The Milliner’s Secret blog tour – Extract and Giveaway.

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Today I am very happy to bring you an extract from The Milliner’s Secret by Natalie Meg Evans as part of the official blog tour – if you think you might fancy reading this I have one copy of the novel to giveaway (UK Only) – simply comment on this post or tweet me @Lizzy11268 telling me why you would love to read it. One winner will be randomly selected at 5pm today (29th July)

London,1937. A talented young woman travels to Paris with a stranger. The promise of an exciting career as a milliner beckons, but she is about to fall in love with the enemy…

Londoner Cora Masson has reinvented herself as Coralie de Lirac, fabricating an aristocratic background to launch herself as a fashionable milliner. When the Nazis invade, the influence of a high-ranking lover, Dietrich, saves her business. But while Coralie retains her position as designer to a style-hungry elite, Paris is approaching its darkest hour.

Faced with the cruel reality of war and love, Coralie must make a difficult choice—protect herself or find the courage to fight for her friends, her freedom and everything she believes in.

Read on for an extract….

Paris: Saturday, 13 July 1940

They would have been a spectacular sight in any city at any time. Bare shoulders, impish hats and upswept hair. One, a blonde in her mid-thirties, crossed the dance floor on a zephyr of sex appeal. A younger blonde walked as if she suspected the room was infested with snakes. The third, a redhead, followed like a sleepwalker.

A band pumped out a hot jazz version of ‘La Marseillaise’ – so loud, bottles on the bar shimmered. ‘They know it’s illegal to play that, don’t they?’ The younger blonde, whose name was Coralie de Lirac, glanced uneasily at the stage. ‘Nobody’s dancing.’

‘It’s too damn early,’ said the older one. ‘I can’t get used to being in a nightclub at teatime.’

A month before, hours after they had marched into Paris, the Germans had moved the clocks to Berlin time and imposed a curfew that effectively sealed people into their homes. Then, realising Paris would grind to a halt, they’d relaxed the curfew to midnight. If you stayed later, you were stuck wherever you happened to be until five the next morning. But, then, Coralie reminded herself, the Nazis hadn’t invaded France for the convenience of its inhabitants. ‘Let’s get a table,’ she said. ‘Don’t make eye contact with anything male under ninety. Una? Keep your mind on the job.’

‘Of course. Though we may have to kiss a toad or two before we find what we’re looking for. Oh, don’t take fright, Tilly dear.’ Una McBride threw an arm round their redheaded companion, who had stopped dead at the word ‘toad’. ‘Coralie and I will take care of such niceties. Or “un-pleasantries”, which will be closer to the truth.’ Una’s drawl marked her out as American.

Coralie indicated a table. ‘Over there. Come on, or we’ll be mistaken for the floor show.’ Before they got much further, though, the club’s proprietor spotted them and ushered them to a table of his choosing, closer to the music and the bar. A young man with a boxer’s physique, he wore a white tuxedo and a rose in his buttonhole. ‘Mesdames, enchanted. Welcome to the Rose Noire.’ He kissed their hands in turn, lingering over Coralie’s. ‘Mademoiselle de Lirac, you have been away too long.’

‘I’m flattered you noticed.’ As she sat down in the chair he pulled out for her, Coralie undid and refastened her bracelet, to avoid meeting his smile. When she’d first started coming here in the summer of ’37, Serge Martel had been a glamorous figure, oozing charm, taking care of customers’ every whim. She’d been poleaxed when she’d heard he’d later been arrested for violently assaulting one of his female singers and sent to prison for seven years. Eighteen months he’d served. Nobody knew how he’d got out so early – who had greased the prison doors – but there was something new and unnerving in his manner. Coralie tried to catch Una’s eye, but her friend was busy sizing up the clientele.

Martel, meanwhile, clicked his fingers at an elderly waiter shuffling towards them with a tray of champagne. ‘Quickly, quickly, man. We have thirsty ladies here.’

The waiter called back, ‘If I was younger and faster, Monsieur, I’d be in the army!’ but he hurried forward nonetheless.

Félix Peyron poured vintage Lanson into three glasses, and Coralie noticed how his hands shook. An institution on boulevard de Clichy, he’d aged as though the shock of defeat and invasion had knocked the life out of him. It looked as if he’d taken to rubbing talcum powder into his cuffs to whiten them, but tonight his collar looked distinctly yellow next to Martel’s tuxedo. How did Martel keep his tux so white, she wondered? It was easier to get to Heaven than to find washing soda these days, and laundries gave priority to German linen. Paris had not been bombed, like Warsaw or Rotterdam, but everything was running low: food, fuel . . . hope. For ordinary citizens, anyway. Counting the field-grey uniforms in the club, the caps with their silver eagles laid down on the best tables, Coralie formed her own conclusions about Serge Martel’s recent good fortune.

 

 

Having placed the bottle in its ice bucket, Félix stepped back and bowed. ‘You are welcome at the Rose Noire, Mesdames, as beauty is always welcome.’

‘Why, Félix, you wicked seducer.’ Una picked up her glass. ‘We’ll have to keep an eye on you, I can see that.’

Here we go, Coralie thought. If it wore trousers, Una fluttered her eyelashes at it, though tonight her attention was really focused on the stage. Specifically on the Romany violinist, whose sweaty curls obscured half his face and whose shirt hung off one shoulder.

‘The Vagabonds are on good form tonight.’ Coralie spoke lightly, watching Una’s reaction.

‘Aren’t they just? But I wish they’d stick to jazz standards. Changing the time signature of “La Marseillaise” doesn’t fool anyone.’ Una blew tumbleweed kisses towards the stage, and the violinist broke off long enough to return one. Gentle applause spread around the room. People were looking their way, women in particular. Coralie saw one pull a silk flower from her evening bag and pin it into her hair, as if she felt underdressed in comparison.

Félix, lighting their table candle, chuckled. ‘People see a love affair flowering and it makes them happy, though we are at war.’

‘No, sir, it’s our hats that are stealing the show.’ Una tapped the miniature Gainsborough confection pinned over her ear, ruffling its cascade of flowers and dyed feathers. She said to Coralie, ‘I promised you these bijou babies would be a sensation.’

‘I said they would be. I wish you’d stop pinching my ideas.’

‘Oops.’ Una took an indulgent gulp of champagne. ‘I forget I’m only the muse and not the milliner. By next week, they’ll be the rage. There’ll be a queue from your shop to the river.’

Coralie waited for Félix to leave. ‘Assuming we’re still here next week. Tilly?’ Their friend was staring into her glass as if she suspected prussic acid among the bubbles. ‘Drink it or put it down. People will think you’ve got something to be scared of.’

‘Have I not?’ came the whisper.

‘Well . . . try not to show it.’ Then Coralie said, out of the side of her mouth, ‘I don’t think she can do this, Una.’

‘What choice does she have? We can’t risk taking her home because all our houses will be under surveillance. Her only chance is “over the line into the free zone and keep moving”. And before you talk of putting her on a train to the border, imagine her negotiating timetables, not to mention police checks.’

Una was right. Ottilia had to escape Paris and a car ride was her only hope. They now had to acquire by charm what they couldn’t get by queuing at a police station – her name on a roadtravel permit. An Ausweis, to give it its official, German, title.

Find out more here: http://nataliemegevans.com/

Follow the author on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/NatMegEvans

Purchase Information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1848669119/ref=x_gr_w_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_w_bb_uk-21&linkCode=as2&camp=1634&creative=6738

Check out the tour!

FINAL Blog Tour Graphic

Happy Reading Folks!

Cold Moon Blog Tour – The Huntress/FBI Thrillers Alexandra Sokoloff

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As part of the Cold Moon Blog Tour I am really happy to review all 3 books in the series so far – a series that I would HIGHLY recommend – a great depth of plot and character makes them must reads for any crime fiction fan.

Book One

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FBI Special Agent Matthew Roarke is closing in on a bust of a major criminal organization in San Francisco when he witnesses an undercover member of his team killed right in front of him on a busy street, an accident Roarke can’t believe is coincidental. His suspicions put him on the trail of a mysterious young woman who appears to have been present at each scene of a years-long string of “accidents” and murders, and who may well be that most rare of killers: a female serial.

So Huntress Moon has gone straight into the running to be in my top 10 of the year – a completely involving and utterly brilliant crime novel that takes the “Serial Killer Thriller” and redefines it – a heart stopping and emotional reading ride that will keep you up into the early hours.

The main hook into this story is the two main characters who are superbly well drawn and utterly engaging. Matthew Roarke is an FBI agent who has left the world of profiling behind. Now working on Major Crime, a series of events throws him back into the murky world of killers and their motivations. Enter our killer, a beautiful and enigmatic woman who has been completely off the radar until a chance encounter puts her in the path of Matthew. So begins a cat and mouse chase which will have you avidly turning pages, desperate to know who she is and what she is up to.

This is so beautifully constructed, showing us first one then the other of our two protagonists, slowly drip feeding information and background to both, all the while keeping the action going and often really tugging on the heartstrings. There is a great depth to the writing that pushes this above the level of a standard thriller, a real sense of authenticity and some truly heart stopping moments, all wrapped up in an intelligent storyline that just grabs you right by the throat.

Some really intriguing strands run through it as well, haunting themes and thoughts on the true nature of evil – it just gives the whole novel an added layer that will make you shiver – frightening and atmospheric throughout this was a truly addictive novel from first page to last.

Overall then an intense and vivid crime mystery with an interesting twist and basically just a darned good yarn. It’ll get you!

Book Two

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Twenty-five years have passed since a savage killer terrorized California, massacring three ordinary families before disappearing without a trace.
The haunted child who was the only surviving victim of his rampage is now wanted by the FBI for brutal crimes of her own, and Special Agent Matthew Roarke is on an interstate manhunt for her, despite his conflicted sympathies for her history and motives.

This series has, so far, been totally brilliant. Huntress Moon, pitch perfect part one, set us up for Blood Moon which is simply superb – a rollicking roller coaster ride of a novel with some hugely compelling characters and a story arc that will leave you breathless.

Redefining the serial killer thriller is no easy task believe me, I’ve seen it all over the years, but with the Huntress/FBI Thrillers Alexandra Sokoloff has done just that – creating in Cara Lindstrom a killer like no other – she is intensely fascinating, completely believable and absolutely sympathetic.

Her “relationship” with Roarke, our man at the FBI is gorgeously complex, beautifully captivating and a huge strength of the series – it draws you in, makes you pause for thought and is so riveting that you will barely glance up from the page.

Add to that a fast paced and highly intriguing mystery element in the cases surrounding these two and you really do have a unique addition to the crime genre, one that I would highly recommend.

Book Three

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The hunt for mass murderer Cara Lindstrom is over. FBI Special Agent Matthew Roarke has been working for this moment: the capture of a killer who savagely hunts the worst of humanity. But Roarke remains traumatized by his own near-death at the hands of the serial killer who slaughtered Cara’s family…and haunted by the enigmatic woman who saved his life.

Words really can’t express how much I’m enjoying this series – seriously addictive, most terrific storytelling and a real dark side that appeals.

So this is the third novel to feature the serial killer who isn’t, Cara Lindstrom and her befuddled would be captor Agent Roarke. In this instalment Cara is in jail but of course this is Cara we are talking about so how long she is likely to be there remains to be seen. Roarke meanwhile still fights his inner demons and considers crossing some more lines as he heads into another emotive case.

Cold Moon delves yet deeper into the underbelly of society, dealing as it does with the world of pimps, child prostitution and kidnapping – Alexandra Sokoloff has a real feel for her subject matter, a depth of perception that comes across so well in the thoughts and actions of her characters and the consequences that follow. As I said in my review of book 2, redefining the serial killer genre is no easy task, to do it as well as sending a strong moral message is even harder and yet that is exactly what happens within the narrative of all the huntress/FBI Thrillers.

There is also a beautifully constructed mythology developing here just below the surface of obvious – most especially within Cara’s view of the world and her redefining of evil. What it is, what it means. She is the very definition of a strong female lead – yet she is not the heroine. Or is she? Therein lies the real addictive quality of this series – almost every character walks a very fine line.

I honestly think these are superb. Getting better if anything with each new story, I am utterly entranced by this world and the people in it – authentic and downright scary if you think too deeply about it,I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Find out more here: http://alexandrasokoloff.com/

Follow Alex on Twitter herehttps://twitter.com/AlexSokoloff

Purchase Informationhttp://www.amazon.co.uk/Alexandra-Sokoloff/e/B001IXTUR2/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1438066258&sr=1-2-ent

 

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Happy Reading Folks!

The ®Evolution trilogy – Guest post from author Stephanie Saulter

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The final novel in Stephanie Saulter’s trilogy – Regeneration – is due to be released on the 6th August by Jo Fletcher Books and I am delighted to welcome her to the blog today talking about leading characters.

Leading Characters – Stephanie Saulter.

The ®Evolution trilogy had its genesis many years ago in a moment that I’ve since described as a vivid daydream, or perhaps a flash of inspiration: a turbulent mental image of a group of people engaged in a fraught, possibly deadly confrontation. I was battered by the intense emotions swirling through and amongst them, but I didn’t know why they felt the way they did; I didn’t know who they were, or what had sparked their fear and hatred and anger. I sensed strongly held and deeply opposing convictions of a kind I’d encountered before, although never in this context. I knew that lives hung on the outcome, but not what the conflict was about. I have rarely been so shaken.

A single thread of individual identity emerged from that maelstrom, and I followed it: the fierce courage of a woman at bay, prepared to risk her life for the sake of a child not her own; coupled with a sense of cool intelligence and swift calculation. Her self-control and aura of command fascinated me. She knows what’s going on here, I thought. If I can work out who she is then I’ll understand it too.

And so it came to pass that Aryel Morningstar was born. Though clearly a product of my subconscious, I can never shake the feeling that she is more a discovery than a creation, like the statue waiting inside the stone until a sculptor comes along and chips away the excess marble. Aryel had the answer; Aryel was the answer. Following the fragile thread of that one character illuminated all of the others: the child in her care, at once terribly vulnerable and terribly dangerous; those who threaten them, too afraid of the danger to be moved by the vulnerability, too instinctively opposed to change to be capable of cherishing anything new. The wider webs of allies and enemies, friends and family, institutions and ideologies rippled out, each link informing and being informed by the ones next to it, sweeping me backward from that incendiary moment until I finally knew where it had all started.

Still, it took some time for me to establish who the key players were and to understand the world they were living in and reacting to. It was only when I did that I was able to write their story: the story that became Gemsigns, and led to Binary, and now to Regeneration. And I have taken some time to make this point, precisely because it’s so often assumed that writers in general, and writers of works dubbed ‘genre fiction’ in particular, start with plot and insert character. Sometimes that’s true; sometimes it even works well. But it is not necessarily the case, and it’s certainly not the only route to an intriguing and exciting plot.

As it happens, I do a lot of intricate, layered, twisty plotting – it’s just that the plot is mobilised by the characters, not the other way round. I’m more interested in thinking about what kind of person would arise out of the events, challenges and constraints that I’ve developed than in specifying what kind of character I need to fulfil function X in plot element Y. The details of the plot emerge as I work out what this particular individual would do next. What are their priorities? What’s their emotional response likely to be? What motivates them, and how do they react to setbacks? What’s their relationship to the other characters in this scenario? In short: who are they?

A criticism sometimes levelled at the plot-centric approach is that too often the characters it produces are one-dimensional; they have no capacity besides function X, no purpose beyond plot element Y. They are functionaries, not characters. I don’t want that. A world full of functionaries is not interesting to me, no matter how many crises are constructed to animate them. So I work very hard to ensure that even the most minor of background players has the heft and texture of a fully realised, self-directed human. I want the reader to feel that even though this particular story isn’t about that character, an equally engaging and complex story could be.

That approach bears fruit in surprising ways. One of the key characters in Binary, and again to an even greater degree in Regeneration, was invented on the fly in Gemsigns so that a major character in that book would have someone to interact with and recount an anecdote to; in order to flesh out some of the details of her life. I didn’t know, when I wrote that scene, that Mikal would ever appear again. But I made him distinctive and compassionate and funny, I placed the conversation within the context of him having a particular place in the community – and a few chapters later, when I needed another interaction that would demonstrate the threat to that community and how they were facing up to it, there he was, ready to oblige. He kept cropping up; he ended up having the last line of dialogue in Gemsigns, and becoming more and more central as the series progressed. The woman who becomes his wife, Sharon Varsi, started off simply as a patrol officer arriving at the scene of a crime in Gemsigns; she’s had a similar progression. The young musician who was the subject of that initial anecdote told to Mikal, introduced but unnamed in Gemsigns, emerges in Binary as the minor character Lyriam, and earned his own spin-off short story, Discordances.

If characters are constructed as fully rounded people, with emotions and quirks and interests beyond the immediate requirements of the plot, they will practically generate their own stories. They will be bigger than the situation that you, the writer, have put them in; they will be capable of more. And it strikes me now, at the end of my journey through the ®Evolution, that the person who drew me into it in the first place epitomises that understanding of character: as a matrix that operates in multiple dimensions, the product of a network of relationships and associations that have significance far beyond the present moment.

What I learned over almost five years of writing these stories is what Aryel Morningstar knew all along: we should not think of anyone, in fiction or in life, as merely a plot device, a functionary. No one sees themselves that way. Everyone is the fulcrum of their universe, the centre of their own web. She understood that, and used it. It was what made her stand out from all the others, back in the confusion of their creation; it was the single shining thread of certainty that I followed into her world. Her conviction of a common humanity was, and remains, the source of her power.

The ®Evolution trilogy

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Humanity stands on the brink. Again.

Surviving the Syndrome meant genetically modifying almost every person on the planet. But norms and gems are different. Gems may have the superpowers that once made them valuable commodities, but they also have more than their share of the disabled, the violent and the psychotic.

After a century of servitude, freedom has come at last for the gems, and not everyone’s happy about it. The gemtechs want to turn them back into property. The godgangs want them dead. The norm majority is scared and suspicious, and doesn’t know what it wants.

Eli Walker is the scientist charged with deciding whether gems are truly human, and as extremists on both sides raise the stakes, the conflict descends into violence. He’s running out of time, and with advanced prototypes on the loose, not everyone is who or what they seem. Torn between the intrigues of ruthless executive Zavcka Klist and brilliant, badly deformed gem leader Aryel Morningstar, Eli finds himself searching for a truth that might stop a war.

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When confiscated genestock is stolen out of secure government quarantine, DI Sharon Varsi finds herself on the biggest case of her career… chasing down a clever thief, a mysterious hacker, and the threat of new, black market gemtech.

Zavcka Klist, ruthless industrial enforcer, has reinvented herself. Now the head of Bel’Natur, she wants gem celebrity Aryel Morningstar’s blessing for the company’s revival of infotech – the science that spawned the Syndrome, nearly destroyed mankind, and led to the creation of the gems. With illness in her own family that only a gemtech can cure, Aryel’s in no position to refuse.

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The gillungs – genetically modified, waterbreathing humans – are thriving. They’ve pioneered new aquatic industries, and their high-efficiency quantum battery technology coupled to tidal turbines in the Thames estuary looks set to revolutionise the energy industry. But as demand grows, so does fear of what their newfound power might mean.

Then a biohazard scare at Sinkat, their London headquarters, fuels the opposition and threatens to derail the gillungs’ progress. Was it an accident born of overconfidence, or was it sabotage?

DS Sharon Varsi has her suspicions, and Gabriel sees parallels in the propaganda war he’s trying to manage: politicians and big business have stakes in this game too. And now there is a new threat: Zavcka Klist is out of prison. With powerful new followers and nothing to lose, she’s out to reclaim everything they took from her.

Find out more here: http://stephaniesaulter.com/

Follow the author on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/scriptopus

Purchase Information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stephanie-Saulter/e/B00DPHWQ34/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1437950055&sr=1-2-ent

Happy Reading Folks!

Liz currently loves…The Mistake I Made by Paula Daly.

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Publication Date: 27th August from Grove Atlantic (US) and Bantam Press (UK)

Source: Netgalley (Grove Atlantic)

Single mother Roz has reached breaking-point. After the dissolution of her marriage, Roz’s business has gone under, debts are racking up, the rent is late (again), and she’s struggling to provide for her nine-year-old son, who is starting to misbehave in school. Roz is in trouble. Real trouble. 
When Roz returns home from work one day and finds an eviction notice, she knows that it’s time for action—she has two weeks to find a solution otherwise they will be kicked out of their home. Increasingly desperate, Roz doesn’t know where to turn. Then the perfect opportunity presents itself. At her sister’s fortieth birthday party, Roz meets Scott Elias—wealthy, powerful, and very married. But the impression Roz leaves on him is indelible. He tracks her down and makes Roz an offer to spend the night with him—for money.

So I read “The Mistake I Made” yesterday as a buddy read alongside a few of my favourite blogging pals, we all enjoyed it thoroughly and had a great deal of fun on Twitter as we read – today though it’s time to turn my thoughts to an actual review of the book – which turned out to be typical Paula Daly brilliance.

The Mistake I Made is kind of Indecent Proposal in the Lake District with added dark humour and a propensity to make you giggle when perhaps you shouldn’t be – a deeply absorbing tale of a small group of individuals who between them manage to completely lose the plot.

Roz is a woman on the edge of financial disaster, attempting to bring up a child and recover from her marriage breakdown – when a rich and charming man offers her money in return for no strings attached sex. Unlike me who would probably have just said hell yes why not, Roz does pay lip service to perhaps turning him down, but ultimately realises she has run out of options. He’s a charming man and initially it seems like easy money. But “no strings” as we know rarely turns out that way, and a cascading series of events ends up threatening Roz’s life in unexpected ways.

It is SO addictive, seriously, I did actually read it in one sitting (apart from stopping every now and then to send a tweet) – so caught up was I in the lives of these characters and so desperate to know how it was all going to pan out. Paula Daly has an excellent eye for  intricate character details and foibles, a way of describing their environment that puts you right on the spot and then a terrific inclination to mess with them utterly, giving them more and more hurdles to overcome. Fascinating, funny, a dark undertone, but always grounded in reality, any and all of this could absolutely happen. Hopefully not though. Mainly as I feel sorry for the fish.

The Lake District is a beautiful setting and the author brings it to life vividly and with grace – in a way that makes me really want to go and live there – oh if only. Although now we are on the 3rd novel I’m fairly sure I would view any and all of my neighbours with a good hint of suspicion, wondering what they were doing behind those closed doors…

Old friends return (all the novels are peripherally connected but each has a fully cohesive standalone story), there are twists and turns galore, a really engaging and captivating voice in Roz who you will sympathise with whilst also wanting to metaphorically clip her round the ear on occasion. Add to that an intricately woven narrative that will keep you fully immersed and one of Paula Daly’s trademark quirky and unusual solutions and you have a really really excellent reading experience.

Highly Recommended.

Find Paula on Facebook here:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Paula-Daly/490968164379299

Follow her on Twitter here:    https://twitter.com/pauladalyauthor

Pre-Order information: UK  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mistake-I-Made-Paula-Daly/dp/0593074491/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1437902256&sr=1-1&keywords=the+mistake+i+made+paula+daly

Pre-Order Information U.S.:  http://www.amazon.com/Mistake-I-Made-Novel/dp/0802124097/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2_har?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1437905077&sr=1-1&keywords=the+mistake+i+made+by+paula+daly

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

Life or Death – Interview with Michael Robotham.

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Today am VERY happy to have Michael Robotham on the blog as I was lucky enough to get to ask him a few little questions about the brilliant “Life or Death” – available now in Paperback from Sphere.

 

Tell us a little about the inspiration behind the story and characters in “Life or Death”.

The idea for the story was triggered by a real-life escape 20 years ago in Australia when a twice-convicted killer called Tony Lanigan escaped from prison on the eve of his release on parole. Lanigan has never been seen since and many people suspect he was murdered, but I’ve always been intrigued by his escape. I spent years tossing the idea around, loving ‘the hook’ but unable to come up with a reason. Finally I settled upon the idea of a robbery and missing millions. I also knew there had to be a love story at the heart of LIFE OR DEATH – otherwise it wouldn’t explain why Audie Palmer endured so much misery and hardship in prison, only to escape the day before his expected release.

The novel has both some brilliant characters and an intensely authentic sense of place – how difficult is it as a writer to balance the two?

It’s a daunting prospect to set a novel in a strange place (and strange is a word I use advisedly when I talk of Texas). I have lived and worked in America before, but always on the east or west coasts.

There’s a slogan that says Texas is ‘like a whole other country’ and it’s not wrong. It’s not just the size, or the cultural diversity – it’s the food, the pride, the people and the history. I remember seeing a number plate that said, ‘Don’t mess with Texas’. I still don’t know whether that was an anti-littering message or a threat.

I spent seven weeks in the Lone Star State, scouting locations, sitting in bars, chatting to locals and driving enough miles to get white line fever. During that time I met prison warders, bondsmen, bounty hunters, strippers, deputy sheriffs and a district attorney.

On top of this, I spent months listening to audio books by writers like Cormac McCarthy, James Lee Burke and Phillip Meyer, trying to get the rhythm of the language and immerse myself in the place.

Creating believable characters is a different process, but they have to live and breathe in my imagination before I am confident the reader will believe them. My motto, my mantra, my abiding objective as a writer comes down to three words: MAKE THEM CARE.

Audie was a brilliant character, full of shades of grey. Did his story change much in the writing or did it all go to plan?

I never plot my books in advance. Initially I thought I would set much of LIFE OR DEATH with Audie Palmer in prison, but decided to open with the prison escape. Apart from that I knew the story would involve a robbery, missing millions and a love story. I had no idea how it would end or if Audie would survive, but I did want to create a story with the heart and soul of something like The Shawshank Redemption.

When it comes to the crime and thriller genre, which is very popular, how do you find ways to keep it fresh, give the readers something different each time? (Which you do!)

I think a lot of writers in the crime and thriller genre establish particular characters and move them around like pieces on a chessboard. They can be great stories, but often each new book is much like the previous one. I am determined to never write the same book twice, which is why I regularly change perspectives, tenses, locations and narrators. This keeps me ‘fresh’ as a writer because I don’t get bored. Similarly, I think my readers have accepted now that I won’t give them the same old stuff. Hopefully, they trust me enough as a storyteller to let me take them to new locations and introduce new characters.

When not writing, what kind of novels do you enjoy reading yourself?

I have very eclectic tastes as a reader but choose very carefully. I will always try to read the latest water-cooler or barbecue-stopper book. Similarly, I read books that pick up literary awards or garner brilliant reviews. Oddly I don’t read a lot of crime fiction, unless it is very high quality.

Which writers inspired you growing up?

One name stands out among many – the brilliant Ray Bradbury. I discovered him when I was about twelve years old, devouring his brilliant short story collections such as The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles. You couldn’t get all of his books in Australia, so I wrote him a letter addressed simply: Mr Ray Bradbury, Random House New York. I don’t even remember putting a stamp on the envelope. Three months later I came home from school to find a package on the kitchen table. Inside were the three or four Bradbury titles that weren’t available in Australia, along with a letter from the great man himself saying how thrilled he was to have a young fan on the far side of the world. Ray Bradbury is the reason I wanted to be a writer.

Thank you so much!

My Review:

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Why would a man escape from prison the day before he’s due to be released?

Audie Palmer has spent a decade in prison for an armed robbery in which four people died, including two of his gang. Five million dollars has never been recovered and everybody believes that Audie knows where the money is.

For ten years he has been beaten, stabbed, throttled and threatened almost daily by fellow inmates and prison guards, who all want to answer this same question, but suddenly Audie vanishes, the day before he’s due to be released.

Everybody wants to find Audie, but he’s not running. Instead he’s trying to save a life . . . and not just his own.

I’ve long been a fan of Michael Robotham’s crime novels, this one is a brilliant and addictive standalone story that had me madly reading in great big chunks as I was absolutely determined to find out what on earth was going on.

One day before he is due to be released, Audie Palmer makes his escape from Jail and appears to go on the run – but why? Another 24 hours would have seen him free. What follows is a heart stopping race against time as Audie attempts to evade his would be captors and right a wrong – there is a lot more going on than meets the eye and it is truly compelling stuff. At turns very emotional and then extremely thrilling, it twists and turns its way to an extremely electrifying finale.

I’ve always loved the depth that this author brings to his characters – there was a definite touch of the “Shawshank” about this one as we learn about Audie, his time in Jail and eventually what it is that is driving him. Surrounded by a beautifully drawn cast of eclectic characters, the whole thing is ingeniously constructed, completely hooks you in right from the start and has such a wonderful flow to it that you won’t want to put it down. Indeed as I headed into the final part of this, I couldnt put it down – I completed it bleary eyed yet satisfied at 3am one morning.

Michael Robotham never fails to deliver on great writing, intelligent plotting and people you will fall for and this was no exception to the rule. I have absolutely no hesitation in giving this, and all the other books from this author, a highly recommended tag.

Find out more here : http://www.michaelrobotham.com/

Follow Michael on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/michaelrobotham

Purchase Information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Life-Death-Michael-Robotham/dp/0751552917/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1437599113&sr=1-1&keywords=life+or+death+michael+robotham

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Yellow Room – blog tour. Guest post from Shelan Rodger

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‘Between moments an ‘I’ walks.’ What is personal identity?

If you lose your memory are you still you? If you wake up from brain surgery and hate the person you loved before the operation, what does this mean? If you live on a desert island does the essence of you change? What is this thing called ‘I’ that burns at the centre of our haphazard path through the maze of life? This is a question that haunts me and my writing.

Nature versus nurture: we are the sum of our genes and we are the sum of our experiences. We acknowledge that the world we live in is transient and ever-changing. Yet we carry our stubborn belief that some kind of unique essence of ‘me’ exists through the various twists and turns of our own life. We use phrases like ‘I’m not feeling myself’ or ‘I want to find myself’ or ‘it’s not me’ or ‘I am at one with myself’ as if there is only one identity living inside us. And yet I often feel we are like a house that looks pretty much the same on the outside but with a whole bunch of different residents who take turns to look out the window or stoke the fireplace. A house inhabited, not by a hermit who gets up and goes to bed at the same time every day, but by a committee of different personas and alter-egos constantly chuntering away and making decisions about how to present ‘me’ to me. The committee is never idle; some items appear on the agenda again and again, some are always new. Whatever challenges this wonderful committee faces – be they personality traits caused by unchangeable genes or big life events that threaten the very foundations of the house – their task is always the same: turn it all into a story, a story that is cohesive and convincing – the story of me.

In both Twin Truths and Yellow Room, I wanted to explore the boundaries of personal identity, what influences our sense of who we are, what happens when we are thrown by a twist in life’s journey, by revelations or events beyond our control. In Twin Truths, Jenny struggles to come to terms with the loss of her twin and when she finally discovers what happened to her sister, the challenge to make sense of who she really is becomes stronger than ever. In Yellow Room, Chala grows up with her sense of self shaped by the guilt she carries from a childhood accident. Secrets take their toll and events intervene to challenge her notion of who she is and who she can become.

When I was asked to write about the inspiration for Twin Truths, the first sentence I wrote was ‘I love twists.’ In the last two years of my own life, I have lived with, am still living with, the impact of events that sometimes make me want to change that sentence to ‘I hate twists.’ I had no idea how prophetic my own words would sound to the me of my future: ‘Life’s road is full of unexpected turns. Some are exciting, some are appalling. These can change us completely or ground us even more firmly in the essence of the ‘I’ that we believe in, but they always cause some kind of evolution in our being, always create consequences in our own personal story.’ In the end, the story is all we’ve got…

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Set in England and Kenya during the post-election crisis of 2008, a psychological drama that explores the power of secrets to run and ruin our lives

Chala has grown up in the shadow of a tragic act—as a small child she killed her baby sister in their yellow room. Even now, in her thirties, her state of mind is precarious and both she and her partner struggle with the demons of her past. When a one night stand leaves Chala pregnant, and her beloved adoptive father dies, she decides to go to Kenya and visit the scene of her parents’ deaths. Slowly memories of  the events in the yellow room return, the political uprising puts a new meaning on life, and the future can only be faced by making a choice—to deceive or tell the truth.

Find out more here: http://www.shelanrodger.com/

Follow the author on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/ShelanRodger

Purchase Information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Yellow-Room-Shelan-Rodger/dp/1908122900/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

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The Secret Life and Curious Death of Miss Jean Milne – Blog Tour

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Publication Date: Available Now from Black and White Publishing.

Source: Publisher Review Copy

The brutal murder of wealthy spinster Miss Jean Milne a hundred years ago shocked the country to its core. But for a century, the case has gone unsolved. Why was she tied up, tortured and brutally murdered? And who could have committed such a heinous crime?

To all appearances, Miss Jean Milne was the model of respectability, living a quiet life alone in her seaside mansion. But behind the façade, she had a secret life, her frequent trips to London masking a very different lifestyle. Now, using newly released evidence from police files and eyewitness testimony hidden for a century, Andrew Nicoll has brought the case back from the dead to reveal what really happened.

It’s a shocking tale of class division, money, sex, lies, betrayal and murder. And, at last, after a hundred years, the curious death of Miss Jean Milne may finally have found a solution.

Based on a true unsolved murder this is a brilliantly insightful fictional account of, well, as it says – the life and death of Jean Milne.

Using the police reports and various information available, Andrew Nicholl weaves a highly compelling and absolutely addictively written tale of hidden secrets, small town intricacies and a truly horrific murder.

They do say that truth is stranger than fiction and this case I think bears that out – Jean Milne, to all intents and purposes, was a highly respectable lady living a highly respectable, if quiet, life. But as the police begin to dig beneath the surface it becomes apparent that there was  lot more to her than that…

Andrew Nicholl writes with a sharp, meticulous style that keeps you embedded into the story – one of those books that keeps you thinking about it every time you are away from it, that gives your brain a workout whilst being highly entertaining. He brings the characters and the setting to absolute life, the personalities and the attitudes, it is all beautifully done.

There is a great twist in the tale – whether or not the case is now solved to all intents and purposes you’ll have to decide for yourself, but I was intrigued by the ending that the author applied. The whole novel is intensely fascinating, atmospheric and basically a darned good read.

You can follow Andrew on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/andrewsnicoll

Purchase Information:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Secret-Life-Curious-Death-Milne/dp/1845029828/ref=sr_1_1_twi_1_pap?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1437112596&sr=1-1&keywords=the+secret+life+and+curious+death+of+miss+jean+milne

 

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The Tracer Tour…Here we go…

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Publication Date: 16th July from Little Brown.

Source: Netgalley

A huge space station orbits the Earth, holding the last of humanity. It’s broken, rusted, falling apart. We’ve wrecked our planet, and now we have to live with the consequences: a new home that’s dirty, overcrowded and inescapable.
What’s more, there’s a madman hiding on the station. He’s about to unleash chaos. And when he does, there’ll be nowhere left to run.
In space, every second counts. Who said nobody could hear you scream?

Blimey. I say that when I read books like Tracer. It is so exciting you find yourself yelling out and occasionally tearing your hair out in clumps. Ok not literally but you FEEL like you are, I certainly came close.

Tracer is a fast paced thriller set in space. It has some brilliantly drawn characters,  a beautifully imagined environment and will be the best fun you will have with a book all year. This was one of those reads that invoked a terrible annoyance in me every time I had to put it down.  People all around me (you know, managerial types who expect me to actually work for a living) had to endure my glaring disapproval at the fact that they were taking me away from Riley and co. So the best advice I can offer with “Tracer” is to start it on a non working, nothing to do, nowhere to be day so you can avoid unneccessary disturbance.

Riley is a “Tracer”  – a kind of messenger who transports things from one part of the station to the other. I imagine they took their inspiration from free runners – although you’d have to ask Mr Boffard – but that is the feeling they gave me, the descriptive style when talking about them brings that to mind. It is a dangerous job – and Riley is about to face more danger than most as she starts to uncover a conspiracy..

The writing packs punch, has a sharp ironic edge to it and a genuinely absorbing style – there are little nuances in the narrative that add to the picture in your head – good gosh and all that this will make a MOST terrific movie. Even the writing on the page comes to absolute life so goodness knows what a decent director could make of it.

Tracer has it all really – a  most terrific moustache twirlingly good villain, an ensemble group of main protagonists with Riley taking point that  you  can really get behind (and do!), a really well constructed and beautifully twisted plot and the ability to make you tear your hair out. And round we go back to the start…

The action sequences (and there are a lot of them) are fast, furious and completely gripping, always believable within the context of the story and I loved the whole darn thing. Plus the ending. THE ENDING. Pfft. Just, you know, off to give the author a kick so he writes faster…He’s on his very own Liz countdown right now.

Every. Second. Counts.

Quite definitively Highly Recommended.

Find out more here: http://www.robboffard.com/

Follow Rob on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/robboffard

Order Information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tracer-Rob-Boffard/dp/0356505138/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2_pap?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436994511&sr=1-1&keywords=tracer+rob+boffard

Join the conversation on Twitter #TracerBook

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The Tracer blog tour poster

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In Bitter Chill. Blog Tour

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Publication Date: Available Now from Faber

Source: Publisher Review Copy

In 1978, a small town in Derbyshire, England is traumatised by the kidnapping of two young schoolgirls. One girl, Rachel, is later found unharmed but unable to remember anything except that her abductor was a woman.

Over thirty years later the mother of the still missing Sophie commits suicide. Superintendent Llewellyn, who was a young constable on the 1978 case, asks DI Francis Sadler and DC Connie Childs to look again at the kidnapping to see if modern police methods can discover something that the original team missed. However, Sadler is convinced that a more recent event triggered Yvonne Jenkins’s suicide.

“In Bitter Chill” is one of the type of novels I love when done really well, where the past invades the present and old secrets come to light – in the case of this, Sarah Ward’s debut – it was really beautifully atmospheric, with some well drawn characters and a terribly compelling story.

Mostly I identified with Rachel, she has a sharp edgy feel to her as a character, I connected to her emotionally very quickly.  She also provided a fascinating theme running through the narrative – that of family tree, family background. Creating history for other people makes her consider her own, as current events take over the past watching how Rachel handles things is one of the more intriguing portions of the story as a whole.

Sarah Ward has managed to blend police prodedural, psychological thriller and family drama SO well here – there are elements of all of those things that make the tale  utterly riveting throughout – developing the characters and the background to give a really authentic edge to the whole thing and she knows how to keep you reading. The reveal moments are cleverly placed, a real page turner.

One of the best things is it is all so completely believable. No suspension of disbelief required here, things unfold with perfect pacing, you get completely caught up in these peoples lives, there is a gorgeous emotional kick to proceedings that give you plenty to relate to and think about as you go.

Some really terrific writing, great use of language and a truly captivating story makes “In Bitter Chill” one of the standout debut’s that I’ve read so far this year.

Highly Recommended.

Find out more here: http://crimepieces.com/about/

Follow Sarah on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/sarahrward1

Purchase Information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bitter-Chill-Sarah-Ward/dp/0571320988/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2_har?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436941007&sr=1-1&keywords=in+bitter+chill+sarah+ward

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In Bitter Chill blog tour

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To Conclude a Trilogy…The Domino Killer by Neil White.

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Publication Date: 30th July from Sphere.

Source: Netgalley

When a man is found beaten to death in a local Manchester park, Detective Constable Sam Parker is one of the investigating officers. Sam swiftly identifies the victim, but what at first looks like an open and shut case quickly starts to unravel when he realises that the victim’s fingerprints were found on a knife at another crime scene, a month earlier.

Meanwhile, Sam’s brother, Joe – a criminal defence lawyer in the city – comes face to face with a man whose very presence sends shockwaves through his life. Joe must confront the demons of his past as he struggles to come to terms with the darkness that this man represents.

 

So “The Domino Killer” then is the third book in the Parker brothers trilogy and also one hell of a finale – I read it in just over 2 hours straight (no way I was putting it down once picked up, way too addictive for that) – it often had me on the edge of my seat. I did actually pull hair out. Ouch.

 

Anyway, this is the one any fan of this series (which definitely includes me) has been waiting for, dealing as it does finally with the cold case murder of Ellie – Joe and Sam’s Sister – details of which have been drip fed over the last two novels, to prevent spoilers I won’t say more. Suffice to say it has been a fantastic backdrop to everything else that went on, giving a wonderful depth to the characters and an authentic edge to the people they are. By the time “The Domino Killer” arrived I was in it with them all the way.

 

I am more than a little in love with Neil White’s writing style, every time it just gets better and better – there is a truly brilliant subtlety to the words on the page even in the more violent moments – and it packs a heck of an emotional punch, at times you really feel it.

 

Crime fiction is an inclusive genre, there really is something for everyone, it is also a rather crowded one where sometimes the gems can get lost in the crowd. There are some fantastic British crime writers out there of which this author is one – for me he is right up there with Billingham and MacBride, especially when it comes to gritty realism and a refusal to pull punches. With this book that feeling has just intensified, so if you haven’t given Mr White a go yet then I’d highly recommend that you do. With this trilogy or indeed with any of the books that came before.

 

Pitch perfect pacing and delicate construction make these must reads for any Crime Fiction – fan, on my top ten “must read” list for a few years now, if this standard continues I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Highly Recommended.

Find out more here: http://neilwhite.net/

Follow Neil on Twitter here :  https://twitter.com/neilwhite1965

Pre-Order information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Domino-Killer-0-Neil-White/dp/0751549517/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2_har?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436820837&sr=1-1&keywords=the+domino+killer+neil+white

Catch me later on the tour over at Janet’s place https://fromfirstpagetolast.wordpress.com/ with a guest post.

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