Life Ruins by Danuta Kot #bookreview blog tour @DanutaJR @simonschusteruk @annecater

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Life Ruins by Danuta Kot on my blog today. With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.

Life Ruins by [Kot, Danuta]


This is Broadchurch meets The Missing – hard-hitting, pacey and with modern social issues at its heart.

In a small northern town, girls are disappearing.
You won’t see it in the papers and the police aren’t taking any notice, but the clues are there if you know where to look.

Becca sees that something is wrong, but she’s been labelled ‘difficult’ thanks to her troubled past. So when a girl is so savagely beaten she can’t be identified, and Becca claims she knows who she is, no one will believe her.

With the police refusing to listen, Becca digs for evidence that will prove what she is saying. But her search for justice will put herself and those closest to her in danger – and once she finds the truth, will anyone even listen?


Life Ruins is a superbly written novel by Danuta Kot. With some very engaging writing and characters, this is an atmospheric story that will draw you effortlessly into the pages.

I think what Danuta Kot succeeds at most in this book, is the setting and her characters. Set in Whitby, and along the East Yorkshire coast, you really do get a sense of the seaside town, with its cliffs and the old mines left to crumble away. I could imagine the dark, twisty roads and the abandoned caravan site very crisply in my mind. It created a very spooky atmosphere. I could sense that dangerous people were lurking in the shadows. From that moment on, I wanted to know what was going on here.

I found the two lead characters, Jared Godwin and Becca Armitage very engaging. Both come from totally different backgrounds. Becca grew up in foster care and now works at a café which provides food and shelter to the homeless after being thrown out of university. She has a very close relationship with her foster parent, Kay, who lives alone after being recently made widowed, with her dog, Milo.

Jared, meanwhile, is a risk-taker. He enjoys living life on the edge, particularly by exploring abandoned mines and pushing himself even further to get that buzz of brushing close with death. But several years earlier he was involved in a devastating accident when his friend drowned which he holds himself personally responsible for. You can see just how much this affects him.

This is the kind of book which made me think, oh I’ll just read one more chapter, and then another, and another. As I mentioned, for me, it was the atmosphere and the characters that made this book particularly engaging. I was rooting for Becca and Jared. At first, you can’t see how their lives are going to come together. Danuta Kot does so in a very intriguing way when Jared witnesses a horrifying attack on a young girl who Becca believes is her friend. And from this point on a very dark story begins to emerge which puts Becca, Jared and Kay in very grave danger.

This is a very enjoyable and an engaging mystery. I would say that this book is more character-driven, but I was kept asking questions as the plot darkened. A lot of the time, it does feel that Jared and Becca are on their own in their quest to find answers. This is especially when the police didn’t seem to want to listen to what they had to say. Life Ruins is very well done.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication date: 7th February 2019

Print length: 480 pages

If you would like to purchase Life Ruins, you can do so by clicking on one of the following links below.

Amazon UK  Kobo  Waterstones


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The Closer I Get by Paul Burston #bookreview blog tour @PaulBurston @OrendaBooks @annecater

I’m delighted to be joining the blog tour for The Closer I Get by Paul Burston today on my blog. With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.

The Closer I Get by [Burston, Paul]


Tom is a successful author, but he’s struggling to finish his novel. His main distraction is an online admirer, Evie, who simply won’t leave him alone.

Evie is smart, well read and unstable; she lives with her father and her social-media friendships are not only her escape, but everything she has.

When she’s hit with a restraining order, her world is turned upside down, and Tom is free to live his life again, to concentrate on writing.

But things aren’t really adding up. For Tom is distracted but also addicted to his online relationships, and when they take a darker, more menacing turn, he feels powerless to change things. Because maybe he needs Evie more than he’s letting on.

A compulsive, disturbingly relevant, twisty and powerful psychological thriller, The Closer I Get is also a searing commentary on the fragility and insincerity of online relationships, and the danger that can lurk just one ‘like’ away…


The Closer I Get by Paul Burston is a powerful and chilling look at the dark side of social media. Trolling and stalking seems to be an ever real threat in today’s world. The explosion of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook and other social media sites, over the last decade or so has benefited us hugely, by bringing the world closer together. But it can also come at a cost. Anyone can now find out information about you. Where you visit for a cup of coffee each day, what your favourite meal is and where you work. All from the click of a button. It’s quite scary to think about. This is what happens to Paul’s main character, Tom.

Tom, who is a writer, wrote a bestseller which was released a few years ago and became a major Hollywood film. Although he hasn’t hit the bestseller charts in recent years, he still has a good relationship with his agent. She seems to be a source of encouragement and comfort to Tom. She is always egging him on to finish his latest book. But Tom’s own world starts to crumble when he becomes the victim of a stalker. Tom then has to resort to drastic measures to get the person to stop.

Paul Burston’s writing is very readable, and I quickly became drawn into the story. What I thought made this book really work and what made it so fascinating, was telling the story both from Tom and Evie’s point of view. Evie is the woman who he accuses of stalking him. Tom is eventually forced to take her to court in the hope that a restraining order will solve his problems and that after that point, she will finally leave him alone. From what I could begin to see as the story unfolded, was that here were two very conflicting accounts. I could never be sure who was telling the truth about what was really going on. It was probably the characters in this book that made it so gripping for me as I tried to work out which version was the correct one.

I really liked how Paul brought everything together at the conclusion, which gave the ending a very satisfactory feel. It was a very surprising finale that really chilled me.

This is an incredibly tense piece of fiction which races towards an uncertain denouement as the two lead characters collide. It will also, perhaps, make you think again about the people who you follow on social media and who follows you back.

Publisher: Orenda Books

Publication date: 11th May 2019

Print length: 276 pages

If you would like to purchase The Closer I Get, you can do so by clicking on one of the following links below.


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The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid #bookreview

Val McDermid has been on my must-read author list for a while and I was excited to finally start the first book in her Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series, The Mermaids Singing. With the latest book in this series being released soon, I thought it was high time I caught up.


You always remember the first time. Isn’t that what they say about sex? How much more true it is of murder…

Up till now, the only serial killers Tony Hill had encountered were safely behind bars. This one’s different – this one’s on the loose.

Four men have been found mutilated and tortured. As fear grips the city, the police turn to clinical psychologist Tony Hill for a profile of the killer. But soon Tony becomes the unsuspecting target in a battle of wits and wills where he has to use every ounce of his professional nerve to survive.

A tense, beautifully written psychological thriller, The Mermaids Singing explores the tormented mind of a serial killer unlike any the world of fiction has ever seen.


Val McDermid is an author I’ve long wanted to try, and I finally got round to reading the first book in her Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series a couple of weeks ago, well I listened to the audiobook. The Mermaids Singing is a gritty police procedural with some very graphic scenes, so perhaps this isn’t for you if you’re a little squeamish. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the first book in this series. Although I found it predictable and I guessed who the killer was very early on I found Val’s writing very gripping.

The killer in this book is absolutely terrifying. You do get the sense that they will go to any means possible to achieve their satisfaction. They’re determined to be recognised for their crimes. Tony Hill and Carol Jordan recognise this, which makes them even more determined to catch them before the killer kills again. As I mentioned, I did have my suspicions early on as to who the killer was, which proved to be correct, but I was excited to see if I was right and what the final outcome was going to be.

I really liked the developing relationship between Tony and Carol, and I am interested to see how Val will continue this when I get round to reading the rest of the books in this series. Tony is a fascinating character. I struggled to understand him at first but by the end of the book I really connected with his character and I was rooting for him, especially in the final scenes as the book drew towards its conclusion.

The first book in this series is set in the 90s in Bradfield and what is highlighted is how old fashioned some police officers thinking methods were. This was where I wanted Tony Hill to succeed as I felt that they really needed to be shaken up. There was one police officer who I particularly detested as he seemed to want to brush the crimes that were taking place under the carpet. I really hated his way of thinking. You will know who I mean if you have, or when you read the book.

This is the first book I have read by Val, and it certainly will not be my last. If you like your crime fiction dark and with plenty of suspense, then I would definitely recommend it.  I’m looking forward to reading more from this series.

Publisher: Harper

Publication date: 5th November 2015

Print length: 464 pages

If you would like to purchase The Mermaids Singing, you can do so by clicking on one of the following links below. 

Amazon UK  Waterstones

Stop at Nothing by Tammy Cohen #bookreview blog tour @MsTamarCohen @alisonbarrow @annecater

I’m delighted to be joining the blog tour for Stop at Nothing by Tammy Cohen on my blog today. With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.

Stop At Nothing by [Cohen, Tammy]


A mother’s job is to keep her children safe.

Tess has always tried to be a good mother. Of course, there are things she wishes she’d done differently, but doesn’t everyone feel that way?

Then Emma, her youngest, is attacked on her way home from a party, plunging them into a living nightmare which only gets worse when the man responsible is set free

But what if she fails?

So when Tess sees the attacker in the street near their home, she is forced to take matters into her own hands. But blinded by her need to protect her daughter at any cost, might she end up putting her family in even greater danger?

There’s nothing she wouldn’t do to make it right . . .


Stop at Nothing is a dark psychological thriller by Tammy Cohen about a mother’s quest to get justice for her teenage daughter after she was attacked on her way home from a party. It is also a story about trust and obsession. I’ve loved Tammy Cohen’s previous books so I couldn’t wait to start reading her latest. It took a very different direction to what I originally thought it would, and this is what made the story feel very original, especially the twist which came towards the end.

I was hooked right from the intense opening when Tess’s daughter, Emma, is at the police station after the police have called her in to try and identify her attacker. I really connected with Tess and her quest to get justice for Emma. It did feel like she was at the end of a tether as she attempted to try and make people listen. It seemed that people were trying to push her back all the time. There were times when I wanted someone to step in and help Tess, and I feared what was going to happen to her as she continued to try and get justice. And there were times when I wanted her to stop, to prevent anything bad happening to her and her family.

Tammy Cohen’s writing is very easy to get into. She always creates hugely engaging characters. The emotion in Tammy’s characters comes through very strongly in this book, especially in Tess as she is still struggling to come to terms with what has happened to her daughter. She is a character who I really felt for. I wanted her to get justice for her daughter. But there is also something else that has happened. She has an estranged relationship with her eldest daughter, and it is clear that something has happened in their past that has caused a rift between them. I was really interested in this part of the plot, and I wanted to know what had happened between them to cause this strain in their relationship.

There is a lot of tension in this book as Tess continues to investigate what happened to her daughter, and as she becomes infatuated with a man who she believes is the person responsible for what happened. Now, this was a part of the story which I was never quite sure about, and Tammy Cohen kept me on my toes as I kept wondering if this person was the culprit. I couldn’t believe some of the lengths that Tess was going to here, to try and bring this person to justice.

This is a book that certainly, for me, kept its secrets under wraps until the final pages. There’s a very sinister tone that made me think that all was not quite as it seems. There are some very dark characters who will keep you hooked and intrigued. Stop at Nothing is another top psychological thriller by Tammy Cohen. I can’t wait to read what she writes next.

Publisher: Transworld

Publication date: 18th July 2019

Print length: 430 pages

If you would like to purchase Stop at Nothing, you can do so by clicking on one of the following links below.

Amazon UK  Kobo  Waterstones


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The Missing Wife by Sam Carrington #bookreview blog tour @sam_carrington1 @AvonBooksUK @Sabah_K

I’m delighted to be sharing my review of The Missing Wife by Sam Carrington as part of the blog tour. With thanks to Sabah Khan at Avon Books for inviting me to take part.


You think you know those closest to you. You are wrong…

A sleep-deprived new mother approaching her fortieth birthday, the very last thing Louisa wants to do is celebrate.

But when her friend Tiff organises a surprise party, inviting the entire list of Louisa’s Facebook friends, Louisa is faced with a room full of people she hasn’t spoken to in years – including someone she never expected to see again: her ex-boyfriend, Oliver Dunmore.

When Oliver’s wife Melissa goes missing after the party, everyone remembers the night differently. Someone knows what happened to Melissa, and Louisa is determined to find them. But the truth could be closer, and the deception more devastating, than she’d ever imagined…

A gripping psychological suspense novel, perfect for fans of Samantha Downing’s My Lovely Wife, Lucy Clarke’s You Let Me In and Linda Green’s The Last Thing She Told Me.


Sam Carrington’s The Missing Wife could very easily have been a one-sitting read for me. It did take me just two days to finish it, and it’s clear to see that Sam is a writer who is going from strength to strength, and she has become one of my favourite authors. I absolutely loved the pace in her latest book, and it had such a compelling mystery that I couldn’t stop turning those pages.

What we are first faced with is the disappearance of Oliver Dunmore’s wife, Melissa, who vanished after attending the fortieth birthday of Oliver’s former girlfriend from college, Louise. Louise isn’t best pleased when she finds out that her friend, Tiff, has organised the surprise, and is horrified when she finds out that Oliver has been invited. But what really puzzles Louise is that she can’t remember seeing Melissa on the night in question at all. Then, when Oliver uses Melissa’s disappearance to slip back into her life, it is clear that there is something much darker going on here.

Louise was a character who I really felt sorry for, a lot of the time, in this book. Louise is just approaching her fortieth birthday, and she has just given birth to her second child, her son Noah. Sam paints a vivid picture of the struggles often new mother’s face, and there were some times when I could have shouted with frustration at Louise’s family for the way they were speaking to her. You can clearly see how this begins to affect her.

This book does mark a break-away from Sam’s previous two novels, which although were two separate stories, they did feature some of the same characters. Although I did miss, DI Lindsay Wade and DS Mack, I did enjoy getting to know Sam’s new characters. Louise and Oliver both made the story a compelling read as it became clear that something had happened in their past which binds them both together. I was very keen to know what that something was.

As the novel reached the end, I often thought about how I would choose to react if I was put in the same situation as Louise. It was quite horrifying as it dawned on her what was happening. I was literally glued to the final pages. There’s plenty of action towards the end of the book, and it did make me feel as though I was watching the story unfold on the big screen. The Missing Wife is pacy, addictive and has some richly developed characters. I would definitely recommend it. I can’t wait for Sam’s next book.

Publisher: Avon

Publication date: 27th June 2019

Print length: 352 pages

If you would like to purchase The Missing Wife, you can do so by clicking on one of the following links below.

Amazon UK  Kobo  Waterstones




The Dead Wife by Sue Fortin #bookreview blog tour @suefortin1 @rararesources

I’m delighted to be joining the blog tour for The Dead Wife by Sue Fortin on my blog today. With thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part.

The Dead Wife by [Fortin, Sue]



Police have ruled out suspicious circumstances in the investigation into the death of Elizabeth Sinclair, wife of charismatic entrepreneur Harry Sinclair, found drowned in the lake of the family’s holiday park.

It’s been two years since the Sinclair case closed but when reporter Steph Durham receives a tipoff that could give her the scoop of the year, she’s drawn deeper and deeper into the secretive Sinclair family.

Elizabeth’s death wasn’t a tragic accident. And the truth will come at a deadly price…


This was a really exciting read, I just had to find out what the truth was. The Sinclair family are certainly a group of people who you wouldn’t want to cross. I think if I’d have been in Steph’s position, I would have wanted to just forget about the whole issue and get out of the place. But then I liked Steph’s determination to find out what was really going on and to prove if Elizabeth’s death was really an accident once and for all.

As Steph continued to investigate what happened to Elizabeth, I really started to fear for her, particularly as she seemed to be getting close to uncovering what was going on. One of the characters in this book I really didn’t like was Dominic, and I kept thinking that he was going to do something terrible to Steph to stop her from investigating further. The Sinclair’s were an intriguing group of characters. We have Dominic, Harry and Owen who are in charge along with their mother, Pru at the helm. They’re certainly keen not to let anyone else in on their business, and it had me really thinking about what was going on their world and what they weren’t keen to let anyone else, no matter how close that person is to them, have a stake in. One of the things which Sue Fortin excelled at in her writing was in creating that real sense of danger.

As the story developed, I was able to guess what some parts of the final outcome was going to be, but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment. I flew through the last chapters as I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen to Steph, and I wanted to see if she would finally get to the truth.

One of the other parts of this story that I liked was Sue’s exploration of Steph’s relationship with her mother, Wendy. Her mother is just retiring from the police force. She worked on the original investigation into Elizabeth’s death. The scenes when Steph was having a conversation with Wendy about the case made me feel even more convinced that something terrible was going on behind the scenes.

This is the first book by Sue Fortin which I have read and I will certainly read more from her in the future. I’ll also be catching up on her previous books as well. If you’re a psychological thriller fan, I would definitely recommend this book.

Publisher: Harper Collins

Publication date: 12th July 2019

Print length: 416 pages

If you would like to purchase The Dead Wife, you can do so by clicking on one of the following links below.

Amazon UK  Kobo  Waterstones


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The Sleepwalker by Joseph Knox #bookreview blog tour @josephknox__ @TransworldBooks @alisonbarrow @annecater

I’m delighted to be joining the blog tour for The Sleepwalker by Joseph Knox today on my blog. With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.

The Sleepwalker (Aidan Waits) by [Knox, Joseph]


‘He said he didn’t remember killing them…’

As a series of rolling blackouts plunge the city into darkness, Detective Aidan Waits sits on an abandoned hospital ward, watching a mass murderer slowly die. Transferred from his usual night shift duties and onto protective custody, he has just one job…

To extract the location of Martin Wick’s final victim before the notorious mass murderer passes away.

Wick has spent over a decade in prison, in near-total silence, having confessed to an unspeakable crime that shocked the nation and earned him the nickname of TheSleepwalker.

But when a daring premeditated attack leaves one police officer dead and another one fighting for his life, Wick’s whispered last words will send Waits on a journey into the heart of darkness…

Manipulated by a reticent psychopath from his past, and under investigation from his new partner, Detective Constable Naomi Black, Waits realises too late that a remorseless contract killer is at work.

Can Aidan Waits solve his last case before fleeing justice?

Or will his name be next on the hit list?


I’m a huge fan of Joseph Knox’s gritty crime thrillers set in Manchester. There is a real sense of authenticity to the setting of these books, and I love how Manchester is brought to life, especially in the darker areas of the city where gang lords rule, which Joseph Knox paints in a vivid portrayal. His writing definitely makes you feel as though you are there.

This time round in The Sleepwalker, Detective Aidan Waits is posted outside the ward of sadistic killer Martin Wicks who is on his deathbed. Martin was convicted of killing a mother and her three children several decades ago. But he has never revealed the location of one of the children he murdered. The police are hoping that Martin will finally tell them the location of the body of his last victim. But when Martin does speak to Aidan, he confesses that he is innocent and Aidan believes him. But something shocking happens. Martin comes under attack and is killed within the secure unit of the hospital, along with another officer, and another police officer is injured. Is someone determined to make sure that Martin stays silent?

Joseph Knox’s latest novel follows a very intriguing, multi-layered story. Joseph Knox also continues Aidan Waites own personal story which he began to peel back in the last book The Smiling Man. And again I found Aidan Wait’s story a really interesting part of this plot, especially his relationship with his mother and his sister, who he hasn’t seen for the best part of twenty years. This part of the story puts Aidan under quite a lot of strain, and I wasn’t sure how it was going to effect him as the story progressed.

The part of the mystery which I really wanted to know the answer to was if Martin Wicks was really guilty of the crimes he was convicted for or if he was innocent as he protested to Aidan. I could sense trouble ahead for Aidan as he was starting to come round to the idea that this was really the truth, but it doesn’t stop him in his quest.

I also really liked Aidan’s partnership with Naomi Black. Their partnership and friendship are put under some strain, but I thought they both worked really well together and there did seem to be chemistry between them. Aidan is such a compelling character and it’s been really intriguing to see his story develop over the course of three books. I’m really hoping that there are going to be more novels featuring him.

The final scenes to this book are action filled, pacy, tense, and I couldn’t stop reading until I had turned the final page. The Sleepwalker has a real addictive quality to it, and I would definitely recommend picking up the first two books as well as this one. Very, very good.

Publisher: Transworld

Publication date: 11th July 2019

Print length: 400 pages

If you would like to purchase, The Sleepwalker you can do so by clicking on one of the following links below.

Amazon UK  Kobo  Waterstones


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What You Did by Claire McGowan #bookreview blog tour @inkstainsclaire @damppebbles @AmazonPub @EmmaFinnigan

I’m delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for Claire McGowan’s latest thriller, What You Did on my blog today. With thanks to Emma Welton from Damppebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part.

What You Did by [McGowan, Claire]


A vicious assault. A devastating accusation. Who should she trust, her husband or her best friend?

It was supposed to be the perfect reunion: six university friends together again after twenty years. Host Ali finally has the life she always wanted, a career she can be proud of and a wonderful family with her college boyfriend, now husband. But that night her best friend makes an accusation so shocking that nothing will ever be the same again.

When Karen staggers in from the garden, bleeding and traumatised, she claims that she has been assaulted—by Ali’s husband, Mike. Ali must make a split-second decision: who should she believe? Her horrified husband, or her best friend? With Mike offering a very different version of events, Ali knows one of them is lying—but which? And why?

When the ensuing chaos forces her to re-examine the golden era the group shared at university, Ali realises there are darker memories too. Memories that have lain dormant for decades. Memories someone would kill to protect.


I was definitely intrigued when I learned that Claire McGowan had written a stand-alone thriller, having previously read her Paula Maguire novels I knew I was in for a treat.

There’s an intense opening to What You Did. Twenty-five years after a group of friends first got together at university they are having a get together. But calamity strikes when one member of the group, Karen, enters her friend, Ali’s house, and tells Ali that her husband, Mike, has raped her. Ali is torn between her best friend and her husband. Who does she support? Who should she believe? But as an intense police investigation ensues, it brings back haunting memories from their time at university, when one of their classmates was murdered. No one was ever caught for their friend’s murder. Could they finally find out what happened all those years ago?

This was a real page-turner. Right from the shocking opening, I wanted to know what the outcome for Ali and her family was going to be. I was convinced there was definitely more to the situation they now found themselves in. And then I was trying to work out if anyone else in the group could have been responsible for what happened to Ali, or if someone else could have gained access to the property. This was another possible theory I kept thinking about.

Each character kept me asking questions, particularly about their time at university twenty-five years ago when one of their friends was killed. I was convinced they knew more than they were letting on. There’s a darkness that runs right throughout the book, especially when there is an even more shocking turn of events which forces Ali into an impossible dilemma, and she learns some horrifying truths. She is a character who goes through a lot of emotions in this book, and she is someone who is torn between her loyalties.

This is a top, extremely well written psychological thriller from Claire McGowan with strong character development. I’ve always found her writing gripping, and her latest book is no exception. I was kept hooked right the way through.

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Publication date: 1st August 2019

Print length: 269 pages

If you would like to purchase What You Did, you can do so by clicking on the following link below. 

Amazon UK


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Sign of the Cross by Glenn Cooper blog tour #extract @GlennCooper @blackthornbks

I’m delighted to be bringing you an extract from Sign of the Cross by Glenn Cooper as part of the blog tour. With thanks to Holly at Blackthorn Books for inviting me to take part.

Sign of the Cross (Cal Donovan Thrillers) by [Cooper, Glenn]


Abruzzo, Italy: a young priest suffers the stigmata of the crucifixion.

The Vatican, Rome: the Pope calls on Harvard professor Cal Donovan to investigate the truth of the priest’s claim.

Berlin, Germany: a neo-Nazi organisation believes the priest is the key to an earth-shattering secret. A secret that can be used as a deadly weapon.

When the priest is abducted, a perilous race against the clock begins. Only Cal can track down the ruthless organisation and stop it, before an apocalyptic catastrophe is unleashed.



Syria Palaestina, 327

The relentless Jerusalem sun had baked the earth hard as stone. Despite the midday heat, the leather-skinned laborers swinging heavy picks dared not break their cadence. The lady was close by, watching their every move, listening to the musical pings of iron striking the hard concretion.

She sat, shaded by her tent, on a flattened mound of detritus overlooking the excavation. Unsmiling Roman soldiers stood guard at each corner of the open-sided enclosure. These men and their comrades, who encircled the site with a ring of steel, were no ordinary legionnaires, but an elite cohort of centurions chosen by the emperor himself. It was not as if there were specific threats against the lady’s person or even a general sense of menace. In truth, most of the people of Jerusalem were supportive of her actions and appreciative of her generosity to the poor. But there was no room for a cavalier error. One malcontent with a sling could have wrought disaster. This was the emperor’s mother, an empress in her own right.

Flavia Iulia Helena Augusta.

The tavern girl who was consort to an emperor, Constantius Chlorus, and birthed a greater one, whom history would come to know as Constantine the Great. The man who defied centuries of Roman tradition, sweeping aside the gods and embracing Christianity.

If Constantine did the sweeping, then Helena was the broom.

So enamored was she with this young Christian religion, that at the age of near-eighty – when most noble women in extreme dotage were being carried from room to room in comfortable Roman villas – spry Helena was making pilgrimages to distant lands in search of the relics of Christ.

Arriving in the holy city of Jerusalem with her entourage, she astonished the ordinary populace by walking among them in their markets and churches, asking what they had learned from their ancestors about the location of Christ’s tomb and Golgotha: the site of his crucifixion. The oral history was strong. Three hundred years in a land so ancient and rich in storytellers was but a grain of time. Now, two years into her expedition, the end was in sight and Helena’s success was staggering. She had churches built on the site in Bethlehem, which she deemed to be that of Christ’s birth, and on the Mount of Olives, the place of his ascension. These discoveries were but a trifle compared with the enormous task at Calvary: the site most often mentioned by locals as Jesus’s burial place. Two hundred years earlier, Emperor Hadrian had undertaken a reconstruction of Jerusalem following the violent and destructive Jewish revolts. At Calvary, he covered the mound with earth and erected a large temple to Venus and it had fallen to Helena to take that building down, block by block.

The venerated Bishop Macarius of Jerusalem was Helena’s constant companion, spiritual advisor and it was he who had chosen the spot for excavation, once the ground was laid bare. A team of pick and shovel men (Syrians and Greeks for the most part) led by the foreman, an unctuous Syrian named Safar, had soon found an old, Jewish-style rock-cut tomb. Safar helped Macarius descend a ladder into the excavation pit and when the old bishop returned to Helena’s side he tearfully proclaimed it to be the Savior’s very tomb. Weeks later, at a nearby location, the diggers unearthed three sets of decayed and petrified timbers. Lifted from the pit and laid out for Helena’s inspection, she and Macarius joyfully declared them to be the crosses of Christ and the two thieves. But which one was Christ’s?

Macarius proposed a solution to the vexing problem.

Pieces of each cross were taken to the bedside of a cachectic woman dying from tumors in her belly. Firstly, one piece of wood was placed in her hand. Nothing happened. Likewise a second piece had no effect. But the third piece was miraculous. Clutching the splinter, her color went from yellow to pink and the swelling of her belly receded. She sat up, the first time she had been able to do so in ages and smiled.

They had found the True Cross.

Now Helena had one final quest before she could bundle up her relics and journey back to Rome. She sent the diggers back into the pit to find the nails of the crucifixion.

‘Will there be three or four?’ she asked Macarius.

The bishop sat beside her in the tent. ‘I cannot say, my lady. Some executioners preferred a separate spike for each ankle. Others speared both ankles with a single one.’

‘I do wish they would hurry,’ she said. ‘I am an old woman.’

The bishop dutifully laughed. He had heard her say the same countless times.

Down in the pit and hidden from view, Safar watched his men scrape away at the earth beneath the spot where they had found the True Cross. His keen eye spotted something. He pushed the nearest man aside and continued the task with his handpick. Digging on his knees he exposed a large spike, black with oxida¬tion. It was as long as a man’s hand, quadrangular, with an intact, flat head. He was about to pull it out when his eye settled on a black dot a short distance away and soon he had exposed a second nail, this one shorter, with a broken tip. Then a man several feet away called out to him in Syrian. He had unearthed another nail and while Safar was cleaning along the shaft he noticed yet another trace of black. Soon four nails were exposed. The last one was missing half its head, apparently sheared off in its insertion or removal from the cross.

‘The lady will be pleased, no?’ the worker said to Safar.

‘I am sure she will be most pleased,’ Safar said, looking up at the pale sky. ‘Her work is done. She will leave us now.’

‘Will she give us coins?’ the worker asked.

‘She will give me a bag of coins and if you keep your mouth shut then I will give you a nice share.’

‘Keep my mouth shut about what?’

‘She will receive three nails only.’

‘What of the fourth?’

‘That one is mine,’ he said, pointing to the last found, the one with the broken head. ‘I have long endured laboring under the yolk of a woman.’

‘She is an empress.’

‘She is still a woman. This is my reward for the indignity. Besides, it is broken and she will accuse us of causing the damage. I will sell the relic. If you talk, you will die poor.’

Safar used his pick to loosen the dirt around the fourth nail, until he could pry it out. He greedily closed his fingers around it to feel its heft but he loosened his grip at once. There was a tingling sensation in his wrist, a slightly unpleasant warmth, and he quickly shoved the nail into the front pocket of his robe.

The other worker climbed from the pit and ran over to Helena’s tent.

‘Safar has found the nails, your majesty!’ he declared.

Helena’s wrinkled face lit up at the news. ‘How many?’ she asked, as Safar approached. ‘Three or four?’

Safar gave her a gap-toothed grin. ‘Three, your majesty. Only three.’

If you would like to purchase Sign of the Cross, you can do so by clicking on one of the following links below.

Amazon UK  Kobo  Waterstones 


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Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear #bookreview blog tour @CazziF @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n

I’m delighted to be joining the blog tour for Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear. With thanks to Tracy Fenton from Compulsive Readers for inviting me to take part.

Stone Cold Heart: the addictive new thriller from the author of Sweet Little Lies by [Frear, Caz]


A fractured marriage. A silent family. A secret worth killing for.

When DC Cat Kinsella is approached by Joseph Madden for help with his wife, Rachel, there’s not much she can do. Joseph claims that Rachel has been threatening him, but can’t – or won’t – give Cat details as to why. Dismissing it as a marriage on the rocks, Cat forgets about it.

That is until Naomi Lockhart, a young PA, is found dead after a party attended by both Joseph and Rachel, and Joseph is arrested for the murder.

Joseph says his wife is setting him up.
His wife says he didn’t do it.
The trail of evidence leads to even more questions . . .

Adulterer. Murderer. Victim. Who would you believe?


All I’m thinking after turning the last page of Stone Cold Heart is, whoa. Suffice to say it has left me eager to get my hands on the next Cat Kinsella novel as soon as possible.

Caz Frear is fast becoming one of my favourite writers. When I read her debut, Sweet Little Lies, I absolutely loved her writing style, and I instantly got on with Cat Kinsella. She is a character who is full of wit, but she isn’t without her own flaws. Events in the last book nearly broke her after she learned the truth about a girl who went missing from her hometown in Ireland almost twenty years previously. Although there are some references to that case in this book, it can still be read as a stand-alone, but I would definitely recommend that you read the first one as well.

The novel starts with a shifty individual, Joseph Madden asking Cat for help after he has become concerned about threats his wife has made against him and he is desperately seeking advice. Cat is quite quick to dismiss the claims, but after a girl has been found dead, after a night out at a party which Joseph attended, along with members of his family, she has to get to the bottom of what’s going on. And she has to unpeel the layers sewn together by those closest to events which took place to uncover the truth.

There are so many interesting aspects to Cat Kinsella’s character. I particularly enjoyed reading the scenes when she is with her own family and her relationship with them, particularly with her father, is put to the test, both in this book and in the last.

Caz Frear is a writer who really adds depth to her characters. It is as though they could be people you know in real life. Stone Cold Heart is utterly brilliant. Once the next book is out, I’m sure I’ll be dropping everything to read it. Great stuff. If you haven’t yet read Caz’s books, you really need to.

Publisher: Zaffre

Publication date: 23rd May 2019

Print length: 336

If you would like to purchase Stone Cold Heart, you can do so by clicking on one of the following links below.

Amazon UK  Kobo  Waterstones


Caz Frear Blogtour