Book Extract ~ Blog Tour ~ The Belle Hotel by Craig Melvin

The Belle Hotel Cover Image

‘A great read’ Matt Haig

13 October 2008. Welcome to the worst day of Chef Charlie Sheridan’s life, the day he’s about to lose his two great loves: his childhood sweetheart, Lulu, and the legendary Brighton hotel his grandfather, Franco Sheridan, opened in 1973.

This is the story of the Belle Hotel, one that spans the course of four decades – from the training of a young chef in the 1970s and 80s, through the hedonistic 90s, up to the credit crunch of the noughties – and leads us right back to Charlie’s present-day suffering.

In this bittersweet and salty tale, our two Michelin star-crossed lovers navigate their seaside hangout for actors, artists and rock stars; the lure of the great restaurants of London; and the devastating effects of three generations of family secrets.

I would like to thank Craig Melvin for busting  booksaremycwtches today with an extract of his nobro today.

Prologue
Credit Crunch

Legal Notice of Repossession 13 October 2008
Dear Charlie,
Unless you pay £10,000 by noon today, Belle Hotel will be repossessed under section 21 (4a) of the Property Act.
This is your final warning, Charlie.
Yours,
Paul Peters, Banker

13 October 2008
9am: Charlie
Tick-tock, tock-tick, crunch.
13 October. One day that would not be going down in Charlie Sheridan’s grandfather’s book as a good one. Charlie had three hours to save the two loves of his life. Paul Peters, his exasperated banker, waited with the bailiffs to change Belle Hotel’s locks on the stroke of noon. Charlie had already blown it with his other love, his long- suffering girlfriend Lulu. Lulu had chucked Charlie by text after her new suitor, Graeme, showed her the latest tabloid scandal involving ‘My Night with Belle Hotel Celebrity Chef’.
Sweating into his chef’s whites, Charlie thumbed a last-ditch attempt from the kitchen of Belle Hotel.

Give me another chance, Lu, I’ll make it up 2
The phone company cut Charlie off on U. He slung the knackered Nokia into the sink, where it plunged through a sea of crushed Stella cans, and swung out of the kitchen door and into the alley leading to Ship Street. Charlie left a salty trail of disaster in his wake. Uncollected bins, disconnected water, gas and electric. Fridges bare, broken hearts and plates.

9am: Lulu
Lulu sat at her paper-free desk in the hushed surroundings of the Hotel Epicure management office. Time passed. No reply. Not for want of looking. Lulu stood, tucked the stray strands of her long bob behind her ears and let out a slow release of breath. Charlie bloody Sheridan, you’ve really blown it this time. Typical. Just as they were finally getting things right and Lulu was seriously considering going back to him and Belle Hotel. Home. The place they’d done their growing up. Belle Hotel yesterday, the location of the ghastly scene between the two of them when she’d delivered her news and, then, the magazine article. It blared up at her where Graeme had thoughtfully left it, just within view. Charlie had made her decision for her. Lulu looked at Graeme: clean-shaven, neat, reliable. Everything Charlie was not.
‘He’s had his last chance. Let’s do this.’
Graeme clicked the spreadsheet shut. He stood, slipped off his starched ‘Executive Head Chef’ embroidered jacket and eased into the leather Hugo Boss trench coat he deemed more suitable for stealing another man’s work and woman. Paul Peters had been more than receptive when they’d called the banker with the offer for Belle Hotel. Be there with the banker’s draft by nine thirty and we’ll whisk through the inventory together. Peters’ faith in the word of a Sheridan had gone to the grave with Charlie’s grandfather. The public’s faith in Paul Peters’ bank was dead and buried, too. Graeme had read out the headlines to Lulu from the live feed on his computer. Hookes Bank was now publicly owned and Paul Peters would be desperate to sell Belle Hotel to the two of them asap to cover his mismanagement of the account for over three decades.

Lulu watched the digital clock hit nine thirty, shook her head and stood to take Graeme’s outstretched arm. The brand-new business partners walked arm in arm down the salty shaft of Ship Street to Belle Hotel.

9.30am: Charlie
Charlie pushed on along a wind-whipped Ship Street, moments before Graeme and Lulu appeared. Ten grand. That was a lot of lolly to haul in by lunch. Who’d help? Who was still on his side? The bloody bank had got him hook, line and sinker this time. Hook, line and sinker. Sinker, his fishmonger, yes! The old miser always kept cash at his seafront arch. Charlie whooped with delight, racing out across Kingsway to the prom, too drunk on debt to give a damn about traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, all usual warnings of the dangers that lay ahead. He flicked the bird at Hotel Epicure as he passed. Lulu, his love, the one he could not be with, was in there plotting against him with that chef-accountant, Graeme. Go to hell, Graeme. The bailiff’s note, what was left of it, half burnt in Charlie’s pocket. He’d rolled and used it to light his morning fag from the pilot light on the stove, sputtering along on what was left of the disconnected gas.
The one-man credit crunch slid to a halt on the slippery cobbles outside the flaking paint sign of ‘N. Sinker, Fishmonger. Est 1788’. The heavy wooden door, faded Brighton blue, was firmly shut against the hostile elements. Right, get a grand off Sinker and buy some time. Charlie flicked the butt of his fag in an oily puddle and banged on the door. A radio playing in a nearby arch broke the news that Hookes, Belle Hotel’s bank for four decades, had been bailed out by the government a day late to get Charlie off it. Hookes off the hook; Charlie not. Typical. ‘Go away.’
‘Sinker, it’s me, Charlie.’ ‘Definitely go away, then.’
Charlie banged harder on the heavy door.
‘Come on, Sinker, open up. You’ve gotta help me. Save Belle Hotel.’
Charlie could hear a shuffling behind the door and then the slow slinging of locks. A set of beady eyes glinted out through the gap in the door. The stench of fish assaulted Charlie’s nostrils.
‘Save Belle Hotel. What, lend you money? You’re joking, aren’t you. You owe me over nine hundred in unpaid bills. Why would I help you?’
‘You’ve been supplying my hotel for thirty-five frigging years, Sinker. And now you’re quibbling about a few hundred quid. Come on, mate. Give us a break, here. If not for me, then for Belle Hotel’s sake.’
Charlie kicked the bottom of the door to make his point.
A warm quid coin shot through the narrow gap in the door, struck the cobbles and rolled under a pile of lobster pots.
‘There’s my contribution. What you’re worth. Try your luck in the slots on the pier. Then try and live within your means, like your grandfather taught you.’
Live within yer means, that was Franco’s maxim. But Franco was dead and Charlie was left to live by whatever means necessary without him.

9.30am: Lulu
Paul Peters waited at Belle Hotel’s front door to meet them.
‘I feel strange to be doing this, Paul, going behind Charlie’s back.’ ‘Strange times indeed, my dear. I expect you’ve heard our news? Nationalised at noon. Bloody disgrace, Thomas Hooke will be turning in his grave. So, Belle Hotel. It’s not as if you don’t know your way
around. Shall we?’
Graeme stepped back to let Lulu pass. Sort of thing that Charlie would never do. Charlie never did. Past tense. She shuddered at the reality of what she was about to do and then shook it off with the thought of the hundred K of her father’s money Charlie had burned through in less than six months. It had to be done, there was no other way. For the sake of Belle Hotel. Her father was right.
‘Lead on, Mr Peters. We aren’t the legal owners yet. I’m guessing you’ve brought all the paperwork with you. Dad said you’d be keen to shore up the Hookes balance sheet today. With the chancellor breathing down your neck.’
Graeme reached out for her hand, but she was reluctant to take it. Not yet. He’d get his way later, Charlie had made sure of that. But take care of business first. Isn’t that what her father always said? Graeme had impressed Roger Hardman when they’d met. Good head for figures, that lad. Polar opposite of that Charlie Sheridan. Looks like he knows how to run a tight ship. Happy to serve frozen cod, keep the margins fresh. Good lad.

10am: Charlie
Charlie set off towards the pier with the quid in his pocket. Well, it was a start. Nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine more to go. How many times, how many more times would he have to do this? Borrowing from Tom, Dick and Harry to pay Paul Peters. Fucking credit crunch. Fucking Hotel Epicure, Fucking Graeme. Judas. Charlie couldn’t bring himself to curse Lulu. He loved her, but could not be with her. So much had happened to them both over the years. It had always seemed their destiny to be together, yet every time they got close something happened to snatch their happiness away. Recent nuclear bombshells and today’s carnival of chaos were just the last in a long line of lamentable epic love and work fails that
killed the chances of them ever being together.
Charlie needed that 10K badly. It was enough to clear the
emergency over-overdraft and buy himself another month’s trading and some time to set things straight with Lulu. Although it may already be too late for that. Too many lies and betrayals. If he told her the whole truth, what little chance they had of getting back together would be gone.
Charlie glanced at the Roman numerals on the pier clock. Hurry up, Charlie, Belle Hotel becomes a pumpkin at noon. Get on with it. At this rate, Charlie’d never get back with enough cash in time.
Charlie pulled the quid from his pocket, yanking the repossession letter from the bank along with it. What was it with the bits of paper? Notice of repossession, court order, removal from the Michelin Guide. Bring back the old days, when Franco’s book bulged with glowing reviews, drop-top Jag purchase notes and recipes that held the secrets of Belle Hotel’s success.
Maybe he should take Sinker’s advice and gamble the quid on the pier’s pound waterfall? Charlie cut under the flashing sign and set off across the salty planks for the arcade. Off on yet another wild goose chase, hoping against hope that he could turn a pound into a pot of gold.

10am: Lulu
‘And on this floor, sea-facing doubles, carpet, worn, er, very worn and one fire extinguisher. Last serviced in, er, December nineteen ninety- nine.’
Lulu looked at the time on her phone. Two hours to go and still no word from Charlie. All it’d take was one word. If his mobile was shot, he could always call her from a payphone. She’d pick up. And it wasn’t as if he’d have any problem remembering the number. It was one digit off his. They’d been to the One-2-One shop together in Churchill Square. Got the phones so that he could call her from Le Gavroche while she was working at Belle Hotel and not have to speak to his mum or grandfather. Lulu shook her head and stuck her phone back in her handbag.
‘I think we’ve seen enough of the bedrooms, Mr Peters. We know they need a major refurb. Let’s go and see Belle Hotel Restaurant and do a stock-check.’
Graeme nodded in agreement and placed a guiding arm around Lulu’s back as they descended the wide flight of stairs. Lulu sidestepped away from him and bent to pick up a plastic cigarette lighter that someone, Charlie probably, had dropped.

10.30am: Charlie
Half an hour later, Charlie was on a roll, his blue-and-white checked pockets bulging with golden coins. Then, as was Charlie all over, just when he was on a winning streak, his luck changed and he lost the lot. Quid after quid went back onto the waterfall and not one bastard coin came out.
Then Charlie had an idea. Time to use a skill he’d learned as a kid. The old arm inside the machine trick. Looking around, checking that none of the polo-shirted pier attendants were about, Charlie dropped to his knees and pulled up the sleeve of his chef ’s jacket to the elbow. He popped his last quid in the slot while holding down the refund button with his left hand. Right, Charlie had thirty seconds to shake as many coins out of the beast before the tilt-tamper alarm was re-activated. In a flash, his right arm was in the hole and into the guts of the machine. Charlie felt the sweat bead on his brow as his body took the full weight of the thing, while fishing about with his bent right wrist.
Christ, this thing was heavy. Then, just as a wave of coins spilled out onto the patterned carpet, Charlie felt the thing begin to tip.

11am: Lulu
‘This’ll have to be renewed. I want metric calibrated equipment, vac- pacs, water baths.’
Lulu looked at Graeme looking at Charlie’s kitchen. Her heart hurt. She’d watched Charlie earn his star on those knacL
pots. Seen Franco, his grandfather and mentor to the two of them, throw most of them at the back door in one decade or another.
‘This door will have to be replaced. Looks like it has faced the firing squad. I’ll need a bacteri-seal delivery door like we have at Hotel Epicure.’
Graeme was beginning to sound like he knew who was about to be boss, which he didn’t. Whatever funds Lulu had scraped together to buy Belle Hotel back from the bank had come from her own years of hard graft in the catering business. Belle Hotel, Quaglino’s, The Wolseley and Hotel Epicure. Sure, her father was wealthy, the self- made carpet king had made most of his loot outfitting Brighton’s hotels. But what wealth Roger now had was sunk into his new Academy school and any surplus he had squirrelled away in an Icelandic bank, off the thin ice of Britain’s credit crunch. Graeme, for all his fancy certificates, had little more in savings than she did. Lulu chided herself for not having the guts to go Belle Hotel alone. Shame that Janet, Charlie’s mother, was a sozzled wreck. It would have been good to keep her on with the business. Paul Peters had popped in to see Janet at the Belle Hotel pub and exchanged a few salty tales for old times’ sake before nipping back through the adjoining door and making sure he’d locked it from their side.
Lulu looked from Graeme to Paul Peters and gave them both her young-restaurant-manager-of-the-year award-winning smile.
‘Righto, that’s quite enough time in here. There’ll be no new pans till we turn a profit, but I can promise you a deep clean, just to get rid of the smell of him, I mean, grease.’

11am: Charlie
Charlie eased his head from side to side and tried to lift the machine off himself. The pain in his right wrist, trapped and snapped inside the machine, was unbearable. But he had to bear it. Had to pick up the mound of pounds that he’d been covered in when the thing came
over on him. Then, Charlie’s thirty seconds of grace were gone, the tilt alarm sounded and four burly polo-shirted pier attendants exploded from the change booth. Charlie screamed blue murder from the scene of the crime and promptly passed out from the pain in his broken wrist.

11.15am: Lulu
‘I think we can safely conclude that we’ll not be seeing Charlie this side of noon. Mr Peters, can we proceed with the contracts? I’ve got the banker’s draft, here. How about we get everything ready then sign at noon? He has to be back at Belle Hotel before noon with funds, right, or it’s yours to repossess?’
Lulu felt sick inside.

11.15am: Charlie
Charlie came to on a bench outside the arcade, the sound of heavy seas singing in his shell-likes, and waited for whatever mess he was in to come clanging back to him. Belle Hotel. Lulu. Midday. Christ. What time was it? Charlie struggled to sit up. As his eyes began to focus, Charlie noticed two policemen walking towards the arcade.
The failed quid machine heist. His wrist, limp at his side, spiked pain when he tried to move it. The pier attendants must have called the cops. Explaining things to plod was not an option. Charlie had been too much of a regular down the cop shop of late for all that. There was only one thing for it.

11.30am: Lulu
‘So we sign here and here, yes?’
Lulu’s hand shook a little as she held the paperwork. This was painful. Damn Charlie for pushing her to it.

11.30am: Charlie
Charlie crawled up the shingle on the nudist beach. The swim had
been horrific, trying to keep his head up above the churning water. Hoping like hell that the cops didn’t spot him. Charlie shook his soaking head and looked up, trying to ascertain from the height of the watery sun above what time it was. He picked up the track that wove from the beach and up onto Whitehawk Hill. The pathways of his youth, walked in happier circumstances, pathways that led down to Charlie’s home,
It’d be a good half-hour walk and his wrist was killing him, but he had to get the money. Charlie needed a friend right now. And preferably a friend with funds to lend. As he crossed onto Whitehawk Hill, Charlie looked back to take in Brighton, the city by the sea. Arcs of pastel-hued terraces ran down to the pier, blue light of the cop car still flashing, and, hidden behind the rock shops, the briny slit of Ship Street and
Charlie walked and the adrenalin ebbed away with the salty water. It was replaced by an overwhelming feeling that it was all his fault. If he’d not been so fucked, he’d never have had to go near the pier. If he’d not gone on such a bender after Franco’s death, and if all those secrets hadn’t come out, his right wrist would still be straight. What had Lulu shouted at him down the phone? Walking disaster. That was it. He’d better walk a bit quicker, or it really would be a disaster.
The pain in his wrist was excruciating, but two hours in A&E was not an option. He had to get back, needed an alibi that placed him away from the scene of the pier incident, something to keep him out of the cop shop. Last thing Charlie needed was another night in the cells.
The track snaked up past the electric thrum of the Whitehawk transmitter. His allotment was near. Dawn was near. The earth mother he hoped would show him some love. The allotment gave Charlie his alibi, too. Something to place him away from what happened at the pier. He’d needed some fresh air that morning, he’d say, turn up at Belle Hotel with some vegetables from his allotment, hide the wrist,
Napoleon-style in his chef’s jacket; no one would be any the wiser. Slip Paul Peters the wedge. Give ’em the old Charlie Rock Star Chef smile. Cook up a spot of lunch. Back in business. Bingo.
The allotment was quiet, smoke belching from chimneys, but nobody up and about. It was, after all, barely lunchtime. Charlie weaved through the assortment of handmade shacks looking for something to take away. Near his own, long-neglected, Belle Hotel allotment, Charlie spied what he was looking for and grabbed a bunch of carrots, recently pulled kicking and screaming from the earth. The carrots had been neatly laid in a stack by the water butt and Charlie thanked the heavens that he didn’t have to break the autumn soil with his one good hand.
He rapped on the door of Dawn’s railway carriage. ‘Charlie, what a surprise.’
Dawn was still in the day-glo T-shirt she used as a nightie. Her body felt warm and soft as she leaned in for a hello hug. A moment or two later and Dawn fully woke up.
‘OK, Sheridan. What is it this time?’
She sighed. This wasn’t the first time he’d come begging, but to be fair he had always paid it back with a chunk on top. Eventually.
‘I’ll go and get me spade.’
Dawn made Charlie wait blindfolded in the railway carriage as she dug up her treasure. She trusted him, but not that much.
‘There you go, sunshine. Two grand. My life’s savings. Be sure to pay it back. And Charlie… be good, eh. Try not to hurt anyone.’
Charlie took his favourite route back to Belle Hotel, due south down Whitehawk Hill along the track carved out by his grandfather, Franco.
‘Straight to the sea. This way you cut out all that council estate concrete. Here we go, Charlie Farley, you want a hand over this stile?’ As Charlie made his way past the county hospital, cutting a swathe through the pub sided, seagull-shat alleyways of Kemp Town,
a wobbly theatre flat of seediness and sophistication, Charlie broke out with his bunch of carrots and limp wrist onto the seafront.
Larry’s house was up for sale again. Number four Royal Crescent’s black ceramic tiles glinted in the sharp October sun. The great man was long gone, heaven via Steyning, an alabaster plaque all that remained to remind us.

BARON OLIVIER of BRIGHTON OM ACTOR
1907–1989
Lived Here 1961–1979

Charlie raised the bunch of carrots, a greeting for his grandfather’s most famous friend, and set off westward along the prom.
Charlie knew it must be nearly noon and he was nowhere near his target. Charlie had blown it once and for all. All he’d had to do was get back with enough cash and he’d already saved Belle Hotel, got it firing on gas, got on the track to getting his Michelin star back. How hard was it to stride into Belle Hotel, stick it to Paul Peters, pop his head into the pub and pat Janet, his mother, on the head, stuff what was left of the Hooke’s repossession notice in the back of Franco’s book, strap on his apron (kitchen hook where he left it), scrub, turn, blanche and serve the buttered carrots for three pounds seventy-five’s worth of salvation. That was all that Charlie had to do. His one last chance. And he’d fucked it up.

Midday: Lulu
Lulu turned the cigarette lighter over and over in her hands. The Belle Hotel dining room was as old as she was. Peters pushed the papers towards her and Graeme. This was it.
‘Do you have a pen?’
Of course Graeme did, he’d brought his space pen. The one that wrote upside down. Lulu took Paul Peters’ proffered Bic.

Midday: Charlie
His timeworn key wouldn’t fit in the lock. The shiny new face of the hole repelled Charlie’s ham-fisted attempt at entry. Disgusted, he flung the only key left on his ring in the gutter and set off for the side twitten of Belle Hotel and the hotel’s pub.
Janet, his mother, was propping up the bar. Or rather, the bar was propping her up. Twin tracks of mascara trailed down her face.
‘Ma, they’ve locked me out. I’m back with the cash.’ ‘Too late, darling. Peters has already sold her.’
‘Like fuck he has. Over my dead body.’ ‘No, sweetheart, over Franco’s dead body.’ ‘Where are they?’
Janet jerked a thumb over her shoulder. Restaurant.
His restaurant. The bloody cheek of it. He ran at the door that separated the pub from the rest of the hotel and was surprised to bounce back off it rather than plough through. What a friggin’ liberty. Peters had locked the brass, slid it shut from the other side. Charlie looked back at Janet and cracked out his lucky grin.
‘How long’s this thing been locked?’

12.04pm: Charlie & Lulu
Lulu heard the thud and knew it was him. ‘It’s not fair. We should at least let him in.’
She rose, left her co-conspirators, went into the lobby and shot back the bolt.
As Lulu walked back to the dining room, Charlie made his entrance with an almighty crash. Expecting to break the door down, he’d run at it like a bull in a china shop and flown through the lobby when the door yielded easily to his shoulder barge.
Charlie lay dazed on the wooden floor. He’d hit his head on the reception desk and was out cold for what felt like decades. When he came round, Charlie struggled to work out when he was. He knew exactly where he was, but he hadn’t seen Belle Hotel from floor height since, when? Was he, two, crawling around on the floor with Lulu, getting under people’s Cuban-heeled feet? Or maybe thirteen, back from the fishing trip and collapsed in a dirty heap before Franco scooped him up and brushed him out of sight. Or, wait, it’s the morning glory after the night before, Oasis at the Brighton Centre and the after-party to end all after-parties, hadn’t he crashed out with Noel in this same spot? But, look, what’s this, Lulu looking down at him, and what’s this, Paul Peters spoiling the view and then, from out of shot, the nasal twang of that excuse for a chef, Graeme.
‘Is he all right? I mean, Lulu, shouldn’t we call the police, or something?’
‘He’s fine, Graeme. Come on, Charlie, get up. We want to talk to you.’
Lulu helped him to his feet, took him by the shoulders and shook some sense into him. This was business now, not love.
Belle Hotel’s grandfather clock struck noon. Set five minutes late, Brighton time, it had been at the hotel almost as long as Franco had owned it. Bought it from the pawnbroker’s, Franco did. Cost a pretty penny, even back then.
Charlie clocked the clock chiming and an idea struck him. ‘Lu, tell these vultures to wait. I’ll be right back.’
Charlie braced the clock against the shoulder of his one good arm, tipped it back and lifted. He was gone, back out of the bar entrance before anybody had the time to do anything about it.

Graeme and Paul Peters went back into the restaurant and took their place on the brass-studded green leather banquette at table one, the family table. The table at which the Sheridans broke bread and
talked business. Loyalty, conflict, power. Franco, Charlie and Janet. Four decades of family business and now this. Outsiders staking their claim. It was too much for Janet to take, so she took it out on the beer pump in the pub, swilling her glass and swaying along like the drunken sailor. She watched Charlie heading past with Franco’s clock and shook her head.

Ten minutes later, Charlie was back, grinning from ear to ear. Lulu was still waiting for him in the lobby. She’d passed the time looking at a Hockney-ish portrait of Franco, Janet and a cat that hung over the key rack. Charlie collapsed into Lulu and then rolled into the restaurant on his ex-girlfriend’s arm, letting himself be led to face the firing squad. Peters spread the papers in front of him, covering the stain-spattered tablecloth with words, deeds and numbers. The restaurant that rang down the decades, percussion of cutlery on china, was deathly silent.
‘I am sorry, Charlie, for Franco’s sake. You missed the deadline. But for the future of your grandfather’s legacy it is essential that you countersign these papers and let Graeme and Lulu open the hotel tonight as a going concern. They have bookings that they can overspill from Hotel Epicure and a healthy few pencilled in for dinner tonight. Come on, Charlie, be smart, take a leaf out of Franco’s book. Who knows, play your cards right and Graeme may even offer you a role in the kitchen, you know, show him the ropes, make sure Belle’s reputation stays intact.’
Quite a speech from Peters, though Charlie was barely taking things in. He could feel Lulu’s grip on his good arm, the searing pain from the other, and as Peters came to the end of his words, Charlie’s gaze settled on a nodding Graeme. Not so much on Graeme’s bonce, but on what the thieving, talentless bastard had in his mitts.
Franco’s book.
The leather book Larry gave Franco.
Franco’s book, which held the story of Belle Hotel. Four decades of secret recipes and receipts. Every important document relating to the Sheridan family and Belle Hotel. Under Graeme’s fist.
‘Paul, I’m back. I was back before twelve, helping Mum out in the pub. Ask her if you like. I tried to enter my hotel, but you seemed to have locked the interconnecting door from your side. Is that legal? Locking me out of part of my own hotel? And Paul, I have the money you requested. Not… all of it, but enough.’
Charlie twisted out of Lulu’s grip, reached around for the roll of Dawn’s tatty tens and twenties and the pawnbroker’s crisp fifty-pound notes. He yanked the roll from his back pocket and flung it onto the table where it bounced twice and plonked in Peters’ lap.
‘Put that in your pipe and smoke it.’ ‘Charlie, I, er, we’ve come too far to—’
‘Five K. Enough for five more days. Come on, Peters, you owe me that. I’ll give you the other five grand in five days’ time. Don’t you dare lecture me about financial prudence. You should hear what they’re saying about your fucking lot on the radio.’
‘Charlie, I—’
‘Lulu, please, this isn’t about us. This is between me and Peters. And you,’ Charlie dead-eyed Graeme, ‘don’t even think of squeaking.’ Charlie held out his good arm for Franco’s book and left it there. ‘Give me that book.’
‘I’m waiting for Mr Peters to tell us all exactly who is the owner of Belle Hotel and all its assets before I hand over what, to the letter of the law, is now about to become my property.’
On ‘property’, Charlie leapt, the tines of the fork he’d grabbed from the waiters’ station glinted in the sun that poured in through the coloured glass windows.
The fork only glanced across Graeme’s neck, with just two of the four tines piercing the skin, a touch wide of the pronounced Adam’s apple that Charlie had so mercilessly mocked in the past. It was his
left hand, after all, and he’d had a knock to the head. Graeme was on his feet and in the karate stance in less than half a second. He broke the stance momentarily, touching the back of the book-clasping hand to his neck, checking for blood.
‘You crazy mother. I’ll have you for this. You’ll get years. They’ll be handing down more than anger management this time.’
Lulu screamed and dived at Charlie, grabbing his long greasy hair with both hands and pulling him away from Graeme with a force that shocked even her. The fork fell from Charlie’s hand and skittered across the mosaic floor.
The table tipped and clattered to meet the fork as Peters rose to his feet. Charlie and Graeme grappled left-handed with Franco’s book, Graeme still holding his stronger hand in the knife hand position. Charlie supported his broken wrist in his chef’s whites, flexing his bicep against Lulu’s violent tugs.
The moment that Peters yelled ‘Enough!’, Graeme dropped an extremely well- executed chop onto Charlie’s nose, the force of which propelled Charlie backwards in an arc of blood and caused Franco’s book to yank from Graeme’s hand and follow Charlie onto the skull- shattering surface.
The four of them watched the book, its worn leather covers wings in flight as it released all four of its brass clasps and let forty years of memories out like a confetti bomb.
Charlie came to for the second time in as many minutes with the gentle caress of fusty paper fluttering across his face.
‘Enough!’ It was Peters, at full height and finally taking control of what had fast become a very out-of-control situation, ‘Charlie, Graeme, Lulu. Enough. Stop it, the three of you.’
The last leaf fell from space, a birth certificate, Second World War paper. Light as a prisoner of war.
‘Enough. Charlie, you’ve bought yourself five working days. Five days, you hear me. Got yourself off on a technicality and only come
up with half of the money. I shouldn’t be doing this. Count yourself lucky that things are in such disarray at the bank. I’m ashamed to say that the Hookes balance sheet is not reading well. We have too much bad debt, Belle Hotel’s included, and Her Majesty’s Government are going to have to bail us out. Lulu, Graeme, we should leave now. We’ll be back in five days’ time to do this again properly. You’ve no chance of turning this around, Charlie, I mean look at you. Your grandfather will be rolling in his grave. No need to get up, Sheridan, we’ll let ourselves out. Oh, I expect you’ll be needing these.’
The shiny new set of keys bounced off Charlie’s chest and came to rest among the scattered papers. Charlie let his eyes close as he listened for the footfall to fade, ignoring the whispered ‘Charlie’ from the stilettoed step that hung back a little from the rest. He couldn’t face Lulu now. It was just too complicated. More complicated and awful than even Lulu knew. What had gone on between them, what he now knew he’d done, must never, ever, come to light. He’d lost his childhood sweetheart, for sure. From where Charlie lay, the first thing he saw upon opening his eyes was the black-and-white photo of Charlie and Lulu as children peering over the lip of Franco’s stockpot on the stove. The old man had taken it as a joke, the pot was clean and stove cold, and framed it for the customers’ amusement. The kids in a stockpot picture sat at the centre of a gallery of over three decades of Belle Hotel family life. Snaps of Charlie and Lulu as teenagers wrestling in Christmas jumpers by the giant tree in Belle Hotel’s lobby. Franco in his chef’s whites showing Charlie how to serve a whole salmon at table, Lulu grinning at his side, waiting with the silver service spoon and fork. Caught on celluloid in memory of a shared past and sympathy for a separate future.
The sound of Belle Hotel’s main doors banging shut brought Janet rolling in and she helped Charlie pick up their past, rise to room 20, and there begin re-binding the book of Belle Hotel.

You  can  purchase this novel from Amazon

Final Belle Hotel Blog Tour poster

 

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Review ~ Blog Tour ~Locked Down by GB Williams.

Locked Down cover

What DCI Piper dredges up when investigating the cold case of Terrence Whittaker’s disappearance is unexpected and unwelcome – especially when it links to a current missing persons case.

Charlie Bell’s only goal in life is ending the tyranny of the Mansel-Jones crime family.

While Ariadne Teddington recovers after a car crash, her missing brother’s case is reopened, and a past she has always struggled to deal with comes back to haunt her.

Finding the new lodger isn’t who she was expecting makes life a rollercoaster she can’t get off.

What will it take to get a criminal locked down for once and for all?
Can the present overcome the past?
And can any of them afford the price?

 

Review

I would like to thank the author, publisher and blog tour organiser for the ARC of this novel in return for an honest review.

There are many themes we measure enjoyment of a thriller against. A great story obviously is one of them and the main reason we read books of any kind. Locked Down has a great story, difficult to read on times, dealing as it does with a paedophile ring. The story, even taking into account the sensitive narrative theme, is thrilling. It gives the reader a tale which pits the Police against a group preying on innocent children, in a quest to close them down and make life safer for those they prey on. The writer cleverly wraps up her characters in the story, by making them personally involved in events and making us fearful not only for the children, but for characters we have come to love over The Locked Trilogy of books.  Your constantly caught up in a combined sense of dread at their fates and excited at their determination to bring this criminal gang down. By the end,  I desperately wanted them to gain justice for all the lives they had abused and the families whose lives were decimated by their actions.  The story is littered with exciting twist and turns and endless amounts of emotional angst.  It really is edge of the seat stuff.

Thrillers need to be fast paced and part of that is created by telling the story from the point of view of more than one protagonist. Here the writer tells the story from the point of view of Ariadne Tellington, Prison Officer, Charlie Bell a former Police Officer and lead detective Piper. As each race against the time to catch the criminal gang, we are taken back and fore to each of their threads, which means as a reader, I was constantly racing with them to reach the conclusion of the story. The pace never lets up and the twists in the story mean you and the characters are constantly having to negotiate obstacles and it makes for an exciting read.  All the threads tie up in the end and it’s not until the last moment that we find out the fate of each individual character. Perfect thriller material, because as a reader I want my favourite characters to suffer grief, heartache, hope and have plenty of near death experiences and the writer delivers all of my favourite elements in spade loads.  But it’s not all just thrills. We get to know these characters, how they tick and all the ways events in the story affect them, my personal favourite has to be Charlie Bell, who having suffered a term in prison for killing a Paedophile that had escaped justice,  is ostracised by all but Detective Piper. He has at last in this third book found a reason to settle down, his love for Ariadne, but he still needs to help his former colleagues close down this ring and that leads him into constant danger. I routed for him and wanted him to find some peace from a life littered with bad decisions, but could never bring myself to judge him, because his career was ruined to help save innocents from further abuse.  Ariadne has moved on as well, but still faces heartbreak. Her suffering over the loss of her brother is explored further and we gain an insight into the events that shaped her in adulthood. It provides moments that are hard to read about, filled with grief and recrimination, but it all adds up, to make this not just a fast paced thriller, but one where character development is as essential as storyline and for me personally, that is very important.

I think what I enjoyed so much about this novel is a combination of all the above and the simple fact that it was an exciting read, that didn’t shy away from dealing with difficult subjects.

If you haven’t read the first two in the series, then I’d say why not start with Locked Up and enjoy the series as a whole.

 

You can purchase Locked Down from Amazon.

 

About the author 

Gail Wiliams

After being made redundant in 2012, GB started taking her life-long passion for writing more seriously and looking to sell her work. Specialising in complex, fast-paced crime novels, she started writing the Locked Series in 2014, and now completes the trilogy.

GB was shortlisted for the 2014 CWA Margery Allingham Short Story Competition with the story Last Shakes, now available in Last Cut Casebook. She is also a feature writer and comic book reviewer. Crime novels are her stock in trade, but she has had success with Steampunk novels and short stories in various genres.

Originally from Kent, GB moved to South Wales as a supposed first step on a year around the world.  Then she met a guy.  Kept the guy, kissed the travel goodbye. Knowing that the best way to travel is by book anyway, she has always read, always written. GB now has two grown-up children, the world’s most imperious cat, a house full of books and a hard drive full of manuscripts (though some will never be allowed out of a locked basement).

You can follow the author on Facebook, blog website and Twitter.

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Review ~ Blog Tour ~Beton Rouge by Simone Buchholz.

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On a warm September morning, an unconscious man is found in a cage at the entrance to the offices of one of the biggest German newspapers. Closer inspection shows he is a manager of the company, and he’s been tortured. Three days later, another manager appears in similar circumstances.

Chastity Riley and her new colleague Ivo Stepanovic are tasked with uncovering the truth behind the attacks, an investigation that goes far beyond the revenge they first suspect … to the dubious past shared by both victims. Travelling to the south of Germany, they step into the hothouse world of boarding schools, where secrets are currency, and monsters are bred … monsters who will stop at nothing to protect themselves.

A smart, dark, probing thriller, full of all the hard-boiled poetry and acerbic wit of the very best noir, Beton Rouge is both a classic whodunit and a scintillating expose of society, by one of the most exciting names in crime fiction.

Review

I would like to thank the author, publisher and blog tour organiser for the ARC of this book in return for an honest review.

Chastity Riley is back and what an absolute joy it is!

If I was to list why this book is for me, such a phenomenal read, at the top of that list would be Chastity and all of the other bold and unique characters that fill the pages of Beton Rouge.  She commands the reader’s attention throughout, she young, she is acerbic, drinks and smokes too much, with a fractured personal life. I find her utterly fascinating and easy to like and I can’t ever imagine tiring of spending time in her company.   Bold characters like Chastity, give stories a strength to revolve the narrative around, classic characters that become fan favourites, never merging into the background, but not overpowering the story.  She is the kind of character your never going to forget! She is feisty, smart and has a talent for finding trouble, with a life fraught with questionable choices.

Then there is the writing. Its snappy, with short, crisp chapters, which lend themselves well to this very modern novel.  It creates the perfect atmosphere. As Chastity and her new colleague race against time to find the person responsible,  for placing the men in cages outside a German Publishing company, those fleeting chapters help to create a sense of edginess in the reader. They heighten a sense of disquiet and help the story to flow faster and your left with the feeling you to are rising against time.

The story is strong and bold. I loved the way it looks at how society treats those that are different and creates from that a classic whodunit about cruelty and retribution.  It paints and image of a shadowy city, dismal and unpredictable, creating at atmosphere where I as a reader felt danger lurking around every corner. It cleverly takes the reader down into the bowels of the city and behind the tortured mind of a protagonist bent on punishing his enemies.

If I hadn’t had to work, I would never have put down, so gripped was I by story.

Without doubt this book is a fitting follow-up to Blue Night and carries on the obvious talent the writer showed in the first novel.

Special mention must go to the translator Rachel Ward, who with great skill translates this novel into English.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon and Waterstones.

 

About the author.

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Simone Buchholz was born in Hanau in 1972. At university, she studied Philosophy and Literature, worked as a waitress and a columnist, and trained to be a journalist at the prestigious Henri-Nannen-School in Hamburg. In 2016, Simone Buchholz’s Blue Night  was awarded the Crime Cologne Award, and runner-up for the German Crime Fiction Prize. The next in the Chastity Riley series, Beton Rouge, won the Radio Bremen Crime Fiction Award and Best Economic Crime Novel 2017, and Mexiko Street (published in 2020 by Orenda Books) won the most prestigious crime fiction award in Germany in 2019. Simone lives in Sankt Pauli, in the heart of Hamburg, with her husband and son. Follow Simone on Twitter @ohneKlippo and visit her website: simonebuchho. 

About the translator

Rachel Ward translates from German and French to English. Having always been an avid reader and enjoyed word games and puzzles, she discovered a flair for languages at school and went on to study Modern Languages at the University of East Anglia. She spent the third year working as a language assistant at two grammar schools in Saarbrücken, Germany. During her final year, she realised that she wanted to put these skills and passions to use professionally and applied for UEA’s MA in Literary Translation, which she completed in 2002. Her published translations include the Nea Fox series of crime novels by Amelia Ellis, and books for young people such as Traitor by Gudrun Pausewang and Red Rage by Brigitte Blobel.  
Twitter –  @FwdTranslations 
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Review ~ Blog Tour ~ It’s No Secret – Thriving After Surviving by Danielle Downey.

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Danielle knew early on that she was not like most children at her school.With a chaotic home life riddled with violence, neglect, abuse and poverty she learned early on how to survive and adapt.Every challenge taught her a valuable lesson about resilience and self-motivation allowing her to develop an unshakable positive mindset, along with a sense of humour.This book takes the reader on a journey detailing the life-changing events which tested Danielle’s resilience and willpower. She bravely shares the difficult choices she was forced to make in order to safeguard her precious family as long-forgotten secrets are revealed.This uplifting, shocking and empowering book chronicles Danielle’s story and her determination to never let her past define her future.It promises to inspire the reader that change and choice are absolutely possible and that nothing is ever insurmountable.

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Review

I must admit that my feelings are mixed about this book, only because parts of it are difficult to read.  The author writes about the childhood abuse she endured, including neglect, sexual and psychological abuse, with her family continuing to blame her into adulthood.  She is brutally honest about the abuse she suffered and I feel it is only fair that readers be aware of this, in case they want to either not read it, or choose a time when they feel strong enough to do so.

Saying this, it is a remarkable story of survival and bravery.  I admire her very much for writing her story, in the hope it can help others to understand the lives of those who have suffered abuse and provide a voice of hope for those who like  were abused.  It is remarkable that in putting her story into print, she can help those that have suffered and show them, that they can go on to live a life of positivity, joy and happiness.  What I loved about her story, is that she tells us all, that individuals are not defined by the abuse they are subjected to. It is the abuser that should be punished, not those they attack.

It is written with a great sense of positivity and even when you are reading about some of her lowest moments, you can feel the inner strength she was able to tap into. It wasn’t easy and there were moments she was plunged into depression, but she always found her way back towards the light and that is very inspiring. Her journey was not easy, but she is a remarkable women, strong and deeply caring. What comes across when reading the book, is her earnest wish to help others survive and thrive.
I loved that sense of positivity and admire her strength in opening up her story to us all.  The writing is never self indulgent, even though given what she and others have endured, that would be understandable, its aim is to record her remarkable story through adversity. It could be said that her inner core strength meant she could survive what would crush others, but the writer never seeks to judge, simply sets out to show that adversity, even its darkest and most abusive form can be survived, if help is provided and accepted.  She does not claim to be the perfect role model, she suffered depression and crippling flash backs, but found a route through and wants to help others do the same.
The overriding message is a positive one, to help others give the message that if she can survive so can others and prosper to.  Abuse victims are often isolated from others, by enforced silence, but by reading stories such as this, it can maybe help to know that others can try to understand and people like Danielle are out there, waiting to help them find a better life, the life they deserve and can still have.

You can purchase this book from Amazon

About the author 

Danielle Downey Author Picture

Danielle lives in Devon with her children and husband.
Her own experiences in overcoming adversity allow her to be a positive role model, inspiring others that thriving after surviving is truly possible.

You can follow the author on Twitter and her website.

Its No Secret Blog Tour Poster

 

 

Extract ~ Blog Tour ~ One Last Prayer For The Rays by Wes Markin.

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One Last Prayer for the Rays
DCI Michael Yorke faces his most harrowing case yet.
When 12-year-old Paul disappears from school, Yorke’s only clue is a pool of animal blood. Fearing the worst, he turns toward the most obvious suspect, recently released local murderer, Thomas Ray.
But as the snow in Salisbury worsens, Ray’s mutilated body is discovered, and Yorke is left with no choice but to journey into the sinister heart of a demented family that has plagued the community for generations. Can he save the boy? Or will the evil he discovers changes him forever?
One Last Prayer for the Rays introducing DCI Michael Yorke.

Extract

Context: This is the opening from the debut DCI Michael Yorke thriller One Last Prayer for the Rays. Here we are introduced to the chilling recluse, Thomas Ray, who is about to receive a visit from the local district nurse, Danielle Butcher …
THOMAS RAY SCRAPED a chunk of sleep from the corner of his eye, uncurled and flattened his back against the arrow-shaped spindles of his rocking chair, yawned, and scooped his sawn-off shotgun from the floor.
Outside, it sounded like the thunder was going to split the sky in two. He smiled. It was time. The bastards were here.
He freed one hand from his shotgun to scratch at his beard. Dead skin rained down on his lap. He tugged at his sweat-stained shirt, ungluing it from his skin. A bath was long overdue.
Thunder licked the sky again; his hand darted back to his shotgun.
The rain began; now just a slow tap-dance on his roof, it would quickly worsen. His father always told him nature would retaliate when they came again. He’d also told him what to expect. Horrible twisted faces coming at you like ghouls.
There was the creak of old wood from somewhere deep inside his house. His eyes darted left. He waited for a repeat of the sound, but it didn’t come.
With his finger solid against the trigger, he moved his eyes back to the front door. He smiled again. He’d waited his whole miserable life for this moment.

****

All in all, local district nurse Danielle Butler’s journey had been unpleasant. Not only had the dark clouds above her swelled to bursting point, but her old mini had whined since she’d set off from Salisbury.
There was no improvement in the weather when she reached The Downs. Around her, bony fingers of mist clawed at the sprawling fields.
Ignoring her vehicle’s complaints over several sharp corners, she took a quick look at her watch. She still had plenty of time until she met her husband Harry for the IVF appointment, but this didn’t stop her checking every five minutes. The mere thought of turning up late and losing that appointment after waiting for so long, caused her mouth to go dry.
The distance between each clap of thunder grew shorter, and as she reached Little Horton, the rain came. She cleared her window with her wipers and saw the yellowing sign for Pig Lane. She thought of Harry’s words at their front door earlier this morning. ‘I don’t like it when you have to go there.’
‘He’s odd, but he’s harmless,’ she’d said. ‘You coppers are always so paranoid.’
The gravelly road crunched under her wheels as she drove up the entry road into the pig farm. The sky continued to squeal like the condemned swine which had once lived here.

****

Whenever anyone had asked Thomas Ray about his reclusive life, he’d always told them he wasn’t good with people. He’d never told them the truth. Never told them he was preparing for war.
He looked down at his small armoury. A handgun, a set of knives, pepper spray, a taser and a hand grenade from the Battle of the Bulge which his Uncle John had given him on his sixth birthday, four years after the actual battle; there had been a nail in it to stop him pulling the pin, but that was gone now. He smiled. If they got to him, he’d blow all of them, himself included, to kingdom come.
Rain battered his roof and the sky made a grotesque noise. It reminded Thomas of the bucket beside his chair that was a quarter full of his own crap. It must have been three days since he’d last emptied it onto the porch, but it would be dangerous to attempt to do it right now. The stench didn’t bother him, he’d been a pig farmer most of his life. Next to the bucket were some bottles of mineral water and several cans of baked beans, most of which were empty. He felt hungry and wondered if he should eat to raise his energy levels. Best not. Again, too risky. They could be here at any moment.
He reached into the top pocket of his shirt and pulled out a dog-eared black and white photograph of his family around the pig-pen outside when he was only two years old. Nineteen forty-four. Hard to believe there had been eight of them back then. His two cousins held his excited younger self in the air by his feet. He ran his fingers over his father’s face and remembered his warning. ‘Beware the aliens, son. Their fiddly tests have given me cancer. Don’t let this happen to you.’
He put the photo of his family back into his pocket.
February, nineteen fifty-two. The vermin had come for his father. Performed their tests.
Near the end, his father, in and out of delirious consciousness, had said, ‘It’s through this same door in fifty years, they will come back for you, they told me so. And remember, those creatures can come in human or animal form.’
Fifty years later, two weeks into February, Thomas was ready; he’d been waiting for them at his front door for the past two weeks.
Whatever happens, they will never be able to say they caught me by surprise.

You can purchase this novel from Amazon UK and US.

About the author.

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Wes Markin is a hyperactive English teacher, who loves writing crime fiction with a twist of the macabre.
​Having released One Last Prayer for the Rays he is now working on the second instalment of DCI Michael Yorke’s wild ride, The Repenting Serpent. He is also the author of Defined, a prequel to his DCI Yorke novels, which takes the reader back to his blood-soaked university days.​​

Born in 1978, Wes grew up in Manchester, UK. After graduating from Leeds University, he spent fifteen years as a teacher of English, and has taught in Thailand, Malaysia and China. Now as a teacher, writer, husband and father, he is currently living in Harrogate, UK.​

You can follow Wes Markin on Twitter and Facebook.

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Review ~ Blog Tour ~ Murder Unexpected – Kat and Mouse Book two – by Anita Waller

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Kat and Mouse are back.

Church Deacon Kat and her friend Beth, known as Mouse, have started a private investigation business in the sleepy village of Eyam.

Kat, whose estranged criminal husband, Leon, is on the run, has a lot on her plate running the new business whilst heavily pregnant.

When a widow asks the sleuths for help, Kat and Mouse find themselves searching for the birth mother of the widow’s husband. But when it becomes clear that the widow isn’t telling the whole truth, Kat and Mouse are drawn into a deadly chase where nothing is what it seems.

Meanwhile, Kat’s husband has come back to Eyam and has Kat in his sights.

Can Kat and Mouse solve the case and escape the dangerous Leon?

This time they might just be out of their depth…

 

Review

I would like to thank the author, publisher and blog tour organiser for the ARC in return for an honest review.

Having loved book one of the Kat and Mouse series, I was delighted to be able to read and review book two.  I’m happy to say that I loved it every bit as much as the first book, in fact more so!

Why?

It brought back the crime fighting duo Kat, Mouse and Doris who are now running their own detective agency. I absolutely adore them. All three are Intelligent, caring and strong and they make the perfect leads.  It is still rare enough to have a book that is both enjoyable to read, with lots of excitement, but is also not overly violent, with such endearing and loveable characters. They alone would make me pick up a book to read and I could happily spend hours and hours in their company.  From book one they have all grown and developed, much more comfortable in their roles as investigators and willing to strench the boundaries to help their clients in the best way they can. I enjoyed how the author gives them the odd flaw, their often willing to hack a data base here and there, but not so flawed it becomes overwhelming. They are good people and this what makes them so wonderful to read about.

There are plenty of thrills in this book. Anita Waller is a canny writer and she rang rings around me. I changed my mind over and over again about who was responsible for the Murder Unexpected. Which for me is the sign of a great thriller. I want to be kept guessing and I was.  An though it is a gentle thriller, with a strong character base, the ending was both thrilling and satisfying.  I sat back and thought, that was bloody enjoyable read and I can’t wait for the next one.

It is really well written by an author that obviously enjoys her craft and the characters she creates.  She has created a list of characters I always love spending time with and gives the story enough drama to leave you wanting more.  Reading this series of books always leaves me happy and I’m thinking it would make the perfect material for a TV adaption.

If you’re looking for a more light hearted thriller, then this is a five star example of what is on offer to readers.

You can purchase Murder Unexpected from Amazon in ebook format and paperback.

About the author.

Anita Waller

Anita Waller was born in Sheffield, South Yorkshire in 1946. She married Dave in 1967 and they have three adult children.
She has written and taught creative writing for most of her life, and at the age of sixty nine sent a manuscript to Bloodhound Books which was immediately accepted.

In total she has written seven psychological thrillers and one supernatural novel, and uses the areas of South Yorkshire and Derbyshire as her preferred locations in her books. Sheffield features prominently.

And now Anita is working on her first series, the Kat and Mouse trilogy, set in the beautiful Derbyshire village of Eyam. The first in the series, Murder Undeniable, launched 10 December 2018, and the second in the series, Murder Unexpected, launches 11 February 2019.

The trilogy has now been promoted to a quartet following the success of the first book; she is currently working on book three, Murder Unearthed. Book four doesn’t have a title, a plot, a first sentence… but she remains convinced it will have!

She is now seventy-three years of age, happily writing most days and would dearly love to plan a novel, but has accepted that isn’t the way of her mind. Every novel starts with a sentence and she waits to see where that sentence will take her, and her characters.In her life away from the computer in the corner of her kitchen, she is a Sheffield Wednesday supporter with blue blood in her veins! The club was particularly helpful during the writing of 34 Days, as a couple of matches feature in the novel, along with Ross Wallace. Information was needed, and they provided it.

Her genre is murder – necessary murder.

You can follow Anita Waller on Facebook, her website and Twitter.

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Extract – Blog Tour ~ The Talisman, Molly’s Story by Eliza J Scott.

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THE TALISMAN – MOLLY’S STORY

Molly’s dream of taking over her childhood home at Withrin Hill Farm with husband Pip and their three children has finally come true. And, as they settle into the stunning Georgian farmhouse, with their plans to diversify into glamping nicely taking shape, the family couldn’t be happier. But tragedy suddenly strikes, and Molly’s world is turned upside down.
Heartbroken and devastated, she struggles to face each day. True to form, her fiercely loyal best friends, Kitty and Violet, rally round offering love and support, but Molly doesn’t think she’ll ever be able to smile again. Until the day a tall, dark stranger with twinkly eyes arrives… Follow Molly’s story in book 2 of the Life on the Moors Series set in Lytell Stangdale, a picture-perfect village in the heart of the North Yorkshire Moors, where life is anything but quiet. A heart-warming story of love, friendship and hope.

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I would like to thank the author Eliza J Scott for allowing me to share an extract from chapter twelve of The Talisman – Molly’s Story and it starts the morning of Molly’s and Pip’s weddings anniversary. 

Extract

CHAPTER TWELVE

A finger of early morning sunlight poked its way through the chink in the curtains, caressing Molly’s cheek. She stirred and reached across the bed for Pip, anticipating the feel of his warm skin. Instead, her hand landed onto the empty space where he’d been. She opened her eyes to see a rumpled sheet and a dent in his pillow. Frowning, she turned back and picked up the alarm clock on her bedside table, brushing her hair out of her face and squinting at the numbers. Half-past seven. She sighed. She’d had a lie-in; he’d been long gone. She rubbed her eyes, and yawned, her thoughts slowly slotting into place.
She climbed out of bed, slid her feet into her slippers and padded along the landing to Emmie’s room. The house was quiet apart from the odd creak of an old floorboard, grumbling at being walked on. She peeked into Emmie’s room to see her still fast asleep, looking angelic and peaceful.
Molly headed downstairs and into the kitchen where Phoebe was curled up on the clippy mat. She wagged her tail at her mum. ‘Morning, Phoebe.’ Her words were stretched out by a yawn. ‘Where is everyone?’ she asked as she filled the kettle. Setting it down on the Aga hotplate, she headed over to the large window, sliding it open, allowing the cool, morning air to wash over. ‘Mmm,’ she sighed. Unusually for her, she’d been in a deep sleep and was finding it difficult to wake up.
Five minutes later, and with a few slurps of tea down her, Molly began to feel the fugginess in her head gradually receding. Sitting at the table, she pulled out the chair next to her and rested her feet on it. She sat quietly, listening to the sounds of the countryside pour through the open window, a cacophony that was easy on the ear. The familiar bay of the beast over at Tinkel Top Farm, the low thrum of a tractor, interspersed with shrill birdsong, the clucking of hens and the bleating of sheep. Farmyard sounds that Molly had known her whole life; they placed her firmly in her comfort zone. She wiggled her toes and sighed contentedly.
She was halfway through her mug of tea before she realised that it was Friday, the day that Pip was taking her for a romantic meal at the Sunne. Her heart leapt in happiness at the thought. She’d been shopping in York a few days earlier and had bought herself a pretty dress with matching shrug cardie. She’d even splurged on a pair of new shoes, too. Not usually a fan of clothes shopping, Molly had surprised herself with how much she’d enjoyed it, as well as having a few hours on her own to mooch around the shops at her leisure.
‘Mamamama.’ Emmie’s cries from upstairs dispersed her thoughts, and she set her mug down on the table.
‘Mummy’s coming, Em.’ Molly headed upstairs, pushing open Emmie’s bedroom door. Her heart melted at the sight of her daughter standing up in her cot, all birds’ nest hair, sleep-rosy cheeks and a patch of dried dribble by her mouth. ‘Good morning, little pudding. How are you?’ She scooped Emmie up and nuzzled into her, inhaling her delicious, warm scent. ‘Mmmm. Mummy loves her special girl,’ she said, delivering kisses to her cheek. Emmie chuckled and snuggled into her, triggering a warm flood of love right through Molly.

 

You can purchase this book from Amazon UK and US

You can also enter a  Giveaway to Win The Letter – Kitty’s Story, chocolate and a clutch bag (Open Internationally) by following this LINK.

The prize is worth over £40 and consists of a paperback copy of the first book in the Life on the Moors Series, The Letter – Kitty’s Story, 3 bars of Love Cocoa chocolate by James and a Caroline Gardner clutch bag.

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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About the author

Eliza lives in a 17th-century cottage on the edge of a village in the North Yorkshire Moors with her husband, their two daughters and two mischievous black Labradors. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found with her nose in a book/glued to her Kindle or working in her garden. Eliza also enjoys bracing walks in the countryside, rounded off by a visit to a teashop where she can indulge in another two of her favourite things: tea and cake. Eliza is inspired by her beautiful surroundings and loves to write heart-warming stories with happy endings.

You can follow the author on her website, TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

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Review ~ Blog Tour ~ Jakes Progress by David Simmonds.

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It’s 1968: Jake Nash, fresh out of university, is leaving his London home, and a rapidly cooling love affair with the beautiful Amanda, to start his career as a journalist with a newspaper in the South Wales valleys. But his dreams of glory as an ace reporter are bedevilled by encounters with two inept freedom fighters, a sinister Minister with murder in mind and the very obvious attractions of a beautiful colleague.
A darkly comic tale of romance, revenge and reporting that comes to an explosive climax.

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Review

I would  like to thank the author, publisher and blog tour organiser for the ARC in return for an honest review.

Writing a review for this book is an absolute pleasure, because reading it was a delight. It’s fun, amusing, full of wonderful characters and also very touching.

Based in a small town in the South Wales valleys, it follows Jake Nash as he trains to become a journalist on a local paper.

For me it’s two strongest points are the setting, atmosphere and the surprising eclectic cast of characters.   We have Welsh freedom fighters, a troubled man of the cloth and phlera of work colleagues.

Inept freedom fighters Sion and the Captain are such amazing creations. I may not have agreed with their actions, but I adored their passion for the Welsh culture. Set during a period of direct action to save the Welsh language, their inept attempts to be players in the movement, moved me from tears of laughter to tears of heartbreak. They were my favourite characters and I adored them. Darker, but equally as passionate is the Minister, whose troubled soul, drew me to him and though he reduced me to anger, I found myself strangely upset by his murderous rages. The beauty of this story is that the writer, avoids cliches, by giving a back story to all his characters, that make them real and passionate. He captures the mood of the time and creates figures that symbolize the warmth and impassioned nature of the valleys communities. What about Jake, given its his story, he’s funny, tender and I just wanted to wrap him in a cwtch so many times. I love that he was allowed to make mistakes, because his flaws made him so easy to love.

Then we have the setting. Having lived in Cardiff all my life, except for a few years at Jake’s university Aberystwyth, the valleys communities always seemed so close knit, with a hint of its a small world a attitude. David Simmonds captures that perfectly,  the way everyone knows everyone, how distant the big city Cardiff seemed and how theses two world’s were so different,  but still being Welsh and still proud.

The story is at its heart, funny and emotional on times, but there’s excitement to. I couldn’t put it down, So caught up in the story and characters, I read on and on. It’s gentle, but the humour also gives way to increasing tension as the drama kicks in. A

I loved it and I’m so glad I was given the chance to read the story. Let’s hope this is not the last we hear of Jake ‘s Progress!

You can purchase Jake’s Progress from Amazon

About the author

David Simmonds Author Pic 2

David Simmonds was born in North London and went to what was then the University College of North Wales, Bangor. After a failed attempt at teaching (six weeks), he spent a year working and travelling in Canada and America before returning to train as a journalist with weekly newspapers in the South Wales valleys. He spent most of his working life with BBC Wales in Cardiff as a radio and television producer and director.
He began writing fiction after taking early retirement. His work has been published in magazines and on-line, and in 2017 he won the Writers’ and Artists’ Short Story competition. ‘Jake’s Progress’, based on his time as a trainee reporter in the valleys, is his first novel.
David now lives in Penarth, just outside Cardiff, with his wife Mary and an irascible cat, Mrs Grumpy. Much of his time is spent in the service of his two daughters and three grandsons or rowing on the River Taff.

You can follow the author on Twitter

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Book Review ~ Blog Tour~ Inborn by Thomas Enger.

Inborn final front (1)

When the high school in the small Norwegian village of Fredheim becomes a murder scene, the finger is soon pointed at seventeen-year-old Even. As the investigation closes in, social media is ablaze with accusations, rumours and even threats, and Even finds himself the subject of an online trial as well asbeing in the dock … for murder?
Even pores over his memories of the months leading up to the crime, and it becomes clear that more than one villager was acting suspiciously … and secrets are simmering beneath the calm surface of this close-knit community. As events from the past play tag with the present, he’s forced to question everything he thought he knew. Was the death of his father in a car crash a decade earlier really accidental? Has his relationship stirred up something that someone is prepared to kill to protect?
It seems that there may be no one that Even can trust.
But can we trust him?
A taut, moving and chilling thriller, Inborn examines the very nature of evil, and asks the questions: How well do we really know our families?

How well do we know ourselves?.

Review

I would like to thank the author, publisher and blog tour organiser for the ARC in return for an honest review.

I have said this a lot over the few years I have been blogging, but it remains true and bears being repeated, that Orenda books continues to publish first class literary thrillers. Over and over again Karen Sullivan and her team gift readers with great stories and have faith in authors of exceptional talent.

Inborn is another example of this and is unique in the way it gives us two powerful and distinctive voices. Even, football player and suspected killer as well as sweet wonderful Yngve, police officer and widow. Their pairs cross when a series of murders rock the town of Fredheim in this stunning YA/adult cross over. The two characters complement each other and we follow the investigation from both their points of view. Maybe there are other stories that have done this, in many years of reading I have not come across one and it both excited and thrilled me that I had found a novel that was capable of surprising me after many years of reading. Rather than being confusing, it flowed perfectly and both voices were distinctive and brought distinctive insights to the story.

There are your typical thriller elements, with twists and turns that felt subtle and built the tension up as the novel progressed. Starting with a feeling of calmness, I followed the writer into the maze and as I hit a dead end, was forced to double back and follow the next clue. Mazes excite me, I find them challenging and the repeated misleading clues in Inborn left me feeling the same way. The story asks the reader to question who they can trust and made me look around and the people I know, to ask, which of us are capable of acts of violence against those that threaten us. Thrilling, scary in equal measure and deeply unsettling. It also paints social media in the role of judge and jury. In a time when keyboard warriors feel empowered to judge others, the horrifying fact is, anyone of us could find ourselves at wrong end of such actions. As Even faces being convicted by such people before the investigation is completed, we are forced to confront the horrifying power of sites such as Facebook. It scary stuff, thrilling, but still it will make you think.

I changed my mind over and over again about who the killer was and have total admiration for the author, who delivered the protagonist in a calm and emotional way. This may sound a strange thing to say, but believe me, it was without doubt, one of the best reveals I have read in quite some time. We were given a master class in character driven drama in Inborn. Utterly clueless about whom this was until the end, I sat back and had to take a moment to absorb the full impact on all the characters when the reveal happened. Thomas Enger had me doubting Even every step of the way.

Thomas Enger respects the intelligence of his readers and celebrates the power of his characters to deliver a story without the need to endless amounts of added drama. Drama is good, I love all types of thrillers, but in allowing character o be paramount, it gave the story added power to thrill.

Full of outstanding characters, the writing is sublime. You simply don’t feel time passing and I knew that wherever the story went, it was worth the journey.

Once again a top class thriller from a writer and publisher who always seek to give readers books that challenges them. It was without doubt a tour de force in why you should always trust your publisher and your wife.

You can purchase INBORN from Amazon and Waterstones.

About the author

Thomas Enger is a former journalist. He made his debut with the crime novel Burned in 2010, which became an international sensation before publication, and marked the first in the bestselling Henning Juul series. Rights to the series have been sold to 28 countries to date. In 2013 Enger published his first book for young adults, a dark fantasy thriller called The Evil Legacy, for which he won the U-prize (best book Young Adult). Killer Instinct, upon which Inborn is based, and another Young Adult suspense novel, was published in Norway in 2017 and won the same prestigious prize. Most recently, Thomas has co-written a thriller with Jørn Lier Horst. Enger also composes music, and he lives in Oslo.

You can follow the author on Twitter

About the translator

KARI DICKSON read Scandinavian Studies at UCL and then went on to work in various theatres. While working in the theatre, she was asked to do literal translations of two Ibsen plays, which fuelled her interest and led to an MA in Translation at the University of Surrey.  Having worked initially as a commercial translator, she now concentrates on literary translation, a good deal of which is crime fiction. Her translation of Roslund & Hellström’s Three Seconds won the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) International Dagger in 2011. She is also an occasional tutor in Norwegian language and literature, and translation  at the University of Edinburgh.

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Extract ~ Blog Tour ~ The Forgotten Children by Isabella Muir.

The Forgotten Children PAPERBACK front

The Forgotten Children

A woman’s search to find her son uncovers the shocking truth about one of Britain’s darkest periods
Struggling with the demons of her past, Emily is a children’s author with a dark secret, and a guilt that threatens to consume her.  For twenty years she has lived in Brighton, England, trying to forget the day they took her baby from her, just hours after he was born.  But now, in the summer of 1987, she decides to begin the search for her son.
Emily takes refuge in a small town on the Isle of Anglesey to plan the search, where she meets Walter, a gentle stranger, who helps her with his words of wisdom and kindness.  But it is when she decides to return home to Hastings, that she really has to face her demons.

Estranged from her parents when she was just sixteen, Emily is shocked by what her mother has to tell her about events that occurred before Emily was even born.

Beside her, throughout her search, is Emily’s beautiful Irish friend, Geraldine, recovering from her own sad experiences.  Together they uncover a truth that shocks them all.

The Forgotten Children draws the reader into lives affected by narrow-minded beliefs and blinkered thinking at the highest level. Children who weren’t allowed to be born, children who were abandoned, and children who were taken, forced to lead a life thousands of miles away from everyone and everything they knew – leaving scars that may never heal.

At its heart, The Forgotten Children is a story of survival, but the journey that Emily has to take is painful.  Even more so because she knows it was allowed to happen by individuals, religions and governments, who should have known better.

The Forgotten Children

Extract

The novel opens with Emily experiencing the second big loss in her life…

Mark is a casualty of a war I’ve been having since December 1967. A war with more than one enemy and only one true ally, my beautiful Irish friend, Geraldine. In truth, if it were not for Geraldine, I would have spent most of the last twenty years unattached and free from the emotional demands that inevitably come from any relationship. But Geraldine, Gee to her friends, can’t bear to see me single. So I ditch one bloke, only to be introduced to another. If it wasn’t so sad it would be funny.
Mark is the latest. We’ve been together just short of two years. He’s funny, uncomplicated and a great dancer. All attributes that score him ten out of ten in Gee’s books, and leaves me wondering why she didn’t go out with him herself.
I can’t imagine a time when Mark and I would ever be as synchronised as Gee and Alan, who have been together so long they even finish each other’s sentences. Nevertheless, life with Mark is easy enough. We party late at weekends and usually crawl out of bed at midday, nursing muzzy heads.
But since a visit to the doctor confirmed the reason I had lost my appetite, I’ve been trying to pluck up the courage to tell him our partying days are over. We will have to leave our little house, with its terraced garden higher than the roof and find a place with a flat patch of grass and a few leafy trees.
Now, as I lay in bed with Mark beside me, I close my eyes tightly and picture our new garden, with a seat under an apple tree where I could sit and watch our child play. And that is the moment I recognise the betrayal. I’m dreaming of a new life while my first born is out there somewhere, maybe living, maybe dead.
The bleeding started earlier in the day and as I turn onto my side, it gets heavier. It’s a suitable punishment for a crime I took part in, albeit unwillingly. I try not to move for a few moments, foolishly hoping I can stop this from happening.
Mark shifts beside me in bed. I peer at the luminescent numbers on the purple alarm clock that sits inches from my face. The numbers flick silently as a minute passes, then another. It is 3.30am precisely when I use one elbow to nudge him.
‘I think I’m having a miscarriage,’ I say, keeping any emotion from my voice.
I feel him swing his legs out of bed. He turns the bedside light on. I am scared to move and with my back to him I can’t see his face, but I can sense him trying to move himself from a deep slumber to waking.
‘You need to ring for an ambulance. I’m bleeding.’
He walks around the bed and kneels, then runs his hand over my forehead. As he pulls the sheets and blankets away from me, I hear him gasp. I look down to see the worst of it. The blood has pooled below me, seeping across the bedsheet, like ink on blotting paper.
‘Oh God, Em. I didn’t know. You didn’t tell me.’
‘It doesn’t matter now, just get me to the hospital.’

You can buy The Forgotten Children from Amazon UK and US.

You can also enter Giveaway to win a signed copy of The Forgotten Children (UK Only) by following this LINK.
*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

About the author. 

The Forgotten Isabella Muir

 

Isabella Muir has been surrounded by books her whole life and – after working for twenty years as a technical editor and having successfully completed her MA in Professional Writing – she was inspired to focus on fiction writing.
As well as her newest title, The Forgotten Children, Isabella is the author of the Sussex Crime Mystery series. These Agatha Christie style stories are set in the sixties and seventies and feature a young librarian and amateur sleuth, Janie Juke, who has a passion for Agatha Christie. All that Janie has learned from her hero, Hercule Poirot, she is able to put into action as she sets off to solve a series of crimes and mysteries.
Aside from books, Isabella has a love of all things caravan-like. She has spent many winters caravanning in Europe and now, together with her husband, she runs a small caravan site in Sussex. They are ably assisted by their much-loved Scottie, Hamish.

You can follow the author on FacebookTwitter and her website

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