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Archive for July, 2018

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** My thanks to Black and White Publishing & Netgalley for my copy of this book **

 

Description:

 

My Thoughts & Review:

Having recently read and enjoyed The Italian Chapel by the same author, I eagerly picked this book up to read.

Set in Scotland during WWII, the reader is immediately immersed in the lives of some truly special characters. The Ross family soon become figures you connect with, each of their separate personalities springing from the pages as you watch them going about life on Kirk Farm in the Highlands. The impending departure from their farm leaves each member of the family feeling bereft. The entire local community pulling together to help harvest the crops, soon realise that there is more work than they can cope with, and it is decided that the Italian POWs billeted nearby could help with the work to be done.

In amongst this story of people pulling together, there is a wonderfully intriguing tale of someone not being as truly honourable as they might seem. Someone is out to undermine the good work and war effort, a spy lurks within the community and it’s not long before events turn sinister, changing the lives of so many people.

The human element to this book is what makes it stand out for me, there were several times that I felt my emotions threatened to run away with me whilst reading this. In more than one instance I was very aware of the tears running down my face as my heart went out to the characters in this book. Paris has a great skill of creating characters that feel so real and authentic, even when there are personalities that are less than wholesome, you cannot help but feel some empathy towards their plights.

As with the author’s previous books, the attention to detail is superb. Vivid descriptions of settings and scenes bring the story alive and give the reader the feeling that they are there in the moment. You can feel the chill of the night, the cramped farmhouse and hear the rumble of the tractors.

Highly recommended!

You can buy a copy of Effie’s War via:

Amazon UK
Waterstones

 

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As part of the blog tour for this brilliant book, I’m thrilled to be able to share my review again!

The Quiet Knitter

I do love Fridays, especially when there’s the promise of good books and sunshine…well up here with the way the weather goes, it may be summer but the sun sometimes forgets to make an appearance!  Today I am delighted to share a review of a book that is part of a superb series, the “Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty” series set in Canada.  The Language of Secrets is written by Ausma Zehanat Khan and has the sort of writing that will move a reader, haunt them and undoubtedly keep them hooked until the very final word!

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** My thanks to Katherine at No Exit Press for my copy of this book **

Description:

AN UNDERCOVER INFORMANT HAS BEEN MURDERED… BUT WHOSE SIDE WAS HE ON?

TORONTO: A local terrorist cell is planning an attack on New Year’s Day. For months, Mohsin Dar has been undercover, feeding information back to Canada’s…

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Hello and welcome along to another Celebrating Indie Publishing post!  I am delighted to be be able to shine a spotlight on some truly wonderful indie authors and publishers out there, and today is no exception.  I am joined by Margaret Skea, author of the Munro series and a fictionalised account of the early life of Katharina von Bora.


Author Feature:

Portrait

Margaret Skea grew up in Northern Ireland during the ‘Troubles’, so is no stranger to conflict. Her passion is for authentic, atmospheric historical fiction, and now living in Scotland she chose a Scottish story for her first novel series.

Turn of the Tide won her the Beryl Bainbridge Award for Best 1st Time Novelist 2014, and the sequel A House Divided was longlisted for the Historical Novel Society New Novel Award 2016. Both follow the fortunes of a fictional family trapped in the long-running and bloody historic feud between the Cunninghames and Montgomeries, known as the Ayrshire Vendetta. The third volume is due in May. In the meantime she has turned her attention to 16th century Germany to bring a little known, but hugely influential woman – Katharina von Bora – out of the shadows. She is also a prize-winning short story writer and her first collection Dust Blowing includes some of her prize-winning stories.

 

What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?

Can I cheat and mention two?

The first is interacting with readers. There is nothing more satisfying, having written a book, than to hear that it has impacted positively in someone else’s life.

And secondly, while I’m writing, the most exciting part of the process is the joy of seeing characters coming to life on the page: growing and developing, sometimes in quite unexpected ways.

What’s your least favourite thing about being an author?

That’s easy – the need to market and promote both myself and the books. While I love talking about books and the craft of writing, I don’t enjoy the (essential) selling aspect.

If you could have written any book what would it be and why?

I guess this is another way of asking what is my all-time favourite book. Going by the one that I’ve re-read most times it would be Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery. There is one point in that book at which I always have a lump in my throat no matter how many times I read it. (And I’ve read the book and watched the film multiple times.) I’d love to be able to stir a reader’s emotions to that extent.

How do you spend your time when you’re not wrapped up plotting your next book?

I’m a Christian first and a writer second, so my priority always has to be out-working my faith, whether that is through my writing or in other aspects of my life. Consequently I strive to keep a balance between writing and responsibilities within my church and in the home, as well as making time for family and friends.

Do you have a set routine for writing?  Rituals you have to observe? I.e. specific pen, silence, day or night etc.

I can concentrate much more in the mornings, so in an ideal week I will write four of five mornings per week and I always set myself a target of 1000 words per day. Sometimes I manage more, sometimes less, but if I can achieve a word increase (after light editing) of 5,000 per week then I’m on track.

I’m not very good at self-discipline, though, so for the last 3 books I have gone to somewhere other than my own house to write, where I can neither be distracted by anyone else, or (worse) distract myself!

I do find deadlines concentrate the mind, so if I have one coming up I find I can write for many more hours in a day. But one essential for me is silence. (I can just about cope with the sound of the central heating, on the basis that without it I’d be miserable!)

What’s on the horizon? What can your fans look forward to next?

Book 3 in the Munro series (Turn of the Tide, A House Divided) is with the editor just now and I hope it will be available in May.* I don’t have a title for it yet, though, which is a wee headache. And within the next fortnight I shall be beginning the second (and final) novel based on the life of Katharina von Bora (the escaped nun who became Martin Luther’s wife.) I hope to have it out in time for Christmas 2018. After that? Who knows? What I do know is that for the foreseeable future I am likely to stick to historical fiction and probably in and around the 16th century.

*Book 3 in the Munro series has now been published with the title By Sword and Storm.

Can you tell me a little bit about your latest book? How would you describe it and why should we go read it?

The latest published book is Katharina: Deliverance, which came out in October 2017. It is a fictionalized account of the early life of Katharina von Bora, up to the point of her marriage to Martin Luther. (The second book will finish her story.) She is a fascinating and enigmatic character who came alive to me through travelling around Saxony following in her footsteps. As to why anyone should read it – this is what the reviewer on the Discovered Diamonds website said –

     ‘First, a confession. All I really knew of Martin Luther was an impression of a man  

   in monk’s garb (incorrect) nailing parchments to church doors in the dead of night

  (also incorrect) and schoolboy giggles when reading about a diet of Worms. Thus,

  when this book arrived in my inbox, my heart rather sunk a bit for it is not a period

  that I am particularly well-versed, or even interested, in.

  However, any misgivings I may have had were dispelled completely by the time I had

  reached the second page. The quality and style – written in the first person and the

  present tense – didn’t so much grab me as to physically haul me back through the

  centuries and wouldn’t let me go until I had read every single word.’

 

Finally, if you could impart one pearl of wisdom to your readers, what would it be? 

To readers? – Don’t waste time finishing a book that isn’t to your taste. There are too many good books out there and you’ll never have time to read them all.  And to writers? – Treat your readers with respect and never, ever short-change them by giving them less than your best.

 

 

Buy links:
Turn of the Tide (Book 1 in the Munro series)
A House Divided (Book 2 in the Munro series)
By Sword and Storm (Book 3 in the Munro series)

Katharina: Deliverance

Dust Blowing and Other Stories

 

A huge thank you to Margaret for joining me today and sharing a little about herself. I have to admit, there are a few books that I read regularly that can pull the same emotions from me, regardless of how many times I’ve read them before. I sympathise about the distractions, I’m awful for being distracted by absolutely anything … even favoring doing a load of ironing instead of what I should be doing!

Social Media Links:

Website: https://margaretskea.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MargaretSkeaAuthor.Novels/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/margaretskea1

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** My thanks to Finn at HarperCollins for my copy of this book and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour **

 

Description:

Play with fire and you get burned…

A gripping crime thriller, from a new star in British crime fiction. Perfect for fans of Ian Rankin.

Five men burnt alive.
In the crippling heat of August in Rome, a flat goes up in flames, the doors sealed from the outside. Five illegal immigrants are trapped and burnt alive – their charred bodies barely distinguishable amidst the debris.

One man cut into pieces.
When Detective Inspectors Rossi and Carrara begin to investigate, a terror organisation shakes the city to its foundations. Then a priest is found murdered and mutilated post-mortem – his injuries almost satanic in their ferocity.

One city on the edge of ruin.
Rome is hurtling towards disaster. A horrifying pattern of violence is beginning to emerge, with a ruthless killer overseeing its design. But can Rossi and Carrara stop him before all those in his path are reduced to ashes?

 

My Thoughts & Review:

Despite being the second book in the Detective Rossi series, I was able to break my own rule about not reading books out of series order. For those that want to follow the series, the first book A Known Evil was published earlier this year. I should say that A Cold Flame does read well as a stand alone book, but to get fuller picture of the characters and their backgrounds I wonder if it might be a good idea to have read the previous book first.

There are so many things that I want to say about A Cold Flame, the plot in particular, but this is definitely a book that you do not want spoilers for. It’s the sort of book that it’s better to go into blind and allow the momentum of it all carry you off.
I would say that this is an intriguing, and well written novel. The characters are multilayered and feel realistic.  Plotting feels very current and with the different strands to it, there is plenty to keep readers guessing and on the edge of their seats.
Conway writes some incredibly detailed descriptions of settings and sights, which in turn allows readers to “see” and “experience” things through his characters, even down to the details of holding a gun, it all seems so striking.

Short chapters keep the pace of this brisk and whilst the pace does slow a little in the middle of the book, it is necessary to allow the audience to take stock of what has occurred so far and ready them for what happens next.

On the whole, an interesting and exciting read that will keep readers guessing.

 

About the Author:

Aidan Conway was born in Birmingham to Irish Parents and has been living in Italy since 2001. He holds an MA in Irish Writing from Queen’s University Belfast and has been a bookseller, a proofreader, a language consultant, as well as a freelance teacher, translator, and editor for the United Nations FAO. He is currently an assistant university lecturer in Rome, where he lives with his family. A Cold Flame is his second novel.

Blog Tour - cold flame

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I am thrilled to welcome you to my stop on the blog tour for the Vanished Child by M J Lee, I have a fantastic post to share with you about family secrets which has really got me intrigued and I look forward to reading The Vanished Child soon!

 

Description:

The Vanished Child Cover EBOOK

 

What would you do if you discovered you had a brother you never knew existed?

On her deathbed, Freda Duckworth confesses to giving birth to an illegitimate child in 1944 and temporarily placing him in a children’s home. She returned later but he had vanished. 

What happened to the child? Why did he disappear? Where did he go? 

Jayne Sinclair, genealogical investigator, is faced with lies, secrets, and one of the most shameful episodes in recent history as she attempts to uncover the truth.

Can she find the vanished child?

This book is the fourth in the Jayne Sinclair Genealogical Mystery series, but can be read as a standalone novel.

Every childhood lasts a lifetime.

You can buy a copy of The Vanished Child here

Guest Post by M J Lee

Does your family have a secret?

Every family has things they don’t talk about in front of the children. Or sometimes in front of other adults.

You only have to watch the mesmerising revelations on Who do you think you are? or The Will  to see that the deeper we dig into our families the more secrets we will find. Hidden by old aunties, buried in old photographs, or simply hushed up by drawing a curtain over the past.

An illegimate child. A black sheep. A missing son or daughter. A shotgun marriage. A drunken uncle. A convicted felon. A runaway bride.

Funnily enough in Britain, it looks like Geordies have the most secrets, followed by Lancashire. Here’s a table from a recent survey:

survey results

They were always canny people in Newcastle.

My own family secret doesn’t appear on the chart. My grandfathers fought on opposing sides during the Irish Civil War. One was a member of the Free State Army whilst the other was a Captain in the IRA. I often wonder whether they ever met.

Most family secrets are swept under the carpet, kept hidden by aunties. But occasionally, they come to light in genealogical searches, in old photographs, letters, and journals. They are a wonderful source of material for novelists. Through the techniques of the genealogical researcher, secrets can be discovered, tales told, and the past revealed in a way that no other mystery can match.

Family secrets form the basis of my own series of novels, featuring genealogical investigator, Jayne Sinclair. She’s an ex-police detective who, after her partner was shot and killed, found researching her family history  a way of forgetting the trauma. She left the police force and now investigates family history for her clients. Family histories that no other genealogist wants to touch.

In the latest book, the Vanished Child, Jayne helps her new mother-in-law to investigate one of her secrets; an unknown brother born out of wedlock in 1944. In the case, Jayne is faced with lies, secrets and one of the most shameful episodes in recent history as she attempts to uncover the truth. What happened to the Vanished Child?

I hope you enjoy the book. But what about you? Do let me know at the email address below if you have any unusual family secrets. They could form the basis of a new investigation by Jayne Sinclair…

 

Martin Lee is the author of four genealogical mystery novels, featuring investigator, Jayne Sinclair. He can be contacted at www.writermjlee.com, on Facebook at writermjlee and on twitter at @writermjlee. He’s nothing if not original with his names.

 

About the Author:

martin2

Martin has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a University researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, tv commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites.

He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the North of England. In London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and London Festivals, and the United Nations.

When he’s not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, researching his family history, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake and wishing he were George Clooney.

Social Media Links 

Website: www.writermjlee.com

Twitter – https://twitter.com/WriterMJLee

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/writermjlee

The Vanished Child Full Tour Banner

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Today I am thrilled to bring you a very different blog tour post courtesy of damppebbles blog tours.  As part of the blog tour for the publication of Some They Lie by M.K. Farrar, the author has generously offered a £5.00 Amazon voucher to one lucky reader every day of the tour!

 

Description:

some they lie

 

Everybody hides the monster inside…

When Olivia Midhurst meets Michael, she doesn’t fool herself that he’s the perfect guy. No one is perfect—she knows that better than most. Everyone has their secrets, their skeletons in the closet. 

But something about Michael’s behaviour sets alarm bells ringing, and, when people around her start to go missing, and then turn up dead, she’s forced to act.

Knowing the police will never believe what she’s witnessed, and terrified her accusations will only drag up the past she’s worked so hard to bury, Olivia has no choice but to take things into her own hands…

You can buy a copy of Some They Lie via:

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

Giveaway:

For your chance to win one of today’s £5.00 Amazon vouchers, all you need to do is retweet the pinned tweet on Twitter
The winner will be randomly selected when entries close at 2359 on Saturday 21st July and contacted via Twitter on Sunday morning.

There is another is up for grabs over with the wonderful Abby at Anne Bonny Book Reviews.

 

About the Author:

M.K. Farrar

M.K. Farrar is the pen name for a USA Today Bestselling author of more than thirty novels. ‘Some They Lie’ is her first psychological thriller, but won’t be her last. When she’s not writing, M.K. is rescuing animals from far off places, binge watching shows on Netflix, or reading. She lives in the English countryside with her husband, three daughters, and menagerie of pets.

You can sign up to MK’s newsletter here – https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/m6v9h8
Or she can be emailed at mkfarrar@hotmail.com. She loves to hear from readers!

Social Media:

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/MarissaFarrar

 

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/marissa.farrar.author/

Website:  http://www.marissafarrar.com/

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

Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/M-K-Farrar/e/B07DRGPWF3/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

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It’s such an honour to welcome along another wonderfully talented author to sit in the hot seat to day to share a little about the person behind the books and find out what’s on the horizon, so without further ado, welcome Maggie Christensen!


Author Feature:

profile Krista Eppelstun.jpg

Author Image:  Krista Ellelstun

After a career in education, Maggie Christensen began writing contemporary women’s fiction portraying mature women facing life-changing situations. Her travels inspire her writing, be it her frequent visits to family in Oregon, USA, her native Scotland or her home on Queensland’s beautiful Sunshine Coast. Maggie writes of mature heroines coming to terms with changes in their lives and the heroes worthy of them.

From her native Scotland, Maggie was lured by the call ‘Come and teach in the sun’ to Australia, where she worked as a primary school teacher, university lecturer and in educational management. Now living with her husband of over thirty years on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, she loves walking on the deserted beach in the early mornings and having coffee by the river on weekends. Her days are spent surrounded by books, either reading or writing them – her idea of heaven!

She continues her love of books as a volunteer with her local library where selects and delivers books to the housebound.

A member of Queensland Writer’s Centre, RWA, ALLi, and a local critique group, Maggie enjoys meeting her readers at book signings and library talks. In 2014 she self-published Band of Gold and The Sand Dollar, Book One in the Oregon Coast Series and in 2015, The Dreamcatcher, Book Two in the Oregon Coast Series, and Broken Threads, the sequel to Band of Gold. Madeline House, Book Three in the Oregon Coast Series was published in July 2016, and Champagne for Breakfast, an offshoot from the Oregon Coast series set in Noosa, and The Good Sister, set in Scotland and featuring Bel from Broken Threads in 2017.

Maggie can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or on her website.

 

What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?

I love the thrill when I read a review or receive an email from a reader telling my how much they’ve enjoyed one of my books. It makes it all worthwhile to know that I’ve given pleasure to someone.

What’s your least favourite thing about being an author?

Without a doubt, marketing. I’m much rather be writing and lost in a world with my characters.

If you could have written any book what would it be and why?

So many. But I’ll choose Marcia Willett’s Chadwick trilogy. These were the first books I read by this author and I immediately became a fan. I love her characters who become friends the reader really cares about, the sense of place and the way Willett brings back characters from earlier books to her readers.

How do you spend your time when you’re not wrapped up plotting your next book?

If I’m not tapping away at my laptop, you might find me curled up in my favourite chair with a book, walking along the river or the beach with my husband, or sipping coffee with him in one of our favourite cafes along the Noosa River. I also select and deliver books to a lady who is housebound as a volunteer for our local library. I live surrounded by books – my idea of heaven.

Do you have a set routine for writing?  Rituals you have to observe? I.e. specific pen, silence, day or night etc.

I like silence and prefer to write in the early morning, though, if I don’t get my work count done then, I’ll revisit my manuscript in the late afternoon. I like to have a glass of water by my side and my copy of The Emotional Thesaurus, plus my notebook for the novel.

What’s on the horizon? What can your fans look forward to next?

 I’m currently editing the sequel to The Good Sister, called Isobel’s Promise which should be published mid-year. When I wrote the end to The Good Sister, I knew I couldn’t leave Bel and Matt and had to continue their story. Isobel’s Promise is set in both Australia and Scotland

I’m also writing a follow on to Isobel’s Promise. A Model Wife will pick up Celia, a minor character in the Good Sister and follow her story almost two years later. It seems I’m developing a Sydney series as, in this book, readers will be reunited with characters from Band of Gold and Broken Threads too, some of whom appear briefly in Isobel’s Promise.

I love meeting old friends in the books I read – something Marci Willett does so well – so also enjoy writing them and hope my readers enjoy this too.

 

Finally, if you could impart one pearl of wisdom to your readers, what would it be? 

It’s never too late to follow your dreams.

 

Can you tell me a little bit about your latest book? How would you describe it and why should we go read it?

Set in Scotland and moving from the nineteen-thirties to the present day, The Good Sister is a women’s fiction book featuring compelling real-life characters, fascinating plot twists and a strong mid-life heroine.

To quote one reviewer The Good Sister is a beautiful Scottish based wartime saga that fuses the past with the present, through two unforgettable women, who are both named Isobel.

In 1938, as the world hurtled towards war, twenty-year-old Isobel MacDonald fell madly in love. But fate and her own actions conspired to deny her the happiness she yearned for. Many years later, plagued with regrets and with a shrill voice from the past ringing in her ears, she documents the events that shaped her life.

In 2015, sixty-five-year-old Bel Davison returns from Australia to her native Scotland to visit her terminally ill aunt. Reading Isobel’s memoir, she is beset with memories of her own childhood and overcome with guilt. When she meets her aunt’s solicitor, events seem to spiral out of control and, almost against her will, she finds herself drawn to this enigmatic Scotsman.

What is it that links these two women across the generations? Can the past influence the future?

Buy links

Amazon UK http://amzn.to/2yK8iF6

Amazon US http://amzn.to/2h0DNB6

Amazon AU http://amzn.to/2hXWMMt

 

A huge thank you to Maggie for joining me today and sharing a little about herself, it’s always lovely to get to know more about the author behind the books.  I love the sound of The Good Sister, will definitely have to add this to my ever growing reading list.

 

 

Social Media Links:

Website: http://maggiechristensenauthor.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/maggiechristensenauthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaggieChriste33
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8120020.Maggie_Christensen
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/maggiechriste33/

 

 

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I am delighted to welcome you to my stop on the blog tour for the first stand alone thriller by Michael Stanley, the name behind the fantastic Detective Kubu series!  It’s such a thrill to share this extract with you from Dead of Night, and I really hope you enjoy it as much as I do, I know that I cannot wait to devour this book!

Description:

DEAD OF NIGHT Cover VIS_preview

When freelance journalist, Crystal Nguyen, heads to South Africa, she thinks she’ll be researching an article on rhino-horn smuggling for National Geographic, while searching for her missing colleague. But within a week, she’s been hunting poachers, hunted by their bosses, and then arrested in connection with a murder. And everyone is after a briefcase full of money that may hold the key to everything…

Fleeing South Africa, she goes undercover in Vietnam, trying to discover the truth before she’s exposed by the local mafia. Discovering the plot behind the money is only half the battle. Now she must convince the South African authorities to take action before it’s too late. She has a shocking story to tell, if she survives long enough to tell it…

You can buy a copy of Dead of Night via:

Amazon UK
Waterstones
Book Depository

Extract:

After unpacking, Crys went outside and settled on her porch. It was hotter than Pretoria, but there was a freshness to the air, carrying with it a beautiful scent, which seemed to come from a nearby tree covered in lemon-coloured flowers. She made a mental note to ask Johannes what it was.

She opened her laptop and navigated to the folder that contained the photos Michael had asked Sara Goldsmith to store. Starting with the most recent, she flipped through them, paying closer attention than she had when she looked at them on the flight over.

Michael was a prolific picture-taker, but he had outdone himself during the short time he’d been at the rhino farm. There were photos of everything, from the entrance to the farm to the chalets; from a variety of views of the exterior of the house to shots of the interior rooms. There were even several of Anton being served by a black man at the dining-room table. There were photos of the game vehicles, the electric fence, various trees and, of course, rhinos.

Why were there so many of Tshukudu? Crys decided that Michael must have been doing something similar to her – also writing for his main employer, the New York Times. The good news was that if she missed something, she would be able to find it in Michael’s collection.

When she finished looking at the photos, she worked on her notes and photos for a while, and since Tshukudu had Wi-Fi, she was able to catch up on stuff from home. Pretty soon the afternoon was gone. She took a shower and changed, and headed across to the main lodge for dinner.

Johannes and his father were already in the living room. The older man stood up and introduced himself as Anton Malan. Crys guessed he was mid-sixties and he looked fit.

He shook her hand and kept hold of it. ‘Please say your name again. I didn’t quite catch it.’ His accent was even rougher than Johannes’s.

‘Crystal Nguyen. But call me Crys. Everyone does.’ ‘Pleased to meet you, Ms Nguyen.’ He pronounced it carefully, then let go of her hand. ‘Let’s sit down. Boku will get you a drink.’

Crys walked over to a handsome black man dressed in formal waiter attire and stuck out her hand. ‘Pleased to meet you, Boku. I’m Crys Nguyen. Please call me Crys.’

Boku looked very uncomfortable, but eventually he shook Crys’s hand with the weakest handshake possible.

‘I’ll have an orange juice, please,’ she said hastily, then turned back to the others, frowning.

‘He’s not used to being treated like that,’ Anton said. ‘He’s been one of our servants for fifteen years. We treat them well, but not as equals.’ Crys opened her mouth, but then closed it again. She realised she had a lot to learn about this country, which only twenty years earlier had forcibly kept the races apart.

Crys was astonished when they moved through to dinner. It reminded her of old British movies set in the colonies. She’d never encountered anything like it – its formality made her uncomfortable.

They sat at a beautiful table made from a yellow wood, with the white-jacketed Boku waiting on them. When he wasn’t serving, he stood quietly in the corner of the room. Johannes and Anton ignored him, except for an occasional thank-you.

‘You are obviously from the USA, Ms Nguyen,’ Anton said. ‘Whereabouts?’

‘Well, actually I was born in Saigon – Ho Chi Minh City now. My family left after the war and settled in Minneapolis in Minnesota. There are a lot of Vietnamese people there.’ Crys purposefully kept the statement bland, trying to stop any further personal questions. Fortu- nately, Anton was just making small talk and didn’t really want to hear her life story.

‘Bit of a change of scene for you here,’ he went on. ‘You have such a beautiful place,’ Crys said. ‘And I was so lucky to see them taking the snare off Mary.’

‘Bloody poachers,’ Anton growled in reply. ‘They shoot them in the national park, you know, but we have to use kid gloves or there’s no end of trouble.’

‘They weren’t after the rhino, Dad,’ Johannes interjected. ‘It was a snare for a kudu.’

‘They’d take the rhino if they could. Even for the stump of horn that’s left.’ Anton turned to Crys. ‘Did he tell you what they’d get for a horn?’

She nodded, and then asked: ‘According to a World Wildlife Fund survey I read, fewer Chinese now believe that rhino horn is a medicine. Will that help, do you think?’

‘Nearly fifty percent of Chinese still believe in it, though,’ Johannes replied. ‘And that’s a lot of people. A lot of people.’

Anton went on eating for a while, then put his fork down with a clunk. ‘Surveys are rubbish. People changing their beliefs?’ He shook his head. ‘Look at the locals here. They are trustworthy, good workers, Christians. But they still believe in witchcraft.’

Boku cleared away the plates, apparently oblivious to Anton’s com- ments. Crys felt embarrassed for him and wanted to change the subject. In any case, she was really keen to ask Anton about Michael. This was her best chance of discovering something useful, since no one had picked up his trail after Tshukudu. She was almost scared to ask, though. What if he had nothing to add to what he’d told Sara Goldsmith?

‘I wanted to ask you about a colleague of mine,’ she said to Anton after a pause. ‘A man called Michael Davidson. He works for the New York Times.’

Anton looked up. ‘Davidson? Yes, he was here about a month ago. Wasn’t he also supposed to be investigating the rhino-horn trade or something? Also for National Geographic, I think.’

‘That’s right. Do you know where he went after he left Tshukudu?’ Anton signalled with his glass for Boku to bring him more wine. ‘Well, he was here for a few days then said he was going up to Mozam- bique. I told him to watch his step. They don’t like newspaper reporters over there. I told all this to the police when they contacted me. You know anything more about this, Johannes?’

Johannes shook his head. ‘Crys already asked me. I was taking a group of tourists on a camping trip when he visited, I guess. Why did the police get involved?’

‘He never came back to the States from South Africa,’ Crys responded. ‘No one knows where he is. National Geographic asked the police to try and trace him.’

‘Are you a friend of his?’ Anton asked, taking a sip of his wine. Crys nodded. There was a good chance they’d end up more than friends, she thought.

‘Did the police come up with anything?’ Johannes asked.

‘Basically, that he did go into Mozambique and returned to South Africa about ten days later. After that nothing.’ She paused. ‘How can someone just vanish and no one knows what’s happened to them?’ She didn’t mention Lieutenant Mkazi’s theory of a random hijacking.

Anton shrugged. ‘We’re a long way from anywhere here, you know. If you head into the bush you could lose cell phone signal, break down, I don’t know. It could be a long time before you’re found.’

It all seemed very casual to Crys. People had GPS these days. In the twenty-first century, you didn’t just get lost and disappear.

‘Didn’t he tell National Geographic what his plans were?’ Johannes asked.

Crys shook her head. ‘When National Geographic asked me to take over this project, they sent me all his notes for the article, but they were all about the interviews he’d done and so on. Nothing about what he was planning next. There is one thing. Michael sent me an email saying he was onto something big – smuggling horns out of South Africa – but I’ve no idea about the details.’

‘Something big?’ echoed Anton. He sat back, pushing himself away from the table. ‘Something big can be dangerous…’ He stared at Crys as though he didn’t like the taste of this conversation very much.

‘You think he might have been talking about rhino-horn smugglers?’ Anton signalled to Boku to bring dessert. ‘Can’t say. But those are not good people to mess with.’

‘How do you think—’ ‘Look,’ Anton interrupted. ‘I told that lady who phoned from your magazine everything I knew about Davidson. Was it worth you coming all the way out here and going through everything all over again?’

‘Well, I needed to talk to you about your rhino farming anyway,’ Crys said, taken aback by Anton’s reaction. ‘Didn’t he have all that in his notes?’ Crys met Anton’s eyes without blinking. ‘Yes, but they were sketchy. And it is better for a writer to form their own impressions – you can’t write an article like this from someone else’s notes. Not if you’re a professional.’

‘Anyway,’ Johannes soothed. ‘You’re very welcome here, of course.’ ‘Of course,’ Anton agreed, but he didn’t sound as though he meant it. Crys felt a wave of disappointment. Again, she’d learned nothing more. Michael had been here. He’d asked questions. He’d left for Mozambique and when he came back, he’d disappeared.

And somehow, she seemed to have upset Anton in the process of asking about it.

Boku served the dessert – a sort of filled tart that he said was called melktert. ‘That means milk tart,’ Johannes chimed in. ‘It’s a traditional Afrikaner farm dish.’

Crys took a forkful and liked it immediately. It was smooth and deliciously creamy. After she’d enjoyed a couple more forkfuls, she thought that asking Anton about the business might lighten things up. ‘I’m interested in your business model,’ she said to him. ‘Is it mainly tourists coming to see the rhinos?’

But Anton looked annoyed and gave a sour laugh. ‘Business model? Let me explain something, Ms Nguyen. If I want a business model, I have real businesses in Joburg, where I make good money. Here, I don’t make money – it costs a fortune to run this place.’ He paused. ‘So, you’ll want to know why I do it, then. Well, I’ll tell you. They’re predicting that the white rhino will be extinct in fifty years. But they’re wrong. It isn’t going to happen, because I’m not going to let it happen. That’s my business model.’

Crys didn’t respond and focused on finishing her dessert.

About the Author:

Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. Stanley was an educational psychologist, specialising in the application of computers to teaching and learning, and is a pilot. Michael specialises in image processing and remote sensing, and teaches at the University of the Witwatersrand.

On a flying trip to Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill, and devour a wildebeest, eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their first mystery, A Carrion Death, which introduced Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards, including the CWA Debut Dagger. The series has been critically acclaimed, and their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’ award.

Dead of Night blog poster 2018 (3)

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Description:

Hellcorp sparkles like a blood-black diamond. Satan’s got his work cut out in this darkly comic crime tale. A cracking read! – Mark Leggatt

Life is hard for The Devil and he desperately wants to take a holiday. Growing weary from playing the cosmic bad guy, he resolves to set up a company that will do his job for him so the sins of the world will tick over while he takes a vacation. God tells him he can have his vacation just as soon as he solves an ancient crime.

But nothing is ever easy and before long he is up to his pitchfork in solving murders, desperate to crack the case so he can finally take the holiday he so badly needs…

This is a perfectly-pitched darkly comic crime novel that is ideal for fans of Christopher Fowler and Ben Aaranovitch.

My Thoughts & Review:

After featuring the author of this book on Celebrating Indie Publishing last week, I was so curious about his book that I just had to read it! Who doesn’t like a bit of dark humour with their crime? I certainly do, and was thrilled to see that this book definitely hit the mark.

The Devil is a fantastic character and the most unlikely detective, but detect he must in order to prove himself to God and legitimise Hell before taking a much needed break. It would appear that The Devil isn’t the only smart thinking one around, God tasks him with a challenge that proves to be less than straightforward. But to make matters trickier, The Devil is cast into human form, an injured one at that, and ends up in hospital in Glasgow. Thankfully he encounters Dr Jill Gideon, the Terry McCann to his Arthur Daley, well it would seem that she is the one that keeps him from getting into some serious trouble at times.
What then follows is one of the funniest, madcap reads of this year. The scrapes they end up getting into make this such an entertaining read and you cannot help but laugh out loud in places whilst seeing logic in what The Devil says and agreeing with him.

Whitelaw’s style of writing makes this such an enjoyable read, it’s clever and funny with just the right amount of dry wit added in for good measure. Both Dr Gideon and The Devil are brilliantly created characters, they work well together and remind me a little of the main characters in the TV show Lucifer.  And even though he’s the bad guy, you can’t help but like him, there’s just something relatable there.

A quirky and enjoyable read, and one I would highly recommend.

You can buy a copy of HellCorp via:

Amazon UK
Waterstones

 

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I am bursting with excitement today as it’s time for another Celebrating Indie Publishing. Friday never seems to come round quick enough, the day I dedicate to screaming from the rooftop about the great indie publishers and authors, and today I am delighted to share a review of a book that’s firmly reserved it’s place on my top books of the year list!

The book in the spotlight today is … The Italian Chapel by Philip Paris.  It is published by Black and White Publishing in March 2018.


Book Feature:

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Description:

Orkney 1942. Forbidden lovers, divided by war, united by a secret act of creation.

Amid the turmoil of the Second World War, a group of Italian prisoners is sent to the remote Orkney island of Lamb Holm. In the freezing conditions, hunger and untold hardships of Camp 60, this ragtag band must work together to survive.

Domenico, a talented artist, is among them. He inspires his comrades to create a symbol of peace during these dark days of war, and out of driftwood and scrap they build the Italian chapel: a beacon of hope and beauty in a world ravaged by war.

The chapel soon becomes a place of love, too. When Giuseppe, another POW, falls for local woman Fiona, he decides to hide a token of his love there . . . the secret of which is unveiled for the first time in The Italian Chapel.

Based on an incredible true story, this heartbreaking and inspiring tale tells of forbidden passion, lifelong friendships and the triumph of the human spirit.

 

 

My Thoughts & Review:

This is such a beautifully written tale that calls out to the heart and soul of readers, there’s something so deeply moving in the way that Paris has taken the story of the chapel on Orkney and brought it to life with some exquisite writing.

I loved the way that the author took the time to lay a steady foundation for his characters, giving the reader an opportunity to get to know these POWs, see the volatility of the situation they were in and the struggles that faced them as they learned to adapt to their foreign surroundings.  The work undertaken by the POWs on Orkney was on an epic scale, creating foundations and building the causeways that would later link the islands of Orkney together.
The real special aspect of this is that some of these personalities are based on men who were there at the time, giving readers a wonderful personal link to the events taking place.  I appreciate that Paris took the time to include notes at the end of the book to let readers know what happened after the war to the men mentioned (where possible).

The story of how the chapel came into existence is a special one and I have to admit that I’ve always admired the chapel and it’s beauty but never actually looked into the history of it, never taken the time to appreciate the significance of it and I am forever grateful to this book for highlighting the story and the work of the team of men behind it.  Whilst part ficionalised, the story recounts the hard work and skill that was necessary to create this beautiful chapel.  The human element to the story is what really pulls the reader in, feeling a connection with characters and their lives really makes this stand out and feel so real.

Philip Paris has a wonderful way of bringing his writing to life, the descriptions of the chapel, artwork and people really conjure vivid images whilst reading this, and after reading this I did go and look up the chapel online to see more images to fully appreciate the intricate and awe inspiring details.  The inclusion of the detail of Palumbi’s iron work had me feeling a lump in my throat, his love of a local woman driving him to leave a lasting memento behind.

Such a special story, written with sympathy, sensitivity and attention to detail.  And one I would highly recommend.

You can buy a copy of The Italian Chapel via:

Amazon UK
Waterstones

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