Those are the words of Iona Gardener, who stands bloodied and staring as she confesses to the murder of four people in a run-down cottage outside of Belfast.
Outside the cottage, five old dolls are hanging from a tree. Inside the cottage, the words “WHO TOOK EDEN MULLIGAN?” are graffitied on the wall, connecting the murder scene with the famous cold case of Eden Mulligan, a mother-of-five who went missing during The Troubles.
But this case is different. Right from the start.
Because no one in the community is willing to tell the truth, and the only thing DI Danny Stowe and forensic psychologist Rose Lainey can be certain of is that Iona Gardener’s confession is false….
This was my introduction to Sharon Dempsey’s books and immediately, the novel drew me in.
Danny and Rose make a great duo; bouncing off each other well. I wanted to know more about them and right from the start, I rooted for them. I hope it’s not the last we see of these two characters.
I also liked that fact that the POV not only switches between Danny and Rose, but also the events of the past so you really get a comprehensive picture on what’s happening and how they are feeling.
The plot itself is very intriguing and you’re pulled directly into the action, from the moment Iona Gardener runs into the police station, saying she’s hurt her friends. It’s clear that there’s more to the story.
The novel overall deals with various themes in a sensitive but compelling way.by
I know it’s only July but I feel it’s never too early. The Christmas Killer is the first in a new crime series and if you love writers like Val McDermid and Ross Greenwood, then you’ll love this new thriller.
Here’s a little more about the book…
DI James Walker is ready for a quiet family Christmas in the sleepy village of Kirkby Abbey.
But when he opens an early Christmas present left on his doorstep, he soon realises it is no gift.
Inside is a gruesome surprise, and a promise – twelve days, twelve murders. Not long after, the first body is found, half frozen in the snow.
As the blizzards descend, panic spreads through the remote Cumbrian village – there’s a killer amongst them, and with eleven more victims to go, anyone could be next….
Can James stop the killer before they strike again?
OK, time to reveal the cover. Ready? Drumroll….by
When a stranger saves Luke’s life, he knows he’s been given a second chance. He’s going to make it count – and, determined to live each day to its fullest, he starts by saying yes to everything life has to offer.
Slowly but surely, Luke learns that a little bit of blue-sky thinking can go a long way, and things start to look up.
But when Luke’s new resolve is tested, will he return to his old ways? Or can one fateful moment truly save a life?
If any of S.D. Robertson’s previous novels are anything to go by, I knew that How To Save a Life was going to be an emotional rollercoaster before I even began. And yes, it was.
Oh Luke. He’s such a complex and compelling character. On the first few pages, he’s not the most likeable of characters. He reminded me a little of Scrooge in that he is cynical, a loner and has no interest in the world around him.
The author throws the reader straight into Luke’s life and the more I got into the story, the more empathy I felt for him. As you start to get to know his history, you begin to understand his choices and his demeanour. Also, as a character, he really does develop and evolve over the course of the novel.
The supporting characters are also strong, Meg and Nora especially. I felt so sorry for Rita. Grief presents itself in so many different ways and I had nothing but sympathy for her. There were moments I could empathise with and parts I could relate to.by
Before we reveal the cover, here’s a little about the book:
Zara Khoury believes in love – so much so that she flies from Dubai to Liverpool to be with a man she barely knows. It’s a risk, but she’s certain that uprooting her life for Nick is the new start she needs.
Jim Glover is stuck. Since his Dad died, he’s put his dreams aside and stayed at home in Liverpool to care for his mum. Trapped in a dead-end job, he’s going nowhere – that is, until he gets a phone call that just might change his life..
Zara and Jim aren’t supposed to meet. But then fate steps in, and when their worlds – and cars! – collide, the real journey begins…
A gorgeous tale about taking risks and living life to the full – perfect for fans of Beth O’Leary and Josie Silver.
OK, are you ready for the cover?
Marjorie, Stacy, Raymond and Dora each hold a different story to their chest – lost loves, abandoned dreams, crippling self-confidence issues, and simply feeling invisible. For each of them, the thought of letting those stories out is almost as terrifying as letting strangers in, and that makes for a very lonely life indeed.
But when these four strangers who have struggled to “fit in” end up on the same table for an event at their local community centre, little do they know that their lives are about to be entwined and changed forever because of an Afternoon Tea club.
Cue an unexpected journey of self-discovery, some unlikely new companions, and plenty of tea and biscuits along the way…
This novel had me at the title. Tea is one of my favourite things. There’s a lot more to it than that though.
The Afternoon Tea Club focuses on Marjorie, Dora, Raymond and Stacy.
All vary in ages but all are harbouring their own secrets and insecurities. These four characters are also lonely in their own ways.
When The Afternoon Tea Club is announced in their local area, each of our main characters goes although some are more reluctant than others. Dora, Raymond, Marjorie and Stacy are four unique characters who have more in common than they realise. I don’t want to say too much about the plot because, as normal, I hope you will decide to discover this book.
Marjorie carries a lot of learned behaviour and has much emotional baggage tied into the relationship with her husband.
Dora also has a lot of hurt from her past and it’s been something she’s been running from for a long time.
Raymond is probably one of the sweetest fictional characters I have come across. He’s a simple man who is still in love with his wife ever after her death.
Stacy is missing so many aspects of love from her life and she almost has to hit rock bottom to find herself again.
I think out of all of the characters, I related to Stacy the most. She and I don’t share life experiences but there was just something about her. Although, I think she may be a little braver than me.by
Last winter she had a plan.
Lucy fell in love with tumbledown Rosemary Cottage as a child. So thirty years on, when she loses her city job and discovers the cottage is for sale, it feels like fate. She’ll raise her children in Burley Bridge and transform the cottage into a B&B with her husband.
But a year can change everything . . .
Now Lucy is juggling two children and a B&B, but on her own. Christmas looks set to be their last on Rosemary Lane – until she meets James, a face from her past and someone who might offer a different kind of future . . .
Should Lucy leave the cottage behind? Or could this winter on Rosemary Lane be the start of something new?
I am not crying, I have something in my eye…. OK, I am crying.
It was hard not to reach for the tissues with the latest book by Ellen Berry.
It focuses on Lucy, who after losing her job in Manchester, makes the decision with her husband Ivan to move to the picturesque village of Burley Bridge. It is not all plain sailing for Lucy and her family and there are many ups and downs along the way. Lucy wonders whether Rosemary Cottage is her forever home after all?
It’s not hard to feel love and empathy for Lucy especially as things happen for her pretty early on in the novel.
James, like Lucy is dealing with issues that I think a lot of people would be able to relate to. He and Lucy have many layers to them. I liked them both a lot.by
What if you couldn’t get away from the one who got away?
This December, unlucky-in-love Jess is following her dream and moving to Notting Hill. On the first night in her new house-share she meets Alex, the guy in the room next door. They don’t kiss under the mistletoe, but there’s still a spark that leaves Jess imagining how they might spend the year together – never mind the house rule against dating…
But when Jess returns from her Christmas holiday, she finds Alex has started seeing Emma, who lives on the floor above them. Now Jess faces a year of bumping into the man of her dreams – and, apparently, the woman of his.
Jess is determined to move on and spend the year falling in love with London, not Alex – but what if her heart has other ideas?
We Met in December tells the story of Jess and Alex.
Jess has just moved to London after breaking up with her boyfriend. She is looking to go after the career she has always wanted.
Alex was a successful lawyer and has now given that up to re-train as a nurse. He has made a promise to himself that, after a break up with his fiancée, he would focus on his career. He did not count on meeting Jess.
First, I am completely in love with this cover. It is so beautiful.
We Met in December is told from the point of view of both Alex and Jess. I liked this as it gave me a better overall idea of what each were thinking. It’s proof that misunderstandings and assumptions can be the cause of many problems between people that’s for sure.
These two were both wonderful, compelling characters and I came to care for them a lot. I found them to be characters I really liked and want to spend time with in real life.
I also loved the supporting characters, especially Nanna Beth, Rob and Becky. I want to know more about their lives.
I became so invested in this story. I want to be a roommate in this house. It’s like a rom-com movie and I could see it as such.by
A lovely hello to Susan Edmunds and the blog tour for her latest book, Mummy Needs a Break.
With a devilish toddler and baby number two on the way, Rachel’s big dream is to one day go to the toilet on her own. So, she’s surprised to discover that her husband has found the time to have an exciting affair while she’s been bringing up their family.
Suddenly, Rachel is left wrangling with a child who will only eat crackers and a 35-week bump. She knows even Mumsnet isn’t going to solve this.
What Rachel needs is a handsome, good-with-children, single man. But she can barely leave the house without a stain on her top and child on her hip. How on earth can she claim her life back, let alone thinking about dating?
Susan and Avon have shared an extract today. Enjoy.
***** beginning of extract*****
It was after 4 a.m. when I heard a key rattle in the lock as Stephen returned. I was still sitting on the couch, staring blankly at the almost-silent television, tracing patterns in the textured fabric of the cushions. I held my breath as he neared the living room door. The light was on – he would know I was inside. He paused briefly but then the door to the spare room clicked shut. I sat on the couch, my fingers tracking the movement of blood through my temples.
Questions were stomping around in circles in my mind: Was she someone I knew? What was going on? What the hell was I going to do?
I knew our relationship had changed. But whose doesn’t, when you have children? Years ago, I had a stash of hugely impractical, very skimpy lingerie that I brought out every night he stayed at my place. I crept out of bed sometimes before he woke to put make-up on and would go to a yoga class every night after work and twice at the weekends, coming home relaxed and stretchy. It had been a long time since I had crawled into our bed in anything other than my faded grey favourites and my yoga was now done most often in front of my laptop, with Thomas imitating alongside me, until he got bored.by
I am welcoming Katerina Diamond to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her latest novel, Truth or Die.
Their darkest secrets won’t stay buried forever…
The butchered body of a professor is found in a private office of Exeter University. It is the first in a spate of horrific murders that shakes the city to its core.
Who would target a seemingly innocent man, and why? DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles turn to his students for answers, but their investigation turns up no leads. Someone must know more than they’re letting on…
As the body count rises, the police have to look into the past to uncover the person responsible before it’s too late.
But are they brave enough to face up to the truth?
Katerina and Avon have shared an extract today. Enjoy.
***** beginning of extract*****
‘No, someone from the DCI’s old area. I think they wanted an outsider, someone who wasn’t caught up in any of the local shit,’ Adrian reassured her. Imogen herself had transferred from Plymouth under a bit of a black cloud and so he knew she wouldn’t appreciate working with any of her former colleagues.
‘Apparently she personally endorsed his transfer. The DCI has worked out all right. Maybe it’s a good move.’
‘Him? Is he hot?’
‘Why are you asking me?’
‘You can’t objectively say whether a man is attractive? Are you worried that I might think . . .’
‘Don’t finish that sentence. His face is very symmetrical, which suggests he is probably quite good-looking.’ Adrian smiled at her.
‘Wow. I’d hate to hear how you describe me.’ She gathered up her things to go.by
Hi Jenni, it’s great to be welcoming you back to Novel Kicks.
Thank you so much for having me back. I can’t believe my second book is out already. I had a real thrill ride with The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker. The book had so many amazing reviews and I was delighted to get an Amazon bestseller flag. Let’s hope The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadowsis as enthusiastically received.
Which fictional character would you like to spend the day with? What would you do?
This is such a hard question. In fact, I left answering it until the end because there are so many characters I could have chosen. I considered people from historical novels where I would get the opportunity to spend some time in an exciting period of history – perhaps with a Regency lady or a certain Victorian cotton mill owner *wink*. I thought about characters with special powers, like Harry Potter and various superheroes (flying through the air with Superman would be a blast). I considered the simple rural idyll that would be spending a day with Anne Shirley at Green Gables, or Miss Marple in her beloved St Mary Mead. Perhaps I could pamper myself and spend the day with someone wealthy or influential, perhaps party with Jay Gatsby, or Holly Golightly? So many fabulous characters, so many choices…
In the end (wait for it…) it’s a toss up between Mr Daydream (who could give my imagination a boost and therefore some fabulous material for my novels) and Mr Impossible (so I can do EVERYTHING and ANYTHING) from the fabulous Mr Men. These were the very first books I read by myself and they have a special place in my heart. I’m sure I could have some up with something more intellectual but I’m embracing my inner child. Besides, I’m curious to see how they mange to drink a cup of tea with those stumpy little arms (Mr Tickle being the obvious exception).
Which songs would be on a playlist for The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows?
This is quite an easy question because Theo, who works with Maisie at the auction house, has a particular penchant for the 1980s. Although he is an expert in modern design (i.e. post-war) that’s the decade that really interests him, and this is reflected in his music taste. He plays a lot of The Jam, The Police, The Clash (late Seventies/Eighties) so a soundtrack would have to include these bands. This contrasts with the flamboyant Johnny (Maisie’s boss) who has more classical tastes, so perhaps some Mozart and a sprinkling of Shostakovich (as it is mentioned in the book). And then, to keep the author happy, I’d have to throw in a few recent dance tracks – which is largely what I listen to when I write. So it would be quite an eclectic mix.
How did your writing process differ from your previous novel?
In many ways it was quite similar. I’m a pantser, not a plotter, so apart from the bare bones of the story and a definite idea of the ending, I do tend to launch myself in rather randomly, not even writing chronologically. However, for Maisie I had to produce a synopsis for the publisher before I began writing and this did help me focus my ideas a bit more. There was also a time pressure for Maisie, whereas Lucy was written before I had a publishing deal so I had longer to play about with it. However, deadlines are Good Things. They help you focus.
The only thing I really did differently was a mid-book plan. I always refer to my first draft as the Bowl of Dropped Spaghetti stage – because in my head that’s what it feels like. After that, I need to pick all the jumbled spaghetti up and sort it out. Writing Maisie was the first time I’d produced a coherent plan but it was only at this post first-draft stage. I put all the scenes I’d written on Post-it notes and then planned the book – a bit backwards but it worked. My clever techie son set me up with two screens and I simply pulled across sections in order onto a blank document. I am at the Bowl of Dropped Spaghetti stage with Book 3 now so shall employ this method again.
Which authors have inspired you?by
Hello Friday! It’s almost the weekend and what better way to celebrate its arrival than a visit from Paul Finch and the blog tour for his new novel, Stolen.
How do you find the missing when there’s no trail to follow?
DC Lucy Clayburn is having a tough time of it. Not only is her estranged father one of the North West’s toughest gangsters, but she is in the midst of one of the biggest police operations of her life.
Members of the public have started to disappear, taken from the streets as they’re going about their every day lives. But no bodies are appearing – it’s almost as if the victims never existed.
Lucy must chase a trail of dead ends and false starts as the disappearances mount up. But when her father gets caught in the crossfire, the investigation suddenly becomes a whole lot more bloody…
I’ve reviewed the novel below but before that, Paul and Avon have shared an extract.
***** beginning of extract*****
Lucy was still in the thick of the action, though it was mostly over. On all sides, cautions were being issued, and the responses, mainly f-words and other more imaginative profanities, being recorded on dictaphone as the jostling, cuffed men were frogmarched to the farm cottage wall and held there, each by his individual arresting officer, while others commenced searching them. One resisted more than the rest, kicking out and spitting, and was given a backhander across the mouth for his trouble. Lucy wasn’t worried. When the evidence was finally presented, she doubted there was a magistrate in the land who’d be swayed by farcical complaints about police brutality.
Quite a bit of that evidence was on display inside the barn itself, when she went in there. The centrepiece was a purpose-built pit, squarish in shape, about ten yards by ten, dug to a depth of five feet and lined with brick, with a steel ladder fixed in one corner and a camera mounted on a tripod overlooking it, alongside an upright chalkboard scribbled with betting information.
Two dogs still occupied the pit. One, an American pit bull, charged crazily back and forth, jumping up to snap and snarl at the officers, despite the excessive blood dabbling its jaws and jowls. The other one, whose breed was uncertain, lay in a quivering, panting heap, gashed and torn and spattered with gore.
‘We need one of the vets in here,’ Lucy said to a PC at her shoulder. ‘And a handler . . . to control the other one, yeah?’by
You made it everyone. It’s the weekend. Today, I am pleased to welcome back Mel Sherratt and the blog tour for her new book, Tick Tock.
In the city of Stoke, a teenage girl is murdered in the middle of the day, her lifeless body abandoned in a field behind her school.
Two days later, a young mother is abducted. She’s discovered strangled and dumped in a local park.
DS Grace Allendale and her team are brought in to investigate, but with a bold killer, no leads and nothing to connect the victims, the case seems hopeless. It’s only when a third woman is targeted that a sinister pattern emerges. A dangerous mind is behind these attacks, and Grace realises that the clock is ticking…
Can they catch the killer before another young woman dies?
Mel and Avon have shared an extract today. Enjoy.
***** beginning of extract*****
‘Robert?’ Perry queried.
‘Robert Carmichael. He’s the PE teacher. The classes get very competitive and it gives the pupils a good workout in the fresh air.’
‘Who owns the field where Lauren was found?’ Grace questioned.
‘Arthur Barrett and his family – a local farming generation. The school have been using it with their permission for over twenty years.’ Nathan shook his head in disbelief. ‘I hope I don’t have to suspend Robert for not watching them all.’
‘He can’t have eyes in the back of his head,’ Perry said.
‘I guess. But it only takes one person to blame him. And me.’ Nathan ran a hand through his hair and swallowed.
‘Although, according to some of the pupils, he shouted at them to hurry up a few times.’
‘We need a list of the pupils who took his class, too,’ Grace said. ‘We’ll have to speak to them all over the course of the next day or two. If there aren’t enough teachers spare to sit with the pupils, or if any parents or guardians specifically want to be with their children when we speak to them, we’ll arrange appointments. Whatever happens, everything will be dealt with in a sensitive manner.’by
A big lovely hello to Phillipa Ashley and the blog tour for her new novel, A Perfect Cornish Summer.
Summer is on the horizon, and the people of Porthmellow are eagerly awaiting the annual food festival. At least, most of them are…
For Sam Lovell, organising the summer festival in her hometown is one of the highlights of her year. It’s not always smooth sailing, but she loves to see Porthmellow’s harbour packed with happy visitors, and being on the committee has provided a much-needed distraction from the drama in her family life (and the distinct lack of it in her love life).
When their star guest pulls out with only a few weeks to go, everyone’s delighted when a London chef who grew up locally steps in at the last minute. But Gabe Matthias is the last person Sam was expecting to see, and his return to Porthmellow will change her quiet coastal life for ever.
Phillipa has shared an extract with us today.
***** beginning of extract*****
Bryony prodded the laminated poster with the toe of her Doc Marten’s. ‘I’d hoped you’d decided to give the festival a rest for a year.’ The dog barked again so Bryony ramped up her own volume. ‘My Sacha hates all the noise and smells.’
Bryony stroked Sacha’s head while Sam tried to let the words wash over her. It didn’t do to argue with Bryony, Cornwall’s self-declared canine expert and the most unlikely metal fan on the planet. Woe betide anyone who dared question her views on dogs, music . . . or the festival, or tourists, or the weather, or anything else. Sam had often thought that if Professor Stephen Hawking had ever visited Porthmellow, Bryony would have been sure to take issue with his theories on black holes. She lived in a small house not far from Wavecrest Cottage. Sam often heard Sacha barking from fifty metres away.
Spotting a rare gap in Bryony’s tirade, Sam dived in while she could. ‘Well, the festival does bring lots of people into the town who might not otherwise come. Local people and tourists and it’s put Porthmellow on the map as a foodie and arty haven.’by
Welcome back to Bella Osborne and the blog tour for part two of a four-part serial, Wildflower Park. This part is called A Budding Romance.
When Anna is dumped by her fiancé, she moves in to her own place on the edge of the gorgeous Wildflower Park and pledges to stay off men and focus on her career, but a handsome new colleague seems to thwart her attempts at every turn. And when she receives an accidental text from a mystery man, could it be the new start she needs? Or someone she really shouldn’t be falling for?
Anna’s neighbour Sophie is a stressed-out mum-of-two with a third on the way. Her husband is a constant frustration, and their children are a regular source of newly-invented swear words and unidentifiable sticky surfaces.
Luckily, Anna and Sophie have each other – and Wildflower Park proves to be a sanctuary as they map out a path to find the happiness they both deserve…
Bella has shared an extract with us today. Enjoy!
***** beginning of extract*****
Once out of the canoes there was lots of congratulatory blokey back slapping, a few playful remonstrations and lots of Karl shaking his wet head over people like a naughty puppy. When he knew Liam was watching, Hudson leaned into Anna’s ear.
‘Nice job, honey,’ he whispered, making her shudder.
She hoped Hudson assumed her squirming was all part of the act. If you weren’t gay, you would make an excellent boyfriend, she thought. If she wasn’t careful she’d soon be suffering from Sophie’s complaint.
As the victors they were first to eat lunch, which was a barbecue by the water’s edge.
‘You okay?’ Anna asked Sophie who was munching down a large hamburger overflowing with salad.
‘Starving and a bit knackered but I had fun this morning and the lie-in was bliss. It’s lovely not to be woken by someone jumping on your bladder.’
‘You should stop Dave doing that,’ said Anna drily and Sophie gave a smirk.by
OK, I admit it, I already have the Christmas songs playing and if I could get away with it, I would already have my tree up. I adore this time of year. I love the songs, the lights and any excuse to dig out the Christmas films whilst eating mince pies.
One of the things I love the most are the Christmas themed novels. I am very excited to say that Bella Osborne is with Novel Kicks today (welcome back, Bella,) with the blog tour for her latest Christmas themed novel, Christmas Cheer which is the second book in the Willow Cottage series.
Beth is running away. With her young son Leo to protect, Willow Cottage is the lifeline she so desperately needs. Overlooking the village green in a beautiful Cotswolds idyll, Beth sees a safe place for little Leo.
When she finally uncovers the cottage from underneath the boughs of a weeping willow tree, Beth realises this is far more of a project than she bargained for and the locals are more than a little eccentric!
A chance encounter with gruff Jack, who appears to be the only male in the village under thirty, leaves the two of them at odds but it’s not long before Beth realises that Jack has hidden talents that could help her repair more than just Willow Cottage.
Over the course of four seasons, Beth realises that broken hearts can be mended, and sometimes love can be right under your nose…
Thanks to Bella and Avon, we have an extract from Christmas Cheer. Enjoy…
‘Carly!’ said Beth, her voice sharp.
Carly spun in Beth’s direction with an exaggerated movement. With slow blinks she looked at Beth until something registered.
‘Beth! This is … um … what was your name again?’ She swung precariously back towards Jack who stopped her falling on him with one hand whilst holding the pub table steady with the other.
‘I know who it is.’ Beth was trying to suppress the annoyance that was rapidly developing within her.
‘He’s lov-erly,’ cooed Carly whilst she stroked his arm in a deliberate action.
‘I’d like to know what he’s planning on doing with my drunk friend?’ Beth retorted. Jack let go of
Carly as if she were a lit firework.
As the accusation slowly registered, Carly looked hurt. ‘I’m not dunk!’ she protested as she slowly slid towards the floor.
Jack was looking blindly from one woman to the other as if he’d just been teleported there. ‘I was just …’
‘For someone that wasn’t looking for a relationship a few hours ago you’ve sure as hell come round to the idea quick!’ Beth stepped forward and grabbed Carly by one arm and hauled her into a standing position. ‘Come on! We’re leaving now.’
Carly wobbled on unsteady legs, grinned inanely at Jack and was towed away.by