Meet Hannah Richell – Author of Secrets of The Tides and The Shadow Year.

author photo 3


So having read and loved both of Hannah’s books I caught up with her to ask a few questions. Here is what she had to tell me – followed by reviews of the novels.


The Shadow Year and Secrets of The Tides have similar themes but are very different books – Do you love exploring how the past can impact on the present?


When I was younger, I was never particularly interested in the past. I remember being dragged around historic houses and gardens, or taken to visit elderly and distant relatives, somewhat reluctantly. I found history lessons at school dull because I couldn’t see the point of looking backwards when it was the future that excited me.


As I’ve grown older and started my own family, however, I’ve come to develop a real appreciation for the past – for my family and our story. I now love visiting old houses and gardens, or those long chats with my grandmother over a cup of tea, or reading memoirs and history books. Not only are all these things full of inspiration and amazing stories, but I see now that it’s the people, places and artefacts from our past that help to explain who we are today.


So yes, I am interested in writing about how the past can reach out and not just speak to our present, but even alter a person’s future. I think a person’s or a family’s past is a rich and rewarding story.


I know this might be a  hard one – but do you have a favourite of the two?


This is hard, and not in the ‘choosing a favourite child’ kind of way, but simply because they were both such different books to write. Secrets of the Tides – my debut – was a long but amazing journey. It began as an experiment really, to see if I could write, and to explore what my style and subject would be, if I were to attempt a novel. I wrote it over two years, in private, snatched moments while working part time and looking after my baby. It was the book that secured me the dream of a two-book deal and all the excitement that comes with first-time publication.


The Shadow Year was very different. It was written with greater expectations and a rather pesky deadline. But it was exciting too. As soon as I’d had the idea of the cottage by the lake and the two storylines (two complete years) threaded together month by month, the plot came in a huge rush. I couldn’t write it fast enough.


Secrets of the Tides will always be special to me because it was my first novel and comes from a very personal place; but I think The Shadow Year is the better book. Secretly, I’m hoping my favourite is still to come… There, have I sat on the fence enough?


I loved Freya from “The Shadow Year”, was there a particular character from either novel that “spoke” to you above the others?


I probably feel closest to Dora, from Secrets of the Tides, because at the time of writing we were of similar ages and she was going through something I had just gone through – pregnancy and becoming a mother. I’ve also lived with her the longest in my head. I’ve noticed that I often don’t feel as though I really know or understand my characters until I’ve finished the first draft of a novel, but with William, from The Shadow Year, he was there right from the beginning, as clear as day. I really like William!


Can you tell us anything about your next project?


I can tell you that I’ve learned not to talk about the new project until it is nearly finished. I totally jinxed a book last year by opening up too early, over-sharing my enthusiasm for it and then, rather painfully, losing my way with the story. It now lives, half-finished, in a drawer in my desk. So the new one is underway, and I’m feeling excited about it, but I can’t say anything else just yet – it’s too soon and there is a whole mountain ahead of me to climb first.


Favourite place to read and/or write


I will read anywhere I can – bed, bus, café, park bench, bath – but my absolute favourite spots are either with my kids, reading bedtime stories at the end of the day, or curled-up next to my husband on the sofa. It it’s raining outside, all the better.


Writing I can and will do anywhere – even standing up in the kitchen while dinner cooks – but my preferred spot is a quiet room with a door that shuts!


Comfort reading author and/or book.


When I’m feeling blue or homesick, I often return to I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. It is so charming, so quintessentially English and it has such a wonderful setting and eccentric characters. It’s my perfect Sunday afternoon read.


Cocktail of choice.


To be perfectly honest, I’m more of a pint girl.


Quote that inspires you.


I have this quote scribbled out on a postcard and pinned up where I can see it from my desk. I find it immensely inspiring when thinking not just about my life, but also about my characters and the journeys they are on.


“The most terrible and beautiful and interesting things happen in a life. For some of you, those things have already happened. Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will.”


This is a quote from The Future Has an Ancient Heart, an essay written by the author Cheryl Strayed in her book, Tiny, Beautiful Things. I’ve pressed this book into many hands in the last couple of years. Strayed has such a wise and generous heart.




Having read “The Shadow Year” which I loved very much (review just below!)  I was dying to read Ms Richell’s debut novel “Secrets of the Tides” as soon as possible, reading schedule be darned. And hey, it was a good call…

Every family has its secrets. Some are small, like telling a white lie or snooping through a private drawer. Others are more serious like infidelity and betrayal. And some secrets are so terrible they must be hidden away in a deep, dark place, for if they ever came to light, they would surely tear a family apart.

A family drama of the highest quality, Secrets of the Tides has an immediate opening hook – a young girl, desperate, throws herself into the Thames – but who she is and what has driven her to take this drastic action remains unknown.

Then we meet Dora, a woman on the cusp of the rest of her life, living with the man she loves and seemingly having it all – but she is haunted by events from her past and disconnected from her family. In order to secure her future happiness Dora must explore the roots of her distress and let go of the hurt – to do so she must return to that time and finally understand the truth.

Told from various points of view, in both the past and the present, Secrets of the Tides is a sprawling, fascinating look at family – those things that keep us together and those things that drive us apart. From the outside the Tides would appear pretty perfect – but inner turmoils, errors in judgement and tragedy mean they are anything but.

For me, Helen, Mother to Dora and Cassie, Wife to Richard, was  the most captivating of all the Tides. Perhaps because we are similar in age and experience – and yet she annoyed me because I spent much of the novel screaming at her to stop worrying about what she was lacking and for heavens sake LOOK at what she had. But we never do, do we. In realistic fashion Ms Richell shows us a slice of real life..with fulfillment always just around the corner, we always seem to want more…

The rest of the family are equally compelling. Cassie with her wish to escape, Dora who just wants to be happy and Richard, steady and reliable, will all touch you on some level – either because you know exactly how they are feeling or you want to whack them round the head and remove them from complacency…and that to me, is wonderful, evocative, clever writing. These people are about as real as you can get…

As we learn about their lives, where it all began, how the family grew and embedded itself into life, you will feel their joy and their pain..I was in tears at the end of this book. Again. So Yes Ms Richell – you DO owe me a box of tissues. A big one.


First of all thank you kindly to Hannah Richell and Orion for arranging a review copy of this book when I added it to my wishlist. I was very grateful as it had really caught my eye. And rightly so it turns out…


1980. Five friends, not quite ready to embark on life in the fast lane having finished University, come across an old cottage in the Peak District and decide to “drop out” for a year and live from the land in isolation. Looking forward to a relaxing carefree lifestyle, at first it is idyllic. But as the seasons change and reality sets in, tensions rise…..

Fast forward 30 years or so and Lila arrives at the cottage – with a renovation plan in place it seems like the perfect escape as she struggles to come to terms with a tragedy in her life..but little by little she begins to wonder about those that came before her as she discovers remnants of the past.

A haunting, evocative tale, this one touched my heart. A story very much about the relationships that drive us, and how the past can touch the future in a very real way I simply adored every part of this book. With each new discovery that Lila makes you are compelled to turn the pages to find out what they mean. With the story divided equally between both periods of time the story moves ever onwards…each month described bringing a new piece of the puzzle and a very real sense of something coming….

The characters are  realistic and absolutely fascinating in both periods of time. From the artful Simon to the beautiful and ethereal Freya each one will give you cause for some type of emotion. I both loved and detested Kat in equal measure and I fell in love with Mac absolutely.  In present time Lila is conflicted, by feelings and dark imaginings about what happened to her, she is  haunted yet determined. I found the relationship between her and her mother one of the most intriguing aspects of the novel..beautifully written and extremely complicated it was a terrific thing to read.

The mystery element is also very well imagined. In a way for me it wasnt even about that – Yes I wanted to know the outcome but it was all in the journey…the intricate relationships between the characters, ever shifting but always bewitching, drive you ever onwards  to find out what will happen. To them. To Lila. To the future…

I have now purchased Hannah Richell’s previous novel, Secrets of the Tides and can hardly wait to read it – it sounds equally compelling…but in the meantime pick up a copy of “The Shadow Year”. You won’t regret it.

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Happy Reading Folks!


Liz Currently Loves…Stone Bruises by Simon Beckett



Now I have already posted a review for this book in “Coming Soon” but as it certainly deserves front page status, and while I get my ducks in a row again following my recent illness, I thought that today I would post it again front and centre.

Simon Beckett is the author of the David Hunter series of books, all of which are available now and are all brilliant.



Stone Bruises is his first standalone novel and here is what I thought of it…




Sean is on the run. We don’t know why and we don’t know from whom, but we do know he’s abandoned his battered, blood-stained car in the middle of an isolated, lonely part of rural France at the height of a sweltering summer. Desperate to avoid the police, he takes to the hedgerows and country lanes only to be caught in the vicious jaws of a trap.


So I adore Mr Beckett’s David Hunter series and was eager to leap into this, his first standalone book, and wow it was a page turner and a half. Immediately dropped into the action as we meet Sean, abandoning his car and heading off in a panic…only to find himself in a very surreal situation…

Rescued it seems, from the trap, he finds himself on a run down farm and in the bosom of a strange and enigmatic family…but as we read on we realise that the danger Sean has left behind may well be nothing when compared to what he is about to face…

Written in two timelines – as we see Sean’s London life and the events leading up to him abandoning the car and also in the present as he recovers from his injury and gets more and more entangled into the strange existance of those on the farm, it is compelling stuff. Slowly but surely things are revealed – and trust me you will have a few late nights with this one.

As always the writing is suberb – You may have to wait a while inbetween Mr Beckett’s books but it is always always worth the wait and the same can be said for this. The characters are all fascinating – certainly if Sean was not injured in such a way he would have been running for the hills again but as things move on, he starts becoming part of the family in ways that may not be easy for him to escape from.

Note I have been careful not to say too much. This novel is so atmospheric as to really make you feel every part of it, and most of that comes from meeting the people that live in its pages and understanding more about them..almost impossible to put down, it will keep you right there until you are done.

The setting is perfect – the French countryside comes alive with the reading and adds to the effect.

All in all a brilliant involving read – If you have loved the David Hunter novels you will like this, and if this is your first time reading a Simon Beckett novel, I can almost guarantee you will then read more.

Happy Reading Folks!


Tomorrow its possible I may talk Stephen King…..

X by Jack Croxall – Short Story Telling Art.

Jack Croxall - Author Photo18400281


So I recently read “X” by Jack Croxall which was wonderful (Review to follow plus a Q&A with Jack) and it got me thinking about short stories in general. Stephen King once described it as a “dying art” but both he and Jack have proved that just aint so. Not all authors, even the best of them, can write a great short story – but if you hunt around you can find a plethora of excellent tales to keep you happy in the odd reading moment when you don’t have the time or the inclination to start a full length novel. Look out at the end of this piece for a few of my favourite collections of short stories – you might find something there to peak your interest. I know that we will have more lengthy tales from Jack set in the world of X at some point – but I hope I have been persuasive in talking him into doing more shorts – perhaps even a whole collection. Hey, hard taskmaster here… Anyway here is what Jack had to tell me about the writing of X amongst other things.



X is a terrifically emotional story. What gave you the idea?


I’d been mulling X over in my mind throughout most of early 2013. The reason I suddenly veered forwards with writing the story was because I finally worked out the theme, and, with it, X’s real plight. Before that all I really had was a setting and a character; nothing to tie them together in any meaningful way.


Was it difficult to write from a female point of view?


I really thought it would be a nightmare at first, but it in the end it wasn’t too difficult! I think X has a lot of me in her, so I only had to tinker with her thoughts once I’d written them down. On top of that another author, the lovely Sharon Sant, helped me with a couple of bits where X wasn’t acting like a teenage girl stereotypically would – those tended to be the bits where I’d written too much of myself in and I was not a particularly mature teenager!


Have you considered writing a full length novel set in this world?


I’m writing one right now! It’s called Wye and, just like X, it’s written in journal format. I don’t really want to reveal too much at the moment because I’m not that far into it, but I will just say that it’s set about a year after the events of X.


Author whose books you would cross oceans to read?


Philip Pullman – when he finally releases The Book of Dust I will be checking out of planet earth until I’ve read it at least twice.

Favourite comfort food?


I love chocolate! Chocolate cakes, brownies, bars, milkshake, cookies, hot chocolate – preferably all at once! 

3 people alive or dead you would love to go for a drink with?


That is a seriously tough question. I would definitely choose David Attenborough as one because he influenced my life like no other figure has. I would also love to chat to Agatha Christie about her books and ask her some of the millions of Poirot questions I have. Finally, a bit indulgent of me, but I really fancy Emma Watson and I reckon if I took her out for a drink I might just be in with a chance. Or not …


Thanks Jack!


X Review

Fifteen-year-old X thinks she is going to die. Shacked up in the cellar of an old farmhouse, she starts a journal to document her last few days. Much less than a few days if the things outside manage to get in.


So last night I settled down to FINALLY get around to “X”, a short story from Jack Croxall, author of the rather wonderful “Tethers”.

Written in the form of a diary “X” describes her day to day existence in a world that is radically different from the one she knew before – where every day is a fight for survival. Haunting and atmospheric it pulls you along for a short but compelling tale of a few days in the life of….

X. Whose name we never know. Who’s family we will never meet except in her poignant and touching memories…and who is not long for this earth. Her own realisation of that is one thing that makes this story as fascinating as it is.

I loved it. I half wish it was a full length novel whilst realising that it would not pack the same punch if it was. As it is this is a luminous,  captivating tale and perfect for giving you one of those reading “moments”


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Happy Reading Folks!

The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway. A well loved book…



So, lets talk “The Gone Away World” by Nick Harkaway. When people ask me about my favourite books, of course there is always a King in the mix, but The Gone Away World still stands out as one of the best reading experiences I have ever had. Along with The Stand by Stephen King and The Passage by Justin Cronin it is without doubt one of the best examples of Post Apocalyptic fiction that I have ever had the pleasure of diving into. Because its different. Unique in its field and with some of the best world building I’ve ever found this one will stay with me for the rest of my reading life.

I caught up with Nick and asked him a few little questions….here is what he had to say.


The Gone Away World is quite an epic tale. How were the first seeds sewn in your mind?

Part of it was the French classic, The Wages of Fear – the working title was a straight reference: The Wages of Gonzo Lubitsch. But creative inspiration is supposed to be collision, and in TGAW everything collides – Hong Kong movies I loved, my abortive martial arts studies, existential nuclear angst… I had Ike Thermite in my head, and then the Bey, and the Evangelist (notice how she’d get on with Edie Banister?) and so on. And it all just exploded as I wrote.

The Post Apocalyptic setting is one of the best I’ve read…was the “world building” part of the novel fun to write?

It wasn’t so much world-building as making homes for those disparate characters – and some of those fragments didn’t make it. I still owe myself the Airstream Grove: a society of buses which moves continental plates beneath the wheels when they need to hold a conclave. (They live on the far side of the Border.) But the whole book was fun. I’d been feeling constrained, and I cut loose.

Some amazing groups of characters in there – which would you rather be…Ninja, Pirate or Other?


I’d be with the Bey, I think. Although I aspire to be Ike.



The Gone Away World is my no 2 book of all time, only beaten by Stephen King’s The Stand. Which novel would be your runner up?


I’m incapable of rankings. But I have favourites. At the moment: The Garden of Evening Mists; The Teleportation Accident; The Passion; ILLUMINATUS!; Jitterbug Perfume; The Shipping News.


Which character from a novel (it can be one of yours) would you like to meet in real life?


Hagbard Celine. Gandalf. Edie Banister 🙂 (Liz’s note: Edie Banister would also be one of my favourite characters in fiction. You can find her in “AngelMaker” a book I will be talking about in the future!)


No 1 item on your bucket list. If you have one…

I don’t. If I want to do something that badly, I tend to make it happen. But I generally don’t want to do things like spacewalk or sing at the Met.



Thank you so much Nick. I do have another 200 or so questions for another day perhaps…



My original Review

Probably one of the most amazing books I have ever read, I absolutely adored this. Its insane, completely compelling,clever and complex and while I was reading it I was completely absorbed into the world the author created. Its tagged as “Post Apocalyptic” fiction but it is so much more than that..A love story, a comedy, a horror, you name it you will find it somewhere within the pages. And hey, Ninja’s and Pirates, what more could a girl ask for? Don’t think…just read!


And to continue with hindsight….


The above review was written in my early days of posting reviews and I think you can see that it was done with an “enthusiastic read it now” attitude. One I still have when I’m demanding that people read this novel. So I will expand just slightly…The Gone Away World has a depth to it that cannot be put into words. Its not for everyone –  Mr Harkaway has a unique writing style, and a brilliant one at that – and the “post apocalyptic” tag can put people off if its not in their comfort zone. Don’t let it.  The characters, the world, the sheer madness of the story telling means that this is a book that you should definitely try. Go on give it a go – If you are a true reader, you MAY end up feeling like I do about it. Its one of those books….


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Happy Reading Folks!


The Unquiet Grave by Steven Dunne Revisited



So I recently caught up with Steven Dunne to have a chat about one of my favourite books of this year so far – one I read a while back and enjoyed muchly. Here is what he had to say.

Damen Brook is an intriguing character and very much his own man. When writing his story does he lead you off in unexpected directions?


Yes, he does. I rewrite virtually all of his scenes because when I’m in the flow I tend to write as myself and have to go through each one to make sure I’ve Damen-ised it sufficiently. This usually consists of taking out my emotion and replacing it with Brook’s world-weary impassivity.



Does it take a lot of research to make the stories as authentic as they are?


It’s important to get as much of the detail as right as you can get it because if something jars in the fictional world that I’ve created, it’s very easy to lose a reader. I’m the same. If I encounter a reaction or a fact or a piece of inauthentic dialogue I immediately start questioning everything I had previously taken for granted. So, yes, within reason, research has to be spot on though I think being a detective is much more about convincing readers that you can pick up what the reader can’t.


Do you have a favourite of the series?


I’d have to say Deity purely because it was such a pleasure to write. The plot is incredibly complex and yet it all slotted together perfectly and for once my killer ending occurred to me long before the deadline arrived. Having said that, readers are already telling me that my new book – The Unquiet Grave – is even better. I’m happy to believe them but the writing was much more difficult because Brook is alone, working cold cases the entire time so the work was much more challenging.


Desert Island books. You are only allowed 2!


I’d have to take something that would sustain me over many readings and that would tend to eliminate thrillers because the joy of reading thrillers is grappling with the solution. Once known rereading is not quite as rewarding. So, being a lover of modern American literature it would have to be Catch 22 by Joseph Heller and The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen.


Movies: Action, disaster or Romantic?


The most compelling category for me is top-quality drama preferably from the Seventies, an era when films didn’t dumb down to widen their audience. Assuming I’m allowed a couple I would have to take The Godfather Parts 1&2 though I’d be dewy-eyed having to leave Chinatown and Don’t Look Now behind.


First thing apart from people or pets you would rescue from a burning building.


A toss-up between my phone to tell people I’m okay and my car keys to drive to a hotel assuming the building is my home. Only my health and that of my loved ones is irreplaceable so if I had to leave the phone and the car keys behind I wouldn’t worry too much.



So. Another in the series featuring DI Damen Brook, I have been looking forward to this one and it didnt disappoint. DI Brook, back from his latest “leave” is stuck investigating Cold cases – a job he neither wants nor is particularly interested in. Determined to toe the line though, he dives in with a modicum of enthusiasm…until something peaks his interest. And of course, this IS Damen Brook we are talking about so soon he is going off at a tangent in his own way and the possibility of a hidden killer begins to emerge. With its foot firmly in the past, this novel covers decades – from the sixties onwards – and each little part of the whole is beautifully written. With subtle changes to the writing style giving each period in history its own feel, the main bulk of the story follows Damen as he sorts through the myriad of information, forgotton memories and lost details that together will give him the solution he seeks. And trust me, its quite a solution. Until DI Brook told me the whole story I didnt get the whole story – but its all there. And with hindsight makes perfect sense. So a clever crime novel, a “whodunnit” but also a tense race against time to save a life. And what was truly brilliant? I was honestly not sure whether or not the clock would be beaten and Brook would emerge triumphant- and you won’t be either. You want me to tell you don’t you? I know you do..well I won’t. Because why on earth would I spoil your fun? Or allow you to spoil mine while I watch you swim in the sea of wonderful confusion, twists and turns that is “The Unquiet Grave”.


Thank you so much to Steven for taking the time.


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Liz Currently Loves…..The Reluctant Cannibals by Ian Flitcroft



So thanks to Legend Press I recently got to read this wonderful quirky and unique novel which I enjoyed very much – review later but first of all I caught up with Ian Flitcroft and asked him a few questions. Here is what he told me….


Ok this is a bit of a cliche question but I have to know…where on earth did the idea for “The Reluctant Cannibals” come from?

Over my years in medicine I have taken an interest in odd syndromes and initially was looking to write a book about one of these: Apotemnophilia. This is a curious condition in which people desire a healthy limb to be removed and often go to extreme lengths to achieve this. The original plot line started going in a very Hannibal Lecter direction
and much darker than I intended. So I kept the cannibalism aspect, made the donation of the limb a little less gruesome and made the whole book an exploration of gastronomy. A rather non-linear progression from concept to final version!

Do you cook a lot at home? Any culinary skills you could have brought to the table?

I love cooking and also experimenting with odd recipes. Even though I have a mountain of cook books (and keep buying them) I rarely cook from books. I read those for ideas and for fun but I now prefer to cook from scratch starting with a few core ingredients and seeing where that takes me – ideally to music such as Jacqueline du Pré playing Bach’s solo cello suites.

There are a lot of interesting food facts dotted around in the novel – did it take a lot of research?

I was familiar with around half of the foody facts in the book but had great fun researching the rest, often taking long detours through old books on gastronomy before coming back to the writing of the novel itself.

Oxford is a terrific setting and one I know well. What made you decide to make it the heart of the action?

A few reasons. It’s one I know well. Eccentricity is the “new normal” amongst Oxford dons so it gave great scope for an interesting bunch of characters. Finally an Oxford don (Nicholas Kurti) was one of the inventors of molecular gastronomy back in 1969 (when Heston Blumenthal was only 3 years old). Kurti was an eminent low temperature physicist
and keen cook who gave a lecture in London that year during which he decried the fact that humanity knows more about what goes on inside a star than what goes on inside a soufflé.

Do you have a favourite character?

It has to be Arthur Plantagenet himself. I was so fond of him that I had to make him come back as a ghost.

Book you wish you had written.?

Gustav Sobin’s The Fly Truffler – a beautiful truffle suffused and tragic love story.

Favourite season of the year?

Anything but winter! If I had to choose then spring. Nothing can beat the green colour of newly unfurled leaves on a tree in spring. I sometimes feel envious of bears who can hibernate through winter and wake up in spring – hungry and skinny.

Coffee, Tea or something a little stronger?

A well made dry Martini. A proper one with gin, not vodka. Stirred not shaken. Twist or olive? Depends how I’m feeling – sometimes both.


Thank you Ian!




Shortlisted for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award
Irish Writers’ Centre Novel Fair Award Winner


So here is a book I would not have looked at twice if it wasnt coming from the amazing Legend Press who have yet to bring me a book I have not liked. And yes, they have indeed done it again….

In the academic world of Oxford University several likeminded individuals have formed a secret dining society – finding forgotton and exotic recipes they enjoy some culinary treats. When one of their number, Professor Arthur Plantagenet, discovers he has a serious heart condition he comes up with a bizarre plan that will test the boundaries of the society to its limits….

I loved this one.  It was a complete joy to read and unique in its concept and its execution. When a guest dies due to a mishap in the creation of one of the culinary treats – ““What a bloody marvelous way to die” says one character while the corpse is still fresh at the table –  the group is put under the spotlight…and consequences ensue not least due to Professor Plantagenet’s weird and wonderful plan. The whole story is gloriously accomplished – the equivalent of the best meal you will ever eat in book form. A culinary masterpiece indeed…

Dark humour abounds – and somewhat of an education. Little titbits about the history of certain food related topics can be found dotted about and it was fascinating stuff. Want to know what the practice of Sokushinbutsu entails? I know you do…and you will!

Atmospheric and intriguing you will be swept along with all the marvellous and nutty characters, and this is elegantly written in a way thats easy to love. Oh I could tell you about so much more but I’m not going to, why oh why would I spoil in any way such a treat of a reading experience – you see this is a story the likes of which you are probably not going to find again, or have read before. So savour it. Pun intended.


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Happy Reading Folks!