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

screen shot 2019-01-25 at 21.22.07

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.

 

 

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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, Blog Tour, Suspense, Thriller

The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings

I’m so thrilled to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings.

Synopsis

Some friendships are made to be broken

Cornwall, summer of 1986.

The Davenports, with their fast cars and glamorous clothes, living the dream in a breathtaking house overlooking the sea.

If only… thinks sixteen-year-old Tamsyn, her binoculars trained on the perfect family in their perfect home.

If only her life was as perfect as theirs.

If only Edie Davenport would be her friend.

If only she lived at The Cliff House…

Amanda Jennings weaves a haunting tale of obsession, loss and longing, set against the brooding North Cornish coastline, destined to stay with readers long after the final page is turned.

Cliff House

You sit and watch them from the same place you always do.

I spy.

With my little eye.

The opening lines to this thrilling novel are sinister and full of meaning. The prologue setting the tone of the book from the get go. I read this in two days straight. I loved it. It held my interest and sparked a need in me to find out what happened and who indeed would become the victim in the end. I could feel it coming. The sense of foreboding that ran through the novel like a stream rushing towards the ultimate deluge when all was revealed.

The characterisation was fantastic. The different view points gave an interesting perspective on proceedings never quite allowing me to work out who I should feel sorry for, who was the victim and who was really injecting the posion that threaded its way through the story. I have my theory now but not wishing to spoil the story for you I’ll keep my thoughts to myself. Do message me though if you’d like to know.

The characters are complex, all damaged in their own way. This novel has so many layers. It looks deeply at how past experiences can taint our actions and lives forever but it also looks at how memories are never quite true but heavily influenced by who owns it. The same experience is never equally remembered by two different people and time has the power to change and alter events so that the reality can become grotesque and unbelievable in our self editing minds. We remember what we chose to remember from our own view point.

So what is the story about? The central character for me, is the house itself. Echoing faintly of Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca, The Cliff House not only takes the title but also takes centre stage. It seems to have a life of it’s own and possesses people in an unnatural way that makes them either love or hate it. Jennings has done a wonderful job of creating the atmosphere, providing the contrast of a hot summer in 1986 and the cold, sinister evil that seems to catch hold of both the occupants and visitors of The Cliff House.

As you read you know that things are going to go horribly wrong but you can’t quite work out what or who it will happen to. It was a thrilling read and one that lingers in my mind. I can almost hear the soft lapping of the water as Tamsyn swims through the still, dark water or the ‘caw’ of the raven.

Tamsyn has never recovered from the death of her father six years ago. The whole family have been suspended in their grief, doing all they can do to survive but never quite living. She takes solace in stolen visits to the house she and her father adored from afar when he was alive. The house they crept into to swim in the pool on the day he died. For Tamsyn there was always a part of her father still at the house and there wasn’t anywhere in the world she’d rather be. One day she sneaks back into the house only to be surprised by the early return of the owner and she soon becomes a part of the lives she has spent so long watching and idolising. And so begins a story of obsession and jealousy that can only lead to catastropy.

Amanda Jennings has a beautiful way with words. Her descriptive prose is stunning as she gets to the heart of the way her characters are feeling and sets each scene perfectly.

I turned my attention back to them all as they danced and screeched and smoked and drank. I was mesmerised by it all and relieved I’d stayed and not run back to St Just. This world was Wonderland and I was Alice. The characters around me were as weird and wonderful as the Queen of Hearts and the smoking Caterpillar and the Cheshire Cat’s floating smile. I thought of my father, hear the voices he used when he read me that story. Saw his face twisted into the manic grin of the Mad Hatter as he poured tea on the Dormouse. As I watched them they seemed to grow more fantastical. Their clothes brighter and more outlandish. I watched them pop whole eggs into their mouths, the eggs so tiny it gave the illusion they were giants.

Tamsyn longs to be part of the life at The Cliff House. She longs to run away from the pain and frustration of her family, a family left splintered by the death of her father.

He drags his feet up the stairs. He can never be the man he knows he should be. A man his father would be proud to call his son. While his mother worries about red-topped bills and food in their bellies, what does he do? Kicks around feeling sorry for himself. Moans about unemployment and the government and Tory wankers who live up their own arses. He smokes weed he can’t afford. Apathy is his constant companion, his Peter Pan shadow, sewn to his heels so he can never escape. It’s like he’s slipped into a waking coma. He is numb.

Just wonderful. I especially loved the line ‘Apathy is his constant companion, his Peter Pan shadow, sewn to his heels so he can never escape’

This was a thrilling, exciting read and one that I would thoroughly recommend.

The Cliff House is published by HQ, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd in Hardback on the 17th of May 2018.

You can find out more about author Amanda Jennings here.

Adult Fiction, Crime, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

Keeper by Johana Gustawsson

9781912374052

The next in the award-winning Roy and Castells series.

Whitechapel, 1888: London is bowed under Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror.

London 2015: actress Julianne Bell is abducted in a case similar to the terrible Tower Hamlets nurders of some ten years earlier, and harking back to the Ripper killings of a century before.

Falkenberg, Sweden, 2015: a woman’s body is found mutilated in a forest, her wounds identical to those of the Tower Hamlets victims.  With the man arrested or the Tower Hamlets crimes already locked up, do the new killings mean he has a dangerous accomplice, or is a copy-cat serial killer on the loose?

Profiler Emily Roy and true-crime writer Alexis Castells again find themselves drawn into an intriguing case, with personal links that turn their world upside down…

Oh my goodness I enjoyed this, KEEPER is brilliantly written.  Although I read a lot I’m not a fast reader, I generally like to take my time with a story, savour the words and allow myself to become immersed in the story. KEEPER however didn’t allow me that luxury.  It pulled me in right from the start and I literally couldn’t put it down. Short chapters that create quite a punch carried me on whilst crying a constant ‘just one more’ like a child at the park bargaining for another turn on the slide.

I’ve always been a big fan of crime thrillers and murder mystery.  From an early age I’ve had a love of the old fashioned Agatha Christie novels (and TV adaptations) and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.  I love trying to figure out who the guilty party is.  Johana Gustawsson brings the crime novel right up to date with her incredibly sharp, suspenseful writing.  KEEPER features a host of intriguing (and rather damaged) characters who all contribute to the story in their own (at times rather disturbing) ways. There are so many twists and turns that I honestly found the ending a complete surprise.  Just when you think you’ve begun to understand the who, why and when, it takes you in a totally different direction.  This doesn’t mean it’s unwieldy and difficult to follow – in fact quite the opposite.  The writing is excellent and by the time I turned the last page I felt that the story had come to an excellent conclusion and all my questions had been answered.

Johana weaves her story from the late nineteenth century with the reign of terror held by Jack the Ripper through to 2015 when the brilliant Roy and Castells attempt to crack the case of a modern day serial killer who is incredibly sadistic and dangerous.  Johana Gustawsson is a French writer and I have to say the translation by Maxim Jakubowski is faultless.  He has expertly maintained the tempo, atmosphere and  brilliance of Johana’s writing.  Not a word is wasted.  At times shocking, this was an incredible thriller I heartily recommend and that will certainly have me checking the back seat of my car for quite some time to come.

I haven’t read BLOCK 46 yet but I will most definitely be adding it to my list AND I can’t wait to see what comes next in the brilliant Roy and Castell series.

KEEPER will be published in paperback by Orenda Books on the 30th of April 2018.

Find out more about Johana Gustawsson here.

 

Adult Fiction, Crime, Liz Robinson Reviews, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

Come and Find Me by Sarah Hilary – a guest review by Liz Robinson

A big fan of Sarah Hilary, Liz feels ‘Come and Find me’ is her best novel yet.

Come and Find MeSimply superb, ‘Come and Find Me’ is one hell of a clever, twisting, powerful story.

This series is one of my favourites and DI Marnie Rome returns here in splendid style. Taking place a short time after ‘Quieter Than Killing’, Marnie and Noah find themselves hunting an escaped prisoner, for both, work overspills into their private lives. A strikingly distinctive voice greets you as you start reading, setting the scene so completely and clearly I could feel the presence, feel the confines of the prison. Sarah Hilary has the ability to take you into the words, to actually feel, to experience, and she sent my thoughts worming and writhing. At one point I found myself so exasperated and frustrated with one of the characters, it came as a shock when I came up for air and realised where I was. The ending buffeted me, surprised me, emotionally affected me, and a certain someone is still creeping around inside my mind. I already know that ‘Come and Find Me’ will be one of my favourite reads of the year, and I think this is Sarah Hilary’s best yet, I simply can’t recommend this series highly enough.

Synopsis:

On the surface, Lara Chorley and Ruth Hull have nothing in common, other than their infatuation with Michael Vokey. Each is writing to a sadistic inmate, sharing her secrets, whispering her worst fears, craving his attention.

DI Marnie Rome understands obsession. She’s finding it hard to give up her own addiction to a dangerous man: her foster brother, Stephen Keele. She wasn’t able to save her parents from Stephen. She lives with that guilt every day.

As the hunt for Vokey gathers pace, Marnie fears one of the women may have found him – and is about to pay the ultimate price.

Come And Find Me will be published by Headline on the 22nd of March 2018.

Adult Fiction, Crime, Debut, Liz Robinson Reviews, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

The Devil’s Dice by Roz Watkins – a guest review by Liz Robinson

 

Here Liz gives us the heads up on the start of a fantastic, thrilling new Crime series…

Devil's DiceThe first in the ‘DI Meg Dalton Thriller’ series is an addictive, absolute treat of a read. Meg recently moved forces and is now based in Derbyshire, she is thrown in the deep end when a lawyer is found dead in a cave and a sinister game of cat and mouse is initiated. ‘The Devil’s Dice’ was shortlisted for the 2016 Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Award (for unpublished writers), so my expectations were high, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The first few pages set my thoughts fluttering, and throughout this tale a ghostly shadow hovers over the pages. Roz Watkins allows humour to enter at just the right moments, and has created a fabulous main lead. While Meg does have her fair share of problems, and a certain vulnerability too, she really grew on me. As I read, I set my mind free, to delve into the pages, to ponder, to speculate. The Devil’s Dice’ is just so readable, this is a thoroughly modern tale with a teasing strange connection to the past, and a towering cliff hanger of an ending… hopefully there will be many more stories to come.

Synopsis:

A SHOCKING DEATH

A lawyer is found dead in a Peak District cave, his face ribboned with scratches.

A SINISTER MESSAGE

Amidst rumours of a local curse, DI Meg Dalton is convinced this is cold-blooded murder. There’s just one catch chiselled into the cave wall above the body is an image of the grim reaper and the dead man’s initials, and it’s been there for over a century.

A DEADLY GAME

As Meg battles to solve the increasingly disturbing case, it’s clear someone knows her secrets. The murderer is playing games with Meg and the dice are loaded

A white-knuckle crime debut introducing DI Meg Dalton, perfect for fans of Broadchurch and Happy Valley

The Devil’s Dice was pubished by HQ an imprint of HarperCollins on the 8th of March 2018

 

Adult Fiction, Crime, Liz Robinson Reviews, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

Blue Night by Simone Buchholz – a guest review by Liz Robinson

I have this on my tbr pile and I’m so excited to get to it – as you can see Liz absolutely loved it – here’s her review…

Blue NightThis was a dream of a read for me, relatively short, different, beautifully written, and full of jarring, jolting impact. ‘Blue Night’ is the first in the Chastity Riley series, was a number one bestseller in Germany, and has been fabulously translated by Rachel Ward. After a particularly difficult case (which involved in-house corruption) Chastity Riley, state prosecutor in Hamburg, has been transferred to witness protection. Chastity’s next case propels her straight back into the main ring, she has to throw her guard up and come out fighting. The introduction surprised me, raw and gritty, yet written with a lyrical beauty, it really sets the tone. Simone Buchholz shoots abrupt, short sentences across the page, her writing is sparse and to the point, yet connected deeply within my heart and mind. I adored the sections which freeze-framed the characters in time, they burst with energy and information, almost popping with intensity. It feels as though you are on a collision course with the ending, which exploded in dramatic style. Constantly surprising, ‘Blue Night’ is an original, firecracker of a read, it will undoubtedly be one of my books of the year, I absolutely loved it.

Synopsis:

After convicting a superior for corruption and shooting off a gangster’s crown jewels, the career of Hamburg’s most hard-bitten state prosecutor, Chastity Riley, has taken a nose dive: she has been transferred to the tedium of witness protection to prevent her making any more trouble. However, when she is assigned to the case of an anonymous man lying under police guard in hospital – almost every bone in his body broken, a finger cut off, and refusing to speak in anything other than riddles – Chastity’s instinct for the big, exciting case kicks in. Using all her powers of persuasion, she soon gains her charge’s confidence, and finds herself on the trail to Leipzig, a new ally, and a whole heap of lethal synthetic drugs.

When she discovers that a friend and former colleague is trying to bring down Hamburg’s Albanian mafia kingpin single-handedly, it looks like Chas Riley’s dull life on witness protection really has been short-lived…

Fresh, fiendishly fast-paced and full of devious twists and all the hardboiled poetry and ascerbic wit of the best noir, Blue Night marks the stunning start of a brilliant new crime series, from one of Germany’s bestselling authors.

Blue Night was published by Orenda on 28 February 2018

I’m really looking forward to reading this title and will post my review at a later date.  Do let us know if you read it too!