BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS and a bit of Life and living with stg 4 Melanoma
I am not a professional book reviewer, just an avid reader. I have a lot of ‘down’ time, due to my various treatments for Metatastic Malignant Melanoma (Stage 4). So I read.
Books are my escape and relaxation and my reviews are my honest opinion. If it’s tripe, I’ll say so and alternately if it’s excellent I may gush a bit. Many books are a good read, but are a bit forgettable, others, however, touch your soul a little and stay with you bringing a little magic to life.
I am 56 and I have stage 4 Malignant Melanoma and have been having various treatments and surgery over the past four years to help prolong my stay on this planet. Currently on Pembrolizumab..every three weeks....Good days and bad days and at times a lot of Scanxiety....
An imposing, isolated hotel, high up in the Swiss Alps, is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But she’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when she receives an invitation out of the blue to celebrate her estranged brother’s recent engagement, she has no choice but to accept.
Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge. Though it’s beautiful, something about the hotel, recently converted from an abandoned sanatorium, makes her nervous – as does her brother, Isaac.
And when they wake the following morning to discover his fiancée Laure has vanished without a trace, Elin’s unease grows. With the storm cutting off access to and from the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.
But no-one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they’re all in…
Set in the Swiss Alps, Elin and her boyfriend Will are staying in the newly opened and luxury hotel, Le Sommet. Isolated, this hotel has been converted from an old sanatorium. It has an eerie feel to it which sets Elin on edge.
Elin’s brother Issac works there and has just got engaged to Laure. Then one night Laure goes missing. Issac is frantic but Elin believes he knows more than he is saying due to events in their past.
Then a body is found.
Now in the midst of a snowstorm and an avalanche has blocked the road, the police are unable to reach them and so Elin, a police officer in the UK begins an investigation. All the while dealing with PTSD and problems of her own,
This really is a chilling, psychological thriller with a sense of tension and foreboding from the very start. The descriptions of the hotel alone give it a real sense of an almost claustrophobic menace and the cold seems to seep off the very pages.
The characters are well rounded and engaging, with its twisty, clever plot this really is unputdownable. Any fan of psychological thrillers is going to love this, a definite must read. Just brilliant and I loved every minute.
Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an ARC of The Sanatorium.
Sarah Pearse lives by the sea in South Devon with her husband and two daughters. She studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Warwick and worked in Brand PR for a variety of household brands. After moving to Switzerland in her twenties, she spent every spare moment exploring the mountains and still has a home in the Swiss Alpine town of Crans Montana, the dramatic setting that inspired her novel. Sarah has always been drawn to the dark and creepy – remote spaces and abandoned places – so when she read an article in a local Swiss magazine about the history of sanatoriums in the area, she knew she’d found the spark of the idea for her debut novel, The Sanatorium. Her short fiction has been published in a wide variety of magazines and has been shortlisted for several prizes.
Spring, 1840. In the Dorset market town of Wimborne Minster, a young choirboy drowns himself. Soon after, the choirmaster—a belligerent man with a vicious reputation—is found murdered, in a discovery tainted as much by relief as it is by suspicion. The gaze of the magistrates falls on four local men, whose decisions will reverberate through the community for years to come.
So begins the chronicle of Crow Court, unravelling over fourteen delicately interwoven episodes, the town of Wimborne their backdrop: a young gentleman and his groom run off to join the army; a sleepwalking cordwainer wakes on his wife’s grave; desperate farmhands emigrate. We meet the composer with writer’s block; the smuggler; a troupe of actors down from London; and old Art Pugh, whose impoverished life has made him hard to amuse.
Meanwhile, justice waits…
Crow Court is set in 1840’s Wimborne, Dorset. A choirboy has taken his own life by jumping into the local river.
Then the abusive choirmaster is murdered. This small community feels justice has been done, but the effects ripple through for a long time.
The four men who found the man’s body have suspicion fall on them, some believe they were responsible.
So, the story begins.
This is told in fourteen chapters, each one a separate tale involving different members of the community. It builds such a sense of time and place….you feel you know the area and the people of Wimborne.
You get to know these people, their lives, loves and struggles as the effects of these deaths trickle through everyone.
This is a beautifully written, almost poetic piece of historical fiction with a love of Dorset clearly coming through. A stunning and compelling read.
Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an ARC of Crow Court.
Andy Charman was born in Dorset and grew up near Wimborne Minster, where Crow Court is set. His short stories have appeared in various anthologies and magazines, including Pangea and Cadenza. Crow Court is his first novel, which he worked on at the Arvon course at The Hurst in Shropshire in 2018. Andy lives in Surrey and is available for interview, comment and events.
Danger’ is a riveting, fast-paced thriller that ranges from the leafy countryside of Kent to the windswept shores of the Black Sea and to the dramatic coastline of Cornwall. At its heart, ‘Danger’ is a compelling story depicting the hopelessness, desolation and suffering of those caught up in people-trafficking across Europe. A guest goes missing from a five-star country hotel, sparking an investigation which leads DI Sarah Hunter and DS Ted Selitto of Kent Police to the discovery that young girls are being trafficked from Eastern Europe to the UK for exploitation in the sex industry. As the body count rises, Hunter and Selitto find themselves caught up in a ferocious war between gangs of and ruthless traffickers, each vying for supremacy in this sordid world. But will Hunter and Selitto be able to identify the mastermind who controls the UK operation before he can be silenced forever?
When a hotel guest goes missing, Di Sarah Hunter and DS Ted Selitto begin the investigation. From a simple missing person this turns into a delve into people trafficking where young girls and women are moved from Europe to the UK to be put to ‘work’ in the sex industry.
Can Hunter and Selitto find the person who controls this despicable trade before someone else does?
Danger is a dark, gritty thriller which takes a look into this seedy, dangerous world. It’s not always an easy read, but there’s no sensationalism, just a thoughtful look at the effect this ‘industry’ has on the girls and women, their suffering and sheer despair at the hands of these trafficking gangs.
A fast paced, gripping and thought provoking thriller. I hope to read more of Hunter and Selitto in the future.
Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an eARC of Danger.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robin Nye has had a life-long interest in writing. ‘Danger’ is his first full-length novel. Leading a busy life in the commercial and voluntary sectors, he has plotted numerous stories over the years when travelling the world but has never had the time to write in earnest until now. He’s already well advanced with his follow-up Hunter and Selitto novel.
A struggling silhouette artist in Victorian Bath seeks out a renowned child spirit medium in order to speak to the dead – and to try and identify their killers – in this beguiling new tale from Laura Purcell.
Silhouette artist Agnes is struggling to keep her business afloat. Still recovering from a serious illness herself, making enough money to support her elderly mother and her orphaned nephew Cedric has never been easy, but then one of her clients is murdered shortly after sitting for Agnes, and then another, and another…
Desperately seeking an answer, Agnes approaches Pearl, a child spirit medium lodging in Bath with her older half-sister and her ailing father, hoping that if Pearl can make contact with those who died, they might reveal who killed them. But Agnes and Pearl quickly discover that instead they may have opened the door to something that they can never put back…
What secrets lie hidden in the darkness?
Set in Bath in the 19th century and Agnes lives with her aged mother and nephew. She just about manages to support her family by being a silhouette artist.
But then her customers begin dying soon after she visits them, she believes someone is trying to ruin her and her business by murdering them. But who and why?
So, Agnes visits a medium to try and contact the victims and find out who the killer is…..things then get dark and creepy.
This is a marvellously dark gothic Murder mystery set against a poverty stricken Bath, it has enough chilling atmosphere to give you goosebumps. A clever plot and wonderful characters bring this to creepy life. Gripping, moody and I loved every spooky minute.
Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour and an eARC of The Shape Of Darkness.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Purcell is a former bookseller and lives in Colchester with her husband and pet guinea pigs. Her first novel for Raven Books, The Silent Companions, was a Radio 2 and Zoe Ball ITV Book Club pick and was the winner of the WHSmith Thumping Good Read Award, while her subsequent books – The Corset and Bone China – established Laura as the queen of the sophisticated, and spooky, page-turner.
Danny Garvey was a sixteen-year old footballing prodigy. Professional clubs clamoured to sign him, and a glittering future beckoned. And yet, his early promise remained unfulfilled, and Danny is back home in the tiny village of Barshaw to manage the struggling junior team he once played for. What’s more, he’s hiding a secret about a tragic night, thirteen years earlier, that changed the course of several lives. There’s only one Danny Garvey, they once chanted … and that’s the problem.
A story of irrational hopes and fevered dreams – of unstoppable passion and unflinching commitment in the face of defeat – There’s Only One Danny Garvey is, above all, an unforgettable tale about finding hope and redemption in the most unexpected of places.
16 year old Danny Garvey had a promising career as a professional footballer ahead of him….but it ended too soon.
Years later he is drawn back to his small home village of Barshaw, to manage the struggling junior team…..he’s right back where he started.
This is a tale with the passion for football clearly evident, but that’s not all it is!.
It tells of violence, abuse, of poverty but also love, hopes, dreams and dark secrets too.
Narrated with the inner voice of Danny, who remembers events seemingly different to those around him, especially his big brother, Raymond.
Told in the Scottish dialect (it doesn’t take long to get used to it) it has a sense of tension, that somethings not quite right. The dark humour brings a little relief to this story of family, of life, loss and love, of football, a damaged man and a crime drama too. This is so beautifully written these fantastic characters bring a dark, gritty tale to an edgy life, they draw you in and break your heart. Utterly, utterly brilliant.
Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an eARC of There’s Only One Danny Garvey.
David F. Ross was born in Glasgow in 1964 and has lived in Kilmarnock for over 30 years. He is a graduate of the Mackintosh School of Architecture at Glasgow School of Art, an architect by day, and a hilarious social media commentator, author and enabler by night. His debut novel The Last Days of Discowas shortlisted for the Authors Club Best First Novel Award, and received exceptional critical acclaim, as did the other two books in the Disco Days Trilogy: The Rise & Fall of the Miraculous Vespasand The Man Who Loved Islands. David lives in Ayrshire.
Welcome to The Bookwormery, today I have a SPOTLIGHT for the Audiobook of The Far Wild by Alex Knight…..
I am a big fan of audiobooks and listen to them regularly, this fantasy thriller sounds great.
Here is the publisher’s blurb:
The Far Wild
by Alex Knight and narrated by Peter Kenny, Stephanie Lane) and Carlyss Peer and is available from Audible.co.uk.
An expedition gone awry.
Suni Koudounas is enamored with the wonders — and dangers — of the Far Wild. As a naturalist’s apprentice, she’s studied every book and expedition report about the miraculous wilderness. But when her mentor goes missing on expedition, Suni sets aside the Far Wild of ink and paper to venture after him into the primordial jungle.
A missing skyship.
As the empire’s most beloved adventurer — or most successful raconteur — Senesio Suleiman Nicolaou doesn’t want much. Wealth beyond measure, fame beyond reason, and a small kingdom somewhere warm should be about enough. When news of the rescue mission reaches him, Senesio knows there’s no better opportunity to add to his living legend.
The most dangerous wilderness known to man.
With unexpected enemies above and monstrous predators in the jungles below, it’s up to Suni, Senesio, and their companions to uncover the truth of what’s happening in the Far Wild. It’s a revelation that will shake the empire to its core and reshape the lives of all involved — assuming, of course, they don’t all get eaten first.
This thrilling start to Alex Knight’s new fantasy series is perfect for fans of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park and Nicholas Eames’s Kings of the Wyld.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alex Knight is filling good books with bad jokes one sentence at a time.
As an author of LitRPG and Fantasy his work includes the Nova Online Trilogy and the forthcoming fantasy thriller The Far Wild.
As an aspiring twin he’s not making much progress, but remains determined.
In the past Alex has worked as everything from a dish washer at Busch Gardens to the Communications Coordinator at the Florida Attractions Association. After deciding he didn’t like stability or predictable paychecks he made the jump to being a freelance writer. Soon that turned into ghostwriting romance novellas, then ghostwriting full-blown science fiction novels, and finally, writing his own novels.
Alex grew up a sunbaked, outdoorsy Floridian and has lived in several places around the world. These days he’s on the gulf coast of Texas, in a bayou outside Houston.
When Alex isn’t writing, he’s likely clawing his way through champion rank in Rocket league, hiking, or plotting his triumphant return to Florida.
A gripping historical novel of medicine & murder from bestselling author
Chris Brookmyre and consultant anaesthetist Dr Marisa Haetzman,
set in nineteenth-century Edinburgh
Edinburgh, 1849. Hordes of patients are dying all across the city, with doctors finding their remedies powerless. And a campaign seeks to paint Dr James Simpson, pioneer of medical chloroform, as a murderer.
Determined to clear Simpson’s name, his protégé Will Raven and former housemaid Sarah Fisher must plunge into Edinburgh’s deadliest streets and find out who or what is behind the deaths. Soon they discover that the cause of the deaths has evaded detection purely because it is so unthinkable.
The Art of Dying is the sequel to The Way Of All Flesh, it can be read as a stand-alone too, but I feel you miss out on the background to Will and Sarah.
Again set in Victorian Edinburgh, Will has returned from Europe, after gaining medical experience, and he is now a qualified medic. He becomes an assistant to Dr Simpson and Sarah, now married to another doctor, still has dreams of becoming a doctor herself, something unheard of at that time.
When people begin dying of an unknown illness, Sarah is the first to believe something darker is causing these deaths. She convinces Will and together they delve deeper and begin to hunt for a killer.
The Art Of Dying is historical crime fiction at its very best, superbly written and full of wonderfully atmospheric descriptions you really get a sense of time and place. It has a dark, twisty plot and well rounded, likeable characters that all add up to a thoroughly compelling read. Just brilliant.
Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an ARC of The Art Of Dying.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Ambrose Parry is a pseudonym for a collaboration between Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman. The couple are married and live in Scotland. Chris Brookmyre is the international bestselling and multi-award-winning author of over twenty novels. Dr Marisa Haetzman is a consultant anaesthetist of twenty years’ experience, whose research for her Master’s degree in the History of Medicine uncovered the material upon which this series, which began with The Way of All Flesh, is based. The Way of All Flesh was shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year and longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award.
The Art of Dying is the second book in the series.
While rummaging through the attic, high school senior Jack Davies is surprised to find his never-before-seen birth certificate, revealing a startling fact that changes his life. The story his mother told about his birth, he discovers, is a lie.
Jack becomes obsessed with discovering the true identity of his father, forcing him to face and conquer obstacles – kidnapping, death threats, and a powerful family secret – most 20-year-olds would never even dream they would encounter. Faced with unanswered questions and confounding obstacles at every turn, Jack finds himself deeply enmeshed in an intricate world of national security and international intrigue.
Relationships are tested as his every move is tracked by a group of mysterious people. Who are they? Whose side are they on? Who can he trust? And, most importantly, who will he ultimately become?
Primal Calling is the tale of Jake and his search for his birth father, but that’s not all.
Jake hadn’t known who his father was until he accidentally finds his birth certificate. So, he decides to find him.
But, as he begins his search his attempts are flagged and things get dark and dangerous. Who was his father and who else is searching for a man who seemingly doesn’t exist?
Primal Calling is part family drama and part spy thriller. It’s well paced, full of tension and is an engrossing and compelling read.
Thank you to Michelle at FSB associates for an eARC of Primal Calling.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Barry Eisenberg is the author of Primal Calling, his debut novel. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, among others. An associate professor of health care management in the School for Graduate Studies at the State University of New York Empire State College, he is also a health care management consultant and a former hospital administrator. An avid bicycle rider, Eisenberg lives in New Jersey with his wife, Amy.
Blythe Connor doesn’t want history to repeat itself.
Violet is her first child and she will give her daughter all the love she deserves. All the love that her own mother withheld.
But firstborns are never easy. And Violet is demanding and fretful. She never smiles. Soon Blythe believes she can do no right – that something’s very wrong. Either with her daughter, or herself.
Her husband, Fox, says she’s imagining it. But Violet’s different with him. And he can’t understand what Blythe suffered as a child. No one can.
Blythe wants to be a good mother. But what if that’s not enough for Violet? Or her marriage? What if she can’t see the darkness coming?
Mother and daughter. Angel or monster?
We don’t get to choose our inheritance – or who we are . . .
The Push is an addictive, gripping and compulsive read that asks what happens when women are not believed – and what if motherhood isn’t everything you hoped for but everything you always feared?
Blythe worries about being a good mother to her new baby girl, Violet. Her own experiences at the abusive hands of her mother cloud her thoughts.
Blythe does her best with Violet, but the little baby is difficult. Violet seems to only be difficult with Blythe and she begins to think there is something wrong. As time passes her thoughts deepen, but her husband doesn’t believe her.
When Blythe becomes pregnant again her fears grow……
The Push is a family drama that deals with the preconceived ideas of motherhood. It tells of a darker side to being a mother, the doubts and fears, and a troubled relationship between mother and daughter.
This is an utterly compelling psychological thriller that is thought provoking and heartbreaking at times. A haunting thriller that will stay with me for a long time.
Thank you to Olivia at Penguin Books for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an ARC of The Push.
Easter weekend is approaching, and snow is gently falling in Siglufjörður, the
northernmost town in Iceland, as crowds of tourists arrive to visit the majestic ski slopes.
Ari Thór Arason is now a police inspector, but he’s separated from his girlfriend, who lives in Sweden with their three-year-old son. A family reunion is planned for the holiday, but a violent blizzard is threatening and there is an unsettling chill in the air.
Three days before Easter, a nineteen-year-old local girl falls to her death from the balcony of a house on the main street. A perplexing entry in her diary suggests that this may not be an accident, and when an old man in a local nursing home writes ‘She was murdered’ again and again on the wall of his room, there is every suggestion that something more sinister lies at the heart of her death…
As the extreme weather closes in, cutting the power and access
to Siglufjörður, Ari Thór must piece together the puzzle to reveal a horrible truth … one that will leave no one unscathed.
Chilling, claustrophobic and disturbing, Winterkill marks the startling conclusion to the million-copy bestselling Dark Iceland series and cements Ragnar Jónasson as one of the most exciting authors in crime fiction.
# 6 in the Dark Iceland series, it can be read as a stand-alone, (but you are missing a fantastic series.)
Set in Iceland, Ari Thor Is now a Police Inspector and is getting to know his new team. His relationship has broken down and he is living alone, but he is looking forward to a visit from his ex and their son over Easter.
When the body of a teenage girl is found at the base of an apartment block, it is believed she jumped to her death…….but as Ari looks into her life, he begins to believe something else happened to her.
And so the investigation begins.
This is not a fast paced thriller, it is a low burn classic crime thriller, with plenty of twists and red herrings to keep you utterly hooked from start to finish.
Ari is a troubled man and while he has now settled in the town of Siglufjódour, there is still a feeling of him living on the edge.
Mr Jónasson’s amazing writing gives this tale a dark feeling of claustrophobia, of the oppressiveness of a blizzard and the cold practically seeps off the page.
With its clever, twisty plot and great characters this is a must read for any fan of Nordic Noir. This is quite simply an outstanding read.
Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an eARC of Winterkill.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Icelandic crime writer Ragnar Jónasson was born in Reykjavík, and currently works as
a lawyer, while teacher copyright law at the Reykjavík University Law School. In the past, he’s worked in TV and radio, including as a news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. Before embarking on a writing career, Ragnar translated fourteen Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic, and has had several short stories published in German, English and Icelandic literary magazines. Ragnar set up the first overseas chapter of the CWA (Crime Writers’ Association) in Reykjavík, and is co-founder of the International crime-writing festival Iceland Noir. Ragnar’s debut thriller, Snowblind became an almost instant bestseller when it was published in June 2015n with Nightblind (winner of the Dead Good Reads Most Captivating Crime in Translation Award) and then Blackout, Rupture and Whiteout following soon after. To date, Ragnar Jónasson has written five novels in the Dark Iceland series, which has been optioned for TV by On the Corner. He lives in Reykjavík with his wife and two daughters.
The bestselling author of the stunning DI Bliss crime series is back – this time with a thrilling prequel novella.
A double life – a single truth.
Fresh out of uniform, DC Jimmy Bliss finds himself at the centre of an undercover sting. Enlisted by a crew of villains to crack a safe, he fears his cover is blown when he’s seen in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But on the night of the job, things run smoothly enough until the gang leader changes the location of the heist. As the job spirals out of control, Bliss has to trust his instincts and buy some time. There’s just one problem: he has no idea if his team know what has become of him.
As the situation escalates, Bliss finds himself at the mercy of a violent criminal who will do anything not to be caught.
This is #8 in the DI Bliss series, it is a prequel novella and can be read as a stand-alone.
Bliss Uncovered is a flashback to Bliss’ early career in the Police. It’s 1991 and DC Bliss has joined CID, he hopes this change will help him build a life with Hazel his girlfriend and in his eyes the perfect woman.
He starts working undercover and becomes part of a gang planning a ‘job’, he’s also working his normal cases as a DC.
This novella really builds the background to Bliss and how he has grown into the man he now is, stubborn, tenacious and dogged in his determination to get to the truth.
Tony J Forder has created a fantastic, well rounded character in Bliss and I loved this look into his early career days. It is also a twisty nail biter of a thriller, that adds more depth to this marvellous character. Such a great addition to one of my favourite series.
Thank you to BOTBS for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an eARC of Bliss Uncovered.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tony J Forder is the author of the bestselling DI Bliss crime thriller series. The first seven books, Bad to the Bone, The Scent of Guilt, If Fear Wins, The Reach of Shadows, The Death of Justice, Endless Silent Scream, and Slow Slicing, will be joined in December 2020 by a prequel novella, Bliss Uncovered.
Tony’s other series – two action-adventure novels featuring Mike Lynch – comprises both Scream Blue Murder, and Cold Winter Sun.
In addition, Tony has written two standalone novels: a dark, psychological crime thriller, Degrees of Darkness, and a suspense thriller set in California, called Fifteen Coffins, released in November 2020.
Tony lives with his wife in Peterborough, UK, and is now a full-time author. He is currently working on Bliss #8, The Autumn Tree.
Welcome to The Bookwormery, I am pleased to be able to share an Extract from Peter Millar’s book, The Germans and Europe, A Personal Frontline History.
1 Berlin A special party in a special pub, the mouse that roared, from obscurity to oblivion, a tale of two cities and an unexpected resurrection happy Birthday
In the summer of 2013 my wife Jackie and I attended a party in a pub in Prenzlauer Berg, one of Berlin’s trendiest and most sought-after residential areas. Just a few decades earlier it had been the most dilapidated district on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall. It had also been our home.
Some 32 years previously, in the late winter of 1980–81, I had arrived in East Berlin as a young and relatively inexperi- enced foreign correspondent for Reuters news agency. When I got married six months later my wife came out to join me, making our ‘choice’ of first marital home improbable enough to feature in her hometown newspaper, the Scun- thorpe Evening Telegraph.
My posting to East Berlin, where I was the only non- German correspondent on the ‘wrong’ side of the Wall, was an accident that changed my life, gave me what amounted to a second family, and an umbilical cord to a city that perhaps more than any other had embodied the 20th century: seduc- tive, scarred, ugly. And utterly magical. Even if the magic had at times been frighteningly black.
The Germans and Europe.indd 6 27/06/2017 11:22
That party in the summer of 2013 was held on 1 August. A century earlier Kaiser Wilhelm II had unveiled a monu- ment to the Battle of the Nations fought in 1813 outside Leipzig. The victory of Prussia, Austria, Sweden and Russia over Napoleon had seen 54,000 killed and another 27,000 wounded in the bloodiest battle in European history to that date. No one had any idea of the catastrophe to occur just one year later, in August 1914.
That same summer a Berlin housemaid called Clara Vahlenstein had a lucky lottery win, and she and her husband Hermann changed their lives forever by buying a pub in the bustling working class district of Prenzlauer Berg, dominated by six-storey Mietkasernen (rental tenements). They initially called it Vahlenstein’s Destille, and sold spirits as well as beer and coffee to the hardworking locals of an inner-city suburb typical of the rapid expansion Berlin had undergone in the late 19th century as it was transformed from a medium-sized northern German provincial city into the capital of a huge new nation. In the end, however, Berlin tradition won out: the pub stood on the corner of Metzer Strasse, named for the siege of Metz, one of the battles in the Franco-Prussian war that had created the new Germany. And as most Berlin pubs stood on corners and were named for them, Clara’s became Metzer Eck.
I first stumbled (literally) into Metzer Eck on a cold night in the early winter of 1981. Despite its label as capital of the Cold War; East Berlin in the early 1980s was something of a slow news city, a dull Soviet fiefdom without even the usual crop of dissidents to be found in most of Moscow’s satrapies. My first story had been, ironically given my Northern Irish upbringing, a football game between Ballymena and a team from Leipzig: Reuters had a broad distribution network. An office in drab East Berlin was rare and something Reuters was determined to hold on to: one day something exciting might just happen. To pad out my salary I was required also to cover events berlin ⋑
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in the isolated exclave of West Berlin. It was coming home via Checkpoint Charlie from a chaotic night covering riots in the student, squatter and Turkish immigrant district of Kreuzberg to the relative peace and calm of the totalitarian East, that I first found myself in Metzer Eck. I got out of the U-bahn at Senefelderplatz and, seeing a rare light in the dark- ened streets, ventured in, hoping for a nightcap, or at least a bit of warmth, and maybe – though I doubted it in East Berlin’s cautious, mistrusting society – a bit of conversa- tion. I found both, and a whole lot more: an open back door into the heart of real Berlin, a culture of ordinary, charm- ing, friendly people of all classes – regulars included bakers, builders, musicians and actors – who over generations had hunkered down and taken the shit that history had thrown at them.
The night of that party in the summer of 2013, 32 years after I had first stumbled through the doors, the current landlady of Metzer Eck, Sylvia Falkner, Clara Vahlenstein’s great-grand-daughter-in-law, stood on the steps before a crowd of several hundred and news cameras of unified Ber- lin’s local television channel and declared: ‘We survived two World Wars, the Wall going up and the Wall coming down, and we’re still here!’ In almost any country, at any time, the survival, almost totally unchanged, of one small pub in the hands of the same family for a century is a rare thing; in the circumstances of Berlin, it is almost a miracle. During the Vahlenstein/Falkner family’s tenure Germany’s borders changed more than a dozen times; they had been under the rule of an emperor, a socialist democracy, the Nazi dictatorship, a Soviet-style Communist dictatorship and since 1990 once more a democ- racy. Five currencies had crossed the bar, from the Kaiser’s Reichsmarks to the Rentenmarks invented to rescue the infla- tion-plagued Weimar Republic, to the East German ‘Marks of the German Democratic Republic’, to the D-Mark of post-1990 unified Germany, and eventually euros.
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Two young men called Horst had lost their lives: Syl- via’s husband, conscripted into the East German National People’s Army when I first arrived in Berlin, who tragically succumbed early to cancer shortly after celebrating the fall of the Wall. And his uncle: conscripted into the Hitler Youth in his teens, then taken away by the invading Russians and left to rot of consumption in a repurposed Nazi concentra- tion camp at Sachsenhausen, just north of the city. Berlin and Berliners have lived Europe’s most terrible century close up and personal. Far from all of them deserved it.
Just another Brick in the Wall?
Almost my first introduction to my new home had been a literal overview of Berlin’s real geography thanks to the British army, who in 1981 still nominally controlled one of the three (American, French and British) sectors of West Berlin. Their forces were based near Nazi architect Albert Speer’s Olympic Stadium, since transformed into the national football stadium that hosted the 2006 World Cup final.
An army helicopter took me high above the divided city – taking care never to make the potentially dangerous mistake of crossing into East German airspace. The 1971 Four Power Agreement – signed as a form of normalisation during the détente years – was so complex the Western Allies and Soviets had had problems even defining what they were referring to. Neither side admitted the division was final but neither had the faintest intention of withdrawing its troops. All that had to wait for the events that followed November 1989. Both sides insisted (relatively accurately) that it was not they but the German civilian authorities that ran things. Seen from a bird’s-eye vantage point in early 1981 the grotesque artificial- ity of the Wall and the ‘death strip’ that lined it like a scar on a wound, stood out in the landscape like a crooked con- crete lasso encompassing the western two-thirds of the city.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Peter Millar is an award-winning journalist, author and translator. Born in Co.Down. Ireland, Peter read French and Russian at Oxford, lived in Paris, then Brussels as a reporter for Reuters. In early 1981, at the age of 26, he was sent as correspondent to East Berlin, then to Moscow, where he lived three years, from the death of Brezhnev to the rise of Gorbachev. His career, including the Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph and European, took him to Warsaw, Prague, Budapest, Bucharest and Belgrade, as well as throughout Germany.
Good Morning and welcome tomThe Bookwormery. Today I am lucky enough to be sharing a GUEST post from Billy Moran. He is the author of Dont Worry, Everything Is Going To Be Amazing…..
Here he shares his 10 Amazing Lockdown Reads…….enjoy!
10 Amazing Lockdown Reads, My Books of 2020
Wow. What a horrible year. Let’s face it, if life in the UK peaked at the London Olympics in 2012, it’s been a bit of a slippery slide ever since. Life seems very ‘divided’ these days. We hoped, as Prof. Brian Cox and his pals once sang, that things could only get better, but 2020 has brought suffering not experienced on a mass scale in this country since World War 2. And on a surface level it hasn’t been a great one for me personally either.
However, I’m an optimist – I think good times are on their way, and, I’ve always believed that when times are bad, art is good. And I honestly think 2020 has been a real corker for new books (especially that Don’t Worry, Everything Is Going To Be Amazing J, that’s great that is!). Here are the ones that have helped me get through lockdown – maybe give one of them a try if you get a vouchers for Christmas…and let’s face it, this year you probably will! Billy.
Flake by Matthew Dooley
I loved this brilliantly British graphic tale of Howard and his ice cream wars – love the expressions on the faces. Also my publisher is called Howard – so that’s bonus points.
A Song for the Dark Times by Ian Rankin
Rebus is my No.1 go-to character in fiction. Autumn has not been complete for a long time without a Rebus. In truth the last few – since the arrival on the scene of Malcolm Fox – have been a little disappointing, but I can’t see a day when I will pass up on a Rebus, and this was certainly my favourite for a few years, with John’s troubled relationship with his semi-estranged daughter at the heart of things, and the great man as busy as ever deliberately irritating most of those who cross his path.
Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith
This is meaty. When you’ve finished it, you can use it to hold doors ajar – or perhaps to keep them shut and stop certain activists from coming to get you for the heinous crime of reading a book. Normally I have a limited capacity for weighty tomes. 500 pages is about the limit of my attention span. But occasionally they are worth it. The Strike novels work because they are novels. The characters are as important as the crimes – Strike and Robin’s relationship is one of my favourites in modern fiction – and the things the books says about life, are as important as the whodunnit/howdunnit/whydunnit elements. The brilliant writing in this one kept me going all the way to the end.
Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton
One of the highlights of the year for me as a debut novelist was reading Rosamund Lupton’s review of my book. In turn, Three Hours was a truly gripping read, perhaps her best yet. Curl up with it on Boxing Day!
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
A dark, distressing, but stunning read.
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
This is a pretty extraordinary book – but not for the faint-hearted. Not sure how many readers really care about the Booker, but I can’t help having a peak at award nominees each year, and I’ve got to say that after Girl, Woman, Other last year which I loved, nothing on this year’s list really grabbed me apart from this one. I have some kind of unbreakable link with Scottish fiction – from Ian Rankin to Irvine Welsh, Gail Honeyman to William Boyd, pretty much all my favorite writers come from north of the border. My dad was born in Aberdeen, so it must be something in my genes! The above writers all base themselves in Edinburgh, but Shuggie requires a quick trip along the M8 to gritty Glasgow.
Harry’s Kebabs by DJ Dribbler
Published in 2019, but not noticed by anyone until 2020, DJ Dribbler’s naïve, naughty and utterly authentic romp through the lives of some morally sound 90s London scammers, was right up my street. It had all the irreverence, characterisation and colourful inventiveness of Irvine Welsh, but with a ring of truth that can only come from personal experiences. A lot of people will struggle with this book if judged in all the ways books are ‘supposed’ to be – it’s clearly self-published and there are a lot of typos, but I’d take that over most of the over-edited fiction that mainstream publishing houses serve up. Bad writing can’t afford mistakes – but I’ve seen mistakes in Booker Prize winners too. What really matters is connecting with your reader, and this book offered that to me in spades.
Midnight Library by Matt Haig
I love Matt Haig – The Humans in particular was a big influence on me as a writer. I love the fact that he always heads into a book with a big concept, but page to page, they remain really authentic, touching and real in the way they explore how we feel and live our lives. A new Matt Haig is always a highlight.
Real Life by Brandon Taylor
I’ve read a few campus novels in my time and this probably wasn’t one of my absolute faves. But it’s so relevant to the big theme of the year other than the Coronavirus – the movement towards greater racial equality – that it just squeaked onto the list!
Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
And finally…I haven’t read this one yet! But I loved the book/audio-book/movie of Ready Player One, so I’m officially excited about tucking into it during that weird period between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve (or the next lockdown!).
Here is a bit about Billy Moran and Don’t Worry Everything Is Going To Be Amazing….
DON’T WORRY, EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE AMAZING…
Chris Pringle: simpleton, casualty or local hero?
Propped up by biscuits, benefits and a baffling faith in his plan, he lives in a world where every day is obsessively the same: wedged in his recliner, watching murder mysteries, taking notes. Until the day a serious and peculiar crime stumps the local police – and Chris announces he can solve it.
Accompanied by a loyal crew of chancers, committed to making amends, and pursued by a depressed Detective Inspector, trying to join the dots, Chris heads back to the raves of his past, where a heartbreaking personal tragedy lies abandoned. But what exactly is Chris Pringle looking for? Has he really worked out the way to find it? And what will happen if he does?
A quirky, nostalgic, heart-warming mystery for fans of Gail Honeyman, Agatha Christie, Jennifer Egan, Ian Rankin, Matt Haig, Irvine Welsh, Ben Aaronovitch, Dave Eggers, Jon Niven, John Kennedy Toole, Belinda Bauer and Harland Miller.
ABOUT BILLY MORAN
Billy Moran is an award-winning television writer for shows including Horrible Histories. He grew up in the West Country, where his teenage years were rudely interrupted by the Second Summer of Love. Since then he has been embracing mysteries, craving solutions and writing lots of lists. He lives in London and has two children, two cats, one football team and several favourite detectives. Don’t Worry, Everything Is Going To Be Amazing is his debut novel.
‘Zany, energetic and completely original!’
★★★★★ ROSAMUND LUPTON (AUTHOR, THREE HOURS)
‘An absolute blast – a riveting mystery that will satisfy any crime buff.’
★★★★★ JAMES NALLY (AUTHOR, THE PC DONAL LYNCH THRILLERS)
‘A murder mystery full of surprises and revelations – it made me laugh, it moved me, and I enjoyed every single page.’
★★★★★ BOOK AFTER BOOK BLOG
‘Forrest Gump meets Columbo at a rave. Moving, laugh-out-loud funny and truly original – I was completely hooked.’
★★★★★ MARK DIACONO (AUTHOR, A TASTE OF THE UNEXPECTED)
‘Will have readers reaching for their glowsticks and magnifying glasses.’
★★★★★ THE SHEFFIELD STAR
‘Fills in the missing link – most entertainingly – between Poirot’s little grey cells and the battered brain chemistry of an ex-raver.’
★★★★★ LUDOVIC HUNTER TILNEY (PRESS CLUB ARTS REVIEWER OF THE YEAR)
‘Edgy, buzzing and pulsing with life.’
★★★★★ PIERS TORDAY (AUTHOR, THE LAST WILD)
‘A unique story full of intrigue, mystery and suspense, as heartwarming as it is hilarious.’
★★★★★ CAL TURNER BOOK REVIEWS BLOG
★★★★★ THE DIVINE WRITE BOOK BLOG
‘A rollercoaster of buried memories and emotions, all wrapped up in a gripping detective thriller – I loved it.’
★★★★★ GAVIN WATSON (AUTHOR, RAVING ’89)
‘Simply the best book I’ve ever read about what rave was really like.’
Camden mortuary assistant Cassie Raven has pretty much seen it all. But this is the first time she’s come face to face with someone she knows on the slab. Someone she cared about. Her friend and mentor, Mrs E.
Deeply intuitive and convinced that she can pick up the last thoughts of the dead, Cassie senses that there must be more to the ruling of an accidental death. Is her grief making her see things that aren’t there, or is her intuition right, and there’s something more sinister to her friend’s death than the ME thinks? Harbouring an innate distrust of the police, Cassie sets out to investigate and deliver justice to the woman who saved her life.
For fans of Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series and Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan, Cassie Raven is the edgy new forensic sleuth on the block.
Set in Camden, Cassie Raven is a mortician, she’s intelligent, thorough and can speak to the dead.
When the body of her mentor end up with her she knows the police determination that this was an accidental drowning is wrong and set out to prove it was murder.
Cassie is an individual who knows her own mind and is not to be underestimated just because she’s a woman, tattooed and pierced. She cares about the dead and listens to them.
This is a fast paced thriller with a slightly supernatural edge. Cassie is a fantastic character, well developed and certainly unique.
With its clever plot, a forensic investigation and plenty of twists, this thriller is utterly compelling from start to finish.
Thank you to Compulsive Readers for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an eARC of Body Language.
Sam Hurcom’s debut, A Shadow on the Lens, published last year and was described by The Guardian as ‘gothic, claustrophobic and wonderfully dark’. His second book, Letters From the Dead is a complete standalone but follows the same protagonist, Thomas Bexley, who is one of the world’s first forensic photographers. This is a stifling and atmospheric gothic crime novel set in the early 20th century for fans of The Woman in Black, The Silent Companions and Little Strangers.
The year is 1905. After a turbulent year, Thomas Bexley has become a drunkard and recluse, haunted by terrible visions of the dead. But when news of a spate of extraordinary kidnappings reaches him, he’s shocked to learn that his dear friend and former mentor, Professor Elijah Hawthorn, is the lead suspect.
Discovering a plea for help from Hawthorn claiming to have unearthed a gruesome conspiracy at the heart of the Met Police, Thomas embarks on a journey to prove Hawthorn’s innocence.
But wherever Thomas goes, he is followed by the dead, and as the mystery of Hawthorn’s disappearance deepens, so too does Thomas’s apparent insanity… How can he be certain of the truth when he can’t trust anybody around him, not even himself…?
Letters FromThe Dead is the follow-on from the marvellous, Shadow On The Lens.
Here, Thomas Bexley is still struggling to come to terms with previous events, he is virtually a recluse, drinking himself into oblivion every day.
But, then he hears the police suspect his old mentor, Elijah, of being the London Wraith and responsible for kidnappings and murders.
So, Thomas sets out to prove the police wrong and that Elijah is innocent.
This is gothic crime fiction at its very best, it reminds me of Poe’s writing and that sense of dread building through this tale. It has a real sense of time and place, the poverty of that time and the tension is palpable at times. It’s twisty , harrowing and utterly compelling. A must read for any fan of gothic fiction.
Thank you to Alex at Orion Books for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an ARC of Letters From The Dead.
The Kendrick family have been making world-famous dolls since the early 1800s. But their dolls aren’t coveted for the craftmanship alone. Each one has a specific emotion laid on it by its creator. A magic that can make you feel bucolic bliss or consuming paranoia at a single touch. Though founded by sisters, now only men may know the secrets of the workshop.
Persephone Kendrick longs to break tradition and learn the family craft, and when a handsome stranger arrives claiming doll-making talent and a blood tie to the Kendricks, she sees a chance to grasp all she desires.
But then, one night, the family’s most valuable doll is stolen. Only someone with knowledge of magic could have taken her. Only a Kendrick could have committed this crime…
Persephone works in the Kendrick family business, they make rather special, magical dolls. Each doll has an enchantment added so anyone who touches it feels that emotion, such as love, fear and paranoia. Only the men of the family are allowed to add these enchantments.
This is the secret of the Kendrick family.
One day a man, Larkin, arrives claiming to be a lost member of the family, a descendent unknown of. He wants to be part of this family business and learn it’s secrets.
But, then their most prized doll, the Paid Mourner disappears, who would have been able to steal this doll with all its protection?
They believe in the story The Thief on the Winged Horse may have taken it and that a payment is needed for its return. But is it that simple?
This is a whodunnit with a difference, it has a slightly surreal fantasy heart that is unique.
It feels like historical fiction in the manners and rest of the characters, but they also use mobile phones and technology. The Kendrick business is a male dominated world but the women are just as powerful and soon things will change.
The characters are well developed, some likeable and some definitely not. The world building is very clever and I loved the mix of old and new.
A slightly surreal fantasy that I found thoroughly engrossing from start to finish.
Thank you to Amber at Midas PR for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and a copy of The Thief on the Winged Horse.
I want you to remember something, Nat. You’re small on the outside. But inside you’re as big as everyone else. You show people that and you won’t go far wrong in life.’
A compelling story perfect for fans of The Doll Factory, The Illumination of Ursula Flight and The Familiars.
My name is Nat Davy. Perhaps you’ve heard of me? There was a time when people up and down the land knew my name, though they only ever knew half the story.
The year of 1625, it was, when a single shilling changed my life. That shilling got me taken off to London, where they hid me in a pie, of all things, so I could be given as a gift to the new queen of England.
They called me the queen’s dwarf, but I was more than that. I was her friend, when she had no one else, and later on, when the people of England turned against their king, it was me who saved her life. When they turned the world upside down, I was there, right at the heart of it, and this is my story.
Inspired by a true story, and spanning two decades that changed England for ever, The Smallest Man is a heartwarming tale about being different, but not letting it hold you back. About being brave enough to take a chance, even if the odds aren’t good. And about how, when everything else is falling apart, true friendship holds people together.
The Smallest Man is historical fiction set during the reign of Charles I, and is the story of Nathaniel Davy, ‘The Queen’s Dwarf’.
Nat was born into a poor family and was sold into service. He became part of Queen Henrietta Maria’s royal court and soon became one of her favourites and constantly by her side. He travelled with her across Europe as civil war broke out.
Nat is the narrator of his story, his life and adventures with even a little romance. His charming personality, wit and resilience really come across, he’s such a likeable character.
There is plenty of historical fact seamlessly mixed with the fiction and the details,of the royal court and its politics is fascinating.
A heartwarming tale of one man’s strength, resilience and the power of kindness and compassion. Something we desperately need in this world today.
Beautifully written and completely engaging from start to finish. Historical fiction at its best.
Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and a copy of The Smallest Man.
In this beautiful, lyrical sequel to the critically acclaimed We Were the Salt of the Sea, Detective Moralès finds that a seemingly straightforward search for a missing fisherwoman off Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula is anything but.
When an abandoned lobster trawler is found adrift off the coast of Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, DS Joaquin Moralès begins a straightforward search for the boat’s missing captain, Angel Roberts – a woman in a male-dominated world. But Moralès finds himself blocked at every turn – by his police colleagues, by fisheries bureaucrats, and by his grown-up son, who has turned up at his door with a host of his own personal problems.
When Angel’s body is finally discovered, it’s clear something very sinister is afoot, and Moralès and son are pulled into murky, dangerous waters, where old resentments run deep…
An exquisitely written, evocative and poetic thriller, The Coral Bride powerfully conjures the might of the sea and the communities who depend on it, the never-ending struggle between the generations, and an extraordinary mystery at the heart of both.
The second book featuring DS Moralés.
DS Joaquin Moralés is a relative newcomer to a small fishing community.
When a trawler is found adrift, a fisherwoman is missing, believed to have perished at sea. When her body is discovered it appears to have been staged as a suicide.
But, was it? The investigation begins……
This is a police procedural with a murder mystery to solve, but at its heart is the story of a small community, it’s characters who rely on the sea for their livelihood and the struggle of women to be part of this life.
Beautifully written, almost poetic at times, this crime mystery has great characters, a clever, involved plot that is full of evocative descriptions of the sea. Compelling from start to finish.
Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an eARC of The Coral Bride.
ABOUT ROXANNE BOUCHARD
Over ten years ago, Roxanne Bouchard decided it was time she found her sea legs. So she learned to sail, first on the St Lawrence River, before taking to the open waters off the Gaspé Peninsula. The local fishermen soon invited her aboard to reel in their lobster nets, and Roxanne saw for herself that the sunrise over Bonaventure never lies. Her fifth novel (first translated into English) We Were the Salt of the Sea was published in 2018 to resounding critical acclaim, sure to be followed by its sequel, The Coral Bride. She lives in Quebec.
THE RETURN Of DI EVE HUNTER: DI Eve Hunter is back in the edge-of-your-seat new detective thriller from Deborah Masson, winning author of the Bloody Scotland Crime Debut of the Year 2020.
A young man, the son of an influential businessman, is discovered dead in his central Aberdeen apartment. Hours later, a teenaged girl with no identification is found hanged in a suspected suicide.
As DI Eve Hunter and her team investigate the two cases, they find themselves in a tug-of-war between privilege and poverty; between the elite and those on the fringes of society.
Then an unexpected breakthrough leads them to the shocking conclusion: that those in power have been at the top for too long – and now, someone is going to desperate lengths to bring them down…
Can they stop someone who is dead set on revenge, no matter the cost?
Set in Aberdeen, DI Eve Hunter is working two cases, the death of a wealthy young man and the suspected suicide of a young woman.
When the suspected suicide turns out to be murder, the investigation really begins.
Are these two cases involving people from two different backgrounds linked?
This is a harrowing tale of human trafficking, about the women who are brought into the country under false pretences, only to be forced into the world of prostitution facing continual abuse. It’s also about wealth, privilege and power and how some of those people abuse their positions with impunity.
Full of fantastic characters and a clever, twisty plot, this glimpse into the two worlds make this a dark and compelling thriller. I was thoroughly gripped from start to finish.
Thank you to Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour, for the promotional material and an eARC of Out For Blood.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Deborah Masson was born and bred in Aberdeen, Scotland. Always restless and fighting against being a responsible adult, she worked in several jobs including secretarial, marketing, reporting for the city’s freebie newspaper and a stint as a postie – to name but a few.
Through it all, she always read crime fiction and, when motherhood finally settled her into being an adult (maybe even a responsible one) she turned her hand to writing what she loved. Deborah started with short stories and flash fiction whilst her daughter napped and, when she later welcomed her son into the world, she decided to challenge her writing further through online courses with Professional Writing Academy and Faber Academy. Her debut novel, Hold Your Tongue, is the result of those courses.
Hold Your Tongue has been widely well reviewed by readers and authors alike, with many comparing her favourably to Stuart MacBride. It won the Bloody Scotland Scottish Crime Debut of the Year 2020 and was longlisted for CWA New Blood Dagger 2020.