**Blog Tour, Exclusive Author Post & Review** BLOQ by Alan Jones

Released in the last week, we are pleased to be joining gritty, Scottish crime author Alan Jones (The Cabinetmaker, Blue Wicked) for his latest work of fiction, BLOQ, during his release blog tour! Not only do we have the book info and review for you, but the author has written an exclusive piece for us, whereby a main character from the story is being interviewed by a journalist, also a character from Bloq!

bloqTitle: Bloq

Author: Alan Jones

Genre: Crime drama, thriller

Release date: April 1st, 2016

Released by: Ailsa Publishing

Length: 300 pages

Blurb: A father waits in Glasgow’s Central Station for his daughter, returning home from London for Christmas. When the last train has pulled in, and she doesn’t get off it, he makes a desperate overnight dash to find out why. His search for her takes over his life, costing him his job and, as he withdraws from home, family and friends, he finds himself alone, despairing of ever seeing her again.

This is a gritty crime novel with some sexual content.

BUY LINKS:

AMAZON UK

AMAZON US

REVIEW ***** (5* rating)

Bloq is an extremely well-written dark and gritty crime novel, telling the story of a widower whose devoted daughter doesn’t come home for Christmas. The father goes to all lengths in the search for her, with twists and surprises that really do shock and create emotion within the reader.

We start where the reader is succumbed to a fantastic, dark-but-gripping prologue, demonstrating foul play and providing us with the curiosity to find out just who the victim is, and who did it. I love it when books reel you in, straight in at the deep end at the very beginning. In this way, there’s no leaving the story until you get some answers. The author has his claws in you, and you’re hooked!

One cannot help but feel completely devastated for Bill. He is a very likable, gentle character, and not only has he been widowed recently, but now his only daughter, Carol, has gone missing with no explanation. Since she moved down to London for her career as a journalist, Carol always took the time to return to Glasgow, visiting her parents, and now just her father. She would always let him know which train she was ready to catch and he would then meet her at the station. When her train arrives with no sign of Carol, he immediately senses that something is wrong; she hasn’t called or texted him. And so he waits for the next; all the time the reader senses his gut feeling that something is wrong.

As the story begins to unfold, and with little help from the police, Bill tries to follow the only lead he has from one of Carol’s friends. To be able to keep track of his search he spends a great deal of his time in London, whilst still trying to maintain his day job in Glasgow. With luck going completely against him, after a few weeks of working flexi-time, he is encouraged to leave due to the fact that he shuts himself off and thinks only of his daughter’s disappearance.

Many doors close in Bill’s face, leaving very little hope. But, the sheer determination that Bill has is admirable. The reader can truly sense that he will find out what happened if it’s the last thing he does. I found myself tearing up due to the gentle and caring manner the author wrote about Bill’s actions and feelings – as if it was the author himself that had undergone this terrible ordeal. It is delicately and beautifully written in the places it needs to be. A truly outstanding read.

I love how in all of Alan Jones‘ books the main character has a skilful trade that is incorporated somewhere into the story. In this case it is more subtle than his previous work, but as a fan of the author I truly appreciated it.

Alan Jones has gone from strength to strength with each book (The Cabinetmaker, Blue Wicked). And, I can see Bloq being his most popular to date. It will definitely stay with me for a long time to come, and I can’t wait to read more from this author.

A copy of Bloq was provided by the author in return for a fair and honest review.

Reviewed by Caroline Barker

**EXCLUSIVE AUTHOR POST**

To coincide with our blog tour post Alan Jones has kindly provided us with a pastiche of an article written by one of the minor characters in the book, a journalist, about one of the main characters in the book, the owner of the nightclub that gives the book its title – Bloq.

Aleksander Gjebrea – Eastern Bloq Entrepreneur. By Steve Evans The Times, Business section: London Local

I met Aleksander Gjebrea at his up-and-coming nightclub, ‘Bloq‘, a new player in London’s entertainment scene. After hearing good things about the club, bravely located in one of the city’s less fashionable areas, I paid a visit with some friends a week ago. If the evening was anything to go by, the management are pulling out all the stops to attract the cream of London’s clubbers.

While they’re still a way off attracting the A-listers, the club has its fair share of lesser known celebrities and young footballers. And it was busy. Even so, the owner took time to sit down during the evening for a while and chat with our group, and I must say, it would have been hard to imagine a more congenial host. I took advantage of this and asked him if he would be prepared to give me an interview for an article in a series I was writing about young immigrant entrepreneurs who had made their mark on their adopted city, and he kindly agreed.

So, before it opens for the evening’s revelry, we’re sitting in Bloq, drinking coffee and talking about his journey from his first job as a barman after arriving in the UK over ten years ago, to owning a nightclub with multiple zones and a top of the range sound system attracting up and coming DJ’s from all over England.

I asked him first if he’d ever hoped he could have come this far in such a short time. He laughed. “I always knew I would succeed. I would have just kept going until I did. That it happened so soon is just a bonus.” He tells me this in a voice tinted with an accent which is a product of his Albanian origins. I complement him on his English. He smiles and tells me that at first, the accent was detrimental, both in his employment and in social situations, but, the more successful he had become, the more his Albanian tinted speech proved to be an asset, but he stopped short of saying that he deliberately cultivated his accent to appear more charismatic.

He certainly oozed an easy and unaffected charm. A good looking man at 35, he says his single status is largely due to his focus and drive being on the business. He claims to work 18 hour days and, from what I have seen, it would be hard to dispute this.

“When I arrived from Albania, I had three of four jobs in different bars; a day here, a day there, but the owners soon realised that I worked hard and had a good feel for the job. I’d worked in my uncle’s bar back in Vlorë before I left Albania, so I knew the bar trade well. After a few months, I was offered the manager’s job at one of the bars and I increased turnover by £35K in one year. I put the bonus money I’d saved as a deposit on a run-down bar in a not so good area. It was part of a bankruptcy sale and it went very cheap. Within two years I had bought the property next door and expanded out into it. There were lots of students moving into the area and I put in some good audio, hired some decent DJs and did the whole place up as a small club.”

He told me where his first venture was situated, and that his younger brother ran it now. I asked him what had prompted his decision to move on to a new place when he had built up a good business that was doing well for him.

“I knew that I’d taken it as far as it could go. My brother had been over for a few years working for me and I thought of making him the manager, but I decided that he would make a better job of it if he owned it. I know that he’ll pay back the money to me, even though I’ve never asked him for it. It’s in our family make up. So I was happy to hand it over to him. I knew that to achieve my ambition of having a top class club, I needed a bigger venue, in the right location.”

I asked him why he’d chosen Walworth. It wasn’t an obvious place for a top end nightclub.

“It was the building that mattered, and I couldn’t afford one big enough in a more fashionable area. Walworth has good transport connections and is not too far away from central London. This building came up and I knew it was right.”

On the club’s name, he re-told the story I’d heard when I’d visited the club. Originally, he’d intended to call the club Eastern Bloq, a homage to his origins, but the name had been shortened to the more striking Bloq.

We took a break from our interview and he showed me around. The club has four main areas. There’s a sizeable lounge bar with a dance floor; very well decked out with lush seating and a number of tables for diners. The club does a limited menu, but it’s not primarily an eating place. It has a laid back feel to it, and the music is generally smooth, shall we say, and it’s not so loud as to make conversation impossible without shouting. The drinks are priced reasonably for an establishment of this quality, although, for those with too much disposable income, I noticed a few very expensive bottles of wine and some top end spirits on the drinks menu.

A stairway from the main foyer climbs to a terraced seating area overlooking the lounge bar, housing an intimate and quiet corner in the otherwise hectic and noisy venue.

The third area is the main dance zone, and you can tell there’s been a heavy investment in the sound system, and just as importantly, in the sound insulation that allows the music to be as loud as it needs to be without making the rest of the club intolerable. It’s very impressive, as I saw on the night I was there as a clubber, and the lighting was equally attention-grabbing too.

I asked Aleksander how much it had cost him.

Without blinking, he told me the whole place had cost well over three quarters of a million. I’d suspected it might have been more, but he informed me that he could strike a good deal with his contractors! He said that he’d paid off the loans on his previous club within three years and that he’d been able to put a bit of money behind him before he bought the building that he then transformed into Bloq. Despite that, he adds that it will take him a little longer to clear the debt on his latest project.

“I also run an import\export business between the UK and Albania. There’s a demand for British luxury goods because of the more open economy out there, and we bring produce back from Albania that competes very well with its UK equivalents. This, with some property development we’re also involved in, has allowed us to reduce the debt burden significantly, just five years into the life of the club.”

As we returned to the lounge bar, he showed me the VIP room, that is available at an undisclosed fee to those of his clientele who preferred a more private and personal experience, but with access to all the club’s other facilities.

“It’s very popular for birthdays, anniversaries and the like, and we’re finding it increasingly being booked by commercial organisations for corporate entertainment.”

I tackled him about the drug scene, and how it affected the management of the club.

“Being completely honest, it’s nearly impossible to stop it altogether, but our security is second to none, and we pride ourselves on the fact that the club has no serious drug issues.”

Returning to the lounge area, I asked him where he thought he’d be in another five years.

“My ambition is to make Bloq one of the premier late night London Venues by 2017. I would like to think that we can accomplish it at this location, because it’s good for the local area, bringing employment and extra footfall for local businesses. After that, who knows. Paris, Rome, Madrid?”

Having spent a few hours with the man, and being given a glimpse of the small but impressive business empire he has built from nothing in a very short time, it’s hard not to believe him when he says that he can achieve this ambitious target, and it’s even harder to rule out the possibility that it may well happen.

bloq

BLOQ_Tour

**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