Tag Archives: Must reads 2018

The Girl In The Letter by Emily Gunnis #BookReview @EmilyGunnis @Phoebe_Swinburn @headlinepg

Today I’m sharing my review for The Girl In The Letter by Emily Gunnis. I  took a step away from Serial Killers, Murder and Crime before Christmas! As I wanted to read something slightly different. I read so many lovely reviews of this book I just knew it was one I had to read for myself. **Warning** this book should come with a box of tissues.

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A heartbreaking letter. A girl locked away. A mystery to be solved.1956. When Ivy Jenkins falls pregnant she is sent in disgrace to St Margaret’s, a dark, brooding house for unmarried mothers. Her baby is adopted against her will. Ivy will never leave.

Present day. Samantha Harper is a journalist desperate for a break. When she stumbles on a letter from the past, the contents shock and move her. The letter is from a young mother, begging to be rescued from St Margaret’s. Before it is too late. 

Sam is pulled into the tragic story and discovers a spate of unexplained deaths surrounding the woman and her child. With St Margaret’s set for demolition, Sam has only hours to piece together a sixty-year-old mystery before the truth, which lies disturbingly close to home, is lost for ever…

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After I finished reading The Girl In The Letter by Emily Gunnis I was left with a heavy heart, not because I didn’t enjoy the book, in fact it was quite the opposite, it made for a highly emotional read, it’s a book that is based on disturbing historical facts and for me personally this made the read far more poignant, knowing that the terrible things that happened to unmarried mothers in the book actually occurred. It’s hard to imagine an unmarried mother being sent away by her family to give birth to her baby, a family more concerned about the stigma surrounding illegitimacy, than their own child’s well being.  A woman forced to live in the most awful conditions, abused, and then forced to hand their babies over for adoption. The Girl In The Letter certainly makes for a hard hitting and emotional  read.

Single mother journalist Sam Harper discovers  some heartbreaking letters from a girl called Ivy which are linked to a now derelict mother and baby home, St Margaret’s which was run by nuns. Sam like any good journalist realises there’s a story to be told, as she begins to investigate she doesn’t just see it as a job, she becomes emotionally involved and is determined to share Ivy’s story not only for Ivy and all the other mother condemned to St Margaret’s, but for the baby’s snatched from their mothers.

It’s the letters that make this book such an emotionally charged read,  you get a sense of the stigma surrounding unmarried mothers, you feel Ivy’s pain, fear and her love for a baby she will never be allowed to keep. It’s difficult to believe that the very nuns who were there to support unmarried mothers were beyond cruel,  punishing them for their “sins”, both physically and mentally, but as historical documents show this was very much the case, and makes Ivy’s story all the more credible and one which is unbearably sad.  

Emily Gunnis writes with such conviction and emotion that it’s difficult to separate fact from fiction, the two blend  perfectly together resulting in an emotionally charged read. The letters, the harrowing and heart breaking scenes, and the overwhelming need to find out what happened to Ivy will keep you captivated until the last page. This is Emily Gunnis debut novel which really surprised me, as it’s a very accomplished debut, not only is it beautifully written, but it’s a book that sensitively looks at a subject that’s been buried for far to long. Highly recommended.

  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Review (1 Aug. 2018)

 Buying links:    Amazon UK 🇬🇧     Amazon US 🇺🇸

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#ThePuppetShow by M.W.Craven @MWCravenUK @LittleBrownUK #MustReads #Paperback

To celebrate the paperback publication of The Puppet Show by M.W. Craven I’m re-sharing my review. If you haven’t read this crime thriller you definitely need to get yourself a copy ASAP it has all the makings of a fabulous series. Before I share my review here’s the book description……

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A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District’s prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless.

When his name is found carved into the charred remains of the third victim, disgraced detective Washington Poe is brought back from suspension and into an investigation he wants no part of.

Reluctantly partnered with the brilliant but socially awkward civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, the mismatched pair uncover a trail that only he is meant to see. The elusive killer has a plan and for some reason Poe is part of it.

As the body count rises, Poe discovers he has far more invested in the case than he could have possibly imagined. And in a shocking finale that will shatter everything he’s ever believed about himself, Poe will learn that there are things far worse than being burned alive…

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There is nothing more satisfying than coming across a new crime series that sets the pulse racing. I read so many crime thrillers that I find it’s getting more difficult to find one that really excites me, but hells bells The Puppet Show by the very talented M.W. Craven blew my socks off! What a fabulous start to a “must read series”.I knew from the shocker of an opening chapter The Puppet Show was going to be an exhilarating and thrilling read, I loved this novel for so many reasons, with a gripping storyline and fabulous characters The Puppet Show has “best seller” written all over it.  

Dark and gruesome are my favourite kind of crime thrillers, (make of that what you will!) and The Puppet Show fits the bill perfectly. As serial killers go this ones pretty terrifying, burning people alive, carving into theit charred remains, the author certainly has a vivid imagination, and his descriptive writing help you to visualise the gruesome scenes. With no clues the police are helpless, and enlist the most unlikely pairing I’ve come across in crime fiction,  Washington Poe (love this name for a detective, not one you will forget in a hurry) and socially awkward civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw.

The stars of this book are definitely the characters, oh how I loved them, Tilly was like a breath of fresh air, her naivety and innocence contrast beautifully with Poe’s cynical views, their budding relationship was endearing, and the dialogue between the two offered lots of humour in what could have become a dark and depressing read (due to the difficult subject matter). M.W. Craven has created  characters who are unique and engaging, and I would go as far to say they are probably two of the most exciting characters I’ve come across in a crime thriller for a long time.

Rather like the investigation team the reader has no idea who the serial killer is, when the killer was revealed I’m sure my jaw hit the floor, I can honestly say “I didn’t even come close” to working out the killers identify. The author taunts the reader by throwing in titbits of Poe’s past, which I’m desperately hoping will be the focus of one of the books in the series, very intriguing to say the least. You may have noticed my review is vague but I’m hoping it’s piqued your interest, my advice? Just buy it,  if you are a fan of crime thrillers then this is definitely one book you don’t want to miss. I’m already desperate to read the next book in the series, and have everything crossed that I don’t have to wait long.  Highly recommended 

I’m sure it will come as no surprise to see I’m giving The Puppet Show the very prestigious Gold Star Award Rating. 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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Buying links:   Amazon UK 🇬🇧   Amazon US 🇺🇸

Hardcover: 352 pages

Publisher: Constable (7 Jun. 2018)

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#SkinDeep by Liz Nugent #BookReview #MustReads @lizzienugent #IrishBookAwards @PenguinBooks

 

I thought I had my top reads of 2018 post finally sorted, but then along came Skin Deep by Liz Nugent who has well and truly put a spanner in the works. Read on for my thoughts but as always here’s the book description first…..

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It is not difficult to pretend to be somebody else. I could probably have been an actress. Isn’t that what I’ve been doing for most of my life?’

Cordelia Russell has been living on the French Riviera for twenty-five years, passing herself off as an English socialite. But her luck, and the kindness of strangers, have run out.

The arrival of a visitor from her distant past shocks Cordelia. She reacts violently to the intrusion and flees her flat to spend a drunken night at a glittering party. As dawn breaks she stumbles home through the back streets. Even before she opens her door she can hear the flies buzzing. She did not expect the corpse inside to start decomposing quite so quickly . . .

                                                 My review 

Liz Nugent has been on my “must read authors” list for a while now, and after reading the book description for Skin Deep I knew I had to read it “sooner rather than later” and I’m so glad I did, what an utterly compelling and thrilling read it turned out to be. This has to be one of the darkest and most chilling psychological thrillers I’ve read this year, and I mean it. There’s so much to love about this book, with themes of dishonesty and abandonment at its core, it’s a story that shocks and yet compels the reader onwards.  

beauty is only skindeep”, while someone may be beautiful on the outside, when you scratch below the surface, there lies an ugliness that far outshines a beautiful face, and this sums up Cordelia’s character perfectly. Cordelia has to be one of the most damaged, chilling and unlikable characters I have ever come across in the pages of a book, and yet I was mesmerised  by her story. The author has done a magnificent job in creating such a character, she’s memorable (for all the wrong reasons), intriguing and yet there’s something so chilling about her whilst reading this book I had a constant feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. 

Skin deep is set between the desolate Irish Island of Iniscran surrounded in myths and legends and the French Riviera with all its glamour and wealth. From Cordelia’s childhood on the island to adulthood  there is one constant in her life, her ability to leave a trail of destruction, heartbreak and misery in her wake. As the reader you learn more about Cordelia’s childhood and her dysfunctional family,  her father particularly is a very troubled soul to say the least. Cordelia has so many layers, her character is complex beyond belief, the lengths she will go to for her own gain make her a character I won’t forget anytime soon.

The chapters told from her “victims” POV were the ones I found the most intriguing, Cordelia is able to move forward without a second thought, but her victims are left devastated, some unable to put their fractured life’s back together, It’s these chapters that make any sympathy for Cordelia disappear in a flash. Liz Nugent has written a superb psychological thriller, the settings, the characters, the pace and the style of writing are perfectly balanced,  and Skin Deep sits firmly one of my top reads of 2018. Highly recommended 

This is going to come as no surprise but I’m giving Skin Deep the very prestigious Gold Star Award Rating. 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 kept me in its grips until I reached the very last page.

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Ireland (5 April 2018)

Buying links :   Amazon 🇬🇧      Amazon US 🇺🇸

#Attend by West Camel #BookReview @West_Camel @OrendaBooks #BlogTour #MustReads

Today I’m thrilled to be one of the bloggers on the Attend by West Craven blog tour. If you are looking for a novel thats highly original, yet captivating then I may have the perfect book for you. Read on for my thoughts….

When Sam falls in love with Deptford thug Derek, and Anne’s best friend Kathleen takes her own life, they discover they are linked not just by a world of drugs and revenge; they also share the friendship of the uncanny and enigmatic Deborah.

Seamstress, sailor, story-teller and self-proclaimed centenarian immortal, Deborah slowly reveals to Anne and Sam her improbable, fantastical life, a history of hidden Deptford and ultimately the solution to their crises.

With echoes of Armistead Maupin, Attend is a beautifully written, darkly funny, mesmerisingly emotive and deliciously told debut novel, rich in finely wrought characters that you will never forget.

There’s nothing more exciting than picking up a novel that comes with a unique and spellbinding plot, a novel that consumes your every waking minute, and yet you find yourself reluctant to carry on reading it as you don’t want it to end, and Attend by West Camel is one of those novels. Oh how I adored this book, rather like enigmatic seamstress Deborah’s sewing,  this novel is rich in detail, with its threads expertly woven, resulting in a captivating read that is told in the most lyrical way. This is a book that refuses to fit into one particular genre, and I mean that in a positive way, it’s part gritty crime thriller, yet there is also a magical quality hidden within its pages.  

Attend is the story of three people,  Deborah a seamstress, Anne an ex drug addict and Sam whose coming to terms with his own sexuality, each has their own personal challenges. The author has created three very different characters but their stories intertwine, Deborah being the thread that binds them together.  The setting of Deptford, London is perfectly depicted and so vividly described, it’s not a pretty picture,  as within the shadows of the town lie the darker elements of town life, the violence and addiction that go hand with the seedier and murky criminal fraternity, a world that both Anne and Sam know only to well. 

Craven has created characters that are rich in personality, and unforgettable. Dorothy is a character who evokes strong emotions, there’s something that makes you feel desperately sorry for her, she’s someone who deserves to have an abundance of happiness and love and yet that’s something that appears to be just outside her reach. There’s a sadness and an overwhelming sense of loneliness that radiates from Dorothy, as her story unfolds you realise why. When Anne and Sam become part of Dorothy’s life she shares her stories, some see far-fetched, even elaborate and fairy like in there telling, but these are the tales that magically bind the three together. Dorothy’s stories are rich in description and beautifully told, and then you have the strands of Anne and Sam’s stories which are both dark and gritty in their telling.  

Attend is so different to many of my previous reads, and I’m not sure the pace or the plot will be to everyone’s taste, it’s definitely not action packed, this is a novel driven by its characters.  Personally I found Attend to be a memorising read, the setting, the characters and the story line make this novel such an unusual and compelling read. West Camel writes with confidence, he breathes magic into the story he is telling, his characters come alive but best of all Attend is highly original which is always a good thing.  Highly recommended.   

  • Print Length: 276 pagesU
  • Publisher: ORENDA BOOKS; None edition (15 Nov. 2018)

About the author 

Born and bred in south London – and not the Somerset village with which he shares a name – West Camel worked as an editor in higher education and business before turning his attention to the arts and publishing. He has worked as a book and arts journalist, and was editor at Dalkey Archive Press, where he edited the Best European Fiction 2015 anthology, before moving to new press Orenda Books just after its launch. He currently combines his work as editor at Orenda Books with writing and editing a wide range of material for various arts organisations, including ghost-writing a New-Adult novel and editing The Riveter magazine for the European Literature Network. He has also written several short scripts, which have been produced in London’s fringe theatres, and was longlisted for the Old Vic’s 12 playwrights project. Attend is his first novel. You can follow West on Twitter @west_camel

Buying links:   Amazon UK 🇬🇧      Amazon US 🇺🇸

My thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda books and Anne Cater for my ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Follow the blog tour……..

The book review café’s book of the month **November 2018**

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WOW here we are in December, where did the rest of 2018 go? As it’s the beginning of December it’s time to share my book of the month, now you might just want to sit down for this one *shock,horror* I have finally got ONE book of the month, yes you read that right!

As anyone who follows my blog will know I choose a book  for the previous month, in this case November (and normally fail miserably in narrowing it down to one). 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. So without further ado here’s my book of the month…….

The Liar’s Wife by Samantha Hayes

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Oh my freaking god! What a fabulous and compelling  read The Liar’s Wife by Samantha Hayes turned out to be.  I must be honest when I read the book description I wasn’t convinced it would be an original read, as I’ve read numerous psychological thrillers where the protagonist wakes up from a coma with no memory,  but what makes this one so different is in the telling of a very twisted and disturbing tale. Read on for my thoughts The Liar’s Wife by Samantha Hayes hayes

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Here are some of the books I read in November I would happily recommend

 

 

Full reviews can be found below…….

**Blog tour** #HushHush by Mel Sherratt @writermels @AvonBooksUk #BookReview

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain #BookReview @D_Chamberlain

#AndSoItBegins by Rachel Abbott #BlogTour @RachelAbbott @annecater

**Blog Tour** #TheHunted by Kerry Barnes #BookReview @KerryBarnes1 @HQDigitalUK

The Coco Pinchard Boxset by Robert Bryndza @RobertBryndza @CocoPinchard – Coco Pinchard’s Must Have Toy Story #BlogTour #bookreview #TeamBryndza #giveaway @BOTBSPublicity

#TheKey by Katherine Hughes#BookReview @headlinepg

Her Last Move by John Marrs #BookReview @johnmarrs1 @AmazonPub

Next month  I will be sharing my top reads of the 20018 which is going to be much easier than I thought. I came up with a plan of sorts which I will reveal next month when I share my post.

Books I’m hoping to read in December

The eagle eyed amongst you may notice some of these books were also on my November pile, which I never got around to reading #EpicFail 😂

 

 

 

#TheRumour by Lesley Kara #BookReview @LesleyKara @TransworldBooks #MustReads2018

Today I’m thrilled to be sharing my review for The Rumour, the debut novel from Lesley Kara. This is definitely one of those books that’s going to be a huge hit with readers. You can read on for my thoughts but first the book description…………

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When single mum Joanna hears a rumour at the school gates, she never intends to pass it on. But one casual comment leads to another and now there’s no going back . . .

Rumour has it that a notorious child killer is living under a new identity, in their sleepy little town of Flinstead-on-Sea.

Sally McGowan was just ten years old when she stabbed little Robbie Harris to death forty-eight years ago – no photos of her exist since her release as a young woman.

So who is the supposedly reformed killer who now lives among them? How dangerous can one rumour become? And how far will Joanna go to protect her loved ones from harm, when she realises what it is she’s unleashed?

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OMG what a twisted and devious read The Rumour by Lesley Kara turned out to be, this maybe the author’s debut novel but it’s written like a pro.  There are so many novels that are written in the psychological thriller genre that I sometimes find they lack that element of surprise. If I read a psychological thriller I need to read one that stands out, a novel that leaves me thinking “what the frigging hell did I just read?” One I want everyone to read so I can discuss the devious plot, the characters, and the writing and The Rumour is one of those books! It’s a tale shrouded in suspicion, paranoia and accusations. 

The Rumour has an intriguing premise rumour has it that Sally McGowan a notorious child killer is living under a new identity, in the sleepy little town of Flinstead-on-Sea. one casual remark, one whispered confidence that’s all it takes and rumours spread like wild fire in the small insular town. As the reader you feel like you are one of the  towns people living there, amid the rumours and the speculation, which immediately makes you wary of every character you are introduced to,  which adds a high level of tension to the read.  Lesley Kara misdirects the reader at every possible turn, which was personally the reason I enjoyed this novel so much, I do love to be outwitted by an author. 

There’s something really disconcerting about this book I think it’s because you feel uncomfortable being privy to the rumours, you make assumptions and very much like the paranoid people of the town you find yourself putting each character under the microscope, looking for that clue will uncover infamous Sally McGowan. The sense of disgust and outrage from the towns people is evident, and it seems more so because this was a murder committed by a child.

As with many rumours, once whispered they take on a life of there own and things quickly began to escalate. Joanna tries to shy away from the gossip but she finds her self drawn into it, and on occasion, she’s even responsible for it. Joanne comes to realise she may have opened a can of worms, whilst placing her son in danger.  The author highlights the damage rumours and gossip can inflict on innocent individuals, but she also explores the privacy of someone in witness protection, and the feelings and emotions of someone hiding in plain sight. There’s an intensity within The Rumours pages,  it doesn’t come from a fast plot or dramatic scenes it comes from “the not knowing” the constant shifting of suspicion from one character to another.

The Rumour made for an intense and unfortunately a far to credible read, it’s one that will cause wide debate amongst its readers, I found myself contemplating the rights and wrongs of this complex story and whether someone who commits murder at a young age deserves anonymity. I’m really excited by Lesley Kara’s writing and considering this is her debut she has written an outstanding psychological thriller, that should stand proud on the book shelf next to the more established authors of this genre.  In case you haven’t already guessed I will definitely be recommending this novel to anyone  who love a psychological thriller that really does keep you guessing to the end. 

  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Transworld Digital (10 Dec. 2018)

Buying link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rumour-Lesley-Kara-ebook/dp/B07D313CT9/ 🇬🇧

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**Blog tour** #HushHush by Mel Sherratt @writermels @AvonBooksUk #BookReview

Today I’m thrilled to be on the blog tour for Hush Hush by Mel Sherratt. Hush Hush Is the first book in a exciting  new police procedural series featuring DS Grace Allendale. Before I share my review here’s the book description…..

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A killer is on the loose, attacking people in places they feel most safe: their workplaces, their homes. It’s up to DS Grace Allendale to stop the murders, and prove herself to her new team.

All clues lead to local crime family the Steeles, but that’s where things get complicated. Because the Steeles aren’t just any family, they’re Grace’s family. Two brothers and two sisters, connected by the violent father only Grace and her mother escaped.

To catch the killer, Grace will have to choose between her team and her blood. But who do you trust, when both sides are out to get you?

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I’ve long been a fan of Mel Sherratt’s writing, she is such a versatile writer, and proves it by writing books in a wide range of genres whether it be a psychological thriller, crime fiction or suspense you are always guaranteed a cracking read. When I picked up Hush Hush the first book in a new crime series featuring DS Grace Allendale I was hoping she would incorporate her trade mark “grit lit” into the story, something this author does so well. I’m thrilled to report I personally think this is the author’s best book to date and had so many aspects that made Hush Hush such a gripping read. 

DS Grace Allendale  has recently returned to her home town of Stoke-on-Trent. Grace’s early years were spent living with a violent and abusive father, which ended when Grace’ s mother left him. Now he’s been murdered and Grace newly promoted feels able to return to the town she grew up in. On her return she finds herself investigating a murder, which is complicated by the fact The Steele’s a family who are well known for their criminal activities also happen to be Grace’s half brothers and sisters. As the old proverb goes  “blood is thicker than water”, but there’s always an exception to any rule,  which is certainly the case for Grace and the Steele family, loyalty is tested and conflict arises.

Grace like many fictional detectives has baggage, she’s a loner, she’s reserved but Grace is also a strong character, the brutal and disturbing chapters that describe her abusive childhood help the reader to understand the complexities of the “grown up” Grace. Alongside the investigation and on going problems with her family, she also has difficulty fitting in with her new team, they still miss their old boss Allie Shenton (featured in previous books by the author) and they also have trust issues which is hardly surprising considering who she is, but all these issues add to the overall tension.

Hush Hush is a solid start to this new crime series, with misdirection, suspense, and a dysfunctional family at its core this is undoubtedly a not to be missed crime thriller. There’s a gritty realism within the author’s books that some crime thrillers can lack, I found the chapters that delved into Graces past very disturbing and heartbreaking to say the least, but Mel Sherratt isn’t afraid to tackle uncomfortable subjects head on and in doing so has written a crime thriller that is a worthy addition to any crime thriller lovers bookshelf. Highly recommended. 

  • Print Length: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Avon (18 Oct. 2018)

Buying link:   Amazon UK 🇬🇧

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My novels take you to the heart of the crime. I write police procedurals, psychological suspense and crime dramas – fiction with a punch. Shortlisted for the prestigious CWA (Crime Writer’s Association) Dagger in Library Award, my inspiration comes from authors such as Martina Cole, Lynda la Plante, Mandasue Heller and Elizabeth Haynes. 

Since 2012, I’ve sold over one million books. All eleven of my crime novels have been bestsellers, each one climbing into the Kindle UK top 10 and I’ve had several number ones. I’ve also had numerous Kindle All-star awards, for best read author and best titles.

My latest book, HUSH HUSH is the first in a new series featuring DS Grace Allendale. It’s a police procedural which finds Grace returning to her hometown of Stoke-on-Trent and coming face to face with her estranged family during her first murder investigation. It’s a story of ‘is blood thicker than water’ and being stuck between a rock and a hard place. And there’s a serial killer on the loose… 

SHE DID IT is a standalone psychological thriller, and my first novel set in London. I wanted to write about a character who was nice to everyone using one persona but out for revenge with another side to her that she tries to keep hidden away. The reader knows exactly what she is up to – but not the reason why. 

TAUNTING THE DEAD is my best selling book. It’s part police procedural/part psychological thriller. It was standalone for two years but I have now written two more books with Detective Sergeant Allie Shenton as the main character to create a trilogy. FOLLOW THE LEADER is book two and ONLY THE BRAVE is book three.

THE ESTATE SERIES is a mix of psychological suspense and family life with a sprinkling of grit and a dash of menace – where drama meets crime. There are four books, available individually or you can read the first three as a box set. 

DETECTIVE EDEN BERRISFORD works in a community intelligence team and helps to gather information and intel for investigations. THE GIRLS NEXT DOOR is the first book, followed by DON’T LOOK BEHIND YOU. 

WATCHING OVER YOU is another standalone psychological thriller. It’s dark in places, light in places, disturbing in places too – where obsession and friendship turn into murder.

I also write women’s fiction under the pen name of Marcie Steele. Stirred with Love, The Little Market Stall of Hope and Heartbreak and The Second Chance Shoe Shop are out now. 

I live in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, with my husband and terrier, Dexter (named after the TV serial killer) and make liberal use of my hometown as a backdrop for some of my books. You can find out more at my website http://www.melsherratt.co.uk or I’m on Twitter at @writermels 

Follow the blog tour……

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