book review · crime · NetGalley · suspense · tense

Book Review – The Midnight Man

From number one bestselling author Caroline Mitchell, comes the first chilling Slayton thriller for fans of C. J. Tudor and Stephen King.

If you open your door to the Midnight Man,

hide with a candle wherever you can.

Try not to scream as he draws near,

because one of you won’t be leaving here…

On Halloween night in Slayton, five girls go to Blackhall Manor to play the Midnight Game. They write their names on a piece of paper and prick their fingers to soak it in blood. At exactly midnight they knock on the door twenty-two times – they have invited the Midnight Man in.

It was supposed to be a game, but only four girls come home.

Detective Sarah Noble has just returned to the force, and no one knows more about Blackhall Manor than her. It’s a case that will take Sarah back to everything she’s been running from, and shake her to the core.

Will she be ready to meet the Midnight Man?

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My Review

This book was – and still is – all over Twitter, and rave reviews led to my FOMO sending me to Netgalley to request a copy. I even hassled the publishers, praying I hadn’t been declined. Fortunately, my impatience was soon rewarded, and I settled in for what I hoped would be a thrilling read.

Jeez, did I luck out! It was everything I hoped for: tense, twisty and atmospheric. The poem in the blurb sets the scene perfectly for those five girls who prepare to play The Midnight Game. It’s legendary in Slayton, and something of a rite of passage for teens to seek out an abandoned building and dare to knock 22 times and let the Midnight Man in.

Blackhall Manor is something of legend itself, home to a series of deaths 25 years ago when the father of the household killed his family – parents, wife and children – before turning the gun on himself. Ever since, the house has been considered cursed, making it the perfect setting for The Midnight Man.

Unfortunately for the five girls invited to Blackhall Manor that Halloween, this is a game with deadly consequences. It begins as spooky fun, superstitious nonsense … until one girl goes missing. Now, you might expect the four remaining girls to ‘fess up and tell their parents where they’ve been, but no. The power of the message on their invitation – if you tell, you’ll go to hell – is so strong that they’re too scared of what might happen if they admit where they’ve been.

Detective Sarah Noble has just gone back to work after extended leave. Her backstory is complicated and multi-faceted, both elements that inject her personally into the case of the missing girl, and not merely in her role as a police officer. It affects how she is treated by her peers, and also how she feels about Blackhall Manor.

Her friend’s son, 7-year-old Elliot, is a kindred spirit. He’s been having visions of the hooded man in his nightmares. These visions extend to the missing girl, and later to others caught up in the game. He finds Sarah to be a safe haven, someone to whom he can reveal what he’s seen and who, as a police officer, can actually help. Elliot is the sweetest boy but he’s not easily fobbed off. He is per-cep-tive in every sense (as his teacher has told him) and he not only sees the Midnight Man, but he also sees through adults trying to use his abilities for their own end.

As evidence comes in, the police think they’ve found their man … but have they? Sarah has her doubts, but doesn’t feel able to share them at work. If she is going to prove herself capable as a detective, she’s going to have to revisit her past. Dun, dun, duuuuunnn …

I’ve not read anything by this author before, and I was super excited to get my hands on this one (Thank you Embla, Netgalley & Caroline). I’ll admit to being wary, as horror (the gory stuff) is so not my thing, but I’ll categorise this as creepy horror blended with twisty suspense and aspects of a police procedural. I’ll definitely be back for more.

As always,

blog tour · book review · suspense · tense

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Carrying Clover

Carrying Clover

Newly single Camille Robins’ luck is about to change as she embarks on a new chapter of her life, moving to the city near her best friend, Lizzie.

At a chance meeting at Lou’s B&B, Camille meets George, a handsome man who sweeps her off her feet.

Can Lizzie forgive Camille for stealing her previous boyfriend, or will she seek revenge?

Camille can’t believe her luck! George can’t believe how perfect she is….

Was it a fate romance, or part of an evil plan?

A fresh new twist on a psychological thriller, fast-paced, clever, and thought provoking that will make you question who is the lucky one.

Luck, love, deceit, and heartbreak will keep you turning the page. And a breathtaking twist you won’t see coming, will stay with you long after you have finished reading.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09BZZHNHH

US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09BZZHNHH

Author Bio

Lorey Durston is an author of thriller and suspense novels. 

CARRYING CLOVER is her debut novel.

She is currently working on her next suspense novel to be released late 2021.

Social Media Links – Twitter @loreydurston

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Lorey-Durston-Author-101764481996748

Instagram: loreydurstonauthor 

My Review

This was an enjoyable read for the most part, well-paced and suspenseful. There are three main characters, of which Camille and Lizzie are “related” in that they grew up with the same foster family. And while Camille sees Lizzie as her best friend and sister, the same cannot be said for Lizzie. She bears a hefty dose of resentment towards Camille, initially stemming from jealousy from when they grew up together – Lizzie saw Camille as the favourite child who always got what she wanted. That resentment is further inflamed when we learn that Camille “stole” Lizzie’s boyfriend, although seeing as he turned out to be an abusive partner, you might think she’d have been glad to see the back of him.

Fast forward to present day and Camille has escaped that abusive relationship and is looking to start over. She’s bought a new flat (from inheritance money – and another reason for Lizzie to be jealous) and will be working for Lizzie in her Bristol café. Camille is going into this full of hope and optimism. Her positivity proves to be remarkably naive.

As the flat is not ready to move into, Camille books into a B&B for 2 days. This is where she befriends the owner, Lou, and another resident, George – the third of the main characters. Once again, her positive nature sees no issue with the speed in which George goes from fellow resident at the breakfast table to sending her flowers and gifts when she moves into her own place and starts work.

The story is told mainly from Camille’s point-of-view, interspersed with short chapters that give an insight in what’s really going on in George’s mind – and there is a lot of bitterness and ill-will in his thoughts. He clearly sees Camille as gullible, as the perfect prey for his plan, though we are never sure of his plans until the very end. What we do discover is that there is an accomplished liar behind all that charm.

Lizzie’s viewpoint is also explored in similarly short chapters, long enough to reveal her contempt towards her sister-friend. I did wonder what Lizzie’s motive was in offering Camille a job if she really didn’t like her that much. At least George seemed to have a plan – to control Camille – but the reasoning behind Lizzie’s action was less clear. Nonetheless, both George and Lizzie have personality issues in that they can be so nice, welcoming, and thoughtful to Camille to her face, yet in reality both of them vilified Camille in their thoughts. It was quite disturbing to see how they managed such strong emotions. Such is the strength of the story in that the tension is high, and it keeps you guessing as to how it will end, especially as Camille comes across as so needy. There are times when she does question things, but those are fleeting, and she is too easily manipulated to see what’s going on until it’s too late.

The ending is surprising, but – it might just be me – I didn’t quite get why George needed to use other women in the way that he did given the “other” relationships in his life. I have to assume there were fertility issues elsewhere, though it was never confirmed as such (try writing that without creating a spoiler alert).

Whilst Carrying Clover has an exciting plot with oodles of suspense, the writing itself would have benefitted from another round of editing (unless I unknowingly received an uncorrected proof) Nonetheless, an enjoyable read … and I do love that cover.

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Reviewed on Amazon UK as Meandthemutts


blog tour · book excerpt · book review · Giveaways · suspense · thriller

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Safekeeping (with an amazing giveaway)

SafeKeeping

Welcome to the tour for highly anticipated release, Safekeeping by Eva Mackenzie! Read on for more details and a chance to win a brand-new Kindle Paperwhite 32GB (Value 249.99)!

Mackenzie_Safekeeping_Ebook

Safekeeping

Publication Date: July 20th, 2021

Genre: Thriller/ Suspense Thriller

No one ever thinks they’ll get caught…

Moments before police arrive on the scene of a car accident in rural Montana, Sonia has time to make one phone call. With one word whispered, she sets off an unstoppable chain of events. Once police arrive, she confesses to the brutal murder of her stepsister, Emma.

After, she’s sentenced to life in prison where she learns her stepfather’s ruthless reach. It’s a game of cat and mouse– a game she has already lost. She only needs to hold on long enough to be sure her secret is kept safe.

Until one day, news of an unidentified man’s death confirms her worst fear, and Sonia must get out of prison, at all cost. What did the dead man say, and who heard him say it?

Because everyone is guilty of something…

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Excerpt

She winced and sucked air through her mouth as she pressed on the bridge of her nose. Murmuring could be heard outside her cell from women nearby. A whisper began, low at first, but climbing to reach her ears: “Green light go, on 216. Green light go, on 216.”

It was soft and almost childlike, and its echo sent a shiver through her. Green light was code for a hit, and 216 was her cell number. It was like note-passing among the inmates, only she was meant to hear it. Someone had decided it was time for her to die.

The morning light caught the edge of one of her paintings and she stared back at a likeness only she could see.

“I miss you,” she whispered. “I’m not done yet.

Available on Amazon

About the Author

eva-fav-alley.jpg

Eva Mackenzie is an author who enjoys twisty, emotionally engrossing tales. Her debut novel has been a work in progress for over a decade. Under the urging of a loved one, it’s finally finished.

She is a wife and mother living on the east coast. When she isn’t writing, she is spending time with her family, training for her next marathon or reading stacks of suspense novels. Some of her favorite authors are Minka Kent, Dean Koontz, Tami Hoag, and Lisa Jackson.

Eva Mackenzie | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads| Newsletter

Who wants to win a brand new Kindle??? This giveaway is open to everyone and will run all week (ending July 24th)!

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My Review

This story starts off with a bang or rather a car crash as the protagonist, Sonia Rossi, is hurled into a ditch by an oncoming vehicle. Before the emergency services arrive, and too injured to run, she makes a phone call in which the word “safekeeping” triggers a series of events for the recipient. When the police arrive, she tells them her name … and that she is wanted for murder.

From here on, the story moves to Flint Hill Corrections Centre where Sonia has been incarcerated. We soon learn that her life in there is fraught with danger, and that she is constantly in danger. Assaulted time and again, Sonia tries to keep a low profile but it’s clear there are forces working against her. That force, primarily, being her step-father Saul D’Luca who is out for revenge after she “confessed” to killing his daughter, Emma, her step-sister.

However, when her ex is killed, Sonia knows she has to get out of prison and begins the appeal process with the help of Ali, a high-powered criminal defence attorney. It’s not longer before the warden at Flint Hill shows his true colours in refusing to give Sonia protection, and later in limiting her visitors. But when Sonia’s mum visits and then goes missing, as well as Ali the lawyer, it’s clear someone (Saul) does not want Sonia to be freed or even retried.

As Sonia battles for justice, the story also includes the actions of the person who received her phone call before she was locked up. Making the connections between Sonia, Saul and this third person, Jenna helps to unlock the reason Saul wants to keep Sonia quiet – preferably dead.

The suspense element is strong and there are several secrets to uncover before the story concludes which kept my attention, and despite there being multiple POV characters with their own chapters, the links between them all tie up by the end. For me, there are still a couple of loose ends that I’d like to see resolved – maybe there’ll be another book to do that.

A good and well-paced story with plenty of upsets along the ways that mean you just have to read one more chapter.


SafeKeeping

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book review · psychological suspense · suspense · Uncategorized · women's fiction

Book Review – The Street Party

The party was supposed to be the highlight of the summer. If only I’d known that night would destroy our lives…

All the neighbours were laughing, drinking out of plastic glasses and getting along. I almost felt happy. Almost forgot about the terrible argument earlier and the sinister messages I’d been receiving from a strange address all week, threatening to expose the lies behind my perfect life.

As we finished with the red and gold fireworks and welcomed everyone back to our house, I believed that everything would be okay.

But I didn’t know who I was inviting in.

I never could have imagined what would happen here, in our home, after I’d gone up to bed.

Everyone saw something different.

It’s my daughter’s word against the story the boy from down the road is telling. But how can I find out what really happened that night without everyone finding out the truth about me?

Purchase Link

My Review

Honestly, this is a real slow-starter; I was halfway through the book before the street party events kicked in … and even further on before the real drama began. That said, there are a number of characters at play here, all wildly different and with their own baggage to bring to the party. Could those early chapters have been condensed? Probably. But having reached the end, I can say it was worth the wait.

The story focuses on a group of neighbours who live in the richest part of London – though not all can truly afford to be there. There are three women at the centre of the story

  • Nella (future politician’s wife with lofty aspirations and more money than sense, and a desire to be seen to be doing good)
  • Melissa (yoga queen and a very lovely stepmother but with an abusive husband)
  • Ruby (florist, widowed, lives with her son and is very much on the edge of Nella’s group of helpers)

Nella plans on holding a fundraiser – not only will it make her look benevolent, but it won’t harm her husband’s political campaign either. So, she rallies her “friends” around. Melissa is Nella’s yoga teacher, and also best friend to Ruby who for the life of her cannot she why she has been invited to the inner sanctum.

Nella’s rather handsome husband – Marcus – is keen to get Ruby involved too, and offers to help out with getting her son an internship. Why he would do that is a mystery to Ruby (Could it be because her son is mixed race? Would a politician really be that shallow? ) However, Ruby is quite taken with Marcus’s attention … only to find out she is not the only woman he’s playing.

So, when the party finally begins, it looks like a great success. Until the police call around at Ruby’s house the next morning to speak to her son. Allegations have been made that will rock their world, its implications extending into the wider community too. No one is safe from the after effects of what is purported to have happened that night.

The story is told from the three women’s alternating viewpoints as they come to terms with the aftermath. It calls upon them to reflect upon their own situation, their behaviour, and the kind of world they want their kids to inherit. But, of course, neither woman will air their dirty laundry in public, and so the conundrum continues as to what really happened that night. Who is telling the truth? Who is covering for whom?

The final third of the book lived up to its “unputdownable” billing, though I still wouldn’t class it as a psychological thriller, more along the lines of women’s fiction with a suspense vibe.

What I didn’t like – apart from the slow start – was the constant dribble of “something’s going to happen soon” references, but I loved how the author grounded the characters (Ruby, in particular) in modern British cultural references. Of the three women, Ruby certainly came across as the most relateable.

Who I didn’t like – Melissa’s husband and Nella’s daughter top the list for me, but I loved Fin, Melissa’s stepdaughter, and Ruby and her son. The “good” characters were far from perfect, but the “baddies” were awfully good at being bad.

If you can tolerate a slow start, then you’ll be rewarding with a speedy ending that will leave your head spinning.

As always

Amazon Reviewer Name

 

book review · family · suspense · thriller & crime

Book Review – The Vacation

The Vacation

by M.M. Chouinard

One of them is missing… One of them did it…

The Thanksgiving retreat was meant to be a time for them to get away from it all, miles from the secrets that threaten to tear their family apart. But they’re each hiding something:

Rose hopes the pretty house overlooking the sea is just the break her family needs. But as she gazes at the water and remembers her own childhood, she is utterly terrified.

Brandon knows his wife Rose has barely forgiven him for his affair. He’s started drinking again, a road that led him to disaster once before.

Brianna, Rose’s sister-in-law, is recovering from her fifth miscarriage, and when she looks at her adorable niece, she can’t help but see the daughter she deserves.

Then three-year-old Lily disappears from her bed in the villa. Isolated in what should have been paradise, it quickly becomes clear that one of them took her.

As one by one their secrets are uncovered, who will be destroyed next?

A completely addictive thriller about every parent’s worst nightmare that will keep you guessing into the early hours of the morning. Perfect for fans of The Guest List, One by One and The Sister-in-Law.

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My Review

I’d seen so many great reviews about this book on Goodreads and Twitter starting with “WOW!” or “OMG!”, I had to check it out for myself. Billed as “utterly gripping”, The Vacation had a lot of hype to live up to … and, boy did it meet all those expectations and more.

From the first chapter, I was hooked and the pace didn’t let up. What was meant to be a fun and relaxing way to spend thanksgiving with family and close friends quickly unravelled to expose a plethora of secrets and resentments.

Rose had been worried about going to Jamaica with her two children, but her husband Brandon assured her it would be just the break they needed. And it seemed as though he was right, until midway through the holiday, after an evening of rum cocktails under a balmy breeze, Rose went to check on her sleeping kids. Jackson was snoring softly, his arm over his head when she checked on Lily, only to find the curtain billowing across the little girl’s bed.

It shouldn’t have been billowing though; the window had been shut last time she checked … but now it was open and Lily’s bed was empty. The nightmare scenario that had usurped her thoughts prior to them arriving in Jamaica had suddenly become a reality. Her three-year-old daughter was gone, just like those other little girls she’d spent hours reading about. Lily was missing. (It would be impossible not to draw comparisons here with the true story of Madeleine McCann, which made what happened all the more heartbreakingly believable)

After raising the alarm, Rose, Brandon and the others scoured the villa but there was no sign of her. When the police finally arrived, they assumed a ransom call would soon follow. It didn’t.

Accusations of lazy policing followed as there was no news of Lily’s whereabouts. Scrawlings on the wall outside Lily’s room suggested she’d been kidnapped, so why weren’t the police pulling out all of the stops to find her? Of course, Rose’s thoughts were blinded by fear for Lily’s wellbeing, so maybe blaming the police for inaction was understandable. Yet, the others in her party seemed to be doing the same. It made me wonder if that would prove to be a convenient smokescreen for someone)

When the police did find clues to what might have happened that night, they gathered all the adults together before sharing their information, watching each of them keenly for a reaction. It was voyeuristically addictive and had me biting my nails.

The story is told across multiple viewpoints – each of the adults had their own chapters – and from both the run-up to Lily’s disappearance and the investigation thereafter. This constant swapping kept the pace up; just as I thought I might read just one more chapter, the next viewpoint character’s chapter became more compelling. Inevitably, as each character’s backstory became known, so did they seem to have a motive. But surely none of them could have harmed Lily? Or could they?

As my suspicions bounced from one character to another, so did doubts form in their minds as they started to suspect each other. Though, mainly thanks to some clever manipulation, they soon began to question one of their group more than any other.

Jeez, writing this review without giving any spoilers is super hard 😉

Just when I thought I couldn’t be more on the side of the family, in came a curveball that had me praying for the police to turn up with all the answers. Was it too late? Would the truth be covered up forever? Oh my, the ending was frantic and sublime in equal measures. The clues were all there, but the way in which the author delivered those crumbs meant it was easy to miss them.

The Vacation was a book in which everyone came under suspicion. Full of page-turning suspense and very cleverly executed, this has to be one of my favourite book of the year so far.

As always,

Amazon Reviewer Name
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.


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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 launch · suspense · thriller

Release Blitz: The Wall (plus giveaway)

 

Suspense/Thriller

 

Date Published: 8/17/2020

Publisher: Entangled Publushing, LLC

 

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Set in an uncomfortably familiar future…

We built a wall to keep the dangers of the world out…but was it actually meant to keep us in?

Your every word is monitored. Your every movement watched.

If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

And if you stay within the wall, the Loyalist Party will protect you.

Gideon Frome knows that safety is an illusion. Ten years ago, his perfect life was shattered, and he left Washington DC in disgrace, sentenced to serve on The Wall. He may be back, lauded as a hero, but he knows he’s only traded one prison for another, assigned a position to the infamous Secret Service.

Kate Buchanan uses her illegal predictive engine to monitor the “chatter,” flagging perceived threats to America. When the program suggests that nuclear war is imminent, and people around her start to die, Kate can no longer hide. She needs help, and it comes from the most unlikely place—Gideon Frome, a ghost from her past.

The American people thought they were safe, but it’s becoming shockingly clear that the price of safety is too high. And somehow, together, Kate and Gideon must tear down the walls that keep their country a prisoner.

 

 

Excerpt
 
Gideon shifted the weight from his left foot. His leg was beginning to ache, and he rubbed at his thigh. He’d taken a piece of shrapnel there five years ago, at the same time he’d gotten the scar on his face, and it still gave him problems.
 
How long until he could leave? Too long, at a guess.
 
Christ, had he actually enjoyed these events in the past? It seemed inconceivable. However, if he wanted his life back, he was going to have to suck it up and look like he belonged. Act like he belonged. And maybe if he did it long enough, he might actually feel like he belonged.
 
The problem was, he couldn’t bring himself to care.
 
The room was crowded. Anyone and everyone had clamored for an invitation to the party of the year. Plus, there were a large number of security agents. More than he remembered from the past. Men in the black uniforms of the president’s personal bodyguards—selected from the elite of the Secret Service—stood at the doors, while others mingled with the crowd. There was even a sniper on the second-floor interior balcony, covering the room.
 
Either Harry was paranoid, or there was an elevated threat level. If so, no one had told Gideon about it. That was hardly surprising; he suspected that no one, with maybe the exception of Harry himself, actually wanted him there.
 
But he wanted answers, and this was where he would find them.
 
Once he had those answers, then…
 
Who knew? Though revenge wasn’t the solution.
 
Most of the time he believed that.
 
Harry was making the rounds, shaking hands and smiling as he headed this way. Gideon wasn’t sure whether he would be acknowledged, but the president halted in front of him. He was flanked by two Secret Service officers, dressed in their black uniforms. Harry’s army, as they were known within the service.
 
He took the proffered hand. Harry’s grip was firm, and his smile was sparkling. Good dental work.
 
“Happy birthday, sir,” he said.
 
“Thank you. I’m glad you could make it.”
 
“I was grateful for the invitation, Mr. President.”
 
“We must all practice forgiveness.”
 
He could feel his muscles tightening. He’d done nothing that needed fucking forgiving. Neither had his father. For a second, he felt an echo of the dark anger that had been his companion for the first few years after his father’s death. He pushed it down and forced a smile. “Thank you, sir. I appreciated the chance to come home.”
 
“You’re a hero now, Gideon. You saved America from invasion. The people love you. We need heroes at a time like this.”
 
At a time like what? He’d seen the polls. There was a good chance that Harry would keep his position when—or maybe if—it came to an election. “Your approval ratings are higher than ever, sir.”
 
“Maybe,” the man mused. “But I’ve been feeling lately that they don’t appreciate me. That needs to change.”
 
“Yes, sir.”
 
“I must go now, but we’ll talk again.” Harry smiled and patted Gideon on the shoulder, and his guards stiffened at the contact. Christ, they were jumpy.
 
Gideon watched as the group walked away. Harry had always needed constant approval. It came from growing up in his father’s shadow; Harry Senior had been larger than life and an impossible act to follow. Charismatic. People loved him and would follow him anywhere. No doubt his son had always believed he was second-best.
 
Trouble was, he was right.

 

 

About the Author

After a number of years wandering the world in search of adventure, N.J. Croft finally settled on a farm in the mountains and now lives off-grid, growing almonds, drinking cold beer, taking in stray dogs, and writing stories where the stakes are huge and absolutely anything can happen.

 

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audioblurb · serial killer · suspense · thriller

Audiobook Review – Catch Me If You Dare (Jake Mathews #2)

Catch Me If You Dare

Book 2 in the Jake Mathews Series)

by Tobin Michael

Narrated by James Romick

Notorious mass murderer Max Baxter escapes from federal prison and has struck again. Three young women have gone missing from malls across the Midwest and are feared dead. But Max wants to play. He has challenged the best of the best, modern day United States Marshal Jake Mathews, to find and kill him within forty-eight hours or the girls die a horrible death. Deputy Mathews is plunged into a nightmare of treachery, violence and non-stop action until one of them is dead.

My Review

4/5 stars

Max Baxter is free, having escaped from prison. It’s no coincidence then that three women have disappeared too. Is the sociopathic serial killer up to his old tricks? Of course he is. But this time the stakes are higher still, since Mr Ego himself has challenged the country’s top Marshal to catch him before the women die.

Aided by his brother Frank, Max is convinced he has everything under control, and there is no way that Marshal Jake Mathews can catch him. The two men have history – and only one of them can survive this encounter.

Yet, he has seriously underestimated Jake, and not only him but the three women too. This is a fight to the end, with shocking twists at every turn.

The story alternates between Jake and Max as each man battles with his own desire to survive: Jake, so that he can save the women, and Max, so that he can kill them.

The women, too, are strong characters, brought to their knees at times, yet with such a desire to live that they find find an inner courage to keep going. Even Max’s brother, Frank, realises that helping Max escape from prison had not been his best decision.

Thrilling, tense and action-packed, the story is addictive, even more so because of the narrator, who has captured the essence of the suspense while not diminishing the emotional aspects the characters have to deal with.

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I received a free Arc in audiobook format and have reviewed this voluntarily.

 

As always,

 

 

book review · kidnapping · mystery · NetGalley · psychological suspense · suspense · thriller

Book Review – The Day I Disappeared

A terrifying crime reunites a mother and daughter in a novel of psychological suspense by the Amazon Charts bestselling author of Trespassing.

Three months after four-year-old Holly Gebhardt was kidnapped, she was inexplicably returned to the same park from which she’d vanished…with no memory of the ordeal. Though a local handyman was convicted, suspicion also fell on his friend—Holly’s mother, Cecily. The troubling doubts about her involvement shattered the family, forever driving a wedge between mother and daughter.

Twenty years later, another girl goes missing under eerily similar circumstances. It’s just the latest in a series of kidnappings that Detective Jason Guidry thinks Holly can help solve. Though Holly has tried to move on with her life, a young girl’s life hangs in the balance. All she has to do is try to remember…

With her memory still mostly blank, Holly is missing vital pieces of the puzzle, and she believes her mother can put them in place. In desperation and fear, Holly and her mother come together again. But in a chilling rush toward the past, Cecily still has secrets she’s yet to share with her daughter. Should she dare to breathe a word, she could lose Holly all over again.

My Review

“The Day I Disappeared” by Brandi Reeds

It’s been twenty years since Holly Gebhardt was kidnapped as a four-year-old only to be returned to the same park some three months later, physically unharmed but without any memory of who took her or where she’d been.

When another young girl disappears, the clues point to a copy-cat case since Holly’s kidnapper is in jail, having been charged and found guilty of her abduction. But this is not the first case with similarities to Holly’s, although most of the girls taken were either found dead or presumed to be so. Is there a copy-cat or did they lock up the wrong man? And why can’t she remember anything still?

The story is told principally from Holly’s viewpoint as she relives the incident when similarities to her case jolt her memory. But, to her disappointment, it’s all so vague and disjointed.

The other viewpoint character is Holly’s mother, Cecily, who is in hospital in a coma after a car accident. Cecily’s story hints at her knowing more than she told the police. Her to-date untold story gives the reader an insight into what might have happened and why.

Put together, the two perspectives create a suspenseful whole … but not until all of the theories and suspects are eliminated to leave only one possibility. Such is the joy of the unreliable narrator … or, in this case, narrators!

This is more than a story of a child’s disappearance. It strays into the lives of Holly’s parents and neighbours whose past actions make them worthy of suspicion. The story challenges friendships, stirs doubt and raises suspicion all while the hunt continues for the latest missing child. Secrets, affairs, and lies all contribute to a tense and suspenseful read.

Thanks to Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

As always,