Old Friends and New Enemies by Owen Mullins #BlogTour @Bloodhoundbook

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Old Friends and New Enemies by Owen Mullen

About this book…

The body on the mortuary slab wasn’t who Glasgow PI Charlie Cameron was looking for. But it wasn’t a stranger. Ian Selkirk must have crossed some dangerous people. Because now he was dead. Stabbed through the heart and dumped in the loch. Suddenly, a routine missing persons investigation becomes a fight for survival as Charlie goes up against notorious gangster, Jimmy Rafferty, who has ruled the east end of the city with fear for over thirty years. Rafferty is ruthless. Even his own family are terrified of him. But Jimmy’s best days are behind him and in the Rafferty clan a power struggle is taking place between the sons. Finding what the thief stole is the old man’s last chance to protect what he has built and hold on to power just a little longer. He wants to use Charlie to get it for him. And Jimmy Rafferty always gets what he wants. The trail runs from the cold dark water of Loch Lomond to the golden beaches of southern Spain, from the terraces of Celtic Park to a thrilling climax on the battlements of Edinburgh Castle. Charlie must give Rafferty what he needs or die. Only one problem. Charlie doesn’t know where it is.

My review…

Having read and enjoyed Games People Play by Owen Mullen, I was keen to read Book two in the series. It can be read as a standalone though.There seems to have been a few books recently that have featured a PI as the central character, there to solve a mystery as an aside to a police investigation, but the charismatic Charlie Cameron is one of the better ones that I’ve come across.

I wasn’t as emotionally involved in the plot of this second book as I was the first but it was an interesting twist to have Charlie searching for a missing husband and viewing a body that was possibly his at the morgue but instead the deceased turns out to be an old friend! Surely just a coincidence but Owen is then drawn into an underground world of gangsters who believe that Charlie is the key to finding a very large amount of cash. I loved the softer side of Charlie that came out once his old friend Fiona appeared on the scene. He doesn’t give much away usually but I felt Fiona brought him out of himself a little more and that emotion fed through to his investigations. The usual sidekicks were back, Jackie at NYB and Pat which let us explore their back stories a little more. Although my favourite has to be the Big Issue seller who I hope has chance of a bigger role in future books.

Having lived in and around Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dunbartonshire for many years, I think a lot of my enjoyment came from recognising the local landmarks and I loved the authenticity of Charlie’s surroundings. The start and the ending really held my attention but there was a time in the middle that I kind of lost my way a bit. Thankfully, once back on track the finale raced along to the end with an unexpectedly chilling last few pages. Although set in recent years, many times I felt as if I were reading a vintage PI story set in the 1940s especially in the way it was told in those short sharp sentences and dialogue. But this just added to this rather atmospheric and dark thriller.

Thank you to the Bloodhound books for providing me with a review copy of Old Friends and New Enemies which was published on 21st February.

The Damselfly by S.J.I. Holliday #BookReview #TBConFB

About this book…

An unsolved murder. A community turned against each other. A killer close to home…

Katie Taylor is the perfect student. She’s bright and funny, she has a boyfriend who adores her and there are only a few months left of school before she can swap Banktoun for the bright lights of London. Life gets even better when she has an unexpected win on a scratch card. But then Katie’s luck runs out.

Her tragic death instead becomes the latest in a series of dark mysteries blighting the small town. The new school counsellor Polly McAllister, who has recently returned to Banktoun to make amends in her own personal life, is thrown in at the deep end as the pupils and staff come to terms with Katie’s death. And it’s not long before she uncovers a multitude of murky secrets. Did Katie have enemies? Is her boyfriend really so squeaky clean? And who is her brother’s mysterious friend?

With Banktoun’s insular community inflamed by gossip and a baying mob stirring itself into a frenzy on social media, DS Davie Gray and DC Louise Jennings must work out who really murdered Katie before someone takes matters into their own hands…

The Damselfly is the latest novel from the bestselling author of Black Wood and Willow Walk set in the small Scottish town of Banktoun. Fans of Rachel Abbott, Angela Marsonsand Peter James will love this rivetting psychological crime thriller as DS Davie Gray tries to hold together a community once again rocked by tragedy.

My review…

This is the third book (and as its a trilogy supposedly the last!?) in the Banktoun series by S.J.I.Holliday and I have to admit that it’s actually the best one so far. I liked Black Wood, I really liked Willow Walk but I loved The Damselfly! All of these books can be read as standalone novels but there are little threads running throughout this which may mean more to you if you’ve read the previous books. And if you haven’t, WHY NOT?

But I ended up feeling quite bereft after the first few pages, as I really liked Katie Taylor, with her hopes and dreams for a better life for herself. She is about to escape her unsupportive family and make a fresh start in London until she is discovered dead in her bedroom. Honestly, I would have been far happier for her awful sister Brooke or her apathetic mother Mandy to have met a sticky end! Before her death Katie won enough money on a scratch card to facilitate her on her journey to a new life but did this contribute towards her sudden demise? Back to Banktoun comes Davie Gray, fresh from his detective training, to work with Louise Jennings on this new case. But there’s also another familiar face returning to the scene of the crime. Just what secrets are the inhabitants of Banktoun hiding?

What I love about this series is that it seems so realistic! Banktoun could really exist with its vividly described surroundings and local townsfolk. Policeman Davie quickly slips back into his role of community protector as he carefully works his way through the evidence presented. I loved his enigmatic, calm demeanour and quiet determination to solve the case which was complimented by Louise, a compassionate sidekick, still not quite hardened to the rippling effects of violent crime.

The use of various social media gave this addition to the series a particularly current feel. There are regular posts published on the ThreeWiseMonkeys blog, author unknown, and a secret vigilante group on Facebook determined to name and shame the suspect they are convinced murdered Katie. These, alongside the short and intense chapters told by Polly, Louise and Neil kept me engaged in the highly addictive storyline right up to the breathtakingly dramatic finale.

S.J.I. Holliday has taken her dark and compelling Scottish crime novels and built a series that will be sadly missed if it stops here! I don’t think I have ever been as devastated as I was when I read the final few pages of The Damselfly, thinking that it could be my last vist to Banktoun! I’m hoping it is lying asleep somewhere like a modern day Brigadoon just waiting to be reawakened by a few taps on the authors keyboard. This has been a brilliant series which has concluded with the best book so far in my opinion and so it comes highly recommended by me.

My thanks to TBConFB for my review copy of The Damselfly.

The Damselfly: A gripping and unnerving crime thriller is published on 2nd February 2017 by B&W publishing.

Meet the author…

SJI Holliday
S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday grew up in East Lothian. A life-long fan of crime and horror, her short stories have been published in various places, and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham prize. She has written three crime novels, a mix of police procedural and psychological thriller, set in the fictional Scottish town of Banktoun. They are: Black Wood, Willow Walk and The Damselfly – all featuring the much loved character, Davie Gray. Susi also works as a pharmaceutical statistician. She is married and lives in London, and you will find her at crime fiction events in the UK and abroad. 
You can find out more at her website: http://www.sjiholliday.com and on Facebook and Twitter @SJIHolliday.

Dead Man’s Prayer by Jackie Baldwin #BookReview @JackieMBaldwin1

About this book…

A dark and gripping crime debut, the first in an exciting new series. Eighteen years ago, DI Frank Farrell turned his back on the church. But when an ex-priest is murdered in his hometown, he has no choice but to delve into his past. Perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride, James Oswald and Val McDermid.

Ex-priest DI Frank Farrell has returned to his roots in Dumfries, only to be landed with a disturbing murder case. Even worse, Farrell knows the victim: Father Boyd, the man who forced him out of the priesthood eighteen years earlier.

With no leads, Farrell must delve into the old priest’s past, one that is inexorably linked with his own. But his attention is diverted when a pair of twin boys go missing. The Dumfries police force recover one in an abandoned church, unharmed. But where is his brother?

As Farrell investigates the two cases, he can’t help but feel targeted. Is someone playing a sinister game, or is he seeing patterns that don’t exist? Either way, it’s a game Farrell needs to win before he loses his grip on his sanity, or someone else turns up dead.

My review…

This book had been on my radar for a while before I picked up a copy to read. A few reviewers had said they thought it would be a book I would enjoy and they were absolutely right! It had all my favourite elements for a police procedural and I devoured it within a matter of hours.

The Scottish crime thriller scene is huge at the moment but Jackie Baldwin has written a self assured debut that has slotted into the current market as if she had been around for years. Her fictional detective DI Frank Farrell is a great character creation and I was cheering him on from the off! I liked the fact that he had a very different backstory having previously been a priest. The layers that his former vocation gave to his personality meant that, although I took to him, I never quite fully anticipated what actions he would take next. Especially once he comes into contact with former friends and family.

I love the way Jackie Baldwin writes. There was just the right mix of police investigation and personal problems with a host of supporting characters that I’d love to meet again and find out more about. The use of the twin boys in the plot was a particular favourite theme for me (everyone knows I’m a huge fan of twin psychology!) and the twists and turns here meant we were never quite sure where the motives overlapped and why.

I’m really looking forward to seeing where the author takes DI Farrell next. His individuality stands out for me making him an intriguing personality that I’m keen to delve into further. The characterisation, plus the fact that this is a well researched crime thriller, means I am more than happy to recommend it to other fans of this genre. 

Many thanks to the author for my copy of Dead Man’s Prayer which I have chosen to read and review.

Dead Man’s Prayer: A gripping detective thriller with a killer twist (DI Frank Farrell, Book 1) is out now and available to purchase at Amazon UK

Meet the author…

Jackie Baldwin
Jackie Baldwin was born in Dumfries. She studied law at Edinburgh University then practised as a solicitor in a rural town for twenty years specialising in family and criminal law. She then trained as a hypnotherapist and now works from home. She is married with two (almost) grown up children and loves to walk with her two dogs in local forests. She is an active member of her local crime writing group.

A Suitable Lie by Michael J Malone #BookReview @OrendaBooks

About this book…

Andy Boyd thinks he is the luckiest man alive. Widowed with a young child, after his wife dies in childbirth, he is certain that he will never again experience true love. Then he meets Anna. Feisty, fun and beautiful, she’s his perfect match… And she loves his son, too. When Andy ends up in the hospital on his wedding night, he receives his first clue that Anna is not all that she seems. He ignores it; a dangerous mistake that could cost him everything. A brave, deeply moving psychological thriller which marks a stunning departure for one of Scotland’s top crime writers.

My review

So, after being told by so many readers and reviewers that this was their top book of 2016 and that I HAD to read it, I finally gave in. But I was worried that this book and its author now had an awful lot to live up to. So did it? Absolutely 100% yes!!

Domestic violence is always going to be a tricky subject to write about, there is typically going to be half of a partnership that you are going to detest for their abusive nature. So to be able to evoke feelings of sympathy for both parties is a pretty impressive feat. But that’s exactly what the author has managed to do here. When we meet Andy he is about to have a rare night out with his brother Jim. Andy has been a widow since his wife died giving birth to their son but that night he meets Anna, a beautiful young woman who is about to bring love and joy back to his life. But on their wedding night, Andy sees a side to Anna that shocks him. Now, Andy is a big, burly Scotsman and Anna a petite 7 stone so it’s understandable that Andy feels embarrassed and unable to admit to his family what is really behind his cuts and bruises. And all the signs that scream “domestic abuse” for a woman (withdrawing from their family, lying about injuries, making excuses for their partner) well, they aren’t so easy to spot when it’s a male victim. Society still seems to see it as a bit of a joke unfortunately, long after those sketch shows of the 1970s, with their scenes featuring the woman of the house chasing her husband with a rolling pin, were consigned to the depths of social history.

For me the highlight of this book was how much I loved the character of Andy. Right from the start I found myself thinking “he is going to make one lucky girl very happy!” He was close to his family and was a nice young man, one who was brought up to respect women and his peers. So it was no surprise that he reacted as he did when Anna started to show her true colours. No matter how close you are to you family, there is still a sense of shame hanging over you if you have to admit what is happening to the people who love you the most.

This is a hard hitting book, one that is difficult to read at times but utterly compelling. From start to finish I found it hard to tear myself away from the horror of what was happening. I wanted to close my eyes to chase away the images being conjured up by the wonderfully descriptive prose but with so many emotions running around my head there was no escape. I experienced fear for Andy and his family, loathing for Anna but also a huge sympathy for them all-how different their lives could have been. My heart just ached for them all in a situation where there were never going to be any winners, just survivors.

A Suitable Lie is a book that will stay with its reader for a long time after finishing it. Be prepared to run through a full range of emotions, and see which one stays with you at the end. Mine was sadness that I had finished reading such a powerful book but tinged with hope that it may have, somewhere or somehow, changed one person’s life.

Highly recommended by me and many thanks to Karen at Orenda for my review copy of A Suitable Lie.

A Suitable Lie was published by Orenda books on 15th September 2016 and is available to buy here.

About the Author…

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country, just a stone’s throw from the great man’s cottage in Ayr. Well, a stone thrown by a catapult. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. His career as a poet has also included a (very) brief stint as the Poet-In-Residence for an adult gift shop. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize (judge: Alex Gray) from the Scottish Association of Writers.Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call (a non-fiction work about successful modern-day Scots); A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; and Beyond the Rage. His poetry includes: In The Raw, Running Threads and Lip Synch. Michael is a regular reviewer for the hugely popular crime fiction website http://www.crimesquad.com. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller.

Minty by Christina Banach #BookReview

About this book…

Fourteen-year-old twins Minty and Jess are inseparable. Maybe they bicker now and then, even crave a bit of space once in a while. But they have a connection. Unbreakable. Steadfast. Nothing can tear them apart. Until a family trip to the coast puts their bond in jeopardy. As Minty tries to rescue her dog from drowning she ends up fighting for her life. Will Minty survive? If she doesn’t, how will Jess cope without her? Only the stormy sea has the answer. Minty is a story of love, loss and coming to terms with consequences. It’s a spiritual tale that will linger in your mind long after you’ve read the final word.

My review…

As everyone knows I just love books about twins, it doesn’t seem to matter which genre either as the twin relationship just fascinates me both in real life and in fictional settings as well. This is the first young adult book I’ve read with twins but it’s probably a book that can be read by adults as well as stories about grief knows no age boundaries. Here in her debut novel Christina Banach gives us a story of love, loss and forgiveness affecting a family with twin 14 year old girls. And they have dogs!!!!

I think the scene at the beginning of the book was one that would bring terror to any parent or dog walker…a dog in trouble in the water. Now when you haven’t been in this situation, it’s very easy to judge! How many lives are lost each year when people attempt to rescue their dogs from a situation but get into difficulty? And the awful thing is that normally that person dies but their dog has somehow survived against the odds. So I found this a very realistic and scary start to how Minty dies and becomes lost and separated from her twin Jess. There was an essence of The Lovely Bones from this point onwards as Minty is stuck in an afterlife where she watches her family struggling to cope without her.

The relationship between Minty and Jess and also the one she strikes up with Jack, her afterlife friend who helps her to understand what’s happened to her, are really well developed which leads to a true depth of feeling to their interactions. It doesn’t matter that you know where the story has got to be heading as it’s Jess and Mintys journey to their acceptance of the inevitable that is at the core of this lovely book.

This is the sort of book my girls would have loved when they were teenagers and that I would have encouraged them to read. It’s a poignant and emotional read that ultimately has an uplifting message of hope in its plot. I can tell that the author has put a lot of herself and her beliefs into her work and it works all the better for that.

I received a review copy of this book from the author and have chosen to write a review after reading it.

Minty is out now and available to buy here from Amazon UK

About the author…

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Christina Banach is a former head teacher who lives in Scotland with her husband and their two rescue dogs. She loves walking; delicious food and wine; evenings at the theatre; exploring new places; surfing the Net; listening to music; and anything that makes her laugh. Plus she has a penchant for shoes and handbags. A voracious reader, she particularly enjoys children’s fiction (all those years buying for school libraries!) – which led her to writing. Christina is hard at work on her next novel.

Candles and Roses by Alex Walters #BlogTour #BookReview @MikeWalters60 @Bloodhoundbook @baatyabtbooks

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About this book…

Who will live and who will die? 

DI Alec McKay is a man haunted by the loss of his daughter.  As he obsesses over a missing person case that is going nowhere, McKay’s investigation is interrupted when bodies start appearing on the Scottish Black Isle. Soon McKay and his team start to identify a disturbing pattern behind the killings.

Why are candles and roses placed around the bodies?

What is this twisted murderer trying to achieve?

While the police follow their own leads, a young woman who discovered the first victim begins an investigation of her own.

As the case unfolds McKay will be forced to face his own demons.

To catch the killer McKay must discover the true motive and untangle the web of truth and lies.

Candles and Roses is the first book in the explosive new DI McKay Series.

My review…

I haven’t read any of this authors books before so really didn’t have any expectations at all when I picked it up to read. So it was a very pleasant surprise to find a crime novel set in a lovely part of Scotland that I know quite well and with a detective that I found very likeable and convincing.

DI Alec McKay was very easy to visualize from the authors description and I was surprised how easily I took to him. There’s a good balance here between his work life, where he is out to catch a possible serial killer and his home life where problems are hinted at very early on. The other characters I liked were Ginny Horton whom I would love to have more of the action in future books, and Kelly, who bravely decided she wanted to take part in a little investigating of her own. After taking a little while to work out who they and the rest of the characters were and how they fitted in with the plot, I couldn’t put this book down. The descriptions of how each girl goes missing were really disturbing with a creepy atmosphere and sense of foreboding leading back to the wonderfully dark and gloomy setting of the Black Isle.

I did work out where the plot was going but found the end to be conducted without too much sentimentality and with a few ends left dangling for good measure! I really enjoyed this new crime series and will definitely be looking to read the next book when it comes along.

Many thanks to Helen at Bloodhound books for my review copy.

Candles and Roses: a serial killer thriller is published by Bloodhound books on 27th September and is available to buy here at Amazon UK

About the author…

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Alex has worked in the oil industry, broadcasting and banking and now runs a consultancy working mainly in the criminal justice sector including police, prisons and probation.
As Michael Walters, he has published three crime thrillers set in modern-day Mongolia. As Alex Walters he has written two thrillers set in and around Manchester and featuring the undercover officer, Marie Donovan, Trust No-One and Nowhere to Hide. His new book, Late Checkout is the first in a series of crime thrillers featuring, alongside Marie Donovan, the rather distinctive DCI Kenny Murrain. The second book in the series, Dark Corners, is scheduled for publication in Autumn 2016. Candles and Roses, the first in a new crime series set in Scotland’s Black Isle, is due out in September 2016.
Alex lives in Manchester with his wife, occasional sons and too many cats.

He can be contacted at: mike@whitmuir.com
Twitter: @mikewalters60
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/alexwaltersauthor/

 

 

 

 

It’s Friday! 16/9

I don’t seem to have had an awful lot of reading time this week! I’m very unsettled as awaiting the new arrival still so I can’t seem to sit down and concentrate therefore not much new has been reviewed here this week!

But I have had a very lucky week and have won 8 books in total! In fact it’s got to the stage where if I say “Guess what I won today?” to my husband, his answer is “If it’s not the Euromillions then I’m not interested!” I’ve always been a rather lucky person but I have to admit it’s probably as I enter every competition I see so the odds are in my favour I suppose.

My first prize to actually arrive was a box of five books from the Scottish children’s publisher Kelpies and two of these books have become favourites already! I like my grandchildren to know they are a quarter Scottish (well one is actually half Scottish!) So loved being able to read these with them!

My First Scottish Colours…

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Say hello to green Nessie, wave a blue saltire and pick a beautiful purple thistle! Introduce your wee ones to their first colours — red, blue, yellow, orange, green and purple — with a Scottish twist! This bright board book is packed with lively images and simple, clear text. The chunky format and hard-wearing pages are perfect for wee hands.

This is a fabulous wee board book by Kate McLelland with colours associated to a Scottish connection. It’s bright and colourful and the pictures are not too detailed so just right for young minds. And the chunky board book is lovely and sturdy. This is becoming a firm favourite after only 2 days for a nearly two year old who is learning his colours. Just perfect! I’m off to check out the others in the series too now!

My First Scottish Colours (Wee Kelpies) is available from Amazon UK

My luve’s Like a Red Red Rose…

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O my Luve’s like a red, red rose, That’s newly sprung in June; O my Luve’s like the melodie That’s sweetly play’d in tune. In this beautifully illustrated picture-book version of Burns’ classic poem, the lyrics have been re-imagined to explore the special love between parent and child. A mother and daughter feature in everyday scenes such as playing in a garden, splashing in the sea and going to nursery, each inspired by Burns’ eloquent words. With delightful, heart-warming illustrations by Ruchi Mhasane, this expressive new picture book is the perfect way to share Burns’ with very young children. It is also an ideal Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day gift.

This is just a stunning book! It has taken the poem by Burns and put it with some of the most beautiful and touching illustrations I have seen in a children’s book recently. The mother and daughter relationship is so poignantly drawn that it brought a tear to my eye! This one is perfect for my daughter to share with my granddaughter and I’m sure it will become a firm family favourite. I just loved it!

My Luve’s Like a Red, Red Rose (Picture Kelpies) is also available to buy from Amazon UK

 

 

What Goes Around by Julie Corbin

About this book…

Two women, two secrets, one murder…

What Goes Around is the story of two women – Ellen and Leila. Ellen is the ex-wife and Leila is the new woman, living in Ellen’s house, sleeping with Ellen’s husband. Each woman has her own secrets to keep. Leila’s brother is back in her life and is determined to rake up their past while Ellen is out for revenge. She wants her home back and she wants Leila to pay for breaking up her marriage. Her plan will make her do things she never thought herself capable of – but it will also put her in danger. Because Ellen has no idea what sort of a woman Leila is and when she finally finds out, it could already be too late…

One of the women will end up dead. But which one?

My review…

I’ve been a fan of Julie Corbin since her first novel. Her Scottish settings and her way of using her characters to live out your worst nightmares have always appealed to me and I look forward to when she has a new book out.

What Goes Around is a fabulous title for a psychological revenge thriller (it’s an annoyingly frequent saying of mine apparently!) and right from the start I realised that this book was very different from Julie Corbin’s previous books. Although the same general seed is sown (ordinary people thrown into difficult and ultimately dangerous situations) the way this one evolves is much darker than I had been expecting! It’s also much more concentrated as its told in alternating points of view by Ellen and Leila forming a tale of two women and a questionable quest for revenge. Ellen is suffering from OCD since splitting from her husband. Leila is the therapist that Ellen books an appointment with to help her. So far so good but unfortunately Ellen is there under an assumed name as Leila is the woman her husband left her for! Now at that information, you’re probably wondering how that would work? Surely the new woman would know what the ex wife looks like? But Leila isn’t like other women, certainly none I have met anyway! And because of that I disliked her from the start. How can a woman be so self absorbed that she hasn’t got a clue about the woman she has replaced? But Leila has a past that is hinted at throughout so that when I found out more, it was actually quite horrifying and I started to question my initial judgment of her. Whereas Ellen had my sympathy from the off, dumped for a younger, more adventurous woman and losing her home as well as her husband. So I was rather shocked at the actions she took to extract her revenge.

And that’s what worked so well here for me as a reader. My sympathies and opinions switched around so many times I was dizzy by the end! There were no real shocks here but the plot definitely didn’t play out as I was expecting so to manage to conjure up a few surprises is certainly something to be applauded. I feel I should warn that there are some difficult and sometimes rather upsetting scenes here which some people may find unpleasant reading but I found it to be relevant to discovering what makes characters act the way they do. The storyline also explores the “nature versus nurture” theory which has always been a particular fascination of mine.

A gripping but rather unsettling read which probably isn’t my favourite Julie Corbin novel but it’s one that will haunt me more than usual.

What Goes Around: A chilling psychological thriller is available to buy here from Amazon UK

About the author..

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Julie Corbin is Scottish and grew up just outside Edinburgh. She has lived in East Sussex for the last twenty-five years and raised her three sons in a village close to the Ashdown Forest. She is trained as a nurse and combines running the medical department in a boarding school with writing novels, short stories and currently a radio play.

 

Valentina by S E Lynes

About this book…

When Glasgow journalist Shona McGilvery moves with her partner Mikey and their baby to an idyllic cottage in rural Scotland, they believe that all that lies ahead of them is happiness.

But with Mikey working offshore, the frightening isolation of the Aberdeenshire countryside begins to drive her insane…

That is, until she is rescued by a new friendship with the enchanting Valentina.

She has the perfect home, the perfect man, and a charismatic new best friend – or does she? As her fairytale life begins to unravel, the deep dark wood becomes the least of her fears…

My review…

I started this book when I was on a train journey earlier in the summer months but I quickly realised that I didn’t want to dip into it over a few days, catching reading time whenever I could. I had only got to 6% but I had got….. “the feeling”! Yes THAT feeling-the tingly excitement of discovering a book that you want to hide away with and read in one or two long sittings. So, it came on my summer holiday with me and what a fabulous choice I made as it turned out to be one of my top holiday reads-a 5* book that kept me glued to my sunlounger.

I was drawn to the book initially due to rave reviews from fellow bloggers and after investigating further I realised that lots of the locations were very familiar to me. I love books that are set in places that mean something to me so the setting of Aberdeenshire and the connection to the oil industry engaged me from the start. Although from Norfolk, I moved to just outside Aberdeen due to my mum’s job so the mention of places such as Banchory, the Ardoe House Hotel and Kippie Lodge really brought back some very emotional memories of my time there (we were members of Kippie Lodge and always felt like we were in an episode of Dallas whenever we went!!). There were lots of incomers to the area at the height of the oil industry and as one of them I did struggle to settle and fit in. So that was the reason I felt so fiercely protective of Shona as I really felt her every emotion when she had to up sticks and leave behind a home and family she loved.

Susie Lynes weaves such a twisty plot into her storytelling that once I started this (the second time!) I couldn’t put it down and at one point even gasped out loud! But she also takes us beyond what happens here and I’m sure I’m not the only one who came away unable to move on from it as the issues raised stayed on my mind for quite some time afterwards. There is certainly plenty of ponder upon and I think book clubs up and down the country would have a field day with this one!

The isolation of new mothers means that sometimes friendships are formed by women where the only thing they have in common is the fact that they gave birth at the same time! There is so much to discuss here after dissecting the meeting between Shona and Valentina that very quickly becomes an intensely close relationship. I felt such an empathy for Shona the whole way through (apart from one little thing and I’m sure you’ll know what that is after you have read it!) as she felt like a kindred spirit and I connected with her right from the start. I even envied her her fabulous new friendship with Valentina-to have someone so unconventional and free spirited come into her life just when she needed her the most seemed almost too good to be true!

This was a tightly knitted, gripping storyline where I was aware from very early on that something wasn’t quite right. But what? Was I correct in my assumptions? Well, in some cases I was but not all as there are a few shockers along the way here. This is such a self assured debut written with a such a perfect understanding of what makes women connect with others and how parenthood makes us perceive the world around us and the people in it very differently. Honestly, when I finished it I just wanted to go back and read the whole thing again! Such wonderfully atmospheric storytelling has given me a real hunger for another book from Susie and she has joined the list of writers who truly can’t write quickly enough for me! Just BRILLIANT!

Valentina: A Hauntingly Intelligent Psychological Thriller is available to purchase here from Amazon UK

About the author…

B1u88GuzWjS._SX150_After graduating from Leeds University, S E Lynes lived in London for a couple of years before moving to Aberdeen to be with her husband. In Aberdeen, she worked as a producer at the BBC Radio Scotland before moving with her husband and two young children to Rome. There, she began to write while her children attended nursery. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She now combines writing with lecturing at Richmond Adult Community College and bringing up her three children. She lives in Teddington.

Old Friends and New Enemies by Owen Mullen

About this book…

The body on the mortuary slab wasn’t who Glasgow PI Charlie Cameron was looking for. But it wasn’t a stranger. Ian Selkirk must have crossed some dangerous people. Because now he was dead. Stabbed through the heart and dumped in the loch. Suddenly, a routine missing persons investigation becomes a fight for survival as Charlie goes up against notorious gangster, Jimmy Rafferty, who has ruled the east end of the city with fear for over thirty years. Rafferty is ruthless. Even his own family are terrified of him. But Jimmy’s best days are behind him and in the Rafferty clan a power struggle is taking place between the sons. Finding what the thief stole is the old man’s last chance to protect what he has built and hold on to power just a little longer. He wants to use Charlie to get it for him. And Jimmy Rafferty always gets what he wants. The trail runs from the cold dark water of Loch Lomond to the golden beaches of southern Spain, from the terraces of Celtic Park to a thrilling climax on the battlements of Edinburgh Castle. Charlie must give Rafferty what he needs or die. Only one problem. Charlie doesn’t know where it is.

My review…

Having read and enjoyed Games People Play by Owen Mullen, I was keen to read Book two in the series. It can be read as a standalone though.There seems to have been a few books recently that have featured a PI as the central character, there to solve a mystery as an aside to a police investigation, but the charismatic Charlie Cameron is one of the better ones that I’ve come across.

I wasn’t as emotionally involved in the plot of this second book as I was the first but it was an interesting twist to have Charlie searching for a missing husband and viewing a body that was possibly his at the morgue but instead the deceased turns out to be an old friend! Surely just a coincidence but Owen is then drawn into an underground world of gangsters who believe that Charlie is the key to finding a very large amount of cash. I loved the softer side of Charlie that came out once his old friend Fiona appeared on the scene. He doesn’t give much away usually but I felt Fiona brought him out of himself a little more and that emotion fed through to his investigations. The usual sidekicks were back, Jackie at NYB and Pat which let us explore their back stories a little more. Although my favourite has to be the Big Issue seller who I hope has chance of a bigger role in future books.

Having lived in and around Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dunbartonshire for many years, I think a lot of my enjoyment came from recognising the local landmarks and I loved the authenticity of Charlie’s surroundings. The start and the ending really held my attention but there was a time in the middle that I kind of lost my way a bit. Thankfully, once back on track the finale raced along to the end with an unexpectedly chilling last few pages. Although set in recent years, many times I felt as if I were reading a vintage PI story set in the 1940s especially in the way it was told in those short sharp sentences and dialogue. But this just added to this rather atmospheric and dark thriller.

Thank you to the author for providing me with a review copy and this is my unbiased review in return.

Old Friends and New Enemies: Tense and Gripping Scottish Crime Thriller (Charlie Cameron Series Book 2) is available to buy from Amazon UK

You can find out more about Owen Mullen the author of A12gWSv2ZML._UX250_the Charlie Cameron series by liking his Facebook page or by following him over on Twitter