#extract #newbook #blogtour #BloodRedCity by @Rod_WR and published by @OrendaBooks #readers with thanks to @annecater

I’m really pleased to be featuring an extract from ‘Blood Red City’ today, I’d have loved to read it, but my review list was a little too long sadly, and I didn’t have enough time before the tour – it’s definitely on my list of books to buy soon! Can’t wait! Keep reading for the blurb, a gripping extract (I really want to keep reading!) and the author bio…

The Blurb

A witness but no victim. A crime but no crime scene…

When crusading journalist Lydia Wright is sent a video of an apparent murder on a London train, she thinks she’s found the story to revive her career. But she can’t find a victim, much less the killers, and the only witness has disappeared. Wary she’s fallen for fake news, she begins to doubt her instincts – until a sinister call suggests that she’s not the only one interested in the crime.

Michael Stringer deals in information – and doesn’t care which side of the law he finds himself on. But the murder on the train has left him exposed, and now he’ll stop at nothing to discover what Lydia knows.

When their paths collide, Lydia finds the story leads through a nightmare world, where money, power and politics intersect … and information is the only thing more dangerous than a bullet.

An extract from BLOOD RED CITY

The day’s penultimate job was an easy one, comparatively. He’d ordered things that way. The self-help manuals he used to read would advise tackling the hardest tasks on your list first; fine in theory, not so easy when there were lives at stake.

So that came next. For now, Michael Stringer had the home of London Assembly member Nigel Carlton in his sights. A nice semi on a nice road in Finchley, the streetlights casting the bay windows in amber relief. He’d done business in worse places.

His skin itched, waiting. Carlton had arrived home ten minutes prior, the house unlit before that. Stringer’s information was that Carlton’s wife was in Brussels for business – a regular occurrence, in his estimation the cover for an affair. Not Stringer’s concern in this matter, but professional rigour wasn’t something he could just turn on and off.

Ten minutes was just long enough. Carlton had showed up in a cab, so the chance of anyone else arriving separately was slim – but not zero. A mistake he’d made once before: on that occasion, Stringer had tailgated a target into his flat after watching him arrive alone, only to have the man’s secretary let herself in minutes later with her own set of keys, just as he was getting to it. Transpired the woman and the target took separate cabs from their office to keep their trysts under wraps.

But ten minutes was enough time to discount that possibility. Any longer ran the danger of a takeaway order showing up, or even the target leaving home again – a late-night urge for a bottle of Pinot or a bag of coke, or who fucking knew what.

Stringer rang the doorbell. The hallway light went on, and then the door opened without a sound. Carlton looked him over, the caution in his expression fading when he took in the wiry man in the charcoal-grey suit on his doorstep. Stringer didn’t immediately speak.

‘Yes?’ Carlton said.

Stringer raised the blue plastic document wallet in his hand. ‘We need to talk about these.’

Carlton squinted. ‘Sorry, have we met? Who—?’

‘The girl you’ve been emailing is fourteen years old. Did you know?’

‘What? What girl?’

‘Jennifer Tully – Jennycat18@hotmail.com. Her Facebook picture is her with glitter all over her face; I’m told it’s something the kids are into these days. If you swore to me she was eighteen I’d probably believe you, but I wouldn’t bet my career on it.’

Carlton dug into his pocket, produced his phone. ‘I’m calling the police.’

Stringer waited, staring at him doing nothing. ‘Well? You don’t need my permission.’

‘I don’t know … Look, you’ve got your wires crossed somewhere so why don’t you bugger off before…’ He swiped the phone to unlock it.

‘“Assembly Member”. That your title?’

Carlton looked up.

‘Awkward as honorifics go, so I’ll use Nigel. Nigel, have a listen to some of this.’ Stringer dipped his head, mimicking reading even though he had it memorised. ‘“I’ve been thinking about you all night, I couldn’t help myself, couldn’t sleep … I can smell you on my shirt and I just want to eat you up … I haven’t felt this way about anyone since I was a teenager … I don’t know what’s come over me.”’ Stringer handed him the email printout, pointing to the sender details at the top. ‘That’s you, yes?’

Carlton skimmed the page, his mouth coming ajar. ‘I’ve never … This is not me. I’ve never seen it in my life, I’ve never heard of this girl…’

‘Let’s go inside.’

‘Who the hell are you?’

Stringer jutted his chin. ‘Inside.’

Carlton backed up, staring at the printout as if he could wish it into thin air.

Stringer made his way down the hall and into a large kitchen, the rest of the house in darkness. The room was centred on a walnut-topped island unit and was straight out of a design catalogue: black bi-fold doors to the garden, brushed steel fridge, gleaming pans hanging above the counter. A cooker that looked like it’d never been lit. A faint smell of cleaning products.

Stringer took two glasses out of a cabinet above the sink and filled them with water. He set one down for Carlton and watched him inch down the hall, flipping the page to read the full email trail as he came.

‘I’ve been hacked.’ Carlton looked up, his face as pale as hypothermic flesh. ‘Where did you get these?’

Stringer pushed a glass towards him. ‘Word of advice: no one buys “I’ve been hacked” anymore. You’re supposed to use WhatsApp for this shit, Nigel. Snapchat.’

Carlton set the sheet of paper on the counter, the spotlights in the ceiling so bright it gave off a glare. ‘I’ve never seen any of these emails. Those are not my words, these are fakes.’

Stringer sipped his water. ‘You didn’t give me those, so where else would I have got them from?’

‘How the hell should I…?’ The penny dropped. ‘The girl?’

He frowned in confirmation.

Carlton rubbed his face.

‘Who are you?’

‘That’s irrelevant.’

‘No it fucking isn’t. Why are you doing this to me?’

‘I’m just a fixer.’

‘Then who are you working for?’

‘You’re asking the wrong questions.’

As he brought the glass to his mouth again, Stringer’s shirt cuff gapped, flashing the melted skin on his arm. Carlton snapped his gaze to the counter, his discomfort a sure sign he’d noticed. Ten years ago Stringer would have made something of it; now he put the glass down and let his hand fall to his side. Not embarrassment; just taking away the distraction. ‘The question you need to ask is what am I going to do with these?’

‘I’m not having this.’ Carlton snatched up his phone again.

Stringer took out his own mobile and tapped the screen twice, Carlton’s phone vibrating a second later when the message came through. He stared at the image, his eyes flaring wide.

Stringer pointed to the picture, upside down from his viewpoint but more than familiar. It appeared to show a man and a girl at the start or end of an embrace. ‘As you know, that’s Jennifer Tully.’

‘No … no, I don’t know her…’ Carlton screwed his eyes shut, a memory coming back. ‘She dropped her purse, I picked it up for her and she gave me a hug. A thank-you thing, I was as surprised as anyone. I was on my way into Pret, for god’s sake.’

To Stringer, the snap looked too professional – the image a higher resolution than the average phone camera could manage, a red flag to anyone paying attention. But Nigel Carlton was a newborn baby, wiping his own shit out of his eyes in the harsh new world he found himself in.

‘There’s a dozen emails here, Nigel, and the photos. My guess is the Standard will put you on page five, but you might make the cover. And then the nationals will grab it, and that will be that. Fourteen years old … Christ.’

Carlton deleted the picture, visibly shaking. ‘This is a bloody setup.’

Stringer took his time putting his phone away, then stretched the silence to breaking point, taking a sip of water. ‘On Tuesday of next week, you’ll meet a gentleman named Jonathan Samuels at an office in the city. You’ll get a message telling you exactly when and where. Mr Samuels will have some suggestions for you to take back to your colleagues on the planning committee.’

‘What do you want?’

‘That’s Mr Samuels’ business. Miss the meeting and the story goes to the papers that afternoon. Speak to the police or anyone else about this and copies of everything go to your wife.’

Carlton planted his fists on the island. ‘No one would believe this of me. Least of all my wife.’

Stringer put his hands in his pockets, calling time on proceedings. ‘You sure about that?’ He moved closer to Carlton. ‘Absolutely sure?’ He stepped around him and made his way out of the house.

The Author

Rod Reynolds

Rod Reynolds is the author of four novels, including the Charlie Yates series. His 2015 debut, The Dark Inside, was longlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger, and was followed by Black Night Falling (2016) and Cold Desert Sky (2018); The Guardian have called the books ‘Pitch-perfect American noir’. A lifelong Londoner, in 2020 Orenda Books will publish his first novel set in his hometown, Blood Red City. Rod previously worked in advertising as a media buyer, and holds an MA in novel writing from City University London. Rod lives with his wife and family and spends most of his time trying to keep up with his two young daughters

Twitter @Rod_WR

BLOG TOUR

#blogtour #TheSeduction @JoannaBriscoe @BloomsburyBooks #RandomThingsTours @AnneCater #readers #bookchat #newbook

Hugely excited to be a part of this blog tour, and many thanks to Anne Cater for the tour invite! I haven’t read any Joanna Briscoe books, so it’s lovely to be introduced to a new writer with a backlog of books to discover. Keep reading to find out more about ‘The Seduction’.

The Blurb

Beth lives in the tree-shrouded no-man’s land by Camden with her partner Sol and their daughter Fern. Life is peaceful, but Beth is troubled by increasing unease. It could be the uncertainty of her mother, who disappeared when Beth was a child. Or it could be the sense that Fern is keeping secrets from her.

So she goes to therapy. Dr Tamara Bywater is there to help her patients. But what if the very person who is meant to be the solution becomes the most dangerous problem of all? And why is what’s bad for us so enticing?

My thoughts

It’s certainly true that this book embraces the beauty and flexibility of language in its descriptions. I was hooked in early; the narrative weaves its spell and pulls you into the lives of Beth, Fern and Sol, as Beth’s troubled past brings her to the attention of Dr Tamara Bywater. There follows a story of obsession, manipulation and the power of paranoia.

What I enjoyed about this book is its study of human behaviour and the dark undertone in the writing, it’s certainly an addictive concept. I also enjoyed the theme of mother-daughter relationships, which lie at the core of this novel. What makes this book more than a relationship drama, is how it explores the role of the therapist; a person who is privy to your inner thoughts and, who has the ability to manipulate that closeness if they choose to do so. That’s where this novel’s tone is more disturbing as slowly Beth’s relationship with Dr Bywater becomes sexually charged, and draws her into a complex situation to the detriment of her family life.

Overall, a beautifully crafted, darkly drawn story of human psychology and dysfunctional personalities, colliding in a toxic and emotional journey of a book.

The Blog Tour

The Author

Joanna Briscoe

Joanna Briscoe is the author of five previous novels, including the bestselling Sleep With Me, which was adapted for ITV by Andrew Davies. She has been a columnist for the Independent and the Guardian, is a literary critic for the Guardian, and broadcasts regularly on Radio 4.

joannabriscoe.com
@JoannaBriscoe

#blogtour #TheTruants by #KateWeinberg @BloomsburyBooks with thanks to @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours

People disappear when they most want to be see

Blurb

Jess Walker, middle child of a middle-class family, has perfected the art of vanishing in plain sight. But when she arrives at a concrete university campus under flat, grey, East Anglian skies, her world flares with colour.

Drawn into a tightly-knit group of rule breakers – led by their maverick teacher, Lorna Clay – Jess begins to experiment with a new version of herself. But the dynamic between the friends begins to darken as they share secrets, lovers and finally a tragedy. Soon Jess is thrown up against the question she fears most: what is the true cost of an extraordinary life?

My thoughts…

This is a twisty coming of age drama, and follows the story of Jess as she begins to study English under the tuition of the complex and unorthodox Dr Lorna Clay, an English teacher with an original flare and academic drive; a person who becomes both muse and mystery to Jess. This is also a murder mystery and a study of human behaviour; there’s a gripping interplay between all the characters, that pulls and lulls the reader throughout the story and into the final climax. With themes of power, dominance, infatuation and more there’s plenty of depth to pull from this story.

For a debut, it’s impressive and despite not overly liking any of the characters, I was compelled to keep reading as Jess gets caught up with obsession, first love, desire, identity and ultimately murder.

Emotionally intricate, pleasingly plotted, and a confident debut.

A recommended book for people who enjoy slow burn mysteries with complex characters and relationship drama.

The Author

Kate Weinberg

Kate Weinberg was born and lives in London. She studied English at Oxford and creative writing in East Anglia. She has worked as a slush pile reader, a bookshop assistant, a journalist and a ghost writer. The Truants is her first novel.

Blog Tour

With huge thanks to Anne Cater #RandomThingsTours for the invite and to Kate Weinberg for the story. Happy Reading!

Please buy from independents if you can XX

#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 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

‘The Library of the Unwritten’ by A.J. Hackwith published by @TitanBooks

Snap review and chat today is about ‘The Library of the Unwritten’, a first in series book, written by A.J. Hackwith. Described as:

“It’s like The Good Place meets Law & Order: Bibliophile Crime Unit. This book is so much fun.”

Seanan McGuire

“A muse, an undead librarian, a demon, and a ghost walk into Valhalla… what follows is a delightful and poignant fantasy adventure.”

Kit Rocha

The blurb

Every book left unfinished by its author is filed away in the Unwritten Wing, a neutral space in Hell presided over by Claire, its head librarian. Along with repairing and organising books, her job consists of keeping an eye on restless stories whose characters risk materialising and escaping the library.

When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto. But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong, in a chase that threatens to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell… and Earth.

Stories want to change, and it is a librarian’s job to preserve them; that’s the natural order of things… it is a story’s natural ambition to wake up and start telling itself to the world.

My thoughts:

I loved the idea of this book: the library setting in Hell; an Unwritten Wing for unfinished books; a librarian watching and hunting book characters; an escaped Hero! Merging the undead, ghosts, book characters, demons and fallen angels in a fantasy adventure seemed great escapism.

And it was, for the most part. I’d certainly recommend this book to fantasy bibliophiles, it’s full of what we delight in: musty and bountiful shelves of books in Gothic underworld arches; there’re battles between good and evil, with an extreme amount of blurring the lines; a potentially catastrophic battle keeping the boundaries intact between Heaven, Hell and life on Earth, and some fabulous characters with bucketful depth between them. I loved the idea of book characters coming to life, every bibliophile’s dream. Hackwith certainly plays about with this idea and our perceptions.

Overall, this books does get a thumbs up from me for its creativity. I did enjoy the descriptive escapism it provided, and the biblio-fantasy world; it would make a great film! Looking forward to seeing how the ‘Hell’s Library’ series develops. It’s fun, creative, some great humour and a solid mystery at its core. Oh and I love the book cover design it’s a fabulous addition to my little library.

With thanks to Titan Books for the gifted copy.

#BookChat ‘Mud’ by Chris McCabe and published by Henningham Family Press

‘Remind me never to date a wizard’

BLURB

Borak and Karissa must search the 24 types of mud until they find a trapped bubble of air. Only then can they be released from their relationship.

Chris McCabe’s macabre version of Orpheus and Eurydice brings its themes into the present day as we follow a couple whose quest forces them to resist throttling each other, and falling in love all over again.

Illustrated with Orphic sculptures and prints.

My thoughts

mud (noun)

1.
soft, sticky matter resulting from the mixing of earth and water:
“ankle deep in mud, we squelched across a meadow”
2.
information or allegations regarded as damaging, typically concerned with corruption:
“they are trying to sling mud at me to cover up their defeat”

I was fascinated by this little book called ‘Mud’; the blurb told me to expect a ‘descent into subterranean London’ where our focus characters, Borak and Karissa, would ‘chance upon bones, bricks and a talking mole’ and then the additional hook of a ‘macabre version of Orpheus and Eurydice’. Well okay…

So I popped the book on my kitchen shelf, next to my rather sad (and if my track-record has anything to go by) dying orchid plant. And there it sat…watching my kitchen life go by for weeks, getting the odd splash from a rather vigorous washing up session and absorbing smells of several dinners and the odd burnt pan. Until one day, I had the house to myself, I’d just come in from a cold walk with my dog down the fields, and I’d brought back at least half a bucket of mud back on my shoes. So, I made myself a cup of tea, put my boots on the radiator to dry, left the mud trail to dry and turned to Part One – Break-Up.

There’s no denying, this is an odd little book. It’s also charming. There’re several threads to take hold of during this experimental and somewhat confusing narrative. A journey seeking 24 different types of mud and releasing little bursts of air upon discovery before ending a relationship – it’s a surreal theatre watched by a small film crew following Borak and Karissa. It’s a stage of mud, tunnels, caves and roots; told via narrative, dialogue, snippets, images and emails.

Overall, there’s a distinct story-line to follow, but it’s consistently interjected with the surreal, the bizarre, the strange. It’s a creative literary puzzle, pushing language and imagery to question. An odd little, artistic puzzle of a book.

…and there my review of this little book sat, in my drafts…until a pesky, deadly virus contained me to my house, and where I realised, with horror, that this post wasn’t actually published. Well, finally I’ve posted and hope you’ll pick up this surreal little piece of literature one day and start traipsing through the mud with Borak and Karissa.

With thanks to Henningham Family Press for the gifted copy! I got there at last!

Mud

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.

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