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The House on the Lake by Nuala Ellwood

Fleeing from her controlling partner with her young son, Joe, Lisa is given directions to a lake house in Yorkshire from a friend, a place where she can feel safe. Rowan Isle House isn’t what she was expecting but despite it being run down and having no running water, she perseveres, desperate to keep her and her son safe. After receiving a visitor from the nearby village, however, Lisa realises that maybe she isn’t as safe as she thought she would be. When her past returns to haunt her, just what will she need to do to survive?

Nuala Ellwood has become one of those authors whose books I download without even needing to read the blurb as I know that I am going to enjoy it. Her previous books, My Sister’s Bones and Day of the Accident were both superb reads and I couldn’t wait to read her latest offering. I was definitely not disappointed as The House on the Lake is a dark, gripping tale that kept me intrigued right until the very last page.

Lisa is a woman living on her nerves, terrified of meeting new people in case she is discovered. I could feel her desperation as she found herself living at a clearly uninhabitable house and wondered exactly what it was she was fleeing from. Her unconditional love for her son was apparent, despite him not being the easiest child to bring up. Throughout the book, I willed her to succeed and felt genuine fear for her as her world seemed to be closing in around her.

Lisa is not the only main character as we meet, in alternate paragraphs, previous occupiers of Rowan Isle House. The girl who, initially, we know only as ‘soldier’, tugged at my heart strings from the off. Living with her father, who clearly has PTSD, I had nothing but sympathy for this girl who is longing to experience life outside of the regimented existence inflicted by her father. There were several terrifying scenes where I genuinely feared for her life and I willed her to find a way out of this situation.

It was obvious that the two stories would eventually merge, and I liked how the author built this up slowly, creating a tense read that just made you want to keep reading. There were plenty of surprises along the way that I did not see coming and I was gripped right until the fitting end.

If you have never read any of Nuala Ellwood’s books before, then I can recommend each of them, this one being no exception.

With thanks to Net Galley and Penguin Books (UK) for my copy.

 

Family Ties by Nicholas Rhea

Detective Superintendent Mark Pemberton is a workaholic. Ever since the death of his wife, he has taken solace in his police work and hasn’t taken a break in six months. Concerned for his well-being, his superiors assign him with a case that, on the surface, seems a bit more laid back – providing security for the US Vice-President Hartley on his visit to the UK. Hartley is going to Yorkshire to do some research into his family history so, before his arrival, Pemberton engages in some sleuthing of his own. Unearthing the death of Private James Hartley in 1916, found with a bullet in his brain, Pemberton is determined to solve this long-forgotten mystery. What repercussions will this have for Vice-President Hartley?

It is rare to read a police procedural where the crime being investigated is a cold case dating back such a long time and it was this that first drew me to the book. It is worth mentioning that, although this is its first outing as an ebook, Family Ties was originally published in 1994 and the research methods used by the police are very much of the time. If this plot was being written now, it probably could have been solved in a few pages with the use of the internet! Being a genealogist, I actually found the reliance on church and newspaper records and other forms of primary evidence quite fascinating.

Mark is definitely an old-school detective who, once he gets his teeth stuck into something, does not give up. Working through the notes of the officer on the original case, he manages to find a few holes in the investigation and uses the resources available to him to solve an age-old crime. Although this is not a book full of twists and turns, there was a clever twist at the end which changed the crime completely. Several clues had been given throughout the book but I was genuinely surprised when it happened!

Family Ties is a cosy mystery that would make a great quick read for anyone not wanting anything too heavy. I will definitely be seeking out other books in the Mark Pemberton series.

With thanks to Agora Books and Net Galley for my ARC.

 

Teacher, Teacher! by Jack Sheffield

The year is 1977 and Jack Sheffield has just started a new job as head teacher at Ragley Primary School in North Yorkshire. Teacher, Teacher! is the story of his first year in the post, showing how the young, inexperienced teacher deals with the staff, parents and pupils along with the numerous colourful characters of the local village.

Although I mainly read crime and thriller books, occasionally I like to venture into something a little more light-hearted so when I saw Teacher, Teacher! on The Works website, it looked right up my street. As someone who grew up after the time the book is set but remembers primary school with fondness, I looked forward to the book taking me right back to simpler times. As someone who works in education, I was also intrigued to see how schools today compared to Ragley in the 1970s.

Teacher, Teacher! is filled with laugh out loud moments from a cast of larger than life characters. A vivid picture has been painted of life in the school and it was easy to imagine people such as Ruby, the caretaker, and Mrs. Brown, the parent nobody wants to speak to at parents’ evening. There were numerous amusing tales of events such as the school camping trip and sports day – all before the days of health and safety and risk assessments!

The book also has its more poignant moments, the standout ones for me being Jack’s visit to a local special school where he spent his time dancing with a severely disabled child who could only ‘dance with her eyes’. This was a truly beautiful scene. I also enjoyed reading about Ping, a Vietnamese refugee who spent a short time at Ragley school. Both of these stories showed how important a nurturing environment is to children – a stark contrast to the current trend of testing and reducing children to statistics.

Teacher, Teacher! is a heart-warming read and I have already purchased the next in the series.

**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

4.

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.

5.

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.

Social Media links:

Website: http://www.thelordofmisrule.net/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/T1LOM

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:

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