#blogtour – #TheSecretsofStrangers by @CharityNorman1 #RandomThingsTours

Absolutely delighted to be on the blog tour today for ‘The Secrets of Strangers’, with thanks to Allen & Unwin Publishers, Anne Cater #RandomThingsTours and to Charity Norman for the moving story. See below for the book blurb and some bookish chat. Thank you for reading!

A regular weekday morning veers drastically off-course for five strangers whose paths cross in a London café – their lives never to be the same again when an apparently crazed gunman holds them hostage.

But there is more to the situation than first meets the eye and as the captives grapple with their own inner demons, the line between right and wrong starts to blur. Will the secrets they keep stop them from escaping with their lives?

My thoughts

Firstly, this is, for me, a five star read; it’s a deeply moving story of a group of people who find themselves in an appalling situation, and not of their own making. It’s a story of humanity and inhumanity told through a carefully constructed slow reveal narrative that pulls on so many emotions for the reader to work through. There are incredibly moving human stories here, both distressing and soul reaching, I genuinely had to stop reading and take a deep breath at times.

The injustices this book covers are truly heart-wrenching, but Norman controls and balances the prose so beautifully, it’s actually tears of joy and hope that fall as the story ends despite the tragedy.

Yes, this is a story of a hostage situation on the surface, but the actual depth in the story is really important, and as we are introduced to the lives of those caught up in the drama, we learn about ourselves and the world we live in too. I enjoyed all the players in this tense drama, from the gunman and the hostage negotiator to the eclectic mix of people who find themselves hostages in a heart-pounding situation, oh, and of course, the dog!

Profoundly moving, absolutely unexpected and deeply memorable. I have no hesitation recommending this book for readers.

The Author

Charity Norman

Charity Norman was born in Uganda and brought up in successive draughty vicarages in Yorkshire and Birmingham. After several years’ travel she became a barrister, specialising in crime and family law. In 2002, realising that her three children had barely met her, she took a break from the law and moved with her family to New Zealand. THE SECRETS OF STRANGERS is her sixth novel.

#BlogTour #TheCurator @MWCravenUK @LittleBrownUK @TheCrimeVault @BethWright26

With thanks to Beth for the tour invite. This is the third book in the Washington Poe crime thriller series, and to find out more do keep reading…

And nothing will ever be the same again . . .

The Blurb

A serial killer is leaving displayed body parts all over Cumbria.
A strange message is left at each scene: #BSC6

Called in to investigate, the National Crime Agency’s Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw are faced with a case that makes no sense. Why were some victims anaesthetised, while others died in appalling agony? Why is their only suspect denying what they can irrefutably prove but admitting to things they weren’t even aware of? And why did the victims all take the same two weeks off work three years earlier? And when a disgraced FBI agent gets in touch things take an even darker turn. Because she doesn’t think Poe is dealing with a serial killer at all; she thinks he’s dealing with someone far, far worse – a man who calls himself the Curator.
And nothing will ever be the same again . . .

My Thoughts

Don’t you just love that moment when a new book arrives from one of your favourite series; it’s like meeting up with old, and missed, friends. M. W. Craven’s Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw series is one of those books, and ‘The Curator’ is the latest adventure into the crime thriller world, and what a crime fighting team! The SCAS (Serious Crime Analysis Section) are back and headed by D.I Stephanie Flynn, who is now heavily pregnant. Poe and Bradshaw are soon working with her again on an unusual and macabre case. All the books work easily as stand-alone, so don’t hesitate to pick up this book if you’re new to the series.

‘The Curator’ – I love the title – is a tightly plotted and tense puzzle, where a series of crimes is being orchestrated from the shadows. It’s up to Poe and Bradshaw to unravel the threads of some rather gruesome crimes and capture the villain. For me, the highlight of these books are the characters and their interplay, there are lovely personal relationships continuing to develop, and an intense dedication to hunting down the culprits. I loved the plot in this book; the idea of a ‘Curator’ controlling the ‘players’ was fun to watch develop.

A twisty, puzzling and satisfying read, placing Craven’s cerebral dexterity firmly in centre stage position. Disturbingly dark, sharply plotted with a dash of panache!

A highly recommended read: I can’t wait to see what Craven comes up with next!

#blogtour #TheGlassHouse @EvePollyChase @MichaelJBooks @GabyYoung

I am thrilled to join the blog tour for Eve Chase’s novel, ‘The Glass House’, with huge thanks to Gaby for the invite. This is my first book by Eve Chase, and if her others are anything like this, then I’ve been seriously missing out. See below for the book blurb and more bookish chat about ‘The Glass House’, and… wow what a stunning cover design – who could leave this behind in a book shop!

The truth will shatter everything…

A remote manor house.

An idyllic wood

An abandoned baby.

A shocking discovery deep in the forest.

One summer will change a family’s life for ever.

Step through the door of Foxcote Manor, and discover its darkest secrets.

My thoughts

I read this book on a beautiful summer’s day in my garden: the perfect setting and time to read this absolutely absorbing story of events at Foxcote Manor one summer, and, for me, at the heart of the story is a woman known by those close to her as ‘Big Rita’.

There are three central voices in this book and an alternating time frame of 1971 and the present day. It’s a female story told via the voices of Rita, Sylvie and Hera. I am a sucker for a remote household setting; here we have the rather neglected and solitary Foxcote Manor, a ‘wreaked beauty’ of a house, with ‘mullioned windows’ that ‘blink drunkenly’ and set within a sprawling natural forest. The house is cocooned by the woodlands and provides an isolated setting for the central story to play-out.

This is a story of secrets, and I loved the slow unfolding of the mystery. What I loved the most is the character of Big Rita (named because of her height) and her self-sacrifice and sense of duty for the family she works for. Rita is hired by the Harrington family to look after their children, five year old Teddy, twelve year old Hera and the new baby on its way. I loved Rita’s character, her determination, compassion and dedication to the family she works for and her resilience in protecting and nurturing them. Set alongside this early part of Rita’s story is the present day narrative of Sylvie, a woman newly divorced and struggling with her teenage daughter to begin again, particularly after receiving traumatic news.

Chase’s writing is truly lovely, she has a beautiful way with words that manoeuvres the reader into the minds of her characters and leaves little snippets of the mystery to be pieced together. I became emotionally entangled in this story of secrets, desires, hopes and needs. Yes there is a murder, and you’ll soon work out who it’s the most likely to be, however there is a rather large stone to turn to find the whole truth.

A beautifully entwined mystery read with heart. Highly recommended read.

#BlogTour ~SISTER by Kjell Ola Dahl @OrendaBooks #OsloDetectives @ko_dahl and translated by Don Bartlett.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Karen Sullivan @OrendaBooks for the invite onto the #Sister blog tour. I hadn’t read the other books in this series, so was excited to find out all about the Oslo Detectives in this Nordic Noir thriller.

The Blurb

Oslo detective Frølich searches for the mysterious sister of a young female
asylum seeker, but when people start to die, everything points to an old
case and a series of events that someone will do anything to hide…
Suspended from duty, Detective Frølich is working as a private investigator,
when his girlfriend’s colleague asks for his help with a female asylum
seeker, who the authorities are about to deport. She claims to have a sister
in Norway, and fears that returning to her home country will mean instant
death.
Frølich quickly discovers the whereabouts of the young woman’s sister, but
things become increasingly complex when she denies having a sibling, and
Frølich is threatened off the case by the police. As the body count rises, it
becomes clear that the answers lie in an old investigation, and the
mysterious sister, who is now on the run…
A dark, chilling and up-to-the-minute Nordic Noir thriller, Sister is also a
tense and well-plotted murder mystery with a moving tragedy at its heart,
cementing Kjell Ola Dahl as one of the greatest crime writers of our
generation.

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed this Nordic Noir, what begins as a seemingly straightforward investigation becomes increasingly more complex. A topical issue of asylum seekers and deportation introduces themes of abuse, the immigration system, twisted truths, and murder. I loved the plotting and the drip feeding of clues as our investigator, and suspended detective, Frolich pieces the clues together in missing persons case that develops into murder and heart-break.

I haven’t read the previous books in this series, but it didn’t matter at all and ‘Sister’ works perfectly as a standalone. It’s an atmospheric novel, that is grounded in realism; the contours of the novel are meticulous and authentic. The social aspect is the standout message, rather than the crime aspect, and through the asylum story-line the reader is immersed into harrowing corruption and cover-ups. The core of this novel is dark and it forces you to open your eyes to the world that is often hidden.

Addictive, dark and complex.

The Author

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in
1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven
novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum
psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the
prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has
been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.

Blog Tour Dates

With thanks to Orenda Books for the gifted book and Blog Tour invite!

#BlogTour THE MURDER GAME by @RachelAbbott #RandomThingsTour #BookReview with thanks to @Wildfirebks @headlinepg

A thank you to Anne Cater and Wildfire Books for the invite to the blog tour for #TheMurderGame by Rachel Abbott. Welcome to some bookish chat…

A year ago today, we all gathered for Lucas’ wedding at his glorious Cornish home overlooking the sea.
But no one was married that day.
Now Lucas has invited us back to celebrate the anniversary. But the anniversary of what? The wedding that never happened, or the tragedy that occurred just hours before the ceremony was due to begin?
He’s told us that tonight he has planned a game. We have our costumes, we have our parts, and everyone must play. The game, he tells us, is about to begin.
What does Lucas want from us? What are we not being told? And what’s going to happen when this terrible game is over?

My thoughts

I had such a great time reading this book! I hadn’t realised it was the second in the Stephanie King series, but it didn’t matter one bit. Abbott’s narrative places the central characters at the heart of the story, so King arrives later, when the police become involved, to lead the investigative aspect of this psychological thriller.

This is one of those books that has shades of an Agatha Christie novel. The careful line up of characters, from the charming to the acerbic, the desperate to the fragile. I loved the backdrop of lazy summer living at Polskirren, a beautiful manor house next to the Cornish coastline; a house where a group of friends meet, and where tragic events quickly unfold. It’s a joy to be introduced to all the players and the set-up is a delicious mash of furtive glances, eye gestures, huddled conversation and ambiguous comments.

The narrative is split between several of the female voices, so the perspectives change, which is a great way the book plays with the reader. I absolutely loved trying to work out the puzzle Abbott provides in this thriller story: the drip feeding of information; the slow unfurling of the central characters; the introduction of the ‘game’ in the prologue, and the female voices all slowly building the jigsaw pieces from the past. It is genuinely hard to put this book down!

This is a highly recommended psychological thriller read where an old mystery has woken up, as past friends meet on the cusp of a new wedding. Memories are stirred and questions answered, questions that some people desperately want to remain buried. With themes of trauma, forgiveness, friendships, secrets and love, this is an immersive read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Check out the other fabulous bloggers on this tour:

The author

Rachel Abbott began her career as an independent author in 2011, with Only the Innocent, which became a No.1 bestseller on Kindle, topping the chart for four weeks.
Since then, she has published eight further psychological thrillers and sold over 3 million copies. She is one of the top-selling authors of all time in the UK Kindle store, and her novels have been translated into 21 languages.
Rachel splits her time between Alderney – a beautiful island off the coast of France – and the Le Marche region of Italy, where she is able to devote all her time to writing fiction.

#BlogTour for CONJURE WOMEN by Afia Atakora @4thEstateBooks

I was delighted to be asked to join this blog tour for ‘Conjure Women’ by 4th Estate books. Welcome to more bookish chat…

Blurb

The pale-skinned, black-eyed baby is a bad omen. That’s one thing the people on the old plantation are sure of. The other is that Miss Rue midwife, healer, crafter of curses – will know what to do.
But for once Rue doesn’t know. Times have changed since her mother Miss May Belle held the power to influence the life and death of her fellow slaves. Freedom has come. The master’s Big House lies in ruins. But this new world brings new dangers, and Rue’s old magic may be no match for them.
When sickness sweeps across her tight-knit community, Rue finds herself the focus of suspicion. What secrets does she keep amidst the charred remains of the Big House? Which spells has she conjured to threaten their children? And why is she so wary of the charismatic preacher man who promises to save them all?
Rue understands fear. It has shaped her life and her mother’s before her. And now she knows she must face her fears – and her ghosts – to find a new way forward for herself and her people.

Conjure Women

My thoughts

This is a debut novel from the pen of Afia Atakora and it’s a brilliant but challenging read set around the American Civil War. The focus of the story is through three generations of women on a plantation: Miss May Belle, her daughter Rue and the daughter of their plantation owner/master, Varina.


Atakora is a beautiful writer, her skill with prose weaves the reader into the lives of these women: it’s an immersive journey back into the past. It is about the women, their roles based on their gender and skin colour. It’s about loss, hope, friendship, society, cruelty, violence, lust and magic.
This is a challenging book to read, it’s emotional and uncomfortable at times but Atakora’s writing craft balances this well. Slavery and oppression are always difficult to digest, but it’s such an important read, speaking out beautifully about womanhood, motherhood and the bonds created between people.

A thought-provoking, beautifully crafted novel of the female and enslavement.

The Author

Afia Atakora was born in the United Kingdom and raised in New Jersey, where she now lives. She graduated from New York University and has an MFA from Columbia University, where she was the recipient of the De Alba Fellowship. Her fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and she was a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers

I AM DUST by @LouiseWriter published by @OrendaBooks #BlogTour

I’m super pleased to be on the blog tour for Louise Beech’s ‘I Am Dust’ – with thanks to Karen Sullivan/Orenda Books and Anne Cater for the lovely invite.

Blurb

When iconic musical Dust is revived twenty years after the
leading actress was murdered in her dressing room, a series of
eerie events haunts the new cast…
The Dean Wilson Theatre is believed to be haunted by a long-dead
actress, singing her last song, waiting for her final cue, looking for
her killer…
Now Dust, the iconic musical, is returning after twenty years. But
who will be brave enough to take on the role of ghostly goddess
Esme Black, last played by Morgan Miller, who was murdered in
her dressing room?
Theatre usher Chloe Dee is caught up in the spectacle. As the
new actors arrive, including an unexpected face from her past,
everything changes. Are the eerie sounds and sightings backstage
real or just her imagination? Is someone playing games?
Not all the drama takes place onstage. Sometimes murder, magic,
obsession and the biggest of betrayals are real life. When you’re in
the theatre shadows, you see everything.
And Chloe has been watching…

Thoughts…

Immediately I regretted reading this book late at night: a creepy rhyme; the haunted theatre setting; the cursed Scottish play ‘Macbeth’ mentioned in the opening paragraph, and I was straight away seeing shadows in the corner of my room! I trained in a Repertory Theatre when I first started my theatre career, and this book took me back into the past. Backstage, props, the wings, the fly floor, actor companies, dressing rooms, corridors, front-of-house and superstitions. We had a resident ghost called the Grey Lady, and pretty much everyone working at the theatre had a creepy story to tell. I remember working backstage during the ‘Woman in Black’, I had to cover stage-right (essentially, a tiny dark corridor, with access to the even creepier sub-stage) by myself; there were many times I saw shadows ‘move’ and often felt watched. This is probably as the show was incredibly creepy to work on, where I had to create the Woman in Black’s ghostly effects… I’ve goose bumps writing this! Great memories…anyway, I’m digressing, back to what’s important, and that’s Louise Beech’s novel ‘I am Dust’.

I genuinely had a great time reading this, and if I hadn’t had to wait until the light of day to keep reading, it would have been a one sitting read. Without repeating the ‘blurb’ above this is essentially a murder mystery ghost story with depth. It’s intense, suspenseful and has a strong ‘I see dead people vibe’ from the cinematic world of ‘The Sixth Sense’. Beech provides a haunting narrative for the reader that wraps you up in the central protagonist’s story. Chloe Dee is our narrator, the theatre usher and, like many, dreams of being on the stage, but is fighting the confidence to push herself. We do connect with her fragility, and the damage she inflicts upon herself pulls in our concern. There’s certainly heartbreak in this story, and I really appreciated the emotional depth Beech provides.

With themes of obsession, desire, greed, shallowness and unrequited love this book is packed full of energy via its thoroughly entertaining storytelling – that’s what all good books should be: passionate storytelling! Louise Beech certainly can tell a great story. Fun, creepy, suspenseful escapism with heart – just what’s needed right now.

Many thanks to both the author and publisher for ‘I Am Dust’. From your reader! 🙂

Author Bio:

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

Check out the amazing bloggers on this tour below for more book chat:

#BlogTour BURIED by Lynda La Plante with thanks to @ZaffreBooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n #CompulsiveReaders

I’m really happy to be on the blog tour for ‘Buried’ by Lynda La Plante; it’s great to be helping to introduce detective Jack Warr to the book crime scene.

Some things should remain BURIED…

Blurb

The gripping first book in a brand-new thriller series by the Queen of Crime Drama, Lynda La Plante.

DC Jack Warr and his girlfriend Maggie have just moved to London to start a new life together. Though charming, Jack can’t seem to find his place in the world – until he’s drawn into an investigation that turns his life upside down.

In the aftermath of a fire at an isolated cottage, a badly charred body is discovered, along with the burnt remains of millions of stolen, untraceable bank notes. Jack’s search leads him deep into a murky criminal underworld – a world he finds himself surprisingly good at navigating.

But as the line of the law becomes blurred, how far will Jack go to find the answers – and what will it cost him?

In Buried, it’s time to meet DC Jack Warr as he digs up the deadly secrets of the past . . .

My thoughts

I love the Jane Tennant book series and following TV adaptation, so was super excited to be invited on the blog tour for La Plante’s new crime series, starting with ‘Buried’. This book introduces her new protagonist, detective Jack Warr and he is certainly a complex character. I moved from general annoyance, to likeability, back to frustration and annoyance…AND back to liking again. At the close of the book, I’d be up for reading more of Jack Warr, now that his nature/nurture debate-fed character really came to life in the last chapters of the book. He’s a man of contradictions, and the developing complexities of his actions build great character for this type of crime series protagonist.

So, the book links in with the ‘Widows’ books from La Plante. I’ve not read these, or watched the television adaptations, so Dolly Rawlins and her gang was not familiar. However, this didn’t matter, as La Plante’s plotting is very tight, and enough is embedded into the story of the past events for it to work without glitch. The root of this story is a past crime coming back into the police radar after a burnt body is found, with a rather large sum of money! This draws the investigation back to an unsolved train robbery, where millions of pounds were stolen, and the criminal gang (and money) disappeared without trace. This cold case enables La Plante to draw in, link and introduce Jack Warr.

I really enjoyed so many of the characters in this novel, there’s some great depth, humour, sadness and conflict, both private and professional. I loved the connections to the crime underworld, and how Jack is drawn into the past in a pretty personal way. There’s a lovely backdrop theme of adoption and this really hooked me into Jack’s story.

So, a brilliant beginning to what I hope will be a successful series. It’s a crime thriller read that hooks you in from page one and comes highly recommended from me.

Check out the other fabulous book bloggers on this tour for more opinions:

Available now – buy independent if you can!

MAYBE ONE DAY by Debbie Johnson – Blog tour with Orion Fiction

It’s lovely to be on this blog tour, with thanks to Alainna Hadjigeorgiou for the invite. Please do have a read; this book comes highly recommended!

Book Blurb

What if you had the chance to find a lost love?

Jess still thinks about the man who disappeared from her life seventeen years ago, and the tragedy that tore them apart. So, when she discovers a hidden box of letters in her mother’s attic, Jess realises that the truth about why he walked away has been kept from her all this time.

Jess sets out to follow the faded postmarks across the country, determined that her journey will bring her closer to him. As each clue falls into place, Jess discovers new things about herself – and the man who once broke her heart. Maybe she can find him. Maybe their love story isn’t over.

Maybe one day, they will be together again…

My thoughts

Well, this book certainly hooked me in! I loved the story of Jess and her search for the truth as she uncovers hidden aspects of her past. This is the overall hook, as we follow her emotional journey to uncover the truth. After her mother’s funeral a hidden box is found, and inside are old letters for Jess from Joe, the father of her daughter, who Jess believes walked out of her life; these are particularly emotive moments as their story is revealed.

It’s a study of trauma, grief, lies, love and redemption. There is an awful tragedy at the core of this book, so it’s upsetting at times, but as we know, terribly sad events are the ‘way of the world’, and the important path to healing is handled beautifully. This is a book where friendships shine, and forgiveness is the way to healing and re-building.

Read this book if you’d like to go travelling with Jess to learn her story, and find out the truth about why Jess’s true love left her, and if she’ll ever get the chance to see him again: maybe one day is the question at the centre of this story. It comes highly recommended from me, a surprisingly addictive read.

The Author – Debbie Johnson

Debbie Johnson is an award-winning author who lives and works in Liverpool, where she divides her time between writing, caring for a small tribe of children and animals, and not doing the housework.

She writes feel-good emotional women’s fiction, and has sold more than 750,000 books worldwide. She is published in the USA, Canada, Australia, India, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey and the Ukraine. Her best-sellers include the Comfort Food Cafe series, Cold Feet at Christmas and The A-Z of Everything.

‘The Summer of Reckoning’ by Marion Brunet and published by Bitter Lemon Press #RandomThingsTours

It’s lovely to be a part of ‘The Summer of Reckoning’ blog tour today, I’m joining in with an extract from the novel, please scroll down for a taste of the writing and more information about this enticing story.

Book Blurb…

A psychological thriller set in the Luberon, a touristic French region that evokes holidays in magnificent pool-adorned villas. For those who live there year-round, it often means stifling poverty and boredom.

Two teenage sisters have grown up in a world where the main distractions are hatred of Arabs and booze. When Celine, 16, discovers she is pregnant and refuses to divulge her lover’s identity, her father embarks on a mission of revenge. A dark and upsetting account of an ailing society, filled with silent and murderous rage.

Brunet uses her tense and efficient novel to tell us a story of ‘people at sea, on a boat punctured just above the waterline, never far from a shipwreck’. No one describes better the poisonous claustrophobia of families trapped in small rural towns. She writes with a scalpel about couples, family, sexism, racism and poverty.

EXTRACT

Bitch

At home, Johanna remembers, a hand on the backside was friendly, like – a way of saying you had a nice one, meaning “You’ve got potential” – something between a caress and a slap on the rump of a mare. The girls held trump cards, like in a tarot game, and you could almost say that if they played them right, they’d win. Except that neither of them – not Jo and not her sister Céline – have ever won any game. But since they hadn’t drawn up the rules of the game, they were shafted whatever they did. Trump cards or bait, it was dead in the water before it even started.

For Céline, it’s not a hand on her backside tonight, but a slap across her face. Her father, furious, is almost choking on his anger. He doesn’t exactly have a wide range of vocabulary as it is, but this is worse. He turns his daughter’s face with his huge builder’s hand; she crashes down onto the kitchen floor – a heap of wet cloth. She makes an odd kind of sound, as though some bits of her have broken.

“Who is it?”

Céline couldn’t answer even if she wanted to. She tries to catch her breath. Her hair hangs straight over her face, so you can’t see her eyes or her mouth. Jo would like to help her but it’s as though her feet are screwed to the floor like a prison bed.

The kitchen smells of detergent and lavender, like an advert for the South of France, cicadas and all.

“Who’s the piece of shit that did this to you? Who’s the son of a bitch who dared?”

Their mother fills a glass with water. It slips out of her hand and rolls into the stainless-steel sink. She whispers Stop it, but without conviction. Actually, you don’t really know who she’s saying it to.

“Are you going to answer me or not?”

Then her father stops yelling. His chin starts to quiver and that’s even more threatening, so Jo looks away. Their mother crouches down, holding the glass of water, and lifts Céline’s face but with no tenderness. She’s never been shown any herself, after all. Just for a second, you wonder if she’s about to throw the water in her daughter’s face or help her drink it. Céline props herself up on the floor with one hand and clings to her mother with the other. The water spills and runs down her mother’s bare knee and she gets annoyed, pulls away, leaves the glass on the floor and stands back up with difficulty – a very old woman all of a sudden, though she always carries on as if she’s thirty. Céline lets go of her wrist and remains lying on her elbow. Her lip has swollen up and her nose looks crooked. Her father has never hit her so hard before. She takes the glass to drink from it but the water runs down the side, over her chin and onto her T-shirt that has a pink pattern with sequins around it, and there’s blood bubbling out of her right nostril. There’s a stabbing pain in her stomach, like a thousand darts.

Her father stands with his arms crossed, having regained his strength even in his body language, and challenges Céline with his glare. Her eyes are full of water, her cheeks hollow from gritting her teeth.

“She’s not going to tell,” her mother hisses. “The bitch isn’t going to tell us anything.”