TAIT’S GRITTY TALE IS A LIFE FAR REMOVED FROM HER OTHER GENRE

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A Life of their Own CoverAccording to the World Health Organisation domestic violence is a worldwide major public health problem, with the majority of the victims being females and children. As recently as 2017 the WHO estimated that 30% or a third of women globally experienced domestic abuse at some time while in an intimate relationship. Under normal circumstances victims and their off-spring have some outlet to escape or avoid their perpetrator, but with the Covid19 restrictions worldwide, it has forced both parties to be confined in their homes for longer periods of time, thus leading to more opportunities for abuse by the partner, whether it be husband or wife. The quarantine restrictions, and social distancing rules have also placed constraints on the various domestic abuse groups worldwide to assist those in trouble and offer an out from the situation. This month’s third book review tells the fictional story of one woman and her children’s escape, it’s a Life Of Their Own by Pauline Tait and published by Silverwood Books (www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk) in September 2019.

Kate Thomas and her kids Jake and Lucy,  have been living for years in the unrelenting shadow and control of their husband and father Adam. A person with a Jekyll and Hyde personality of street Angel – house devil, who denies them all access to friends, family or social interaction. One day Kate and the kids board a Greyhound bus in New York, two days and numerous bus changes later, they arrive in Colorado Springs, where no one knows them or their past. They soon have to become used to the surreal, if never before experienced, kindness of their landlady and the local community. Then Kate bumps into an old flame in the local diner. She and Matthew Harrison dated in New York before he left to go to San Francisco. Then Kate fell into the clutches of the initially charming but soon to be maniacal  Adam on the rebound. Matthew soon moves the family into his dad’s ranch home and Kate who ran a business in NYC starts working in the ranch office, where she sets about modernising and making it more ergonomical as well as economical. All while her relationship with Matthew starts develop again. Have Kate and the kids really found the promised land, out of the clutches of Adam, and has she found her true soulmate again after all this time….

The subject matter is something rarely touched on in such a direct way, and is very gritty for an author’s first tentative steps into a new genre. The last time I read a book with domestic abuse at its heart was Irish author Roddy Doyle’s The Woman Who walked Into Doors. This book is short, at two hundred and fifty pages long, almost verging on novella-esque, which makes it an easy read, possibly in one sitting. As well as that, it comes across as well written and researched.

At times though, it is quite saccharine in its story telling. Everything seems to happen too easily, and there is very little in the way of push back or any real sense of struggle in the trio’s survival in the big wide-open spaces of Colorado Springs. Except for the constant underlying fear of Adam’s possible discovery of where they are. Which had me on edge at times.

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Pauline Tait (Daily Record)

This Scottish author Pauline Tait’s (www.paulinetait.com) fourth book and first in the adult genre, the other three are from her Fairy In The Kettle series of children’s books and includes: The Fairy In The Kettle (2016), The Fairy In The Kettle’s Christmas Wish (2018) and The fairy In The Kettle Gets Magical. This fourth and final instalment in the series is due out soon. After originally working in the pharmaceutical sector for twenty years Pauline then went into Primary Pupil Support, all the while allowing manuscripts to build up and gather dust in her desk. She currently lives in Perthshire, Scotland.

This is an enjoyable read from an author who shows she’s not afraid to tackle a difficult subject. Her research of the Colorado wilderness is ever present as well as quite vivid and shows how useful the assistance gained from a fellow author in the Colorado State Forestry Service really was.

So, hop on the bus down to your local bookshop or download a copy and escape to the Foothills of the Rockies with Kate, Jake and Lucy.

 

Reviewed by: Adrian Murphy

 

This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought visit their blogs listed below, Then if you get a copy and read it comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d love the feedback.

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NO PUSHING REQUIRED TO ENJOY GRIFFEE’S DEBUT THRILLER

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final CANAL PUSHER_PBHaving spent many years cruising the canals and rivers of England myself, in a previous life. I became familiar with narrow boats and the complexities of using locks, finding moorings and steering a sometimes large and, occasionally unwilling it seemed, boat through narrow passageways and tunnels. The countryside is beautiful, the pace relaxing and the boating community, friendly and welcoming. So, when I read the blurb about this month’s second book review, I was immediately engaged by the premise of the book. It is Canal Pushers by Andy Griffee and published in paperback by Orphans Publishing (www.orphanspublishing.co.uk) on the 4th June.

 

Jack Johnson is seeking a fresh start. He’s a recently divorced, unemployed, ex- journalist. He decides to make a fresh start living on a narrow boat on England’s canals. The only trouble is he’s never been on a canal boat before, let alone managing a 64ft vessel on his own.

To his good fortune he meets the enigmatic Nina, who is seeking escape from her life for her own reasons and is a competent boater. They have a chance encounter with a young lad who is begging. He is later found dead in the canal. This event engages Jack’s investigative interest. Soon the pair are in deeper danger than they could have imagined. Was the boy’s death accidental and related to drugs, or something more sinister? Is it linked to other deaths? Is there a serial killer stalking the quiet waterways of England?

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I was expecting something slightly twee, a little bit Agatha Raisin maybe. From this new thriller series, introducing Jack Johnson and Nina Wilde and their boat Jumping Jack Flash.  But I was delighted to find a modern, quite gritty thriller, which was nevertheless told with humour and an obvious passion for boating. The idea of a cat and mouse chase on something that can only go at 4 miles per hour amused me. There are definitely lots of places to disappear on the canal system however, some sections having no road access and in miles of empty, often glorious countryside.

I’ve had the misfortune to fall into a canal myself in the past, stepping off the prow of the boat confidently onto what I thought was bank, but which was just grass. I was lucky that the canal was only 3 foot deep. My main concern was Weils disease, an infection you can get from the water. However, some brief research showed that some sections of canal are much deeper, having been dug out for vessels of a heavier nature and deeper draft. Modern dredging of canals, as their use has become popular for leisure boating has restored many canals to a deeper depth too. Maybe I wouldn’t be so lucky now.

Andy Griffee is an experienced boater himself, and his descriptions of the practicalities of life on a boat were very good. I was reminded about the cramped but well laid out living conditions and that you only got hot water if you’d run the engine. He kindly missed out all the topping of water and fuel and the dreaded pumping out of the loo. TMI! I was also reminded about the slight rivalry between hire and owned boats. The other thing that he missed, was that there’s always a man with a dog watching you attempt any difficult manoeuvre! Even in the middle of nowhere! This level of joyful reminiscence was tempered by a story of drugs, gangs and a serial killer! There was a sense of peril and a real tenseness in the chase.

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Andy Griffee (thecwa.co.uk)

This is English author Andy Griffee’s (www.andygriffee.co.uk ) first of two books in the Johnson and Wilde Mystery series, the second book in the series is River Rats which is due out later this year. Andy is a former BBC Journalist, who, when not writing crime thrillers is a breeder of rare pig and the owner of 1964 Triumph Spitfire. He lives in Worcestershire with his wife and three dogs.

I look forward to getting my hands on a copy of River Rats and diving into the future adventures of Jack, Nina and their gorgeous shipmate, Eddie the dog. The narrow boat is a great tool for moving the story to other locations. So, I’m looking forward to being along for the journey.

I suggest you quietly slip your moorings and head down to your local book shop or download a copy of Canal Pushers, then prepare to discover the tranquil backwaters of Britain from your favourite berth.

 

Reviewed by: Georgina Murphy

 

This review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. To see what the other reviewers thought visit their blogs listed below. Then, if you get a copy come back and tell us what you thought, we’d love the feed Back.

 

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SMEDLEY HAS NO NEED TO BELONG FOR SHE HAS ARRIVED

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Inconvient Need to Belong CoverThe West Country is an area of south west Britain running from Gloucestershire in the midlands, down to Dorset on the south coast and is made up, largely, of the peninsula that protrudes out into the Atlantic, culminating at the UK’s most southerly tip of Land’s End. I have been there on holidays a number of times over the years, most recently two years ago when myself and Georgina went to Ilfracombe in Devon (see the Lancelot review on this blog in June 2018). Two years before that, we spent a week in Colyton in East Devon. It was while there on that trip, that we also spent a lovely day exploring the ancient roman city of Exeter, which features significantly in this month’s first book review. The book is The Inconvenient Need To Belong by Paula Smedley and published by Silverwood Book (www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk) in April 2020.

Alfie Cooper is an elderly gentleman living in a care home in England. Every Saturday he sneaks out of the home, while the other residents are enjoying the visits with their families. Alfie doesn’t have any family, well none he talks of. His Saturday routine takes him to the park where he meets Fred, a teenager he’s struck up a friendship with and there, while feeding the ducks, he shares his life story. From leaving his parents’ home in Fulham as a young man in post war England, with dreams of making a life for himself as a carpenter and setting up a cabinet making business to his loves, losses and friends he made Exeter during the dark days. There, he had to learn a valuable lesson, due to his lack of social skills. Then his adventures on the travelling circus and meeting his American wife Evie.  Eventually he will have to admit to a tragic of part of his life, one he hasn’t told anyone about, not even in the care home.

Fred isn’t the only person who he’ll have to cross this bridge with, as he’s just started corresponding with an online pen pal. Anne is a widow and single mum, living in the states. As well as that, Alfie’s solitary existence and Saturday disappearances have also come to the attention of Julia an Australian carer at the home. Soon she learns something about his past and starts digging a little deeper. What is Alfie’s big secret and will Julia’s digging bring closure or more upset?

Reading about elderly characters sometimes makes me conscious of, if not my own mortality, but what awaits me in my twilight years. Especially as I am due to leave my forties in three weeks’ time and as one friend put it a number of years ago, enter “Sniper Alley”. Considering I’m in good health, I’m hopefully fretting about nothing.

One book I read and reviewed previously, that did affect me negatively, was Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healy. Although I’ve read a few books centred around elderly characters and loved them, including Fiona MacFarlane’s, The Night Guest.

With this book I was so bowled over by Alfie and the other characters, that I could have read it in one sitting. I actually had it read in three days and might have romped through the enthralling two hundred and ninety pages in two days, the only thing tearing me away from it was my daily afternoon ‘Lockdown’ walk, while listening to my favourite podcast.

What endeared me to the book, was the story of Alfie’s first tentative steps into the big wide world and the pitfalls associated with love, lust and how easily the young and inexperienced in life can come a cropper. But, also Smedley weaves a very lovely and richly told story of another time, when things were, if not easier, but simpler and whilst we endure a pared back life in the current pandemic, there are similarities.

Also, it’s the way the author draws you in to Alfie’s present and previous lives and then shows you a metaphorical bridge, with the mid-section shrouded in a mist. Which is revealed very subtlety, that left this reader at times fearful of what might have happened, not really wanting to see it visited upon such a sweet and gentle soul.

Yes, if I’d had a granddad alive now, I’d hope it was someone like Alfie.  As for the other characters, they’re fully rounded and very well depicted. They are also lost and struggling to find answers in their own worlds and with real and very believable existences. The whole story shows great promise from a debutant author.

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Paula Smedley

This is English author Paula Smedley ‘s (@_paulasmedley) debut novel. She started writing at a young age, winning acclaim for poetry and short stories. An extensive traveller, Paula has encountered vigilantes in Nigeria, escaped post-tsunami radiation in Japan, partied in a favela in Rio de Janeiro and left her debit card in a cashpoint in Sri Lanka. She currently lives in London with her husband.

Overall, this is a beautiful tale of love, loss, and regret. But in amongst all that, the author has mixed fun and happiness and rounded it all off with some very well-timed twists.  Overall this book makes an ideal book group selection as well as an excellent recommendation for just about anyone.

So, at the next opportunity pop into your local book shop or order a copy online and go feed the ducks with Alfie and Fred.

 

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

 

This review is part of a Random Things blog tour, to see what the other reviewers thought, visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy, comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d appreciate the feedback.

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GUSTAWSSON WEAVES AN INTERESTING MELODY THROUGH TIME AND PLACE WITH BLOOD SONG

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Blood-SongThe urge to know our roots and lineage is strong. Recently I was offered the chance by an app on Facebook for it to guess my ancestry from my profile photo. Don’t judge me, I was five weeks into lockdown, and I was feeling bored. Seeing a friend’s interesting, if slightly off beam results prompted me to try. As previous readers of my reviews on this blog know, I’m of longstanding entirely northern English working-class stock. So, I was amused when it suggested I was mainly Spanish, with a dash of Mexican and Danish and a pinch of Italian.

However , when you think that there has been a constant movement of people for centuries due to war, emigration , the colonialization of countries by other nations and by travel for pleasure in recent times, it’s easy to see how our genetic heritage may be more complex than we at first imagine. I still don’t accept I’m mainly Spanish though! However, I’d be intrigued enough to take a proper DNA test as advertised by online family history research groups, to see if I am as wholly English as I think.

My musings bring me to this month’s first book review. Its of Blood Song by Johana Gustawsson and published by Orenda books (www.orendabook.co.uk) in September 2019.  This isn’t her book featuring the investigative duo of Emily Roy of the RCMP and the journalist and author Alexis Castells. They previously featured in Block 46 and Keeper, both reviewed by Adrian Murphy in the blog. We were delighted to be given a copy of Blood Song to review and add to our collection by Karen Sullivan and her team at Orenda. I was particularly attracted to the fact that it is partly based during the Spanish Civil War. Its not a period of history I am familiar with but having had some introduction from reading ‘The Horseman’s Song’ by Ben Pastor, I have since been keen to read other books set in the period.

Blood Song moves to and fro from the period of the Spanish Civil War and the inhumane treatment of republican prisoners by Franco’s brutal dictatorship to present day Sweden and the savage murder of a family in their home. The family in question are that of Alienor Lindberg, who is working with Scotland Yard, in the UK, and  is absent from their family gathering and is spared. The Lindberg’s run a highly successful fertility clinic. Could the murders be related to their work or to something in their past?

This novel delves into the scenarios of historic adoptions after war and genocide and the ramifications of what happens to those children as they become adults and their trauma resurfaces. Also, it looks into the present-day fertility industry and the recent scandals that have affected it as well as the difficult and painful journeys some people have to undertake to become parents. How easy is it for such programmes to play god and make life affecting decisions for the children engineered in such a way? Johana approaches the topics with sensitivity, having had personal experience of fertility clinics and IVF and one feels she has some empathy with the process.

The main investigators are Emily Roy, a profiler and Alexis Castells, a true crime writer. The combination of the two allows for, what I think to be, accurate police procedurals and the option to work outside the box. The characters are from a variety of European backgrounds and the movement of the story from Sweden, to Spain and the UK, with some exchanges in Swedish, English, French and Spanish make this a very international novel. Emily and Alexis are smart, attractive and refreshingly human ‘detectives’. I enjoyed their interactions and acceptance of each other’s flaws as well as the well-drawn cast of supporting characters.

This is French born author Johana Gustawsson’s (www.en.johanagustawsson.com)  third

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Johana Gustawsson

novel after Block 46 (2015) and The Keeper (2017). She has a degree in political science and has worked as a journalist in TV and Print in both Spain and France. The Roy & Castells series has won numerous awards as is published in nineteen countries, while a joint French, Swedish and UK TV adaptation is currently underway. This book’s theme was inspired by Johana’s own experiences of IVF. She currently lives in London with her Swedish husband and their three sons.

The novel jumps around in location and time but the chapter titles helpfully guide the reader along. Not something I would usually notice, but here I took in each one and reset my thoughts to the appropriate story thread with more ease than I would have without them. Its certainly a book I felt I enjoyed more in chunks rather than a few pages at a time as its quite complex and as with most Scandi Noir type novels the character names and technical terms can take a bit of adapting to.

A well-structured plot leads to a satisfying denouement and despite the roaming from location to location and era to era, it had the feel of a limited cast detective story. The places are well described too making this an ideal book for this period of restricted travel. So, when the book shops re open, swing by and pick up a copy or if you can’t wait, go online and order a copy. Then sit back and enjoy the mystery and visit Europe from the comfort of your couch.

 

Reviewed by: Georgina Murphy

 

Finally, both of us here at The Library Door would like to send our best wishes to Karen Sullivan the MD of Orenda Books who was recently laid up with a bout of suspected Corona Virus. We hope she’s fully recovered now or at least well on the road to recovery. Stay safe everyone.

OWENS TAKES ME FROM WHERE THE DEATH TOLLS, TO SINGING THE CRAWDADS PRAISES

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Where_The_Crawdads_Sing_Book_CoverIt’s hard to believe, considering what we are living through now, how ironic this month’s book group choice has been. I don’t think that eight to  ten weeks ago, my friend David, whose book choice it was, could have imagined that we’d  have been enduring a lockdown when reading it and that isolation was a thing we’d be now getting accustomed to both in reality as well as in the pages of this book. This month’s book review is Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and was published by Corsair (www.littlebrown.co.uk) in 2019.

Katherine “Kya” Clark is the youngest of five children and lives on the coastal marshes of North Carolina in 1952. When her mum walks out on her brood to escape an abusive marriage, Kya’s siblings gradually one by one follow suit leaving her to fend for herself while her drunken war-damaged father comes and goes, but eventually he fails to return too. Kya leads a solitary life in her formative years with just the native animals and sea birds of the wetlands for company, along with the books her mother left behind as a sketchy education. In the local town of Barclay Cove she’s known as “The Marsh Girl” and her only real friend is an old black bait and fuel merchant called “Jumpin”. That is until she meets Tate, the son of a Barclay Cove fisherman.

Tate takes it upon himself to teach Kya to read and write and over time her relationship with Tate develops into a loving and physical one, until he leaves to go to college. Heartbroken and alone again in the marshes, Kya has grown into a beautiful young woman by now and catches the attention of Barclay Cove young buck and womaniser Chase Andrews, who despite coming across as caring, is actually using her and in the end attempts to sexually assault her. Then one day in 1969, his body is found at the foot of a local fire tower in the marshes. With the circumstantial evidence pointing to Kya, she is eventually arrested and her solitary life and the Barclays Cove resident’s prejudice against her comes to a head in the local court. Despite her growing notoriety as a leading writer and authority on the wildlife of the marshes, can Kya and her few friends, prove her innocence against overwhelming evidence, will she ever be reunited with her mother or siblings and what of her first love Tate…?

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Bald head Island NC (Robert Thurston/ Shutterbug)

It’s been a while since I have been so emotionally riven by a book. Maybe it’s the underlying stress and worry that we are all going through during the lockdown imposed on us, as we try to deal with the current pandemic, but most afternoons when reading this alluring and heartfelt book by Owens, I found myself sobbing uncontrollably, now that’s not a pretty sight for a 49 year old man!

From the opening pages, the reader finds themselves moving between a murder mystery and a lovely story of one girl’s struggles to adapt to the loneliness, as well as the isolation and overcome the abandonment by everyone of her immediate family. But eventually, like watching a crash in slow motion, both stories collide and continue as one until the ending where Owens brilliant story telling ability continues to shock and hold your attention in a vice like grip, until you close the back cover and are left exhausted and overwhelmed.

There is nothing in this book that can be faulted, only to stand amazed that this is a debut novel and not the work of a skilled and seasoned novelist. Every character is drawn beautifully and the vivid descriptions of the North Carolina wetlands are so real that one can all but hear the cries of the birds and smell the sea salt on the wind. My first thought and still abiding memory is that it had a Disneyesque feel to it and there were parallels between it and the likes of Huckleberry Finn and Little House On The Prairie.

This is American author Delia Owens (www.deliaowens.com) first novel, but her fourth

Delia Owens

Delia Owens (www.deliaowens.com)

book following her previous works of non-fiction recounting her and her husband Mark’s lives as Zoologists, studying Lions , Hyenas and Elephants in Botswana and Zambia for 27 years. the other titles include , Cry of The Kalahari (1992), The Eye Of The Elephant (1993) and Secrets of the Savanna (2006). Born in Georgia, her mother encouraged her interest in wildlife by telling her to “Go way out yonder where the crawdads sing”, this and the memories gained during her youth, when her family spent most of their summers in the forests of North Carolina, is the inspiration for her first novel. She has since won numerous awards, along with many accolades for the couple’s research work. Delia and Mark now live in Idaho where she’s a keen horse rider. The rights to “Where The Crawdads Sing” have been purchased by Reece Witherspoon’s production company following its selection on her own book group in 2018.

So If you only read one book over this lockdown and want to escape the daily grim stories of death, then I whole heartedly recommend Where The Crawdads Sing. So pop online and order your copy or download the audiobook and lazily drift through the wetlands with Kya and Owens.

 

Reviewed by: Adrian Murphy

KIDD’S THIRD BOOK DOESN’T JAR WITH THIS READER AT ALL

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Things in jars cvrThis seems to be the era of the rise of the heroine. I’ve commented recently that many of the stories we know with male leads are being retold with women as their main characters. Whilst I’m all for strong female leads, retelling the same story and just making the roles female does little for me. I am however interested in true and original stories where women take the lead part, sometimes these have been forgotten by history. It’s nice to see or read something original and feminist.

This was perhaps why I was attracted to this month’s second book review. Its, ‘Things in Jars’ by Jess Kidd, published by Canongate ( http://www.canongate.co.uk ) in paperback in January. The back-cover blurb starts, ‘London 1863. A strange puzzle has reached Bridie Devine, the finest female detective of her age’ My interest was immediately caught. A Victorian detective mystery and a female detective. What’s not to like?

A fan of historical crime fiction since reading Wilkie Collins, ‘The Woman in White’ for my O levels, I was keen to compare it to the likes of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, the Maisie Dobbs wartime story, The American Agent and to a recent favourite, The way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry which was set in Victorian Edinburgh in the competitive and deadly world of surgical and anaesthesia discoveries.

Our heroine, Bridie is an orphan child, adopted initially by a resurrection man, supplying bodies to the medical schools and private surgeons. She is then ‘purchased’ by Dr Eames a Dr and surgeon, who notices her quick wits, strong stomach and capable hands. She enjoys a happy period in his household, blighted only by the menacing presence of his son Gideon. When it becomes unsafe for her to remain there, Bridie is moved to the care of Mr Prudhoe, an apothecary and pathologist. Now an independent woman, Bridie spends her time investigating curious deaths for her friend, Inspector Valentine Rose. Whilst investigating two bodies found walled in a church crypt, one of whom doesn’t look entirely human, Bridie is called upon to find a missing girl. This child too, is otherworldly. A thing of beauty and terror that attracts the interest of collectors of curiosities. Can Bridie find her and solve the mystery before its too late?

This book has an exceptional cast of characters. Some reviewers compared it to Dickens and I can see the similarity, the strange descriptive names, in the caricatures. However, I was reminded more of Terry Pratchett and his Discworld novels. That’s probably because his characters were a constant revelation of character observation and satirical humour to me until Pratchett’s untimely death in 2015.Whilst this is set in a real place and time, the use of fable, ghosts and the paranormal, made it feel slightly fantastical. Bridie is a real tour de force of a heroine. Clever, witty, attractive, without being too perfect and thus annoying. I loved the addition of Cora, the seven foot tall ex circus exhibit and now housemaid, who acts as Bridie’s stalwart guardian and assistant.

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Jess Kidd (Irishtimes.com)

I’ve mentioned in previous reviews the current public appetite for all things fable and folklore. This book has them in spades but sprinkled with Bridie’s medical mind and good sense throughout. It’s a great blend. Sometimes we don’t need everything we read, especially in fiction to be based on established truths. A bit of escapism from this world into another time or dimension is great. You can create very human stories with inhuman characters.

This is English author Jess Kidd’s (www.Jesskidd.com) third novel. She has previously published ‘Himself’ (2018), a story of man searching for the identity of the mother who abandoned him and ‘The Hoarder’(2018) – titled as ‘Mr Flood’s Last Resort’(US) a ghost story, cum thriller, that I had previously read and loved. Jess Kidd is originally from Ireland, which is probably why so many of her characters and stories have Irish origins. Both her previous books were shortlisted for multiple Irish literary awards and were BBC radio 2 book club selections, she currently developing her own tv projects with UK and international production companies and is writing a children’s book.

I’d recommend this book to anyone with interest in history, medicine, crime, things paranormal and scientific and things that are a just little bit quirky. ‘Things in Jars’ is a great addition to anyone’s collection.

 

Reviewed by

 

Georgina Murphy

HOLD ON TIGHT AS HAUTY’S DEBUT LEAVES ME IN A STATE OF AWE

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Deep State CoverIn most countries around the world, democracy or the formation of its power structure revolves in some way around the “Estate System”. Primarily limited to the four estates, those representing the Parliament (Legislature), the Judiciary (legal/ justice system), the military and police, the press,  business and finally the consumers or people. But then, in some countries and as the inspiration for quite a few political thrillers, there is the Deep State. Those parts of the government or clandestine powers, working for or against the state, in a covert fashion for their own or others ideals or the ideals. This brings us to this month’s 1st book review, its the aptly named Deep State by Christ Hautry and is published in hardback by Simon & Schuster (www.simonandschuster.com) on the 23rd January.

A year after leaving the US Military, Hayley Chill lands a job as an Intern in the west wing of The White House. Much to the annoyance of her fellow much younger and connected interns, the Virginian native and product of life with little opportunities, starts to make an impression on the Chief of Staff and the President. Shortly after her arrival, she discovers the Chief Of Staff dead, when she arrives at his house one morning with his daily briefing. Unbeknown to the killers they’ve left a vital clue behind and Hayley discovers it, but with the FBI’s lead investigator not entirely believing her story, Hayley is unsure whom to trust. Her boss’ death also brings to the fore other players in the West Wing’s febrile office politics, in the form of his deputy, a woman who has her own ideas about climbing Washington’s greasy pole and keeping Haley away from the spotlight. But when she unwittingly realises that a member of the secret service she’s dating is involved and has to kill him to save her own life, Hayley discovers the conspirators are buried within all facets of the government and threat isn’t stopping at the Chief of staff, but aims to take out the person sitting behind the Resolute desk, the President. With the pool of people she can trust with this knowledge diminishing rapidly, can she stop the conspiracy before they stop her?

It’s been years since a thriller has got me as excited and pumped as this one did. The first one to ever do that was Archer’s “Shall We tell The President”, when I read it almost thirty-five years ago. Albeit, there have been a few in between that have also got my pulse racing like Hauty’s current offering.

I think what really got me engrossed in this story was the idea of a lowly intern in Washington discovering a plot to kill the President and the race against time to stop it. Previously both in film, TV and literature it’s been someone with a bit more power, a military/ naval officer, or an FBI/Police detective. Yes, the pace in the book is frenetic and even though Hayley is basically the US Military’s answer to Katie Taylor, you still feel worried for her and her vulnerabilities, because we the reader know ,what power her opponents wield.

The plot itself may not be original – most political thrillers have a threat to the life of the US president in them, leaving this reviewer wondering what would it be like to read a thriller which puts the Chinese or Russian Presidents life in danger? Why does POTUS get to have all the fun? But in the light of the Russian interference in the last US Election, the plot is topical and gets you again wondering if like the Manchurian Candidate, what types of dark forces are at play behind the scenes and under the surfaces of Washington, London and Moscow, even Beijing.

Hauty’s style of writing is some of the best I’ve read in a while, it comes across as very complete and  shows love for all his characters, whether they are good or bad. Every part of the story and the back history as well as the future of every character is rounded off to the last minute, unlike some books where the support cast just drift off after they’ve served their purpose. Hauty’s have their lives mapped out, even  to the point where wife of one character is described as dying of a heart attack 15yrs to the day when she last made love to her husband…

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Chris Hauty

This is American Screenwriter Chris Hauty’s (www.chrishauty.com) first novel. He’s worked for every major film and TV studio and collaborated with stars such Jessica Alba and Mel Gibson. The book was written in the summer of 2018 in the Rare Books and Music room of The British Museum. He lives in Venice, California with his Triumph motorcycle and a feral cat.

This book is littered with plot twists throughout but just as you think you’ve got a handle on this story Chris drops a piano on the reader, which then decides to roll down the hill over you again for good measure. So my advice is, if you are looking for book to get you through some Coronavirus enforced isolation, or want to start making a list for your summer holiday reads, this book needs to be at the top of your list and no matter what else you forget, don’t leave this until you’ve read every page of this amazing book.

 

Reviewed by : Adrian Murphy

 

This book review is part of a Random Thing Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d really appreciate the feedback.

 

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YOUNG’S LATEST PARANORMAL BOOK RAISES MORE THAN HAIRS AND GOOSEBUMPS

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Tales of Unexplained Mystery Front CoverDon’t we all love a mystery? There’s a huge public fascination with unsolved disappearances and crimes such as the disappearance of murder suspect, Lord Lucan, and the racehorse, Shergar. Every notable anniversary the stories are rehashed with new theories. There’s also a large cohort of conspiracy theorists out there contesting historical events like the moon landing, the assassination of John F Kennedy, with outlandish ideas and what ifs.

I’ve always been interested in the unsolved and paranormal myself, having a childhood  devotion to ‘Arthur C Clarke’s Mysterious World’ TV programme and  later the film of ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’, where students and a teachers from an Australian school go missing without a trace . Most recently I’ve enjoyed the recreations and explanations provided by ‘Lore’ an Amazon Prime series. I was therefore delighted to get the chance to delve into Steph Young’s latest offering, in our fourth book review of the month, Tales of Unexplained Mystery, self -published on the 2nd December 2019 and available on Amazon.

Steph explores twelve mysterious tales here in great depth. Some of the stories are modern and supply a wealth of media coverage, eye- witness testimonies and, in ‘the Mystery box’, even some CCTV footage for Steph to examine. Some of the mysteries are from long ago and here Steph has to rely on historic accounts and stories passed down over several generations to source her information. Personally, I found the recent cases most fascinating.

Each story is examined in detail. Steph obviously spends a lot of time diligently researching each case. There are vast amounts of evidence presented and discussed here. On the odd occasion things got a little repetitive and convoluted, but in the main the facts are presented clearly and coherently.  Theories are discussed and when possible debunked, but each is given consideration. The reader can feel that Steph is presenting an unbiased account of what happened and what the possible options are for a solution. Her passion and enthusiasm for each mystery shines through.

Steph Young Author Picture

Steph Young

This is English author, broadcaster and researcher of the paranormal and Unexplained, Steph Young’s (www.stephyoungauthor.com), 16th self-published book, her previous ones include “Nightmare’s In The Woods” (2016), “Horror In The Woods” (2017), “Terror In The Woods – The Missing” (2017), True Ghost Stories – To Chill Your Bones” (2018).

As I mentioned, some of the recent cases have witnesses and footage view-able online. Having watched Lore and other such paranormal and mystery programmes on the likes of  Amazon Prime and Really, I feel that this would be a great vehicle for Steph to bring these mysteries, and her great research and analytic approach, to a wider audience.

In the meantime, I recommend for the day that’s in it (29th February 2020), you take a leap into the unknown and get this collection of stories for yourself or as a gift for a fellow mystery lover…. Then go online and listen to the various podcasts and interviews with the author.

 

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

 

This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to find out what the other reviewers thought visit their sites listed below. Then if you get a copy comeback and tell us what you thought, we’d really appreciate the feedback.

 

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DARK HUMOUR AND FORENSIC INSIGHTS GIVE DAYNES A HEADSTART IN A CROWDED FIELD

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Darkside of mnd cvrThere’s a great public interest currently, in true crime and in the psychology of the serial killer, with a proliferation in TV programmes such as Mindhunter, the Smiley Face killers, Catching a killer and podcasts like Serial. Sky have recently launched a True Crime specific channel so they must anticipate this is a fascination that’s not going to go away anytime soon. There’s also a greater awareness of mental health issues. This was highlighted at my workplace recently and in a series of posters, my favourite was a thought provoking straight line with a line intersecting it about a quarter of the way long. It read ‘people’s lives’ along the whole line and ‘what you know about them ‘ along the quarter section.

So, it’s was an ideal time when this months second book review dropped through the letter box.  It’s The Dark Side of the Mind by Kerry Daynes published  by Endeavour, an imprint of Octopus ( http://www.octopusbooks.co.uk ), on the 20th February.

The book is a collection of true stories from Kerry Daynes’ life as a forensic psychologist. Her job is to delve into the minds of convicted men and women to understand what lies behind their actions. The world of the forensic psychologist can be highly unpredictable- the people you meet are rarely as they first appear. Kerry Daynes has seen it all. Her work has taken her from police interview rooms and the witness box to the cells of maximum-security prisons and the wards of secure hospital. In this memoir she gives us an unforgettable insight into the darker side of the mind.

This was a really interesting and thought provoking read. Kerry Daynes takes us through the story of her professional career in steps with dark humour and a certain amount of introspection. You feel like this was a learning experience for her as much as for the reader. Each chapter focuses on the case of one individual, as well as changes in Kerry’s career path and methodology. She explores the  psychological reasons behind a patient’s actions, with sensitivity and considered reflection regarding her own responses and treatment methods, as well as exposing outdated practices, lazy thinking, the results of cost cutting in mental health services and well-intentioned if unhelpful, one size fits all programmes  in the health and penal service.

There was no showboating here. This was not a bid for fame but a humanizing of those as we think of as ‘other’ than the rest of us ‘normal’ people and explanations of how treatments are developed. We learnt about her own difficulties with a stalker , stress related health issues and feelings of being burnt out when involved in assessing paedophile activities as part of Operation Yewtree, the investigation into child abuse by Jimmy Saville and other TV personalities. This then peaked when she was asked the make an assessment of Mark Bridger, the Welshman who murdered April Jones. Not able to suppress feelings of anger and revulsion for this man , Kerry moved away from criminal forensic psychology for her own mental health and this admission in the book makes her seem more normal , decent and likable than any protestations professional detachment could have done.

I loved the humour in the book. Being from the north midlands of England myself, it made her very real to me as a person. Vets and doctors use a black sense of humour to help them survive the stresses and depressing moments of they work and to me. We also talk about wildly inappropriate things over dinner.

Kerry Daynes

Kerry Daynes (Cheshire Life)

This is English author Kerry Daynes’s ( http://www.kerrydaynes.online )  first book, she has over twenty years experience in the field of Psychology and is the person TV networks and news outlets turn to for expert commentary. Recently she helped SKY TV launch their Crime channel in late 2019 and is the “Profiler” in the award winning ‘Faking It’ series on Quest Red. As well as that Daynes’s speaks as an advocate for better conversations around crime, justice and mental health. She is patron of the National Centre for Domestic Violence and as a victim of stalking herself, acts as a spokeswoman for the Suzy Lampugh Trust’s stalking related campaigns.

This is not a read for those looking for gory details or rubber necking style voyeurism but an insightful and engaging foray into the minds of criminals and how they are not so different from us. Take my advice and get down to your bookshop or download a copy to get your brain whirring .

 

Reviewed by: Georgina Murphy

 

This book is part of a Random Things Blog tour, to see what the other reviewers thought visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy and read it, comeback and tell us what you though, we’d love the feed back.

 

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UNLOCKING THE VAULT REVEALS DAWSON’S LATENT TALENT

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The Vault CoverI was only reading yesterday about the plight of American author Jeanine Cummins, whose new book American Dirt has been nominated as an Oprah’s Book Club choice. As a result, it has brought her to the attention of far right ill-educated armchair activists, who threatened to disrupt a proposed American book tour and thus forced its cancellation. Because they say the author is “Too White” to be able to write a book about south American emigrants trying to get into the United States. In a tweet to Jeanine, I gave her my support and pointed that out if these bigots had put any thought into their arguments they’d realise some of the most successful writers have very little experience of their subject matter and stated that Lee Child was never a military policeman and that Hannah Kent is Australian, but that it never stopped her from writing a successful book on an old Icelandic murder and followed it up with a book on an Irish murder, both decades old. Did the Irish and Icelandic diaspora rise up in arms and protest, no!

So, what is these people’s point? The same can be said of this month’s second book review (Yes! Second and February is only two day’s old), I don’t think the author was ever in East Berlin prior to the fall of the wall .Or I’m assuming, had any dealings with the Stazi, not forgetting killing anyone, for that matter. Yet they have written a book set there and featuring the Stazi, along with British intelligence and trained government assassins. The book is, The Vault ,by Mark Dawson . It was self-published on the 31st January and is available on Amazon.

Its 1989 and MI6 agent Harry Mackintosh and his team have tunneled under the Berlin wall to extract an asset back to the West, but just as they are about to take their man back down the tunnel the rendezvous is interrupted by unit of the dreaded East German secret police, the Stazi.  They are led by its ruthless leader, Karl Heinz-Sommer, who guns down Harry’s French girlfriend Elodie, along with other members of his extraction team. In doing so they also capture the defector. Harry himself just about manages escape back down the tunnel to West Berlin. Back in London, he’s grieving the loss of Elodie and hungry to exact revenge on Stomer ,whilst possibly taking a second chance to get his hands on the defector, if he’s still alive. Mackintosh’s team are depleted and when he asks for replacements, instead of trained soldiers, he gets Jimmy Walker a bank robber from Belfast, whose been given a stark choice of either a long stretch in prison or to help British intelligence on a mission behind the Iron Curtain. The plan is to get into Stomer’s HQ and rescue the defector, but the plans reveal a mythical vault containing, stolen Jewish gold and other valuable pieces of information, which catch Walker’s trained eye. Can the two men overcome their differences to work together and get out of east Germany alive….?

I’ve never met Mark Dawson, but it feels like I’ve known him for years, having been a Facebook friend for a while now, regularly receiving posts on my feed regarding reading his books. But just finding the time to get around to reading them has been the biggest problem, so when the invite to review The Vault popped into my inbox a couple of weeks ago, I jumped at the opportunity. Was I disappointed? No!

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Mark Dawson (bestsellerexperiment.com)

 

 

The book maybe be small in size at 275 pages in length, but in those pages is a story that packs a punch, that could’ve dented the wall if it was still standing. What you get from the first page to the last is a story from an author that realizes that if you strip away all the padding found in most modern spy fiction novels, you can still give the reader an enjoyable and gripping read and leave them excitedly wanting to read more his work.

This book could be a one sitting read and highlights the fact that Dawson is not a new kid on the block but has quietly slipped under the radar, all due to being self published and making his work immediately available online. He’s a writer who has been inspired by the greats like Le Carre, Forsythe and Fleming and well and truly taken the baton and brought their style and dominance of this genre into the modern era.

Yes, the characters are stock in trade and the story-line of an Ex-Provo crossing the line to work for the Intelligence services on large international threats isn’t new. But in Mark’s hands the characters and the story are melded together so well, the reader feels introduced to a truly original and exciting premise along with fresh, gritty and well-drawn heroes and villains.

This is English author Mark Dawson’s (www.markjdawson.com) 38th book, most of them self-published. He’s successfully written four series of books about government assassins, The John Milton series, The Beatrix Rose Series and The Isabella Rose Series along with the Group Fifteen series. He’s also written the Soho Noir series of books about gangland London in the 1940’s and three standalone thrillers of which The Vault will now become his fourth. Mark has led a varied career prior to becoming an award-winning, USA Today and Amazon bestselling author. He was a DJ, has sold Icecream door to door, trained as a lawyer,when he worked on high profile cases in the city of London. Nowadays when not writing, Mark can be found regularly vlogging to his fan-base online. I also discovered through research that he’s got a famous father, the late British actor Keith Barron, best known for his roles on the likes of the sitcom “Duty Free” and “Upstairs Downstairs”. Mark currently lives in Wiltshire with his wife and family.

Now that that I’ve read The Vault, I want to immediately add Dawson’s other series in particular the Milton and Breatrix, Isabella Rose series as well as Group 15 to my TBR list. So, I suggest like me you go and order this book online or download it and its predecessors and lock them away for safe keeping and gradually break into the back catalogue of one of the best kept secrets in spy thriller genre in ages. Who knows, when the contract to write the next installments of the James bond series come up, I don’t see why Dawson shouldn’t be a safe bet for the job.

 

Reviewed by : Adrian Murphy

This review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought of the book visit their blogs listed below. Then, if get a copy of the book and read it, come back and tell us what you thought, we’d love the feedback.

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