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December 2018

A to Z Reading Challenge

At the start of the year, I decided that I would take part in the A to Z Reading Challenge, hosted by https://gingermomreads.com. Although I didn’t manage to complete it, I only missed seven, so that’s not too bad! I’ve decided to give it another go next year so maybe I’ll be more successful!

Here are the books I did manage to read, complete with links to my reviews:

An Unquiet Ghost by Linda Stratmann

Blood Card (The) by Elly Griffiths

Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough

Don’t Make a Sound by David Jackson

E

First to Die by Alex Caan

Guilty Dead (The) by P J Tracy

Her Last Move by John Marrs

If He Wakes by Zoe Lea

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Killing Time by Mark Roberts

Letters From the Dead by Steve Robinson

My Mother the Liar by Ann Troup

No Safe Place by Patricia Gibney

Orchard View by Deborah J Miles

Perfect Match by D. B. Thorne

Q

R

Splinter in the Blood by Ashley Dyer

Taken by Monty Marsden

U

Vanished Child (The) by M J Lee

Wicked Trade (The) by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

X

Y

Z

Hopefully I’ll be able to manage the tricky letters next year!

Monthly Roundup – December 2018

Another year is over and I’m happy to report that I managed to complete my Goodreads reading challenge! I’d set myself a target of 60 books but read 75, so I’m quite pleased with that!

I’ve read a range of different books this month and have taken part in a few blog tours. One of the blog tours was for We All Fall Down by Cynthia Clarke where I was pleased to be able to share an extract, and what an extract it was! I was also one of the blogs to feature on the tour for the latest book by J. S. Monroe, Forget My Name. I also shared an extract from Picking Up The Pieces by Jo Worgan as part of the huge Urbane Extravaganza, organised by Love Books Group Tours.

Books I’ve Read

61dkqcjG65LThe Mile End Murder by Sinclair McKay

In 1860, a 70-year-old widow was bludgeoned to death at her London home. Although someone was convicted of the murder, it was widely accepted that a miscarriage of justice had taken place. Sinclair McKay examines the evidence and suggests an alternative theory as to what actually happened.

41yMiciSptL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Adrian Mole the Wilderness Years by Sue Townsend

I revisited this thanks to Radio Four’s Book at Bedtime and still found it funny the second time round. The eponymous diarist is now in his twenties and is still struggling with his family, work and love life. Not the best in the series, but still worth a read.

51xSXTTs1CLShe Was the Quiet One by Michele Campbell

A twisted tale of power and revenge, She Was the Quiet One tells the story of the murder of one of two sisters who have just enrolled at an exclusive boarding school. Who has been killed and who is the killer? I really enjoyed this book – a full review will be posted as part of the blog tour.

51ZvNY7p0KL._SY346_The Killing Habit by Mark Billingham

The fifteenth book in the Tom Thorne series sees the detective investigating a spate of cat killings in the London area. He soon deduces that cats are not the only living thing being killed but can he prevent even more deaths?

51bxBROykeLMove to Murder by Antony M Brown

A retelling of the murder of Julia Wallace which took place in Liverpool in 1931. The author puts forward five different theories that could potentially find the answer to the unsolved case. A well-written and researched book wit some very plausible theories.

518TmU9zu2LThe Slum Reaper by David Field

The fourth in David Field’s Jack & Esther Enright series sees them investigating what initially seems to be the accidental deaths of several people. As connections are made to a local slum clearance, however, they soon realise that the deaths are no accident – there is a killer on the loose in Victorian London.

The Murder of Patience Brooke by J C Briggs

After the murder of a woman on the steps of a home for ‘fallen women’, Charles Dickens and the London police force find themselves embroiled in a case which will see them exploring the darkest parts of the capital. A great, atmospheric first book in the series and I’m looking forward to reading the rest.

 

The Asylum by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

This short story is the prequel to the Morton Farrier series and tells us how the forensic genealogist came to meet Juliette,who he would go on to marry. Morton investigates the suspicious death of a woman who spent some time in an asylum in a case that proves to be both emotive and challenging.

 

Books I Have Acquired

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?

 

She vanished into the ice cold night. Is this their only chance to get her back? Get ready for this winter’s most chilling thriller…

It’s been eleven years since Claire Flynn disappeared – abducted without trace from a snowy hillside, leaving her parents heartbroken.

Investigator Darby McCormick remembers the case. She knows there’s only ever been one suspect, Father Richard Byrne, linked inconclusively to two similar disappearances.

Finally, terminally ill, Byrne is willing to talk. But he’ll only talk to Darby.

She’s expecting a confession – but what she hears is far more disturbing.

And it soon becomes clear that someone is willing to kill to keep this cold case on ice…

 

Wishing you all a happy new year!

 

My Books of 2018

As another year draws to a close, it’s time to, once again, look back at what I’ve read over the past twelve months and try to narrow it down to my ten favourites. Not an easy job! Again, I’ve looked back through my Goodreads reviews to see which books I gave five stars to and have chosen from there. Here are my final ten, in no particular order:

 

Don’t Make a Sound by David Jackson

Although I’ve said that my list is in no particular order, this is by far my favourite book of the year. I loved the first two books in the Nathan Cody series but Don’t Make a Sound really is something else. Telling the story of the loathsome Malcolm Benson and the young children he has abducted, this book really did make me gasp in shock as I neared the end. There are not many books that throw me completely off the scent, but David Jackson’s twist succeeded to the point where I had to go back and re-read several pages to ensure that I had read it correctly! I predicted in January that this would be one of my favourite books of the year and I was right!

 

 

Dying Truth by Angela Marsons

The eighth in the Kim Stone series and one that had many devoted fans reaching for their tissues! The investigation into the deaths of some of the pupils at a local school saw Angela Marsons taking the story arc somewhere we never expected it to go. This is a series that is showing no signs of slowing down and Dying Truth is definitely up there as one of the best. If you have never read an Angela Marsons book, you don’t know what you’re missing!

 

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

I’m a huge fan of her Ruth Galloway and Stephens & Mephisto books, so I couldn’t wait to read Elly’s standalone, The Stranger Diaries. Part murder-mystery, part gothic thriller, when the body of her friend is found with horrific injuries, English teacher Clare is immediately a suspect. Clare, an expert in the author R M Holland, is perturbed when a quote from one of his stories is found nearby. This is soon followed by strange comments in her personal diary. Is someone messing with her mind or is there really a supernatural link to the case? A superb read.

 

Her Last Move by John Marrs

A gruesome murder-mystery that is more of a ‘whydunit’ than a ‘whodunit’. The two main protagonists, Joe and Becca, are investigating a serial killer who is stalking the streets of London, remaining one step ahead of the police at all times. This book has stuck in my mind mainly due to the twist that I most definitely did not see coming and is one that you don’t see very often in books of this genre.

 

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

A twisty thriller that had me hooked from the very first page, Jar of Hearts tells the story of Geo, a woman who is about to be released from prison after serving time for her involvement in the murder of her high school friend. Her then boyfriend, Calvin, has escaped from prison and soon there is a trail of bodies all bearing the hallmarks of the Sweetbay Strangler. Is this a message for Geo and is she destined to be the next victim?

 

The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor

This is a bit of a cheat really as I also included it in my books of 2017 but as it wasn’t officially published until 2018, I think I’m allowed to include it again! When a group of boys follow a trail of drawings depicting chalk men, they find a dismembered body in the woods, changing their lives forever. Now, thirty years later, the chalk men have started to reappear… Clever writing and an equally clever ending, I can’t wait to read the author’s next book, The Taking of Annie Thorne.

 

Killing Time by Mark Roberts

The fourth in the Eve Clay series is another dark thriller from Mark Roberts set, as in the previous books, in Liverpool, but also, this time, taking in the United States. When a young Czech girl is found abandoned in a park, there is some relief until the call comes in that two Polish men have been found dead in their burnt-out flat. Are the cases connected? There is, again, another chilling climax to the story with plenty of twists and turns along the way.

 

The Bone Keeper by Luca Veste

When a woman is found near a forest singing a childhood song about ‘the bone keeper’, people begin to ask the question – could the urban legend actually be real? A very eerie serial killer story with more than a touch of the macabre, Luca Veste has created another great protagonist in Louise Henderson (although I am still missing Murphy and Rossi!).

 

Move to Murder by Antony M Brown

The murder of Julia Wallace in 1931 is one of Britain’s classic unsolved cases. Move to Murder examines the evidence, putting forward several theories, asking the reader to take on the role of the jury and come up with a verdict. A well-written and researched book, this certainly made me question my long-held view on the case.

 

Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

I’ve never been a fan of courtroom dramas, but the tagline, ‘The serial killer isn’t on trial. He’s on the jury’ was too intriguing to miss. With one of the worst (and ingenious) serial killers I’ve read about for a long time, this was definitely one of the books that lived up to the hype.

 

So, there you have it. There’s a few that just missed out, but I’m happy with my final ten. Have any of these made your list? Is there anything you think I should have included?

 

 

 

The Killing Habit by Mark Billingham

Asked to investigate the spate of cat killings around the London area, Tom Thorne is, initially, nonplussed. With further thought, however, he begins to wonder if there could be more to this case than meets the eye. Could this be a killer’s first step towards the taking of a human life or have they already begun their reign of terror? Working, once again, alongside Nicola Tanner, she has another case of her own to investigate – the murder of a young man and the links to the drug Spice. With few clues to help them, Thorne and Tanner will soon find themselves in danger as they try to prevent an escalation in both cases.

Tom Thorne is, by far, one of my favourite fictional detectives and I always look forward to the next book in the series. In The Killing Habit, we see Thorne tasked with trying to stop a serial killer before they begin, working on the theory that many serial killers start their ‘career’ by killing animals. He soon has another theory, wondering if the cats could be getting killed in the ‘down time’ between the human kills. This was a fascinating story line and even though I did work out who the killer was, I did enjoy the thrilling culmination.

The other main plot is very topical in several ways. We see the problem of drugs in prison, in particular the rise of ‘Spice’, which has become much more prevalent in recent years. It is easy to see how difficult it is for these men who, desperate to become clean on their release, find that they are indebted to the dealers from their time inside and so find themselves involved in further criminal activities.

The Killing Habit is another great read although it didn’t have the same impact as the previous book in the series,  Love Like Blood. Also, I wasn’t quite sure about the ending: I do enjoy a good twist, but I think I would have preferred the story to have been tied up neatly.

Move To Murder by Antony M Brown

Keen to make some commission, insurance agent William Wallace makes the journey across Liverpool to meet the mysterious Mr. Qualtrough who has sent a message intimating that he would like to do some business. Meanwhile, back in Anfield, his wife, Julia, is being bludgeoned to death at her own home by an unknown assailant. With the police convinced that Wallace has engineered the ‘perfect’ alibi, he was soon arrested and tried for murder. Move to Murder examines the evidence, putting forward alternative theories as to what really happened that fateful evening in 1931.

The murder of Julia Wallace is a mystery that has always interested me and, over the years, I have read many books about the puzzling case. In brief, a telephone call was received at the Liverpool Central Chess Club asking for a message to be passed on to Wallace. The caller, R M Qualtrough, was keen to take out an endowment policy on his daughter, and wanted Wallace to visit him at his home, 25 Menlove Gardens East, the following evening to discuss it. Travelling across the city on several trams, Wallace discovered that the address did not exist and after trying several similar-sounding addresses, he returned home to find his wife beaten to death and a small amount of money stolen.

Wallace was soon arrested, tried and convicted of the murder of his wife, the death sentence being passed. An appeal saw the conviction overturned, however, and nobody else was ever found guilty of the crime. Move to Murder examines five possible theories as to what could have happened: Could Wallace have been the perpetrator after all, did he arrange the murder or was he completely innocent? Other names have been put forward with accompanying evidence to try to sway your opinion.

I have always been of the opinion that Wallace was the victim of an elaborate set-up but Move to Murder is the first book that has made me actually question my version of events. I liked how each theory was backed up by evidence, asking you to take on the role of the jury in deciding who you would find guilty. I also enjoyed reading extracts from Wallace’s personal journal, something which is not included in other books on the subject.

I really enjoyed the format of this Cold Case Jury book and would definitely read more in the same series.

With thanks to Mirror Books and Net Galley for my copy of Move to Murder.

Adrian Mole: The Wilderness Years by Sue Townsend

41yMiciSptL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Now in his twenties, the eponymous diarist is not enjoying life. Still an aspiring writer, his debut novel, Lo! The Flat Hills of My Homeland is not going according to plan and this is only made worse when his schooldays tormentor, Barry Kent, has a book published and is becoming a minor celebrity. His personal life is not faring much better; lodging with the love of his life, Pandora, and her boyfriend is not an ideal situation for Adrian. As his life plummets from one despair to the next, there are little glimmers of hope for our hero that maybe life will, one day, take a turn for the better.

The Adrian Mole series is my go-to set of books that I revisit from time to time if I want to have a good laugh. I remember reading the first book in the series when I was only a child and it is only with hindsight that I wonder if I actually understood what I was reading about! When I saw that The Wilderness Years had recently been serialised on Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime, I decided that it would be a good time to ‘read’ this one again.

Still funny the second time round, it is hard not to feel sympathy for our hapless hero who goes from one bad situation to another with ease. Ever the dreamer, Adrian is still longing for Pandora who is enjoying flaunting her succession of lovers in front of him. When he finally realises that there may be other women out there, more suited to him, we begin to see a much happier character. Of course, in true Adrian-style, this turns into another disaster of mega-proportions!

As always, his family are causing him even more problems. His parents are no longer together and the death of a much-loved family member brings a rare solemn moment in what is a funny book; several moments did make me laugh out loud whilst listening.

Although this is not the best in the series, it is still a very humorous book that I will, no doubt, return to once again some time in the future.

 

 

**BLOG TOUR** We All Fall Down by Cynthia Clark

I am today’s stop on the blog tour for We All Fall Down by Cynthia Clark, which was published by Aria on December 4th. The book has been described as ‘a breathtaking suspense novel for all fans of B. A. Paris and Sophie Hannah’, and I am pleased to be able to share an extract with you. What an extract it is too… definitely whets the appetite!

The Blurb

Many years ago orphans Bea, her brother Sebastian, Helen, Sandra and John lived together in a home, with their carer Miriam. But Miriam didn’t care at all. If you asked the children, they would have said that Miriam hated them. And it’s no fun living with someone who hates you, so the children decided to do something about it… Then a terrible accident changed everything, and the children were ripped apart from each other.

Many years ago Ronnie Moss made a mistake he can never take back, no matter how much he wishes he could, so instead he runs for his life. But he can’t run forever.

Many years later the secrets of the past are finally being revealed, and nothing will ever be the same again.

The wind threatened to knock him off his feet, but he could barely feel it. He walked right to the lorry and fumbled with the keys, his trembling hands making it hard to find the ignition. He was determined to drive back and go straight to Laura’s house, talk to her, make her see sense, promise to quit this job, find a better one.

But as the hours went by, he started feeling less confident. She had sounded so determined. She had not even said goodbye, just hung up. Maybe he’d give her a couple of days to think about it. Take the next job, make some more money, then quit and go find her.

But what if she still didn’t want him back? Laura was the love of his life. He felt so lucky to have her. And now she was walking away from him.

‘Damn!’ He banged his fist against the steering wheel, wanting to be anywhere but in the lorry. He was exhausted, tired to the bone, but he had no choice other than to keep on driving.

He was thirsty. Reaching for his water bottle, he realised it was empty. ‘What the fuck!’ He could stop, find a twenty-four-hour shop. But that would waste time that he didn’t have.

And then he had remembered the small bottle of Scotch he had bought for his father. He’d take a small sip, just to wet his dry throat.

Ronnie rummaged inside his bag, his eyes not leaving the road. Holding the top tightly between his right molars, he turned the bottle with his hand until the seal gave way. He took a sip, the burning sensation in his throat momentarily making him forget the pain in his heart. One sip, then another, and another. Until the conversation with Laura started to seem hazy. Perhaps she was just having a bad day. He’d go to her house and speak with her. In fact, he’d go straight there, not even bother dropping off the delivery, getting rid of the lorry. She’d be pleased to see him, of that he was sure.

He needed to go to the bathroom, but didn’t want to stop. He was bone tired. His eyes kept fluttering shut and he had to fight to stay awake, to keep his focus on the road ahead. His knuckles were white as he tightened his fingers around the steering wheel, willing the journey to come to an end.

Might as well finish this, he thought, looking at the amber liquid. Bringing the bottle to his mouth, he took a deep swig.

And then, as he put the bottle down, he saw it. The blue van right in front of him. The children’s heads bobbing up and down among the seats. Time stood still as he saw it veer right, over the dividing line. Ronnie stepped his foot on the brake, every ounce of strength focused on stopping. He swerved the steering, trying to miss the van.

‘No, no, no, no, no,’ he shouted.

But it was too late. The front of the lorry hit the side of the van. He saw every movement in slow motion. The driver, a woman with long hair, burst through the windscreen and flew in a perfect arc, landing with a thud on the road. The van kept going for a few metres, then hit the boundary wall, flipping over. There were sparks on the road as the upside-down van continued moving forward.

Finally, it stopped, smoke coming from underneath it. Stones from the boundary wall showered down, burying it. Other cars stopped, people jumping out of them and running towards the van. They frantically removed the stones, screaming at each other. Nobody looked at him. He wasn’t important.

Ronnie dropped his whisky bottle. Grabbing his bag, he opened the door and jumped outside. He should go and see if they needed anything. He started walking towards the van when he stepped on something. Looking down, he saw the schoolbag, its contents spread everywhere. Bile rose in his throat and he ran towards the bushes on the side of the road and jumped behind them. He ran and ran, until he was sure that nobody would catch him. He was safe. For now.

With thanks to Vicky Joss and Aria for providing the extract and organising the blog tour.

**BLOG TOUR** Forget My Name by J. S. Monroe

Today, I am pleased to be the latest blog on the Forget My Name tour, the latest book by J. S. Monroe, whose previous book, Find Me, was definitely one of the most shocking reads of last year! It is my pleasure to be able to share an extract with you.

How do you know who to trust…

…when you don’t even know who you are?

You are outside your front door.

There are strangers in your house.

Then you realise. You can’t remember your name.

She arrived at the train station after a difficult week at work. Her bag had been stolen, and with it, her identity. Her whole life was in there – passport, wallet, house key. When she tried to report the theft, she couldn’t remember her own name. All she knew was her own address.

Now she’s outside Tony and Laura’s front door. She says she lives in their home. They say they have never met her before.

One of them is lying.

Tony positions himself in front of the door as I walk past him and up the stairs, my legs heavy with adrenaline. I try to picture the bedroom where I slept, remembering the layout of the house outside, which is single storey at the rear. There’s a sloping roof below the window, above the kitchen. Tiles and a central skylight.

I rush into the bedroom and look at my suitcase. There’s nothing I need in there and I have no intention of taking it with me. Instead, I grab my handwritten notes from the bedside table, skim read them again and fold them into the back pocket of my jeans. My hands are shaking. Tony is still at the bottom of the stairs. I walk across the landing and stand by the bathroom door.

‘Won’t be a minute,’ I call out.

I pull on the light cord and let it ping. Its handle is a carved wooden seahorse. I watch it whirl around for a second, feeling dizzy, and then I shut the bathroom door with its noisy farmhouse latch and tiptoe back to my room, closing the door behind me. The sash window opens more noisily than I expect and I slip one leg out onto the roof, desperate to get away.

‘What the hell are you doing?’

I spin round to see Tony standing in the bedroom doorway, arms folded. I stare at him and then turn back to the window. A robin on a tree in their back garden looks at me as if I’m the most stupid human on earth.

‘Running away isn’t going to help anyone,’ he says.

I don’t move. He’s right. I’ve made a mistake, thrown by the Jemma Huish development and the fact that she lived in this house. I just need to relax, trust the system.

‘I’m worried they’ll think I’m her,’ I say.

‘Listen, I dislike the cops more than most, but if you run now, you’re guilty. Period.’

I pull my leg in from the window and drop back into the bedroom, leaning against the window ledge. I’m embarrassed by my attempt to escape. It was the wrong move. Even the robin has flown off in disgust.

‘I’m sorry,’ I say. ‘I don’t know what I was thinking.’

‘It’s OK. We’ve all run away. It never helps.’

The room suddenly feels airless, intimate. As I pass him at the top of the stairs, he steps into my way and wraps his arms around me.

‘Here, let me give you a hug.’

I suppress my gut response to push him away and allow him to hold me. One, two, three seconds. And then I remove myself from his embrace. My breath shallowing, I follow him downstairs in silence and tell him I need the loo. After locking the door, I rest my forehead on the cold wall in front of me, close my eyes and try to think of the bodhi tree.

Forget My Name can be purchased here for only £2.48.

With thanks to Jade Gwilliam at Head of Zeus for organising the blog tour.

 

The Mile End Murder by Sinclair McKay

61dkqcjG65LIn 1860, Mary Emsley, a 70-year-old widow of substantial means, was found bludgeoned to death at her home in London. Although she lived a fairly simple life, Mary was a wealthy woman due to the numerous houses she rented out around the London area, but this wealth brought its own problems. Seemingly disliked by many of her tenants, she employed a few trusted men to collect rents on her behalf although it was not unknown for her to venture into the roughest parts of town to receive the payments herself. Was her death at the hands of a disgruntled tenant or was the cause much closer to home?

With the body remaining undiscovered for several days, clues were limited. It was thought, though, that due to the woman’s distrust of strangers, and there being no evidence of a forced entry, the killer must have been admitted to the house by Mary herself. The police struggled to find a culprit until someone known to the murdered woman came forward with some information. On investigating this tip-off, the police found that there case had suddenly opened up – they now had a firm suspect for the first time.

The Mile End Murder sees Sinclair McKay re-examining the evidence (or lack of) and coming to the conclusion that a huge miscarriage of justice led to the execution of an innocent man. This was a view shared by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the infamous consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes. He would, some years later, write his own thoughts on the case, The Debatable Case of Mrs Emsley. Miscarriages of justice were not uncommon in the Victorian era, but it is still shocking to see how a man could be sentenced to death on a small amount of circumstantial evidence. The author has come up with another possible culprit although, again, lack of evidence would not see a modern jury find them guilty.

Victorian crime is something I have always enjoyed reading about and Sinclair McKay has written a very readable book dealing with not just the murder but also the social history of the period. The Mile End Murder has been well-researched and will appeal to anyone interested in historical crime of the Victorian period in general.

With thanks to Net Galley and Quarto Publishing Group – Aurum Press for my copy of The Mile End Murder.

 

 

 

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