Friday, 15 September 2023

The Murmurs by Michael J Malone BLOG TOUR #TheMurmurs @michaeljmalone @OrendaBooks #Gothic #Scotland #BookReview



In the beginning there was fear.
White-hot, nerve-shredding fear.
Terrifying premonitions of deaths.
And then they started…
The Murmurs…
On the first morning of her new job at Heartfield House, a care home for the elderly, Annie Jackson wakens from a terrifying dream. And when she arrives at the home, she knows that the first old man she meets is going to die.
How she knows this is a terrifying mystery, but it is the start of horrifying premonitions … a rekindling of the curse that has trickled through generations of women in her family – a wicked gift known only as 'the murmurs'…
With its reappearance comes an old, forgotten fear that is about to grip Annie Jackson.
And this time, it will never let go…
A compulsive gothic thriller and a spellbinding supernatural mystery about secrets and small communities, about faith, courage and self-preservation, The Murmurs is a startling and compulsive read from one of Scotland’s finest authors…

The Murmurs by Michael J Malone is published in paperback on 14 September 2023 by Orenda Books. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this Blog Tour. 

I have been reading Michael J Malone's novels for many years and he has never failed to impress me. The Murmurs is the first in the Annie Jackson Mysteries and paves the way for what is going to be one hell of a series of stories. 

Annie Jackson come from a family with a history. Many of the female members are afflicted with what was seen as a curse in days gone by.  Known as the Mumurs, it means that Annie, and her forbears have premonitions. They can see when a person is going to die. Not all people, just some people. It is a terrifying thing to experience as the person's face changes into just skull and bones and is accompanied by terrible murmurings. 

Annie has just started a new job in a care home when she experiences her first murmur. Or is it her first? Annie and her twin brother Lewis lost their parents tragically some years ago, and Annie has no recollection of her early years. Maybe she could always see death? 

Malone takes his readers into the wild, isolated highlands of Scotland, back to the small town where Annie and Lewis grew up. A town that is dominated by the Church, and is becoming famous due to the viral videos posted by the current Pastor .... a man who Annie was once close to. 

This is a complex, chilling gothic tale of mystery and murder. The author includes historical diary entries from Annie's female relatives which go a long way to explain how the murmurs have affected the women in her family. The witch hunts, the burnings, the terror, it's all there. 

What this author does so very well is to introduce new characters who initially appear to be bit-parts, but who become so central to the story. He gently builds up the anticipation, throwing in a few hints and many twists along the way. 

Chilling, atmospheric and so very original. Every single one of the characters are perfectly formed and the setting is beautifully portrayed. The beauty of the landscape hiding the evils of humans for so long.

An absolute joy and highly recommended by me. 

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. 

He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. 

His dark psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and is currently in production for the screen, and five powerful standalone thrillers followed suit. 

A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. 

Michael lives in Ayr, where he also works as a hypnotherapist.

Thursday, 14 September 2023

None Of This Is True by Lisa Jewell #NoneOfThisIsTrue @lisajewelluk @centurybooksuk @najmafinlay #BookReview


Celebrating her 45th birthday at her local pub, podcaster Alix Summer crosses paths with an unassuming woman called Josie Fair. Josie is also celebrating her 45th.

A few days later, they bump into each other again, this time outside Alix's children's school. Josie says she thinks she would be an interesting subject for Alix's podcast. She is, she tells Alix, on the cusp of great changes in her life.

Alix agrees to a trial interview and indeed, Josie's life appears to be strange and complicated. Aix finds her unsettling but can't quite resist the temptation to keep digging.

Slowly Alix starts to realise that Josie has been hiding some very dark secrets, and before she knows it Josie has cajoled her way into Alix's life - and into her home.

Soon Alix begins to wonder who is Josie Fair really? And what has she done?

None Of This Is True by Lisa Jewell was published by Century on 20 July 2023. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

I had deliberately avoided reading any reviews of this book before I picked it up, so went in having no idea of either the plot, or other reader's opinions. It's a fairly large book, my trade paperback has just under 400 pages, but I flew through it in a couple of sittings. It's a pacy and heart pounding read, filled with characters who the reader can never quite trust, and a plot that takes you on a journey of dark corners and twisty bends a plenty. 

Podcaster Alix Summers is celebrating her 45th birthday in a local gastro pub. Also there that evening, and also celebrating the same birthday is Josie Fair. They are birthday twins. 

Their birthdate and place of birth is the only thing that they have in common. Alix's podcast is popular, she's married to a wealthy man, she has a beautiful house and two perfect children. Josie, on the other hand is married to a much older man, her children are now adults and she has very little focus on where her life could go. 

Josie engineers another meeting with Alix, later that week and persuades her to meet, to discuss an idea that she has for the podcast. 

And so it begins. The podcast interviews are cleverly inserted into the narrative, along with extracts from a Netflix series of the podcast. Josie begins to tell her life story, but the style of the narrative means that the reader is aware that there are huge events yet to come. We just don't know what they are. 

Josie's life appears to have been one of horror. Neglected by her own mother and then groomed by the much older Walter, who becomes her husband, and then there's the daughter who has been missing since she was sixteen, and the older daughter who never leaves her bedroom. It's all very shocking, and before Alix is quite aware, she's in the thick of it all. 

This is such an amazing ride of a story. I felt real terror at times. There were characters that I despised, and then ..... I heard another side of the story ..... and then I changed my mind. However, what Jewell has done so cleverly is leave the reader wondering just how much of this is true?  Which of the characters are lying? Who is telling the truth?  It's clever and compelling and I was glued to the pages. 

There are some very dark issues dealt with, and some readers may struggle with the portrayal of some of them, however, for me, this just added to whole mysterious tension of the story. 

Highly recommended. 

LISA JEWELL was born in London in 1968.

Her first novel, Ralph's Party, was the best- selling debut novel of 1999. Since then she has written another eighteen novels, most recently a number of dark psychological thrillers, including The Girls, Then She Was Gone and The Family Upstairs (all of which were Richard & Judy Book Club picks).

Lisa is a New York Times and Sunday Times number one bestselling author who has been published worldwide in over twenty-five languages. She lives in north London with her husband and two daughters. 

X @lisajewelluk

Instagram @lisajewelluk

Wednesday, 13 September 2023

The Unpicking by Donna Moore #TheUnpicking @BadsvilleBroad @fly_press #BookReview #HistoricalFiction


"I had read enough mystery stories to know that girls who went out to meet strangers at night never came to a good end..."

Stirling, 1877. Lillias Gilfillan, a recently orphaned girl of sixteen, falls in love and elopes with a man who sees her as wealthy and naïve: ‘a little boat without its oars’. In a sea of rising debt and deception, Lillias must learn quickly, or drown.

Glasgow, 1894. Clementina knows little mercy living in a home for ‘wayward girls’. With the ‘Jingling Devil’ always lurking in the shadows and a child growing inside her, can she outrun him and save her best friend in the process?

Glasgow, 1919. Mabel is one of the first policewomen in Glasgow, on a mission to find a murderer. In doing so, she finds a web of corruption and now the ‘Jingling Devil’ wants her dead.

‘The Unpicking’ spans three generations of ‘hysterical women’ who take on systemic corruption and injustice, despite all odds.

The Unpicking by Donna Moore is published by Fly On The Wall Press on 27 October 2023. My thanks to the author who sent my copy for review. 

I have been absolutely captivated by this beautifully imagined piece of historical fiction that concentrates on three women between 1877 and 1919. It is set in Glagow, a place that becomes another important character in the story. It really is a extraordinary story, often bleak and brutal, and never flinching from the corruption and injustices that women of that time endured, and lets face it, still do at times. 

In 1877 sixteen-year-old Lillias Gilfillan is recently orphaned and now extremely wealthy. Young, innocent and impressionable, she is swept off her feet by an older man who appears to be loving and kind. However, after a quick wedding, opposed by her Aunt, Lillias discovers far too quickly that it wasn't her looks or personality that was the attraction, but her bank balance. Urged on by a callous and greedy associate, her husband does the unthinkable, and Lillias faces a life that she could never have imagined. 

Seventeen years later, we meet Clemintina who lives in a home for 'wayward girls' in Glasgow. Clemmie is kind at heart, always looking out for her best friend; the young, shy Jeannie. However, both of them are targets of the 'Jingling Devil'; a man who causes pain and terror on behalf of some of the most wealthy men in the city. Clemmie needs to escape, to protect her unborn child, but how can she leave Jeannie?

Moving on another twenty-five years and Mabel is one of the first female police officers in the city. Scorned by her colleagues, expected to do little more than a secretarial role, she is determined to track down a murderer. However, she finds out far more than expected and once again, the Jingling Devil makes an appearance. 

Three wonderfully created female characters that readers will instantly connect with. Their daily battles against social injustices and the utter corruption of the wealthy are difficult to bear at times, emotionally challenging but always perfectly and sensitively created. 

The streets of Glasgow, with the assorted characters, and the sights and sounds come alive, and almost jump from the pages. The fear felt by each of the women, yet their incredible bravery and determination is visceral and so thought provoking. These are some of the best characters that I have met in a novel, alongside the alluring, descriptive writing and remarkable sense of place.  

A truly wonderful novel. Highly recommended by me. 

Donna Moore is the author of crime fiction and historical fiction. 

Her first novel, a Private Eye spoof called Go To Helena Handbasket, won the Lefty Award for most humorous crime fiction novel and her second novel, Old Dogs, was shortlisted for both the Lefty and Last Laugh Awards. 

Her short stories have been published in various anthologies. 

In her day job she works as an adult literacy tutor for marginalised and vulnerable women, facilitates creative writing workshops and has a PhD in creative writing around women’s history and gender-based violence. 

She is also co-host of the CrimeFest crime fiction convention and is a fan of film noir, 1970s punk rock and German Expressionist artists. 

The Unpicking is her third novel.

X @BadsvilleBroad

Tuesday, 12 September 2023

The Opposite of Lonely by Doug Johnstone BLOG TOUR #TheOppositeOfLonely @doug_johnstone @OrendaBooks #TheSkelfs #BookReview


Even death needs company…

The Skelf women are recovering from the cataclysmic events that nearly claimed their lives. Their funeral-director and private-investigation businesses are back on track, and their cases are as perplexing as ever.

Matriarch Dorothy looks into a suspicious fire at an illegal campsite and takes a grieving, homeless man under her wing. Daughter Jenny is searching for her missing sister-in-law, who disappeared in tragic circumstances, while grand-daughter Hannah is asked to investigate increasingly dangerous conspiracy theorists, who are targeting a retired female astronaut … putting her own life at risk.

With a body lost at sea, funerals for those with no one to mourn them, reports of strange happenings in outer space, a funeral crasher with a painful secret, and a violent attack on one of the family, The Skelfs face their most personal – and perilous – cases yet. Doing things their way may cost them everything…

Tense, unnerving and warmly funny, The Opposite of Lonely is the hugely anticipated fifth instalment in the unforgettable Skelfs series, and this time, danger comes from everywhere…

The Opposite of Lonely by Doug Johnstone is published in paperback by Orenda Books on 14 September and is the fifth book in the Skelfs series. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

This review originally appeared in the September edition of the National Federation of Occupational Pensioners magazine. 

The Opposite of Lonely is volume five of The Skelfs series from Doug Johnstone. Whilst this is a series, this is also a fabulous stand-alone thriller set in Edinburgh and featuring three of the strongest and wonderfully created female characters in fiction. 

The Skelf women; Dorothy, her daughter Jenny, and granddaughter Hannah run a funeral director business in the heart of Edinburgh. They are also private investigator and over the years, their name has become famous throughout the city.

Strong and capable and assisted by a colourful and eclectic supporting cast of characters, the Skelfs have endured many things in the past few years, including a murderous ex-husband and an arson attack at their home. 

They are back, recovered and determined to carry on. In this tale there are cases that involve travellers at an illegal campsite, missing relatives and astronaut related conspiracy theories.  That is a lot to take on! 

Doug Johnstone’s writing is both darkly comic and seriously emotional. He throws so much at his characters, revealing the dark and dangerous parts of Edinburgh that are hidden from the tourist. 

There are so many relevant social issues raised, along with a wonderful look into the world of funerals and undertakers. 

Packed with colourful and perfectly created characters. There are those who the reader will love, and others who are devilishly despicable. There are scenes of violence and moments that will shock, but all are done so well, adding layers of depth to the story. 

This is a compelling story, told with empathy and compassion. The Skelf family are a unique and welcome addition to the world of crime fiction. 

Doug Johnstone is the author of sixteen novels, many of which have been bestsellers. 

The Space Between Us was chosen for BBC Two’s Between the Covers, while Black Hearts and The Big Chill were longlisted for the Theakston Crime Novel of the Year. 

Three of his books – A Dark Matter, Breakers and The Jump – have been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize. 

Doug has taught creative writing or been writer in residence at universities, schools, writing retreats, festivals, prisons and a funeral home. 

He’s also been an arts journalist for 25 years. 

He is a songwriter and musician with six albums and three EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. 

He’s also co-founder of the Scotland Writers Football Club and lives in Edinburgh with his family.

Monday, 11 September 2023

A Beautiful Rival by Gill Paul BLOG TOUR #ABeautifulRival @GillPaulAUTHOR @AvonBooksUK @RandomTTours #BookReview


The world is at war, but on the gilded streets of Fifth Avenue, New York, a battle of a different kind is brewing…

New York, 1915.

Elizabeth Arden has been New York’s golden girl since her beauty salon opened its famous red door five years prior. Against all odds, she’s built an empire.

Enter Helena Rubinstein: ruthless, revolutionary – and the rival Elizabeth didn’t bargain for.

With both women determined to succeed – no matter the personal cost – a battle of beauty is born. And as the stakes increase, so do the methods: poaching employees, planting spies, copying products, hiring ex-husbands.

But as each woman climbs higher, so too does what she stands to lose.

Because the greater the height, the harder the fall…

A Beautiful Rival by Gill Paul was published in paperback by 31 August 2023 by Avon. My thanks to the author who sent my copy for review as part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour

I do love historical fiction that is based on real life people, especially women. Gill Paul is my go-to author for this genre, her stories are always so wonderfully researched, beautifully written and so very entertaining. 

A Beautiful Rival's two leading ladies are queens of the beauty industry; Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein. Two very different women who have one major thing in common; they are both determined that their beauty business will be the best, most lauded in the industry, and both of them will do anything to make sure that happens. 

Beginning in New York in 1915, during World War I, we are introduced to these two intelligent, driven women in alternating chapters. Arden was born in Canada but has been away from her homeland for many years, her early life was tough, which has impacted on her business acumen. Rubinstein comes from a large family in Poland. Like Arden, she hasn't returned to the family home for many years, and just like Arden, this makes her strong and determined business woman. 

Paul's sense of place and depiction of the culture of this era are wonderfully done. The glamour, the social standing of the customers, and also the darker undercurrents that affect the women. Arden wants nothing more than to be considered a lady, with her cut-glass accent and her beautiful homes, whilst Rubinstein has to contend with the anti-semitism that creates difficulties for business owners, and is increasing daily. 

It's difficult to warm to either of these women, with Arden's infamous temper and her constant 'bouncing' of her staff, whilst Rubinstein's idea of motherhood and her treatment of her two sons is questionable. However, both of them have their vulnerabilities, with flashes of compassion and a desperation to love and be loved, making them appear just as human as the rest of us at times. Whilst we may not love them, we are certainly intrigued by them. 

A Beautiful Rival is, for me, the perfect blend of historical fiction and fact and once again Paul has produced a novel that had me glued to the pages, not wanting it to end and constantly Googling both women as I learnt more about them. 

It's a novel of luxury and glamour, of high prices and exquisite surroundings. It is also a story of two women, well ahead of their times. Their struggles, their passions, their disappointments and their ruthlessness are all captured wonderfully, creating a story that is powerful and utterly compelling. Highly recommended. 

Gill Paul is an author of historical fiction, specialising in the twentieth century and often writing about the lives of real women. Her novels have topped bestseller lists in the US and Canada as well as the UK and have been translated into twenty languages. The Secret Wife has sold over half a million copies and is a book-club favourite worldwide.

She is also the author of several non-fiction books on historical subjects. She lives in London and swims year-round in a wild pond.

Friday, 8 September 2023

The Nigerian Mafia Mumbai by Onyeka Nwelue BLOG TOUR #TheNigerianMafiaMumbai @onyekanwelue @RandomTTours #BookExtract


Nollywood actor, Uche Mbadiegwu leaves his Surulere neighborhood in Lagos, to Bandra in Mumbai to join Bollywood, so he could make it big, hoping to play exceptional roles. 

Like a flash, Periwinkle appears in his life and changes everything. 

Tired of living in a pigsty, Efemena wants to live a life in independence, but there is more to being a Nigerian in Mumbai – a constant escape from Indian police and narcotics agents. 

The Nigerian Mafia is a tale of violence, drugs, human trafficking, murder and sex.

The Nigerian Mafia Mumbai by Onyeka Nwelue was published on 4 April 2023 by Abibiman Publishing.
As part of this #RandomTTours Blog Tour, I am delighted to share an extract from the book with you today. 

Extract from The Nigerian Mafia Mumbai by Onyeka Nwelue 

São Paulo, Brazil


Now that I am in Brazil, let me tell you a story. My story. My story of India. Of all that happened in Mumbai. But, before then, my name is Uche.

Uche Mbadiegwu.

This story will be short because very soon they will come and carry me to court.

You know as Mumbai dey. I lived in Bandra, in Mumbai.
I came to Mumbai on a one- year visa. Business Visa. I came to buy fabrics so that I could take them back to Lagos and sell them at Balogun Market. Not really so. 

I was in Nollywood, living in Surulere, where most  Nollywood films are shot. That’s where you will see Ramsey Nouah on the street and Ini Edo and everyone. When things got really hard for me there, I say, Make I just leave Naija, go India.

But when I arrived, I could not find the guy who did my visa, Stephen, who took a lot of money from me. The truth is when I later came to know his whereabouts, I hear say him dey prison for Goa. Goa na anoda city for India. You suppose don hear of the name of that city if you dey watch Bollywood film. Bollywood na the name wey them dey call Indian film industry for Mumbai.

Bombay = Bollywood. Hindi films. Someone told me that.

You suppose know that one already. Goa na where many foreigners dey go enjoy themselves. For Goa, them dey speak Portuguese. Na Portuguese colony wey that place be. E get another place wey them dey call Pondicherry.

I am not sure you understand Pidgin English very well. But I will try and speak as someone who went to university in Nigeria. Yes, I studied at Lagos State University. I studied geography. I am also an actor. I have been in about twenty films. Even though I never did any lead role. Just a few stuff here and there, with lots of cameos. I know a little bit of the world.

I wasn’t doing well in Nollywood. To be honest. So, as I tell you this story, navigating from one endto another, I need you to understand my situation, my life story, my past.

As soon as I arrived in Mumbai, my story took a different turn altogether. Life became different for me, a Naija guy who had to japa from Nigeria so that he can become something in life. In Mumbai, I needed money to pay rent. When my visa expired, renewing it at the FRRO was a problem.

You know, Africans get thrown out of their apartments in Mumbai, once their visas expire. When you go to places like Hatkesh on Mira Road, Pragati Nagar in Nalasopara, Naigoan, Vakola, Goregoan, Malwani and Kharghar, you will meet a lot of Africans, especially, Nigerians, whose visas have expired.

I needed a new source of income, and this is why the story I am going to tell you happened. And I am going to tell you exactly how it happened.

But, before I start, I want to let you know, that this is just the beginning of many stories. Stories that will span countries. From one city, to another.

Make you just listen... 

Onyeka Nwelue is a Nigerian filmmaker, talk-show host, bookseller and author whose
book, Hip-Hop is Only for Children won the Creative Non-Fiction Book of the Year at the 2015 Nigerian Writers’ Awards. He adapted his novella, Island of Happiness into an Igbo language film, Agwaetiti Obiụtọ and won Best Feature Film by a Director at 2018 Newark International Film Festival, and went on to be nominated for Best First Feature Film by a Director and the Ousmane Sembene Award for Best Film in an African Language at the 2018 Africa Movie Academy Awards. 

He is the director of the Oxford-based James Currey Society and founder of La Cave Musik, a record label, based in Paris. 

Thursday, 7 September 2023

A Green Equinox by Elizabeth Mavor #AGreenEquinox #ElizabethMavor @ViragoBooks @lucy_martin20 #BookerPrizeShortlist


Hero Kinoull is an antiquarian bookseller whose sedate life in the picturesque English town of Beaudesert is turned upside down between the spring and autumn equinoxes of a single year. First her quiet but forbidden liaison with Hugh Shafto, the curator of the country's finest collection of Rococo art, comes to an abrupt halt when she develops an adoration for his straight-talking, do-gooding wife Belle.

But this relationship leads to other, even more unexpected feelings for Belle's widowed mother-in-law, the majestic Kate Shafto, who spends her days tending her garden and sailing her handmade boats in the waters of the miniature archipelago she's constructed in a disused gravel pit.

A Green Equinox by Elizabeth Mavor. Shortlisted for the 1973 Booker Prize, this forgotten classic is reissued by Virago on 7 September 2023 after being out of print for decades. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

I was intrigued by the premise of this book. People who are familiar with my reviews will know that I rarely review anything considered to be a 'classic'. I have to admit that I do struggle at times with language that seems a little old-fashioned, or very literary. However, the themes of this story really resonate with me,  and feel so very relevant today, all these years later. I can imagine that at the time of publication, this novel was considered to be groundbreaking, dealing as it does, with female sexuality and the exploration of gender. 

It is a short novel, just under 200 pages and I read it whilst travelling to and from London on the train. Over three hours of totally uninterrupted reading, and whilst, yes, at first, I found it difficult to settle into, I was soon immersed into the world of the lead character: Hero Kinoull.

Hero is a middle-aged woman, living in a small English town. She owns a bookshop and is particularly interested in old books; re-binding them and wallowing in their beauty.  Hero is having an affair with married Hugh Shafto who is the curator of a fine art collection. They share a love of old things, of beautiful things and the preservation of those things. 

Hero has never met Hugh's wife Belle, despite the fact that they all live in the same small town. When, one day, Belle comes into Hero's shop to ask her to put up a poster, she is both appalled, but also intrigued by this woman.  Belle is a person who takes action, whether it be about the H bomb, pollution or race relations, Belle will take up the cause. 

Hero finds herself drawn to Belle, despite Hugh's dismay and soon Belle is the object of her adoration. However, there is another woman, one who is even more intriguing. A woman who lives by herself, sailing boats in a disused gravel pit and tending her garden; this is Hugh's mother Kate, and Hero really has found her soul mate. 

It sounds like a simple plot, and really it is, however, it is the underlying themes that really resonate. The things that some of the characters say and experience are as striking and current today as they were probably unconventional back then. 

It is a 'wordy' book, filled with drama such as typhoid, suicide and a drowning. It can be a bleak read at times, but it is a fine exploration of women's issues, with strong female characters who are beautifully created. 

Born in Glasgow and educated at Oxford, where she was reputedly the first woman to edit the university magazine, Elizabeth Mavor (1927–2013) was the author of five novels and numerous works of nonfiction. 

Drawn to the lives of women who flouted convention, her most celebrated works include two historical biographies: The Virgin Mistress: A Study in Survival (1964), about Elizabeth Pierrepont, Duchess of Kingston, an English courtesan famous for her adventurous lifestyle; and The Ladies of Llangollen (1971), the story of cross-dressing aristocratic companions Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby. 

Mavor was married to the cartoonist and illustrator Haro Hodson, with whom she had two sons.

Monday, 4 September 2023

The Trap by Catherine Ryan Howard BLOG TOUR #TheTrap @cathryanhoward @TransworldBooks @RandomTTours #BookReview


Stranded on a dark road in the middle of the night, a young woman accepts a lift from a passing stranger. It's the nightmare scenario that every girl is warned about, and she knows the dangers all too well - but what other choice does she have?

As they drive, she alternates between fear and relief - one moment thinking he is just a good man doing a good thing, the next convinced he's a monster. But when he delivers her safely to her destination, she realizes her fears were unfounded.

And her heart sinks. Because a monster is what she's looking for.

She'll try again tomorrow night. But will the man who took her sister take the bait?

The Trap by Catherine Ryan Howard was published by Bantam / Transworld on 17 August 2023. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy as part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour 

Ohh, this is a twisty read full of unexpected surprises, packed with characters who range from the most insidious of voices, to those who you want to keep safe. A story that kept me gripped over a Bank Holiday weekend. I read this in a couple of sittings, glued to the pages as the plot slowly unfolded. 

The opening chapter find a young woman, in the early hours of the morning, walking along a deserted road. When a car pulls up beside her, she gets in. The reader is privy to her thoughts and it is a little bit terrifying at first, and then that hook is dropped! It's not what we thought, although it's not quite what Lucy thought either! 

Operation Tide is the name of the police investigation into missing women in Wexford, Ireland. So far, there are three women who have vanished, although Tide wasn't established until the third one. Lucy, whose sister Nikki has been missing for a very long time gets angry when she thinks about the time wasted that could have been spent looking for Nikki. She's angry that nothing happened until a pretty, seventeen-year-old went missing. She's desperate to know where Nikki is, and what happened, and has she suffered. Is she alive?  Lucy has her own way of trying to find out, and it's dangerous and she knows it. 

The two lead players in Operation Tide are Denise, the Family Liaison Officer, and Angela, a civilian in the Missing Persons Unit who is determined to become a Guard, if she can ever pass the fitness test. Denise is keen to involve Angela in the operation, she recognises someone who is clever and able to take orders. Denise gives lots of orders, and whilst she is blunt and forceful, she's a damn good copper. 

Woven between the chapters that concern the investigation are chapters told from the point of view of the unknown person who is responsible for the crimes. These chapters are so very creepy, the reader can imagine this guy, sitting in his car, justifying his actions and comparing himself to a mountain climber. These parts add a dark tension to the story and are very clever. 

The Trap is told through many voices, with varying points of view and can be quite complex at times. However it is thrilling and engaging story, with a few reveals that really surprised me. 

With an ending that will leave the reader wondering and pondering (I love those type of endings), this is a great psychological thriller packed with a colourful cast of characters and with an incredible sense of place. Recommended

It's worth reading the Author Notes at the back of the book. Catherine Ryan Howard talks about some true-life cases of missing women in Ireland, and of course, this sent me down a fascinating Google rabbit hole.

CATHERINE RYAN HOWARD is an internationally bestselling author from Cork, Ireland. 

Her work has been shortlisted for the CWA's John Creasey New Blood and Ian Fleming Steel Dagger awards, and in 2019 her novel THE LIAR'S GIRL was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. 
THE NOTHING MAN was a no. 1 bestseller in her native Ireland. 
She currently lives in Dublin, where she divides her time between the desk and the sofa.