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In a House of Lies by Ian Rankin

When the body of a missing private investigator is discovered in the boot of a car, alarm bells begin ringing – the area had already been searched years before, when the man first went missing. Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke is now part of the team investigating the murder whilst also trying to discover what went wrong with the original case. Was there a cover up and just how involved was her mentor, retired detective John Rebus?

John Rebus is one of my favourite fictional characters and so news of a new Ian Rankin book always makes me happy. In a House of Lies has been sat on my Kindle for a while so I thought it was time to give it a read! I am glad that, although Rebus is now retired, he is still finding ways of worming his way into an investigation although, this time, he is slightly more involved than he probably wishes!

The plot is a good one with dodgy characters a plenty, each one having a motive for wanting the deceased out of the way. Like in any good Rebus book, we get an insight into the dark underbelly of Edinburgh, with the legendary ‘Big Ger’ Cafferty featuring prominently. Any scene with Rebus and Cafferty is always my favourite. Their relationship is still a complicated one – they share a grudging respect for each other but at the same time would stop at nothing to sell the other one down the river.

The other plot running throughout the book was probably my favourite. After receiving silent phonecalls, Siobhan Clarke makes the connection to a recent case where she put away Ellis Meikle, convicted of the unlawful killing of his girlfriend. Convinced of his nephew’s innocence, his uncle, Dallas, tries to intimidate Clarke, only to need her help in trying to find new evidence to help his case. This is where Rebus comes in and where we see that there is still life in the old dog yet. Speaking of dogs, I am glad to see that Brillo is still on the scene!

Another great Rebus book and I hope that it’s not too long before we get the next one!

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**BLOG TOUR** Death and the Harlot by Georgina Clarke

I’m really pleased to be the latest blog on the tour for Death and the Harlot, a historical mystery debut from Georgina Clarke, published by Canelo on 13th May 2019. I have a great extract to share, but first the blurb…

‘It’s strange, the way fortune deals her hand.’

The year is 1759 and London is shrouded in a cloak of fear. With the constables at the mercy of highwaymen, it’s a perilous time to work the already dangerous streets of Soho. Lizzie Hardwicke makes her living as a prostitute, somewhat protected from the fray as one of Mrs Farley’s girls. But then one of her wealthy customers is found brutally murdered… and Lizzie was the last person to see him alive.

Constable William Davenport has no hard evidence against Lizzie but his presence and questions make life increasingly difficult. Desperate to be rid of him and prove her innocence Lizzie turns amateur detective, determined to find the true killer, whatever the cost.

Yet as the body count rises Lizzie realises that, just like her, everyone has a secret they will do almost anything to keep buried…

 

Chapter Five

We sat in silence as we had been trained to do by Ma. We were elegant ladies, hands gently clasped in laps, backs straight, eyes demurely cast down until our friends from Mrs Hardy’s and our other evening guests arrived. Only the masks, the flimsy gowns cut so low that we spilled from them with very little exertion, and the thoughts racing around our heads would have betrayed us.

This was our best and largest room, filled with the sort of fashionable furniture that marked Mrs Farley as a woman of good taste. The fire blazed merrily and its golden flames, along with the smaller candle lights all about the room, made the place glow with warmth. The table was now piled with food: soups, jellies, a veal escalope girded with lemons, roast beef and stewed venison. The scent was delicious; making my stomach gurgle. Card tables waited for players. And here and there lay couches and comfortable chairs for reclining and conversation. It looked lovely; serene, even. I wondered how long it would take for the scene in front of my eyes to transform into the swaying, writhing mass of bodies that it inevitably would.

I heard Sydney answering the door and Ma taking entrance fees, and my heart began to knock inside my chest. The evening would bring her a substantial amount, but it would also confirm the reputation of our house as a place of delight for the more discerning. She had been planning for weeks and was anticipating that this party would be even livelier than the last one; it was little wonder that she had been so annoyed by Tommy Bridgewater’s presence earlier. Everything must be perfect for our guests. We must be perfect.

I was always anxious just before the gentlemen arrived. I knew what I would have to do tonight, and I had grown used to it, but that didn’t stop the tremor in my soul that preceded every encounter. We were the real delicacies of the evening, the meat, waiting to be selected and devoured. Lucy, Polly and Emily sat as still as I did. It was difficult to tell what they thought or felt at this moment.

We never spoke of the fear.

Our guests were, as they usually were, gentlemen of quality, ready for an evening of drinking, gambling and what they might politely describe as pretty company and entertainment. What they were really here to enjoy would not be spoken about in polite company, of course.

I was grateful to notice Charles Stanford as soon as he entered the room, distinguished by his vigorous manner as much as his looks – his face being partly obscured by a black mask. He had a fine figure, tall and neat with broad shoulders, encased in a coat of rich midnight blue embroidered with exquisite flowers. A freshly-powdered wig covered his light brown hair. He looked magnificent – and he undoubtedly knew it. It didn’t take him long to make his way over to me. He pulled me up from my seat and made a bow.

‘Miss Hardwicke, how lovely to see you.’

‘Mr Stanford.’

Brown eyes sparkled with mischief at the holes of his mask.

‘Well, I assume it’s you, Lizzie. It’s rather difficult to tell.’

‘It is certainly me, Mr Stanford. Rather diverting, though, don’t you think? Not being able to see people’s faces? And I do believe that the Hardy girls look prettier than usual.’

He tugged the ribbon at my cleavage to undo my gown, and his hand found a breast. He was quick this evening and, despite my veneer of reserve, I was excited by his directness.

‘I’m more interested in what’s under here,’ he said. ‘Damn it, Lizzie, I’m in great need of a fuck.’

He always was.

‘I think that Mrs Farley would like us to pretend restraint for a while longer.’ I giggled and removed his hand. ‘You’ve only just walked in and there’s so much food to eat.’

‘Don’t tease me, please. Oh, what I’m going to do to you tonight … shall I tell you?’

He didn’t have the opportunity. The all-seeing Mrs Farley moved across the room and bade him good evening, turning him away from me and steering him towards Lucy. That would cool him down for a while. I rearranged my dress a little and went to greet the other gentlemen.

Polly called me to meet Mr Herring and Mr Winchcombe, Charles’ friends. Both wore soft black masks, as all the gentlemen did this evening, making them seem like disorientated highwaymen who had found their way into Berwick Street by accident. John Herring was a little haughty for my taste, a man in his mid-twenties with pale skin, translucent eyelashes and a sharply-pointed nose. His plum-coloured coat was well-cut, and he wore an expensive scent. Joshua Winchcombe was more engaging; large-limbed, with dark eyes. A curl of black hair was trying to escape from under his wig. He was a similar age to Mr Herring, but he had none of the other man’s affected airs. I found his voice a little loud as he bellowed into my ear, but he had an energy about him that was attractive.

I heard the door open again downstairs. More guests were ushered in, men and women similarly masked and all in a jolly mood and I moved around to bid them welcome. Gradually, the room began to fill with people; flirtatious women wanting money, and wealthy men, happy to be flirted with. One man stood apart. Large and jowly – eyes flicking about under his mask in a mix of shock and wonder – it was George Reed. He moved towards Mr Herring and Mr Winchcombe, as if seeking out something, or someone, to ease his disorientation. The three men exchanged a few words before the younger two moved away towards Polly, leaving him quite alone.

I watched Emily swim across the room to greet him. She was always able to make a nervous gentleman feel welcome in our house: those who wore expensive clothing at least. She knew that I had relieved this one of several guineas. She could have him to herself, as far as I was concerned.

That was not Emily’s intention. Her aim became clear almost immediately. She ushered Mr Reed towards me and laid my hand on his arm. She wanted me to deal with him while she entertained the younger men. I knew that she didn’t much care for me, but this seemed like particular cruelty. Nevertheless, she pretended courtesy.

‘Here you are, Mr Reed, a familiar face for you beneath the mask. Miss Hardwicke was only telling us earlier how much she had enjoyed your company yesterday. I am sure that she will take care of you – for the whole evening, should you wish it.’

I did not wish it. I was looking forward to spending time with Charles. Even one of the other men might be preferable. Joshua Winchcombe, perhaps.

Mrs Farley was at the table ladling soup, encouraging the company to eat and Mr Reed, who hardly needed a meal, took me by the hand and led me to the table. I could see Charles in a dark corner of the room with his hands under someone’s skirts; one of the Hardy girls. He had no intention of sitting for dinner.

In the meantime, I had a job to do. Emily had unkindly made sure that I sat down with Mr Reed, which meant that I was unable to leave him easily. I kept my feelings to myself, tucking away my thoughts about Charles and, instead, attending to the man I was with, heaping beef on to his plate and pouring his burgundy in as bright a fashion as possible.

In between mouthfuls of drink and food, George Reed decided to entertain me with stories of Norwich, of his business transactions from earlier that day in the city and of his journey to our home.

‘D’ you know, Miss Hardwicke, that it is possible to take a carriage all the way out to Kensington now? There are new houses being built far and away to the west. You ladies may yet need to move to keep up with the fashionable people.’

A good hostess, I confessed myself astonished by his information – as if it had never occurred to me that houses might be built as the population of London grew larger.

From the other side of the table, Polly threw me a sympathetic look as Reed leaned across to help himself to more food. Her own companion was Mr Herring, who sat stroking her delicate collarbone, entranced, as she nibbled a pastry.

Mr Reed, delving into a mountain of syllabub, was still talking loudly about house building an hour later, even as others were engaging themselves in more amorous adventures. Quarters of the room around us seemed to be shuddering and grunting. Polly had disappeared. I tried to ignore the sight of Charles’ backside heaving into a pile of petticoats.

Mrs Farley laid a hand on my shoulder. Putting her mouth to my ear she spoke quietly.

‘Why don’t you take Mr Reed to the side room, Lizzie? I think that his conversation would be better elsewhere.’

It was an instruction rather than a suggestion. He was out of place and she wished me to take him away. This was my punishment for inviting him in the first place. I guessed that Emily would have told her.

I nodded. I understood my duty to the other guests, as well as to Mr Reed. When he paused to take a breath, I took his sweaty hand and spoke urgently.

‘Mr Reed, dear sir, I made you a promise yesterday evening and I think that it’s time I honoured it.’

He looked at his hand and then up at me.

‘Miss Hardwicke, I would be delighted.’ He suddenly became aware of the rest of the room – and what was taking place in it. I couldn’t understand why he hadn’t noticed it before.

‘My goodness. All of this. My word.’ He wiped his mouth; a troubled look on his face. ‘Are we to exert ourselves here?’

I shook my head gently.

‘No Mr Reed, for our very special guests we have other rooms. Something more private. Come.’

With thanks to Canelo and Ellie Pilcher for organising the blog tour.  Death and the Harlot can be purchased here:

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

**BLOG BLITZ** A Tale of Two Sisters by Merryn Allingham

Today, I’m pleased to be one of the blogs featuring on the blog blitz for A Tale of Two Sisters by Merryn Allingham, an emotional historical drama which was published by Canelo on 21st March 2019. I’m particularly thrilled to be able to share an extract with you that I’m sure will whet your appetite for the book.

 

 

Separated by time and distance, two sisters seek answers for all they’ve lost

When Alice Verinder’s beloved sister Lydia goes missing, Alice boards the Orient Express bound for Topkapi Palace in Constantinople, determined to find her.

Lydia was governess to the Sultan’s young children and though her letters spoke of exotic delights and welcoming hosts, the reception Alice receives is decidedly cold and answers unforthcoming.

Now, as Alice digs deeper into the secrets of a land foreign to her she has only Englishman Harry Frome to help her. But as their search uncovers unforeseen dangers and exposes an unexpected ardour, is Alice ready for the truths they’ll uncover?

 

ALICE

London, February 1907

 

Another day and no letter. Alice snatched up the pile of envelopes from the console table and shuffled through them, one by one. She had been so certain that today she would hear, but there was nothing. Still not a word from Lydia. What was happening to her sister that she could find no time to write? A note only, that’s all she asked, some reassuring lines to say all was well, all was happy in a palace several thousand miles away. It surely wasn’t too much to expect, after all the trouble her sister had caused, unless… but Lydia should be safe. As governess to two small girls, there could be nothing that would stop her writing.

For minutes, Alice stood motionless. Her eyes were fixed on the dark oak of the front door, but it was not its fine mouldings she saw, nor the decorative glass splashing colour across an otherwise gloomy space. It was Lydia’s face. She had dreamt of her sister last night, but didn’t she always? This had been different, though. Last night she had been with Lydia again; she had searched and she had found her. Old resentments had dissolved to nothing and instead she had thrown her arms around the girl and hugged her slight frame, never to let go. Lydia’s stubbornness, her irresponsibility, were forgotten. She had found her dear sister and that was all that mattered. The waking disappointment had been almost too much to bear. And now these letters. Or rather, no letter. Another day of pretending that nothing was amiss, of putting on a reassuring smile. She would need time before she faced her parents again.

She was at the bottom of the stairs on her way to her bedroom when she heard her name called.

‘Alice.’ Her mother’s voice held the suggestion of a quaver, but fretfulness was uppermost.

She felt a tremor of impatience, instantly suppressed. She must not blame her mother for the constant need of attention. Edith Verinder had never coped well with life and, since Charlie’s death, what little fortitude she’d possessed had faded without a fight.

‘Alice!’ The fretfulness had become peremptory. ‘When will your aunt be here?’

‘I’m not sure,’ she answered, retracing her steps into the sitting room. ‘Very soon, I would think.’

Her mother was sitting by the window wearily resplendent in a wing chair, a thick wool shawl around her shoulders, a blanket at her feet. Alice automatically retrieved the blanket and laid it across the bony knees.

‘You will bring Cicely to me, won’t you, when she arrives?’

‘Of course, Mama, I’ll bring her immediately. I’m not certain when the York train gets in but there’s always such a crush at King’s Cross. I expect Aunt Cissie has had to queue for a hansom.’

Her mother gave a long sigh as though she, too, were queuing for the hansom. ‘Make sure that Dora has the tea things ready – and the best china, mind.’

‘And don’t put out too many madeleines.’ She hadn’t noticed her father hunched into a matching chair at the other side of the room. He spoke without taking his eyes from his newspaper. ’Your aunt has rather too healthy an appetite.’

‘I’ll tell Cook,’ she said a trifle distractedly, halfway back to the door.

There were a hundred jobs waiting to be done and Cicely’s room had still to be made up. Her aunt enjoyed the freedom of wealthy widowhood, travelling when and where she chose from her home in the shadow of the Minster, but why she had decided to visit London at such short notice, Alice had no idea. It was another burden on a household already besieged.

‘And Alice,’ her mother called after her. ‘Fetch Lydia’s letters from your room. Cissie will want to read news of her niece.’

She felt her chest tighten. She had letters, certainly, a tidy sheaf of them, but if she were to show them to her aunt, Cicely was quick-witted enough to notice that the last message from Lydia was dated months ago. So far Alice had managed to keep this knowledge from her parents by dint of reading the letters aloud, selecting passages from here and there, and pretending the news had arrived only that morning. Before the letters stopped entirely, they had become less frequent and less informative, but she had still kept up the pretence. She couldn’t allow them to know that Lydia had seemingly vanished without a clue to her whereabouts. Not in their weakened state.

She gave swift instructions to Cook to fetch down the bone china from a top shelf and made a strict count of the number of madeleines to appear on the tea trolley before she climbed the stairs to the guest bedroom. Dora was already there and giving the satin counterpane a final smooth when Alice put her head around the door.

‘What else needs doing?’ she asked the maid.

‘Just the flowers, miss. Dibbens delivered the narcissi an hour ago and they’re soaking in the kitchen, but they need a bit of arranging. I’ll run down and get them.’

‘Bless you. My legs have turned to jelly.’

‘And no wonder. You’ve been up and down these stairs all morning, fetching and carrying.’

Dora sniffed loudly, but she allowed the moment to pass. Alice knew the maid’s opinion of her mother’s illness. Domestic servants did not have the luxury of nerves. But Dora was wrong. Her mother had always been fragile. It was her husband who had given Edith stability and, when he’d fallen ill so shortly after Charlie’s death, the spirit had gone from her completely.

She arranged the narcissi as best she could in a favourite Murano vase and was making her way downstairs again when the thud of the door knocker echoed through the empty hall. Aunt Cissie. King’s Cross could not have been that busy. Her aunt’s arrival would at least bring cheer to the house. When the telegram had first arrived, Alice had thought of confiding her worries, but realised almost immediately that Cissie was likely to go straight to her sister with Lydia’s tale. The two women were closer than twins. And if her father learned that his younger daughter was missing, possibly in danger, it could prove fatal. His heart attack had left him vulnerable to a final blow, which would be enough to seal her mother’s fate, too. No, she couldn’t tell. She must keep up the pretence that Lydia was alive and well and enjoying teaching in a foreign land. And believe, believe, that her sister would write soon – from wherever she was.

Alice had written to Topkapi – the Sultan seemed to own a bewildering array of palaces – but Topkapi was the address Lydia had written on each of her letters. The official who responded had been adamant that her sister was no longer with them. There remained at the palace only a few of Lydia’s personal possessions that he would be happy to send: two pens, several photographs, a few watercolours and a book. His letter had been brief and its curt disapproval had shone through the uneven English. Sultan Selim was most displeased. His daughters’ governess had left without warning and no one had an idea where she was. Alice could not quite believe that. If it were true, it would be completely out of character. Lydia might be impulsive, thoughtless even, but Alice was certain she would never simply disappear without telling her family.

‘Darling, how are you?’

Cicely’s substantial figure filled the hall. The cabbie bundled in behind her, puffing heavily from dragging several large pieces of luggage up the front steps. Alice wondered just how long her aunt was intending to stay. The older woman held her at arms’ length and gave her a prolonged stare.

‘Not too well, by the look of it,’ she said, answering her own question. ‘You’re not just pale, my dear. You look positively sickly. What ails you?’

‘Really nothing, Aunt,’ she protested. ‘I have two invalids to look after. I’m not able to leave the house for long and this winter seems to have gone on forever.’

‘Well, now I’m here, I shall make sure you do get out. Put some pink back into those cheeks. I’ll sit with Edie and keep her amused. It won’t be difficult.’

Cicely was right. She knew just how to handle her sister. Her brother-in-law, too, if it came to that. It might give Alice more time to think, space in which to decide just what to do, or even if there was anything she could do. In the meantime, she must find a way to keep her aunt occupied this evening and as far from Lydia’s letters as possible.

‘And how is Theo?’ Her aunt had divested herself of a voluminous coat, several bright scarves and a large felt hat.

‘Papa is doing well, I think.’

‘That’s good to hear. It was a bad business about Charlie. A foolish young man, I’m afraid, but still a very bad business.’

Alice stiffened. A sharp sense of loss battled against her aunt’s seeming indifference. She wanted to leap to her young brother’s defence, but she knew Cissie was right – Charlie had been foolish. Attempting to scale Balliol’s medieval walls in the dead of night, after drinking heavily, was foolhardy in the extreme. He had paid a dreadful price for it, and so had they all. Even Lydia. But foolish or not, Charlie had been a loved brother. A sunny, carefree individual who had breezed noisily through every day of his short life with a smile on his face. He had brought joy to the staid house in Pimlico. So she said nothing and instead led her aunt into the sitting room.

‘Aunt Cissie is here, Mama,’ she announced as cheerfully as she could.

 

 

Merryn Allingham was born into an army family and spent her childhood moving around the UK and abroad. Unsurprisingly it gave her itchy feet and in her twenties she escaped from an unloved secretarial career to work as cabin crew and see the world.

Merryn  still loves to travel and visit new places, especially those with an interesting history, but the arrival of marriage, children and cats meant a more settled life in the south of England, where she has lived ever since. It also gave her the opportunity to go back to ‘school’ and eventually teach at university.

She has written seven historical novels, all mysteries with a helping of suspense and a dash of romance – sometimes set in exotic locations and often against a background of stirring world events.

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

Where the Dead Fall by M J Lee

Driving along the M60, on the way to see his daughter and estranged wife, D I Ridpath finds himself caught up in a bizarre road accident when a near-naked man steps in front of his car before being killed by an articulated lorry. Noticing a man carrying a gun, standing at the side of the motorway, Ridpath is perplexed when nobody else seems to have seen him and CCTV doesn’t appear to have picked him up either. With his health a constant issue and the gangs of Manchester seemingly showing unrest, this looks like being a very testing case for the coroner’s officer.

I really enjoyed the first book in this series (Where the Truth Lies) and I couldn’t wait to see if I would be equally impressed with its follow-up. I am pleased to say that Where the Dead Fall is just as good, if not better! Ridpath is a great character and I like how his work for the coroner’s office gives a different slant on the standard police procedural. Despite my liking for him, though, with regards to his health condition, he is infuriating! With a serious illness hanging over him, and a marriage which is hanging by a thread, on several occasions I found myself imploring him to get to the hospital before something serious happened!

Set in Manchester, a city which is virtually unrecognisable from when it was known as ‘Gunchester’ in the 1990s, the author has shown how easy it is for a place to go back to its old ways. By pitting various gangs against each other, he has created a ticking time bomb that the police are desperate to extinguish before there is any more loss of life. Of course, there is more to this case than meets the eye, and Ridpath does a great job in fathoming out what is really happening.

Where the Dead Fall has a clever plot and was one of those books that I did not want to put down. This has the potential to be one of my favourite series and I’m already looking forward to the third instalment.

With thanks to Canelo and Net Galley for my ARC.

Dead Memories by Angela Marsons

When two teenagers are found chained to a radiator on the fourth floor of Chaucer House, a block of flats on the notorious Hollytree estate, alarm bells begin to ring for Detective Inspector Kim Stone. Thirty years before, there had been a similar scene at the same block of flats, only this time, the victims were Stone and her younger brother, Mikey. Another crime scene bearing a similarity to the deaths of her foster parents sees Kim fearing the worst – someone is recreating traumatic events from her past. Will Kim be the next victim?

For long-time readers of this series, Kim Stone’s history has not been a secret. Spending her early years with her mentally ill mother before being moved around a series of foster homes, she had a more traumatic upbringing than most. So far, though, with the exception of a few occasions, we have seen her trying to keep these memories at bay, focusing all her energy on her professional life. Now, however, in Dead Memories, Kim is forced to face her past and, although we still see her in control of the investigation, for the first time we see cracks starting to develop in her hard exterior.

One of the reasons I think this series continues to go from strength to strength is the relationship between the main characters. Events in previous books have really cemented their closeness and although the recent arrival of an outsider, Penn, could have disrupted this harmony, it has been good to see how quickly he integrated within the group, despite the circumstances surrounding his arrival. The return of profiler, Alison, also added a new dynamic to the group, at times providing some much-needed light-hearted moments in a hard-hitting storyline. Her sub-plot was also gripping and was worthy of a book of its own!

I don’t want to say too much about the book for fear of giving away too much but what I will say is that Dead Memories has a well-written, enjoyable plot and existing fans of the series will definitely love revisiting crimes of the past. I enjoyed being reacquainted with characters we have already met and was particularly pleased to see a cameo appearance from a certain newspaper reporter!

I don’t know how she does it but Angela Marsons keeps the quality of this series consistently high – I would go as far as saying that, for me, this is one of the best in the series. Hopefully, this is a series that will run and run.

With thanks to Bookouture and Net Galley for my copy. Take a look at my reviews of the rest of the series:

Silent Scream

Evil Games

Lost Girls

Play Dead

Blood Lines

Dead Souls

Broken Bones

Dying Truth

Fatal Promise

**BLOG TOUR** The Scent of Death by Simon Beckett

51gI3FlDJxLToday, I am pleased to be the first stop on the blog tour for The Scent of Death, the latest in Simon Beckett’s David Hunter series. As well as my review, I am thrilled to be able to share an article from the author, explaining how the book came to be.

Over to Simon…

The Scent of Death

Sooner or later, everything comes home to roost. That was in my mind when I sat down to write The Scent of Death, the sixth novel to feature British forensic anthropologist David Hunter. Without giving away any spoilers, in some of the previous novels I’d deliberately left some plot threads dangling. Partly because… well, I like the sense that not everything is tied up in a neat bow at the end of a book. Life isn’t like that.

But I also wanted to return to them at some point, to show how these events from the past continued to resonate in Hunter’s present. The question was how to go about it? I’d originally intended to tie-up these floating ends sooner, but novels tend to have a mind of their own. Plot developments can’t just be shoehorned in. They have to develop naturally, or at least seem to.

Another consideration was that The Scent of Death also had to work as a standalone. I didn’t want a story that only made sense to anyone who’d already read the other books. I wanted new readers to be able to jump right in, without slowing down the narrative with tons of exposition.

Easier said than done.

Writing crime thrillers is a lot about misdirection. A little bit like a stage magician, the aim is to keep the audience distracted until it’s time for the big reveal. That isn’t easy at the best of times, and even less so in a series, where readers have become familiar with both the main character and the author’s bag of tricks. So, in order for this to work, I had to wait for the right story, and the right moment.

By the time I came to write the fifth Hunter novel, The Restless Dead, I was confident I’d found it. The end of that book – don’t worry, still no spoilers – raised the possibility of a return for an old nemesis from Hunter’s past. Only the possibility, mind, because I wanted to keep readers guessing. But the timing felt right, and I knew that opening that particular door would set the stage nicely for the next book.

Of course, the drawback with trying to be clever is that you then have to deliver. Hopefully, that’s what The Scent of Death does. Instead of having Hunter travel to some isolated rural location as in the previous novels, I’ve kept him in London, in what at first seems to be familiar territory (the key words here being at first). The gothic shell of St Jude’s is the sort of place that’s become all too common in the UK, an abandoned hospital standing empty as it waits for the developers’ bulldozers.

Except that these boarded-up windows, echoing corridors, and shadowy wards prove to be hiding all manner of secrets. And, as Hunter discovers, not all of St Jude’s occupants have actually left…

It was a pleasure to write and, I hope, to read as well. Just remember that for misdirection to work, the audience shouldn’t realise that they’re being distracted, or what they’re being distracted from.

Over to you.

Simon Beckett, January 31st 2019.

When the partially mummified body of a pregnant woman is discovered in the attic in an old hospital, forensics expert Dr David Hunter is called upon to aid in the investigation. The case takes a turn for the strange when a floor collapse reveals a hidden room and the bodies of another two people, still in their beds. With St. Jude’s hospital earmarked for development and a group of local protesters determined to thwart the venture, the pressure is on to uncover the truth of what really happened.

From the very start, The Scent of Death grabbed my attention and held it right until the very end. It was very easy to picture St. Jude’s, the description evoking images of a dark, dank, cavernous building with secrets waiting to be uncovered. The floor collapse helped to provide a few heart-in-the-mouth moments in an already tense situation and the discovery of the bodies certainly ramped up the the tension even more.

Although we don’t really get to see much of his personality, I really liked Hunter and admired the dedication he showed to his work. It was for this reason that I felt sorry for the forensic anthropologist who, as part of the investigation from the start, found himself partially sidelined after the hidden room was discovered. Mears, the forensic taphonomist brought in to work the case was a thoroughly unlikable character and I could empathise with the contempt Hunter showed towards him.

The Scent of Death has a very tight plot where everything ties together really well. I love a book where, all of a sudden, everything falls into place and you realise the brilliance of everything you’ve read – this definitely happened here. There was one part of the subplot that I deduced quite early on but, other than that, Simon Beckett kept me waiting until the very end before I worked out who the killer was and the clever motive behind it.

I found Hunter’s job fascinating and enjoyed the scenes where he was at work analysing the skeletal remains of the victims. I can certainly see this series being a huge hit on television and was pleased to read that it is currently in development with Cuba Pictures and Nadcon.

The Scent of Death is the sixth David Hunter book and if, like me, you haven’t read the first five, then don’t worry as this can be read as a standalone. I admit to not having any knowledge of this series until I read this one but I will definitely be rectifying this by reading the others as I enjoyed it so much!

With thanks to Hayley Barnes and Penguin Random House for my proof and to Simon Beckett for the fantastic post.

**Cover Reveal** The Family by P R Black

Today, I’m really pleased to be one of the blogs taking part in the cover reveal for The Family by P. R. Black. Published on May 21st, it has been described as, ‘a gripping new psychological thriller with a twist that will leave you reeling!’

The best way to catch a killer? Offer yourself as bait.

Becky Morgan’s family were the victims of the ‘crimes of the decade’. The lone survivor of a ritualistic killing, Becky’s been forever haunted by the memories of that night.

Twenty years later, with the killer never found, Becky is ready to hunt them down and exact revenge. But the path to find the murderer is a slippery slope and she finds herself opening up some old wounds that should have been left sealed.

Will Becky avenge her family or join them?

Now to the suitably dark cover – very ominous!

Buy links:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2HGgIn4

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2MG8XfV

Google Play: http://bit.ly/2SgG7rA

 

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Monthly Round Up – January 2019

I haven’t blogged much lately, mainly due to the fact that the majority of books I have read are all part of forthcoming blog tours. February is going to be very different! I’d also been really pleased to get my Net Galley acquisitions down to a very small amount, but I’ve watched it slowly creep up this month due to all of the fantastic books that are about to be published!

 

Books I Have Read

The Good Friend by Jo Baldwin

A psychological thriller set in the Languedoc lavender field, The Good Friend is a story about obsession and asks the question, do we really know those closest to us? A slow-burner with a thrilling climax. Review will be published on February 23rd as part of the blog tour.

 

The Taking of Annie Thorne by C J Tudor

The author’s second book after the brilliant The Chalk Man is another dual timeframe story in the vein of Stephen King. Just what did happen to Annie when she disappeared and why does the same thing seem to be happening all over again?

 

Day of the Accident by Nuala Ellwood

Maggie wakes from a coma and discovers that her daughter is dead and her husband has disappeared. With no memory of what happened, and adamant that her daughter is alive, she sets out on a dangerous journey to discover what exactly happened on the day of the accident.

 

Bitter Edge by Rachel Lynch

The fourth in the Kelly Porter series sees the detective investigating a string of cases that all seem to lead back to a local school. Again, the picturesque Lake District is rocked by the plethora of crimes taking place. This is a great series – highly recommended. Review will be published as part of the blog tour on February 27th.

 

The Forgotten Secret by Kathleen McGurl

Another dual timeframe story from the brilliant Kathleen McGurl takes us back to 1919 and the war in Ireland. Two women fighting for independence 100 years apart and a secret that has remained hidden for a century. Review will be published on 21st March as part of the blog tour.

 

Remember Me by D E White

Fifteen years ago, Ellen disappeared, never to be seen again. Someone knows what happened to her, though, and now the secrets of the past look as though they are about to revealed. How many more deaths will happen, though, before the truth is out there? Review to be published on 11th February as part of the blog tour.

 

Books I Have Acquired

She ruined their lives. Now they’re going to destroy hers.

‘Someone is recreating every traumatic point in your life. They are doing this to make you suffer, to make you hurt and the only possible end game can be death. Your death.’

On the fourth floor of Chaucer House, two teenagers are found chained to a radiator. The boy is dead but the girl is alive. For Detective Kim Stone every detail of the scene mirrors her own terrifying experience with her brother Mikey, when they lived in the same tower block thirty years ago.

When the bodies of a middle-aged couple are discovered in a burnt-out car, Kim can’t ignore the chilling similarity to the death of Erica and Keith – the only loving parents Kim had ever known.

Faced with a killer who is recreating traumatic events from her past, Kim must face the brutal truth that someone wants to hurt her in the worst way possible. Desperate to stay on the case, she is forced to work with profiler Alison Lowe who has been called in to observe and monitor Kim’s behaviour.

Kim has spent years catching dangerous criminals and protecting the innocent. But with a killer firmly fixed on destroying Kim, can she solve this complex case and save her own life or will she become the final victim?

 

DCI Nelson has been receiving threatening letters telling him to ‘go to the stone circle and rescue the innocent who is buried there’. He is shaken, not only because children are very much on his mind, with Michelle’s baby due to be born, but because although the letters are anonymous, they are somehow familiar. They read like the letters that first drew him into the case of The Crossing Places, and to Ruth. But the author of those letters is dead. Or are they?

Meanwhile Ruth is working on a dig in the Saltmarsh – another henge, known by the archaeologists as the stone circle – trying not to think about the baby. Then bones are found on the site, and identified as those of Margaret Lacey, a twelve-year-old girl who disappeared thirty years ago.

As the Margaret Lacey case progresses, more and more aspects of it begin to hark back to that first case of The Crossing Places, and to Scarlett Henderson, the girl Nelson couldn’t save. The past is reaching out for Ruth and Nelson, and its grip is deadly.

 

BEFORE YOU READ THIS BOOK
I WANT YOU TO KNOW THREE THINGS:

1. The police are looking to charge me with murder.
2. No one knows who I am. Or how I did it.
3. If you think you’ve found me. I’m coming for you next.

After you’ve read this book, you’ll know: the truth is far more twisted…

 

 

 

Boys are going missing from London’s slums… 

London, 1849

When a boy is found drowned in the River Thames at Hungerford Stairs, novelist Charles Dickens and Superintendent Jones of Bow Street are mystified to discover that the child is not the missing youngster for whom they have been searching.

As Dickens and Jones delve deeper into London’s poverty-stricken backstreets, they stumble across two more bodies.

A serial killer is on the loose. And Charles is terrified that someone close to him may be one of the victims.

With a strange image of a mask sketched next to the corpses, could the murderer be leaving a trail for the detectives to follow…?


Or will the Death at Hungerford Stairs remain unsolved…?

 

I’m reading The Stone Circle by Elly Griffiths at the moment and, like all of her previous books, I’m loving it! Are any of these on your reading lists or have you read any of them already?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Slum Reaper by David Field

The year is 1894 and a slum clearance is in operation in the East End of London. With some of the tenants refusing to leave their homes, Sergeant Percy Enright is rightfully concerned when five local people are found dead. With those in charge of the clearances claiming the deaths were as a result of accidents, Enright knows that they were murdered. When his nephew and colleague, Jack, and his wife Esther are informed that the niece of one of their neighbours has gone missing, Percy fears that there could be a connection. Again, Esther is called upon to go undercover to find the true extent of what is happening.

Although he has been a prominent character in the previous three books, The Slum Reaper sees Percy taking more of a central role. Injured in the course of duty, Jack has been sidelined, placed behind a desk in the records department and hating every moment! Of course, this doesn’t stop Percy from using Jack’s new role to his advantage, causing problems for his nephew in the process! It was good to see more of Percy in this book, a character who has no problems about bending the rules to secure a conviction.

Again, Esther plays a pivotal role in the plot, this time using her skills as a seamstress to infiltrate the house of a suspect. Her evidence leads to the case taking a rather unexpected turn, giving the police the proof that they need to take the case forward. Esther is a character I enjoy reading about, a traditional Victorian wife in one respect but a forward-thinking modern woman in another.

With the launch of a new department, I look forward to seeing what the future holds in store for Percy and Jack and I’m sure it won’t be too long before I read The Posing Playwright!

 

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