Diving For Pearls by Jamie O’ Connell – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

A young woman’s body floats in the Dubai marina. Her death alters the fates of six people, each one striving for a better life in an unforgiving city.

A young Irish man comes to stay with his sister, keen to erase his troubled past in the heat of the Dubai sun. A Russian sex worker has outsmarted the system so far – but will her luck run out? A Pakistani taxi driver dreams of a future for his daughters. An Emirate man hides the truth about who he really is. An Ethiopian maid tries to carve out a path of her own. From every corner of the globe, Dubai has made promises to them all. Promises of gilded opportunities and bright new horizons, the chance to forget the past and protect long-held secrets.

But Dubai breaks its promises, with deadly consequences. In a city of mirages, how do you find your way out?

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Diving for Pearls is a novel about a crime but is completely different too many of the others that I have read. In this novel the crime, the death of a young Emirati woman, is very much in the background. Instead the focus is on those who are linked by her death. Either as a brother, friend, lover or the handful of people who have only had a tenuous link. The story is told by all of these, and also by a couple who never met her, but were connected through other people.

Most of the novel takes place in Dubai, but there is also an Irish link. These parts felt quite refreshing, amusing and heartwarming after reading about the methods used by the police as they tried to find out who had killed the daughter of an extremely wealthy and powerful local. The methods that the police used when questioning the people they had decided were involved in the death were horrifying. I felt that they needed to be seen to be doing something and the easiest and most preferable option was that the person responsible was somebody from another country.

I have only ever seen the airport in Dubai and I remember being fascinated by the what you could buy there. From the description of the malls I had the feeling that this was life for some in Dubai, if they were lucky enough.But you also see how much of it was a sham. Many people run out of money and just leave what possessions they cannot carry. The people who have come into the country for work have their passports taken and can’t leave again. If things go badly wrong their embassies won’t help them. They are often with employers who mistreat them, poor wages, or differing types if abuse. Gete was lucky in some ways, others in the novel, like Tahir and Lydia were not as fortunate.

The Motive by Khurram Rahman – Review – QuickReads 2021 and The Reading Agency.

About The Book

A Jay Qasim short story and prequel to EAST OF HOUNSLOW written for Quick Reads 2021

Business has been slow for Hounslow’s small time dope-dealer, Jay Qasim. A student house party means quick easy cash but it also means breaking his own rules. But desperate times lead him there – and Jay finds himself in the middle of a crime scene.

Idris Zaidi, a Police Constable and Jay’s best friend, is having a quiet night when he gets a call out following a noise complaint at a house party. Fed up with the lack of excitement in his job, he visits the scene and quickly realises that people are in danger after a stabbing.

Someone will stop at nothing to get revenge . . .

About The Book

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I have never read any of this series of books but have heard a lot about it. This prequel, published as part of the brilliant Quick Reads initiative worked perfectly. I will definitely be reading more of this year’s selection.

It introduces you to Jay, a small time drug dealer and his friend Idris who is a police constable. You wouldn’t expect this friendship to survive their career choices but it does. It is brought under strain though when they both attend a house party, Jay dealing in drugs and Idris dealing with a noise complaint which then becomes much more serious.

The storyline is believable. I can imagine situations like the one described but it isn’t over powering, there is plenty of opportunities to get to know the characters as well. I would like to know if any apart from Jay and Idris appear in the series. One in particular, who did make me cringe a little, is a character I can see huge potential for.

For such a short novel, a little over 100 pages it certainly packs a lot in and has definitely inspired me to read East of Hounslow, the first full length novel in the series. 

About Quick Reads

Quick Reads, a programme by The Reading Agency, aims to bring the pleasures and benefits of reading to everyone, including the one in three adults in the UK who do not regularly read for pleasure, and the one in six adults in the UK who find reading difficult. The scheme changes lives and plays a vital role in addressing the national crisis around adult literacy in the UK. Each year, Quick Reads commissioning editor Fanny Blake works with UK publishers to commission high profile authors to write short, engaging books that are specifically designed to be easy to read. Since 2006, over 5 million books have been distributed through the initiative, 5 million library loans (PLR) have been registered and through outreach work hundreds of thousands of new readers each year have been introduced to the joys and benefits of reading. From 2020 – 2022, the initiative is supported by a philanthropic gift from bestselling author Jojo Moyes.

This year’s short books include

– a dark domestic thriller from British Book Award winner Loiuse Candlish ( The Skylight) who thanks readers for setting her on the right path when she was ‘young and adrift’

–          an uplifting romance by the much-loved Katie Fforde (Saving the Day), who never thought she would be able to be an author because of her struggle with dyslexia

–          the holiday from hell for Detective Roy Grace courtesy of long-time literacy campaigner and crime fiction maestro Peter James (Wish You Were Dead)

–          a specially abridged version of the feminist manifesto (How to Be a Woman) by Caitlin Moran: ‘everyone deserves to have the concept of female equality in a book they can turn to as a chatty friend.’ 

–          an introduction to Khurrum Rahman’s dope dealer Javid Qasim (The Motive), who previously found the idea of reading a book overwhelming and so started reading late in life, to find ‘joy, comfort and an escape’  

–          Oyinkan Braithwaite’s follow-up to her Booker nominated debut sensation My Sister, the Serial Killer – a family drama set in lockdown Lagos (The Baby is Mine)

The Pact by Sharon Bolton – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

A golden summer, and six talented friends are looking forward to the brightest of futures – until a daredevil game goes horribly wrong, and a woman and two children are killed.

18-year-old Megan takes the blame, leaving the others free to get on with their lives. In return, they each agree to a ‘favour’, payable on her release from prison.

Twenty years later Megan is free.
Let the games begin . . . 

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Sharon Bolton is an author whose books I have enjoyed for many years. The Pact is her latest standalone novel that features some thoroughly unlikeable characters. But there are also a few where my opinion changed as I read and who I actually started to have sympathy for. 

When a group of friends have a party the night before they receive their A Level results they have no idea that their antics will have an impact on them for many years to come. I won’t go into detail about what occurred apart from to say that lives were lost through a foolish and irresponsible act and Megan for reasons known only to herself decided to take the responsibility and eventually serve a long a long stretch in prison. But before she did she let her friends know that one day she would need and expect them to help her or face consequences. And now the time has come when they find out what she wants. They soon realise that they could have possibly been in a better situation if they had come forward at the time. Megan’s demands are eye watering!

But whilst Megan obviously suffered during her time in prison they also did. None of this group have coped well or are as happy and settled with their lives as they could have been. So her reappearance and demands tip them over the edge and it doesn’t take long for them to fall apart. I found it fascinating to see how they reacted and also to see who showed any amount of genuine remorse. 

Often jaw dropping as the group’s personalities are revealed, especially when they are told what is expected of them and I loved every page. I couldn’t wait to watch them self destruct and who, if any, would become a better person. There will probably be differing views on who deserves a second chance, there were two who I felt worthy.

Another great book from an outstanding author.

When I Was Ten by Fiona Cummins – Review – First Monday Crime.

About The Book

Twenty-one years ago, Dr Richard Carter and his wife Pamela were killed in what has become the most infamous double murder of the modern age.

Their ten year-old daughter – nicknamed the Angel of Death – spent eight years in a children’s secure unit and is living quietly under an assumed name with a family of her own.

Now, on the anniversary of the trial, a documentary team has tracked down her older sister, compelling her to break two decades of silence.

Her explosive interview sparks national headlines and journalist Brinley Booth, a childhood friend of the Carter sisters, is tasked with covering the news story.

For the first time, the three women are forced to confront what really happened that night – with devastating consequences for them all.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Despite having all of Fiona Cummins novels When I Was Ten is the first that I have read. I found it to be a book that instantly started my recovery from a slight reading slump. I didn’t want to put it down.

There are two narrators, Catherine Allen who is trying to keep her family together and a journalist Brinley Booth. Both have a connection that is revealed throughout the novel. The level of tension started almost immediately, the lightening strike and the fear of what had been seen by such a young child. And I have to admit the death of Catherine Allen wasn’t what I expected it to be until I read further but it did make a lot of sense once I understood what had happened.

It was Part Two of this novel which had the biggest impact on me. For most of it I felt extremely uneasy, a few times I had goosebumps and I could swear that the hairs went up on the back of my neck. The cruelty that the two sisters experienced was horrific, more so because no outsiders were aware of the perpetrators true character. 

Another of the parts of the novel that stood out for me was the way journalists were portrayed. Most of the time, in fiction and real life, they are shown as people who have no morals and will do anything to get a story. Whilst that is shown, as you would expect, there was also evidence of editors and journalists attempting to approach with caution and respect. 

Fiona Cummins will be appearing on the First Monday Crime event on Monday 24th May alongside Laura Shepherd Robinson, B. A. Paris and Mel McGrath. Moderator will be Jake Kerridge. This is an extra event this month and can be seen via their Facebook page at 7.30pm.

The Secrets Of The Lake by Liz Trenow – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

The war may be over, but for Molly life is still in turmoil. Uprooted from London after the death of her mother, Molly, her father and younger brother Jimmy are starting again in a quiet village in the countryside of Colchester. As summer sets in, the heat is almost as oppressive as the village gossip. Molly dreams of becoming a journalist, finding a voice in the world, but most of the time must act as Jimmy’s carer. At just ten years old he is Molly’s shadow, following her around the village as she falls under the spell of local boy Kit. Kit is clever, funny and a natural-born rebel. Rowing on the waters of the lake with him becomes Molly’s escape from domestic duty. But there is something Kit is not telling Molly.

As the village gossip starts building up with whispers against Molly’s father over missing church funds, everything Molly thought she knew is turned upside down. And on one stormy night, when she sneaks out of the house to try to put things right, Jimmy vanishes. Never to be seen again.

Decades later, Molly is an elderly woman in sheltered housing, still haunted by the disappearance of her brother. When two police officers arrive to say that the remains of a body have been found at the bottom of the lake, it seems like Molly will at long last have her answer . . .

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I have never read a book by Liz Trenow before so was unprepared for how captivating her writing was. I do enjoy historical fiction and found when reading this that I was experiencing real life in 1940s rural England. It felt very authentic. A very small part of it took place in modern day and whilst interesting it was younger Molly’s story I enjoyed the most.

Molly has moved with her father and younger brother to the country, her father is the new vicar, her mother dead and she has to spend much of her time looking after her younger brother who had disabilities. As you would expect she often resented being his carer but was devoted to him and wanted him to settle in and be happy in his new life. I loved everything about Molly, her devotion to her family, her friendship towards Eli, her crush on Kit, her first book, which the reader could read within the novel, and her refusal to feel intimidated by Blackmore. It was a shame that there wasn’t more who were willing to stand up to the man, I found him despicable.

Alongside the main storyline, which is difficult to say much about because of spoilers there was also one which showed Molly’s increasing passion for wildlife and nature. Something which she never had the opportunity to experience when living in London. Sadly, many areas like this have been lost to property development, just like in the novel.

I loved this novel, it portrayed a wonderful example of a family struggling with grief caused by family loss and also what life must have been like for many after their experiences during the war.