The Man Who Loved Islands #Blogtour

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In the early 80s, Bobby Cassidy and Joey Miller were inseparable; childhood friends and fledgling business associates. Now, both are depressed and lonely, and they haven’t spoken to each other in more than 10 years. A bizarre opportunity to honour the memory of someone close to both of them presents itself – if only they can forgive and forget. With the help of the deluded Max Mojo and the faithful Hamish May, can they pull off the impossible, and reunite the legendary Ayrshire band, The Miraculous Vespas, for a one-off Music Festival—The Big Bang—on a remote, uninhabited Scottish island? Absurdly funny, deeply moving and utterly human, this is an unforgettable finale to the Disco Days trilogy—a modern classic pumped full of music and middle-aged madness, written from the heart and pen of one of Scotland’s finest new voices.

Even if I hadn’t read the first two books in the #DiscoDays trilogy, I would have loved the reading given by  David Ross last week at his Glasgow book launch and would have ended up desperate to get home and read the first two books as soon as I could.

Attending the book event was a ‘must’ for me as it was a really unique event combining music, gin and books – which if they aren’t my top three things in the world, must come pretty close…

It was also a chance to actually get to meet the lovely Karen from Orenda Books and hear a set by the best fictitious band in the world: ‘The Miraculous Vespas’ led by the inimitable Bobby Bluebell in the Admiral Bar.

Alistair Braidwood aka ScotsWhayHae! ably led an eclectic conversation with David where we gained insights into such diverse issues as changing priorities as you get older, stealing cows in Ayrshire, the Germans’ penchant for Scottish profanity and real life events sneaking into his fiction.

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It is always a pleasure to hear writers read from their own works and even though David made it clear this was not a favourite part of a book launch for him, it was fantastic to hear a rendition of the seance in his own voice and the crowd’s response on the night made it clear that they loved it too – including all the swearing!

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The dark humour in these books paints a truthful and perceptive portrait of Scottish men of a certain age and the blend of humour and poignancy hits just the right balance in this final book of the trilogy. Although I’m not sure we can really call it a trilogy as I’m sure we’ve not heard the last of these chancers as they’re surely way too good to put out to grass yet.

Mr OnTheShelf is an Ayrshireman and I took him along on the night to get a slice of nostalgia. He came away desperate to read the books for himself and was really enthusiastic about the memories it triggered. As a fan of  ‘Cath’ by The Bluebells, he loved this intimate gig with The Miraculous Vespas which took him right back to 1984 and his heyday.  The fact that he enjoyed the night so much also showed that even though this is a trilogy, you don’t need to have read the first two books to be swept up in Bobby and Joey’s tale of life, love and Blood Oranges.

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The addition of the playlists by David F Ross was also a huge bonus for me and I recommend playing them on Spotify for yourself when you’re reading the books. There’s a real range of tunes from Durutti Column through Malcolm Middleton to De La Soul and this really made the book come to life for me, it was great having the music as a backdrop and feeling the energy of the characters evolve and alter as they grow old rather than grow up.

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He’s been compared endlessly with Irvine Welsh and John Niven and if you enjoy these writers then you will definitely enjoy the Disco days trilogy, but I think they contain something wholly their own that sets them apart from their contemporaries.

Ross is an architect and it is perhaps the overarching structure of these three novels that contributes most strongly to their impact. They do not follow sequentially on from one another exactly but instead, all three of them contribute to a unique narrative arc that gives us a much stronger insight into the way the different eras of their lives contrast and collide with one another.

I loved The Man Who Loved Islands and I think that attending the event last week brought it to life for me in a very different way. Karen Sullivan from Orenda has made a name for herself in being able to choose fresh new voices in fiction and the launch in Glasgow has proven that she’s also able to choose fresh new ways to promote her books too. It was also lovely to meet Mary @bethsy as I always love meeting other book bloggers and it was great to see her win the limited edition vinyl on the night too! Not jealous at all, Mary…

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I can’t wait to see where David F Ross goes next in his fiction writing – once you’ve read his profile, you’ll be amazed he finds the time. He is definitely a Scottish writer to watch and I look forward to more news after hearing the hints that we could be seeing the Heatwave boys and The Miraculous Vespas on stage and screen in the near future, which is sure to bring him the wider audience he deserves.

Thanks to Karen and Anne for getting me a copy to review – you can buy yourself your own copy here – it’s an absolute must-read.

BUY A COPY FROM HIVE

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Author On The Shelf

David F. Ross was born in Glasgow in 1964, and he lived in various part of the city until the late ‘70s. He subsequently moved to Kilmarnock, where he has lived since. He was educated at James Hamilton Academy until being politely asked to leave.
 (Expulsion is such a harsh word, isn’t it?)
 Following a frankly ludicrous early foray into sporadic employment (Undertakers, Ice Cream Parlour, Tennis Groundsman, DJ … he’ll save these stories until he knows you better), David found himself at Glasgow School of Art, studying architecture.
In 1992, he graduated from the Mackintosh School of Architecture. He is now the Design Director of one of Scotland’s largest, oldest and most successful practices, Keppie Design. (Funny old world, eh?)

David has worked all over the world and he led his practice strategy for projects in countries as diverse as China, Egypt, Malaysia, India and Libya. He is a designated business leader for East Ayrshire Council, a Board Mentor for Entrepreneurial Spark and he was design advisor to Strathclyde Passenger Transport for their modernisation programme of the Glasgow Subway in advance of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
 
He is married to Elaine and has two children, Nathan and Nadia, who have both signed legally binding agreements to house him in the best Old Folks Home his money can buy. He is a Chelsea fan – from long before the cash-rich days – and occasionally writes stream-of-consciousness rubbish for @ByTheMinChelsea and other @ByTheMinSport feeds on Twitter.

The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths #Blogtour

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WINNER OF THE 2016 CWA DAGGER IN THE LIBRARY.

Boiled human bones have been found in Norwich’s web of underground tunnels. When Dr Ruth Galloway discovers they were recently buried, DCI Nelson has a murder enquiry on his hands. The boiling might have been just a medieval curiosity – now it suggests a much more sinister purpose.

Meanwhile, DS Judy Johnson is investigating the disappearance of a local rough sleeper. The only trace of her is the rumour that she’s gone ‘underground’. This might be a figure of speech, but with the discovery of the bones and the rumours both Ruth and the police have heard that the network of old chalk-mining tunnels under Norwich is home to a vast community of rough sleepers, the clues point in only one direction. Local academic Martin Kellerman knows all about the tunnels and their history – but can his assertions of cannibalism and ritual killing possibly be true?

As the weather gets hotter, tensions rise. A local woman goes missing and the police are under attack. Ruth and Nelson must unravel the dark secrets of The Underground and discover just what gruesome secrets lurk at its heart – before it claims another victim.

When I was a wee girl, ‘Judy Johnstone’ was going to be my ‘nom-de-plume’ when I became a famous writer so I was delighted to read the latest instalment in the  adventures of my literary dopplelganger in The Chalk Pit, Elly Griffiths’ latest Ruth Galloway novel.

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Another thing that delighted me was reading on Twitter that if Elly Griffiths was casting Dr Ruth Galloway, that she’d love to have Ruth Jones – and that’s EXACTLY how I see Ruth so I was delighted. The release of the latest Galloway novel has been eagerly awaited by many of her fans and they will definitely not be disappointed by The Chalk Pit

I love Ruth’s character: her worries and issues are so well-drawn. The school-gate politics, her creepy boss Phil and her complicated relationship with Nelson are all lightly handled – but done in such a way as to make the story feel truly ‘real’ and make us feel for her as she navigates some of these choppy waters. I love that this book fits perfectly into the crime genre – but manages to be a book that people who don’t love crime novels would also love at the same time. This is largely down to Elly Griffith’s skill in characterisation; Ruth definitely is a character that you’ll be rooting for.

This is definitely a mystery to get your teeth into. Firstly, Barbara Murray’s friend – aka Aftershave Eddie –  reports her missing to Nelson after puzzling about her  mysterious disappearance.  Sam Foster-Jones a young mum of four also disappears into thin air and  Dave Clough’s partner, Cassandra Blackstock vanishes after a play  rehearsal. After this third woman disappears, the team begin to search for the connections to try and piece together the mystery.

A born-again Christian who runs a local mother’s group appears to have links with all the victims and this sets the team off on one investigation. Then when the story of the underground tunnels emerges it seems as if the past and the present are about to collide for DS Johnson and her team.

This book drew me in and kept me there. It was a satisfying blend of intriguing mystery and well developed characters that you actually care about and root for. Elly Griffiths skilful plate spinning means that it zips along at a great pace and its very difficult to put down. It’s safe to say that my marking took a hit last week as I raced to its exciting finish.

Some people label Elly Griffiths’ novels as as cosy crime, but I think that they’re the right mixture of familiarity and the unexpected. The Norfolk setting is fantastically realised and you get a real sense of where they’re from as you read these novels and drink in the atmosphere. Nine books in and I’m well and truly hooked. If you haven’t read them yet, you should begin straight away with the amazing  The Crossing Places and I guarantee that you’ll be drawn in to Ruth’s world and race through them.

It looks absolutely gorgeous in my #OnTheShelfie and I can’t wait for number 10

Thanks so much to the fab Olivia Mead from Quercus for inviting me to be part of the tour!

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Writer On The Shelf:

I’ll let Elly introduce herself in her own words. To find out more, head over to her gorgeous-looking website Elly Griffiths

My name’s Elly Griffiths, except it’s not really.
My real name is Domenica de Rosa and I’ve written four books under that name (see link above). I was born in London in 1963 and my family moved to Brighton when I was five. I loved Brighton and still do – the town, the surrounding countryside and, most of all, the sea. I went to local state schools and wrote my first book when I was a 11, a murder mystery set in Rottingdean, near the village where I still live. At secondary school I used to write episodes of Starsky and Hutch (early fan fiction) and very much enjoyed making my readers cry.

I did all the right things to become a writer: I read English at King’s College London and, after graduating, worked in a library, for a magazine and then as a publicity assistant at HarperCollins. I loved working in publishing and eventually became Editorial Director for children’s books at HarperCollins. All this completely put me off writing and it wasn’t until I was on maternity leave in 1998 that I wrote what would become my first published novel, The Italian Quarter.

Three other books followed, all about Italy, families and identity. By now we had two children and my husband Andy had just given up his city job to become an archaeologist. We were on holiday in Norfolk, walking across Titchwell Marsh, when Andy mentioned that prehistoric man had thought that marshland was sacred. Because it’s neither land nor sea, but something in-between, they saw it as a kind of bridge to the afterlife. Neither land nor sea, neither life nor death. As he said these words the entire plot of The Crossing Places appeared, full formed, in my head and, walking towards me out of the mist, I saw Dr Ruth Galloway. I didn’t think that this new book was significantly different from my ‘Italy’ books but, when she read it, my agent said, ‘This is crime. You need a crime name.’

And that’s how I became Elly Griffiths.

You should also follow her on Twitter to hear all about her books and  hopefully get news of where she’s appearing in person

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Elly Griffiths Twitter

 

Ragdoll Blogtour 23/02/17

A body is discovered with the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together like a puppet, nicknamed by the press as the ‘Ragdoll’.

Assigned to the shocking case are Detective William ‘Wolf’ Fawkes, recently reinstated to the London Met, and his former partner Detective Emily Baxter.

The ‘Ragdoll Killer’ taunts the police by releasing a list of names to the media, and the dates on which he intends to murder them.

With six people to save, can Fawkes and Baxter catch a killer when the world is watching their every move?

 

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40 Bloggers. 3 Days & a massive social media presence from @BenWillisUK and the @TrapezeBooks team meant that if you’ve not heard of this book, where have you been?

Am happy to report that in this case, this hype was wholly deserved and I tore through this in record speed – and not just because I wanted to get the review in on time for  Ben’s deadline 🙂

One of the things I loved about this book is that just when you think you know exactly where you are, Daniel Cole turns things on their head and you’re left reeling in shock. He’s a deft plotter and as readers we are at his mercy throughout this gripping thriller. The prologue and its portrayal of a standard court scene prepares us for one story and then we’re presented with a totally different one. We know that the Cremation killer case is important but we are left wondering how these two plots intertwine and how they’ll lead us to the denouement…

It feels like a fantastic movie as it unfolds, so I wasn’t surprised to discover that it had started off as a screenplay and I was delighted to discover that the TV rights have been grabbed  and I already can’t wait to see how its casting and setting matches up with my own ‘casting’ in my mind’s eye.

The media get their own role in the book as we are presented with a ‘countdown clock’ to each fresh killing; it reminded me of the way that the press have come to present human tragedy as an opportunity to raise viewing figures and how low that they’ll sometimes stoop to boost them. The recent dramatisation of the Shannon Matthews case in ‘The Moorside’ showed this in a very striking way and #RagdollBook certainly matches this surreal story in lots of its fiendishly dark twists and turns. It’s been compared to the movie Se7en and I can see why…

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The @TrapezeBooks team getting their ‘Wolf’ on to celebrate Publication Day

I really fell for the isolated and mysterious detective William “Wolf” Fawkes and his dogged pursuit of the ‘Ragdoll Killer’ whose ‘signature’ is a patchwork corpse stitched together from the remains of his six victims. Fawkes is a haunted soul who intrigued me with his persistence and determination in the face of all the horror: his ex-wife is the journalist covering the case and because of this he is desperate to crack the case and fly in the face of all his doubters. Wolf is a perfect protagonist as he’s got just enough of the ‘unknowable’ about him to keep us intrigued– I was also a big fan of his faithful sidekick, Baxter and loved the way that their relationship was convincingly created – I can’t wait to see it on film.

Daniel Cole has created a fantastic, twisted, dark and addictive read. The time of day stays  at the top of each section of the book and creates a real forward momentum and the minutes flew by as I raced towards the end: I  really did stay up way too late last night to finish it.  I absolutely loved the ending because it was such a shocker. I have a ‘no spoiler’ policy so you’re just going to have to read #Ragdoll for yourself to find out the truth.

This debut novel comes unhesitatingly recommended by me. It’s a  pageturner in every sense of the word and it’s definitely one that I’m certain will be on lots of people’s ‘best of the year’ list at the end of 2017 – and it’s only February so that’ll tell you how much I was gripped by it…

#Ragdoll also looks absolutely gorgeous in my #OnTheShelfie

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Writer On The Shelf

At 33 years old, Daniel Cole has worked as a paramedic, an RSPCA officer and most recently for the RNLI, driven by an intrinsic need to save people or perhaps just a guilty conscience about the number of characters he kills off in his writing.

 

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He has received a three-book publishing and television deal for his debut crime series which publishers and producers describe as “pulse-racing” and “exceptional”.

Daniel currently lives in sunny Bournemouth and can usually be found down the beach when he ought to be writing book two in the Nathan Wolfe series instead.

Twitter:  @Daniel_P_Cole

If you’ve loved “Ragdoll” you can read all  the other bloggers’ reviews by following Ben Willis on Twitter :  @BenWillisUK

 

 

 

 

Evil Games – Blogtour February 6th #OntheShelfBooks

The greater the Evil, the more deadly the game…
When a rapist is found mutilated in a brutal attack, Detective Kim Stone and her team are called in to bring a swift resolution. But, as more vengeful killings come to light, it soon becomes clear that there is someone far more sinister at work.

With the investigation quickly gathering momentum, Kim finds herself exposed to great danger and in the sights of a lethal individual undertaking their own twisted experiment.

Up against a sociopath who seems to know her every weakness, for Detective Stone, each move she makes could be deadly. As the body count starts to mount, Kim will have to dig deeper than ever before to stop the killing. And this time – it’s personal.

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When I first started blogging with Netgalley, I never really saw myself as a real reviewer. I read all the time and read eclectically – yes. But that never really felt Official. Well, this week has changed all that –  as now I really do feel like a Proper book reviewer…

When the lovely Emily Burns  @Emily_BookPR  from @bonnierzaffre  wrote to me asking whether I’d like to take part in Angela Marsons’ Evil Games Blogtour  I couldn’t believe it. The fact that the date fell on my birthday week made it feel like a doubly good omen and – once I read Evil Games – I was so glad that my very first Blogtour was for such a cracker of a read.

Angela Marsons’ crime thrillers are some of the paciest that I’ve read and I’m happy to say that Evil Games is no exception. Some of you might already have met enigmatic maverick DI Kim Stone in the first of the series: Silent Scream and been desperate to read more of her exploits, well I can promise that you won’t be disappointed. Dark, tense and compulsive, you’ll tear through it as you plumb the depths of humanity with Kim and her team.

I love that Angela Marsons has chosen a female detective as her protagonist. In the current climate ,where women are increasingly being portrayed as victims rather than agents of their own fortune, this is a great comfort. Although it must be said, Kim Stone’s world is a little short of comfort itself as she pursues depraved and brutal criminal masterminds through the Black Country streets. It did strike me, when I read the fantastic letter from Doon MacKichan and friends in the Guardian this week  Read Here…that we are more in need of female heroes than ever in the last month or so and DI Stone is certainly fit to tackle any attempt at ‘pussy grabbing’ in no uncertain terms.

Crime novels are ubiquitous and paedophilia has become an increasingly popular way for writers to suckerpunch their reader with dark and twisted events in order to leave them reeling. The opening scenes of Evil Games manage to be shocking without ever stooping to lurid sensationalism. Tiny details of the rooms themselves in the house that is raided builds a convincing picture of the scene of the crime, but like the best crime novelists, Angela Marsons allows just enough of the scene to remain unsaid – leaving space for our imagination to fill the gap.

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Evil Games is so compelling because of the fact that we don’t know everything about the backstory of Kim Stone herself. Just as she is working hard to uncover the details and read between the lines of the criminal minds she is battling with, so too are we unravelling the complex and intriguing character of DI Stone herself. For crime novels to work, we have to be as involved with the detective as we are with the crime itself. Even though you don’t have to have read the first novel, Silent Scream, before embarking on Evil Games – I thoroughly recommend that you do in order to gain a fuller insight into Kim’s backstory and find out, one piece at a time, some of the things that make her such a one-off. 

Kim’s strength as a character is that you’ve never met anyone quite like her – yet you end up wishing that you get the chance to, one day. Her mind is just as fascinating as some of the psychopathic characters she comes up against and her past every bit as veiled. Her developing relationship with Bryant is one of the other key aspects of this book which makes it stand out. Every truly great detective has a fantastic sidekick and even though I know Bryant would hate to be described in this way, their relationship and dialogue is definitely one of the things that I most enjoyed about Evil Games and one of the things that’s making me so keen to read Number 3: Lost Girls

I always try hard to avoid spoilers as I really find them very off-putting, but I do think that it’s fair to warn readers that if they’re of a sensitive disposition. Angela Marsons clearly takes the feelings of her readers into account as well as thinking of the victims themselves by handling any difficult scenes very thoughtfully; without abuse being portrayed in an overly sensational or gratuitous way –  which again goes back to the ideas raised in the Guardian letter that I mentioned earlier. Women and the vulnerable are not merely pigeonholed as victims here by Marsons and it is this that I find sets this novel apart from the vast body of its rivals. Kim Stone is a survivor and we are drawn to her, despite her rather ‘interesting’ interpretation of social skills.

After finishing Evil Games, one of the things that I reflected on was the skill with which Angela Marsons manages to keep both lines of enquiry open : we are skilfully drawn into the abuse case that the novel opens with, as well as the unravelling case of a convicted rapist whose body is discovered in unexplained circumstances. The skilful weaving back and forth betwen these two intriguing storylines keeps the reader on their toes and keeps the narrative much truer to the way that a DI is compelled to function in real life, lending a real tension and pressure to the narative that I feel few crime writers can match

The character of sociopathic Dr Alex Thorne is another aspect of Evil Games that drew me in and held me there. Alex is a stunningly attractive yet warped operator who lives for her evil games. She thrives on being able to manipulate people,  and when she encounters the damaged and driven DI Kim Stone she sets her sights on becoming her final opponent. The evil games themselves become darker and more depraved as Kim battles to work with a brilliant mind with no moral compass and gets drawn into a battle that she has clearly underestimated

This is fabulous and addictive read that is plotted like a 3D chess game or a celebrity deathmatch beween two fantastically well-matched opponents. As a nemesis, Marston has drawn Alex as a beautiful and terrifying enigma whose strategically sharp mind and twisted ethics are horrifyingly compelling. It ends with a truly page turning climax and I can see this being a novel that  I’ll be forcing other people to read. It would make a fabulous book group choice as I feel that it could promote really interesting discussions about gender roles, the representation of crime and comparisons with other gritty investigators. I was totally engrossed from start to finish and there can be no higher recommendation really. You should definitely go out and buy it if you are a crime aficionado – and I bet you’ll want to devour the rest too…

Thank you to Emily Burns @Emily_BookPR  from @bonnierzaffre for providing me with a copy in return for a fair review. I think it looks totally alluring in my #OnTheShelfie.  

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If you get the chance – definitely embark upon an Angela Marsons reading binge; you won’t regret it if you love dark, gritty British crime. I loved her story just about as much as Kim Stone’s when I found out that :

“The 47-year-old has now given up her job of 19 years as a Security Guard at Merry Hill Shopping Centre to focus fully on her writing, and labels it as a ‘dream come true‘.

I had been trying numerous publishers for 25 years but constantly got rejected. They would always say ‘we like it…but not enough’ and it just felt like I would never get there,” she said.”

Read More Here 

Author On The Shelf:

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Angela Marsons is the author of the Amazon Bestselling DI Kim Stone series – Silent Scream, Evil Games, Lost Girls, Play Dead and Blood Lines.

She lives in the Black Country with her partner, their cheeky Golden Retriever and a swearing parrot.

She first discovered her love of writing at Junior School when actual lessons came second to watching other people and quietly making up her own stories about them. Her report card invariably read “Angela would do well if she minded her own business as well as she minds other people’s”.

After years of writing relationship based stories (My Name Is and The Middle Child) Angela turned to Crime, fictionally speaking of course, and developed a character that refused to go away.

She is signed to Bookouture.com for a total of 16 books in the Kim Stone series and her books have been translated into more than 20 languages

 

Purchase Link : Evil Games

Twitter : @WriteAngie

A Suitable Lie

Andy Boyd thinks he is the luckiest man alive. Widowed with a young child, after his wife dies in childbirth, he is certain that he will never again experience true love. Then he meets Anna. Feisty, fun and beautiful, she’s his perfect match, and she loves his son like he is her own. When Andy ends up in the hospital on his wedding night, he receives his first clue that Anna is not all that she seems. Desperate for that happy-ever-after, he ignores it—a dangerous mistake that could cost him everything.

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When I read the blurb of ‘A Suitable Lie’ I just knew that I wanted to read it. Michael J. Malone’s novel paints a shocking and compelling portrait of a subject that so often gets brushed under the carpet: spousal abuse where the male partner is actually the victim. I particularly enjoyed its setting in the west of Scotland, where telling your pals that you’re being terrorised by your petite, beautiful wife is not something that’s easily shared over a pint…

It’s almost impossible to review this book with no spoilers at all, but I’ll try and minimise them as it’s really a book that you should uncover for yourself. I found full immersion in this book frighteningly easy and I literally lost myself for a whole winter Sunday afternoon devouring it. I was captivated by a setting which felt so familiar – yet a theme which felt so shocking. Male spousal abuse is still  a taboo subject and Andy’s situation reveals the reality of this this in vivid and brutal detail.

Michael J. Malone has discussed witnessing a colleague’s experience of being given a black eye by his wife, describing the way the whole thing was treated by his workmates  – as if it was a huge joke. It is this sad truth that Andy is up against: how can he tell even his closest family members what he is going through without feeling wholly unmanned ? Michael J. Malone’s interview also reveals that research explains how society often views women’s violence against their male partner as “understandable, pardonable and sometimes humorous”. Compare this with how we view men who batter their wives and you begin to see a disturbing picture of what exactly Andy is up against…

Domestic Noir is an increasingly popular genre – with more and more ‘grip lit’ being churned out by the week. This novel is about as far from one of these ‘thriller-by-numbers’ as it’s possible to get.  This is an intelligent read with a male protagonist that actually feels real. As Andy’s life begins to disintegrate we care because Andy seems like a real person – not a narrative trope that we’ve read a million times before. Malone’s gift is undoubtedly to take real settings and twist them horribly so that we begin to see how easily brutality and cruelty lurk beneath even the prettiest of facades. It makes for a compelling read.

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‘A Suitable Lie’ is so effective as we really do begin reading it so damn hopeful for Andy. After the sadness of being widowed, we hope – like he does – that meeting Anna is the start of a happy new chapter in his life: a second chance. I turned the pages with increasing dread, realising with growing horror – just as Andy does –  that not only has he married someone that he doesn’t really know, he’s also married someone  whose warped sense of love is going to affect him in ways he cannot even imagine.

Andy’s strength as a character is that he feels just like someone you know: the bloke round the corner, the guy that fixed your car, your friend’s dad. His deterioration over the course of the novel is actually painful to witness as Michael J. Malone makes his marital descent into hell absolutely convincing down to the smallest detail. We are left reeling with shock thinking ‘How did that happen?’ at some of the early episodes of abuse and the dread, shame and claustrophobia that Andy feels as they increase in violence and depravity are extremely realistically portrayed – so much so that it definitely does make for uncomfortable reading . Our relationship with Andy is so well developed that this book is genuinely unputdownable and Malone never lets us forget for a second that there but for the grace of God goes someone just like ourself – there are plenty of Annas out there, behaving just like this and just as many Andys who’ve ‘walked into a door’ over the weekend as their female equivalents…

 

Anna was a fascinating character that compels the reader whilst at the same time Malone never allows us to lose sight of the awful things that she is capable of. I think that novels about ‘bad’ female characters are sometimes weakened by overt attempts on the writer’s part to ‘explain’ their behaviour away because of their ‘traumatic backstory’.‘A Suitable Lie’ succeeds as it’s Andy’s story that remains at the forefront and his very real anguish that remains with us long after closing the final page.

After finishing ‘A Suitable Lie’ I was ashamed to reflect that male Spousal Abuse wasn’t a subject that I’d ever thought very much about before and I was shocked to discover that the statistics behind the story speak for themselves: Malone’s ‘Guardian’ article reveals that domestic violence is  equally likely to happen to men and women: 4.2% of both male and female respondents said they’d experienced domestic abuse from a current or previous partner in the preceding year.

These statistics are genuinely shocking and make Andy’s fictional tale all the more poignant and resonant. It’s certainly opened my eyes to a ‘Suitable Lie’ in modern Britain: that females are the victims and men the perpetrators. Andy’s predicament clearly shows the additional barriers posed to male victims – in that society expects them to be the strong, capable partner and that revealing any other narrative can be extremely difficult. Andy’s close relationship with his family is skilfully chipped away just as effectively as any male ‘abusive partner’ has done in more familiar storylines and his helplessness and isolation are just as moving, perhaps even more so…

I can see this being a novel that  I’ll be begging other people to read. It would make a fabulous book group choice as I feel that it could promote really interesting discussions about preconceived gender roles, maleness, abuse and family attitudes to privacy. I was totally engrossed from start to finish and could not go to sleep until I found out how it ended. There’s no higher recommendation really.

Thank you to lovely Karen Sullivan at @OrendaBooks for providing me with a copy in return for a fair review. It’s such a gorgeous looking book and even if I’m a bit biased, I think it looks fab in my #OnTheShelfie.  Karen has been an amazing Twitter buddy. It has been great to trade GIFS and jokes as well as picking up some fab booktips from her this winter. I absolutely wish I was going to this:

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But if you get the chance – definitely do! This lineup looks amazing! And you’ll get to hear Michael J. Malone talking about his fab book in person.

A further insight into some of the issues explored in this novel can be gained in the article below:

Guardian Article on Spousal Abuse

 

Author On The Shelf:

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

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Michael Malone was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country, just a stone’s throw from the great man’s cottage in Ayr. Well, a stone thrown by a catapult, maybe.

He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. His career as a poet has also included a (very) brief stint as the Poet-In-Residence for an adult gift shop. Don’t ask.

BLOOD TEARS, his debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize (judge: Alex Gray) from the Scottish Association of Writers and when it was published he added a “J” to his name to differentiate it from the work of his talented U.S. namesake.

He is a regular reviewer for the hugely popular crime fiction website www.crimesquad.com and his blog, May Contain Nuts.

 

Purchase Link : A Suitable Lie

Twitter : @michaelJmalone1

Little Deaths

It’s the summer of 1965, and the streets of Queens, New York shimmer in a heatwave. One July morning, Ruth Malone wakes to find a bedroom window wide open and her two young children missing. After a desperate search, the police make a horrifying discovery.

Noting Ruth’s perfectly made-up face and provocative clothing, the empty liquor bottles and love letters that litter her apartment, the detectives leap to convenient conclusions, fuelled by neighbourhood gossip and speculation. Sent to cover the case on his first major assignment, tabloid reporter Pete Wonicke at first can’t help but do the same. But the longer he spends watching Ruth, the more he learns about the darker workings of the police and the press. Soon, Pete begins to doubt everything he thought he knew.

Ruth Malone is enthralling, challenging and secretive – is she really capable of murder?

This is the kind of book that you know after three paragraphs you’re not going to be able to put down. When I fall for a writer, I fall hard and this was love at first read.

Emma Flint completed the ‘Writing a Novel’ course at Faber Academy in July 2013 and was offered representation by nine UK agents on the strength of the first three chapters of Little Deaths. Once you’ve read it, you’ll see why. Ruth Malone is mesmerising. Luminous, fragile and mysterious, she captivates us as much as she does investigative journalist Pete Wonike as we experience the nightmare she is tangled up in as her life unravels before our eyes.

The fact that Emma Flint has based this novel on a true story is even more tantalising as everyone who knows me is well aware of the lure of a gripping crime story for me as I lose myself in unravelling the layers of ‘truth’ at its heart. Even though this is a very different story, both in terms of its setting and characters, from the tale of Edith Thompson  Read more here it enthralled me in the same way as it explored the way that women are judged by society if their sexuality or conduct is viewed as unacceptable in the eyes of the people  around them.

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Readers seem to have had a mixed response to the character of Ruth and I think this pays testament to how fantastic Flint’s writing is. People react to Ruth’s character as if she is a real person: we are drawn in by her tragic story, refracted through the eyes of the many ‘witnesses’ in the novel who decide on something as vital as her guilt or innocence because of her hemline or the number of layers of mascara she is seen wearing.

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Ruth Malone is a woman who defies expectations and  pays the price. Her life, in sixties Queens, has been lovingly recreated as stunningly as the MadMen production team brought advertising’s decades to life and we see Ruth move within her setting just as clearly. Ruth has transgressed from the role set out for her by her gender and social class and her treatment by the press, law enforcement and her neighbours reflect their inability to see her beautifully maintained apearance as anything other than a subtle indication of her guilt

Emma Flint draws us into her Ruth’s world whilst holding us at arms length too, which Ruth does to everyone – even her own mother. The mystery at the heart of who Ruth actually is is such a fantastic technique to draw us closer to her whilst never really knowing her too.  I found myself watching her every movement to see if I could catch a glimpse of the real Ruth hiding below the perfectly made up face. Her physical beauty is merely a veneer, hiding the emotional damage beneath and Flint skilfully leaves us to respond to Ruth in our own way and speculate about the nature of her involvement in her children’s disappearance without serving us up a neatly boxed ‘answer’– a very clever method of engaging us with Ruth’s story, without treading on the past and ‘solving’ the story which inspired her to write Little Deaths.

The representation of the grubby world of ambitious journalist Wonicke and his obsession with investigating the unfolding story is a perfect counterpoint to Ruth’s own tale. We see his very clear internal dilemma as he is torn between building a career and reputation for himself in the media of New York and  reporting the truth about a woman he is clearly mesmerised by. He knows that his editor wants salacious gossip that will shift newspapers but he is drawn like a moth to a flame to gaze at Ruth through her lighted window as he tried to uncover the truth beneath the spin. Flint’s representation of this side of the story does show how the press conducts its own trial regardless of the facts of the story and lets us see the contemporary ‘judgement’ of Ruth at uncomfortably close quarters.

Devlin’s instinctive disapproval of Ruth as the investigative officer allows us even more insight to the way that even the justice system can be influenced by external appearances. Ruth’s refusal to conform to his idea of how an an innocent woman should behave or dress damns her utterly in his eyes. His views are echoed by the neighbours shifting voices as they respond to how she looks first and the truth rather more distantly. I was totally transfixed. It was like the best theatre – you experienced it in so many was all at once that it was only at the end that you were able to reflect on it

Emma Flint is incredibly talented. She draws the reader into Ruth’s world and forces you to experience these events with her. Whether you can retain sympathy for her or not by the end will be a very personal response and this is one of the novel’s key strengths: Little Deaths forces you to respond and once you’re drawn in it won’t let you go easily.

Flint also acknowledges her inspiration for  Ruth’s tale – for others like me who were engrossed in reading about the events which inspired Little Deaths. This added another dimension to my enjoyment of the book as I wasn’t forced out of the book’s ‘world’ once I finished reading it which can be so hard to do if you’ve enjoyed a book. My post-reading hours were spent researching articles about the original story and thinking about the way that Flint has brought the events to life and imagining who I’d cast if I was putting it on stage or film too…

I can see this being a book that I come back to as well as one that I’ll be begging other people to read.

Thank you to the lovely people at @Netgalley and @PanMacmillan for providing me with a digital copy in return for a fair review. It’s such a gorgeous looking book that I’ll be wasting no time in buying a real copy as soon as it’s published in January.

I loved discovering that Emma Flint and I studied at the same university and are drawn to the same crime stories. Emma has also been very lovely on Twitter and it’s been so exciting to have her engage with my reading responses in real time and reply too. If you’re not already following her, you definitely should be…

Author On The Shelf:

Emma was born and grew up in Newcastle upon Tyne.  After graduating from the University of St. Andrews with an MA in English Language and Literature, she embarked on a career as a Technical Author: firstly in Edinburgh and now in London.

Away from her day job, she’s developed an encyclopaedic knowledge of real-life murder cases and of notorious historical figures, as well as a fascination with unorthodox women – past, present and fictional.   In her writing, she likes to poke around the darker reaches of the human mind, and to explore what people are capable of under extreme circumstances.

Little Deaths is her first novel.

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Purchase Link : Little Deaths

Website : Emma Flint

Twitter : @flint_writes

The Last Night

After reading history at Bristol University, Cesca Major went on to work in television before becoming a history teacher. She is now lucky enough to be a ‘writer in residence’ at a boarding school in Berkshire after working there as housemistress.

She contributes regularly to the website http://www.novelicious.com and also – where does she find the time? – films  ‘Beat the Block’ videos for http://www.writersandartists.com 

I was so excited to receive a copy of The Last Night by Cesca Major after adoring  The Silent Hours that I literally read it in a single sitting…

Ever since finding out that Cesca had been a housemistress in a boarding school – which I’ve done for the last 19 years – I  felt a connection with her and as soon as I knew The Last Night was going to be available, I begged Corvus to let me read and review it

The fact that The Last Night takes real events and weaves a narrative around them is something which I especially loved about this book. I read it straight after Emma Flint’s Little Deaths and I really enjoyed the post-reading research that I did to find out the ‘story behind the story’ in both cases.

All of you who’ve had Poldark fever for the last year or so have been #TeamCornwall – Cesca’s book transports us to the small village of Lynmouth, in coastal Devon on a fateful night in 1952. Let me tell you, readers – #TeamDevon was just as gripping, dramatic and unputdownable as anything you’ve seen in Poldark. And then some.

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BOOKBLURB:

In a quiet coastal village, Irina spends her days restoring furniture, passing the time in peace and hiding away from the world. A family secret, long held and never discussed, casts a dark shadow and Irina chooses to withdraw into her work.

When an antique bureau is sent to her workshop, the owner anonymous, Irina senses a history to the object that makes her uneasy. As Irina begins to investigate the origins of the piece, she unearths the secrets it holds within…

Decades earlier in the 1950s, another young woman kept secrets. Her name was Abigail. Over the course of one summer, she fell in love, and dreamed of the future.

But Abigail could not know that a catastrophe loomed, and this event would change the course of many lives for ever…

The Last Night is the kind of novel that I absolutely love. Two women connected across time with lives and experiences that you are equally drawn to and whose stories you can move between effortlessly. Cesca writes Irina and Abigail so convincingly that you really feel that you’ve spent time in their worlds, making it very hard to pull yourself away. It’s a novel made for long autumn afternoons and I got lost in it in my half-term break in gorgeous Perthshire this year.

Irina – our ‘modern-day’ character –  is a woman with lots going on beneath the surface. Her life, in a small shop as an antique furniture restorer, has been created as a hiding place for her to keep her secrets close and escape any unwanted attention that her disfigurement may cause. She has deliberately cut herself off from personal relationships and her isolation draws us into her world whilst holding us at arms length too, which Irina does to everyone – even her own mother. The secrecy is such a fantastic technique to draw us closer to Irina; I found myself watching her every movement to see if I could catch a glimpse of whatever she was hiding. Her physical scars hint at the emotional damage that metaphorically scars her and Cesca skilfully leaves us to guess about the accident and speculate about the roots of her emotional withdrawal without alienating us from Irina herself – a very clever method of keeping us connected to her.

Irina’s obsessive self-control over her world is up-ended by the arrival of an antique bureau which spells the beginning of some very mysterious goings-on. This part too, is convincingly conveyed – without being over the top or stretching our belief in Irina’s story. Irina’s journey to unravel the secret that’s been locked away for 60 years is a fascinating and unputdownable one which really brings the setting to life and allowed me to lose myself in its twists and turns whilst remaining wholly connected to Irina and her secrets.

Abigail’s story – set in 1952 – is a successful counterpoint that didn’t jar with or distract from Irina’s tale. I often find that dual narratives can result in you flicking forward to the one that you found more engaging. Not so here. There was a pleasing balance of the past and present and both characters were so well-drawn that I felt like I knew them both and wanted to dedicate my attention to the way their stories interconnected, rather than feeling that one overwhelmed the other. The post-war setting is an interesting juxtaposition  to Irina’s world, and I soon lost myself reading about Abigail’s life with her sister Connie after her mother’s death.

Abigail is at first seduced by the glamorous life that Connie seems to lead with her husband – the wonderfully vile Larry:

‘The four-poster bed with a canopy stood imposingly in the centre of the room…it took Abigail’s breath from her.’

Although this is a total contrast with the penury that Abigail is used to, she soon senses that all that glisters is not gold and her sister’s marriage is not as enviable as it first appeared. When things begin to unravel, Abigail’s own pursuit of happiness could be the one thing to destroy everything that she’s dreamt of: tragedy looms after she falls in love with a handsome local fisherman and I was swept up in the shocking and evocative consequences

The atmosphere of secrecy  and drama is perfectly maintained throughout this wonderful novel; the setting of Lynmouth and its real-life flood in 1952 was something that I wanted to read more about as soon as I’d finished reading The Last Night. Cesca manages, just as she did in The Silent Hours, to make the setting as compelling and ‘present’ as her two main characters. Even though I was reading it in Scotland in November, I felt Devon come to life as I walked in the footsteps of these characters and experienced their poignant stories

Cesca Major is such a talented voice. She draws the reader into her characters’ worlds and makes them live for us as we read. Irina and Abigail’s tales are all the more powerful due to their connections with real-life events. I was happily engrossed in my Devon research – and looking through North Devon Air BandB rentals in a post-reading haze – for a whole afternoon after reading it.

This gorgeous book took pride of place in my very own ‘TBR Bookshelf’ and looked so tempting in my #OnTheShelfie that I devoured it in a single day.

Now I’m just waiting on her next one…

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Author On The Shelf:

Cesca’s first real writing success came when she was Runner Up in the 2005 annual Daily Mail Writing Competition. She has won, or been placed, in some prestigious short story competitions since then including the annual competitions for: Women and Home, Wells Festival of Literature, Grace Dieu and has also had short stories published in the Sentinel Champion and Sunday People Magazine.

She has written two novels based on real events.

Her debut THE SILENT HOURS was published by Atlantic Books in 2015 and THE LAST NIGHT is out this month.

Thank you to the lovely people at Corvus for allowing me to read and review this book.

It’s definitely going in a few stockings this year; I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.

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Purchase Link : The Last Night 

Website : Cesca Major

Twitter : @CescaWrites