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

Taking Wings Against A Blackened Sky

The Sky Turned Black’ by John Steele

Also on the tour today, B For Bookreview

HIS BIGGEST CASE YET. BUT IT COULD BE HIS LAST…

NYPD officer Callum Burke is on a routine drugs raid when he bursts in on a scene of unimaginable horror – and two killers about to get away.

The men are caught but they won’t talk. All the cops know is that they’re Russian and extremely dangerous which means this could be the start of a savage new gang war.

Callum Burke is tasked with finding out what is going on. It’s Manhattan in 1997 and the city is being cleaned up. The pressure is on.

But when Callum discovers there might be more to the Russian involvement than just criminal gangs, he finds himself in deeper trouble than he’s ever known…

‘Hard and intriguing. Callum Burke is a cop on the edge’ David Albertyn

‘The Sky Turned Black will make your head spin’ T. J. English

‘The Sky Turned Black is a crime saga that combines gritty detail with a global scope’ Thomas Mullen

John Steele’s last novel, 2021’s ‘Rat Island’ was a heavyweight tome which attracted praise from the some heavyweight names (Tony Parson, Claire McGowan) and drew comparisons with the undisputed heavyweight of the American crime saga, Don Winslow. So, pretty good company then.

My own review, described the first in this series of novels as, “a tautly atmospheric portrait of New York at that tipping point in its history as it moved from pimps and hoes, No-Go Zone to the sanitised tourist trap it was to become.”

Here, Steele – and what a great name for a writer of hard-boiled detective fiction that is – picks up the character in 1997 as that move towards tourist friendly city is underway.

The arrival of the post-Perestroika Russians adds a further element to the sprawling city which Steele is working to render like a 3D map of the evolution of New York as well as adding a contemporary resonance.

As well as working picture of a city becoming aware of its new identity, Steele writes action with an adrenaline-fuelled punch.

If you like your thrillers sophisticated, thoroughly rooted in the real world and sprinkled with the verisimilitude of a period piece, then ‘The Sky Turned Black’ will brighten your day.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Turned-Black-Callum-Burke-NYPD-ebook/dp/B09T6VFQM1/

US – https://www.amazon.com/Turned-Black-Callum-Burke-NYPD-ebook/dp/B09T6VFQM1/

Author Bio –

John Steele was born and raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In 1995, at the age of twenty-two he travelled to the United States and has since lived and worked on three continents, including a thirteen-year spell in Japan. Among past jobs he has been a drummer in a rock band, an illustrator, a truck driver and a teacher of English. He now lives in England with his wife and daughter.

He began writing short stories, selling them to North American magazines and fiction digests. He has published four previous novels: Ravenhill, Seven Skins, Dry River and Rat Island, the first of which was longlisted for a CWA Debut Dagger award. John’s books have been described as ‘remarkable’ by the Sunday Times, ‘dark and thrilling’ by Claire McGowan, and ‘spectacular’ by Tony Parsons. The Irish Independent called John ‘a writer of huge promise’ and Gary Donnelly appointed him ‘the undisputed champion of the modern metropolitan thriller’.

Social Media Links –

Twitter: @JohnSte_author

Giveaway to Win 5 x PB copies of The Sky Turned Black (Open to UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494503/?

‘Five Dead Men’ by Rachel Green

‘Five Dead Men’ by Rachel Green

Also on the blog tour today: www.ramblingmads.com http://splashesintobooks.wordpress.com  

When the bodies of five men are discovered in a secret vault at the villa Belle Époque, suspicion falls upon the villa’s former owner, enigmatic Pascal Deveraux.

Actor, gambler, general good-for-nothing – Pascal has lived a life of privilege and excess. But with no evidence to implicate him in murder, the case goes unsolved.

Called in to investigate the cold case, it’s not long before Margot’s enquiries re-open old wounds. Aided by policière municipale, Alia Leon, the investigation moves swiftly from the smugglers’ trails of the Pyrenees to the cannabis clubs of Barcelona. And it’s there, in the dark medieval streets of the city’s Gothic Quarter, that someone finds a reason to silence her.

When I reviewed the first instalment in the Madame Renard Investigates series I described Rachel Green as “clearly an accomplished writer. She is alert to colour and the subtleties and nuance of people’s movements and, always a big bonus for me, her dialogue has the snap and sparkle of real people.”

 This sense very clearly continues as the widowed investigator returns for her second outing. Green is – in a similar way to the work of Martin Walker which I praised so highly last week building a milieu and cast of characters which are becoming like familiar friends.

Also like Walker, Green has a nicely sparse style which makes these investigations easy to read and a pleasure to spend time with. Renard is a charming character – still somewhat mourning her husband, relaxing into her changing body and enjoying trainers rather than high heels these days, frustrated by her limited painting skills.

An additional similarity to the work of Walker is that Green packs a much starker picture than people will expect. These are not ‘Rosemary and Thyme’ en Francais. There’s a down to earth quality which makes the charming setting and likeable lead character undergirded by steel.

Overall, a worthy addition to the series and another accomplished performance from Rachel Green.

Author Bio

Rachel Green is the pen name of a writer from the UK. Rachel has twice been longlisted for both the Bath Novel Award and the BPA First Novel Award, as well as being on the shortlist for the Capital Crime New Voices Award. Rachel lives in a tiny village in England, but travels frequently to the south of France where the stories from the Madame Renard Investigates series are set

Purchase Link –

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09NK367Q7

Social Media Links –

www.rachelgreenauthor.com

https://www.instagram.com/authorrachelg/

https://www.facebook.com/AuthorRachelG

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/rachel-green?follow=true

Dark Hearts and Right Wrongs

Outcast‘ by Chris Ryan

After single-handedly intervening in a deadly terrorist attack in Mali, SAS Warrant Officer Jamie ‘Geordie’ Carter is denounced as a lone wolf by jealous superiors.

Now a Regiment outcast, Carter is given a second chance with a deniable mission: locate SAS hero-gone-rogue, David Vann.

Vann had been sent into Afghanistan to train local rebels to fight the Taliban. But he’s since gone silent and expected attacks on key targets have not happened.

Tracking Vann through Afghanistan and Tajikistan, Carter not only discovers the rogue soldier’s involvement in a conspiracy that stretches far beyond the Middle East – but an imminent attack that will have deadly consequences the world over . . .

As with most things in books, there are people who are sniffy about writers originating from ranks of the military. There is a snobbery around books which are designed to sell and to entertain people and this is doubled down upon if the writers have done something in a previous incarnation.

Chris Ryan, of course, had quite the life before he turned to writing thrillers. Any man who holds a Military Medal and can walk from Iraq to Syria whilst under fire deserves some form of attention.

It is this background, as part of the fabled Bravo Two Zero platoon which gives Ryan the authority to write the novels which he does. His experience in the ranks of the SAS which lend all of his thrillers the verisimilitude which so many other writers of “men of action” tales lack.

Here, however, protagonist Jamie ‘Geordie’ Carter finds himself caught up in a plot which might have come straight from the pen of Joseph Conrad – disgraced hero left to search for an outcast SA legend-gone-rogue.

That might, of course, be true only if Conrad had ever written a sentence like “the stiff afternoon breeze scraping through his dark hair, and wished to fuck he was somewhere else.” But, to be fair, this would have livened up the snoozeathon which is ‘Heart of Darkness’ no end.

There’s a healthy disrespect for authority and politician both officially and those in the rank and file which adds a layer of sympathy to the poor put upon hero.

Ryan has a control of the punchy sentence. Tension is built, backstory filled in. The point of these novels is to vicariously experience the snapping of bone and the crunch of boots on gravel and for all to be right with the world in the end.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Outcast-Chris-Ryan-ebook/dp/B09SM14MPC

US – https://www.amazon.com/Outcast-Chris-Ryan-ebook/dp/B09SM14MPC

https://www.brownsbfs.co.uk/Product/RYAN-CHRIS/OUTCAST/9781838777616

Author Bio

Chris Ryan was born in Newcastle.

In 1984 he joined 22 SAS. After completing the year-long Alpine Guides Course, he was the troop guide for B Squadron Mountain Troop. He completed three tours with the anti-terrorist team, serving as an assaulter, sniper and finally Sniper Team Commander.

Chris was part of the SAS eight-man team chosen for the famous Bravo Two Zero mission during the 1991 Gulf War. He was the only member of the unit to escape from Iraq, where three of his colleagues were killed and four captured, for which he was awarded the Military Medal. Chris wrote about his experiences in his book ‘The One That Got Away’, which became an immediate bestseller. Since then he has written over fifty books and presented a number of very successful TV programmes.

Social Media Links  

Twitter

Chris Ryan and Zaffre Books

Bad Actors? Great Script

‘Bad Actors’ by Mick Herron

POLITICS IS A DANGEROUS GAME


In MI5 a scandal is brewing and there are bad actors everywhere.

A key member of a Downing Street think-tank has disappeared without a trace. Claude Whelan, one-time First Desk of MI5’s Regent’s Park, is tasked with tracking her down. But the trail leads straight back to Regent’s Park HQ itself, with its chief, Diana Taverner, as prime suspect. Meanwhile her Russian counterpart has unexpectedly shown up in London but has slipped under MI5’s radar.

Over at Slough House, the home for demoted and embittered spies, the slow horses are doing what they do best: adding a little bit of chaos to an already unstable situation.

In a world where lying, cheating and backstabbing is the norm, bad actors are bending the rules for their own gain. If the slow horses want to change the script, they’ll need to get their own act together before the final curtain. (Synopsis courtesy of Hachette)

Let’s be clear: Mick Herron is not the first writer to notice the similarities between actors and politicians. Indeed, the peerless Yes Prime Minister included this little interchange:

Sir Humphrey Appleby: You know what happens when politicians get into Number 10; they want to take their place on the world stage.

Sir Richard Wharton: People on stages are called actors. All they are required to do is look plausible, stay sober, and say the lines they’re given in the right order.

Appleby: Some of them try to make up their own lines.

Wharton: They don’t last long.

Now, regular readers of Herron would shudder if a phrase like “they don’t last long,” because few if any characters in his work do last long and the more beloved, the more in danger they are. You have been warned.

I suspect that the literati are coming for Herron. He’s just too good to be allowed to continue without snark and insults from lesser writers. Having a high budget adaptation of your work, one so faithful as to appear slavish, starring two of the best actors in the UK today (Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott-Thomas) as well as supporting characters played by top quality talent like Saskia Reeves and Samuel West?

No danger. The critics are sharpening their knives in the cheap seats.

For me, though, let them come. He can take it in the same way Lamb breaks limbs for sport. Herron is the best prose stylist working today, bar none. In fact, for me he’s funniest writer since the one and only master: PG Wodehouse. That’s the highest praise I can give and there’s no hyperbole in it. His greatest secret, of course, is that he is not a comic novelist. He’s a thriller writer with plots to enthral who just happens to have a sense of humour drier than badly made couscous and a pen as fluid as an oil slick.

Here, Herron is on sparkling form as ever. Tackling politicians in his oeuvre would, one might have expected legendary pantomime villain Peter Judd to the fore. Not so: here as the curtain rises it is the Dominic Cummings replacement, Anthony Sparrow, thrust into the spotlight.

This allows Herron to really break out the champagne lines:

“Sparrow wasn’t as high profile as his predecessor had been – it would have been challenging to maintain that level of unpopularity without barbecuing an infant on live television – but those in the know recognised him as a home-grown Napoleon: nasty, British and short.”

Also present is a cast of familiar household favourites. Claude Whelan returns to active duty, Diana Taverner, Roderick Ho, Lech Wicinski Catherine Standish, Louisa Guy are also all on the bill. And… is that… is that Shirley Dander in rehab like some form of Amy Winehouse record?

There’s even a cameo from a familiar face – but not one we’ve seen in the novels before. A perennial understudy forced onto the stage, if you will.

Then, of course, there is Jackson Lamb, the grotty gravitational force around which the entire Slough House orbits.

The devil may get all the best music, but the star turn gets all the best lines and boy-oh-boy does Lamb have yet another headline grabber here.

Covid exists in this world but I think it’s safe to say, Lamb is in fine form. Oh and terrorising Standish as ever like the one man culture war wrecking ball he is.

“She put the stool by the door; placed the sanitiser on top of it.

Lamb opened one eye. ‘Lubricant? Pretty optimistic for a staff meeting.’ He closed it again. ‘But I suppose it’ll give be a chance to swap these gender fluids I keep hearing about.’…

Lamb adopted a wounded pout. ‘What did I ever do to her?’

‘Broke her arm?’

‘She still on about that? Bloody snowflake.’”

Like all good playwrights, Herron likes structure to great effect; in fact aficionados of his work expect it. Here, the master uses structure even more than normal and the novel is no worse for that.

As the curtain closes, the reader is left with only some certain knowledge: Firstly, that Herron is the best in the business and long may his run continue when the quality is this high.

Secondly, that Apple TV+ really picked the right property to develop when they chose to let the Slow Horses out of the stable.

Purchase Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/search/ref=sr_adv_b/?field-isbn=9781529378702&tag=hachetteuk-21

Blackwell’s: https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/9781529378702

Book Depository (Free shipping to the US): https://www.bookdepository.com/Bad-Actors-Mick-Herron/9781529378719

Bookshop.org: https://uk.bookshop.org/a/10403/9781529378702

Foyle’s: https://www.foyles.co.uk/all?advsearch=1&isbn=9781529378702&aCode=AFW&awc=1414_1652294215_49841d552e93c65d33eb53ee0852e906

Author Bio

Mick Herron is a bestselling and award-winning novelist and short story writer, best known for his Slough House thrillers. The series has been adapted into a TV series starring Oscar-winning actor Gary Oldman as Jackson Lamb.

Raised in Newcastle upon Tyne, Herron studied English Literature at Oxford, where he continues to live. After some years writing poetry, he turned to fiction, and – despite a daily commute into London, where he worked as a sub editor – found time to write about 350 words a day. His first novel, Down Cemetery Road, was published in 2003. This was the start of Herron’s Zoë Boehm series, set in Oxford and featuring detective Zoë Boehm and civilian Sarah Tucker. The other books in the series are The Last Voice You Hear, Why We Die, and Smoke and Whispers, set in his native Newcastle. During the same period he wrote a number of short stories, many of which appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

In 2008, inspired by world events, Mick began writing the Slough House series, featuring MI5 agents who have been exiled from the mainstream for various offences. The first novel, Slow Horses, was published in 2010. Some years later, it was hailed by the Daily Telegraph as one of “the twenty greatest spy novels of all time”.

The Slough House novels have been published in 20 languages; have won both the CWA Steel and Gold daggers; have been shortlisted for the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year four times; and have won Denmark’s Palle Rosenkrantz prize. Mick is also the author of the highly acclaimed novels Reconstruction, This is What Happened and Nobody Walks. (Biography courtesy of https://www.mickherron.com/landing-page/mick-herron-about)

You can read my previous reviews of some of Herron’s earlier novels, Slough House here and Joe Country here

For all things Mick Herron, there is no finer place on the internet than Jeff Quest’s Barbican Station. You can follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/spywrite  

Doomed Dancers in the Crucible of History

‘Edith and Kim’ by Charlotte Philby

To betray, you must first belong…

In June 1934, Kim Philby met his Soviet handler, the spy Arnold Deutsch. The woman who introduced them was called Edith Tudor-Hart. She changed the course of 20th century history.

Then she was written out of it.

Drawing on the Secret Intelligence Files on Edith Tudor-Hart, along with the private archive letters of Kim Philby, this finely worked, evocative and beautifully tense novel – by the granddaughter of Kim Philby – tells the story of the woman behind the Third Man. (Synopsis courtesy of https://harpercollins.co.uk/products/edith-and-kim-charlotte-philby)

Occasionally a novel comes along which lives up to the hype. Charlotte Philby has made a career writing novels which live in the space between contemporary literary and the espionage genre.

She has explored the roles of women and the structural inequalities which lead to poor choices and dangerous paths for her characters in contemporary capitalist societies.

And now she has gone back in time. Back to the time of her grandfather’s recruitment by the NKVD and back to the time when Edith Tudor-Hart was photographing and recruiting the young and the idealistic to her cause and being instrumental in creating the most important spy ring of the twentieth century.

What follows is a novel of quite stunning ambition and scope. Philby takes us on the journey of Tudor-Hart as she encounters the turbulent unrest of Austria in the 20s, the Bauhaus, England as class struggle rears its head in the most obvious fashion and on to the sad ending which a life of having to hide your choices seems to lead to with inevitability.

Charlotte Philby is a novelist of rare scope and talent but here she employs her enthusiasm for split narratives to weave a tapestry through time and her characters which lends a spiralling inevitability to the outcome without ever being dull.

‘Edith and Kim’ is many things: a novel of rare scope in time and historical significance; an elegiac wander through the dream world of espionage and the impact of decisions taken in youth which echo through the decades; an increasingly rare epistolary novel, intercut with domestic security services’ reports. It is also a tale of a much over-looked figure in the history of spying, marginalised by her gender.

Finally, it is a novel which promotes Philby fully to the top ranks of writers in the field working today. “A novel only [insert name of writer her]” is an oft used trope in promoting literature.

But this is a novel only Charlotte Philby could have written. The heady mix of her personal history, her understanding of the societal issues which render women – especially talented and “difficult” women – ripe for expunging from the record make this a triumph of a piece.

Author Bio

Charlotte Philby left The Independent in 2014 – where she was an editor, reporter and columnist for eight years and shortlisted for the 2013 Cudlipp prize at the Press Awards. She has worked as a contributing editor at Marie Claire, written freelance for publications including The New Statesman, Tatler, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Sunday Times, ELLE, Red, and more. Philby has also been a guest on Front Row, Woman’s Hour, NPR’s Note to Self podcast, Free Thinking, and Loose Ends, as well as presenting documentaries for The One Show and the World Service. A speaker at literary festivals from Cheltenham to Chiswick, she is currently working on a new major podcast for 2022. (Adapted from https://charlottephilby.com)

Purchase Links:

https://www.waterstones.com/book/edith-and-kim/charlotte-philby/2928377082536

https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/Edith-and-Kim-by-Charlotte-Philby/9780008466374

https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Edith-and-Kim-Audiobook/B09RMNB8CX

Social Media Links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/philbywrites

Instagram: http://instagram.com/charlotte_philby

A Pearl Coming Up With A Diamond

‘The Chair Man’ by Alex Pearl

Michael Hollinghurst is a successful corporate lawyer living a comfortable, suburban life in leafy North West London. But on 7 July 2005, his life is transformed when he steps on a London underground train targeted by Islamist suicide bombers. While most passengers in his carriage are killed, Michael survives the explosion but is confined to a wheelchair as a result.

Coming to terms with his predicament and controlling his own feelings of guilt as a survivor conspire to push him in a direction that is out of character and a tad reckless. In a quest to seek retribution, he resorts to embracing the internet and posing as a radical Islamist in order to snare potential perpetrators.

Much to his surprise, his shambolic scheme yields results and is brought to the attention of both GCHQ and a terrorist cell. But before long, dark forces begin to gather and close in on him. There is seemingly no way out for Michael Hollinghurst. He has become, quite literally, a sitting target.

On the morning of July 7th 2005, I was waiting to catch a flight to Venice. News began to filter through that something terrible had happened in London. One of my best friends lived in north London and was working out towards Heathrow.

As the BBC News began speculating about power surges and explosions on the Tube, I watched in horror as the route my friend, Dan, took every day was highlighted by the ashen-faced presenters.

Then an exploded bus was shown. Also on his route.

My phone began lighting up. There are a bunch of us: the same age, the same year at school – we speak every day. Richard phoned. “I can’t get a hold of Dan.”

“Me neither.” Texts went unanswered. Phone calls fizzled out. We realised that the mobile phone networks had been shut down in order to avoid remote detonations.

My partner at the time was flapping. “Do we fly? What are we going to do? Aren’t all the trains cancelled?”

I had no answers.

At 09:30, the phone rang. “What?” snapped a fairly cheesed off Dan, whose phone had almost combusted with the number of calls and messages.

“Where the fuck have you been?”

“I walked to work. It took ages. What’s the matter?”

Never been so delighted to hear the crabbit Cockney in my life.

And here we have a novel which uses this as the catalytic event of the main characters life. Alex Pearl has crafted an exciting thriller which sees his protagonist Michael Hollinghurst ensnared in all sorts of dramas, trapped between a terrorist cell and the security services.

The novel opens with one of the most surprising events I can remember in a thriller and Pearl is very good on the daily issues and inconveniences experienced by the disabled.

Overall, a thumping good read with a white knuckle conclusion.

Purchase Links

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-chair-man-alex-pearl/1136672496?ean=2940164005511

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1009862

https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-chair-man/id1503252665

Author Bio –

Alex’s first novel ‘Sleeping with the Blackbirds’, a darkly humorous urban fantasy, written for children and young adults, was initially published by PenPress in 2011. It has since become a Kindle bestseller in the US. In 2014, his fictionalised account of the first British serviceman to be executed for cowardice during the First World War was published by Mardibooks in its anthology, ‘The Clock Struck War’. A selection of his blog posts is also available in paperback under the title ‘Random Ramblings of a Short-sighted Blogger.’ In 2019, his psychological thriller, ‘The Chair Man’ that is set in London in 2005 following the terrorist attack on its public transport system, was published as an ebook by Fizgig Press. The paperback followed in 2020.

Alex lives in NW London with his wife and terribly spoilt feline.

He is quite possibly the only human being on this planet to have been inadvertently locked in a record shop on Christmas Eve.

You can visit his website at http://booksbyalexpearl.weebly.com

Social Media Links – https://linktr.ee/AlexPearl

Sweet Poisons and Perfumes

‘Poison at the Village Show’ by Catherine Coles

With the war finally over the residents of Westleham village are trying to reclaim a sense of normality and the upcoming village show is proving to be a popular event!

Newcomer, Martha Miller, has high hopes for the village show. Since her husband Stan left for work one day and never returned, some of the villagers have treated Martha with suspicion – why would a good man like Stan simply up and leave? Was it something Martha did?

All Martha knows is that she’s hoping that she can win people over and hopefully they’ll but her delicious homemade plum gin, too and she’ll be able to make ends meet.

But as glasses of Martha’s gin are passed around, disaster strikes. Alice Warren, Chairwoman of the village show slumps to the ground after taking a sip. It’s clear she’s been poisoned!

Martha is shocked, but not surprised, when fingers of suspicion once again point her way. Determined to prove her innocence, Martha sets about trying to find the real culprit. But who would kill Alice and why?

Ably helped by the new vicar, Luke Walker, Martha quickly tries to get to the bottom of this mystery. But with the villagers closing ranks it quickly becomes apparent that the only person with a motive is Martha herself….

Will Luke and Martha discover who is behind the poisoning before it’s too late?

What is it about the English country village which breeds such malice, mistrust and murder in the novel?

Well, Miss Marple is always banging on about the village being a microcosm of wider society, its foibles, human failings and all too universal facets of greed, lust and the green-eyed monster which mocks the milk it feeds upon.

In ‘Poison at the Village Show’. Catherine Coles introduces a cast of characters beset by all of the usual accoutrements of country life, only here with the added delight of collapsing village worthies at – as the title suggests – the annual village show.

Any novel which combines country mysteries, dogs and petty village intrigues is worth investigating in my mind.

Grantchester with a quietly feminist ethos was the phrase which kept leaping to mind as poor Martha fights to clear her name, attempt to find out what happened to the long gone Stan and maintain a sensible conversation with her loving companion hound, Lizzie.

If you too have experienced the stilted small talk of the annual village fete, then ‘Poison at the Village Show’ will entertain and trigger memories of Victoria sponges gently warming in the sun of the vicarage garden like a Proustian memory.

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

Author Bio –

On the #MondayBlog today, a review of @CatherineColes 'Murder at the Village Show'. Thanks as ever to @rararesources and

The daughter of a military father, Catherine was born in Germany and lived most of the first 14 years of her life abroad. She spent her school years devouring everything her school library had to offer! Catherine writes cosy mysteries that take place in the English countryside. Her extremely popular Tommy & Evelyn Christie mysteries are set in 1920s North Yorkshire. Catherine lives in northeast England with her two spoiled dogs who have no idea they are not human!

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Bookbub profile: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/catherine-coles?list=about

Boldwood’s IG account – https://www.instagram.com/bookandtonic/