Book Review: Nowhere Girl, by Ruth Dugdall

Publisher:  Legend Press  |  Publication date:  31st October 2015  |  Edition: Kindle (Review Copy, via Netgalley)

Nowhere Girl - Review

Nowhere Girl by Ruth DugdallNowhere Girl is tale of many threads, interweaving to make one hell of a turbulent thriller.

Immediately you will notice the lack of chapter headings, which are replaced by the sequential number of days that pass as the story progresses. For me this is an excellent idea. It offered a rolling reality to the circumstances that unfolded; the torment isn’t left behind at the end of a chapter, as the unique voice of each character is begging to tell you more, and you will be compelled to listen.

Told over a ten day period we follow the disappearance of a ‘wild child’ from a busy fair in Luxembourg. Ellie has a brief history of going A.W.O.L. and for that reason the authorities don’t appear overly bothered when her family reports her missing and simply treat her case like that of a teenage runaway. A ‘problem at home’ doesn’t warrant press coverage and besides, there’s no point in releasing the whiff of something nasty in the air unless it’s absolutely necessary.

But there were more shadowy figures lurking at that fair than the Ghost Train could conjure in a lifetime. It was clear from the offset that Ellie would not evade them all.

Fraught with worry, her mother waits for news. In a bid to cope with her grief of losing her daughter, Ellie, she begins to write heartfelt letters sharing her inner-most feelings, including the reasons for any harsh decisions she may have made and her past as a nurse in war torn countries. It becomes clear that the effects of her previous occupation still resonates today and has struck a mental chord. Something is certainly out of tune in their domestic situation.

Recently relocated to Luxembourg is ex-probation Officer, Cate who is trying to look out for Ellie’s mum. This is more difficult as is sounds, as her partner is also in charge of investigating the missing person’s case. Her loyalties are torn between her boyfriend’s wishes and his frustrating aloofness at times, and worrying that not enough is being done to trace the poor young girl. Cate forges ahead and does a little discreet digging of her own. Before long she discovers she’s in waaaay too deep.

Running alongside Ellie’s plight is the journey of Amina and Jodie, whose families have arranged for them to ‘have a better life’. The young teens are looking forward to an adventure, gaining an education and most of all the freedom – yet they are blissfully unaware that their fate was sealed the moment they stepped foot in the van that would take them away from their villages. But among their tragedy there is a fragment of hope when one of the girls befriends a poorly, little lad.

The individual events make for a shocking and tense story of survival on every level, as secrets and lies ooze from the pages like open wounds. This may be the first book I have read by Ruth Dugdall, but it certainly won’t be my last. THIS is cracking fiction, yet has the power to feel disturbingly real.

Rating: 5/5

(My thanks to Legend Press and Jessica Reid for inviting me to review this title and providing a digital copy of the book via Netgalley. It’s much appreciated.)

Nowhere Girl - Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

When Ellie goes missing on the first day of Schueberfouer, the police are dismissive, keen not to attract negative attention of one of Luxembourg’s most important events. Probation officer, Cate Austin, has moved for a fresh start, along with her daughter Amelia, to live with her police detective boyfriend, Olivier Massard. But when she realises how casually he is taking the disappearance of Ellie, Cate decides to investigate matters for herself. She discovers Luxembourg has a dark hear. With its geographical position, could is be the centre of a child trafficking ring? As Cate comes closer to discovering Ellie’s whereabouts she uncovers a hidden world, placing herself in danger, not just from traffickers, but from a source much closer to home.


Nowhere Girl - Author Links

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Ruth Dugdall worked as a Probation Officer for almost a decade in high security prisons in the Suffolk area. Now living in Luxembourg, she is currently working at a local prison. Ruth has years of experience working with children who have been convicted of murder, having been based at one of the UK’s 3 prisons that specialise in this area. Ruth’s writing is heavily influenced by her professional background, providing authenticity and credibility to the crime genre.

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Before It’s Too Late by Jane Isaac

Publisher:  Legend Press  |  Publication date:  1st June 2015  |  Edition:  Kindle (Via Netgalley)

Before It's Too Late by Jane Isaac, publisher Legend Press

Will the victim’s whereabouts be discovered, ‘Before It’s Too Late’?

I’d seen this book advertised around the Twittersphere and was over the moon to be approved by the publisher to receive a review copy.

Before It’s Too Late is a moody crime thriller set predominantly in picturesque Stratford Upon Avon. The main line of enquiry surrounds a missing student by the name of Min Li.

Originally from Beijing, she came to England to study, much to the disapproval of her parents with their traditions. Despite culture differences Min Li has settled well into the West. She has a boyfriend, is well liked, and is an all round good student at Stratford University.

Why then would she mysteriously disappear?

As the plot paces along nicely and takes you in all kinds of directions, I say well done to Jane Isaac for teasing us with the truth of this matter!

I do love the way this story is told in two voices. There’s Min Li’s dark, first person accounts where we hear her private thoughts from the desolate place she has woken up to find herself in – finding herself imprisoned in little more than a concrete grave evokes every sense still available to the young woman. Hearing her plight in her own words makes for chilling reading – an already hideous situation can carry an altogether darker shade of bleakness when told by the person experiencing it.

There’s also the third person, factual account from the police team frantically placing the curious pieces of this puzzle together. There’s a perfect balance of characters including: DI Will Jackman, the leading officer in the case, who’s trying not to allow an ongoing personal incident that occurred over a year ago interfere with his work (queue big hugs for Will x). DS Anne Davies is a likeable assistant, having recently become a mum she appears to welcome stakeouts, if only to get some sleep! But the one poking the occasional stick at them is their boss, DCI Reilly – the camera loves him, he loves the limelight, and there’s no love lost between him and his team.

The detached reaction of the parents to their daughter’s disappearance raises more questions than answers; different cultures have their own coping mechanisms, but something just doesn’t sit right with DI Jackman – it’s very well plotted.

The race to find Min draws the team to various locations, only to receive zero co-operation from the community surrounding the investigation. Soon, another student suffers the same fate. The case is not as straightforward as the evidence suggests, although I had a pretty good inkling about the culprit’s identity and would have liked to have been kept guessing for a little while longer!

Jane Isaac has captured Min Li’s isolation to perfection. This, together with its impressive crescendo, makes Before It’s Too Late an altogether compelling read.


Rating: 4/5

(Thank you to Legend Press and Netgalley for providing an advanced copy of this title for review.)

You can follow the author on Twitter: @JaneIsaacAuthor  |  Publisher: @Legend_Press

To keep up to date with Jane Isaac’s book news, here’s a link to her website:



Real Monsters, by Liam Brown

Publisher: Legend Press  |  Published 1st March 2015  |  Edition: Kindle, via Netgalley

Real Monsters 27.02.15

Real Monsters is both engrossing and tragic.

With brutal truths and raw emotion, Real Monsters confronts the fallout of conflict on real people and the legacy this leaves behind.

The book is entirely narrated by Danny and Lorna via their letters, who alternately tell their sides of the conflict since the ‘monsters’ first attacked. Each of them set out to write their individual experiences to their son, right until the end of this compelling read.

Danny is a solider. He enlisted in the army to fight the monsters everyone has heard of. His new wife, Lorna, is left behind to carry on a life, which seems destined to be without him.

The two journals are quite different. Danny’s is an edgy monologue, a unique voice filled with expletives. It is an outpour of the harsh reality of the environment he’s engulfed by and the deteriorating mental state of a small band of soldiers reaching breaking point.

Lorna fills the background about life on home territory. Her journal records the life changing event at the age of twelve when her father had died in a terrorist attack. She tells of her troubled teenage years, until Danny rescued her. She relays her feelings from when Danny enlisted and her subsequent involvement in the protests against the war.

Although you can draw your own conclusions, at no time does the writer give an indication as to the location of Danny and Lorna. This story is portrayed in such a way that it could be set in any time zone, in any place, involving anyone.

It’s the emotion of the storyline that’s important, rather than a factual overload.  To give you some idea of how the writer achieved this, he introduces the two narrators, but doesn’t reveal their names until later in story. Although they remained anonymous until then, this only succeeded in my wanting to read further to discover their identity.

Some scenes are fairly harrowing and did make me shudder, plus the style of the narration does take a little getting used to, so it might not be a book for everyone. But I quickly became engrossed, right up to the final and tragic words that Danny and Lorna share.

Rating: 4/5

(Many thanks to the publisher, Legend Press via Netgalley, for the advanced copy.)

You can follow the author, Liam Brown, on Twitter:  @LiamBrownWriter  |  Publisher: @Legend_Press