#BlogTour – Sweet After Death by Valentina Giambanco – Exclusive extract

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Prologue

The woods pressed into the town from all sides. The bite of land that had been scooped out of the wilderness by the original residents was barely visible from above during the day, and at night – when the only lights were a few scattered street lamps – it was all but gone.

The deer raised its snout, sniffed the cold night air and took a couple of steps. It paused by the line of trees and waited. Somewhere much higher up on the mountain the winds howled and shook the firs for what they were worth, but in the hollow of the valley the town of Ludlow lay silent and still. The deer ambled into the middle of the empty road and three others followed it out of the shadows. They made no sound as they padded on the veil of snow and their reflections crossed the windows of the shuttered stores on Main Street. The town stirred in its sleep but it did not wake: a dog barked from inside a house, a porch light – triggered by a faulty motion sensor – came on and went off in one of the timber-frame homes, and one of the town’s three traffic lights ticked and flickered from red to green to marshal the nonexistent 3 a.m. traffic. And yet, tucked away in an alley, a thin shadow tracked the progress of the deer and matched them step for step. They didn’t pick up its scent because it smelled of forest and dead leaves, and they didn’t hear any footsteps because it made no sound as it wove between the houses. The deer followed a familiar route that would lead them to the woods at the other end of Main Street, and it wasn’t until they had almost reached their destination that they caught the ugly scent. It was a few hundred yards away yet sharp enough to startle them. For an instant they froze and then, one after the other, they bounded out of sight. The acrid smoke spread through Main Street, reaching into the alleys and the backstreets, under the doors and into the gaps of the old window-frames. But the car burning bright by the crossroads would not be discovered until morning, and by then the thin shadow was long gone.

A few miles away Samuel shifted his weight on the thin mattress and listened out for birdsong: he couldn’t hear any, and it could only mean that it was still pitch black outside. He sighed and tried to grasp the tail of a half-remembered dream. Something had woken him up, though, and it took him a moment for the notion to sink small, keen teeth into his mind – dulled, as it was, by sleep and the warm cocoon of his blankets. Then a rough hand grabbed his shoulder and Samuel flinched and understood. He sat up without a sound, eyes peering through the gloom.

The bedroom – such as it was – was plain, with pallets for beds and a wooden stove in the corner. Embers from last night’s fire lit the bundles of blankets lying on the other pallets, and a cold draft found Samuel as soon as he threw off the covers.

He didn’t have much time, and he knew it. His heart had begun to race and his mouth was a tight line as he pulled on his boots and snatched his satchel from the side of the bed. The tip of the boy’s finger brushed against his good-luck charm, hidden in the folds of the satchel, and he felt a crackle of pleasure.

Two minutes later, Samuel walked out into the night and the door closed softly behind him. He looked up: the sky was low with heavy clouds, and he could almost taste the snow that was about to fall. He ran across the clearing and straight into the forest. He knew each tree and boulder and rock, and the dusting of white on the ground showed him the way. They had always called him ‘Mouse’ because he was small for his age – fifteen years old the previous November – small and fast. He needed all the speed and cunning he could muster now.

Speed, cunning and the spirit of the mountain on his side. He was three hundred yards away when the bell clanged and shattered the silence. They would be waking up then, rushing and scrambling after their things, and when the door opened to the night they would fall out and come after him. And God forbid they should catch him. The black raven feather in the boy’s satchel would have to work hard to keep him safe.

In the dead of winter Homicide Detective Alice Madison is sent to the remote town of Ludlow, Washington, to investigate an unspeakable crime.

Together with her partner Detective Sergeant Kevin Brown and crime scene investigator Amy Sorensen, Madison must first understand the killer’s motives…but the dark mountains that surround Ludlow know how to keep their secrets and that the human heart is wilder than any beast’s.

As the killer strikes again Madison and her team are under siege. And as they become targets Madison realises that in the freezing woods around the pretty town a cunning evil has been waiting for her.

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#BlogTour – One Bad Turn by Sinead Crowley

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Being held hostage at gunpoint by her childhood friend is not Dr Heather Gilmore’s idea of a good day at work. It only gets worse when she hears that her nineteen-year-old daughter Leah has been kidnapped.

Sergeant Claire Boyle wasn’t expecting to get caught up in a hostage situation during a doctor’s appointment. When it becomes apparent that the kidnapping is somehow linked to the hostage-taker, a woman called Eileen Delaney, she is put in charge of finding the missing girl.

What happened between Eileen and Heather to make Eileen so determined to ruin her old friend? Claire Boyle must dig up the secrets from their pasts to find out – and quickly, because Leah is still missing, and time is running out to save her.

One Bad Turn is the third book to feature Sergeant Claire Boyle and I have to say since I’ve absolutely adored the first two books, Can Anybody Help Me? and Are You Watching Me?, I was chuffed to bits to be invited onto the blog tour for this one.

Totally addictive, One Bad Turn was for me the perfect way to spend a wet May Bank Holiday. Nestled in a comfy sofa with the sound of rain against the window, kindle in hand with a fantastic new book. One Bad Turn is a real one sitting read that makes sure you don’t want to put it down until you know what’s happening next in the story.  I lost track of the amount of times I thought to myself “just one more chapter then I’ll go do…” because the go do never got done.

One Bad turn is the story of friendship turned sour, enhanced by the impact of the financial and political situation in Ireland on the lives of Heather and Eileen.  It switches regularly in its time frame between present day and flashbacks of the circumstances surrounding the polarisation of their friendship, ensuring the reader gets a fully rounded awareness of the characters and a true understanding of how the two have ended up where they are.

It’s a fascinating story and one that you can easily read without having read any of the previous novels, but as a true book geek I’d recommend reading them first in order to truly appreciate the amazing way the Crowley makes our protagonist so realistic, heart warmingly supportable and a force of nature to be reckoned with.

 

 

 

 

#BlogTour Body Breaker by Mike Craven

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Investigating a severed hand found on the 3rd green of a Cumbrian golf course was not how Detective Inspector Avison Fluke had planned to spend his Saturday. So when a secretive unit from London swoop in quoting national security, he’s secretly pleased.

But trouble is never far away. A young woman arrives at his lakeside cabin with a cryptic message: a code known to only a handful of people and it forces Fluke back into the investigation he’s just been barred from.

In a case that will change his life forever, Fluke immerses himself in a world of new age travellers, corrupt cops and domestic extremists. Before long he’s alienated his entire team, made a pact with the devil and been arrested under the terrorism act.

But Fluke is only getting started. A voice has called out to him from beyond the grave and he has no intention of ignoring it.

Guest Reviewer Ann B with Mike at the Body Breaker book launch

Body Breaker is the second full novel, but third book by Mike Craven to feature Detective Inspector Avison Fluke, and after previously reading the first two books I knew I was in for a treat and I wasn’t disappointed.

In this book, D.I. Fluke is investigating a dismembered body found at a golf course. The case is swiftly taken over by the Metropolitan Police Force, so when Fluke discovers that the victim is someone from his past he decides to work the case off the books to solve it. He also has to enlist the help of someone he’d rather never deal with again and Fluke knows this will come back to bite him but he feels that he doesn’t have a choice.

I was blown away by the high calibre of Mike’s writing, his attention to detail and the way he invests in his characters, which makes them all the more real. I could identify with each and every person, and felt that I was right there at Fluke’s elbow as he fought to see justice done. It’s a compelling read from start to finish, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Ann B x