series · historical fiction · novella · book review · WWII

Book Review – Operation Broadsword (Eve’s War: The Heroines of SOE, Book 3)

As Mimi examined her wireless, a figure emerged through the darkness. In his mid-thirties, he possessed broad shoulders and a muscular frame while a proud nose and a neatly trimmed moustache dominated his handsome features.

“The owls are loud tonight,” the man said revealing a voice blessed with a deep baritone.

“You’re allowed to make a loud noise when you’re the wisest of birds,” I replied.

With our code words established, the man stepped forward and shook my hand. His handshake was firm while his pumping action threatened to remove my arm from my shoulder.

“I am Jean-Claude,” he smiled. “Jean-Claude Quiniou. I will escort you to the safe house and introduce you to the Le Roux family.”

“I’m Genevieve,” I said, “and this is Lise.” Of course, I used our aliases, for Eve and Mimi belonged to another life.

My thoughts

As you can tell by my weekly blog posts, I’m loving this series. It’s taking all my strength to not post daily about them, but that’s only because half of the series is, as yet, unpublished. What will I do when I get to the end of the current publications? Well, funny you should say … I have a plan in mind. Stay tuned!

Now, where was I?

Operation Broadsword is the third in the series, and the pace is accelerating. The trio of SOE operatives, Eve, Guy and Mimi, are waiting for the go ahead to see them parachute into France. With their training complete, it’s only a matter of time before they can leave within the window of opportunity granted them by the night’s sky. Eve will not let the minor inconvenience of a fever stop her from going and lands in France to be escorted to the Le Roux farmhouse where she will be staying. Her first few days are spent recuperating, and we get to know the Le Roux family a little. Guy and Mimi take up their positions and become acquainted with the Résistance leaders and Maquis who will work alongside them.
As she is becoming accustomed to life there, Eve still wonders what has become of her husband. Is she a widow for real or is this just a cover?
Another intriguing and engrossing novella in what is proving to be a gripping series.

About the Author

Hannah Howe is the author of the Sam Smith Mystery Series, the Ann’s War Mystery Series, The Olive Tree: A Spanish Civil War Saga, Eve’s War: Heroines of SOE and Saving Grace. Hannah’s books are published by Goylake Publishing and distributed through Gardners Books to over 300 outlets worldwide. Her books are available in print, as eBooks and audiobooks, and are being translated into numerous languages.

Currently, Hannah is writing Stormy Weather, book eighteen in the Sam Smith Mystery Series. She is also researching material for future Sam Smith books along with material for a Victorian novel set in 1888, a novel set in 1948, a novel set in Bulgaria during the Second World War and A Schoolteacher’s War, a story about the French Resistance and the preparations for D-Day. Along with these projects, Hannah is also writing The Olive Tree: A Spanish Civil War Saga and Eve’s War: Heroines of SOE.

As always,

book review · historical fiction · novella · series · WWII

Book Review – Operation Locksmith (Eve’s War: The Heroines of SOE, Book 2)

“I understand that you wish to return to France,” the man behind the mahogany desk said.

“That’s correct,” I said.

“Your motivation?” he asked, smoothing the corners of his moustache.

“To do my bit for the war effort,” I said, “to defeat the Nazis and to discover what’s happened to my husband.”

“It would be extremely risky,” the officious-looking man said, “suicidal even, for a lone woman to undertake such a venture. However, there is an alternative.”

“Alternative?” I frowned.

“Yes. We’ll parachute you in, as one of our people. Of course, you’d have to undertake training first. Rigorous training. Top secret training. If you fail, I’m afraid it will mean a spell in the cooler, possibly until the war is over.”

“The cooler?”

“But I trust it won’t come to that,” he said, ignoring my question. “When can you start?”

I began immediately. And during my training I met two people who would radically reshape my life – Guy Samson and Mimi Duchamp. I also discovered secrets about myself, abilities beyond my imagination. However, as the training heated up so the situations became all too real, until they reached a point where I had to kill, or be killed.

My thoughts

Having returned to Britain from France, Eve meets Vera Penrose who arranges for her to take a job at the Air Ministry. It’s dull work in comparison to her former life in France, leading airmen to safety across the border into Spain and beyond.
When Eve is offered something more suiting her skills, she can’t wait. But first she has to endure a brutal training camp, from the physical to the psychological. It’s not all plain sailing, Eve is a skilled lockbreaker and a superb shot but struggles with some of the more physical challenges. She’s also very observant and when she suspects foul play, she is not one to sit back and ignore it.
The training programme is extensive, and she builds a great bond with fellow trainees, Mimi and Guy. She’s also cutting back on the cigarettes, which makes the usual feisty Eve way more feisty when tested.
I raced through this book, it’s fast-paced and entertaining and nicely sets the scene for her next adventure.

About the Author

Hannah Howe is the author of the Sam Smith Mystery Series, the Ann’s War Mystery Series, The Olive Tree: A Spanish Civil War Saga, Eve’s War: Heroines of SOE and Saving Grace. Hannah’s books are published by Goylake Publishing and distributed through Gardners Books to over 300 outlets worldwide. Her books are available in print, as eBooks and audiobooks, and are being translated into numerous languages.

Currently, Hannah is writing Stormy Weather, book eighteen in the Sam Smith Mystery Series. She is also researching material for future Sam Smith books along with material for a Victorian novel set in 1888, a novel set in 1948, a novel set in Bulgaria during the Second World War and A Schoolteacher’s War, a story about the French Resistance and the preparations for D-Day. Along with these projects, Hannah is also writing The Olive Tree: A Spanish Civil War Saga and Eve’s War: Heroines of SOE.

As always,

book review · historical fiction · novella · series · WWII

Book Review – Operation ZigZag (Eve’s War: The Heroines of SOE, Book 1)

Marseille, December 1942

“We’re in a fix,” Vincent said. “The Gestapo have captured a British agent, code name Zigzag. They picked him up through his false identity papers, only the thing is they haven’t discovered his true identity, yet. But they will. And he will talk. They all do in the end. And when he talks he will reveal secrets that will destroy the local resistance networks, including our own. But there’s a way out, through a guard. He’s open to bribes. We’d like you to meet the guard, bribe him, spring Zigzag from the Gestapo prison then escort him over the mountain pass into Spain.”

“Why me?” I asked.

“Because you helped to establish the escape network. And you know the mountain trails like the back of your hand. Furthermore, as the wife of respected industrialist Michel Beringar you are above suspicion.”

I glanced at Michel. From the stern look on his face, I could tell that he wasn’t pleased. Was this one risk too many? And as for me being above suspicion…the Gestapo were following me and they were tapping my phone.

As a child, I’d run away from home. As a teenager, I’d travelled the world, living on my wits. As a journalist, I’d witnessed atrocities inflicted in the name of fascism. As a member of the Resistance, I’d eyeballed fear and stared it down. For the past thirty years I’d lived a full life. I could do this. However, even as I voiced my agreement I knew that my life in Marseille, my life with Michel, would never be the same.

My thoughts

I can’t resist reading stories set in this period in history. It never fails to amaze me how much there is to the topic; you’d think we’d heard it all. But no, as we come to learn, these stories – especially those based on real people and events – tell the lived experiences of those caught up in the war. No two stories are ever the same just as no two people experience the same event in exactly the same way. Eve’s War is a series of twelve novellas, around 20,000 words in length, and each is a complete story. The stories follow Eve from her childhood in Wales right through to her days as an SOE operative, her story arc concluding in the final book. At the very affordable price of 99p, these episodes of Eve’s War quickly become addictive and each one is easily read in one sitting.

As the first in the series, this book – Operation ZigZag – provides the background to Eve’s life, from the Welsh mining town to her marriage to Michel and a privileged life in France. It’s well-paced and hones in on what Eve is all about, and how her desire to beat the fascists drives her on.
There’s a very real sense of danger when she falls into the hands of the Gestapo, but her strength and resilience never waver. By the end, however, she is presented with a very real dilemma and has to trust her own instincts to survive.
I’ve already started book 2 and can see myself motoring through these in no time at all.
Highly recommended for fans of wartime heroines and strong females who “take no prisoners”!

About the Author

Hannah Howe is the author of the Sam Smith Mystery Series, the Ann’s War Mystery Series, The Olive Tree: A Spanish Civil War Saga, Eve’s War: Heroines of SOE and Saving Grace. Hannah’s books are published by Goylake Publishing and distributed through Gardners Books to over 300 outlets worldwide. Her books are available in print, as eBooks and audiobooks, and are being translated into numerous languages.

Currently, Hannah is writing Stormy Weather, book eighteen in the Sam Smith Mystery Series. She is also researching material for future Sam Smith books along with material for a Victorian novel set in 1888, a novel set in 1948, a novel set in Bulgaria during the Second World War and A Schoolteacher’s War, a story about the French Resistance and the preparations for D-Day. Along with these projects, Hannah is also writing The Olive Tree: A Spanish Civil War Saga and Eve’s War: Heroines of SOE.

As always,

blog tour · book review · comedy · crime · Nordic

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The Rabbit Factor

An insurance mathematician’s carefully ordered life is turned on its head when he unexpectedly loses his job and inherits an adventure park … with a whole host of problems. A quirky, tense and warmly funny thriller from award-winning Finnish author Antti Tuomainen.

What makes life perfect? Insurance mathematician Henri Koskinen knows the answer because he calculates everything down to the very last decimal.

And then, for the first time, Henri is faced with the incalculable. After suddenly losing his job, Henri inherits an adventure park from his brother – its peculiar employees and troubling financial problems included. The worst of the financial issues appear to originate from big loans taken from criminal quarters … and some dangerous men are very keen to get their money back.

But what Henri really can’t compute is love. In the adventure park, Henri crosses paths with Laura, an artist with a chequered past, and a joie de vivre and erratic lifestyle that bewilders him. As the criminals go to extreme lengths to collect their debts and as Henri’s relationship with Laura deepens, he finds himself faced with situations and emotions that simply cannot be pinned down on his spreadsheets…

Warmly funny, rich with quirky characters and absurd situations, The Rabbit Factor is a triumph of a dark thriller, its tension matched only by its ability to make us rejoice in the beauty and random nature of life.

“It contains all the main elements of a dark crime/comedy mixed with a peculiar love story that is destined to move and engage the audience. Fans of the Finnish author’s previous work should definitely read this one and the same goes to all those who love quirky crime novels with unique characterization. I will be eagerly waiting for the second installment in the series.” Tap the Line

“Full of refreshing wit and wisdom, this comic departure from the usual Scandi noir is a treat.” — Publishers Weekly starred review

‘Laconic, thrilling and warmly human. In these uncertain times, what better hero than an actuary?’ —Chris Brookmyre

‘The funniest writer in Europe, and one of the very finest. There is a beautiful rhythm and poetry to the prose … original and brilliant story-telling’ —Helen FitzGerald

You don’t expect to laugh when you’re reading about terrible crimes, but that’s what you’ll do when you pick up one of Tuomainen’s decidedly quirky thrillers’ —New York Times

The Rabbit Factor is a triumph, a joyous, feel-good antidote to troubled times‘ —Kevin Wignall

The Rabbit Factor is an astounding read. It has the suspenseful twists of a thriller, the laugh-out-loud moments of a comedy and a tragic dimension that brings a tear to the eye’ —Crime Fiction Lover

‘Antti Tuomainen turns the clichéd idea of dour, humourless Scandi noir upside down with The Rabbit Factor. Dark, gripping and hilarious … Tuomainen is the Carl Hiaasen of the fjords‘ —Martyn Waites

‘British readers might think they know what to expect from Nordic noir: a tortured detective, a bleak setting, a brutal crime that shakes a small community. Finnish crime novelist Tuomainen turns all of this on its head … The ear of a giant plastic rabbit becomes a key weapon. It only gets darker and funnier’ —Guardian

‘The antic novels of Antti Tuomainen prove that comedy is not lost in translation … Tuomainen, like Carl Hiaasen before him, has the knack of combining slapstick with genuine emotion‘ —The Times

About the author & translator

Finnish Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author in 2013, the Finnish press crowned Tuomainen the ‘King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen was one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and his poignant, dark and hilarious The Man Who Died became an international bestseller, shortlisting for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards. Palm Beach Finland was an immense success, with Marcel Berlins (The Times) calling Tuomainen ‘the funniest writer in Europe’. Little Siberia (2020), was shortlisted for the CWA International Dagger, the Amazon Publishing/Capital Crime Awards and the CrimeFest Last Laugh Award, and won the Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year. The Rabbit Factor (2021), the first book in Antti’s first ever series, is in production by Amazon Studios with Steve Carell starring. The Moose Paradox, book two in the series is out in 2022.

David Hackston is a British Translator of Finnish and Swedish literature and drama. Notable publications include The Dedalus Book of Finnish Fantasy, Maria Peura’s coming-of-age novel At the Edge of Light, Johanna Sinisalo’s eco-thriller Birdbrain, two crime novels by Matti Joensuu and Kati Hiekkapelto’s Anna Fekete series (which currently includes The HummingbirdThe Defenceless and The Exiled, all published by Orenda Books). He also translates Antti Tuomainen’s stories. In 2007 he was awarded the Finnish State Prize for Translation. David is also a professional countertenor and a founding member of the English Vocal Consort of Helsinki. Follow David on Twitter @Countertenorist

My Review

Hmm, how to define this: to say it’s not your typical Nordic crim novel would be a massive understatement. I don’t generally find much to laugh about in such novels, but The Rabbit Factor is funny, quirky, heart-warming and a crime novel.

Henri Koskinen is the most unlikely man to run an adventure park (not an amusement park, as he will tell you frequently), he’s even less likely to kill someone. He’s an actuary! A numbers man. Not a killer. And you probably wouldn’t expect a romantic encounter either … so, be warned – nothing here is as it seems at first glance!

The story starts with Henri “quitting” his job because he cannot live with all the team-building and jargon-busting changes brought in by his boss. Faced with a choice of sitting in a basement office, poring over old accounts, or being more of a team player, he quits. The laws of probability comfort him, he’s certain he’ll find a new job within days.

And he does, just not in insurance. A lawyer advises him of his brother’s death and the inheritance of YouMeFun, an expansive adventure park. With no other plans holding him back, Henri visits the park and meets the staff – a motley crew of individuals who keep the park ticking over, and they’re not doing a bad job as visitor numbers prove. So why does the park have so many debts? What was his brother involved in? Henri’s questions are answered when two men (thugs) visit the park to inform him of his brother’s substantial debts, debts which they say have now passed to him.

As you might expect, Henri is not too happy about this, nor about the consequences of not paying. His only option is to devise a way to repay the money – hey presto, Mr Actuary comes up with a money laundering plan that should in theory pay the debts and enable him to keep the park going. You see, he’s grown rather fond of the park, and of one staff member in particular.

The plan is launched and the waiting game for the payoff begins … Henri’s new life couldn’t be farther removed from his old one. But does it pay the dividends expected of it? Can Henri truly fit into this new lifestyle, dodging gangster-type thugs and following his brother’s wish to keep the park business afloat? Well, that would be telling … as there is way more involved that Henri could possibly have calculated, suggesting there is more to life than the numbers in his spreadsheet.

The story is engaging, amusing, awkward and complex – an original crime novel from start to finish. Highly recommended.

PS – the translation is amazing, seamless, and effortlessly easy to read without losing any of the author’s voice.

As always,

book review · surviving · suspense · thriller

Book Review – The Lucky Eight

When the plane crashed, 160 people perished. Now someone is killing off the survivors.

Five years ago, a horrific airline disaster made headlines around the world. On the anniversary of the fatal crash, a number of those who were spared gather to mark the occasion. By morning, Nick Gilbert, a celebrity chef and one of the party, lies dead. Detective Rachel Lewis leads the investigation and within days another survivor is stabbed to death. It seems certain that a killer is targeting the lucky eight.

Clodagh Kinsella recovered from the injuries she sustained in the crash, but lost her sister that day. The bereavement shared by Clodagh and her sister’s husband led them to a romance of their own. Yet lately, Clodagh knows something isn’t right. As the noose tightens on the group and Rachel comes across more questions than answers, it’s only a matter of time before Clodagh will have to face the consequences of a mistake she made before the plane went down…

A tense and gripping crime thriller, perfect for fans of Lesley Kara and Mari Hannah.

My Review

Can you imagine surviving a plan crash that has killed 160 people? Such is the position for the eight who do just that, and who are then dubbed “The Lucky Eight” from that point onwards. Each of them lost a loved one that day, as well as incurring life-changing injuries, if not physical then the mental and emotional strain would be immense. That crash changed their lives, and with it came a lot of guilt for having survived.

Each year, they gather together to honour those who died and to support each other going forward. It’s not been easy for any of them, but some are struggling more than others.

Clodagh Kinsella lost her sister that day, and also suffers from a lapse in memory of a few hours of that day, hours in which she feels instinctively that something important happened. Now, living with her sister’s husband, those niggles are more apparent than ever. It is she who finds the dead body of victim number one, a man who had texted her because he had something to tell her, and now she’ll never know what he had to say. Was it about those missing hours? Did he know something?

For someone supposedly called “lucky”, poor Clodagh would dispute that claim, especially when she finds a second body, also from a fellow survivor who had texted her with something important to tell her. Now both people who wanted to tell her something are dead, and she is reliving those moments over and over, catching mere glimpses of memory but, frustratedly, not enough to make any sense. Why were Nick and Tara killed? Will she be next? Or is she to blame? These are the questions that now haunt her as her relationship falls apart – as if she didn’t have enough to worry about.

Leading the investigation, and in charge of a major case for the first time, is Rachel Lewis. She doubts herself, and worries she’s not up to the job, despite her team having the utmost confidence in her. As she and her officers unravel the clues, they are led in many directions and under significant pressure to close the case. At one point, they seem to have the culprit in custody, but something doesn’t feel right about it. Rachel has to trust her instincts to catch the killer before another of The Lucky Eight becomes victim number three.

This is a page-turning read with many twists along the way. The main characters are well fleshed out and the reader gets to know them quite well and, in so doing, wants them to succeed. There’s one bugbear for me, and that is being told so many times that there’s “something important” for Clodagh to know, and then for that snippet of information to be unforthcoming at every opportunity – that felt a little convenient for the plot rather than a natural consequence of the story. Whether this annoying drip, drip of info made me purposely look elsewhere for the killer, I don’t know, but I did work it out early on.

Even so, it’s a well-paced read that quickly becomes hard to put down.

As always,

book review · contemporary fiction · Contemporary Romance · family · relationships · women's fiction

Book Review – The Switch

Leena is too young to feel stuck.
Eileen is too old to start over.
Maybe it’s time for The Switch…

Ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, Leena escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Newly single and about to turn eighty, Eileen would like a second chance at love. But her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen… So Leena proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love, and Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire.

But with a rabble of unruly OAPs to contend with, as well as the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – local schoolteacher, Leena learns that switching lives isn’t straightforward. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, and with the online dating scene. But is her perfect match nearer to home than she first thought?

My Review

I can honestly say I didn’t expect to love this book quite so much. I mean, how funny, sad, heartbreaking and heartwarming can one story be? The Switch made me laugh out loud and also brought a tear or two to my eyes.
The premise is a family – grandmother – mother -(grand)daughter – all still grieving for the loss of Carla and not knowing how to help each other through their grief. By switching lives, grandmother, Eileen, and granddaughter, Leena might just understand each other and themselves better, and the “a change is as good as a rest” theory might help Leena understand her mother, Marian’s decision when it came to letting Carla go.

You’d think from that premise, this story might be heavy-going … but the remaining characters enable Eileen and Leena to throw themselves into their “new” lives and in so doing become the best version of themselves as well as bringing the respective communities together. The story, while focused on Eileen and Leena, also touches on loneliness, domestic abuse, cheating partners, all of which is balanced by the funnier side of online dating for the over 70s, Neighbourhood Watch meetings, and the ultimate village rivalry for the May Fayre.
It’s a story that delivers new friendships, rekindles old friendships and that promises new starts, because you’re never too old or too young to be the better version of yourself.

Praise for The Switch:

Another life-affirming joy‘ HEAT MAGAZINE

Warmwitty, and a cast of characters I wish I was friends with – I truly loved it!‘ LAURA JANE WILLIAMS

I am blown away. I didn’t think Beth could top The Flatshare but she has. It sparkles with wit, warmth and compassion. It deserves to be huge!‘ GILLIAN McALLISTER

Heartwarming and uplifting. Everyone should have an Eileen in their life!’ HEIDI SWAIN

‘Eileen Cotton proves you don’t have to be in your thirties to be Bridget JonesA triumph of a second novel!’ ANSTEY HARRIS

Bursting with warmth and humour’ LOUISE O’NEILL

I loved it! A total joy to read. Such a breath of fresh air‘ LIBBY PAGE

‘It’s an absolute joy from beginning to end’ MIKE GAYLE

I just loved The SwitchWhat a beautiful story with such memorable charactersI have been well and truly Eileened! It’s an absolute triumph!‘ EMMA COOPER

‘Beth O’Leary has absolutely smashed it out of the park with The SwitchBrilliantwarmfunnyfull of heartCompletely loved it!‘ RICHARD ROPER

About the author

Beth studied English at university before going into children’s publishing. She lives as close to the countryside as she can get while still being within reach of London, and wrote her first novel, The Flatshare, on her train journey to and from work.
You’ll usually find her curled up with a book, a cup of tea, and several woolly jumpers (whatever the weather).

book review · cosy · murder mystery · mystery · series

Book Review – Woodson Falls: 9 Donovan’s Way

Welcome to Book 2 in the Gaby Quinn Mystery Series!

Missing in Woodson Falls

Attorney Gaby Quinn’s phone has been ringing off the hook since her involvement with the infamous Jorgenson case. Yet she finds herself craving the peace of her garden, as she heals from the senseless death of her husband.

As Woodson Falls’ most famous lawyer, it’s only natural that Gaby is asked to handle the estate when renowned author Phillip Mitchell suddenly dies of an apparent heart attack. Everything seems straightforward until some things turn up missing—including Mitchell’s girlfriend.

Now it’s up to Gaby to dig up the truth.

Praise for Book 2 in the Gaby Quinn Mystery Series

  • It seems like a pleasant sleepy town, but beneath the everyday lives of the townspeople, surprising secrets and schemes unfold. What appears at first to be a routine death by heart attack has unforeseen twists and turns.
  • New England small town attorney-turned-sleuth Gaby Quinn, who we initially met in O’Connor’s first Woodson Falls novel, “16 Lakeview Terrace,” is a plucky and likable attorney with a nose for detail—details that grippingly add up to a shocking crime.
  • Gaby Quinn, the main character, has a habit of getting into the middle of things without really trying. The characters come to life and the town and events are real, strange, but real.
  • A cozy mystery for readers who think they don’t like cozy mysteries!
  • This story focuses on the mysterious death of an author and the disappearance of his girlfriend, but there are side issues dealt with as well along the way, all of which add to the rounding out of the town, its residents and its problems. The end of the book gives us a tantalizing glimpse into the focus of the next story.

My Review

Having read and enjoyed book 1, I was more than happy to be return to Woodson Falls. This time, Gaby is busier than ever, her business has really taken off since her success with the infamous Jorgensen case put her firmly on the map.

Now she is asked to represent the estate of a famous author – Phillip Mitchell – who appears to have died of a heart attack. What should be a straightforward job soon rouses suspicion when Mitchell’s pregnant girlfriend cannot be located.

Gaby goes about her business, methodically getting jobs done but the missing girlfriend niggles her, and since said girlfriend is also a beneficiary in the deceased’s will, not finding her leaves a lot of loose ends.

The residents of Woodson Falls help Gaby identify when the girlfriend, Danielle, was last seen, as well as filling her in on others whose visits to the area have recently become more frequent. It begs the question why, and what were they doing there?

As Gaby draws her conclusions, it’s interesting to see other aspects of her workload. The details given by the author bring both the town, its inhabitants and Gaby’s job to life. However, it starts to look as though the missing girlfriend might never be found … and it’s only when out walking with her dog that they come upon Danielle’s car. Has something happened to her too? And if so, can they believe that Mitchell’s death was the result of a heart attack and nothing more?

I thoroughly enjoyed how Gaby got to the bottom of this, as well as seeing her contribution to Woodson Falls increase and make her a valued member of the town. Of course, the ending thrilled me as it hinted at what was to come next for Gaby, and this time it would get very personal. Bring on book three!

My thanks to the author and the publishers for my copy of 9 Donovan’s Way.

About the Author

Having received a library card before she began kindergarten (requiring her cursive signature), Andrea began her writing career at age five with a short story describing the seasons. Her next endeavor, at age nine, was a novella featuring Christine O’Leary. So began Andrea’s long love affair with the written word.
Singularly focused on a nursing career, Andrea continued to write for pleasure through high school and college. After completing a master’s degree in order to teach nursing, she was offered a position as a nurse editor with the American Journal of Nursing, where she honed her writing skills through editing others’ works.
Andrea was in the midst of writing a novel styled as a memoir when her husband’s Parkinson’s disease had progressed to the point where John was unable to engage in his usual active life style. He longed to “do something,” so she suggested they write a book together. She had long considered writing a mystery series based on some of her experiences as an attorney, and they settled on one of her early cases as the basis for a book.
It was a great opportunity for both. Andrea had left a long career in a “publish or perish” university setting prior to becoming an attorney. It was hard for her not to view writing fiction as lying on paper. John helped her to push the uneasy feeling that was the seed for Woodson Falls: 16 Lakeview Terrace into a believable plot line. It was Andrea’s long service as the chief elected official of a small town in Connecticut that provided the story’s sense of place.
Andrea is the author of three award-winning texts in the area of nursing education and staff development as well as numerous articles in peer-reviewed nursing and education journals. Woodson Falls: 16 Lakeview Terrace is her first foray into the world of fiction. She collects teddy bears and birdhouses, loves to garden and bake bread, and writes from Sherman, Connecticut.

As always,

book review · historical fiction · mystery

Book Review – A Botanist’s Guide to Parties & Potions

The Lost Apothecary meets Dead Dead Girls in this fast-paced, STEMinist adventure.

Debut author Kate Khavari deftly entwines a pulse-pounding mystery with the struggles of a woman in a male-dominated field in 1923 London.


Newly minted research assistant Saffron Everleigh is determined to blaze a new trail at the University College London, but with her colleagues’ beliefs about women’s academic inabilities and not so subtle hints that her deceased father’s reputation paved her way into the botany department, she feels stymied at every turn.
 
When she attends a dinner party for the school, she expects to engage in conversations about the university’s large expedition to the Amazon. What she doesn’t expect is for Mrs. Henry, one of the professors’ wives, to drop to the floor, poisoned by an unknown toxin. 

Dr. Maxwell, Saffron’s mentor, is the main suspect, having had an explosive argument with Dr. Henry a few days prior. As evidence mounts against Dr. Maxwell and the expedition’s departure draws nearer, Saffron realizes if she wants her mentor’s name cleared, she’ll have to do it herself.

Joined by fellow researcher–and potential romantic interest–Alexander Ashton, Saffron uses her knowledge of botany as she explores steamy greenhouses, dark gardens, and deadly poisons to clear Maxwell’s name.
 
Will she be able to uncover the truth or will her investigation land her on the murderer’s list, in this entertaining examination of society’s expectations.

Publication Date: 7th June 2022 by Crooked Lane Books

My Review

It’d be wrong of me to say otherwise but it was this stunning cover that drew me in long before I read the blurb, and I really am not usually the kind of reader to be so persuaded. That said, I loved the combination of historical fiction and a solid mystery, and this had all that plus lots more.

Set in London in the early 1920’s, A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons has the vibe of a black-and-white movie transformed into glorious technicolour and thoroughly turned on its head. Saffron is not your typical damsel in distress, she has taken up her role as assistant to Dr Maxwell based on merit, though there are some who cast aspersions on that fact and assume it was the result of family connections. She is determined to be seen for the capable academic she is but social conduct of the day often seems to work against her.

She is thrown into the mystery when her mentor is charged with the attempted murder of Mrs Henry, one of the professors’ wives at the university. The fact that Maxwell has recently been rejected by Henry for a place on the expedition is said to give him a motive. But things do not add up.

But who’s going to listen to Saffron? Not the police inspector running the case, that’s for sure. It is only with the “unexpected” help of fellow researcher, Alexander Ashton, that any credence at all is given to Saffron’s evidence. Evidence which she has acquired at great risk to herself.

In getting her evidence, the duo stumble upon yet more misdeeds that seem to point to others being responsible for the poisoning of Mrs Henry … and they – cue the dastardly villains – are not very happy that Saffron is asking questions, questions that could see their plans unravel. They have to silence her and Ashton. Can they? Will they? These last few chapters are fraught with danger for the twosome and they are seriously in need of assistance if they are to see the true culprits caught … and, more importantly, if they are to survive themselves.

I really enjoyed this book, it was such an easy read. Captivating and intriguing, true to the era in which it was set, and thoroughly packed with engaging characters and evil scoundrels.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for my copy of this fabulous story. I’ll be getting a hard copy as soon as it comes out to indulge further in that stunning cover.

About the Author

Kate Khavari is the author of fiction ranging from historical mysteries to high fantasy epics. She has her parents to thank for her fascination for historical mysteries, as she spent the majority of her childhood memorizing Sherlock Holmes’s and Poirot’s greatest quips. A former teacher, Kate has a deep appreciation for research and creativity, not to mention the multitasking ability she now relies on as an author and stay at home mother to her toddler son. She lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas with her husband, son, and a lovely garden that contains absolutely no poisonous plants. 

Praise for A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons

“An exciting debut with a determined protagonist whose future is sure to contain romance and mystery.” —Kirkus

[A] delightful new novel . . . Perfect for fans of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.
CrimeReads

“Kate Khavari creates the winning combination of an intriguing mystery and a resourceful and engaging heroine.” –Frances Brody, author of the Kate Shackleton mysteries

“Kate Khavari has created a charming mystery, full of twists that are as intriguing and deadly as the plants her characters love. Saffron Everleigh is clever and determined, the sort of sleuth that readers will be eager to make space for on their bookshelves. I’m already looking forward to her next adventure!” –Katharine Schellman, author of the Lily Adler Mysteries

“I love Saffron Everleigh! In A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons Kate Khavari gives us a gutsy ingenious heroine, academic intrigue, a scientifically suspenseful mystery and a Christie-like cast of characters. This is historical mystery–with a 21st century sensibility–at its best.” –M. L. Huie, author of the Livy Nash mysteries

A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons combines all the things I love most in a mystery: a smart and charming heroine, a cleverly-plotted puzzle, and a hint of romance. Well-researched and brimming with the dangers of scientific intrigue, it’s sure to keep readers turning pages. I hope to see a lot more of Saffron Everleigh!”
–Ashley Weaver, author of the Amory Ames mysteries

“Delightful and twisty, A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons will immerse you in 1920s academic London and have you turning pages to the end. Saffron Everleigh is a plucky heroine that readers will want to join for the next adventure. An engaging read!” –Lydia Kang, author of Opium and Absinthe

“The 1920s university science department setting, feisty female protagonist, and believable chemistry between the main characters make this a sparkling gem of a debut, and will leave fans of historical mystery excited for the next instalment.”
–Kate Belli, author of the Gilded Gotham Mystery series

As always,

blog tour · book review · journalist · thriller · war

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The Shot

An aspiring TV journalist faces a shattering moral dilemma and the prospect of losing her career and her life, when she joins an impetuous photographer in the Middle East. A shocking, searingly authentic thriller by award-winning ex-CNN news executive Sarah Sultoon.

Samira is an up-and-coming TV journalist, working the nightshift at a major news channel and yearning for greater things. So when she’s offered a trip to the Middle East, with Kris, the station’s brilliant but impetuous star photographer, she leaps at the chance

In the field together, Sami and Kris feel invincible, shining a light into the darkest of corners … except the newsroom, and the rest of the world, doesn’t seem to care as much as they do. Until Kris takes the photograph.

With a single image of young Sudanese mother, injured in a raid on her camp, Sami and the genocide in Darfur are catapulted into the limelight. But everything is not as it seems, and the shots taken by Kris reveal something deeper and much darker … something that puts not only their careers but their lives in mortal danger.

Sarah Sultoon brings all her experience as a CNN news executive to bear on this shocking, searingly authentic thriller, which asks immense questions about the world we live in. You’ll never look at a news report in the same way again…  

My Review

Samira (Sami) has issues with her dad – he was a photographer in war zones and died on the job. Her mum hasn’t been the same since, and she and Sami are no longer close. Sami wants to prove herself to her mum and to make sense of her dad’s death, so when the chance comes to accompany one of the team’s most experienced photographers she cannot quell her excitement. This is her chance to break away from the night shift of graphic design for the international news organisation in London and see for herself the true horrors of war. Sami’s need to prove herself, and her family connection form her personal motivation, yet it is her ability to speak Arabic that marks her out to her bosses as a valuable asset – and, besides, it’s just a quick in-and-out visit to capture the visit of US dignitaries to the region. However, Sami has something more to offer, a human touch and the ability to seek out a story on behalf of those without a voice, those who are suffering as the pawns of war. Sami wants to tell it as it is and speak up for those people.

Kris, the photographer, is more than intriguing. His home life is in tatters as he chooses to work rather than spend time with his wife and kids; only the dog seems to be pleased to see him when he does venture home. On the job, he can be blunt and brash, but he has an eye for detail and can zoom in to capture the poignancy of a situation like no other.

As you’d expect, any story set in such an environment is going to portray the devastation of war, and its brutal repercussions on the civilians caught in its wake. Consequently, readers can expect an emotional roller coaster and some exceptionally stark reactions. The ending is shocking and you’re left to determine for yourself whether some deaths were mercy killings or something more sinister. (You’ll have to read for yourself to find out what I mean).

The Shot is a story that will stay with me, it gives fascinating insight into war reporting, the horrors and the impact on those reporting the news and is all the more impactful given the situation in Ukraine. As viewers, we see journalists giving their reports against the backdrop of sirens and burning buildings, we see civilians fleeing – if they can – and others injured or killed. Sami’s story obliges us to see the human effect, to uphold humanitarian values and see the people behind the headlines. A powerful read indeed.

About Sarah Sultoon

Sarah Sultoon is a novelist and journalist, whose prior work as an international news executive at CNN has taken her all over the world, from the seats of power in both Westminster and Washington to the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan. She has extensive experience in conflict zones, winning three Peabody awards for her work on the war in Syria, an Emmy for her contribution to the coverage of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, and a number of Royal Television Society gongs. As passionate about fiction as nonfiction, she recently completed a Masters of Studies in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge, adding to an undergraduate degree in languages, chosen mainly so she could spend time itinerantly travelling the world. She likes running, Indian food, cocktails, playing sport with her children and throwing a ball for her dog, order dependent on when the cocktails are consumed. The Source is her first novel and is currently in development for television with Lime Pictures.

The Source

‘A brave and thought-provoking debut novel. Sarah Sultoon tackles a challenging and disturbing subject without sensation, and her sensitive handling, tight plotting and authentic storytelling make for a compelling read’ Adam Hamdy

‘Delving into corruption, abuse of power and the resilience of the human spirit, The Source is a taut and thought-provoking book that’s all the more unnerving for how much it echoes the headlines in real life’ CultureFly

‘Carly and Marie’s stories are about to collide, the secrets of the past are devastating, the investigation in the present urgent. This is a tense thriller, a remarkable debut, heartbreaking, but ultimately this is a story of resilience and survival’ New Books Magazine

‘A powerful, compelling read that doesn’t shy away from some upsetting truths … written with such energy’ Fanny Blake

‘Tautly written and compelling, not afraid to shine a spotlight on the darker forces at work in society’ Rupert Wallis

‘So authentic and exhilarating … breathtaking pace and relentless ingenuity’ Nick Paton Walsh, CNN

‘A powerful, intense whammy of a debut that is both uncomfortable and exhilarating to read … Thought-provoking, tense, and expressive, The Source is an utterly compelling debut’ LoveReading

‘A gripping, dark thriller’ Geoff Hill, ITV

‘A cleverly constructed story that offers an authentic view behind the scenes in a British newsroom … an original and wholly engaging debut. Definitely a name to watch’ Crime Fiction Lover

‘My heart was racing … fiction to thrill even the most hard-core adrenaline junkies’ Diana Magnay, Sky News 

‘Unflinching and sharply observed. A hard-hitting, deftly woven debut’ Ruth Field

‘With this gripping, fast-paced debut thriller, it’s easy to see what made Sultoon such a great journalist’ Clarissa Ward, CNN 

‘A hard-hitting, myth-busting rollercoaster of a debut’ Eve Smith

‘I could picture and feel each scene, all the fear, tension and hope’ Katie Allen

As always,

blog tour · book review · cosy · crime · mystery · series

Blog tour ‘n’ Book Review – Murder at the Summer Fete

Murder At The Summer Fete

A fete worse than death…

After finding the killer of Lucy Roth six months ago, life has settled back to normal for bookshop owner, Nancy Hunter, and her grandmother, Jane. The annual Dedley End village fete is just around the corner, and Nancy is delighted when bestselling author, Thomas Green, agrees to launch his first new novel in ten years there.

But then a series of sinister events lead Nancy to realise someone is trying to sabotage their fete, so she, along with Jane and their journalist friend Jonathan, must turn detective to discover who isn’t at all thrilled about the return of Thomas Green.

When a body is discovered at the summer fete, the death scene mirroring that in Thomas’ latest bestseller, they realise that there’s another killer in Dedley End, but can they outsmart someone who appears to have pulled off the perfect crime?

The clues are right under Nancy and Jane’s noses, if only they can find them. Because the answers to life’s questions can always be found in a book…!

A twisty, unputdownable cozy mystery that fans of Richard Osman, S.J. Bennett and The Marlow Murder Club will love.

Purchase Links

AMZ: https://amzn.to/3HE7928

Kobo: https://bit.ly/3JLSUtX

Apple: https://apple.co/3zDUyte

Author Bio

Victoria Walters writes up-lifting and inspiring stories. She’s the author of the bestselling GLENDALE HALL series, which continues with its third book HOPEFUL HEARTS at GLENDALE HALL in September, as well as two other standalone novels – SUMMER at the KINDNESS CAFE, and THE SECOND LOVE of my LIFE. She has been chosen for WHSmith Fresh Talent and shortlisted for two RNA awards. Victoria was also picked as an Amazon Rising Star, and her books have won wide reader acclaim.

Victoria is a full-time author. She lives in Surrey with her cat Harry, and loves books, clothes, music, going out for tea and cake, and posting photos on Instagram.

Find out more about Victoria by following on Instagram at @vickyjwalters, on Twitter at @Vicky_Walters or by visiting her blog at:https://victoria-writes.com/

My Review

It was wonderful to return to Dedley End and the bookshop run by Nancy and her grandmother, Jane. Since last we met, after the murder up at the house on the hill, life in the village has returned to its normal tranquillity. In fact, for both Nancy and Jane, things are a little too quiet which is why they have invested so much time and effort into the upcoming summer fete. Having arranged for a very successful crime writer to launch his latest book at the fete, the level of excitement and anticipation is high. Author Thomas Green grew up in a nearby village before getting an agent and a book deal in London.

What Nancy and Jane, and best friend Jonathan don’t realise is that Thomas Green’s return will not be so widely welcomed, especially among those who knew him in his younger days. Green is reluctant to talk about those days too, which begs the question why.

It takes an act of “vandalism” and threats to spark the sleuths’ interest in Green’s background, but not even they are ready to see another case of murder in Dedley End.

As before, the relationship between the main characters is endearing as are their endeavours to get to the bottom of things. At the outset I thought I knew the motive for the murder but the case almost seemed to be resolved … until Nancy feels the same sense of unease at justice not really having been done and so, encouraged by Jane and Jonathan, she digs further … and finds the real reason behind it. I’m glad to say my initial deductions were correct, and I applaud the author for making me second guess myself. The twisty nature of solving the crime was most enjoyable (and not just because I was proved right 🙂 )

The author picks up the trail of information we learned in book one about the culprit behind Nancy’s father’s death and now the story takes another personal twist in delivery Nancy another mystery, this time to do with her mother who left the family home when Nancy was very young. The author combines well Nancy’s personal family history with mysteries in Dedley End and that combination makes for an interesting, yet fun read, but also leaves me wanting more.

I’ll be looking out for the next book in the series.

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