The Seven Doors by Agnes Ravatn

One of Norway’s most distinguished voices, Agnes Ravatn’s first novel to be published in the UK was The Bird Tribunal. It won an English PEN Translation Award, was shortlisted for the Dublin Literary Award and the Petrona Award, and was adapted for a BBC Book at Bedtime. She returns now with a dark, powerful and deeply disturbing psychological thriller about family, secrets and dangerous curiosity…

‘TheSevenDoors @rosie_hedger @OrendaBooks #RandomThingsTours @annecater @RandomTTours #NordicNoir

University professor Nina is at a turning point. Her work seems increasingly irrelevant, her doctor husband is never home, relations with her adult daughter Ingeborg are strained, and their beautiful house is scheduled for demolition.

When Ingeborg decides to move into another house they own, things take a very dark turn. The young woman who rents it disappears, leaving behind her son, the day after Nina and Ingeborg pay her a visit.

With few clues, the police enquiry soon grinds to a halt, but Nina has an inexplicable sense of guilt. Unable to rest, she begins her own investigation, but as she pulls on the threads of the case, it seems her discoveries may have very grave consequences for her and her family.

The Seven Doors is translated from the Norwegian by Rosie Hedger.

My Review

I’m rarely lost for words but this book at times left me speechless. It’s so different, with a writing style all of its own. I know it’s been translated into English but it keeps the feel of the original. One minute you are reading about the mundane everyday goings on in Nina’s life and the next she is discussing the workings of a depressed mind with Kaia and starting her own investigation into a missing woman. And while I did guess one of the outcomes about three quarters of the way through, I could not have guessed the final reveal. Slowly turning darker and more shocking, this book will reel you in and spit you out in a million pieces.

Nina and Mads have been married for years. We know that Nina is 61 and assume that Mads is of a similar age. Nina is a university professor. They have a daughter Ingeborg, who can be very abrupt and outspoken and their relationship is often strained. Ingeborg is married with one child – three year old Milja. Mads is a doctor at the hospital, as is his brother Jo who is married to psychologist Kaia, Nina’s best friend.

Nina and Mads have lived in the same house since they were married – in fact it’s Nina’s childhood home – but a compulsory purchase order on the house sees them having to move out quickly before the place is bulldozed to make way for a new venture. Ingeborg also wants to move because their house is infested with silverfish (pest control anyone??). Mads inherited a house nearby from his late Aunt and Ingeborg has decided she wants it, so she and her mother visit the tenant to give her notice. Ingeborg is very rude and Nina is embarrassed. Then a few days later the tenant – we now know her name is Mari Nilson – goes missing, leaving her young son Ask with her parents.

That’s the basis of the plot but the story is much more than just the mystery of a missing woman. It’s intricately woven and the writer gives us an insight into the lives of all the main characters plus Mari, her ex-husband Niklas Bull and Mari’s parents. There is such depth and tension and often no-one is who they seem.

The Seven Doors – the name of the book – refers to the folktale of Bluebeard’s Castle and other folk stories are also mentioned and referred to. This is very interesting as I have always been fascinated by folklore, especially where children are concerned, as I have never understood why it was thought acceptable to terrify three year olds into behaving by telling them stories in which small children are captured by witches or eaten by wolves. I guess the Catholic Church does a pretty good job too with visions of hell.

For me this was definitely a five star read as I love anything that veers from the norm, particularly when the sinister truth is buried so deep you don’t even realise it’s there.

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

About the Author

Agnes Ravatn (b. 1983) is a Norwegian author and columnist. She made her literary début with the novel Week 53 (Veke 53) in 2007. Since then she has written three critically acclaimed and award-winning essay collections: Standing still (Stillstand), 2011, Popular Reading (Folkelesnad), 2011, and Operation self-discipline (Operasjon sjøldisiplin), 2014. In these works, Ravatn revealed a unique, witty voice and sharp eye for human fallibility. Her second novel, The Bird Tribunal (Fugletribuanlet), was an international bestseller translated into fifteen languages, winning an English PEN Award, shortlisting for the Dublin Literary Award, a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick and a BBC Book at Bedtime. It was also made into a successful play, which premiered in Oslo in 2015. Agnes lives with her family in the Norwegian countryside.

Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi

A thrilling, wildly inventive nesting doll of a mystery, in which a young editor travels to a remote village in the Mediterranean in the hopes of convincing a reclusive writer to republish his collection of detective stories, only to realize that there are greater mysteries beyond the pages of books.

There are rules for murder mysteries. There must be a victim. A suspect. A detective. The rest is just shuffling the sequence. Expanding the permutations. Grant McAllister, a professor of mathematics, once sat down and worked them all out – calculating the different orders and possibilities of a mystery into seven perfect detective stories he quietly published. But that was thirty years ago. Now Grant lives in seclusion on a remote Mediterranean island, counting the rest of his days.

Until Julia Hart, a sharp, ambitious editor knocks on his door. Julia wishes to republish his book, and together they must revisit those old stories: an author hiding from his past, and an editor, keen to understand it.

But there are things in the stories that don’t add up. Inconsistencies left by Grant that a sharp-eyed editor begins to suspect are more than mistakes. They may be clues, and Julia finds herself with a mystery of her own to solve.

Alex Pavesi’s Eight Detectives is a cerebral, inventive novel with a modern twist, where nothing is what it seems, and proof that the best mysteries break all the rules.

My Review

Very different and very clever. I’m not sure I’m clever enough to understand it. Certainly not the mathematical formula and permutations that are at the heart of the seven detective stories. Though that probably doesn’t really matter that much.

The book is made up of these short stories but also in between each are the discussions between editor Julia and author Grant McAllister on the remote Mediterranean island where he lives alone. Julia has told him that she wants to publish his short stories The White Murders thirty years after their original publication. But is that all there is to it?

As you read the stories (some of them quite gory and disturbing) and the discussions between editor and author, you begin to realise that the real mystery is that of Grant McAllister and why he moved here all those years ago. What is he hiding? And why does he have so little memory of the original stories? What do the inconsistencies point to?

This is one of the most original and clever books I have ever read. At times I had to re-read passages to try and understand it. And as for the stories themselves. Well number seven is definitely my favourite. But then I love the addition of the supernatural.

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

About the Author

Alex Pavesi lives in London, where he writes full time. He previously worked as a software engineer and before that studied mathematics to PhD level, during which time he worked as a part-time bookseller. Eight Detectives is his first novel.

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.

Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.

My Review

This is not a book I would have chosen if I wasn’t reading with The Pigeonhole. It’s YA, which I don’t normally read, but it sounded interesting. In spite of the teenage characters – I am not a fan of teenagers in books (or in reality – apologies if you are a teenager, I know I used to be a horrible one and I am joking), but even though Avery can be too ‘teenagy’ for my liking at times (well most of the time) she’s not really annoying. I rather like her to be honest. In fact you could shift this story forward ten years and it would still work in an Agatha Christie kind of way (though you’d need a few to die), but they need to be young for YA.

And I did like the Hawthorne brothers, especially Xander, who is really quite cute though he would hate me saying that. Jamieson is handsome and mysterious and Avery is drawn to him first, though secretly I think that if or when there is a sequel, she will end up with Grayson. Just my humble opinion.

It’s a very well thought out and clever story with so many twists and puzzles. Who can Avery trust? Can she trust anyone? If you had inherited all that money, would everyone be out to get you? Or would you suddenly have more friends than before? She is protected by her lawyer Alisa and her bodyguard Oren, but are they even trustworthy?

Then there are the other relatives. The boys’ mother Skye had Nash first and then the rest of them in quick succession and I mean quick. And they all have different fathers. She didn’t waste any time. It’s like flashbacks of Mamma Mia, I’m just glad none of them will get to sing. In fact we don’t know who they are. Maybe we will find out in the next book. Then there’s Skye’s sister Tara and her husband. Thea whose relationship I didn’t quite work out, plus a whole cast of others who are not related but work for the Hawthornes. Phew!

And I nearly forgot Avery’s half sister Libby and her dreadful boyfriend Drake. How important are they to the plot? That’s all for now folks. You’ll have to read it and find out.

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

About the Author

Jennifer Lynn Barnes has written more than a dozen acclaimed young adult novels. She is also a Fulbright Scholar with advanced degrees in psychology, psychiatry, and cognitive science. She received her Ph.D. from Yale University in 2012 and is currently a professor of psychology and professional writing at the University of Oklahoma. You can find her online at www.jenniferlynnbarnes.com or follow her on Twitter @jenlynnbarnes

The Watcher by Kate Medina

If you see him it’s already too late…

Some secrets can’t be hidden.

The Fullers are the picture-perfect family, a wealthy couple with a grand home in the middle of remote woodland. But even they have something to hide – and it will prove fatal.

The Watcher

Some crimes can’t be forgotten.

Psychologist Dr Jessie Flynn and DI Marilyn Simmons arrive at the Fuller’s home to find a suburban nightmare. A crime scene more disturbing than anything they have ever encountered.

Some killers can’t be stopped.

Jessie knows that this is no random act of violence. And if she can’t unlock the motivation behind the crime and shine a light into this killer’s mind, the Fullers won’t be the only family to die… 

#The Watcher @KateTMedina @FictionPubTeam @annecater #RandomThingsTours @RandomTTours

My Review

When people say about a book ‘I couldn’t put it down’ or ‘I devoured it in one day’, it always sounds a bit cliched, but in the case of The Watcher both these statements are true. Admittedly I had a day off with very little to do, but having started on a Saturday night and having read about 10% I then continued on the Sunday and carried on till I’d finished. Each time I tried to stop, I’d get to an exciting bit and have to carry on.

It was so good. A definite 5 star read and I rarely give 5 stars to serial killer stories (as I’ve said before) as there are so many, but this one is so well written with such insights into the minds of not just the killer, but those tracking him/her as well. Psychologist Dr Jessie Flynn and DI ‘Marilyn’ Simmons are just brilliant. They have nothing in common but they make such a great team. And then there’s Lupo who is now officially my favourite character in the book! OK so he’s a dog, but he’s very important to the plot.

Many years ago (maybe 1970s) I remember seeing a film in which the victim was stabbed through the eye with something like an ice pick – I can’t remember now – and the ‘horror’ of it has always stayed with me. If you find that as awful as I did, you will find some of this story even worse but don’t let that put you off. The method used to kill the victims (gory but not gratuitous) is integral to the killer’s motive – but who has a past that leads them to kill and what is the connection between the victims? That is what Jessie and Marilyn must find out and it’s far more complicated than it at first appears.

I just loved this book. Most serial killer books are all about the action and the chase as the bodies pile up, but The Watcher is so much more. The author uses wonderful language, descriptions and metaphors, more in the style of a literary piece than simply another police procedural. If you like murder mysteries then I can’t recommend this enough.

Many thanks to @annecater for letting me be part of #RandomThingsTours and to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

Kate Medina has always been fascinated by the ‘whys’ of human behaviour, an interest that drove her to study Psychology at university and later to start a crime series featuring clinical psychologist Dr Jessie Flynn. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University and her debut novel White Crocodile received widespread critical acclaim, as did Fire Damage, Scared to Death AND Two Little Girls, the first three books in the Jessie Flynn series. Before turning to writing full time, Kate spent five years in the Territorial Army and has lectured at the London Business School and the London School of Economics. She lives in London with her husband and three children.

A Diet of Werewolves – A Modern Fairy Tale by Veronika Jordan

‘I’m not like other men,’ said Dan. ‘I’m not even like other werewolves.’

‘I don’t understand Mr Shaffer,’ the psychiatrist shuffled his papers and coughed. ‘…like other werewolves. There is no such thing as a werewolf or lycanthrope as it’s really called. It exists only in myths and legends. Please explain further.’

‘I can do better than that,’ Dan was slowly sipping a blended cappuccino laced with sugary hazelnut syrup. ‘I can show you.’

He licked some syrup off his designer stubble and bared his teeth. They seemed to be growing as he spoke. His voice was distinctly becoming lower, more like a growl. ‘It’s the sugar in the drinks.’ He was twitching as he spoke. Long black hairs began sprouting from his face and the backs of his hands. ‘No-one believes me you see. And that has a tendency to make me angry.’ He slipped off the couch and squatted on his haunches, still holding on to his coffee with his claws. He took another sip through his elongated fangs. ‘I wouldn’t mind so much if it was triggered by the full moon like in the stories. That at least would be predictable. Once a month and all that. But I have to be so careful. Checking the labels of everything I buy. Looking at the sugar content. Sucrose, fructose, it doesn’t matter. It all has the same effect.’

With which he leapt at the hapless psychiatrist, his teeth bared and jaws slavering.

‘I guess you believe me now,’ he said, leaping through the open window.

………………………………………………………………………

For Jan it was a night like any other. A nice dinner of roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese, peas and gravy. Followed by sticky toffee pudding and custard. All washed down with a large glass of cola. That was Dan’s version. For Jan it was a low fat sugar free yoghurt instead of the pudding and sparkling water instead of cola. She allowed herself only two tiny roast potatoes and passed on the cauliflower cheese even though it was her favourite. She had to stay in good shape for her job. She worked as a rep selling diet shakes and nutritional supplements and though she didn’t actually use the products, she needed to look as though she did.

Dan had popped out for a walk as he did every night after dinner. He was usually out for a good hour but she didn’t mind as it gave her time to do the washing up, watch EastEnders and get in some practice in front of her Pilates Weight Loss Workout DVD. She would have preferred to exercise on an empty stomach but Dan’s nightly absence gave her some privacy. And the opportunity to create a new menu that would subtly knock a few pounds off her portly partner. She set to work. It was time to start making a few changes. First of all, she would secretly replace the cola with a sugar free version. He wouldn’t notice so long as she poured it into a glass and threw away the can. Then she would start preparing low calorie desserts like fresh fruit with a single cream alternative or a sugar-free lemon sorbet. Just these two changes would make such a difference. Little did she know just what a difference it would really make.

………………………………………………………………………

There are three ways to become a werewolf. Be born a werewolf because your parents were both werewolves. Be bitten by one, or be ‘cursed’. So legend would have us believe. Dan on the other hand knew different. He was the exception to the rule. He never really believed that he was the only one but even though he had been told he would instantly recognise another ‘sugar-induced-werewolf’ as he jokingly called himself, he hadn’t so far. At least not in Bromley.

This new ‘shape-shifting’ syndrome he assumed, was the result of decades of sugar rush and over-indulgence in sweet foods and drinks from coffee chains. He was addicted. Cappuccino, latte macchiato, mocha and luxurious hot chocolate, all served with extra syrup and those cute little marshmallows on the top. For most people it resulted in being overweight (he knew he was too) but for him it had an added ‘curse’. Except he found it rather fun. He could induce it at will with little more than a large chocolate bar, but he could also be easily tricked. Hidden sugars in so many things. He had to take a packed lunch to work at Altered States Tailors in Bluewater. He didn’t dare to pop into his local peri peri chicken in case the BBQ sauce made him start howling at the moon-shaped overhead lights in the Build-a-Bear shop. That would frighten the little buggers! How hilarious that would be but he would instantly get the sack. There would be no verbal or written warning for spontaneous lycanthropy. It would be out on your furry butt sunshine or should I say moonshine.

So Dan waited till he got home. He was starving. Maybe it would be sausage and mash tonight or spag bol followed by chocolate pudding and raspberry ripple ice cream (his favourite). Then it was a pint of full-fat cola and out for a walk. The transformation wouldn’t take long if he had enough sweet stuff. He hadn’t decided yet where he would go. Somewhere he could freely howl and chase a few squirrels in the churchyard maybe, or perhaps he would aim a bit higher tonight. A night club was always fun. Most of them too pissed to acknowledge his existence.

Horror of horrors! Tonight’s dinner was a tuna salad (yuk!), light on the mayo and even worse there was no pudding. Only fruit and 0% fat free yoghurt and Jan had already replaced the cola with the sugar-free variety. That’s it, he thought, I’ll take a walk through the churchyard to the One Stop Shop and get myself a bar of chocolate or two. Because I’m hungry. The cola will trigger the ‘other thing’.

He’d been walking for a good 15 minutes before he begun to realise something was wrong. No hair on the back of his hands or all over his face. No elongated fangs. No growing fingernails. Something was up. This couldn’t be happening or not happening in this case. He was standing in the middle of the churchyard shivering. He hadn’t worn a coat because once he was covered in fur he wouldn’t need one. And that’s when he saw him. Another werewolf. Drinking a chocolate mocha cappuccino in a paper cup. He recognised it instantly. He could even see the marshmallows. Dan tried to howl but his throat dried up. He tried to growl and snarl but it came out like a whimper. Then he tried to run but wolves can outrun a human without even trying.

‘But I’m the only one in Bromley,’ he cried as he went down in a mass of teeth and hair and saliva.

………………………………………………………………………

When they found him the next day he was lying face down in the churchyard with his neck torn open. In his hand he was clutching an empty cup of chocolate mocha cappuccino. He had tried to grab it and take a swig but he never stood a chance. Jan had thought she was doing him a favour. Little did she know.

To read more of the short stories in my collection An Irrational Fear of Dogs click here. Available to buy on Amazon.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved killings.

But when a local property developer shows up dead, ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

The four friends, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron, might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late?

My Review

Written by TV presenter Richard Osman – and I’m a huge fan – I just had to read it didn’t I. And I wasn’t disappointed.

It’s choc full of of red herrings. Even the red herrings have baby herrings and just when you think you’ve cracked the mystery, something else turns up. Having finished quite late in the evening, I had to concentrate when I woke up to check if I could remember it all. It’s highly entertaining and will keep you guessing right up to the very end. And some of the answers might even be pointless (see what I did there).

There are so many references to the four main protagonists’ previous lives – Elizabeth for instance was a spy – but also to popular culture, some of which made me laugh out loud. As well as a murder mystery, it’s also a sharp observation of life with plenty of humour and often hilarious dialogue. However, I didn’t expect to cry while reading it, but I did. The last part was so touching that I couldn’t help shed a few tears.

I know our gang will be back in a few months time to solve another tale of bludgeoning (it’s a wonderful word), poisoning and derring-do or whatever crime will take place in book two and I have a sneaky feeling that The Thursday Murder Club will become a modern classic and a TV series.

And the moral of the story – never underestimate the combined wisdom of a group of octogenarians when it comes from the pen of one of our cleverest writers. And I almost forgot their partners-in-crime-solving – our two detectives Chris and Donna.

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

About the Author

Richard Thomas Osman is an English television presenter, producer, director and novelist, best known for being the creator and co-presenter of the BBC One television quiz show Pointless. The Thursday Murder Club is his debut novel.

Incy Wincy by Veronika Jordan

Just for once I thought I might add one of my own short stories:

They say that when your life flashes before you, you’re going to die. That’s how I feel right now. In the morning the water will rise and I will drown. It’s happened to others. My friends. There is no way out of here.

I can see the garden in my mind’s eye. My beautiful, lovely garden that I will never see again. The roses – the pink ones are my favourite. I can smell their heady scent from here. I don’t mind the thorns. They don’t hurt me. Then there are the daffodils and the tulips. Such an array of colours! Oh how I love the colours. Best of all I like the dandelions. Some call them weeds but I call them beautiful. You can even eat them. Then when the yellow flowers turn into puff-balls, the wind carries the seeds for miles. How nature has evolved to propagate itself. It’s a miracle!

I’ve lived in many places but this is my favourite by far. It’s so safe and warm here. The sun shines much of the day and when it rains there is always a place to shelter. I should have been happy and satisfied. I should never have started exploring the house.

In my last home it was damp. There were mice and rats in the shed and a Jack Russell dog with evil intentions. Hector – that was his name – used to catch the mice with his teeth and shake them in his mouth till their little bones rattled like dried beans in a tin. Sometimes I hid in the attic so I could jump out and scare the dog. I never scared the others though in case they caught me. I often had to wait for days until they finally left the house so I could make my escape back to the garden. I got bored though and moved a bit further down the road to this lovely place. My home. 

People don’t really like me. I suppose I don’t blame them. I’m not very attractive and I’m a self-confessed serial killer. I’ve had quite a few husbands in my time. Eight to be precise. Like Elizabeth Taylor though she married Richard Burton twice so that doesn’t really count. I, on the other hand, could not have the same husband twice, as they are all dead. I callously used them to have my babies and then I disposed of them. Swiftly. I never got caught out. I’m way too clever. Actually, number three did escape as far as I remember, but he suffered an untimely death a few days later thanks to a combine harvester. 

I probably loved my first husband in my limited capacity for love. It’s not in my nature to become attached. Far too painful emotionally when you have to let them go. With each killing it becomes easier not to feel anything for them. So much simpler. Especially when you eat them afterwards.

Not so clever now though to find myself in this – situation. That’s what comes from being nosy. They say curiosity killed the cat and cats are supposed to be clever, though no cat ever outwitted me. Until now. Chased me round the landing while I was scavenging for food, so I had to escape to safety and here I am. Trapped in a soon-to-become watery grave.

All alone in the world and too old to procreate, I suppose I deserve to die this way. For the first time in my life I wonder if I have a soul. Will I come back? As a mouse? As a rat? Or as one of Hector’s progeny? I very much doubt it. Once you’re dead, you’re dead. No-one to mourn my passing. But that’s how it is when you’ve killed all your spouses. My children gone as soon as they could feed themselves. They didn’t hang around long.

 *************************************

Footsteps on the stairs. A light goes on. I can hear a voice in the next room. Someone is singing. It’s a lovely sound.

‘Incy Wincy Spider climbed up the water spout.
Down came the rain and washed the spider out.
Out came the sunshine and dried up all the rain.
Incy Wincy Spider climbed up the spout again.’

I wondered if they were doing the funny hand movements. Up and down with their fingers. 

‘Again mummy, again.’ It’s the voice of a small child this time.

Incy wincy spider climbed up the water spout ….’

‘Again mummy, pretty please.’ 

‘Now Scarlett, it’s time to go to sleep. It’s been a long day.’ The sound of a light kiss on a soft baby cheek. I’d love to touch that cheek.

‘Good night darling. Sweet dreams. Love you.’ 

‘Good night mummy. Sweet dreams. Love you.’ 

It’s all quiet now. Mummy has turned the light off so Scarlett can go to sleep. I can hear her gently breathing. Suddenly I feel quite emotional. I would cry if I had tear ducts. 

It’s going to be a long night. Unless a miracle happens, I will be dead in around ten hours. The clock is ticking.

“Do not stand at my grave and weep. I am not there, I do not sleep….” I have all night to ponder on these thoughts and other matters of life and death.

*************************************

‘Mummy there’s a spider in the bath. Pleeease don’t run the water. Please don’t kill him. It’s Incy Wincy Spider, mummy.’ 

‘Scarlett, I hate spiders.’ Ha! That’s all the thanks I get for keeping your house free of bluebottles and wasps. I expect you think my webs are just there to a make your garden pretty. 

Mummy has her hand on the tap ready to turn it on. It’s the hot tap. She’s going to boil me to death. ‘What if I just flush him away.  He’ll swim down the drain and….’ The water starts to run and I scuttle quickly to the other end of the bath tub. This is it! 

‘No mummy, STOP!’ (I’m loving this child more and more by the minute), ‘He’ll drown. JUST GET HIM OUT.’ Phew. The water stops. I’m a her by the way as we’ve already established, but right at this moment I don’t care if they refer to me as ‘it’. Most people call me an ‘it’. Usually followed by ‘an ugly, scary, eight-legged son-of-a-bitch’.

Finally persuaded, Mummy goes to fetch a glass and a piece of card. That’s the way folks remove me in these parts. I can see she’s terrified to get too close. Her hand is shaking and her breath is short and fast. It would be so funny to startle her by jumping, but in my current predicament I think it best not to tempt fate. She would probably have a panic attack and start running the tap again. She opens the window instead. 

‘C’mon Mummy,’ Scarlett is pulling at mummy’s jumper sleeve. ‘He’s hungry and thirsty. He’s probably been there all night.’ 

With a deep breath and some cussing, mummy carefully slides the card under me and places the glass over the top. I don’t object or try to run away. Then she places me outside on the windowsill and shuts the window. I spin a web like a zip wire and scurry away into the garden. I expect mummy has collapsed on the bathroom floor by now, probably hyperventilating. 

I had a lucky escape this time or was it fate? Maybe it just wasn’t my time.

The Memories We Bury by H.A. Leuschel

An emotionally charged and captivating novel about the complexities of female friendship and motherhood.

Lizzie Thomson has landed her first job as a music teacher, and after a whirlwind romance with Markus, the newlywed couple move into a beautiful new home in the outskirts of Edinburgh. Lizzie quickly befriends their neighbour Morag, an elderly, resourceful yet lonely widow, whose own children rarely visit her. Everything seems perfect in Lizzie’s life until she finds out she is pregnant and her relationship with both Morag and Markus change beyond her control.

@HALeuschel @damppebbles #damppebblesblogtours @damppebbles on Instagram and @damppebblesblogtours on Facebook

The Memories we Bury banner

Can Lizzie really trust Morag and why is Markus keeping secrets from her?

In The Memories We Bury the author explores the dangerous bonds we can create with strangers and how past memories can cast long shadows over the present.

The Memories We Bury cover

My Review

The Memories We Bury is unlike any other book I’ve read recently, if ever. It’s more a story about relationships and obsession and the pressure that one person can put on another through manipulation and power. That might sound a bit strong in the case of kindly old Morag, but the more you read (and eventually the more you know) about her, the more you can see how she infiltrates Lizzie’s life and then takes over. Having her own children who don’t want children of their own, she is destined never to be a grandmother. She blames their broken relationships on the children, while they blame it on her. She sees herself as a loving mum and potential gran, who only wants to help and give advice. But the more we discover, the more we realise that her children always felt that she was pushing and controlling and while they became successful, they both left home at 18 to escape her ‘clutches’.

Lizzie also had a difficult childhood. An only child, her mother never showed her any love until she discovered her musical talent. However, once she found out that Lizzie, whilst an excellent musician, was not destined to be a famous concert pianist, her ardour cooled. Lizzie’s dad and granddad loved her anyway, but never had the strength to stand up to her mother. Now they have all passed away, Lizzie is easy prey for Morag.

But I’ve jumped forward. Lizzie has had a whirlwind romance with the handsome, charismatic Markus (who’s a bit of a prat really), married him in an instant, but even though she knows he doesn’t want children for ages, has fallen pregnant. Markus is accepting without being enthusiastic and works away from home more and more. He has to pay for their beautiful home and materialistic lifestyle. And they happen to live next door to Morag.

Once Morag knows that Lizzie is pregnant, she does everything to help – to insinuate herself into Lizzie’s life so she can have a baby to care for and eventually Lizzie won’t be able to manage without her help. It’s an obsession and a dangerous one. But Morag passes herself off as this kindly ‘old’ lady – except she’s not even old (she’s younger than me!) and kindly – well yes in her own way.

The story moves quite slowly at the beginning and Morag’s controlling nature is always there in the background but doesn’t really show itself all at once. It creeps along in sinister fashion – in fact I found her behaviour quite creepy early on. Years ago I met a woman who ‘claimed’ me as her ‘best friend’ in a matter of weeks of meeting, to the point where I couldn’t find any more excuses not to do something with her as she always had an answer. I felt undermined and needed to escape. Lizzie feels beholden to Morag as she’s been so helpful, but she also feels that she can never have other friends or regain her independence. You just can’t say no to some people. They take over your life.

It’s a very clever story which gets into your head and stays there. I read into the night to finish it and ultimately felt quite sorry for Morag. See what you think!

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

About the Author

Helene Andrea Leuschel gained a Master in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She later acquired a Master in Philosophy, specialising in the study of the mind. Helene has a particular interest in emotional, psychological and social well-being and this led her to write her first novel, Manipulated Lives, a fictional collection of five novellas, each highlighting the dangers of interacting with narcissists. She lives with her husband and two children in Portugal.

HA Leuschel

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

Website: https://www.heleneleuschel.com/

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Purchase Links:

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/312QmDI

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/310tsN5

Ritual Demise by Sally Rigby

Someone is watching…. No one is safe

The once tranquil woods in a picturesque part of Lenchester have become the bloody stage to a series of ritualistic murders. With no suspects, Detective Chief Inspector Whitney Walker is once again forced to call on the services of forensic psychologist Dr Georgina Cavendish.

#RitualDemise #CavendishandWalker @SallyRigby4 @damppebbles #damppebblesblogtours @damppebbles on Instagram and @damppebblesblogtours on Facebook

But this murderer isn’t like any they’ve faced before. The murders are highly elaborate, but different in their own way, and with the clock ticking, they need to get inside the killer’s head before it’s too late.

For fans of Rachel Abbott, Angela Marsons and L J Ross, Ritual Demise is the seventh book in the Cavendish & Walker crime fiction series.

My Review

Ritual Demise is the seventh in the Cavendish and Walker series but I thoroughly enjoyed it without having read any of the others. It’s a quick, fast-paced read in which seasoned cop DCI Whitney Walker and Forensic Psychologist Georgina ‘George’ Cavendish are on the trail of a serial killer who leaves his victims in staged positions with their heads on a heraldic cushion. What is the meaning of it? Unfortunately I guessed after the second killing (not the heraldic cushion bit but the other link) but that may say more about me than about the book.

George and Whitney’s partnership is one of the best things about the series and I love the banter between them. They are polar opposites and make unusual friends, but that’s so much better than having two Cagney & Lacey female cops. And Pathologist Claire, with her straight talking manner, adds to the fun. Well, if you can call a series of brutal murders ‘fun’.

It’s only the brutality of the murders that stop me from calling it a good romp, a bit in the manner of Midsomer Murders – apologies to the author if she’s not a fan – but it is one of TV’s most popular series ever. And great to see an all female cast of leading characters. I’m looking forward to book 8 though I feel I must read a few of the first ones as well.

Many thanks to @damppebbles for inviting me to 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  

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Purchase Links:

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Haverscroft by S.A. Harris

Kate Keeling leaves all she knows and moves to Haverscroft House in an attempt to salvage her marriage. Little does she realise, Haverscroft’s dark secrets will drive her to question her sanity, her husband and fatally engulf her family unless she can stop the past repeating itself. Can Kate keep her children safe and escape Haverscroft in time, even if it will end her marriage?

Haverscroft

My Review

The first thing I need to say is that I adored this book. I do have some reservations but they are just my own opinions.

I’m not going to pretend this is the greatest piece of literature ever written. Or the best ghost story though it kept me reading and guessing far more than for instance, the irritatingly slow, The Turn of the Screw which is a ‘classic’. We like our chills and thrills at a faster pace these days.

The long descriptions of the ghostly goings-on detracted somewhat from the suspense and at times I laughed when I should have been terrified. All a bit Rebecca meets The League of Gentlemen. But having said that I thoroughly enjoyed every minute.

Personally, I think it could be a lot darker and if it ever gets made for TV I think it should be. It lacks that real creeping terror that you get with an author such as Michelle Paver (Wakenhyrst). The spookiness is all a bit ‘out there’ leaving little to the imagination, which as I said earlier, detracts from the suspense.

But I still loved it! Reading with The Pigeonhole meant I received a ‘stave’ (made up of a few chapters) each day and had to wait till the following day for the next episode. And I was on tenterhooks. You know sometimes books are so beautiful and well-written that you realise the story is actually a bit weak underneath the poetry ie ‘style over substance’. I’m not saying this is the opposite – it’s better than that. But the story is really good. Don’t be put off by a few comments from my fellow Pigeons or the occasional bad review. But having said all that the ending was a bit of a damp squib.

It’s an excellent story though and many thanks to The Pigeonhole and my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read.

About the Author

Let’s hear from the author herself:

“I write ghost stories, gothic fiction and creepy dark tales. Stories that send shivers down the spine and leave the reader with the need to keep the lights on is my sort of fiction. I love to read dark stuff too, some of my favourite authors are Sarah Waters, Susan Hill and Michelle Paver. My debut novel, Haverscroft, a ghost story and domestic noir, is set in East Anglia and published by Salt Publishing.

“My short story, Sub-Zero, was publicised in the October edition of The Norfolk Magazine 2019. I was shortlisted for The First 500 Words of a Novel Competition in 2018 and my extract is published in the anthology, Monsters. I won the Retreat West Crime Writers Competition and was runner up in the Brixton Bookjam First Chapter Competition.
Haverscroft was long listed for The Not The Booker Prize 2019.”

SA Harris

Say No More (The Sacramento Series #2) by Karen Rose

If they ever catch you, say nothing. Admit nothing. Never tell. Mercy Callahan never thought she’d be able to talk about her past. When she arrives in Sacramento to make peace with her brother Gideon, and to help find the brutal cult that took away her childhood, she is finally ready to talk. But when Ephraim Burton – the man who made her life a living hell – follows her there, she realises she might never be safe.

#SayNoMore @KarenRoseBooks @headlinepg @damppebbles #damppebblesblogtours

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Rafe Sokolov would do anything to have Mercy back in his life and would go to any length to protect her. But when it becomes apparent that Ephraim is more determined than ever to get Mercy back, even Rafe might not be able to stop the trail of destruction he leaves in his wake. As Ephraim draws near, it’s clear it’s not just Mercy who is in danger; those closest to her are firmly in his sights.

Will Mercy sacrifice herself to help bring Ephraim down? Or will he finally get what he’s always wanted…

Say No More (HB cover)

My Review

I hadn’t read the first book in the series but a lot of what you need to know is mentioned so it didn’t really detract from the enjoyment of the book. The story opens with Mercy and her mother trying to escape the cult known as Eden, where they’ve lived since Mercy was a toddler. She is now thirteen and was ‘married’ off to Ephraim Burton when she was twelve.

We then jump seventeen years to Mercy as an adult trying to rebuild her life and her relationship with her brother Gideon who escaped before she did. Gideon is now a police officer. His best friend is Rafe Sokolof (also a police officer who is Mercy’s love interest). In book one in the series Mercy ran away when she realised her feelings for Rafe were developing, but she was too scared to enter into a meaningful relationship.

This book does not hold back, so if you are squeamish about any of the subjects covered here then I suggest you find something easier to read. We are talking about child rape and abduction, murder (lots of it – the body count rises with almost every chapter), underage sex, brainwashing – all the usual suspects in a book about a cult. Even the consensual sex scenes are quite, shall we say, descriptive and I am not easily shocked!

But let’s get back to the story. Mercy hasn’t seen Ephraim since she escaped. In fact everyone thinks she is dead. One of the charming things the cult does when someone successfully escapes is to kill some random person, maul their body, bring them back for ‘identification’ and say they were too badly mauled by wild animals to be recognisable. No-one ever goes outside because of the ‘wild animals’. Bears and wolves I guess. No phones, no internet, no TV, so no-one can ever check the truth. Each time there is a problem with discovery by outsiders, Eden moves somewhere else – always somewhere really remote.

This is a gritty story, not for the faint-hearted, but there is also a lot of love, family bonding and true friendship. The Sokolovs are a warm, close-knit family who treat their friends with the same love. This includes Mercy and her best friend Farrah who accompanies her on this trip. Mother Irina cooks all the time and shows her love through food.  When Ephraim comes after Mercy, they are all ready to protect her, especially Rafe, who is falling in love with her more every day.

This is a tale of murder, kidnapping and child abuse, but also of love and friendship in a family where nothing, not even Ephraim Burton, can tear them apart.

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

About the Author

Karen Rose was introduced to suspense and horror at the tender age of eight when she accidentally read Poe’s The Pit and The Pendulum and was afraid to go to sleep for years. She now enjoys writing books that make other people afraid to go to sleep. Karen lives in Florida with her family, their cat, Bella, and two dogs, Loki and Freya. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, and her new hobby – knitting.

Karen Rose

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Purchase Links:

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/39sS03O

Waterstones: https://bit.ly/3g2Qs3b

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Hive.co.uk: https://bit.ly/3f2Akxp

Published in hardcover, audio and digital formats by Headline on 6th August 2020

 

The Pupil by Ros Carne

She wants to learn everything – about you.

Mel has practised law for twenty years. She is well-regarded by her peers. Her clients are happy. But behind the scenes her life is disordered. Her son grows increasingly distant from her. The married man she is sleeping with fails to give her what she needs.

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When a trainee lawyer is allocated to Mel it is poor timing. The last thing she wants is a pupil watching her every move. And Natasha does watch. She sees each detail – and every mistake. Mel cannot shake the feeling that Natasha isn’t just learning the job. She is learning Mel.

Natasha is good at getting what she wants, and now Mel has the power to give her all she desires. But when Mel chooses not to, Natasha knows just what Mel’s vulnerabilities are – and how to turn them against her. Mel’s secrets could ruin her. But who will be believed?

The Pupil

My Review

The Pupil is a first rate psychological thriller with a believable cast of characters, all of whom are hiding secrets – just some are more deadly than others.

Mel has been a barrister for 20 years. She is clever and successful but her private life is a bit of a mess. Divorced from Claude, the father of her moody 16-year old son Jacob, she feels she is drifting away from him and doesn’t know how to put it right. She is also having an affair with lecturer Paul Freedman but she knows he is never going to leave his wife so is on a hiding to nowhere.

Then along comes Natasha. Mel takes her on as her ‘pupil’ but has no idea what trouble it’s going to cause. Natasha is a complex character and a not very likeable one. At 30 years old she is more mature than the usual pupils taken on at Chambers and confidently barges ahead, often upsetting Mel who thinks she is being too forward and disrespectful of her position. Natasha lives with Luke who adores her (not sure why), but her behaviour is very erratic. She has an interesting hobby but it’s not knitting or salsa dancing – it’s shoplifting. She got caught once and promised Luke she wouldn’t do it again, but she does, regularly.

She has another secret hobby and this one is really creepy. She has an alter-ego – Lola – who decides to stalk Mel’s son Jacob by pretending to be 20 years old and becoming friends on Facebook. Jacob has no idea who she is and things get a bit, shall we say, hot. It’s a secret Jacob has to keep from his mum as it’s all rather inappropriate and seedy.

Next on Natasha’s hit list is Mel’s glamorous mum Isabel, who used to be in a famous TV show and was quite the style icon. Natasha just happens to have been her biggest fan.

I think the worst thing about Natasha is that she doesn’t think she’s doing anything wrong. I think for her everyone is fair game and that’s what it is really – just a game. But we know things are going to turn sour and start to get really nasty. It’s often a slow burn but you will be hooked from page one.

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

Published in digital format by Canelo on 6th August 2020

About the Author

Ros Carne was born in London, and following university she worked in magazine and newspaper journalism including as a theatre critic on the Guardian. She later retrained as a barrister, practising for 13 years before moving to a university teaching job. She has two adult sons and enjoys playing the violin. Ros now lives in Somerset where she writes full time.

Ros_Carne_photo

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/301kaQl

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3g3eFGq

Google Books: https://bit.ly/32VCc8L

Nook: https://bit.ly/3eVdJ5K