Helena Dixon – Murder in the Belltower Blog Tour

Murder in the Belltower: An utterly gripping historical cozy mystery (A Miss Underhay Mystery Book 5) by [Helena Dixon]

Kitty Underhay’s hymn book is open… at murder.

Winter, 1933. Kitty Underhay is enjoying a restorative break from sleuthing on a visit to her family at Enderley Hall. The only thing marring her peace – aside from the uncomfortable sensation she has of being watched – is the obvious history between her beau, ex-army captain Matthew Bryant and another guest, the beautiful Juliet Vanderstafen. So, when the parish clerk is found dead on her front doorstep, Kitty leaps at the chance of distraction.

The police are happy to conclude that Miss Plenderleith met her unfortunate end on a patch of ice, but Kitty isn’t convinced this was a case of bad weather and worse luck. And when the Reverend Crabtree fails to show for tea the next day, she heads to the church to speak to him. But she arrives to find the clergyman hanging from the bell rope, dead.

With Matt seemingly wrapped up with his alluring Austrian, Kitty must solve the case on her own. But as she snoops into parish affairs, she makes some less-than-saintly discoveries. Just who has broken the sixth commandment? Meanwhile the killer is preparing a churchyard grave for Kitty, and she’ll have to use all her wits to avoid falling in…

An addictive, absorbing and completely unputdownable Golden Age cozy murder mystery, perfect for fans of Agatha Christie, T.E. Kinsey and Lee Strauss.

I absolutely love finding new writers from genres I enjoy, and I was really looking forward to publishing his historical murder mystery. I’m delighted to be able to share my review of this classic crime read that drew me in from the very first paragraph and kept me entertained and amused by its setting and characters until its very final page.

A crime novel that features stately homes, a missing Reverend and an alluring Austrian to boot – I mean, what’s not to love? These were some of the many reasons that I was drawn to Murder in the Belltower and why I’m so grateful to Noelle Holton & Bookouture for inviting me to participate in this blog tour – although this is thefifth Miss Underhay novel, you can absolutely read it as a stand-alone and I’m sure you’ll be off to look for the back catalogue once you’ve finished

I love immersing myself in a setting and feeling like I’ve actually travelled back in time whilst I’m reading and this book really achieves this as you feel like you are there witnessing the events at Enderley Hall right there alongside Kitty & her family – I know it’s already been said plenty of times – But it really made me hopeful that this quaint and addictive read will be part of a series of books that I can enjoy on the screen shortly- I am already casting Kitty in my mind’s eye and think it would be a fab Sunday night series

Because you’re definitely in a safe pair of hands, with a writer who clearly knows and loves her subject matter and can craft a perfect cosy crime tale,  you feel like you can totally surrender to this reading experience and spend a few days in the company of this eclectic and memorable cast of characters. I really felt like I could imagine the House and I absolutely loved the 1030s setting, which was wonderfully recreated on the pages.

It was lovely to lose myself in this cosy crime read after a few months where I’ve been mostly reading contemporary writing and non-fiction.  It’s funny that I get into reading zones and I’m now on a real Crime Fiction mission and have received a stunning edition of Death On The Nile for my birthday and am looking forward to losing myself in another of my favourite era’s crime stories. I am trying not to give any spoilers at all as I do not want you to be able to guess what’s about to unfold for you once you open the covers of this wonderful take on cosy crime, but you should prepare to be absorbed, entertained and charmed by the idiosyncrasies of these characters and take note that sometimes the most surprising clues can turn out to be pivotal…

The host of engaging characters and their complementary character quirks in this  charming and entertaining read allowed me to escape from everything COVID and just focus on the twists and turns of the mystery. The way that we get to see the ensuing complications of the more Kitty unfolds as she attempts to solve these mysteries was one of my favourite things about this book and it certainly does a fine job of not allowing you to put it down as it gives you a solid case of ‘one more chapter’ as you wonder whatever is going to happen next and how her unorthodox crime-busting techniques will win the day.

This was the perfect second-Lockdown read for me – and if you’re growing absolutely fed up with this never ending series of restrictions and feel like everything is too much for you and you just want an escape from it all –  then this would be a perfect book to lose yourself in.  Fans of the cosy crime genre will have hours of entertainment trying to solve the mystery for themselves whilst managing to raise a smile and a theory or two themselves as they go.

If you love an humorous and intelligent read with memorable characters and a setting that you’ll absolutely fall for then this is the read for you. I definitely enjoyed this book just as much as I’d been expecting to and I’m sure that it would appeal to lots of my Book club readers too.  Treat yourself to a copy this weekend and enjoy this trip into the world of 1930s cosy crime for yourself

Read the praise for this wonderfully enjyable read for yourself

Unputdownable… wonderful… a totally engrossing story… I found myself reading the book through dinner and staying up way too late to finish the story.’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

Devious plot twists and red herrings combined with exceptional characters make this a must read. Loved it!’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

Delightful… fast-paced and enjoyable. I loved the characters and the storyline. Lots of twists and turns and a few red herrings. Loved it.’ My Fiction Book Review5 stars

‘An absolute joy to read.’ The Book Jotter5 stars

Absolutely wonderful book… a charming cozy mystery with delightful twists and turns and kept me guessing throughout.’ Blue Pink Books

Deity #Orenda Blog Tour

A shamed pop star
A devastating fire
Six witnesses
Six stories
Which one is true?

When pop megastar Zach Crystal dies in a fire at his remote mansion, his mysterious demise rips open the bitter divide between those who adored his music and his endless charity work, and those who viewed him as a despicable predator, who manipulated and abused young and vulnerable girls.

Online journalist, Scott King, whose Six Stories podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the accusations of sexual abuse and murder that were levelled at Crystal before he died. But as Scott begins to ask questions and rake over old graves, some startling inconsistencies emerge: Was the fire at Crystal’s remote home really an accident? Are reports of a haunting really true? Why was he never officially charged?

Dark, chillingly topical and deeply thought-provoking, Deity is both an explosive thriller and a startling look at how heroes can fall from grace and why we turn a blind eye to even the most heinous of crimes…

Everyone that I know is very aware of when there is a new book by Matt Wesolowski due out – I am literally counting down the days because of how much I absolutely love the Six Stories series and I’m delighted to be able to report that #Deity was every bit as wonderful as I’d imagined and absolutely lived up to my level of anticipation. Matt Weslowski has a unique and chillingly hypnotic voice and once you’ve gazed into the abyss alongside him, you’ll be a slave to his writing forever.

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I love the way that Matt’s books give us the writen experience of a podcast so that we get a richer and more multifacteted experience of the story as we hear from all of the characters in turn. I’m a real true-crime addict and this definitely comes up to the standard of some of the very best that Ive ever listened to. Zach Crystal is a fascinating and enigmatic character that you really feel comes alive as you uncover more and more details about his life and secrets. I’m firmly committed to my ‘No Spoilers’ rule, I can’t wait to have a good chat with someone else who’s read Deity so that we can talk over it together and talk about what a fantastic creation it is, comparing notes on the perspectives of Zach that we are exposed to and sounding out our own perceptions from the way that these voices align and contrast across the course of the ‘podcast’

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It’s even the kind of book that is a physical pleasure to read – the stunningly beautiful and iconic design mean that Deity entices you in at the same time as warning you off– it’s not just the story that made me love it so much but the book as an actual physical object. Just look how beautiful it is and how much you are compelled to open it att the same time as you are reluctant to embark upon such a menacingly beautiful book:

The fact that this is now the fifth ‘Episode’ of Six Stories is making me sad, as I very much don’t want this incredibly dark and compelling series to end. I could listen to episodes of this ‘podcast’ forever and feel like I have become so addicted to the voice of this novel that I ‘hear’ it playing in my head as I’m reading and think about it whenever I’m away from the book and long after I’ve closed the final page

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Scott King is a fantastic character – even though on a conscious level I know that he is a device to keep the story going and to stitch all of the interviewees’ perspectives together I absolutely love the way that he manages to structure hs show so that he can coax the truth out of his interviewees. I am a huge fan of podcasts in general and particularly true crime and murder podcasts. Six Stories brings these ‘crimes’ to life in such a way that you almost believe that these crimes have really happened – and it’s not the first time in the Six Stories series that I’ve spent time googling the case when I’m finished the book, so certain am I that these events must have definitey happened…

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I also liked the way that like the very best True Crime podcasts – Weslowski allows space for our own feelings and responses. Our responses to Zach Crystal are not reduced to a simple case of black and white There is enough room for us to ask ourselves questions about who we believe and why that makes Deity such a complex, satisfying and thought provoking read. I found myself genuinely being convinced to see things from a constantly shifting perspective as the novel bore me towards the conclusion and this was a rollercoaster ride that I definitely didn’t want to get off…

This book has a little bit of everything – mystery, social commentary, a ‘true crime’ feel, a fresh and innovative structure. As you can probably tell, I love Matt Wesolowski and am constantly urging my fellow crime lovers to start reading him. Deity is a book that you’ll want to pass on to other people so that they’ll have had the same experience you did, reading it for the first time. There’s only one thing to do now – you’ll definitely have to buy yourself a copy so that you can find out how brilliant it is for yourself

I’d like to thank the lovely Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the blog tour, it is such a privilege to spread the book love for an Orenda book and after spending tme with them on the Virtual book launch for the wonderful Danny Garvey, it reminded me again why reading any book published by  Karen from Orenda and promoted by Anne Cater is bound to be an absolute winner. This is an unreserved 10/10 from me and i’m excited to see what unfolds in the Sixth episode in this amazingly original and wonderfully dark series.

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Writer on the Shelf

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Matt Wesolowski

Matt Wesolowski is from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- and US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature Feature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015.

His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio.

You can follow Matt on Twitter here

Why don’t you check out some of the other brilliant blogs taking part in the tour?

Chrystyna Lucyk Berger – The Girl From the Mountains Blog Tour

The Girl from the Mountains: Absolutely heartbreaking and gripping World War 2 historical fiction by [Chrystyna  Lucyk-Berger]

The story of one young woman’s exceptional courage in the darkest of times, set in the stunningly atmospheric mountains of Czechoslovakia during the Second World War.

1938: Magda has led a sheltered life in her small village until the day she is forced from her home by the invading Nazi army. Torn away from her family and the only place she has ever known, she is offered refuge in an alpine villa owned by brilliant Dr Tauber and his talented, beautiful wife.

But despite having friends in high places, the Jewish Taubers are living on borrowed time. When the Gestapo come to arrest them, Magda is asked to protect something more precious than the silver and jewels they leave behind. Their newborn son Samuel.

Magda turns to the local Resistance, who hide Samuel nearby. Determined to help them and save her country, Magda remains in the house to serve the Nazi commander, passing messages and supplies to the secret network. But when she is caught, Magda is forced to flee into the high mountains with a price on her head.

With the Nazis in pursuit, and nothing left to lose, Magda takes up arms with a band of partisan fighters in the hope of rescuing the Taubers and reuniting them with Samuel. Even if it might mean laying down her life to win the freedom of those she loves…

This heartbreaking wartime epic of love, bravery and survival will stay with you long after you have turned the final page. Perfect for fans of My Name is EvaThe Alice Network and The German Midwife.

Feeling so lucky to be reviewing this wonderful book that has allowed me to travel with it to a completely different place and time and immerse myself in a wonderfully written and heartbreaking story. The atmosphere of being in a snowbound house, cut off from the rest of the world as I lost myself in its pages certainly enhanced the experience for me and allowed me to totally immerse myself in Magda’s story as I read it straight through in a single day without even stopping for breath. 

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This is a sweeping, immersive and wonderfully epic tale of one woman’s life in the stunning mountains of Czecheslovakia during World War II which paints an extremely vivid picture of how brutally difficult it was to stay safe and protect your family and loved ones from the many dangers they were faced with, on a daily basis. Magda is an unforgettable character: resilient, brave and not a little intransigent, she sets her sights on survival in spite of everything and her struggle makes for compelling reading.

Magda was born with a large birthmark on her face and is told: “…birthmark is not an excuse for avoiding risks. It should not be the thing that prevents you from performing acts of courage.”. I could imagine myself there as I turned these pages long into the night, comparing my life of privilege and leisure with the reality of growing up in wartorn Czecheslovakia and making decisions that will reverberate across the years…

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If you loved a captivating historical read, depicting life for women in wartime then you’ll find much to enjoy in this novel. The smells and tastes of rural life woven beautifully into the uncertain and dangerous political landscape, mixing the domestic and the historical canvas very skilfully. Some parts are undeniably hard to read as we become close to Magda and her struggles seem endless at times. It’s not just a case of having to survivethat causes Magda sleepless nights, there is also the fact that you never know who to trust and who might be an informant sometimes even your family might be the ones putting you at risk.

I really fell for this tale of the brave and rebellious ‘Warrior Queen’ in this book I found myself transported there and found the individual lives depicted in this evocative novel one of its real strengths. Magda has learned quite rightly to trust no one and her suspicions are often proven to have grounds. We meet a wide range of characters with differing loyalties as we see just how difficult it could be in these times to know who to trust—In choosing to shelter Samuel, she makes a decision that will reverberate through all of their lives with dramatic repercussions and consequences that she could never have anticipated.

If you enjoy immersive and beautifully written stories that transport you back across time and place then you’ll adore Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger’s tale of one woman’s journey in challenging times to persist in being wholly herself in the face of danger and interrogation. Magda is an indomitable character who will come alive for you on the page at the same time as bringing to life the country and the people she is surrounded by.

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As I lay in the warmth of my window seat, absorbing myself in this fascinating and beautifullly written tale, I was reminded of how much I loved Captain Corelli’s Mandolin This book brought rural Czecheslovakia just as vividly to life for me and I was really sad when I finished reading it. I will definitely look out for more novels by this writer as I’d never encountered her before and it has definitely increased my desire to read more works by historical writers and find out more about the experiences and bravery of women during this period.

It was my absolute pleasure to take part in the blog tour today. There are lots of other fantastic bloggers on the tour and their views on this fantastic read are well worth visiting their blogs for. I’d like to thank Noelle Holton from Bookouture for asking me to take part in the tour and recommend that you invest in a copy for yourself as you will find Magda’s story imposssible to forget…

Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger was born in Minnesota in 1969 and grew up in the culture-rich neighborhood of “Nordeast” Minneapolis. She started her writing career with short stories, travel narratives, worked as a journalist and then as a managing editor for a magazine publisher before jumping the editor’s desk and pursuing her dreams of writing and traveling. In 2000, she moved to western Austria and established her own communications training company. She has won several awards for her short stories and novels and now primarily writes historical fiction. During a trip into northern Italy over the Reschen Pass, she stood on the edge of Reschen Lake and desperately wanted to understand how a 15th-century church tower ended up sticking out of the water. What stories were lying beneath? Some eight years later, she launched the “Reschen Valley” series with five books and a novella releasing between 2018 and 2021, in parallel to her WW2 novels and short story collections.

The Last Thing To Burn – Will Dean

He is her husband. She is his captive.

Her husband calls her Jane. That is not her name.

She lives in a small farm cottage, surrounded by vast, open fields. Everywhere she looks, there is space. But she is trapped. No one knows how she got to the UK: no one knows she is there. Visitors rarely come to the farm; if they do, she is never seen.

Her husband records her every movement during the day. If he doesn’t like what he sees, she is punished.

For a long time, escape seemed impossible. But now, something has changed. She has a reason to live and a reason to fight. Now, she is watching him, and waiting …

The Last Thing to Burn Will Dean Tuva Moodyson Marian Keyes

Having enjoyed Will Dean’s Tuva Moodyson series, so much, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of The Last Thing To Burn as I was really looking forward to a stand-alone read– and the premise sounded so intriguing that I was desperate to meet ‘Jane’ and discover her story. I love Will Dean and his writing and am so honoured to be following the very successful tour for his fourth novel. Let me tell you that it absolutely lived up to my levels of anticipation and I’ve been lost in tis twisted and terifying world during my period of isolation and I’m not planning on leaving any time soon…

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If you already know and love Will Dean’s writing, it will come as no surprise to you that from the very first page, we are plunged headlong into another intriguing narrative that really proves to be every bit as gripping as his three previous novels.  It must be so difficult for crime writers to keep coming up with fresh and exciting angles that will keep their readers turning the pages and I think that this is one of the aspects of Will Dean’s writing that is gathering the most acclaim. You really feel like you get a deep dive into the worlds he creates and their characters sear themselves into your reading mind and make you feel like you are living through these harrowing experiences alongside them.

The Last Thing to Burn Will Dean Tuva Moodyson

I hate spoilers, so I don’t want to dwell too long on the plot of The Last Thing To Burn –  as I want you to be able to experience all the twists and turns as you uncover the full horror of what is going on for yourself – suffice to say that the skilful way that Will Dean weaves the many and disparate elements of Than Dao’s case into the narrative is superbly done and remains convincing throughout.

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I know at times it can feel like the fictional world is saturated with books that try and present you witha unique take on human suffering, but make no mistake, this is the real deal, a novel that’s absolutely in its own league and once you’ve started reading it, you will not be able to put it down until you’ve managed to reach the last page. I was holding my breath at times as I turned the pages as it felt so tense at times that I could barely breathe. It’s been compared to both Misery and Room – but this is a book that retains its own unique atmosphere and sense of menace and i cannot stop thinking about it more than a week after i’ve finished reading it.

The Last Thing to Burn Will Dean Tuva Moodyson

I loved the way that this novel wove many threads together – a book packed with tension, that manages to make you connect and feel for its main character and one that deals with a contemporary societal evil at the same time. The Last Thing To Burn  is definitely one of those novels that stays with you long after closing its final page and one that I will definitely be recommending to my friends – it packs a powerful punch and never lets up in terms of keeping its sense of tension and suspense strung tight right up until its nail biting conclusion. Buy yourself a copy here and clear your diary, because once you start this book, you will definitely not be able to stop…

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I can’t wait to see what Will Dean does next. I’m a sucker for a fantastically written crime read and this is definitely one of my reads of the year, so far. I heartily recommend it for whiling away a long dreich Isolation afternoon by the fire.  Away and treat yourself – You’ll thank me for it as it’s just the thing to take your mind off everything that’s going on in these strangest of times.

The Last Thing to Burn Will Dean Tuva Moodyson

Writer On the Shelf

Will Dean
Will Dean

Will Dean grew up in the East Midlands, living in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. After studying law at the LSE, and working many varied jobs in London, he settled in rural Sweden with his wife. He built a wooden house in a boggy forest clearing and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes.

The Boy from Boskowice

What makes a good man bad? Nature or nurture?

This is the extraordinary story of the author’s father, a Holocaust survivor who left a trail of pain and secrets in his wake.

Vicky Unwin had always known her father – an erstwhile intelligence officer and respected United Nations diplomat – was Czech, but it was not until a stranger turned up on her doorstep that she discovered he was also Jewish.

So began a quest to discover the truth about his past – one that perhaps would help answer the niggling doubts she had always had about her ‘perfect’ dad. Finally persuading him to allow her to open a closely-guarded cache of family books and papers, Vicky discovered the identity of her grandfather: the tormented author and diplomat Hermann Ungar, hugely controversial both in life and in death, who was a protégé and possible lover of Thomas Mann, and a friend of Berthold Brecht and Stefan Zweig. How much of her father’s child was Vicky – and how much of his father’s child was he?

As Vicky worked to uncover deeply-buried family secrets, she would find herself slowly unpicking the lingering power of ‘survivor guilt’ on the generations that followed the Holocaust, and would learn, via a deathbed confession, of the existence of a previously unknown sister.

Together, the sisters attempt to come to terms with what had made their father into the deeply flawed, complex, yet charismatic man he had always been, journeying together through grief and heartache towards forgiveness.

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The Boy From Boskowice is one of the most thought provoking and affecting books that I’ve ever blogged about and I’m so glad I got the chance to review it and share it with other readers as it’s an important read that will resonate wth a great many readers who find out that their parents and grandparents’ lives are far different than the ones you’ve imagined them leading. Its context is the holocaust where thousands of people across the world lost everything,  fled their homes and went through unimaginable suffering at the hands of the Nazis and in the midst of it all, the untold suffering that this has wreaked on so many thousands more survivors and their families’ lives.

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This unforgettable and affecting read allows us an unforgettable insight into the lives of Vicky Unwins’ ancestors experience that she had no idea about – covering immense suffering with moments of light – all stored in a hidden cache of long lost letters and papers that allow us to see at close hand the devastating impact the terror and privations that they endured had on their lives and the lives of their familes too.

History is brought vividly to life as a place full of people just trying to survive, we gain insights into her grandfather’s relationships with famous historical figures as well as see the more ordinary aspects of his and her father’s lives brought to life for us across the years. The impact and historical echo of suffering and ‘survivors’ guilt’ is painted extremely vividly an at times this is a challenging read, but the overall impact is well worth it for the insight it gives us into the complexities of human realtionships and the sacrifices that had to be made that we have absolutely no comprehension of in these less dangerous times.

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The people in this book spring to life from the page and remain with you for a long time after you’ve finished–  it’s impossible to close the final page of this book and  not feel a strong sense of sadness and loss at all these characters had to endure -as you know the entire time you are reading that this is only the story of one family and you can imagine the many thousands of families who went trough similar suffering and loss. The power of the narrative with its simple lyrical words to convey such powerful truths is an important part of why this book stuck with me and why I really think that you should read it too. I can’t forget their emotional as well as their literal struggle to survive and the impact of the choices they made is something that is brought so vividly to life for us upon the page. Vicky Unwin is a sensitive and reflective narrator who opens up her family album for us and allows us an insight into an imoprtant part of history that should never be forgotten.

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This is an important read and I can’t recommend it highly enough – I love the fact that I’m reviewing it during the week of Holocaust Memorial Day and I hope that it will allow its readers a different insight into this period than the one we are already familiar with. This is not an easy read, but it’s a very important one and it’s one that I unreservedly recommend.

Buy yourself a copy here and make sure that you follow the rest of the tour to hear the thoughts of our other bloggers on this timely and important blog tour

The Boy from Boskovice: A Father's Secret Life by [Vicky Unwin]

The Boy from Boskovice tells the compelling story of a daughter’s quest to find out the disturbing truth of who her own father really was … This is an intimate narrative, cleverly woven, which sees the author courageously coming to terms with her father’s legacy.’ Sarah Helm, author of A Life in Secrets

‘Vicky Unwin has written a personal history which highlights our very current, global concerns with identity and our place in the world. It is an intimate exploration of family – and the damage that can be passed from every generation to the next. A fascinating read, filled with secrets and suspense.’ JoAnne Richards, prize-winning South African author of The Innocence of Roast Chicken –This text refers to the hardcover edition.

Writer On The Shelf

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Vicky Unwin

Vicky Unwin has had a long career in both book and newspaper publishing, centred round her African roots, and is currently the chair of Wasafiri Magazine and a Caine Prize Council member. Her first book, Love and War in the WRNS, a collection of her mother’s letters home during the Second World War, was published by History Press in June 2015. She has always been fascinated by family secrets and began researching the story behind The Boy from Boskovice shortly before her father’s death in 2012.

Vicky writes extensively about living with cancer at healthylivingwithcancer.co, and is a Trustee of Transform Drug Policy Foundation campaigning for the decriminalisation of drugs after losing her daughter to a ketamine overdose in 2011.

My Best Friend’s Murder

There are so many ways to kill a friendship . . .

You’re lying, sprawled at the bottom of the stairs, legs bent, arms wide.
And while this could be a tragic accident, if anyone’s got a motive to hurt you, it’s me.

Bec and Izzy have been best friends their whole lives. They have been through a lot together – from the death of Bec’s mother to the birth of Izzy’s daughter. But there’s a darker side to their friendship, and once it has been exposed, there is no turning back.

So when Izzy’s body is found, Bec knows that if the police decide to look for a killer, she will be the prime suspect. Because those closest to you are the ones who can hurt you the most . . .

The Rumour meets The Holiday in this compulsive thriller with a toxic friendship at its heart that keeps you in the dark until the final breathless pages.

Why you will love My Best Friend’s Murder . . .

Friend and Fiend have only one letter keeping them apart and thos page turning novel will make you think about the thin line between friends and frenemies in a compulsively readable and enjoyable winter read that is as twisty as any book you’ve read on the subject of friedship gone bad…

My Best Friend's Murder

This book begins at the end – so we are not as much reading a ‘whodunnit’ as a ‘whydunnit’ and spend the novel looking backwards at how things managed to accelerate towards this dramatic grand finale.  If you love domestic noir, you’ll absolutely love the way this starts to unravel as we think about the way that toxic friendships work and the way that opening yourself up can sometimes leave you wide open to situations that may be more dangerous than you’ve ever anticipated.

My Best Friend's Murder

Izzy is the woman who seems on the surface to have it all – the lifestyle the dreamed of as teenagers with the Amex to match. Bec is a fantastically drawn character, too and we soon come to realise that there’s no innocent party here – they’re both totally lacking moral scruples but all the better characters for it!  The plot zips along at a cracking pace and some of their escapades make you – if not quite admire some of their moves – certainly be impressed by their imagination as they battle for the place as the real ‘top dog’ in their relationship…

My Best Friend's Murder

I’d actually love to see it on screen and will be dragging people along with me to see Bec and Izzy slug it out in the flesh! Polly Phillips’ resourcefulness and limitless imagination will certainly keep you entertained as you make your way through this novel – all too quickly, I might add. We have all met people like this – whether it’s at the school gates or at an interminable childrens’ party so you’ll be wincing in recognition at seeing some of their traits magnifired here,

You know that I hate spoilers so I’ve tried hard to avoid mentioning exactly how this situation escalated to this dramatic conclusion – but suffice to say, there’s never a dull moment as there is not much to choose between them in terms of who might be able to claim the moral high ground and I found it to be the perfect escapist read from everything that is going on at the moment.

Thanks so much to Anne Cater for sending me this book to review for the blog tour – I absolutely love taking part in Random Things tours and enjoyed reading what the other bloggers thought too. If you haven’t bought yourself a copy yet, you can grab a copy here and while away an afternoon or two in the company of these two pretty loose women!

Why you will love My Best Friend’s Murder . . .

‘A totally gripping, dark and delicious read and a perfect representation of a toxic friendship’ GYTHA LODGE, author of Watching from the Dark

‘Pacy, stylishly-executed and brimming with tension. This book captures frenemies in a truly terrifying way!’ JO SPAIN, author of Dirty Little Secrets

‘Twists until the last page . . . I guarantee you won’t put it down until you’re left questioning who’s truly innocent . . . and who’s not’ GINA LaMANNA, author ofThree Single Wives

‘A pacy page turner that kept me up long past my bedtime’ HELEN RUSSELL, author of Gone Viking

‘I devoured this taut and thrilling tale of murder and toxic friendship, reading between my fingers as the tension cranked up and unable to put it aside until I’d read the final shocking twist’ VICTORIA SELMAN, author of Snakes and Ladders

‘A page-turner to be reckoned with. The toxic friendship between Bec and Izzy is so well-crafted; the women’s journey like a steam train about to derail. I raced through the book at record-speed, and couldn’t wait to find out who would finally crack, who would die, and who would ultimately be responsible’ JESSICA JARLVI, author of What Did I Do?

Writer On The Shelf

Polly Phillips

Polly Phillips currently lives in Australia, although she is originally from the UK. My Best Friend’s Murder won the Montegrappa Writing Prize at the Emirates Literature Festival in 2019. Polly has worked as a journalist in Australia, Dubai, Denmark and the UK. My Best Friend’s Murder is her debut novel. Please do have a look at the other stops on the blog tour. 

The Shape of Darkness Blog Tour

Wicked deeds require the cover of darkness…

A struggling silhouette artist in Victorian Bath seeks out a renowned child spirit medium in order to speak to the dead – and to try and identify their killers – in this beguiling new tale from Laura Purcell.

Silhouette artist Agnes is struggling to keep her business afloat. Still recovering from a serious illness herself, making enough money to support her elderly mother and her orphaned nephew Cedric has never been easy, but then one of her clients is murdered shortly after sitting for Agnes, and then another, and another…

Desperately seeking an answer, Agnes approaches Pearl, a child spirit medium lodging in Bath with her older half-sister and her ailing father, hoping that if Pearl can make contact with those who died, they might reveal who killed them. But Agnes and Pearl quickly discover that instead they may have opened the door to something that they can never put back…

What secrets lie hidden in the darkness?

I was so happy to be reunited with Laura Purcell’s writing this month after falling for her delicious take on contemporary gothic within three paragraphs of The Silent Companions and I couldn’t wait to see what was awaiting me in The Shape of Darkness after devouring The Corset and Bone China equally as feverishly. I am very grateful to be joining the blog tour and I have to say that I am able to say unequivocally that Laura Purcell is a writer who you always think can’t get any better – until you read her next book. The Shape of Darkness is everything I need in a winter read and I’m sure already that this will feature in my top 10 books of this year – and it’s only January.

Gothic is my favourite genre and Laura Purcell is a writer who you know that you are in safe hands with as soon as you turn the first page. She’s a writer at the top of her game and the genuine sense of creeping unease you feel when you enter Agnes’ world and find that her just as her name is literally Darker, so too is the path that you are being taken down as you enter the grimy backstreets of Bristol and feel the sense of menace and danger surrounding her. Once you enter these streets and walk them alongside Agnes, you will soon begin to fall under this hypnotically seductive novel’s spell and start to feel the ominous atmosphere permeate your reading experience as you start to explore the mysterious deaths alongside child medium Pearl and her sister Myrtle whose relationship with the mystery and the truth behind events is – in true Purcell style – never as straightforward as you might think on the surface…

If you are turned off by darkness then this is perhaps not the book for you, and definitely don’t say that you haven’t been warned. If it’s not enough of a giveaway that I read this book late into the night with one eye on the landing light and another on the page, then don’t say you haven’t been warned If you are looking for something to remind yourself of the goodness inherent within human nature, you’ve come to the wrong place – but my goodness, this is a marvellously dark and deviously delightful read.

We are lured into the narrative and totally fall under the spell of these characters’ determination to try and get to the bottom of the links between these mysterious deaths meeting a whole cast of characters along the way that are all equally vividly written and add a fascinating historical insight into what life was like during this period for a whole cross section of the population. I find this a fascinating period in history where we are just on the cusp of science and technology taking the place of supersitition and traditional practices and we see the way that this impacts those whose livelihoods were impacted by the ‘progress’ that society was making. Books that involve mediumship in any shape ir form have always fascinated me and this book is no exception – it manages to be eerily credible whilst being nerve shreddingly creepy at the same time and I’m sure I’m not the only one who saw shapes in the darkness in their own homes whilst reading this fascinating and addictive novel.

What Laura Purcell is always so successful at is presenting us with people who are never straightforward and make us think about the truth behind what’s happening in such a multi-layered and compelling way. I would love to see this one of her novels in particular on the big screen and think it would lend itself to a cinematic adaptation that would bring its characters and twists and turns to life just as Agnes does with her subjects through her silhouette creations.

grayscale photo of concrete wall with hole

Purcell is a talented and original writer whose characters spring off the page and come to life for you as you try and work out what makes them tick and remember that even though this story is fictional, we are being allowed an opportunity to time travel and experience this part of hisory for ourselves, in glorious technicolour. Agnes’ character is unforgettable – she is a woman in a time where your gender dictated your worth and only by subverting the roles that have been allocated to you can you hope to find a path that allows you to exercise freedoms that we take for granted nowadays.

But don’t think for a second that we’re only looking backwards at history in this novel – Laura Purcell also asks us to take a long hard look at ourselves and think about what we are actually capable of as we read and the notion of judge not, lest ye be judged pervades this entire novel. as we consider what we might have done in the circumstances and what decisions we might have made if we were dropped into this very different world.

cathedral during daytime

The Shape of Darkness is a superb blend of skilful plotting with an unforgettable cast of characters that I’ll be recommending to everyone. It stands out to me due to its deft hand at manipulating our emotions and our sense of moral navigation and the way it keeps us constantly reflective about humanity and the depths we are capable of as we are reading and there is no letting up in the gothic chills and looming sense of dread. I absolutely loved it and it’s definitely left me desperate for my next Spooky Purcell fix and hoping that I don’t have to wait too long for it!

woman holding her face in dark room

Buy yourself a copy of this fantastic and unique read here, you definitely won’t regret it.

Writer On The Shelf

Laura Purcell

Laura Purcell is a former bookseller and lives in Colchester with her husband and pet guinea pigs.


 Her first novel for Raven Books, The Silent Companions, was a Radio 2 and Zoe Ball ITV Book Club pick and was the winner of the WHSmith Thumping Good Read Award, while her subsequent books – The Corset and Bone China – established Laura as the queen of the sophisticated, and spooky, page-turner.

The Sanatorium Blog Tour

The Sanatorium

You won’t want to leave…until you can’t.

An imposing, isolated hotel, high up in the Swiss Alps, is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But she’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when she receives an invitation out of the blue to celebrate her estranged brother’s recent engagement, she has no choice but to accept.

Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge. Though it’s beautiful, something about the hotel, recently converted from an abandoned sanatorium, makes her nervous – as does her brother, Isaac.

And when they wake the following morning to discover his fiancée Laure has vanished without a trace, Elin’s unease grows. With the storm cutting off access to and from the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.

But no-one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they’re all in…

This winter you are invited to the sanatorium

I absolutely love a book set in hotels, where I can imagine checking in alongside all the characters and working out which of the residents are to be trusted and which ones have arrived with a few skeletons in their luggage! I also love books set in other countries at the moment since we are not able to literally travel abroad – and Sarah Pearse has done an amazing job of letting me pack my bags and arrive at Le Sommet alongside her characters – this exciting and atmospheric read drew me in from the very first paragraph and held me captivated by its setting and genius levels of tension until its very final page.

There’s nothing more likely to spoil your trip to an exclusive spa resort than a disappearance and a sense that this is only the start of it – and this thriller certainly gets your pulse racing almost right from the start. When Will and Elin book their exclusive Swiss getaway, they were definitely not planning on the body count rising as the temperature fell. As the snow clouds gather, so too do the dark shadows of Elin’s past and we begin to wonder whether there is more to Laure’s disappearance than mets the eye. I just could not put this clever, atmospheric and gripping read down once I’d started and I’m so grateful to #RandomThingsTours Anne Cater for inviting me to participate in this blog tour – as this book was definitely right up my street!

I love immersing myself in a book over a weekend and not looking up apart from to pour myself a gin and imagine that I’m touching down on the runway and travelling there myself – and this book answered the brief perfectly. It’s hard to believe that this is a debut novel as all the threads of this mystery were so assuredly woven together and the tension level never let up as we begin to wonder just how many ghosts from the past are going to emerge as the novel unfolds.

YOU WONT WANT TO LEAVE UNTIL YOU CANT

I feel like you can totally surrender to this reading experience and travel to Le Sommet right alongside Will and Elin I really felt like I could imagine this stunning building with a mysterious past for myself and and found it very difficult to detach myself from this immersive reading experience that allowed me to plunge into the setting and experience the unsettling atmosphere right alongside them. We’ve all visited old buildings that seem to reverberate with echoes of the past and this is no exception – it’s this, coupled with the mysterious events surrounding Sam’s death and her fractured relationship with brother Isaac that made you feel like you really were living through these events alongside Elin. It was so tense at times that I could literally feel the hairs rising up on the back of my neck and every time I stopped reading it, I just couldn’t wait to get back to it.

snow covered mountain

I kept imagining myself lured back to Le Sommet, trying to navigate the truth for myself and wondering who was going to be the next casualty of the austere beauty of this mountain retreat as the snow fell harder. It’s difficult to imagine any sense of escape from the hall of mirrors that you feel trapped in alongside Elin. The plot is so cleverly constructed with false leads and echoes that connect, yet mislead that you’ll be addictedly turning the pages like me long unto the night. It’s a book to be devoured in great big gulps as you won’t be able to rear yourself away and I’d absolutely love to see this on screen – it’d bring a new dimension to the idea of feeling ‘chills’ and the setting would be incredible to see on the screen in real life!

Even though this ‘holiday’ was about as far removed from a relaxing spa break as you can get, I still imagined myself packing my bags and heading off to this exclusive Swiss getaway myself – it was a wonderful opportunity to escape from everything that’s so unsettling at the moment …and once you’re immersed in this smorgasbord of tension, you’ll not be able to think of anything else except how you’re going to solve it before the final chapter!

The sanatorium / hotel
Le Sommet

I really loved the way that Sarah Pearse draws the reader in and keeps you guessing alongside the characters and attempt to understand what exactly is going on as well as understand exactly how the two narrative voices intersect as ‘facts’ become tangled together and questions arise as to who exactly we can trust as we try andnavigate the deft twists and turns of the plot. The way that these two elements of the narrative interconnect and collide with one another was one of my favourite things about this book and it certainly does a fine job of not allowing you to put it down as it gives you a solid case of ‘one more chapter’

river surrounded by mountain in nature photography

This was a absolutely first class debut read– and if you’re feeling absolutely fed up being stuck at home and want something to forget about what’s going on in the world –  then this would be perfect, it’s so immersive! The sense of tension never lets up as you try and stay one step ahead – I hate giving spoilers so you’ll just have to buy it for yourself to find out how the secrets of the past and the events of the snow storm collide with deadly consequences. If you love a locked-room mystery for modern times that will absolutely keep you gripped then you’ll really love The Sanatorium and  should treat yourself to a copy

Thank you so much to Anne Cater & Random Things Tours for aways recommending such great reads. I love being part of the blogging community with so many other fantastic book lovers and being able to share my views on the books I’ve loved is an absolute pleasure. I’ve featured this book in my Winter Reads column in 17 Degrees magazine and can’t wait to see the review in print too, as soon as lockdown is over!

snow mountaints

Buy yourself a copy here and follow the tour to see what the other bloggers thought too

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The Sanatorium is an absolutely splendid Gothic thriller.’ A. J. Finn
‘Wow . . . So atmospheric, clever and compulsive.’ Claire Douglas
‘A tense and seriously chilling page-turner.’ Emma Curtis
‘Everything you could want in a thriller.’ Simon Lelic
‘Dark, suspenseful and downright chilling, The Sanatorium is a triumph.’ Sally Hepworth
‘A chillingly vivid thriller in a fantastic setting.’ T M Logan

Writer On The Shelf

Sarah Pearse lives by the sea in South Devon with her husband and two daughters. She studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Warwick and worked in Brand PR for a variety of household brands.

After moving to Switzerland in her twenties, she spent every spare moment exploring the mountains and still has a home in the Swiss Alpine town of Crans Montana, the dramatic setting that inspired her novel.

Sarah has always been drawn to the dark and creepy – remote spaces and abandoned places – so when she read an article in a local Swiss magazine about the history of sanatoriums in the area, she knew she’d found the spark of the idea for her debut novel, The Sanatorium.

Her short fiction has been published in a wide variety of magazines and has been shortlisted for several prizes.

You can find Sarah on Twitter @SarahVPearse and Instagram @sarahpearseauthor