Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Crime, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

Plenty Under The Counter by Kathleen Hewitt

Today I’m so delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Plenty Under the Counter by Kathleen Hewitt. This novel is one of four war time classics being brought to new readers by the Imperial War Museum.

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Synopsis

London, 1942, Flight-Lieutenant David Heron, home on a convalescent leave, awakes to the news that a murder victim has been discovered in the garden of his boarding house.  With a week until his service resumes, David sets out to solve the murder.  Drawn into a world of mystery and double-dealing, he soon realises that there is more than meets the eye, and that wartime London is a place where opportunism and the black market are able to thrive.  Can he solve the mystery before his return to the skies?

Inspired by Kathleen Hewitt’s own experience of wartime London, this new edition of a 1943 classic includes a contextual introduction from IWM which sheds light on the fascinating true events that so influenced its author.

My thoughts

I do love a murder mystery and so was delighted when I discovered one of the four titles released in this project was one.  Often war on the frontline is covered in stories but this looks at the war from the Homefront.  Whilst men were away fighting life carried on whilst we hear plenty about the wartime spirit there were also plenty that took advantage of this difficult time.  Whilst many sheltered from the bombings others used the blackouts and misfortune of others to their own end.  This story shows that darker side, the side of a society pushed to their limits with the fear of the nightly raids, rationing and separation from their loved ones, and the criminals who take advantage of them.

Right from the get go the story drags you in with the discovery of a body.  David Heron is our protagonist and he becomes determined to help solve the crime.  The thing I liked most about this novel is that it perfectly sets the scene for battle worn London.  This wonderful series written by those who lived and breathed it captures the feeling and atmosphere of the time.  Kathleen Hewitt is a talented writer and I’m so delighted to have been able to read her work thanks to the IWM.  I read with interest the introduction written by Alan Jeffreys and I find her a fascinating woman.  I would definitely love to know more about her, not just her work but life in London.  We do get a glimpse of this in her writing.  Her plot is intriguing and her characters engaging.  Humour is splattered throughout and yet there is the undertone of the hardship that the war brought so many of the people simply trying to survive it.  We now know that the war eventually ended but at this time they had no idea how it would turn out.  This is a gripping murder mystery that perfectly captures a slice of British history and brings the realities of war on the Homefront to life.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and to the IWM for my review copy.  I have already brought a copy all four of these titles for our school library and I look forward to sharing them with students and staff.

About the author

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Kathleen Hewitt (1893-1980) was a British author who wrote more than twenty novels in her lifetime, mainly in the mystery and thriller genre.  During the Second World War she lived in Marylebone, and belonged to the The Olde Ham Bone, a bohemian club in Soho, as well as frequenting the Ivy, the Cafe Royal and the Pen Club.  Hewitt enjoyed friendships with many literary and artistic figures of the day including Olga Lehman and the poet Roy Campbell.

 

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Here is a little more about the project:

In September 2019, to mark the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, IWM have launched a wonderful new series with four novels from their archives all set during the Second World War – Imperial War Museums Wartime Classics.
Originally published to considerable acclaim, these titles were written either during or just after the Second World War and are currently out of print. Each novel is written directly from the author’s own experience and takes the reader right into the heart of the conflict. They all capture the awful absurdity of war and the trauma and chaos of battle as well as some of the fierce loyalties and black humour that can emerge in extraordinary circumstances.

Living through a time of great upheaval, as we are today, each wartime story brings the reality of war alive in a vivid and profoundly moving way and is a timely reminder of what the previous generations experienced.

The remarkable IWM Library has an outstanding literary collection and was an integral part of Imperial War Museums from its very beginnings. Alan Jeffreys, (Senior Curator, Second World War, Imperial War Museums) searched the library collection to come up with these four launch titles, all of which deserve a new and wider audience. He has written an introduction to each novel that sets them in context and gives the wider historical background and says, ‘Researching the Wartime Classics has been one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve worked on in my years at IWM. It’s been very exciting rediscovering these fantastic novels and helping to bring them to the wider readership they so deserve’.

Each story speaks strongly to IWM’s remit to tell the stories of those who experienced conflict first hand. They cover diverse fronts and topics – preparations for D-Day and the advance into Normandy; the war in Malaya; London during the Blitz and SOE operations in occupied Europe and each author – three men and a woman – all have fascinating back stories.

These are Second World War novels about the truth of war written by those who were actually there.

War Time Classics

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Crime, Fiction, Mystery, Summer Reads, Suspense, Thriller

The Last Stage by Louise Voss

Today I’m delighted to be hosting the blog tour for the rather excellent The Last Stage by Louise Voss

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At the peak of her career as lead singer of a legendary 1980s indie band, Meredith Vincent was driven off the international stage by a horrific incident. Now she lives incognito in a cottage on the grounds of Minstead House, an old stately home, whilst working in the gift shop. Her past is behind her and she enjoys her new life.

But a series of inexplicable and unsettling incidents have started to happen around her – broken china, vandalised gardens… And when a body is found in the gardens of Minstead House, Meredith realises that someone is watching, someone who knows who she is and who wants to destroy her…

A dark, riveting and chilling psychological thriller, The Final Stage is a study of secrets and obsessions, where innocent acts can have the most terrifying consequences.

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There is such a wonderful amount of thrilling crime novels in out midst at the moment that you would be forgiven for feeling spoilt for choice, The Last Stage, however, is one you must not miss. There is an underlying sense of menace from the very start and Louise brilliantly builds the tension steadily as the novel moves on. At times she has the ability to create a kind of stillness that almost makes you feel as though you are holding your breath before the next devastating scene unfolds.

Meredith Vincent has a colourful past. After living in the public eye as the lead singer of a popular indie band back in the 80’s she is now enjoying a life of obscurity managing the gift shop in a historical house. No-one recognises her and that’s the way she is keen to keep things. Her past is not a place she wants to revisit and most certainly she doesn’t want to be found by the one person who nearly took her life one terror-stricken night over twenty years ago. Unfortunately Meredith soon discovers that the past has a way of catching up with you – especially when someone has vengeance on their mind.

The isolated setting of a stately honest time full to the brim with visitors and yet at others completely devoid of life provided an impressive and atmospheric backdrop for events to unfold. Strange happenings that couldn’t quite be explained and could initially be shrugged off but actually became much more sinister and unsettling as the story moved on.

The Last Stage is a brilliant murder-mystery come psychological thriller. The effect of events on Meredith kept me on edge throughout as her past came hurtling into her present. There was a sense of the inevitable upon finding the body but from there on the twists and turns kept me completely engrossed in this thrilling read. I whole-heartedly add this to my list of Summer Reads and hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Thank you so much to the lovely Anne Cater of Random Things Through My Letterbox, for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and to the fabulous Orenda Books for sending me the review copy. As always the quality of their fiction is top notch!

The Last Stage was published on July 11th and is available in paperback, on eBook (currently 99p on Amazon) and on Audiobook (I would imagine this is fantastic to listen to!)

About the author

Louise Voss

img_0231Over her eighteen-year writing career, Louise Voss has had eleven novels published – five solo and six co-written with Mark Edwards: a combination of psychological thrillers, police procedurals and contemporary fiction – and sold over 350,000 books. Her most recent book, The Old You, was a number one bestseller in eBook. Louise has an MA (Dist) in Creative Writing and also works as a literary consultant and mentor for writers at www.thewritingcoach.co.uk. She lives in South-West London and is a proud member of two female crime- writing collectives, The Slice Girls and Killer Women.

 

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Crime, Debut, Mystery, Thriller

Murder At Macbeth by Samantha Goodwin

Whose deadly secret has taken centre stage?

When a talented, young actress unwittingly stabs herself live onstage after a prop knife is tampered with, suspicion immediately falls on her eclectic band of castmates. But who had the motive to kill the show’s leading lady? As the insightful, yet disillusioned, Detective Inspector Finley Robson and his shrewd partner, Detective Sergeant Nadia Zahra, interrogate the seven key suspects, secrets unfold to unveil a web of scandal, blackmail, and deceit. Bitter rivalries, secret trysts and troubled pasts are just the beginning of the story…

INTERNATIONAL FLASH 500 NOVEL AWARD LONGLIST

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I do read a great deal of crime and thriller novels and so I was delighted to receive a copy of Samantha’s debut to review.

A young leading lady is killed on stage during the opening night of Macbeth, a play already shrouded in ill-fated superstition.  Soon the police are wading through a cast of characters each hiding secrets of their own but which one holds the key to the murder?

This is a good, old fashioned murder mystery.  Clues are drip fed along the way as each suspect is interviewed by the police.  Detective Robson and Detective Sergeant Zahra make a great team and there was an echo of Death in Paradise (without the paradise) to the tale. Flashbacks to events leading up to the night of the murder give us a greater insight into what is going on behind the scenes and each member of the cast could have been the culprit.  The end was a surprise that I didn’t see coming.

An interesting debut and I feel that we will see more from Samantha.

About the author

Samantha Goodwin

Samantha Goodwin has written professionally for her business career as a Chartered Marketing Manager for over a decade before turning her hand to fiction. As an avid crime fiction fan, she regularly participates in the renowned Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate and relishes attending literature festivals across the country as well as engaging in numerous online writing communities. Keen to support new and upcoming authors, Samantha recently launched the #IndieWritingWisdom initiative on Instagram to collate and share inspiring, original writing quotes from a wide range of different writers to encourage others. When not writing, Samantha enjoys reading, movies, musicals, countryside walks and almost all chocolate (but controversially not Oreos). She lives in Leeds, England with her husband, Chris, and young son, Jack. Murder at Macbeth is her first novel.

Murder at Macbeth is available in both eBook and paperback from Amazon.

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Adult Fiction, Crime, ReadAgatha2019, Thriller

The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie

I have been following the official Agatha Christie website on Instagram and Twitter and their #readchristie2019 challenge in which they suggest a different Christie novel to read each month. In January they kicked the challenge off with The ABC Murders and I as I had been lucky enough to receive this beautiful hardback edition for Christmas so I happily jumped on board. I am a big Christie fan, watching countless TV adaptations, but as a reader I have read shockingly few of her actual novels and short stories. Time to rectify that me thinks.

If you’d like to join in with Read Christie 2019 then why not visit their website here and sign up for the newsletter.

The February book is The Giant’s Bread which Agatha wrote under the pseudonym, Mary Westmacott. I’m currently listening to that on audio book (my first!).

The March title is The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side, the 8th Miss Marple novel and one that I very much look forward to reading soon. I have read none of the Miss Marple stories as of yet.

There has been much discussion and awareness about The ABC Murders after the recent BBC adaptation was screened over Christmas. This adaptation was my first experience of the story.

But before we get into the TV adaptation let’s talk about the novel itself…

It is not often that I read the book after watching the film or TV adaptation but I did on this occasion. I enjoyed all three versions but I have to say that it was wonderful to return to the original story, exactly how Agatha Christie wanted to tell it. Her writing is superb and I can see why her stories continue to inspire and engage. If you’ve never read a Christie novel then I urge you to pick one up. They are such a delight and she has a rather brilliant way of bringing humour and a lightness of touch to even the darkest of subject matter. They are, after all, jolly good crime novels, written to reveal the dark side of human nature but first and foremost to entertain…and that they certainly do.

The edition that I received is a stunning hardback edition published by HarperCollins. It is beautiful and certainly adds to the joy whenever picked up. I am hoping they may reproduce the entire Poirot collection in this format. I want to read each and every one. What a wonderful addition to the bookshelves that would make!

Now on to TV…

Now, I came to the conclusion long ago that when watching a film or small screen adaptation of a book it is best to view it, where possible, as a completely separate entity. Very rarely can they be the same. It is after all not (usually) written, directed or produced by the author. It is therefore a collaboration of opinions pulled together from an original story. Not one person will read a story in exactly the same way and when it comes to reproducing they will, of course, want to add their own touch to it.

I thoroughly enjoyed Sarah Phelps’ interpretation on the BBC. It was dark, brooding and kept me thoroughly gripped over the three nights. It has moved towards the slightly more gruesome side that TV seems to need these days. I mean why just batter someone other the head when you can literally decapitate them with a spade or leave them in a vast pool of blood after slitting their throat?

I also found the stereotypical chubby sister of the second murder victim, Betty Barnard, finding freedom from the shadows of her slim, beautiful sister a little unnecessary. The Megan Barnard of the novel was rather intelligent and interesting. We could delve deeper into why Sarah chose for the attractive, promiscuous sister to meet a gruesome end, and the sister who was presented on screen as over weight, drab and bitter, as the one who eventually finds freedom by escaping out the window (where on earth does she go!?) but that’s not for this blog to discuss today. Agatha has written many meek, forgotten women in her novels but they quite often tend to end up having strength simmering beneath the surface, as what is revealed is a strong, resilient (and at times calculating and murderous) woman. Perhaps this is how Sarah chose to portrayed this.

My only (slight) disappointments in this adaptation being the death of Detective Inspector Japp, the absence of Hastings, and the rather sad, lonely and humiliated Poirot that I couldn’t really see in the novels. Once I got over that though I became thoroughly engrossed. I did feel John Malkovich made an excellent Poirot and as the story progressed our beloved character did make a rather wonderful comeback. Saying that I do feel that losing the Belgium accent takes away part of the essence of the character (but I believe that was director, Alex Gabassi‘s call). You could say they have almost created a completely different Poirot.

The retelling as a whole did encourage me to look at Agatha’s books in a new light to see where Sarah’s inspiration came for the backstory and changes she chose to make. This is the wonderful thing about brokerage bringing these fresh adaptations to the screen. Not only do they bring a whole new audience to the stories but they make those of us familiar with the author and characters look at them with fresh eyes too. The acting and overall production was superb and I look forward to more from the BBC and Sarah in the future.

David Suchet – my Poirot

A few weeks after watching the BBC adaptation I settled down to watch the wonderful David Suchet take the lead in the investigation along with Hastings and, thankfully, a very fit and healthy Japp. I never tire of watching these versions and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have enjoyed each of the many different actors who have taken on the famous detective but Suchet is without doubt my favourite. He played the detective for 25 years and in an article in The Express is quoted as saying that whilst preparing for his role back in 1988…

I started to write my private list of Poirot’s habits and character. I called it my ‘dossier of characteristics’. It ended up five pages long and detailed 93 different aspects of life. I have the list to this day – in fact, I carried it around on the set with me throughout all my years as Poirot, just as I gave a copy to every director I worked with on a Poirot film.

I feel that he is possibly the truest Hercule to Agatha’s creation. He is a joy to watch and he is how I imagine Poirot to be when I read the books.

Are you taking part in Read Christie 2019? Which Christie novel would you most like to read this year? I’m hoping for Murder on the Orient Express. A story I know very well but still haven’t read.

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Crime, Debut, Fiction

Street Cat Blues by Alison O’Leary – Blog Tour

This evening I’m delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Street Cat Blues by Alison O’Leary.

A quiet life for Aubrey?

After spending several months banged up in Sunny Banks rescue centre, Aubrey, a large tabby cat, has finally found his forever home with Molly and Jeremy Goodman, and life is looking good.

However, all that changes when a serial killer begins to target elderly victims in the neighbourhood.

Aubrey wasn’t particularly upset by the death of some of the previous victims, including Miss Jenkins whom Aubrey recalls as a vinegar-lipped bitch of an old woman who enjoyed throwing stones at cats, but Mr Telling was different.

Mr Telling was a mate…

A murder mystery like no other. I was intrigued when I first read the synopsis. The main protagonist is a cat. How fabulous is that!? Refreshing, funny and a super read. I really enjoyed Street Cat Blues.

Okay I admit I am both a lover of both cats and crime novels and so I didn’t take much convincing but it was actually a great story. I loved Alison’s take on cat life; from the turf wars, waiting for food and tickles, to surviving ‘Sunny Banks’ rescue centre. I loved sharing time with Aubrey. Quite often he went unnoticed and gave us a completely new insight into the mystery.

Aubrey is a tom cat who is familiar with tragedy. After a sad, unsettled start to life he eventually ends up living a comfortable quiet life with Jeremy and Mollie. A quiet life that suddenly comes to an end with the murder of Mr Telling. This wasn’t the first murder in the area but for Aubrey it was a step too far. He liked Mr Telling.

A cat is a curious creature that can slip unnoticed into the most difficult of situations and Aubrey makes the purrfect cat detective as he works to get to the bottom of who is behind the growing number of murders. But there is more going on in this mystery than even Aubrey realises and it’s not long before the danger is very real.

A fantastic, feline-led murder mystery that was an absolute delight to read.

Thoroughly recommended for those who like a gentle murder mystery with an unusual detective leading the way.

About the author…

Alison was born in London and spent her teenaged years in Hertfordshire. She has also lived in Somerset and Gloucestershire. After studying Law she decided to teach rather than go into practice and for many years taught Criminal Law to adults and young people. Since moving to the south coast, Alison has been involved in qualification and assessment development for major awarding bodies.

When not writing, she enjoys crosswords, walking by the sea and playing Scrabble on her iPad – which she always sets to beginner level because, hey, why take chances? Alison lives with her husband John and cat Archie.

Street Cat Blues is published by Crooked Cat Books.