The Other Twin Lucy Hay – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Orenda

Source: Review Copy

When India falls to her death from a bridge over a railway, her sister Poppy returns home to Brighton for the first time in years. Unconvinced by official explanations, Poppy begins her own investigation into India’s death. But the deeper she digs, the closer she comes to uncovering deeply buried secrets. Could Matthew Temple, the boyfriend she abandoned, be involved? And what of his powerful and wealthy parents, and his twin sister, Ana? Enter the mysterious and ethereal Jenny: the girl Poppy discovers after hacking into India’s laptop. What is exactly is she hiding, and what did India find out about her? 

I’ve read a few novels that focus on familial relationships and also have a strong mystery element this year but perhaps none that have engaged me as much as Lucy Hay’s “The Other Twin” a beautifully written psychological drama with a vivid setting and some incredibly fascinating characters.

It is a twisty tale in the sense that you really don’t know what is coming but it is also an emotionally resonant read that digs deep into the psyche of the characters (not all of them likable but all of them compelling) and takes you on a journey through their lives ending with a beautifully placed and unexpectedly poignant ending.

Lucy Hay writes with a gorgeous intensity, bringing Brighton to life, bringing the people that live there to life and adding some insightful and often thought provoking layers to the whole thing that just make it a wonderful and, it has to be said, highly addictive read.

When you read and review as many books as I do it is sometimes hard to come up with new things to say -but you know, sometimes if it ain’t broke don’t fix it so I’ll just say The Other Twin. Highly Recommended.

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The Pinocchio Brief Abi Silver – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Lightning Books

Source: Review Copy

A schoolboy accused of a brutal murder. A retired lawyer with secrets to hide…

A 15-year-old schoolboy is accused of the murder of one of his teachers. His lawyers, the guarded veteran, Judith, and the energetic young solicitor, Constance, begin a desperate pursuit of the truth, revealing uncomfortable secrets about the teacher and the school. But Judith has her own secrets which she risks exposing when it is announced that a new lie-detecting device, nicknamed Pinocchio, will be used during the trial. And is the accused, a troubled boy who loves challenges, trying to help them or not?

I’ve been looking for great legal thrillers and The Pinocchio Brief really hit the sweet spot – addictive, intelligent and with some truly memorable characters it was a real page turner whilst being a brilliantly observant look at human nature and the  vagaries of the legal system.

Somewhat speculative (the Pinocchio device giving a different feel to things) there are plenty of twists and turns, the plotting is tight and immersive, we see things from different points of view, the most involving of these for me being the boy who stands accused of this crime – he is a highly intriguing character and somewhat of an unreliable narrator which brings many levels to the mystery elements.

Judith too is a fascinating character, her developing relationship with Constance is one of the strengths of this book, the secrets Judith hides make for a few edgy moments and overall it was just simply a cracking read.

Yes I think I’ll leave it there – The Pinocchio Brief – Simply a cracking read.

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Fateful Mornings Tom Bouman – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Faber and Faber

Source: Review Copy

In Wild Thyme, Pennsylvania, Officer Henry Farrell’s life is getting complicated. Widowed and more traumatised than he cares to admit, he is caught up in an affair with a local woman, and with helping out his friend’s barn construction job – on which the clock is ticking. When a troubled old acquaintance of theirs becomes the prime suspect in the disappearance of his girlfriend, it becomes increasingly clear that something seriously dark is at large in the woods that surround them.

Against this old and strange landscape – where silence rules – a fascinating and troubling case ensues, as Henry struggles for his very survival.

Fateful Mornings, like Dry Bones in the Valley before it is a fully character driven novel, paced to haunting perfection and featuring once again main protagonist Henry Farrell.

What I love about Tom Bouman’s writing is the sense of place and the true authenticity he brings to every aspect of his storytelling. In this case the mystery elements of the plot are very much secondary to the relationships and rural realities faced by those living within the community – the author takes Henry out of his comfort zone and into some dark dark places. Political machinations play their part and it is a slow and considered journey towards the final resolution.

Beautiful prose and intelligent plotting that includes some deeply layered characters and occasionally hard hitting moments makes Fateful Mornings a literary joy to read and really just means that Tom Bouman is now firmly on my must read list.

Highly Recommended.

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Ones To Watch in 2018 – Dark Pines Will Dean

Publication Date: January 2018 from OneWorld

Source: Netgalley

An isolated Swedish town. A deaf reporter terrified of nature. A dense spruce forest overdue for harvest. A pair of eyeless hunters found murdered in the woods.

It’s week one of the Swedish elk hunt and the sound of gunfire is everywhere. When Tuva Moodyson investigates the story that could make her career she stumbles on a web of secrets that knit Gavrik town together. Are the latest murders connected to the Medusa killings twenty years ago? Is someone following her? Why take the eyes? Tuva must face her demons and venture deep into the woods to stop the killer and write the story. And then get the hell out of Gavrik.

Dark Pines is one of those books where I look up from the pages after finishing it, slightly dazed, going Yep THAT is what I am looking for.

Beautiful beautiful writing, totally immersive from the very first page with a main protagonist that you just fall in love with and an atmospheric, haunting sense of things that will linger for a long time. Will Dean’s intuitive prose just sends you to Gavrik, a small town, a tight knit community, people just looking for a quiet life, but there is a dangerous underbelly to it all that you just feel throughout the reading. Tuva is truly intriguing, living and working in Gavrik to be close to her unwell Mother, just waiting to escape but somehow so very much a part of it all anyway. Her so called “disability” is just part of her, she works around it with no sense of being different to anyone else and I loved that about her.

The scene setting is a huge part of what makes this so very very excellent though. The “Dark Pines” of the title, that brooding, beautifully threatening forest is a character in its own right – making you want to visit and want to hide from it – always in the background, a definable, vivid environment that ingrains itself into the wider story with a truly imaginative intensity.

Then you have the quirky, odd and realistic characters that live in and around Gavrik – from the sisters (my favourites!) with their extremely strange creative profession and their lilting way of talking to Tuva herself, everyone you meet in Dark Pines will give you a different emotional response. The mystery element is so so SO well done, I don’t even want to say anything about it, you should just read it and live in it and wait for that downright eerie ending that is elegantly achieved.

I loved every moment of this one. Every word. It was just blinking brilliant. This is DEFINITELY one to watch in 2018 and has pretty much guaranteed itself a place in my top ten reads for this year – Dark Pines is a novel to watch and Will Dean is an author to watch. I sense great things ahead.

Highly HIGHLY recommended.

You can Follow Will on Twitter and  Pre-order Dark Pines

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Ice Lake John Lenahan – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Harper Collins (Killer Reads)

Source: Netgalley

AN ABANDONDED BODY
Deep in the woods of Northeastern Pennsylvania, the body of a man is found – shot three times, dumped under the trees where the local kids will find him.

A HAUNTED PSYCHOLOGIST
Psychologist Harry Cull, tormented by his past, arrives in the picturesque town of Ice Lake to help with the murder investigation. There he unravels a web of lies and deceit that leads to the dark heart of a community torn apart by fracking, drugs and murder.

A DESPERATE KILLER
It’s not long before the second corpse turns up, this time a lawyer left for dead in the forest, and Harry finds himself on the trail of a twisted killer – who will do anything to keep the town’s darkest secrets buried.

Ice Lake is a fast paced and relevant thriller with an interesting and engaging main protagonist in Harry Cull, whose friendship with another main character, Edward Cirba, was the making of this one for me.

The mystery itself is set around two deaths in a small community with ties to the fracking industry – Harry has a knack for weeding out liars and has an emotionally traumatic background which is cleverly done and sucks the reader in – The author puts a lot of information into this tale but in a very entertaining way, that. alongside the unfolding drama makes this a real page turner.

I was mostly involved with the characters in “Ice Lake” more perhaps than with the mystery element which whilst very well done is fairly standard – the author has a good eye for plotting a novel that keeps you involved in the specific story but sets you up to get emotionally involved in a wider way, I’ll definitely be reading more in this series as it has that hint of quirky that I love.

Overall a highly pleasing and very compelling introduction to Harry Cull – I look forward to more.

Recommended.

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My Name Is Nobody Matthew Richardson. Blog Tour Review

Publication Date: Available Now from Michael Joseph

Source: Review Copy

‘I know a secret. A secret that changes everything…’

Solomon Vine was the best of his generation, a spy on a fast track to the top. But when a prisoner is shot in unexplained circumstances on his watch, only suspension and exile beckon.

Three months later, MI6’s Head of Station in Istanbul is abducted from his home. There are signs of a violent struggle. With the Service in lockdown, uncertain of who can be trusted, thoughts turn to the missing man’s oldest friend: Solomon Vine.

Officially suspended, Vine can operate outside the chain of command to uncover the truth. But his investigation soon reveals that the disappearance heralds something much darker. And that there’s much more at stake than the life of a single spy…

My Name is Nobody is a excellent twisty spy thriller, highly addictive with some genuinely terrific characters and an ending that is unexpected – which obviously made me love it as the unexpected is rare for me.

Solomon Vine is out of the loop and on suspension after something goes horribly wrong in Istanbul – the start of the book is fast paced and brilliantly drawn out to hook you in – but when a colleague is abducted and it becomes obvious that something nefarious is afoot, he is the one best placed to find out what’s what. Matthew Richardson then proceeds to take us on a thrill ride of a journey to the eventual outcome, setting the scene all the way with some beautifully done descriptive prose, multi layered character arcs and a keen observational eye for taut plotting.

The further I got into the novel the more involved and fascinated I was – I loved the old school feel that the author brought to what is a very modern tale of the problems faced by the intelligence services and the political landscape Solomon Vine is working within (and outside of) is cleverly insightful. It was refreshing that the main character didn’t rely on high end tech to get to the truth but was more of a Holmes type character solving an enigmatic riddle, at the same time modern reality bites – astute writing, inventive storytelling.

Basically just really really good. If you love a good spy thriller then My Name is Nobody is for you.

Recommended.

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The Green Bicycle Mystery Antony M Brown Blog Tour Extract.

Today I am very happy to bring you extracts from The Green Bicycle Mystery kicking off a series from Antony M Brown.

About the book

Don’t just read about a murder… solve it. The first of a unique set of true crime dramas. Each one tells the story of an unsolved crime in an evocative and compelling way, it presents fresh evidence, exposes the strengths and weaknesses of past theories and then asks the reader to decide on what happened. 

The series begins with the tragic case of Bella Wright. In a lonely lane running through rural Leicestershire in 1919, a solitary bicycle lies on its side, its metal frame catching the glow of the fading evening light. The back wheel slowly turns about its axle, producing a soft clicking; a rhythmic sound, soothing like the ticking of a study clock. Next to the bicycle, lying at an angle across the road, is a young woman. She is partly on her back, partly on her left side, with her right hand almost touching the mudguard of the rear wheel. Her legs rest on the roadside verge, where fronds of white cow parsley and pink rosebay rise above luxuriant summer foliage. On her head sits a wide-brimmed hat, daintily finished with a ribbon and bow. She is dressed in a pastel blouse and long skirt underneath a light raincoat, the pockets of which contain an empty purse and a box of matches. The blood-flecked coat tells a story… 

Although each book is perfectly self-contained and offers the author’s conclusion, there is a website (coldcasejury.com) for those who wish to share their own verdicts and opinions, making these the first truly interactive crime tales. Beautifully presented with uniquely illustrated covers they also contain evidence images, diagrams and maps. For lovers of crime stories, this new collection of Cold Case Jury books will not just bring a murder story to life, it will make you a part of it.

Read on for some Extracts: 

11pm. The disused chapel at Stretton Parva was a small, rectangular red-brick building with a pitched roof. Looking more like a mundane outhouse than a place of worship, the only clue to its former role was a stone plaque engraved with the words “Free Chapel” embedded in a gable wall. It was a suitable place to keep the young woman’s body overnight. As Dr Williams approached, he saw the gentle glow of candlelight issuing from its two sash windows. PC Hall was wheeling in the girl’s bicycle through the entrance to the right. He followed, closing the door behind him. In the centre of the room the men assembled around a table illuminated by four flickering candles. On it was sprawled the fully clothed body of the young woman. Cowell repeated to the doctor how he discovered the body. Hall informed him that he had inspected briefly both the body and the bicycle and had found nothing suspicious. Williams moved the woman’s head from side to side, feeling her skull and face, as if he was giving a macabre massage. “Extensive blood on the hair and the left side of her face,” Dr Williams announced, stating the obvious. “There’s also bruising on the left cheek just below the eye.” He motioned for a candle to be brought nearer to take a closer look. “Yes, it’s quite a vivid bruise, too.” “It seems to have an indentation in the skin,” Hall commented. “I can see that, Constable. She would sustain that by falling.” The cursory examination soon concluded. “I don’t think we can do any more for the poor girl,” Williams said. “What’s the cause of death, Doctor?” “Oh, I would say sudden haemorrhage and collapse, Constable.” “Can I report that to my superintendent?” “You certainly can. I really must be getting back,” he said, placing his hat on his head. “Goodnight, all.” Alfred Hall nodded as the doctor walked to the door. One by one, he bid the others goodnight until he was left alone. He straightened the body on the table and placed her arms on her chest. He wanted the young woman to have dignity in death. Hall looked at the still body on the table. The skin of the right check had a waxy, yellow appearance with a tint of a bluish-grey, the same cold hue as her lips. The left cheek was covered in dried blood. He dampened the cloth and began to gently wash the dried blood from Bella’s face. Even in death, he thought, cleansing the face was an intimate and tender act, like a mother washing a child. Slowly moving the cloth down her cheek, he lifted the veil of blood that had partially covered Bella’s face since her death. And there, below her left eye, was a bullet wound…

 

On Friday 12 March, a rear wheel was recovered and matched to the green bicycle. It was not proof in itself but demonstrated that Light had dismantled the bicycle and dumped various parts over a wide section of the canal. Expectations were raised. They were met a week later when a brown leather army revolver holster was fished out. It contained treasure: wrapped inside were nearly two dozen .455 cartridges – the same calibre as the bullet found by PC Hall. When Light heard about the recovery he was reported to have cursed in his cell: “Damn and blast that canal!” If this is true, it was the only time he ever lost his composure. “So what happened? I swear whatever you say will not leave this room.” “Come on, Superintendent, you know better than that.” “I know you didn’t murder her, so what happened? If you don’t tell the truth, everyone who ever hears about this case will think you’re guilty. You know that don’t you?” “But I was acquitted by a jury of my peers.” “They will still think you did it, all the same. They will say, ‘That Ronald Light, he got away with murder!’ Friends of mine said that very thing at the weekend.” Bowley waited for his words to sink in before playing his psychological ace. “Why not get this off your chest? Then you can forget all about it, knowing you’ve done the right thing by telling someone the truth. And you’ll feel better for doing it. After what you’ve been through, surely you owe yourself that?” Light leaned forward and tapped his cigarette over the ashtray. “If I tell you, can I depend on you to keep it to yourself ?” Bowley tried hard not to show his delight at reeling in his catch. “I’ve already told you that.” “Whatever I say is strictly confidential. No one else must know. And I’m not signing anything. If you divulge what I tell you, I will just deny it.” “Of course, I understand. It’s just between the two of us.” Light leaned back in his chair and took a long draw from his cigarette as he played pensively with the box of matches. Bowley said nothing, hoping his ploy would work. When Light finally spoke there was no preamble, he simply dropped his bombshell…

 

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Latest Reads: Watching You Arne Dahl

Publication Date: Available Now from Vintage

Source: Netgalley

Someone is watching.

At each abandoned crime scene there’s a hidden clue: a tiny metal cog, almost invisible to the naked eye. Someone is sending Detective Sam Berger a message, someone who knows that only he will understand the cryptic trail.

Someone knows.

When another teenaged girl disappears without trace, Sam must convince his superiors that they’re dealing with a serial killer. As the police continue the hunt to find the latest victim, Sam is forced to unearth long-buried personal demons. He has no choice if he is to understand the killer’s darkly personal message before time runs out.

Somebody is killing just for him.

I loved this one – it was just the kind of twisty story I love with a couple of smartly drawn main protagonists, plenty of mystery, completely gripping and really right up my street.

It is a “serial killer thriller” that also sets up what I hope will be a long running series as I am at this point very attached to Sam as a character – and just as attached to his erstwhile partner in crime who’s name I won’t give you right now so as not to spoil the plot – but individually they allow for a lot of fun reading and together even more so.

The underneath mystery of it is shadowy and dangerous, I loved how the various strands came together slowly over the course of it, especially within the setting which was clearly drawn and atmospheric. It fairly raced along, perfectly paced, until those final fairly horrifying moments. A big bang of an end which made me crazy (in a good way) means that I will actually be willing to kill for the next novel…

This doesn’t have that usual feel that you get from Nordic crime, it has a quite individual tone that sits well between Nordic Noir and British based crime thrillers – this served to make me feel all the more at home with it, not sure how much kudos for that sits with the translator ( Neil Smith) but I’d guess it’s at least a bit so he deserves a shout out.

Overall an excellent thriller that will have me reading the back catalogue and indeed looking forward to all future books. Gripping, clever and unexpected.

Recommended.

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Ones To Watch in 2018: The Memory Chamber Holly Cave

Publication Date: February 2018 from Quercus

Source: Review Copy

Isobel has it all: her dream job, an immaculate home and a steady relationship. Life, and even death, is completely under her control. For Isobel’s generation death no longer means oblivion, thanks to firms like her employer, Oakley Associates. Isobel is their top heaven architect, crafting perfect afterlives for her clients built from the memories they treasure most.

Then Isobel meets handsome client, Jarek. Suddenly her disciplined life gives way to something passionate and extreme, and Isobel jeopardises everything to embark on an affair with a terminally-ill – and married – man.

When Jarek dies and becomes the prime suspect in a murder that took place before his death, Isobel is forced to prove his innocence. But as she stumbles upon the darker side of the work she so passionately believes in, she can trust no one with what she finds.

Set in the near-future, this thrilling and original story vaults the reader into a world that is terrifyingly close to our own, where we can avoid everything we fear – even death itself. But can we ever escape the truth?

The Memory Chamber is a clever speculative fiction novel imagining a future in which you can create your own Heaven – if of course you can afford it and if you are lucky enough to get an appointment with someone like our main protagonist Isobel, who crafts heaven’s for a living and is damned good at it. The technology however does have its quirks and when she is thrown into a passionate affair followed by a murder enquiry things get much less heavenly and far more hellish.

The Memory Chamber has an intelligent and emotive premise – Holly Cave digs deep into the morally blurred world that Isobel lives in, creating a character that is not always easy to like but endlessly intriguing. The scientific speculation feels very authentic and entirely possible, what engaged me about this was Isobel’s distinct love for what she does, her utter belief in it, then watching that belief slowly picked at around the edges leaving her unsure of everything. At the same time she is dealing with a loss and as the story progresses you see the many layers to that loss and how it affects her judgment. As a main protagonist she is beautifully characterised and you are with her all the way.

The world building is gently immersive – we don’t have endless explanations just a considered understanding as we get to know the people that live there, this is a slow beautiful burn of a story that has a rather poignant and moving feel to it – after all we would all like to be sure of what comes after life wouldn’t we?

Overall a genuinely captivating story with a dark heart and an intricately drawn world not that far from our own.

Recommended.

You can find out more and follow Holly on Twitter. If this sounds like your cup of tea you can pre-order The Memory Chamber now.

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Creating Atmosphere with Sophie Jonas-Hill. Nemesister Blog Tour.

Today I am very happy to welcome Sophie, talking about creating atmosphere as part of the blog tour for her novel Nemesister. Loved reading this article! Details on the book follow.

Creating Atmosphere – Sophie Jonas-Hill

Atmosphere – chills, thrills, things that go bump in the night – how to create atmosphere when writing? A picture’s worth a thousand words, but a few well chosen words can create a thousand pictures in the mind of the reader.

The weird thing about atmosphere, is that it’s usually something we only notice when it’s not there. What I mean is the general background noise of our lives is like lift music, so ubiquitous we don’t register it any more. We live with the hum of our own bodies, our houses, our TVs and the passing traffic, so it’s often only when we’re unsettled that we notice it, actually hear it.

Imagine you’re in your sitting room, or wherever you like to sit and read. You’re happy, so you’re reading, you’re relaxed. If you bothered to think about it, you might be able to hear the mundane sounds of your life ticking away, but you’ve no cause to listen, so you don’t.

Then you hear the sound of breaking glass and everything changes. You’re alert, trying to work out where the sound came from – was it your house, or the neighbours’? Now you can hear all the sounds you usually ignore because you’re mentally checking them off – bird song, cars going past, clock ticking, radio in the next room – but these sounds are exaggerated, loud as if someone has turned up the volume on the world.

This is what you need to think about when using atmosphere in your novels – when our senses are sharpened, we become aware of what is already there, because we’re trying desperately to search for clues as to what’s coming. The world we’re in might be innocent, no bad men yet, calm before the storm, but we’re looking, trying to second guess what’s coming.

There’s an evolutionary precedent for this pattern recognition – we’ve evolved to look for patterns in the world around us as a way of looking out for danger. Imagine you’re back in pre-history on the plains of Africa, standing in shoulder high grass, wondering whether we’re about to be eaten by a sabre tooth tiger. Looking around, we can see shadows, the fall of light, movement in the grass, but are any of these a tiger, or are they just the wind? If we’re mistaken and the shadows on the ground aren’t a tiger, then that’s fine, there’s no tiger and we’re safe. But if we’re wrong and we ignore the shadows on the ground and they turn out to be a tiger, then that’s not fine, we’re lunch. So trying to interpret the world around us, being alert for danger, trying always to join the dots and second guess what’s coming is in our blood, our DNA. It’s how we’ve survived for so long as a species.

So, we’re alone in our room after the sound of breaking glass; what we’re doing is picking up on a thousand unconscious clues which might give us a chance at survival, or might just mean that the cat has knocked your grandmother’s glass vase off the shelf in the kitchen.

Of course, your setting will really help the atmosphere of your writing. Often, you can create the most memorable ones by playing with tradition; think about the added dimension of horror that comes with choosing a usually safe place for your gun fight, or comedy by having your prat-falls take somewhere somber as a crematorium. I love it when the setting becomes a character in its own right, something I’ve tried hard to do in my novel ‘Nemesister,’ where the opening location, a house in the swamp, develops a personality almost as if it’s working to it’s own agenda, sometimes helping, sometimes hindering the action.

Wherever you set your writing, just as you must know your characters better than themselves, you must know your locations as completely as possible. Often the very best writing comes from containing your characters and action, putting them in a box or a maze or a lone house, where you have complete control over their physical limits. Think of the house in ‘The woman in black,’ or the Ice bound hotel in ‘The Shining,’ – these places are rooted in our minds because they are so clearly drawn that their background hum so quickly becomes familiar, we can start to sense when that falters, when danger approaches – we start listening too.

Use google earth to visit places you can’t get to physically, read travel writing – good travel writing – eat the food, collect the images and construct pintrest boards. If you can, draw floor plans of your locations, work out on which side the sun rises and sets, and go back and re-visit them so you can make them work for your story. This is your world and if you need there to be a river outside, then go back and draw one on your map – remember you’re in charge!

A final tip if you want to get a feel for creating an atmosphere, try this exercise. Close your eyes and listen to your world; describe every sound, feeling, smell, texture you can sense. Then listen again and try and go further away from yourself, or back inside yourself – keep going as far as you can. Try doing this at different times of day, during different weather conditions, see how these word pictures evolve and change. Once you’re used to it, you can take yourself off to different locations and try it again, seeing how sensitive you can become. This will be a lot of

information, far more than you need for your writing, but once you get used to doing this, you can imagine what you need in your novel and pick out the dots you want your readers to join for you, to create the right picture in their minds.

About the Book:

Publication Date: Available Now from Urbane

A psychological mystery where the female protagonist stumbles into a deserted shack with no memory but a gun in her hand. There she meets an apparent stranger, Red, and the two find themselves isolated and under attack from unseen assailants. 

Barricaded inside for a sweltering night, cabin fever sets in and brings her flashes of insight which might be memory or vision as the swamp sighs and moans around her. 

Exploring in the dark she finds hidden keys that seem to reveal her identity and that of her mysterious host, but which are the more dangerous – the lies he’s told her, or the ones she’s told herself?

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