Category Archives: crime fiction

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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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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The Never Game by Jeffery Deaver – a review BLOG TOUR

Well you can imagine my excitement when the invite to be part of a blog tour for Jeffery Deaver’s latest book dropped into my inbox. Not only is he a great author, he’s going to be attending the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, so double bonus!

The Never Game introduces us to Colter Shaw. He is a reward hunter who makes his living from chasing down rewards being offered by families of missing people. When a young girl goes missing Colter Shaw heads to Silicon Valley to see if he can find out what has happened. When another  victim is kidnapped Colter starts to think that actually it could all be linked to a video game – The Whispering Man. In the game the player has to survive after being trapped somewhere with only five random objects. It seems that someone is bringing the game to life and whoever it is will stop at nothing to carry out their work.

I am a big fan of the Lincoln Rhyme series so it’s always a gamble when a new series by an author you love comes along. However this didn’t disappoint. The Never Game was a fast paced story that had all of the twists and turns you expect from Jeffery Deaver. I think ‘a rollercoaster read’ would be a good description, it starts of with a bang and then slows but just as you get comfortable it shoots off again.

I have to say that I am not really a fan of the indestructible protagonist. The type who get run over, loses a leg, has a knife in their eye but can still jump out of a helicopter Annika Rice style, stop the criminal and be in bed with the lead detective smoking a cigarette before daylight. On the surface of it Colter Shaw does seem to be a bit like that. He is a survivalist having been brought up by a father who dropped out of civilization and roams the country rescuing people . Yet Colter is a more complex intellectual character who has a quiet strength about him that is evident in the way he conducts himself. His way of solving crimes is to assess the percentages and work out the most likely options rather than just go in gung ho which gives a different perspective to the story. There are insights into his childhood and family life throughout which help get to know the character whilst not distracting from the mystery.

The Never Game is a great read, and despite not being a ‘gamer’ myself I found the computer game element interesting. The idea of the games being brought to life is quite terrifiying. This was a great start to what is obviously going to be a new series and I can’t wait to see Jeffery Deaver talking about this at the festival.

Thanks to Harper Collins for my copy of the novel. You can buy your own here.

To find out what others thought make sure you visit the other stops on the tour:

 

 

 

 

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Wilderness by B.E Jones – a review BLOG TOUR

I’m always a fan of a revenge story and so when I received an email inviting me to join the blog tour for the Wilderness by B.E Jones it sounded right up my street and I wasn’t wrong.

The Wilderness begins after Liv finds out that her husband was having an affair. Having moved from Wales to New York, Liv decides that the best way to try and fix their marriage is for them to spend two weeks on a road trip around America’s National Parks. However she isn’t quite ready to forgive him fully and so sets him three challenges that he will need to complete to prove that he is still worthy of being her husband. She doesn’t however tell him what those challenges are, and if he doesn’t complete them, well then there are plenty of ways a person might die out in the middle of nowhere.

This was an excellent story that made great use of the unreliable narrator vehicle. What could have been a relatively straightforward tale of a woman scorned who gets revenge, was not that simple. Wilderness is a slow burn of a story that had me hooked from the start. It was full of twists and turns with an ending that I found both satisfying and annoying in equal measure.

The fact that you only hear from the viewpoint of Liv means the novel has a real claustrophobic feel which is further heighted by the descriptions of their road trip through the vast American parks. This single viewpoint does of course mean that you are always slightly on edge as to what is going to happen next, as you are in the head of a rather disturbed woman. Although she isn’t a likeable character there was a part of me that felt sorry for her as she desperately tries to cling onto some form of sanity whilst feeling completely alone.

The novel’s settings switch between New York, Wales and the wildness of the American parks as we flit between current and past and gradually find out more about Liv and her relationships. I particularly liked the descriptions of America and the contrast between the hustle and bustle of New York, and the quiet emptiness of their holiday.

It is a well written story and has a great cast of characters on the periphery with Liv taking centre stage throughout. If you like the unreliable narrator style then I thoroughly recommend this as a perfect holiday read.

Thanks to DampPebbles Book Tours for my copy. You can buy your own copy of this here.

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Capital Crime line up announced!

Like most Crime Fiction lovers if I could spend all my time reading and talking about books I would be happy. Throw in a coffee or a nice glass of red (depending on the time of day) and life is complete. Yet unfortunately real life gets in the way and work has to happen. Sadly there just isn’t enough time in the day to do all the things I want to do, like attend every single one of the fantastic Crime Festivals that are happening this year. The latest event to announce itself is Capital Crime being held in London at the end of September. The announcement today of some fantastic names really does look like this is a festival not to missed, I’d best go and check how much holiday I have left!

Capital Crime today announces further names for its inaugural festival taking place this September at the Connaught Rooms in London. Mark Billingham, Martina Cole, Ian Rankin, Ann Cleeves, Don Winslow, Robert Glenister, Leye Adenle, Denise Mina, Catherine Steadman and Abir Mukherjee are among the guests announced today.

The first international crime and thriller festival in London, Capital Crime offers fans unprecedented access to their favourite crime and thriller creatives. Capital Crime is a celebration of books, films and TV and the line-up is an unrivalled mix of world class talent, rising stars and newcomers. Capital Crime is a must for fans of all things crime and thriller.

Among the stellar list of speakers are Kate Atkinson, David Baldacci, Ann Cleeves, Robert Harris, Peter James, Lynda La Plante, Simon Mayo, and Kate Mosse. (list of confirmed guests can be found here: https://www.capitalcrime.org/guests/).

The crime and thriller community is excited about Capital Crime.

Martina Cole (No Mercy – Headline – Autumn) said: ‘We have all been waiting for a London based festival like Capital Crime. It’s fantastic to see such a diverse line up of crime and thriller writers taking part. David Headley and Adam Hamdy have put together an amazing programme of events for the first crime festival in London and I’m thrilled to be part of it.’

Ann Cleeves (The Long Call – Pan Macmillan – September) ‘I’m delighted to be taking part in the very first Capital Crime and can’t wait to meet readers and writers in London in September.’

Best-selling London based author Abir Mukherjee (Smoke and Ashes – Vintage – June) said: ‘London is one of the world’s great cities, the setting, and often the inspiration, for some most infamous true crimes and some of the world’s best loved fictional detectives. It’s the home of Scotland Yard, Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes and a natural location for a festival bringing together international fans and authors in a celebration of the very best and latest that crime fiction has to offer. It’s long overdue and I hope Capital Crime becomes a regular fixture in the crime fiction calendar.’

Panels of note include: The Interrogation of Mark Billingham: The bestselling author is put through his paces by Graham Bartlett, an experienced police interrogator; Ian Rankin discusses The Human Cost of Crime with Don Winslow. Also there is a quiz panel Whose Crime is it Anyway? pitting debut crime and thriller authors against each other with Paul Clayton hosting; The Forensic Mind: Denise Mina and Ann Cleeves discuss what makes a great detective, moderated by Chris Ewan; Plus Are We Living in An Espionage Thriller: Tom Bradby, Charles Cumming, Frank Gardner and Stella Rimington offer their unique insights into events that concern us all.

Capital Crime is a diverse, inclusive and socially responsible festival, running initiatives including social outreach to support students exploring a literary career, an innovative digital festival and the launch of their New Voices Award. The festival is the brainchild of British screenwriter Adam Hamdy and Managing Director of Goldsboro Books, David Headley.

Tickets for the festival are now on sale at https://www.capitalcrime.org/

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Their Little Secret by Mark Billingham – a review

As regular readers probably know already, I am a huge fan of Mark Billingham (although not quite such a big fan as the sister who is a borderline

The stalking Sister

stalker at events!) so you can imagine the excitement in my house when through the letterbox came a copy of his latest novel ( ‘Not another bloody book’,  ‘Meow’)

Their Little Secret is the newest Tom Thorne novel. It begins when he is called to a body on the trainline that is an apparent suicide. However Thorne has a feeling that things are not that simple and starts to look into the woman’s past, and especially her relationships. Meanwhile Sarah seems to be just a normal mother picking up her son from school and chatting at the school gates with the other mothers, until she meets Conrad who soon whisks her off her feet. Yet not all couples are good together, and some become postively evil.

This was another cracking story that I really enjoyed. There was a bit of back story as you would expect, in what is the 16th in the series, but frankly it is needed for people like me with a shocking memory so it’s helpful to remind us. The character of Thorne is one of those characters that I actually feel I know as I’ve followed him for so many years. I really like the relationship he has with pathologist Phil Hendricks and they are back on form in ‘Their Little Secret’

The character of Sarah was an odd one and her actions a little far fetched. Admittedly I have only limited experience at picking up children from school but when I have the other parents are on any new blood like flies so it is surprising that Sarah gets away with what she does. However that is only a very minor issue and the story itself will keep you hooked throughout.

There was a twist at the end that was surprising, despite the clues being there with hindsight. I have to admit to a bit of frustration when I finished as it felt like there were loose ends that needed tidying up, however without giving away any spoilers there were some historic references in the book that made you realise why this might have been done, life doesn’t always tie up the loose ends!

I would definitely recommend Their Little Secret and despite the references to the previous novels it can be read as a stand alone. Yet I would say in the unlikely event that there are any crime fiction fans out there who haven’t yet read Mark Billingham then you are in for a treat and I’d start at the beginning so you get the fun of them all!

Thanks to the fantastic Little Brown and Laura Sherlock PR for my copy. You can get your hands on your own copy of Their Little Secret by Mark Billingham which is out today here

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