The Chateau by Catherine Cooper

They thought it was perfect. They were wrong…

A glamorous chateau
Aura and Nick don’t talk about what happened in England. They’ve bought a chateau in France to make a fresh start, and their kids need them to stay together – whatever it costs.

#TheChateau @catherinecooper @fictionpub @HarperFiction @annecater @RandomTTours #RandomThingsTours

A couple on the brink
The expat community is welcoming, but when a neighbour is murdered at a lavish party, Aura and Nick don’t know who to trust.

A secret that is bound to come out…
Someone knows exactly why they really came to the chateau. And someone is going to give them what they deserve.

My Review

Aura and Nick are a mismatched couple. Married in their early twenties, they have two young children named Sorrel and Bay. This probably says a lot more about Aura than it does about Nick.

Aura is like a poor man’s Gwyneth Paltrow with all her new age beliefs, some of which I agreed with (healthy food, no plastic toys) and some of which I didn’t (children sleeping in the same bed as their parents, homeopathic remedies for everything). And a brain like a sieve. She is training to be a counsellor. Of course she is. I’m saying nothing.

The couple have moved to France, where they have purchased a run down chateau which they plan to do up and run as a posh B & B. Unfortunately their decision to move to France was far from romantic – it was driven by something awful which involved Nick and this was a last-ditch attempt to save their marriage. Personally I wouldn’t have bothered, but I guess they thought it was worth trying for the sake of the kids.

Just to make it worse, Aura has agreed for a documentary crew (Seb and Chloe) to come in and film them 24/7 for a TV programme called French Fancy. Oh dear, I hear you say, this can only end in disaster. Anyone less naive than Aura knows all about editing. They can make you appear like a loving couple on a life-changing journey, or they can show you as a constantly arguing pair of idiots. You can guess which one applies here.

The story takes place in two locations – partly in France at the chateau and partly in London before they ‘had’ to move. But it’s not long before things start to go wrong in their new home. Dead bunnies, strange noises and things that go bump in the night, coupled with some seriously odd neighbours including the slightly pervy Frank and glamorous hostess Thea with her ‘special’ parties. Then there is Helen who gets free board and lodging in exchange for being an unpaid au pair. She’s great with the children but she could be an axe-murderer (or bunny boiler) for all Aura knows.

The Chateau is one of the most entertaining books I have read this year. It gallops along, full of tension, twists and excitement. In fact there are so many possibilities, you’ll be sent down dead end after dead end thinking you’ve worked it out – and haven’t. I loved it.

Many thanks to @annecater for inviting me to be part of #RandomThingsTours and  to The Pigeonhole and my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read.

About the Author

Catherine Cooper is a freelance journalist writing for many national newspapers and magazines, specialising in travel. She also makes regular appearances as a talking head on daytime TV. She lives in France with her husband and two teenage children. Her debut thriller THE CHALET was a top five Sunday Times bestseller and spent three weeks in the Kindle top 100. THE CHATEAU is her second novel.

Ilsa by Cat on a Piano Productions / Theatrephonic

Ilsa – I should like to know more about you.

This is a play where you the audience can decide what’s happening. It’s very interesting and in many ways quite sad. I have listened to the views of the actors but here is my take. Please note this is just my humble interpretation.

For me this is set at the very end of the Second World War in Nazi Germany. At first Hitler promised a better future for Germany, but for Ilsa and her husband Daniel, the cost was too high. Daniel gave himself up to save his wife, but ultimately it was for nothing. Now it is Ilsa’s turn to be tried as a traitor and probably executed. I guess Stefan has also betrayed his country in some way, but he is less forthcoming.

I love this play because it really makes you think, though I had to listen twice.

Written by Victorine Pontillon
Directed by Emmeline Braefield

Starring
Heath Netherton as Ilsa
and
John Cooper-Evans as Stefan

Music: Just Us League by RKVC
Produced by Cat on a Piano Productions

The Theatrephonic Theme tune was composed by Jackson Pentland
Performed by
Jackson Pentland
Mollie Fyfe Taylor
Emmeline Braefield

Cat on a Piano Productions produce and edit feature films, sketches and radio plays.

Their latest project is called @Theatrephonic, a podcast of standalone radio plays and short stories performed by professional actors. You can catch Theatrephonic on Spotify and other platforms.

For more information about the Theatrephonic Podcast, go to catonapiano.uk/theatrephonic, Tweet or Instagram us @theatrephonic, or visit our Facebook page.

And if you really enjoyed Ilsa listen to Theatrephonic’s other plays and short stories and consider becoming a patron by clicking here…

I Have Something To Tell You by Susan Lewis

High-flying lawyer Jessica Wells has it all. A successful career, loving husband Tom and a family she adores. But one case – and one client – will put all that at risk.

Edward Blake. An ordinary life turned upside down – or a man who quietly watched television while his wife was murdered upstairs? With more questions than answers and a case too knotted to unravel, Jessica suspects he’s protecting someone…

Then she comes home one day and her husband utters the words no one ever wants to hear. Sit down… because I’ve got something to tell you…

Now Jessica must fight not only for the man she defends, but for the man she thought she trusted with her life – her husband.

My Review

I want to say I loved this book but I am afraid I didn’t, which is a real shame as I loved My Lies, Your Lies. But this was too predictable. I guessed the twist right at the beginning and I was waiting for other great reveals which just didn’t happen.

The secondary stories felt like padding (even Tom’s story – I have something to tell you) and I didn’t really get the relevance. Susan Lewis is a great writer and the writing itself is flawless, but the story lacked originality and the main characters were all such dumbasses one wonders how they ever became so successful. Especially Jay, poor love. It was like kicking a puppy (apologies Pigeons).

The sad part is that it had the potential to be so good. As I said, the twist was predictable, but it could have hinted at the twist, made it the only possible answer, and then turned it on its head with something totally ‘wow – I didn’t see THAT coming.’ Even far-fetched is preferable to predictable. However, as one of my fellow book club readers pointed out, it would make a great TV show – Keely Hawes as Jay, David Tennant (of course) as Tom and – I’m still working on Edward Blake. Suggestions please.

Unfortunately, I feel that there are so many psychological thrillers and crime novels out there that it must be virtually impossible to write something original. So praise to those that do it – I just think it’s time for something totally new.

Many thanks to The Pigeonhole and my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read.

About the Author

Susan Lewis is the bestselling author of over forty books across the genres of family drama, thriller, suspense and crime. She is also the author of Just One More Day and One Day at a Time, the moving memoirs of her childhood in Bristol during the 1960s. Following periods of living in Los Angeles and the South of France, she currently lives in Gloucestershire with her husband James, stepsons Michael and Luke, and mischievous dogs Coco and Lulu.

The Whistling by Rebecca Netley

Alone in the world, Elspeth Swansome has taken the position of nanny to a family on the remote Scottish island of Skelthsea.

Her charge, Mary, is a troubled child. Distracted and secretive, she hasn’t uttered a word since the sudden death of her twin, William – just days after their former nanny disappeared.

With Mary defiantly silent, Elspeth turns to the islanders. But no one will speak of what happened to William. Just as no one can explain the hypnotic lullabies sung in empty corridors. Nor the strange dolls that appear in abandoned rooms.

Nor the faint whistling that comes in the night . . .

As winter draws in and passage to the mainland becomes impossible, Elspeth finds herself trapped.

But is this house haunted by the ghosts of the past?

OR THE SECRETS OF THE LIVING..?

My Review

Following the deaths of both her father and her beloved sister Clara, 24-year-old Elspeth Swansome leaves her life in Edinburgh to take up a position as nanny to nine-year-old Mary on the windswept, remote Scottish island of Skelthsea. A withdrawn, silent child, Mary has lost both her parents and then her twin brother William died just days after her nanny Hettie disappeared without telling anyone she was leaving.

Mary is being cared for and educated by her aunt Miss Gillies. But there is no affection there and poor Mary is starved of love and emotional support. Hopefully Elspeth will be able to help her to overcome her grief and start to speak again.

The Whistling is a classic, Gothic ghost story and I loved every minute. We’ve read this story many times – new nanny has charge of quiet child in a sinister house full of secrets, strange noises, shadowy figures and possible hauntings – but it never fails to chill. Who is standing in the attic window at night, lit only by a candle and who is humming a haunting lullaby outside Elspeth’s bedroom door? What is that faint whistling sound carried on the wind? And what is the meaning of the pebbles, and the dolls without faces, bound in human hair. The fear is stealth-like, creeping up on you, minute by minute, night after night.

“Iskar itself seemed to watch me from its shadows, seemed imbued with death and all that was wicked,” says Elspeth.

It’s a slow burn of a read, unworldly, spooky and full of creepy characters, both seen and unseen. Do you believe in ghosts? Elspeth is far too sensible, her father told her there were no such things, but anyone can be pushed to the limit by fear.

Many thanks to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

Rebecca Netley grew up as part of an eccentric family in a house full of books and music and these things have fed her passions. Family and writing remain at the heart of Rebecca’s life. She lives in the UK with her husband, sons and an over-enthusiastic dog, who gives her writing tips.

Be Guid Tae Yer Mammy by Emma Grae

Kate and her Granny Jean have nothing in common. Jean’s great claim to fame is raising her weans without two pennies to rub together, and Kate’s an aspiring scriptwriter whose anxiety has her stuck in bad thought after bad thought.

#BeGuidTaeYerMammy @emmagraeauthor@annecater @RandomTTours #RandomThingsTours

But what Jean’s Glaswegian family don’t know is that she dreamed of being a film star and came a hairsbreadth away from making it a reality. Now in her nineties, Jean is a force to be reckoned with. But when the family starts to fall apart Jean must face her failings as a mammy head-on – and Kate too must fight her demons. Either that or let go of her dream of the silver screen forever…

My Review

I have never read any Scottish literature and my only experience of Scotland is Inverness and the Isle of Skye in the 1970s, and the Edinburgh Festival in 2006. So when I read the opening chapter I just gawped. How in the world was I going to translate any of it? I was so relieved when we got to Kate’s point of view and I could finally understand what was going on. But hang on – it gets better – and better still.

Granny Jean is married to Donald, who earns good money, but they are always broke because he drinks like a fish. Jean has spent her life looking after her ‘weans’ (kids) and she is still resentful that her best friend Lizzie went to Hollywood instead of her.

Youngest daughter Stella-Marie who was born on the ferry and should have been a boy, has a stoma and also a lung disease. Jean treats her like a scivvy and her sisters think she is lazy because she doesn’t work. The sisters Cathy and Sandra treat her like dirt, while Cathy’s daughter Leanne is even worse. I felt so sorry for Stella-Marie – the way the others regard her is so awful – especially her mum, but she is a good Catholic and she and Jean believe you must be guid tae yer mammy to win your place in heaven.

Stella-Marie’s two daughters are Kate, who wants to be a script-writer, but is crippled by her anxiety and OCD, while Isla dreams of being a nurse.

As a second generation Jewish/Catholic Eastern European immigrant living in the Cotswolds, I cannot pretend that I can identify with any of the characters. It’s a bit like some years ago when discussing The Royle Family with a workmate and he said to me, ‘so-and-so is just like my gran and so-and-so is like my cousin….’ I just nodded and pretended I understood, but I didn’t.

But the more I read Be Guid Tae Yer Mammy, the more I got to grips with the language until it became second nature (well almost). The book is full of family feuds, arguments, pathos and love, but it is also very funny – I laughed out loud many times. Some of the descriptions of Stella-Marie’s childhood are heart-breaking – the story of one birthday for instance – and I have to admit I read the ending with tears rolling down my face.

This is an amazing book, especially as it is a debut and I hope we hear more from this new author.

Many thanks to @annecater for inviting me to be part of #RandomThingsTours.

About the Author

Emma Grae is a Scottish author and journalist from Glasgow. She has been writing in Scots since she was a student at the University of Strathclyde, tipsily co-authoring poems with fellow writer Lorna Wallace before moving on to write fiction in the language. She has published fiction and poetry in the UK and Ireland since 2014 in journals including The Honest Ulsterman, From Glasgow to Saturn and The Open Mouse. As a journalist, she writes under her birth surname, Guinness, and has bylines in a number of publications including Cosmopolitan, the Huffington Post and the Metro. Be Guid tae yer Mammy is her first novel.

NOTLondon Anthony Dawton

When photographer Anthony Dawton realised how dramatically homelessness had increased in London, he took to the streets with his camera. For years he had taken photographs in areas of need worldwide, but after spending some time in his home city, he noticed how many people were living on its streets. He embarked on a new project to raise awareness for a city he no longer recognised: NOTLondon.

Anthony Dawton photographs his subjects with a beauty and dignity that many of them are often denied. His portraits capture the strength and power of humanity as well as its vulnerability. By accompanying the image with the person’s name and their story, Anthony gives voice to the voiceless and attempts to offer the homeless a place, a home on the page. Governmental institutions turn a blind eye to the homeless, leaving the work up to charities. Homeless shelters are rife with substance abuse, making them a dangerous place for those trying to overcome addiction. Homelessness becomes a vicious cycle and many find it difficult to break free. Since the start of the pandemic, over 70,000 households in the UK have been made homeless. Dawton’s photographs are mesmerising, and as we stare into the eyes of their subjects, we’re faced with reality: this is a problem that’s getting worse and needs urgent attention.

NOTLondon is a provoking campaign to help the city’s most vulnerable and to address the fact that, despite its wealth, the city is not providing for those most in need. NOTLondon includes an introduction by Leilani Fahra, former UN special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing and the Global Director of The Shift. Having dedicated her life’s work to changing attitudes to homelessness and attacking the governmental systems and structures which perpetrate homelessness, she shares her thoughts in NOTLondon, highlighting the importance of Dawton’s project.

My thoughts

ALL HUMAN BEINGS ARE BORN FREE AND EQUAL IN DIGNITY AND RIGHTS. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 1, 1948)

In her introduction to the book Leilani Farga, Global Director, The Shift and former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing (2014 – 2020) tells us that the homeless: “…are not victims. They are human rights defenders. Every tent erected, sleeping bag rolled out, toilet constructed is a claim: a distilled, human rights claim for survival and dignity. Cognizant that their living conditions are not acceptable, understanding they are part of a global trend, wanting their governments held accountable.”

NOTLondon is a moving portrayal of homelessness on the streets of London in photographs by Anthony Dawton.

I live in Cheltenham, in the Cotswolds. where we have a population of around 116,000. In spite of being a small town and Cheltenham having a reputation for being rather ‘posh’ and affluent with its racing, music and literature festivals, you will still see homeless people on the streets – in doorways, in parks, sleeping on benches or under cardboard boxes. It’s heartbreaking. It’s 2021 – how is this still happening? I know people who think it’s OK because they are ‘all drug addicts’ (their words, not mine), but it’s not. These are people like you or me, and as they say, there but for the grace of God….

This ordinary-looking woman below with her dog could be me…or you.

Antony Dawton’s photographs are stunning. What really struck me are the ones where other people are passing in front of them, walking quickly and taking no notice.

“If you don’t look at them, they don’t exist.”
“Just walk on.”
“Don’t give them money, they’ll spend it on drugs.”
“It’s not my problem.”
“I’m too busy. I have my own issues.”
“I can’t help.”

But homelessness is a problem that is not going away. In fact it’s getting worse. The pictures above are just a few of my favourites from this powerful collection.

Many thanks to Grace Pilkington Publicity @GracePublicity for inviting me to give an unbiased review of NOTLondon.

Click here to buy

A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins

‘What is wrong with you?’

Laura has spent most of her life being judged. She’s seen as hot-tempered, troubled, a loner. Some even call her dangerous.

Miriam knows that just because Laura is witnessed leaving the scene of a horrific murder with blood on her clothes, that doesn’t mean she’s a killer. Bitter experience has taught her how easy it is to get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Carla is reeling from the brutal murder of her nephew. She trusts no one: good people are capable of terrible deeds. But how far will she go to find peace?

Innocent or guilty, everyone is damaged. Some are damaged enough to kill.

Look what you started.

My Review

Laura is a strange protagonist. Having been knocked down by a car when she was 10, she has been left with a degree of brain damage, anger management issues and a pronounced limp. But the emotional scars go much deeper than the physical ones. She makes bad choices and believes nothing is her fault.

Miriam lives on a houseboat next door to the scene of a horrific murder. In fact it was Miriam who found the body. She also saw Laura leaving the scene of the crime, blood on her clothes. But that doesn’t necessarily make her a killer, does it.

Theo Myerson is a crime writer. His book The One Who Got Away was a runaway success, but not everyone was a fan. Some considered it to be misogynistic, others simply called it rubbish. One person believes it was based on her own memoir and accuses Theo of plagiarism.

Theo’s wife Carla is the aunt of the victim. Her late sister Angela was his mother. She died after falling down the stairs. But then she was an alcoholic, an accident waiting to happen.

Everyone in A Slow Fire Burning is damaged, but are they damaged enough to commit murder? And who has a motive? They all had opportunity. All except Angela’s widowed neighbour Irene. At eighty years old, everyone treats like an aged idiot. Except Laura, who swears in her presence and calls her ‘mate’.

I read this book in two sittings. It’s twisty and full of tension, suspense and surprises, but that’s what you’d expect from Paula Hawkins. I loved The Girl on the Train, but I loved this more.

About the Author

The Girl on the Train (2015) is one of the top 5 fiction hardbacks since records began: 23 million copies worldwide, 50 countries and 40+ languages, and a No.1 global bestseller. In the UK it broke the all-time record for the number of weeks at No.1 on Bookscan. Into the Water (2017) was also a global No.1 bestseller, spending twenty weeks in the Sunday Times HB fiction Top 10 and six weeks at No.1. It has sold 4 million copies worldwide.

PAULA HAWKINS worked as a journalist for fifteen years before turning her hand to fiction. Born and brought up in Zimbabwe, Paula moved to London in 1989 and has lived there ever since. Her first thriller, The Girl on the Train, has been a global phenomenon, selling 23 million copies worldwide. Published in over forty languages, it has been a No.1 bestseller around the world and was a No.1 box office hit film starring Emily Blunt.

Into the Water, her second stand-alone thriller, has also been a global No.1 bestseller, spending twenty weeks in the Sunday Times hardback fiction Top 10 bestseller list, and six weeks at No.1.

Real Beauty by Cat on a Piano Productions / Theatrephonic

Black Beauty is a kid’s book isn’t it?
Student Anna is writing about the mythology of the horse and the absence of the author in literary history. Because no-one cares about female Victorian writers like Anna Sewell.
But there’s a real horse in the house. And it’s hungry and distressed.

Real Beauty is about as surreal as it gets!

Written by Tilly Lunken
Directed by Emmeline Braefield

Starring
Gareth Turkington as Johnson
Honey McKenna as Anna
Robert Penny as Nick
and
Lydia Kenny as Joe

Produced by Cat on a Piano Productions

Music:
Minor Blues for Booker by E’s Jammy Jams
Waltz in Low Light – Nat Keefe and Hot Buttered Rum

The Theatrephonic Theme tune was composed by Jackson Pentland
Performed by
Jackson Pentland
Mollie Fyfe Taylor
Emmeline Braefield

Cat on a Piano Productions produce and edit feature films, sketches and radio plays.

Their latest project is called @Theatrephonic, a podcast of standalone radio plays and short stories performed by professional actors. You can catch Theatrephonic on Spotify and other platforms.

For more information about the Theatrephonic Podcast, go to catonapiano.uk/theatrephonic, Tweet or Instagram us @theatrephonic, or visit our Facebook page.

And if you really enjoyed Real Beauty listen to Theatrephonic’s other plays and short stories and consider becoming a patron by clicking here…

Angels of Mud by Vanessa Nicolson

In Angels of Mud we jump through time, between the interwoven stories of mother and daughter. The reader is immediately transported to Clerkenwell soon after the end of World War II, where they learn Mary’s story; about her marriage and the upbringing of her daughter Cara. Through this narrative, Nicolson paints a vivid picture of women’s lives in one of London’s Italian communities.

#AngelsofMud #vanessanicolson @GracePublicity 

Cara’s story begins in 1966, when she accepts a job in Florence and witnesses the catastrophic Arno flood, which kills over 100 people and destroys millions of artworks and rare books. It is a pivotal event in Cara’s life and she becomes one of the volunteers, an ‘Angel of Mud’, helping to recover the damaged artefacts. Great personal turmoil takes place in times of national disaster, and Cara is faced with important questions about who she is and who she wants to be.

This tale, with its twists of thwarted love and concealed sexuality, offers fresh insight into the daily lives of Fiorentini at a key time in the history of the city, while also providing, by contrast, a vivid picture of life in post war Clerkenwell. Vanessa Nicolson beautifully captures raw emotion and the complex nature of mother and daughter relationships and how easily and unwittingly a daughter can find herself following in her mother’s footsteps. She writes with an acute historical sensitivity about the two cities, both of which she knows well. Angels of Mud is as rich in topographical detail as it is in emotional truth.

My Review

What a fabulous book this is. It’s actually made up of two separate stories – the one about 18-year-old Cara who has gone to live and work in Florence in 1966 after a failed romance has left her heart-broken. The other story follows her mother Mary, married to sad, boring, old-fashioned Geoffrey (I apologise if that sounds a bit mean), but in love with another man.

In Florence, Cara meets a handsome, young Italian man called Gianni and slowly her heart starts to heal. But then one terrible night she witnesses the catastrophic Arno flood, which kills over 100 people and destroys millions of artworks and rare books. Cara is trapped in her apartment with no heating, light or telephone. With Post Offices closed she cannot even let her mother know she is safe. But this devastating event changes Cara’s life and she becomes one of the volunteers, known as the ‘Angels of Mud’, who helped to recover the damaged artefacts and restore them.

It’s a well written novel with beautiful prose and descriptions of post-war London and 1960s Florence, which are written from the author’s experience and knowledge of both cities. I learned a great deal about Clerkenwell in London, known at the time as Little Italy. Florence is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, a place full of rare artworks, books, cultural history and fabulous food.

Both Cara and especially Mary are well-drawn, rounded characters with whom we can empathise. I felt really sorry for Mary; her life was so unfulfilling at a time when women had little opportunity to be more than housewives. By 1966 Cara had choices which her mother never had.

Many thanks to Grace Pilkington Publicity for inviting me to be part of the blog tour.

About the Author

Vanessa Nicolson has published two acclaimed memoirs, Have You Been Good? (Granta 2015) and The Truth Game (Quartet 2017). Angels of Mud is her first novel. She grew up in Florence and London, the daughter of an Italian mother and Briitsh father, and has worked as an art historian, curator and journalist. She lives in Sissinghurst, Kent.

Freckles by Cecelia Ahern

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with…

When a stranger utters these words to Allegra Bird, nicknamed Freckles, it turns her highly ordered life upside down. In her current life as a parking warden, she has left her eccentric father and unconventional childhood behind for a bold new life in the city.

#Freckles @Cecelia_Ahern @fictionpubteam @annecater @RandomTTours #RandomThingsTours

But a single encounter leads her to ask the question she’s been avoiding for so long: who are the people who made her the way she is? And who are the five people who can shape and determine her future? Just as she once joined the freckles on her skin to mirror the constellations in the night sky, she must once again look for connections.

Told in Allegra’s vivid, original voice, moving from Dublin to the fierce Atlantic coast, this is an unforgettable story of human connection, of friendship, and growing into your own skin.

Five people. Five stars. Freckle to freckle. Star to star

My Review

A traffic warden as the main protagonist in a novel? How in the world was I going to like this? Well I actually loved it, though I cringed occasionally when she issued a ticket. She can be a bit of a jobsworth.

Allegra Bird is the hero of our story. Nicknamed Freckles – you guessed it because she has freckles – she is a rather unusual girl. Raised by her eccentric father Pops, her Spanish mother gave her up at birth. She has left the island where she lived all her life and moved to Dublin to fulfil her dream of becoming a Gardai. Unfortunately she didn’t get accepted so has taken a job as a parking warden instead.

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with…

One day while issuing yet another ticket to You Tuber Tristan known as Rooster, he tells her about the five people. So if your five are all losers, what does that make you?

Allegra takes this to heart and her quest leads her to discover who her real friends are and who will influence her the most. Just as she once joined the freckles on her skin to mirror the constellations in the night sky, she must yet again look for connections. It’s a heartwarming tale full of humour, friendship and growing to love yourself as a person.

And my favourite character in the book? Tristan for me. Even with his Prada footwear and yellow Ferrari that Allegra hates so much.

Many thanks to @annecater for inviting me to be part of #RandomThingsTours and to The Pigeonhole and to my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read..

About the Author

Cecelia Ahern is one of the biggest selling authors to emerge in the past fifteen years, having sold more than 25 million copies worldwide in over 50 countries. Two of her books have been adapted as major films and she has created several TV series in the US and Germany. Her novel PS I Love You was a New York Times bestseller and huge #1 bestseller in Ireland and the UK. In 2007, it was made into a major film starring Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler and most recently, Cecelia wrote the sequel- Postscript which was an instant bestseller.

Cecelia has written 13 bestselling novels including two YA novels and a critically acclaimed collection of short stories, ROAR which is being produced by and starring Nicole Kidman. Her novels have resonated with readers everywhere through their thoughtful, unique and inspiring storytelling and have won numerous awards. Cecelia lives in Dublin with her family. To find out more please visit http://www.cecelia-ahern.com

Buried by Elle Croft

You’re trapped underground with a serial killer. Would you save their life to protect your own?

The Artist
No one knows who The Sculptor is. A successful artist, who’s works sell for millions – each one with a deadly secret at the centre of each piece.

The Killer
There’s a serial killer on the loose – dismembering women’s bodies and leaving them washed up along the shore. The Coastline Killer is free and no one knows how to catch him.

The Victim
Alice has designed her life to be as safe as it possibly can be. She takes no risks, and makes sure nothing is a threat to her or those she loves.

But when an earthquake brings all three together, will anyone get out alive? And if you were trapped with a serial killer, would you protect their secrets to save your own life? 

My Review

I wish I’d discovered Elle Croft before. What an explosive, brilliant ‘serial-killer-thriller’ (I love that description).

Alice gives talks about disaster management. She’s good at her job though she’s never actually experienced a real disaster. Her life is risk-free – she takes no chances and makes sure she and her family and friends are always safe. Until she is kidnapped by a serial killer, trapped underground and tied to a gurney. Then an earthquake strikes – it’s The Big One that the people of Vancouver have been waiting for – and she must use all her knowledge to stay alive.

But it’s not that simple. She’s buried underground with the man who took her – the serial killer known as The Coastline Killer who dismembers women’s bodies and leaves them washed up along the shoreline. But they need each other to survive.

We also hear from The Sculptor, a strange, twisted artist, a fan of Rodin, whose work is celebrated worldwide and sells for millions. But each sculpture carries a deadly secret and no-one knows the identity of this talented individual.

It’s so tense and at times terrifyingly brutal (not for the faint-hearted), if I had not been reading in staves with online book club The Pigeonhole, I would have devoured it in one go.

Many thanks to The Pigeonhole, the author and to my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read.

About the Author

Elle is the author of psychological thrillers, a true crime podcaster, blogger and digital marketing consultant. She grew up in Adelaide, Australia, but now lives in London, which is the perfect place to live if you love to travel (which she does). She started her blog in 2010, and it quickly evolved into a travel blog, although these days it tends to be where she documents her writing experiences and the odd adventure.

She co-hosts the Crime Girl Gang podcast with her crime writing pals, Victoria Selman and Niki Mackay, and together they discuss true crime cold cases, with a fictional twist.

With over six years’ experience as a digital marketer, she combines her passions for writing and marketing by helping other authors perfect their website, social media, newsletter and online advertising. You can find more about the services she offers for authors on her other website, Digital Marketing for Authors.

When she’s not busy with all of the above, she can be found running (she loves a half marathon), sewing, making tacos, reading, or staring out the window at the foxes that live behind her flat.

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The Late Train to Gypsy Hill by Alan Johnson

Gary Nelson has a routine for the commute to his rather dull job in the city. Each day, he watches as a woman on the train applies her make up in a ritual he now knows by heart. He’s never dared to strike up a conversation . . . but maybe one day.

Then one evening, on the late train to Gipsy Hill, the woman invites him to take the empty seat beside her. Fiddling with her mascara, she holds up her mirror and Gary reads the words ‘HELP ME’ scrawled in sticky black letters on the glass.

From that moment, Gary’s life is turned on its head. He finds himself on the run from the Russian mafia, the FSB and even the Metropolitan Police – all because of what this mysterious young woman may have witnessed. In the race to find out the truth, Gary discovers that there is a lot more to her than meets the eye . . .

My Review

I’m not usually a fan of books about modern-day spies, the Russian mafia and oligarchs. But The Late Train to Gypsy Hill is all of that but with added laugh out loud humour. The debut novel from former Home Secretary Alan Johnson is slick, fast-paced, wicked and hilarious.

Poor Gary, our hapless hero, who is more like a reject from The Inbetweeners than a budding James Bond, is drawn into a race against time, when the young woman he has admired every day, invites him to take the empty seat beside her. Fiddling with her mascara, she holds up her mirror and Gary reads the words ‘HELP ME’.

Earlier on, a Russian documentary film-maker has been poisoned with Polonium-210 in the very posh Strand Hotel in London, but was he the intended victim? Or did the – as we now know Ukranian – woman from the train/waitress-on-the-run Arina Kaplin accidentally swap the mugs?

It took me ages to work out who was who amongst the Russians, so I’m not even going to try and name them. Suffice to say they consist of members of the FSB (formerly the KGB), the top mobsters, the stab-you-in-the-back henchmen and the thugs, though the lines are blurred much of the time. No-one trusts anyone and I don’t blame them. They are trying to scramble over each other’s bodies to get to the top of Russian criminal gang Krovnyye Bratya and they soon realise there is no loyalty amongst gangsters.

But what makes this so funny is the touches of comedy in what should be the most terrifying moments. The thugs attempt to abduct the wrong woman in a stolen Nissan Micra (I hope it’s the old two-door version for true comic effect), Arina escapes in a Parcelforce van (of course), and the final chase is like something out of a French farce.

I hope we will see a lot more from this author, already well-known as an MP, a writer of non-fiction and occasional TV personality. The Late Train to Gypsy Hill is one of my favourite books of 2021.

Many thanks to The Pigeonhole and to my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read.

About the Author

Alan Arthur Johnson (born 17 May 1950) is a British politician who served as Secretary of State for the Home Department from 2009 to 2010 and Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer from 2010 to 2011. A member of the Labour Party, Johnson served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Hull West and Hessle from 1997 until his retirement from politics in 2017.

His first book, This Boy, won the RSL Ondaatje Prize and the Orwell Prize in 2013. His second, Please Mister Postman, won the National Book Award for Autobiography of the Year in 2014. His third, The Long and Winding Road, was published in 2016 and won the Parliamentary Book Award for Best Memoir. The Late Train to Gypsy Hill is his first fiction novel.