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**BLOG TOUR** Tubing by K A McKeagney

unnamed (1)I’m pleased to be today’s stop on the blog tour for Tubing, the new book from K A McKeagney.

When Polly is seduced by a man on the London Tube, little does she know that this encounter will lead her into the murky world of ‘tubing’ where elicit meetings on the London Underground take place between strangers. Thinking that she can keep her new pastime separate from the rest of her life, things take a sudden turn when she spots the man with a young, pretty blonde. Filled with jealousy, she watches them. Something isn’t right, however, and soon Polly realises how dangerous this phenomenon is. Can she get out before it’s too late or is she already in over her head?

Before I go any further, I am going to write a warning – if you are offended by sexual content, then this book, which I suppose would be categorised as ‘erotic thriller’, is probably not for you. Indeed, for the first half of the book, I was left wondering if I had been misled by the genre as Polly, the lead character, explores the world of ‘tubing’.

At the start of the story, I had some sympathy for Polly who is suffering from a long term eating disorder and is clearly troubled. Having to deal with her mother’s ‘illness’ is also taking its toll although she does appear to have a stable life both at work and with her boyfriend. After the fateful tube ride, however, things changed and I began to despair of her actions as she realised that what she was doing was stupid. After her second tubing encounter, I was almost screaming at her to get out only for her to get drawn in even deeper.

About halfway through the book, the tone changed into something much darker and it finally hits home to Polly just what a dangerous world she is part of. As her paranoia kicks in (with legitimate reason, I might add), her actions become more and more erratic and I began to wonder whether she was going to make it to the end of the book. I was happy with the ending although, in the real world, the story would not conclude here due to her known association with Sebastian.

Tubing  is a quick, easy read that I enjoyed although any future journeys I make on the London Underground will now take on an entirely different meaning!

With thanks to Red Door Publishing for my ARC.

Take a look at the rest of the tour:

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**BLOG TOUR** Wojtek: War Hero Bear by Jenny Robertson

When a bear cub is adopted by a group of Polish soldiers during the Second World War, little did everyone know that he would become a fully-fledged member of the army, helping out his comrades in some of the fiercest battles of the campaign. Not knowing anything other than army life, when the war is over and the soldiers move to Scotland, what will happen to Wojtek?

Although this book is aimed at 9-12 year-olds, I think that all ages will enjoy this delightful tale of how friendship and hope can exist even in the darkest of times. Orphaned at a young age, Wojtek finds a kindred spirit in Piotr, a Polish soldier who has been forced to leave his wife and children in order to fight in the war. It was heartbreaking to read about how these men had endured tremendous hardship, not knowing if their families had survived or even where they were. The author has done a tremendous job in conveying the horrors of war without making it too difficult to read for younger readers.

Even if this had been a complete work of fiction, I would have found the character of Wojtek truly fascinating and entertaining. Wojtek, however, is not fiction and was a member of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company, helping to move ammunition during the Battle of Monte Cassino. I often found myself laughing at his antics whether it be at the thought of him sitting alongside Piotr in one of the army trucks or when he was indulging in one of his favourite pastimes – drinking beer! This was a stark contrast to how I felt when reading about Piotr’s missing family, which was unbelievably heartbreaking.

Although some of the account has been fictionalised, such as some of the army characters, much of the book is based on real events. When reading a book such as this, a sign that the author has succeeded in telling the story well is that I have a desire to find out more about the facts behind the fiction. I have already read up on Wojtek and some of his exploits during and after the war since reading this book so that is definitely a good sign!

Wojtek: War Hero Bear is a great read – you don’t have to be a child to enjoy it!

With thanks to BC Books for my copy of Wojtek and also to Kelly at Love Books Group for organising the blog tour.

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

**BLOG BLITZ** The Killing Time by M J Lee

The Killing Time

I am pleased to be one of the blogs to feature on the Blog Blitz for The Killing Time, the latest book from M J Lee. The fourth in the Inspector Danilov series was published by Canelo on 23rd April 2018. It is my great pleasure to be able to share an extract with you – and what a cliffhanger it is!

The Blurb

As tensions simmer in Shanghai, children go missing…

Shanghai 1932: Inspector Danilov hasn’t recovered from the death of his child… but across a Shanghai riven with communal tensions, children are going missing.

Missing, and then murdered. Who is responsible? Why have the children’s bodies been exhibited for all to see?

Just as Danilov thinks the stakes couldn’t be higher there is a new dimension, Japan, a rising power flexing its muscles. In fractious Shanghai, an explosion is long overdue. With the clock ticking can Danilov and his assistant Strachan solve the case? The fate of Shanghai may be at stake. So is Danilov’s job… And his sanity.

The Extract

14 January 1932

The 333th Day of the Year of the Golden Goat 

He nestled his hands into the warm gap between his chest and his arm, curling up so his nose touched his bare knees.

The pain from his ear had lessened now. All that remained was a long, dull throb. The blood had clotted and scabbed, caking his neck and shoulders.

One time, he had gently brushed his right ear with his fingertips. One time was enough. The pain had passed through his brain like a scythe through stalks of rice, leaving nothing but stubble in its wake. He wasn’t going to touch it again.

He shivered.

It was so cold.

‘I want Ah Yee. Where is Ah Yee?’ he whispered to himself through chapped lips.

The boy remembered the warmth of his maid’s body as she hugged him to sleep, her strong arms pulling him into the pillow of her breasts beneath the cotton nightshirt.

‘Where is Ah Yee?’ he repeated, like a Hail Mary given to him by the priest in confession.

Only this time there was no priest. No holy water. No golden cross on a white-linen-covered altar. Just the sound of his words echoing off the high ceiling.

He hugged himself tighter, edging his body into the cold corner where the two walls met the floor.

Opposite, the mattress stank of piss and vomit, lying next to an empty stained chamber pot and an even emptier rice bowl.

When had he last eaten?

He couldn’t remember, but his stomach felt as empty as his soul.

Something moved in the far corner. Two electric-yellow eyes like fog lights in the gloom. A high-pitched squeak. The sound of tiny feet on straw.

The boy backed even further into the corner.

‘Where is Ah Yee? Where is Ah Yee?’ He wailed out loud this time, turning his face into the cold dampness of the wall. His voice hoarse, exhausted from hours of screaming.

The wet slime kissed his cheek. A damp kiss like that of his aunt with the rubbery lips and the stench of perfume she bought by the crate on her trips abroad.

Above his head, a small window, its dirty glass covered in dust and cobwebs, let in the dull January light, fighting through the dirt to illuminate the room but losing the battle.

Another loud squeak from the opposite corner, answered by one closer to him, on his left.

He buried himself further into the wall, trying to find refuge in its cold embrace.

How had he got here?

He forced his mind to go back to the time it had happened. Playing in the park. The warmth of the sun on his back. His Ah Yee holding her hands out for him. Being lifted up and thrown high into the air, only to be caught by a man’s strong arms. The smell of tobacco and sweat and garlic on his breath. The roughness of the jacket against his skin.

Harsh clothes. Cold clothes. Not like the smooth silk shirts of his father.

He shivered, curling up even tighter into a ball, trying to get warm. Why couldn’t he get warm?

He looked at the wall. The words scored into the damp plaster with the sharp point of the iron nail stood out clearly against the green mould.

Save me.

Nobody was going to save him.

Nobody.

The rats stopped squeaking and scurried away to their deep, dark, safe havens.

A key turned in the lock.

The Killing Time Blog Blitz

Take a look at the rest of the Blog Blitz!

With thanks to Ellie Pilcher at Canelo for organizing the Blog Blitz.

Links to Book:

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

**BLOG TOUR** Absent by Emma Salisbury

28617089_1961546927401239_1833483103611132346_oI am pleased to be the latest spot on the blog tour for Absent, the new DS Coupland novel from Emma Salisbury. Emma has very kindly written a brilliant guest post about the locations used in the book, something that always interests me when reading a book set in a real place.

Over to Emma:

My police procedural series is set in the city of Salford, in Greater Manchester. I chose it because I was born there and I married into a family of officers serving in Greater Manchester Police. I think Mancunians – or Salfordians if you want to split hairs, are a lot like the Scots (I now live on the East Coast of Scotland). They speak their mind but are kind spirited and will help a stranger out in the blink of an eye. Coupland represents a typical Northern man in many ways, no heirs or graces, never gets above himself and detests that in others. He calls a spade a spade. 

I have used a lot of my old stomping grounds in my plots: Swinton, where my late mother and father in law used to live. My mother in law used to work in the bakers on the precinct and we’d call in for a chat whenever we were passing. My late husband and I shared a flat in Clifton before moving to Worsley, locals will spot the thinly disguised references to Kirkstile Place and Ellenbrook, and Boothstown, where I used to meet a friend from the local toddler group. My younger son was born in Hope Hospital, and spent a week in the special care baby unit so basing Coupland’s wife Lynn there was my way of paying homage to them. Sometimes I am less explicit about the location – I have changed some place names, and even made up some areas, particularly if I am suggesting something negative, after all my intention isn’t to cause offence.

Salford has changed over the years, I mean the landscape, not the people. When you write in any great detail about a location (which I don’t like doing anyway as it feels like a travelogue) you run the risk of the story becoming outdated, so I tend not to comment on large buildings or regeneration projects, although I couldn’t ignore media city rolling up. It’s the same with coffee shops and restaurants, if I want to mention something and I haven’t been to stay for a while I check with my niece: ‘That Little Chef still off the East Lancs Road?’ ‘Nah, it’s an Indian restaurant now.’ 

I love it when readers tell me they were sitting at the traffic lights and they can envisage a scene from the series right in front of them. Another reader sent me a photo her friend had taken outside a nightclub – she thought the doorman in the photo looked like Coupland.

 I just love it when that happens.

The worst things happen in plain sight.

When he stopped a serial killer in his tracks earlier in the year he thought that would be the end of it, but for DS Kevin Coupland his nightmare has just begun.

A child’s body is discovered hidden in a bag, kicking off a major investigation for Salford Precinct’s murder squad. Soon the National Crime Agency roll into town and Coupland is under strict instructions to play nice.

He’s got enough on his plate to worry about politics. A shock discovery in his personal life is starting to take its toll, causing him to make decisions that bring him to the attention of the powers that be for all the wrong reasons.

DS Alex Moreton returns from maternity leave to find her partner deeply troubled, but with a cold case to review she’s in no position to prevent him hitting the self-destruct button.

As he hunts down the child’s killer Coupland is forced to reflect upon his own life and find an answer to the question he’s been avoiding. Is it possible to accept the things you cannot change?

With thanks to Emma Salisbury for the great post and to Kelly Lacey at Love Books Group for arranging the blog tour.

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

**BLOG TOUR** Dead and Gone by D. L. Michaels

I am pleased to be the latest stop on the blog tour for Dead and Gone by D. L. Michaels, which was published by Aria on May 1st.

When DI Annie Parker visits the supermarket, little does she realise that a disagreement with a fellow customer will see her becoming embroiled in a case that will pit her against one of the country’s leading crime families as she investigates a 20-year-old murder. Meanwhile, the life of successful businesswoman Paula Smith should be a happy one. Indeed it would be, if it wasn’t for her alcoholic husband, Danny, who she knows she should leave. What is the secret that keeps her there? In contrast, Sarah Johnson’s life appears idyllic. Married to a man she loves, all is not, however, what it seems. What secret is he harbouring?

Dead and Gone is a police procedural with a twist. After losing her husband and daughter-in-law in an accident, work has become somewhat of an escape from Annie’s home life. Her son has come to depend on her more and more as he attempts to deal with his own grief, often leaving her in charge of her young granddaughter. Now with the added complications her sister brings, the magnitude of this case threatens to overwhelm her. Never one to be deterred, though, Annie comes across as a feisty, no-nonsense officer and one that I would love to read about again.

At first, I did find the format of the book slightly confusing. The story is told from the points of view of the three main characters and, until I got to know them all, I found myself getting confused between Paula and Sarah. Once the story took hold, however, I soon became engrossed in their back stories although I still looked forward to Annie’s chapters the most.

It was inevitable that, at some point, the three story lines would converge and so I was constantly looking for ways in which I thought it would happen. When it did, the twist was not something I saw coming and was definitely a great surprise. It was probably at this point that I started to read a lot faster, desperate to know the outcome of the huge revelation!

Dead and Gone is a great start to a series and I look forward to reading what follows.

With thanks to Aria and Net Galley for my ARC.

**BLOG TOUR** The Wrong Man by Kate White

The Wrong ManAs part of the blog tour for her new book, I am pleased to be able to share with you an extract from The Wrong Man by Kate White.

Kate is the New York Times bestselling author of twelve works of fiction: seven Bailey Weggins mysteries and five stand-alone psychological thrillers, including most recently, The Secrets You Keep. For fourteen years she was the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, and though she loved the job (and the Cosmo beauty closet!), she decided to leave in late 2013 to concentrate on being a full-time author and speaker

The Blurb

Kit Finn meets handsome sculptor Matt Healy on a business trip and the two share a night of passion. They arrange a second date, but when Kit arrives at Matt’s apartment she is greeted by a stranger claiming he is the real Matt and that his identity was stolen.

Realising she has been duped Kit decides to put the encounter behind her. Shortly after, the police ask her to identify a man killed in a hit and run, carrying only her business card, and she is shocked to find the dead man is the person she knows as the genuine Matt Healy.

Kit fears she has become unintentionally embroiled in a sinister web of deceit. With no real evidence to take to police, Kit resolves to unravel the mystery herself. But can she do so before more lives, including her own, are put in danger?

The Extract

For some reason she couldn’t understand, Kit woke on the last morning in Islamorada with the urge to do something a little dangerous in her life. Not like shark-cage diving or parasailing over the turquoise blue Florida Bay. She hadn’t lost her mind. She just longed for something that would make her heart pump harder and her breath catch in her throat.

Maybe it was because her vacation, a combination getaway and business-scouting trip, had been nice enough but had offered up no surprises, none of those unexpected discoveries you secretly yearned for on a trip. Oh, she’d done a kayak tour of the mangroves and she’d treated herself to a hot stone massage. But those were hardly the kind of activities that left you breathless, even though the massage therapist had stressed that the stones were actually “certified lava shells,” as if having them kneaded into your back was comparable to hiking along the rim of a volcanic crater.

Or, maybe the urge was tied to her birthday. She’d turned thirty-five the week before, had broken up five months before with a sweet, nice guy who’d been all wrong for her, and during the days leading up to the occasion, she’d goaded herself to use her birthday as an impetus to go bolder, to be more of a badass at times. As she’d left the office for the airport eight days ago, Baby Meadow, her seventy-one-year-old interior decorating partner, had quoted a line of Mae West’s that kept echoing in Kit’s head: “Good girls go to heaven but bad girls go everywhere.”

But even as she toyed with the idea, she heard an internal warning. Wasn’t the problem with a little danger that you had no guarantee it could be contained? It was like a match tossed on dry brush. Maybe things only smoldered for a while, the embers glowing softly through the night until a light rain doused them at dawn. But with the right wind conditions, those embers could begin to flare, creating flames that would thrash higher and higher in the darkness. Until they torched everything you owned.

She stepped out onto the small, stone patio of her hotel room and discovered that the early April sky was cloudless, and the jungle-like grounds of the hotel—dense with palm trees and sawgrass—looked lush and seductive, in shades of deep green that she rarely liked to use in her work but always felt spellbound by in nature. A gecko darted up the trunk of a tree. Time to get moving, she told herself. It would be crazy not to make the most of her last day.

She dressed quickly—a bikini covered with a sarong and T-shirt—and headed for breakfast, her iPad tucked under her arm. The hotel was a small boutique one, almost motel-like in style but charming and Caribbean in feel. Her room was in one of a half-dozen white clapboard buildings separated from the main building by winding sand pathways. As she came around a bend in the path, she overheard snippets of conversation. It was a man talking, probably another guest up early, too, and after a moment she realized he was on a cell phone. There was a hint of consternation in his tone.

“I don’t want to wait much longer,” Kit thought she heard him say. And then, as she rounded the bend, his words were more distinct: “I’d rather have a few regrets than none at all.”

He was late thirties, she guessed, about six foot two with dark red hair cut short in a kind of Navy Seal style and a closely cropped beard and mustache. Dressed in a pale, long-sleeved shirt and cream-colored pants. He caught her eye and then looked away, lowering his voice at the same time.

As she passed him, she reflected on the last comment he’d made. Perhaps that should be her motto in life, she thought. But how did you guarantee a few regrets didn’t balloon into too many?

Breakfast was included in the price of her room, and she went a little nuts—glistening red papaya, half a muffin, a cheese and mushroom omelet, and a foamy cappuccino—telling herself to get her money’s worth. While eating she knocked off replies to a few emails and checked the news online.

She lingered longer than she’d planned. With half an eye directed toward a headline on her iPad, she grabbed her tote bag and left the restaurant, eager to reach the beach.

And then bam, she collided hard with someone. Her fault for trying to still read the darn iPad. She looked up to see that her victim was the red-haired man she’d passed on the path.

“So sorry,” Kit said. She felt like an idiot.

“It’s my fault, too,” he said politely. “My mind was elsewhere.”

She wondered if it had been on the conversation he’d had earlier. Well, whatever, decent of him to let her off the hook. He held her gaze tightly for a couple of beats, with eyes that were a light but piercing blue.

“Have a nice day,” she said. He nodded and they both went on their way.

She walked the beach and started shooting photos with her Samsung, mostly of the luscious white sand. She loved to catalogue shots of things whose names were the same as colors—like sand, olive, lavender, ash, or bone. It was fascinating to see how many variations there were, and to liberate them all from the confinement of their names. Later, she read and ate lunch under a palm tree by the small, turquoise-bottomed pool. Then she changed into street clothes and took a taxi to a shop in town.

It was on the main road that ran through the island, a kind of honky-tonk strip, but there were a decent few stores, some of which she’d already perused, scouting for her client. The woman had vacationed as a girl in the Florida Keys and wanted the same vibe for a Jersey Shore cottage she’d recently purchased. That was actually part of the reason Kit had picked Islamorada to begin with—killing two birds with one stone. But now she was shopping just for herself. One of the stores specialized in fanciful exotic stuff, including a mounted sawfish bill that she’d practically drooled over.

The place was nearly empty but she liked that. She started down an aisle, relaxed in the moment. And then there he was again, Mr. X, the red-haired guy from the morning, wearing a tight, heather blue T now instead of the long-sleeved shirt. It was as if she’d conjured him up, the way a magician pulls a dove from his sleeve.

“Hello again,” he said, suddenly seeing her. His eyes held hers the way they had earlier.

“Oh, hi. Sorry again about this morning. No injuries, right?”

“No, none at all. Though I should warn you. I hear they’re going to make that illegal in some states—walking while reading a tablet.”

“Good to know,” she said, smiling. “I’ll leave my iPad at home—or use a designated reader.”

He didn’t say anything for a moment, just looked at her, as if weighing a decision.

“Are you hunting for souvenirs?” he asked finally.

“Sort of. What about you? You don’t seem like the type who goes for mirrors with seashells hot-glued to the frame.”

She wasn’t sure why she’d teased him that way. It was a tactic she sometimes relied on with awkward male clients, to entice them to open up.

“I’m going to take that as a compliment,” he said. “I was actually trying to find a gift for my big sister’s birthday. Any ideas? She’ll be forty-one. Nice taste but on the casual side.”

She wondered suddenly if he might be trying to pick her up. But she’d never been drawn to red-haired men. Weren’t they supposed to be brooding or even wildly mercurial, the type who’d think nothing of bashing another man over the back of the head with a bar stool?

“Will you need to pack it in your luggage?” she asked. “If that’s the case, you might want to think small.”

“She’s got a place in Miami. I’m headed there by car tomorrow so I can take it with me.”

“So size isn’t an issue?” she said.

“Not really. But don’t women hate gifts in large packages? They assume you’ve brought them a juicer or an emergency kit for their car.”

“You’re so right,” Kit said. He looked, she thought, like the kind of guy who’d never given anyone a juicer in his life, and if he needed juice himself, he’d just crush a half-dozen oranges in one fist. Maybe he was a Navy Seal, decompressing after a raid on a terrorist cell or Somali pirates. “Okay, let’s see, then…”

She turned to scan the store and then headed down an aisle, with him trailing just behind her. After a minute or so, she spotted a hammered metal frame tucked behind a group of decorative boxes.

“What about this?” she said, easing it out. “A woman can never own enough frames. And this one would work with any style.”

“Even casual? Though maybe a better way to describe my sister is a touch Bohemian.”

“Yes, this would mix with that.” Kit smiled. “I’m actually a decorator.”

“Ahh. Well then, sold.” He accepted the frame from her. “I’m Matt Healy, by the way,” he added like an afterthought.

She was standing so close to him that she could see the light freckles on his face. There was something about him that was both rugged and refined—the cropped beard and mustache contrasting with the sophisticated air. And then there were those freaking blue eyes. When she’d handed him the frame, she’d noticed there was no wedding ring on his hand. Though, of course, that didn’t mean a thing.

“Kit Finn,” she said.

Links to Book:

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

Take a look at the rest of the books on the blog tour:

The Wrong Man blog tour banner (1)

With thanks to Ellie Pilcher at Canelo for organising the blog tour.

**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

 

 

 

**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.

**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.

 

 

 

 

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