May Wrap-Up

So it looks like we’re starting to ease out of lockdown here in the UK after two long months. I think it’s still going to be a long time before the world is going to be fully up and running though, but I’m glad that we’re getting some normality back.

I’ve tried to be as productive as possible during the last month. I’ve been working on my work-in-progress, and I’ve written a short story, the first one I’ve written in a long while and posted it on the blog. As per usual, I have had plenty of reading to keep me busy as well. I’ve now so far read 63 books towards my Goodreads challenge of 160.

I also received an exciting proof in the post which is the new novel from Harriet Tyce, The Lies You Told.

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I’ve taken part in seven blog tours this month and I’ve included the link to them below in case you missed any.

Ash Mountain by Helen Fitzgerald

Ground Rules by Richard Whittle

Killing Mind by Angela Marsons

The Creak on the Stairs by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir

Dead Wrong by Noelle Holten

Winter Rising by Alex Callister 

He Started It by Samantha Downing

I’ve also bought three new titles this month, Curse the Day by Judith O’Reilly, The Secret Child by Caroline Mitchell and Down to the Woods by M.J. Arlidge. I’ve also pre-ordered Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith and The Last Resort by Susi Holliday, both books are out later this year.

Curse the Day: The Conspiracy Thriller that Reads Like a Bond Movie (A Michael North Thriller) by [Judith O'Reilly] The Secret Child (A DI Amy Winter Thriller Book 2) by [Caroline Mitchell] Down to the Woods: DI Helen Grace 8 (Detective Inspector Helen Grace) by [M. J. Arlidge]

      The Last Resort by [Susi Holliday]

Next month I have eight blog tours coming up. Before I Say I Do by Vicki Bradley on June 3rd, The Toybox by Charly Cox, June 6th, The Last One To See Her by Mark Tilbury, June 7th, Safe by S.K. Barnett, June 18th, Blood Red City by Rod Reynolds, June 22nd, The Last Wife by Karen Hamilton, June 23rd, The Bone Jar by S.W. Kane, June 29th and The Waiting Rooms by Eve Smith, June 30th.

At the moment I’m currently reading The Shadow Friend by Alex North and The Other People by C.J. Tudor.

I hope you’re all keeping well and safe. That’s all from me this month. Happy reading!

Dead Certain by Jacob Collins #shortstory

I’m either feeling brave or very foolish, but I thought I’d share something different with you today. This is a short story I’ve been working on during lockdown. It’s been a while since I’ve written one, but I decided to take a break from my work in progress and it was really refreshing to be working on something different. I hope you enjoy reading it and it will be great to know what you think.

Dead Certain by Jacob Collins

White and Orange Text Thriller_Mystery Book Cover

I always liked to get a feel of the ballroom before I go up on stage. Even though this isn’t the first time I’ve been here, I still liked to rehearse. I’d dragged one of the seats piled up in a corner of the room and placed it in the very same spot where I’d sat last year. In two days’ time, twenty tables would fill this room, and each seat would be occupied by someone who you would know from publishing and the media world.

I sat in the seat and looked up to the front of the hall where a red curtain hung in an archway. I was placed here last time because the committee already knew I was a winner, and they wanted to make sure it was easy enough for me to reach the stage from my seat. I paced myself with the drinking as well last year. I only accepted a glass of champagne before my name was announced, and toasted to my success as I gave my acceptance speech.

I replayed last year’s announcement again in my head, gracefully got up and stood tall as I walked towards the archway, imagining the applause exploding across the room.  The King of Crime I was referred to as last year. I stopped and stood where the stage will be on the night. I surveyed the empty room, filling it up with people in my mind. I’d glance towards the new writers who had also been nominated; who knew their chances of receiving the award would be small. But still, even being nominated was a great accolade. Something to print on the front covers of their books, which would no doubt boost sales.

I breathed it in; even now, it still sends a shiver of excitement running through me, the prospect of winning. Of course it would be me, it was dead certain. I closed my eyes for a brief second before I strode away from my imaginary stage and left the hall.

*

It was the following morning when I first clapped eyes on her. I was sitting in the lobby of the hotel with a cup of coffee, and a copy of The Guardian open on my knees. I didn’t particularly pay much attention to the news, but I thought it made me look intelligent if people spotted me reading a newspaper, particularly if it was a broadsheet, nothing trashy like The Sun.

I thought her face was familiar, but I couldn’t quite work out who she was. I could only see one side as she was talking to the receptionist. I picked up the newspaper, placed it down on my table and continued watching. The woman handed over a credit card. As her details were processed, she looked around. Her eyes scanned the room before they clapped on mine, and they widened. So, she knew who I was. I wondered if she was a fan, and my stomach flipped. With so many celebrities turning up at the hotel, the same weekend, every year, it was no doubt that people flocked to the place to get a glimpse of their idol. That’s why I liked to turn up a few days in advance, so I could get a few moments of peace to myself.

The woman finished checking in. She grabbed her suitcase and walked over towards me. Her heels echoed as they struck the marble floor. 

‘It’s Ian Dale, isn’t it?’ she said, her smile widening.

I shifted in my seat and forced a smile. ‘The one and only.’

She held out her hand. ‘I’m Liz Grainger, you’ve probably never heard of me, but my debut novel came out this year.’

‘Liz Grainger,’ I said, and mulled the name over in my mind. Now I knew where I recognised her from. Her book had topped the bestseller charts in the spring. Netflix had already bought the rights before its release. ‘Oh, yes, no, of course, I’ve heard of you. I was sent a copy of your book.’

She looked down towards the floor. ‘Oh, God, now you tell me. I hope you liked it.’

‘Loved it,’ I lied. Actually, I’d thrown it among the pile of all the other proofs I’d been sent; it was still languishing around the house somewhere. ‘So, are you working on anything new?’

She nodded. ‘I’m finding book two a bit difficult at the moment. My publishers keep ringing me up every week to see where I am with it, and truth be told, I’m stuck around the twenty thousand word mark, have been for weeks.’

‘Oh, don’t worry, we’ve all been there. It’s the same with every book; it never gets easier. It’s that daunting moment when you stare at the blank page, and you think, crap, I’ve actually got to write something as good, if not better than what’s gone before.’

‘Oh, don’t say it never gets easier. Wasn’t your most recent book your twenty-fifth?’

‘Yep, I’m knee-deep into the next one; but still, writer’s block strikes me sometimes. Aren’t you nominated for the award as well?’

‘Oh, yeah that came as a massive shock. I was never nominated for anything when I was at school; I was actually a bit of a layabout. I’m not interested in winning though, it’s just having the recognition that counts. Well, I’m going to go up to my room. If I don’t see you around, I’ll see you tomorrow night?’

‘See you then, and good luck!’

She smiled and walked in the direction of the lifts on the right hand side of the reception desk. I finished my coffee and banged it down on the saucer with such force that it made the couple sitting to the side of me look round and glare. I mouthed an apology and briskly walked away, wiping the sweat which had suddenly coated my brow.

*

While I was up in my room, I looked up Liz’s profile on Amazon. Her book had over a thousand glowing five-star reviews. I briefly read the blurb and downloaded the kindle edition. It was only 99p; I wouldn’t have bought it if the price was higher.

By chapter ten, I had all but given up. I’ll admit the prologue was gripping, but after that the writing just dragged, and each character sounded the same. This was what made a bestseller these days? I thought back to my early work, back when I hadn’t achieved a fraction of the success I had today; perhaps if I had written something whimsical and whiny like this, then maybe I would have had an immediate bestseller.

I closed my kindle down and all of a sudden I felt nervous about tomorrow night’s awards show. Liz seemed to have amassed an army of fans online, with over one hundred thousand followers on twitter, all urging people to vote for her book. Jealousy stabbed me like a knife. How often did someone contact me to say that they loved my work? Or reach out to me on twitter to plead with me to acknowledge that I knew they existed? Yes, that happens to some celebrities.

It wasn’t until later the following morning when I saw Liz again. By that time, more writers and some publishers were turning up. I recognised mine. He was standing outside the hotel, clasping a cigarette in his right hand and shouting at someone on the phone.

He hadn’t told me he’d arrived yet, I hadn’t expected to see him until later and I didn’t fancy talking to him. I made a quick getaway before I was seen and slipped out onto a path that led down to the beach. Seagulls were crying above me as I broke into a steady jog. When my shoes first made contact with the sand, I spotted her, and I fell back. Liz was sitting cross legged in front of the sea, I wondered if she was meditating. I guessed that she didn’t like having people crowding around her as well. I stepped forward a few paces and stopped, an idea struck me. The awards ceremony was in four hours. If she wanted time alone, away from all the fuss and attention, I could give her that.

I jogged steadily back up to the hotel; this time, there was no way of avoiding my publisher. He clapped me on the back as I tried to breeze past him.

‘That’s it then,’ he scowled, throwing his cigarette to the ground and stamping it out. ‘Nine years straight you’ve won this award and who do they give it to, a newbie.’

My blood ran cold. ‘They’ve already told you?’

‘Well, they have to,’ he grunted. ‘If you win, I have to bloody get up there and make a speech myself. You came very close to winning they assure me, but even they told me they were pleased that someone different had won it for a change. I mean, can you imagine putting nominee on your front cover?’

My heart seemed to clench with the very idea. ‘I don’t know; perhaps it might bring some extra publicity.’

He frowned. ‘You’re very cool about this.’

‘Look, there’s always next year. I’m just going to go and grab a shower; I’ll catch up with you later over a couple of beers before we go into the ballroom.’

‘I don’t see the bloody point now,’ I overheard him say as I marched back into the lobby.

I became acutely aware of people whispering my name as I headed towards the lift. Had the news already spread? Embarrassment seeped into my body, and the lift seemed to take longer to arrive.

Once I was in my room, I dove into my suitcase. Insomnia had plagued me for years, and whenever I travelled, I always took sleeping pills with me. Fortunately, I hadn’t had to use one so far. I pocketed the packet then grabbed two champagne glasses from the cabinet, and a bottle of champagne from the fridge, which I’d been planning to uncork tonight after my success.

I decided to use the back stairs on my way down. No doubt the lobby would be crammed with people arriving and a TV crew would be there as well. I could just imagine the questions they’d ask me if they’d heard the news as well. I’d been here so many times I knew the grounds of the hotel well, and I knew of a second path which took you down to the beach.

Liz looked as though she was about to leave when I returned. She was standing up and stretching in the light of the sun, allowing the sea to wash over her feet.

‘I hear congratulations are in order!’ I shouted as the wind picked up.

Her mouth fell open as she saw me holding aloft the bottle of champagne.

‘What are you talking about?’ she said.

‘Congratulations. Haven’t you heard? First year and it’s a debut novelist who’s beaten me to the top prize.’

She stared at me. ‘You’re pulling my leg.’

I held my hand on my heart. ‘My publisher confirmed it, he’s a bit hacked off about it, but it’s time for a change.’

She clapped her hands to her mouth. ‘Oh my God, you really are telling the truth.’

‘I’m surprised your publisher hasn’t told you.’

‘Well, truth is, I’ve been ignoring my calls for the last couple of hours. I find the whole thing too nerve-wracking. I suppose I should call her.’

‘Oh come on, I thought we’d have a drink to celebrate. Call her after a toast.’

She looked at me. ‘I’m not sure if I should, I don’t want to make a fool of myself when I go up on stage.’

‘Oh look, one glass wouldn’t hurt. Come on there’s a really nice spot up that path, every year I come here, and I always find it’s the best place to feel calm before the ceremony.’

She shifted on her feet. ‘Oh, go on then, like you say, I suppose one wouldn’t hurt.’

I stood out the way and allowed her to walk on ahead. I waited a few moments before walking after her, and as I did, I uncorked the champagne before pouring her a glass. I watched as the pale golden liquid fizzed at the top, and I placed my hand in my pocket for the pill I’d eased out of the packet. One would do. I plopped it in and watched it dissolve.

‘I’m sure this will be the first of many awards,’ I said, handing her the glass.

She took it but didn’t sip it immediately. In the end, I had to keep coaxing her to drink. We were sitting around the back of the hotel. It wasn’t exactly calming. A machine roared somewhere close by, but Liz didn’t seem to notice. She’d drunk half her glass by now, and already she was yawning. Another half hour and she was slouching before her eyes at last closed. I had to be certain that she wouldn’t wake up. Before I got to the task of lifting her body, I cursed myself for not checking if there was any CCTV nearby. I looked up and searched before breathing a sigh of relief when I realised there was none.

A little way to Liz’s left, there was a brick-built store room with a grey door. Well, I couldn’t have done this in her room and left her there. What if she’d woken up, she’d have come down to the awards ceremony and ruined my plan.

The door clanged open, and I began to push her body inside. She muttered something, and I froze, dropping her head on the ground by accident. Thank God it was grass and not the stone floor inside the room. When I was certain that she was still asleep, I pushed her in further, and pulled the door shut, before bolting it.

I’d come back after the ceremony and wake her up. I’d be remorseful and say that I shouldn’t have left her enjoying the last of the champagne, but that she’d assured me she was fine and wanted to phone her publisher. I’d say she must have passed out in here without realising where she was and someone closed the door without knowing she was inside.

I picked up my glass, tipped the remaining champagne from the bottle onto the grass and drifted back into the hotel through the quiet cafeteria. The waiter at the bar was too busy on his phone to even notice me come in.

*

The hotel was buzzing three hours later when I left the lift dressed in my tuxedo. I spotted my publisher nursing a pint of Guinness at the bar and chose not to go up to him. Everyone around me was deep in conversation. I was about to go off and find a drink when someone squeezed my shoulder, and I recognised another fellow crime writer who I hadn’t seen for a couple of years.

‘Shame on you not winning the award this year,’ he said, making a tutting noise and pushing his glasses up his nose.

‘Oh, it’s all water under the bridge. How’s thing’s, Will?’

‘Oh pretty good, pretty good. Still, nine years is a good track record. Hey, you haven’t seen Liz by any chance, have you? I must go and congratulate her.’

‘I spoke to her earlier today actually, and she’s really not well.’

‘Not well? God that would explain why her publisher’s not been able to get hold of her, she’s going nuts about it, the receptionist won’t give out Liz’s room number because of data protection. It’s not nerves, is it?’

I shook my head. ‘I don’t think so; she looked really gaunt when I spoke to her yesterday. She reckons she’s caught some bug, but she feels really embarrassed about it.’

‘Well, she can’t help being ill if she is,’ he said. ‘That’s bad form not speaking to her publisher though; they’re at their wit’s end.’

‘Well, don’t worry, I’ve got that all covered. Liz asked me if I’d collect her award on her behalf.’

Will raised an eyebrow. ‘You two seem to have got cosy all of a sudden.’

I could feel my cheeks stinging. ‘She arrived at the hotel early like me, and we got talking. Anyway, I must go and find her publisher so I can explain what’s happening, her publisher’s name’s Madeleine, isn’t it?’

I made my getaway before Will had the chance to answer.

*

The evening went swimmingly from that point on. Of course, Liz’s publisher was a complete mess when I approached her, but she seemed thrilled at the idea of me accepting the award for her.

‘Oh she’ll be thrilled, I know it, and she’s told me what a big fan of yours she is. But why won’t she get in contact with me? I’ve been calling her non-stop.’

‘She’s got a bad migraine,’ I’d said. ‘She switched her phone off so that it wouldn’t disturb her. She should be feeling better by tomorrow.’

She seemed to understand what I was saying, and then we were both swept into the hall and to our places.

When the presenter announced Liz’s name as the winner, to a round of applause, I tried to imagine her saying my name instead. But it didn’t quite work, and I felt embarrassed as I walked up to the stage.

I made my speech quick; all of a sudden, the room felt hot. My eyes travelled to my publisher, who was tapping away at something on his phone; he was barely taking in what I was saying.

‘Anyway,’ I said, returning my gaze back to the audience. ‘Here’s to Liz. I’m sure there’ll be many more bestsellers from her to come.’

I tried to block out the sound of the second applause, but the walk back to my seat seemed to take even longer than it did to get to the stage.

I knew I had to wait until the room thinned out before I went to fetch Liz. I wondered if the effects of the sleeping pill had worn off, but someone would have heard her if she’d been banging on that door for the last few hours.

It was one-thirty in the morning before I finally had the chance to make my getaway. Even then, there were still a few people standing around at the bar, but they were too drunk to notice anything. My publisher had decided not to stay for the night and had booked himself a cab home. Good riddance, I wondered if I could talk to my agent about cancelling my contract the next morning.

The temperature had really dropped outside. I spotted the empty champagne bottle I’d left leaning against the shed door. I didn’t know what state I was going to find Liz in. Even in my head, I was still wondering how I was going to be able to tell her what I had planned to say earlier. Would she believe me?

The door clanged as I opened it. Liz was lying in exactly the same position as I’d left her; her face was turned away from me. But as I stepped into the room to haul her out, my heart seemed to freeze.

A cold fog escaped my lips as I let out a breath. I glanced down at Liz, my heart thumping. I reached down to touch her face, and I instantly recoiled.  She was frozen. No, no, no, no. I stumbled back outside and stared into the darkened room. The sudden realisation of what I’d done hit me like a knife to my chest. How had I not realised when I dragged her into the room earlier? I thought back to the last of the sun’s rays beaming down. Had it been too hot outside to realise? After all, I’d barely stepped foot inside the room. I wouldn’t have known.

Without even listening for a heartbeat, I knew that Liz was dead. Frozen. What sort of hotel keeps a freezer outside?

I slumped back, wishing I could turn back the clock, wishing I could stop myself from carrying out what I thought was the perfect plan to embarrass Liz and gain more publicity for myself.

*

It’s true what they say that books sell more when the author dies, same as paintings. From my prison cell thirteen months later, I watched as Liz’s publisher discussed her life and legacy. My books had done well too since my arrest, even though bookstores refused to stock them, but the giant Amazon didn’t care.

I switched off the television and picked up the book I’d borrowed from the library. A copy of Liz’s latest, the book she never got to finish, but another kind hearted writer finished it on her behalf. This one included a forward by one of the UK’s top crime authors. The same writer who had written one for me many years ago.

In different ways, both our books would now live forever.

© 2020 Jacob Collins All rights reserved

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith #bookreview

I finally got round to reading the latest book in J.K. Rowling’s Comoran Strike series, Lethal White, written under her pseudonym, Robert Galbraith.

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When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike’s office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic.

Trying to get to the bottom of Billy’s story, Strike and Robin Ellacott – once his assistant, now a partner in the agency – set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside.

And during this labyrinthine investigation, Strike’s own life is far from straightforward: his newfound fame as a private eye means he can no longer operate behind the scenes as he once did. Plus, his relationship with his former assistant is more fraught than it ever has been – Robin is now invaluable to Strike in the business, but their personal relationship is much, much more tricky than that . . .

MY THOUGHTS

I’ve had Lethal White by Robert Galbraith on my TBR pile for some time now, and it’s only since lockdown that I’ve had the chance to read it. Robert Galbraith’s latest book is long, but as I was reading, I didn’t want it to end. I became so immersed in the writing and the lives of the characters that I deliberately slowed down as I wanted to savour it.

Robert Galbraith pens a complex plot. London is in the grip of Olympic fever as the 2012 Olympics approach. The famous private detective, Comoran Strike, has not long wrapped up a case after catching the Shacklewell Ripper. His name is splashed across the front pages of the papers and work at his detective agency is exploding. In the opening chapters, a disturbed man, Billy, runs into his office claiming to have witnessed the murder of a child. But before Strike has the chance to speak to him further, he scarpers, but his claims stick in Strike’s mind. Days later and he is contacted by a government minister who is concerned about threats he is receiving. But what connects the government minister to Billy’s story?

I really like Strike and Robin’s relationship, but it does feel a little strained in this book. In the opening chapter, Robin is getting married to a man she barely loves, but she feels as though she can’t back out of it, no matter how much she would like to. I felt quite frustrated as she went ahead with the marriage, I think this was because I didn’t like her partner, Matthew, from the moment I met him in earlier books in this series. He felt very controlling, and I kept thinking that Robin could do a lot better.

But once the case Robin and Strike are investigating begins, things between them pick up again, and Strike is glad to have Robin back working by his side. The case itself takes very dark turns, and Strike and Robin know that they will have to unpick the layers of the minister’s family to find out the real truth about what’s been going on. There is a lot of undercover work which is always fraught with risks, and I could feel the tension rising as Strike and Robin delved further into the investigation. Strike is also determined to find out the truth behind Billy’s story. I could never be sure if what Billy claims he saw was true and I wanted to get to the bottom of it as well.

I think what really makes this series are the characters. Strike and Robin are so engaging, and their personal stories are intriguing as well. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the Strike series, and I’ll try to not leave it for too long before I read it. I highly recommend these books if you haven’t come across them before.

Publisher: Sphere

Publication date: 18th September 2018 (hardcover) 18th April 2019 (paperback)

Print length: 784 pages

Lethal White is available to buy:

Amazon UK  Kobo  Waterstones

He Started It by Samantha Downing #bookreview blog tour @smariedowning @PenguinUKBooks

It’s my pleasure to be joining the blog tour for the latest thriller by Samantha Downing, He Started It. With thanks to Sriya Varadharajan at Penguin for inviting me to take part.

He Started It: The new psychological thriller from #1 bestselling author of My Lovely Wife by [Samantha Downing]

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This is a story about three siblings. Like any family, sometimes they don’t get along.

It’s a story about a secret that they’ve all kept since they were children.

It’s a story about lying. A story about murder.

It’s a story where only one can win.

MY THOUGHTS

I was a huge fan of Samantha Downing’s first novel, My Lovely Wife, so I jumped at the chance to read her second. He Started It is more of a slow-burner, but it is still an ingenious, twisty tale which delivers shocker of an ending that made me hold my breath. Samantha delves into the lives of her characters as she takes them on a journey that will have a huge impact on their lives.

A road trip is the type of holiday that would never appeal to me. I can’t stand the idea of being stuck in a car for hours on end. But Beth, Portia and Eddie are going on a road trip for a very different reason. Their grandfather has passed away, and he has left them his estate worth many millions of dollars which he plans to divide among the three of them. But this is on condition. His grandchildren must complete a planned road-trip, copying one they took with their grandfather many years ago. He wants them to scatter his ashes in the desert right at the end of the trip. It is clear that neither of them are keen to go on the trip and they find the whole scenario creepy, but they are all desperate for cash and are willing to carry out their grandfather’s wishes.

I became totally immersed in Samantha Downing’s latest novel. I wondered how Beth, Portia and Eddie were going to cope on the trip, especially as they haven’t seen each other for years. It is also clear that they don’t all get on; this is certainly the case with their partners who are also accompanying them. Tension simmers in the background as the trip goes ahead, and it mounts when the group become aware of a vehicle that appears to be following them.

I became more and more intrigued by their grandfather. You can see that he wasn’t liked at all, and some very serious accusations are made against him, which doesn’t paint him a very good light. The road trip also shows that he had a very controlling personality. It appears that he still wants to hold control over his family beyond the grave. If he wants his ashes scattered in a particular place, he could have told his grandchildren to take any form of transport, a plane, for instance. I didn’t think for an instant that he wanted to remind his grandchildren of happier times by sending them on this road trip.

Samantha Downing has created another compelling and creepy psychological thriller. I wanted to know what was going to be waiting for them at the end of the trip, and Samantha delivers an explosive finale. Brilliant stuff!

Publisher: Penguin

Publication date: 30th April 2020

Print length: 382 pages

He Started It is available to buy:

Amazon UK  Kobo  Waterstones

FOLLOW THE BLOG TOUR

He Started It blog tour graphic

Truth and Lies by Caroline Mitchell #bookreview

I’m ashamed to say that I’ve only read one book by Caroline Mitchell. I’ve been meaning to get round to her DI Amy Winter series for some time now, and I’m glad that I’ve finally had the time to do so.

Truth and Lies (A DI Amy Winter Thriller Book 1) by [Caroline Mitchell]

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Meet Amy Winter: Detective Inspector, daughter of a serial killer.

DI Amy Winter is hoping to follow in the footsteps of her highly respected police officer father. But when a letter arrives from the prison cell of Lillian Grimes, one half of a notorious husband-and-wife serial-killer team, it contains a revelation that will tear her life apart.

Responsible for a string of heinous killings decades ago, Lillian is pure evil. A psychopathic murderer. And Amy’s biological mother. Now, she is ready to reveal the location of three of her victims—but only if Amy plays along with her twisted game.

While her fellow detectives frantically search for a young girl taken from her mother’s doorstep, Amy must confront her own dark past. Haunted by blurred memories of a sister who sacrificed herself to save her, Amy faces a race against time to uncover the missing bodies.

But what if, from behind bars, Grimes has been pulling the strings even tighter than Amy thought? And can she overcome her demons to prevent another murder?

MY THOUGHTS

In Truth and Lies, Caroline Mitchell introduces us to DI Amy Winter of Essex Police. Amy is an intriguing character. What went on in her childhood is horrific, and even though she has been given a new identity and a new family, she still struggles to move on. And everything about her past is about to come back and haunt her when her birth mother, serial killer, Lilian Grimes contacts her from prison. Lilian has never revealed the locations of some of the bodies she and Amy’s father buried. Lilian is now willing to divulge that information, but she will only deal with Amy and Lilian will only reveal the location of the bodies on strict terms.

This book did put me in mind of the Moors murders which took place in the 1960s. Caroline Mitchell has created a chilling and an unnerving character in Lillian Grimes. She is a person who doesn’t seem to have any remorse for what she and her husband did all those years ago, in fact, Lilian seems to relish in causing more heartache and suffering for the families left behind. What Lilian appears to want to do now, is cause more torment for Amy. Amy knows that she can’t refuse her mother’s offer as this may be the last chance they get to bring closure for the families. But what is Lilian’s real motive here? Why is it only now that she has decided to reveal the locations of the bodies?

Truth and Lies was a really good introduction to this series. Amy is already going through a difficult time when she receives contact from her mother. She has just recently buried her father, who adopted her. But from the moment Amy receives letters from Lillian, she is desperate for her colleagues not to know who her real family is. You can feel the tension as she goes to meet Lillian, and I wondered how long Amy was going to be able to keep this a secret before someone found out.

The plot is tense and chilling. While Amy and the police seek to bring closure to the families of the victims of Amy’s parents, another young girl goes missing. And there was a brilliant twist following the young girl’s disappearance that I did not see coming.

This is an excellent start to a crime series, and I’m kicking myself that I haven’t got round to reading it sooner. I already have the next book lined up and waiting on my kindle. I can’t wait to see what happens next in Amy’s story.

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Publication date: 30th August 2018

Print length: 344 pages

Truth and Lies is available to buy:

Amazon UK

Winter Rising by Alex Callister #bookreview #booksontour @CallisterAuthor @bookouture

I’m delighted to be joining the blog tour today for Winter Rising by Alex Callister. With thanks to Sarah Hardy for inviting me to take part.

Winter Rising: An absolutely gripping and addictive crime thriller (The Winter Series Book 2) by [Alex Callister]

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Winter returns to face the most feared hitman of all time: the nameless, faceless Guardsman.

Secret Service agent Winter knows global crime boss Alek Konstantin’s days are numbered after she seduced him, then revealed his identity to the world. Now, permanently on the run from the authorities, Alek fights to regain control as the brutal criminal organisation he ruled with an iron fist crashes down around him.

When a young woman called Lucy is viciously stabbed and dumped on a mossy grave, a harrowing message for Winter carved on her forehead. Winter follows the trail to the Guardsman – a pitiless contract killer, and Alek’s top hitman. Has the Guardsman gone rogue or is Alek pulling the strings to taunt Winter once more?

In a desperate bid to lure Lucy’s killer from the shadows and find a path to Alek, Winter books the Guardsman for a hit on herself. If she succeeds, she’ll have the world’s most dangerous killer at her mercy. But if she fails…

MY THOUGHTS

Alex Callister has created an engaging protagonist in her new series who you will be rooting for from the first page. Winter Rising is Alex’s second book and following on from events which took place in the last novel; Agent Winter once again has her mind fixed on the operation Firestorm. It is all she can think about as she imagines new ways to bring it down. In the background, London is gearing up to host the G20 summit, but something is being planned. As Winter begins to infiltrate Firestorm again, she begins to realise that the G20 is being targeted. But someone is after Winter as well. Winter is all too keen to engage them in combat and finish this once and for all.

Alex Callister has created a highly engaging new series. I read the last book really fast, and it was no different with this one. Agent Winter is a character who really stands out. Right from the opening pages, you feel as though you are there with her, as Alex’s writing is sharp and clear, and it draws you into the action on the page. You don’t need to have read the previous book to enjoy this one, but I would highly recommend it if you wanted to get more detail on the operation Winter is up against. It’s something that could scarily be plausible in the real world.

There are some new characters introduced in this book as well, including a woman who begins working with Winter called Xiu. And Winter once again teams up with Leon who featured in book one. I thought they worked together really well, and it’ll be interesting to see how they develop further.

The world-building in Alex’s books is really good and vivid. I like that Alex Callister takes us to a variety of different places across the world, which is what I also enjoyed when I read the first book. Alex Callister keeps the tension rising by counting down to an explosive event. We also hear from The Guardsman, who is keen to track Winter down and this keeps the pace flying forward as we see Winter sailing closer to danger. She doesn’t know who The Guardsman is, she can only speculate, and this is what makes it all the more dangerous. She is drawing closer and closer to an unknown enemy; all Winter knows is that they want to do her harm.

This is a series which I’m sure I’ll keep returning to. It’s different, action-packed and hugely exciting all the way through. Winter Rising is a thrilling and entertaining read!

Publisher: Bookouture

Publication date: 18th May 2020

Print length: 402 pages

Winter Rising is available to buy:

Amazon UK 

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Dead Wrong by Noelle Holten #bookreview blog tour @nholten40 @BOTBSPublicity

I’m delighted to be joining the blog tour for Dead Wrong by Noelle Holten today on my blog. With thanks to Sarah Hardy from Books on the Bright Side Publicity for inviting me to take part.

Dead Wrong: An absolutely gripping and suspenseful serial killer thriller (Maggie Jamieson thriller, Book 2) by [Noelle Holten]

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DC Maggie Jamieson’s past comes back to haunt her in this dark and gripping serial killer thriller.

Three missing women running out of time…

They were abducted years ago. Notorious serial killer Bill Raven admitted to killing them and was sentenced to life.

The case was closed – at least DC Maggie Jamieson thought it was…

But now one of them has been found, dismembered and dumped in a bin bag in town.

Forensics reveal that she died just two days ago, when Raven was behind bars, so Maggie has a second killer to find.

Because even if the other missing women are still alive, one thing’s for certain: they don’t have long left to live…

MY THOUGHTS

I thought Noelle Holten’s debut novel, which I read last year, was brilliant, but I think her second book, Dead Wrong, is even better. Noelle left us on a bit of a cliff hanger at the end of the first book in the series, and when I got to the end of Dead Wrong, I couldn’t help but think oh my god, I can’t believe what I’m reading. She is definitely the kind of writer whose books you’ll want to be jumping to the moment they’re released as you’ll want to know what happens next. This can be easily read as a stand-alone, however, so it isn’t necessary to read the first book, but I would highly recommend reading it as well.

The end of the previous book, sees DC Maggie Jamieson being notified that a case from her past is about to come back and haunt her. The resurfacing of an old case does leave Maggie in an uncomfortable position that sees her career put at risk. Maggie takes a much more centre stage in Dead Wrong. In the last book, Noelle focussed the story a lot more on probation officer Lucy Sherwood, and she used her own knowledge of this profession.

In an earlier case in her career, Maggie was responsible for locking up Bill Raven, a man convicted for a string of murders, handing him a life prison sentence. But Maggie’s work on the case is thrown into doubt when the body of one of Bill’s victim’s turns up, and it seems that he couldn’t have killed her as he would have been in prison at the time. Bill launches an appeal to be released, and Maggie is determined to make sure he stays behind bars. But it seems as though she is fighting a losing battle and it is getting ever closer to the dangerous possibility of Bill being released. But is he innocent or is he guilty?

I did not like Bill Raven from the first moment Noelle introduces us to him. He is a cold and calculating individual, and he knows how to mould a situation. It was also the way he spoke to Maggie that gave me shivers, and I was rooting for her to find the evidence to keep him in his place. When I could see what sort of a person he was, I was really hoping that Maggie could succeed, but I also thought that she could be hindered by those who are ranked above her in the police.

I really liked Maggie’s working relationship with police officer, Nathan Wright, and I also liked the growing relationship between her and Dr Kate Moloney. I didn’t particularly get on with DI Rutherford, but I think this was because of the restraints she was trying to put on Maggie when Maggie wanted to speak to Bill Raven. I couldn’t believe that she was trying to distance Maggie from doing this, and this made me gripped to the plot all the more as I waited to see what the outcome was going to be. Noelle Holten cleverly weaves the answers into the story, and I thought it was very well-plotted.

Noelle Holten keeps the pace flying forward which and she does this using short chapters which keep you reading on to the next.

Dead Wrong is an exciting addition to the DC Maggie Jamieson series, and after that final chapter I’m waiting with bated breath for the next one to be released, don’t leave us waiting too long, Noelle.

Publisher: One More Chapter

Publication date: 14th March 2020 (kindle) 14th May 2020 (paperback)

Print length: 432 pages

Dead Wrong is available to buy:

Amazon UK   Kobo  Waterstones

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The Creak on the Stairs by Eva Björg Ægisdóttirv #bookreview blog tour @evaaegisdottir @OrendaBooks @annecater

I’m delighted to be sharing my thoughts on The Creak on the Stairs by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir on my blog today. With thanks to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.

The Creak on the Stairs by [Eva Björg Ægisdóttir, Victoria Cribb]

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When a body of a woman is discovered at a lighthouse in the Icelandic town of Akranes, it soon becomes clear that she’s no stranger to the area.

Chief Investigating Officer Elma, who has returned to Akranes following a failed relationship, and her collegues Sævar and Hörður, commence an uneasy investigation, which uncovers a shocking secret in the dead woman’s past that continues to reverberate in the present day …

But as Elma and her team make a series of discoveries, they bring to light a host of long-hidden crimes that shake the entire community. Sifting through the rubble of the townspeople’s shattered memories, they have to dodge increasingly serious threats, and find justice … before it’s too late.

MY THOUGHTS

There is already one series set in Iceland published by Orenda Books which I’ve really enjoyed, and I can definitely say that I have found another that I’m sure I’ll keep coming back to. It has been translated really well, and I was drawn into the story without any effort. I pretty much devoured the first one hundred pages in one sitting and the mystery at the heart of the story was cleverly constructed.

The Creak on the Stairs is the first book to feature Chief Investigating Officer Elma, who has just returned to her hometown, Akranes, in Iceland. Right from the first page, there is a really creepy atmosphere to this book which is also helped by the rich landscape which pulls you into the setting. I’ve never thought about visiting Iceland before, but after visiting the country in fiction on more than one occasion, I am certainly keen to visit at some point in the future.

Not long after Elma’s return the body of a woman, Elisabet, is found in a lighthouse. The author, Eva Björg Ægisdóttir delves into this woman’s past as the novel progresses, and we discover the tragic life she has lived. But what prompted someone to want to kill her? Could it be possible that she was harbouring a dangerous secret which is why someone had to shut her up? I became more than invested in Elisabet’s life as the author revealed more about her backstory and what eventually drew her to her fate at the lighthouse.

This is a complicated story, and Elma must peel back the layers of Elisabet’s past to get to the truth. There are also some very tough topics explored when we begin to understand what happened. The author explores these well without being over gratuitous, and they make up an integral part of the plot. There is a lot of psychological depth to this novel which pulls you further into the character’s lives as you begin to see what they have gone through.

Elma is a character who I liked straight away. You can see that she is struggling to come to terms with living on her own after recently coming out of a relationship. She is keen to strike up friendships with her new colleagues and is perhaps eager to start another relationship, but I think she should wait a little while before embarking on this route. I also liked the relationship that she has with her mother and I liked the wit in their relationship, particularly when her mother is commenting on her furniture in Elma’s new apartment. I definitely think that she is a character who many readers will want to return to and I can’t wait to catch up with her again. I am wondering how her friendship with one particular character, Saevar, will develop in the future. They make a great team.

As we get to know more about Elisabet and her dark past, the tension begins to build as Elma races to find the person responsible for her death. I think as the reader begins to realise what has happened, it will call them to consider what they would do if they were faced with a similar situation.

The Creak on the Stairs will keep you utterly gripped from the first page. This is a dark, atmospheric story, and I can’t wait to read more from this series, and I hope there is going to be more.

Publisher: Orenda

Publication date: 14th March 2020

Print length: 276 pages

The Creak on the Stairs is available to buy:

Amazon UK  Kobo  Waterstones

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Ground Rules by Richard Whittle #bookreview blog tour @richard1whittle @damppebbles

It’s my pleasure to be joining the blog tour for the new novel by Ricahrd Whittle on my blog today, Ground Rules. With thanks to Emma Welton from Damppebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part.

Ground Rules by [Richard Whittle]

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Called out one night in the hope that she can identify the body of a man found in a field, Edinburgh forensic geologist Jessica Spargo – Jez – inadvertently becomes involved in the investigation of a university lecturer’s murder. The investigating officer, Tom Curtis, hands her a small glass vial and asks her to analyse its contents. She agrees to do it. The results confound everyone. Media attention around a seemingly unconnected incident on a construction site near Edinburgh means that all work has stopped. An object discovered beneath the site confounds everyone, including the police. Employed by the firm’s owner to attempt to solve the mystery, Jez falls foul of an uncooperative site manager. Unruffled, she perseveres. Meanwhile, the murder mystery deepens. Despite her reluctance to become further involved, she has her own theories about the origin of the vial’s contents, theories the police do not accept. To Jez’s dismay there are more deaths. As she says to Curtis, ‘I don’t do bodies. I’m a geologist, I look at rocks. If I’d wanted to look at bits of body then I would have become a surgeon or a pathologist.’

MY THOUGHTS

Geologist, Dr Jessica Spargo doesn’t usually deal with dead bodies. In the opening chapter, Jessica is taken to a site where the body of a man has been discovered. Her help is requested by a friend of hers, Detective Inspector Tom Curtis who she has known for many years. Jessica has been called to see if she can help identify the victim as it maybe someone she knows. But soon Jessica becomes more involved in the case than her friend originally intended her to be. Jessica is pulled further into the mystery, but in doing so, she steers herself very close to danger. The mystery deepens even further with the discovery of another body. This time a body has been found at a construction site, and it may have been there for decades.

The mystery pulled me into the story in Richard Whittle’s latest book. Here we have the discovery of two bodies, seemingly unconnected, and a mystery which deepens as the plot unfolds. I could feel a creeping sense of danger as Jessica invested and got closer to the truth. Jessica’s line of work really intrigued me, and this book offered a different viewpoint for a crime novel. It was interesting to see how Jessica went about her investigations.

I thought that Jessica’s character came to life in this book, and I liked the relationship with her friends Tom and Carrie. She is certainly someone who won’t go away quietly. I could see her dislike for a certain site manager who is keen to get his workers moving again, even though they could potentially damage the body which has been discovered. Although Jessica isn’t part of the official police investigation into the man’s death, she is determined to find out what happened to him and how he ended up at his final resting place. Even though it has likely been decades since the man died, she wants to make sure that he is given all due respect. At this point, I did begin to feel worried for her as I wondered how the people in charge of the dig would react to her need to keep investigating. You can see that they aren’t happy about the building work being held up and potentially costing them a lot of money.

This isn’t a fast-paced read, but Richard Whittle gently pulls you into the story. I really like his writing style, and I became more interested in the mystery as Jennifer did. Her determination made me want to find out the truth, and it kept me turning the pages as I waited to see the mystery unravel. Richard’s description of the landscape and the building site made me feel as though I was there.

Richard’s characters and his writing will keep you completely invested in the plot. Ground Rules is a riveting read, I’d definitely recommend it.

Publisher: Amazon Media

Publication date: 9th March 2020

Print length: 235 pages

Ground Rules is available to buy:

Amazon UK

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Killing Mind by Angela Marsons #bookreview blog tour @WriteAngie @bookouture

I’m delighted to be sharing my thoughts on the twelfth book in the DI Kim Stone series by Angela Marsons today on my blog, Killing Mind. With thanks to Kim Nash for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Killing Mind: An addictive and nail-biting crime thriller (Detective Kim Stone Crime Thriller Book 12) by [Angela Marsons]

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It had seemed so simple. Get in, get the information, get out. But now they were getting inside her mind and she didn’t know how to stop them…

When Detective Kim Stone is called to the home of Samantha Brown, she finds the young woman lying in bed with her throat cut and a knife in her hand. With no sign of forced entry or struggle, Kim rules her death a tragic suicide.

But a visit to Samantha’s parents rings alarm bells for Kim – there’s something they’re not telling her. And, when she spots a clue in a photograph, Kim realises she’s made a huge mistake. Samantha didn’t take her own life, she was murdered.

Then a young man’s body is found in a local lake with his throat cut and Kim makes a link between the victim and Samantha. They both spent time at Unity Farm, a retreat for people seeking an alternative way of life.

Beneath the retreat’s cosy façade, Kim and her team uncover a sinister community preying on the emotionally vulnerable.

Sending one of her own undercover into Unity Farm is high risk but it’s Kim’s only hope if she is to catch a killer – someone Kim is convinced the victims knew and trusted.

With Bryant distracted by the emergence of a harrowing case close to his heart, and an undercover officer in way over her head, Kim’s neck is on the line like never before. Can she protect those closest to her before another life is taken?

MY THOUGHTS

Kim Stone is back in the twelfth installment, Killing Mind, in Angela Marsons bestselling crime series. Kim and the team are called to a scene where the body of a young woman has been found. It appears that she has tragically committed suicide, but Kim isn’t so keen to wrap the case up, and she soon discovers something that doesn’t quite match up with the team’s early findings and suspicions. As they investigate the woman’s death further, it draws Kim and the team to investigate a cult known as Unity Farm. And soon the young woman isn’t the only person with a connection to the cult to end up dead. But is the cult responsible for the killings? What had they done that was so wrong to deserve death?

I’ve read a few books recently where cults have featured, and they are scary and fascinating at the same time. It’s terrifying to see how leaders of these cults can easily manipulate vulnerable people and make them wholly dependent on them. Angela Marsons examines just how easy it is for them to get inside a person’s head and change perceptions on their life, and this is the case with the cult’s leader. You can see how other members of the group worship and look up to him, and it becomes clear that they would do anything for him if they were asked to do so.

In the latest book, Angela Marsons introduced us to a new member who joined Kim’s team, Tiffany, who Kim refers to as Tink. Tiffany takes a more prominent role in this book as she is sent to unity farm undercover. Tiff is determined to prove herself to Kim and her team, but we can also see just how vulnerable she is herself, and how she is drawn into the group. It’s been really good to see her character grow, like Kim I think I found her a little irritating in the last book in the series. After this instalment, however, I think she is a welcome addition to the team.

DS Bryant becomes distracted in this book, by a previous case he once worked on before he was part of Kim’s team. A man who helped put behind bars for the murder and rape of a young woman is up for parole, and he lends his support to the victim’s family. He is determined to make sure that the man isn’t released, as he fears that the man will kill again. This was an intriguing sub-plot as we do see a side to Bryant that we haven’t quite seen before. Usually, there is a lot of wit between him and Kim, which I really like, but Killing Mind does seem to take on a darker tone.

Angela Marsons once again captured my interest very early on and held it right the way through. I have reviewed nearly every book in this series now, and it is becoming harder and harder to find new things to say about it. All I can say is that you need to read these books if you haven’t already, you won’t regret it!

Publisher: Bookouture

Publication date: 13th May 2020

Print length: 430 pages

Killing Mind is available to buy:

Amazon UK   Kobo

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