Hermit by S. R. White – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

After a puzzling death in the wild bushlands of Australia, detective Dana Russo has just hours to interrogate the prime suspect – a silent, inscrutable man found at the scene of the crime, who disappeared without trace 15 years earlier.

But where has he been? Why won’t he talk? And exactly how dangerous is he? Without conclusive evidence to prove his guilt, Dana faces a desperate race against time to persuade him to speak. But as each interview spirals with fevered intensity, Dana must reckon with her own traumatic past to reveal the shocking truth . . .

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I read a lot of crime fiction, most of it fast paced some of it slow. Hermit is probably one of the more slower paced novels that I have read, but it is the only way it could be. It works perfectly. 

It concerns one murder investigation and apart from a few memories that the chief suspect, Nathan, is encouraged to reveal takes place across one day. For the chief investigator Dana it is a very long day. It is the day which she started contemplating suicide until she got the call about the murder at the local store. It is a day that she never usually works, you only find out some of the reasons why very late in the novel. 

As you would expect with a police procedural novel much of the book shows the attempts to find out why the store owner was murdered but it differs because of Dana’s method of gaining Nathan’s trust. She wants to know why he has spent living the last 15 years as a hermit and how he survived without any human contact. I felt at times she envied him for his way of life. Over a series of interviews between just the two of them everything is revealed. I felt sadness and horror over what happened to him, as well as awe over how he coped until the moment it all went wrong. 

There were times when they seemed similar. Both struggling with events from the last, both struggling to explain why, both coping in different ways. It could have been depressing but for Dana’s colleagues, in particular Lucy who made me smile quite a lot. I wouldn’t like to be a lawyer who had to deal with her! 

The ending left me near howling with frustration, this is one book I am absolutely desperate for a follow up. 

V For Victory by Lissa Evans – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

It’s late 1944. Hitler’s rockets are slamming down on London with vicious regularity and it’s the coldest winter in living memory. Allied victory is on its way, but it’s bloody well dragging its feet.

In a large house next to Hampstead Heath, Vee Sedge is just about scraping by, with a herd of lodgers to feed, and her young charge Noel ( almost fifteen ) to clothe and educate. When she witnesses a road accident and finds herself in court, the repercussions are both unexpectedly marvellous and potentially disastrous – disastrous because Vee is not actually the person she’s pretending to be, and neither is Noel.

The end of the war won’t just mean peace, but discovery…

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Having enjoyed the previous books in this series, Crooked Heart and Old Baggage, I was looking forward to catching up with Noel, Vee, Winnie and also meeting up with some new characters. Many fascinating people feature in this novel and all try their hardest to cope with living in a war battered London.

It takes place during the last year of the war. Noel is fifteen, is doing well in his studies and is starting to develop feelings for a friend, Genevieve. Winnie is a warden,  brave, funny, patient with her twin sister despite feeling hurt and frustration and uncertain how to feel about the husband she barely knew who was a POW. Vee is battling on, trying to feed a house full of people, maintain a sense of humour and look after Noel. Her friendship with Mario was good for her, and seeing how the house benefited from that friendship was lovely to read. I loved seeing the enjoyment that peanut butter and Florida orange juice brought.

The hardships, the rations, the bombings are all described perfectly and show how Londoners suffered. But this isn’t a depressing novel. Yes, there is sadness, especially towards the end, but there is also plenty of humour. Especially from Noel and Winnie, my two favourite characters in the book.

Whilst I feel this will probably be the last book in the series I would love to see it continue. With the strength of the characters, even the minor ones, there is definitely potential for this series to carry on into the 50s and 60s.

A Ruined Girl by Kate Simants – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

TWO BOYS LOVED HER.
BUT WHICH ONE KILLED HER?

On a dark night two years ago, teenagers Rob and Paige broke into a house. They beat and traumatised the occupants, then left, taking only a bracelet. No one knows why, not even Luke, Rob’s younger brother and Paige’s confidant. Paige disappeared after that night. And having spent her life in children’s homes and the foster system, no one cared enough to look for her.

Now Rob is out of prison, and probation officer Wren Reynolds has been tasked with his rehabilitation. But Wren has her own reasons for taking on Rob as a client. Convinced that Rob knows what happened to Paige, and hiding a lifetime of secrets from her heavily pregnant wife, Wren’s obsession with finding a missing girl may tear her family apart…

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I read many books, mostly crime fiction, but The Ruined Girl was the first that I have read that concerns a children’s home and the probation services. I was both fascinated and heartbroken. It was a crime novel that really pulled on the heartstrings.

There are two narrators, Wren in the ‘now’ and Luke in ‘before’. It switches back and forth repeatedly and each worked perfectly. But it was Luke who I wanted to read about more. His story portrayed the frustration and hurt he felt perfectly. the loyalty he felt towards his mother, brother and Paige had me reading in silence, unable to put the book down. It was the type of narrative that made me think about the type of society we live in during the times I couldn’t read. How many children are there in this country who experience what the ones in this novel did. And how do they cope with adult life when they are left on their own. 

There are plenty of twists, some I saw, many I didn’t but this novel wasn’t about the eventual outcome for me. Instead it was the determination of the younger characters to do the right thing, even if it wasn’t necessarily the better way. Rob wanting to protect Luke, Luke wanting to protect Paige.

It is a long time since I have felt touched by so many. Not just Luke, Rob and Paige. But also the minor characters, some who were determined to put their childhood behind them and those who couldn’t. 

A Ruined Girl was the perfect book for me, it made me thing about other events outside of strange world we currently live in.  

Son Of Escobar: First Born by Roberto Sendoya Escobar – Extract.

About The Book

Pablo Escobar was the most notorious drug lord the world has ever seen. He became one of the ten richest men on the planet and controlled 80 per cent of the global cocaine trade before he was shot dead in 1993.

This is the long-awaited autobiography of his eldest son, Roberto Sendoya Escobar.

His story opens with two helicopter gunships, filled with heavily armed Colombian Special forces personnel led by an MI6 agent, flying into a small village on the outskirts of Bogota in Colombia. The secret mission to recover a stolen cash hoard, culminates in a bloody shoot-out with a group of young Pablo Escobar’s violent gangsters. Several of the men escape, including the young Escobar.

As the dust settles in the house, only a little baby is left alive. His distressing cries can be heard as his young mother lies dead beside him. That baby is the author, Roberto Sendoya Escobar. In a bizarre twist of fate, the top MI6 agent who led the mission, takes pity on the child and, eventually, ends up adopting him.

Over the years, during his rise to prominence as the most powerful drug lord the world has ever known, Pablo Escobar tries, repeatedly, to kidnap his son. Flanked by his trusty bodyguards, the child, unaware of his true identity, is allowed regular meetings with Escobar and it becomes apparent that the British government is working covertly with the gangster in an attempt to control the money laundering and drug trades.

Life becomes so dangerous, however, that the author is packed off from the family mansion in Bogota to an English public school. Many years later in England, as Roberto’s adopted father lies dying in hospital, he hands his son a coded piece of paper which, he says, reveals the secret hiding place of the ‘Escobar Missing millions’ the world has been searching for!

The code is published in this book for the first time.

Extract

CHAPTER 1: THE SECRET MISSION

Facatativá, Colombia, late October 1965

The two helicopters appeared with the rising sun.

Each spanking new US Bell UH-1 ‘Huey’ was armed with two M134 miniguns capable of preset firing rates of 2,000 rpm, each linked to four thousand rounds of ammunition. They were also equipped with two M75 40-mm grenade-rocket launchers, both fed from a three-hundred-round magazine.

Aboard each were six newly trained Colombian special forces personnel. Sitting in the front passenger seat of the leading chopper was the man in charge. Pat Witcomb, a tall, powerful-looking Englishman, looked as incongruous as the two aircraft flying low over an otherwise peaceful countryside. They were three thousand metres above sea level, yet only five hundred metres above the ground. Pat could scarcely believe he was leading this mission. Before he joined De La Rue, a respectable banknote printer and security company established in London in the nineteenth century, he had barely set foot in a helicopter. Since then, the operations with which he had been tasked had grown increasingly dangerous. Almost of all of his training had been on the job itself.

He had swiftly discovered that Colombia was a violent country. Recently, one of his armoured cars had been blown up, killing two security guards and injuring others. This was one of the worst incidents to affect De La Rue, which had been tasked with securely printing Colombia’s currency and transporting it safely around the country. The vehicle had been destroyed in the course of making a delivery and the incident had major ramifications for the firm. It wasn’t just a question of the money that was stolen – although it wasn’t an insignificant sum, running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars – but the message it sent out. The various gangs jockeying for power and influence would believe they could attack De La Rue with impunity and, by extension, they were hitting the heart of Colombia’s economy itself. There had to be a firm response and once the firm received intelligence about the gang’s whereabouts they were determined to strike back.

The pilot, sitting beside Pat, pointed to a cluster of dwellings on the hillside ahead. Pat compared the sight before him with the aerial photographs provided. He nodded. They were here. He glanced at the soldiers manning the machine gun and rocket launchers in the doorway and back to the other gunners in the second helicopter. He turned to the men behind, whose excited chatter had been constant since they left the country’s capital city, Bogotá, and gave a thumbs-up. They clocked Pat’s signal and as one fell silent, clutching their weapons in anticipation. Before they had set off Pat had thought the set-up he was commanding would be a sledgehammer cracking a nut and, as he looked again at the sleepy village ahead, his view was only confirmed. His targets wouldn’t know what hit them.

‘Hawk Two, this is Hawk One, over,’ Pat said in clipped tones over the radio.

‘Hawk One, Hawk Two, over,’ came the accented response from his counterpart in the aircraft behind, a stocky man with a heavily pockmarked face. This was Manuel Noriega, then just an officer with the Panamanian military, but even at that point extremely ambitious. Seconded to the intelligence efforts in Colombia, he had been a useful ally to Pat in the shadowy meeting place where state business and private enterprise shared a common interest. Now Noriega seemed to be relishing joining in on the action.

‘Hawk Two, we have visual on the target. Prepare to attack.’

‘Roger Hawk One. Out.’

They dropped to a hundred and fifty feet and Pat gestured towards a small clearing ahead of the first house, radioing his intention to Noriega, who he always referred to by his codename ‘JB’, a reference to his favourite whiskey brand, Justerini & Brooks. His eyes fixed on a rundown house with a single, small door to the street. Movement in the house next door caught his eye. Two shabbily dressed men appeared. He could see the terror on their faces as they scurried back inside.

The blast from the rotors kicked up a cloud of dust. As the choppers touched down, the soldiers jumped from the side and headed straight for the house. They only got a few yards when the two men reappeared in the doorway, this time with assault rifles. But before they had even cocked their weapons a round of gunfire from the advancing troops floored them. More gunfire followed, as a face at a window was greeted with an avalanche of bullets.

‘So much for minimal casualties,’ Pat shouted to JB above the roar of the blades, as they took in the action, standing to the rear and flanked by two, blue-uniformed, close protection officers, or bodyguards.

JB shrugged. ‘I told you, if they want a war, they’ll get one.’

The soldiers split up into groups, some heading to the rear of the target property, others charging through the front door, while other units tackled neighbouring buildings. Gunfire resounded.

Pat respected his enemy as he looked around. They had chosen an unlikely hideout. Yet the response from the gang told him without a doubt that their intelligence had been perfect. It might look like a backwater – unremarkable farmer country – but this was one harvest worth fighting for

Those Who Are Loved by Victoria Hislop – Audio Blog Tour Review.

Audio Clip

If you click on the link below you will be able to hear an excerpt from the novel that is narrated by Juliet Stevenson.

Link to Audio Clip

About The Book

The gripping new novel by Sunday Times Number One bestseller Victoria Hislop is set against the backdrop of the German occupation of Greece, the subsequent civil war and a military dictatorship, all of which left deep scars. 

Athens 1941. After decades of political uncertainty, Greece is polarised between Right- and Left-wing views when the Germans invade. 
Fifteen-year-old Themis comes from a family divided by these political differences. The Nazi occupation deepens the fault-lines between those she loves just as it reduces Greece to destitution. She watches friends die in the ensuing famine and is moved to commit acts of resistance.

In the civil war that follows the end of the occupation, Themis joins the Communist army, where she experiences the extremes of love and hatred and the paradoxes presented by a war in which Greek fights Greek.

Eventually imprisoned on the infamous islands of exile, Makronisos and then Trikeri, Themis encounters another prisoner whose life will entwine with her own in ways neither can foresee. And finds she must weigh her principles against her desire to escape and live.

As she looks back on her life, Themis realises how tightly the personal and political can become entangled. While some wounds heal, others deepen.

This powerful new novel from Number One bestseller Victoria Hislop sheds light on the complexity and trauma of Greece’s past and weaves it into the epic tale of an ordinary woman compelled to live an extraordinary life.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I had enjoyed reading one of the author’s earlier books, The Island, a few years ago so was looking forward to reading this new one. 

It takes place in Athens and starts in the 1940s. Themis lives with her grandmother and siblings and almost straightaway you see how politics divided them. I had a lot of sympathy for their grandmother, having to cope with their disagreements on a daily basis. 

I felt at times like I was reading two different novels. One concerning Themis and her life throughout WW2 and the civil war that followed. Her experience as a prisoner and the friendships made at that time. And another about her family life, her childhood, her marriage and the fear that her previous life would catch up with her. It was the latter that I found easier to read, not because I enjoyed it more, but because the politics, brutality and fear was so convincing I felt like I was there.

Themis was an astonishing character. Loyal, brave and caring. All three strengths that weren’t evident with her siblings at first. It was only in the latter stages of the novel that they could be seen in her older brother.

I’m ashamed to say that I know nothing at all about Greek history and by reading this book I learned a lot.