Tag Archives: Domestic Noir

In The Absence of Miracles by Michael J Malone @MichaelJMalone @OrendaBooks #BookReview #MustReads #BookHangoverAward

Today I’m thrilled to be sharing my review for In The Absence Of Miracles by M J Malone, a potential contender for my book of the year read on for my thoughts…

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A young man discovers a family secret that turns his world upside down in this dark, emotive, shocking psychological thriller by number-one bestselling author Michael J. Malone

John Docherty’s mother has just been taken into a nursing home following a massive stroke and she’s unlikely to be able to live independently again.

With no other option than to sell the family home, John sets about packing up everything in the house. In sifting through the detritus of his family’s past he’s forced to revisit, and revise his childhood.

For in a box, in the attic, he finds undeniable truth that he had a brother who disappeared when he himself was only a toddler. A brother no one ever mentioned. A brother he knew absolutely nothing about. A discovery that sets John on a journey from which he may never recover.

For sometimes in that space where memory should reside there is nothing but silence, smoke and ash. And in the absence of truth, in the absence of a miracle, we turn to prayer. And to violence.

Shocking, chilling and heartbreakingly emotive, In the Absence of Miracles is domestic noir at its most powerful, and a sensitively wrought portrait of a family whose shameful lies hide the very darkest of secrets.

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There are books that are shocking and twisted, and then there’s In The Absence Of Miracles by Michael Malone! Shocking, doesn’t even come close to describing this remarkable book. This isn’t a book I feel fits into one particular genre, it’s part domestic noir, suspense, and crime thriller all rolled into one to create one of the most compelling, powerful and emotive reads I’ve had the pleasure to come across in the last few years.  This book reminds me of one of the author’s earlier books A Suitable Lie   that still remains one of my favourite reads. In The Absence Of Miracles is the heartbreaking story of one dysfunctional family, it’s a story that pulls no punches and one that will rip your heart out.

John Docherty’s mother suffered a massive stroke and is now receiving around the clock care in a nursing home. It’s left to John to clear the family home, buried among boxes he finds evidence that he has a brother, John has no memory of the brother and what follows is the story of John’s journey to discovering the truth. The truth will cause John heartbreak, pain, bewilderment and shame, as repressed memories from his childhood begin to emerge, he finds the truth is far more shocking than anything he could ever had imagined. Each page of this book crackles with emotion, it’s intense, dark, gritty and yet hidden amongst the pages are the fragile threads of hope.  

The author has showed great sensitivity and understanding and in creating an all too believable character, John Docherty is one of those rare characters who consumed my every waking moment, he’s a man in turmoil, determined to self destruct, he’s  a man drowning in guilt, resentment and disgust. His story will grab at your heart and squeeze it so tight it might just explode. The author has created such an incredible character it’s impossible not to become consumed by his story, add to that the author’s extraordinary prose which describe John’s emotions perfectly I found my heart shattering into a million tiny pieces. I’m sure I felt every emotion John felt whilst reading this book. As John’s repressed memories began to surface and you see a man teetering on the brink, I wanted to tell him ‘everything would be alright’ but because of the nature of the book I wasn’t convinced there could be a ‘happy ending’.

I think the author has taken a brave decision, in writing a book that explores a taboo subject matter, that’s seldom discussed so fixed is the stigma attached to this subject. In some author’s hands this would have just made for a shocking read, but Malone strikes the right balance and has produced a masterpiece, it’s subtle, sensitivity written, wrought with emotion and has to be one of my most captivating, heartbreaking reads EVER! Michael Malone is one of those rare author who appears to be able to write in any genre and turn what could be an interesting read, into something extra special, definitely a book that will stay with me for a long time to come. In The Absence Of Miracles is certainly a contender for my book of the year and one I will be recommending to anybody and everybody

  • Print Length: 300 pages
  • Publisher: ORENDA BOOKS (19 July 2019)

Buying links:    Amazon UK 🇬🇧    Amazon US 🇺🇸

And yes in case you hadn’t already guessed I’m giving In The Absence Of Miracles my shiny Book hangover award, It’s given to a book I feel is particularly outstanding, a book that covers every aspect of what I look for in a read, an original  plot, great characters and a storyline that draws me in from the first page and keeps me in its grips until I reach the very last page.

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My thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for giving me the opportunity to read this fabulous book. I received this ARC in exchange for a honest and unbiased review.

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THE JULY GIRLS BY PHOEBE LOCKE @PHOEBE_LOCKE @WILDFIREBKS #REVIEW #TheJulyGirls #SummerMustReads #BookHangoverAward

Today I’m thrilled to be sharing my review for The July Girls by Phoebe Locke, I have a feeling this book is going to be one of this summers top reads. You can read on for my thoughts……….

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Every year, on the same night in July, a woman is taken from the streets of London; snatched by a killer who moves through the city like a ghost. 

Addie has a secret. On the morning of her tenth birthday, four bombs were detonated across the capital. That night her dad came home covered in blood. She thought he was hurt in the attacks – but then her sister Jessie found a missing woman’s purse hidden in his room.

Jessie says they mustn’t tell. She says there’s nothing to worry about. But when she takes a job looking after the woman’s baby daughter, Addie starts to realise that her big sister doesn’t always tell her the whole story. And that the secrets they’re keeping may start costing lives . . .

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I’m not going to beat about the bush here, I absolutely loved The July Girls by Phoebe Locke, this is the first book I’ve read by the author, although I have since bought her debut novel The Tall Man. If from the book description you thought this was a run of the mill ‘serial killer thriller’ you couldn’t be more wrong. This book has so much more to offer the crime thriller lover, it’s a book that’s superbly written, an extraordinary and highly original tale, told through the eyes of a brilliantly drawn character, ten-year-old Addie.

Set in London, The July Girls tells the story of two sisters, Jessie and Addie, whose lives become unintentionally entangled with a serial killer. Every year, on the 7th of July, a young girl is snatched from the streets of London by the killer, leaving behind no clues or forensic evidence. The story begins with The devastating event of 07/07 terrorist attacks, for many, lives will never be the same, and unfortunately for Jessica and Addie so begins their worse nightmare, as on the same night their dad comes home covered in blood and when they find items in their home belonging to a missing woman believed to one of the victims of the ‘Magpie’ killer. Addie’s sense of confusion, distress and loss are palatable throughout The July Girls, making for a disquieting read.

The reason I enjoyed this book is very much down to the innocent narrative of Addie, which compliments the sinister undertone that runs through the book’s pages.  The relationship between the two sisters is superbly depicted, by the author it’s impossible not to become involved in the lives of her characters. Jessica is thrown into the position of surrogate mother, she adores Addie and will do anything to protect her, even if that means lying to hide the shocking truths hidden beneath the surface of their dysfunctional family. You can’t help but admire Addie from a young age through to her teens she retains Addies her integrity, her sense of ‘right from wrong’ even though this will cause her stress and upset. Addie is a troubled ten-year-old, there are things she has seen that she can’t forget, they keep her awake at night, they are things that niggle at her conscious and force her to question the very person who she should be able to trust, her own father. Is everything at it seems? or does Addie have a over active imagination like many a ten-year-old? I’m not saying as you really need to read the book to find out! 

Phoebe Locke shows that you don’t need to write graphic crime scenes to capture the reader’s imagination, it’s a disturbing story but subtle, leaving the reader to summon up their own vivid scenarios! Although I wouldn’t consider this to be a fast paced read, the beauty of The July Girls is the author’s incredible ability to build on the tension and suspense, whilst giving the reader an incredible insight into the life of her characters. The author takes familiar subjects such as family dynamics, relationships and turns them into a compelling, extraordinary read, and one that’s impossible to put down even for a few minutes. I’m still not sure I have conveyed just how good this book is, but it’s definitely one of my top read this summer. So on that note if you only buy one book this summer, you should definitely consider The July Girls,  it’s a book I will be happily  recommending to anyone and everyone.

And yes I’m giving The July Girls my shiny Book hangover award, It’s given to a book I feel is particularly outstanding, a book that covers every aspect of what I look for in a read, an original  plot, great characters and a storyline that draws me in from the first page and keeps me in its grips until I reach the very last page.

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  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Wildfire (27 Jun. 2019)

Buying link:   Amazon UK 🇬🇧

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Dead Inside by Noelle Holten #BookReview @nholten40 #BlogTour #TeamHolten @KillerReads @BOTBSPublicity @HarperCollins #MustReads

Today I can’t explain how thrilled I am to be on the blog tour for Dead Inside by Noelle Holten. This maybe the author’s debut novel, but Noelle is also a book blogger over at Crimebookjunkie, Noelle is one of the most passionate bloggers I know, she doesn’t just shout about the books she loves, she literally screams about them! I really thought I would struggle to write an unbiased review but I had the honour of beta reading Dead Inside and even then I thought this is one crime thriller that is going to be huge hit. After reading the finished copy I know it’s going to be a humungous hit with crime thriller lovers.  Read on for my thoughts…….

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A dark and gripping debut crime novel – the first in a stunning new series – from a huge new talent.

The killer is just getting started…

When three wife beaters are themselves found beaten to death, DC Maggie Jamieson knows she is facing her toughest case yet.

The police suspect that Probation Officer Lucy Sherwood – who is connected to all three victims – is hiding a dark secret. Then a fourth domestic abuser is brutally murdered.

And he is Lucy’s husband.

Now the police are running out of time, but can Maggie really believe her friend Lucy is a cold-blooded killer?

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Now and then I get excited about reading a book written by a debut author, so I almost wet my myself with excitement when I was approached by Noelle Holten and asked if I would read her debut novel Dead Inside, it was literally a “hell yes and how soon can I get a copy?” Moment. From the shocking and disturbing prologue I knew this was one of those books I would get so caught up in, and god help anyone who disturbed me whilst I was reading it. Part Domestic noir, part crime thriller this novel was a cracker, when you read as many books as I do in these genres you are always looking for “that” book that offers you that something extra, something that makes it standout out from the crowd, and OMFG the author has certainly managed that.

Domestic abuse is not the easiest subject to write about, how do you convey the emotions, the abuse without overstepping the mark? This is a subject that’s emotive and very disturbing but the author writes about the subject with a great deal of insight, understanding and empathy.  One thing I noticed when I was reading this book is the author’s ability to write in such away you feel like you’re a voyeur watching from the sidelines, rather like a car crash you want to look away,  but you are compelled to read on as the characters move from one crisis to another. The writing is gritty and pulls no punches, although this can feel uncomfortable it makes the read all the more shockingly credible, I should point out though the violence isn’t gratuitous and is very much in keeping with the plot and subject.  

The author has created an array of characters some are much more likeable than others, you will love them, you will hate them, you will hope some of them get their “just desserts” but each character brings something different to this riveting  tale. You will feel their emotions, their despair and their anger, you need to read on as your desperate for at least a couple of the characters to find an escape from their very unhappy and violent relationships. I thought this book was original as not only do you get the POV of the abused and the abusers but also the many agencies who are involved, supporting the victims and in some case their perpetrators. As I mentioned this is part crime thriller, and again the author keeps you riveted to the pages, as crimes are committed and the suspects mount, never giving away too much detail to spoil the read, at times the tension and suspense reached fever pitch. 

There are a huge amount of fictional books that deal with domestic violence on the market, so what makes Dead a Inside any different? I hear you say, It’s original, highly engaging, the writing is confident and bold with memorable characters, add in a compelling plot, and you have the perfect mix for a crime thriller. The one thing I wasn’t expecting was the raw emotion within the pages, as I reached the last page I felt emotionally drained. Personally I’m already excited for second book from the very talented Noelle Holten, in my opinion she is an exciting and refreshing voice in Crime fiction and one whose journey I will be following with avid interest. 

  • Print Length: 293 pages
  • Publisher: Killer Reads (31 May 2019)

Buying links:   Amazon UK 🇬🇧    Amazon US 🇺🇸

What readers think of Dead Inside

‘An excellent read’ Martina Cole

‘Kept me hooked throughout … excellent pace and a very satisfying ending’ Angela Marsons

‘A brilliant debut – gritty, dark and chilling. Noelle Holten knows her stuff’ Mel Sherratt

‘Dark and gritty and kept me hooked until the very end. A Fantastic debut!’ Casey Kelleher

‘A hard-hitting, impressively authentic crime fiction debut … nuanced, highly readable, page turning, a definite cut above the rest. I urge you to read this book’ Howard Linskey

‘Extremely powerful, incredibly thought provoking and ringing with authenticity, this is an excellent debut’ M. W. Craven, author of the Washington Poe series 

‘Noelle has conjured up a real page-turner here. The author’s experience with damaged and damaging people really shines through bringing a great deal of grit to the drama. Add in some fascinating characters, relentless pace and a strong story and you have a winner on your hands’ Michael J Malone

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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 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, author-stalking and sharing the booklove via her blog.
Dead Inside is her debut novel with Killer Reads/Harper Collins UK and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson.

Links:
 

A huge thanks to Noelle, Killer Reads and Sarah over at BookOnTheBrightside for inviting me on to the tour!

Sarah Hardy

Book On The Bright Side Publicity & Promo
Twitter: @BOTBSPublicity

Follow the blog tour………

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DEGREES OF GUILT BY HS Chandler @HSCINKPEN #BookReview #DegreesOfGuilt @OrionBooks #MustReads @Helen_Fields

Good morning today I’m sharing my review for Degrees Of Guilt by H S Chandler aka crime thriller writer Helen Fields. If you love a legal thriller this book is unmissable. Read on for my thoughts……..

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When you read this book, you will think you know every twist in the tale.

Maria is on trial for attempted murder.

She has confessed to the crime and wanted her husband dead.

Lottie is on the jury, trying to decide her fate.

She embarks on an illicit affair with a stranger, and her husband can never find out.

You will think you know who is guilty and who is innocent.

You will be wrong.

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Nothing in life is ever black and white, there are shades of grey that blur our opinions, our thoughts, it’s one thing hearing the facts, but what about the untold story? What hidden truths could change a guilty verdict around or vice versa? Degrees Of Guilt by H.S. Chandler is a thrilling book where your opinion of the guilty, in this case Marie who freely admits to killing her husband, will sway at almost every chapter. This has to be one of the most exciting, complex, and compelling legal thrillers I’ve read for a long time, it’s the definition of a page turner. Rather like the jury, you find yourself living and breathing Marie’s trial, separating the layers of fact from fiction and hoping you make the right decision, guilty or not guilty? It’s up to you to decide.  

With a stellar of an opening chapter Degrees Of Guilt pulls you in to Maries’s story at first she appears cold and rational, But then as the story deftly unfolds we learn more about Marie’s complex life with Edward, nothing is as it first appears, is Marie telling the truth? or is her story one that’s been fabricated to gain sympathy for her wrongdoing’s? I couldn’t help but feel some empathy for her character, even though at times I had my doubts if she really was as innocent as she claimed to be.  The novel is an intricate web of lies, secrets, manipulations, and deceit which make this story a constant, head spinning guessing game, right up until the last chapter you are never sure where the truth really lies. 

Lottie is on the jury, trying to decide Marie’s fate, at first she’s a reluctant participate, she’s nervous, timid, her life is very different to Marie’s she’s a wife and mother who life centres on her family, but as Marie’s trial reveals shocking details of her marriage she realises she has far more in common with her than she first thought. I found it fascinating to see how the mixed bunch of jurors first assumptions of Marie changed throughout the story, their opinions and feelings constantly shift, so you are never sure which verdict they will choose. Marie’s story is intense, alarming and uncomfortable,  which some readers find upsetting.  The author depicts the claustrophobic feel of the courtroom and the animosity of the jury towards the accused and their peers perfectly. 

The setting of a courtroom for most of the novel adds a palatable sense of claustrophobia and trepidation, a ploy that’s guaranteed to keep you reading and will make you reluctant to put this novel down even for a few minutes. Degrees of guilt is part domestic noir infused with a believable and heart wrenching courtroom drama, oozing with tension and mystery. HS Chandler knows how to keep the reader’s attention with a complex plot, intriguing characters, and a couple of curveballs I never saw coming until they hit me in the face! A superb book that I would highly recommend to those who love domestic noir wrapped up in a courtroom drama.

  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Trapeze (16 May 2019)

Buying links:  Amazon UK 🇬🇧      Amazon US 🇺🇸

My thanks to Meggy over at https://chocolatenwaffles.com/, for her fabulous review that convinced me to read this book. 

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#BehindTheBooks with #DebutAuthor Noelle Holten @nholten40

Today I’m jumping up and down with excitement, as I have an extra special guest taking part in the book review café’s #BehindTheBooks feature, so a huge welcome  to one of the most passionate book bloggers I know, the one and only Noelle Holten aka  Crime book junkie

Not only is Noelle a book blogger, she works full time as a PR and Social Manager for Bookouture and some how or other she’s managed to write her debut novel Dead Inside which is being published by killer reads and Harper Collins in May 2019. I was lucky enough to be asked to beta read this book and I thought it was brilliant, readers you are in for a real treat.

I think I have gushed enough so without further ado here’s my interview with the lovely Noelle……

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Hi Noelle  I’m thrilled to have you visit the book review café, first things first, tea or coffee?

Thanks so much for having me! Coffee please ☕️

Congratulations on your debut novel Dead Inside being published on May 31st by Killer Reads. I have so many questions I want to ask you. Firstly what made you decide to write a book?

Aww- thank you so much!! I’ve always wanted to write a book, but either thought no one other than me would be interested, it would be awful so no one (publisher-wise) would want it or there was never enough time to write. In 2017, after a lot of encouragement, I attended Crime & Publishment – a writing course run by Graham Smith & Michael J Malone in Gretna Green. I had my prologue written and after mustering up the courage, I asked them both to read it. Their reaction gave me the kick up the backside to write the story and so I made the time!

Where did you get the idea for Dead Inside from?

The idea for Dead Inside came from my own personal experiences, my experience as a Probation Officer and my not-so-normal imagination. When I had finally decided I wanted to write back in 2014 – I had a totally different story in mind, but then Lucy invaded my head and after a few years of thinking about it, she decided she wanted to be heard!

What kind of research did you have to do for Dead Inside?

My previous professional life as a Senior Probation Officer for 18 years, working in a police station for 6 years and the experience I had with various agencies allowed me to pretty much write what I knew. I used a bit of poetic licence to help the story flow, but I drew on my experiences and spoke to a few people or googled/ read relevant books for things I was unsure of. I have quite a library of books on crime, theory and true crime – so reference material is always to hand. 

How long did it take you to write Dead Inside?

I started the first draft on March 13th 2017 and finished May 19th 2017. Then I left the book until the end of November 2017 before I started to edit. That took me until Feb 2018. I then sent it to beta readers and once I had their amazing and insightful feedback, I made those changes and sent it to an editor – I was ready to submit my final MS by April 2018.

What were the lows of writing your debut novel?

Difficult to say and I am not sure I would say I had any particular ‘lows” but writing a novel is hard work and you really have to be dedicated/motivated. Making the time after a long day at work, could be draining but kept me focussed. I also had to re-live and sift through a lot of unpleasant memories. I had no confidence in my writing or myself some days.

Which brings me to the next question, what was the best thing about writing Dead Inside?

Oh! There are a few things – It was therapeutic and reminded me how far I have come. Getting a book deal! (I still can’t believe that!) Having amazing feedback from my beta readers. Fantastic endorsements from authors I admire. Getting a red card from Karen Sullivan /Orenda with the invitation to submit – and being able to say I wrote a book! Pitching my novel to an editor (scary but worth it). Seeing Angela Marsons and Martina Cole’s names on my cover. MY COVER (love it) – So many positives!!

Do you have any writing Quirks?

Hmmm. I’m not sure if this is a quirk or not but I don’t write in chronological order. If an idea pops in my head, I write it down – in fact, I had the ending of Dead Inside written before most of the book. Same with book 2! It’s just how my brain works – but it is a pain when it comes to editing!

Can you describe what Dead Inside is about in one sentence?

I don’t know if I can! HA HA – ok, here was my elevator pitch: 

Four domestic abuse offenders are brutally murdered; three are supervised by the same probation officer and the fourth is her husband.

How long did it take to get your book accepted by a publisher?

This is incredibly weird and definitely not the norm, but I was encouraged by an author and also introduced by one of the editors from Bookouture to pitch to a publisher at Harrogate 2018. I finally plucked up the courage on the Saturday (I may have been dragged over) and gave him my details as well as my pitch. I received an email on the Monday asking for the full MS and an then I received an offer a week later. I then had another expression of interest within two days of that from another publisher I submitted to and finally another offer! Even those who turned down Dead Inside, said they were interested in my writing and would be happy for me to submit anything else I wrote directly. So, I had a really positive experience.

Best piece of advice you would give to someone hoping to get their book published?

Do your homework and write every day. I spend an hour a day, no matter what, writing – within 12-14 weeks I have my first draft done. Only ONE HOUR a day. You have to keep motivated. 

How does it feel to read quotes from authors writing about your book? When it’s normally you writing about theirs.

OMFG I cried many a happy tear as it is just so surreal. I often wonder if they are just being nice but then I think WHO CARES 🤣 Best feeling EVER!

Have you any plans to celebrate on publication day?

I took the day off work and plan to be on social media. I might have a gin or two (it’s a Friday!) but no other special plans. For the paperback publication in August, I am hoping to have a launch in Glasgow – watch this space! 

What are you working on now?

Book 2 edits! We’re still working on the title, but I LOVE the blurb. Hopefully there will be some news about that coming soon!

One last question do you plan to keep on blogging?

Abso-friggin-lutely! I love blogging, but I have taken a big step back from tours and generally I’m focusing on going through my TBR! I will still do the occasional tour, but edits are a priority and then onto Book 3 … in case I get another contract! If I don’t I’m not sure what I will do with Book 3 but I’ll worry about that when I need to!

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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, author-stalking and sharing the booklove via her blog.
Dead Inside is her debut novel with Killer Reads/Harper Collins UK and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson.

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Connect with Noelle on Social Media here:
Twitter: (@nholten40) https://twitter.com/nholten40
Instagram: @crimebookjunkie

About the Book:

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‘Kept me hooked … excellent pace and a very satisfying ending’ Angela Marsons

‘An excellent read’ Martina Cole

‘A brilliant debut – gritty, dark and chilling. Noelle Holten knows her stuff’ Mel Sherratt

A dark and gripping debut crime novel – the first in a stunning new series – from a huge new talent.

The killer is just getting started…

When three wife beaters are themselves found beaten to death, DC Maggie Jamieson knows she is facing her toughest case yet.

The police suspect that Probation Officer Lucy Sherwood – who is connected to all three victims – is hiding a dark secret. Then a fourth domestic abuser is brutally murdered.

And he is Lucy’s husband.

Now the police are running out of time, but can Maggie really believe her friend Lucy is a cold-blooded killer?

Pre-order Links: 

 

Amazon: http://mybook.to/DeadInside  

Apple Books: https://apple.co/2SBRpqt 

Kobo: https://bit.ly/2DZwZ2M 

Googleplay: http://ow.ly/T17w30nCWp3 

My thanks to Noelle for taking time out of her hectic to take part in this interview.

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The Girl Next Door by Phoebe Morgan @Phoebe_A_Morgan @HQstories #MustReads

Today I’m thrilled to be sharing my review of The Girl Next Door by Phoebe Morgan. A must read for those who love a psychological thriller. Before I share my review here’s the book description……..

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Perfect mother. Perfect wife. Jane Goodwin has spent years building her picture-perfect life in the quiet town of Ashdon.

So when the girl next door, sixteen-year-old Clare Edwards, is found murdered, Jane knows she must first protect her family.

Every marriage has a few white lies and hers is no exception. Jane’s worked hard to cover up her dark secret from all those years ago – and she’ll do anything to keep it hidden…

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Ever since I read Phoebe Morgan’s debut novel The Doll House (which I really enjoyed)I’ve been eagerly awaiting her second novel The Girl Next Door, and my god it was definitely worth the wait. If anything, I enjoyed this devilishly twisted psychological thriller more; I enjoy a book where the author misdirects the reader at every given opportunity and the author certainly managed to do just that! If I had to choose just one thing I loved about this book, it would have to be the amount of surprises that were hidden within its pages, I’m trying to keep away from the “T” word (Twist in case you were wondering) as it seems to be the “buzz” word for all psychological thrillers, but hell yes it’s definitely got those “twists” all psychological thriller readers love. 

Perfect wife, perfect mother, Jane Goodwin, is married to the local GP, living the dream in an affluent street with their three children. When the girl next door sixteen-year-old Clare, is found dead in a field nearby, Jane’s first thought is to protect her family from the gossip and scaremongering that follows. Jane was a difficult character to like, but also fascinating, she’s one of those people whose “all about the appearance”, quick to judge those less fortunate than herself. Jane is a woman who prefers to bury her head in the sand than deal with real-life issues, her mindset is one where if you don’t talk about it, it isn’t happening, but appearances can be deceptive, as the author scratches the surface you come to the realise that behind the cool exterior is a very troubled woman.  Numerous characters come under suspicion In The Girl Next Door,  some rouse more suspicion than others and although I worked out the killer about halfway through, it did not distract from my enjoyment of this book as I couldn’t fathom out their motive, which made the read all the more riveting. 

Phoebe Morgans location is perfectly depicted, a small town where unsolicited rumours, pointing fingers, and mistrust building amongst the local community all add an unbearable sense of tension to the read. The Girl Next Door is narrated from three characters POV, DI Madeline Shaw, who leads the investigation into Clare’s  murder, Jane the perfect mother, and Clare herself. The chapters told from Clare’s POV give an insight into the secretive teenager’s life, her dreams, her fears all add a dimension to her character that I wasn’t expecting. DI Madeline Shaw doesn’t take centre stage which I found made a refreshing change, there are so many thrillers that feature troubled detectives it can sometimes get a little weary. For me the second half of this book is the part I enjoyed the most, darker in tone, there were chapters I found genuinely chilling. The Girl Next Door is a fascinating read that delves into toxic relationships, the secrets, the lies but it also explores the lengths a mother will go to, to protect her family. Highly recommended to those who enjoy a dark psychological thriller. 

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: HQ (21 Feb. 2019)

Buying  link:  Amazon UK 🇬🇧

The author also wrote a guest post for the A day With Author……. feature that I ran back in 218, here’s  the link if you’re  interested…….

https://thebookreviewcafe.com/2017/11/16/a-day-with-author-phoebe-morgan-phoebe_a_morgan/

 

#BehindTheBooks with Karen Sullivan @OrendaBooks #BookPublisher #TeamOrenda.

Today I’m thrilled to have the fabulous Karen Sullivan pop by the book review café and take part in my latest feature #BehindTheBooks. Karen is the owner of Orenda Books and I’m sure most book bloggers would agree Karen publishes some of the most compelling books I’ve had the pleasure to read. I hope you enjoy this feature as much as I did putting it together……

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Good morning Karen I’m so excited to have you finally visit the book review café, first thing first tea or coffee? 

Coffee all the way. I don’t speak to anyone in the morning until my Nespresso machine has done its business! Being Canadian, I never really ‘got’ the tea thing, and shhhhhhh don’t really like it!

What made you decide to set up a publication business?

I was an author for years (non-fiction), and got a bit bored writing about the same things (raising children, emotional health, discipline, nutrition, etc.), particularly as my boys got older. I took what was ostensibly a one-day-a-week job in a little independent, writing jacket copy and advance information sheets/press releases, etc. It soon turned into more than full time, and when my boss was sacked and a new group of shareholders brought in, who clearly didn’t understand the ethos of the list or the company, I decided it was the to leave. It took me 24 hours to decide to start Orenda Books, and I haven’t looked back!

What genre of books do Orenda Books publish?

We publish literary fiction, with a heavy emphasis on crime thrillers, about half in translation. What defines the list is the superb writing!

What makes Orenda Books unique from other publishers?

That’s a good question. It’s a small list, and our authors come from 14 countries around the world, so there is immediately a big international element to Orenda. We work hard together, as Team Orenda, and all of my authors are as approachable and engaged as they are talented. My goal was to publish beautiful, unforgettable books … and create a brand identity that would mean readers picking up the next Orenda book, regardless of its provenance or genre, on the basis that they KNOW it will be good. We work super hard at all stages of editing to make sure that happens! We really believe that if someone wants to buy a physical book, they want something gorgeous. So we have great covers, and use excellent-quality paper, with neat little design touches; for example, a little ornament or illustration in the runnings heads.

 

 

What would you say has been your biggest success so far?

I think getting this far is probably my biggest success! It’s a crowded, noisy market, and it’s not easy being a little guy! In terms of books, Ragnar Jonasson’s Dark Iceland series has been far and away our bestselling titles, with over a million copies sold in various territories around the world. Amanda Jennings, Matt Wesolowski, Louise Voss, Michael J. Malone, Kjell Ola Dahl, Lilja Sigurdardottir, Thomas Enger and Antti Tuomainen have also been strong sellers. All of them have done well, really!
We publish a lot of debut authors, and it can take some time to get them established, but sales are up across the board for everyone! One of the nice things about being small and working so closely with authors is that we build very strong relationships. We are completely committed to all of our authors, and growing them with the company, regardless of how long that might take.

Which brings me to my next question, What has been the biggest challenge?

 The biggest challenge will always be trying to compete with the big players. We don’t have the marketing budgets that they do, or teams of creatives, and can’t generate the same type of hype for books. Sometimes I want weep when I see heavily hyped books getting all the attention (and publicity and sales) when I know that ours are much, much better! I also struggle with the growth of the 99p digital publishers, who are doing great damage to the industry as a whole … the value that books are perceived to have, an author’s ability to earn a living. As a matter of principle, we refuse to discount without a retailer-supported promotion, but it is very hard to compete against publishers offering books so cheaply. But we chose to play with the big boys, so we have to get on and do it. I give a lot of books away, but I do get frustrated when people are always want everything free or cheaply. I feel a huge weight of responsibility for my authors, and they have to be able to eat! I wish sometimes book buyers would understand how hard it is to do this. If they don’t support independent publishers, buy their books, and actively choose them over some of the over-hyped big-company titles, a lot of fabulous books will never be published and we will lose the vibrancy of the community, the variety of literature available. This has become one long rant!

You must get hundreds of submissions from authors, how do you choose which books you will publish? 

 

 

We get so many submissions, it’s almost terrifying! We have a reader who has worked with from the very beginning, and she knows exactly what will excite me! So she acts as a filter, and gives me a yes, no, maybe response, and a full report for every book. She has NEVER been wrong yet! Sometimes I may revisit a ‘no’, but I haven’t ever seen anything that she has missed. Then it comes to me and my editor, and we both read it. So the process is long … particularly because we are so busy with the day-to-day running of the company and keeping books going through. If I absolutely LOVE a book, I might offer for it. But the list is tiny, though, and we can’t publish that many new titles a year … having made a commitment to existing authors to grow them! I sometimes read fantastic submissions that are just a little to close in style or plot to something we already publish. One thing I definitely want to do is make sure that every single book/author is completely different. So we might have several police procedurals or psychological thrillers, but they share nothing apart from their genre or sub genre.

If I sent a book I wrote to you how long would it take you to review and respond?

I’m almost embarrassed to say that it could take six to eight months … just because of the sheer volume!! And we do like to read everything!

What would put you off reading my book I sent to you?

Poor spelling, a cliched plot or characters. Weak writing. A submission letter that isn’t personalised (i.e., Dear Sirs).
Lots of things can be fixed in books (and are) but an author needs to be a great writer to be published here and bring something fresh and distinctive.

If you accepted my book how long is the process from accepting a manuscript to final publication? And what does the process involve? 

 

 

Usually about a year, but it depends upon what time of year it’s signed. What we do first is a structural edit … loads of editorial notes that send the author back to his/her writing desk to get the bones of the book … the plot, characters, timeline, continuity, atmosphere, setting. It might go back and forth several (or even dozens of) times before it’s ready for copyediting. This is the line edit, and the copyeditor always finds more things that need addressing, and the prose is polished at this stage. The author then answers queries and checks the edits to make sure he/she is happy. During the process, we write a blurb, commission a jacket, get it up for pre-order, pitch to the sales teams around the world, discuss marketing and publicity approaches, etc. Once the book is in good shape, it is typeset. We usually print uncorrected proofs at this stage (about five/six months before publication), and these go out to the press, booksellers, other authors for jacket quotes, the sales teams, and some of the bloggers. The book is then proofread by author and an outside proofreader. Then a couple of months before publication, we print the final book! It takes a while…

You have some fantastic covers for your books, how do you choose a cover?

We have the MOST AMAZING jacket designer – Mark Swan. I give him a detailed brief … basically what the book is about, the kind of images we might be looking for, or the approach … and he delivers a series of roughs. It’s honestly VERY hard to choose. He is a genius! Sometimes the jacket we choose doesn’t meet with the approval of the retailers, so we go back to the drawing board. Usually there is another rough in the bunch that fits the bill. Jackets DO have to stand out, and we spend a lot of time getting them right.

Are there any books you are publishing this year you are really excited about?

Hand on heart, I am absolutely thrilled to be publishing every single book on the list. Quite a few authors are on their third or fourth books, and they just get better and better. It’s such a delight … a source of huge excitement … to get this list of books out there to readers. I am probably as nervous and excited as the authors themselves. In terms of new authors, however, we have a WONDERFUL book from Norway, A Modern Family, by Helga Flatland, who we are calling the Norwegian Anne Tyler. It’s so exquisitely written and moving … and it will resonate with anyone who has EVER had a sibling! It’s out in June. We’ve also got Paul Burston’s new psychological thriller, The Closer I Get, which revolves around the world of social media, where a follower becomes a little obsessive. These are authors who are new to Orenda. Others are making their return with books that quite simply smash it out of the park!

 

 

As for the marketing of your books, what have you found works best for Orenda Books?

A combination of things! We do a lot of giveaways, and Anne Cater organises the most incredible blog tours (sometimes with over 80 bloggers involved in each), which really give a book a nice headstart with some fabulous reviews and a great buzz. We do promotions with retailers, and place ads in online sites and in some print media (a lot more in the USA/Can than here). We are very active on social media, and have just started our ‘Orenda Books at Bedtime’, which is a series that goes out every Sunday night at 8pm. An author reads from his/her book from the comfort of their own home, and it’s really taking off. I absolutely think that the best marketing imaginable is to get authors in front of readers, so the ‘online’ intimate bedtime story is definitely a good way to do that. Our authors did over 300 events last year between them, including loads of festivals, and most also took part in our Orenda Roadshow, where we visit four bookshops across the country in four days. We have big launches, and parties, and try to make readers and anyone who reviews our books or shares the book love feel like part of the team. Our book trailers have been a surprising success. We also have a newsletter that goes out via the Crime Lounge every couple of weeks!

Can you tell us a little about a typical day at Orenda?

I don’t think there is any typical day! One day I might work from 7am till after midnight on edits, or I might spend a whole day trying to organise events, pitching for festivals. I might have sales meetings, or be on the road with authors for days on end! We could be preparing books for press … chasing up praise and getting the final cover designed. Spending time on social media, checking sales figures, writing a press release or jacket copy, reading submissions, crying at cash flow, rewriting metadata for online retailers (particularly for ebooks), coming up with strategies for marketing or publicity, looking at reviews for blog tours, in the press, on goodreads or Amazon. Talking to the sales team, or Sophie, who helps with PR. Updating the website. Working out why something isn’t selling as well as expected, perhaps, and finding ways to give it a boost. Talking to my editor, West Camel, and Cole, my son, who now works for us as an assistant everything! I’m getting a little better at delegating. There are hundreds of emails every day, too!

I am up at seven, get my youngest off to school, and then work well into the night (stopping to cook dinner!). I go to lots of launches for authors from other publishers, too, and am away a LOT a book fairs, author events, festivals, international sales conferences, etc. Every day brings something new and maybe that’s partly why it is so much fun. Although there are a lot of extremely boring administrative tasks, I can always do something else if I start to lose my mind!

 

 

One final question can you sum up Orenda Books in five words?

Well, our little ‘tag line’, which I thought up in about 20 seconds when I started the company is: Beautiful Readable Unforgettable. I’m not sure I could actually top that! Just Team Orenda?
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About Orenda Books

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Karen with author Thomas Enger

Orenda Books was founded by publisher Karen Sullivan in late 2014 to specialise in literary fiction with a heavy emphasis on crime/thrillers, about half in translation. The company has fast made a name for itself, being shortlisted for the IPG Nick Robinson Newcomer Award, shortlisting for and winning a clutch of awards, including CWA Daggers, Authors’ Club First Novel Award, the Petrona Award, the Glass Key and the Dead Good Reads Awards. Karen was also named as a Bookseller Rising Star for 2016.

My thanks to Karen for taking time out of her hectic schedule to take part in this feature.