The Cove

First published in Flash Flood 2014

If it was real, it would be part of Blackpool, except that there is no cove there. There isn’t a cove with a long, curving harbour wall extending from the northern cliff face. The harbour wall isn’t studded with gaps for fishermen to cast their lines. Set back from the final gap, facing the beach, there isn’t a bench, and nobody sits there day after cold day watching as the tourists throng the prom. Nobody waits for the storm to come, for the crowds to thin, and for the shop, and the flat above it, to come into view.

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Girl v Monsters

First published in Flash Flood 2015

Will you find her?
Will you find her in time?
Will you find her before the monsters get to her?
There are monsters on the bus. There are monsters at the school gates. There are monsters in the school yard.
She is wild, and stubborn, and wears grey. She holds fast against the call for her to paint her face, and pierce her flesh. She is the wild child who looks like a good child.
She is fury, and life, and fierce intelligence, and the monsters want her. They want to dress her in pink and white, and paint her face with pretty.
She can hide, for a while, in a book. She can be a child locked in a room to lie on a bed to consider her sins. She can be a child running free on the riverbank. She can be the captain of a spaceship. She can be the spaceship.
In one day, she has fought dragons and loved dragons. She has watched civilisations rise and fall. And in all this, she has been quiet, and grey, and wild, and stubborn. To say yes to all the wonders, she has to say no to the monsters.
She can battle the monsters in the stories, but the monsters in the school yard are insidious, and call themselves her friends.
Will you find her?
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Everything Lost

First published in Flash Flood 2016

She crawls into the space under the bed. In the real world, it is full of boxed books and cocooned quilts. They exist here too, but are easily bypassed, as she wriggles past them to a place where she finds everything lost. There is the gonk, all green velvet and smug smile, who faded out of existence when she was six. Behind him is a vague shadow, the shelves and tiles of grandma’s pantry, where gonk was last seen.

She strokes the gonk, he feels cool and clean. He whispers encouragement and she moves on. His name, forgotten for years, appears before her. “Mr Sylvester” she breathes, and smiles. Next, the book of comic poetry, gone since she was nine. Fragments of rhymes dance around her, the rhythms have always been a part of her, and she recognises now the whole of each work.

She moves on, hearing a siren in the distance.

And now the doll, Sally-Lou, her best friend in the whole world. Sally-Lou has wise brown eyes, soft brown curls, and a curiously normal figure. One of those wise brown eyes has spun backwards into a head marked with biro; an arm is missing. There are tooth marks on one lower leg. “It’s OK.” Sally-Lou says. “This wasn’t your fault. I was stolen from you.”
There is a distant pain, easily dismissed. The sirens have stopped.

Next, the dog who ran away when she was a teenager. She swallows hard, all laughter gone. There is nothing here to embrace. She wishes for sad eyes, even reproach, but the wet mess of his head allows for no sentiment. She turns away, careful not to smear her clothes. The space is tight, and getting tighter. She can still crawl. Ahead of her is a harsh, white light.

It’s more crowded now. A cardboard box, torn and limp, droops enough to reveal a pile of cheap newsprint. A full run (far too short) of a girls’ story magazine that didn’t dwell on boys, or make-up, but was all about adventure and imagination. For the first time, she feels that her loss is echoed, a wave of anger encloses her, and gives her determination to move on. There is a fight to be won, and still enough will to struggle through.

There is a screen ahead of her, images of the future, the next album from her favourite artist, the books that have not yet been read or written, the mountains that have not yet been climbed. She clambers through a tiny gap and gasps once, looking up at Chris, who cries out with guilt. There is pain, but there is hope. She tries a smile, but it hurts. “It’s OK, this wasn’t your fault. I was stolen from you.”

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Kin – A Helga Finnsdottir Mystery – by Snorri Kristjansson – a review by Jeanette Greaves

Book cover of Kin by Snorri Kristjansson

As I read ‘Kin’, I kept thinking of friends and family who I wanted to share it with, fans of murder mysteries, fans of character driven stories, fans of historical fiction. This book would appeal to all of them.

The title gives away the name of the one person in the large cast who isn’t likely to be murdered or to be the killer. Helga Finnsdaughter is the adopted daughter of Unnthor and Hildigunnur, a happily married couple who have already raised a family of four and are enjoying life as well respected farmers. Unnthor is the unofficial local lord, he has a productive farm and the loyalty of the men in the surrounding area. Hildigunnur has a reputation for wisdom and knowledge, along with a broad mind and a quick tongue. We know little about Helga’s past, other than she was adopted twelve summers ago, when she was too young to remember her own family, and that her father was named Finn. Doubtless we’ll find out more in later volumes. Helga is clearly very much loved by her adoptive parents, and liked by the family retainer Jaki and his son Einar, who she sees as a big brother.

The story is pretty much character driven, and the plot anchors on the legendary Unnthor’s Hoard, the fabled cache of raided treasures from Unnthor’s Viking years. The tale starts with the return of all four of Unnthor and Hildigunnur’s adult children to the farm. It’s been a long time since they left, and Helga hasn’t met any of them before. The three sons and one daughter return with their wives and husband, and four grandchildren. This gives us a pretty large cast, and the book is structured to allow slow introductions to the dozen or so potential victims and killers. With the exception of a couple of the wives, who are thinly sketched, the characters are well defined and engaging, and I particularly liked the relationship between Helga and her adoptive mother. Hildigunnar is an expert in human behaviour, and Helga is her mother’s keen and willing student, a detective in the making.

Although all the action is set within the confines of Riverside Farm, we learn quite a lot about the politics and powers that be in the wider world, and I hope that we’ll find out more about this in later books.

When a body is found, it’s obvious that suspicion must fall upon a clan member; and as the story progresses, Helga realises that a pragmatic and ruthless streak in the family is putting an innocent in danger. She has to work quickly to reveal the guilty party and help her adoptive parents keep their honoured place amongst the local farmers.

With such an interesting group of characters, I found myself returning to the book frequently. It was a fun read, and I’d recommend it.

I am grateful to Jo Fletcher books for the review copy.

‘Kin – A Helga Finnsdottir Mystery’ is available now.

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The Witch at Wayside Cross by Lisa Tuttle – a review by Jeanette Greaves

Wayside WitchThe Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross is the second book in the Jesperson and Lane detective series. You don’t have to have read the first book (The Curious Affair of the Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief) to follow the plot, but as I really enjoyed it, I would recommend that you catch up if you can.

The Witch at Wayside Cross starts less than a day after the previous book finished. Fresh from their success in solving their first case, Jesperson and Lane are plunged into their second by the arrival of a dying man on their doorstep. As he dies, he points his finger at our Miss Lane, and cries ‘Witch’.

Naturally, this stirs their curiosity, and a quick search of the body before the police arrive gives our detectives enough information to approach the next of kin. The deceased proves to be Mr Charles Manning, a resident of London who has recently spent a lot of time in Norfolk. Our heroes are swiftly hired by Manning’s older brother to investigate the cause of Charles’ mysterious death.

So, Jesperson and Lane venture to Norfolk, and in the guise of business partners in a start up publishing business, they infiltrate Charles Manning’s overlapping social circles and investigate the how and why of a healthy young man’s death. Whilst Mr Jesperson concentrates on Manning’s male acquaintances, Miss Lane draws a great deal of information from the ladies of the vicarage, where Manning lodged, and the neighbouring household of Wayside Cross, where three sisters are in mourning for him.

We’re introduced to a colourful cast of characters, a pet raven, Shrieking Pits, a stolen infant and a stolen book, and an attempt to revive the old religion of Britain. One of the interesting themes of the book is the repeated assertion that marriage brings an end to a woman’s career. The story is set in 1893, at at time when the UK labour movement was gaining a strong foothold but women still didn’t have the vote. Miss Lane’s professional need to communicate with her business partner is thwarted by her landlady’s suspicions that the relationship is more than it seems. The maid at the vicarage has to conceal a birth in order to keep her job. Both facts serve to remind us that these are times in which a young woman can be ‘ruined’ by a man. The social history and commentary is woven into a fast paced story that does not disappoint, with a satisfying ending.

 

I am grateful to Jo Fletcher books for the review copy.

The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross is available now.

You can find my review of The Curious Affair of the Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief here.

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Corpselight by Angela Slatter – a review by Jeanette Greaves

Corpselight – Verity Fassbinder book 2Corpselight

‘Corpselight’ is the second book in the Verity Fassbinder trilogy, and the sequel to ‘Vigil.’

The first thing I want to know about sequels is ‘Should I read the first book before I start this?’. In this case, the answer is ‘Yes, definitely’. Whilst there is some recapping of our hero’s history, it’s not in depth. There is so much character development and continuation of previous plot lines that it would be a pity to have not read ‘Vigil’ before starting ‘Corpselight’.

Fassbinder is one of a select group of people who are aware of the presence of supernatural beings in Brisbane, they are tasked with keeping the peace to protect both the human and the non-human (Weyrd) population. Her role is a very particular one, as a half blood, she lives in the human world, and that of the Weyrd, and has very useful connections in both. She’s basically a gumshoe detective with extra powers. She’s got a dark back story, a long to-do list, and super strength. Well, she HAD super strength back in Vigil territory. In this second book, she starts the story heavily pregnant, and her only supernatural power is a very sensitive sense of smell. Her sense of humour and instinctive aggression haven’t changed though.

This sequel follows the same structure as the first book, with Verity charged with solving several crimes against or by the Weyrd, and trying to do her job whilst protecting those that she loves. In this book, at first those are her boyfriend, then her newborn baby, then she acquires even more family members to worry about. The theme of motherhood is very strong, and is entwined with the underlying series theme of murdered children and the culpability of their killers.

We get a lot more of Verity’s back story in ‘Corpselight’, and most of it is revealed to us at the same time that it’s revealed to Verity. Those revelations have direct and interesting consequences for most of the characters in the book.

‘Corpselight’ definitely has the feel of a middle book, and I look forward to being hurled into the third book and the conclusion of this enjoyable series.

Thank you to the team at Jo Fletcher Books for the review copy.

Vigil is available in July 2017, from Jo Fletcher Books.

Angela Slatter (www.angelaslatter.com)

Jo Fletcher Books (www.jofletcherbooks.com)

The blog tour continues. 

CorpselightBlog

 

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Corpselight by Angela Slatter – the blog tour.

CorpselightBlog

 

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The Adversaries by David Hair – A review by Jeanette Greaves

theadversariesThe Return of Ravana by David Hair

Book 2 – The Adversaries

Disclaimer – this book was sent as a review copy by the publishers.

Followers of fantasy writer David Hair will already be aware of his ‘Return of Ravana’ timeslip trilogy, written for a young adult audience. This version of the second book (formerly known as ‘The Ghost Bride’) has been updated and revised for the UK re-release. This review contains spoilers for the first story in the series, The Pyre.

Our heroes are the reincarnated souls of characters who have been reliving the same story for hundreds of years. The first book told how the Magician King Ravana sought to achieve godhood in a ghastly ritual which was thwarted by our heroes in the distant past. In an intertwining story, set in the present day, a group of teenagers are thrown together by fate and realise that they are linked by forces beyond their control, and have to fight for their lives as Ravana returns to claim what he believes is his.

In the second book, the historical action moves several centuries ahead to the time of the warrior prince Prithviraj Chauhan and his loyal court poet Chand Bardai. As the action starts, Chand is aware of his past life, and of how he must prepare for the challenges ahead. The souls that we first met in ‘The Pyre’ re-appear, drawn together by fate and the machinations of Ravindra.

Meanwhile, back in the future, having barely survived his defeat at the hands of our heroes, Ravindra plots his return and his revenge. A young Bollywood actress announces that she will give her hand in marriage to the winner of a new reality TV show, Swayamvara Live, where young men will compete for her favour. Vikram, the reincarnated soul of the poet warrior, steps forward and joins the competition, recognising in the young actress the soul of the woman who has been part of his many lives through the centuries.

The stage is now set for a fast paced and enjoyable tale of love, friendship, jealousy and revenge, spanning two time periods. Vikram must draw upon his past life skills and memories, and the strengths of his friends, to battle Ravindra and save them all.

As with the first book, I found The Adversaries to be a good, gripping read which kept me engaged and interested. I would definitely recommend that readers acquaint themselves with The Pyre before reading The Adversaries, but readers who liked The Pyre would probably enjoy the sequel.

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Vigil by Angela Slatter, a review by Jeanette Greaves

The Vigil blog tour continues:- Vigil

First impressions – this book was great fun to read. It starts with the fallout from a fight between a trans-dimensional monster and a half-supernatural / half-human woman, and it ends with favours being called in from an angel who looks like he should be playing lead guitar in an indie band.

Did I love it? Yes. Do I want more? Definitely.

There’s something about this book that reminds me of Pratchett’s Discworld. Partly it’s the deadpan humour, partly it’s the multi-species dramatis personae. Slatter introduces a cast of characters drawn from many races. Some are hybrids, including our heroine Verity Fassbinder.  The various races have complicated relationships, and there’s no shortage of race supremacists of several flavours to add to the pot and simultaneously give it a good stirring.

Fassbinder is one of a select group of people who are aware of the presence of supernatural beings in Brisbane, they are tasked with keeping the peace to protect both the human and the non-human (Weyrd)population. Her role is a very particular one, she lives in the human world, and that of the Weyrd, and has very useful connections in both. She’s basically a gumshoe detective with extra powers. She’s got a dark back story, a long to-do list, and super strength. She also has a massive sense of responsibility, and an inbuilt need to protect the weak, especially her loved ones. Her loved ones include a new boyfriend, who is cute, nearly as smart as Verity, and a hostage to fortune in a malevolent world.

As I mentioned before, there is a lot of back story in this novel, the reader is pushed straight into the deep end, and is expected to doggy paddle around, grabbing clues as to who Verity and her friends are, and why they do what they do. Don’t worry, it’s not all that complicated, and there’s something very refreshing about not being a spoon fed reader. On the other hand, I do really, really want to read some of that back story at some time, because her ex boyfriend (and current colleague) is a ridiculously handsome near immortal who goes by the nickname ‘Bela’. Also, there are hints at past cases that sound like they’d be fun to read about.

If you’re looking for literary fiction, this isn’t the book for you. If you’re looking for a great romp with a strong, stroppy, multi-tasking protagonist, some seriously creepy villains, and a plot that charges around, under and over Brisbane at high speed, this is the book for you.

Thank you to the team at Jo Fletcher Books for the review copy, and the opportunity to be part of the blog tour for this hugely entertaining novel.

Vigil is available now, from Jo Fletcher Books.

Angela Slatter (www.angelaslatter.com)

Jo Fletcher Books (www.jofletcherbooks.com)

 

Next stop for the blog tour:-  parmenionbooks@wordpress.com (Wed 20th July)

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‘Vigil’ by Angela Slatter – blog tour coming soon.

I read a book and I liked it. Find out why on July 19th.

Blog tour poster

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