Book Review: Abigale Hall, by Lauren A. Forry

Publisher:   Black and White Publishing

Publication date:  April 2016

Abigale Hall - My Review

Abigale Hall by Lauren Forry - CoverThe narrative of Abigale Hall possesses a progressive foreboding with snatches of nightmares for the inhabitants who are unfortunate enough to be offered employment there.

Notorious to the locals and virtually anonymous to outsiders, Thornycroft, an imposing house with a corridor named Abigale Hall, has been the cause of much concern over the years, and not because the edge of its deep quarry is obscured by fog either.

There’s an oppressive environment which allows all manner of strangeness to thrive; the master with nasty, hacking cough, the housekeeper and her vicious ways, the portrait gallery whose faces sneer at onlookers, and the library devoid of books all signal something isn’t quite right.

Its existence is as yet unknown to two sisters orphaned by the war. They reside with their aunt Bess who tolerates their presence out of duty. One of the sisters, Rebecca, has a few issues and has experienced difficulties since the death of their father. She repetitively counts in times of stress, and you’ll discover why as you read the story. The elder sibling, Eliza, has a boyfriend called Peter and a job at the Palladium, but also skivvies for her ungrateful relative who enjoys her own free time, leaving Rebecca’s care to anyone else so long as it doesn’t involve her. Needless to say when certain circumstances permit and employment is swiftly arranged at Thornycroft, aunt Bess welcomes the benefits it will bring. But the arrangement is not agreeable with everybody…

What follows is a series of mysterious edginess as the sisters’ existing lives are gradually erased. They are to observe obedience with no questions asked. The upheaval signals subtle shifts in Rebecca’s behaviour leaving Eliza feeling isolated with only the rattle of the old walls for company and to contemplate if any one would miss them; their parents are dead, their aunt wishes they were, and Peter has no way of knowing where to locate them if he wanted to – that poor bloke doesn’t know the half of it.

While there’s not an overly complicated storyline I did lose my thread a couple of times as  an eerie division of reality took hold momentarily. This certainly added to the ominous atmosphere presiding over the girls’ fate, but I did find myself back-tracking to confirm my thoughts before continuing once or twice. The second half of the book picked up pace to allow the pieces to fall into place, and it worked up to quite the unexpected crescendo!

Without a doubt Abigale Hall is cloaked with an unnerving surrealness. There’s also the bonus of some terrifically sinister characters to question the motives of, much spittle to let fly from decrepit lips, and many, many bowls of congealed porridge that will remain forever undigested. Yep, I quite liked this one.

Rating:  4/5

(Source: My own copy, purchased for Kindle)

Abigale Hall - Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Two orphaned sisters in a house of secrets…

On a foggy evening in 1947, seventeen-year-old Eliza and her troubled little sister Rebecca are banished by their aunt and sent to work at an isolated Welsh mansion. But there are rumours of missing maidservants and a ghost that stalks the deserted halls… Wandering through the mansion’s dusty rooms, Eliza finds blood-spattered books, crumpled photographs and portraits of a mysterious woman – clues to a terrible past that might just become Eliza’s future.

As Eliza unravels a mystery that has endured for decades, Rebecca falls under the spell of cruel housekeeper Mrs Pollard, who will stop at nothing to keep the house’s secrets. But can the sisters uncover the truth and escape back to London before they meet a dreadful fate?

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Abigale Hall - Author Profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Lauren A. Forry was brought up in the woods of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, USA where her FBI agent father and book-loving mother raised her on a diet of The X-Files and RL Stine. After earning her BA in Cinema Studies from New York University, she moved to London where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. There she was awarded the Faber and Faber Creative Writing MA Prize for her dissertation, which would become her debut novel, Abigale Hall. Her short stories have since appeared in multiple sci-fi and horror anthologies. She currently resides in the woods.

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Book Review: Under the Harrow, by Flynn Berry

Publisher:  W & N (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

Publication date: 14th June 2016 – Kindle

Under the Harrow My Review

Under The Harrow by Flynn Berry - Kindle CoverNora is looking forward to arriving at her sister’s house for tea, instead she finds herself on the set of a horror movie. Her sister lies dead. Her dog is too. Nora is covered in her sister’s blood and soon everything will be scrutinised by the police.

It’s tragic to learn that this is not the first time the one of the sisters had been targeted by an unknown assailant. Years have passed since an incident in their hometown of Snaith sparked their own unofficial manhunt to track the offender down. By trawling through reports of similar crimes the sisters hoped that anything would strike a chord and lead them to confront the vile brute. The horrific news stories they came across as a result of their unofficial investigations affected their future relationships and even their judgement of given situations.

Her sister’s death raises some serious paranoia issues for Nora, quite rightly too. They both moved away from Snaith, so how did the attacker find her sister? It’s been fifteen years. Have they been watching and waiting all this time? If only Nora have left for an earlier train, she could have saved her. And then there are the secrets the new investigation brings into the light. Why didn’t her sister tell her about this, or that – they were close, weren’t they? All these what if’s and why’s cloud Nora’s reasoning even further.

Under the Harrow is unquestionably mysterious. In contrast to the vivid crime scenes Nora’s narration has a bland, monotone approach, like she’s still reading the news reports they were so immersed in as teenagers. She shows an impartial attitude and separates herself from events as though they never happened, while relentlessly reliving them in her mind, or imagining more pleasant scenarios.

With the previous attack at the forefront of Nora’s mind, she gives unhealthy consideration to potential suspects in her sister’s murder and latches onto finding who could be responsible. But the trouble is she doesn’t know when to let go. Nora’s over-zealousness morphs uncomfortably into harassment at times. As she dwells on the developments little does she realise that her behaviour is not perceived as entirely reasonable.

One thing’s for sure, Under the Harrow keeps a brooding, creeping pace. Although it did take me a little while to tune in to Nora’s wavelength before I could see how the sisters tried to inject life into their soulless teens, only to spend the last the last fifteen years being drowned by the past. Nora may resemble a husk-like android, but go with it – a much deeper undercurrent is afoot, something unexpectedly vengeful.

Rating: 4/5

(I received a PDF copy of this title for review courtesy of the publishers and Rebecca Gray. I’m forever grateful.)

Under the Harrow Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

When Nora takes the train from London to visit her sister in the countryside, she expects to find her waiting at the station, or at home cooking dinner. But when she walks into Rachel’s familiar house, what she finds is entirely different: her sister has been the victim of a brutal murder.

Stunned and adrift, Nora finds she can’t return to her former life. An unsolved assault in the past has shaken her faith in the police, and she can’t trust them to find her sister’s killer. Haunted by the murder and the secrets that surround it, Nora is under the harrow: distressed and in danger. As Nora’s fear turns to obsession, she becomes as unrecognizable as the sister her investigation uncovers.

A riveting psychological thriller and a haunting exploration of the fierce love between two sisters, the distortions of grief, and the terrifying power of the past, Under the Harrow marks the debut of an extraordinary new writer.

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Under the Harrow Author Profile

Flynn Berry is a graduate of the Michener Center and has been awarded a Yaddo residency. She graduated from Brown University. Under the Harrow is her first novel.

She is represented by Emily Forland at Brandt & Hochman. The editor of Under the Harrow is Lindsey Schwoeri at Penguin.

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Book Review: Heavenfield, by L J Ross (Book 3 of the DCI Ryan Series)

Publication date: 8th March 2016 (Kindle)

Heavenfield My Review

Heavenfield by L J Ross (Kindle Cover)This third book in the DCI Ryan series sees our long suffering Detective trying to weed out root of evil that is growing deep within our society, only this time the tables are turning.

Following the last run in with the wrong ‘uns in Black Cloaks and their clandestine gatherings, his relationship with Archeologist / Historian Anna grounds him during his suspension from the force while he’s sitting at home twiddling his thumbs.

That is until he receives a mysterious phone call requesting his presence at Heavenfield, a little church which is on a pilgrim’s trail for the Saint called Oswald. In typical Ryan fashion, intrigue all peaked, he trundles along to the remote location alone, aaaand all hell breaks loose. He now finds himself on the wrong side of the law, having been accused of a crime he didn’t commit. There’s just his word for the version of events, his and several witnesses who saw him looming over the body, of course.

Ever gleeful at the thorn-in-their-side’s downfall, the new appointed master to ‘The Circle’ is hatching plans like there’s no tomorrow, like all good egotistic maniacs should really. Ryan is well aware he has a target on his back after evading their previous planned attempts at revenge. To clear his name, he must discover their identity and flush The Master and their cronies out. That’s easier said than done.

His colleagues are forever ‘team Ryan’ and do not waiver. As their mounting suspicions extend to their own police force, higher authorities, and beyond, they adopt a ‘trust no one’ motto, so they can secretly clear Ryan’s name and catch the culprits in the process. Alas, not all is well on the domestic front following the discovery of a copy of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, which has strong ties to the Circle. This evidence, and more, confounds Anna and she has a hard time forgiving Ryan for keeping her at a distance, given the identity of the owner.

While team Ryan investigates, suspected members of The Circle themselves are experiencing a series of unfortunate events, including a prominent, cowardly man in a position of trust. His selfish snivelling really is quite something. Looking after number one is his priority as he fears for his safety and may need to call on the poor folks he’s tried to throw to the wolves in the past.

The forerunning suspects are cast aside as the story progresses, in fact, you’ll need the Hubble telescope to guess who’s behind the plotting on this occasion, it’s quite the conundrum to solve. Although I didn’t guess correctly, when all was revealed I must admit that a similar portrayal in a well known TV mystery series did strike a chord with me. Despite this, it’s incredibly well played and absolutely worthy of a read. However, I would suggest you start right at the beginning to get yourself up to speed with reasons why ritually-inclined oddballs have it in for our loveable grump of a detective chap. Otherwise I think you’d struggle to make sense of everything if you jump in at this point.

If you haven’t experienced this series yet, it’s certainly worth giving it a try.

Rating: 4/5

(I must thank the author for kindly providing an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book for review. Thank you for getting in touch once again, it’s very much appreciated.)

Heavenfield Book Summary

FROM THE #1 BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF HOLY ISLAND AND SYCAMORE GAP

The hunter becomes the hunted…

When a man is found dead at the remote church of Heavenfield, DCI Ryan is the only other person for miles around. The police have no weapon, no motive and no other suspects.

Already suspended from Northumbria CID, Ryan must fight to clear his name. But soon, more than his career is at stake when prominent members of the mysterious ‘Circle’ begin to die. Somebody wants Ryan’s name to be next on the coroner’s list and to survive he must unmask the devil who walks among them – before it is too late.

Unfortunately for Ryan, the devil looks just like everybody else…

Murder and mystery are peppered with romance and humour in this fast-paced crime whodunnit from LJ Ross, set amidst the spectacular Northumbrian landscape.

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Heavenfield Author Profile

L J Roos PolaroidBorn in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, LJ Ross moved to London where she graduated from King’s College London with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Law. After working in the City as a regulatory lawyer for a number of years, she realised it was high time for a change. The catalyst was the birth of her son, which forced her to take a break from the legal world and find time for some of the detective stories which had been percolating for a while and finally demanded to be written.

She lives with her husband and young son in the south of England, but will always be a northern girl at heart.

Her first book, “Holy Island”, has consistently been listed as an Amazon bestseller since its release in January 2015 and hit the Amazon UK Kindle #1 position in May 2015. Its sequel, “Sycamore Gap” was released on 11th September 2015.

If you would like to connect with LJ Ross, she would be very happy to hear from you:

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Books by L J Ross

 

Book Review: Bogman, by R I Olufsen

Publisher: Crux Publishing   |   Publication date: 1st July 2015

Bogman My Review

Bogman by R I Olufsen CoverA haunting conundrum follows the discovery of a body in a Nordic bog.  Is it a current criminal mystery, or will an anonymous Bogman take his place in history? These questions and more will confound our investigative team and lead them into some very choppy waters indeed.

So, how do you begin to investigate an antiquated murder with no evidence on hand to identify the victim? By combining classic, old-school storytelling our investigating team chip away at following the only vague lead they have under these unusual circumstances.

Tobias Lange is the lead detective. A divorced, amateur golfer with a string of relationships behind him, while being a fairly mild-mannered he’s most certainly a fiercely determined workaholic.

Tobias is soon aware that our unfortunate Bogman is not all that he seems, unless human sacrifices were presented with a wristwatch before being offered into the mire…

This leads him to instruct his team to revive all relevant abandoned missing persons cases, as Bogman is a murder victim and the date of his death may mean the culprit could still be at large.  Following a process of elimination they follow up their suspicions, which introduces them to the more sordid territory of trafficking and the turbulent world of prostitution.

Touching on these grim and violent modern-day realities keeps the tension simmering. Even peaceful green activists fall under suspicion as age old secrets rise to the surface, which is a worry as Tobias’s daughter is wrapped up with the group’s next, big demonstration and his fears for her safety grow throughout.  In addition to the unsavoury sides of life there’s an elusive spy to track down, the murky world of politics, and more skeletal remains make a timely, if random, appearance.

Despite not making the best of his personal life, Tobias makes a good leader. His dedicated team are continually getting their backsides chewed off for failing to solve the case quicker, or for making errors of judgement where they flip a coin who will tell the boss. There’s a great camaraderie there.

But (and this is a little ‘but’), the storytelling technique fell into two camps. First it had a quiet, ‘almost ‘classic mystery voice’ where there’s a sense of calm and it’s plodding along in a methodical way, politely overseeing the evidence gathered so far – all good there then. THEN BAM, followed by WHOAH. A violent struggle would erupt into graphic / violent episodes involving the prostitutes who made a brief appearance. To be fair, I’m used to consistent shocks and a certain amount of vileness in crime fiction, but events did escalate rather rapidly. From the initial style of the writing I would have expected a gentle whodunit to unravel, which is why the darker elements, whilst not the most horrific I’ve ever read, felt like a bolt from the blue at times.

That aside, I enjoyed this brooding mystery. I particularly liked how the chapters were headed with each day of the week over the three week investigation. It offered a sense of being able to follow the clues with the team as they arose until the case arrived at its ‘revelation’ moment, which wasn’t obvious either. More importantly I just loved the moody setting where Tobias and his minor personal failings settled into perfectly, and I’d be interested to see if the author has more in store for this likeable chap.

Rating: 3.5/5

(My thanks to Crux Publishing for providing a paperback copy of Bogman in exchange for an honest review.)

Bogman Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

When a mummified foot, a pile of bones and a split skull are discovered in a Danish bog, is it a case for the police or archaeologists? It becomes a case for Chief Inspector Tobias Lange when it is confirmed the remains are those of a young male, early twenties, beaten to death with a blunt instrument about two decades earlier.

Tobias finds himself on the trail of eco-warriors, Sami protesters safeguarding reindeer rights in Lapland and a disaffected young woman estranged from her family. Then another incomplete set of human bones turns up, and then another. When the trail takes a turn into a murky world of sex trafficking and illegal immigrants, Tobias starts to fear for his eco-warrior daughter Agnes….

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Bogman Author Bio

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

R.I. Olufsen has a background in investigative journalism and broadcasting. She enjoys travel, good food, golf and literary puzzles. Bogman is her first crime novel.

R.I. Olufsen is the pen name of Roisin McAuley and you can connect with the author here:

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Book Review: The Jazz Files (Poppy Denby Investigates – Book One, by Fiona Veitch Smith

Publisher: Lion Fiction  |   Publication date:  17th September 2015   |   Review edition: Paperback

The Jazz Files My Review

The Jazz Files by Fiona Veitch Smith - Cover onlyThe Jazz Files encapsulates the highs and lows of an era shortly after the First World War.

With the author’s discretion, certain historical facts have been remoulded to fit this story, where we follow the young and ambitious Poppy Denby as she pursues a career in journalism.

Poppy was invited to London to work as a companion to her aunt, an actress and feisty member of the suffragette movement. Her aunt encourages her niece to fight for the employment she desires, after all, it’s what she and her friends campaigned for, and some of them did not survive. But no amount of support and encouragement will prepare her for the danger she is about to face, where blackmail, unsavoury characters, and evil shadow from the past all thrive.

Starting as an office assistant Poppy will meet all manner of larger than life characters, each having their own piece of unique history attached. For starters, there’s her boss, who is an ‘all American editor’ called ‘Rollo’ Rolandson. He gives the bright young gal a chance, when a missing editorial slot needs filling urgently. Having a friend in the arts is a Godsend, as she can get the interview she needs to set her on the right track. Little did she know that journalism could lead to such deadly pursuits! There are such delightful ones too, as a dashing newspaper photographer has a twinkle in his eye for young Poppy. Their relationship inside and outside the paper’s offices is played out wonderfully.

Soon, chases, betrayal and a cloak and dagger rescue are all on the cards. Poppy chips away at information she gains during her employment hoping to discover the truth about her aunt Dot’s accident, which left her confined to a wheelchair. And what really caused the death of her aunt’s friend? Then, there’s the fate of a poor woman held in an asylum hanging in the balance! Who is responsible for causing such grief and how can they be stopped? This is difficult to discern, as most of the people Poppy meets have secrets they are not revealing.

The original members from the suffragette movement and their nieces / daughters work together as a formidable team to solve the puzzle that has haunted the older generation. It’s a nice touch to bring all the threads together and form a unified bond ‘in the now’ – but someone is always one step ahead of the investigation…

With the embittered memories for the loss of their old friends and exposing those responsible, this is an incredibly engaging story. Told in a rhythmic, breezy style, our marvellous mystery solving gal perseveres, despite the many obstacles both her gender and difficult circumstances present in the age of The Jazz Files.

It’s safe to say I adored this book and would happily recommend it to those who like being transported to a different time, where an adventurous journalistic crime mystery will keep you on your toes – the 1920’s have never felt more alive!

Rating: 5/5

(My sincerest thanks to the publisher and Rhoda Hardie for providing a gorgeous paperback of this title for review.)

The Jazz Files Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

“It stands for Jazz Files,” said Rollo. “It’s what we call any story that has a whiff of high society scandal but can’t yet be proven… you never know when a skeleton in the closet might prove useful.”

Set in 1920, The Jazz Files introduces aspiring journalist Poppy Denby, who arrives in London to look after her ailing Aunt Dot, an infamous suffragette. Dot encourages Poppy to apply for a job at The Daily Globe, but on her first day a senior reporter is killed and Poppy is tasked with finishing his story. It involves the mysterious death of a suffragette seven years earlier, about which some powerful people would prefer that nothing be said…

Through her friend Delilah Marconi, Poppy is introduced to the giddy world of London in the Roaring Twenties, with its flappers, jazz clubs, and romance. Will she make it as an investigative journalist, in this fast-paced new city? And will she be able to unearth the truth before more people die?

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The Jazz Files Author Profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Formerly a journalist, Fiona Veitch Smith has written books, theatre plays and screenplays. She is best known though for her novels and children’s picturebooks. Her ‘Young David Picturebook’ series (illustrated by Amy Barnes Warmington) are based on the Biblical character of King David when he was a young boy. ‘The Jazz Files’ is the first novel in her mystery series, Poppy Denby Investigates, and is set in the 1920s. Her standalone novel, ‘The Peace Garden’, is a romantic thriller set in England and South Africa. She lives with her husband, daughter and two dogs in Newcastle upon Tyne where she lectures in media and scriptwriting at the local universities. She has a passion for cheesecake, Pilates and playing the clarinet – preferably not at the same time!

Connect with the author:

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Book Review: Little Black Lies, by Sharon Bolton

Publisher:  Bantam Press (An imprint of Transworld Publishers)  |  Publication date: 2nd July 2015  |  Edition: Hardback (Provided by publisher)

Little Black Lies My Review

Little Black Lies by Sharon BoltonLittle Black Lies is a story of revenge and people haunted by the ghosts of their past – their distress pours from the pages from beginning to end.

Set on the Falkland Islands, the same story is told in turn via the unique voices of Catrin, Callum and Rachel. Each offers their own version of events over a tense few days in which the child of a visitor to the Islands has gone missing.

Although not a regular occurrence, it’s not the first time tragedy has struck. But it’s natural to think that little ones do wander off whilst playing, resulting in a terrible accident. No one ever wants to believe the alternative – that a tourist, or worse, someone they know and trust, could be implicated.

Desperation is captured perfectly as the trio share their innermost feelings and thoughts during the times leading up to and during the search for the missing children. As events unfold you can quite understand why people are making assumptions and a mob mentality develops quickly – as a reader you’re kept guessing too!

Our narrators in the thick of it are: Marine conservationist Catlin, who lost her two young boys in an accident three years ago. The anniversary of their death is fast approaching and she has finally come to the conclusion that the only way put an end to her grief is by punishing the person responsible, as she has nothing to lose. Callum is a war-veteran and is also Catrin’s ex. He has PTSD following the conflict on the Islands, leaving him with flashbacks where he loses moments in time. Rachel cannot come to terms with her own demons and is withdrawing further into a black hole of guilt and despair. The accident may have touched each of them in different ways, but the one thing they will always have in common is their suffering, which grows darker as the days tick on, and that’s only the beginning.

Creeping suspicion and escalating emotions dwell with ease on the rugged terrain of the Falklands, creating the perfect combination for a wholly engrossing read. With many angles to explore it’s impossible to discover the shocking truth until it leaps out at you on the final page turn.  

Admittedly, it did take me a few chapters to get into the rhythm of the story but my only regret now is that I wish I’d read it sooner!  I’d absolutely recommend Little Black Lies to anyone who loves a brooding thriller that is shrouded in mystery. 

Rating: 4/5

(My sincere thanks to the Publisher and Alison Barrow for providing a Hardback copy. )

Little Black Lies Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

‘A dark and haunting thriller. It creeps under your skin and doesn’t let you go’ Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train

What’s the worst thing your best friend could do to you?

Admittedly, it wasn’t murder. A moment’s carelessness, a tragic accident – and two children are dead. Yours.

Living in a small island community, you can’t escape the woman who destroyed your life. Each chance encounter is an agonizing reminder of what you’ve lost – your family, your future, your sanity.

How long before revenge becomes irresistible?

With no reason to go on living, why shouldn’t you turn your darkest thoughts into deeds?

So now, what’s the worst thing you can do to your best friend?

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Little Black Lies Author Links

(Profile Courtesy of AmazonUK)

Sharon Bolton (previously S. J. Bolton) is the critically acclaimed author of some of the most bone-chilling crime books ever written. She has been shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger for Crime Novel of the Year, the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year and the CWA Dagger in the Library.

Sharon lives near Oxford with her husband and young son.

For more information about the author and her books, or to check out her addictive blog, visit http://www.sjbolton.com. You can also join her on at http://www.facebook.com/SJBoltonCrime.

You can connect with Sharon Bolton via:

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