Killing Beauties by Pete Langman #Extract #BlogTour

Killing Beauties Cover

In a world made for men, Susan Hyde is no ordinary woman. And no one would suspect that the sister of Edward Hyde, chief advisor to King in exile Charles Stuart, spends her time peddling state secrets and fomenting rebellion rather than on her tapestry. As a she-intelligencer – female spy – Susan’s mission is to extract information from Oliver Cromwell’s unsuspecting spymaster, by any means necessary. In a shadow-world of ciphers, surveillance, poison, seduction and duplicity, this daring spy will risk everything for king and country. Based on the astonishing true story of England’s earliest female spies, Killing Beauties will transport you to a seventeenth-century London rife with political intrigue, betrayal and conspiracy.

I’m delighted today to welcome author Pete Langman to Booksaremycwtches with an extract from Killing Beauties.

Extract

After the incident on birdcage walk, as he would later refer to it, Jonny and Nathaniel walked through the city at a sedate pace. While Jonny had been Field’s apprentice for almost nine years now, he could count the times he had been allowed out of the print shop on the fingers of, well, if not one hand, most definitely five or six hands. Jonny still retained a little of the wide-eyed country boy he had been at the age of eight when he had not only been orphaned but given to Field within a matter of weeks. He hardly knew his father other than that he had died serving the cause of freedom, while his mother was never talked of. Jonny really had no idea whether she was alive or not. Before his father’s death, however, Jonny had at least been well educated, and already possessed a decent grasp of the classical languages, a grasp he had transformed into a very solid understanding by reading everything that passed through Field’s presses. Jonny had been to Venice with Coryat, Newfoundland with Hakluyt, and even sailed to Atlantis with Bacon. His knowledge of the city in which he lived was minimal, however, and as for his home town, he knew it not. And so as they walked, Jonny stared.
‘Right,’ said Nathaniel. ‘The Three Suns. You’ll find Isaac in there somewhere. I’m off to play dice for a lady.’
‘Dice?’ said Jonny, stung into a confused response.
‘Don’t worry, Jonny,’ he said. ‘I speak in jest. Dice are a challenge to God’s providence, and have been banned, as well you know.’ And with that, Nathaniel was gone.
Jonny was not used to taverns, though his old friend Jim, a journeyman for Field, was known to spend much of his leisure time at one called the Mermaid, just off Butcher’s Row. In less guarded moments Jim had let slip that he was sweet on the innkeeper, who was part Spanish, or something. Jonny summoned up the courage and strode inside. He saw Isaac immediately, asleep on a table. He shook him by the shoulders to wake him.
‘Isaac, Isaac?’ said Jonny. ‘Wake up. Isaac?’
‘What? Oh, Jonny, sorry. I’m really no drinker. It sends me right off. We should get back to the chamber. But first, if you’ll excuse me.’ Isaac stood and ambled in the direction of the privy.
‘Ah, Jonny,’ said Isaac, as he returned to the table. ‘That’s better. Let’s go and see the chamber, eh?’ And with that he led Jonny out of the tavern.
They walked through the narrow streets, blinking in the brightness of the late afternoon sun, their eyes having grown accustomed to the tavern’s dingy interior. The Three Suns was one of London’s dingiest taverns, and this in a field in which competition was fierce. They had gone a few streets before Jonny realised that he had no idea where he was going, or what he was going to do when he got there. Where he was going to live. How to get food. The more he contemplated his situation the more he felt that Field wasn’t so bad.
‘I bet you’re glad to get out of Field’s clutches,’ said Isaac. ‘I’m glad that Nathaniel persuaded him to release you, Jonny. I think we’re going to have a lot of fun, you and I.’
‘He certainly was extremely persuasive,’ said Jonny. ‘I didn’t know indentures could be revoked.’
‘Neither did I. It’s a strange new world in which we live, Jonny.’
‘He mentioned a chamber. What is it? It sounds awfully macabre.’
‘Ah, the chamber is where we unravel the secrets of men’s hearts, where we dip our pens into men’s lives, where we enfold ourselves and thus may overhear their most private conversations,’ said Isaac, drifting off into his thoughts to such an extent that Jonny was forced to take his arm in order that he might prevent him from walking under a horse and cart that were trotting along gently in the opposite direction.
‘It sounds awfully like a torture chamber,’ said Jonny, ‘and I’m pretty certain that’s no place for me. Or for you, Isaac. You belong in the republic of letters, lording it over Latin and Greek, harrying hands and capturing cipher.’
‘Well, you’ll see soon enough.’ With this, he removed a key from some inner part of his garments and walked towards a small door set in the wall they’d been walking alongside for the past few hundred yards. The door yielded to his touch and they entered the courtyard. Having locked away the outside world they walked a few, short steps to a stairway, and thence to another door, though this one needed no key, it just swung open. Isaac held out his arm. ‘Behold, the Black Chamber.’
Jonny looked into the room and smiled. ‘Well, Isaac, I have to hand it to you. I couldn’t have come up with a better name myself.’
Isaac pushed him aside. ‘Imagination, Jonny. Use your imagination.’

You can purchase this novel from Amazon

About the author

Pete Langman Author Pic

Pete Langman is an editor, academic, cricketer and sometime rock and roll guitarist who holds a PhD on Francis Bacon (the other one) and was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease at 40. His non-fiction encompasses Cricket, Parkinson’s Disease, Music, History of Science, literature and culture, and has appeared in publications ranging from The Guardian to Guitar and Bass Magazine. He lives between Leiden and Brighton with his partner Dr. Nadine Akkerman, award-winning author of Invisible Agents, who supplies him with extra historical expertise and keeps asking if they can have a cat now, please.

You can follow the author on Twitter

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Firewatching by Russ Thomas #Review #BlogTour #Thriller

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ONE WRONG MOVE
A body is found bricked into the walls of a house. From the state of the hands, it’s clear the dead man was buried alive. Soon, the victim is linked to an old missing person’s case and DS Adam Tyler is called.
WILL IGNITE
As the sole representative of South Yorkshire’s Cold Case Review Unit, Tyler recognises his role for what it is – a means of keeping him out of the way following an ‘incident’. When this case falls in his lap, he grabs the opportunity to fix his stagnating career.
THE CITY
And then Tyler discovers he has a connection to the case that hopelessly compromises him. He makes the snap decision not to tell his superiors, certain that he and only he can solve the crime. But now Tyler must move carefully to find out the truth, without destroying the case or himself.

Meanwhile, someone in the city knows exactly what happened to the body. Someone who is watching Adam closely. Someone with an unhealthy affinity with fire. . .

A taut investigative thriller bursting with character and tension, introducing an enigmatic, fresh lead detective unlike any you have met before – Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler – for fans of Adrian McKinty, Tana French, Steve Cavanagh and Sharon Bolton. 

Review

It is refreshing and exciting on picking up a book to find within a few pages, enough reasons to not only know you’re going to love it, but to be absolutely certain that if you could, you’d give it more than the five stars amazon allows!

The characterisation is fabulous. Anyone that reads booksaremycwtches will know that I love to celebrate the inclusion of LGBT+ characters in a novel, so Firewatching gets a big thumbs up from me for that. Not only is there an LGBT character, but DS Adam Tyler is the lead and that is still rare enough to be celebrated, he is also what we all what in a thriller, a flawed, determined, fascinating character, who is broody and a bit of a loner.

Okay, so why else did I love Firewatching? Well it is quite frankly, thrilling and as the cliché goes, I didn’t want to put it down. The Firewatcher of the title is extraordinary and remained a mystery to me, right until the writer wanted me to find out. I have read an awful lot of thrillers in the last few years and it has become harder shock and thrill me to the extent Russ Thomas has done with his exceptional thriller. I actually sat back and went f**K me on more than one occasion! I admit I am easily scared, but seriously, this story had me reading with one eye closed, trying to block out the shocks to come. The images of the victim being buried alive made me shudder and yet I had to read on, the writing and story being so compulsive, it was impossible to run away from my fears. So face them I did and it was so worth it.

The group of characters felt so real that I could imagine them as anyone’s neighbour. None felt clichéd. Each was there to move the story forward and throw you off the scent of who the firewatcher was. It was like a great Agatha Christie novel, in which we get to know each one as an individual, so they weren’t one dimensional filler. All were consistently well written devices, any of whom could have played a deadly part in the murder, of the body found bricked into the walls of a deserted house. From old ladies with secrets to hide, a police officer with a point to prove, a priest who is an enigma, you’re constantly having to reassess who the real criminals are.

If you loved TV programmes like Broadchurch, you will love this book. It celebrates first class story telling, combines characterisation and storyline to produce and intelligent and thrilling read.

Many thanks to the author, the publisher and blog tour organiser for the ARC in return for an honest review.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon

About the author

Russ Thomas Author Pic-2

Russ Thomas was born in Essex, raised in Berkshire and now lives in Sheffield. He grew up in the 80s reading anything he could get his hands on at the library, writing stories, watching large amounts of television, playing videogames, and largely avoiding the great outdoors. He spent five years trying to master playing the electronic organ and another five trying to learn Spanish. It didn’t take him too long to realise that he would be better off sticking to the writing.

After a few “proper” jobs (among them: pot-washer, optician’s receptionist, supermarket warehouse operative, call-centre telephonist and storage salesman) he discovered the joys of book-selling, where he could talk to people about books all day.

You can follow the author on Twitter

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Pine by Francis Toon #Review #BlogTour

Pine Cover

They are driving home from the search party when they see her. The trees are coarse and tall in the winter light, standing like men.

Lauren and her father Niall live alone in the Highlands, in a small village surrounded by pine forest. When a woman stumbles out onto the road one Halloween night, Niall drives her back to their house in his pickup. In the morning, she’s gone.

In a community where daughters rebel, men quietly rage, and drinking is a means of forgetting, mysteries like these are not out of the ordinary. The trapper found hanging with the dead animals for two weeks. Locked doors and stone circles. The disappearance of Lauren’s mother a decade ago.

Lauren looks for answers in her tarot cards, hoping she might one day be able to read her father’s turbulent mind. Neighbours know more than they let on, but when local teenager Ann-Marie goes missing it’s no longer clear who she can trust.

In the shadow of the Highland forest, Francine Toon captures the wildness of rural childhood and the intensity of small-town claustrophobia. In a place that can feel like the edge of the word, she unites the chill of the modern gothic with the pulse of a thriller. It is the perfect novel for our haunted times.

‘Hugely atmospheric, exquisitely written and utterly gripping.’ Lucy Foley, author of The Hunting Party

Review

There are many things I could wax lyrical about Pine, but it would end up the length of an essay and so I am going to attempt to be a little more succinct.

It is without wishing to sound too much like a crazy fan girl, one of the best thrillers I have read in quite some time.

The power comes from the quiet moments in the story, all of which convey an overwhelming sense of unease, which starts almost from page one and remains a brooding and compelling presence throughout the novel. It managed to both scare me enough I wanted to look away, yet was so tender in its portrayal of Lauren and her father’s grief, over the mother that went missing ten years before, that I could not pull myself away from the pages. Their grief was like a low-lying fever that consumes them, yet in moments of blessed relief, allows them to function in some kind of silent nightmare. For Lauren that involves bullying at school, which had me aching to scream at her tormenter’s to leave her alone. While for her father, though he remains a part of the community, is also isolated by their suspicions and his own feelings of abandonment. Francine Pine manages with a deft hand, to make me as a reader care deeply about them both, yet never be able to really trust in their narrative of events. It made my unease while reading perversely delightful. It feels odd to say I enjoyed the feeling of being tormented by events, yet I cannot lie, I relished the sense claustrophobia and how I was consumed as much events as both these central characters.

The characterisation is stunning. From the main characters of Lauren and her father Niall, whose pain and torment shines off the page, to the plethora of supporting characters, some we get to know better than others. The writer has brought together a cast, all of whom play a symbolic part in the story, such sa Anne-Marie who besides seemingly being a victim of a haunted village, helps us to understand Lauren pain and the mystery around her mother’s disappearance. Everyone has an integral part in the story and Francine Toon uses each to deliver a forceful plot, to help us feel the full impact, the missing women has had on all their lives over the last ten years. Truly though it is Lauren and Niall who will haunt me, because the depiction of their grief is deep-seated and almost too painful to witness.

This is no run of the mill thriller. It is more than a story about a missing woman, a missing teenager! It takes this highly popular genre, injects a sense of gothic horror, for it is eerie, and yet manages to be a painful depiction of grief and loss.

It takes us to an isolated highland community, wraps us within its boundaries and makes us witness to events we cannot explain.

An utterly superb read that has haunted me from the moment I finished it.

My thanks to the author, publisher and blog tour organiser for the ARC in return for an honest review.

You can purchase Line from Amazon

About the author 

Francine Toon Author Picture

Francine Toon grew up in Sutherland and Fife, Scotland. Her poetry, written as Francine Elena, has appeared in The Sunday Times, The Best British Poetry 2013 and 2015 anthologies (Salt) and Poetry London, among other places. Pine was longlisted for the Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award. She lives in London and works in publishing. Follow her on Twitter @FrancineElena

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The Home by Sarah Stovell #Review #BlogTour #Thriller #OrendaBooks.

The Home Cover

When the body of a pregnant fifteen-year-old is discovered in a churchyard on Christmas morning, the community is shocked, but unsurprised. For she lived in The Home, the residence of three young girls, whose violent and disturbing pasts have seen them cloistered away…

As a police investigation gets underway, the lives of Hope, Lara and Annie are examined, and the staff who work at the home are interviewed, leading to shocking and distressing revelations … and clear evidence that someone is seeking revenge.

A gritty, dark and harrowing psychological thriller, The Home is also a heartbreaking drama and a piercing look at the underbelly of society, where children learn what they live … if they are allowed to live at all…

‘Passions flare and curdle, and the reader’s sympathies are kept on a knife-edge as Stovell skilfully juggles two unreliable narrators. It’s a remarkable debut in the crowded psychological thriller field, written with great sureness of touch and tone — it already feels like a summer bestseller’ Sunday Times

Review

It sometimes feels like I’m sprouting a cliché when I say a thriller is dark, but it is so appropriate to Sarah Stovell’s devastatingly emotional and shocking tale of three deeply damaged girls, who live in a home for cared for children.

The writing is powerful and conveys with a deft hand the many ways they are damaged by events in their past. She takes the horror and weaves it into a tale that refuses to be forgotten know matter how long ago you turned the last page. It haunts both your mind and your heart and forced me as a reader to take a step back and acknowledge the many ways we let these children down. Not only did it expose flaws in the care system, it painted a complex and nuanced portrayal of each individual child. Their actions both horrified me and shattered my heart, for in having to survive childhood, they become fragile and angry. Having experienced the damage done to such children, I promise you that the writer is giving you a masterclass in portraying both their anger and emotional vulnerability. Adults in this story rarely come across as up to the task of protecting them and as a result, the death of one, gives us a thriller of such complexity, it will leave you a wreck for many weeks after.

The details of abuse are not there to shock for shocks sake; they are there to paint a picture of broken children, on the verge of turning into damaged adults and the consequences for them and those around them, of society’s failure to protect them. From page one, to the end, we are given a glimpse into what shaped them, why they’re in the home and are chilled to the core about the events that lead to Hope’s death. It is impossible to put the book down, your desperate for the possibility of redemption, you want with all your heart that her death leads to justice. Your almost scared to read on though, because the writer digs deep into the events and that’s difficult to face, but your compelled and there is no stopping. I was invested in their story from page one and put on my big girls pants and faced my darkest fears. Was it worth it, bloody hell yes? The reward is that as a reader, I didn’t look away, I took the journey with Hope, Lara and Annie and it was indeed difficult and devastating, but great stories, great literature force you to think, make your heart beat faster than should be possible, make you forget the world around you.

If you’re looking for a psychological thriller of the best type then read The Home. The author has delivered a story with an emotional punch, which will leave you doubled up. It makes you think, it makes you feel complex emotions and it is worth every single second of your precious reading time. You will never forget it and that is the mark of a magnificent story.

My thanks to the author, publisher and blog tour organiser for the ARC in return for an review.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon and Waterstones.

About the author

Sarah Author Picture

Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart. She now lives in Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lincoln University. Her debut psychological thriller, Exquisite, was a number-one bestseller.

You can follow the author on Twitter.

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A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone #Review #BlogTour

Dark Matter Cover

Three generations of women from the Skelfs family take over the family funeral-home and PI businesses in the first book of a taut, page-turning and darkly funny new series.

Meet the Skelfs: well-known Edinburgh family, proprietors of a long-established funeral-home business, and private investigators… When patriarch Jim dies, it’s left to his wife Dorothy, daughter Jenny and granddaughter Hannah to take charge of both businesses, kicking off an unexpected series of events.

Dorothy discovers mysterious payments to another woman, suggesting that Jim wasn’t the husband she thought he was. Hannah’s best friend Mel has vanished from university, and the simple adultery case that Jenny takes on leads to something stranger and far darker than any of them could have imagined.

As the women struggle to come to terms with their grief, and the demands of the business threaten to overwhelm them, secrets from the past emerge, which change everything…

A compelling, tense and shocking thriller and a darkly funny and warm portrait of a family in turmoil, A Dark Matter introduces a cast of unforgettable characters, marking the start of an addictive new series.

Review

After finishing this book, my first thoughts were this book is bloody fantastic and the second, delight that it is the start of a new series.

So why is it so special?

There is a strong and I mean strong, ensemble cast of female characters who shine from the pages. They are expertly crafted and an absolute joy to spend time with. Dorothy, Jenny and Hannah are a rarity in fiction; they are the central characters in a story that reflects both their differing ages, but also the strength and diversity of their lives. From the pitch perfect description of Dorthy’s grief, her revaluation of her marriage and life, Jenny’s self destructive life and young Hannah’s search for answers about her friends disappearance and relationship with both her mum and nan, we have a portrait of a family consumed by grief, yet at the same time, the strength and love that binds them together. The Skelfs are utterly believable and captured my heart and soul as the story progressed through layers of dark comedy and danger. This is a tale about the things that bind us as families, how the ebb and flow of love pushes us apart, but always pulls us together. They are remarkable women, you fee; their pain, their love for each other, their reliance on this network that binds them and you wish, or I did and still do, that I could just spend some time with them. So real, you could almost reach into the pages and take a seat beside them.

Of course, this is also a thriller and a perfect one at that; there is both danger and twists that hit you like you have been sucker punched and struggle to catch your brief as the shock subsides. You need not worry if you’re after a thriller that will knock you off your feet, because this one will. But for me, it is lifted up into the, I wish I could award it a sack full of stars catergory, by those moments in the novel that deal with their grief at the death of patriarch Jim. Within the first few pages you become a witness not only to their loss, but a stunning depiction of his funeral and cremation that rocked my reading world, so intense, so real did it feel, that I had to take a step back before I carried on reading. It is simply like no other book I have ever read. Just for those few pages and Dorothy’s search for answers, I would happily pay any price the publisher asked of me. It is simply mesmerising and rewarding on every level.

Add to that a mystery disappearance to be solved, a husband accused of cheating, three incrediable women and you have a story, that will rock you reading world, make you laugh, cry, gasp in shock, but best of all, it will

My thanks to author and the publisher for the ARC in return for an honest review.

You can purchase this book from Amazon and Waterstones

About the author

Doug Author Picture

Doug Johnstone is the author of ten novels, most recently Breakers (2018), which was longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. Several of his books have been bestsellers and award winners, and his work has been praised by the likes of Val McDermid, Irvine Welsh and Ian Rankin. He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions, and has been an arts journalist for twenty years. Doug is a songwriter and musician with five albums and three EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s also player-manager of the Scotland Writers Football Club. He lives in Edinburgh. Follow Doug on Twitter @doug_johnstone and visit his website: dougjohnstone.com

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Book Covers As Art – The Song of Achillies by Madeline Miller.

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Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles.
Despite their differences, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess.
But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny.
Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

I am the first to admit that a am a book cover geek. My little reading heart is always attracted to a beautifully thought out cover, one that reflects the power of the story, that tells you something about the tale within.  To me if the publisher has belief in the story being told, they will reflect that in the cover they give it.

So when I saw an article about book covers as art, I instantly wanted to start a series of blog posts covering this very topic.

It didn’t take any thought to decide which cover I should start with. The Song of Achilles is one of my all time favourite reads and from the moment I first saw the cover, I loved it. It is both beautiful and it mad an immediate impression on me as I entered the bookshop.

This is without a doubt a peace of art I would hang on my wall if anyone ever sold it as a print. Cover designers are artists without any doubt and should be celebrated as such!

“In the darkness, two shadows, reaching through the hopeless, heavy dusk. Their hands meet, and light spills in a flood like a hundred golden urns pouring out of the sun.”
― Madeline Miller, quote from The Song of Achilles

About the author 

Madeline Miller was born in Boston and grew up in New York City and Philadelphia. She attended Brown University, where she earned her BA and MA in Classics. For the last ten years she has been teaching and tutoring Latin, Greek and Shakespeare to high school students. She also studied in the Dramaturgy department at Yale School of Drama, where she focused on the adaptation of classical texts to modern forms. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA, where she teaches and writes. The Song of Achilles is her first novel. Website: http://www.madelinemiller.com