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
LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge


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

LetsReadIndie Reading Challenge
2019 Cloak & Dagger Challenge

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: The Reach of Shadows by Tony J. Forder

Today I welcome the Book Tour for the aptly named The Reach of Shadows by Tony J. Forder (note: shadows have a long reach). Along with this spotlight post, I’ll be giving my take on the novel here in a bit.

Book Details:

Book Title: The Reach of Shadows by Tony J. Forder
Publisher: Bloodhound Books
Release date: January 9, 2019
Format: Paperback/ebook
Length: 372 pages

Book Blurb:

Recovering from injuries sustained in a road collision, DI Bliss is taken directly from hospital to a fresh crime scene and ordered to investigate the vicious stabbing and murder of Jade Coleman.

When Bliss realises the victim had reported being stalked, and that two of his own team had been drafted in to take her statement, he is given the unenviable task of interviewing both of his detectives.

Increasingly it appears that the stalker may be their killer. However, several other people soon become part of the team’s suspect list.

Bliss also finds himself being questioned about his own past, and has to battle to defend himself whilst continuing to investigate the murder.

Soon more questions arise.

Why would anybody target Jade Coleman?

Why are the team unable to identify the victim’s close female friend?

And why did Jade recently leave her job without any explanation?

With his work cut out, and his team under pressure, can Bliss solve the case before more victims show up?

Or will the shadows of his own past reach out and drag him under before he can succeed?

About Tony J. Forder:

Tony J. ForderTony J Forder is the author of the critically acclaimed, internationally best-selling crime thriller series featuring detectives Jimmy Bliss and Penny Chandler. The first three books, Bad to the Bone, The Scent of Guilt, and If Fear Wins, are now joined by The Reach of Shadows, published in January 2019.

Tony’s dark, psychological crime thriller, Degrees of Darkness, featuring ex-detective Frank Rogers, was also published by Bloodhound Books. This is a stand-alone novel. Another book that was written as a stand-alone was Scream Blue Murder. This was published in November 2017, and received praise from many, including fellow authors Mason Cross, Matt Hilton and Anita Waller. Before it had even been published, Tony had decided to write a sequel, and Cold Winter Sun was published in November 2018.

Tony lives with his wife in Peterborough, UK, and is now a full-time author.

Tony J. Forder’s Social Media/Links:

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter: @TonyJForder
Goodreads ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Bloodhound Books

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

Murder in the Dark by Betsy Reavley: This look at murder’s aftermath feels as authentic as a True Crime book

Murder in the DarkMurder in the Dark

by Betsy Reavley

eARC, 245 pg.
Bloodhound Books, 2018

Read: December 10, 2018

One fateful day, Tilly, a veterinary student in Cambridge goes to the bookshop she works at to open for the day. Inside, she finds the owner of the shop, her boss, hanging and clearly dead. She calls the police, who (unlike Tilly) realize that this was not suicide and begin their investigation right away.

While the investigation goes on, we spend a lot more time with Tilly and her coworkers as well as the family of Dennis Wade than you do in most Crime Fiction. Tilly is haunted (practically literally) by what she found. Her other coworkers are focused on trying to act appropriately in this situation, or worried about their jobs. Wade’s widow, her sister, and the Wade’s son all react in very different ways. His poor widow’s life is shattered, her pain and lost-ness is palpable — just great work on Beavley’s part, although watching what Tilly goes through may be more devastating.

Meanwhile, DCI Barrett, DI Palmer and their team start their procedure — knowing full well they need to close the case early for the good of the city, the Wade family — and because no one wants to spend Christmas (which is just around the corner) finding out why a body was left hanging. When other bodies start to be discovered, the pressure builds (internally and externally) and yet the procedure has to continue. Even when the procedure involves things like thoroughly vetting Wade’s son (with a criminal record) and spending a good deal of time pursuing other dead ends.

Beavley’s work showing the way the police have to tick off every box, have to turn over stone — even when they are virtually certain that no answers will be found by doing so — just to move on to another stone. There’s no maverick cop saving the day here. No detective relying on instinct. Just dedicated professionals doing their jobs the way they’re supposed to do them to get the result they need. It’s really kind of striking that in the ocean of “police procedurals” out there, just how few actually rely on the procedure.

When the answers come — they come from going through all the steps and no one is more surprised than the detectives who uncover it. It feels as authentic as you could want. The depravity uncovered by these detectives is the kind that makes you glad this is fiction, so you can pretend that such things only happen in books. And you will keep turning the pages until you get to the bottom of everything.

You get a much better sense of Tilly, a couple of coworkers, and the Wade family than you do the detectives investigating the case — which isn’t to say they’re strangers to the reader. But by and large, these are primarily people doing a job – with the emphases on the job, not the person.

I’d have appreciated more time with the family and friends of some of the later victims — just to see Reavley get to show off a little. We get a little taste with the second victim’s family — just not as much. But their reactions are so different from Wade’s family and friends, it’d be great to get more time seeing that.

One tangent — I’m counting on readers to comment on this — there’s a golf club mentioned a couple of times in the book, “The Gog Magog Golf Club” to be specific. Now, when I read that name I think of the figures and places mentioned in Ezekiel and Revelation. Neither of which is suggestive of a stroll along the greenways or putting around. Is this the kind of names used in England? In the US, courses are named after hills, valleys — that kind of thing. Not names steeped in apocalyptic visions. It’s a minor point, but it really threw me.

This is (I believe) the second book to feature DCI Barrett and DI Palmer and their team — I’m curious about how they work together both before this case (also book related) and in the future. But this works well as a stand-alone, too. You don’t have to sign up for the long haul to get anything from this. A solid mystery, one of the best procedurals I’ve read in ages, and a depiction of the aftermath of violent crime that you won’t easily forget. A Murder in the Dark will stick with you.


3 Stars

My thanks to Bloodhound Books for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including the book) they provided. The opinions expressed are all mine, however.

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Murder in the Dark by Betsy Reavley

Today I welcome the Book Tour for the aptly named Murder in the Dark by Betsy Reavley. Along with this spotlight post, I’ll be giving my take on the novel here in a bit.

Book Details:

Book Title: Murder in the Dark by Betsy Reavley
Release date: December 12, 2018
Format: Paperback/ebook
Length: 245 pages

Book Blurb:

Without a motive, how do you identify the killer?

Imagine a quaint little bookshop. Outside the snow is falling. Inside the shelves are stacked with books by authors waiting to be discovered. What could be better?

When Tilly Edgely lands a position working at Ashton’s bookshop in Cambridge she thinks she’s found her perfect job. But one winter’s morning, when she arrives to open up, she discovers the body of her boss suspended from the ceiling, hanging by a rope around his neck.

DCI Barrett and DI Palmer are called to the scene and quickly find themselves searching for a twisted killer whose identity and motive are nearly impossible to trace.

But just when they think they have the murderer in their sights, another body shows up throwing the case wide open…

Who is behind the killings and why?

The police have their work cut out and key to unlocking the gruesome mystery might be found right under their nose.

But one thing is for certain, this killer will leave you hanging…

About Betsy Reavley:

Betsy ReavleyAuthor of The Quiet Ones, The Optician’s Wife, Murder at the Book Club, Frailty, Carrion, Beneath the Watery Moon and the poetry collection The Worm in the Bottle. Betsy was born in Hammersmith, London.

As a child she moved around frequently with her family, spending time in London, Provence, Tuscany, Gloucestershire and Cambridgeshire.

She showed a flair for literature and writing from a young age and had a particular interest in poetry, of which she was a prolific consumer and producer.

In her early twenties she moved to Oxford where she would eventually meet her husband. During her time in Oxford her interests turned from poetry to novels and she began to develop her own unique style of psychological thriller.

Betsy says “I believe people are at their most fascinating when they are faced by the dark side of life. This is what I like to write about.”

Betsy Reavley currently lives in Cambridge with her husband, 2 children, dog and quail.

Betsy Reavley’s Social Media:

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Amazon ~ Goodreads

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