Latest Reads: The Lucky Ones Mark Edwards.

Publication Date: June 15th from Thomas and Mercer (one to watch)

Source: Netgalley

It was the happiest day of her life. Little did she know it was also the last.

When a woman’s body is found in the grounds of a ruined priory, Detective Imogen Evans realises she is dealing with a serial killer—a killer whose victims appear to die in a state of bliss, eyes open, smiles forever frozen on their faces.

A few miles away, single dad Ben Hofland believes his fortunes are changing at last. Forced to move back to the sleepy village where he grew up following the breakdown of his marriage, Ben finally finds work. What’s more, the bullies who have been terrorising his son, Ollie, disappear. For the first time in months, Ben feels lucky.

But he is unaware that someone is watching him and Ollie. Someone who wants nothing but happiness for Ben.

Happiness…and death.

Mark Edwards gives good psychological thriller. Its been true since he started writing them but each book has been better than the last and The Lucky Ones was really excellent, with that genuine addictive quality and a clever, fast moving, considered plot that keeps things nicely unpredictable.

The Lucky Ones is kind of a hybrid serial killer/psychological thriller, as ever the author has created some memorable characters – then thrown them into untenable situations and messed with their happy place (in this case literally) It is gripping stuff, as bodies pile up and nobody can get a handle on anything – in the meantime we follow along with Ben and son Ollie as they both come to terms with a marital split, but suddenly find themselves caught up in something much worse.

I loved the setting here – so beautifully tranquil which made the odd dead body suddenly lying around all the more real – I also thought the police procedural elements were beautifully layered into the wider plot so it all read perfectly, as the story twists and turns towards its ultimate solution you’ll be hanging off every page.

Look to be honest I’m a bit numbed to this genre now reading so  widely in it as I do, but whilst there are occasional good ones and many more enjoyable ones and the very very odd incredible one, I know that with this author I’m in safe hands. I never do anything less than bang through them, completely engaged, immersed into whatever story is being told, the characters never fail to stay with me and I’m never quite sure what I’m going to get. Quality writing, quality storytelling, imaginative plotting and a damn fine read, that I know but as for the rest, well its a mystery.

Whilst I think that “The Magpies” will remain definitively my favourite novel from Mark Edwards (is that somewhat of a challenge? Absolutely!) The Lucky Ones is without doubt one of the best. So yes. Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: The End of the Day Claire North.

Publication Date: Available Now from Orbit

Source: Review Copy

Charlie has a new job. He gets to travel, and he meets interesting people, some of whom are actually pleased to see him.

It’s good to have a friendly face, you see. At the end.

But the end of all things is coming. Charlie’s boss and his three associated are riding out, and it’s Charlie’s job to go before.

Sometimes he is sent as a courtesy, sometimes as a warning. He never knows which.

I loved The End of the Day. I took my time with it, a novel to be savoured for its utterly beautiful writing, gorgeous descriptive nuances and Charlie, the character at the heart of it, one I will never forget.

The world Claire North has built here is one of many levels, Charlie, who takes on a new role as the harbinger of death whilst learning about life, is so wonderfully normal that you just sink into his world feeling like it is all entirely possible. The End of the Day is melancholy, intense, a book that has something to say in the underneath of it all if you listen to its small quiet voice. The places Charlie visits, the people he meets, some of them in their last moments, just ingrain themselves into your senses, this is a book with that thing called “all the feels”

I actually find it quite difficult to describe with any actually useful thoughts at all, it just IS – Claire North writes with a peaceful complexity, she drew me  into her story without me hardly noticing until I was just living it all right alongside Charlie and the rest of the eclectic, memorable characters I met along the way. Some of the scenes are heart stopping, most of them gently contemplative but ultimately utterly gripping, a book to sink into and leave the world behind.

Overall just total total magic. Magic on the page.

Highly Recommended.

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Latest Reads: The Red Cobra Rob Sinclair.

Publication Date: Available Now from Bloodhound

Source: Review Copy

Carl Logan dedicated nearly twenty years of his life to the Joint Intelligence Agency. Now living in a secret location, under the new identify of James Ryker, he wants nothing more than to be left alone, the chance to start a new life away from chaos, violence, destruction and deceit.

It’s not long, however, before Ryker’s short-lived idyll is destroyed when he is tracked down by Peter Winter, his ex-boss at the JIA. Winter brings with him news of the murder of a woman in Spain, Kim Walker, whose fingerprints match those of one of Ryker’s former adversaries who’s been missing presumed dead for years – an infamous female assassin known as the Red Cobra.

A cyberattack at the JIA led to the Red Cobra’s profile being compromised, and Winter believes JIA agents may now be at risk too, Ryker included. But Ryker knew the elusive Red Cobra better than anyone, and when he sees the grisly pictures of Kim Walker’s corpse, he has news for Winter – she isn’t the assassin at all …

So just who is the mystery dead woman? And where is the real Red Cobra?

Red Cobra is a fast paced, snappy thriller of the kind that I’ve come to expect from this author – one of those again I read in one sitting (well 2 if you count school run bang in the middle, rock and roll lifestyle) I love a good action thriller and this does exactly what it says on the tin. And then some.

This is a spin off from The Enemy Series and sees the return of Carl Logan, albeit under an assumed name, and features female assassin, the Red Cobra of the title – who is entirely fascinating and who I engaged with hugely, I do love a good kick ass woman in a novel, one who takes no prisoners and boogies to the beat of her own drum. So to speak. Especially when they are villains who you love to hate to love.

The plotting is taut and clever, the past/present vibe works brilliantly and Rob Sinclair walks the line between edge of the seat thrills and considered character development beautifully. Twisting and turning the story all the way through it is utterly gripping and totally immersive.

Best yet I’d say. Reading escapism of the best kind. Don’t think about it. Just do it.

Recommended.

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Sometimes I Lie – an Interview with Alice Feeney.

Very happy to welcome Alice Feeney to Liz Loves Books today answering some questions about her wonderfully tense and brilliant psychological thriller, Sometimes I Lie. I should apologise that this was supposed to be part of the blog tour but me being me I missed my spot. But maybe better late than never!

Thanks so much Alice.

Thanks so much for agreeing to answer some questions for me on the wonderful “Sometimes I Lie” I’m a huge fan of it, especially of the main character here, Amber Reynolds. Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind her, what originally started the journey?

Thank you! It’s so lovely to hear that you enjoyed it!

The idea for this story literally came to me in a dream! I scribbled it all down at about 3am one morning (I do this quite often) and when I woke up the next day, it still seemed like a good idea (this happens less often). I couldn’t stop thinking about Amber and so in the end, her story just had to be written.

Sometimes she lies – books with unreliable narrators are hugely popular as are psychological thrillers generally right now – In “Sometimes I Lie” the narrator herself tells us she is unreliable right from the start. How do you then go about weaving a plot that is realistic (it is!) yet still surprising to the reader?

I’m a planner. I think about a story for a really long time before I’ll commit to writing it – my stories often spend months simmering away in the background before I begin. I have a giant corkboard at home covered in different coloured cards – each one represents a chapter and I can’t write a word until the whole thing is planned out. That plan may change during the writing, and in my experience it always does, which is absolutely fine – it’s quite fun when the story starts to write itself. There is no right or wrong way to do it though, I think it is just about finding whatever way works best for you. There are authors who can just sit and write and I think they must be far cleverer than I am. For me, starting without a plan would be like setting off on a long walk with the dog to somewhere we have never been before without a map – I’d be worried the whole time about getting lost!

Can we talk about endings for a moment without actually giving the ending away – apart from to say I thought it was spot on – was that always the ending or did it change? Did you know how it would end when you started writing it or was it hard to find the right finish given the twists and turns that led up to it?

No, that wasn’t always the ending! In earlier drafts the story ended a little bit sooner than that. It felt like something was missing and so I wrote the chapter called Later. I’m delighted that you enjoyed the ending – thank you!

Can you tell us anything about your next project?

I can tell you that the first draft of book two is written, which I’m so happy about! The next book is another dark and twisty tale and will be published by HarperCollins in the UK next year.

Finally a question I like to ask – are there any books you yourself have read recently that you would like to recommend?

I read a lot. I live in a tiny Victorian house and there are bookshelves in literally every room except the bathroom! There are so many books I would like to recommend, but the one that has stayed with me the most after reading it recently is This Must be The Place, by Maggie O’Farrell.

Thanks so much!

Thank you for the interesting questions!

About the book:

My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:

1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.

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The Restless Dead – Simon Beckett. Blog tour Interview and Review.

I was VERY happy to see Dr David Hunter back in the latest novel from Simon Beckett – and even more happy to be able to ask him a couple of questions about it for the blog tour. My review and details on the book follow that.

Thanks so much for agreeing to answer some questions – firstly I was so happy to see Dr Hunter reappear, for readers coming into the series here could you tell us a little something about the background to the character?

David Hunter is a forensic anthropologist, which means he specialises in analysing human remains that are either decomposed or badly damaged. After losing his wife and young daughter in a car accident, he found his work too painful and walked away from everything to do with his old life. At the start of the first book in the series, The Chemistry of Death, he’s working as a GP, which he’d originally trained to be.

But after being reluctantly drawn into a murder investigation again, he realised his true calling was working with the dead rather than the living and returned to forensic anthropology. Now he’s a police consultant, based in London but travelling to wherever in the UK the police find a body requiring his unique set of skills.

Hunter isn’t a traditional crime or thriller ‘hero’. He doesn’t act tough, kick down doors or rebel against authority. And he doesn’t always get things right: he makes mistakes and suffers self-doubt just like the rest of us. It was important to me that – except for his work and tragic past – that he was seen as a normal person: a fallible, damaged individual who readers could sympathise and associate with. One of the nicest comments I’ve had was from a reader who said she worried he wasn’t eating properly. That showed she saw him as a real character.

In The Restless Dead he is back in the game through certain twists of fate – how do you go about building an intriguing mystery whilst keeping the wonderfully fascinating forensic detail so authentic?

I suppose it’s a question of finding the right balance. As interesting as the forensic details are, they still need to fit within a compelling story in order to work. And to my mind the Hunter books are as much psychological thrillers as forensic mysteries. They’re very character led, so I try to approach both plot and forensics from that perspective.

Obviously, the books need a lot of background research. Since I’m not a forensic expert myself – I worked as a freelance journalist before I wrote the Hunter series – I constantly quiz various police and forensic experts who are generous enough to help out. That makes the books more authentic, I think, since these are people who have actual training and experience in the field.

But fitting this sort of research into a fictional story can be tricky. More than once I’ve been forced to abandon a plot idea when one of the experts I’ve approached says, ‘No, that wouldn’t happen’. And I don’t want the forensic details to appear gratuitous, which can be a fine line when Hunter’s work involves detailed descriptions of decomposing remains. If you’re talking about blow-flies and maggots on a dead body you really don’t need to go into excessive detail to make the point.

Could you talk a little about the setting –not far from Mersea Island– is this somewhere you know well and what made you utilise this location for the book? It certainly created a beautifully atmospheric backdrop and allowed for some thrilling edge of the seat moments in the whole man v nature stakes.

The setting is very important for all the Hunter novels. Each one takes place somewhere different – Norfolk, the Outer Hebrides and so on – and the landscape plays a big part in establishing atmosphere and setting the scene. For The Restless Dead I knew it had to be somewhere with water, but I considered several possibilities before I finally settled on the Essex marshes. I liked the sense of loneliness and isolation they brought to the story, this flat vista of mudflats, reeds and open sky, as well as the fact that the landscape is constantly changing with the tides. And, of course, there’s an undercurrent of danger as well, because as peaceful these places appear they can also be treacherous. As soon as I read that the tides come in faster than a man can run, I was hooked.

Although the Essex marshes and that stretch of coastline are obviously real, as with the other Hunter books the actual locations where most of the story takes place are fictitious. That gives me freedom to write what I want without worrying if readers getting in touch to say I’ve put the post box on the wrong street corner. That doesn’t mean I don’t want these places to feel authentic, because I do. I’ll spend a lot of time researching the area where a book is set, and try to spend time there whenever possible.

But the main thing for me is finding a setting to fit the story, and that I can clearly see in my own mind. In that respect, I treat them in the same way I do the characters: they aren’t real, but I want people to be able to visualise them and feel that they could be.

Can you tell us anything about what is next? Will Dr Hunter return?

I’m a great believer in not talking things away, so I don’t like saying too much about what I’m working on. But I can say that Hunter will be back.

Finally, is there anything you have read recently that you would like to recommend to readers?

The book that’s stood out for me recently is Golden Hill by Francis Spufford. It’s set in eighteenth century Manhattan, and while I don’t read much historical fiction this was the best thing I’ve read in a long time.

Thanks so much!

You’re welcome!

About the Book:

Available Now.

It was on a Friday evening that forensics consultant Dr David Hunter took the call: a Detective Inspector Lundy from the Essex force. Just up the coast from Mersea Island, near a place called Backwaters, a badly decomposed body has been found and the local police would welcome Hunter’s help with the recovery and identification . . .
Because they would like it to be that of Leo Villiers, the 31 year-old son of a prominent local family who went missing weeks ago, and they are under pressure to close the case. Villiers was supposed to have been having an affair with a married woman, Emma Derby. She too is missing, and the belief is that the young man disposed of his lover, and then killed himself. If only it was so straightforward.
But Hunter has his doubts about the identity of the remains. The hands and feet are missing, the face no longer recognisable. Then further remains are found – and suddenly these remote wetlands are giving up yet more grisly secrets. As Hunter is slowly but surely drawn into a toxic mire of family secrets and resentments, local lies and deception, he finds himself unable, or perhaps unwilling, to escape even though he knows that the real threat comes from the living, not the dead.

I’m a huge fan of this series – if you haven’t read them yet I would HIGHLY recommend that you read them all, not that The Restless Dead is not perfectly readable and brilliant as a standalone but Dr Hunter is a character you want to be with from the beginning. Also for you readers who simply MUST read in order The Chemistry of Death is where to start.

This story finds our Dr Hunter called in unexpectedly to help with the recovery and identification of remains, but he is drawn into a mystery that offers danger at every turn. As with the previous novels, Simon Beckett brings a hugely atmospheric sense of tension in his writing and the forensic detail is both fascinating and incredibly accessible which really digs you deep into the tale and keeps you wrapped up in it. Beautifully descriptive in both setting and character this, like the others, is an addictive and all consuming read that you may well do in one sitting if you are prone to that sort of thing.

The subtle twists and turns are cleverly intricate, Dr Hunter’s personal story arc takes a compelling turn, there is nothing about this book that I didn’t love entirely – oh well apart from finishing it because I immediately and rather rabidly wanted more. Never have I been so pleased to return to a series I (and the author) have been away from for a while, this is intuitive, clever writing, I’d put it very near the top of the crime fiction I read.

Overall perfectly brilliant. Or brilliantly perfect. Either would work as well and this, as with the rest, comes highly recommended from me.

 

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Black Water – Louise Doughty. Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: Available Now from Faber.

Source: Purchased copy

John Harper lies awake at night in an isolated hut on an Indonesian island, listening to the rain on the roof and believing his life may be in danger. But he is less afraid of what is going to happen than of something he’s already done.

In a local town, he meets Rita, a woman with her own troubled history. They begin an affair – but can he allow himself to get involved when he knows this might put her at risk?

Moving between Europe during the cold war, California and the Civil Rights struggle, and Indonesia during the massacres of 1965 and the decades of military dictatorship that follow, Black Water is an epic novel that explores some of the darkest events of recent world history through the story of one troubled man.

I went into Black Water having only read Apple Tree Yard from Louise Doughty – I thought Black Water was all kinds of amazing but I think it is worth noting, that if you like me have only read that one book that has been so popular (for good reason) that Black Water is a very different kettle of fish – therefore might be somewhat unexpected.

What I loved about this one was the setting and the drawing of the background, a slow burn of literary suspense where the beauty was in the characters and their journeys. I don’t know a lot about Indonesia, the culture or the history but Black Water felt honestly authentic and Louise Doughty digs deep into the heart of things.

Black Water is both tragic and beautiful, John Harper is compelling, not always likeable but endlessly fascinating. The history is cleverly interwoven into a tale of one man’s life battles, both internal and external and towards the end of the novel I was almost literally holding my breath. The author breathes a strange inevitability into her plotting, this is a political drama in some ways but mostly an intensive and insightful character study.

I loved the writing, I loved that it didn’t rush you towards judgement, I wouldn’t call it a thriller although it was at times thrilling. Dramatic suspense at it’s very best. It makes me want to follow this author onwards because both of the books I have read of hers now have been completely different from each other but equally clever and emotionally gripping.

Recommended.

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The Special Girls Isabelle Grey – Blog Tour Review.

Publication Date: April 6th from Quercus

Source: Review Copy

A young psychiatric registrar is found dead in the woods outside a summer camp for young eating disorder patients, run by the charismatic, world-renowned Professor Ned Chesham. DI Grace Fisher investigates, but it is not long before she is pulled from the case – to head up a Metropolitan Police review into a cold case involving Chesham himself.

Nearly twenty years ago, one of Chesham’s patients made allegations that he sexually assaulted her. The investigation at the time found no conclusive proof, but Grace soon discovers another victim, and a witness whose account never reached the police. Does this mean the original investigation was bungled? Scotland Yard would certainly like her to conclude otherwise.

As Grace uncovers the lies that led to the young doctor’s murder, she discovers the full extent of the damage done to Chesham’s ‘special girls’ – and the danger they are still in.

I loved The Special Girls – it is an emotive and very current theme that Isabelle Grey uses as her main plot here, that of historical child abuse and the difficulties of prosecuting, or even proving, criminal acts committed by those in power. As such it is at times a quite harrowing read, the author digging into the fallout and affect on those who suffer at the hands of those they should be able to trust.

When a psychiatric registrar is found dead, Grace gets the case but it soon becomes apparent that there are political issues that may stymie her investigation. Soon moved on to a cold case review that is connected, she is thrown into a years long history of possible abuse against young girls suffering eating disorders. The plot flows along from there, Grace finding obstacles at every turn, having to think outside the box in order to get to the truth and putting her own career in danger along the way.

The Special Girls is highly readable, well flowing and immersive – I’ve enjoyed the previous books in this series but I do think that this one has taken things up a notch, not only in regards to character arcs but in depth and quality of storytelling. Isabelle Grey writes about a truly horrific subject with sympathy and realism – you feel every moment of it, get frustrated right along with Grace when political maneuvering gets in the way of protecting the vulnerable – it is often very heart wrenching stuff but always genuine and as we know from many recent news headlines, not at all unbelievable.

This was addictive reading with a tough emotional edge and realistic twists of fate that I have no problem at all recommending.

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Latest Reads: The Cutaway Christina Kovac

Publication Date: 6th April from Serpents Tail

Source: Netgalley

It begins with someone else’s story. The story of a woman who leaves a busy restaurant and disappears completely into the chilly spring night. Evelyn Carney is missing – but where did she go? Who was she meeting? And why did she take a weapon with her when she went? When brilliant TV producer Virginia Knightley finds Evelyn’s missing person report on her desk, she becomes obsessed with finding out what happened that night. But her pursuit of the truth draws her deep into the power struggles and lies of Washington DC’s elite – to face old demons and new enemies.

If The Newsroom met Gone Girl then had super intelligent kids….

Early reviews suggest The Cutaway may be about to divide opinion – so my opinion, for what it is worth, is that this is blinking brilliant. I LOVED it. I loved the main protagonist, I loved the Breaking News aspects, got all caught up in the story, didn’t have a clue how the mystery element would pan out – not because it is particularly twisty in that sense but more because I was so caught up in the character dynamics and the investigative reporting side.

Christina Kovac writes with a very sharp edge, a genuinely insightful eye towards subtle characterisation and can put together one hell of a story – a bit like her main character Virginia whose sudden obsession with a missing woman puts her on the trail of all sorts of shenanigans. Meanwhile her workplace is in turmoil as a new boss starts messing with the status quo, the police investigation seems to be full of political motivation and there is Evelyn, gone in a relative puff of smoke, tying it all together as we wait to find out what has happened to her.

The “behind the scenes” aspect of The Cutaway really digs you deep into things, I loved the dynamic of the Newsroom, work politics merging with life politics in a tale of possible corruption and murder – I genuinely did not know what the all heck was going on, the author subtly dropping information into the narrative then throwing it back at you later in different context, the plotting, I thought, was absolutely superb. Virginia is a brilliantly intriguing character, I loved her and the supporting cast are just as well drawn.

Look it was just bloody good. I couldn’t possibly do anything but love it with my reading heart so give it a go.

Tense, clever, addictive and different. That is The Cutaway.

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Latest Reads: The Stolen Child – Sanjida Kay

Publication Date: 6th April from Corvus

Source: Review Copy

Zoe and Ollie Morley tried for years to have a baby and couldn’t. They turned to adoption and their dreams came true when they were approved to adopt a little girl from birth. They named her Evie.

Seven years later, the family has moved to Yorkshire and grown in number: a wonderful surprise in the form of baby Ben. As a working mum it’s not easy for Zoe, but life is good.

But then Evie begins to receive letters and gifts.

The sender claims to be her birth father.

He has been looking for his daughter.

And now he is coming to take her back…

Having loved this author’s first book Bone by Bone I was looking forward to The Stolen Child, in the end I read it in one huge gulp of a sitting – like in her first novel, Sanjida Kay writes here with an emotional level that is utterly engrossing and it is genuinely difficult to stop once you start.

Exploring themes of family and adoption, wrapping it up in a twisty tale of suspense, The Stolen Child follows Zoe and her family. Her husband is mostly absent as she faces the daily toil of parenthood with her adopted daughter Evie and her natural son Ben, when Evie starts getting letters supposedly from her birth Father things take a sinister and highly emotive turn.

I love the layers the author puts into the story, not only creating a compelling and realistic family dynamic but giving us a truly atmospheric and taut mystery. Within the confines of the place they live where those Zoe trusts suddenly seem threatening, the tension is palpable throughout the telling and it is utterly utterly gripping from the very first page. The setting is beautifully described, adding to the sense of atmosphere, the truth is cleverly hidden from view making the ultimate resolution wonderfully unpredictable – basically it is everything you want from a psychological thriller but with added depth and perception.

Loved it. Absolutely highly recommended.

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The Contract J M Gulvin – Blog Tour Review

Publication Date: April 6th from Faber

Source: Review Copy

In New Orleans, Texas Ranger John Q is out of his jurisdiction, and possibly out of his depth. It seems everyone in Louisiana wants to send him home, and every time he asks questions there’s trouble: from the pharmacist to the detective running scared to the pimp who turned to him as a last resort. Before John Q knows it, he looks the only link between a series of murders.

So who could be trying to set him up, and why, and who can he turn to in a city where Southern tradition and family ties rule?

I was really looking forward to The Contract, having loved the first book in this series The Long Count and it did not disappoint – loved it.

I’m a fan of  John Q as a main protagonist, the scene is set in most excellent fashion by J M Gulvin, authentic and brilliantly immersive, this is a noir thriller with some terrific descriptive prose that brings the vagaries of that time to vivid life. Immediately addictive, you could easily lose a day to this one. In fact that’s exactly what happened.

When I reviewed The Long Count I said this could easily become one of my favourite protagonists and favourite series and with The Contract I haven’t been disabused of that notion – if anything it has just confirmed it. I liked this one even more and already I’m bang in my comfort zone, I love the historical setting, the plotting once again is extraordinarily clever and there are enough twists and turns to keep the most ardent of crime fans happy.

As John Q chases down leads in New Orleans, seemingly becomes the one link in a series of murders, yet somehow keeps his cool, quirky attitude, this is a purely wonderful read, realistically drawn with some insightful characterisation and a real sense of time and place.

You could easily read this as a standalone but I’d recommend reading in order if only because then you’ll get more bang for your buck – both books are brilliant and I have absolutely no problem highly recommending them.

Cool beans! That is all.

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