Discussion post: Which characters do you continue to think about?

Hi guys, I hope you’re keeping well. Today I’ve got another discussion post for you about characters and about which characters continue to stay in your head.

It’s always a great feeling when you become so attached to the characters in a book you’re reading. There have been many occasions when I’ve been left craving for more information about them. I want to know what’s happening with them now after turning the final page. Although the particular story in which they’ve appeared has been wrapped up, they’ve still sometimes played on my mind afterwards. This, to me, is always a sign of excellent writing, and it’ll keep me coming back to that author’s work. Do you ever finish a book and think I’ve just got to talk to someone about the characters? This has happened to me a few times, and it’s made me push books into peoples hands, so I can discuss the characters with them after they’ve read it.

I started thinking about this topic last week when I finished reading Bitter Sun by Beth Lewis. The story was wrapped up well but a week on and I’m still wondering what happened to the characters after the final page. I became so invested in their lives as I was reading the book, and I wish I knew more about what they were up to now.

One character from a crime series who I always continue to wonder about is DI Marnie Rome. The series is written by Sarah Hilary. Marnie has an incredibly powerful back story and her character kept me coming back. This series began with Someone Else’s Skin. In fact it’s the book I always recommend to someone if they’re looking for a good read.

Someone Else’s Skin (DI Marnie Rome 1) by [Sarah Hilary]

Angela Marsons Kim Stone series is another one which has had a similar effect on me. There have been a couple of books in this series which have left me reeling, and I was left wondering for months, before the next book was released, how the characters were getting on. This series began with Silent Scream.

Another character who keeps me coming back is DS Maeve Kerrigan in Jane Casey’s brilliant series. I love Maeve, especially her humour, which always makes me laugh. This series began with The Burning.

The Burning: (Maeve Kerrigan 1) by [Jane Casey]

These are just a few examples of books where I always wonder what the characters are up to once I’ve turned the final page.

Let me know who some of the characters are who you continue to think about. Like me, do you sometimes crave more information about them as well? Let me know in the comments.

Discussion Post – Sharing books, yay or nay?

How comfortable are you lending books to friends and family?

A few years ago I wouldn’t even entertain the notion of sharing my books, but recently I have been more inclined to give books away, especially as I am running out room for books in my house. It sometimes feels that the floors might buckle under the weight of them. 😂😂

Over the years, I think I have definitely become a book hoarder, and it was once very rare that I let a friend borrow one of my books. But I had a very good reason for this after a very unfortunate incident which took place when I decided, in my naivety, to lend a book to a friend, who shall remain nameless.

Going back ten, twelve years ago, I was shocked to discover that my friend had never read the Harry Potter books. This was while the movies were still being made. We made a pact that if she read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, then I would read the first Twilight book which she’d loved and at the time wasn’t my cup of tea.  We agreed and swapped books.

Several weeks later I asked if she had made any progress with the book as being the bookworm I was, I’d already read Twilight by that point. She assured me she had, but it wasn’t until two to three months later that she finally said she’d finished it. When I was next at her house, she went to retrieve the book for me. The book had been battered and bruised, and the pages were torn. 😭😭😭

To say I was devastated was a big understatement. We are still good friends though.

It has taken me a long time to feel comfortable with lending books out again after this. I’m one of those people who, although I love reading books and re-reading them, I like to keep them in a pristine condition, as much as possible. I don’t know if you’re like this as well.

So how comfortable are you with allowing a friend or a family member to borrow a book? Like me, did you once find this idea absurd? Are you still reluctant to lend books out? Do you have a horror story similar to the above you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments.

Discussion Post: Blending genres

Welcome to my first discussion post. Recently I’ve been thinking about blending genres in fiction and how reading books that have done this has opened my mind to new ones. For me, when I read a thriller that does this, it always makes the book feel very fresh as it has taken me, the reader, somewhere where I haven’t gone before. It is a very good way of putting an original spin on a theme that has already been done. Readers of my blog will know that I mainly stick with crime and psychological thrillers. It’s a genre I feel comfortable with, but I do occasionally like to step my toe into something different.

Goldilocks: The boldest high-concept thriller of 2020 by [Laura Lam]

One book I’ve read recently which has done what I described above very well is Goldilocks by Laura Lam. This book is described as a thriller, and it certainly has aspects of that, but it is also a science fiction novel. Set in the not too distant future; a group of women steal a spacecraft destined to take them to a potential new home for humanity; an exoplanet which can harbour life. But for one of the women on board, there is something far more important at hand. Before reading this book, I would never have considered reading a science fiction novel. I’ve watched science fiction shows such as Doctor Who and films such as The Martian but I’ve never thought about reading science fiction novels. I don’t think I could read a straight science fiction book, but something that does something similar to what Goldilocks has done, I would really be interested in reading. So if you have any recommendations, please let me know. If you’re interested in finding more about this book, you can read my review by clicking here.

Another book which blends genres well is Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough. I read this a few years ago now, and I still haven’t forgotten that twist. Sarah Pinborough blends the psychological thriller genre with the supernatural, and it works really well. This book is being turned into a Netflix program, so it’ll be really interesting to see how this translates onto the screen.

The Shape of Night took me completely by surprise. In fact, I still haven’t managed to get some of the scenes from this book out of my head. If you want a taste of what this book is like, a few of my blogger friends and I have dubbed this book ‘Fifty Shades of Casper.’ Those of you who have read it will know why. I need not say any more. I don’t think the paranormal romance genre and the thriller genre go very well with each other, but others may have a different opinion to me. But I certainly don’t think I’ll be opening a door into this world again.

The Memory Chamber: An elegant tale of love and loss by [Holly Cave]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I loved The Memory Chamber by Holly Cave. Again this is a thriller that dips into the world of science fiction. There’s also a hint of romance. In the future, we have the option to build our perfect Heaven for when we die. The lead protagonist, Isobel, designs Heavens based on people’s specific wishes. Once that person dies, their cells are uploaded into a computer so that they can then live in an almost dream-like state.

 

These are just a few examples of books I’ve read that I chose to cover. I’d love to know your thoughts on this topic. Is there a genre blend that you’d particularly like to see, or are there ones that you think should not mix at all? Has reading books similar to the above sparked an interest in a genre which you haven’t thought of reading before?

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

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In two days time I would become a killer. The day I first saw her, I was sitting in the lobby of the hotel with a cup of coffee, a copy of The Guardian open on my knees. I’d been reading an article about the prestigious crime novel of the year award. In two days the winner would be announced. This was what I was here for. My picture was in the paper too. Nine years straight I’d won this award. It was dead certain I’d win again. 

I thought her face was familiar, but I couldn’t quite work out who she was. I could only see one side as she talked 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, they widened. So, she knew who I was. I wondered if she was a fan; my stomach flipped. 

The woman finished checking in, 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. ‘Sorry, I’m not signing any autographs today.’

‘No, I’m not after an autograph. 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. Something that was yet to happen to me. ‘Oh, yes, no, of course, I’ve heard of you. I was sent a copy of your book.’

‘Oh, God, now you tell me. I hope you liked it.’

‘Loved it,’ I lied. Actually, I’d thrown it among the pile of 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. I finished my coffee and banged it down on the saucer with such force 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’d all but given up. I’ll admit the prologue was gripping, but after that the writing just dragged; 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. Nerves attacked my body; I breathed.  Liz seemed to have amassed an army of fans online, with over one hundred thousand followers on twitter. 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 was 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; right now I didn’t fancy talking to him. I made a quick getaway 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 made contact with the sand, I spotted her; I fell back. Liz was sitting cross legged in front of the sea. Was she meditating? I stepped forward a few paces and stopped. 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.’

‘They’ve already told you?’ My mouth was dry. 

‘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 if you like.’

‘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. Whenever I traveled, I always took sleeping pills with me. Fortunately, I hadn’t had to use one so far. I pocketed the packet, grabbed two champagne glasses from the cabinet, and a bottle of champagne from the fridge. I’d been planning to uncork it 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; 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, the sea to washing 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?’ 

‘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.’

‘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 calm the nerves.’

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. 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 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 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 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. I 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; 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 was time for a chance, don’t you think? 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.’

My cheeks tingled. ‘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 traveled 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

Writing tips from literary agent Jonny Geller, publisher Alex Clarke and authors Felicia Yap and Lisa Jewell

There are many of us who dream of writing and publishing a bestseller, to have the words Sunday Times Bestseller or New York Times Bestseller on the front jacket of your book. On Tuesday, 19th September 2017 I went to a Rooftop Book Club event hosted by Headline Publishing. The event took place on their rooftop terrace which offers stunning views of London. This isn’t the first rooftop book club event I have attended and I would highly recommend them. You can find details of upcoming events by clicking here: Rooftop Book Club

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The speakers were literary agent and CEO of Curtis Brown Jonny Geller, publisher Alex Clarke, bestselling author, Lisa Jewell and debut novelist Felicia Yap. You can find below their top tips on writing and publishing a bestseller.

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To start things off, Jonny and Alex were both asked what excites them when they receive a submission from a new writer. Jonny says that it is always the writer’s own unique voice, it is something that belongs to them. He also advised to spend a lot of time thinking about your cover letter as the cover letter shows the agent that this writer can write. When he first receives the submission, he doesn’t look at the synopsis but he will do when he wants to find out more, if by page ten he is desperate to know what happens next. The synopsis has to be confident and controlled and it should be the authors take on their own book. He also explained that he is looking for the serious writers and not the hobbyist. At Curtis Brown they receive a whopping 50,000 manuscripts a year but he stressed that all agents are hungry for new writers. You have to grab the agent from the start with the cover letter, if the cover letter isn’t to a professional standard or if it doesn’t showcase yourself as a writer, it isn’t likely that your submission will be taken further.

Both Jonny and Alex agreed that you have to be able to tell what your book is about in two sentences if you are hoping to entice booksellers, publishers and agents.

Lisa was asked about her writing process. Lisa has to write away from home and the internet which can be a distraction to her writing. She finds that she writes quicker and better when she gives herself a time frame to write. Her last three books were written in three months and she was writing 1,000 words a day. She never plots her novels and sometimes she doesn’t know the ending of her books until she comes to write it. She said this is a great way of creating pace in your writing as you are discovering what happens next the same time as the reader is.

When Felicia Yap was writing Yesterday, she did fourteen edits of her book before submitting it to fifteen beta readers. She found being part of a writing group immensely helpful; to help with her research she even sent her manuscript to the Metropolitan police who provided her with really useful feedback. Her advice on the submission process: it is equally important to apply creativity to the writing and submission.

Top tips from Jonny

  • Read widely, not just in your chosen genre.
  • Don’t let anyone see your book until you’ve nailed everything down.
  • Make your reader feel something. If they don’t connect with the characters, to the reader it’s just another book.
  • People want to see issues played out in fiction. Trends never get in the way of passion or connection.
  • Get your personality & the flavour of the book across succinctly.

Top tips from Alex

  • No matter what trend you’re aiming at, you’ve still got to write a beautiful book.
  • New writers must be able to tell what their book is about in two sentences.
  • You must be able to step back and think about all the different elements of your book.

Top tips from Lisa

  • When you’re thinking up an idea, try and think about the universal experience. This was the secret to the success of The Girl on the Train. We can all relate to the character, Rachel, commuting to London every day and peering into people’s homes and lives. What if we saw something that we shouldn’t have?
  • Find a specific time in the day to write.

Top tips from Felicia

  • Determination & tenacity to succeed is key and to never give up.
  • As writers, we should keep asking questions about the world around us and to stay curious.
  • Read your work out loud, this will help you find sentences which are clunky and help you to improve your prose, especially dialogue.

THEN SHE WAS GONE BY LISA JEWELL 

She was fifteen, her mother’s golden girl. 
She had her whole life ahead of her. 
And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone.

Ten years on, Laurel has never given up hope of finding Ellie. And then she meets a charming and charismatic stranger who sweeps her off her feet.

But what really takes her breath away is when she meets his nine-year-old daughter.

Because his daughter is the image of Ellie.

Now all those unanswered questions that have haunted Laurel come flooding back.

What really happened to Ellie? And who still has secrets to hide?

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE

YESTERDAY BY FELICIA YAP 

There are two types of people in the world: those who can only remember yesterday, and those who can also recall the day before.

You have just one lifeline to the past: your diary. Each night, you write down the things that matter. Each morning, your diary tells you where you were, who you loved and what you did.

Today, the police are at your door. They say that the body of your husband’s mistress has been found in the River Cam. They think your husband killed her two days ago.

Can you trust the police? 
Can you trust your husband? 
Can you trust yourself?

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE