Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Body Language by A. K. Turner

I’m delighted to be one of the bloggers opening the blog tour to for Body Language, the first book in an exciting new series. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers for the invitation to take part and to Zaffre for the gifted eBook ARC.

Published: November 26th, 2020
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Crime Fiction, Noir Fiction, Police Procedural, Medical Fiction, Medical Thriller

SYNOPSIS:

For fans of Tess Gerritsen and Kathy Reichs comes a gripping debut thriller introducing Camden’s most exciting new forensic investigator.

Cassie Raven believes the dead can talk. We just need to listen . . .

People think being a mortuary technician is a seriously weird job. They can’t understand why I choose to cut up dead bodies for a living. But they don’t know what I know:

The dead want to tell us what happened to them.

I’ve eviscerated thousands of bodies, but never someone I know before – someone who meant a lot to me; someone I loved.

The pathologist says that her death was an accident.

Her body is telling me differently.

MY REVIEW:

“From her first day in the mortuary five years ago it had felt totally natural to talk to the bodies in her care, to treat them as if they were still alive — still people. Occasionally they would even answer.”

Body Language introduces us to a new and original voice in crime fiction. Cassie Raven is a goth mortuary assistant who secretly believes the dead speak to her, practices taxidermy in her free time and has held a fascination with the dead since childhood. It goes without saying that she’s viewed as strange by some. But I liked this complex, flawed and slightly offbeat protagonist. 

When the body of her former teacher, mentor and friend Geraldine Edwards is brought into the morgue following her sudden death, Cassie is hit by not only a tidal wave of grief, but the feeling that this wasn’t a natural death. When the police and pathologist rule out foul play she decides to listen to what the body is telling her and embarks on her own investigation. 

This was an entertaining read. It took me a while to get into, but asked halfway through the pace picked up and oozed tension. From that point on I was unable to stop reading and stayed up until the early hours finishing the whole thing. 

The novel is full of interesting and memorable characters and storylines that feel both far-fetched and relatable. The author’s examination of grief and trauma stood out to me in particular for the sensitive, moving and realistic way in which it is portrayed. And Cassie isn’t our only protagonist. We are also told the story from the point of view of DS Phyllida Flyte. She and Cassie are poles apart and yet at their core they are very much like. They are both strong women who are seen as outsiders and believe in fighting to get the answers and justice that victims deserve. I liked how the pair paralleled each other while instantly disliking each other and enjoyed watching the slow shift in their dynamic over the course of the book. 

A tense, twists, darkly humorous and sometimes grisly read that keeps you guessing, this is a great start to a new series. I’m especially excited to see where the author takes Cassie next after the jaw-dropping conclusion. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

A.K.’s first foray into crime fiction was a detective thriller trilogy, written under the pen name Anya Lipska, following the adventures of Janusz Kiszka, tough guy and fixer to London’s Polish community. The first of the trilogy led Val McDermid to select her for the prestigious New Blood panel at Harrogate Crime Festival. All three books won critical acclaim and are currently under option as a potential TV crime series.

Set in a Camden morgue, A.K.’s new novels feature crime-solving Goth-girl mortuary attendant Cassie Raven. Cassie has already appeared in Cut and Paste, a crime short for BBC Radio 4, who are interested in commissioning further stories featuring the character.

In her other life as a TV producer and writer, A.K. makes documentaries and drama-docs on subjects as diverse as the Mutiny on the Bounty, the sex lives of Neanderthals, and Monty Don’s Italian Gardens.

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Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

All Fall Down (DI Helen Grace 9) by M. J. Arlidge

78c4a0fcPublished: June 11th, 2020
Publisher: Orion
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Crime Series

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for the latest installment in my favourite crime series and one of my most anticipated books this year. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers for the invitation to take part and Orion for the gifted copy of the novel.

SYNOPSIS:

“You have one hour to live.”

Those are the only words on the phone call. Then they hang up. Surely, a prank? A mistake? A wrong number? Anything but the chilling truth… That someone is watching, waiting, working to take your life in one hour.

But why?

The job of finding out falls to DI Helen Grace: a woman with a track record in hunting killers. However, this is A case where the killer seems to always be one step ahead of the police and the victims.

With no motive, no leads, no clues – nothing but pure fear – an hour can last a lifetime…

MY REVIEW:

D.I. Helen Grace and her team are back in another gripping installment of my favourite crime series. I had been eagerly anticipating this one for months and it was worth the wait. 

There is a killer lurking in the shadows, stalking their prey. Their targets are the survivors of a group of schoolchildren who were abducted by Daniel King eight years ago. All but one of them got away but the killer was never caught and has been an illusive phantom ever since with no definitive sightings despite rumours over the years. Could he be back and looking to finish what he started all those years ago? And are the survivors telling the full story about what happened in that farmhouse? Are there secrets still waiting to be revealed?

M. J. Arlidge has done it again. I was hooked from the first page and immersed in the world he’s created, one that feels so familiar after eight previous books with Helen Grace and her team. The narrative uses multiple points of view and extracts from a book written by one of the survivors to slowly reveal the shocking truth about the killer they are hunting and the events eight years ago. 

Arlidge has a knack for writing characters that feel real and jump from the pages. The ones in this book felt so real that I had to go back and check his previous books as it felt like I’d read the story of the kids in the farmhouse before. I hadn’t, he’s just that good at immersing you in their world. Helen is the kind of flawed, complex and compelling character I love and I’ve enjoyed following her journey over the course of this series. This time Arlidge explores the politics of policing through the lens of interpersonal relationships, with Helen and her colleague Joseph Hudson in a fledgling relationship when the story opens. Their dynamic shifts as the story progresses and I am excited to see where he takes things next for them after how the book ended. 

Skillfully and cunningly crafted, Arlidge has once again written a dark, twisty, layered and tantalising thriller. I can’t wait to see what he has in store for this series in book ten. 

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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Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Monthly Wrap Up

Monthly Wrap Up – April 2020

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I can’t believe we’re a third of the way through the year already. April has been a strange month for the world with us being in lockdown. For me, that’s meant mostly getting used to not having a quiet house during the day Monday to Friday, which is when I do a lot of my reading and blogging. I’ve also had to hand over my laptop to our eldest as his is broken so I’m restricted in my times I can write.

In terms of reading, April has been another strong month for me. I’ve read thirteen books, taken part in fifteen blog tours, two cover reveals, one readalong and one buddy read. So here is what I’ve read this month:

  1. Mine by Clare Empson ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  2. Strangers by C.L. Taylor ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  3. The Philosopher’s Daughters by Alison Booth ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  4. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  5. All In Her Head by Nikki Smith ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  6. The Fallout by Rebecca Thornton ⭐⭐⭐.5
  7. The Switch by Beth O’Leary ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  8. I Am Dust by Louise Beech ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  9. What’s Left of Me Is Yours by Stephanie Scott ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  10. My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5
  11. The Thunder Girls by Melanie Blake ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  12. The House Guest by Mark Edwards ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  13. We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  14. So Many Lies by Paul J. Teague ⭐⭐⭐⭐

You can read the synopsis and reviews for what I’ve read this month by clicking on the links above except for The House Guest, which will be reviewed next month.

So many great books means it’s hard to choose a favourite. And this month it was almost impossible. I loved Hamnet and was sure nothing would top that; until I read the breathtaking debut novel, What’s Left Of Me Is Yours. I still think about that book many times each day and am constantly recommending everyone read it. So if you haven’t yet bought a copy you can use the links in my review to do it now! Other books I feel deserve a shout out are the fantastic thrillers Strangers and All In Her Head, the heartwarming and uplifting The Switch, and the brilliantly sinister I Am Dust. Each of these were also contenders for my book of the month.

Thank you to the publishers for my gifted copies of the books and the blog tour organisers for all their hard work.

What have you read this month and what was your favourite? Comment below.

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Mine by Clare Empson ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

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Published: March 19th, 2020
Publisher: Orion
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Mystery

Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers for the invitation to take part in this blog tour and to Orion for my gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

‘Who am I? Why am I here? Why did my mother give me away?’

On the surface, Luke and his girlfriend Hannah seem to have a perfect life. He’s an A&R man, she’s an arts correspondent and they are devoted to their new-born son Samuel.

But beneath the gloss Luke has always felt like an outsider. So when he finds his birth mother Alice, the instant connection with her is a little like falling in love.

When Hannah goes back to work, Luke asks Alice to look after their son. But Alice – fuelled with grief from when her baby was taken from her 27 years ago – starts to fall in love with Samuel. And Luke won’t settle for his mother pushing him aside once again…

MY REVIEW:

I was not prepared for the avalanche of emotions that I would feel while reading this book. Ms. Empson broke me with this absorbing story of motherhood, family and true love. 

Told over dual timelines the story begins with 27-year-old Luke meeting his birth mother, Alice, for the first time. We then follow as they get to know each other and as Alice meets Luke’s girlfriend Hannah and baby son Samuel, and Luke meets his father Rick. Their reunion goes so well that when Hannah returns to work after her maternity leave, Alice is the one to look after Samuel. But as Alice gets closer to the family, and Samuel in particular, Luke begins to question how well they know her. Can they really trust her with their baby? Or is Luke being paranoid because he feels he’s being pushed out by his mother all over again? 

I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I started this book, but it certainly wasn’t something so emotional.  The story is steadily paced with flashbacks to Alice finding her true love, becoming pregnant and giving up the baby she wanted to raise running parallel to the story of the two of them reconnecting twenty-seven years later. I liked the author’s decision to only have Alice’s point of view in the flashbacks as it added to the sense of mystery and put us in the same boat as Luke with wondering what happened when he was a baby and what her intentions are now. It also added to the sense of foreboding that is present throughout the book, though you are never quite sure what it will mean and where the story will take you. 

The characters slowly reveal themselves in the same way people do when getting to know each other. You could tell the author had researched the emotional impact of adoption on everyone involved and she brings that to each character expertly. The author has a way of reaching into your heart and soul so you feel everything they do: elation, trepidation and optimism when Luke and Alice meet and become part of each other’s lives, the passion and intensity of Alice and Jacob falling in love, and Luke’s heartache and confusion as his feelings for his birth mother become more complex. Both narrators were likeable, relatable and sympathetic. I was rooting for them individually and as mother and son, hoping for a happy ending after the heartache they’ve both suffered. 

Mine is an engrossing, poignant, hopeful and heartbreaking story. This is the first time I’ve read anything by this author and I will be buying her first book so I can read more. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Clare Empson worked as a staff writer on national newspapers covering everything from collapsing merchant banks to tea with the late Barbara Cartland (everything pink including the cakes). Eight years ago, she moved to the West Country and founded the arts and lifestyle blog countrycalling.co.uk.

The idyllic setting inspired her first novel, which reveals the darker side of paradise. Clare lives on the Wiltshire/Dorset border with her husband and three children.

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

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Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

The Pact by Amy Heydenrych ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this absorbing thriller. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers for my invitation to take part and to Zaffre and NetGalley for my copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:    

What if a prank leads to murder?

When Freya arrives at her dream job with the city’s hottest start-up, she can’t wait to begin a new and exciting life, including dating her colleague Jay.

However, Nicole, Jay’s ex and fellow employee, seems intent on making her life a misery. After a big deadline, where Nicole continually picks on her, Freya snaps and tells Jay about the bullying and together they concoct a revenge prank. The next morning Nicole is found dead in her apartment.

Is this just a prank gone wrong? Or does Freya know someone whos is capable of murder – and could she be next?

MY REVIEW:

“It was just a joke, a little slice of revenge…”

The story at the heart of this book is one that is all too familiar to most women. We all have stories about the male colleague who makes unwelcome suggestive remarks, gets a bit too handsy, holds onto a hug for that little bit too long or makes us feel uncomfortable in a way we can’t put our finger on. I bet there’s someone in your mind that describes right now. I know there is in mine. And what do we do? We usually brush it aside so we don’t cause a problem and tell ourselves it’s harmless fun. And if we do report it then we face the accusations that we led them on, did something to cause it and watch as things are twisted to paint them as the victim and us as the harasser. The #MeToo movement is beginning to change the tides and has inevitably sparked a wave of books and other media that address these issues. The Pact is the best I’ve read yet.

I didn’t expect this to be such a timely book but I am glad this author chose to write this particular story. As well as sexual harassment the book takes a look at other social issues such as bullying in the work place, the inequality between the sexes in certain professions, women being pitted against each other and how the media looks at female victims of crime. All the topics were handled in an honest and sensitive manner that felt realistic and sadly relatable.

The author filled this book an eclectic mix of strong, intelligent but flawed female characters. The narrators, Isla and Freya, are both ambitious and passionate about their chosen field. Both have things in their past that have left them a little fragile and fractured but also gave them strength that I don’t think they recognised in themselves at first. I liked both characters and thought their bad decisions only made them more human and relatable. Nicole was the mean girl. While she’s alive we only see her through Freya’s eyes and, as she is being bullied by her, that’s quite a biased lens. I could see how some people were manipulating things and wondered if there were things we didn’t know about that were contributing to her behaviour. Another thing that happened because we only see her from Freya’s point of view is that it was hard at times to be sympathetic or mournful of her death. The choice to make her both murder victim and villainess, and the author’s ability to evoke in me such constrasting feelings towards her, were a testament to her talent. The characters who manipulated, lied and harassed people were expertly written (I’m not naming them to avoid spoilers). They were classic examples of abusers and narcissist – masquerading behind a veil of charm, charisma, kindness and kinship. Their victims were like lambs to the slaughter at the hands of their expert scheme.

The story is written in multiple timelines and moves somewhat sporadically between them. It felt choppy and confusing at times as a result and I sometimes had to double check what timeline we were in to make sense of things. But as more of the story was told this got better and things flowed more smoothly. There were times I liked the use of multiple timelines as they were used to weave clues through the story and tease the reader before jumping to another point in the story, leaving us in suspense.

The Pact manages to hit all the requirements for a riveting, explosive and involving thriller while also being an acutely observed commentary on some of the most harrowing, difficult and important issues we face. While I did guess some things early on I was left with my jaw on the floor when the author delivered the coup de grace.

Out now.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Amy is a writer and book blogger based in South Africa. She has been shortlisted twice for the acclaimed Miles Morland African Writing Scholarship. Her short stories and poems have been published in multiple anthologies including Brittle Paper, The Kalahari Review and the Short Sharp Stories anthologies. When she is not writing her own fiction, she ghost-writes books and columns for global tech and financial companies.

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Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour Review: My Judy Garland Life by Susie Boyt ⭐⭐⭐.5 

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SYNOPSIS:

June 2019 is the 50th anniversary of Judy’s death

August 2019 is the 80th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz

October 4th the motion picture JUDY staring Renee Zellwegger and Jessie Buckley is released

An irresistible mixture of memoir, biography, cultural analysis, experiment and hero-worship about one person’s enduring fascination. This is for anyone who has ever nursed an obsession or held a candle to a star.

Judy Garland has been an important figure in Susie Boyt’s world since she was three years old: comforting, inspiring and, at times, disturbing her. In this unique book Boyt travels into the deep underworld of hero-worship, reviewing through the prism of Judy our understanding of rescue, consolation, love, grief and fame.

Layering key episodes from Garland’s life with defining moments from her own, Boyt demands with insight and humour, what it means, exactly, to adore someone you don’t know. Need hero worship be a pursuit that’s low in status, or can it be performed with pride and style? Are there similarities that lie at the heart of all fans? And what is the proper husbandry of a twenty first century obsession. Anyway?

‘When Judy sang to me as I grew older she seemed to confirm the things that I’d all my life held to be true.’

  • Things that are hard have more life at their heart than things that are easy.
  • All feelings, however painful, are to be prized.
  • Glamour is a moral stance.
  • The world is crueller and more wonderful than anyone ever says.
  • Loss, its memory and its anticipation, lies at the heart of human experience.
  • Any human situation, however deadly, can be changed, turned round and improved beyond recognition on any given day, in one minute, in one hour.
  • You must try to prepare for the moment that you’re needed for the call could come at any time.
  • There are worse things in life than being taken for a ride.
  • If you have a thin skin all aspects of life cost more and have more value.
  • Loyalty to one another is preferable to any other kind of human system.
  • Grief is no real match for the human heart, which is an infinitely resourceful organ.

 

MY REVIEW:

Hands up if you’ve ever obsessed over a celebrity? I imagine pretty much everyone reading this raised their hands just then. I know I did. While I’m no stranger to hero-worship, I did think reading this book that the author takes it to a whole other level. I’m a big fan of Mariah Carey and parts of this book reminded me of some lambs (Mariah’s name for her fans) I know who, while I understand their love and obsession, seem to me to never have left that peak of obsession we reach in our teenage years. 

Susie Boyt opens her book talking about her love for Judy Garland and how it helped her when she was a shy, sensitive child. I can relate to that. I’ve always been someone who feels things deeply and like Susie I fell in love with The Wizard of Oz at just three years old. I was instantly obsessed with the film and knew it back to front and inside out. I would quote lines, watch it repeatedly and put on skits acting out scenes with my friends. Of course, I was always Dorothy. But unlike Susie it was the movie and Dorothy I fell in love with, not the actress herself, though I’ve always been a fan from a distance. I can also relate to music and words from someone you admire helping you through hard times. Bad break up – I’d put on Someday by Mariah Carey. A day I’m feeling low – I’d put on Through The Rain. I could probably name a Mariah song for every emotion and situation so I definitely get using that to help you or just to make your day brighter. I’m not going to pull her apart and critique how she hero-worships in detail, and I think there was a lot of positives she has gleaned from her love of Judy, but there were times I thought she seemed a little crazy and I worried about her.

I loved learning more about Judy, including the difficult parts, and she is more interesting to me than ever before. I’ve always been in awe of her talent and admired everything she achieved despite the many obstacles in her way, some of which she arguably put in front of herself. She was a star through and through. But she was also neurotic and insecure. I always saw a sadness to her, like you could tell this was all a bit much for her. All she  wanted to be loved without condition other people taking from her and isn’t that what everyone wants after all? The tragedy is she never found it and died while estranged from her family and alone in a bathroom from an accidental drug overdose. That is no way for anyone’s life to end. I did like that her happiness and joy in life is emphasised as much as her difficulties aren’t shied away from. No one is one dimensional. They aren’t happy or sad, good or bad, they are a bit of everything and that changes all the time. This book showed me more of the real person behind the persona and it made me fall in love with her a little more.

But this book didn’t only teach me things about Miss Garland. It also gave great insight into how some fans think and can be affected by an obsession. The author is aware of how far she goes for her idol and often argues the virtues and benefits of such obsession, which I found fascinating. She asks why we’d want to give up the intense, teenage-like obsession when we get such a rush from it. The book contains a lot of psycho-analysis, which is understandable given her family history. All the way through the book it is clear that the author sees her life as having been enhanced by her love for Judy, rather than hindered by it. Though I have to wonder if there are times those around her wouldn’t necessarily agree. 

An intriguing book that at times felt a little messy and strange, My Life With Judy Garland is honestly like nothing I’ve ever read before. And it is a book I won’t forget. 

Thank you to Virago books and Ann Cater at Compulsive Reader Blog Tours for my copy of this novel.

Out now.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Susie Boyt was born in London and educated at Camden School for Girls and Oxford University. After a nerve-wracking stint at a lingerie boutique and an alarming spell working in PR for Red Stripe lager and the Brixton Academy, she settled down into writing and is the author of six acclaimed novels including The Last Hope of Girls, which was short-listed for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, and Only Human, which was short-lsited for the Mind Award. Of her last novel, Love & Fame, The Sunday Times said ‘she writes with such precision and wisdom about the human heart under duress that the novel is hard to resist.’

Susie wrote a much-loved weekly column about life and art for The Financial Times Weekend for fourteen years and still contributes regularly to their books and fashion pages. Last Year she edited The Turn of the Screw and Other Ghost Stories for Penguin Classics. She is also a director at the Hempstead theatre in London and works part time for Cruse Bereavement Care.

She lives in London with her husband and two daughters. She is the daughter of the painter Lucian Freud and the great-grand-daughter of the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud.

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Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

Blog Tour Review: A Shadow on the Lens by Sam Hurcom ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Today is my stop on the blog tour for this debut novel. Thank you to Compulsive Readers for the invitation to take part and to Orion Publishing Group and NetGalley for my ARC copies of this book.

SYNOPSIS:

The Postmaster looked over my shoulder. As I turned to look I saw a flicker of movement from across the street. I felt unseen eyes peer at me. He walked away without another word. I watched as he climbed on his bicycle and sped away down the street. I turned back and looked over my shoulder.

Someone had been watching us.

1904 . Thomas Bexley, one of the first forensic photographers, is called to the sleepy and remote Welsh village of Dinas Powys, several miles down the coast from the thriving port of Cardiff. A young girl by the name of Betsan Tilny has been found murdered in the woodland – her body bound and horribly burnt. But the crime scene appears to have been staged, and worst still, the locals are reluctant to help.

As the strange case unfolds, Thomas senses a growing presence watching him, and try as he may, the villagers seem intent on keeping their secret. Then one night, in the grip of a fever, he develops the photographic plates from the crime scene in a makeshift darkroom in the cellar of his lodgings. There, he finds a face dimly visible in the photographs,  a face hovering around the body of the dead girl – the face of Betsan Tilny.

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MY REVIEW:

“He never left, he still remains. The demon of this village.”

Murder mystery meets supernatural thriller and gothic fiction in this chilling tale. Thomas Bexley is writing his story a decade after the events take place, using his diary entries for reference and we see extracts at various points in the book. He begins with a note addressing the reader directly and I loved the promises of the chilling, dark and sinister things to come. This is the first time he’s really spoken about what happened during that strange case and he admits to feeling concerned about how he will be viewed once he reveals the truth of all that transpired. 

Forensic photography is still in its infancy and Bexley, known in the field for his eye for detail and his gift for putting the evidence together, is a specialised investigator who is sent to assist with serious crime cases across the country. When Betsan Tilny is brutally murdered in the isolated Welsh village of Dinas Powys, Bexley is called to help solve the crime. But on his arrival he’s dismayed to find that those in charge seem to resent his presence. They’ve made up their mind who committed the crime and see Thomas as an unnecessary complication stirring up trouble and not understanding how they do things. 

Soon after his arrival Bexley has a sense of being watched, which only increases over time. He also comes down with a fever that inhibits his ability to work and forces him to take to his bed. And is it this fever that is making him imagine seeing the ghost of Betsan Tilny? He’s a man of science and doesn’t believe in such nonsense and decides that it is a manifestation of his fever.  But he can’t shake the fear that what he’s seeing is all too real and the victim trying to tell him something. Impeding his investigation is the unwillingness of the villagers to assist in the investigation. They’re hiding something, maybe even harbouring a killer, and Bexley is determined to get to the bottom of it.

Bexley is a serious, focused man who has no time to make friends or laze about. He’s there to do an important job in a thorough manner and will not let anything get in his way, not even being so sick he can barely stand. He was a great protagonist and I liked that unlike most others he saw no correlation between Betsan’s rumoured promiscuity and her death, reminding people repeatedly that nothing gives anyone the right to rape or kill another and nothing someone does mean they deserve such things happening to them. I was glad she had Thomas in her corner, fighting to find the truth and bring her killer to justice when others were glad of an easy way out and eager to brush the whole thing under the carpet. 

Councilman Robert Cummings is a loathsome character. He is the polar opposite of Thomas and seems completely uninterested in solving the crime. He makes no secret of the fact that he doesn’t want Thomas there, his repulsion of the victim, or that he’s made up his mind about who killed Betsan no matter what the evidence shows. He goes out of his way to prevent a real investigation and Thomas wonders if Cummings is the reason everyone is reluctant to talk to him. Like Thomas I was suspicious of what he really knew and what he didn’t want him to unearth. 

As truths were slowly revealed and the secrets of the village begin to be brought to light, the book became increasingly hard to put down. I was gripped and couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. A brilliant debut that is a superb mix of some of my favourite genres and one I would recommend. The atmospheric prose made me feel fully immersed in the story and there was an eeriness throughout. This is one of those books you need to read with the lights on. 

Publication Date: September 5th.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Sam Hurcom was born in Dinas Powys, South Wales in 1991. He studied Philosophy at Cardiff University, attaining both an undergraduate and master’s degree. He has since had several short stories published and has written and illustrated a number of children’s books. Sam currently lives in the village he was raised in, close to the woodlands that have always inspired his writing.

A Shadow on the Lens is Sam’s debut novel.

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