False Prophet by James Hazel – Guest Post and Extract.

About The Book

A secret buried for two thousand years. 
The rise of an ancient evil.
An invisible killer who will stop at nothing. 

When a brutal serial killer defies all known methods, the police call in prolific lawyer and former homicide detective, Charlie Priest, to assist the hunt. 

Tangled in a dark world of fanaticism, chaos and deadly secrets, Priest comes up against a nemesis more formidable and deranged than any he has previously encountered. 

Working together they soon discover a link to a lost scripture that contains a secret so devastating that its custodians are prepared to die to keep it. 

There is no Judgement Day. There is something far worse.

Guest Post

The defamation of the snake 

Of all the members of the animal kingdom, the snake is a PR disaster.

Cast as the antagonist is just about every book and film you care to mention – from Disney’s Robin Hood to Anaconda – snakes are the bad guys. Deceptive, treacherous, devious and cunning, our fear of the snake has been drilled into us from a young age. 

But while pop culture has done its best to defame this humble and (generally) calm and non-aggressive creature, the most egregious libel is embroidered in the pages of the Book of Genesis, wherein the snake is depicted as one of the greatest villains of all time.

The story is as notorious as it is ludicrous. God creates Adam and Eve and places them in the Garden of Eden. There, the first humans are told that they can eat anything they want, except the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge.

Keen to shake things up a little, a serpent tempts Eve into eating some of the fruit and sharing it with Adam. God is displeased with this and banishes the transgressors from Eden in perpetuity and, at the same time, catastrophically damages the snakes’ reputation beyond repair.

Nonetheless, let it not be said that the Bible treats the snake with complete disdain. For one thing, it’s the only animal that is attributed with the anthropomorphic power of speech (admittedly, there’s a talking donkey in chapter 22 of Numbers but it only mutters a few Delphic words – let’s ignore that for now).

Then there’s the brazen serpent: the bronze snake on a pole erected by Moses in order to protect the Israelites from – oh, wait – snakebites.

But it hasn’t always been like this. In ancient cultures – from the Sumerians to the Egyptians to the Tibetans – snakes were worshipped as deities. They symbolised fertility, procreation, wisdom, death, and resurrection. 

And rightly so. The snake casting its skin is a form of rebirth and many ancient people associated the snake with healing. Snakes were often used in healing rituals in ancient Greece in honour of Asclepius, the mortal brutally murdered by Zeus for very nearly discovering the secret of immortality by observing snakes. 

For this reason, the modern symbol of medicine – the rod of Asclepius – comprises a serpent entwined around a pole or staff. It remains the symbol of the British Medical Association to this day.

There’s a great deal of speculation about who the snake in the Garden of Eden actually was. Perhaps it was Lilith, the female demon who is said to steal babies in the night and the possible origin of the word ‘lullaby’ – the songs sung by nervous mothers to protect their children from her evil clutches. 

Perhaps the snake was Samyaza, the leader of the Watchers – a band of rebellious angels who fell from grace to fornicate with human women thereby producing a race of hybrid offspring known as the Nephilim. 

Perhaps the snake was Satan himself.

Whoever the Eden snake was supposed to be, its species deserves an apology. History has treated it poorly, and it’s about time we recognised that. 

Extract

Monday

Emma woke in the early hours of the morning with a pounding head and a pain in her left side she didn’t recall falling asleep with. She must have gone to bed and left the skylight shutter open because the room was bathed in moonlight. She lay still for a moment with her eyes open. It was oppressively hot; she couldn’t hear the air-conditioning unit, although she was sure she had set it to automatic yesterday. Perhaps it was the heat that had roused her.

Her dressing gown was slung over a chair in the corner. It was a dull blue colour with an ugly design of roses weaving their way around each other up both sides, their heads finishing gracelessly below the breast. A present from Harry last year. She hated it. She had been with Harry for two years now–a new record–but, at thirty-three, she regarded herself as too old to call Harry her boyfriend and too uninterested to call him her partner.She was terrified that he was going to propose soon, although thankfully his work meant he was abroad a lot.

Emma closed her eyes. The pain in her side subsided – she must have just slept awkwardly. She should turn on the air- conditioning but she knew as soon as she got out of bed she wouldn’t go back to sleep. She turned over. The full moon shimmered through the skylight. In the morning, she would ditch Harry by text and burn that fucking dressing gown.

There was a noise. Her eyes shot open. A definite thud, from downstairs. She held her breath for a moment. Had she imagined it?

There it was again. Like a heavy object falling off the shelf and hitting the floor.

Emma was used to living alone; she had been doing it since she was sixteen. Harry rarely stayed for more than a few nights at a time before gallivanting off to the next conference. Everyone else was kept at a distance. Did she mind? Not really. She liked living alone; never having to compromise or accommodate other people’s little habits and rituals. But she didn’t like noises in the night.

Thud. This time louder.

Emma felt her heart rate quicken. The sheets were clammy, the heat suddenly unbearable. What the hell was that noise? Her apartment had two bedrooms on a mezzanine floor overlooking the living room. Her room had its own balcony. Downstairs, there was a separate kitchen, along with a bathroom and study. The noise could only be coming from inside her apartment.

She cursed under her breath. She was wide awake now. Was someone. . .? No, she couldn’t bring herself to complete the thought. It was ridiculous. She was alone, as always. Nobody could get into the apartment block without a key, let alone her flat. She closed her eyes. If she heard the noise again she would get up and investigate; if not, then she could put it down to the boiler playing up.
Moments passed. A longer interval than before. Her head began to spin.

Then,thud.

Emma threw back the covers and stood up, swaying naked in the room for a minute. She felt dizzy and nauseous. Her chest fluttered with unease. She pulled the dressing gown around her and stopped to try and clear her head. What if someone was in the apartment? What if there was a gang of men carrying her electrical goods away right now? Wouldn’t it be better to stay up here?

She threw the thought from her mind and stared over the glass railing. The living room had taken on the same ghostly feel as the moonlit bedroom. She couldn’t see anything out of place, but there it was again.Thud.

The staircase arched around one side of the cavernous space below. Emma descended slowly. The wall leading down was plastered with Emma’s award-winning work. The photographs were varied, a mixture of black and white, sepia and colour: a regiment of elephants wading knee-high in water in front of the Savannah’s setting sun; children no older than ten crowded around a UN convoy, braying excitedly at the arrival of a tank; a woman wailing at the foot of a crumbled ruin, pawing at her blood-stained clothes. Emma had an eye for capturing the soul of human suffering through a lens. The thought steeled her resolve.She had lived in war zones; she wasn’t going to be scared in her own damn house.

Nonetheless, when it came again, the thud still made her jump and she hurried down the stairs.

Everything was still in the living room so she opened the double doors into the kitchen underneath the bedrooms. She fiddled with a cluster of switches near the door; everything was instantly illuminated with splashes of mellow blue light from the LEDs peppering the ceiling. She was met with an array of sleek appliances built into a black range that dominated the far wall behind an island of gleaming white units. There was no noise, except the gentle hum of the giant American-style fridge. Green digits glowed like cat’s eyes from all sides. Everything was spotless.

She left the light on and checked the bathroom, which was as she had left it. Same with the study.  She took one last look  at the living room. The walls were high on one side, spanning both floors: white-washed brick adorned with abstract artwork. It was sparsely furnished with odd shaped chairs. A hammock was slung between two iron pegs in the corner. The main feature was three enormous black-framed arched windows to Emma’s left. At twenty-five storeys up, it seemed as though most of  London was laid out like a blanket below her.

There was nothing wrong, nothing out of place and nobody here but her. Emma felt her body relax, her breathing slow. Her disquiet was replaced with annoyance; precious sleep had been lost.

She turned all the lights off and went back upstairs. Removed the dressing gown and threw it in the corner of the room. It didn’t even deserve a place on the chair. She slumped back into bed, half pulling the cover over her naked body.

Emma closed her eyes.

She started to write the text message to Harry in her mind.

But she didn’t get very far.

She realised, far too late, that the thud had been intended to lure her downstairs ,giving whoever it was in the room with her now the chance to sneak in and hide.
Emma tried to scream, but a pair of strong hands were already wrapping around her mouth. She felt the weight of a man straddling her, crushing down on her chest. His knees pinned the tops of her arms. She tried to kick, thrash around, but he was too strong.

The last thing she remembered seeing was the moon through the skylight, igniting the cloudless sky with pale light. Then a strange sensation of floating as her assailant took a hammer and, with one life ending strike, drove an eight-inch galvanised nail into her skull.


Your Deepest Fear by David Jackson – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

‘Sara! Remember! Victoria and Albert. All I can say. They’re here. They’re-‘ 

These are the last words Sara Prior will ever hear from her husband. 

As DS Nathan Cody struggles to make sense of the enigmatic message and solve the brutal murder, it soon becomes clear that Sara is no ordinary bereaved wife. Taking the investigation into her own hands, Sara is drawn into a world of violence that will lead her in a direction she would never have suspected. 

For Cody, meanwhile, things are about to get personal in the darkest and most twisted ways imaginable . . .

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I have read three out of the four books in the Nathan Cody series and I recommend that you at least read the first book before reading this one. 

This book is slightly different to the others that I have read. The opening murder scene is more gruesome than many and Cody is advised by his superior to stay away from the crime scene. His team are investigating the murder but unusually most of the investigation is carried out by the victim’s widow, Sara. 

Sara is more than capable of looking after herself. She is ex-military, afraid of nobody and determined to find out why her husband was murdered. I liked her a lot, even though I did find her a little scary. Despite the often violent scenes hers are the easiest to read. Cody’s problems could have given me sleepless nights. 

Cody’s role in the novel is more about his demons, the clowns. It is this part of the novel where you need to be aware of what happened to him previously. I wasn’t sure at first if it was all in his imagination but as the story progressed I realised it was actually happening. It made me dislike clowns more than I already did and it will be a while before I can be in the vicinity of Rodney Street without seeing them.

With reading a lot of crime fiction I sometimes identify a murderer, or see the reasons for the killing. I didn’t this time, it was complicated and a little bit sinister. At times, it felt like closure. I hope it isn’t. 

I’ll Find You by Liz Lawler – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

Emily Jacobs, a nurse, is in hospital for a minor operation. When she wakes in the night, woozy with anaesthetic, she sees the doctor frantically trying to resuscitate the woman in the bed next to her. In the morning, she is told that she must have had a nightmare. The bed has been empty all along . . .

When Emily returns to work she discovers a bracelet that she believes belonged to the missing woman. Soon, she becomes convinced that her colleagues at the hospital are hiding a terrible secret. 
What if she’s wrong? What if her own troubled past has affected her more than she knows?

But what if she’s right? 

What else could they be capable of?

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the book which I read via the Pigeonhole App. This is the first book that I have read by Liz Lawler and also the first medical thriller that have read for a long time. I have to say that if I had read this book before the operation I had a couple of years ago I would have cancelled it! Whilst this thriller is medical it is easy to understand. Even if you are like me and don’t know all the terminology it doesn’t read like a text book.

Emily is an excellent nurse whose life has been turned upside down by the disappearance of her younger sister. After leaving her high pressure job at the local hospitals starts working at the much quieter private hospital. When she has a procedure at the same hospital she witnesses something that she is told didn’t happen. But Emily isn’t prepared to accept what she is being told.

Emily was a difficult person to warm too. I wasn’t entirely sure if I trusted her at first. But when I got to know her more and see her isolation I had more sympathy and liking for her. Her parents were horrible with her, especially her mother and she also had a stilted relationship with her new colleagues who didn’t really come across as approachable or that caring.

It is definitely a strange novel, there was more than one victim in the novel and I had a lot of sympathy for many characters. The final reveal though was certainly one I didn’t expect. and it left me a little disturbed.

This was a great novel to read via pigeonhole, each stave ended on a cliffhanger when I couldn’t wait to read more the following day. If I read it as a conventional book I would have read it over a couple of days, instead it took ten.


Shelter by Sarah Franklin – Review.

5133vqjA74L._SX309_BO1,204,203,200_

About the Book

Led here by necessity, she knows she cannot stay. Brought against his will, he never wants to leave.

Early spring 1944.

Connie Granger has escaped her bombed-out city home, finding refuge in the Women’s Timber Corps. For her, this remote community must now serve a secret purpose.

Seppe, an Italian prisoner of war, is haunted by his memories. In the forest camp, he finds a strange kind of freedom.

Their meeting signals new beginnings. But as they are drawn together, the world outside their forest haven is being torn apart. Old certainties are crumbling, and both must now make a life-defining choice.

What price will they pay for freedom? What will they fight to protect?

My Review

When I first saw the publicity for Shelter on social media I was instantly drawn to it. Not only because of its synopsis but also for more personal reasons which I will talk about at the end of the review.
The novel concerns a handful of people and their connection to each other because of the war and the forest. The main character is Connie. Grieving and suffering the consequences of an ill-fated night out in her home town of Coventry she accepts a position with the timber corps in Gloucestershire. There she meets Seppe, Amos, Joyce and Frank and starts to rebuild her life.
Shelter is an incredible book to read. I’m ashamed that I know nothing about Italy’s war but the author has peaked my interest and I am determined to find out more. I loved Seppe’s character alongside that of the three locals. Amos, the stubborn widower who misses his son fighting in the war, Joyce and Frank the childless couple who had so much love to give. And then there was Connie, who some could dislike. She could be selfish and appear unloving but I thought a lot of the way she behaved was due to guilt. I cringed at times with the way she treated Seppe. Even though he felt he was a coward, the way he was with her and Fredo, the camp bully was heroic.
I don’t want to say much about the storyline but the author does an incredible job of showing the way WW2 was fought in a different way. Yes, cities and soldiers do feature but only briefly. This is all about the foresters and how important and unnoticed their role was.
And now the personal reasons. My maternal Grandmother was a Lumber Jill. I struggle to put the image of the tiny, stubborn elderly lady doing a job like the one that Connie did. A reminder that she would have once been a young incredibly resilient woman and I will never forget how proud she was to receive her belated medal.

IMG_0718

Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear.

51+9Ob-cRAL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_

About the Book

WHAT I THOUGHT I KNEW

In 1998, Maryanne Doyle disappeared and Dad knew something about it?
Maryanne Doyle was never seen again.

WHAT I ACTUALLY KNOW

In 1998, Dad lied about knowing Maryanne Doyle.
Alice Lapaine has been found strangled near Dad’s pub.
Dad was in the local area for both Maryanne Doyle’s disappearance and Alice Lapaine’s murder – FACT
Connection?

Trust cuts both ways . . . what do you do when it’s gone?

My Review

I found Sweet Little Lies to be a great story. Cat is a police officer who uses her Mother’s maiden name. If she used her actual surname her secret would have been revealed and she wouldn’t have had the involvement with the case that she did. I loved her character and the volatile relationship that she had with her family. Her closest relation was her older sister but that relationship was at times difficult. When the body of Alice Lapaine is found near to her father’s pub I could barely wait to see how she would handle the situation and if she would reveal secrets from her childhood.
I liked the flashbacks to the family holiday in Ireland. The way she was teased over her fascination over pop groups at the time, her desire to be noticed by the older girls in the village, the locals and the way local places were described. The ‘pot-holey’ road being one of them. And then when it became more sinister when a local teenager disappears.
The investigation was a convincing one, showing a realistic pace. Murder isn’t always quick to solve and the team had days with no information coming in. The team was also convincing, all the officers were different with their strengths and weaknesses but Cat was willing to learn from each of them even if they weren’t people she liked.
I didn’t work this mystery out, the murderer and the reasons why the murder happened were cleverly hidden. I did find the ending a little abrupt but it didn’t stop me enjoying the book.
I would love this to become a series. I thought all the characters were strong enough to appear in further books and I would love to see what Cat does next.
With thanks to the publisher for the copy received.
The book can be purchased at Amazon or Waterstones