CWA Anthology of Short Stories

Crime spreads across the globe in this new collection of short stories from the Crime Writer’s Association, as a conspiracy of prominent crime authors take you on a world mystery tour. Highlights of the trip include a treacherous cruise to French Polynesia, a horrifying trek in South Africa, a murderous train-ride across Ukraine and a vengeful killing in Mumbai. But back home in the UK, life isn’t so easy either. Dead bodies turn up on the backstreets of Glasgow, crime writers turn words into deeds at literary events, and Lady Luck seems to guide the fate of a Twickenham hood. Showcasing the range, breadth and vitality of the contemporary crime-fiction genre, these twenty-eight chilling and unputdownable stories will take you on a trip you’ll never forget.

 

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It’s the perfect weekend for some fantastic crime writing.  I love all genres of books – but there something about these dark nights that makes me reach for something a little dark to read…

This Anthology published by the fab people at Orenda Books will definitely keep you turning the pages if you’re a crime lover, and might even go a long way to converting you even if it’s not a genre you’re usually drawn to. This Anthology has something for everyone. I loved the fact that it contained bite-size morsels from some of my favourite crime writers – like Anna Mazzola Susi Holliday Ragnar Jonasson  and Julia Crouch and also introduced me to some new writers that I’m definitely keen to explore further and I’ve already put some of their books on my Santa list – but more of that later…

I also loved the fact that the ‘theme’ of this anthology was a ‘Mystery Tour’ which meant that you could be exploring Scandi settings in one short story – ‘ A Postcard from Iceland’ by Ragnar Jonasson and then jetting off to Key West with the Snowbirds in Kate Rhodes’ tale. It’s perfect for that late night ‘Just one more chapter…’ feeling that you get when you are really enjoying a book and the fact that the stories are so diverse really means that there’s something here for everyone.

There are 28 short stories here – dark and lighthearted, lengthy and shorter more Instamatic pieces and famous and less well-known writers too. I think this is a perfect Christmas gift as you’re not risking them having ‘read it already’ and if they’re anything like me – they’ll probably finish it with a few more writers that they’ve developed a taste for and can go off and explore further.

My favourites were the Anna Mazzola story – no spoilers, I want you to read it for yourself and enjoy it as much as I did and the opening story by Ann Cleeves entitled ‘The Queen of Mystery’ which you’ll definitely savour whether you know Ann’s writing or not. I also loved the fact that the anthology doesn’t just contain British writers but several writers in translation so your mystery tour really does have a very international flavour.

Thanks so much to Anne Cater for sending me a copy and asking me to take part on the Blog Tour. What I’m not thanking her so much for are the seven new books I’ve added to my wishlist after reading this anthology. That #TBR is rising and rising 🙂

If you loved the sound of this book, you can buy it here  and also check out the rest of the Orenda Bookshelf if you’re looking for a fantastic Christmas prezzie for the reader in your life…

Contributions from:
Ann Cleeves, C.L. Taylor, Susi Holliday, Martin Edwards, Anna Mazzola, Carol Anne Davis, Cath Staincliffe, Chris Simms, Christine Poulson, Ed James, Gordon Brown, J.M. Hewitt, Judith Cutler, Julia Crouch, Kate Ellis, Kate Rhodes, Martine Bailey, Michael Stanley, Maxim Jakubowski, Paul Charles, Paul Gitsham, Peter Lovesey, Ragnar Jónasson, Sarah Rayne, Shawn Reilly Simmons, Vaseem Khan, William Ryan and William Burton McCormick

The CWA, or Crime Writers Association has been supporting, promoting, and celebrating crime fiction for over 60 years. The CWA runs the prestigious Dagger Awards

You can find the CWA on Twitter at @the_cwa, or on their website: https://thecwa.co.uk/.

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Editor on the Shelf

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Martin Edwards was educated in Northwich and at Balliol College, Oxford University, taking a first class honours degree in law. He trained as a solicitor in Leeds and moved to Liverpool on qualifying in 1980. He published his first legal article at the age of 25 and become a partner in the firm of Mace and Jones in 1984.

He is married to Helena with two children (Jonathan and Catherine) and lives in Lymm. Martin is a member of the Murder Squad collective of crime writers and is chairman of the nominations sub-committee for the CWA Diamond Dagger (crime writing’s most prestigious award). In 2007 he was appointed the Archivist of the Crime Writers Association.

 

 

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A Pearl for my Mistress – Annabel Fielding

A story of class, scandal and forbidden passions in the shadow of war. Perfect for fans of Iona Grey, Gill Paul and Downton Abbey.

England, 1934. Hester Blake, an ambitious girl from an industrial Northern town, finds a job as a lady’s maid in a small aristocratic household.
Despite their impressive title and glorious past, the Fitzmartins are crumbling under the pressures of the new century. And in the cold isolation of these new surroundings, Hester ends up hopelessly besotted with her young mistress, Lady Lucy.
Accompanying Lucy on her London Season, Hester is plunged into a heady and decadent world. But hushed whispers of another war swirl beneath the capital… and soon, Hester finds herself the keeper of some of society’s most dangerous secrets…
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Hester’s story is a proper page-turner. If you love a gripping family saga with well-developed characters and an irresistible storyline, you’ll love this period read from Annabel Fielding.
I am a huge fan of Sarah Waters’ period novels and I saw shades of Waters in this well-drawn wartime drama. Hester is drawn to the big city from the north in the hope of finding a different life, far away from her childhood home in the north. Gaining a job with the wealthy Fitzmartin family is the first step and she finds herself drawn to their daughter who is far from the obedient demure young lady she is expected to be.
 Hester is drawn to Lady Lucy like a moth to a flame despite the inherent danger of this illicit attraction. The forbidden nature of their attraction is juxtaposed with the turbulent politics of the time where admiration for fascism, support for Hitler and fear and suspicion of the Nazi regime all clashed with one another. I feel that this novel balances the personal and political very skilfully, blending them together seamlessly to make Hester’s situation all the more credible due to the care that Annabel Fielding has taken to get the period setting exactly right and immerse you in Hester’s story.
This novel is set right in the middle of a vastly changing Europe – the bright young things, flappers and the jazz age have paved the way for all of the old certainties about class, gender and sexuality to be disintegrating and once these certainties come adrift, it is more and more difficult to understand exactly where your allegiances lie – and who you are loyal to…
The love affair itself is convincingly depicted and we see exactly why Hester would be drawn to the bold, iconoclastic and rebellious Lady Lucy. The references to real people of the time  – such as Unity Mitford – add another dimension to this compelling read as it makes us remember that there were many Lady Lucys who flirted with politics and held fairly extreme views that might seem very shocking nowadays. I felt very invested in Hester’s tale and enjoyed seeing the workings of Hebden Hall from ‘below stairs’ as I feel that it gave a real insight into the inner workings of these homes and how they were still being run, even in the 1930s.
I watched The Remains of the Day whilst I was reading  A Pearl for My Mistress and I saw lots of parallels in both writers’ skilful depictions of political uncertainty and never knowing quite who to trust, set against a more personal exploration of passion and feeling that your emotions can never quite be spoken aloud due to circumstance.
I really enjoyed this fascinating period piece and it fitted in with the Remembrance day celebrations as I was reading it and thinking about the eventual circumstances of the war that was brewing in this novel.  Hester was a stand-out character for me and I enjoyed seeing this ‘golden world’ from an outsider’s perspective and witnessing the ‘Downton Abbey’ feeling through her eyes.
I look forward to hearing more from Annabel Fielding and it’s made me go off in search of other books set during WW2 – I might even go off in search of some Nancy Mitford to get another fix of the upper classes between the wars.
Author on the Shelf.

Annabel Fielding is a novelist, a history geek and an international woman of mystery.

 

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She has long since pledged her allegiance to travel, tea and books. On her blog you will find travel posts, lesser-known facts, some photography and (mostly) historical fiction-related book reviews. To check out her blog click here.

To buy your copy now click here

Thank you to Annabel & HQ Digital for a copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review.

The Faithful – Juliet West

Huge thanks to Jess Duffy over at Pan Macmillan for sending me a review a copy of The Faithful by Juliet West in return for an honest review – I am so delighted to share my review here as I absolutely loved this fascinating portrayal of wartime passions, fateful decisions and self deception.

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July 1935. In the village of Aldwick on the Sussex coast, sixteen-year-old Hazel faces a long, dull summer with just her self-centred mother Francine for company. But then Francine decamps to London with her lover Charles, Oswald Mosley’s blackshirts arrive in Aldwick, and Hazel’s summer suddenly becomes more interesting. She finds herself befriended by two very different people: Lucia, an upper-class blackshirt, passionate about the cause; and Tom, a young working-class boy, increasingly scornful of Mosley’s rhetoric. In the end, though, it is Tom who wins Hazel’s heart – and Hazel who breaks his.

Autumn 1936. Now living in London, Hazel has grown up fast over the past year. But an encounter with Tom sends her into freefall. He must never know why she cut off all contact last summer, betraying the promises they’d made. Yet Hazel isn’t the only one with secrets. Nor is she the only one with a reason to keep the two of them apart . . .

From the beaches of Sussex to the battlefields of civil war Spain, The Faithful is a rich and gripping tale of love, deception and desire.

 

If you read my blog at all, you’ll know that I love a bit of a tale where it sends me diving off into a tailspin of ‘research’ into the real story behind the novel after I finish a good read – and The Faithful was definitely one of the most fascinating in terms of what I found. It’s so interesting to uncover a very different story of Britain during the lead up to WWII and think about Fascism in Britain as well as on the continent through the eyes of an ordinary girl after some extraordinary experiences.

Juliet West is a writer at the top of her game; if you’ve read and loved Before The Fall, you’re in for another treat: this is top-class wartime fiction with strongly realised characters and  an emotional punch – If you haven’t read it yet, you definitely should. It’s one of the most human wartime novels I’ve ever read and I really found it hard to ‘decompress’ from the world Juliet West recreates for us after finishing it.

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I love the way that in both novels there is a skilful balance of foreshadowing and suspense of what is to come so that we feel the balance subtly shift and change as we read, wondering what the ramifications of each decision the characters make will be. Bea is someone who you will follow keenly as you await her decisions and think closely about what you might have done in similar circumstances.

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I hate giving spoilers about such an engrossing read; instead I’ll praise Juliet West’s deft characterisation that has us hating Francine one minute for her closed minded selfish attitude and then moving closer to understanding her in the context of her time and social class the next. This is human history at its finest – making us see the war not as a list of events but a succession of relationships, decisions and human frailties that accumulated in tragedy for thousands of people. I learned a lot about the ‘ordinary’ face of Fascism and exactly how it appealed to so many people in the years between the war – far more than I have done in many of the factual articles and films I’ve seen and this is testament to the research and detail woven into the novel which really brings this complex period to life for us.

West is equally impressive conjuring up the Spanish civil war as she is in recreating the complex social stratification of British seaside towns and the diverse settings in the novel give this novel an epic feel – I kept wondering who I’d cast if I was making a film of The Faithful and imagining it coming to life on the big screen was hugely satisfying. If you loved Atonement, All The Light We Cannot See, The Nightingale or Everyone Brave is Forgiven, you’ll absolutely love the wartime setting of this book and if you love the human side of history you’ll definitely be caught up in this very human tale of truth, deception and consequences just as much as I was.

I absolutely loved the evocative description and lyrical language in this novel and got swept up in the story so much so that I didn’t want to leave. The portrayal of mothers in The Faithful is another aspect of this novel that really stood out for me and I loved the juxtaposition of relationships that we are presented with Bea and Francine, Hazel and Tom are unforgettable characters and the way that their lives intersect leaves the reader asking themselves probing questions about the reasons we make decisions and if we are being as honest with ourselves as we think we are at some of the critical times in our lives…

Writer On The Shelf:

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Juliet West worked as a journalist before taking an MA in Creative Writing at Chichester University, where she won the Kate Betts’ Memorial Prize. Before The Fall, her debut novel, was shortlisted for the Myriad Editions novel writing competition in 2012. Juliet also writes short stories and poetry, and won the H E Bates short story prize in 2009. She lives in West Sussex with her husband and three children.

You can follow Juliet on Twitter @JulietWest14

 

 

 

Snare – Has it caught you yet? Blog Tour

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After a messy divorce, attractive young mother Sonja is struggling to provide for herself and keep custody of her son. With her back to the wall, she resorts to smuggling cocaine into Iceland, and finds herself caught up in a ruthless criminal world. As she desperately looks for a way out of trouble, she must pit her wits against her nemesis, Bragi, a customs officer, whose years of experience frustrate her new and evermore daring strategies. Things become even more complicated when Sonja embarks on a relationship with a woman, Agla. Once a high-level bank executive, Agla is currently being prosecuted in the aftermath of the Icelandic financial crash. Set in a Reykjavík still covered in the dust of the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption, and with a dark, fast-paced and chilling plot and intriguing characters, Snare is an outstandingly original and sexy Nordic crime thriller, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.

This was a fantastic read. A stand-out in an increasingly competitive field -Lila Sigurdardottir has crafted a book that you’ll take a long time to forget once you’ve finished it. It certainly ensnared me.

One of the most striking things I’ll remember about Snare – and there are many – is that I was reading this chilly piece of Scandi noir in the desert heat of Las Vegas this month and despite the 80 degrees or so outside, in my head, I was very firmly transported to Reykjavik and experiencing all of the twists and turns alongside Sonja in the midst of the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption.

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Sonja’s determined nature really spoke to me and she definitely stepped off the page for me in her determination to gain custody of her son Tomas. Sigurdardottir definitely makes us ask ourselves exactly how far we ourselves would be prepared to go to hold onto the things that we hold precious…

The snare that Sonja finds herself caught in becomes increasingly:  ‘Devil or the Deep Blue Sea’ – smuggling cocaine or losing your son is certainly a predicament that few people even dream of, never mind have to cope with. Having just been through American customs on my trip, I felt heart-pounding enough having NOTHING in my suitcase so I can only imagine how Sonja felt on her ‘expeditions’

I also thought that Bragi – the suspicious and observant customs official who finds himself wondering exactly WHY this striking woman keeps appearing it the airport  – was a deftly drawn character. His through processes provide a skilful counterpoint to Sonja’s voice and Sigurdardottir is careful that we do not just see him as a one-dimensional character: as well as his rather dour official face, he is a man struggling to cope with the deterioration of his wife who suffers greatly from Alzheimer’s. This book is beautifully balanced and does not just cast stereotypical or one-sided characters that can so often appear in thrillers, but has a cast of nuanced and credible characters that definitely drew me in and held me tight.

I was so drawn into this novel that I was delighted to find The Book Trail review when doing my customary obsessive research  – as ever, this fantastic blog transported me effortlessly to Sonja’s environment where I could see for myself the exact places that she was describing to me. Snare is such an evocative read that it was fascinating to see if the visions that I’d been conjuring up in my head in arid Las Vegas were matched by the reality of Sigurdardottir’s Icelandic reality. If this sparks your curiosity, I’ve included the link below so that you can see for  yourself

RESEARCH THE SNARE WITH THE BOOKTRAIL RIGHT HERE

The other aspect of  Snare that stood out for me was the presentation of Tomas, Sonja’s young son. I liked the human factor that this gave Snare and again set it apart from much crime thrillers and gave it a much more human edge. He reminds us of the whole reason WHY Sonja gets herself all snared up in the first place and makes readers think about the all too many human stories behind crimes committed rather than just thinking ‘drug smuggler’ or ‘criminal’ it forces us to think that people who commit crimes are wives, mothers, struggling and most importantly – just like us.

The other stand-out aspect of Snare is the story of Sonja and her love-interest Agla.  The best part of this story is that it definitely does not feel ‘shoehorned’ in. Agla and Sonja wind up in a passionate relationship where the fact that they are two women is irrelevant. They are two people who fall for each other during tough times for Iceland and their dynamic rings very true. Agla is in there to depict that the Financial rash in Iceland definitely brought out the very worst in some people and her selfish and high handed outlook is an enormous contrast to Sonja’s way of interacting with the people around her which remains human at all times – despite the daily difficulties she is forced to endure.

This will definitely appeal to fans of Scandi noir and is hopefully another fantastic Orenda pick from Karen that will encourage more people to choose books in translation rather than just stick to UK authours and famous voices. It really is well worth your while to cast your net more widely in terms of crime and thrillers right now and the Orenda back catalogue is a fantastic place to start ORENDA BOOKS Click here and see what else takes your fancy…

I’d like to pass on my thanks to the ever-lovely Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the Blog Tour and sending me a copy of the book. It’s such a gorgeous cover that at least three people asked me what I was reading on the plane and in the hotel and the inside is definitely just as striking. Get your hands on your own copy here

BUY A COPY OF SNARE

 

Writer on the Shelf

Lilja Sigurðard.

Lilja Sigurðardóttir is an Icelandic crime-writer and playwright, born in 1972. She is the author of four crime novels, Steps (Spor), 2009, Forgiveness (Fyrirgefning), 2010, Snare (Gildran) 2015, Tangle (Netið) 2016 and Cage (Búrið) 2017.

Her debut stage-play Big Babies (Stóru Börnin) was staged in the winter of 2013-2014, became critically acclaimed and won the Icelandic Theatre Prize Gríman as “Best play of the year.”

Lilja´s latest book, Tangle, (Netið) was published in Iceland in October 2016 by Forlagid publishing. The rights to the novel have already been sold to France/Switzerland/Luxembourg/Canada (Éditions Métailié); World English (Orenda Books)

Follow her on Twitter @Lilja1972

The Yellow Room Blog Tour

Haunted by a tragic childhood accident, Chala’s whole life has been moulded by guilt and secrets. After the death of her stepfather, who took his own secrets to the grave, Chala re-evaluates her life and volunteers at a Kenyan orphanage, where she gets caught up in the turmoil of the post-election violence that took over a thousand lives in 2008. But, although she can walk away from Kenya, she cannot walk away from herself… With a poignant insight into Kenya’s recent crisis, Yellow Room is a drama that explores the power of secrets to run, and ruin, our lives.

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Shelan Rodger’s Yellow Room is definitely a strikingly beautiful book. It’s one of those novels that imprints itself upon you as it’s not just a fantastic story, it’s so gorgeously  written.

I actually knew very little about the political landscape of Kenya, but Yellow Room brought it vividly to life as we witness these events alongside Chala and see the profound effects of the post-election violence at first hand.

The colour yellow permeates this novel and the colours sounds and images of Kenya saturate the pages. I teach many students who, like Shelan Rodgers would have difficulty in describing where they are ‘from’ – maybe one of the advantages of this nomadic lifestyle is the innate ability to see any place with fresh and insightful eyes and this novel certainly achieves this.

There are of course many kinds of bravery and I think that this is one of the most memorable aspects of this novel and certainly one that will stay with me for a while.

The quotation:

 Secrets are like scars that heal over a wound that never quite disappears.

is a striking and apt one and I loved the way that the undercurrents  in this novel are managed so as to keep you reading on – as there is so much that is hidden, unsaid or veiled in Chala’s world.

Its always a good sign sign if I head straight off to research the time, place or events after reading a novel and it’s certainly true to say that Chala’s fictional experiences were so deftly handled that I was determined to find out more about the real-life events that she found herself caught up in. Even though the Kenyan scenes were at times brutal and harrowing, the powerful storyline and realistically drawn characters keep you reading on, to find out what answers will be revealed by the end of this fantastic read.

If you enjoy “travelling” to far off places through your reading and characters that draw you in and keep you guessing then you’ll love Yellow Room. I also found Shelan Rodgers story fascinating and you can find more about her by following the Blog Tour and reading some of the pieces by some of the other fab bloggers on the tour. I first became interested in finding out more about Shelan after reading Anne’s piece in the summer, link below:

Anne’s review and Shelan’s piece

 

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Id like to take this opportunity to thank Dome Press for inviting me to take part in this fantastic blog tour after being so intrigued to read about Chala’s journey this summer. If you haven’t read it yet, you definitely should…

My original Blogpost was ‘eaten’ and disappeared, but I actually loved the chance to revisit “Yellow Room” whilst here in Las Vegas for our Anniversary trip. It’s given me the opportunity to chat about it to three ladies who stopped by to ask what I was writing about and they’re definitely going to look it up later!

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Writer on on the shelf

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Shelan Rodgers’ life is a patchwork of different cultures and landscapes; she was born in Nigeria, grew up among the Tiwi – an aboriginal community on an island north of Darwin, and moved to England at the age of eleven. She travelled to Buenos Aires after graduating in Modern Languages from Oxford, and stayed for nine years. Then another chapter in England, followed by six years in Kenya on flower farms by Lake Naivasha and the lower slopes of Mount Kenya.

Now, Shelan lives in Andalucia, Spain. She has learned in and outside many classrooms around the world, teaching in some of them too. Her professional career has revolved around international education, learning and development, with an emphasis during her time in Kenya on anti-discrimination.

http://www.shelanrodger.com

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Dangerous Crossing – Rachel Rhys Blog Tour

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England, September 1939
Lily Shepherd boards a cruise liner for a new life in Australia and is plunged into a world of cocktails, jazz and glamorous friends. But as the sun beats down, poisonous secrets begin to surface. Suddenly Lily finds herself trapped with nowhere to go …

Australia, six-weeks later
The world is at war, the cruise liner docks, and a beautiful young woman is escorted onto dry land in handcuffs. 

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This was such a treat to read. I absolutely lost myself aboard Rachel Rhys’ fantastic novel. Dangerous Crossing  is a wonderfully evocative depiction of life aboard a floating world and I lost myself in the twists and turns of the passengers I met on board.

Lily Shepherd is sailing to Australia on the Orontes as part of the Government’s assisted-passage scheme for domestic workers.  Her plan is to seek employment as a maid when she arrives and at first is entranced by the strange newness of life aboard this very different world.

Her two companions are very different to her and her homesickness threatens to overwhelm her until she is diverted by glamorous Eliza – who’s from a very different social class. Dazzling and vivacious Eliza leads Lily down a intriguing, confusing and sometimes dangerous pathway where the normal boundaries become blurred in the glamorous and heady and atmosphere she now finds herself in.

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I loved it so much, I made this collage immediately after reading it.

Lily is a fantastic narrator: because she is so entranced by the life aboard the Orontes, we see life on board through her eyes and find it as fascinating, magical  and glamorous as she does. Her growing friendship with mysterious Edward and his sister Helena provides an interesting counterpoint to her adventures with the glamorous and outré Eliza Campbell and the reader develops a dawning sense that most people aboard have some sort of secret that they are hiding as they follow Lily deeper and deeper into the ship’s  web of intrigue.

Rachel Rhys’ pedigree as a writer of thrillers is wonderfully apparent as the plot skilfully sails towards its conclusion. Rhys definitely gives Agatha Christie a run for her money in terms of keeping the reader guessing and leaves lots of red herrings as Lily gets more and more out of her depth in understanding anyone’s true motives or who she can truly trust. I hate giving spoilers, so I’m definitely avoiding too much detail about exactly what secrets and lies are being kept aboard the Orontes – but it definitely kept me turning the pages in Crete as I raced towards its conclusion.

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The period is deftly conjured and the heady atmosphere is skilfully realised by Rachel Rhys. I love this pre-war period, its glamorous clothing, the dances and drinks on board, the sense that the world is changing around them as they hang suspended in a closed world where time is almost suspended in their own claustrophobic world.  As the Orontes sails into warmer waters,  the atmosphere and tensions also ‘heat up’  around Lily whose naivety and innocence mean that we often see more than she is telling us which is a very effective means of subtly increasing the tension as we go.

 

I’ve never been on a cruise and I loved the way that Dangerous Crossing allowed me to vicariously experience the glamour, intrigue and excitement from my sun lounger in Crete. I read this in a single day, I was so fascinated by Lily’s tale and I desperately wanted to know who was being escorted off the ship at the start of the novel. The plotting is deft, the characters are larger than life and wonderfully painted and the setting is gorgeous. This is an amazing read and I absolutely adored it. If you like your thrillers dark and chilling, this might not appeal to you – but if, like me, you enjoy a great read with a twist in the tale then you’ll definitely love it too. The climax was well worth the wait – and I definitely hadn’t guessed the outcome and actually dropped the book when the secret was revealed!

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Thanks so much for Anne Cater for inviting me aboard on the Blog Tour  –  It was definitely a voyage I didn’t want to end. I’d love to see this on the screen and I’m keeping my fingers crossed as I think it would be amazing. I’ve already spent time casting Eliza, Lily and Edward in my mind…

 

Doesn’t it look fabulous in my #OnTheShelfie?

I actually loved this book so much, I made the collage above and quite a few GIFs too.

It’s that good. You should definitely treat yourself. All aboard the Orontes!

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Published in Paperback August 10th 2017 by Transworld (UK) 

BUY IT HERE

Maria In The Moon: Blog Tour

Maria in the Moon - Blog Tour PosterThirty-one-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can’t remember everything. She can’t remember her ninth year. She can’t remember when her insomnia started. And she can’t remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria. With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges … and changes everything. Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves when we can no longer hide… 

Catherine is a perfectly realised character. She’s not a character that begs you to love her; she’s a character that dares you to love her and by the end of this fabulous novel, I loved her all the more for it.  Her life hasn’t been easy and I think that this is one of the reasons that I ended up feeling so drawn into this fabulous novel: despite everything Catherine is a born survivor, even if at times it feels like things are overwhelming and she is struggling to stay afloat.

It was at times a poignant read, to be lost in this book, amidst reports of Hurricane Irma and reports of thousands of people losing their homes. It felt like quite a coincidence too, as I’d just finished Vanessa Lafaye’s wonderful At First Light and I felt like I had water all around me this month…

If you loved Louise Beech’s How To Be Brave as much as I did, then you’re really in for a treat. Maria In The Moon is just as beautifully written and equally emotionally complex which made it a hugely satisfying read for me. Catherine’s hostility and brusqueness is a protective wall to shelter her from the world and her unique sense of dark humour keeps her locked out of her own emotional responses to the world which is exactly how she likes it. She has chosen to bury the fact that her childhood memories are full of gaps and this is the thread that draws us forwards in the book as we begin to see glimpses of what Catherine, or Catherine Maria as she used to be known, is so desperate to forget.

Catherine’s tough outer shell begins to crack when she has to deal with the aftermath of a devastating flood and volunteers to help other victims as a volunteer. Catherine cannot help being drawn into their tragic stories and through this, her own hidden memories of the deaths of her father and beloved Nanny Eve at such a young age begin to rise to the surface. Catherine gradually realises that she can’t run away from her past forever and perhaps the cost of burying these memories is greater than the pain of allowing them to surface and letting her long-buried pain start to heal. Catherine connecting herself to the idea that her father’s coat was like a cape which kept her safe – and the brutal sense of loss that comes when that protective coat is thrown away when he died lends a very nuanced sense of realism to the novel. We all have possessions that connect us to our loved ones and I’m sure that many people will be moved by Catherine’s overwhelming grief here and find connections to their own moments of hopeless loss.

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Louise Beech has once again handled difficult emotions with delicacy and insight, rendering Catherine’s journey in vivid detail and exploring her complex relationships in a very credible way. By the end of this novel, I definitely found Catherine’s prickly nature one of the best things about Maria In The Moon as it allows the readers to feel that we are being held at arms’ length as much as everyone else in Catherine’s world. The juxtaposition of this Catherine with the sensitive and supportive woman who ends up dealing with the flood victims is skilfully rendered and makes the story all the more poignant.

If you’re no stranger to my blog, you’ll know that I love novels that have real events at their heart and I did go off and research the Hull floods after finishing this book and I definitely felt myself becoming part of Catherine’s world as I looked at the dreadful footage and wove some of the stories from her volunteering into the sights before me. This seriously is an affecting novel and I defy anyone to read it without feeling moved at Catherine’s situation and drawn into her world inch by inch so that when the book ends, you emerge into reality blinking – not fully believing that you’ve been wrenched out of her world and back into everyday reality.

Louise Beech is a wonderful writer: I also love the genre which is emerging at the moment in the Orenda stable. It’s described online as ‘Dark Drama’ and I’d say that this sums it up perfectly.  It’s one of those books that you don’t want to say too much about as you really need to explore Catherine’s journey for yourself to experience the emotional power that Maria In The Moon wields.

I loved it and I can see myself coming back to Maria In The Moon again, just to experience the beauty of Beech’s language, now that I know how it ends and I’m not being distracted by the compelling storyline. I love how it looks in my #OnTheShelfie and I had great fun creating GIFs this weekend to include in my review.IMG_7232.JPG

Writer On The Shelf

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Website – louisebeech.co.uk
Twitter – twitter.com/LouiseWriter

Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. The sequel, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both books have been number one on Kindle, Audible and Kobo in USA/UK/AU. She regularly writes travel pieces for the Hull Daily Mail, where she was a columnist for ten years. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.  She is also part of the Mums’ Army on Lizzie and Carl’s BBC Radio Humberside Breakfast Show.

Thank you very much to Louise Beech, Orenda Books and especially lovely Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Follow the rest of the tour…Maria in the Moon - Blog Tour Poster