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Blog Tour -Extract: A Summer at the Castle by Kate Lord Brown

Today I’m sharing with you an extract from A Summer at the Castle, the latest book by Kate Lord Brown.

Thank you to Kate for the invitation to take part and providing the extract.

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I’ve wanted to write a book set in the south west of Ireland since visiting Kenmare and
Dingle twenty years ago. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, and I’ve never forgotten staying
at Dromquinna, where Diana’s fictional castle is set. Here we meet her for the first
time, and get a glimpse of her home, inspired by the real life magical location …

Kenmare

Diana Hughes strode across the gravel driveway of Castle Dromquinna, leading a scrawny black goat with amber eyes with her good arm. The hem of her orange kaftan rode up over Diana’s strong, tanned legs as the goat struggled. She tightened her grip on the cerise pashmina she had tied around its neck. ‘No you don’t, my friend. Let’s get you safely back in the field.’ She dragged the goat onwards, and looked up at the stone crest above the porchway carved with DH, her silver-grey hair blowing in the breeze. Storm clouds scudded across the sky, blocking the sun. Rain, she thought, longing blooming in her chest for golden, sunlit days in Italy. She was counting down the days to her annual holiday.

‘Let me take ’im Mrs Hughes,’ the gardener said, setting down his wheelbarrow. ‘Right handful this one is.’

‘That would be grand, thank you Seán. Check Mephistopheles’ fence again, would you please?’ The gardener scooped the goat up into his arms, and Diana untied her scarf from its neck. ‘You’re a rascal, so you are,’ she said, scratching the goat’s bony head, its ears quivering in pleasure. She adjusted the sling at the back of her neck, her eyes narrowing.

‘You’ve not been swimming, Mrs Hughes? Not with your arm?’

‘Just a paddle with this ruddy thing,’ she said, raising her arm in its plaster cast. ‘I haven’t missed a day since 1988 and I’m not going to start now. The water is gorgeous at this time of the year. Bracing.’ She picked a piece of reed from the goat’s back. ‘I found you down by the bay, didn’t I?’

On the porch she stamped her feet, and swung open the heavy mahogany door to the reception area. At once the familiar smells of the Castle embraced her: the open fire, beeswax polish, the rich incense perfume of the stargazer lilies on the circular table at the heart of the flagstoned hall. ‘Is Darcy here yet?’ she asked the girl behind the desk, pulling off her wellies, and tucking them behind a door marked ‘private’. A white cat with aquamarine eyes jumped down from the red velvet armchair by the fire and wound its way around her bare feet. ‘Hello Kato, have you had your breakfast?’ She slipped on a battered pair of black espadrilles and walked on.

‘Conor’s in the kitchen with your daughter,’ the girl said. ‘Mrs Hughes, someone was—’

‘Not now.’ Diana strode through the hall, stopping to adjust a skew-whiff painting of Kenmare Bay. She knew every inch of the Castle intimately, had chosen every lamp, every rug, every picture herself. The restaurant, and the few discreet rooms above for guests who wished to stay over before driving back to Dublin and beyond, still had the air of a private house. It was classic, artfully shabby. The antiques suited the eighteenth-century architecture and anything newer she had aged. From the derelict bones of an old people’s home awash with avocado bathrooms and safety handles, Diana’s creation had risen like a pop-up page in a glossy magazine. She had added to it over the years, replacing make-do with make-a-statement pieces bought at country house auctions to complement those her husband had collected. At the thought of Kavanagh, she smiled, and paused to look out across the formal garden, the gravel pathways flanked with topiary leading to the walled kitchen garden with its neat brick pathways and raised beds of herbs. We’re a good team, that’s what Kavanagh always used to say. You’ve got the taste and beauty, Di, I’ve got the balls and cheque book. A peacock cried out, stalking across the lawns. Diana brushed a tiny strand of cobweb from the grey-painted moulding of the window frame, blowing it free from her fingertip. She made a mental note to tell the housekeeper to brush down the hand-painted wallpaper, its vines snaking up to the ceiling. You have an eye, my girl, she thought, imagining her husband’s deep voice. You have an eye, for sure.

I feel old, she thought, walking on through the Castle. Her broken arm ached, and her ribs were still mending, bruised from the fall. What would you make of me now, Kavanagh? Where’s the girl you fell in love with in Porto Ercole? She thought of the rugged Tuscan coast, the deep green and peace of the vineyards and olive groves rolling down to the shimmering sea, of her simple whitewashed cottage in the hills. I’ll take a holiday, after this. Her expression softened and her eyes took on a faraway look. Italy was hers alone – there were no demanding customers, no arguing staff to discipline, no TV cameras, no calls from the accountant, no letters from the bank. Perhaps I shall treat myself, book into Il Pellicano for a few days before opening up the cottage. She thought of the hotel’s sunbathing terrace overlooking the endless blue sea, imagined the warmth of the sun easing her bones, the glittering light through her closed eyelids. But there’s work to be done first. Diana took a deep breath, and winced. God, I hope I’ve done the right thing asking Darcy to come home. She pushed open a baize-lined door marked ‘Private’ and strode along the flagstone corridor leading to the family kitchen in the old tower. She could hear laughter up ahead, the deep roll of Conor’s voice telling a story.

‘You didn’t?’ Darcy’s voice, her soft Irish accent melded with west coast American.

‘There you are,’ Diana said, pausing in the doorway. Her daughter stood beside the scrubbed pine table at the heart of the yellow kitchen. The flagstone floor was covered with worn Persian carpets, and faded Liberty print cushions littered the old blue sofa by the stove. The white-painted cabinets and dresser were battered rather than distressed, and littered with pots of utensils. It was a working, homely place, and Diana’s favourite room in the whole Castle. An oil painting of Diana in her prime, her arms full of fresh produce from the kitchen garden, dominated the room, gazing down from the wall between the two floor-to-ceiling sash windows. Darcy stepped towards her mother, her eyes betraying her nerves and joy. Diana tucked a strand of glossy dark hair behind Darcy’s ear, cupped her cheek in her thin, dry hand. ‘It’s good to see you.’ Darcy hugged her mother carefully. ‘There, now,’ Diana said, closing her eyes, breathing in the warm vanilla scent of her daughter. She pressed her lips to the top of Darcy’s head.

‘I was worried about you,’ Darcy said, her voice muffled.

‘It’ll take more than a few broken bones to finish me off,’ Diana said, straightening up as they stepped apart. ‘You do look well. You’ve cut your hair since I saw you last.’ You have the look of your father, she thought, his dark beauty.

‘It’s easier in the kitchen. How’s the arm?’ Darcy said.

‘And the ribs,’ Conor said.

‘I could scream, it’s so frustrating.’ Diana walked to the stove, holding her side. ‘Can’t swim, can’t cook. Shall we make a pot?’ She fumbled with the tea caddy.

‘Here, let me. Sit down, woman,’ Conor said, pulling out a wheelback kitchen chair for her. He filled the kettle, and set it on the stove. ‘Honestly, would it kill you to ask for help?’

‘Yes, probably. You know me,’ Diana said, wincing as she sat down.

‘I was so glad that you called me,’ Darcy said, sitting opposite her.

‘I didn’t want to bother you.’ Diana gestured at Conor, who was sorting through the morning papers. ‘He said it was time for the next generation to take over on the show.’

‘Young blood.’ Conor fished out the Irish Times and took down a pair of tortoiseshell glasses from his hair to read the front page. ‘People have had enough of looking at our faces.’

‘We’ve always assumed you’d take over running the Castle when I retire—’ Diana said.

‘But you’re not retiring yet, are you?’ Darcy said.

********

SYNOPSIS:

Scandal, secrets and strawberries.
A recipe for disaster…

Every summer, Diana Hughes organises a famous baking competition at her beautiful castle in the south west of Ireland, to raise funds for its upkeep. But this year, amongst the bunting and scrumptious cakes, everything is turning out a little differently than planned!

First, her daughter Darcy arrives on the doorstep unexpectedly, after running away to the sunny hills of California with a broken heart a year ago. Then a mysterious stranger tries to sabotage the competition. Diana and Darcy soon find out that the past is quickly catching up with them – and it’s about to turn their lives upside down!…

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Kate was a finalist in ITV’s The People’s Author contest, and her novel ‘The Perfume Garden’, which has been published in nine languages, was shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year 2014. She was regional winner of the BBC International Radio Playwriting competition this year, and she holds an MA in Creative Writing. Her books have been top ten bestsellers in the UK, Canada, and several European countries. In 2020 she was highly commended in the RNA Elizabeth Goudge Trophy.

Kate has also written editorial, reviews and regular columns for Traveller, Conde Nast, Good Housekeeping, Blueprint,  The Bookseller, Bookbag, Writers’ News, Arts Business, Gulf Times, Woman, Oryx, the Daily Telegraph, Sunday Express and others. She wrote the first book club column in the Middle East for two years, introducing a host of writers to the region through the pages of Ahlan! After many years living overseas, she has returned to the wild and beautiful south west of England, where she grew up. Kate has two books out in 2021, ‘A Season of Secrets‘ and ‘A Summer at the Castle‘ with Orion, and ‘Die Schritte zu deinem Herzen‘ (Silent Music) was published by Piper Dec 2020. Kate is working on her next novels.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org*| Amazon*| Google Books| Kobo
*These are affiliate links

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Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: Truth Or Dare (DI Helen Grace 10) by M. J. Arlidge

Published: June 24th, 2021
Publisher: Orion
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Hardboiled, Crime Fiction, Crime Series, Police Procedural, Adventure Ficiton

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for the latest brilliant thriller in the DI Helen Grace Series. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Tours for the invitation to take part and to Orion for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

DO YOU WANT TO PLAY THE GAME?

THE BRAND NEW THRILLER FROM THE MIND OF MILLION-COPY BESTSELLER M. J. ARLIDGE

A crimewave sweeps through the city and no-one is safe. An arson at the docks. A carjacking gone wrong. A murder in a country park. What connects all these crimes without causes, which leave no clues?

Detective Inspector Helen Grace faces the rising tide of cases which threatens to drown the city. But each crime is just a piece of a puzzle which is falling into place.

And when it becomes clear just how twisted and ingenious this web of crime is, D.I. Grace will realise that it may be impossible to stop it . . .

THE BEST BOOK YET FROM THE MASTER OF THE KILLER THRILLER.

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MY REVIEW:

“So much bloodshed, so much heartache of late, yet so little to go on. Recently, Helen had felt like she was swimming with one hand tied behind her back, drowning in a rising tide of violence and brutality.”

Helen and her team are under pressure. They are facing an unprecedented crime wave following the Covid-19 Pandemic; seemingly unrelated crimes without motive and leave few clues. Things feel out of control and they are yielding few results, which the press aren’t letting them forget. But then evidence emerges that suggests these crimes could be linked. Could one mastermind really be behind it all? Pulling the strings like a twisted puppeteer? And, more importantly, can Helen find and stop them?

Gripping, atmospheric and addictive, this 10th installment in the fantastic DI Helen Grace series was every bit as compelling as the previous books. I devoured it quickly, unable to put it down once I’d started reading. I always enjoy coming back to a series I love and being immersed in the familiar world and characters that the author has created. Helen and her team have been part of my reading world for a decade now and I’ve enjoyed following their journey and watching them solve crimes over the years.

In Truth or Dare Helen is facing some of her greatest challenges yet. Not only is she facing the rise in crimes that are difficult to solve, but there is also mounting tension between herself and her team, particularly her and former lover Joseph Hudson, who is determined to undermine her at every turn. She finds herself not only fighting crime, but fighting for her career and reputation. I loved the extra tension this created and how you are constantly wondering if this could be the end for our beloved but beleaguered detective. I won’t spoil the surprise about whether or not it is. You’ll have to read it for yourself and find out. And while this could be read as a standalone, I do highly recommend the whole series. It’s one you won’t regret adding to your TBR.

One of the things I love about M. J. Arlidge is that he knows how to set the scene so vividly that it is like you’re watching it on a TV screen. You feel like you are there with the characters, feeling every moment of tension, frustration, despair and disappointment. He also smoothly juggles multiple plot lines, effortless weaving them together in surprising ways. I always fall for his red herrings as he expertly sends the reader looking in the wrong direction before blindsiding you with the jaw-dropping truth. 

Tense, twisty, dark and cunningly crafted, Truth or Dare is another unmissable thriller from the brilliant M. J. Arlidge. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

M. J. Arlidge has worked in television for the last twenty years, specializing in high-end drama production, including prime-time crime serials Silent Witness, Torn, The Little House and, most recently, the hit ITV show Innocent. In 2015 his audiobook exclusive Six Degrees of Assassination was a number-one bestseller. His debut thriller, Eeny Meeny, was the UK’s bestselling crime debut of 2014. It was followed by the bestselling Pop Goes the Weasel, The Doll’s House, Liar Liar, Little Boy Blue, Hide and Seek and Love Me Not. Down to the Woods is the eighth DI Helen Grace thriller. In 2019 he published a standalone thriller, A Gift for Dying.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Amazon* | Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo
*These are affiliate links

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Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: One Child Alive (Rockwell & Decker 3) by Ellery Kane

Published: June 23rd, 2021
Publisher: Bookouture
Genre: Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Crime Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Noir Fiction, Police Procedural, Crime Series, Hardboiled, Romance Novel
Format: Kindle, Paperback

Welcome to me stop on the tour for this entertaining whodunit. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the eBook ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

One, two, three. She counts the bodies dragged from the burning beach house, smoke rising from their cotton pajamas, and remembers a fourth; red hair, freckles, clinging to his mother’s legs, begging to watch the fireworks a while longer. “Where’s the little boy?” she whispers…

In the ashes of the Fox family’s seafront vacation home, Olivia Rockwell can barely hold back her tears as she wonders who in the close-knit town of Fog Harbor could destroy such a warm, loving family. Then she spots a little green toy soldier in the sand and follows a set of small footprints along the beach to an abandoned lifeguard hut. Inside, she finds the youngest Fox child, Thomas. The only survivor…

Holding his trembling body close, Olivia promises to keep him safe. She knows the agony of losing family at such a young age. But the second Thomas catches sight of Detective Will Decker’s sliver police badge over her shoulder, the little boy’s scream pierces the night. Could the family have been targeted by someone sworn to protect them? Is anyone safe if the police themselves are the primary suspect?

Unsure who she can trust, Olivia keeps hold of the tiny horseshoe charm she finds at the scene and follows the trail deep into the web of lies surrounding this seemingly perfect family. But just as a tip-off from a local lighthouse-keeper puts the killer within reach, tragedy strikes: little Thomas is snatched from his bed.

Up against a calculating monster who seems to know her every weakness, Olivia must dig deeper than ever before to find this innocent child. But when one twisted killer becomes two, can she stay alive long enough to save him?

A totally gripping and utterly addictive page-turner that will have you biting your nails and reeling at the twists. Perfect for fans of Melinda Leigh, Lisa Regan and Kendra Elliot!

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MY REVIEW:

One, two, three. She counts the bodies dragged from the burning beach house, smoke rising from their cotton pajamas, and remembers a fourth; red hair, freckles, clinging to his mother’s legs, begging to watch the fireworks a while longer. “Where’s the little boy?” she whispers…

The third installment in the Rockwell and Decker Series sees the duo investigating the murder of the picture-perfect Fox family while on summer vacation. Four-year-old Thomas is the only one who survived after fleeing from “the bad man”. Olivia promises to keep the terrified boy safe, but how can she do that when it seems the killer could be one of the very people who swore to protect and serve? 

Gripping, tense, twisty and compelling, this was another readable thriller from Ellery Kane. She keeps you guessing, offering a variety of suspects that are hard to narrow down to just one. And just when you think you have it figured out, she throws a twist your way to make you question what you thought you knew, making it one of those great thrillers where you don’t know who the perpetrator is until she decides to make the big reveal. 

The characters are so familiar now that I feel like I slot easily back into their lives, but the author succinctly catches us up and makes it easy for anyone who has never read the series before to also enjoy the book. Olivia and Will are great protagonists who are easy to like and root for. They make a great team and I think that Olivia working as a psychologist rather than for the Police gives this series an edge, something that makes it stand out from the other crime series with dual protagonists. 

One Child Alive is an exciting, fast-paced thriller that any fans of this genre will enjoy. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Forensic psychologist by day, novelist by night, Ellery Kane has been writing–professionally and creatively–for as long as she can remember. Just like many of her main characters, Ellery loves to ask why, which is the reason she became a psychologist in the first place. Real life really is stranger than fiction, and Ellery’s writing is often inspired by her day job. Evaluating violent criminals and treating trauma victims, she has gained a unique perspective on the past and its indelible influence on the individual. And she’s heard her fair share of real life thrillers.

Ellery lives in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, a picturesque setting that provides the backdrop for many of her novels. If you don’t find Ellery interviewing murderers behind prison walls or pecking away at her latest novel, she is probably at the gym landing a solid jab-cross to a punching bag; riding bicycles with her special someone; or enjoying a movie the old-fashioned way–at the theater with popcorn and Milk Duds.

Ellery was previously selected as one of ten semifinalists in the MasterClass James Patterson Co-Author Competition, and she recently signed a three book deal with Bookouture for her new Rockwell and Decker mystery thriller series. The first book is scheduled for release in 2020.

If you’d like to receive a notification when new books are released, please sign up for Ellery’s newsletter at ellerykane.com. Ellery also signs e-books on authorgraph.com.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Amazon*| Google Books| Apple Books| Kobo
*These are affiliate links

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Please check out the reviews from the others bloggers taking part in the blog tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: Suspects by Lesley Pearse

Published: June 24th, 2021
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Saga, Thriller, Mystery, Domestic Fiction, Romance Novel, Historical Romance
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this entertaining whodunnit. Thank you to Megan at Midas PR for the invitation to take part and to Michael Joseph for the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

What do you do when your dream home becomes your worst nightmare?
_______

Welcome to Willow Close, where everyone is a suspect . . .

On the day Nina and Conrad Best move into their new home in picture-perfect Willow Close, a body is discovered.

Hurrying inside with their belongings, they see horrified neighbours gather around the police cordon – one of the residents has been attacked and brutally killed in the woods.

When police start to interview the residents of the Close, they soon discover each neighbour harbours their own secrets. Because everyone on the Close is far from what they seem.

Nina and Conrad thought they’d found their dream home.

But have they moved into a nightmare . . . ?

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MY REVIEW:

Welcome to Willow Close, where everyone is a suspect…

Willow Close is a picture-perfect neighbourhood so idyllic that houses rarely come up for sale. Nina and Conrad feel lucky to have bought their new home on the close that backs onto a lush wooded area. But on the day they move in, the body of a young girl is discovered in the woods.

Thirteen-year-old Chloe Church had lived on Willow Close all her life and the residents are shocked to hear about her brutal murder in the woods that surround their homes. Suspicions quickly flare as neighbour suspects neighbour. And as the police investigate it soon becomes clear that Willow Close is a place full of secrets where many of the residents aren’t what they appear to be and anyone could be the killer…

Suspects is a steadily paced whodunnit with an atmosphere full of suspicion. An ensemble piece told in the third person, it reads like a darker version of Neighbours. The author introduces us to the residents of Willow Close, slowly unveiling the secrets they are hiding behind their picture-perfect facades: dodgy dealings, unhappy lives and crumbling marriages. I genuinely couldn’t pinpoint a suspect, instead being suspicious of everyone.

I admit that I struggled to get into the book at first. Focusing on everyone in the Close felt like it took away the tension and made it hard to connect with any of the characters. But about half way through the tension rises and I felt like I’d got to know the characters enough to care about them. It was at this point I felt like the murder became the focus of the story, rather than the drama of the lives of the residents, which also made it more gripping. 

The residents of Willow Close are a varied cast of characters. We get to know the life and backstory of each one in depth over the course of the book; some of which are wildly entertaining, while others are more mundane and ‘normal’. I loved Conrad and Nina and could have happily read more of the story from their perspective. I also had a soft spot for Janice, who was a warm and genuine character. The author wrote some fantastic villains and I often wanted to slap Trudy, Rose and Dee, with Dee being particularly callous, calculating and vile. 

This was my first foray into this author’s books and I would definitely read more. An entertaining story that explores what makes people tick and what is really going on behind our neighbours’ doors, I would recommend this for those who like their mysteries without the gore. 

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

International bestselling author Lesley Pearse has lived a life as rich with incidents, setbacks and joys as any found in her novels. After her mother died, Lesley spent three years in an orphanage before she was taken home when her father remarried. Resourceful, determined and willing to have a go at almost anything Lesley left home at sixteen. By the mid Sixties she was living in London, sharing flats, partying hard and married a trumpet player in a Jazz rock band. She has also worked as a nanny, a Playboy bunny and designed and made clothes to sell to boutiques. It was only after having three daughters that Lesley began to write. The hardships, traumas, close friends and lovers from those early years were inspiration for her beloved novels. She published her first book at 49 and has not looked back since. Lesley is still a party girl.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon* | Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo
*These are affiliate links

********

Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the blog tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour: Murder at the Fair (A Lady Eleanor Swift Mystery Book 6) by Verity Bright

Published: June 15th, 2021
Publisher: Bookouture
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio

Today is my stop on the blog tour for this delightful cosy mystery. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the eBook ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

Summer flowers, warm sunshine, a maypole dance and… is that another murder? A tricky case is afoot for Lady Swift!

Summer, 1921Lady Eleanor Swift, the best amateur sleuth in the country, is delighted to be in charge of the prize-giving at her village summer fair. But the traditional homemade raft race takes a tragic turn when the local undertaker, Solemn Jon, turns up dead amongst the ducks. Jon was the life of any party and loved by the entire village. Surely this was simply an awful accident?

But when a spiteful obituary is printed in the local paper, Eleanor realises there may be more to Jon’s death than first thought. Despite handsome Detective Seldon giving her strict instructions not to interfere, Eleanor owes it to Jon’s good name to root out the truth. So with her partner in crime, Gladstone the bulldog, Eleanor starts digging for clues…

When another local dies in a riding accident, the police refuse to believe he was murdered. But a second vindictive death notice convinces Eleanor of foul play. Solemn Jon’s assistant, a bullish banker and a majestic marquess make her suspect list, but it isn’t until she finds a dusty old photograph that she knows the true culprit behind both crimes. Then another obituary appears – her own! Can Eleanor nail the killer before she too turns up dead among the ducks?

An utterly compelling and charming cozy mystery! Pure delight for fans of Agatha Christie, T.E. Kinsey and Lee Strauss.

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MY REVIEW:

Summer. 1921. Lady Eleanor Swift is the guest of honour at the village’s annual May Day Fair. But a fun day out soon turns into tragedy when the local undertaker is found dead in the reeds. What at first appears to be an accident, soon takes a more sinister turn after a snide obituary is published in the local paper. Sure that his death was no accident, Solemn Jon’s widow asks Eleanor to find the culprit and bring them to justice.

When another ‘accidental’ death occurs and is followed by another venomous obituary, Eleanor is sure the same person is responsible. But the police refuse to listen, leaving Eleanor and her butler Clifford with another mystery that needs to be solved. 

Witty and compelling, Murder at the Fair is another delightful and entertaining escapade that transports us back to what feels like a simpler time. As soon as I began reading I felt like I was enveloped in the warm and cosy atmosphere of the author’s prose. While this is only my second foray into the series, I look forward to reading them and immersing myself in the warm glow that they emanate. 

Eleanor Swift is a wonderful character. The ametur sleuth is funny, feisty, intelligent and vibrant. I love how she goes against the grain of what is expected of both women and her class at the time, giving the story a modern edge while also feeling authentically historic. I absolutely adore her and Clifford together. They are such an entertaining duo who I would love to solve a mystery with. 

A quick and readable cosy mystery that you can enjoy as either a standalone or part of the series, I loved this fun, sharp and uplifting tale. 

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR

Verity Bright is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing partnership that has spanned a quarter of a century. Starting out writing high-end travel articles and books, they published everything from self-improvement to humour, before embarking on their first historical mystery.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones*| Amazon*| Apple Books
*These are affiliate links

********

Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Blog Tour: The Stranding by Kate Sawyer

Published: June 24th, 2021
Publisher: Coronet
Genre: Saga, Science Fiction, Dystopian Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Today is my stop on the blog tour for this magnificent debut novel. Thank you to Niamh at Hodder for the invitation to take part and the gifted proof copy.

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SYNOPSIS:

HER WORLD FELL TO PIECES.

FROM THE BONES SHE BUILT A NEW LIFE.

Ruth lives in the heart of the city. Working, drinking, falling in love: the rhythm of her vivid and complicated life is set against a background hum of darkening news reports from which she deliberately turns away.

When a new romance becomes claustrophobic, Ruth chooses to leave behind the failing relationship, but also her beloved friends and family, and travels to the other side of the world in pursuit of her dream life working with whales in New Zealand.

But when Ruth arrives, the news cycle she has been ignoring for so long is now the new reality. Far from home and with no real hope of survival, she finds herself climbing into the mouth of a beached whale alongside a stranger. When she emerges, it is to a landscape that bears no relation to the world they knew before.

When all has been razed to the ground, what does it mean to build a life?

The Stranding is a story about the hope that can remain even when the world is changed beyond recognition.

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MY REVIEW:

“A rush of air, a groan so forlorn it hurts her heart.
A noise that connot be unheard.
A white frame above her, a spine, the ribs splayed wide, the jaws like pincers, brackets.
The bones of the whale glow slightly in the dark.
She closes her eyes. My old friend, she thinks, my home, my sanctuary.”

This is a story about the end of the world. About humanity, love, survival and hope. Utterly magnificent, captivating, imaginative and original, it is like nothing I’ve ever read before. I don’t know what I was expecting, but what I read exceeded anything I could have imagined or wanted.

“They sit in silence, watching the sky grow pinker and pinker. She gestures to the reddening sky. ‘It’d be beautiful, if it wasn’t, you know, The End.'”

With spectacular storytelling the author crafts a richly imagined story filled with evocative imagery, transporting me to the shores of New Zealand as the apocalypse dawns and taking me back to the bustling streets of London as Ruth talks about her life before. It is all so vivid that I felt like I was watching it in technicolour on a movie screen. The scenes describing the apocalypse: Nik and Ruth’s terror as they seek safety in the stomach of the whale, the devastation of the world when they re-emerge, and their burned and blistered skin, are seared into my mind as clearly as if I had experienced them myself. I could hear the deafening silence of a world where only the two of them appear to have survived and feel their bewilderment and grief. Ruth and Nik were fascinating characters that I enjoyed reading. Their love story felt authentic and inevitable and I thought they made a great team.

“How ironic, she thinks. Now she is marooned in silence, and despite her best efforts to avoid it, the conflict of mankind caught up with her in the end.”

I was swept away by this glorious tale; in awe of the author’s imagination and talent. Exquisitely written, beautifully observed, atmospheric, and with an almost dreamlike quality, it is a masterclass in storytelling. I was transfixed. It manages to be strong, powerful and thought-provoking, but also mellow, peaceful and soothing, a riveting contrast that pulls you into this wonderful story. I never wanted the story to end and felt bereft and hungry for more when it did. I still can’t believe this is a debut and will be buying any future books she writes without hesitation.

An absolute triumph, The Stranding is a magnificent debut that you don’t want to miss.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Kate was born in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, where she grew up in the countryside as the eldest of four siblings. She lived in South London for the best part of the last two decade (living briefly in Australia and USA) but recently returned to East Anglia.

​Kate trained in acting at Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art and has worked as an actor since. She is a founding ensemble member of award-winning theatre company The Faction and established her own theatre company The Curious Room. 

​Previous writing includes adapting Lorca, writing short films and plays and recipes. The Stranding is her first novel.

​She is the mother of 1 year old daughter as a solo mother by choice. 

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Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

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Blog Tour: Fragile by Sarah Hilary

In

Published: June 10th, 2021
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Crime Fiction, Gothic Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this chilling thriller. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Pan Macmillan for the eBook ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

Everything she touches breaks . . .

Nell Ballard is a runaway. A former foster child with a dark secret she is desperate to keep, all Nell wants is to find a place she can belong.

So when a job comes up at Starling Villas, home to the enigmatic Robin Wilder, she seizes the opportunity with both hands.

But her new lodgings may not be the safe haven that she was hoping for. Her employer lives by a set of rigid rules and she soon sees that he is hiding secrets of his own.

But is Nell’s arrival at the Villas really the coincidence it seems? After all, she knows more than most how fragile people can be – and how easy they can be to break . . .

Fragile is a dark, contemporary psychological thriller with a modern Gothic twist from an award-winning and critically acclaimed writer who has been compared to Ruth Rendell, P. D. James and Val McDermid. Rebecca meets The Handmaid’s Tale in Sarah Hilary’s standalone breakout novel.

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MY REVIEW:

“I might wish Meagan in my past, outclassed and outpaced, but she was out there – looking for me. Hunting me, because of what I’d done. Everything I’d done.”

Mysterious, sinister and full of foreboding, Fragile is a story where nothing is quite what it seems. After fleeing her foster home, when Nell finds employment at Starling Villas she hopes she’s found her safe haven. But she soon starts to wonder if her employer is all that he appears to be. But as Nell attempts to unravel the secrets of her new home, her past is catching up with her, threatening to shatter her fragile new-found safety.

Tense, eerie and compelling, this story crackles with suspense. It had me hooked, pulling me under like I was drowning, unable to break free from its hold and reach the surface. The author explores themes of secrets, darkness, shadows, jealousy and vengeance in every facet of the book, using it in both the plot and the characters themselves, skillfully weaving in hidden layers and surprising twists. Using flashbacks she offers the reader pieces of the puzzle, allowing us to try and put it all together. But I found this to be a perplexing tale that was hard to solve and was taken in by many of the perfectly placed red herrings.

“Lyle’s had been held up as an example of how to run a good foster home. Until Little Nell had decided to bring it all crashing down.”

The story is told by two narrators, Nell Ballard and her former foster mother Meagan Flack. Nell’s tough exterior hides a deep vulnerability and pain. Her childhood was far from happy and things didn’t improve when she arrived at her foster home aged eight. Her only real joy were two of the other foster children, but a tragedy that is shrouded in mystery and secrecy has tinged even that with heartache and left her feeling unworthy of happiness. But for all her faults I liked Nell and had a soft spot for her after all she’d been through. Meanwhile Meagan is an immediately unlikeable character. She is a woman consumed by hatred, lacking empathy or compassion. All she wants is revenge on the girl she calls Little Nell for bringing her carefully constructed house of cards crashing down. It broke my heart to think of this person being in charge of the care of such vulnerable and fractured children and the additional damage she will have caused them. 

The other characters were just as well-written, fascinating and full of mystery; particularly Nell’s employer Dr Robin Wilder and his wife Carolyn. The Wilders and their home, Starling Villas, have an ominous and unsettling air about them. Carolyn in particular struck me as a coiled viper just waiting for the right time to strike. There was something calculated, cold and conniving about her and, like Nell, I didn’t like or trust her from the start. Robin was more of an enigma, his true character hidden like the secrets in his boxes.

Chilling, menacing and deftly told, this was a fantastic psychological thriller with a gothic twist. And that ending! Wow. I still have goosebumps. Fans of the genre will love this one for sure. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sarah Hilary’s new standalone Fragile is publishing on 10 June 2021. Mick Herron called it ‘a dark river of a book’ while Erin Kelly said, ‘Timeless, tense and tender, Fragile will worm its way deep into your heart.’

Sarah’s debut Someone Else’s Skin won the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year and was a World Book Night selection and a Richard & Judy Book Club pick. In the US, it was a Silver Falchion and Macavity Award finalist. No Other Darkness was shortlisted for a Barry Award. The sixth in her DI Marnie Rome series Never Be Broken is out now. 

Sarah is one of the Killer Women, a crime writing collective supporting diversity, innovation and inclusion in their industry. She is also part of the team responsible for the St Hilda’s Crime Fiction Weekend in Oxford.

As well as writing, Sarah teaches crime fiction, and mentors its rising stars. Her short stories have won the Cheshire Prize for Literature, the Fish Criminally Short Histories Prize, and the SENSE prize.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

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Blog Tour: Shadows Over the Spanish Sun by Caroline Montague

Published: May 27th, 2021
Publisher: Orion
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Romance Novel, Adventure Fiction
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this beautiful novel. Thank you to Ellen at Orion for the invitation to take part in the blog tour and the gifted copy of the book.

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SYNOPSIS:

Escape to the Spanish hills with this spellbinding story of passionate love, family secrets and betrayal

A country in the shadow of war. A love that burns through the decades…

Mia Ferris’s heart has always belonged in Spain. Every childhood summer was spent at her grandfather’s hacienda, riding together amongst the olive trees or listening to his stories of the past. So when she learns that he has fallen from his horse, she knows that she belongs by his bedside – even if it means leaving behind her life in London, and her new fiancé.

But as Leonardo fights for his life, and Mia to save the family home from financial ruin, secrets begin to emerge that tell a different story of the past – a terrible history that begins with a boy running for his life over the Andalusian hills, and ends with a forbidden love that only war can destroy…

As Mia untangles the passions and betrayals of the past, everything she thought she knew is turned upside down. Can she heal the wounds of the past, and face the truth of her own heart?

A sweeping novel of passionate love, betrayal and redemption, set against the turmoil and tragedy of the Spanish Civil War.

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MY REVIEW:

“Throughout my erratic childhood it had been a haven of tranquility, a golden sanctuary. Papa Leonardo had wrapped me up in his world of horses, orange groves and fireflies.”

One of the things I miss during this pandemic is travelling to new places. Thankfully, we can still travel through books and this beautiful novel transported me to the sunny skies and stunning vistas of Spain. The lush and evocative descriptions made me feel like I was in Andalusia.  It was the perfect book to enjoy in the garden on the day the sun had finally decided to arrive in England.

A sweeping saga laced with secrets, mystery and betrayal, this is a story of family, love, loss and forgiveness. The author immerses you in the world of the Palamera de Santos family. She moves seamlessly between timelines and narrators, taking the reader on a journey alongside Mia as she slowly unfurls the enigmas of her family. 

This book is filled with wonderful characters that are so vibrant and well written that they leap from the page and compel you to keep reading. I adored the relationship between Mia and Leonardo. It is so special and there were parts that felt reminiscent of my own relationship with my grandmother. I love reading about multigenerational relationships, whether they are family or friends, and combining that with my love of historical fiction and mysteries made this story irresistible to me. With that being said, it is probably no surprise to learn that Leonardo’s backstory was one of my favourite parts of this book. My heart went out to him as a scared, heartbroken little boy and I enjoyed seeing what he went through over the years that shaped him  into the man that Mia knows. 

One of the reasons I love historical fiction is because I like broadening my knowledge of history. And as I didn’t know anything about the Spanish civil war, this story offered the perfect chance to educate myself more about it. I found it fascinating and also liked reading about the time leading up to WW2 from a different perspective than I’ve read previously. 

Shadows over the Spanish Sun is a tender, moving and sumptuous story that will take your breath away. Perfect for fans of historical fiction. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

From early childhood a poem, executed by my own hand was a compulsory requirement for my father’s birthday. To the reluctant five year old this was considered a trial, but by the age of seven writing poetry had become my passion. At ten I won my first national poetry competition and from that moment I dreamt of being a writer.

This particular dream took rather longer than I had hoped because reading law, marriage at nineteen, children, a career as an interior designer – something always got in the way. When I moved with my second husband, three children and four step children to Burnt Norton twenty years ago, and I happened upon the empty pools made famous by TS Eliot in the first of his Four Quartets, I knew that one day the dream would become a reality.

In 2018 after first writing a historical novel set at Burnt Norton I changed agents to William Morris Endeavour and it was here that I felt truly at home. Within a fairly short time, Matilda Forbes Watson had procured a two book deal with Orion for ‘An Italian Affair’ and ‘A Paris Secret’. She recently procured a further two book deal for a novel set in Spain during the Spanish Civil War and a novel set in Greece.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

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Blog Tour: The Couple by Helly Acton

Published: May 27th, 2021
Publisher: Zaffre
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Contemporary Fantasy, Humour
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this delightful and refreshing love story. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Tours for the invitation to take part and to Zaffre for the gifted ebook ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

Millie is a perfectionist. She’s happy, she’s successful and, with a great support network of friends and family (and a very grumpy cat), she’s never lonely. She loves working at a big tech firm and is on track be promoted to her dream role. The last thing she needs is romance messing up her perfectly organised world.

Besides, normal people just don’t have romantic relationships. Everyone knows that being in a couple is a bit . . . well, odd. You know, like having a pet snake or referring to yourself in the third person. Why rely on another person for your own happiness? Why risk the humiliation of unrequited love or the agony of a break-up? No, Millie is more than happy with her conventional single life.

So, when Millie lands a new project at work, launching a pill that prevents you falling in love, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. That is, until she starts working with Ben. He’s charming and funny, and Millie feels an instant connection to him.

Will Millie sacrifice everything she believes in for love?

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MY REVIEW:

Imagine a world where being single was the norm and those in relationships were viewed as not only unusual, but less-than. Or a world where there’s a drug designed to prevent you falling in love. That is the world of The Couple, the delightful new book by Helly Acton. This book was a joy to read from beginning to end. A glorious mix of humorous, warm and compelling writing, the author also examines and challenges our perceptions of society, life and love. 

I adored Millie and Ben. Millie is a Type-A personality, a demure perfectionist with a love of schedules, order and control. She knows what she wants to achieve and won’t let anything get in her way. Yet there is also a vulnerability to her in her eagerness to please, concern about what others think and the panic attacks she suffers from. And then there’s Ben. Ben is ebullient, spontaneous, chaotic, adventurous and doesn’t care what others think. But he is also funny, kind, thoughtful and charming. I could see why Millie fell for him. The author expertly conveys Millie’s torment over her feelings for Ben and how the idea of even a crush, let alone being in love or having a relationship filled her with dread and a sense that there was something wrong with her. Their chemistry leapt from the pages and while it might seem cheesy and predictable, I found it well written, hopeful and authentic. It was impossible not to root for them and hope they would have the happy ending they deserve.

At the beginning of the book the author explains that she wanted to write a book for the happy single people who are tired of being made to feel ‘less than’ because they’re not in a relationship. There is a lot of societal pressure to be part of a couple, meaning some settle for unhappy, bad or toxic relationships just to be part of one. It was fascinating to see how the world could look if the roles were reversed. I enjoyed the discussions between those on different sides of the debate and thought that the addition of a new drug that is the antidote for love was a brilliant and thought-provoking concept. For all the heartache and struggles that love can sometimes bring, do we really want to live in a world without romantic love? 

All the stars for this funny, entertaining and uplifting book that gave me all the feels. A refreshing twist on the usual love story, I devoured it quickly. Perfect to lose yourself in, I highly recommend you read this book. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

I was born in Zimbabwe, finished school in the UK, spent time in Saudi Arabia and partied away my twenties in Australia.

After six years and one life-affirming divorce in Sydney, I returned home to London. Here, I made up for lost time with my family,
embraced midulthood and enjoyed the single life in a city where the dating apps don’t run dry. 

I am an open book and use my experiences as an inspiration for my stories. Like the time I married the wrong person because everyone else was doing it. Or the time I only dated men my Mum swiped right on, to see if She could choose any better. Or the time a date told me I wasn’t a real writer because I hadn’t published a book. I did eventually find Mr Right At The Right Time, and married Chris in 2019.

In the words of my completely unbiased publisher, I am a ‘huge talent’ and THE SHELF is a fabulously feminist novel and a breath of fresh air, full of real, relatable characters and an important message. The book is clever and empowering but, most importantly, incredibly fun. In my spare hours, I am writing, rewriting, and rewriting again, my second book, which is due for release in 2021.

THE SHELF has been optioned for Television by Monumental Pictures and the rights sold in five territories.

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BUY THE BOOK:

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Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles 😊 Emma xxx

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Blog Tour: The Whole Truth by Cara Hunter

Published: April 29th, 2021
Publisher: Penguin UK
Genre: Thriller, Crime Fiction, Drama, Police Procedural, Crime Series, Mystery
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this riveting thriller. Thank you to Ellie at Penguin UK for the invitation to take part and the gifted ARC.

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SYNOPSIS:

An attractive student. An older professor.

Think you know the story? Think again.

THE NEW UP-ALL-NIGHT THRILLER FROM THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER CARA HUNTER, PERFECT FOR FANS OF LINE OF DUTY

She has everything at stake; he has everything to lose. But one of them is lying, all the same.

When an Oxford student accuses one of the university’s professors of sexual assault, DI Adam Fawley’s team think they’ve heard it all before. But they couldn’t be more wrong.

Because this time, the predator is a woman and the shining star of the department, and the student a six-foot male rugby player.

Soon DI Fawley and his team are up against the clock to figure out the truth. What they don’t realise is that someone is watching.

And they have a plan to put Fawley out of action for good…

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MY REVIEW:

The Whole Truth is the fifth book in the DI Adam Fawley series and I’m a little late to the party. While I own all of the books, I have only read the first one. And that was a few years ago. So I appreciated that the author opens the book with a ‘Previously… in the Fawley Files’ that details all the recurring characters along with some important information on their backstory and personality. I think more series should do this as it not only makes it easier to read as a standalone, but is also a refresher for those who’ve read the previous books. 

In this book the author explores the timely subject of sexual harassment by a person in authority. Only this story is a twist on the familiar tale of a teacher taking advantage of a student or the stories of abuse of power often heard in the current #MeToo movement. In this story, the victim is male and the perpetrator is female. Parallel to this investigation is a storyline involving Adam and his pregnant wife, Alex. There is a storm cloud approaching their happy horizon. One that involves and old case coming back to haunt them and a brutal murder that will turn their world upside down. 

While I had enjoyed the first book in the series, this one really had me on the edge of my seat. The author is fantastic at connecting the reader to her characters and made me care about what happened to them even though I’ve not built up that long-standing relationship you get when reading a series. I loved her use of mixed media to tell the story as it makes it even more fun and interesting to read. She writes about the difficult but important topics in the story with truth and sensitivity, showing both sides without judgement or prejudice. She illustrates the added struggles male rape victims face to be believed, the mystogynistic beliefs some people still hold and the fine line officers have to take between investigating and victim blaming. But this isn’t a clear cut case and we are never quite sure who to believe, giving the author the opportunity to also explore the psychology of those who abuse their power in such a way as well as how false allegations might impact those they are levered against.

Captivating and twisty, this is an excellent thriller that had me on tenterhooks. I’m now looking forward to going back and reading the other books in the series, as well as finding out what comes next for the characters in book six. A must-read for fans of crime thrillers and police procedurals. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

Trigger Warnings: Sexual assault, rape.

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Cara Hunter is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling crime novels Close to Home, In the Dark, No Way Out and All the Rage, all featuring DI Adam Fawley and his Oxford-based police team. Close to Home was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick and was shortlisted for Crime Book of the Year in the British Book Awards 2019. No Way Out was selected by the Sunday Times as one of the 100 best crime novels since 1945. Cara’s novels have sold more than a million copies worldwide, and the TV rights to the series have now been acquired by the Fremantle group. She lives in Oxford, on a street not unlike those featured in her books.

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BUY THE BOOK:

Waterstones* | Bookshop.org* | Amazon* | Google Books | Apple Books | Kobo
*These are affiliate links

********

Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx