Tag Archives: New Author To Me

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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Take It Back by Kia Abdullah #BookReview #SummerReads @HQstories @KiaAbdullah

Today I’m sharing my review for Take It Back by Kia Abdullah, a powerful and emotional court drama. Read on for my thoughts but first the book description……

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The Victim: A sixteen-year-old girl with facial deformities, neglected by an alcoholic mother. Who accuses the boys of something unthinkable.

The Defendants: Four handsome teenage boys from hardworking immigrant families. All with corroborating stories.

Whose side would you take?

Zara Kaleel, one of London’s brightest young legal minds, shattered the expectations placed on her by her family and forged a glittering career at the Bar. All before hanging up her barrister’s wig to help the victims who needed her most. Victims like Jodie Wolfe.

Jodie’s own best friend doesn’t even believe her claims that their classmates carried out such a crime. But Zara does. And Zara is determined to fight for her.

Jodie and Zara become the centre of the most explosive criminal trial of the year, in which ugly divisions within British society are exposed. As everything around Zara begins to unravel she becomes even more determined to get Jodie the justice she’s looking for. But at what price?

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Take It Back by Kia Abdullah is a modern day story that explores some pretty tough but current themes, sexual assault, racial tensions, prejudice, and poverty. Some readers may give this book a wide berth because of the subjects mentioned, personally I would ask you to think again, its one of those books that offers so much more, it’s a book that’s thought provoking, a relevant if not disturbing tale of our times. This is one of those books that would make the perfect book club read, it explores current and relevant topics that will make for lively, thought-provoking discussions.

Sixteen-year-old Jodie Wolfe enters a sexual referral centre, wanting to share her story,  she reveals an appalling tale to lawyer Zara Kaleel, a horrific crime has been committed and Jodie firmly points the finger at four Muslim boys. This sets the scene for an explosive courtroom thriller, where no one could foresee the far-reaching consequences for Jodie, Zara, four teenage boys, their families and the local Muslim community. It’s very much a case of ‘she said’ versus ‘they said’ but whose to be believed? Jodie a young girl who is bullied and tormented for her facial deformities, dragged up by an alcoholic mother? Or the four teenage boys, handsome, popular and from decent hardworking families? The odds aren’t stacked in Jodie’s favour that’s for sure! 

Jodie Wolfe couldn’t foresee her case would develop into a high profile one,  steeped in controversy, where everyone has an opinion, and sides are taken. Kia Abdullah ensures the reader is kept captivated, with a cast of unreliable characters,  it’s nigh on impossible to know who to believe. Truth and lies become blurred, the opinions of professionals, the evidence from witnesses, I found my thoughts constantly changing throughout the court scenes, making for a tense and unpredictable read. 

Characters are such an essential part of a well-told story, and the author has created some exceptional ones, Zara Kaleel, one of London’s brightest young legal minds appears strong and determined but look under the flawless, public front and you will find a woman burdened with guilt at not being the perfect ‘Muslim girl’ that her family want her to be. Then you have Jodie who will pull at your heartstrings, dragged up by a mother who resents her, bullied and ridiculed by her peers for being disfigured, her story is desperately sad and yet very credible. There are other characters that will make your blood boil, or rouse sympathy but one thing I can guarantee you, you will question each one’s variation of the truth!  

The author keeps the reader on tenterhooks almost to the very last page, there were many surprises hidden within the pages that were unexpected but added to the over all tension. I have seen reviews that compare Zara Kaleel‘s writing to that of best seller Jodi Picoult, in many ways I would have to agree, the format feels the same, but I think the author has created her own style, the court scenes felt far more tense and hard-hitting, and I found the characters to be more relatable, the plot to be far from predictable.  Take It Back is a touching and powerful novel that makes for a disquieting read but it’s one I would highly recommend to those who appreciate a count drama, with a challenging storyline. 

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HQ (8 Aug. 2019)

Buying link: Amazon UK 🇬🇧

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#Inborn by Thomas Enger #BookReview @EngerThomas @OrendaBooks #BookShelfReads

Today I’m thrilled to share my review for Inborn by Thomas Enger. This is the first book I’ve read by the author so I wasn’t sure what to expect. You can read on for my thoughts….

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When a teenager is accused of a high-school murder, he finds himself subject to trial by social media … and in the dock. A taut, moving and

chilling thriller by one of Nordic Noir’s finest writers.

.When the high school in the small Norwegian village of Fredheim becomes a murder scene, the finger is soon pointed at seventeen-year-old Even. As the investigation closes in, social media is ablaze with accusations, rumours and even threats, and Even finds himself the subject of an online trial as well as being in the dock … for murder?

.Even pores over his memories of the months leading up to the crime, and it becomes clear that more than one villager was acting suspiciously … and secrets are simmering beneath the calm surface of this close-knit community. As events from the past play tag with the present, he’s forced to question everything he thought he knew. Was the death of his father in a car crash a decade earlier really accidental? Has his relationship stirred up something that someone is prepared to kill to protect?

It seems that there may be no one that Even can trust.

.But can we trust him?

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I have a confession to make **whispers quietly** I have never read a book by Thomas Enger! So yes maybe I’m late to the party where this author is concerned, but what an entrance. I absolutely loved Inborn, it’s a novel that’s intense, deliciously dark and each page is filled with a mystery that captivates the reader. This is one of those books that should come with the tagline **Assume nothing, question everything** my favourite kind of read, this nothing more satisfying than reading a book where the author misdirects the reader at every opportunity, where nothing is as it first seems, and where each character placed in the spotlight adds to the growing sense of mistrust. 

Inborn is set in the small Norwegian village of Fredheim, when the local high school becomes a murder scene, the finger of suspicion is directed at seventeen-year-old Even. As the investigation closes in, Evan finds himself judged on social media, everyone in the insular village has an opinion, ‘guilty to proven innocent’ seems to be the general consensus. As Even tries to unravel the truth and clear his name, it becomes clear that some villagers have hidden secrets, ones they would prefer to stay very much hidden. Inborn is narrated In alternating story lines, one focuses on the courtroom with Even testifying, and the other follows the events after the murders leading up to the trial. Both of the storyline’s merge perfectly, drawing the reader further into the author’s tangled web whilst maintaining a sense of trepidation that continues to grow as the story unfolds.

Thomas Enger has created a fascinating bunch of characters, Even especially is one of those characters you are drawn to, he’s a young man whose whole life comes crashing down, once popular and liked by all, he finds himself the centre of attention for all the wrong reasons, speculation is rife and Evan is left bewildered, angry and scared. Although I wondered if I could trust Evan, after all “there’s no smoke without fire” so they say, or was I been directed by the whispers of the small-minded townsfolk?  Chief Inspector Yngve Mork who leads the enquiry, is another character I felt a deep connection to, he’s haunted by grief after loosing his wife whose recently died of cancer.

Inborn is a relatively short read, at 276 pages but “the best things come in small packages” and what it lacks in pages, it more than makes up for in content and drama.  A small Norwegian village is the perfect setting for this novel, it feels claustrophobic, a place where gossip becomes the truth, and the relationships of the townsfolk are shrouded in lies and deceit. This book is so many things, courtroom drama, a crime thriller, merged with mystery and lashings of suspense. The author is now definitely on my “must read” authors list,  and in case you were wondering “yes” it’s a book I would recommend to anyone who’s looking for a crime read that’s different on so many levels.

  • Print Length: 276 pages
  • Publisher: ORENDA BOOKS; None edition (22 Jan. 2019)

Buying links:   Amazon UK 🇬🇧

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The Whisper Man by Alex North @writer_north @MichaelJBooks #BookReview #TheWhisperMan #MustReads #BookHangoverAward

Today I’m thrilled to be sharing my review for one of my most anticipated reads this year The Whisper Man by Alex North, and after reading this brilliant book it’s definitely a contender for my book of the year. Read on for my thoughts…….

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If you leave a door half-open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken . . .

Still devastated after the loss of his wife, Tom Kennedy and his young son Jake move to the sleepy village of Featherbank, looking for a much-needed fresh start. But Featherbank has a dark past. Fifteen years ago, a twisted serial killer abducted and murdered five young boys.

Until he was finally caught, the killer was known as ‘The Whisper Man’.

Of course, an old crime need not trouble Tom and Jake as they try to settle in to their new home.

Except that now another boy has gone missing. And then Jake begins acting strangely.

He says he hears a whispering at his window . . .

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With a synopsis that grabbed my attention and a promise from the publishers ‘GET READY FOR THE BIGGEST THRILLER OF 2019’ there was no way on earth I was going to miss reading The Whisper Man by Alex North. There is nothing more terrifying than a child being murdered, and the author expertly plays on these fears, creating a dark, creepy, and haunting read. Be prepared for a few sleepless nights, it takes a lot to unnerve me, but this book actually scared me silly in parts! (In the best possible way). Oh, and a word of warning make sure your bedroom doors are closed at night or beware ** If you leave a door half-open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken**

After the death of his wife,  Tom Kennedy and his young son Jake move to the sleepy village of Featherbank, looking for a fresh start, unaware that Featherbank has a very dark past. Fifteen years ago a twisted serial killer abducted and murdered five young boys. Until he was finally caught, the killer was known as ‘The Whisper Man’. Each boy heard a man whispering to him before he went missing, and now Jake is hearing the same whispers, too. Alex Lane’s emotive, creepy tale is one that’s guaranteed to keep you turning the pages of this highly addictive crime thriller, the plots brilliantly constructed and steeped in menace. 

Without a shadow of a doubt The Whisper Man makes for a spine tingling and unsettling read, but what took me by surprise was the intense emotions that this book evoked,  it’s a book that’s full of raw emotion, especially the scenes between Tom and his son Jake, these are incredible powerful and desperately sad. I adored Tom and Jake, their characters are sublime and perfectly developed.  I like the fact Tom isn’t the ‘perfect’ father, sometimes his actions or conversations with Jake seem awkward and Jake miss understands them causing father and son much heartache. As for Jake he’s adorable, my heart went out to this socially awkward child, whose grief at loosing his mum is palatable. This book may be a crime thriller with a monster at his heart, but it’s also the story of the unbreakable bonds between a father and his son. 

For me some reason I had a preconceived idea in my head that this book would be full of graphic scenes that would be stomach churning, but how refreshing it was to find the author doesn’t use this ploy to give the reader a spine chilling read. If anything Alex North’s only gives you just enough detail to allow your imagination to run riot, it really is a case of ‘less is more’. This is a book that literally drips with menace and a sense of foreboding. The Whisper Man is so different to anything I’ve read this year and one that evoked so many emotions, it’s definitely a contender for my book of the year.  I absolutely loved every page of this compulsive, heart thumping crime thriller. Would I recommend it? it’s a definite million hell yes’s. Buy it, beg, steal (I’m sure Alex Lane would prefer you to choose one of the other options though!) or borrow a copy I’m confident you won’t be disappointed.

I’m sure it will come as no surprise but I’m I’m giving The Whisper Man 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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  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Michael Joseph (13 Jun. 2019) 

Buying links:   Amazon UK 🇬🇧    Amazon US 🇺🇸

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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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Haverscroft by S.A. Harris #GuestPost #Haverscroft @salharris1 @saltpublishing @EmmaDowson1

Today I’m delighted  to be on the blog tour for Haverscroft  by S.A.Harris. Haverscroft  has been described as a gripping and chilling dark tale, a modern ghost story that will keep you turning its pages late into the night. Today I’m sharing a guest post from the author herself, but first the book description……

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Kate Keeling leaves all she knows and moves to Haverscroft House in an attempt to salvage her marriage. Little does she realise, Haverscroft’s dark secrets will drive her to question her sanity, her husband and fatally engulf her family unless she can stop the past repeating itself. Can Kate keep her children safe and escape Haverscroft in time, even if it will end her marriage?

Haverscroft is a gripping and chilling dark tale, a modern ghost story that will keep you turning its pages late into the night.

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Salt (15 May 2019)

Buying link:   Amazon UK 🇬🇧

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Do You Have A Choice What You Write?

In the run-up to my debut novel, Haverscroft, being published I was asked to write some articles about the road to publication. What influenced me to write dark tales and Gothic fiction. Why this genre, over say, romance? I dredged various things from my memory which had been significant one way or another over the years and wrote a couple of pieces. A friend commented she would not have such a wealth of strange experiences to pull upon and that got me thinking. Do we have a choice what we write or is it inherent like eye colour?

Those weird encounters were many and varied but the one that regularly causes outcries of horror happened when we were on a family holiday a few years ago. It had been a long journey from East Anglia to a cottage near Pitlochry, Scotland. We arrived and loved the house; a light and airy Victorian villa with a patio and manicured garden leading to a bubbling stream and fields. The weather for July was still cool so we put on the heating and settled down for the evening. And that’s when things started to get interesting.

I’d just told our youngest to go to bed for the second time when he announced there was a bat on the wall beside the fireplace in the sitting room. An original delaying tactic if ever I’d heard one. A chorus followed from the rest of the family; A bat? What do you mean, a bat? On closer inspection, it turned out our son was telling the truth.

The little critter was tiny, not much larger than a fifty pence piece and could only crawl rather than fly, thank goodness. Deliberation followed. What should be done with it and where had it come from? I fetched my laptop and began to search the internet for answers. As I sat on the sofa, out of the corner of my eye, something was moving. A small dark shape was travelling from the cushion at my back onto my shoulder and at some speed. My daughter’s exclamation gave the game away before I could shift my position. Another baby bat had arrived.

We started searching the room. Bats were crawling down the curtains, emerging from behind cushions and from beneath the sofa. My husband fled upstairs to bed – moths, spiders, creepy crawlies are not his thing and neither are baby bats it turns out.

The internet provided a number to call which even at 11:30pm on a Saturday evening was answered. Advice was given; put the bats in boxes, lids on with holes punched in the top. Judy from the Bat Conservation Society would call by and collect our small visitors in the morning and, by the way, did we know bats are protected? We should probably move out.

We followed her instructions, found Tupperware, tinfoil and caught as many as we could. I closed the sitting room door and locked up as the children headed upstairs. 

I stood on the threshold of our bedroom with the light from the landing at my back. My husband lay on the mattress, the duvet on the floor. I thought in the dim light he was asleep, at least, he was snoring, anyway. Around him on the bed were small dark shapes. Surely not, I thought. I switched on the light. My husband complained about the glare. There are bats on the bed, I said. No six-foot man has ever moved so quickly.

Early the next morning, Judy explained there was a maternity roost in the chimney. The warmth of the central heating or the heat radiating from our bodies draws out the baby rodents. She took away all the bats we had collected leaving us with the advice more were very likely to crawl out from the nest. How were we going to find alternate accommodation at peak season and at such short notice? We started packing our bags.

So back to that question, are writers born or do we choose our genre? Perhaps if I tried, I could come up with a historical drama or a cosy crime novel. Haverscroft crosses genres. Part ghost story and part intimate examination of a marriage on the rocks in the way of a psychological thriller. By day, I am a solicitor specialising in divorce and relationship breakdown, so again, I guess exposure to such events over decades influenced my writing. But I do not think genre is like eye colour. Experiences over a lifetime become ingrained in us but nothing is inherent. We all draw on experience as well as our imaginations in our writing but ultimately it is our choice what we write.

And after we packed our bags and left the bats behind? We searched for most of a day but eventually found somewhere else to stay. We had salvaged our holiday. As we pulled up to the new cottage it seemed a little strange, but then, that is another story.

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S.A.Harris is an award-winning author and family law solicitor born in Suffolk and now living and working in Norwich, Norfolk.

She won the Retreat West Crime Writer Competition in 2017. She was shortlisted for The Fresher Prize First 500 Words of a Novel Competition in 2018 and published in their anthology, Monsters, in November 2018.

Her debut novel, Haverscroft, will be published on the 15th May 2019.

She is a member of the Society of Authors. You can contact her via her publisher: chris@saltpublishing.com or on Twitter @salharris1 or author website: https://www.saharrisauthor.com

PRAISE FOR HAVERCROFT

An atmospherically creepy ghost story that keeps you guessing till the end! Sally Harris is one to watch.’ –Angela Clarke

REVIEWS OF THIS BOOK

‘The writing is taut and fluid. Both the atmosphere of the old house and the wider family dynamics are evoked with skill. Whatever one thinks of a place harbouring the spirit of past deeds this story could throw shade over certainties. Recommended, but exercise caution if reading after dark.’ –Jackie Law, Never Imitate

My thanks to the author and Emma at Salt publishing for the guest post.

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