*Review Round-Up* Nov & Dec 2015

Hi readers, it has been a while since our last Review Round-Up, and so I do hope that you are all well and had a fantastic Christmas Holiday!

Although I have been reading a great deal, with a house move to the coast over the Christmas period, and having a short time without Wi-Fi it has taken me a little longer to write and publish blog posts. I have, however, been enjoying Scarborough (UK) life with walks along the coast, up the cliffs and around the castle remains, as well as visiting author Anne Brontes grave! Meanwhile, Tina has held up the fort like a true warrior with the amount of reviews she has posted, as well as assisting a local Lit Fest! Thanks, Tina ❤

We have quite a mix of genres from the end of 2015 to share with you, from dystopian sci-fi fantasies, to erotic paranormal romances, historical romances and a mystery chick-lit! Amongst them is also a gritty, Scottish crime thriller, Blue Wicked by Alan Jones, which we are currently running a giveaway on. (For more info on this, please click the title.)

As always, please click on the titles to view our full reviews and more!

Although a little later than usual we wish you all a Happy New Year x

Caroline & Tina 🙂

Peter WellsThe Man Who Missed the Boat by Peter Wells, contemporary drama (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: It should have been an ordinary Saturday morning. A short walk down his street to give a piano lesson at the home of a family he knew well. As it turned out, he knew them rather better than was good for him. How much trouble can a well-intentioned piano teacher land in? Simon Baxter discovers that being “well-meaning” is sometimes not enough to protect you from the chaos in other people’s lives. Even an excessive sense of “good manners” can be disastrous in the wrong circumstances. Under pressure the unorganised desires kept strictly deep inside us can surface and bring chaos to the lives of ourselves and anyone near us. Will our untrained hero make it safely across the river of life or, like so many of us, get swept up by the current of events towards an unplanned adventure? In the sudden change from “Not being loved enough” to “Being loved too much, and by more than one women,” Simon finds out more about himself than he would like. Can he choose wisely, and live with the consequences? In this, his second novel, Peter Wells continues to cast his gentle but penetrating light on those foibles and weaknesses which lie beneath the exterior of the apparently most ordered lives. Those hidden character traits which can, in the right circumstances, surface and toss their owner, and anyone around him or her, most unpleasantly.

Point vmpThe Point of Evil, Point Vamp: Book Four by Victoria Bliss, erotic paranormal romance (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: Blood and sex were all he ever wanted until love gave him something worth living an eternity for.

Steve—who had been a womanizer in life and was even more so in death—prowls the Point using his vampiric wiles to get the blood and sex he craves. He’s always looking for his next meal and when he sees a tall, curvy beauty with a red scarf around her neck, he thinks he’s found it.

Eloise is different—she’s shy and needs encouragement, and Steve just can’t get her out of his mind. He has to take his time, get to know her and slowly seduce her. When she disappears, leaving only a note begging him not to pursue her further, he can’t help himself and ends up in the service of George Aquino, a vampire crime boss with a penchant for twisted and cruel torture and a dungeon full of prisoners.

A daring rescue, a difficult choice and love against the odds. Do you dare visit the point of evil?

The Point Vamp series

What is The Point? It is the hottest club in town for both Vampires and humans alike. It has a large dance floor and a bar like any other club but once you disappear behind the VIP only door you find out what makes The Point so unique. Sex, blood and lust all behind closed doors and only accessed by the chosen ones.

Now, you become a chosen one and get to see the sexy world behind that door.

Welcome to The Point.

Dariana30 Days by JA Heron, erotic thriller (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: Dariana Walsh is the daughter of a ruthless gangster and heir to his empire. Not only does she feel trapped, but she has many questions about numerous incidents that have happened in her life so far. Particularly, what happened to her mother? Her father sees her as his little girl, but she longs to be treated like an adult. He wants to shape her, to become more like him, but she resists, the only way she knows how…

One of Wilson Walsh’s men – Chas – is not who he seems. He was sent to infiltrate, earn trust and walk away with Wilson’s most treasured possession, his daughter. He has a plan to take down the most unrelenting man to walk the streets of East London.
Over the next thirty days, blood is shed, friendships are formed and amongst all of the pain and suffering, surprisingly, love blossoms.

In a sea of betrayal and violence… time and love know no bounds.

***Contains strong sexual and violent scenes ~ over 18’s only. There are strong, dark scenes in this book if you do not wish to read about violence, sexual violence or child abuse, then please do not buy this book***

Treagar's redemption coverTraegar’s Redemption (Woodland Creek) by Isobelle Cate, sci-fi paranormal time-travel romance (reviewed by Caroline)

Blurb: Marcus Theodoric Treagar is a sabretooth with a curse that has him traveling through time, leaving a trail of dead bodies. Not only that, but as soon as he falls in love, he is wrenched away from that period and returned to 16th century Venice. To save the last remaining piece of his heart, he refuses to become involved again.

Until Paisley Halleran.

As the daughter of the shifter chronicler, Paisley Halleran knows that magick and the paranormal abound in Woodland Creek. With her adopted brother, Virgil Rowtag, they fight for every shifter’s rights in the area. When Paisley comes face to face with Marcus, who has been arrested for a murder he does not remember committing, she believes he is innocent. Marcus, on the other hand, knows he has finally found the woman truly meant for him.
However, not everything is cut and dried. Paisley unearths tragic secrets and lies that link her to Marcus. Not only will it show her whether Marcus is truly innocent or guilty of the murders in Woodland Creek, it will also spell the difference between staying with Marcus because she wants to, or letting him go because she has no choice. 

NaliniShield of Winter (Psy-Changeling #13) by Nalini Singh, sci-fi fantasy paranormal romance (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: Assassin. Soldier. Arrow. That is who Vasic is, who he will always be. His soul drenched in blood, his conscience heavy with the weight of all he’s done, he exists in the shadows, far from the hope his people can almost touch – if only they do not first drown in the murderous insanity of a lethal contagion. To stop the wave of death, Vasic must complete the simplest and most difficult mission of his life.

For if the Psy race is to survive, the empaths must wake . . .

Having rebuilt her life after medical ‘treatment’ that violated her mind and sought to stifle her abilities, Ivy should have run from the black-clad Arrow with eyes of winter frost. But Ivy Jane has never done what she should. Now, she’ll fight for her people, and for this Arrow who stands as her living shield, yet believes he is beyond redemption.

But as the world turns to screaming crimson, even Ivy’s fierce will may not be enough to save Vasic from the cold darkness . . .

RavenscrestThe Ghosts of Ravencrest (The Ravencrest Saga #1) by Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross, modern gothic, erotic horror, paranormal (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: Darkness Never Dies …
Ravencrest Manor has always been part of the family. The ancestral home of the Mannings, Ravencrest’s walls have been witness to generations of unimaginable scandal, horror, and depravity. Imported stone by stone from England to northern California in the early 1800s, the manor now houses widower Eric Manning, his children, and his staff. Ravencrest stands alone, holding its memories and ghosts close to its dark heart, casting long, black shadows across its grand lawns, through the surrounding forests, and over the picturesque town of Devilswood, below.

Dare to Cross the Threshold …
Ravencrest Manor is the most beautiful thing new governess, Belinda Moorland, has ever seen, but as she learns more about its tangled past of romance and terror, she realizes that beauty has a dark side. Ravencrest is built on secrets, and its inhabitants seem to be keeping plenty of their own – from the handsome English butler, Grant Phister, to the power-mad administrator, Mrs. Heller, to Eric Manning himself, who watches her with dark, fathomless eyes. But Belinda soon realizes that the living who dwell in Ravencrest have nothing on the other inhabitants – the ones who walk the darkened halls by night … the ones who enter her dreams … the ones who are watching … and waiting …

Welcome to Ravencrest …
Who is the man digging in the garden beyond Belinda’s bedroom window? Who – or what – is watching her from the vents? From ghostly screams and the clutching bony fingers of death in the indoor pool, to the trio of gliding nuns in the east wing who come at Belinda with black blazing eyes, to the beckoning little girl in the red dress who died more than two centuries ago, Belinda is thrust into a world of waking nightmares where there is no distinction between the living and the dead, and there are no limits to the horrors that await. Witchcraft is afoot at Ravencrest and as unspeakable terrors begin to unfold, Belinda realizes that her beautiful new home is a keeper of tragedy, a collector of souls. And it wants to add her to its collection …

Windward Secrets CoverWindward Secrets by K.A. Davis, paranormal horror suspense, mystery, chick-lit (reviewed by Caroline)

Blurb: At just over 67,700 words Windward Secrets is a fast paced mystery laced  with humour, suspense, and a touch of the paranormal that will make the reader gasp at times, and soften their hearts at other times.

When Claire McPherson booked Windward Cottage, for the annual reunion with three college friends, her biggest concern was whether they would like the weather-beaten, old Victorian on Cape Cod. Claire, Diane, Jill, and Caroline are in for more than a little Right and R. Windward Cottage has its own special powers of seduction. After 35 years of friendship they thought they knew everything about each other, but the old house draws confessions out of each and leads them unwillingly into a 50yearold mystery.

What was planned to be a vacation filled with fun, food, and reminiscing turns into one that will change their lives forever. Who or what is trying to frighten them? Only one woman’s stubborn determination keeps them at Windward Cottage when common sense tells them to leave. Fear, danger, and unexplained events connect the four women to each other and to Windward Cottage. Three of the women find their futures, and one finds her past.

Readers will recognize someone they know in every character as Windward Secrets heightens their awareness of the heinous crime of human trafficking.

Dream AlchemyDream Alchemy (Life and Shadow Series) by Nicholas Boyd Crutchley, dystopian sci-fi fantasy (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: A warrior battles hydra.

The Blood Plague liquefies eyes.

A rapper rails against Earth’s ecological ruin.

From the pitch Abyss, Chaos corrupts our dreams. 

On stealing the dreams of an old warrior and priestess, Chaos discovers them to be essential ingredients for his dream alchemy. With their souls the dark god can control Sol, Dragonland’s angelic ruler, and release his wanton daughter, Babalon, from Hell. If the devil queen returns and swallows the angel’s soul, the veil separating reality from the pitch Abyss will tear, and Chaos will pour forth and warp reality. Can Sol defeat Chaos? Or will Babalon’s poison kiss seduce him?

Through the psiqnet, a network of human minds and quantum artificial intelligences (QAIs), consumers shop Earth towards ecological ruin. The preachers of Gaia, ecoterrorists woven within the system, seek to bring economic and ecological harmony through Gaia QAI. Yet as Gaia begins to infect other QAIs with compassion, the Blood Plague rises, intent on exterminating humankind.

What force connects Dragonland and Earth?

The Life & Shadow Series explores how genetic engineering, synthetic biology and nanotechnology will impact humankind and Earth’s ecology. More specifically, themes include the outcome of human minds interfacing with artificial intelligences, the long-term effect of humankind on natural ecosystems, and compassion in society.

goddessGoddess by Kelee Morris, contemporary, erotic romance (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: Wife, mother, PTA president… Sex Goddess?

For Julia Nelson, it was only a faded tattoo, almost forgotten, like the sex-charged dreams that inspired it some 20 years ago.

For renowned, rugged-sexy archaeologist Dr. Ashland Stewart, it was his greatest discovery, the sacred emblem of an ancient goddess culture.

Two symbols, eons apart, yet exact duplicates. It must be a coincidence. But when Julia and Ashland meet, their connection is instantaneous, powerful, erotic.

Julia’s suburban life is safe and comfortable. She has everything to lose.

Ashland’s world is remote archaeological digs and flings with younger women. He’s sexually free but emotionally guarded.

Ashland awakens Julia’s long buried inner goddess with breath-taking passion and insatiable desire.

But their sexual adventure becomes increasingly perilous as their emotional barriers crumble. Will Julia risk falling in love and soaring to new heights, or will she return to her earthbound responsibility to her family? 

BlueWicked_Dark_300DPIBlue Wicked by Alan Jones, crime thriller, drama (reviewed by Caroline)

Blurb: ‘Blue Wicked’ is a gritty thriller set in the south side of Glasgow. Eddie Henderson finds himself as the unlikely investigator with information that there’s a serial killer targeting the substance dependent underclass who inhabit the notorious Glasgow housing estates. The police force ignore his warnings but one young detective believes him and she helps him search for the truth, despite putting her own career at risk. Their desperate search for the truth on their own proves Eddie right and sparks off a massive manhunt, with Eddie and Catherine, the young detective, at the forefront of the investigation. The book contains a fair bit of strong language and Glasgow dialect, and has some very violent passages.

kris tuallaA Discreet Gentleman of Discovery (The Discreet Gentleman Series #1) by Kris Tualla, historical romance (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: Brander Hansen lost his hearing at age seven, his inheritance at twenty-three. Furious at his father’s betrayal, Brander leaves home to make his way as Lord Olsen, a ‘discreet gentleman of discovery’ in 1721 Christiania, Norway. He intends to gain his own estate and begins buying the debt markers on Kildahlshus.

Baroness Regin Kildahl’s husband has gambled away her estate and sunk to more dangerous habits. She writes to Lord Olsen soliciting his help saving both her husband and her home. When her husband dies, Regin offers herself and her title to anyone who will redeem his gambling debts, unaware of Brander’s plan and circumventing his efforts.

The Hansen heir accepts her offer and hires Lord Olsen to deliver his bride. Brander’s choices are clear: give the widow and her estate to his younger brother, or claim them both as his own. But who would accept a deaf husband?

LachlanDiscovered (Forsaken Blood #1) by Em Taylor, sci-fi romance (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: Lachlan Ethelred Mackenzie looks like an ordinary sexy university professor, but for over a millennium, he’s been one of a number of his kind trying to steer humanity towards the heavens. But humans are slow and stubborn.

It’s been a long slow journey since the spaceship from Vampyras experienced technical difficulty near Earth in 1006 and the Vampyrs had to abandon ship, and learn to survive on a planet filled with primitive beings.

It’s now 2061, and humanity is heading to Mars – perhaps now the Vampyrs can research space folding technology away from prying human eyes.

Psychologist, Doctor Kate Maxwell is excited about going to Mars—except for one thing – she’s terrified of the journey. A space accident when she was twelve has left her with PTSD and a fear of space travel. But when the handsome Professor, Lachlan Mackenzie becomes her cabin mate she finds herself falling for him all too easily. But why is he so reticent? He’s cute, single and seems altogether perfect.

Things are getting complicated for Lachlan. He’s falling for the sexy red-headed psychologist, his long-lost daughter is on board the spaceship to Mars and she has no clue what or who he is and it seems that the leader of the Vampyr council is plotting something. Lachlan has too many secrets and too many problems. And Kate is the only thing he wants. Can he keep his hands and his fangs away from her? Does he want to? And what will happen if she discovers his secret?

All hell is about to break loose.

This book contains scenes of an adult nature.

Sex Snow and MistletoeSex, Snow and Mistletoe (short story) by Laura Barnard, contemporary, festive holiday romance (reviewed by Caroline)

Blurb: Melinda is already having a crappy Christmas. Forced to attend some snotty bitch’s wedding is not the way to start out the holidays. But when a car crash pushes her into the path of a handsome stranger she’s glad to follow his snowy, sexy and seductive path. But is he too good to be true? And will she make it to the wedding before her best friend loses her mind with worry?

Please note this is a short story of 10k words.

MirandaMiranda’s Dilemma (Fashionably Impure #1) by Natasha Blackthorne, erotic, regency, historical romance (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: Poised to become Mayfair’s most expensive and exclusive courtesan, Miss Miranda Jones finds her rise inexplicably blocked by a socially powerful nobleman. Scorned by her ducal father and determined to attain everything that life has denied her due to an accident of birth, she’s not about to let this arrogant earl stop her.

Adrian Sutherland, the Earl of Danvers, saw his father destroyed by a heartless, predatory courtesan. He has no time or patience for such exotic, expensive ladybirds. He’s far too busy restoring his family’s wealth and reputation whilst doing what he can to protect his friends from the clutches of all the scheming courtesans of London.

Then a moment of compassion turns intense dislike to breathless passion, and these two strong-willed, fiercely proud people are compelled to indulge in a brief affair. Each is convinced that they can satisfy their craving for the other without emotional risk.

But neither realizes that a little dalliance can be a dangerous thing.

Reader Advisory: This is an erotic historical romance and it contains frank sexual language and period appropriate sexual slang, frequent sexual scenes and descriptions and general bedchamber naughtiness. The characters discuss abuse issues from their backstories during the course of their developing relationship. For Adults 18 & Over Only.

Men of the BorderlandsThe Men of the Border Lands Collection, Volume 1 (Ménage Everlasting) by Marla Monroe, erotic, futuristic ménage à trois romance (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: (This collection includes three books from the Men of the Border Lands series, nearly 110k words total). MFM, erotic romance.

In Belonging to Them, while escaping slavery in the Border Lands, Heather hides in a trailer belonging to brothers Brandon and Bolton. They take her to their farm and prove they won’t harm her. Bolton quickly falls in love, but Brandon pulls away. After a wolf attack almost takes her from them, Brandon must realize he could lose the best thing that’s ever happened to him.

In A Home with Them, fed up with the reluctant men who have cared for her for five years, Jessie takes matters into her own hands. Wyatt and Kent worry that their kind of love isn’t what Jessie needs, but a tough life out in the Border Lands and a kidnapping show the men that Jessie belongs with them.

In Their Border Lands Temptress, after the year of catastrophes, Ronnie jumps at an offer of protection from a lifelong friend. When the safety becomes abuse, she runs. Brice and Garrett know she needs a man to protect her, and they are hell-bent to help her. When danger shows up at their door, Ronnie must decide if she’s ready for them to be more than lovers or if she’s too scared to let them into her heart.

The Border Lands are a dangerous place, but love and passion are often the keys to surviving.

** A Siren Erotic Romance

HMFHold Me Until Forever (Grayson Brothers #3) by Christina Phillips, erotic contemporary romance (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: She’s the only one he wants…and the one he can never have

Ella Clark has been in love with Alex Grayson forever. She’s tired of being invisible—or worse, being treated like his kid sister. If she can just get him to drop his iron-fisted control for two seconds, she’ll prove she knows exactly how to blow his mind.

Alex has been fighting his attraction to Ella since her should-have-been-innocent sweet sixteen kiss burned down his world. He’s damaged, and there’s no way he’ll ever drag her into his screwed up life. Until she offers him something he’s always craved—steamy, no-strings sex inside his exclusive BDSM club. Where she’ll be safe from the darkness that haunts him.

Except there’s nothing safe about being with Ella, and the more she gives, the harder it is to let her go. If he stays, he risks everything, but how can he walk away from the only woman he’s ever needed?

**Blog Tour w/Guest Post, Review & Giveaway** Blue Wicked by Alan Jones

It was a year ago when I reviewed Alan Jones‘ first novel, The Cabinetmaker. I was absolutely intrigued by the author’s writing style and the in-depth research that I felt had been undertaken. He certainly knows how to write a great crime thriller/drama! And so, it is with great pleasure that we have the chance to be a part of the blog tour and review for his second novel, Blue Wicked.

Included is an exclusive GUEST POST written by Alan Jones, a four-chapter sampler, and he is kindly offering a GIVEAWAY, where one lucky winner will win a paperback of Blue Wicked, and another will win an e-copy! For further details, please scroll below!

BlueWicked_Dark_300DPI

Blurb:

‘Blue Wicked’ is a gritty thriller set in the south side of Glasgow. Eddie Henderson finds himself as the unlikely investigator with information that there’s a serial killer targeting the substance dependent underclass who inhabit the notorious Glasgow housing estates. The police force ignore his warnings but one young detective believes him and she helps him search for the truth, despite putting her own career at risk. Their desperate search for the truth on their own proves Eddie right and sparks off a massive manhunt, with Eddie and Catherine, the young detective, at the forefront of the investigation. The book contains a fair bit of strong language and Glasgow dialect, and has some very violent passages.

Amazon UK buy link

Amazon US buy link

GUEST POST – ALAN JONES

Writing and me: motivation, inspirations and ideas.

What makes me want to write?

Probably like most book junkies, I read incessantly from an early age. As a child, I was brought up in a very religious household, where television was deemed inappropriate. Oddly, reading was encouraged and even more strangely, not censored, and with plenty spare time not glued to a TV screen, I became a voracious devourer of books of all types. My dad had a reasonable collection of books and we lived close to a good library; when I outgrew children’s books faster than my peers, a perceptive Librarian let me use my junior library ticket to borrow books from the adult section without particularly screening what I was reading. (I was a fount of knowledge for my fellow pupils on sexual matters when we all discovered it existed, though most of them overtook me in turning theory into practice, with my being what you would call a ‘late developer’.)

All that reading improved my writing as well. I always enjoyed and thrived on creative writing at school, the only part of the English curriculum that suited me. When I started secondary school, the dissection of literary classics, poems and plays spoiled some of them for me, although I enjoyed most of the ones I re-visited as an adult, appreciating them for being the good read they were, and not as an academic exercise.

The joy of reading a good book, and the pleasure I got from writing, ignited in me the idea that I should give writing stories a go, but life got in the way, with a career, a wife, four children and a house that I populated with restored and hand-built furniture, all conspiring to leave me little time for writing. And we had a TV! I have to confess that I did a lot of catching up, and even my reading dipped a little while I was watching a backlog of TV series like MASH and Porridge, and all the films that I’d missed over the years.

About fifteen years ago, I had a run of reading what I thought were mediocre books, some from authors that I’d previously liked, that left me disappointed and restless and, in my own mind, I thought that I could do better than that. Only, I never did. Then, one day, I told myself that I should put my money where my mouth was, and actually write something.

I got as far as jotting down a few ideas for books, but none of them grabbed me until I came up with a rough plot for The Cabinetmaker. I wrote in fits and starts for the next ten or twelve years, often doubting that I could finish it, but it reached a critical mass about half way through, and it all fell into place, taking less than six months to complete.

Write what you know is the old adage, so that’s what I did. The first book was about making furniture, playing football and living in Glasgow; subjects that I knew a lot about.

My second book, Blue Wicked had its roots in my job working with animals. Having the confidence that I could write, I self-published it within a year of sitting down to start it. The third book is taking a little longer, but it is almost at the first draft stage and should be going to my lovely freelance editor, Julie Lewthwaite, by Christmas. Part of the reason that it has taken longer is that I have spent more time this last year trying to promote my first two books and, although enjoyable, this has been more involved than I’d anticipated.

I get ideas for stories from a number of areas. The biggest so far have been the things like my job, my pastimes, my passions other than reading and writing, but I also love talking to people, or listening to banter in pubs and at social gatherings of all kinds. I make quick notes whenever I hear something interesting or witty, and some of these jottings eventually make their way into my books, heavily disguised to protect the guilty.

The bottom line is that I love writing and, when I’m in the mood and the words just flow from my imagination on to the screen, and I like what I read, there aren’t many things that can surpass that!

Contact Alan:

email alanjonesbooks@gmail.com

Twitter @alanjonesbooks

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100006737580444

REVIEW ***** (5* rating)

Blue Wicked is completely engrossing; the grittiness, dialogue and sheer suspense kept me gripped throughout. The reader follows vet, Eddie Henderson, who specialises in animal abuse and poisoning, when he comes across cases where cats have been subjected to antifreeze and been abused under it’s influence. However, when Eddie hears of a murder with similar circumstances he begins to suspect that maybe the animal abuser has turned to harming humans. Is he right? If so, will the police take him seriously?

The story begins with Eddie looking into the death of a cat, and I must warn all animal/cat lovers that there are some graphic and brutal scenes from early on. However, the reason I was so intrigued was because of how well-written the scenes are, the sense of how realistic it felt to read, and the enthusiasm that Eddie has to get to the bottom of just how these poor animals have come to die. Eddie is very thorough in his work, pushing as many boundaries as he has to in order to reach the truth.

When human bodies begin to be found, and victim identities are revealed, it becomes clear that many of them were the victims of drug abuse and/or alcoholism, with many of them being homeless or unemployed; people that not too many would notice have been missing. Their lives were desperate, yet when faced with death they were extremely fearful, which leads to extremely suspenseful and brutal scenes. I couldn’t help but think of Blue Wicked as Val McDermid (Wire in the Blood series) with a twist of Irvin Welsh (Trainspotting). I can very easily picture Blue Wicked as a tv detective drama, due to the dark, intense atmosphere, mixed with the relationships that Eddie has with the police.

Although the police are not very open to Eddie’s theories, this does not prevent Eddie from wanting to look further into each case. And when young officer, Catherine, shares his belief, she takes it on herself to investigate in her own time with Eddie. In Eddie’s otherwise lonely life at home, Catherine brings with her warmth and friendliness, a belief in what he is doing, and a unity whereby they work together, complimenting each other’s work along the way.

The way in which their relationship builds is fascinating in itself. With Eddie concentrating just on the work alone, he finds it a little more awkward to be sociable, coming across as cold even at times. However, just as friendships develop, the more time they spend together the more they expand on varying topics. Catherine begins to see more in him than just the investigative vet; she begins to understand his set ways and mannerisms. Meanwhile, he appreciates her help and eagerness to find more solid leads, at a time when many others are almost ignoring any connections, thus making it a risk for Catherine to go out on a limb to help him in terms of her career.

I am so glad I have had the pleasure to read both Blue Wicked, and The Cabinetmaker; both of which are stand alone novels. Fans of gritty crime thrillers will appreciate the writing that Alan Jones provides in both story-telling and character building. I am looking forward to reading more from this author in the future.

Reviewed by Caroline Barker

You can check out our review of The Cabinetmaker here.

And, here you can enjoy the first four chapters of Blue Wicked, courtesy of Alan Jones.

BLUE WICKED sample

GIVEAWAY

To be in with a chance to win a paperback or an e-copy of Blue Wicked all you need to do is type your name in the comments box below. (You can also enter on our Facebook page.)

Two winners will be picked at random on Tuesday, 2nd February 2016 at 5pm GMT.

The first to be picked will receive a paperback, and the second an e-copy, direct from the author.

The winners will be contacted as soon as they are picked out.

We would like to thank everyone in advance for entering, and wish you all the very best of luck! 🙂

Caroline & Tina

 

BW_Blog_Tour

Review Round Up Sept ’15

Hi readers, we do hope that you have been able to settle down with a great book, especially now that we are seeing the early autumnal leaves fall and the weather has now taken to a chillier feel! Yes, the warm sunshine from those September afternoons is truly behind us, and my favourite time to read is this time of year when pj’s become your best friend, along with a blanket, the sofa, a nice, warm beverage, and of course, a great book.

And so, for a few romantic read ideas, a little later than planned, we have our September reviewed titles for you to take a sneaky glimpse at and hopefully indulge yourself with! They consist of twelve titles mostly covering contemporary, chicklit, historical, erotic and comedy romances, with some paranormals and a revenge thriller!

If you’d like to share some of your cosy autumn/winter reads we would love to hear from you.

Happy reading! 🙂

Caroline & Tina ❤

As always, please click on the title/author for our full review posts!

Perfectly InnocentPerfectly Innocent (Audio Book) by Tamra Lassiter, contemporary romance, suspense (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: Innocent or guilty—there’s nothing perfect about it.

Phoebe Davidson is a good girl who’s been through some bad times. Her life changed forever when she learned that her husband was living a secret life. Now, six years later, she’s just going through the motions of her life, afraid to let anyone in.

When a horrific crime occurs in her home, she meets Logan Matthews, a police detective working the case. When Phoebe herself is charged with the murder, can she trust Logan? Can she, and should she let him into her life?

Lotus daughter of darkness pt 1Lotus (Daughter of Darkness): Lotus’s Journey Part I by C.J. Pinard, paranormal crime mystery thriller (reviewed by Caroline)

Blurb: 4 authors will each take a different daughter born from the Prince of Darkness, Vlad Montour. (Also known as Vlad the Impaler, an evil villain from history).

Blair – Chrissy Peebles
Jezebel – Kristen Middleton
Victoria – W.J. May
Lotus – C.J. Pinard

The Daughters of Darkness is a series of female heroines who may or may not know each other, but all have the same father, Vlad Montour.

Lotus
Don’t let the pretty name fool you. This daughter is no delicate flower.

Lotus grew up orphaned. Having no idea who her real parents were, she’s been drifting around the U.S. for over 100 years moving every 15 years or so since she just doesn’t seem to age. She’d figured out on her own that she had to be at least part vampire, as she needs to suck on a few blood bags a month to survive.

Working as a detective with the Denver P.D., Lotus is searching desperately for a serial killer who is murdering the homeless of the city. Except these are not ritualistic or thrill killings. These victims have been drained of blood and Lotus knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they have been committed by a vampire.

Her search will take her to Las Vegas, and that is where the true adventure will begin, when she finds out who has been searching for her.

This is part I of Lotus’s journey. Part II will be out in late October 2015.

Jaxson (River Pack Wolves 1) - New Adult Paranormal RomanceJaxson (River Pack Wolves #1) by Alisa Woods, New Adult paranormal romance (reviewed by Caroline)

Blurb: Three brothers. Three Secrets. One hope to save the shifters of Seattle.
Former SEAL Jaxson River would give his life for his brothers and his pack, but if he doesn’t claim a mate soon, he’ll be forced to step down as their alpha. There’s only one problem: Jaxson’s dark secret would kill any mate he claimed. With someone kidnapping shifters off the street—and only Jaxson and his brothers, Jace and Jared, to stop them—now is not the time for his secret to come out.

Curvy Olivia Lilyfield is a half-witch orphan with a dark secret of her own. She wants to atone for it by doing good in the world, so when she finds a wolf being tortured in an alley, she doesn’t hesitate to help… even though wolves and witches mix like matches and TNT.

Olivia’s dangerous magic means she can’t let anyone get too close—but Jaxson can’t keep his hands off her, and his kisses are more than she can resist. As they race to save the disappearing shifters of Seattle, the true danger lies in loving each other. They’re playing with magical fire… and their secrets could end up destroying them both.

Jaxson is a complete novel with HEA, the first in the River Pack Wolves trilogy (Jace and Jared coming soon).

Contains scorching shifter sex, alpha military heroes, and sexy witches. Only readers over 18 should dive into the deliciously hot world of the River brothers.

Lady BlayneThe Delicate Matter of Lady Blayne (Intimate Secrets #1) by Natasha Blackthorne, erotic historical romance (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: Catriona, Lady Blayne is recovering from a most delicate situation. Driven to the brink of madness by love for her late husband, a young man too ill to meet the demands of the marriage bed, she teeters on the brink of scandal. Now she must face the carnal temptation personified by her husband’s cousin and heir, James, the new Lord Blayne. His sensual appeal, contrasted with his iron will and stern self-mastery fascinates her. She can’t help but ask: what if sensual indulgence is the only way out of her darkness? However, she is not free to explore the idea. There are those who seek to control the young widow, keeping her imprisoned through emotional manipulation and physical coercion. With her growing restlessness, the very people she loves and trusts the most are becoming an increasing danger to her sanity and safety.

James is determined to protect Catriona—but he will not soften to her again. She rejected him once and James can’t risk losing his heart a second time. As heir to the Blayne baronetcy, he must marry a woman socially and politically appropriate. Such a scandalously self-indulgent lady as Catriona won’t do. Yet the pretty girl he once knew has grown into a beautiful, curvaceous woman that is every man’s dream.

Especially his.

Erotic Romance; Regency Historical; Elements of Sensual Domination, Spanking and Light Bondage; Rubenesque Heroine; Character-Driven Story with Angst and Strong Internal Conflicts; Standalone Long Novel.

Reader Advisory: The characters discuss issues of abuse which took place in the heroine’s backstory. Frank sexual language & period appropriate sexual slang and general bedchamber naughtiness. 

a59da-newaacoverAbigail’s Affair (Looking for Love #1) by Pat Spence, contemporary rom-com, chicklit (reviewed by Caroline)

Blurb: Reasoning that absence makes the heart grow fonder and attempting to force her married lover’s hand, 30 -year old Abigail Aske decides to visit an old friend in Australia.

But staying with a 6’2”Amazonian fitness freak proves something of a challenge, as does maintaining ‘no contact’ with Jake, not to mention resisting other tempting ‘offers’.

Set against a wonderful Australian backdrop, with a host of quirky, emotionally dysfunctional characters, Abigail’s Affair tells of a woman’s search for love and happiness, revealing the highs and lows of having an affair, and showing how the experience of travel becomes a voyage of self-discovery, with surprising results.

A story of love, lies, betrayal and hope…

For anyone who is having an affair, has had an affair or is thinking of having an affair, this book is ESSENTIAL reading…

rob watkins

How to Kill a Minority Shareholder and get away with it by Rob Watkins, revenge thriller (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: Deb had worked and fought her way from council estate to a position that promised a comfortable retirement for her and her husband, Bob, and would make all their sacrifices over the years worthwhile. Her skill, dedication and knowledge had enabled her to take a failing, small family business she had joined a quarter century before and turn it into an international empire. She had made her boss and the shareholders multi-millionaires. On paper, even Deb would walk away with a few million when it came time to retire.

At the happiest and proudest point of her hard-working life, Deb’s evil boss, Ms Summer Ponsenbury, after twenty-five years of festering, hidden jealousy, shattered Deb’s world. With the help of her unscrupulous cohorts, Summer took everything she had promised. She destroyed Deb’s reputation, took her rewards, trashed Deb’s achievements and dumped her at rock bottom.

All concerned believed they were above the law. They were too powerful and too rich to have to worry about Deb getting justice. They thought no one would care… they were wrong. They had forgotten about Bob. The fight was just about to start.

Sinful Confessions (Cynfell Brothers #1)Sinful Confessions (The Cynfell Brothers #1) novella by Samantha Holt, historical romance (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: Lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. The Cynfell brothers are the very embodiment of a sinful existence. But could the right woman change that?

Wrath

Locked behind the walls of Lockwood Manor, Julian Cynfell, the Marquess of Lockwood whiles away his days writing angry letters, drinking and sleeping. He never expects his solitude to be interrupted by a brazen American heiress.

An American heiress who is expecting a wedding.

Viola Thompson can’t believe her luck when the English lord she has been corresponding with for the better part of a year asks her to visit him. This has to mean an offer of marriage surely? Finally, Viola will prove to her family and friends that she is more than a ruined woman with no prospects. Not to mention she knows they will be a love match. No one could write such beautiful letters without being the perfect man.

But when she arrives in cold, dreary England to be faced by a foul-tempered, grizzled—albeit in a handsome way—marquess, her dreams of marriage are quickly dashed. Can she draw the lord out of his melancholy ways? And does she even want to remain in England while rumours of three dead wives circulate around Lockwood?

One thing is for certain, this American heiress has never been one to back down from a challenge—especially when not even the Atlantic Ocean could dampen the patent desire running between them.

The temptressThe Temptress by C.J. Fallowfield, contemporary erotic romance (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: There’s just something about a French accent, something that conjures images of romance, sex and passion. There’s a reason French is called ‘the language of love.’

Lulu McQueen runs an exclusive honeytrap agency, to test the fidelity of rich men for their suspicious partners. While her business flourishes and her track record in the field remains unbroken, earning her the nickname of The Temptress, her personal life isn’t so successful.

A trip to Paris, years ago, led to the most erotic encounter of her life with Luc, a charismatic, dominant, irresistible Frenchman. For one night she experienced bliss on a scale she’d never encountered and fled in the morning, ashamed of herself, but her Parisian one night stand was burned into her memories and no one since had compared.

With no one available on short notice, Lulu steps in to lure Mrs. Le Grand’s rich husband, for an extortionately high fee. Lulu’s in for the shock of her life when she finds her mark at the hotel bar. Luc Le Grand still has a face and body to make Adonis weep. He exudes confidence, masculinity and raw sex appeal.

The question now isn’t whether Lulu can tempt him, but whether she can resist him, retain her reputation and secure her fee, or whether she’ll fall under Mr. Le Grand’s spell. Again.

Crimson coveThe Crimson Corset: The Vampires of Crimson Cove by Alistair Cross, modern gothic paranormal horror (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: Welcome to Crimson Cove

Sheltered by ancient redwoods overlooking the California coast, the cozy village of Crimson Cove has it all: sophisticated retreats, fine dining, and a notorious nightclub, The Crimson Corset. It seems like a perfect place to relax and get close to nature. But not everything in Crimson Cove is natural.

When Cade Colter moves to town, he expects it to be peaceful to the point of boredom. But he quickly learns that after the sun sets and the fog rolls in, the little tourist town takes on a whole new kind of life – and death.

Darkness at the Edge of Town

Renowned for its wild parties and history of debauchery, The Crimson Corset looms on the edge of town, inviting patrons to sate their most depraved desires and slake their darkest thirsts. Proprietor Gretchen VanTreese has waited centuries to annihilate the Old World vampires on the other side of town and create a new race – a race that she alone will rule. When she realizes Cade Colter has the key that will unlock her plan, she begins laying an elaborate trap that will put everyone around him in mortal danger.

Blood Wars

The streets are running red with blood, and as violence and murder ravage the night, Cade must face the darkest forces inside himself, and perhaps even abandon his own humanity, in order to protect what he loves.

“Put Bram Stoker in a giant cocktail shaker, add a pinch of Laurell K. Hamilton, a shot of John Carpenter, and a healthy jigger of absinthe, and you’ll end up with Alistair Cross’s modern Gothic chiller, “The Crimson Corset” – a deliciously terrifying tale that will sink its teeth into you from page one.”
– Jay Bonansinga, New York Times Bestselling author of THE WALKING DEAD: INVASION and LUCID

“This drop-deadly tale of seduction and terror will leave you begging to be fanged … ”
– Tamara Thorne, international bestselling author of HAUNTED and MOONFALL

“I couldn’t put this book down. It’s got more hooks than a day boat out of San Pedro Harbor!”
– QL Pearce, bestselling author of SCARY STORIES FOR SLEEP-OVERS

hold me until morning

Hold Me Until Morning (Grayson Brothers #2) by Christina Phillips, contemporary erotic romance (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: A sexy category romance from Entangled’s Brazen imprint…

She’s the one girl he should never touch…

Cooper Grayson is supposed to hole up in a mountain cabin and protect his best friend’s little sister from the paparazzi for a week. That’s it. But Paris O’Connell isn’t a kid anymore, and it’s hard to remember this is strictly business when she bats her big green eyes at him…then crashes through all his carefully placed boundaries.

Paris loves a challenge. And gorgeous Cooper Grayson is the most dangerous challenge she’s faced yet. He ignores the sizzling attraction that keeps her awake at nights, and he doesn’t care about her fame or her contacts, only seeing her. When they finally kiss, Cooper leaves her bare. Exposed. His for the taking. And take he does…

For one incredibly hot week, Cooper fulfils her every fantasy. But when the real world crashes in, so does reality. And reality tells them there’s no way a Hollywood star and a bad boy from the wrong side of town could ever have a future together…

ItHappenedOneNight 500x750It Happened One Night (Adventures of Blind Dating #1) by Christine S. Feldman, contemporary rom-com (reviewed by Caroline)

Blurb: Who has time for dating these days? Certainly not struggling entrepreneur Paisley Jameson, who has way too much on her plate to pay any real attention to her shriveling social life. And not mechanic Joe Spencer either, who has a lot on his mind with both the family business and family in general. But neither can say no to the beloved mutual acquaintance who wants to set them both up on a blind date.

Which is too bad, because they both kind of wish they had said no when they show up for the dinner date and realize they’ve met before–and not under happy circumstances.

But fate seems determined to prove that they’re not so wrong for each other after all, because in spite of the intentions of both Paisley and Joe to nip this whole unfortunate blind date thing in the bud and go their separate ways, events transpire to keep them together for an evening involving muggers, foot-chases, and even a high-speed trip to the ER–

And that’s all before dessert.

Dating: it’s not for wimps…

Rogue KnightRogue Knight (Medieval Warriors #2) by Regan Walker, historical medieval romance (reviewed by Tina)

Blurb: “Mesmerizing medieval romance! A vivid portrayal of love flourishing amidst the turbulence of the years after the Norman Conquest.” — Kathryn Le Veque, USA Today Bestselling Author

York, England 1069… three years after the Norman Conquest

The North of England seethes with discontent under the heavy hand of William the Conqueror, who unleashes his fury on the rebels who dare to defy him. Amid the ensuing devastation, love blooms in the heart of a gallant Norman knight for a Yorkshire widow.

A LOVE NEITHER CAN DENY, A PASSION NEITHER CAN RESIST

Angry at the cruelty she has witnessed at the Normans’ hands, Emma of York is torn between her loyalty to her noble Danish father, a leader of the rebels, and her growing passion for an honorable French knight.

Loyal to King William, Sir Geoffroi de Tournai has no idea Emma hides a secret that could mean death for him and his fellow knights.

WAR DREW THEM TOGETHER, WAR WOULD TEAR THEM APART

War erupts, tearing asunder the tentative love growing between them, leaving each the enemy of the other. Will Sir Geoffroi, convinced Emma has betrayed him, defy his king to save her?

*Promo with Excerpt* The Fisherman’s Lily by Suzanne Spiegoski

Debut author, Suzanne Spiegoski has recently released her crime thriller, The Fisherman’s Lily. This sounds like a fascinating psychological and emotional read as we follow the main character, an NYPD homicide detective, Lily Dietz, as she discovers murders that are a little too close for comfort…

Do not bite at the bait of pleasure, till you know there is no hook beneath it.  -Thomas Jefferson

fisherman_lily_cover_final_newTitle: The Fisherman’s Lily

Author: Suzanne Spiegoski

Genre: Fiction, thriller, crime

Release date: January 26th, 2015

Released by: TouchPoint Press

Length: 264 pages

Blurb: When Lily Dietz, an ambitious yet short-tempered Asian-American NYPD homicide detective, and longtime partner John Fremont begin to work a unique but gruesome murder case, cryptic clues in the evidence start to link with Lily’s dark and troubling past—one deeply imprinted with many psychological and emotional issues.

Borderline manic-depressive and a self-destructive alcoholic, Lily is strikingly beautiful and spoiled by her younger brother, CJ, a NBA All-Star basketball Knicks player, due to guilt uprooting from their own family history; separations of heart-wrenching losses and disappointments. The hunt for the killer escalates when the detectives discover more than one murder. Someone with cruel and twisted intentions motivated by a taste for sophistication yet also depravity is targeting and brutally mutilating Asian-American women. And somehow, the murderer knows Lily far too well.

Soon the game of cat-and-mouse becomes a thrilling chase from beginning to end, where Lily’s reality is skewed and the people in it begin to doubt her, not only as a detective but as a person. Who will be able to save this damaged soul? Or who will be the one to destroy it?

Author Bio

Fisherman's Lily author_MG_0474Suzanne Spiegoski is the author of, The Fisherman’s Lily and has been published in the Michigan State Press, Complex’d, L’Oeil de la Photographie, Westfall Music Group, Figure Skating in Harlem and Backstage. She grew up in Los Angeles and Detroit, and has a B.A. in Criminal Justice from Michigan State University. She is also a photographer and professional figure skating coach. She lives in New York City with her husband and German shepherd, and is currently working on her second novel.

Social Media Pages/Website

Facebook: www.facebook.com/thefishermanslily

Twitter: SSpiegoski

Instagram: suzannespiegoski

Tumblr: SSpiegoski

Linkedin: SSpiegoski
Google+: Suzanne Spiegoski-Decamps

Personal Website: www.suzannespiegoski.com

 

Buy Links:
THE FISHERMAN’S LILY
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1CkqheP
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/19dhNN4
Amazon CA: http://amzn.to/1BSJpnu
Barnes & Noble: http://bitly.com/1ysUaF5
Booktopia: http://bit.ly/1GkdXPX

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/1xzNdTi

EXCERPT

Prologue

The uproarious crowd clamored all the way from the nosebleed section down to the courtside seats. Nearly 9:15 P.M. on a Friday night at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks, trying to reclaim what was once theirs, battled with the Lakers along the court. It was the beginning of a very long season as trade-offs had been made and contracts dealt. Second-choice in the NBA draft three years before and now playing for the Knicks, CJ had established himself to become one of the first Asian-American basketball players in history.

Fairly small compared to his other teammates, the point guard had worked hard to become who commentators now claimed was the next Jeremy Lin. His dark, shaggy brown hair plastered onto his face due to the sweltering game. Eight seconds to half time CJ ran down the court drenched in his number fifteen blue-and-orange basketball uniform. He dribbled and eyed for a pass to one of his players. He got a look, stopped at the three-point line, and then faked it. He passed the assist for an alley-oop from his center player, who threw it down with a slam-dunk as the buzzer went off. The entire arena went wild, as he had just helped tie the game: 42-42.

CJ handed out high-fives to his teammates, who were also his friends, then reached for a towel to wipe off his sweaty face. While doing so, his eyes gazed among the seats, almost as if he was seeking approval. Slowly heading for the locker rooms, he was approached by one of the reporters, but seemed more concerned about something other than the game. He saw a woman sitting in one of the courtside seats.

In her mid-thirties, she scrolled through her iPhone with one hand while the other tucked her straight jet-black hair behind her ear. She was quite beautiful, clearly Asian, 5’4″, and had almond-shaped eyes and a very slender, toned athletic figure. She stuck out like a sore thumb, for she was not in the typical attire for a place like this. Her tailored all-black suit elongated her body as well as perfectly matched her spotless black leather boots. As she put away her phone, she proudly stood up and caught CJ’s glance.

She gave a very discreet wave, almost as if she did not want anyone to notice her. CJ did, however, see her, and knew her very well. He knew she had to leave. Though he was obviously disappointed by her departure, he gave her a wink after he wiped off his dripping face with his jersey. The woman reporter shoved her microphone close to CJ’s face and began the rapid interview on the status of the game.

As CJ made time to explain about his team’s strategy to win the game to the reporter, the woman jogged away and down the backstage halls to get through to valet parking, The air was filled with musty sweat and unclean socks. She took other familiar slanting stares from CJ’s coaches, as well as the technicians and other players. They all knew where she had to go, but their expressions seemed to reflect a grimacing discomfort. Confusion was yet another countenance surrounding them, as if it was almost a disappointment or lack of effort happening frequently. She brushed off their fixated looks and focused on getting to her car, which was already waiting for her. On her way to the lot, she had called valet to have it out and ready. Finally arriving to a young man in a maroon-colored vest, she didn’t even bother to thank him but instead dropped a twenty-dollar bill. Clearly aware of her stature he said, “Thanks very much Ms. Dietz.”

Not acknowledging his gratitude, she slipped into her black 1980 Jaguar XJ6. The leather seats were also completely black with a fine-charcoal trim, and included an installed GPS system and several cigarette butts within the ashtray. As she lit up her Dunhill cigarette, she jittered with her Zippo. She took a deep drag and relished the taste within her mouth. She was never the type to ever wait too long to smoke anywhere, but if she was at one of the games, she always made this exception.

As she started up the car and began to pull out, the tires squealed along the smooth and slippery parking lot. She quickly pulled out from Penn Plaza Drive and made a sharp right turn onto 31st Street. Without any given thought, she made another quick right turn onto Eighth Avenue, blowing numerous red lights. The signature sounds of honks and sirens were nearby, yet it was no profound distraction to her. She kept speeding all the way to 58th Street, arriving in less than ten minutes flat. Her cell phone continuously rang, but she ignored it.

She discovered near the Central Park entrances that the west entrance had been completely blocked off. Frustrated, she roared nearer to the Plaza Hotel, screeching her tires once more into a nearby parking area. She vigorously jumped out of the car, left her keys in the ignition, and wrapped a clip-on badge around her neck. Another parking attendant curiously ogled her while she began to run toward the main south-end entrance into the park.

“What’s the hurry?” he asked.

She unwittingly replied back, “Trust me, you don’t need to know.”

*Promo: FREE story* A Shilling Life by Phil Lecomber

MaskOfTheVerdoy Cover - low resYou may remember our promo (with Q&A and excerpt) of Phil Lecomber‘s period crime mystery thriller, The Mask of the Verdoy (A George Harley Mystery #1). This series has started off with some fantastic reviews, and I am looking forward to the read myself at a later date. With Book 2 due to be released later in the year, the author has decided to share a FREE short story, A SHILLLING LIFE, with you to whet your appetites!

A Shilling LifeBlurb:  A Shilling Life opens with Soho veterans Benny Levine and Sammy Shapiro reminiscing in their 1960s cabaret bar about the dark days of the 1930s, when the East End was living under the threat of Sir Pelham Saint Clair’s fascist BBF movement (as featured in MASK OF THE VERDOY).

The conversation prompts Benny to begin to pen a firsthand account of the time (THE CHRONICLES OF GREEK STREET) and the first subsequent ‘story within a story’ is a stark record of the effects that extremist movements such as the Blackshirts can have on the lives of everyday folk.

Here’s a sample of the first few paragraphs:

Soho, London – 1963

For the third time that morning Benny returned to contemplate the photograph on the front page of the newspaper. Through the air vent above his head there wafted in a heady mix of piquant aromas and the industrious clamour of a Soho readying itself for another weekend’s revelry—a task that, to the casual passerby, might seem daunting in the stark light of day, without the feverish neon to flatter its glamorous squalor.

Outside in the bright autumnal morning brooms were pushed, steps hosed and canopies raised; liveried Austin vans squeezed down the narrow backstreets to deliver the raw materials for the coming night’s entertainment: livid cuts of meat and iced shoals of silver for the restaurants; crates of knocked-off spirits and wines of dubious provenance for the clip-joints; and stacks of Scandinavian delicacies (baled in brown paper wrapping) for the pornmongers.

In steamy coffee bars, slumped over sticky Formica, the victims of card sharks stared into the milky froth of their cups, numbed for the moment from the size of their losses by cheap whisky hangovers. And from anonymous-looking doorways furtive working girls slipped out into the streets to play at normal life for a few hours. All this to a soundtrack played out by the jangle of the Wurlitzer and the sigh of the Gaggia … 1960s Soho in all its truculent glory.

But cosseted in the subterranean gloom of Sammy’s Cabaret Bar, Benny Levine was lost in a different decade; transported back thirty years by a piercing stare which, although diminished somewhat by age, still held its aristocratic threat of superiority and entitlement …

And here’s the link to the download (it’s available in 3 formats – MOBI, EPUB & PDF):

http://www.georgeharley.com/books/short-stories/a-shilling-lifeI will be reviewing The Mask of the Verdoy, book 1, later in the year, but if you would like to check it out now, here is the blurb:

MaskOfTheVerdoy Cover - low resLONDON, 1932 … a city held tight in the grip of the Great Depression. George Harley’s London. The West End rotten with petty crime and prostitution; anarchists blowing up trams; fascists marching on the East End.And then, one smoggy night …The cruel stripe of a cutthroat razor … three boys dead in their beds … and a masked killer mysteriously vanishing across the smoky rooftops of Fitzrovia.

Before long the cockney detective is drawn into a dark world of murder and intrigue, as he uncovers a conspiracy that threatens the very security of the British nation.

God save the King! eh, George?

For our promo on The Mask of the Verdoy, with Q&A with Phil Lecomber and an excerpt, please follow the link below:-

*Promo w/Q&A and Excerpt* The Mask of the Verdoy (A George Harley Mystery #1) by Phil Lecomber

Purchase links for the Mask of the Verdoy:-

Amazon UK Link

Amazon US Link

**REVIEW** Dead of Night (A Tom Mariner Mystery #7) by Chris Collett

After meeting local author, Chris Collett, from Birmingham (UK) and posting a full promo on her police procedural/crime drama set in Birmingham (UK), Dead of Night (A Tom Mariner Mystery #7), I have been waiting for an opportunity to review her work. The exclusive festive post, Cinderella Boy, of a Tom Mariner short story over Christmas gave us an insight into her writing style, which piqued my interest even more as it written so well. This is a true pleasure for fans of crime, police investigations, crime dramas and thrillers. We hope you get gripped and can enjoy the mysteries of Tom Mariner!

Chris Collett 7 Dead of Night

Blurb: When a young woman disappears on her way home from work, Detective Inspector Tom Mariner tackles his most challenging investigation yet!
18-year-old Grace Clifton vanishes on her way home from work in the centre of Birmingham late at night, the case is remarkable in that not a single witness comes forward. The more he has to deal with Grace s wealthy and overbearing father, Council Leader Bob Clifton, the more Tom Mariner is inclined to believe that Grace left of her own accord.
Then the package arrives. It contains Grace s clothes, neatly pressed and laundered. A second woman disappears. And a disturbing pattern begins to emerge.
Still adapting to a new investigation team and struggling to pull its members together, Detective Inspector Mariner is about to tackle one of his strangest, most challenging cases to date.

REVIEW

Certainly a story I will not be forgetting in a hurry, Dead of Night (A Tom Mariner Mystery #7) has it all. From a brilliant, twisting plotline to likable and believable characters, as well as a powerful, emotive and intense atmosphere that will grip you and hold you until the very end.

I love that I threw myself into the series with book 7 and yet was able to warm to the characters immediately, at the same time as becoming aware of their personal situations and how they are connected to Detective Inspector Mariner. The story focuses on Mariner’s perspective as we follow his character through the investigation of a missing woman, leading us to more questions than answers when further women disappear.

Chris Collett remains true to the description of a police procedural as the reader is taken on a journey of the whole investigation, keeping track of what each officer is looking into and the results they achieve. There are times when they get results and times when they hit a brick wall – making the investigation gritty, realistic and believable.

The mystery of the plot is written well, and despite various leads to follow and different characters, it is a read that can be followed easily, yet still surprises. All information is run by him which helps keep everything together, and the reader is aware of his thoughts on the case from very early on and throughout. But one has to admire him for keeping his early instincts to himself. Instead, he asks his immediate officers what they believe could be the case.

As the author has created many likable characters, and allows the reader to become close to them, it also makes for an emotional read at times as you become absorbed in their circumstances and live through the events with them. One of the best examples of this is little Dominique. Dominique is a little girl, living in a tower block with only her mum. Usually going out to work of an evening, while Dominique is tucked up in bed, her mum is usually back home before Dominique gets up. But one morning Dominique awakens to find her mum gone. The hours turn into days and poor little Dominique must be terrified, but still manages to go to school and tries to carry on. This storyline is absolutely heart-breaking and the manner in which it is written – with great care and sensitivity – is so, so powerful.

With the first woman, Grace Clifton, going missing and little to go on initially, when a package of her laundered clothes arrives at the station it is quite eerie but so intensely gripping as it opens up more questions. The twists and turns that the investigation bring up are fantastic and some of it is so subtly written. I could quite easily imagine this to be a televised drama.

I enjoy the team that Mariner works with, as they adjust to working together, and I also like the way in which Mariner’s old team members are incorporated into the story. This makes a great read for new fans of the series, as well as holding fans of the previous books. This also keeps it real with having different characters and seeing how they move on or indeed turn up. And knowing the characters from Tom Mariner’s previous team certainly made me want to retrace their stories and read the previous books of the series – one of them being on maternity leave and another working with an armed squad investigating gun crime!

As events are centred in and around Birmingham (UK) it is very easy for those familiar with the area to follow the sites of the book. From Birmingham Centre’s Symphony Hall, Broad Street and New Street train station, along the Bristol Road and places outside of the centre, making the story more real.

Dead of Night is a story I would strongly recommend for fans of crime dramas and police procedurals. With a strong knowledge of the area, a great deal of research and a disturbing mystery, this story comes alive. And DI Tom Mariner is certainly a detective I want to read more about. I will certainly be going back to read the previous books of the series.

Dead of Night (A Tom Mariner Mystery #7) by Chris Collett is available at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Reviewed by Caroline Barker

Chris Collett 7 Dead of Night

AUTHOR POST ON ‘DEAD OF NIGHT’ (Chris Collett, Sept ’14, Severn House)

The inspiration for ‘Dead of Night’ came from a number of characters who ‘present themselves’, in the first instance, by air! The Queen Elizabeth, in south Birmingham, is one of the country’s leading military hospitals. For several years now this has meant the regular presence of Chinook helicopters, flying low over the city, bringing in wounded personnel from Afghanistan. Perhaps because of what the Chinooks represent, they seem somehow to be a much more imposing and sinister presence than the more familiar Police surveillance and Air Ambulances, and I quickly found myself very attuned to the distinctive engine sound, louder and deeper than the other aircraft and rather ominous. Each time a Chinook flew over, I couldn’t help imagining the people and drama surrounding its arrival; and from that curiosity emerged Private Craig Lomax and critical care nurse Dee Henderson. At around the same time another recurring scenario had taken up residence in my head; of a small girl waiting outside school at the end of the day for a mum who never appears. That child became Dominique. Finally, the confident and rebellious teenager, striding along Broad Street flicking a defiant cigarette, was Grace Clifton. As the characters emerged, the central narrative that would link them together also began to take shape. In Dead of Night I knew my perpetrator right from the start, but as always, had little idea about where the story would take me before the final revelation.

Chris Collett 7 Dead of Night

EXCERPT FROM ‘DEAD OF NIGHT’

Milton Tower was one of three angular blocks that sprouted out of the dingy grey spread of social housing that was the Fen Bridge estate. Bordered by a fringe of scrubby green grass and a collection of undernourished saplings, it was rendered no more attractive at this time of night by the harsh glare of sodium lighting. Mariner had decided long ago that the council planner who’d come up with name had a sense of the ironic. Paradise had been irretrievably lost in this neighbourhood, somewhere down the back of life’s sofa. Parking his car in the only bay that didn’t seem to excessively sparkle with broken glass, he double checked that it was locked before entering the bare, concrete lobby. In the last couple of years efforts had been made to make the flats more appealing. A jacket of insulation and double glazing had been added around the outside, and the lobby in an overly bright salmon pink, smelled primarily of fresh paint. A couple to one side seemed to be surreptitiously waiting for the lift, but then Mariner noticed the considerable age difference between them and the man’s good quality wool overcoat that seemed to indicate that these were not locals. He went over, already anticipating the negotiations for how the situation should be handled. ‘Hello,’ he said. ‘You’re the teachers from St Martin’s?’

The man, as tall and lean as Mariner and with a fulsome head of grey hair, swept back from his forehead, stood straighter, bridling a little. ‘I’m the head teacher, Gordon Rhys,’ he corrected Mariner, keeping his hands firmly in his pockets. ‘And this is my Year Two teacher Sam McBride.’

‘DI Tom Mariner.’ Mariner held up his warrant card for them to see. He couldn’t help noticing the proprietorial ‘my’ and raised an eyebrow at McBride as they shook hands. Blonde and petite with a shapely figure under her parka, Mariner could imagine that the young teacher had to work hard to be taken seriously.

‘I feel terrible,’ she said. ‘I knew there was something not quite right with Dominique, but I just never guessed that this was what it could be.’

‘We don’t know what it is yet.’ Rhys was impatient. ‘The mother could be anywhere. Might be on the Costa del Sol for all we know.’ He was distracted, keeping an anxious eye on his surroundings, and Mariner realised he was nervous about being here.

‘With respect Gordon, I don’t think that’s very likely,’ Sam said. ‘Mrs Batista isn’t like that.’

‘How would we know, Sam? We know hardly anything about her.’

‘I know enough to understand that she’s a committed parent,’ Sam said, firmly.

‘Have you any idea where she works?’ Mariner asked, partly to diffuse what he sensed was a growing tension.

Sam frowned. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever really known, although for some reason I’ve had an impression that it’s somewhere in the city centre. On the odd occasions I’ve tried to talk to Dominique about her mum’s work, she’s completely clammed up. The contact number we have on file is a personal mobile number, but that’s nothing unusual.’

‘Have you tried calling it?’

‘Yes, about half a dozen times,’ said McBride. ‘It just goes straight to voice mail.’

‘It’s probably because the job is cash-in-hand and she’s claiming benefits as well,’ said Rhys. ‘It happens you know,’ he added, as if it were proof.

‘Actually, I don’t think that has anything to do with it.’ McBride said, flushing deeply. ‘When we’ve had school trips Mrs Batista has always paid her contribution, and she’s never asked for-’

Rhys effectively cut her off by ostentatiously checking his watch. ‘Now that you’re here Inspector, do you actually still need me? We’ve contacted social services, and Sam here is the one who knows Dominique. This has take me away from a meeting that’s been in the diary for some months-,‘

‘That’s fine,’ Mariner cut in, annoyed by the skewed priorities. ‘I’m sure we can take it from here.’ He sought confirmation from Sam McBride.

‘All right with me,’ she said.

‘Good, well, I’ll leave you to it. Best of luck,’ said Rhys, with obvious relief, and hurried towards the main door. As an afterthought he turned back from the doorway. ‘You’ll keep me informed Sam?’

‘Of course.’

‘He’s a charmer,’ said Mariner, when Rhys had gone.

‘Sorry about that,’ said Sam. ‘Gordon’s all right really, but he does seem to have a particular down on single parents, and it makes me a bit defensive. My mum raised me as a single parent and it hasn’t done me any harm.’

‘Nor me,’ said Mariner.

‘Oh.’ She looked at him anew.

‘Just because I look old enough to have grown up in black and white, it wasn’t all Kelloggs cornflake families back then.’ She waited for further elaboration. ‘You haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, have you?’

‘Not really,’ she smiled. It was a sweet smile and Mariner could imagine any child warming to her instantly.

Right,’ he said. ‘Let’s crack on, shall we? I don’t think social services are going to show up any time soon, so if we do find that Dominique’s at home alone we’ll need to take her to Granville Lane police station to wait for them there. How does that sound?’

‘Good,’ said Sam. ‘I only hope she doesn’t freak out when she sees me at this time of night.’

‘I can’t imagine she will,’ said Mariner. ‘Okay, let’s get this done. What’s the flat number?’

Neither of them was inclined to trust the lifts, so Sam led the way up the concrete stairwell, to a flat on the fourth floor, their footsteps echoing as they climbed.

‘I’ll be better if you make the first approach,’ Mariner said to Sam as they climbed the stairs, ‘are you okay to do that?’

Sam indicated that she was. They emerged half way along a narrow landing that had two, equally spaced doors on either side. The lighting was dim, and up here the smell of urine had not been entirely successfully glossed over. Flat forty-one was at the end. The small rectangular reinforced glass window in the top half of the door reminded Mariner of the observation panel in the custody cell doors. It had no light behind it. He knocked hard on the wood and they waited, but there was no response. Squatting down, Sam lifted the letterbox flap and peered in, before calling: ‘Dominique, are you in there? It’s Miss McBride. I’ve just come to see if you’re all right.’

‘Can you see anything?’ Mariner asked.

MacBride straightened up again. ‘No, it’s pitch dark. Maybe I’ve got this completely wrong and she isn’t there. Oh God, what if I’ve got you out here for nothing.’

‘It’s fine,’ said Mariner. ‘Better that than she really is in trouble and we do nothing. Why don’t you try again?’

McBride crouched by the letterbox, pushed up the flap and called again. This time, as she did so, her fingers brushed the rough string. ‘Oh, there’s something here.’ Bit by bit she pulled through the string with its key tied to the end.

‘Christ,’ said Mariner. ‘I hope no one else knows about this.’

‘Do we use it?’ said McBride.

‘It saves me having to demonstrate my manliness by breaking down the door,’ Mariner said. ‘You go first and I’ll follow, just in case she’s in there.’

Opening the door they entered the darkened flat, which felt no warmer on the inside than it had been on the outside landing. McBride flicked the light switch but nothing happened.

‘The meter’s run out,’ said Mariner. He took a torch from his inside coat pocket and switched it on, directing it down at the floor to light the way.

‘Dominique?’ Sam called, softly. They progressed carefully along a short hallway, and McBride pushed open the first door they came to on the left. The torch beam bounced around an empty bedroom. A second door, on the right, was a small bathroom, but as she pushed open the door at the head of the passageway, Mariner saw instantly from McBride’s body language that they had found the little girl.

‘Hi Dominique,’ Sam said brightly. ‘It’s Miss McBride. We were a bit worried about you, so I just came to see if you were all right. I’ve brought my friend Tom.’ As Mariner came into the room, his eyes adjusting to the darkness and keeping the torch beam directed away from Dominique, he was in time to see McBride slowly advancing on the little girl who seemed to be frozen to the spot sitting at the end of a sofa. But as McBride cautiously sat down beside her, Dominique flung herself into her teacher’s arms and McBride hugged her close. ‘It’s all right sweetie, you’re safe now,’ she soothed, a crack in her voice. After a moment she said, ‘We came to see mummy too. Is she here?’

And Mariner could just make out the little girl’s whispered reply. ‘I don’t know where she’s gone.’

AUTHOR BIO

Chris CollettChris Collett grew up in a Norfolk seaside town, before moving to the other side of the country, Liverpool, to train as a teacher for children with learning difficulties. The journey from east to west often involved a stop-off in Birmingham, a place she quickly decided she would never want to live. After graduating the first job she was offered was naturally, in Birmingham. Within a few months she met her husband-to-be, moved to the Bournville Village Trust, within inhaling distance of the Cadbury’s chocolate factory, and she has remained in the city ever since.

Alongside raising two children, Chris has worked for a number of years in schools and local authority services, supporting variously children, young people and adults with learning disabilities and mental health issues. Now a lecturer at a midlands university, Chris teaches undergraduate students on a range of subjects around disability and inclusion, and equality and human rights. The DI Tom Mariner series evolved from a single idea: what would happen if the sole witness to a serious crime had an autism spectrum disorder and was unable to communicate what he had seen? The idea became ‘Worm in the Bud’.

Alongside publishing seven crime novels featuring DI Tom Mariner and several short stories, Chris has taught short courses on crime fiction and is an manuscript assessor for the Crime Writers association.

When not teaching or writing, Chris enjoys walking, racket sports, photography, reading, cinema, theatre and comedy. When asked about her thoughts on her adopted city now, Chris has said: ‘Someone, somewhere, must have had a plan. What better location could there be for a crime detective?’

Website: www.chriscollettcrime

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CrimeCrow

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chris-Collett/585943991417531

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=128351834&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile

Previous posts on author, Chris Collett, have been a promo post for Dead of Night with an introduction to the whole Tom Mariner series and an exclusive short story (released Dec 2015 on A Reader’s Review Blog)!

*Promo Post* Crime thriller/police procedural ‘Dead of Night (DI Tom Mariner series #7)’ by local Birmingham author, Chris Collett

Exclusive short story: Cinderella Boy (A Tom Mariner festive short story) by Chris Collett

*Promo w/Q&A and Excerpt* Mask of the Verdoy (A George Harley Mystery #1) by Phil Lecomber

MaskOfTheVerdoy Cover - low resTitle: Mask of the Verdoy (A George Harley Mystery #1)

Author: Phil Lecomber

Genre: Period crime thriller, crime drama, mystery, historical

Date published: October 9th, 2014

Publisher: Diablo Books

Length: 460 pages

Amazon UK Link

Amazon US Link

Blurb: LONDON, 1932 … a city held tight in the grip of the Great Depression. George Harley’s London. The West End rotten with petty crime and prostitution; anarchists blowing up trams; fascists marching on the East End.

And then, one smoggy night …

The cruel stripe of a cutthroat razor … three boys dead in their beds … and a masked killer mysteriously vanishing across the smoky rooftops of Fitzrovia.

Before long the cockney detective is drawn into a dark world of murder and intrigue, as he uncovers a conspiracy that threatens the very security of the British nation.

God save the King! eh, George?

In part an homage to Grahame Greene’s Brighton Rock, and to the writings of Gerald Kersh, James Curtis, Patrick Hamilton, Norman Collins and the other chroniclers of London lowlife in the 1930s, Mask of the Verdoy also tips its hat to the heyday of the British crime thriller—but unlike the quaint sleepy villages and sprawling country estates of Miss Marple and Hercules Poirot, George Harley operates in the spielers, clip-joints and all-night cafés that pimple the seedy underbelly of a city struggling under the austerity of the Great Slump.

With Mussolini’s dictatorship already into its seventh year in Italy, and with a certain Herr Hitler standing for presidential elections in Germany, 1932 sees the rise in the UK of the British Brotherhood of Fascists, led by the charismatic Sir Pelham Saint Clair. This Blackshirt baronet is everything that Harley despises and the chippy cockney soon has the suave aristocrat on his blacklist.

But not at the very top. Pride of place is already taken by his arch enemy, Osbert Morkens—the serial killer responsible for the murder and decapitation of Harley’s fiancée, Cynthia … And, of course—they never did find her head.

Mask of the Verdoy is the first in the period crime thriller series, the George Harley Mysteries.

Plot outline

It is 1932 and London is living in the shadow of the Great Depression. A spate of terrorist bombings threatens the devastated residents, who begin to turn to desperate measures to make ends meet. This sense of desperation is reflected in the radical politics of the era; ominously the British Brotherhood of Fascists (BBF), led by Sir Pelham Saint Clair, is gaining popularity, and the Blackshirts’ attitude of prejudice and intolerance to immigrants is spreading fast.

George Harley, a kind-hearted, cockney private detective with a strong but liberal sense of morality, is walking through Piccadilly late one night when he comes across a young lavender boy (rent-boy) being roughed up in an alleyway. He scares off the attackers and brings the boy back to his house to recuperate. However, a few days later the house is targeted by a mysterious masked assailant and things take on a dark twist.

Before long Harley finds himself working as a special consultant to the CID (something he swore he’d never do again following the Osbert Morkens* case) and is partnered up with Albert Pearson – a young Detective Constable recently seconded to the Metropolitan Police from the West Country, and therefore as yet untainted by the rash of corruption currently infecting Scotland Yard.

At first the streetwise cockney finds Pearson a little too green for city life and has great fun ribbing this ‘farmer’s boy’ as he tries to get to grips with the perplexing attitudes and customs of the capital – especially its language*. On many occasions Harley has to act as interpreter, with the Yiddish of the East End, the Polari of the lavender boys, and the rhyming argot of the janes and the ponces leaving the young DC feeling like he’s wandered into a foreign country. But he slowly gains Harley’s respect and they start to make some headway in the case.

The investigation leads the new partners through a shadowy world populated with a cast of colourful and sometimes dangerous characters: in their search for clues they visit spielers run by Jewish mobsters, all-night Soho cafés frequented by jaded streetwalkers and their pimps, East End slums that have become the clandestine hideouts of political extremists, and the decadent and lavish freak parties of the young aristocracy (where Harley can indulge his love of the new Jazz music).

Meanwhile—with the help of jingoistic articles in the Daily Oracle—the political juggernaut of the BBF trundles on, with Sir Pelham Saint Clair gaining evermore public support for his vision of a fascist Britain. Harley witnesses at firsthand the charismatic effect the Blackshirt leader has on his followers at a BBF rally at the Albert Hall—an event that quickly descends into a pitched battle between the police and the anti-fascist factions demonstrating outside.

Surviving terrorist bombings, the machinations of the corrupt DI Quigg, and the stonewalling of the British nobility, Harley and Pearson follow the clues through the capital’s nefarious underworld eventually uncovering a plot that threatens to undermine the very security of the British nation.

* More about Harley’s back-story and the slang used in the book can be found on the website – www.georgeharley.com

diablo books

Author Q&A

Tell us a little about your new book MASK OF THE VERDOY

MASK OF THE VERDOY is the first book in the period crime thriller series “The George Harley Mysteries”, set in London in the 1930s. Of course, thanks to the writings of authors such as Agatha Christie and Margery Allingham, this era has come to be regarded as the ‘Golden Age’ of British Detective Fiction; but unlike the quaint sleepy villages and sprawling country estates of the Miss Marple, Hercules Poirot and Albert Campion stories, our hero—the cockney detective George Harley—operates in the London underworld.

Why have you chosen to set the series in the 1930s?

The inter-war period—the so-called ‘Morbid Age’—has fascinated me for a while now. It was a time when people became more politicised and more unlikely to blindly accept their fate. Of course, this also meant that people began to be seduced by dangerous political ideas, such as eugenics and fascism … and we all know where that ended up. Historically I think the period has great resonance for the modern reader – with the West struggling with a global economic crisis, haunted by past military conflicts and turning to extreme politics as doom-mongers foretell the decline of civilization and the death of capitalism. Sounding familiar? But, as well as the history, I’m also a great fan of British authors from the 1930s: Patrick Hamilton, Gerald Kersh, Grahame Greene, Norman Collins … I find the gritty realism that they manage to conjure truly alluring.

So, would you say that MASK OF THE VERDOY is a political book?

No, fundamentally it is a crime thriller, a ‘London noir’ novel; played out against a backdrop of smoggy alleyways, illegal gambling dens and lowlife clip-joints. Harley’s associates are the characters that populated Soho and Piccadilly in the 1930s—the Jewish gangsters, frowsy streetwalkers and streetwise conmen. But this first story sees him pitched against the sinister Sir Pelham Saint Clair and his British Brotherhood of Fascists, based loosely on the real-life Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the infamous British Blackshirts (the British Union of Fascists). Mosley was part of the nobility, a baronet and a distant relative to the Queen; he’d been an MP for both the Tory and Labour parties, and at one time was tipped as a future Prime Minister. I was keen to use this theme to drag into the light a dark period of British history that I feel has been conveniently pushed to the back of the closet in the collective memory.

What is the ‘VERDOY’ of the title?

I’m afraid I can’t reveal that – you’ll have to read the book!

There’s some great use of slang in the book, is it your own invention?

Absolutely not! I spent a great deal of time researching London in the 1930s in order to create Harley’s world, and an important part of that research was studying the authentic language of the street. I’ve pored through countless contemporary novels of the period as well as a collection of dictionaries of underworld slang (which I found fascinating) in order to employ the authentic vernacular and idioms of 1930s London. Thieves’ cant, Polari, Yiddish, rhyming slang, back slang and street argot—it’s all in there; there’s a glossary included at the back of the book, and on the website (www.georgeharley.com), for those who find this kind of thing as interesting as I do.

Have you begun planning the next George Harley Mystery?

Indeed! Harley will return in THE GRIMALDI VAULTS, which will be released in 2015.

Could you give us a brief outline of this second book in the series?

Well, I don’t want to give too much away, but THE GRIMALDI VAULTS sees Harley’s old nemesis, the serial killer Osbert Morkens, make a reappearance. There’s a child abduction … a dismembered body in a suitcase … Occultist rituals … Weimar cabaret artists … basically, it isn’t long before Harley is once again trawling the capital’s seedy nightspots searching for clues to another sinister mystery. A little more detail can be found on the website.

Before you go could you describe George Harley to us in one sentence?

Harley is a bolshie, auto-didactic, Gold Flake-smoking, Norton CS1-riding, jazz-loving, brass knuckle-wielding, cockney private detective with a heart of gold, a one-eyed tomcat, and a serious chip on his shoulder.

Excerpt (from Chapter 2):

‘Hold on Vi—what was that?’ asked Harley, carefully resting his fish and chips on the wall and vaulting over to push Vi’s front door open wide.

‘What was what?’

A long, wailing scream emanated from the hallway.

‘That!’ said Harley, sprinting up the stairs.

‘Sounds like Miss Perkins, in number six—on the top floor!’ Vi shouted up after him.

By the time the portly landlady—now flushed and out of breath—had caught up with Harley, he was already crouched in front of a near hysterical Miss Perkins, holding tightly to her wrists. The normally timid young woman was thrashing about, struggling to catch her breath between frantic sobs, with angry red scratches below her cheeks and a thin line of spittle hanging from her chin.

‘Oh my gawd, George! What’s going on?’

‘Don’t know, Vi—she’s not making any sense. But the window’s open, and when I got here she was sat on the bed, scratching at her face, shouting something about a mask.’

‘A mask? Tabitha! Look at me dear; stop thrashing about so! Tabitha … Tabitha! Oh, out the way George!’

Vi bent over her tenant to deliver a solid slap to the face with a heavy, beringed hand.

‘There, there … it’s alright now,’ she said, planting herself on the bed next to Miss Perkins, who had been shocked enough by the slap to at least make eye contact. ‘Now dear, tell us what happened.’

‘I was getting ready for my bath … getting … getting undressed … for my bath, you see. I always have my bath on a Friday, at eight thirty.’

‘Yes, dear—but what happened? Was it a man? Did a man get in somehow, Tabitha?’

‘No, no—he didn’t come in. He was out there … out there—on the fire escape. A foreigner … with a mask.’

‘Oh my gawd, George! It’s one of those anarchist buggers—it’s got to be!’

‘Hold on Vi, we don’t know anything yet. Tabitha, can you tell us what he looked like? What kind of a mask was it?’

‘I was smoking a cigarette … over there. I don’t like the stale smoke in the room, you see? I was smoking … then he was just there, out of nowhere … a mask a bit like, a bit like Tragedy … said something foreign … something I couldn’t … he blew me a kiss! He blew on my face, blew something on my face, on my face—’ She began to frantically scratch at herself again.

Vi grabbed at the flailing wrists and Miss Perkins promptly vomited down her nightshirt.

Harley walked over to the window and poked his head out to inspect the fire escape.

‘You’re not thinking of going out there, are you George? That old thing’s rotten.’

‘I know the bit leading down is missing, but it still looks pretty solid up here. If it took this bloke’s weight … I’d better take a look up on the roof Vi—he might still be around. Is there anyone else about who can give you a hand?’

‘Only Mrs. Cartwright in number four … oh, and little Johnny’s in the basement doing the boots—everyone else is out,’ said Vi, pouring water from the urn into the washbasin.

Miss Perkins now sprang bolt upright, her face contorted in a paroxysm of pain. She writhed silently on the bed for a moment, her arms twisting and jerking in a deranged dance, the hands contracted into jagged claws. Then, to Vi’s horror, she began to bark—short, high-pitched yelps at first which soon developed into a strange canine howl.

‘Oh my good gawd!’ exclaimed Vi, trying to calm her lodger with the vigorous application of a wet flannel.

‘Don’t bother with that now—she needs medical help. Looks like she’s been poisoned with something, or maybe it’s some kind of fit. Get Mrs. Cartwright to sit with her. Tell Johnny to run down to get Dr. Jaggers and then to look for a constable—Burnsey should be out on his beat somewhere nearby. You go and check on Aubrey—the fire escape joins up with the one outside of my spare room, so he may have seen something. If he’s up to it, get him to come and sit with you all— there’s strength in numbers. Here are my keys. Oh, and Uncle Blake’s swordstick is in the umbrella stand, just inside the front door—take it up with you. I’ll be back as soon as I’ve checked out the roof.’

‘Oh George, do be careful! No one’s been on that old escape for years. How on earth d’you think he got up there? My gawd, it’s just like Spring-Heeled Jack all over again.’

‘Now, don’t get your knickers in a twist. There’ll be a perfectly logical explanation to it all,’ said Harley, hauling himself out of the window. ‘Go and get help—I’ll be back as soon as I can.’

The wrought iron walkway gave an inch or so as it took Harley’s weight, then emitted a low groan with each subsequent cautious step he took, almost as if it were warning him against risking the three-storey plunge to the pavement below. But he pushed on regardless, conquering his natural instinct to return to the safety of the room. After a tense couple of minutes he’d reached the parapet of the flat roof and hurriedly stepped over with a great sense of relief.

He rested against the wall for a moment and looked around. The tightly packed rooftops of Fitzrovia spread out before him, their chimneys trickling smoke into a lowering blanket of cloud that covered the capital, still orange-tinged to the west, but already merging with the night in the east. He now took stock of his immediate surroundings: he was on the flat roof of Vi’s town house which was separated from the roof of his own building by a small dividing upstand. A two-foot-high parapet ran around the perimeter and in one corner was a small shed-like structure with a collection of old paint pots stacked up against it.

Harley now looked down at his feet and saw that he was standing in a shallow gutter that followed the edge of the roof. He crouched down and touched his hand to the thin layer of sludge that lined this gutter; it was wet, and in it—alongside his own oxblood brogue— was the distinct imprint of some smaller, rounder-toed shoe. Harley glanced up at the shed and felt in his jacket for his brass knuckles. All his aches and pains had disappeared now, the adrenalin kicking his heart rate up a notch or two as he slipped his hand into the heavy metal ring and made his way quickly and quietly towards the wooden shack.

He placed his ear to the weather-beaten door, held his breath and listened: the distant murmur of traffic drifted up from Tottenham Court Road … the gentle clopping of a horse’s hooves from a nearby lane … a mother calling in her brood for supper … the toot of an engine from Euston Station. But from the shed there was nothing.

Harley took a step back, carefully placed his fingers around the rusted handle and yanked open the door.

There was a loud crashing sound as his face was battered repeatedly by something white and grey. With an involuntary shout of surprise Harley closed his eyes and stumbled back into the pile of old paint pots, sending them clattering across the roof. He struck out blindly with his fists, but failed to make any contact. He opened his eyes, desperate to get a bearing on his assailant, just in time to see a shabby pigeon fluttering off above the rooftops.

‘You mug!’ he said, jumping up and dusting off his trousers. ‘Come on, Georgie boy—get a grip!’

There was no other hiding place in view; either the intruder had found a means of escape, or—more likely—he was a figment of Miss Perkins’ hysteria. Just to tie up any loose ends Harley began to make a slow patrol of the perimeter of the roofs. The light was fading fast now, but he was satisfied that there were no other footprints in the gutter; maybe the one he’d found was simply one of his own, distorted by the angle of his step as he cleared the parapet? At one end the roof abutted the side of an old Victorian blacking factory—now a dry goods warehouse—a sheer brick wall rising twenty feet or so above him; there was no way anyone could have escaped in that direction. And the decrepit fire escape that he’d climbed up was just a one-storey remnant, leaving a two-storey drop to the pavement below—again, impossible as a means of escape. That just left the edge of the roof adjacent to Tallow Street—the entrance to the old market place. Harley made his way to the edge and peered over. Approximately five feet below him was the thin edge of a brick wall that formed an arch across the street, from which hung the market sign. Well, it wasn’t impossible; someone with sufficient acrobatic skill could perhaps lower themselves down onto the wall, manoeuvre somehow onto the sign, and then swing themselves down onto the street. He thought back to the Piccadilly alleyway—the way the smaller assailant had vaulted cat-like over the brick wall to make his escape.

Harley now squatted down and leant further over to get a better look—yes, there was a gap in the top course and he could just make out what looked like broken fragments of house brick in the street below.

Just then he heard a shriek from the direction of the fire escape.

He dashed back across the roof and lowered himself carefully onto the ironwork, shuffling as quickly as he dared back to the open window.

‘George … George!’ It was Vi. But her shouting wasn’t coming from Miss Perkins’ room; it was coming from further along the fire escape—from his own house. He made the extra few yards and then yanked up the sash window and threw himself awkwardly into the room.

Harley took in the scene with a professional’s eye: the dark puddle congealing on the floorboards; the mother-of-pearl-handled razor gripped loosely in the grubby, nail-bitten fingers; the leaden pallor on the boyish cheek.

There was a call from the floor below.

‘Police! Anyone there?’

‘Up here, Burnsey! Top floor!’ shouted Harley, already at Aubrey’s throat, searching for a pulse.

A thump of heavy footsteps announced PC Burns’ arrival.

‘Oh, Jesus Christ!’ said the policeman, removing his helmet and rushing over to crouch down beside the bed. ‘Any luck?’

But as Harley drew back the only sign of life Burns could see in the boy’s face came from the two tiny facsimiles of the guttering gas mantle, dancing in the dull pupils.

Author Bio:

phil lecomber author bio text picPHIL LECOMBER was born in 1965 in Slade Green, on the outskirts of South East London—just a few hundred yards from the muddy swirl of the Thames.

Most of his working life has been spent in and around the capital in a variety of occupations. He has worked as a musician in the city’s clubs, pubs and dives; as a steel-fixer helping to build the towering edifices of the square mile (and also working on some of the city’s iconic landmarks, such as Tower Bridge); as a designer of stained-glass windows; and—for the last quarter of a century—as the director of a small company in Mayfair specializing in the electronic security of some of the world’s finest works of art.

All of which, of course, has provided wonderful material for a novelist’s inspiration.

Always an avid reader, a chance encounter as a teenager with a Gerald Kersh short story led to a fascination with the ‘Morbid Age’— the years between the wars. The world that Phil has created for the George Harley Mysteries is the result of the consumption and distillation of myriad contemporary novels, films, historical accounts, biographies and slang dictionaries of the 1930s—with a nod here and there to some of the real-life colourful characters that he’s had the pleasure of rubbing shoulders with over the years.

So, the scene is now set … enter George Harley, stage left …

If you would like to ask a question of the author or provide a review please email to: enquiries@georgeharley.com

The George Harley Mysteries are published by:

diablo books