What Are the Odds?

‘A Chance in a Million’ by TA Williams

Fate brought them together, now it’s up to them to make it work…

You can support the blog and TA Williams by purchasing ‘A Chance in a Million’ from Bookshop.org

Having left the army to recover from a traumatic experience, Captain Jane Reed is on her way to Venice to assist Lady Veronica Cooper, a world-famous writer who has lost her mojo. Plagued by grief and sleepless nights, Jane soon finds a kindred spirit in Veronica, coping with her own loss after the death of her husband.

When the two relocate to Veronica’s villa in the countryside to escape the summer tourists, Jane meets the rest of the Cooper family – including Veronica’s brooding son, David. With his own tragic past, David has resigned himself to a life of solitude. Jane finds herself determined to bring joy back into his life, even if it means finally spilling her secrets.

Can Jane and David help each other heal, and find love in the process, or are some scars too deep to treat?

I have reviewed and enjoyed the work of TA Williams before. He appears to be a man after my own heart: fond of a foreign location, not afraid to enjoy a little light romantic fiction – toxic masculinity be damned or something!

Here we are treated to a romance mired in some fairly traumatic background. The opening sequence of the novel is set in Fallujah and, it is fair to say, one can certainly understand why Captain Jane Reed might feel the need to decompress afterwards.

It is often interesting to reflect that romantic fiction is dismissed as “light”. Here Williams works hard to create suspense in the reader and every degree of heat is reflected in the sweat on the brow of the protagonist.

Of course, Venice is another area known for its heat and Williams again does a fantastic job of rendering the magic of that spectacular city.

Characters each dealing with their own inner turmoils collide as the pathetic fallacy of the weather, the beauty of the surrounding and the quality of the food act as motifs which reoccur throughout this highly readable holiday novel.

Salut!

Purchase Link – http://mybook.to/inaMIllion

Author Bio

I’m a man. And a pretty old man as well. I did languages at university a long time ago and then lived and worked in France and Switzerland before going to Italy for seven years as a teacher of English. My Italian wife and I then came back to the UK with our little daughter (now long-since grown up) where I ran a big English language school for many years. We now live in a sleepy little village in Devonshire. I’ve been writing almost all my life but it was only seven years ago that I finally managed to find a publisher who liked my work enough to offer me my first contract.

The fact that I am now writing escapist romance is something I still find hard to explain. My early books were thrillers and historical novels. Maybe it’s because there are so many horrible things happening in the world today that I feel I need to do my best to provide something to cheer my readers up. My books provide escapism to some gorgeous locations, even if travel to them is currently difficult.

Social Media Links –

Website: www.tawilliamsbooks.com

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/tawilliamsbooks

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

Red Lights and Weary Travellers

‘Gerard Philey’s Euro-Diary: Quest for a Life’ by Brendan James

Also on the tour today is Tami and Bookish Dreamer

‘Could there be a world of interest and adventure beyond the Midlands? A world of confidence, sex and excitement? A better life – a better me?’ These are the questions Gerard Philey grapples with over New Year, 1995. Sitting in his rented Black Country room, reflecting on his thankless teaching job and miserable love life, he courageously decides to abandon his humdrum existence and embark on a quest for Euro-fulfilment, fun and fitness on the Continent.

After a shaky start in Brussels, events manoeuvre him to Amsterdam where chance encounters shift his world well and truly into fifth gear. He samples the trials and tribulations of new relationships, alongside managing a sex shop in the city’s Red Light Area – on top of the challenges of fat-free living and international travel!

Through his bittersweet diary, we see how Gerard steers a laugh-out-loud course through farcical episodes and fanciful characters…and how entanglements from past and present draw him unwittingly into a criminal underworld where events ultimately take their toll.

Purchase Link –  https://amzn.to/3spEKZ9

It has been a while since I was able to get away on a proper foreign holiday. Rather like the eponymous Gerard Philey of Brendan James’ charming debut novel, I spend my days helping to educate the next generation of souls. Although they do not – as yet – choose to decorate me with chewed up pieces of ‘Paris Match’ as his do, I certainly recognise the ennui of the listless educational professional he describes!

One of my fondest ever memory is of a holiday I took alone to France as a newly qualified teacher. I was able to nap and write and drink wine in the sun and utilise my less-than-adequate language skills to procure decent food at a bargain price. It was pure Peter Mayle (a hero of mine I’ve written about before)

This novel is a bit like a hybrid of a ‘A Year in Provence’ meets ‘The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole’ and is very much enjoyable accordingly. James is a writer of assured quality and the wryly amusing encounters his put upon hero endures brings to mind the work of Tom Sharpe and the tortures he regularly put poor Wilt through.

A read that zips by like a galloping Eurostar, this is one for the traveller in your life. Happy holidays!

Author Bio

Brendan James is the author of the new comedy novel, “Gerard Philey’s Euro-Diary: Quest for a Life”. Though this is his first novel, he has a large number of non-fiction publications (under the name Brendan Bartram) as a former university lecturer and researcher. A passionate linguist and Europhile, he spent a number of years working in the Netherlands, France and Germany. He lives in the West Midlands with his husband.

Social Media Links –

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/450811.Brendan_James

LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/brendan-james-4343a8237/

Twitter @Brendan23015569

Baddies in Braddie

‘Unjust Bias’ by Liz Mistry

Also on the tour today, Once Upon A Time Book Reviews, Bibliophilverse, Jane Hunt Writer, Nesie’s Place

A murdered boy disowned by his family.

A teen terrified his past will catch up with him.

A girl with nowhere to go.

Men with rage so visceral they will do anything.

With the unsolved murder of a homeless boy still preying on his mind, DI Gus McGuire is confronted with a similar murder, a missing teen and no clues.

Does the answer lie with an illegal dark web site where ‘slaves’ are auctioned off? Or with an online forum for teens?

How can Gus keep people safe when unjust bias rears its head and being different could cost you your life…?

I’ve only been to Bradford once. I was about eight years old and it was the sort of Keystone Cops holidays my parents specialised in: we travelled to Bradford from some god-forsaken location, the car got a puncture, my Dad’s tooth fell out when biting into a flowery bap twinned with a concrete breezeblock, we couldn’t the KwikFit which had the car.

My overwhelming memory, however, was the Film and Television Museum. It had, what was then, the only IMAX cinema in the UK and a chance to try and be a newsreader, reading an autocue. I couldn’t do it. I cried.

They also had a gigantic copy of that famous mugshot photo of Myra Hindley. After getting my mum to explain who she was, I tootled off but that night, I came down in floods of tears, scared that this real life monster was going to get me.

A tough street kid I was not.

A writer who deals with real life monsters, is Liz Mistry. I reviewed another of her Bradford-set crime novels in February 2021, ‘Dark Memories’. https://pajnewman.com/2021/02/07/unravelling-the-mistry-of-bradford/

‘Unjust Bias’ clearly shares DNA with this earlier novel. Mistry’s hard-bitten representation of the city is here. Her predilection for shifting narrative stances from first to third and back again depending upon the character focus of the chapter is there and her obvious interest in the on-going psychological effects of the world upon these people is baked through the stories like logos through a stick of rock.

These are not happy-go-lucky, easy readers with a cozy element. These are dark and realistic depictions of a hard world and bad things happening to people in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But Mistry is a very fine writer and her Bradford is becoming a character in the way that Rankin’s Edinburgh is central to understanding the events.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Unjust-Bias-different-Fiction-Procedural-ebook/dp/B0B61NXSZK/

US – https://www.amazon.com/Unjust-Bias-different-Fiction-Procedural-ebook/dp/B0B61NXSZK/

Author Bio –

Born in Scotland, Made in Bradford sums up Liz Mistry’s life. Over thirty years ago she moved from a small village in West Lothian to Yorkshire to get her teaching degree. Once here, Liz fell in love with three things; curries, the rich cultural diversity of the city … and her Indian husband (not necessarily in this order). Now thirty years, three children, two cats and a huge extended family later, Liz uses her experiences of living and working in the inner city to flavour her writing. Her gritty crime fiction police procedural novels set in Bradford embrace the city she describes as ‘Warm, Rich and Fearless’ whilst exploring the darkness that lurks beneath.

Struggling with severe clinical depression and anxiety for a large number of years, Liz often includes mental health themes in her writing. She credits the MA in Creative Writing she took at Leeds Trinity University with helping her find a way of using her writing to navigate her ongoing mental health struggles. Being a debut novelist in her fifties was something Liz had only dreamed of and she counts herself lucky, whilst pinching herself regularly to make sure it’s all real. One of the nicest things about being a published author is chatting with and responding to readers’ feedback and Liz regularly does events at local libraries, universities, literature festivals and open mics. She also teaches creative writing too.  Liz has completed a PhD in Creative Writing on Diverse voices in crime fiction.

In her spare time, Liz loves pub quizzes (although she admits to being rubbish at them), dancing (she does a mean jig to Proud Mary – her opinion, not ratified by her family), visiting the varied Yorkshire landscape, with Robin Hoods Bay being one of her favourite coastal destinations, listening to music, reading and blogging about all things crime fiction on her blog, The Crime Warp. 

Social Media Links –

Twitter: @LizMistryAuthor  

Facebook: @LizMistryBooks 

Website: lizmistry.com

Summer Days, Italian Dreams

‘An Italian Dream’ by Kate Frost

Also on the tour today, All Things Bookie and Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers 

Follow your heart and then your dreams…

Best friends since childhood, Fern Chambers and Stella Shaw have been through everything together and are at a crossroads in their lives.

Carefree Stella has a monumental secret and put upon Fern’s happy life is not all it seems.

With their 40th birthdays approaching, a luxury holiday to the island of Capri is a chance for them to reconnect, let their hair down and celebrate in style. But untold truths and frustration bubble beneath the surface, turning what should be a holiday of a lifetime into an opportunity to make life-changing decisions.

Far from home, where anything feels possible, secrets are revealed, heartache is shared, love discovered and new friendships forged.

Will their Italian dream turn into a nightmare or lead to newfound happiness?

Purchase Link –  https://amzn.to/3OU7RwU

Like the characters of Fern and Stella in Kate Frost’s enjoyable romp, ‘An Italian Dream’, I also turned 40 this year.

Sadly, unlike Stella (and by extension Fern), I did not arrive at this milestone with the unexpected good fortune of a bonus cash top up which allowed me to travel to exotic places and reconsider what a birthday with a zero at the end of it meant for my career and future happiness.

But, thems the breaks, as a now widely discredited, floppy-haired fop with the impulse control of a toddler recently said.

An ‘Italian Dream‘ is exactly that: an opportunity to dream away the ugly reality of modern Britain and immerse yourself in the sun-baked warmth and evolving friendship of these two lifelong friends.

This is a novel which will charm and entertain in equal measure, as well as encourage to gaze out at the weather and remember days in sunnier places and it is all the better for that.

Author Bio –

Kate Frost is the author of several bestselling romantic escape novels including The Greek Heart, and The Love Island Bookshop. She lives in Bristol and is the Director of Storytale Festival, a book festival for children and teens she co-founded in 2019.

Social Media Links –  

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

Twitter https://twitter.com/katefrostauthor

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/katefrostauthor/

Newsletter Sign Up: https://bit.ly/KateFrostNewsletter

Heat and Light on a Portuguese Hill

‘The House on the Hill: A Summer in the Algarve’ by Chris Penhall

Also on the tour today, Chicks, Rogues and Scandals  

Layla is calm, in control and is definitely not about to lose her serenity for the man next door!
Surely it can’t be hard to stay peaceful at one of the oldest yoga and mindfulness retreats in the Algarve, surrounded by sea, sun and serenity? Mostly, owner Layla Garcia manages it – with the help of meditation and plenty of camomile tea, of course.
But keeping her grandparents’ legacy alive is stressful, and Layla has become so shackled to the work that, for her, The House on the Hill is fast becoming ‘The Fortress on the Hill’.
Then writer Luke Mackie moves to the villa next door, bringing with him a healthy dose of chaos to disrupt Layla’s plans, plus a painful reminder of a time when she was less-than-serene. But could his influence be just what Layla needs to ‘dance like no-one’s watching’ and have the fun she’s been missing?

In November 2020 I reviewed Chris Penhall’s novel, ‘New Beginnings at the Little House on the Hill’. In that piece, I mentioned that it was Cascais (the novel’s setting) which had inspired a love affair with Portugal which persists to this day.

What I left out, is that the love affair is not with Cascais itself. For me, the beating heart of Portugal is towards the south.

Penhall’s latest novel, ‘The House on the Hill’ – despite having a title which might front a horror movie – is as delightfully sun drenched and light touch as her previous outing.

Layla Garcia is the sort of person who has it all – a beautiful house, a business which is successful(ish) and a boyfriend – but who can’t get through the day without mindfulness and meditation – but meditation which she falls asleep during.

Like so many people, the character is using the trappings of “wellness” and “self-care” to cover up deeper problems which can only be addressed by looking outside you.

Penhall is a writer of charming, sun soaked romances. The characters are realistic, the plots trip along and you can practically smell the scent of Portugal in your nostrils while our heroine learns important life lessons.

I’m not able to get away to my beloved regions of Portugal this year – I shall just have to image myself visiting the House on the Hill instead.  

Purchase Link – https://smarturl.it/x4u6oz

Author Bio

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 in August 2020. Both are available in paperback, e-book and audio and are part of the Portuguese Paradise series. ‘Finding Summer Happiness’, which is set in Pembrokeshire in South West Wales is available in e-book, audio and paperback, and ‘The House on the Hill – A Summer in the Algarve’, the third novel in the Portuguese Paradise series, is published in e-book on 28th June 2022.

Chris is an author and freelance radio producer for BBC Local Radio.

She also has her own podcast – ‘The Talking to My Friends About Book Podcasts’ in which she chats to her friends about books. Good title!

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

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/christinepenhall/

Someone Had Been Telling Lies About Ellis Neill

‘The Discarded’ by Louis van Schalkwyk

A fast paced thriller you won’t forget!

Also on the tour today, Sylv.net and Peacock’s Book Review


‘There were many moments where I can honestly say ‘I did not see that coming’’ – Tina Simpson

Ellis Neill wakes up next to his family one morning, just as he had done for the last ten years, unaware that it would be his last taste of freedom.

His life soon spirals out of control and he is cast into a remote prison in the Arctic wilderness where nothing is as it seems, the inmates rule and a sinister figure wants him and his family dead.

Resulting from carefully laid plans he is plunged into a fight for survival, sanity and saving those he loves.

Early on in Louis van Schalkwyk’s debut, ‘The Discarded’, there is a fleeting reference to ‘Rambo: First Blood’. Now, while I don’t know whether children’s toy manufacturers are really referencing 40 year old movies to market their products but I also thought it set an interesting tone to van Schalkwyk’s piece.

This is Rambo crossed with Kafka – a man caught up in mystery he doesn’t really understand while all around him the world appears to have gone mad.

What ‘The Discarded’ (and Rambo in fairness) have but Kafka and ‘The Trial’ most certainly do not, is action packed fight scenes with crunching bones and the smell of blood and leather as faces are struck.

Central protagonist Ellis is forced out into the wilds and has to survive in extreme scenarios all the while looking to clear his name and ensure the safety of his family.

An exciting, action packed novel with a fast pace and a debutant writer demonstrating a clear grasp of how to thrill readers and keep the narrative moving.


‘A masterpiece of a story with thrills and twists!’ – Laura, reviewer

Purchase Link – http://mybook.to/thediscarded

Author Bio

Louis van Schalkwyk was born in South Africa and currently resides in Hong Kong. “The Discarded” is his debut novel, inspired by years honing his writing skills and drawing influence from his favorite authors. When Louis isn’t writing he enjoys reading and sampling various cuisines with his wife, Courtney.

Social Media Links –

Author

https://www.facebook.com/louisvsauthor

https://www.instagram.com/louisvsauthor/

https://mobile.twitter.com/louisvanschalk3

Publisher

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/kingsleypublishers/?hl=en-gb

Twitter – https://twitter.com/kingsleypublis1

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Drake Cove Confronts Dark Secrets and the Modern World

‘From the Deep’ by Kateri Stanley

Also on the tour today, www.sharonbeyondthebooks.wordpress.com, https://portable-magic.com,  www.wherethereadergrows.com

Julian Finch, widower and fisherman, awakes to learn that the bodies of two colleagues have washed up on the beach of Drake Cove. The close-knit community is under fierce public scrutiny due to a long-standing tradition called “The Culling”, the annual slaughter of pilot whales for consumption. An act which divides the nation.

The suspects are the extreme animal rights group, the Fighters Against Animal Cruelty (FAAC) who go wherever the politics is trending. They’ve been harassing the small fishing town for many years, smashing up their boats and sending vicious hate mail.

Tensions mount after a viral video, uploaded by the FAAC of Julian killing a pregnant whale, causes uproar online and in real life. In the aftermath, Julian becomes the victim of hate crime. In order to avoid further life-threatening attacks, Julian and his daughter take refuge in the home of Frank Blothio: ex-fisherman turned writer and political activist who does not have the best history with the animal rights movement, or Drake Cove as a whole.

As Julian integrates into the Blothio way of life, he discovers heinous secrets and disturbing truths lurking beneath the skin of his hometown that will change his life forever.

One of the most shocking scenes ‘Seaspiracy’ , a documentary which clearly had an impact upon attitudes towards the fishing industry, was the slaughter of the whales in the Faroe Islands which arrives at the culmination of the movie.

Kateri Stanley’s novel, ‘From the Deep’ reimagines these sort of events in the small village of Drake Cove. As with most small places in literature, characters have secret pasts and long-standing enmities which only emerge as the modern world of technology sees traditions emerge on social media and all hell break lose.

There’s a whiff of a fictionalised version of Jon Ronson’s ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’ in Stanley’s work. What would it actually be like for a community to be subjected to the sort of scrutiny which few of us are pure enough to survive unscathed.

Kateri Stanley is a pseudonym for a multi-genre fiction writer and this shows in her writing. She is comfortable switching between and first and third person voices and has a commanding, authoritative authorial voice.

‘From the Deep’ is a novel which rips along and will make perfect summer holiday reading – for those prepared to deal with the plotting of a thriller and the ethics of animal rights and the modern age.

Purchase Links

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B09WG2GVV5

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/from-the-deep-kateri-stanley/1141255926

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/From-Deep-Kateri-Stanley/9781838345945

Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/from-the-deep/kateri-stanley/9781838345945

Author Bio –

Kateri Stanley is a pseudonym for the multi-genre fiction writer. Since being a child, Kateri has been inspired by the wondrous mediums of books, music, TV and film. After working in the healthcare industry for eight years and studying for an Arts and Humanities degree, she made the decision to move cities in the West Midlands and live with her ever-suffering partner and their felines. Her debut novel ‘Forgive Me’ was published by indie press house, DarkStroke Books in 2021 and it reached #1 in the US Horror Fiction charts on Amazon. She is currently working on her third novel, Bittersweet Injuries and would love to pursue a full-time career in writing.

Social Media Links –

Kateri can be found across social media and her website: http://www.kateristanley.com

Instagram – https://instagram.com/sal_writes

Twitter – https://twitter.com/sal_writes

Facebook – http://facebook.com/salwrites2

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21272876.Kateri_Stanley

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/kateri-stanley

Reaping What Was Sown

‘A Harvest Murder’ by Frances Evesham

Also on the tour today Scrapping&Playing and Niki Preston

You can read a previous review of a Frances Evesham novel here: https://pajnewman.com/2021/11/14/murder-and-mayhem-ideal-for-the-time-of-year/

One unexplained disappearance is strange, but two are sinister.

In Lower Hembrow, an idyllic village nestled beneath Ham Hill in Somerset, the villagers are preparing to enjoy the autumn traditions of the rural English countryside until Joe Trevillion, a curmudgeonly local farmer and the father of six children, vanishes.

When Adam Hennessy, the ex-detective proprietor of The Plough, the village’s popular Inn, investigates, he finds ominous undercurrents beneath apparently harmless rumour and gossip.

Meanwhile, a vicious campaign of vindictiveness forces Adam and his three amateur sleuth friends to dig deep into the secret lives of their neighbours to expose the source of a cruel vendetta and prevent another death.

As they uncover the disturbing truth, the friends learn they must also lay their own past lives to rest before they can hope to make their dreams for the future come true.

One of the first jobs I ever had was a freelance gig writing pieces profiling towns for Sussex Life magazine. The money was fine – scarily this is at least 20 years ago and I doubt I could earn as much freelancing now as I did then – but what was really interesting was the opportunity to go nosing about the villages of the Home Counties and trying to pry under their skin a bit.

I’m not exactly sure what it is in crime fiction which attracts us to these small, rural villages but from Agatha Christie through GK Chesterton via Margery Allingham and right up to some of the writers working today – Fiona Leitch, Isabella Muir, Anna Legat and Simon Whaley – readers can’t get enough of peering behind the net curtain and white washed walls of the small English village.

Frances Evesham here provides another accomplished entry into the genre. Lower Hembrow is everything this sort of village should: picturesque, nicely appointed church, local pub.

And, obviously, dark undercurrent with disappearances and dark secrets from the past threatening to raise their ugly heads.

I know Raymond Chandler wanted to take murder out of the drawing rooms and put it back in the streets, but in the same way that Chandler was a Dulwich College educated public schoolboy, I like my murders cozy and my villages adorning the pages of Somerset Life.

Heartily recommended for fans of Midsomer Murders, Miss Marple and Poirot, A Harvest Murder arrives at the best time of year and should allow you a pleasant read as the workers gather the crops around you.

Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/3tNDDDd

Author Bio –

Frances Evesham is the bestselling author of the hugely successful Exham-on-Sea murder mysteries set in her home county of Somerset, and the Ham-Hill cosy crime series set in South Somerset.

Social Media Links

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/frances.evesham.writer/

Twitter https://twitter.com/francesevesham

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/francesevesham/

Newsletter Sign Up: https://bit.ly/FrancesEveshamNews

Bookbub profile: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/frances-evesham

Junior West(Minster) Wing

‘Mystery in the Palace of Westminster’ by Sarah Lustig

Also on the tour today, The Pufflekitteh Reads

Theo Duncan is just an ordinary student. Except he also happens to be the son of the Prime Minister, Will Duncan. 

When the parliamentary mace is stolen from inside the Houses of Parliament, Theo is determined to help his dad get it back. But he can’t do it alone. And when help is offered, there’s a problem. It comes from the new girl at school, Sammy Jhor, who’s a supporter of the opposition party. 

Theo and Sammy form an unlikely team to spy on government officials, sneak through the corridors of Downing Street and pursue the thief through the Palace of Westminster. 

But when the evidence points to suspects at the highest levels of government, finding the thief could threaten Will Duncan’s leadership. 

Can Theo and Sammy put aside their differences to find the mace – and the thief – before the government is brought to its knees? 

As always with anything which touches on politics in literature, there is the difficulty of life colliding with fiction.

For example, reading this frightfully nice book aimed at children/young adults, the thing which most stands out for a reader in the contemporary age is exactly this collision.

Hear teenage son of a Prime Minister, think Euan Blair.

Hear a Prime Minister even deigning to acknowledge paternity of a child think, ‘Nope, not going to happen’.

Also unbelievable in the modern age – a PM in any way interested in things “like recovering the parliamentary mace and by extension the legitimacy of the government.’ Our glorious leader prefer proroguing.

None of this is the fault of Sarah Lustig who has written a nice, old fashioned novel set around the aforementioned recovery of the mace of state.

Poor 14 – nearly 15, mind – Theo has to contend with the usual embarrassing parents, except his father is flanked by armed personal protection officers and he can’t open his front door without cameras clicking and journalists shouting questions.

On the bright side, Samira (Sammy ) Jhor has just joined his school, and now his heart is aflutter while they set off on a quest to help his father.

I enjoy these sort of young adult(ish) novels when they come across the review queue. A criticism might be that they central protagonists always seem very young – I work in high schools. 15 year olds aren’t this nice. There’s lot more single entendre and vaping.

However, in a world where the Home Secretary would no doubt be deporting Samira unless her parents donated a tennis game’s worth of cash in a suitcase to prove she wasn’t the wrong kind of immigrant and the Prime Minister is trying to spend his time crowbarring his partner into six figure government careers whilst simultaneously turning the heart of government into the last days of Nero’s Rome, it is nice to read a novel as well written, pure hearted and entertaining as ‘Mystery in the Palace of Westminster’.

I sincerely wish that those at the top in the real world has as much civic responsibility and interest in doing what is right for the country as 14 year old Theo.

This is as assured a debut as I have read by an author working in this genre and I look forward to Book Two immensely.  

Purchase Links

https://www.sarahlustig.com/product-page/mystery-in-the-palace-of-westminster

https://www.waterstones.com/book/mystery-in-the-palace-of-westminster/sarah-lustig/9781739773601

Author Bio –

Sarah Lustig grew up in London and went to school in Westminster, with politicians’ children. Her experiences at school and interest in politics inspired the idea for the Westminster Mysteries series. Mystery in the Palace of Westminster is her debut novel. She has been a book editor for nearly 15 years and now lives in Buckinghamshire, where she spends her time reading, writing and pottering on her balcony garden.

Social Media Links –

https://www.instagram.com/sarahlbooks/

Digging with Spades, Coming Up Trumps

‘Murder in the Cards’ by Gina Cheyne

Also on the tour today, The Word is Out – Alyson’s Reviews  

Death is the rule, survival the exception in 1960s Soho bridge circles

When the SeeMs Agency detectives play bridge online in 2020, they don’t expect their opponent to die during the game and yet a post-mortem the next day proves Brian Deliverer was dead halfway through the night. Can a dead man play bridge?

Employed by Brian’s daughter Karen to investigate his death, the team are led back to a notorious 1920s murder and to a missing teenager from a Sussex village in the 1960s.

Should they tell his daughter the terrible truth behind her father’s death even if it costs her everything?

‘Murder in the Cards’ is the third instalment in Gina Cheyne’s SeeMs Agency stories. I was lucky enough to be on the blog tour for the opening novel, ‘The Mystery of the Lost Husbands’ back in March.

That initial novel in the sequence had a lovely, quite charm to it. The establishment of the detective agency, the gentle concept of the SeeMs Dog Detective Agency all whispered cosy crime and we know what to expect.

Now at novel three, Cheyne is expanding her work to feature aspects of structure – a duel timeline narrative mixing events in the sixties with lockdown fever for Miranda in the 2020s. She’s also using a specific vernacular in the 1960s setting – that of Polari, a secret language of the gay community in use at the time. Obviously, this adds a lovely period detail and authenticity but also achieves that thing which really good crime fiction can do: educate and entertain together.

With further complications linking even further back to the 1920s, this is a novel which will keep you guessing till the end and when and if we discover whether Miranda and the team can come up trumps.

Purchase Links

Author Bio –

Gina has worked as a physiotherapist, a pilot, freelance writer and a dog breeder.

As a child, Gina’s parents hated travelling and never went further than Jersey. As a result she became travel-addicted and spent the year after university bumming around SE Asia, China and Australia, where she worked in a racing stables in Pinjarra, South of Perth. After getting stuck in black sand in the Ute one time too many (and getting a tractor and trailer caught in a tree) she was relegated to horse-riding work only. After her horse bolted down the sand, straining a fetlock and falling in the sea, she was further relegated to swimming the horses only in the pool. It was with some relief the racehorse stables posted her off on the train into eastern Australia to work in a vineyard… after all what could go wrong there?

In the north of Thailand, she took a boat into the Golden Triangle and got shot at by bandits. Her group escaped into the undergrowth and hid in a hill tribe whisky still where they shared the ‘bathroom’ with a group of pigs. Getting a lift on a motorbike they hurried back to Chiang Rai, where life seemed calmer.

After nearly being downed in a fiesta in Ko Pha Ngan, and cursed by a witch in Malaysia, she decided to go to Singapore and then to China where she only had to battle with the language and regulations.

Since marrying the first time, she has lived and worked in many countries including Spain and the USA.

For a few years Gina was a Wingwalking pilot, flying, amongst others, her 64-year-old mother standing on the wing to raise money for a cancer charity. She was also a helicopter instructor and examiner and took part in the World Helicopter Championships in Russia and the USA.

She became a writer because her first love was always telling a good yarn!

Under the name Georgina Hunter-Jones she has written illustrated children’s books such as The Twerple who had Too Many Brains, and Nola the Rhinoceros loves Mathematics.

She now lives in Sussex with her husband and dogs, one of who inspired the Biscuit and Pugwash Detective Series about naughty dogs who solve crimes.

Murder in the Cards’ is the second in the SeeMS Detective Agency series

Social Media Links –

Website: www.ginacheyne.com