beating but she makes it quite clear that Hunter has done more harm than good and that her partner will not accept Trey leaving. Nor will the humiliation of being bested by Hunter in a fight be tolerated.

From then on Hunter has to keep himself alive and Trey safe as an irate and slighted crime boss seeks vengeance. As the body count rises amongst the bad guys there is an increasing demand that Hunter is killed.

Action packed page turner is the best way to describe Marked For Death. Matt Hilton knows how to enthral his readers, the bad guys are just that and you want to see them fail.  Hunter is a hero you can get behind – he could have turned a blind eye to someone else’s problems but he stood up to the bullies and you cannot help but will him to succeed.

Lots of fun – perfect holiday reading.

 

Marked For Death is published by Canelo and is available in digital format now.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Marked-Death-Joe-Hunter-Thrillers-ebook/dp/B073CGFHBS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1500937344&sr=8-1&keywords=marked+for+death+matt

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July 22

In The Still – Jacqueline Chadwick

When Ali Dalglish immigrated to Canada she left behind her career as Britain’s most in-demand forensic pathologist & criminal psychologist. Now, eight years later, Ali feels alone, and bored, and full of resentment. Suffocated and frustrated by her circumstances and in an increasingly love-starved marriage, Ali finds herself embroiled in a murder case that forces her to call upon her dormant investigative skills.

As she’s pulled deeper into the case of ‘The Alder Beach Girl’ and into the mind of a true psychopath, Ali is forced to confront her fears and to finally embrace her own history of mental illness. In an increasingly febrile atmosphere Ali must fight hard to protect those she loves from the wrath of a determined and vicious predator and to ultimately allow the woman she once was to breathe again.

 

My thanks to Chris at Fahrenheit Press for my review copy

 

Lets start with an important word for this review:

benchmark
noun
noun: benchmark; plural noun: benchmarks
  1. a standard or point of reference against which things may be compared.

 

In The Still is the book that all my forthcoming reads will be compared to for the considerable future. I absolutely-bloody-loved it. Ali Dalglish is the smart, in-your-face protagonist who made me want to keep turning the pages.

Having left Britain 8 years prior to events in In The Still, Ali has left a successful career and emigrated to Canada with her family.  Her husband works for the local fire service but Ali is home schooling her son and seems to be living a reasonably unfulfilling life. Home tensions will come to the fore during the telling of the story and it helps make Ali and her family appear much more authentic and gives some break from her pursuit of a killer.

Oh yes there is a killer at loose and Ali (along with her irritating neighbour) have found the body. Ali’s initial exposure to the corpse gives her the opportunity to consider the victim – her previous training as a forensic pathologist kicks in and Ali begins to formulate some ideas as to what may have happened to the unfortunate young woman who would become known as The Alder Beach Girl. Ali is not convinced that the local police have the skill (or competence) to investigate the murder and pushes for a reliable investigator to become involved.

It needs to be noted that In The Still is quite graphic in places and as far from “cozy crime” as you could hope to be. Exactly how I like them.

Jacqueline Chadwick provides great detail on Ali’s profiling rationale. The technical and background information which is considered during Ali’s investigations gives a depth to the story and established Ali’s status and her ability to push the investigation forward. But Ali doesn’t suffer fools gladly so there are some fabulous conversations to enjoy as an angry Scottish woman vents at the world around her.

In The Still totally grabbed me, I couldn’t put it down and it was one of those brilliant reading experiences where everything just worked for me. The killer is sadistic and deploys horrible methodology, the investigation to track down the killer is well paced, fun to read and extremely gripping. The lead character won me over from virtually the first page and the suspicion as to the identity of the killer swings between different contenders as the story unfolds – it kept me guessing and I am not ashamed to admit I called it wrong.

Every time I pick up a new book to read I hope it will be a story which enthrals, entertains and excites. I want it to be the book I will recommend to all my friends and I want it to be a story I will return to (and know I will enjoy reading it more than once). In The Still is that book.

 

In The Still is published by Fahrenheit Press and is available now in paperback and digital format.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Still-1-Ali-Dalglish/dp/1548611956/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1500741390&sr=1-1

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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 20

Trust Me – Angela Clarke

YOU SAW IT HAPPEN. DIDN’T YOU?

What do you do if you witness a crime…but no-one believes you?

When Kate sees a horrific attack streamed live on her laptop, she calls the police in a state of shock. But when they arrive, the video has disappeared – and she can’t prove anything. Desperate to be believed, Kate tries to find out who the girl in the video could be – and who attacked her.

Freddie and Nas are working on a missing persons case, but the trail has gone cold. When Kate contacts them, they are the only ones to listen and they start to wonder – are the two cases connected?

Dark, gripping, and flawlessly paced, Trust Me is the brilliant third novel in the hugely popular social media murderer series.

 

My thanks to Sabah at Avon for my review copy

The third Freddie and Nas thriller in Angela Clarke’s engaging Social Media murder series and this has been my favourite of the three.

First the housekeeping, it is book 3 of a series so there are some references to past events. I have goldfish memory and can never remember character names so I can confirm that Trust Me *can* be read as a stand alone (or out of sequence). The author ensures that new (and forgetful) readers will not be disadvantaged when previous events are discussed as she nicely outlines events from earlier books and ensures you have the pertinent detail to enjoy Trust Me.

To the book…it is generally accepted that you can find anything on the internet but one evening Kate comes across a Periscope feed which is streaming the attack of a young woman.  Kate is compelled to watch the feed as she realises that the woman is initially incapable of refusing the sexual advances of her assailant. When the attack becomes increasingly violent Kate is convinced the girl cannot have survived the incident.

She contacts the police but they seem unable to help – she cannot find the video again, there is no sign of a victim and Kate does not even know where the incident took place. Her frustration eventually leads her to call Freddie who has no doubt that Kate is telling the truth but can  she make her police colleagues believe Kate’s story?

Freddie has her own problems to contend with – her role with the police is in jeopardy due to funding problems. There is a potential solution but Freddie will need to change her role and undergo some training if she is to remain attached to the police. Meanwhile Nas is also battling to recover her status amongst her colleagues as past decisions are still casting a shadow over her place within the squad.

As Trust Me unfolds we are treated to the frustrations of Freddie, the problems with investigating an incident with little evidence and a potentially unreliable witness and we see loyalties tested under extreme circumstances. It makes for gripping reading and fans of Angela’s previous novels are in for a treat with Trust Me.

 

Trust Me is published by Avon and is available now in paperback and digital format.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Trust-Me-Angela-Clarke-ebook/dp/B01MRGTMK6/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 8

Merlin At War – Mark Ellis

Merlin at war

Today I am delighted to host the latest leg of the Merlin at War blog tour.  The new DCI Frank Merlin novel released on 6 July and I have an extract from the book to give you a taste of the action.  First the book description:

War rages across Europe. France is under the Nazi thumb. Britain has its back to the wall. In London, Scotland Yard detective Merlin investigates a series of disturbing events – a young girl killed in a botched abortion, a French emigre shot in a seedy Notting Hill flat, a mysterious letter written by a British officer, gunned down in Crete. With action spanning Buenos Aires, New York, Cairo and Occupied France, Merlin and his team are plunged into a dark world of espionage, murder, love and betrayal.

 

My thanks to Eve at Midas PR for the chance to join the tour.

 

Vichy France, May 1941

The birds were chattering melodiously in the plane trees of the Parc des Sources. The two men, one in uniform and flourishing a white military baton, the other in a baggy but expensive civilian suit, sauntered out of the Hotel Splendide, followed at a distance by a small group of military men and secretaries. The outside tables at the Grand Café were crowded in the balmy late-spring sun. Several of the male customers rose to tip their hats to the strollers while as many ladies, some young, some old, smiled by way of respect.

The civilian, short and dark, with a cowlick of oiled hair and a thick black moustache, acknowledged the signs of deference with a nod of the head and the crinkling of an eye. His stiffly erect companion responded with a raised eyebrow and a baton tap of his kepi. They walked in silence under the café awnings towards Les Halles de Sources before turning into the park. Fifty yards on, they found a park bench in a secluded area of rhododendron bushes and fuchsias and seated themselves. Their attendant party took up position nearby, just out of earshot, beside a small clump of chestnut trees. In the distance, a brass band was playing a selection of military airs.

“So, Admiral, the marshal tells me your trip to Paris was a success.”

Jean Louis Xavier François Darlan, admiral of France and the senior minister in Marshal Philippe Pétain’s Vichy government, stroked his cheek. “Yes, all went as planned, Pierre, although little has been finalised as yet.”

Pierre Laval, former prime minister of France and, until recently, vice-president of Vichy France’s Cabinet of Ministers, chuckled and patted his companion on the knee.

“The marshal mentioned no qualifications. He told me you had got everything he wanted from the Germans. Said you had got the occupation costs to us down from 20 million reichsmarks a day to 15 million, the return of nearly 7,000 of our best people from the German prisoner-of-war camps, and a considerable improvement on the current restrictions in our dealings with the other France.”

“By the other France, Pierre, I take it you mean occupied France?”

“Do not be a pedant, my friend. You know that is what I mean. We need to free up the limitations of our trade so that the French state can benefit to the maximum from our partnership with the Germans.”

The admiral pursed his lips. “You use the word ‘partnership’ Pierre. Others use the word ‘collaboration’, which has a less satisfactory ring.”

Laval rose stiffly to his feet and circumnavigated the bench. When he regained his seat, Darlan noted the unhealthily red flush on his cheeks.

“Partnership or collaboration, what does it matter? We were in a mess and we have found a way for some kind of France to survive. At least Herr Hitler provides us with a bulwark against a worst danger.”

“And, pray, what worst danger is that, Pierre?”

“Why, Bolshevism, of course. The local Bolshevism, which we had to combat before the war, and the greater Bolshevism represented by that maniac Stalin. Hitler is by far the lesser of two evils in that context.”

“Those Frenchmen languishing currently in Hitler’s camps would find it hard to agree with your analysis, I think.”

“But you are gradually getting many of those Frenchmen home, François. That is part of the deal you have just struck, is it not?”

“In return for, among other things, allowing Germany access to our military facilities in Tunisia, Syria, Lebanon and our possessions in west Africa. No doubt ‘access’ will prove a polite substitution for ‘control’.”

Laval stroked his moustache thoughtfully. “And what is so bad about that in the overall scheme of things, if we can recover a much greater level of independence for Vichy France and further the cause of reunification with ‘the other’ France?”

The admiral removed a handkerchief from his jacket pocket and mopped his brow. The May sun was now at its highest point in the heavens and was beating down from a now cloudless sky.

“Perhaps you are right, Pierre, although I somehow doubt that Herr Hitler fails to realise the strength of his negotiating position and the weakness of ours. Dealing with your friend the German ambassador in Paris is one thing but… Of course, Herr Abetz was a fine host and I have to say I was impressed by the restraint with which, under his leadership, the German occupying forces go about their business in Paris.”

The two men sat silently for a while, enjoying the warmth of the day, the mild relieving breeze and the mingled music of birdsong and trombone. For a moment, the heavy burdens on their shoulders lifted and a different France, the old France, took shape around them. Their brief reverie was interrupted by one of the admiral’s men, who ran over to deliver a note. Darlan read it and sighed.

“The marshal wants to see me again at four. When do you think you will be regaining your place in the council, Pierre?”

Laval smoothed some of the creases in his baggy pinstripe trousers and shrugged. “I serve at the marshal’s discretion. As you know, there are voices speaking against me. It is tiresome but I can handle it. Sooner rather than later is the answer to your question, I believe.”

“The marshal still values your advice above all others.”

“Indeed, François. But back to those agreements with Abetz, the Paris Protocols I understand we must now call them. What next?”

Darlan slowly rose to his feet. “They must be ratified by Berlin and by us. Although I have negotiated the protocols myself, I am not completely happy with them. As for Berlin, who knows how long they will take?” The admiral looked up to the sky and sighed. “Such a beautiful day to be discussing these uncomfortable matters.”

Laval stood. “Before we go back, François, have you been briefed recently on the activities of Monsieur de Gaulle and his so-called ‘Free French’ forces in London?”

Darlan looked up, distracted for a moment by what appeared to be a fierce disagreement among the pigeons. He returned his eyes to Laval. “I see the same security reports as you, no doubt, Pierre.”

“And what about the intelligence on the activities of the socalled Resistance here in Vichy and elsewhere in France?”

“I believe I am up to speed. As yet these people appear to pose only a minor threat to us or the occupiers.”

“So the cabinet report says but I have my own sources. I understand from them that the anti-government forces here are going to be receiving direct assistance from abroad.”

“From abroad?”

“From England. In fact, according to my sources, the English secret services have already sent agents over here.”

“Two agents, perhaps three, I understood, Pierre. Is that anything to be particularly concerned about? Naturally, the British will deploy intelligence and counter-intelligence agents as the war proceeds. I would guess that the SS and other German agencies will be well on top of such problems.”

Laval shrugged. “As you say, the Germans should be on top of this. Meanwhile, our own people will be vigilant and I am happy to know that we have our own viable sources here and abroad. Now, my friend, I believe we have time for a quick bite. If we return to my rooms at the hotel, I’m sure my people can rustle up a nice bit of beef and a fine burgundy to accompany it. Shall we?”

The two men retraced their steps to the marshal’s seat of government at the Hotel Splendide, knowledging the renewed greetings of the people again in dignified fashion.

 

Merlin at War by Mark Ellis is out now (hardback £12.99, London Wall Publishing)

You can order a copy of the book here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Merlin-War-DCI-Frank-Novel/dp/0995566712/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

 

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