December 1

Gilding the Lily – Justine John

A gripping mystery of jealousy, murder and lies.

An invitation to her estranged, wealthy father’s surprise 75th birthday party in New York sees Amelia and her husband, Jack, set off across the pond to meet a whole new world of family politics.

Amelia, now a successful businesswoman, feels guilty about never liking her father’s women, so does her upmost to give his new socialite partner, Evelyn, the benefit of the doubt. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could just all get along? But there’s something very dark, determined and dangerous about her…

When Amelia’s father, Roger, becomes ill, Jack grows suspicious that there is more to it. Amelia understands why, but no one else will believe them. They travel back to America to piece together the puzzle, but when Roger goes missing, the couple are driven to their wits’ end. It takes a DEA officer and a secret assassin to bring them answers, but the ruthless truth is something no one expected…

 

My thanks to Justine for the invitation to join the blog tour and for allowing me the opportunity to provide a free and fair review of her novel.

 

I came to Gilding the Lily blind. I like to do this from time to time, start a book with out knowing what the story is about or even who the lead character is. I get to enjoy the story “cold” without waiting for an event (be it murder, marriage or mistake) which has been revealed in the book’s description.

Because I came to Gilding the Lily without any forewarning of what to expect I was horrified at the extent of the evil behaviour of one of the characters.  It built up slowly so by the time I came to realise what was going on I was fully caught up in the drama.

The clues had been there…

Evelyn has made a success throughout her life of captivating a partner who will look after her and give her opportunities and wealth. With more than one husband dead and gone she seeks out a new mate and further comforts her nest. She is now with Roger, he is older than Evelyn and has a grown daughter (Amelia) who he does not see very frequently.

Evelyn and Amelia do not get along. Mainly down to Evelyn’s unusual behaviour when Amelia is around. However, as Roger’s health starts to fail Evelyn becomes more and more unpredictable. She soon makes it clear to Amelia that Amelia’s attempts to see (or even speak with) her father is becoming too tiring for Roger and Evelyn and she asks that Amelia gives them peace.

Amelia is horrified by Evelyn’s behaviour. She will not accept that her father does not want to see her and she starts to worry how much input her father has had into the decision she must stay away. Is Evelyn deliberately turning Roger against his daughter? How ill can her father really be that he would turn away his own child?  Then Amelia’s husband Jack makes an alarming observation which leads Amelia to believe that something very sinister is going on.

It is tricky to give too much information on the relationship of the characters in Gilding the Lily, much of the enjoyment in this dark and duplicitous tale comes from not knowing what you can trust. Evelyn is clearly a gold digger and Roger does seem rather distant from Amelia. But is Amelia simply paranoid?  Does she object to her father taking a new partner after the death of his wife (Amelia’s mother)?

Justine John teases out shocks and twists right to the last page. I read Gilding the Lily in a single sitting…I HAD to know what was happening!  Really entertaining but with a healthy dose of anxiety for the characters. Look out for this one it is great storytelling.

 

Gilding the Lily is available in paperback and digital format.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gilding-Lily-Justine-John-ebook/dp/B01N535MZY/ref=la_B01MYYADH3_1_1_twi_kin_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1512084367&sr=1-1

 

 

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May 31

One To Watch – Rachel Amphlett

One To WatchSophie Whittaker shared a terrifying secret. Hours later, she was dead.

Detective Kay Hunter and her colleagues are shocked by the vicious murder of a teenage girl at a private party in the Kentish countryside.

A tangled web of dark secrets is exposed as twisted motives point to a history of greed and corruption within the tight-knit community.

Confronted by a growing number of suspects and her own enemies who are waging a vendetta against her, Kay makes a shocking discovery that will make her question her trust in everyone she knows.

 

My thanks to Emma Mitchell and to Rachel Amphlett for my review copy and the chance to join the blog tour.

 

If you are not reading Rachel Amphlett’s books yet – you really should be.  One To Watch is the third in the Kay Hunter series and my favourite thus far.

At a private party the guest of honour is found brutally murdered. Her close friend knows the victim had a big secret which she was going to announce to her family the next day but could this secret have been the reason she was killed?

I don’t say this lightly but there were shades of Dame Agatha in One To Watch.  We have a small group of potential suspects:  the Lady seeking to protect the family name and ancestral home. Her husband, who has a more down-to-earth outlook on future prospects.  There is the American Businessman, he holds aspirations of joining the gentry. Their children, their minister and a rogue “bit of rough” that has invaded their idyllic life.

As you would expect the first impressions of all of these characters may be misleading and at various stages in the story you will start to doubt what they are telling the police. Some will seemingly have a very good motive for killing Sophie but did they have the opportunity.  As Kay Hunter and her colleagues start to unpick the lies and half-truths it becomes clear that some secrets will be revealed and they will have devastating consequences for those involved.

The pacing of One To Watch matched the feel of a Golden Age crime story too. There is no need for a series of high-octane set piece scenes as everything is investigated and discovered with careful shrewdness. This is a story driven by the characters, how they live, the choices they made and how they interact with those around them.

Where One To Watch also excels is when Amphlett returns to the ongoing problem that has spanned all the books in the series thus far – someone is out to get Kay Hunter.  While the “no spoilers” rule is very much in place I can hint to some incidents in One To Watch which will further develop the ongoing story arc that someone is trying to undermine her position at work and to possibly end her career permanently.  It is a delightfully eerie shadow which will hang over the whole book and I loved that.

I inhaled One To Watch and read it in two sittings. Very much the kind of book that I can get utterly lost in – a 5 star read and I immediately start looking forward to the next one.

 

One To Watch publishes on 8 June and you can order a copy here: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/one-to-watch/id1232535445

 

One to Watch BT Banner(1)

 

 

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November 27

Holding – Graham Norton

holdingThe remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn’t always been this overweight; mother-of-two Brid Riordan hasn’t always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn’t always felt that her life was a total waste.

So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke – a former love of both Brid and Evelyn – the village’s dark past begins to unravel. As the frustrated PJ struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community’s worth of anger and resentments, secrets and regret.

 

My thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for my review copy which I received through Netgalley.

 

If you have never lived in a small village it is unlikely you will have experienced the sensation of your life being constantly observed, scrutinised and discussed. It sounds quite sinister (and more than a little creepy) but in remote communities your friends and neighbours will see everything you do when you leave your home and they will pass comment on it to their friends and neighbours.  Villages are not packed with an army of super-snoopers, there is just little variation in day-to-day life so EVERYTHING is noted and when neighbours chat they will comment on what (and who) they have seen. Your life becomes someone else’s distraction.

This is why stories set in in villages are always laced with secrets and when someone comes along and starts to unpick those secrets it can cause massive ripples through a small community.  This is why Graham Norton’s Holding was such a fun read – he has placed his tale in a small Irish village and one chance discovery is about to change half a dozen lives forever!

The key player in Holding is probably the local Guard – Sergeant PJ Collins.  He has had a quiet time of it thus far in the village of Duneen, however, a local work crew have uncovered some human bones as they excavated a field.  PJ is called for and quickly realises that he is totally out of his depth, he must call in the more experienced detectives from Cork and that is going to make him look inept in they eyes of his neighbours. I say the key player is “probably” PJ, however, there are a number of other strong characters in Holding who will have valid claim to be the main focus of the story…Brid Riordan is one such character.  Her marriage is on the rocks as she is a bit too keen on a glass of wine before breakfast – the discovery of the body in Duneen will have a dramatic impact on Brid but not in any way that she could have expected.

The discovery of a body is not something that will be kept quiet in Duneen and soon everyone is speculating over who the unfortunate victim may be.  We will learn of lost loves, jealousy, bitterness and friends and family will lie to the police to protect their loved ones.  It makes for fascinating reading, I love when an author starts to unpick the secrets in a village as you are never sure what may be uncovered – Graham Norton does it rather well brings a great deal of empathy to his writing as he sets about destroying the hopes and dreams of his cast.

I picked up Holding with no concept of what to expect, I had not read the description and avoided any reviews I was keen to take the story as I found it. I was very pleasantly surprised over how much I enjoyed it. I tend not to read what is commonly referred to as “cosy” crime and Holding is much lighter in tone than many of the more graphic and action packed books I have read recently. But it is absolutely perfectly pitched for the setting and the characters are all totally believable.

Good fun – Good Read.

 

Holding is published by Hodder & Stoughton and is available now in Hardback and Digital format.  You can order a copy through this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Holding-Graham-Norton/dp/1444792008/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1479939562&sr=1-1&keywords=holding+graham+norton

 

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June 11

My Girl – Jack Jordan

My Girl 2Paige Dawson: the mother of a murdered child and wife to a dead man.

She has nothing left to live for… until she finds her husband’s handgun hidden in their house.

Why did Ryan need a gun? What did he know about their daughter’s death?

Desperate for the truth, Paige begins to unearth her husband’s secrets.

But she has no idea who she is up against, or that her life isn’t hers to gamble – she belongs to me.

 

My thanks to Jack for my review copy and for the chance to host a leg of the My Girl blog tour.

 

Normally I open reviews by sketching an outline of the story, perhaps highlighting central themes or positioning the type of story I have read. Yet I find that My Girl is posing a problem – I don’t want to spoil anything as I am going to implore you to read it and for the full impact of Mr Jordan’s gobsmacking story you *must* avoid spoilers!

Okay lets try this…

Paige is in a spiral of despair. Her daughter was murdered, her husband has taken his own life and Paige has a drink and drugs dependency. The story follows Paige and we watch her life falling apart around her, she alienates her in-laws, runs from the help that her father tries to find for her and is pushing away her brother when he tries to get her to moderate her behaviour.

As I read about Paige I swung between pity for her situation and frustration that she just could not seem to find the strength she seemed to need to start to fight back and try to kick her addictions. Many of her worst moments are recounted in flashback – Paige waking with a hangover to realise (or be told) what she had been doing, I really enjoyed how Jack Jordan mixed up the worst of the incidents, watching them unfold ‘real time’ in some chapters then describing events in flashback in the next.

Needless to say that I did not see Paige’s story turning out well for her.  Just how horrifically things go wrong totally caught me off guard. Pity gave way to horror. My reading speed (which was already pretty speedy) picked up pace and I flew through My Girl. Not knowing how events would turn out was just not an option – this was compelling reading.

This is a book for the reader that likes their stories to have a dark and twisted edge. I started My Girl knowing only that a couple of my most trusted fellow bloggers had loved it. I am now adding my voice to their praise – this is a cracking story.

 

My Girl is released on 4 July 2016 and you can order your copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/My-Girl-Jack-Jordan-ebook/dp/B01F7U2SVG/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1465605107&sr=1-1&keywords=jack+jordan

 

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