Published by Doubleday

Available in ebook and paperback (17 May 2018)

224 pages

Source: Review copy



My thanks to the publisher for the copy to review and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part.

 

|   About the Book   |

 

Sometimes it takes a stranger to really know who you are

When Tina Hopgood writes a letter of regret to a man she has never met, she doesn’t expect a reply.

When Anders Larsen, a lonely museum curator, answers it, nor does he.

They’re both searching for something, they just don’t know it yet.

Anders has lost his wife, along with his hopes and dreams for the future. Tina is trapped in a marriage she doesn’t remember choosing.

Slowly their correspondence blossoms as they bare their souls to each other with stories of joy, anguish and discovery. But then Tina’s letters suddenly cease, and Anders is thrown into despair.

Can their unexpected friendship survive?

 

|   My Thoughts   |

 

I do enjoy an epistolary novel, especially when it is done well – and Meet Me at the Museum is very well written indeed.

Tina Hopgood, a farmer’s wife from East Anglia and Anders Larsen, curator of the Silkeborg Museum in Denmark strike up an unlikely friendship when Tina sends a letter addressed to a Professor Glob who 50 years before had dedicated a book to Tina and her schoolfriends about his discovery of the ‘Tollund Man’, an Iron Age man found in a bog whose preserved body (or the remains of) lies in the museum. Tina and her late friend Bella, always meant to visit the museum but neither of them ever did and Tina writes to explain her regret, not knowing whether or not the Professor is still alive.

It turns out that Professor Glob is long dead but her letter is picked up by Anders and this is where their correspondence begins.

The story of Tina and Anders is told entirely in letters between the two of them. They start off on a formal basis conversing about the Tollund Man and their shared archaeological interests but as the correspondence continues it reflects their growing friendship and they find themselves confiding in each other about their feelings, their lives and families and seeking advice from the other. For some reason it is often easier to unburden yourself to a stranger than to a loved one.

Meet me at the Museum is a thoughtful and touching story of two people whose intimate thoughts and, also regrets, are entrusted to someone they have never met.

Don’t expect a fast paced read. This book is very much a gentle character driven narrative. The timeline is set in a period of just over a year and in that time nothing happens but then again, everything happens, as Tina and Anders bare their souls to each other; by the end of the book neither of their worlds will be the same again.

I was spellbound by this debut novel. Anne Youngson writes beautifully and I found myself nodding in agreement with many of Tina’s observations. Both characters are extremely easy to feel empathy for and when the book finished, I felt an immense sadness that I had to say goodbye to these two people.

 

|   Author Bio   |

Photo from Greenheaton.co.uk

ANNE YOUNGSON worked for many years in senior management in the car industry before embarking on a creative career as a writer. She has supported many charities in governance roles, including Chair of the Writers in Prison Network, which provided residencies in prisons for writers. She lives in Oxfordshire and is married with two children and three grandchildren to date. MEET ME AT THE MUSEUM is her debut novel, which is due to be published around the world.

 

 

 

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Published by Orenda

Available in ebook and paperback (30 May 2018)

450 pages



My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Thing Tours and Orenda Books for the tour invitation.  I have read previous books in this series (reviewed here on the blog) and am looking forward to this one. In the meantime, I have a guest post from Paul Hardisty.

 

|   About the Book   |

 

Sequel to the critically acclaimed The Abrupt Physics of Dying, The Evolution of Fear and Reconciliation for the Dead. Claymore Straker returns in another gripping, page-turning, socially conscious thriller, with more at stake than ever…

It is 1997, eight months since vigilante justice-seeker Claymore Straker fled South Africa after his explosive testimony to Desmond Tutu’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In Paris, Rania LaTour, journalist, comes home to find that her son and her husband, a celebrated human rights lawyer, have disappeared. On an isolated island off the coast of East Africa, the family that Clay has befriended is murdered as he watches.

So begins the fourth instalment in the Claymore Straker series, a breakneck journey through the darkest reaches of the human soul, as Clay and Rania fight to uncover the mystery behind the disappearances and murders, and find those responsible.

Events lead them both inexorably to Egypt, where an act of the most shocking terrorist brutality will reveal not only why those they loved were sacrificed, but how they were both, indirectly, responsible. Relentlessly pursued by those who want them dead, they must work together to uncover the truth, and to find a way to survive in a world gone crazy. At times brutal, often lyrical, but always gripping, Absolution is a thriller that will leave you breathless and questioning the very basis of how we live and why we love.

 

Under Stars

I lie on my back and look up. Eternity folds itself around me. All those stars, all that impossibility. Far from the lights of the city, the light of eons streams down. Gravity, too, seems stronger here, the magnetism of this ancient bedrock palpable, pulling me here, bidding me stay.

I close my eyes a moment, pull the sleeping bag up against the cold. A boobook owl hoots across the valley, is answered a moment later, the double rise and fall of their calls like the slow beating of a strong heart. And then, gone unnoticed in the glare of the day, the far-off roar of the surf comes to me. The river mouth and the beach and the rocky headland are about eight kilometres away, a forty-five-minute paddle along the black water of the river, narrow at first, lined with hanging paperbarks, then opening up into a broad shallow estuary with honey-coloured limestone cliffs to the south, and then the nearshore dunes painted with flowing grasses before the sandy-bottom amethyst and emerald waters open up past the river mouth sandbar. I listen awhile to the owls and the waves and then open my eyes again and start counting stars.

Tomorrow, I will wake with the dawn, and I will write. Clay is travelling across Africa with Crowbar, north from Kenya to Cairo. Enemies are in pursuit. There will be a scene where they look up at the night sky and think of the places they love, as I am doing now. I try to think of the words, to picture the scene. It comes to me. I must not forget it. It will be an important scene, given what I already know destiny holds for these two men. After years of working on these novels, Clay and Crowbar have become people to me, rather than characters. And the difference is that I should know everything about my characters. And what I don’t know, I make up. But now, with these two, I somehow find myself according them the same respect I do any other human being – the explicit understanding that I will never know more than a fraction of who they really are.

Just a few paces from where I lie is the camp chair I will sit in. My laptop, fully charged, is in my tent, along with my journal and pen, ready to go. Next to me is the small notebook I use for dreams and waking thoughts, a pencil, my water bottle and hand torch. I feel for the torch, flick it on, jot down those ideas, the ones I will use tomorrow, and then lie back down and wait for the stars to come again, burn through my blindness.

I know that I will dream tonight. I do most nights. But here, in this place, under these swaying peppermint trees, the big creaking marris and jarrahs, listening to the owls across the valley and the surf in the distance, always. So many of my dreams, I realise, are nightmares. Most are violent, laced with fear and disbelief. Out on the reef a few weeks ago, four hundred kilometres from shore, I awoke to find myself in a swirling maelstrom of every shade of blue, from the purest sky of the lagoons to the deepest night of the abyss. All of it was fraying, being ripped apart and pulled away into eternity. I was standing in the middle of it, watching as every edge unravelled, ripped apart by the grinding terror of machines, unrelenting and uncaring. I awoke heart pounding to the sound of the vessel’s big diesels. I wrote it down. As I will tonight. But for now, I will lie here and look into time, and count the stars, and wait for the morning.

PEH
Perth, May 2018

 

 

|   Author Bio   |

Canadian Paul Hardisty has spent 25 years working all over the world as an engineer, hydrologist and environmental scientist. He has roughnecked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, mapped geology in Eastern Turkey (where he was befriended by PKK rebels), and rehabilitated water wells in the wilds of Africa. He was in Ethiopia in 1991 as the Mengistu regime fell, and was bumped from one of the last flights out of Addis Ababa by bureaucrats and their families fleeing the rebels. In 1993 he survived a bomb blast in a cafe in Sana’a, and was one of the last Westerners out of Yemen before the outbreak of the 1994 civil war. Paul is a university professor and CEO of the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS). He is a sailor, a private pilot, keen outdoorsman, conservation volunteer, and lives in Western Australia.His debut thriller, The Abrupt Physics of Dying, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger.

 

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Published by No Exit Press

Available in ebook and paperback (24 May 2018)

416 pages



My thanks to Anne Cater and No Exit Press for the tour invitation and the guest post.  I have read and reviewed an extract of the previous book in this series, Walden of Bermondsey – The First Case and I can recommend this series if you want an interesting and entertaining view of our legal system!

 

|   About the Book    |

 

If you like Rumpole of the Bailey, you’ll love Walden of Bermondsey

Judge Walden is back, to preside over five new cases at Bermondsey Crown Court.

Retired resident judge Peter Murphy takes us back to the world of criminal trials in South London for another session with Charlie Walden keeping the peace between his fellow judges – Marjorie, ‘Legless’ and Hubert – while fighting off the attacks of the Grey Smoothies, the civil servants who seem intent on reducing the court’s dwindling resources to vanishing point in the name of ‘business cases’ and ‘value for money’.

Meet the rum and memorable characters who pop into Charlie’s domain, including Lester Fogle from one of London’s Disorganised Crime Families, Arthur Swivell the one-time Bermondsey singing legend and the very unbardlike Elias Shakespeare. And you will never feel the same about ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ or the Entente Cordiale again.

Fortunately, Charlie has Elsie and Jeanie’s lattes and ham and cheese baps, and newspaper vendor George’s witty banter, to sustain him in the mornings; and in the evenings, the Delights of the Raj, or La Bella Napoli, to enjoy with the Reverend Mrs Walden.

 

The Walden of Bermondsey Series

by Peter Murphy

The Walden series suggested itself to me over a period of time, before I retired from my day job as a judge. I retired as resident judge (RJ) at the Peterborough Crown Court.

The work of an RJ, in addition to trying the difficult criminal cases coming in front of him or her, involves overall responsibility for the judicial work of the court, promoting the professional welfare of the other judges at the court, and endless wrangling with civil servants about administrative and financial matters. It is a job in which it’s easy to become frustrated by the slow rate of progress, and the constant fight for funding and resources to make the court work as it should in an age of austerity.

Walden is based mainly on my own experience of being an RJ. I wanted to tell my stories in a humorous way, because, mercifully, there is a good deal of humour lurking behind the intense human drama of criminal trials. There are some stories I would love to tell, but can’t – stories of cases too sensitive or tragic to cast as humorous, or of people too easily identifiable. But there are many that are genuinely funny, and which can be told without any such concerns.

So I imagined Charlie Walden: a well-meaning, sometimes grumpy and put-upon RJ, a judge who, at the end of the day, has a good heart and sees it as his job to ensure fairness and justice for all, whatever obstacles are placed in his path. The Bermondsey Crown Court, of which he RJ, is a mythical place; but everyone involved with criminal law in London will know exactly where it is.

I imagined other characters too, of course. The Reverend Mrs Walden, priest in charge of the local Anglican church, is Charlie’s confidante, muse, and companion – and occasionally takes an active role in Charlie’s work, without always telling him she’s doing it. It was easy to imagine Jeanie and Elsie’s coffee bar, tucked away in an archway under the railway bridge, because when I sat in South London, I too started the day with a latte there, and often bought a sandwich if the thought of the canteen food for lunch didn’t appeal. George, the newspaper vendor, is an archetype, to be found on street corners throughout London. And, of course, I imagined the Grey Smoothies, the civil servants who are, apparently, determined to take away every resource the court has in the name of value for money for the taxpayer, and whom Charlie must continually try to keep at bay.

There was another inspiration for Walden, too. I have always loved John Mortimer’s Rumpole of the Bailey books, which became a great TV series with Leo McKern in the title role. So I asked myself the question: what would Horace Rumpole have been like as a judge? Of course, the short answer is: he would never have become a judge! He was a fierce and proud defence barrister to the end. But if he had, I believe and hope, that he would have had something of Charlie Walden in him.

Reality can easily transform stories from pure humour into satire, and inevitably Walden has its satirical side. The government’s frontal assault on the legal system in the name of austerity has had several disastrous consequences. The closure of courts has resulted in hardship for the public. The enforced redundancy of experienced court staff has played havoc with the working of those courts that remain. The cuts to legal aid, in civil and family cases as well as criminal, have resulted in a denial of justice to many people faced with devastating, life-changing consequences of their involvement with the law. The cuts to the Crown Prosecution Service threaten its ability to carry out the vital function of prosecuting serious offenders. The frontal assault on the judiciary in terms of pay and conditions has resulted in a critical shortage of qualified candidates for the bench.

Of course, the cuts to the NHS, the police, and the armed forces are what get voters worked up and make politicians worry about lost votes. By comparison, the plight of the courts is all but ignored by the media. But it should concern all of us that in the course of a few years, the government has taken a legal system that was once the envy of the world, and reduced it to third world levels. If Charlie Walden helps to focus your attention on this disaster, in addition to entertaining you, so much the better.

 

 

|   Author Bio   |

Peter Murphy spent a career in the law, as an advocate, teacher, and judge. He has worked both in England and the U.S., and served for several years as counsel at the Yugoslavian War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. He is the author of the Ben Schroeder thrillers.

 

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Published by Zaffre

Available in ebook and paperback (17 May 2018)

341 pages



|  About the Book   |

 

Even perfect families have secrets . . .

Orla and Conor Quinn are the perfect power couple: smart, successful and glamorous. But then the unthinkable happens. Their only son, Tom, is the victim of a deliberate hit-and-run.

Detective Garda Cathy Connolly has just left Tom’s parents when she is called to the discovery of another body, this time in Dillon’s Park, not far from where Tom Quinn was found. What led shy student Lauren O’Reilly to apparently take her own life? She was a friend of Tom’s and they both died on the same night – are their deaths connected and if so, how?

As Cathy delves deeper, she uncovers links to the Dark Web and a catalogue of cold cases, realising that those involved each have their own reasons for hiding things from the police. But events are about to get a lot more frightening . .

 

EXTRACT

‘Come on, girl, you’re not concentrating!’ McIntyre grabbed the punch bag out of Cathy’s reach and slapped the side hard, the sound explosive, ricocheting off the brick walls like a car backfiring. It made her start more than McIntyre could know. But then maybe he did. He’d heard bombs go off more than once. As she tried to still her heart rate, the three Tallaght boys looked up from their squats, startled. Out of the corner of her eye Cathy could see them smirking, enjoying her getting bawled at.

‘You’ve got to focus. Remember, eyes on the prize. Let me hear it.’

‘Jesus, Boss.’

‘You worrying about where Sarah Jane is isn’t going to get this session over any quicker. Let me hear it.’

Cathy danced backwards, her gloves beneath her chin, steadying her breathing. ‘McIntyre’s mantra’ Sarah Jane called it . . . Well, he asked for it . . . She smashed her glove into the bag. Left, right . . .

‘I will be national champion.’

McIntyre steadied the bag as he took the force of the punch through it. Cathy was already saturated with sweat from the session, droplets flying as she went in with a right uppercut.

‘I will be European champion . . .’

Left uppercut. She didn’t look at McIntyre, but could hear him exhale with each strike. It would be a while before she was ready for the Europeans, but he was all about positive thinking and she knew it worked. He’d taught her how to focus, taught her how to win, and that’s what she was going to do.

‘And the rest, girl, let me hear it, you won’t be at this your whole life – what else?’

Cathy danced back again, catching her breath, punched hard ‘I will get my masters.’ Her push kick sent the bag into McIntyre’s chest.

‘What are you working so hard at, girl? What do you want? Let me hear it!’

Hard again with a left jab, another left jab, followed by a right. ‘Forensic psychology. A first.’

And?

She said it under her breath, conscious of the audience, ‘I will be the first female Garda profiler.’

McIntyre grunted, ‘Good. That’s good, girl. Put it here.’ He pushed the bag towards her, bracing himself behind it, ‘Just watch that right, you’re dropping a bit.’

From across the gym Cathy could hear laughter, then the choir boys chimed in, their voices high pitched, ‘I do believe in fairies, I do, I do.’

McIntyre turned on them, his voice echoing through the styrofoam ceiling, ‘Showers. Now. All of you.’

Scattering like rats, they didn’t have to be told twice. It had been a long time since Cathy had seen anyone move that fast.

‘Now, girl, a couple more for me. Push kick, back kick.’ Cathy caught the glint in McIntyre’s eye. She danced back, smiling to herself, imagined the lippy one’s face on the bag, and smashed her left foot straight at it, pivoting to kick the bag again with her right foot, putting all her weight behind it.

‘Not bad, girl. Not bad.’ McIntyre pursed his lips as Cathy pulled at the Velcro on her gloves with her teeth. ‘Keep this up and you’re in with a real shot at getting your title back. That Jordan one is your only worry.’ Striding to the benches running along the wall, McIntyre picked up her towel and threw it at her. She caught it one handed, rubbing the sweat off her neck and chest, spitting out her gum shield.

‘Her brother’s inside for rape; she alibied him. Tried to, anyway.’

McIntyre raised his eyebrows, ‘All the more reason for you to give her a pasting.’

* * *

My thanks to Imogen at Bonnier for the tour invite and extract.

 

 

|  Author Bio   |

Sam Blake is a pseudonym for Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, the founder of The Inkwell Group publishing consultancy and the hugely popular national writing resources website Writing.ie. She is Ireland’s leading literary scout who has assisted many award winning and bestselling authors to publication. Vanessa has been writing fiction since her husband set sail across the Atlantic for eight weeks and she had an idea for a book.

 

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Published by Muswell Press

Available in ebook and paperback (19 April 2018)

384 pages



My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part in the tour for The Dissent of Annie Lang and to the publisher and Ros for providing the guest post.  This does look like a book I would love to read if only I could have fitted it in. The usual #bookbloggerproblems! However, I do have a great guest post from the author on the creation of Annie Lang.

 

|   About the Book   |

 

‘My story starts and ends at railway stations, though of course I can’t know this yet as I clamber off the boat-train at Victoria that warm May afternoon…‘

Growing up in a strict religious family in the 1920s, Annie Lang is witness to disturbing events that no one will explain. Only the family dog may know the answers.

Six years on, student Annie returns from France to find her beloved brother in a mental hospital and her ally, the Sunday school teacher, vanished without trace. With the help of her childhood diary, and sister Beatrice, Annie turns detective to unearth the truth.

Her journey leads to a discovery so disturbing that she believes it will ruin all their lives, unless they can atone for the past.

Ros Franey beautifully captures that point when a child can sense, and indeed dissent against, secrets that adults think they are too young to grasp. Impulsive, brave and lovable, Annie Lang is formidable when she takes matters into her own hands.

 

Who is Annie?

by Ros Franey

The little girl who became Annie Lang moved into my head about ten years ago. Whenever I thought about the story I was going to write, she would pop up with a strong opinion. She doesn’t suffer fools and sees straight through some of the cant her elders are dishing out, with a strange mix of derision and the fear that they might just be right.

So she’s also very much a child, with a child’s point of view. Having been told that if you’re not ‘saved’ you’ll go to hell, she takes this literally and worries about it in the same way, perhaps, as my generation worried about nuclear war when we were small – things no child should have to bother about. That said, she’s definitely not me. I didn’t have a religious upbringing, and although I did kick against many things, my revolt was never more than a minor mutiny.

When I was writing the book, Annie asserted herself in another way, too: she was controlling, and frequently didn’t react in the way I expected. You might think that the characters in your novel are your own property, but not at all. If you try and compel them, it’s a wasted effort – you have to rewrite. This is no big revelation: I’m sure most writers know it perfectly well, but it still took me by surprise. It’s difficult to quote an instance without giving the plot away, but when the first part of Annie’s plan has succeeded, I expected her to feel triumphant. In fact she feels wretched: she’s not happy that success has depended on deceiving people who have trusted her. She’s right, of course and I had to give in to her.

Some people have asked me if Annie is my mother. It’s true that this opinionated child may have some of her spirit. There are shades of my mother’s family in the story and I drew on their background, particularly for the part played in real life by the Mission, although their brand of nonconformist Protestantism was less extreme than the evangelical beliefs central to the novel.

My mum’s mother died not when she was six, as in the story, but when she was two, so she had no recollection of her at all. There was a version of Miss Higgs in her childhood, but I know nothing of the detail, beyond the incident of the long combinations – which I suspect was an indication of worse to come. The unpleasantness over the cod liver oil was also drawn from life, though not its consequences.

My mother did win a year studying in France before going to University College Nottingham, as it then was. (She was taught by the discarded husband of Frieda Lawrence, after Frieda had run off with DH.) But in other respects the story is not hers: there was no family dog (sadly), no crisis-ridden Sunday school teacher, no psychiatric hospital, no Bagshaw revelations, no daring plan.

I don’t know whether my Mum was rebellious, but in adult life she certainly rejected her religious upbringing. She also must have been courageous: sometime before the outbreak of the Second World War, after a summer job as an au pair in Munich, she escorted her Jewish employer’s two children across Europe to safety in England. In her sixties, her politics shifted from the stout conservatism of her upbringing. She became a militant vegetarian and campaigned for Amnesty and animal rights.

The only other piece of evidence I have of her childhood is from my Auntie Joyce, a gentler and more forgiving soul, who did keep her faith. She confided to me that, as children, she had been terrified of my mum, her younger sister. But I didn’t set out to write the book this way round. It’s only, looking back now, I can see that although Annie is not my mother, perhaps she’s a kind of prequel to the woman I knew in later life. Or rather, if she really did bully my poor aunt, perhaps she’s the little girl I hoped my mum might have been. There’s no way of knowing.

And in the end, I don’t think it matters. I was more interested in Annie as a child of our times than of the 1920s. By setting the story then, against a background of repression and bigotry, I hoped to distil the idea of how the powerless can be exploited by those with the whip hand, a theme given new currency by the Me Too movement since I finished the book. So I’m writing about hypocrisy, of which there’s no short supply in our own age, and the dangers of religious fundamentalism, wherever it’s located. But also, crucially, about the hope and resilience of children.

 

 

|   Author Bio   |

Ros Franey grew up in the Midlands where this book is set. She is a maker of award-winning documentaries, including two films about the Guildford 4 which, along with the book she co-authored Timebomb, contributed to the quashing of their case. This is her second novel. She lives in Camden, North London.

 

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