What She Saw Last Night by MJ Cross blog tour #bookreview @MasonCrossBooks @orionbooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n

I’m delighted to be joining the blog tour for What She Saw Last Night by MJ Cross. With thanks to Tracy Fenton from Compulsive Readers for inviting me to take part.

What She Saw Last Night by [Cross, Mason]

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A secret that could kill her.

A truth no one believes…

Jenny Bowen is going home. Boarding the Caledonian Sleeper, all she wants to do is forget about her upcoming divorce and relax on the ten-hour journey through the night.

In her search for her cabin, Jenny helps a panicked woman with a young girl she assumes to be her daughter. Then she finds her compartment and falls straight to sleep.

Waking in the night, Jenny discovers the woman dead in her cabin … but there’s no sign of the little girl. The train company have no record of a child being booked on the train, and CCTV shows the dead woman boarding alone.

The police don’t believe Jenny, and soon she tries to put the incident out of her head and tells herself that everyone else is right: she must have imagined the little girl.

But deep down, she knows that isn’t the truth.

MY THOUGHTS

What She Saw Last Night by MJ Cross is a rollercoaster of a read. When you start reading this book, you better make sure that you don’t have any immediate plans as you won’t want to put it down.

We meet our protagonist Jenny in the opening chapters of the book. She is travelling on the sleeper train from London to Scotland. But what she doesn’t realise is how much of an impact this journey will have on her life. During the journey, Jenny discovers the body of a woman she met while boarding, a woman with a little girl who Jenny presumes is her daughter. The police suspect it was suicide, but Jenny suspects otherwise. But what is even more perplexing is what happened to the girl who Jenny saw the woman with? The girl seems to have vanished into thin air, and no one will believe Jenny, including the police, that she even saw her. There is no evidence to suggest the girl was even there. Could Jenny have imagined seeing her? As things start to get more complex, Jenny is determined to find out who the girl is and what happened to her. And by doing so, she puts herself in very grave danger.

This book had me hooked right from the very first pages, and I finished in just a couple of days. I really wanted to find out what had happened to the girl on the train. I was thinking right from the beginning that there must be a cover-up going on behind the scenes. The story behind the girl’s strange disappearance became far more mysterious than I thought it would.

There is tension right from the get-go in this book. I thought this particularly as I began to sense that there were people out there who were determined to silence Jenny and I wondered if possibly any members of the police force could possibly be involved. This is what I loved about this read. I was kept guessing right the way through, and MJ Cross kept on tightening up the tension and throwing more obstacles in Jenny’s way as she fought to find answers. You can feel just how strong Jemmy’s determination is. It made me think how I would react if I was in Jenny’s situation, would I let the situation just be forgotten about or would I be brave enough to speak up?

This is a really suspenseful read right the way through that kept me turning the pages. And then MJ Cross hits you with twist after twist, one scene, in particular, left me reeling. What She Saw Last Night is compulsive and hugely engaging. Top stuff!

Publisher: Orion

Publication date: 18th April 2019

Print length: 320 pages

If you would like to purchase What She Saw Last Night, you can do so by clicking on one of the following links below. 

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Talking to the Dead by Harry Bingham #bookreview

On the blog today I’m sharing my thoughts on the first novel in Harry Bingham’s first book in his DC Fiona Griffiths series, Talking to the Dead.

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A young girl is found dead. A prostitute is murdered. And the strangest, youngest detective in the South Wales Major Crimes Unit is about to face the fiercest test of her short career.

A woman and her six-year-old daughter are killed with chilling brutality in a dingy flat. The only clue: the platinum bank card of a long-dead tycoon, found amidst the squalor.

DC Griffiths has already proved herself dedicated to the job, but there’s another side to her she is less keen to reveal. Something to do with a mysterious two-year gap in her CV, her strange inability to cry – and a disconcerting familiarity with corpses.

Fiona is desperate to put the past behind her but as more gruesome killings follow, the case leads her inexorably back into those dark places in her own mind where another dead girl is waiting to be found . . .

MY THOUGHTS

Harry Bingham is a writer who has been on my must-read list for a while. Recently I decided to give the first book in his Fiona Griffiths series a go, Talking to the Dead.

We are faced with a horrific scene in the opening chapters. The body of a young woman, known to have been working as a prostitute, has been discovered. A young girl is also dead. The discovery of the young girl really cements this case in the mind of Fiona Griffiths, who is the Detective Constable working on the investigation.

Now, some readers may struggle to like Fiona. She comes across as hard and unfeeling. There is a reason for this, though, which is later explained in the book. I must admit it did take me some time to warm to her, but by the end of the book I was intrigued to learn more about her background, which I’m sure, will be revealed in later books. She is already very well developed, and you can tell that Harry Bingham has put a lot of thought and planning into this. There is definitely a lot more to learn about her. I also really liked her developing relationship with another police officer from her team, although how far this is going to develop I’m not really sure.

Although Fiona struggles to get on with living people, she is absolutely determined to solve the mystery behind the young girl and the young woman’s death. She really feels a connection to them both and is also keen to make sure they are both given the send-off that they deserve, especially as they weren’t very highly thought of in life. This is what I really admired about Fiona.

The case is quite a complex one which puts Fiona herself in a very dangerous situation as she is targeted by the people who are behind the crime. She is the only police officer on the team who is taking a serious interest in the murders, whereas her superiors are quite keen to brush the case under the carpet. I wanted to know just how Fiona was going to get herself out of this and how much closer to danger she was willing to put herself in to get justice.

Harry’s writing makes you turn the pages so easily. I became utterly immersed in the plot, and I devoured huge chunks of the book in just a couple of sittings. Highly recommended for fans of police procedurals.

Publisher: Orion

Publication date: 28th March 2013

Print length: 384 pages

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

Amazon UK  Kobo  Waterstones

The Pact by Amy Heydenrych #bookreview blog tour @AmyHeydenrych @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n

I’s my pleasure to be taking part in the blog tour today for The Pact by Amy Heydenrych. With thanks to Tracy Fenton from Compulsive Readers for inviting me to take part.

The Pact: Can you guess what happened the night Nicole died? by [Heydenrych, Amy]

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What if a prank leads to murder?

When Freya arrives at her dream job with the city’s hottest start-up, she can’t wait to begin a new and exciting life, including dating her new colleague Jay.

However, Nicole, Jay’s ex and fellow employee, seems intent on making her life a misery. After a big deadline, where Nicole continually picks on her, Freya snaps and tells Jay about the bullying and together they concoct a revenge prank.

The next morning, Nicole is found dead in her apartment . . .

Is this just a prank gone wrong? Or does Freya know someone who is capable of murder – and could she be next?

MY THOUGHTS

The Pact is a highly engaging novel by Amy Heydenrych, and I was quickly pulled into the lives of her characters. It did make me think about how I would have reacted if I was in their shoes when the plot started to unfold. What Amy Heydenrych also, so cleverly does, is she makes you re-examine everything you thought you knew about her characters. Nothing is as it seems in this book.

This was a really intense read. I felt this right from the beginning when the body of a young woman, Nicole is discovered at her flat, and when Amy Heydenrych takes us back in time to reveal the person who she was. As Amy started to reveal more about her, I started to evaluate every other character in the book as I tried to work out who killed Nicole. From very early on, she doesn’t come across as the most likeable of characters, so it seems that there are plenty of people out there who may have a motive to kill her. As Amy begins to reveal more details, you really do get the sense that something sinister is going on behind the scenes.

Every single character in this book kept me engaged. The story is told primarily through the viewpoints of Freya, a woman who briefly worked with Nicole and Isla, a journalist reporting on the case. What I thought I was down really well here were the two timelines. Amy switches between several weeks prior to Nicole’s death and the present, but this didn’t in any way feel confusing to me, and I was able to keep up with everything that was going on.

There were characters who I didn’t trust right from the start, but I don’t want to reveal too much about this as I don’t want to spoil the story. When you start to read this book, you will soon know who I mean. Amy Heydenrych does take us on a twisty ride, and there were a couple of big reveals that completely surprised me. I became so invested in the characters that I thought I had the plot worked out until Amy threw a spanner into the works. This made the ending so exciting as everything that had been held from us, the reader, began to unravel.

This novel also deals with many moral issues, such as the ‘me too’ movement. There is also an intense storyline that ensues when Freya starts receiving disturbing messages, and she begins to think this may have a possible link to Nicole’s death. Is the same person who killed Nicole also targeting her?

Although I found parts of the novel a little slow, I was kept fully engaged. It was maybe a little longer than I felt it needed to be, but I thought everything was wrapped up well, and it made for a very satisfactory ending. Overall, an excellent read!

Publisher: Zaffre

Publication date: 28th November 2019

Print length: 480 pages

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

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THE PACT 6.11

Cruel Acts by Jane Casey #bookreview

Cruel Acts is another book I’ve been desperate to read all year and I finally had the chance to get round to it this week. This is another fantastic addition to the Maeve Kerrigan and Josh Derwant series.

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How can you spot a murderer?

Leo Stone is a ruthless killer – or the victim of a miscarriage of justice. A year ago, he was convicted of the murder of two women and sentenced to life in prison. But now he’s free, and according to him, he’s innocent.

DS Maeve Kerrigan and DI Josh Derwent are determined to put Stone back behind bars where he belongs, but the more Maeve finds out, the less convinced she is of his guilt.

Then another woman disappears in similar circumstances. Is there a copycat killer, or have they been wrong about Stone from the start?

MY THOUGHTS

Maeve Kerrigan and Josh Derwent are my favourite duo in crime fiction. If you are new to this series, you may think that from the outset that they don’t get on, as they are constantly bickering with each other. Maeve is also never keen to follow orders from Josh, her superior. But this is what makes both of their characters really come to life. They really do like each other, although they may not always display this outwardly.

What Maeve and Josh are faced with in the latest book in this series is the release of a convicted killer, over a new revelation overturned the jury’s guilty verdict. This is after it becomes known that they had access to prior reports about him which would have influenced their judgement. The killer, Leo Stone, was found guilty of murdering two women, and he could be behind the disappearance of a third, although a body has never been found. It is up to Maeve and Josh to prove Leo Stone’s guilt but everything is put into question when another woman goes missing.

Maeve and Josh have a tough job on their hands in proving Stone’s guilt, especially when one of the family members of the victims strongly believes that he is innocent. So from the beginning, I couldn’t be sure if he was the right person, even though there are some very chilling scenes, especially when Maeve interviews him, which will make you think so.

You really get a sense that it is going to be so difficult to have a fresh trial. So much information about Stone and the murders have been written about which is in the public domain. How is it possible for a jury now not to be influenced by what has been reported?

In this book we also see Georgia Shaw’s character grow, who Jane Casey introduced to us in the last book, Let the Dead Speak. Georgia begins to show her true colours, and this is in stark comparison to how she was in the previous novel. I must admit that I didn’t quite like where her character was heading as I felt that she was a good addition to the team and I didn’t like what I was seeing, but perhaps this is what her character needed at this point in time. You can see her growing in confidence, if maybe, a little bit too quickly.

Cruel Acts is a clever and totally absorbing crime novel. I can’t wait to catch up with Maeve and Josh again.

Publisher: Harper Collins

Publication date: 18th April 2019

Print length: 368 pages

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

Amazon UK  Kobo  Waterstones

First Monday Crime December Panel @1stMondayCrime

I can’t believe we’re nearly at the end of the year. As the party season gets underway it also means that the First Monday Crime Christmas special is back. The details you need to remember are that the date is Monday, 2nd December 2019, the time is 18:30 p.m. and the location is City University, London.

There is a much more cosy feel to this month’s panel, which is perfect for the long winter nights

This month’s panel is being sponsored by Severn House Publishing who are very kindly providing wine and there will also be cookies courtesy of cookie maker extraordinaire, Joy Kluver. The panel is also being moderated by Jake Kerridge.

But that’s not all, there is also a special, Christmas themed event taking place, Criminal Mastermind featuring Angela Clarke and Claire McGowan.

So who’s appearing next month?

Shamini Flint author of The Beijing Conspiracy

One man is caught up in a lethal global conspiracy in this explosive spy thriller.

“I need your support. There is no one else I can trust. Please help her. Please help our daughter.”

When ex-Marine Jack Ford receives a letter containing news of a daughter he never knew he had, he feels compelled to return to China, a country he hasn’t visited since 1989 when, as a young American spy, he fell in love with a beautiful student activist and found himself caught up in the horrors of the Tiananmen Square massacre. But why has Xia got in touch now, after a thirty-year silence?

On arrival in Beijing, Jack finds himself accidentally in possession of an explosive piece of information both the Chinese and American governments are desperate to get their hands on. Alone in a strange city, suspected of being a traitor by his own side, not knowing whom to trust, Jack is faced with an impossible dilemma: should he save his new-found daughter or prevent a new world war from breaking out?

Simon Brett author of The Killer in the Choir 

When Jude joins the Fethering community choir, she discovers that at least one of her fellow choristers is hiding a deadly secret.

Although she hadn’t known Leonard Mallett very well, nor liked him particularly, Carole Seddon feels duty bound to attend her fellow committee member’s funeral. As she suspected, the hymns, readings and sermon are all very predictable – not unlike Leonard himself. What she couldn’t have predicted was that the deceased’s daughter would use the occasion to publicly accuse her stepmother of murder.

Did Heather Mallett really kill her husband, as many Fethering residents believe? Deciding to get to the heart of the matter, Carole’s neighbour Jude joins the new community choir – and discovers that amidst the clashing egos and petty resentments lurk some decidedly false notes. At least one chorister would appear to be hiding a deadly secret – and it’s up to Carole and Jude to unearth the truth.

Tarquin Hall author of The Case of the Reincarnated Client

A client claiming she was murdered in a past life is a novel dilemma even for Vish Puri, India’s Most Private Investigator. When a young woman comes forward claiming to be the reincarnation of Riya Kaur, a wife and mother who vanished during the bloody 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Puri is dismissive. He’s busy enough dealing with an irate matrimonial client whose daughter is complaining about her groom’s thunderous snoring. Puri’s indomitable Mummy-ji however is adamant the client is genuine. How else could she so accurately describe under hypnosis Riya Kaur’s life and final hours? Driven by a sense of duty – the original case was his late father’s – Puri manages to acquire the police file only to find that someone powerful has orchestrated a cover-up. Forced into an alliance with his mother that tests his beliefs and high blood pressure as never before, it’s only by delving into the past the help of his reincarnated client that Puri can hope to unlock the truth.

Sam Blake author of Keep Your Eyes on Me

Keep Your Eyes on Me: A twisting tale of vengeance, perfect for fans of Liz Nugent and Jo Spain by [Blake, Sam]

You won’t be able to look away

When Vittoria Devine and Lily Power find themselves sitting next to each other on a flight to New York, they discover they both have men in their lives whose impact has been devastating. Lily’s family life is in turmoil, her brother left on the brink of ruin by a con man. Vittoria’s philandering husband’s latest mistress is pregnant.

By the time they land, Vittoria and Lily have realised that they can help each other right the balance. But only one of them knows the real story…

 

Tickets are absolutely FREE and you can reserve your space by clicking on the following link below.

The nearest tube stations are Farringdon and Angel. Afterwards we will be heading over to the Dame Alice Owen for a drink.

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Stay Mad, Sweetheart by Heleen Kist blog tour @hkist @RedDogTweets

I’m delighted to be sharing an extract from Heleen Kist’s latest novel Stay Mad, Sweetheart as part of the blog tour. With thanks to Dylan Thomson from Red Dog Books for inviting me to take part.

Before I share the extract with you let’s take a look at what the book is about.

Stay Mad, Sweetheart by [Kist, Heleen]

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THERE’S A FINE LINE BETWEEN INNOCENCE AND GUILT. AN EVEN FINER LINE BETWEEN JUSTICE AND REVENGE.
Data scientist Laura prefers the company of her books to the real world – let alone that cesspit online. But when her best friend Emily becomes the victim of horrific cyberbullying, she makes it her all-engulfing mission to track down the worst culprits.
Petite corporate financier Suki is about to outshine the stupid boys at her firm: she’s leading the acquisition of Edinburgh’s most exciting start-up. If only she could get its brilliant, but distracted, co-founder Laura to engage.
Event planner Claire is left to salvage the start-up’s annual conference after her colleague Emily fails to return to work. She’s determined to get a promotion out of it, but her boss isn’t playing ball.

As the women’s paths intertwine, the insidious discrimination they each face comes to light. Emboldened by Emily’s tragic experience, they join forces to plot the downfall of all those who’ve wronged them.
But with emotions running high, will the punishments fit the crimes?
A pacy suspense fiction novel with its feet firmly in the #MeToo era.

EXTRACT

1.

JUST ME, LAURA

 

A tear fell onto the page of my book in a star-shaped splotch. I wiped it with my thumb. The stationery cupboard’s dry, inky air tickled my throat as I sighed.

Those poor people.

The photocopier vibrated against my back, mirroring the movement of the novel’s train carriage, its heat evocative of the bodies pressed together, its persistent humming an echo of the stoic prayers uttered by the captives being transported to their final destination.

I hated to leave them, but my time was up. I waved the still damp page side to side and blew the coldest air that I could onto it. The translucent spot rippled the paper. I closed the book and held it to my chest, stroking its edges. It wasn’t the first one I’d ruined this way.

I heard giggling. The door clicked open. I froze. Restless rustling of fabric, the smacking wetness of lips, and baritone groans filled the tiny space.

Crap.

‘Hurry up,’ said a woman.

The man whispered, ‘Let me help.’

It may only have been seconds, but the intensifying moans suggested they were being well spent. I shrunk into my slot between the photocopier and the side wall, forced to listen to the unmistakable swoosh of skirt-lining against tights, the metal tear of a zipper, and the thud and tinkle of a belt buckle hitting the floor.

The room’s flimsy rear partition shook against my shoulder. Through a small gap I saw snippets of skin: her braceleted arms outstretched above their heads, the tips of his fingers digging into her wrist.

I looked away. Beside me, rattled pens rolled towards the edge of a metal shelf. I willed them to stay put.

Her voice again, breathless: ‘I have a better idea.’ She cooed, ‘Help me up.’

I stiffened. Up?

The man grunted. The photocopier creaked and a cascade of red curls fell over the side of the machine onto my head. Definitely Sally. But who was he?

I winced. I preferred not to know. But what if they saw me? They’d think I was some kind of pervert. Steeling myself for intense awkwardness, I cleared my throat. Twice.

‘What the…?’ said the guy.

The mass of hair bounced out of view.

My knees complained as I rose. ‘Sorry. I was reading.’

‘Oh my God, Laura, if I’d known…’ Sally hopped off the machine, clutching the panels of her blouse. She swooped down to pick up her skirt, not realising that swift move exposed me to a full-frontal of the newest data science recruit, his stunned face up top and trousers bunched around his ankles below.

My blush felt incandescent. I covered my eyes to let the interrupted love birds regain their modesty, the three of us developing an unspoken understanding that this never happened.

As the door closed behind them, I caught his worried murmur, ‘Do you think she saw it?’ and her replying with a chuckle, ‘If she did, it will have been her first.’

Though it was true, it was unnecessary. I crouched to retrieve the book from my rudely invaded personal haven. The guy’s head popped back in. I jumped, hitting my shoulder against the shelf.

‘Forgot to tell you.’ He smiled meekly. ‘Justin is looking for you.

THE FILTERED-WATER dispenser in the corridor provided me with much-needed cooling down. The heat receded from my cheeks but immediately fired up again as I saw the clock overhead and stress took hold: I was late.

How did I let time slip away? I grabbed my phone for my regular check-in with Emily, my best friend. The line rang out. I let out a high-pitched whine, torn between wanting to wait to try again and rushing to Justin’s supposedly mission critical meeting.

I walked on.

Five colleagues huddled ahead of me, deep in discussion, drawing flow charts with black marker pens on a long length of wall coated with a special, wipeable paint. One of them spotted me approaching; he nudged another. Their semicircle fell silent and broke open, revealing their work. Hopeful faces sought my contribution, my approval. I passed them with a brisk pace and my most courteous smile.

I dialled Emily again as I strode past rows of desks, their occupants tip-tapping away at their keyboards, their screens faded by the rays of a rare Scottish sun. This time, her line was engaged.

Please God, let them not have found her mobile number, too.

In the lobby, the multicoloured logo of Empisoft stretched across the surface behind the reception desk. Underneath, a shelf showcased our many technology awards, oversized engraved dust-gatherers bearing testament to our team’s hard work. Next to them, an embarrassingly large photo of Justin and me holding yet another trophy, my thin smile doing its best, my eyes missing the lens by a mile.

Liv stood watering the plant next to the visitors’ TV tuned to the non-stop horrors of the outside world. She dried her hands on her cardigan and flashed a motherly smile. ‘There you are. A dose of book time again?’

I nodded, ready to speed on, but my eyeline flicked to the sixty-inch screen. Adam Mooney, the Hollywood star, was exiting Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre and making his way down its stone steps. Saliva flooded my mouth in revulsion.

A sea of outstretched arms shoved microphones towards his angular jaw as reporters pelted him with questions. ‘How do you respond to calls for your arrest for sexual assault?’ I spotted errors in the closed caption transcription. Too many voices. But it perfectly captured his response: ‘No Comment.’

Liv stood at my side. ‘That’s a real tearjerker, isn’t it?’

‘What? You feel sorry for him?’ I asked.

‘No, your book. The concentration camps.’

‘Oh.’ I looked down at the blue-and-white-striped cover. ‘Yes.’

‘I do feel a bit sorry for him, though.’ Liv gazed back at the screen. ‘It’s so easy for this kind of thing to destroy a career. I’m not convinced he deserves to suffer like that.’

I spun towards the boardroom. ‘I don’t think he can suffer enough.’

2.

MY EMILY

The kettle beeped three times, the red numeric display showing the water had reached the programmed temperature of seventy-three degrees. Perfect for herbal tea, according to the manual.

Emily drew a green tea bag from the overhead cupboard of her galley kitchen and plopped it into a brown-rimmed mug. She loved her gadgets, but had she known it was a required safety feature for the voice-controlled kettle to beep when ready, she would have sent the freebie back to her client. It was getting on her nerves. And her nerves were frayed enough.

Swirls of yellow liquid formed underneath the steam in her cup. Unable to find a clean teaspoon in the drawer, Emily fished the tea bag out of her brew with a chopstick pulled from last night’s microwaved egg fried rice. She threw the bag into the sink, onto a pile of its discarded kin, white-rimmed squares of thin, drying paper shrunk around increasingly mouldy lumps of leaves.

With the other end of the chopstick, she scratched behind her ear, stirring thick strands of unwashed hair. She returned the stick to the plastic container as though that small semblance of tidying made up for the surrounding week-worth of filth.

Emily shuffled to her armchair. Her fuzzy slippers stirred dust bunnies into the sunshine streaming through the living room’s large, Victorian window. She blew on her drink out of habit — from when kettles just boiled water to a throat-scorching one hundred degrees centigrade. A dribble of drool escaped her mouth.

The remote control for the TV was out of reach, where she’d hurled it last. That was okay. She’d seen enough. Too much.

But perhaps this time…

Her mobile rang, diverting her attention. But it, too, lay far away and her limbs were heavy. By the time she managed to propel herself forward, the ringing had stopped. She shrugged. Laura would retry later. She always did.

Emily took a tentative sip of her drink. The phone rang again. She groaned. The side table was covered with dirty crockery and technology magazines sticky with donutty finger marks, so she put her mug on the floor. It would mark the floorboards with a ring but sod the landlord.

She read the caller ID and her shoulders slumped. She slid the green strip aside.

‘Hello, Claire.’

‘How are you, Em?’ Claire’s voice wavered. ‘We haven’t heard from you at work.’

‘I’m … I don’t know.’

‘Listen, Darren was having a hissy-fit yesterday, stomping about the place, shouting about deadlines. I’m not sure how much longer I can cover for you… I mean, everybody knows you’re not really sick-sick.’

Emily flinched. No, she wasn’t sick-sick. But this didn’t have a name.

‘Anyway,’ Claire continued. ‘I’m calling because of the Empisoft conference. It’s only weeks away and I need your help. I’m not up to speed and I’ve got my hands full with my charity gig’s PR and coordination as it is.’

Emily suppressed a sigh. Her mind was a million miles from the office, but this was Laura’s company and the most important event of the year for them. ‘What do you need?’

‘I’ve sent you a long email with questions. Would you have a look, please?’ Claire asked.

Emily scanned the room. Where was her laptop? A black triangle poked out from below a blanket of newspapers and magazines on the dining table. ‘Will do.’

‘Honestly, Em, we need you back … and we’re all worried about you.’

Emily massaged her forehead. ‘I guess I could come in tomorrow.’

‘That’s great. But don’t rush-rush. Darren’s gym sessions don’t start until 8.30 now. I’m glad you’re feeling a bit better. See you tomorrow.’

‘Uh-huh.’

Emily rifled through her papers on the dining table, shoving aside print-outs of emails and letters from the council. She found her charger cable and the red sock she’d lost the week before. The TV remote by her feet lured her to have one more peek. She knew she shouldn’t, but she picked it up and took aim.

It was that dreadful women’s talk show. The one where the presenters fanned themselves when the resident Italian chef spoon-fed them tiramisu, the one that ensured guests stormed off to keep the viewers coming back.

Why was the dippy blonde on the right pointing and shouting this time? Emily upped the volume. She leaned closer, her body tensed.

How can you say non-verbal cues should be enough?’ the blonde demanded. ‘What is a non-verbal cue, anyway? A squirm? Does that count? Why not say “no” like a normal person?

The one with the over-white teeth replied, ‘We’re British. We’re polite. A firm “no” is too… punitive, like a slap in the face. When all we want to signal is to slow down.’

‘We can’t expect men to read minds, though,’ interjected the third woman, older, her lips puffed out with fillers

Emily stood transfixed. She knew it was wrong for her to be so unreasonably — unnaturally — drawn to the incessant coverage; but she couldn’t help it. It was about her. It was her harrowing encounter they probed, as selfishly as he’d touched her. They were lifting the lid off her life, as insensitively as he’d lifted her dress.

She bit her lip to channel the hurt; she needed to watch. Which way would it swing today? Would they see it her way? Would they see her? A person. A real, pulsing, sentient human being. Not some slab of meat offered for dismemberment, for them to pry apart her motives, her honesty, her morals — to judge.

Occasionally, throughout this whole ordeal, she’d catch a glimmer of hope through all the contempt, a sliver of validation. So the fascination persisted. She longed to understand what it was that hurled some to her defence and others to the edge of crazy.

Exactly.’ shrieked the first panel member on the TV. ‘I’m sorry, but in my day, you knew not to go to someone’s flat — or in this case a hotel room, which is even worse — unless you were up for it. This girl throws herself at a famous actor she’s only met that night and what? She expects him to read her mind? She can speak. She should’ve spoken up if she didn’t like his kisses or him performing oral sex on her. Quite frankly she should have left the minute she became uncomfortable.

Don’t you think there was a power dynamic at play that made it harder? I mean he’s Adam Mooney, for Christ’s sake.

She doesn’t work for him—

Emily zapped the screen into darkness. Enough. There was nothing new. Nothing that would make the haters hate less. Nothing that would make this ‘she’ they spoke of so callously feel uncorrupted again. Emily covered her mouth; felt a tear hit her hand. They knew her name. Why did they never use her name?

Questions she’d asked herself over and over swirled round in her head. Why hadn’t she just said ‘no’ that night? Why had she thought it a good idea to write her story and have it posted online? Why had she believed that blog when they said she’d remain anonymous? What an idiot. What a fool to think she would be a force for good, for girls’ empowerment, for healthy debate. It had been the worst decision of her life. And now nothing could turn back the clock.

She rubbed her face to loosen the tension and filled her lungs slowly. Must try to move on. Maybe work would help after all?

The itch behind her ear didn’t let up. She scratched it once more and scooped her hair into a messy bun, wincing as the rank-smelling bobble she’d been carrying around her wrist all week passed her nose. Once the bun was secured into place, she knotted the belt of her bathrobe and strode to the table.

The computer broke free from its surrounding papers and magazines with a single yank. She watched the disturbed pile wobble and slip to the ground in a colourful spread. Emily cleared more space on the table, flicking crumbs of who-knows-what into the void with the back of her hand.

There.

She sat down. The laptop whirred into action, the screen’s static attracting a plague of dust. She clutched her sleeve and rubbed it away.

A thump by her door.

She listened for more, the back of her neck tingling. She hoped, of the two things it might be, that it was her neighbour coming to check on her again. But no knock came. Her stomach dropped.

Shit.

She shook her head. Ignore it.

The waterfall background on her screen was meant to be a serene, calming image but all Emily sensed when she looked at it was the thunderous pressure of the water on her head, its silvery foam enveloping her, the absence of air — drowning.

With a slight tremble in her finger, she inched the mouse towards her email. At the top of her inbox was Claire’s red-flagged message: Help! Questions for Empisoft conference.

Emily breathed a wisp of relief when she saw that the fifty-odd other messages were business-related and all from people she knew, including one from HR she’d check out later. She mentally blew a kiss to the IT chap who’d assured her he would filter out all the hate mail, so she wouldn’t be confronted with it.

Her brain wouldn’t focus. She re-read the same piece of text five times. The planning around the annual conference of the city’s most celebrated high-growth start-up was a challenge, sure, but she knew that wasn’t the real problem. It was the thought of returning to work, to the stares, the whispers. They’d had to get extra security at the office when she’d been identified as the anonymous woman behind the incendiary blog post; a daily hassle no one appreciated.

For the best part of two hours, she resolved logistical issues with the catering and stupidly constrained parking around the large conference venue. No reason Claire couldn’t have handled those herself.

Emily’s cramped thighs begged for movement. She got up for another cup of tea, leaving the previous one cold, iridescent plaques lining the surface like an oil slick.

As she passed the front door, she remembered the earlier sound. Despite alarm ringing in her ears, she pulled at the knob.

On the landing lay a medium-sized box, addressed simply to The Bitch. Emily peered over into the stairwell of her tenement, knowing it was pointless. Whoever had finagled access to her building would be long gone.

The box didn’t weigh much, but its content sounded solid when shifted. She carried it inside, her pulse throbbing in her temples, her teeth clenched.

She walked straight to the kitchen, flipped open the stainless-steel lid of her bin, and shook the ‘gift’ out of the box. The large purple dildo fell atop layers of gloopy plastic film pried from ready meals. Underneath, she could still see the fat, curved tip of the other veiny, flesh-coloured sex toy.

Emily smacked the metal lid down and crumpled onto the tiled floor. Tears rolled down her cheeks, her body convulsing with each staggered sob.

She couldn’t do this anymore.

 

Publisher: Red Dog Press

Publication date: 19th November 2019

Print length: 330 pages

If you would like to purchase Stay Mad, Sweetheart, you can do so by clicking on one the following link below. 

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On My Life by Angela Clarke #bookreview

I featured On My Life in my most anticipated reads post earlier in the year and I’m kicking myself that I’ve taken this long to read it and I’m pleased to say that it’s a real corker.

On My Life: the gripping fast-paced thriller with a killer twist by [Clarke, Angela]

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Jenna knows she didn’t do it. But she is running out of time to prove it . . .
A heartbreaking, compulsive thriller with a killer twist!

Framed. Imprisoned. Pregnant. 

Jenna thought she had the perfect life: a loving fiancé, a great job, a beautiful home. Then she finds her stepdaughter murdered; her partner missing.

And the police think she did it . . .

Locked up to await trial, surrounded by prisoners who’d hurt her if they knew what she’s accused of, certain someone close to her has framed her, Jenna knows what she needs to do:

Clear her name
Save her baby
Find the killer

But can she do it in time?

MY THOUGHTS

On My Life by Angela Clarke is a powerful read that will pull at the heartstrings. There’s action right from the get-go when we find our protagonist, Jenna being escorted in a prison van towards her new life. Jenna knows she is innocent of the crime she has been accused of, and Jenna knows she has a fight on her hands to prove her innocence, especially when the whole country and the justice system is against her.

Angela Clarke’s latest novel is really taut. Right from the first page, you’re thrown into the action, and you are fighting with Jenna as she attempts to prove her innocence. What she has been accused of is a heinous crime which makes her a target among certain prison inmates, who are out to cause her harm. At the same time, she is trying to keep it a secret from everyone else inside. You feel as though she is walking on eggshells. It seems that at any moment her secret is going to come out and everyone will know what she has been accused of. As the reader, you know that once this does happen, everyone will turn against her.

Angela Clarke’s writing kept me furiously turning those pages as I waited to see how Jenna was going to be able to prove her innocence when it seemed that so much evidence was stacked against her. You can sense the walls closing in on her, but she is determined not to let this happen. I felt really angry for her. She has to try and grow accustomed to her new life before her trial, but a spanner is thrown into the works when she finds out that she is expecting her fiancés baby. Her fiancé has disappeared, and she has been accused of having a hand in his disappearance. But she has also been accused of killing his teenage daughter.

I really liked the friendship Jenna had with the woman she shares a cell with, Kelly. Kelly is inside for a much lesser offence, but the two women form a bond, and Kelly seems to be the only source of solace Jenna has. Kelly is also pregnant, and this strengthens their friendship. You can tell that Angela Clarke has put in a lot of research into this subject within the prison system. You can’t help but feel sorry for Jenna, and I was just hoping that she was going to be able to get out of the situation she was in.

On My Life is really tense and thought-provoking; I’m still thinking about the ending days after I’ve read it. You will be rooting for Jenna right from the first page.

It’s one of my top reads of the year.

Publisher: Mulholland Books

Publication date: 7th March 2019

Print length: 384 pages

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

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Through the Wall by Caroline Corcoran #bookreview blog tour @cgcorcoran @Sabah_K @AvonBooksUK

I’m delighted to be sharing my review of Through the Wall by Caroline Corcoran as part of the blog tour. With thanks to Sabah Khan at Avon Books for inviting me to take part.

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Lexie’s got the perfect life. And someone else wants it…

Lexie loves her home. She feels safe and secure in it – and loved, thanks to her boyfriend Tom.

But recently, something’s not been quite right. A book out of place. A wardrobe door left open. A set of keys going missing…

Tom thinks Lexie’s going mad – but then, he’s away more often than he’s at home nowadays, so he wouldn’t understand.

Because Lexie isn’t losing it. She knows there’s someone out there watching her. And, deep down, she knows there’s nothing she can do to make them stop…

MY THOUGHTS

Through the Wall is a tense psychological thriller by Caroline Corcoran, focusing on the lives of two women who live next door to each other in a London apartment block. Meet Lexie and Harriet. Both women envy each other. Harriet is jealous of Lexie for her perfect family life. However, Lexie sees Harriet as what you might imagine one of the cool kids at school to be, fun-loving and always up for a party. But what they both don’t realise is how very different their lives are to what they imagine them to be.

Right from the beginning, there is an underlying level of tension between the two women, and as the reader, we can sense that things will soon come crashing down for either Harriet or Lexie. Both women are facing their own problems in their personal life at the moment. Lexie and her husband, Tom, are struggling with fertility problems, and Harriet still hasn’t moved on, after her fiancé, Luke decided to break up with her after their engagement. But now Harriet has set her eyes on Lexie’s boyfriend, Tom, and it seems that she will stop at nothing to break them up. To Harriet, Tom seems to be the perfect replacement for Luke.

Caroline Corcoran kept me gripped. I was intrigued by the feud that seemed to exist between both Lexie and Harriet. They don’t actually meet each until much later in the story. Right from the beginning, Harriet seemed to be a very perplexing character, and I had a feeling that there was going to be more to her story. You know what she is beginning to plan from very early in the book, and this is how Caroline cleverly maintains the tension.

As the plot developed, Caroline continues to deepen her character’s stories, and it takes on a much darker tone. Harriet is the person who intrigued me the most. I wanted to know what had happened in her past and how her past. How had her past morphed her into the person she is today? Why was she so obsessed with her neighbours? Why was she so desperate to get together with Lexie’s boyfriend? I also found it fascinating how both women thought of each other as the novel is told from their perspectives.

Although the pace is a bit slow at times, Caroline Corcoran maintains a high level of intrigue that will keep you invested in the lives of Lexie and Harriet. The sense that darkness is creeping in will keep you very engaged.

Publisher: Avon

Publication date: 3rd October 2019

Print length: 352 pages

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

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First Blood by Angela Marsons #bookreview @WriteAngie @bookouture

Today is publication day for a very exciting book which I have wanted to shout about ever since I read it a few weeks ago. I’m absolutely delighted and beyond excited to be able to share my review of First Blood by Angela Marsons, a prequel to the Kim Stone series with you today.

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In the darkness of a cold December morning, Detective Kim Stone steps through the doors of Halesowen Police Station.  She’s about to meet her team for the first time.  The victim of her next case is about to meet his killer…

When the body of a young man is found beheaded and staked to the ground in a secluded area of the Clent Hills, Kim and her new squad rush to the crime scene.

Searching the victim’s home, Kim discovers a little girl’s bedroom and a hidden laptop.  Why is his sister relieved to hear he’s dead – and where is the rest of his family?

As Kim begins to unearth the dark secrets at the heart of the case, D.C. Stacey Wood finds a disturbing resemblance to the recent murder of Lester Jackson.  But that’s not all Stacey finds …

She’s convinced there is a link between the victims and a women’s shelter run by Marianne Forbes, Lester’s niece. A child of the care system herself, Kim knows all too well what it means to be vulnerable. Could Marianne be the key to cracking this case?

With the killer about to strike again, Kim is in deep water with a rookie squad.  Inexperienced Stacey is showing signs of brilliance but struggling to hold her nerve and, while D.S. Bryant is reliable and calm, D.S. Dawson is a liability. With his home life in pieces, his volatile behaviour is already fracturing her fragile new team.

Can Kim bring Dawson in line and pull her crew together in time to catch the killer before another life is taken? This time, one of her own could be in terrible danger…

Discover where it all began for Kim and her team. An absolutely heart-stopping mystery thriller that will keep you glued to the pages, reading late into the night.  Perfect for Kim Stone fans and new readers to the million-copy bestselling series.

A detective hiding dark secrets, Kim Stone will stop at nothing to protect the innocent.

MY THOUGHTS

Kim Stone fans, you are in for a treat. Angela Marsons has taken Kim back, right to the beginning, before Silent Scream and before the friendships she has with her colleagues has had a chance to develop fully. Here, in First Blood, everything is new and fresh. We get to see everything we know well and love about this series in a new light.

When I first heard that Angela Marsons had written a prequel to her first novel in the Kim Stone series, I was really excited. I pretty much dropped everything I was doing and picked up this book. I wanted to know more about Kim’s relationship with her colleagues and how this developed. I must admit, it did feel quite strange not to have the usual quirky exchanges between Bryant and Kim. Right at the beginning, however, Kim doesn’t know how long she will be working with him or anyone else on the team. She doesn’t know if she can trust anyone yet. We can see that she has not managed to fit in with any other teams within the police force, and this seems to be the last throw of the dice for her.

As well as getting to know a younger version of Kim Stone, it’s been fascinating peering into the lives of her colleagues. You can see the beginnings of her friendship forming with Bryant. You can also see the determination in the members of her team, notably in Stacey and Dawson, to solve the case they are working on.

The case is a chilling one, with links to a women’s refuge centre nearby, Kim and her team are trying to track down an individual who is killing abusers. To the killer, what they are doing is just, and this is probably how a lot of readers will feel about this as well. The killer is playing on the minds of the police. It becomes a race against time for the police to work out what the killer is planning to do next before they kill again.

If you haven’t yet read the Kim Stone series, then this is a good place to start. It can be quite daunting to start a series several books in, so this is the perfect opportunity for you to get to know Kim and her team.

This book shapes the pathway for the rest of the books to follow. Angela Marsons has done a brilliant job in putting a fresh spin on this series. It’s been fascinating going back in time and seeing where it all began for the characters, which fans of the Kim Stone series have grown to know so well. Once again, Angela Marsons has come up with a brilliant plot for her characters to sink their teeth into.

For fans of Kim Stone and newcomers to the series as well, I highly recommend First Blood. And if you are new to the series, you will want to read the rest of the books straight away. Absolutely brilliant stuff!

Publisher: Bookouture

Publication date: 14th November 2019

Print length: 407 pages

If you would like to purchase First Blood, you can do so by clicking on the following link below.

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Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver #bookreview blog tour @will_carver @OrendaBooks @annecater

It’s my great pleasure to be joining the blog tour today for Will Carver’s, Nothing Important Happened Today. With thanks to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.

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Nine suicides
One Cult
No leader

Nine people arrive one night on Chelsea Bridge. They’ve never met. But at the same time, they run, and leap to their deaths. Each of them received a letter in the post that morning, a pre-written suicide note, and a page containing only four words: Nothing important happened today.

That is how they knew they had been chosen to become a part of the People Of Choice: A mysterious suicide cult whose members have no knowledge of one another.

Thirty-two people on that train witness the event. Two of them will be next. By the morning, People Of Choice are appearing around the globe; it becomes a movement. A social media page that has lain dormant for four years suddenly has thousands of followers. The police are under pressure to find a link between the cult members, to locate a leader that does not seem to exist.

How do you stop a cult when nobody knows they are a member?

MY THOUGHTS

Will Carver is a writer, unlike any writer I have read before. Last year I read Good Samaritans, and it was my top read of 2018. I couldn’t stop talking about it and recommending it. And Will Carver has pulled it off again with Nothing Important Happened Today. Although I found it a little slower paced than his previous book, it was still very intriguing, and the voice of the narrative made it really gripping. It is a very unique book that you won’t be forgetting about any time soon after you read it.

This book also sees the return of Detective Sergeant Pace who featured in Good Samaritans. The police are investigating nine suicides. Nine people have thrown themselves off Chelsea Bridge. They are called ‘The Chosen Ones.’ The morning of their suicide, they each received a letter with four words written on it, nothing important happened today. But what compelled them all, nine strangers, to meet at the same place, at the same time and throw themselves off a bridge? Are they members of a cult? Who is behind sending the letters out to the individuals? It soon becomes clear that this won’t be the last time such an event happens.

Will Carver does have a very dark mind. I thought this when I read his last book, but the darkness is turned up a notch in his latest. As the story gets going, I wanted to know what was going on in the background and why the nine strangers all decided, on the same day, to commit suicide. It almost seemed as though they had been programmed to do it. I wanted to know who was behind the letters. Will Carver cleverly brings this together at the end in a nail-biting finale. I could never quite pinpoint who I thought was responsible for what was happening, and when it finally dawned on me who it was, it was a mind-blowing moment.

Although there was very little dialogue in this book, I found the narrative so strong. We don’t get to spend an awful lot of time with the victims, but when Will Carver does allow us a peek into their lives, I felt as though I really connected to them. I couldn’t understand why they were planning to kill themselves, and this was what made me even keener to find out who was behind this. I wanted to know how they had come to be in this position in the first place.

Will Carver writes very unique books. He tackles some uncomfortable and sometimes distressing subjects, but his writing is utterly addictive and he makes his books so fascinating.

Nothing Important Happened Today is a book about how a person’s mind can easily be manipulated, and it makes it quite scary to see how this can happen.

Very dark, unsettling but very intriguing.  You won’t find another writer out there who writes like Will Carver.

Publisher: Orenda Books

Publication date: 14th November 2019

Print length: 276 pages

If you would like to purchase Nothing Important Happened Today, you can do by clicking on one of the following links below.

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