The Golden Key by Marian Womack | @TitanBooks | #blogtour #excerpt

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Golden Key by Marian Womack! My thanks to Lydia at Titan Books for the invitation to join! I have an extract to share with you today but first, let’s see what The Golden Key is all about.

Author : Marian Womack
Title : The Golden Key
Pages : 320
Publisher : Titan Books UK
Publication date : February 18, 2020

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

London, 1901. After the death of Queen Victoria the city heaves with the uncanny and the eerie. Séances are held and the dead are called upon from darker realms.

Samuel Moncrieff, recovering from a recent tragedy of his own, meets Helena Walton-Cisneros, one of London’s most reputed mediums. But Helena is not what she seems and she’s enlisted by the elusive Lady Matthews to solve a twenty-year-old mystery: the disappearance of her three stepdaughters who vanished without a trace on the Norfolk Fens.

But the Fens are a liminal land, where folk tales and dark magic still linger. With locals that speak of devilmen and catatonic children found on the Broads, Helena finds the answer to the mystery leads back to where it started: Samuel Moncrieff. 

| EXTRACT |

‘Sam, I have been meaning to talk to you.’

‘Yes?’ 

‘I am most impressed at your recovery. Health and occupation are the main purveyors of a happy mind! Have you had any inkling of what you might want to do next?’ 

Sam had feared this conversation, but he was prepared for it. 

‘Mind you, you are welcome to stay as long as you want!’ 

‘I had the notion of preparing myself to climb some mountain,’ Sam cut in, in the face of Charles’s embarrassed look. 

‘Very good! Train the body and the spirit will look after itself. The most important thing is to be able to control the dark impulses—’ 

Sam had a private, interior laugh. Was his uncle serious? Was he preaching against dark and fanciful notions, while taking him to a séance, of all things? 

‘Let the work of the day tire you so that you fall into a black well when you go to sleep,’ continued the older man. A cloud passed over Sam’s mind; what did his uncle know about his nightmares? Perhaps he shouted in his dreams. Did he shout about the ruined house, about Viola, about the ghostly seamstress? 

Charles imparted some more of this kind of vague, Spiritualist-magazine advice during their drive to Gower Street, while Sam nodded and uttered agreements in all the right places. They reached their destination shortly after half past seven. A maid opened the door for them, and they were shown into a parlour. The room was in half-darkness, and what light there was twisted the aspidistras at the other end into fantastical shapes. Sam weighed up his surroundings, an old habit from a time when he used to pick fights in taverns. Entrances and exits. 

Two members of the Gower Street Circle were greeting the guests: serious Miss Clare Collins, a poised young black woman with a shocking streak of white in her hair, and a Scot, Thomas Bunthorne, whom Sam had met previously. Charles greeted both of them, and introduced Miss Collins to Sam: 

‘My dear boy, here you have the most faithful group of devotees in the whole of London!’ he announced, and Miss Collins laughed heartily, as though Charles had said something truly amusing. Sam felt as if he had missed a trick. 

‘How do you do, Miss Collins?’ he offered. 

‘Sam, Miss Collins here will direct the séance,’ Charles explained. 

‘But I thought—’ 

Charles and Miss Collins smiled at Sam’s confusion. 

‘Don’t worry, Mr Moncrieff. Madame Florence is the one you have come to see tonight, and you will see her. She will lock herself in that cabinet,’ Miss Collins explained, signalling an imposing piece of black mahogany furniture at the other end of the room. Sam was unpleasantly reminded of an oversized coffin. ‘From there she will summon the spirits, but will direct the questions from the table.’ 

The rest of the small gathering was completed by a little plump woman in a worn-out gown who kept wringing her hands, and a distinguished-looking lady dressed in heavy mourning regalia, sitting on a chair with the aloof air of not needing to talk to anyone. Sam noted that Charles greeted her coldly, in a manner suggesting that he must have known her in passing, but he did not offer an introduction. Mr Woodbury, an elderly bookseller whom Sam had seen sometimes in Charles’s house, arrived shortly before the proceedings began. 

He had not expected to see the medium before the séance, but Madame Florence appeared in the dimly lit room. She moved like a graceful hostess, talking to everyone, quite as if she were about to announce dinner instead of a meeting with the dead. She was not at all as Sam had expected: he had pictured a plump spinster, an earthly matron surrounded by a group of admiring fools. 

‘Madame Florence,’ said Charles, ‘may I introduce Mr Samuel Moncrieff?’ 

She extended a heavily bejewelled hand in his direction, and Sam bent down to kiss it. He had the impression that she was sizing him up, and that she was happy with what she saw. Madame Florence seemed to be a woman who made sure her partialities were understood. She had deep, intense green eyes, which seemed to pierce through his skull and communicate hidden meanings. 

‘Are you a believer, Mr Moncrieff? Or will I have a problem with you?’ 

Her directness disarmed him for a second. She must have noticed the slight bewilderment in his eyes, for she added: 

‘I’m only joking! Please excuse me. It’s just that I can smell a non-believer from miles away.’ 

‘Madame Florence, if I may—’ he started. ‘I am new to Spiritualism, and there are still certain things that perplex me. One question, for example. If mediumship is a service, as the members of your religion proclaim, pray inform me on one point. I do not quite understand why these people have to pay to be here.’ 

‘Sam!’ Charles looked horrified. 

‘Don’t worry, Mr Bale. Nothing gives me more pleasure than dispelling these little malicious and unfounded myths about my profession. Let’s put your assertion to the test, Mr Moncrieff. Do you see that lady?’ She pointed at the woman in the worn-out dress. ‘She came to see me days ago. She needed help, solace. I could not turn her down. Of course, she could not afford to pay for my services, but she needed them nonetheless. People have their pride, Mr Moncrieff, even the less fortunate among us.’ She fixed him with an icy stare, as if daring him to take up the issue with her. ‘She is a very talented milliner, and has promised to make me a new summer hat in lieu of payment. I have accepted. It is more than fair, and I only fear that I shall be benefiting much more than her in the exchange.’ 

Her honesty was refreshing, he thought. Sam noticed that his uncle had moved away, with a wounded look. 

‘That is very generous of you,’ he said.

‘And that man over there…’ To Sam’s surprise she pointed to Mr Woodbury, who was conducting what looked like an agitated exchange with Thomas Bunthorne. ‘As well as being a celebrated vegetarian, and a significant figure in the temperance movement, he happens to want to study my psychic powers. Perhaps even to shame me as a fraud!’ She suppressed a little laugh. ‘Anyway, I cannot charge him for attending this gathering in his pursuit of scientific knowledge! You are in safe hands, Mr Moncrieff. I assure you he will scrutinise everything that happens here this evening.’ 

To her amusement, he didn’t know what else to say. 

‘Pray, excuse me, I had better prepare myself,’ Madame Florence cut off. ‘A psychic expert and a non-believer!’ she laughed. ‘I have to offer an excellent performance tonight, don’t you think?’ and she walked away from him. 

If this excerpt has piqued your interest, then why not grab yourself a copy of The Golden Key right now!

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| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Marian Womack is a bilingual writer (English and Spanish), and co-founder of Calque Press. She is a graduate of the Clarion Writer’s Workshop, and her debut English-language eco-storytelling collection, Lost Objects, was published in 2018 by Luna Press . Her fiction has been part of an installation in Somerset House about activism and ecology, translated into Italian, and nominated for both BSFA and British Fantasy Awards. She teaches creative writing at Oxford University, and works for Cambridge University Libraries in a teaching and engagement role. Her doctoral research looks at the communication of climate change through fiction.

Perfect Kill by Helen Fields | @Helen_Fields @AvonBooksUK | #blogtour

Delighted to join the blog tour for Perfect Kill by Helen Fields today! My thanks to Sanjana at Avon for the opportunity to join and for the fab review copy.

Author : Helen Fields
Title : Perfect Kill
Series : DI Luc Callanach #6
Pages : 385
Publisher : Avon UK
Publication date : February 6, 2020

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

He had never heard himself scream before. It was terrifying.

Alone, trapped in the darkness and with no way out, Bart Campbell knows that his chances of being found alive are slim.

Drugged and kidnapped, the realisation soon dawns that he’s been locked inside a shipping container far from his Edinburgh home. But what Bart doesn’t yet know is that he’s now heading for France where his unspeakable fate is already sealed…

DCI Ava Turner and DI Luc Callanach are working on separate cases that soon collide as it becomes clear that the men and women being shipped to France are being traded for women trafficked into Scotland.

With so many lives at stake, they face an impossible task – but there’s no option of failure when Bart and so many others will soon be dead…

| MY THOUGHTS |

Goodness gracious me. Where do I even begin?

In Perfect Kill, the reader gets a double dose of depravity as DCI Ava Turner and DI Luc Callanach work separate cases. Ava and her team are up in Scotland, while Luc has joined up with a former colleague at Interpol in France. Soon these cases will collide, with lives at stake on both sides of the Channel.

Few people manage to come up with the most evil and disturbing characters quite the way Helen Fields does. Characters that get under your skin, characters that make you want to take a really long shower, characters that have you glaring at the pages of the book, wishing you could hurt them somehow. They are truly vile and utterly despicable.

The reading experience is elevated by putting the reader right there, in the middle with the potential victims. We meet Bart, who wakes up one morning and realises he isn’t in his cosy bed at his mother’s home. Instead he finds himself chained in a dark and windowless place, location unknown. And then there’s Elenuta from Romania, who came to Scotland with the promise of a better life. Need I say more?

Some of these chapters are immensely uncomfortable to read. I winced, I felt sad and angry, I feared for these characters’ lives. These chapters are upsetting, powerful, raw and brutal. I often needed a moment to recover from the horror and brutality, the absolutely horrendous ways some people treat other people for sheer pleasure and entertainment, for money, and all the while it unfortunately all felt so incredibly realistic and believable. It’s sadly easy to imagine that these things do actually happen and these thoughts will linger on your mind long after you’ve finished the book.

So, not exactly for the faint-hearted, I suppose, but that’s something I’ve become used to from Helen Fields. Perfect Kill has many themes that haunt modern society, which lift this book to a whole other level in the crime fiction genre. The “Perfect” series has always been able to stand out from the crowd but this latest addition is really something else altogether. Gritty and raw, I perversely loved every minute of it. I’m not entirely sure what that says about me.

Due to lack of time, I often need to make the tough decision to drop a series because I can no longer keep up but I feel quite confident that this series right here will never be one of them. It is just that good and all that’s left for me to say is : bring on book seven!

Perfect Kill is available to buy!

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Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Hive | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

An international and Amazon #1 best-selling author, Helen is a former criminal and family law barrister.

Every book in the Callanach series claimed an Amazon #1 bestseller flag.

Her previous audio book ‘Perfect Crime’ knocked Michelle Obama off the #1 spot. Translated into 15 languages, and also selling in the USA, Canada & Australasia, Helen’s books have won global recognition.

Helen also writes as HS Chandler, and last year released legal thriller ‘Degrees of Guilt’.

She currently commutes between Hampshire, Scotland and California, where she lives with her husband and three children.

Deep Dark Night by Steph Broadribb | @crimethrillgirl @OrendaBooks | #recommended

My thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the review copy!

Author : Steph Broadribb
Title : Deep Dark Night
Series : Lori Anderson #4
Pages : 320
Publisher : Orenda Books
Publication date : March 5, 2020

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

A city in darkness. A building in lockdown. A score that can only be settled in blood…

Working off the books for FBI Special Agent Alex Monroe, Florida bounty-hunter Lori Anderson and her partner, JT, head to Chicago. Their mission: to entrap the head of the Cabressa crime family. The bait: a priceless chess set that Cabressa is determined to add to his collection.

An exclusive high-stakes poker game is arranged in the penthouse suite of one of the city’s tallest buildings, with Lori holding the cards in an agreed arrangement to hand over the pieces, one by one. But, as night falls and the game plays out, stakes rise and tempers flare.

When a power failure plunges the city into darkness, the building goes into lockdown. But this isn’t an ordinary blackout, and the men around the poker table aren’t all who they say they are. Hostages are taken, old scores resurface and the players start to die.

And that’s just the beginning…

| MY THOUGHTS |

AIR! I NEED AIR! CAN’T BREATHE!

If there is one thing I should have learned from reading the Lori Anderson series, it’s to have an oxygen tank at the ready because her adventures always leave me gasping for breath and Deep Dark Night is no different! Throw your gym membership in the bin (not that I have one)! This will leave you with the same amount of adrenaline and energy to get you through three marathons. Just not so sweaty. Bonus!

Lori and JT head to Chicago to work an off-the-books operation for FBI Special Agent Monroe. Using a priceless chess set as bait, Lori must try to entrap the head of the Cabressa crime family and hopefully finally get Monroe off her back along the way. But during a high-stakes poker game in the penthouse suite of one of Chicago’s tallest buildings, the power goes out and shit hits the fan. Things what I learned : stay away from penthouse suites. And poker games. And I should probably add mafia to the list as well.

To say Deep Dark Night is action-packed seems like a massive understatement. It’s pretty much all systems go, all the time. Absolutely relentless! It’s also dark in more ways than one and oftentimes immensely claustrophobic. On top of that, people start dropping like flies all over the place and suddenly all you can think about is if Lori and JT will make it out of this precarious situation alive! Because Steph Broadribb has no qualms whatsoever in putting her characters through the wringer and pushing them to some quite extreme limits.

Steph Broadribb knows how to pull a reader in and keep them enthralled from start to finish. I felt I was right there with Lori and JT, in that high-rise building in the dark, desperately trying to find a way out in one piece. Deep Dark Night is an edge-of-your-seat nail-biter of a book, that at times had my heart pumping so hard I thought it would jump right out of my chest. When I finished it, I felt so darn energised I considered running a few laps around the block. And I do not run, people!

The Lori Anderson series is yet another series that just keeps going from strength to strength and all the books would make excellent movies. Each and every book in this series is utterly gripping and addictive. Lori remains one of the fiercest female protagonists out there, most definitely giving all those muscly showing-off kind of male stereotypes a run for their money. I have to say it …. wait for it …. BEST ONE YET and I’ll be first in line to find out where Steph Broadribb takes this series next. Bring it on!

Deep Dark Night is available to buy in ebook format. The UK paperback will be published on March 5th.

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Hive | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

All The Best Lies by Joanna Schaffhausen | @TitanBooks @Sarah_Mather_15

Author : Joanna Schaffhausen
Title : All The Best Lies
Series : Ellery Hathaway #3
Pages : 385
Publisher : Titan Books
Publication date : February 11, 2020

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

FBI agent Reed Markham is haunted by one painful unsolved mystery: who murdered his mother? Camilla was brutally stabbed to death more than forty years ago while baby Reed lay in his crib mere steps away. The trail went so cold that the Las Vegas Police Department has given up hope of solving the case. But then a shattering family secret changes everything Reed knows about his origins, his murdered mother, and his powerful adoptive father, state senator Angus Markham. Now Reed has to wonder if his mother’s killer is uncomfortably close to home.

Unable to trust his family with the details of his personal investigation, Reed enlists his friend, suspended cop Ellery Hathaway, to join his quest in Vegas. Ellery has experience with both troubled families and diabolical murderers, having narrowly escaped from each of them. She’s eager to skip town, too, because her own father, who abandoned her years ago, is suddenly desperate to get back in contact. He also has a secret that could change her life forever, if Ellery will let him close enough to hear it.

Far from home and relying only on each other, Reed and Ellery discover young Camilla had snared the attention of dangerous men, any of whom might have wanted to shut her up for good. They start tracing his twisted family history, knowing the path leads back to a vicious killer—one who has been hiding in plain sight for forty years and isn’t about to give up now.

| MY THOUGHTS |

FBI agent Reed Markham’s mother, Camilla Flores, was stabbed to death forty years ago, while baby Reed was in his crib in the next room. The case was never solved but recent events have made Reed wonder if the killer is closer to home than he ever thought. Determined to find out what happened to his mother, Reed enlists the help of the only person he feels he can trust right now : his friend Ellery Hathaway.

All The Best Lies is the third book in a series and unfortunately for me, that was something I wasn’t aware of when I picked it up to read. I personally don’t feel this can be read as a stand-alone. There’s a huge history between Reed and Ellery, which has an impact on their relationship, their dynamics and their lives. While there is enough background provided to get the gist of things, I was left to feel like I was missing out on vital information. It’s a fine line for an author to walk in a series as you obviously don’t want to bore readers that have been with you from the start and you don’t want to alienate new readers. What I’m trying to say is that Joanna Schaffhausen did this quite brilliantly but I just needed that little something more to get fully behind the characters and understand how damaged and flawed they are, and why.

That said, this book is an extremely compelling ride. Cold cases always get my blood flowing that little bit quicker. Forty years is a long time. If there were any witnesses, what do they remember after all this time? Are they even still alive? Evidence may have been lost, accidentally or otherwise. On top of that, Reed’s adoptive family is getting nervous about Reed digging into the past like this as Reed’s adoptive father is a politician and worried about the possibility of a scandal. Or could there possibly be more to it than that?

For the longest time, I couldn’t at all figure out who so brutally murdered Camilla. Was it someone she knew? Was it a random attack? Why would anyone have wanted to harm her like that? What kind of person kills a mother while her baby is next door? I did my best to find my way through the forest of red herrings and twists and was ridiculously pleased with myself when I had a lightbulb moment and zeroed in on one suspect.

From the bright lights of Las Vegas to California and back again, All The Best Lies is a gripping crime thriller and police procedural combination. Once I got past that gap in my background knowledge, I actually really started to enjoy it. With complex and multi-layered characters, there is a lot to like about this story. My only niggle, and again this is personal preference, is the romantic angle. There’s no doubt there is an abundance of chemistry between Reed and Ellery and I’m sure plenty of readers are rooting for them but I’m here for the brutal murders, the gore and the mayhem and I often find the “will they, won’t they” extremely distracting. It’s just not something I need in my crime fiction.

All in all though, a thoroughly enjoyable and twisty story that made me wish I’d been with this series from the start. In all honesty, the odds that I’ll ever get caught up with the first two are small (because who has that kind of time?!) but I may just keep an eye out on the next one in the series.

My thanks to Titan Books for the review copy!

All The Best Lies is available to buy!

Affiliate link : Bookdepository
Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Hive |Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

This Week in Books (February 12)

Hosted by Lipsy Lost and Found, my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I’m reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words.

| LAST BOOK I FINISHED READING |

Set in London in 1837, The Unseeing is the story of Sarah Gale, a seamstress and mother, sentenced to hang for her role in the murder of Hannah Brown on the eve of her wedding.

After Sarah petitions for mercy, Edmund Fleetwood is appointed to investigate and consider whether justice has been done. Idealistic, but struggling with his own demons, Edmund is determined to seek out the truth. Yet Sarah refuses to help him, neither lying nor adding anything to the evidence gathered in court. Edmund knows she’s hiding something, but needs to discover just why she’s maintaining her silence. For how can it be that someone would willingly go to their own death?

[So, so good!]

| THE BOOK I’M CURRENTLY READING |

FBI agent Reed Markham is haunted by one painful unsolved mystery: who murdered his mother? Camilla was brutally stabbed to death more than forty years ago while baby Reed lay in his crib mere steps away. The trail went so cold that the Las Vegas Police Department has given up hope of solving the case. But then a shattering family secret changes everything Reed knows about his origins, his murdered mother, and his powerful adoptive father, state senator Angus Markham. Now Reed has to wonder if his mother’s killer is uncomfortably close to home.

Unable to trust his family with the details of his personal investigation, Reed enlists his friend, suspended cop Ellery Hathaway, to join his quest in Vegas. Ellery has experience with both troubled families and diabolical murderers, having narrowly escaped from each of them. She’s eager to skip town, too, because her own father, who abandoned her years ago, is suddenly desperate to get back in contact. He also has a secret that could change her life forever, if Ellery will let him close enough to hear it.

Far from home and relying only on each other, Reed and Ellery discover young Camilla had snared the attention of dangerous men, any of whom might have wanted to shut her up for good. They start tracing his twisted family history, knowing the path leads back to a vicious killer—one who has been hiding in plain sight for forty years and isn’t about to give up now. 

[I’m enjoying this one but I didn’t realise it was the third in a series and I’m struggling a little with the gap in my background knowledge.]

| WHAT I’M (PROBABLY) READING NEXT |

He had never heard himself scream before. It was terrifying.

Alone, trapped in the darkness and with no way out, Bart Campbell knows that his chances of being found alive are slim.

Drugged and kidnapped, the realisation soon dawns that he’s been locked inside a shipping container far from his Edinburgh home. But what Bart doesn’t yet know is that he’s now heading for France where his unspeakable fate is already sealed…

DCI Ava Turner and DI Luc Callanach are working on separate cases that soon collide as it becomes clear that the men and women being shipped to France are being traded for women trafficked into Scotland.

With so many lives at stake, they face an impossible task – but there’s no option of failure when Bart and so many others will soon be dead…

[One of my favourite series (yes, again) and I’m really looking forward to this latest instalment.]

Looks like I’m in for another fab week! What are you reading? Do let me know! Happy reading! xx

The Murder House by Michael Wood | @MichaelHWood @0neMoreChapter_

Author : Michael Wood
Title : The Murder House
Series : DCI Matilda Darke #5
Pages : 400
Publisher : One More Chapter
Publication date : January 31, 2020

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

It’s the most disturbing crime scene DCI Matilda Darke has ever seen…

The morning after a wedding reception at a beautiful suburban home in Sheffield, the bride’s entire family are stabbed to death – in a frenzied attack more violent than anything DCI Matilda Darke could have imagined.

Forensics point to a burglar on the run across the country. But cracks are starting to appear in Matilda’s team, someone is playing games with the evidence – and the killer might be closer to home than they thought…

| MY THOUGHTS |

Blood, guts and gore. Not exactly the aftermath you’d expect the morning following a lovely wedding but there we are. It is exactly the scene DCI Matilda Darke and her team come across when three members of a family are found brutally murdered in their home. Forensics quickly point to a petty criminal, who just happens to be on the run. But things don’t quite seem to add up and DCI Darke must keep her wits about her, while also trying to make sure her team doesn’t fall apart at the seams.

Meanwhile, Sally Meeghan is getting phone calls from someone she believes is her son. Carl went missing years ago. It’s a case that haunts Matilda Darke to this day. Is Carl still alive? Is someone playing a cruel game with his mother? And where on earth will Matilda find the time to deal with this on top of everything else?

I think you can just about get away with reading this one as a stand-alone, although why you would want to is anyone’s guess and obviously my recommendation is always to start from the beginning of a series. This team has gone through so much over the last few years, it’s really not surprising that cracks are starting to show and I truly feared for them.

But they have a job to do and a killer to catch. As to who that killer might be, I didn’t have a clue. By all appearances, this slain family seemed absolutely perfect. Who would want to harm them in such a brutal way and why? With so little information to go on, where do you even start? The tiniest little detail could blow this case right open. And let me tell you, when that happened, my jaw dropped to the floor because that is just a stroke of genius!

The Murder House is the fifth book in the DCI Matilda Darke series. I’ve been with this series from the very beginning and I feel it just isn’t talked about enough, you guys. Michael Wood delivers every single time and every single book has been outstanding but this one? Talk about raising the bar! The Murder House is intensely gripping from the first page and the pace builds up so much, I was wondering when I’d have a moment to come up for air. Deliciously dark, full of red herrings … you know what’s coming, don’t you? Best one in the series yet!

Fans of Matilda Darke will be thrilled with this latest addition, as would anyone who enjoys a solid, fast-paced and incredibly well-plotted police procedural. If Michael Wood isn’t on your radar, he bloody well should be and now is the perfect time to get caught up because there are lots of goodies coming our way from him this year.

The Murder House is available to buy!

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Other retailers : Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Waterstones | Wordery

I Am Dust by Louise Beech | @LouiseWriter @OrendaBooks | #IAmDust #recommended

Author : Louise Beech
Title : I Am Dust
Pages : 340
Publisher : Orenda Books
Publication date : February 16, 2020 (ebook)

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

The Dean Wilson Theatre is believed to be haunted by a long-dead actress, singing her last song, waiting for her final cue, looking for her killer…

Now Dust, the iconic musical, is returning after twenty years. But who will be brave enough to take on the role of ghostly goddess Esme Black, last played by Morgan Miller, who was murdered in her dressing room?

Theatre usher Chloe Dee is caught up in the spectacle. As the new actors arrive, including an unexpected face from her past, everything changes. Are the eerie sounds and sightings backstage real or just her imagination? Is someone playing games?

Is the role of Esme Black cursed? Could witchcraft be at the heart of the tragedy? And are dark deeds from Chloe’s past about to catch up with her?

Not all the drama takes place onstage. Sometimes murder, magic, obsession and the biggest of betrayals are real life. When you’re in the theatre shadows, you see everything.

And Chloe has been watching…

| MY THOUGHTS |

Let me just tell you up front that this review, if I can even call it that, will not do this novel any justice at all as Louise Beech’s novels always leave me speechless. I Am Dust is one of those stories that left me in need of a breather, some time to reflect, to let it all sink in before even trying to compile thoughts and put words to what I was feeling. But as I start writing this review, I’m still very much speechless and the only word my brain seems to be able to come up with is WOW.

One of the many joys in picking up a book by Louise Beech is that you never know what to expect. This extremely talented author criss-crosses and combines genres like no other. The one thing you CAN always count on is truly glorious and beautiful writing. And quite possibly the need for tissues at some point or other.

I didn’t read the book description so all the information I had to go on was right there on the stunning jacket of my proof copy. (Which I just realised you can’t see on the cover I used on top of the page)

A haunted theatre, a murdered actress, three cursed teenagers, a secret that devastates them all …

Little else was needed for me to be absolutely sold on this book from the get-go. A psychological thriller then? And maybe, just maybe, no tissues required this time around? Ha! It becomes clear quite quickly that no, of course this isn’t going to be your typical run-of-the-mill psychological thriller. This is Louise Beech after all!

Twenty years ago, actress Morgan Miller was found dead in her dressing room at the Dean Wilson Theatre during the run of the musical Dust. Rumour has it she’s been haunting the theatre ever since, looking for her killer. Now, the theatre’s most successful play is making a comeback. But who would want to take on the iconic role of Esme Black? As a fan of the original Dust musical and now working as a theatre usher, Chloe Dee is right in the thick of things.

Ah, the bright lights of the stage. Yet, this story isn’t all glamour and glitter. Definitely not for a theatre usher and I truly enjoyed seeing things from Chloe’s perspective. Her uniform, the jobs she needs to do, the way she’s almost invisible to the audience. It all stands in stark contrast to the adoration the actors receive.

I Am Dust is a haunting tale of jealousy and ambition with a dose of teenage angst, unrequited love and a dash of witchcraft. I found myself utterly mesmerised by all of it, as if I was under a spell. Immensely gripping, hugely addictive and fabulously atmospheric, this novel just swept me off my feet from the very first page and I wasn’t at all able to put it down. Without giving anything away, there is a sense of foreboding throughout. That feeling you get when you just know things will probably not end well but I couldn’t for the life of me figure it out.

I see it as a personal challenge not to reach for the tissues when I read one of Louise’s books and I was convinced I was going to nail that particular challenge this time around. But no. Sucker-punched in the final pages, right there in the feels, as the kids would say? Check! I swear she does it on purpose. Reaching the end of this wonderful story, flipping that final page and realising there was no more, I felt quite bereft. I was sad to say goodbye to these characters, sad that their stories had reached their conclusions, sad that the magic spell had been broken and I found my two feet planted firmly back into reality again.

Louise Beech is an author who needs to be on everyone’s bookshelves. She’s an author who leaves everything on the page and as a reader you feel it from the top of your head to the tips of your toes but mostly, way deep down in your heart. I absolutely loved this book and you can rest assured you’ll be seeing it again on my list of “books of the year”.

Huge thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the stunning review copy!

I Am Dust will be published in ebook format on February 16th, with the UK paperback to follow in April.

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The Liar's Daughter by Claire Allan | @ClaireAllan @AvonBooksUK @SanjanaCunniah | #blogtour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Liar’s Daughter by Claire Allan. My thanks to Sanjana at Avon for the opportunity to join and for the review copy!

Author : Claire Allan
Title : The Liar’s Daughter
Pages : 336
Publisher : Avon UK
Publication date : January 23, 2020

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Joe McKee – pillar of the Derry community – is dead. As arrangements are made for the traditional Irish wake, friends and family are left reeling at how cancer could have taken this much-loved man so soon.

But grief is the last thing that Joe’s daughter Ciara and step-daughter Heidi feel. For they knew the real Joe – the man who was supposed to protect them and did anything but.

As the mourners gather, the police do too, with doubt being cast over whether Joe’s death was due to natural causes. Because the lies that Joe told won’t be taken to the grave after all – and the truth gives his daughters the best possible motive for killing him…

| MY THOUGHTS |

Something tells me I will never stop enjoying stories about dysfunctional movies and hoo boy, is this a dysfunctional family.

Joe McKee is dying and he wants nothing more than having his family around him. His sister Kathleen, his daughter Ciara and Heidi, the daughter of a woman Joe used to live with. But Ciara and Heidi would much rather be as far away from Joe as possible. As much as Joe appears to be liked by the Derry community, Ciara and Heidi know the real man behind the mask. And then Joe dies but doubt is being cast over whether his death was due to natural causes. Or did someone help him on his way?

I must say, this was a bit of an uncomfortable read. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what caused the tension in this household. I was constantly wondering what I would have done had I been in Heidi’s or Ciara’s shoes. Could I put my own life on hold to take care of a dying man who failed to protect me? Or would I simply walk away and leave him to his own devices?

This is not a fast-paced story but the slower pace really works here and I still ended up reading this book in one sitting. If there’s anything Claire Allan does well, it’s writing an addictive page-turner and The Liar’s Daughter is definitely that. Not only do we get this incredible insight into the psychological impact of the dark and disturbing secret Ciara and Heidi have been carrying around with them, but there’s also the mystery surrounding Joe’s death to solve. My attempts in trying to figure things out were constantly muddled by a cast of quite unlikeable characters. It could have been anyone, it could have been no-one. I just didn’t have a clue and was left guessing until the end, desperate to find out.

With tempers flaring and paranoia rearing its ugly head, the suspense and tension build up to an almost unbearable level. As I said, this is an uncomfortable story to read but it’s also immensely gripping and I flew through the pages as if my life depended on it. The Liar’s Daughter is a dark, powerful and twisty psychological thriller that will keep you glued to the pages.

The Liar’s Daughter is available to buy in ebook format. The UK paperback will be published in July.

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| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Claire Allan is a Northern Irish author who lives in Derry~Londonderry.

She worked as a staff reporter for the Derry Journal for 17 years, covering a wide array of stories from court sessions, to the Saville Inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday, health and education and human interest features.

She wrote her first novel in 2006, to mark her 30th birthday and it (Rainy Days and Tuesdays) was subsequently published and became an instant bestseller in 2007. Claire wrote seven further women’s fiction novels between 2007 and 2015.

In 2016 (when she turned 40) she decided to change genre and try her had at domestic noir. Her first domestic noir novel, Her Name Was Rose was published by Avon/ HarperCollins in 2018 and became a bestseller in the UK, Canada, Australia and was a USA Today bestseller. It was subsequently nominated in the Dead Good Reader Awards in 2019. Claire has followed up on the success of Her Name Was Rose with Apple of My Eye and Forget Me Not.

Claire still lives in Derry with her husband, two children, two cats and a very spoiled puppy.

This Week in Books (February 5)

Hosted by Lipsy Lost and Found, my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I’m reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words.

| LAST BOOK I FINISHED READING |

Joe McKee – pillar of the Derry community – is dead. As arrangements are made for the traditional Irish wake, friends and family are left reeling at how cancer could have taken this much-loved man so soon.

But grief is the last thing that Joe’s daughter Ciara and step-daughter Heidi feel. For they knew the real Joe – the man who was supposed to protect them and did anything but.

As the mourners gather, the police do too, with doubt being cast over whether Joe’s death was due to natural causes. Because the lies that Joe told won’t be taken to the grave after all – and the truth gives his daughters the best possible motive for killing him…

(Review to follow tomorrow on the blog tour. Why, yes, I left it a tad late. Why do you ask?)

| THE BOOK I’M CURRENTLY READING |

With her gift for sniffing out the malevolent side of human nature, Miss Marple is led on her first case to a crime scene at the local vicarage.

Colonel Protheroe, the magistrate whom everyone in town hates, has been shot through the head. No one heard the shot. There are no leads. Yet, everyone surrounding the vicarage seems to have a reason to want the Colonel dead. It is a race against the clock as Miss Marple sets out on the twisted trail of the mysterious killer without so much as a bit of help from the local police.

(My first ever Miss Marple. Slightly embarrassing to admit as a crime fiction fan but there you go.)

| WHAT I’M (PROBABLY) READING NEXT |

They are driving home from the search party when they see her. 

The trees are coarse and tall in the winter light, standing like men. Lauren and her father Niall live alone in the Highlands, in a small village surrounded by pine forest. When a woman stumbles out onto the road one Halloween night, Niall drives her back to their house in his pickup. In the morning, she’s gone. 

In a community where daughters rebel, men quietly rage, and drinking is a means of forgetting, mysteries like these are not out of the ordinary. The trapper found hanging with the dead animals for two weeks. Locked doors and stone circles. The disappearance of Lauren’s mother a decade ago. 

Lauren looks for answers in her tarot cards, hoping she might one day be able to read her father’s turbulent mind. Neighbours know more than they let on, but when local teenager Ann-Marie goes missing it’s no longer clear who she can trust. 

(I’ve heard so many good things about Pine and that cover is so pretty. I can’t wait to get stuck in!)

What are you reading this week? Do let me know! Happy reading! xx

Truth Hurts by Rebecca Reid | @RebeccaCNReid @TransworldBooks @BeckyShort1

Author : Rebecca Reid
Title : Truth Hurts
Pages : 362
Publisher : Transworld
Publication date : January 23, 2020

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Poppy has a secret. 

It was a whirlwind romance. And when Drew, caught up in the moment, suggests that he and Poppy don’t tell each other anything about their past lives, that they live only for the here and now, for the future they are building together, Poppy jumps at the chance for a fresh start.

Drew says he has nothing to hide.

But it doesn’t take long for Poppy to see that this is a two-way deal. Drew is hiding something from her. And Poppy suddenly has no idea who the man she has married really is, what he is hiding from her or what he might be capable of.

Drew is lying.

Which is more dangerous, a secret or a lie?

| MY THOUGHTS |

Prince Charming on his white horse sweeps down-on-her-luck young woman off her feet …. wait, sorry, wrong story. Although I must admit I did wonder for a minute if I had accidentally wandered into the wrong genre.

Poppy is fired from her job as a nanny in the middle of a night on Ibiza. With nowhere to go and no means of returning to England, she ends up in a bar by the road and this is where she meets Drew. He’s a fair bit older than her, attractive and apparently money is no issue. I mean, come on, every young girl’s dream, right? What follows is a whirlwind romance. However, Drew suggests they don’t tell each other anything about their past, to live in the present, and nothing about their past is important to them in the here and now. Now, I don’t know about you but I was hearing a deafening alarm bell in my head at that point. Because, yes, Poppy has a secret but surely Drew wouldn’t make a suggestion like this if he didn’t have something to hide as well?

On their return to England, Poppy is indeed living the dream. Fancy house, no need to work but why do the people in the village avoid her? What is it about this house? What is Poppy hiding? And is Drew everything he seems to be? So many questions!

Truth Hurts is one of those books you end up carrying with you everywhere because once you start reading, it’s incredibly hard to put down. It’s extremely addictive and captivating. While quite a bit of it is somewhat of a gushy love-fest for a non-romantic like myself, there is a constant sense of impending doom. A little threatening vibe, a ticking bomb you know will explode at some point but you don’t know when and you don’t know why.

Poppy’s secret is revealed bit by bit through flashback chapters. While I didn’t particularly like her, it was easy enough to sympathise with her and especially with the way she felt like a fish out of water in this new life of hers. Drew, on the other hand, remains a mystery and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why he so blatantly refused to talk about his past. Just imagine how odd it would be to be in a relationship with someone and not even know which school they went to, which subjects they learned or where they grew up.

Rebecca Reid manages to build up the suspension bit by bit until you’re flipping the pages faster and faster and then ….. There’s a delicious sting in the tail that completely blew my socks off! Full of intrigue and mystery, Truth Hurts is an extremely engrossing and gripping psychological thriller with a dash of romance that even I, lacking that romantic bone in my body, heartily approved of and the kind of book that tempts you to just read one more chapter. And then another one.

My thanks to Becky at Transworld for the review copy!

Truth Hurts is available to buy!

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