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Picking Up The Pieces by Jo Worgan **Urbane Extravaganza**

I am really pleased to be the latest blog to feature on the Urbane Extravaganza, celebrating the books published by Urbane this year. I have the pleasure of being able to share the opening chapter of Picking Up The Pieces by Jo Worgan which was published on November 8th. The book is about Kate, the mother of a six-year-old autistic son who has fled her abusive partner. Having created a bond with her neighbour, Matt, a man who seems to have his own secrets, Kate soon realises that her ex is determined to get her back at all costs…


Chapter One

Monday, September 9th, 2013

The alarm had long been silenced. Kate Sullivan lay still and listened; she listened for the sound of soft footsteps that would softly pad across the laminate boards of the bedroom floor next to hers. She listened for the inevitable creak that would sound from the opening of the bedroom door. Poking his head around the doorframe would be the sleepy image of her beautiful six-year-old son, a tangled mess of sleep encrusted eyes and messy blonde curls,
as he bounced onto her bed. As usual, he would snuggle up under the covers with his thin arms wrapped around her body. Morning Sam, she would say, her voice thick with sleep. But all was quiet now; he had not yet stirred. She had another fifteen minutes of peace and quiet. She closed her eyes and surrendered to the silence.

The slow creak of his bedroom door alerted her to his presence. A shaft of light appeared on the landing, seen through the slit of her bedroom door that was not quite closed. She never closed the bedroom door; she slept with one eye open, ever alert. The door wobbled slightly on its hinges as it was flung open. Sam jumped onto the bed and over Kate, burrowing himself under the embroidered flowery quilt, bought as a bargain charity shop find, and then pressed himself into the small of her back. He relaxed. Kate inhaled his little boy smell; the shampoo from last night’s shower clung to his skin. She ruffled his soft hair. His leg flung
carelessly over hers. Her chest tightened, filled with the mixture of emotions that were love, fear, guilt and joy for this little boy. This little boy that was hers. She squeezed her eyes shut, savouring the precious moment, fearing it could be taken from her at any moment.

‘Morning Sam,’ she mumbled into the pillow.

Their day had just begun.

The stairs creaked one by one as they descended them, not quite warmed up by the morning sun that streaked through the crack in the hallway curtains. The carpet was blue, faded, marked with muddy patches and years of wear and tear, the edges frayed. Kate led Sam into the living room, and quickly found his iPad. He firmly plonked himself down onto the worn brown leather couch, right at the end, where he could squish himself into the armrest. An
indent showed that this was his favourite seat. The screen flickered to life, fully charged. Kate sat down next to him and wondered what app he would open. The theme tune from his ABC app rang out loudly from the speaker, filling the room with life. Sam stared at the screen, the light illuminating his face, completely immersed.


‘I’ll go and get you your milk, Sam,’ Kate softly told him. Without waiting for a response, she headed into the adjoining kitchen. Coffee, she needed coffee; she could not function without it. She ran the tap to fill the kettle and flicked the switch. Sleepily, she spooned
coffee haphazardly into a chipped red mug, then opened the fridge to find milk and Sam’s soya milk, which she poured into his cow cup. She set the timer for thirty seconds and watched as the cup slowly rotated, the microwave buzzing, the light filling the room. The kettle beeped noisily, steam escaping from the spout, while the microwave pinged. Kate had the timing down to perfection. She took the cup out of the microwave, allowing it to cool while she poured the hot water over her instant coffee. Reaching up to the shelf above the toaster, she grabbed a straw, a blue one, always a blue one, and plonked it in Sam’s cup. She carried both cups into the living room. She looked at Sam; he had not moved.

‘Sit next to me,’ Sam told her, patting the leather seat, his eyes not moving from the screen.

Kate smiled. ‘Move over then, Sam.’

She squeezed in right next to him, replacing his position at the end of the couch and placed her mug onto the lowest wooden shelf at the side of the couch. She passed Sam his milk. There were piles of books on the makeshift bookcase, all crammed together, fighting for survival. Most were crime novels, waiting to be read. Kate made yet another mental note to start reading one tonight, that was if she could keep awake long enough.

Sam drained the milk and passed the empty cup back to Kate, placing both his legs over hers and resting his head on her shoulder. She gently ruffled his hair, once again inhaling the little boy smell that she knew would soon fade.

Sam loved close contact, to be squeezed, the greater the pressure the better. He liked to feel and touch things; he craved touch, he craved textures. He liked to sit incredibly close to Kate, to feel that human contact. But she did not complain; he wouldn’t always be so little. Soon she would miss those tight cuddles.

Kate glanced up at the clock; it was not quite seven and his taxi was not due until eight. They had plenty of time. They would have a leisurely breakfast and then slowly get ready for school. All they needed to do was to shovel down their toast and cereal and get dressed. But of course, all in the same order; they always had to do things in the same order – it’s just the way it was.

The house was so quiet; all Kate could hear were the birds chirping in the trees outside and of course the cartoons that were now playing on repeat on the iPad. Sam was watching the same
clip over and over again, but strangely it didn’t annoy her. As long as Sam was happy, she was happy. She was prepared to do anything for a quiet life. She grabbed her phone and opened up her emails to see if there were any from her editor, who had the habit of sending
emails late at night with regards to the stories that Kate needed to cover the following day. Sadly, he hadn’t sent any. She would pop into the newspaper office once Sam had left for school.

Kate sipped her coffee; it was still far too hot. She blew on it in the hope of cooling it down; it never worked. Stretching her legs  out in front of her onto the blue and white patterned rug that had seen better days, she tried to empty her mind of all the crap that she needed to sort through today. The house needed cleaning, but she just didn’t have the energy. The housework could wait another day, or two. She needed to go food shopping and she needed to
write something, anything, so that she could pay the rent at the end of the month. She also needed to call the landlord about the boiler, as it was playing up again, only heating up the water when it decided to do so. Mr. Jenkins should have bought a new boiler years ago, but he was too tight-fisted. So, it would be repaired, yet again. Kate sighed.

The living room was small but cosy. It was sparsely furnished, but that was the way Kate liked it. It was a safe space for her and Sam. The room was crammed full of books, a battered two-seater sofa that was a hand-me-down from the previous tenant, a small recliner shoved into a corner that was barely used and a small table where Kate sat and did her work; this was also where her laptop was permanently plugged in. The walls had been painted a bland magnolia, but they gave a feeling of calm, of space. Bold colours were too draining, too claustrophobic, and besides, they reminded Kate of him.

Kate and Sam usually ate in the kitchen; there was just enough room for a tiny wooden square table and four chairs, two of which were never used. The set had been a charity shop bargain that she had found one rainy Saturday when Sam was a toddler. It was pure
luck that the heavens had opened, meaning that they had taken shelter from the unforgiving rain that had drenched them both. Mr. Jenkins had installed a rather nasty looking plastic table in the kitchen and she couldn’t wait to get rid of it. It wobbled whenever she touched it. Kate did not own a television; she didn’t see the point. She mainly read or streamed movies. It was either that or write. Kate stretched once more and yawned. Sam had been unsettled last night; he kept waking up and had crept into Kate’s room at least three times. She very nearly gave up and let him sleep in her bed, but she found the strength to walk him back into his
room each time he had stumbled in. Kate was pretty sure that his being unsettled was because the new school term had started. This always happened after the holidays. He became anxious and his sleeping pattern erratic. Kate had painstakingly made him a visual timetable, that she had stuck to the fridge with colourful alphabet magnets. It showed Sam pictures of his taxi and school, as well as the children in his class and his new teachers, all smiling into the camera. But Sam showed no interest in it whatsoever over the summer holidays. He just kept ripping the pictures off the fridge; the one that showed the school was scrunched up into a tight ball. So, in the end Kate had hidden the pictures. What was the point? There was no use in upsetting him. Visuals usually helped Sam, those small clues that told him what would be happening next, what would be happening in his life. But for some reason the visual prompts of school did not help him, they just created more anxiety. This was the reason why Kate had not yet mentioned the word school. It would just upset him. What she wanted more than
anything in the world was for him to be happy.

Sam attended a small autism-specific specialist school a few miles away from the sleepy village of Muddletown; he’d been there for over a year. He enjoyed it there; it was just that when there had been a long break away from school, it could take him a little bit more time to adjust back into his old routine, to become settled again. Kate knew that the morning would be a difficult one, for him, and for her. There was nothing that she could do about it.

Sam looked up at her with his big blue eyes. Kate knew what he was going to ask, even before the words had left his mouth.

‘Cornflakes Mum.’

Kate ruffled his hair. ‘Okay Sam, I’ll get your cornflakes.’

Five minutes to eight. Kate stood in the living room, waiting for the taxi, trying desperately to swallow down her mounting nerves. Sam was finally dressed in his school uniform, plus dressing gown. She was not too sure where this need to wear his dressing gown had come from, but he refused to take it off. Getting him dressed was a struggle, but she resigned herself to the fact that it was not his fault. None of this was his fault. Kate was well aware that she should remove his Bob the Builder dressing gown that was two sizes too small. She could barely fasten it and the sleeves ended at his elbows, but it was only for one day; it really wouldn’t matter. If it meant that she could lure him into the taxi, and that he was
settled on his journey to school, then there was no harm done.

Once Sam was quietly playing with his cars, Kate quickly got dressed. Luckily, she was very low maintenance. She usually wore comfortable, practical clothes, so in other words, boring. This usually meant she ended up wearing jeans and a t-shirt, or a dress and cardigan. Kate never wore heels. It was difficult to chase after a small boy who was sprinting down the road in killer heels. This was the reason why Kate stuck to either her tatty and much-loved Converse or lace up boots. Her long curly brown hair had been combed, and a lick of lipstick applied. She was now ready to face the world. Or rather, the taxi driver, Sam’s taxi escort and her boss. Kate checked her watch; it had just gone eight. She looked out of the living room window and noticed a large removal van pulling into the driveway next door. The house had been empty for around three months and she wondered who her new neighbours would be. Would they be a young couple who hosted loud parties? Or would they be a nice quiet retired couple? Kate secretly hoped that they liked children. It would make a pleasant change from the previous owners. She stood back from the window, aware that if seen she would appear like a prying neighbour. She adjusted the net curtain and turned to Sam. He still looked like the condemned man as he sat on the floor, wheeling his red toy car backwards and forwards on his car mat. He had not spoken to Kate since the whole getting dressed incident. She had not been forgiven for making him go to school. She took another quick peek through the net curtains and saw the familiar blue taxi at the top of the street; the honking horn soon followed. Why did they do that? They knew it upset Sam. She turned towards Sam, his hands
covering his ears. and took a deep breath. ‘Sam, the taxi is here.’

He looked up at her, clutching the red shiny car. ‘Oh, no Mum,’ he muttered.

‘I know Sam, but we need to get shoes on now,’ Kate told him patiently, her heart hammering in her chest, praying silently for no meltdown.

She reached out her hand and he took it. Together they walked into the hallway, so that Kate could put his shoes on for him. Having grabbed his bag, coat, lunchbox and car seat, that was now tucked under her arm, she unlocked and then opened the front door, before heading down the short path towards the awaiting taxi. Sam tightly gripped her hand. Kate looked over at him, seeing what expression he was wearing. But he gave nothing away. Kate was met with silence. She greeted the taxi driver, the same lady who picked him up every single day and asked how she was, while positioning the car seat for him. The words drifted over Kate’s head in a melodic hum. She smiled at his passenger escort who greeted Sam with a beaming smile. ‘Morning Sam.’ But she too was met with silence. Kate handed over all his belongings, kissed him on the top of his head, and slowly closed the car door. She stood on the pavement as they drove away. A huge lump formed in her throat. She looked up at the sky and blinked several times to clear her vision. He’d gone, handed over to others to look after
him, and she suddenly felt redundant. Kate was fiercely protective of her little boy, maybe too protective, but she couldn’t help it. At times, he just seemed so vulnerable. She turned and walked back into the now still and quiet house.

The kitchen was an absolute mess; there was no way that the housework could wait until tomorrow, but it would have to wait until she got back from the office this afternoon. She fleetingly thought about getting a cleaner, but then laughed, as one, she should be able to clean her own home and two, she couldn’t afford one. Kate attempted to lift a stubborn stack of papers from the kitchen table, now all covered in sticky jam, and shoved them into her oversized satchel that was covered in bright blue flowers. Grabbing her pencil case, she shoved that in too, and made sure that her phone was in its designated pocket. She knew though that by the time she arrived at work, it would be buried underneath all the toy cars, pens, bits of paper and other accumulated junk. Draining the dregs from her now cold cup of coffee, she dropped the mug into the overflowing sink, slung her satchel across her shoulder and headed out the front door. She inhaled the fresh air; it was good to get out of the house. She just hoped that her editor had some stories for her to chase up. The Muddletown Muse was hardly a hub of activity, but she enjoyed writing stories about the local area. In truth, she enjoyed chatting to people, even if it was only the local mad cat lady.

As she pulled away from the house in her ancient Mini, she glanced in the rear-view mirror to check that nobody was following her. She did this automatically, subconsciously; it was now part of her morning ritual. The shadow was always there; it had never gone away. It was just a matter of time before it caught up with her.

With thanks to Urbane Publications, Jo Worgan and to Kelly from Love Books Group Tours for organising the tour.

**BLOG TOUR** Arcam by Jason Minick

51Pv5HlKsGLI’m really pleased to be able to share an extract from Arcam the debut novel from Jason Minick. Set in his favourite part of the UK, Arcam is a crime/conspiracy theory and a sequel is already in the pipeline. The extract may only be short, but definitely leaves me wanting to read more!

The Blurb

DCI Jack Robson believes he is hunting a kidnapper…

Away from his posting in London, Robson is asked to lead an investigation in the south west of England. But what begins as a baffling local kidnapping mystery, quickly escalates into something far more sinister.

In pursuit of the perpetrators, DCI Robson joins forces with Inspector Emma Wilson and the rest of the regional CID team. Together, they attempt to make sense of the lack of evidence or motive, eventually getting drawn to the tiny island of Steep

Holm, in the Bristol Channel.

As the investigation progresses, Robson, Wilson and their colleagues find themselves facing something far beyond normal detective work. Unthinkable connections lead them to a conspiracy, so great it could change the course of humanity. The question is, can they intervene before it’s too late to prevent the appalling future that potentially lies ahead …

The Extract

She hadn’t noticed the horror spreading across her father’s face as he stood rooted to the rock ten yards away, eyes unblinkingly fixed on the dark, soaking wet industrial safety boots.

Unlike her keen-eyed father, Ellie hadn’t noticed the discolouring around the boots where they protruded from the seaweed. When he spoke again, she looked up instantly, detecting the anxiety in his shaky request.

“Ellie. Come here now please, darling.”

“What’s the matter, Daddy?” She began to cry in reaction to her father’s tone.

He swept across the area of slimy rocks that separated them and stretched forward to take her by her arm. The pain of the fall wouldn’t hit him until later – it was the grim vision that presented itself which terrorised him, as he slipped and landed on his backside a few feet away from the boots. The seaweed in front of him parted with the disturbance, to reveal the ghostly wide eyes of a man beneath the shallow surface. Ellie screamed instinctively as she watched her father vomit over the seaweed.

With thanks to Kelly at Love Books Group Tours for organising the tour and to the author for providing a brilliant extract!


The book can be purchased here.

Contact Jason Minick on Twitter : @JMinick_Author


**BLOG TOUR** Full Metal Cardigan by David Emery

Full-Metal-Cardigan-Front-CoverFull Metal Cardigan is the first book from David Emery, detailing life as a social worker. While this is certainly a serious profession, it has also had its lighthearted and downright bizarre moments, many of which are recalled in this comical yet no-holds-barred look at life in social services.

They (whoever they may be) say that you should laugh in the face of adversity and it’s fair to say that David has found humour in some very dark places! Although he has faced some very dark events in the course of his job such as attempted suicides and physical attacks, he has clearly kept his sense of humour throughout, the numerous tales that had me laughing out loud being testament to this! From stories about being an unwitting driver to a drug dealer to nearly aiding a client on a one-way trip to Dignitas, Full Metal Cardigan provided laughs from beginning to end.

It must be remembered, though, that despite the funny stories, working in social services is not easy and is a profession that comes with a huge amount of responsibility. I have much respect for David and his colleagues, especially when reading about the lengthy working hours and amount of personal danger they are placed in. Not a job I would enjoy!

I really enjoyed Full Metal Cardigan and if you are looking for a quick, light-hearted read then this could just be the book for you!

With thanks to Fledgling Press for my ARC and to Kelly at Love Books Group for organising the blog tour. take a look at the rest of the blogs on the tour:


**BLOG TOUR** The Cold Cold Sea by Linda Huber #GUESTPOST

I am really pleased to be the latest stop on the blog tour for the new book from Linda Huber: The Cold Cold Sea, and am thrilled to be able to share a guest post written by Linda. I am always interested in how authors choose the settings for their books and Linda has shared how she chooses her locations and how important it is to get the right one.

Choosing the Right Location

Setting is important. The entire atmosphere of a book can change, depending on whether it’s set in a city, a village, deep in the country or by the sea – Wuthering Heights wouldn’t have been half as dramatic set in London, for instance.  So it’s something I give a lot of thought to before I start a novel.

The Cold Cold Sea, unsurprisingly, needed a beach location, more than that, it needed a hot beach location (not many of those around in the UK!) for Maggie to doze off in and not notice that three-year-old Olivia isn’t running across the deserted sands to her daddy like she’s supposed to… And I needed cliffs, and crashing waves, and a tide that ebbed and flowed, because all these fitted so well with Maggie’s despair in the days and weeks following her little girl’s disappearance. Did Olivia go into the sea, the beautiful sea that stretched and sparkled into infinity – or did something else happen?
I set this book in Cornwall, because I’d spent several holidays there and could ‘feel the wind in my hair’ as I was writing. I think that’s important too; it’s harder to write authentically about a real place if you’ve never been there.

I think the book location I had most fun writing about was Ward Zero’s. Sarah and family lived in a fictional town near Manchester, comparable to the Stockport area where an old school friend of mine lives – but much of the action took place in the local hospital. I was a physiotherapist in a previous life, and worked in a big general hospital in Glasgow before coming to Switzerland, so these parts of the book were easy – and I really enjoyed transporting ‘my’ hospital down to England and having Sarah & co wander around the various departments.

Death Wish is another with a slightly medical theme – assisted suicide. This time, I could combine locations I was very familiar with. Little Joya and her family live in Glasgow, in Langside, where I usually stay when I visit the city. And assisted suicide, which Grandma Vee wants more than anything, isn’t possible in the UK but is here in Switzerland, so the family fly over to find out more. I watched the BBC documentary Simon’s Choice too, and this helped enormously, for of course I’ve never been inside an assisted death facility. People often call them clinics, but they’re not.

Different settings can bring some contrast into your plot. One part of The Attic Room takes place in a gloomy, neglected old house in Bedford, the other on the lovely Isle of Arran in Scotland, where I was lucky enough to spend all my teenage summers. To Nina, the situation in Bedford was dangerous; she wanted nothing more than to return to her home on the island, where she was safe and loved. The contrast of old house vs. beautiful island helped me show this.

The location can bring fun to a book too – my Lakeside Hotel novellas as Melinda Huber are set right here in Switzerland, and of course the characters do all the touristy things, like visiting the Rhine Falls, and taking the ferry across the lake to Germany and the cable car up our local mountain, the Säntis. Writing these little books was almost like having a Swiss holiday – I loved it!

About the Author

Linda’s writing career began in the nineties when she had over fifty short stories published in women’s magazines. Several years later, she turned to psychological suspense fiction, and her seventh novel, Death Wish, was published by Bloodhound Books in August 2017.

She grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, but went to work in Switzerland for a year aged twenty-two, and has lived there ever since. Her day jobs have included working as a physiotherapist in hospitals and schools for handicapped children, and teaching English in a medieval castle. Currently, she teaches one day a week and writes psychological suspense novels and feel-good novellas with (most of) the rest of her time.#

About the Book

They stared at each other, and Maggie felt the tightness in her middle expand as it shifted, burning its way up… Painful sobs rose in her throat as Colin, his face expressionless now, reached for his mobile and tapped 999.

When three-year-old Olivia disappears from the beach, a happy family holiday comes to an abrupt end. Maggie is plunged into the darkest nightmare imaginable – what happened to her little girl?

Further along the coast, another mother is having problems too. Jennifer’s daughter Hailey is starting school, and it should be such a happy time, but the child is increasingly moody and silent. Family life has never seemed so awkward, and Jennifer struggles to maintain control.

The tide ebbs and flows, and summer dies, but there is no comfort for Maggie, alone now at the cottage, or for Jennifer, still swamped by doubts.


Amazon Author Page:




With thanks to Linda Huber for the excellent guest post and to Kelly at Love Books Group for organising it. Don’t forget to take a look at the rest of the tour!


**BLOG TOUR** Implant by Ray Clark

Implant - Ray Clark

I’m really happy to be the latest stop on the blog tour for Implant, the third book in the Gardener and Reilly crime series by Ray Clark. Today, I am able to share an extract from this grisly serial killer story, and one that definitely leaves me wanting to read more! Warning – the extract contains swearing!

The Blurb

Bramfield, near Leeds, a sleepy little market town nestled on the borders of West and North Yorkshire. Detectives Stewart Gardener and Sean Reilly discover the naked corpse of Alex Wilson, nailed to the wall of a cellar in his uncle’s hardware store. His lips are sewn together and his body bears only one mark, a fresh scar near his abdomen.

Within forty-eight hours, their investigation results in dead ends, more victims, no suspects and very little in the way of solid evidence. Gardener and Reilly have a problem and a question on their hands: are the residents of Bramfield prepared for one of history’s most sadistic killers, The Tooth Fairy?

The Extract


3:30 a.m.

Alex Wilson still had no idea what was going on, or the length of time he’d been wherever he was. In fact, he had no idea how long he had been awake: it could have been minutes, it could have been hours.

It was still pitch black, but whatever thoughts he’d harboured about his possible non-existent carcass were disappearing as feeling had begun to return.

And fucking hell did it hurt!

His first sensation was the feeling of pins and needles overtaking his entire body, as if the circulation had been stopped and then started again. All his limbs had felt heavy, and he’d felt sick. Within minutes that had turned to pain, proper pain, and the level was increasing with each passing second.

But he still couldn’t move. Not fully anyway. He knew there was something hard against his back, and it felt like his arms were stretched out. The slight movement he was allowed seemed to create a gap between the hard surface and his limb. But that was as far as he could go. The same could be said for his legs, a little movement and no more, as if his feet had been pinned, but by what he could not see because it was still too fucking dark!

Furthermore, something was stopping him opening his mouth. It wasn’t a gag, and it hadn’t been taped up, but he still couldn’t open it. He could only breathe through his nose.

What the hell was going on?

He’d managed to work out that he was vertical, because if he moved his head, it hung forward very easily and it preferred to stay there. Returning it took an effort, and it wouldn’t have done if he’d been lying down.

Had Lance Hobson given him something? Was he under the influence of some new and untested hallucinogenic drug that only Hobson knew about? Was he a guinea pig?

If it was a new kind of drug they were going to knock out, they had better do something with it. People wouldn’t come back for any more if they suffered symptoms like these.

Hobson was a dangerous bastard, a very rich, dangerous bastard who had everything simply because he had everyone else do his dirty work. Wasn’t that the way with the people at the top of the drug chain? They never sullied their own hands.

Alex went into a spasm as his whole carcass was wracked with a pain equivalent to nothing he’d ever felt before. It filled his entire body from head to foot, as if someone had pulled his fucking nerves through his skin and plugged them into the mains.

Alex twisted and writhed and still could not break free of whatever held him in position.

As his body calmed, he could feel himself bathed in sweat. He was shaking, and although the pain had subsided, his hands and feet continued to throb incessantly.

And then he heard something that momentarily distracted his thoughts.

Footsteps from above.


3:40 a.m.

After telling Richard Jones to stay outside and keep an eye open for his colleagues, Gary stepped inside the shop.

Armitage’s hardware store was a shrine to the past. Moving from the doorway into the main area was like walking through a tunnel. Display boards on either side were crammed full with Hoover bags and belts and other accessories. In front of him was a stand with gardening products and implements, ranging from plant food and compost, to small trowels and forks.

He moved forward slowly, peering into the dark shop. From his vantage point, he could not see anything untoward. He listened carefully for any movement. There was nothing.

He glanced to his right and saw the counter in front of the back wall of the room. On the extreme left side, near a window – looking out onto what he presumed would be a back yard – was a lift-up hatch, which was down at the moment. Behind the counter he saw a cabinet with hundreds of drawers with brass handles on them. God only knew what they contained.

The store probably hadn’t changed in years, and seemed to stock everything anyone would need: tools, paint, varnish, wood, and tiles. If you could name it, old Armitage had it.

A range of smells pervaded the building, comfortable aromas that DIY enthusiasts would soak up every time they entered. The fragrance of pine was the strongest, and beneath the frame holding the lumber, the excess shavings supported the fact. He could smell polish, and linseed oil.

The ceiling had beams with old-fashioned arc lighting and copper shades, none of which were lit, and couldn’t possibly be helping the environment when they were. But he doubted old Armitage would believe that.

The only illumination Gary could see was a floor lamp. It resembled an ancient, upright mantle, around six feet tall and gun metal grey in colour; the type used in London streets in the early nineteenth century that ran on gas and had to be manually lit.

In his opinion, the lamp had been placed there deliberately, and had probably come from Armitage’s stock.

He gazed back around the interior to see if he could confirm that. A sudden movement caused Gary to jump, which in turn made him lose his balance. From there he crashed backwards into a stand with dustpans and mops and buckets and other cleaning materials. The sound seemed louder than anything he had ever heard in his life, one that could have woken half of Bramfield.

Mops, brushes, and buckets fell to the floor all around him, along with brand-named containers like Flash and CIF Cleaner. As he was about to move, one struck the corner of his eye. He lost his temper and yelled an obscenity.

“Are you okay in there?” shouted Richard Jones from the shop doorway.

Gary allowed the dust to settle before he quickly found his feet, desperate to keep the man from entering.

“I’m fine, but don’t come in. It could be a crime scene.”

“You don’t have to worry about me, son. I know about this kind of stuff, I’ve watched them all. Morse, Frost, The Bill…”

Doubt you’ve learned much, then, thought Gary.

As he glanced around he realized what had caused him to react like a tit:  the appearance of his own reflection in a mirror.

Disgusted with himself, he straightened his uniform and ran his hands up and down his body, clearing the wood shavings from his clothes.

Gary jumped again at the sound of a phone receiving a text message. He reached into his inside pocket, only to discover it hadn’t been his.

So whose was it?

He moved toward the counter. Under the light was a retro mobile with the screen lit up. Gary recognized the phone as a Nokia 101, only because he’d bought one from a car boot sale earlier in the year. He didn’t have to touch the phone to be able to read the message.

“The station at Bursley Bridge holds the key to a terrifying secret.”

He grabbed his police radio and contacted Cragg.

Ray Clark Author ImageAbout the Author

The British Fantasy Society published Ray Clark’s first work in 1995 – Manitou Man: The World of Graham Masterton, was nominated for both the World and British Fantasy Awards. In 2009, Ray’s short story, Promises To Keep, made the final shortlist for the best short story award from The Tom Howard Foundation. Ray is based in Goole, and has set his Gardener and Reilly crime series in nearby Leeds.

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With thanks to Urbane Publications and to Kelly Lacey from Love Books Group for organising the blog tour. Take a look at the rest of the tour:



*BLOG TOUR** Bone Deep by Sandra Ireland #Extract

Today I am really pleased to be the latest stop on the blog tour for Bone Deep, the new book from Sandra Ireland. After beginning her writing career as a correspondent on a local newspaper, Sandra soon turned her hand to fiction, the result being her debut novel Beneath the Skin, which was published in 2016. I am happy to be able to share an extract from Bone Deep, which was published by Polygon on July 5th 2018.

The Blurb

What happens when you fall in love with the wrong person? The consequences threaten to be far-reaching and potentially deadly. Bone Deep is a contemporary novel of sibling rivalry, love, betrayal and murder. This is the story of two women: Mac, who is bent on keeping the secrets of the past from her only son, and the enigmatic Lucie, whose past is something of a closed book. Their story is underpinned by the creaking presence of an abandoned water mill, and haunted by the local legend of two long-dead sisters, themselves rivals in love, and ready to point an accusing finger from the pages of history.

The Extract


I go to bed early, the way you do when you’re exhausted, thinking you’ll fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow. That almost never happens. You just lie awake, your brain downloading data like a runaway iPhone.

I lie in bed with the lamp on, gazing up at the bumpy ceiling. I feel small, crushed, like the whole weight of Reuben is pressing my spine into the mattress. But it’s not a good weight, not his heat and his gentle roughness and all the good bits. This is the heaviness of pain, of deception, of despair.

I suppose at the start of the affair there was an element of triumph. I found it incredible that someone like Reuben would fancy someone like me. I was everything my sister was not, dark, quiet, awkward, and Reuben was colourful and careless. I was never quiet and awkward with him, especially in bed. Then triumph slipped into something darker, an unhealthy craving. My body surprised me, the way it reacted to him, ached for him. My conscience shut down. We took chances, creeping into bed together when the house was empty, trading hot-eyed glances across the dinner table. It was a game, I suppose, and Jane wasn’t part of it. I never set out to fall in love with him, and I suppose he thought he could keep me at arm’s length – emotionally, anyway.

Sandra Ireland

At first, I think Reuben enjoyed flitting between two sisters. Every man’s fantasy, isn’t it? It would never have occurred to me to give him an ultimatum, to make him choose. Starcrossed lovers are blinded by starlight. There is no way out of this without heartbreak, and the thought makes me sink deeper, until, like Reuben in that hospital bed, I am a mere outline. All I can think of is how quickly Reuben tried to save himself. Part of me had been longing for him to have an epiphany under those white sheets. You’re the one I really love, Lucie. It isn’t Jane, it’s always been you. Part of me thought that, one day, Reuben would have the courage of his convictions. Part of me thought that ‘one day’ would be now.

What if Reuben never had any courage? Something inside me wants to weep. The sheer effort of reassessing things, of seeing Reuben in a new and unflattering light, is too much to bear. I decide to get up. The bed is suddenly a desert, and I can still smell Reuben on my pillow. Dragging on a robe, I stumble into the kitchen, flicking on every switch, flooding the cottage with light, making day out of night. Nights are pretty pointless when you’re alone. Soon the kettle is bubbling into life, and I’m singing along to Take That on the radio. I’m not really in a bubbly, singy mood, but I don’t want to be alone with the strange turn my thoughts are taking. I have an unblemished, unshakeable connection with Reuben. There is no room for a stain or a wobble.

With thanks to Sandra Ireland and to Kelly Lacey from Love Books Group for organising the blog tour.

Bone DeepTake a look at the rest of the blogs on the tour!


**BLOG TOUR** Night Driver by Marcelle Perks

Today I am really pleased to be able to share with you an exclusive extract from Night Driver, the new book from Marcelle Perks. I’m especially happy that I have the prologue and first chapter, setting the scene beautifully for what looks like a tense read!

The Blurb

Heavily pregnant Frannie is facing a crisis. An English woman living in Germany, her marriage is failing, her language skills are hopeless, and she feels like a fish out of water in a foreign country.

In a positive effort to tackle her problems she learns to drive so she can cope when her baby is born and build a sense of independence. After passing her driving test she drives in the early hours of the morning to gain experience on the eerily empty streets.

But when she encounters a Polish motorcyclist looking for his missing sister, she becomes sucked into a terrifying world of shady nightclubs, autobahn prostitutes and organ trafficking. And when she crosses serial-killing truck driver Stigelegger, there’s no turning back.

A most unlikely heroine, this nervous Night Driver must stay one step ahead of her pursuer on the darkest of roads in order to survive.

The Extract


In the black and white photograph, he looks too cheerful to have killed anybody. But because of what he did he was the first serial killer to make newspaper headlines all over the world.

Look again and his expression is less benign, as though he’s  concentrating on something. The eyebrows are thick, like furry  stripes, but his eyes are set too close together. Perhaps he is just
frowning. The pre-war Hitler moustache he sports, with a bald stripe in the middle, makes him seem worse than he really is. His hat is broad and jaunty, with a light-coloured ribbon around the crown. It fails to hide his sticking-out ears. There’s a flap of loose skin visible above his tight collar. The tie is a ridiculous miniature, in the dapper fashion of the time. Even all these years on, this middle-aged man is still trying to impress. He took so much, when he needed so little.

Every time Lars the lorry driver looks at his good-luck photo of Fritz, he feels a tingle of recognition.

When Lars picks someone up, they usually ask about the photo attached prominently on the dashboard.

‘Who’s that?’

That’s our Fritz,’ he always says, zinging on the ‘z’ at the end. Usually he laughs then. If they know about the killer Haarmann already, it gets them thinking. He likes it better when they’re scared.

Not that he knows who he will take and who he will just drop off at the next rest stop or wherever he’s heading. That’s Schicksal.

On the open road, anything’s possible, especially after dark. Real life just seems to disappear under the wheels of his lorry. The only world that stretches out into infinity is the burning strip of Autobahn he is travelling on and the possibilities that it carries: boys wanting to hook up with drugs or danger. Or something else. And if Fritz were here right now, in this world, Lars knows that he would embrace it. Sometimes he wants to be Fritz; sometimes he is Fritz.

Such a force of nature could never be completely extinguished.”> Marcelle Perks

[/caption]Chapter One

What Francesca Snell disliked, she did badly. And when she tried her damnedest, trotzdem, to fight her inborn stubbornness, every part of her body sweated strife. At thirty-one it was hard adjusting to life in Germany. Until recently she’d worked for a company and travelled every month alone on business to amazing Caribbean islands. There’d been the unexpected thrill of the turquoise blue sea, and the warm balmy air that calmed her senses. She’d never even been with her parents on holiday before to a foreign country. After years of struggling to get a decent job with her English degree, of her parents being disappointed that their talented daughter only bounced from one lousy short-term contract to the next, suddenly she was an offshore B2B publishing consultant. She had a year-round glow and was always going off
somewhere in a plane.

True, the job was more sales than creative, but she felt that her natural talent had been finally spotted. She could work anywhere and do anything as long as she had access to a laptop.

But then the recession came, and the publishing sector in which she’d worked was hit hard. With the rise of the internet, readers could search most things for free. She lost her fancy job and struggled to find a new one. She panicked and sold her East London three-bed terraced house rather than risk falling behind on the mortgage.

She’d had to struggle to find work in the creative industries, arts graduates were inevitably exploited, and it always irked her that the scientists and engineers who’d studied at university with her had it so much easier. Her parents didn’t have much money to support her and resented the fact that she’d studied the soft option – arts rather than a profession. Her dad had hoped she would be a doctor or IT expert and never got tired of telling her so.

Of course, her husband was cut from another cloth. Not only  was he an engineer, he was German. She’d met Kurt when he was testing a wind turbine project in the Cayman Islans. He’d
been so relaxed then. He was naturally attractive, with wide-open features and deep blue eyes. His was the kind of face that made you think of old-fashioned movie stars in double-breasted suits. He hadn’t tried to get her into bed instantly like the English guys she was used to. Instead he took her to dinner and showed her the best place for scuba-diving. He dated her, fastidiously, as if they were sixteen. Her every whim mattered to him. He wasn’t a genius creative like her previous boyfriends, a crazy film director and a brash journalist, but his interest in her was overwhelming. And that was addictive. The only thing they had in common was mutual attraction, but at first that was enough.

That first week in the Cayman Islands they drank one Mudslider Sling after another as they watched the sun go down. After a year of commuting, seeing each other every three weeks, when she’d lost her job she’d taken the plunge and moved over to be with him. She’d sold her house at a good profit and thought she could always move back if things didn’t work out. But then the property boom in London went crazy, and before she knew it she was priced out
of the market. 

Things were good with Kurt the first year or so but then they had got married and moved here, and after that their relationship had solidified in a direction she didn’t like. What for Kurt was
normality was, for her, oppression. After being an international jet-setter, suddenly she was stuck in the German suburbs with no driving licence. There was a bus once an hour. It was like
living in the fifties. In their village there was no takeaways; you actually had to cook if you wanted to eat. If you went to the local pub, people only went there for nosh and were in bed by
ten. Their house and garden were big – that was why they had chosen the village, and Kurt had grown up in the suburbs and was comfortable with it – and they had enough to live on, but every day was the same. Kurt worked, earned the money, but there was the unspoken assumption that she had to keep house. As a previously independent businesswoman, she was terrible at handling that. It pset her, having to live with her own clutter with no real job to
pour her energies into. For the first time in her life, she felt as though she’d taken the wrong path. She just couldn’t shake it off, a secret dread that her father had been right all along. All this time she had been wasting her talents.

A lot of the time she would throw herself into creative projects she could never bring to fruition. Two non-fiction books fell through. The never-ending cycle of housework deadened her,
and she knew that her ambivalence, in her occasional phone calls, worried her parents. She was proud and stubborn and didn’t like to reach out to anyone. A lot of her friends had distanced themselves now she was in Germany and not available to go down the pub.

Most of all she was frustrated with herself. She’d wanted security, a partner, to have children, but not this stilled life. She missed her old ways; the feeling of doing something with meaning
and purpose.

When she had got pregnant accidentally, after a stomach upset made her pill ineffective, she hadn’t known how to react. This had been part of her long-term plan, but she hadn’t yet settled in Germany and had been secretly hoping to persuade Kurt to move back to the city and that she would find a job. Kurt had initially said he wanted her to keep the baby, but as her pregnancy had become visible, and her previously small breasts had become full
and her flat stomach ballooned – and, she acknowledged, as getting heavier had made her more irritable – he’d started withdrawing from her. He wouldn’t admit that, of course. Every time she tried to discuss it, he gave her a shopping list of her failings that she was supposed to improve. And they hadn’t been intimate since the third month.

When they had first moved in, Kurt had convinced her that the key to coping with her new lifestyle was getting mobile, so she was taking daily driving lessons. But she hated the stupid driving rules. She had quickly realised she had a fear of driving; nothing else had the capacity to make her so anxious. She had persisted, but now it was even worse: it was hard to concentrate when you were hot and bloated and had to pee all the time.

The struggles with her driving instructor reinforced her view that living in Germany was miserable. But before she’d fallen pregnant she’d convinced herself that if she could just master this one mechanical skill, then she’d be able to drive to the local city, Hannover, and potentially find a new job and new friends. And if that was now out of reach, with the baby coming she would need to be able to drive just to buy baby supplies, to take the baby to its checkups, and so on. There was no corner shop and the doctor was three miles away.

Her driving instructor was laughably abrupt. His English was confined to a few words that he used inappropriately. Heinrich had been wearing drainpipe jeans since the eighties; he was fifty
going on fifteen. There was no allowance made for the fact that she didn’t really speak German. She had learned quite a lot, but Kurt’s English was very good so they spoke English at home. Most of the vocabulary relating to cars, like ‘windscreen wipers’, was unknown to her, yet Heinrich would bark a command and expect her to instantly comply; he forced her to drive in that pushy style which was curiously German. Today was a typical lesson.

‘Right,’ he said, in his broken English, ‘Nächste rechts, go!’

Frannie squinted at the peculiar way the road snaked into the curve ahead. Could she make the turn? The car already seemed to be falling down the hill just moving into third gear. Her hand
wavered on the gear stick. Should she change down to second gear already and risk the Mercedes behind going into her, or try and take the bend going at fifty? She fluttered with indecision.

RECHTS!’ Without warning Heinrich grabbed the steering wheel. The car dived sharply right. Through the windscreen, the road was a twisting blur. The wheel felt alien in Frannie’s hands.
It was a struggle not to instinctively brake to control her panic, because doing that annoyed her driving instructor more than anything else. And when he got angry, he shouted in German and
forgot all his English.

Shit. There was another parked car blocking her side. The road was alive with dangers. The car screeched left, right. She was having a hard time being delicate with the wheel. She checked the mirrors. Thank God there was no one behind her. Other motorists terrified her. She could only drive comfortably when she had the road to herself.

Her face was screwed up in concentration. The car lurched suddenly forward, and the engine screamed with a grinding wrench. The speedometer topped seventy. She looked down,
wondering if she’d pressed the accelerator by mistake. No, it was Heinrich again.

‘Go! Gehen!’ His foot was furiously working the parallel pedals. His face bristled with indignation. The car groaned as it responded to double commands. They sped abruptly left, forcing an oncoming vehicle to give them priority. Heinrich began to shout terse stuff in
German she didn’t understand.

Was machst du?’ He looked as if he was about to slap her. His startlingly green eyes, which once must have made him cute, didn’t fit the rest of his face.

She flashed him a warning look. She was older than his teenage regulars, and they were both frustrated that it was taking her so long to master the basics. Not speaking each other’s language didn’t help. And the fact that she was heavily pregnant.

The first five months or so she’d almost ignored her pregnancy, telling herself not to stress about it. Then she’d hit the sixth month and woken up a crazy woman, consumed with the overwhelming desire to get everything ready for her baby, which she knew now
was a boy – Kurt had insisted on finding out, and the evening of the scan had been almost as nice to her as when they’d first met, as if getting an heir was their singular reason for being together. He said he loved her but seemed to prefer the company of his mates. She had focused on getting the nursery just right, on having all the toiletries on hand (even the ones she might not even need). It all had to be perfect. And she’d booked a driving lesson every day so
she’d be able to drive and look after her baby like a proper mother.

And now, alarmingly soon, tomorrow was her driving test, and if she didn’t pass there wouldn’t be another chance to do it again before the baby was born. She couldn’t imagine how it would be once he was there, but she was sure it would be even harder to summon her energies.

Houses whooshed past. It was hard actually driving at the speed limit; Frannie always wanted to go much slower. She hated the constant pressure to concentrate on the road every second. She tried to sit straight, forget about her bump.

Suddenly, the road opened out, as a stream flows into a river, into a Schnellstrasse, the B6. The long, straight road thrummed with gleaming cars. Frannie’s knees trembled. Now she’d have to
somehow filter in and keep up with the flow of traffic that drove so close that if the windows were open you could smell their aftershave.

Gehen!’ shouted Heinrich. He flapped his little notebook at her. There was a dreadful screech, as if the car was driving over something broken. Frannie hadn’t quite got into fifth gear. Heinrich
shouted something. Frannie grimaced. Her white maternity dress was limp with sweat; it was an exceptionally hot June. Desperately, she looked for a gap in the traffic to get off the feeder road. The speeding cars ignored her frantic signals. Meanwhile, the entry lane was merging, but some idiot was behind her gunning for her tail-lights all the way.

Shit. Frannie went, pushing the car in front of her practically off the road. There was the whisper of a near-collision. Beside her, Heinrich gasped. Normally he had to tell her not to drive so
slowly. Now, with the devil in her, she was belting down her side of the white line for all she was worth. When she really wanted something, she could surprise herself.

She was going to pass the driving test. She must.

About the Author

Marcelle Perks is a British author and journalist living in Germany. She specializes in writing sexually-themed guide books, but also writes short stories. As a film journalist, she has contributed to such publications as British Horror Cinema, Fangoria, The Guardian and Kamera. Night Driver is her thrilling debut novel.


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

With thanks to Urbane Publications for my proof and to Kelly Lacey from Love Books Group for organising the blog tour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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