blog tour · book review · historical fiction · Renaissance Italy · series

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The Devil’s Tune

The Devil’s Tune

Carlo Gesualdo, prince, composer and murderer has his wife and her lover killed in Naples in 1590. The wife’s maidservant,Laura Scala, witnesses the events and vowes to avenge her mistress.

The princess, Donna Maria d’Avalos, rescued Laura in Sicily after she had been raped at the age of thirteen. Laura devotes her life to her saviour and after the murders she spends years of her life trying to be revenged on the musical prince.

The scene moves from Sicily to Naples and Venice, back to Naples and finally to the New World. Laura believes she is carrying a curse. Everyone she becomes involved with appears to suffers misfortune and death.

A Jewish girl in the Venetian ghetto is kidnapped and sold into the Sultan’s harem, Laura’s daughter is placed in an orphanage without her knowledge, the artist Caravaggio uses Laura as a model and meets a tragic end.

Three beautiful pearls given to Laura by her mistress play a part in the story. Is Laura really cursed – or is it her connection with the murderous prince who dabbles in the occult?

A gypsy woman is burned at the stake, a Venetian gondolier meets a mysterious fate and Laura becomes a skilled herbalist and poisoner by default before the story ends in the New World. The background to these  events is the strange and compelling music of Gesualdo.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Devils-Tune-Italian-trilogy-ebook/dp/B07CQ8FDP3

US – https://www.amazon.com/Devils-Tune-Italian-trilogy-ebook/dp/B07CQ8FDP3

Author Bio

Frances Kempton is a reclusive writer fleeing from the clutches of Jane Austen.

She has an obsession with Italy.

This is the first book in an Italian trilogy.

My Review

The Devil’s Tune is narrated by Laura Scala, the maidservant and confidante of Donna Maria, Prince Carlo Gesualdo’s wife. When her mistress is brutally murdered alongside her lover and child, Laura is so overwhelmed and abhorred by the act that she swears to exact vengeance on behalf of her mistress no matter how long it takes. As such, her own life is tainted by her hatred of Gesualdo and the promise she has made.

The author has created a vivid picture of how Laura might carry out her revenge, taking the readers through Naples and Venice as she keeps track of her prey. Gesualdo is obsessed by his music creations, seemingly oblivious to the effect of his decisions upon others. Laura is not the only person to dislike him, and understandably so. It was easy to root for Laura, even though she had murder in mind, especially given the impact her promise had on her own life. She’d experienced rape as a young girl and was wary of any romantic encounter, though she did eventually marry and have her own child. Sadly, her husband died and the mother-in-law from hell inflicted yet more tragedy on poor Laura. While Gesualdo seemed invincible, Laura lost everything and had to start over yet again. Nonetheless, her promise to her mistress was never far from her mind, despite the constant and never-ending obstacles that came her way.

Did she keep her promise? Did she find happiness again? The Devil’s Tune answers all of those questions while taking the reader on an indulgent, albeit vivid and brutal, tour of Renaissance Italy. An enthralling and captivating story with a resilient leading lady and a lot of heartbreak. As this is the first in a trilogy, I look forward to reading the next in the series.

As always,

Reviewed as Meandthemutts on Amazon UK
book review · crime · series · thriller

Book Review – Little Girl Taken

Little Girl Taken – Wendy Dranfield

Rain rattles through the trees as she leans into the car, careful not to touch anything. Two pretty blue eyes stare back through the dark, wide with relief, or maybe fear. A baby girl, wrapped up in a pink snowsuit, reaches out a tiny hand. Her mother is nowhere to be found…

An abandoned baby is the last thing Detective Madison Harper expects to find as she drives to her first day back at work since the case that ripped her life apart. But as she cradles the shivering child close, all her instincts tell her there’s something more sinister at play. Then she finds a lone sneaker down a muddy trail nearby, the laces spattered with blood…

In a town as small as Lost Creek, Colorado, the baby and the shoe are quickly identified as belonging to Kacie Larson, a waitress at the local diner who quietly stashed away her tips to make a better life for her daughter. A mother herself, Madison can’t believe that Kacie would just abandon her child, but she also can’t convince her new team. Not for the first time, Madison feels she must go it alone to get the job done.

But when a body is pulled from a nearby lake, and it’s not Kacie, the case takes an agonizing turn. Is this missing mother really who she says she is? Is there a chance she’s still alive? Madison barely has time to think before the sweet little girl she rescued is snatched on a crowded street. Gone, in the blink of an eye.

To break this case and earn her place back on the force, Madison must learn to trust her team, and herself again—and fast. If she doesn’t find this twisted individual in time, a little girl could die…

A pulse-pounding, absolutely gripping and totally addictive page-turner that will have you racing through the pages and reeling at the twists. Perfect for fans of Melinda Leigh, Lisa Regan and Kendra Elliot, you’ll be sleeping with the lights on!

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My Review

From the first book in the Detective Madison Harper series, I was hooked on both the original backstory of the main characters and the obstacles they faced in getting some degree of normality back into their lives. Last we met, Madison had found out who was behind her wrongful incarceration which saw her spend six years in prison, six years away from the job she loved and six long years away from her beloved son, Owen. In Little Girl Taken, Madison is about to start her first day back at Lost Creek Police Department as a detective. She’s nervous and excited, knowing it won’t be easy for her to trust her fellow officers immediately and expecting some backlash from the community. Luckily for her (if I can call it lucky) she doesn’t have time to let those thoughts fester as she finds a car in a ditch, inside which a baby girl lies, alone and crying.

So begins the case to find out who the child is and where the driver of the vehicle is, assuming said driver is the child’s mother. Reports of a missing waitress lead her to believe the missing woman is a waitress at a local diner.

Meanwhile, Nate, the other main character, returns from visiting his good friend, Rex, not really knowing why he has gone back to Lost Creek now that Madison has her life sorted, her son is back with her and she has her job to keep her busy. Nate, however, knows he cannot settle until Father Connor has been caught, and disturbing messages from the priest who set him up for the murder of his fiancée, torment him regularly. Progress has been made in that he’s stopped his drug use since visiting Rex, but the temptation is still there to drag him down into that dark spiral of depression.

Madison has her hands full: she and Owen are struggling to communicate well, he’s not the young boy she was forced to leave behind anymore; also, at the police department, she has been partnered with the very officer who put her away. Now that he is struggling himself, she finds herself bearing the brunt of their work and the two of them still have both different approaches to the job and very different views on getting the job done. She’s also worried about Nate. She wants to help him, but is so busy, and she’s concerned he might leave Lost Creek and hunt for Father Connor by himself.

Little Girl Taken sees Madison take on her first major case with gusto and empathy, digging deep in the the missing mother’s life to reveal a tragic and heartbreaking tale of untreated trauma. The path Madison takes to learn these facts is deliciously convoluted as the author drops clues like confetti. The way the story twists and turns makes it an absolute page-turner. Added to Madison’s complicated life, poor Nate isn’t having a great time either when yet more tragedy befalls him, putting him back on the police’s radar for another murder. He knows Father Connor is behind matters, and can delay no longer in hunting him down. It’s dramatic, tense and excrutiatingly difficult to watch Nate break down. He will need to rely on Madison to get him through this latest episode.

This is a very clever crime thriller that had me second guessing everyone in Lost Creek at some point. Brody, the K9-trained dog is a star, as always, his training as a cadaver dog being used widely throughout the investigation. A new character – Vince Rader – is established as one to watch. He’s runs a crime podcast and is keen to interview Madison and Nate, but he also employed the missing woman. On top of that, he is grieving the loss of his wife and grandson and trying to ignore the aspersions cast his way that he was responsible in some way. He manages to appear to be both a bad guy and a good guy at times before his true self is laid bare, and he really is as genuine as he makes out. Hopefully, he’ll be part of Nate’s decision as to whether his future is in Lost Creek or not. I’m pretty convinced Madison and Owen want him to stick around.

I’ll be keeping an eye for the next instalment; Wendy Dranfield has becomes one of of must-read authors. Thanks go to Netgalley, Wendy and the publishers for my copy of this book which I’ve reviewed voluntarily and with the greatest of pleasure. My only query is regarding the book cover which didn’t seem to relate to the story at all, although it does match the style of others in the series and also the market for crime thrillers. Does it matter that it doesn’t go with the story, IMHO? Probably not, but if we’re led to believe that covers sell books, then this wouldn’t have done so for me. Luckily, the author’s name alone is enough for me to choose this one.

As always,

blog tour · book review · crime · police procedural · series

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Preacher Boy

First in the Dr Harrison Lane series

Preacher Boy

IT’S TIME FOR A NEW CRIME MYSTERY HERO

Dr Harrison Lane is everything you wouldn’t expect from a man with a psychology doctorate. For victims, he’s everything they need.

They look, but they don’t see…

As Head of the Metropolitan Police’s Ritualistic Behavioural Crimes Unit, Dr Harrison Lane knows his Voodoo from his Aum Shinrikyo and a Satanist from a Shaman.

Harrison had an unusual childhood, raised by a bohemian mother and one of the native American Shadow Wolves – the elite tracking squad that works with US Drug enforcers. After his mother’s murder, he dedicated his life to tracking down those who hide behind spiritualism and religion to do evil.

Following the discovery of a missing boy’s body in what looks like a Satanic killing, Harrison is called in to help detectives. When a second boy is snatched, it becomes a race against time to save him, and sees Harrison come face-to-face with some dark secrets from his own childhood.

Preacher Boy is the first book in a gripping new crime mystery series from Amazon Top 20 bestselling author, Gwyn GB. Perfect for fans of LJ Ross, JD Kirk, J.R. Ellis, J M Dalgliesh, Rachel Abbott, Joy Ellis and David Blake.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Preacher-Boy-Harrison-mystery-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B08YYS3Q7L

US – https://www.amazon.com/Preacher-Boy-Harrison-mystery-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B08YYS3Q7L

Author Bio

Gwyn is an Amazon Top 20 bestselling author. She’s a former UK national TV newscaster and presenter, and journalist for national newspapers and magazines. Gwyn became a journalist because all she wanted to do was write and has finally realised her dream of being a full-time fiction author. Born in the UK, Gwyn now lives in the Channel Islands with her family, including a rescue dog and 17-year-old goldfish.

Gwyn launched her debut novel, Islands as Gwyn Garfield-Bennett in 2016, the romantic suspense book rose quickly into the Amazon top 20. Her first crime mystery series, featuring DI Falle, launched with Lonely Hearts in 2017.

You can find out more about Gwyn at www.gwyngb.com

Or on social media:

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GwynGB

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gwyngb/

My Review

Dr Harrison Lane is about to become one of my new favourite crime-solving heroes. As an avid viewer of Criminal Minds and the Behavior Analysis Unit of the FBI, it was a no-brainer that I wanted to read this book. And while the BAU team includes many a fabulous character, there’s no-one quite like Dr Lane. He is an enigma to his colleagues with his unusual skills (as learnt whilst growing up among the Shadow Wolves, a group of Native American trackers who work to prevent smuggling along the Mexico-USA border in Arizona.) Not to mention, he has a mystery of his own to solve (that of his mother’s killer). Combined, he stands out as different. But if your loved one has been the victim of a murder, then he’s the one you’d want to hunt down the murderer.

The story features a number of great characters, many with their own personal issues that affect how they handle their job. The plot is clever and interesting as it evolves from a single murder to a serial killer case, requiring the police team to trust Lane’s judgement regardless of whether they understand or even agree with it.

I found the writing to be unusual, varying from most books I read these days in that it was more omniscient in style than viewpoint-driven, often in more than one character’s head in a scene. When even a nameless woman “with pulled back hair” got to have “thoughts” about the situation unravelling at the police station, it threw me out a little. But despite being that little bit different in storytelling style, the strength of the story and the cast of characters more than kept me engaged. I’ll be checking out the next book in the series for sure.

Preacher Boy is an intriguing mystery, not least for its leading man, but also as a result of the dynamics between the characters which drive the story forward at a good pace, while still thrilling the reader with its originality.

Highly recommended.

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Blog Tour Participants

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Amazon Reviewer Name
Reviews on Amazon UK as MeandtheMutts
book excerpt · dystopian · Giveaways · R&R Book Tour stop · series · survival · YA

Book Tour – The Demon of Yodok (plus a giveaway)

Tour Banner

To celebrate the release of the latest novel in the Juche series, The Storm of Storms, we’re going back to the book that started it all! The Demon of Yodok! Read on for more details and a chance to win a signed hardcover edition of the novel!

Juche part one - eBook - Copy

The Demon of Yodok (Juche 1)

Genre: YA Dystopian

A highly addictive Young Adult Dystopian Survival series that will keep you glued to the pages.

JUCHE [dʒuːtʃe]

Just when Areum, daughter of a privileged family in the totalitarian state of Choson, thought she was free from her personal prison, her world collapses around her as her family are taken away in the middle of the night to a hell-like camp in the mountains where people who have strayed from the righteous path are brutally re-educated through blood, sweat, tears and starvation.

There she has to fight for survival together with the family she hates and is forced to re-evaluate every aspect of her life until then – her deep resentment toward her twin sister; her view of her father in face of the mounting evidence he is a traitor with the blood of millions of fellow countrymen on his hands; and even her love and affection for the Great General – the eternal savior and protector of Choson, whom she had always considered her true father.

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Excerpt

Cranes sang songs of joy from the mountain tops.

Double rainbows appeared in the sky.

The aggressors from the west were defeated. The invaders from the east were expunged. The traitors from the south were put at bay.

The people of Choson were finally free to create their own destiny, and so a hermit kingdom of people’s rule rose from the ashes, and the doors to the enemies of the outside world were closed, never to be opened again.

The world around them moved on. Years passed. Decades passed. Peace and prosperity spread throughout the world, and nothing was heard from the secluded hermit paradise.

Then one day, people started emerging from its closed borders. The stories they brought with them were, however, not of a paradise on earth. Instead, what they depicted were horrors so vile and cruel that they almost exceeded human comprehension.

Little had the people of the kingdom known when they closed its doors to the outside world, that the vilest beast of all was still lurking among their midst, and as soon as the curtains had been drawn, the beast unleashed its reign of terror upon the people, not stopping until it had crushed and enslaved every soul within its reach.

The beast now rules the kingdom from a throne of human misery and agony.

No one alive has ever encountered this beast, but everybody knows its name.

JUCHE

Available on Amazon

About the Author

AC Logo 2

Adria Carmichael is a writer of Young Adult Dystopian fiction with a twist. When she is not devouring dystopian and post-apocalyptic content in any format – books, movies, TV-series and PlayStation games – she is crafting the epic and highly-addictive Juche saga, her 2020 debut novel series that takes place in the brutal, totalitarian nation of Choson. When the limit of doom and gloom is reached, a 10K run on a sunny day or binging a silly sitcom on a rainy day is her go-to way to unwind.

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blog tour · book review · crime · police procedural · series

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – A Knot of Sparrows

A Knot Of Sparrows

Welsh detective Winter Meadows takes on a new murder case

There were a lot of things you could call Stacey Evans. And many of them would be true. And unprintable. But did she deserve to be murdered?

DI Winter Meadows has no doubt of the answer when he takes on the case. The crime was violent. The victim helpless. But the motives are many, and the only clue is a strange word left on Stacey’s body.

DI Meadows struggles to pierce the secrecy surrounding the teenager’s busy love life. Was the killer one of her pursuers acting out of jealousy? Maybe someone’s wife seeking revenge?

But as each suspect is excluded from the enquiry, and other markings turn up, Meadows is convinced that something more sinister is afoot.

When another body is found, a veil of silence descends like a fog upon Gaer Fawr. What more will it take for the village to give up its secrets?

A KNOT OF SPARROWS is the fourth standalone title in a series of murder mysteries by best-selling author Cheryl Rees-Price. It will appeal to fans of David Pearson, L J Ross, John Dean, Joy Ellis, and Pippa McCathie.

The full list of books is as follows:

1. THE SILENT QUARRY

2. FROZEN MINDS

3. SUFFER THE CHILDREN

4. A KNOT OF SPARROWS

Cheryl Rees-Price is also the author of the standalone thriller BLUE HOLLOW.

All of these books are FREE with Kindle Unlimited and available in paperback from Amazon.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08XQS6219/

US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08XQS6219/

Author Bio

Cheryl Rees-Price was born in Cardiff and moved as a young child to a small ex-mining village on the edge of the Black Mountain range, South Wales, where she still lives with her husband, daughters and cats. After leaving school she worked as a legal clerk for several years before leaving to raise her two daughters.
Cheryl returned to education, studying philosophy, sociology, and accountancy whilst working as a part time book keeper. She now works as a finance director for a company that delivers project management and accounting services.
In her spare time Cheryl indulges in her passion for writing, the success of writing plays for local performances gave her the confidence to write her first novel. Her other hobbies include walking and gardening which free her mind to develop plots and create colourful characters.

Social Media Links

The Book Folks | Facebook

Cheryl Rees-Price | Facebook

https://twitter.com/CherylreesPrice

My Review

After finishing this I was kicking myself for coming late to the party with this author but, on the plus side, there are three more books for me still to discover!

Teenager Stacey Evans is found murdered, having recently split with her boyfriend amid rumours of her involvement with other men in the village. It comes to light that she bullied a girl at school who later went on to kill herself. For DI Meadows, the case suggests there are many with a motive to kill her. Was it really a random killing as many seem to say or is something more sinister afoot. The killer’s calling card in the form of REV17 written on her body infers it’s not as straightforward as some might think. And when more incidents occur with similar messages left behind, the connection points to biblical references.

Whenever Meadows and his team sense a breakthrough, the suspects seem to have firm alibis as the community bandies around to vouch for each other. Things do not add up, but Meadows is not one for giving up easily. I enjoyed how his team worked together, he and Edris have a great rapport (on a side note, I’d go to their Halloween party 😉 for sure) and a dogged determination to solve the case(s)

The villagers, on the other hand, possess a loyalty that unites them in grief, no matter how misplaced said loyalty is, and the lengths to which they would go to keep a secret says a lot for their sense of community and justice … or should I say revenge?

An original ending too, that goes to show that not every story ends as you might expect it to.

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As always,

Amazon Reviewer Name
Reviewed on Amazon UK as Meandthemutts
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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As always,

Amazon Reviewer Name
Reviewed on Amazon as Meandthemutts

blog tour · book review · crime · police procedural · series · social media

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The Hashtag Killer

The Hashtag Killer

Catch a killer or save a child. What would you do?

DI Jen Flowers thought she’d seen it all after fifteen years on the force, but when a vigilante serial killer hits the city and uses social media to gather supporters, she must fight the public and her doubts to catch a murderer and save her daughter.

Suffering from blackouts and abandoned as a child by her father, Ruby Vasquez has been chasing that one scoop to make her an internet star. Living with an alcoholic mother who hates her, Ruby discovers a secret about the vigilante’s first victim, which puts her in the killer and DI Flowers’ sights.

Jen and Ruby have to overcome the secrets in their past while battling each other to discover the Hashtag Killer’s identity. Jen will have to choose between keeping her daughter safe or finding a killer, while Ruby will need to decide if becoming famous is more important than doing the right thing.

Purchase Link

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08SPBY6QZ

US – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08SPBY6QZ

Author Bio

Andrew French is a man of no wealth and little taste.

He lives amongst faded seaside glamour on the North East coast of England.

He likes gin and cats but not together, new music and old movies, curry and ice cream.

Slow bike rides and long walks to the pub are his usual exercise, as well as flicking through the pages of good books and the memoirs of bad people.

Social Media Links – Website, Twitter, Instagram, FB page

My Review

An original and timely police procedural with an abundance of twists along the way. The Hashtag Killer, as you might expect, uses the power of social media to bring the killings to the public’s attention, and wannabe influencer Ruby Vasquez cannot resist keeping the story alive with her blog posts.

From the moment Ruby realised she was first on the scene, she was in “detective” mode on the dark web, finding information that a regular internet user would not see about the victim. Her reporting of that info played a massive role in managing the public’s opinion of the victim, and rather than call out for the killer’s arrest, there was instead a sense of justice having been done in ridding society of a rapist. Suddenly, the killer became a vigilante whose actions were appreciated – definitely not the ideal scenario for the police’s investigation.

The story was told from various points of view – DI Jen Flowers, blogger-journo Ruby and the killer him/herself (no spoilers here!) Such an approach allowed the readers great insight into the lives of Jen and Ruby, and how the story impacted their lives. For me, the killer’s chapters were overwritten and full of excessive details that had me skimming ahead. It soon became clear that the person who “claimed” to be the killer couldn’t possibly be, and that aspect made the killer’s chapters a struggle for me to get through.

Things picked up considerably when looking at the investigation from DI Flower’s perspective, and with Ruby’s efforts to remain relevant in the cut-and-thrust world of social media. The friction between the police and the news reporting made for great tension and kept the story moving at a good pace, adding another layer of drama and anxiety to the police’s need to stay ahead of the game if they were to ever catch the killer.

An interesting and original take on a crime investigation, highlighting the difficult job the police have when public opinion is swayed by the force that is social media.

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blog tour · book review · crime · police procedural · series

Book Review – Last Seen

I can see her, shouting with laughter as she swings as high as she can, her beautiful blonde curls flying out behind her. I can feel her tiny hot hand in mine, and my heart aches. My little girl. If only I’d listened to my gut. Then maybe she’d be safe here with me…

When five-year-old Molly Reynolds is snatched from the park in the small village of Otterfield, Detective Bernadette ‘Bernie’ Noel throws herself into the search, sick with worry for the quiet, sensitive little girl and her distraught mother.

Wasting no time, Bernie finds a small green cardigan under a bush in the park. It still has the smiley face sticker Molly won that week at school. It’s the first in a chain of clues – and Bernie can’t shake the feeling that it was left deliberately, as a message.

But Bernie encounters a wall of silence. Otterfield is a close-knit community, yet no one in the village seems to care that Molly is missing at all. Why?

And then Bernie makes a chilling discovery: twenty-five years ago, another little girl went missing from the area. Her name was Sophie, and all they ever found of her was her teddy bear, hidden under a bush. Now Bernie knows she’s in a race against time to save Molly’s life.

Bernie’s team work round the clock to find a connection between the two girls, and just when they think they’re making progress a devastating tragedy strikes at the heart of the case. Molly’s family have been hiding a secret, and now their little girl is in greater danger than ever.

Can Bernie outwit the most warped criminal she has ever faced and bring Molly home safe, or will another innocent life be lost?

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My Review

I’m always delighted to get in on the first book in a new police procedural series. Last Seen has set the bar very high and I’ll be looking out for Joy Kluver’s next book for sure.

Detective Bernadette (Bernie) Noel is a former Met Police officer and, at first, it’s not clear why she has transferred out of London to a Wiltshire town where the pace of life is decidedly slower. Nonetheless, she soon faces a major investigation when a five-year-old girl, Molly, goes missing from a local park.

Keen to get search parties organised, she is quick to start door-to-door enquiries with locals in the area, only to find them unwilling to get involved in the search. Mystified as to why none of them are interested in a child’s life, she pushes on. When they find a child’s fleece and a pushchair in the bushes with no prints or DNA other than the child’s, it becomes obvious that this was no random abduction.

Whilst this is going on, we learn a little more about Bernie’s past. Having just returned from a family funeral, she seems concerned that her whereabouts as the lead investigator will have revealed her identity. But to whom? On top of that, she fears a hand-delivered note may mean that they have already found her? But who is looking for her and why?

Struggling to move the case forward, Bernie soon finds her position leading the case is at risk. This only fuels her determination to find Molly, with or without the villagers’ help. Aided by a strong team who have the same goals, Bernie is able to double-down and slowly but surely the pieces begin to fit together. But can she find Molly before she is made to step aside?

The investigation soon raises questions about Molly’s family which seems to link her disappearance with another case many years before. As the secrets are revealed, the reason behind the villagers’ reluctance to help becomes known – and it’s a cunning and clever twist, though not one that sits comfortably with Bernie and her team. How can people leave a child’s life in danger as some sort of payback for past events? It is most curious and fascinating.

This story has a compelling mystery at its core but it is the strong cast of characters who carry it through to its conclusion along with family drama, intriguing backstory, and great teamwork and dedication from Bernie’s colleagues.

An excellent start to a new series. I’ll be back for more.

My thanks go to the author, Bookouture and Netgalley for my advanced copy which I have reviewed voluntarily and with pleasure.

As always,

book review · crime · series · thriller

Book Review – Cry for Help

Shivering in the early morning chill, the caretaker flips the switch on the Ferris wheel and stumbles back in shock. The teenage girl’s body is slumped in a halo of pretty colored lights, long red hair spilling over her tear-stained cheeks, her eyes fixed forever on her dangling feet.

When teenager Nikki Jackson’s body is found at an amusement park, just hours after Fourth of July fireworks lit up the night sky, the Lost Creek police rule her death as suicide––a devastating final act from a girl who had lost all hope. But the absence of the knife used to make the wounds on her delicate wrists makes Detective Madison Harper think otherwise. And the partial fingerprint found on the girl’s face proves her right. Someone else was with Nikki in her final moments…

Back home in Colorado for the first time in seven years to investigate the murder of a woman with ties to the son she lost to the care system, the pressure is on for Madison to work both cases at once. Fearing the team has missed a vital clue, Madison searches the crime scene alone and finds the last thing she ever expected: a note proving the victims knew each other, and that the cases are linked. Is this a coincidence, proof a dangerous murderer is on the loose, or a trap set to lead Madison off the trail?

It’s only when Madison finally finds the knife used to harm Nikki, tucked in an almost impossible to find hiding place, that she knows she is closing in on a twisted killer. But the last person she expects to see dragged into the department in handcuffs is her own missing son…

An absolutely unputdownable crime thriller that will have you sleeping with the lights on. Addictive reading for anyone who loves Lisa Regan, Robert Dugoni and Melinda Leigh.

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My Review

Cry for Help picks up the story where Shadow Falls ended, with Madison and Nate heading back to Lost Creek after hearing the news that Madison’s ex-girlfriend has been killed.

Having already agreed to help Madison find her son, Owen, Nate understands the new urgency and is 100% willing to get justice for Madison’s wrongful conviction and to find the corrupt cops who framed her. His hatred for the police has only intensified since meeting Madison, and since he has no new information on Father O’Connor who set him up for his fiancée’s murder, he is more than happy to expose police corruption while he waits.

As the two of them, along with former K9 dog, Brody, make their way there, local police are dealing with the death of a teenage girl at the amusement park – first indications suggest suicide but a link between this case and the murder of Madison ex-girlfriend can’t be ignored. After all, two suspicious deaths in a small town like Lost Creek is more than a coincidence.

Once again, the author has created a story with characters you can’t help but care about. Putting aside Nate and Madison (whose history and relationship develop beautifully throughout), the story of the teenage girl – Nikki Jackson – is heartbreakingly sad and written with great compassion and empathy.

That said, the villains are appallingly vile too. As the truth about her ex’s murder becomes known, Madison is forced to face the cruel reality of her relationship with her own sister as well as with some of her former colleagues in the police force.

Clearing her name, finding her girlfriend’s killer and tracking down Owen all combine into one monumental challenge, and the author doesn’t give in to Madison’s demands easily. She really makes her and Nate work for the truth. All of which makes it compelling reading.

A certain scene with flies buzzing around a dead animal had me worried. Surely no one would hurt Brody? Was I more concerned about the dog than catching the killers? Probably 😉 Nonetheless, this made it even more of a page turner.

Another excellent story that ticks so many genre boxes – drama, crime, thriller and suspense – yet holds together as a cohesive whole. And, I’m even more delighted to hear that book three is not far off and Nate’s own story will be further explored and hopefully concluded.

Thanks to the author, Netgalley and Bookouture for my e-copy which I am delighted to review. Congrats!

As always,

blog tour · book review · romantic comedy · series · travel

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Flying Duo

Flying Duo

Can true love go the distance?

London lawyer Rachel Watson has wound up in an Indian ashram with hippy heartthrob lover, Seb.

A high-achiever, Rachel has always lived life according to her Life List, ticking off goals along the way. But now that she’s in India, Rachel is going with the flow, or at least trying to…

Rachel’s visa is running out and it’s time to decide whether her relationship with Seb is a holiday romance or built to last.

The pair embark on a trip to Nepal for an Everest base camp trek, but will their relationship survive this gruelling expedition or is it time to part ways?

Flying Duo is the second romantic comedy in the ‘Flying’ series, following on from bestseller, Flying Solo, which was described by the Daily Express newspaper as ‘a must read that will appeal to fans of Sophie Kinsella, Beth O’Leary and Mhari McFarlane’ ★★★★★


Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08C8Q8FZM

US – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08C8Q8FZM

Author Bio

Zoe May is an author of romantic comedies. Zoe has dreamt of being a novelist since she was a teenager. She worked in journalism and copywriting in London before writing her debut novel, Perfect Match. Having experienced the London dating scene first hand, Zoe couldn’t resist writing a novel about dating since it seems to supply endless amounts of weird and wonderful material!

Perfect Match was one of Apple’s top-selling books of 2018. It was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Joan Hessayon Award, with judges describing it as ‘a laugh out loud look at love and self-discovery – fresh and very funny’.

As well as writing, Zoe enjoys walking her dog, painting and, of course, reading! She adores animals and if she’s not taking a photo of a vegan meal, she’s probably tweeting about the dairy industry. She is half Greek and half Irish and can make a mean baklava. Zoe has a thing for horror films, India, swimming, hip hop and Radiohead. She has an encyclopaedic knowledge of handbags having spent several years working in fashion copywriting and could probably win Mastermind if this was her specialist subject!

Social Media Links 

https://www.twitter.com/zoe_writes

https://www.instagram.com/zoe_writes

www.facebook.com/zoemayauthor/

www.zoemayauthor.co.uk

My Review

Another gem from Zoe May. 

After reading and enjoying Flying Solo, it made perfect sense to jump aboard the tour for book two, and I was barely a few pages into the story before I had a big grin on my face. Flying Duo was the tonic I needed, and it met my expectations from start to finish. As I knew it would, because this is an author whose books I will return to time and time again because they offer that magical blend of fun, frivolity, and pure escapism.

That’s not to say the story is pure froth; it’s not. It has many more layers than that, but is delivered in a way that nothing jarred or threw me out of the story. 

Having become “persona non grata” at the Ashram where she went to find her boyfriend, Paul, Rachel is now very happy to have moved on and found Seb, as well as to expose the corrupt goings-on inside the Ashram. But her endeavours had consequences. She and Seb had to move out, and it became time to question if their relationship was more than a holiday romance. 

Unfortunately, neither seemed willing to bring the topic up. Talk of the future turned into a “where next?” conversation, and saw them heading to Nepal. It’s fair to say they had different expectations of the trip; Rachel was not prepared for the less than comfortable hostels and the trek up Everest – even if only to the basecamp – and it’s safe to say those blood-sucking leeches did not feature on her radar …until they did! But Seb was so enthusiastic, she couldn’t deny him the opportunity, especially as his father had made the journey many years before. 

While the experience was not the relaxing break she had looked forward to, it did prove to be a time of personal growth for both of them. This was very much a story of two people, Rachel & Seb, both of whom had to overcome issues in their own lives that were holding them back before they could truly move forward together as a couple.

There were laugh-out-loud moments as well as times of great poignancy, and it all flowed together seamlessly. The perfect antidote to lockdown syndrome, and some fabulous scenery and adventures to boot. The ending was what every reader would hope for them, and it left the way open for a third book (or, at least I hope it does).

A fabulous read; romantic comedy at its best. More please, Zoe May! 

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