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!

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

| 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.

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

Weekly Wrap-Up (August 25)

Summer is back with a vengeance and I’m loving it! Meanwhile in Italy, they’re on their second week of continuous thunderstorms and it doesn’t look like that will change any time soon. Fingers crossed Mother Nature gets her act together and my holiday won’t be a complete wash-out. Eek.

Other than that, it’s been a bit of a frustrating week. I’ve had people on my case trying to force me to do this, and that, and go there and wherever, not comprehending that it’s just not possible with a doggie that isn’t 100% and most definitely not in 33C degrees heat. I kind of accept (but not really) this behaviour from people who’ve never had a pet but not from the other half, who should bloody know better. Anyway, he’s off for the day and doggie and I have the house all to ourselves. I’d say we’re partying like there’s no tomorrow but she prefers to nap and as much as I’d like to think I’m the boss, I’m really not 😂

Reading-wise, it’s been a good week. Helped enormously by fun buddy reads with Janel. Some more successful than others as apparently fantasy and moi don’t seem to mix very well. Oops. Today’s buddy read is non-fiction. I’ve not had much luck with those in the past either but so far so good. Somewhere in England, a certain someone is walking around with a smug smile on her face 😉

So, what have I read this week?

| BOOKS I READ THIS WEEK |

Two review copies, four just because. Obviously these days I read faster when I decide not to review a book. I almost forgot how much fun that is but now that I have been reminded, I am determined to remain as commitment free as I can possibly be.

For those who enjoy the guessing game, there is one 5 star read in that lot.

| BOOKS I BOUGHT THIS WEEK |

I haven’t read a Philippa Gregory book in years but I liked the blurb of this one. Also, the cover is really pretty. So there’s that.

| ARC’s RECEIVED VIA NETGALLEY |

I haven’t read on Kindle in ages but I’ve been waiting for this final instalment in the 4MK Thriller trilogy and the hardback is insanely expensive. So as it was a “read now”, I just couldn’t resist.

| ON THE BLOG THIS PAST WEEK |

Monday : Joined the blog tour for Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

Tuesday : Reviewed Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Wednesday : This Week in Books

Thursday : Nothing to see here

Friday : Planned post moved to Saturday

Saturday : Shared my thoughts on The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

Sunday : Weekly Wrap-Up

Thank you for sharing my posts on social media! Always immensely appreciated! ❤️

| NEXT WEEK ON NOVEL DEELIGHTS |

Monday : Blog tour | Review | Dead Inside by Noelle Holten

Tuesday : Review | The Retreat by Sherri Smith

Wednesday : This Week in Books

Thursday : Review | Rewind by Catherine Ryan Howard

Friday : Review | My 20th book of summer, title to be determined 😂

Saturday : Taking the day off

Sunday : Weekly Wrap-Up

My last relatively busy week, if I can help it. I really look forward to taking things a lot slower, to read when I want, to review when I want or not to when I don’t want, to *gasp* maybe do something other than reading.

So, one more book to go for the 20 Books of Summer challenge. Still. I obviously could have reviewed one of the books I read this week but I didn’t feel like it. What’s a girl to do?

I’ve also spent more time this week staring at the bookshelves in an attempt to decide what to take with me on holiday. The pile has risen to …… 3. 🙄
I don’t know why this is so hard. The other half says it’s because I have too many options. I say it’s because I don’t have enough of them 🤣

Please feel free to recommend something to me! I obviously need help here! 😂

And that’s a wrap! Wishing you all a glorious week and lots of happy reading! Until next time! xx

Invisible Blood : 17 stories of murder and mystery edited by Maxim Jakubowski | @TitanBooks @Sarah_Mather_15

Author : Various, edited by Maxim Jakubowski
Title : Invisible Blood
Pages : 400
Publisher : Titan Books
Publication date : July 23, 2019

| ABOUT THE BOOK |

Open the files on seventeen new crime stories to probe the brutal and complex hearts of criminals. Watch as a secretive group of intelligence community officers traces Jack Reacher’s steps through Heathrow airport in Lee Child’s “Smile”. In Mary Hoffman’s “Fallen Woman”, a journalist on the trail of a secretive drug lord gets caught up in the violent suicide of a young woman in Siena. And in Jeffrey Deaver’s “Connecting the Dots”, detectives follow the trail of clues in the brutal killing of a homeless man, wherever it may lead… Invisible Blood is a gripping collection of the compulsions of the criminal mind. 

| MY THOUGHTS |

I must admit that I’m not normally a fan of short stories because well, they’re short, and just when I feel I’m about to really sink my teeth into the story, they’re over and done with and we move on to the next one. But when Titan offered me Invisible Blood for review, I gladly accepted. I’m always looking for new crime authors and a short story collection like this one is the perfect way to discover some I’m not familiar with, or whose work I’ve never read.

So, 17 short crime stories in one go. I never know how to tackle these. Do I pick and choose? Do I start with an author I know? Or one who’s not known to me at all? Do I read from beginning to end? Never knew I could be this indecisive. As it is, I decided to just start from the beginning and a good choice that was too.

The first story is by Denise Mina, an author I’ve seen mentioned numerous times but I’ve never read any of her books. Lo and behold, her short story was one of my favourites and I’ll definitely be reading more by her in future. Lee Child pops up with a new Jack Reacher story and we also get one by one my favourite Orenda Books authors, Johana Gustawsson, that chilled me to the bone.

Short these stories may be. Some are a mere 20 pages long. But boy, do they pack a punch. My favourites were by Denise Mina, Lee Child, Johana Gustawsson and Jeffrey Deaver. The reader travels to Spain, where washing lines play an important part; to Italy on the trail of a drugs dealer; to America where a homeless man is found murdered and to the UK, where airport security is apparently flawed.

Murder, mystery and blood from seventeen fantastic crime writers all combined into one book makes Invisible Blood the perfect collection for any crime fiction fan. Or for someone like me, who’s on the look-out for new authors.

My thanks to Titan for the review copy!

Invisible Blood is available to buy!

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

Contributing authors : Lee Child, Jeffrey Deaver, Stella Duffy, Lavie Tidhar, R. J. Ellory, Christopher Fowler, Lauren Henderson, Jason Starr, Stella Duffy, James Grady, Johana Gustawsson, Denise Mina, Bill Beverly, Ken Bruen, Cathi Unsworth, John Harvey, and A. K. Benedict.

Edited by Maxim Jakubowski

Weekly Wrap-Up (July 14)

Hello, Sunday. Is it it me or are you coming around faster and faster?

Not much to report this week. The socialising last Sunday went a tad overboard and I felt it on Monday, so that was a waste of a day 😳. The rest of the week was full of wonderful tennis. Today is the men’s final. Guess what I’m doing? If your answer is : “watch it”, you’d be wrong because the in-laws invited themselves and scuppered my plans. FFS. 🙄

Have I managed to squeeze in any books? Why, yes, I have. But erm … well, let’s see.

| BOOKS I READ THIS WEEK |

My reading is obviously as hormonal as I am 🤣. Still, three is better than nothing and I’m still ahead of my blog tour schedule and have even managed to read 12 (that’s right, twelve!) books from my 20 Books of Summer list. Feels like I’m winning, doesn’t it? 😉

In case anyone wants to guess : there was only one of those three I really enjoyed. Dun, dun, duuuuuun.

| BOOKS I BOUGHT THIS WEEK |

This was a preorder that arrived on Friday. Of course, I’ve bought a few more in the meantime but since they’re not here yet, they don’t count. Do they?

| BOOK POST THAT LANDED ON MY DOORSTEP THIS WEEK |

With thanks to Transworld and Titan Books. One for a blog tour and one for review. Really looking forward to both!

| ON THE BLOG THIS PAST WEEK |

Monday : Kicked off the blog tour for The Sleepwalker by Joseph Knox

Tuesday : Hosted a stop on the blog tour for The Divorce by Victoria Jenkins

Wednesday : This Week in Books

Thursday : Joined the blog tour for A Fatal Game by Nicholas Searle

Friday : Hosted a stop on the blog tour for I Looked Away by Jane Corry

Saturday : Shared my review for Blood & Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

Sunday : Weekly Wrap-Up

| NEXT WEEK ON NOVEL DEELIGHTS |

Monday : Review | Stop At Nothing by Tammy Cohen

Tuesday : Blog tour | Review | Child’s Play by Angela Marsons

Wednesday : This Week in Books

Thursday : Guest Post | Author Andrew Joyce

Friday : Blog tour | Review | The Last Stage by Louise Voss

Saturday : Taking the day off because everyone and their dog will be at Harrogate 😂

Sunday : Weekly Wrap-Up

That’s not too bad. This is the quiet before the storm. I may need an oxygen tank to survive the week that comes after this one.

Question of the week : Dust jackets! I saw this topic on twitter a while ago and had no idea it was so controversial. So I’m putting the question to you, dear blog readers. Do you remove the dust jacket from a hardback when you’re reading it? I do. Because I don’t want to ruin the jacket, as that is what you see when the book is on a shelf. As soon as I put the book down or finish it, obviously, the jacket goes back on. Over to you!

That’s it for this week. Hope you all have a great one! Until next time. Happy reading! xx