Dead If You Don’t by Peter James – a review

It is always exciting for me when I get invited to review a novel, no matter who the author is. However I have to admit to being extra excited when that invite comes with a chance to read a novel from one of my favourite authors, in this case Peter James.

Dead If You Don’t is Peter James’ 14th novel featuring Detective Roy Grace. In this story Roy is faced with the kidnapping of a young boy. The boys father is Kipp Brown, a wealthy businessman who is struggling to repay gambling debts. During a visit to a local football match he loses his son, and soon receives a ransom demand. During the same football match, a bomb is suspected and Roy seems to channel his inner Jack Reacher in order to save those in the stadium. It soon becomes clear that there may be links with these two cases.

This was an interesting story set in the world of Albanian gangs, kidnap and bitcoins. The story was set out in hours which once you got into the flow meant that it zipped along really quickly. The pressure that all parties were under was immense. The chapters where you ‘saw’ Mungo and his plight you could actually feel his fear emanating from the page.

I always enjoy an outing with Roy Grace although this felt to me a slight departure from the usual. The city of Brighton was not as apparent within the story in terms of descriptions, unless you count the numerous references to their football club! Equally, to me there was less about Roy Grace’s family, and especially his slightly sinister son Bruno, than we have had in previous books. However that’s probably just that there wasn’t space in what was a very intense storyline set over a couple of days.

Definitely one for fans of Roy Grace yet could easily be read as a stand alone without the need for detailed background knowledge. I would as always highly recommend the Roy Grace series, and this was no exception.

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Dead woman walking

A few months ago I had a text from a good friend of mine suggesting we sign up for a 20 mile walk. Love to, replies I, with months stretching ahead in front of us and visions of lots of lovely training walks through the countryside with a nice glass of wine at the end.

So it came as quite a shock to realise the number of weeks until the walk was only 1 and the number of training sessions undertaken was 0. It’s only 20 miles we thought, how hard can that be we thought – bloody hard is the answer!

I wouldn’t say that I was unprepared for the walk, however the night before I looked at the list of items that we needed: sun tan lotion, check; walking boots, check; waterproof jacket, check; whistle, sorry?; map, what?, survival kit; seriously?? It’s a charity walk not a Bear Grylls expedition.  To be fair even if I had a map I wouldn’t know what to do with it, although at the 13 mile point I would cheerfully have taken a map and beaten the person who suggested the walk round the head with it!

Whoever said 20 miles wasn’t far has clearly never done it round Haworth in the blazing hot sunshine.  I know the Pennines are meant to be hilly, but these were ridiculous. I am from the fens and I live in York, my legs are not built for hills. The first few miles were not too bad. There was one pretty grim long hill that knocked out a few of our fellow walkers straight away. Once at the top those who had done it before were keen to tell us that we were passed the worst. Well one of the many things I learnt during the day (the main one being never to agree to walk 20 miles in the Pennines) was that people lie. This wasn’t the worst over and done with, this was just a taster of what was to come.

For 9 hours we walked through bogs, up hills, down rocky paths, climbed over styles and squeezed through tiny gaps in walls. We got sunburnt despite the factor 50 cream, we ate melted peanut butter balls and drank litres and litres of water (yet only went for a wee once, how does that work?) Eventually getting up to Top Withens, which was apparently the inspiration for Wuthering Heights. Well I’m afraid by this 17 mile point the views might have been absolutely stunning but frankly I was sick and tired of seeing amazing views, and if I never saw another stone wall in my life it would be too soon.

Those last three miles were the longest three miles I have ever known (At this point I also found out that the walk was actually 20.9 miles – that 0.9 extra would have sent me screaming for the hills if I hadn’t already seen more than my fair share of hills that day) Every signpost we passed said 1 ½ miles to Haworth and I’m sure there was someone just moving the signs to wind us up. Yet we made it back to base eventually. Barely able to move and with no energy to even talk anymore, but we did it. 20 miles over the Pennines done!

I wonder if Mrs G fancies 26 miles next time…

 

Why did we do it?

We were raising money for St Leonard’s Hospice in York and sponsorship is still open if you would like to:https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/candi-colbourn6

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What You Want To See by Kristen Lepionka – a review BLOG TOUR

What You Want to SeeIn What You Want To See, Roxanne is a private investigator who takes on what she thinks is going to be a nice easy case. Arthur thinks his fiancée is cheating on him and wants Roxanne to follow her. Unfortunately her case starts to get more complicated when the woman she is following turns up dead. The police think that Arthur is the killer. However as Roxanne starts to investigate things get more complicated and the body count rises. Arthur’s fiancée was a lot more complicated than she at first seemed and Roxanne needs to find out exactly what she is wrapped up in.

I love a novel with a good female protagonist, and What You want to see is definitely one of those.

This is a good story that is full of twists and turns and moves along at a decent pace. There are a lot of characters within the novel. Not only Roxanne’s family and friends including ex-lovers and next door neighbours, but also those involved in the case. There were brothers and sisters, step-families, gangsters, and antiques dealers, all mixing to create a very intriguing case. Yet the real star iof this story is definitely Roxanne herself. She is clever, strong, funny and dedicated to her job. I am a huge fan of Stephanie Plum (find her in the Janet Evanovich novels) and I think in Roxanne, Stephanie has got a run for her money.

This is Kristen’s second novel and I do think that you would benefit from reading the first one. In this novel although Roxanne’s drinking and her mixed up love life are discussed, she seems a lot more sorted in this novel so despite the whisky in her coffee it might not be fully apparent without the background. However this still works as a stand-alone novel. The story was self-contained so don’t be put off if you haven’t read the first one. The quality of the writing means that the story flows smoothly but there are enough background details included so you know the gist of what happened previously. I would say however that once you have read this you will want to read more about Roxanne!

If you like your novels female led and enjoy reading good crime stories then I would definitely recommend What You Want To See by Kristen Lepionka. To find out what other bloggers thought of the novel visit the other stops on the tour. Tomorrow it is the turn of www.thrillerbooksjournal.com.

To find out more about the author ad over to from first page to last

 

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The Old You by Louise Voss – Q and A BLOG TOUR

The Old You by Louise Voss is about Lynn and her husband Ed. Ed is diagnosed with dementia and then strange things start happening. Alongside the fact that there was suspicious around the death of Ed’s first wife Lynn starts to wonder who she can trust. This was an interesting read that I really enjoyed therefore I’m delighted to be able to welcome Louise Voss to acrimereadersblog.

Thanks for joining me Louise. The Old You is a great story, what inspired it?

The basis of the inspiration was dementia-related (although I hasten to add, this is not a book about dementia). I had to watch my beloved mother endure it for years, and the potential for a crime novel really struck me at the time – life with someone who has that illness is never straightforward; it’s never a case of lie versus truth. The sufferer is always convinced of the veracity of their statements, and these are often incorrect. But because he/she truly believes them, they can’t be accused of lying – they aren’t lying. This can be very confusing to them as well as the people around them as they attempt to extrapolate what’s true and what isn’t. And then there’s the potential for exploitation which, sadly, is also huge…

Have you always been a writer?

In some ways, yes, in so far as I have always loved it, and used to write lots of stories as a kid.  I kept diaries for many years too. I’ve been a professional writer for eighteen years now – I put my writing ‘anniversary’ at the point of signing my first publishing deal, for To Be Someone, which was in April 2000.

Can you tell us what a typical working day looks like for you?

I don’t really have a typical working day.  I aim to do a minimum of 1300 words a day if I’m working on a novel, and if I’m in the zone I’ll keep going. It’s the admin – life and work – that takes up the most time!  I don’t know how writers sit down at their desks at 9am and stay there till 4 or 5pm or whatever.  I can only assume that they have people to do everything else for them – grocery shopping, paying bills, childcare (although I don’t have this anymore now mine’s all grown up), etc!

How would you spend a perfect afternoon away from work?

A long game of tennis in the sun followed by an even longer lunch with friends and wine…

Are you an avid reader yourself? If so, which authors do you find yourself returning to time and again?

I’m a huge reader. I don’t think you can be a good writer unless you read as well. The writers whose books I always automatically seek out are all women (although obviously I do enjoy books by men too!): Kate Atkinson, Margaret Atwood, Tammy Cohen, Erin Kelly, Kate Rhodes, Fiona Cummins, Susie Steiner, Robert Galbraith aka JKR… I could go on.

There are some great names there that I’m a big fan off too. Finally can you tell us a little about what you are working on next?

I’m halfway through a new whodunnit, about the manager of a gift shop of a small stately home in the Surrey Hills.  She lives a secluded existence these days, nobody knows that she used to be in a chart-topping band. She quit the limelight suddenly after a brutal kidnap and assault almost cost her life. Now, twenty years later, word of her identity and whereabouts gets out, and people close to her start dying under mysterious circumstances… Someone’s after her again – but who and why?

That sounds fascinating. Thanks very much for joining me Louise.

To find out more about The Old You visit the other stops on the blog tour. Click below to buy The Old You which is out on the 15th May.

THE OLD YOU new cover_preview

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Fearless by Jessie Keane – a review BLOG TOUR

I have always been fascinated by the gypsy lifestyle and have read a few of Jessie Keane’s previous novels. Therefore I am delighted to be closing the fantastic blog tour for her latest novel, Fearless.

Fearless is a stand alone novel telling the story of Claire and Shauna. Both of them are in love with Josh. He is a gypsy who makes money for people by throwing his bare knuckle fights. Engaged to Claire he decides he no longer wants to just get knocked out and so wins the fight to become the king of the gypsy fighters. However Shauna isn’t about to let him get away easily and starts a chain of events that has far reaching consequences  for the rest of their lives.

Jessie Keane is one of those authors whose style of storytelling doesn’t just focus on a small part of someone’s life as most crime stories do. These are epic tales of peoples entire lives. I found this was a really interesting change from what I’ve been reading previously. It meant you became more invested in the characters as they got older, and their lives became more complicated and you felt like you were aging with them.

I absolutely sped through this book, and couldn’t stop turning the pages. It is a story that starts off at a breathtaking speed and doesn’t let up until the end.  The glimpse into the gypsy world is fascinating. You can completely understand why one of the characters is so keen to escape this background, yet there is loyalty and love there too. The book also sticks with Jessie’s usual backdrop of gangland and murders with the crime underworld being mixed with normal emotions and heartache.

The people in the novel are well drawn and all believable. The two main  characters make a nice contrast to each other. Shauna is despicable and some of her actions are horrendous. Yet she does everything she does because of her own twisted sense of love. Claire however is a nice pleasant character that you warm to from the start. She is kind and slightly vulnerable, yet has to grow up fast. I always enjoy a book with good female characters, which were in complete contrast to the slightly pathetic men within the story.

Fearless is an interesting, fast, character lead novel. If you like a gritty crime story led by strong women then I would recommend this novel.

Order her latest novel here

And visit the other stops on the tour

 

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The Penance List by S.C Cunningham

The Penance List is the story of 3 friends and a stalker. Tara, Helen and Josie meet every week for a catch up. However they are unaware that they are being watched. David is obsessed with Tara and his obsession soon turns creepy and dangerous. This was an interesting story that flits between the current day of the three friends, David and his background. Gruesome in parts and with a lot of sex scenes it is pretty fast paced and is an easy read that will keep you hooked until the end.

Therefore I’m delighted to welcome S.C Cunningham to my blog to find out more about the author behind The Penance List.    

Hi Siobhan, thanks for joining me. Firstly I like to know what was the inspiration behind The Penance List?     

I tend to write what I know; my storylines are founded on real life experiences.

From a very young age I’ve always known that my job in life was to entertain. To drag folk kicking and screaming into a world of escapism, to situations they’ve never experienced before and have them championing characters, willing them on and punching the air with a “Yesss!”

When building a character I draw on observations of people I know or have closely watched, it’s easier to write from truth.  Luckily, I’ve had a hectic life path, worked in a few fascinating industries, and been able to study a wide range of characters.

In a nutshell my path has been – am British born of Irish parents, was plonked from the age of 8yrs into an Irish Catholic Nuns Boarding School. After a short spell of studying law (realising there is too much injustice in our systems) I went on to work as a fashion model, married a rock musician and worked in the music to film industry. Got divorced and then as a single mum worked within football, sports celebrity management, horseracing, children’s charities, and more recently for the Police as a Crime Investigator – Intel Analyst, Major Crime Team, Wanted and Absconder Units. Am proud mum to a wonderful daughter (Contemporary Artist) and owned by three dogs.

For the past ten years I’ve been drawing on these experiences as inspiration to write steamy Psychological Thrillers ‘The David Trilogy’ and gritty Paranormal Crime Romance ‘The Fallen Angel Series’.

The Penance List was kick-started by an incident that happened to me in my twenties when I was living in London. Quite frighteningly and out of the blue, I crossed paths with a prolific serial attacker who targeted single girls living alone in basement flats in Notting Hill and Olympia. It was then that I realised evil can sit around any corner, learn to trust you gut.

This male haunted London for a long period of time; he was astute, studied his victims for days and avoided capture. I believe he attacked 14 or so women, luckily I got away unscathed (must have an Angel looking out for me) and managed to help Police ID him with a photo fit. He was a nice looking, well dressed, calm, cold, precise and unhurried. He didn’t say a word, just stared, seeming to revel in the fear he instilled.

 I remember looking into his face and asking why? I needed to understand how a human could be that cruel to another. He had the look of a spoilt mother’s boy; I guessed his mother must have loved him at some stage, but what life changing event or who had turned him from a sweet little boy into an evil adult? The seed for complex protagonist David Howard was sown.

 Using a mix of my own experiences (nuns, boarding school, modelling, the press, celebrity management and fun loving career girlfriends) I created a fantasy world of manipulation, shining a light on the ripple effect carnage that the misuse of power, religion and passion can cause.

 I enjoy complex characters that slowly reveal themselves, are not who they seem and engage with the reader, pulling at heartstrings and worst fears. I try to create a person who the reader would either like to hang out with or see as their worst enemy. Someone they feel empathy for and understand their choices, right or wrong. Someone they champion and punch the air with a resounding “Yessss!”

 And because I’m an old romantic who loves a bit of drama, my books also have to have a few oh-so-sexy personalities with complicated love lives, evil exes, edge of seat fear, twists, turns, steamy romances and cheeky laugh out loud banter.

Working on a series allows you to build characters that hopefully people will fall in love with and get excited about. David is a very bad person, but fans often write saying they’re hooked; they love his charismatic charm warts and all, and can’t wait to see what he does next. They understand and champion the boy, but fear the man he has become. The book has been adapted to film script, so we may see David on our screens one day. I love working on this character so much that I have dragged him into ‘The Fallen Angel Series’ where he causes a bit of more chaos in the skies Pleased be warned, The Penance List is a sexy thriller, think Psycho meets 50 Shades. It can be a little naughty at times and may not be for everyone. But if you’re brave enough, grab a glass of vino, close the bedroom door and read alone.

I’d definitely recommend reading this with wine in hand! Have you always been a writer?

For nearly twenty years I have been compiling storylines. My Crime Investigation works keeps me busy writing also, there are a lot of reports to complete for CPS and Court.

Can you tell us what a typical working day looks like for you?

My crime investigation work consists of arriving at a Police Station, attending a briefing, being given a prisoner and dealing with his or her case; sourcing evidence, speaking to witnesses and victims, conducting safeguarding, disclosing to Legal Advisors, interviewing the prisoner, and depending on the offence and if charged, liaising with CPS and preparing files for Court.

My writing work involves somehow cutting out the rest of the world and becoming mushroom-like reclusive. I tend to try and back out of the world and everything that’s going on around me for days before, emptying my over-zealous mind, to fill it again with another complex fictional world.

On a writing day, I take the dogs for a beach walk, traveling via the back roads to avoid conversations. Am easily drawn into chatting with folk – dog walkers are a lovely friendly bunch. 

On the beach I start the process of thinking about scenes for the day’s writing. My work tends to have complicated spaghetti storylines which I need to be on top of – tough on an old bird like me

I get home and set the scene of my writing room; smelly candles, music, good lighting, warmth, quiet, nibbley easy-to-eat food and plenty of drinks. The dogs, exhausted from their walk, sleep at my feet. It’s nice to have another heart beat in the room, writing can be lonely.

I sit at the computer for between 5 to 10 hours, depending how well it’s going, and then log off with a celebratory glass of vino or cheeky gin and tonic.

How would you spend a perfect afternoon away from work?

I love the beach, in all kinds of weather. The sea seems to calm my soul and is great for rinsing out storylines and the clutter of crime. I also love catching up with a good friend, putting the world to rights over a cup of coffee or a cheeky glass of Prosecco.

Movies are another passion of mine, I could quite happily sit in a cinema all afternoon watching 2/3 movies back to back. I write with film in mind.

I agree on the beach front. Some of my best walks have been on the beach in freezing conditions! Are you an avid reader yourself? If so, which authors do you find yourself returning to time and again?

My reading tastes reveal a pretty primitive narrow spectrum of thriller romance and action – Martina Cole, James Patterson, John Grisham, Michael Connelly, Colin Dexter, Nora Roberts, Stephen King, Mary Higgins Clark, Dan Brown, Patricia Cornwell,  John Le Carre, Ian Fleming and my uber favourite  is Lee Child, although I’ve not forgiven him for selling the rights to Tom Cruise. Tom is wonderful I’m sure, but he is no Jack Reacher… (sigh).

Very true. I must say although I like a Lee Child book I have avoided the film! Finally can you tell us a little about what you are working on?

I am currently at the edit stage of book two of The Fallen Angel Series ‘Karma’, and have started the final book in The David Trilogy ‘For My Sins’. Thank you for talking with me.

Thanks so much for answering my questions today.

To find out more about The Penance List make sure you visit the other stops on the blog tour.

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Wellcome Book Prize Blog Tour

As you know I usually only feature fiction books on acrimereadersblog. I don’t read an awful lot of non-fiction. However there are some exceptions to this, and The Butchering Art was one. Author Lindsey Fitzharris was talking at the York Literature Festival but unfortunately I was unable to attend. So when I was invited to take part in the Blog Tour for the Wellcome Book Prize I jumped at the chance to read a copy of her book.

The Wellcome Book Prize celebrates the best new books that illuminate our encounters with health and medicine. The Butchering Art tells the story of Joseph Lister. In the 19th Century operating theatres were known as ‘gateways to death’ over half the people who had surgery died on the table. Lister was one of the first to believe that germs caused death and that antiseptic could kill them. This was a shocking claim in an era where surgeons didn’t even bother washing their hands before cutting people open! With lots of graphich detail, The Butchering Art is a fascinating tale of Victorian hospitals, where the cleaners were paid more than the surgeons.

The following extract gives a flavour of the book which is available on amazon.

Lister escaped many of the dangerous medical treatments that some of his contemporaries experienced while growing up, because his father believed in vis medicatrix naturae, or “the healing power of nature.” Like many Quakers, Joseph Jackson was a therapeutic nihilist, adhering to the idea that Providence played the most important role in the healing process. He believed that administering foreign substances to the body was unnecessary and sometimes downright life-threatening. In an age when most medicinal concoctions contained highly toxic drugs like heroin, cocaine, and opium, Joseph Jackson’s ideas might not have been too wide of the mark. Because of the household’s dearly held principles, it came as a  surprise to everyone in the family when young Lister announced that he wanted to be a surgeon— a job that involved physically intervening in God’s handiwork. None of his relations, except a distant cousin, were doctors. And surgery, in particular, carried with it a certain social stigma even for those outside the Quaker community. The surgeon was very much viewed as a manual laborer who used his hands to make his living, much like a key cutter or plumber today. Nothing better demonstrated the inferiority of surgeons than their relative poverty. Before 1848, no major hospital had a salaried surgeon on its staff, and most surgeons (with the exception of a notable few) made very little money from their private practices. But the impact a medical career might have on his social and financial standing later in life was far from Lister’s mind when he was a boy. During the summer of 1841, at the age of fourteen, he wrote to his father, who was away attending to the family’s wine business, “When Mamma was out I was by myself and had nothing to do but draw skeletons.” Lister requested a sable brush so that he could “shade another man to shew the rest of the muscles.” He drew and labelled all the bones in the cranium, as well as those of the hands, from both the front and the back. Like his father, young Lister was a proficient artist— a skill that would later help him to document in startling detail his observations made during his medical career.

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