The man in the wall

This blog tour goes out on my brothers birthday – happy birthday Rob. I get to review an interesting translated fiction.

the story:

Alva is a sad and lonely child. With her father locked up in prison, she moves with her mother and two older sisters to an apartment building in town. She does not like her new home. Her room is small and her sisters continue to exclude Alva from their games.

Soon a bizarre murder takes place in the building. A husband discovers his wife dead in the hall of their apartment, two week after she disappeared from their home.

Where had the body been hidden for two weeks? And how could the perpetrator get in and out of the apartment?

As more disturbing things start to take place, Alva is drawn into a sick and twisted game by a killer who is hiding in plain sight. But Alva is just a child and has no idea just how deadly her new friend might be…

The Man in the Wall is a thrilling and stylish Scandinavian thriller.

my thoughts:  This is different to what i first expected, and refreshingly so. A multi layered fascinating crime story set in Sweden with interesting characters. I really enjoyed this novel and it left me thinking about many things including the nature of a psycopath and whether aberrant behaviour in childhood can be corrected before it becomes too serious.

the characters in this novel were really well developed and intriguing and I enjoyed the setting of sweden but scandanavia is one of my favourite places in the world – if you’re looking for something exciting with a slightly horror twist then this is the novel for you a true 5* read for me.

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An open letter to Amazon

We all know Amazon have quite strict review policies, where if you are friends with an author on facebook and you link your social media to your amazon account they won’t let you review that authors books.

Recently I went online to review some Christmas presents and I was blocked from reviewing them, I knew it wasn’t because I was friends with them on facebook, so I emailed amazon to ask why  I couldn’t post my reviews

Finally about 3 days after contacting them I received this reply –
We have determined that you have violated our Customer Review Creation Guidelines. As a result, we have suppressed all of your reviews, and you will no longer be able to post reviews on Amazon.co.uk.

We made this decision after carefully considering your reviewing account. This decision is final.

We cannot share any further information about our decision, and we may not reply to further emails about this issue.

I can’t respond to the email they sent me and as someone who is passionate about championing independent authors many of whom I found from running a facebook group, this makes me really sad and angry.

I understand that after the sock puppetry thing we need reviewing guidelines but to block someone who only ever reviews in good faith and will give an honest review if they are friends with an author or not seems ridiculous

What makes me most angry is I know what a review means to an author and I try to always post my reviews to help them out and now all of those have been reviewed and I cannot review anyone else books, which for someone who spends as much time reviewing – as I do this is huge

So the point I’m trying to get at in writing openly to amazon – is that although I don’t expect a change in my review status, I want them to understand how unfair they are being to the Independent authors many of whom need to connect with people on facebook to make them aware of their works. For a site that is meant to be about making it easier for people to write and share their books and reviews, they are definitely not doing that – maybe Amazons community guidelines should actually be written by their community – they could have a reviewer sign up form so they know why people might be connected to certain authors

The other thing that makes me especially angry about amazon – is this line – We cannot share any further information about our decision, and we may not reply to further emails about this issue.

Why wont they reply or give more details – they are not giving me a chance to defend myself – I have seen this kind of high handed behaviour from them before towards their sellers, but I find it ridiculously unfair, they have decided I have violated some mystery rules, so without warning me so I could change my behaviour they just remove all my priviledges and when I want to talk to them about it – they make it so I cant. Should amazon be allowed to employ these heavy handed tactics to people and get away with it or should we challenge them and expect a change. I think I may start using other bookstores and places to leave my reviews.

my promise to all the authors that I support and champion is that I will continue to do that through my blog, reviews on goodreads and other bookstores and my role as an admin at the UKCBC, I hope you dont feel let down by a lack of review but if i can find a way to share what I think of your books in anyway I can then I will and maybe in the end thats what matters most.

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The secret mother by Shalini Boland – Blog tour

I have the great honour to be on the blog tour for the Secret mother by Shalini Boland, I am a huge fan of Shalini’s work and this is no exception

the story:

‘Are you my mummy?’

Tessa Markham returns home to find a child in her kitchen. He thinks she’s his mother. But Tessa doesn’t have any children.

Not anymore.

She doesn’t know who the little boy is or how he got there.

After contacting the police, Tessa is suspected of taking the mystery child. Her whole life is turned upside down. And then her husband reveals a secret of his own…

Tessa isn’t sure what to believe or who to trust. Because someone is lying. To find out who, she must confront her painful past. But is the truth more dangerous than Tessa realises?

my thoughts:

This is a truly fascinating example of what I call domestic noir, it has dark moments filled with elements of light in Tessa’s developing relationship with some of the people in her life. This is a fascinating novel and as I was reading I found myself thinking I know where this is going and I don’t mind because its so joyful to read, however I was pleasantly surprised with the ending.

This handles very emotive subject matter with a genuine understanding, the characters are well developed and believable and you find yourself really caring about what happens to all of the people in this book not just Tessa and Harry. On a par with Maggie James for showing the human impact of events on families and individuals this novel is an unputdownable read. A solid 5+ stars from me.

UK 🇬🇧 http://amzn.to/2xrkDu4

 

US 🇺🇸 http://amzn.to/2vXeg3W

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The Dead Whisper

Today i’m lucky enough to be on the dead whisper blog blitz. I have very much enjoyed Emma Clapperton’s books in the past, and the dead whisper did not disappoint

the story: 
D.S Preston and D.C Lang are sent to investigate the death of a young girl in an old manor house in Glasgow. But who would want to kill an innocent girl in her own home and why? When they believe their questions have been answered the case is closed.

Meanwhile, Sam Leonard could not be happier – he has a great acting career and a fantastic girlfriend. After being in a previously turbulent relationship, what could go wrong?

For Patrick McLaughlin life is going well. His marriage is stable and with a baby on the way, things can only get better.
But the house that Patrick moves into is not what it seems. With a family burial plot in the gardens, visions and messages from the deceased, and a recent death in the house, will Patrick and Jodie regret their purchase?

In order to lay the ghosts to rest questions will be asked but can the house ever let go of its past?

My thoughts: I enjoy the hint of supernatural blended into these novels, it never feels forced or unrealistic and always adds to the pace of the story. This felt like an intriguing story from the start, you saw different sides of patrick and jodie and although you think you know what will happen in they story if you think like me you will be very wrong.

I enjoyed the story and how it draws patrick back into the police investigation and the twist at the end is huge and leaves you wondering where this series will go next? I found this a well plotted and enjoyable book that has well written and engaging characters. if you want a classy paranormal crime fiction then this is an author for you. A solid 4* read for me.

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Don’t tell a soul by D K Hood

My turn on my first Bookouture blog tour, thanks for letting me join the blog team. Here are my thoughts on Don’t tell a soul by D.K Hood a read that’s a little out of my comfort zone as it is set in the USA, as admin of the UK crime book club i dont read many books set in different countries.

the story:

The floor was stone cold on her bare skin. Her heart pounded in her chest. ‘Not a soul knows where I am,’ she thought as she took in the darkness around her. And then she heard his footsteps…

When a body is found stuffed into a barrel at a garbage dump, covered in long red cuts, Detective Jenna Alton and her new deputy, David Kane, rush to the scene.

Nothing ever happens in the small American town of Black Rock Falls, so Jenna believes the victim must be one of two recent missing persons, and she fears for the life of the other.

Both were strangers to the town, but there’s nothing else to link them. Jenna knows someone must have seen something, but no one’s talking; how well does she really know the people around her?

Then a disturbing clue makes Jenna suspect a connection with other disappearances in the town’s history. Just when she begins asking the right questions, she realises she’s being followed. Is she next on the killer’s list?

In a race against time, Jenna and David must unlock the dark secret at the heart of the town, before it’s too late…

my thoughts:  A very different read for me and there are some interesting points I can make about it. I liked the 2 characters even though they are gung ho and all action they also felt very real and well developed. However I felt that Jenna is a bit of an enigma because she is meant to be a survivor and a tough cookie but she falls foul of all the horror movie cliches that a single woman can, and how she manages to exit the novel in one piece amazes me.

that said the novel is well plotted and the killers are believably evil, the twist is hard to predict and you are engaged enough with the story to want to find out what will happen. I felt that the novel took a little while to draw me in and I did have issues with Jenna’s carelessness however I would read more by D K Hood as there is a lot to praise in this book and i’m intrigued to see how Jenna and David’s relationship develops. A 4* read for me

buy the novel here:

UK http://amzn.to/2wESpf4
US http://amzn.to/2vgQtva

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The Celeritas files

I read this book recently as the author is a member of the UK crime book club that I admin – the premise sounded interesting and I was lucky enough to receive a review copy.

the story:   Imagine you have created the most revolutionary technology of the decade… and someone’s greed for it becomes the cause of your best friend’s cold-blooded murder and your son’s kidnapping.
Experience the story of Shaina Desai, who finds herself in the middle of a sinister plot to steal her prized invention, which happens to be the principal subject of valuation for a multi-million dollar cross-border investment  in what could be termed as one of the most brutal attempts at intellectual property theft in the history of corporate India.
Will she be forced to give up her dream to save her son’s life? Or will she lose him to the ruthless kidnappers?
A tale of professional pride and the heart-breaking choices forced upon the individual, of love and betrayal, and the dark games ruthlessly played in the corporate world, under the veneer of professional ethics…..

my thoughts: I enjoyed this novel as it is a little out of my comfort zone as a reader that said you can tell it’s the authors first novel, it suffers a little from over description at times and the characters don’t feel very real. However the concept is intriguing and the action is full paced and relatively believable. I enjoyed the high tech aspect to the novel and liked the different reflection of India as a developing business mecca. I do feel like the company had slightly poor business skills but they existed to set the story up. The novel does leave you on a cliff hanger and i will be intrigued to see how the author improves and continues to develop. A 3.5 star read for me.

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Extract – The Secret mother by Shalini Boland

its my great good fortune to share an excerpt from Shalini Bolands the secret mother – published by Bookouture. I’m very much looking forward to this release, and will be posting my review as part of the blog tour

 

THE SECRET MOTHER
 

Excerpt

THE SECRET MOTHER 

By

Shalini Boland

 

Chapter One

The street lamps flicker, illuminating the grey pavement mottled with patches of dirty snow and slick black ice. Slushy puddles hug the kerb, cringing away from the hissing, splashing car tyres. It takes all my concentration to keep my balance. My hands would be warmer if I jammed them into my coat pockets, but I need them free to steady myself on walls, fences, tree trunks, lamp posts. I don’t want to fall. And yet would it really be so terrible if I slipped on the ice? Wet jeans, a bruised bum. Not the end of the world. There are worse things. Far worse things.

It’s Sunday: the last exhale of the week. That uncomfortable pause before Monday, when it all starts up again – this lonely pretence at life. Sunday has become a black dot on the horizon for me, growing larger each day. I’m relieved now it’s almost over and yet I’m already anticipating the next one. The day when I visit the cemetery and stand above their graves, staring at the grass and stone, talking to them both, wondering if they hear my inane chatter or if I’m simply talking into the empty wind. In burning sunlight, pouring rain, sub-zero temperatures or thick fog I stand there. Every week. I’ve never missed a Sunday yet.

Sleet spatters my face. Icy needles that make me blink and gasp. Finally, I turn off the high street into my narrow road, where it’s more sheltered and the wind less violent. A rainbow assortment of overflowing bins lines my route, waiting for collection tomorrow at some ungodly pre-dawn hour. I turn my face away from the windows where Christmas tree lights wink and blink, reminding me of happier Christmases. Before.

Almost home.

My little north London terraced house sits halfway along the road. Pushing open the rusted gate, I turn my face away from the neglected front garden with its discarded sweet wrappers and crisp packets blown in from the street, now wedged among long tussocks of grass and overgrown bushes. I thrust my frozen fingers into my bag until they finally close around a jagged set of keys. I’m glad to be home, to get out of the cold, and yet my body sags when I open the door and step into the dark silence of the hall, feeling the hollow of their absence.

At least it’s warm in here. I shrug off my coat, kick off my boots, dump my bag on the hall table and switch on the light, avoiding my sad reflection in the hall mirror. A glass of wine would be welcome about now. I glance at my watch – only 5.20. No. I’ll be good and make a hot chocolate instead.

Strangely, the door to the kitchen is closed. This strikes me as odd, as I always leave it open. Perhaps a gust of wind slammed it shut when I came in. I trudge to the end of the hall and stop. Through a gap in the bottom of the door I see that the light is on. Someone’s in there. I catch my breath, feel the world slow down for a moment before it speeds back up. Could I have a burglar in my house? 

I cock my ear. A sound filters through. Humming. A child is humming a tune in my kitchen. But I don’t have a child. Not any more. 

Slowly I pull down the handle and push the door, my body tensing. I hardly dare breathe.

Here before me sits a little boy with dark hair, wearing pale blue jeans and a green cable-knit jumper. A little boy aged about five or six, perched on a chair at my kitchen counter, humming a familiar tune. Head down, he is intent on his drawing, colouring pencils spread out around an A4 sheet of paper. A navy raincoat hangs neatly over the back of the chair.

He looks up as I enter the room, his chocolate-brown eyes wide. We stare at one another for a moment.

‘Are you my mummy?’ the little boy asks.

I bite my bottom lip, feel the ground shift. I grasp the counter top to steady myself. ‘Hello,’ I say, my heart suddenly swelling. ‘Hello. And who might you be?’

‘You know. I’m Harry,’ he replies. ‘Do you like my picture?’ He holds the sheet out in front of him, showing me his drawing of a little boy and a woman standing next to a train. ‘It’s not finished. I haven’t had time to colour it in properly,’ he explains.

‘It’s lovely, Harry. Is that you standing next to the train?’

‘Yes.’ He nods. ‘It’s you and me. I drew it for you because you’re my mummy.’

Am I hallucinating? Have I finally gone crazy? This beautiful little boy is calling me his mummy. And yet I don’t know him. I’ve never seen him before in my life. I close my eyes tight and then open them again. He’s still there, looking less confident now. His hopeful smile has faltered, slipping into a frown. His eyes are now a little too bright. I know that look – it’s the one that precedes tears.

‘Hey, Harry,’ I say with false jollity. ‘So you like trains, huh?’

His smile returns. ‘Steam trains are the best. Better than diesels.’ He scrunches up his face in disgust and blinks.

‘Did you come here on the train? To my house?’

‘No. We came on the bus. I wish we did come on the train, the bus was really slow. And it made me feel a bit sick.’ He lays the sheet of paper back on the counter.

‘And who did you come with?’ I ask.

‘The angel.’

I think I must have misheard him. ‘Who?’

‘The angel brought me here. She told me that you’re my mummy.’

‘The angel?’

He nods.

I glance around, suddenly aware that Harry might not be the only stranger in my house. ‘Is she here now?’ I ask in a whisper. ‘Is there someone else here with you?’

‘No, she’s gone. She told me to do some drawing and you’d be here soon.’

I relax my shoulders, relieved that there’s no one else in my home. But it still doesn’t help me solve the problem of who this little boy is. ‘How did you get into the house?’ I ask, nervously wondering if I might find a smashed window somewhere.

‘Through the front door, silly,’ he replies with a smile, rolling his eyes.

Through the front door? Did I leave it open somehow? I’m sure I would never have done that. What’s going on here? I should call someone. The authorities. The police. Somebody will be looking for this child. They will be frantic with worry. ‘Would you like a hot chocolate, Harry?’ I ask, keeping my voice as calm as possible. ‘I was going to make one for myself, so—’

‘Do you make it with milk?’ he interrupts. ‘Or with hot water? It’s definitely nicer with milk.’ 

I suppress a smile. ‘I agree, Harry. I always make it with milk.’

‘Okay. Yes, please,’ he replies. ‘Hot chocolate would be lovely.’

My heart squeezes at his politeness.

‘Shall I carry on colouring in my picture,’ he says, ‘or shall I help you? Because I’m really good at stirring in the chocolate.’

‘Well, that’s lucky,’ I reply, ‘because I’m terrible at stirring in the chocolate, so it’s a good thing you’re here to help me.’

He grins and slides off the stool.

What am I doing? I need to call the police right now. This child is missing from somewhere. But, oh God, just give me ten minutes with this sweet little boy who believes I’m his mother. Just a few moments of make-believe and then I’ll do the right thing. I reach out to touch his head and immediately snatch my hand back. What am I thinking? This boy has to go back to his real mother; she must be paralysed with worry.

He smiles up at me again and my chest constricts.

‘Okay,’ I say, taking a breath and blinking back any threat of tears. ‘We’ll do the chocolate in a minute. I’m just going to make a quick phone call in the hall, okay?’

‘Oh, okay.’

‘Carry on with your drawing for a little while. I won’t be long.’

He climbs back up onto the stool and selects a dark green pencil before resuming his colouring with a look of serious concentration. I turn away and pad out to the hall, where I retrieve my phone from my bag. But instead of dialling the police, I call another number. It rings twice.

‘Tess.’ The voice at the other end of the line is clipped, wary.

‘Hi, Scott. I need you to come over.’

‘What? Now?’

‘Yes. Please, it’s important.’

‘Tessa, I’m knackered, and it’s hideous out there. I’ve just sat down with a cup of tea. Can’t it wait till tomorrow?’

‘No.’ Standing by the hall table, I glimpse Harry through the doorway, the curls of his fringe flopping over one eye. Am I dreaming him?

‘What’s the matter?’ Scott says this the way he always says it. What he really means is, What’s the matter now? Because there’s always something the matter. I’m his damaged wife, who’s always having some new drama or make-believe crisis. Only this time he’ll see it’s something real, it’s something not of my making.

‘I can’t tell you over the phone, it’s too weird. You have to come over, see for yourself.’

His sigh comes long and hard down the phone. ‘Give me twenty minutes, okay?’

‘Okay. Thanks, Scott. Get here as soon as you can.’ 

My heart pounds, trying to make sense of what’s happening. That little boy in there says an angel brought him. He says I’m his mummy. But he’s not mine. So where on earth did he come from?

I take a breath and go back into the kitchen. The air is warm, welcoming, cosy. Nothing like the usual sterile atmosphere in here.

‘Can we make hot chocolate now?’ Harry looks up with shining eyes.

‘Of course. I’ll get the mugs and the chocolate. You open that drawer over there and pass me the smallest pan you can find.’

He eagerly does as I ask.

‘Harry,’ I say. ‘Where are your parents, your mummy and daddy?’

He stares at the pans in the drawer.

‘Harry?’ I prompt.

‘They’re not here,’ he replies. ‘Is this one small enough?’ He lifts out a stainless-steel milk pan and waves it in my direction.

‘Perfect.’ I nod and take it from him. ‘Can you tell me where you live?’

No reply.

‘Did you run away from home? Are you lost?’

‘No.’

‘But where’s your house or flat? The place you live? Is it here in Friern Barnet? In London? Close to my house?’

He scowls and looks down at the flagstone floor.

‘Do you have a last name?’ I ask as gently as I can.

He looks up at me, his chin jutting out. ‘No.’

I try again, crouching down so I’m on his level. ‘Harry, darling, what’s your mummy’s name?’

‘You’re my new mummy. I have to stay here now.’ His bottom lip quivers.

‘Okay, sweetie. Don’t worry. Let’s just make our drinks, shall we?’

He nods vigorously and sniffs.

I give his hand a squeeze and straighten up. I wish I hadn’t had to call Scott. And yet I need him to be here when I ring the police. I can’t deal with them on my own, not after what happened before. I’m dreading their arrival – the questions, the sideways glances, the implication that I might have done something wrong. I haven’t done anything wrong, though. Have I?

And Harry… he’ll be taken away. What if his parents have been abusive? What if he has to go into foster care? A thousand thoughts run through my mind, each worse than the one before. But it’s not my place to decide what happens to him. There’s nothing I can do about any of it, because he’s not mine. 

I don’t have a child. Not any more.

 

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