Before The Devil Knows Your Dead by Owen Mullen

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Book blurb
Charlie’s Back! Gavin Law was a whistle blower. Now he’s missing. Just another case for Glasgow PI, Charlie Cameron, until he discovers there is more to Law and his disappearance than anyone imagined. Wallace Maitland, the surgeon responsible for leaving a woman brain-damaged may have abandoned his sacred oath and become a killer. Did the hospital which refused to accept responsibility for the tragedy have Law silenced permanently? Or, with his wife little more than a vegetable, has David Cooper, believing he has been betrayed yet again, taken justice into his own hands? Charlie comes to realise the world of medicine can be a dangerous place. Across the city, East End gangster, Sean Rafferty is preparing to exploit the already corrupt city council in a multi-million pound leisure development known as Riverside. The project will be good for Glasgow. But not everybody is keen to work with Rafferty. With more than money at stake, Sean will do anything to get his way. His motto, borrowed from his old man, is simple. Never take a no from somebody who can give you a yes. If that means murder, then so be it. Charlie has crossed Rafferty’s path before and lived to tell the tale. He may not be so lucky a second time.

Review

Firstly, I would like to thank the publisher Bloodhound books, author Owen Mullen and the bloghounds for the ARC copy of this book in return for an honest review.

A good thriller needs a strong story because thriller readers want to be thrilled!  They want a complex, but flawed hero.  It should be full of action, stylish and complex. The main character should grow and evolve, pacing should always be fast.  Your reader should be eager to turn the pages, oh and lets not forget a nasty villain, we like our villains to be cruel. So if these are the criteria we judge a thriller against, how does Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead measure up?

It hits the base on every single one of the criteria all good thrillers are judged against. Not only did it rollick along, sweeping me from the opening scene, out into the gritty streets of Glasgow, into the shadowy world of organised crime, it took me into the less than professional operating rooms of egoistical surgeons and into the shadowy halls of council politics.

In PI Charlie Cameron we have a hero who starts the story needing to move forward professionally and personally and by the end Owen Mullen gives us a character who is stronger and ready to face his demons in the next thrilling adventure.

Even better we have a villain who personifies my image of a Glasgow Mafia Boss.  Sean Raftery is cruel, manipulative and ruthless.  Now that is a villain you will love to hate.

The supporting cast of characters range from a whistleblower who disappears, a devastated husband, a disgraced surgeon and tough police officers. Its the perfect cross section of characters who alternatively leave you angry and nervous, but your also willingly them to find the justice they seek.

It all adds up to a story with numerous twists and turns.  More than once I was wrong footed, convinced I knew who the killer was.  I was thrilled to discover than Owen Mullen had delivered a story with multiple threads. Not a simple straight forward thriller.  Like suffering whiplash, you were taken down one thread of the story, only to be whipped back and sent hurtling down another.  Yet he ties up all the threads perfectly, leaving the reader wanting more, ready for the next instalment in this series.

Without doubt this is a first class thriller. One I’m sure will please committed fans, while attracting legions of new P I Cameron devotees.

Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead is the third instalment in the PI Cameron series.  You can buy it from Amazon and Waterstones

You can buy the other books in the series by visiting Owen Mullen’s Amazon page

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When he was ten, Owen Mullen won a short story competition and didn’t write anything else for almost forty years. In between he graduated from Strathclyde University with a Masters in Tourism and a degree in Marketing, moved to London and worked as a rock musician, session singer and songwriter, and had a hit record in Japan with a band he refuses to name; on occasion he still performs. He returned to Scotland to run a management consultancy and a marketing agency. He is an Arsenal supporter and a serious foodie. A gregarious recluse, he and his wife, Christine, split their time between Glasgow – where the Charlie Cameron books are set – and their villa in the Greek Islands

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Two Voices One Story by Elaine Rizzo and Amy Masters.

          Two Voices One Story cover

Synopsis

This is the true story of a girl called Amy and the English “mother” who adopted her from an institute in China when she was just a baby.
It’s a story about love, family and identity; and the unbreakable bond between mother and daughter.
When Amy came to be adopted in 1999, China’s then notorious one-child policy had given rise to a generation of missing girls. Amy was one of them, destined to life in an orphanage if she was lucky enough to survive. That is, until she was adopted by a loving British couple who were desperate to give her the home she deserved; Elaine and Lee.
In this moving autobiography, Amy and Elaine chart their own personal experiences of their shared adoption story. Theirs is not a political account, but one which is open about the challenges of adopting a child from a foreign country and the long journey that follows; from China to the UK and from infancy through to adolescence, as Amy and her new family learn and grow together.
Now a bright and ambitious young woman on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, Amy is braced for an exciting journey into adulthood, one which her proud mother is delighted to be able to share.
Two Voices, One Story is a frank but uplifting account of the complex adoption process and the profound relationship between a mother and her adopted child.

Extract

Amy:
“My birth date was told to my English Mum and Dad as 15 April, but I don’t think anyone really knows the exact date. All they know is that I was left at the gates of the Tong Ling Welfare Centre where I was found on 30 May 1998 and that the Welfare Centre’s advisory doctor thought I was about 6 weeks old at the time.

I don’t know who left me there or why. I know that the time this happened was when the Yangtze had flooded the area.

I also know that whoever left me wanted me to be found and cared for, because of where I was left. Also that whoever it was took a big risk over getting caught and punished.

Obviously, I don’t remember anything about this. Whenever I imagine what happened, I always think of my Chinese Mum, waiting until it was dark, and plucking up the courage to take me there.

I think of her with long black hair – a lot like mine is now – and being young, alone, and very afraid. I see her holding me close and then looking all round until the coast was clear. I imagine her placing me carefully at the gates and then running away fast, without looking back and with tears streaming down her cheeks which fall on the floor as she runs.”

This extract from the book deals with the few facts I actually know of my abandonment at a Welfare Centre near my birth place, with some speculation on my part to fill in the gaps.

Review

Firstly I would like to thank Elaine Rizzo and Amy Masters and their publisher Clink Street, for the ARC copy of this book in return for an honest review.

It was part of my 2017 reading challenge to read more non fiction books and I was delighted to be given the chance to read this remarkable story.

What I liked about Two Voices One Story is that it gives a voice to the mother and child in the adoption process, making it pretty much unique.  Most books only focus on the thoughts and feelings of one person, but this book acknowledges that adoption is a journey for both the adoptee and their new family.

Its well written and what touched me is that it never seeks to horrify the reader. It is also not overly sentimental, but simple and beautiful in the way it opens up their story to us the reader.  Even when talking about why she came to adopt Amy, Elaine speaks not just for herself, but other women who have suffered the loss of a child.  Amy  gives a voice to the many children not as lucky to be adopted from homes in China.  Because it follows their journey from prior to the adoption until Amy reaches eighteen, we can journey with them as they become a family and that makes their story feel very inculsive.

I would very much recommend this book because it helped me to understand that adoption is a act of faith, love and trust!  It requires a willingness to adapt for all those involved.  Two Voices, One Story  is a tender tale of a journey that was taken together and how with each step we as the reader, Elaine and Amy, come to understand that there is more than one type of family.  Love is what binds us, along with share memories and experiences.

Authors

About the authors: Elaine Rizzo (Elaine Masters) works in finance as a licensed insolvency practitioner for ClearDebt a company based in Manchester. Her daughter Amy Masters is now eighteen and at college. She enjoys art and design and her ambition is to become a photographer when she graduates. Both now live near Cardigan in West Wales.

Amazon

Sins of the Father by Sheryl Browne

Today I’m joined by Sheryl Browne, to celebrate the publication of Sins of the Father, the latest book in the Detective Matthew Adams series. Sheryl very kindly agreed to answer a series of questions ranging from who she would most like to cwtch, to her favourite read in 2016.

Firstly, a little teaser about her latest book Sins of the Father, the exciting sequel to After She’s Gone. 

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Are you ready to take a journey into the mind of a madman?

After She’s Gone.
Sins of the Father.
All-consuming thrillers that will eat you and spit you back out.

Sins of the Father
What if you’d been accused of one of the worst crimes imaginable?
Detective Inspector Matthew Adams is slowly picking up the pieces from a case that nearly cost him the lives of his entire family and his own sanity too. On the surface, he seems to be moving on, but he drinks to forget – and when he closes his eyes, the nightmares still come.
But the past is the past – or is it? Because the evil Patrick Sullivan might be out of the picture, but there’s somebody who is just as intent on making Matthew’s life hell, and they’re doing it in the cruellest way possible.
When Matthew finds himself accused of a horrific and violent crime, will his family stand by him? And will he even be around to help when his new enemy goes after them as well?

Question and answer. 

Sins Of The Father features a brutal murder. How as an author do you get into the frame of mind to write about such a disturbing event?Apparently, according to one reviewer, I have a scary insight into the mind of a psychopath. Seriously, I think my desire to delve into the darker psyche of some of my characters comes from my need to write about multifaceted people. In order to write credibly an author will do a lot of research, even undertaking courses, studying forensics and psychology, for instance. When writing crime or thriller fiction, you have to study the human condition and you can’t help but be fascinated by the nature versus nurture conundrum. Can a person truly be evil at the core, or have events in his life shaped him? Importantly, in order to write a believable character, you have to get into the mindset of that character. He becomes a living, breathing person, complete with quirks and traits. At some point, as a living entity, he’s inevitably going to start leading the plot. In Sins of the Father, by way of example, the story is based around my protagonist making a bad judgement call and finding himself a victim of a drug related sexual assault. His emotions are going to be all over the place therefore and he’s dictating his reactions. So it is with the antagonist and, though you are the author, it’s the characters who are telling the story.

You write books in two different genres psychological thrillers and edgy contemporary romance. How did you get interested in writing in two very different types of book?
Whatever genre I’m writing, it’s people who inspire the story. I tend to gravitate towards family and family dynamics and just how strong a family unit can be. I think I leaned towards psychological thriller because I actually see people as not all good or all bad. More opposite sides of the same spectrum with some crossover in between. Many of my contemporary fiction novels feature policemen and, as my leading characters grew, I found myself exploring police procedural and, inevitably, the traits of the antagonist as well as the protagonist.

What is a typical working day like for you?
I foster disabled dogs, and with one very needy one at the moment (he’s recovering from a stroke), my mornings tend to be pandemonium. I rise at six and try to get emails out of the way and have a quick dip into social media. Then it’s dog feeding, medication and walking time and thereafter back to my keyboard. I try to devote the daytime to writing and then go back to social media in the evening. Sometimes very late in the evening. Oh, and I fit the odd bit of housework in there somewhere.

What is the best thing about being an author?
Apart from the huge satisfaction of seeing our babies out there, I would say reader feedback, without doubt. Can I take this opportunity to thank everyone, readers and book bloggers, for their fantastic support? I say it a lot and I truly mean it: I could not do this without you. THANK YOU!

Cwtch is the Welsh word for a hug. It’s a safe place and can apply to a lover, parent or child. You can also cwtch a colleague, which is when it becomes a heartfelt hug! Who would you choose to give a cwtch to?
Oh, well, you’ve found me out. I’m a naturally huggy type person. Maybe it’s a trait of being an author, my heart physically hurts for anyone I see who might be sad, upset or lonely, and my natural instinct is to reach out and wrap them into a hug. I’m probably seriously annoying a lot of people! Then there are those readers (see above). I would love to give every single reader who has taken the trouble to leave a review a massive heartfelt hug!

I have an endless fascination with other readers favourite reads! What was your favourite read of 2016 and why did you love it so much?
I read a lot of crime thriller but I’m going to plump for books I read from 2015 through into 2016 by John Donoghue. His book, Police, Crime & 999 – The True Story of a Front Line Officer, is totally hilarious. His other books, Police, Lies & Alibis, Shakespeare My Butt and Police, Arrests & Suspects are similarly screamingly funny. Pure therapy.

The Author 

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Sheryl Browne brings you edgy, sexy contemporary fiction and psychological thrillers.
A member of the Crime Writers’ Association, Romantic Novelists’ Association and awarded a Red Ribbon by The Wishing Shelf Book Awards, Sheryl has several books published and two short stories in Birmingham City University anthologies, where she completed her MA in Creative Writing.
Recommended to the publisher by the WH Smith Travel fiction buyer, Sheryl’s contemporary fiction comes to you from multi-award winning Choc Lit.

Author Links
Website Facebook Twitter Amazon

After She’s Gone by Sheryl Browne

I’m lucky today to be able to share with you an extract from Sheryl Browne’s book After She’s Gone. 

Later in the week, join me for a question and answer post with Sheryl and news of her latest book in the Detective Matthew Adams Series, Sins of the Father. 

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Are you ready to take a journey into the mind of a madman?

After She’s Gone.
Sins of the Father.
All-consuming thrillers that will eat you and spit you back out.

After She’s Gone
He’s killed your child and kidnapped your wife. What would YOU do?
There’s evil and then there’s Patrick Sullivan. A drug dealer, pimp and murderer, there are no depths to which Patrick would not sink, and Detective Inspector Matthew Adams has found this out in the most devastating way imaginable.
When Patrick’s brother is shot dead in a drug bust gone wrong, the bitter battle between the two men intensifies, and Matthew finds it increasingly difficult to hold the moral high ground. All he wants is to make the pimping scum suffer the way he did … the way Lily did.
But being at war with such a depraved individual means that it’s not just Matthew who’s in danger. Patrick has taken a lot from Matthew, but he hasn’t taken everything – and now he wants everything.

Prologue – After She’s Gone
‘Oi, you can’t park there!’ a police officer yelled as Matthew mounted the kerb, careering his car haphazardly to a stop on the pavement.
His gut twisting violently inside him, his head reeling, Matthew ignored him, ramming his door open instead to scramble from the car and set off at a run.
‘What the …?’
Vaguely aware of the man giving chase, Matthew kept going, attempting to push past another officer closing in in front of him, only to be caught from behind.
‘Whoa. Come on, mate, you need to get back.’ Taking hold of his arm, the officer behind attempted to steer him away. ‘There’s been an accident up ahead. We need to clear—’
‘Shit, it’s Adams.’ The officer in front intervened.
‘Who?’ The man still hanging on to his arm asked.
‘Detective Inspector Adams,’ the officer in front supplied warily. ‘Let him through.’
Stumbling forwards as the guy behind relaxed his grip, his legs like dead weights beneath him, Matthew forced himself on, bypassing other officers, who now stood respectfully aside.
His wife was with her. Matthew swallowed back a hard knot in his throat. She was crouched over her, holding her impossibly small hand in her own. She didn’t look up. Rebecca kept her gaze focussed on their daughter. His daughter. Matthew felt something break inside him as he took in his baby’s injuries, her broken body, the slow trickle of lifeblood pooling beneath her, staining the drab, grey road crimson.
Please don’t. Matthew prayed hopelessly as he moved closer. Please don’t do this. The world seeming to slow to a stop around him, the use of his legs finally deserting him, Matthew dropped to his knees at the side of the child he’d loved with every fibre of his being ever since he’d first glimpsed her tiny form on the monitor.
‘Hey, Tigerlily,’ he said, his voice cracking as Lily’s eyes fluttered open. Wide blue eyes, once crystal clear with the innocence of childhood, were filled with confusion and pain as she looked pleadingly up at him, silently begging him, her daddy, to fix it. His heart turned over as her lips parted. She wanted to speak. She couldn’t. Please don’t try to speak, baby. Tears he couldn’t hope to hide streaming down his face, Matthew leaned towards her, brushing her blood-matted, beautiful blonde hair gently away from her face. ‘Daddy’s here, darling,’ he choked. ‘It’s going to be just fine.’
Lies. Lies. He screamed inside. It wasn’t going to be fine. It could never be. He couldn’t fix it. How could he let his little girl go knowing he couldn’t? Cradling his baby gently in his arms, Matthew’s heart splintered inside him as he watched her life ebb away.
****
They were taking her away in an ambulance. What use was an ambulance? Panic engulfing him, Matthew took a faltering step towards it, and stopped. He couldn’t. Couldn’t ride with her, watch as the warmth drained from her body, her baby-soft skin turning blue and cold. Life fucking extinct.
‘Matthew!’ Rebecca called to him as, his chest heaving, Matthew turned away. Terrified of what he might see in her eyes, he couldn’t turn back. This was his fault. He should have been there. He’d promised to drive them to the cinema. He’d known Patrick Sullivan might make good his threat. He should have been there! A potent mixture of grief and rage broiling inside him, Matthew recalled his last encounter with the sadistic piece of scum with sickening clarity. Sullivan’s expression hadn’t altered when he’d informed him his brother had been an unfortunate casualty in a drug bust gone wrong. Matthew had been surprised. Sullivan’s hatred of him went way back since they were kids in school. Guessing he would hold him personally responsible, Matthew had been bracing himself for Sullivan to reach across the table and attack him right there in the prison interview room. Instead, Sullivan had reached casually for a cigarette. Lighting up, he’d glanced down and scratched his forehead slowly with his thumb.
‘How’s that pretty young wife of yours, DI Adams? Pregnant again, isn’t she?’ he’d enquired eventually, blowing smoke circles into the air as he’d looked back at him. ‘Give her my regards, won’t you?’
Sullivan had then leaned forwards, a twisted smirk on his face, his eyes as black as molasses and swimming with pure evil. ‘I would do it myself, but I’m a bit busy … banged up … in here.’
It had been a threat. Innocent to all ears but Matthew’s, it had been a direct threat. And now, still sitting pretty in prison with a cast iron alibi, Sullivan was no doubt congratulating himself on a job well done, imagining that he’d also succeeded in warning Matthew off pursuing him once he got out. Wrong, you bastard.

Trailer Link:

DI Matthew Adams series: https://youtu.be/0MqZ5TpBwGk

Author

Sheryl Browne

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Sheryl Browne brings you edgy, sexy contemporary fiction and psychological thrillers.
A member of the Crime Writers’ Association, Romantic Novelists’ Association and awarded a Red Ribbon by The Wishing Shelf Book Awards, Sheryl has several books published and two short stories in Birmingham City University anthologies, where she completed her MA in Creative Writing.
Recommended to the publisher by the WH Smith Travel fiction buyer, Sheryl’s contemporary fiction comes to you from multi-award winning Choc Lit.

Facebook Author page Twitter Amazon

Anglesey Blue Dylan H Jones

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I am lucky today, to be able to publish an extract from an exciting new novel by author Dylan H Jones and set on the stunning Welsh Island of Anglesey.

Synopsis

It’s not the homecoming Detective Inspector Tudor Manx was expecting, but solving the case is just the start of his problems. Recently transferred from the London Met to the North Wales Constabulary, Detective Inspector Tudor Manx has come to the Island of Anglesey hoping for a quiet life. But his hopes are dashed when a brutally mutilated body is found crucified to the bow of a fishing boat sending shockwaves through the peaceful community.  Manx faces pressure to solve the case quickly equipped with an inexperienced team.  Is the body a message or a premonition of more murders to come?  Adding to his problems, Manx’s troubled past returns to haunt him. Manx left the island after the disappearance of his younger sister, Miriam, a cold case that still remains unsolved.

Can Manx solve the case before the body count rises? 

How will he cope when he is forced to choose between his family and his duty as a police officer?

PRELUDE

They meant to kill him. He understood that now. There would be no time to process this thought, or plead for his life. Decisions had been made, plans were to be executed, and loose ends disposed of. It was the natural order of things, as inevitable as the slow rise of the sun, which had chosen this moment to cast its ghostly radiance over the late October dawn. The captain, speaking from behind the chamber of his pistol, addressed the crewman in a deliberate manner, as if speech itself might absolve him of the act he was about to commit. “No witnesses,” he said, pinching back the trigger. Fear clotted in the crewman’s mouth like a dry cloth. The remaining seconds unspooled before him, as if in slow motion: the captain’s eyes narrowing into a cruel, merciless squint, the unlit cigarette falling to the deck, the crush of the captain’s heel over the thin wrapping of tobacco, the inevitable crack of a firing pin, shattering the morning’s brittle silence. The bullet shattered the crewman’s shoulder, narrowly missing the vital web of arteries and veins. To his left, he heard the grind of machinery slipping from its gears. The sharp corner of a metal lobster basket struck his temple, whirling his senses into a blur of indiscriminate shapes and colours. Stumbling, he reached for a lifeline, finding only dead air to cling to. As he descended through the dark mass of seawater, he felt a swell of adrenaline surge through his veins. If he were a religious man, he would have thanked God for this thin sliver of mercy, but his faith was in practicalities and facts, not miracles and fairy tales.

This was merely his body’s primal need for survival, pushing upwards towards the shallow filter of sunlight. He broke the surface, and gulped at the oxygen-rich air. Pain gnawed at his shoulder and temple, as the saltwater seeped into the open wounds. If nothing else, it was a sign he was alive, and if he was alive, there had to be hope. As he pulled the surrounding landscape into focus, he scanned the horizon for any familiar landmarks, but this was no place he recognised, at least not in this light. He’d always considered himself a strong swimmer, but already, his muscles were struggling. How long could he survive out here? Hours, maybe less? Ahead of him, the grind of the boat’s engine spat a final insult of saltwater, before fading into the thick swell of fog. He was alone—the revelation fell on him like a rock. As he drifted, his hand brushed against something thick and solid. His chest tightened. He reached for the object, and felt a momentary sense of elation at his good fortune; the driftwood was large enough to support his weight. He folded his arms around the knotted timber, laid his head down, and rested. Where was he? They were scheduled to dock in Liverpool later today. Hadn’t they passed the coast of Ireland some hours ago? Or was that yesterday? Lights blinked along the mainland, as the inhabitants woke from their sleep, warm in their beds; he envied them those most mundane of luxuries. He should have studied the route more carefully, asked more questions. But, this was his maiden voyage; he was instructed to keep his head down, do what he was told, and if he worked hard, they might hire him again. Only yesterday, the Captain had offered him three hundred euros to carry six crates from the secondary hold and onto the deck. ‘Easy money,’ the Captain had said. His mother would have called it by another name: the devil’s penny. He thought of his wife, Katia. She’d be at the apartment now, making breakfast. Was she thinking about him? Or was she worrying about the day ahead? She worked too hard, worried too much.

But, that would end. He had promised her this at the dockside. He could still sense the dampness of her tears on his cheek as she kissed him. She had said nothing, just smiled, and then pulled away, as if she herself were retreating into the scenery—drawn back to the routine and rhythm of her life. The image of his father passed through his mind. He remembered the factory Viktor had worked at since he was a boy—the sort of work that broke a man’s body—a relentless grind which had shaved the layers off his heart until it was fit for nothing but scrap. He’d sworn to never permit life the satisfaction of beating him down like that. He would never be like his father; this he had promised himself. But, at this moment, he would have gladly stepped into Viktor’s boots, sweating under the filth of the steel-works, his eyes scorched by the hellish molten liquid spilling like lava into the colossal iron buckets. Maybe he’d been too rash in dismissing the apprenticeship his father had secured him. ‘A job for life, son,’ Viktor had explained to him, as if that was all that mattered. He saw it differently; it was a life traded for a job. A bargain struck at the age of sixteen, the contract fully obligated at sixty, then, if you were lucky, a handful of years in retirement, before death came to claim its inheritance. Maybe it was like his father had always said: a fool dreams of riches, a good man dreams of happiness, but to end up with neither, what did that make him? Hours later, or was it days, his body was dragged further out into the open sea. Discordant memories flickered before his eyes, yet he felt strangely at peace, as the images played out their acts. Maybe he was becoming resigned to his fate, and death would come to claim him like a soft, dark palm pressing down until he no longer felt its sting. As the cold and now familiar darkness drew over his eyes, a flash of light appeared to the east, like a large, silver-winged fish fracturing the surface. It travelled rapidly towards him, skimming across the ocean, until its transparent wing obscured the day’s scant sunlight. His fingers curled tighter around the driftwood. Above him, the great billowing wing shredded the air with noise. He closed his eyes and prayed: a childish, nursery rhyme of a prayer he remembered from school. Shadow and cold fell over him. Then, the impact, potent and precise—a direct hit to his sternum, which emptied the last remaining pockets of air from his lungs. The crewman sank, without complaint, into the unforgiving darkness, the crumbs of the half-remembered prayer still unfinished on his lips.

Author 

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Dylan is a native, Anglesey-born Welshman who now lives in Oakland, California with his wife Laura and daughter, Isabella. He has worked as a media executive and copywriter at numerous TV networks and advertising agencies both in London and San Francisco. Currently, he is owner and Creative Director of Jones Digital Media, a video content agency.

Dylan was born on Anglesey and moved away when he was seven years old to the Northeast of England. His family then moved to the Wirral for several years before settling back on Anglesey when he was fourteen. Dylan studied Communication Arts and Media at the University of Leeds, then moved to Cardiff, working for S4C. In 1993 he relocated to London as a Creative Director with Channel 4 TV. Today, he lives in Oakland, California. His parents, sister and most of his immediate family still live on the island.

Anglesey Blue is the first in a series of crime novels featuring the sardonic, sharp-witted but troubled detective, Detective Inspector Tudor Manx. Dylan’s life, both on and off the island, inspired him to develop the series.

“Creating flawed, compelling, and believable characters is the core of my storytelling.” Dylan says. “I want DI Tudor Manx and all the supporting characters to come alive as readers turn the page. Tudor Manx’s journey is just beginning, and I’m looking forward to writing more about this complex and troubled man as he confronts the demons of his past and hopefully finds the peace and redemption he’s searching for.”

Anglesey Blue is published by Bloodhound Books.

Author page 

http://www.dylanjonesauthor.com/the-isel-of-anglesey-

 The book can be bought from Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06X9Z8132/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1488026245&sr=1-2&keywords=anglesey+blue

Accidental Damage by Alice May

Synopsis

If you think the normal school run on a Monday is entertaining you should try doing it from a tent in your back garden surrounded by the jumbled up contents of your entire home. It is vastly more diverting. 

Our heroine has survived and the sudden collapse of her home- or has she?

Certain events two and a half years ago led her to deliberately destroy an important piece of herself, hiding away all remaining evidence that it ever existed.  What happens when she decides to go looking for it?

Does she really deserve to be whole again? 

Inspired by s true story, this is an account of one woman’s secret guilt and her journey in search of forgiveness!

Review

I would like to thank the author Alice May for the ARC copy of this book in return for a honest review.

Let me start by saying that Accidental Damage is an emotional, joyful and funny read.  Inspired by a true story, its about one women’s battle to succeed against what appears to be insurmountable odds.  To not only rebuild her home, keep her family together, but also heal herself.

We all face daily challenges to get through the day, but few of us have to do so from a tent in our garden. Ordinary daily tasks take on a new level of challenging for our heroine, forced to sacrifice an integral part of herself just to survive the emotional stress she is under.  Alice May gives us a tale of the ordinary life of one family, breaks it apart and then challenges us to see if it can be healed.  She looks at how the individual draws strength from deep within themselves and from those around them. For some it is not possible to move forward, not everyone has the capacity for self forgiveness.  Life experiences leave them so badly damaged that there’s no off switch for the self destructive path they have taken.  So we read to see if our heroine can heal herself, forgive and find peace.

It is a deeply rewarding read and one I will remember for a while.  I have always loved books that focus on character and emotion.  Alice May gives me all of these.  There is not always a need for what I think of as wham, bang, wallop in a book! Don’t get me wrong, I love all of these, but sometimes you want a story based in the extraordinary events of an ordinary life.  Its one of the reasons I love books like Robert Seethaler’s A Whole Life and Tessa Hadley’s The Past. Courage and strength, pain and suffering come in many forms.  This is my favourite form.  Its the art of being quiet and listening to a story based around human endurance.

 

Author

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Alice May is the 45 year working mother of four not so small children. Married to a very patient man, they live in what was a ramshackle old cottage in the country. She loves listening to the radio in the morning and is both a talented artist and author.

You can visit her author page here http://alicemay.weebly.com

On Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AliceMayAuthor/  and  Twitter @Alice_May.

Accidental Damage can be bought on Amazon as an kindle book or a paperback.

Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this book since reading it last year, just trying to get straight in my head how I felt about it. I’m not sure I’m any clearer now than I was then!

The novella is set in London with a father and his two sons who are trying to find a way to navigate through the overwhelming grief they feel after the loss of their wife and mother.  A simple concept for a novel and one used many times before. Grief is the Thing with Feathers is far from straightforward though, it’s gloriously complex, with three narrators, the boys, their father and the crow and it does not follow the typical conventions of a traditional novel.  No chapters to speak of, but short segments of almost chaotic, yet poetic writing. It’s fragmentary structure, possibly symbolizing the often chaotic nature of grief?  It’s a novel that sets out to challenge the reader and push the boundaries of what we think of as the formal structure, of how a story is set out.

The father is a Ted Hughes scholar and the crow is from Hughes set of poems, ‘The Life and Songs of Crow’ and the title of the book is taken from the Emily Dickenson poem ‘Hope’ is the Thing with Feathers.

When I began my challenge to read Waterstone’s monthly recommended fiction read I wanted to push myself and this book certainly did that. I have enjoyed each in a different way and have been able to marshal my thoughts about why I liked them, or why they did not work for me!  Yet I’m struggling to do that with this book.  It was certainly challenging and it offers a unique insight into grief and loss.

The boys in the book are young when their mother dies; I was 18 when my father died! My memory of grief is a more distant thing than for them.  I remember crippling loss and an odd sense of detachment from the world around me, while Porter describes it as chaotic, angry and fragmentary.  He captures how grief leaves you feeling like your looking at the world around you from inside a bubble of crippling emotion, but I’m not sure that for me, he captures the oddness of it, the intense pain that actually comes from the loss of a parent.  He spends so much time on the language of grief, the imagery, that he misses out on the raw crippling disability of sorrow.

From my reading he uses the crow as a physical representation of grief. The crow is a baby sitter, a therapist and a means of healing. He captures the moments around the family when they are surrounded by caring relatives, who start to drift away when the initial loss has passed and his description of them is perfection.  Yet the family remains stricken and this is when the crow arrives, to fill the void left by the “orbiting grievers”.  He becomes for them an embodiment of their grief and a voice to their loss.

I felt challenged and empowered by the language of the novel, but did it work for me? That is the question I can not answer with any certainty! I enjoyed it, but felt that by the end I had more questions than answers. Maybe that is the point, Porter wanted to make his readers look at what grief meant to them? It’s certainly a very fine piece of literature, one everyone should read.  But I think for me, in being so clever in the form of how it was written, the cleverness and obvious skilful use of language, it lost emotional clout.  I expected a much more emotional reaction to the book akin to the shocking grief I felt when I lost my father. I spent so much time on the written word, its beauty, that I failed to make a real and tangible emotional connection to the family’s loss.

Maybe I should read it again, because I’m still hoping to gain a better understanding of why I was left feeling so disquieted by this rather eloquent study of loss and grief.

Question and answer with Ross Greenwood author of The Boy Inside.

 

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I am lucky to welcome the lovely Ross Greenwood to my blog today, to celebrate the publication of his novel, The Boy Inside. 

He has kindly taken the time to answer a few questions, ranging from how his time working in the prison service influences his writing and also tells us his favourite books from 2016. His answers are honest, powerful and funny!

I want to thank Ross for taking the time to answer my questions.

1. I noticed that The Boy Inside and your first novel Lazy Blood are set in a prison. Are the stories based on prisoners you worked with or events that occurred during your time as a prison officer?
Yes, very much so. Lazy Blood is a story where prison features, but it’s more a story about relationships. After I wrote that, so many people got in touch to say they loved seeing what really happens in our jails that I decided to give them what they wanted. The Boy Inside is very much about prison and the people in them. It’s not what people will expect though. All the action is based in some way or another on events that really happened. So it should be quite shocking. The violence in prison was often stupid and random, and frequently life altering.

All of the characters were based on the people I met. I mixed them up to make them more dramatic or to make it clearer where they came from.

2. Do you think readers will gain a better understanding of the prison community, both for prisoners and staff by reading your novel?

I really hope so. I was wrong about the type of people we lock up. Sure, there are career criminals, or people who have specifically gone out to rob a bank or ship cocaine, but many, if not most, have drifted into criminality, often through a disassociated upbringing. Drugs and alcohol play a part, as does boredom. Many have just made one mistake.

Our prisons are woefully understaffed. The government either doesn’t understand the issue or is lying to us about it. You can’t cut prison officer numbers to that extent with all the new threats (spice, drones etc.) and not expect to see an elevation in suicide, self harm, and violence. Both to other prisoners and to staff (including the healthcare staff). Figures released show this is happening. In effect, staff cuts are leading to more people dying.

It was the same in our jail with the healthcare staff.  They were often short staffed. This would cause problems with lock up as some prisoners had to have their drugs at certain times and the wings couldn’t be locked until this happened. Staff can’t go home until the jail is secure, so the nurses might get grief from some officers and abuse from prisoners.  Brilliant nurses or healthcare assistants who had an excellent rapport with the inmates would end up leaving and you are back where you started. Both jobs are hard, thankless tasks.  One which many people couldn’t do, or specifically wouldn’t want to do.

3. Is there anything you find challenging in your writing?

I took two years off as childcare was so expensive. I thought, right! I have some time to write, but it often gets taken away from me. I had three full days to write next week, but my son is just showing the first spots of chicken pox (daughter had it 2 weeks ago), so that’s gone! The main thing I struggle with apart from time is which person to write in. Lazy Blood was third person, The Boy Inside, 1st person, present tense. I suspect it doesn’t really matter if it’s written well enough.

I love being able to be at home with the kids, even though it’s sometimes harder than locking up a wing of felons. However, I often think of one of the worst jobs in a prison. That of gobwatch. Each prisoner when he gets his medication has to put it in his mouth and then drink a cup of water. This makes them swallow the drug, otherwise many would keep it in their mouths and sell it on the wing when they got back. So, every morning around 7.30 a.m., one job would be to stand next to the med hatch and look inside inmates mouths and under their tongues to make sure they weren’t concealing their tablet. You can just imagine the smells and sights that would assault you. Inmates are famous for the dental hygiene. Changing your own child’s nappy is a summer picnic in comparison.

4. I have a never ending curiosity about other readers favourite books! Given this, what was your favourite read of 2016.

I am Pilgrim was my favourite book. I got the paperback off amazon for £3.95. When it turned up it was over 800 pages long too. And then it was brilliant. Win, win, win!
I also enjoyed A Decent Ride by Irvine Welsh which many wont have read. Someone once flattered me by saying my writing was like his (without the accents). I think what they were driving at is they loved my ability to make damaged characters likeable. We are all flawed, some more than others, but we all have good qualities too. Even the worst of us. Usually, someone loves us, even if its just our mothers.
The horrible part about prison is it brings out the worst side of everyone. You aren’t free, you can’t relax, get away, drink, sing, dance, whatever. Inmates often take their frustrations out on the staff. Even the smallest weasel, the bottom of the ladder, who is bullied by everyone on the wing is often lippy to the staff. It’s sometimes the only way he can safely let off steam as he could say virtually anything to an officer and not get battered, which is likely if he spouted off to an inmate. A strange way to ease the pressure cooker in your brain, but that’s prison.

Even though the weasel would get told off or disciplined, if it was done by a professional, it would be done in a considerate manner, even along the lines of, ‘Come on mate, that’s not you. What’s bothering you?’ It may have been the only decent piece of human interaction the boy has had for months.

5. Cwtch is the Welsh word for a hug or a safe place. I you could choose someone to cwtch famous or not, who would they be?

I’m a secret ginger admirer, so I had a thing for Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones for a while. My partner (a lovely blonde) has now told me it’s dyed. Just to hurt my feelings, ha ha.

And finally

6 .Can we look forward to more novels bringing life behind the walls to readers or do you plan on trying other settings in your future books?

The third book is underway. The odd character crosses over from each book. Call it ‘The Prison Lives Series’ if you like. The next one tackles perhaps the most stretched understanding of prison life. That of sex offenders. Our immediate reaction to anyone who has interfered with children is lock them up, throw away the key, possibly even castrate or bring back the death sentence. A crime against the vulnerable goes all against human nature. However, is our justice system so infallible that we never make mistakes. Are innocent men in jail?
In my experience the courts rarely make mistakes but even though some of these people have done terrible things, they are often victims too. Many paedophiles were interfered with when they were young themselves. Sometimes by members of their own family. If you are taught that having sex with your family is normal when you are too young to know any better, perhaps it’s not overly surprising if you repeat learned behaviour. Some men who see their father beat their mother, repeat domestic abuse in their own lives.
Rightfully, these people must be locked away from any contact with children.  If it was your child who was attacked you would wan maximum punishment, maybe pull the trigger yourself.
We don’t imprison them forever though. If you locked them up for 23 hours a day for 10 years, gave them no worthwhile activity or purpose, didn’t try and rehabilitate or educate them, then what are you going to end up releasing? What kind of angry person would be free to go?  I can’t think of anything more dangerous.  Research shows that pushing sex offenders to the fringe of society means they are more likely to offend.  Most know what they are thinking is wrong.  Almost like an urge is coming, like a drug addict wanting a hit.  The relationship between them and their probation officer is crucial.  They recognise the dangers, maybe even recall them to prison to stop them re-offending.  Some volunteer to go.  These are bitter pills for society to swallow when every part of us wants to punish them.
Some of the crimes I heard were so sickening and depraved, it was breath taking. It is almost impossible how anyone could wake up after doing something so utterly inhumane and not throw themselves in front of a train. These people exist though.  There are wings full of them. Someone has to feed them, wake them, teach them, give them their meds, take their blood, and ask them if they are okay.  It’s not easy.  When you work in a prison, you walk into work and leave your judgement at the gate. Otherwise you simply wouldn’t be able to do your job.
 
The books I enjoy are often exciting and thrilling but also educational. I like to learn something for my money, like The Fault in our Stars, understanding more about dying young. I think that’s why we enjoy crime books, as we see procedures and understand detection. Thought provoking books can be difficult reads, like Betsy’s Frailty, or surprising like Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes. I love a book I can discuss with someone. I hope I provide that for my readers.
About the author.
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Ross was born in 1973 in Peterborough and lived there until he was twenty, attending The King’s School. Following this he began a nomadic existence, living and working all over the country and various parts of the world.

He found himself returning to Peterborough many times over the years, usually when things had gone wrong. On one of those occasions he met his partner about 100 metres from his back door whilst walking a dog. Two children swiftly followed.

This book was started a long time ago, but parenthood and then four years as a HMP Peterborough prison officer got in the way of Ross being able to finish it. Ironically it was the four a.m. feed which gave him the opportunity to finish the book, as unable to get back to sleep he completed it in the early hours of the morning. 

Here is the link to Ross’s personal page

http://www.rossgreenwoodauthor.com/about-ross

 

The Boy Inside can be bought from Amazon

It can also be purchased from Waterstones and other book sellers.

Blog tour – Liz Mistry author of Uncoiled Lies talks about why she writes.

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Today I am very lucky to feature on the blog tour for Liz Mistry’s Uncoiled Lies. My thanks to Liz for writing a very honest and moving account, about how writing helps her to manage her depression.

My thanks also to Helen Claire and Bloodhound books for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

Finally, I would like to thank Liz’s very talented husband for his drawing of Gus from Uncoiled Lies.

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Writing as therapy
I have suffered from depression for many years and at times have been so incapacitated that I couldn’t leave the house. Mental health issues affect people in a variety of different ways and at different times in their lives and yet, still there is so much stigma attached to sufferers that it is often impossible for them to get the help they need to move improve. Funding for Mental Health issues through the NHS is still tight and critical support denied to those with Mental Health issues.
For me the key to learning to manage my depression and to battle it effectively was my writing. The physical side effects, for me, included lack of concentration and focus as well as extreme fatigue and disassociation. All of this meant that maintaining relationships with friends and family was difficult. Being able to immerse myself in my writing was a way to de stress. With my writing there was no ‘judgement’ involved, no expectations of how I should behave or feel, no need to interact and above all no timescale to work to.
Exploring different characters was like delving into other peoples’ lives and exploring what makes them tick. My characters could do things I was unable to, they could explore places I couldn’t go to and they allowed me to maintain my grasp of reality. More importantly, however, they waited for me… sometimes for days, weeks, months and even years without criticism or rebuke. When I got them out and dusted them off they were like old friends at a reunion and that made me feel better.
The main character in my debut novel Unquiet Souls and the sequel Uncoiled Lies has been a friend for many years. DI Gus McGuire has been in my mind, prompting scenes and events and dialogue for a long time. He has matured and become the character he is today. Gus too suffers from mental health issues and I hope that through him my readers will be encouraged if they have similar issues or prompted to realise how difficult it is to operate when the mental issues also take a physical toll on a person.
Gus suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which has left him suffering panic attacks and feeling intolerant of those closest to him. He is aware that his temper is short and that his mood swings but is determined to work through it with the help of his psychiatrist.
A good counsellor helped me to manage my depression and for that I will be eternally grateful. I am able to monitor my condition with the help of my family and friends and am quick to realise when I’m slipping down. I try to be kind to myself and I use my writing as a tool to help me through the bad times and as a luxury in the good times.

Liz’s new book can be ordered from Amazon in ebook version and paperback.

 

The Wronged Sons by John Marr’s

Having read the authors second book, Welcome to Wherever You Are and thoroughly enjoying it, I quickly downloaded his first book, The Wronged Sons. I’m not the biggest thriller reader, but Marr’s is such a fabulous writer, I guessed rightly that this his first novel would be a very enjoyable read.

The story comprises of two threads. The first focuses on Simon, who walks out on his family, only to re-appear twenty-five years later.  Why did he leave and why has he come back?  The second thread focuses on his wife Catherine, who is left to rebuild a life left devastated by his abandonment. It’s when their lives collide again, that many truths are brought to light and questions long left unanswered lead to a thrilling conclusion.

I loved this book because Marr’s keeps the reader constantly wrong footed. You think you know why a character acted as they did and you’re proved wrong and taken down an altogether different story thread. He doesn’t try to make his characters all likeable, they are flawed and realistic.  I enjoyed disliking them!  He takes human nature and gives a voice to its darker side.  But despite the fact I found it hard to like the characters, Marr’s made me want to know how their story concluded and for me that makes this an accomplished thriller.

I look forward to reading his third book and I am anticipating a thrilling read!