Sandy’s Sunday Summary

Time, once again, to take a look at what I’m currently reading, what I am planning on reading in the coming week, and what ARCS I have been approved for from NetGalley this week.

Currently I am reading

Beneath the Water

Only a few chapters in, and already it is quite atmospheric.

I am listening to

Orange Blossom Days

Which, I am thinking, is not as good as some of her other books. I am about 2/3rds of the way through. Progress has been hampered by both the wet weather and the fact that I spent three days driving around looking for my old, sight-impaired dog who went missing. I was just reconciling myself to the idea that he had gone off to die – he is a Thirteen-year-old Blue Heeler  – when the dog control officer called to say that he had picked him up. $200 later, he is home 😎.

But, back to books. In the coming week I am planning on reading  –

The Dark Angel (Ruth Galloway, #10)

Dr Ruth Galloway is flattered when she receives a letter from Italian archaeologist Dr Angelo Morelli, asking for her help. He’s discovered a group of bones in a tiny hilltop village but doesn’t know what to make of them. It’s years since Ruth has had a holiday, and even a working holiday to Italy is very welcome!

So Ruth travels to Fontana Liri, accompanied by her daughter Kate and friend Shona. In the town she finds a medieval shrine and a dark secret involving the war years and the Resistance. To her amazement she also finds Harry Nelson, who is enduring a terrible holiday at a resort nearby. But there is no time to overcome their mutual shock – the ancient bones spark a modern murder, and Ruth must discover what secrets there are in Fontana Liri that someone would kill to protect.

I am eagerly looking forward to more travel by book, currently being in a small village in Scotland. Then it is on to  –

My Mother the Liar

Every family has its secrets…

From the author of The Lost Child, and The Forgotten Room. Perfect for fans of The Secret Mother and Linda Green.

Two dead bodies. A lifetime of secrets.

When Rachel Porter’s estranged mother dies, she returns to her family home filled with dread about having to face her past, and the people who populated it.

Little does she know that there are dead bodies waiting to be discovered, and a lifetime of secrets are about to untangle.

Secrets kept by her mother, the liar.

And finally for the week,

The Scent Of Guilt (DI Bliss Book 2)

Twelve years after he left Peterborough under a cloud, DI Bliss returns to the city and the major crimes team. Having spent years policing organised crime, Bliss is plunged straight into the heart of a serial murder investigation.

Meanwhile, Penny Chandler has been promoted to DS and has been working in London on the Met’s sexual crimes team. But when two rapes are reported on her old patch in Peterborough, Chandler volunteers to interview the victims.

Chandler joins the hunt for the attacker and soon notices a possible link between the rapes and Bliss’s murder investigation. Could the same man be responsible?

Just as both cases seem to stall, a call comes in from an ex-policeman who knows of unsolved cases in the USA with a similar MO. Bliss finds himself travelling to California to hunt for a killer whose reach may have stretched further than anyone could possibly imagine.

But in order to catch the murderer, Bliss must discover the killer’s motive. A motive which should have remained buried in the past…

And finally, books I have been approved for from NetGalley this week. As you can see, I requested a few this week also! Plus I had two requests declined, which was probably a good thing. I am going to be a bit more restrained with my requests this week, or at least, that’s the plan!

The Girlfriend      The Murder List (Detective Zac Boateng #1)

Child Taken                                  Snap

But I have to admit that I was very excited to be approved for Snap by Belinda Bauer. I love her books!

So, that’s it for this week. Off to do some reading. I look forward to you sharing your plans with me. I love to see what everyone else is reading.

Happy reading!





Friday Favorite – The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer

Looking for something to read over the weekend?

Nothing on your book radar that is screaming “read me!”?

Check out my Friday Favorite  – it may not be new, it may not even be by an author you have ever heard of, but it will be a book that has captured both my imagination and my heart.

The Shut Eye was the second book I had ever read by Belinda Bauer. It was one of those reads where I could not stand to be interrupted. I wanted to be dropped on a desert island, complete with wine and cheese of course, until I had finished it.


The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer
The Shut Eye 
by Belinda Bauer (Goodreads Author)
Reviewed by


EXCERPT: John Marvel looked at his watch.

It was eight thirty-seven, and he had done the same thing less than a minute earlier. He had promised Debbie he would be home by nine. Normally it wouldn’tmatter, but tonight it did, though he wasn’t sure why.

He felt the cold invade his lungs as he stared up at the dome of light that masked the stars. Frost hung in an ethereal ring around the street lamp, waiting to settle and Marvel could feel it fingeringhis shins through the thin material of his trousers.

He didn’t like to be outdoors. It was too . . . fresh. Even here, where London had sprawled south, overlapping the river and coating what used to be the Garden of England with its grime and its traffic and its smell of decay.

Marvel had started to sprawl with it: too much home cooking.

Too much home.

Comfort had always made him restless. He needed to be always moving on, moving up, otherwise he got frustrated.

Now he looked across the road to the King’s Arms. It wasfilled with warmth and noise and booze. It had been more than a year since he’d been there – been drunk – and he still missed it like a lover, with a yearn in his chest and a dry lump in his throat. He wouldn’t have gone in tonight. Or any night. It was a test – a game he played with himself. Driving past, slowing down, craning to look.

Not stopping.

But tonight he’d stopped. He didn’t know why. He was no more thirsty than on any of the other four hundred days since he had had a drink.

And then he’dseen the woman.

THE BLURB: Five footprints are the only sign that Daniel Buck was ever here.

And now they are all his mother has left.

Every day, Anna Buck guards the little prints in the cement. Polishing them to a shine. Keeping them safe. Spiralling towards insanity.

When a psychic offers hope, Anna grasps it. Who wouldn’t? Maybe he can tell her what happened to her son…

But is this man what he claims to be? Is he a visionary? A shut eye? Or a cruel fake, preying on the vulnerable?

Or is he something far, far worse?

MY THOUGHTS: Belinda Bauer has been elevated onto my favorite author list after this, the second of her books I have read.

“She drifted between sleep and this whatever it was. She hoped it wasn’t death, because death should be better than this.”

I became completely immersed in this book. I laughed, I cried, I gasped, I held my breath.

I finished it at the hairdressers, had another one lined up behind it to start, but couldn’t stop thinking about The Shut-Eye, and the characters contained within.

DCI John Marvel has the unenviable knack of rubbing everyone up the wrong way. He is a throwback who doesn’t fit the modern police profile, peopled by those with degrees and vegetarian lesbians. he doesn’t make the right friends, say the right things or kiss the right arses.

When his boss pulls him off a murder case to investigate the disappearance of his wife’s apricot poodle, Marvel is at first incensed, then sees it as an opportunity to obtain some leverage for promotion.

While investigating, he meets Anna Buck, who has been bat-shit crazy since the disappearance of her 4 year old son Daniel. She has begun having visions and is convinced that they are in some way related to the disappearance of Mitzi the poodle, and that if she can get the poodle found, karma will ensure the return of Daniel.

And mixed up in all this is the unsolved case of Edie, the space crazy girl who disappeared on her way to school one day, and had not been seen since; the case that haunts DCI Marvel.

I think it will be a long time before I forget DCI Marvel, Anna or her husband James, or the missing children Daniel and Edie.

A truly gripping read.

Thank you to NetGalley, Random House UK, Transworld Publishers, and author Belinda Bauer for the gift of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my profile page or the ‘about’ page on for an explanation of my rating system.

This review and others are also published on my page

Secrets of the Tulip Sisters by Susan Mallery

Secrets of the Tulip Sisters by Susan Mallery
Reviewed by


EXCERPT: Kelly Murphy was willing to accept certain injustices in the world. That brownies had more calories than celery. That wearing white pants meant getting her period – regardless of where she was in her cycle. That her car would be low on gas only on days when she was running late. What she did not appreciate or accept was the total unfairness of Griffith Burnett not only returning to Tulpen Crossing, Washington, nearly a year ago, but apparently waking up last month and deciding that stalking her was how he was going to spend his days.

The man was everywhere. Every. Where. He was the aphid swarm in the garden of her life. He was kudzu, he was rain at an outdoor wedding, someone spoiling the end of the movie just as you were getting to the good part, all rolled into one.

THE BLURB: Kelly Murphy’s life as a tulip farmer is pretty routine—up at dawn, off to work, lather, rinse, repeat. But everything changes one sun-washed summer with two dramatic homecomings: Griffith Burnett—Tulpen Crossing’s prodigal son, who’s set his sights on Kelly—and Olivia, her beautiful, wayward and, as far as Kelly is concerned, unwelcome sister. Tempted by Griffith, annoyed by Olivia, Kelly is overwhelmed by the secrets that were so easy to keep when she was alone.

But Olivia’s return isn’t as triumphant as she pretends. Her job has no future, and ever since her dad sent her away from the bad boy she loved, she has felt cut off from her past. She’s determined to reclaim her man and her place in the family…whether her sister likes it or not. For ten years, she and Kelly have been strangers. Olivia will get by without her approval now.

While Kelly and Olivia butt heads, their secrets tumble out in a big hot mess, revealing some truths that will change everything they thought they knew. Can they forgive each other—and themselves—and redefine what it means to be sisters?

Told with Mallery’s trademark heart and humor, the Tulip Sisters are in for the most colorful summer of their lives…

MY THOUGHTS: 4.5 ☆ for this heart-warming story from my ‘comfort food author’ Susan Mallery. I can always relate to her characters, they are unreservedly human, flawed, but lovable anyway. And I always want to belong to the families she writes about, warts and all. Mallery is the master of family dynamics. And she always has me wondering, if this were happening to me, how would I react?

While you might know that everything is going to work out in the end, and you are going to get a ‘happy ever after’, the journey itself is a maelstrom of emotions. Parental upheaval, sibling rivalry, old flames, jealousy and an unforseen love affair all contribute to this wonderful read.

I listened to the audiobook of The Secrets of the Tulip Sisters by Susan Mallery, narrated by Tanya Eby, published by Harlequin Audio, via OverDrive. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my profile page or the ‘about’ page on for an explanation of my rating system.

This review and others are also published on my page

Little Liar by Clare Boyd

Little Liar by Clare Boyd
Reviewed by


EXCERPT: What had she actually seen next door? Her heartbeat escalated. What had she seen? She had seen guilt in Gemma’s eyes. She had seen fear in Rosie’s.

THE BLURB: The perfect family… or the perfect lie?

When a child’s scream pierces the night, Mira does what any good neighbour would do: she calls the police. She wants to make sure that Rosie, the little girl next door, is safe.

Opening her front door to the police the next morning, Gemma’s picture-perfect family is forced under scrutiny of social services.

As her flawless life begins to crumble around her, Gemma must fight to defend the family she loves and protect her daughter from the terrible secret she’s been keeping.

But who has Rosie been confiding in when Gemma’s back is turned? And why has she lied to the police?

When Rosie disappears without a trace, Gemma thinks she only has herself to blame. That is, until she finds a little pink diary containing a truth even more devastating than the lie…

If you loved The Couple Next Door and Big Little Lies, you’ll adore this razor-sharp, tense and utterly engrossing page turner about the people we choose to trust and the secrets we keep behind closed doors.

MY THOUGHTS: Another brilliant debut novel! I just loved Little Liar.

Clare Boyd captivated me with her firm grasp of family dynamics and personal characteristics in Little Liar. We have supermum Gemma, juggling a demanding career, pregnancy, a volatile ten year old, and keeping a secret, determined to ‘have it all’. Rosie is the ten year old daughter. She throws tantrums like I eat chocolate, and is quite adept at manipulating people. Add to the mix one nosey neighbour, Mira or ‘Mrs E’ as Rosie calls her. Mira has her own problems, her own secrets, her own unfulfilled needs.

Little Liar is a slow burner, an onion. By 25% in, I was hooked and read most of the night, captivated, mesmerized and agog! And the revelations just kept coming.

I also really liked how, at the end, it wasn’t tied up all neat and tidy. There are a lot of things that I was left wondering about, but in a pleasant way. I think that perhaps I wasn’t quite ready to let this family go. 4.5☆

Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital copy of Little Liar by Clare Boyd for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my profile page or the ‘about’ page on for an explanation of my rating system.

This review and others are also published on my page

Best Friends by Carys Jones

Best Friends by Carys  Jones
Best Friends 
by Carys Jones (Goodreads Author)
Reviewed by


EXCERPT: In her little flat she was still safe, still amongst friends. She’d kept her secrets well hidden. She would not dishonour Peter by discussing his death. He had been so much more than his tragic end, he’d been a boy full of dreams, adventures. To let his final scandal mark his name would be the ultimate insult to her fallen brother. Besides, Grace flopped back on her bed and stared up at her cracked ceiling, she was certain she couldn’t handle the shame of the truth coming out.

THE BLURB: Four friends, a terrible secret, and one week to stay alive…

Grace doesn’t have a family. That was taken away one dreadful day when she was just six, and her twin brother Peter was killed. Instead she has her best friends and flatmates – Jasper, Franklin and Aaron – and nothing can tear them apart.

Living in London, and trying desperately to make a living, the four friends are rapidly running out of money and hope. So, when they find a discarded suitcase in a skip, they can’t believe their eyes when its contents seem to answer all their prayers.

But then there is a knock on their door, and a very disgruntled thug with revenge on his mind, gives them one week to return his belongings, or they will pay with their lives. Soon the fractures in their friendships begin to show, and when one of them ends up fighting for his life, the stakes are raised even higher.

Will any of them get to the end of the week alive, or will the best of friends become the deadliest of enemies…

MY THOUGHTS: I have read another book, First to Fall, by this author some time ago and really liked it. So I was excited when I was approved for an ARC of Best Friends. The promotional blurb sounded appealing to me and I started reading with a sense of anticipation.

We have four friends sharing a very small flat. All very different people, they are bound together by their aspirations, and by the fact that they are all outcasts from their own families. I particularly enjoyed the character of Franklin. He came off the page and out of the book, he was so real.

I had two major problems with the plot, both timing issues. (view spoiler)

I also felt that the ending was a little too ‘happy ever after’, a little too neat and tidy. 2.5 ☆

I was, overall, disappointed with Best Friends by Carys Jones. Will this stop me from reading her other books? No, because I know what she is capable of.

I know that many other reviewers and readers have enjoyed this book more than I did. You may well also. So, if you enjoyed the excerpt and like the sound of the blurb, please go get a copy of Best Friends and read it. Please let me know what you think of it.

Thank you to Aria via Netgalley for providing a digital copy of Best Friends by Carys Jones for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my profile page or the ‘about’ page on for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my page

Sandy’s Sunday Summary

Time, once again, to take a look at what I’m currently reading, what I am planning on reading in the coming week, and what ARCS I have been approved for from NetGalley this week.

Currently I am reading and really enjoying

Little Liar

Which was published Thursday 1 February by Bookouture.

I have just started listening to

Orange Blossom Days

I haven’t read Patricia Scanlan for some time, so was pleased to come across this when I was scrolling through the OverDrive selection available from my local library.

In the coming week I am planning on reading

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who survived Auschwitz and eventually made their home in Australia. In that terrible place, Lale was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival – literally scratching numbers into his fellow victims’ arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust. Lale used the infinitesimal freedom of movement that this position awarded him to exchange jewels and money taken from murdered Jews for food to keep others alive. If he had been caught, he would have been killed; many owed him their survival.

There have been many books about the Holocaust – and there will be many more. What makes this one so memorable is Lale Sokolov’s incredible zest for life. He understood exactly what was in store for him and his fellow prisoners, and he was determined to survive – not just to survive but to leave the camp with his dignity and integrity intact, to live his life to the full. Terrible though this story is, it is also a story of hope and of courage. It is also – almost unbelievably – a love story. Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale – a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer – it was love at first sight, and he determined not only to survive himself but to ensure that Gita did, too. His story – their story – will make you weep, but you will also find it uplifting. It shows the very best of humanity in the very worst of circumstances.

Like many survivors, Lale and Gita told few people their story after the war. They eventually made their way to Australia, where they raised a son and had a successful life. But when Gita died, Lale felt he could no longer carry the burden of their past alone. He chose to tell his story. Publisher’s Summary

Seven Dead

Ted Lyte, amateur thief, has chosen an isolated house by the coast for his first robbery. But Haven House is no ordinary country home. While hunting for silverware to steal, Ted stumbles upon a locked room containing seven dead bodies. Detective Inspector Kendall takes on the case with the help of passing yachtsman Thomas Hazeldean. The search for the house’s absent owners brings Hazeldean across the Channel to Boulogne, where he finds more than one motive to stay and investigate.

I have read and enjoyed several other of this author’s detective stories.

The Lying Kind (Detective Rachel Prince #1)


Six-year-old Lola Jade Harper is taken from her bedroom. Her mother is distraught. She is convinced her estranged husband, Gavin Harper, has abducted their daughter.

Detective Rachel Prince is leading the investigation but is soon out of her depth as she searches for the most high-profile missing child in the country. To uncover the truth about Lola’s disappearance, Rachel must untangle the Harper family’s complicated web of secrets and lies.

As the case progresses, the body of a local woman is found. The death at first seems unrelated, until a trail of social media posts lead Rachel to a chilling discovery.

And then another little girl is taken…

With growing pressure from the public and the appearance of someone from her past she’d rather forget, will Rachel be able to solve the connection between the two missing children and the murder – before it’s too late?

Truly addictive from start to finish, The Missing Child is a tense, enthralling crime thriller by one of the best new voices in crime fiction. Perfect for fans of Angela Marsons, Peter James and Karin Slaughter.

Previously called The Missing Child

And finally, books I have been approved for from NetGalley this week. As you can see, I went a bit overboard with my requests this week. But the publication dates are nicely spread out, so I should be able to keep up with my reading schedule.

I, Witness (Madison Attalee, #1)      After Nightfall

BEFORE I FOUND YOU a gripping mystery full of killer twists      A Steep Price (The Tracy Crosswhite Series Book 6)

Cold Heart (Detective Kate Matthews, #3)      The Gallery of the Dead

Bring Me Back      The Babysitter

See what I mean. . .

But isn’t there a beautiful range of covers. No two are alike.

That is my reading plan for the week. I look forward to you sharing your plans with me. I love to see what everyone else is reading.

Happy reading!

The Intruder by P.S. Hogan

The Intruder by P.S. Hogan
Reviewed by


EXCERPT: It’s easy to say,now, that I wish I’d drawn a line under 4 Boselle Avenue, but there are some things you cannot let go. Certainly there was something about the man with the small incontinent dog that continued to rankle. Perhaps I felt that my honor – the town’s honor – had not been quite satisfied. Or maybe I was still in the grip of excitement after the disappointment of the farcically unreliable Cooksons earlier that day. But in the great chain of things – and in view of what happened afterwards at 4 Boselle Avenue and other sites of disquiet around town – I shouldn’t understate the influence of Aunt Lillian, who has become forgotten in all this talk of property developers, wing mirrors and unwanted rowing machines.

THE BLURB: He has the key to hundreds of houses.
Maybe even to yours.

William Heming is an estate agent. He’s kept a copy of every key to every house he’s ever sold. Sometimes he visits them. He lets himself in – quietly, carefully – to see who lives there now, what they’re like, what they’ve been doing.

But what will happen when he gets caught?

MY THOUGHTS: The Intruder by P.S. Hogan is quietly sinister. Hogan writes with an easy humour, which serves his purpose well. He doesn’t appear to try hard to be creepy or sinister, but he succeeds in doing so. It is a relaxed kind of book, one that had me smiling one moment, and my jaw dropping the next. It is unexpected. It grows on you, and you are never really certain what is going to happen.

Hogan has done a magnificent job in portraying his main character, William Heming. He is a character who could live anywhere; you probably have one or more in your town. He is quietly unassuming, successful in his own right, a man who keeps to himself even as he supports local causes, a man about whom nobody knows much. He is just ‘there’. A man who watches. And when you pique his interest, watches even more closely.

Probably the most unsettling thing about The Intruder, is that it is all possible, it may even have happened, it may still be happening. Read this and I don’t believe you will ever again leave your precious house keys in the hands of an estate agent.

This appears to be Hogan’s debut novel. I am eagerly awaiting his next.

Thank you to Random House UK, Transworld Publishers and Transworld Digital for providing a digital copy of The Intruder by P.S. Hogan for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my profile page or the ‘about’ page on for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my page

Friday Favorite – Milk-Blood by Mark Matthews

Looking for something to read over the weekend?

Nothing on your book radar that is screaming “read me!”?

Check out my Friday Favorite  – it may not be new, it may not even be by an author you have ever heard of, but it will be a book that has captured both my imagination and my heart.

Milk-Blood by Mark Matthews was a very unexpected ☆☆☆☆☆ read. I don’t like reading about drug addiction, especially children who have been born addicted. I think that this was the first time an author had ever contacted me directly to ask me to read their work. I think I was so excited that I didn’t even check to see what the book was about, I just said ‘yes please!’ And I am so glad, because had I refused on the basis of the subject matter, I would have missed out on a great read.

Sorry, but I don’t have an excerpt from this book, but please believe me when I say that the writing is magnificent!

Milk-Blood by Mark  Matthews

THE BLURB: Lilly is ten years old, born with a heart defect, and already addicted to heroin. Her mother is gone from her life, and there are rumors that she was killed by her father and buried near the abandoned house across the street. The house intrigues her, she can’t stay away, and the monstrous homeless man who lives there has been trying to get Lilly to come inside.

For her mother is there, buried in the back, and this homeless man is Lilly’s true father, and both want their daughter back.

“Matthews is a damn good writer, and make no mistake, he WILL hurt you.” – JACK KETCHUM

MY THOUGHTS: MILK-BLOOD: A Tale of Urban Horror is an amazing book. Take –

One child, who should never have been born and certainly never should have survived.

Her mother, who was impregnated by one father, and wanted the other to kill the child.

Two fathers, one who is doing his drug-addled best to care for Lily, the other who simply wants her back.

Then there is Uncle Nelson who introduces Lily to his “medicine” which won’t make her better, but makes her feel better.

And the derelict house across the road to which Lily is drawn, and the voices talk to her…..

I have been sucked into this world that is completely alien to me; a world of abject poverty, of hopeless despair, of drug addiction.

This is a compulsive read; one that had me holding my breath in horror, in dismay, in disbelief; one that had my heart pounding and my fingers trembling.

Thank you Mark Matthews for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. I will be seeking out your other works: On the Lips of Children,The Jade Rabbit and STRAY.

Milk-Blood has been optioned for a full-length feature film.



The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances

The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances
The Girlfriend 
by Michelle Frances (Goodreads Author)
Reviewed by


EXCERPT: “You’re deluded. Just let go, let go of him.” He looked at her with a new distance, as if he didn’t know her. “Stop making excuses for your obsessive behavior. You’ve driven him away- you- and you’ve only got yourself to blame. ”

THE BLURB: A girl. A boy. His mother. And the lie she’ll wish she’d never told.

The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances is a gripping and chilling debut psychological thriller, based on the fall-out following an unforgiveable lie. It looks at the potentially charged relationship between girlfriend, boyfriend and his mother, which most women can identify with, and locates it in an extreme but believable setting.

Laura has it all. A successful career, a long marriage to a rich husband, and a twenty-three year-old son, Daniel, who is kind, handsome, and talented. Then Daniel meets Cherry. Cherry is young, beautiful and smart but she hasn’t had the same opportunities as Daniel. And she wants Laura’s life.

Cherry comes to the family wide-eyed and wants to be welcomed with open arms, but Laura suspects she’s not all that she seems.

When tragedy strikes, an unforgiveable lie is told. It is an act of desperation, but the fall-out will change their lives forever.

MY THOUGHTS: The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances is a good, but not great read. It is a little slow in places, and I was not particularly enthusiastic about the ending. The level of suspense varies, and I found that some situations that ought to have been suspenseful just weren’t. The opening chapter, a scene from later in the book, didn’t work for me. I imagine it was designed to increase the reader’s anticipation, but it did nothing to increase mine. This is one book where the story should have just started at the beginning and continued to slowly build up the tension until the final denouement.

But, having said that, the characters are well portrayed. I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Laura and Izzie, Laura’s best friend. The close bonds between the two women, friends of old, is well depicted. As were the scenes where Laura and Cherry first meet. Cherry’s social awkwardness just oozed from the page, and while Laura is doing everything to make Cherry feel welcome, Cherry is almost searching for things to take offense at. And everything escalates from there, with Laura trying to be friends and Cherry pushing her away, both from herself and Laura’s adored only son, until Laura catches Cherry out in a lie and decides that there is more (or perhaps less) to her son’s girlfriend than meets the eye.

The basic storyline is good, and although The Girlfriend missed the mark with me, only just, I think that it is a good debut novel from new author Michelle Frances, and I will be a definite starter for her next book.

Thank you to Kensington Books via Netgalley for providing a digital copy of The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my profile page or the ‘about’ page on for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on my page

The Agency by Ian Austin

The Agency by Ian Austin

The Agency (The Dan Calder Series Book 1) 
by Ian Austin


EXCERPT: Such was her quiet character that Val completely amazed Edwina when she gave her the number for The Agency. They were in a dimly lit bistro one evening, enjoying an early supper soon after Edwina was given the news about the grievous nature of her illness.

‘A friend of mine used them. He wasn’t supposed to tell anyone, but he did tell me in case anything bad happened. In the end, it must have gone exactly how he wanted, and the papers reported it so well that his family will always believe he died fighting overseas,’ Val whispered.

THE BLURB: Dan Calder is an ex Brit and ex policeman looking for a fresh start in a new country but still carrying the baggage of failed relationships and a depressed, repressed past. He chose New Zealand because it was as far as he could get from his old life but did not take into account the universal six degrees of separation is no more than two or three in the land of the long white cloud.

The Agency provides a service like no other and New Zealand is the ideal location to find a new client. When Calder first encounters it by sheer chance, his life instantly changes and before long others are depending on him too.

Engaged in a deadly game with an unknown foe; this was not the new life Dan Calder planned for himself but now at stake is the ultimate reward; his own salvation.

Ian Austin was born in 1963 in Southampton, England. His very un-remarkable school life ended at 16. Drifting into and out of several jobs including hotel porter and photocopier salesman he eventually found his salvation in the Hampshire Police. A career as first a constable and then detective in the UK followed, where he also served as a tactical firearms officer, covert surveillance operative and National Crime Squad trainer.

He transferred to the New Zealand Police in 2003 having visited several times before and falling in love with the country and the Kiwi way of life.

He left the police in 2006 to set up a training and consultancy business. He now lives in Auckland with his artist partner Sallie.

MY THOUGHTS: The Agency by Ian Austin is a good introduction to Dan Calder, around whom this novel revolves and the series will be based.

Austin’s police background is evident in both the content and the style of his writing. He says in the author’s note at the end of the book ‘I have drawn on some personal experiences to try and make it believable, but rest assured, I am not Dan Calder.’ He has definitely succeeded in his aim; his character, Dan Calder, is very believeable, as is the intriguing plot.

At one point in the novel, Calder runs a marathon. I am not an exercise junkie, although I did once run daily for a period of time, and hated every step of it. But back to Calder’s marathon, I swear Austin had me run every damned step with that man; I was exhausted by the end.

The Agency is a good read. If I have any criticism, it is that the conversation between characters is, at times, a little stilted, and that, in places, the author is a little wordy. Minor details that, in the end, in no way impacted on my enjoyment and that will be rectified by experience.

The next book, The Second Grave, is due out around Easter 2018. I am eagerly awaiting its release. I can’t wait to see what new dangers await Dan Calder. Please note that a new edition  of The Agency has recently been published with beautiful new cover art by Ian’s partner, Sallie. However, due to my ineptitude with all things technical, I have been unable to reproduce the new cover here. *sigh* I will get better, I promise.

Thank you to author Ian Austin for providing a paperback copy of The Agency for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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