Orchid Fields by Cat on a Piano Productions / Theatrephonic

A chance encounter…

Loved this. Just up my street. What happens when you meet an old school friend, who you idolised when you were teenagers, and she asks you to help her out? You agree of course. But should you?

She’s beautiful, confident and charismatic and you are the kind of person that no-one remembers. Not even her. But she tells you she is a freelance fraud investigator, helping the police to catch dodgy investors. And you of course believe her.

Then the police come knocking…

A great story, well constructed and I really felt for poor, mousy Rachel. Brilliant!

Written by Barbara Jennings
Directed by Emmeline Braefield

Emma Wilkes as Rachel Trent
Dru Stephenson as Beryl O’Brien
Matt Salmon as Greg Ratcliffe
Jonathan Legg as Detective Inspector Meadowes
Lydia Kenny as Detective Sergeant Casey
Danica Corns as Sam Daines

Produced by Cat on a Piano Productions

Sprightly Pursuit by Cooper Cannell
First Time Experience by Nate Blaze
Fond Memories by SYBS

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 Orchid Fields listen to Theatrephonic’s other plays and short stories and consider becoming a patron by clicking here…

Jaipur Journals by Namita Gokhale

From the co-founder of the Jaipur Literary Festival, a brilliant, funny, and moving novel set against the background of the festival, and the characters that make it tick.

Told from multiple perspectives, from the authors enjoying moments of adulation after years of creative isolation, to the star-struck public mingling with their cultural icons, to those in-between, who are both author and fan, these diverse stories of lost love and regret, self-doubt, and new beginnings come together in a narrative that is as varied as India itself.

#JaipurJournals @NamitaGokhale_ @hoperoadpublish #RandomThingsTours  @annecater @RandomTTours

From a septuagenarian who has completed her semi-biographical novel but does not want to part with it, to an author who receives a threat in the form of a poison pen letter; from a historian who reunites with a past lover, to a burglar who is passionate about poetry; from a young woman who has no idea what this world has in store for her, to an American woman looking for the India of her hippie youth, this metafictional, wryly funny novel is an ode to literature.

Partly a love letter to the greatest literary show on earth, partly a satire about the glittery set that throngs the festival year after year, and partly an ode to the millions of aspiring writers who wander the earth with unsubmitted manuscripts in their bags, Jaipur Journals is a light-footed romp that showcases in full form Gokhale’s unsparing eye for the pretensions and the pathos of that loneliest tribe of them all: the writers.

My Review

What does it mean to be a writer? Why do writers write? Namita Gokhale tries to answer these questions together with a series of tales centred around a group of visitors and participants at the Jaipur Literary Festival. This book is a ‘love letter to the greatest literary show on earth’.

We have a plethora of characters who come together in Jaipur, the pink city, for this cosmopolitan festival. We have Anura, a gifted 12-year-old, who is going to take part in a talk given by seven teenagers. Then we have Rudrani Rana, a 72-year-old lady who wears her messy hair in a loose bun. She carries her UNSUBMITTED novel around with her in a bag and never shows it to anyone. She also uses a purple gel pen to write poison pen letters for amusement. Rudrani befriends Anirban M. a graphic artist, who for some reason appears to be fascinated by her.

Poet and thief Betaab turned to burglary due to poverty and his father’s cancer. But one day his hoard of stolen money becomes useless and he must find another way to earn a living. ‘I was not born a burglar,’ he says, ‘but I was born a poet and I will remain a poet.’

We also have Gayatri who meets her old love Sumedh Kumar, and author Zoya Mankotia who is deeply upset after receiving a poison pen letter in purple handwriting (no prizes for guessing who wrote it), an American woman Anna Wilde who went to India 30 years earlier on the hippie trail and never returned until now, and many others.

This is not a traditional story with a beginning and an end. It is a series of mini stories, all beautifully written and all of which converge at the Festival. I loved it, mainly because of the poetic writing and the richly-drawn, charismatic characters.

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

About the Author

Born in Lucknow, India, NAMITA GOKHALE, is an award-winning writer, publisher, and the co-founder/director (with William Dalrymple) of the Jaipur Literary Festival. She is the author of over twenty fiction and non-fiction books including the best-selling Paro: Dreams of Passion, Priya, and Things to Leave Behind. In 2017 Namita was awarded the first ever Centenary National Award for Literature by the Literary Society of Assam for her service to the Indian nation in supporting and showcasing Indian writing talents. Described as one of the finest Indian writers, she lives in New Delhi.

Her Last Holiday by C L Taylor

You come to the retreat to be healed. You don’t expect to die.

Two years ago, Fran’s sister Jenna disappeared on a wellness retreat in Gozo that went terribly wrong.

Tom Wade, the now infamous man behind Soul Shrink Retreats, has just been released from prison after serving his sentence for the deaths of two people. But he has never let on what happened to the third victim: Jenna.

Determined to find out the truth, Fran books herself onto his upcoming retreat – the first since his release – and finds herself face to face with the man who might hold the key to her sister’s disappearance. The only question is, will she escape the retreat alive? Or does someone out there want Jenna’s secrets to stay hidden?

My Review

Another exciting book from best selling author of psychological fiction – C L Taylor. The story is told from the point of view of three of the characters – Jenna, two years earlier, who disappeared after two people died at a SoulShrink wellness retreat in Gozo, Malta; Fran her much older sister, now, who is determined to uncover the truth and salve her guilty conscience; and Kate, who runs SoulShrink with her charismatic husband Tom.

Following the deaths, Tom went to prison, but he is out now and Kate is already planning their return to their former glory. She’s been tweeting and promoting and getting the punters back on board. Tom is not so keen.

Fran’s mother Geraldine has persuaded Fran to go on the SoulShrink retreat in the UK and find out what really happened to Jenna. Was she murdered, despite the verdict of suicide? Her body was never found. Fran will go incognito as she doesn’t want Tom or Kate to know she is Jenna’s sister and what she is up to. Strangely three of the original people on the Gozo retreat are back on this one – Renata, Damian and Phoenix.

There are so many twists and turns in this book it made my head spin at times. Occasionally it was a bit far-fetched and crazy but I really enjoyed it. Did I like the characters? I did like Fran though she is very brusque and cold. The one I just couldn’t decide about was Tom. This is a book that really benefited from being read with a book club as it really invited discussion along the way.

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

About the Author

C.L. Taylor is an award winning Sunday Times bestselling author of eight gripping psychological thrillers including SLEEP, a Richard and Judy Book Club pick for autumn 2019. Her books are not a series and can be read in any order:

2014 – THE ACCIDENT / Before I Wake (U.S.)
2015 – THE LIE
2018 – THE FEAR
2019 – SLEEP

She has also written two Young Adult thrillers, THE TREATMENT and THE ISLAND, which will be published in January 2021.

C.L. Taylor’s books have sold in excess of a million copies, been number one on Amazon Kindle, Kobo, iBooks and Google Play and have been translated into over 25 languages and optioned for TV.

Cally Taylor was born in Worcester and spent her early years living in various army camps in the UK and Germany. She studied Psychology at the University of Northumbria and went on forge a career in instructional design and e-Learning before leaving to write full time in 2014. She lives in Bristol with her partner and son.

Sign up to join the CL Taylor Book Club for access to news, updates and information that isn’t available on the web, as well as exclusive newsletter-only competitions and giveaways and the books that CL Taylor thinks will be the next big thing. You will also receive THE LODGER for free when you join: cltaylorauthor.com/newsletter


Geiger by Gustaf Skördeman

The landline rings as Agneta is waving off her grandchildren. Just one word comes out of the receiver: ‘Geiger’. For decades, Agneta has always known that this moment would come, but she is shaken. She knows what it means.

Retrieving her weapon from its hiding place, she attaches the silencer and creeps up behind her husband before pressing the barrel to his temple.

Then she squeezes the trigger and disappears – leaving behind her wallet and keys.

The extraordinary murder is not Sara Nowak’s case. But she was once close to those affected and, defying regulations, she joins the investigation. What Sara doesn’t know is that the mysterious codeword is just the first piece in the puzzle of an intricate and devastating plot fifty years in the making. 

My Review

What an exciting story! The amount of research that must have gone into the politics of Sweden, Russia and the DDR is staggering. And the construction of this complicated tale is immaculate in its undertaking.

We begin at the home of retired TV personality ‘Uncle’ Stellan Broman and his wife Agneta. The phone rings, Agneta answers, and only one word is spoken – ‘Geiger’. She promptly recovers her hidden gun and shoots her husband in the back of the head, killing him outright. She then flees.

Only a few minutes earlier they were surrounded by their family – two daughters and their husbands, and the grandchildren that Stellan and Agneta had been looking after all week.

Sara Nowak is a police officer, working on the streets, following punters who are abusing young prostitutes and hopefully arresting them. Stellan’s murder is not her case, but she becomes involved because she has history with the Broman family. Her mother Jane was their cleaner, living in a cottage in the grounds and Sara used to play with the two daughters Lotta and Malin. Until they left in a hurry one day.

But this is just the beginning. The story develops into a chase involving the communist days of the DDR before the Berlin Wall came down, Russian spies and Swedish politics. I’m not even going to attempt to say much more as I would probably get it wrong, but suffice to say, it’s an engaging read.

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

About the Author

Gustaf Skördeman was born in 1965 in Sweden and is a screenwriter, director and producer. Geiger, his thriller debut, is published in 24 countries, and film rights have been optioned by Monumental Pictures.

Your Friend Forever by Zena Barrie

Preston, 1981. Maud, who is twelve and lives with her dysfunctional parents and her elder brother, spends a lot of her time in her bedroom writing letters to her favourite popstar, Tom Harding, the lead singer of a punk band called Horsefly.

#YourFriendForever @ZenaBarrie @unbounders @damppebbles #damppebblesblogtours Facebook @damppebblesblogtours 

No one really understands her or tries to – and she thinks Tom just might have some answers to her many, many questions… 

My Review

Your Friend Forever is written mostly in the form of letters from the young teenage Maud to Tom Harding, lead singer with 80s Indie punk band Horsefly. There are also some interactions between Tom and his manager Gary, Maud and her best friend Sarah and articles from pop magazines of the time such as Melody Maker.

In Part One Maud’s home life spirals downwards when her father walks out and she has to watch her mother deteriorate day by day. With no-one to confide in, apart from her crazy, sex-mad friend Sarah, she pours her heart out to Tom Harding. She doesn’t even know if he reads her letters, but it gives her someone to ‘talk’ to. Maud is always hungry and their house is damp. She never has clean clothes. But no-one at school seems to notice and I mean the teachers. I know this is 1981 but still. Maybe no-one called social services in those days but surely the school should have noticed.

In Part Two it’s now 2011 and Maud is 43 and married with two kids, while Tom is trying to keep his career going (no thanks to idiot Gary), but he is nearly 50 and who remembers Horsefly anyway? Well, Maud does. She starts writing to Tom again – we have switched to email and texts – telling him about her life but always asking him how he is. She is still his friend. Think Adrian Mole with sex and some very bad language (much of it from Sarah).

This was such a funny, touching and often heart-breaking read. Maud is an amazing kid, whose train of thought is often so tangential you can barely keep up with her. Her friend Sarah is totally nuts on the outside, but has experienced severe trauma that will stay with her for years. And Tom is just Tom. Rude and bad-tempered (as any good punk should be) and doesn’t suffer fools gladly, but underneath good-hearted, kind and empathic. Just don’t try and rip him off or tell lies about him.

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

About The Author

Zena Barrie lives in Manchester and runs the Greater Manchester Fringe and the Camden Fringe. She ran the Kings Arms pub and Theatre in Salford for a while and also the Etcetera Theatre in Camden, as well as working in a wide variety of roles at the Edinburgh Fringe (from street performer to venue manager). In the 90s she did a degree in Drama and Theatre Arts specialising in playwriting. Up until recently she has been co-hosting the award winning spoken word night Verbose. She is also one half of performance art duo The Sweet Clowns. Your Friend Forever is her first novel.

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ZenaBarrie

Website: https://zenabarrie.com/

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

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2Rv70t6

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/32fSBD9

Waterstones: https://bit.ly/2OSgKgd

Foyles: https://bit.ly/3v6QYEz

Bookshop.org: https://bit.ly/3abMbcU

Blackwells: https://bit.ly/2REJ9HF

WHSmith: https://bit.ly/3uRX5fv

Hive.co.uk: https://bit.ly/3e4S64D

Epic Win V – Cooper’s Return by Cat on a Piano Productions / Theatrephonic

Epic Win V – Cooper’s Return

He’s back, and he’s trying to find the ‘X’ button. Join Theatrephonic for an exciting adventure entering into the world of a computer game.

Written and directed by @ebraefield

Tom Jordan @theactionemporium as Kazimierz
Danielle Lade @ladeington as NIKI and the Captain
Jon Cooper Evans @joncooper_evans as the Doctor, PIPN and Septimus
Tom Black @blackly.jpg as Cooper

Produced by Cat on a Piano Productions

Donnie Disco by Jeremy Korpas

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 Epic Win V – Cooper’s Return listen to Theatrephonic’s other plays and short stories and consider becoming a patron by clicking here…

Because You’re Mine (Gunvor Ström #2) by Luna Miller

Gunvor Ström, a Swedish surgeon who had to retire because her hands weren’t steady enough to perform operations, accepts a position as a private detective and enters a new and surprisingly dangerous career.

In Because You’re Mine, she accepts her second assignment. Is it always for the best to look for a missing person? Gunvor is not entirely sure as she believes there are those who don’t want to be found. Despite this, she takes on a case. A wife needs help to find her husband, Per Cedergren. A simple case at first glance. Gunvor is convinced that he has sneaked off on an adventure with a mistress and soon will return voluntarily.

#BecauseYoureMine @LunamillerNoir #GunvorStrom @damppebbles #damppebblesblogtours Facebook @damppebblesblogtours 

Gunvor’s good friend Aidan also makes his debut as a private detective when he helps a new acquaintance look for her missing friend.

When Gunvor and Aidan take the help of their young friends, Elin and David, the two parallel cases meander closer to each other. But how do they relate? And what do the disappearances have in common with the murders that at first glance appear to be hate crimes.

Soon they find themselves in the eye of the storm, not knowing where the danger lurks.

Because You’re Mine is the second book in the series of private detective Gunvor Ström.

My Review

This was a short, sharp, exciting roller-coaster of a read in one of my favourite genres – Scandi Noir. The story follows two investigations – Gunvor Ström has been asked by Eva Cedergren to find her husband Per, who has been missing for over a week. While Per is often gone for a day or so on business, he has never been gone for this long, and he hasn’t told Eva that he was going. But he booked two weeks off work – he works for his father in a highly successful business.

In the meantime, rookie investigator Aidan has gone with his friend Drew to a gay bar where he meets Marie who is looking for her friend Seb. They’ve been friends for years but why would she be seeking him in a gay bar? It appears that he has a second life that involves hooking up with much younger men in bars. Aidan is strangely attracted to Marie, but there is something very cold and secretive about her. He doesn’t even know her second name or where she lives.

Are the two cases linked and if so how? And are they connected to the men who keeping turning up dead? It all sounds far more complicated than it is. There are quite a few red herrings along the way, though I guessed a couple of things that formed an important part of the story.

As it involves missing persons and murders, it sounds disrespectful to say it’s jolly good fun, but as it’s fiction I’m sure I’m allowed to say that. Apart from the main characters, we also get to meet some interesting others but I don’t want to give anything away. I’m glad this is part of a series (though I haven’t read the first one) as I have a feeling the adventures will get better and better in the future.

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

About the Author

Swedish author Luna Miller (pseudonym) specialises in Nordic Noir. She is the writer of the international best-seller Three Days in September and is one of the authors of the international anthology Love Unboxed 2.

In mid-life, after experiencing life and adventure throughout Europe, India, China, Pakistan, Iran, Thailand and a host of other countries, with her studies, children and work, Luna found quality time to write her debut novel Three Days in September followed by Den som ger sig in i leken – the original Swedish precursor of Looking for Alice and the first book in the series of private detective Gunvor Ström.

vilse, hitta hem – the sequel in Swedish to Three days in September was published in May 2020.

Because you´re mine – the second book in the series of Gunvor Ström will be published April 12, 2021.

Luna Miller was born in Sundsvall, Sweden 1962.

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LunamillerNoir

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100013821681049

Website: https://lunamiller.com/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.se/lunamillerwriter/

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3lD4RXc

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

Kobo: http://bit.ly/3c8lHu4

Waterstones: http://bit.ly/3lF0tHp

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/3tB1gfg

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.”


The Wild Girls by Phoebe Morgan

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.