British · cosy · fun · mystery

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book review – Blooming Murder

Blooming Murder

MURDER IS BLOSSOMING IN THE WELSH BORDERS.

Aldermaston’s having a bad day. A falling hanging-basket has killed the town’s mayor, and a second narrowly missed him. His wife wants him to build her new greenhouse in three days, and some nutter is sending him death threats.

This isn’t the quiet life he expected as the new Marquess of Mortiforde.

It’s the annual Borders in Blossom competition, and Mortiforde is battling with Portley Ridge in the final. But this is no parochial flower competition. The mayor’s mishap looks like murder, and there’s another body in the river. Someone desperately wants Portley Ridge to win for the fifteenth successive year.

So when a mysterious group of guerrilla gardeners suddenly carpet bomb Mortiforde with a series of stunning floral delights one night, a chain reaction of floral retaliation ensues.

Can Aldermaston survive long enough to uncover who is trying to kill him, and why? And can he get his wife’s greenhouse built in time?

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blooming-Murder-Marquess-Mortiforde-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B094DCYK9Q/

US – https://www.amazon.com/Blooming-Murder-Marquess-Mortiforde-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B094DCYK9Q/

Author Bio

Simon Whaley is an author, writer and photographer who lives in the hilly bit of Shropshire. Blooming Murder is the first in his Marquess of Mortiforde Mysteries, set in the idyllic Welsh Borders – a place many people struggle to locate on a map (including by some of those who live here). He’s written several non-fiction books, many if which contain his humorous take on the world, including the bestselling One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human and two editions in the hugely popular Bluffer’s Guide series (The Bluffer’s Guide to Dogs and The Bluffer’s Guide to Hiking). His short stories have appeared in Take A Break, Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special, The Weekly News and The People’s Friend. Meanwhile his magazine articles have delighted readers in a variety of publications including BBC Countryfile, The People’s Friend, Coast, The Simple Things and Country Walking.

Simon lives in Shropshire (which just happens to be a Welsh Border county) and, when he gets stuck with his writing, he tramps the Shropshire hills looking for inspiration and something to photograph. Some of his photographs appear on the national and regional BBC weather broadcasts under his BBC WeatherWatcher nickname of Snapper Simon. (For those of you who don’t know, they get a lot of weather in Shropshire.)

Social Media Links

Twitter: https://twitter.com/simonwhaley

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SimonWhaleyAuthor

My Review

If you’re looking for a funny, cosy mystery with a cracking pace, you’ve come to the right place. Quintessentially British humour is in abundance here, as are the blooms … and the dead bodies.

Now, the characters’ names might be tongue-twisters, but they perfectly sum up the vibe of this story – think of it as a mash-up of Carry On films, The Darling Buds of May and an Agatha Christie mystery and you’ll be primed for the Borders in Blossom competition where innuendo and double entendres are in full bloom.

So, to the story: When his older brother proves not to be the legitimate heir to the Marquess of Mortiforde title, Aldermaston and his wife are obliged to take up the position, bringing a halt to their previous lives to serve the community as his family always has. Part of his role includes being Chair of the Borderer’s Guild on behalf of the people of Mortiforde. As is the norm, the village has entered the Borders in Bloom competition, reaching the final two along with the winners for the past fourteen years, Portley Ridge. The prize is to host the horticultural TV show in the village, which is guaranteed to boost the village coffers in tourism alone.

Members of the County Council, or rather one member, the Chief Exec, takes advantage of Aldermaston’s absence at a meeting to take a vote on the Marquess’s position as Chair, convincing many (through nefarious means) to call for Aldermaston’s resignation if Mortiforde loses once again to their rivals at Portley Ridge.

Meanwhile, as the competition is launched, a hanging basket falls and knocks out the Mayor, who later dies of her injuries. A second hanging basket, placed above Aldermaston’s head has also been sabotaged. But why would anyone want to kill them? Aldermaston determines to find out.

Aldermaston has a battle on his hands both to find the Mayor’s killer and to win the competition, but unbeknownst to him, the villagers of Mortiforde (the allotment group, in particular) are also fed up of losing and launch a plan of their own to win the competition.

When the Mayor’s belongings are investigated, a file with Aldermaston’s name on it suggests she has discovered some dodgy undertakings going on that may explain how Portley Ridge has won so consistently over the years. Has the competition been fixed? There is very good reason to suspect so, and threats upon Aldermaston’s life plus the “unfortunate” drowning of a second councillor seems to imply that somebody wants to stop Aldermaston from digging further into the case.

Putting all thoughts of the other jobs on his to-do list (building his wife’s new greenhouse, and winning the competition) he and Lisa, the new Democracy Support Officer, pick up the case where the Mayor left off, but it’s not without its complications.

While they investigate, the “guerrilla gardeners” of Mortiforde spring into action and the roundabouts of the village burst into bloom with dazzling displays of floral fancy that surely must earn them the title this year. The villagers are delighted with the overnight transformations, and hopes are high, much to the annoyance of the person(s) behind the death threats for whom Portley Ridge must win and Aldermaston’s involvement has to end.

Naturally, it’s less straightforward with yet more sabotage to come, hidden tunnels, dark dealings (I mean, where HAVE all the gardening guys from the TV show gone?) and some very un-village-like shenanigans going on, and let’s not even mention the cottage cheese incident.

Chock-a-block with over the top characters, oodles of humour and some plain old silliness, Blooming Murder is a breath of fresh air in the cosy mystery genre, combining olde-worlde village charm with modern day crimes. A chuckle-worthy read. Bring on book 2.

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comedy · cover reveal · friendship · mystery · romance · Uncategorized

Cover Reveal – The Promise of Summer

The Promise of Summer

Ruby’s life is about to change for ever…

After years of dating losers, cheats and one guy who did something unrepeatable to her kettle, Ruby has all but given up on romance. But then a stranger sits next to her on a train to London and explains his plan to propose to the woman of his dreams. Maybe true love does exist after all?

When the man accidentally leaves the engagement ring behind, Ruby is determined to save the day. But she hasn’t counted on fellow passenger Curtis stepping in and insisting he should be the one to track the stranger down.   
 
As summer closes in, the unlikely pair make a promise to reunite the ring with its owner. But can they find their own happy ever after along the way?

Pre-order Links 

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08R6Q4T66/

Universal Amazon link – http://mybook.to/ThePromiseOfSummer

KOBO – https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/the-promise-of-summer

Publication Date – 22nd July 2021

Author Bio

Bella has been jotting down stories as far back as she can remember but decided that 2013 would be the year that she finished a full length novel. Since then she’s written seven best selling romantic comedies and she’s been shortlisted three times for the RNA Contemporary Romantic Novel of the Year Award. 

Bella’s stories are about friendship, love and coping with what life throws at you. She lives in The Midlands, UK with her husband, daughter and a cat who thinks she’s a dog. When not writing Bella is usually eating custard creams and planning holidays.

For more about Bella, visit her website at http://www.bellaosborne.com or follow her on social media.

Social Media Links

Twitter – https://twitter.com/osborne_bella 

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/BellaOsborneAuthor/ 

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/bellaosborneauthor/ 

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book blitz · mystery · suspense

Book Blitz – Parker’s Choice

 


Suspense, Mystery

Published: March 2021

Publisher: Southern Fried Karma



Framed for murder and on-the-run an innocent man is forced to become an outlaw. Hiding from his troubled past in Atlanta, Parker can’t escape his enemies. His former business partner blackmails him and when she’s killed, Parker becomes the chief suspect, but he fears his wife did it. His boss coerces him to commit fraud, but he and his clever colleague, Sabrina, uncover evidence that his elusive birth father is involved in the scheme and Parker’s innate moral code is stressed to the limit. Parker must solve a riddle within a quandary within a puzzle within a mystery to save the lives of those he loves.



Excerpt

Three Years Ago

Parker watched her on the doorbell camera on his phone. It shouldn’t have to end this way; his future shouldn’t depend on the risky odds that he was right about what would happen tonight. He weaved around over-sized furniture and peered through the small square window in his front door. She wore a red, V-neck sundress exposing two inches of cleavage, reminding Parker once again that this woman’s sexual magnetism radiated like heat waves off a blacktop road. Her body an eye-catching confluence of tanned, sweeping curves, her hair long and blonde, and her eyes sapphire blue, she was a woman in her prime who Parker knew enjoyed the attention of men of all ages. He wiped his sweaty palms on his shorts and opened the door. On-time and all smiles, Meredith walked into his arms as though she were his lover arriving for a romantic evening.

Awkwardly, Parker extricated himself from her embrace. He led her to the dining room in his cramped beach bungalow where the papers to dissolve their partnership in Advanced Fraud Analytics, LLC were laid out on the table.

You surprised me by agreeing to this,” he said.

She shook her head, and her long hair flew off one shoulder and onto the other. “Time to get off the investor-schmoozing merry-go-round and kill our ‘baby.’”

Sad it’s come to this, but it’s a good deal for you. You’re relieved of all company debts and obligations and indemnified against any lawsuits; in return, I retain full ownership of the fraud detection algorithms and computer programs. Okay?”

She tapped the stack of papers with her ruby nails but did not take a seat. “Let’s do this outside. It’s such a lovely evening.”

Outside, Parker knew he would lose a measure of control, but he had planned for this situation. He swept up the legal documents and carried them to the pebbled glass table in his lanai. Five feet beyond the wall of screens, a swimming pool filled the backyard that ended in a gentle slope to the Intracoastal Waterway. A wooden shed, in which his center-console boat sat in a lift sling, flanked his rickety dock and to the right of the pool a large, four-person hot tub squatted on a slab, shielded from his neighbor’s sight by thick hibiscus. The sun was a dying ember on the horizon, so Parker turned on the underwater pool lights. It wasn’t a romantic gesture; he wanted a little indirect lighting.

Do you have any wine, Parker? May as well make this pleasant.”

He hesitated; he had no weapons in the house. “White or red?”

White if you have it.”

He nodded. “You can read the documents while I’m pouring the wine.”

When he returned to the patio with a chilled glass of Chablis and a sweating bottle of Tecate, he found Meredith standing at the edge of the pool with her naked back to him. She stepped out of red thong panties and flipped them with her foot onto the Cool Crete surface surrounding the pool where her outer garments and lacy bra were strewn in disarray. Naked, she grinned at him over her shoulder. He returned her smile as he admired the perfect contours of her high ass and the smooth tapering of her legs.

Come on in,” she said. “You can’t have a free show.” Then she dove into the pool.

If he didn’t suspect that she wanted him in the water so he’d be less mobile, Parker would have been tempted to join her. He squatted at the edge of the pool and extended the glass of wine to her. He couldn’t resist watching her wade toward him, her breasts parting the rippled water like the prow of a ship plowing through ocean waves. She gave him permission with her eyes, but she couldn’t resist a quick glance over her shoulder at the bottom of his property where it met an inlet off the Intracoastal Waterway. He followed her gaze and saw it then, a white Boston Whaler silently drifting up to his dock. He had thought the odds would be in his favor, and now they weren’t. She noted the look of recognition on his face and made a grab for her purse at the edge of the pool, but Parker was quicker. He snatched the unusually heavy bag and tossed it into the deep end of the pool. Then he kicked her clothes into the water.

Shrieking, “Help! Rape!” Meredith climbed out of the pool and dashed into the house.

A rangy man in military fatigues, wielding a double-barrel shotgun as though it were a natural extension of his hand, leapt onto the dock and advanced toward Parker.

Get the fuck off my property,” Parker snarled.

The man raised the shotgun with one hand as Parker ducked to evade the blast that shattered the sliding glass doors at the back of the house. Bent at the waist, Parker hustled into the protective shadows at the side of his house. Cowering behind his hot tub, he watched the man slowly approach in a stealthy semi-crouch, like a big game hunter stalking his prey. The terror Parker felt was what an antelope feels when it is about to be eaten alive by a pride of hungry lions. Now would be good time to rescue me.

When the hunter reached the hot tub and crept around the far side, Parker shuffledclockwise to remain on the opposite side. He took shallow breaths through his nose to mask the sound of his breathing as he listened to the blood coursing through his carotid artery—whoosh, whoosh. Where is she?

When they had made half a turn around the hot tub, and the predator’s back was to the boathouse where she had been hiding, he saw her emerge in the crepuscular light, fifteen feet away on his dock, and assume the shooter’s stance she’d been taught at the gun range. She never said a word, gave the hunter no warning, just fired her compact Beretta once, and the man crumpled onto the Cool Crete surface with a thud and a rush of expelled air. That hadn’t been the plan. She was only supposed to balance the threat Parker suspected Meredith had posed. She wasn’t supposed to shoot anyone. But Meredith had out-schemed him. It’s so easy to get these things wrong.

A scan of the house’s back windows revealed no sign of Meredith. Parker motioned for the woman to hurry into the shadows and put a finger to his lips—don’t talk. The wounded man moaned softly, and Parker’s quick glance confirmed that he was semi-conscious and neither moving nor watching. Parker took the woman’s pistol and shoved her toward the neighbor’s property. The snowbirds who owned the place were away enjoying the Canadian summer during the Florida off-season.

Run,” he whispered.

She did as she was told. He counted to twenty—one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi—then he dialed 9-1-1.


About the Author


Mike Nemeth is an Army vet and former high tech executive who lives in suburban Atlanta with his wife, Angie and their rescue dig, Scout. He is the author of the Amazon bestselling and award-winning novels “Defiled” and “The Undiscovered Country.” Creative Loafing Atlanta named him Best Local Author for 2019.


Contact Links

Website

Twitter

Facebook

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Purchase Links

Amazon

B&N

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book review · legal · mystery · series

Book Review – Woodson Falls: 16 Lakeview Terrace

by Andrea O’Connor

Gaby Quinn is hiding from her past, recovering from the senseless death of her husband, and living in a small New England town. She has her law practice, her dog Kat, and a small circle of friends. What more could she need?

But when an unusual probate case crosses her desk, she finds herself looking for a lost body, an abandoned truck, and answers to a mountain of questions, not least of which is, “Who was Pieter Jorgenson?”

Soon enough, she discovers even small towns hold big secrets.

My Review

A most enjoyable read and, I’m glad to say, the first in the series of Gaby Quinn mysteries. I’m happy to return to Woodson Falls when the next book is released.

Gaby Quinn has finally found peace with her life, the move to Woodson Falls having been good for her after the murder of her husband in New York not so long ago. Gaby was there when he died, suffering injuries of her own when an unknown assailant attacked them both for no apparent reason. Mentally, emotionally and physically scarred, she sets up her estate law practice in the home left to her by her grandfather. With only her dog, Kat, for company, she enjoys the less stressful pace of life and the intricacies of her job.

Asked to manage the estate of a Woodson Falls resident, Pieter Jorgenson (a man she never met) she gladly accepts only to learn the case has many loose ends and extends way beyond her regular skillset.

For me, Jorgenson’s character provides great mystery from the outset – neighbours and family despise him, others in town find him friendly and creative in his role as crossing guard at a local school. There is something very iffy about him, and Gaby has her work cut out in sorting his affairs and getting to the truth behind the man who was found dead in his truck back in NYC.

In addition to discovering more about Jorgenson so that she can settle his affairs and pass on any inheritance, there are a couple of subplots running alongside that delve more into Gaby’s past, her husband’s murder, and the amiable officer, Matt Thomas who helps her out more than once. Their frequent connections suggest we’ll be hearing more about Gaby and Matt in future books.

16 LakeView Terrace proved to be a most interesting mystery, with an excellent twist when it came to finally understanding the chilling character of Pieter Jorgenson. For the most part I found it to be a compelling read, maybe a tad heavy on the procedures of her job, nonetheless a fascinating read with well-drawn characters with intriguing backstories to be explored.

Woodson Falls is definitely a place I’ll revisit. My thanks to the author, Emerald Lake Books and Netgalley for my copy which I have reviewed freely.

Can I just add that the cover may look a little creepy but all will become clear when you read the book at which point “creepy” is an understatement!

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Reviewed on Amazon as Meandthemutts

blog tour · book excerpt · historical · mystery · thriller

Blog Tour – Old Cases, New Colours (including an excerpt)

Old Cases, New Colours

(A Dudley Green Investigation)

Sick of working in a world of spies and bureaucracy, Ena Green, nee Dudley, leaves the Home Office and starts her own investigating agency.

Working for herself she can choose which investigations to take and, more importantly, which to turn down.

While working on two investigations, Ena is called as a prosecution witness in the Old Bailey trial of a cold-blooded killer who she exposed as a spy the year before.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cases-Colours-Dudley-Investigation-Sisters-ebook/dp/B08Y9887QM/

US – https://www.amazon.com/Cases-Colours-Dudley-Investigation-Sisters-ebook/dp/B08Y9887QM/

Author Bio

I was bought up in a pub in a small market town called Lutterworth. For as long as I can remember, my dream was to be an actress and a writer. The pub was a great place for an aspiring actress and writer to live with so many characters to study and accents to learn. I was offered Crossroads the first time around. However, my mother wanted me to have a ‘proper’ job that I could fall back on if I needed to, so I did a hairdressing apprenticeship. Eight years later, aged twenty-four, I gave up a successful salon and wig-hire business in the theatre for a place at East 15 Drama College and a career as an actress, working in Repertory theatre, the West End, film and television.

In 1995, with fewer parts for older actresses, I gave up acting. I taught myself to touch-type, completed a two-year correspondence course with The Writer’s Bureau and began writing articles and presenting radio.

In 2010, after living in London for thirty-six years, I moved back to Lutterworth. I swapped two window boxes and a mortgage for a garden and the freedom to write. Since then, I have written nine novels. The first four, The Dudley Sisters’ Saga, tell the stories of four sisters in World War 2. My current novel, Old Cases, New Colours, is a thriller/detective story set in 1960. I am writing Christmas book – Christmas Applause – and a Memoir; a collection of short stories, articles, poems, photographs and character breakdowns from my days as an actress.

Social Media Links

Madalyn Morgan’s books- https://www.amazon.co.uk/Madalyn-Morgan/e/B00J7VO9I2

Blog – https://madalynmorgan.wordpress.com/

Facebook – www.facebook.com/madalyn.morgan1

Twitter – www.twitter.com/ActScribblerDJ

Pinterest – www.pinterest.co.uk/madalynmorgan

Instagram – www.instagram.co.uk/madalynmorgan1

Excerpt

Intro: Ena is called as a witness for the prosecution in a murder trial at the Old Bailey. When she is cross examined by the defence lawyer of a German spy who murdered her colleague the lawyer twists what she says in an attempt to discredit her.

‘I believe you worked closely with Director Bentley at the Home Office?’

‘Yes.’

‘How many years had you worked with him?’

‘Thirteen.’

‘Thirteen years!’ the defence lawyer exclaimed. He looked at the jury. ‘Thirteen years,’ he said again. ‘And you would have us believe that in all that time you never once suspected he was a spy?’

‘No.’

‘What changed your mind, suddenly?’

‘I had reason to question Richard Bentley’s motives in a certain matter.’

Anderson swung from left to right, his black gown flaring theatrically as he looked around the court. ‘Reason to question? Motives? A certain matter? It all sounds very Machiavellian.’ He put his hand up to his face, his fingers on his lips. ‘And who was it that gave you reason to question the Director of The Home Office?’

Ena had been waiting throughout the cross-examination for a question like this. ‘I am not at liberty to say.’

‘Was it the same person who fed you lies about my client and his lover, Hugh Middleton? The truth is, Mrs Green, Hugh Middleton was not the victim in the relationship. The victim was my client. Mr Middleton cheated on him, lied to him and stole from him. My client regrets the outcome of their relationship and wishes there had been some other way. Alas,’ O’Shaughnessy’s lawyer looked down and sighed, his voice growing deeper and softer as if with emotion, ‘there was no other way.’ The defence lawyer then turned to the jury, cleared his throat, and in a matter-of-fact way, said, ‘During one of Middleton’s aggressive outbursts he attacked my client who, fearing for his life, struck out in self-defence, accidentally killing Mr Middleton.’

Ena looked across at the dock for the first time. She held O’Shaughnessy with a cold stare. As arrogant as ever, he grinned at her. Still looking at O’Shaughnessy, Ena said, ‘Hugh Middleton did not lie, cheat or attack your client. On the contrary–’

‘And how would you know, Mrs Green!’

Ena looked back at the defence lawyer. ‘I am not at liberty to say,’ she said again.

‘Whether you tell the court or not is of no consequence,’ Anderson said, ‘because, Mrs Green, the information that you received came from Nick Miller, a man of dubious character who owned the Minchin Club, a nightclub that my client and his lover frequented in Brighton.’ Anderson looked at the jury, leaned his elbow on the edge of the witness box and crossed his legs as if he was at a bar waiting for a drink. Then, as if something had that second come into his mind, he turned and faced Ena. ‘Perhaps you know Nick Miller better by his real name, Nicolaus Müller – a German spy who became a south London gangster with whom you accompanied to Austria. Is that not so, Mrs Green?’

‘I–’

‘I know!’ Anderson spat, shutting Ena down, ‘You are not at liberty to tell us what information Müller gave you for his freedom.’

‘Before Ena could retaliate, Anderson turned to the judge. ‘No more questions, My Lord.’

Ena looked up at the judge in disbelief. She then looked pleadingly at Sir John.’

The judge waved his left hand. Sir John was already on his feet.

‘If I may, My Lord.’

The Judge nodded.

‘Mrs Green,’ Sir John said with a reassuring smile, ‘would you tell the court why you were not at liberty to answer some of the questions asked you by my learned friend?’

‘I have signed the Official Secrets Act. The work I did at the Home Office was… highly sensitive.’

‘Top Secret?’

‘Yes.’

‘Thank you. You were also asked questions that you were not given time to answer. I apologise in advance if the questions I shall ask you now are repetitious.’ Ena nodded. ‘On the day of McKenzie Robinson’s funeral, did Mrs Robinson accuse you of killing her husband?’

‘No. Mrs Robinson said it was my fault that her husband had been killed, not that I had killed him.’ 

‘Your fault? Why?’

‘Director McKenzie was going to help me with an investigation I was working on before he was murdered. He gave his wife a folder to give to me, which she gave me on the day of his funeral.’ Tears filled Ena’s eyes as Mac’s last words came into her mind. “Make sure Ena Green gets this.”

‘No,’ Ena said, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand, ‘Eve Robinson did not accuse me of killing her husband. ‘Her exact words were, “I hope what you find in there was worth my husband’s life. If you hadn’t come to the hospital to see him, he would still be alive.”’

‘Thank you for clearing that up, Mrs Green.’ With a sympathetic smile, Sir John said, ‘Are you happy to continue?’ Ena nodded. ‘I think the court has been misled about your association with Mr Nick Miller. Would you describe the relationship between yourself and Mr Miller and tell the jury why you travelled with him to Austria?’

‘There was no relationship. Nick Miller had been taken into Police custody for questioning. He had valuable information that the security services – my department in particular – and the Police needed in order to expose a large and deep-rooted spy ring. As you know, the Director of the Home Office was the head of the cell, Helen Crowther and Shaun O’Shaughnessy were members. Nick Miller said he would release the information once he had arrived safely in Austria. I didn’t choose to go with him, he insisted I went as insurance.’

Ena looked at the jury. ‘But I did have a personal reason for accompanying Nick Miller to Austria. Nick had proof that Helen Crowther, who was found dead on December 23rd, 1958 in my office, had killed herself. Crowther went to extraordinary lengths to make her suicide look as if my husband had murdered her. I flew to Austria with Nick Miller to save my husband from being hung for a murder he did not commit.’

‘Thank you, Mrs Green.’ Sir John turned to the judge. ‘No more questions My Lord.’

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art · book review · lost art · mystery · original plot

Book Review – Lost Children

by Willa Bergman

A celebrated painting, the Portrait of the Lost Child, has been missing for over a decade. Eloise Witcham is commissioned to find it, but if she does she will have to confront a past she thought long behind her and face up to the dark fears that still haunt her dreams.

A stylish, intelligent, contemporary thriller set in the secretive world of high end art.

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My Review

Art, history and a very clever mystery – Could this book be any more “up my street”? I seriously doubt it.

Despite what might be for some a slow start, I loved the time the author spent to lay the foundations for this story. With a particularly addictive writing style, she had me hooked.

The background specifics of the main character’s childhood in France – and what she and her mother and brother subsequently had to do – set the scene beautifully (or should I say set the scene perfectly for misdirection LOL) , and it was no surprise that Eloise (Elle) went on to work in the industry of finding lost art and antiquities, after all she had been surrounded by beautiful pieces for years.

At times, it was as though I were in the midst of an art history lesson, with sumptuous details about the painting at the centre of the story, and its fascinating history.

And then, wham! Elle is commissioned to find the Portrait of the Lost Child for an unidentified buyer. Why choose her? She’s not the most senior within her department, but she does have a good track record. However, it soon becomes apparent that she has a particular association with the painting, and finding it before others do becomes vital if she is to keep her family’s secret from getting out.

They say you always have a choice. But what is my choice here? The choice between hurting the ones I love, or helping the ones I hate

Eloise (Lost Children)

From here on, the pace picks up dramatically and it becomes addictive reading, being both informative on the art front and insightful on the personal, family front. Can she find the painting before competitors within her field? And then what? Hand it over and risk exposure to something that could have dire consequences for her family, herself included.

Without disclosing any spoilers, let me just say this is an original and inventive mystery with an extraordinary ending that is both dramatic and satisfying.

My thanks go to the author and Rosie’s Book Review Team for my e-copy of this, which I have reviewed voluntarily and honestly (and loved every minute of it!)

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blog tour · book review · dual timeline · Italy · mystery · WWII

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The Garden of Angels

The Garden of Angels

The Palazzo Colombina is home to the Uccello family: three generations of men, trapped together in the dusty palace on Venice’s Grand Canal. Awkward fifteen-year-old Nico. His distant, business-focused father. And his beloved grandfather, Paolo. Paolo is dying. But before he passes, he has secrets he’s waited his whole life to share.

When a Jewish classmate is attacked by bullies, Nico just watches – earning him a week’s suspension and a typed, yellowing manuscript from his frail Nonno Paolo. A history lesson, his grandfather says. A secret he must keep from his father. A tale of blood and madness . . .

Nico is transported back to the Venice of 1943, an occupied city seething under its Nazi overlords, and to the defining moment of his grandfather’s life: when Paolo’s support for a murdered Jewish woman brings him into the sights of the city’s underground resistance. Hooked and unsettled, Nico can’t stop reading – but he soon wonders if he ever knew his beloved grandfather at all.

Purchase Links

http://severnhouse.com/book/The+Garden+of+Angels/9152

Author Bio

David Hewson is a former journalist with The Times, The Sunday Times and the Independent.

He is the author of more than twenty-five novels, including his Rome-based Nic Costa series which has been published in fifteen languages, and his Amsterdam-based series featuring detective Pieter Vos.

He has also written three acclaimed adaptations of the Danish TV series, The Killing.

He lives near Canterbury in Kent.

Social Media Links

https://www.facebook.com/pages/David-Hewson/105480612818443?fref=ts

https://twitter.com/david_hewson

My Review

This story drew me in more and more as I kept reading, and I especially enjoyed Nonno Paolo’s story during the German occupation of Venice as told to his grandson through a series of written notes that he handed over one at a time from his hospital bed.

Nico, the grandson, has recently been suspended from school for a playground ruckus in which he stood back and allowed the school bully to attack another schoolboy. Nonno Paolo is furious that Nico did nothing and just allowed the bullying to go ahead and has second thoughts about handing his story over to Nico as a result, but is determined that Nico’s father is not the right person to read the contents of those envelopes. Persuaded by Nico to let him read the notes, Nonno Paolo hands them over and waits for his grandson to return to visit before continuing the process, checking how his story is coming across to the teenager but without giving away any details of what is to come. 

Nico gets drawn into the story completely, learning how the Germans began rounding up Jews as Mussolini effectively became Hitler’s Italian puppet. The story deals with villagers who help the Germans, with clergy who refuse to do so, and with the harsh conditions people are forced to live in as the Germans enjoy the best of everything.

Nonno Paolo, barely an adult at the time, has recently lost his parents, both being shot by Germans as they sought new clients for their weaving business. His father’s last encounter left them with a job that has to be completed on a strict deadline, but now Paolo only has himself and Chiara to complete the delicate work required. To add to the tension, the delivery destination of the finished products leaves them in no doubt that the items are to be used as part of a German glorification effort.

Faced with what seems like an impossible task, he is then asked to hide two Resistance Jews – siblings, one of whom is injured – who are being hunted by the Germans. What follows is the struggle to get the job done (else face the dire consequences), and to keep the brother and sister hidden, which is no easy task when the sister has vengeance against the Germans in mind. Paolo is forced to grow up very quickly and he finds himself questioning himself and his developing friendships. 

This is a hugely satisfying mystery, combining historical detail with almost a coming-of-age story for both Paolo and Nico. The question is raised about how soon history is forgotten and how easily people can be drawn into making the same mistakes. There is a magnificent twist and a poignant ending. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy historical fiction with an added mystery. It made a refreshing change to read a WWII story set in Italy, and in particular in Venice, and the author’s description of the city verged on poetic at times as he brought it to life in both the past and the present. 

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Audiobook · blog tour · book review · crime · mystery · series · thriller

Audiobook Blog Tour ‘n’ Review – Jailbird

Jailbird

When you’re working undercover the smallest mistake can cost you your life.
‘A riveting read full of tension and suspense with a vivid cast of characters and an enticing plot.’ Heather Burnside

Detective Constable Bailey Morgan has been out of the undercover game since her last job went horribly wrong, leaving her with scars inside and out.
When her colleague Alice is found dead whilst working deep cover in a women’s prison, Bailey steps in to replace her.
Working alone, Bailey embarks on a dangerous journey through the murky underbelly of the prison and soon discovers that Alice’s death was part of a spate of brutal murders.

Surrounded by prison officers, criminals and lowlifes, the slightest mistake could cost Bailey her life.
Illicit drug trafficking, prison gangs and corruption are just some of the things she’s up against… and behind it all lurks a sinister and terrifying secret that will truly test her survival instincts.
Heart-stopping and gripping. Perfect for the fans of hit TV shows such as Line of Duty, Orange is the New Black and Bad Girls.

Purchase Link – https://bit.ly/JailbirdAudible

Author Bio –

Caro Savage knows all about bestselling thrillers having worked as a Waterstones bookseller for 12 years in a previous life. Now taking up the challenge personally and turning to hard-hitting crime thriller writing.

Social Media Links –

Twitter Profile: https://twitter.com/CaroSavageStory

https://www.instagram.com/carosavage/

Newsletter sign up: http://bit.ly/CaroSavageNewsletter

My Review

Having already read book 2 – Villain – I jumped at the chance to hear Bailey’s backstory. With hindsight I think I would have slightly preferred to have read this book for myself as although the narrator had a lovely and well modulated voice once she adopted a character’s voice I found it quite dramatic for bedtime listening – the scalpings in particular kept me awake.

That said, as a thriller, this is both original and intense. The women’s prison makes for a perfect setting; you just know it’s not going to be an easy ride for Bailey. There were many times that I just wished Bailey hadn’t been so strong-minded and stubborn, and that she had just got out of there when she had the chance. But Bailey is made of grittier stuff, and when she’s on a job she doesn’t back down for anyone.

And when things go wrong, they go wrong big style. I felt very on edge at times and concerned for her well-being. The author has created a cast of characters that are very believable and their environment is what you would – unfortunately – expect, with a way of life that inevitably includes drugs and violence. Accordingly, the inmates have a very different value system to the outside world. It’s rough, tough and scary but not without kindness and compassion: you just have to be very wary of “Greeks (not literally) bearing gifts.”

The ending is powerful, though I did work out who was involved early on, but the matter of how and why the killer chose the victims and then killed them made for compelling listening.

The narrator – Genevieve Swallow – did a fantastic job and made it easy to follow the story even when the subject matter grew brutally intense. I’m glad to have had the chance to learn more about Bailey, and now that I do, I can’t wait for more.

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blog tour · book review · cosy · Giveaways · mystery · Partners in Crime Tours · suspense

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The Widow Catcher (plus Giveaway)

The Widow Catcher

by Jonette Blake

February 1-28, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Delia Frost loves her job at the bank. She loves her customers, most of whom are elderly. She doesn’t love the idea of quitting her job to travel around Australia in a motor home with her husband who is recovering from a heart attack. And she can’t bring herself to tell him that she doesn’t want to go. Days before she quits her job, she is invited to a book club meeting, run by a local celebrity. This seems like a beacon of hope, one last chance to do something for herself before she leaves it all behind. But this isn’t a random invitation. Delia has been carefully selected by a serial killer to play her part in the murders of elderly widows. ​Finding herself caught in a web of blackmail and murder, Delia is now keen to leave this town behind. But the killer doesn’t want to let her go.

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: Jonette Blake
Publication Date: August 27th 2020
Number of Pages: 260
ISBN: 9798675198726
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt from The Widow Catcher:

Chapter 1

Susan

ONE WEEK AGO

The setting sun cast a shadow on the headstone. A cool wind blew down the mountain. Susan Johnson tugged at her long woollen coat thinking she would soon be trading this blustery weather for tropical bliss and poolside cocktails.

She placed a hand on the headstone to steady herself and leaned over to drop a bouquet of lilies on the gravesite. She regretted not being able to bend low to lovingly place the flowers in the slot provided, but if her seventy-six-year-old body tilted even a few degrees she would topple over. It was embarrassing having paramedics lift her off the floor.

“This is goodbye for now, love,” she told the ten-years-dead occupant. “Just for a little while. I won’t be visiting because I’m off on a holiday.” She smiled and nodded. “Yes, I know what you’re thinking. I never go anywhere by myself. But I’m not going alone.”

The snap of twigs pierced the frigid air. Her grip remained on the headstone for support. But she managed to twist her head to catch a glimpse of the noisemaker.

Someone was here.

“I won’t be long,” she told the man. “I was just telling Eric about our trip.”

The man stood with his hands thrust deep into the pockets of his trouser pants. The sunlight framed his body, and she wanted to picture him as an angel, instead the image of angry plovers at the beach protecting their nests popped into mind. The sneaky way they flew towards you with the rising sun blinding you to their attack meant you heard the click of their beaks too late.

She pushed off this sense of trepidation and the chill that followed. It was just nerves. This trip was something new for her; it was bound to give her goose bumps.

She returned her attention to her late husband’s grave. “We’re in for a storm. You’d better batten down the hatches.” She laughed gently, then her features grew serious. “My new friend has promised to take me to North Queensland. Well, to the airport at least. That’s a big help. Once I’m on the plane I’ll be fine. Ah, Eric, I’m finally going to a place where the nights are warm and I wish you could be coming with me. I’ll be gone a few weeks.”

“Susan,” her visitor called out. “I’m ready when you are.”

“We’re off to the airport,” she told the gravestone.

The day had finally arrived when she was going on holiday. Without her friend’s support, she’d never have found the courage to say ‘book it’. He’d helped with booking the flights, hotels, and the tourist destination. He’d even created a week-long itinerary. She fumbled in her pocket for it but couldn’t find it.

Where have I put it?

Never mind. Her friend would have a copy.

She was finally going to see the Great Barrier Reef. It had been a cast-aside dream until her friend had searched on the website and found a tour operator with a glass-bottom boat who specialised in trips for people with mobility issues.

“Susan,” he called out again. “We don’t want to be late.”

“I’m almost done,” she replied, though the wind snatched away her words. Once, she’d had the strength in her lungs to be heard over an earthquake, but years of cigarette smoking had reduced her voice to an almost inaudible wheeze.

She spoke to the headstone again: “I know you think he’s only using me for my money, but he’s never asked for any. He’s not like that.” She patted the headstone. “I’ll bring you back a present.”

She hobbled over with the aid of her cane to join the man.

He lifted a bouquet of flowers from a shopping bag at his feet. “I brought something to show my respects,” he said, thrusting them at her.

Yellow roses were her favourite; they’d be wasted on Eric. Her late husband wouldn’t have known a rose from a weed.

The man smiled at her. “Will you place these on his grave for me?”

“I thought you said we were in a hurry.”

“I said we don’t want to be late. We have time to say our goodbyes.”

She glanced back at the gravesite. There was a lot of uneven lawn between here and there. Her cane had sunk into the dirt already and almost tripped her over a dozen times.

“You should take them yourself,” she told the man.

“Susan, I feel downright scandalous taking his wife to the airport for the first real holiday of her life. I can’t go over there and rub this in his face. Even in death, a person has dignity. My mother used to tell me that all the time. She was a nurse at a hospital in Sydney. Saw people dying every day. A lot of elderly people, too. The stories she told me of comfort she gave them in their final years has made me the compassionate man I am today.”

Susan knew a snow job when she heard one. She was old, arthritic, deaf in one ear, probably riddled with emphysema, but she was not stupid. Still, a sense of gratitude swept over her. She would have been locked inside the aged-care facility forever if her young friend had not convinced her to do something adventurous with the remaining years of her life.

“All right,” she said. “And then we’re off to the airport.”

She gripped her cane in one hand and the yellow roses in the other and set off across the uneven lawn.

“Be sure to inhale the perfume before you place them on the grave,” the man called out. “I asked the florist to select the most delectable bunch.”

Susan stopped and pulled the bouquet closer to her face to take in the scent. This bunch was strong. Probably perfumed. Everything was perfumed these days: soap, washing powder, toilet paper, tissues. As if the big companies could convince the population that life smelled like roses, therefore it must be roses.

She took a deep breath. This was a strange scent. Stronger than most. Not rosy at all. More like yellow jonquils. They had a stink that could cause nostril hairs to fall out.

She coughed on the odour. Her cough turned into a fit, one that fifty years of smoking ensured would bring a crushing pain to her chest.

Then her head began to swim. Her vision blurred. Her chest should have gulped for air. Instead it felt like it was sealing itself shut, jam-jar tight.

She twisted and tried to run toward the man who was still dappled in hues of orange and pink as the sun set behind him. She called out for help but her voice was lost. She couldn’t move.

The cool wind raced along her body like a knife, except this wasn’t the wind. This was an invisible chill attacking her veins.

Her limbs grew weak. She lost her grip on her cane.

A stroke? A heart attack? Years of being warned about the impact of smoking did not lessen the shock that it was actually happening.

Unable to support herself, she fell to the ground.

“Help,” she called out, though her voice was barely above a whisper.

The sun was setting faster now. Her visitor was now a dark, ominous shadow.

A shadow that wasn’t rushing to help her.

He should have grabbed his phone and called for medical help.

He should have raced over to her and administered first aid.

He should have done something.

Instead, he stood at the edge of the cemetery with his hands thrust in his pockets, rocking back and forth on his heels.

“Help,” she spluttered in between chest-breaking coughs.

She couldn’t get enough air into her lungs.

The man still did not make any movement to help her.

At last, he walked towards her and knelt down to stare into her face. His stare was vacant, expressionless, and when he tilted his head and frowned, she realised it wasn’t a vacant stare, but one of curiosity.

As if he’d never seen someone die before.

She reached for his hand.

He reached out for her.

His hand moved to the left toward the flowers. She noticed he wore gloves.

Had he been wearing them earlier?

The bouquet of flowers were pushed closer to her face. The pungent stench had lessened, as if her senses had adapted to the stink. More likely they were numbed by something else. Chemicals.

Now she recognised the scent. It was…

Sharp pain shot throughout her body. Her muscles contorted. Her vision blurred.

She saw his shadow fade away.

And then everything went dark.

***

Excerpt from The Widow Catcher by Jonette Blake. Copyright 2020 by Jonette Blake. Reproduced with permission from Jonette Blake. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Jonette Blake writes supernatural thrillers and suspense thrillers. She is the author of over ten books and dozens of short stories, writing as D L Richardson.

She was born in Ireland and grew up in Australia. She lived through the 80s and music is still a big part of her life. When she is not writing, she plays her piano and guitar, listens to music, reads, and enjoys the beach.

​She has held jobs in administration, sales and marketing, has worked in HR, payroll, and as a bank teller. Her latest novel The Widow Catcher is based on the coastal town she lives in and her own bank teller experience.

Her books are standalone titles.

Catch Up With Jonette On:
www.JonetteBlake.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!

My Review

4/5 stars

Delia has been so worried about her husband’s health that she daren’t tell him that she doesn’t want to give up her job and go travelling in a campervan around Australia. Not only does she fear she might trigger another heart attack in him, but she also worries her two children won’t have anywhere to return to, should they need her. All this despite them both willingly having moved abroad to live their own lives.

To say she is stuck in a rut – the dependable wife, mother & colleague – is an understatement. When Andrew, a colleague at the bank where she works, invites her to his monthly book club hosted by a local celebrity – a former famous actress – she jumps at the chance. Will this add some sparkle to her life, and give her the confidence to tell husband Richard that she’s not as keen on his travel plans as he is? Or is this her one last hurrah before succumbing to a life she doesn’t want? Either way, you have to feel sorry for her – attending a book club doesn’t scream risk or adventure or excitement or even fun.

The book club, while held at the actress’s beautiful home, is anything but exciting, aside from the gossip about the increased number of deaths within the community. When she leaves, the hostess forces an envelope into Delia’s hands, which puts her in a very awkward position. Not really wanting to attend another meeting of the book club, Delia tries to hand the envelope and its contents back – but Karen, the actress is having none of it. In fact, she wants Delia’s help to solve the mystery of the recent deaths … and to stop either of them from becoming the next victim.

Delia being Delia can’t walk away, she either too nice or too intrigued by the story Karen tells her. So, predictably, she finds herself embroiled in the mystery, going so far as to look into the bank records of the victims and placing herself very firmly in the path of the killer.

There are some great suspenseful moments as Delia, the mother of dependability, sees her life thrown into a spiral of disasters. From complaints about her work at the bank, to plants on the porch, not to mention the drama over her car keys and her encounter with the police, Delia certainly gets a glimpse of a very different and much scarier life than she is used to.

I loved her relationship with her sister, and how they came together stronger. Sometimes, I probably overestimated Delia, and expected her to break the mould but her innate “niceness” held her back, so her sister’s input really made the story for me. Though the killer is revealed early on, the motive behind the killings kept me engaged and the pace certainly picked up in the second half. From a cosy-esque mystery to hints of psychological suspense, this was an intriguing read with some great characters.

Tour Participants:

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Giveaway!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Jonette Blake. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on February 1, 2021 and runs through March 2, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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blog tour · book review · cosy · mystery

Audiobook Blog Tour ‘n’ Review – The Invisible Case

The Invisible Case

Narrator: Bridget Eaton

Heartbreaking tragedy or cold-blooded murder…?

An Italian stranger arrives in Tamarisk Bay and brings with him mystery and intrigue….

It’s Easter 1970 in the seaside town of Tamarisk Bay. Amateur sleuth and professional librarian, Janie Juke, is settling into motherhood and some quality time with her family. When her Aunt Jessica is due back from Rome after nine years travelling around Europe, she arrives back in town with a new Italian friend, Luigi, and the whole family soon get embroiled in a tangle of mystery and suspicion, with death and passion at the heart of the story.

As time runs out on Luigi as prime suspect for murder, Janie has to use all of her powers of deduction in the footsteps of her hero, Hercule Poirot, to uncover the facts. Why did Luigi come to Tamarisk Bay? What is the truth about his family?

As Luigi’s story unfolds, tragedy seems to haunt the past, present and unless Janie acts fast, possibly what is yet to come.

If you love Agatha Christie style twists and turns, or are a fan of Call the Midwife, Endeavour, Inspector George Gently and all those great 60s characters, then you will love this Sussex Crime series.

Purchase Link –

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Invisible-Case-Heartbreaking-Tragedy-Coldblooded/dp/B08NXYBLTF

US – https://www.amazon.com/Invisible-Case-Heartbreaking-Tragedy-Coldblooded/dp/B08NY2JNHR

Author Bio

Isabella is never happier than when she is immersing herself in the sights, sounds and experiences of the 1960s. Researching all aspects of family life back then formed the perfect launch pad for her works of fiction. Isabella rediscovered her love of writing fiction during two happy years working on and completing her MA in Professional Writing and since then has gone to publish five novels, two novellas and a short story collection.

The Invisible Case is the third book in her Sussex Crime Mystery series, featuring young librarian and amateur sleuth, Janie Juke. Set in the late 1960s, in the fictional seaside town of Tamarisk Bay, we meet Janie, who looks after the mobile library. She is an avid lover of Agatha Christie stories – in particular Hercule Poirot – using all she has learned from the Queen of Crime to help solve crimes and mysteries. All three novels are now available as audiobooks.

As well as three novels, there are three novellas in the series, which explore some of the back story to the Tamarisk Bay characters.

Her latest novel, Crossing the Line, is the first of a new series of Sussex Crimes, featuring retired Italian detective, Giuseppe Bianchi who arrives in the quiet seaside town of Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, to find a dead body on the beach and so the story begins…

Isabella’s standalone novel, The Forgotten Children, deals with the emotive subject of the child migrants who were sent to Australia – again focusing on family life in the 1960s, when the child migrant policy was still in force.

Social Media Links

https://isabellamuir.com/

https://www.facebook.com/IsabellaMuirAuthor

https://twitter.com/SussexMysteries

My Review

I felt this was a very traditional mystery. much in the style of Agatha Christie. Set across Italy and England via a train journey through picturesque countryside, the mystery begins when Luigi’s briefcase is stolen. (He is accompanying Jessica back to visit her family in England) He is sure he saw the thief, but feels he’s not being taken seriously.

In England, Jessica is staying with her brother but Luigi is in the way, and so books into a B&B run by a fellow Italian. When a new guest arrives at the B&B and is soon found dead in his room, Jessica’s niece, Janie is curious …more than curious really. As an amateur sleuth, she takes an interest in Luigi and the new guest, determined to find out more about the man who accompanied her aunt.

The missing briefcase does play a role later in the story, as do other elements an characters connected to Luigi.

For me, the narration was hard to follow at times. It was very breathy and often too quiet (even at full volume) and I had to rewind often to hear what was said.

Overall, it’s a gently-paced mystery, perfect for fans of cosy mysteries but with a different kind of sleuth.

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