Blind Justice by Alex Tresillian | Extract | Urbane Extravaganza (@Alex_Tresillian @urbanebooks) #LoveBooksGroupTours

Published by Urbane Publications Limited

Available in ebook and paperback (5 July 2018)

360 pages



Welcome to my turn on the Urbane Extravaganza. From 24 November to 31 December, bloggers will be featuring a different Urbane book – I have been allocated Blind Justice and I have an extract below.  My thanks to Kelly for the tour invitation.  The eagle eyed may notice that my spot was actually yesterday, however recent illness has put a spanner in all my planned blog posts and I’m still catching up.

 

|   About the Book  |

 

THE NEW NIALL BURNET THRILLER!

Superstar Paralympian Fiona Mackintosh Green retires from the track to set up Forward Roll, a charity helping disabled people achieve self-respect through sport. But is she all she seems? How is her charity spending its money?

Niall Burnet, visually impaired journalist, is sent in undercover to find out. What he discovers is a trail of illegal performance-enhancing drugs that leads from the charity to its major backer, global pharmaceutical giant Prince Rajkumar.

All too soon, Niall finds himself surrounded by key players who will stop at nothing to protect their interests. When a former athlete is found dead, he knows that one wrong move could be his last…

 

EXTRACT

@THEBLINDBOXER tweeted: Domestic bliss: not all it’s cracked up to be.

The Blind Boxer regularly tweeted aphoristic statements about life and the state of the world. He also sporadically wrote a blog, but across the two platforms he had few followers. Some- thing about pearls and swine came to mind. Niall Burnet had been completely blind from the age of ten, but he had never boxed. He had lashed out. Connected with numerous walls and the occasional idiot who riled him, but he had walked into more people than he had knocked out. But, he had always loved “The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel; completely irrationally identified himself with the guy in the lyric; and he felt that metaphorically he boxed against life. Life had put him on the canvas more than once, and each time he had got back up and carried on fighting. And once in a blue moon he felt for a while that he was winning.

As he had felt six months ago when he was close to exposing a fraud that had caused a suicide and relieved innocent members of the public of money donated to charity in good faith; a quest that had become personal when Hugo, Niall’s long-suffering guide dog, had been left with half his skeleton shattered in a hit-and-run. Hot on the trail and love blossoming, he had envisioned a golden future. So often life flattered to deceive. He had winged the fraudsters but not destroyed them, and the contribution that he had made to the reporting of the story in The Mirror had been well paid for but had not kick-started his freelance journalism career as he had hoped. Now he was back in the small garden flat in Telford he had been determined to escape, drifting from day to day collecting disability benefits and tweeting to a world that wasn’t really interested.

But he still had the girl. Blossoming love had become domestic bliss. Which (as aforesaid) wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Not that it was Miranda’s fault. Not that he didn’t still really love and fancy Miranda. It was just – well – living with someone. Who was a girl. Who could see.

And, of course, that was really ironic because when he met her she had been blind. She had been about to undergo the world’s first complete binocular eye transplant. Blind, she had fallen for him, and once she could see she had stubbornly refused to use her eyes to see through him. She had clung to him and especially Hugo when her new eyesight started to fail, and he had clung to her because it was the deliberately engineered failure of the transplant that was the fraud he was investigating. Then he was her hero for saving her eyes and she had left her family home in Surrey to move in with him in sunny Shrop- shire, a stone’s throw from his thankfully unprotective mother.

They had had problems with sex from the get-go: she was a virgin and hung up about the whole business; he was inexperienced and apparently inept. They managed to force their way through the barriers of their combined incompetence but it always felt routine rather than great, and they neither of them showed any inclination to talk about it.

For the rest, Niall found it really frustrating that everything could be fine one minute and then unravel the next because of something he had unguardedly said or done. If there was one thing he was really good at, it was the un-thought-through tact- less remark. But the point was that he never meant it, and she should know that and be able to get over it once he apologised and admitted he was a total boor. He also felt that his inde- pendence was being compromised because Miranda’s instinct, now being sighted, was to do everything. To cook (abysmally), to tidy, to clean; to turn his bachelor pad into something like a presentable home. She was loving playing house and that was sweet but sometimes he longed for the opportunity to make a mess or blow the roof of his mouth off with a hot and spicy pizza delivery.

And then there was the whole business of seeing. Once upon a time, he had been able to see. He had (he thought) come to terms with the fact that he couldn’t; but when he had first met Miranda and they had both been blind he had been able to introduce the idea of seeing to her, to persuade her – when she was very unsure – that the sighted world was one she would want to inhabit. Now she did inhabit it, had become very comfortable with it, almost, he thought, took it for granted, as if her blind life had belonged to somebody else. And looking after him, as she now did, felt patronising and had stood their relationship on its head.

But she was kind and funny and loving and loyal and none of it was her fault. On balance they were doing OK. Only he was feeling emasculated and a failure. He trailed to the fridge and counted the cans of Guinness on the top shelf. Four. That wasn’t going to get him through more than one day. He was drinking more now than he had at any time since he left school, and he knew it wasn’t good for him but at this moment he found it difficult to care. Miranda was off swimming with his mum. The two of them had become great pals. Niall thought his mother probably took Miranda out to give her a break from him: from toxic conversations about the future and what they were both going to do with their lives. For all that she was in her twenties, Miranda had been able to see for less than a year. Prior to that her life hadn’t been going in any particular direc- tion, largely thanks to parents who thought it didn’t matter.

She had done nothing since leaving school at eighteen with not much. Now she was full of ridiculous ambitions she had no chance of fulfilling, and any kind of study was complicated by the fact that she was still coming to grips with sighted reading and writing.

Niall sat at the kitchen table and drank cold Guinness from the can. It was 10:30 in the morning. Hugo wandered in from another room and lay across his feet. This is the life of the blind, Niall thought: sitting, drinking, doing fuck all.

His phone rang – a ring-tone he had all-but forgotten. “Hello?” he said, curious.

“Niall?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s Matt. Matthew Long. The Mirror.” “I remember you,” Niall said.

“Sorry it’s been a while,” Matt apologised. “Are you busy?” “Incredibly.”

Matt missed the sarcasm, possibly deliberately. “Great.”

They had worked together on the story that had put two high-ranking officials at the British Association for the Blind out of a job, exposed at a sordid sex party. In the euphoria that followed, Matt had promised Niall everything: they would work together again, he would push Niall’s name, get him known and noticed. He had probably meant it at the time, as people usually do.

“I’ve got something that might be right up your street,” Matt was saying.

“Good God.”

“OK. Yeah. Sorry. I totally get it if you’re not interested.” “Maybe I need to hear what it is first.” For all that Matthew

Long was a successful and employed journalist, Niall had always felt in their dealings together as if he was working with an idiot. No, maybe not quite an idiot. But someone who always seemed to be half a step off the pace.

“I’m guessing you know shedloads about disabled sport,” Matt said.

“Shit all would be nearer the mark.”

“Right.” Matt sounded a little dashed. “But you were a sports reporter?”

“On Radio Salop,” Niall clarified. “It was mostly football and horseracing. And the odd local fun run. To the best of my knowledge the Paralympics never came to Shrewsbury.”

“Have you heard of Forward Roll?” Matt asked.

“I think I can do one,” Niall said. “Is that a sport?”  “It’s a charity that helps disabled people get into sport.” “OK.”

“It was set up by Fiona Green. Fiona Mackintosh Green as she is now,” Matt went on. “Have you heard of her?”

“Name does sound familiar,” Niall confessed. “Is she a K-list celebrity off the telly?”

“She’s a former Team GB paralympic double bronze medal- list in the 800 and 1500 metres wheelchair,” Matt said.

“Impressive.”

“She married her trainer, Nate Mackintosh.” “It happens.”

“He mostly trains normal athletes – ”

“Such a privilege being abnormal,” Niall cut in.

“Sorry,” Matt said. “Able-bodied athletes. God that sounds worse. Political correctness is a nightmare.”

“I get the picture.”

“He’s on our radar because we think he’s involved with doping,” Matt continued to explain. “And we think that some of Forward Roll’s major donors are companies that research, develop and deal drugs to athletes and coaches.”

“OK,” Niall said. “But isn’t getting disabled people some self-respect through sport a good thing?”

“Yeah,” Matt conceded, in a tone that suggested he couldn’t see the relevance of the point. “But,” he added, cottoning on, “you could say that the Blind Association was doing good things. We still brought down the big guys who were only in it for themselves.”

“We didn’t bring them down,” Niall said. “Not properly. We stopped their little game and got them ushered out the door, but nobody had the guts to get them for what they were really doing.”

“So you’re not interested, then?” Matt said. “Interested in what?”

“In being a part of this investigation?”

“What do you want me to do?” Niall asked. He wasn’t excited by the prospect, but almost anything was better than the nothing that filled his days now.

“It’s quite major,” Matt said. “You’d need to clear your diary for a few months.”

“Get to the point.”

“I’ve got you an interview there next Tuesday.” “Who am I interviewing?”

“No, mate,” Matt said. “It’s an interview for a job. We want to put you in there under cover.”

“What? How?”

“I’ve got a contact,” Matt explained, “ – well, more of a mate really – who works in a recruitment agency. He gave me the heads up that Forward Roll were looking for someone. Their recruitment policy positively discriminates in favour of disabled people. I thought you’d be the perfect fit.”

“What if I fuck up the interview?” Niall asked.

“We’d go back to the drawing board,” Matt said. “But I know you won’t. I’ve persuaded my mate not to put anyone else forward for it. Plus the job’s in marketing – you’re a journalist, a writer. Just what they’re looking for.”

“If you say so.”

“I may have spiced up your CV with a couple of marketing jobs. I’ll get my mate to send it to you.”

Niall hadn’t had a full time job since he had been made redundant by Radio Salop fourteen months before. He didn’t even know if he could remember how to get himself up early and ready to join the commuting multitude on a daily basis. But the carrot was tempting.

“Where are they based?”

“You’d be working out of their office in Fulham.” “London again.”

“Of course London.”

“I’d have to get a place to live,” Niall said. “I can’t sleep on friends’ floors if I’ve got a full time job. And that’s going to be bloody expensive.”

“Airbnb,” Matt said. “Eh?”

“You must know airbnb. It’s a website. People rent out their properties or bits of them. And it’s not that expensive.”

“Oh that. I thought that was for sex parties.” “Not exclusively.”

“You’ve thought of everything.”

“I just know I owe you one,” Matthew Long said. “And this is a perfect fit for you. Get the job, get settled in, get to know everybody, and then start digging.”

“What if I end up liking the job?” Niall asked.

“You’ll have to ask yourself, ‘Am I a killer journalist or am I a guy who works in marketing for a dodgy charity?’”

“What if I find out they’re not dodgy?”

“Trust me, they’re dodgy. We’ve been working on this for a while.”

Niall drew a deep breath.

“I’ll have to talk it over with the other half,” he said. “Somebody got you on the leash?” Matt asked.

“Miranda,” Niall said. “I’m still with Miranda. If you can remember her?”

“Of course,” Matt said. “Wow. That’s great. How is she?” “Weren’t  you  supposed  to  have  exclusive  rights  to  her

story?” Niall reminded him.

“Sorry mate, but her story hasn’t been that interesting lately,” Matt quipped. “So are you still shacked up with her parents in Surrey?”

“No. We’re shacked up in Shropshire. If you know where that is.”

“Not really. And her eyes are fine and everything?” “Yeah. Her eyes are really good.”

“It would be great to see her again,” Matt said.

“So I’ll talk to her,” Niall said. “And I’ll get back to you.

She’s out at the minute.”

“Have a look at Forward Roll online,” Matt suggested. “I will,” Niall said. “And I’ll get back to you.”

He ended the call. London. Again. The memories were mixed. Hugo still walked with a limp after the hit-and-run in the city, and the prognosis was that he might not be able to func- tion as a guide dog for much longer, which didn’t bear thinking about. He had friends in London – Simon, his old schoolmate; Faith, his sometime counsellor. He also had enemies in London

– Daniel Sullivan, dismissed bigwig of the British Association for the Blind chief among them. But London was a big enough place. And maybe, once he was there, he could set a few rabbits of his own running. Do Matthew Long’s investigation during daylight hours and hunt down his real prey in the dark. Fanciful imagery always made Niall feel better. This was a golden oppor-tunity to reboot his life – or just himself – too good to ignore. Miranda would surely see that. It galled him that he had to go through the rigmarole of running it past her. He had liked his life when he could make a decision on the spur of the moment and run with it, dragging Hugo along in his wake. He knew there were probably men out there who would go ahead and make the decision and present their girlfriends and wives with it as just another piece of news to be accepted and dealt with, but he wasn’t one of those men. He liked to think he was better than that. He tipped the rest of the Guinness down the sink as part of a new, healthier lifestyle, and put the kettle on for a raspberry tea instead. To his general annoyance and frustration, it was becoming increasingly difficult to get simple raspberry. The explosion of interest in bizarre fruit combinations had blown many of the old standards off the shelves. He had found himself grudgingly having to accept Cranberry and Raspberry as the closest modern equivalent. A rummage in the bread bin produced a stale doughnut which he ate (as part of a new, healthier lifestyle) as the kettle came up to the boil, covering his face and fingers with jam in the process.

Tea made, he repaired to the lounge and his laptop.

 

|   About the Author   |

 

Alex grew up in rural England with a dream to write for a living which never quite came true. He has enjoyed incarnations as a theatre publicity officer, restaurant manager, teacher, teacher trainer, and curriculum developer. Along the way Alex wrote five plays that were performed by students including one, Never Mind the Rain Forests, that was enthusiastically reviewed (3 stars) at the Edinburgh Fringe. Another, Gavin’s Kingdom, received a professional workshop production at the Birmingham Rep. Plays Into Shakespeare, a book for English and Drama teachers that introduced students to the characters in Shakespeare’s plays through short modern-English ‘additional’ scenes, was published by First and Best in Education in 2007. Alex moved to Abu Dhabi in 2008 with a Lebanese international education company that had a contract to train English teachers and develop curriculum materials. Latterly moved to their Academic Development office in Beirut and wrote two series of books for students from ages eight to sixteen – one on grammar and one on the art of writing. He is now living with his wife of many years in Worcestershire, his children pursuing careers in education, fashion, charity fundraising and web development in places as disparate as Beijing, London and Chesterfield. Alex also enjoys writing stories for his young grandchildren.

 

 Twitter   |   Amazon UK   |   Goodreads   

 

 

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None So Blind (The Teifi Valley Coroner Series #1) by Alis Hawkins | QandA | Book Review | (@Alis_Hawkins @DomePress) #NoneSoBlind #HistoricalCrime

 

Published by The Dome Press

Available in ebook and paperback (15 November 2018)


Welcome to my turn on the last day of the blog tour for None So Blind – the first in a new historical crime series from Alis Hawkins.  My thanks to Emily of Dome Press for the tour invitation and to Alis for taking the time to answer my questions.  My review is at the end of the post.

 

|   About the Book   |

 

West Wales, 1850.

When an old tree root is dug up, the remains of a young woman are found. Harry Probert-Lloyd, a young barrister forced home from London by encroaching blindness, has been dreading this discovery.

He knows exactly whose bones they are.

Working with his clerk, John Davies, Harry is determined to expose the guilty, but the investigation turns up more questions than answers.

The search for the truth will prove costly. Will Harry and John be the ones to pay the highest price?

 

Q&A

 

Welcome to the blog Alis. Can you tell us a little of your background

Thanks so much for having me, Karen, and for hosting the last stop on None So Blind’s blog tour!

I’m of what you might call dual heritage. I know that’s usually applied to people whose parents are of different races but with a Welsh mum and an English dad, growing up in West Wales did feel as if I had two very different sets of ancestors – one from the mining areas of South Wales and one from Kent which knew nothing of Wales, its language or customs. I grew up speaking English at home and Welsh at my primary school which was great for me and my brother as we had a secret language we could speak when we didn’t want our parents to know what we were saying!

I then moved on from the local comprehensive, which was bilingual, to Corpus Christi College, Oxford which – as you might imagine – was a wee bit of a culture shock. I loved my time at Oxford and, though I read English language and literature, I studied a fair amount of linguistics and became fascinated by language change – something I’ve been watching in my home area for the last thirty-odd years as Welsh is changed by the close proximity (not to say dominance) of English.

My main protagonist, Harry, shares this bilingual heritage – his dad is an Englishman who marries a Welsh girl and Harry also leaves home for the big city. However, unlike me, he is forced back to West Wales as a young man when he goes progressively blind and is no longer able to practice as a barrister.

Until I started reading None so Blind, I had never heard of the Rebecca Riots. What inspired you to write the story – did the idea for the characters or the period come to you first or were you always going to write about this aspect of Welsh history?

I’ve been wanting to write about the Rebecca Riots for years because I think they are both fascinating and woefully unknown! They came right at the end of a very riotous century and a half where people who didn’t have the vote, and therefore found it difficult to make their voices heard, rioted about everything from monarchs marrying Catholics to theatre ticket prices going up (seriously!) But the Rebecca Riots were the longest lasting series of riots as they went on for months not days. They were also the most geographically widespread and involved hundreds, if not thousands of people in small bands all across south west Wales. And I’ve always thought that that was a story that was worth telling!

I’ve written more about the riots and my reasons for writing about them in two of the guest posts I’ve done for this blog tour. Readers can find the first one at www.BooksOfAllKinds.weebly.com dated Saturday 17th November and the other at www.hairpastafreckle72.blogspot.co.uk dated Sunday 18th November.

None So Blind is the first story in a historical crime series. What is about this genre that appeals to you as a writer, say, as opposed to writing modern crime fiction?

Though I love contemporary crime fiction and read a lot of it, I think you can do so much more with historical crime. For a start, you get to do lots of lovely research! In common with most of my fellow hist-fic authors, I love the research aspect of writing – not just the whats and wheres of what happened in the past but the different attitudes that prevailed in previous eras and where they came from.

I think one of the things I like most is discovering people who bucked the trend of their time. People tend to think of the past in stereotypes – the Tudors were like this, the Jacobeans thought that, the Regency period was all… You get the picture. But, imagine trying to sum up our own day and age – where would you begin? There are almost as many opinions and ways of doing things as there are people. It’s only in looking back that you can make generalisations. But I like to write historical fiction not from the point of view of now – I think that can be a bit like watching gorillas in a zoo, they look an awful lot like us in some ways but they’re also very different and definitely not us. I try to write my nineteenth century fiction as if I was there, feeling those things, seeing those things, as if it was bang up to date, as modern and cutting edge as you can imagine. Because, when you’re living in a particular period – as we are living in the second Elizabethan age now – you don’t have the sense of living in history. You’re just living. It’s all happening now. That’s what I’m trying to convey.

The other really great thing about setting crimes in a world that’s now more than a century and a half ago is that the attitude to crimes, then, was so very different to our attitude, now. We take having a police force for granted and tend to believe that every murder will be solved and the murderer brought to justice. But in the nineteenth century, the police, as a uniformed force, were only just beginning. Cardiganshire (now Ceredigion) got a police force in 1844 but Pembrokeshire lagged behind, not creating theirs until it became mandatory to do so in 1856. Even then, police officers didn’t do much investigating. They were really there to keep the peace and they tended to confine themselves to things like arresting vagrants and prostitutes, sorting out breaches of the peace and chasing up obvious crimes where the suspect was known to all. Investigating murders, unless there was an obvious culprit or suspect, just wasn’t part of their brief. Which means that it was a time in which people literally got away with murder. In None So Blind, Harry Probert-Lloyd takes it upon himself to try and find out who killed Margaret Jones – a young woman with whom he had been romantically entangled when he was a teenager – because nobody else saw it as their job to do so. And because he doesn’t have the necessary authority, he finds it quite hard to get people to talk to him.

Do you plan in detail or just write and see where the story takes you

What I tend to do is research in detail, so I know a lot about the background against which my story is taking place. You’d be amazed at how much of the plot can be suggested by what you find out when you’re doing your research.

Then I tend to just come up with a body and the place it’ll be found and let Harry and John have at it. They come up with much better actions than I could ever have planned and I get to find out about the characters with them, as they investigate.

If you’d like to read more about my non-planning technique, have a look at the guest post I wrote for www.ilovedreadingthis.wordpress.com dated 23rd November.

What is the best writing advice that you have received? And what advice would you give to anyone trying to get their novel published? Is there anything that you wished you had done differently?

Advising other writers is tricky as everybody has their own way of writing and you just have to find yours. Lots of how-to books will give you reams of advice which might very well have worked for the person who wrote the book but won’t necessarily work for anybody else. Those kinds of books tell you to plan in detail, for instance, and to write pen-portaits of your characters so that you know them in detail before you start. That doesn’t work for me – I have to get to know my characters as I go along, just as you would with somebody you’d met in real life.

But one piece of advice, given to a friend of mine by the editor we shared at Macmillan, was helpful. Think more and write less. I think that’s good advice as, sometimes, you can write yourself into trouble whereas if you just sit at the beginning of the scene and ask yourself what you want your characters, or the reader, to know at the end of it that they don’t know at the beginning, that can be very focusing.

As for doing things differently – I’d have worked a lot harder, when my first book came out in 2008, to promote it. I’m not making that mistake this time.

Is there any part of the writing process which you enjoy the most (or find the most difficult) – i.e. researching, writing, editing?

As you’ll have gathered from what I’ve already said, I love the research aspects of writing a book but, while I’m researching I do get itchy about starting to write and I’ll sketch out ideas. Most of these never make it to the book but some take root and become the germ of something. Others might spark off another, completely different angle. I always have to write these things down because that’s how I think best – with a pencil in my hand, or in front of a keyboard.

Writing the first draft of a book is hard work. [I know, poor me, right? What a first world problem to have, the hard work of making things up!] So, though there are (very occasional) days when your characters just make it all up for you and scenes just write themselves, on the whole this tends to be the most difficult part of the writing process. Some speedy, efficient and focused writers get this done in a matter of weeks or a small number of months but I’ve never written a book in less than a year. In my own defence, my books tend to be longer than the average – 135,000 words compared to 80-90,000 – and I do need to fact-check my history as I go, but still.

But, once the first draft is complete, the fun starts. I love the process of getting the whole thing to work as well as I can. And, by that, I mean everything from the level of single words and similes right up to the overall structure of the book. Stephen King famously said that you write the first draft of your book to find out what it’s about and I agree. And it’s only once you really know what it’s about – both plot and underlying theme – that you can make it work properly.

I spend months making sure all the scenes are in the right order, that they all earn their place, rewriting and rewriting, sometimes writing new scenes or cutting scenes completely. I’ve never yet cut a whole character (unless they only appeared in one scene) but I do sometimes do quite drastic things. I once binned the first 30 000 words of a novel and started again from scratch. And I’ve had to go through a whole novel of 130 000 words, changing the viewpoint from third to first person. That was surprisingly difficult and it made me realise that even close third person where you get to describe a character’s mental state from inside, is very different from a first person narrative.

There’s a phrase that writers bandy about that says we must ‘kill our darlings’ (Attributed to Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch as ‘murder your darlings’.) This means that you have to sacrifice some of your favourite characters or scenes because you’ve been self-indulgent and, though the said character/scene may be beautifully written, it doesn’t earn its place in your novel. That’s the hardest bit of rewriting. But I find it gets easier as you write more books because, in the end, the finished book needs to be your darling, not particularly cherished bits.

Are there any authors whose books have made an impact on you? What type of book do you enjoy reading for pleasure, and what are you reading now?

I’ve always read a lot of crime books and, that way, I’ve come to understand the conventions of the genre. But, as much as that has influenced me, I’ve also been impacted by writers in other genres. Joanna Trollope is a wonderful exponent of dialogue and uses key, telling details to imply a whole range of things. Geraldine Brooks writes historical novels as if she’d been there, with language appropriate to each of the different eras in which she sets her novels. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series is a masterclass in how to sustain a narrative arc over many books but to have sufficient resolution in each individual book to satisfy the reader. Sue Gee immerses her reader in the lives of her characters so deeply that you feel you know them and mourn their loss when the book is finished. Jane Austen proves that sly linguistic humour does not detract from the seriousness of her social investigations. Phil Rickman develops his engaging characters and lets you in to their relationships alongside the solving of crimes. I could go on and on – I feel I learn something with every book I read, even if it’s only ‘I’m never making that mistake’!

At the moment I’m reading Jean Levy’s What Was Lost. It’s about a woman with a very strange case of amnesia and I’m utterly hooked on finding out what really happened to her!

Finally, if you could only keep 5 books on your bookshelf, which ones would it be and very briefly, why?

Oh my goodness, this is like Desert Island Discs! 5 books… yikes.

OK, just as long as you understand that, in a year’s time my 5 would probably be totally different, here’s a stab.

JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – the whole messianic purpose of the series finally comes to a very fitting climax. And Dumbledore’s words to Harry –‘Oh you brave boy, you brave, brave man,’ always make me cry.

Sue Gee’s The Last Guests of the Season – you are there, in the South of France, in the heat both physical and emotional. I was up till 3am finishing that book.

Patrick Gale’s Notes from an Exhibition – a wonderful evocation of both the artistic temperament and what a failure to understand each other and our motives can do to a family.

Geraldine Brooks’s Year of Wonders – a masterpiece of historical writing as she tells the fascinating and compelling story of Eyam, the Derbyshire village that quarantined itself from the plague in 1666.

Phil Rickman’s Wine of Angels – the first of his Merrily Watkins series, in which we are introduced to vicar and future diocesan exorcist, Merrily, and her daughter, Jane. Not to mention a cast of other characters who come with the reader from book to book. I love his ensemble casts and his supernatural-tinged crime investigations.

Thanks so much for having me in the Reading Corner, Karen. It’s been such a pleasure!

Thank you Alis!

 

|  My Thoughts   |

 

“Perhaps blindness is a just punishment for I did not see what I was doing. As they say, there’s none so blind as those that will not see”.

I’ve always had a love of historical fiction and crime but have not read much of the two genres combined. Until that is, I came to None So Blind. This is the first story in a series of the Teifi Coroner and gets off to a promising start.

It seems unusual to have a barrister investigating a suspicious death but in the 1850’s, crime investigation was so very different to now. No forensics or DNA analysis. There was not even a proper police force in every area.

Harry Probert-Lloyd comes from a privileged background and is the heir to the Glanteifi estate. He has always had a strained relationship with his father, a landowner and magistrate, and had previously been sent away in disgrace. His legal career in London is being cut short because of his increasing blindness (a fact which he tries at first to keep secret); he has very little remaining by way of sight and as a result he is forced to return home to the estate. When told that the remains of a young woman have been found Harry is devastated. He has a very good idea who the remains belong to and the question mark over the death eats away at him.

Following a hastily convened coroner’s hearing to determine the manner of death, Harry is asked to investigate further. Enlisting the assistance of a solicitor’s clerk, John Davies, to be his eyes, he sets out to discover why the woman died and how.

Alis Hawkins has written a complex and detailed story which covers a good deal of ground but which flows easily, bringing to life the characters and landscape and in particular the background to the ‘Rebecca Riots’. This campaign of civil disobedience came about when a group of farmers took action against the tollgates that were introduced and, feeling that their concerns were being ignored by the authorities, began to dispense justice of their own. But as can happen, people get carried away and something which was introduced for perhaps justifiable reasons, turns bad. As Harry and John are to discover, people’s prejudices and fears are not easily forgotten and the spirit of Rebecca lives on.  With certain people so determined to keep their secrets hidden, there was an unsettling undercurrent throughout.

Harry in particular, was an engaging character, and unusual of his class. Although he was a squire’s son, he had always felt comfortable around servants and had treated them almost as equals – often blurring the lines, something his father could never understand. Chapters are narrated from the perspectives of Harry and John. The partnership between the two worked very well with John learning to anticipate when Harry needed some extra help, however it is clear that both of them are hiding things from each other – whose secrets will be found out first?

This isn’t a quick read (my paperback copy was over 460 pages) but it is an engrossing one, written in a very readable style and it never felt like a history lesson. There are lots of Welsh terms used throughout however there is a very useful glossary at the beginning of the book explaining these – and a map – I always love a map!  There were occasions when I felt that the story was overcome by perhaps a little too much detail but that is a purely personal view. Having said that, I did enjoy it very much. I would like to follow Harry on his further adventures and look forward to reading the next book in the series.

 

 

 

|   About the Author   |

 

Alis Hawkins grew up on a dairy farm in Cardiganshire. She left to read English at Oxford and has done various things with her life, including bringing up two amazing sons, selling burgers, working with homeless people and helping families to understand their autistic children. And writing, always.  Radio plays (unloved by anybody but her), nonfiction (autism related), plays (commissioned by heritage projects) and of course, novels. Her current historical crime series featuring blind investigator Harry Probert-Lloyd and his chippy assistant John Davies, is set in her childhood home, the Teifi Valley. As a side effect, instead of making research trips to sunny climes, like some of her writer friends, she just drives up the M4 to see her folks. Alis speaks Welsh, collects rucksacks and can’t resist an interesting fact.

 

 

 

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Five Ladies Go Skiing by Karen Aldous | Blog Tour Guest Post | Paperback #Giveaway (@KarenAldous_ @rararesources @HQDigitalUK) #FiveLadiesGoSkiing

Published by HQ Digital

Available in ebook (5 November 2018) | Paperback (13 December 2018)

384 pages



I’m delighted to welcome Karen Aldous to the blog with a guest for the blog tour of Five Ladies Go Skiing.  My thanks to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for the place on the tour.  There is also a giveaway for 5 paperback copies once the book has been released in December, please see the end of the post for entry details.

 

|   About the Book   |

 

Five ladies, one unforgettable trip…
Escape to gorgeous Switzerland this winter with the brand new, uplifting read from Karen Aldous.

When Ginny Watts’ husband passes away, she is left grief-stricken, not only over her husband’s death but the secrets he has left behind…

Luckily for Ginny, she has four wonderful friends – Lou, Cathy, Angie and Kim – poised to whisk her away on a ladies’ skiing holiday to beautiful La Tzoumaz, Switzerland.

While all of them appear to have their lives together from the outside, little do the ladies know that every single one of them is fighting a secret battle.

As the trip unfolds, they realise that fears of tumbling down the slopes after too much après-ski fun is the least of their worries and all is not what it seems…

A novel of love, loss and friendship, perfect for fans of Jules Wake, Erica James and Cathy Kelly.

 

Setting for Five Ladies Go Skiing
The Swiss Alps

by Karen Aldous

 

Anyone who has read The Chateau will be familiar with the stunning setting of Lac Leman or Lake Geneva as we English refer to it, but just a few miles from the lake is one of the largest and most beautiful winter playgrounds in the world – The Alps! French, Italian and Swiss ski resorts are scattered in abundance and one of those is the resort where Five Ladies Go Skiing is set, La Tzoumaz in Switzerland. It’s part of the wider and more popular Verbier ski area in the 4Vallees and is renown for it’s amazing snow due to its height and north face. It’s certainly a little gem and had ninety-five per cent of the ingredients for the five friends who are characters in my new novel.

 

I’ve been skiing at this resort for many years, sometimes twice or three times a year, not only because of its fabulous skiing, and stunning scenery but because I have some wonderful friends who very generously invite me. It was my friends who inspired my novel in fact, and like the village itself, they are extremely welcoming. And, equally inviting is the vista. Whey you drive into La Tzoumaz and peer out of the car, you can’t fail to be impressed by the wondrous views. Your eyes are like magnets to the surrounding mountains and down to the Rhone valley where the road and rail links are sited and where you’d spot the smaller villages such as Iserables nestled in the mountains.

Compared to Verbier, the La Tzoumaz is smaller and much more intimate but that doesn’t mean its lacking in any way. The lift will speedily take you to Verbier for further skiing or to one of the numerous boutiques, but this hamlet offers everything. Ice-skating, swimming, winter hiking or snowshoeing as well as cross-country ski (ski du fond), Piste La Luge, the longest toboggan run in western Switzerland and like most resorts, the ski school. There’s also plenty of bars and restaurants on the slopes as well as in the village itself. And what is utterly charming in my opinion, is that they are much more traditionally Savoyard than the many bistro bars in the larger resorts.

Summer in Switzerland July & August

And so, for Ginny and her friends, this setting with it’s pretty snow-blanketed chalets was perfect, despite me having to place a fictional nursery slope in as four of them were beginners. Ginny was also keen to find a suitable setting to host Mike, her husband’s, first memorial, so the top of the mountain at Savoleyres with its stunning views over Verbier was gloriously fitting. For their regular lunches or après ski however, La Poste, the restaurant and hotel beside the square with its gorgeous Savoyard atmosphere and Italian owner, Pascal (Stefano in the book), who just loves to feed his guests, was the natural choice. Particularly for the New Year celebrations when Ginny and her friends have so much to celebrate.

 

 

|   About the Author   |

Karen Aldous enjoys village life on the edge of the north-downs in Kent with easy access to the buzz of London. Not only does she love the passive pleasures of reading and writing, she also craves the more active pursuits with her family and friends such as walking, cycling and skiing especially when they involve food and wine!

Much of Karen’s inspiration comes from her travels and meeting people. The UK, France, Greece, Switzerland, Italy and parts of the USA and Asia are just some you will experience in her books to date. However, wherever she goes, new characters emerge in ‘Karen’s World’ screaming at her to tell their stories; past or present. She loves to write about strong independent women who can direct their own lives – but struggle to control them! And, of course there’s always a gorgeous hunk or two!

 

 

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*** GIVEAWAY ***

Giveaway – Win 5 x Paperback copies of Five Ladies Go Skiing (UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions –Please note prize will be distributed once the paperback is available (published 13th December). UK entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data. My Reading Corner is not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Who I Am by Sarah Simpson | Blog Tour Guest Post | (@sarahrsimpson @Aria_Fiction) #WhoIAm #psychologicalthriller

 

Published by Aria

Available in ebook and paperback (6 November 2018)

492 pages



 

|   About the Book  |

I know everything about you

And you know everything about me… except

WHO I AM.

Andi met Camilla at university. Instantly best friends, they shared everything together. Until their long-planned graduation celebration ends in tragedy…

Years later, Andi is living a seemingly perfect life on the rugged Cornish Coast with her loving husband, happy children and dream home. Yet Andi is haunted by a secret she thought only she knew. Someone out there is bringing Andi’s deepest fears to life. And she knows there’s no escaping the past that has come back to haunt her…

You trusted me with your secrets, you told me everything, you thought I was your best friend… but you have no idea WHO I AM.

Gripping, unputdownable and packed with twists and turns from the first page to the very last, this stunning psychological thriller will make you question whether we can ever really trust the ones we love.

 

Forming My Main Protagonists

by Sarah Simpson

‘Perception – or life as we know it. Perception meanders down from upstairs, mingling with and influencing billions of neurochemical reactions as it descends. It changes with context; it changes with experience; it changes minds. The perceptual steps are not unyielding. They stretch and bend, as malleable as plastic. The world you perceive isn’t really the world itself, it is, simply, your story of the world. At the moment. What you see in this story or any other story; is in part choice and in part unconscious; but always utterly subjective’.

This is something I scribbled down before I began my writing journey and it still remains at the heartbeat of my writing and with no exception my latest novel – Who I Am. In particular, there is no real truth in any story that twists and turns its way through the pages, ending each chapter with a cliff-hanger, there is only ever the reader’s perception. And this is the point of Who I Am.

My two main female protagonists – Andi and Camilla, come from such diverse walks of life and are consequently different in every conceivable way. However, their emotional needs remain the same, their emotional conflicts are very similar but because of their backgrounds, how they go about attempting to fill the voids is so blatantly disparate. Camilla, in particular is such a complex character and as a writer at times, she infuriated me, she was also deliciously naughty, incredibly sharp and has the ability to pull on the heart strings. Because we have an understanding of her sometime disingenuous, sometimes sharp and often defensive nature, she’s also loveable. Like Eve, from my first novel –Her Greatest Mistake, Camilla tells a most tragic and heart-wrenching story.

Andi, on the other hand, is so bound by her life, so suffocated by the unspoken expectations she also makes decisions that lead her down pathways to ensure she spends the best chunk of her life regretting and clamouring away. I’m expecting that the reader’s empathy for her will be less tolerant because of her exorbitant background. And this was the point of writing these two extreme characters, we as readers have more or less empathy depending on our perception, depending on our personal experiences. But these two characters share the same plight – no matter what. Only the wrapping is altered.

There are several other characters in Who I Am, this is in fact a tangled web of deceit, jealousy, betrayal and many other taut emotions. However, I chose to tell the story mostly through the eyes of Andi and Camilla in first person. This allows me to show the depth and range of felt emotions more deeply, allowing the reader more of a fly on the wall experience. Who I Am, highlights how we can all on the surface, cope, survive and even thrive but nobody ever really knows what is bubbling away beneath this shell. Andi and Camilla share a tragic life event and the consequences of this, defines their lives forever, no matter what their background suggests.

 

My thanks to Vicky of Aria for the blog tour invitation and to Sarah for providing the guest post

 

 

|   About the Author  |

Sarah Simpson has a first-class honours degree in Psychology and has experienced working at a Brain Rehabilitation Hospital. She has spent time as a family consultant for Warwickshire and Oxfordshire solicitors and gained knowledge of the Family Court System. She now lives in Cornwall with her husband, three children and animals.

 

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And So It Begins by Rachel Abbott | Book Review | (@RachelAbbott @Wildfirebks) #AndSoItBegins

Published by Wildfire

Available in ebook | Hardback (15 November 2018) | Paperback (8 August 2019)

416 pages

Source: Review copy from publisher



 

|   About the Book  |

 

Cleo knows she should be happy for her brother Mark. He’s managed to find someone new after the sudden death of his first wife – but something about Evie just doesn’t feel right…

When Evie starts having accidents at home, her friends grow concerned. Could Mark be causing her injuries? Called out to their cliff-top house one night, Sergeant Stephanie King finds two bodies entangled on blood-drenched sheets.

Where does murder begin? When the knife is raised to strike, or before, at the first thought of violence? As the accused stands trial, the jury is forced to consider – is there ever a proper defence for murder?

 

|   My Thoughts   |

 

I’ve been a fan of Rachel Abbott’s books for some time – a few are reviewed here on the blog however she has now made the step from a very successful self publishing career having sold over 3 million copies of her six self-published thrillers to her first novel being traditionally published.

And So It Begins is published by Wildfire and is a standalone psychological thriller. I am sure that there will be many readers missing Tom Douglas (I was – initially!) but this is a fabulously twisted read featuring a new detective, Sergeant Stephanie King who along with DI Angus Brodie could be a favourite pairing – if there were to be another outing for them.

Following the dramatic prologue – the first part of the story goes back and sets the scene with Evie Clarke and Mark North – how they met, and especially how Mark’s sister Cleo fitted into the story. Cleo was very close to Mark – to say she was overprotective is an understatement.  In fact she didn’t seem to have much of a life of her own at all and she secretly resented any woman who came into Mark’s life, never thinking they were good enough for him. There were times when I felt really sorry for Evie, having to put up with Cleo’s interference and trying to assert her influence over Mark.

Evie was a complex character and her relationship with Mark seemed even more complicated and, at times, toxic. Mark, a photographer, was a reclusive character. The suspicion of domestic abuse made for an even darker story. It was easy to feel sympathy for the wronged party but as the story proceeds, lines become blurred and the reader has to decide for themselves who they believe.

And So It Begins is a mixture of genres – it’s predominantly a thriller but also encompasses police investigation and courtroom drama. I was hooked from the very first page and couldn’t read it fast enough. It had everything I loved in a thriller – an intricate plot, unlikeable and unreliable characters, well paced suspense and the anticipation in wondering what will happen next. Because of the prologue and the first chapter, you know that something bad has happened but what you don’t yet know is why.

All the way through I was trying to work out what had really happened and exactly who was involved. There are unexplained discrepancies concerning the death of Mark’s first wife which adds another strand. I had various theories about who what and why but nothing could prepare me for the finale! Rachel Abbott had me well and truly beaten this time.

A fabulous book. I loved it!

 

My thanks to Becky of Wildfire for the review copy and to Anne Cater for the blog tour invitation.

 

 

|   About the Author   |

Rachel Abbott began her career as an independent author in 2011, with Only the Innocent, which became a No.1 bestseller on Kindle, topping the chart for four weeks. Since then, she has published five further psychological thrillers, plus a novella, and sold over 2.75 million copies. She is one of the top-selling authors of all time in the UK Kindle store (published and self-published), and her novels have been translated into 21 languages. This is her first traditional publishing deal, though she’s been approached many times.  Rachel splits her time between Alderney – a beautiful island off the coast of France – and the Le Marche region of Italy, where she is able to devote all her time to writing fiction.

 

 

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