#BlogTour Girl Targeted by Val Collins

Today is my stop on the Blog-Tour for Girl Targeted by Val Collins. It is a tale of murder with an underlying sense of darkness throughout, but not just because of the murder per se. Her main character has a nose for murder, which leads to the discovery of self and snake pit full of lies.

About the Author

“I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love to read but writing is a pretty new adventure for me.

Of course I wrote stories when I was very young and I especially loved rewriting the ends of movies but I was an impatient kid and had an unfortunate tendency towards perfectionism. When, at around the age of ten, I realised my attempts at writing dialogue were dire, my writing career came to an abrupt end. A few years ago I decided to try my hand at writing again and Girl Targeted was the eventual result.

Girl Targeted is set in Ireland where I have lived all my life. It’s set in an office, an environment I know well as my entire working life has been spent doing office work. I’ve worked for small and medium sized organisations, for multinationals and for many different business sectors. Unfortunately, I was never lucky enough to come across anything as exciting as a murder so I had to rely on my imagination to create Aoife’s world.

I really loved writing Girl Targeted and I hope you enjoy reading it. Val”

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Visit valcollinsbooks.com

Buy Girl Targeted(UK)

Buy Girl Targeted (US)

About the book

A Psychological Thriller/Suspense set in Ireland.

Office jobs can be stressful. Aoife’s may be lethal.

Aoife’s life is finally on track. She’s happily married, pregnant with her first child and has the world’s best mother-in-law. But when Aoife accepts a job as an office temp, her entire life begins to unravel. Is one of Aoife’s colleagues a murderer? Is Aoife the next target? Why is her husband unconcerned?

Can office politics lead to murder? Girl Targeted is a perfect read for fans of Behind Closed Doors, Girl on a Train and the Silent Wife.

Review

It is a tale of murder with an underlying sense of darkness throughout, but not because of the murder per se. The feeling of fear, uncertainty and confusion comes from an entirely different place.

The story pulls the reader in two directions, and if I am being completely frank, I am not sure that was intentional. I think the relationship between Aoife and Jason was supposed to be a mere distraction in the background with the murder mystery taking centre stage. Personally I found their relationship and the clear message it sends, far more compelling than Aoife playing a very young and naive Miss Marple.

There was one thing that bothered me about Girl Targeted, and I could not be clearer about it being a personal preference thereby having nothing to do with how much I enjoyed the read. When it comes to names that look one way and are pronounced a completely different way I tend to suffer from my very own version of the Stroop Effect. Example: the word purple being written in red, do not read the word say the colour. So, the same happened with the name Aoife. Pronounced Ee-faa (and yes the author does tell the reader how to say it), my mind says Oyff. I was annoyed by own brain going Oyff nope Ee-faa the entire time. ‘Sigh’

I digress.

Let’s get back to what really had me intrigued when it came to this story. On the surface Aoife and Jason appear to be a happy young couple with a new baby. Jason’s views are perhaps a wee bit chauvinistic, but there is nothing wrong him wanting her to stay at home with the baby, right. There is however something wrong with Jason. He wants to control all the money, the narrative and who Aoife meets or talks to.

Wrapped in a bubble of apparent concern is the insidious nature of the beast called abuse. Jason uses emotional abuse to control Aoife. He uses neglect and coercion to convince her to do everything he wants. He traces her every move, controls every penny and manipulates others to get his wife to do what he wants.

It seems almost innocent and can easily be mistaken for overprotective love or concern for a loved one, which is often how an abusive partner gets away with it. They try and take away any financial freedom, make the victim dependent upon them in every way and seclude them from family and friends. Extreme jealousy and paranoia are usually precursors for abusive behaviour.This element of the story, and the way it evolved, was really interesting.

Girl Targeted is a murder mystery with the serious topic of abuse woven into the story. The main character has a nose for murder, which leads to the discovery of self and a snake pit full of lies.

Buy Girl Targeted at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin

the wicked comethThere is a lot of waxing lyrical, which leads to the assumption that the story is leading in a completely different direction to the one it actually takes.

The procrastination, albeit very beautiful procrastination, makes the first half of the book appear to be a lot slower and the second half of the book is faster paced, and the plot is focused in another direction.

Not that I think it was Carlin’s intention for the beginning of the book to sound like a ghoulish mystery with a Gothic vibe, which then turns into a Burke and Hare venture with an underlying romantic connection.

I think the intention was for the relationship between Hester and Rebekah to always be at the centre of the story, regardless of what happens around them. Their blossoming friendship, sisterhood and finally the twinkle of something more. The discovery of their feelings, the confusion and acknowledgement of said feelings, and the realisation that society will never accept it, would have been sufficient as a storyline. The second half of the book, which ventures more into the deep dark secrets of Rebekah’s family could have been an entirely new novel.

It felt a little like Holmes battling Moriarty, while Hetty Feather struggles to survive on the streets, with a modern twist on romance thrown in for good measure. I would really like to see Carlin follow through with the relaxed beautiful style of the first half of the book. Both styles have their merits, just not when fused together as one.

Leaving all that aside for a moment, I enjoyed the friendship and emerging romance between the two of them. Neither of them willing to admit the attraction is there and perhaps not even fully comprehending what it is they are feeling, because it goes against all the conventions they know. Carlin also describes the worlds between the classes well and the invisible wall keeping them apart. The stark reality of poverty and the rules of the streets the poor have to abide by to survive.

I certainly wouldn’t be averse to seeing Rebekah and Hester teaming up together again.

Buy The Wicked Cometh at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

hardcastleIt is unique, innovative and certainly a compelling piece of fiction, with an almost dystopian like plot.

Think Fallen (1998 with Denzel Washington) with the psychedelic feel of Clockwork Orange and crime element of a 24/7 days a week ongoing Groundhog Day meets Christie mystery.

‘Nothing here is arbitrary’ and that is exactly what readers have to keep in mind whilst reading this.

Aiden has, as far as he is aware, been summoned to Blackheath to solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle, and until he can do that he has to relive the same day over and over again. Initially it all sounds like a rather complex murder mystery weekend. Then things start to get a wee bit more sinister and violent.

Aiden awakens each day in the body of a different guest, which gives him the advantage of seeing the crime and clues from a variety of angles. There are also disadvantages to inhabiting a new host every day though. When there are two conscious minds in the same body only one can be in control, which means that might not always be Aiden.

He finds himself struggling to maintain control and to differentiate between friend and foe. There seem to be other players in this nefarious game, the question is whether they are working with him or against him.

I liked the concept in its entirety, especially the retribution angle of the plot. In fact log this as a potential future method for so-called rehabilitation a la Dante’s nine circles of hell. I will gladly plan very specific scenarios for certain people, just saying.

I am certain we will be reading more by Turton in the future, and I do hope he manages to maintain his ability to think outside of the box, which in turn gets readers grey cells twisting like tiny tornadoes. I do so like the occasional unpredictable storm in my head.

Buy The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @stu_turton @BloomsburyRaven @BloomsburyBooks

Visit stuturton.wordpress.com

Dry Bones by Sally Spencer

dry bonesWhen Charlie asks Jennie to investigate two bodies in the cellar of his Oxford university, he also asks her to keep it secret. Keeping it quiet is a crime, and not telling her friend on the police force puts two friendships in jeopardy too.

Charlie seems to have more secrets than a puzzle-box. Jennie starts to suspect his involvement in at least one of the deaths. Is he trying to distract her from the truth by sending her on wild goose chases?

The Jennie Redhead Mysteries are very similar to the Phryne Fisher Mysteries, but Jennie is lot more brash and confrontational. The difference is that the author duo that makes up the Sally Spencer also like to add a little controversy to their stories.

I’m not sure I entirely agree with the way the topic of homosexuality was approached from a historical point of view. In the mid 1940’s it was still considered a criminal offence, so the majority of men kept it a secret, as opposed to being openly gay in society. In 1967 sexual acts between two men over the age of 21 was decriminalised in England and Wales, however it still remained illegal in Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and or the Isle of Man.

Now, whilst there is always room for fictional interpretation and the rewriting of history, I do believe keeping it slightly more historically correct would have given the story a stronger sense of realism, instead of applying the overall laissez-faire feel of the story to this particular topic.

Personally I wish history had been more like the scenario of Dry Bones, in a sense that it is just as normal as heterosexual relationships, which is possibly what the authors were aiming for.

What I really enjoyed was the excellent description of the upper and lower classes, especially in relation to the academic world of Oxford. In the 20th century we saw the deconstruction of these antiquated ways of thinking, although I am sure one could argue that we are still seeing the last remnants of it in the UK government structure and political field. Kudos to the authors for the reality of the Upstairs/Downstairs scenarios and the descriptions of both the Great War and World War 2, which feature heavily in this story. The mistakes made by the entitled upper class officer ranks, and the fates of the lower class bullet fodder.

Overall Spencer delivers a good read with feisty and unusual characters.

Buy Dry Bones at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @SallySpencerebk Author duo @AlanRustage & @LannaRustage or @severnhouse

Visit sallyspencer.com

Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister

anything you do sayFair warning *Possible Spoilers*

This is the kind of story which evokes a lot of emotions, controversy and discussion. So it probably isn’t any surprise that I want to have a really good chin-wag about it.

There are so many elements of this story that are hot topics at the moment. The systemic abuse of women, cross-race effect, the morality of her actions, why self-defence is negated in cases of severe force and the whole decision whether or not to act or help.

The behaviour Joanna encounters in the bar is fairly atypical unfortunately. The fact it happens so frequently probably explains her lack of response, which is in no way meant to sound like victim-blaming. Women have become so used to the systemic abuse that they tend to brush it off or ignore it, because making a big deal or speaking up can lead to escalations.

Joanna is on edge when she leaves the bar and almost expects Sadiq to follow her home, and of course this assumption of bad intentions is part of the problem. Then there is the issue of cross-race effect, ergo being able to recognise faces of ones own race easier and finding it more difficult to differentiate the faces of different races. This phenomenon causes a lot of misidentification when it comes to crimes.

Then there is the issue of self-defence, and I can guarantee the majority of people will think they have the right to defend themselves with any force necessary, however the truth is the legal situation isn’t as simple as it may seem. Reasonable force is the important factor and whether or not the victim believes they are in imminent danger, but it must be proportionate to the supposed danger. If the response causes injury or death it can be ruled as excessive force, ergo the victim then becomes the perpetrator.

The story follows Joanna in two scenarios simultaneously, the Joanna who reports the incident and the Joanna who tries to cover it up. Put yourself in her shoes for a minute, ask yourself what you would do in the same set of circumstances. Would you leave, watch him die, call for help or pretend it never happened at all?

This book is an excellent read because it challenges our perception of this event and possible scenarios we might encounter. I think the foremost question on my mind, whilst reading this story, was what I would do in the same situation. The answer to that particular question will be different for every single one of us and based on our own frame of references.

McAllister likes to present readers with complex characters and the kind of situations that are neither black or white. The grey areas become murky and distorted, which is what makes her stories so compelling.

Buy Anything You Do Say at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @GillianMAuthor

Visit gillianmcallister.com

Read Everything but the Truth by Gillian McAllister

Fatal Masquerade by Vivian Conroy

Fatal MasqueradeThe cosy mystery is often delegated to the inconsequential, fluffy and comfortable read shelf. It simply isn’t given its dues. It is actually a really popular sub-genre of the crime and mystery genre.

Not everyone wants to read brutal psychological stories that mess with your head and make your little grey cells ask for a break, although admittedly I love those a lot.

Some readers want the eloquence and eccentricities of Christie-like characters combined with the quirky scenarios of Beaton, witty reads that leave you with a smile.

Conroy delivers the kind of characters you remember and enjoy. An ode to Tuppence and Tommy, but perhaps a little less suave and with a lot more cheek.

In this fourth book in the Lady Alkmene Mystery series, the reader is spoilt with choices of possible culprits, which means the amateur detectives have to work a lot harder to discover who did the deed.

Lady Alkmene accompanies her friend to a masquerade ball, which becomes a wee bit more serious when a dead body turns up and the hostess and her family become the main suspects.

If you’re looking for a bit of mystery, a dead body now and again, and a set of colourful characters then you should give Conroy a try.

Buy Fatal Masquerade by Vivian Conroy at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read Rubies in the Roses by Vivian Conroy

Follow @VivWrites

Blog-Tour: House of Spines by Michael J. Malone

spines

Today is my stop on the Blog-Tour for the fabulous House of Spines by Michael J. Malone. Be prepared to be drawn in by this eerie mystery and you may even start to wonder about reality, dreams and hallucinations.What is real and what is taking place in his darkest corners of his mind?

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; Beyond the Rage and The Bad Samaritan. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number one bestseller. Michael is a regular reviewer for the hugely popular crime fiction website crimesquad.com. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller.

Follow @michaelJmalone1 on Twitter or facebook.com/themichaeljmalonepage

Visit mjmink.wordpress.com

Buy The House of Spines

About the book

Ran McGhie’s world has been turned upside down. A young, lonely and frustrated writer, and suffering from mental-health problems, he discovers that his long-dead mother was related to one of Glasgow’s oldest merchant families. Not only that, but Ran has inherited Newton Hall, a vast mansion that belonged to his great-uncle, who it seems has been watching from afar as his estranged great-nephew has grown up. Entering his new-found home, it seems Great-Uncle Fitzpatrick has turned it into a temple to the written word – the perfect place for poet Ran. But everything is not as it seems. As he explores the Hall’s endless corridors, Ran’s grasp on reality appears to be loosening. And then he comes across an ancient lift; and in that lift a mirror. And in the mirror … the reflection of a woman…

A terrifying psychological thriller with more than a hint of the Gothic, House of Spines is a love letter to the power of books, and an exploration of how lust and betrayal can be deadly…

Buy The House of Spines

Review

Imagine not only inheriting a whole house and the kind of library every bookworm dreams of, imagine inheriting a lifetime of secrets and lies too.

Ran seems to be pleased, and yet at the same time unnerved by Newton Hall. The question is whether his gut instinct is warning him about some danger in the house or are his mental health issues starting to reappear now that he is off his medication. Instead of enjoying being the man of the manor he seems to be looking over his shoulder and jumping at shadows.

I’m just saying I wouldn’t be displeased if someone decided to give me a huge house with a massive library filled with books. I wouldn’t mind putting up with all the weird spooky stuff, the passive-aggressive relatives and the leftover staff from the Adams Family.

Newton Hall has secrets hidden in the walls and in the mirrors. The kind of secrets that haunt and torture people, especially the guilty. Ran is starting to unravel the mysteries or are they starting to slowly unravel him. He is losing his grip on reality, drifting back and forth from moments of lucidity and nightmare scenarios.

Mental health issues play a pivotal role in the plot, which is done in a subtle and a realistic way. The author manages to portray the illness and the way society, and loved ones react to the illness. The constant suspicion, doubt and lack of trust is a constant factor on both sides.

Malone invites the reader into his little shop of horrors and let’s them wrestle with the question of whether the nightmare is real or just the meanderings of a sick man. House of Spines may have a gothic feel to it, but it also has the interesting aura of a Hammer Horror. Some readers might not remember Hammer, however they were renowned for evoking an eerie and haunting sense of horror. The kind of hair on the back of your neck creepy you never quite forget.

The house will drag you in and may not let you go again, well at least not until she gets what she wants.

Buy House of Spines at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Visit orendabooks.co.uk  Follow @OrendaBooks