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April 2018

Dying Truth by Angela Marsons

Detective Inspector Kim Stone is not convinced that the suicide of a teenage girl is what it seems, so when the body of a boy is found at the same school, it soon becomes clear that these incidents are no accidents. With a wall of silence encircling her, Kim gets the break she needs when one of the teachers is prepared to talk before she, too, is found dead. Desperate to bring this case to a conclusion before more lives are lost, Kim knows that time is most definitely against her.

What can I say? Every time I read the next Kim Stone book, I’m convinced that it can’t be as good as the previous ones, only for Angela Marsons to, once again, pull it out of the bag. This is unbelievably true with Dying Truth which, in my opinion, is the best of the series so far. This is no mean feat for a series that is now in its eighth installment.

I love a book that hooks you right from the start and Angela Marsons has certainly done this from the very first pages. It’s not often that a book provides a shock so early on but by starting the story at its climax, it is impossible not to read at a rate of knots to try to see what leads up to those shocking events. When we do finally reach this point in the story, nothing can prepare you for what you are about to read. There is no wonder that bloggers who have already read this book are talking about needing a support group – Angie, how could you?!

Growing up, many readers would have been fascinated by boarding schools after reading Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers series. Heathcrest, the school in Dying Truth is nothing like that, however, with secret societies and bullying being more of an everyday occurrence than midnight feasts and playful practical jokes. This is a school full of deadly secrets that are slowly being revealed, with staff and pupils doing their best to keep them well hidden. Kim being Kim, though, is determined to make a nuisance of herself, and is doing everything she can to get under the skin of those involved.

We also see a return of two characters in cameo roles. Reporter Tracy Frost is back, albeit in a very minor role. I always enjoy her interactions with Kim – two strong women with very different crime scene etiquette! Perhaps the biggest shock though, is the reappearance of Kim’s nemesis, Dr Alexandra Thorne. Still in prison for what happened in a previous book, Thorne is called upon to share her expertise with the detective. As Thorne is more used to being able to manipulate everyone she comes into contact with, it was great to see Kim have the upper hand.

Dying Truth is an amazing book and definitely one of my favourites of the year so far. Angela Marsons has certainly surpassed herself with this one. If you are not up to date with this series, make it a priority to catch up!

With thanks to Bookouture and Net Galley for my ARC.

Read my reviews of the rest of the series:

Silent Scream

Evil Games

Lost Girls

Play Dead

Blood Lines

Dead Souls

Broken Bones

Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough

Lisa is protective of her daughter, Ava. Maybe over-protective. That’s what Ava thinks anyway. All Ava wants to do is spend time with her friends doing the sort of things other teenage girls do. She has a secret, though, and it is one that spells danger. Lisa, on the other hand, prefers to keep herself to herself, classing Marilyn, a work colleague, as her only friend. Both of these women also have secrets but which of them has a secret so dark that its discovery could change the life of everyone forever?

Sarah Pinborough’s previous book, Behind Her Eyes, was one of last year’s most talked about books, partly due to the #WTFthatending hashtag that was all over social media. It was a book that certainly divided opinion but as someone who really enjoyed it, I was excited to see what Sarah would come up with next.

Lisa and Marilyn are all incredibly flawed characters and it was easy to see how they found themselves drawn towards each other. While Marilyn’s secret is not too difficult to figure out, Lisa’s is truly shocking and not one I saw coming at all. This reveal turned the book on its head and made me question everything I had read. It is hard to say too much without giving away the plot but it is very clever writing from Sarah Pinborough to make you like and loathe a character at the same time.

Ava’s story was probably the one that disturbed me the most as, from the start, there was a sense of foreboding as she communicated with an unknown ‘friend’ on Facebook. Although it was inevitable that this liaison would come to no good, it was not in the way I expected. Another clever piece of writing that, once again, highlights the dangers of social media.

While Cross Her Heart does not make you gasp in the same way as Behind Her Eyes, there are definitely enough twists and turns to keep you guessing due to all of the secrets being kept by the three main protagonists. I loved how the author dropped in a bit of information almost in a blasé fashion, making me wonder if I’d somehow missed a bit of the plot, only for it to be addressed later.

Cross Her Heart is a great read. With thanks to Harper Collins UK and Net Galley for the ARC.

 

**BLOG TOUR** Killing Time by Mark Roberts

614hsAHOY-LI am really pleased to be the latest stop on the blog tour for the new DCI Eve Clay book by Mark Roberts, Killing Time.

When a young Czech girl is found abandoned in a Liverpool park, there is a huge sense of relief as this is the same child who has been missing for the past eight days. DCI Eve Clay is on her way to interview the clearly traumatised victim when she receives a call detailing another incident – two Polish men have been found dead in their burnt out flat. With the two cases occurring so close to each other, Clay begins to think that there may be a connection. When the chilling message, ‘killing time is here, embrace it’, is discovered at the flat, the police fear that there is much more to come.

Killing Time is the fourth book in the Eve Clay series and is one I’ve been looking forward to ever since reading the previous three. Although this is another dark tale of Liverpool’s underbelly, Mark Roberts has added a clever twist that sees the plot take in events in the United States. As in the previous books, being familiar with the setting added authenticity to the plot as I found myself picturing the places as I was reading.

From the start, it is hard to know which of the characters are exactly what they seem. The murdered men, Karl and Vaclav Adamczak, appear to the outside world to be hard-working and law-abiding. What, then, would make someone take their lives in such a vicious way and is there a connection to the abduction of the young Czech girl?

The Dare brothers, Raymond and Jack, however seem much more of an open and shut case. Raymond, a young man with mental health issues who is refusing to take his medication is clearly involved in petty crime. What we don’t know, though, is how far his criminal involvement has gone. His brother, Jack, a reformed criminal, is now involved with the church and his attempts to help his brother are proving futile. Jack clearly has something to hide but is it what we think? As the cases begin to merge, what Eve Clay and her detectives discover, is a story much bigger than they ever could have imagined.

I love the character of Eve Clay, a detective determined to right the world’s wrongs. Her back story is an absolutely fascinating one and I enjoy reading about her time, as a young child, in the children’s home. Her feisty character was evident from an early age and her Everton references made this Evertonian laugh out loud! I felt that Eve seemed much more relaxed than in previous books with regards to her son, and it was nice to see this side of her.

Killing Time is a very dark thriller full of twists and turns that kept me engrossed right until the end. One of the things I love most about Mark Roberts’ books is the atmospheric settings he chooses for the chilling climax to the story. Without going into too much detail for fear of giving away spoilers, the venue chosen for the closing of Killing Time is an iconic Liverpool location that fits in well with the tone of the book.

I thoroughly enjoyed Killing Time and hope it won’t be too long before the next installment.

With thanks to Aria/Head of Zeus and Net Galley for my ARC.

Take a look at the rest of the blogs on the tour:

Previous books in the Eve Clay series:

Blood Mist

Dead Silent

Day of the Dead

 

 

 

The Devil’s Star by Jo Nesbo

516UpgT9p9L._SY346_Detective Harry Hole is assigned to the case of a young woman who has been found murdered in her flat with a tiny red diamond in the shape of a five-pointed star behind her eyelid. Having to work alongside his nemesis, Tom Waaler, does not appeal to Harry but as he is already on his last warning, he must overcome his hatred for his fellow detective and rouse himself from his alcoholic state when he realises that a serial killer is stalking Oslo.

The Devil’s Star is the fifth in Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series and I can safely say it is my favourite so far. Drinking heavily after becoming estranged from his partner and still trying to come to terms with the circumstances behind his colleague’s death, Harry has been avoiding work like the plague. With the National holidays in full swing, however, and a skeleton staff in operation, his superiors have no option but to call him in to work on the serial killer case. Despite his shortcomings, Harry definitely leads a charmed life, as any other police officer would have been thrown out of the force a long time ago!

There were two main reasons why I liked this book so much, the first being the serial killer plot. I enjoyed reading how Harry worked out the pattern that the killings took as it showed that, although he is struggling with his demons, his investigative skills are second to none and the reason he is still able to operate as an officer. There were several clever moments in this plot, not least when the identity of the killer was revealed. There were also some moments that the squeamish would not enjoy!

The second thing I really enjoyed was the Tom  Waaler storyline which reaches a dramatic conclusion. This particular plot has kept me hooked for the past few books and I was pleased with how Jo Nesbo brought it to an end.

I have read that this series gets better as it progresses and I definitely agree! I can’t wait to read the next one!

If He Wakes by Zoe Lea

51zNl-mP6eLWhen Rachel discovers a message on Twitter arranging an assignation, she comes to the conclusion that her husband is having an affair. Deciding to follow him, what she witnesses is something much worse: her husband’s car involved in a hit and run. Meanwhile, Suzie,  Rachel’s business partner and friend, has problems of her own. She has not heard from her fiance in days and on discovering that huge debts have been racked up in her name, she assumes that he has left her, taking the money with him. Her view changes, though, when threatening calls begin to arrive. Has something terrible happened to him? With both friends not knowing if they can trust their partners, will they also be able to trust each other?

How well do you really know your partner? This is a question that both of the main characters ask themselves as their lives slowly crumble around them. Rachel appears to have the perfect life with a loving husband and children and a business about to take off, All of this is turned on its head, however, when she reads the Twitter message and witnesses the hit and run. Her husband denies all knowledge, but is he telling the truth? I could really sympathize with Rachel as she struggled to come to terms with what she was discovering, and felt that Zoe Lea’s writing conveyed her trauma perfectly.

With regards to Suzie, the alarm bells were ringing right from the start. Her fiance, Adam, had apparently disappeared, taking all of their money with him. As soon as we realise that he’d managed to avoid any meetings with Suzie’s friend, Rachel, and worked away from home frequently, it was obvious that he was not the man she thought he was. Unlike Rachel, Suzie was prepared to give Adam the benefit of the doubt even though the evidence was screaming her in the face.

It was inevitable that the two stories would eventually collide and that there would be a connection. Whereas part of it was pretty easy to figure out, when I realised the full extent of one of the character’s wrongdoings, it was a huge shock. This was a great twist and not something I saw coming. I could also now understand the actions of another of the characters and my perception of them changed completely. I felt that the ending was realistic and very fitting to the plot.

If He Wakes definitely kept me entertained and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a quick, mysterious read.

With thanks to Canelo and Net Galley for the ARC.

 

 

**BLOG TOUR** The Room by the Lake by Emma Dibdin

Today, I am pleased to start off the blog tour for The Room by the Lake by Emma Dibdin, the claustrophobic tale of an impressionable young woman who has been drawn into a cult. My review can be found here, but I am really happy to share an extract with you!

The Blurb

Caitlin never meant to stay so long. But it’s strange how this place warps time. Out here, in the middle of nowhere, it’s easy to forget about the world outside.

It all happened so fast. She was lonely, broke, about to give up. Then she met Jake and he took her to his ‘family’: a close-knit community living by the lake. Each day she says she’ll leave but each night she’s back around their campfire. Staring into the flames. Reciting in chorus that she is nothing without them.

But something inside her won’t let go. A whisper that knows this isn’t right. Knows there is danger lurking in that quiet room down by the lake…

New York, new start, New York, new start, I repeat to myself like a slogan as the 1 train screeches hard around a bend. It’s not rush hour but the subway is still full, horizontal sardines packed together from Penn Station onwards, and I wonder whether anyone on board can tell that I have no destination. Here for the ride.

I stay on until the very last stop, watching the carriage grow gradually empty, and at Van Cortlandt Park I cross over the platform and wait for a train back downtown. A roundtrip, one end of the line to the other. And why not? The subway is soothing, the 123 line in particular because it has electronic screens listing when the next train is coming, and I like my environment to be predictable. Maybe tomorrow I’ll tackle the 2 train, all the way from the Bronx down to the farthest reaches of Brooklyn, its distance mind-boggling even when scaled down to fit onto an MTA map. The subway is cheap, after all, and I’m broke.

The platform is deserted, and it strikes me I’m a very long way from anywhere. This is the Bronx, unchartered territory for a tourist, and though my surroundings look leafy and harmless maybe going to the end of the line was a bad idea. Maybe something will happen to me here.

I know that in thinking this I’m only echoing my cab driver from JFK, who whiled away the drive with ominous nuggets like ‘girl like you should watch your back in the city’ and ‘whatever you do, don’t go east of Prospect Park’ and ‘nothing good happens past a hundred and tenth’. Right before he forced me to write down his number and told me to call him if I got lonely.

Nothing happens to me in the Bronx. Nothing happens to me on the train back downtown, and when I finally emerge at South Ferry I feel deflated, robbed of the false purpose that roundtrip gave me.

I need a job. After putting it off for as long as I could, this morning I finally sat down cross-legged on my hotel quilt and counted my remaining cash, crumpled dollar bills laid out corner-to-corner like a bleak mosaic. Adding up the cash with the figure on the ATM receipt, I have enough to get me through another two weeks, if I eat only two meals a day and don’t run up any more $60 tabs in moments of ostentatious desperation. I spent last night in a sparse midtown bar, the kind of place that seems sleek and empty even at its most crowded, feeling like this was the thing to do as a single girl alone in New York. Getting steadily more drunk, half-hoping that one of the sharp-suited Wall Street types would make a move, half-terrified of the same.

If one of them did buy me a drink and take me back to a high-rise apartment that feels closer to cloud than ground, the kind that envelops you in space and silence, I could stay the night and maybe stay forever, and my memory of home would fade like the street noise below, just faint enough to be soothing.

But nobody approached me, and I wandered back to my no-frills solo-traveller-friendly hotel at the very tip of downtown Manhattan, and watched Good Will Hunting on Netflix until I fell into five hours of twitchy sleep.

And now I have a stack of CVs and a head full of caffeine, and I’m trying to get a job against the odds. I have thought none of this through.

‘You Australian?’ the barista asks. She’s chubby in that uniquely wholesome, self-confident American way, the kind of girl who could say ‘There’s just more of me to love,’ with a straight face. She wears a name badge that tells me she’s Marcie.

‘English,’ I answer. People always guess Australian. My accent morphs involuntarily when I’m in America, probably betraying my desperation to belong.

‘Cool. We’re actually not hiring right now, they just made cutbacks.’

‘Oh. Sorry.’

‘Yeah,’ Marcie shrugs. ‘But I’m still here, so.’

 

Take a look at the rest of the blogs on the tour:

With thanks to Clare Gordon and Head of Zeus for arranging the blog tour.

The Gaslight Stalker by David Field

512ZJVl391LIt’s London, 1888, and fear is spreading around the East End of London due to the shadowy killer who has become known as Jack the Ripper. One of the victims is known to Esther, a young, respectable Jewish seamstress and she becomes determined to aid the police in their investigations. Ably assisted by Constable Jack Enright, the pairing soon find themselves drawn in to the underbelly of the city where serious crime is an everyday occurrence. As they edge closer to identifying the killer, Esther and Jack have underestimated just how dangerous they are…

As a fan of crime fiction set in the Victorian era, particularly anything involving Jack the Ripper, I knew that this book would be right up my street before I’d even started reading.  Although it is quite a short book, David Field has evoked sounds and smells of the slums of Whitechapel and has created a true image of the horrors that existed at that time. By merging fact with fiction, he has also added an air of authenticity to the plot and I enjoyed reading about characters such as Abberline, Reid and the prostitutes we have all become so familiar with.

Esther is a fascinating character. As a Jew living in an area where antisemitism was rife, she has managed to forge out a humble career for herself – something which would have been extremely difficult for a single woman of that era. I found it interesting how she is living in a common lodging house, yet has managed to not live the life of so many other women at that time. I was pleased when the romance between her and Jack started to develop and, as someone who is not really a fan of romantic fiction, I felt that it was written in a way that was befitting of the time and that it fit in well with the plot.

For anyone who knows anything about the Whitechapel Murders, the plot will not come as a surprise, but what will is the culprit! It was a very different take on the murders and, although the more ardent Ripperologists will scoff, it must be remembered that this is a work of fiction and the ending reflects this.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the first in the Esther and Jack Enright series and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a quick, well-written read.

With thanks to Sapere Books for my copy of The Gaslight Stalker.

**BLOG TOUR** The Death Chamber by Lesley Thomson

Today, I am pleased to be the latest stop on the blog tour for Lesley Thomson’s new book, The Death Chamber. This is the sixth book in the highly successful Detective’s Daughter series and looks like being another big hit! I am really happy to be able to share an exclusive extract with you on publication day, and what an extract it is!

The Blurb

Queen’s Jubilee, 1977: Cassie Baker sees her boyfriend kissing another girl at the village disco. Upset, she heads home alone and is never seen again.

Millennium Eve, 1999: DCI Paul Mercer finds Cassie’s remains in a field. Now he must prove the man who led him there is guilty.

When Mercer’s daughter asks Stella Darnell for help solving the murder, Stella see echoes of herself. Another detective’s daughter.

With her sidekick sleuth, Jack, Stella moves to Winchcombe, where DCI Mercer and his prime suspect have been playing cat and mouse for the past eighteen years…

The Extract

Saturday 11th June 1977

 

Like the town’s main streets, the community centre is decked out with Silver Jubilee bunting for the Queen’s twenty-five-year-old reign. Fabric flags sodden by the rain that afternoon sag drunkenly from the shingles. From inside comes the muffled throb of ‘Tiger Feet’… Through steamed-up windows, red and yellow lights – strobing out of step with the beat – resemble flames of an inferno.

A banner is slung across the gable: ‘Winchcombe Youth Disco’. Tottering up to the entrance on their crepe-soled platform shoes, Cassie and Lauren take turns with the Smirnoff. They cling to each other, ostensibly for support, but neither girl wants the other to get there first. Cassie’s eighteen and Lauren’s sixteen, so in a sense Cassie’s always going to get there first. Lauren’s in a skimpy cotton skirt and sparkly tank-top. The shiny black dress Cassie’s borrowed from Lauren reveals jutting contours of a strip-thin figure. Tonight’s the night, Cassie hums to herself.

In the hallway Winchcombe’s youth bellow out Mud’s ‘Tiger Feet’, pushing and nudging in an unruly queue. A whiff of fresh paint in honour of the Queen deadens the summer air.

With vodka-fuelled impatience, Cassie laboriously tells the flinty-­faced woman selling tickets (the bossy cow made her shifts at the Co-op a torture) that her ticket’s paid for. Mrs Glover, in Jubilee bowler hat and Union Jack cape, sternly rips a ticket off her reel and informs Cassie that no one has paid for her and waits in stolid silence until Cassie hands over twenty pence. The disco is kids’ stuff, she’s only come to keep an eye on Karen who was there as soon as the doors opened like the goody-two-shoes she is.

Lauren is pouting at her reflection in a glass-covered notice­board. Amidst the usual business of Keep Fit Classes, Monthly Bring and Buy sale and Scout meetings, are announcements scattered with a riot of exclamation marks: ‘Exciting Events for the Jubilee!’ ‘Royal Coffee Morning! Share your memories of our Queen!!’ Cassie shoulders through double doors into the hall. Adjusting her cape, Mrs Glover doesn’t see Lauren slip in behind her.

Momentarily dazed by lights and the thundering bass of ‘Disco Inferno’, Cassie scours the crowd. She can’t make out faces. She pushes through the press of bodies and as the track melds into Stevie Wonder, she starts to dance. A group of boys huddled by the DJ’s desk, too sober or shy to hit the floor, are mes­merized by Cassie’s writhing moves. It’s as if she’s held by invisible arms. Lauren joins her and they move in unison.

The DJ, with Noddy Holder bushy sideboards and chequered jacket, is old enough to be the grandfather of everyone in the hall. It doesn’t stop him watching the girls watching the boys watching Lauren and Cassie.

Lauren whispers something in Cassie’s ear and Cassie gives a curt nod. She is dancing nonchalantly now, a bored expression on her cool even features. Half the girls in the hall want to be Cassie. Most of the boys, and some of the girls, know she’s out of their league.

An hour later Cassie retreats to the table of twiglets and plain crisps. She takes a pull on the cherry drink bottle. Heatwave’s ‘Boogie Nights’ is ‘their song’. She turns her nose up. The hall smells like the school gym, it’s not the place, this is only a rehear­sal for the real thing. She smiles to herself as the vodka burns her throat.

Time moves slowly when you’re counting the minutes. An hour later, when the Sex Pistols rock the speakers and, in a frenzy of pogoing to ‘God Save the Queen’, Cassie is splashed by sparkling Corona and subterfuge Party Four, she leaves.

She is stumbling past St Peter’s church when the bells strike ten. Twice she veers off the kerb into the road. The second time a car hoots and the driver swears. Her vision blurred by vodka and with only one thing on her mind, Cassie is oblivious.

Cassie Baker has known Winchcombe all her life. Her ancestors are buried, headstones illegible, in the St Peter’s church grave­yard. Numbered amongst these dead is Cassie’s great-grandmother who a century ago died of apoplexy in the doctor’s surgery, now the Lloyds Bank, on Abbey Terrace. Cassie’s not going to let that happen to her. Being Donna Summer, she sings in perfect tune as she lurches down Vineyard Street heading for her future.

She pauses by the bridge over the River Isbourne and briefly dizzied, leans on the parapet and gazes at the blackness below.

‘Night, gorgeous!’ a man with a Sid Vicious hairdo and com­plexion, his arm around a woman with punky blue hair, whoops at Cassie. His girlfriend elbows him and he gives an exaggerated groan.

Years later, divorced and with a paunch, Kelvin Finch will claim the distinction of being the last person, apart from the murderer, to speak to Cassie Baker.

Cassie wrenches off her shoes and carries them dangling by the straps. Making faster progress, she doesn’t care that tiny stones cut her bare feet as she passes the gates to the castle.

On the Old Brockhampton Road drifts of moonlight appear and disappear between clouds. Hawthorn hedges casts shadows so intense they might be chasms in the tarmac. Cassie’s used to the dark, but tonight a sudden fear prickles. Her dad drives home this way. What an idiot! If he sees her, where’s your baby sister and look at you… done up like a tart…

She passes the field where, as a kid, she saw Bambi nibbling moss, or so her dad said. Then the five-bar gate with the outline of the stand of trees that march like soldiers. She’ll take the short cut at the next gate. Although Winchcombe is in her bones, the morbid light presents dips and inclines that are foreign to her. She stops and looks back down the lane. Framed by branches is St Peter’s church, the view adorns crinkle-cut postcards of Winchcombe but now has the quality of a nightmare.

Something’s coming. Her dad’s van. Cassie flattens herself into the hedge. Headlights trace the twists and turns of the lane and rising from the ‘hidden dip’ they catch her in their glare.

Bright spots blind her. The van judders to a stop. One brake light glows red. ‘Boogie Nights’ is playing in Cassie’s head; it’s as if the figure coming towards her moves in time to the music.

Take a look at the rest of the tour:

With thanks to Clare Gordon at Head of Zeus for organising the blog tour.

 

 

 

 

The Vanished Child by M J Lee

51RHw4h2PBLAfter her father’s new wife asks for her help, genealogist Jayne Sinclair embarks on probably the most emotive case she has dealt with so far. On her deathbed, Freda Duckworth confesses that in 1944, she gave birth to an illegitimate son, placing him in a children’s home until she was in a position to bring him up herself. When she was finally in that position, the boy had vanished. With conflicting reports as to what had happened to him, Jayne must investigate one of the most shameful periods in recent history in order to discover his fate.

The Vanished Child is the fourth book in the Jayne Sinclair series and, in my opinion, is easily the best. The storytelling is very emotive, dealing with an issue that many people are still dealing with today – the fate of the child migrants. In the last century, over 100,000 children from the UK were sent to countries such as Canada and Australia for a ‘better life.’ Of course, this better life was not to be for many of the children who were unloved and abused. As someone who discovered two of these child migrants in my own family, this book really struck a chord with me. In my family, two sisters who had lost their mother were sent to Canada despite them still having a father and brother in the UK.

The Vanished Child tells the story of Harry, who is sent to Australia without the consent of his mother, who is desperate to have her son back at home with her. This was the most heartbreaking part of the book – a mother determined to locate her child and a child desperate to be with his mother, but the scheming of the authorities prevented this from happening. Harry was a wonderful character: a boy who despite the horrific life he is having to endure, never gives up hope that one day he will be able to return home.

This was very different to the other genealogical fiction I have read in that, in most of these books, the genealogist is put in some danger as they try to uncover something from the past. Where this book differed, though, is that the focus was firmly placed on uncovering the truth and Harry became the main character rather than the researcher.

If you have never read any genealogical fiction before, this would be a great place to start. As well as penning a sensitive, well-written story, M J Lee has explored a period in British history which still remains unknown to many people today. A must read in more ways than one.

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