Friday, 16 November 2018

The Coco Pinchard Box Set Blog Tour @RobertBryndza @CocoPinchard @BOTBSPublicity #CocoPinchard #Giveaway



For the first time, all 5 books in Robert Bryndza's bestselling Coco Pinchard romantic comedy series are available in one! And this box set includes a new introduction by the author.

Book 1: The Not So Secret Emails of Coco Pinchard

If you enjoyed flipping through Bridget Jones's diary, you'll love perusing Coco Pinchard's emails! Coco confides in her quirky, supportive friends as she deals with her life falling apart. Read the emails that tell the heart warming and often hilarious tale of Coco picking up the pieces, in this fun, feel-good Romantic Comedy. 

Book 2: Coco Pinchard's Big Fat Tipsy Wedding

Coco thinks she's on the road to happily ever after with Adam, until he inexplicably breaks up with her. Will one mistake cost them their whole future? Coco sets out to discover what has really happened, and uncovers a shocking secret Adam has been hiding from her... Full of hilarious twists and turns, Coco Pinchard's Big Fat Tipsy Wedding is a witty, heart-warming, romantic comedy - the stand-alone sequel to no.1 bestselling, The Not So Secret Emails of Coco Pinchard


Book 3: Coco Pinchard, the Consequences of Love and Sex


Coco Pinchard has a great life, a bestselling memoir, and a handsome second husband. Things are going exactly as planned -- until her adult son runs into disaster, her ex's mother butts back into her life, and she finds out she's pregnant! Maybe life is more fun if you throw your plans out the window... The third book in Robert Bryndza's bestselling Coco Pinchard series (which can also be enjoyed as a stand-alone story) is a hilarious diary with Coco's trademark wit and honesty, tracing the raging hormones and extraordinary twists that take her to motherhood for the second time. 


Book 4: A Very Coco Christmas

It's 1985, and eighteen-year-old Coco Pinchard is home for Christmas after her first term at University. She's fallen hopelessly in love with Daniel Pinchard, but Coco's mother wants her to be with Kenneth, the son of posh friends Adrian and Yvonne Rosebury, who will be joining them for Christmas.

As snow falls softly over the city, and Coco tries to juggle a series of hilarious events, the stage is set for a Christmas lunch like no other. A Very Coco Christmas is a delicious, stand-alone prequel short story to Robert Bryndza's smash-hit Coco Pinchard series.


Book 5: Coco Pinchard's Must-Have Toy Story

A sparkling feel-good comedy, which asks the question - how far would you go to get your child the must-have Christmas toy? 

It's December 1992, and children are going crazy for the Tracy Island toy - almost as crazy as the parents! Christmas day is fast approaching and Coco Pinchard is desperately trying to track one down for her four-year-old son Rosencrantz. 

From dodgy dealings in a motorway lay-by, to extreme shopping in Hamley's with a Sylvanian Families fanatic, to having a go at the Blue Peter make-your-own Tracy Island, Coco tries everything in the hope that four-year-old Rosencrantz will open his must-have toy on Christmas morning.


Welcome to my slot on the Blog Tour for the Coco Pinchard Box Set by Robert Bryndza. My thanks to Sarah Hardy from @BOTBSPublicity who invited me to take part on the tour and to the author who sent my copy of The Not So Secret Emails of Coco Pinchard for review.

There's also the chance to win a complete set of Coco Pinchard paperbacks. Entry is simple, just fill out the competition widget at the end of the post.

The box set will be on sale whilst the tour is running 

Amazon USA $1.99
Amazon AU $0.99
Amazon EU stores €0.99



My Review of The Not So Secret Emails of Coco Pinchard

I've heard lots about Robert Bryndza, but this is the first time I've actually read one of his books. It was nothing like I imagined it to be!  However, that's not a bad thing, not at all. I laughed and snorted my way through this hilarious story, it really is the perfect pick-me-up when you've been feeling under the weather, as I have.

Coco Pinchard is an author; not a very successful, but she has an agent, and a book ..... for the time being. The story opens at Christmas and Coco's husband Daniel presents her, and her son Rosencrantz with iPhones. Coco is bemused; she doesn't really 'do' technology, but it's not long before she's the queen of the email and her phone is buzzing all day and all night.

I do love a book written in the form of letters and this one really works, although of course, these are not letters, but emails.
Coco is such a fabulous character! Scatty and easily distracted, she seems to be something of a magnet for bad luck and disaster, and this clever author really makes the reader warm to her. I'd love a night out with Coco; she'd probably drive me to distraction after a while, but I bet we'd have such fun! 

It's not all fun and laughter though. There are some serious issues hidden in the depths of this story but the author deals with them cleverly, with a wit and charm that makes for such an easy and delightful read.

Great stuff! Put such a smile on my face and I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants a giggle.



a Rafflecopter giveaway



Robert Bryndza is the author of the international #1 bestseller The Girl in the Ice, which is the first in his Detective Erika Foster series. It has sold over one million copies.

The Night Stalker, Dark Water, Last Breath and Cold Blood are the second, third, fourth and fifth books in the series. The sixth book, Deadly Secrets, has just been published.

Robert's books have sold over 2.5 million copies and have been translated into 28 languages.

In addition to writing crime fiction, Robert has published a bestselling series of romantic comedy novels. He is British and lives in Slovakia.

You can find out more about the author at www.robertbryndza.com and on Twitter and Instagram @RobertBryndza

Sign up to Robert Bryndza‘s New Release Mailing List here: http://eepurl.com/UITxz


Thursday, 15 November 2018

The Winters by Lisa Gabriele @lisagabrieletv @HarvillSecker #Giveaway #Win @mia_qs #TheWinters





After a whirlwind romance, a young woman returns to the opulent, secluded mansion of her new fiancĂ© Max Winter - a wealthy senator and recent widower - and a life of luxury she’s never known. But all is not as it appears at the Asherley estate. The house is steeped in the memory of Max’s beautiful first wife Rebekah, who haunts the young woman’s imagination and feeds her uncertainties, while his very alive teenage daughter Dani makes her life a living hell. 

As the soon-to-be second Mrs. Winter grows more in love with Max, and more afraid of Dani, she is drawn deeper into the family’s dark secrets - the kind of secrets that could kill her, too. 

Inspired by the classic novel Rebecca, The Winters is a riveting story about what happens when a family’s ghosts resurface and threaten to upend everything.






The Winters by Lisa Gabriele is published in hardback by Harvill Secker / Vintage Books on 15 November 2018.

As part of the Blog Tour, I'm delighted to offer the chance to win a copy for yourself. I have one hardback copy to giveaway to the winner. Entry is simple, just fill out the competition widget at the end of this post.

UK Entries Only please - Good Luck! 

'A stylish, highly original and completely addictive take on du Maurier's Rebecca. Read it!' Shari Lapena

'A haunting thriller…I read straight through, breathless to the killer final pages’ Sarah Pinborough, Sunday Times bestselling author of Behind Her Eyes

'The twist on du Maurier’s classic novel Rebecca goes spinning off in imaginative new directions in contemporary America. Great fun’ The Sunday Times Crime Club 

'A sharp exercise in psychological suspense' Guardian

'It’s as beautifully written as it is (re)plotted and the updating of the characters is superb. Fabulous – and not just for Rebecca fans' Daily Mail

'This evocative thriller really draws you in' Heat

'From the brilliant first line to the shattering conclusion, The Winters will draw you in and leave you breathless' Liv Constantine, author of The Last Mrs. Parrish












One Hardback copy of The Winters by Lisa Gabriele LISA GABRIELE is the author of several bestselling novels. 
Her writing has appeared in Glamour, Vice, Elle, the New York Times Magazine and Salon as well as various anthologies including The Best American Nonrequired Reading Series. 
An award- winning T.V. producer, she has lived in Washington D.C. and New York City, and now lives in Toronto. 

Twitter: @lisagabrieletv
Instagram : @lisagabrieletv













Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Hush Hush by Mel Sherratt @writermels #BlogTour @AvonBooksUK @Sabah_K #HushHush




A killer is on the loose, attacking people in places they feel most safe: their workplaces, their homes. It’s up to DS Grace Allendale to stop the murders, and prove herself to her new team.
All clues lead to local crime family the Steeles, but that’s where things get complicated. Because the Steeles aren’t just any family, they’re Grace’s family. Two brothers and two sisters, connected by the violent father only Grace and her mother escaped.
To catch the killer, Grace will have to choose between her team and her blood. But who do you trust, when both sides are out to get you?










Hush Hush by Mel Sherratt  was published in paperback by Avon Books on 18 October 2018. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review and who invited me to take part in this Blog Tour.

Although I've been aware of Mel Sherratt for a long time, this is the first of her books that I've read. Hush Hush is number one in her new series featuring DS Grace Allendale.

I enjoyed Hush Hush so much. I read it whilst I was off sick and it was the perfect read for my mood. Absolutely brilliantly paced, with such a unique premise and characters who I am sure are going to become favourites for me, and for many other crime fiction fans.

Grace Allendale lived in Stoke until she was twelve. Her life there was horrendous and when she and her mother managed to escape her abusive father, they made a new life for themselves. Grace is a police detective and until recently has been working in Manchester.

However, her father is now dead. Murdered, and the perpetrator was never caught. When Grace is offered the chance of promotion; in Stoke, she decides that she can, at last, return home. There's just one sticking point though. Her father had another family, and they are well known and feared in Stoke. Her brothers and sisters, and their mother, make up the Steele family; usually behind most of the criminal activities in Stoke and well known for their violence. Grace wants to distance herself from them, but that's not going to be easy.

The story opens as Grace and her team take over an existing murder case, and it's not long before the victims begin to pile up. The murders all seem to be linked with the Steele family and Grace has a tricky job ahead of her. How does she investigate? How does she ensure that her team trust her, despite her background, and most importantly; can she solve the murders?

At times brutal, always fast paced and gritty, Hush Hush is a crime-fiction lovers dream! Grace is a fabulous character, and her background adds great depth to the story. The Steele family are somewhat stereotypical gangsters at times, but under the surface, they have their own demons to deal with and despite the fact that they are on 'the other side', the reader can't help but get to like them too.

Absolutely gripping from page one; Hush Hush is a fantastic start to a new series, and I can't wait to find out what is in store for Grace in the future.






Mel Sherratt is the author of ten novels, all of which have become bestsellers. In 2017, she was named as one of her home town of Stoke-on-Trent’s top 100 influential people.
She lives in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, with her husband and terrier, Dexter.

Website: www.melsherratt.co.uk
Twitter : @writermels
Author Page on Facebook
Instagram: @mel_sherratt







Sunday, 11 November 2018

The Lingering by SJI Holliday @SJIHolliday BLOG TOUR @OrendaBooks #TheLingering




Married couple Jack and Ali Gardiner move to a self-sufficient commune in the English Fens, desperate for fresh start. The local village is known for the witches who once resided there and Rosalind House, where the commune has been established, is a former psychiatric home, with a disturbing history.

When Jack and Ali arrive, a chain of unexpected and unexplained events is set off, and it becomes clear that they are not all that they seem. As the residents become twitchy, and the villagers suspicious, events from the past come back to haunt them, and someone is seeking retribution…

At once an unnerving locked-room mystery, a chilling thriller and a dark and superbly wrought ghost story, The Lingering is an exceptionally plotted, terrifying and tantalisingly twisted novel by one of the most exciting authors in the genre.



The Lingering by SJI Holliday is published in paperback by Orenda Books on 15 November 2018, and has been gathering so much praise from early readers.

As part of the Orenda Books Blog Tour, I'm delighted to re-share my review of The Lingering - previously reviewed on Random Things back in September.




My Review
I've been a fan of SJI Holliday's writing for a long time now. Her Banktoun trilogy, published by Black & White publishing is one of my all-time favourite series, I'm still desperately hoping that she'll treat us all to another instalment one day.

The Lingering is a book that I've been excited about ever since I heard that Orenda had signed it. Then I saw that cover and I was was even more intrigued. It certainly has been worth the wait. it's a story that wraps itself around your brain whilst reading, and even when you put it down for a while, it stays with you, lingering around, teasing and prodding and urging you to pick it up again to find out more.

In this world where we label everything, books are expected to fit neatly into genre. However, The Lingering is so difficult to tie down to just one box. It's a gothic tale of supernatural, ghostly happenings mixed in with a bang up-to-date chillingly clever plot that looks at the darkest side to a domestic relationship. With coercion and control being the central theme, this novel will haunt the reader.

Jack and Ali Gardiner have sold their possessions, given up their jobs as a police officer and nurse respectively and are travelling to join a self-sufficient commune deep in the Fens. The reader meets them as they are on that initial journey, and it's clear from the outset that they are running from some pretty dark secrets in their past. Ali is in control, whilst Jack appears uneasy about this huge step.

The are going to live at Rosalind House; previously a psychiatric hospital and with a dark and threatening history that dates back hundreds of years. Everyone in the nearby village knows the story of Rosalind House, and none of them are happy that it's been opened up again.

As Jack and Ali settle in, their characters are explored by this very clever and perceptive author. The reader also gets to know each of the other members of the community, especially Angela; otherwise known as Fairy Angela, who is determined to prove that there are ghosts haunting the house.

Rosalind House itself is a huge character in this novel. The outside grandeur and the stark, decaying interior with hints of what has happened there in the past prove to be an evocative, but unsettling base for the story, adding so much depth to the plot.

As stranger and stranger events happen, and the members of the community become more uncertain about their new members, Jack and Ali's terrible secret is slowly exposed. The author cleverly and authentically delves into the mind of the psychopath, and how evil genius can affect and control a previously perfectly normal person. It is chilling and dark, yet utterly and completely compelling throughout.

Beautifully written and perfectly plotted; The Lingering is a book that will stay with me for a very long time. The tension is almost unbearable at times. It's nerve-shredding and genuinely chilling.


Praise for The Lingering

"A compulsive read until the final, breathtaking page." --Elizabeth Haynes, author, Behind Closed Doors

"Deliciously dark and twisted . . . Add it to your wish list now if you like being scared silly!" --Mark Edwards, author, The Retreat

"Brilliantly chilling and perfectly paced. Ghosts, witchcraft, murder and manipulation." --Anna Mazzola, author, The Unseeing

"An outstanding work of modern gothic which perfectly captures the ghosted isolation of the fens and the more tangible terrors of a remote commune, where historical abuses meet contemporary horrors. In the new wave of gothic novels The Lingering is a stand out triumph." --Eva Dolan, author, This Is How It Ends

"An unsettling tale of hauntings, both real and metaphorical, that lingers in the mind long after the reader turns the final page. A top-notch supernatural thriller." --Mason Cross, author, Don't Look for Me

"One of the most original ghost stores I have ever read, The Lingering pays homage to classic spooky tales and completely subverts them at the same time. Highly recommended." --Cass Green, author, In a Cottage in a Wood

"The Lingering is a gripping read, full of creeping menace and insidious dread, perfectly paced and guaranteed to cause you sleepless nights for all the right reasons. Fans of Susan Hill and Andrew Taylor, take note. One of my favourite authors." --David Mark, author, Dead Pretty

"A relentlessly unnerving mystery--like shuffling footsteps from a long-locked attic." --Matt Wesolowski, author, Six Stories




SJI Holliday is a pharmaceutical statistician by day and a crime and horror fan by night.  Her short stories have been published in many places and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham prize with her story 'Home From Home' which was published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in spring 2017. She is the bestselling author of the creepy and claustrophobic Banktoun trilogy (Black Wood, Willow Walk and The Damselfly) featuring the much-loved Sergeant Davie Gray, and has dabbled in festive crime with the critically acclaimed The Deaths of December. Her latest psychological thriller is modern gothic with more than a hint of the supernatural, which she loved writing due to her fascination with and fear of ghosts. She is proud to be one of The Slice Girls and has been described by David Mark as 'dark as a smoker's lung.'

She divides her time between Edinburgh and London and you will find her at crime-fiction events in the UK and abroad.

Follow Susi on Twitter @SJIHolliday, or visit her website www.sjiholliday.com



Friday, 9 November 2018

Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield @DianeSetterfie1 @DoubledayUK @alisonbarrow #OnceUponARiver





A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child. 

Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life. 

Is it a miracle? 

Is it magic? 

Or can it be explained by science? 

An exquisitely crafted multi-layered mystery brimming with folklore, suspense and romance, as well as with the urgent scientific curiosity of the Darwinian age, Once Upon a River is as richly atmospheric as Setterfield’s bestseller The Thirteenth Tale.






Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield is published  in hardback by Doubleday on 17 January 2019. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.


Diane Setterfield's first novel The Thirteenth Tale, published in 2006 is one of my all-time favourite books. I heard her speak at Waterstone's Lincoln many years ago and my signed hardback of the book is one of my prized possessions.  Her second novel. Bellman & Black (published in 2013) didn't quite hit the spot for me though. However, I was still incredibly excited when I heard that finally, a new offering from this amazing author was about to be published.

Once Upon A River is best read in huge chunks, in my opinion. It is a vast, atmospheric story, packed with colourful characters who the reader will adore. However, it is made up of lengthy descriptive chapters, often setting the scene rather than advancing the plot, and really needs the utmost of concentration at times.

The story opens as the author describes the various inns alongside the River Thames. There's a watering hole for every occasion; from brawling to story telling, and her descriptions of these venues is spellbinding. The reader is instantly transported to the bars and snugs of various public houses, amongst the larger than life and fascinating characters.

Delicious sense of place and beautifully colourful characters are this author's finest skill. The plot is intricate and detailed, but it is the people who populate the story who take main stage. Their descriptions and their back stories are exquisitely detailed, evocatively described and historically rich.

Setterfield's plot centres around local myth and folklore. There's the mystery of the unknown and the missing and how separate families deal with the increasing suspense.
The author takes her seemingly unconnected characters and plot lines and seamlessly weaves them together to produce a reveal that is both unexpected and quite extraordinary.

Upon Upon A River is Diane Setterfield back at her very best. A vast historical novel full of mystery and myth. Beautifully written.






Diane Setterfield's bestselling novel The Thirteenth Tale was published in thirty-eight countries, has sold more than three million copies, and was made into a television drama scripted by Christopher Hampton, starring Olivia Coleman and Vanessa Redgrave.

Her second novel was Bellman and Black.

Born in rural Berkshire, she now lives near Oxford, by the Thames



Website: www.dianesetterfield.com
Twitter: @DianeSetterfie1
Author Facebook Page 







Where the What If Roams and the Moon is Louis Armstrong by Esther Krivda @advirk777 BLOG TOUR #RandomThingsTours #MyLifeInBooks




Sophia Oomla leaves the talking world. When her teacher calls on her. When her classmates speak to her. But at midnight, when no one can hear her, no one can see her, she finds her tongue. In fact, she is the Star-of-the-Talking-World, and a vamp, too, who can strut and hold forth and thunder away in her very own clandestine Midnight Movie Star School. For Sophia Oomla only wants to talk in the Talking-World the way Movie Stars do, the way her Mother does. Because surely they are from the Land-of-the-Perfect, and not from the land that she comes from, the Land-of-the-Timid-Tongues. Because wordless-ducklings from that land get sentenced to see speech therapists for non-communication, like she’s been.
Eloquent in one place, but not another?
Do you smell a paradox, Readers?
The magical creatures sure did. They lived in our protagonist’s head and know all about minds and thinking, except why this girl could be so very confident in one place and so very faltering in another. Those creatures needed someone who not only understood the problem but who would write a book about it. Which lead their noses right smack to me, another falterer and a writer besides. Those sniffer-extraordinaires must've sniffed my own about-faces - like when my inside-me is dying to write but my outside-me can't type a word. So those tricksters drafted me to narrate Sophia's story. But those imps weren't finished; they knew that paradoxes were running amok in her parents, the Oomlas’, minds as well and they insist I tell their story, too.
'Where the What If Roams and the Moon Is Louis Armstrong' wonders why somebody is one way on the outside, but inside, something else entirely. Can the Oomlas, can I, can we, live with our paradoxes? Or will each of us collapse like a house divided? And it wonders, too, about those nagging voices within, some of whom, in this story, take the form of magical creatures who wouldn’t leave the Oomlas alone (or me, either). Just who are those voices? Who is that interrupting us, haunting us, stopping us from going on our merry way? Who really is inside us calling our shots? Our parents, the universe? Where do they end and our true selves begin? And how can we be who we really are if there are so many others inside us? And just who exactly is that pest inside Sophia who keeps comparing her voice to her Mother’s? And who is that nagging voice within me that wouldn't let this writer write? Will Sophia ever stop believing it? Will I?




Where The What If Roams and the Moon is Louis Armstrong by Esther Krivda was published by Wobble Hill Press. As part of the #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour, I am delighted to welcome the author here today. She's talking about the books that are special to her in My Life In Books.




My Life in Books - Esther Krivda


For me it’s Writers and not Books.

William Shakespeare   I wish I could tell you I sit and read his plays. I do not. But I do read my Shakespeare Page-a-Day calendar every day. For years now, I’ve been studying the day’s page and then ruminating ever-after …wow … by choosing those words and marching them in this order, he means THAT? How could somebody, in just a few lines, capture everything under the sun?


Charles Dickens    What a Social Conscience! What furniture descriptions! His characters will live forever – Scrooge, Lady Dedlock, Fezziwig, Madame Defarge, and Jarndyce and Jarndyce. When I read Bleak House and saw how he used wit when writing about the legal profession, I knew I must, in my own small way, use whatever wit I possessed when I wrote about corporations and the pharmaceutical industry in Where the What If Roams and the Moon is Louis Armstrong.

The Victorian - Wilkie Collins / Current Day - Dan Brown    Masters of suspense. Brown’s writing is not lyrical like Dickens or Collins’ is; and neither Brown nor Collins have Dickens’ social conscience; but then Dickens doesn’t quite have their ability to make a reader rip through pages to find out what happens.




J.K. Rowling   From Harry Potter to the Strike Cormoran series to Casual Vacancy, I am in awe of her. I cried when Dobie died. She is a master of plot and language and of making stuff up, and if there isn’t a word for it, she’ll invent one. I’m reading Lethal White right now.

Lewis Carroll    I had the courage to create my What If character because of Lewis Carroll, the King of Creatures Mischievous and Fantastical.



Roald Dahl     ‘Dumbsilly,’ ‘Vermicious Knid,’ ‘The first titchy bobsticle you meet’. Who has captured the mind and the delightful-word-mangling of a child more than Roald Dahl has?


Mark Twain   I thought I understood prejudice until I read Mark Twain’s depiction of Jim. And Twain’s boys - Huckleberry Finn, that rascal! Tom Sawyer, the brat in cherub’s clothing!

Harry Stephen Keeler    There he was on Neil Gaiman’s list of favorite bad writers. Alas! Keeler’s mother committed him to a lunatic asylum when he was a child. Alas, nothing! The best bad writer in the whole world was born.


Esther Krivda - November 2018 








Esther Krivda has acted; studied ballet; worked as an admin in the movie studios in LA and in a talent agency in NYC; and loves to sing and draw faces. 
But she didn't discover writing til she took a course in Stop Motion Animation and soon found out her movie would need a script. 
And that’s when she got the idea of a little girl who cries out but only the man-in-the- moon hears her. She never turned the idea into a Stop Motion Animation movie but she did turn it into this novel, her first.



Website : www.estherkrivda.com
Twitter: @advirk777











Thursday, 8 November 2018

A Thunder of War by Steve McHugh @StevejMchugh BLOG TOUR #AThunderOfWar





There’s thunder on the horizon, and the lightning of war is about to strike.
After years of struggle, Layla Cassidy has finally mastered the dark powers that threatened to control her and turned them to good. She’s ready to fight, but the next battle will be her greatest test yet.
The forces of Avalon are growing ever stronger, reinforcing their dominance with almighty displays of brutality. When Abaddon comes close to crushing Layla and her friends, it’s clear that the thunder of war is about to give way to lightning—and that they have no chance of surviving it alone.
The final battle against Abaddon is drawing closer. Now Layla and her friends must fight for themselves—and the future of the world. To win, they will need every power and ally they can muster. But even with all their strength, will it be enough to stand against the impending doom?



A Thunder of War by Steve McHugh is number three in the Avalon Chronicles series and was published in paperback in December 2018.

As part of the #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour, I'm delighted to share an extract from the book with you here today.




Layla Cassidy



It was meant to be an easy mission for Layla Cassidy and her team. Get into the realm of Norumbega, move her team to the prison where Mammon’s frozen body was being kept, and, after retrieving the body, get out again without any trouble.
The mission had not gone entirely to plan.
“Well, this sucks balls,” Remy said as he sat up against a large tree. He was three-and-a-half feet tall, and part man, part red fox. He stood on legs that were more human than animal, but his entire body—from the tip of his bushy tail to his fox muzzle—was covered in fur. Remy had crossed a witch’s coven several centuries earlier and they’d decided to kill him by turning him into a fox and handing him over to a hunt master. The spell had gone wrong. It had turned him into a fox, but only partially, and it had also killed all twelve witches and deposited their souls in his body, essentially giving him twelve lives. Last Layla knew, he was on life eight.
Beside him, Layla nodded. “It’s not been our best day ever.”
The team had gotten into Norumbega without a hitch. Felicia Hales, a powerful vampire who lived in New York, arranged for them all to go through the realm gate and meet up with Mayor Issac Eire. Unfortunately that was where the good news ended. Issac’s people turned on him, revealing that they’d been working with Avalon all along. They killed anyone who tried to stop them, and Layla’s team were given the choice either to cease fighting, or watch more innocent people in Norumbega die. They chose the former.
The team had been taken to the prison that was their original target and put beneath the trees at the edge of the massive clearing in front of it. The ground was hard and cold with snow still covering large parts of it. Layla was grateful for the warm clothes she’d put on before coming. Her team wore thick jackets over their leather combat armor, with dwarven runes scribed on them. None of them were impervious to the cold, although Remy’s fur probably meant he needed fewer clothes than most, but the runes on the armor meant they wouldn’t freeze to death.
“At least we’re not tied up,” Harry said. “You’d think that, considering I’m the only human here, they’d be a little more concerned with the fact that you could actually kill them.”
“That’s why,” Chloe said, pointing to ten townspeople kneeling at the opposite side of the clearing. Each one had an Avalon soldier behind them. If any of Layla’s team made a move, they would die.
Harry turned toward the frightened men and women. “I didn’t see them. Shit.”
Layla looked over at the prison and caught Zamek—one of the last remaining Norse dwarves—staring at it. “What’s up?” she asked him.
“They’re trying to get inside,” Zamek said, pointing to half a dozen people attempting to force the massive metal doors apart. He was shorter than Layla’s own five-foot-four height, although not by too much as he was just under five feet tall himself, but he was broad. To Layla’s mind he was his own wall. Short, muscular, and unmovable unless he wanted to be moved. He was stronger, faster, and could heal more quickly than a human. Like all dwarves, Zamek was also an alchemist, able to alter the shape of natural matter so long as he had physical contact with whatever he wanted to change. Zamek’s long, brown beard was plaited with various colored beads, and, aside from a long, plaited ponytail, his head was shaved.
The prison itself was huge with fifty-foot white columns outside the front entrance and massive glass domes atop several parts of the roof. Built into the side of the mountain, there was no telling how far into the rocks the gray and white stone building went, or how deep it was.
“So, why are we still alive?” Mordred asked.
Everyone turned to Mordred.
“Seriously?” Irkalla replied. “That’s your big wonder?”
“Well, they’ve captured us, and we went quietly to spare more innocent blood from being spilled, but if they can get in there and get Mammon, why are we here still? What purpose do we serve?”
“They can’t get in there,” Zamek said. “Not unless they happen to have a dwarf working for them. That’s dwarven architecture filled with runes. And I placed my own runes on top of those. They manage to get that door open and everyone in a fifty-foot radius is going to be turned to ash.”
Layla mentally calculated the distance between the prison and her and found that she was okay. “Not to mention the giant,” she said.
“There’s a giant?” Harry asked. “Why is this the first time anyone has mentioned a giant?”
The flame giant had been a surprise when, six months ago, Layla and several allies had chased Kristin to Norumbega. They’d stopped her from freeing Mammon, but she’d woken the flame giant before they could get there, and Layla had been forced to drop an avalanche on him. After dropping the avalanche, the group had dragged him back into the prison, and Zamek had reapplied the dwarven runes. It was not a scenario she wished to repeat anytime soon.
“Sorry, there’s a flame giant inside,” Remy said. “There, now you’re caught up.”
The team watched as the Avalon soldiers gave up on the door, and two of them grabbed a beaten and bloody Mayor Eire and dragged him over to the group, dropping him on the ground next to Chloe.
“You make me wish that guns could be taken through realm gates,” Remy said. “Or tanks.”
The man smiled and patted the two custom-made black swords that hung sheathed from his hip. “These are fine weapons, little fox-man. I think I’ll use them to skin you with when I’m done here.”
“Good luck with that,” Remy said, flicking him the middle finger. “Drako,” Mordred said. “What do you want?”
“Kim and I are becoming impatient at our inability to get into the prison. You will help us.”
Layla looked between Drako and Kim. Drako was the taller of the two, with a bald head and scarring over his nose that looked like someone had slashed him with a claw. Kim had short, dark hair, and tattoos around her exposed neck. Both wore combat armor and used bladed weapons. Guns and ammunition didn’t always survive the travel between realms and had a tendency to explode after making the trip.
“You give me my ax back, and I’ll help,” Zamek said, pointing to the double-edged battle-ax Kim carried in one hand.
While everyone in the team had been disarmed, only Zamek and Remy had any emotional attachments to the weapons they’d lost. Layla looked down at her metal arm and wondered whether she could turn it into a sword and run Kim through before the innocent people across from them died. No, she decided, there had to be another way.
Drako waved to the soldiers by the hostages, and two innocent people lost their lives.
“No,” Irkalla shouted, moving to stand, but she was kicked back down by Kim.
“You want more to die?” Kim asked, a slight sneer to her voice.
“I open that door and a flame giant is going to come out,” Zamek said.
The concerned glance between Drako and Kim didn’t go unnoticed, but Drako shrugged. “We’ll deal with that when it happens.”
“You have fifteen armed people here,” Mordred said. “I’m pretty sure the giant will get a few of you before you stop it. Simple numbers. There’s more of you than there were when it last woke up. And it might not be happy to see us again.”
“Then you’ll have to deal with it,” Kim snapped.
Drako tapped his colleague on the shoulder, and she turned as Abaddon entered the clearing. She was of average height with brown skin and long, plaited brown hair that touched her waist. She wore black combat armor that looked more military in design than any of Layla’s team. Like everyone else who worked for her, she wore a small wooden bracelet with runes carved into it. Layla had no idea what they were for, but she was certain it wasn’t good.
“Devils don’t feel the cold, I assume?” Zamek asked as Abaddon reached them.
She looked down at her lack of jacket and smiled. “No, extremes of weather aren’t something I’m concerned with. But I think that’s a conversation for a time when we’re not on the clock.”
“We’re not getting Mammon for you,” Irkalla said. “You might as well just kill us all and be done with it.”
“Not quite what I had in mind,” Remy said.
Abaddon picked up the mayor by his hair and slit his throat. The white snow quickly turned red as his body was pushed onto the ground. Abaddon put her boot on his back. “Silver dagger,” Abaddon said, absentmindedly cleaning the blade on Drako’s sleeve. “The mayor is dead. Very sad. I will go back into town and pick every child under the age of eight and butcher them all. Want to rethink your position?”
“As we tried to explain to your friends here, there’s a flame giant in there,” Layla said.
“How’s the hand?” Abaddon asked Layla.
Layla flipped her the middle finger of her metal hand. “Works okay.”






Steve's been writing from an early age, his first completed story was done in an English lesson. Unfortunately, after the teacher read it, he had to have a chat with the head of the year about the violent content and bad language. The follow up 'One boy and his frog' was less concerning to his teachers and got him an A.

It wasn't for another decade that he would start work on a full length novel, the result of which is Crimes Against Magic.

He was born in a small village called Mexborough, South Yorkshire, but now lives with his wife and three young daughters in Southampton.

Twitter @StevejMchugh