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**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)

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**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** 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.

 

 

 

 

**BLOG TOUR** 29 Seconds by T. M. Logan

29 SECONDSToday, I’m really pleased to be the latest stop on the blog tour for 29 Seconds by T. M. Logan. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this book so am pleased to be able to share an extract with you!

The Blurb

Give me one name. One person. And I will make them disappear . . .

When Sarah rescues a young girl in trouble, she expects nothing in return. But her act of bravery puts a powerful and dangerous man in her debt. He lives by his own brutal code, and all debts must be repaid – in the only way he knows how.

He offers Sarah a way to solve a desperate situation with her intolerable boss. A once-in-a-lifetime deal that will make all her problems disappear.

No consequences. No comeback. No chance of being found out.

All it takes is a 29 second phone call.

BECAUSE EVERYONE HAS A NAME TO GIVE. DON’T THEY?

 

The Extract

Sarah lay in Laura’s spare bed, exhausted and fuzzy-headed from red wine, but unable to sleep. Staring at the glowing red numbers of the clock radio on the bedside table as they clicked onwards, minute by minute.

3.09.

It still felt like a dream. All of it. The little girl, Aleksandra, the scarred man, Volkov and his unbelievable offer. It all seemed to belong to another life, a different person. Not her life. She wanted it to be a choice that someone else had to make, someone else’s problem to solve. She floated in that for a minute, halfway between sleep and wakefulness, hoping that it was all just a product of her imagination.

You give me one name. One person. And I will make them disappear.

But it wasn’t a dream. It was real. It was her life.

Her choice.

A choice between reason and passion. Between logic and emotion. And when had that ever been a fair fight?

She had not asked for more details, and she realised now that this had been a mistake. What did disappear even mean? It could mean all kinds of things. Was it that they were sent away, far away, and never came back? That they were threatened, to make them flee the life they knew, or face the consequences? Paid off and set up in a new life somewhere far away?

None of these options seemed very likely. Not as likely as the most obvious answer. The obvious answer being that they vanished . . . permanently.

She thought about the little phone Volkov had given her. Did it even have any charge?

She should turn it on and check, just in case. Bad idea. Because turning it on would mean she was another step closer to looking at the single number stored in its memory.

And then she’d just have to dial the number and say two words:

Alan Lovelock.

And her problems would vanish – if the offer was to be believed. Laura had nearly persuaded her, almost convinced her, that she should take Volkov’s offer – without even realising what she was saying. Almost, but not quite.

Sarah turned on the bedside light, reached down to her handbag, burrowed inside it until her hand closed around the smooth plastic shape of the mobile she’d been given.

What had he called it? A throwaway phone. She held it in her palm, the case cool to the touch. It was the only thing she had, the only evidence, that she had not imagined the whole encounter with Volkov – this little rectangle of black plastic was proof that it was real, that he was real, that his offer was real. She turned it over in her hand, feeling the weight of it. Just a few ounces. Nothing more.

She flipped the phone open.

Just switch it on. It probably hasn’t got any charge left anyway. Just switch it on to check.

Where’s the harm in that?

Her thumb hovered over the power button.

TM Logan
T. M. Logan

 

29 Seconds is pubished by Zaffre and is available now.

With thanks to Emily Burns for organising the blog tour.

 

**BLOG TOUR** Last of the Summer Moët by Wendy Holden

Holden_02_LAST OF THE SUMMER MOET_previewToday I  am pleased to be the latest stop on the blog tour for Last of the Summer Moët by Wendy Holden and am delighted to share an extract with you!

Top reporter Laura Lake has struck journalistic gold.

She’s discovered a super-exclusive English village where the rich and famous own weekend retreats. Where film stars, Turner-prize winners and Cabinet ministers park their helicopters outside the gastropub and buy £100 sourdough loaves from the deli.

Outsiders are strictly forbidden. But luckily Laura’s best friend Lulu, a logo-obsessed socialite with a heart as huge as her sunglasses, suddenly fancies a quiet life in the country. The door to this enchanted rural idyll opens for Laura. Revealing a great professional opportunity.

Can Laura write an exposé before the snobbish villagers suss her true identity? And before the world’s poshest pub quiz triggers a political scandal not seen since Profumo?

The Extract

Laura’s phone now rang, and while she meant to ignore it in the face of this latest twist in the drama, her screen told her that this was, at last, the elusive Brad Plant. The representative on Earth of Savannah Bouche was finally gett ing in touch.

‘Buckingham Palace,’he snarled in his nasal American tones.

‘What?’ Laura was confused.

‘Buckingham Palace? You know it? Big building at the top of the Mall?’ He pronounced it ‘maul’.

‘Of course I do. What about it?’

‘Miss Bouche wants to go on a tour of it. With you. While you interview her.’

Wendy Holden pic_preview
Wendy Holden

Laura only half heard. Her attention was on Carinthia’s office door. Christopher Stone had closed it behind him, and nothing could be heard from within. What was going on?

‘You still there?’snarled Plant from the other end.

Laura forced herself to concentrate. ‘Buckingham Palace? She wants to meet there?’

Was there a worse option in the whole of London? Buckingham Palace had famously huge queues. There would be crowds of mobbing tourists. There had to be a better alternative. ‘What about a pod in the London Eye?’

‘Miss Bouche wants the Palace,’ Brad cut in. ‘We’ve arranged a private tour.’

Oh, what did any of it matter, Laura thought. Carinthia was almost certainly being sacked, at this very moment. Which meant that, as her deputy, she would be next.

Not for the first time since coming to Society she was facing the prospect of being fired for no fault of her own. What was unusual was that this time Clemency Makepeace had nothing to do with it.

‘Okay,’ she said to Brad Plant.

And so it was arranged. Laura – presuming she was still in gainful employment – was to present herself at the main palace entrance at ten o’clock on Monday morning.

She put the phone down at the precise moment Christopher Stone emerged from Carinthia’s office. His lightly tanned face wore its usual calm expression, but there was a clench to his jaw and a light to his eyes that made Laura fear the worst.

Her heart sank as, in his gleaming handmade shoes, he rapidly traversed the black carpet tiles between them and stopped before her desk. Laura shot to her feet at the precise moment that Christopher Stone placed a pair of lightly tanned knuckles down on the table and leant over towards her. The collision was sharp and violent.

‘Ow!’ howled the CEO of the British Magazine Company, reeling away and clutching his smoothly shaved face.

Laura was rooted to the spot, buzzing with the horror of having headbutted the man described in a recent piece by the Financial Times as the most powerful man in magazine publishing. That really was it, then. Whatever slim chance there had been had evaporated. She was surely finished now.

Stone turned back towards Laura. He was still holding his chin, and his watering eyes glittered coldly. She cringed inwardly, expecting marching orders of the most vehement persuasion.

‘Carinthia is leaving,’ Stone told her.

Laura bowed her head. So it really was all over.

‘Arrangements are being made for her to enter a rehabilitation facility,’ Stone went on, in the light, clipped voice that belied the heft of the power he wielded. He paused and looked Laura keenly up and down. She waited to be informed that her services were no longer required either.

‘You will edit Society until she returns.’

Last of the Summer Moët blog tour banner_preview

**BLOG TOUR** The Bad Daughter by Joy Fielding

Today, I am pleased to be able to share with you an extract from Joy Fielding’s latest book, The Bad Daughter, which will be published on 27th February.

The Blurb

STRANGER. LIAR. KILLER?

YOU CANT TRUST THE BAD DAUGHTER . . .

Robin Davis hasn’t spoken to her family in six years.

Not since it happened.

Then they’re attacked; left fighting for their lives.

And Robin is back.

All families have their secrets.

And one of theirs may have put them all in terrible danger . . .

YOU CAN ALWAYS TRUST YOUR FAMILY . . . CAN’T YOU?

 

The Extract

Robin climbed out of the too hard queen-size bed and shuffled toward the bathroom. Why do all motel rooms look alike? she wondered. Is there some union rule that dictates they all be uninteresting rectangles in shades of beige and brown? Not that she was an expert in motel decor, having stayed in only a few over the years. She’d gone from her parents’ crowded house in Red Bluff to a dorm room at Berkeley, back to her parents’ house to work and earn money to continue her education, on to a small shared apartment off campus, then back and forth between Berkeley and Red Bluff to help care for her mother, then on to a cramped studio apartment in Los Angeles, and finally to the spacious two-bedroom unit she shared with Blake.

Blake, she thought, silently turning the name over on her tongue as she stepped into the tub. What must he be thinking? She turned on the faucet for the shower, then had to brace herself against the wall as a torrent of ice-cold water shot from the showerhead.

Blake would be furious with her.

She hadn’t called him since yesterday afternoon. Even then, she hadn’t spoken to him directly, but just left a message with his pretty new assistant to the effect that she had to go to Red Bluff to deal with a family emergency and she’d call him later. Then she’d canceled the week’s remaining appointments, gone home to pack a small suitcase, and taken a cab to the airport, where she’d boarded the first available flight to Sacramento, arriving at almost six o’clock in the evening. The bus to Red Bluff didn’t leave till the next morning, but the thought of renting a car and making the drive herself had proved too daunting, and in truth, she was in no hurry to get there. Instead she’d found a motel close to the bus terminal and checked in. She’d eschewed dinner, instead wolfing down a Three Musketeers bar she got from the vending machine down the hall.

She also resisted turning on the TV, hoping to avoid reports of the shooting. She could handle only so much information, process only so much. She really didn’t want to know every awful detail yet.

She thought about calling Blake again, but then remembered he’d said something about a dinner meeting with clients, so why bother? He was busy. He was always busy. Too busy to phone, obviously. Too busy to spare a few seconds to inquire as to what sort of family emergency would necessitate her taking off like that, to return to a place she’d sworn never to go back to. Would it have been so hard for him to interrupt one of his seemingly endless meetings to call her, to feign at least a modicum of interest?

So maybe he wouldn’t be furious that she hadn’t tried contacting him again. Maybe he’d be relieved. Maybe she’d finally handed him the ammunition he’d been waiting for to end their relationship once and for all.

Not that he could do anything to help the situation, she reminded herself. His specialty was corporate law, not criminal law. And it wasn’t as if he even knew her father. Or her sister. Or any member of her screwed-up family, except her brother, Alec, who lived in San Francisco, so they’d actually met only twice. She’d left a message for Alec, but he hadn’t called her back either. So screw both of them, she’d decided, turning off her cell phone and climbing into bed at barely eight o’clock.

Joy Fielding is the New York Times bestselling author of Charley’s Web, Heartstopper, Mad River Road, See Jane Run, and other acclaimed novels. She divides her time between Toronto and Palm Beach, Florida.

With thanks to Emily and Imogen at Bonnier Zaffre.

**BLOG TOUR** Unconvicted by Olly Jarvis

Today, as part of the blog tour for Unconvicted, the new book from Olly Jarvis, I am pleased to be able to share an extract with you.

The Blurb

In a razor-sharp legal thriller, Jack Kowalski must win two challenging trials to save his reputation and his career

Junior barrister Jack Kowalski is crushed. His client Timothy Smart appears to have committed a monstrous crime while on bail – a bail application Jack fought hard to win.

When a high-profile Polish footballer is charged with rape and demands a fellow countryman represent him, Jack must overcome his guilt and get back to work. Before long he takes on a second case, a GBH for instructing solicitor Lara Panassai, who Jack remains desperate to impress. But neither case is what it seems, and Jack will face an extraordinary uphill battle to see that justice is done…

The second Jack Kowalski novel, Unconvicted is a gripping courtroom drama written with the expert insight of a practicing criminal barrister, perfect for fans of William L. Myers, Deborah Hawkins, and Scott Turow.

Chapter 11

PC Adil Khan checked his watch as he drove. It would be another late finish, just so the prickly DS could have a chauffeur from some dinner at the town hall.

‘Slow down a second, Adil,’ asked DS Joan Baker. ‘See that girl there?’

‘Oh yeah, too right!’ he replied. ‘Quite a looker.’

The girl was half-walking and half-running down Deansgate. She wore a skimpy, figure-hugging white dress. No shoes.

‘There’s something not right, Adil. Pull over.’

‘Yeah, hammered probably.’

‘Just pull over, will you?’ she said, with a hint of irritation.

‘All right, all right,’ PC Khan replied.

They pulled up alongside the young woman. At first, she didn’t notice them.

DS Baker called out, ‘Is everything OK, love?’

The girl saw them now. She stopped, then walked straight to the police car, opened the door and got into the back seat. She was shaking. They could see marks, possibly burns on her wrists.

‘It’s all right. You’re safe now. What’s your name, love?’ asked Baker above the crackle coming from their radio.

The girl stared blankly back at her. Her face was a mess, the bruising made worse by the smeared lipstick and smudged eyeliner.

DS Baker turned to her colleague. ‘She’s in shock, poor thing.’ She tried again: ‘We’re going to take you somewhere comfortable, OK, love?’

No reply.

‘What’s your name, sweetheart?’

Eventually, in a whisper: ‘Lauren.’ Her bottom lip began to quiver. ‘I’ve been raped.’

DS Baker sighed. ‘I know, love. I know.’

Hopefully that has whetted your appetite! If so, here’s where you can get your copy:

Amazon (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

Author Bio:

Olly Jarvis is a writer and criminal defence barrister, originally from London but now working in Manchester. Drawing on his experiences, he writes both fiction and non-fiction with a particular understanding of the pressures and excitement of life in the courtroom. He wrote the highly acclaimed Radio 4 drama Judgement, and wrote and presented the BBC documentary Mum Knows Best. He is also the author of Death by Dangerous. Olly has two children and lives in Cheshire.

 

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

 

**BLOG TOUR** Undertow by Anthony J. Quinn – Extract

Today, I am the latest stop on the blog tour for Undertow by Anthony J. Quinn and am pleased to be able to share an extract. Anthony’s first novel, Disappeared, was a Daily Mail crime novel of the year so this one promises to be a good one!

A simple case of suicide takes on a more sinister tone when Detective Celcius Daly travels across the Irish border to the desolate village of Dreesh, a place where law and order have ground to a halt, and whose residents, ruined by a chain of bankruptcies, have fallen under the spell of a malevolent crime boss with powerful political connections to the IRA.

Anthony J. Quinn

Out of his jurisdiction, out of his claustrophobic cottage and out of his comfort zone, Daly is plunged into a shadowy border world of desperate informers, drunken ex-cops, freelance intelligence agents haunted by their own reflections and violent smugglers.

Doomed to be kept on the fringes by two separate police forces working in parallel , Daly’s dogged search for the truth soon sparks an outbreak of murderous violence as the desire to keep the Irish border in the shadows intensifies.

The Extract:

Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland

Fog, dragging across the shoreline, hung over the heaving expanse of the lough.

The view at the jetty had no depth; nothing to see or touch but a cold stagnancy pressing upon everything, no stealthy shapes or shadows and no sign of the drowned corpse. The vast mass of the lough and its secret, washed ashore overnight, had slid into oblivion.

A disorientated Inspector Celcius Daly stepped from his car and listened for the telltale sounds, the churn of the waves, the wash of shifting currents, the web of birdcalls bubbling up from tree-lined coves, but heard nothing. It was early in the morning, too early for most. He had worked all night, and had been looking forward to clearing his head with the exhilarating air of the lough, and a glimpse of its wind-slapped waves, their rainy glitter and gloom thrusting towards him. Since his father’s death, this great wild space had been his only respite from the two habits that governed his existence: work and insomnia; the only place he could breathe freely and figure out his thoughts by himself.

Daly groped in the direction of the water, trying to get his bearings, but almost immediately the fog enclosed him in walls of whiteness, and all he could see were floating fragments, dark rocks, thorn trees, and an abandoned fishing boat with rotten timbers. No sounds, no sense of direction, no signs of his colleagues or police tape, no sad clues as to what had happened overnight, only these white suffocating corridors to roam.

Where was everybody? Lough Neagh might be the largest lake in Western Europe, but it was small in the parochial sense. Bad news travelled quickly along its shores, and Daly had expected to encounter a few press photographers and gawping members of the public fringing the scene, but the shrouded cove was completely devoid of life. Perhaps he had made a mistake and parked up at the wrong place. A solitary swell broke, heaving and sucking along the invisible shore. He wheeled around and changed direction.

He was supposed to know this terrain by heart, but this morning the very presence of the lough seemed unimaginable. He clambered along a muddy bank, shuffling slowly, playing blind man’s buff with the shoreline.

To his relief, the fog had other occupants. The profile of a young man floated into view, a police officer minding the crime scene, his face becalmed by the fog.

Daly flicked open his ID. ‘Which direction?’ The officer pointed the way. A colleague drifted close by, another ghost, and then the world whitened again. Daly slithered down an embankment of rocks, treacherously greasy with algae, hearing waves splash nearby. Gobbets of water soaked his trousers and dribbled down his legs. Thin air one moment, deep dark water the next; he’d better mind himself. He reached out a hand to steady himself against a post, the strangeness of the invisible shore made stranger by the fact that each footstep was one he had taken countless times before, loping and clambering over the uneven terrain as a boy, but somehow the fog had swept those memories aside. Wary of jumping from one rock to another, he plodded on, slipping down the sides, getting his feet soaking wet.

A thorn tree in blossom appeared and then disappeared, recoiling into the fog, otherworldly. Again that disorientating sense that the lough was suddenly far away, that it had fled with the crime scene under cover of the fog, its waves breaking on a distant shore.

He shouted: ‘Hello, police,’ hoping to call his way out of the murk. His words came out more querulously than he intended, half strangled and hoarse. Annoyed at having to draw attention to himself in this way, he shouted louder, and then listened. The lough lay cushioned in silence. Then it came, a murmuring response further along the shore. Followed by another gurgling call, further away, repeating the first. Was it just his muffled echo? Or were there other detectives out there, searching for corpses, trying to yell their way out of this mist-shrouded labyrinth?

For a moment, the fog dissolved and Daly was rewarded with a view of the shore lined with the debris of winter gales. The Lough Neagh landscape was a deserted, inhospitable place, prone to sudden flooding that impregnated the surrounding fields and cottages with mud and slime. Apart from a few bird sanctuaries, it did not attract many visitors. Across Ireland, developers had built wherever they wanted, erecting expensive shiny apartments and holiday homes right on the banks of lakes and rivers. The planners’ sleight of hand that allowed builders to ruin the country’s waterways did not apply here. The lough and its shore was one of the country’s last true natural spaces, a marshy landscape Daly kept returning to for reflection, to help shape his thoughts and memories, but this morning all that was wiped away.

Stirring amid the breaking mist were the white figures of scene-of-crime officers, moving like maggots across a little beach. A shore full of strangers to announce the arrival of the mud-smeared corpse that had washed up during the night. Ignoring the other officers, Daly slipped down the stones to where the body lay sprawled on its back, feet still in the water, face turned to one side, bloated by the long immersion, its lifeless eyes and patchy beard several inches long covered in slimy liquid.

‘Typical Irish suicide,’ murmured Detective Derek Irwin as he came up beside him.

Daly turned to the grey face of his colleague. ‘There’ve been no reports of a missing person.’

‘That’s why forensics are still here.’ Irwin gave a bored sigh. ‘The body of a middle-aged overweight male consigned to a dismal lough. Sounds like a suicide to me.’

With thanks to Blake Brooks and Head of Zeus for giving me the opportunity to take part in the blog tour. Undertow was published on 14th December.

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