#BookReview – The Santa Killer by Ross Greenwood @greenwoodross Published by @BoldwoodBooks

“Often even a whole city suffers for a bad man who sins and contrives presumptuous deeds.” — Hesiod

With Christmas just around the corner, and in keeping with last month’s festive theme, my book choice this month centres around the approaching holiday season. However, as the title suggests, this isn’t a cosy Christmas tale but rather a criminally good one by local (to me) best-selling author Ross Greenwood.

Set in Peterborough, this is the sixth book in the DI John Barton detective series. It is also the last in the series but the first for me. However, although I am looking forward to reading the rest of the DI Barton collection (now added to my ever-growing TBR pile!), I’m pleased to say The Santa Killer works perfectly well as a standalone.

Narrated by two main characters, namely DI Barton and the unknown assailant, the story opens a couple of weeks before Christmas. A woman is violently assaulted outside her front door, followed several days later by another assault on another woman in a similar fashion. The common theme being, both women are attacked by someone dressed up as Santa. DI Barton – a large, likeable, family loving man who enjoys his food – and his team are determined to catch the dangerous perpetrator. Nonetheless, with no apparent motive for the attacks, and no real clues, DI Barton and his colleagues certainly have their work cut out.

With a rich cast of believable, flawed, and well-rounded characters, set amongst the diverse streets of Peterborough, The Santa Killer is a suspenseful mystery that sensitively explores themes like grief, loss and abandonment, highlighting the very real lack of help often needed for those members of society struggling with such issues. However, it is also a gritty crime thriller that will see you glancing over your shoulder with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing right up to the very end.

If you’d like to know more about the author, click here to read an interview I did with Ross in 2018.

#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 Baby Shower by @SELynesAuthour Published by @bookouture

“The truth will out in the end.” ––William Shakespeare

Released in March this year, The Baby Shower is a taut, multi-layered psychological thriller exploring the themes of friendship (good and bad), infidelity, gaslighting, infertility, broken families and, rather interestingly, male consent.   

Set in present day Wimbham, a fictional, once scruffy South London suburb, but now a gentrified smart London village, this is the story of thirty-somethings Jane and Frankie Reece who, although not particularly wealthy, each run their own successful businesses; Jane, as the owner of an independent coffee shop, and Frankie, who has his own plumbing company. Like most married couples, they’ve had their share of problems, but overall, they are happy. Jane’s friendship circle – Sophie, Hils and Kath – is small but close, and, coming from a broken home, one that Jane puts great value on. However, when Sophie introduces someone new to the group, Jane’s world is turned upside down. Lexie, with her glossy hair and flawless skin, who looks like she’s just stepped out of a magazine, doesn’t like Jane, which is obvious from the outset, but only to Jane, because Lexie is a master manipulator, which often sees Jane confused and questioning herself, wondering if she’s being oversensitive, or imagining things until, within a week of Lexie’s arrival, she has an uncomfortable sense of no longer belonging.  

Easy to read but brilliantly written with well-drawn, realistically flawed, believable characters, The Baby Shower is a suspenseful, pacy page turner that delves into the murky world of toxic friends and relationships. The author writes with great compassion and sensitivity about fertility and pregnancy, and I particularly enjoyed some of her witty social observations, which, despite being a psychological thriller, had me laughing out loud at times. I suspected the outcome quite early on, but it did nothing to spoil my enjoyment of this fabulous book.

If you’d like to know more about the author you can read my interview with her here.

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.

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

Book Review – Killing Time in Cambridge by Philip Cumberland

“AI is likely to be either the best or worst thing to happen to humanity”­­––Stephen Hawking

This month I interviewed local author (to me) Philip Cumberland (see here), who is also one of the coordinators and founding members of a local U3A Writing Group, Whittlesey Wordsmiths. As well as a contributing author of several anthologies written by the group, Philip has also recently published his debut novel, Killing Time in Cambridge, and this is my review.

The story opens with an axe wielding knight of old, dressed in full body armour, clanking down the corridor of a software company, who then hacks down the office door of the managing director, demanding to know who the ‘master’ is. The poor MD then has a heart attack, the knight disappears, and a short time later the building is besieged by medieval catapults. At this juncture, we are introduced to the main protagonist of the story, Detective Chief Inspector Cyril Lane, better known to everyone as Arnold, a self-effacing individual who likes his food and has a keen, pragmatic approach to his work. It’s Arnold’s job, and that of his colleagues, to figure out what is going on. However, as the story unravels and the plot thickens, it quickly becomes apparent that time travel plays a huge role in this quirky tale, which also includes several eccentric secondary characters including the quick-witted Sylvia, who provides some fine moments of comic relief, not to mention Marvin, the mind reading AI (Artificial Intelligence).

Set in the present day (with glimpses through time) in the beautiful historic city of Cambridge and the surrounding fens (including Ely, Hunstanton, Heacham, and Ramsey) Killing Time in Cambridge is a good old whodunnit (think Inspector Morse, Midsomer Murders, and Inspector George Gently) featuring a mix of light-hearted whimsey and dark humour and, rather unexpectedly, time travel and AI.

Killing Time in Cambridge is available at Parker’s newsagents, on Amazon, from Niche Comics and Books Huntingdon, Waterstones and whittleseywordsmiths.com.

Book Review – Mine by @kellyflorentia published by @bloodhoundbook

“I remained too much inside my head and ended up losing my mind” ––Edgar Allan Poe

This is Kelly Florentia’s fourth novel (read my fab interview with her here) and first psychological thriller. It is also a first for me by this author, and as a huge fan of the genre, I’m pleased to say it didn’t disappoint. Easy to read, intense, and full of twists and turns, ‘Mine’ will keep you gripped from start to finish.

The story opens with a prologue; the voice of the narrator, anonymous, says, “I know what you did and you have to pay. All I’ve got to do is figure out a way to get rid of you. For good”.

Chapter one then introduces us to Lucy Harper, the main protagonist; endearing, suspicious, and at times quite gullible. Reeling from her recent divorce to ex-husband, Andrew, who left her for her long-time school friend, Jasmine, Lucy relies a little too heavily on alcohol to get by, which often clouds her judgement and makes her recall unreliable. She wakes from an evening out unable to remember how she got home, and worse still, who the man in her bed is. He seems pleasant enough, and as he replays their boozy night back to her, Lucy slowly but surely remembers who he is; Teddy Fallon, the new gardener of her best friend Alison, who, with the help of her mother, Karen, set the pair up on a blind date. Teddy is keen to meet again, Lucy less so. However, when Lucy receives an anonymous text message, including a photo, accusing her of something she’s sure she didn’t do, her life begins to spiral, setting off a chain of events that sees her shunned by her friends and suspicious of everyone around her. The texts keep coming with the emphasis on blackmail, and the only person Lucy can confide in, the only person who seems to believe her, is mild-mannered Teddy, but even that’s questionable at times.

Full of believable, well rounded characters, ‘Mine’ is a gripping, fast-paced debut thriller that will see you turning the pages long into the night. I did figure out the final reveal, however, guessing the ending didn’t make reading this fab novel any less thrilling. On the contrary, it is full of so many intriguing revelations and surprises, I often found myself doubting my hunches as much as poor Lucy did.

Eva Jordan in conversation with writer @kellyflorentia published by @Bloodhoundbook

This month I’m chatting to the lovely, Kelly Florentia. Like me, Kelly was published by Urbane Books, but sadly, back in April this year, we both received the sad news that our publisher was closing. Luckily though, the news wasn’t all bad and both Kelly and I were fortunate enough to receive the offer of a new home for our books with Bloodhound Books.

Welcome Kelly. Can you tell everyone a bit about yourself?

Hi Eva, thank you so much for inviting me! I’m a north London girl, born and bred. I started off writing short fiction for women’s magazines, then went on to release a collection of short stories in my eBook To Tell a Tale or Two. My first novel ‘The Magic Touch’ was rereleased by Headline in 2019. The Audrey Fox series followed with No Way Back and Her Secret, originally published by Urbane Publications and republished this year by Bloodhound Books. All three novels are romantic suspense. My latest novel ‘Mine’ is a psychological thriller, also published by Bloodhound Books in February. I’m now working on my fifth psychological thriller, so it’s all go!

Have you always wanted to be a writer, and if so, what writers have inspired you?

I’ve always enjoyed writing but had a few other jobs before I embarked on my writing journey, which included working in travel and in a family restaurant. Reading has always been a passion. I’d often buy the weekly magazines just to read the short stories at the back. Then one day I thought, why don’t I have a go? I took a short story course and the rest, as they say, is history. I feel very fortunate to be a published author, there’s a lot of great talent out there. As far as inspiration goes, I just love reading contemporary novels in most genres, so can’t name just one or two authors who’ve inspired me.

Your most recent novel, Mine, is a psychological thriller. However, your previous books were, I believe, contemporary and romantic fiction. Why the change in genre, and do you prefer writing one above the other?

Yes, that’s true, although Her Secret has a thriller-esque edge and has been described by readers as a psychological thriller. I can only say that as a writer I always like to challenge and push myself, hence the change of genre. I can’t say I enjoy writing one over the other as they’re both quite different yet equally enjoyable. I’m not sure where my writing journey will take me in the future – maybe another thriller, or perhaps a comedy. I do quite fancy stepping back into Audrey Fox’s Louboutins and making it a trilogy.

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

Writing a novel isn’t easy, so you’ll need as much help as you can get. I’d advise anyone thinking of becoming a writer to take a course in creative writing, even a short one. If that’s not an option then buy a few books on novel writing. Join a writing group, there are lots online, so that you can share your writing journey and also get feedback on anything you write. Read, read, read!  Grab a few books in the genre you’d like to write in and glean as much as you can from them. Plan your book, break it down into chapters and get that first draft down. You can always change it as you go along. I do! And finally, work hard, persevere and never give up. Dreams do come true. 

If you’d like to know more about Kelly, you can find her on the links below.

Website: www.kellyflorentia.com

Twitter – @kellyflorentia

Instagram – @kellyflorentia

Amazon page – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kelly-Florentia/e/B004O1CP7W%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share