The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby | Blog Tour Extract |#historicalfiction

Published by No Exit Press
ebook and paperback (21 March 2019)
320 pages

My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the blog tour invite. Oh how I wish I was able to fit in a review for this. I’ve read so many good reviews of it but my reading of it will have to wait a while. In the meantime I have an extract to share.

About the Book

To believe in her future, she must uncover her past…

Birmingham, 1885.

Born in a gaol and raised in a workhouse, Cora Burns has always struggled to control the violence inside her.

Haunted by memories of a terrible crime, she seeks a new life working as a servant in the house of scientist Thomas Jerwood. Here, Cora befriends a young girl, Violet, who seems to be the subject of a living experiment. But is Jerwood also secretly studying Cora…?

With the power and intrigue of Laura Purcell’s The Silent Companions and Sarah Schmidt’s See What I Have Done, Carolyn Kirby’s stunning debut takes the reader on a heart-breaking journey through Victorian Birmingham and questions where we first learn violence: from our scars or from our hearts.


the Union

‘Have you been in here before?’

The girl looked at Cora then slowly shook her head.

‘What’s your name?’

The new girl blinked. ‘Alice Salt.’

Cora’s laugh had a cruel edge. ‘That’s a funny name. Alice Salt; all is salt.’

Alice flushed. Despite the blotched skin, her face was a pretty oval with tiny cupid lips and almond-shaped eyes under thick brows. They seemed like the same shaped eyes, in fact, as Cora’s own. And Cora’s might also be the same shade of violety-grey but she had never looked in a glass clear enough to know.

All of the Bolger girls were rattling the chains on the giant stride and staring at Cora. Normally, she’d have taken this as a challenge, called them pikeys and threatened to spit in their beds, but today she turned her back. She tightened her arm on Alice’s elbow.

‘I’m Cora Burns. I’ll look after you but you must do as I say. How old are you?’

Alice licked her cracking lips. ‘Nine.’

Cora’s eyes narrowed. Skinny little runt if she was nine.

Tears began to pool at Alice’s eyelids. ‘Today’s my birthday.’

Birthday? Cora had never heard such a lot of stuck-up swill. She put both hands on Alice’s wrist and forced the skin in opposite directions. A teardrop slipped through Alice’s dark eyelashes and spilled down her cheek. But she didn’t make a sound and her hand stayed on Cora’s sleeve. Perhaps she did have guts after all. Cora wiped the drip from Alice’s cheek and felt a twinge of remorse. She almost confessed that she was angry only because the date of her own birth was a blank. She might be nine as well, but couldn’t be sure.

Then Cora looked down at Alice’s wrist and jerked back in panic.

A wheal of red skin puckered up Alice’s arm into her sleeve. Alice saw Cora’s expression and smiled through her tears.

‘Don’t worry, you didn’t do that. It was from japanning.’

‘What’s that?’

‘Don’t you know?’

Cora grabbed hold of the scarred wrist, twisting it again to show that she was the one who’d ask the questions round here.

Later that night, when all the hoo-ha had died down and there was only spluttering and coughing in the dormitory, Cora made herself stay awake until the snuffling started. It would always get going as soon as the new girl thought no one could hear. Cora pulled back her covers, about to slip along the facing rows of iron beds, but a shivering figure in a too-big nightdress was already there at her bedside. Alice’s face was washed in grey moonlight. She seemed almost to float on the cold air that slid through gaps in the floorboards.

‘Will you budge up for me, Cora? I can’t get to sleep on my own.’

She stole between the sheets and Cora pulled the lumpy blanket over their heads pressing herself around Alice’s bird-like limbs. Alice wiped a hand across the burbling from her nose and whispered.

‘I don’t like that bed. Who was in it before?’

‘Betty Hines.’

‘What happened to her?’

‘Her mother came for her, but it won’t be long till she’s back, I’d say. The mother’s a widow and sickly so Betty’s in and out of here like a rat in a drain.’

Alice turned in the bed and Cora could make out her eyes shining in the darkness.

‘I hope your mother doesn’t come for you, Cora.’

An odd tightness gripped at Cora’s chest. She knew that she must have had one once but mother was just a word. She had never before imagined her own to be a living, breathing woman. Cora swallowed the tightness away and cut a hard note into her voice.

‘It’s best not to have a mother. Everyone who does can’t stop blubbing.’

Alice put her hand on Cora’s. ‘I don’t have a mother either.’

‘Is she dead?’

Alice shook her head. ‘I thought Ma was my mother until she told me that I was boarded out to her from the Parish. And now I’m nine, the Guardians expect me to get the same to eat as a grown-up. So Ma can’t keep me any more.’

It took Cora a minute to comprehend what Alice was telling her.

‘If she’s not your real Ma, who is?’

But Alice could only shrug, her eyes glistening with tears.

In the next bed, Hetty Skelling coughed in a way that made Cora suspect she was wide awake and listening. Cora rubbed her big toe on Alice’s icy foot and put her lips almost inside Alice’s ear. Her voice was quiet as breath.

‘We’re the same then, you and me. And that’s why, from now on, we’re going to be sisters.’

About the Author

Originally from Sunderland, Carolyn Kirby studied history at St Hilda’s College, Oxford before working for social housing and then as a teacher of English as a foreign language.

Her novel The Conviction of Cora Burns was begun in 2013 on a writing course at Faber Academy in London. The novel has achieved success in several competitions including as finalist in the 2017 Mslexia Novel Competition and as winner of the inaugural Bluepencilagency Award. Carolyn has two grown-up daughters and lives with her husband in rural Oxfordshire.

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The American Agent by Jacqueline Winspear | Blog Tour Extract |#TheAmericanAgent #MaisieDobbs

The American Agent (Maisie Dobbs #15)
Published by Allison & Busby
ebook and hardback (26 March 2019) | paperback (22 August 2019)
350 pages

About the Book

When Catherine Saxon, an American correspondent reporting on the war in Europe, is found murdered in her London digs, news of her death is concealed by British authorities. Serving as a linchpin between Scotland Yard and the Secret Service, Robert MacFarlane pays a visit to Maisie Dobbs, seeking her help. Accompanied by an agent from the US Department of Justice-Mark Scott, the American who helped Maisie escape Hitler’s Munich in 1938 he asks Maisie to work with Scott to uncover the truth about Saxon’s death. As the Germans unleash the full terror of their blitzkrieg upon the citizens of London, raining death and destruction from the skies, Maisie must balance the demands of solving this dangerous case with her need to protect the young evacuee she has grown to love. Entangled in an investigation linked to the power of wartime propaganda and American political intrigue being played out in Britain, Maisie will face losing her dearest friend and the possibility that she might be falling in love again.


Reporting London, broadcast by Catherine Saxon, London, September 10th, 1940

Tonight I joined the women of the London Auxiliary Ambulance Service as they rushed to the aid of civilians caught in the relentless bombing of this brave city. Herr Hitler’s bombers have been swarming in for the past three nights, raining down terror on the men, women and children of London as if to pay the country back for the success of Britain’s Royal Air Force as they fought the Luftwaffe over England’s southeastern counties throughout the summer. Resilience and endurance have been the order of the day and night for the citizens of this country – an experience we Americans should be grateful we have not yet encountered on our soil. Pray to God we shall never see the shadows of those killing machines in the skies above Main Street.

I was aboard an ambulance with two women – both Mrs. P and Miss D served their country in the last war: Mrs. P with the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, and Miss D as a nurse at a casualty clearing station close to the front line. I later discovered Miss D is, in fact, a titled member of England’s aristocracy, a sign that everyone’s pulling together on Britain’s home front. As Miss D drove through the streets at speed, her way lit only by fires either side of a thoroughfare strewn with scorched and burning rubble, the flames threatened to take us with them. When we reached our destination, a street I cannot name and would not know again, Miss D braked hard, and before the ambulance came to a stop, Mrs. P had leaped out and was gathering the kit needed to aid bombed-out families. The men of the fire service were hard at work, directing wide arcs of water into houses destroyed by the bombing. Flames rose up as if to spike the heavens, the remaining walls like broken teeth leading into the mouth of hell. Beyond I could see searchlights as they crossed each other scouring the skies for bombers and many of those searchlights were “manned” by women. The constant ack-ack-ack of anti-aircraft guns added to the ear-splitting sounds of a night with London under attack. Within minutes an injured boy and a girl were made stable and placed in the ambulance. I’d watched their grandmother pulling at fallen masonry even as it scorched her hands. “My girls, my girls,” she cried, as she tried to move bricks and mortar away from the untimely grave that had claimed her two beloved daughters. Miss D gently put her arms around the wailing grandmother and led her toward the ambulance, where she bandaged her hands and reminded her that two small, terrified children were counting on her strength. Minutes later, firemen carried away the bodies of the deceased, the grandmother’s “girls” – the mother and aunt of the two children. This report cannot include a description of the remains of those two women.

The Civil War is still remembered by the elders in our American hometowns. Those men and women were children during a terrible time in our country’s history, and some saw what trauma cannon fire and machine gun will inflict upon the human form. The volunteers who fought with our Lincoln Brigade witnessed Hitler’s Blitzkrieg in Spain – they too know the terror of a bombing raid. We who have seen war know the children in that ambulance will never forget this night – it will be branded into their young minds forever. And it will be branded into the memory of those two women of the London Auxiliary Ambulance Service, and into the heart of this reporter. The children’s father is at war. If he comes home, it will be to what’s left of his family – as will many men who believed they were fighting for the safety of their loved ones.

This is Catherine Saxon, courtesy of the British Broadcasting Corporation in London, England, on the night of September tenth, 1940. God bless you all, and may peace be yours.

My thanks to the publisher for providing the extract and to Anne Cater for the tour invitation. I wish I had had been able to fit in a review for this as looks just my type of read.

About the Author

Jacqueline Winspear was born and raised in Kent and emigrated to the USA in 1990. She has written extensively for journals, newspapers and magazines, and has worked in book publishing on both sides of the Atlantic. The Maisie Dobbs series of crime novels is beloved by readers worldwide.

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The Missing Sister by Dinah Jefferies |Blog Tour Extract| #TheMissingSister #HistoricalFiction

Published by Penguin
Available in ebook and paperback (21 March 2019)
320 pages

About the Book

A stolen sister. A daughter determined to uncover the truth.

Belle Hatton has embarked upon an exciting new life far from home: a glamorous job as a nightclub singer in 1930s Burma, with a host of sophisticated new friends and admirers. But Belle is haunted by a mystery from the past – a 25 year old newspaper clipping found in her parents’ belongings after their death, saying that the Hattons were leaving Rangoon after the disappearance of their baby daughter, Elvira.

Belle is desperate to find out what happened to the sister she never knew she had – but when she starts asking questions, she is confronted with unsettling rumours, malicious gossip, and outright threats. Oliver, an attractive, easy-going American journalist, promises to help her, but an anonymous note tells her not to trust those closest to her. . .

Belle survives riots, intruders, and bomb attacks – but nothing will stop her in her mission to uncover the truth. Can she trust her growing feelings for Oliver? Is her sister really dead? And could there be a chance Belle might find her?

My thanks to Georgia of Penguin for the invitation to take part in the tour. I was meant to be reviewing this next month but my tour spot was bought forward and I have now an extract instead. I will be reviewing this soon though – I love Dinah’s books and a new one is always a treat to look forward to.


Rangoon, Burma, 1936

Belle straightened her shoulders, flicked back her long red-gold hair and stared, her heart leaping with excitement as the ship began its steady approach to Rangoon harbour. Rangoon. Think of it. The city where dreams were made, still a mysterious outline in the distance but coming into focus as the ship cut through the water. The sky, a shockingly bright blue, seemed huger than a sky ever had business to be, and the sea, almost navy in its depths, reflected a molten surface so shiny she could almost see her face in it. Even the air shimmered as if the sun had formed minute swirling crystals from the moisture rising out of the sea. Small boats dotting the water dipped and rose and she laughed as screeching seabirds swooped and squabbled. Belle didn’t mind the noise, in fact it added to the feeling that this was something so achingly different. She had long craved the freedom to travel and now she was really doing it.

With buzzing in her ears, she inhaled deeply, as if to suck in every particle of this glorious moment, and for a few minutes she closed her eyes. When she opened them again she gasped in awe. It wasn’t the bustling harbour with its tall cranes, its freighters laden with teak, its lumbering oil tankers, its steamers and the small fishing boats gathering in the shadow of the larger vessels that had gripped her. Nor was it the impressive white colonial buildings coming into sight. For, rising behind all that, a huge golden edifice appeared to be floating over the city. Yes, floating, as if suspended, as if a section of some inconceivable paradise had descended to earth. Spellbound by the gold glittering against the cobalt sky, Belle couldn’t look away. Could there be anything more captivating? Without a shadow of a doubt, she knew she was going to fall in love with Burma.

The heat, however, was oppressive: not a dry heat but a kind of damp heat that clung to her clothes. Certainly different, but she’d get used to it, and the air that smelt of salt and burning and caught at the back of her throat. She heard her name being called and twisted sideways to see Gloria, the woman she’d met on the deck early in the voyage, now leaning against the rails, wearing a wide-brimmed pink sun hat. Belle began to turn away, but not before Gloria called out again. The woman raised a white gloved hand and came across.

‘So,’ Gloria’s cut-glass voice rang out, breaking Belle’s reverie. ‘What do you make of the Shwedagon Pagoda. Impressive, no?’

Belle nodded.

‘Covered in real gold,’ Gloria said. ‘Funny lot, the Burmese. The entire place is peppered with shrines and golden pagodas. You can’t walk without falling over a monk.’

‘I think they must be splendid to create something as wonderful as this.’

‘As I said, the pagodas are everywhere. Now, my driver is waiting at the dock. I’ll give you a lift to our wonderful Strand Hotel. It overlooks the river.’

Belle glanced at the skin around the other woman’s deeply set dark eyes and, not for the first time, tried to guess her age. There were a number of lines, but she had what was generally termed handsome looks. Striking rather than beautiful, with a strong Roman nose, chiselled cheekbones and sleek dark hair elegantly coiled at the nape of a long neck . . . but as for her age, it was anyone’s guess. Probably well over fifty.

Gloria had spoken with the air of someone who owned the city. A woman with a reputation to preserve and a face to match it. Belle wondered what she might look like without the thick mask of expertly applied make‑up, carefully drawn brows and film-star lips. Wouldn’t it all melt in the heat?

‘I occasionally stay at the Strand after a late night, in fact I will be tonight, though naturally I have my own home in Golden Valley,’ Gloria was saying.

‘Golden Valley?’ Belle couldn’t keep her curiosity from showing.

‘Yes, do you know of it?’

Belle shook her head and, after a moment’s hesitation, decided not to say anything. It wasn’t as if she knew the place, was it? She simply wasn’t ready to talk to someone she barely knew. ‘No. Not at all,’ she said. ‘I simply liked the name.’

Gloria gave her a quizzical look and Belle, even though she had determined not to, caught herself thinking back. A year had passed since her father’s death, and it hadn’t gone well. The only work she’d found was in a friend’s bookshop, but each week she’d pored over the latest copy of The Stage the moment it arrived. And then, joy of joy, she’d spotted the advertisement for performers wanted in prestigious hotels in Singapore, Colombo and Rangoon. Her audition had been in London, where she’d stayed for a gruelling two days and an anxious wait until she heard.

About the Author

Dinah was born in Malaya in 1948 and moved to England at the age of nine. In 1985, the sudden death of her fourteen year old son changed the course of her life, and deeply influenced her writing. Dinah drew on that experience, and on her own childhood spent in Malaya during the 1950s to write her debut novel, The Separation.

Now living in Gloucestershire with her husband and their Norfolk terrier, she spends her days writing, with time off with her grandchildren.

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A Gift for Dying by M J Arlidge | Blog Tour Review |#AGiftForDying

Published by Penguin
Available in ebook, hardback & paperback (7 March 2019)
480 pages
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

About the Book

The gripping new thriller from M. J. Arlidge, Sunday Times bestselling author of the Helen Grace series.

Adam Brandt is a forensic psychologist, well used to dealing with the most damaged members of society.

But he’s never met anyone like Kassie.

The teenager claims to have a terrible gift – with one look into your eyes, she can see when and how you will die.

Obviously, Adam knows Kassie must be insane. But then a serial killer hits the city. And only Kassie seems to know where he’ll strike next.

Against all his intuition, Adam starts to believe her.

He just doesn’t realise how deadly his faith might prove…

My Thoughts

This is my first read of a book by this author, despite collecting some of the Helen Grace series and what a fantastic book to start with and even better, it’s a standalone.

Kassie Wojcek is a teenager with a gift – or a curse, whichever way you want to look at it.  She can look into someone’s eyes and see their death – how and when.  These premonitions bring her into contact with psychologist Adam Brandt when she is held by detectives after an encounter with someone in the street.  Kassie is no stranger to the police having a string of offences to her name including theft, assault and drug use but Adam feels a connection to the troubled girl and decides to try and help her. He is not really convinced by her claims but he wants to find out more and in trying to counsel her, he finds himself caught up in events of which he could never have imagined. 

Meanwhile a serial killer is stalking and picking his victims from the streets of Chicago, torturing and killing them in the most terrifying and gruesome of ways.

A Gift for Dying was one of those books that I didn’t want to put down.  My proof copy was 470 pages but it has short snappy chapters which just beg you to read on for just a bit longer …..and despite the graphic detail of some of the murders (which did make me wince a bit) I was addicted to it and desperate to find out what happened next.

Of Polish origin, Kassie lived with her mother, in a run-down part of town. She skipped school, took drugs and had an attitude but nevertheless there was something vulnerable and engaging about her and I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for her, even if at times my cynical head wondered if she was actually involved in the crimes somehow. I think it was her loneliness that affected me the most, she had had no one to turn to, her mother didn’t really care and had washed her hands of her because of her truancy and drug taking. She struggled to cope with the burden of the visions and wanted to help although quite often that help was misinterpreted as something else.

The story is told from various points of view including Kassie, Adam, the detective and the killer, to give a complete picture and character insight. The detective in charge, Gabrielle Grey seemed to be rather out of her depth here and was facing an uphill battle to find the killer before another victim was claimed. I did think she was too blinkered at times however this all adds to the cat and mouse suspense of the story. When I got to the last 30 pages or so, there was absolutely no way I was going to put this book down – and that ending was just incredible – a real fingernail biter of a climax.

If you like your crime dark, then this fast paced, graphic killer thriller should hit the spot.  I thought it was great and certainly want to read more by M J Arlidge.  I suppose I should start by hunting out those Helen Grace novels…..

My thanks to the publisher for the review copy and to Tracy Fenton for the invitation to take part in the tour.

About the Author

M. J. Arlidge has worked in television for the last fifteen years, specializing in high-end drama production, including the prime-time crime serials Torn, The Little House and Silent Witness. Arlidge also pilots original crime series for both UK and US networks. In 2015 his audio exclusive Six Degrees of Assassination was a Number One bestseller.

His first thriller, Eeny Meeny, was the UK’s bestselling crime debut of 2014. It was followed by the bestselling Pop Goes the Weasel, The Doll’s House, Liar Liar, Little Boy Blue, Hide and Seek, Love Me Not, and Down to the Woods.

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The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl |Blog Tour International #Giveaway|#TheCourier #TheIceSwimmer #Faithless #NordicNoir @OrendaBooks

The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl (Author), Don Bartlett (Translator)
Published by Orenda Books
Available in ebook and paperback (21 March 2019)
276 pages

My thanks to Anne Cater and Karen Sullivan of Orenda for the blog tour invitation to celebrate the paperback publication of The Courier. For my turn today I have a fabulous giveaway – which is open to International entrants. Orenda are very generously giving away a paperback copy of three books by Kjell Ola Dahl. Faithless, The Ice Swimmer and The Courier. Entry details are via the Rafflecopter box below but first – the books.

About the Books

The international bestselling godfather of Nordic Noir takes on one of the most horrific periods of modern history, in a stunning standalone thriller.

In 1942, Jewish courier Ester is betrayed, narrowly avoiding arrest by the Gestapo. In a great haste, she escapes to Sweden, saving herself. Her family in Oslo, however, is deported to Auschwitz. In Stockholm, Ester meets the resistance hero, Gerhard Falkum, who has left his little daughter and fled both the Germans and allegations that he murdered his wife, Åse, who helped Ester get to Sweden. Their burgeoning relationship ends abruptly when Falkum dies in a fire.

And yet, twenty-five years later, Falkum shows up in Oslo. He wants to reconnect with his daughter. But where has he been, and what is the real reason for his return? Ester stumbles across information that forces her to look closely at her past, and to revisit her war-time training to stay alive…

Written with Dahl’s trademark characterization and elegant plotting, The Courier sees the hugely respected godfather of Nordic Noir at his best, as he takes on one of the most horrific periods of modern history, in an exceptional, shocking thriller.

When a dead man is lifted from the freezing waters of Oslo Harbour just before Christmas, Detective Lena Stigersand’s stressful life suddenly becomes even more complicated. Not only is she dealing with a cancer scare, a stalker and an untrustworthy boyfriend, but it seems both a politician and Norway’s security services might be involved in the murder.

With her trusted colleagues, Gunnarstranda and Frølich, at her side, Lena digs deep into the case and finds that it not only goes to the heart of the Norwegian establishment, but it might be rather to close to her personal life for comfort.

Dark, complex and nail-bitingly tense, The Ice Swimmer is the latest and most unforgettable instalment in the critically acclaimed Oslo Detective series, by the godfather of Nordic Noir.

Oslo detectives Gunnarstranda and Frølich are back … and this time, it’s personal…

When the body of a woman turns up in a dumpster, scalded and wrapped in plastic, Inspector Frank Frølich is shocked to discover that he knows her … and their recent meetings may hold the clue to her murder. As he begins to learn more about the tragic events surrounding her death, Frølich’s colleague Gunnarstranda deals with a disturbingly similar cold case involving the murder of a young girl in northern Norway. An unsettling number of coincidences emerge, and Frølich is forced to look into his own past to find the answers – and to catch the killer before he strikes again.

About the Author

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in fourteen countries, and he lives in Oslo.

*** GIVEAWAY ***


On behalf of the publisher, I’m delighted to offer one paperback copy of each of The Courier, The Ice Swimmer and Faithless to one winner. 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 entrants aged 18 or over worldwide. 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 winner’s information. This will passed to the publisher for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data I hold. My Reading Corner is not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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