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Snap by Belinda Bauer @BelindaBauer @BeckyShort1 @TransworldBooks #SnapBook

Source: Netgalley
Publication: 17 May 2018 from Bantam Press
Pp 352

SNAP DECISIONS CAN BE DANGEROUS . . .

On a stifling summer’s day, eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. Jack’s in charge, she’d said. I won’t be long. But she doesn’t come back. She never comes back. And life as the children know it is changed for ever.

Three years later, Jack is still in charge – of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they’re alone in the house, and – quite suddenly – of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother. . .

I have a mixed history with Belinda Bauer’s books; some I have loved others not quite so much, though her writing is always superb. But I have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending Snap.

Snap has everything you look for in a novel; engaging and interesting characters that are really well drawn and whose development you can follow through the book. A brilliant storyline, extremely well executed and which rises far above the norm of psychological thrillers to be captivating and utterly immersive.

What makes this book work is the attention to characters that Bauer pays. There is Jack Bright, the young scallywag, to all intents and purposes orphaned and in charge of Joy and Merry, his two sisters. He has to keep them nourished and clean and educated, though his method of doing so isn’t quite as orthodox as social services might have liked, had they been aware of the children at all.

But the other star of this book is undoubtedly DCI John Marvel. Marvel has arrived in Taunton after years of dealing with murder cases in the Met, but he has fallen out of favour – he’s not the most subtle of policemen and his methods have ruffled a few people the wrong way. Now he is exiled to Somerset and is horrified when the first case he is called out on turns out to be a house burglary, something he considers to be way beneath his rank.
Now Marvel isn’t one for making friends. He’s irascible, dishevelled and an old fashioned copper who likes to make his mark. So when he meets smooth, well groomed, officious DS Reynolds, it’s clear that this isn’t a match made in heaven. That first impression isn’t helped by Marvel’s caustic remarks about Reynolds policing abilities and his obvious disdain for everything about Reynolds from his strict adherence to the rules to his shiny shoes.

Yet it is the exchanges between these two that make for some fabulous contrasts between policing methods and approaches and their exchanges are sometimes pure gold. You need this degree of levity later in the book, when what turns out to be a series of burglaries morphs into quite another case, one which is much darker, more violent and emotionally very fraught.

It is Bauer’s genius that cleverly starts off in one direction and then lets the narrative lead us slowly and carefully into something quite different and remarkable. She takes the seeds she has sown in the beginning and creates a tremendous flowering of a story into one of the most compelling stories I have read for a while.

How a series of burglaries dubbed the ‘Goldilocks cases’ leads to a cold case investigation is cleverly and rather beautifully done, and the sense of repressed violence and menace that emerges is chilling and tense.

Jack Bright is one of those characters that linger long in the mind. Street smart, emotionally vulnerable and absolutely determined, he makes a deal with the devil to ensure he can capture the attention of the police and ensure that he gets what he has always needed.

Redolent with violence and darkness, yet emotionally engaging and sometimes really very funny – there are some cracking moments with D.S. Reynolds’ mother – this is a book I loved for everything that it has to offer.

Brilliantly plotted, wholly immersive, and a cracking read, it sucks you in until you are completely invested in it. One for the must read category.

Och, just buy it.

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About Belinda Bauer

BELINDA-BAUER

Belinda Bauer grew up in England and South Africa and now lives in Wales. She worked as a journalist and a screenwriter before finally writing a book to appease her nagging mother. With her debut, Blacklands, Belinda was awarded the CWA Gold Dagger for Crime Novel of the Year. She went on to win the CWA Dagger in the Library for her body of work in 2013. Her fourth novel Rubbernecker was voted 2014 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. Her books have been translated into 21 languages.

Follow Belinda on Twitter : @BelindaBauer

Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough @sarahpinborough @HarperCollinsUK @fictionpubteam #CrossHerHeart

Source: Netgalley

Publication: May 17 2018 from Harper Collins

PP 384

SOMEONE IS LIVING A LIE… BUT WHO?
Is it Lisa?
Haunted by a tragic past, all Lisa wants is a quiet life with her daughter, Ava. And when she meets a new man, things seem to be falling into place. But Lisa is hiding a secret so momentous it could shatter her entire world…

Is it Ava?
When sixteen-year-old Ava saves a young boy’s life, she becomes a local hero. But never in a million years could she have anticipated the fallout of her actions…

Is it Marilyn?
Marilyn has the perfect life. Her husband, her job, her house―she seems to have it all. But she could never admit to her best friend Lisa the lies she tells herself to get through the day…

One moment will change these three women’s lives forever. And the secrets they’ve been keeping could destroy them all.

 
Writing a follow up to Behind Her Eyes was never going to be easy, but Sarah Pinborough has grasped that challenge and delivered a novel full of pace, characterisation and more twists than a bag full of pretzels.

Told in the voices of three characters, and switching between past and present, this is the story of three women, each of whom has a secret she will keep to herself as long as she possibly can.

Lisa and Marilyn met at the employment agency where both work and have become close friends. Theirs are adult secrets; secrets that they are very much afraid of anyone finding out; secrets that control their lives. Lisa’s 16 year old daughter Ava is a bit of a wild and sulky child, but then what teenage girl isn’t at that age? She too has a secret, but this secret is one that warms her heart and keeps her upbeat, though she will only hint obliquely to her friends about it.

Each of these women has depth to their character and that helps to make them both engaging and believable, although we are never quite sure if Lisa is a reliable narrator, or whether we need to question Marilyn’s friendship with her.

Pinborough takes this domestic setting and into it she drip feeds tension, secrets and unsettling occurrences to create an atmosphere of dark foreboding and your heart begins to pound that little bit faster as the book gathers pace.

Time is taken to explore relationships and develop characters so that by the time you get to the crux of the story you feel each has depth to them and you are quite emotionally engaged with their stories. The relationship between Ava and her mother rings true; often volatile and sometimes overly restrictive on Lisa’s part.

But just as you think you have got to know and understand each character, and that you have discerned what secrets they are holding, Pinborough turns your expectations inside out and completely surprises the reader.

This book works because  the characters are so well drawn, but also because Sarah Pinborough is an excellent storyteller. She writes extremely well and her book is propulsive and compelling. Her plotting is sound and she weaves the strands together with skill and finesse, twisting the thread every few chapters until you are so caught up you cannot get free.

If you like secrets, lies, betrayal and a strong, tense narrative from your domestic noir, look no further, Cross Her Heart has it all.

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About Sarah Pinborough

sarahpinborough

Sarah Pinborough is the number one Sunday Times Bestselling and New York Times Bestselling author of the psychological thriller Behind Her Eyes (Jan, 2017). During her career she has published more than 20 novels and several novellas, and has written for the BBC. Her recent novels include the dystopian love story, The Death House, and a teenage thriller, 13 Minutes which has been bought by Netflix with Josh Schwartz adapting.
Behind Her Eyes has sold to nearly twenty territories so far and was sold at auction to the US in a significant deal to Flatiron, Macmillan. There are discussions on going with several movies studios about the film adaptation.

Follow Sarah on Twitter @sarahpinborough

 

Fault Lines by Doug Johnstone @doug_johnstone @OrendaBooks @AnneCater #FaultLines #Edinburgh

Source: Review copy

Publication: 22 May 2018 from Orenda Books

Pp 300

 

In a reimagined contemporary Edinburgh, in which a tectonic fault has opened up to produce a new volcano in the Firth of Forth, and where tremors are an everyday occurrence, volcanologist Surtsey makes a shocking discovery. On a clandestine trip to The Inch – the new volcanic island – to meet Tom, her lover and her boss, she finds his lifeless body. Surtsey’s life quickly spirals into a nightmare when someone makes contact – someone who claims to know what she’s done…

Twenty five years ago, the tectonic plates shifted and a fault line opened up just off the coast of Edinburgh. A new volcano was born in the Firth of Forth and this volcanic island is known as The Inch.

For Surtsey, the daughter of a volcanologist, named after an Icelandic volcanic island, this island has been part of her life since she was born and despite its continuing minor earthquakes, it is a special place to her.
Now her mother is in a hospice, dying of cancer, and Surtsey is studying for her PhD in Volcanic Geology. Surtsey’s sister, Iona is also full of potential, but she has rebelled against academia and is currently living with Surtsey and their flatmate, Halima, in their mother’s house in Edinburgh. Iona is tending bar in a nearby hostelry and Halima is a student working alongside Surtsey.

Doug Johnstone is one of those sickeningly bright and talented people that can’t seem to put a foot wrong. And with Fault Lines, he has got it bang to rights again.

Johnstone’s novel is set against fault lines and seismic shifts, and these are reflected in the fault lines of the girls’ own family and other relationships. Surtsey is playful, confident and carefree and this causes her to ignore the consequences of her decisions, such as the impact that having an affair with her married Professor might have on his family and on hers.

The setting for this very clever and emotionally wide ranging novel is perfect. I believe in Inch island; small but significant in the Forth, Johnstone has conjured it out of the sea in a manner that is both vivid and evocative and despite its size, it casts a shadow over all our characters. Beautifully imagined, this is writing that rises above its class to take you on a journey that feels both real and intense.

As Surtsey journeys out in her small boat for an early evening delight with her illicit lover on the island, she little knows what awaits her. For not only is his dead body lying on the island, his boat is nowhere to be seen. Clearly foul play is afoot, and when, after pocketing the phone that he used to communicate with her, which was lying by his side, Surtsey begins to receive anonymous text messages from a tormentor, she views these rightly as a threat.

From this point, each and every one of the characters is under suspicion and as the Police come closer to suspecting Surtsey and her alibi crumbles, another body is found, this one also strongly connected to her.

Impressively plotted, this is a novel that captures a range of emotions and brings the reader quickly to empathise with its characters, even when you know they are off-piste with their actions.

What works incredibly well, though is the Gaia connection between Surtsey, her mother and the land. As they experience shakes and tremors, so does the earth. There is a fundamental connection here at the heart of the book that is subtle and well integrated, so that you know that the fate of Surtsey and the Inch are somehow inextricably linked.

For a young woman, Surtsey has a lot to deal with and I felt her pain, guilt, loss and occasionally her joy as we journeyed together through this book.

Johnstone has the talent to bring his characters to life; to make you care about them, and to be able to visualise them as you read. On the plotting front the book is beautifully dark, intense and twisty and as it leads you down and through the cobbled streets, you may break a heel or two before you get to where you are going.

Overall, highly enjoyable, deeply satisfactory and acutely well written.

Orenda                               Amazon                                       Waterstones

About Doug Johnstone

Doug Johnstone. Photo: Chris Scott

Doug Johnstone is an author, journalist and musician based in Edinburgh. He’s had eight novels published, most recently Crash Land. His previous novel, The Jump, was a finalist for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. Doug is also a Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow.
He’s worked as an RLF Fellow at Queen Margaret University, taught creative writing at Strathclyde University and been Writer in Residence at Strathclyde University and William Purves Funeral Directors. He mentors and assesses manuscripts for The Literary Consultancy and regularly tutors at Moniack Mhor writing retreat. Doug has released seven albums in various bands, reviews books for the Big Issue, is player-manager for Scotland Writers Football Club and has a PhD in nuclear physics.

You can follow Doug on Twitter  @doug_johnstone 

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Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody @AmandaFoody @HQStories @fictionpubteam #blogtour #AceofShades

Source: Review Copy

Publication: HQ Young Adult on 24 April 2018

Pp : 464

Take a card. The price is your soul.

Welcome to the City of Sin, where secrets hide in every shadow.

Enne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school—and her reputation—behind to follow her mother’s trail to the city where no one survives unchanged.

Frightened and alone, her only lead is a name: Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is not the gentleman she expected—he’s a street lord and con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unraveling investment scam, so he doesn’t have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne’s offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems.

Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless society. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her family, Levi’s enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city…

And she’ll need to play the game.

I am very excited to bring an extract from Amanda Foody’s magical new young adult novel to my blog today.

 

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If I’m not home in two months, I’m dead.
Her mother’s warning haunted her as Enne Salta lugged her leather trunk down the bridge leading off the ship, filling her with an inescapable sense of dread.
If I’m not home in two months, I’m dead.
It’d been four.
For the first time in fifteen days, Enne stepped onto dry land. Her balance veered from side to side as if she expected the gray cobblestones to tilt like the sea, and she white-knuckled the pier’s railing to compose herself. If the ground weren’t so littered with cigar butts and grime, she might’ve kissed it. Two weeks battling seasickness on a floating monstrosity could do that to a lady.

A woman shoved past her, not noticing Enne’s petite frame. The force of it nearly knocked Enne over. She glared at the woman’s ostentatiously feathered hat as it disappeared into the crowds.

Hmph, she thought. A lady shouldn’t rush. Barely five seconds in the so-called City of Sin and already people were rude.
As more passengers disembarked the ship, the crowds around the customs tables swelled with hundreds of people, hollering and waving passports and jostling each other in an effort to reach the front of the lines. Most were young men, probably visiting New Reynes to sample its famous casinos and nightlife—but the number of families present surprised her. This city was no place for children. And, she reminded herself, staring up at the sinister, smog-stained sky, it was no place for her, either.

As Enne joined the queues, she dug through her belongings for her tourist documents. Her purse was stuffed: her passport, a handful of gingersnap cookies leftover from last night’s dinner and a copy of The City of Sin: Where to Go and Where Not To. As she fished out her papers, something fell and clinked when it hit the ground. Her token.

She scooped it up and clutched it to her chest. Her mother, Lourdes, had given her this token. It was two inches long and gilded, with an old Faith symbol of an eye etched on one side and a cameo of a past queen on the other. The Mizer kings had used these tokens as party invitations. It was probably illegal to own it—any remnants from before the Revolution twenty-five years ago had been destroyed, just like the Mizers themselves. But Enne couldn’t bring herself to throw away something so rare and precious. She tucked it safely back into her pocket.

With nothing to do but wait, Enne pulled out her guidebook and compared its cover to the city in front of her. The photograph of Luckluster Casino matched the stories of New Reynes: red lights that flashed without flame, women of loose morals dancing on street corners in sparkling, skin- tight corsets, gambling dens beckoning passersby with seedy smiles and the allure of fast fortune. But neither the stories nor the cover bore any resemblance to the city before her. From what she could see, New Reynes was a wasteland of metal and white stone. The factories in the distance glinted as if coated in liquid steel, and the clouds were so black, she swore the rain would fall dark as coal.

Panic seized her as she examined the skyline—white and jagged as teeth. All you know are stories, Enne told herself. And not all stories are true.

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About Amanda Foody

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Amanda Foody has always considered imagination to be our best attempt at magic. After spending her childhood longing to attend Hogwarts, she now loves to write about immersive settings and characters grappling with insurmountable destinies. She holds a Masters in Accountancy from Villanova University, and a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature from the College of William and Mary. Currently, she works as a tax accountant in Philadelphia, PA, surrounded by her many siblings and many books.

I You can follow Amanda on Twitter here: @AmandaFoody

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Ullapool Book Festival @UllapoolBookFes

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We arrived on the Thursday after a pleasant drive up the A9, stopping off for an excellent lunch at the rather splendid Muchrack hotel in Dulnain.

Arriving in Ullapool mid afternoon, just in time to check into the hotel and prepare ourselves for the opening reception at the Ceilidh Place. This is such a great festival and one organised by a terrific committee who never fail to put on a marvellous, eclectic and enticing range of authors. They also provide an exceptional home baking tent.

After mingling with the authors and committee it was off for one of Ullapool’s famous scallop suppers and a relatively early night.

Friday morning was quite a blustery one as we headed in to the village hall to hear Angus Roxburgh talking about his memoir, Moscow Calling – Memoirs of A Foreign Correspondent, chaired by Ruth Wishart.

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Hugely knowledgeable, of course and also entertaining, Angus talked us through his time in Russia from working as a translator for roubles and thus living like an ordinary Russian through his time as a Foreign Correspondent for the BBC reporting on Gorbachev, Yeltsin and into actually working as a media consultant for Putin’s Government from 2006 – 2009.

Roxburgh gained a fascinating insight into Putin during his time with him. Putin was not a fan of Hillary Clinton, believing that she had interfered in Russia’s election in 2011.

In December 2011, Vladimir Putin came close to losing his hold on power. His decision that year to run for a third term as Russia’s President had inspired a massive protest movement against him. Demonstrations calling for him to resign were attracting hundreds of thousands of people across the country. The Russian state media had begun to warn of a revolution in the making.

Putin chose to lay the blame on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“She set the tone for certain actors inside the country; she gave the signal,” Putin said. This is of course was led to suggestions that Russia may have intervened in the last U.S. Presidential election – tit for tat perhaps?

It is also believed that a high powered team of Americans were brought over to Russia during Yeltsin’s election to help swing the vote to him. Their existence was not widely known – they reported to Yeltsin’s daughter and were forbidden ever to leave their hotel in case they were discovered.

Roxburgh describes Putin as ‘complicated’. He believes the West is undermining Russia. On the one hand he is urbane, courteous, very clued up and knowledgeable.
On the other he is also boorish, openly making jokes about rape and homosexuality.

In his first year of office, Putin tried hard to be friendly and offered assistance after 9/11 in 2011. But he expected something in return and didn’t get it from us. Putin created the conditions within the FSB that allowed for enemies of state anywhere in the world to be dealt with. Hence the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Skripals, amongst others.

But, says Roxburgh, Putin makes Russia feel better about itself. After Yeltsin, people’s faith was undermined undermined and they sought a new identity for Russia. Putin gives them that.

Roxburgh asked Putins top PR man why he had not declared a renunciation of communism. The answer: it is not yet the time! You can’t tell people they have wasted their whole lives on a system that does not work.

Angus talked about Russia’s new rearmament phase. Putin wants the world to recognise Russia as a force and also that it has legitimate security interests now being isolated as a result of Nato expansion. But his crackdown on human rights does not warm Europe to Russia.

Asked about Syria, he said that Putin’s main motivating factor is to prevent a street level uprising, the thing he is most afraid of. It’s noT so much support for Assadas the fact that he Hates  governments being overthrown by crowds in street.

He also pointed out that it hasn’t done any harm to Russia’s arms sales, displaying their hardware so openly. Russia is a major player in Middle East and their arms sales are booming.

More from Ullapool later. Time for some spicy fish soup and langoustines from the Crab Shack.

 

 

 

 

 

Kill The Angel (Torre and Caselli #2) by Sandrone Daziero trs Anthony Shugaar @sandronedazieri @emmafinnigan @annecater @simonschusterUK #blogtour #randomthings

 

Source: Review Copy

Publication: 3 May 2018 from Simon & Schuster UK

Pp 480

The second novel from the acclaimed author of Kill the Father, a Richard and Judy 2017 Bookclub pick and Sunday Times bestseller, this thriller is multi-layered, complex, full of twists and turns and satisfyingly dark –  one of those novels you just have to read late into the night.

A high-speed train from Milan draws into the station in Rome, and an horrific discovery in one carriage rocks the city. Preliminary investigations are put in the hands of Deputy Police Commissioner Colomba Caselli.  

The police receive a message claiming responsibility for the act and announcing more murders to come, and they duly turn their attention to a small terrorist group of Islamic extremists. But investigator Dante Torre does not believe this angle. For him, this feels like a smokescreen concealing the actions of a killer who has a far more terrible motivation to continue.

The trail leads to Berlin and Venice, where the waters of the Venetian Lagoon will turn blood red …

Do you ever get butterflies in your stomach when you hold a book you have waited months for? I do. I was so excited by this because loved Kill The Father, the first book.  Although you can read this book as a stand-alone, you will get more from it if you read Kill the Father first. I couldn’t wait to get stuck into the new adventures of Colomba Caselli and Dante Torre.

Dazieri has created the most compelling detective duo since Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. These two fractured, lonely personalities work well together, one inside the law, one outside. That is, until Caselli, who has only recently re-joined her team, steps on the wrong toes and is put on suspension.

A deadly poison attack on a first class train carriage. ISIS claims responsibility, but Dante Torre has his doubts. Following the obvious leads, the Police arms up and en masse heads for a local mosque where a combination of police hard headedness and local unrest turns the whole affair into an unholy mess.

Torre’s special skill, honed after years kept locked in the silo, is his ability to read people and situations. And he knows that the signs being left for them are planted; deliberate misdirections to keep them away from the real purpose of these killings.

Who then is responsible and why? This complex, twisted, multi-layered novel takes the reader on quite a journey, both in time and geography, as we unpeel the layers to understand that the genesis of these murders, and the murders that will follow, lies deep in the past during the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Though by no means a short book, it is terrifically easy to read because Daziere’s writing is so sharp and terse. I can visualise these scenes so well; his style is cinematographic and that really builds the tension and suspense.

Daziere ekes out his character development in teaspoons. We learn a little more about Caselli and again not much more about Torre, but the small details all help us to understand what may be going on in their heads.

As the duo follow the small trail of breadcrumbs through Germany and back to Italy, they face both danger and duplicity. It is hard to know who, if anyone, can be trusted, which suits Dante, who trusts no-one except Caselli.

Dazieri excels in his creation of evil characters and in this novel, he has outdone himself. The devil here is in understanding who is more evil than the rest, for this is a dark psychological thriller with more than one serial killer.

My heart was pounding, my tummy butterflies were fluttering and my eyes could not move from the pages until I had finished this gripping and fantastic book. It is intense and propulsive.

And once I had finished – well, what an ending. This is a writer who knows how to keep a reader on the hook, and I am but mere bait – eager, willing, nay even excited bait – for the next novel in the sequence.

As for those butterflies in my tummy – Daziere has the last word. “We call it a butterfly. For a caterpillar, it is the end of the world”.

Kill The Angel goes straight onto my must read list.

A shout out too, to Anthony Shugaar, whose translation was so idiomatically perfect that I completely forgot I was reading a book in translation, which is all you can ask for but nowhere near as easy as it sounds.

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About Sandrone Dazieri

Sandrone Dazieri Author Picture

Sandrone Dazieri was born in Cremona (Italy) in 1964. He graduated at San Pellegrino Terme hotel-management school and worked as a cook for years, all around Italy. After having moved to Milan he started working in a number of jobs, from seller to porter, and played a very active role in the italian anti nuclear movement.
In 1992 he got closer to publishing working as freelance journalist ad expert of underground culture and cyberpunk fiction.
In 1999 he achieved his first popular success with the thriller “Attenti al gorilla” (Watch Out For The Gorilla), the first in a best-seller series, where the main character is a sort of doppelgènger of Dazieri himself, living the nightlife in Milan with all the ensuing troubles. Dazieri’s books are renowned for the rocambolesque adventures in which Sandrone (the main character has the author’s name too) is continuously involved, in an irrefrenable but never fatalistic destiny. It is in fact Sandrone’s personality that always drives him to assist the weak and derelict, those who have lost all hope for help but for the Gorilla’s saving hand. Among a thousand contradictions, he’ll confront all sorts of dangers, in the best tradition of hardboiled thrillers, and aided by his alter ego called Socio (the rational side of Sandrone, in a split-personality condition), our hero will happily finalise and conclude many chilling and hair-raising situations.

Dazieri wrote many other noir novels, kids novels, comics and short stories.
He is also a scriptwriter for cinema and tv. His most successful serie is “Squadra Antimafia” (Antimafia Squad) now optioned by ABC.

With Italian film director Gabriele Salvatores and producer Maurizio Totti, Dazieri founded in 2004 the publishing house Colorado Noir.
From 2000 to 2004 he was also the chief editor of the crime series Gialli Mondadori (Mondadori Thrillers) and the catalogue for young readers Libri per Ragazzi Mondadori (Mondadori Books for Youth). He is currently a literary consultant to the Mondadori Publishing House.

He is vegetarian and testimonial for many nonprofit organization.

Follow Sandrone on Twitter @sandronedazieri

 

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A Fractured Winter by Alison Baillie @AlisonBailliex @WillandWhiting #blogtour

Source: Review copy

Publication: 09 April 2018 from Williams and Whiting

Pp 366

A missing girl.

Threatening notes.

Sinister strangers.

Olivia’s idyllic family life in a Swiss mountain village is falling apart. She thought she’d managed to escape the past, but it’s coming back to haunt her. Has somebody discovered her secret – why she had to leave Scotland more than ten years ago? What is her connection to Marie, a lonely schoolgirl in a Yorkshire seaside town, and Lucy, a student at a Scottish university?

A story of the shadows of the past, the uncertainties of the present and how you can never really know anybody.

 

Smooth as silk, dark as the night and with a velvety touch that has echoes of a bitter aftertaste. Is this the latest Swiss chocolate? No, it’s an Alpine Noir from Alison Baillie.

Predominantly set in a Swiss mountain village, where the descriptions are so evocative that you can smell the pine trees and feel the cold, sharp air and the gleaming white snow as it crunches underfoot, this is a book that ranges from Switzerland, to Edinburgh and then Scarborough as the past informs the present in the lives of Olivia and her family.

On the face of it Olivia has an idyllic life. She and ger family live in a beautiful area of Switzerland and Olivia’s husband, Christian, teaches at the school where Olivia’s son, Christian’s step-son, Julian attends.

Their two young children Marc and Lara complete their family and Olivia enjoys spending time cooking Swiss delicacies for her family and feeling secure and content with her life.

Things change though when Olivia finds a note in her mailbox which sends a chill right through her bones. We now know Olivia has a secret. But what will she be prepared to sacrifice to make sure that secret is never divulged?

Then a child, a friend of Lara’s, goes missing on the children’s walk back from school. Despite an extensive search, she is nowhere to be found.

As the first cracks in the façade of the pristine snow begin to reveal themselves, is Olivia prepared for the ominous avalanche that will follow?

Fabulously atmospheric, this is a well written book that delights in twisting and turning the reader’s expectations every which way, until you begin to see the path that Baillie has cleared for you, but it’s by no means an easy walk through the haunting woods to get to the right conclusion.

I liked these central characters for the most perverse of reasons; not one of them was obviously or inherently likeable. I really engaged with Olivia, but that was because I have never before wanted so much to slap a character. Until you begin to understand Olivia’s backstory, it is quite difficult to comprehend why she gets such comfort out of being a Stepford wife clone, or indeed why she would have married Christian, a man with an iron rod through his back.

As events pick up pace and Olivia slowly starts to unravel, her judgement completely goes to pot, and her voyage of self-discovery is fraught with missteps and danger. Baillie paints her characters with brilliant colours and a thick oil paint, so you have to look closely between the layers to get a sense of where the book is heading, and be very careful not to go down the wrong path.

Olivia’s secret is one she wants to hang onto like grim death, yet perhaps it is giving it up that will finally free her.

This psychological thriller is creepy, suspenseful and filled with brilliantly drawn characters with foibles and machinations that you enjoy watching as a bystander.

There’s a great deal to enjoy in this book and I really look forward to more from this author.

Amazon

 

About Alison Baillie

Alison Baillie portrait[2418]

Alison was brought up in the Yorkshire Dales by Scottish parents. She studied English at the University of St Andrews, before teaching English in Edinburgh secondary schools and EFL in Finland and Switzerland, where she now lives. She spends her time reading, writing, travelling, playing with her grandchildren and attending crime writing festivals.

You can find out more on her website or follow her on Facebook or Twitter

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