Abberton House by Debbie Ioanna

Two families. 100 years apart. A sinister haunting…

It was supposed to be the dream house for Adam, Catherine, and their daughter, Bella. But dream houses can hold secrets. Settling in to their new home, the family realise they are not the only inhabitants of Abberton House.

#AbbertonHouse @Debbie_Cleo @PantherPubs @damppebbles #damppebblesblogtours Facebook @damppebblesblogtours 

A dark past continues to haunt the idyllic Yorkshire home, and those who remain want Adam and Catherine to know the truth. Frightened, Adam and Catherine begin to piece together what really happened at this once perfect abode.

A missing family, an elderly man searching for the truth, and secrets waiting to be revealed, moving in to Abberton House could be the worst decision the family made.

My Review

Ghostly footsteps, children laughing and playing on the stairs, an old man who disappears – sounds like my kind of story. But maybe not my kind of house – I prefer peace and quiet when I am trying to sleep.

When it comes to ghost stories, I don’t scare easily – I am far more afraid of murderers and serial killers than I am of ghosts. Do I believe in them? Well I believe that when something traumatic or tragic happens, it leaves a time stamp on the place or property where it happened, but spirits walking around because they can’t rest in peace. Of that I am not sure. However, the supernatural is probably my favourite genre.

Abberton House is told in two parallel time frames. In 1916, handsome doctor Henry is sent away to the WWI front, though luckily he is not in the direct line of fire. At home his wife Elizabeth, daughters Mary and Charlotte and toddler Toby, wait patiently for his return. They write every day and receive Henry’s letters in return. In one of his letters, Henry tells Elizabeth about a young man named Michael, who has lost a leg in battle, needs rehabilitation and maybe she could help. Bad idea. Very very bad.

In 2016, Adam, Catherine and five year old Bella move into their ‘dream’ house – Abberton House. Catherine plans to expand her cake making business, Adam can still get to work easily – he’s a fireman – and Bella loves her new school and new best friend Janey.

There’s a lot of work to do on their new home, especially on the garden, but so far so good. Then an old man is found wandering in the garden and suddenly disappears into thin air. Bella has an ‘imaginary’ friend called Charlotte and who is the woman who stands in the bedroom window, her hand on the glass while she stares across the garden? The happenings get spookier and spookier and to call them things that go bump in the night would be a understatement.

Many thanks to @damppebbles for inviting me to be part of #damppebblesblogtours

About the Author

Debbie is a multi-genre indie author and blogger who was born in Bradford and lives there with her husband, two-year-old daughter and anti-social cat Cleo. When she isn’t busy being a Mum, working for her local council or studying towards her Open University degree, she is busy focusing on her writing career.

Debbie doesn’t write to just one genre as she likes to write about anything. She is currently working on a romantic-comedy series but who knows what she will be working on in the future. As well as writing novels, short stories and blogs for her website, she is also reviewing other works by indie authors. She is passionate about helping other indie authors as she knows it is a hard world to master and getting reviews is a challenge on its own.

Debbie has been a regular attending author at the UK Indie Lit Fest in Bradford for the last few years.

Debbie began studying with the Open University in 2015, aiming towards a BA Honours in Humanities, focusing on History and Creative Writing which are her two greatest passions. It is a part-time course, due to end in 2021 which Debbie is hoping means she will have more time to write.

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Debbie_Cleo

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/debbieioannaauthor/

Website: https://debbie-ioanna-author.blog/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/debbieioannaauthor/

Purchase Links:

Panther Publishing: http://bit.ly/38Ho0C3

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3tqULeY

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3rU3vKe

Darke Matter by Rick Gekoski

James Darke is dreading the first family Christmas without his wife Suzy. Engulfed by grief, his grudging preparations are interrupted by a persistent knock at the door. Questions about the circumstances of his wife’s death force him to confront the outside world and what really happened to her.

#DarkeMatter @RGekoski @LittleBrownUK #RandomThingsTours @annecater @RandomTTours

Isolated, angry and diminished, James soon faces a crisis both legal and psychological. It will test his resolve and threaten his freedom.

Darke Matter is a brilliant, mordant examination of the nature and obligations of love.
Both immensely sad and extremely funny, the story wrestles with one of the great moral issues of our time.

My Review

In Darke Matter, the writer uses language like poetry, working the words in his own inimitable style. But that is not to say this book is style over substance, because it certainly is not..

Having lost his beloved wife Suzy to illness after watching her disintegrate in pain before his eyes, Dr James Darke feels obligated to ease her journey. Following her death, he retreats into himself, anxious, depressed and friendless. There is only his daughter Lucy, her husband Sam, their son Rudy and baby daughter Amelie in his life now and he hasn’t seen them for months.

Having sold his valuable Dickens collection, James starts to read Gulliver’s Travels to Rudy. Rudy wants more stories about Gulliver, so James begins to write what he imagines would be the next instalment. But his slow return to some kind of his version of normality is interrupted by the police. What do they want? Is he a criminal or simply a man for whom the love of his wife meant everything? Is he guilty or innocent or both?

Sensitive readers may well be offended by some, in fact, many of James’s musings. He is politically incorrect to a fault, commenting on nationalities with his version of wit and offence, but these are the musings of the character, not I assume of the writer. He – James – doesn’t like children (apart from Rudy), or dogs (“I detest the smelly slobbery hairy shit-slingers”), or most other people (“If I am to be in company, I much prefer my own”). He particularly dislikes poets and their sentimental rubbish. He’s not exactly deferential where religion is concerned either:

“Suzy had her own understanding of the resurrection, and of the miracle of Easter. Jesus has risen: not like a balloon, or the FTSE 500. No, he was more like a souffle, light and airy enough to ascend to heaven and be declared absolutely divine, darling. At Oxford we founded a sect, the Soufflarians, a secret sybaritic movement, the members of which would meet at our flat on Ester Sunday. Each would bring an egg and a passion fruit, the perfect symbols and ingredients, and I would make a souffle in remembrance of that miraculous event, the Easter Uprising.” A few hundred years ago, they would have burnt you at the stake for such heresy.

If I had one criticism I would say the book is a bit overlong and it is not for everyone. OK that’s two, but it certainly found its niche in me. I laughed more than cried, but the humour can be very dark. An excellent read.

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

About the Author

Rick Gekoski came from his native America to do a PhD at Oxford, and went on to teach English at the University of Warwick. In 1982, sick of lecturing, he decided to become a full-time rare book dealer, specialising in important twentieth-century first editions and manuscripts. He lives in London and spends time each year in Paris and New Zealand.

The Source by Sarah Sultoon


A hugely anticipated debut thriller from former CNN international news executive Sarah Sultoon. Inspired by Sarah’s own time in the newsroom, The Source follows a young TV journalist who is forced to revisit her past when she’s thrust into a sex-trafficking investigation in her hometown. TV rights have already been sold to Lime Pictures, with Jo Spain writing the screenplay

#TheSource @SultoonSarah @OrendaBooks #RandomThingsTours @annecater @RandomTTours

  • 1996. Essex. Thirteen-year-old schoolgirl Carly lives in a disenfranchised town dominated by a military base, struggling to care for her baby sister while her mum sleeps off another binge. When her squaddie brother brings food and treats, and offers an exclusive invitation to army parties, things start to look a little less bleak…
  • 2006. London. Junior TV newsroom journalist Marie has spent six months exposing a gang of sex traffickers, but everything is derailed when New Scotland Yard announces the re-opening of Operation Andromeda, the notorious investigation into allegations of sex abuse at an army base a decade earlier. As the lives of these two characters intertwine around a single, defining event, a series of utterly chilling experiences is revealed, sparking a nail-biting race to find the truth…and justice. A tense, startling and unforgettable thriller, The Source is a story about survival, about hopes and dreams, about power, abuse and resilience.

My Review

I finished reading the other night at 11 pm. I couldn’t get to sleep. I then woke three times in the night, finally waking at 5.40 am. Parts of this book are devastating, even more so because this really happens.

The story is told in two parts – Carly, aged 13, in 1996 and Marie in 2006. Initially I raced through Marie’s part, getting confused at times between the trafficking story and Operation Andromeda. I just wanted to read about Carly, her alcohol-soaked mother, her brother Jason (I can’t even go there) and her best ‘friend’ Rachel, two years older and a lot wiser. But most of all I feared for little sister Kayleigh and it was her story that kept me awake.

Carly is part of an army family. She shares a father with Jason but he died and the family received a generous handout. Her mum couldn’t cope, blew the money on alcohol, was conned by her so-called lovers and can now barely get up to get dressed. Somehow she manged to get pregnant and have Kayleigh, whose father is unknown. There is no food in the house and poor Kayleigh screams in her cot in a soaking nappy. This was heart-wrenching. It is Carly who has to care for her, while trying to attend school at the same time.

Then things start to change. Rachel invites Carly to ‘special’ army parties and suddenly Jason appears more often with food and clothes for the kids. But there is always a price to pay and that price is Carly. I really hated Jason and while we know Rachel is still a teenager, she is also deeply unlikable.

This is a dark and complex story of abuse, the destruction of childhood innocence and the lengths to which people in power will go to hide the terrible things they have done. It is also about truth and survival, regardless of the cost. The author does not shy away from the issues and this is brilliantly written and researched – be warned though, it is not an easy read – but it’s a story that needs to be told.

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

About the Author

Sarah Sultoon is a journalist and writer whose work as an international news executive at CNN has taken her all over the world, from the seats of power in both Westminster and Washington to the frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan. She has extensive experience in conflict zones, winning three Peabody awards for her work on the war in Syria, an Emmy for her contribution to the coverage of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, and a number of Royal Television Society gongs. As passionate about fiction as nonfiction, she recently completed a Masters of Studies in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge, adding to an undergraduate language degree in French and Spanish, and Masters of Philosophy in History, Film and Television. When not reading or writing she can usually be found somewhere outside, either running, swimming or throwing a ball for her three children and dog while she imagines what might happen if…

Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

Cat lives in Los Angeles, about as far away as she can get from her estranged twin sister El and No. 36 Westeryk Road, the imposing Gothic house in Edinburgh where they grew up. As girls, they invented Mirrorland, a dark, imaginary place under the pantry stairs full of pirates, witches, and clowns. These days Cat rarely thinks about their childhood home, or the fact that El now lives there with her husband Ross.

#Mirrorland @C_L_Johnstone @BoroughPress @ScribnerBooks #RandomThingsTours @annecater @RandomTTours

But when El mysteriously disappears after going out on her sailboat, Cat is forced to return to the grand old house, which has scarcely changed in twenty years. No. 36 Westeryk Road is still full of shadowy, hidden corners, and at every turn Cat finds herself stumbling on long-held secrets and terrifying ghosts from the past. Because someone—El?—has left Cat clues all over the house: a treasure hunt that leads right back to Mirrorland, where she knows the truth lies crouched and waiting…

A twisty, dark, and brilliantly crafted thriller about love and betrayal, redemption and revenge, Mirrorland is a propulsive, page-turning debut about the power of imagination and the price of freedom.

My Review

Every once in a while you know you have read something special, something original, something so overwhelmingly beautiful and sad that you feel like your heart is breaking. Mirrorland is that something. Dark and unsettling, the more you read, the more you cannot imagine what the next chapter holds. It’s like holding your breath underwater, afraid to surface, yet more afraid to remain.

I’m not going to say it’s for fans of… or for those who like…. because this book is like no other. It twists and surprises and then twists again, till you no longer know who is telling the truth or even who is who.

Catriona and Ellice lived out their childhood in a world of their own invention. A world called Mirrorland. Populated with pirates, clowns, adventurers, Belle, Mouse and The Witch, the only other child allowed into their world was Ross. That is, until the girls are found wandering, bloody and wretched at the dock, waiting for a pirate ship to take them away.

Many years later El has gone missing from her sailboat The Redemption and Cat still remembers nothing of that fateful night when they were both 12 years old. Having spent the rest of their childhood in care, El eventually marries Ross and Cat has gone to live in California. She hasn’t been home or spoken to El since the day she left. But now Cat is forced to come back. She is certain that El is still alive, because as mirror twins, she would know if El was dead. Except no-one believes her.

Once Cat is back in the old house where she and El lived with Mum and Grandpa (El and Ross bought it back), she is forced to face her worst fears and discover the truth. But is the truth really the truth and who is leaving cards on the doorstep and emailing her clues? Convinced it is El, Cat is drawn into a nightmare world where only returning to Mirrorland can save her.

To say this book is fantastic would not do it justice. It’s just brilliant and amazing and every other adjective I can think of.

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

About the Author

Carole Johnstone’s award-winning short fiction has appeared in annual ‘Best of’ anthologies in the US and UK. Her debut novel, Mirrorland, will be published in April 2021 by Borough Press/HarperCollins in the UK and Commonwealth and by Scribner/Simon & Schuster in North America. She lives in Argyll and Bute, Scotland.

From Carol herself:

Dear reader

“When I sat down to write Mirrorland, I wanted to write a story that I would want to read. I wanted to write a psychological thriller with a Gothic heart, full of mystery and atmosphere, surprises and twists. I also really wanted to write about the crumbling, creepy, and very eccentric house in Leith, Edinburgh where my grandparents used to live.

“So many writers’ ideas come from asking the question What if? You start with what grabs you the most, things that have been cluttering up your mind for a long time – identical twins, a passion for secret histories, love triangles, revenge plots, and a crumbling, creepy old house with a locked door that goes nowhere, for example – and then you ask What if? What if something terrible happened to those twins when they were children? What if they fell in love with the same man when they were adults? What if the almost supernatural bond that they shared had slowly become so toxic that they could no longer be in each other’s lives? What if one sister then went missing? And what if that bond between them – all those terrible and forgotten secrets and lies – was the only thing that might save her? That might save them both?

“I hope so much that reading Mirrorland gives you even a fraction of the joy that writing it gave me.”

ENTER MIRRORLAND

The Wild Girls by Phoebe Morgan

FOUR FRIENDS.
A LUXURY RETREAT.
IT’S GOING TO BE MURDER.
The new gripping crime thriller from No.1 digital bestselling author of The Doll House, The Girl Next Door, and The Babysitter.

It’s been years since Grace, Felicity, Alice and Hannah were together – The Wild Girls, as they were once called, are no longer so wild. Alice has settled with a new baby and partner. Hannah is now a teacher. Grace has gone to ground. Only Felicity seems to have the same spark she once had.

And now Felicity has invited them all on the weekend of a lifetime – a mini-break in Botswana to celebrate her birthday, a chance to put that night two years ago behind them, when things went so very wrong between them, and their bomb-proof friendship was shattered for ever.

But on arriving at the luxury safari lodge, a feeling of unease settles on Grace, Hannah and Alice. Felicity isn’t there to meet them. There’s no sign of the party she promised. The awful phone signal means that they are on their own, in the wild…

It’s a weekend with a difference. But who is hunting who?

My Review

I loved this book. I read Phoebe’s first novel The Doll House a while ago and it was one of my favourites at the time. The Girl Next Door and The Babysitter were also good but they didn’t grab me in quite the same way. But The Wild Girls! Oh boy! What a cracking mystery.

Grace, Alice, Hannah and Felicity were best friends since they were teenagers. They did everything together, spending time in Felicity’s attic, sharing secrets and drinking Vodka – the drinking forms quite a major theme in the book. If I drank like these girls do I would be comatose.

But something happens one night that blows their friendship apart and they haven’t spoken in two years. They have their own lives now – Hannah with husband Chris and baby Max, Alice with boyfriend Tom and Grace almost a recluse. Felicity has gone to New York with her handsome, doctor, boyfriend Nathaniel.

Then out of the blue each of the girls gets an invitation to Felicity’s birthday party in a Lodge in Botswana. Why Botswana? No idea but they all decide to go – it’s expenses paid so why not? To me it would all seem a bit suspicious but they think it will be fun and anyway, they need a break.

Soon things began to turn sinister, slowly creeping up in a way that only really Grace suspects, but then Grace was always like that wasn’t she?

Almost no phone signal, no sign of Felicity, wild animals just beyond the perimeter, no locks on the doors and food that just mysteriously appears, who wouldn’t be worried? In the opening chapter we know that two of the girls will not make it out alive – but which two and why?

This is the kind of book that you really can’t put down, so reading in staves with The Pigeonhole was torture!

Many thanks to The Pigeonhole, the author and my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read. And also to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

Phoebe Morgan is an author and editor. She studied English at Leeds University after growing up in the Suffolk countryside. She has previously worked as a journalist and now edits crime and women’s fiction for a publishing house during the day, and writes her own books in the evenings. She lives in London and you can follow her on Twitter @Phoebe_A_MorganThe Wild Girls is her fourth novel.

Somebody Out There by Kevin Lynch

Be careful what you wish for…

When Ben and Deborah leave the city to start a new life in the beautiful Irish countryside, they can almost taste their perfect future – growing their own food, the kids running free, peace and silence.

But as soon as they arrive in their new home bad things start to happen. And it becomes clear that somebody out there wants them gone.

#SomebodyOutThere #KevinLynch @inkubatorbooks @damppebbles #damppebblesblogtours Facebook @damppebblesblogtours 

But ex-crime reporter Deborah doesn’t scare easily. This is the life she’s dreamed of for her family and she’s not giving up on it without a fight.

As the campaign against the family intensifies and becomes truly terrifying, Deborah is determined to unmask whoever is trying to hurt them and starts to dig for the truth.

What she finds is more twisted and horrifying than she could ever have imagined.

My Review

I actually read this in one day. I just wanted to see what happened, so I kept reading. It’s not a particularly long book. There were some truly horrifying moments – the ones that keep you on the edge of your seat.

Even though I really enjoyed it, there were a couple of things that bothered me. The children are 12 and 14 – far too young to be left alone in the house in the daytime, let alone at night. Especially after the various ‘incidents’. Ben and Deborah seem a bit lax with their parenting. Just because you live in the countryside doesn’t make it safe.

Then there is the other thing – anyone who knows me will know what I’m referring to. Unnecessarily over-the-top in my opinion. Oh yes, and don’t keep secrets from each other, it will only end in tears.

However, it was a cracking good read, a fast-paced mystery with a great twist at the end and plenty of red herrings. I think some of us will have had our suspicions as to who was responsible, but not why as it isn’t hinted at, unless I missed something. Maybe I should have a quick skim read to make sure.

If it wasn’t for those few things I would definitely have given it five stars, but they bothered me – they probably won’t bother other readers, at least two of them won’t. Great book, great plot and satisfying outcome.

Many thanks to @damppebbles for inviting me to be part of #damppebblesblogtours

About the Author

Kevin is a Guidance Counsellor by day and a thriller author during his off hours. He puts an original slant on some common experiences and creates engaging stories with a personal twist. Kevin lives in Ireland with three great kids and a wife who makes him laugh, which is really all he could ask for. 

Purchase links

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3s6g3gZ

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3sXZZid

On Guard by Cat on a Piano Productions / Theatrephonic

On Guard
And so it was writ, the stairs shall be guarded.

Tropical desert islands, tree houses, forts and sailing the high seas. Who wears the hat and who gets the spatula? And so it was writ, the stairs shall be guarded. The stairs must always be kept safe.

Another cracker from Theatrephonic and I particularly love the Step Shanty.

Written by Tilly Lunken
Directed by Jackson Pentland

Starring
Fran Burgoyne as Stair Monitor 1
Mary Roubos as Stair Monitor 2
Jeannie Dickinson as Stair Monitor 3

Produced by Cat on a Piano Productions

Music:
We Can’t Escape this – lyrics by Tilly Lunken, music by Jackson Pentland, performed by Fran Burgoyne, Mary Roubos and Jeannie Dickinson
Step Shanty – lyrics by Tilly Lunken and Jackson Pentland, music by Jackson Pentland, performed by Jeannie Dickinson

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.

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

A Mirror Murder by Helen Hollick

Eighteen-year-old library assistant Jan Christopher’s life is to change on a rainy Friday evening in July 1971, when her legal guardian and uncle, DCI Toby Christopher, gives her a lift home after work. Driving the car, is her uncle’s new Detective Constable, Laurie Walker – and it is love at first sight for the young couple.

#AMirrorMurder @HelenHollick @damppebbles #damppebblesblogtours Facebook @damppebblesblogtours 

But romance is soon to take a back seat when a baby boy is taken from his pram, a naked man is scaring young ladies in nearby Epping Forest, and an elderly lady is found, brutally murdered…

Are the events related? How will they affect the staff and public of the local library where Jan works – and will a blossoming romance survive a police investigation into murder?

My Review

It doesn’t seem quite right to call this ‘cosy’ when it involves a murder and a missing baby. Especially when the outcome isn’t all happiness and light. But this was mostly a very pleasant read and the dynamics between the main characters are perfect. I’m glad this is the first of a new series.

Jan (real name January – I love that name) Christopher lives with her aunt and uncle after her father was brutally shot to death in front of her when she was a young child. Her mum died soon after. Dad was a police officer and her uncle just happens to be DCI Toby Christopher of the Chingford police force. Jan works in the local library. Uncle Toby’s driver is on sick leave and his new driver is the handsome, Detective Constable Laurie Walker and for Laurie and Jan it is love at first sight. I found their escapades and budding romance really lovely. Laurie seems a bit accident prone, which was rather endearing.

The year is 1971 – the year I took my A levels – and I can see from the author information that Helen and I are the same age. Therefore as well as loving the story I also adored the nostalgia, which brought back so many memories and with which I could identify. There was a fair bit of humour in the story as well as sadness, which I loved. The stories about Gloria, Eddie and Mr and Mrs Hurst were very funny.

The main story revolves around an elderly lady who frequents the library and cuts out the food coupons from the newspaper. Then one day she rushes out the door with the newspaper still in her hand and soon after it is Jan and Laurie who find her murdered in her own home. Outside a woman with a baby in a pram is going to the shop to buy formula milk, only it is after 11 pm and Jan finds it all a bit strange.

In the meantime Jan has seen a flasher in the woods and is convinced it’s Gloria’s boyfriend Eddie. What is the connection between these events? Will she and Laurie and of course Uncle Toby solve the mystery?

It’s a great story with a cast of likeable characters. I shall look forward to the next instalment.

Many thanks to @damppebbles for inviting me to be part of #damppebblesblogtours

PS Helen, if you ever get to read this review, George Harrison was my favourite Beatle as well. Obviously great minds think alike.

About the Author

First published in 1994, Helen became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) with the sequel, Harold the King (US: I Am The Chosen King) being novels that explore the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy is a fifth-century version of the Arthurian legend, and she writes a nautical adventure/fantasy series, The Sea Witch Voyages. She is now branching out into the quick read novella, ‘Cosy Mystery’ genre with her new venture, the Jan Christopher Murder Mysteries, set in the 1970s, with the first in the series, A Mirror Murder (due to be published in early 2021) incorporating her, often hilarious, memories of working as a library assistant.

Her non-fiction books are Pirates: Truth and Tales and Life of A Smuggler. She lives in an eighteenth-century farmhouse in North Devon, runs Discovering Diamonds, a review blog for historical fiction, and occasionally gets time to write…

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/HelenHollick

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HelenHollickAuthor

Website: https://www.helenhollick.net/

Newsletter Subscription: http://tinyletter.com/HelenHollick

Main Blog: www.ofhistoryandkings.blogspot.com

Amazon Author Page (Universal Link) http://viewauthor.at/HelenHollick

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3lnJd9C

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3czU5gx

The Girls Inside by NJ Mackay

Blue grew up in the Black House.

In remotest Wales, Joseph Carillo recruited young, lonely women to join his community and adopt his erratic views. Blue’s mother was one of them. But when the Black House goes up in flames, Blue escapes to freedom and never stops running.

Twenty years later, when Blue’s old dormmate commits suicide, Blue receives a strange call. She has been awarded sole custody of Natasha’s daughter. But things don’t add up. The girls haven’t spoken since the night of the fire.

As Blue begins to dig into Natasha’s life, her suspicions take her all the way back to that fateful night…but will the truth help Blue to face her past, or will it put everyone she holds close in danger?

My Review

I have always been fascinated by religious cults and what makes people join them. How you can have such power over someone that you can make them bend to your will (think Charles Manson and the killing of Sharon Tate and her friends). Then there was Jonestown and WACO amongst others, including The Moonies (or Unification Church) – though no killing or mass suicides. I won’t go into too much detail as I have already written about it in another review but suffice to say that Children of God – which became Family International in 2004 – not only permitted sex with children but actually encouraged it, believing it was ‘a divine right’. It still exists today but without the underage sex. Potential members of cults are often vulnerable, unattached and in their late teens/early twenties, making it ‘easier’ for them to be brainwashed.

The Black House is the extreme. Natasha’s mother Sienna was the first to be recruited by spiritual leader Joseph Carillo, whose teachings were based around the evil of the outside world and the suspicion that surrounded figures of authority like the police and teachers. But the evil inside The Black House made the outside world look like Noddyland. Mothers became the ‘Aunts’ who no longer tied themselves to their own children, who were punished for calling them ‘mummy’. Young children were starved and often beaten. The girls would ‘mature’ into sex partners for Carillo and the older boys and eventually married off while in their teens. What they all endured was horrendous, but the loss of their own mother was one of the hardest.

Following a fire at The Black House in which many of the adults died, Blue, Lisa, Natasha, her brother Brodie and Sienna escaped. Once outside the three girls were separated, supposedly for their own good. Blue meets ageing rock star Isaac, who takes her under his wing. She works for him in his record shop Pop Planet. She is recovering as well as can be expected until she receives an unexpected call. Something has happened to Natasha and Blue has been given custody of her 10-year-old daughter Pen, who she has never met or even knew existed. But something doesn’t add up and soon DI Annie Grafton is on the case.

This was a brilliant read and I loved every minute, though some of the abuse was pretty hard to take.

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

About the Author

NJ Mackay is a writer and a bookworm. She studied Performing Arts at the BRIT School. “It turned out I wasn’t very good at acting”, she says, “but quite liked writing scripts”. She went on to take a BA (Hons) in English Literature and Drama and later won a full scholarship for an MA in Journalism.

Kill Shot by Sally Rigby

The game is over…..there’s nowhere to hide.

When Lenchester’s most famous sportsman is shot dead, DCI Whitney Walker and her team are thrown into the world of snooker.

She calls on forensic psychologist Dr Georgina Cavendish to assist, but the investigation takes them in a direction which has far-reaching, international ramifications.

#KillShot #CavendishandWalker @SallyRigby4 #CavendishandWalker @damppebbles #damppebblesblogtours Facebook @damppebblesblogtours 

Much to Whitney’s annoyance, a member of the Met’s fraud squad is sent to assist.

But as everyone knows…three’s a crowd.

Kill Shot is the tenth book in the acclaimed Cavendish & Walker series.

My Review

A detective murder novel about snooker. Who would have thought? Not being a snooker fan I was a tad apprehensive, firstly in case I didn’t understand the ‘jargon’ and secondly because I am not really interested in books that involve sport.

However, this is a Cavendish and Walker story, so you know it’s going to be good. The snooker element is really incidental – the victim Ryan Armstrong could have been a tennis player (that would be better) or a footballer, but I draw the line at darts. Overweight men in red shirts don’t really do it for me.

We also are introduced to DI Seb Clifford, son of a Viscount, 6’6″ tall and by all accounts, rather handsome, who has been sent from the Met to assist the investigation, but we know there is more to it than that. He sounds a bit like Inspector Lynley, only taller. And he has a dog called Elsa. So far so good.

In Whitney’s private life, things have moved on. In the last book she was reunited with Martin, father of daughter Tiffany, who is now pregnant. Whitney and Martin are trying to rekindle a teenage romance (it can only end in tears), but I was hoping for a bit of flirting with Seb, but maybe he is destined to have a relationship with George, even though she is back with ex-boyfriend Ross.

This is another cracking good mystery from Sally Rigby, the tenth in the Cavendish and Walker series. As well as murder, there is a side story about match-fixing and organised crime. I think in the next book we need to focus more on George – she seems to be secondary most of the time – we focus mainly on Whitney.

I’ve also been thinking about casting this for TV (it’s ages since I’ve done this). I think Whitney could be played by Thandie Newton and George by Ruth Wilson. As for Seb – I can’t think of anyone tall enough to suit the part. Suggestions please.

Many thanks to @damppebbles for inviting me to be part of #damppebblesblogtours

About the Author

Sally Rigby was born in Northampton, in the UK. She has always had the travel bug, and after living in both Manchester and London, eventually moved overseas. From 2001 she has lived with her family in New Zealand (apart from five years in Australia), which she considers to be the most beautiful place in the world. After writing young adult fiction for many years, under a pen name, Sally decided to move into crime fiction. Her Cavendish & Walker series brings together two headstrong, and very different, women – DCI Whitney Walker, and forensic psychologist Dr Georgina Cavendish. Sally has a background in education, and has always loved crime fiction books, films and TV programmes. She has a particular fascination with the psychology of serial killers.

Check out her website for a FREE prequel story….. www.sallyrigby.com  

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SallyRigby4

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Sally-Rigby-131414630527848/posts/?ref=page_internal

Website: https://sallyrigby.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sally.rigby.author/

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/3rqo28V

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3qvJGrd

Books on the Hill Kickstarter Project

Making exciting good quality fiction accessible to a minority group currently not provided for by today’s UK traditional mass book market and providing a new tool for booksellers to use in their drive to increase diversity and inclusion. 

For more information click here.

Who Are We Working With

“We, Books On The Hill, have been so fortunate that many great authors have agreed to contribute to this project. All are brilliant authors and are names I am sure you will recognise.

“Stan Nicholls, who has been a great support to me particularly with my PhD. He is the author of many novels and short stories but is best known for the internationally acclaimed Orcs: First Blood series.

“Steven Savile, the fantasy, horror and thriller writer, now lives in Stockholm. His father is a customer of our bookshop.

“The horror duo that is Thana Niveau and John Llewellyn Probert, both well established and engaging authors and also residents of Clevedon.

“Adrian Tchaikovsky is an Arthur Clark Award winner and best known for his series Shadows of the Apt, and for his novel Children of Time.

“Steven Poore is the highly acclaimed fantasy writer who I first met on my first fantasy convention in Scarborough.

“We finish the Magnificent Seven with Joel Cornah, who also has dyslexia, and with whom I participated in a podcast on dyslexia for the Clevedon Literature 2020 ‘Festival in the Clouds‘.”

How To Get involved

“We are launching a Kickstarter beginning on April 2nd 2021 for 30 days, with the focus on paying for the printing of our books and giving us starting capital to continue to print more titles.

“There will be many ways you can be involved in this. You can contribute on the Kickstarter website itself. There will be a number of different options of donating money, in which you will receive rewards, such as ebooks of a title or a paperback of one or more of the titles to be published. In addition a unique reward from authors who are contributing to the project.  

“You can still contribute outside the Kickstarter. We are happy to receive your help in the shop, where we will have a donation box available.”

The Project

Books on the Hill is passionate about helping people who have dyslexia, or have any difficulty with reading, to access the joy of good fiction. There are great books out now for children with dyslexia, with specialist publishers like Barrington Stokes and mainstream publishers such as Bloomsbury doing their part. However, there are sadly very few books for adults with Dyslexia in traditional mass market publishing.

“Dyslexia is a learning difference that primarily affects reading and writing skills. The NHS estimates that up to 1 in every 10 people in the UK have some form of dyslexia, while other dyslexic organisations believe 1 in 5 and more than 2 million people in the UK are severely affected.

“Dyslexia does not stop someone from achieving. There are many individuals who are successful and are dyslexic. Famous actors, such as Orlando Bloom, Entrepreneurs like Theo Paphitis, and many, many more, including myself. All of who believe dyslexia has helped them to be where they are now. Dyslexia, though, as I can attest to, does not go away. You don’t grow out of it, and so we are acknowledging that and trying to without being patronising, create a selection of books that will be friendly to people who deal with dyslexia every day.

“Since we started the project in 2019, Books on the Hill have had many adult customers with dyslexia come in shop the asking for something accessible to read. For example, one customer asked if we stocked well known novels in a dyslexic friendly format. Unfortunately we had to say no, as they just don’t exist. We explained what we are trying to achieve by printing our own and she replied:

“I have been reading [children dyslexic] books but they are a bit childish so am really happy I have found your company!! Thanks so much again and thank you for making such a helpful and inclusive brand – it means a lot.”

“This response is not isolated. We have had many adults come in to the shop with dyslexia, who do not read or struggle to read and they they believe dyslexic friendly books would have real impact on their reading for pleasure.”

The Team

“Books on the Hill is Alistair Sims. He is the manager and commander-in-chief of the bookshop (though his partner, Chloe and his mother, Joanne, who set up the bookshop with him, may disagree with this description). Alistair is dyslexic and has a PhD in history and archaeology. Alistair could not read until he was 13 and is passionate about helping anyone who has difficulty reading. He is the driving force behind BOTH Press and has been involved in every step in this project, from finding award winning authors to contribute, the cover design, and the road to publication, including setting up for distribution.

Books on the Hill are collaborating with Chrissey Harrison, who is also an local author and member of North Bristol Writers Group. Chrissey and Alistair have designed the book-covers together, with Chrissey creating the finished product we now look on at awe with. Nearly all the design work has been done by Chrissey, and she is also in charge of the printing process, typesetting. We are so proud and appreciative to be working with her.

“Special mention must go to Harrison Gates, who runs Nine Worthy, and who has dedicated his time and expertise to produce our print catalogue for us free of cost.

“Joanne Hall is an author, editor and formerly the Chair of BristolCon, Bristol’s premier (and only) science fiction and fantasy convention. We must give a huge thank you to Jo for proof reading the stories free of cost.

“Vicky Brewster has edited all the new stories by the authors. She specialises in editing and beta reading long-form fiction. Vicky is a great professional editor.”

The Legacy by Caroline Bond

A death in the family rarely brings out the best in people – even the deceased.

Jonathan Coulter planned for his death meticulously, leaving nothing to chance. His will states that his three adult children must decide between them how to dispose of his estate. If they cannot come together over their inheritance, then they risk losing it.

But Liv, Noah and Chloe never agree on anything. And now, with only one weekend to overcome their rivalry, tensions begin to rise.

Why has Jonathan left the decision to them? And why has he made no mention of his new partner, Megan, or the children’s mother, Eloise? If he wanted to teach them a lesson from beyond the grave, what is it? And can the siblings put their differences aside for long enough to learn it?

A powerful novel about love and loss, and what we truly pass on to our children. 

My Review

Jonathan Coulter is dying, having lived with Motor Neuron Disease for a number of years. He has three grown-up children, three grandchildren, an ex-wife Eloise and a new partner who he left his wife for and she is half his age.

Partner Megan lives with Jonathan, but he has a carer called Lisa and youngest daughter Chloe also lives at The View – the Coulter’s’ family home in Scarborough. Megan and Chloe barely speak – both would prefer that they didn’t have to live together.

When Jonathan dies, they discover that the will is not what they expected. Jonathan has left the three children to decide who inherits what. And Megan and ex-wife Eloise are not included, but Lisa gets £5,000. They are horrified by Lisa’s inheritance, though I didn’t really understand why – after all she nursed him right up to the end.

They have one weekend to make a decision, but it’s not going to be easy as Liv, Noah and Chloe don’t get on. They can never agree about anything, so it’s going to get interesting.

This book is a very slow burn and it took me until the very end to realise the point of the will or in fact the point of the whole story. There are a few reveals along the way, but don’t expect any major twists and turns. It’s not that kind of book. This is about love, loss and finally finding oneself in the face of grief and adversity.

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

About the Author

Caroline Bond was born at the seaside and still feels happiest when walking into a headwind with the prospect of fish and chips on the near horizon. She had a fulfilling career in research before becoming a writer.

Her debut, The Second Child, was inspired, in part, by her experiences working with, and raising, a disabled child. Her second, The Forgotten Sister, reflects her belief that our life chances are hugely impacted by our upbringings. Her third, One Split Second, explores guilt and forgiveness.

She is a slow, but tenacious runner and not a bad cook.

She prefers red to white wine.