blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: What She Saw Last Night – MJ Cross*

Jenny Bowen is going home. Boarding the Caledonian Sleeper, all she wants to do is forget about her upcoming divorce and relax on the ten-hour journey through the night.

In her search for her cabin, Jenny helps a panicked woman with a young girl she assumes to be her daughter. Then she finds her compartment and falls straight to sleep.

Waking in the night, Jenny discovers the woman dead in her cabin … but there’s no sign of the little girl. The train company have no record of a child being booked on the train, and CCTV shows the dead woman boarding alone.

The police don’t believe Jenny, and soon she tries to put the incident out of her head and tells herself that everyone else is right: she must have imagined the little girl.

But deep down, she knows that isn’t the truth.

My thoughts:

Trains have famously been the place where crimes take place – thanks to a certain Agatha Christie. But instead of a grand trip across Europe, Jenny is taking the sleeper to Edinburgh when the crime she says she witnessed takes place.

The plot that unravels goes to places you don’t expect – what seems like a straightforward case of murder and maybe missing person turns out to be a lot more dangerous and shocking.

The plot whizzes along, the writing is tight and carries you along with it, just like a train.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

12 Days of Clink Street: The Watcher – Monika Jephcott Thomas*

The Watcher by [Jephcott Thomas, Monika]

It’s 1949 when Netta’s father Max is released from a Siberian POW camp and returns to his home in occupied Germany. But he is not the man the little girl is expecting – the brave, handsome doctor her mother Erika told her stories of. Erika too struggles to reconcile this withdrawn, volatile figure with the husband she knew and loved before, and, as she strives to break through the wall Max has built around himself, Netta is both frightened and jealous of this interloper in the previously cosy household she shared with her mother and doting grandparents. Now, if family life isn’t tough enough, it is about to get even tougher, when a murder sparks a police investigation, which begins to unearth dark secrets they all hoped had been forgotten.

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My thoughts:

This started slowly but once things began to happen and you learnt about the characters it picked up. It was really interesting to see the German side of the post-conflict history I learnt about at school. As well as the trauma of his experience, there is also a national period of reconciliation going on around Max after he returns from the Siberian POW camp, and attempts to readjust to his life, family and role.

Max was a non-combatant, being a doctor, but was still treated incredibly poorly by the Russian soldiers who haunt his nightmares. His family, including his wife and the daughter who has never met him before, also have to adjust to their new family dynamic, and Max’s PTSD, which leaves him with horrific night terrors and cut off from his loved ones.

I know a little about Allied soldiers returning from WWII but very little is said about life in occupied West Germany, and what support, or lack thereof, there was for the men returning to their lives.

Tragedy strikes the family, first with the murder and then in more intimate ways, even closer to home. The police detective is not a pleasant man and makes the family afraid.

It was also interesting to have Netta’s perspective as the children are often forgotten in stories like these, how strange it is to have someone you’re told is your father, but who is actually a total stranger, come to live with you and disrupt your life.

This book is well written and moving, capturing a picture of the period and the characters with a compassion and understanding that is often lacking in historical recollections of post-war Germany.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for helping Clink Street publishers to celebrate their authors and books.

books, reviews

Book Review: The Forest Lake Mystery – Palle Rosenkrantz*

Detective Sergeant Eigil Holst is on holiday in the countryside when the body of a baby is washed up on the banks of a nearby lake. The local magistrate orders the lake to be drained and the body of a young woman is discovered, naked and weighed down with stones tied to her feet and neck. Her identity is a mystery.

Holst then takes it upon himself to find out where this woman came from, why she was in this remote location and who could have had motive to kill her. His investigations take him across Scandinavia and into central Europe as, gradually, he realises that the solution to the mystery could have huge implications on his own future.

My thoughts:

Considered the first Danish crime novel, now published in a new translation, the author lends his name to the Danish crime writing awards. First published in 1903, this is another book that deserves to be more widely known and read.

A lot more convoluted and complex a case than it first appears, the plot criss crosses Europe as Detective Holst searches for the truth of the murdered woman in the lake. This is a clever and confident novel, intelligently plotted and tightly paced.

Fans of the genre should definitely get themselves a copy.

*I was kindly sent an advance copy of this book with no requirement to review. All opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books

New Book Alert: Till Human Voices Wake Us – C.S. Johnson


Sometimes the difference between reality and insanity is only a matter of absurdity.

There is nothing Milo Bishop fears more than the thought that he is going insane.

Having grown up hearing his Uncle Jay’s stories about the strange mermaids Milo never had a reason to believe they were actually true. But when a near-death experience gives Milo a vision of a mermaid calling to him for help, Milo is forced to test his uncle’s claims. And when he winds up in Rasulka, the mermaid community tucked away, deep under the southern California seas, the question of his uncle’s sanity is the least of his concerns.

For in the heart of Rasulka, a growing whirlpool in the ocean-sky and the terrarium’s changing climate — along with a discarded prophecy that says their end will come when humans appear — all suggest that the end is near. Along with his uncle and best friend, Moss, and Eluia, a young mermaid who grew up hearing myths about humans, Milo has only hours to sort through his doubts and insecurities and face down unimaginable terrors if he is going to find his way home — before Rasulka, and everyone in it, is lost forever.

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C. S. Johnson is the award-winning, genre-hopping author of several novels, including young adult sci-fi and fantasy adventures such as the Starlight Chronicles, the Once Upon a Princess saga, and the Divine Space Pirates trilogy. With a gift for sarcasm and an apologetic heart, she currently lives in Atlanta with her family.

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Are you awake?”

Much like the time I’d woken up in the hospital, I was beckoned back to reality by a familiar voice—but instead of my mother, this time it was her voice.

Am I dreaming? Am I dead?

I could hardly believe it. My eyes were covered with sand and dirt, and I squirmed as something nudged my foot, and hard.

“What is it?”

A new voice spoke from the other side of me. This one was a male voice, one that sounded older and much more disgruntled.

“I … can’t say.” She was the one who answered, and I knew from the gentle innocence of her voice, she hadn’t been the one who’d been prodding me.

“Well, is it alive, Eluia?”

Eluia.

Her name was Eluia, and before I could open my eyes to see her, I already knew she was the one I’d seen before. She was the one I’d spoken to while I was saving Moss from the whale.

“Yes, it seems so,” Eluia said. A soft whisper of a touch grazed my forehead. A shiver went through me at its chilling warmth.

“Let me see.”

“Don’t poke it with that stick!”

Right on cue, something stabbed my cheek, right underneath my goggles.

“Ouch,” I grumbled, tasting the salty thickness of air and musk through the mask of my wetsuit. “Watch it.”

“It’s making noises.” Eluia’s voice rang with excitement. “See, it is alive.”

“Hey!” I yelped, as another jolt of pain hit me, as I was prodded in the ribs.

“Ceros!” Eluia’s rebuke came quick. “Stop. You’re hurting it.”

“Just because it’s alive doesn’t mean it has value,” Ceros scoffed.

I didn’t have to see Ceros to know I didn’t think I was going to like him.

Ceros.

He was in one of Uncle Jay’s stories.

That moment was too surreal; I found myself debating with myself, torn between whether or not I was going to open my eyes and find out what destiny had in store for me.

Uncle Jay had told me before that some people don’t want to heal. But as I lay there, with my back to the ground and my limbs all sprawled out in different directions, I realized that it wasn’t just healing that people didn’t want. I didn’t want to be stripped of my ideas about life—and I didn’t want to take a leap of faith into a new world where things could be different or frightening.

“Just because that’s your opinion, doesn’t mean I value it,” Eluia murmured under her breath. From the sound of it, Ceros was already walking away, so I doubted he heard her.

Hearing her voice again—and the spirited defiance behind it—I decided I wanted to know the truth about her, if nothing else.

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New Book Alert: Vile – Keith Crawford


Elianor Paine is a Magistrate of the Peace in the Kingdom of Trist and a republican secret agent. She has 6 days to subvert her investigation, supplant war-hero Lord Vile, then coerce his adult children to start a revolution, before her masters discover the truth and have her killed. Just how far is she willing to go? And can she change the world without changing herself?

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Keith Crawford is a retired Navy Officer, a disabled veteran, a Doctor of Law & Economics, a barrister, a stay-at-home Dad, and a writer. He has written for collections of scholarly works, academic journals, and newspapers including The Economist. He has had more than thirty plays recorded or produced for stage, been listed in a variety of short story competitions (in spite of his hatred of short stories), and runs a radio production company, which regularly runs competitions promoted by the BBC to help find, develop and encourage new writers.

In 2014 he was lecturing at Sciences Po in Paris and negotiating a contract to write a book on banking regulation, when he and his wife discovered to their delight that they were due to have their first child. Rather than writing more work that would only be read by his poor students, and then misquoted by politicians, he decided he would do his bit to stick his fingers up at the patriarchy and stay home to look after his own kids rather than the grown-up kids of rich people. Two more children swiftly followed. Keith has discovered that if you recite Stick Man backwards you get the lyrics to AD/DC’s Highway to Hell.

This (looking after the kids, not satanic rites with Stick Man) allowed him to support his wife’s career, which appears to be heading for the stratosphere, and also gave him the space to write about swordfights and explosions. And spaceships. All of which are more fun than banking regulation. As an extension to his work in radio production, he set up his own small press, and his first novel, Vile, is due to be published in December 2019. More novels will swiftly follow, like buses in countries that don’t privatise the bus companies.

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books, reviews

Book Review: The Iron Chariot – Stein Riverton*

The Iron Chariot (Paperback)

On a blazing hot summer’s day, holidaymakers at a guesthouse on a Norwegian island are shocked to discover a fellow guest has been found murdered out on a desolate plain. The nameless narrator, an author, was the last person to see the victim alive; shortly afterwards, he was disturbed by a noise like ‘a rattling of chains’. A local tells him this is ‘the iron chariot’, which is said to presage death.

Detective Asbjorn Krag is summoned from the capital of Kristiania, and sets about investigating the murder. When a similar death occurs on the plain, it is again preceded by the eerie sound of the iron chariot, which leaves no tracks. Mystery is added to mystery when the victim turns out to be a man believed to have died several years earlier.

Drawn unwillingly into the investigation, the narrator is puzzled by the enigmatic detective’s apparent inaction, and troubled by unfolding events. These begin to take a toll on his mental wellbeing and he sinks into a state of dread, exacerbated by mysterious happenings at the cabin where he is staying.

So profound is his unease that he feels he must leave the island. Then Krag promises to tell him the solution to the mystery…

My Thoughts:

Voted the best ever Norwegian crime novel, written over 100 years ago this has recently been re-translated into English in a new edition.

Scandi noir is big business now, but when this clever book was first written crime fiction was in its infancy and it certainly deserves to be more widely known and read.

The unnamed narrator is firstly a witness to a murder and then becomes attached to the case by the investigating detective who requests his assistance.

The method by which the detective unravels the case, and the mystery of the iron chariot, is very clever and not one you see coming. Detective Krag, like his English cousin Sherlock Holmes, is a very smart man with a keen nose for the solution to the crimes he investigates.

This deserves to be held in the same regard as the early English language detectives from the same period and be much more widely read, the roots of Scandinavian crime writing are here.

*I was kindly sent an advance copy of this book with no requirement to review. All opinions remain my own.

books, reviews

Book Review: Sea of Lost Love – Santa Montefiore

1958. Celestria, the charismatic daughter of an aristocratic family, lives in Pendrift Hall, a pale stone mansion with gardens that tumble down to the Cornish sea. It is summer and the weeks ahead hold the promise of self-discovery and the thrilling possibility of elicit love affairs.
Yet tragedy erupts in paradise when one of the family vanishes. A mysterious note is left behind with the words: ‘Forgive Me’.  Soon Celestria is pulled along a trail of deception, masquerades and mirrors. It will lead her from her idyllic life on the English coast to the orange groves of Southern Italy. It will also lead her to love…

My thoughts:

I won this book on Twitter, and it would make a wonderful holiday read, but I read it under a blanket on my sofa, transported instead to the beautiful Cornish coast and then a sundrenched Southern Italy, which made me long for summer.

Celestria’s journey, both physical and emotional, is one of self-discovery and a lot of growing up, there is humour among the tragedy and heartache though, and then there is love.

The author is well known for her romantic fiction, with glamorous locations and beautiful protagonists and this is a classic of the genre, dripping with fading grandeur and simple Italian food, the sun pours out of every page and you find characters that are more than they appear.

If you’re looking for a good read, you could do a lot worse than this one.