The Ringmaster by Vanda Symon | Blog Tour Guest Post |#TheRingmaster #SamShephard

The Ringmaster (Sam Shephard #2)
Published by Orenda Books
ebook (18 February) | paperback (18 April 2019)
320 pages

About the Book

Death is stalking the South Island of New Zealand

Marginalised by previous antics, Sam Shephard, is on the bottom rung of detective training in Dunedin, and her boss makes sure she knows it. She gets involved in her first homicide investigation, when a university student is murdered in the Botanic Gardens, and Sam soon discovers this is not an isolated incident. There is a chilling prospect of a predator loose in Dunedin, and a very strong possibility that the deaths are linked to a visiting circus…

Determined to find out who’s running the show, and to prove herself, Sam throws herself into an investigation that can have only one ending…

Rich with atmosphere, humour and a dark, shocking plot, The Ringmaster marks the return of passionate, headstrong police officer, Sam Shephard, in the next instalment of Vanda Symon’s bestselling series.

My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things for the tour invitation and to Karen of Orenda and Vanda for providing the guest post.

When life imitates art…

As a writer I spend way too much time in my own head, inventing scenarios, imagining weird and wonderful ways to knock people off, finding intriguing places to dump bodies, doing nasty things to my characters. These imaginings bounce around in my skull until they coalesce into something that resembles a story that I can then hone and craft until that moment where I think yes, I’m as happy as I can be with that, I’ve told the tale I wanted to tell, and I get brave and send it off to my publisher.

Sometimes these ideas are entirely dredged from my imagination, sometimes they are triggered by an event in real life, but all in all, they are fiction – and that is the way it is supposed to be…

But then sometimes, later, the fiction starts to get a bit real, and it all gets a bit weird.

Of all of my books The Ringmaster has provided a number of moments where life imitated art – uncomfortably so.

The Ringmaster, surprise, surprise, involves a circus, and among the many animals in the circus was Cassie, the elephant. When I wrote the novel, I thought, wow – it would be great to have animal rights activists protesting about the animals and their conditions in the circus, it would create a lot of tension and some interesting potential scenarios. Soooo, imagine my surprise shortly after when The Loritz Circus visited Dunedin, set up at The Oval, and animal rights activists protested Jumbo the elephant being on Council grounds. Consequently Jumbo was banned from The Oval, and after some negotiating, was moved to the neighbouring pub’s carpark – hardly an improvement in conditions.

In The Ringmaster there is a scene where Sam looks at the front page of the Otago Daily Times newspaper and there is a great big photo of Cassie the elephant. I was rather disconcerted when one day I went out to the letterbox one to collect the newspaper, and there on the front page of the ODT was a bloddy great big photo of Jumbo the elephant. Hmmmm.

The most upsetting example of all though, involved murder. In The Ringmaster a young female student at the University of Otago was murdered. The Ringmaster was in the galleys stage of publication and was shortly going to go to print when in Dunedin, University of Otago student Sophie Elliott was murdered. It was a murder that utterly rocked the city. As you can imagine, it also caused a lot of anxiety from my perspective, and also for my publisher, Penguin. In fact, they had a meeting to discuss whether they pull the book altogether. In the end they decided there was enough difference for them to feel comfortable going ahead. That didn’t stop me worrying that readers would think that I had written the story after the murder and had been, for want of a better word, inspired by it. Those fears were not allayed by a relative who rang me and asked exactly that! Fortunately, I have never had any negative feedback from readers about the timing.

There have been other examples with later books too. In my third novel Containment, shipping containers wash up onto Aramoana beach near Dunedin. Shortly after it was published I had a rash of email and phone calls from friends excitedly telling me that some containers had fallen off a ship in Otago harbour, just like in Containment!

So when I recently drove past the Oval, only weeks after The Ringmaster had come out in ebook in Britain with Orenda Books, I was only mildly surprised to see this circus tent set up, looking exactly like the circus tent on the gorgeous cover of the new edition…

About the Author

Vanda Symon is a crime writer, TV presenter and radio host from Dunedin, New Zealand, and the chair of the Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors. The Sam Shephard series has climbed to number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best crime novel. She currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons.

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Turn the Other Way by Stuart James | Blog Tour Guest Post |#TurntheOtherWay

Independently published (8 February 2019)
ebook and paperback
421 pages

About the Book

Sometimes revenge is the deadliest game of all.

A derelict farmhouse in the Essex countryside.

A deranged family.

Innocent victims picked at random.

If you’re chosen, Turn The Other Way.

Simon Bairstow is a top London surgeon. He’s performed dozens of life-saving operations. But something goes horribly wrong. The machine Eve Johnson is attached to flatlines, and suddenly her parent’s world has collapsed.

They’re hellbent on revenge, someone to answer for the horrific error that’s been made.

Noah and Jess are driving home on a busy dual carriageway and stuck in traffic. They hear thumping coming from the back doors of the transit van in front of them. When Noah steps out onto the road, he hears muffled screams.

He opens the back doors and what he sees shocks him to the core.

The van pulls off, spilling Noah onto the road.
Ignoring his wife’s plea to leave it, he hits the accelerator in pursuit of the van.

Chloe’s parents are missing. She hasn’t seen them since they left the party in Hampstead on Friday night. She needs answers, deciding to take matters into her own hands.

A serial killer is stalking the streets of Islington in North London late at night leaving his victims in a horrific way.

The press have dubbed him the Angel Attacker.

A terrifying tale of revenge with a twist that will hit you like a sledgehammer.

Guest Post

I have always loved scary stories, especially ones that shocked me, left me terrified, looking under my bed or in the wardrobe before going to sleep.

There was just a fantastic buzz whenever I watched or read something that took my breathe away.

I remember going to my nan’s house in Ireland as a youngster with my mother and sister, on the West Coast, staying in a cottage, surrounded by miles of fields and my family sitting around the table in the kitchen at night telling ghost stories. Going out and exploring derelict farmhouses in the middle of nowhere. I remember clearly the field at the end of the road was supposed to be haunted by headless nuns.

My cousins often remind me of the great times we had, frightening each other and running for our lives whenever we’d see something that didn’t look right.

This is why I love nothing more than to tell a story.

I started writing two years ago, penning The House On Rectory Lane.

I got the idea from something that has often seemed scary to me. I know that a terrifying story has to be something that you’re frightened of doing, something that makes the hairs stand on the back of your neck, something that fills you with dread, yet also with excitement.

To me, the thought of going to a house in the middle of nowhere, upping and leaving a busy town and moving to the country is something that scares lots of people and me: the seclusion, the quiet, the darkness.

That’s what inspired me to write my first novel.

My second thriller is called Turn The Other Way.

I have multiple stories running, past and present. A family who want answers from the surgeon responsible for their daughter’s death.

A young woman looking for her parents after they go missing from a party.

A couple driving home and hearing screams for help from the back of the van in front of them.

A serial killer on the loose in North London, dragging victims off the street.

I’m so grateful when people not only read my thrillers but also take the time to get in touch and leave a review. To me, that is the greatest feeling, hearing from people that have enjoyed my work. I know then that I’m doing something right.

I’m currently working on my new thriller, Apartment Six, which should be released later this year.

My thanks to Sarah of BOTBS Publicity for the tour invitation and to Stuart for the guest post. I’ve already purchased a copy which unfortunately I didn’t have time to read before the tour. If you like the look of Turn the Other Way, its currently available to download for 99p on Amazon UK

About the Author

I’m 45, married and have two beautiful children. Currently, I’m a full-time plumber but would love nothing more than to make a living from my writing.

I hope I write stories and people continue to enjoy them for years to come. That would be completely amazing and a dream come true.

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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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