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**BLOG TOUR** The Burning Girls by C J Tudor

500 years ago: eight martyrs were burnt to death
30 years ago: two teenagers vanished without trace
Two months ago: the vicar committed suicide

Welcome to Chapel Croft.

When Reverend Jack Brooks is sent with teenage daughter, Flo, to work at a church in Chapel Croft, it’s fair to say that they are not exactly enthralled at the idea of moving from the city to a sleepy town. The town has strong superstitions linked to its past and is not overly welcoming to outsiders, preferring to keep its secrets well hidden. Soon, Jack has many concerns about their new home. Why is Flo plagued by visions of burning girls? Who is sending them threatening messages? Why is no one keen to mention that the previous vicar killed himself?

As a fan of C J Tudor’s previous books, The Chalk Man, The Taking of Annie Thorne and The Other People, I was thrilled to be invited to take part in the blog tour for her latest novel, The Burning Girls. I was immediately grabbed by the premise of the book, the historical aspect of Protestant martyrs during the reign of Mary I piquing my interest greatly. Combined with the 30-year-old cold case of two missing girls, I couldn’t wait to read!

I always expect a supernatural element with C J Tudor’s books, but after being completely thrown by the plot of The Other People, I was not sure what to expect. I know that some people are put off reading books if there is a ghostly aspect but, while there are mentions of the burning girls, appearances of two of the Protestant martyrs, this is a minor part of the plot, the focus being on the mysteries surrounding this tight-knit village.

The book has a Wicker Man feel about it as we are introduced to the main characters, Flo and her vicar parent, Jack. Being forced to relocate to a completely different church than they are used to, with villagers intent on keeping their secrets hidden and their traditions alive, it’s not long before you realise that Jack and Flo’s lives are in danger. Just who is leaving the threatening replica burning girls and what are they trying to cover up? I really liked the two main characters, both of them not conforming to the traditional image of what a teenage girl and a vicar should act like.

There are several plots running through the book, each of them becoming intertwined as the story progressed. There is a sense of foreboding throughout which kept me on my toes as I tried to work out what had been happening in this village and who was responsible. C J Tudor has done a great job in tying all of these threads together to give a satisfying

conclusion, although I am pleased with myself for guessing what one of the big plot twists would be! One reveal had me shocked, however, especially as I felt I should have picked up on a movie-related clue that was given!

C J Tudor has definitely got another hit on her hands with The Burning Girls and I can’t wait to see what she gives us next.

With thanks to Michael Joseph and Net Galley for my copy and to Gaby Young for organising the blog tour.

**BLOG TOUR** The Glass House by Eve Chase

After a traumatic event, children’s nanny, Rita, has gone with the family she works for to stay in a remote house in the middle of the woods. Secrets lurk within the family and when a baby is found among the trees, Jeannie, the mother, feels that this could be the start of something good. Soon, however, the discovery of a body changes everything and the Harrington family will never be the same again.

My interest was piqued right at the start of The Glass House when we are told that a body has been found at Foxcote Manor, the home of the troubled Harrington family. The story then transports us back to the time leading up to the discovery of the unnamed body, giving us a peek into the lives of the Harringtons and their nanny, Rita, known affectionately as ‘Big Rita’ by Hera and Teddy, the children she looks after. There was a very strange atmosphere surrounding the family, partly due to the fact that all was not well between Jeannie and Walter, the parents. I really felt for Rita, who found herself caught between the two while trying to provide love and care for the two children who she clearly had a lot of affection for.

We are also brought into the modern day where we meet Sylvie, a woman who has just separated from her husband after years of marriage. I found myself immediately warming to Sylvie and was devastated when tragedy struck her family. Although I enjoyed reading about this character, I did find myself wondering how she was going to fit into the story of the Harringtons so was pleased when all was revealed. I particularly liked how the connection felt very natural, not contrived in any way. Too many books like this rely upon coincidences to link two plots together, but this was not the case here. 

The Glass House is a beautifully written tale about secrets and how they always have a habit of resurfacing when you least expect it. This is not by any means an action-packed story, despite there being a dead body and other exciting parts along the way, but it doesn’t need to be. The characterisation is perfect, and you really feel that you know these people by the end of the story. The setting is also ideal with Foxcote Manor and the surrounding area providing a claustrophobic atmosphere where danger lurks around the corner. 

The story comes to a very satisfying conclusion and, although some of the details of the plot can be worked out earlier in the book, I was still gripped until the end as more revelations are made.

If you want to become completely immersed in a character-driven plot with an air of mystery and intrigue, then I can highly recommend The Glass House as this was a book that I thoroughly enjoyed.

With thanks to Penguin/Michael Joseph Books and Net Galley for my ARC and to Gaby Young for organising the blog tour.

 

The Other People by C J Tudor

Driving home, Gabe receives a devastating phone call – his wife and daughter have been murdered at their home. How can this be, though, when he has just seen his daughter being driven past him? For a while, it is thought that Gabe was responsible for their deaths, and now, three years later, he is a shadow of the man he once was. Never giving up hope of finding his daughter alive, he travels up and down the motorway, searching for her. Whilst at a motorway service station, he meets Katie, a waitress who knows what he is going through as her father was brutally killed nine years ago. Fran and her daughter, Alice, are also constantly on the move, desperately trying to evade someone who knows the truth about what links each of these events…

After reading (and thoroughly enjoying) C J Tudor’s previous books, The Chalk Man and The Taking of Annie Thorne, I was fully expecting them to be of a similar vein. Whilst there are shadowy undertones to The Other People, it is more of a straightforward thriller than the previous two books, and this made it an unexpected and very welcome read.

I love C J Tudor’s storytelling and it is to her credit that she manages to successfully weave together several stories to create a tight, cohesive plot. At the start, I did wonder how each part of the plot related to the other, but gradually the truth was revealed, creating a timeline of events that explained everything clearly.

I warmed to the character of Gabe straight away and had great sympathy for his plight. I could feel his frustration in knowing that his daughter was still alive yet not being able to convince anyone else that he was telling the truth. His confidant, The Samaritan, was a fascinating character and I was pleased when we finally discovered his story.

The Other People is one of those books that, once I reached a certain point, I found myself saying, ‘I’ll just read one more chapter…’ It has an addictive plot that demands you know what is going to happen next. If you’re a fan of this author, then you are going to love this!

With thanks to Penguin UK – Michael Joseph and NetGalley for my ARC.

Ice Cold Heart by P J Tracy

One evening, Kelly Ramage leaves her home, telling her husband that she is going to visit a friend. She never returns. When her body is discovered, it is initially thought that her death is as the result of a sex game gone wrong, so detectives Gino and Magozzi think that if they find the lover, they will find the perpetrator. The killer, however, has done a good job in hiding his identity, leading the police to believe that he has done this before and that Kelly is certainly not going to be his last victim.

Ever since reading Want to Play?, the first of the Monkeewrench books, I have been a big fan of P. J. Tracy’s writing. Over the years, I have enjoyed seeing the character development, in particular Grace who, although still fearful of her past, is now a mother to young Elizabeth. Who would have thought at the start of the series that she would be capable of having a relationship, never mind having a child?!

In Ice Cold Heart, we see less of the Monkeewrench team and more of detectives Gino and Magozzi. The case is a particularly horrible one, with the killer seemingly basing his crimes on the work of the controversial artist Rado. The detectives know that the man they are looking for is incredibly disturbed, and when another woman goes missing, someone they have already had contact with, they know it is a race against time to find her before she becomes the next victim.

The case becomes even more complicated when Roadrunner, one of the Monkeewrench team, befriends one of his neighbours, Petra. As the story progresses, we see how strong Petra is, despite the circumstances we find her in at the start of the book. She is searching for a notorious Balkan war criminal, and it is not long before the two cases cross paths. With Monkeewrench also searching for a hacker who has undertaken a multi-million dollar theft, there is plenty for the reader to sink their teeth into. I enjoyed seeing all of these cases slowly come together, and I was pleasantly surprised with the conclusion.

With a plot involving murder, war crimes, BDSM and computer hacking, Ice Cold Heart is a fast-paced read with something happening on every page. As I said earlier, I have enjoyed this series from the start, and this has definitely been one of my favourites so far.

With thanks to Net Galley and Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for my copy.

Take a look at some of my other PJ Tracy reviews:

Cold Kill

Nothing Stays Buried

The Guilty Dead

 

Then She Vanishes by Claire Douglas

Many years ago, in the quiet town of Tilby, teenager Flora Powell went out, never to be seen again. Now, her sister, Heather, has committed an unthinkable crime, her own life hanging in the balance. Journalist Jess, tasked with writing about the event, has more reasons than most to uncover the truth – she used to be Heather’s best friend and was there the day Flora disappeared. Jess knows she must face her past and return to where it all began. Just what exactly happened to Flora and how is it linked to current events?

This is one of those books that gets you hooked from the first chapter as we witness the fatal shooting of a man and his elderly mother by a calm, cold-blooded killer. From the outset, we are introduced to the main mysteries in the book: Who is the killer? Who are the victims? What links them? As the book progresses, it soon becomes apparent that there are more secrets in the Powell family and that the disappearance of Flora seems to be, somehow, linked to the killings. The story alternates between the present day investigation and the run-up to Flora’s disappearance, twenty years ago, providing us with a fast-paced, gripping plot that just makes you not want to put the book down!

I liked the character of Jess who we see battling with her emotions, feeling the pressure from her boss to exploit her relationship with the family to secure exclusive interviews with the family. This was particularly difficult for her as we discover the reason for her leaving her previous post was due to the much-publicised phone hacking scandal, so she could really do with keeping her work above board. For much of the book, I did not know how I felt about Heather, but I think that this is the author’s intention: she is a multi-faceted character who, to understand her fully, you will need to read the whole book.

Although there are some parts of the mystery that do not come as a surprise, there are quite a few red herrings along the way which make you change your theory as you are reading. There are enough shifty characters to make you question which of them were involved in Flora’s disappearance, each with their own motive. The revelation of what exactly happened to Flora is a particularly shocking one, and one that filled me with hatred for those responsible.

I have really enjoyed reading Claire Douglas’s books before – take a look at my reviews of Last Seen Alive and Local Girl Missing – and this one is another fantastic read. If you’re looking for a thriller that will grab and hold your attention, one of those ‘just one more chapter’ books, then Then She Vanishes is the book for you! Highly recommended!

With thanks to Penguin UK – Michael Joseph and Netgalley for my copy.

The Taking of Annie Thorne by C. J. Tudor

Joe Thorne is back in the town where he grew up. The town that everyone tries to escape from as soon as they can. The town that saw something strange happen to his little sister. One night, many years ago Annie Thorne went missing, taken from her own bed. Searches followed, but there was no trace of the child. Then, strangely, 48 hours later, she returned, refusing to say what had happened to her. Something was different about her, though, and she was no longer the same. Now, it looks as though it has happened again to another child…

C. J. Tudor’s The Chalk Man was one of my books of 2018 and so I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into The Taking of Annie Thorne. Set over two time frames, we meet Joe, an unreliable narrator is ever there was one! A teacher with a huge debt hanging over him, he has lied to get his current job and lives in fear of his past catching up on him. We see a different side of him, however, in the past when he is with his younger sister, Annie and also when he encounters a child being bullied. Then, he shows a caring, compassionate side, one that certainly endears him to the reader.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that all is not well in the village of Arnhill and that while some are intent on finding out the secret, there are some who will do anything to stop it from being uncovered. Joe appears to know something of what happened, but the death of another child in the area has stirred up memories of his sister, Annie, and the strange event that happened to her all those years ago. His interest in the case causes problems in Arnhill, with people stopping at nothing to express their displeasure. Just how are they connected and can it help to explain why Annie seemed different on her return to the family home?

The story is told in two time frames: the present and the time when Annie went missing. I always enjoy books that are written in this way as I feel that it helps you to fully understand the characters and explain their actions in the present. The story flows well and moves between the two times seamlessly, never once appearing confusing.

It is easy to see how much the author has been influenced by Stephen King and there is more than a nod to one of his books. Throughout the book, there are signs that there is some sort of supernatural force at play and so the conclusion wasn’t a huge surprise. If fiction involving the supernatural is not your thing, don’t be put off. I am not a big fan of this genre, but felt that the ‘ghostly’ references were minimal and the story was more of a thriller.

The Taking of Annie Thorne is an easy read and I can see it being another huge success for C J Tudor.

With thanks to Net Galley and Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for my copy.

 

 

 

 

 

The Guilty Dead by P J Tracy

When Gregory Norwood is found shot dead one year after his son’s overdose, it seems like a clear cut case of suicide. The only problem is, left-handed Norwood appears to have used his right hand to shoot himself and then has, somehow, managed to wipe the gun clean post mortem. After blood is found outside the house, Detectives Gino and Magozzi fear that there is a second victim waiting to be found.

Meanwhile, the Monkeewrench crew are working on a new program that will aid the police in tracking and locating potential terror plots. Little do they know that their work will soon cross paths with the murder case and that Minneapolis will become the centre of a bomb plot that could conceivably bring devastation to all those around.

They say ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’, but if I hadn’t have been intrigued by the cover of the first book in the Monkeewrench series, Want to Play?, whilst shopping at the long-lamented Borders almost fifteen years ago, I’d never have discovered this fantastic series! Now, nine books in, The Guilty Dead is the latest in the Minneapolis-set books and is, once again, another brilliant read.

While a murder made to look like a suicide is not a novel plot, there is so much more to this story. As the investigation progresses, we find out who the guilty party is, but it is more a case of ‘whydunnit’ rather than ‘whodunnit’, as the two main plots begin to converge. Although the role of IT experts, Monkeewrench, is pivotal in solving the crimes, I felt that there was less page time devoted to them than in previous books and more given to the police investigation. Of course, they, once again, prove their worth but not before a catastrophic event threatens to tear them apart.

Throughout the series, we have been privy to the traumas of Grace, one of the Monkeewrench crew, and how and why she has found it hard to trust people. Now eight months pregnant, and about to embark on a new phase of her life, I am intrigued as to what further books in the series will see happening to her. She takes more of a back seat in this book, which is understandable, but in true Monkeewrench-style, trouble is never too far away…

This is a series that I continue to love and I am already looking forward to book ten!

With thanks to Penguin UK – Michael Joseph and Net Galley for my copy.

The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor

91TOUwUDzNLIt’s 1986 and Eddie and his group of friends (Hoppo, Fat Gav, Metal Mickey and Nicky) are doing the sort of things that all 12-year-olds do: riding their bikes, hanging around in playgrounds, writing secret messages using chalks… Things change forever when, after following a trail of drawings depicting chalk men, they find a dismembered body in the woods.

Fast forward thirty years and the murder is still fresh in the minds of all those involved. Still living at the house he shared with his parents, Eddie is drawn back in when a face from the past reappears and he starts noticing the chalk men once again. Not quite sure whether to believe what he is seeing, another death spurs him into trying to discover exactly what happened all those years ago.

There has been so much online buzz about this book and it even got a mention in a recent talk by the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers so I thought it was about time I saw for myself what all the fuss was about. Am I so glad I did! The book grabbed me from the very first page and I found it very difficult to put down. I particularly liked the chapters set in 1986 as it evoked numerous childhood memories. I am thankful that my childhood was much less eventful than the children in this story however!

The Chalk Man is told from the perspective of Eddie and we get to see how events in 1986 have shaped both his future and that of all those involved. That year is certainly a memorable one for the children as, in addition to them finding the body, there is a fairground accident, a pro-life campaign and a serious assault to deal with. Perhaps, though, one of the most shocking parts of the book for me was the incident between Eddie and Sean, Metal Mickey’s brother. It is hard to say too much without revealing any spoilers but my heart really went out to Eddie for what he went through both during the event and also afterwards.

One of the things I enjoyed most about the book is how so many seemingly separate events all link together. This made for a very tight, well-written plot with no loose ends. I did fear that one thing had been overlooked but the closing scenes certainly put paid to that idea! Last year, social media was awash with the hashtag #WTFThatEnding with regards to the book Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough. The same hashtag could certainly apply here as I actually gasped when I realised how it was going to end! Even though it was a shock, however, it was completely true to what we’d come to know about Eddie and made perfect sense.

Even at this early stage, The Chalk Man promises to be one of the big hits of 2018 and I would not be surprised if a television or film company picks it up. As I was reading, I was reminded on several occasions of The Five, a Sky TV Drama created by Harlan Coben, and thought it amusing that he was actually name checked in the book!

It is hard to believe that this is the author’s debut novel and I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

With thanks to Penguin UK – Michael Joseph and Net Galley for my ARC.

 

 

Everything is Lies by Helen Callaghan

51VFfTURZKL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_When Sophia returns to her family home, she is not prepared for the sight that greets her. In the garden, she finds her mother hanging from a tree and her father, close to death in a pool of blood. As far as the police are concerned, it is an open and shut case of attempted murder-suicide but Sophia is not convinced. When a few strange things start to happen, she begins to feel that there is someone watching her, leaving her to wonder just exactly what the circumstances are behind this terrible tragedy.

I loved Helen Callaghan’s previous book, Dear Amy, so was thrilled to have the opportunity to read Everything is Lies pre-publication. I was expecting something in a similar vein for the follow-up but Everything is Lies is completely different to what I was expecting although equally gripping. From the blurb, I envisaged a whodunnit with intrigue but from the moment we are introduced to the notebooks left by Sophia’s mum, detailing her younger life spent in an infamous cult, I knew that this story was going to go in a completely different direction.

At first, I was not totally enamoured with the notebook sections as I was desperate to know more about the investigation into the death of Sophia’s mum. I was soon drawn in, however, after realising that these notebooks would give the background knowledge to understand exactly what had occurred. I could imagine how difficult it was for Sophia, trying to visualise her quiet, neurotic mum as this free-willed young woman as portrayed in the notebooks. I think that deep down, Nina (Sophia’s mum) knew that there was more to this cult than met the eye, but the draw and excitement was too much for her to walk away from, even when the alarm bells began to ring for her.

The cult scenes were well-written, Helen Callaghan showing how easy it is for an impressionable young woman to be swept along with the whole situation. From the outside, looking in, it was apparent how self-centred and obnoxious the cult leader was, and I was willing Nina to come to her senses before tragedy struck. The other members of the cult were equally unlikeable but, in spite of this, the author manages to keep you reading, wanting to know more.

In the present day, as well as trying to find out the true cause of her mother’s death, Sophia is struggling with her own personal and work life after several incidents at the firm where she works. When her work appeared to be sabotaged, this added to the general unease she was already feeling. Was it related to her aborted assignation with a colleague or is it linked to the notebooks that her mother was seeking to publish? I got to the point where the only person I felt I could trust was Sophia herself as I tried to figure out exactly who was to blame for the numerous mysterious occurrences.

As the book progressed, I did have an inkling as to what the outcome would be with regards to one part of the plot and I was pleased to find I’d worked it out! My theory helped to add to the general unease I felt throughout the book as Helen Callaghan delivered more and more intriguing problems. Everything is Lies is definitely one to be watching out for in 2018!

With thanks to Penguin UK -Michael Joseph and Net Galley for my ARC.

 

 

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