BLOG TOUR – The Last Embrace – Pam Jenoff

Today, as start of the blog tour for Pam Jenoff’s World War Two romance, which I am featuring as: a) I did pledge to step outside my comfort zone; and b) I can’t say no to lovely publicists!

Product Details

Above you can see our lovely romantic book cover, and on the right our (incredibly fresh-faced, I must say!) author. This is her fifth book here (although I think it’s her ninth in the US, but I imagine they’ll all appear in the UK eventually) and all have done incredibly well in both territories (where they are often marketed under different names and covers, please be aware – in the US this is on sale as Last Summer At Chelsea Beach.) They’re also international bestsellers. So, despite this being somewhat outside my comfort zone, I realise how popular they are and I’m privileged to kick off our blog tour

Ms Jenoff has impressive credentials – a BA in International Affairs from George Washington University and a Masters in History from Jesus College, Cambridge. She lived in the UK for several years, and her childhood affinity with Great Britain took her to Cambridge, and provided inspiration for this book, as well as some earlier ones. To learn a little bit more about her fascinating early career, pre-novelist, how it led her to her preferred subject matter, and her writing process, do look at this interview. It’s from last year but it’s illuminating for fans and other writers. Although it refers to an earlier book, it’s interesting reading for anyone who thinks romantic fiction authors should be regarded as airheads compared to other writers (she blows that idea right out of the water!) She’s what we regard as a very high achiever. In her personal life, she is married with three children and lives just outside Philadelphia.

Now this may well surprise or amuse some regular crimeworm followers, but I am reading the book – it did take me a little time to get into it, but I will finish it and review it immediately I’m finished. (I promise!) In the meantime, here, for your delectation, is an extract chosen by Pam herself, from near the beginning of the book:


Washington, DC November 1943

(Previously, Adelia, a typist for the Washington Post who was helping her boss cover a meeting at the State Department, was stunned to spot Charlie, the soldier from home she has long pined for but whom she thought was off at war.)

I stepped back toward the corridor, my ankle turning in­ward and causing me to stumble. As I struggled not to fall, I dropped my notebook, which clattered against the marble. Heads turned in my direction, seeming more annoyed than concerned. As the others resumed their conversations, Char­lie stepped from the group and moved toward me in the hall, his face breaking. “Addie?” His tone was disbelieving. I froze, unable to move or speak as he drew close. He reached out, as if to touch me, but his hand foundered midair before falling to his side again. He leaned in to kiss my cheek and his fa­miliar scent made the room wobble. I struggled not to turn and meet his lips with my own. “Addie.” There it was in that single word, that voice which cut right through and con­nected with my insides as it had since the first time I heard it. “What are you doing here?” He didn’t know any of it—that I had left Philadelphia, or how I had come to be here. Because he had gone first.

“I’m working for the Post.” I watched his face for any sign of disbelief. But Charlie had never doubted me. “I never ex­pected you to be in Washington,” I added.

His face flinched slightly as though he had been slapped. “You aren’t pleased to see me.”

“Of course I am. It’s just that I thought you were training.” My words came out too quickly, piling on top of one another.

He fumbled with the hat, neatly folded in his hands. “I was, for almost a year. But now I’m here for some extra briefings.” There was a strange undercurrent to his voice. A year had slipped through our fingers. How was that possible? Once it had seemed unthinkable to keep breathing without Charlie, but somehow the clock had kept ticking. I tried to imagine his days in between, all of the things he had done and seen since we’d last laid eyes on one another. But my mind was blank.

“Your hair,” he blurted. I raised my hand to my temple, wincing at how tousled I was from the rain. “It’s short.” It was the bob, so different than last time he had seen me. “I mean, I like it.” I couldn’t tell if he was just being kind.

“How’s your family?”

“Holding up as well as can be expected.” He shrugged, helpless but not indifferent. “My folks are in Florida. Mom has thrown herself into the women’s auxiliary.” It sounded so much like Mrs. Connally that I had to smile. “Dad’s Dad.” Guilt at having left them flickered across his face. “It tore them apart, you know.” Yes, I knew only too well. The Connallys lived in a place where their grief would always be as raw as the day it all happened, no matter how much time passed or how far away they moved. “They’re together, but in a sepa­rate kind of a way. They know now,” he added, and I wanted to ask if he meant about the army, or what had been between us, or both.

The question stuck in my throat. “And the boys?” I asked instead.

“Jack, well, he works at a plant in Port Richmond. He’s taking night classes at Temple, though.” Jack had been the real brain of the boys—he might have gone to an Ivy League school and practiced medicine as he once dreamed, but for money and circumstance. “He hasn’t been called up yet, thank God. Mom couldn’t bear to lose another son.”

I swallowed. “And Liam?”

Charlie stared hard at the floor. “I’m not sure.” But surely his parents knew about Liam’s whereabouts, and whether or not he was okay. Or had they cut ties with him as well? My stomach tugged. I still hated Liam for what he had done, yet I could not help but worry.

Charlie and I watched one another, not speaking. We had talked about everyone, of course, except the one name we could not say. “How long will you be in town?” I asked, not sure what answer I was hoping to hear.

Before Charlie could reply, voices came from the confer­ence room behind him. He looked over his shoulder. “There’s another meeting. I’m going to have to go.” A knife ripped through me at the idea that he might leave again just as quickly as he had appeared. “Addie, I want to talk to you. Meet me tonight?” he said suddenly. “The Old Ebbitt Grill at seven.” So he did not want our chance reunion to end either.

I peered at him, trying to read the meaning behind his words. Were we merely two old friends, trying to catch up? No, it was still there, that hungry, yearning look in his eyes I had first seen the night on the dock. He wanted to pick up once more and return to that moment when we had stood on the edge of the world, gazing down at everything that lay be­fore us. He wanted to make things whole again.

Something licked at my insides then, familiar like a forgot­ten dream: hope. Even after everything that had happened, Charlie still reached a place in me that made me believe things could be good again.

But something held me back. “I don’t know.” I was sud­denly angry. Did he really think we could put all of those broken pieces back together and not see the cracks? Doubt thundered beneath my feet like a freight train and the ground began to sway. I had managed to make my way back from the place that nearly killed me and stand despite it all. I could not afford to let him in and risk going there again.

“Please, Addie. I’ll wait for you.” There was a desperation about him I had only seen once before in my life. Before I could answer, the men spilled forth from the conference room, enveloping Charlie, and we were separated by a sea of suits and uniforms giving off the odor of cologne and cigarette smoke. I had not had the chance to answer.

Our eyes met and locked, his making a silent plea before he slipped from sight.

The Last Embrace by Pam Jenoff is available on August 6th from Mira, priced £7.99.


And do please follow the blog tour – on Sunday August 2nd it can be found at Book World Of Anne, the next day Miss Bookworm Reviews, and will run at lots of other marvellous blogs until next Saturday. By which time you will have my verdict – can crimeworm be turned into an historical romance fan?? Will I abandon shootings and murders for snogging and heartbreak?

What do you think? I’d love to know how you feel when it comes to stepping out of your comfort zone, so please do comment – I love to hear anyone’s bookish thoughts. How attached to your favourite genres are you? And how will I enjoy the experience (experiment!)? Follow me and find out!

BLOG TOUR – The Domino Killer – Neil White

Product Details

BLURB: When a man is found beaten to death in a local Manchester park, Detective Constable Sam Parker is one of the investigating officers. Sam swiftly identifies the victim, but what at first looks like an open and shut case quickly starts to unravel when he realises that the victim’s fingerprints were found on a knife at another crime scene, a month earlier.

Meanwhile, Sam’s brother, Joe – a criminal defence lawyer in the city – comes face to face with a man whose very presence sends shockwaves through his life. Joe must confront the demons of his past as he struggles to come to terms with the darkness that this man represents.

This is, according to GoodReads, the third book featuring the brothers, who are based in Manchester, but to be honest, I’d never have known that (although I did wonder if there were possibly others.) So you’re fine “going in cold” with this book – I know that gives certain people a horrible feeling, not starting at the start of the series (you know who you are!) but it’s not a problem, unless that is an issue with you. It’s written in third person past tense, for those of you for whom that’s important, and most, although by no means all, the chapters concentrate on the brothers.

What you find out early in the book, and this isn’t a clanging spoiler, is that Joe has a new client – and it’s a man he instantly recognises as having killed his and Dan’s sister, 17 years previously. He’d always promised that, if he ever saw him again, he would kill the man who destroyed his family. So he begins to investigate his new client, who, bizarrely, has been accused of breaking into the police lot and stealing his own car back – which had been confiscated due to lack of insurance – then burning it!

The book is a beautifully plotted crime novel – very clever and intricate, which means you don’t want to put it down for long, and miss a twist. I really enjoyed reading about Dan’s solid police work, desk work being his specialty – accounts, e-mails, lists of car reg plates – he’s your man. Sounds dull but White has a way of making it interesting, and it’s always feasible – no really crazy coincidences. And for those who enjoy action, there’s plenty to be found, as we follow Joe on his mission to prove the man is a murderer.

There’s also a series of three, seemingly unrelated, murders, which Dan is involved in investigating, and his boss dubs The Domino Killings, as he’s sure there’s some kind of tenuous link, even though the investigators can’t find it. But they couldn’t possibly be related to Dan and Joe’s sister’s murder 17 years previously…could they?

There are some fine lines – “A cigarette was passed along the line, but the way each cherished it told Joe it contained more than tobacco.” There’s a comment about how men can never identify flowers – how true! The short snappy chapters, often ending on a cliffhanger, did, in the last couple of sentences, occasionally sound a bit clichéd – I noted, “There were hard times ahead”; and at the end of the next chapter, “He had to get her through this. He owed her that much at least”. There were others, but you get my point, so that’s possibly something the author should be careful of.

And one bit annoyed me – someone (no spoilers!) has enough evidence for the police to catch a murderer, but doesn’t hand it in immediately as they need to “understand” it first. I know this is a necessary plot device to ensure a grand action-packed denouement, but it was  bloody stupid, crimeworm must say. Still, it made for an hour or so of extra high octane entertainment. And if that’s what floats your boat, as it does mine, Neil White is definitely worth seeking out. It’s cleverly-written, action packed, and contains a superbly evil character, with a motive that intrigued me.

Perfect for: fans of police procedurals, with a good bit of action, like David Mark’s Aector McAvoy or Jane Casey’s Maeve Kerrigan series. Would make a great book to read while travelling, or on holiday. Take more books, though – you’ll rattle through this one!

With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for allowing me access to an early digital ARC of this book, and to Liz – many thanks for your patience!

The future for crimeworm

I’ve decided to make a few changes to crimeworm – but not too many. The problem is this – I’ve been reading tons and I’ve a massive backlog of reviews. So, to get these reviews up, I’m going to be shortening my reviews. My plan is just to print the blurb, tell you what I thought of the book, and to whom it might appeal.

Another intention is to broaden the review criteria, so you won’t just find crime fiction here, but straight fiction, non-fiction, stuff old and new. But don’t worry, crime will still be my abiding passion and I will remain as true to my illicit roots as possible!

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Also, in case any of you don’t subscribe, I’m very proud to also be blogging for ShinyNewBooks, a very professional “blog” -azine – I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s out every 3 months, with a six weekly catch-up in between. In the last issue I reviewed Martin Walker’s The Dying Season  and In My House by Alex Hourston. Do pop by and have a look at, and follow them on Twitter @shinynewbooks. Every issue is packed with reviews, from fiction to non-fiction, reissues to children’s books. So you’re bound to find a few books to appeal – even something you missed and spot in an older issue, as they’re all there too for your perusal!

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I’m at this very moment in time reading the end of The Domino Killer, Neil White’s very impressive new book. I’ll be posting a blog post on it today very soon, in the new format, as part of the unofficial blog tour organised by the indefatigable Liz, who organised it simply because she loves his books – no publicist involved. That’s devotion for you. And do look out for more frequent, shorter posts from crimeworm. Finally, I’m not even going to mention the jammy sods who are in Harrogate this fine weekend. But I do plan on hitting #BloodyScotland, and will report back, so if you are also going, do let me know (if you’re a regular commentator on here and Twitter, that is. No psychopaths, thanks!)

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Right – time to finish The Domino Killer. Any comments in the near future on the changes to crimeworm  would be greatly appreciated – do you readers like them or not? That’s what I need to know. So please give me your opinions! Wishing you all a lovely weekend, and please check out my “new style” review later. (Brevity, crimeworm, brevity!)

BLOG TOUR – Follow You Home – Mark Edwards


I think I’m turning into a bit of a wuss as I get older. All through my teenage years, I devoured every Stephen King I could get my hands on. I’ve been aware that my reluctance to watch horror films (unless they’re a 15, and some of them are bad enough!) has been the source of great hilarity to my children since they were of an age to start watching these movies. But I really didn’t think I’d end up with a book I’d feel so uncomfortable (okay, creeped out!) reading at night that I’d have to confine some of it to daytime hours…!

Follow You Home tells the story of Daniel and Laura, who’re in their mid-thirties and inter-railing round Europe before they settle down to marriage and mortgages and babies. They’re a solid couple, having been together five years, and Daniel, a bit of a computer whiz, is using the advance he’s received for an app he designed to fund their big last hurrah. We meet them in Eastern Europe, on a night train travelling from Hungary to Romania. Laura’s angry as Daniel neglected to book a sleeper compartment, meaning they’ve no privacy and little chance of much sleep, with their belongings to be watched over. They get chatting to and drinking with a young Romanian couple, Ion and Alina, who spot an empty sleeper compartment. They suggest their new English friends get a nap in the empty compartment, promising to wake them when the border guards and ticket collector appear so they can return to the main carriage. However, they don’t, and Laura and Daniel are woken roughly by non-English speaking officials who demand their passports and tickets – which have been stolen. Alina attempts to get involved, but only fuels the flame of the argument – which results in her, Laura and Daniel being ejected from the train at a deserted station. Not keen on the vicious dogs hanging around, they decide it didn’t seem too long since they’d passed through a town, and their best bet is to follow the rail tracks through the forest they’d run through, back to civilization. Alina decides to nip into the forest to the loo before they start their walk…but when she’s taking a while, the other two head deeper into the woods to find her, tired and exasperated. Things start to look wrong when they find one of her boots. Then they come across a house in a clearing, as though from a fairy tale. Hearing screams coming from inside, they enter the unlocked dilapidated property – and come face to face with a scene from a nightmare. Us readers aren’t privy to what they saw until over halfway through the book, which sent my imagination running crazy. Just what did they see in the house that terrified them so? They get to the nearest town as quickly as possible, minus Alina, whose fate is unknown to them, and try to report her disappearance to the local policeman on duty. But his suspicious behaviour causes them to flee the police station, minus the remainder of their belongings.

They eventually arrive home, but can’t settle. Daniel is drinking heavily to blot out what he saw and what happened, while Laura appears to all around her to be losing her mind, talking of seeing “Alina’s ghost.” Plus Laura’s got form with seeing “ghosts” – she had a spirit friend between the ages of 12 and 14 (probably brought on by the stress her less than supportive parents put her under – and still do.) Daniel and Laura soon split up, to the confusion of their friends, who know the “holiday” is somehow responsible for the destruction of what seemed a perfect match.

It’s difficult to mention much more without giving the storyline away – but the title tells you all you need to know. Unfortunately, they haven’t left their nightmare experience back on the other side of Europe – they’ve been followed home. But exactly who – or what – has followed them, breaking into their houses, stealing (then returning!) Daniel’s computer system, and committing a great deal of other malicious pieces of mischief as the book proceeds? Just what do these ‘people’ to Daniel, though apparitions to Laura, want with them – to the extent that it appears they’re willing to murder anyone who learns just what happened in Romania, and exactly what they saw? And can Daniel and Laura get themselves together again enough to defend themselves against this evil, and save their sanity, as well as their lives?

I’ve only ever read one Mark EdwardsBecause She Loves Me – and, I’ll be honest, wasn’t a huge fan – it seemed quite similar to a lot of books I read around that time. But he’s on much surer ground with this book, which is more of a straight horror story. I also have his The Magpies on the Kindle, and I’m sure it won’t be long before I’m tempted by that, now I’ve read this. I’m a big fan of the fantastic British horror writer FG Cottam (if you’re a horror fan, do investigate his books, particularly the early ones – he uses music, as well as real historical characters and events, to great effect), and I can see myself following Mark’s career with the same keen interest. His plotting skills particularly are to be applauded. So if you fancy an edge-of-your-seat horror, then I’d definitely recommend you investigate Mark Edwards (below), and Follow You Home is an ideal place to start.

Are you a horror fan? I’d love some recommendations of writers I should investigate – it’s the psychological aspect I enjoy, as opposed to blood and gore. I think I need to toughen up a bit! Or do you steer clear of fodder for your nightmares? I love to get your comments!


Mon dieu! The second half of this year will have to be an utterly incredible one for books if it knocks this one out of my Top Five – or even possibly No 1 book – for the year. I was initially sceptical when the publicist contacted me to see if I was interested in a split-time book, with one half featuring Joan Of Arc. Medieval history isn’t really my thing – although I’m a fan of more modern history – plus I knew very little about Joan, bar the very basics. The publicist agreed that she’d been of that mindset too, but had been won over by the book (do they always say that? They probably do and I’m the only person who believes it…!) Thankfully, I decided this would be the ideal time to learn a bit more, plus I felt it would do me no harm to step, partly at least, out of my book-ish comfort zone. And I’m so glad I did.

So, in the present we have Capitaine Ines Picaut, a pretty cool kind of kick-ass cop (she reminded me of Spiral‘s Laure, another great character) and her team of detectives – the most memorable member being Patrice, a hacker-turned-police-computer-whiz employee, who dyes his hair several mad colours during the course of the book, is an extreme sports fanatic, a Red Bull addict – you know the type (me, not personally, but there’s nobody that distinctive here!) They’re investigating a string of arson attacks in Orleans, the third of which causes the death of a Scottish orthopaedic surgeon, whose post-mortem reveals a memory stick in his throat – swallowed so no-one, bar the pathologist, could find it. What’s so important on that stick he’d assume he was being murdered for it? Was it intended for someone? An Islamic group, who no-one in the Muslim community has heard, of is claiming responsibility, but it’s clearly a red herring, and possibly a way of sowing racial dissent..

There’s also Ines’ gorgeous and incredibly wealthy husband, Luc, who comes from a very dodgy, in financial terms, filthy rich local family, of whom there are countless branches. She’s separated from him (er, not sure why, tbh..!), but to allow him to fulfil his ambition of standing for Mayor of Orleans, she’s agreed to continue pretending to be his wife for the week left until the election, on the condition she’ll then be free to walk away, without him making her life difficult.

Then we have the storyline featuring The Maid, the woman we know as Joan of Arc, or, here, Jeanne d’Arc, set between May 1429 and May 1431. Scott apparently got her inspiration for this novel from hearing of a Ukrainian orthopaedic surgeon, who, in 2003, questioned the myth of Joan as being a poor illiterate peasant girl, and was subsequently thrown out of France. He was sure that the woman known as The Maid had been heavily educated from a young age in warcraft and tactics, horsemanship, use of weaponry – like swords and axes, jousting, and hand-to-hand combat. She also managed to control a large and unruly army made up of men, who enjoyed their wine and the spoils of war once a city or town had been invaded or had surrendered. Please don’t think for a minute the scenes of battle are dull (one of my pet hates) – Scott’s writing brings it to life in an exciting, dramatic, but accessible, way. I had no idea, for example, how they dealt with moated towns and castles before reading this. Jeanne’s story is told from the viewpoint of a man who initially starts out as an English spy in the French forces – Tod, to become Tomas, Rustbeard. He has a number of informers within the French forces and makes an effective and ruthless spymaster, reporting back to Bedford, an English leader – and he’s not the only one. However, the longer Tomas spends with Jeanne, the less sure he is of his where his allegiances truly lie…He represents himself as her confessor, and although his status as a man of God means he cannot engage in combat, he is at Jeanne’s right hand to aid her on the battlefield, giving us a constant commentary on her war to put the man she sees as the true King of France on the throne – not the young puppet king, to be controlled by an English regent. Tomas is also an effective medicine man, and well-educated.

Meanwhile, back in the present day, there are further fires, and another death, this time of a young Muslim related to Orleans’ main gangster, Cheb Yasine, who swears revenge. Despite Picaut’s reluctance to join forces with him, if only to the most limited extent, he obviously has eyes and ears in the city where she does not, and she needs every lead she can get. Could the arson attacks be connected to Luc’s rival for the Mayor’s role, Christelle Viver, who represents the National Front? And what is the ultimate intention of the arsonists? Throughout the book, as we switch back-and-forth in time, it’s mostly good police work (and Patrice’s computer skills) that solves the present-day mystery – and I defy you to figure it out before the big reveal.

Clearly, we all know the end of Jeanne d’Arc’s story, don’t we. But here Manda Scott truly does save the best for last! Très bien, Ms Scott!

This book’s got the lot to be one of this year’s intelligent hits. For those who like their crime fiction, there’s a superb present-day mystery, which is intelligently and classily done, with plenty of action. There’s the historical fiction aspect; the spies (in both storylines); political machinations (ditto); war scenes, exciting and readable – real edge-of-your-seat stuff; back-stabbing; great dialogue; an absolute dream of a cast, each one superbly drawn and nicely rounded (some of the characters on the sidelines – the French and English nobles, and which side who was on, proved a tad confusing, but that was probably just me, as I was turning the pages too quickly to stop and flick back – and, like I say, my knowledge of that period is zilch. Don’t let that put you off; it doesn’t affect the storyline.) There’s even some romance…! Scott, like the top historical fiction writers, wears what must have been an absolute mass of research lightly, never making the reader feel it’s a lecture. And the main characters – Jeanne and Tomas, Ines and Patrice – are my favourite creations this year. So what more persuasion do you need – you need this book on the TBR pile!

Well, luckily for one of you, Bantam Press are generously giving away one SIGNED copy of Into The Fire. They’ll be supplied straight from the publisher (I’m assuming it’s probably UK residents only, but I’ll get back to you here on that.) This is my first ever giveaway, so it would be great to get a good response!

Entering’s really simple – just tweet or retweet a link to this review and giveaway, ensuring you include the hashtag #INTOTHEFIRE and tag @hare_wood (Manda Scott.) A winner will be selected at random at midnight on Tuesday 7th July, and the publisher will be responsible for the book’s despatch to the lucky winner. Good luck! And take my word for it – this book won’t disappoint any of you, so even if you don’t win, do your best to beg, or borrow, or steal a copy!