Category Archives: Authors P to R

Reviews by author surname P to R

Blog Tour – The Lost Daughter by Gill Paul *Review and Giveaway*

I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Lost Daughter by Gill Paul today. Along with my review of Gill’s latest book I have a giveaway! Read about the book and my thoughts on it and then find out how to enter to win a paperback copy of The Lost Daughter and a The Lost Daughter postcard signed by Gill!

The Blurb

A Russian princess. An extraordinary sacrifice. A captivating secret…
From the author of The Secret Wife, a gripping journey through decades and across continents, of love, devastating loss and courage against all odds.
1918
With the country they once ruled turned against them, the future of Russia’s imperial family hangs in the balance. When middle daughter Maria Romanova captivates two of the guards, it will lead to a fateful choice between right and wrong.
Fifty-five years later . . .
Val rushes to her father’s side when she hears of his troubling end-of-life confession: ‘I didn’t want to kill her.’ As she unravels the secrets behind her mother’s disappearance when she was twelve years old, she finds herself caught up in one of the world’s greatest mysteries.

My Thoughts

After loving The Secret Wife I was extremely excited to discover that Gill Paul was once again revisiting the Romanov dynasty in her next book, The Lost Daughter. I have been fascinated by Russian history since I did an A level in Modern British and European History many (many!) years ago and so to read a fiction novel that incorporates Russian history is always going to be a book I want to read, especially when it is written by Gill Paul.

The Lost Daughter is told over two timelines. One follows Maria Romanov in Russia from April 1918 onwards and the other follows Val in Sydney, Australia, from October 1973. Both women are going through difficulties but for very different reasons and both stories are incredibly emotional. Paul once again demonstrates her skill as a writer as she manages to seamlessly weave between eras and countries without ever leaving the reader feeling more invested in one storyline over the other. Her writing and characterisation is such that you are equally interested in each.

Val’s story centres on her quest for the truth following the death of her Russian father. On his death bed her father says ‘I didn’t mean to kill her’ and Val is, obviously, keen to discover what he meant given her mother mysteriously left the family when Val was a teenager. A cold man, Val wonders if he actually killed her mother. What she goes on to learn about her father and his history turns out to be beyond anything she could ever have imagined.

Paul has created a depth around Val’s storyline and it never feels like a secondary part to The Lost Daughter. Val escapes from an abusive husband during a time in which domestic abuse was not taken seriously, and the reader can’t help but be drawn in to Val’s struggle and to be moved by the challenges she faces.

My favourite thread has to be the one that follows Maria Romanov, though. Imagine if one of the Grand Duchesses survived the execution that was meted out to the family? What would life have been like for her and how would she survive and go undiscovered? Paul answers these questions in The Lost Daughter and makes it realistic. This realism, however, brings with it heartbreak so be prepared to shed tears.

I really like the way that Paul delicately portrays both sides of the Russian people at that time. While she clearly portrays Maria as innocent – a victim of who she was born to – which she was, she also portrays how the Russian people were suffering under the Romanov’s rule. While the Tsar and his family lived in luxury the Russian people were starving. Maria seems to have been oblivious to this fact and this may well have been the case.

It is clear that The Lost Daughter has been carefully researched as Paul takes us through Russia following the revolution, through Lenin and Stalin’s rule to Brezhnev. She completely captures the fear and paranoia that the Russian people felt during Stalin’s rule to the point that they could not speak openly in front of their own children. The Lost Daughter is utterly heartbreaking at times as Paul brings to life the atrocities faced by the Russian people during this era.

Another wonderful book by Gill Paul, I can’t recommend The Lost Daughter highly enough. It is beautifully written, full of emotion, historically accurate and fascinating. She has managed, once again, to bring to life one of the most interesting albeit brutal periods of history and make it accessible and readable. The Lost Daughter is a must for your bookshelf.

The Lost Daughter is published on 18 October 2018 by Headline Review. You can buy your copy HERE.

About the Author

Gill Paul is an author of historical fiction, specialising in relatively recent history. Her new novel, Another Woman’s Husband, is about links you might not have been aware of between Wallis, Duchess of Windsor, and Diana, Princess of Wales.

Gill’s other novels include The Secret Wife, published in 2016, about the romance between cavalry officer Dmitri Malama and Grand Duchess Tatiana, the second daughter of Russia’s last tsar, who first met in 1914. Women and Children First is about a young steward who works on the Titanic. The Affair was set in Rome in 1961–62 as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton fell in love while making Cleopatra. And No Place for a Lady is about two Victorian sisters who travel out to the Crimean War of 1854–56 and face challenges beyond anything they could have imagined.

Gill also writes historical non-fiction, including A History of Medicine in 50 Objects, and a series of Love Stories, each containing fourteen tales of real-life couples: how they met, why they fell for each other, and what happened in the end. Published around the world, this series includes Royal Love Stories, World War I Love Stories and Titanic Love Stories.

Gill was born in Glasgow and grew up there, apart from an eventful year at school in the US when she was ten. She studied Medicine at Glasgow University, then English Literature and History (she was a student for a long time), before moving to London to work in publishing. She started her own company producing books for publishers, along the way editing such luminaries as Griff Rhys Jones, John Suchet, John Julius Norwich, Ray Mears and Eartha Kitt. She also writes on health, nutrition and relationships.

Gill swims year-round in an open-air pond – “It’s good for you so long as it doesn’t kill you”– and is a devotee of Pilates. She also particularly enjoys travelling on what she calls “research trips” and attempting to match-make for friends.
WEBSITE : www.gillpaul.com

TWITTER : @GillPaulAUTHOR

Giveaway

I am delighted to be able to giveaway a paperback copy of The Lost Daughter and a signed The Lost Daughter  postcard to one lucky reader. Unfortunately, the giveaway is only open to UK residents – sorry! Enter here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The winner will be announced on Tuesday 23 October 2018. Good luck!

Huge thanks to Gill Paul and Headline Review for the advance copy of The Lost Daughter and to Anne Cater of Random Things Blog Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour.

Blog Tour – Dear Mr Pop Star by Derek and Dave Philpott *Review*

 

I am delighted to be joining the blog tour for Dear Mr Pop Star by Derek and Dave Philpott today. This book is completely different to anything else I have read. Here is what it is about followed by my thoughts.

The Blurb

For more than a decade, Derek Philpott and his son, Dave, have been writing to pop stars from the 1960s to the 90s to take issue with the lyrics of some of their best-known songs.
But then, to their great surprise, the pop stars started writing back…
Dear Mr Pop Star contains 100 of Derek and Dave’s greatest hits, including correspondence with Katrina and the Waves, Tears for Fears, Squeeze, The Housemartins, Suzi Quatro, Devo, Deep Purple, Nik Kershaw, T Pau, Human League, Eurythmics, Wang Chung, EMF, Mott the Hoople, Heaven 17, Jesus Jones, Johnny Hates Jazz, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, Chesney Hawkes and many, many more.

My Thoughts

Every now and again we need a total change from the types of books we normally read. Dear Mr Pop Star by Derek and Dave Philpott certainly offered that change. A series of letters by Derek Philpott to various bands and pop stars querying certain aspects of their lyrics is an interesting concept and even more so when those he writes to writes back.

This book is like nothing I have read before and I suspect it is highly unlikely that I will again. Dear Mr Pop Star is set out as the letters Philpott has written to the various stars. The majority are followed by responses from the stars and others are like postcards that have not been responded to. The letters are hilarious and Derek Philpott’s observations are dry, witty and have you shaking your head in agreement while laughing out loud. Being a proofreader, I really appreciated his observations on the grammar of some band names and lyrics. The letter he wrote to Doctor and the Medics is brilliant. I’m not going to go into detail, you will have to read it yourself, and it is worth getting the book for that one alone. Other gems include his observations on Nik Kershaw’s ‘The Riddle’, Bananarama’s ‘Really Saying Something’ and Cutting Crew’s ‘I Just Died in your Arms Tonight’. They are undoubtedly funny but they also demonstrate a real intelligence and quick wit.

What really surprised me was the amount of responses he had received back. They are not brief responses either. The various stars have really taken their time over their responses and I was delighted to see how they took Philpott’s observations in good humour.

Being of a certain age *cough, cough* I really appreciated the letters to the above and other stars of the 80s and 90s such as T’Pau, EMF, Carter USM and others. I have to confess that there were a few bands that I didn’t know and I tended to skip over these letters as I didn’t really get what was being referred to. This did not, however, impact on my enjoyment of Dear Mr Pop Star.

Incredibly quirky, Dear Mr Pop Star is a work of real ingenuity and the letters are very well written. This is a book I will dip into time and time again when I need a good laugh. A completely unique concept that I hope the Philpott’s will continue and bring out more volumes of. Highly recommended.

Published on 20 September 2018 by Unbound, you can get a copy HERE.

A huge thank you to Derek and Dave Philpott for my advance copy of Dear Mr Pop Star and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

 

 

Review – Lord Of The Dead by Richard Rippon

The Blurb

A woman’s body has been found on the moors of Northumberland, brutally murdered and dismembered. Northumbria police enlist the help of unconventional psychologist Jon Atherton, a decision complicated by his personal history with lead investigator Detective Sergeant Kate Prejean.

As Christmas approaches and pressure mounts on the force, Prejean and Atherton’s personal lives begin to unravel as they find themselves the focus of media attention, and that of the killer known only as Son Of Geb.

My Thoughts

 

Lord of the Dead by Richard Rippon is the first book to be published by new indie publisher Obliterati Press and, I hope, heralds the start of a new crime series.

When a dismembered body is found in Northumberland, psychologist Jon Atherton is enlisted by Northumbria police to assist them in their murder enquiry. With the added complication of an historical affair between Atherton and DS Kate Prejean, the tension quickly mounts in Lord of the Dead.

What I liked about Lord of the Dead is that it is a crime novel that comes from a different perspective rather than that of your usual police procedural. In this case it is the psychologist who is brought on board to provide the police with a profile of the killer. I think we all want to get inside the heads of killers and understands what drives their actions, so the fact that Rippon has taken the psychologist’s perspective ensures that readers will be intrigued and the plot is less formulaic.

Main character Atherton has a few of the characteristics you would expect to see in the detective in a crime novel – his marriage is on the rocks, he spends far too much time at work and he has a propensity to drink to much – but there is something inherently likeable about Rippon’s character. The fact that he has cerebral palsy is interesting and I would love to know why Rippon included this. It’s not something you often see in crime novel and I love the fact that Rippon has done this. It adds another depth to Atherton’s character and yet it never detracts from the part he plays throughout Lord of the Dead. Rippon has created strong, believable characters that you get behind and want to see again after you have finished the book. The characters that surround Atherton each have their unique attributes and they are all perfectly placed and add to the enjoyment of the book.

The pacing in Lord of the Dead is spot on. Rippon’s prose is precise and yet descriptive and he drives the story forward ensuring that you want to keep turning the pages. I found myself gripped from the outset and enjoyed returning to the book following periods in which I had been doing other stuff.

One of the reasons I found myself wanting to return to the book was the unique way in which the killer arranges his victims and the reasoning behind them. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I will say that it was interesting, something I haven’t seen before and clearly closely researched by Rippon.

A great addition to the crime genre, Lord of the Dead is well written, refreshingly different and highly recommended for fans of crime thrillers. Rippon has ended the book in such a way that it suggests Lord of the Dead is the first in a series, and I really hope this is the case.

Lord Of The Dead was published on 3 November 2017 by Obliterati Press and you can grab a copy HERE.

My thanks go to Nathan O’Hagan at Obliterati Press for my copy in exchange for my review.

 

 

Review – The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn

The Blurb

TV presenter Allis Hagtorn leaves her partner and her job to take voluntary exile in a remote house on an isolated fjord. But her new job as housekeeper and gardener is not all that it seems, and her silent, surly employer, 44-year-old Sigurd Bagge, is not the old man she expected. As they await the return of his wife from her travels, their silent, uneasy encounters develop into a chilling, obsessive relationship, and it becomes clear that atonement for past sins may not be enough.

Haunting, consuming and powerful, The Bird Tribunal is a taut, exquisitely written psychological thriller that builds to a shocking, dramatic crescendo that will leave you breathless.

My Thoughts

The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn is quite possibly the most interesting and unique book I have read this year. I suspect that it is likely to stay that way as we progress through 2018. Why is this the case? Read on to find out.

TV presenter, Allis Hagtorn, walks away from her life to take a job in a remote part of Norway as a housekeeper and gardener to Sigurd Bagge. On arrival, Allis is surprised to discover that her employer is not the infirm, elderly man she expected.

The first thing that struck me about The Bird Tribunal was the style and the prose. None of the dialogue is punctuated and while this is not unique within literature – it is a style used by Cormac McCarthy – it is not a style I have come across in the past few years. This lack of punctuation could, potentially, cause difficulties for the reader, punctuation is, after all, used to guide the reader, but in The Bird Tribunal this is not the case. The quality of the writing and translation is such that it flows beautifully and, I felt, adds to the story rather than detracts from it. Of course, it got me mulling over why this style was decided upon and while I couldn’t answer that from the author and publisher’s point of view, it did make me consider the impact it had on me. I found myself focusing more on the words used rather than skimming over them quickly. As the story is told in first person narrative, purely from the perspective of Allis, the lack of dialogue punctuation made me feel as though Allis was directly addressing me. In some way, that I haven’t yet figured out and am still mulling over (if I do figure it out I will let you know), the lack of punctuation added to the overall feel and atmosphere of the book. The tension and claustrophobia that prevail throughout The Bird Tribunal is enhanced, in some way, by the style of the prose.

The Bird Tribunal is very much a character-driven plot and the tension is, in part, intertwined with the reader wanting to understand Bagge. As Allis is inexplicably drawn to the temperamental, secretive, distant Bagge the reader also finds themselves in the same position. Like a modern-day Heathcliff, Bagge is both a sympathetic and sinister character and I wondered which side of him would eventually prevail and what the final outcome would be. As my opinions of him and feelings towards him ebbed and flowed, Ravatn ensured that I was constantly taken off-guard. The subtlety that Ravatn uses throughout the book makes the behaviour of both characters all the more unnerving.

One of the things that I love about the literary classics is the use of symbolism and, having a thing for ravens, I adored the use of birds in The Bird Tribunal. For me, the birds were a harbinger of what’s to come and the loss of freedom rather than the freedom they usually represent. Combined with the use of nature and the time Allis spends in the garden and amongst wildlife, Ravatn effectively uses this device to increase the tautness that is felt within the relationship between the two characters. The setting is described and depicted wonderfully with Ravatn portraying all that is positive and negative about being in an isolated location. Other people will, undoubtedly, see things differently to me and I would love to hear other people’s thoughts on this. The Bird Tribunal is a book you want to discuss and would be a great novel to read as a reading group.

I’m aware that I am waffling a bit about this book and, as you can probably tell, I loved it. It is a book that is not to be rushed so you can take in every perfectly placed word. As with all Orenda books the translation by Rosie Hedger is flawless.

A psychological thriller in the purest sense, The Bird Tribunal is deeply unsettling and will resonate with you for days after reading it. It is, however, more than this and the outstanding prose and rich descriptions make it a beautiful piece of literary fiction. Outstanding!

Published on 1 September 2016 by Orenda Books, you can purchase a copy HERE.

My thanks go to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Review – Anna: One Love, Two Stories by Amanda Prowse

The Blurb

One Love, Two Stories.
Anna Cole grew up in care, and is determined to start a family of her own. Theo Montgomery had a loveless childhood, and wants only to find his soulmate.
Then, one day, Theo meets Anna, and Anna meets Theo. Two damaged souls from different worlds. Is their love for each other enough to let go of the pain of their pasts? Or will Anna and Theo break each others’ hearts?
There are two sides to every love story. This is Anna’s.

My Thoughts

I’m going to start this review by saying I absolutely loved Anna: One Love, Two Stories by Amanda Prowse. Two stories about one love affair, Prowse introduces us to Anna, one half of Anna and Theo, in the first book in this duet.

Beginning in 1977 when Anna is a child, Prowse takes our hand and guides us through Anna’s life. This gives us unique insight to all of Anna’s thoughts and feelings in order for us to understand how she grows in to the adult she becomes and the impact this has on her side of the relationship she has with Theo. Now, I’m not a person who cries or gets upset easily but Prowse broke me at chapter 2! This is a testament to her skill as a writer and the talent she has for portraying raw emotions in such a way that you feel them alongside the character.

From the outset you are invested in Anna and her journey. I adored her and by the end of the book I felt as though I was saying goodbye to an old friend. As a self-confessed people-watcher, I love getting under the skin of people and understanding their nuances and what makes them tick, Anna appealed to me greatly as it is about life and one person’s take on their relationship. Prowse has created a well-rounded character in Anna and one who is believable and authentic. Anna is very much a character-based book that gets right to the core of the emotions felt by our heroine via Prowse’s beautiful use of words. Anna is seeking her sense of belonging and she believes she has eventually found it in Theo and the possibility that with him she can finally have the family she has longed for. Of course, relationships involve two unique individuals and, as a result, the course of love rarely runs smoothly.

I really enjoyed the way Prowse takes you through the decades in Anna. I adored the suspicion that Anna and her work colleagues had about moving from the typewriter to the computer. The various time periods came through credibly in Anna as Prowse doesn’t try too hard to get it across. Subtlety in her descriptions ensured that it came across naturally and not contrived.

I really can’t wait for Theo to come out as Prowse leaves you with just enough knowledge about him for you to be intrigued and to find out his side of the story. Having the two sides of one relationship split over two books is a great idea and Prowse pulls it off wonderfully.

Beautifully written and completely all-absorbing, Anna is a wonderfully emotional portrayal of life and all the ups and downs it can bring. Be prepared to devour Anna’s story, and ensure you have a box of tissues at hand as you will need them. Just gorgeous!

Anna: One Love, Two Stories is published on eBook on 8 March 2018 and paperback on 4 October 2018 by Head of Zeus. You can pre-order your copy HERE.

A huge thank you to Amanda Prowse for my advance copy of Anna.

Blog Tour – Stand By Me by S.D. Roberston *Review*

Today I bring you my thoughts on S.D. Robertson’s latest book, Stand By Me, as part of the blog tour. This was a gorgeous book to read in what is, let’s face it, the crappy month of January. So, before I share my thoughts with you here is what Stand By Me is about…

The Blurb

They’ll always have each other…won’t they?
Lisa and Elliot have been best friends ever since the day they met as children. Popular, bright and sporty, Lisa was Elliot’s biggest supporter when the school bullies made his life a misery, and for that, he will always be grateful.
Twenty years later, life has pulled the pair apart and Lisa is struggling. Her marriage is floundering, her teenage kids are being secretive, and she’s so tired she can’t think straight. So when Elliot knocks on the door, looking much better than she remembers, she can’t help but be delighted to see her old friend again.
With Elliot back in their lives, Lisa’s family problems begin to improve – he’s like the fairy godmother she never had. As their bond deepens, she realises how much she’s missed him, and prays that this is one friendship that will last a lifetime. But sometimes, life has other ideas…
A heartwarming story perfect for fans of Keith Stewart and Jojo Moyes, that will leave you with a tear in your eye but hope in your heart.

My Thoughts

Stand By Me is the first novel by S.D. Robertson that I have read although I have been aware of his previous two novels. Now I have ventured into his books I will definitely be reading more by him. Stand By Me is a gorgeous tale of friendship, life and appreciation.

When Lisa’s childhood best friend, Elliot, returns to their home town for a visit after twenty years, she has no idea about the impact he will have on her and her family’s life. Struggling through a difficult time, Lisa’s life is about to change for the better thanks to her old school friend.

The prologue and the first few chapters work effectively to draw you into the book. You know from the start that there is more to what’s going on than meets the eye but you are not sure what that is and you have to keep reading to find out. Luckily, I had a box of tissues from the cold I had over the Christmas break and, oh boy, did I need them at the end of this book!

Roberston takes us between timelines, flitting between the present and the 1990s. There is often a danger with dual timeline books that you will prefer one storyline over the other, however, this wasn’t the case with Stand By Me. The 1990’s side of the book worked effectively to show the friendship between teenage Lisa and Elliot and the reason behind Elliot’s current actions. It also ensures that you feel emotionally invested in the characters. I found myself really caring about the main characters. I also really enjoyed how Robertson captured the early 90s – through the TV programmes, music and lack of technology – and it added a nostalgia that I really enjoyed.

Equally I enjoyed the current storyline and while this isn’t a fast-paced book with thrills, spills and cliffhangers, Stand By Me gets under your skin as spend time with the characters and the issues they are each facing. Robertson gives us a depiction of family life and how it can become difficult following one dreadful event and yet it is optimistic. The appreciation Elliot has for his old friend, Lisa, is moving and will have you thinking about the people and friends that have come (and sometimes gone) through your life.

As it progresses Stand By Me becomes more than just a book about friendship and becomes a book about hope. It will have you mulling over life, death and the universe. How many of us are remembered for the seemingly small acts of kindness we have bestowed on others without thinking about it? In an often cynical and dog-eat-dog world, Stand By Me is a welcome break from the doom and gloom. It is a book to snuggle up with and immerse yourself in which, despite the tears at the end, leaves you feeling uplifted. Wonderful!

Like the sound of Stand By Me? You can grab a copy HERE.

A huge thank you to S.D. Robertson and Sabah at Avon Books for my advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Catch the rest of the tour…

Countdown to Hull Noir 2017 – Review of The Constant Soldier by William Ryan

Oh my God Hull Noir is now only two sleeps away and I’m so excited I’m unbearable to live with! William Ryan is one of the authors I am particularly looking forward to hearing speak. Ryan is taking part in the Behind Bars: Freedom, Oppression and Control talk on Sunday 19th November alongside Eva Dolan, Kati Hiekkapelto and Stav Sherez. For all Hull Noir information and tickets access their site HERE

In this countdown I am sharing with you my thoughts on William Ryan’s novel The Constant Soldier.

The Blurb

1944. Paul Brandt, a soldier in the German army, returns wounded and ashamed from the bloody chaos of the Eastern front to find his village home much changed and existing in the dark shadow of an SS rest hut – a luxurious retreat for those who manage the concentration camps, run with the help of a small group of female prisoners who – against all odds – have so far survived the war.

When, by chance, Brandt glimpses one of these prisoners, he realizes that he must find a way to access the hut. For inside is the woman to whom his fate has been tied since their arrest five years before, and now he must do all he can to protect her.

But as the Russian offensive moves ever closer, the days of this rest hut and its SS inhabitants are numbered. And while hope – for Brandt and the female prisoners – grows tantalizingly close, the danger too is now greater than ever.

And, in a forest to the east, a young female Soviet tank driver awaits her orders to advance . . .

My Thoughts

I really enjoy historical fiction and I’m determined to read more in this genre. I’ve had The Constant Soldier on my TBR pile for a while after hearing wonderful things about it from other bloggers.

Set in 1944, The Constant Soldier follows Paul Brandt as he returns to his village after being badly injured fighting for the German army on the eastern front. Brandt’s village has changed, people are missing and the village is home to a retreat for SS officers and is complete with female prisoners. One of these prisoners is the woman Brandt was arrested with five years earlier and he feels compelled to ensure her safety. It becomes clear fairly quickly that Brandt is not a Nazi sympathiser and his involvement in fighting on their behalf was not a choice but a lesser of two evils.

The Constant Soldier is not just a book about a moment in history – as interesting as that is – but is a book about the human condition, the fight for survival and atonement. Brandt has a strong sense of conscience and he wants to make up for the atrocities he committed as a soldier despite him having no choice in the matter.

I went into this book expecting to loathe all of those who had chosen to take up roles as SS officers. However, while Ryan shows that there were those who relished the SS officer role, the power and the acts they are allowed to commit, he also portrays the other side and I found myself sympathising with those SS officers who saw it as a means to survive.

Ryan clearly shows that there were those involved in the implementation of the holocaust who were affected by the acts they had to commit. Survival is the initial motivation behind those in The Constant Soldier who engage in the Nazi’s acts but their survival ends up costing them dearly and in ways they couldn’t initially imagine. The Constant Soldier made me wonder how many of those who played a direct part went on develop post traumatic stress disorder and other mental health difficulties. I remember being taught in A level history that while those in Stalinist Russia complied due to fear, those in Nazi Germany complied as they believed in what Hitler was doing. Ryan reminds us that, when it comes to humans, things are never that black and white.

I adored Ryan’s style of writing. Each chapter is short yet perfect in their brevity. He has a way of ending each chapter, often with a singular sentence, that has a huge impact on you. The prose draws you in to the story wholeheartedly and places you firmly within The Constant Soldier’s time and place. This book has you feeling incredibly tense with moments when you barely dare breath in case it somehow changes the outcome for Brandt and the female prisoners.

The Constant Soldier is a powerful, emotive book that is wonderfully written. Perfect for those readers that enjoy historical fiction, particularly those set during World War 2. Highly recommended.

Countdown to Hull Noir 2017 – Review of Broken Dreams and Interview with Nick Quantrill

I am incredibly excited that, in a month’s time, I will be attending Hull Noir. This crime book festival holds a special place in my heart as it is taking place in my home town and, as anyone from Hull will tell you, you can take the girl out of Hull but you can’t take Hull out of the girl! To celebrate this upcoming book festival I will be featuring reviews and Q&A’s with authors who are attending over the next month.

I’m extremely delighted to be kicking this feature off with my review of Broken Dreams by Hull author Nick Quantrill and a Q&A with the man himself. Nick has been an integral part of organising Hull Noir and I am beyond delighted to welcome him to Bloomin’ Brilliant Books. Anyhoo, I will stop blabbing and crack on!

The Blurb

Joe Geraghty, Private Investigator, is used to struggling from one case to the next, barely making the rent on his small office in the Old Town of Hull. Invited by a local businessman to investigate a member of his staff’s absenteeism, it’s the kind of surveillance work that Geraghty and his small team have performed countless times. When Jennifer Murdoch is found bleeding to death, Geraghty quickly finds himself trapped in the middle of a police investigation which stretches back to the days when the city had a thriving fishing industry.

As the woman’s tangled private life begins to unravel, the trail leads Geraghty to local gangster-turned-respectable businessman, Frank Salford, a man with a significant stake in the city’s regeneration plans. Still haunted by the death of his wife in a house fire, it seems the people with the answers Geraghty wants are the police and Salford, both of whom want his co-operation for their own ends. With everything at stake, some would go to any length to get what they want, Geraghty included.

My Thoughts

Much to my shame, this is my first novel by Nick Quantrill. This causes me shame on two counts as: 1. Nick is from my home town of Hull and 2. his books are set in Hull. However, the blog and upcoming attendance at Hull Noir has given me the push to read those books I hadn’t got round to yet and, while Broken Dreams is Nick’s first book in the PI Joe Geraghty, it is always good to discover a new to you series and give those older books some publicity.

Joe Geraghty is a private investigator and he becomes embroiled in the murder of woman who he, along with his partner, had been asked to investigate. Joe quickly finds himself being pulled into Hull’s seedy underbelly.

I am a big fan of crime books that are from the point of view of a private investigator rather than a detective. It ensures that the investigation relies on good old-fashioned detective work rather than a reliance on forensics and other scientific methods and the main character is not governed by police procedure, giving them carte blanche to investigate how they want. I really liked the character of Joe who this series follows. He has had his fair share of life’s difficulties but does not followed the somewhat cliched path that many detectives/private investigators in books do. He is not afraid to stand up to bullies and do what is right despite those that threaten him. Quantrill has cleverly built up Joe’s character gradually, giving the reader enough information to feel as though they know him but also leaving enough unsaid to ensure you want to find out more about him as the series progresses.

I really enjoyed the twists and turns of Broken Dreams and found myself gripped by this book and Joe’s investigation. As usual, I found myself trying to work out ‘whodunnit’ but Quantrill threw enough curveballs my way to ensure I didn’t suss it out. I don’t want to talk too much about the plot but I will say that it takes you deep into the seamier side of Hull life.

Broken Dreams is a novel about corruption and the after-effects on a city and its people following the obliteration of the trade it has always relied on. Quantrill’s affection for his home town shines through and yet he does not shy away from describing its less than salubrious side. Being from Hull, I really enjoyed how Quantrill portrayed the city’s history and cleverly linked it in to the plot to make it totally relevant to the story.

Quantrill has completely captured the sense of place and (for obvious reasons!) I adored the setting. It features real places within Hull and is rich in Hull colloquialisms (tenfoot!) which I’m sure may have caused some confusion amongst non-Hull readers!

I’m so pleased I finally got around to reading Broken Dreams and I will be reading the rest of Quantrill’s books. If you like your crime novels to be gritty with a real northern feel and setting check out Broken Dreams.

Broken Dreams was published on 15 March 2010 by Caffeine Nights.

I reviewed my own copy.

Q&A with Nick Quantrill

Had you always wanted to be a writer and what gave you the push to write your first novel?
No, it wasn’t something I had a burning desire to do from a young age, but I’ve always been a big reader and that was crucial. Growing up in Hull in the 1980’s meant the arts weren’t really on the agenda, but doing an Open University degree in my mid-twenties kicked some life into me. I fancied writing a short story, so I did. And then I wrote another and another and here we are…

Which writers have been your inspiration?
There are so many, but if I can only pick one, I always look to Ian Rankin. The way he writes about serious issues in a thrilling manner and brings the city of Edinburgh to life is very inspiring. I do take a lot of inspiration from the current crop of Hull writers, too. There’s a very supportive group of writers working in the area and making things happen.

Do you carefully plan the plots of your books or do you write and see where it takes you?
I lean towards planning, and after a couple of false starts this year, I’m working harder on getting it right before starting. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle, though. Even writers who don’t plan probably have a destination in mind. The sweet spot is maybe finding a framework you know can sustain 90,000-plus words, but with enough space for it to breathe and develop as you work.

Your most recent novel has been a break away from the Joe Geraghty series. Will we be seeing Joe again is the future?
Good question. I deliberately left him in a place at the end of The Crooked Beat that I could pick him up back up from if I wanted to, so maybe. It would need the right story, though. Geraghty wouldn’t have worked as a protagonist in The Dead Can’t, and definitely not in the story I’m slowly working on.

What are the biggest challenges in writing a series of books?
As a writer, it’s about keeping it fresh and interesting. If you’re not feeling it, nor will the reader. I think writers like Ian Rankin and Mark Billingham do it really well by revealing small details that have big repercussions, essentially reinventing Rebus and Thorne as they go along. A series can go stale, but as readers, I’m sure we all love the soap opera nature of picking up a character’s story. It’s like catching up with an old friend.

The sense of place really shines through in your books and you use your hometown of Hull as your setting. Was this simply because you know Hull really well or was there another reason behind using Hull?
I’ve only ever lived in Hull, so there’s definitely an element of knowing it well, but the main reason was to explore what it meant to me as a place. When I started to write, Hull was the newly-crowned ‘Crap Town’ of the UK and the only thing we were top of the league for was teenage pregnancies etc. I wanted to dig a bit deeper and get beyond all that stuff. I’ve been very lucky that the city has changed massively over the last decade and it’s given me plenty of things to write about.

Being a Hull lass I really identify with the places in your books. I had my first pint in Joe’s local pub, The Queens. It’s clear you have a strong affection for the city (as I feel most people from Hull do) so how important is it to you to portray a good yet realistic image of Hull in your books?
It’s more important to me that what I write is my truth, rather than act as a cheerleader for the local tourist board. My mum often asked when I’m going to say something nice about the city, but I think I’m fair, I’ve always been proud to set my work in my home city, but we all experience places very differently.

Hull has been a much neglected northern city over the years especially following the decline in the fishing industry. What difference do you think being 2017’s City of Culture will have on Hull culturally, socially and economically?
I’m optimistic, as it’s a city with a lot to offer. The problem, of course, is that you don’t just pass through. You need a reason to come. I have been stopped on the streets this year by tourists asking for directions, which is new, and I’m encouraged that so many locals are rediscovering what’s on their doorstep. More than anything, I think Hull has a bit more confidence about itself.

Hull Noir is taking place next month (I can’t bloody wait!) and you have played a key part in organising it. What have been the challenges and the high points of organising a literary crime festival?
Everything has been a massive challenge! The team is essentially myself, Nick Triplow and Nikki East backed up by excellent people from City of Culture, but everyone from other crime festivals through to PR people to readers have kindly offered their help. Our skills have largely complimented each other, but the learning curve remains steep! The high point so far has been the panel planning. All the authors involved bought into the festival as part of the UK City of Culture programme immediately and made it easy for us. Narrowing it down to the forty or so taking part was incredibly painful, but it’s rewarding to see it coming together.

What are you most looking forward to at Hull Noir?
I’ve largely made my peace with the fact that as one of the hosts, I won’t necessarily get the opportunity to see all that much. I’m hoping to catch Martina Cole and Mark Billingham/John Connolly close each day, as well as Jake Arnott. Our main aim, though, is to send readers and writers home happy with good memories of a brilliant time in Hull. I’m also quite looking forward to having a rest and getting back to the writing!

Thank you so much Nick for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer these questions. I will see you next month!

Hull Noir takes place between 12 – 19 November 2017  and looks set to be fantastic with a cracking line up of crime authors.Find out more over at the website HERE. Hope to see you there!

 


Blog Tour – The Mother by Jaime Raven *Excerpt*

I’m really pleased to be on The Mother by Jaime Raven blog tour today. I loved Jaime Raven’s other books and I was gutted that I didn’t have time to read and review The Mother in time for the tour. I have, however, something even better for you today … an excerpt from the book! So, grab yourself a cuppa, relax and enjoy.

The Blurb

Prepare to be gripped by the heart-stopping new thriller from the author of The Madam.

South London detective Sarah Mason is a single mother. It’s a tough life, but Sarah gets by. She and her ex-husband, fellow detective Adam Boyd, adore their 15-month-old daughter Molly.

Until Sarah’s world falls apart when she receives a devastating threat: Her daughter has been taken, and the abductor plans to raise Molly as their own, as punishment for something Sarah did.

Sarah is forced to stand back while her team try to track down the kidnapper. But her colleagues aren’t working fast enough to find Molly. To save her daughter, Sarah must take matters into her own hands, in a desperate hunt that will take her to the very depths of London’s underworld.

Published on 7 September 2017 by Avon.

Excerpt

His words registered, but only just, and they failed to provide any comfort. How could they? My precious daughter had been kidnapped. My mind was still reeling and I felt weighted down by a crushing despair.

I was on the verge of losing control so I lowered myself onto one of chairs around the kitchen table. There I sat, my head spinning, my stomach churning, as Brennan gently prised more information out of my mother.

She revealed that the man had rung the bell at just before nine – an hour or so after I had dropped Molly off. My father had just left the house to go to his allotment and she was giving Molly her breakfast before taking her to the park.

She remembered very little about her attacker. His face had been covered and he’d been wearing what she thought was a dark T-shirt and jeans.

‘He was average height but strong,’ she said. ‘I tried to struggle free when he attacked me but I couldn’t.’

She started crying again and this time it set me off. I broke down in a flood of tears and heard myself calling Molly’s name.

I was only vaguely aware of the commotion that suddenly ensued, and of being led out of the kitchen and along the hallway.

Raised voices, more people entering the house, some of them in uniform. Molly’s face loomed large in my mind’s eye, obscuring much of what was going on around me. I wondered if I would ever hold her in my arms again. It was a sickening, painful thought and one that I never thought I would have to experience.

I’d witnessed the suffering of parents who had lost children, seen the agony in their eyes. But as a copper I had always been one step removed, professionally detached and oblivious to the real extent of their plight.

Now I had a different perspective. I was in that horrendous position myself. The grieving, desperate mother wondering why fate had delivered such a crushing blow.

‘We’re taking you next door,’ Brennan was saying as we stepped outside, to be greeted by the flashing blue light on top of a police patrol car. ‘This house is now a crime scene and the forensics team needs to get to work. Mrs Lloyd, the neighbour to the right, has kindly agreed to make some tea for you and your mother.’

‘I don’t want tea,’ I wailed. ‘I want Molly.’

‘I’ll do whatever it takes to find her, Sarah,’ Brennan said. ‘We all will. But look, I really think it’s time that Molly’s father was informed about what’s happened. Do you want to call him or shall I?’

The prospect of breaking the news to Adam that his daughter had been abducted filled me with dread. I knew I couldn’t do it, that as soon as I heard his voice I would fall apart.

‘You ring him,’ I said. ‘Tell him to get here as soon as he can.’

That has certainly whet my appetite and I can’t wait to read The Mother. A huge thank you to Jaime Raven and Sabah at Avon for inviting me to take part in the blog tour and for the excerpt. Follow the rest of the tour…

Books Revisited – A Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell

There are so many books that have had an impact on me over the years, and I have decided to re-read some of them and see if they have the same effect on me now. I’m curious as to whether or not my views on them have changed as I have grown and matured (allegedly!). The first is A Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell.

The Blurb

Four members of the Coverdale family – George, Jacqueline, Melinda and Giles – died in the space of fifteen minutes on the 14th February, St Valentine’s Day. Eunice Parchman, the housekeeper, shot them down on a Sunday evening while they were watching opera on television. Two weeks later she was arrested for the crime. But the tragedy neither began nor ended there…

My Thoughts

I first read my mum’s copy of this book when I was a teenager and it made a real impression on me. I guess it was the first psychological thriller I ever read and it opened up for me a whole new perspective on the crime novel. I initially read this at a time when I was just becoming interested in human nature and what makes people tick and A Judgement in Stone had a pretty profound effect on me. It has been a book I have never forgotten and I wanted to see if, twenty-odd years later, it would still have the same impact on me.

‘Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write.’

This first line blew me away when I first read A Judgement in Stone and it blew me away again. You really can’t beat a killer first line and Rendell pretty much nails it here. This was the first opening line I fell in love with and it made me realise what an impact the initial line of a book can have. It raises so many questions – why would being unable to read and write result in the murder of a whole family being one of them – and it perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the novel. This was the first time I had ever read a crime novel in which the perpetrator is known from the outset. From the very start we know who committed the crime, how the murders were carried out and when Eunice was arrested. This book is all about the why and it makes for a fascinating read as, let’s face it, who doesn’t want to know the motivations and thought processes behind those who commit murder?

A Judgement in Stone is very much a character study. We get to know Eunice Parchman in a way that those around her don’t as we are privy to her secrets, thoughts and feelings. She is a character that has little to no redeeming features. I love a character I dislike and quite often I do find something in them with which I sympathise, however, I’m not sure I do in Eunice.

Eunice isn’t the only dislikeable character. Her one and only friend Joan Smith is, quite frankly, unhinged and the Coverdale family are snobbish and assured of what they consider to be their elevated status. The only character I had any real positive feelings towards was Melinda Coverdale. This melting pot of difficult, disagreeable characters is one of the things that makes A Judgement in Stone such a great read for me.

While the characters are central to the story, Rendell also uses the decisions we make and the actions we take as a central theme. There is the overriding sense of ‘if only’ throughout the book and it gets you questioning how much control we have over our own destiny. Every action each character takes results in a trajectory that will end in their eventual downfall.

‘In that moment … an invisible thread lassoed each of them, bound them one to another, related them more closely than blood.’

Rendell also fully considers the impact of illiteracy on the psyche and self-esteem of a person along with the views that others have of them. I remember how A Judgement in Stone made me re-think about my ability to read and I found myself considering this ability all over again while reading it for the second time. How we take reading for granted and use it without even thinking about it, how books and the written word open us up to experiences and emotions we have never had and how it can make us rounded individuals by aiding us in considering things from a different perspective. Rendell also made me really consider how those who are unable to read and write navigate a world in which the written word is so dominant;

‘The advantage of being illiterate is that one achieves an excellent visual memory and almost total recall.’

Rendell’s prose is considered and stunning and had me underlining so many sections of text. She has a real way with words as she manages to perfectly craft sentences that set the dark and catastrophic tone and you find yourself re-reading sentences more than once in order to fully appreciate their beauty and meaning. First published in 1977, there are some expressions and words that are quite shocking and offensive to our modern sensibilities but they clearly give a feel for the time and the less politically correct world we live in.

A Judgement in Stone is one hell of a book and I enjoyed it as much, years later, the second time around. It stands the test of time and, in my very humble opinion, is a classic. If you enjoy psychological thrillers and haven’t read this book get it on your bookshelf as soon as possible.

First published on 2 May 1977. This is a review of my own copy which was published on 23 February 2010 by Cornerstone digital.