Q&A with Tom Bale, author of the ultimate summer thriller ‘Survive’ @t0mbale

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On the blog today I’m very happy to welcome Tom Bale, a British author who has written eleven novels so far, including the great titles See How They Run and All Fall Down. Today, however, the spotlight is on his shiny new novel Survive which is claimed to be the ultimate summer thriller.

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My review will be up this weekend but until then I hope you’ll enjoy the interview I had with the very kind author. You’ll see that I wasn’t shy asking him about his favorite holiday destination and preferred drink, so if you want to know all, by all means keep on reading!

QandA

1. Can you tell me briefly what your latest novel Survive is about?

Survive is the story of Sam and Jody, a young couple with two children, taking their first ever foreign holiday. They’re expecting a week of all-inclusive luxury, but instead they end up fighting for their lives.

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2. What inspired you to write this novel, it’s a bit different from your other novels, isn’t it?

It is quite different, yes. I saw it from the beginning as an allegory of sorts, driven by anger and frustration at various news stories illustrating how the one percent treat the rest of us. I was also influenced by a Graham Greene novel, Dr Fischer of Geneva, which has essentially the same theme. As the idea formed, I drew on real-life experiences of holidays with my family – including the rather frightening incident at the start of the novel – and I also sought to create the otherworldly feel that I remembered from John Fowles’ The Magus, a novel that had a big impact on me when I read it as a teenager.

3. The location in the novel is an idyllic island named Sekliw. Did you base it on a real place? I was thinking of Malta when I read it, but I could be completely wrong and it could well be purely fiction as well of course.

The nature of the story meant it had to be a completely fictional island, but when I described it I was thinking of various locations in southern Europe – Greek islands, Cyprus and so on. I’ve never been to Malta, but it sounds like that would make a suitable candidate as well.

(There’s also a clue in the island’s name as to another of the books that inspired me: reverse the word and think Stephen King!)

4. I felt that Jody was the stronger person in the novel, often taking the lead instead of the usual ‘alpha man’. What were your thoughts for this unusual plotline?

To me it was a natural reflection of many relationships that I’ve known and witnessed, especially those involving the parents of young children. Very often the woman is the stronger of the two, the key decision maker, even if that’s not always immediately obvious to others. I also thought it would make for a more interesting dynamic if Sam is less at home in the holiday environment, given that as a society we often still expect the man to take the lead and be the more dominant partner. But once they’re in danger, I think it becomes more balanced. Jody and Sam are both strong at different times and weak at others, and most importantly they have to work together to protect their children.

Tom Hanks

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OK time for some slightly different questions now, inspired by the novel 🙂

5. What is your favorite holiday destination? Do you like an active vacation and do you sign up with a rep (like Gabby (Gabrielle) in Survive) right away or do you like exploring on your own, or perhaps you prefer to relax at the pool all day?

When my children were little we had some wonderful holidays where we signed up for the excursions and the kids took part in daytime activities and loved watching the evening entertainment. Nowadays I’m more likely to favour a quiet beach where I can read and swim in peace. My favourite destination has to be Greece – I’ve been to half a dozen islands and several different places on the mainland, and every single time it was a wonderful, idyllic experience.

6. Which books would you take with you if you were going on holiday next week and why did you pick these?

I love choosing books to take on holiday – and no matter how many I take, I always go mad and buy several more at the airport! Right now I’d go with Masked Prey, the latest book from my favourite thriller writer, John Sandford. For non-fiction I’d take Putin’s People by Catherine Belton, partly because the issues I explored in Survive are more relevant than ever. Finally, a book I’m about to re-read after many years: Sandmouth People by Ronald Frame, which is an evocative, multi-layered story set in the quintessential seaside town.

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7. If you were dropped on a deserted island, which 3 items would you take with you?

I know it ought to be food and drink, but my first thought is a large library of books. My second is a large collection of music – perhaps a solar powered MP3 player? And my third would be a speedboat – but failing that, a solar powered fridge full of beer and chocolate!

8. Do you have ANY survival skills? Basically, are you a Jody (with some skills) or a Sam (not so skilled) and would you be able to survive if put to the test?

I don’t really have any survival skills – I was never in the boy scouts, for one thing. But I’m a fairly practical person, and years of plotting out stories has made me a pretty good problem solver. I suspect I’d be okay at building a shelter and finding a way to collect water, but useless when it came to identifying edible plants or berries, let alone catching and cooking fish.

9. OK let’s round up with a more positive note than thoughts of death. What is your favorite cocktail to drink on holiday? 

I don’t really drink spirits, so I’m more likely to take a sip of someone else’s just to try it out, and then return to my ice cold beer!

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Huge thanks to Tom for taking the time to answer my questions!

Anyone already having second thoughts too about that all-in holiday? If not, I’ll ask again after you read the novel 😉

I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney #BookReview @alicewriterland

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Meet Aimee Sinclair: the actress everyone thinks they know but can’t remember where from.

Except one person.

Someone who knows Aimee very well―and what she’s done. . .

When Aimee comes home and discovers her husband is missing, she doesn’t seem to know what to do or how to act. The police think she’s hiding something and they’re right, she is―but perhaps not what they thought. Aimee has a secret she’s never shared, and yet, she suspects that someone knows. As she struggles to keep her career and sanity intact, her past comes back to haunt her in ways more dangerous than she could have ever imagined.

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Oh the year couldn’t have started in a better way, this one’s as twisty as twisty can be! I loved reading it, it was the next best thing to a sugar rush! I already enjoyed Alice Feeney’s first novel, Sometimes I Lie, so my expectations were already quite high of I Know Who You Are and still she managed to give me more.

Aimee is an actress and she feels that she’s actually been acting her whole life, not only on set. Everyone wants her to play a certain role in life and she tries to please them all, while she tries not to forget who she really is. There’s something about that though, the fact that she likes to put on a mask more than being herself that made her quite illusive and secretive and even though I didn’t have anything concrete it did start to make me think she was hiding something.

OK yes, she is hiding something alright! The second storyline that started when she was only 5 years old brought SO MUCH understanding about who she is and how she became an actress. She’s so insecure and she doesn’t even like being in the spotlight, yet acting is her calling. I know I keep on going on about the acting but I found it such a natural thing for her, I completely got her character.

Someone is calling her out though, claiming to know who she is by leaving mysterious notes. And then her husband Ben goes missing. Are the two related? Who is stalking her?

Honestly, this book was unputdownable. I was massively intrigued by the present storyline and finding out whether Ben was alive or dead, but the past storyline was quite heart-breaking and pulled me in completely. There really are a lot of despicable people in this novel that I loved to hate and I still haven’t decided which one of them was the worst.

I know lots of readers find the ending to be a little outlandish, I totally get it, but for once I was riding the wave and I’m completely with it. OK yes, it’s a totally bonkers twist, but it still makes sense and it just gives you such a delicious yet horrible shock. It’s just what a really amazing author would go for, no holding back here and I love that she ran with the idea!

I can’t wait to read the third novel, His & Hers this summer! I have no doubt I’m going to love that one too!

I received this book in my Book Fairy book box. This is my honest opinion.

Blood Song by Johana Gustawsson (Roy & Castells Book 3) #BlogTour #BookReview @JoGustawsson @OrendaBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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Welcome to my stop for Blood Song by Johana Gustawson. Thanks so much to Orenda Books and Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invitation to join this blog tour! Before you read my review, check out how wonderful this novel sounds first:

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The action swings from London to Sweden, and then back into the past, to Franco’s Spain, as Roy & Castells hunt a monstrous killer … in the lastest instalment of Johana Gustawsson’s award-winning series

Spain, 1938: The country is wracked by civil war, and as Valencia falls to Franco’s brutal dictatorship, Republican Therese witnesses the murders of her family. Captured and sent to the notorious Las Ventas women’s prison, Therese gives birth to a daughter who is forcibly taken from her.

Falkenberg, Sweden, 2016: A wealthy family is found savagely murdered in their luxurious home. Discovering that her parents have been slaughtered, Aliénor Lindbergh, a new recruit to the UK’s Scotland Yard, rushes back to Sweden and finds her hometown rocked by the massacre.

Profiler Emily Roy joins forces with Aliénor and soon finds herself on the trail of a monstrous and prolific killer. Little does she realise that this killer is about to change the life of her colleague, true-crime writer Alexis Castells. Joining forces once again, Roy and Castells’ investigation takes them from the Swedish fertility clinics of the present day back to the terror of Franco’s rule, and the horrifying events that took place in Spanish orphanages under its rule.

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Author

Johana Gustawsson

Born in Marseille, France, and with a degree in Political Science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French and Spanish press and television. Her critically acclaimed Roy & Castells series has won the Plume d’Argent, Balai de la découverte, Balai d’Or and Prix Marseillais du Polar awards, and is now published in nineteen countries. A TV adaptation is currently underway in a French, Swedish and UK co-production. Johana lives in London with her Swedish husband and their three sons.

She drew on her own experience of fertility clinics and IVF to write Blood Song and is happy to speak and write pieces about this.

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I’ve been putting off writing this review… dear god no, not because I didn’t like this novel, it’s more because this one’s making it hard to find the right words without sounding like a crazy fan. You see I’ve been with this series since the first novel and each one is so special. I’m not an historical reader but this author really made me one. Gustawsson entangles crime and historical facts like none other and creates a unique reading experience. If you ask me this is a collector’s item you want to have in your library.

Block 46 took me to WW2 and the author won me over with that one easily. Book 2, Keeper, took me to the era of Jack The Ripper, and I knew then that I’d follow her writing wherever she took me. Blood Song sent me to new territory. I’m almost ashamed to say that I knew little to nothing about the dictatorship under Franco in Spain. The descriptions – based on what was really happening at that time – in prison and the orphanage were harsh and brutal but lent itself well to tell this murder mystery.

Johana Gustawsson plays with time and my mind, and those pages just wouldn’t stop turning themselves. She let me visit Spain in 1937 as well as Sweden in 2016. How both timelines could ever be aligned is something that seemed impossible but she manages to accomplish just that. I’m not getting into the plotlines this time at all, it’s too big and deep to cover, but I can tell you that there were staggering twists in this novel that are sure to startle everyone and it is all tied up brilliantly. Teresa, Gordi, Lados… their story will stay with me for a long time.

I can 100% recommend this novel to every crime loving reader who isn’t afraid of a dark but fascinating read.

*** Check out the rest of the tour ***

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Endgame by Daniel Cole #BookReview

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A locked room. A dead body. A secret that went to the grave.

When retired police officer Finlay Shaw is found dead in a locked room, everyone thinks it’s suicide. But disgraced detective William ‘Wolf’ Fawkes isn’t so sure.

Together with his former partner Detective Emily Baxter and private detective Edmunds, Wolf’s team begin to dig into Shaw’s early days on the beat. Was Shaw as innocent as he seemed? Or is there more to his past than he’d ever let on?

But not everyone wants Wolf back – and as his investigation draws him ever deeper into police corruption, it will not only be his career on the line – but the lives of those he holds closest as well…

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star three and a half

My rating might come as a surprise to you and I can tell you, I wasn’t expecting to give anything lower than a 5 star rating myself because my god, I loved the first and second novel in this trilogy SO MUCH. But, yeah here it is.. my opinion of this novel is colored by a few small details that made such a mark on my reading experience that it became too difficult to see past it.

You see, I have the feeling that the main thing I will remember about Endgame in a few months time will be my frustration and struggle at the start of the novel and which lasted way longer than I wanted. The author made it clear that he doesn’t want to rehash what happened in book 1 and 2 and that you really need to read the series in order, but guess what, I did read the first two novels (it’s been 2 years since I read about Wolf though) and I was STILL at a loss about the characters, about what happened in the past and the relationships among the members of the team, as there really isn’t any reference point to before. I didn’t like this feeling that it’s on the tip of your tongue but just out of reach. Why was Baxter so mad at Wolf? It didn’t feel it was merited. I vaguely remembered how book 1 ended but that didn’t ring a bell at all. And was Christian a character from the first novel too because I didn’t remember him? The only one who I really had no trouble remembering was good ‘ol Edmunds. So yes, this irritation overshadowed my reading pleasure quite a bit. What didn’t help either was that my ecopy had some poor formatting because there weren’t any paragraphs dividing the scenes, there wasn’t any blank space. One minute someone’s handing over a coat. A brief fullstop and two words later someone’s smiling in a camera in a very different scene. That constant change without any warning at all took lots of energy to follow the story. I’m sure the finished copy won’t have this though so you don’t have to take this into account, but it’s where I’m coming from ;-).

As for the storyline itself, the suspected non-suicide of Finlay formed the base of an entertaining mystery, especially since he was found in a locked room. It’s clear that the answer must have something to do with one night a lot of years ago but it takes a while to get to the crux. In this story finding out the suspected murderer of Finlay didn’t form the biggest thrill for me, no it was actually seeing how Wolf would find a way to prove it. The last part of the novel, with a sublime twist, was therefore definitely the best part.

Overall, this was a good read but it didn’t match the first two novels (except for that amazing twist). It’s also fairly different reading experience compared to the previous novels where lots of people are targeted and plenty of grisly murders, where the focus here is on Finlay (there’s definitely no big cinematic show here). If you’re going to read this, then I certainly advise you to read the three novels around the same time, I’m sure this will be a whole other experience then!

I received a free ecopy of this novel via Netgalley from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

One Year Later by Sanjida Kay #BlogTour #Extract @SanjidaKay @CorvusBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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Welcome to my stop for One Year Later by Sanjida Kay. Thanks so much to Corvus and Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invitation to join this blog tour! I absolutely enjoyed  The Stolen Child in the past and this novel is definitely on my readlist too. You’ll have to be a bit patient but it’s a delight that I can already share an extract today. But before you read it, check out how wonderful this novel sounds first:

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Since Amy’s daughter, Ruby-May, died in a terrible accident, her family have been beset by grief. One year later, the family decide to go on holiday to mend their wounds. An idyllic island in Italy seems the perfect place for them to heal and repair their relationships with one another.

But no sooner have they arrived than they discover nothing on this remote island is quite as it seems. And with the anniversary of the little girl’s death looming, it becomes clear that at least one person in the family is hiding a shocking secret. As things start to go rapidly wrong, Amy begins to question whether everyone will make it home…

Purchase

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Author

Sanjida Key Author Picture

Sanjida Kay is a writer and broadcaster. She lives in Somerset with her daughter and husband. She has written three previous psychological thrillers, Bone by Bone, The Stolen Child and My Mother’s Secret to critical acclaim.

Extract

Prologue

He stands on the edge of the cliff and stares at the drop below. It’s early, around 5 a.m., and he’s only had two hours’ sleep.

He blinks, rubs his eyes. The wind, skimmed straight from the sea, is cold, and he can taste the salt on his tongue. There’s a pale-blue line where the ocean meets the sky: the first sign of the approaching dawn. He has a torch in his pocket, but it’s of little use, faced with the dark expanse of beach below him. He shifts slightly and feels the earth give way beneath one foot.

He doesn’t have long.

The tide is almost fully in, and the man who’d phoned him had said she was at one end of the beach. The caller was drunk; he said he was on his way home from the festival, although that in itself was suspicious, because no one lives at this end of the island, save for the Donati family and the people staying in the holiday house below their farm. The man was slurring his words – fear, combined with the alcohol, making him barely comprehensible. He didn’t say which end of the beach. Martelli had driven here as fast as he could, radioing for the ambulance from the car. He offers a silent prayer: that she is above the tideline, that he can find her in time, that she’s still alive. The clouds shift; the line of light over the water turns to buttermilk, and he thinks he can see her. Could be rocks or flotsam. Or a body. If it is the English girl, she’s lying stretched out on the sand below the headland, where this spit of land joins il cavalluccio marino.

He clicks the torch on and starts down the cliff path. It’s treacherous in daylight, never mind at night: narrow, twisting and steep, stones breaking through the soil. He slips, thinks he’s going to lose his footing. He can’t see how far it is to the bottom. He slides, collapses back against the side of the cliff, grabbing handfuls of vegetation to stop himself from falling the rest of the way. Loose grit and pebbles slide from beneath his boots, and he can smell the sweet, sharp scent of thyme and wild marjoram where he’s crushed the plants in his fists. It’s momentarily comforting: his grandma puts them in her rigatoni campagnolo. But then his torch hits a rock on the shore and the bulb smashes. He’s in darkness, his breath ragged in his throat. He pushes himself half-upright and scrambles the rest of the way down. His ankle throbs where he’s grazed it. The paramedics are not going to be able to carry her up here on a stretcher, he thinks, and the tide is approaching so fast, he’s not sure if they’ll make it round the headland, either.

If she’s still alive.

He runs across the sand, through crisp, dried seaweed and a ragged line of plastic bottles, Coke cans scoured clean, baling twine and polystyrene chips. The tourists can’t reach this beach, so no one clears away the rubbish. She’s on her side, one arm flung out, her legs at a disjointed angle. Has she fallen from the cliff? The rocks surrounding her are sharp as needles, erupting through the sand like prehistoric teeth. The foam-tipped edge of a wave creeps across the toes of her right foot. She’s missing one sandal. Her white summer dress is rucked up, exposing her thighs, revealing part of one breast. He throws himself onto his knees next to her. Her dark hair is wet and covers her face, so he can’t see what she looks like – if she is the missing girl. But he can see the blood: an uneven pool staining the sand, spreading out from the back of her head.

Where the hell is the ambulance?

His radio crackles, but there’s no word from the paramedics. He gently touches her with the tips of his fingers, and she’s cold, so cold.

Mio Dio.

He’s never seen a dead body before and his stomach clenches into a tight fist. Briefly he brushes the crucifix hidden under his shirt and then slides his hand beneath her hair, feeling for a pulse.

*** Don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour ***

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The Puppet Show (Poe #1) and Black Summer (Poe #2) #BookReview

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Hello hello !! I’m delighted to share my thoughts today on two novels!

If you haven’t started the first novel yet, you might as well get both of them at the same time because I highly recommend binge-reading this series! You know sometimes when you read a book in a series you like it but you still want to read something else in between novels, well I didn’t feel any of this, au contraire, I was very happy I didn’t have to say goodbye yet to Poe and Bradshaw and I wouldn’t have minded reading the next one (The Curator!) either. I’ll have to wait almost a year for that now, boohoo.

Anyway, I think you know what’s coming 😉 but here’s what I thought about both novels…

The Puppet Show (Washington Poe Book 1)

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A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District’s prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless. When his name is found carved into the charred remains of the third victim, disgraced detective Washington Poe is brought back from suspension and into an investigation he wants no part of . . .

Reluctantly partnered with the brilliant, but socially awkward, civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, the mismatched pair uncover a trail that only he is meant to see. The elusive killer has a plan and for some reason Poe is part of it.

As the body count rises, Poe discovers he has far more invested in the case than he could have possibly imagined. And in a shocking finale that will shatter everything he’s ever believed about himself, Poe will learn that there are things far worse than being burned alive …

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The Puppet Show is a superb police procedural novel! The storyline is very puzzling, with a serial killer at work who seems to want to deliver a message to Washington Poe.  Poe’s name is carved on one of the victim’s chests and Poe would hate me for it but god I just love it so much when there’s a personal score to settle. Anyway, Poe feels he doesn’t have much choice so decides to come back to work and catch the ‘Immolation Man’. I never even heard of the word before but then again this guy’s MO is also not so common in novels. I was super intrigued and very happy as well to have learned something new here.

What I really loved about this novel is that it follows the Hansel and Gretel principle (yes it’s my invention but I’m sure you know what I mean). The detectives follow a trail, not breadcrumbs but clues in this case, and one tip leads to the next and that leads to yet another revelation in the investigation and so on. It’s amazing how far you can get this way and especially where it takes you. If you look back and see what the first starting point was and the trail followed felt as if  it was going its natural course  then you know you have a great read in your hands.

The story in itself is disturbingly splendid and you’ll never be able to guess where the story will lead the detectives. Poe is a very likeable character and with Stephanie Flynn and Tilly Bradshaw he makes a great team. Bradshaw has a very high IQ, she’s a computer whizz and doesn’t know any social skills, and it feels like she’s on the spectrum to me, although it isn’t told as much. Even though they’re almost polar opposites Poe and Bradshaw appreciate one another for who they are, which results in a really great dynamic and it was a pleasure to see them together. I also loved Poe even more when he stood up for her, I’m all #teamPoe!

The story was dark and twisted but nobody needs to feel scared to read it. It’s disturbing like many other books that have some triggers in them but not horrific in my opinion and the killer’s motive was understandable. I was on the edge of my seat towards the ending and I really searched my memory for something I missed in the investigation but my mind felt empty, I couldn’t figure it out. Once it was revealed it all made sense of course but that’s how it always goes. The author still had a nice little cliffhanger ending up his sleeve to make you wonder about Poe’s personal life even more, so when you read this, you better have book 2 on the ready.

If you like police procedurals, you’ll want to read this one!

I bought a paperback copy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

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Black Summer (Washington Poe Book 2)

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Jared Keaton, chef to the stars. Charming. Charismatic. Psychopath . . . He’s currently serving a life sentence for the brutal murder of his daughter, Elizabeth. Her body was never found and Keaton was convicted largely on the testimony of Detective Sergeant Washington Poe.

So when a young woman staggers into a remote police station with irrefutable evidence that she is Elizabeth Keaton, Poe finds himself on the wrong end of an investigation, one that could cost him much more than his career.

Helped by the only person he trusts, the brilliant but socially awkward Tilly Bradshaw, Poe races to answer the only question that matters: how can someone be both dead and alive at the same time?

And then Elizabeth goes missing again – and all paths of investigation lead back to Poe.

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‘We have a problem, Poe’. How I love to hear these words now!

I’m forever and more #TeamPoe now.

While I thought The Puppet Show was brilliant, I have to say this novel is possibly even better. The mystery is sooo big in this one! I loved every single page of this thrilling investigation.

Washington Poe has his work cut out in this novel, that’s crystal-clear from the start! A decision of the past is backfiring in an unbelievable way and now they’re coming after him. Don’t we all love to give our support to the underdog, especially if it’s someone as likeable and good as Poe? He had me in his pocket before he even explained the case or his decision to arrest the chef for murdering his daughter.

But did Poe really mess up? Did he help convict someone for murder, someone who’s innocent but spent the last 6 years in prison? And also one of the most intriguing questions that I really wanted to hear the answer to: can the dead become alive again? I only needed a second to answer that one, but something made me bite my tongue this time as everything points to the opposite as it were. Ah I don’t think there’s a single question more intriguing to explore! What a premise! And what a phenomenal execution too.

There were a lot of how’s and why’s in this novel and I loved how complex the case seemed once again. I also very much enjoyed the setting, the novel takes the culinary road this time and it was great to be immersed into the restaurant world. It was all quite interesting (except for the first chapter where someone eats a little bird in a disgusting way) and once again, it took Poe and Bradshaw to very unexpected places.

M.W. Craven has a brilliant mind. Not once but twice already he managed to overwhelm me with setting, characters and murders. The whole picture makes sense, everything in the plot fits. I also secretly love that the novels are a bit darker than usual, and that the murders are quite eh original. That’s all, I’ll let you all find out the rest for yourself :-).

If you enjoy police procedurals, you would be mad to miss this series! It really stands out from the rest and I for one can’t wait to read his next novel.

I received a free ecopy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley. This is still my honest opinion.

Forget My Name by J.S. Monroe #Blogtour #BookReview @JSThrillers @HoZ_Books

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I am delighted to by joining the blog tour today for J.S. Monroe’s gripping new novel, Forget My Name and I want to thank Vicky of publishing house Head of Zeus for the tour invite and sending a copy my way! I’ll share my thoughts about the novel in a minute but do take a look at this fabulous blurb first.

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You are outside your front door. There are strangers in your house. Then you realise… You can’t remember your name.

She arrived at the train station after a difficult week at work. Her bag had been stolen, and with it, her identity. Her whole life was in there – passport, wallet, house key. When she tried to report the theft, she couldn’t remember her own name. All she knew was her own address.

Now she’s outside Tony and Laura’s front door. She says she lives in their home. They say they have never met her before.

One of them is lying.

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iBooks |Kobo | GooglePlay

Author

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J.S. Monroe read English at Cambridge, worked as a foreign correspondent in Delhi, and was weekend editor of the Daily Telegraph in London before becoming a full-time writer. Monroe is the author of six novels, including the international bestseller, Find Me.

Connect

Twitter : @JSThrillers

fB : @JSMonroeFindMe

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Blimey! I read a novel I’m not likely to forget soon. Forget My Name is a thrilling read and it has an excellent plotline involving amnesia. I was delighted to find it felt differently from other novels about memory loss and my mouth almost dropped when I realised what was the truth and really at the base of this novel. There’s so much more to it than I assumed at first.

To be honest, I don’t know if I would and I wonder if other people would really let someone in who turns up at their doorstep claiming to live there so quickly, but luckily Tony and Laura do, they open their door and let the woman on their doorstep in to get to her senses, and with that act of goodwill the story is well set into motion and will twist and turn continuously.

I loved all the guesswork in this novel and this time it wasn’t only me, everyone was trying to find out who the mystery woman was and the wildest assumptions were made making her the suspect of being a Russian spy to a ruthless killer or even a long lost family member. But which one is it? As a reader you just don’t know which path the story is going to take ultimately, everything goes and that makes it a brilliantly unpredictable novel. I couldn’t get a grip on the mystery woman either, who is named Jemma – with a J -. She seemed genuine enough but I did wonder occasionally if she really was all she seemed. She did seem legit and she definitely knew Tom and Laura’s house though. My thoughts were running wild, and then, when I thought I had finally figured it out, the author made my confidence waver and the situation turned out to be completely different than I had thought and the story took off on a second wave of even more questions about what was going on right there. I certainly wouldn’t place any bets when reading this novel, you might lose your money.  

I can’t really say more about this novel because it would spoil so much fun, but this one falls in the category of one of my favorite tropes, so of course I couldn’t contain a little shriek of contentment when I saw where this was going. I read similar novels about what ‘Jemma’ is going through before but I’d certainly recommend this one if anyone asks. The plot has lots of mystery and thrills and a deep dark secret too and the author has a brilliant way of writing about it. I had no idea where Forget My Name was going to take me but it still surprised me more than I had anticipated!

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The Whisper Man by Alex North #BlogTour #BookReview

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Today I’m thrilled to be sharing my review of The Whisper Man by Alex North. Huge thanks to Jenny Platt and publisher Michael Joseph for the tour invite and the absolutely stunning review copy!

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If you leave a door half-open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken . . .

Still devastated after the loss of his wife, Tom Kennedy and his young son Jake move to the sleepy village of Featherbank, looking for a much-needed fresh start.

But Featherbank has a dark past. Fifteen years ago, a twisted serial killer abducted and murdered five young boys.

Until he was finally caught, the killer was known as ‘The Whisper Man’.

Of course, an old crime need not trouble Tom and Jake as they try to settle in to their new home.

Except that now another boy has gone missing. And then Jake begins acting strangely.

He says he hears a whispering at his window . . .

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Author

Alex North was born in Leeds, where he now lives with his wife and son. He studied Philosophy at Leeds University, and prior to becoming a writer he worked there in their sociology department.

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The Whisper Man is such an excellent debut! Also, the absolutely stunning cover reflects the story inside perfectly so you might also want to double check your door is locked when reading. I can’t tell you what exactly is so unnerving about the story but I think it’s the combination of the many little things tied together. There’s an imaginary girl who’s Jake’s friend who he talks to quite a lot, and if that’s not worrying enough the little boy seems to have knowledge of things relating to a dead boy, and a small but brilliantly creepy trick in the novel is an unsettling rhyme repeated on and off again throughout the story: ‘If you leave a door half open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken“. It was creepy but I felt I could handle it (baahaa!), until I reached one scene that gave me the total bejeebies. In my defense, it was already very late and dark (but I couldn’t stop reading), and then I read a scene where the postman wasn’t a postman but a very creepy character.. I saw it playing out as if it were a movie! I still can’t believe I was able to fall asleep that night, it’s the stuff that nightmares are made of.

The Whisper Man is quite a well-plotted story that had me invested from the start with the letter Tom writes to his son promising him to tell him the truth about everything that happened and let me tell you, his prologue made my mouth water in advance. He dangled some puzzling names before me and I was trappling to find out their meaning and the story linking them together.

I loved the mystery of the novel and how the story was built: a past and a present case are entwined with the same MO but with the man famously dubbed The Whisper Man locked up in jail, who could possibly be behind the present crime? As much as I loved reading the disturbing storyline, I loved the heart-rendering side of the story just as much and the author blended both sides so perfectly, it’s what really makes this story so phenomenal. There is grief and there’s hope and there’s a whole lot of feeling in this novel and I loved hearing the personal stories of detective Pete Willis and Tom and his son Jake. They are so much in my heart and I was quite devastated when I read about all that happened to the characters I grew so fond of.

The story made me fear the worst for Jake from the moment I met him.. he’s a young boy so it stood to chance that he might be in danger too, it’s not so farfetched and the author fed my fear really well with all that was going on around him. Well he certainly had more than one surprise for me, among other things he also deftly brought Pete and Tom and Jake together in an unexpected way.

If you’re looking for a page turner that will you goosebumps when reading then I can definitely recommend The Whisper Man. You’ll want to tear through this one as fast as possible.

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A Gift for Dying by M.J. Arlidge #BlogTour #BookReview

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Today it is my great pleasure to be joining the blog tour for A Gift For Dying, the brand new standalone thriller by M.J. Arlidge. My thanks go to publishers Michael Joseph who provided an advance copy of the book for review and tour organiser Tracy Fenton!

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Adam Brandt is a forensic psychologist, well used to dealing with the most damaged members of society.

But he’s never met anyone like Kassie.

The teenager claims to have a terrible gift – with one look into your eyes, she can see when and how you will die.

Obviously, Adam knows Kassie must be insane. But then a serial killer hits the city. And only Kassie seems to know where he’ll strike next.

Against all his intuition, Adam starts to believe her.

He just doesn’t realise how deadly his faith might prove…

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I was thrilled to be invited for the blog tour of A Gift for Dying. I’m running a bit behind reading the DI Helen Grace novels so I’m ever so happy with this standalone.

The novel has short and snappy chapters and I was continually tempted to read one more chapter. Kassie certainly had a firm hold on my thoughts and even when it’s not a thin book, it was definitely an easy and fast read.

What I enjoyed most of all in the novel was the uncertainty relating to Kassie’s ability (I’m not sure you could call it a gift really). She claims she can foresee someone’s death quite well when she looks people in the eyes. Adam Brandt, the forensic psychologist who is called in to assess Kassie doesn’t believe her in first instance. He’s the voice of rational thinking and he’s seen quite a lot of people with delusions in his years of experience. He was playing the devil on my shoulder with Kassie on the other side.

She continually asks Brandt to believe her and I really felt for her, but like him, I was also very sceptical. Believing her would also come with a terrifying consequence. You see, there’s one helluva revalation in the first half of the novel which hangs over the rest of the novel and made it quite difficult to believe Kassie. I actually didn’t want to believe her at all. Don’t worry if this sounds strange, you’ll know what I’m talking about when you read it! I always had it in the back of my mind, even if I wanted to I couldn’t forget about it! Could she be speaking the truth or is she simply insane, or perhaps there’s someone close to her using her? Aah how wonderful to be kept guessing… Brandt feels protective of Kassie but at the same time she’s seriously incriminating herself because it all comes back to her and the police are not buying her story.

I said it before but I’ll say it again because it really doesn’t always work for me the way it did this time but I loved the paranormal angle. If you’re not a big fan of these threads, you can still enjoy this. Besides that he also satisfies readers who love a bit of heartbreak and drama as well as every die hard triller fan by inserting an emotional and touching plotline and not holding back on a few gruesome murders :-). The novel shocked me too but the weird part is that it wasn’t even these aforementioned murders that surprised me most. He sure knows how to write a twist! I’m sure this novel will please readers of all genres.

*** Don’t forget to follow the rest of the book tour, next one up: Over The Rainbow Book Blog ***

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Dark Pines by Will Dean #BookReview

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SEE NO EVIL

Eyes missing, two bodies lie deep in the forest near a remote Swedish town.

HEAR NO EVIL

Tuva Moodyson, a deaf reporter on a small-time local paper, is looking for the story that could make her career.

SPEAK NO EVIL

A web of secrets. And an unsolved murder from twenty years ago.

Can Tuva outwit the killer before she becomes the final victim? She’d like to think so. But first she must face her demons and venture far into the deep, dark woods if she wants to stand any chance of getting the hell out of small-time Gavrik.

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star three and a half

Dark Pines is the first instalment in a new series where Tuva Moodyson takes the lead. Tuva is definitely an interesting character, not only because of her profession – she’s a journalist – but because she does this job, quite successfully, while she’s also deaf. It just doesn’t seem an obvious combination and I’m happy she put me in my place showing me there’s nothing extraordinary about it. I was positively surprised she never comments on her deafness in a negative way. Even better, she tells she’s able to cut out all the noise and work in perfect silence and describes it so lovingly that it almost feels as if she’s to be envied. Wonderful! Being deaf really doesn’t hinder her in life apart from always having to think about having extra batteries for her hearing aid with her. She’s in fact much less positive about her life in Gavrik and would rather live in bustling London. Unfortunately, she’s stuck in this tiny town because it’s allowing her to be closer to her bed-ridden mother and the local paper happened to offer her a job there. The things she considers negative are what other people would consider positive and the other way around really, but you can always move of course, her condition is much harder to deal with. Much as I admire her for this, I did feel she was defined so much by it, it makes it harder to come up with other traits she has character wise.

I had one or two other things I would have perhaps changed a bit as well. The first is that the story was sometimes a bit too repetitive. Tuva drives up the hill so many times and she also turns around so many times from when she’s going to visit her mother that it frustrated me a little. Did I mention I don’t have a lot of patience? I couldn’t help it, I just wanted her to get it over with and visit her mother. The second point I’d like to make concerns an incomprehensible train of thought Tuva had which involves going into the big dark forest all on her own. If there’s a killer out there on the loose, I really don’t know why anyone would think it’s a good idea to walk in the woods alone ‘to confront your fears’. It felt utterly foolish and it was also too soon in the novel to start thinking she could be killed so it didn’t immediately create a lot of tension for me ;-).

That being said, I really enjoyed its wonderful cast of suspects. There are 5 houses on the hill and each resident seems kind of dodgy. There’s a hoarder, a taxi-driver with kid, two woodcarving sisters of creepy trolls, a ghostwriter with a checkered past, and a couple where the husband might have a hidden agenda. Every single one of them presented the possibility of being a ruthless killer. They kept me well entertained and I made two guesses where I soon knew I was on the wrong track, before I finally made the right one nearing the end.

I think Dark Pines is a good debut of the series. I’m definitely curious to see where Tuva Moodyson will take me in the next novel, Red Snow and I look forward to getting to know her much better.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.