Tuesday 31 January 2023

What July Knew by Emily Koch #WhatJulyKnew @EmilyKoch @HarvillSecker #BookReview


Summer, 1995.

July Hooper knows eighteen things about her mother.

Like number thirteen: she loved dancing on the kitchen table. And number eight: she was covered in freckles.

And then there's number two: she died after being hit by a car when July was small.

She keeps this list hidden in a drawer away from her father. Because they're not allowed to talk about her mother. Ever.

But an anonymous note slipped into July's bag on her tenth birthday is about to change everything she thinks she knows about her mum.

Determined to discover what really happened to her, July begins to investigate, cycling around the neighbourhood where her family used to live. There she meets someone who might finally have the answers.

July wants her family to stop lying to her, but will the truth be harder to face?

What July Knew by Emily Koch is published on 9 February 2023 by Vintage / Harvill Secker. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

What July Knew is a beautifully written blend of mystery, coming-of-age and domestic drama. No reader can fail to fall for lead character July; a ten-year-old girl whose innocence and curiosity is slowly being knocked from her.

July lives with her father Mick, her stepmother Shell and her stepsister Sylvie. The story opens just as school ends for the the long, hot, sweltering summer of 1995. July's teacher has asked that they do a summer project about one of their relatives, and she's suggested that July write about her mother; Maggie Hooper. 

July only knows eighteen facts about her mother. She was just a very small child when Maggie died and her memories are very hazy. Her father forbids her to ask about her, her stepmother never offers any information and her grandmother gets far too upset to discuss her late daughter. However, July often feels Maggie's presence, she knows that she's watching over her. 

When July discovers a note, stuck to one of her school books, saying 'she didn't die in an accident', she cannot stop herself from trying to find out the truth. This determination brings so much pain to July, she knows that she risks receiving a 'lesson' from her father if she continues, but he's only doing it because he loves her .... doesn't he?

Emily Koch explores some very dark and emotionally challenging themes within her story. The depictions of violence within the home, both physical and emotional are incredibly well done, but often very hard to bear for the reader. July's constant need to gain affection and a kind word from her father is heartbreaking; the times that she stays at home, in the hope that he may notice her, be kind to her, take her for an ice cream brought a tear to my eye.

July does go and find out more about her mother, and what she eventually uncovers is shocking, to her and to the reader. The consequences of July's investigations lead to more anger, more violence and will change the lives of all of the main characters forever. 

A novel full of heart, and packed with mystery. It is perfectly structured and July is a delightful character, created with care and passion. This very talented author has created a story that is engrossing and filled with hope, yet is peppered with sadness and grief. The sweltering heat of the summer only adds to the tension and atmosphere, and the addition of letters interwoven through the narrative adds another depth to the story. 

Highly recommended by me. 

Emily Koch is an award-winning journalist and author of two novels, If I Die Before I Wake and
Keep Him Close. 

Her books have been shortlisted for the Crime Writers' Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger award, won France's Prix du Bureau des Lecteurs Folio Policier, longlisted for the Authors' Club Best First Novel Award, and been selected as a Waterstones Thriller of the Month. 

Waterstones said her second novel 'cements Koch's place as one of the most exciting new crime writers of our day.' 

She lives in Bristol.

Twitter @EmilyKoch

Instagram @emilykochwriter

Friday 27 January 2023

Tiding by Siân Collins BLOG TOUR #Tiding @sian_collins @honno @RandomTTours #BookReview


December 1962. 

Eleanor O'Dowd, a middle-aged piano teacher, is found stabbed and bludgeoned to death. 

As the Great Freeze of 1963 takes hold, local vicar's daughter Daphne Morgan finds herself forced to navigate the confusing currents of the adult world, where she must face up to her own crimes and what she knows about the murder. 

A novel about memory and the power of the imagination...

Tiding by Siân Collins was published on 12 January 2023 by Honno. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour.

Tiding is an absolute dream of a novel, it ticked all of my boxes. Set in the 1960s, with a hint of murder mystery and a beguiling coming-of-age theme and beautifully written, it is a joy to read and discover these characters. 

It's 1963 in a small Welsh town and ten-year-old Daphne and her gang of friends have been up to mischief. Daphne is the youngest daughter of the local Vicar and knows, deep down, that taking an old skull from its resting place was a bad thing to do. Despite her efforts to return the skull, she is unable to and as more bad and strange things happen in the town, she and her friends become convinced that they've cursed the whole place. 

Meanwhile, Daphne's piano teacher; Eleanor O'Dowd - an incomer to the area, is found dead. Brutally stabbed. A high profile police officer arrives from London, to try to solve the crime, and it's not long before his questioning and suspicions begin to worry the local people. 

Siân Collins' writing is pitch perfect. Her descriptions of the Welsh landscape, the rain, the snow, the frozen ground and the isolation of the townsfolk are sublime. Whilst her characterisation is wonderful, it is the surrounding countryside, and the effects of nature that really capture the imagination.

This is a novel that contains so much, despite its relatively short length. The way that this small community comes together, protecting each other, yet not averse to a little gossip of their own. The freedom enjoyed by the children in the 1960s, combined with the harshness of one of the school teachers. The relationships between the Vicar's wife and the woman who cleans for her; the kindness of the Vicar and the love of two elderly men for a nephew who often feels tortured. 

There are some heart wrenching scenes, there are paragraphs of great joy, there are smiles to be had. It's a novel that I savoured so much and I look forward to reading more from this author. 

Siân Collins was born in Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire. 

An Edinburgh graduate, she taught Anglo Saxon and Medieval Literature in South Africa, worked as an assistant editor on The Lancet, and ran English and Drama departments in several well-known London secondary schools. 
She returned to Carmarthenshire to teach, write, and relish life in the beautiful Tywi Valley. 

Her debut novel, Unleaving, was published in 2019

Thursday 26 January 2023

Moon Yoga by Lisa Hood BLOG TOUR #MoonYoga #LisaHood @Octopus_Books @RandomTTours #Win #Competition #Prize #Giveaway


Whether we realise it or not, everyone and everything, from the rolling of the

tides to the balance of emotions in our bodies, is influenced by the moon. Moon Yoga is your guide to harnessing the moon's energy to lift and balance your life through mindful movement.

Yoga is both a physical practice and a spiritual one. Expert yoga instructor Lisa Hood provides insightful guidance on how to shape a spiritual practice that channels the moon's energy to stimulate vitality, creativity, productivity and relaxation. Whether you work through a whole flow, focus on one pose, or just work through a breathing exercise, aligning your body and your mind in a moment of spiritual connection with the moon can help you centre yourself, even if just for a few moments in the middle of a busy day.

- Learn about how each phase of the moon brings a different energy into your life.

- Move with the moon with yoga positions and flows that draw on the energy of each of the nine lunar phases.

- Adjust your practice seasonally with practices for each of the full moons of the year, such as the Wolf Moon, Flower Moon and Corn Moon.

- Find rituals to carry you through the cycles of the moon.

With uplifting mantras and rituals to provide grounding, strengthened intuition and mindfulness beyond your physical practice, Moon Yoga gives you all the tools you need to move in sync with the moon.

Moon Yoga: Poses, Flows and Rituals to Help You Move with the Moon by Lisa Hood was published on 5 January 2023 by Godsfield Press / Octopus Books.

As part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour today I have one copy to give away. Entry is simple, just fill out the competition widget in the blog post. UK entries only please.


One copy of Moon Yoga by Lisa Hood

Lisa Hood has been working with bodies for over 16 years. 

She trained and performed as a professional dancer and has been teaching yoga for 5 years.

For the last 5 years she has found herself being more and more drawn to other methods of mindfulness. 
Watching the moon, and understanding its energy and having the freedom to be bold enough to manifest with conviction, has given her the opportunity to make decisive exciting decisions in her life and she brings these gifts from Mama Earth into her teaching.


Wednesday 25 January 2023

Dirt by Sarah Sultoon BLOG TOUR #Dirt @SultoonSarah @OrendaBooks #NotUtopia #Thriller #BookReview


This is no utopia…

1996. Northern Israel. Lola leaves an unhappy home life in England for the fabled utopian life of a kibbutz, but this heavily guarded farming community on the Arab-Israeli border isn’t the idyll it seems, and tensions are festering.

Hundreds of miles away, in the Jerusalem offices of the International Tribune newspaper, all eyes are on Israel’s response to a spate of rocket attacks from Lebanon, until cub reporter Jonny Murphy gets a tip from a mysterious source that sends him straight into the danger zone.

When the body of an Arab worker is discovered in the dirt of the kibbutz chicken house, it triggers a series of events that puts Lola and the whole community in jeopardy, and Jonny begins to uncover a series of secrets that put everything at risk, as he begins to realise just how far some people will go to belong…

Dirt by Sarah Sultoon is published in paperback by Orenda Books on 19 January 2023. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy as part of this Blog Tour. 

I read a lot of crime fiction and what I particularly love about Sarah Sultoon's books is the journalistic setting. She draws on her own experiences of working in the news and creates realistic characters who see a different side to ongoing issues. They are not there to solve the crimes, they are there to report and inform, yet often, they will uncover things that lead to the capture of the villans.

In Dirt, the reader is taken to a kibbutz that sits on the border of Isreal and Lebanon, the year is 1996 and the war is unrelenting. The kibbutz community sit in the firing line of shells and bombs whilst trying to create a community that is peaceful and inclusive. Living off the land, all nationalities together, trying their best to live their very best life. 

Lola is English. Her life at home was unhappy and for her, the kibbutz is a place to heal, to mend herself and to start afresh. However, it's clear that the damage done to her is long lasting, and she often makes decisions that only harm her more. 

Our other main character is Johnny Murphy, a cub reporter at the International Tribune newspaper, based in Bethlehem. Johnny is desperate to get out and report on the war, but his boss is more interested in having him compile stats for the paper. Until the day that a source informs Johnny of something that could have massive implications on the conflict. Finally, he is out of the newsroom, and in the field, and it's as exciting, frightening and precarious as he expected. What he didn't expect though, was to find out so much about himself. 

This is a complex and cleverly woven political thriller that never lets up. Sultoon's ability to create the urgency that surrounds the kibbutz, and the wide, eclectic characters that make up the community is just immaculate. The reader never really knows who to trust, and Lola and Johnny are both certainly deceived along the way, many times. 

Dirt is a powerful, informing novel. The writing is sharp and precise and the characterisation is spot on. The inclusion of personal back stories for the lead characters add such depth, meaning that this is not just a political story, but one of humanity too. My favourite of her books so far. Highly recommended. 

Sarah Sultoon is a journalist and writer, whose work as an international news executive at CNN has 
taken her all over the world, from the seats of power in both Westminster and Washington to the
frontlines of Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Of Jewish and Indian descent, she has extensive experience in conflict zones, winning three Peabody awards for her work on the war in Syria, an Emmy for her contribution to the coverage of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, and a number of Royal Television Society gongs. 

When not reading or writing she can usually be found somewhere outside, either running, swimming or throwing a ball for her three children and dog while she imagines what might happen if… 

Her debut thriller The Source is currently in production with Lime Pictures, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger, won the Crime Fiction Lover Debut Thriller Award, was a Capital Crime Book Club pick and a number-one bestseller on Kindle.

Monday 23 January 2023

Other Women by Emma Flint #OtherWomen @flint_writes @picadorbooks @panmacmillan #BookReview


In a lonely cottage on a deserted stretch of shore, a moment of tragedy between lovers becomes a horrific murder. And two women who should never have met are connected for ever . . .

Six years after the end of the Great War, a nation is still in mourning. Thousands of husbands, fathers, sons and sweethearts were lost in Europe; millions more came back wounded and permanently damaged.

Beatrice Cade is an orphan, unmarried and childless - and given the dearth of men, likely to remain that way. London is full of women like her: not wives, not widows, not mothers. There is no name for these invisible women, and no place for their grief. Determined to carve out a richer and more fulfilling way to live as a single woman, Bea takes a room in a Bloomsbury ladies’ club and a job in the City. Then a fleeting encounter changes everything. Bea's emerging independence is destroyed when she falls in love for the first time.

Kate Ryan is an ordinary wife and mother who has managed to build an enviable life with her handsome husband and her daughter. To anyone looking in from the outside, they seem like a normal, happy family - until two policemen knock on her door one morning and threaten to destroy the facade Kate has created.

Other Women by Emma Flint is published on 23 February 2023 by Picador. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

Way back in October 2017 I read and reviewed Emma Flint's debut novel, Little Deaths. It is an astounding novel and has remained a favourite of mine ever since. I have been waiting patiently for her next novel, and finally, at last, here it is. And what an absolute treat this book is, I devoured it over one weekend. 

Based loosely on a real-life murder case from the 1920s, we are thrust into London six years after the end of the first world war. 

The story is narrated in the main by the two lead female characters; Bea and Kate. Two very different women who have similar jobs but very different personal lives, yet they become connected in a tragic and horrific way. A way that the reader sees slowly unfold as the novel progresses, yet neither Bea or Kate can imagine the horror that their lives will become. 

Bea is early thirties, unmarried and lives in a room in a Ladies Club in Bloomsbury. She works as a typist and is very aware that after the horrors of the war that have left a shortage of young men that she is facing life as a spinster. Well read and intelligent, she's a solitary figure, looked on with pity by the younger girls in her office, yet she has dreams and it becomes clear that she is passionate. When newly appointed salesman Tom arrives in the office for the first time, Bea feels something that she's never felt before, and Tom's knowing glint only encourages her. She falls in love. 

Kate is also in her thirties and also works in an office. However, she's a proud mother and wife. Married for thirteen years, with a young daughter, Kate is proud of her family and her house in a middle class area of London. 

And then Kate's life begins to crumble when the police knock on her door. 

Emma Flint has cleverly structured this story so that the reader is aware of the murder trial from the beginning. Both Bea and Kate's voices are strong and readers will empathise with both of them. As Kate slowly allows herself to realise what she's been trying to hide for years, and Bea's delight and happiness begins to fade, the story becomes quite harrowing and utterly devastating. 

The sense of place and the traditions of the era are done superbly. The treatment of women, especially unmarried women, and the almost film-star status given to a man purely because of his looks is wonderfully portrayed. Along with the tea rooms of London, the department stores and the mechanisms of the 1920s office environment, it's a joy to discover. 

A novel that raises so many questions, populated by colourful and beautifully constructed characters. It is utterly brilliant. Twisting and full of tension, this is most certainly going to appear on my best books of the year list. 

Emma Flint was born and grew up in Newcastle upon Tyne. She graduated from the University of St Andrews with an MA in English Language and Literature, and later completed a novel-writing course at the Faber Academy. She lives and works in London.

Since childhood, she has been drawn to true-crime stories, developing an encyclopaedic knowledge of real-life murder cases from the early 20th century. Her first novel, 
Little Deaths, was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, for the Desmond Elliott Prize, for the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger Award, and for The Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize.

Other Women is her second novel.

Friday 20 January 2023

She, You, I by Sally Keeble BLOG TOUR #SheYouI @Sally_Keeble @RandomTTours #BookExtract


When Skye Stanhope returns to her grandmother's childhood home, she’s searching for the roots of her life story. Why her tough-minded granny ran away to war. And why her brilliant mother died.

Behind the women’s successes, lies deep trauma. As Skye strips away the layers of secrecy, she confronts their inner torments: forces that bound the women together, but also tore them apart. It’s a journey from a poverty-stricken tenement block to an airbase in wartime Suffolk, through boom-time London to a coffee cart beside the sea.

Woven into the women’s lives is Tseng Hsiao Ling, a feisty, enigmatic seamstress whose fortunes become inextricably linked with theirs.

It's a sweeping tale of love, war and family secrets over three generations.

Through each woman’s story, “She, You, I” holds up a mirror to the complexity of family relationships: mothers, sisters, daughters, and the unexpected twists in Skye's search for closure.

She, You, I by Sally Keeble was published on 5 January 2023 by Eleanor Press. As part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour I am delighted to share a short extract from the book with you today. 

Extract from She, You, I by Sally Keeble

She was safe under the bed. Metal strips above, bare boards below, her father’s tin trunk behind—name, rank, number engraved on its lid. “All you need to know about a man,” her father said. A blanket hung over the edge of the bed. Maisie lay behind it and clenched her fists against her chest to keep in the fear.  

Tonight was bad.  



Shouts from the kitchen. Them fighting. She curled up and squeezed her eyes shut, covered her ears to make it stop. Anything to make it stop.  

“You’re my wife.” 

A scream from the kitchen ran through her body. And then another, and another, until the whole night became a scream. She tried to block it out, but she couldn’t. It was inside her ears, inside her head. She was the scream. And then it stopped. She took her hands from her ears and listened. Nothing. Silence.  

Maisie lifted the blanket and peered into the room. Gaslight from the street spilt over the tattered strip of net curtain nailed across the window. It glinted off the broken mirror above the empty fireplace, touched the two best chairs on their square of worn carpet, and lit up the locked front door out to the landing of the tenement.  

In the far corner was the door into the other room, the kitchen. A spindly table stood next to the door, with a piece of lacey cloth draped over it, “To hide its legs,” her mother said, and on it was  china figurine of a man in a kilt with a lamb around his neck and a dog at his feet. 

Beside the figurine was a photograph in a round frame of pleated cloth. Her mother, Flora, her hair swept up into a chignon and set with glittery jewels—only glass, she said—sat on a chair and behind her stood a soldier, uniformed, his face unmarked, handsome, with jet-black hair and a wide moustache that curled up at the ends like a smile. Her father, Simon. One arm was crocked behind him, the other stretched along the back of the chair, cradling her mother, and the greys of their clothes swirled around the whites of their faces and blended into the beige of the fabric that enclosed them.  

The night the glass in the frame got broken wasn’t as bad as this. 

Sally writes about the things she’s passionate about—the triumphs and tragedies of people’s everyday
lives. It’s what originally took her into journalism and then politics, and keeps her active there still.

Growing up in a diplomatic family, she spent much of her early years in the USA, Switzerland and Australia, returning home to the UK after working as a journalist in South Africa. She made the switch from journalism to politics, first as a South London council leader during the turbulent 1980s and then as one of the big intake of Labour women MPs who changed the face

of British politics in 1997. She became a minister in local government and then international development.

Itchy feet don’t stand still. After losing her seat, she set up an international development agency for the Anglican Communion, and travelled widely, especially in Africa and South Asia. She’s written nonfiction previously, especially on women’s issues and social policy, but “She, You, I” is her first novel. To learn about creative writing, she did courses with City Lit and Jericho Writers, and has had pieces of flash fiction shortlisted in competitions.

Some of the storylines in “She, You, I” draw from insights gained from her personal and political life. Sally splits her time between Northampton, where she was MP, and Bawdsey, a village in coastal Suffolk close to her family roots. She and her husband Andrew have two adult children.


Twitter @Sally_Keeble

Thursday 19 January 2023

Unlawful Killings by Her Honour Wendy Joseph QC #UnlawfulKillings @DoubledayUK @AliceLutyens #HerHonourWendyJosephQC


'Every day in the UK lives are suddenly, brutally, wickedly taken away. Victims are shot or stabbed. Less often they are strangled or suffocated or beaten to death. Rarely they are poisoned, pushed off high buildings, drowned or set alight. Then there are the many who are killed by dangerous drivers, or corporate gross negligence. There are a lot of ways you can kill someone. I know because I've seen most of them at close quarters.'

High-profile murder cases all too often grab our attention in dramatic media headlines - for every unlawful death tells a story. But, unlike most of us, a judge doesn't get to turn the page and move on. Nor does the defendant, or the family of the victim, nor the many other people who populate the court room.

And yet, each of us has a vested interest in what happens there. And while most people have only the sketchiest idea of what happens inside a Crown Court, any one of us could end up in the witness-box or even in the dock.

With breath-taking skill and deep compassion, the author describes how cases unfold and illustrates exactly what it's like to be a murder trial judge and a witness to human good and bad. Sometimes very bad.

The fracture lines that run through our society are becoming harder and harder to ignore. From a unique vantage point, the author warns that we do so at our peril.

Unlawful Killings : Life, Love and Murder: Trials at the Old Bailey by Her Honour Wendy Joseph QC was published in hardback on 9 June 2022 by Doubleday, the paperback is released on 2 March 2023. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

I met Her Honour Wendy Joseph at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Fiction Festival in Harrogate last year. I have never knowingly met a Judge before. I've always had that stereotypical view that a judge will be large, and loud and usually male. Her Honour is tiny and soft spoken and gentle and I was a little bit smitten by her! 

Her book is outstanding. It is one of the best non-fiction books that I've read for many years. She writes with a novelist's flair and ease about things that are real and often tragic and sad. Throughout the book, various different cases are discussed, all involving the death of at least one person. The way that she describes the court room, and the people within it is fascinating.

All too often, we hear screams from social media about the justice system, and how judges are out of touch with real life. Not so in this case, not at all. Her Honour writes with a compassion and understanding that did, I have to admit, surprise me. She may have to judge each case and what has happened, but she certainly does not judge the individuals before her. She makes a point of discussing them as the real human beings that they are, looking deeper than the defendant in the dock, and seeing the human being behind them. Learning more about their stories, and about what led them to appear before her. 

I learnt a great deal from this book, and from Her Honour. There were aspects of the law that surprised me, especially the explanation about the verdicts of guilty and not-guilty and how no one ever tried by a jury is found 'innocent', as there is no such verdict in England and Wales. A verdict of not-guilty only means that the prosecution has not made the jury sure of guilt. Even if a jury concludes the defendant is very probably guilty, they must return a verdict of 'not guilty' - because 'very probably' is not 'sure'. I have thought about this so many time since I read it. It's basic and straight forward, but I'm guessing that many people don't know this, or consider it. 

This is a fascinating, very well written book that grips like a crime fiction thriller. Highly recommended by me. 

Until March 2022 Her Honour Wendy Joseph QC was a judge at the Old Bailey, sitting on criminal
cases, trying mainly allegations of murder and other homicide. 

She read English and Law at Cambridge, was called to the Bar by Gray's Inn in 1975, became a QC in 1998 and sat as a full-time judge from 2007 to 2022. 

When she moved to the Old Bailey in 2012 she was the only woman amongst sixteen judges, and only the third woman ever to hold a permanent position there. 

She was also a Diversity and Community Relations Judge, working to promote understanding between the judiciary and many different sectors of our community, particularly those from less privileged and minority groups. 

She mentors young people, from a variety of backgrounds, who hope for a career in law and has a special interest in helping women.

Wednesday 18 January 2023

Fallen Butterfly by Anna Nicholas BLOG TOUR #FallenButterfly @ANicholasAuthor @burrobooks @RandomTTours #IsabelFlores #MallorcanMystery


With political tensions running high due to a controversial new motorway scheme, the chilling and ritualistic murder of a high-flying local government minister sends shockwaves through the island.

 When her home is ransacked and another brutal killing occurs, Isabel Flores Montserrat, unorthodox former detective, joins up once again with Mallorca's police chief, Tolo Cabot, in a perilous race for answers. 

Meanwhile, fear and distrust grow in Isabel's village as fake signs and cairn markers send disorientated hikers plunging off cliffs. 

Is this mountain mischief the work of environmentalists or is something far more sinister afoot.

Fallen Butterfly by Anna Nicholas was published on 15 December 2022 by Burro Books and is the third Isabel Flores Mallorcan Mystery book.

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

Extract from Fallen Butterfly by Anna Nicholas

Inside the claustrophobic, heavy-duty body bag, Sebi blinked hard, trying to get a sense of place despite the impenetrable darkness. There was a sharp jolt and he groaned in agony through his gag as his body was hurled with force into the air and allowed to drop heavily onto a cold, hard surface. His hands and feet were tightly bound and on all sides something soft and damp writhed about him. What was it, earth? Seconds later he was airborne again and being rocked gently from side to side. Who were his bearers? Surely they had to be fit guys to support his weight so effortlessly? Where were they taking him?

He shook with the intense chill as rain drummed on the surface of the bag and winced when what felt like light, fluttery wings kissed his cheeks and arms. Something scurried across his legs and nipped his skin, causing him to squirm in revulsion. What was it? It had to be a rodent, something he couldn’t bear to think about. Wedged inside his mobile prison and with a splitting headache, he shuddered when something heavy, wet and cold skimmed his naked body. Please God, not an eel: his childhood phobia resurfaced. He wriggled in the limited space, trying to shake it off. In relief, he closed his eyes when it landed to his right, forcing the bag to sag slightly on that side. Whatever it was, at least it didn’t appear to be alive, but the fluttery things were another story. They were everywhere, tickling his bare flesh, face, abdomen and legs. He detested insects of any kind.

The rain ceased and for a while, all Sebi could hear was the eerie call of a barn owl, the methodical croaking of frogs and the sound of feet trudging forward on either side of him. The sharp plastic chord that bound his limbs was beginning to chafe and burn his skin and his heart was pounding. Never before had he felt so helpless – such sheer, unadulterated terror.

ANNA NICHOLAS is of Celtic origin & has lived for 20 years in rural Mallorca. 

An inveterate traveller & experienced freelance journalist, she regularly participates in humanitarian aid expeditions overseas with British explorer Colonel John Blashford-Snell, CBE & is a Fellow of the RGS. 
She ran her own PR company in Mayfair, London, for 20 years, was a Guinness Book of Records adjudicator alongside the book’s founder, Norris McWhirter, CBE, and as a rookie press officer at charity Help the Aged, handled events for Princess Diana. 
She runs an international marathon annually for her favourite causes. 
Anna & friend, Alison, are currently scaling all of Mallorca’s 54 peaks over 1,000m. 
They hope to be the first women to have climbed them all by the end of 2023.