Blog Tour – BLACK SUMMER by M.W. Craven.

Winner of the 2019 CWA Gold Dagger Award

Blurb

Jared Keaton, chef to the stars. Charming. Charismatic. Psychopath…He’s currently serving a life sentence for the brutal murder of his daughter, Elizabeth. Her body was never found and Keaton was convicted largely on the testimony of Detective Sergeant Washington Poe.

So when a young woman staggers into a remote police station with irrefutable evidence that she is Elizabeth Keaton, Poe finds himself on the wrong end of an investigation, one that could cost him much more than his career.

Helped by the only person he trusts, the brilliant but socially awkward Tilly Bradshaw, Poe races to answer the only question that matters: how can someone be both dead and alive at the same time?

My Thoughts

What a deliciously creepy and utterly brilliant opening! Huge applause to M.W. Craven – you hooked me in with style! An utterly grotesque style… but it certainly does the job and creates an extremely tense and repulsive moment for the readers to start to unpick. It was even worse when I googled the Ortolan Bunting and found out the dish is actually true!!! I was truly horrified! To understand what I am referring to it’s best to order the book and read it yourself…so off you go, get it ordered!

There are other reasons to order this book, Craven’s plotting and pace is exceptional. The crime solving duo of Washington Poe (what a name!) and Tilly Bradshaw (you can’t help but adore her), make this book extra special. Oh, and if you don’t already know, this is the second book featuring Poe and Bradshaw; the first book is ‘The Puppet Show’ which I would also highly recommended reading.

The hook and central conundrum in ‘Black Summer’ is how can someone be both dead and alive at the same time. It is soon apparent that Poe and Bradshaw are embroiled in a twisted, dangerous game that might defeat them both and even destroy Poe’s life. Craven is the ‘King of Plotting’ and I love the journey he takes the reader on, inserting inventive clues with great subtly, and dropping dastardly clever red herrings. It’s smart and pulls in all the devices required of this genre and more.

I’m not saying anything else about the actual plot; I don’t want to spoil anything at all, (the book blurb is enough) you really need to pick this book up. It’s inventive, character driven, complex, tense with delightful touches of humour to lighten the darkness of the crimes, and balance the character relationships.

I loved it and am lucky to also have one of the Goldsboro first 250 editions! Thank you to Beth, at Little Brown, for also sending me the paperback, I can re-read the book without fear of spilling my tea on those precious first edition pages. Thank you to Mike for getting in touch so I could be a part of this blog tour and for the most marvellous storytelling!

Inventive, dark, witty and addictive – if you haven’t met Poe and Bradshaw yet… what are you waiting for?

Author

A brand new voice in British crime fiction, M.W.Craven was born in Carlisle but grew up in Newcastle. He joined the army at Sixteen, leaving ten years later to complete a social work degree. Seventeen years after taking up a probation officer role in Cumbria, at the rank of assistant chief officer, he became a full time author.

The first in the Washington Poe series, The Puppet Show, won the 2019 CWA Gold Dagger, has sold in numerous foreign territories and has been optioned for TV by Studio Lambert. M.W.Craven has been shortlisted for the Goldsboro Glass Bell Award, an Amazon Reader Award and a Cumbria Life Award. He is also the author of the Avison Fluke novels, Born in a Burial Ground (shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger) and Body Breaker.

November Mini Reading Wrap-Up

An enjoyable month of reading some of my long awaited TBR books and some new 2020 releases. Favourites from this month are ‘His Bloody Project’, ‘The Silent Companions’, ‘Black Summer’ and ‘The Night Circus’. As always, some brief summaries and ratings below.

In December, I’m anticipating a quiet reading month for a few reasons, including spending more time with family and friends as Christmas approaches, more work to get finished so I can relax over the Christmas break and the main reason… I have a TV. It’s been quite a few years since we’ve had a TV in our front room. I’m enjoying a honeymoon period… so my reading is sure to suffer. But I doubt for long.

I’m back soon with two blog tours next week, looking forward to chatting books again soon!

‘His Bloody Project’ by Graeme Macrae Burnet – five stars. Loved this story of a brutal triple murder in the Scottish Highlands, it’s written as a memoir and searches for the truth. Fascinating.

‘The Silent Companions’ by Laura Purcell. Loved this gothic thriller – all the creepy period vibes you want from this kind of book, locked rooms, old diaries and the most disturbing painted wooden figures lurking beyond every turn of the page. 5 stars.

‘Vengeful’ by VE Schwab is the sequel to ‘Vicious’. 4 YA stars, this continues the supernatural battle between past friends and now adversaries Victor and Eli – lots more supernatural occurrences and a formidable enemy emerges for them both. Enjoyable dramatic supernatural fun.

‘The Hunting Party’ by Lucy Foley ticks most of the thriller genre requirements. A great premise and collection of characters, for me there were some pacing issues but the final half picked up and I raced towards the ending and my answers. 4 stars.

‘Black Summer’ by M.W. Craven – this is the second in the Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw character series, the first being ‘The Puppet Show’ which I loved. I’m on the blog tour for this book in a week so more then, but for now, I loved it! 5 stars.

‘The Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern – this book has been on my shelf for years, and the publication of Morgenstern’s second novel ‘The Starless Sea’ spurred me on to finally read it. I’ve seen some very mixed reviews for this book, I am definitely on the loved it team. Gorgeous, rich language, an enchanting circus and fascinating group of characters. 5 stars.

‘The Beautiful’ by Renee Adhieh is a YA fantasy novel about a young girl running away from a traumatic experience, who arrives in 1872 New Orleans in an attempt to escape. The city and its inhabitants have other ideas. I quite enjoyed this for the sheer storytelling fun. 3.5 YA stars, nearly 4.

‘The Queen of Nothing’ by Holly Black – this is the final book in the ‘Folk of the Air’ series. Overall, a fun ending to the story (or shall I say a very cheesy ending), it felt shorter and less developed that I think the final book should have been. I would have liked a little more time spent on some developments; there was also an abrupt and dismissive end to one of the important characters and another character seemed to add oddly – I think her overall story arc needed more care. However, for most readers I think the main reason to read and enjoy this series was the relationship between Cardan (I still can’t cope with the tail – lol) and Jude… so just about 4 YA stars for this.

‘The Keeper’ by Jessica Moor is a 2020 thriller release. It centres around a women’s refuge and, what seems to be, a suicide. There’s a police investigation, an insight into the refuge and a journey into the past; this is a disturbing story of male power and control with twists. 4 stars.

‘The Guest List’ by Lucy Foley is another 2020 release from the writer of the successful ‘ The Hunting Party. This book has a very similar style to her first book, and some coincidences too many for me, however there’re lots of positives about it as well. Full review will follow before publication. Just reaches 4 thriller stars.

‘The Forbidden Promise’ by Lorna Cook. This is published in March 2020 and is about two women decades apart, one in 1940 and the other in 2020. Both centre around their experiences at Invermoray House in Scotland. I really enjoyed this, a great way to spend Sunday afternoon. 4 stars.

‘The Widow of Pale Harbour’ by Hester Fox is more romance than thriller and it was okay. You get a isolated and mysterious widow; small town gossip and hatred; a new minister with secrets of his own and a murder. 3 stars.

‘The Memory Wood’ by Sam Lloyd. This is a Feb 2020 release and despite finding this a difficult read (child abuse and abduction themes) it was enjoyable. A book that plays with your perceptions; a clever, challenging thriller read. 4.5 stars.

‘Soon’ by Lois Murphy, with huge thanks to Titan Books for the review copy.

BLURB

On winter solstice, the birds disappeared, and the mist arrived.

The inhabitants of Nebulah quickly learn not to venture out after dark. But it is hard to stay indoors: cabin fever sets in, and the mist can be beguiling, too.

Eventually only six remain. Like the rest of the townspeople, Pete has nowhere else to go. After he rescues a stranded psychic from a terrible fate, he’s given a warning: he will be dead by solstice unless he leaves town – soon.

My thoughts…

Okay, I’m not a horror genre reader. In the past, I’ve read one Stephen King and a James Herbert, but I’ve such an over-active imagination that I crept around for weeks afterwards and jumped at every shadow at night. So, when I received ‘Soon’ by Lois Murphy I decided to be brave, although rather foolishly read it late at night! Don’t ask me why!

Nebulah, once a prosperous mining town, is now isolated due to a strange phenomenon of a ghostly mist arriving, no one can understand why and the town becomes more of a tourist attraction and a freak show; one by one the inhabitants leave. I spent a lot of time saying ‘WHY?’ as I read this book… these last inhabitants of the town are certainly stubborn and loyal, or completely crazy! I, quite frankly, would have been on the first bus out of there! If you live in Nebulah then you have to board yourself in at night, otherwise a maelstrom of horrors is upon you! Seriously creepy. The story follows the last six people who, for different reasons, decide to stay and live in this literal ghost town.

The story is steadily told through the eyes of Pete, a former policeman and a good man but he’s very isolated. The day time is slowly paced, and this increases our anticipation for what horrors will come at night. Once I started reading I wanted answers. When events turned intense, I wanted to throw the book with frustration at these last inhabitants. As usual, in these horror situations there are people who think they are impervious to harm – and Pete is suddenly faced with the task of risking himself to save those foolhardy ones that come to experience the famous ‘ghost town’.

Now as an animal lover, I hate it when animals are in books like this, as I just spend most of my time worrying about them, so that’s exactly what I did here – it was like watching Will Smith and his dog again in ‘I am Legend’. So, without giving away plot, animals lovers beware, it’s not a happy wagging tale ending for our furry friends – but not on the level of ‘Marley and Me’ so it’s manageable.

Overall, if you like odd creepy horror genre reads this is worth it; it’s a well written, nicely paced read with lots of thriller elements. It’s also inspired loosely from the actual Australian blue asbestos town of Wittenoom. The toxic town has only a handful of remaining residents and has become a fascination for tourists and thrill-seekers; people are strange! Look it up, it’s crazy! This also suggests there’s a real social commentary at the heart of this story from Lois Murphy.

This is definitely a recommended read from me – a weird, creepy and startling horror read; gripping and disturbing.

Blog Tour for ‘The Birthday House’ by Jill Treseder #RandomThingsTour

A friendship. A Murder. A life that will never be the same.

I’m really happy to be a part of this blog tour for Jill Treseder’s book with thanks to Anne Cater at #RandomThingsTours and @SilverWoodBooks – do check out the chat about this book from other book bloggers on this tour.

BLURB

The year is 1955, the location picturesque Devon.

In a house by the River Dart, schoolgirl Josephine Kennedy posts invitations to her twelfth birthday party – a party that never takes place.

Horrific violence is committed that night in the family home, leaving all of its occupants dead.

Based on a disturbing real-life crime, this compelling story explores Josephine’s fate through the prism of friends and family – the victims and survivors who unwittingly influenced the events that led up to the tragedy.

Josephine’s best friend, Susan, is haunted by the secrets of the birthday house. Can she ever find a way of making peace with the past?

MY THOUGHTS

‘The Birthday House’ is a novella, and it’s a well put together multi-perspective narrative leading up to tragic events of one day in 1955. Whilst some narratives are stronger than others it does make compelling reading. Our retrospective narrator Susan looks back from 2018 to these traumatic events from her childhood. What follows is a series of first-person voices leading up to terrible events surrounding the loss of her childhood friend and family; this is an attempt to explore how life and relationships can lead to awful circumstances that need to be explored, to be able to grieve and comprehend the shocking events.

I enjoyed the piecing together of events of 1954/5 from the voices of those involved; this is at its heart a very sad story, but it also serves as an attempt to put to rest the deep loss during this time for Susan, whose loss of her friend at such a young age has deeply affected her and the rest of her life.

You know the events right from the start, the brutal murder of a family by the father, and his suicide; they are made more thought-provoking when you find out the author is exploring these events from her own personal experience and loss of her childhood friend.

This is a decent novella that has many points for discussion, it also highlights the need for honesty and communication to minimise years of grief clouding your life. It explores a tragic event in an open way; the deaths are awful and hard to read, so be aware of this when reading. This also highlights mental illness and the importance of recognition and seeking help.

A novella of a shocking family murder-suicide, written with a sensitive touch, exploring why such terrible events occur and the effects on those left behind. A poignant and tragic tale.

Check out the bloggers above to find out more…

https://www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk/product/9781781328798/the-birthday-house – to purchase from the publishers and support independents X