Tag Archives: Crime Thriller

The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel #BookReview @amyengle @niamh_anderson @HodderFiction #AuthorInterview #BlogTour

Today I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour for The Familiar Dark by Amy Engle. If you enjoyed the authors debut novel The Ronake Girls, then you definitely need to read this one. I’m also sharing an author interview that Amy kindly agreed too.

Read on for my thoughts, but first the book description.

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‘In other places, the murder of two little girls would have blanketed the entire town in horror. Here, it was just another bad day.’

Eve Taggert’s life has been spent steadily climbing away from her roots. Her mother, a hard and cruel woman who dragged her up in a rundown trailer park, was not who she wanted to be to her own daughter, Junie.

But 12-year old Junie is now dead. Found next to the body of her best friend in the park of their small, broken town. Eve has nothing left but who she used to be.

Despite the corrupt police force that patrol her dirt-poor town deep in the Missouri Ozarks, Eve is going to find what happened to her daughter. Even if it means using her own mother’s cruel brand of strength to unearth secrets that don’t want to be discovered and face truths it might be better not to know.

Everyone is a suspect.

Everyone has something to hide.

And someone will answer for her daughter’s murder.

From the bestselling author of The Roanoke Girls, The Familiar Dark is a spellbinding story about the bonds of family as well as a story about how even the darkest and most terrifying of places can provide the comfort of home. The Familiar Dark will blow you away.

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The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel opens with an unusual start to this harrowing tale, it begins at ‘the end’, it’s a powerful and haunting start to the book, and leaves the reader in no doubt that it will not be a ‘happy ever after’ kind of read. The authors poetic prose seem almost at odds with this stark plot, that features drug abuse, rural town poverty and abuse, and yet the two blend perfectly together creating a spellbinding story about the complexities of family relationships, and how even the most dysfunctional families can pull together in the face of adversary.

Set in the small rundown down town of Barren Springs in the Missouri Ozarks, tells the heartbreaking and brutal story of Eve, a young mother whose daughter is one of two 12-year-old girls found murdered in the towns dilapidated park.  The only way Eve can stop herself drowning in grief is to seek vengeance for her daughter’s Junie’s murder, a path that leads Eve to the town’s seedy criminal underbelly. A path that will open up old childhood wounds, as Eva’s own traumatic past comes back to haunt her. Eve’s relationship with her mother is based on neglect and abuse, she’s always been determined  to become her mother’s daughter, but without Junie, and with vengeance firmly on her mind, Eve finds that she is more like her mother than she cares to admit. 

The author vividly describes the experience of growing up in Barren Springs, a dirt poor town, where people live in trailers, patched up with tape, it’s town people are mostly drug addicts, and people live hand to mouth, living for their next fix of crystal meths and heroin. The town is as much a character as Eve. The town feels claustrophobic, seedy, and unclean, it’s a town everyone wants to escape from, but poverty and addiction keeps them in its clutches, it’s a place where the life is sucked out of you. Eve is a character that immediately finds her way into your heart, as her grief takes her through a spectrum of emotions, you feel her anger, and her pain, and her need for vengeance, these emotions are raw and intense, The relationship between Eve and her mother is a difficult one, and yet a bond is created through grief and wanting to do the right thing in the most appalling situation.

Despite its subject matter this book has a hidden depth, it explores the complexities of relationships, and dysfunctional families with sensitivity and incredible insight. Amy Engel’s visceral style of writing makes each of her novels memorable, The Familiar Dark and Eva’s tragic tale will stay in my thoughts for a long time to come. If you are looking for the ‘usual whodunnit’  then this may not be the book for you. If you enjoy a book that is very much character driven, with a dark heart then look no further. Highly recommend.

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (31 Mar. 2020)

Buying links:  Amazon UK 🇬🇧    Amazon US 🇺🇸

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Hi Amy I’m thrilled to welcome you to the book review café. The Familiar Dark revolves around such a difficult subject matter – a mother grieving for her daughter, lost in the worst of circumstances. As a mother yourself, how did you find the writing process? 

I had a hard time writing this book, I’m not going to lie. My daughter is only a few years older than Junie and there were times I had to walk away from the book for hours or even days at a time. It was incredibly stressful and painful to put myself in the shoes of Eve and imagine the aftermath of losing a child, especially in such a brutal and senseless way. 

As a former criminal defence attorney from a small town, how much of what you write comes from what you have lived?

I’m actually not from a small town; I was born in Lawrence, Kansas, but lived the vast majority of my childhood and adult life in cities. But my mom was from a very small town in Kansas and her grandparents lived there until I was in college, so I spent a lot of time in that environment and it served as fodder for my previous nove, The Roanoke Girls. The Missouri Ozarks, the setting of The Familiar Dark, is also a place I’ve spent a lot of time. It’s important to me that my books be set in places I know well. I like the settings to feel almost like another character in the story. I want readers to really be able to picture the environment, even if it’s someplace they’ve never visited.

The Familiar Dark is your second adult novel, coming after your bestselling The Roanoke Girls and fantastic young adult series The Book of Ivy. Did you prefer the writing process for young adult or adult fiction?

For me, the writing process wasn’t that different between genres. I always start with characters, and that doesn’t change whether I’m writing for adults or young adults. I do think, however, that adult novels allow for a little more exploration of the dark side of life, which seems to be my wheelhouse. 

Who is your favourite author?

Stephen King, hands down. And I love Tana French, as well. And Dennis Lehane. This list could go on forever.

What are your future writing plans?

I’m working on a new novel right now. It’s dark psychological suspense set in rural Kansas and involves a woman who is serving a life sentence for the murders of her entire family when she was a teenager. 

About the author

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Amy Engel is a former criminal defence attorney living in Missouri with her family. Her debut adult novel, The Roanoke Girls, was a #1 ebook bestseller, a Richard and Judy book club pick and has sold 100,000 copies across formats to date. The Familiar Dark is her second adult novel.

My thanks to the publishers for my ARC in exchange for an unbiased and honest review, and my thanks to the author for her interview.

Follow the blog tour……

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Mr Nice by John Nicholl #Review @nicholl06 #MrNice

Today it’s a pleasure to share my review for Mr Nice by John Nicholl, if you like a crime thriller that veers towards the dark side then I may have just the book for you, but first the book description.

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Your worst nightmare is about to come true…

When Megan discovers that her young daughter is missing, she thinks that her ex-husband is to blame. 

But was it someone else entirely? 

Someone out for revenge? Someone with a grudge? 

As DI Laura Kesey begins her investigation, she discovers that the case is infinitely more wicked than she could ever have imagined. 

The clock is ticking. 

The search is on. 

But will Kesey find Lottie before it’s too late?

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. The greater the evil, the deadlier the game.

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Once again John Nicholls twisted imagination holds no bounds, and his latest offering Mr Nice is a chiller thriller with an evil presence that  comes in the shape of a protagonist that will give you the heebie-jeebies, and a few sleepless nights! A child being abducted is every parents worse nightmare, it must be incredibly difficult for parents in this position not to think the worse, especially when the child isn’t found, and the days turn into weeks. I can’t even begin to imagine the heartbreak and pain parents go through when dealing with a child’s abduction. Mr Nice by John Nicholl tackles the difficult subject of child abduction and plays on the worse fears of parents. This book is definitely not one I would recommend to those of a nervous disposition, it’s a grim read at times, and some scenes are very dark.  

The mystery of  the  person who abducted Lottie is known throughout the book. This means Mr Nice  takes a very dark turn  from the the start. By revealing their identity it gives the author plenty of time to get inside the mind of his protagonist, it’s not pretty view, it’s ugly, stomach churning, and repulsive. Here’s a person who enjoys inflicting pain and humiliation on his victims, as for the scenes with the abductor’s mother, they freaked me out, they are spine chillingly creepy to say the least!

I really felt for Lottie’s mother, Megan, she’s left vulnerable, broken and terrified following the abduction of her daughter. To add to her nightmare the abductor enjoys nothing more than taunting her, these are the scenes I found incredibly unsettling, as the abductor feeds on Megan’s vulnerability, by playing mind games that are cruel and beyond evil. Mr Nice is a relatively short read at 258 pages, but I thought it was the perfect length for the plot, as it doesn’t allow the tension of the plot to waiver.  This book reminded me of one of the authors earlier books White Is The Coldest Colour, Dark, gritty and spine chilling.

  • Paperback: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Bloodhound Books (17 Mar. 2020)

My thanks to the author for a copy in exchange for an unbiased and honest review.

Buying link: Amazon UK 🇬🇧     Amazon USA 🇺🇸

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Dead Wrong by Noelle Holten #BookReview @nholten40 #BlogTour @KillerReads @0neMoreChapter @BOTBSPublicity @HarperCollins #MustReads

Today I’m over the moon to be taking part in the blog tour for Dead Wrong by Noelle Holten. One of my most anticipated reads of the year, was it worth the wait?  you can read on for my thoughts, but first the book description……

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The serial killer is behind bars. But the murders are just beginning…

DC Maggie Jamieson’s past comes back to haunt her in this dark and gripping serial killer thriller.

Three missing women running out of time…

They were abducted years ago. Notorious serial killer Bill Raven admitted to killing them and was sentenced to life.

The case was closed – at least DC Maggie Jamieson thought it was…

But now one of them has been found, dismembered and dumped in a bin bag in town.

Forensics reveal that she died just two days ago, when Raven was behind bars, so Maggie has a second killer to find.

Because even if the other missing women are still alive, one thing’s for certain: they don’t have long left to live…

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I have been impatiently awaiting Dead Wrong, the second book in the DC Maggie Jamieson series, it seems like forever since I read Dead Inside by author Noelle Holten. The author knows how to draw the reader in from the off, even more so when you realise one of Raven’s victims is named after you! I would forgive you for thinking this could sway my review, but you would be dead wrong! (See what I did there?). Personally I think Dead Wrong is even better than the first book in the series, it’s what I would describe as a ‘heart-pounding, page-turner with a dark, gritty heart’.

Raven, admitted he killed three women and is serving a life sentence for his crimes, but fast forward to present time and body parts of his said victims start turning up, so he must be innocent right? And Raven makes an appeal to the courts to be set free, so begins a nightmare for DC Maggie Jamieson’s, as she attempts to solve the case once and for all. There’s nothing I enjoy more than a crime thriller that features a chilling but intriguing serial killer, and Raven is one such character, he lacks remorse, he’s callous, a master of manipulation, and a pathological liar. The heart of the plot focuses on Raven toying with Maggie, is he lying? Or is he mentally ill? Was he coerced by Maggie, admitting to crimes he didn’t commit? So many questions, but for those of us who love playing the amateur detective, it’s the perfect crime read to get those brain cells working. 

Hallelujah! DC Maggie Jamieson isn’t your standard stereotype you often find in a crime thriller, she’s not an alcoholic, nor is her character bogged down by personal problems or a shady past which makes a refreshing change. That doesn’t mean Maggie lacks depth, on the contrary her character is continuing to develop, she’s relentless in her pursuit for the truth, committed,  and has literally no personal life, I’m sure there are a lot of DC’s who can relate to that!  It’s obvious the author has an incredible insight into the justice system and the way different agencies work together, which adds an authentic feel to the plot, I find some crime thrillers lack this vital ingredient, mostly because authors have relied heavily on research, rather than personal experiences. 

Dismembered victims turning up in pieces made for a gristly read, but these scenes are paramount to the plot, and add a profound sense of tension to the overall plot. Like any good crime thriller there are many read herrings, and well-plotted twists, and that ending! Let’s just say it will leave readers desperate for the next book in the series. Noelle Holten’s writing goes from strength to strength, her writings bold and confident, she has a vivid imagination, her plots are exciting and gripping. If ever there was someone who was born to write crime thrillers, it’s this author. Highly recommended to anyone who loves a crime thriller. 

  •  Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: One More Chapter (14 March 2020)

Buying link:   Amazon UK 🇬🇧    Amazon USA 🇺🇸

About the author

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Noelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk. She is the PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and was a regular reviewer on the Two Crime Writers and a Microphone podcast.

Noelle worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering a variety of cases including those involving serious domestic abuse. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Noelle’s hobbies include reading, attending as many book festivals as she can afford and sharing the book love via her blog. 

Dead Inside – her debut novel with One More Chapter/Harper Collins UK is an international kindle bestseller and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson. 

Connect with Noelle on Social Media here:

Twitter: (@nholten40) https://twitter.com/nholten40

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/noelleholtenauthor/

Blog FB page: https://www.facebook.com/crimebookjunkie/

Instagram: @crimebookjunkie

Website: https://www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk  

Bookbub Author page : https://bit.ly/2LkT4LB

My thanks to the publishers and the author my ARC in exchange for an unbiased and honest review.

Follow the rest of the blog tour…..

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The Waxwork Corpse by Simon Michael #Extract #BlogTour @Simonmichaeluk @SapereBooks

Today I’m thrilled to be one of the stops on The Waxwork Corpse by Simon Michael blog tour.  This book is the fifth in the ‘Charles Holborne’ legal thriller series, set in London in the 1960’s.

Unfortunately I haven’t had the time to read the book, but I’m loving the book description and I’m hoping to read it in the not to distance future as I do enjoy a legal thriller. So in the meantime I have a very intriguing extract from the book, but first the book description…

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A deadly crime has been dragged to the surface…

London, 1965

Charles Holborne, maverick barrister, will never fit in at the Bar; he is too working-class, too Jewish and too dangerous.

But that makes him the perfect outsider to prosecute a shocking murder case which has already made its way to the press.

By chance, a body was found, dumped in a lake. It had clearly been there for some time, but the conditions in the water have meant that it was nearly perfectly preserved.

The police have managed to match this ‘waxwork corpse’ to a missing woman and if her husband — a senior judge — was the one who killed her, the scandal threatens to rock the British justice to its foundations.

The waxwork corpse is not the only thing to be raised from the past. The investigation also dredges up a violent mistake made by Charles in his youth which, if revealed, could put his own life at stake…

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Charles Holborne needs a big breakfast.

The previous night he stayed up until the small hours smoking and drinking whisky, staring at the silent, glistening city streets below him and ruminating about Sally; specifically about where she was sleeping. And with whom.

Months after their breakup and the sale of their house in Hampstead, he still thinks about her, most days and every night. The nights are the worst, alone in the tiny apartment on Fetter Lane.

So a plateful of bacon, eggs, mushrooms and toast are now absorbing the remnants of the alcohol, and Charles is starting to feel human.

Listening with half an ear to John Arlott commentating on the first few overs of the test match, he reads again the newspaper report of his beloved West Ham becoming only the second British club ever to win a European trophy. They defeated Munich 2 – 0 in the European Cup Winners Cup at Wembley the previous night, and Charles is still cross he missed it. But for the trial that he expected to continue throughout this week, he’d certainly have bought tickets.

He clears up and, a couple of hours later than usual, leaves the flat. He dodges the stationary traffic in the junction with Fleet Street and ducks under the stone arch into Sergeants Inn. It’s barely 100 yards from his front door to the Temple, which, in normal circumstances, allows him to wake at seven o’clock, wash, eat a leisurely breakfast and still be at his desk in Chambers before eight.

Charles, now thirty-nine, is as broad as an ox, with enormously wide shoulders, great hams for arms and heavily-muscled legs, and there is a healing cut over his left eyebrow. He looks like a boxer, which is what he is — or was, until his last fight, a few months ago at the relatively late age of thirty-eight. He therefore looks slightly incongruous in a barrister’s regulation pinstriped three-piece suit under a light raincoat and battered hat. Slung over his left shoulder, in a red cloth bag closed with a white cord drawstring, are his court robes, and in his right hand he carries a briefcase with the papers from the previous day’s case.

The barred gate at the northern end of Kings Bench Walk is manned today by a young official in uniform, the polished buttons of his Inner Temple uniform gleaming in the weak sunshine.

‘Good morning, Mr Holborne,’ he says. ‘Not seen you for a while.’

‘Hello Jimmy,’ replies Charles.

Charles has known the lad since he first started working in the Temple almost a decade before. He was then employed to direct parking and pick up litter, but despite his difficult start in life (Charles knows he was sent to Borstal for a string of domestic burglaries committed as a juvenile) his cheery disposition and willingness to work hard had seen him promoted gradually through the ranks of Temple employees. Now in his mid-twenties, he’s being given greater responsibility.

Inn servants such as Jimmy are largely invisible to Charles’s colleagues. Charles, on the other hand, feels more at ease with them than he does the majority of his public school, Oxbridge-educated peers. Most of the minor functionaries in the service of the Law, the employees of the Inn, the clerks and the court staff — in short the people essential to the smooth functioning of the administration of justice — know of Charles. They know that the curly-haired Charles Holborne, Barrister at Law, started life as Charlie Horowitz, boxer and, it was rumoured, criminal. His oldest friends and associates include the Krays and others on the wrong side of the law. He’s a Jewish East End lad who had an outstanding war and “made good”, and they have a sense of proprietorial pride in him; he’s still one of them.

The feeling is mutual. Although Charles has tried to put the Krays and his law-breaking firmly behind him, he likes to pass the time of day with good honest East Enders who share his background and with whom he doesn’t have to maintain the cultivated sophistication so carefully grafted onto his Cockney roots.

Charles steps down into the Temple, and as he does so a sudden squall of rain blowing off the Thames hits him square in the face. It carries the familiar aromas of his past life as a lighterman: sea salt and effluence. Taking care on the slippery cobbles, he runs underneath the tall plane trees, their newly-emerged leaves being given an unnecessary shower, and turns the corner into Crown Office Row.

A few seconds later he is bounding up the old staircase into Chambers, creating little puffs of wood dust where his heavy tread lands on every second stair.

This has been Charles’s professional home for two years; since he was forced out of his previous chambers; since the murder of his wife; a wife who was, rather inconveniently, the daughter of the former head of those chambers.

He pushes open the door to the clerks’ room to find it as frenetic as ever. Barbara, the senior clerk, Chambers’ own Edinburgh headmistress, is conducting two calls at the same time, one phone in her hand and the other clamped to the other ear by a tweed shoulder. She looks up from the lesson in good manners being delivered to an unhelpful listing clerk and nods her welcome to Charles. Jennie and Jeremy, the symbiotic junior clerks known throughout the Temple compendiously as “JJ”, hover by the door, each with an armful of briefs to be distributed around Chambers. The last member of staff, Clive — a spotty, insouciant Cockney teenager who fills the function of office junior — appears to be elsewhere.

Three barristers juggle for positions by the pigeon-holes, skimming the miscellaneous papers received on existing cases, but in fact more interested in discovering if there might be any buried fees cheques.

‘Morning,’ says one, a pot-bellied, almost spherical, junior barrister named Knight.

‘Morning, Oliver,’ replies Charles.

A tall man with his back to Charles turns swiftly. ‘Ah, there you are, Holborne,’ he says angrily, the use of Charles’s surname signifying both formality and condescension.

‘Yes, Murray,’ replies Charles blandly, scanning his own post without looking up, but deliberately using the taller man’s first name.

Murray Dennison, Queen’s Counsel, has been a long-term thorn in Charles’s side, particularly since Charles’s practice took off. Dennison, jealous and ambitious in equal measure, and whose elevation to silk had yet to prove an unqualified success, takes Charles’s recent professional ascendancy as a personal insult. His antipathy to Charles’s working-class background, his religion, his success — in short, everything about him — had grown swiftly from arrogant antipathy to outright hatred. There’s nothing more likely to make a man hate you than his being discovered trying to cause you harm, thinks Charles. It is only a few months since Charles uncovered, and survived, Dennison’s plot to have him evicted from Chambers.

‘I assume those … people in the waiting room are your clients?’ says Dennison.

‘Mine?’ enquires Charles reasonably, in no mood for a fight. ‘I’m not expecting any.’

‘Well, they’re your lot, and they’re taking all the space. I’ve important clients arriving in half an hour.’

‘My “lot”?’ queries Charles, knowing exactly what Dennison means.

He slips out of the clerks’ room and looks through the open door to the waiting room. Sitting silently and uncomfortably on the couch and two of the chairs are four bearded men in dark suits and white shirts, all wearing skull-caps. They are unmistakeably orthodox Jews. Charles smiles and nods before withdrawing and returning to the clerks’ room.

‘Not my case; not my clients,’ he says shortly, making a final effort to avoid a confrontation.

‘Aren’t they Jews?’ says the taller man, narrowing his eyes and jutting his grey lantern jaw at Charles aggressively.

‘And because they’re Jews, they must be my clients?’ demands Charles, his temper slipping.

‘It’s not an unreasonable assumption.’

‘Accordingly, I should assume that, because you defended those two homosexuals last week, you must also be a sodomist?’ he replies with a dangerous smile. Charles knows this will provoke Dennison, a Catholic with traditional views on homosexuality.

‘Now, now, sir,’ intervenes Barbara, now off both telephone calls, ‘let’s not wind up Mr Dennison.’

Dennison approaches Charles threateningly, almost nose to nose. ‘I’ve just about had enough of you, barrow boy.’

Charles tugs his forelock and deliberately exaggerates his native Cockney accent. ‘Oh, guvnor, I’m ever so sorry if I forgot me place.’

That produces a suppressed snigger from Jeremy which serves only to increase Dennison’s fury, but before the QC can answer, Charles has switched to a thick Yiddish accent. ‘On the other hand, perhaps it’s because I’m one of the Chosen People?’

Dennison points his bony forefinger at Charles, grasping for an appropriate retort but apparently unable at that instant to decide which prejudice to pursue. He splutters for a moment, changes his mind and strides out of the room. Charles follows him to the door and calls down the corridor after him. ‘I’m so sorry you weren’t chosen, Murray.’

Dennison spins on his heel. ‘Why don’t you people go back where you came from?’

‘This is where I came from!’ shouts Charles back. ‘I can trace my English roots to 1492, Dennison. Can you?’ Charles turns to Barbara with a triumphant smile but finds her face stony.

‘You’re your own worst enemy, Mr Holborne,’ she says, shaking her head sadly.

‘Yes,’ replies Charles heavily. ‘So I’ve been told.’

‘What’re you staring at?’ Barbara says, turning on Jeremy, still by the door. ‘Go on, scoot!’ The young clerk scuttles out of the room. ‘And in case it improves your mood, sir,’ says Barbara to Charles sardonically, ‘I’ve just put a nice cheque in your pigeon-hole.’

‘Have you?’

‘That case from Fletchers, the two-handed rape at Aylesbury.’

‘Oh yes.’

‘They’ve cut you down, but not by much. Have a look at the breakdown and let me know if you want to appeal.’

Charles picks up the cheque and the other papers waiting for him and makes to leave the room.

‘Oh, by the way, sir,’ adds Barbara, ‘Clive took a call for you from a Mr Jones.’

‘Yes?’

‘Mr Jones was rather mysterious. He announced that he was new to the Met police prosecuting service and asked if you’d passed the Scotland Yard Test.’

‘And you told him that I had?’ Charles asks.

The “Scotland Yard Test” is essentially a list of barristers deemed fit to prosecute cases on behalf of the Metropolitan Police. Charles has now been instructed in several high-profile murder trials for the Crown, so it’s surprising the caller was unaware that he’s considered acceptable counsel.

‘Of course. I asked him if he had instructions for you but he seemed evasive; said he was very anxious to speak to you. Immediately. When I said you weren’t in yet, he refused to leave a number and said he’d call back at noon. He asked particularly that you’d be available to take his call.’

‘If he’s employed by the Met prosecuting service, why on earth didn’t he ask one of his colleagues if I was on the list?’

‘That’s what I thought. I did wonder if it wasn’t some sort of practical joke. And…’

‘And?’

‘Well, he sounded strange.’

‘Strange?’

Barbara shrugs and her smile has a trace of embarrassment. ‘He sounded like Bugs Bunny!’

Charles laughs. ‘Are you sure the call didn’t come from inside Chambers? This sounds like one of the junior barristers pulling your leg.’

Barbara pauses, thinking. ‘You know, I never thought of that. Maybe that’s all it was. No doubt we’ll find out soon.’

Charles climbs the stairs to the first floor where his room is situated. It is empty. Peter Bateman, his former pupil, is at court, and the third occupant of the room, a recent addition, is also absent. Charles has yet to meet her, but she represents the welcome face of change: Roberta Gough is a pupil barrister, the first woman pupil to be taken on by the set of barristers in its 150-year history.

Charles makes himself a cup of tea in the area laughingly referred to as the “upstairs kitchen” — a converted cupboard — and takes it to his desk.

His room isn’t large, but it’s well-lit and comfortable, housing three battered leather armchairs and a small coffee table as well as two leather-inlaid desks loaded with briefs and Miss Gough’s small, and still empty, desk tucked into a corner behind the door. What makes the room special to Charles is its view over the manicured lawns of the Inner Temple and thence across the Embankment to the River Thames. On more than one occasion Charles has returned from court to find a temporarily unemployed member of Chambers relaxing in one of the chairs, feet up on Charles’s desk, idly surveying the river traffic and the lawyers strolling the gardens.

Charles begins by opening his post. At noon precisely, the telephone rings.

‘Mr Jones for you, sir,’ says Barbara, and Charles, who knows his senior clerk very well, detects suppressed mirth in her voice.

‘Charles Holborne?’ asks a clear high-pitched voice.

‘Yes,’ replies Charles. ‘How can I help you?’

‘Are you available this afternoon, Mr Holborne?’

Charles smiles in recognition of Barbara’s characterisation of the voice. It’s not Bugs Bunny, but it is unusually high-pitched and, oddly for a solicitor practising in the Metropolis, Charles detects a definite North American accent.

‘Available for what?’

‘A conference in a criminal matter.’

‘For the prosecution, I assume.’

‘That is correct.’

‘Certainly. What’s the name of the case?’

‘I am sorry, but I can’t tell you that at present,’ replies the solicitor officiously.

‘Oh,’ says Charles. ‘Why on earth not?’

‘You’ll understand when we meet. Just call it “In the Matter of a Possible Prosecution”.’

‘Very well,’ replies Charles, curbing his curiosity. ‘When can you let me see the papers?’

‘I won’t be sending you any case papers. You’ll be instructed by myself and two police officers.’ Then Jones’s formality slips slightly. ‘Sorry about the mystery, Mr Holborne, but you’ll understand when we speak in person. I assure you, this is no joke.’

‘Very well,’ repeats Charles. ‘What time would be convenient to you?’

‘Your clerk said two o’clock.’

‘Fine. I’ll see you then.’

‘Good. One last thing: the matter is to be mentioned to no one at all. Both you and your senior clerk will be asked to sign the Official Secrets Act before anything of substance is discussed. Goodbye.’

Charles almost laughs as he hangs up. He wonders again if the entire conversation is a hoax. He’s never heard of a barrister being required to sign the Official Secrets Act before being instructed in a case. The whole idea is bizarre. He looks forward to the meeting, if it occurs at all, with interest.

  • Paperback: 353 pages
  • Publisher: Sapere Books (20 Dec. 2019)

Buying link: Amazon UK 🇬🇧

About the author

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Simon Michael is the author of the best-selling London 1960s noir gangster series featuring his antihero barrister, Charles Holborne.  Simon writes from personal experience: a barrister for 37 years, he worked in the Old Bailey and other criminal courts defending and prosecuting a wide selection of murderers, armed robbers, con artists and other assorted villainy.  The 1960s was the Wild West of British justice, a time when the Krays, the Richardsons and other violent gangs fought for control of London’s organised crime, and the corrupt Metropolitan Police beat up suspects, twisted evidence and took a share of the criminal proceeds.  Simon weaves into his thrillers real events of the time, the cases on which he worked and his unusual family history in the East End.

Simon was published here and in America in the 1980s and returned to writing when he retired from the law in 2016.  The Charles Holborne series, The Brief, An Honest Man, The Lighterman, Corrupted and the latest, The Waxwork Corpse, have all garnered strong reviews for their authenticity and excitement.

Books in the series

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The Other People by C.J. Tudor @cjtudor @MichaelJBooks #MustReads

Today I’m thrilled to be sharing my review for The Other People by C.J. Tudor. I had no expectations for this book. I picked it up meaning to read a couple of chapters, but then I read another one, and then another one, and I was hooked! You can read on for my thoughts, but first the book description…

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She sleeps, a pale girl in a white room . . .

Driving home one night, stuck behind a rusty old car, Gabe sees a little girl’s face appear in the rear window.

She mouths one word: ‘Daddy.’

It’s his five-year-old daughter, Izzy.

He never sees her again.

Three years later, Gabe spends his days and nights travelling up and down the motorway, searching for the car that took his daughter, refusing to give up hope, even though most people believe that Izzy is dead.

Fran and her daughter, Alice, also put in a lot of miles on the motorway. Not searching. But running. Trying to keep one step ahead of the people who want to hurt them.

Because Fran knows the truth. She knows what really happened to Gabe’s daughter. She knows who is responsible. And she knows what they will do if they ever catch up with her and Alice.

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It’s not often these days I read a book in “one sitting” but that’s what happened with The Other People by C.J. Tudor. I wasn’t sure what to expect, all I knew was what I read in the book description, ‘A man travels up and down the motorway, searching for a car that took his young daughter Izzy’, which meant I had no expectations for this book. I picked it up meaning to read a couple of chapters, but then I read another one, and then another one, and I was hooked! The Other People is a thriller that captured my imagination, it’s dark, very creepy, and completely gripping.

I’m not going to rehash the plot details, for me this book held so many surprises,  I would hate to spoil the read for others. Gabe is a character that I honestly felt for, he’s a man drowning in grief, after losing his daughter Izzy, his grief is palatable, as he clutches at the proverbial straw, he’s convinced he’s seen his little girl’s face in the rear window of a car. No one believes him,  but he’s determined to keep looking come hell or high water. I felt my heart pounding as Gabe’s own investigation took him into ‘danger territory’, the tension grew tenfold, my nails took a beating as I nervously bit on them in anticipation of what lay a head.

The Other People is told from multiple POV so it’s evident all the characters have a connection someway or another, all I will say ‘is the best of luck working out how they fit together’. The author moves flawlessly between the different POV, never sharing too much, so the reader is left second guessing where the plot is headed. This book has so many elements it’s Part mystery/suspense, with a hint of the supernatural, all these elements fit perfectly together creating a creepy, thought-provoking and very clever, and riveting read. 

Like other books from the author it has a supernatural element running through it, but it’s not the main focus,  but  hell the ‘ Clickety, clack’ sent shivers down my spine, and that’s all I’m saying! Some reviews I read have compared The Other People to the The Chain . I have to disagree, this book is so much better,  the story is frighteningly plausible, the tension never waivers, and the characters are far more likeable. I found I was fully immersed and totally intrigued until the very last page. A brilliant read that has more twist and turns than a roller coaster, my recommendation? Buy yourself a copy and buckle up for a hell of a ride.

  • Print Length: 357 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (23 Jan. 2020)

Buying links:  Amazon UK 🇬🇧    Amazon USA 🇺🇸

My thanks to the publishers for my ARC in exchange for an unbiased and honest review.

Never Look Back by A. L. Gaylin #BookReview @Orionbooks

Today I’m thrilled to be sharing my review for Never Look Back by A. L. Gaylin, a new author to me so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Read on for my review but first the book description……..

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She was the most brutal killer of our time. And she may have been my mother…

When website columnist Robin Diamond is contacted by true crime podcast producer Quentin Garrison, she assumes it’s a business matter. It’s not. Quentin’s podcast, Closure, focuses on a series of murders in the 1970s, committed by teen couple April Cooper and Gabriel LeRoy. It seems that Quentin has reason to believe Robin’s own mother may be intimately connected with the killings.

Robin thinks Quentin’s claim is absurd. But is it? The more she researches the Cooper/LeRoy murders herself, the more disturbed she becomes by what she finds. Living just a few blocks from her, Robin’s beloved parents are the one absolute she’s always been able to rely upon, especially now amid rising doubts about her husband and frequent threats from internet trolls. Robin knows her mother better than anyone.

But then her parents are brutally attacked, and Robin realises she doesn’t know the truth at all…

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There’s nothing I like more than picking up a book I know nothing about, it means I have no expectations, sometimes it can all go terribly wrong and I end up reading a book that’s really not my ‘cup of tea’ but thankfully that wasn’t the case with Never Look Back by A. L. Gaylin in fact it was quite the opposite I ended up loving this twisted absorbing, addictive tale of psychological suspense.

True crime podcast producer Quentin Garrison, is investigating a series of murders in the 1970s committed by teens Gabriel LeRoy and April Cooper. The victims included members of his own family. For Robin Diamond, a columnist, the podcast produces some startling evidence. When Quentin contacts her about it, and starts asking questions about April Cooper and tying her to Robin’s own mother, Robin isn’t convinced by his story, but the more she delves into the murders, the more she can’t help wondering.

Never Look Back moves between the present and 1976, mostly narrated by Quentin and Robin, past events unfold through a chilling number of journal style letters written by April Cooper. Using a dual time line to convey a story can sometimes confuse a story, or even worse make a story feel stilted, but that’s not the case here, as the two flow perfectly, enhancing the story rather than hindering. April Cooper’s letters made for a chilling read, but they give the reader an insight into a complex character and her relationship with partner in crime and murder Gabriel LeRoy.  I wasn’t convinced April was being completely truthful, she takes no responsibility for her part in the crimes.

The author has created characters who are compelling, you can’t help but become invested in their stories. Most of them are seriously damaged, or at least flawed! I chiefly felt for Gabrielle whose grief and anger is visible throughout his investigation. The plot is very much character driven, and what a fascinating array of characters they turned out to be, love them or hate them they each have a role to play in this must read thriller.

Considering the subject matter I expected gory crime scenes, but these never materialised and I’m grateful for that (a first for me as I’m not averse to some gore!) as this book is very much about the mystery surrounding April. One thing I wasn’t expecting to find in this book were the powerful emotional scenes that explore the anger and guilt that fester for those that are left behind. This book reminded me of Bonnie & Clyde, I’m not sure if that’s what the author intended but it worked for me. Never Look Back has it all Lies and betrayal, painful secrets and events, Murder, and oodles of mystery. Highly recommended 

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Orion (4 July 2019)

Buying links:  Amazon UK 🇬🇧    Amazon USA 🇺🇸

My thanks to Orion Books for my ARC in exchange for an unbiased review.

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Liar Liar by by Mel Sherratt @writermels @AvonBooksUk #BookReview #BlogTour #LiarLiar

Today I’m thrilled to be opening the blog tour for Liar Liar by Mel Sherratt, alongside my partner in crime (excuse the pun!’) Kaisha, you can find her review at https://thewritinggarnet.wordpress.com/. 

Liar Liar is published today so you don’t even have to wait to get your hands on a copy, just one click and it’s yours. Before I share my thoughts, here’s the book description…..

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The truth can be a dangerous thing…

When a young boy falls from a balcony in a block of flats, DS Grace Allendale witnesses the shocking aftermath of the tragic event. But strangely, no one will admit to seeing anything – and the parents will only tell the police that it was an accident.

Determined to sort the truth from the lies, Grace is thrown into a case that takes her to the darkest corners of the criminal world – and strikes closer to home than she could have ever imagined…

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Mel Sherratt’s back! with Liar Liar the third instalment in the DS Grace Allendale series. As the title suggests there are so many lies, and half truths buried within this story, Grace has her work cut out that’s for sure! The book opens with a shocking scene when a young boy called Tyler falls from a balcony in a block of flats. From the start of the investigation it’s apparent the boy’s parents are being evasive, their story doesn’t quite ring true, but why would they lie? Did Tyler fall over the railings? Or is there a far more sinister reason behind his accident? The author leads the reader a merry dance through a tangled web of lies and deceit. As I mentioned this is the third book in the series, however Liar Liar could be read as a standalone, although if you are anything like me I prefer to read books in order! It’s won’t be any hardship as it’s shaping up to be a cracking crime series. 

For the residents of Harrison House there’s a familiar mantra around the investigation ‘I never saw nothing, ‘I never heard anything’ seems to be the favourite. Residents don’t trust the police, hell they don’t even trust their neighbours! Living day in, day out,  alongside crime, the residents have their own code, ‘you never tell the police anything’, after all no criminal wants to be labelled a ‘grass’! The book alternates between chapters that follow one of the main characters past, and the present day investigation, sometimes I find that dual time lines get over complicated, but that wasn’t the case with a Liar Liar, but it’s these past chapters that provide the reader with an insight into one of the characters, and their motivation for the choices they make. 

Liar  Liar’s focus is set firmly On the back story of its characters, Grace has a much smaller part to play in this book, which worked really well, as the main plot wasn’t overshadowed by police procedures and the investigation. Thinking about it Liar Liar felt very different to the last two books in the series, but I mean that in a good way as it’s great to see an author not stick to a specific formula for each book. One of Mel Sherratt’s strengths is her capacity to delve into the darkest corner of the criminal world and create unlikable, violent and authentic ‘shady’ characters. The tension ramps up as the lies begin to unravel, and more crimes are committed. Liar Liar made for a gritty, hard-hitting read, and although I wouldn’t consider this a fast-paced read, there’s plenty to keep the crime lover eagerly turning the pages.

  • Print Length: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Avon (10 Feb. 2020)

Buying link:  Amazon UK 🇬🇧

About the author

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I live in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, with my husband and terrier, Dexter (named after the TV serial killer) and makes liberal use of my hometown as a backdrop for some of my books.

I’m not sure which I am most proud of – being on the list of Stoke-on-Trent’s top 100 most influential people 2018 or after years of rejection going on to sell over one million books.

Shortlisted for the prestigious CWA (Crime Writer’s Association) Dagger in Library Award 2014, my inspiration comes from authors such as Martina Cole, Lynda la Plante, Mandasue Heller and Elizabeth Haynes.

I regularly appear at festivals, conferences and events across the country – my favourites being London Book Fair and Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival, Harrogate.

So that’s me in a nutshell. Don’t forget to sign up to my newsletter and follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

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