EXCERPT from Searching for Sylvia by Joanna Stephen-Ward: ‘Right, this is it then. . . The end.’

Ravenscroft was Tordorrach’s nearest neighbour. Hoping the owners, Matthew and Coral Fulham, would be more civil than Shamus had been Paul drove out to see them. After witnessing the dire poverty of Shamus and Mary he wore no tie, and a shirt that didn’t need cuff links. Their house was freshly painted and had solar panels, so he assumed they had survived the hard times. Given the state of the two homesteads he was perplexed that Noël had chosen to buy Tordorrach rather than Ravenscroft.

A woman came onto the veranda carrying a basket full of washing. His spirits flagged when he saw her expression.

He smiled. ‘Hello, I’m Paul Knight, a solicitor from – ’

‘Matt! Matt!’ she shouted. Her voice was panic-stricken.

Before he could attempt to reassure her, a man came round from the back of the house holding a spade. His hands were dirty and his face and arms were powdered with red dust.

‘It’s a solicitor – ’

Before Paul could apologise for interrupting his gardening Matthew threw down his spade and rushed into the house. Paul’s bemusement turned to fear when he came out holding a revolver.

He looked straight at Paul. ‘Right, this is it then,’ he said quietly. ‘The end.’ ‘First I’m going to shoot my wife. Then I’m going to shoot myself. Do you like animals?’

Paul was too stunned to do anything other than nod.

‘Good. Because we have two cows, three horses and some hens. I don’t want them to suffer. You can shoot them yourself or call a vet. Or give them to the neighbours.’

Paul dropped his briefcase and held out his hands. ‘Mr Fulham, why – ’

‘You ask me why? You know why. It’s because of your type – you greedy lawyers and bankers, that we’re losing the lot.’

‘I’m not here to get money – it’s – ’

Coral’s eyes shone with tears. ‘Why then? More threats from the banks?’

‘No. I’ve got good news – please will you listen?’

Matthew lowered the revolver. ‘What good news? You’re sure not here to give us money.’

‘In a way I am.’

Coral’s expression was dubious. ‘What?’

‘Tordorrach has been sold – ’

The hope that had wavered in Matthew’s eyes, dimmed. ‘Well that’s good for Shamus – can’t see that it’s good for us.’

‘How come he can sell that tip?’ Coral burst out bitterly.

‘I don’t know – your house is much better, but it’s still good news for you.’ The wind blew a cloud of dry earth in his face. ‘Can I come inside and explain?’

‘No. Tell us what the good news is,’ demanded Matthew.

‘I don’t think there is any good news,’ said Coral. ‘He’s stalling. He’s come to evict us and once he’s inside – ’

His eyes were gritty with dust, but worried that Matthew would raise his revolver again Paul got to the point. ‘The buyers of Tordorrach want to employ a manager. Shamus turned it down so they asked me to offer it to you – or another near neighbour.’

They looked incredulous.

Paul picked up his briefcase. ‘I’ve got all the papers in here. Are you interested in the proposal?’
Coral put down the washing basket and wiped away her tears. ‘Come inside. Would you like some tea?’ Her tone was more friendly, but they both looked wary.

Because of their hardship Paul was about to decline, but knew if they accepted Noël Carlyle’s offer they would no longer be poor. He picked up his briefcase. ‘Thank you,’ he said. He took out his handkerchief and wiped his face. He wished he could splash water on his eyes, but owing to the scarcity of water, he didn’t ask, just blinked.

The inside of the house showed no sign of poverty, which given their desperation, confused Paul. Even Shamus hadn’t been suicidal. On their way to the kitchen he saw a study with a flat screen computer that looked new, the furniture in the rooms he passed looked comfortable, the units in the kitchen were in good condition, everything was clean and tidy, and neither Coral or Matt’s clothing was threadbare, although it was faded.

Read the rest in Searching for Sylvia by Joanna Stephen-Ward .

My thanks to Bloodhound Books for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Searching for Sylvia by Joanna Stephen-Ward

Today I’m pleased to welcome the Book Tour for Searching for Sylvia by Joanna Stephen-Ward. Along with this spotlight post, I’ve got a nice little excerpt from the novel here in a bit (I didn’t have enough time to read the book, but it looked good enough I wanted to do something for the tour).

Book Details:

Book Title: Searching for Sylvia by Joanna Stephen-Ward
Publisher: Bloodhound Books
Release date: April 30, 2019
Format: Paperback/ebook
Length: 417 pages

Book Blurb:

Sylvia has been missing for thirty years. Will her daughters ever find her?

Tordorrach is 70,000 acres of drought-stricken land in the Australian outback. Why do a group of wealthy people from London want to buy it?

Seamus, the owner of Tordorrach, lives in poverty. His homestead is derelict and he is heavily in debt. The new owners run Outback Experience holidays on Tordorrach. Seamus becomes one of the gardeners, and he and his wife Mary move to a comfortable cabin on the property. Why does he hate the new owners so much that he plans to murder one of them?

The idyllic life of the new owners is shattered when the body of a woman is found buried on Tordorrach. Forensics find a bullet in her body. Who was she? And who murdered her?

About Joanna Stephen-Ward:

Joanna Stephen-WardJoanna Stephen-Ward was born in the Australian outback, and grew up in Melbourne. Her school days were spent dreaming about being an opera singer or a writer. To the exasperation of her parents and teachers she spent her final year sitting at the back of the classroom writing a novel set in WW2.

When she left school she went to an opera school where she was taught drama, movement and language pronunciation and had small roles in the workshop productions. She was not good enough to become a professional opera singer, but the seeds of her novel Vissi d’arte were sown.

She left Australia and spent a year travelling around Europe and the UK. While working in outpatients for the NHS she met Peter and they married in 1985. They lived in Richmond Surrey and she worked at The National Archives, an enthralling place for anyone interested in history or crime.

Having been brought up as a lonely only child, she was astonished to discover in 2010 that she was one of eight children. She and her sister had last been together on a verandah in the outback when they were babies. They had a joyous reunion in Cornwall in 2012.

Joanna has written seven novels and is working on her eighth.

My thanks to Bloodhound Books for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

GUEST POST: My Writing Day by Patricia Dixon

I feel very lucky to be a full-time writer. My day is my own and I have unlimited access to the telly, the internet and the fridge but nevertheless I stick to a routine which doesn’t allow for lazy lie-ins.

It would be so easy to meander through the day in my slippers and dressing gown but I still have a house and business to run, and a dodgy ticker that I’m determined won’t pack in just yet. This is why I am up at 7.30am and during two cups of coffee (nothing happens before that) I check emails and messages before heading downstairs to the gym. Depending on how enthusiastic I’m feeling, I exercise for at least thirty minutes while watching Sky News – I like to know what’s going on in the world.

Once this task is completed I embark on another – my housework. It has become something of a ritual because I truly cannot function in an untidy house or room. After that I usually prepare dinner (or defrost something) as this way I can write straight through and my husband doesn’t starve because I often lose track of time. Before you ask no, he doesn’t cook, he’s terrible at it and makes a big mess!

I try to be at my desk by 10am and here, I have another self-imposed rule – abstinence, which is applied to social media. Facebook is a curse and it only takes one peep to lure me in and then I’m hooked, chatting and commenting.

Once I’ve clocked off for the evening which is usually around 7pm I catch up on the day’s events and chat with my booky friends.

Over the years I’ve been quite nomadic in my choice of writing-space. I began up in the attic and although it was peaceful, I felt rather isolated. It’s a very long way from the kettle and human life. My next choice was the kitchen but here, despite being within arm’s reach of the biscuit tin I was disturbed by visitors who had the same effect as Facebook, coercing me into chatting and drinking cups of tea. After extracting myself from the room of many temptations I tried the lounge but the comfy chair and the open fire made me nod off so now, I’m firmly ensconced in the dining room.

My husband also works from home and my desk looks onto his workshop so I can keep an eye on him. I’m his secretary and bookkeeper, bringer of brews and biscuits and the harridan who bangs on the window and tells him to come inside for food, put a jumper on or take the bins out.

Occasionally I’m on school-run duty and I look forward to a break in routine and a few hours with Harry, our grandson. At some point during the latter end of the week I escape to the supermarket where I take absolutely ages – it’s like my big day out. I’ve been going to the same one for thirty years and know most of the lovely staff so have a good natter.

I rarely write on Saturdays because our grandson is here for the day. I sometimes take Sunday off, unless I am editing or on a roll. The only downside to this writing lark is sitting still, especially in winter because we live in a rambling Victorian house that can be very cold and I frequently get cramp and frostbite (a slight exaggeration) so I’ve been known to write wearing a bobble hat, woolly socks and UGG boots, and two jumpers.

Now you know what goes on in the unglamorous world of Trish the Writer and although it’s not exactly rock and roll, for me it’s the best job in the world ♥

Read the novel that was produced by these days, Rosy and Ruby by Patricia Dixon.

My thanks to Bloodhound Books for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Rosy and Ruby by Patricia Dixon

Today I’m glad to welcome the Book Tour for Rosy and Ruby by Patricia Dixon. Along with this spotlight post, I’m happy to present a Guest Post from Dixon here in a bit.

Book Details:

Book Title: Rosy and Ruby by Patricia Dixon
Publisher: Bombshell Books
Release date: April 25, 2019
Format: eBook
Length: 387 pages

Book Blurb:

Ruby lives one-step away from poverty on a rundown, crime infested estate in Manchester, with Stella, her feckless, self centred a mother.

In the quiet suburbs of Cheshire Rosie, Ruby’s cousin, leads a charmed, middle class existence but feels suffocated by her domineering mother Doreen.

Although Stella and Doreen have little in common, they share the inability to show the love and loyalty that their daughters deserve.

Meanwhile, Olivia, a member of the elite Cheshire set, is aloof and distant, rattling around in her sprawling mansion, attending charity functions and hosting infamous bridge nights.

Her errant son Marcus lives his life in the fast lane, maximising the perks of the family firm whilst enjoying his jet setting bachelor existence, well away from the watchful eyes of his disapproving mother.

But when Ruby meets Marcus her life begins to crumble and one by one the secrets she has kept are exposed.

Can Rosie and Ruby’s bond survive? And in Ruby’s hour of need, will her cousin keep her promise, and come to her rescue?

About Patricia Dixon:

Patricia DixonPatricia Dixon was born in Manchester where she still lives with her husband. They have two grown up children and one grandson.

Ignoring her high school reports and possibly sound advice from teachers, Patricia shunned the world of academia and instead, stubbornly pursued a career in fashion. Once the sparkle of London life wore off she returned north and embarked on a new adventure, that of motherhood.

Now, almost thirty years later she has acquiesced to the wise words of her elders and turned her hand to writing. Patricia has written a total of eight novels, the latest is due for release in March 2019.

Patricia Dixon’s Social Media:

Amazon Author Page ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

My thanks to Bloodhound Books for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.

Spare Room by Dreda Say Mitchell: Be It Ever So Creepy, There’s No Place Like Home

Spare RoomSpare Room

by Dreda Say Mitchell
Kindle Edition, 312 pg.
Bloodhound Books, 2019
Read: January 25 – 26, 2019

I’m going to leave the recap to the Spotlight post, and do something I don’t usually do here. I hope it works.

So I spent a lot of this book not wanting to push on — sure, the prologue was compelling and you knew from the start that Lisa is being lied to by her landlords, and given the genre (psychological thriller) and the fact that we’re talking easy-to-spot lies within the first few pages, you just know that the lies are covering up something dastardly. I’m curious about what’s going on — what Jack and/or Martha are up to that’s going go be a threat to Lisa; what happened to Lisa before she rented the room (because it’s clear from early-on that something did), what’s going to happen to her because of/in the room; and if there’s actually anyone healthy, sane or well-adjusted in this London — curious, but not sure I care all that much.

See, there’s a moment early on where things get a bit dark and threatening — and Lisa is very aware how tenuous her situation is, but she gets out of it unscathed. Which is a relief — until shortly afterward, when Lisa is given the opportunity to leave the house for good. No financial hit, no legal ramifications, no harm/no foul, no muss/no fuss — and turns it down with an explanation that seems pretty flimsy.

Lisa had her chance to leave, to get out, to escape unscathed and she is determined to stick around for more? Okay, fine. That sounds like natural selection at work. Let it be.

But I’ve agreed to take part in the book tour, and I am curious about the man in the prologue — also I want to know what happened to Lisa before she met Jack and Martha (after she met Jack and Martha was obviously going to be ugly and maybe tragic, that seemed a fait accompli). So I kept going. And just what is up with Lisa’s parents? They make Robert and Cora Crawley look effusive in affection and touchy-feely with their progeny.

And little by little, I get more curious. And more curious. And started to care a bit, I definitely got invested in the outcome (more invested in the explanation behind everything). When Mitchell (via Lisa) started doling out answers that curiosity increased. And then I did something I haven’t done for months. I go to bed and I’m a little awake still, so I decide to read for a few minutes, which is followed by a few more, and a few more — and then an hour has passed, and my Kindle is telling me I have about 10 minutes left. So I have to keep going at that point. That early-morning reading ended up being about forty-eight percent of the book. I just couldn’t put it down.

I went from wondering what was up with her parents to wondering “just what is wrong with them?” My distrust of homeowners Jack and Martha grew and grew. That applied to just about everyone in the book, actually. I realized at a certain point that I really couldn’t trust Lisa, either — but she eventually got to the point where you could. There’s a slightly off-kilter neighbor-lady who seems honest enough, but she clearly has a chip on her shoulder and doesn’t seem to want to help anyone. Not to mention the [spoiler redacted] who is connected to both Lisa and the neighbor, in a strange coincidence — you’re as skeptical about them as Lisa is, but pretty soon you get to think that [spoiler redacted] just might be the only one Lisa can really count on.

And with each ensuing revelation you have to reevaluate what you think about every character in the novel. And you start to understand that the events that led to the compelling prologue are even more compelling and with the exception of a couple of “It seemed like the best idea at the time” decisions (which, boy howdy, were horrible choices), everything that happened in the years following the prologue suddenly makes more and more sense.

The pacing on this — once things get rolling — is fantastic. The motivations pushing people to moved make sense and seem authentic (no one does anything that seems out of character just to advance the plot), and Mitchell ends up putting the reader just where she wants you. On the whole, the narration, plotting and writing seem effortless (a true sign that the author put a lot of effort into it). The characterizations are rich — some people are just who you think they are, and others are quite the opposite — and you will be surprised at who is authentic.

Mitchell knocked this one out of the park and totally won me over despite a lot of initial reluctance to go along with her. This is really impressive and I can see myself rushing to get whatever she does next. Give this one a try, folks, you’ll be glad you did – if you’re as impatient as I was, hold on, Mitchell will reward you.

My thanks to Bloodhound Books for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including the book) they provided.


4 Stars
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BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Spare Room by Dreda Say Mitchell

Today I welcome the Book Tour for the twisty and compelling Spare Room by Dreda Say Mitchell. Along with this spotlight post, I’ll be giving my take on the novel here in a bit.

Book Details:

Book Title: Spare Room by Dreda Say Mitchell
Publisher: Bloodhound Books
Release date: January 29, 2019
Format: Paperback/ebook
Length: 312 pages

Book Blurb:

Home Is Where The Nightmare Is

Beautiful double room to let to single person

Lisa, a troubled young woman with a past, can’t believe her luck when she finds a beautiful room to rent in a large house. The live-in owners are a kind and welcoming couple. Everything is fine until she finds a suicide note hidden in her room. But when the couple insist this man didn’t exist and that Lisa is their first tenant, Lisa begins to doubt herself.

Compelled to undercover the secrets of the man who lived in the room before her, Lisa is alarmed when increasingly disturbing incidents start to happen. Someone doesn’t want Lisa to find out the truth.

As the four walls of this house and its secrets begin to close in on Lisa, she descends into a hellish hall of mirrors where she’s not sure what’s real and what’s not as she claws her way towards the truth…


Did this room already claim one victim?

Is it about to take another?


About Dreda Say Mitchell:

Dreda Say MitchellDreda Say Mitchell is an award-winning, bestselling crime writer, broadcaster, campaigner, and journalist. Since her sixth book she has been co-writing with Tony Mason. She is the author of eleven novels, with her debut awarded The CWA’s John Creasey Dagger. She has been a frequent guest on television and radio including Question Time, BBC Breakfast, Newsnight, Victoria Derbyshire, The Stephen Nolan Show, Front Row and Woman’s Hour and numerous others. She has presented Radio 4’s Open Book. Dreda was named one of Britain’s 50 Remarkable Women by Lady Geek in association with Nokia. She was the 2011 chair of the Harrogate Crime Fiction Festival. Dreda and Tony’s work is currently in development for TV. She was born and raised in the East End of London where she continues to live.

Dreda Say Mitchell’s Social Media:

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

My thanks to Bloodhound Books for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including the book) they provided.

The Reach of Shadows by Tony J. Forder: A Gripping Mystery, a Haunted Past, A Strong Novel

The Reach of ShadowsThe Reach of Shadows

by Tony J. Forder
Series: DI Bliss, #4

eARC, 372 pg.
Bloodhound Books, 2019

Read: January 18 – 21, 2019

‘Three days on, are you any closer to finding out who murdered our daughter?’ Tony Coleman asked. His hands were resting palm down on the bed, fingers splayed as if he were about the leap into action at any moment. The shock was palpable in every line of his face, and the man’s glazed eyes told Bliss that so much grief was yet to sink in. It was looking at faces just like this throughout his career that caused Bliss to take his cases personally. He never forgot a murder victim , but it was the expression on the faces of those they left behind that haunted him most of all.

Some time back, I noticed a strong link between how a novelist depicted the grieving of a murder victim’s family (particularly if it features the family identifying the body) and my overall reaction to the book. It’s the little things that are the most telling, right? Now, by the time I got to this father, I was already pretty sure that Forder knew what he was doing with this book, but it was nice to get the confirmation.

There is so much going on in this novel that it’s hard to know where to start. The book opens with a bang, with DI Bliss finding someone prowling around his house in the middle of the night. He pursues them on foot, in totally inappropriate clothing for such a thing. His pursuit is only called off when he’s struck by a car while crossing the road. When DS Chandler, his partner, comes to the hospital to bring him home, she tells him they have a stop to make — at a murder scene. He’s been ordered there despite his need to recover from the injuries sustained by being hit by a car.

Bliss is informed later that the reason he’s being pressured to work on this while recuperating is that the victim, Jade Coleman, had recently filed a complaint with the police about a stalker — and two of Bliss’ detectives had interviewed her. Nothing came of this complaint, and now she’s dead. So did they miss something? What should these two have done better/differently?

So Bliss has quite a few plates spinning right away — recovering from a concussion, broken ribs, etc.; solve a murder; ensure that the stalker investigation isn’t going to blow up in anyone’s face; when a few more plates are introduced: The Independent Office for Police Conduct (a replacement for The Complaints department) is looking into some of his cases — recent, and less-so. In fact, their investigation goes back over a decade, to when Bliss had been investigated for — and exonerated from — his wife’s murder. Bliss’ superiors are supporting him, and encouraging him to defend himself however is necessary — but he wants to find Coleman’s murderer, too. Bliss does keep the more senior members of his team in the loop about the IOPC investigation and they all want to help him as they can. So we have a whole lot of detectives trying to do a whole lot in a very short time.

Now, I haven’t read the previous three DI Bliss novels, and I don’t know what kind of overlap those books have with the particulars of the IOPC investigation — I think if I had more of a history with Bliss I could’ve cared more about this story, I could’ve appreciated the dangers he was in. Now, you never want the protagonist of the book you’re reading to be framed for a crime (especially if you get the sense that they’re one of the good guys in the world), but I just don’t have the investment to really care. So my primary concern was the Coleman case (and it was ultimately Bliss’ too).

The ways in which I wanted to be invested, but couldn’t, in the storylines about Bliss’ past were matched in the ways I was invested in Coleman’s case — there were some very believable red herrings dealt with, and Forder faked me out more than once. I’m not saying I got fooled by the same red herrings that distracted the detectives, but that Forder makes the reader thing he’s doing X with the plot while he’s setting up a Y. I was pretty impressed with the way he kept the characters and readers on their toes with the various stages and phases of the Coleman investigation while dealing with the crisis prompted by the Bliss investigations.

There is a great supporting cast around Chandler and Bliss — all of whom I wanted more time with — either above or below them in rank. I don’t know that if the book wasn’t quite as busy as this one if we’d have got to enjoy more of them, or if this is typical of the series. I can’t think of one of them I wouldn’t mind a few more pages with. Bliss is a very interesting character — he’s a good man and an old-school cop who’s doing his best to adapt and evolve into the modern concept of a detective. Chandler is a loyal friend, partner and sidekick — who could be more, who could (and maybe should) be a DI herself, but it perfectly content where she is. Watching them navigate the challenges of leadership and the pressures from above as tools to solve Coleman’s murder as well as being obstacles to efficient detecting is a lot of fun.

This really is a well-written, well-conceived and well-executed book — I think most of my lack of engagement (not that I wasn’t pretty engaged, I just think the book expected/deserved more on my end) comes from the fact that I was getting to know Bliss, Chandler and the rest. As I’ve said — the novel was just built on a lot of history, and not having any familiarity with that history, I couldn’t care as much as I should have. If I had the foundation, I’d have liked it more — and I already liked it a good deal. I do think this is a fine jumping on point — as long as you go into it knowing that you’re coming late to the party and won’t care about missing some things. Because of the way that this book seems to have wrapped up that stage of Bliss’ life, I’m not sure I want to go back and read the first three books (but I might), but I do want to see what happens in Bliss’ future — I haven’t talked much about Chandler, but I’m very interested in what lies in her future.

So, to wrap up, this is a strong novel that I couldn’t appreciate as much as I wanted to — but I really liked and it made me want to read more about these characters. My guess is you’ll react the same way (unless you’ve had the good sense to try these novels before hand — you are in for a treat).

My thanks to Bloodhound Books for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including the book) they provided.


3.5 Stars

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