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**BLOG TOUR** The Art of Death by David Fennell

When an art installation appears in Trafalgar Square, everyone is horrified to discover that the contents of the three glass cases are the preserved bodies of three missing homeless men. Purporting to be the work of an artist known only as @nonymous, the police know they need to act quickly as more gruesome pieces of art are promised very soon. As Detective Inspector Grace Archer and Detective Sergeant Harry Quinn discover the whereabouts of more bodies and the online videos accompanying the deaths, there is a realisation that someone close to them may have something to hide. With Grace being in the killer’s sights, will they be able to apprehend @nonymous before she becomes part of his ultimate art installation?

As soon as I heard about this book, I knew that this would definite be one for me and I was so right! From the off, we are drawn straight into the macabre plot when the bodies of three homeless men are discovered displayed as a piece of public artwork. The shadowy artist has left no trace of who they are, and any clues that the police do find soon lead to dead ends. I love a book that grabs me straight away and The Art of Death definitely did this, holding my attention to the very last page as more bodies are found in the most grisly of circumstances.

I have read many crime books where the internet is involved and The Art of Death serves as a reminder to be careful what we share online. I’m sure most of us have looked at the Facebook accounts of people we are not ‘friends’ with but certainly not for the same reason as our killer! We see our unknown ‘artist’ monitoring the pages of his prospective victims, in some cases befriending them to get the information he requires. We see how easy this is to do and is particularly unnerving when we witness him sitting in the same cafe as the women he is watching, knowing the fate that is about to befall them.

I quickly warmed to Detective Inspector Grace Archer, a woman with a past which I am sure will rear its head in any further books. The whole investigation team, I felt, was very balanced from the affable Detective Sergeant Harry Quinn to the icy DCI Clare Pierce and Klara, the intelligent tech expert. They are all characters I would love to see develop and so I hope that the author is planning a series!

The lead up to the denouement is tense and thrilling, and when we reach the end, we are left with a situation that threatens to remain in Grace’s thoughts and, again, could certainly reappear in future books. (Can you tell that I am hoping for more?!) This is a fantastic debut and one that I hope will be a huge success. Even this early on in the year, I am already convinced that this will be one of my favourites of 2021!

With thanks to Zaffre Books and Tracy Fenton from Compulsive Readers for my ARC and for my spot on the blog tour.

The Death Certificate by Stephen Molyneux

When Peter Sefton discovers an inscribed metal disc on a farm, he becomes intrigued by its original owner, taking him on a journey to the dangerous streets of Victorian London. Over 150 years before, Moses Jupp finds himself orphaned at a young age, scavenging on the banks of the Thames being the only way to keep him alive. Through his research, Peter reveals a link to a Victorian antiquities scandal and the farm where he is undertaking his metal detecting, uncovering a tragic tale of death, forgery and unfortunate circumstances.

Ever since I read Stephen Molyneux’s debut, The Marriage Certificate, six years ago, I have been longing for a second book. I just didn’t think I would be waiting six long years! It has definitely been worth the wait, however, as the author has, once again, written a fascinating look into another era, mixing historical and genealogical fiction. Written in two time frames, the majority of The Death Certificate tells us about the life of Moses Jupp with timely chapters looking at Peter’s research, allowing the story to move on quickly.

Although he was not always strictly on the side of the law, I had great sympathy for the character of Moses. Losing his parents at such a young age and having to fend for himself, it was understandable that he was always going to have to do what he needed to do in order to survive. I enjoyed reading about his time as a scavenger and his experience at the ragged school and as a shoe-black. There was a definite feeling of, ‘what if…’, however, as if it were not for a constant thorn in his side, his life would probably have been a lot better, leading to a different outcome on the death certificate purchased by Peter.

If, like me, you enjoy historical fiction, especially that set in the Victorian era, then I am sure that this is a book you will enjoy. If you are a family historian, then this is also going to be right up your street. I really enjoy Stephen Molyneux’s writing and I hope that I do not have to wait the same length of time for his next book – we’ve had a death and marriage certificate, how about a birth certificate next?

**BLOG TOUR** Through the Wall by Caroline Corcoran

How well do you know your neighbour? Lexie and Harriet live next door to each other in an upmarket block of flats in London, but never speak. It’s not as though they dislike each other, it’s just not the done thing. The thought of bumping into each other in the lift abhors them and yet they happily eavesdrop on each other through their paper-thin walls. With both women experiencing problems in their personal lives, they soon begin to covet each other’s life with dangerous consequences…

With its slow build-up, Through the Wall is one of those books that takes you a while, but once it’s grabbed you, there’s no letting go! From its opening in a psychiatric hospital, there is a air of foreboding where you know that something bad is about to happen, but what?

From the outside, Harriet looks like the ultimate party girl, her raucous gatherings drawing in strangers from near and far. Lexie wouldn’t be as jealous, however, if she knew Harriet’s past and that this was one way of hiding her loneliness. Similarly, Lexie looks like she shares the perfect life with her husband, Tom, the sort of life that Harriet dreams of. Her happy social media posts hide the trauma of losing a child, though, and do not take into account the pain of trying for a baby. This was a good lesson in how we should not always believe what people choose to share on the likes of Instagram or Facebook, as these posts often display a skewed version of the person’s real life.

Throughout the book, we see Harriet’s interest becoming more and more of an obsession, to the point where she is stalking both Lexie and Tom, even gaining access to their property. I began to fear for Lexie as Harriet became fixated with Tom, wondering just how far she would go to achieve her aim. At the same time, I had nothing but sympathy for Lexie as she began her IVF journey, believing at the same time that her husband was having an affair with a woman called Rachel.

Just when I thought that Harriet had no redeeming qualities whatsoever, the author hit me with details of her past, exploring how she had been the victim of an abusive ex-partner, even if she was in complete denial about this. At this point, I was desperate for someone to take Harriet into their care, to stop her from hurting someone else or even herself. The fears for Lexie were still there, however, and were proven correct when we finally get to the showdown between the two women. The tension was palpable as I began to wonder if history was about to repeat itself.

The story ends where it begins – at the psychological hospital, and it is here where we get the twist that made me gasp. This was one of those moments where you can visualise it on the screen, and I hope that this is something we get to see at some point.

Through the Wall is a disturbing psychological thriller with some genuinely emotional moments. With thanks to Avon Books UK and to Sabah Khan for organising the blog tour.

 

**COVER REVEAL** Risking it All by Stephanie Harte

I am pleased to be one of the blogs sharing the cover of Stephanie Harte’s debut novel, Risking It All. Published on January 23rd, London author Stephanie plunges you deep into the criminal underworld.

Gemma has always been there for Nathan. He’s the love of her life and she made a commitment to him, one she’d never consider breaking… until smooth-talking gangster Alfie Watson comes into their lives and changes everything.

Alfie doesn’t care about true love – he wants Gemma, and the gangster always gets what he wants. When Nathan ends up owing him money, Alfie gets payback by recruiting Gemma to carry out a jewellery heist. To everyone’s surprise, she’s a natural. Until Alfie forgives Nathan’s debt, she has no choice but to accompany the gangster on more and more daring heists – even though one slip-up could cost her everything.

Nathan might have fallen under Alfie’s spell, but it doesn’t take long for him to realise that he needs to save Gemma from his own mistakes if their marriage is to have any chance of surviving. But when that means taking on the East End’s most notorious gangster at his own game, will he find himself up to the challenge?

Fans of Kimberley Chambers, Emma Tallon and Jessie Keane are going to enjoy this one!

Now to the cover:

Buy links:

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

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

Google Play: https://bit.ly/323iVyR

Follow Aria

Website: www.ariafiction.com

Twitter: @aria_fiction

Facebook: @ariafiction

Instagram: @ariafiction

Twitter: @StephanieHarte3

 

 

With thanks to Vicky Joss and Aria.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

**BLOG TOUR** Bold Lies by Rachel Lynch

When the body of a man is found in the Lake District, DI Kelly Porter is shocked when connections are made to the murders of two scientists in a secret laboratory in London. With a case involving the upper echelons of society, Kelly finds herself back on familiar territory when she heads to the capital to assist in the investigation. Reunited with her ex, and the reason she left the Met, DCI Matt Carter, Kelly finds herself in the midst of a challenging case where it is difficult to determine who to trust.

Bold Lies is the fifth in the Kelly Porter series and is very different to the previous books, with the action moving away from the Lake District for much of the novel. We also see a very different plot from what we are used to, dealing with crime involving those with the finances and contacts to do what they want. Those involved in the conspiracy are a truly horrible bunch and it was good to see the detectives slowly tighten the net, even though those involved thought they were untouchable.

Circumstances helped us to see a completely different side of Kelly in Bold Lies. Usually driven by her work and focused on the task in hand, we got to see a more vulnerable side when she returned to her mother’s house to sort out her belongings. I love the relationship she has with Ted and can see how vital he has been to help her with the grieving process.

In previous books, we learned how Kelly left the Met after she was betrayed by a colleague, and we finally get to meet Matt, her former boyfriend and man responsible for her relocation to the Lakes. Matt is not a likeable character and I could understand Kelly’s reluctance in wanting to spend too much time with him. I loved her partner Johnny’s reaction when she told him about her history with Matt, and almost wish he had followed through with his threat!

I’m really enjoying this series although, like Kelly herself, I am glad that she has returned to the Lake District as that is where she belongs! I look forward to seeing her back among the lakes and fells investigating her next crime.

With thanks to Canelo and Net Galley for my ARC and to Ellie Pilcher for organising the blog tour.

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

Dark Game

Deep Fear

Dead End

Bitter Edge

 

Death at Hungerford Stairs by J C Briggs

When the body of a young boy is found at Hungerford Stairs close to the River Thames, Charles Dickens is relieved to find that is not the missing child he has been searching for. Presumed drowned, Superintendent Jones of Bow Street soon has a murder case on his hands when a different cause of death is discovered. After more bodies are found, the detective’s worst fears are realised – they have a serial killer on their hands.

Death at Hungerford Stairs is the second book to feature the author Charles Dickens as one of the main characters, the first being The Murder of Patience BrookeIn the previous book, I was particularly impressed with how the author managed to paint a vivid picture of early-Victorian London, especially the more downtrodden areas. This has continued in the second book, making you feel that you are actually walking the London streets.

I like, again, how the author has merged fact with fiction, with true aspects of Dickens’ life providing an air of authenticity to the plot. Dickens is written as a generous man, keen to help the underprivileged and the down at heel, the references to his early life possibly providing a reason for his benevolence. There is a rich supporting cast, providing some tragic as well as some humorous moments.

The hunt for a child killer could be a difficult subject matter, but the author handles it in an informative yet sensitive way, culminating in a very different motive and culprit to most books of this genre. Although there were a few hints dropped throughout the book, the ending was still a surprise – a clever one at that.

I’m definitely looking forward to reading the next in the series.

The Murder of Patience Brooke by J. C. Briggs

5A5C8CE0-06A8-4483-886B-8D2789653866It’s 1849 and the celebrated writer, Charles Dickens, has established Urania House, a home for fallen women in London. With opposition from many, he knows that he will have more of a battle on his hands after the matron’s assistant, Patience Brooke, is found hanging, covered in blood, outside the property. With the help of his friend, Sam Jones, a Superintendent from Bow Street, he sets out in search of the unknown man with the crooked face, his investigations taking him to the dark side of London. Just what secret was Patience hiding that has made someone kill to prevent it from being revealed?

The Murder of Patience Brooke is the first in a series of books to feature Charles Dickens as the chief investigator. As someone who showed an interest in crime, and wrote about some of the darkest parts of the Victorian underworld, he is an inspired choice as a sleuth, and it was great to read a fictional account of this real person.

The author’s description could have come straight out of a Dickens novel, creating a vivid image of London’s underbelly at a time when the gap between rich and poor was horrendously huge. By including real places such as Dickens’ home for ‘fallen women’, Urania Cottage, there is an air of authenticity throughout the book, making it a great read for anyone with an interest in the Victorian era. Such is the quality of the writing, not only is it easy to picture the squalid abodes, but you can almost smell the poverty.

As well as the superb description, there is also a great murder-mystery with some truly horrible characters being sought by the police. The man with the twisted face was a villain straight out of a Dickens book and his crimes, and those of an even more barbaric character, made my skin crawl. I enjoyed the culmination of the story with the race against time for Dickens and Jones to get their man and thought that the conclusion was fitting and in keeping with the rest of the story.

The Murder of Patience Brooke was an excellent, atmospheric read and I am already looking forward to reading the next in the series, Death at Hungerford Stairs.

With thanks to Caoimhe O’Brien at Sapere Books for my copy.

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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