#blogtour Stench by AB Morgan

Standard

Rory Norton didn’t always make his living as a motorbike instructor and he went to great lengths to leave his past life behind, to start again.

He thought he had succeeded, until the body of a missing woman is discovered under the floor of his cottage. Only then do the guilt and shame of his wife’s mysterious, untimely death and the accusations about his connection to the missing woman combine to break him.

The question is not how the missing woman died but why, and who is responsible?

Sometimes the truth stinks.

Starting literally with a bad smell, alone with suspected rats, a dead body, and Rory’s odd behaviour, Stench has a great opening which launches you straight into a story that ‘reeks’ of mystery.

The story unravels through Rory and Anna, as we discover the truth behind their lives, and deaths. It’s a gripping tale that you will want to rip through, but I suggest taking your time, as the character of Anna needs some careful thought and understanding, due to the problems she faces with her mental health.  It is in this character that once more Morgan’s previous life within the NHS really comes to the fore, creating a truly troubled soul.

I recommend this one as a great book club read, as I’m certain that Anna’s behaviour and that of those around her will make for an interesting discussion.

 

 

Married to an overgrown child with a beard and too many motorbikes, Alison Morgan lives in a corner of a field in North Bedfordshire and is making the most of a mid-life crisis. The Morgans are determined not to grow old gracefully or to be seen wearing beige and can be found exploring life through a love of live music, anything with an engine, the sea, mountains, rugby, proper pubs and fascinating people.

Alison worked for the NHS for nearly thirty years, twenty of those within mental health services, at the front line. She eventually became the manager of a countywide community service for people experiencing their first episode of psychosis. Much to her frustration, her heart decided to develop an electrical fault, which forced her to sit down for more than five minutes and her career juddered to a halt. Not one for thumb twiddling, she took up position in front of a computer with a plan to write a set of clinical guidelines for assessment of psychosis but instead a story, which had been lurking in her mind for several years, came tumbling out.

Her first two novels, A Justifiable Madness and Divine Poison, were inspired by her career as a psychiatric nurse and her fascination with the extremes of human behaviour. Then she stepped sideways and wrote a gritty psychological thriller, The Camera Lies. All published by Bloodhound Books, Alison’s novels have received excellent reviews and inspired many an interesting debate. Above all, they are entertaining reads and, despite dark subjects, will raise a smile.

#Blogtour Fault Lines by Doug Johnstone

Standard

In a reimagined contemporary Edinburgh, in which a tectonic fault has opened up to produce a new volcano in the Firth of Forth, and where tremors are an everyday occurrence, volcanologist Surtsey makes a shocking discovery.

On a clandestine trip to The Inch – the new volcanic island – to meet Tom, her lover and her boss, she finds his lifeless body, and makes the fatal decision to keep their affair, and her discovery of his corpse secret.

Desperate to know how he died, but also terrified she’ll be exposed, Surtsey s life quickly spirals into a nightmare when someone makes contact – someone who claims to know what she’s done…

I’ve read quite a lot of Doug’s previous novels, which I have enjoyed, but this one had me a tad nervous, with it’s ‘re-imagining’ of Edinburgh, but I need not have worried.  I found it far easier than I believed it would be to envisage the setting, but Johnstone’s writing made it simple for me.

Faultlines is a slow burn novel, written tightly.  There is no single piece of ‘filler’ in there at all, every word moves the narrative along brilliantly,  which is a bigger challenge than you might think.  This style meant that it only took me a handful of hours to read with only time for sipping a drink to move my eyes away from my Kindle screen.

Definitely not one to read on your bus / train journey as you’ll likely miss your stop.

 

 

 

 

#Blogtour If He Wakes by Zoe Lea – The Value of Keeping a Writing Journal

Standard

The Value Of Keeping A Writing Journal

It took me roughly three years to write If He Wakes. That’s from having the initial idea, to my lovely editor saying it was ready to go. Three years. I’ve learnt a lot about the writing process in those years and the one thing I would recommend to anyone who wants to create any kind of content is to keep a writing journal. Or a notebook. Or the notepad feature on your phone even. I call mine a writing journal, but what I really mean is just having something to hand that you can write on at anytime, anywhere.

Here’s why; I had the idea for If He Wakes in a car park. My daughter was about eight months old at the time and she was in the car with me, we were waiting for my husband when inspiration struck and I had absolutely nowhere to record the initial idea. I didn’t worry. It was a great idea, a wonderful premise, there was no chance of me forgetting it, and I didn’t.

But by the time I came to write down my idea for If He Wakes, it was two hours later. I’d been to the supermarket, dealt with a crying baby, made numerous decisions about what was on the family menu for the week and I was tired. My brilliant idea, the one that had made me gasp in the car park when everything was still and quiet was reduced to seven words. ‘Woman sees husband run man over, why?’

It wasn’t hopeless, I did pick up that sentence the next day and start to develop it, but by then, I was searching out the inspiration.

I felt like I’d missed the full opportunity with that idea. I had to chase it down. I had to sit and think about what exactly I’d envisaged in that car park, where my daughter slept silently behind me.

However, if I’d had my writing journal, I know that I would have spent a good ten minutes scribbling in a feverish way everything about that premise.

The way I knew the lead character would feel pain not only mentally, but also physically at what she saw. How the shock of it would shatter everything around her, it would leave her breathless and on a course that would change her life forever. I would have been able to write down where she was, who came to her aid and what she saw. The emotions would have been so raw at the moment I had the idea, it would’ve been easy.

And when I came back to my journal the next day, my enthusiasm for it would’ve jumped off the page and bitten me all over again. I would have read the words that I scribbled down and smiled, and it would all be there, ready for me to pick up and run with.

It took me two years before I realised that having a notebook with you at all times is essential. It’s no good thinking, ‘I’ll remember that, I don’t need to write it down,’ because you will remember the idea, but you will forget your enthusiasm for it.

I used to think that people who got a notebook out and started writing at odd times were just that, odd, but now I yank mine out at any given opportunity. You never know when inspiration will strike and you never want to miss it.

You can always trust your best friend… can’t you?

When Rachel discovers a Twitter message arranging a romantic liaison she assumes her husband is having an affair, and follows him. What she witnesses is so much worse: a hit and run using his car.

Meanwhile, Rachel’s friend and business partner Suzie is increasingly worried about her fiance, who’s not been in touch for days. When Suzie learns of huge debts racked up in her name she fears he has run out on her, but then the threatening calls start and she thinks something terrible has happened.

Rachel and Suzie are both about to learn shocking things about the men they love, worse than they could ever imagine… Can their friendship survive?

Two thirds of the way through this novel, I was sat in my favourite reading chair with a smug smile on my face thinking “I know where this story is going”.

I COULD NOT have been more wrong, but it was in a delightfully interesting way.

A fantastic and compelling read, I wonder just how many of you will feel the same?

#blogtour Box of Bones by Peter Morfoot – Exclusive Extract

Standard

Christian Malraux peered at what was left of the headstone and grinned. ‘Aw, that’s sad, isn’t it? Mummy died when he was only a kid.’ He straightened. ‘Can turn you into a complete arsehole, that.’

The crime-scene photographer lowered his camera. ‘Shift,’ he said. ‘And mind where you put your feet.’

The immediate area was still littered with flower debris.

‘Yeah, wouldn’t want to spoil them.’ Malraux trod with exaggerated care between the chewed-up blooms. ‘I don’t know, Marcel, I call in as a courtesy and this is all the thanks I get? I’m over in Cannes now, you know. Full lieutenant.’

‘We miss you terribly.’

The camera’s motor drive whirred away.

‘Our paths will still cross, my friend.’ Malraux winced, screwing up his eyes. ‘Ah, shit.’ He reached under his overalls and took out two small plastic vials. Tilting his head back, he emptied one of them into his pink, lashless left eye. ‘And he had his guitar nicked didn’t he? Talk about a bad week.’

The camera went silent once more. ‘You’re still in the way.’

Blinking like a faulty light bulb, Malraux repeated the procedure with the other eye. ‘Captain Fantastic having his arse nearly shot off… I tell you, if I was still around, it wouldn’t have happened. I’ve saved his life once already.’ His head still tilted back, Malraux shuddered, freezing cold, suddenly. Trying to force his eyes open, ghastly images started crowding into his head. He pictured the entombed body beneath him rising through the stone slab and coming for him. The skeletal hands of a woman reaching out and closing around his throat. Blinking blindly, Malraux staggered backwards, dropping the vials.

More camera whirrs. ‘Sting, do they?’ Marcel said. ‘The drops?’

Gulping in air, Malraux put his hands to his neck and felt all around it. His eyes clearing, he kept them on the grave as he retreated another couple of paces. ‘Just cold,’ he said at length. ‘The stuff does that.’

‘I never realised you were such a sensitive soul.’

Malraux’s vision settled. He began to calm down. Not that he would ever admit to anyone that he’d just suffered a panic attack. ‘Because that’s definitely what it was,’ he said aloud, still staring warily at the grave.

‘What was definitely what?’

Slowly, Malraux gathered himself. He looked at his watch. ‘Got to go. Hate hanging around these places anyway. Give me the fucking creeps.’

The whirring stopped. ‘Oy! Don’t leave your shit behind.’

‘You chuck them,’ Malraux said, not looking back.

It is carnival time in Nice, and for three weeks the boulevards are alive with dancers, jugglers and musicians. Amid the colour and pageantry, a man suffers a fatal fall the first in a series of suspicious deaths.
Captain Paul Darac of the Brigade Criminelle is sure the answer lies in the mystery surrounding a daring bank heist, supposedly resolved years ago. But the reopening of the case awakens powerful enemies, and soon the safety of his friends, his colleagues and his family is at stake.

Bryant & May – Hall of Mirrors by Christopher Fowler

Standard

The year is 1969 and ten guests are about to enjoy a country house weekend at Tavistock Hall. But one amongst them is harbouring thoughts of murder. . .

The guests also include the young detectives Arthur Bryant and John May – undercover, in disguise and tasked with protecting Monty Hatton-Jones, a whistle-blower turning Queen’s evidence in a massive bribery trial. Luckily, they’ve got a decent chap on the inside who can help them – the one-armed Brigadier, Nigel ‘Fruity’ Metcalf.

The scene is set for what could be the perfect country house murder mystery, except that this particular get-together is nothing like a Golden Age classic. For the good times are, it seems, coming to an end. The house’s owner – a penniless, dope-smoking aristocrat – is intent on selling the estate (complete with its own hippy encampment) to a secretive millionaire but the weekend has only just started when the millionaire goes missing and murder is on the cards. But army manoeuvres have closed the only access road and without a forensic examiner, Bryant and May can’t solve the case. It’s when a falling gargoyle fells another guest that the two incognito detectives decide to place their future reputations on the line. And in the process discover that in Swinging Britain nothing is quite what it seems…
So gentle reader, you are cordially invited to a weekend in the country. Expect murder, madness and mayhem in the mansion!

Man, oh man, oh man, I loved this. I even had to go against all my instincts and stretch out the reading, because I just didn’t want to get to the end and have to wait another year for the next one.  Just *love* Bryant & May.

The release of a new Bryant and May novel is always a big event at LifeOfCri.me Manor.  Each eagerly awaited edition is devoured, normally, and when the opportunity arises to get a chance of an early copy it’s one that I won’t miss.  As such I found myself getting to grips with John May and Arthur Bryant in full on throwback mode, with Hall of Mirrors being set in 1969, and trying desperately to slow down my reading and swallow up each and every delicious word.

It’s definitely my favourite of the series so far, mainly because it’s one of my favourite styles of tale.  Hall of Mirrors is what Fowler calls a ‘precinct’ novel (as was White Corridor).  Everything happens in a limited space and time.  In this case an old manor house, a flooded and a closed off village, alongside a small cast of vivid characters, and of course the requisite murder.

I adored meeting younger versions of Bryant and May, and seeing the beginnings of some of their well known idiosyncrasies.  It was also fun to meet some of the earlier generations of staff at the PCU, names you will be familiar with from earlier novels but have only met fleetingly.

All of this makes Hall of Mirrors as amazing a read to satisfy the most ardent of followers, whilst making the entire series completely accessible to anyone new to Bryant and May, because it can be read and enjoyed as a completely standalone novel.  If you are new to these pair, I’m sure you will be hooked, and more than pleased to know there are another 14 books you can catch up with!

Highly recommended by me.

#Blogtour White Out – Ragnar Jonasson

Standard

Two days before Christmas, a young woman is found dead beneath the cliffs of the deserted village of Kálfshamarvík. Did she jump, or did something more sinister take place beneath the lighthouse and the abandoned old house on the remote rocky outcrop? With winter closing in and the snow falling relentlessly, Ari Thór Arason discovers that the victim’s mother and young sister also lost their lives in this same spot, twenty-five years earlier. As the dark history and secrets of the village are unveiled, and the death toll begins to rise, the Siglufjordur detectives must race against the clock to find the killer, before another tragedy takes place.

Dark, chilling and complex, Whiteout is a haunting, atmospheric and stunningly plotted thriller from one of Iceland’s bestselling crime writers

This is by far my favourite of Ragnar’s Dark Iceland series to date. If you thought Siglufjordur was isolated and claustrophobic you haven’t read everything yet.  In the previously populated small village of Kálfshamarvík, that is now just a tiny hamlet of two houses, on the eve of Christmas Eve, Ari, with his heavily pregnant partner Kristin, and his old boss Tomas (now a Reykjavik murder team officer) are trying to discover the mystery of Asta’s demise, over the cliffs of her childhood home, where both her mother and 7yr old sister met their deaths.

With such a small cast of characters, this is an intense read.  You know it has to be someone, but Jonasson expertly manages to keep you guessing all  the way to the end.  I’m usually someone who can pin a guilty party out by halfway through a book, but with Whiteout I just couldn’t.  I had ideas, but never saw the ending.  The rarity of catching me out is fabulous, and just ensures this book is doubly amazing.

 

 

Siglufjordur © Sigurður Ægisson

If you’ve never been to Iceland but enjoy a fully immersive experience in a novel, then I recommend you google some images of Sigulfjordur and Kálfshamarvík before you start. There is no better way of getting a quick grasp of the dark, yet beautiful isolation of these places, and as we all know imagery will only enhance your reading.

Enjoy…