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Softly, Softly by David Jackson

FullSizeRenderWhen a man starts to eat at the same place each lunchtime, it’s not the quality of the food that keeps him returning but a woman who he clearly has designs on. What exactly has drawn him to this woman and are his intentions completely honourable?

Softly, Softly is a short story made available to members of David Jackson’s Reader’s Club (see www.bit.ly/DavidJacksonClub to join). This is a standalone story, not featuring any of the main protagonists from his crime novels.

As this is such a short story, I am not going to say too much about it for fear of giving away the plot, but I will say that it is a very clever idea and one that made me gasp and smile simultaneously! If you haven’t been introduced to the work of David Jackson yet, this is a great introduction, and I’m sure you’ll soon want to read the rest of his books!

**BLOG TOUR** When I Wake Up by Jessica Jarlvi

51bS5O6yIKLToday it is my turn on the Blog Tour for the fantastic debut from Jessica Jarlvi.

Teacher, and mother of two, Anna, is great at her job and seemingly well-liked so why would someone beat her so brutally that she is left in a coma? The police in the quiet Swedish town where she lives are investigating but Anna’s husband, Erik, decides to start a bit of detective work of his own. Soon he discovers his wife, and the people of their ‘perfect’ town had secrets they would rather stay hidden. The only person who can solve the mystery of the attack is the very woman who is lying in a hospital bed. Will Anna ever be able to reveal the truth?

It is fair to say that this book did not go in the direction I was expecting and the subject matter was most definitely a surprise! As a result, some of the very descriptive scenes were slightly uncomfortable to read, although they were integral in explaining Anna’s state of mind. What started off as a straightforward ‘whodunnit’ soon became a twisted tale of passion, infidelity and unhealthy fixations. To muddy the waters further, once the main suspects began to cross paths, more and more motives began to rise to the surface.

Each chapter is devoted to one of the main players in the plot. In addition to Anna and Erik, we also have Daniel, a student with an unhealthy interest in Anna; Iris, a local librarian and close friend of Anna, and Rolf, the artist husband of Iris. Initially, I found this quite confusing but once the characters were established, it provided the author with a way of exploring the same event from the perspective of multiple characters. I found it difficult to like any of the main characters, especially as more and more secrets began to emerge, and could fully appreciate how any one of them could be the guilty party.

There were several times in the book when I wanted to shake Anna for the poor decisions she was making, especially when dealing with the Daniel situation, and felt that the whole sorry affair could have been avoided if only she’d spoken to someone about what was happening. Of course, this would not have made a good plot, though!

I think I must have suspected every character at some time whilst reading When I Wake Up, so when the perpetrator was revealed, it was not a huge surprise. Although others had a motive, in the end, for me, there was only one person who could have possibly have done it and I feel that Jessica Jarlvi has chosen the correct one.

This is a great debut and I thank Net Galley and Aria for the ARC.

About the Author

Born in Sweden, Jessica moved to London at the age of 18 to obtain a BSc Hons degree in Publishing and Business. She worked in publishing in the UK for a number of years before heading to Chicago where she edited a magazine for expats. Back in Sweden, she completed a Masters in Creative Writing. Since 2010, Jessica has taught journalism and media at a local university, and has spent the last five years as the marketing and PR manager for a British firm. Last year, she was one of the winners in the Montegrappa Prize for First Fiction at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. Jessica is married with three spirited children, and although she’s known for her positivity, her writing tends to be rather dark!

Follow Jessica

Facebook: @JessicaJarlvi

Twitter: @JessicaJarlvi

Website: http://www.jessicajarlvi.com

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Blood Sisters by Jane Corry

51gh4mWIeqLFifteen years ago, something happened to change the lives of three young girls. Kitty, now brain damaged, lives in a care home, frustrated that no one can hear her thoughts; Alison, now an art teacher, looks fine on the surface but is harbouring a secret she hopes will never come to light, and Vanessa, well Vanessa has paid the ultimate price… Someone is not content with letting the past stay in the past, however, and wants revenge.

Blood Sisters is told from the perspectives of two half-sisters, Alison and Kitty, over two time frames – 2001 and 2016. From an early age, Kitty was the ‘chosen’ one, favoured by her parents and closer to her friend, Vanessa, than her own half-sister. In the sections of the book set in 2001, it was hard to find any redeeming qualities in the spoilt Kitty whereas my sympathies lay firmly with Alison, the academic child who longed for the love of her mother once again. By 2016, however, my feelings towards Kitty had completely shifted and I felt the pain of a young woman who was desperate for a ‘normal’ life that didn’t involve wearing a crash helmet to keep her brain together and yearned for a voice that could be understood.

Although Alison appeared to have the ‘normal’ life that Kitty longed for, it was obvious that she was a very damaged woman due to the events of her past and taking a job as artist-in-residence at an open prison was never going to end well. It is fair to say that you have to suspend reality a fair bit as there are numerous coincidences that happen to Alison, but these events are essential in telling the story.

There are numerous plot twists throughout the book which kept me on my toes as I wondered which way it would turn next. This culminated in a final twist that I did not see coming – changing my opinion of one of the characters completely!

I thoroughly enjoyed Blood Sisters, reading it in a couple of sittings. Highly recommended!

With thanks to Penguin and Goodreads for the ARC.

Love Like Blood by Mark Billingham

LoveLikeBloodWhen DI Nicola Tanner’s partner is killed at her own home, she enlists the help of DI Tom Thorne to catch the culprits. Convinced that the murder has occurred as the result of a case Tanner has been working on, Thorne soon finds himself drawn into the disturbing world of honour killings as he embarks on a hunt for a pair of contract killers who he suspects have killed before.

Love Like Blood is the fourteenth of Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne books, a series that is showing no sign of losing its touch. Never one to shy away from emotive issues, Billingham deals with probably the most controversial to date with the subject of honour killings. We find out quite early on in the story that the perpetrators are mercenaries who, with the aid of a go-between, are killing and disposing of people whose families feel have brought shame upon them. This potentially explosive topic is dealt with in a sensitive manner and the author has obviously done extensive research on the subject, drawing his inspiration from the real-life murder of Banaz Mahmod in 2006.

In Nicola Tanner, we have a worthy accomplice for Thorne – a woman who, despite threats on her life, will stop at nothing to bring the perpetrators to justice. I had to admire her tenacity, even if at times I feared for her safety! For me, though, the best relationship throughout the Thorne series is the one he shares with the tattooed, pierced pathologist, Phil Hendricks – two men who, on the surface, appear to have nothing in common but who are the best of friends. It was interesting to see how well Tanner and Hendricks got on and hope that we get to see more of Nicola Tanner in future books.

There are several twists in the story that make you cast doubt on some of the characters, keeping you interested right until the end, making this a highly recommended book.

With thanks to Net Galley and Grove Atlantic for the ARC.

 

**BLOG TOUR** Day of the Dead by Mark Roberts

51ekD0+0VCLToday I am incredibly pleased to be the next stop on The Day of the Dead blog tour.

When a paedophile is found tortured to death in Liverpool, all evidence points to Vindici, a notorious killer who escaped from custody the previous year. With many people pleased that a threat to their children is off the streets, DCI Eve Clay and her team know that they are going against public opinion in trying to bring the killer to justice. When a photograph of Vindici surfaces, however, showing him at a Day of the Dead parade in Mexico, Merseyside Police had to reevaluate everything they thought they knew – if the man himself is in another continent, does that mean that there is a copycat killer stalking the streets on Liverpool?

I was thrilled to be asked to take part in this blog tour as I read the first in this series, Blood Mist, earlier in the year and loved it! This is the third of the Eve Clay books and, in my opinion, is even better than the first. This is a very clever book, as due to the nature of the crime – the killing of paedophiles – it is easy to see why the police may have conflicted feelings. One one hand, the man is ridding the streets of men who have committed one of the most heinous crimes possible, but conversely, he is still a murderer and so has to be brought to justice.

This is very much a multifaceted plot with numerous aspects that will keep you guessing until the very end. Although the mystery of the true identity of Vindici was not difficult to work out, the circumstances behind the murders provided a plethora of twists and turns that culminated in several big reveals. Towards the end, the plot moved so quickly, I could not put the book down!

Day of the Dead deals with a very emotive subject matter and I was pleased that, although the murders are quite detailed, there were no graphic accounts of what had happened to the children. Instead, I thought that the reactions of the officers dealing with the cases gave enough insight into how sickening and depraved the crimes were.

This, for me, was a particularly engrossing book as, being from the city where it is set, I could visualise exactly where the action was taking place. On several occasions, though, this did unnerve me slightly, as a couple of streets where I have friends and family were named! Thankfully, this is a work of fiction and not true crime!

I thoroughly enjoyed Day of the Dead and would highly recommend it.

With thanks to Clare Gordon and Head of Zeus for my copy of the book.

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Take a look at the rest of the blogs participating in the tour.

Trust Me by Angela Clarke

51O73PAHCPL__SY346_While undertaking some online research for her work, Kate stumbles upon a live video which is seemingly showing a young woman being murdered. After calling the police, she discovers that the video has disappeared and that people are reluctant to take her seriously. How can she prove that this was not a figment of her imagination and that, somewhere, is a girl in need of help? Meanwhile, Sergeant Nasreen Cudmore and her friend Freddie Venton are working on a missing persons case – could the two incidents be connected?

Trust Me is the third of Angela Clarke’s Social Media Murders series, following on from Follow Me and Watch Me and, again, deals with the dark side of the internet. This time the spotlight is on Periscope and how people, anywhere, can watch video clips that are put online. It is, in many ways, a modern twist on the Agatha Christie classic, The 4.50 from Paddington, where instead of Elspeth McGillicuddy witnessing the strangling of a woman when passing on a train and nobody believing her, we have Kate witnessing the rape and murder of a young woman online and the video being removed before her story can be corroborated.

In Trust Me, we see a different side to Freddie’s character in that she is struggling to come to terms with feelings she has never felt before. This angst does not stop her impulsiveness, however, and she is soon infuriating her friend, Nas, who is more adept at playing by the rules. There are times, though, when we see Nas acting without thinking, showing that the friends’ personalities are beginning to rub off on each other.

One of the things I liked most about this book was that, although it is a police procedural, it is not a traditional whodunit. The naming of the culprit is secondary to the actual investigation and the police search for the girl in the video. It is still a fast-paced story, though, especially in the last fifth of the book when one of the characters is placed in mortal danger.

I’ve enjoyed reading all of the books in this series so far and I hope that Angela Clarke has some more in the pipeline!

With thanks to Net Galley and Avon Books UK for the ARC.

 

On Copper Street by Chris Nickson

51zeLbgjVpLThe day after he is released from prison, in March 1895, Henry White is found stabbed to death at his home in Copper Street, Leeds. Local people are reluctant to speak to the police so DI Tom Harper knows that he will have a hard time trying to solve the case. Meanwhile, in a seemingly unprovoked incident, a young boy and girl find themselves victims of a serious acid attack. As the death toll rises, Harper knows that unless he gets a big break, the culprits will remain at large for ever.

On Copper Street is the fifth of Chris Nickson’s books to feature the main protagonist, Tom Harper, and is arguably his most complex to date, dealing with issues that wouldn’t look out of place in a contemporary crime novel. His descriptions of late-Victorian Leeds, however, place this book firmly in the past and it is this imagery that I love the most about this author’s books. Chris Nickson always succeeds in putting a clear picture in my mind of where the story is set, whether it be the police station, the public house of the crime scene. It is clear how much the author knows about the places he talks about in his books.

The mystery is a fascinating one and gives us a chance to see how most of Victorian police work came down to the legwork of the detectives. It was also interesting to see a new role being undertaken by Harper and poses a conundrum for future books – will he be content with being based, mainly, in the office, or will he find himself longing to be back out on the streets?

I have always loved the prominence the author gives to women in this series of books, and Harper’s wife, Annabelle, continues to be a strong character, largely due to her work with the Suffragettes. In an era where a lot of men controlled their wives’ lives, it is refreshing to see a fictional Victorian marriage where the couple appear to be equals.

Another excellent addition to the series.

With thanks to NetGalley and Severn House Publishers for the ARC.

Child Taken by Darren Young

It’s every mum’s worst nightmare. On a hot, summer’s day, two-year-old Jessica Preston vanishes from the beach. Although her mother, Sandra, knows she has been abducted, the police are less than convinced, preferring to think that she has drowned. Twenty years later, Sandra still clings on to the hope that her daughter will be found, and her faith is renewed when she is approached by a journalist, offering to get her story back out into the public domain. When the journalist uncovers a huge cover-up, she realises that someone will stop at nothing to keep the secret of Jessica Preston hidden for ever.

You would not think that this is a debut novel, such is the storytelling and the characterisation. I was drawn in from the start as the retelling of the story starts from the perspective of Sandra and the new ‘father’ of the taken child. Instantly, I felt nothing but despair and sadness for Sandra, and admired her tenacity for never toeing the party line with regards to the whereabouts of her daughter. I willed her to, one day, get the news that she had been longing for – the discovery that her daughter had, indeed, not drowned. The new ‘father’, however, I could not believe how quick he was to accept the child that his wife had brought home.

I also instantly warmed to Laura, the journalist intent on finding out the truth, despite the danger she was putting herself in. Although I did, at times, wish that she had the sense to tell someone about the case, especially when her life begins to be threatened, this would have meant that the terrifying chase near the end of the book would probably not have happened. Although I can’t detail this chase in case I give away some spoilers, it is safe to say that this is one of the most terrifying parts of the book that had me on the edge of my seat!

Like most books of this genre, we are growing accustomed to a twist that completely wrong-foots you. As a result, I did find myself anticipating what the twist would be and I was surprised when I did have it worked out! This did not affect my enjoyment of the book, in any way, however – if anything, it gave me more to think about as I was reading.

This is a fantastic debut and I look forward to following the rest of Darren Young’s career.

With thanks to RedDoor Publishing for my copy of the book.

The Sixth Victim by Tessa Harris

Like the rest of Whitechapel, Constance Piper is living in fear of the unknown killer that roams the streets at night – Jack the Ripper. After witnessing a stage hypnotist perform his act, however, Constance has not been feeling herself and begins to think that she has somehow acquired the powers of second sight. She is soon contacted by a lady who fears that the latest victim may be her missing sister – can Constance use her skills to unmask the killer? Just when she needs her help the most, Constance’s teacher and friend, Emily Tindall, has also gone missing. Is her disappearance linked to the man known as the Whitechapel Killer?

The Sixth Victim is a fictional tale set during 1888 when the infamous serial killer, Jack the Ripper, was striking fear across the whole of the east end of London. I originally thought that this was going to be another take on this age-old mystery but was pleased to discover that it merely provided a backdrop for the main plot and the focus was placed on the missing women and a torso that had been found in another part of London.

I warmed to Constance very quickly – a girl who, although living amongst abject poverty, longs to better herself in order to find a way out of the slums of the east end. In The Sixth Victim, the author has managed to create a very colourful image of Whitechapel, showing a stark contrast between the lives of the unfortunate inhabitants to that of the more well-to-do who live in the grand houses and hotels of London. It was easy to imagine (even with out the aid of Constance’s second sight) the sounds and smells of the area and understand why the women of that time lived in constant fear.

I was not sure what to expect when a supernatural element was introduced to the story as this is not my favourite genre of writing, but I felt that it was written well and allowed the plot to move on at a steady pace. It also appears to show how other subsequent books in the series could take shape. Overall, the plot was a good one and I liked how the author has seamlessly merged fact with fiction.

A great read which promises to be the start of a fascinating new series.

With thanks to Net Galley and Kensington Books for the ARC.

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