#blogtour – Too Far by Jason Starr

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One night. One date. What have you got to lose?

Jack Harper isn’t a bad man, but he’s stuck in a loveless marriage with a mediocre job just trying to keep sober. The only good thing in his life is his son. When an old college friend introduces him to a new extramarital dating website, he tentatively reaches out to find a distraction from his misery. But when he goes to meet up with his steamy online date, he quickly realises it was a dire choice.

Soon, Jack finds himself desperately trying to prove his innocence for crimes he did not commit, and the life he once had – unhappy as it was – is nothing but a dream. Now, he’s living his worst nightmare. . .

 

Why? Why? Why? Just Why?

OMG It’s been a long time since I’ve been so frustrated with a character that I’ve wanted to slam the book down,  and then immediately pick it back up again just to find out what they were going to do next. Between Jack Harper and Detective Barasco I don’t know which one I want to shout at more….

In this fabulous one sitting read (albeit for the slamming downs and picking ups) all I kept asking myself was Why?, not just the usual why is this happening? but also Why is he behaving like this? and reacting this way?  I couldn’t get my head round it…

To me that’s the sign of a great book,  I couldn’t figure anything out, no matter how much I tried, which is what every crime fiction reader I know wants.  Not to figure out the plot but to be surprised, intrigued and pulled along by the story.  Too Far does precisely that.

You’ll love it, and if you’ve read any of Starr’s previous books you’ll find a sneaky nod or two in them in this one.

JASON STARR

Jason Starr is the international bestselling author of many crime novels and thrillers and his books have been published in over a dozen languages. Many of his books are in development for film and TV. Starr’s bestselling crime novels include Cold Caller, Nothing Personal, Fake ID, Hard Feelings, Tough Luck and Twisted City, followed by Lights Out, The Follower, Panic Attack, Savage Lane and his latest novel, Too Far. He is one of only a handful of authors who have won the Anthony Award for mystery fiction multiple times. He was born in Brooklyn and lives in Manhattan.

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#blogtour – The Doll Collector by Joanna Stephen-Ward

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A couple and their young son burn to death in a house fire.

A girl dies from a nut allergy.

A woman falls under a train during the rush hour.

An accountant falls down the steps to his basement.

Their deaths appear to be accidents but Gloria knows they were murdered because she murdered them. And every time Gloria kills she buys a doll.

But how many dolls will she need to keep her satisfied?

When Gloria takes a room as a lodger her behaviour starts to spin out of control. Gloria wants love and happiness and friendship and she will do anything she can to get what she wants…

Wow, Gloria is quite possibly one of the most repugnant characters I’ve read for quite some time and it was fabulous.  I tore through The Doll Collector in just a couple of sittings as I really found that I wanted to discover all about the murders and of course the accident.

As we learn about Gloria’s horrible past, both inflicted on her and by her, we also uncover the history of Maurice, the unfortunate man who has offered Gloria a home.  There are plenty of vile characters in his life too.  Men who want nothing but money and power at don’t care for anyone who stops them doing it.

I will admit that for a short while around the middle I was unsure where the story would go next but as I eagerly read on I was brilliantly surprised and thrilled, and I thought the ending was suitably fabulous.

I highly recommend The Doll Collector as well worth every penny of your hard earned pounds…

#blogtour From The Dark by K A Richardson #GuestPost Writing Days

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Today on LifeOfCri.me, K A Richardson, author of the recently released From The Dark talks about her writing days.

Full days of writing for me are a rarity. I tend to write as and when – not necessarily every day though admittedly I will think about writing in some way every day. I always have a notebook in my handbag (and a multitude of pens – I may have a little pen obsession). 

I work for the police part-time as a call taker in the communications department – which is dull way of saying I take non-emergency calls as well as 999 calls, but prior to this I worked as a Crime Scene Investigator. I loved the role – being out and about on my own, processing scenes and gathering evidence. Thinking analytically about scenes and the methods I would use to gather the evidence. This experience features heavily in all my novels – forensics is what I know and something that I’m very passionate about. I would still be doing it today but for the major cuts in the police force that ended up with my job being made non-existent. That said, working in the control room of a busy police force is also challenging and can be hard-work. I’m the first person someone in distress will speak to – it’s my job to gather all of the information needed and grade the job so that officers are dispatched in a timely manner. There are calls where I offer advice, calls I listen to someone sob down the phone hysterically after they’ve been beaten,  calls where I offer sympathy and empathy, calls when I take hoax calls from people who think it’s clever to abuse the emergency service system and occasionally, calls I take where people are thanking the police for helping them. No two days are the same, which makes it very non-monotonous and occasionally very stressful. 

I’ve always found solace in writing though. As well as getting down these stories that burst into my mind and refuse to leave me alone until they’re written, it can be therapeutic and a release for pent up emotions. I find it a tool that assists me in dealing with depression (something I’ve suffered with for many years). When I was younger, I found writing poetry comforting – I still do occasionally, but much more effective to me is setting characters challenges to overcome and deal with. I love researching too – something I do for pretty much every novel. I love my facts to be accurate and up-to-date and enjoy bringing forensics to life in my novels as it’s not something many people know a great deal about. I think having it in, and focussing on some of the lesser understood parts of policing, helps give my novels that sense of reality. 

If I do have a rare full day to write, I start the day off with a cup of coffee. Pretty standard for a writer judging by all the facebook posts I see featuring a steaming cup beside someone’s open laptop! So I’m pretty stereo-typical in that respect I guess. I write chronologically so on opening the laptop, I’ll have a quick peruse of the previous couple of scenes to get my head back in the zone. I usually have my trusty bible by side – not a bible in the traditional sense – my bible is a moleskine notebook that I’ve used since day one. It holds my character profiles, spider-grams for each novel, basic plots for the novel, hints and tips I’ve come across along the way and general ideas of things I might want to write about. I use this notebook alongside a brand new one for each project. The new one is for handwriting scenes, noting down quirks and names etc, and scribbling on if I notice plot holes etc. 

Once I’ve read up on the two-three scenes already written, I’ll take a few deep breaths and crack on. This is the time that I hate being disturbed by anyone or anything. Even my husband knows now that if he’s bringing me a fresh cuppa, to just place it down on my table silently and back away. A knock at the front door will boil my blood. It’s not that I mean to be anti-social or act like a bitch, but when I’m in the zone of writing, my head is firmly entrenched in a world that isn’t this one. I’m somewhere else entirely and an interruption will bring me back here with a bump. 

On a good day, I can write 6000-7000 words before I stop. On a bad day it might only be a few hundred – which is very frustrating but part of the process. I rarely get writer’s block – if I’m not writing it’s usually because of factors outside of my control, like illness or events that take me out of the house. I do love to sit and write in coffee shops – probably because I don’t get disturbed. I am accustomed to tuning out the machine noises but I can focus easily in on conversations going on around me – be careful what you say over coffee! I have been known to use what I overhear on occasion. 

When I am finished writing for the day, I save my progress (do this every half hour religiously but have to ensure it’s saved at end of day as well) – I save to an external hard-drive, the internal hard-drive on my laptop and quite often will email a copy to myself also. Just to ensure I have it and it is safe. There have been odd instances where I’ve lost work so do this pretty religiously nowadays. Then I’ll close my laptop, make another cuppa and take a few deep breaths. 

I love these writing days – not just because it’s getting the word count up, but also because as I write, the plot and characters present me with new challenges. Challenges that I then feel obligated to see through the next day, and the one after, and the one after etc. Actual writing is the best part of the whole process for me. I love the surprises my characters leave me with, often have tissues on standby for the heartache they cause me, and always leave my novel in a place where I know I can’t wait to restart from. 

Who will save you when the monsters creep…

Antonia Baillie is a true Romani gypsy – she has the gift of foresight and uses this to help people.

When the ghosts of the past come calling, can she put her own fears aside and work with the police to help find out who is torturing and killing young men?

Detective Sergeant Mark McKay has never had a need to solve a case using a psychic. He doesn’t believe in it – pure and simple. But when Antonia tells him the name of a young man and gives him details specific to the case, he can’t help but change his view. Especially when a body matching what she described is found in the vaults deep under the city.

Mark and Antonia race against a spree of monstrous crimes, long-standing grudges and the perils of the darkness in the vaults beneath Edinburgh to try and find a sadistic killer before time runs out.

Can they stop him before he strikes again?

Will they discover who is responsible?

And can they do it without becoming victims themselves?

 

 

#blogtour – Trap By Lilja Sigurdardottir

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Happily settled in Florida, Sonja believes she’s finally escaped the trap set by unscrupulous drug lords. But when her son Tomas is taken, she’s back to square one … and Iceland.

Her lover, Agla, is awaiting sentencing for financial misconduct after the banking crash, and Sonja refuses to see her. And that’s not all … Agla owes money to some extremely powerful men, and they’ll stop at nothing to get it back.

With her former nemesis, customs officer Bragi on her side, Sonja puts her own plan into motion, to bring down the drug barons and her scheming ex-husband, and get Tomas back safely. But things aren’t as straightforward as they seem, and Sonja finds herself caught in the centre of a trap that will put all of their lives at risk…

I’m a big lover of Icelandic fiction, and yet this is my first read by Lilja Sigurdardóttir.  It’s a sequel to her previous book Snare which I’ll certainly be looking to read now.  I didn’t feel like I needed to have read it previously whilst I was reading Trap, but I’m thinking it might have been a good idea to have read that one first.

Caught in the “trap” of a drug smuggling ring Sonja is a mother desperately trying to get back her son, and save their future.  You get thrown into the story right from page one and feel pulled along all the way, as the tale wraps you up in its complexity leaving you eager to discover how it will unravel in the end.

With strong themes of drug smuggling, and abusive, controlling partners, all set against the backdrop of the financial crash and its fallout, (along with the remains of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption and the volcano’s fallout) it’s an intense read but well worth it.

 

 

Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurdardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. An award-winning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, with Snare, the first in a new series, hitting bestseller lists worldwide. The film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. She lives in Reykjavík with her partner.

#blogtour – The Cornish Retribution by Amanda James #GuestPost

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After a tragic car accident, Samantha is left widowed and bereft.  Her husband Adam was everything to her. But at least the home they shared together in Cornwall provides her with some security. Or does it?

Upon returning from a school reunion in Sheffield, where Sam met her old friend, Penny, and an old flame from her school days, Dan, she discovers that Adam had invested money unwisely and she is now penniless.

When Penny and Dan, who are now married, arrive in Cornwall to visit Sam, Dan comes up with a way in which Sam can keep the house. He suggests she turns it into a writing retreat. And he is willing to invest.

Despite his wife’s reservations, Dan gets his way but at what price?

Why is Dan so keen to help? Has Sam put herself in harm’s way?

Some relationships are built to last. Others are deadly.

INTERVIEW WITH SAMANTHA LANE

I’m sitting in The Merrymoor Inn opposite the beach at Mawgan Porth, about four miles from Newquay.  The smell of pasties, fish and chips and a sausage or two mingles with a whiff of Cornish Cyder and my stomach is rumbling. Through the window I spy Samantha, or Sam, as most call her. She’s the protagonist in my book, The Cornish Retribution. Sam’s hurrying up the steps from the carpark, her dark curls lifting on the breeze as she walks. As she enters the bakery, her lively blue eyes light up and her smile reflects mine as she hurries over to my table. She looks self-assured comfortable in her own skin. She’s come a long way, and that makes me happy.

 

‘Hi Sam, how are you?’ I say giving her a quick hug.

‘I’m good, thanks. Really good.’ She smiles again and sits opposite.

‘You look it. Now, can I get you a pasty or a pint?’

Sam looks towards the bar at the delicious food on offer, and then back to me with a mischievous twinkle. ‘Hmm, can we be naughty and have both?’

I laugh, and we order a pasty each and a delicious pint of crisp cyder. Back at the table she regards me thoughtfully over the rim of glass. ‘What brings you to Mawgan Porth today then, Mandy?’

Sam always uses Mandy rather than Amanda. ‘To see you of course. It’s been a while. Also, would you mind answering a few questions, so the readers of The Cornish Retribution can get to know you a little more?’

‘I’d be delighted. Anything to help.’

‘Great. Okay, first question, how old are you?’

‘You know the answer, you gave me life after all.’

‘I did indeed,’ I say from the corner of my mouth as it’s full of pasty. ‘But then I know all the answers. The readers don’t though.’

‘I’m forty-five.’

‘And what do you do for a living?

‘I run a writers’ retreat in the grounds of my home up on the cliff over there.’ She points through the window across the beach. ‘I write full time too.’

‘How’s that going?’

‘It’s so busy! The retreat is booked solid and I have a novel out at the end of the year.’  Sam blows on her pasty and takes a big bite. ‘I like busy though.’

‘You sound happy, are you?’

She swallows and gives me a huge smile. ‘I have never been happier.’

‘Couldn’t say the same a year or so ago though, eh?

A dark cloud slips behind her eyes. ‘No.’

I feel guilty for dragging up the past, but if readers are to know Sam, we must visit it. ‘If you’re okay to, would you mind if we went back to how you were after your husband, Adam died?’

A deep sigh. ‘I guess not. I was distraught over his death and later on, almost destitute due to some daft deals Adam did unbeknown to me.’ Sam takes a sip of cyder and doodles a face in the condensation on her glass.  ‘But thankfully all that stuff’s all behind me now…all I can see ahead is sunshine.’

She’s not really given me much, so I take a sip of my own drink and plunge straight in. ‘The fact that your old flame Dan invested in your retreat helped a lot didn’t it?’

‘Yes. I can safely say that if it hadn’t been for him I would have lost the house, lost everything.’ Sam shrugs and chews her pasty thoughtfully.’

‘You didn’t want to accept his help though did you, because he behaved badly towards you when you were teenagers?’

Sam twists her mouth to the side. ‘Behaving badly is putting it mildly. He betrayed me with my best friend, as you know.’

I nod and give her an encouraging smile. ‘What do you mean by betrayed?’

‘Well, just for your readers, I’ll elaborate.’ The pain in her eyes makes me wonder if it’s a good idea raking over the past, but she hurries on.  ‘Basically, I refused to sleep with him when I was sixteen and he was seventeen. My oldest friend Penny obliged instead and they ended up getting married.’ Sam’s face brightened. ‘He regretted the hell out of it through later. Couldn’t forget me and was determined to win me back. He had a controlling nature and wouldn’t let things go. I soon put a stop to his games though.’ She alters her smile as if she’s realised she might have said too much, dabs at her mouth with a napkin and stares at her plate.’

‘But he did love you really, didn’t he? Even though he was controlling and ruthless.’ I put my hand on her arm.

She looks at me and nods. ‘God yes. It’s just that I couldn’t cope with what he’d done…what he would have done again.

‘No. But don’t say more as we don’t want to give too much away do we?’

‘Make your mind up. You’re asking the searching questions.’

She’s looking fierce, so I change the subject. ‘Although you were born and brought up in Sheffield, this is where your mother’s from and your grandmother, isn’t it…you see yourself as Cornish don’t you?

Sam gives me a withering look and yawns. ‘You know I do, you wrote the story. This interview is a bit daft really. Can we talk about you for a change? I never really got to know much about your life.’

‘Er, perhaps another time. Humour me.’

‘Okay. Yes. I see myself as Cornish, hence the title of the book.’

‘Do you think the retribution was justified?’

‘I do under the circumstances.’

‘Do you wish it all could have been different?’

‘No. I think the story panned out really well to be honest.’ Sam swirls her glass, drains it and sets it carefully down. Then she looks out of the window at the turbulent ocean.

I decide that enough is enough and ask, ‘How are the family? I bet your grandson is a real handful now.’

Sam beams. ‘He is, and my granddaughter’s arrival is imminent. I can’t wait!’

‘I bet. I drain my own glass and ask, ‘Do you see much of Harry?’

‘Wouldn’t you like to know?’ Sam gives me a slow smile but no more information. start with.

I return her smile. ‘I would, yes.’

‘Right. Shall I fill you in with what I’ve been up to recently?’

‘Best not, because that might give too much away too,’ I say and shrug my coat on. ‘Let’s go up to yours for a drink. The readers won’t hear us there. I’d love to hear all your news.’

Sam grins. ‘Now you’re talking.’

We stand and I follow her out of the pub into the bright sunshine.

Amanda has written since she was a child, but never imagined that her words would be published, given that she left school with no real qualifications of note apart from an A* in how to be a nuisance in class. Nevertheless, she returned to education when her daughter was five and eventually became a history teacher. Then in 2010, after many twists and turns, the dream of becoming a writer came true when her first short story was published. Amanda has written many short stories and has six novels currently published.
Amanda grew up in Sheffield but now has realised her lifelong dream of living in Cornwall and her writing is inspired every day by the dramatic coastline near her home. She has sketched out many stories in her head while walking the cliff paths. Four of her mystery/suspense novels are set there, Somewhere Beyond the Sea, Summer in Tintagel, Behind the Lie and Rip Current. The Cornish Retribution is also set in Cornwall and will be published by Bloodhound Books in October 2018.
Amanda, known to many as Mandy, spends far more time than is good for her on social media and has turned procrastination to a fine art. She can also usually be found playing on the beach with her family, or walking the cliff paths planning her next book.

#blogtour – One Perfect Witness by Pat Young – #ExclusiveExtract

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On a remote Scottish hillside, three paths meet. On each path, a boy, one carrying a gun.
When their paths cross, a shot is fired and a boy dies.
That leaves two – one killer and one perfect witness.
This killer will stop at nothing to make sure the witness says nothing. Difficult for most people, even for someone who’s been guarding a secret of his own for five years.
What if the witness decides he’s been silent too long? Sometimes even the unspeakable must be spoken, if we can find the words.

 

Someone’s standing on the path, watching me.
I curl into a ball. In case he’s got a dog. Saw a hedgehog do that once, when it was frightened. It worked. The dog lost interest and walked away.
I stop breathing. Keep my eyes shut tight. Try not to twitch the tiniest muscle. Pray he hasn’t seen me.
Dead bracken whispers near my ear. My nose is so near the ground I can smell the earth. Think I might sneeze. I let out my breath a tiny little bit at a time but it still sounds loud as thunder.
Another few minutes pass, or maybe it’s just moments.
‘Hey, kid. You okay?’
When I don’t answer he says, ‘What you doing out here on your own at this time of the morning? You should be tucked up in bed.’
My legs are trembling, my hands too. I curl up tighter. Squeeze my knees to my chest so hard I can hardly breathe.
‘Come on. Up you get.’
I don’t move.
‘Hey, listen. You need to get up. You can’t lie there.’   
I slowly raise my head. I see a face with wide, hairy nostrils and eyes that bulge as he leans towards me. His breath reminds me of the old dog Pops had when I was small.
The man touches my elbow and I flinch away from his hand. The bad memory’s so strong my stomach feels like I’m falling down a flume.  
‘Easy, buddy, easy.’ He takes a step away from me. Holds his hands up like he’s under arrest.
I have to stand up and show him I’m not afraid. I crawl out and get to my feet, trying to hide the gun behind me.
‘Playing cowboys?’
He waits, as if he expects me to say something.
‘All by yourself?
My legs are shaking. Wish I had long trousers on to hide them.
‘You lost or something?’
I shake my head.
‘Come on over here. Don’t be scared. I won’t hurt you.’
That’s what Robbie said.
Inside my head, something snaps. I feel full of courage. I look the stranger right in the eye and bring the gun from behind my back.
‘Going to give me a look at your gun? Cool.’ He holds out his hand. ‘Hand it over, then.’
I don’t hand it over. I snap it shut, like I’ve seen Dad do. I smell metal and oil as the mechanism locks into place.
‘Shit! That doesn’t sound like a toy. Is it some kind of replica?’ He holds out his arms this time. ‘Can I see it, please?’ He smiles as if he expects me to just do as he says.
Without taking my eyes off him, I slowly raise the gun. Till it’s pointing at his chest. The smile slides from his face like slime off a stick. He moves away from me. A branch catches the back of his leg and he stumbles. I raise the rifle a little more. Settle it against my shoulder. Copying Dad. It feels so heavy I think my legs might buckle, but I don’t feel a bit afraid. I feel powerful.
I rest my cheek on the gun. Make a show of placing my finger on the trigger.
He starts to scramble through the gorse, backwards. His eyes never leaving my face. The thorns snag his shirt but he doesn’t seem to notice. Suddenly he stops and stands with his hands in the air.
‘Take it easy, kid. Watch what you’re doing with that thing.’ His voice sounds kind of wavery. ‘Put it down now, please. The joke’s over. You’ve had your fun.’
I want him to keep going. Run. Get away from me.
He doesn’t move. Well, just his arm. He stretches it out towards me, in slow motion. ‘Come on,’ he says, very quietly, coaxing. ‘Just do what I tell you and you won’t get hurt.’
Like the last time.  
I stare at him. Right down the barrel. Slowly, very slowly, I shake my head. Then I pull the trigger.

 

Pat Young grew up in the south west of Scotland where she still lives, sometimes. She often goes to the other extreme, the south west of France, in search of sunlight.

Pat never expected to be a writer. Then she found a discarded book with a wad of cash tucked in the flyleaf. ‘What if something awful happened to the person who lost this book?’ she thought, and she was off.

Pat knew nothing of writing, but she knew a thing or two about books, having studied English, French and German at Glasgow University. A passion for languages led to a career she loved and then a successful part-time business that allowed her some free-time, at last.

Pat had plans, none of which included sitting at her desk from daybreak till dusk. But some days she has to. Because there’s a story to be told. And when it’s done, she can go out to play. On zip-wires and abseil ropes, or just the tennis court.

Pat writes psychological thrillers. Her debut novel Till the Dust Settles, has been awarded the Scottish Association of Writers’ Constable Stag trophy. Following publication in July

Pat was delighted to be chosen as an ‘emerging talent’ for Crime in the Spotlight and read from Till the Dust Settles to an audience at Bloody Scotland – another dream come true.

Published by Bloodhound Books, I Know Where You Live is the much-anticipated sequel to Pat’s gripping and unmissable debut thriller, Till the Dust Settles. It too is a psychological thriller with a skillfully told story that makes for an enjoyable stand alone read. It will hook you from the start.

One Perfect Witness, Pat’s third novel to be published, tells a completely new story. If, like Pat, you’re fascinated by what happens when someone disappears, you’ll enjoy this book of secrets, lies and deception.

#blogtour In The Silence by M R Mackenzie

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Anna hasn’t set foot in Glasgow for ten years. And for very good reasons…

When Anna, a criminology lecturer, does return to Glasgow from Rome, during the coldest winter in memory, tragedy strikes. While out with her best friend from school, Anna has a chance encounter with a former flame, Andrew, and later that night discovers Andrew stabbed and dying on a blanket of snow. Soon Anna finds herself at the centre of the investigation as the star witness for the police, and embarks on investigating the case herself. But Anna doesn’t realise the danger she is in and soon finds herself in trouble. When another body shows up, who has links to the first victim, it appears that the motive may lie buried in the past.

As Anna gets closer to the truth, the killer starts closing in. But can she solve the gruesome mystery before the killer strikes again?

Atmospheric and intriguing, In The Silence is a read that slowly pulls you into its grip, taking its time to wrap itself around your curiosity and make you want to dig deeper into the story.

Soaking you up in an easy feeling of the real nature of Glasgow, and especially considering Mackenzies’ use of native Scottish speech, you’ll feel fully enveloped in the whole story, as it unfolds before you.

I found the characters of Anna and Zoe both addictive and yet annoying, swinging between like and dislike of each, often, always a sign to me of a well written persona.

A mesmerising debut, it’s well worth reading and I’m certainly going to be looking out for more from this author.