Book Review – April 2021 – The Lynmouth Stories – LV Hay

Quick review, for a very quick book – but one which I have to confess to enjoying massively, and which left me determined to investigate novels by the same author. She’s written three thus far: In Plain Sight, Killing Me Softly, and Hell And High Water, and there’s also a new one, Do No Harm, which is mentioned at the back of this short Kindle freebie.

It consists of three short stories – considered by many writers, I’ve often read, to be a particularly hard art to perfect, as every word has to count – named after her three novels. And Ms Hay is a classy, confident writer, easy to read, and with believable characters. I found myself gutted as each one ended!

I don’t know if the storylines are related to the novels they’re named after. The first is about a mother and son, apparently being held prisoner. The second seemed to reflect a creepy obsession which could end very badly, and the third about a woman trapped in her worst nightmare by a horrendous storm. Bold confident writing makes me suggest you grab this title from Amazon which won’t cost you anything – what do you have to lose? And (I’m terrible for saying this, but only because its almost inevitably true!) I’m determined to get myself something longer and more substantial by this intriguing author to read. I do have quite a big TBR pile – as do we all, I know! – but I’ll report back on my findings! I don’t expect to be disappointed by my findings either. Great stuff – I could have read on and on!

With thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in this tour.

Blog Tour – April 2021 – How To Betray Your Country – James Wolff

Well, I’m quite a fan of the spy thriller, but I tend to stick to those set in the period of the Cold War, particularly those by the master of the genre, the late great John Le Carré – although, to be fair, I am partial to the odd Charles Cumming. I thought it would be something of a novelty to read something by an author new to me, set in the present-day, and in Istanbul – a city I’d always planned to visit until the logistics caused by my injuries have made that extremely difficult!

So, like most destinations, I’m visiting it vicariously, through the pages of a book – my favourite way to travel, and the cheapest! Our hero is August Drummond, who had been employed in the trade of spying until being sacked. To make things even worse he was also recently widowed. However, he hasn’t lost his eye for a shifty character, and when he spots such a type a few rows ahead of him on a flight to Istanbul he suspects he’s identified a recruit of IS, on his way to attempt to cross the Turkish border into Syria and join the fight.

When they arrive at the airport he watches the nervous young man dispose of what (August discovers) are some crumpled directions, just before he is detained by the police. Despite having a new job to start in the city, August decides to try to take his place – they are of a fairly similar physical type, both being tall, young, lanky, dark-haired and English – and see whether his suspicions about the man prove to be correct. And, naturally, they are – the meeting place is a cemetery, so he’s clearly up to no good…

Just after starting his new, incredibly tedious position, August is approached by an overly-keen jobseeker called Youssef, who’s desperate to earn money so he can track down his wife and daughter, who he hopes have made their way safely to Europe.

Youssef becomes something of a thorn in August’s side, popping up all over the place, while August is busy trying to pass as the man from the plane. Youssef had clearly seen something of a soft side to August, and is a like an amusing puppy, tugging at August’s trouser leg throughout his time in Istanbul.

August then learns a nemesis from his time at MI6 will be arriving in Istanbul, to work alongside him. He also sees his opportunity to prove his usefulness to his IS “handler”….but this may be the point where things start to get out of August’s control, and things weren’t quite as they first appeared…

This was a thoroughly enjoyable, and at times very witty, ride through the politics of the underworld of the Middle East. There was plenty of action, both of the mental and physical sort, as one expects in a spy novel – as well some very cold-blooded characters.

It was a rollicking good tale, with a great ending, and I wasn’t at all.surprised to learn that James Wolff is a pseudonym of someone who, according to reviewers who know these sort of things, is clearly very knowledgeable about the MIddle Eastern spy world. He knows how to spin a damn good yarn too.

Recommended – and very much so if you enjoy spying and subterfuge!

Second in a trilogy, the first being Beside The Syrian Sea. I’ll be on the lookout for it, too, before the third in the series appears.

BLURB: Things are looking bad for disgraced spy August Drummond. In emotional free fall after the death of his wife, fired for a series of security breaches… and now his neighbour on the flight to Istanbul won’t stop talking. The only thing keeping August sane is the hunch that there’s something not quite right about the nervous young man several rows ahead – a hunch confirmed when August watches him throw away directions to a European cemetery seconds before being detained by Turkish police. A reckless August decides to go to the cemetery, where he meets a mysterious figure from the dark heart of the Islamic State and quickly finds himself drawn into a shadowy plot to murder an Iranian scientist in Istanbul. But nothing is what it seems, and before long August realises he has gone too far to turn back. As he struggles to break free from the clutches of Islamic State and play off British intelligence against their Turkish counterparts, he will find his resourcefulness, ingenuity and courage tested to the very limit of what he can endure.

With many thanks to Anne Cater and Bitter Lemon Press for including me in this blog tour.

Blog Tour – April 2021 – Not My Mother – Miranda Smith

For a while, I was hesitant about reading psychological thrillers unless they were by authors I trusted to deliver a cracker. So many of them are predictable, or disappointing, or – especially – too similar to others. However, I’m delighted I took the chance with the thoroughly enjoyable US-set Not My Mother. Bookouture seem to be building up a really good list of books, and this definitely qualifies as one.

It begins dramatically, with a young mum, Marion, hosting her daughter’s first birthday party when the police arrive and arrest her mother Eileen. It turns out that she is suspected of being a woman called Sarah Paxton, who has been wanted by police for 30-odd years for – jawdropper! – murdering Marion’s father and kidnapping Marion in what became known as the “Baby Caroline” case, as that had been the abducted baby’s name. Her mother, Amelia, had apparently never ceased searching for her missing daughter, but to no avail.

After being attacked while on remand on prison, Eileen is unconscious in hospital and unable to answer any of the questions the woman she had lovingly brought up on her own as her daughter has for her. While waiting for her to awaken, and looking back on her life, Marion sees signs that perhaps indicate that her upbringing was unusual – she was never allowed to leave the small seaside town where she was brought up until her college years; they never went on holiday; any mention of who her father was got her no answers. Could the mother she adored really be what the media that had descended on the small seaside resort where they’d lived (or hidden?) said she was – a murderer? And a child abductor?

As well as the inevitable media, Marion/Caroline’s real mother, Amelia, arrives in town. She’s had a completely different life to Eileen, who’s got by running a seaside restaurant with her best friend, Des – a business Marion joined after graduating from college. She comes from money and it shows – she’s chic, well-groomed, and wants to get to know her missing daughter – and the granddaughter she didn’t know existed, but is careful not to put any pressure on her. Marion can’t help thinking how different her life would’ve been had she been brought up by the affluent Amelia and her husband.

This book keeps you guessing, and your loyalties switch from chapter to chapter. I guessed some of the storyline – a hazard of reading so much! – but on other twists I was totally wide of the mark. I raced through the second half of the book faster than any book I’ve read this year, as Miranda Smith wound the tension tighter and tighter. The ending had me racing through the pages to get to the conclusion of this thoroughly enjoyable slice of psychological thriller-cum-domestic noir. If you’re looking for a bit of escapism – and I think a lot of us are at the moment! – I would definitely recommend giving this one a bash. I’ll also be looking for any other books by Miranda Smith.

BLURB: They arrest my mother in the middle of my baby daughter’s first birthday party.
They say she’s not really my mother.
They say she stole me, thirty years ago…

I’d heard of the Baby Caroline case, of course. When a baby is snatched from her mother’s arms, the whole country knows about it. But I never dreamed it had anything to do with me.

Today, my daughter turned one. I hosted a party for my friends and my mother, my only family. We were in the middle of unwrapping gifts and blowing out candles when the knock came at the door, and they took my mother away.

The police say she is the only suspect for the kidnapping. When I visit her, desperate for answers, she won’t give them to me. She looks me in the eye and says nothing.

I don’t even know her real name. The truth is, my whole life is a lie.

I have to find out what happened thirty years ago, but I’m scared. What if there are other secrets, worse secrets? What if my own child is in danger? What else don’t I know? 

With thanks to Netgalley and all at Bookouture for allowing me access to this book and inviting me on the Blog Tour.