Challenge Participant


Thursday, 14 April 2016

Blog Tour - May Day Murder by Julie Wassmer

May Day Murder - Whitstable Pearl Mysteries 3 (Hardback)

It's springtime and Whitstable is emerging from hibernation. While neither the restaurant nor detective agency is too busy, Pearl resolves to spend some time at the family allotment. But her best friend, Nathan, has persuaded one of his favourite actresses to open the May Day festivities at Whitstable Castle and involves Pearl in his plans. Like Pearl, Faye Marlowe is a Whitstable native, but having left the town more than two decades ago, the star has been living in the South of France since her agent's phone stopped ringing. Charming but 'sensitive', she arrives with a small entourage and though her presence in the town causes a stir Pearl's mother Dolly remains unimpressed, choosing to remember Faye Marlow when she was plain old Frankie Murray, the daughter of a local whelk merchant. Nathan soon realises he has made a mistake with this invitation and his doubts are confirmed when Faye is nowhere to be found on the morning of May Day. And as 'Jack in the Green' puts on his impressive costume to lead the parade, the actress's dead body is discovered - tethered to the maypole on the Castle grounds ...and so it's left to Pearl and DCI Mike McGuire to unravel the mystery of the May Day murder.

Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
ISBN: 9781472118950
Today I welcome Pearl back to my blog as Julie Wassmer's third book in the Whitstable Pearl murders series is released in hardback. I previously hosted a blog tour for the second book in the series Murder on Sea in October.
The Whitstable Pearl Murder series is a great cosy crime series, similar to M C Beaton's Agatha Raisin and Rebecca Tope's  Thea Osborne Cotswold Mystery series.
I really enjoyed this book, travelling back to Whitstable, where actress Faye Marlow returns to home soil to open Whitstable Castle's May Day festivities. However the day doesn't go to plan as the actress's dead body is discovered. 
As many good series beforehand, the reader is able to catch up with Whitstable's familiar characters in the beautiful village setting. There are fantastic characters, my favourite continues to be Pearl's mum, Dolly. 
Julie's fantastic writing style allows the reader to loose themselves in Whitstable's village life and I would love to see this series made into a television series - Midsummer Murder's take two! Each book can be read as a stand alone, however I am sure readers will want to continue to revisit Whitstable once they have visited once.
I am already looking forward to my next visit to Whitstable.

Thank you to the author, Julie Wassmer, and the publishers, Little, Brown, for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. 

Monday, 11 April 2016

Blog Tour - My Grandmother Sends her Regards and Apologises by Fredrik Backman

My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises (Paperback)

A must-read for fans of Rachel Joyce's The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Maria Semple's Where'd You Go, Bernadette Heartbreaking and hilarious in equal measure, the new novel by the author of the internationally bestselling phenomenon A Man Called Ove will charm and delight anyone who has ever had a grandmother. Everyone remembers the smell of their grandmother's house. Everyone remembers the stories their grandmother told them. But does everyone remember their grandmother flirting with policemen? Driving illegally? Breaking into a zoo in the middle of the night? Firing a paintball gun from a balcony in her dressing gown? Seven-year-old Elsa does. Some might call Elsa's granny 'eccentric', or even 'crazy'. Elsa calls her a superhero. And granny's stories, of knights and princesses and dragons and castles, are her superpower. Because, as Elsa is starting to learn, heroes and villains don't always exist in imaginary kingdoms; they could live just down the hallway. As Christmas draws near, even the best superhero grandmothers may have one or two things they'd like to apologise for. And, in the process, Elsa can have some breath-taking adventures of her own ...
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division
ISBN: 9781444775853

A Man Called Ove was an instant hit with thousands of readers, and this, the often difficult second book, My Grandmother Sends her Regards and Apologises by Fredrik Backman is another great read.
The thing I loved most about this book are the letters written by Elsa's grandmother. The letters tell the the fairytales of the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas,  weaving throughout the story and are treats for the reader to find, leading them further into the tales. These tales are true testament to the incredible imagination that Backman uses to create these stories and cleverly narrates them, while also telling a modern day story, with people's lives and secrets being revealed or explained through the fairy tales. 
There is both sadness and happiness throughout the book, with both life and death embraced but the book is one which once picked up and started will keep the reader enthralled until the very last word. There are many brilliant characters included throughout the book and I am sure that every reader will choose their own favourite. There are lots of laugh out loud moments throughout the book too - as both Granny and Elsa have comic timing and interesting views.
This book would be perfect as a book club read. There are so many story-lines which are easy to follow, but as the reader gets further into the book, I am sure readers will interpret tales in different ways, leading the way to interesting discussions between friends and family. 
Thank you to the publishers, Hodder and Stoughton, for asking me to be a stop on this tour and sending me a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Blog Tour - Operation Goodwood by Sara Sheridan

Operation Goodwood - Mirabelle Bevan 5 (Hardback)1955. When Mirabelle Bevan is rescued from a fire at her home on the Brighton seafront she's lucky to escape unharmed - but the blaze takes the life of her neighbour, Dougie Beaumont, a dashing and successful racing driver living in the flat above. It soon becomes clear that this was arson, raising questions about the young man's death that Mirabelle can't resist investigating further. With her curiosity piqued and on the trail of a potential killer she finds herself taking on the mysterious world of Fleet Street with its long lunches and dodgy deals as well as the glamorous motor racing world at Goodwood. It gradually becomes clear to Mirabelle that Dougie Beaumont's life was not as above-board as it first seemed and that this talented man had many secrets, hidden when he was alive by his international lifestyle where he was constantly on the move. Then, when a second shocking murder takes place, Mirabelle's pursuit is frustrated first by Dougie's well-connected and suspicious family and then by the official investigation - led by her would-be lover Superintendent McGregor. With the help of her colleague at McGuigan & McGuigan Debt Recovery, Vesta, and some of her ex-intelligence service connections, Mirabelle discovers the dark secrets of the glamorous racing driver have ramifications far beyond the English coastline.
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
ISBN: 9781472122346

This is the fifth book in the Mirabelle Bevan series of books and they are growing in popularity as the series progresses. Although this is the fifth book in the series I believe that they can be read as standalone books and readers will soon be reaching for more Mirabelle Bevan books. 
I enjoy these crime novels and add this to the backdrop of Goodwood and motor racing I am in book heaven! The book starts with a glamorous motor racing event, set in the glamorous 1950's and I love Sheridan's descriptive prose, which transports the reader straight into the action. 
The characters within the book are all fantastic and I love the partnership between Bevan and Vesta in their crime solving adventures.

I am very lucky to be able to share the first chapter of Operation Goodwood with you now:

The path that leads on is lighted by one fire
Five months later
Brighton, 3.25 a.m., Sunday 25 September, 1955
Mirabelle awoke coughing and in confusion. The room was full of thick smoke. Panicked, she scrambled out of bed and opened the window to let in some fresh air. The smoke streamed out, funnelled through the void at the bottom of the frame. Her eyes stinging, she wasn’t convinced that opening the window had helped. She couldn’t even see as far as the pavement, never mind the seascape beyond. It took a moment to take in the seriousness of the situation. A fire. Here. At home. She lingered for a moment, woozy, before her training kicked in. Fires in the night had been common during the Blitz. She pulled a blanket off the mattress, flung the glass of water from her bedside over one corner of the material and then with her shoulders covered and the damp part of the blanket over her mouth, she dropped on to all fours and, wheezing, crawled into the living room. Immediately she toppled a pile of newspapers that was stacked by the sofa and blindly clambered over the detritus in the direction of the hallway. Her eyes were streaming now but she was afraid to close them and she knew rubbing would only make it worse. There was no sign of live flames here, not in the bedroom – not anywhere. She wondered momentarily where the blaze had started. This puzzle stopped her, as if she was frozen by indecision. She considered saving something – grabbing some of her possessions, but she couldn’t think where to start. Then there was a loud bang as the front door crashed open and the vague silhouette of a fireman appeared on the threshold.
‘Here,’ she shouted. ‘I’m here!’
The man grabbed her firmly by the arms and slung her efficiently over his shoulder, before carrying her into the entrance hall and down the main stairs. As the open door above receded, Mirabelle strained to keep her eyes open. Through painful lids, she could just make out tiny tongues of flame licking the banister on the second floor.
Outside, she gasped for breath in the cold night air as the man laid her gently on the pavement and a medic rushed forwards with a blanket. Her cough was rapid as machine gun fire. Behind her, a team of firemen unrolled a hose along the Lawns and she could just make out residents from further along the terrace congregated on the other side of the street in a dim huddle of pyjamas and velvet slippers. Someone was handing around mugs of tea.
‘Thank you,’ Mirabelle managed as she caught her breath. Her eyes were stinging.
‘We didn’t realise you were inside,’ the fireman said. ‘Thank God you opened that window. Do you know if there’s anyone else in the building?’
‘Mr Evans downstairs mostly stays in London – he works there. I don’t know if he’s in,’ Mirabelle spluttered. ‘And above, the flat was sold earlier this year. I’ve never seen anyone go in or out.’
The medic’s and the fireman’s eyes met as she began to breathe more easily. She lay back, the cold night air soothing her dry, gritty lids like a balm. Turning on her side, the blanket felt scratchy. She could just make out the shape of a body on a stretcher further along the pavement. Another medic was bent over it.
‘Who’s that?’ she asked, propping herself up. Perhaps Evans had been in after all.
‘That’s the fellow from upstairs, miss. You sure you don’t know his name?’
Mirabelle shook her head. ‘I didn’t know there was anyone up there. How awful.’
Mirabelle’s rescuer turned away as the men flocked round the engine to help jet a stream of water across the Lawns. He fell in as they moved into position to douse the flames. To the side, the other medic stood back from the man’s body. He shook his head. Mirabelle squinted to make out the corpse on the stretcher in the amber streetlight. His head was turned towards her. The eyes were glazed and she could just make out a shadow – a wide red welt around his neck. To one side the medic retrieved a piece of rope.
‘The police will want that, I expect,’ he said.
‘Did he hang himself?’ Mirabelle asked, as she tried to sit up further.
‘Now, now, miss,’ the man fussed. ‘There’s no point in getting worked up.’
He nodded at his friend to lay a sheet over the body. Mirabelle paused. It was odd but she could swear she had seen the man somewhere. Her bare feet were getting cold now and she tucked them under the thick fabric, drawing the blanket around her. Then she gave an involuntary shudder.
‘Don’t trouble yourself,’ the medic continued. ‘There’s nothing anyone could’ve done.’
‘But I didn’t even know he was there.’
‘People these days don’t always know their neighbours, miss. It’s not like before the war.’
‘Please,’ she insisted. ‘Let me see him again.’
The medic hesitated, then nodded at the other man who removed the sheet from the dead man’s face. Then it came to her. It was the racing driver – the young man with the strong jaw. With the mother.
‘I do know him,’ she said. ‘Well, I’ve seen him. He’s a driver. Beaumont? Is that the name?’
‘Blow me, she’s right. It’s Dougie Beaumont,’ the medic said. ‘That’s a tragedy.’
‘Why would he kill himself?’ Mirabelle kept her eyes steady on the welt round Dougie Beaumont’s neck. ‘I don’t understand.’
‘Now, now, miss. No point in getting exercised. You’ve identified the poor fellow. That’s a help.’
Two black Marias pulled up behind the fire engine and three uniformed policemen emerged to control the crowd that was forming along the pavement. Then Superintendent McGregor appeared beside Mirabelle. He crouched down and took her hand. She felt curiously detached from what was going on but she was glad to see a familiar face.
‘Are you all right? I came as soon as I heard. Can I take you to hospital?’ McGregor’s concern was evident.
The medic smiled indulgently. ‘She’s fine, sir. Though we’ll keep an eye on her for another few minutes. You were lucky, miss.’
‘The fire was upstairs, Alan,’ Mirabelle found herself explaining with some urgency, ‘and the poor man is dead. It’s Dougie Beaumont – do you remember? He won the first race when we went to Goodwood at Easter? It looks like he hanged himself.’
‘You leave that to me.’ McGregor squeezed her fingers gently and cast a glance over his shoulder at the dead man. ‘The boys will take care of it. Right now, you’ve had a shock and it seems you’re out of digs. Why don’t you come and stay at my place till we get all this sorted out?’

Thank you to Sara Sheridan and the publishers, Constable,  for inviting me to be part of the blog tour. 

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Blog Tour - The Missing by Cally Taylor

Today I am very excited to open the blog tour for C L Taylor's third novel, The Missing, which tells the story of the disappearance of fifteen year old Billy, and the subsequent police investigation. All told from Claire, Billy's mother, point of view.

The Missing (Paperback)

You love your family. They make you feel safe. You trust them. But should you...? When fifteen-year-old Billy Wilkinson goes missing in the middle of the night, his mother, Claire, blames herself. She's not the only one. There isn't a single member of Billy's family that doesn't feel guilty. But the Wilkinsons' are so used to keeping secrets from one another that it isn't until six months later, after an appeal for information goes horribly wrong, that the truth begins to surface. Claire is sure of two things - that Billy is still alive and that her friends and family had nothing to do with his disappearance. A mother's instinct is never wrong. Or is it? Sometimes those closest to us are the ones with the most to hide...

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 9780008118051

Cally Taylor is fast becoming one of my favourite authors in the psychological crime thriller genre and this, Taylor's third novel, again leaves me wanting to read just one more chapter at night, which of course means I read for another hour!!
The story is told through the eyes of Claire, Billy's mum and I think the author has cleverly narrated the story from the mother's point of view. As a mother myself,  I can only imagine how she must feel when her son disappears and the subsequent police investigation which leads to all aspects or Billy's and her family's life being investigated and discussed in the media. Add to this the complication of  Claire suffering from blackouts, or fugues, periodically through the story and this adds to the confusion that she feels, as a mother with a missing child, as she tries to piece together what happened around the time Billy disappears. While reading the book I was able to sympathise with Claire, and understood the feelings and thoughts she was having. Having a child going missing and not knowing what happened or where they are must be one of the worst things that a parent can go through and Taylor's book certainly leaves readers feeling those feelings. Coupled with this, the fugues that Claire suffers and that multiplies that fear ten fold as she is left wondering if she knows something she can't come to terms with.
Claire's narrative tells the story, however between chapters there are snippets of internet chat between JackDaw44 and ICE9. Halfway through the book I though I had guessed who these conversations were about and who was having them however, in true Taylor fashion I was completely wrong and it wasn't until the very end of the book that I realised my mistake. 
The story was fast paced, but not rushed and as each chapter finished I felt that someone else was under scrutiny, often returning to earlier 'suspects' but the real culprit was not revealed until the very end and I was shocked when I found who it really was.
I really enjoyed this book - I often read a lot of chick lit but I like to to add in some crime and psychological thrillers into the mix and this one was definitely worth it. It had me hooked from the first chapter and I read each chapter, always looking for clues as to what had happened to Billy, and felt that I was living Billy's disappearance with Claire, through the media and police investigation as we, the general public, have in recent years with the high profile police searches for missing children in recent years. 
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers, and although the story-line is of a missing child and the police investigation which follows, there book is a fantastic read and will leave readers reaching for Taylor's back catologue!
Cally Taylor has local connections to me and I really enjoyed listening to her at Worcester Literary Festival last year in The Illustrious Crime Panel event and I am looking forward to the end of the month when Cally will also be visiting Chipping Norton's Chiplitfest.
Cally Taylor is hosting a  workshop 'The Art of a Good Thriller' and is on the panel for 'Liar Liar', a discussion to find the favourite fictional fraud, with fellow panellists Lucy Atkins. Hannah Beckerman and Amanda Jennings at Chipping Norton's Literary Festival on Saturday 23th April 2016.