Some of my most anticipated books of 2019

At the end of last year, I mentioned doing a post focusing on some of my most anticipated releases for the new year. Since then, it seems everyone and their dog has done a post like that so obviously my idea wasn’t as original as I thought it was. Anyway, I decided to share this list regardless and hopefully you’ll find something that will pique your interest.

Listed by publication date for digital and hardcover copies.

| JANUARY |

Steve Cavanagh – Twisted
Matt Wesolowski – Changeling
Will Dean – Red Snow
Steph Broadribb – Deep Dirty Truth
Diane Setterfield – Once Upon A River

| FEBRUARY |

Angela Marsons – Dead Memories
Jo Spain – Dirty Little Secrets
Stacey Halls – The Familiars
Louise Beech – Call Me Star Girl
C.J. Tudor – The Taking of Annie Thorne
Alex Michaelides – The Silent Patient

| APRIL |

Gillian McAllister – The Evidence Against You

| MAY |

Stuart MacBride – All That’s Dead
Alison Weir – Anna of Kleve : Queen of Secrets
Sarah Hilary – Never Be Broken
Melanie Golding – Little Darlings

| JUNE |

Karin Slaughter – The Last Widow
Alex North – The Whisper Man

| JULY |

Riley Sager – Lock Every Door

| UNKNOWN |

Sharon Bolton – The Poisoner

This is a weird one but I’ve included it anyway. I could have sworn the original publication date was May but Amazon now lists it as December 2020, which quite frankly I refuse to believe because I WANT IT NOW!

Honourable mention to Johana Gustawsson and the third book in the Roy & Castells series.

I have a feeling it’s going to be a great bookish year once again! Which book(s) are you looking forward to the most? Do let me know and I hope you’ve found something in this list that caught your eye. Happy reading! xx

My Top 20 Favourite Reads of 2018

What an absolutely amazing year for books it has been! 

Just like last year, I thought splitting things up between series and stand-alones would help narrow down the list but nope. A Top 10 was never going to happen here. Despite the fact that my reading mojo was up and down like a bloody yo-yo all year, I still managed to read 250 books. Sure, that’s 50 less than last year but do I care? Clue : no, I don’t 😉

Anyway, I present to you My Top 20 Favourite (stand-alone) Reads of 2018. With apologies to the authors/books I had to drop from the list.

In no particular order, except for the Top 5, here we go!

Phoebe Locke – The Tall Man [my review]
Louise Voss – The Old You [my review]
Linwood Barclay – A Noise Downstairs [my review]
Mark Edwards – The Retreat [my review]

Ane Riel – Resin [no review]
Joanna Cannon – Three Things About Elsie [no review]
Gillian McAllister – No Further Questions [my review]
Shari Lapena – An Unwanted Guest [my review]

Lesley Kara – The Rumour [review to follow]
Karin Slaughter – Pieces of Her [my review]
SJI Holliday – The Lingering [my review]
Elly Griffiths – The Stranger Diaries [review to follow]

Gill Paul – The Lost Daughter [my review]
Louise Beech – The Lion Tamer Who Lost [my review]
Rachel Rhys – Fatal Inheritance [my review]

Top 5

5. C.J. Tudor – The Chalk Man [my review]
4. Ruth Ware – The Death of Mrs Westaway [my review]
3. Liz Nugent – Skin Deep [my review]
2. Elizabeth Haynes – The Murder of Harriet Monckton [my review]

My favourite book of the year is …

I don’t think this comes as a huge surprise. When I read this back in February, I said it would take something insanely special to knock this off the top spot. Skin Deep and Harriet Monckton came awfully close but in the end, “Agatha Christie on crack” won out. [my review]

A massive thank you to all the authors, publishers and Netgalley for making 2018 so spectacular! And to you, my fellow bloggers and readers, huge thanks for the support, for visiting and for commenting! ❤️

The Lost Daughter by Gill Paul @GillPaulAUTHOR @headlinepg @annecater #blogtour #TheLostDaughter #mustread #recommended

I am beyond delighted and extremely honoured to kick off the blog tour for The Lost Daughter by Gill Paul today! Huge thanks to Anne Cater for the invitation to join and to the publisher for my review copy!

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Author : Gill Paul
Title : The Lost Daughter
Pages : 440
Publisher : Headline
Publication date : October 18, 2018 (UK paperback)

aboutthebook

1918. With the country they once ruled turned against them, the future of the Romanov family hangs in the balance. When middle daughter Maria captures the attention of two of the guards, it will lead to the ultimate choice between right and wrong….

Fifty-five years later…

‘I didn’t want to kill her’. With these cryptic words Val’s father dies, leaving her to unravel a mystery which unites two families who have faced unspeakable tragedy and perhaps to finally offer an explanation which has been long overdue.

mythoughts

Gosh, I don’t think I can put into words how much I loved The Lost Daughter. As soon as I finished the final page, I wanted to talk to someone about it, say “Oh my god, this novel, you have to read this now!”. Then I sat down to write my review, and poof, all my words were gone. I couldn’t seem to get past “amazing”, “awesome”, “brilliant” … which are all true but I’m guessing a review should have a few more words, right?

There are a few authors for whom I’d happily drop whatever it is I’m doing or reading and Gill Paul is, without a doubt, one of them. I knew that from the second I discovered her work. Picking up one of her novels always fills me with joy and excitement because I know she will take me on the most delightful journey. High anticipations, you ask? Check! But all of them were met and then some.

In The Secret Wife, Gill Paul already introduced us to the Romanov family and their dramatic circumstances. That story was centred around Tatiana Romanova and if you haven’t yet read it, you most definitely should as it is a brilliant novel. This time around, in The Lost Daughter, the focus is on the middle child of the family, Maria. And it’s an even more brilliant novel! Yes, that’s right, I said it. And used the “brilliant” word again. I must add that I loved how Gill Paul tied these two novels together with little references to Tatiana’s story.

We meet Maria in 1918, a most turbulent time in Russia. There’s been a revolution and people have turned on the royal family. Tsar Nicholas, his wife and children are prisoners of the new regime. Their circumstances are very different from what they’re used to. Maria is nineteen years old and a lovely, bubbly chatterbox who seems to be able to make friends with just about anyone. I warmed to her from the start as she’s a truly likeable character. But what will become of her?

The other thread of The Lost Daughter has us traveling all the way to Australia, where we meet Val. When she gets a phone call from the nursing home where her father is a resident, she decides to visit him although it’s been years since they last talked. But his words “I didn’t want to kill her” leave Val with a mystery to solve and set in motion a lot of changes in her life. Who was her father really? What secrets was he hiding?

From the first page, I found myself transported into the lives of Maria and Val, both extremely realistic and believable characters. I couldn’t quite see how the two threads of the story would come together but the road to get there was just marvellous.

This exquisitely written novel had me utterly engrossed and throughout the story, I often found myself with a lump in my throat. The Lost Daughter is a story across the ages and country borders about love, family, war, loss, survival and hope. But also about the strength of women, in sometimes horrifying circumstances. It is immensely absorbing, moving and powerful and I couldn’t tear myself away. When I flipped the final page, there was a happy sigh, a “wow” and then a little bit of sadness that I had come to the end.

I can’t even begin to imagine the painstaking amount of research Gill Paul must have gone through to come up with this incredibly captivating tale. If you are a fan of this genre, I can honestly not recommend her books enough. This is undoubtedly historical fiction from the top shelf and whenever Gill Paul publishes her next novel, I will be first in line!

The Lost Daughter will be available in paperback on October 18th.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Bookdepository | Kobo | Wordery | Goodreads

abouttheauthor

Gill Paul is an author of historical fiction, specialising in relatively recent history.

She was born in Glasgow and grew up there, apart from an eventful year at school in the US when she was ten. She studied Medicine at Glasgow University, then English Literature and History (she was a student for a long time), before moving to London to work in publishing. She started her own company producing books for publishers, along the way editing such luminaries as Griff Rhys Jones, John Suchet, John Julius Norwich, Ray Mears and Eartha Kitt. She also writes on health, nutrition and relationships.

Gill swims year-round in an open-air pond – “It’s good for you so long as it doesn’t kill you”– and is a devotee of Pilates. She also particularly enjoys travelling on what she calls “research trips” and attempting to match-make for friends.

Author links : Facebook | Twitter

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This Week in Books (October 10)

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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

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The Murder of Harriet Monckton is based on a true story that shocked and fascinated the nation.

On 7th November 1843, Harriet Monckton, 23 years old and a woman of respectable parentage and religious habits, was found murdered in the privy behind the dissenting chapel she had regularly attended in Bromley, Kent. The community was appalled by her death, apparently as a result of swallowing a fatal dose of prussic acid, and even more so when the autopsy revealed that Harriet was six months pregnant.

Drawing on the coroner’s reports and witness testimonies, the novel unfolds from the viewpoints of each of the main characters, each of whom have a reason to want her dead. Harriet Monckton had at least three lovers and several people were suspected of her murder, including her close companion and fellow teacher, Miss Frances Williams. The scandal ripped through the community, the murderer was never found and for years the inhabitants of Bromley slept less soundly.

This rich, robust novel is full of suggestion and suspicion, with the innocent looking guilty and the guilty hiding behind their piety. It is also a novel that exposes the perilous position of unmarried women, the scandal of sex out of wedlock and the hypocrisy of upstanding, church-going folk.

[And it is absolutely FANTASTIC!]

The book I’m currently reading

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Three years ago, nurse Zoe’s son Ethan was found drowned in a muddy river by their home, along with his best friend Josh. With no witnesses, their deaths were ruled a tragic accident.

Heartbroken, Zoe and her family, move away from her home. They’re just beginning to get back to some kind of normality, when, out of the blue, Zoe receives an anonymous email:

You need to find out the truth about what happened to your son. Don’t let this rest. Don’t believe the lie.

Shaken, Zoe starts an obsessive hunt for the truth. But why is her husband so reluctant to help?
And why is Josh’s mother so determined not to believe her?

What I’m (most definitely) reading next

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1918. With the country they once ruled turned against them, the future of the Romanov family hangs in the balance. When middle daughter Maria captures the attention of two of the guards, it will lead to the ultimate choice between right and wrong….

Fifty-five years later…

‘I didn’t want to kill her’. With these cryptic words Val’s father dies, leaving her to unravel a mystery which unites two families who have faced unspeakable tragedy and perhaps to finally offer an explanation which has been long overdue.

[So ridiculously excited to finally see this one near the top of my TBR. I love Gill Paul!]

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

The Night She Died by Jenny Blackhurst @JennyBlackhurst @headlinepg #TheNightSheDied #NetGalley

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Author : Jenny Blackhurst
Title : The Night She Died
Pages : 304
Publisher : Headline
Publication date : September 6, 2018 (ebook)

aboutthebook

On her own wedding night, beautiful and complicated Evie White leaps off a cliff to her death.

What drove her to commit this terrible act? It’s left to her best friend and her husband to unravel the sinister mystery.

Following a twisted trail of clues leading to Evie’s darkest secrets, they begin to realize they never knew the real Evie at all…

mythoughts

This is one of those stories where I thought I had it all figured out, only to change my mind about a dozen times throughout the book as Jenny Blackhurst deftly creates a sinister tale of love, obsession and deceit.

On the night of her wedding day, Evie White jumps off a cliff to her death. Her new husband, Richard, and best friend, Rebecca, are devastated. But what would prompt Evie to do something so drastic on what is supposed to be the best day of her life?

Through chapters set in the past, we get a glimpse into Evie’s life. A life of the rich and privileged but also one with an absent mother and an overprotective father. Evie has secrets and is adept at portraying the kind of person she’s supposed to be depending on the circumstances she finds herself in. So how well did Richard and Rebecca really know her?

As Rebecca and Richard try to deal with the aftermath of Evie’s death, it becomes quite clear Rebecca isn’t all she seems either. It looks like she may be harbouring secrets of her own, things she might know but isn’t saying. Meanwhile, as more details about that night surface, police officers are wondering if maybe Evie wasn’t pushed. Is Richard a suspect?

I don’t want to say anything else as I’m way too worried I’ll give something away. Suffice to say The Night She Died is an incredibly compelling and addictive psychological thriller that I devoured in one sitting. I found myself sympathising with some characters and eying others suspiciously. With a devilish, twist-y and brilliantly executed plot, this is one heck of a page turner and it comes with a most delicious sting in its tail.

I’d go as far as to say I think this is Jenny Blackhurst’s best one yet and I absolutely can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

My thanks to the publisher for my review copy, which I received via Netgalley.

The Night She Died is out in ebook format tomorrow!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Goodreads

This Week in Books (August 29)

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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

36241603

On her own wedding night, beautiful and complicated Evie White leaps off a cliff to her death.

What drove her to commit this terrible act? It’s left to her best friend and her husband to unravel the sinister mystery.

Following a twisted trail of clues leading to Evie’s darkest secrets, they begin to realize they never knew the real Evie at all…


The book I’m currently reading

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LONDON, 1590. Queen Elizabeth I’s control over her kingdom is wavering. Amidst a tumultuous backdrop of Spanish plotters, Catholic heretics and foreign wars threatening the country’s fragile stability, the body of a small boy is found in the City of London, with strange marks that no one can explain.

When idealistic physician Nicholas Shelby finds another body displaying the same marks only days later, he becomes convinced that a killer is at work, preying on the weak and destitute of London.

Determined to find out who is behind these terrible murders, Nicholas is joined in his investigations by Bianca, a mysterious tavern keeper. As more bodies are discovered, the pair find themselves caught in the middle of a sinister plot. With the killer still at large, and Bianca in terrible danger, Nicholas’s choice seems impossible – to save Bianca, or save himself…


What I’m (most definitely
) reading next

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There is a place in Minnesota with hundreds of miles of glacial lakes and untouched forests called the Boundary Waters. Ten years ago a man and his son trekked into this wilderness and never returned.

Search teams found their campsite ravaged by what looked like a bear. They were presumed dead until a decade later…the son appeared. Discovered while ransacking an outfitter store, he was violent and uncommunicative and sent to a psychiatric facility. Maya Stark, the assistant language therapist, is charged with making a connection with their high-profile patient. No matter how she tries, however, he refuses to answer questions about his father or the last ten years of his life

But Maya, who was abandoned by her own mother, has secrets, too. And as she’s drawn closer to this enigmatic boy who is no longer a boy, she’ll risk everything to reunite him with his father who has disappeared from the known world.

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

The Girl in the Letter by Emily Gunnis @EmilyGunnis @headlinepg @annecater #blogtour #RandomThingsTours

Delighted to host a stop on the blog tour for The Girl in the Letter by Emily Gunnis today! My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for the invitation to join and to the publisher for my review copy.

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Author : Emily Gunnis
Title : The Girl in the Letter
Pages : 384
Publisher : Headline
Publication date : August 1, 2018

aboutthebook

In the winter of 1956 pregnant young Ivy is sent in disgrace to St Margaret’s, a home for unmarried mothers in the south of England, run by nuns, to have her child. Her baby daughter is adopted. Ivy will never leave.

Sixty years later, journalist Samantha stumbles upon a series of letters from Ivy to her lover, pleading with him to rescue her from St Margaret’s before it is too late. As Sam pieces together Ivy’s tragic story, terrible secrets about St Margaret’s dark past begin to emerge. What happened to Ivy, to her baby, and to the hundreds of children born in the home? What links a number of mysterious, sudden deaths in the area? And why are those who once worked at St Margaret’s so keen that the truth should never be told? As Sam unpicks the sinister web of lies surrounding St Margaret’s, she also looks deep within – to confront some unwelcome truths of her own…

mythoughts

Wow! The Girl in the Letter has left me rather speechless and let me tell you that doesn’t happen very often. I feel quite lost for words and slightly incapable of forming any kind of coherent sentence, nor do I have a clue as to how to do this novel justice.

In her debut novel, Emily Gunnis tackles one of the most disturbing topics in history. That of the mother and baby homes, where single expecting mothers were sent to give birth away from the disapproving eyes of relatives and neighbours. They were often forced to give their babies up for adoption with no hope of ever seeing them again.

The story starts in 1956 when young Ivy is sent to St. Margaret’s. Abandoned by her family and the boy who got her pregnant, the circumstances in which she finds herself are utterly devastating.  Sixty years later, reporter Samantha stumbles upon letters written by Ivy while at the mother and baby home. Samantha senses there’s a story here that needs to be told. What happened to Ivy? Where is Ivy’s baby? What secrets and lies hide behind the walls of the home?

I don’t want to give too much away about the plot. Yes, there are a few mysteries to be solved and questions to be answered but to be honest, they all kind of melted into the background for me. This was all so realistic and believable, as history has proven it to be, that it near had me in bits. Ivy’s letters are immensely harrowing and the events she describes are incredibly disturbing. I can’t even begin to imagine the hardship of daily life at the home, the loss of a child. Not just at the home but also in later life. It’s devastating to realise that so many people got away with these atrocities.

The Girl in the Letter is a thought-provoking, moving and utterly heartbreaking novel that nearly had me in tears. It made me sad, it made me angry and it’s a novel I won’t be forgetting in a hurry. I’m not entirely sure I’ve managed to get across the impact this novel had on me but I do so hope I’ve said enough to make you want to pick this one up. This is an absolutely incredible debut novel by Emily Gunnis and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

The Girl in the Letter is available to buy!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Bookdepository | Kobo | Goodreads

abouttheauthor

I’ve wanted to be an author since my mum, Penny Vincenzi, got her first book deal when I was 13. We’d spend hours walking and talking about the worlds her characters inhabited and unpicking any plot dead ends she’d found herself in. I absolutely loved it – this is what I wanted to do!

Fast forward 30 years and I’ve discovered it’s a great deal harder than my mother made it look! But still, here I am.

After graduating I wrote scripts and had two episodes of BBC Doctors commissioned but didn’t like all the input from Script Editors and Producers. So, while I worked in various PA jobs I decided to go for it and just kept learning as much as I could until I sold my debut novel, The Girl in the Letter, which is published on eBook on 1st August 2018 and paperback in April 2019. I really hope you enjoy it, and my follow-up novel which I’m busy researching now!

I live in Sussex with my husband Steve and our two beautiful girls, Grace and Eleanor.

Author links : Facebook | Twitter

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Playing With Death by Simon Scarrow & Lee Francis @SimonScarrow @headlinepg @annecater #blogtour #excerpt #RandomThingsTours

It’s a pleasure to welcome you all to my stop on the blog tour for Playing With Death by Simon Scarrow and Lee Francis! My thanks to Anne Cater for the invitation to join and for the extract I’ll be sharing with you, right after I tell you what the book is all about.

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Author : Simon Scarrow
Title : Playing With Death
Pages : 400
Publisher : Headline
Publication date : July 26, 2018

aboutthebook

A UNEXPLAINED DEATH

The discovery of a horribly mutilated corpse launches FBI Agent Rose Blake into a puzzling investigation. The victim was alone at home with no signs of forced entry. Who – or what – burnt him to death?

THE GAME BEGINS

Strips of rubber melted to the body emerge as evidence that the victim was wearing The Skin, an innovation that takes users deep into a virtual world.

ESCAPE OR DIE…

When a body with identical wounds is discovered, Rose realises that in the darkest corners of the Dark Web, a brutal killer is playing a deadly game. A game with no rules – and no mercy. To stop it, Rose must play too…

extract

1

Seven months later
September

Rose is in the kitchen, peeling the cellophane from the tray of snacks. The scars on her hand have virtually disappeared. It’s been a cold day and she is wearing a thin wool sweater over her black pants. She takes a sip from her wine glass as she considers the arrangement on the tray and then moves a few of the sushi wraps so that the layout is neatly symmetrical. Outside, in the dining room, she can hear the voices of her husband, sister and father. Jeff ’s voice is deep, but loud, as he holds forth with an amusing tale of the latest scandal breaking on the Hill. The others listen in silence and then there is laughter.

Rose smiles. She loves him and she loves the fact that Jeff is popular. It allows her to bask in the satisfaction that he chose her for his wife when she felt he could have done better for himself. She still feels it, which is why she is determined to give him no reason to regret what she sees as his mistake. And why wouldn’t other women want Jeff for themselves? He is tall and athletic with a full head of light brown hair, almost blond, with a ready smile and devastating charm. He is intelligent and has a job with prestige, even if the salary is not in the big league. Jeff is taking a sabbatical from San Francisco State University to serve as social media adviser to Democratic senator Chris Keller, who is fighting to keep his seat in the Senate in Washington. If Jeff is on the winning side then he may go all the way with Keller. She is pleased at the thought that the best is yet to come for her husband. All going well, he might one day work at the White House.

The future of her own career is a source of less optimism.

Thirty-nine years old – three years younger than Jeff – she knows that the time she took off work to have their son, Robbie, and raise him through infancy until school age meant that she lost vital years of experience and seniority that pushed her promotion prospects back. Then there was the Koenig case . . . But there’s really no contest when she weighs up her love of her job against her love for her son. Her family comes first.

‘Rose, you about done out there?’ Jeff calls. ‘You’ve got three in here ready to sign up to Anorexics Anonymous.’

There is more laughter and Rose joins in, picking up the tray and crossing the kitchen before pushing the door open with her shoulder. The room beyond is large, and the walls are panelled, like many of the early-twentieth-century properties in the neighbourhood. Their house on Oak Avenue is in a pleasant, leafy suburb with views over San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge on the skyline.

Places have been set either side of the table. Opposite Rose’s seat is Jeff, grinning at her as he winks through his neat frameless glasses. Sitting next to him is Rose’s sister Scarlet, and next to her is their father, Harry Carson.

Scarlet, thirty-three, is short, with dark dyed copper hair and a voluptuous figure. The younger, more reckless, sister has recently divorced and is enjoying her new-found single status, especially as her oleaginous weasel of an attorney gouged her former husband for every available cent. She still works as a real-estate agent though. She is good with people and is skilled at closing deals. She tops her wine glass for the third time that evening, grabs her smartphone and takes a picture of herself posing with the wine glass.

‘Gotta get that on the ’gram,’ she says, before cropping the picture and applying a filter so her skin looks smoother. She slides the smartphone onto the table. Rose is concerned about her obsession with social media and has, on more than one occasion, asked her to limit her screen time in the presence of family.

Their father, seventy-two, a retired master sergeant from the marine corps, has salt and pepper hair. He sits quietly and Rose wonders if he is thinking about her mother, who disappeared without trace many years ago. It’s an open wound in the family, but one too painful to discuss. Harry is listening politely to Jeff, whose politics he does not share but has learned to tolerate for his daughter’s sake. There’s something about Harry’s expression that concerns Rose. A listlessness. He’s starting to forget things and is confused from time to time, and she hopes that he is not starting the slide into senility.

‘At last!’ Jeff pretends to gasp. ‘You had me worried there, girl. Thought you were gorging on the dainties and leaving the rest of us to starve.’

Scarlet shakes her head. ‘Hope the main course isn’t delayed the same way. Man, I’m hungry.’

‘You always are,’ says Harry, slipping her a fatherly wink.

Rose sets the tray down in the middle of the table and takes her seat. Her guests don’t wait to be asked and begin to eat. Scarlet reaches for a second snack as she glances at Rose.

‘So, Ro’, how’s business? Catch any more bad guys lately?’

Rose shrugs. ‘You know how it is. Ninety per cent paperwork, ten per cent TV reality show where we get to chase guys down dark alleys with guns and flashlights.’

‘Really?’ Scarlet arches a plucked eyebrow. ‘How about Mulder and Scully? They solved The X-Files case yet?’

‘Old joke, Scar. Don’t go there.’
‘So tell me, seriously. What’s new at the Bureau?’
She’s referring to the failed case that nearly cost Rose her life, that burned her out, that some of her colleagues had even quit the Bureau over. Shane Koenig. The serial killer who had been preying on women and a handful of men across the West Coast, videoing their deaths. One of the vlogging news sites, ‘The Gab’, had named him the Backwoods Butcher, which got picked up by the TV networks, leading to a surge in audience figures.

Rose is reluctant to say anything. Koenig slipped through their fingers and there has been no sign of him since. The grisly human remains recovered from the cabin and the video files on his laptop prove beyond doubt that Koenig is the Backwoods Butcher. And now he’s out there, Rose reflects bitterly, waiting for the right time to resume his serial killer career.

The online and press fallout had been vitriolic – the FBI Twitter feed is still a target for internet trolls lamenting the Bureau’s failure, and hers. But luckily her superior, Special Agent Flora Baptiste, stepped in. After a fairly ineffective psychological debrief, Baptiste had eased Rose’s workload for the last few months. From time to time Rose still mentors undercover agents in training, and with additional therapy on the quiet, she has just about made it work. She glances at Jeff, imploring him not to say anything about it. He smiles before reaching for the wine bottle and topping up the glasses. Scarlet leans forward.

‘Oh, come on, Rose. What’s the latest?’

For the last six months Koenig seemed to have been wiped from the face of the earth. All manner of surveillance had been running, including facial recognition, licence plates, GPS tracking, IP searches, but the task force had drawn a blank, despite intense pressure from the media and relatives of the victims. They’d even asked one of the technology giants to hack a cellphone recovered from the cabin, but the corporation denied their request and increased their encryption instead. The FBI’s Cyber team had tried to crack it, but they were unsuccessful.

There had been a chance to take him down. But Rose had blown it. She had taken her shot at Koenig and missed. She briefly closes her eyes, trying to shut out the rest of the thorny memory.

Sometimes, the monster wins.

Harry shifts in his seat. ‘Scarlet, please, maybe your sister doesn’t want to talk about all this.’

‘Oh, come on, Dad. Rose is a pro. She can handle it.’

Rose rolls her eyes at Scarlet. ‘If you must know, we found out what he was doing with the body parts. They were trophies. He’d store them in secret locations, burying them and then auctioning them online to the highest bidder. When the money was paid he’d release the geotag coordinates.’

Scarlet’s eyes open wide. ‘That’s gross . . .’

‘We didn’t release the details, but the media still got to hear about it somehow and . . . Well, I’m sure you’ve seen the stories. How Koenig used to keep the mutilated genitalia and other body parts. In jars, with printouts of their profile pictures on the outside. We found and confiscated what was left, but most of the buyers were clever and masked their IPs. As for the rest of the remains of his victims, he ate them. That enough detail for you?’

Scarlet lowers her half-eaten finger of seaweed and rice. ‘Oh God . . .’
‘Nice, Rose. Thanks for the overshare,’ says Jeff.
‘She asked.’
Rose feels a ripple of anxiety, which she quells by picking up the wine bottle. A figure emerges from the den at the other end of the living room. The light sensor detects his presence and a lamp fades into life, bathing the boy in its warm glow.

Harry raises his glass. ‘Robbie! How’s my boy?’

The youth walks across the room and stands at the end of the table. He is fourteen, and tall for his age. He has Jeff’s good looks except for his acne and the glasses. But there’s something missing in his expression. He returns the smiles of the adults around the table and then nods to Harry. ‘I’m fine, Grandpa . . . How are you?’

‘Just swell. How’s school?’

Robbie looks to his mother. Rose feels a sudden surge of concern for her son and quickly steps in. ‘He’s doing well. Top of the class in math and science. We’re very proud of him.’

Rose turns to her husband. He surreptitiously sends a text, sliding his smartphone away, something he has been doing more and more frequently of late.

‘Surely that can wait?’ she asks with a tight smile. ‘You’re at home now. Your time belongs to the family.’

‘If only it was that simple. But you know how it is. We don’t work nine to five. The campaign runs 24/7, and we have to run with it.’

‘Huh . . .’ Rose glances at her watch. ‘Anyway, who are you texting at this hour?’
‘Oh . . . my assistant. Pandora’s printing some notes for tomorrow.’
‘She’s the one I met at the last fundraiser? Dark hair. Young.’
Jeff nods. ‘That’s her.’

His eyes meet hers with a hint of challenge and she decides not to pursue the matter right now.

Harry chuckles. ‘Boy, how things have changed. Time was when your home was your own and no one could bother you once you closed the front door. Now they can get you anytime, anywhere. You’ll all be screwed up in the head if the world carries on this way, I tell you.’

‘Hear, hear,’ Rose says, smiling.
Scarlet checks her smartphone.
‘Oooh, my pic’s got sixteen likes.’ She scrolls down.

‘He looks cute. See?’ She holds up the phone to reveal a cheesy shot of a slick-haired guy in a business suit, tanned and expensively dentured. She reads the profile. ‘Oh no, he likes jazz. Sorry, babe.’ She flicks the profile away.

‘Harsh,’ Jeff says. ‘I mean, Rose likes country music, but I still married her. No one’s perfect.’

‘Well with this I can find Mr Perfect.’

There’s a single electronic tone from Rose’s smartphone and she reaches into her jacket pocket and takes it out. She reads the message on the screen and stands up.

‘Excuse me for a moment.’
‘Trouble?’ Jeff frowns. ‘At this time of night?’
‘Criminals don’t work nine to five,’ Rose replies. ‘Or haven’t you heard about that?’
There’s laughter as Rose retreats to the kitchen and hits the quick-dial button. A deep female voice coughs before speaking.

‘Baptiste.’
‘I got the message,’ says Rose. ‘What’s up?’
‘Hey, sugar, there’s something I want you to take a look at. There’s been a fire in Palo Alto. Possible arson. One person dead. Happened a few hours back. Local PD are handling it. Or were, until we got the call.’

‘Who from? I mean, since when did the Bureau deal with this kind of thing? Arson? Suspected arson? What’s that got to do with us?’

‘Normally? Nothing. But this isn’t exactly normal.’ ‘What do you mean?’
‘You’ll see for yourself when you get there. I’m on the scene now and I’ll send you the address soon as I hang up. Get there as fast as you can.’

‘Now? Tonight?’
‘Yes, tonight,’ Baptiste replies testily.
‘But I’ve got my family here. At dinner. Can’t it wait until morning?’
‘No chance. This has come down from the top.’ Baptiste lowers her voice slightly. ‘Seems that someone at the Defense Department has requested our assistance.’

‘Defense?’ Rose feels a twinge of anxiety. ‘But this isn’t their jurisdiction, any more than it’s ours.’

‘Technically, no,’ Baptiste admits. ‘But someone at the Pentagon has asked for our help, so we’re to head up the case with our experience, our labs. Seems there’s a computer angle to it – that’s where Defense comes into it. In any case, Palo Alto PD hasn’t got the budget for this kind of investigation.’

Rose sighs. It is true local police forces are undermanned and struggling to deal with the rising tide of crime. Civil offences and minor crimes are all but overlooked, and many forces have ceased to even investigate them. The amount of technology-related crime has soared in recent years, everything from bitter ex-partners posting intimate pictures online to fraud on a massive scale, but departmental budgets including the Bureau’s have not increased to cope.

Baptiste continues. ‘What I have been told is that the vic has recently been accused of stealing defence contractor secrets, which is our jurisdiction. Defense want a tight lid on it. I don’t know any more than that. We’ve just been given the word and told to deal with it, like now. And now I’m telling you. So you better skip from soup to nuts in five and get in your car. They want our best agents on the case and you’re still my best agent.’

Rose sighs. She owes Baptiste.
‘All right.’
‘That’s my girl. You can get to the scene in forty-five minutes. Make it forty.’ Her faintly husky smoker’s voice softens: ‘Sorry to get you at home . . . but I really need you to take a look at this, while it’s hot, so to speak. This isn’t your usual murder scene.’

‘Murder? I thought you said it was arson?’

‘Feels like murder to me. It could be just a damn fire, but the DoD wants to be sure. At any rate, this one’s unusual, and then some. Christ . . . It’s a fucking mess. I’ve never seen anything quite like this before. Our forensics guys are already on the road.’ There’s a brief pause. ‘Hope you haven’t eaten anything tonight.’

The line goes dead. Rose bites back on her frustration and anger before she thumbs the off button and thrusts the smartphone back in her pocket. She takes a deep breath and leaves the kitchen. Maybe a new case is what she needs, so she can let Koenig go.

‘Guys, I gotta run.’
‘Right now?’ Jeff asks, his soft voice hardening.
‘Sorry, honey. It happens. You’ll have to take over. The salmon is in the oven. Sauce in the microwave. Make sure Robbie gets to bed before ten thirty and no games after ten.’

He nods.

Rose hurriedly kisses her son, her sister and Harry. Jeff cranes his neck to kiss her on the lips but Rose deflects his kiss onto her left cheek. His texting to Pandora has been very regular lately. It’s hard to avoid being suspicious.

‘See you later, guys.’
‘Be careful,’ Jeff calls after her.

There’s a locked desk in the hall. Rose slips her key in,opens a shallow drawer and picks up her badge and the Glock 22 .40 cal in its holster. She pockets the badge and tucks the holster clip over her belt. Her palm presses against the cold metal grip of the gun so it hangs neatly over her right hip.

As soon as she steps outside she is no longer a mother and wife. She’s Bureau through and through. It’s a trick she has made herself learn. You can’t mix two different worlds at once, not without fucking them up. That’s one thing Rose holds on to. By the time she reverses her navy Changan out into the street, the dinner party is a distant memory. She feels a familiar quickening of her heartbeat as she drives towards the crime scene and the gravelly voice of Baptiste echoes inside her head.

It’s the uneasy tone that troubles Rose. Baptiste had served fifteen years before Rose joined her team. There was nothing that she had not seen in that time, and nothing unsettled her.

Well, almost nothing.

Rose remembers the aftermath at the cabin, when Koenig had escaped. She had noticed Baptiste sitting alone on a felled log, facing away, in a moment of private reflection. She seemed to be crying. Rose drew back, knowing she’d witnessed a rare, intimate moment for her boss, but Baptiste had looked up and seen her. She’d wiped her face and fixed it into a frown as she stood up. They’d never spoken about it then, or since.

As Rose drives towards Palo Alto, she wonders: what could possibly have unsettled Baptiste tonight?

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If you’d like to read more about Rose and The Backwoods Butcher, you can as Playing With Death is available to buy!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Goodreads

abouttheauthor

Simon Scarrow

Simon Scarrow is a Sunday Times No. 1 bestselling author. After a childhood spent travelling the world, he pursued his great love of history as a teacher, before becoming a full-time writer. His Roman soldier heroes Cato and Macro made their debut in 2000 in UNDER THE EAGLE, and have subsequently appeared in many bestsellers in the Eagles of the Empire series, including CENTURION, INVICTUS and DAY OF THE CAESARS.

Simon Scarrow is also the author of a quartet of novels about the lives of the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon Bonaparte, YOUNG BLOODS, THE GENERALS, FIRE AND SWORD and THE FIELDS OF DEATH; a novel about the 1565 Siege of Malta, SWORD & SCIMITAR; HEARTS OF STONE, set in Greece during the Second World War; and PLAYING WITH DEATH, a contemporary thriller written with Lee Francis. He also wrote the novels ARENA and INVADER with T. J. Andrews.

For exciting news, extracts and exclusive content from Simon visit www.simonscarrow.co.uk, follow him on Twitter @SimonScarrow or like his author page on Facebook/OfficialSimonScarrow

Lee Francis

Lee Francis worked for several years in the world of film, TV and advertising as a script reader and assistant director on major productions such as Harry Potter, The Woman In Black and Spooks. He has a BA First Class in Film Studies. He enjoys travelling, running, gaming and listening to cheesy techno. He has travelled the USA, New Zealand, China and Europe.

PLAYING WITH DEATH, written with his former lecturer Simon Scarrow is his first novel. It is published in the UK by Headline and foreign sales around the world have already begun.

For exciting news, extracts and exclusive content from Lee visit www.leefrancisauthor.com, follow him on Twitter @leefrancis or like his author page on Facebook/leefrancisauthor

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The Tall Man by Phoebe Locke @phoebe_locke @Wildfirebks @annecater #blogtour #RandomThingsTours

I’m so excited to host the blog tour for The Tall Man by Phoebe Locke today! My thanks to  Anne Cater for the invitation to join and to the publisher for my fabulous review copy!

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Author : Phoebe Locke
Title : The Tall Man
Pages : 362
Publisher : Wildfire Books / Headline
Publication date : June 14, 2018

aboutthebook

1990: In the darkest woods, three girls devote themselves to a sinister figure.

2000: A young mother disappears, leaving behind her husband and baby daughter.

2018: A teenage girl is charged with murder, and her trial will shock the world.

Three chilling events, connected by the shadow he casts.

He is the Tall Man. He can make you special…

mythoughts

Have you met the Tall Man? Be afraid. Be very afraid!

This is one of those reviews where I’m being deliberately vague. I’m not telling you anything about the plot for fear of giving something away. All you really need to know is right there in the book description.

The Tall Man is a slow-burner of a thriller that packs quite the punch. For the longest time, I couldn’t at all get a handle on things, wasn’t quite sure what to make of it and felt a little confused. Yet I was constantly intrigued enough to keep reading.

Phoebe Locke does an absolutely brilliant job of giving just the right amount of teasers while all the while slowly building up to some incredible reveals. During the latter part of the novel, I couldn’t flip the pages fast enough, desperate to know what had actually happened. When the pieces of the puzzle finally fell into place, it was just the most deliciously shocking moment.

None of these characters are particularly likeable for all sorts of reasons that become clear throughout the story. I especially had a hard time dealing with the relentlessness of the true crime crew and the depths they’ll go to in pursuit of those all-important viewer ratings. It’s harsh and cruel and goes to show how little they care about the person behind the story, forgetting this isn’t just someone’s story but someone’s life.

This is a dark, haunting and chilling story about urban legends and murder. It’s about redemption, revenge and motherhood and it comes with a delightfully high creepiness factor. Utterly addictive, brilliantly plotted and highly suspenseful, this debut thriller by Phoebe Locke should probably better not be read in the dark. Loved it!

The Tall Man is available to buy!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Bookdepository | Kobo | Wordery | Goodreads

abouttheauthor

PHOEBE LOCKE is the pseudonym of full-time writer Nicci Cloke. She previously worked at the Faber Academy, and hosted London literary salon Speakeasy. Nicci has had two literary novels published by Fourth Estate and Cape, and also writes YA for Hot Key Books. She lives and writes in London. THE TALL MAN is Phoebe Locke’s debut thriller.

Author links : Twitter

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This Week in Books (June 13)

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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

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Time stops for Jen when her beloved daughter, Gracie, is involved in a terrible car crash. Pronounced dead at the scene, it’s a miracle when paramedics manage to then resuscitate the little girl.

The relief Jen feels at Gracie’s recovery is matched only by her fury at the driver of the car – her ex-husband’s new girlfriend Ella. Jen has never trusted Ella, and now her worst fears have been confirmed.

But then Gracie begins to tell strange stories about what she heard in the car that day, and what she saw in those moments near death. It’s clear that there’s something shocking hidden in Ella’s past… but exposing it could tear all their lives apart.


The book I’m currently reading

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1990: In the darkest woods, three girls devote themselves to a sinister figure.

2000: A young mother disappears, leaving behind her husband and baby daughter.

2018: A teenage girl is charged with murder, and her trial will shock the world.

Three chilling events, connected by the shadow he casts.


What I’m (probably) reading next

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On a damp October day, a body is found in an abandoned hospital, too burnt to be identified, but Detective Alex King knows that every victim is someone’s daughter or son.

Pushing aside her own troubles, Alex puts everything into finding the killer, but when someone else is found dead, she begins to suspect that the body in the hospital was just the first of many.

Just as Alex uncovers a heart-breaking link between the victims, she finds her own safety under threat. Is this a figure from her past hell-bent on revenge, or could the murderer be even nearer than she thinks?

Alex is running out of time. Can she catch the killer before they take another life, or will they get to her first?

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