Published by Bantam Press

ebook: 9 February 2017    |  Hardback 6 April 2017

I’m delighted to be taking part in the publisher blog tour for The Restless Dead and must thank Hannah of Transworld for the invite. This book is number 5 in the David Hunter series – I haven’t read any of the previous books in the series but that doesn’t matter at all – this can easily be read as a standalone however much to the distress of my mountainous TBR, I now want to read the previous 4 books!

 

David Hunter is a forensic anthropologist, often called on to assist the police when human remains have been found that are too badly decomposed for a pathologist to deal with.  It is clearly a specialised field however it appears that he is currently ‘out in the cold’ following mistakes on a previous case and is currently clinging on to his job at a university. When he gets a call from DI Bob Lundy of Essex Police for assistance, he doesn’t hesitate, grateful for the work and for the chance to perhaps redeem his reputation.

A decomposing body has been found in the Saltmere estuary, a few miles up the coast from Mersea Island.  The police believe they know it’s identity but they need formal confirmation – however what seems at first to be a straightforward case is anything but and Hunter finds himself drawn into situations that put his own life, as well as others, in danger.

As mentioned above, I hadn’t read any of this series and when I first started reading, I did wonder if this would be the book for me.   Having read numerous serial killer and murder stories over the years, I am no stranger to a dead body but sometimes you can have too much information!  There is great detail of the various stages of decomposition – certainly not a book to read whilst you’re eating your lunch but I quickly got over any feelings of squeamishess and became completely engrossed in the story.

This story alludes to events in Hunter’s past – it is clear he is still recovering from past events. both physically and mentally and his role in this investigation really does push him to the limit.  I really liked his character though, he’s a resourceful, no-nonsense type of guy and the hints of romantic interest in this story, make him a three dimensional character that you can engage with.  In fact most of the main characters here were superbly drawn, each had depth and distinguishing personalities.

These Essex backwaters of mudflats, floods and tidal currents are in themselves a main character.  I live in Essex but even though this is not a part of the county that I am familiar with – the atmospheric description of the run down town, the isolation and remote location is really well explored and after finishing the book I was interested enough to start Googling and came across this picture of a typical Maunsell fort – which plays a significant part in the story.

picture from Google images

This was a real cracker of a read – the intelligent and clever plot will both surprise and dismay – there were turns in the story that I certainly didn’t see coming and it was one of those reads that I just had to sit up late to finish.  A well deserved ‘highly recommended’ from me.  Despite coming in to this series part way through, I now want to read more.

My thanks to the publisher for the paperback copy to review.

About the author:

Simon Beckett has worked as a freelance journalist, writing for national newspapers and colour supplements. He is the author of four international bestselling crime thrillers featuring his forensic anthropologist hero, Dr David Hunter: The Chemistry of Death, Written in Bone, Whispers of the Dead and The Calling of the Grave. His other novels are Stone Bruises and Where There’s Smoke.

 

Author Links:  Website   |  Twitter   |  Facebook  |  Amazon UK   | Goodreads

 

Published by Orenda Books

ebook: 20 December 2016   |  Paperback: 15 March 2017

 

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who took that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure.

In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death. And who’s to blame… As every interview unveils a new revelation, you’ll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth. A chilling, unpredictable and startling thriller, Six Stories is also a classic murder mystery with a modern twist, and a devastating ending.

 

It’s a pleasure to be taking part in, and winding up the blog tour for Six Stories (together with the brilliant Susan from @thebooktrailer – do check out her fabulous blog).  I must say a big thank you to Karen Sullivan and especially to Matt for coming up with such an excellent guest post at very short notice.

 

The Terror

by Matt Wesolowski

 

The advice is this; ‘don’t read reviews’, but even when you do, ‘don’t take it personally’.

There have been plenty of books I’ve not enjoyed, plenty of albums I’ve declared ‘terrible’, plenty of films I’ve turned off 10 minutes in because they’re ‘not funny’, ‘boring’ or ‘awful’.

Until Six Stories was unleashed on the world, I never considered these thoughts I had about other people’s art, I never considered my dismissal of these fragments of other people’s souls.

That may sound dramatic, but that’s what it is when you create something; the thing you put up for judgement by the world, contains a little piece of you. The terror is the knowledge that that part of you is up for judgement.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to twist about reviews or be precious about someone else’s opinion. I just want to reflect on what it’s like to know that your creation is not altogether yours anymore.

I remember the first time I took my little boy to his first day at nursery, I walked out of that room with his wails echoing after me, piercing my very soul with accusation about what a terrible father I was. Of course, this is natural, it’s my paternal instinct kicking in, it’s that first stage of letting go. Even now, some days I drop him off at school and feel a little bit emotional walking back the way we have come with an empty hand.

Whilst art is not directly comparable to a child, the emotions are similar, for me anyway. One of the scariest things I’ve experienced was waiting for those first reviews to come in. I’d like to tell you I was cool, blasé about the whole thing, that I didn’t obsessively check Amazon and Goodreads those first few weeks, but that would be a lie. Just like leaving my boy in the care of others, pushing Six Stories out into the world shared a similar anxiety, that lack of control. I couldn’t hold it close to me and protect it, it was out there in the big bad world, this thing that I had created.

What if everyone hated it? What if, this novel that I’d poured my heart and soul into was a failure?

The internet is a scary and sometime strange place and to expose a little bit of you in front of this abyss is an utterly terrifying prospect.

I feel that by now, I’ve made a little bit of peace with the terror. As I’ve said, there have been books, music, films, art that I’ve not enjoyed and some I have. That doesn’t, by any means, mean that their creators are failures, that they’re bad at what they do, it’s just a mis-match of taste.

There are going to be people that hate Six Stories, the odd format, the characters, the storyline; it’s going to jarr with them, it’s going to be a discordant racket, white noise in their imagination or a black monolith of boredom.

Or else, they’re just going to be non-plussed. It’s going to pass them by, instantly forgettable and average.

But whatever people think, that’s ok, that’s part of the process and there’s nothing I can do about it.

 

 

About the author:

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for children in care and leads Cuckoo Young Writers creative writing workshops for young people in association with New Writing North.

Wesolowski started his writing career in horror and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous magazines and US anthologies.

Wesolowski was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at ‘Bloody Scotland’; Crime Writing Festival 2015 and his short crime story ‘Tulpa’ was subsequently published in the Northern Crime One’ anthology (Moth Publishing 2015). His debut crime novel ‘Six Stories’ will be available through Orenda Books in the spring of 2017.

 

Author Links:   Website    |    Twitter    |    Facebook    |    Amazon UK    |   Goodreads

 

 

Published by Wildfire/Headline

ebook: 31 March 2017   |  Paperback: 27 July 2017

 

It was a pleasure to meet Amanda at a recent Headline bloggers and authors event and I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Close to Me – her debut novel.  I have the book to read but for my turn on this tour, I have an extract.

 

She can't remember the last year. Her husband wants to keep it that way.

When Jo Harding falls down the stairs at home, she wakes up in hospital with partial amnesia - she's lost a whole year of memories.

A lot can happen in a year. Was Jo having an affair? Lying to her family? Starting a new life?

She can't remember what she did - or what happened the night she fell.

But she's beginning to realise she might not be as good a wife and mother as she thought.

Dramatic psychological suspense for fans of Liane Moriarty's The Husband's Secret, Clare Mackintosh's I Let You Go, and Linda Green's While My Eyes Were Closed.

 

EXTRACT

Chapter One
The Day of The Fall

Cold and smooth, the flagstones of our hallway are reassuringly solid beneath me, each one a raised bump, the mortar crevices like emery boards to my touch, segmenting the repeating pattern. There’s no part of me I can move except for my left hand, and yet I feel I’m floating free.

‘Jo, can you hear me?’ my husband whispers, his skin damp to the touch as his top lip brushes my cheek. ‘Jo, answer me,’ Rob insists. ‘For god’s sake, Jo. Are you okay? Just answer me!’

A loud sound echoes down the hallway, thuds so imperative they pierce the darkness, pulling me up to the surface gasping. There’s someone at the door, shouting to be let in, but Rob ignores them, asking me over and over what’s wrong. I don’t reply, the words forming, then gone.

The door is opened, a chill blast of air rushing towards me as a woman’s voice draws near, calm and measured. Then at last blissful sleep, like a cool blanket enfolding me; releasing the tight fist of pain.

Consciousness arrives piecemeal; elements returning one by one, although I resist them. First there’s the light beyond my closed eyelids, then sounds and movement around me. I may have been lying here a while, or no time at all. I try to recall what happened, my fingers worrying at the stones beneath me, their cool touch comforting. I was on the landing, I know that much, and Rob was behind me, too close, his long strides outpacing me. ‘No!’

‘Jo, it’s okay, you passed out again, but I’m here to help.’ She smells sharp and astringent, her breath warm. ‘Please try to stay still so I can help you.’

I shiver, the cold air funnelling in through the open door, the wind whipping around the barn, relentless as always. I’d thought we could tame the elements, lay down roots, but, fifteen years on, the constant battering of the wind still disturbs me. Nothing fragile survives up here, stringy shoots plucked from tender soil, saplings bent then snapped, gates snatched from hands, car doors wrenched open and slammed closed, tearing fingernails and bruising shins. ‘We live at the top of a hill, what do you expect?’ Not this. Not every day.

‘Jo, do you remember what happened?’ Rob asks. ‘You fell, Jo. You fell down the stairs. Lost your footing. You were coming down in front of me. I tried to save you, Jo. I tried to save you.’ He keeps saying it, as if that will make me remember.

A pinch to my finger, a cuff to my arm, sensors stuck to my skin. I try to sit up, but Rob tells me to stay still, his palms under my armpits, hoisting me on to his knees, the bones of them angular beneath my back. I loll against my husband, too weak to struggle, his long limbs now encircling me, but his hold on me is too tight, I can’t breathe.

‘Jo, can you answer some questions?’ the calm voice asks.

‘She’s barely conscious!’ Rob shouts, his words slicing through me. ‘Can’t it wait?’

The reply is firm. ‘Rob, you need to move back, let Jo speak.’

I open my eyes to the bright light, the stairs stretching up and over me, dizzying. ‘I don’t want him,’ I say. Rob’s hands are hot on my skin, his fingers stroking my neck, my shoulder, pressing in. ‘Tell him to let me go!’ I struggle and cry out in pain, but she insists I stay still.

‘Can you move away, Rob? You need to let us do our job,’ she says, then she leans over me, her face above mine, asking me so many questions and I try to answer, to tell her where it hurts, how I am. ‘Can you remember what you were doing before you fell, Jo?’

I look up the stairs to Fin’s door. ‘I was sad,’ I tell her. ‘Because of Fin.’

‘Fin?’ the stranger echoes, her eyes kind.

‘It’s our son,’ Rob says, his hand now squeezing mine.
Pain shoots through my wrist and Rob drops my hand; says he’s sorry. He keeps repeating how sorry he is, and all I can think is, I don’t want him this close to me.

‘Just give us some space, Rob,’ the stranger tells him, taking my other wrist in her hand. ‘I’m giving you something for the pain, Jo.’

‘I don’t want him,’ I say. ‘Get him off me!’ The throbbing in my head takes over, a searing heat beneath my skull. I close my eyes, their voices slipping away.

Different lights when I open my eyes, brighter than before, and movement. We’re winding down the hill away from the barn, and there’s no siren, but speed, and so many wires, so many questions and Rob is beside me again, but I can’t get away from him because I’m tethered to the bed, strapped down, and now I don’t remember why I’d wanted to escape, although the urge hasn’t left me and when he touches me I flinch.

‘How old is your wife, Rob?’ the stranger asks, her face now in focus; younger than I’d imagined.

‘Jo’s fifty-five,’ Rob replies, his voice choked with emotion. He never cries; why now?

‘No,’ I whisper, my voice barely there. ‘Not yet.’

‘What did you say, Jo?’ Rob’s voice closer now.

I turn away, close my eyes, try to sleep, but I’m jolted awake by a thought. ‘The kids, do they know?’

‘I’ll ring them once we get to the hospital,’ Rob replies.

He shouldn’t worry them, I tell him. Especially Fin, he’s got enough to cope with on his first day.

‘First day?’ Rob asks. ‘Jo, what are you talking about?’

I close my eyes again, too tired to reply. My skull feels loose beneath my scalp, each bump and bend in the road spinning my head like a gyroscope. I imagine my brain sloshing around in liquid, like a foetus in the womb, its legs and arms kicking and punching from within. The need to sleep is overwhelming, but the pain keeps me awake, my lucidity only in thought, not speech. Why would Rob tell them I’m fifty-five; he’s normally such a stickler for detail? It’s two months until my birthday.

We turn a sharp corner and all I can hear is Rob’s voice, saying again that I fell, then he leans over me, his mouth almost touching mine and he whispers, ‘You’ll be fine, Jo. I promise.’

And I whisper back, ‘Don’t make me any more promises, you bastard.’

About the author:

Amanda Reynolds teaches Creative Writing in Cheltenham, where she lives with her family. Her past jobs have included selling clothes online and writing murder mystery games.
Close To Me is her debut novel.

Author Links:

Website   |   Twitter   |    Amazon   UK   |  Goodreads


 

Published by No Exit Press

e-book and Hardcover : 23 March 2017

My thanks to Anne Cater and No Exit Press for the invite to take part in the Boundary blog tour.  For my turn today, I have an extract to tempt you with.

 

 

EXTRACT

Bondrée is a place where shadows defeat the harshest light, an enclave whose lush vegetation recalls the virgin forests that covered the North American continent three or four centuries ago. Its name derives from a deformation of the word “boundary,” or frontier. No borderline, however, is there to suggest that this place belongs to any country other than the temperate forests stretching from Maine, in the United States, to the southwest of the Beauce, in Québec. Boundary is a stateless domain, a no-man’s land harbouring a lake, Boundary Pond, and a mountain the hunters came to call Moose Trap, after observing that the moose venturing onto the lake’s western shore were swiftly trapped up on the steep slope of this rocky mass that with the same dispassion engulfs the setting suns.

Bondrée also includes several hectares of forest called Peter’s Woods, named after Pierre Landry, a Canuck trapper who settled in the region in the early 1940s to evade the war, to flee death while himself inflicting it. It’s in this Eden that ten or so years later a few city-dwellers seeking peace and quiet chose to build cottages, forcing Landry to take refuge deep in the woods, until the beauty of a woman called Maggie Harrison drove him to return and roam around the lake, setting in motion the gears that would transform his paradise into hell.

The children had long been in bed when Zaza Mulligan, on Friday 21 July, stepped onto the path leading to her parents’ cottage, humming A Whiter Shade of Pale, flung out, in the bedazzlement of that summer of ’67, by Procol Harum, along with Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. She’d drunk too much, but she didn’t care. She loved seeing objects dancing about her and trees swaying in the night. She loved the languor of alcohol, the odd gradients of the unstable ground, forcing her to lift her arms as a bird nfolds its wings to ride the ascending winds.  Bird, bird, sweet bird, she sang to a senseless melody, a drunken young girl’s air, her long arms miming the albatross and those birds of foreign skies that wheel over rolling seas. Everything around her was in motion, all charged with indolent life, right up to the lock on the front door into which she couldn’t quite manage to insert her key. Never mind, because she didn’t really want to go in. The night was too lovely, the stars so luminous.  And so she retraced her steps, crossed back over the cedarlined path, and walked with no other goal than to revel in her own giddiness.

A few dozen feet from the campground she entered Otter Trail, the path where she’d kissed Mark Meyer at the start of summer before going to tell Sissy Morgan, her friend since always and for evermore, for life and ’til death do us part, for now and forever, that Meyer frenched like a snail. The slack memory of that limp tongue wriggling around and seeking her own brought a taste of acid bile to her throat, which she fought off by spitting, barely missing the toes of her new sandals.  Venturing a few awkward steps that made her burst out laughing, she moved deeper into the woods. They were calm, with no sound to disturb the peace in that place, not even that of her footsteps on the spongy earth. Then a light breath of wind brushed past her knees, and she heard something crack behind her. The wind, she said to herself, wind on my knees, wind in the trees, paying no heed to the source of this noise in the midst of silence. Her heart jumped all the same when a fox bolted in front of her, and she started laughing again, a bit nervously, thinking that the night gave rise to fear because the night loves to see fear in the eyes of children. Doesn’t it, Sis, she murmured, remembering the distant days when she tried with Sissy to rouse the ghosts peopling the forest, that of Pete Landry, that of Tanager, the woman whose red dresses had bewitched Landry, and that of Sugar Baby, whose yapping you could hear from the top of Moose Trap. All those ghosts had now vanished from Zaza’s mind, but the sky’s moonless darkness revived the memory of the red dress flitting through the trees.

She was starting to turn off onto a path that intersected with Otter Trail when there was another crack behind her, louder than the first. The fox, she said to herself, fox in the trees, refusing to let the darkness spoil her pleasure by unearthing stupid childhood terrors. She was alive, she was drunk, and the forest could crumble around her if it wished, she would not shrink from the night nor the barking of a dog that had been dead and buried for ages. She began to hum A Whiter Shade of Pale among the swaying trees, imagining herself in the strong arms of someone unknown, their dance slow and amorous, when she stopped short, almost tripping over a twisted root.

The cracking came closer, and fear, this time, began to steal across her damp skin. Who’s there, she asked, but silence had fallen upon the forest. Who’s there, she cried, then a shadow crossed the path and Zaza Mulligan began to retreat.

 

About the Author/Translator:

Andrée A. Michaud is the multi award-winning author of ten novels. Her latest work, Boundary (Bondrée) was awarded Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction and the Arthur Ellis Award for best crime novel. As she has done since her very first book, Michaud fashions an eminently personal work that never ceases to garner praise from critics and avid mystery readers alike. She lives in Canada.

Donald Winkler is a Canadian documentary maker and French-to-English literary translator. He won the Canada’s Governor General’s Award for French to English translation in 1994, 2011 and 2013.

Book Purchase Links:  No Exit Press   |   Amazon UK    |  Amazon.com

 

Published by Corvus

ebook & Paperback : 6 April 2017

approx 336 pages

 

Zoe and Ollie Morley tried for years to have a baby and couldn't. They turned to adoption and their dreams came true when they were approved to adopt a little girl from birth. They named her Evie.

Seven years later, the family has moved to Yorkshire and grown in number: a wonderful surprise in the form of baby Ben. As a working mum it's not easy for Zoe, but life is good.

But then Evie begins to receive letters and gifts.
 The sender claims to be her birth father.
 He has been looking for his daughter.
 And now he is coming to take her back...

 

The story starts in London with parents-to-be Ollie and Zoe rushing to a hospital for the birth of a baby, we then jump to 7 years later and to their son Ben’s second birthday party where the family are living in Yorkshire. Zoe is frazzled, having to cope on her own without Ollie’s support and Evie, their oldest child is behaving strangely, is she just jealous of Ben getting all the attention or is there another reason for her bad behaviour?

The first thing that I really noted during the early part of this story was the difference in Ollie’s behaviour. Whilst seven years previously he and Zoe were excitedly getting ready for the hospital and looking forward to bringing home a baby, he was a devoted and caring husband but just five short years later, he seems to be spending as much time away from the family as possible, pleading work commitments. It’s no wonder that Zoe feels as though she is a single mother and sometimes drops one or two of the balls she is juggling.

The Stolen Child is a really enjoyable suspense story that kept me intrigued all the way through and the setting of the Ilkley moors was so descriptive and atmospheric.  The chapters are easy to follow as there is a timeline introducing each one.  As well as seeing the main drama unfolding, we occasionally hear the voice of another unknown person; whoever it is clearly believes that their daughter has been stolen and wants her back. I have to admit there were times when I felt so frustrated with some of Zoe’s decisions that I wanted to shake some sense into her and on several occasions I was silently shouting ‘no don’t do that’. I do have to commend her though for following through with her intuition and gut feeling – she could sense some things were wrong even when others, for example the police, thought they knew better.

The plot is well structured and as you would expect from this genre, nothing is quite as it seems.  I was feeling a bit smug as I thought I had worked out who was responsible however a clever writer always has a trick or two up her sleeve and the twists and turns in this story meant that by the time the big reveal came I had suspected everyone in turn.  As well as the suspense element, the story focuses on the increasingly fractured relationship between Zoe and Ollie and also that of Evie and her adopted family.  What does Evie really think – does she feel loved enough?  Does she feel that Ben is their favourite because he is their biological child?

A recommended read – and such a lovely cover too! I had already bought the author’s first book, Bone By Bone, which I have yet to read – if that is as good as this one then I’m definitely missing out and need to bump it up the TBR mountain.

My thanks to the publisher and to Lovereading for the paperback copy to review.

 

 

About the author:

Bone by Bone‘, published by Corvus Books, is my first psychological thriller. It was longlisted for a CWA Steel Dagger Award, and was nominated as one of the best crime and thriller books of the year by the Guardian and the Sunday Express. It’s recently been published as an audio book by Audible.

My second thriller, ‘The Stolen Child’, is out in April. It’s set in Ilkley, where I grew up. I spent a large proportion of my childhood rambling over the moor, as you’ll probably be able to tell!

I live in Bristol, with my husband and daughter.

 

Author Links:     Website   |   Twitter   |  Facebook   | Amazon UK   |  Goodreads