Dead Flowers by Nicola Monaghan – Blog Tour

I was delighted to be invited onto the blog tour for Dead Flowers by Nicola Monaghan and am pleased to be able to share this extract to whet your appetite.

Set in Nottingham, Dead Flowers follows Dr Sian Love as she moves into a new house. After ten years on the police force as a detective she is no stranger to murder victims. However when she find human remains in her new home, having left the force behind her things are different. This time it’s personal…

Dead Flowers was shortlisted for the 2019 Little Brown, UEA Crime Writing Award and Nicola Monaghan has previous won the Betty Trask Award, the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Prize and the Waverton Good Read. I for one can’t wait to read this!

EXTRACT FROM DEAD FLOWERS BY NICOLA MONAGHAN

Cellar

Narrow Marsh, Nottingham

Sian came down the steep steps past the Contemporary art gallery, her eyes tracing the Nottingham lace patterns in its concrete walls. She could feel the history around her; Narrow Marsh, as it used to be, full of crime and squalor. She felt separated from the slums and violence by the finest membrane, like if she pushed hard enough she could burst through and find herself years back in time.

The sign from the old Loggerheads pub was rattling in the wind, making a crashing sound against its frame. Sian checked up and down the street for any signs of trouble but could see nothing except leaves being blown and buffeted against the pavement. She could hear Elvis, barking and howling the other side of the door. He wasn’t usually that bothered when she went out for a couple of hours but the combination of the high winds and being somewhere new were probably to blame. She dug into her bag to get her keys and his barking got more urgent. ‘It’s just me, you silly sod,’ she said. She opened the door and he came bounding over, doing the dance of love he did whenever she came home, nuzzling her, then rocking from back to front paws. She leaned down to gives the German Shepperd a proper scratch behind the ears and let him lick her nose, then locked and bolted the front door, shutting out Narrow Marsh and the dark.

Elvis ran though the hallway to the back door. Sian grabbed the key from a hook on the wall; he was trying to force the door open before she could unlock it. Finally, he burst outside and jumped into the air, barking at the night sky. The house felt damp and chilly so Sian went into the kitchen and tuned the heating on. She wasn’t sleepy enough for bed. She rooted through the boxes searching for something to drink, and glasses. She could only find old bottle of amaretto and the plastic beakers from the bathroom. She poured herself a drink and slipped through to the living room, collapsing on the sofa and kicking off her shoes.

Sitting back, Sian tried to relax. She took a sip from her drink. It had a thickness and a rich, high taste. She couldn’t shake the idea that part of the slick flavour was old toothpaste. She heard Elvis, scratching at the cellar door again. She ignored him for as long as she could. Then he popped his head into the room and stared at her. ‘Fine,’ she said, putting down her drink and walking back through to the hall. She closed and locked the back door. ‘I can see I’m not going to get any peace here. Let’s go and find out what’s down there’

Sian moved her toolbox and opened the cellar door, flicking on the light switch. There was a bright flash below and then darkness as the bulb blew. ‘How’s that for a sign,’ she muttered, with a nervous laugh. She tilted the door back and reached into her toolbox, finding a torch. Then she picked up the box in case she needed tools when she got down there. Elvis scratched at the door again then looked up at her expectantly. ‘You know, boy, the rule is never go down into he cellar.’ She smiled at her own joke. And then she pushed open the door and he barged past her and rushed down the stairs, barking. Sian followed him, shinning the torch ahead of her. She tripped slightly as she misjudged the last step then righted herself. At the bottom of the stairs there was a high, sweet smell, reminiscent of old bins. She put the toolbox down on the floor. Elvis was scratching at the far wall and turned towards her, barking. He started to whimper and then pace the floor in a way she’d never seen him do before.

Sian felt the temperature of the room drop. She knew this was the effect of adrenaline on her body but the feeling stuck home, nonetheless. Because Elvis wasn’t any old retired police dog. He was a cadaver dog. Elvis had been trained to find the dead.

Dead Flowers was released on the 5th September and is available here

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Time for the Dead by Lin Anderson – a review

When I was asked to join the blog tour for the latest novel by Lin Anderson I was convinced that I had read previous by her, and the blurb for this one was so intriguing of course I said yes. However it actually turns out I don’t think I have read any of her’s before (this is why I need to start writing down everything I read) Well I have to say if Time for the Dead is anything to go by, I will definitely be reading the rest of her novels as this was terrific.

Time for the Dead is the 14th book in the Rhona MacLeod series and this one is set on the Isle of Skye. Forensic scientist Rhona is recovering from a hideous ordeal that has left her quite traumatised. Rather than go to the rehabilitation centre that is suggested she takes herself off to the remote island, agreeing to keep in touch with her colleague DS McNab via regular skype calls. When she finds what seems to be some kind of crime scene her curiosity kicks in. A body is then found at the base of the famous cliff known as Kilt Rock and Rhona begins to suspect that a group of army medics visiting the island after a tour of Afghanistan might not be just on the island for a holiday.

Time for the Dead was a cracking read that I thoroughly enjoyed. This is one of those novels where the setting is as much a character as any of the people being written about. I loved how the remoteness of the island added to the tension of the plot. As well as following the investigation on Skye, we also have chapters set in Afghanistan where we find out more about the medics and what they went through during their time in the country. These chapters were quite harrowing at times to read and the heat of Afghanistan contrasted darkly with the cold of Skye.

Rhona MacLeod was definitely one of the best characters I’ve read recently, especially once she teemed up with Blaze, the detective dog (well search and rescue but detective dog sounds better) I found her slightly frustrating, yet also incredibly strong and resilient. I liked her interaction with both McNab who has his own investigation to contend with, and with Detective Olsen who was visiting Skye on a walking holiday.

I do feel that I would have enjoyed this book even more had I read the previous novels in the series, yet there was enough background in this to ensure I knew what was happening. I very much enjoyed my first Rhona MacLeod story and will definitely be reading more.

To find out what others thought visit the other stops on the tour. Time for the Dead in available here.

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Truth or Die by Katerina Diamond – a review BLOG TOUR

I have read a couple of previous Katerina Diamond’s books and so was pleased to be invited to join the blog tour for her latest novel Truth or Die.

Truth Or Die starts with the death of a teenager after falling from a building. This is followed quickly by the body of a professor being found in his private office having been brutally murdered. DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles are sent to Exeter University to investigate as this body is only the first of many. Someone is playing a deadly game and Miles gets caught up in it in a very personal way. As the body count rises the past comes back to haunt the detectives.

I have to say that it wasn’t until I started reading this that I realised I had obviously read the novels out of order. This was actually the 5th in the series, yet it did work as a standalone. As with most series I think you get the most out of them if you read them in order but then this is definitely a series that you should want to read from the start.

The dynamic between Grey and Miles is interesting and this slow burn of a relationship is at the centre of the narrative. They are both characters who have had issues in the past and struggle to trust other people which is part of what draws them together. I enjoyed the interaction with the characters and felt that this was a couple I want to see work out.

The actual mystery part of the story was also good, and the reasons behind the murders was quite disturbing. However I did feel that it lacked a bit of motive at the end and seemed a bit of a rushed ending to what was a good story. I enjoy a bit of grisly murder and this didn’t disappoint with the crimes and descriptions. We also see the return of a previous character and for me that really ramped up the tension as they are one of those characters whose calm menace really jumps off the page.  This is definitely as it says on the cover ‘not for the faint hearted’ and I think it shows the quality of the writing that you flit between reading about gruesome murder and caring about characters without blinking.

I would recommend Katerina Diamond’s novels if you like a good crime thriller with a twist, but I would suggest starting at the beginning of the series in order to enjoy them at their best.

Truth or Die is out now, get your copy here. To find out what others thought of Truth or Die don’t forget to visit the other stops on the tour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman – a review BLOG TOUR

I have read and enjoyed many of Laura Lippman’s novels therefore it is always a thrill to receive an email inviting me onto a blog tour for her latest one and I’m delighted to be closing this tour with my thought’s on Lady in the Lake.

The Lady in the Lake is set in Baltimore in the 60’s and tells the story of Maddie. Having married young she has decided that she wants more for herself and so has left her husband and teenage son to try and build a new life. She gets a job at the local paper helping out with the problems page. However she is keen to move up the ladder, and therefore when she discovers the body of a missing girl she thinks that finding out what happened to Cleo could be the story she needs.

Like all Laura Lippman’s novels this was a good story. I enjoyed the historical element of it and thought that it painted a good picture of a country that was changing. The novel touches on race, equality, religion, all blended into a mystery that was intriguing.

The story is mainly told from the perspective of Maddie, however between each chapter from her there is also a chapter from someone else’s point of view. I must confess that some of these I found a bit unnecessary. I appreciate that it was a way of moving the story on and it was interesting in parts as it did show how things that Maddie did affected other people, yet some of them were just a little annoying as I wanted to get back to the story.

The Lady in the Lake is almost two different stories in one. There is the mystery element surrounding Cleo’s death and why she was left in a fountain (not a lake like the title, still not sure why that is) Then there is the story of Maddie and her trying to find herself. Whilst she wasn’t the most likeable character I did feel for her and I like to see a woman making courageous choices.

As is often the case with Laura Lippman’s writing this was a slow burner of a story but the atmosphere that is created keeps you hooked. I would recommend this especially if you enjoy reading novels set during this period of history.

Thanks to Faber and Faber for my copy. To find out what others thought of this visit the other stops on the blog tour.

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Life Ruins by Danuta Kot – a review Blog Tour

I waLife Ruins Cover (1)s a big fan of Broadchurch and the Missing, therefore when a blog tour invite came through with a book that was apparently for fans of both I could hardly say no.
Life Ruins by Danuta Kot introduces us to Becca, Jared and Kay, all of whom think that they have reached rock bottom. Becca has been thrown out of university and had to move away. She now works at a homeless kitchen. Jared is suffering both emotionally and physically after being involved in a caving incident. Kay has lost her husband and is struggling to move on. Jared is witness to a brutal attack that leaves a girl in a critical condition. Becca believes she knows who the victim is but no one will believe her, except Kay who used to foster the troubled teenager. As they meet they begin to realise that the danger could be heading for them all.
Life Ruins was a book that drew me in from the start. Told from the viewpoints of the three main characters the three plots start off as very separate apart from the odd phone call between Kay and her foster daughter. We find out slowly what happened to Jared and why he is addicted to painkillers, what happened to cause Becca to leave University and about Kay’s shattered life. These three stories individually I found fascinating. As they start to come together things I felt slowed down a little yet not to the detriment of the book. This to me wasn’t a story that was particularly shocking, instead it was the character led nature of it that drew me in.
Kay I especially felt for as she was clearly lost without her husband and stuck living a life that had been her husbands dream rather than her own. Jared was an interesting character, wracked with guilt he struggles to even get up in the morning after once being an accomplished potholer. I have to say as someone with a fear of getting stuck in a small place there was one description of a cave that I found incredibly difficult reading. A credit to the writing talent that drew such a vivid picture I had to put the book down and stick my head out of the window.
Life Ruins is set along the coast between Bridlington and Whitby so it’s a coast I’ve often travelled over the years and it was brilliantly painted in this novel. The descriptions with Kay out walking her husbands dog are moving and very atmospheric.
I thoroughly enjoyed Life Ruins by Dakota Kot and will definitely be looking up her previous novels.
Life Ruins by Dakota Kot is available on amazon 
Thanks to Anne Cater and Simon Schauster UK for my copy.

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Then She Vanishes by Claire Douglas a review – Blog Tour

I was delighted to be invited onto the blog tour for the latest novel by Claire Douglas as she has been a firm favourite of mine since we first met her in Harrogate a few years ago.
Then She Vanishes begins with the shooting of Colin and his elderly mother. When Heather is then found with a self inflicted gun shot wound the small seaside town they live in is stunned. Why would a seemingly happy young mother go on an apparently random shooting? Reporter Jess is sent to investigate the story and is horrified to find out the shooter is her best friend from school. Jess and Heather had been inseparable when young, until their friendship started to fall apart when Heather’s older sister went missing and was never found.
This was an interesting story focusing on two main narratives. Present day as we delve into why Heather would carry out a shooting with seemingly no motive, and past times looking at what happened around the disappearance of Heather’s sister. I personally enjoy this dual timeline way of telling stories and this was done masterfully.
The characters themselves were not particularly ones I warmed to. Jess was quite a cold person, she had had to leave her previous job due to scandal yet I felt she seemed to blame everyone but herself including her rather downtrodden boyfriend. Heather we know more from the chapters about her past and whilst there is sympathy again I felt she was a bit self centred. However this is actually what pushes the story along so well. All of the characters are entwined by circumstances yet they can’t see the wider picture.
The story itself was a slow burner that I found gripping. As with all good crime fiction all of the characters have secrets which lay hidden until the end, and this is no exception. The story picks up pace and the ending really did surprise. I had suspicions of who was to blame throughout, yet suffice to say I was way off the mark.
I would highly recommend Then She Vanishes for an interesting domestic crime fiction story that will keep you turning the pages until the unseen end.
Find out what others thought of Then She Vanishes by visiting the other stop so on the BlogTour.

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My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite – a review

sister

My latest read has been My Sister, The Serial Killer. No this is is not autobiographical (Well as far as I know, bearing in mind the Sister lives with our parent’s and they are both very much alive and fighting fit so I assume if she had murderous tendencies the patio area might have been much extended by now!)
My Sister the Serial Killer is actually the debut novel by Oyinkan Braithwaite. Set in Nigeria, it tells the story of Korede, the elder sister of Ayoola. The sisters are very close. So much so that Ayoola can ring Korede any time of the day or night knowing that she will drop everything to help her. Even when that help involves bleach, rubber gloves and the ability to move a body, for the third time.
I picked this novel up on a whim whilst browsing Waterstones, at the time I hadn’t realised that Oyinkan was appearing at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival next weekend. Well once I started reading I couldn’t stop and I read this pretty much over two nights.
My Sister, the Serial Killer was a really engaging novel. This wasn’t a long book, and had it been formatted like a normal book I imagine it would have been very small but that was part of the charm. It felt like quite a simple story, yet for some reason it is one that really gets under your skin. It is a slow story that is hard to explain, as it feels like nothing happens, yet it also includes murder galore.
The sisters are two very different people. One is glamourous and exciting, the other is rather dowdy and dull yet they are bound together by a bond that only siblings will understand. I found the interaction between the two sisters interesting. There were moments where you just want to give Korede a good talking too and make her stop enabling her sister’s murderous ways. Yet equally you feel for her as she is trying to make the best of a situation that she didn’t create but is stuck in. This is mainly a story about relationships rather than murder. The writing is full of short quick sentences and the rather macabre topic is lifted by the deadpan humour of Korede.
I would highly recommend My Sister, the Serial Killer for a quick engaging read and I am very much looking forward to hearing Oyinkan speak next week.

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