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October 2018

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

Talgarth School teacher, Clare Cassidy, is an expert on the author R. M. Holland and teaches his short story, The Stranger, as part of a course every year. When the body of her friend and colleague, Ella, is found at her home, suspicions arise when a quote from Holland is found alongside her horrific injuries. For many years an avid diary writer, Clare commits her feelings about Ella to paper only to find that there is some strange writing in her journal, writing that is not hers…

As a huge fan of the Ruth Galloway and Stephens & Mephisto series by Elly Griffiths, I could not wait to read this new standalone novel. When you love an author so much, there is always some slight trepidation, however, as to whether something new will live up to your expectations. This is Elly Griffiths – of course it did!

Although many books have the story told by multiple characters, I enjoyed the way the author used this device to retell events from different perspectives. First, we have Clare, the main protagonist. As the book progresses, we see her becoming more and more unnerved as she realises how interested the killer appears to be in her. Then, there is her daughter, Georgie. With an older boyfriend and a hidden interest in creative writing, does she know more about the crime than she is letting on? Finally, there is the detective investigating the case, D. S. Harbinder Kaur. An ex-Talgarth pupil herself, she is a great character who, despite the seriousness of the case, provides some very light-hearted moments.

While this could definitely be described as a murder-mystery plot, the inclusion of the mysterious diary entries and the ghostly undercurrent at the school, gives it a slight air of the supernatural. I admit to not being a huge fan of ‘ghost’ stories, but Elly Griffiths has provided just enough of this genre to make it a completely believable read. I particularly enjoyed reading the snippets of R. M. Holland’s The Stranger which were included throughout the book. This provided a Gothic feel and certainly helped to ramp up the tension.

The end of the book had a credible conclusion and, with hindsight, it became apparent that clues had been dotted throughout. The Stranger Diaries has a well-crafted, enjoyable plot and I thoroughly enjoyed reading every page. Definitely one of my favourite reads of the year!

With thanks to Net Galley and Quercus for my ARC.

 

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A Better Me by Gary Barlow

During the 1990s, Take That were the boy band. Sell-out tours, number one singles, adoring fans – they had it all. After they decided to call it a day, everyone expected the career of lead singer and songwriter, Gary Barlow, to go from strength to strength, but this was not to be the case. Finding solace in food, Gary became a virtual recluse, tired of the endless jibes at his expense. A Better Me chronicles the battles with his demons, from his lowest times to the present day where he is happier than ever.

As someone who remembers Take That from the days when they used to tour shops and who still enjoys going to their tours today, I was really looking forward to reading A Better Me. If you are looking for a ‘warts and all’ tale of life in a boy band, then you are going to be sorely disappointed. This is very much Gary’s story – not the story of Take That – and it is one of humour, sadness but, above all, honesty.

As the title suggests, this is about how Gary changed his life for the better, be it through his battles with his weight or his mental health. What comes across throughout the book is how, despite his wealth and his happy family life, he could not find peace within himself, turning to food to fill the void when his solo career did not go how he had hoped. I daresay a lot of people will be nodding as he discusses the numerous diets, some more bizarre than others, that he tried in order to lose weight.

It was fascinating to read his take on the breakdown in his relationship with bandmate Robbie Williams, and he deals with this particular part of his life with brutal honesty. Similarly, he addresses his well-publicised tax avoidance – something I thought may have been omitted.

Gary deals with the well-documented loss of his stillborn child in a sensitive, honest way. I can understand why he had reservations in including this traumatic part of his life, but I feel that he made the correct decision in writing about it. If just one person going through the same thing finds it comforting, then it has been worthwhile.

A Better Me is a brutally honest take on the life  of one of the country’s foremost songwriters and is one that I’m sure all Take That fans will love.

The Silent Christmas by M J Lee

With Christmas fast approaching, genealogical investigator, Jayne Sinclair, only has a few days to uncover the secrets of her latest case. Her client, David Wright, has asked her to research the history of some objects he has recently found in his attic, objects that appear, on face value, to be worthless. Just why, then, has a label, a silver button and a lump of old leather been kept for all these years? By the end of the book, all will be revealed…

The Silent Christmas is the fifth of the Jayne Sinclair mysteries but this novella can be read as a standalone. With the approach of the centenary of World War One, this is a very timely read and one that will bring to life one of the most famous occurrences from the 1914-18 conflict.

Jayne Sinclair is a great character and I like how she uses real-life methods and websites to aid her research. I also enjoy when her past career, that of a police officer, rears its head, in this case when she meets an old ‘associate’ who can help her to identify the items. This character always makes me smile when he makes an appearance!

M J Lee has managed to merge fact with fiction to the point where it is hard to see where the two meet. It is obvious that the author has done a lot of research into the subject and, as a result, has written a fascinating, easy-to-read book. The ending sets up another plot nicely, and I hope we don’t have to wait too long before we see Jayne researching this part of her life.

**BLOG TOUR** Dead End by Rachel Lynch

When the seventh Earl of Lowesdale is found hanging at his home, Wasdale Hall, by his grandson, Zac, it seems as though the elderly man has taken his own life. After doubts are raised by the coroner, it looks as though DI Kelly Porter has a murder to solve. Meanwhile, the disappearance of two young women from a nearby camp site shows similarities to the case of another woman who vanished without trace nearby. With years-old secrets starting to rise to the surface, Kelly has a race against time to solve the cases before there are more deaths.

Dead End is the third book in the DI Kelly Porter series and sees the detective having to deal with the fall-out from her previous case. For this reason, although this could be read as a standalone, there are a few spoilers as to events in the previous book, so I would advise you read the others first. Both of the previous books, Dark Game  and Deep Fear are excellent reads, so you definitely won’t regret it!

I love the character of Kelly Porter – determined and devoted to her work yet without the bloody-mindedness so often seen in fictional detectives. Her relationship with Johnny is developing but her family are posing other problems. I liked the twist regarding Kelly and another character (no spoilers!) and could see how this story has been developed through the previous books. I look forward to seeing how this particular plot progresses!

The setting, the Lake District, provides a perfect backdrop for a missing persons scenario – picturesque yet incredibly dangerous to those not familiar with the terrain. Throughout the book, we spend time with some of the missing women but not their captor which is usually what we see in similar books. This made for a very tense read at times as we read about the horrific conditions they are being kept in and the strength of character of one of them in particular.

There are plenty of potential suspects, each of them equally as shifty. The plot comes together nicely to provide a satisfying conclusion with all loose ends neatly tied up.

This is a series which is going from strength to strength and I am already eagerly awaiting the next book!

With thanks to Net Galley and to Ellie Pilcher at Canelo for organising the blog tour. Take a look at my reviews of the previous books in the series:

Dark Game

Deep Fear

Dead End Blog Tour Banner (1)

 

 

**BLOG TOUR** Arcam by Jason Minick

51Pv5HlKsGLI’m really pleased to be able to share an extract from Arcam the debut novel from Jason Minick. Set in his favourite part of the UK, Arcam is a crime/conspiracy theory and a sequel is already in the pipeline. The extract may only be short, but definitely leaves me wanting to read more!

The Blurb

DCI Jack Robson believes he is hunting a kidnapper…

Away from his posting in London, Robson is asked to lead an investigation in the south west of England. But what begins as a baffling local kidnapping mystery, quickly escalates into something far more sinister.

In pursuit of the perpetrators, DCI Robson joins forces with Inspector Emma Wilson and the rest of the regional CID team. Together, they attempt to make sense of the lack of evidence or motive, eventually getting drawn to the tiny island of Steep

Holm, in the Bristol Channel.

As the investigation progresses, Robson, Wilson and their colleagues find themselves facing something far beyond normal detective work. Unthinkable connections lead them to a conspiracy, so great it could change the course of humanity. The question is, can they intervene before it’s too late to prevent the appalling future that potentially lies ahead …

The Extract

She hadn’t noticed the horror spreading across her father’s face as he stood rooted to the rock ten yards away, eyes unblinkingly fixed on the dark, soaking wet industrial safety boots.

Unlike her keen-eyed father, Ellie hadn’t noticed the discolouring around the boots where they protruded from the seaweed. When he spoke again, she looked up instantly, detecting the anxiety in his shaky request.

“Ellie. Come here now please, darling.”

“What’s the matter, Daddy?” She began to cry in reaction to her father’s tone.

He swept across the area of slimy rocks that separated them and stretched forward to take her by her arm. The pain of the fall wouldn’t hit him until later – it was the grim vision that presented itself which terrorised him, as he slipped and landed on his backside a few feet away from the boots. The seaweed in front of him parted with the disturbance, to reveal the ghostly wide eyes of a man beneath the shallow surface. Ellie screamed instinctively as she watched her father vomit over the seaweed.

With thanks to Kelly at Love Books Group Tours for organising the tour and to the author for providing a brilliant extract!

Arcam

The book can be purchased here.

Contact Jason Minick on Twitter : @JMinick_Author

 

Fatal Promise by Angela Marsons

41137013The past comes back to haunt Detective Kim Stone when the body of Gordon Cordell is found in local woodland. His connections to her previous case stir up memories that none of her team are prepared to face, but who would want the doctor dead? When his son is involved in a horrific car crash and the body of another woman is found, Kim realises that there is a particularly sadistic serial killer on the loose. Just what connects the victims and can Kim and her team prevent the killer from achieving their ultimate aim?

After the traumatic events in the previous book, Angela Marsons could be excused for writing a slightly less emotional tale this time round but this is definitely not the case! The team are still coming to terms with the loss of one of their own, the empty desk being a stark reminder of the heroism of one of their colleagues. The addition of a new member to the close-knit team was never going to go down well and I feel that their feelings of grief was dealt with in a realistic and sensitive way.

The main murder story has a very tight plot where little clues are thrown in along the way to aid your attempt in solving the case. Due to what has gone before, Kim’s judgement is somewhat clouded and it was interesting to see a more vulnerable side to the usually unflappable detective. The theme of grief definitely runs through this book and it can be seen quite clearly in this case, showing how different people deal with emotional trauma in different ways.

There is also a sub-plot involving a missing girl where Stacey is able to show her own tenacious ways. It was great to see Stacey come out from behind the desk and show what a great detective she is becoming. I do, however, admit to being extremely worried as she was investigating on her own – memories of Dead Souls are still etched on my brain!

I am running out of words to describe this superb series, so all I will say is that this yet another wonderful book and I look forward to the next Kim Stone installment.

With thanks to Bookouture and Net Galley for my ARC.

 

**BLOG TOUR** Vendetta by Heather Burnside

APMlSwrwToday, I am taking part in the blog tour for Vendetta, the latest book from Manchester-based author, Heather Burnside. Like her previous books SlurA Gangster’s Grip and Danger by AssociationVendetta is a Manchester-set crime thriller. I am pleased to be able to share an extract from the book with you.

The Blurb

When Adele’s brother, Peter, gets banged up for GBH she reluctantly agrees to run his nightclub, The Golden Bell. Strong opposition from Peter’s thuggish number two, Glynn, who isn’t best pleased about answering to a woman, isn’t the only challenge she faces.

The Manchester club scene of the 1990s is a dangerous place, at the mercy of illicit protection rackets and rampaging gangs, and, despite Adele’s efforts to keep everything legal, the club is beginning to feel like a poisoned chalice.

Meanwhile, Glynn is playing his own ruthless game, and when a savage gang attack has devastating consequences Adele is ready to walk away. But Peter has always stood by her and she owes him big time. Besides, where else would an ex-con find work? And someone has to protect her brother’s empire from his enemies. Right now, Adele knows she is the only one that Peter can trust, but the stakes may soon get too high…

The Extract

Adele had now been managing the Golden Bell for several weeks. She was enjoying the challenge but it was difficult trying to keep up with the office work while also keeping an eye on things inside the club. It was late when she arrived at work on that Monday after another busy weekend. She walked up the back stairs carrying her cup of freshly brewed coffee, which she’d collected from a nearby sandwich shop.

On the way to her office she passed her brother’s old office and spotted Glynn through the door that was slightly ajar. Not for the first time she felt a pang of irritation at the way he had made himself so at home in Peter’s office. She wondered just what he found to do in there or was it perhaps just his way of making a statement?

‘Morning!’ he shouted sarcastically as she tried to creep past unnoticed.

Adele grunted in response then continued on her way. Yet again she could feel annoyance burgeoning inside her and regretted her decision to retain her old office. Initially she had planned to move into Peter’s office but had then changed her mind when she’d realised the logistics of shifting all her files and computer. But the main reason she had decided to keep her old office was because the safe was kept there, and she wanted it where she could see it.

Adele hadn’t been at her desk long when she received a call from Glynn to say that a lady had arrived to see her.

‘OK, send her to my office,’ she instructed.

‘What’s it about?’ he asked as though he had a right to know.

‘You’ll find out soon enough,’ said Adele, quickly replacing the telephone receiver.

Expecting a knock on her office door, Adele was surprised when two minutes later Glynn barged in instead. ‘Hang on there a minute,’ he said to someone outside the door. Then, looking across at Adele, he said, ‘It’s Margaret Jackson to see you.’

The statement sounded more like a question but Adele wasn’t prepared to let him know just who Margaret Jackson was. At least, not yet anyway.

‘OK, send her in, please,’ she said frostily.

Glynn spun around but was stopped by Adele just as he was walking back out of the door. ‘Oh, and, Glynn?’ she said. He turned back till he was facing her again, a look of annoyance on his face. ‘Can you make sure Peter’s office is clear and tidy, please? I’m going to need it shortly.’

‘What d’you mean?’ he asked, his tone aggressive and his eyebrows knitted together in anger. ‘I’m working in there.’

‘What exactly are you doing?’ she asked.

He sidled up to her desk, leaning across till his face was inches from hers, then said in a low growl, ‘None of your fuckin’ business.’

Adele felt the first stirrings of fear as her heart rate speeded up. ‘It is my business,’ she said, trying to disguise the slight quiver in her voice. ‘Peter’s left me in charge so I decide who works where. You shouldn’t need an office anyway. I mean, security isn’t exactly an office-based job, is it?’

She didn’t hide the cynicism she displayed whenever discussing security with Glynn. They both knew it was a glorified title used to describe what really went on. It was a protection racket. Glynn and his gang would offer to protect pubs and clubs from trouble, at a price. If the owners and landlords didn’t buy into their services, Glynn and his gang would make things very difficult for them until they paid up.

Adele had a good idea of what their work entailed, and she wanted nothing to do with it. She’d agreed to run Peter’s legal businesses but wasn’t prepared to get involved in the shadier side of things, which Peter had left in Glynn’s hands.

‘I’ve got things I need to sort out and I need a fuckin’ office to do it in,’ he snarled.

‘And what sort of things are they?’ she asked, knowing he wouldn’t want to discuss any of his activities with her.

‘None of your fuckin’ business,’ he repeated, then he stomped out of the office, leaving Margaret Jackson outside in the corridor.

‘Come in!’ shouted Adele, realising that the poor woman would be bemused by Glynn’s lack of manners.

Margaret Jackson strode into the office. Aged in her late forties, she stood tall and smart in a grey tweed fitted jacket and black knee-length skirt. Her hair was drawn back from her handsome face in neat layers. It was a face that spoke of experience and a no-nonsense approach, and Adele noticed a wry smile cross her lips and an amused twinkle light up her eyes as she approached the desk.

‘Don’t worry about him,’ said Adele. ‘Please, take a seat. What can I get you to drink?’

‘Nothing for me, thanks,’ said Margaret, who appeared unfazed despite Glynn’s stroppiness.

Adele smiled across the desk at her, sure in her own mind that Margaret was the perfect choice for the job of bookkeeper and personal assistant. As she took in Margaret’s cool demeanour she knew that this woman wouldn’t let Glynn push her around. And she was the perfect age too. Adele had had enough of Glynn flirting with the bar staff downstairs; she could do without him playing up to the office staff too.

‘So, Margaret,’ Adele began. ‘I explained to you in the interview that you would be responsible for all the accounts for the nightclub, the sunbed shops and the bookmakers. I’ll be in as much as I can to help you but with the nightclub to run it won’t always be early, I’m afraid.’

‘That’s all right,’ Margaret assured her. ‘If there’s anything I’m not sure about I can always put it to one side till you’re available.’

As Adele ran through the basic requirements with Margaret, she warmed to her more and more. Margaret had a confident, efficient air about her and Adele felt sure that she would be leaving things in capable hands. It was a relief because she was struggling to keep up with everything since she had taken on responsibility for all Peter’s businesses, and it would be good to have a second pair of hands.

When she had finished explaining everything to Margaret, Adele said, ‘Oh, there’s just one more thing. Glynn runs a security business for my brother. You won’t really find yourself getting involved in that side of things but the security staff will sometimes come to put the takings in the safe until we can take them to the bank the following day.’

Margaret nodded her understanding although Adele wasn’t sure that Margaret knew what was meant by ‘security’. ‘I want you to have a spare set of keys to my office and the safe,’ Adele continued. ‘If I’m not around would you please make sure you count the cash and lock it up in the safe? Also, ask which of the businesses it relates to, whether it’s one of the sunbed shops, the bookmakers or security. We bank the money for the security business but other than that you won’t have to get involved.’

‘Yes, certainly,’ said Margaret.

‘Right, well, I guess that’s about it, then,’ said Adele. ‘The only thing that’s left is for me to show you your new office.’ Then she got up from her seat, walked past Margaret and said, ‘Follow me.’

To Adele’s consternation when she reached Peter’s office Glynn was still sitting at the desk. He quickly slipped some papers inside a file as she knocked sharply on the door then stepped inside.

‘Glynn, I think it’s time for me to introduce my new bookkeeper and personal assistant, Margaret Jackson,’ she said.

Margaret strode confidently across the room and grasped Glynn’s hand then shook it profusely. ‘Pleased to meet you,’ she said, with a hint of sarcasm.

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With thanks to Vicky Joss for organising the blog tour.

Buy links

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2OYW3JI

iBooks: https://apple.co/2MpVHz7

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2P2v1Bt

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2OW79PR

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Monthly Round Up – September 2018

After such a great reading month in August, September has been the complete opposite! Work and a dreaded cold has prevented me from reading as much as I would have liked  but I did manage to read two of the books I had been eagerly anticipating. I did manage to feature on several blog tours, sharing some great extracts and reviews:

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The Home by Karen Osman

I was able to share an extract of The Home, the latest book from Karen Osman whose previous book, The Good Mother, was one of my favourites of 2017.

 

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The Body on the Shore by Nick Louth

A plot that took me in a completely different direction than I was expecting! A tense, high-octane read with plenty of action. My review formed part of the blog tour.

 

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Keep Her Silent by Theresa Talbot

What starts off as a serial killer plot soon escalates into a story about a real-life scandal. My review for this intriguing book was part of the blog tour at the beginning of the month.

 

Full-Metal-Cardigan-Front-CoverFull Metal Cardigan by David Emery

Even a crime fiction fan needs a little light relief at times and while these memoirs of a social worker do, at times, detail some shocking tales, this was a book that definitely had me laughing out loud.

 

Books I Have Read

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Dead End by Rachel Lynch

The third in the Kelly Porter series investigates the disappearance of several young women in the Lake District and the suspicious suicide of the local lord of the manor. My review will form part of the blog tour.

 

img_1321Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane by Paul Thomas Murphy

This real-life story of a long-forgotten murder in Victorian England is a fascinating tale of how important it is to build up your case before going to trial…

 

51BH3yWrGhL._SY346_Tell Nobody by Patricia Gibney

The fifth Lottie Parker book is an emotional tale of murder and child abuse. This is a series that just keeps getting better.

 

 

41137013Fatal Promise by Angela Marsons

After the emotional rollercoaster that was the previous book, the ninth Kim Stone book is another superb read that all fans of the wonderful Angela Marsons will absolutely love.

 

Books I Have Acquired

The Stranger Diaries

A gripping contemporary Gothic thriller from the bestselling author of the Dr Ruth Galloway mysteries: Susan Hill meets Gone Girl and Disclaimer.

Clare Cassidy is no stranger to tales of murder. As a literature teacher specialising in the Gothic writer R.M. Holland, she teaches a short course on them every year. Then Clare’s life and work collide tragically when one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from an R.M. Holland story by her body. The investigating police detective is convinced the writer’s works somehow hold the key to the case.

Not knowing who to trust, and afraid that the killer is someone she knows, Clare confides her darkest suspicions and fears about the case to her journal. Then one day she notices some other writing in the diary. Writing that isn’t hers…

Teacher Teacher

 

It’s 1977 and Jack Sheffield is appointed headmaster of a small village primary school in North Yorkshire. So begins Jack’s eventful journey through the school year and his attempts to overcome the many problems that face him as a young and inexperienced headmaster.

The many colourful chapters include Ruby the 20 stone caretaker with an acute spelling problem, a secretary who worships Margaret Thatcher, a villager who grows giant carrots, a barmaid/parent who requests sex lessons, and a five-year-old boy whose language is colourful in the extreme. And then there’s also beautiful, bright Beth Henderson, who is irresistibly attractive to the young headmaster…

Warm, funny and nostalgic, Teacher, Teacher is a delightful read that is guaranteed to make you feel better, whatever kind of day you’ve had.

 

As a big fan of Elly Griffiths, I can’t wait to read The Stranger Diaries this month! Happy reading!

 

 

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