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September 2019

The Hidden Lives of Jack the Ripper’s Victims by Robert Hume

People all over the world are familiar with the name ‘Jack the Ripper’, the infamous serial killer who, in 1888, slaughtered at least five women in the Whitechapel area of London. Interest in the case has never waned, with detectives and amateur sleuths determined to work out the identity of the man who instilled terror in the women forced to ply their trades on the streets. But what about the identities of the victims? Their names, Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly are well-known, but what of their lives? Robert Hume aims to show us that these women were more than just the victims of the Whitechapel killer.

Ever since watching the TV mini-series ‘Jack the Ripper’ starring Michael Caine and Lewis Collins, I have had an interest in the serial killer and, as a result, have developed a penchant for Victorian crime fiction and non-fiction. Whereas a lot of real-life crime books devote much of their content to the victims, the early lives of those taken by the Whitechapel killer have been shrouded in mystery. Earlier this year, I read the brilliant The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold, and so I was pleased to discover that another author has taken on the task of bringing these unfortunate women back into the public eye.

Although there are brief discussions about the crimes and some statements from eye-witnesses, the focus is placed firmly on the women and their lives prior to their untimely deaths. This is done in a very readable way and it was easy to picture the squalid streets and the circumstances the destitute found themselves in. Robert Hume paints a very vivid picture of Whitechapel with its crime-ridden passages where the only refuge for most people was in one of the numerous public houses. It is hard to feel nothing but sympathy for these women who, often through no fault of their own, found themselves selling themselves on the street just to find a bed for the night.

One of the things I enjoyed most about the book was the many photos that accompanied each woman’s story, whether it be images of the victims themselves or of the area in which the crimes were committed. It is good to see the women in happier times instead of just in the mortuary photos that feature in most other books about the subject.

The Hidden Lives of Jack the Ripper’s Victims  is a very readable book for anyone interested in finding out a bit more about the five canonical victims or, indeed, for anyone interested in the social history of the poor in the Victorian era.

With thanks to Pen and Sword History and Net Galley for my copy.

 

**BLOG TOUR** The Liar’s Sister by Sarah A Denzil

Ten years ago, Samuel Murray went missing from the village of Buckthorpe, never to be seen again. In a village where everyone seems to know everyone else’s business, someone must know something. Heather Sharpe knows that her sister, Rosie, does – on the night of his disappearance, she saw Rosie sneaking back into her house, via her bedroom window, dirty and with a torn jacket. Now, a decade later, the sisters have returned to Buckthorpe to look after their dying mum, but the past has certainly not been forgotten. With the villagers convinced that the sisters know something about what happened, they make it clear that they are not welcome, and soon, Rosie and Heather find themselves in terrible danger…

This is one of those books that grabs you straight from the start as we read a letter written by Heather to her sister. In this letter, not meant to be read, Heather accuses Rosie of murder, and so the tone for the rest of the book is set. Throughout the book, Heather is incredibly suspicious of her sister who she believes was involved in Samuel’s disappearance a decade ago. It is obvious that something happened that night and that Rosie certainly knows something about it, but what was it that changed the relationship of the sisters all those years ago?

For me, it is the setting that makes the book. Buckthorpe is the sort of village where people bear a grudge and outsiders are not welcome. Even though the sisters spent their childhood there, they are not treated as though they belong and were actively encouraged to move away. It soon became apparent that there is more to Samuel’s disappearance than meets the eye and that there is a conspiracy of silence in the village with regards to what actually happened.

When we finally discover what secrets have been kept, we find out just how far this conspiracy of silence has gone. As the story drew to a close and the shocking revelations kept coming, I found it very hard to put the book down as I was desperate to know what had happened to Samuel and also how it would all end for Heather and Rosie.

This is a great thriller that had me on the edge of my seat. A brilliant read!

With thanks to Net Galley and Bookouture for my copy and to Noelle Holten for organising the blog tour.

Where the Silence Calls by M J Lee

When the charred remains of a man are found at his flat, it is initially thought that it is a case of accidental death. As other burnt bodies are found, each with a cryptic message sprayed nearby in orange paint, Coroner’s Officer, DI Ridpath, begins to fear that there is a serial killer on the streets of Manchester. The detective soon finds himself taken back to the city’s dark past and knows he must close the case before more bodies are discovered.

This is the third in the series and after the ending of the previous book, I was eager to discover what had happened to Ridpath. Fans of previous books will already know that the detective has been fighting a battle with a  serious illness and there is always the threat that it will return. I was pleased to read that all seems to be well (despite an incident nearly putting him back in hospital!) and that things are definitely improving in his personal life.

The nature of Ridpath’s job, seconded to the coroner’s office, means that he is often caught in the middle of his two superiors. As a result, his theories are often overlooked and he finds it difficult to convince people that there is a serial killer operating. It was good to see him working more closely with the coroner, who we find has a personal connection to one aspect of the case. We have got to know Ridpath really well over the three books, but it was good to find out a bit more about the coroner and see a more emotional side of her.

There are several emotive subjects dealt with in When the Silence Calls, namely historic child abuse and homelessness, all of which was dealt with sensitively. I was surprised to find that some of the subject matter was, coincidentally, the same as my previous read (The Quiet Ones by Theresa Talbot), but this did not spoil my enjoyment of the plot in any way.

The mystery is a good one and I was pleased that the killer was revealed as someone in my shortlist of two! If you haven’t read any of the previous books, then this can be read as a standalone, but it is such a good series with a likeable, tenacious protagonist that you will be missing out if you haven’t! Ridpath continues to be one of the detectives that I most enjoy reading about.

With thanks to Canelo and Net Galley for my ARC.

Read my reviews of the other two books in the series:

Where the Truth Lies

Where the Dead Fall

 

**COVER REVEAL** Death at Eden’s End by Jo Allen

I’m pleased to be able to share with you the cover for the latest book by Jo Allen, Death at Eden’s End. This is the second book in the DCI Jude Satterthwaite series, set in the Lake District. My review for the first book, Death by Dark Waters, can be read here. I’m looking forward to reading this one and sharing my review as part of the blog tour.

 

 

When one-hundred-year-old Violet Ross is found dead at Eden’s End, a luxury care home hidden in a secluded nook of the Lake District’s Eden Valley it’s tragic, of course, but not unexpected. Except for the instantly recognisable look in her lifeless eyes… that of pure terror.

DCI Jude Satterthwaite heads up the investigation, but as the deaths start to mount up it’s clear that he, and DS Ashleigh O’Halloran need to uncover a long-buried secret before the killer strikes again…

 

Now to the cover. I love the dark, foreboding sky…

Buy links:

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Google Play: https://bit.ly/2LrQJ2P

Kobo: https://bit.ly/2Loiucm

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The Six by Luca Veste

Six friends, marriage and babies on the horizon, decide to spend a few days revisiting their youth by attending a 90s music festival. The atmosphere of a great few days takes a macabre twist, however, when somebody dies. Knowing that their life will never be the same, the six make a pact never to speak about what happened the night that they buried the body. Now, though, a year later, somebody seems to know what happened and the killing has started again…

I’m a big fan of Luca Veste’s Murphy and Rossi series and really enjoyed his standalone The Bone Keeper, so The Six was a book I had been looking forward to for a while. As the majority of serial killer plots tend to be police procedurals, I was also interested to read one from a different angle. Told from the perspective of Matt, one of the six, we immediately get an inside view of what is going on, his fears and neuroses showing us how greatly the death and subsequent events have affected his life.

Told in the present day and also in flashbacks to their time at school and university, The Six transports you straight back to the 90s, Luca Veste nailing the musical references, providing me with a pleasing nostalgia trip! I did smile at the Britney Spears reference, knowing the author’s penchant for “…Baby One More Time” thanks to his work with The Fun Lovin’ Crimewriters! The flashbacks provide a perfect insight into the pasts of some of the characters, helping us to understand the present-day friendships and also giving hints as to what really happened at that music festival.

From the start, I had convinced myself that I knew where the plot was going to go, only to find my theory actually discussed by one of the characters! This definitely took the wind out of my sails and made me even more desperate to find out what was happening. I was happy with how the story culminated, if a little shocked!

I have purposely avoided talking too much about the plot as I feel that this is a book where you will get more enjoyment by going in completely blind. All I will say is that if you enjoy a creepy serial killer plot that will have you listening out for strange noises at night, then The Six is the book for you!

With thanks to Net Galley and Simon & Schuster for my ARC.

Take a look at my reviews for other books by Luca Veste:

Bloodstream

It Never Leaves You

Then She Was Gone

The Bone Keeper

 

The Posing Playwright by David Field

The year is 1895 and Detective Inspector Percy Enright and his nephew Detective Sergeant Jack Enright find themselves investigating a highly sensitive case. Playwright Oscar Wilde stands accused of homosexuality and with the possibility of high profile names being mentioned in court, the detectives must work to suppress any scandal. Meanwhile, in a second case, which Percy believes is connected, a peer has vanished on a train, and the carriage he was travelling on has also disappeared! With both detectives clearly out of their comfort zones, they hope that, this time, there will be no element of danger for anyone connected to them…

Like the first in this series (The Gaslight Stalker), David Field has used a real historical event as the backdrop for this book, namely the trial of Oscar Wilde. When reading this book, it must be remembered that it is set at a time when homosexuality was illegal and people’s opinions were very much different to today. As a result, some other reviews I have read have commented on the highly inappropriate language used by some of the main characters. While it is correct to find this offensive today, it would have been common usage in the late Victorian era when attitudes, in general, were very different.

Although the title is The Posing Playwright, and the main plot is, indeed, about Wilde, it was sub-plot that interested me the most, and could have been something straight out of a Sherlock Holmes novel. Not only has a man disappeared, but, somehow, so has the whole train carriage he was travelling on! I enjoyed Percy’s investigations on the railway as to how this seemingly impossible feat could have occurred and also learned a lot about the Victorian railway system in the process!

While this was not my favourite in the series, it was still an enjoyable read. I just hope that we see more of Esther in the next book as she only played a minor role in this one.

Take a look at my reviews for the rest of the series:

The Gaslight Stalker

The Night Caller

The Prodigal Sister

The Slum Reaper

 

 

 

**BLOG TOUR** A Pair of Sharp Eyes by Kat Armstrong

The year is 1703 and young Coronation Amesbury, known as Corrie, is leaving her home in Wiltshire to look for work in Bristol. Before she arrives, she is made aware of a killer that is stalking the town, a killer who has already claimed the lives of six young boys. Locals talk of a travelling man called Red John who is slitting the throats of these young unfortunates without leaving a trail – nobody has any clue as to where he is and very few claim to have seen him. When the killer strikes close to home, Corrie is determined not to rest until justice is served…

I am thrilled to be part of the blog tour for Kat Armstrong’s debut, A Pair of Sharp Eyes, a book that will delight all lovers of historical fiction. This is one of those books that hooks you from the start as we meet Corrie, a young girl forced to make her own way in life. Although it is assumed that she is a naive country girl, we soon realise that this is someone with her wits about her, her intuition saving her from peril even before she arrives in Bristol! I immediately warmed to Corrie and couldn’t wait to see where her journey would take her.

In A Pair of Sharp Eyes, you are immediately transported back to eighteenth century Bristol, the language and description painting a vivid picture of the contrasting lives of the rich and poor. It was easy to visualise the run-down home of Corrie’s sister and the difficulty she had in just trying to survive. After witnessing her sister’s life, it was understandable why Corrie was keen to secure herself a job as a maid at the house of one of the more wealthy Bristolians.

Some difficult subjects are addressed in the plot, not least the slave trade. I liked Corrie’s attitude towards something she clearly felt was abhorrent and I loved the relationship she had with Abraham – he was probably one of my favourite characters in the book. The characterisation was something that made this book special, a rounded picture being built of each person, their lives slowly unfolding as the book progressed.

Although the blurb discusses the murders of the boys, and this does play a pivotal role in the lives of many of the characters, there is so much more to this book than a historical whodunit. A Pair of Sharp Eyes provides a fascinating look at life in the early eighteenth century when religion and wealth (or lack of it) played a huge role in determining how a person’s life would progress. I feel that, as we have had several hints as to what has happened in Corrie’s past, there is scope for a series and I hope this is what the author has in mind as I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

With thanks to Hookline Books for my copy of A Pair of Sharp Eyes and to Kelly from Love Books Tours for organising the blog tour.

**BLOG TOUR** The Woman Upstairs by Ruth Heald

When she finds out that she is pregnant, Katie feels apprehensive as she has not been with her partner, Ian, for long. Her fears are allayed, however, when he is thrilled about the pregnancy, even when it turns out that Katie is expecting twins. Alarm bells begin to ring, though, when the house she moves into isn’t the palace she was expecting, and Ian becomes difficult to contact. Paula, her new friend, seems like a godsend, providing her with care and support when she needs it most. With Ian and Paula at loggerheads and Katie caught in the middle not knowing who she can trust, she soon realises that someone is not being truthful. When the truth finally emerges, how will she protect her girls?

I am really happy to be on the blog tour for Ruth Heald’s latest book, The Woman Upstairs, even though I have just about got my breath back and my heart rate is beginning to return to normal! This is one of those books where there is that much happening on every page, you really don’t want to put it down! In The Woman Upstairs, practically every character in the book had a secret that they would prefer to keep hidden.

I found Katie to be an incredibly naive character and yet, at the same time, admired her courage as her world slowly imploded around her. In Ian, she feels that she has found someone who she can spend the rest of her life with, but the alarm bells were ringing right from the start. Disappearing when she is due to have her babies and leaving Katie to move into a dilapidated house when he is supposed to be a wealthy property developer, Ian was definitely not who he was claiming to be. I definitely had my suspicions, some of which were correct, but there was plenty more to be revealed about Ian and his past, much of it shocking.

If I had my suspicions about Ian, these were nothing compared to how I felt about Paula. Looking from the outside in, it was apparent that she was playing a huge game and that she was quickly getting under Katie’s skin. Acting as Katie’s doula, there was one scene, quite early in their ‘friendship’, that made me feel quite sick, and it was at this moment that I knew that Paula was not the woman she was claiming to be. As she slowly undermined Katie, driving a wedge between her and her loved ones, I could see how easy it was for the inexperienced new mother to be manipulated. At the same time, however, I yearned for Katie to just open her eyes and realise what she was allowing to happen to her!

Although there are many parts of The Woman Upstairs that can be predicted, this is a book full of so many twists and turns that just when you think you’ve got it, Ruth Heald hits you with something else to make you change your mind once again! This culminates in a shocking conclusion where Katie finally finds out the full extent of what has been happening around her.

If you are looking for a fast-paced read that will make you gasp out loud, The Woman Upstairs is the book for you!

With thanks to Bookouture and Netgalley for my ARC and to Noelle Holten for organising the blog tour.

 

**BLOG TOUR** Avaline Saddlebags by Netta Newbound and Marcus Brown

It would appear that someone is targeting male to female transsexuals after the bodies of two women, Jade Kelly and Gina Elliot are discovered. Newly-promoted DI Dylan Monroe and his team know that this is a killer who is destined to strike again so will do anything to apprehend him. Unfortunately for Dylan, this means him going undercover at Dorothy’s, a drag and cabaret bar in Liverpool, and the only place that the victims seem to have had in common. With a whole community living in fear, will Dylan find the killer before more blood is shed?

Over the years, I have read hundreds, if not thousands, of books in the crime fiction genre and it is very rare to find something that hasn’t been done before, but Avaline Saddlebags appears to have managed this. This book is like a breath of fresh air with its gritty, at times graphic, plot but with genuine lighthearted moments that had me laughing out loud.

Dylan is a great character, likable, hardworking and prepared to do anything to close a case, even if this means dressing up as a woman and lip-syncing in a local bar! This gave us many comic moments as Dylan tried to come to terms with applying make up and walking in high heels. Perhaps the funniest moment, though, came as his friend Bella’s waters broke, leaving him to accompany her to the hospital in full make up much to the bemusement of everyone he encountered!

Some of this book is not for the faint of heart as we discover how these poor women have been mutilated. One scene, in particular, may make male readers wince! I did find this essential to the plot, however, as it really brought home how depraved the killer was and how mentally unstable they had become. I did not work out who the killer was, although the clues were there all along. I did have my suspicions about one character but was pleased to be wrong!

This is one of my favourite books of the year so far, and I cannot recommend it enough.

With thanks to Junction Publishing, Netta Newbound and Marcus Brown for my copy and to Sarah Hardy from Book on the Bright Side for organising the blog tour.

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