In The Absence of Miracles by Michael Malone | @michaelJmalone1 @OrendaBooks

Delighted to welcome you all to my stop on the blog tour for In The Absence of Miracles by Michael Malone today! My thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda for the fabulous review copy and to Anne Cater for the opportunity to join the tour.

Author : Michael Malone
Title : In The Absence of Miracles
Pages : 300
Publisher : Orenda Books
Publication date : September 19, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

John Docherty’s mother has just been taken into a nursing home following a massive stroke and she’s unlikely to be able to live independently again. With no other option than to sell the family home, John sets about packing up everything in the house. In sifting through the detritus of his family’s past he’s forced to revisit, and revise his childhood. For in a box, in the attic, he finds undeniable truth that he had a brother who disappeared when he himself was only a toddler. A brother no one ever mentioned. A brother he knew absolutely nothing about.

A discovery that sets John on a journey from which he may never recover. For sometimes in that space where memory should reside there is nothing but silence, smoke and ash. And in the absence of truth, in the absence of a miracle, we turn to prayer. And to violence. 

| MY THOUGHTS |

Michael Malone is an author who is not afraid to tackle the tough topics, the ones that are still somewhat of a taboo and not talked about enough, the ones that are often hard to read and make you feel uncomfortable. If you’ve read A Suitable Lie, then you know this. So, how much further could Michael Malone push that discomfort limit, you wonder? Well, quite a bit, as it turns out.

John Docherty seems like your everyday guy, dealing with everyday issues. His mother has just been moved into a nursing home and John has no option but to sell the family home to pay for the costs. But when he starts packing up the house, he stumbles upon a box which reveals a massive family secret. It looks like John had a brother. A brother who disappeared when John himself was a toddler. A brother who was never talked about again and one John can’t remember at all. What happened to this brother? John’s journey to find out reveals far more than he bargained for.

In The Absence of Miracles is one of those books that doesn’t fit neatly into just one genre. It’s part domestic noir, it’s a whole lot of suspense, it’s a bit crime thriller-ish and offers tremendous psychological insight as well. And at the centre of it all, is one of the most dysfunctional families you’ll ever meet, with characters that are put through the wringer and the reader right alongside with them. I must say I wasn’t prepared for the emotional impact this story would have on me.

As always, there is way more to this story than you’d first expect because that is something this author does extremely well. There are multiple layers that need to be unraveled, pieces of the puzzle that need to be fitted together and a mystery to solve. Throughout it all, I often vacillated from anger to sadness to frustration and back again, and ended up feeling quite drained at the end of it all and in desperate need of something fluffy.

Sometimes shocking, always haunting and immensely compelling, In The Absence of Miracles is another stroke of genius from Michael Malone. Extremely dark with a tough topic, albeit it done with the utmost sensitivity, John’s story is bound to stay with you for a long, long time. Michael Malone is one of those authors who always delivers and I can’t wait to see what’s next!

In The Absence of Miracles is available to buy!

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

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotlandand Markings

Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes Carnegie’s CallA Taste for MaliceThe Guillotine ChoiceBeyond the Rage;The Bad Samaritan and Dog Fight. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines and After He Died soon followed suit.

A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. Michael lives in Ayr.

What You Did by Claire McGowan | @inkstainsclaire @AmazonPub @EmmaFinnigan @damppebbles | #damppebblesblogtours

Delighted to host a stop on the blog tour for What You Did by Claire McGowan today! My thanks to Emma Welton at Damppebbles Tours for the invitation to join and to the publisher for my review copy!

Author : Claire McGowan
Title : What You Did
Pages : 308
Publisher : Thomas & Mercer
Publication date : August 1, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

It was supposed to be the perfect reunion: six university friends together again after twenty years. Host Ali finally has the life she always wanted, a career she can be proud of and a wonderful family with her college boyfriend, now husband. But that night her best friend makes an accusation so shocking that nothing will ever be the same again.

When Karen staggers in from the garden, bleeding and traumatised, she claims that she has been assaulted—by Ali’s husband, Mike. Ali must make a split-second decision: who should she believe? Her horrified husband, or her best friend? With Mike offering a very different version of events, Ali knows one of them is lying—but which? And why?

When the ensuing chaos forces her to re-examine the golden era the group shared at university, Ali realises there are darker memories too. Memories that have lain dormant for decades. Memories someone would kill to protect.

| MY THOUGHTS |

Hoo, boy! Talk about a book you can’t put down!

Six university friends meet up for a reunion after twenty years. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before in another book review but it bears repeating : reunions are bad! Nothing ever goes the way you think it will. We’re not just talking about people changing, having nothing in common anymore, petty jealousies and the like. Oh no, this reunion right here is a total disaster!

It all starts when Karen staggers in from the garden, traumatised and bleeding, saying she’s been raped. Bad enough. But Karen claims her attacker is none other than her best friend Ali’s husband, Mike. Who should Karen believe? Her best friend who’s always been there for her? Or her husband who’s given her more than she ever could have imagined?

I rather quickly came up with a theory but I was left to second-guess myself at every turn throughout the story. It didn’t help that I didn’t particularly liked Karen and was unsure whether I could trust her version of events. That seemed rather apt though, considering Ali’s standpoint. She works for a Women’s Refuge, has experience in the field of domestic abuse and dealing with rape victims and yet, it was fascinating to see her doubts, to see her almost go against everything she stands for because things are just so different when they involve people you know and love.

To get a feel for the dynamics in these friendships, we are also taken back to the nineties, when the six friends were at university. But there are darker memories, things that suddenly look rather different now and an accumulation of bad decisions that may just come back to haunt Ali and her friends.

Full of secrets, lies and deceit, my loyalties kept shifting. It’s just impossible to determine which one of these friends can be trusted. From the very first page, What You Did is extremely addictive and utterly compelling. Claire McGowan has delivered a truly clever plot and a fantastic page turner. This is definitely one to read in one glorious sitting, if you can! And just when you think it’s all over, there’s a delightful little sting in its tail. This is often such a tricky genre but I think Claire McGowan nailed it. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and I can’t wait to read more by her!

What You Did will be published on August 1st.

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

| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |

Born in Northern Ireland in 1981, Claire McGowan studied in Oxford, then lived overseas in France and China. She is the author of standalone thriller The Fall, and the Paula Maguire series, including The Lost, The Dead Ground, The Silent Dead, A Savage Hunger, Blood Tide, and The Killing House. The Paula Maguire series was optioned by the BBC in 2014. A ten-part radio drama written by Claire was broadcast on Radio 4 in early 2019, and as a screenwriter she was selected as the 2017/18 Nickelodeon International Writing Fellow.

Claire set up the Crime Thriller Writing MA at City University, London, and has also taught for the Arvon Foundation, Guardian Masterclasses and at many literary festivals.

As Eva Woods, she has published four women’s fiction novels, including the bestselling How To Be Happy.

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing | @MichaelJBooks

Author : Samantha Downing
Title : My Lovely Wife
Pages : 377
Publisher : Michael Joseph
Publication date : March 26, 2019 (ebook)

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Every marriage has secrets. Everyone has flaws. Your wife isn’t perfect – you know that – but then again nor are you.

But now a serial killer is on the loose in your small town, preying on young women. Fear is driving your well-behaved young daughter off the rails, and you find yourself in bed late at night, looking at the woman who lies asleep beside you.

Because you thought you knew the worst about her. The truth is you know nothing at all.

| MY THOUGHTS |

It is not easy to stand out from the crowd in the domestic thriller genre but Samantha Downing manages it with flying colours. My Lovely Wife is incredibly refreshing and also insanely hard to review without giving anything away so this will be relatively short.

Simon and his wife Millicent seem to be living the average suburban life. They both have jobs, two children and while money may be a little tight sometimes, they seem perfectly happy. But as we all know by now, things are never truly what they seem. And then the body of a young woman is found in an abandoned hotel. For one teeny-tiny nanosecond, I thought I knew exactly what was going on but I was proven wrong quickly and not at all prepared for the devious plot that was coming my way.

There’s quite a lot going on in this story. Not only is there a serial killer on the loose but there’s also the impact this has on children, the relentless media and, through it all, is the the most dysfunctional marriage ever. All these things combined make this an addictive read that I just couldn’t put down. I realised early on there was no way I’d figure out where this was heading or how it would end.

Dark, disturbing and hugely compelling The Lovely Wife took me completely by surprise. There are plenty of twists to keep you hooked until the final page. This is one of those books you definitely should not start reading if you’re short of time. What a fantastic debut by Samantha Downing and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!

My Lovely Wife is available in ebook format now!

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

Dying To See You by Kerena Swan @KerenaSwan @Bloodhoundbook #blogblitz #guestpost

It’s a pleasure to welcome you to my stop on the blog blitz for Dying To See You by Kerena Swan. The author visits the blog with a fabulous post on how well you really know someone. But first, here is what Kerena Swan’s debut novel is all about.

My thanks to Kerena Swan and Sarah Hardy at Bloodhound Books!

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Author : Kerena Swan
Title : Dying To See You
Pages : 328
Publisher : Bloodhound Books
Publication date : April 25, 2018

aboutthebook

He’s Watching. He’s Waiting. She’s next.

When Sophie is told to organize care for elderly Ivy, she is unaware that by meeting Max, Ivy’s grandson, her life will be turned upside down.

As Sophie’s involvement with Max and Ivy increases, she becomes more distracted by her own problems. Because Sophie is certain she is being watched.

For a while, Ivy relishes Sophie’s attention but soon grows concerned about the budding relationship between Sophie and Max. Torn between Sophie and his grandmother, Max cuts ties with the care agency, leaving Sophie hurt and confused.

Meanwhile, there is a murderer killing women in the area. Is there a link between Sophie’s stalker and the killings? Soon Sophie will learn that appearances can be deceiving.

Amazon US | Amazon UKGoodreads

guestpost

Dying to See You – or am I?

When people ask what inspired my book, Dying to See You, I tell them a piece of paper. The usual response is, ‘Eh?’ but then I explain.

Picture the scene. I’m in my office looking down at that piece of paper which is the sort of certificate commonly known as a police check relating to a potential employee for  my social care agency. In the section headed, ‘Police Records of Convictions, Caution, reprimands and Warnings’ I’m pleased to see the words, ‘None recorded’.

Great, I think, smiling. I can employ this person. All is right with the world.

But is it?

It’s an interesting term, ‘None Recorded.’ All sorts of possibilities surround it:

  • The person has committed many a crime but got away with it. The Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, killed thirteen women before the law caught up with him. Fred and Rose West went undetected for years too as the bodies stacked up in and around their house in Gloucester.
  • The person hasn’t committed a crime yet but who knows what darkness is festering away inside them ready to burst or creep out at some point in the future?
  • The person has stolen someone else’s identity.
  • The person has a criminal past elsewhere in the world.

It’s scary stuff.

Looking back on my own life, there have been times when I’ve learned things about people that surprised me. One was abused by her husband. Another was stealing stuff from work. Others had aspirations to be an Elvis impressionist or sit in a bath of baked beans. Whatever the issue, the fact is that I fell for the appearance of smiling contentment. I didn’t scratch the surface. I didn’t dig deep.  I don’t think I’ve met anyone who harbours secret serial killing tendencies but do I actually know that I haven’t?

I’ve taken chances on people and none more so than my husband who I met in a music bar. My sister-in-law had persuaded me to go out for the evening as I was becoming a bit of a recluse. I was a single parent at the time with a teenage daughter and a nine month old baby.

I never feel comfortable in busy places so I clutched my drink and prayed she wouldn’t suggest we dance. As a distraction I asked her to spot the best looking bloke and she pointed to a tall, dark-haired man standing alone. She’d chosen well because he was stunning. When he walked past me later in the evening, still on his own – Eek! I drew him into a conversation and by the end of the night we had arranged to call each other. I was flattered that such an engaging and well-mannered guy would be interested in boring old me.

A severe bout of flu meant it was two weeks before I was able to meet him again and before he arrived at my front door I struggled to remember what he was like. I wasn’t disappointed. I allowed him into my home and introduced him to my children. We went for meals and really enjoyed each other’s company.

One niggling worry I had at the time was I hadn’t met anyone who knew him so I had no way of verifying he was who he said he was. He could have been a maniacal knife wielder for all I knew. In fact, it was six whole months before I met his work colleagues at a Christmas party and then his parents who confirmed he was telling the truth. In the early 1990’s we didn’t have the internet to search for people to check their identities and levels of honesty.

I trusted my gut instincts (well, he loved his cat so he must be OK) and like most people those days, and even today, I took a risk. Clearly, you will have gathered from what I’ve already said that my instinct was sound and he has proven to be a wonderful husband, father to my children and business partner. We also have a son between us.

I was lucky though. Not everyone is so how can we find out if the person we’re allowing into our lives and giving access to our children is harmless? In my story Sophie meets a man who she thinks is the perfect gentleman. He makes her feel valued, interesting and beautiful but most of all he makes her feel safe.

Sophie’s daughter is less impressed and not so easily won over so Sophie does her best to check out Max’s credentials. In a world of social media and public knowledge of people’s lives there are still individuals out there who step back into the shadows and avoid Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp. Max was one of them.

I, personally, have only started a Facebook account in the past four months and my husband says he’d rather ‘hack a leg off with a rusty saw’ than open one. Having teenage children and grandchildren has widened my eyes to what is out there and I’m beginning to realise the benefits but I can fully understand the middle and older generation’s mistrust of hanging out personal details on the public washing line. My father-in-law still doesn’t trust the internet enough to make purchases online and pales at the thought of internet banking.

So how does someone like Sophie find out about a man with no social media presence? When I started writing this blog I thought there were agencies around that offered a checking service but despite surfing the net for an hour I’m struggling to find one that isn’t a private investigative agency offering tracking devices and call monitoring. I found some that offer to check out prospective employees or tenants but not boyfriends or lovers. And besides, isn’t seeking out the background of a potential lover the ultimate passion killer?

What if the person finds out you’ve been checking up on them? How will that help build a foundation of trust in the relationship? With the growth of online dating sites and the lessening of mutual friends, we lose the personal endorsement of meeting shared acquaintances and this is a big worry as my earlier experiences demonstrated. In my story Sophie is asked to arrange support for Ivy, Max’s frail grandmother, and Sophie can at least see first-hand what a loving, caring man he is. Or is he?

But did you know one in five new relationships begins online?

So, if there are no agencies that check people out for you, (or maybe you know of one or you’re now rushing out to start one – I’d call it CheckMate by the way), how about some simple rules for yourself? I’ve been asking around for tips on how to stay safe and how to stay aware so I’ll share them with you in the hope that you’ll find them useful… (I’ve put ‘he’ for ease of reading but it could be ‘she’)

  1. Speak to him on the phone. Don’t just text. Ask for his full name and what he does for a living.
  2. Google his name and see if you have any mutual friends.
  3. Meet in a public place.
  4. Pre-plan your journey home so you can decline a lift.
  5. Have a friend on SOS standby.
  6. Make sure your phone is fully charged.
  7. Trust your instincts. If he says stuff like ‘I’m between jobs’ and ‘You can trust me’ or his stories are inconsistent you should listen to those ringing alarm bells.
  8. Leave early if you are not happy.
  9. Don’t leave your drink unattended. Finish it before you go to the bathroom.
  10. Don’t drink too much.

Okay, so you’ve swiped right on a date matching app and so has he, you’ve exchanged contact details, you’ve arranged to meet somewhere busy and you’ve had a friend on SOS standby. The date goes well and you’ve got on like a hay barn and a pyromaniac but you still don’t know if he is who he says he is. What can you do next?

Well, you could check out his birth records by going on one of the ancestry websites or find out if he’s married by visiting www.myheritage.com. You could check his work’s website and try to meet up with his friends.

What you don’t want to do is become an obsessive, stalking bunny boiler. It’s good to take precautions to keep yourself safe but stay rational and respect their privacy. Step back from time to time and look at the relationship like your friends might. It’s easy to lose sight of the wallpaper pattern when your nose is pressed to the wall.

And lastly, please don’t worry if you’re exploring care options for your nearest and dearest. A police check is just one thing in a wide range of security measures we take.

[Boy, am I glad I’m not on the dating scene! I forgot how much of a minefield it can be😄. Great and handy tips though. Be safe out there, ladies and gents! Thank you so much for stopping by, Kerena, and I wish you the best of luck with your debut!]

abouttheauthor

Kerena lives on the Bedfordshire/Buckingham border with her husband, son and two cats. She also has two daughters and two granddaughters.

12 years ago, following a life-time career in social work and management, Kerena set up a company providing support for children with disabilities.  Highly successful, the company is rated ‘Outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission, which Kerena considers her greatest achievement thus far. However, following serious illnesses last year she decided to attempt to fulfil her long-held ambition of writing a novel and getting it published. She has yet to tick off other achievements from her bucket list such as playing Moonlight Sonata on the piano all the way through and being stopped for speeding in a red Ferrari at the age of 80 but can tick off building a brick wall.

After many years of writing professionally in the course of her work, Kerena has discovered the exhilaration of writing fiction and can be found at all hours in front of her computer.  Her husband (worried about his dinners being cooked) has threatened divorce if she writes another book so she’s told him she will write a trilogy.

‘Dying to See You’ is Kerena’s first novel and she has already started work on her second book ‘I Let You In’.  Drawing on her extensive knowledge and experience in the problematic world of social work, Kerena adds a unique angle to the domestic noir genre.

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