It’s lovely to be a part of the #BlogTour for #AlltheMurmuringBones by @angelaslatter with thanks to @Sarah_Mather_15 @titanbooks

Blurb

Long ago Miren O’Malley’s family prospered due to a deal struck with the mer: safety for their ships in return for a child of each generation. But for many years the family have been unable to keep their side of the bargain and have fallen into decline. Miren’s grandmother is determined to restore their glory, even at the price of Miren’s freedom.

A spellbinding tale of dark family secrets, magic and witches, and creatures of myth and the sea; of strong women and the men who seek to control them.

My thoughts…

There’s a root of darkness in the setting and plot of All the Murmuring Bones – a tale based on an Irish cultivated land where magical creatures exist. That’s not to say this is a magical book; there’s a real sense of historical realism in the world as well but deepened with embedded folklore throughout the narrative, which I enjoyed.

Whilst for me the dark gothic fairy-tale vibe was not as expected – there’s certainly a darkness and creepy tone to the writing as we find out more about our central character, Miren, and follow her journey to discover the truth hidden behind the layers of mystery within her family.

A dark and challenging journey centres the novel; it’s presented in a slow and heavily detailed narrative that never rushes. A dash of murder and intrigue deepens the story and I enjoyed the battle for the survival of the bloodline, the ruthlessness of the journey at times and the bargains for survival with magical creatures.

There’re some fabulous settings – in particular atmospheric descriptions of the story’s key locations: Blackwater and Hob’s Head. The characters are a mix of surface with some depth – from my reading experience I wanted more development and depth as I found I wasn’t too connected at times, which did affect my personal reading experience – but that’s just me.

Overall, this is a great book for people who enjoy a darker story with morally questionable characters and enjoy folklore. Super story-telling and world building. There are some fabulous descriptions throughout the book and a great central character arc to follow as Miren has to adapt to her situation and environment.

Thanks so much to Titan Books for inviting me to chat about All the Murmuring Bones and to the author for the story!

Please do buy from independents if you can XX

Delighted to be taking part in the #BlogTour for #TheFavour by @LVaughanwrites and published by @CorvusBooks with thanks to Anne of @RandomTTours

How far would you go to fit in?

The blurb…

Fortune favours the fraud…

When she was thirteen years old, Ada Howell lost not just her father, but the life she felt she was destined to lead. Now, at eighteen, Ada is given a second chance when her wealthy godmother gifts her with an extravagant art history trip to Italy.
In the palazzos of Venice, the cathedrals of Florence and the villas of Rome, she finally finds herself among the kind of people she aspires to be: sophisticated, cultured, privileged. Ada does everything in her power to prove she is one of them. And when a member of the group dies in suspicious circumstances, she seizes the opportunity to permanently bind herself to this gilded set.
But everything hidden must eventually surface, and when it does, Ada discovers she’s been keeping a far darker secret than she could ever have imagined…

My thoughts…

‘The Favour’ includes a recreation and modernisation of the ‘Grand Tour’, which I’ve read about several times in other books; for those who are not aware, it’s a trip where privileged young men during the 17th and 18th centuries would travel throughout Europe, where Rome was often an ultimate destination. The aim was to finish an upper-class male’s education but often became synonymous with drinking, gaming and romantic escapades! These tours could take years, but in ‘The Favour’ our principle character has booked on a shorter, recreation of the tour: an art history trip to Italy. The lead, Ada Howell is experiencing great change in her life; she has recently moved away from her family home after the death of her father and feels very adrift. The opportunity to travel and explore Italy calls out to her and this is where we find the story begins to shift.

I enjoyed the detailed and atmospheric art history detail throughout the story and with themes of deception, connections, the other, friendship, obsession and desperation, this is certainly a layered novel. The characters are, for the most part, quite unlikeable and evoke questions of privilege and power.

I enjoyed the more sinister underscore and the clever build-up of tension and shade within the narrative. The misdirection and plotting were well executed and I loved the reading experience of uncertainty and considerable questioning. A book that hooks you in and pulls you along mercilessly into its clever close.

The author – Laura Vaughan

Laura Vaughan grew up in rural Wales and studied Art History in Italy and Classics at Bristol and Oxford. She got her first book deal aged twenty-two and went on to write eleven books for children and young adults. is her first novel for adults. She lives in
South London with her husband and two children.

Laura Vaughan

Please buy from independents if you can XX

#BlogBlast #TheDisappearanceofStephanieMailer @maclehosepress @QuercusBooks with thanks to @Millsreid11 for the invite.

I’m delighted to be joining in with today’s blog blast for The Disappearance of Stephanie Mailer – so keep scrolling for some book chat 🙂

Remember The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair?
• A huge bestseller in Europe on publication
• 250,000 copies were sold in the UK alone
• Sky Witness series starring Patrick Dempsey aired in Autumn 2018

A gripping new thriller with a killer twist from the author of The Truth of the Harry
Quebert Affair

THE BLURB
In the summer of 1994, the quiet seaside town of Orphea reels from the discovery of two brutal murders. Confounding their superiors, two young police officers, Jesse Rosenberg and Derek Scott crack the case and arrest the murderer, earning themselves handsome promotions and the lasting respect of their colleagues.
But twenty years later, just as he is on the point of taking early retirement, Rosenberg is approached by Stephanie Mailer, a journalist who believes he made a mistake back in 1994 and that the real murderer is still out there, perhaps ready to strike again. Before she can give any more details however, Stephanie Mailer mysteriously disappears without trace, and Rosenberg and Scott are forced to confront the awful possibility that her suspicions might have been proved horribly true.
What happened to Stephanie Mailer?
What did she know?
And what really happened in Orphea all those years ago?

MY THOUGHTS

I really enjoy the detailed and incredibly thorough narratives of Joel Dicker, and ‘The Disappearance of Stephanie Mailer’ is no exception to that depth in the storytelling – I am personally happy to read such detail, although I feel the pace dropped a little and some more stringent edits would have improved the reading experience; I think it’s probably lost some flow in the translation. However don’t let this put you off at all!

There’s always a slow unfurling of information and overall, I enjoyed this book. It’s a crime mystery that explores awful events in 1994, when a family is tragically killed. I was fascinated how events move to 2014 and Stephanie Mailer casts doubt upon the killers’ guilt for this crime. After she disappears it’s a puzzle uncovering the truth, so prepare for multiple perspectives and dual timelines. You’ll really need to sustain your concentration with this one and there are many red herrings along the way to shift through.


I’d definitely recommend this book to people who are seeking a slow-paced complex read. The intricate plot and abundance of details give the reader a great deal to shift through and the layers of investigation add nicely to the reveals. This is certainly a multi-faceted read with various sub-plots keeping the pace and interest moving. The reader is also given a satisfactory, complete conclusion. Do check it out.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR & TRANSLATOR

JOËL DICKER was born in Geneva in 1985, where he studied Law. The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair was nominated for the Prix Goncourt and won the Grand Prix du Roman de l’Académie Française and the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens. It has sold more than 3.6 million copies in 42 countries.
HOWARD CURTIS is an award-winning translator of Italian and French, including books by Fabio Geda, Gianrico Carofiglio, Jean-Claude Izzo and Giorgio Scerbanenco.

#BlogTour for #FatalIsles by @AdolfssonMia with thanks to @Tr4cyF3nt0n #CompulsiveReaders @ZaffreBooks

I’m really pleased to be chatting about FATAL ISLES, the first in the Doggerland series by Maria Adolfsson. Do keep scrolling for some bookish chat…

Beautiful places can hide deadly secrets…

The Blurb

A remote island. A brutal murder. A secret hidden in the past . . .

In the middle of the North Sea, between the UK and Denmark, lies the beautiful and rugged island nation of Doggerland.
Detective Inspector Karen Eiken Hornby has returned to the main island, Heimö, after many years in London and has worked hard to become one of the few female police officers in Doggerland.

So, when she wakes up in a hotel room next to her boss, Jounas Smeed, she knows she’s made a big mistake. But things are about to get worse: later that day, Jounas’s ex-wife is found brutally murdered. And Karen is the only one who can give him an alibi.

The news sends shockwaves through the tight-knit island community, and with no leads and no obvious motive for the murder, Karen struggles to find the killer in a race against time.

Soon she starts to suspect that the truth might lie in Doggerland’s history. And the deeper she digs, the clearer it becomes that even small islands can hide deadly secrets . . .

My thoughts…

Firstly, what I enjoyed were the fabulous descriptions of Doggerland in this book. I loved the atmosphere it creates for the backdrop of the story and crime. It’s an engaging book from the start; there’s an easy opening narrative which serves to hook the readers into our protagonist’s, DI Karen Eiken Hornby, journey and challenges from the start. The investigation centres on the violent death of the ex-wife of the police forces head of CID and Hornby’s boss.

So, this investigation opens in an extremely complex way and the reader watches Hornby struggle with previous events and the current situation; this takes some juggling. There’s a strong cast of characters, both sympathetic and unsympathetic. There’s also an insight into how the police work, with all the expected dramas, back-stabbing, gossip with a constant underscore of male dominance.

It’s a carefully constructed and evenly paced crime novel. I liked the character of Karen Hornby and would happily continue reading this series. I also loved the setting and its community; a great location for secrets to hide in. I also didn’t realise Doggerland was an established series, so it’s great that more translations are, hopefully, coming.

A well-crafted atmospheric crime read that drags the reader into the lives and dramas of Doggerland.

#BlogTour for #TheArtofDeath by @davyfennell @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #CompulsiveReaders

Thanks to Tracy for the invite and to the publisher for the review copy. It’s great to get the chance to review a debut novel and Fennell’s serial killer thriller certainly hits the mark. Please do keep scrolling for some bookish chat.

The Blurb

An underground artist leaves three glass cabinets in Trafalgar Square that contain a gruesome installation: the corpses of three homeless men.

With the artist promising more to follow, newly-promoted Detective Inspector Grace Archer and her caustic DS, Harry Quinn, must race against time to follow what few clues have been left by a savvy killer.

As more bodies are exhibited at London landmarks and live streamed on social media, Archer and Quinn’s pursuit of the elusive killer becomes a desperate search.

But when Archer discovers that the killer might be closer than she originally thought – she realises that he has his sights set firmly on her . . .

He is creating a masterpiece. And she will be the star of his show.

My thoughts

Fennell introduces the reader to an absorbing protagonist in his debut thriller ‘The Art of Death’. It’s great when you become hooked into a new detective thriller and really connect with the lead characters. The opening investigation is led by DI Grace Archer and DS Harry Quinn, a confident ‘side-kick’ who’s smart and shows the capacity for great loyalty as the book, and hopefully series, progresses. It’s great we have some fully rounded characters to hook into, that are written with realism and have enough background depth to keep up the interest in their personal lives, despite the gruesome unfolding events of the murders they are investigating.

Set in London, we are introduced to a new killer on its streets. This predator really resonates with our modern society, using social networks to hunt for prey. The detached, cold feel of the murderer is really striking through the opening pages and builds throughout the book. The reader is aware from early events that DI Archer will have a bigger part to play in the crimes, and the tension builds through the pages as we await what will happen.

I really enjoyed the plotting and pace of this book; I must admit I guessed very early on who the guilty party was and where it was heading (I think reading crime novels for 30 years has helped, rather than a structural/plotting flaw by the author), so for me another plausible potential murderer would have been a useful red herring to get me off the scent. However, as all reading is a personal experience, this by no means deflates this novel. It’s an impressive debut and I hope will lead to a new and exciting series featuring Archer and Quinn.

A highly recommended debut crime thriller read. This creepy page-turner will pull you into a macabre world where the hunt for a killer consumes the pursers until the heart-stopping climax.

The Author

David Fennell was born and raised in Belfast before leaving for London at the age of eighteen with £50 in one pocket and a dog-eared copy of Stephen King’s The Stand in the other. He jobbed as a chef, waiter and bartender for several years before starting a career in writing for the software industry. He has been working in Cyber Security for fourteen years and is a fierce advocate for information privacy. To find out more, visit his website: www.davidfennell.co.uk and follow him on Twitter: @davyfennell

The Blog Tour

#BlogTour for #TheMaskof Mirrors by @ma_carrick with thanks to @orbitbooks and @Tr4cyF3nt0n

Nightmares are creeping through the city of dreams . . .

Praise for The Mask of Mirrors

‘Utterly captivating. Carrick spins an exciting web of mystery, magic, and political treachery in a richly drawn and innovative world.‘ S. A. Chakraborty, author of The City of Brass

‘Wonderfully immersive–I was unable to put it down.’ Andrea Stewart, author of The Bone Shard Daughter

‘I was utterly entranced by this glittering world filled with masked vigilantes, cunning conwomen, and dark magic. A sheer delight!’ Katy Rose Pool, author of There Will Come A Darkness

The Blurb

Nightmares are creeping through the city of dreams . . .

Renata Virdaux is a con artist who has come to the sparkling city of Nadezra — the city of dreams — with one goal: to trick her way into a noble house and secure her fortune and her sister’s future.

But as she’s drawn into the aristocratic world of House Traementis, she realises her masquerade is just one of many surrounding her. And as corrupted magic begins to weave its way through Nadezra, the poisonous feuds of its aristocrats and the shadowy dangers of its impoverished underbelly become tangled — with Ren at their heart.

My thoughts

The Mask of Mirrors is an epic, and I truly mean EPIC opening to the series. There’s over 700 pages of tightly packed writing to devour, so this is not for the faint-hearted; it’s a layered fantasy novel with a multitude of characters to enjoy and puzzle out, and at the heart of it all is Renata Virdaux, who is immersed in pulling off a detailed con to secure a fortune for herself and those she holds dear. This is a long book, as there’s an epic journey for our principal character to go on and a world of new people to meet and manipulate. But it soon becomes clear that there are many players with their own endgames to play.

Now, a word of advice, there’s a dramatis personae and a glossary at the back of the book – this is really useful, but I didn’t find it until halfway through the book. I really enjoyed the lead character of Renata, AKA Ren, as our central protagonist and through her perspective we see a fully rounded fantasy city of nightmares and nobility, politics and power, with a dash of Zorro into the mix. Despite Ren’s dualistic and duplicitous nature, she comes over strongly to the reader as a fighter; her resilience to better her situation and those she cares about is commendable. I enjoyed her wit and dedication to win, but the strength of heart as well. There are several other characters who are great to get to know and add layers to the multi-faceted world Carrick creates. From cousins and culprits to captains to cons, the intrigue, deceptions and quests build in both pace and plotting through this detailed novel.

The world of this novel has a vibrancy that pulsates from the pages; its scope is vast, and, with relief, the authors do not overload the reader, they craft a gradual understanding of the politics, communities, economies and systems, magical and otherwise to be revealed and understood. It’s the events and actions of the characters that show the reader how this world operates.

If you’re looking for a new fantasy series with depth then do consider ‘The Mask of Mirrors’.

The Authors

M. A. Carrick is the pseudonym for Marie Brennan (author of The Memoirs of Lady Trent) and Alyc Helms (author of The Adventures of Mr. Mystic), yes, we pulled a fantasy version of James S. A. Corey because, why not?! With masked vigilantes, noble intrigue, and charming criminals, this is a dark, romantic, action-packed fantasy, perfect for readers of V. E. Schwab (A Darker Shade of Magic), Scott Lynch (The Lies of Locke Lamora) and even The Princess Bride.


#BlogTour for #TheDarkRoom by @samblakebooks and published by @CorvusBooks with thanks to Anne @RandomTTours for the tour invite.

I read and enjoyed Sam Blake’s Cathy Connolly series starting with Little Bones, so jumped at the chance to be a part of the blog tour for The Dark Room, as always thanks to Anne for the invite (always super communication and professionally organised blog tours). A final thanks to Corvus Books for the review copy. Please so keep scrolling for some bookish chat…

In a house full of secrets, the past never dies…

The Blurb

Rachel Lambert leaves London afraid for her personal safety and determined to uncover the truth behind the sudden death of a homeless man with links to a country house hotel called Hare’s Landing.

New York-based crime reporter Caroline Kelly’s career is threatened by a lawsuit and she needs some thinking space away from her job. But almost as soon as she arrives, Hare’s Landing begins to reveal its own stories – a 30-year-old missing person’s case and the mysterious death of the hotel’s former owner.

As Rachel and Caroline join forces, it becomes clear that their investigations are intertwined – and that there is nothing more dangerous than the truth… 

My thoughts…

This is my sort of mystery thriller read; a book dripping with ‘Rebecca vibes’ and saturated with a mystery tinged with the supernatural. I love a good puzzle and this book provides a few, despite still having questions at the end, it’s a satisfyingly welcome escape from our current covid-imprisoned world.

The protagonists are two women, seemingly worlds apart, who are on a course of convergence via a journey of personal reflection, a hunt for answers, the reawakening of the past and its buried secrets; this uncovering is going to bluntly impact their lives and futures. The setting, for the most part, is Hare’s Landing – a house in West Cork that has been containing secrets for many years. It’s now a guest house, where a rather ‘Mrs Danvers’ like employee overseas the guests as they arrive, and certainly keeps an eye on them!

The reader soon becomes hooked into the strange, supernatural occurrences and begins to build the secrets and events into a slow uncovering of the truth. There’s a nice friendship that develops between the two female leads as they join forces to find out they are being targeted. There’s the additional burden of a menacing intruder, a mysterious suicide of the past, a missing person’s investigation to add to the complex twists and turns the women find themselves embroiled in. The pace is steady until 60% in and then it moves swiftly to its conclusion.

A book of secrets, suspicions and murder set in a remote house where the past lives of the two protagonists become entwined in a supernatural edged mystery.

The Author

Sam Blake

Sam Blake is a pseudonym for Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, the founder of The Inkwell Group publishing consultancy and the hugely popular national writing resources website Writing.ie. She is Ireland’s leading literary scout and has assisted many award-winning and bestselling authors to publication. As Sam Blake, she has written four previous novels and has topped the Irish bestseller chart.

The Blog Tour

Please buy from independents if you can XX

#BlogTour for #Winterkill by @ragnarjo #DarkIceland @OrendaBooks and expertly translated by @givemeawave

It was lovely to be invited on the BLOG TOUR for WINTERKILL (thank you Anne!) and the atmospheric book cover design really caught my eye too; the bleak landscape looks a perfect setting for this latest book in the NORDIC NOIR Dark Iceland crime series, published by the fabulous ORENDA BOOKS. Please keep scrolling for lots of book information and chat…

The million-copy bestselling DARK ICELAND series returns…

The Book Blurb

When the body of a nineteen-year-old girl is found on the main street of Siglufjörður, Police Inspector Ari Thór battles a violent Icelandic storm in an increasingly dangerous hunt for her killer … The chilling, claustrophobic finale to the international bestselling Dark Iceland series.

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.

The Blog Tour

2020 Blog Tour Dates

My thoughts…

Firstly, I need to admit that this is my first time reading Ragnor Jonasson’s DARK ICELAND books, so I’m very late to the series, and I’m beginning at the end! Jonasson has been billed as writing ‘Nordic Noir of the highest order’ and ‘breathing new life in Nordic Noir’, so I was very excited to read WINTERKILL. It’s the sixth installment in the series, which began in SNOWBLIND and introduced the series protagonist Detective Ari Thor Arason. So our principle character has obviously a long history with fans of these books, and I looked forward to reading to see how this works as standalone for a new reader. What a credit to the skills of the writer, that its quality narrative relays enough information to settle the reader in and the new investigation runs beautifully alongside this.

WINTERKILL is a quality Nordic Noir (translated brilliantly by David Warriner) that reels you in from the opening emergency operator call to the duty Inspector on call: Ari Thor Arason. Siglufjordur is the setting, a land of day and night, where the sun barely sets in the summer. It’s so remote, it becomes almost uninhabitable. This remote Northern Icelandic village provide the frozen backdrop to the investigation of a teenage girl’s body found in a unusual setting.

Now, in term’s of character, obviously I’m missing the previous character developments, so have only a surface level of understanding of this journey through the series narrative. I was aware I missed out, but in all honesty, it didn’t impede my enjoyment of this book. There’s a great sense of humanity in Ari, and you can’t help but respect how he works and lives; he’s a character who’s dealing with several issues in his private life as well and these pop up throughout the central crime story.

The investigation is a delight for the reader to follow, pick up clues and surmise where the plot is heading. It’s really well crafted and the quality of the translation adds to the success of this. The pace is slow, but works. The readers glances in onto different characters as Arason investigates the complex nature of a seemingly tragic suicide.

I did find the contemplative nature of the story-telling the more dominant aspect of the book, perhaps as it’s the end of the series, and therefore the crime is in a more secondary position. From the more reflective, personal thoughts of our protagonist the reader gets a sense of humanity, desires, needs, love and reflection – all working well to add depth. For many, this is the final book in a loved series, for me, it’s the start of a new adventure – to find out how we arrive at this point, and I look forward to beginning my journey.

An accomplished character driven crime novel, set in a unique world of snow and light, where the darkness in humanity is uncovered by a driven, complex and engaging protagonist.

The Author

Ragnar Jonasson

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 2015 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.

WINTERKILL publishes 21 January 2021

http://orendabooks.co.uk/

#BlogTour for #ChildrenoftheValley #CastleFreeman @Duckbooks @RandomTTours

I’m really pleased to be sharing an extract from Children of the Valley a ‘fast-paced, sharply observed novel of rural suspense’, by award-wining writer Castle Freeman.

The Blurb

Sheriff Lucian Wing goes to the aid of a pair of young runaways, Duncan and Pamela, who have fled to his backwoods county jurisdiction in Vermont. The girl’s powerful stepfather New York has set a smoothly menacing lawyer and well-armed thugs on their trail.


At the same time Wing must deal with his wayward wife’s chronic infidelity; the snobbery of Pamela’s cosmopolitan mother; the dubious assistance of a demented World War Two enthusiast – and the climactic, chaotic onset of a prodigious specimen of the local wildlife.


Amidst it all, can Wing bring Duncan and Pamela to safety?

The Extract

1


The De-Escalation of Rhumba


Nine – no, ten – vehicles were parked in front of Krugers’, on the grass, in the road, around back in the lane: two deputies, four Staties, including a command car, two ambulances, the Cardiff Fire Department’s second-best pumper, and a line truck from the telephone company. The first to arrive had been here for half an hour. Nothing had happened, nothing had changed. So now they were waiting. They were waiting for something to move. They were waiting for me.
I left my truck in the road and walked to them, keeping the cruisers between the house and me. A small house, needed a coat of paint. Needed a coat of paint and a rich owner; wasn’t going to get either one. We called the place Krugers’. It had been Krugers’ at one time. I didn’t know whose it was now; it was rented out. Storey-and-a-half, so hard to see what’s going on upstairs. Not good. Tiny yards in front and behind, then woods all around. So no near neighbours. Good.
Dwight Farrabaugh, the state police captain in charge of this action, and the Cardiff fire chief were standing behind the pumper in the road. Normally, an officer of the grade of captain wouldn’t turn out for what looked like another no-frills domestic dispute, but in this case firearms were reported to be involved, and so were minor children.
Guns and kids get everybody wound up – everybody, including the press. Therefore, Dwight had favoured us with his presence this morning.
Wingate was there, too. Evidently he had busted out of the old-folks’ home and hitched a ride to the action with the chief. I joined them.
‘Well, if it ain’t The Chill,’ said Farrabaugh. ‘Where the hell have you been?’
‘Goofing off,’ I said. ‘Like you. Hello, Chief. Where’s the new rig?’ Cardiff Fire had recently purchased a new pumper. Usually, the volunteers were eager to take it to calls to show it off to the townspeople, who had dug deep to pay for it; but today it had been left at the station.
‘Don’t want no holes in my brand new truck,’ said the fire chief. ‘Specially not on account of a piece of shit like Rhumba.’
‘Good idea,’ I said. ‘Thought you’d retired,’ I said to Wingate. Wingate shrugged. ‘Like you see,’ he said.
I looked around. I could see the three Staties just inside the woods. They were watching the house with binoculars. The deputies would be doing the same on the other side. ‘So?’ I asked. ‘What have we got? Rhumba again, I guess?’
‘The very same,’ said Dwight.
‘Rhumba and who else?’ I asked.
‘The missus. Three of her kids, maybe more. Three we know of: two little, one medium.’
‘They’re upstairs?’
Dwight nodded.
‘We’ve got eyes?’
‘Sure. Missus has a shiner on her as big as a golf ball. She’s scroonched into a corner. Kids are under the bed.’
‘Smart kids,’ I said. ‘And Rhumba?’
‘Downstairs. He’s shoved a big old couch against the front door. He’s behind it or near it. He moves around.’
‘Back door?’ I asked.
‘Kitchen. We can be through it and in there in ten seconds. ’Course, that’s going in with weight.’
‘Right,’ I said. ‘Let’s just take it slow for now. Okay?’
‘Here you go again,’ said Dwight.
‘Just for now,’ I said.
‘Now means not long, right?’
‘Of course,’ I said. ‘Equipment?’
‘Shotgun,’ said Dwight.
‘He says,’ said Wingate.
‘You’ve seen it?’ I asked.
‘Negative,’ said Dwight. ‘He had one last time. If you recall.’
‘I recall,’ I said. ‘We’ve got sound?’
‘Over there,’ said Dwight, and he pointed to the telephone company’s truck.
‘Well, then,’ I said.


I sat in the cab of the line truck waiting for Rhumba’s connection to patch through and drinking lukewarm coffee from a paper cup. Somehow Wingate had found a coffee pot. Forty years in law enforcement, you may not always get your man, but you always get your coffee. Wingate sat in the cab beside me, listening for the call.
‘Hello?’ Rhumba’s voice came in.
‘Earl?’ I said. ‘Earl, this is Lucian Wing. How are you doing in there?’
‘Fuck you,’ said Rhumba. He didn’t like you to use his real name.
‘Okay, Rhumba,’ I said. ‘Who have you got with you?’
‘All of them,’ said Rhumba. ‘The slut, the brats, the whole nine yards.’
‘Three kids, then?’ I looked at Wingate. He drank his coffee.
‘You’re asking me?’ said Rhumba. ‘You got your assholes falling out of the trees, here, spying around. You tell me who I’ve got.’
‘We see three kids.’
‘Ha-ha, then,’ said Rhumba. ‘There’s four. Four and the whore. Ha-ha.’
‘Good one,’ I said. ‘What are you going to do?’
‘What do you think?’ Rhumba seemed to clear his throat.
‘Rhumba?’ I pushed him.
Rhumba made a little sound, might have been a cough, might have been a sob. ‘I’m going to kill them all,’ he said.
‘Okay,’ I said. ‘Okay, Rhumba. Ten-four. You’re coming through loud and clear. But nobody’s in a hurry, here, right? Let’s slow it down. Let’s take a breath.’
‘You take a breath,’ said Rhumba. ‘I’ve told you: this time, I’m doing it.’
‘I know you don’t want the kids hurt,’ I said.
‘You’ve got no fucking idea what I do or don’t want,’ said Rhumba. ‘You say you do, but you don’t. You don’t know.’
‘You’re right,’ I said. ‘I don’t know.’
‘I’ve had enough with this thing,’ Rhumba went on. ‘I have fucking had enough.’
‘I know you have, Rhumba,’ I said. ‘We all know you have. What you’ve put up with? Anybody would have snapped.’
‘I’m snapping now,’ said Rhumba. ‘I am fucking snapping.’
‘I know you are, Rhumba. We all know you are… Uhh … Hang on a second.’
I turned to Wingate. I covered the phone with my hand. ‘He ain’t drunk,’ I said. ‘Don’t sound it, anyhow.’
‘No,’ said Wingate.
‘I wish I knew if he’s really got something in there, like the other time,’ I said.
‘I wish you knew, too, sheriff,’ said Wingate. ‘Young Dwight will be getting restless. Pretty soon, time to guess and go.’
‘Guess and go,’ I said.
‘My guess?’ said Wingate. ‘He’s got nothing.’
‘How do you know?’
‘I don’t know. I knew, it wouldn’t be a guess.’
‘Well,’ I said, ‘I’ve got to go someplace with him.’
‘Try a new deck,’ said Wingate.
‘I could do that,’ I said. ‘But would it work?’
‘One way to find out.’
‘Earl?’ I said into the phone. ‘You there, Earl?’
‘Fuck you,’ said Rhumba.
‘We’ve been talking, out here, trying to recall. That place?’
‘Place? What place?’
‘Your place, there. Where you’re at. You rent, right?’
‘Say what?’
‘Your place. Your house. Where you live. You rent it, right? From – is it still Krugers?’
‘What are you talking about?’ Rhumba asked. ‘Did you hear me? I said – I said I’m going to kill them all. I’ve had enough, and I’m going to do it.’
‘I got that, Earl,’ I said. ‘But I’m asking you about your house. Are you renters? Who’s your landlord? Is it still Krugers?’
‘No,’ said Rhumba. ‘The landlord’s Brown.’
‘Brown?’ I asked him. ‘Is that the same Brown had the camp up on Diamond? His brother was killed in Vietnam? Wendell Brown?’
‘Who? What?’
‘Your landlord, Earl,’ I said. ‘Help me out, here, can’t you? Wasn’t he the one whose brother was killed? They had that camp. Brad McKinnon got a ten-pointer up there years ago?’
‘That’s right,’ said Rhumba. ‘My dad was there. Said it was the god damnedest buck he ever saw. But his name’s not Wendell. It’s Wayne.’
‘Who is?’ I asked him.
‘The guy that had the camp, where McKinnon—’
‘What camp?’
‘The camp we’ve been talking about,’ Rhumba said. ‘The camp on Diamond.’
‘Oh,’ I said. ‘That camp.’
‘What other camp is there?’
‘Quite a few.’
‘Fuck you, Lucian,’ said Rhumba.
‘I was just asking,’ I said. ‘Just trying to get us clear. You know me: I like things clear.’
‘Lucian?’ Rhumba asked.
‘Yes, Earl.’
‘This is a pretty fucked-up situation, here, you know it?’
‘I know.’
‘Sometimes,’ Rhumba said. ‘Things get pretty fucked up.’
‘They do,’ I said. ‘Listen: you ready to step out here? See what we can do? Talk a little, here? You don’t feel right, you can always go back inside. No funny stuff.’
‘Just fucked up,’ said Rhumba. ‘Hang on a minute, Lucian.’ The phone clicked off. We could hear bumping and scraping from inside the house as Rhumba moved his barricade couch out of the way of the front door. Wingate dumped the remains of his coffee out the window of the telephone company’s truck. ‘Done deal,’ he said. ‘I saw it, too, you know. That buck. That was a hell of an animal. Where are you headed now?’
‘Back to the office, I guess,’ I said.
‘Drop me at the place?’ Wingate asked me.


‘The Chill Rides Again,’ said Dwight Farrabaugh. ‘Another satisfied customer.’
Rhumba sat in the back of one of the Staties’ cruisers being interviewed. Two deputies had gone over the house: no shotgun. No other firearms. Good. A couple from the state’s Department of Children and Families were talking to Mrs. Rhumba and the kids. Four kids, as Rhumba had said. All of them apparently okay. Good, again.
Dwight was wrapping up. He slapped me on the back. ‘Thanks, Lucian,’ he said. ‘I don’t know how you do it.’
‘Natural gift for improvisation,’ I said.
‘Natural gift for bullshit, more like,’ said Dwight. He turned to his command car, ready to be on his way.
Well, he’s more right than wrong, Dwight, ain’t he? But the bullshit ain’t the main thing. The bullshit is a means to an end. The end is boredom, and the end is impatience. The end is fatigue. People backed right up to the wall, like Rhumba, expend a lot of energy. They tire quickly. They want above all for something to happen, anything. They’ve climbed up to the top of the flagpole, and now they don’t know what’s next. They don’t know where to go. All they know is, they want action.
They want decision. They want an event. My job is to see they don’t get one. Instead, they get the bullshit. They get irrelevance. They get talk. The talk wanders around from no-place to no-place and back again. Pretty soon, your subject is so bored, so dazed by the storm of bullshit, that, to stop it, he climbs down from the flagpole. He goes quietly. It’s a method. It ain’t exciting, but it often works, and, when it works, everybody walks away.
De-escalation is what scholars of law enforcement call the method. Dwight Farrabaugh and others call it chilling. Wingate don’t call it anything, but it was Wingate who taught the method to me. He’s still teaching it, as you can see, and, although I’m glad to have his advice, I’ll admit sometimes I wish he’d leave off. Wingate was sheriff of our county forty years. He hired me for a deputy, and I took over for him when he retired ten–twelve years ago. Pretty soon, I learned Wingate had his own ideas on retirement. Retirement was a state of mind, not a fact, and it was a state of mind Wingate was never in. Wingate has retired more times than Frank Sinatra. The more he retires, the more he comes back. And who’s going to tell him he can’t? If Frank Sinatra shows up in Las Vegas and says he’d like to sing a couple of the old favourites, is Las Vegas going to tell him to go away? Frank built Las Vegas. Frank owned Las Vegas. He’ll sing if he damned wants to. Same with Wingate in our valley. Now, inability to retire may be the only way Wingate’s like Frank Sinatra, I guess. I can’t think of any others. But, then, I don’t know Frank. Maybe there’s more.
I left Wingate at the entrance to Steep Mountain House. He got down out of the truck and stood for a minute with his hand on the door.
‘How’s Clementine?’ Wingate asked me.
‘Tip-top,’ I said. ‘Never better.’
‘Uh-huh,’ said Wingate. ‘Well, keep your spoon clean, young fellow. Good job on Rhumba. We’ll see you.’ He turned and walked toward the building. He went slowly, and I saw he was using his cane today. Wingate’s not a kid.

The Author

Castle Freeman is the author of seven novels, including the critically acclaimed Go With Me, which has been made into a film starring Anthony Hopkins, as well as two short-story collections. He has lived in rural Vermont since 1975.

#BlogTour for #TheLostDiaryof Venice by @MargauxDeroux and published by @orionbooks @TrapezeBooks – with thanks to Alex for the tour invite :-)

A secret diary. A forbidden love. A centuries old mystery to solve.

The Book Blurb

When a rare sixteenth-century manuscript lands on her desk courtesy of William, a struggling painter, shy book restorer Rose makes a startling discovery: it is a palimpsest. Beneath the text is a different document, one that’s been written over. What they discover is the secret diary of William’s ancestor, Giovanni Lomazzo, a Venetian painter who has just been commissioned by Venice’s most powerful admiral to paint a portrait of his favourite courtesan… it is a diary of forbidden love, dangerous political plots, and secrets that could destroy everyone involved.

Together, Rose and William work to solve the mystery of what happened to the secret lovers. As feelings develop between Rose and William, their own experience begins to mirror the affair that they’re uncovering, and each set of lovers is forced to confront the reality of their romance.

A richly detailed and sweeping page-turner, Margaux’s sumptuous portrait of late Renaissance Italy will have you falling headlong into history, slipping in and out of the shadows along the canals of Venice.

A secret diary. A forbidden love. A centuries old mystery to solve.

My thoughts…

I do enjoy historical fiction, so was delighted to read The Lost Diary of Venice for its BLOG TOUR. This is a book of layers that moves from modern day back into the past to Renaissance Italy of the 1500s. There’s a meandering pace to the narrative; this is not a negative. It gives the reader time to savour the richness of the historical detail that clearly comes from a labour of love and superb historical research. I enjoyed the historical writing more than the modern day setting, but both are linked really well as we learn about obsession, needs, desires, love and longing.

The historical plot is rooted in actual history, a tale of artists, courtesans, spies, anti-Semitism and war. I loved the character and journey of Giovanni, an artist who is beginning to lose his sight; it is his reawakening under the care of the alluring, layered character of Chiara that really hold this book together.

There’s a great deal of character development and plotting that works so well in this book, even the villain of the piece is given a reason for his behaviour, of how trauma and pain has molded him into the cruel, detached bigot he has become at this point in the story.

In the modern day world, the past is awakened by the discovery of Giovanni’s diary and through this two people, who are feeling rather lost, connect with each other. It’s another layer from the author and the reader questions the connections we form in relationships, and how time alters our feelings and sometimes we lose a sense of what we had, or have lost. Can these things be regained? Or should we disconnect and find something more ‘real’ and ‘true’ in new experiences. I enjoyed the question of ‘what is real’ in these situations.

It’s a recommended read from me, so do consider The Lost Diary of Venice if you enjoy layered historical fiction with romance, war, culture, mystery and art – lovely escapism for 2020!

The Blog Tour