Today I’m delighted to hop on the blog tour for Liz Fenwick’s wonderful The Path to the Sea.
Boskenna, the beautiful, imposing house standing on the Cornish cliffs, means something different to each of the Trewin women.
For Jean, as a glamorous young wife in the 1960s, it was a paradise where she and her husband could entertain and escape a world where no one was quite what they seemed – a world that would ultimately cost their marriage and end in tragedy.
Diana, her daughter, still dreams of her childhood there – the endless blue skies and wide lawns, book-filled rooms and parties, the sound of the sea at the end of the coastal path – even though the family she adored was shattered here.
And for the youngest, broken-hearted Lottie, heading home in the August traffic, returning to Boskenna is a welcome escape from a life gone wrong in London, but will mean facing a past she’d hoped to forget.
As the three women gather in Boskenna for a final time, the secrets hidden within the beautiful old house will be revealed in a summer that will leave them changed for ever.
So, about a year ago I heard a little about this novel at the HQ Stories Summer Showcase. I had the great pleasure of meeting and chatting to Liz about her writing and Cornwall.
Not only was I intrigued by her forthcoming novel but it was such a pleasure to meet such a warm and friendly author (who just also happened to have a giant jar of Cornish fudge to share). So, when the opportunity came up to take part in the blog tour I absolutely jumped at the chance to read and review the finished novel.
I’m so pleased I did, it’s absolutely wonderful. What did I love about it? Well location, location, location. Beautiful Cornwall. Liz conjured it up so fabulously, I could literally smell the salt coming off the sea. Add to that a big imposing house filled with memories and hidden secrets, an estranged family coming together as one lies dying – all these elements are the recipe for an engrossing and scintillating read.
The story unfolds through the eyes of the three women. Three generations each with their own secrets. Joan we revisit back in the 60’s on the fateful weekend when her husband dies tragically young. All through the story we are not quite sure if she implemented in his death. They were an ideal family and we know she loved him but something happened on that weekend that would change life forever. Every family have their secrets.
Diana is Joan’s daughter. She has very little memory of the weekend her father died but her relationship with her mother has been deeply troubled ever since and she’s determined to get to the bottom of things. For her there is a dark shadow over Boskenna and she’s not happy to be back.
Lottie has returned to Boskenna to be near her grandmother as she lies dying. For her memories there are mostly filled with love and warmth but a tragedy still haunts her own thoughts as she returns to the family home. Her relationship with her grandmother has always been excellent although not so much with her mother, Diana. But Lottie also has her own distractions; complications bought about by an ex love and also the problems of a soon to be ex husband. Complications she’s determined to put to one side whilst she tends to her grandmother but life has a habit of getting in the way.
There are so many secrets bubbling beneath the surface that threaten to come to light. Yet it is almost a relief when all was revealed. The Path to the Seais a bittersweet tale but I throughly enjoyed my time at Boskenna. If I close my eyes I too can hear the waves crashing and the feint sound of music playing in the past as laughter fills the house, before tragedy struck. But at the end I was left with a sense of hope and a feeling of joy at having been in the company of these three women.
The Path to the Sea is the perfect summer (or winter) read and I thoroughly recommend it. I shall definitely be seeking out Liz’s previous titles. Oh the joy of discovering an author’s backlist! I can’t wait.
Thank you so much to HQ Stories for my inviting me to be a part of this blog tour.
About the author
Liz Fenwick was born Massachusetts and after ten international moves she’s back in the United Kingdom with her husband and two mad cats. She made her first trip to Cornwall in 1989 and bought her home there seven years later. She’s a bit of a global nomad but her heart forever remains in Cornwall.
Ailsa Calder has inherited half of a house. The other half belongs to a man who disappeared without a trace twenty-seven years ago. Her father. Leaving London behind to settle her mother’s estate, Ailsa returns to her childhood home nestled amongst the craggy peaks of the Scottish Highlands, accompanied by the half-sister she’s never taken the time to get to know.
With the past threatening to swallow her whole, she can’t escape the claustrophobic feeling that the house itself is watching her. And when Ailsa confronts the first nighttime intruder, she sees that the manor’s careless rugged beauty could cost her everything…
Ooh this was a gripping novel. Creepy house, strange goings on and an absent father make up for an interesting, and at times unnerving read. It’s wonderfully plotted and paced, keeping you riveted until the very end. There is a sense of the paranormal going on and at times I wondered why the hell Ailsa was hanging around there, she’s made of tougher stuff than me that’s for sure. This is one of those reviews where I really don’t want to give much away as it’s a a joy to see the story unfold before you. However I will admit I am a bit of a sucker of story where a house is almost a character in itself and Lexie builds up the atmosphere brilliantly here. I absolutely love a few shocks along the way and The Missing Years certainly saved the best for last. Lexie had written a fabulous novel that I couldn’t put down. It’s still making me smile. A deliciously creepy, thrilling read that will make the perfect pool side companion this summer.
Thanks so much to Anne Carter for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour.
The Missing Years is published on June 6th by Corvus Books.
About the author
Lexie Elliott has been writing for as long as she can remember, but she began to focus on it more seriously after she lost her banking job in 2009 due to the Global Financial Crisis. After some success in short story competitions, she began planning a novel. With two kids and a (new) job, it took some time for that novel to move from her head to the page, but the result was The French Girl, which was published by Berkley in February 2018.
When she’s not writing, Lexie can be found running, swimming or cycling whilst thinking about writing. In 2007 she swam the English Channel solo. She won’t be doing that again. In 2015 she ran 100km, raising money for Alzheimer Scotland. She won’t be doing that again either. But the odd triathlon or marathon isn’t out of the question.
Today I’m so delighted to be hosting the blog tour for The Space Between Time by Charlie Laidlaw.
There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on Earth…
Emma Maria Rossini’s perfect life begins to splinter when her celebrity father becomes more distant, and her mother dies suspiciously during a lightning storm. This death has a massive effect on Emma, but after stumbling through university, she settles into work as a journalist in Edinburgh. Her past, however, cannot be escaped. Her mental health becomes unstable. But while recovering in a mental institution, Emma begins to write a memoir to help come to terms with the unravelling of her life. She finds ultimate solace in her once-derided grandfather’s Theorem on the universe – which offers the metaphor that we are all connected, even to those we have loved and not quite lost.
I’ve been so lucky to have been able to review some wonderful books of late and this has certainly continued with The Space Between Time by Charlie Laidlaw. It is a beautifully poignant tale and one that I was swept away with from the start. Told through the eyes of Emma, we join her in childhood and embark on her journey suffering loses and heartbreaks along the way. As a narrator she is an incredibly interesting character. Her world is actually quite small. The daughter of a famous actor, she is hidden away with her reclusive mother, secluded from the bright lights of the Hollywood lifestyle. Her father visits, seemingly rarely, and although adored by millions, is simply Dad to her.
What’s also interesting is the way that memory is explored within the story. The villains in Emma’s own story are darkened by her own beliefs and disappointments. An ‘ordinary’ childhood she did not have. Her mother is beautiful, swears and drinks a lot and seems to suffer from her own neurosis. Her father a famous actor who is absent more often than not and who also seems to send her mother into a constant rage. The characters that surround Emma are given to us how she wants them to be presented but there is much provided between the lines by Charlie that enable us to question and come to our own conclusions.
This wonderful novel touches on so many different themes but the subject of mental health, dysfunctional families and of course the fascinating question of memory were prominent for me. How things are expressed considering whose view point we see it through and the reliability of the narrator are key to interpretation. I often find a first person narration can be pretty unreliable, especially when our protagonist is remembering traumatic events and what led to them. Yet first person can be incredibly powerful as we get to feel through their words and, I think, one of my favourite viewpoints. Charlie is very good at it and he brought Emma to life beautifully.
This is an engrossing read and I really liked Emma and I liked how the echoes of her family history fed into her life and personality. Families give so much history behind us and there is often so much we don’t know about what went before us, yet we can still feel the aftershock rumbling through our own lives, thoughts and feelings. This is hit on wonderfully in The Space Between Time.
One of the things that drew me to this novel was the theme of the universe. How we are all connected. The talk of stars, dark matter and black holes. Of course this isn’t just a story about science and mathematics but Charlie does use it to bring a wonderful extra dimension that I found absolutely fascinating. I loved how each chapter title was an equation – compared to many I know very little about it all but their presence made me feel that a message was being conveyed throughout this tale… and it was. One of life, love, family and the universe, and what an absolute pleasure it was to read too.
Thanks so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and to Charlie for writing such an engaging enjoyable novel. I’m now very intrigued to go back and read his earlier novel, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead.
The Space Between Time is published by Accent Press on the 20th June and will be available in both eBook and paperback.
About the author
Charlie Laidlaw was born in Paisley and is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh. He has been a national newspaper journalist and worked in defence intelligence. He now runs his own marketing consultancy in East Lothian. He is married with two grown-up
Today I am delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Turbulent Wake by Paul Hardistry.
A bewitching, powerful and deeply moving story of love, loss and grief. This extraordinary departure from the critically acclaimed thriller writer Paul E Hardisty explores the indelible damage we can do to those closest to us, the tragedy of history repeating itself and ultimately, the power of redemption in a time of change. Paul drew on his own experiences of travelling around the world as an engineer, from the dangerous deserts of Yemen, the oil rigs of Texas, the wild rivers of Africa, to the stunning coral cays of the Caribbean.
Ethan Scofield returns to the place of his birth to bury his father, with whom he had a difficult relationship. Whilst clearing out the old man’s house, he finds a strange manuscript, a collection of vignettes and stories that cover the whole of his father’s turbulent and restless life.
As his own life unravels before him, Ethan works his way through the manuscript, searching for answers to the mysteries that have plagued him since he was a child. What happened to his little brother? Why was his mother taken from him? And why, in the end, when there was no one left for him, did his own father push him away?
There is something rather beautiful about this story. The writing is exquisite. The storytelling unique. Ethan himself a complex and damaged character on the way to making his own set of mistakes, regret already a heavy companion in his young life.Yet where does the seed to these issues lie? Are they in the past or simply part of who we become as life overtakes us? Could his fathers death provide the catalyst to change to move him away from self destruction?
The death of someone closely related to our childhood, such as a parent, can have a profound affect on our lives. Sorting through the debris, the personal effects can be cathartic and painful. Life changing events are rarely without pain and Ethan’s father is something of an enigma to him. After his death he is left with unanswered questions, pain and a sense of abandonment. So he almost doesn’t bother with the manuscript he discovers, unaware that his father was even a writer. Yet something compels him to read what seems to be a series of short stories but on closer inspection a sort of memoir, the most recent written only days before his death. How did they find their way back to the house once he died? Was he trying to leave Ethan a message? And so he reads and through these texts he begins to understand a little more about his father and ultimately himself.
This is a coming of age story for an older generation. A generation who have already begun to make their mistakes but still have time to live and learn. How often are we left with a sense of incompleteness after a loved one dies? Unanswered questions. Missed opportunities. In Turbulent Wake Paul explores the impact we have on the world, both as a whole and on our immediate world. I remember once someone telling me that as an individual, as a single person, it is difficult, almost impossible, to change the world. Me being a natural worrier who was constantly over-thinking the bigger picture not knowing how I could make any difference at all. He reassured me that I couldn’t take on the worlds problems alone. We begin with our own, immediate world and this will filter out into the world as a whole. I think his message being take care of the little things and the big will follow. And yet this also means the opposite will follow too.
Following Ethan as he deals with his father’s death and revelations about his life we gain a sense of the impact his father had on him and the world around him. Yet it’s through the carefully interspersed short stories written by his father that we, and Ethan, begin to understand more about cause and effect. We see how easy it is to not only destroy the ones we love, but in the bigger picture, the world we live in too. Ethan begins to see his fathers worth with compassion and understanding but also his damage too. His was not a blameless life by no means and there was much he came to regret. Seemingly small mistakes that begun a tsunami of unrepairable events that would have a far-reaching effect on those around him.
This book is a stunning, richly woven piece of literature. It is uniquely written, beautiful, heartbreaking and utterly unforgettable. It was one I wanted to saviour and take my time with. There is so much we can learn. We need to take better care of ourselves and our planet. This senseless drive for financial success and status is removing us from what’s really important in life. Our own self-absorption can be our downfall. We need to stop and look around at the world and our lives around us. Learn from the past and saviour what life really has to offer us beneath all the noise. I absolutely love a novel that makes me think and ask questions. Turbulent Wake does this and more. I love that it can be dissected for meaning and metaphor and yet enjoyed simply for the thrill of the storytelling and the skill of the writing.
Read this novel. Devour and yet saviour it. Stand still for a moment and smell the roses. Then think about your world and how you’d like to leave it for the ones you leave behind.
Many thanks to the fabulous Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and sending me a digital copy.
Turbulent Wakeis yet another astounding novel published by the team at Orenda Books.
About the author
Paul E. Hardisty
Canadian Paul E Hardisty has spent 25 years working all over the world as an engineer, hydrologist and environmental scientist. He has roughnecked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, mapped geology in Eastern Turkey (where he was befriended by PKK rebels), and rehabilitated water wells in the wilds of Africa. He was in Ethiopia in 1991 as the Mengistu regime fell, and was bumped from one of the last flights out of Addis Ababa by bureaucrats and their families fleeing the rebels. In 1993 he survived a bomb blast in a café in Sana’a, and was one of the last Westerners of out Yemen before the outbreak of the 1994 civil war. Paul is a university professor and CEO of the Australian Institute of Marine Science AIMS). The first four novels in his Claymore Straker series, The Abrupt Physics of Dying, The Evolution of Fear, Reconciliation for the Dead and Absolution all received great critical acclaim and The Abrupt Physics of Dying was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger and was a Daily Telegraph Thriller of the Year. Paul is a sailor, a private pilot, keen outdoorsman, conservation volunteer, and lives in Western Australia.
You can follows Paul on Twitter at @Hardisty_Paul.
Just four years ago the very first Chiddingstone Literary Festival was held in the splendid grounds of Chiddingstone Castle near Edenbridge, Kent, bringing a missing element of unadulterated literary indulgence to the south east. It has gone from strength to strength, each year attracting a diverse range of authors to entertain and inform in the most glorious of settings. ‘The four days of talks, performances and workshops are set in the historic house and grounds and have been carefully curated to ensure there is something for everyone, of all ages and interests.’
Tickets are available to buy either per event or as day tickets and whichever way you choose to buy includes entry into the castle and grounds.
Personally, it already holds some great memories. In the first year I had the joyous privilege of introducing the then Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell, to his eagerly awaiting crowd. He then proceeded to hold the audience completely spellbound whilst he chatted and drew his way into our hearts.
Each year there has been a whole host of authors, illustrators and performers at Chiddingstone. Last year I was thrilled to catch talks by Abi Elphinstone, Philip Ardagh and current Children’s Laureate, Lauren child.
This year includes another impressive line-up of events with talks and workshops so much so the adult day has increased to two days (Saturday and Sunday), with the family day still making a brilliant bank holiday Monday day out.
As well as listening and watching there are also many opportunities throughout the event to get creative and last year I was invited to run several children’s creative writing workshops on both the family and school’s days. I have to say, it was so much fun and the atmosphere was wonderful. Work commitments unfortunately mean that I am unable to run them again this year but I will be attending and writing about the event over the weekend.
There are of course plenty of workshops available for both adults and children. Why not indulge in a spot of poetry, creative writing or life drawing? For children there is also plenty going on including film making workshops, creative writing and even Wallace and Gromit clay model making workshops with Aardman Animations.
Furthermore, there is a feast of events waiting for you in the Castle grounds across all four days.
‘Our adult events take place on Saturday, Sundayand Monday with the Festival’s most ambitious programme yet – spilling over with riches and diversity. On Saturday we will also hold our Festival Drinks Party at Stonewall Park, kindly hosted bythe Fleming family. Come and celebrate our opening day with a glass of wine from Squerryes, delicious canapés, meet some of our authors and enjoy a stroll through the glorious bluebells and rhododendrons.
Bank Holiday Monday is our Family Day, with events for children and adults.We have our festival favourites Pericles Theatre company performing The Little Mermaid and clay modelling workshops with Aardman Animations, who are celebrating 30 years of Wallace & Gromit.You can watch their films, learn how to make an animated film with Press Play, meet the illustrator of children’s classic Giraffes Can’t Dance and enjoy live drawing and funny antics from duo A F Harrold and Emily Gravett.
Tuesday sees the return of our annual Schools Day, with another wonderful line-up of children’s authors and performers including Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Maz Evans, Dan Freedman and poet Joseph Coelho, alongwith a fun-filled show from Really Big Pants Theatre Company.’
There are too many highlights to mention so do check out the website (link here) where you can view the full event programme and book tickets.
I have already booked my ticket to see Joanne Harris but I am already starting to wish I had just gone straight for a day ticket. :). There is just so much going on.
In a previous life I had the great privilege of working with Chiddingstone Literary Festival’s Artistic Director, Victoria Henderson. She has been at the helm since the very start and does an incredible job each and every year. I’m delighted that she has had time to answer a few questions for me ahead of this year’s festival.
In conversation with Victoria Henderson
Chiddingstone Literary Festival is now in it’s 4th year and has extended to a 4 day event. Why did you decide to add an extra day?
Last year’s festival was such a success and we were overwhelmed with the positive response, so we felt it would be a good idea to introduce a 4thday to include the Saturday of the Bank Holiday weekend. We also felt that running 7 consecutive events in a day for those who bravely bought All Day tickets was a bit of a big ask, so we’ve reduced the number of back to back events to 5 each day and introduced more time between events so visitors have more time to have a book signed, get something to eat, visit the Castle’s collections and enjoy the Castle grounds. This year we have also added more workshops for adults and children so people can really get involved. We have Life Drawing, Creative Writing, and Poetry classes and a session on How to Get Published, running alongside the author talks and conversations.
Each year from the very first has seen a collection of interesting and varied authors and events. What factors do you consider when putting together your plan ?
We start planning and researching authors about 10 months before the festival. It’s a mixture of following up authors of interest, talking to publicists about upcoming books, browsing through publishers’ catalogues and keeping an eye out for subjects that are topical. On the whole we look for new authors although we’ve had a couple of returnees such as Anna Pasternak who last year gave a fascinating insight into the life and work of her great-uncle Boris Pasternak, and this year is publishing her biography of Wallis Simpson, which has attracted attention because of the recent arrival (and very different treatment) of another American divorcee into the Royal Family. We like to feel that there is something for everyone on offer at the festival so we try to keep the subjects as varied as possible. This year we’re covering cookery, science, history, biography, poetry, fiction, politics and real crime. The family day is a lovely mix of children’s and adults author events with a performance of The Little Mermaid for all the family, workshops from Aardman Animations, Press Play Film and Creative Writing classes.
Do you have a favourite part of the festival?
I love the Schools Day. It’s such a joy to see the reaction of the children as they listen to some wonderful authors who inspire them with their enthusiasm to think about books and reading in a new way. We’ve been lucky enough to host two Children’s Laureate’s – Chris Riddell and Lauren Child – and How to Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell. We have over 1500 pupils visiting the festival on our Schools Day and it’s an emotional moment watching them empty out of the coaches and minibuses to enjoy a day devoted to the joy of books. A number of the schools make a day of it and set up camp in the grounds, playing games between events, exploring the lake and the woods, visiting the Castle’s Egyptian and Japanese antiquities and enjoying a picnic. They get to meet the authors who sign copies of their books and they go home with lots to fire their imaginations.
What do you feel is the key to the festival’s success?
I think it’s a mixture of the glorious setting of a historic house in the beautiful Kent countryside and the warm and intimate atmosphere we’ve created for both authors and visitors. The festival is a small but beautifully formed event, in the heart of the Chiddingstone community, bringing top quality writers to this idyllic corner of West Kent.
The British weather can be rather unpredictable. Of course Chiddingstone Castle is stunning at any time of year but what is the greatest challenge you face with the festival weather wise?
Don’t tempt fate! We’ve been incredibly lucky over the last 4 years with the weather and have enjoyed some glorious Spring sunshine, including last year’s mini-heatwave which was almost too hot! We had one downpour in the second year during Nicholas Crane’s talk about the British geography and climate which seemed highly appropriate! Almost all the events take place either in the Castle or in marquees with the exception of Pericles’ Theatre Company’s performances in The Orangery, where the audience sits on chairs in the gardens. If it does rain the show goes on – with brollies!
Who are you most excited about seeing at this year’s festival?
I am looking forward to seeing Joanne Harris talk about her latest novel in the Chocolat series, 20 years after the first book was published. We have Giles and Mary, the unlikely stars of Gogglebox who will be very entertaining, and we’re honoured to be hosting Jackie Kay, the Scottish Poet Laureate. We have a conversation between a forensic scientist and a barrister on some of the most sensational dramas played out in court, and two eminent scientists Dr Giles Yeo and Vybarr Cregan-Reid talking about the obesity epidemic and how humans are adapting to the technological age.
After four years, what is your most memorable moment at the Literary Festival?
Memories of the last four festivals include an extraordinary conversation between a former Commissioner in the Metropolitan police and a convicted murderer about the effects of crime on their mental health, meeting Terry Waite in the Green Room and feeling awed by his presence, his height and his astonishing survival in captivity. I remember Rev Richard Coles falling foul of the Bank Holiday train timetables who arrived with only minutes to spare and Chris Riddell spontaneously volunteering to illustrate the winning entries of the children’s Short Story Competition whilst they were being read out on stage, to the delight of the winners.
Chiddingstone Literary Festival has all the ingredients for a fantastic weekend of everything literary, no matter the weather. It is a real gem for us here in the South East and I urge you to pop online and book your tickets just as soon as possible. Perhaps I’ll see you there.
The second book in the critically acclaimed Chastity Riley series.
On a warm September morning, a man is found unconscious and tortured in a cage at the entrance to the offices of one of Germany’s biggest magazines. He’s soon identified as a manager of the company. Three days later, another manager appears in a similar way.
The magazine staff were facing significant layoffs, so sympathy for the two men is in short supply. Chastity Riley and her new colleague Ivo Stepanovic are tasked with uncovering the truth behind the attacks, an investigation that goes far beyond the revenge they first suspect, to the dubious past shared by both victims. Travelling to the south of Germany, they step into the hothouse world of boarding schools, where secrets are currency, and monsters are bred…monsters who will stop at nothing to protect themselves.
This is the second novel featuring Chastity Riley and although I don’t think it is vital to have read the first, it could possibly give you a little insight into her back story. The case she is called in to help on is a strange one. A man is discovered in a cage outside his place of work. He’s been tortured but he’s alive. Immediately you know this isn’t your regular crime story. They’re not looking for a murderer but it suggests a different kind of criminal who is looking to terrify and humiliate their victims. A person who wants the scars left behind to go much further than any physical ones ever could. They want their victims to suffer, to carry the weight of their experience with them for the rest of their lives.
There is an intense creepiness to these crimes, especially with the level of dislike aimed at the victims from even those who now work with them. This is a difficult case to get to the bottom of but it soon becomes clear that their past is about to catch up with them in a very unpleasant way. But what are the crimes leading to and can Chastity and Ivo find out who’s behind these kidnappings and work out who the next target is before they turn deadly? As you get to know each of the victims and the story that binds them together it’s difficult to feel sorry for them. These are not nice people. Yet does that make us more sympathetic to the perpetrator? For me, as a reader, that’s an uncomfortable place to be but it raises some interesting questions and creates a gripping storyline.
Chastity herself is an unusual heroine. She’s a hard-drinking mess of a person but somehow manages to get the job done. Her story is compelling and seems complex. She has suffered and is obviously running from her own demons. The writing style is sharp and punchy adding to the sense of chaos that seems to follow Chastity. How she gets up and with it most days I’m not sure but there is a steely determination about her. It’s refreshing to see such a strong but damaged female lead and I look forward to getting to know her more.
This is a series to watch and I thoroughly urge you to jump on board.
About the Author
Simone Buchholz was born in Hanau in 1972. At university, she studied Philosophy and Literature, worked as a waitress and a columnist, and trained to be a journalist at the prestigious Henri-Nannen-School in Hamburg. In 2016, Simone Buchholz was awarded the Crime Cologne Award, and second place in the German Crime Fiction Prize, for Blue Night, which was number one on the KrimiZEIT Best of Crime List for months. She lives in Sankt Pauli, in the heart of Hamburg, with her husband and son.
If you’re new to Simone and the series why not start with Blue Night in which we are first introduced to Chastity Riley.
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 g under police guard in hospital, Chastity’s instinct for the big, exciting case kicks in.
Using all her powers of pursuasion, she soon gains her charge’s confidence, and funds 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.
About the publisher
Orenda Books is a small independent publishing company specialising in literary fiction with a heavy emphasis on crime/thrillers, and approximately half the list in translation. They’ve been twice shortlisted for the Nick Robinson Best Newcomer Award at the IPG awards, and publisher and owner Karen Sullivan was a Bookseller Rising Star in 2016. In 2018, they were awarded a prestigious Creative Europe grant for their translated books programme. Three authors, including Agnes Ravatn, Matt Wesolowski and Amanda Jennings have been WHSmith Fresh Talent picks, and Ravatn’s The Bird Tribunal was shortlisted for the Dublin Literary Award, won an English PEN Translation Award, and adapted for BBC Radio Four’s Book at Bedtime. Six titles have been short- or long-listed for the CWA Daggers. Launched in 2014 with a mission to bring more international literature to the UK market, Orenda Books publishes a host of debuts, many of which have gone on to sell millions worldwide, and looks for fresh, exciting new voices that push the genre in new directions. Bestselling authors include Ragnar Jonasson, Antti Tuomainen, Gunnar Staalesen, Michael J. Malone, Kjell Ola Dahl, Louise Beech, Johana Gustawsson, Lilja Sigurðardóttir and Sarah Stovell.
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
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 endlessfears, 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
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.