The Show That Must Go On

‘The Road to Cromer Pier’ by Martin Gore

Janet’s first love arrives out of the blue after forty years. Those were simpler times for them both. Sunny childhood beach holidays, fish and chips and big copper pennies clunking into one armed bandits.

The Wells family has run the Cromer Pier Summertime Special Show for generations. But it’s now 2009 and the recession is biting hard. Owner Janet Wells and daughter Karen are facing an uncertain future. The show must go on, and Janet gambles on a fading talent show star. But both the star and the other cast members have their demons. This is a story of love, loyalty and luvvies. The road to Cromer Pier might be the end of their careers, or it might just be a new beginning. 

The cover of Martin Gore’s second novel, ‘The Road to Cromer Pier’

Martin Gore’s second novel is, I think, going to divide opinion. If you share his characters’ affection for, and nostalgia of, the great seaside holidays of the past in places like Cromer and Hastings and Bracklesham Bay, then you will adore this book. 

If, like many others, you think the reason that these places are dying a slow, strangulated death is because what they offer is over priced, miserably devoid of entertainment and plasticy crap, then you’ll find it hard to engage much with the central dilemma of whether the show will go on and the theatre saved. I grew up in one. I know they don’t need to be saved.

What Gore creates extremely successfully here is a world. This is a town where celebrities on the way up or the way down converge to put on a show which keeps the end of the pier theatre going. 

Gore populates this world like a soap opera: the stand up comedian with a dark secret, the former talent show starlet struggling to put together a life and a career, the mother and daughter team holding the thing to together with sticky tape and glue all the while attempting to evade the shark like attentions of local worthy, and seedy adulterous businessman, Lionel Penrose.

Into this cast of characters as shop soiled and seedy as the seafront town they inexplicably want to keep going, washes up disgraced former football manager on the run from his own troubles and a lover of the head strong Janet, who has some secrets of her own.

This is a novel which walks a bit of a tight rope as I mentioned. If you like the characters, then the ensemble nature – cleverly structured to the mirror the type of show they are building up to at the end of the pier – will allow you to swoop in and out of their stories to satisfy your curiosity. However, this becomes a high wire act as a reader can struggle to stay engaged if there is not a clear protagonist, or at least pair of protagonists to hold on to.

The version I reviewed was an audiobook and this lead to one or two other issues which might not be such and issue in print.

Certainly I once read that a writer should avoid having characters whose names begin with the same letters. I must confess that at times I struggled with Carol and Karen but this somewhat went into overdrive when, in such a large cast, there is a Lec, a Les, a Lauren and a Lionel. I ended up gravitating to the Paul and Janet story just because I could remember who the hell they were.

Additionally, the narration of Penny Scott-Andrews is variable. She renders the Welsh lilt of Lauren with beautiful precision and does a very sleazy Lionel too. But it does grate when a novel about showbusiness has a narrator who pronounces Captain Mainwaring as Captain Main-Wearing. Dad’s Army isn’t that obscure a reference even these days, surely?

Overall, however, I enjoyed diving into the underbelly of a failing theatrical enterprise and the setting was enhanced by rooting the piece so firmly against the backdrop of the 2008 financial crash. This is light, simple story telling, well told and engaging the big themes in life. I rather hope Mr Gore gets back on the Road to Cromer Pier in future. 

Purchase Link 

https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/The-Road-to-Cromer-Pier-Audiobook/B08FCW2BNS

Author Bio – 

I am a 63 year old Accountant who semi-retired to explore my love of creative writing. In my career I held Board level jobs for over twenty five years, in private, public and third sector organisations. I was born in Coventry, a city then dominated by the car industry and high volume manufacturing. Jaguar, Triumph, Talbot, Rolls Royce, Courtaulds, Massey Ferguson were the major employers, to name but a few.

When I was nine year’s old I told my long suffering mother that as I liked English composition and drama I was going to be a Playwright. She told me that I should work hard at school and get a proper job. She was right of course.

I started as an Office Junior at Jaguar in 1973 at eleven pounds sixty four a week. I thus grew up in the strike torn, class divided seventies. My first career ended in 2015, when I semi retired as Director of Corporate services at Humberside Probation. My second career, as a Non Executive Director, is great as it has allowed me free time to travel and indulge my passion for writing, both in novels and for theatre.

The opportunity to rekindle my interest in writing came in 2009, when I wrote my first pantomime, Cinderella, for my home group, the Walkington Pantomime Players. I have now written eight. I love theatre, particularly musical theatre, and completed the Hull Truck Theatre Playwrite course in 2010. My first play, a comedy called He’s Behind You, is now available on: https://www.silverbirchingtonplays.com/product-page/he-s-behind-you-by-martin-gore

Pen Pals was my first novel, and a second, The Road to Cromer Pier, is now available in all three formats. It was officially launched on Cromer Pier itself, coinciding with the new season of the Summertime Special Show.

I’m active on twitter @authorgore and on Facebook Martin Gore Author. My website is www.martingore.co.uk.

I’m an old fashioned writer I guess. I want you to laugh and to cry. I want you to believe in my characters, and feel that my stories have a beginning, a middle, and a satisfactory ending.’

Social Media Links

Twitter – https://twitter.com/AuthorGore

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Martin-Gore-Author-1237780169706466/

A Casa of Amore in Cascais and Beyond

‘New Beginnings at the Little House in the Sun’ by Chris Penhill 

Follow your yellow brick road … 
Alice Dorothy Matthews is on the road to paradise! She’s sold her house in London, got rid of her nasty ex and arranged her move to Portugal where friendship and romance awaits. All that’s left to do is find a place to call home. 
But Alice’s dreams are called into question when complications with friends, work and new relationships make her Portuguese paradise feel far too much like reality. 
Will Alice’s dream of a new home in the sun come true? 

The cover of Chris Penhill’s novel ‘New Beginnings at the Little House in the Sun

Ten years ago, I arranged to go to a place in Portugal which I had never heard of, called Cascais. It began a love affair with the country which has endured to this day. 

Cascais is the place where the Lisbonistas go to escape the heat of the city in the summer, it has the plasticy, tourist trade associated with holiday places.

It also has the friendly locals, the bountiful fish market, a sumptuously (and expensively renovated) castle overlooking the sea.

Chris Penhill does a fine job of throwing obstacles in her heroine’s way from embracing her new existence and this is a novel surprisingly light on the travelogue aspect of the location. Penhill is a writer of solid craft and she lets the characters drive the action, rather than relying on the gorgeous location.

It is rom-com with crowd pleasing potential and a location to make a pandemic-era reader weep with jealousy for the freedom of the characters.

If you like beautiful locations, authentic protagonists in a romping read by a skilful author, this novel is for you.

Purchase Links 

smarturl.it/1s3mic 

https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/new-beginnings-at-the-little-house-in-the-sun

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/new-beginnings-at-the-little-house-in-the-sun-chris-penhall/1137338107?ean=2940162783909

Author Bio – 

 

Author Chris Pencil

Chris Penhall won the 2019 Choc-Lit Search for a Star competition, sponsored by Your Cat Magazine, for her debut novel, The House That Alice Built. The sequel, New Beginnings at the Little House in the Sun was published on August 25th 2020. 

 
Chris is an author and freelance radio producer for BBC Local Radio. 
 
Born in Neath in South Wales, she has also lived in London and in Portugal, which is where The House That Alice Built is set. It was whilst living in Cascais near Lisbon that she began to dabble in writing fiction, but it was many years later that she was confident enough to start writing her first novel, and many years after that she finally finished it! 
A lover of books, music and cats, she is also an enthusiastic salsa dancer, a keen cook, and loves to travel. She is never happier than when she is gazing at the sea. 
 
 
Social Media Links – 

www.chrispenhall.co.uk  

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChrisPenhall

 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChrisPenhallBroadcasterWriter

An excellent first outing for the Marlborough Marlowe

‘Into the Void’ by Christina O’Reilly

How easy is it for a man to simply disappear?

When rural banker Richard Harper is reported missing, DSS John (Archie) Baldrick and DC Ben Travers are drawn into the tangled details of the man’s life. Would Harper really have chosen to leave his seriously ill wife, and abandon his pregnant girlfriend? Or is there a real threat behind the abusive emails he’d been receiving from desperate clients in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis?

On the home front, Archie’s marriage is rocky and his two teenage daughters are giving him all sorts of trouble. The frail but beautiful Helena Harper and her magnificent house offer an oasis of calm as Archie struggles to discover who is responsible for her husband’s disappearance. Has he really been abducted, tortured or killed? Or is Richard Harper himself behind everything that has happened?

Archie and Travers ultimately face a race against time as the case descends into a bewildering morass of obsession, violence and murder.

Longlisted for the 2019 Michael Gifkins Memorial Prize for an Unpublished Novel

Finalist in the 2020 Ngaio Marsh Awards for Best First Novel

The cover of ‘Into the Void’ Christina O’Reilly’s debut novel

Ok, first things first – I’ve never been to New Zealand. Many people close to me who I value the judgement of, tell me that it is wonderful and I like wine and rugby so I can’t really see any reason for it not to be lovely.

And, if this novel is anything to go by, I’ll be a fool not to visit as soon as this trifling matter of a global pandemic is out of the way.

This is a novel which just begs to be enjoyed. Archie Baldrick, our Marlborough Marlowe, is every reader’s dream of a sexy lead detective. Paunchy, beset by anxiety for his teen daughters (not without cause) and in a marriage which looks fragile as the two former teen lovers drift away, our middle aged ginger detective with the sciatic nerve is quite the pin up.

And this is where this story lives: in the details and the quiet sadness which character endure, not complainingly just with the knowledge that their world’s just got a little but sadder.

The actual story of the disappeared banker who may or may not be responsible for the swirling violence and murder which the climax of the novel addresses is handled with a rare skill and aplomb by this debutant author.

First novels can often be brilliant because they are the culmination of a whole life’s ambition burning to get out. But ‘Into the Void’ does not come off like that at all. It is a fast paced, well-plotted and exceedingly well-written voyage into choppy waters for likeable, recognisable and flawed characters.

Highly recommended and I can’t wait to read O’Reilly’s next one. 

Purchase Links 

US – https://www.amazon.com/Into-Void-Christina-OReilly-ebook/dp/B08529J3DY

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Into-Void-Christina-OReilly-ebook/dp/B08529J3DY

Or readers can email Christina via her website www.christinaoreilly.com or her Facebook page Christina O’Reilly – Author for a paperback copy.

Author Bio – 

Author Christina O’Reilly

Christina O’Reilly is an author and proofreader living in the Waikato region of New Zealand. Several of her short stories have been published in anthologies, most recently in Fresh Ink: A Collection of Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand 2019. Into the Voidis her first crime novel and was longlisted for the Michael Gifkins Memorial Prize in 2019. It is also a finalist in the 2020 Ngaio Marsh Awards for Best First Novel.

Social Media Links – https://www.facebook.com/Christina-OReilly-Author-102419694721372/?modal=admin_todo_tour

Chasing Shadows in Paris

The Purple Shadow‘ by Christopher Bowden

In the years before the war, Sylvie Charlot was a leading light in Paris fashion with many friends among musicians, artists and writers.  Now she is largely forgotten.  Spending time in Paris during a break in his acting career, Colin Mallory sees a striking portrait of Sylvie.  Some think it is a late work by Édouard Vuillard but there is no signature or documentary evidence to support this view.

The picture has some unusual qualities, not least the presence of a shadow of something that cannot be seen.  Perhaps the picture was once larger.  Colin feels an odd sense of connection with Sylvie, who seems to be looking at him, appealing to him, wanting to tell him something.  Despite a warning not to pursue his interest in her portrait, he is determined to find out more about the painting, who painted it, and why it was hidden for many years.   

Colin’s search takes him back to the film and theatre worlds of Paris and London in the 1930s – and to a house in present-day Sussex.  As he uncovers the secrets of Sylvie’s past, her portrait seems to take on a life of its own.    

The cover of Christopher Bowden’s novel, ‘The Purple Shadow’

‘The Purple Shadow’ by Christopher Bowden is a novel of flowing prose, elegiac phrasing and subtlty of characterisation.

At the opening of the novel, out of work actor Colin Mallory is a malingering flanuer, perusing the streets of Paris at his pleasure. 

Oddly, one of the toughest aspects of reading this novel is that it is so evocative of Paris that is almost painful in a world of lockdowns and social distancing. Bowden writes with a quiet panache and obvious affection for the City of Love that one is left with a feeling of nostalgia and great longing to return to the capital.

“His view was dormers and balconies, shutters and skylights, chimneys and blank walls. Even these were becoming indistinct as the blue light of evening gave way to night.”

Christopher Bowden is clearly a talented artist in his own right and he weaves the strands of plot between forgotten British movie stars of the interwar years with the latter day painting recovery with the skill of a Royal Academician. 

Author Christopher Bowden

Colour imagery positively throbs through the tale. From the second page’s “bright white walls,’ to the “chevrons of indigo, orange and grey” on the last, colours are used to mirror emotions and evoke the surroundings. It is skilfully and unobtrusively carried out.

My issue with the novel is, unfortunately, one which perturbed me for the entire end third of the book. The purple stain of the title is, as the blurb makes clear so this is not a spoiler, one on a painting. The stain seems to be changing, adapting and – possibly – literally moving and yet all of the characters just seem to shrug and say, “Creepy, isn’t it?”

Sorry, no – not creepy. Stupid. You’re confusing a sentient painting with some tawdry sub-Halloween-level balls. 

All of the characters’ entirely blasé approach to the supernatural might enable the plot to wallop on, but it made me want to chuck this finely plotted, beautifully written little novel across the room in irritation.

Still, a quick read by a master craftsman which can be savoured for the quality of the writing alone.

Purchase Links 

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Purple-Shadow-Christopher-Bowden-ebook/dp/B01JLMD7N4/

US – https://www.amazon.com/Purple-Shadow-Christopher-Bowden-ebook/dp/B01JLMD7N4/

France – https://www.amazon.fr/Purple-Shadow-Christopher-Bowden-ebook/dp/B01JLMD7N4/

Author Bio – Christopher Bowden lives in south London. He is the author of six colour-themed novels, which have been praised variously by Andrew Marr, Julian Fellowes, Sir Derek Jacobi, and Shena Mackay.  

Social Media Links –  https://www.facebook.com/christopher.bowden.90

Website – http://www.christopherbowden.com/

We’re going on a… Spider Hunt?

Spider Hunting‘ by K.J McGillick

It’s never what it seems.

A murder of a high-profile law partner on a Manhattan street should have made the front page of the news. And yet it didn’t. Drew Bradley’s murder was treated as just another senseless crime and relegated to page four of the evening edition.

But what if the press had been privy to the fact that the murder was actually an assassination?

As the partners at Lannister and Stewart scramble to fill the vacuum left by Drew Bradley’s sudden death, Asia Blythe, a rising star in the firm is offered his coveted position. But this golden opportunity that brings with it power, prestige, and unlimited financial rewards demands adherence to a code. A code of allegiance to the firm with no exceptions.

Catapulted into the world of genetically modified designer babies and state-sponsored espionage, is Asia prepared to deal with the intrigues of a world that will threaten her life and shatter her illusions?

The cover of ‘Spider Hunting’ by KJ McGillick

‘Spider Hunting’ by K.J McGillick is a fast paced conspiracy driven thriller set amongst the backdrop of corporate law in New York.

Former nurse, lawyer and person of many parts McGillick writes with a speed which whips the reader along, ensnaring her lead character Asia in the twisty worlds of international tax havens and the ethics of emergent medical techniques.

The novel seems to take its inspiration from a John Grisham-Dan Brown infusion and McGillick is an engaging guide. Her plotting, especially, is excellent. The reader is ushered through the twists and turns of a convoluted story like they’re on a flume at a water park.

The novel is populated with a range of characters, many of whom have the ring of verisimilitude to them. I have a particular affection for the haughty and sinister Ian Lannister, the senior man at the law firm related by marriage to the murdered man and, perhaps, up to his neck in medical malpractice.

Author K.J McGillick. Former nurse, lawyer and a lady of many parts

It’s not a perfect novel, although what is? Asia is a good guide for the reader but is sometimes so innocent she makes Nancy Drew look like a Raymond Chandler character. At one point she says,

‘I felt my hand involuntarily hit my chest in surprise and leaned forward. “Ricin, that’s a biological weapon! What you are insinuating, or from this piece of information at least, my interpretation is we can conclude that this was no random act of violence.”’

One can’t help but wonder if she just forgot to clutch her twinset and pearls to her throat in horror.

Also, I would not like her to work on my case as a lawyer. She seems to know nothing of either tax law or the criminal bar. Considering she is considered impressive enough by the firm to be on fast track as an equity partner but she is shocked, shocked I tell you, to discover that not all law is conducted to strict ethical guidelines.

Additionally, I’m not sure I know what, “he asked in what sounded like a slight British accent,” means.

However, come for the occasionally hilarious dialogue and stay for the tight plotting, heroine with a personality and settled home life and entertaining cast of characters.

I would certainly go Spider hunting, again.

Purchase Links

US – https://www.amazon.com/SPIDER-HUNTING-Conspiracy-Betrayal-Book-ebook/dp/B08GJY14W2

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/SPIDER-HUNTING-Conspiracy-Betrayal-Book-ebook/dp/B08GJY14W2

Author Bio –

K. J. McGillick was born in New York and once she started to walk she never stopped running. But that’s what New Yorker’s do. Right? A Registered Nurse, a lawyer now author.

As she evolved so did her career choices. After completing her graduate degree in nursing, she spent many years in the university setting sharing the dreams of the enthusiastic nursing students she taught.

After twenty rewarding years in the medical field she attended law school and has spent the last twenty-four years as an attorney helping people navigate the turbulent waters of the legal system. Not an easy feat.

And now? Now she is sharing the characters she loves with readers hoping they are intrigued by her twisting and turning plots and entertained by her writing

Social Media Links –

https://www.facebook.com/KJMcGillickauthor/

Kathleen McGillick

@KJMcGillickAuth

http://www.kjmcgillick.com

Dispatches from the dark heart of Capitalism

Parasite? The Secret Diary of a Landlord

Get ready to learn what really happens behind closed doors. 

Landlords have become one of the most hated groups in society. Parasites, they’re often called. And there’s a lot of them. The Treasury estimates there are almost 2.6 million landlords in the UK with around 5.45 million rental properties.

But the real life of a professional landlord is very different to what most people think. From burglaries and break-ins to drug raids, police warrants, crazy tenant antics, bailiffs, squatters, lawsuits, wrecked properties, interfering council officers, game-playing freeholders to moments of heartfelt joy and happiness, the life of a landlord is never dull. Especially when the government keeps moving the goalposts.

This explosive front line exposé blows the lid off what it’s really like to be a landlord and the shocking reality of renting out a property. Hovering close to a nervous breakdown and likely suffering PTSD, The Secret Landlord exposes truths rarely shared. Stories that will grip you, move you and smack you in the face. 

This is the truth, the other side of the door. 

This is as difficult a book to review as I’m sure it was to write. And, in all honesty, I think a reader’s degree of satisfaction with their purchase is going to be directly linked to their politics and their experiences (isn’t everything?)

There’s a lot to like

The good things – the Secret Landlord is clearly a well-intentioned landlord. She writes fluidly and is as engaging a guide through the trials and tribulations of this lifestyle that you could wish for. Material which could be very dry is handled with aplomb. 

So, it is clearly well written and its diary format allows these dispatches from capitalisms front line to romp along.

The cover of ‘Parasite? The Secret Diary of a Landlord’

The Hustle

I think it is fair to say that this is a landlord who’s heart in the right place and is well intentioned. She wants to make a living – fair enough – and her ethos is clearly well meaning.

She says, ““My tenants tend to stay with me for years – I like that. I like the fact we can have a long relationship and get to know each other. Truth is, I don’t really like change. I really like it when people come to stay and they don’t leave. I like them growing and changing and hearing about their lives.”

That’s positively heart warming. As is how responsible this attitude is:

“I don’t understand, I truly don’t, the landlords who don’t do repairs. I have no understanding, morally or commercially, why you wouldn’t fix a problem.”

Here’s the thing though: the system is awful. 

The System

And, frankly, her justifications for her role within it are very poor. Take a scenario from early on in the book when she needs to sell two properties to ensure she has enough capital on hand to survive.

“My phone rings and I see it’s the long-term tenant at the flat where I’ve just sent his eviction notice. I brace myself. 
‘I’ve just got this notice, what’s going on? What have I done?’ ‘I’m so sorry, you haven’t done anything, but the problem is the government has made lots of tax changes and so I have no choice but to sell.’ 
‘But, this is my home!’ 
‘I know and I’m really sorry, I don’t want it to be like this, but I hope you can understand I have to sell because I need to raise some money.’
 ‘So how long have I got?’ 
‘The date’s there on the notice, you have over two months. I’m really sorry about this.’

Right, so a tenant who has done nothing wrong is to be made homeless because you over extended yourself? 

By the way, in Scotland the tenant would get 6 months notice which would help a little bit, but what makes this galling is the weakness of the arguments in need to make herself feel better.

At various points she asks, “Is it my fault?” and, later when the tenant about to bounced out in the street is not pleased we get this reported exchange:

“He’s still majorly unimpressed as the rental market has risen loads and he’s unhappy about how much more he’s going to have to shell out to rent somewhere else. I bite my tongue. I’d like to point out he could’ve been saving some money from his reduced rent with me.”

Yeah, except that’s not how it works is it? We aren’t given this particular tenant’s occupation but there is every chance that his wages won’t have kept pace with rent levels so he almost certainly won’t have been pocketing the difference, oh-so-financially-prudent Secret Landlord. 

“Is it my fault?” she asks? 

“No,” unsurprisingly answers friend who is also a landlord. 

“Yes,” say everyone else. You are literally part of the problem.

This particular paradox is writ large when she outlines how the system has changed since the financial crash. She has repeatedly said that she is a responsible landlord.

“The hoops you have to jump through and the paperwork you have to complete is something else nowadays. But, back in the day, and obviously that was before the financial crash, getting a mortgage, a re-mortgage or any sort of money was easy. Hell, you could even do same-day re-mortgages back then!… I should have borrowed more!”

No! No, you shouldn’t. People investing in sub-prime mortgages is the literal – literal – reason the world’s financial system had a cardiac arrest which nearly sent us back to the Dark Ages. This is not an exactly reflective guide.

“The thing that gets me about all of this is the way the government has created these housing problems and blamed landlords for everything. The government sold off the council housing and hasn’t built enough since. Private individuals then bought properties to rent out to fill the housing need. Then everybody and his dead grandmother went crazy about landlords owning property and renting them out and making a profit.”

Now, in her defence, it is also clear that the tax system is a mess, tenants are – well, arseholes – and this is not an easy profession. Actually it sounds like a dreadful profession and this is a lady doing the best she can. Maybe calling landlords parasites is harsh.

But, if you lay with pigs, you end up bacon and I’m afraid that this well-written, slick journey through the dark lowlands of the realities of capitalism’s foothills does not make me feel sorry for the choices this category of people have made.

Purchase Links
UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Parasite-Secret-Diary-Landlord-ebook/dp/B08DTPYVFZ/

US – https://www.amazon.com/Parasite-Secret-Diary-Landlord-ebook/dp/B08DTPYVFZ/

Author Bio – 
The Secret Landlord has been renting, refurbishing and selling properties across the UK for almost two decades. An award-winning landlord, as judged by the National Landlords Association, The Secret Landlord has provided accommodation for hundreds of tenants from all walks of life. 

Social Media Links – 

www.thesecretlandlord.com

@landlord_secret

PTSD in the land of the Villains

Detective Constable Bailey Morgan is back doing what she does best – working undercover.

This time she has to infiltrate the inner circle of a notorious underworld family. Posing as a fellow villain, she is on a one-woman mission to bring the family to their knees.

But things are never that simple. Bailey finds that she is forced to confront shadowy wraiths from her past and will come face-to-face with a set of devastating revelations that will shatter her world and threaten her very existence.

With only herself to trust, Bailey is on her own and the stakes are higher than ever.

Heart-stopping and gripping. Perfect for the fans of hit TV shows such as Line of Duty and Gangs of London.

The cover of Caro Savage’s second novel, ‘Villain’

Caro Savage is a new writer to me. I had missed her debut, Jailbird published in October 2019, but I liked the sound of her latest effort, Villain.

The fact that she has the best name for a crime writer since Karen Slaughter, only interested me further!

The atmospheric author portrait of the mysterious Caro Savage

I am happy to report that she lives up to her name: this novel is top notch. Savage manages to sprinkle the consequences of her protagonist’s previous undercover exploits through the novel with a light touch as well create a plucky, highly skilled detective who you want to go on the ride with.

It is not often that we see the far reaching results of exposure to violence and the effect that has on those that undergo it. Here, Bailey is on beta-blockers after a diagnosis of PTSD courtesy of the horrors she has previous undergone. 

Dainty Dialogue

A bugbear of mine in crime fiction is that convincing, flowing dialogue can often be the casualty of action but Savage manages the trick of making her characters distinct, recognisable and also realistic.

The other thing that Savage manages to do is ramp up the tension. Bailey’s interactions whilst undercover make your palms sweat as the threat of violence and trauma hangs over every encounter and keeps you hooked from first to last.

Black Humour

I have to be honest, the seam of black humour which runs through the novel – a severed arm torn asunder by a car bomb landing with a splat in front of a homeless man in the opening pages is a particular treat – keeps this novel from the potential of all thrillers to topple towards melodrama and is like a palate cleanser from the tension and thrills.

Caro Savage has announced her arrival as a writer to take note of with this thrilling follow up to her debut and I can’t wait to come across Bailey again.

Purchase Link

https://amzn.to/2V9uUKH

Author Bio

Caro Savage knows all about bestselling thrillers having worked as a Waterstones bookseller for 12 years in a previous life. Now taking up the challenge personally and turning to hard-hitting crime thriller writing, Jailbird was published by Boldwood in October 2019.

Social Media Links

Twitter Profile: https://twitter.com/CaroSavageStory

https://www.instagram.com/carosavage/

Newsletter sign up: http://bit.ly/CaroSavageNewsletter

The blog tour banner celebrating the publication of Caro Savage’s new novel, ‘Villain’

‘The Lie She Told’ – Exclusive Extract for PAJNewman

Courtesy of Catherine Yaffe, PAJNewman is delighted to be able to bring you an exclusive extract of The Lie She Told – You can read a review of the novel here

All Kate wanted was a peaceful life.

All Ryan wanted to do was destroy it.

Kate and her son Joe have created a new life for themselves in the Highlands of Scotland and she couldn’t be happier. That is until she picks a stranger up from the side of the road that turns out to be a figure from her past. Will all her secrets be revealed?

“Ryan?” She asked, risking a glance sideways

“Haha, I wondered when it would dawn on you”

“What the hell..how..” Kate was speechless. She’d last seen Ryan on the final day of the court hearing, hanging around outside on the court steps. As memories slowly clicked into place she went through a series of emotions. Her hands started to shake, heart pounding she moved from recognition to anger in a split second.

She swerved violently and pulled haphazardly onto the side of the road.

“What the actual? What are you doing here?” she removed her seatbelt and despite the lashing rain opened the car door and got out.

“Get out of my car now!” she yelled above the cacophony noise that swirled around the hills of the Highlands.

Ryan leaned over into the driver seat and shouted something, but Kate could only see red as rage, shock and fear took over.  

“I want you out of my car now!” she screamed again, shaking with anger.

Reluctantly Ryan did as she demanded and stepped into the monsoon,

“Kate, come on, don’t be like that”, he headed around the front of the car towards her.

She backed away,

“Oh no you don’t, stay away from me Ryan”

Ryan carried on forward, relentless, “Kate, what’s wrong with you?”

“Stop it Ryan, I don’t have to listen to anyone, anymore. I am not the same naive victim that you knew back then, and I will not listen to your bullshit”

Purchase Links 

UK –https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lie-She-Told-peaceful-destroy-ebook/dp/B08BPJCV77

US – https://www.amazon.com/Lie-She-Told-peaceful-destroy-ebook/dp/B08BPJCV77

Author Bio – 

Catherine Yaffe is a former freelance journalist, magazine editor and digital marketing agency owner. Catherine has previously written non-fiction books on Digital Marketing before following her passion for writing crime novels full time.

The Lie She Told is the first in a series of books that challenge the status quo of relationships and makes the reader question how well you know those around you.

Catherine lives in West Yorkshire with her husband Mark and their 2 cats Jenson & Button (she’s also a F1 fan!)

Social Media Links – 

@catherineyaffe (Twitter)

https://www.facebook.com/CatherineYaffeAuthor

Instagram cat_yaffe_author

www.catherineyaffe.co.uk

Rude Awakenings…

The Awakening Of Claudia Faraday by Patsy Trench

‘It got better, in time, though to be truthful it always felt more of a duty than a pleasure: a little like homework, satisfying when over, and done well, but never exactly enjoyable. But then nobody had ever suggested it could be otherwise.’

This was the view of Claudia Faraday, 1920s respectable wife and mother of three, on the subject of sex. That is until an unexpected turn of events shakes her out of her torpor and propels her back into the world revitalised and reawakened, where she discovers, as Marie Stopes might have said: Approached in the right way, even homework can be fun.

The cover of The Awakening of Claudia Faraday by Patsy Trench

The Awakening of Claudia Faraday is a delightful little novel which consistently confounds expectations. The cover, with its silhouetted protagonist could be for a new spy series, the pink writing could signal traditional “chick lit” (urgh – what a bind of a brand that is), the “Roaring Twenties” strap line makes it sound like a PG Wodehouse romp and the blurb description could be anything from a Jilly Cooper bonkbuster to a serious and measured study of the sexual awakening of upper middle class women in the early part of last century.

And, in the end, this rather sad, rather charming novel is a little of all of these things, (although spy thriller is a stretch. The only revelations here are of the human heart and mind, it is a little lacking in unmasked super villains to be fair.

Penetrating Pathos

It is sad. This is a quite and understated sadness of withering dreams and slipping youth. Claudia is a lovely protagonist. A gentle and well intentioned woman who, in her sixth decade, is only beginning to question her wants and desires.

Trench writes with such a penetrating pathos of the boredom of a newly empty nest that the reader’s heart aches for our heroine, so used is she to being of service to others that she is not even the lead character in her own story.

“And so the weeks passed, September into October, and no omnipotent author stepped in to liven up the shapeless plot that was Claudia’s life. She was back to counting the creaks as she ascended the stairs on her way to her bedroom.”

I spent a huge amount of time in the novel feeling desperately sad for Claudia. The Twenties were in distinct danger of not only failing to roar for her but also to go out with barely so much as a whimper.

It was clear that not only sex, but also any agency had been ground out of the character: by society; by men; by her friends; by her mother. This fundamentally sweet woman hadn’t noticed the hypocrisy of everyone else and so was facing the outgoing sands of time in baffled and barely articulated sorrow.

Charming Oddities

This gentle gloom is alleviated by the light touch, page turning writing skill and the assortment of charming oddities which surround her.

The loyal housemaid Lily – fairly consistently having to let her hand fly to her mouth after yet another misplaced observation of her mistress – is a cutie, old friend and occasional sparring partner Prue, seems to be made up of equal parts scandalous affairs in hot climates and terrible driving.

The absentee husband Gerald sounds what used to be called a perfect pill. Having ruined sex for her, then impregnated her three times scooting off overseas for archaeological digs, he could only make it to one of their children’s weddings.

The children themselves add colour and charm to the rather drab world of their mother. Jessica has a horsey laugh, a disordered house and is a flapper with a jolly husband with an alliterative name; Harriet is a Bohemian with a penchant for interior design and a wayward husband while the youngest daughter, Flora is all horse breeding and country air.

It is not a difficulty to spend time in the world of these delightful characters. It is especially easy when Claudia is making her slightly waspish observations such as:

“It was invariably the revolutionaries who managed to consume most of other people’s wine, and their food, while looking down on them from some lofty moral plinth upon which they had placed themselves.”

In conclusion, The Awakening of Claudia Faraday is a nice little novel filled with excellent characters, charming locations and the quiet desperation of some of our fellow citizens. I can’t wait to meet up with them again.

Purchase Link – https://mybook.to/ClaudiaF

Author Bio –

Author Patsy Trench

Patsy Trench lives a quiet and largely respectable life in north London. Claudia’s story shows a side of her normally shy and reserved nature that is little known, even to her friends and acquaintances. Her previous books, about her family’s history in Australia, are entertaining and informative accounts of that country’s early colonial beginnings. She began writing late, and in a previous life she was an actress, scriptwriter, playscout, founder of The Children’s Musical Theatre of London and lyricist. When not writing books she emerges from her shell to teach theatre and organise theatre trips for overseas students. She is the grateful mother of two clever and grown-up children, and she is addicted to rag rugging and, when current circumstances permit, fossicking on the Thames foreshore for ancient treasure.

Social Media Links –

Website: www.patsytrench.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PatsyTrenchWriting/

Twitter:  @PatsyTrench

Instagram: claudiafaraday1920

Just Like You. And, probably, me…

I have always loved Nick Hornby. I fell in love with his prose when Fever Pitch came out and was suitably skewered by his analysis of insecure, introspective young men with High Fidelity. I was, of course, charmed by About a Boy.

And, although I feel like these are going to the three books on his tombstone, even his less well known/popular books are, at worst, always readable.

The cover of ‘Just Like You’ by Nick Hornby

Love Across the Brexit Barricades

I can’t quite decide if this book is going to get him in trouble or not. It certainly tap dances into some pretty heated areas: this is a novel of love across Brexit barricades, splintering society, race. Not too many hot button issues for a white, middle class writer of a certain age to try and tackle.

Except it isn’t really. Because it’s Hornby and he’s just so good at what he does. In Joseph and Lucy he seems to have the only two people in the world prepared to admit that they don’t understand issues and don’t have all, or indeed any, of the answers.

Plot Summary

Lucy is a divorcee in her early 40s with two kids. Head of English at a not particularly good north London comprehensive, she juggles a trying-to-reform alcoholic ex, a good group of friends and some fairly shambolic blind dates with good humour and a resignation that this might be what life has left in store for her.

Into this fairly acceptable world comes Joseph. A 22-year-old man who dreams of a making music while paying for himself through football coaching, a part time job in a leisure centre, a bit of babysitting and tutoring and a Saturday job in the butchers of Lucy’s gentrified area.

With the Brexit referendum looming in the background, these two magnetically attracted people must decide where they stand and whether their race, their income, their education and their very different worlds can be surmounted by love.

Fragmentation

What the novel definitely does do is a fantastic job of demonstrating the divisions within which our society works now.

Joseph and Lucy inhabit different worlds, by dint of race, age and income but – crucially – the flow of information is literally different. 

Joseph gets his information from Instagram, chasing rabbit holes of information inaccessible to Lucy.

However, her white, middle class privilege means that both characters are ensconced in their own unintentionally echo chambers. If not comfortably then at least unquestioningly for a big chunk of the novel.

Hornby’s description of Lucy’s awareness of the difference between her generation is very well done and, frankly, scalpel sharp:

“Lucy was beginning to suspect that he might be what the girls at her school would refer to as a ‘fuckboy’, a word she discouraged them from using because of its first four letters but which in all other ways seemed an entirely welcome neologism. There had always been tarts and slags and sluts, and now there were fuckboys, and the contempt with which the girls spat the word out gladdened her heart.”

Astonishing Achievements

And yet, possibly its most astonishing achievements as a piece of work devoted to the present is that this is a novel from which anger is absent for the most part.

In fact, possibly the weakest aspect for the reader is that Hornby chooses not to show the arguments even when they do happen. They are reported but we don’t hear the words, we are merely told the fall out and left to decide for ourselves.

For a novel in which race is an enormous factor and at this moment in history, that’s a phenomenal achievement.

Hornby is still the best and most accessible of modern observers. He is razor sharp on the gentrified areas of north London where one normally encounters his characters. 

There’s a definite lineage between High Fidelity’s Rob and his DJ ambitions and 22-year-old Jospeh and his tracks. Of course, whereas Rob ran a slightly dilapidated record shop which his partner was a corporate lawyer, here we have a partner who is Head of English at a bog standard comprehensive and a young man with a portfolio career, scratching a living working multiple jobs.

The fact that this makes him better off than his peers at university is one of the quieter and depressing twists of Hornby’s knife.


Witness Joseph’s musical mentor and school friend. Zech.

“Americans used the dollar sign to look flash, but PoundMan sounded cheap, like Poundland. Zech meant it to sound cheap, too. It was, he said, a celebration of Haringey consumer culture.”

A Tale of Simple Things

Yet, at heart this is a novel of simple things. In a complicated world in which both characters come with baggage, make mistakes, there is a simple message.

“If you’d asked him…what made him happy, he wouldn’t really have understood the relevance of the question. Now he knew the answer: sleeping with Lucy, eating with Lucy, watching T.V. with Lucy. And maybe there was no future in it, but there was a present, and that’s what life consists of.”

Maybe that is something we can all, in this most heated and divided of times, get behind.

ISBN9780241338551
PRICE£16.99 (GBP)