Blog Tour – November 2022 – Dragonfly Summer – J.H. Moncrieff

Some books take a good fifty or more pages to grab you (indeed, some never grab you at all!) But this book grabbed you from the very off, didn’t it?

It absolutely did! The premise is that Jo, a journalist who has worked in war zones, but is now in the much duller and safer world of PR, receives a cutting appearing to be from a newspaper about the disappearance of her schoolfriend, Sam, who disappeared 27 years previously. On the back was written two words in red, “Find Me.”

Jo had fled her small town of Clear Springs, Minnesota, with the intention of going to New York and becoming a famous writer. She had been a successful journalist, but that much boasted-of novel never appeared. So she decides to take a sabbatical from work and return to the one place she said she’d never return to, and perhaps solve the mystery once and for all…

Tell us a little about Jo’s life in Clear Springs at high school…

There’s a very small, tight-knit group – Jo, Sam, and another friend, Amanda. Sam, the most obvious beauty of the three, was dating Doug, the “most wanted” of their year when it came to high school boys – your typical American jock. Jo also was very close friends – platonically – with Jack, her next door neighbour, whose family gave her refuge from her father’s bad temper which made her own home a living hell.

I must admit, the small cast of characters made it easy to keep tabs on who’s who. Events after Sam’s disappearance – no spoilers! – make Jo a great unreliable narrator, having to be reliant on what she’s told by those who remain in the town.

And someone very important to the story isn’t there…

Yes – Jo discovers her other best friend, Amanda, was killed in a car crash not long before she arrived in town. Jo’s surprised to learn that Amanda had ended up marrying Doug, and was heavily pregnant when the accident happened. However, those close to her believe it was no accident, but that she was murdered.

The creepy thing is, she had received the same cutting Jo had, and was investigating Sam’s disappearance too at the time of her death. So when Jo receives threatening messages, and someone tries to run her off the road too, she starts to wonder if there’s a killer in the town determined to make her his third victim…

Also, it appears Sam’s apparently perfect family was all a facade, hidden by the power the family exerted over the town with their affluence – something which had gone over Jo’s head as a schoolgirl, but which she soon learns about on her return.

There is a small supernatural influence to the book, which you will either enjoy, or feel is being used to fill in explanations the author couldn’t in any other way. Crime purists may find it slightly irkling but it’s a tiny criticism in a book you will otherwise gobble down.

I have a real passion for American small-town stories, with family secrets and odd characters (Megan Miranda is my favourite, and this definitely comes pretty close!) Moncrieff has a definite skill of dropping enough hints that the mystery remains tantalisingly out of reach of being solved for much of the book, as well as misdirecting the reader like an old pro. Intriguing characters, and the fact that this is an incredibly fast and enjoyable read, ensure I’ll be looking out for other works by Moncrieff!

A thoroughly enjoyable small town mystery, which I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to fans of such stories!

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this blog tour, and to Flame Tree Press for the eARC. These have not affected my review in any way, and this reflects my true opinion.

Author J.H. Moncrieff

Check out what my fabulous fellow bloggers made of Dragonfly Summer!

BLURB: Dragonfly Summer is a gripping thriller that asks: What happens when the past comes back to haunt you? Jo Carter never thought she’d return to Clear Springs, Minnesota. But when the former journalist receives a cryptic note about the disappearance of her friend Sam twenty years before, she’s compelled to find out what really happened. During her investigation, she learns another high school friend has died in a mysterious accident. Nothing is as it seems, and Jo must probe Clear Springs’ darkest corners and her own painful and unreliable memories to discover the truth – and save herself from the killer who could still be on the hunt. Deliciously twisty and suspenseful from the first minute to the last, Dragonfly Summer proves that no small town’s secrets can stay buried for good.

 

Blog Tour – November 2022 – Don’t Talk – Ian Ridley

This is billed as a Jan Mason thriller – can you tell us who Jan Mason is?

Jan is a journalist, who at the start of the book is contemplating taking voluntary redundancy. Although she’s still the star journalist at her paper, it’s a while since she’s had a really big story and she’s considering going freelance.

The other main character is Jan’s contact, friend and, in the past, on/off lover, counter terrorism officer Frank Phillips. The action really starts when Frank is at an AA meeting – he’s been clean for a number of years, but still attends them regularly. This particular meeting is held by candlelight, and a man bursts in near the end. He’s unwilling to give his name but claims he may have killed someone in an alcoholic blackout. Thinking he may be a fantasist, or an attention seeker, or indeed someone in an alcoholic blackout, he gives little credence to the man’s claim.

However, the next day he hears about a murder close by the night before, and his police antenna starts twitching. But what’s said in the AA is sacrosant…isn’t it? Even murders…?

And Jan is on the case too…?

Of course she is! She’s heard about the murder, and is on the case, using all her police contacts and building a relationship with any possible witnesses. It’s soon the case that Jan seems to have more information than the police, which displeases the Investigating Officer, Hanley, greatly!

But who’s the victim?

The victim is a well-off young woman called Camilla Carew, and her father is the leader of a far right party – but one of these semi-respectable ones where they wear suits, not football tops and tattoos. He’s rich, and well-connected, so there’s pressure on the police to get this solved. (One can guess who he’s modelled on immediately!)

Apparently her father’s had one bugbear, according to Camilla’s very helpful neighbour and good friend, Nancy, a retired actress and widow. That was Camilla’s choice of male company. He reckoned all her boyfriends (as well as her ex-husband) were fortune hunters, preying on the generous Camilla. There was the recent ex, unsuccessful antiques dealer Bexington, who had an alcohol problem. Her ex-husband, Dewlish, had been a scrounger too, and despite moving to New York, was back in England, skint. And most recently – and shockingly, for her father – she was involved with a Labour Party aide called Wilson, and was planning on donating money to Labour in the hope of getting a safe seat to stand in at the next election. All end up as suspects.

But then there’s a second murder…?

Yes – a young gay man called Sean Malahide. There’s a link – Camilla’s Hermes scarf, the one that was possibly used to strangle her, is found in his flat, and was possibly used to kill him. There’s no reason for the two victims to know each other – but Sean had recently joined the AA group that the man had appeared at. Is he getting rid of Sean as he thought he might have recognised him?

But the police have their sites set on Bexington, who’d been harassing Camilla, and had gone to AA in the past. Do they have the right man, or are they barking up the wrong tree?

An attack on another AA member – which they fight off – shows this is a dangerous man who must be got off the streets at all costs. But there are so many with motives, it’s hard to know which horse to back…

So how did you enjoy Don’t Talk?

A great deal actually – I particularly liked where the title came from, a 10,000 Maniacs song from the In My Tribe album – one of the albums I listened to a great deal through the ’90s, and still adore!

I kept changing my opinion as to who the killer was, and so in that respect Ian Ridley really kept me on my toes, as all the best crime books do. There were a couple of small errors – ages changed, and rugby only gets a capital R if it’s the school you’re referring too – but nothing that detracted from the tension and pace of the novel.

Most of all, Jan, especially, and Frank too, as well as Deena Andrews, a young police officer in Hanley’s team – and not forgetting Nancy, who the police underestimated greatly, unlike Jan – were all hugely charismatic and likeable characters. I would have liked to have thought the Met were slightly more open minded about policemen being in the AA, so that Frank’s fears about people finding out about his membership would have been irrational. But they haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory recently…

I’d definitely like to read more about Jan and Frank in the future – Hartley is a hugely promising writer!

A solid police procedural/journalism investigation that could develop into a really good series!

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours, and V Books for the ARC. This has not affected my opinion of this book, and this is an honest review.

Writer Ian Ridley

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BLURB: When catching a killer means betraying a code…

When investigative reporter Jan Mason discovers that a young woman found strangled to death in her Chelsea flat is the daughter of a prominent politician, she knows she has a big story on her hands.

What she doesn’t know yet is that a mystery man has just told a stunned Alcoholics Anonymous meeting nearby that he might have killed his partner in a drunken blackout. And that Jan’s old flame, Jim Phillips, the Metropolitan Police’s deputy head of counter terrorism and a recovering alcoholic himself, was in that meeting – bound by its confidentiality. Soon, a member of the AA meeting will also be found dead, strangled with the same scarf.

Resourceful, well-connected, and always one step ahead of the police, Jan is willing to put herself in harm’s way if it means catching a killer. And landing a front page exclusive. 

Blog Tour – November 2022 – The Pain Tourist – Paul Cleave

Paul Cleave – now that’s a familiar name to crimeworm followers, isn’t it? (Assuming some exist…!)

It is – many of you might remember me raving about a book called The Quiet People previously, so naturally I did a little dance (well, I can’t physically dance any more, but in my head I did one, if you get me!) when word came in there was a blog tour for another Paul Cleave book. Now, this is one of those books that’s difficult to review, as you want to give your readers some info on the concept of the book, but not hit dreaded spoiler territory…

So what is the concept?

This is an audaciously daring high-concept thriller so I’m going to take a deep breath and do my best… A house invasion in a family home in a quiet New Zealand suburb sees the parents being shot. The eleven-year-old son James hears the commotion downstairs and rushes through to warn his older sister Hazel with the hope they can both escape through her window, but her refusal to heed his warning sees him letting her escape, while he is taken downstairs and also shot by the robbers.

But unlike his parents, James survives, and, miraculously, after nine years in a coma, awakens. During that time he had what the doctors and his sister initially thought were extremely vivid dreams about the life he and his family would have gone on to live if that night had ended differently. But when the dates things that happened in what James calls “Coma World” (he writes a huge amount about Coma World for Hazel and his doctor, Dr McCoy, to read) correlate with things that happened in the real world – for example, the exact dates of his grandmother’s death and funeral – they are totally gobsmacked.

As the perpetrators of the home invasion are still on the loose, when James wakes up Detective Kent wants to know if he remembers anything more about that fateful night nine years previously. But they’ve also got wind James is awake and is a loose end they need to tie up…

But they’re not the only killers on the loose, are they?

No – there’s a killer called Joe Middleton, and another killer who seems inspired, shall I say, by his crimes, who the media christen “Faux Joe.” He also seems to have insider knowledge of the original Joe’s crime scenes. The question is, how is James possibly aware of the existence of other killers? And can he access any information from Coma World to help the police – particularly Detective Kent, and Tate, who had left the force but always maintained an interest in James’s welfare and that particular case?

Phew! Quite a lot to pack into one novel!

Indeed – but only Paul Cleave could manage it, make it plausible, and incredibly readable. Several times I woke up at 5 am with the light still on as I’d been suffering from the “one more chapter” disease – which doesn’t hit me an awful lot nowadays, as my multitude of medication (love a bit of alliteration!) usually means it’s lights out at a fairly sensible hour. I’m aware I keep saying this about books, but it’s one of my favourites of recent times. And don’t just take it from me – even Lee Child says Cleave is an “automatic must-read” for him. And as he reads a book a day, as well as one of his own selling every nine seconds, you better believe he knows a good read!

My mind is particularly blown by Paul Cleave’s imagination and originality. That, coupled with his ability to write a real page-turner, peopled with a multitude of fascinating characters, has me in utter awe (yeah, okay, and extreme envy!) at his writing talent. Please don’t miss this book – you will really be missing out!

Hurrah! Another real triumph for Orenda Books!

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this blog tour, and Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the ARC. This has not affected my opinion, and this is an honest review.

Author Paul Cleave

Please check out my wonderful fellow bloggers’ thoughts on The Pain Tourist!

BLURB: How do you catch a killer…

When the only evidence is a dream?

James Garrett was critically injured when he was shot following his parents’ execution, and no one expected him to waken from a deep, traumatic coma. When he does, nine years later, Detective Inspector Rebecca Kent is tasked with closing the case that her now retired colleague, Theodore Tate, failed to solve all those years ago.

But between that, and hunting for Copy Joe – a murderer on a spree, who’s imitating Christchurch’s most notorious serial killer – she’s going to need Tate’s help. Especially when they learn that James has lived out another life in his nine-year coma, and there are things he couldn’t possibly know, including the fact that Copy Joe isn’t the only serial killer in town…

Blog Tour – November 2022 – Havana Fever – Leonardo Padura

First of all, I must apologise to everyone for my recent absence – I was forced to miss a few blog tours due to a private problem where other things were forced to take precedence. I have, however, still managed to read most of the books, and hope to post reviews of them over the next few weeks.

To celebrate my return, we have a touch of exotica now – we’re off to Cuba, where a cold case from 1960 has intrigued retired police investigator, now book dealer, Mario Conte…

Do you ever read a book that totally captivates you, and whisks you off to a different time and place? I’m sure you all know what I mean, but I have to say – I cannot recall a book which has grabbed me so absolutely as Havana Fever. It’s an absolutely magical book – in fact, as I type this I’m listening to Cuban music from the 1950s, both to get me in the mood, and because I’m so seduced by the time and place about which I’ve been reading. Reviews in the press release from The Independent compare Padura’s writing to that of James Lee Burke’s, one of my favourite writer who brings rural Louisiana and New Orleans vividly to life in a similar fashion to Padura’s Cuba – the island both of noughties Havana, when the book is set and was originally released, and of the city before Batista was overthrown by the Communist regime of Castro and Guevera (the man of a million student t-shirts and posters!) This saw the end of the mafia’s huge lucrative casinos, with Cuba being closed off to American tourists and imports, and reliant on Russia. Desperate Cubans flocked to the US (particularly Florida) – including the affluent businessman whose untouched library Conte stumbles upon while cold calling in the hope of making a few dollars.

So what is the Cuba of the Noughties like?

People are starving, and on ration books, but a black market exists for those with dollars. So the brother and sister whose house Conte calls at that day are finally selling the last thing of value – the house’s library. Their mother had forbade them from doing so as she’d always promised the family who’d left the house in her care she’d look after their things, but forty years have passed, and they must eat. They let Conte enter a fascinating library packed with absolute gems, which is a great story itself as part of the book, but the Count, as he is known, is particularly obsessed with a newspaper cutting he finds of a bolero singer called Violeta del Rio, whose name rings a vague bell from his childhood…

He starts to research her, but it appears she disappeared without trace around 1960. Is she married, living with a family somewhere on Cuba? Or is there, as the Count suspects, a darker story attached to her disappearance…?

It seems he’s still an investigator at heart…

Yes! Absolutely! And so begins a journey to find the few still alive who can take him – and us – back to the world of smoky bars, casinos, and all-night clubs. In those years Havana was a city filled with music, American celebrities, with mafia gangsters running the gambling dens and controlling this night-time underworld. The descriptions bring the city alive as we begin to piece together that world, its characters, and what happened. In parallel, we’re exploring the depleted city just after the millenium. The writing is incredibly descriptive, to the extent you can smell the cigars, hear the jazzy sounds, taste the rum, and see the well-dressed people from the past laugh, not knowing soon it’ll be the end for them of this city of gambling, drinking, prostitutes, sex, and partying to the unique soundtrack of the boleros.

So it’s fair to say you enjoyed this book?

That is an understatement! It will most definitely be one of the best books I’ve read this year – it’s a masterpiece of noirish writing. I remember reading a great book many years ago called The Mambo Kings Play Songs Of Love – it became a film, with a young-ish Antonio Banderas, if I’m recalling correctly, and this book brings similar music alive like it did.

I was also reminded of writers like Jake Arnott, who injects a night-time underworld with life similarly, albeit in different countries. And I can see why James Lee Burke was name-checked in reviews.

I read somewhere that this incredible book was out of print for ten years until Bitter Lemon Press, who supply us with so much absolutely excellent translated fiction, brought it back into print. I’ll also be looking to invest in the quartet of books written about Conte’s days as a policeman, and those that follow this one!

An absolute masterpiece!

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this blog tour, and to Bitter Lemon Press for the ARC. This has not influenced my opinion, and this is an honest review.

Author Leonardo Padura

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BLURB: Mario Conde has retired from the police force and makes a living trading in antique books. Havana is now flooded with dollars, populated by pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers and other hunters of the night. In the library of a rich Cuban who fled after the fall of Batista, Conde discovers an article about Violeta del Rio, a beautiful bolero singer of the 1950s who disappeared mysteriously. A murder soon follows. This story, set in today’s darker Cuba, also evokes the Havana of Batista, the city of a hundred night clubs where the paths of Marlon Brando and Meyer Lansky crossed.

Havana Fever is many things: a suspenseful crime novel, a cruel family saga and an ode to the literature and music of Padura’s beloved, ravaged island.

Blog Tour – October 2022 – Red As Blood – Lilja Sigurdardottir (translated by Quentin Bates)

So…the second in the Arora series, the first of which you really enjoyed. How did the second measure up to the first?

I absolutely loved the first – such great characters! And a fantastic storyline, which kept me guessing! I’m happy to report we’ve got more of the same – in terms of quality, that is – but a very different storyline. Flossi arrives home from work one day to find his house in disarray, his wife Gudrun gone, and a ransom note demanding two million Euros.

Now, as Arora’s speciality is finding missing valuables – usually hidden financial assets, such as in a divorce case or as the result of white collar crime – she is requested by Flossi’s accountant in Edinburgh (where she lived, before her sister went missing, and she came to search for her – a search she’s still conducting) to visit his client and attempt to help.

So what can Arora do? This isn’t really her field of expertise, after all…

Exactly – so she calls on Daniel, a police friend (with whom she has something of a romantic spark!) and requests that he meets her, in plain clothes, as though he’s merely a friend offering Flossi moral support, to see what help he can offer.

And there’s lots more happening in the book…

Well, naturally there’s the fact that her sister Isafold is still missing. There’s also Flossi’s complex family situation, with ex-wife Karen, daughter Sara Soi – and of course the missing Gudrun. I was kept guessing, imagining every possible suspect and circumstance!

And some of the characters from Cold As Hell make a reappearance?

They do – and what fabulous characters they were, and were, as I mentioned earlier, one of my favourite things about Cold As Hell – there’s Michael, Arora’s friend, as well as Daniel’s neighbour Lady Gugulu. They flesh the story out and create a real existence for Arora in Iceland, and as a crime novel too it works wonderfully – it’s really fast moving from the off, and there are various tendrils of criminal activity going on throughout the book to keep this reader glued. I loved the way my sympathies and suspicions were being torn every which way, and I really loved revisiting those wonderful characters Lilja created. Arora, Michael and Daniel – although particularly Arora – are all superbly three-dimensional characters.

Oh, and I must mention Quentin Bates’ superb translation, which, as ever, made for a seamless read – thank you as ever, Quentin. And now I’m on tenterhooks waiting book three in the series!

It’s one of those books you can’t wait to get to the end of to see what the conclusion is, then you’re absolutely gutted it’s finished. I’m sure all bookworms will know exactly what I mean by that!

An absolutely wonderful book, yet again, from a country that really punches above it’s weight when it comes to electrifying reads – with Lilja being one of the foremost talents!

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for the blog tour invitation, and Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the ARC. This has not affected my opinion, and this is an honest review.

Author Lilja Sigurdardottir

Follow the rest of the fabulous bloggers on this stupendous Orenda blog tour!

BLURB: Áróra becomes involved in the search for an Icelandic woman who disappeared from her home while making dinner, as she continues to hunt for her missing sister. The second breathtaking instalment in the chilling, addictive An Áróra Investigation series…

When entrepreneur Flosi arrives home for dinner one night, he discovers that his house has been ransacked, and his wife Gudrun missing. A letter on the kitchen table confirms that she has been kidnapped. If Flosi doesn’t agree to pay an enormous ransom, Gudrun will be killed.

Forbidden from contacting the police, he gets in touch with Áróra, who specialises in finding hidden assets, and she, alongside her detective friend Daniel, try to get to the bottom of the case without anyone catching on.

Meanwhile, Áróra and Daniel continue the puzzling, devastating search for Áróra’s sister Ísafold, who disappeared without trace. As fog descends, in a cold and rainy Icelandic autumn, the investigation becomes increasingly dangerous, and confusing.

Chilling, twisty and unbearably tense, Red as Blood is the second instalment in the riveting, addictive An Áróra Investigation series, and everything is at stake…

Blog Tour – September 2022 – The Blame Game – Sandie Jones

Okay, hands up and time for a confession – being slightly distracted the day the invitation for this blog tour popped in, I actually assumed it referred to SADIE Jones, who is one of my favourite authors (I’ve loved her since The Outcast, and whenever I see a new book of hers online or in a shop I automatically buy it – and have yet to be disappointed. In fact, I can thoroughly recommend her.)

BUT – it’s most definitely not bad news! Having not read the blurb (it was an eARC, and before I start them I, rarely do) it didn’t take me long to realise I wasn’t reading Sadie Jones…

So what was the book you’d agreed to review?

The Blame Game is about a psychotherapist called Naomi, who specialises in supporting the victims of domestic abuse from the garden shed (as she calls it; it came across more as a posh summer house-type place a bestselling author might use to get peace to write their next, well, bestseller!) Naomi is an American, although her husband Leon is English, and she has a tendency to go above and beyond what’s strictly professional with her clients – this led to her leaving her previous position, within an established practice (where she probably had more protection, both psychological and physical, than in her current system of working from home.) This specialisation – and her tendency to push the boundaries of professionalism – is due to the fact that when she was a child, her father, who’d previously abused their mother, eventually murdered her. It led to Naomi’s father going to prison, her little sister Jennifer being adopted one night, never to be seen again (their foster family spitefully told her she was too old, and no-one would want to be her “forever family”), and the whole family being ruptured in the worst way imaginable. Hence she appears to spend her life trying to right her own family’s wrongs by crossing the professional line in her clients’ lives.

So what exactly is happening at the moment in Naomi’s life?

She has two clients we meet – Jacob Mackenzie, a male client who’s a teacher being abused both mentally and physically by his wife Vanessa; and Anna, a fellow New Yorker whose marriage has deteriorated after the death of their son Ben, to the point where she feels she should leave with her children before things escalate and the minor acts of violence increase. As is her wont, Naomi is getting overly involved: putting Jacob up in her and her husband’s currently empty flat, without his knowledge (her husband’s new job came with accommodation), and offering Anna and her children their two spare rooms!

And aren’t there things happening across in the States, as regards her father?

Yes – her aunt telephones to tell her that her sister, Jennifer, who’d had addiction issues, and had previously blamed Naomi both for them being split up and her subsequent issues, had visited her, now apparently clean, wanting her and Naomi to attempt another rapprochement. (A previous attempt had failed, with Jennifer taking the money Naomi wired her for her flight and disappearing back into her life of addiction.) It also turns out that her father has now, to Naomi’s shock and fear, been released – probably none too pleased with the fact that she lied on the stand as a child giving evidence, making his plea of manslaughter look like a lie and ensuring he’s found guilty of murder. He’s had ample time to plan any revenge he might have had on his mind…

Things are deteriorating over here too, aren’t they?

Jacob disappears, and it turns out much of what he’s told her is lies – even his name. This results in the police appearing, questioning her about their relationship and whether it goes beyonds the bounds of professionality. Leon has similar questions – and it appears he be more aware of what’s been going on than Naomi has given him credit for.

So who is this man who called himself, “Jacob Mackenzie”? Is he connected to Naomi’s American side of her family? Is Anna being entirely truthful about her situation, or is she merely trying to insinuate her way into Naomi’s home? And what about Leon?

Naomi’s getting to the stage where she’s questioning exactly who everyone is – and whether they can be trusted…

Ooh! This sounds like a really dramatic psychological thriller!

It certainly is that! From opening the book with absolutely no expectations at all, I found myself immediately tugged into the undertow of drama that was sweeping Naomi off her feet and destroying her carefully curated professional and personal life. I was kept guessing and changing my mind time after time, as we forever are with the best of these books.

I’d thoroughly recommend this one – and yet again I have an author whose backlist I’ll need to investigate, for the umpteenth time this year…!

Superior domestic psychological thriller, guaranteed to keep you on your toes! A must-read for all fans of the genre.

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for my blog tour invitation, and Macmillan and Netgalley for the eARC. This has not affected my opinion of this book, and my review is an honesrt one.

Author Sadie Jones

Please do check out some the wonderful bloggers – and Instagrammers – on this tour!

BLURB: There are two sides to every story


He came to me for help with his marriage.
I was alone and afraid. She was there when I needed to talk.
I needed to make him understand that he had to get away.
I knew what I needed to do. I just couldn’t do it on my own. I trusted her.
Now it has gone too far. And I can’t tell anyone what I have done.
Now I have nowhere to turn and I just pray they find me before she does.


And then there’s the truth.

The Blame Game is a dark, entertaining and suspenseful thriller from Sandie Jones, the author of The Other Woman and The Guilt Trip.

Blog Tour – September 2022 – The Rising Tide – Ann Cleeves (DI Vera Stanhope)

Now this is one really big hitter – the latest in the acclaimed DI Vera Stanhope series, which has become as well-known for the TV series it spawned as it has the books!

This is the tenth book, and naturally it’s set in Ann Cleeves’ (and Vera’s!) beloved Northumberland – this time on the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne. Now, I’m not a big fan of TV crime, preferring the written word, but Ann Cleeves’ series all make for unmissable viewing – particularly Vera, where Brenda Blethyn brings the oft-times crabbit, and always single-minded, character, so wonderfully to life!

We’ve had a blizzard of island-based “locked room” mysteries, from Lucy Foley to Sarah Pearse to Chris Brookmyre, and here one of the queens of modern-day crime gives us her version.

And what’s the storyline here?

A group, who first met fifty years ago on a local school trip, get together on the island every five years to mark the anniversary of that first meeting. On the first reunion, one of their number, Isobel Hall, died while attempting to make her way across the causeway too late, with her car “tossed from the road like a toy,” as a stormy tide encroached upon it. An event that could have ended the reunions there and then appeared to cement them, curiously enough.

On this latest occasion Rick Kelsall, a journalist who’d recently lost his job at the BBC for inappropriate behaviour towards younger female colleagues, is found hanged naked in an open bathrobe in his room by Annie Laidler, one of his closest friends. Immediately Annie – who still lived locally and was well-known as a part-owner of local artisan deli, Bread And Olives, questions the notoriously vain Rick’s question to hang himself with his naked sixty-something body on show, but she simply assumed he was heavily depressed at losing his celebrity status. However, as he had recently been given a book deal, that assumption doesn’t really hold water.

Who else was present?

There was Philip Robson, an Anglican vicar who was based in London, and Ken Hampton, an ex-headteacher who was succumbing to dementia, and who was married to Lou, who was also an ex-alumni of Kimmerston Grammar, albeit three years younger, and who attended the reunions with her husband. Previous reunions had included babies, then children, then teenagers, now all grown, as well as partners come and gone, and had now reverted to the original core group.

Others connected to this group and living on the island include Rick’s ex-wife, the former model, now owner of a yoga salon, Charlotte; the group’s original teacher, now retired, Judith Marshall; Annie’s ex-husband and now local businessman, Daniel Rede; and his new partner and local Police and Crime Commissioner (!) Katherine Willmore.

And Rick’s will, when revealed, only adds to the mystery…

Does Vera have any early ideas?

It’s no spoiler that Vera’s determined from more or less as soon as she knows she’s dealing with a murder, that the answer in one place: the past. So her investigation concentrates on the relationships between the group, and what happened, from that first school trip, then the reunion which saw Isobel’s death, right up until the present day.

And the real strength in this book lies, as it does in all of Ann Cleeves’ novels I’ve read, in the characters: both from those early days, and in their development. There’s always, in all her books, such an air of authenticity to them all: they feel real, as do the crimes and their motives. I have to say, too, that this book has an absolutely killer conclusion, if you’ll excuse the pun! Cleeves has outdone herself on this occasion!

It’s always hugely enjoyable to come across Joe (DS Ainsworth) and Holly (DC Clarke) again, and their slight rivalry for Vera’s favour – it’s become like meeting old friends. And references to Vera’s childhood, and her difficult relationship with her father, as well as her classmates, remind us that Vera’s real skill lies in examining the worst of human nature, as one who has experienced some parts of it at first hand, and in so figuring out who is responsible for the very worst of it: who, behind their carefully applied mask, is a murderer?

Just when you think she won’t get any better, Ann Cleeves hits you with another utter belter – perfect for long time fans, or those new to one of the best in British crime writing!

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this blog tour, and Pan Macmillan for the ARC. This has not affected my opinion of the book, and this review reflects my honest opinion.

The unmistakeable Ann Cleeves

Do check out what my fellow bloggers and Instagrammers make of The Rising Tide!

BLURB: Vera Stanhope, star of ITV’s Vera, returns in the tenth novel in number one bestseller Ann Cleeves’ acclaimed series.
Fifty years ago, a group of teenagers spent a weekend on Holy Island, forging a bond that has lasted a lifetime. Now, they still return every five years to celebrate their friendship, and remember the friend they lost to the rising waters of the causeway at the first reunion.
Now, when one of them is found hanged, Vera is called in. Learning that the dead man had recently been fired after misconduct allegations, Vera knows she must discover what the friends are hiding, and whether the events of many years before could have led to murder then, and now . . .
But with the tide rising, secrets long-hidden are finding their way to the surface, and Vera and the team may find themselves in more danger than they could have believed possible . . .

Blog Tour – September 2022 – Blackstone Fell – Martin Edwards

This is the third in the Rachel Savernake books, Martin Edwards’ Golden Age-set series…

It’s also, despite having the first two, the first I’ve read (that teetering TBR pile is responsible, of course) the first I’ve read – something I intend to rectify at my earliest possible opportunity. And yes, I do know that I’ve said that about goodness how many series this year, and then new books come out, and of course the big TBR wheel will keep spinning…

However, I think you’ll realise it means I was mightily impressed with this book! Either it’s a hell of a year for books, or my reading mojo, which kind of deserted me after that attack, is back with a BANG! Anyway, ’nuff about me, let’s get to Blackstone Fell, and the intriguing Rachel, and the intrepid Nell, and this superlative locked room mystery.

But the two men disappeared 300 years apart…?

Yes, from Blackstone Lodge, where – oh dear! – journalist Nell Fagan is staying. She’s originally in the area for another reason: to investigate the mysteriously convenient death of an affluent woman, Ursula Baker, who’d recently married a much younger playboy, Thomas Baker. She’d changed her will in his favour, to her son’s chagrin, and the son, Vernon Murray, had asked Nell to investigate his mother’s death – she’d been in the area as an inpatient at Blackstone Sanatorium, an allegedly cutting-edge psychiatric hospital. Vernon is suspicious as the only occasion his new stepfather, Thomas Baker, had visited his wife was the day before her death.However, before Nell can get down to really investigating, Baker is dead. He’d fallen under a London Tube train – the day after being the victim of an attempt of a hit-and-run, However, the main suspect, his stepfather, was 150 miles away.

Cripes! Sounds like a dangerous place for Nell to be sniffing around…

It is – she’s nearly hit by a falling rock. But did it fall, or was it pushed…? Shortly after filling in Rachel on the goings-on at Blackstone Fell, with the help of Jacob Flint, a fellow journalist (who has his own mission, exposing fraudulent mediums) she returns to the Lodge…and then disappears herself.

That’s an awful lot of deaths and disappearances for a small village, no?

It is, but it ensures Rachel is really hooked and decides Blackstone Fell is worthy of her own mystery solving prowess. The moors make for excellent territory for such a story; the Sanatorium, run by Professor Sambrook, with his children Denzil and the scarred Daphne, is menacing as and suspicious as these places always are. Most of those in the village have secrets of some description – although they may not be as serious as murder. I don’t think it’s any great spoiler to say that the two main storylines – Blackstone Fell, and Nell and Rachel’s mutual chum Jacob Flint’s investigation into Ottilie Curle, a dubious medium – do converge.

With 1930 as it’s setting, Martin Edwards gathers some key issues of the time: spiritualism and fake mediums (so many easy marks after the Great War and Spanish Flu); the taking-off of psychiatry; and eugenics. His vast knowledge of Golden Age Murders (his book, The Golden Age Of Murder, is one of my favourite books to dip in to) means this reads just like one, although there is perhaps a little more character development than we see in them – which makes it chunkier, too, which is a definite plus point!

It’s an easy, fast read, and plenty of dialogue speeds the tale along, with references to era-appropriate props and occurrences adding to the sense of authenticity. Rachel gathers everyone together at the end to unveil the murderer and reveal how she came to her conclusions, as is traditional in books from this era. And, if that wasn’t enough, there’s even a clue-finder, so crime solving readers can see where they went wrong – or right, if you’re smarter than me! An absolute joy to read, from beginning to end – roll on book four!

A fantastic book, guaranteed to please both those who like their Golden Age murder stories, as well as more recent ones!

With thanks to Sophie Ransom for the blog tour invitation, as well as Head of Zeus’s Aries Fiction imprint for the ARC. This has not influenced my review, and this is my honest opinion.

Author Martin Edwards

Check out the rest of this blog tour!

BLURB: Rachel Savernake investigates bizarre crimes and a baffling locked-room puzzle in this Gothic mystery from the winner of the Diamond Dagger.

Yorkshire, 1606. A man vanishes from a locked gatehouse in a remote village. 300 years later, it happens again.

Autumn 1930. Journalist Nell Fagan knows there’s only one person who can get to the bottom of this mystery: Rachael Savernake. But someone wants Nell dead, and soon, while investigating a series of recent deaths at Blackstone Sanatorium, she’s missing entirely.

Looking for answers, Rachel travels to lonely Blackstone Fell, with its eerie moor, deadly waters and sinister tower. With help from Jacob Flint – who’s determined to expose a fraudulent medium at a séance – Rachel will risk her life to bring an end to the disappearances…

A dazzling mystery peopled by clerics and medics and embellished with science and superstition, Blackstone Fell explores the shadowy borderlands between spiritual and scientific; between sanity and madness; and between virtue and deadly sin.

Blog Tour – September 2022 – There Are No Happy Loves – Sergio Olguin (Translated by Miranda France)

A first for crimeworm – a book from South America!

Yes – as far as I can recall, we’ve been to Mexico (as recently as a couple of months ago, with the wonderful More Than You’ll Ever Know by Katie Gutierrez.) Books like that, and so many of the Orenda list, have given me a keen taste for translated fiction, and this is another to add to the growing list of authors whose backlists I’ll be chasing up! Bitter Lemon Press are an imprint who specialise in crime fiction from less well-trodden parts of the globe, and every book of theirs I’ve read this year has impressed me immensely – as well as educated me about the different issues that confront the different settings.

But this is in fact the third book in the Veronica Rosenthal series…

Yes, although I didn’t realise that when I began reading it (the cover of my copy doesn’t mention this fact, unlike the one illustrated above.) I also have a tendency to just open a book and see where it takes me – I tend only to look at the blurb when the initial blog tour invites are sent out, and I decide if the book appeals.

It did take a little bit of catching up, and putting together of each character’s back story, but once I’d pieced it all together, well, by that point I was enthralled by the plot. Approached by Dario, who’s decidedly unimpressed with the police investigation into the colossal car accident that killed several people, including – allegedly – his wife and daughter, Veronica agrees that their work was sloppy, but feels he may well be reaching somewhat to declare that his wife and daughter miraculously survived too, and that she has abducted Jazmin by faking their deaths and disappearing.

But there’s a bit more to the family’s story than that, isn’t there?

When Dario discloses that, in Jazmin’s case, DNA comparison of any remains from the accident with him will be useless, given that she’s adopted, Veronica senses there’s more to the adoption than he’s revealing. And what a can of worms this opens up – it turns out that the adoption was arranged on the quiet, through the Catholic Church and with the aid of a printer to produce a “new” birth certificate. And, obviously, if one child was essentially “sold” to an affluent but childless city family, the question is immediately – how many others also were? And from where is the Church obtaining these infants? Apparently based on a real case, it’s a cracking storyline for an investigative journalist to get her teeth into.

But there are some particularly gruesome goings-on in the work of Veronica’s ex, prosecutor Federico, aren’t there?

Raiding a van with the expectation of finding a drugs haul, the team are somewhat stumped to discover it to be full of body parts and the bodies of babies. With bent coppers involved, this is clearly a lucrative business of some description for those involved – whoever they may be…

I’m sensing a link – or do I just read too much crime fiction…?

You probably do read far too much crime fiction, yes! But of course there is a link…and with our two star-crossed lovers taking on the almighty power of the Catholic Church in Latin America, they will need all the luck they can get…

So do Veronica – and Argentina – make a good impression when it comes to a crimebusting heroine, and a compelling locus? Did the combination keep you turning pages ’til the wee small hours?

Yes, yes, and yes, emphatically! I do love discovering a new series – The Fragility Of Bodies and The Foreign Girls are, respectively, the first two novels featuring Veronica – and by this third novel she’s an exceptionally well-fleshed out character, with a strong past. She’s sexy, tough, ambitious, but also funny (there’s a highly amusing catfight with Dominico’s current squeeze!) and highly likeable. The supporting cast of exes, workmates, girlfriends and family – once one gets a grip of them all, which really doesn’t take long – showcase Olguin’s talent in creating a thoroughly enjoyable crime series, which is also unafraid of tackling controversial issues. Federico, too, is surrounded by his own groups of friends, colleagues etc. It’s an exceptionally well-established series, with plenty in the tank for future novels.

I’m finding myself enjoying translated fiction more and more; I always say it’s my way of travelling vicariously. But I’ve also learnt that, regardless of the country, crime creates the same devastation wherever your book is set. However, having Veronica and Federico on your side would most certainly be a bonus. If you enjoy ScandiNoir, or any fiction from other countries, I definitely don’t think you’d be disappointed if you sought them out.

An absolute corker of a novel which ticks every box when it comes to crime fiction – as good as it gets!

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for the blog tour invitation, and to Bitter Lemon Press for the ARC. This has not influenced my opinion in any way, and this is an honest review.

Author Sergio Olguin

Look back at the blog tour, and see what some of the fantastic bloggers made of the book!

BLURB: A new crime investigation by fearless Buenos Aires journalist Veronica Rosenthal. Haunted by nightmares of her past, Verónica is soon involved in a new investigation. Darío, the sole survivor of a car accident that supposedly killed all of his family, is convinced that his wife and child have in fact survived and that his wife has abducted their child. Then a truck searched in the port of Buenos Aires on suspicion of drug trafficking, is revealed to be transporting human body parts. These seemingly separate incidents prove to be linked in a shadowy web of complicity involving political and religious authorities.

Blog Tour – September 2022 – The Bleeding – Johana Gustawsson

Well first of all – I can’t believe it’s September! The summer has sped by, mostly spent, er, reading, and while we try to wring a few more days outside, it’ll soon by time to sharpen my pencils, buy some nice new stationery – never a chore! – and get back to my Open University studies. But before the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness descends – what do we have here? Is that another beauty from Orenda I see before me?

It is indeed! And – coincidentally – this one, like Whisper Of The Seals, is also set in Quebec. It’s the beginning of a really exciting new series from the highly talented Johana Gustawsson, who’s also responsible for the fantastic Roy & Castells series. The lead character in this one is Detective Maxine Grant, single mother to a teenage girl and a newborn baby boy – their father was killed in a work-connected helicopter crash before his son’s Hugo’s birth. She’s ably supported by her sergeant, Jules, who’s a friend as well as a colleague. Their boss is the trés chic and somewhat scary Marceau, and, in this book at least, their investigation is aided by a forensic psychologist, Professor Ginette “Gina” Montminy.

So what is the investigation?

Maxine is called to a crime scene at the home of her former schoolteacher Mrs Caron, who’d asked for her by name – indeed, that’s the only words she’d uttered. Inside the large home she’d shared with her husband, Professor Philippe Caron, lies his body – butchered by his wife using a knife, attacked with it over and over again – textbook overkill. Moreover, further investigation in the house reveal some very gruesome finds.

What can possibly have pushed this devoted wife of many years to murder the husband to whom she was said by all who knew them to be devoted, and inseperable from? She is not speaking at all, despite the police officers’ best efforts – so Gina is brought in, to bring her professional opinion to bear upon the macabre finds in the household, as well as to attempt to cajole Mrs Caron into telling them what provoked her into attacking the husband with whom she allegedly had the perfect marriage.

But there are two other stories contained in this book, aren’t there, of a historical nature?

Yes – in between the chapters about the Caron case, which make up the majority of the book, there are shorter chapters set in 1899 and 1949. The 1899 storyline is about a woman, Lucienne, who’s lost her two young daughters in a horrendous house fire. She’s persuaded by an acquaintance that a medium may be able to reach them, if they are really dead – she’s hoping, however, that they somehow escaped the inferno.

The other story, set in 1949, features an elderly woman, and the unlikely friendship that develops between her and Lina, a bullied teenager, whose father had fought for the French Resistance. She does her best to help Lina get the better of the teenage girls who are making her life hell (is there anyone able to make people’s life hell more effectively than teenage girls?!)

All three stories centre upon the exact same area, and there’s a strong theme of the supernatural running through them – mediums and spiritualism (with Arthur Conan Doyle making a guest appearance), witchcraft and the abilities of women to use the dark arts to punish our enemies. It’s fascinatingly presented, and I really found it interesting and thought-provoking.

This certainly sounds like a great novel – how enjoyable was it?

To be honest (and I know I keep saying this, but every time I say it it’s true, I swear!) – I think this is the best book I’ve read so far this year. The characters came across as utterly compelling, with realistic relationships between them all. The details of each of the mysteries at the heart of the novel were released in a wonderfully slow, steady way, guaranteed to keep the reader turning the pages to keep finding out just a little bit more! (I was nudged several times to, “get the lamp off” – although not so politely!) And, unusually for a book featuring three storylines, I didn’t feel that one was more interesting than another, or that one dragged – all three held my interest equally, which is no mean feat.

This book bodes incredibly well for this new series by Gustawsson – I loved Maxine and Jules – and the refreshingly friendly and supportive relationship between them. I’m also hoping that Gina, the forensic psychologist, will be reappearing in future books. She really is a force to be reckoned with. I’m really excited about book two already!

It’s such a privilege to get the opportunity to read books from all over the world – as well, of course, as ones from the UK – brought to us by Orenda. This is yet another series I simply can’t wait to read more of (even if I will be keeping himself awake…!)

Miss this book at your peril – I absolutely adored it!

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this blog tour, and Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the ARC. This has not affected my opinion of the book, and this is an honest review,

Author Johana Gustawsson

Keep an eye on the wonderful selection of bloggers who’ll all be reviewing The Bleeding!

BLURB: 1899, Belle Époque Paris. Lucienne’s two daughters are believed dead when her mansion burns to the ground, but she is certain that her girls are still alive and embarks on a journey into the depths of the spiritualist community to find them.
1949, Post-War Québec. Teenager Lina’s father has died in the French Resistance, and as she struggles to fit in at school, her mother introduces her to an elderly woman at the asylum where she works, changing Lina’s life in the darkest way imaginable.

2002, Quebec. A former schoolteacher is accused of brutally stabbing her husband – a famous university professor – to death. Detective Maxine Grant, who has recently lost her own husband and is parenting a teenager and a new baby single-handedly, takes on the investigation.
Under enormous personal pressure, Maxine makes a series of macabre discoveries that link directly to historical cases involving black magic and murder, secret societies and spiritism … and women at breaking point, who will stop at nothing to protect the ones they love…