#Bookreview The Perfect Liar by @BevHarvey_ published by @bookouture

“The trust of the innocent is the liar’s most useful tool.”–Stephen King.

This book has been on my ever-growing TBR pile for some time, and my only regret after reading it is, I wish I’d read it sooner. The Perfect Liar is a taught thriller with well-crafted characters set against the beautiful backdrop of Tuscany.

Three friends, Susanne, who is getting over a divorce, Dale, who is dealing with a relationship break-up, and Evie, who is still grieving the loss of her recently deceased mother, decide to take a holiday together in Italy. Susanne’s neighbour owns a villa in San Gimignano – a small walled medieval hill town in the province of Siena – and agrees to let the three friends stay there during the summer, for free, on the proviso they keep an eye on her godson, Harry. Harry, a twenty-four-year-old Cambridge graduate who has been travelling around Europe for a while, is already at the villa when the three friends arrive. Well-spoken and well-mannered, Harry seems very charming. He also, much to her surprise, and that of her friends, takes a shine to Susanne, which, despite their large age gap, sees them embark on a steamy affair together. However, all is not as it seems at the picture-perfect Villa Giardino. Especially when it comes to Harry.

The Perfect Liar is a perfectly paced, multi-layered thriller, full of intrigue and deceit, with both believable and well-rounded characters. The writing is sublime – I could feel the sun, see the architecture, and taste the food. If you’ve never been lucky enough to holiday in Tuscany, you’ll probably want to after reading this; a page-turner that keeps you on the edge of your seat, immersed in both the plot and the story’s beautiful surroundings, culminating in not one, but two twists.

To keep up with Beverley you can find her at the following places:

Twitter @BevHarvey_

Website www.beverleyharvey.co.uk

#Bookreview – The Orphan of Ironbridge by @rebeccamascull #MollieWalton Published by @ZaffreBooks

“In family life, love is the oil that eases friction, the cement that binds closer together, and the music that brings harmony.” ––Friedrich Nietzsche

I haven’t read much historical fiction for a while, but after a recent trip to Ironbridge, which, if you’ve never been, is well worth a visit, this seemed very apt. Addictive and heart-warming, it didn’t disappoint.

Set in the nineteenth century in the real town of Ironbridge, The Orphan of Ironbridge was inspired by the author’s trip to the world’s first iron bridge, which was erected over the River Severn in Telford in 1779. The main protagonist, Hettie Jones, is the spirited and kind-hearted adoptive daughter of the hard-working Malone family. Loving and proud, the Malone’s raised Hettie after her mother died and her father was deported. They love Hettie as one of their own, and she loves them, especially Evan, the second eldest son. Working as a pit bank girl, Hettie’s job is physical hard graft. However, Hettie’s fortunes change when she is summoned to meet with Queenie, head of the wealthy King family, inviting her to become her ladies’ maid. Hettie accepts the offer, which shocks the Malone’s and causes a rift between her and her adoptive family. This, in part, is because of ongoing animosity between the two families, some of which is attributed to the death of the eldest Malone son, Owen, who died in a fire at the King’s family home. However, Hettie’s succession leads to very intriguing and unforeseen circumstances.

Unaware at the time of reading it, this is the third and final instalment in The Ironbridge Saga. However, it works perfectly well as a standalone and took nothing away from my enjoyment of this beautifully written story. Well researched, evocative, and hugely compelling The Orphan of Ironbridge is a gritty period drama, brimming with history and family angst, and above all else, filled with love and hope.

If you’d like to know more about the author, click on the following links.

https://molliewalton.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/RebeccaMascull

https://www.facebook.com/MollieWaltonbooks

https://www.instagram.com/beccamascull/

https://www.tiktok.com/@beccamascull

Twitter: @rebeccamascull

Eva Jordan in conversation with author @LauraPAuthor #Author #writer #writerslife

Earlier this month I reviewed the debut novel, Missing Pieces, written by the lovely Laura Pearson; a heartbreakingly haunting story about motherhood, loss, love, and hope.

Here, Laura chats to me about writing, and her experience as a cancer survivor.

Hi Laura, welcome, and thanks for chatting to me. Can you please tell everyone a bit about yourself?

Hello, and thanks for asking me to chat! I’m the author of three novels, I live in Leicestershire with my husband and our son and daughter, and I can mostly be found (when not writing or herding my kids) reading and eating chocolate. Being a writer is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do.

Having previously worked as a copywriter and editor for QVC, Expedia, and The Ministry of Justice, to name a few, what skills did you develop that have helped you as novelist?

I think I learned to just write as well as I could rather than waiting for inspiration. When you have to write web copy and features in an office for a day job, you can’t have an off day or get blocked. You just must write. So that’s what I do now I’m at home writing novels. Some days the words come easy, some days they don’t. But I write them anyway. There are always (many, many) edits. Also, to write tight.

You’ve been very open and public about your experience of breast cancer, which has undoubtedly helped others. Have you ever considered writing a memoir about your journey?

Yes, I’ve thought about it a lot and I’m glad I blogged throughout the whole experience as I have a record of everything. It’s definitely something I’d like to do one day, but one thing that holds me back is that my sister had a devastating health crisis at the same time and it’s hard to write about one without the other, and hard to know how much of it is my story to tell, if that makes sense.

And finally, my favourite question, what advice would you offer anyone thinking of becoming a writer?

If you’re in it for the fame and fortune, I’d probably advise a rethink! But if you love telling stories, getting under people’s skin, and working out what motivates them, and are happy to spend a lot of time working on your own, go for it. There’s a lot of waiting involved, and a lot of rejection, so you need to have a pretty thick skin. But there’s absolutely nothing like holding your book in your hands for the first time. Also, finding a writing tribe who’ll cheer you on and pick you up is invaluable. Writers are the loveliest, most supportive crew you could imagine.

If you’d like to know more about Laura’s writing and her breast cancer journey, you’ll find her blog at https://www.laurapearsonauthor.com/bcab

#Bookreview – Missing Pieces by @LauraPAuthor Published by @AgoraBooksLDN

“How fragile our lives are anyway. How quickly things can change.” –Nancy E. Turner

Missing Pieces is the beautifully crafted debut novel by Laura Pearson. It is also the first book I’ve read by this author and although heart-wrenchingly sad, I’m pleased to say it is also a story about love, hope and healing.

Written in the third person, this is a family-based drama that explores the ripple effect that one devastating moment can bring to a family. Composed of two parts, each chapter title is a date, with a sub-heading stating the number of ‘days after’. The opening chapter, ‘5th August 1985’, ‘21 Days After’, is incredibly sad. “The coffin was too small. Too small to contain what it did…” and it quickly becomes apparent that Linda and Tom Sadler, who have befallen some sort of tragedy, are burying their three-year-old daughter, Phoebe. Phoebe’s older sister, Esme, is also present, but the circumstances concerning the family’s misfortune are not revealed until much later in the story. What is clear, though, is how the grief of each character differs, but nonetheless sees them all struggling to communicate honestly with one another, which undoubtedly affects all their lives, both as individuals and collectively as a family.

Part Two introduces us to Bea, Esme, and Phoebe’s younger sister. It is 2011 ‘9610 Days After’ and Bea, estranged from her family, is living in London. However, a life-changing decision sees her moving back to the family home. But it’s not a decision she makes lightly, not after a childhood where loneliness was more acute when she was with her family than when she wasn’t.

Written with great sympathy and empathy, Missing Pieces is a story about motherhood, family, and the heart-breaking grief that follows the loss of a young child. However, it is also a redemptive tale that reminds us how healing forgiveness is, and how powerful love is.

Writing a book? My advice? Let’s Ask The Experts

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”––George Orwell

Over the last few years, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing some amazing authors. Each one different, but all equally fascinating. However, I always end my interviews with the same question, namely, what’s your advice to anyone thinking of writing a book or taking up writing? So, this month, I thought I’d take some of those fabulous responses and put them here, in one helpful, and hopefully inspiring article.

The only advice that is guaranteed to be correct is to pick up your pen and begin. Then you are a writer, whatever anyone says. ––Ross Greenwood

It’s a real cliché but read. Read in your genre and out of it and read thoughtfully… be persistent; be diligent; keep going. And good luck! ––Sarah Vaughan

Write every day. Set yourself a time and don’t agree to anything else at that time. Write before you do your chores because they will always get done while your writing will not. ––Susie Lynes

That’s simple – If you want to be a writer, write. If you put it off until you ‘have more time’ you’ll never put pen to paper. Stop procrastinating and make a start. You won’t regret it! ––Heidi Swain

Just write. If you need support, encouragement, and help, join a writing group, Whittlesey Wordsmiths have helped me enormously. ––Phillip Cumberland

The only advice that means anything is very simple; to write, you must write. I wasn’t a good writer when I began; in fact, I was terrible. But I did it, every day; I put down words and finished pieces that would never be read. ––Darren O’ Sullivan

Oh, as a writer prepare for rejections and 1star reviews that tell you how awful your book is… take it as valuable critique, then go and drink gin… lots of it! And best of all, welcome the lovely fellow writers and book bloggers you will meet who are so supportive and friendly. ––Gina Kirkham

Read as many books in the genre you want to write about as you can. If you don’t have a thick skin… develop one! You need to be able to accept constructive criticism, rejections as well as negative reviews. And finally, persevere! ––Noelle Holten

Writing a novel isn’t easy. I’d advise anyone thinking of becoming a writer to take a course in creative writing. And finally, work hard, persevere, and never give up. Dreams do come true. ––Kelly Florentia

The main thing is, never give up. You WILL experience many rejections and setbacks. The journey is likely to be long. But every single writer who has a book in a shop didn’t give up. ––Louise Beech

My first experience of writing was very lonely and isolating. I found the balance for this by setting up a creative writing group. Through them, I have met like-minded people and received support and encouragement. ––Wendy Fletcher

Writing is just like anything else we do – the more you do it, the better you become. Never give up. ––David Videcette

Book Review – Reputation By @SVaughanAuthor Published by @simonschusterUK

“It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a minute.” –Will Rogers

Well, what can I say! This, the fifth novel and third thriller by Sarah Vaughan, which was released on Thursday 3rd March, is, I’m pleased to say, another superb pulse-racing legal drama. Like the author’s first thriller, Anatomy Of A Scandal; a Sunday Times top five bestseller and soon to be released major Netflix series (which I loved), Reputation takes us back to the to the courtroom and the Houses of Parliament. Suffice to say, my expectations were high, and I’m delighted to say I wasn’t disappointed. 

Set-in present-day London and Portsmouth, this is the story of Emma Webster; a high-profile Labour MP who wants to make a difference. The honourable member for Portsmouth South––also a devoted single mother to her teenage daughter, Flora––helps launch a campaign to protect women from the effects of online bullying after it comes to light that one of her constituents, a young woman who was the victim of revenge porn, has taken her own life. Ironically though, her involvement in the campaign only adds to her own online abuse, including veiled and open threats of rape and attack which, although deeply disturbing, she handles like a true professional. “Keyboard warriors, they called themselves. Such a pathetic term. Laughing at them, even if the laughter was hollow, helped a little – though it did nothing to unpick the knot in my stomach”. Inwardly, however, it is obvious Emma is struggling, despite outwardly putting on a brave face suggesting otherwise. At least, that is, until her teenage daughter’s reputation is threatened, which, unfortunately, fuelled by fear, leads to disastrous consequences culminating in accusations of murder.

Reputation is a gripping read with wonderfully written prose that is succinctly, yet beautifully descriptive. A clever, timely, courtroom drama that helps shine a light on violence and misogamy towards women with an important message about the treatment of women in the public eye.

Book Review – Senbazuru: Small Steps To Hope, Healing And Happiness by Michael James Wong Published by @MichaelJBooks

“Mindfulness is the art of living in the moment, the willingness to slow down and become completely present, on purpose, without judgement, as each moment unfolds.” ––Michael James Wong

If you’re looking for gift ideas for Valentine’s Day, you won’t go far wrong with this. In fact, as we continue to navigate these still very uncertain times, this practical but beautifully illustrated book would make a great addition to anyone’s bookshelf. Written by Michael James Wong: speaker, author, yoga, and meditation teacher, Senbazuru: Small Steps to Hope, Healing and Happiness is best described as a contemplative guide to mindful living. However, as well as a collection of short stories and traditional proverbs accompanied by beautiful hand-painted illustrations, this wonderful compendium also teaches the reader, in twelve straightforward steps, the practice of orizuru.

Orizuru is the art of folding Japanese paper cranes, a bird that symbolises peace, hope, and healing, which, according to Japanese tradition, if you were to fold a thousand of in a single year, would grant you a single wish that could bring good fortune, eternal luck, long life, and happiness. The tradition of folding one thousand paper cranes is called Senbazuru (“sen” meaning “one thousand” and “orizuru” meaning “paper crane”), hence the book title. It’s not easy either. Folding paper requires patience and intention and shouldn’t be rushed, which is, of course, the intention of this book. “In our haste for complexity, we can easily be tempted to move too fast and look beyond the present moment,” says Wong. 

At a little over 250 pages long, this beautiful hardback, including proverbs, anecdotes, and gentle words of wisdom, interspersed with enchanting drawings, can be read sequentially or randomly. And, although it is a book that teaches the reader an ancient art form, at its heart the message is clear, namely slow down and be present… right here, right now.

If you’d like to know more about the author, check out his website or follow him on Instagram:

Website: https://www.michaeljameswong.com/

Instagram: @michaeljameswong

Eva Jordan in conversation with writer and investigator @DavidVidecette

Recently on my blog I reviewed Finding Suzy, which delves into the real-life crime and investigation case of 25 year old Suzy Lamplugh, an estate agent who went missing in July 1986 and has never been seen since. Written by David Videcette, it is a thought provoking, compelling read and you can read my thoughts about it here.

Today, David is my guest. Welcome David, thanks for chatting to me today. Can you please tell everyone a bit about yourself?

I’m an investigator, security consultant and writer. My background is in criminal investigation, having spent decades in the police, the majority fighting organised-crime and terrorism as a Scotland Yard detective.

It’s clear the Suzy Lamplugh case meant a lot to you as does the need to resolve it. When you’ve experienced the worst sides of human nature, is it hard to see the good in people?

We’ve probably all heard the phrase ‘humans are inherently good’? Yet many philosophers have struggled to understand why we humans inflict the most unspeakable acts on each other.

I believe most people are born ‘good’. If someone collapses in front of your eyes in your local high street, it’s a natural reaction to rush to their aid. But what of those who use the occasion for criminal gain? What motivates those people who see it as an opportunity to steal a bag from someone in obvious distress?  And what of those who look the other way?

It’s these questions that have always fascinated me in any crime I’ve investigated, including the case of missing estate agent, Suzy Lamplugh.

Most people can live together in large scale societies, even when they strongly disagree. But whereas bees and ants may instinctively cooperate and work together for the common good, humans are often self-interested. First and foremost we will look out for our own safety. After that come motivations to maintain reputation, social standing, and material wealth. Underpinning all of that will be animalistic desires and drives, placing us in direct conflict with others.

I can’t counteract human nature. Untangling people’s real motivations in any interaction is what makes investigation so fascinating and cold cases so challenging to solve.

As a writer, how does writing fiction compare to writing to non-fiction?

Although all of my books are rooted in real cases, I am bound by the Official Secrets Act, which barred me from writing factual books about my time in the police. Instead, I began by writing crime fiction as a cathartic exercise. My first two books are thrillers: The Theseus Paradox focuses on the London 7/7 bombings and The Detriment unravels the Glasgow Airport attacks.

I write using my memories of experiences, so you get the pure raw emotion and intensity on the page. All of my books put the reader front and centre. You experience the action in real time, as I did.

My third book, Finding Suzy, documents my real-time hunt for answers in a true crime case I’ve worked on since returning to civilian life. I’ve spent five years reinvestigating the mysterious disappearance of missing estate agent Suzy Lamplugh. Because people don’t just disappear…

And finally, the question I love to ask all writers! For anyone thinking of becoming a writer, what advice would you offer?

Writing is just like anything else we do – the more you do it, the better you become. Never give up.

If you’d like to know more about David, you can find him at the links below:

The DI Jake Flannagan crime thrillers based on real events (in order):

The Theseus Paradox (ebook): www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B015UDFYQ6

The Theseus Paradox (paperback): www.amazon.co.uk/dp/099342631X

The Detriment (ebook): www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07227XS4G

The Detriment (paperback): www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0993426336

True crime investigation/non-fiction:

Finding Suzy (hardback): www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0993426387

Finding Suzy (paperback): www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0993426379

Finding Suzy (ebook): www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0999M1FJ4

Amazon author page UK: www.amazon.co.uk/David-Videcette/e/B015UNLEN8

Website: www.davidvidecette.com

Book Review – Finding Suzy by @DavidVidecette Published by Videcette Limited

“Absence from whom we love is worse than death, and frustrates hope severer than despair.” ―William Cowper

My first book review for the New Year is Finding Suzy by writer, investigator, and former Scotland Yard detective, David Videcette. As well as having a wealth of investigative experience behind him, including several high-profile cases like the July 2005 London bombings, David is also the author of the fictional DI Jake Flannagan crime thriller series. However, it is this, the author’s own private investigation into the real-life missing person case of estate agent Suzy Lamplugh, that really piqued my interest.

Suzy Lamplugh went missing in July 1986 and has never been seen since. Her mother, Diana Lamplugh, said, “There has not been a single trace of her. Nothing. Just as though she had been erased by a rubber”. It was (and still is) a case that drew a lot of media attention, but the generally accepted narrative is that Suzy left the Fulham office she worked at, showing a house by appointment to a “Mr Kipper” who it’s then believed, abducted, and killed her. However, her body has never been found and 16 years later, following a second investigation, John Cannan, jailed for abducting, and killing Shirley Banks, is believed to be the illusive “Mr Kipper”. However, as David’s thorough investigation shows, any links made to Cannan and this case are dubious to say the least. So, the author did what any good investigator would and he began the investigation again, from scratch.

Easy to read, thought provoking and compelling, Finding Suzy is a gripping read that shines a light on how missed opportunities, politics, and even the grief of Suzy’s family have perhaps hindered the discovery of her whereabouts. David makes a good argument about where she might be and surely, if only to give her family some closure, the police owe it to them to follow this up.

To get your copy of Finding Suzy click here.

Book Review – Coming Home by @pbadixon published by @bloodhoundbook

“The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.”–George Santayana

I absolutely adored this book. Set in the present day with flashbacks to the past, Coming Home is a beautifully written festive family drama full of secrets and lies, intrigue and deceit, but above all else, love and hope. The story opens on Christmas Eve 1969, where we meet six-year-old Carmen Appleton.

“A child is seated at the kitchen table, that’s me. My mother, Sylvia, with her blonde beehive and candy-pink lipstick is opposite. She’s beautiful… A sound distracts me… Dad. He’s home… my wonderful most perfect dad… All I have to do is close my eyes and go to sleep and it will be Christmas morning, the Christmas it should have been before the knock on the door that ruin[ed] everything.”

Fast-forward to the present day, 2021, and we meet Carmen as she is now, a mother, grandmother, and successful businesswoman and owner of Appleton Farm. Christmas is always a bittersweet time for Carmen, not least because of that fateful night during her childhood, but she loves her family and has always done her best to make it a special time. This year, though, everyone is coming home for Christmas and Carmen is determined to make it the best one ever, plus, she has an announcement to make, a secret to share. However, little does Carmen know, her three adult daughters, Rosina, Violetta, and Leonora, are all harbouring their own secrets. Secrets that are weighing them down but are too afraid to share for fear of ruining their beloved mother’s merry plans.

The characters of this festive tale are well-rounded, wonderfully human individuals with Granny Sylvia, in particular, providing some delightful moments of comic relief. Written with humour, pathos, and depth, Coming Home has all the ‘feels’ of a typical Christmas story with all the ‘chills’ of a compelling family drama.

A well deserved 5 stars from me!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

To grab your copy of this wonderful festive read click here