How To Spot A Psychopath (Oscar de la Nuit #1) by MQ Webb

Could you tell…

Would you?

When four-year-old Mia Edwards goes missing on a play date, everyone suspects Jessica Green knows what happened, especially Mia’s mother, Holly…

But Jess won’t tell anyone.

#HowToSpotAPsychopath @marswebb1 @Zooloo’s Book Tours @zooloo2008 #ZooloosBookTours #blogtour

Psychiatrist, Dr. Oscar de la Nuit, is perceptive and determined to save Jess from the same regret and secrets he lives with.

Oscar thinks he has Jess figured out, but will she lead to Oscar’s redemption, or will she be his downfall?

My Review

Two complex characters – Dr Oscar de la Nuit, forensic psychiatrist at Whitner Psychiatric Hospital and his patient, Jessica Green. Jess is keeping secrets and can Oscar get her to trust him enough to reveal what they are.

Because a child has gone missing – Mia Edwards – and everyone believes Jess knows where she is, or maybe even killed her and hid the body.

But Jess is not the only one shrouded in mystery. Her husband Clay was almost killed by an intruder but the police believe it was Jess who tried to kill him. But what was her motive? She swears she didn’t do it. Is she telling the truth?

Then we have Holly who has tried to infiltrate her way into Jess’s friendship group, succeeding with Jess’s sister Niki. Their children all go to the same school and Mia has attached herself to Zoe, Jess’s five year old daughter. Mia also has secrets of her own. Is mummy hurting her? She is too scared to tell. And her daddy Ray is dead according to Holly, but Holly is the worst liar of all, claiming that Ray beat her up, but is that the truth? Even Zoe has secrets. Does she know what happened the day Mia went missing?

This is the main story, but this is also about Oscar. He is trying to get over a tragedy in his own life while rebuilding a new one. Can he form a relationship with a colleague and overcome his own feelings of guilt? And can he prevent Charles from discretiting him?

A lot of questions to be answered and secrets to be revealed in this exciting debut from a new author. 3.5/5 stars.

Many thanks to @zooloo2008 for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the Author

MQ Webb has always believed in the transformational nature of words, and a medium to utilise them. How to Spot a Psychopath is the first book in the Oscar de la Nuit Psychological Thriller series.

Born without a Middle name, Q is such an undervalued letter of the alphabet, only appearing with u, so thought they would give it some respect by acknowledging it in their name.

A fascination with human behavior and motivation led them to study psychology. They once worked in a building that was converted from a gaol and is a marketing consultant for NFP’s, universities, and the public sector.

Follow her at:
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/MQWebbAuthor
Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/mqwebbauthor/
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/marswebb1

Buy Links
Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09NW85VRH
Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09NW85VRH

The Lie In by Cat on a Piano Productions / Theatrephonic

You have to make the most of a day off. But Pat’s lie-in isn’t going to plan and now his day off is turning out to be a disaster. Poor Pat! How much worse can it get?

Written by Peter Foster
Adapted for radio by Emmeline Braefield

With
Jason Parkes as Pat
Genevieve Swift as Winona and Miss Bushell
and
Elsie Parkes as Nick

Produced by Cat on a Piano Productions 

Music:
Come On Out by Dan Lebowitz

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 @theatrephonic, or visit their Facebook page.

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

A Tidy Ending by Joanna Cannon 

A NICE, NORMAL HOUSE
Linda has lived around here ever since she fled the dark events of her childhood in Wales. Now she sits in her kitchen, wondering if this is all there is – pushing the Hoover round and cooking fish fingers for tea is a far cry from the glamorous lifestyle she sees in the glossy catalogues coming through the door for the house’s previous occupant.


A NICE, NORMAL HUSBAND
Terry isn’t perfect – he picks his teeth, tracks dirt through the house and spends most of his time in front of the TV. But that seems fairly standard – until he starts keeping odd hours at work, at around the same time young women start to go missing in the neighbourhood.


A NICE, NORMAL LIFE…
If Linda could just track down Rebecca, who lived in the house before them, maybe some of that perfection would rub off on her. But the grass isn’t always greener: you can’t change who you really are, and there’s something nasty lurking behind the net curtains on Cavendish Avenue…

My Review

When I was asked to read and review A Tidy Ending, I read the blurb and immediately said yes. It was only when I started reading that I discovered that the author also wrote The Trouble With Goats and Sheep which I read and enjoyed a few years ago. I knew therefore that I would love it. And I did.

Linda is the main character and we are reading in her voice. She is so naive, there are times when I cringed as I dreaded what she was going to do or say next. Still at the beck and call of her mother Eunice (who is one of my favourite characters in the book), Linda’s confidence has been knocked from early childhood, made to believe she is big and clumsy, yet her mother still keeps feeding her cake and puddings.

Linda and Eunice left their home in Wales following an unfortunate incident with Linda’s father, a piano teacher, and a number of his attractive, female, teenage students. Linda, however, maintains the girls made it all up, even though she caught him ‘at it’ when she was eleven years old. He was just comforting them, she maintains.

One of the saddest parts is when Linda is invited to a dinner party and even buys an expensive trouser suit, plus shoes and a handbag, only to discover she is not actually going to be a guest. I was heartbroken for her. The suit is ruined but she still makes excuses for the person who invited her.

But this is not a simple tale. It’s full of twists and turns and it’s also hilarious with as much dark humour as you can hope for in a book that revolves around a serial killer. It’s so well written, witty, clever and full of sharp observations, like the following.

‘When someone writes down what you say, what you say doesn’t belong to you any more. It belongs to the person who writes it down, and all the other people who read it, and everyone can look at your words and see whatever it is they want to see,’ observes Linda. And that’s the whole point. People only see what they want to see, don’t they.

It’s definitely one of my favourite books of the year. I just loved it. As I already said, it’s so clever – much more so than I could possibly have imagined.

About the Author

Joanna Cannon’s first two novels, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and Three Things about Elsie, were both Sunday Times bestsellers and Richard and Judy picks. She is a regular panellist on radio, TV and at literary festivals across the country. Her writing has appeared in the Sunday Telegraph, Daily Mail and the Guardian, amongst others.

Joanna left school at fifteen with one O-level and worked her way through many different jobs before returning to school in her thirties and qualifying as a doctor in her forties. Her work as a psychiatrist and interest in people on the fringes of society continue to inspire her writing.

The Safe House by Louise Mumford

“The house keeps us safe,” she says. “There’s nothing left for us outside.”

Esther is safe in the house. For sixteen years, she and her mother have lived off the grid, protected from the dangers of the outside world. For sixteen years, Esther has never seen another single soul.

Until today.

Today there’s a man outside the house. A man who knows Esther’s name, and who proves that her mother’s claims about the outside world are false. A man who is telling Esther that she’s been living a lie.

Is her mother keeping Esther safe – or keeping her prisoner?

My Review

Following a severe asthma attack that nearly killed her when she was five years old, Esther has been living in a ‘prepper’-style bunker in the middle of nowhere, with her mother Hannah. How they arrived there forms quite a large part of the story, but as it progresses, we realise that Hannah has become obsessive over Esther’s safety to the point where Esther has not left the House for sixteen years. Because ‘What keeps us safe? – the House.’

According to ‘Mother’, Esther’s father was killed in an explosion at the steelworks where he was employed, and Out There ie where the rest of us live, is too dangerous for Esther. Her only friend is a stuffed velvet whale called Mr Wiffles who speaks to Esther, apart from her inhaler of course.

Then one day, just as Esther has turned twenty-one, everything changes. It starts with a bird that has injured itself and Esther wants to help it. But Mother just flings the bird away, not even checking to see if it’s dead and Esther sees another side to the only person she has known since she was five.

And then a young man turns up and he knows her name. Who is he and what does he want? Why is he telling her that everything she has been led to believe about Out There is a lie. But the man is caught in a bear trap and needs her help.

I loved this story SO MUCH. I can’t begin to tell you how much I adored it. Poor Esther, but also poor Hannah, whose obsession has gone beyond what is normal (if obsession is ever normal) and tipped her into a kind of madness. She’s only trying to protect her daughter, but in saving her life, she’s denied her a family and a normal childhood.

This is one of my favourite books of the year.

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

About the Author

Louise Mumford was born and lives in South Wales. From a young age, she loved books and dancing, but hated having to go to sleep, convinced that she might miss out on something interesting happening in the world whilst she dozed – much to her mother’s frustration! Insomnia has been a part of her life ever since.

She studied English Literature at university and graduated with first-class honours. As a teacher, she tried to pass on her love of reading to her students (and discovered that the secret to successful teaching is… stickers! She is aware that that is, essentially, bribery.)

In the summer of 2019, Louise experienced a once-in-a-lifetime moment: she was discovered as a new writer by her publisher at the Primadonna Festival. Everything has been a bit of a whirlwind since then.

Louise lives in Cardiff with her husband and spends her time trying to get down on paper all the marvellous and frightening things that happen in her head.

The Beautiful Ones by Julia Sutton

Caitlyn Shaw has it all. Surrounded by loving friends and family, she is excited to begin her training to become a primary school teacher.  Her dream job, one which she’s been working steadily towards her whole life.  

However in 2008 things start to go wrong.  After suffering a traumatic event, Caitlyn’s idyllic life is shattered.  She finds herself spiralling into an abyss of mental terror and despair which manifests as a psychotic break.  Caitlyn is subsequently hospitalised in a psychiatric unit and her future no longer appears so rosy.  

#TheBeautifulOnes @sparklyauthor @Zooloo’s Book Tours @zooloo2008 #ZooloosBookTours #blogtour

Desperately ill, she refuses to believe there is anything wrong with her and rebels against the hospital staff.  A battle of wills ensues, as she begins her fight back to sanity, challenging the many stigmas that blight people with this misunderstood condition.  

Can Caitlyn drag herself back from the brink to fulfil her dreams? Find out in one woman’s harrowing journey.  

Come and walk for a while with The Beautiful Ones

My Review

Almost every one of the books I have read recently has made me cry and The Beautiful Ones is no exception.

While I have considerable experience of mental illness due to my mum’s chronic anxiety and agoraphobia, I have never known anyone suffering from psychosis. It’s a very hard condition to understand and I can’t pretend that I do. Caitlyn’s paranoia that people are following her and watching her, while she is trying to make her family believe that it’s real is hard to read. It’s hard for her father too who is slightly less patient than her mother and sisters.

Caitlyn’s condition starts to spiral into further psychosis and she becomes a danger to herself as she goes to the police saying that her poor neighbour is stalking her, that her university lecturers know secrets about her and that TV and radio stations are transmitting messages telling her what to do.

I’ve read books where someone is accused of being paranoid when in fact it’s all true and they are trying to discredit the main character in some way. But that is not what this is. Caitlyn’s delusions are not real and she is soon getting out of control.

When she is finally hospitalised, she still thinks her imaginings are real and that everyone is out to get her. She refuses to admit that she is ill and won’t take the medication that would help her.

This is not an easy book to read. It’s quite short and I read it in two sittings. In Caitlyn’s own words; ‘…sometimes too much has happened to build bridges, and for Caitlyn Shaw there isn’t going to be a fairy-tale ending.’ It’s very sad but probably more realistic. This is not chick-lit romance – this is an insightful look into serious mental illness.

Many thanks to @zooloo2008 for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the Author in her own words

“Hello I’m Julia Sutton, born and raised in Wolverhampton, I love it so much I still live here. 😊 I’m fifty at the end of May and have been married for 24 years with two grown up children.

“I’ve had a variety of careers – I started out as a sales assistant in a newsagents and have worked as a secretary, a teaching assistant and most recently a lunchtime supervisor in a primary school. I’m now happily retired but am studying for a Masters in Creative Writing. I’m also a part time author who has written and published 9 adult fiction novels.

“I’m an avid reader who also loves drawing, walking, listening to music and spending time with my family and friends.”

Follow her at:
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/booksbyjulia1972/
Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/booksbyjulia72/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sparklyauthor
TikTok : @sparklyauthor

Buy Links
Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beautiful-Ones-Stunningly-haunting-fiction-ebook/dp/B09VCXCP98/
Amazon US https://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Ones-Stunningly-haunting-fiction-ebook/dp/B09VCXCP98

The Caulder’s Well Trial of 1648 by Cat on a Piano Productions / Theatrephonic

There is a great evil abroad, but it’s not what you might think.

A woman sits shackled in a cage waiting for the two witchfinders, March and Dale, to pronounce their verdict.

But wait a minute. This woman appears to have done nothing but good. Easing pain and curing illness goes against the will of God, they tell the townsfolk. They are punishments for evil and the sins of Eve.

The witchfinders are still building the pyre.
Five wise women burnt at the stake in just one year – there is a great evil abroad.

And charred bones are easier to hide than corpses.

I loved this short story. Absolutely brilliant.

A short story written by Silvandar

Read by Emma Wilkes

Produced by Cat on a Piano Productions

Music:
Yonder Hill and Dale by Aaron Kenny

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 @theatrephonic, or visit their Facebook page.

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

The Shadow Child by Rachel Hancox

Eighteen-year-old Emma has loving parents and a promising future ahead of her. So why, one morning, does she leave home without a trace?

Her parents, Cath and Jim, are devastated. They have no idea why Emma left, where she is – or even whether she is still alive. A year later, Cath and Jim are still tormented by the unanswered questions Emma left behind and clinging desperately to the hope of finding her.

#TheShadowChild #RachelHancox @centurybooksuk @PenguinUKBooks #RandomThingsTours @annecater @RandomTTours #blogtour

Meanwhile, tantalisingly close to home, Emma is also struggling with her new existence –
and with the trauma that shattered her life.


For all of them, reconciliation seems an impossible dream. Does the way forward lie in facing up to the secrets of the past – secrets that have been hidden for years? Secrets that have the power to heal them, or to destroy their family forever.

The Shadow Child is a book of hope and reconciliation, of coming to terms with trauma and learning to love again. Most of all, it’s about how you can never quite escape from the shadows of your past – especially when one of those shadows is a child …

My Review

This is a story about loss and love, guilt, grief and secrets. And reconciliation.

It’s the story of an ordinary couple – Cath and Jim – and the teenage daughter who walked out one day and never came back. I can’t imagine what that must be like, the uncertainty, the not knowing.

Emma had a twin called Rose. We know something bad happened to her, but it takes a while before we discover the whole story.

A year after Emma disappeared, Cath and Jim have bought a cottage. It’s ideal to rent out, they just need to find the perfect tenants. And they do – in Nick and Lara, a young married couple for whom life seems idyllic. But one of them has a secret that lies so deeply buried, it is in danger of tearing everything apart.

My favourite part of the book is when we hear from Emma’s point of view. Her reasons for running away stem from guilt, rather than anger. It was heartbreaking. Her room-mate Jeannie also has her own secrets and her story is one of the saddest of all.

I deeply sympathised with all the characters, apart from Jim. While it’s no surprise that he lies about something he’s done (no spoilers), I could not understand why he lies about certain other things, or rather he decides not to tell Cath. In fact everything he does could break Cath’s heart all over again. Poor Cath. She doesn’t deserve the hurt inflicted upon her.

You’ll need plenty of tissues towards the end. I certainly did, but what a wonderful, heartfelt book that all mothers will be able to identify with.

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

About the Author

RACHEL HANCOX read Medicine and Social and Political Science at Cambridge, qualified as a doctor three months after getting married, and has juggled her family, her career and a passion for writing ever since. She worked in Paediatrics and Public Health for twenty years, writing short stories alongside NHS policy reports, and drafting novels during successive bouts of maternity leave. Rachel has five children, three dogs and a cat. She lives in Oxford with her husband and youngest children.

Lost Property by Helen Paris


One lost purse. One lost woman.
A chance encounter that changes everything.


Dot Watson has lost her way. Wracked with guilt and struggling with grief, she has tucked herself away in the London Transport Lost Property office, finding solace in the process of cataloguing misplaced things. It’s not glamorous or exciting, but it’s solitary – just the way Dot likes it.

#LostPropertyBook @drhelenparis @DoubleDayUK #RandomThingsTours @annecater @RandomTTours #blogtour

That is, until elderly Mr Appleby walks through the door in search of his late wife’s purse and Dot immediately feels a connection to him. Determined to help, she sets off on an extraordinary journey, one that could lead Dot to reclaim her life and find where she truly belongs…

My Review

Each year I wait for that one book that grabs me by the heart and won’t let go. One of those books is Lost Property. Every phrase, every sentence, in this wonderful story needs to be savoured. You can’t read this beautiful book too quickly or you will miss something worthwhile.

There is a very poignant moment where Dot remembers her father’s death and how her mother was washing and ironing his clothes to give them away to the charity shop. Dot is furious and can’t understand her mum’s behaviour. I remember a friend whose mum had taken her own life and how cross she was that her sister had started to clear their mum’s house a few days later. She thought it was disrespectful. We have to remember that everyone handles grief in their own way. For some that clearance is cathartic, while for others it’s too painful. My mum died in hospital in 1992 but had been living in a nursing home and my brother and I had four days to clear her belongings from her room. They already had a new patient, but at the time it was terrible. In hindsight I can understand, especially as my mother-in-law passed away recently and we had to do the same thing.

I was at times reminded of The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan (one of my favourite books of all time) just because each lost item has its own ‘identity’. Like in Keeper, Dot gives some items their own back story. Dot also collects lost travel guides which have not been collected, taking them home and arranging them by country or other criteria. Occasionally she finds a duplicate which she then pops into the pocket of a lost coat or bag, very carefully matching the guide to the owner.

I cannot even begin to describe how much I loved this book. How much I laughed and how much I cried. The saddest parts of the story are when Dot visits her mum in The Pines care home, where she is suffering from dementia. I cried while reading – it was so beautifully written – Dot so desperate for her mum to remember something, anything. Just for a glimpse of the woman who sang like an angel.

I know one criticism is that Dot seems much older than she is, but that’s the whole point isn’t it? She is old before her time. I think she is only about late thirties – maybe 40 – but she dresses and behaves like someone’s maiden aunt. Until she finds herself again.

Her journey of rediscovery begins when Dot goes looking for an elderly gentleman named Mr Appleby, to reunite him with his leather holdall and his late wife’s purse. The only clues that Dot has to go on are a receipt from a coffee shop called Judges, that the town has a funicular railway and fisherman’s huts and that it overlooks the channel. I guessed immediately!!

But her greatest grief is over the death of her father and the guilt she feels. ‘Loss is the price we pay for love,’ says Mr Appleby. How true.

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

About the Author

Helen Paris worked in the performing arts for two decades, touring internationally with her London-based theatre company Curious. After several years living in San Francisco and working as a theatre professor at Stanford University, she returned to the UK to focus on writing fiction. As part of her research for a performance called ‘Lost & Found’, Paris shadowed employees in the Baker Street Lost Property office for a week, an experience that sparked her imagination and inspired this novel.

Lost Property is her first novel.

A note from Helen:
Although entirely a work of fiction Lost Property was influenced by the short time I spent in Lost Property, Baker Street shadowing different employees as research for a performance. Whether it’s a designer bag left in the back of a black cab or a woolly scarf forgotten on the number 44 bus, loss touches all of us. It is pervasive, and it never ends – as Dot Watson might say, ‘It’s reliable like that.’

I have always been fascinated by the memories that objects hold, how even the most every day object – a pipe, a bag, a small purse – can help us recall a place or a person or a particular time in life. Objects can be totemic, portals to the past. Tactile memory – the memories triggered by holding familiar objects – can be profound. Some objects almost let us time-travel back to the places we yearn to be, to the people no longer with us, and linger there, if only for a moment.”


A Man Of Understanding by Diana Janney

It takes a man of understanding to rebuild a shattered soul, a man with a deep and learned grasp of philosophy and poetry, a man who can nurture and inspire an enquiring mind, a man with the wit and humour to bring the world alive. 

That enigmatic man is Horatio Hennessy. His grandson Blue is that shattered soul. 

#AManOfUnderstanding #DianaJanney @RKbookpublicist #RandomThingsTours @annecater @RandomTTours #blogtour

Following the death of twelve-year-old Blue’s parents, his new home is a Finca in the mountains of Mallorca, with the grandfather he has never met before. But is Horatio up to the challenge, or is he merely trying, through Blue, to make good his past?  Gradually a bond evolves between them through a shared love of poetry. 

But when secrets are uncovered, will understanding turn to misunderstanding?  Will two souls be shattered this time? 

Absorbing, moving, witty and profound, A Man of Understanding is a beautifully-told story of the search for a higher understanding of the self and others, interlaced with poetry, philosophy and love.

My Review

Blue and Granga – this is the story of a twelve-year-old boy who has lost both his parents in a car accident, and his grandfather Horatio Hennessey. Rufus Ellerton has gone to Mallorca to stay with his Granga, an elderly man he has never met. A man who decides to call him Blue, like the sky.

As soon as Blue arrives at Granga’s Finca in the mountains, they are off to Morocco and then to the South of France. It’s an exciting whirlwind and wherever they go, everyone seems to know Horatio.

Then one day, while staying in France, Blue finds a book of poems called Verses of a Solitary Fellow by Horatio R Hennessey. These are Granga’s poems.

‘I opened the book at the first page. Five words marked the Dedication: To Sophia, my beloved wife.’

And so begins the relationship between Blue and Granga. It’s not always an easy one and there were times I wanted to bang their heads together. Granga talks, philosophises, teaches Blue about poetry, good food and Aristotle and the Golden Mean. But in reality he says nothing to make Blue feel wanted or loved. And Blue often reacts annoyingly, but I have to remember he’s only twelve. Sometimes I think Granga forgets as well.

I’d love to live in their village in Mallorca. The beautiful weather, the sea, the wonderful food and the freedom. But is it the right place for a boy who needs an education? Or would he be better off at boarding school?

My favourite part of the book apart from the poems which alone deserve 5 stars, is the part where Blue meets twelve sheep in a field. He talks to them like they are dogs or fluffy people. Then at Granga’s birthday barbeque, they have lamb and Blue is overcome with emotion. As a vegetarian, I understand how he feels. Have they eaten one of his new friends? Will there only be eleven sheep in the field tomorrow? I’ll leave you to find out.

This book could have been pretentious, snobby and aimed at a reader with an MA in philosophy at least to understand it, let alone appreciate its beauty. But it isn’t. You don’t need to like poetry (though I do) or have read Aristotle or Kant (I haven’t) to love it. It’s just beautiful and it made me cry.

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

About the Author

DIANA JANNEY is the author of the novels The Choice and The Infinite Wisdom of Harriet Rose, which has been translated into four languages (Spanish, German, Dutch, Portuguese), produced as an audiobook by the BBC, and the film rights were sold to a British film company. Formerly she practised as a barrister in London after having qualified as a solicitor at a leading City of London international law firm. She read Philosophy at University College, London, where she received a First for her Masters thesis on Kant and Hume, and three Scholarships. Diana has received international acclaim for her writing, which combines her philosophical knowledge with her wit, poetry and keen observation of human nature.

The Fields (Riley Fisher #1) by Erin Young

A breakneck procedural that is beautifully written and masterfully crafted, Erin Young’s The Fields is a dynamite debut—crime fiction at its very finest.

Some things don’t stay buried.

It starts with a body—a young woman found dead in an Iowa cornfield, on one of the few family farms still managing to compete with the giants of Big Agriculture.

When Sergeant Riley Fisher, newly promoted to head of investigations for the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office, arrives on the scene, an already horrific crime becomes personal when she discovers the victim was a childhood friend, connected to a dark past she thought she’d left behind.

The investigation grows complicated as more victims are found. Drawn deeper in, Riley soon discovers implications far beyond her Midwest town.

My Review

I’m not going to pretend this novel is perfect. There are a few things that didn’t quite work – it was a bit far-fetched at times, particularly the ending and Riley’s behaviour is that typical ‘don’t go down in the cellar’, but then she does scenario. With no backup. Of course, or it wouldn’t be as exciting and suspenseful as it is.

And it is exciting and suspenseful. Worthy of my five stars. I absolutely loved it and couldn’t wait to read on. I didn’t always like Riley. As soon as you know she went hunting with her grandfather, the hackles rose, but that’s because we are very sensitive about that kind of thing in the UK. In rural America it’s very different. But let’s not have a debate here about killing animals and gun culture.

Apart from Riley, with her traumatic past, we have Logan, a vegan cop from out of state (sounds like a contradiction in terms), her ghastly, idiot ex Jackson Cole, useless brother Ethan, his teenage daughter Maddie, Rose and Lori and baby Ben – the list is endless. But they are all well-drawn, rounded characters, which is why I remember them all so clearly.

Then we have the victims, including one of Riley’s school friends, who and why, a fierce political battle between Hamilton and Cook, small farmers trying to survive and avoid being aggressively taken over by giant Agri-Co and involvement from the FBI. I secretly hoped there might be a bit of romance for Riley with Agent Klein (though Logan is also on the cards). Maybe in the next book – I can see this is the first in a series.

The plot is complicated with many threads, the grisly murders being just one of them. We have political espionage, climate change, agricultural terrorism, genetically modified crops, you name it – it’s there.

My only criticism is that there is too much exposition at the end – I prefer to see it gradually revealed throughout the story, but in this case the truth is rather too complicated to have been handled any other way. Brilliant book. Bring on the next one.

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

About the Author

Erin Young is the pseudonym of acclaimed historical novelist, Robyn Young, author of eight internationally bestselling novels.  She has been published in 19 languages in 22 countries, selling two million books worldwide.  The Fields is her first contemporary thriller.  She lives and writes in Brighton, England.

The Turn Of The Tide (The Sturmtaucher Trilogy #3) by Alan Jones

The Turn of the Tide is the third book in the Sturmtaucher Trilogy: a powerful and compelling story of two families torn apart by evil.

As Hitler’s greed turns eastwards to the fertile and oil rich Soviet heartlands, life for the Kästner and the Nussbaum families disintegrates and fragments as the Nazis tighten the noose on German and Polish Jews. Implementing Endlösung der Judenfrage, the ‘Final Solution to the Jewish Problem’, Hitler, Himmler, Heydrich and Eichmann plan to have Germany, and Europe, Judenrein, ‘cleansed of Jews’.

General Erich Kästner, increasingly alone, fights a losing battle to protect his friends, and their fellow Jews, putting himself and his family in jeopardy.

As the tide of war turns, he looks anxiously to the Soviets in the east, and to the Western Allies, desperately hoping, despite his patriotism, that Germany is defeated before there are no Jews left in the countries occupied by the Third Reich.

When an assassination attempt on Hitler and his henchmen fails, Erich Kästner himself comes under the scrutiny of the Gestapo, and his own survival, and that of his family, becomes uncertain.

As the war draws to an end, with Germany in ruins, time is running out for the Kästners and the Nussbaums…

My Review

For me, as a woman, it’s the use of violent sex as torture, more so than the beatings, the starvation and the gas chambers that haunts me (I apologise as I already mentioned this in my review of Flight Of The Shearwater). Rape used as a weapon, often in front of the husband or other family members, the stripping naked and parading in front of the guards and other inmates, all designed to humiliate and take away identity and pride. As we saw at the end of the previous book, some women preferred to be beaten to death rather than be raped, while others survived by ‘working’ in the camp brothels. How can any of us in our comfy homes in 2022 even begin to imagine which choice we would have made? Would we have chosen an honourable death or have done anything to survive?

Incidentally, men were also stripped – for executions (including German ‘traitors’ like those involved in the plot to kill Hitler in 1944, their naked bodies left to rot still attached to the noose) and inmates before being sent to the gas chambers.

What is also so poignant reading this right now is the parallels we are seeing with the war in Ukraine. At times I forgot I was reading about the second World War. Following the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Ruth comments: ‘that no-one will survive another war.‘ I hope we never find out.

Do the ‘ordinary’ Russian people believe Putin is right, like so many Germans did with Hitler, without knowing the real truth. Is: ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,‘ true? Are we all culpable if we turn our backs on what’s really going on? A conversation for another time.

There is much of this series that I find very personal, particularly in the first and third books. I will not repeat my family history as I have already written about it extensively in my review of The Gathering Storm and to a lesser extent in Shearwater. I also don’t want to go into the history of the war, the treatment of Jews and the horrors of the concentration camps. It is all on public record. I will still never understand why the Jews were so despised. Neither can I understand how people can inflict such cruelty on others.

A phenomenal book and a phenomenal series. I feel like I knew the Kästners and the Nussbaums and while I know they are fictional characters, they are representative of the many families for whom these horrors were a reality. So for me and others they are real.

I am dedicating this review to my late Polish father (who was not Jewish though he married a Jewesss, my mother, after the war), but he was a prisoner of war in Northern Russia. He once told me it was so cold that when the men took a pee outside, it froze as it hit the ground. And there is a reference to it in The Turn Of The Tide (not to my father obviously) and I had to smile. It always made me laugh when he told me the story when I was eight or nine years old. I know he only told me these things because the truth would have been too hard for him to bear and for me. Bless you Dad.

About the Author

Alan Jones is a Scottish author with three gritty crime stories to his name, the first two set in Glasgow, the third one based in London. He has now switched genres, and his WW2 trilogy will be published in August 2021. It is a Holocaust story set in Northern Germany.

He is married with four grown up children and four wonderful grandchildren.

He has recently retired as a mixed-practice vet in a small Scottish coastal town in Ayrshire and is one of the RNLI volunteer coxswains on the local lifeboat. He makes furniture in his spare time, and maintains and sails a 45-year-old yacht in the Irish Sea and on the beautiful west coast of Scotland. He loves reading, watching films and cooking. He still plays football despite being just the wrong side of sixty.

His crime novels are not for the faint-hearted, with some strong language, violence, and various degrees of sexual content. The first two books also contain a fair smattering of Glasgow slang.

He is one of the few self-published authors to be given a panel at Bloody Scotland and has done two pop-up book launches at the festival in Stirling.

He has spent the last five years researching and writing The Sturmtaucher Trilogy.

Front Page Story by Cat on a Piano Productions / Theatrephonic

Front Page Story
Art doesn’t exist in a vacuum

Rookie reporter Abby is working on a story about an affordable homes campaign.
But then a carving goes missing from the Franklin Museum. A pine cone carved out of wood. It was stolen in broad daylight during opening hours. Abby has written a story about it which proves to be really popular.

Then she gets a mysterious phone call. The man on the end of the phone says his name is Konrad. He has the pine cone, but he didn’t steal it. You can’t steal what is actually yours in the first place, he tells her.

This is a moving tale about an artefact stolen by the Nazis from a German Jewish family during World War Two. So how did it end up at the museum?

My Jewish mother and grandmother escaped from the Nazis in 1938. They lost everything when they fled Vienna, with just a few clothes and hidden items, so this story is particularly poignant for me.

Written by Barbara Jennings
Directed by Emmeline Braefield @ebraefield

With:
Rebecca Daines as Abby
Anthony Young as Frank
Zoe Cunningham as Mrs Dudley
And
Jonathan Legg as Conrad

Produced by Cat on a Piano Productions

Music:
News Room News by Spence
Newsroom by Riot

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 @theatrephonic, or visit their Facebook page.

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