Review – Loner by Hildur Sif Thorarensen

The Blurb

Which is worse, trying to catch a cunning killer leaving decapitated women in the woods, or trying to tame an unconventional forensic psychiatrist that seems determined to go his own way?

The Oslo autumn is creeping in with its cold spells and Homicide Detective Julia Ryland is feeling pretty content with her team of three, but when the FBI behavioral analyst, Alexander Smith, is thrust upon her, the crisp autumn air doesn’t feel as refreshing anymore. A young Icelander is found dead, an arrow piercing his heart and the extensive list of his former lovers suggests that many long nights are ahead. The murdered lothario suddenly becomes the least of their problems as headless corpses start appearing in the woods, positioned in terrifying ways and on their bodies they find messages that don’t seem to have any meaning at all.

My Thoughts

I jumped at the chance to read and review Loner by Hildur Sif Thorarensen. I do enjoy a slice of Nordic Noir and Loner promised that with humour as well.

Loner is the first in Thorarensen’s Oslo Mysteries and it follows Detective Julia Ryland of the Oslo police department and her colleague, criminal psychiatrist, Alexander Smith. This first book starts with the body of a young Icelandic man being found and escalates when the bodies of young women start to be discovered.

The prologue is really nicely written with oodles of atmosphere and it totally draws you in. It perfectly sets up the first murder and the setting and had me keen to read more. The prologue demonstrates that Thorarensen has real potential as a writer.

From the prologue Loner became like no other crime novel I have read before. It is full of quirky characters who deviate from your usual crime book. They behave in ways that you don’t normally see in police procedurals and I can imagine that some readers may find this aggravating. With the exception of Julia Ryland, none of the characters seem to behave in a ‘typical’ way giving the sense that they don’t take the whole thing seriously and they do come across as infantile. The author has intentionally added the humour to Loner, and while I have enjoyed humorous crime novels in the past, the humour in this one wasn’t my cup of tea. My sense of humour tends to be more on the dark side and so this doesn’t mean that others will not enjoy it. I did, however, wonder at times if something had been lost in the translation. For me, the characterisation let it down a little as I struggled to take them seriously.

I really enjoyed the crimes – that sounds so wrong, but you know what I mean – and where it took the characters and the twists are well-plotted and surprising. I certainly didn’t predict where it was going. Loner is the first in a series and while part of the story was concluded there are other parts that are not, so don’t go into this book expecting it to be all tied up at the end.

The antagonist makes for an interesting character and the themes around him are ones I really liked. Thorarensen uses religion and psychology to give the added chill factor to Loner.

If you are after a change from your usual crime fiction novel and you like quirky give Loner a try. I have to say it didn’t blow me away and as stated I wonder if something was a little lost in the translation. It will be interesting to see how Thorarensen develops her writing and the characters in the next book in the series.

Loner was published on 30 May 2018 by Antonov Publishing. You can get a copy HERE.

Thank you to Hildur Sif Thorarensen for the copy in exhange for my review.

Blog Tour – After He Died by Michael J. Malone *Review*

It’s always exciting to read the latest book by Michael J. Malone and I am delighted to be part of the blog tour today for his latest novel After He Died.

My thanks go to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books and Anne Cater at Random Things blog tours for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the tour.

The Blurb

When Paula Gadd’s husband of almost thirty years dies, just days away from the seventh anniversary of their son Christopher’s death, her world falls apart. Grieving and bereft, she is stunned when a young woman approaches her at the funeral service, and slips something into her pocket. A note suggesting that Paula’s husband was not all that he seemed…
When the two women eventually meet, a series of revelations challenges everything Paula thought she knew, and it becomes immediately clear that both women’s lives are in very real danger. Both a dark, twisty slice of domestic noir and taut, explosive psychological thriller, After He Died is also a chilling reminder that the people we trust the most can harbour the deadliest secrets…

My Thoughts

You know your partner inside out, right? And, of course, you trust them implicitly don’t you? Imagine your partner suddenly died and while trying to get through the funeral you are slipped a note by a person you don’t know who suggests that your partner wasn’t who you thought they were. This is what happens to Paula Gadd in Michael J. Malone’s latest book After He Died.

As Malone sets up the premise of the book, starting at the above-mentioned funeral of Thomas Gadd, you may be forgiven for thinking this is going to be your fairly average ‘how well do you know your partner’ domestic noir, but this is Michael J. Malone and of course there is going to be nothing standard about it. The emotion hits you straight in the face as Malone perfectly describes the grief Paula is feeling in the opening lines. Immediately you empathise with this woman you do not yet know. And from there you can’t help but want to read further.

One of the things that always sets Malone’s work apart is his skilled use of words. He is able to make his characters multi-faceted and rounded and Paula Gadd is no exception. She is not a particularly likeable character but you cannot help but feel for her. Malone’s ability to describe the full range of emotions Paula goes through from her grief to each horrifying discovery about her deceased husband and his family members is outstanding as he writes with sensitivity and feeling.

Again, Malone has managed to combine gripping thriller with character driven humanity. After He Died is as much a comment on social class and the issues that arise in each as it is a piece of domestic noir. In Cara Connolly he has created the antithesis to Paula and I warmed to her completely.

As each revelation and family secret is revealed, you can’t help but be completely hooked on After He Died and Malone has you having to read just one more page.

Another great read from Michael J. Malone, After He Died is completely different from his two previous books published by Orenda, and his talent lies in being able to produce something totally fresh and totally brilliant every time. If you want a domestic noir that is well-written, keeps you hooked and also makes you think and feel deeply check out After He Died.

About the Author

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up
in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary
magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland
and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize
from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes:
Carnegie’s Call; A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage; The
Bad Samaritan and Dog Fight. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a
number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines soon
followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also
worked as an IFA and a bookseller.

After He Died was published on ebook on 30 July 2018 and is published in paperback on 30 September 2018 by Orenda Books. You can get your copy HERE.

 

Author Influences with Marilyn Bennett

I am really pleased to be welcoming Marilyn Bennett, author of Granny with Benefits, Mummy with Benefits and soon-to-be published Reap, to Bloomin’ Brilliant Books today to talk about her author influences.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
Judy Blume was my hands down favourite author as a child. She created characters that actually felt like real teens, who had problems and posed questions I could directly relate to.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
I loved English at school, but I didn’t really recognise that I was good at it back then. I loved storytelling. I think it was definitely the biggest influence on my reading choices, which then developed outside of school.

It was actually when I started actively job-hunting after leaving school that I recognised I had some form of writing skill. I could write a mean job application! This became a key indicator over the years to come that I could spin a yarn!

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
I like to read commercial fiction. I think my writing has mostly been impacted by film and television, which I love. There is a really direct focus on character and story in film and television that can cut to the chase of the narrative in a way you can’t in books.

The fantastic thing for me about writing novels has been the patience and attention to detail I am still trying to master when creating characters and stories, something that is a given on screen, but not in a book. It’s been a great discipline for me above and beyond writing. I am acquiring an eye and ear for the little details and thought processes that don’t translate on screen, but can make all the difference in a book.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
If I were to write a different genre it would be a dark thriller. Since writing my novels I have come to realise, quite unwilling mind you, that I’m a little bit twisted as a storyteller. It’s been unnerving and amusing in equal measure! I start off writing a quite straightforward romance and then it just veers off into slightly darker territory.

I’d love to write a straightforward romance, like a cat and a dog running a tea shop in a beautiful coastal town that fall in love. I know that’s got all the hallmarks of being a successful romance book, but without fail by the end of the book the dog would have his paw in the till and the cat would be having sexual assignations with the fox behind the post office. It’s just how my brain works!

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
I wasn’t influenced by another author’s work to start writing purely because my intention for all of my novels to date was to write them as scripts. It came as complete surprise to me when I decided that they worked better as novels. I knew nothing about writing novels.

This all started as a means to finding and doing something that meant I could be creative completely on my own terms. It’s been scary and lonely at times, but I’ve still loved every minute of it.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
This happens to me more with films, because falling in love with cinema in my teens unfortunately put books on the subs bench for a few decades, so Abbie I’m playing catch up!

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl as a child. I come from a working class family and we lived on a large estate in Hackney. The book at the time was a rags to riches tale that fulfilled my dreams of life with endless chocolate and no poverty.

I was in awe of Roald Dahl’s ability to combine his incredible vivid imagination with real empathetic characters.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
Not yet, but I’m sure they will one day, so I will have to tread very carefully!

A huge thank you for taking part, Marilyn. I really enjoyed reading your answers and I found them really interesting as I think we sometimes forget – well, I do – that film and scriptwriting can be an aid to novel writing, if that makes sense?

About Marilyn Bennett

Marilyn is a Television Production Consultant and has worked in the broadcasting industry for 24 years.

http://www.marilynbennettauthor.co.uk

Marilyn’s Books

Granny with Benefits and Mummy with Benefits are both out now. Here is what they are about:

Grace is thirty-nine and not remotely convinced that life begins at forty.

When her grandmother dies she volunteers to pick up her belongings from the sheltered accommodation. It is the last place she expects to have a chance encounter with the first man she has been instantly attracted to in a very long time, particularly as she is dressed almost head to toe in her grandmother’s clothing and accessories.

Grace’s granny alter ego elicits a conversation with the man about love, death and the universe, which she is convinced would not have happened otherwise. This inspires her to throw caution to the wind and turn what should have been a simple case of mistaken identity into a dating introduction opportunity for the real her. A decision which sets Grace on a rollercoaster adventure of lies, secrets and lust, making her thirty ninth year one she won’t forget, but might well regret…

Wishes do come true… so be careful what you wish for!

Life appears to have taken a rather positive turn for Grace. She is now working her socks off in a job she enjoys and has quite possibly met the man of her dreams. But there’s just one snag, she’s pregnant and the baby is definitely not his. In fact, she is not acutally sure who the father is.

So when she reluctantly has to dress up as her granny alter ego for one last time, it can only spell trouble. Grace is forced to confront her bad timing, bad luck and suitably questionable choices all head on.

Marilyn’s latest novel, Reap, is due to be published in spring 2019 (I can tell you it’s a cracker!).

 

 

Relic Chaser Adventure Giveaway Winner!!!!

 

So, a while ago the lovely Urcelia Teixeira ran a giveaway alongside her Author Influences post. The winner was to receive a signed set of Relic Chaser Adventure books and I am pleased to announce that the lucky winner is…

Julia Theulings!!!

Whoop, whoop! Congratulations, Julia. Urcelia will be in touch with you shortly to get your contact details. Well done and enjoy your prize.

Guest Post by Hawaa Ayoub – ‘The Personal in Fiction Writing’

I am delighted to be joined by Hawaa Ayoub today who has a moving guest post on The Personal in Fiction Writing. Hawaa’s novel When a Bulbul Sings is about forced child marriages and Hawaa hope to raise awareness of this issue. So, I wil hand you over to Hawaa.

The Personal in Fictional Writing by Hawaa Ayoub, author of When a Bulbul Sings

A while back, in 2007 while still living in Sana’a the capital of Yemen, I was approached numerous times by friends and colleagues whom suggested I should write a book about my experience of child marriage. Although they were well intentioned, for I was a strong character by then, my visceral feeling was that of embarrassment of not wanting my personal life known so publicly although everybody whom knew me already knew (would find out) how old I was when I married, especially when they couldn’t believe my children were not my siblings (safe to say that mistake won’t be made nowadays!). I wasn’t ashamed of my life, it wasn’t my fault being forced as a child to marry a man so why should I be ashamed? They said many British Asian and British African girls in the UK, some as young as twelve, would disappear from schools, probably taken to their country of ethnicity and married, they believed I should write a story about my experience as a child bride so as to make the world aware this happens.

Truth be told, at people’s shocked reaction at my reply of being fourteen, embarrassed I would be. I couldn’t control it, but it’s how I felt; for how do you and why should you explain how you were forced as a child when some memories are harsh, when all you want to do is leave the past behind and concentrate on the now? Yemenis and expatriates alike expressed the same surprise, outrage and empathy towards learning I had married so young and forced at that.

Forced and child marriage is not a clear-cut issue, there are many reasons why it still exists today which would need a number of posts to explain and delve into properly, but raising awareness about the issue of child marriage is important as is understanding why and how it happens, and its consequences and effects upon girls and women.

There are many other reasons why I write. To begin with, I enjoy writing. If I don’t put the words onto paper or screen, the ideas and thoughts crowd my head and occupy my mind until I’ve written them. Characters’ conversations and actions keep running on a loop and developing and nag me when I’m nowhere near pen and paper.

I write because I have stories to tell. Like many writers, there are autobiographical elements in my stories which can make writing about things too close to personal experience embarrassing, that I might be tempted not to include it; this can be tough.

I have a message to convey from an experience I had, to share through writing fiction. It’s about a personal issue which not only affected me but continues to affect millions of girls and women, worldwide. Telling stories about topics which affect us or affects people in other parts of the world can help towards raising awareness thus contribute in a little way towards ending matters such as child marriage, FGM and other forms of gender inequality. Especially if done with the aim of spreading knowledge, unbiased information; if it can be done in an entertaining read – even better!

Which is why I write about child marriage and gender inequality.

A huge thank you, Hawaa, for taking the time to write this guest post and for raising this important issue.

Hawaa’s debut novel When a Bulbul Sings is out now. Here is what it’s about:

Eve, a highly intelligent fourteen-year-old British girl, is lured to a mountainous Yemeni village remote from civilisation where she is forced to marry an adult. Her desire to return home and enter university fuels her escape attempts, but Uncle Suleiman’s addiction to qat and greed for money give him an equally matched desire to stop her from leaving. When Eve is taken by her parents to a remote mountainous Yemeni village, where life has remained the same since ancient times, she is forced to marry Adam and her life becomes a dystopian novel caught in a real-life limbo. Her constant attempts to escape the mountains are not only hindered by the treacherous terrain, but her Uncle Suleiman, who planned for her marriage since first setting eyes on her, keeps her captive to ensure his son sends him a monthly allowance. Eve’s captors want to subdue her strong personality, and individuality; Eve is put under pressure to be like all the girls, to be a woman not a girl. She struggles with the way of life, but also the mentality and culture. She fights for her freedom, but her captors’ constant criticism, chip at her spirit. Eve is set on returning to Britain to resume her education before she misses her chance at university, before her genius is wasted, but Uncle Suleiman’s addiction and greed give him an equally strong determination to prevent her from leaving. She witnesses forced marriages and child marriages as well as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). She lives amongst a beautiful people in an intriguing ancient culture, but the beauty of her surroundings jar with the ugliness of captivity where her freedom has been confiscated and she becomes Uncle Suleiman’s hostage. This is the story of Eve and her fight for freedom. It is a story about the inequality, injustice and violations of human rights millions of girls around the world face due to their gender when forced or entered into underage marriage as child brides.

When a Bulbul Sings can be purchased HERE.

Review – Overkill by Vanda Symon

This review originally went out on Craig Sisterson’s Crime Watch blog in June to coincide with the eBook publication. Today is the paperback publication of Overkill by Vanda Symon and I couldn’t resist taking the opportunity to share my review of this bloomin’ brilliant book again.

The Blurb

When the body of a young mother is found washed up on the banks of the Mataura River, a small rural community is rocked by her tragic suicide. But all is not what it seems.
Sam Shephard, sole-charge police constable in Mataura, soon discovers the death was no suicide and has to face the realisation that there is a killer in town. To complicate the situation, the murdered woman was the wife of her former lover. When Sam finds herself on the list of suspects and suspended from duty, she must cast aside her personal feelings and take matters into her own hands.
To find the murderer … and clear her name.
A taut, atmospheric and page-turning thriller, Overkill marks the start of an unputdownable and unforgettable series from one of New Zealand’s finest crime writers.

My Thoughts

Before I rave about the contents of Vanda Symon’s Overkill I want to quickly mention the cover. I’m ashamed to admit that I often judge a book by its cover and Orenda are well known for their stunning book jackets. However, with Overkill they have really outdone themselves. I could look at it for hours it is just so stunning! I would happily have this on my wall. But I’m here to discuss the inside of the book, not the outside.

Without doubt Overkill will be on my final ‘books of the year’ list as it ticks so many crime fiction boxes and it is wonderfully written. Overkill is the first in Symon’s PC Sam Shephard series and I am already eagerly anticipating the next book. Set in a rural community in New Zealand, the town is shocked when a young mother is found dead. It quickly becomes apparent to Matuara’s only police constable, Sam, that this is not the suicide it originally appeared to be. Sam is soon suspended from her job when she is viewed as the prime suspect in the woman’s murder due to the victim being the wife of her former partner. Sam sets out to clear her name and find the killer on her own.

The beginning of Overkill literally  left me breathless. It is startling and I haven’t had the reaction that I had to the start of Overkill for a long time. Brutally beautiful, Symon gets right to the emotional core of absolute fear and the writing is uncomfortably outstanding. It’s clichéd to say, but I was immediately hooked.

Overkill continues to deliver on all fronts as the book progresses. Police Inspector Sam Shephard is a fantastic character and Symon has ensured that readers will want to meet her again in further books. While Overkill is a great example of crime fiction, the sense of humour displayed by Sam adds an additional appeal. Sam’s humour is sarcastic, dry and she is the kind of woman you want to go to the pub with. She is incredibly human and it was her honesty about her feelings along with her humour that really made me warm to her. I have no doubt that everyone who reads this book will love Sam. Symon’s characterisation is second to none.

The plot is perfectly paced with twists and turns that constantly keep you on the back foot. Prepare to be constantly second guessing and looking at everyone with suspicion. The small community setting aids this perfectly with a cast of characters who all potentially have something to hide. Secrets and lies abound as Sam tries to get to the bottom of the murder. Overkill is a real page turner with shocks and surprises throughout.

The sense of place is created well and the reader is completely transported to New Zealand. The setting shines through via Symon’s prose and it also ensures that the crime is unique in the reasons behind it, making it totally original.

With a twisty plot, a protagonist who shines and beautifully written observations of the cruellest things, Overkill is crime fiction at its best and this is an outstanding book. I predict that this  book is going to soar here in the UK and it deserves to. I adored this book and can’t wait for the next in the series. If you read and enjoy crime fiction, you will adore it too.

Published on eBook on 30 June 2018 and paperback on 6 September 2018, you can get a copy of Overkill HERE.

 

 

Review – The Rave by Nicky Black

The Blurb

It’s 1989, the second Summer of Love, and Tommy Collins is doing what he does best: organising all-night raves on a shoestring, and playing a game of cat and mouse with the police. But Detective Chief Inspector Peach is closing in on him, and his dreams of a better life are beginning to slip through his fingers.

DCI Peach finds it all a nuisance, a waste of his force’s time, until he finds his teenage daughter unconscious at one of Tommy’s raves. Then the chase becomes personal, and his need to make Tommy pay becomes an obsession.

The Rave is a fast-paced, gritty portrayal of life on the edges of society at the end of a decade that changed Britain forever.

My Thoughts

It’s the summer of 1989, the country has gone house music mad and raves are, well, all the rave. Tommy Collins is determined to change his family’s life from one of poverty, living on the Valley Park housing estate in Newcastle, to one of prosperity by organising all-night illegal raves in the North East. However, his plans are soon to be thwarted as Detective Chief Inspector Peach finds his daughter unconscious at one of Tommy’s raves and he goes all out to bring Tommy down.

To be perfectly honest, when I first started reading The Rave I wasn’t sure that it was going to be for me, but the further I got into the book the more I liked it. The characters really drew me in. Tommy is the likeable rogue, thwarted by the social class he was born into and can’t seem to escape, who wants to succeed to make life comfortable for his family. Despite his illegal activities, Tommy has a good heart and you can’t help but warm to him. In DCI Peach, Black has managed to create an antagonist who is also a well-rounded character. From initial dislike, the reader eventually begins to empathise with him as each revelation about his daughter unfolds. Black has, I’m pleased to say, included the truly despicable characters we all love to see in crime fiction. Again, though, she has ensured they are two dimensional by allowing the reader to understand why they are the way they are.

The Rave does fall under crime fiction but it is different to the majority of crime novels out there due to its premise. Black deviates from the usual catching a killer trope that we see in the majority of crime novels, and if I was to categorise by genre the description of grit-lit would be appropriate given the vivid sense of place, the importance of social setting it stands in and its authenticity. The Rave is unique and refreshingly different which made it all the more enjoyable.

Black’s depiction of life on a northern housing estate is bleak and yet I finished The Rave feeling kind of uplifted.

The Rave is a gritty read that perfectly captures the plight of the North East in Thatcher’s Britain. Black has successfully combined gripping crime fiction, interesting characters and authentic social setting with an original premise. If you are in the need for something different from your usual crime fiction, check The Rave out.

A huge thank you to Nicky Black for the advance copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Published on 14 August 2018 you can get your copy HERE.

About the Author

The pen name Nicky Black is a combination of two writers – Nicky Doherty and Julie Blackie. Julie was a script writer for many years, and Nicky has created two novels based on Julie’s TV and film scripts. Both are stories set on the fictional estate of Valley Park in Newcastle, and the criminal world that inhabits it. 

 

The Prodigal was a bestseller in 2015 and The Rave was published on 14th August 2018.

 

Nicky is a proud eighties throwback and cat lady and lives in North Tyneside.

Review – Into The Darkness by Sibel Hodge

The Blurb

The Missing…
In a hidden basement, eighteen-year-old Toni is held captive and no one can hear her screams. She’s been abducted after investigating unspeakable things in the darkest corners of the Internet.
The Vigilante…
Fearing the worst, Toni’s mother turns to ex-SAS operative Mitchell to help find her missing daughter. And when Mitchell discovers Toni’s fate rests in the hands of pure evil, he races against the clock to find Toni and bring her out alive. But even that might not be enough to save her.
The Detective…
DS Warren Carter is looking forward to a new job and a simpler life. But when he’s called in to investigate the brutal murder of a seemingly normal couple, he becomes entangled in lives that are anything but simple. And as he digs deeper, he uncovers a crime more twisted than he could ever have imagined.
Into the Darkness is the chilling new thriller from the bestselling author of Duplicity and Beneath the Surface.

My Thoughts

As regular readers of my blog will know, I always eagerly anticipate a new book by Sibel Hodge and I couldn’t wait to get stuck into Into The Darkness.

The quote by Shakespeare at the beginning of the book hints at the wickedness we are about to encounter as we go Into The Darkness.

When eighteen-year-old Toni goes missing, her mother calls ex-SAS officer Mitchell to help find her daughter. While they search for the missing girl, DS Warren Carter is investigating the apparently motiveless murder of a couple in a quiet well-to-do village. Told from three perspectives – Toni, Mitchell and DS Carter – Hodge endures that the reader is kept at the heart of the all the action. This also gives a unique insight into each of the characters.

I really warmed to DS Carter and , as we again meet Mitchell and Maya from Untouchable in this book, I hope that we will be seeing him again in the future.

Hodge never flinches from writing about the darkest echelons of society. Quite often her books have a political edge to them and feature those real-life taboo issues that people don’t talk about much. This is one of the things I really like about her books. It ensures that you are left with something to think about and adds a depth to what would otherwise be your standard – but brilliant – thriller. Into The Darkness explores the murky corners of the Internet – the dark web in which anything goes and can be bought for a price. The fact that the subject matter could be grounded in reality takes the chill factor of Into The Darkness up (or down) several degrees.

The three threads of the story come together perfectly as Hodge weaves a twisted tale in which nothing is as it seems. Incredibly tense, Hodge once again show her prowess as a skilled writer.

Hodge has written another scorching, unsettling thriller that left me holding my breath. If you like your thrillers on the blackest side of dark, then head Into The Darkness.

My thanks to Sibel Hodge, Thomas & Mercer and Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for my review.

Published on 3 July 2018 by Thomas & Mercer. You can get a copy HERE.

Review – The Vanishing by Sophia Tobin

The Blurb

On top of the Yorkshire Moors, in an isolated spot carved out of a barren landscape, lies White Windows, a house of shadows and secrets. Here lives Marcus Twentyman, a hard-drinking but sensitive man, and his sister, the brisk widow, Hester.

When runaway Annaleigh first meets the Twentymans, their offer of employment and lodgings seems a blessing. Only later does she discover the truth. But by then she is already in the middle of a web of darkness and intrigue, where murder seems the only possible means of escape…

My Thoughts

Tell that me a novel is set in the 19th Century and features an old house on the North Yorkshire Moors and, being a huge fan of Wuthering Heights, I’m just about guaranteed to want to read it. I couldn’t therefore resist The Vanishing by Sophia Tobin.

It is 1814 and orphan Annaleigh Calvert finds herself far removed from the London she is used to when she takes up the position of housekeeper at White Windows in the North Yorkshire Moors. Brother and sister, Marcus and Hester Twentyman, appear to have offered Annaleigh the perfect escape from the difficulties she faced in London, however, it turns out that all is not as it seems and she finds herself caught up in a nightmare.

Split in to two parts and following a prologue that perfectly draws the reader in, The Vanishing begins with Annaleigh’s arrival at White Windows and it slowly builds up to the nightmare that Annaleigh is destined to find herself in. The first part is very much a slow burner but incredibly necessary to lead the reader in to the shocks that lie in wait later on. As with all small places, rumours abound about the inhabitants of White Windows. Why are the wealthy Twentymans residing in Yorkshire rather than their home city of London? Why are brother and sister residing together in almost isolation? And what exactly did happen to their previous housekeeper who mysteriously disappeared? I loved the way Tobin kept me on the back foot in this first part as, like Annaleigh, I was not sure what to make of her employers as I found myself swinging between feelings of pity, trust and mistrust. As The Vanishing progresses to its gradual inevitable conclusion it becomes clear that Annaleigh never stood a chance at White Windows.

In Marcus Twentyman Tobin has created an intriguing figure. I constantly found myself being caught between feelings of pity and warmth to fear and wariness. He is intriguing and I can’t help but compare him to Heathcliffe.

Tobin’s prose throughout is stunning and in true gothic novel style she described the colours of the moors in beautiful detail and attributes its changing colours to the mood of Annaleigh. I found myself completely wrapped up in Tobin’s words.

Part Two shocked me to the core. It touches on issues that were prevalent at the time – laudanum use, illegitimacy and the position of and treatment of women. The times were undoubtedly harsh and especially for those in Annaleigh’s position – female and of low class. I didn’t expect The Vanishing to be as brutal and heartbreaking as it is and it ended up shaking me to the core.

Dark, harsh, atmospheric and beautifully written, I loved The Vanishing. I’m so pleased I finally got around to reading it and I will be checking out Tobin’s other books. If you like historical fiction that has a touch of the gothic about it then you will love it too.

Published on 12 January 2017 by Simon & Schuster.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster and Sophia Tobin for my copy in exchange for my honestand unbiased review.

Blog Tour – Dead Of Night by Michael Stanley *Author Influences*

 

 

I am very excited to be taking part in the Dead Of Night by Michael Stanley blog tour today. I have read the book and it’s bloody brilliant, but unfortunately I haven’t had time to write my review yet. However, instead of my review I have a very special Author Influences with Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip instead.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?

Michael: I read all the usual books, but a few others stick in my mind. The Hobbit, of course, made me fall in love with Tolkien, and I immediately ploughed into The Lord of the Rings although I was much too young to really appreciate it. I also remember being fascinated by The Tree That Sat Down by Beverley Nichols and read it several times. Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking Glass were big favourites too.

Stanley: Over the years growing up, I read a huge variety of books: Enid Blyton, The Hardy Boys, Teddy Lester’s Schooldays, Alice in Wonderland, Biggles, Nevil Shute, historical fiction, Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Bernard Shaw, Alan Paton.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?

Stanley: Yes and yes! In high school, I had wonderful teachers who instilled great enthusiasm in me for language. I was even excited by grammar! In addition, every other year, the school produced a Shakespeare play (I played Salerio in Merchant of Venice), which gave me a love for the power of drama.

Michael: I wasn’t particularly good at it, but I did like it. I recall writing ridiculously long and, no doubt, boring essays with no regard for the poor teacher who had to mark them!

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?

Michael: I do read a lot of crime fiction and that was certainly a factor in the attraction of the genre. When I was younger, I liked science fiction – the more science or character driven kinds such as Clement’s Mission of Gravity and Farmer’s The Lovers. I tried my hand at writing it when I was a student. Fortunately, none of my stories was ever published!

I also read widely in non-fiction – history and biography mainly. 

Stanley: I read mysteries and thrillers, as well as history. Both genres have influenced my writing. The two books that had the greatest impact were Nevil Shute’s On the Beach and Alice in Wonderland – the first for the power of words to pull a reader into another world; the second for the appeal of imagination.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?

Stanley: I’d probably write about people on whom events have had a powerful impact. This interest probably emanates from my passion for the poetry of World War I – the bitterness of the soldiers and the agony of their families.

Michael: I think I might try science fiction again because the alien settings allow one to explore people under new and unusual stresses. It wouldn’t be the space adventure kind, though.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?

Michael: I would say PD James and John Le Carré. I think they are both superb writers. They make one think: ‘Could I do that? Could I at least try?’

Stanley: As mentioned above, Nevil Shute and Lewis Carroll influenced me greatly, but no one inspired me to be a writer. They influenced me more on how I wrote.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?

Stanley: All the authors on the Murder Is Everywhere blog, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Tim Hallinan, Kent Kruger, and Seon Meyer.

Michael: There are a few authors whose books I must read as soon as I can. John Le Carré and South African crime author Deon Meyer are in that category.

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?

Michael: Two examples –

Le Carré’s The Mission Song. Although not generally regarded as one of his best novels, I felt that the characterisation of the African translator Salvo was brilliant. The African corruption theme has been done to death, but here it’s balanced by the much more cynical British corruption. It’s very hard to make all that work!

Deon Meyer’s Fever. The slightly future setting and the post apocalypse South Africa are brilliantly combined in a coming of age story. Again, characterisation is everything. I think that’s what good writing is all about.

Stanley: So many! Charles Dickens, John le Carré, P D James, Nevil Shute, Lewis Carroll.

 

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)

Stanley: All our characters incorporate aspects of many people. So I’m not concerned about a law suit. However one friend, whose name we used in A Carrion Death for a character whom we killed off, has threatened to sue when we become a mega-success. I’m not losing much sleep!

Michael: Our book Deadly Harvest is loosely based on the real case in Mochudi of a young girl, Segametsi Mogomotsi, who was abducted by witch doctors and killed for body parts. When we were working on our first book, the then director of the Botswana CID told us that was what we should be writing about. We felt he was right, even though it was several years later before we actually did so.

Our rotund Detective Kubu isn’t based on anyone we know, but many of his characteristics are!

A huge thank you to you both for taking part.

Michael Stanley’s latest standalone novel Dead of Night is out now. It is an absolute corker and here is what it’s about:

When freelance journalist, Crystal Nguyen, heads to South Africa, she thinks she’ll be researching an article on rhino-horn smuggling for National Geographic, while searching for her missing colleague. But, within a week, she’s been hunting poachers, hunted by their bosses, and then arrested in connection with a murder. And everyone is after a briefcase full of money that may hold the key to everything.
Fleeing South Africa, she goes undercover in Vietnam, trying to discover the truth before she’s exposed by the local mafia. Discovering the plot behind the money is only half the battle. Now she must convince the South African authorities to take action before it’s too late. She has a shocking story to tell, if she survives long enough
to tell it…
Fast-paced, relevant and chilling, Dead of Night is a stunning new thriller that exposes one of the most vicious conflicts on the African continent…

You can buy your copy HERE.

About the Authors

Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both
were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. On a
flying trip to Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill, and devour a
wildebeest, eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their
first mystery,  A Carrion Death, which introduced Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the
Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards,
including the CWA Debut Dagger. The series has been critically acclaimed, and
their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for
an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’
award. Dead of Night is their first stand-alone thriller.