Book Review: Dead Souls (DI Kim Stone Book 6), by Angela Marsons

Publisher: Bookouture

Publication date: 28th April 2017

So, here we are again. Angela Marsons: slaughterer of sleep, shredder of nerves, and a writer who consistently leaves your patience in tatters as you wait for the next DI Kim Stone fix. Its highly addictive qualities leave me craving more – every single time.

Each book is unique and maintains the focus on hard-hitting topics, which are not dowsed in sensationalism for kicks sake but are a reflection of real life.  And every one of them invites that special Kim Stone defiance to the table to give further insight into both her and her team’s personalities and their reactions to certain cases, like the one we find here…

A field, partial skeletal remains, abhorrent reasons for assault which escalates to so much worse, and an historic flashback to a captive, confused man not quite understanding the complete gravity of his startlingly grim situation, progress to the principle theme of hate crimes. The investigation uncovers what can only be described as human slurry eking their way onto the Black Country streets with alarming arrogance in a campaign directed at sectors of the community who don’t warrant such deplorable attention.

Remove one Stone from her office to work a case at a different station and we’re hoping the remaining officers don’t topple when faced with some incredibly weighty issues. The change allows the natural evolution of her team to be explored, together with the essence of their relationships. The team at Halesowen police station must learn to handle their boss’s absence, try not to inadvertently insult one another, and reconsider their own attitudes to some disturbing issues without overshadowing the communities affected or their colleagues, even if tensions are running feverously high.

The unforeseen re-ordering of rank, however temporary, gives them time to excel or crash, while acquainting us with further unexpected insights into my favourite detective’s past as she’s thrown into the territory of a former colleague with hints of an unwelcome episode preceding her DI days. From brief spats to complete silence, misjudgement seems the order of the day. It’s brilliant to watch how the situation between these two develops especially now she’s the outsider being permitted to tag onto someone else’s team.

I’m so, so happy to have seen more of the other officers and their abilities as they confront some truly contemptible people in an unbeatable face-off; although it was spectacularly orchestrated it’s utterly dreadful to try to imagine the intensity of raw fear, especially when it’s reinforced through the encouragement of others.

To sum up my thoughts upon reading Dead Souls: yet ANOTHER cracker to add to an already stunning series. This stomping great read from an exceedingly talented writer will have you furiously flipping the pages like there’s no tomorrow. 

Rating:   5/5

(I voluntarily downloaded a copy of this title courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley, with my thanks. It’s also on pre-order but I simply couldn’t wait any longer to read it!)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

When a collection of human bones is unearthed during a routine archaeological dig, a Black Country field suddenly becomes a complex crime scene for Detective Kim Stone.

As the bones are sorted, it becomes clear that the grave contains more than one victim. The bodies hint at unimaginable horror, bearing the markings of bullet holes and animal traps.

Forced to work alongside Detective Travis, with whom she shares a troubled past, Kim begins to uncover a dark secretive relationship between the families who own the land in which the bodies were found.

But while Kim is immersed in one of the most complicated investigations she’s ever led, her team are caught up in a spate of sickening hate crimes. Kim is close to revealing the truth behind the murders, yet soon finds one of her own is in jeopardy – and the clock is ticking. Can she solve the case and save them from grave danger – before it’s too late?

An addictive, sinister crime thriller that will have readers on the edge of their seat.

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Angela Marsons is the author of the Amazon Bestselling DI Kim Stone series – Silent Scream, Evil Games, Lost Girls, Play Dead, Blood Lines and Dead Souls and her books have sold more than 2 million in 2 years.

She lives in the Black Country with her partner, their cheeky Golden Retriever and a swearing parrot.

She first discovered her love of writing at Junior School when actual lessons came second to watching other people and quietly making up her own stories about them. Her report card invariably read “Angela would do well if she minded her own business as well as she minds other people’s”.

After years of writing relationship based stories (The Forgotten Woman and Dear Mother) Angela turned to Crime, fictionally speaking of course, and developed a character that refused to go away.

She is signed to Bookouture.com for a total of 16 books in the Kim Stone series and her books have been translated into more than 20 languages.

Her last two books – Blood Lines and Dead Souls – reached the #1 spot on Amazon on pre-orders alone.

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Other books in the DI Kim Stone series:

My other reviews for books in this series:

Silent Scream

Evil Games

Lost Girls

Play Dead

Blood Lines

Book Review: The Sunlit Night, by Rebecca Dinerstein

Publication date:  4th June 2015

Publisher:  Bloomsbury

Source:  Hardback copy received via publisher’s giveaway

Lost souls find their way in The Sunlit Night, which exhibits the awkwardness of life itself and how hesitance can so easily throw precious moments away.

This is a peculiar yet compulsive old story. Despite being relatively uneventful, it explores the characters’ respective journeys, but not necessarily their final destinations. A small flock of assorted folk appear on and off the stage at various intervals, including those seeking love, the ones where it has slipped through their fingers, or those not even knowing where to begin.

For me the highlight of this tale was actually the funeral of one the main characters’ father who wanted to be laid to rest at the top of the world, hence the setting of Lofoten in Norway where nineteen year old Yasha and his deceased father arrive. Referring to a burial as a ‘highlight’ is quite possibly the most inappropriate thing I’ve ever said about such a sombre occasion. But when the site of a replica Viking museum indulges the last wishes of a baker from New York, and the majority of the ceremony is ad-libbed by complete strangers under the argumentative guidance of three official mourners, it’s an event you won’t forget that easily!

One of the strangers attending the funeral is a twenty-one year old called Frances, a fellow New Yorker who had been sleepwalking through a relationship which left her feeling used. The good thing is it prompted her to seek fulfilment by painting the interior of an old asylum with yellow paint prior to the arrival of building inspectors, while an artist called Nils (‘The Inhibited’) tackles the exterior. Yes, the situations are strange and unusual but are fitting for this particular tale.

Yasha and Frances make both contributions and discoveries where the sun doesn’t set or rise. As the day rolls into night there is plenty of time for contemplation before forging a new self from the broken pieces they arrived with. They are each introduced and then given their own spotlight during the course of six parts followed by a ‘Coda’. It combines the realities they are escaping and what they may hope to discover on this remote but welcoming place on the globe, all sealed with its offbeat Nordic legend.

There is a simplistic beauty to The Sunlit Night. Crucially though, emotion was applied in moderation and life-changing decisions occurred in a matter of fact way, which meant I could only nibble around the edges of events rather than sink my teeth into them. That aside, I loved the premise of this one and the quirky characters made it an incredibly swift read.

Rating:  3/5

(I am most grateful to have received a copy of this lovely looking hardback following a giveaway run by the publisher, and I’m more than happy to provide an unbiased review. I’m just sorry it’s taken so long to read it – yep, I’m trying to catch up with the neglected TBR where I can!)

(Courtesy of Goodreads)

In the beautiful, barren landscape of the Far North, under the ever-present midnight sun, Frances and Yasha are surprised to find refuge in each other. Their lives have been uprooted – Frances has fled heartbreak and claustrophobic Manhattan for an isolated artist colony; Yasha arrives from Brooklyn to fulfil his beloved father’s last wish: to be buried ‘at the top of the world’. They have come to learn how to be alone.

But in Lofoten, an archipelago of five tiny islands in the Norwegian Sea, ninety-five miles north of the Arctic Circle, they form a bond that fortifies them against the turmoil of their distant homes, offering solace amidst great uncertainty. In nimble and sure-footed prose, Dinerstein explores how far we travel to claim our own territory, while it is ultimately love that gives us our place in the world.

‘Marks the appearance of a brave talent’ Jonathan Safran Foer.

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(Courtesy of author’s website)

REBECCA DINERSTEIN is the author of the novel The Sunlit Night and the bilingual English-Norwegian collection of poems Lofoten. Her nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, and The New Yorker online, among others. She received her B.A. from Yale and her M.F.A. in Fiction from New York University, where she was a Rona Jaffe Graduate Fellow. She lives in Brooklyn.

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Book Review: Bully Boy Blue, by John Nicholl

Publication date:  13th March 2017

Bully Boy Blue reinforces this author’s trademark to confront sensitive topics head on. This standalone novella may be mini but it’s incredibly mighty.

It voices the raw realism of domestic abuse, capturing the undiluted cruelty of the perpetrator and the torment that his target endures day after relentless day.

The non-believers who dismiss ‘distress signals’ due to the authority of the abuser’s identity shows just how easily victims can be kept captive in a life that is not their own, until all that remains are extreme solutions with unexpected consequences.

Making no attempt to conceal the harrowing daily challenges, it’s not a pleasant read by any stretch of the imagination. But I found it extraordinarily compelling, if only to learn more about the catalyst that may end Kathy’s despair.

In my very recent experience the condensed format of the shorter story makes it difficult to harness substance, atmosphere and characterisation, but Bully Boy Blue ticks ALL the aforementioned boxes. Within the limited time frame of just over seventy pages a genuinely intriguing progression results in the most perfectly satisfying conclusion, which is both powerful and impressive.

Rating:  4/5

 (My thanks to the author for providing a copy of this title for which it is my pleasure to offer an unbiased review.)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Every aspect of Kathy’s life is dominated by her abusive bully boy husband. Now she’s pregnant and in fear for her life. Can she ever escape him?

A gripping page-turner of a psychological thriller packed with suspense. Discover John Nicholl’s chilling new novella today.

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

John Nicholl, an ex police officer, child protection social worker and lecturer, has written three dark psychological suspense thrillers, each of which have been Amazon international bestsellers, reaching # 1 in multiple categories in the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Australia, Canada and the USA. John is always happy to hear from readers, bloggers or the media, and can be contacted via his author website at: http://www.johnnicholl.com. Rights enquiries should be directed to Mr Toby Mundy – Literary agent at TMA.

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Book Review: The Butcher Bird (Somershill Manor Mystery #2), by S. D. Sykes

Publisher:  Hodder & Stoughton

Publication date: 

22nd October 2014 (Hardback & Ebook)

7th April 2016 (Paperback)

The Butcher Bird is a mesmerising mystery as an epidemic of a different kind arrives in Somershill, one spread by panic and fear. After disease flocked to our 14th century shores with no regard for social status, the years that follow breed superstition and madness, although it’s exceptionally difficult to tell which when dealing with the tenants under Oswald de Lacy’s jurisdiction.

Poor Oswald. The naïve, spoiled novice we met in Plague Land and watched as he solved a medieval mystery involving a desperate persecution among the locals, only to unearth more skeletons in his family’s cupboard than any person should have accrued in a lifetime.  Having left his cloistered life to reluctantly accept a title bestowed upon him, he discovers the hard way that time doesn’t heal everything: recent mass deaths have caused an abrupt shortage of labour, wage grievances entice his tenants to greener pastures, and the contempt the rest of the villagers feel for their newly appointed young Lord could easily result in heckling given the slightest opportunity.

Inadequacies of his servants, the senseless laws he must uphold, his mother re-enacting tragedy at every waking moment and her physician who believes dung cures all known ailments chips away at him from all sides. Add to that a heavily pregnant, condescending widow, who is also his sister, and her feral step-daughters, well, his Lordship is wrung out by the ordeal. Even his horse requires bribery before considering a command!

Oswald barely has a moment in private to consult the ‘tempting’ manuscript he keeps hidden in his room when The Butcher Bird arrives in Somershill. This most recent challenge is the fantastical reasoning to explain how infants are missing from the safety of their cribs and are found dead in nearby shrubbery. As Oswald has morphed into a human misery magnet, unwillingly attracting the manor’s redundant souls who can no longer find their place in this baron world, he is tasked with discovering the whereabouts of a murderous beast. More importantly he must intervene to prevent the lynching of a grief-stricken local man accused of inviting this winged creature to feast on children after he lost his own during the pestilence.

From this point onward, everything that cannot be explained by simple means is the fault of The Butcher Bird, or Oswald himself. The gravity of the grim riddle that taunts him is complimented by the amusing witlessness of humble folk, as they feign ignorance when it suits and develop a brutal shrewdness when beneficial. It’s essential in tales like these that the writing evokes the wretchedness of the era but in this case it also projects the physical disgust of our young investigator when approached by, well, people. At first he copes admirably, that is until they taint the moment by attempting to prolong a conversation, or heaven forbid touch him!

I’m incredibly fond of Oswald for both his poor judgement resulting from both an aversion to peasants and also his own confidence, even when he’s on the right track. Life is certainly more illuminating outside monastic walls; Oswald de Lacy may be a novice in every respect but he’s learning, and witnessing his progress after he’s considered the bleakness faced by others is the pearl in a sea of despair.

Rating:  5/5

Source: My own purchased copy. Another one off the personal TBR bites the dust, and quite brilliant it was too – just like Plague Land (Book 1) which I read back in 2014! Very much looking forward to City of Masks (Book 3) which will be published in July!

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Oswald de Lacy is growing up fast in his new position as Lord of Somershill Manor. The Black Death changed many things, and just as it took away his father and elder brothers, leaving Oswald to be recalled from the monastery where he expected to spend his life, so it has taken many of his villagers and servants. However, there is still the same amount of work to be done in the farms and fields, and the few people left to do it think they should be paid more – something the King himself has forbidden.

Just as anger begins to spread, the story of the Butcher Bird takes flight. People claim to have witnessed a huge creature in the skies. A new-born baby is found impaled on a thorn bush. And then more children disappear.

Convinced the bird is just a superstitious rumour, Oswald must discover what is really happening. He can expect no help from his snobbish mother and his scheming sister Clemence, who is determined to protect her own child, but happy to neglect her step-daughters.

From the plague-ruined villages of Kent to the thief-infested streets of London and the luxurious bedchamber of a bewitching lady, Oswald’s journey is full of danger, dark intrigue and shocking revelations.

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

SD Sykes now lives in Kent, but grew up in Somerset and South London, before spending many years in the North West of England. She is a graduate from Manchester University, and has a Masters degree in Writing from Sheffield Hallam. She has a passion for medieval history and was inspired to finish her first novel after attending the novel writing course at literary agents, Curtis Brown. She has also written for radio, and has developed screenplays with Arts Council funding.

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Book Review: The Magician’s Lie, by Greer Macallister #Legend100

Publisher:  Legend Press

Publication date:  3rd April 2017

the-magicians-lie-my-review

the-magicians-lieThe Magician’s Lie explores the life story of a famous fictional illusionist who possesses a phoenix complex, having the ability to re-invent herself by rising from the ashes of her early traumatic life. While some traumas she can never escape others she must exploit to her best advantage. If only her astonishing performance skills and notorious abilities could conjure a solution to her current circumstances.

We’re transported to Iowa 1905 and Officer Virgil Holt is watching the performance of the Amazing Arden from the very back of the theatre. Her act is not like any other insomuch as she is the main attraction, not a predicable stage accessory to provide a useful distraction when required.

It’s evident she can hold an audience in the palm of her hand as they are in awe of her exploits, waiting patiently for her grand finale where she appears to cut a man in half. Shortly after the breath-taking scene Holt learns that an actual man has been savagely murdered and his body crudely concealed inside one of the props, which is not looking good for the Amazing Arden considering the ‘Halved Man’ act he’s just witnessed and that Arden has amazingly ‘disappeared’.

We learn that Holt has received disturbing news about his health which he’s reluctantly putting off telling his wife as he travels home for the evening.  Perhaps that’s why he’s the perfect person to stumble across the suspect quite by chance; he’s got some time to kill and the person in his custody has a very special story to tell.

It’s no mean feat to narrate the majority of the tale leading up to the murder from the uncomfortable surroundings of a small town police station: two people, one room, and events that conspired to lead us to this point in time. The conversation cleverly switches to scenes that occurred when her early dreams grew and faded, the sadistic cruelty of a family member she was forced to endure, and the mother who just wouldn’t listen. This didn’t feel like a usual interrogation between lawman and a suspect but more like a curious therapy session, as she was secured to a chair with several pairs of handcuffs rather than reclining on a couch.

From the beginning I was captivated by her intimate, heart-breaking, courageous story, including the intricate details of the illusions she perfected and the dogged determination of a survivor who refuses to give up. I believed the stage was being prepped as her best trick was yet to come, alas the grand finale didn’t quite materialise and I can only assume that the intended conclusion was overshadowed by my own expectations. I would have also liked a certain ‘talent’ to be explored because it wasn’t a naturally occurring phenomenon. Regardless of whether it was medical or indeed truly magical I’d have loved to know more.

Perhaps this is the magician’s ‘lie’. On the surface she’s just an ordinary woman with the extraordinary ability to enthral an audience, her distinctive dual-coloured eye making her wholly unforgettable. This particular illusionist puts on a show that has you hanging on her every word, and as her account ends at daybreak she allows you to draw your own conclusions.

Rating:   3/5

(My thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this title, for which it was my pleasure to read and provide an unbiased review.)

Legend 100 Club

the-magicians-lie-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

A USA Today Bestseller

‘[A] well-paced, evocative, and adventurous historical novel…’ —Publishers Weekly, STARRED Review

‘This is a book in which storylines twist, spiral and come together again in an ending as explosive as a poof of smoke from your chimney… or a top hat.’ –Oprah.com

‘Smart, intricately plotted… a richly imagined thriller.’ —PEOPLE magazine

‘This debut novel is historical fiction that blends magic, mystery, and romance.’ —Boston Globe, Pick of the Week

‘It’s a captivating yarn… Macallister, like the Amazing Arden, mesmerises her audience. No sleight of hand is necessary. An ambitious heroine and a captivating tale are all the magic she needs.’ —Washington Post

The Amazing Arden is the most famous female illusionist of her day, renowned for her notorious trick of sawing a man in half on stage. But one night she swaps her trademark saw for an axe. When Arden’s husband is found dead later that night, the answer seems clear, most of all to young policeman Virgil Holt.

Captured and taken into custody, all seems set for Arden’s swift confession. But she has a different story to tell. Even handcuffed and alone, Arden is far from powerless, and what she reveals is as unbelievable as it is spellbinding.

A magical and mysterious historical thriller, perfect for fans of The Night Circus and Water for Elephants.

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the-magicians-lie-author-profile

(Courtesy of Publisher’s website)

Raised in the Midwest, Greer Macallister is a poet, short story writer, playwright and novelist. Her plays have been performed at American University, where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing. Her debut novel THE MAGICIAN’S LIE was a USA Today and MIBA Indie bestseller, an Indie Next, LibraryReads, and Target Book Club Pick, and was chosen by guest judge Whoopi Goldberg as a Book of the Month Club main selection. It has been optioned for film by Jessica Chastain’s Freckle Films.

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Book Review: Ashes to Ashes (Detective Mark Heckenburg, Book 6), by Paul Finch #AshestoAshes

Publisher:  Avon Books (Harper Collins UK)

Publication date:  6th April 2017

Ashes to Ashes is uncompromisingly grisly, releasing fearsome opponents from every conceivable angle. Its furious, intensely violent encounters creep a little close to home for our rebellious hero who relies on gut instinct, backed up by a wing and a prayer. Make no mistake there is colossal damage to the surrounding area, people, vehicles and Heck’s career. The only thing that remains unscathed is his reputation for ignoring authority.

This is the sixth outing featuring DS Mark (Heck) Heckenburg. After previously reading Dead Man Walking and Hunted, I’ve come to love our impulsive but highly effective copper for all his wilful and often brutal techniques, which may be frowned upon but they get the job done and ultimately save the day.

He has a shameless disregard for the official rules but he seems to scrape by without a reprimand while he successfully manages to wind up the top brass who may be used to supervising the loose cannon but regularly lecture him on his conduct and preference for solo policing. His responses to the dressing downs he receives only enforce his maverick streak.

There’s no doubting that it’s through Heck’s exploits the team he works with will reap results. Even if his methods are erratic and unorthodox, and his expertise of recognising opportunities then launching into an unrehearsed counter attack lands him in highly compromised positions.  

Yep. Our DS ‘Hecks up’ occasionally as he rendezvous with dangerous individuals, capable of much more than your average criminal in uncomfortable surroundings. Preoccupied with following a lead he casually forgets to check in with the station or mention a crucial meeting / conversation he might have orchestrated to gee the investigation up.

The criminal underworld is throwing itself into your path in this one: a torturous renegade with a mobile ‘office’, a merciless serial killer with a pyromaniac streak, and two extensive rival gangs engaged in a hostile turf war in Heck’s home town of Bradburn. The ever-increasing number of charred crime scenes left me wondering who would be last man standing as I revelled in the extreme thrills that unfolded.

There are some punishing situations with a direct connection to Heck and I have absolutely no idea how he retains the will to live, never mind walk! His resilience is just a fragment of his appeal and during this outing I learned how his family influenced his determination to succeed, but not in the way I was expecting. It made a nice change to be treated to a fleeting glimpse of something other than his tough, wise-guy exterior.

The author makes full use of urban landscapes creating a macabre playground for some ‘killer’ games, and Ashes to Ashes has all the intensity that unrestrained action and carnage could possibly deliver.

Rating:  4/5

(My thanks to both the author and the publisher for kindly sending a copy of this title. It was my pleasure to read this book and provide an unbiased review.)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

The Sunday Times bestseller returns with his next unforgettable crime thriller. Fans of MJ Arlidge and Stuart MacBride won’t be able to put this down.

John Sagan is a forgettable man. You could pass him in the street and not realise he’s there. But then, that’s why he’s so dangerous.

A torturer for hire, Sagan has terrorised – and mutilated – countless victims. And now he’s on the move. DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg must chase the trail, even when it leads him to his hometown of Bradburn – a place he never thought he’d set foot in again.

But Sagan isn’t the only problem. Bradburn is being terrorised by a lone killer who burns his victims to death. And with the victims chosen at random, no-one knows who will be next. Least of all Heck…

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Paul Finch studied History at Goldsmiths, London, before becoming a cop in the north west of England. He then let his passion for writing allow him to follow a career in journalism. Now a full time writer, he first cut his literary teeth penning episodes of the British TV crime drama, THE BILL, and has written extensively in the field of children’s animation. However, he is probably best known for his work in thrillers and horrors.

His crime debut novel, STALKERS, was a no 1 ebook best seller in 2013 and introduced DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg. This was followed in July 2013 by the sequel, SACRIFICE. He now has THE KILLING CLUB, DEAD MAN WALKING and HUNTED in the series which is also published in Germany, Poland, Turkey, Hungary, and Japan and Croatia.

In 2016 Heck took a break to be replaced by DC Lucy Clayburn. The opening novel, STRANGERS, became an immediate success reaching the top ten in the Sunday Times Bestseller list. His next Heck novel is due out in April 2017 with a further Lucy novel expected in September of the same year.

In addition to his Crime novels, Paul has had twelve books and nearly 300 stories and novellas published on both sides of the Atlantic. His first collection, AFTER SHOCKS (Ash-Tree Press), won the British Fantasy Award in 2002, while he won the award again in 2007 for his novella, KID. Later in 2007, he won the International Horror Guild Award for his mid-length story, THE OLD NORTH ROAD. His short novel, CAPE WRATH (Telos), was short-listed for the Bram Stoker Award in 2002, and several other collections of his stories and novellas have been published since, all of them well received by fans and readers. His horror novel, STRONGHOLD, was published by Abaddon Books in 2010, and the same year Pendragon Press published his highly rated festive terror tale, SPARROWHAWK. Paul has also written three DR WHO audio dramas for Big Finish – LEVIATHAN, SENTINELS OF THE NEW DAWN and HEXAGORA, and THRESHOLD, the pilot episode for the DR WHO spin-off series, COUNTER MEASURES. Paul’s DR WHO novel, HUNTER’S MOON was published by BBC Books in 2011.

Paul is no stranger to film either, having written scripts for several horror movies. Two of these, SPIRIT TRAP and THE DEVIL’S ROCK, were released in 2005 and 2011 respectively, while his short story THE BELFRIES, is currently being adapted in Hollywood, and his movie script WAR WOLF is under development by Amber Entertainment.

Wearing an editor’s hat, Paul is also responsible for the TERROR TALES series from Gray Friar Press, a collection of ghost and horror anthologies exploring the folklore, history and geography of the various regions of Britain.  

Paul Finch lives in Lancashire, UK, with his wife Cathy and his children, Eleanor and Harry.

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Book Review: A Betrayal in Blood, by Mark A. Latham #SherlockHolmes

Publisher:  Titan Books

Publication date:  28th March 2017

Our infatuation for a damned fine mystery often stirs a morbid curiosity of the unknown and encourages many of us to channel our inner detective. We may not rival the greats, particularly when the competition is none other than Sherlock Holmes, but A Betrayal in Blood reinvents a cryptic nemesis to indulge our every whim.

In this embittered tale a familiar legend places innocent lives in jeopardy. Set amid Victorian society, an asylum, and the grandeur of a Transylvanian castle, Doctor Watson narrates the case of the ‘Dracula papers’ as the determined duo investigate the impact of vampirism, allegedly practised by a deceased reclusive nobleman.

How I love it when sinister plots are afoot aiming to foil our intrepid private detectives, especially when those responsible are not to be meddled with. Professor Abraham Van Helsing is one such character. Exuding confidence in both his intelligence and influence, The Dutchman defends his posse’s intervention to stop Dracula (literally dead in his tracks) after an unfortunate young woman could not escape the Count’s wicked motives. He may have led the hunt for the monster responsible but was subsequently accused of murder.

Certain irregularities regarding the murders will rise, along with reports of the undead, causing Sherlock to continue where Scotland Yard’s official involvement ceased as the whole affair remains fantastical. In an unusual spin, a new case is born combining the tale of Count Dracula and the authenticity of classic Sherlock Holmes. Harnessing the keen perception of the great man himself complete with his faithful colleague at his side, they nip at the heels of shifty witnesses until the facts are unveiled and the wicked are held accountable.

I could tell from the spring in his step and that familiar gleam in his eye that he had the scent of villainy, and would stop at nothing until the wrongdoer was brought to justice.

Unreliable evidence and inconsistent testimony construct a riddle that features timeless fictional celebrities fuelled by fear and a quest for the truth. A worthy and thoroughly obliging addition to the Sherlock archives. 

[On a totally random note, by reading this I’ve learned the name ‘Wendy’ (a fleeting character appearance, and of course my own) appeared before JM Barrie’s Peter Pan was published. I didn’t know that, and I only mention it as I’d never heard the name being used in a story around this period before. End of randomness.]

 Rating:  4/5

(I received a copy of this title from the publisher and it is my pleasure to provide an unbiased review.)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

It is 1894, and the news of a Transylvanian nobleman s death at the hands of a certain Professor Van Helsing is the talk of London. Unsatisfied at the acquittal of the professor, Mycroft Holmes asks Sherlock to investigate what truly led to the deaths of Lucy Westenra and the mysterious aristocrat. The newspapers are full of inconsistencies and wild supernatural theories, and as Holmes digs deeper, he suspects that those hailed as heroes are not what they seem.

The clues point to an innocent man framed and murdered for crimes he did not commit, and Holmes and Watson find themselves targeted at every turn, as what began as a quest to clear one man s name reveals a conspiracy that draws them to the mountains of Transylvania and the infamous Castle Dracula.

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Mark Latham is an author, editor and games designer with a passion for nineteenth century history, from Staffordshire, UK. Formerly the editor of Games Workshop’s White Dwarf magazine and head of Warhammer 40,000, Latham is now a writer of novels, short stories, and tabletop games, such as Legends of the Old West, and Waterloo. Latham is published in Further Encounters of Sherlock Holmes.

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