Thursday, 23 November 2017

Walden of Bermondsey by Peter Murphy

Think Judge Deed, with less moral constipation, with a flair of Kavanaugh QC and a smidgen of Rumpole of the Bailey. Walden of Bermondsey is the legal procedural equivalent of a cosy mystery.

I was highly amused by the way Charlie Walden kept referring to his wife as the Reverend. Their relationship is well-balanced, and she is the Tuppence to his Tommy. His hands are bound when he learns facts which could influence the outcome of a case he is presiding over, however legally he is not in a position to act upon the information.

His wife, the Reverend, seems to think she remembers the name of one of the men involved in the case Walden is concerned about. She stumbles upon something that could blow the whole case apart.

Murphy gives the reader fascinating insight into the UK legal system, combining facts with his fictional story to create a pleasurable read. He balances the legal case with a little mystery and a room full of cantankerous colleagues, who all have their very own personal input when it comes to legal cases.

Murphy is definitely an author I would recommend to readers who like Robert Thorogood or G.K. Chesterton. Readers who enjoy the more comfy read, as opposed to the crime read filled with gratuitous violence.

Buy Walden of Bermondsey at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @noexitpress @OldcastleBooks

Visit petermurphyauthor.co.uk

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

#BlogTour The Man in the Needlecord Jacket by Linda MacDonald

Today I am delighted to be taking part in the BlogTour for The Man in the Needlecord Jacket by Linda MacDonald. I admire her tenacity and audacity when it comes to the topics she has approached in this book.
About the Author
Linda MacDonald was born and brought up in Cockermouth, Cumbria. She was educated at the local grammar school and later at Goldsmiths’, University of London where she studied for a BA in psychology and then a PGCE in biology and science. She taught in a secondary school in Croydon for eleven years before taking some time out to write and paint. In 1990 she returned to teaching at a sixth form college in south-east London where she taught psychology. For over twenty-five years she was also a visiting tutor in the psychology department at Goldsmiths’. She has now given up teaching to focus fully on writing.

Her four published novels Meeting Lydia, A Meeting of a Different Kind, The Alone Alternative and The Man in the Needlecord Jacket can each be read independently but are also a series. A fifth part is at the embryonic stage.
Follow @LindaMac1 on Twitter #Needlecordjacket #RandomThingsTours or @LindaMacDonaldAuthor on Facebook
Follow @matadorbooks
Visit troubadorbooks.co.uk
Buy The Man in the Needlecord Jacket


About the Book
The Man in the Needlecord Jacket follows the story of two women who are each struggling to let go of a long-term destructive partnership. Felicity is reluctant to detach from her estranged archaeologist husband and, after being banished from the family home, she sets out to test the stability of his relationship with his new love, Marianne.

When Felicity meets Coll, a charismatic artist, she has high hopes of being distracted from her failed marriage. What she doesn’t know is that he has a partner, Sarah, with whom he has planned a future. Sarah is deeply in love with Coll, but his controlling behaviour and associations with other women have always made her life difficult. When he becomes obsessed with Felicity, Sarah’s world collapses and a series of events is set in motion that will challenge the integrity of all the characters involved.

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket is a thought-provoking book, written from the perspectives of Sarah and Felicity. The reader is in the privileged position of knowing what’s going on for both of the women, while each of them is being kept in the dark about a very important issue.

Inspired by the work of Margaret Atwood and Fay Weldon, Linda explores the issue of mental abuse in partnerships and the grey area of an infidelity that is emotional, not physical. The book will appeal to readers interested in the psychology of relationships, as well as fans of Linda’s ‘Lydia’ series.


Review
First and foremost I have to congratulate the author on her characters, to be more specific the age range she picked for her characters. There is a tendency in all fiction to choose the handsome young man and the young nubile woman, perhaps more so the latter. MacDonald has chosen two middle-aged women, Felicity and Sarah, and their prospective partners for this particularly realistic venture into women's fiction.

The reader follows the lives of both Felicity and Sarah as they become linked via a charming man called Coll. Sarah is Coll's girlfriend and Felicity is his new obsession.

This story is about the way women of a certain age are perceived by society, and the way they feel about it. Their youth is a fond memory of forbidden pleasures, spontaneity and a time when middle-age was merely a blip on the future horizon.

There is a general misconception about age changing the wants, needs and desires of people. This misconception is shared and believed by younger generations. They are often horrified, sometimes amused, by the fact both women and men still want physical intimacy when they hit middle-age or pension-age. The real question is, why shouldn't they want that?

Sarah and Coll have a relationship, which I would deem on the abusive side. Anyone who insults you, degrades you and makes you feel insecure, and invalid on a regular basis, is guilty of verbal and emotional abuse. Coll is a classic manipulator. He likes to control the narrative, especially when it comes to his own needs. His own insecurities are projected onto Sarah in a way that makes it appear as if she is to blame. Again this is a classic scenario of control. Over lengthy periods of time abuse victims begin to believe thr false narrative and live up to it, which is a typical self-fulfilling prophecy setting. The victim often doesn't identify this behaviour as abuse.

One of the elements of this story I was really interested in was the use, lack of or withdrawal of intimacy as a tool of power and manipulation. The reader can actually see how Sarah rationalizes his actions as the story unfolds.

Felicity is actually more self-aware, however she is still suffering the consequences of her mid-life crisis. Yes, women have them too. She is honest about what she needs and what her body needs. Her attempt to re-establish her old life creates discord between her children and her soon to be ex-husband. Felicity wants her old life back and yet at the same time she wants to walk upon a different path entirely.

MacDonald strips away any kind of illusion or semblance of hope that the middle stage of life gets any easier when it comes to love, relationships and life in general. It is probably just a tad more difficult, because physical appearance and health tends to decline.

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket is a subtle reminder that women should champion other women instead of breaking them down. It is also a strong statement about the emotional destruction an abusive relationship can cause, especially when the abuse is often a non-visible one, as opposed to a visible physical one. The book also takes the bull called infidelity by the horns and treats it to a violent ride of culpability.The kind of ride you don't want to miss.

Buy The Man in the Needlecord Jacket at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.


Thursday, 16 November 2017

#BlogTour The CWA Anthology of Short Stories: Mystery Tour edited by Martin Edwards


The CWA Anthology of Short Stories brings together some of the finest international crime writers. The Mystery Tour is edited by Martin Edwards, an award winning crime writer and critic.
Anthologies with a variety of authors are perhaps not everyone's cup of tea, however I find it an excellent way to discover new writers. This way you can try before you buy. You get a glimpse of their writing voice, style and creativity. And if you already know some of them, as is the case with this anthology of short stories, it is just an added bonus. You get to taste their goods with a specific topic in mind.

Buy The CWA Short Story Anthology: Mystery Tour
The Queen of Mystery by Ann Cleeves
Ann Cleeves began her crime-writing career with a series featuring George and Molly Palmer-Jones, and followed it with books about a cop from the North-East, Inspector Ramsay. More recently she has won international acclaim for two further series, featuring Vera Stanhope and Jimmy Perez, respectively, which have been successfully adapted for television as Vera and Shetland. Raven Black won the CWA Gold Dagger, and in 2017 Ann was awarded the CWA Diamond Dagger.
Follow @AnnCleeves Visit anncleeves.com

Return to the Lake by Anna Mazzola
Anna Mazzola writes historical crime fiction. She studied English at Pembroke College, Oford, efore becoming a criminal justice solicitor. Her debut novel was the Unseeing, and her second, about a collector of folklore on the Isle of Skye, will be published in spring 2018. She lives in Camberwell, London with two small children, two cats and one husband.
Follow @Anna_Mazz Visit AnnaMazzola.com

You'll be Dead by Dawn by C.L. Taylor
C.L. Taylor was born in Worcester, studied psychology in Newcastle and has had a variety of jobs, including fruit picker, waitress, postwoman, receptionist, shipping co-ordinator, graphic designer and web developer. her debut novel was Heaven Can Wait and in 2011 she won the RNA Elizabeth Goudge Trophy. More recently she has enjoyed success with psychological thrillers such as The Missing and The Escape.
Follow @callytaylor Visit cltaylorauthor.com

The Last Supper by Carol Anne Davis
Carol Anne Davis is the author of seven novels and eight true crime books, the latest of which is Masking Evil: When Good Men and Women Turn Criminal. She is currently one of the judges for the CWA's Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction, and when she's not reading or writing she loves to dance. Unfortunately she's dyspraxic so can't tell her left from her right and has been in the beginner's flamenco class for the past five years.
Visit carolannedavis.co.uk

The White Goddess by Cath Staincliffe
Cath Staincliffe is an award -winning novelist, radio playwright and creator of ITV's hit series Blue Murder. She was joint winner, with Margaret Murphy, of the CWA Short Story Dagger in 2012. She also writes the Scott & Bailey books, based in the popular ITV series. She lives with her family in Manchester.
Follow @CathStaincliffe Visit cathstaincliffe.co.uk

High Flyer by Chris Simms
Chris Simms graduated from Newcastle University then travelled round the world before moving to Manchester in 1994. Since then he has  worked as a freelance copywriter for advertising agencies throughout the city.The idea for his first novel, Outside the White Lines, came to him one night when broken down on the hard shoulder of a motorway. More recently he has written a series featuring DC Ilona King.
Visit chrissimms.info

Accounting for Murder by Christine Poulson
Before Christine Poulson turned to crime, she was a respectable academic with a PhD in the history of art. Cambridge provided the setting for her first three novels, Dead Letters, Stage Fright and Footfall, which were followed by a stand-alone suspense novel, Invisible. the first in a new series Deep Water, appeared in 2016. Her short stories have been short-listed for a Derringer and for the CWA Margery Allingham Prize.
Follow @ChrissiePoulson Visit christinepoulson.co.uk

Travel is Dangerous by Ed James
Ed James writes crime fiction novels, predominantly the Scott Cullen series of police procedurals set in Edinburgh and the surrounding Lothians. He is currently developing two new series, set in London and Dundee, respectively. He also writes the Supernature series, featuring vampires and other folkloric creatures.
Follow @EdJamesAuthor Visit Edjamesauthor.com

Take the Money and Run? by Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown lives in Scotland but splits his time between the UK and Spain. He's married with two children and has been writing since his teens. So far he has had five books published - his latest,Darkest Thoughts, being the first in the Craig McIntyre series. Gordon also helped found Bloody Scotland - Scotland's International Crime Writing Festival.
Follow @GoJaBrown Visit gordonjbrown.com

No Way Back by J.M. Hewitt
J.M. (Jeanette) Hewitt is a crime fiction writer living on the Suffolk coast. She is the author of Exclusion Zone, The Hunger Within and The Eight Year Lie. Her short story 'Fingers' was published in Twisted50. a horror anthology, and she was the winner of the BritCrime Pitch Competition in 2015, a success that led to the publication of Exclusion Zone.
Follow @jmhewitt Visit jmhewitt.com

Mystery Tour by Judith Cutler
Judith Cutler has produced no fewer than five series of crime novels and more than thirty books in all. Her first regular detective was Sophie Rivers, and since then she has featured Fran Harman, Josie Welford, Tobias Campion and Lina Townend. She has also published stand-alone novels, and is a former secretary of the CWA.
Visit judithcutler.com

Wife on Tour by Julia Crouch
Julia Crouch has been a theatre director, playwright, drama teacher, publicist, graphic/website designer and illustrator. It was while he was doing an MA in sequential illustration that she realised what she really loved was writing. Her debut novel, Cuckoo, was followed by Every Vow You Break, Tarnished, The Long Fall and Her Husband's Lover.
Visit juliacrouch.co.uk Follow @thatjuliacrouch

The Naked Lady of Prague by Kate Ellis
Kate Ellis worked in teaching, marketing and accountancy before finding success as a writer. The latest title in her series featuring Wesley Peterson is The Mermaid's Scream, while she has also published a series about another cop, Joe Plantagenet, and two historical crime novels, including A High Mortality of Doves.
Follow @kateellisauthor Visit kateellis.co.uk

Snowbird by Kate Rhodes
Kate Rhodes went to the University of Essex and completed a doctorate on the playwright Tennessee Williams. She has taught at universities in Britain and the United States, and now writes full time. Her books were two collections of poetry, and her novels Crossbones Yard and A Killing of Angels are both set in London, her birthplace. she lives in Cambridge.
Visit katerhodes.org Follow @K_RhodesWriter

The Repentance Wood by Martin Edwards
Martin Edwards has published eighteen novels, including the Lake District Mysteries. The Golden Age of Murder won the Edgar, Agatha, H.R.F. Keating and Macavity awards. He has edited thirty-five crime anthologies and has won the CWA Short Story Dagger, the CWA Margery Allingham Prize and the Poirot Award. He is the president of the Detection Club and current chair of the CWA.
Follow @medwardsbooks Visit martinedwardsbooks.com

A Mouthful of Restaurant by Martine Bailey
Martine Bailey writes about food and mystery and was credited by Fay Weldon as inventing a new genre, the 'culinary gothic'. Her debut in the genre was An Appetite for Violets, and while living in New Zealand she wrote the Penny Heart (retitled A Taste for Nightshade in the US). Martine is an award-winning amateur cook and now lives in Cheshire.
Visit martinebailey.com Follow @MartineBailey

Cruising for a Killing by Maxim Jakubowski
Maxim Jakubowski is a crime, erotic, science-fiction and rock music writer and critic. He is also a leading anthologist. Born in England to Russian-British and Polish parents, he was raised in France and ran the Murder One bookshop for many years. He is the current chair of judges for the CWA Debut John Creasey Dagger, and also serves as joint vice-chair of the CWA. He is a frequent commentator on radio and television.
Visit maximjakubowski.co.uk

Three on a Trail by Michael Stanley
Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. Their first mystery, A Carrion Death introduced Detective 'Kubu' Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department, and was a finalist for five awards, including the CWA Debut Dagger. their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for the Edgar Award.
Visit detectivekubu.com Follow @detectivekubu

The Riddle of the Humming Bee by Paul Charles
Paul Charles was born and raised in the Northern Irish countryside. He is the author of the Detective Inspector Christy Kennedy series, set in Camden Town, and the Inspector Starrett series, which is set in Donegal in Ireland. the short mystery in this collection features retired PSNI Detective McCusker from Down on Cyprus Avenue. Paul is currently working on a second McCusker novel.
Visit paulcharlesbooks.com

Writer's Block by Paul Gitsham
Paul Gitsham started his career as a biologist, before deciding to retrain and impart his love of science and sloppy lab skills to the next generation of enquiring minds as a school teacher. Paul lives in a flat with more books than shelf space, where he writes the DCI Warren Jones series of police procedurals and spends more time than he should on social media.
Follow @DCIJoneswriter Visit paulgitsham.com

Lady Luck by Peter Lovesey
short stories have won a number of international awards, including the Veuve Clicquot Prize, the Ellery Queen Reader's Award and the CWA Short Story Dagger. When the Mystery Writers of America ran a competition to mark their fiftieth year, The Pushover was the winner. Peter is a recipient of the CWA Diamond Dagger (among many other honours) and also a former chair of the CWA.
Visit peterlovesey.com

A Postcard from Iceland by Ragnar Jónasson
Ragnar Jónasson is the author of the award winning and international bestselling Dark Iceland series. He was born in Reykjavík, where he still lives, and is a lawyer. He teaches copyright law at Reykjavik University and has previously worked on radio and television, including as a TV news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.
Visit ragnar-jonasson.squarespace.com Follow @ragnarjo

A Clever Evil by Sarah Rayne
Sarah Rayne is the author of a number of acclaimed psychological thrillers, and ghost-hemed books. Much of the inspiration for her settings comes from the histories and atmospheres of old buildings, a fact that is strongly apparent in many of her books. She recently launched a  new series, featuring the music historian and researcher Phineas Fox
Visit sarahrayne.co.uk

The Prodigy by Shawn Reilly Simmons
Shawn Riley Simmons lives in Frederick Maryland, and has worked as a bookstore manager, fiction editor, convention organiser and a wine rep. Currently she serves on the Board of Malice Domestic, is a member of the Dames of Detection, and an editor and co-publisher at Level Best Books. Her red Carpet Catering Mysteries feature Penelope Sutherland, an on-set movie caterer. She has also published several short crime stories, and co-edited crime anthologies.
Visit shawnreillysimmons.com Follow @ShawnRSimmons

A Slight Change of Plan by Susi Holliday
grew up in Scotland and now lives in London. She was shortlisted for the CWA Margery Allingham Prize with her short story 'Home from Home', She has published three crime novels set in the fictional Scottish town of Banktoun, and her latest novel is a Christmas-themed serial killer thriller, The Deaths of December.
Visit sjihollidayblog.wordpress.com Follow @SJIHolliday

Bombay Brigadoon by Vaseem Khan
is the author of the Baby Ganesh Detective Agency novels, a series of crime novels set in India. The books feature retired Mumbai police inspector Ashwin Chopra and his sidekick, a baby elephant named Ganesha. Vaseem says that elephants are third on his list of passions, first and second being great literature and cricket, not always in that order. He plays cricket all summer, attempting to bat as an opener, while fielding as little as possible.
Follow @VaseemKhanUK Visit vaseemkhan.com

Matricide and Ice Cream by William Burton McCormick
William Burton McCormick's fiction appears regularly in American mystery magazines. A Nevada native, William earned his MA in novel writing from Manchester University, was elected a Hawthornden Fellow in Scotland and has lived in Russia, Ukraine and Latvia. His novel Lenin's Harem was the first fictional work added to the Latvian War Museum's library in Riga.
Follow William Burton McCormick on Facebook

The Spoils by William Ryan
William Ryan is an Irish writer, living in London. He was called to the English Bar after university in Dublin, and then worked as a lawyer in the City. He now teaches crime writing at City University. His first novel, The Holy Thief, was shortlisted for four awards, including a CWA New Blood Dagger. His latest book in The Constant Soldier.
Follow @WilliamRyan_ Visit william-ryan.com
Review
Personally I think anthologies are a great way to discover new authors. It's kind of like having a taster session with book full of talented scribes. You can get a real feeling for writing styles, voices and how creative they can be. Not everyone can draw in a reader with a short story. Short stories are an art-form unto themselves.

This anthology offers a great mixture of authors, and all of them know exactly how to create suspense and tension in a few pages. Some of the stories veer more towards the macabre, others have a noirish quality to them, and then there are those with a wicked sense of humour. I would even go as far as to say some of the stories border on the horror genre.

Now, I could write something about every single story, but instead I will just pick out a few to give you a sense of what you can expect.

Accounting for Murder by Christine Poulson - I have to say I enjoyed the story within numbers and receipts. Storytelling in a modern way. In exactly the way you would experience it if you processed the information through sight and thoughts alone.

Return to the Lake by Anna Mazzola - This had a What Lies Beneath feel to it. It would make a great TV plot. Mazzola only infers a certain scenario, and the reader has to imagine what actually happened to the girl who disappeared.

A Postcard from Iceland by Ragnar Jónasson - Short and sweet or rather short and scary. Just enough to get the imagination going and yet not enough to give the reader all the answers.

The Naked Lady of Prague by Kate Ellis - This has gritty modern feel to it. Reality paired with fear, resentment, shame and betrayal. You never know who you can trust. The closest friend might be the the person you should trust the least.

I could go on and on. The truth is every single story is unique, despite being connected through the element of crime. Each and every author has taken the idea and made it specific to themselves and their own particular style.

The CWA Mystery Tour certainly does not disappoint. It is a compelling mixture of talented authors and their often disturbing, sometimes amusing and certainly always memorable tales.

Buy The CWA Short Story Anthology: Mystery Tour or go to Goodreads for any other retailer


Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The Truth and Lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr

Ella is confronted with an awful truth about her identity. It turns out she has been living a lie, a lie her parents have taken great lengths to keep going.

One could argue that on a base level Ella is aware of the secret, which is why she struggles with a strong inner voice. A voice so strong it has become its own persona. A persona, who makes bad choices and likes to harm others and cause havoc.

Personally I think the question about Bella or rather the truth and explanation about Bella should have remained an element of the book the reader ponders on and decides for themselves. Instead Ella explains that aspect of her personality towards the end of the book.

I would rather wonder about the nurture vs nature argument or whether there is a genetic component to Bella and in particular Bella's behaviour. Does Bella like to cause harm because of who she really is?

Adoption can be a controversial topic for those involved in it, especially when it comes to the truth about parentage. Quite often the adoptive parents think it is better to lie and/or keep the adopted child in the dark about their parentage. For the majority of adoptees the truth is the quintessential factor in the development of a healthy mind-set and personality. Regardless of whether they make contact with their bio family, it is important for them to know who they are biologically and genetically. A lot of people find this natural pull towards the truth quite difficult to understand. They don't understand that it has nothing to do with how much they love their adopted parents and the family attachments they have made. It is merely about finding their tribe, and being able to get closure.

In a way Ella has to go through this process, albeit in a very dramatic and dangerous way. She has to work through the trauma of the truth in her own time and way.

Barr approaches a sensitive topic and gives the reader a ringside view of the emotional turmoil a young person might go through in this situation. For teens everything is highly emotional and over-dramatised. The Truth and Lies of Ella Black is a story about a young woman finding her truth and her path in life.

Buy The Truth and Lies of Ella Black at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @emily_barr Visit emilybarr.com

Follow @PenguinRHUK

Read The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

The Frozen Woman by Jon Michelet

Finding a dead body in your garden is either really bad luck or you have something to hide. Unfortunately Thygesen has a dodgy past, which kind of points the police straight in his direction.

Thygesen is eccentric and a wee bit quirky, which is part of the charm I suppose. It simultaneously comes off as creepy, passive-aggressive and endearing.

Vanja is eventually drawn in by the eccentricity, despite it being her job to find the killer, and becomes perhaps a bit too close to the possible suspect. The lines between her job and what she thinks she wants as a person become skewed.

The reader sees the story of how the dead body came to be in his garden, why she is there and who she is, through a seemingly separate story. Eventually small links and connections appear and things become clearer.

The frozen woman is suddenly connected to criminal biker gangs with a taste for brutal retaliation and little regard for human life.

Michelet gives readers a fast-paced story filled with that special brand of snark and humour reserved for the Scandinavian crime genre.

Buy The Frozen Woman at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @noexitpress

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

147 Things by Jim Chapman

If I inherited anything from my father at all, because I damn sure didn't get his maths genius gene, then it is a thirst for knowledge. I read a lot, and I acquire a lot of seemingly useless facts, tidbits or information.

You just never know when you're going to need to know that penguins can jump up to three meters high or that it is illegal to hunt and kill camels in Arizona.

Really? How many camels are there in Arizona that they need a law to protect them?

Essentially this is what 147 Things is about. A collection of odd facts connected via witty commentary. I don't think I am going to get over the whole kangaroo fact, now every time I look at one I will be wondering about what is hidden in that pouch.

To be completely frank the concept of a book of random facts could be considered a wee bit boring after a while, and that exact thought crossed my mind just a few facts or chapters in.Then the book took a slightly different direction and became more personal. Specifically from Thing 19: Some people aren't bad, they just do bad things, onwards.

The element, which I believe redeems the book, and makes it not only an entertaining read but also a heart-warming one, is the part of himself Chapman puts into the book.

He lets the reader take a close look at his memories and what is in his heart. He lets us in to take a snapshot of what has shaped him as a child and as a young man, and this is what makes this more than just a book about odd and interesting facts.

Buy 147 Things: My User's Guide to the Universe, from Black Holes to Bellybuttons at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @jimchapman and @PanMacPublicity

Visit jimchapman.co.uk or his Youtube channel

Monday, 6 November 2017

The Big Little Festival by Kellie Hailes

Jody has spent years building a wall around her to keep all men and any emotion out. It has made her over-sensitive to any kind of relationship. She questions herself and anyone who dares to come anywhere near her.

She is determined to put on a festival for Rabbit's Leap to raise money for the community pool. She wouldn't normally put up with the eccentricities of the villagers, but her guilty conscience is proving stronger than her natural aversion to the dramatics of certain people in the village.

She hires a successful and very expensive event planner, who turns out to be rather handsome and more interested in her than in putting on a fantastic festival.

The Big Little Festival is all about finding the courage to move on in life. To be brave enough to let someone new in. Joanna finds it extremely hard to take down even a few bricks in her wall, especially because the majority of people turn out to be unreliable. As a single mother she has to not only look out for her own heart, she also has to make sure her kids don't get attached to any fly-bys.

Hailes paints an accurate picture of life in an English village, where the competitions for best jam or largest vegetable can become quite competitive. The characters are quirky and amusing, and the drama is plentiful. Prepare to be entertained.

Buy The Big Little Festival at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @KellieHailes & @HQDigitalUK @HQStories or @HarperImpulse

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Dry Bones by Sally Spencer

When Charlie asks Jennie to investigate two bodies in the cellar of his Oxford university, he also asks her to keep it secret. Keeping it quiet is a crime, and not telling her friend on the police force puts two friendships in jeopardy too.

Charlie seems to have more secrets than a puzzle-box. Jennie starts to suspect his involvement in at least one of the deaths. Is he trying to distract her from the truth by sending her on wild goose chases?

The Jennie Redhead Mysteries are very similar to the Phryne Fisher Mysteries, but Jennie is lot more brash and confrontational. The difference is that the author duo that makes up the Sally Spencer also like to add a little controversy to their stories.

I'm not sure I entirely agree with the way the topic of homosexuality was approached from a historical point of view. In the mid 1940's it was still considered a criminal offence, so the majority of men kept it a secret, as opposed to being openly gay in society. In 1967 sexual acts between two men over the age of 21 was decriminalised in England and Wales, however it still remained illegal in Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and or the Isle of Man.

Now, whilst there is always room for fictional interpretation and the rewriting of history, I do believe keeping it slightly more historically correct would have given the story a stronger sense of realism, instead of applying the overall laissez-faire feel of the story to this particular topic.

Personally I wish history had been more like the scenario of Dry Bones, in a sense that it is just as normal as heterosexual relationships, which is possibly what the authors were aiming for.

What I really enjoyed was the excellent description of the upper and lower classes, especially in relation to the academic world of Oxford. In the 20th century we saw the deconstruction of these antiquated ways of thinking, although I am sure one could argue that we are still seeing the last remnants of it in the UK government structure and political field. Kudos to the authors for the reality of the Upstairs/Downstairs scenarios and the descriptions of both the Great War and World War 2, which feature heavily in this story. The mistakes made by the entitled upper class officer ranks, and the fates of the lower class bullet fodder.

Overall Spencer delivers a good read with feisty and unusual characters.

Buy Dry Bones at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @SallySpencerebk Author duo @AlanRustage & @LannaRustage or @severnhouse

Visit sallyspencer.com

Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister

Fair warning *Possible Spoilers*

This is the kind of story which evokes a lot of emotions, controversy and discussion. So it probably isn't any surprise that I want to have a really good chin-wag about it.

There are so many elements of this story that are hot topics at the moment. The systemic abuse of women, cross-race effect, the morality of her actions, why self-defence is negated in cases of severe force and the whole decision whether or not to act or help.

The behaviour Joanna encounters in the bar is fairly atypical unfortunately. The fact it happens so frequently probably explains her lack of response, which is in no way meant to sound like victim-blaming. Women have become so used to the systemic abuse that they tend to brush it off or ignore it, because making a big deal or speaking up can lead to escalations.

Joanna is on edge when she leaves the bar and almost expects Sadiq to follow her home, and of course this assumption of bad intentions is part of the problem. Then there is the issue of cross-race effect, ergo being able to recognise faces of ones own race easier and finding it more difficult to differentiate the faces of different race. This phenomenon causes a lot of misidentification when it comes to crimes.

Then there is the issue of self-defence, and I can guarantee the majority of people will think they have the right to defend themselves themselves with any force necessary, however the truth is the legal situation isn't as simple as it may seem. Reasonable force is the important factor and whether or not the victim believes they are in imminent danger, but it must be proportionate to the supposed danger. If the response causes injury or death it can be ruled as excessive force, ergo the victim then becomes the perpetrator.

The story follows Joanna in two scenarios simultaneously, the Joanna who reports the incident and the Joanna who tries to cover it up. Put yourself in her shoes for a minute, ask yourself what you would do in the same set of circumstances. Would you leave, watch him die, call for help or pretend it never happened at all?

This book is an excellent read because it challenges our perception of this event and possible scenarios we might encounter. I think the foremost question on my mind, whilst reading this story, was what I would do in the same situation. The answer to that particular question will be different for every single one of us and based on our own frame of references.

McAllister likes to present readers with complex characters and the kind of situations that are neither black or white. The grey areas become murky and distorted, which is what makes her stories so compelling.

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Read Everything but the Truth by Gillian McAllister