Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Crime, Fiction, Thriller, Young Adult Fiction

Inborn by Thomas Enger

Today I’m delighted to be hosting the blog tour for another gripping offering from Orenda Books. Inborn by Thomas Enger is a thrilling court room drama that had me hooked and reading into the night.

When a teenager is accused of a high-school murder, he finds himself subject to trial by social media … and in the dock.

A taut, moving and chilling thriller by one of Nordic Noir’s finest writers.

When the high school in the small Norwegian village of Fredheim becomes a murder scene, the finger is soon pointed at seventeen-year-old Even. As the investigation closes in, social media is ablaze with accusations, rumours and even threats, and Even finds himself the subject of an online trial as well as being in the dock … for murder?

Even pores over his memories of the months leading up to the crime, and it becomes clear that more than one villager was acting suspiciously … and secrets are simmering beneath the calm surface of this close-knit community. As events from the past play tag with the present, he’s forced to question everything he thought he knew. Was the death of his father in a car crash a decade earlier really accidental? Has his relationship stirred up something that someone is prepared to kill to protect?

It seems that there may be no one that Even can trust.

But can we trust him?

A taut, moving and chilling thriller, Inborn examines the very nature of evil, and asks the questions: How well do we really know our families? How well do we know ourselves?

Oh my, this is one good read. A chilling prologue leads us into the story where we follow young Johannes, a bright young soul, as he walks into something he really wishes he hadn’t. What follows is a series of events that we begin to witness through the trial when 17 year old Even takes to the dock.

Twists and turns aplenty my suspicions changed on many occasions. Wonderfully told mostly through the voice of a 17 year old the story keeps the fear, frustration and despair right on the surface. It brilliantly showed the dangers of social media. How it can be easy to condemn and spread hate and mistrust. Chinese whispers for the 21st century and a super way to throw in those clues (or red herrings).

You can’t help but feel sorry for Even; he has a difficult life with a reclusive younger brother and a mother who still continues to drown her sorrows some years after the death of their father in a car crash. The only sense of parental support comes from their uncle Imo. And now Even’s recently ex-girlfriend has been murdered and he is under suspicion.

I love the way Enger has built the story around the trial, hearing what Even has to say but also returning to past events with flashbacks through Yngve Monk, the Chief Inspector who has recently lost his wife and is floundering somewhat. He is also a great character though and I felt his loss keenly. Enger expertly portraying the sense of bewilderment and sadness that follows the death of a loved one. Monk really cares about the case too, determined to get to the bottom of what happened on that awful night he puts his grief to one side and gets the job done – with a little bit of help of course. The picture gradually becoming clearer and clearer until the shocking conclusion is revealed.

Absolutely gripping, this is one that I would definitely recommend for young adults and older readers alike. It is also crying out for a tv adaptation. There are plenty of skeletons in the closet of the people in Fredheim and they’re about to come out in a most spectacular but deadly way.

Thoroughly recommended.

Thank you to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour and to her and Orenda Books for my eBook. As much as I prefer print copies I do LOVE the way I can read in the dark with an eBook. 🙂

About the author

Thomas Enger is a former journalist. He made his debut with the crime novel Burned in 2010, which became an international sensation before publication, and marked the first in the bestselling Henning Juul series. Rights to the series have been sold to 28 countries to date. In 2013 Enger published his first book for young adults, a dark fantasy thriller called The Evil Legacy, for which he won the U-prize (best book Young Adult). Killer Instinct, upon which Inborn is based, and another Young Adult suspense novel, was published in Norway in 2017 and won the prestigious prize. Most recently, Thomas has co-written a thriller with Jorn Lier Horst. Enger also composes music, and he lives in Oslo.

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Adult Fiction, Bookish Post, Coming Soon, Crime, Debut, Fiction, Review, Suspense, Thriller

Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech

A Tales Before Bedtime Sunday Review

Sometimes you discover an author and there is an instant connection.  You soak up their words and disappear into their worlds.  Whenever you hear there is a new offering on the horizon your ears prick up, damn it your whole damn head up – somewhat like a meerkat – and wait eagerly for it to arrive.  It’s a truly wonderful feeling.  One such author that holds that magic over me is Louise Beech. Her writing never fails to leave me entranced.  Her novels are all so different and yet all so wonderful.  I can’t tell you how happy I was to receive a proof copy of her latest novel, Call Me Star Girl.  

There were three things that sold this novel to me.  

The author. The publisher. The synopsis.  

Although the fact that it was quoted as being ‘reminiscent of Play Misty For Me, surely one of Clint Eastwood finest and most chilling of films, did catch my attention too.  I watched the film again not too long ago and there is still so much I love about it, not least the 70’s music, style and cinematography, but it gives you the feeling that you’re watching a series of events spiralling helplessly out of control. All these factors put together had me feeling this novel was going to be GOOOOD.  And Oh my, I wasn’t wrong.

Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech

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Tonight is Stella McKeever’s final radio show.

The theme is secrets.  You tell her yours, and she’ll share some of hers.  Stella might tell you about Tom, a boyfriend who likes to play games, about the mother who abandoned her, now back after fourteen years.  She might tell you about the perfume bottle with the star-shaped stopper, or about her father…

What Stella really wants to know is more about the mysterious man calling the station, who says he knows who killed the pregnant Victoria Valbon, found brutally murdered in an alley three weeks ago. 

Tonight is the night for secrets, and Stella wants to know everything.

In her writing Louise delves deep into the mind. She looks at cause and effect, how events and trauma shape our personalities and actions. We can never really know what goes on in another’s mind and she shows the dark maze winding deep within each of us; holding endless fears, desires, doubts and secrets. It is truly powerful. Call Me Star Girl also looks at the darker side of love. The all-consuming love that can rarely end well. The story is dark, creepy and utterly engrossing as Stella’s past and present collide with shattering consequences.

Louise’s characters have this wonderful ability to get inside your head, leading you on with the story, sharing their story, so you are standing right beside them in that dark, god forsaken alley. Atmospheric to say the least, the setting of a radio station through the night provides the perfect backdrop for events to unfold.

Her plotting is superb, the twists and turns leaving you fearful for the outcome but unable to tear yourself away. This is one story that will stay with you; like a whisper it will creep into your thoughts long after you turn the final page.

Absolutely brilliant and thoroughly recommended.

Here is a wee snippet taken from the first few pages…

‘The lights buzzed and flickered. I held my breath. Exhaled when they settled. I would not be spooked by a trickster.

Stella, this will tell you everything.

How did they know what I wanted to know?

What was everything?

I opened the main door, book held tight to my hammering chest. The car park was empty, a weed-logged expanse edged with dying trees. It’s always quiet at this hour of the night. I waited, not sure what I expected to happen – maybe some stranger loitering, hunched over and menacing. They would not scare me.

“I’m not afraid,’ I said it aloud.

Who was I trying to convince?

I set off for home. I usually walk, enjoying the night air after a stuffy studio. I’m not sure why – though now it seems profound – but I paused at the alley that separates the allotment from the Fortune Bingo hall. Bramble bushes tangle there like sweet barbed wire. It’s a long but narrow cut-through that kids ride their bikes too fast along and drunks stagger down when the pub shuts. I rarely walk down there, even though it would make my journey home quicker. The place disturbs me, so I always hurry past, take the long way around, without glancing into the shadows.

I did that night too.

But I looked back. Just once, the strange book pressed against my chest.

It was two weeks before they found the girl there.

Two weeks before I started getting phone calls.

I didn’t know any of that then. If I had, I might have walked a little faster.’

About the Author

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Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015.  the follow-up, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize.  Both of her previous books Maria in the Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost were widely reviewed and critically acclaimed.  All four have been #1 kindle bestsellers.  Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetics Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice.  Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull, and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.

You can follow Louise on Twitter: @LouiseWriter and visit her website here.

Call Me Star Girl is published by Orenda Books on April 18th 2019 which still gives you plenty of time to discover Louise’s previous work if you haven’t yet done so.

Thank you so much to the lovely team at Orenda Books for sending me the proof copy to read and review for an honest opinion.

 

 

Adult Fiction, Christmas 2018, Crime, Fiction, Suspense, Thriller

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie

I love a good drama no matter how it’s presented. Be it radio, television, book or on the big screen, each method has a thoroughly unique way of bringing the story to you. This is one of the reasons I love storytelling, there are so many possibilities. Each begins with the storyteller themselves and then the reader/viewer/listener comes along and creates their own version. We all see things with different eyes and I believe each reader/viewer/listener will experience the story in their own unique way. Our beliefs and our personalities all have an effect on what we take from a story. We won’t all love or hate the same things and when we enter a story, as individuals, we interpret it in our own way.

I do love to read the books from which the stories originated but I’m not precious about which should come first. For example when I was younger I found The Lord of the Rings difficult to get into, that is until I saw the films. I was swept away by Peter Jackson’s vision and it encouraged me to return to the novels and now I find their complexity absorbing and fascinating. There is generally so much more in the books themselves and I found it easier to dive into them after being spellbound by the films.

One of the most heavily adapted authors over the years is the wonderful Agatha Christie. I have quite literally grown up on the adventures of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. It’s easy to be swept away by a new adaptation on our screens but I’d love to take a moment to remind you of the pure joy of falling into one of her novels and discovering her stories exactly how she intended them.

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas is possibly not as festive a read as the title suggests, for as you’d expect murder casts a shadow over the festivities. I was given, by my husband, a beautifully produced hardback edition, published by Harper Collins, for my wedding anniversary in October. It’s been a while since I’ve actually read an Agatha Christie novel so I very much looked forward to this festive treat. The inscription alone was enough to assure me I was in for something special.

My Dear James,

You have always been one of the most faithful and kindly of my readers, and I was therefore seriously perturbed when I received from you a word of criticism.

You complained that my murders were getting too refined – anaemia, in fact. You yearned for a “good violent murder with lots of blood.” A murder where there was no doubt about its being murder!

So this is your special story – written for you. I hope it may please.

Your affectionate sister-in-law,

Agatha

I was completely absorbed by Agatha’s superb plotting and characterisation skills. I absolutely adore these classic, old fashioned mysteries. I recently read that she began writing her stories at the end and worked her way backwards. The complexity to them certainly fits this method. What fun she must have had! There are generally several possibilities as to who the murderer could be and she drops clues a plenty along the way. When watching the screen adaptations I often find it hard to discover who the guilty party is, it is difficult to squeeze all the vital information in along the way but as I read I found myself nodding, “Yes, but of course!”

In Hercule Poirot’s Christmas we see the gathering of an estranged family at Christmas time. Old Simeon Lee is a ‘thin, shrivelled figure of an old man’, a man looking forward to a Christmas surrounded by his family. Yet this old man is not feeling sentimental. He is a wicked, cruel man who is intent on stirring up a hornets nest. As the family slowly gather Agatha gives us an insight into their relationships with the old man. Before long old Simeon Lee meets a violent, bloody end and any one of them could have been tempted to yield the knife. Yet the murder took place behind a locked door with only the victim discovered inside. A complicated case but one that Hercule Poirot expertly unpicks.

The book is rather wonderful and I was immediately curious to see how it was transferred on to the small screen. Thankfully ITV player currently has a number of the wonderful adaptations starring David Suchet as Poirot and so I was able to settle down with a selection of festive treats and watch. The adaptation was of course changed to suit the time constraints of television and also some details had been tweaked but I still enjoyed it immensely. For me the book was the winner as generally we can discover so much more about character and plot that may not always come across on the screen. I also preferred Agatha’s original detail. Reading the novel also reminded me of where all these programmes that thrill and entertain us come from. It all begins with words on paper and for me that’s an exciting and inspiring thought.

Synopsis

It is Christmas Eve. The Lee family reunion is shattered by a deafening crash of furniture, followed by a high-pitched wailing scream. Upstairs, the tyrannical Simeon Lee lies dead in a pool of blood, his throat slashed. But when Hercule Poirot, who is staying in the village with a friend for Christmas, offers to assist, he finds an atmosphere not of mourning but of mutual suspicion. It seems everyone had their own reason to hate the old man.

For more information why not visit the Agatha Christie website here.

“Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?”

Macbeth.

 

Adult Fiction, Christmas 2018, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Essie Fox – Elijah’s Mermaid and The Last Days of Leda Grey

I have always loved gothic fiction so it seemed only right that I include some in my recommended reads. Essie is a historical author and as well as her captivating novels writes a fascinating blog called The Virtual Victorian. I first discovered her some years back when reviewing for Lovereading. I am an admirer of the Pre-Raphaelites and so I immediately fell in love Elijah’s Mermaid.

I have chosen two of her books today. Elijah’s Mermaid, and her latest novel, The Last Days of Leda Grey. Both are excellent as are all of her published works. Do check her out. She is an incredibly interesting writer both in her novels and on her blog. I am planning to devote a piece about her in more depth next year but for now here is a little more about her books.

Saved from the Thames one foggy London night, Pearl grows up at the House of Mermaids – a brothel that becomes the closest thing to home. But despite being cosseted and spoiled by the Madame, come her 14th year, Pearl is to be sold to the highest bidder.

Orphaned twins Lily and Elijah are on a rare trip to London when they meet the ethereal Pearl. And the repercussions of this chance encounter will bind all their fates together, in a dark and dangerous way. 

Bewitching, gothic and sensual, this is a tale of love and betrayal in a world where nothing is quite as it seems.

A bewitching novel about an enigmatic silent film actress, and the volatile love affair that left her a recluse for over half a century – for fans of Sarah Waters and Tracy Chevalier.

During the oppressive heat wave of 1976 a young journalist, Ed Peters, finds an Edwardian photograph in a junk shop in the seaside town of Brightland. It shows an alluring, dark-haired girl, an actress whose name was Leda Grey. Enchanted by the image, Ed learns Leda Grey is still living – now a recluse in a decaying cliff-top house she once shared with a man named Charles Beauvois, a director of early silent film.

As Beauvois’s muse and lover, Leda often starred in scenes where stage magic and trick photography were used to astonishing effect. But, while playing a cursed Egyptian queen, the fantasies captured on celluloid were echoed in reality, leaving Leda abandoned and alone for more than half a century – until the secrets of her past result in a shocking climax, more haunting than any to be in found in the silent films of Charles Beauvois. ‘

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Fiction, Short Stories

Nici’s Christmas Tale by Jean Gill

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Nici’s Christmas Tale by Jean Gill – Blog Tour

A stand-alone short story in the multi-award-winning Troubadours Quartet series

1157: Aquitaine. The wolves are coming! At midnight on Christmas Eve, while the blizzard blasts snow through every crack in the castle walls, Nici the Shepherd’s Dog stands guard in the sheepfold.

Beside him as usual are his pack and the flock they protect but this night is not usual at all. A small boy braves the snowy night, seeking the protection of his great friend while he is banned from his parents’ quarters in the castle.  Nici recalls other times and other dangers, his trials and failures, the reasons why he ran away with a young girl, now the little boy’s mother.  He would still give his life in a heartbeat for Lady Estela. And yet, on this snowy night, he cannot help her. So, while he waits and comforts Estela’s son, he tells his own puppies the story of a dog’s life.

Nici’s Christmas Tale is a short story, at only 58 pages it is a quick read but each one of those pages is full of rich detail and a beautifully told dog’s tale.

This is my first encounter of the Troubadours Quartet series and indeed of Jean Gill’s writing.  I was drawn to the idea of a dog being the narrator and I think Jean has stepped into the mind Nici perfectly.

Nici is a Great Pyrenees.  My knowledge of dogs is very limited but you can tell that Jean has a great love for the breed and knows an awful to about them.  Nici’s tale is set in the 12th century so it took some research of shepherding of this time for Jean but she has captured time and place perfectly.

Nici’s bond with both his humans and pack is incredibly moving and, from my limited expertise of dogs, absolutely spot on.  I love her take on a new life coming into the world on Christmas Eve, with all the worry and trauma that surrounds the birth, especially during medieval times.  As Nici recounts his story to his pups we are also taken on his journey, following through his hardships, his courage and at times his despair.  This is one brave dog who has encountered great cruelty but never shied away from his duty and what he felt was right.  He is certainly a dog I would like to have by my side.

This is a lovely, unusual Christmas tale that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Although I am not familiar with The Troubadours Quartet and the adventures of Estela and Dragonetz, I have enjoyed getting to know their most loyal companion and I now look forward to reading more of their tales too.

About The Author

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Jean Gill is a Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France with two scruffy dogs, a beehive named ‘Endeavour’, a Nikon D750 and a man. For many years, she taught English and was the first woman to be a secondary headteacher in Wales. She is mother or stepmother to five children so life was hectic.

Publications are varied, including prize-winning poetry and novels, military history, translated books on dog training, and a cookery book on goat cheese. With Scottish parents, an English birthplace and French residence, she can usually support the winning team on most sporting occasions.
Sign up to Jean special readers’ group at http://www.jeangill.com/ for exclusive news, offers and a free book.

You can follow Jean on Twitter: @writerjeangill

You can purchase the ebook of Nici’s Christmas Tale here.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour and thanks to both her and Jean for the review copy.  I’ve really enjoyed visiting Nici’s world.

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

The Cairo Brief by Fiona Veitch Smith

Poppy Denby is intrigued when she is invited to attend the auction for the Death Mask of Nefertiti. Held on the country estate of Sir James Maddox, a famous explorer, the auction promises to be a controversial and newsworthy affair.

Representatives from the world’s leading museums are gathering to bid on the mask, which was discovered in Egypt. Poppy quickly sniffs out that the mask was not the only thing found that night: the underground chamber also contained a dead body.

Poppy and her colleagues from The Daily Globe, who are trying to stay one step ahead of their rivals from The London Courier, dismiss rumours about the mask’s ancient curse. But when one of the auction party is murdered, and someone starts stalking Poppy, the race is on to find the killer before “the curse” can strike again…

1-6The Cairo Brief is the fourth in the POPPY DENBY INVESTIGATES series but it is the first that I have read. Although some references are made to previous storylines I in no way felt that I was missing vital information so please don’t worry if you’re starting here too. Of course like me, once you’ve read The Cairo Brief, you’ll probably be itching to read the previous three novels too!

I’ve always been a fan of an Agatha Christie type of thriller. I love the gentle (yet deadly), old fashioned mystery that has a host of characters and circumstances expertly woven into the story with many motives and possibilities. I adore trying to work out who the guilty party is and this novel by Fiona Veitch Smith ticks all the boxes for me.

So what’s right about it? Firstly, the time and setting.  It has that brilliant 1920’s atmosphere and style.  Secondly I love the historical element of the story.  Based around antiquities theft, Fiona has drawn on this interesting, controversial and emotive subject to create an intriguing storyline.  Do check out her guest article below about Poppy Denby and the murky world of antiquities theft.  It makes fascinating reading.

Another important element of this story is how Fiona combines a mixture of fictional and real characters into the story.  Bringing authenticity and a sense of the time in which is set.   Of course the main protagonist is Poppy herself, our amateur sleuth/journalist who has ‘a nose for murder’.  Just like Agatha Christie’s  Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple, you know the killer is in trouble if she is around.   She’s feisty, courageous and smart, and definitely a woman who knows her own mind. The police are also well written and though we see their own investigation from afar, they aren’t made out to be bumbling fools and but part of a collaboration between journalists and law enforcement to get to the bottom of the crime. I love the way the plot gradually unfolds, with the mystery thickening throughout the novel until it finally reaches it’s climax.  Can you work out who did it?  If you’re anything like me you may well change your mind several times before the end.

For me this is the perfect novel to curl up on a winters afternoon/evening, perhaps with  a glass of mulled wine (or like Poppy, a glass of Sherry) by your side and lose yourself in a little escapism and mystery.

Now read on for some an insight into antiquities theft from author, Fiona Veitch Smith…

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Guest Article by Fiona Veitch Smith

Poppy Denby and the Murky World of Antiquities Theft

Think back to the last time you were in the British Museum. Or any national museum in a European or North American country. Did you stand in awe of ancient artefacts from Africa, Asia or South America? Did you wonder how they managed to travel so far from their native lands? Most of these artefacts were collected by European adventurers and archaelogists during the 19th and early 20th centuries, but not all of them were legally acquired.

This is the backdrop to my new Poppy Denby Investigates book: The Cairo Brief. An ancient death mask of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti is up for auction in London. Representatives from some of the world’s leading museums are there to bid for the mask, but so are two people from the Cairo Museum, claiming the mask was stolen and should not be up for sale at all. When one of the auction party is murdered, our intrepid sleuth sets about finding out not only who dunnit, but also how the mask came to be in London in the first place.

As part of my research for writing the book I did a short online course in art and antiquities theft, with the University of Glasgow (Future Learn). I learned about subsistence looting where local people consider ancient artefacts fair game to earn a living. I also learned about some of the convoluted routes that were taken to ‘launder’ artefacts so that when they got to the West they appeared to have come through legitimate channels.

I then went on to do further reading into some of the more controversial antiquities held in Western museums. One of these is the Bust of Nefertiti at the Egyptian Museum of Berlin. This was found by a German archaeologist called Ludwig Borchardt in 1912 and was the springboard for my story in The Cairo Brief. The mask in my story is fictional, but the Borchardt bust of Nefertiti is the real thing. However, up until this day, it is said that the bust was stolen by the Germans and the Egyptians want it back.

Just last year there was a high profile case in America of a Christian arts and crafts chain called Hobby Lobby that was found to have illegally acquired Iraqi artefacts (over 5,000 of them!). They were fined $3million and had to return all the artefacts. The company claimed they were unaware of all the regulations and procedures, but the US Department of Justice said that they had gone ahead with the purchase despite being warned that it may not all be above board.

And then today, just as I was preparing to write this article, I read that a delegation from Easter Island have come to London to beg the British Museum to return one of their statues that was stolen in 1868. It’s a heartrending tale in which the leader of the delegation tearfully told the director of the British Museum: ‘you have our soul’. They have offered to make a replica of the statue, free of charge, in return for the original that is not to the people of the island simply a piece of art, but a part of their national psyche. I will watch this case with interest.

“Twenty thousand pounds! Is that the final offer from New York? Dr Mortimer? Herr Stein? No? All right then, for twenty thousand pounds the death mask of Nefertiti is going… going… gone!” Albert Carnaby, auctioneer in The Cairo Brief.

1-5Fiona Veitch Smith is a writer and university lecturer, based in Newcastle upon Tyne. Her 1920s mystery novel The Jazz Files, the first in the Poppy Denby Investigates Series (Lion Fiction), was shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger award in 2016. The second book, The Kill Fee, was a finalist for the Foreword Review mystery novel of the year 2016/17. Book four in the series, The Cairo Brief, has been shortlisted for the People’s Book Prize. For more on the series visit www.poppydenby.com

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Many thanks to Fiona for such an interesting article and some great links.

Thank you so much also to Rhoda Hardie for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.  I can’t wait to catch up on the previous three Poppy Denby mysteries.

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