Tuesday 30 April 2019

Book Excerpt ~ The Alchemist of Lost Souls by Mary Lawrence

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to bring you this tantalising excerpt

 from  The Alchemist of Lost Souls

Kensington Publishing
30 April 2019

My thanks to the author for sharing this book excerpt

In book 4, The Alchemist of Lost Souls, disgraced alchemist, Albern Goddard, has concocted a new element, “an amalgam of earth and fire.” Once he understands the nature of this lapis mortem, he hopes to win back the favor of King Henry VIII. Unfortunately, the element is stolen. Albern seeks his estranged daughter, Bianca—now pregnant with her first child—for help in finding it.

When a woman’s body is found behind the Dim Dragon Inn, an eerie green glow issuing from her mouth, rumors circulate about how she died. Bianca traces the element to a dead-end believing it is lost and no longer a threat. But when John, her husband, is conscripted and the element turns up again, Bianca risks her life and that of her unborn child’s to prevent it from being used against the king’s army. 


This tale begins with a rascally lad and a disgraced alchemist. One sought allowance with a group of puckish boys, and the other wished forgiveness from his petulant king. The two crossed paths one spring day when the air puffed warm against their cheeks, calling to mind the hope of renewal that comes with the lengthening days and appearance of green tips on trees. 

Albern Goddard wore his best woolen gown, one he’d bought from a fripperer back when he was in the king’s good graces. The clothes dealer had gotten it from the widow of a barrister who had been stabbed in the back--a fitting end to any lawyer, thought Albern. The rip had been mended and the blood stain scrubbed clean. No one was the wiser, and he himself barely remembered the gown’s tainted history as he strode triumphantly down Thames Lane. 

His coif did not hide the lift of his chin; the scholarly garb accentuated his proud posture--for here was a man basking in the ticklish glow of divine favor. A smile strained the muscles around his mouth; his usual expression was one of stoic indifference. And that was on a good day. 

He may not have discovered the philosopher’s stone--the coveted agent of transmutation capable of turning base metal into gold; instead, he had discovered a substance of unplumbed worth. Of this he was certain. Months of collecting and fermenting the golden stream--his golden stream in urns stinking up his alchemy room--had eventually wrought a substance so astonishing, so exceptional, that he could hardly keep from whooping and dancing down the street. 

However, unbridled enthusiasm can easily turn a man into a fool. The alchemist knew this; he had eaten from fate’s fickle hand before. So, he quashed the smile on his face, replacing a cheerful expression with one more solemn. Ahead of him lay several days of careful analysis to prove his discovery’s importance. 

Meanwhile, on the street ahead, there lay an ambush in the form of a gaggle of gamins. Their winter boredom had festered, so that this day of sun and warmth was like a needle to their boil, releasing the hellions to run free. 

What boy can resist the call of his friends’ mischief? After a winter of trudging through cold wet lanes lugging home bundles of sticks for his mother’s fire, of being cooped up with his siblings like chickens kept from wolves, of listening to the constant wails of younger ken, what lad of any spirit could suffer another moment staring at four cracked and soot-grimed walls? So it was that on this day, a boy with thread-bare britches and raggedly hair wandered farther than was his usual habit. 

He hitched himself to a group of boys kicking a pig’s bladder stuffed with hay. Other stragglers left their chores to join in, and soon there was a mob of exuberant, yelling imps tripping over one another and upsetting geese, pushcarts, and pedestrians. They raced around, calling each other “lead-legged”, and “beetle-brained buzzards”. They ran down Bread Lane and exited onto Thames Street just as Albern Goddard was crossing it. The ball rolled to a stop inches from the alchemist’s shoe.

Mary Lawrence lives in Maine. Her debut mystery, The Alchemist’s Daughter (Kensington, 2015) was named by Suspense Magazine as a “Best Book of 2015” in the historical mystery category. Her articles have appeared in several publications, including The Daily Beast. Other books in the series include Death of an Alchemist, and Death at St. Vedast.

Twitter @mel59lawrence

The Alchemist's Daughter (Bianca Goddard Mysteries, #1) 25489259 Death at St. Vedast (Bianca Goddard Mysteries, #3)

Monday 29 April 2019

Blog Tour ~ Rocco and the Price of Lies by Adrian Magson

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on the
 Rocco and the Price of Lies Blog Tour with an exclusive interview with the author

Hi, Adrian and welcome back to Jaffareadstoo. Rocco and the Price of Lies is now the seventh book in your crime series set in 1960’s France. When you wrote the first book, Death on the Marais, did you expect to go on to write a long running series?

I certainly wanted to, but I wasn’t certain I could write a sequel until close to the end of the book. The characters seemed to mesh well, which was my green light to continue.

What can you tell us about this latest book that won’t give too much of the plot away?

Rocco is appointed by the Interior Ministry to investigate the suicide of a senior politician. (A blackmail letter indicates that the politician has been helping himself to government funds to buy a work of art). Rocco’s not convinced at first that it’s anything but what it seems. But another suicide and a third, each one with the same incriminating letter about purchased works of art and corruption. Ordered to get the investigation done quickly, Rocco suspects the government wants to cover up bad news. But he’s not one to brush anything under the carpet, and with the help of Detective Renรฉ Desmoulins, rural policeman Claude Lamotte and, unusually, his usually frosty boss, Commissioner Francois Massin, he sets about narrowing down the source of the letters and the paintings. But in doing so he gets too close to some people who decide to stop the investigation in its tracks.

Inspector Lucas Rocco is the main protagonist of your novels, what can you tell us about him, and have you noticed any changes in his character since the start of the series?

Rocco is single, tall and tends to stand out as he favours smart clothes, a long, dark coat and a calm but firm manner. He’s an honest cop, used to fighting gang crime in Paris, but now posted – against his wishes - to Picardie in rural northern France to help spread investigative resources to the provinces. He doesn’t care for the suits in the Interior Ministry, and has a long-running prickly relationship with his boss, Massin, with whom he has history during France’s Vietnam campaign in the 1950s. But he’s determined to do his duty come what may, in the hopes that he can get posted back to Paris. 

Rocco has mellowed (slightly) since book 1, on his views of rural life, as he finds that crime here is just as dangerous as it is in the city, albeit less obvious. Welcomed to the village of Poissons-les-Marais by his neighbour Mme Denis, and the local rural cop, Lamotte, the villagers have come to mostly trust him after an in-built suspicion of any city cop in their midst. He trusts the people he works with, avoids Massin as much as possible because of their history, which wasn’t good - especially for Massin - and is in no hurry to settle down. But that doesn’t mean he won’t; he just has to find the right person.

The series has, so far, focused on quite a wide variety of crimes, what do you think makes a good fictional villain and detective?

Believability, I think. The cops are not supermen or women, the villains are bad, even dangerous, but have to be interesting in their badness. France is a large country and the resources for tracking criminals’ activities in the 1960s are slow, requiring a methodical approach and lots of patience. And Rocco has both. 

Where do you get your inspiration for the stories, and, as one book ends, do you already have the idea in place for a new story?

The crime has to be believable for the times and place. I try to use a backdrop of France in the 1960s (eg: the echoes of WW2 and France’s Vietnam conflict; the results of the country’s Algerian situation; the many assassination attempts on President de Gaulle; the battle between the police and the criminal gangs from overseas and the growing drugs trade. ‘Price of Lies’ is a slight departure in that art fraud and theft has been going on forever, but it seemed to me to offer Rocco a different - and interesting - kind of investigation to pursue.

I usually have a vague idea for the next book, and there are a couple of small fishes swimming about in the back of my brain at the moment. But if I tell you about them I’ll probably never write another word!

And finally what do you hope readers will take away from your Lucas Rocco crime novels?

First and foremost, entertainment. I want readers to enjoy Rocco and the setting, the other characters, good or bad, the same way I enjoy writing about them. I especially want them to believe in the world of rural France in the 1960s (where I went to school), when there were no mobile phones or computers, and limited forensic facilities. But that doesn’t mean the pace is slow; there’s plenty happening in Rocco’s world. 

More than anything I don’t want new potential readers to think this is going to be a French lesson (there’s very little French terminology), or a history lesson. This is a series of crime stories set in a part of France where Paris is another country to the locals, and where very little has changed since I was there a long time ago.

The Dome Press
25 April 2019

My thanks to the author and the publishers for my copy of the book
and the invitation to the blog tour

Murder by suicide? Three senior government officials - a judge, politician, and an ex-police chief - are all dead by their own hands. 

Inspector Lucas Rocco finds himself once more working for the Interior Ministry: undertaking an investigation meant to avoid a government scandal and ignoring unpalatable truths. He’s soon convinced that common denominator must be at play… 

Rocco uncovers top-level fraud, theft and deception. Resisting the demands to reach a rapid conclusion, and realising the deceptions go righto the top, soon Rocco finds himself targeted as someone who must be stopped - and by any means possible.

My thoughts..

In Rocco and the Price of Lies we meet up again with Inspector Lucas Rocco in 1960s France, and as this is now the sixth book in the series those who have followed from the beginning will understand just how this clever detective goes about solving the complex crimes which seem to come his way.

This story sees Rocco once again drafted in to help the Interior Ministry in a detailed investigation which delves deeper into the complicated world of fraud, theft and deception. Someone seems to be targeting senior officials who may, or may not, have some deadly secrets to hide. As always, Rocco gets right into the centre of the investigation and I enjoy observing his systematic approach to crime solving which is so cleverly reminiscent of a less technological age when detectives relied more on their instincts and good old fashioned sleuthing. 

There’s a complexity to this story which needs careful reading as there is much to take in but the author has a fine way of drawing in the reader so that even if you haven't read the other books in the series, it is entirely possible to enjoy this one as a standalone. The story is action packed and pacy and has more than enough twists and turns to keep you guessing until the end. There's a real sense of menace especially when Rocco gets drawn into some dangerous situations.

The ending of the book is entirely fitting and I hope that it means we will see more Inspector Rocco adventures in further stories.

Hailed by the Daily Mail as “a classic crime star in the making”, Adrian had written 21 crime and spy thriller books based around: Gavin & Palmer (investigative reporter Riley Gavin and ex-military policeman Frank Palmer; Harry Tate, ex-soldier and MI5 officer; Inspector Lucas Rocco; Marc Portman (The Watchman); investigators Ruth Gonzales and Andy Vaslik. Adrian also has hundreds of short stories and articles in national and international magazines to his name, plus a non-fiction work: Write On! - The Writer’s Help Book (Accent Press). Adrian lives in the Forest of Dean and rumours that he is building a nuclear bunker are unfounded. It’s a bird’s table.

Twitter@AdrianMagson1 #RoccoAndThePriceOfLies


Sunday 28 April 2019

Review ~ The Daughters of Ironbridge by Mollie Walton

Bonnier Zaffre
18 April 2019

My  thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

Divided by class, they are united by friendship.

1830s Shropshire.

Anny Woodvine's family has worked at the ironworks for as long as she can remember. The brightest child in her road and the first in her family to learn to read, Anny has big dreams. So, when she is asked to run messages for the King family, she grabs the opportunity with both hands.

Margaret King is surrounded by privilege and wealth. But behind closed doors, nothing is what it seems. When Anny arrives, Margaret finds her first ally and friend. Together they plan to change their lives.

But as disaster looms over the ironworks, Margaret and Anny find themselves surrounded by secrets and betrayal. Can they hold true to each other and overcome their fate? Or are they destined to repeat the mistakes of the past?

My thoughts..

In the Shropshire town of Ironbridge, two girls find that despite their very different upbringing they have a natural delight in each other's company. However society doesn't look too kindly on a girl from the big house and the daughter of the iron works owner, mixing with one of the girls from the poorer side of town whose father is one of the iron foundry workers.

Anny Woodvine is a canny lass, she's bright and intelligent and her ability to read and write takes her life in a different direction that that of her contemporaries.When she is asked to run errands for the ironwork's estate manager, Mr Brotherton, Anny is thrilled to have this special responsibility. However, her clandestine friendship with the more affluent, Margaret King, will lead Anny into danger.

The Daughters of Ironbridge is a lovely historical saga which is made all the more fascinating by having two delightful lead characters who add a vibrant energy to the story. The author brings to life the chasm of social differences and shows that whilst money brings comfort, it doesn't always bring happiness, and as Margaret finds out, to her cost family secrets, which run deep can have a devastating effect on the future.

This is the author's first foray into historical saga writing and in The Daughters of Ironbridge she has made a commendable start in a story which is filled with historical detail, bringing to life  just what it was like to live and work in the industrial age, and whilst it was a time of great social changes, this novel shows, that the great divide between rich and poor was still very much alive. I especially loved getting to know Anny and Margaret who each bring something rather special to this lovely story.

I think this is the start of a trilogy, and the ending of the story certainly lends itself to a further continuation. I can't wait to see what happens next ๐Ÿ˜Š

About the Author

Mollie Walton brilliantly weaves fact and fiction to create an exquisite heart-warming and heart breaking saga perfect for lovers of Margaret Dickinson. The Daughters of Ironbridge is the first novel from debut saga author Mollie Walton. Mollie Walton is the pseudonym for critically acclaimed historical novelist Rebecca Mascull.

Twitter @rebeccamascull #TheDaughtersofIronbridge


Saturday 27 April 2019

Review ~ The Almanack by Martine Bailey

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to ...England 1752

Severn Publishers
1 May 2019

My thanks to the author for my ecopy of this book

The philosophy of time, destiny and the stars pervade this intricate historical mystery in which a young woman determines to avenge her mother's death. 

1752, Midsummer. Following a desperate summons from her mother, Tabitha Hart departs London for her home village of Netherlea - only to discover that her mother has drowned. Determined to discover the truth about the Widow Hart's death, Tabitha consults her almanack and uncovers a series of cryptic notes describing her mother's terror of someone she names only as 'D'. Teaming up with young writer Nat Starling, Tabitha begins a race against time to unmask 'D' before more deaths follow. But as the summer draws to a close and the snow sets in, cutting off Netherlea from the outside world, Tabitha and Nat are forced to face the darkest hours of their lives. With the year predicted to meet a 'violent, bloody end'' will Tabitha survive long enough to bring her mother's killer to justice?

My thoughts..

1752 was the year England changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian and in doing so the country lost eleven days, going overnight from Wednesday 2nd September, to Thursday 14th September. It was a time of great change, especially for those who studied prophesies and portents in the ever popular almanacs.

Tabitha Hart has been earning a riotous living in London, taking her pleasure with which ever gentleman had enough coinage to pay for her body, and to keep her in gin, but in the summer of 1752, she is summoned home to the village of Netherlea only to make a chilling discovery. Her mother has been found dead in disturbing circumstances, and with only her wits to guide her, Tabitha sets out to discover the truth about her mother's death. Naturally superstitious, the villagers are at first wary of Tabitha, with her hoity-toity London ways, but at heart she's a country girl, and her natural exuberance, whilst tempered by her mother's death, eventually shines through in her association with the enigmatic, Nathaniel Starling.

In her investigation, Tabitha encounters a series of mysterious clues which are somehow connected to the cryptic contents of a series of notes her mother has left behind. The deadly mystery at the heart of the novel is really cleverly controlled, with all the cunning and characteristics of a suspenseful whodunit. The story is eerily reminiscent of a bygone time and beautifully associated with the way the country lived in 1752. Each chapter is headed by a cunningly worded riddle, a clever conundrum of words, along with an astronomical observation, which, not only adds a genuine sense of doom, but which also give an insight into the way old superstitions played such an important role in Georgian England.

Beautifully written with all the trademark characteristics of this author's talented writing, The Almanack takes us on a journey into rural England and back to a time of superstition and great social change.There is no doubt that The Almanack is this author doing what she does best, weaving together mystery, superstition and romance in a story which stays with you long after the last page is turned.

Martine Bailey is the author of two previous mysteries: An Appetite for Violets, selected by Booklist as one of the Top Ten crime fiction debuts in the US, and A Taste for Nightshade. She lives in Cheshire, England.

Twitter @MartineBailey #TheAlmanack


Friday 26 April 2019

Blog Tour and Giveaway ~ Lies Behind the Ruin by Helen Matthews

Delighted to be hosting today's stop on the Lies Behind the Ruin Blog Tour

Hashtag Press
25 April 2019

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book and to Rachel's Random Resources
for my invitation to be part of this tour

Emma Wiltshire has overcome plenty of obstacles in her life. From student bride to single mum of a son, Owen, but she has found happiness with her second husband, Paul and another child, Mollie. Emma's dark days seem far behind her until a fatal accident happens at Paul's work and he is held responsible. 

On holiday in France, Paul's behaviour turns erratic. On impulse, he buys a cheap, dilapidated property and, to Emma's dismay, persuades her they can renovate it into a holiday home. 

Back in England, their problems spiral out of control. Escape to a new life in France seems the only solution but with heart-breaking loss for Emma. As the couple strive to renovate their ruin and open a small business, shadows from the past threaten their happiness and safety. Because, how can you build a new life on toxic foundations?

My thoughts..

Emma Wiltshire and her husband, Paul seem to have a modern marriage, and whilst it's not perfect, generally they seem to be muddling along, both dealing with work and children. When Paul encounters pressures at work, the idea to move to rural France becomes a tantalising option. However, whilst buying a run down French farmhouse, seems to be the answer to their problems, it only serves, in a way, to reveal deep cracks in Emma and Paul's relationship, which threatens to pull them apart. The family's escape to the rural idyll of the French countryside is handled really well and I found that I could easily picture Sainte Violette with its rustic charm which is so reminiscent of the gentle atmosphere of isolated French villages, and with the inhabitant's natural reticence towards strangers.

Lies Behind the Ruin is a really fascinating look at the unpredictability of relationships and of what happens when one partner is keeping devastating secrets from the other. And yet, the story is not just about the relationship between Emma and Paul, there's also some issues around parenting and joint responsibilities, but I think what also worked well was watching just how Emma coped with whatever life threw at her.

The author has a lovely observational style which is both entertaining and easy to read and  yet, the dark mystery at the heart of the novel has an edginess which helps to keep a heightened level of tension throughout the story. I really enjoyed the way the story flipped seamlessly between characters which allowed us an intimate glimpse at what was going on, and as the deadly secrets are gradually revealed, so the toxicity of this marriage starts to be revealed.

Lies Behind the Ruin is a polished and highly commendable novel about the complexities of family life and of what happens when everything starts to disintegrate. This is the first book I have read by this author but, after finishing, Lies Behind the Ruin, I'm keen to read more.

Helen Matthews is the author of Lies Behind the Ruin, a contemporary suspense novel set in France, to be published in April 2019 by Hashtag Press. Her debut novel After Leaving the Village, published in 2017, won first prize for the opening pages of a novel at Winchester Writers’ Festival. Born in Cardiff, she read English at the University of Liverpool and holds an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes University. Helen’s short stories and flash fiction have won prizes and been published in Reflex Fiction, Ad Hoc, Artificium, Scribble and Love Sunday. Her freelance journalism has been published in the Guardian and broadcast on BBC radio. She is an ambassador for Unseen, a charity that campaigns to end human trafficking and modern slavery.

Twitter @HelenMK7


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Thursday 25 April 2019

Blog Tour ~ Sleep by C L Taylor

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be part of the Sleep Blog Tour

4 April 2019

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of the book
 and to Sabah for the invitation to be part of this blog tour

All Anna wants is to be able to sleep. But crushing insomnia, terrifying night terrors and memories of that terrible night are making it impossible. If only she didn’t feel so guilty…

To escape her past, Anna takes a job at a hotel on the remote Scottish island of Rum, but when seven guests join her, what started as a retreat from the world turns into a deadly nightmare. 

Each of the guests have a secret, but one of them is lying – about who they are and why they're on the island. There's a murderer staying in the Bay View hotel. And they've set their sights on Anna. 

Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One deadly lie...

Someone’s going to sleep and never wake up… 

The million-copy bestseller is back in her darkest, twistiest book to date. Read it if you dare!

My thoughts..

The Scottish island of Rum seems like the ideal place for Anna to escape to after a dreadful accident which has ruined her life, however, whilst the idyllic Bay View Hotel offers her a refuge, the arrival of a group of seven holidaymakers alters the status quo until the hotel becomes less of a retreat for Anna and more of a never ending nightmare.

What then follows is probably one of the most convoluted stories I have read in a long time. It's incredibly atmospheric, with an isolated hotel and things that go bump in the night, an horrendous storm and a group of damaged individuals, what could possibly go wrong ! 

There's no doubt that this author really knows how to draw in her audience, and as I was reading Sleep I was reminded of those classic Agatha Christie novels where there's been a murder in the library and no-one is going to get out alive! And such is the creeping tension and the heightened awareness of doom that I really couldn't put the book down until I had discovered just what was going on at the Bay View Hotel and believe me, there's an awful lot going on.

Sleep is a really cleverly put together thriller which once started you can't stop because at its heart is the story of seven fascinating people who have all been changed by life events, and it's only when something devastating happens at the start of the story, which acts as a catalyst, and then the whole thing takes off in an absolute roller coaster of a psychological thriller.

There is no doubt that this author has this genre absolutely cracked. There's never a word wasted, an emotion unexpressed or a terror unexplored in stories which grab your attention from the very first  page and which play with your emotions right to the very end.

Bring on the next one ๐Ÿ˜Š

C L Taylor is a Sunday Times bestselling author. Her psychological thrillers have sold over a million copies in the UK alone, been translated into over twenty languages, and optioned for television. C L Taylor lives in Bristol with her partner and son.

Twitter @callytaylor #daretosleep


Wednesday 24 April 2019

Blog Tour ~ No Way Out by Cara Hunter

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be part of the blog tour for No Way Out Blog Tour

No Way Out (DI Adam Fawley, #3)
18 April 2019
DI Adam Fawley #3

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of the book
and the invitation to be part of the blog tour
It's one of the most disturbing cases DI Fawley has ever worked. 

The Christmas holidays, and two children have just been pulled from the wreckage of their burning home in North Oxford. The toddler is dead, and his brother is soon fighting for his life.

Why were they left in the house alone? Where is their mother, and why is their father not answering his phone?

Then new evidence is discovered, and DI Fawley's worst nightmare comes true.

Because this fire wasn't an accident.

It was murder.

My thoughts..

A devastating fire rips through an Oxford house, leaving a trail of destruction, and both the fire and the police services have their work cut out trying to piece together the sparse clues which the fire has left behind. DI Adam Fawley and his investigative team start a complicated investigation to track down the parents of two small children who were pulled from the wreckage of the fire.

The story pulls you in from the dramatic start which it is particularly emotional as it shows this unknown family at their most vulnerable, I especially enjoyed the countdown to the event which explains what's been happening to the family in the months before the fire devastated the family home. The police procedural aspect of the story is as tight and tense as ever and, as we have come to expect in the series, the author really cranks the tension to high as the team race  against time to discover just what went so badly wrong for the family involved in the house fire.

No Way Out sees the welcome return of this team of intrepid crime investigators and it was good to meet up with them in the aftermath of the previous story in which some of the crew suffered more than others. As always, they work well together however this investigation is especially challenging as they have so little evidence to go on, and seem to be thwarted at every turn.

This is now the third DI Adam Fawley thriller and I've followed this series from the start. There's no doubt that each book is as strong as the one before and whilst it's possible to read each as a standalone, it does work best to read from the start, that way you get to know the CID team really well and come to understand all their faults and foibles.

The author has certainly made her mark on this genre as her crimes stories are now really popular, and rightly so, as she is such a talented writer whose stories captivate from the start. The ending of No way Out certainly ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, so I really can't wait to see what happens next for DI Fawley and his team.

Cara Hunter is a writer who lives in Oxford, in a street not unlike those featured in her series of crime books. Her first book, Close to Home, was picked for the Richard and Judy Book Club and this is her second featuring DI Adam Fawley and his team of detectives.

Twitter @CaraHunterBooks #NoWayOut


To discover more about Cara's books you can sign up to her newsletter by clicking here

Tuesday 23 April 2019

Blog Tour ~ Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be part of the blog tour for Call Me Star Girl

18 April 2019

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of the book and to Anne at Random Things Tours
for my invitation to be part of this tour

Tonight is the night for secrets…

Pregnant Victoria Valbon was brutally murdered in an alley three weeks ago – and her killer hasn’t been caught.

Tonight is Stella McKeever’s final radio show. The theme is secrets. You tell her yours, and she’ll share some of hers.

Stella might tell you about Tom, a boyfriend who likes to play games, about the mother who abandoned her, now back after twelve years. She might tell you about the perfume bottle with the star-shaped stopper, or about her father …

What Stella really wants to know is more about the mysterious man calling the station … who says he knows who killed Victoria, and has proof.

Tonight is the night for secrets, and Stella wants to know everything…

With echoes of the chilling Play Misty for Me, Call Me Star Girl is a taut, emotive and all-consuming psychological thriller that plays on our deepest fears, providing a stark reminder that stirring up dark secrets from the past can be deadly..

My thoughts..

Stella McKeever is the presenter of a late night local radio show and like all live radio it’s often the people who phone in who make the show special. Tonight, on Stella’s final radio show, she makes an appeal to her listeners to share their deepest, darkest secrets with her, because, as we discover, there’s no one better at keeping secrets than Stella.

Call Me Star Girl grabbed my attention from the very beginning and even though each of her books have, so far, been quite different, what shines through is the author’s unique, and very special talent for skilled storytelling. Beautifully observed, Call Me Star Girl is this author's first venture into the psychological crime genre, and boy, oh boy, has she got the genre absolutely sussed!

The story, which flits between the present and the past, is decidedly edgy, it’s also deliciously dark and ever so creepy that even though I read the book in bright sunlight, I still found that I jumped at sudden noises, and became so reluctant to put the story down for even a minute that I only left my comfy chair in the garden to get up for refreshments to stop myself dehydrating!

Call Me Star Girl is one of those special stories which hooks you in from the opening chapter and as the story progresses and we start to learn more about Stella's traumatic past, her tense relationship with her boyfriend, Tom and her tortured love for her mother, a picture is revealed of a life which has been made all the more complicated by so much unfinished business. And even when the story ends, the strength of the characters remain with you, as close as friends, and as deep as enemies.

What I enjoy most about this author’s exceptional writing is her ability to absolutely reach out to her target audience. Her stories always feel totally relevant, genuinely reflecting real life, with all its faults and failings, giving us memorable characters who are often at their most vulnerable. 

There is no doubt that Louise Beech is an extremely talented writer, a magical weaver of tales, whose genuine love for story telling shines through with every well written word. And regardless of whatever genre she chooses to work in, I truly can’t wait to see what she comes up with next...

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. The follow-up, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Both of her previous books Maria in the Moon and The Lion Tamer Who Lost were widely reviewed, critically acclaimed and number-one bestsellers on Kindle. The Lion Tamer Who Lost was shortlisted for the RNA Most Popular Romantic Novel Award in 2019. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice. Louise lives with her husband on the outskirts of Hull, and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.

Twitter @LouiseWriter @CallMeStarGirl



Monday 22 April 2019

Blog Tour ~ Perfect Crime by Helen Fields

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on the Perfect Crime Blog Tour

Perfect Crime (A DI Callanach Thriller #5)
18 April 2019

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book and to Sabah for the invitation to be part of the blog tour

Your darkest moment is your most vulnerable…

Stephen Berry is about to jump off a bridge until a suicide prevention counsellor stops him. A week later, Stephen is dead. Found at the bottom of a cliff, DI Luc Callanach and DCI Ava Turner are drafted in to investigate whether he jumped or whether he was pushed…

As they dig deeper, more would-be suicides roll in: a woman found dead in a bath; a man violently electrocuted. But these are carefully curated deaths – nothing like the impulsive suicide attempts they’ve been made out to be.

Little do Callanach and Turner know how close their perpetrator is as, across Edinburgh, a violent and psychopathic killer gains more confidence with every life he takes…

My thoughts..

People attempting suicide makes for uncomfortable reading but in the hands of this talented writer what soon emerges in Perfect Crime is a tight action packed story which involves the Major Investigative Team in a complicated enquiry in which all their skills of deduction are stretched to the absolute limit. DCI Ava Turner and DI Luc Callanach are both senior detectives with the MIT and as such need to keep a tight control on the general operational ability of the team. Those who have read the previous four books in the Perfect series will know that Turner and Callanach have a certain amount of history together, and it was fascinating to see this relationship hitch up a notch with some interesting consequences.

The dark crimes at the heart of the story are both complex and twisted, and the chapters which get into the mind of the perpetrator are really quite disturbing but add a real insight in the mind of a calculated killer. However, it is in the nitty gritty of the crime investigation where the story really starts to take off with Turner, and more particularly Callanach, becoming an integral part of the investigation as the story takes a very dark turn indeed.

I raced through Perfect Crime in less than a day as I really couldn't put the book down until I had discovered just what was happening, hoping against hope that it would all be resolved in the end. The conclusion, when it comes, is everything you want it to be and, of course, there is the opportunity for this series to return in the future with yet more dark and complex investigations for the Major Investigative Team.

The DI Callanach series is set in Scotland, where Helen feels most at one with world. 
Helen and her husband now live in Los Angeles with her husband and three children.

Twitter @Helen_Fields #PerfectCrime


Sunday 21 April 2019

Author Interview ~ Harriet Steel

I'm delighted to welcome back to the blog the author of the Inspector de Silva novels

Harriet Steel

Hi Harriet, welcome back to Jaffareadstoo, it's lovely to have you back to talk about your latest novel, Passage from Nuala. 

Passage from Nuala is now the sixth book in your crime series set in 1930’s Ceylon. When you wrote the first book, Trouble in Nuala, in 2016, did you expect to go on to write a long running series?

The number 7 has a bit of a history as a magic number in literature, for example the seven Chronicles of Narnia or the seven Harry Potter books, and I used to joke that I was aiming for seven books in my series. In truth, I must admit that I was far from convinced that I’d come anywhere near that, but I’ve grown very fond of my characters and many readers say they feel the same, so that has spurred me on. The other day, a reviewer on Amazon challenged me to match Alexander McCall Smith whose No 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series is about to reach its twentieth instalment. I’m still mulling that one over! 

What can you tell us about this latest book that won’t give too much of the plot away?

Shanti wants to treat Jane to a holiday, and they set off on a cruise to Egypt to visit Cairo and the pyramids. They plan to enjoy a relaxing change from home, but trouble isn’t long coming. When a journalist is found dead, killed by newspaper thrust down his throat, it’s back to work for Shanti and Jane. In the enclosed world of the cruise ship, there are plenty of potential suspects ranging from an arrogant wealthy woman; a mismatched couple, who are recently engaged; a flamboyant singer, and a romantic novelist. All of them have secrets to hide. Can Shanti and Jane uncover the truth and salvage their holiday into the bargain? Like the other books in the series, Passage from Nuala is designed to provide an absorbing but relaxing read in a colourful setting. It can be read as a standalone novel or as part of the series. 

Evenings in Cabin Class
A surviving interior from the cruise ship Normandie

Inspector Shanti de Silva is the main protagonist of your novels, what can you tell us about him, and have you noticed any changes in his character since the start of the series?

He’s pragmatic but principled with a dry sense of humour. Happily married, he likes books and gardens as I do. There are so many murder mysteries around that feature detectives with messy private lives. I wanted Shanti to be quite a conventional man who must deal with abnormal situations as part of his job. However, his private life isn’t entirely conventional – his wife Jane is an Englishwoman, and they’ve had to negotiate the problems that a mixed marriage would have raised in a colonial society.

I think the main changes that have occurred over the series come from Shanti’s developing relationships within the British community, particularly his boss, Archie Clutterbuck, and in my latest book, Archie’s own boss, William Petrie. Shanti has had to tread carefully when handling his colonial masters, but he’s managed to establish an increasing rapport with them. This may have been made easier by the fact that Nuala’s society is small compared with what he had to contend with in Colombo.

The series has, so far, focused on quite a wide variety of crimes, what do you think makes a good fictional villain and detective?

That’s a very interesting question. As a writer of cosy crime that veers towards the traditional, or Golden Age style, end of the spectrum, I need to be attuned to what my readers find acceptable, so serial killers and psychopaths are out. A good villain can, and perhaps should, have likeable qualities, so that hopefully, when the twist comes, and he or she is revealed, the reader won’t have guessed who they are ages ago. They need to be clever and resourceful enough to inspire respect, both from the reader and the detective, and they need to have strong motivation for their crime. It’s not enough for them to do evil simply because they are evil.

As far as a good detective goes, again, a dysfunctional character wouldn’t fit with the ethos of my kind of murder mystery, unless they were dysfunctional in a kooky, humorous way. I think the qualities needed are not dissimilar to those required for a good villain, without the murderous intent of course. 

Where do you get your inspiration for the stories, and, as one book ends, do you already have the idea in place for a new story?

My travels in Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, provided the initial inspiration for the series. It’s a fascinating and beautiful country. Even though the tone of the series is essentially light, its colonial past and the tensions that must have created adds, I hope, an extra layer of interest.

Tea Plantation Workers
Sri Lanka

I usually have a future book in mind by the time I finish the current one. Sometimes, as with Passage from Nuala, an event or a book gives me an idea. With Offstage in Nuala, for example, it was Shakespeare Wallah, Felicity Kendall’s memoire of touring India with her theatrical family. The recent exhibition at the V & A Museum about the great days of cruise liners provided a lot of colour and ideas for Passage from Nuala. 

And finally, what do you hope readers will take away from your Inspector de Silva mysteries?

A smile! ๐Ÿ˜Š

You can find out more about the author on her blog

Follow on Twitter @harrietsteel1

Huge thanks to Harriet for being my guest on the blog today and for bringing Inspector de Silva's world to life so perfectly.

Saturday 20 April 2019

Blog Tour and Giveaway ~ The Stars In The Night by Clare Rhoden

On His Fic Saturday

I am delighted  to be hosting today's stop on  The Stars In The Night Blog Tour

Odyssey Books
January 2019

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book
and to Rachel's Random Resources for the invitation to be part of this tour

Harry Fletcher is a confident young man, sure that he will marry Nora, no matter what their families say. He will always protect Eddie, the boy his father saved from the gutters of Port Adelaide. 

Only the War to End All Wars might get in the way of Harry’s plans… 

From the beaches of Semaphore to the shores of Gallipoli, the mud of Flanders to the red dust of inland South Australia, this is a story of love, brotherhood, and resilience.

My thoughts..

We owe such a huge debt of gratitude to those service men and women from around the British empire who came to our aid in WW1. Harry Fletcher and his adopted foster brother Eddie are just two ordinary young men from Semaphore, a quiet town in Australia, who left their shores in a flurry of patriotic duty, only to find themselves amidst the horror of a theatre of war which showed them no mercy. From Gallipoli, to Flanders, Harry and Eddie prove to be an invincible team but, as they find out to their cost, war has a tenacity to throw in a few unexpected surprises.

The Stars in the Night created a realistic portrait of  war and the story gave a sense of just what it was like to be away from home, waiting for news from family, and hoping that your sweetheart would still be there for you when it was all over. By using both narrative and epistolary/diary entries a story emerges of two incredibly brave young men, who, with characteristic stoicism, and a lively outlook, took on board everything the war threw at them.

The author has obviously done a great deal of historical research and paints a realistic portrait of wartime without ever resorting to too much graphic detail and yet, both the horror and the emotional impact of grief and loss certainly comes across. There were times within the story when I felt that emotion and, without giving anything of the plot away, I had to wipe away a tear or two on more than one occasion.

The Stars In The Night is beautifully written with a strong sense of wartime camaraderie and brotherhood, not just between Harry and Eddie who are quite special characters, but also between those soldiers who, regardless of rank, were all in it together. I think this passage from the book sums up so succinctly the effect of the war... "Quite a few fellows never made the next roll call. We couldn't always work out where they had ended up. But it was, like, just something that happened. Nothing special. We just got on with it."

From its evocative cover, to the very last sentence, The Stars In The Night is one of those stories which stays with you long after the last page is turned.

About the Author

Clare Rhoden writes historical fiction, sci-fi and fantasy (check her titles at Odyssey Books http://odysseybooks.com.au/). Clare lives in Melbourne Australia with her husband Bill, their super-intelligent poodle-cross Aeryn, a huge and charming parliament of visiting magpies, and a very demanding/addictive garden space. 

Clare completed her PhD in Australian WWI literature at the University of Melbourne in 2011, and a Masters of Creative Writing in 2008, in which she investigated the history of her grandparents who emigrated for Europe to Port Adelaide in January 1914. The Stars in the Night is the result of her research.

Twitter @ClareER #TheStarsInTheNight

Instagram @clarerhodenauthor



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