Watching what I’m reading . . .

Oh my goodness, have seen what is happening in Tonga? My thoughts and prayers are with you all, and all those in low lying areas that may be impacted by tsunamis caused by the volcanic eruptions. The far north of the North Island has suffered some damage in marinas but thankfully no loss of life.

Currently I am reading The Night of the Party by Anna-Lou Weatherley. If I hadn’t had to go to work today I would have finished this. All I can say is that if you don’t have this on your radar, add it!

I am also reading Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty, purely for pleasure, and loving it!

I am currently listening to Fallen (Kate Burkholder #13) by Linda Castillo.

This week I plan on reading The Girl She Was by Alafair Burke

HOPE CAN BE A DANGEROUS THING…

She calls herself Hope Miller, but she has no idea who she really is.

Fourteen years ago, she was found thrown from an overturned vehicle, with no clue to her identity. Hope started a new life, but never recovered her memory.

Now she’s missing. With nowhere else to turn, Hope’s best friend, Lindsay Kelly, calls NYPD detective Ellie Hatcher.

In pursuit of answers, three women search for the truth beneath long-buried secrets. And when their searches converge, what they find will upend everything they’ve ever known.

And Where There’s A Will by Sulari Gentill. I absolutely loved the last book I read by this author and am really looking forward to reading this.

Hell hath no fury like a family disinherited…

American millionaire Daniel Cartwright has been shot dead: three times in the chest, and once in the head. His body is found in Harvard Yard, dressed in evening attire. No one knows who he planned to meet there, or why the staunch Oxford man would be caught dead at Harvard–literally.

Australian Rowland Sinclair, his mate from Oxford and longtime friend, is named executor of the will, to his great surprise–and that of Danny’s family. Events turn downright ugly when the will all but disinherits Danny’s siblings in favor of one Otis Norcross, whom no one knows or is able to locate. Amidst assault, kidnapping, and threats of slander, Rowly struggles to understand Danny’s motives, find the missing heir, and identify his friend’s killer before the clock–and his luck–run out.

A deft blend of history and mystery, WHERE THERE’S A WILL offers an alternately charming and chilling snapshot of Boston and New York in the 1930s, with cameo appearances by luminaries of the day including Marion Davies, Randolph Hearst, Errol Flynn, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and an arrogantly ardent Joe Kennedy, who proves no match for Rowly’s sculptress friend Edna.

I have read and enjoyed few books lately about families and inheritances, and loved this author’s previous book so I am looking forward to this.

I have another three books scheduled for this week, but as I am starting to train my replacement at work it’s unlikely that I will get to them on time. So apologies to authors and publishers.

Six new ARCs were approved this week; so much for keeping my TBR mountain under control!

This week I have been approved for: Local Gone Missing by Fiona Barton. I have absolutely loved everything I have read by this author so am looking forward to reading this.

The Baby Shower by S.E. Lynes, an author I follow avidly.

Dead End Street by Trevor Wood

A Village Secret by Julie Houston

The Killing Kind by Jane Casey

And the audiobook The Captain’s Wife by Norma Curtis and narrated by Josh Wichard.

I am honestly going to try and avoid Netgalley for the coming week. 🤣😂🤣😂 Well, you just know how successful that’s going to be!

Anyway, I’m off to bed. It’s been a long day at work and Pete has a 4am start tomorrow. I seldom go back to sleep after he goes to work so I need to cram as much sleep in before as I can.

Stay safe and keep reading. We’ve had our first community case of Omicron announced today so I guess we will soon be following in everyone else’s footsteps. We’ve had our boosters, and I interact with the public as little as possible, so I hope that will be enough to protect us.

Smoke and Mirrors (The Brighton Mysteries #2) by Elly Griffiths

This was a catch up on my backlist read as Smoke and Mirrors was the only book in the Brighton Mysteries series that I hadn’t read.

EXCERPT: Stan entered stage left. Of course he did; he was the villain. Villains always enter from the left, the good fairy from the right. It’s the first law of pantomime. But, in this case, Stan Parks (the Wicked Baron) came running onto the stage in answer to a scream from Alice Dean (Robin Hood). He came quickly because Alice was not normally given to screaming. Even when Stan had tried to kiss her behind the flat depicting Sherwood Forest she hadn’t screamed; instead she had simply delivered an efficient uppercut that had left him winded for hours. So he responded to the sound, in his haste falling over two giant toadstools and a stuffed fox.

The stage was in semi-darkness, some of the scenery still covered in dustsheets. At first Stan could only make out shapes, bulky and somehow ominous, and then he saw Alice, kneeling centre stage, wearing a dressing gown over her Principal Boy tights. She was still screaming, a sound that seemed to get louder and louder until it reached right up to the gods and the empty boxes. Opposite her something swung to and fro, casting a monstrous shadow on the painted forest.

Stan stopped, suddenly afraid to go any further. Alice stopped screaming and Stan heard her say something that sounded like ‘please’ and ‘no’. He stepped forward. The swinging object was a bower, a kind of basket chair, where the Babes in the Wood were meant to shelter before being covered with leaves by mechanical robins (a striking theatrical effect). The bower should have been empty because the Babes didn’t rehearse in the afternoon. But, as Stan got closer, he saw that it was full of something heavy, something that tilted it over to one side. Stan touched the basket, suddenly afraid of it’s awful, sagging weight. But he saw Betsy Bunning, the fifteen-year-old girl who was playing the female Babe. She lay half in, half out of the swinging chair. Her throat had been cut and the blood had soaked through her white dress and was dripping heavily onto the boards.

It was odd. Later, Stan would go through two world wars, see sights guaranteed to turn any man’s blood to ice, but nothing ever disturbed him quite as much as the child in the wicker bower, the blood on the stage and the screams of the Principal Boy.

ABOUT ‘SMOKE AND MIRRORS’: Brighton, winter 1951.

Pantomime season is in full swing on the pier with Max Mephisto starring in Aladdin, but Max’s headlines have been stolen by the disappearance of two local children. When they are found dead in the snow, surrounded by sweets, it’s not long before the press nickname them ‘Hansel and Gretel’.

DI Edgar Stephens has plenty of leads to investigate. The girl, Annie, used to write gruesome plays based on the Grimms’ fairy tales. Does the clue lie in Annie’s unfinished – and rather disturbing – last script? Or might it lie with the eccentric theatricals who have assembled for the pantomime?

For Stan (aka the Great Diablo), who’s also appearing in Aladdin, the case raises more personal memories. Back before the Great War, he witnessed the murder of a young girl while he was starring in another show, an event which has eerie parallels to the current case.

Once again Edgar enlists Max’s help in penetrating the shadowy theatrical world that seems to hold the key. But with both distracted by their own personal problems, neither can afford to miss a trick. For Annie and her friend, time is running out…

MY THOUGHTS: This is the only book in the Brighton Mysteries series that I hadn’t read, so I was excited to stumble upon it on my Kindle when I was searching for something else, and started it immediately. I don’t know how I missed it originally, but apologies to both author and publisher for the tardiness of my review.

I have loved this entire series and Smoke and Mirrors, #2 in the series, is no exception. Set in Brighton, 1951 in the pantomime season in the lead up to Christmas, there is a definite similarity between the current murder and one which occurred of a pantomime cast member in Hastings in 1912. Some of the same pantomime cast members are even on hand.

Smoke and Mirrors is a deliciously twisty mystery with a tremendous range of red herrings and some sharp detective work from DI Edgar Stephens and Sergeant Emma Holmes. As always Elly Griffiths has created a charming but sinister atmosphere in which she sets her story. Two children have literally vanished into thin air, one of whom writes macabre and violent tales, and several characters associated with the children who are perhaps more than they seem combine to produce a clever, engaging and gripping story of magic and muder that had me reading through the night. My suspicions swung wildly from one character to another but never actually alit on the actual murderer.

The children, both the missing and the present, are the stars of this tale. The precocious and imaginative Annie, her friend and acolyte Mark, her younger sister Betty, apparently even more intelligent and imaginative than her older sister, and Richard who loves and admires his sisters provide much entertainment and speculation.

A ripping good murder mystery.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#SmokeandMirrors #NetGalley

: @ellygriffiths17 @quercusbooks

T: @ellygriffiths @QuercusBooks

#fivestarread #crime #historicalfiction #murdermystery #policeprocedural #detectivefiction

THE AUTHOR: Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway novels take for their inspiration Elly’s husband, who gave up a city job to train as an archaeologist, and her aunt who lives on the Norfolk coast and who filled her niece’s head with the myths and legends of that area. Elly has two children and lives near Brighton.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Quercus Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Smoke and Mirrors by Elly Griffiths for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Watching what I’m reading . . .

The first week of 2022 is done and dusted and now most of us are, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, facing going back to work. We’ve had a lovely break, mixing getting a few of those niggly little jobs around the house and yard done with catching up with friends whom we don’t get to see very often. We’ve eaten out a lot, which has been a real treat, been to the beach, and had lot of fun. The weather has been absolutely magnificent. Now, it’s back to reality and work tomorrow and there is, apparently, rain on the horizon for which my garden will be grateful. I have been watering the fruit trees and vegetable garden, but everything else is having to fend for itself.

While I haven’t made any New Year’s resolutions this year, I have decided to try and take control of my reading life. Instead of reading 3 books at a time, I am just going to read one and listen to one at any one time. I have been doing this for the past week and, so far, it’s working well. I am enjoying my reading more and feeling less pressured. I also intend reading more titles for pleasure and made a good start over the Christmas break while also reducing the number of titles on my backlist. I hope I can keep this up. I tried last year with variable results, although I did get my Netgalley ratio up to 68% from 64%.

Currently I am reading To Love and Be Loved by Amanda Prowse which is due for publication 11 January. One third through and I have already shredded innumerable tissues.

I am listening to The Lost Days of Agatha Christie by Carole Owens and, although I am halfway through, I’m still not sure what to make of it.

This week I am planning on reading A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Laguna Beach, California, 1968. The Age of Aquarius is in full swing. Timothy Leary is a rock star. LSD is God. Folks from all over are flocking to Laguna, seeking peace, love, and enlightenment.

Matt Antony is just trying get by.

Matt is sixteen, broke, and never sure where his next meal is coming from. Mom’s a stoner, his deadbeat dad is a no-show, his brother’s fighting in Nam . . . and his big sister Jazz has just gone missing. The cops figure she’s just another runaway hippie chick, enjoying a summer of love, but Matt doesn’t believe it. Not after another missing girl turns up dead on the beach.

All Matt really wants to do is get his driver’s license and ask out the girl he’s been crushing on since fourth grade, yet it’s up to him to find his sister. But in a town where the cops don’t trust the hippies and the hippies don’t trust the cops, uncovering what’s really happened to Jazz is going to force him to grow up fast.

If it’s not already too late.

And, The Night of the Party by Anna-Lou Weatherley

Two Couples. Three Secrets. One Murder.

In a beautiful house surrounded by woodland, the Drayton family and their dearest friends are enjoying dinner together. The wine is flowing, the meal has been lovingly prepared, and it’s going to be an evening none of them will ever forget…

A doting mother
with a manipulative daughter.

A loving husband
lying to his family.

A close friend
keeping a shocking secret.

A beautiful girl
who will be dead by the end of the night.

I have three new ARCs this week: Secrets to the Grave by Steve Frechs

One For Sorrow by Helen Fields

and One of Us is Dead by Jeneva Rose which I requested after reading Michael David’s review on https://bonkersforthebooks.wordpress.com/

In the past week my reading travels have taken me to the Yorke Peninsula and Adelaide in South Australia; Louisiana in the USA; Hastings in the UK; Sèvèrac Le Chateau, France; Langdale, North Yorkshire; and Marin County, San Francisco. Have we crossed paths this week?

To all my friends in the Fraser Coast area of Queensland, Australia please stay safe. Although Tropical Cyclone Seth has been downgraded to a tropical storm, it still has sting in its tail with heavy rain and severe flooding.

Everyone, no matter where you are, take care. Stay safe and read on.

Twenty Years Later by Charlie Donlea

EXCERPT: Two months before 9/11

Death was in the air.

He smelled it as soon as he ducked under the crime scene tape and stepped onto the front lawn of the palatial estate. The Catskill mountains rose above the roofline as the early morning sun stretched shadows of the trees across the yard. The breeze rolled down from the foothills and carried the smell of decay, causing his upper lip to twitch when it reached his nostrils. The smell of death filled him with excitement. He hoped this was because this was his first case as a newly minted homicide detective, and not from some perverse fetish he had never known he possessed.

A uniformed police officer led him across the lawn and around to the back of the property. There he found the source of the foul odour. The victim was hanging naked from a second story balcony, his feet suspended at eye level, and the white rope around his neck angling his head like a broken-stemmed lollipop. The detective looked up to the terrace. The rope stretched over the railing, tight and challenged by the weight of the body. The twine disappeared through french doors that led, he presumed, into the bedroom.

The victim had likely twirled for most of the night, the detective imagined, and had now unfortunately come to rest facing the house. Unfortunate because, as the detective walked across the back lawn, the first thing he saw was the man’s naked buttocks. When he reached the body he noticed welt marks covering the man’s right burr cheek and upper thigh. The contusions flared a faint lilac against the liver mortis blue of the dead man’s skin.

ABOUT ‘TWENTY YEARS LATER’: Avery Mason, host of American Events, knows the subjects that grab a TV audience’s attention. Her latest story–a murder mystery laced with kinky sex, tragedy, and betrayal–is guaranteed to be ratings gold. New DNA technology has allowed the New York medical examiner’s office to make its first successful identification of a 9/11 victim in years. The twist: the victim, Victoria Ford, had been accused of the gruesome murder of her married lover. In a chilling last phone call to her sister, Victoria begged her to prove her innocence.

Emma Ford has waited twenty years to put her sister to rest, but closure won’t be complete until she can clear Victoria’s name. Alone she’s had no luck, but she’s convinced that Avery’s connections and fame will help. Avery, hoping to negotiate a more lucrative network contract, goes into investigative overdrive. Victoria had been having an affair with a successful novelist, found hanging from the balcony of his Catskills mansion. The rope, the bedroom, and the entire crime scene was covered in Victoria’s DNA.

But the twisted puzzle of Victoria’s private life belies a much darker mystery. And what Avery doesn’t realize is that there are other players in the game who are interested in Avery’s own secret past–one she has kept hidden from both the network executives and her television audience. A secret she thought was dead and buried . . .

MY THOUGHTS: I liked Twenty Years Later a lot, but I didn’t love it. I failed to become totally immersed in the story and am not really sure if it was because the narrator didn’t narrate with much emotion, or because the reader is being told much of the story rather than experiencing it.

There are several different storylines going on, narrated in the present and in flashbacks, primarily by Avery, secondly by Walt, and thirdly by various other minor characters. It was the murder that opens the book that I was mainly interested in, but that is very much a secondary thread though, to me, it was definitely the more interesting. I really had no interest in Avery’s salary negotiations which went on, and on, and had no real relevance that I could fathom.

I found Avery’s character difficult to relate to and I never really warmed to her, although I did admire her cleverness in resolving her family problem.

I really liked the way Donlea tied everything up at the end, even if it was a little tedious in parts getting there.

But the absolute ending, where the solution to the murder is revealed, that is absolutely delicious and made wading through all the other stuff worthwhile.

⭐⭐⭐.8

#TwentyYearsLater #NetGalley

I: @charliedonlea @recordedbooks

T: @CharlieDonlea @recordedbooks

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #familydrama #murdermystery

THE AUTHOR: Charlie Donlea resides in Chicago with his wife and two young children.

He spends a part of each year fishing with his father in the far reaches of Canada, where the roads end and lakes are accessible only by floatplane.

DISCLOSURE: Thanks to RB Media, Recorded Books, via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of Twenty Years Later written by Charlie Donlea and narrated by Vivienne Leheney for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Well here we are, the first Sunday of 2022. I am still very much in holiday mode and not looking forward to going back to work tomorrow, although it is only for the one day and then I have the remainder of the week off. I’m not sure that I can drag myself out of bed in time!

Currently I am reading The Woman Who Came Back to Life by Beth Miller. What characters!

And The Family Inheritance by Tricia Stringer, a library book. This is my first book by this Australian author and I am loving it.

I am also listening to an audiobook from the library, Murder is Easy (Superintendent Battle #4) by Agatha Christie. I haven’t previously read any of this series, but am enjoying this immensely. I have a firm suspect in mind for the murderer, but am I right?

This week I am planning to read The House Fire by Rosie Walker

Play with fire and you’ll get burned . . .

Who can you trust in this brand new edge-of-your-seat thriller.

A tired old seaside town hiding a series of unsolved arson attacks.

A derelict mansion in the woods with a long-buried secret.

A bundle of old love letters that mask a dark story.

When Jamie’s documentary investigation gets too close to uncovering the truth behind a series of deadly arson attacks that tormented Abbeywick in the 1980s, her family might be the ones who pay the price.

But for her younger sister Cleo, the secrets Jamie uncovers have the potential to get exactly what Cleo wants: to remove her mum’s toxic new husband from their lives, forever.

All it takes is one spark to send everything up in smoke . . .

And The Betrayal by Terry Lynn Thomas

Attorney Olivia Sinclair is shocked when she receives an anonymous video showing her husband Richard sleeping with someone else. After years of handling other people’s divorces, she thought she could recognise a marriage in trouble.

She angrily throws Richard out of the home they share. But days later she’s arrested—for the murder of his mistress.

Olivia knows she’s innocent but, with all the evidence pointing at her and an obvious motive, she must find the real killer to clear her name.

She may be used to dealing with messy divorces, but this one will be her most difficult case yet. Olivia’s husband has already betrayed her—but would he set her up for murder?

I received three new ARCs in the past week: The Bluebonnet Battle by Carolyn Brown

Shadow in the Glass by M.E. Hilliard

And, better late than never, The Bells of Christmas II: Eight stories of Christmas hope

What are you reading this New Year?

Happy reading my friends. It’s too hot to be out in the garden so I am going to stretch out on the daybed out on my deck where there is a little breeze and read some more. Enjoy your New Year reads my friends.

Watching what I’m reading . . .

It’s a beautiful, fine,hot Boxing Day here in New Zealand. Dustin and Luke left for Lake Taupo late this afternoon, and I have been pottering around the house, pausing every now and then to read a story from A Place Like Home, a wonderful collection of short stories by Rosamunde Pilcher published posthumously.

I am almost finished Survive the Night by Riley Sager

An also almost finished listening to Twenty Years Later by Charlie Donlea

I haven’t got anything scheduled for read for review this week other than Twenty Years Later, so I am going to read books picked totally at random from my backlist.

I received three new ARCs this week: The Child I Never Had by Kate Hewitt

Into the Dark by Fiona Cummins ( a widget from the publisher)

And Ocean State by Stewart O’Nan

A short post today as I am in holiday mode, and I am guessing that you all will be too. Happy holidays and enjoy your families and friends. And please, be kind.

The Silent Conversation by Caro Ramsay

EXCERPT: Do you ever hear anything at night like someone moving around? That might be Sven or Murdo.

Obviously, with the way this place was built originally, the first and second floors are continuous round the whole quad. So through the wall from me is one of the rooms where Sven runs his business. I think he must be up during the night. He looks like the sort who needs little sleep – he has a type of restless energy about him. Murdo collects all kind of weird stuff and stores it in the attic. Pauline told me he has a humidifier and everything.

Or it might be the noises of the spirit of the man who died in the vat of pure alcohol. However, sometimes when I am upstairs, looking out of the window the way you do when you can’t sleep, I see a face at the window on the corner. Or maybe that’s the gin. This is a weird place we live in.

ABOUT ‘THE SILENT CONVERSATION’: It’s been four years since four-year-old Johnny Clearwater disappeared without trace one hot summer afternoon. Now, a new TV documentary series is revisiting the case, dredging up memories perhaps best left forgotten.
On the night the TV show is broadcast, detectives Anderson and Costello are called out to investigate the murder of a female police officer. On arriving at the scene, they discover that nothing about this death is as straightforward as it would appear. What was the victim doing in the garden of the exclusive gated residence where she was found? How did she die? Why is the key witness so reluctant to speak to them? Even the off-duty police officer who was first on the scene isn’t telling them everything.
The pressure intensifies when a link is discovered between the dead woman and the disappearance of Johnny Clearwater four years earlier. What secrets are lurking behind the closed doors of this small, exclusive community . . . and what really happened to little Johnny Clearwater?

MY THOUGHTS: Although The Silent Conversation is the 13th book in this series, it is the first that I have read. The mystery is a complex one, multi-layered and twisting but is able to be read as a stand-alone despite references to an earlier case which is well-explained.

I really enjoyed the characters and getting to know them. By far the most interesting character is Carol Holman, a new resident at the Maltman. She is clearly an extremely intelligent woman, yet a recluse who has suffered some great trauma.

The two main characters are DCI Colin Anderson and DI Costello. Although they work well together, they often don’t see eye to eye. Costello, although dedicated, can be hard to like. She is often abrasive and has no home life, while Anderson sees the birth of his third child with Down’s syndrome as a chance to redress his work/life balance.

There’s a lot going on in this book, and an equally large cast of characters which, at times, became a little confusing. But, Ramsay has written a dark, gritty and gripping thriller which I read over the course of a day. There are plenty of secrets, manipulative characters, smoke and mirrors, and unexpected twists that kept me entertained and wanting more from this author.

I admit to initially being attracted by the title – it intrigued me, and am pleased that I followed my instinct. The title is perfect for the book.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#TheSilentConversation #NetGalley

I: #caroramsay @severnhouseimprint

T: @CaroRamsayBooks @severnhouse

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #mystery #suspense

THE AUTHOR: Caro Ramsay was born and brought up in Glasgow, and now lives in a village on the west coast of Scotland. She is an osteopath, acupuncturist and former marathon runner, who devotes much of her time to the complementary treatment of injured wildlife at a local rescue centre. (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Severn House, Canongate Books, via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Silent Conversation by Caro Ramsay for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Past Life by David Mark

EXCERPT: He picks up a crystal from the circle surrounding the stones. It’s heavy and sharp: sparkling and brittle.

‘Liar,’ he says again, and hits her in the side of the head with such force that the jagged edges of the twinkling rock embed themselves in bone. There is a grotesque slurping sound as he pulls the gory crystal from the wound. She slumps forward. He hits her again. Harder, right at the back of the neck. Takes a fistful of her rosaries, and pulls.

The chain snaps.

Beads fall like hail.

He lets go before she dies. Pushes her onto her back. She’s heavy, and there’s a thud as she topples back onto the floor. One of the cats, nosing near her feet, gives a hiss before it darts away.

He crouches over her. Opens her eyes and peers in.

There’s life in there, he tells himself. A consciousness. Something that can still feel.

‘Charlatan,’ he says, leaning down so his lips are by her ear. ‘Deceiver.’

He considers the pupils in her dulling eyes. Changes his angle until he sees his own barely-there reflection in the glassy surface of the eyeball. Peers in as if searching for something. For someone.

Smiles as he finds it.

‘My love,’ he whispers, and puts one hand to his heart.

He pulls the blade from his pocket.

Reaches into her mouth and seizes her wet, dead tongue.

Begins to carve.

ABOUT ‘PAST LIFE’: The clairvoyant is found with her tongue crudely carved out, a shard of blue crystal buried deep within her mangled ribcage.
The crime scene plunges DS Aector McAvoy back twelve years, to a case from when he was starting out. An investigation that proved a turning point in his life – but one he’s tried desperately to forget.
To catch the killer, he must face his past. Face the terrible thing he did. But doing so also means facing the truth about his beloved wife Roisin, and the dark secrets she’s keeping have the power to destroy them both completely.

MY THOUGHTS: It is easy to tell when an author is passionate about his craft. The passion shines through the writing, enthusiasm and love rippling and tumbling through the words and the plot. David Mark is extremely passionate about his writing and I am equally passionate about reading it. But never has this passion shone through so brightly as it does in Past Life.

Aector MacAvoy is not at ease with the world or his place within it. He feels permanently displaced, dislocated, endlessly cast as an outsider. He’s a lumbering, red-haired Scotsman with a strange name. He became a policeman to do some good; to help people, to try and stop bad people from getting worse. But he just seems to bumble through, ridiculed by most of his fellow officers who understand neither the man nor his strange relationship with his boss, Trish Pharaoh. While he has a passionate relationship with his wife Roisin, and that is a whole wonderful story on its own, his relationship with Trish is more symbiotic. Where once they were master and apprentice, the balance of power has shifted. He needs her protection, her approval. She feels rudderless, adrift without his comforting presence. But he is a good man, something even his father-in-law has to admit, and he is a man who never thought he would countenance a policeman in his traveller family.

I think, like Pharaoh, that I have fallen a little in love with Aector. And greatly in love with this series. Past Life is definitely one of my top ten reads of the year. Dark, gripping, gritty and twisting, it has everything I want in a crime thriller, and then manages to deliver more.

Although Past Life is #9 in the Aector McAvoy series, it is able to be read as a stand-alone. It is written over two timelines, now and in the past, which provides most, if not all, the background information on the characters and relationships needed.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#PastLife #NetGalley

I: @davidmarkwriter @severnhouseimprint

T: @DavidMarkWriter @severnhouse

#fivestarread #contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #murdermystery #suspense #thriller

THE AUTHOR: David spent more than 15 years as a journalist, including seven years as a crime reporter with The Yorkshire Post – walking the Hull streets that would later become the setting for the internationally bestselling Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy novels.

His writing is heavily influenced by the court cases he covered: the defeatist and jaded police officers; the inertia of the justice system and the sheer raw grief of those touched by savagery and tragedy.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Severn House via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Past Life by David Mark for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Only a week until Christmas. I hope everyone is better organised than I am! It’s our work Christmas party today, so this will be a brief post sandwiched between the committee meeting, which has just finished, and the party which begins in an hour.

I am currently reading The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin, a title off my backlist.

Winter Honeymoon by Jacob M. Appel, a collection of short stories from my backlist and the cover of which for some reason won’t download for me . . . 🤷‍♀️

and How the Dead Speak by Val McDermid,yet another backtitle.

And I am listening to Twenty Years Later by Charlie Donlea

This week I am planning on reading The Road Leads Back by Marci Bolden

Kara Martinson and Harry Canton weren’t exactly high school sweethearts, but they did share one night neither will ever forget. Twenty-seven years later, Harry surprises Kara at an art gallery opening and discovers he left her with more than just memories when he went away to college. Desperate to connect with the family he never knew existed, Harry convinces his son to move to Stonehill—and pleads with Kara to come, too.

Kara hasn’t stepped foot in their hometown since the day she was sent away to a home for unwed mothers. Now Harry’s back in her life and as they put together the pieces of his parents’ betrayal, old heartaches start to feel anew. She wants to be near her family, but returning to Iowa means facing some things…and some people…she isn’t quite ready to.

Can Harry convince her to forgive those who betrayed her so they can embrace the future they were robbed of so long ago? Or will the pain of the past be too much for Kara to overcome? 

And Survive the Night by Riley Sager

Charlie Jordan is being driven across the country by a serial killer. Maybe.

Behind the wheel is Josh Baxter, a stranger Charlie met by the college ride share board, who also has a good reason for leaving university in the middle of term. On the road they share their stories, carefully avoiding the subject dominating the news – the Campus Killer, who’s tied up and stabbed three students in the span of a year, has just struck again.

Travelling the lengthy journey between university and their final destination, Charlie begins to notice discrepancies in Josh’s story.

As she begins to plan her escape from the man she is becoming certain is the killer, she starts to suspect that Josh knows exactly what she’s thinking.

Meaning that she could very well end up as his next victim.

This week I have received a total of 4 new ARCs, 3 digital and 1 audio. They are: The Wedding Murders by Sarah Linley

The Patient by Jane Schemilt

And Local Gone Missing by Fiona Barton

And the audiobook is The Lucky Ones by Kiersten Modglin

This week I have travelled to London, England; Glasgow, Scotland; Summers Lake in the Adirondacks; New York City; and Bradseden, a fictional village on the outskirts of Bradfield in South Yorkshire.

Have a wonderful Christmas and be kind.

Unforgiven by Sarah Barrie

EXCERPT: On the edge of oblivion, images drift through the fog of my mind and hold, refusing to let go. Last night. The very dreamy Jonathan Davies of the chiselled features, stunning baby blues and long, dark lashes. A tall, muscular powerhouse, precision toned and sculpted to be appreciated. So commanding, so sure of himself. The images form into a memory and I groan in resignation.

‘Shit’. I have to get up. His body is still in the boot.

ABOUT ‘UNFORGIVEN’: Lexi Winter is tough, street-smart and has stood on her own two feet since childhood, when she was a victim of notorious paedophile the Spider. All she cares about now is a roof over her head and her long-term relationship with Johnny Walker. She isn’t particular about who she sleeps with … as long as they pay before leaving.

Lexi is also an ace hacker, tracking and entrapping local paedophiles and reporting them to the cops. When she finds a particularly dangerous paedophile who the police can’t touch, she decides to gather enough evidence to put him away. Instead, she’s a witness to his death …

Detective Inspector Rachael Langley is the cop who cracked the Spider case, 18 years earlier – but failed to protect Lexi. Now a man claiming to be the real Spider is emulating his murderous acts, and Rachael is under pressure from government, media and her police colleagues. Did she get it wrong all those years ago, or is this killer is a copycat?

Lexi and Rachael cross paths at last, the Spider in their sights … but they may be too late …

MY THOUGHTS: Absolutely brilliant! Unforgiven was an overnight read for me. I just didn’t want to put it down.

Unforgiven is a fast-paced thriller detailing the devious workings of a group of paedophiles (Please note: there are no graphic details) and how difficult the police find it to catch up with those involved when their hands are tied by legal restrictions.

Lexi is a wonderful character. She is a survivor in more ways than one. She is determined that no other child should be subjected to the abuse she suffered as a child. She uses her earnings as an escort to subsidise her under the radar infiltrations into paedophile rings, providing the information to have participants arrested and the rings closed down. But then a man who abused her as a child manages to have his conviction overturned and is freed and her fragile existence is about to be shattered. She also has a talent for sarcastic wit that I envy, and the ability to think on her feet.

There are some wonderful characters in this novel. As well as Lexi, there’s Bailee, Lexi’s sister; Rachel, DI now but also involved in the original Spider case; Finn, and his daughter Ava; ‘Neutron’, police computer whizz; and let’s not forget Lexi’s wonderful and hilarious neighbour Dawny. She was a ray of sunshine in the darkness and provided me with more than a few belly-laughs. There are also a number of absolutely despicable characters who will turn your stomach and have you calling for a mandatory death penalty for these crimes.

Unforgiven is not an easy read, dealing as it does with child abuse and murder. But there is a lot more to this book than just that. As well as the underbelly of human nature, we get to see the inherent goodness of the people who fight for these children, and learn of the extraordinary lengths they will go to in order to catch their prey.

I became very attached to a number of these characters, and I sincerely hope that Sarah Barrie is not yet finished with them.

A ‘must read’.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#Unforgiven #NetGalley

I: @authorsarahbarrie @harlequinaus

T: #AuthorSarahBarrie @HarlequinAUS

#australiancrimefiction #contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #murdermystery #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Sarah Barrie is a bestselling Australian author writing suspense in rural settings, with a generous splash of romance. Her debut bestselling print novel, Secrets of Whitewater Creek, earned her a spot as one of the Top 10 breakthrough authors of 2014, and her next three books, the Hunters Ridge series, also reached best seller status. She has finaled in several major awards, twice in the RUBY, the Romance Writers of Australia’s premier award, and three times in The Australian Romance Readers Award for favourite Romantic Suspense.

In other incarnations, Sarah has worked as a teacher, a vet nurse, a horse trainer and a magazine editor. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her ferrying children to soccer or gymnastics, or trudging through paddocks chasing cattle, sheep, chickens or the Houdini pig that never stays put very long. Occasionally, she’ll attempt to ride her favourite horse who’s quite a bit smarter than she is, and not always cooperative.

Her favourite place in the world is the family property, where she writes her stories overlooking mountains crisscrossed with farmland, bordered by the beauty of the Australian bush, and where, at the end of the day, she can spend time with family, friends, a good Irish whiskey and a copy of her next favourite book. (Australianfictionauthors.com)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Harlequin Australia, HQ, for providing a digital ARC of Unforgiven by Sarah Barrie for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

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