Book review: Murder Served Cold by Paula Williams

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The story

Nothing much happens in the sleepy Somerset village of Much Winchmoor (or “Not Much Winchmoor” as Katie “Kat” Latcham calls it. ) Forced to return to the village in which she grew up and live with her parents after breaking up with her boyfriend Kat wonders how she’ll be able to pass the time – but not for long.

Soon a lot is happening but not in a good way. When village busybody Marjorie Hampton is found dead in a freezer John Manning is the obvious suspect but Kat is sure he’s innocent. She teams up with his son Will to prove it – but before long another murder is discovered. Will Katie be able to solve the crime before curiosity kills the Kat?

My review

This is a thoroughly enjoyable cozy crime story, peopled with larger than life characters and a warm, funny, likeable amateur sleuth. There’s a bit of romance, plenty of humour, some misdirection and twists and turns along the way.

I’d recommend it to fans of cozy crime such as Midsomer Murders and Alice Castle’s books. It’s an easy read, guaranteed to brighten a cold, wet day. I’ll be looking out for Kat’s next adventure.

Murder Served Cold is published by Crooked Cat Books and is available in ebook and paperback here

 

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Book review: My Sister is Missing by Julia Barrett

Today is publication day for My Sister is Missing.

My Sister is Missing

The blurb

A few weeks after giving birth, new mum Stephanie Henderson goes missing with her baby. With husband Adam in despair and the police investigation at a standstill, it’s up to Steph’s sister Jess to find them. 

But when Adam starts to behave suspiciously, Jess starts to question what really happened. She tries to find a rational explanation for Steph’s disappearance but becomes gradually aware that since the birth her sister hadn’t been coping nearly as well as Jess had imagined.  When CCTV appears to show a woman with a baby jumping in front of a train Jess fears the worst – but was it Steph, and what does Adam have to hide?

 

My review

I loved the premise for this and although the story didn’t quite go in the direction I expected it to, it held my attention throughout.

It got off to a cracking start. I was immediately drawn in, intrigued by Steph’s disappearance and Adam’s secretive behaviour, so I kept turning the pages to find out what had really happened.

The story’s told in different viewpoints including Steph through her diary and although I think this sometimes took away the potential for surprise, it was interesting to see what was going on in different characters’ heads.

I’d describe the story as more of a drama than a thriller but as the backstory unfolds there are some interesting revelations and the author does a good job at highlighting the issue of post natal psychosis.

My Sister is Missing is published by Red Door on 14th March. It’s available in paperback and ebook formats.

Thanks to Netgalley and RedDoor for a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Book review: the perfect betrayal by Lauren North

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Today is publication day for the digital version of the perfect betrayal. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of domestic noir so I was thrilled to be sent a review copy.

Consumed by grief after the death of her husband Mark in a plane crash, Tess is struggling to keep life normal for her young son Jamie. Having moved into Mark’s old family home shortly before his death, she’s cut off from her old support network and to add to her problems Mark’s brother Ian is insisting that he’s owed a large sum of money from the estate. When grief counsellor Shelley offers to help Tess thinks she’s found a friend but as events unfold she’s forced to ask herself how well did she really know her husband, is she being followed, and is Jamie safe?

I loved everything about this book. It’s a masterfully-woven tale which piles on the tension.

The story’s told in different viewpoints with some transcripts of interviews conducted while Tess is in hospital, which I found very effective. Although I wasn’t completely convinced by the final twist from a logistical point of view, I found this such a compelling read and will look out for more books by this author.

I’d highly recommend it to fans of Claire Douglas, Lucie Whitehouse and Louise Jensen.

My thanks to Transworld Digital, Penguin Random House and Netgalley for a copy of this book which has not influenced my opinion.

The Perfect Betrayal is available in ebook and paperback here

Cover reveal for The Suspects

I’m very excited to show you the cover for my new novel The Suspects, which will be published by Crooked Cat Books on May 10th.

I’d love to know what you think of it!

 

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If you’re on Facebook you might have seen this video I did earlier today. If not you can watch it here.

It was the first time I’ve attempted a live video and I’m a terrible technophobe so it was all a bit nerve-wracking but anyway, here I am talking about the book and the cover!

I love the black and white design and the innocent-but-guilty expression which sums up my characters. They aren’t bad people, they just made a bad choice – and it’s landed them in a lot of trouble!

More to come on The Suspects soon.

Or sign up to my newsletter to be first to get news about my books and exclusive offers!

International Women’s Day

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What do the first female war correspondent, a prolific novelist, the socialite founder of a Red Cross hospital, a tireless campaigner for women’s suffrage and one of Jack the Ripper’s victims have in common? They’re all included in my book Struggle and Suffrage in Windsor. 

As it’s International Women’s Day I wanted to tell you a bit about it.

The book is about ordinary women’s lives in the town between 1850 and 1950, leading up to and beyond the granting of votes for women and the effects of the two world wars, but many of the difficulties faced by the women of Windsor were common to women everywhere.

People who opposed women’s suffrage often argued that women should stay out of politics because a woman’s place was in the home. And yet it was in the home that many of the worst social injustices lay, and without the vote women had no chance of helping to bring about change.

For most of the nineteenth century, when a woman married she ceased to exist as an individual in the eyes of the law. Her earnings and property became her husband’s, including property she inherited.

If the marriage broke down she had no right even to the property that had been hers before marriage.

If a husband left his wife, however, he could come back years later and claim her earnings.

Her children weren’t her own. If the marriage broke down she had no right to custody, which forced many women to stay in unhappy or violent marriages.

But an unmarried mother wasn’t entitled to any help from the child’s father. Bastardy clauses in the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 made the unmarried mother rather than the father legally responsible for the child.

With limited educational opportunities and without a welfare state many women were pushed into poverty through death, divorce or desertion. It’s not surprising that some of these chose prostitution as a means to support themselves, especially in Windsor where there were two garrisons and the main industry was breweries.

The Contagious Diseases Act of 1864 which was brought in for garrison towns like Windsor shows the double standards of the age, putting the blame firmly at the women’s door and treating them as sex objects. Although intended to protect the population and especially the soldiers from the spread of sexually transmitted disease, it allowed prostitutes to be arrested, forcibly examined, locked up and treated. Campaigner Josephine Butler described the experience as “surgical rape.”

Although the Married Women’s Property Acts of 1870 and 1882 went some way to improve women’s rights, allowing a wife to keep her earnings and property after marriage, there were many other areas in which women were unfairly treated, including men often receiving harsher sentences for killing another man than killing a woman.

Issues like these drove women in Windsor to campaign for the vote and a fairer society.

Most of the people mentioned in the book have not become famous – drunken housewives shouting and throwing dung at each other in the street, prostitutes attacking policemen, a maid at the castle arrested for stealing her mistress’s jewels, a young woman trying to find a solution to an unwanted pregnancy – but have each in their own way contributed to Windsor’s story.

Struggle and Suffrage in Windsor will be printed soon by Pen and Sword.

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Mothers and Daughters

As it’s International Women’s Day, today’s guest post from author Joan Livingston is about mothers and daughters in her mystery series.

Joan’s new novel Checking the Traps will be published on March 22nd – I can’t wait to read it.

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Mothers and daughters. Isabel Long, protagonist of my mystery series, is both, and the relationships she has with the two women closest to her are important.

Let me back it up a bit. After a long career in journalism, Isabel has turned her attention to solving cold cases in the hilltowns where she lives. Yes, she is an amateur using those transferable skills from her previous job. And she does it all with a bit of sass and savvy.

Isabel also has a sidekick — her now 93-year-old mother, Maria. Both women are widows. Maria was a bit lonely. Isabel had the room. And as it turns out, the mystery-loving Maria is not only helpful on her cases, she is a big supporter of her daughter’s choice to be an amateur sleuth.

Alas, that’s not true of Isabel’s grown daughter, Ruth. She clearly loves her mother, but she disapproves of Isabel being a P.I. largely because of the danger. Yes, things did not go smoothly in the first two books, Chasing the Case and Redneck’s Revenge. In the third, Checking the Traps, Isabel is a bit banged up with a broken collarbone and her arm is in a sling.

Isabel does her best to reassure Ruth that she will keep herself out of harm’s way in her third case — investigating whether a man jumped from a bridge known for suicides or he was pushed. It doesn’t help that Gary Beaumont, the man hiring her, is a local drug dealer. The victim was his brother.

I should also mention Isabel is a grandmother. Sophie, Ruth’s daughter, is just a baby. Isabel watches her once a week. She’s even taken her along while she’s doing surveillance, but that might change once Sophie is able to talk and rat her out to Ruth.

Excerpt

Here’s a scene from Checking the Traps. Ruth is over to help bake the cake for Maria’s birthday celebration. Ruth has already quizzed Isabel about her relationship with a man. Now she brings up two guests invited to the party, Marsha and Annette, who are rather rough women Isabel secretly nicknamed the Floozy and Tough Cookie.

Ruth rolls her eyes. The beater begins spinning again.

“And what’s with you inviting those two women to the party?”

“You must be talking about Marsha and Annette.”

“Yes, those two.”

“Your grandmother and I happen to like them a lot. Right, Ma?”

Ma hums.

“The Floozy and Tough Cookie are real sweethearts.”

I wink at my mother.

“I dunno if I’d call them sweethearts. But we got to know them well during my last case. And please don’t call them those names to their faces. They’re nicknames your grandmother and I gave each of them, like I call those guys in the backroom of the Conwell General Store the Old Farts.”

“Mom!”

I glance at Sophie, who’s listed to the right in the high chair. I go over to fix her.

“Sorry, kid,” I tell her. “Don’t listen to Grandma.”

Ruth starts mentioning the names of people we know in town, all newcomers and most of them parents of my kids’ friends. All are respectable people, as far as I can tell.

“What about them?”

“Your grandmother hasn’t met any of them. Besides, Marsha and Annette can hold their liquor unlike certain people we know.”

Ruth chops the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

“You’re talking about my mother-in-law, right?”

“It does get interesting at family parties when Anne gets a few drinks in her. You’ve heard her. She’s interrogated me about my cases. I’m sure she’ll do it again when she and Phil come tomorrow.”

Ruth gives the batter a quick spin, and then she’s reaching for the cake pans. I probably shouldn’t have brought up her mother-in-law. I like Anne and Phil. We invite them to all the Long family gatherings. But the woman does tend to get a little tipsy at them. Secretly, I look forward to seeing how she does with the Floozy and Tough Cookie tomorrow. That should be fun. Yes, I can be a bit evil at times.

I can’t help smiling when Ruth clears her throat. I’m certain about what’s coming next. Well, I asked for it.

“Are you still going to take cases?” she asks.

Bingo!

“Yes, I am. It keeps your grandmother and me off the streets,” I say although I detect my humor doesn’t please her. “I’ll just try to be more careful next time.”

Ruth slides the cake pans into the oven then sets the stove’s timer.

“That’s what you say now. But you’ll get carried away like you always do.”

I laugh.

“Me?”

“Yeah, you.” She wipes her hands on her apron. “Don’t tell me you have another case already.”

I keep Gary Beaumont’s call last night to myself.

“No, not yet. Why? Do you have one for me to solve?”

There goes that eye rolling again.

“No.”

“Don’t worry. Something good will turn up. Right, Ma?”

“I can’t wait,” my mother says. “I hope it’s another murder.”

I laugh.

Ruth huffs.

“You two are impossible.”

I raise my one good arm.

“I won’t deny it.”

 

Synopsis

Isabel Long is a bit banged up from her last case with a broken collarbone and her arm in a sling. But that doesn’t stop her from pouring beer at the Rooster Bar or taking her third case with Gary Beaumont, a local drug dealer who once terrorized her. Gary is convinced his brother didn’t jump off a bridge known for suicides. Somebody pushed him.

Gary’s brother was a boozer who drove for a highway crew. But what interests Isabel and her ‘Watson’ — her 93-year-old mother who lives with her — is that the man wrote poetry.

The chief suspects are one of Gary’s business associatesand a famous poet who plagiarized his brother’s poetry for an award-winning book. Yes, he was that good.

As a journalist, Isabel did regular meetups with her sources for stories. She called it checking the traps. She does the same as a private investigator, and this time, she’ll make sure she doesn’t get caught in one.

 

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About Joan Livingston

Joan Livingston is the author of novels for adult and young readers. Checking the Traps, published by Crooked Cat Books, is the third in the mystery series featuring Isabel Long, a longtime journalist who becomes an amateur P.I. The first two are Chasing the Case and Redneck’s Revenge.

An award-winning journalist, she started as a reporter covering the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. She was an editor, columnist, and the managing editor of The Taos News, which won numerous state and national awards during her tenure. Recently, she was named editor of the Greenfield Recorder.

After living eleven years in New Mexico, she has returned to rural Western Massachusetts, which is the setting of much of her adult fiction, including the Isabel Long Mystery Series.

You can buy the books here:

Chasing the Case: http://mybook.to/chasingthecase

Redneck’s Revenge: http://mybook/rednecksrevenge

Checking the Traps: http://mybook/checkingthetraps

 

Find out more and connect with Joan here:

Website: www.joanlivingston.net

Facebook: www.facebook.com/JoanLivingstonAuthor/

Twitter: @JoanLivingston

Instagram: www.Instagram.com/JoanLivingston_Author

Goodreads: www.Goodreads.com/Joan_Livingston

Excerpt from The Departed By JV Baptie

I’m so pleased to be able to share an extract with you today from JV Baptie’s brilliant new crime story, The Departed. I think you’ll agree the cover is stunning but does the story live up to it? Read on to find out!

 

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Here’s the prologue and first chapter:

 

Prologue

I know what you’ve been up to.’ Agnes took a step forward. Fists clenched.

‘No, you don’t. You’re ill,’ Reggie McKenzie replied and went back to watching the television. Football was just about to start.

The sash window was open and despite the Forth wind whipping the curtains back and forth the lounge was boiling.

‘I saw you, and I’m going to tell Moira,’ she carried on. ‘Then she’ll leave you.’

‘You wouldnae dare tell her.’ He stood up.

Agnes kept staring back at him unflinchingly.

‘It was only the one time.’

‘No, it wasn’t. I’ve been following you.’ She crossed her arms. ‘Every time.’

‘Tell Moira, then. I don’t care.’ Reggie swallowed and took out a pack of fags from his back pocket.

She didn’t look convinced.

‘Fine, I won’t see her again. You don’t need to tell Moira then, do you?’

‘And you carry on living off her money?’

Low blow. He put the fag to his lips, grabbed Agnes by her scrawny arm and gave her one big shove towards the window.

She stumbled and fell through it, headfirst.

 

Chapter One

 Edinburgh, November 1977

Tina French needed to get home. She buttoned up her woollen coat and picked up the pace, ice crunching underfoot. The sense of unease trickled down her spine, causing her steps to hasten.

The pub she worked in was on the outskirts of the housing estate. Normally, she’d cut around the scheme to get home, but not with the thick blanket of fog that crept in. Maybe it was the chill that seeped through her jacket and made smoke out of her breath – or the man who had been in earlier. Adrenaline ran through her veins, and she shivered, thinking about him sitting at a table near the bar, staring at her with that look on his face. A look she had seen all too often from her husband before he died. Resentment. Disgust.

She had asked around, but no one remembered the man. He was a bit younger than most of the men in the pub, with a bushy moustache and thick glasses you got on the NHS when you couldn’t afford any. A couple of times she nearly went up to him, to ask him what the problem was but then he drained his glass and walked out fifteen minutes before her shift ended.

She looked around again; most of the houses were in darkness, with their curtains drawn. Most people would be in bed. She would’ve been if she didn’t need to work. Candles flickered on the window ledge of one house. Her heart palpitated, and her stomach twitched as she slipped another glance behind her. The street was deserted, as it normally was at this time of night. Just rows of pebble-dashed council houses on both sides. Her palms were clammy, and her handbag slipped in her grasp. The kids would be waiting up for her. They would’ve expected her in by now. A twig snapped near her, and it sounded like someone clicking their fingers.

Footsteps echoed behind her and she risked a glimpse over her shoulder – a man, head down, hands in his pockets. Tina crossed the road and started to run, her skirt pulling her knees together. She stumbled a couple of times. When she looked back round again, she couldn’t see his face and his hair was hidden under a hood.

Turning the corner, she lurched and crashed into the chest of another man who reached out and caught her arm, stopping her from tripping over.

‘I’m sorry.’ She spluttered and wiggled her arm free, her cheeks burning red.

‘Are you alright?’ He looked at her with big brown eyes and smiled. ‘It’s dangerous out here at this time of night. Let me walk you home.’

‘It’s okay.’ Tina held her bag to her chest and started to walk as fast as she could. ‘It’s not far.’ She slipped a glance at his left hand.

He must’ve noticed because he wiggled his fingers and said, ‘My wife died of cancer, but I don’t think she’d be happy if I left you to walk these streets alone. Don’t you read the papers?’

Tina didn’t answer. She read them. A couple of prostitutes had been murdered and dumped on waste land, but that was miles away and she wasn’t a prostitute. The police didn’t seem to be solving that case.

‘You’ll be doing me a favour, anyway. My children are at a party overnight, and I don’t know what to do with myself. It’s their first time…’ He walked along beside her.

‘How many do you have?’ she asked.

‘Just the two.’ He casually slipped out a pair of black gloves from his pocket. ‘I’m freezing.’

She could feel his eyes on her. ‘What’s your name, by the way?’

‘Tina. Yours?’

‘Colin,’ he replied with a nod. Sweat glistened on his pink forehead. ‘That’s a lovely necklace.’

‘Thanks.’ She instinctively touched it.

The quickest way out of the estate was a path lined with trees. Presumably, it had been a railway line at some point. Beyond this path, the bus stop was across the road. She slipped another glance over her shoulder; no one behind them. She listened to his breath quicken. They got half-way along the path when he spoke again.

‘I saw you in the pub earlier. You weren’t in last week, though. I was getting worried.’ He gave her a wet-lipped smile.

Her heart thumped in her chest. ‘I had the flu. Why were you worried?’

‘I didn’t want you to leave after all my planning.’

‘What planning?’

He grabbed her before she could scream. Then, he pulled her around, ripped the necklace from her throat and shoved her down onto the concrete. Pain shot up her legs and spine.

Recognition dawned as he stared at her, enjoying himself. It was the man from the pub, just without those glasses and moustache. Why was he doing this to her? What has she done to deserve this? A sob burst from her throat.

A moment later, the knife silenced her.

 

The story

When a body is found in the boot of a car following an accident, DI John Morrison is called to find the killer. The murder bears the hallmarks of  a similar crime decades earlier so has the crime been committed by the same person or a copycat?

John’s his ex-girlfriend Trish has been trying to forget the past – until she finds new evidence about her Aunt Moira’s disappearance nearly two decades earlier.

Did DI Helen Carter miss something in the original investigation in 1978? And if she did can she live with the consequences?

My review

This is a very accomplished thriller which met my high expectations after reading The Forgotten last year and seeing this cover. The Departed has a strong plot and compelling characters. I’d highly recommend it to fans of police crime thrillers and tartan noir.

Where to buy

The Departed is available as a paperback £5.99 or ebook £1.99 here