Caroline’s Top Reads 2014

Hi readers, it’s that time of year again when Tina and myself have lots of fun going through our reviews of the past year and choose our favourites to share with you! And, wow, there are so many it is difficult to narrow them down!Australian xmas card (2)

This is the end of our second full year and we cannot thank you all enough for following us and sharing our posts. We have made so many friends, be they authors, bloggers, agents, publishers and more, it has been overwhelming. We have received our first Christmas card from Australia (pictured), which was an absolute pleasure to receive. It’s amazing to see the sun and summer holiday reminders when the usual card for us is full of snow, log fires and dark evenings.

We hope that you have had a great year and are looking forward to the festive season. We are looking forward to sharing it with you. And I hope that you enjoy us sharing our favourite reads. Tina’s Top Reads will also be coming your way very soon. And here are mine!

Please click on the titles for my full review and much more info!

Contemporary Romance

Books of this genre and some contemporary rom-coms have been a big hit for me this year, and Helena Fairfax’s The Silk Romance was an absolute pleasure to read. It was written so beautifully, powerfully and thoughtfully, and certainly a read you will not forget! It is a Cinderella-type story that is highly intense and completely grips the reader. I have also likened it to some high-profile romance movies in my review as some aspects are similar and captivating!

TheLoveofMarisol_WP2014The Love of Marisol by Christos Toulouras is a short story of love and loss, but with the possibility of finding new love after. It is, again, very powerful and emotive, beginning as quite a dark and realistic read (although fiction). Taking only around an hour to read, it was one of my favourite reading hours of the year!

Contemporary Rom-Coms

Boots Beneath My Bed (Miranda's Story)As well as the serious side of romance, it is always uplifting and refreshing to read some fun reads, even though they still hold a serious undertone. The book that enlightened me in this manner is C.J. Pinard’s Boots Beneath My Bed (Miranda’s Story) (Duty & Desire #3). It is my favourite book of the Duty & Desire series. It is a light-hearted, fun and cheeky read. And I love how C.J. Pinard follows both Miranda’s career, as well as her romances, and at the same time the reader sees a different side to the friendship that Miranda has with Cara.

An Autumn CrushWanting to read a seasonal book at the time, I thoroughly enjoyed An Autumn Crush by Milly Johnson. It was a Bridget Jones style read, with plenty of humour and a real feel-good and refreshing feel that really captured the time of year. And with some sombre storylines for some characters it has an awful lot going on, but is still relaxing and fun to read.

Historical Romance

Summer in RyeLucy Oliver’s novella Summer in Rye is an incredibly intense short story, with power and the ability to grip the reader. Following a new governess to children that have been badly affected by smallpox, and a master that is tyrannical, Eva only has one choice: to turn to the master’s brother, who was once engaged to her. Passion reignites between these two, but after he lied before, can Eva really accept him back?

Paranormal

Vampire Flappers (Samantha Carter #1.5)To top off my favourite paranormal reads is Tim O’Rourke’s Vampire Flappers (Samantha Carter #1.5). Last year the first of the series, Vampire Seeker, was one of my favourites, and again this series has really thrilled me. It has everything from vamps, shifters, action/adventure and time travel! The romance and passion is also very intense, making for a very HOT read! This is a series not to be missed, and I cannot wait to review Vampire Watchmen (Samantha Carter #2) in the new year!

And, not always a huge fan of short stories, this year has certainly changed my point of view. I used to think that to create great characters that full novels would be more fulfilling. However, there are a number of short stories in my top reads this year and a certain series of short stories really blew my mind – Alisa Woods’ True Alpha series. There are six shifter stories, which follow Mia and shifter Lucas, their attraction and heat for each other! Yet, the dilemma is that Lucas lost his last mate, and being to close to another is just not an option. But, when rival shifters kidnap Mia, Lucas has to face his true feelings. Each story is complete with action, heat and intensity. Shifter fans will LOVE this series. Here are the links to each review:-

Desired (True Alpha #1)

Guarded (True Alpha #2)

Hunted (True Alpha #3)

Captured (True Alpha #4)

Sacrificed (True Alpha #5)

Claimed (True Alpha #6)

I am also hoping to review another short A True Alpha Christmas over the coming days before the big day. And, in the new year Alisa Woods will be releasing her Dark Alpha short story series!

Soul RebelNow, for my second entry of author C.J. Pinard we have Soul Rebel. This is my favourite novel of C.J.’s. With plenty of action, suspense and romance it really does have it all. The characters and storyline are brilliant. Nolan loses his soul during a kiss with a female succubus in a nightclub and he only has 7 days to claim his soul back! Time constraints cause the tension and really make the pace quick. Plus there are many surprises which make it an exciting read.

Blue Moon (The Blue Crystal Trilogy #1)Recommended for the younger adult (15yrs+) Blue Moon (The Blue Crystal trilogy #1) by Pat Spence is an enchanting and fairytale-like read with supernatural mystery and horror. It is highly recommended to fans of the Twilight saga, but without the vamps. It follows the idea of eternal youth, ancient links and an attraction between Emily (17) and the handsome Theo. It is highly emotive, with a great eerie atmosphere as the reader gets sucked in to the mystery. Blue Moon is a fantastic beginning to this trilogy.

Horror

Moonshine (The Moon Trilogy, #3)This year saw the final instalment of Tim O’Rourke’s Moon trilogy, Moonshine (The Moon trilogy, #3). A paranormal horror series that has it all; action and adventure, vamps, weres, heart-warming moments and plenty of surprises. The running theme through the trilogy is whether or not vamps and weres can exist in peace together. Or, will they both have to try and annihilate each other? Will the love of Winnie be enough to hold it all together? (Clicking on the links for books 2 and 3 may spoil the storyline for those who haven’t read book one.)

Moonlight (The Moon Trilogy #1)

Moonbeam (The Moon Trilogy #2)

Crime Thriller

COLD CALL BOOK COVER - with blood SAFE COPYCold Call by Colin Llewelyn Chapman, was an instant like for me. After being likened to author Martina Cole, Luther (BBC tv series) and with a pinch of Fifty Shades, Cold Call proved to be a gritty, well-planned read that follows both the suspect and the police with their investigation into the deaths of several women from seedy backgrounds. This is another read with surprises along the way that will keep you gripped until the end.

21 Hours - Dustin Stevens_1Dustin Stevens’ 21 Hours is full of action and suspense as an uncle and ex-con is attempting to save his two year old niece after she has been kidnapped. Being an ex-con he is not entirely trusted by the authorities, but he is so desperate that he will do anything! I have likened it to some action movies, such as Lethal Weapon, Commando, Ransom and Con Air as there are some elements of these in the book and especially in they way it left me feeling after I had read it. It is also another read that is quick-paced, partly due to the time that it is believed that the young girl has left!

Ooh, and now for some Festive Contemporary reads

As an added treat, and because they were brilliant reads, I thought I would share the following two festive reads:

CANDY CAIN by C.L. Scholey - Click Image to CloseC.L. Scholey’s Candy Cain is a short 55 page read that is festive, hot and full of suspense. After being snowed in during a blizzard and left on a desolate road, with only the stranger that she dislikes after briefly bumping into him earlier, the only way they can keep warm is by body heat! Hmm, I wonder where this will lead and what the outcome will be for them? There are also heart-warming moments and an underlying storyline about helping those in need.

All I Want for ChristmasAnd finally, a full-length story with a Christmas build-up, new friendships and a new romance in Amy Silver’s All I Want for Christmas. Beginning from the fourteenth of December, the story is written with each chapter being a new day in the lead up to the big day, when there are plans at The Honey Pot café for people of the neighbourhood to meet for a party of food and friendship for the lonely.

I have read many more great reads that I cannot possibly add due to the amount I have here. Crossing many genres, I always hope that there are reads in here to suit many, and I feel that there is a great mix of both published and indie authors.

I hope that you enjoy our posts and would like to thank each and everyone of you for following and supporting us. I sincerely wish you a Merry Christmas and an absolutely brilliant New Year!

Caroline Barker 🙂

If you would like to check our Top Reads of 2013 to recap on our previous year, you can do so here:-

Caroline’s Top Reads 2013

Tina’s To Reads 2013

 

 

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

Tina and myself are absolutely over the moon to be able to share with you, Chris Collett’s short festive story, following DI Tom Mariner. Chris Collett is a local author from the Midlands, UK, and you may remember our post of her crime thriller/police procedural series of Detective Inspector, Tom Mariner, and that her series is also based in the area.

Chris Collett 7 Dead of NightHere is a link to our post, which includes an author post and bio, an excerpt of her latest novel, Dead of Night (DI Tom Mariner series #7), as well as the blurbs and covers for each book of the series:-

Chris Collett promo post of the DI Tom Mariner series

We hope that you enjoy this heartfelt festive short, Cinderella Boy, just as much as we did. And, we would like to thank Chris Collett for this fantastic opportunity!

Enjoy!

Caroline & Tina 🙂

CINDERELLA BOY by Chris Collett

It’s done in seconds and the sleight of hand makes DI Tom Mariner cough with surprise. The boy looks up and as his gaze meets Mariner’s, the brown eyes, unnaturally large for his face, widen for a second, before he swivels and bolts for the door.

Mariner had been watching the kid over the supermarket shelves for several minutes. On his way into work he’d felt a sudden craving for chewing gum, so had gone into a local convenience store, which at this time of the morning was busy with a steady influx of customers. It was cold for November, with grey skies shedding the odd flurry of snow. The boy caught Mariner’s attention in the first instance because of his size. No more than about six or seven he seemed young to be out on his own. He was also woefully underdressed for the time of year; jogging bottoms, the knees shiny with wear, oversized black trainers and a thin short-sleeved football shirt.

But perhaps the boy has dressed for a purpose. Standing in front of the dry goods shelves, he picks up a can of baked beans. Clutching it to his chest he holds out his other hand and frowns at the assorted coins there. Satisfied, he pockets the money before casually moving towards the end of the aisle and a display stand of cheap, blister-packed toys. He stares at one of the dangling packs for a good couple of minutes, occasionally reaching out to lift it with a fingertip and watch it swing back. He gets out the coins and checks them again. Then with a furtive glance to either side, he unhooks the pack, and tucking the can of beans under his arm, lifts his shirt to stuff the toy into the waistband of his trousers, dropping the shirt to conceal it. That’s when his eyes meet Mariner’s and, as the beans clatter to the floor, he turns and scarpers. Mariner keeps pace with him along the parallel aisle, but loses valuable seconds as he’s blocked by an elderly woman pushing a wheeled trolley. Rounding the end shelves he sees the door of the shop swing open and a blur of red as the boy pushes out past an incoming customer.

Grab him-!’ Mariner yells, but too late. The boy is already out and disappearing across the street. There follows a horrible squeal of brakes and the blare of a car horn. Bursting onto the pavement Mariner sees a people carrier, stationary, the female driver white-faced, knuckles gripping the steering wheel. Fearfully, his eyes drop to the road, but somehow the boy has escaped and is making off along the opposite pavement. ‘Stupid kid,’ Mariner breathes, half with relief. 

Skirting around the car he gives chase, the icy air searing into his throat, but the boy is fast and has opened up a gap. Ten metres away, Mariner sees him stumble and hop a couple of steps. There’s a flash of bare foot before the lad darts into a tunnel cutting between the terraced houses. Turning into the passage and palming the wall for traction, Mariner feels the ripping of cloth as his jacket sleeve snags on an exposed nail. Ignoring it he keeps moving, but when he emerges at the other end, breathless, into the alley that runs along the back of the houses, the boy is gone and all that’s left is the discarded blister-pack containing a ninja turtle mask and black, plastic rectangle moulded to look like a cell-phone. Mariner strains his ears for footsteps or the slamming of a door, but when all that echoes back at him is silence, he bends down to retrieve the toy and retraces his steps to the street. At the entrance to the passageway he comes across the black oversized trainer lying on the ground and picks that up too. A cheap brand, it’s scuffed and worn to holes in places. A teenage mutant turtle logo grins up at him from the side panel. The laces, brown and frayed, are much too short for the lace holes and obviously recycled from elsewhere. It’s why the shoe had slipped off.

Mariner goes back to the shop to return the toy. ‘Sorry, he was too quick for me,’ he tells the young Asian man serving behind the counter.

The man shrugs. ‘Don’t worry about it. Probably not the first time, or the last. Little bugger.’

Not really knowing why, Mariner takes the shoe with him when he climbs the stairs to his office at Granville Lane. He lays it ceremonially on top of the filing cabinet, and is still dwelling on the incident when his sergeant, Vicky Jesson arrives. They’re a man down while DS Charlie Glover is off on some kind of pre-Christmas religious pilgrimage, and there’s a lot to get through.

‘What happened to you?’ Jesson asks, immediately noticing Mariner’s torn jacket sleeve. ‘Bit early in the day for fisticuffs, isn’t it?’

He tells her what happened.

‘Cheeky little sod,’ she says. 

‘I don’t know,’ says Mariner.

Jesson waits expectantly.

‘Well, what kid that age is out at eight o’clock in the morning buying baked beans?’ Mariner continues. ‘He should have been at home having his breakfast or on his way to school with his mum.’

‘You’re feeling sorry for him? I thought you said he was pilfering stuff.’

‘Only because he didn’t have the money. You should have seen the state of him. When he lifted up his shirt I could have counted his ribs; played a tune on them. It’s been snowing for Christ sake, and he’s wearing a football shirt; no socks. When he ran away his shoes were so big for him, one fell off.’ He indicates the trainer.

Jesson frowns. ‘Some kids are just skinny,’ she says. ‘And don’t feel the cold.’

‘He was more than skinny,’ says Mariner. He looks up at Jesson, the ice-chip eyes bluer than ever. ‘There was bruising.’

‘Where?’

‘On his torso; where no one would see it.’

Jesson is staring at him, trying to figure it out. ‘Why has this got to you?’

‘It’s happened before.’

‘When?’

‘Years ago, back when I was in uniform. I’d forgotten all about it till now. One weekend I was patrolling the high street. There were a handful of market stalls strung out. I saw the same thing – a scruffy kid pinched a pasty. I didn’t do anything about it that time. He looked like he needed it, so I just let him go. A couple of weeks later I saw him again, his face splashed all over the papers. Samuel Wright.’

Jesson frowns. ‘I know that name.’

‘He was beaten to death by his step father. Everyone told me I was mistaken. It couldn’t have been him; my mind playing tricks. But I know what I saw. This kid today; when our eyes met he was terrified.’

He’d been caught red handed,’ Vicky reminds him.

But he didn’t know I’m a copper. It was fear of an adult male. And he was going home empty handed.’

​’So what do you propose to do?’ asks Jesson, reasonably. ‘Knock on every house in the area to see who the trainer fits?’ She’s right; it is hopeless. Vicky Jesson, forty-something mum of three, has always had a slight crush on her boss. He’s not bad looking and she likes that, but mostly it’s because of the way he responds to situations like this.

On his way to work the following morning Mariner can’t resist going back to the supermarket, even though he knows it will be futile. Over the next few days he develops a serious chewing gum habit, but he doesn’t see the boy. At the weekend he takes one of his customary early morning walks; it just happens to be in that area.

‘You want to watch yourself,’ Jesson warns him on Monday when he tells her. ‘Hanging around the streets looking for small boys could get you arrested.’

Mariner phones the PPU. ‘Anyone on your radar?’ he asks. But the description he gives them doesn’t match anyone they know, which just makes him feel worse.

Christmas approaches. The toy shop where he goes to buy a Christmas present for DC Millie Khatoon’s baby is loud and chaotic, and at the checkout he stands in a queue behind parents and their demanding kids, who, judging from the stacks of boxes and packages, will have all their wishes, and more, fulfilled. He thinks of the boy, and knows that he won’t. Helping Suzy to put up her Christmas tree the boy seems to watch over him from the corner of the room, reminding him that not every child gets the cosy Christmas of the TV ads. Sometimes Mariner’s job is too much information. He carries the numbers in his head; fifty-five children a year die at the hands of their carers through abuse or neglect. Samuel Wright begins to creep back into his dreams.

Two weeks before Christmas Charlie Glover returns from leave. Coming into Mariner’s office his first morning back, his eyes are level with the top of the filing cabinet where the trainer still sits. ‘Where did you get that?’ Glover asks.

‘Don’t worry,’ Mariner reassures him. ‘I’m not planning to wear it; not my size.’

‘It’s not that,’ says Charlie. ‘I’ve seen it before; the laces-’

‘Where?’ He wants to grab Charlie by the lapels.

‘Our church runs a food bank. Back in the summer Helen and I helped out a few weekends when they were short of volunteers. We’d set up a couple of jumble sale stalls too, clothes and stuff. There was a pair of trainers exactly like them, in a similar condition. Some little lad kept pestering his dad for them. We were only asking a couple of quid, but the bloke wasn’t interested. He started to lose it, though he calmed down when he saw me watching. Helen intervened, said they could have the shoes. The kid had bruises, but the dad said he’d fallen off his bike.’

The lump of stone grows in Mariner’s stomach. ‘Did you believe him?’

‘Honestly? He didn’t look the sort of kid to even own a bike.’ Charlie shrugs. ‘But what could we do? There was nothing physical, just his dad’s tone of voice and the boy’s demeanour. You know.’

Mariner does. Charlie’s an experienced copper too. You developed a feel for these things. ‘Did you get a name, an address for the family?’

‘It’s not the way it works,’ says Charlie. ‘They have the vouchers, they take the food. It’s humiliating enough for most of them that they have to do it in the first place.’

But the next morning Charlie comes back to Mariner’s office. ‘I talked to Helen last night about that kid. She remembered him. She reckons he was wearing one of those school polo shirts. It was grubby and didn’t fit him properly, but she’s pretty sure it was for St Martin’s.’

Mariner sees a glimmer of light. He has a contact at St Martin’s; a teacher he came across during a case earlier in the year. He phones and asks to speak to Sam McBride.

Don’t know if you’d remember me-?’ he begins.

Of course I do,’ said Sam. And by lunchtime, having run the gauntlet of two hundred kids careering around the playground, Mariner is standing in the school foyer clutching the trainer. Sam takes it along the staff room, returning a few minutes later. ‘Sorry.’ Her disappointment is tangible. ‘No one recognises it. The kids are meant to wear plain black school shoes. Occasionally they don’t, but no one remembers seeing this before. I could take it and-.’

But while she’s talking, Mariner is distracted by the hordes of young children running around the compound outside. A face he’s seen before flashes across his line of vision, almost unrecognisable; grinning in delight as he runs with a gang of other boys. ‘That’s him!’ Mariner practically shouts. But he’s vanished into the crowd again and doubts kick in. Seething with frustration, Mariner stands beside Sam, straining his eyes to pick out that familiar face and hoping he wasn’t mistaken. But no: ‘There he is, there he is; brown hair; shirt hanging out!’ He tracks the child with his finger.

Milo,’ Sam says, eventually. She seems surprised. ‘Milo’s fine.’

He’s not at risk?’ That anxiety won’t let him go.

Not in the way that you think,’ says Sam. ‘He’s a much-loved little boy.’

But the bruises.’

Sam shakes her head. ‘Milo’s always got bruises; invariably acquired on this playground. He’s on intimate terms with our accident book,’ she says. ‘Mostly because he thinks he really is a ninja turtle. Sorry, I should have made that connection.’ She sees that he’s unconvinced. ‘Children in Need day he came in dressed as Leonardo; his hero. There’s a picture here, I’m sure.’ Sam walks Mariner over to a display board of colour photos and they scan them. After a moment he spots Milo standing in the middle of a group of kids. The others, without exception, are wearing perfect, commercially produced, replica outfits; Snow White, Spiderman, Robin Hood. Milo’s costume is improvised; a scarf tied round his forehead for a bandana, what looks like a woman’s shawl held with some sort of brooch for his cloak. ‘Shortly after that was taken, he hurled himself off the climbing frame and treated his TA to yet another unscheduled trip to A&E,’ says Sam.

‘So what’s his story?’ Mariner asks.

‘Milo’s mum’s got rheumatoid arthritis,’ says Sam. ‘It’s just the two of them and on the days when it’s bad she’s very disabled, so Milo is essentially her carer.’

Jesus; at his age?’ But even as he speaks, he knows he’s being naïve.

He’s got people looking out for him,’ Sam says. ‘You know how it is with these things though.., My guess is that when your friend at the church saw him, Milo was giving his harassed social worker a hard time. He has a tough life and sometimes it shows.’

‘It explains why he was out buying beans at eight in the morning. How will they get on at Christmas?’

‘Like I said, they have some help,’ Sam tells him. ‘Mary, our family support worker is brilliant. She’ll make sure that Milo gets presents, though given the budget cuts it won’t be much this year. Anyway,’ says Sam. ‘You can see that our Milo is very much alive and kicking.’

‘Yes.’ It was a relief. ‘Will you give him that?’ Mariner gestures towards the trainer.

‘Of course.’

After leaving the school Mariner takes the afternoon off. Bracing himself he braves the toyshop once again. A couple of days later he stops off at the school and seeks out Mary.

Christmas is far from peace on earth for Tom Mariner. In the early hours of 25th December he is called to a fatal stabbing outside a city pub; business as usual. Ten days later and into the New Year he is still in the throes of the investigation when an envelope lands on his desk. He opens it. Inside is a child’s drawing, a stick figure leaping through the air, with eyes peering out from a bandana, bright red cloak billowing out behind him. The caption underneath in bold, crooked letters reads: Milo Beckett my best presnt ever. It’s the first child’s picture Mariner has ever received. He tacks it to the wall above his filing cabinet, where the trainer had sat. He reads the accompanying note: To Tom, from one crime fighter to another. Thank you. Sam x

For more info on Chris Collett, here are her author links:-

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

And, please take a peek at our promo post, with lots of info on her DI Tom Mariner series:- PROMO POST

Chris Collett 1 Worm in the BudChris Collett 2 Blood of the InnocentsChris Collett 3 Written in BloodChris Collett 4 Blood of MoneyChris Collett 5 Stalked by ShadowsChris Collett 6 Blood and StoneChris Collett 7 Dead of Night

Chris Collett 7 Dead of Night

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

Chris Collett 1 Worm in the BudChris Collett 2 Blood of the InnocentsChris Collett 3 Written in BloodChris Collett 4 Blood of MoneyChris Collett 5 Stalked by ShadowsChris Collett 6 Blood and StoneChris Collett 7 Dead of Night

Chris Collett 7 Dead of NightAfter having the absolute pleasure of meeting Chris Collett at a ‘Meet the Author‘ event at our local library in Tamworth (Staffordshire, UK) in October this year we have been excited about hosting her work for our readers to look at. Chris talked in depth about her journey as a writer and how she came to write a police procedural series based in the city of Birmingham. Just to listen to her, and for the audience to be invited to ask questions in-between her story was brilliant and led to some fantastic conversations. It was like meeting a friend. Tina and myself had a great night, and with my interest in crime novels I simply had to get hold of a copy of Chris’ latest release in the Tom Mariner series, Dead of Night. I am looking forward to reviewing this one in the New Year!

Please scroll down to see an Author Post from Chris on ‘Dead of Night’, an excerpt, Chris’ bio, author and buy links, as well as the blurbs for all first six books of the DI Tom Mariner series!

Caroline ❤

Blurb (Dead of Night #7): 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.

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.

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

BUY LINKS (DEAD OF NIGHT)

AMAZON UK

AMAZON US

As ‘Dead of Night’ is the seventh book of the DI Tom Mariner series we thought it only best to give you the blurbs of the previous six novels of the series. Here they are in chronological order:-

Chris Collett 1 Worm in the BudWorm in the Bud (DI Tom Mariner #1): A puncture wound in the arm of a local journalist found dead in his home gives testimony to his death by lethal injection, and the cryptic note by his side—“no more”—suggests suicide. To DI Tom Mariner, however, there is something a little too staged about events, especially given that just that evening Mariner had witnessed the journalist—Edward Barham—pick up a prostitute in a bar. As the police investigate the house further, they discover another witness to the events: Barham’s younger brother, Jamie, is found in a cupboard under the stairs. It seems likely that Jamie witnessed his brother’s death, but his severe autism has left him without the means to communicate. Mariner is determined to build enough of a relationship with Jamie to get to the truth. He supposes that Barham’s death is related to his recent investigations into a local crime lord, but there may also be a hidden factor that only Jamie can reveal.

Chris Collett 2 Blood of the InnocentsBlood of the Innocents (DI Tom Mariner #2): When two teenagers go missing on the same day, it appears to be nothing more than a coincidence. Leaving aside their age and disappearance, the two have little in common: Yasmin Akram is the talented, grammar-school-educated daughter of devout Muslim professionals, while Ricky Skeet disappeared after storming out of his tenement following a dispute with his mother’s latest boyfriend. Mariner knows Ricky’s mother from his days in uniform, so he is less than happy when his superiors take him off the Skeet case and reassign him to the more politically sensitive investigation. The press—and his bosses—are convinced that Yasmin’s disappearance is a racially motivated abduction, especially since the Akrams had previously been the target of the far right and a prominent white supremacist group. But Mariner soon discovers that Yasmin is far from the innocent victim her parents paint her to be.

Chris Collett 3 Written in BloodWritten in Blood (DI Tom Mariner #3): For the first time in his life, DI Tom Mariner’s home life is beginning to look settled. There’s talk of a move to the country and even kids, and while Anna is doing the talking, for once Mariner isn’t trying to evade commitment. The couple’s quiet holiday season is shattered, though, when an explosion rocks the day of a community carol concert. Tom and Anna are caught up in the aftermath of the event, and it remains unclear if the tragedy is accidental or an act of terrorism. Meanwhile, an unexpected reunion with an old friend thrusts Mariner into the unofficial investigation of a violent double murder to which he is inextricably linked. Mariner finds himself amidst a world of corruption where the boundaries between friend and foe are blurred.

Chris Collett 4 Blood of MoneyBlood Money (DI Tom Mariner #4): Just when he is prepared to take a well-earned leave of absence, DI Tom Mariner is called back to the case when six-week-old Jessica Klinnemann is abducted from a local day nursery. What at first appears to be a random kidnapping gradually reveals itself to be a meticulously planned operation. The motive remains unclear until Mariner discovers that the baby’s father works for a scientific research company that has long been the target of animal rights activists. A crude note seems to confirm that animal rights protesters were behind the scare, but just when Mariner thinks he’s solved the crime, one of the nursery workers is killed in a hit and run, and the case is blown wide open.  

Chris Collett 5 Stalked by ShadowsStalked by Shadows (DI Tom Mariner #5): Lucy Jarrett is terrified. She’s convinced that somebody is watching her, following her home from work, and lurking in shadows. But when she looks, there’s nobody there. The phone calls are real enough, even if the caller never speaks, although they never seem to happen when her husband is at home. She’s struggling to make anybody believe her, but with the recent murder of another young woman, DI Tom Mariner must take Lucy’s fears seriously. However, that’s not all that DI Mariner has to contend with. His team is stretched to the limits when the widow of a former police officer is found brutally murdered in an attack that could hark back to her husband’s past misdemeanors. Someone, it seems, is out for revenge.

Chris Collett 6 Blood and StoneBlood and Stone (DI Tom Mariner #6): Grieving the death of his ex-lover Anna Barham, Detective Inspector Tom Mariner has taken two weeks’ leave to recuperate, seeking peace and solitude in a remote corner of Wales. The last thing he imagined was being caught up in a murder investigation – with himself as the prime suspect.  But when his walking holiday is interrupted by the discovery of a dead body in the woods, Tom finds the local police taking an inordinate interest in him and the reasons for his presence in the area.
As the body count rises, it becomes clear that there are a number of disturbing secrets being kept behind the closed doors of the ancient stone farmhouses that populate the region – and as those secrets gradually unravel, it turns out that Mariner isn’t the only one to have come to the picturesque Caranwy valley to escape a troubled past. 

**REVIEW** Cold Call by Colin Llewelyn Chapman

COLD CALL BOOK COVER - with blood SAFE COPYTitle: Cold Call

Author: Colin Llewelyn Chapman

Release Date: October 2014

Publisher: Percy Publishing

Genre: Dark crime/thriller

Length: 300 pages

Synopsis: Wealthy entrepreneur Robin Bradford had it all – the house, the cars, the fine dining – and he lost it all. All except Lizzie, his perfect, loving girlfriend. Down on his luck and with no immediate prospects in business, Robin’s energies found another outlet, Just a little something spicy to bide his time until his financial world recovered, leading him down a very seedy path, onto a very rocky road. Time however was all he had, and all he was going to get.

Due to violence, drug references and sexual content, readers are recommended to be of 18yrs+.

REVIEW

Cold Call reeled me in from the very beginning, opening up with the discovery of a body within the first few pages, the emergency services being called, and then introducing the reader to the main character, Robin Bradford. In the very first chapter the pace is set for the rest of the book and the writing style is direct, easy to follow but with a dark, gritty and full storyline.

After losing his wealthy lifestyle due to recession and having to downsize his home, lose his cars, etc, Robin now works as a cold call salesman from his own kitchen, meeting clients when necessary. His loving girlfriend, Lizzie, has stayed with him throughout the hard times and keeps a part time job for herself. But with more time on his hands, and his physical relationship with Lizzie not always being quite as he’d like, Robin begins to spice things up a bit for himself, which leads to terrifying consequences for some.

The first victim, Katja, is discovered by her neighbour, Adam, who finds her mutilated body after noticing her front door ajar. He goes in to warn her of the dangers of leaving her door open when he realises a warning is too late. This scene is gritty and gory. The description and dialogue feels very real, making the reader easily imagine that they are there with Adam and experiencing it all firsthand.

The reader is given glimpses into what could have happened but not enough to know the full details. This allows the flexibility for twists and the reader to guess the motive, the culprit and how exactly the murder was carried out. This does become more apparent as the story moves on with the police investigation and forensics.

The story switches easily from the police officers involved, the forensic team and the crime scenes to Robin’s life, making it easy for the reader to keep up with all involved and you really sense that the author has left nothing out. I can understand Cold Call being likened to Martina Cole and Luther (BBC TV series), as it does read like a crime drama for tv.

I particularly loved reading how the investigation grew, from the very first murder scene, right the way through to the very end. The development is gradual, with DNA tests results being waited on, new crime scenes to record and compare notes with and even flaws within the characters that can slow down the investigation. This again makes it very realistic.

As the story continues so does the tension and suspense. Robin’s hunger for more spice, more control and more dominance drives the story even more, making for a more seedier read that becomes increasingly more dangerous. It also becomes clear that there is more to Robin’s actions than meets the eye. The recession and loss of his high class lifestyle has a deep impact on his dignity and pride. His extra ‘marital’ activities are psychologically allowing him to feel powerful and in control once again. But just how far will he go?

Cold Call is written well and clearly, easy to read and follow, at the same time as having a well-planned and detailed storyline with likeable and realistic characters. The pace is perfect, with dialogue and storyline flowing nicely at a rate that allows the reader to take in the information but never allowing the reader to switch off. And, as the story comes to an end, there are unexpected events which will surprise the reader. I would certainly like to read more from Colin Llewelyn Chapman as Cold Call is a fantastic debut.

A copy of Cold Call was provided by Percy Publishing in return for an honest and fair review.

Reviewed by Caroline Barker

To read an excerpt of Cold Call please click here: EXCERPT

AUTHOR BIO

ColinColin, 45, has worked in Construction throughout his career. He has three children aged from 12 to 18, and two step-children. Son of a former gamekeeper, he is still a country boy at heart! He described his childhood as “brilliant”, benefiting as he did from fantastic loving parents, and the joy of growing up in the beautiful Essex countryside.

AUTHOR LINKS:

Twitter: @ColinLChapman

Facebook: Colin Llewelyn Chapman-Author

Cold Call book actualPURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

 

**Review** Entropy by Robert Raker

Entropy_WP2014Book title:  Entropy

Author:  Robert Raker

Publisher: Wattle Publishing

RRP:   PB: £8.99 | Kindle & eBook: £5.99

Synopsis: When a series of child abductions and murders disrupt the life of an economically blighted community, the consequences have far-reaching implications. The brutal crimes take a different toll on a disparate group of individuals; the scuba diver who retrieves the children’s bodies; the disfigured cellist who thinks he knows who’s responsible; the undercover federal agent; and the mother of one of the victim’s.
United in a situation not of their choosing, they are forced to take a deep, introspective look into their intersected, yet isolated lives.

Review:

Entropy makes for a different type of crime drama. The story is about the impact that the killings have on the individual as opposed to the mystery of who done it and how/why. It focuses on the inner thoughts of these individuals whose lives are changed for the worse forever. These lives belong to those who are parents of a murder victim, a diver who witnesses and retrieves the dead, an undercover agent who has to pretend to be like these calculating and manipulative sex offenders/paedophiles, and also a member of the public who believes they know who is responsible.

What is fascinating about Entropy, is that the story is written from four very different perspectives, each one being written in first person. The first person allows the reader to be that particular character, to see inside their mind and feel every thought. It is a very strong and powerful connection and it grows as the story moves on and we hear from all four characters. Not only do they have the murders of these children to connect them, there is also another situation that brings these particular four together, without each of them realising the first connection they all have. Each section from all four characters ties in to make more of a narrative than the reader suspects.

The diver

The first section, told from the diver’s point of view, is extremely informative of each murder scene. Being a diver by profession, he falls into the role of assisting the police during times when they haven’t the time or manpower to provide their own. It is very interesting to read from this perspective, as it is quite shocking and difficult at times for the diver to deal with what he is seeing and dealing with. This is a completely different take on a crime scene, and I would imagine that not many have spent too long pondering on how one, such as a diver, would cope under these extraordinary devastating experiences.

The musician

The former celloist has many dark issues to contend with. Recently being involved in an accident which disfigured him plays a huge role in how it affected the one thing that he truly loved: music. Not only damaging to his career, but due to his introvert behaviour since, he has become distanced from his wife. His life is at a very dark moment. During this time he has been provided with information concerning the murders and has a strong suspicion on the culprit. Only his intention is not to take his suspicion to the police but to handle it his own way, taking out all of his anger and problems on the one person who truly deserves it.

During this second section it became clearer that Entropy is a heavy story, with little dialogue at times. There is a great deal of information to take in, and moments when I wanted to go back and re-read some points. It is very cleverly put together and interesting looking at each perspective in detail.

The agent

This section reminded me of ‘Legends‘ (tv series starring Sean Bean), where the undercover element of their job causes them to forget who they really are and has a strong, and sometimes damaging, impact on their personal life. The agent in this instance cannot let his wife in and it becomes clear why. The agent has to try and infiltrate a group of paedophiles. Although his role is necessary and he is carrying out his duties for all of the right reasons, it does make him sick at times, especially when he comes across photo’s of children to be sold and one is a familiar face linked to the murders.

At times part of the story is sickening with some graphic details of what was carried out with some of the victims. It does feel very real when you’re reading this. Some readers may not like parts of this section, however these lines are needed for the story and to allow the reader to realise just how some of these victims were treated.

From the words and context it is written, I was easily able to grasp the dark, powerful emotions that the agent’s wife is feeling and the pain that she faces on a daily basis. It is similar in some ways to the wife of the musician, how both women are left feeling quite alone, and abandoned by their partner emotionally.

…. Everything is so vacant here so I leave and go out to dinner all dressed up and alone. I sit outside because it’s cool and calm. I look for you in the people on the street, even though I know you’re not going to be there. The waiter feels sorry for me. I can see it in his eyes when he pours me a glass of red wine. I don’t even care that he can probably see my breasts in that dress. I want him to touch me, to ask me to stand up, and to take me right there outside, in the peaceful breeze. The hard truth is that I want another man, any man, a stranger to fuck me so that I can just feel something, and not feel like I am wasting away….

The model

The final chapter follows the mother of a victim. She has lost her child to a sex offending murderer, and this she finds incredibly difficult to live with. Her life has been torn apart and will never be the same again. To make matters worse, she has a husband who left her due to his infidelity. She is at a loss. The world she knew has gone.

It is an emotional read and one that will stay with you. But it does make the reader think about consequences, how one action can lead to so many more. It allows you to empathise with each character as we are taken on a journey through the lives of these individuals and can feel the devastating affects which lead to them all being in the same place at the same time.

I love the bus scene at the end of each section which ties all of the characters together, as well as the murders. Entropy is certainly a story which needs to be read until the very end before everything becomes clear. Each character looks within themselves for answers of the repercussions following the murders. They all ask themselves, and some mentally ask their partners, ‘what went wrong?’ Each story, as the synopsis suggests, is quite individual even though that one or two circumstances bring them together.

A copy of Entropy was provided by Wattle Publishing for the purpose of an honest and fair review.

Entropy by Robert Raker is available at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Reviewed by Caroline Barker

Author biography:
Robert Raker graduated with a degree in Journalism from the University of Pittsburgh. He currently resides in Philadelphia where he enjoys art, music, literature and live theater. He is currently working on his next novel.

Link to retailers: http://wattlepublishing.com/catalogue/entropy/

Twitter:  @RobertRaker1
Facebook:  Entropy by Robert Raker

**Promo Post with Prologue and (partial) First Chapter** Blue Wicked by Alan Jones

After reviewing debut author, Alan Jones’ The Cabinetmaker last week, I am excited to be introducing our readers with his second novel, Blue Wicked. Not a sequel to his first novel, albeit still a gritty crime thriller.

BlueWicked_300DPI

Title: Blue Wicked

Author: Alan Jones

Release Date: October 2014

Genre: Gritty crime thriller

Length: 167 pages

Blurb: The tortured corpses of young alcoholics and drug addicts are turning up in Glasgow and only unlikely investigator Eddie Henderson seems to know why. When he tries to tell the police, his information is ridiculed and he’s told to stop wasting their time.

One officer, junior detective Catherine Douglas, believes him, and together they set out to discover why the dregs of Glasgow’s underbelly are being found, dead and mutilated….

BlueWicked_300DPI

PROLOGUE

 

Eddie looked around at the crime scene. As usual, it looked nothing like those on the cop shows he’d seen on TV. No photographer, no blue and white police tape or flashing blue lights; just him and his little black case. A small crowd of onlookers surrounded him and to be fair, they gave him a little room to work, but that may have been because of the smell.

This was the third of three similar cases that Eddie had worked in the space of two years, and he briefly wondered if they could be connected. Flies buzzed around his face and he flapped his hand at them ineffectively. The victim had been dead for a couple of days, and there was a sticky pool of blood and faeces on the ground below the body. A length of wood extended from the anus, and another from the mouth; from the position of the body, Eddie surmised that it was the same piece of wood, because it was supporting the corpse in mid-air across two rusty steel barrels, as if it were a spit roast about to be barbecued. Eddie hoped that death had come before the skewering.

He was concentrating hard, so it gave him a bit of a start when a voice interrupted his thoughts.

“Hey mister, who the fuck wid dae that tae a fucken cat?”

 

CHAPTER 1 Eddie

 

Ever since he could remember, Eddie had wanted to be a vet. As one of the few vets in Scotland who specialised in animal abuse and poisoning, he was often called out by the SSPCA when an animal was suspected of having been poisoned or tortured, which is why he found himself in the middle of a patch of waste ground on the outskirts of Glasgow.

He had started out as a fairly ordinary vet, qualifying with a veterinary degree from Glasgow University including distinctions in medicine, pathology, physiology and biochemistry. This was all the more remarkable when you knew his background; one of four children from a one-parent family brought up on one of Glasgow’s toughest housing estates, Castlemilk. University had been a struggle at times, both financially and emotionally, although he had coped better with the academic side of the veterinary degree, being, according to his friend Brian, “a clever cunt”.

Despite his upbringing he had almost fitted in, but he couldn’t quite manage the don’t-give-a-fuck attitude that some of the better-off students had and, although he joined in with many of the social activities normally associated with students, most of his fellow classmates considered him to be somewhat stand-offish, perhaps with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. Eddie himself would have told anybody who asked that he enjoyed his time at university, but that he’d had to grow up a lot quicker than his fellow students, helping to bring up his three younger siblings and working from an early age to earn enough to help with the housekeeping and have a little money for himself.

He took some photographs of the unlucky animal in situ, measured the length of the wood impaling it, and then, using the small hacksaw from his case, he cut the wood close to where it emerged from both ends of the cat, which allowed him to place the animal into the thick polythene bag that he’d brought for that purpose. As he did this, he thought of his first few years in practice, when he had soon become bored with much of the daily routine work that he needed to get through. He wasn’t really a people person, so it was often an effort to be “nice” to the clients, although he generally got on a little better with his patients. None of the pet-owners in any of the practices where he’d worked particularly disliked him, but he’d never developed a loyal following of clients like some of the other vets he’d worked with.

He’d also struggled at times to fit in with the other practice staff until, about five years earlier, he’d moved to a small-animal practice in Paisley, just to the South West of Glasgow. The senior partner and the other vets in the practice realised before long that in Eddie, they had a very useful addition to the team. His strong interest in medicine and pathology made him indispensable in handling the kind of lengthy and complex cases that they struggled with, and his solid knowledge of lab work combined with his scientific and ordered approach meant that his work in the background let the other vets get on with keeping the customers happy and doing most of the day-to-day stuff that he found tedious. As a result he was offered a partnership in the practice, which he had accepted two years after joining them.

Encouraged by his position as the practice “expert” in biochemistry and post-mortem work, and his interest in the occasional poisoning case that the practice dealt with, he decided to take the unusual step of studying for a certificate in veterinary forensic pathology. It meant that he had to attend seminars and lectures periodically at Cambridge University, which was a bit of a bitch, but the practice paid for it, and he soon found himself involved in intriguing, though sometimes horrific, animal welfare cases.

Strangely, Eddie had fitted in at Cambridge. The other post-grads he studied with at the veterinary faculty were similar to him in many respects. Their backgrounds varied enormously, but they all had the same drive to learn, and a benign disdain for anyone who didn’t strive to further their knowledge. He even had a brief fling with one of his fellow students, Anna, but bizarrely, their post-coital chat was usually about forensic pathology rather than any plans they might have to carry on the romance away from the university’s rarefied environment.

The crowd had dispersed with the disappearance of the sorry corpse, and Eddie laid it gently in the large plastic box that he kept in his car for the purpose. Putting his case in the car as well, he took one last look around then pulled off the blue overalls that he usually wore for such jobs, more to keep himself clean than for any forensic reasons. He checked the cat for a microchip which, if present, would enable Eddie to identify its owner.

Eddie groaned when the reader pinged and the number appeared on the screen. It meant a particularly unpleasant phone call he’d have to make later, breaking the news to a distraught owner, getting their permission to do a post-mortem examination and send appropriate samples off to the lab. He headed back to the surgery, anxious to get on with it; it would mean a very late finish, as he also wanted to write up his interim findings and send his preliminary report to Mike George at the SSPCA before going home.

 

BlueWicked_300DPIMORE INFO

To read a larger sample about how Eddie’s investigation of a series of animal killings draws him into one of the biggest serial murder enquiries Scotland has ever seen, read four free chapters at www.bluewicked.co.uk, where there is also an online audio dictionary.

You can also check it out on Goodreads.

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon UK

Amazon US


Previously reviewed was Alan Jones’ The Cabinetmaker. We awarded this an amazing 5* on Goodreads and Amazon!

The CabinetmakerSynopsis: The Cabinetmaker, Alan Jones’ first novel, tells of one man’s fight for justice when the law fails him. Set in Glasgow from the late nineteen-seventies through to the current day, a cabinetmaker’s only son is brutally murdered by a gang of thugs, who walk free after a bungled prosecution.

It’s young Glasgow detective John McDaid’s first murder case. He forms an unlikely friendship with the cabinetmaker, united by a determination to see the killers punished, their passion for amateur football, and by John’s introduction to a lifelong obsession with fine furniture.

This is the story of their friendship, the cabinetmaker’s quest for justice, and the detective’s search for the truth.

This unusual crime thriller contains some Glasgow slang and a moderate amount of strong language.

To check out our 5* review of The Cabinetmaker please click here.

For more info on The Cabinetmaker, check it out on Goodreads.

The Cabinetmaker by Alan Jones is available at Amazon UK and Amazon US.

*PROMO POST with Author Bio & Excerpt* Cold Call by Colin Llewelyn Chapman

DARK CRIME THRILLER (Adult 18yrs+)

For those readers who love a dark, gritty crime thriller, we are excited to introduce you to COLD CALL by Colin Llewelyn Chapman. Described as being ‘a cross between Broadchurch and Luther… Martina Cole and Fifty Shades‘, I cannot wait to review this one very soon! Not a book to read alone or in the dead of night, or so I am told, but that is when I do most of my reading and I’m sure the atmosphere will lead to more tension and suspense! The reader’s discretion is advised and an 18yr+ reader is strongly recommended due to some of the content.

Cold Call book actualTitle: Cold Call

Author: Colin Llewelyn Chapman

Release Date: October 2014

Publisher: Percy Publishing

Genre: Dark crime/thriller

Length: 300 pages

Synopsis: Wealthy entrepreneur Robin Bradford had it all – the house, the cars, the fine dining – and he lost it all. All except Lizzie, his perfect, loving girlfriend. Down on his luck and with no immediate prospects in business, Robin’s energies found another outlet, Just a little something spicy to bide his time until his financial world recovered, leading him down a very seedy path, onto a very rocky road. Time however was all he had, and all he was going to get.

“A FANTASTIC FAST PACED PAGE TURNER”

COLD CALL BOOK COVER - with blood SAFE COPY

EXCERPT

About an hour later Robin reached his destination, a busy car park a stone’s throw from the Sea Front. Riffling through his pockets, he counted his change as he stood in front of the parking meter. “Bollocks!” He didn’t have enough coins to meet the two hour charge, but then glancing around the parking lot he decided to chance his luck. He beat a path through the hordes of shoppers, tourists, loafers and vagrants that congregated around the town centre, eventually arriving at the Tango Top-Up Sun Bed Salon. This was the facade behind which Tamsin and Marina’s knocking shop plied its trade. On the face of it the place was a reputable tanning salon, doing a roaring trade among Southend’s innumerable wannabe WAGS. Young women seeking that healthy orange glow to impress the local bar-brawling men, fixated on having trophy wives and glamorous girlfriends to show off down the Seafront. The crafty tanning shop owner let out the upstairs room to the two harlots for a nice handful of cash, which they palmed his way once a week. No invoices, no questions, and a discount on services if and when he needed relief. As instructed, Robin approached the receptionist and asked where the Therapies Room could be found. She obligingly led him through the shop and into a back room which housed a long staircase, leading up and out of view.

Up there, Sir. Ring the bell at the top.”

Thank you, Darling!” he replied, smiling. His charms were wasted on her, though. She knew exactly who he was and what he was: a punter.

The staircase turned halfway up to reveal a large, royal blue door. Covered in an array of different locks, it was obviously designed to prevent the Old Bill, disgruntled clients and irate wives from getting at the working girls. Robin pressed the buzzer on the small intercom and waited somewhat impatiently for a reply. As he stood shuffling from foot to foot, wringing his hands in anticipation, he felt a twinge of fear. Stories of mugged punters and blackmail victims started to play out in his mind.

What if I get inside and some big beefcake robs me?

What if the police raid the place while I’m ankles deep in a tom?

What if they try and blackmail me?

But the ever present ‘what if’s’ were quickly beaten back down by a much more pressing matter: Robin’s rampant desire to satisfy the lustful urges seething in his loins.

The silver, pepper-pot fronted intercom speaker crackled into life and brought Robin’s mind back into line instantly.

Hello! Who is it, please?”

Despite having already passed the first line of defence, namely the drone working the ‘Front of House’, Robin was subjected to several encrypted verbal trials from the intercom. While it was gabbling away at him, asking him all sorts of trivial questions, he started to become distracted by an idea that the voice coming from the silver box of buttons seemed vaguely familiar. No matter how hard he thought, he couldn’t place it; the sexy overtones disguised her natural voice.

At last the door opened. Robin surveyed his potential purchase, beginning at her black high-heeled shoes and sheer hold-ups. Moving on up, he paused briefly at her lacy red knickers, a matching brassiere barely restraining her ample breasts. When he reached her dark tousled hair, his mouth fell open.

Fuck me! …You?”

It would have been hard to say at that point who was the more alarmed, Robin or his lacy lady.

AUTHOR BIO

ColinColin, 45, has worked in Construction throughout his career. He has three children aged from 12 to 18, and two step-children. Son of a former gamekeeper, he is still a country boy at heart! He described his childhood as “brilliant”, benefiting as he did from fantastic loving parents, and the joy of growing up in the beautiful Essex countryside.

AUTHOR LINKS:

Twitter: @ColinLChapman

Facebook: Colin Llewelyn Chapman-Author

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US