The Secret Of Strangers by Charity Norman – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

A regular weekday morning veers drastically off-course for a group of strangers whose paths cross in a London café  their lives never to be the same again when an apparently crazed gunman holds them hostage. But there is more to the situation than first meets the eye and as the captives grapple with their own inner demons, the line between right and wrong starts to blur. Will the secrets they keep stop them from escaping with their lives? 

Another tense, multi-dimensional drama from the writer of the Richard & Judy bestseller AFTER THE FALL.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. This is the first book I have read by Charity Norman and after finishing it I know I need to read her other books. Even though it is based around a serious crime it is concerned more with what led to it and the private lives of the gunman, his hostages and the police negotiator who is trying to get all of them to safety.

There are only a few pages that concern the shooting in the coffee shop, instead most of the novel focuses on the reasons why it happened and the way the small group in the coffee shop bonded. I had to decide if Sam was giving true account of what his life was like. Was Robert a saint and Sam spoiled, ungrateful, badly behaved and a disappointment? Or was every word that Sam said a true reflection of what his life was like. There were also some upsetting accounts of the hostages lives, especially one near the end. I just can’t imagine how people recover from experiences like the one described. I thought the ending was perfect. Friendships formed and promises kept. Even from one who made me mutter occasionally.

If you decide to read this book please take my advice and have a box of tissues nearby. It is one very emotional read. 

Ash Mountain by Helen Fitzgerald – Blog Tour Review

About The Book

Single-mother Fran returns to her sleepy hometown to care for her dying father when a devastating bush fire breaks out. A devastating, disaster-noir thriller from the author of The Cry.

Fran hates Ash Mountain, and she thought she’d escaped. But her father is ill, and needs care. Her relationship is over, and she hates her dead-end job in the city, anyway.

She returns to her hometown to nurse her dying father, her distant teenage daughter in tow for the weekends. There, in the sleepy town of Ash Mountain, childhood memories prick at her fragile self-esteem, she falls in love for the first time, and her demanding dad tests her patience, all in the unbearable heat of an Australian summer.

As old friendships and rivalries are renewed, and new ones forged, Fran’s tumultuous home life is the least of her worries, when old crimes rear their heads and a devastating bushfire ravages the town and all of its inhabitants…

Simultaneously a warm, darkly funny portrait of small-town life – and a woman and a land in crisis – and a shocking and truly distressing account of a catastrophic event that changes things forever, Ash Mountain is a heart-breaking slice of domestic noir, and a disturbing disaster thriller that you will never forget…

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I first became aware of this book at a roadshow event last year. Having visited Australia a few times, each time seeing  the after effects of a bushfire and loving Australian fiction I was eager to read it. And what a book it is, it’s one that I will be recommending to everybody.

When Fran returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, along with her daughter it is with reluctance, it wasn’t a happy place for her as a teenager. The reasons why are revealed throughout the book which covers the events from 30 years ago, the first few days after Fran’s arrival and the day of the fire. There are a few narrators but mainly it is Fran.

Many people will have seen the devastation of the bushfires in Australia on the news earlier this year. What this novel shows is what it is like for those who had to live close by. There is the fear, the smell of burning and death, the way the fires destroy everything in their path, the knowledge that many neighbours have lost their lives. And the uncertainty about many others.

But there is also some humour. Fran is funny, sarcastic and down to earth. What you see is what you get. She feels hurt at the nickname she has had to endure for thirty years but deals with it the best way she can. I adored her. And I laughed at the freezing cold temperatures in Adelaide, 23 degrees! 

Absolutely wonderful. 

Sword by Bogdan Teodorescu – Review.

About The Book

A shadowy killer stalks the streets of Bucharest, seeking out victims from among the Roma minority.

The police are at a loss to track down the murderer, who always dispatches in the same manner – hence the Sword nickname the media are quick to give to the killer.

As panic starts to take hold and inter-racial tensions start reaching boiling point, politicians and other influential figures try to manipulate the situation for their ends.

A bestseller in Romania and France, Sword is a tumultuous political thriller by journalist and political analyst Bogdan Teodorescu – echoing much of the fears and tensions of today’s political landscape.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Even though I read a fair amount of translated fiction Sword was the first book that I have read that was originally written in Romanian. I am ashamed to say that Romania is a country I know nothing about.

When it becomes evident that a serial killer is at large, killing gypsies, you would expect the police and the government to be very concerned and trying to stop who was responsible as quickly as possible. But this is not the case. Because the victims are gypsies many have the attitude that the killer is doing the country a favour. That the victims were all criminals and neither them or their families matter. Instead the politicians are more concerned about their image and ratings. Corruption is rife, and a colleague who was best friends one day, would be used as a scapegoat the next. Just to protect their popularity with either their countrymen or the rest of Europe.

The media were just as bad, manipulating the info to suit their needs and to provoke unrest in the country. I’m not a huge fan of either newspaper or television journalism and I believed every word. 

The racism and contempt towards others was chilling but accepted as normal. It could have made it difficult to read, but strangely it didn’t.   But there were also parts that made me smile, the TVs that were broken but not enough to be replaced, is just one example.

It was a novel that was slightly out of my comfort zone with the politics but it’s one I enjoyed and I would read more books by this author.

What Lies Between Us by John Marrs – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Nina can never forgive Maggie for what she did. And she can never let her leave.

They say every house has its secrets, and the house that Maggie and Nina have shared for so long is no different. Except that these secrets are not buried in the past.

Every other night, Maggie and Nina have dinner together. When they are finished, Nina helps Maggie back to her room in the attic, and into the heavy chain that keeps her there. Because Maggie has done things to Nina that can’t ever be forgiven, and now she is paying the price.

But there are many things about the past that Nina doesn’t know, and Maggie is going to keep it that way—even if it kills her.

Because in this house, the truth is more dangerous than lies.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. This is the first book I have read by John Marrs and I now understand why he is so popular. It is a quite a while since a book has made me feel so unsettled.

The two women, mother and daughter, both live in the same house. But they don’t live together like a normal family. One of them lives in chains in the attic. The reasons why become clearer the further you read. This is one dysfunctional relationship.

The narrative switches between both of them, in modern day and from years earlier. The earlier years show how their relationship started to disintegrate but don’t be quick to assume anything. There are many unseen reasons why certain decisions were made.  I was very quick to judge and at times I had sympathy for the wrong character. Neither of them were easy to like, it was only towards the end when I understood what was happening that my feelings regarding both settled. My nerves didn’t though, trying to sleep after finishing the novel was quite difficult. 

This was a book I found difficult to put down, John Marrs is an author I will look out for in the future.

The Saracen’s Mark by S. W. Perry – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Betrayal has many guises…

London, 1593:
 Five years on from the Armada and England is taking its first faltering steps towards a future as a global power. Nicholas Shelby – reluctant spy and maverick physician – and his companion Bianca Merton are settling into a life on Bankside. But in London there is always a plot afoot… 

Robert Cecil, the Queen’s spymaster, once again recruits Nicholas to embark on a dangerous undercover mission that will take him to the back alleys of Marrakech in search of a missing informer. However, while Nicholas hunts for the truth across the seas, plague returns once more to London – ravaging the streets and threatening those dearest to him. 

Can Bianca and Nicholas’ budding relationship weather the threats of pestilence and conspiracy? And will Nicholas survive the dangers of his mission in a hostile city to return safely home?

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. The Jackdaw Mystery series is one of my favourites. Not only because of the characters but also because it takes place in my favourite period in British history. There is something about the power, corruption and fear that enthrals me and all of it comes across in this series.

There are two threads throughout the novel. One concerns Nicholas’s time in Marrakech, the connection between there and the Tudor court was something I wasn’t aware of and the other concerns Bianca and her attempts to stay safe from the plague that is crossing London and her having to come to terms with her feeling of abandonment with Nicholas going to Marrakech. But these two threads are connected and both are in danger.

Whilst I enjoyed reading about Nicholas in Marrakech, learning about the customs and the medical knowledge, and seeing the danger he faced it was Bianca’s story I preferred. The plague that brought fear, empty streets and mounting death but also the threat from power. But the way Bianca dealt with all, knowing that either could end her life had me hooked. 

As usual I spent time on google researching the real life characters and events and enjoyed every minute. I hope that this series continues.