The Ghost Tree by Barbara Erskine – Review – Ambassador Book Buzz.

About The Book

The past is about to become the present… 

Ruth has returned to Edinburgh after many years of exile. Left rootless by the death of her estranged father, she is faced with the daunting task of sorting through his possessions. Amidst the dust of her old life, Ruth discovers a hidden diary from the eighteenth century, written by her ancestor, Thomas Erskine. As she sifts through the ancient pages of the past, Ruth is pulled into a story that she can’t escape.

As the youngest son of a noble family Thomas’ life started in genteel poverty, but his extraordinary experiences propel him from the high seas to Lord Chancellor. Yet, on his journey through life, he makes a powerful enemy who hounds him to the death – and beyond.
Ruth has opened a door to the past that she can’t close, and meets a ghost in her family tree who wasn’t invited. She will have to draw upon new friends and old in what will become a battle for her very survival…

The inspiration for The Ghost Tree lies in Barbara Erskine’s own personal history – branching back to the days of Thomas Erskine, her great grandfather, five times removed. Once again, the Sunday Times bestselling author brings the past to life in vivid, spellbinding colour.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received via LoveReading. It is many years since I read a novel by Barbara Erskine. I always enjoyed the ones I had read, so was looking forward to reading this new one, especially when I realised that one of the themes concerned genealogy. The author has done a brilliant job of combining her own family tree, a haunting and modern day fraud into a fictional work. I spent a lot of time looking at the handwritten family tree at the beginning of the novel.

The modern day story concerns Ruth, who is trying to protect her inheritance whilst reading and researching her family’s past, Timothy and April the siblings who are determined to get their hands on her property and Thomas the man who Ruth is descended from. And present throughout is Andrew Farquhar, the man who is determined to get revenge. Everybody has underestimated how far he is prepared to go in his resolve to make Thomas pay. His character was probably the strongest one. You can’t beat a malevolent spirit!

Some of Thomas’s story is revealed through Ruth reading his journals. I have to admit that I preferred him when he was younger. His time in the navy and when he first met his wife Fanny showed his better side. As he got older and more powerful I had a lot less empathy for him. Even though I did realise that he was being controlled by some. One of the more chilling parts of the novel concerned him witnessing a public hanging. Whilst I have read similar the account of how the crowd took a lot of delight in the act was horrifying.

I liked Ruth. She was loyal to Thomas, not interested in making money from his journals, just wanting to know more about what happened to him and his immediate family. But the modern day story I preferred was the one that concerned April and Timothy and the way that their whole life changed because of greed and dishonesty.

I would like to thank Charlotte Walker for asking me to be part of LoveReading’s Ambassador Book Buzz.

The Choke by Sofie Laguna – Blog Tour Review

About The Book

“I never had words to ask anybody the questions, so I never had the answers…”

Abandoned by her mother and seldom visited by her unpredictable, violent father, 10-year-old Justine is raised by her grandfather, Pop – a man tormented by visions of war. Through years of poverty and neglect, Justine finds solace in the staggering natural beauty of the nearby Murray River. But when outside threats infiltrate even this sanctuary, who is there to protect her from danger? 

Exposed to a lethal world, Justine must navigate the final years of her precarious childhood alone. She must find ways to endure, she must run when she has to, and, ultimately, she must fight back. 

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I first became aware of this novel when I saw a tweet from the UK publisher about the Murray River in Australia and it’s connection to the book. It was somewhere I had visited on holiday, near to Echuca, so I was very keen to read it.

The river played a big role in the novel. It helped keep Justine calm and it’s where she went when she needed some time to herself. At times, I thought she considered it a friend and got more comfort from it than anything else. 

She had a strange life. She lived with Pop her grandfather and the chooks. The conversations that both of them had with the chooks were wonderful to read. There were also two half brothers, an aunt and a father they were all better off without.

Whilst Justine always had to deal with a lot, loneliness, neglect and bad schooling her situation deteriorated when she became a teenager. It was devastating what happened to her but it also gave her focus and a chance for a new life.

I thought Justine and Pop were amazing characters. Pop had a bad war, like many, but he tried to do his best for Justine. Many would see his attempts as lacking but I really think he only wanted the best for her. He tried to get his son to be more of a father and struggled more than the children when that didn’t happen.

Michael, Justine’s school friend was also a delight. Devoted, caring and struggling with disability he wasn’t prepared to be unseen or ridiculed. I loved the scenes where he appeared. 

And while her life changed over the five years or so that the book covers the river flowed on.


The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Birmingham, 1885.

Born in a gaol and raised in a workhouse, Cora Burns has always struggled to control the violence inside her.

Haunted by memories of a terrible crime, she seeks a new life working as a servant in the house of scientist Thomas Jerwood. Here, Cora befriends a young girl, Violet, who seems to be the subject of a living experiment. But is Jerwood also secretly studying Cora…?

With the power and intrigue of Laura Purcell’s The Silent Companions and Sarah Schmidt’s See What I Have Done, Carolyn Kirby’s stunning debut takes the reader on a heart-breaking journey through Victorian Birmingham and questions where we first learn violence: from our scars or from our hearts.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I have read a lot of historical fiction but I don’t think I’ve ever read one where the lead character affected me quite like Cora did. She was a character who I wasn’t sure about at the beginning, I had a combination of dislike and fear but gradually that changed and I wanted her to be accepted, find happiness and some answers and I adored her.

She was a character who despite her very hard life thought of others. Her loyalty to a few of the characters in this novel wouldn’t have been entertained by many in her situation. One of them, much older than the other was somebody whose life story I would have loved to know.

It’s not only the characters, it’s also the setting. I had no idea there was a bullring in Birmingham in the 1880s. I googled it whilst reading and was very surprised by the results. It felt different to read an English historical novel that wasn’t set in and around London and given more time I would like to know which, if any of the other locations were real. 

The more scientific sides of the novel were also interesting, how people who were mentally ill were treated and that there were some who worked in the profession who were more understanding than others. How experiments were carried out to try and find answers to human behaviour, regardless of whether their methods were immoral. The photography storyline was another that I spent time looking at. Composite photography was something that I had heard of but didn’t know much about.

Thank you Carolyn Kirby to opening my eyes to a lot of things, this book was a reminder that you can learn a lot by reading. 

A Gift For Dying by M. J. Arlidge – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

With just one look, she knows how and when you will die . . . 

Nothing surprises Adam Brandt anymore. As a forensic psychologist, he’s seen and heard everything. 

That is, until he meets Kassie. 

Because she claims to have a terrible gift – with one look into your eyes, she can see when and how you will die.

Adam doesn’t believe her, obviously. 

But then a serial killer starts wreaking havoc across the city, and only Kassie seems to know where he’ll strike next.

Against all his intuition, Adam starts to believe her. 

He just doesn’t realise how dangerous this trust might be . . .

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I had never read anything by this author before but was aware of the successful Helen Grace series so I jumped at the chance to read this new standalone novel.

Kassie is a loner. She has a difficult relationship with her mother, few friends, is rarely at school and she dabbles in drugs. She only has one person who understands her and she can’t help her due to her age and health. She is a person who if it was real life I would go out of may way to avoid. But she has a gift that nobody else would wish for and because of this gift I had a lot of sympathy for her. Both Adam and Gabrielle tried to help and gain insight from her but understandably struggled. Especially Adam who suffered terribly due to getting involved. Strangely, both of these two I didn’t have much liking for.

The murders committed are extremely violent, I can’t think of any that are as violent as the ones that take place in this novel. The details about the remains were similar to others but the actual act of murder made me happy that I read during the day. I did have my suspicions about the who the killer was and why they chose their victims but I was wrong in every way.

My favourite character was one who featured briefly, Kassie’s grandmother. When Kassie described something that occurred during her grandmother’s childhood that affected her for the rest of her life, it was the most chilling part of the novel. She also showed that nobody could understand Kassie better than her.


A character interview with Ed Belloc from the Marnie Rome series by Sarah Hilary and a Giveaway.

Today, I am featuring a character interview with Ed Belloc who is the partner of Marnie Rome in Sarah Hilary’s wonderful series. I first became aware of this series when I received a copy of Someone Else’s Skin in a goody bag at Theakston’s Crime Festival. This book was the winner of the Theakston’s 2015 crime novel of the year and was also one of Richard and Judy’s Book Club books in 2014. As well as the interview Sarah has very kindly offered a signed proof of Never Be Broken to one lucky reader. ( UK only). All you need to do is share the post or RT the pinned tweet and I will pick a winner via a random number generator on Thursday 28th March.

Character Interview – Ed Belloc

What do you do for a living?

I’m a Victim Support Officer, working with men and women affected by violent crime. This is going to sound odd, but I love my job. It’s hard and heart-breaking, and funding cuts make it frustrating, but it’s far and away the most rewarding work I’ve ever done. 

Did you meet Marnie through your work?

Yes, on a case involving child abduction. I was called in to support the family. Marnie was part of the team leading the investigation. It was her instinct that traced the kidnapping back to the grandparents. It was a tricky case, could’ve ended badly—wouldhave, if it wasn’t for her. Since then, we’ve worked together many times. I’ve never stopped admiring her courage and her resolve. Sorry, that sounds like I’m writing a reference … It’s an honour to work with her, though. Her bravery … People measure courage in different ways, but for me it’s about getting back up. She never stops getting back up. Take this latest case she’s working on: knife crime in London. Some people see that as a rising tide that can’t be stopped, but she sees every life affected by it, and feels it too. She puts the whole of herself into her work. That compassion and vulnerability? Is what makes her a great detective. At the same time, and for the record, I really wouldn’t want to be on the other side of the law where DI Rome’s concerned. She gets it done.

When did you first fall in love?

Honestly? When she brought that kid back home, right at the end of that first investigation. She didn’t want any thanks, or any glory. She just wanted to do her job. Then after Stephen … What he did to her parents—to her? For a long time she was grieving, fighting to get better. It was five years before I acted on those feelings. I spent most of that time thinking I’d never be able to tell her how I felt, because of everything else she was going through. Luckily for me, her patience outstripped my prevarication.

Do you find it easy to talk about each other’s work or do you prefer to talk about other things? I imagine with the job both of you are in it feels normal.

I’m not sure I’d call it normal, but yes. We do talk about our work, the same as other couples, I guess. I know she’ll listen and understand, and I hope she knows I’m the same. Of course, some nights we ask the Big Questions, like how come the redshirt vampires in Buffy spontaneously combust in sunlight while Spike just smoulders until he finds shelter? It’s not all work. 

It is lovely that you can be with her without seeing her as a victim, does that feeling come natural or is it hard to put her past to one side?

Damn, that’s a really good question. I don’t ever forget what’s been done to her; she’s struggling with it every day. For a long time, the idea of being a victim horrified her. I think that’s changed, over time. She’s met too many survivors to think ‘victim’ means weak or helpless. Look at the women in the refuge where we worked together … She’s in a place where she’s ready to make peace with her past, and that’s a huge thing. I’m scared for her, if I’m honest, but at the same time I’m proud of her. Not many people make it through the way she has.

Do you think it’s good for her to maintain contact with Stephen?

If you’d asked me that five years ago, I’d have said no. I’ve hated the hold he’s had over her, all the ways he was still hurting her, despite the fact he’s in prison. But she needed to stay in touch. She wasn’t ready to let it go. That’s changed too.

Another character I have a lot of sympathy for is Noah. I feel that he is a good friend to both of you. Is it a fine line between friend and counsellor? 

He’s a great friend, and the easiest man in the world to talk to. Life’s not been kind to Noah of late, but I hope he knows I’m here for him. He needs his friends right now.

What is your ideal date? Meal, concert, evening walk?

I refer to you to my earlier answer about Buffy. We still haven’t solved that spontaneous combustion versus smouldering thing …

Thank you Sarah, for this opportunity. You can see another interview, with Noah Jake and a giveaway at https://liveanddeadly.net/2019/03/18/interview-and-giveaway-with-detective-sergeant-noah-jake-from-the-marnie-rome-books-by-sarah-hilary-sarah_hilary-jenniferleech1-headlinepg-noahjake-neverbebroken/

About Sarah Hilary

Sarah Hilary’s debut novel, SOMEONE ELSE’S SKIN, won Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year and was a World Book Night selection. The Observer’s Book of the Month (“superbly disturbing”) and a Richard & Judy Book Club bestseller, it has been published worldwide. NO OTHER DARKNESS, the second in the series was shortlisted for a Barry Award in the US. Her DI Marnie Rome series continues with TASTES LIKE FEAR (2016) QUIETER THAN KILLING (2017) COME AND FIND ME (2018) and NEVER BE BROKEN (2019).

Follow Sarah on Twitter at @Sarah_Hilary