Paparazzi by Jo Fenton

I think this is the fourth novel by Jo Fenton that I have read and I have enjoyed each one, but in Paparazzi, this author really comes into her own. It is an exceptional novel that tells a complex story dealing with murder, fame, stalking and PTSD.

The Blurb

It’s thirty years since Becky White joined the police. Now, six months after leaving the force, she is suffering from PTSD, when an old friend turns up with a tempting offer. 

Following the creation of The White Knight Detective Agency, their first client is a press photographer – a member of the Paparazzi – a young woman with a mysterious and troublesome stalker.

But as the case develops, Becky and Joanna find themselves embroiled in murder. When they are unable to prevent further deaths, their investigation takes them down an unexpected path.

But can they trust their instinct? And will they identify the killer in time to save a child’s life?

Paparazzi, the second instalment in the bestselling Becky White Thriller series. takes you on a journey into the deceptive world of superstars – and those who follow them! 

The Review

I had read the first in the author’s Becky White series but, although this was the second book, and I enjoyed the first, Paparazzi works perfectly well as a stand-alone novel. The story is set in and around Manchester, England.

It follows the protagonist Becky White, who has recently left the police force, as she sets up a detective agency with an old university friend, Joanna, they name the business The White Knight Agency. Their first client is a female photographer who is terrified of an unknown stalker. Not only does she have demons to overcome, but so do Becky and Joanna.

The story follows the establishment of the agency and the enthusiasm of its founders to solve their client’s problem. However, before they can do that, they are caught up in the murder of family members of a local rock star and it is clear that Joanna’s past is linked to that of Becky’s husband. Unresolved issues must be dealt with to secure the future of Becky’s own family and Becky must find a way to come to terms with her fears.

This is a beautifully crafted novel that held my interest throughout. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am sure that the issues raised in the book would make for most interesting discussions in a book group. I heartily recommend Paparazzi and look forward to the next book in the series.

The Author

Jo Fenton grew up in Hertfordshire, UK. She devoured books from an early age, particularly enjoying adventure books, school stories and fantasy. She wanted to be a scientist from aged six after being given a wonderful book titled “Science Can Be Fun”. At eleven, she discovered Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer, and now has an eclectic and much loved book collection cluttering her home office.

Jo combines an exciting career in Clinical Research with an equally exciting but very different career as a writer of psychological thrillers.

When not working, she runs (very slowly), and chats to lots of people. She lives in Manchester with her husband, two sons, a Corgi and a tankful of tropical fish. She is an active and enthusiastic member of two writing groups and a reading group.

Hunter’s Chase in Audiobook

I am extremely excited because the first novel in my series, The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries is now available as an audiobook. It is read by an Edinburgh man, Sean Pia. He went to Leith Academy, a state school in Edinburgh, which boasts around 900 pupils and is the school that my main character, Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson attended.

Sean is a teacher from Edinburgh who now lives and works in the Southside of Glasgow. In his spare time he likes to read fantasy novels. Hunter’s Chase is his first completed audiobook but he is now working on Hunter’s Revenge, the second book in the series which will be added to his repertoire in the near future.

Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson knows there is a new supply of cocaine flooding his city, and he needs to find the source, but his attention is transferred to murder when a corpse is discovered in the grounds of a golf course.

Shortly after the post-mortem, Hunter witnesses a second murder, but that is not the end of the slaughter. With a young woman’s life also hanging in the balance, the last thing Hunter needs is a new man on his team: Detective Constable Tim Myerscough, the son of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable Sir Peter Myerscough.

Hunter’s perseverance and patience are put to the test time after time in this first novel in The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries series.

Hunter by name – Hunter by nature: DI Hunter Wilson will not rest until Edinburgh is safe.

The books in The Edinburgh Crime Mystery series are also free to read on Kindle Unlimited.

Val Penny

Style and the Solitary by Miriam Drori

This is the first murder mystery by Miriam Drori that I have read. It is an interesting departure from he previous books and, as this is my preferred genre, I was excited to read it.

The Blurb

An unexpected murder. A suspect with a reason. The power of unwavering belief.

A murder has been committed in an office in Jerusalem. That’s for sure. The rest is not as clear-cut as it might seem.

Asaf languishes in his cell, unable to tell his story even to himself. How can he tell it to someone who elicits such fear within him?

His colleague, Nathalie, has studied Beauty and the Beast. She understands its moral. Maybe that’s why she’s the only one who believes in Asaf, the suspect. But she’s new in the company – and in the country. Would anyone take her opinion seriously?

The Review

Style and the Solitary is a gripping tale of murder, belief and self-belief, or rather a lack of self belief. The story is set in the magical city of Jerusalem and tells of Asaf, one member of an office work-force, who has decided to live his life differently. He certainly does that, when he arrives to work early, as usual and finds a corpse with a knife sticking into it. Needless to say, his already fragile mental state is horribly affected by this. All his social anxiety comes to the fore and the only person who believes in him is Nathalie, a new colleague who is also new to Israel.

The way Asaf’s mental health issues are drawn and discussed by this author make the novel unique and absolutely fascinating. I was enthralled by the murder mystery, but even more so by the development of the main character.

The heroine, Nathalie, and her housemates form and amusing and vibrant trio determined to prove Asaf’s innocence and discover the true perpetrator. While they search for the murderer the reader is treated to a tour of Jerusalem.

All in all, with a gripping plot, interesting characters and a beautiful setting, Style and the Solitary is an excellent new novel by Miriam Drori which would make for great discussions in a book group and I highly recommend it.

The Author

Miriam Drori was born and brought up in London and now lives with her husband and one of three grown up children in Jerusalem.

With a degree in Maths and following careers in computer programming and technical writing, Miriam has been writing novels and short stories since 2004. After some success with short stories, Miriam turned her hand to longer fictional works, publishing NEITHER HERE NOR THERE and THE WOMEN FRIENDS: SELINA, co-written with Emma Rose Millar.

Social anxiety features in Miriam’s latest publications. SOCIAL ANXIETY REVEALED is a non-fiction guide that explores this common but little-known disorder from multiple points of view. The book has been highly recommended by ‘sufferers’ as well as professionals in this field. CULTIVATING A FUJI is the story of a fictional character who battles against social anxiety before learning to make friends with it. STYLE AND THE SOLITARY, a crime novel, asks an important question: what happens when a suspect can’t stick up for himself?

When not writing, Miriam enjoys reading, hiking, dancing and travelling.

Find Miriam Drori here:

Website/blog: miriamdrori.com
Facebook: miriamdroriauthor
Twitter: @MiriamDrori
Goodreads: miriam_drori
Instagram: @miriam.drori
Wattpad: miriamdrori

Dead Man’s Prayer by Jackie Baldwin

I was recently on a panel during a crime festival with Jackie Baldwin. She is a bestselling Scottish crime writer and I was thrilled to have an opportunity to discuss Dead Man’s Prayer with her. I have always found her main character, Frank Farrell a most interesting one and it was interesting to learn more about him from the author herself.

The Blurb

A dark and gripping crime debut, the first in an exciting new series. Eighteen years ago, DI Frank Farrell turned his back on the church. But when an ex-priest is murdered in his hometown, he has no choice but to delve into his past. Perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride, James Oswald and Val McDermid.

The Review

The author creates a most interesting main character in Frank Farrell: he was formerly a priest but, having left the priesthood has become a police detective. This in itself marks Baldwin’s series out from other police procedurals in the field.

Dead Man’s Prayer takes the reader through the investigation of a priest’s murder and combines this with the kidnapping of twin boys. Considering the chequered past of the main character the author sets herself a challenge and a gripping story for her readers.

Personally, I especially like Farrell as a main character. He stands out as unique amongst the many detectives that are written about in crime fiction. Farrell’s priesthood background and faith adds another dimension to this novel. I also enjoyed Mhaire and thought she made the perfect foil for Farrell.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and plan to read the rest of the series. I highly recommend Dead Man’s Prayer.

The Author

Jackie Baldwin was born in Dumfries. She studied law at Edinburgh University returning to Dumfries to practice criminal and family law for the next twenty years. During that time she married and had two children and a variety of pets. She later retrained as a hypnotherapist. Her DI Frank Farrell series is set in Dumfries and Galloway in SW Scotland. She has recently moved closer to Edinburgh.

Val Penny

The Chair by G.B. Williams

I recently appeared on a literary panel at a crime festival with Gail Williams and, although I had not previously read any of her books, I thought it important to know about her book that we would be discussing and I am really pleased I did. The Chair is a gripping stand alone novel.

The Blurb

On a snowbound Cader Idris, death comes stalking.

Cobb retreated to Cader Idris for a solitary life of peace and quiet, and to escape his dangerous past. Though that illusion starts to crumble after he and Branwen Jones, the local vet, find a mysterious RTA victim and shelter him in Cobb’s home.

When elements of London’s criminal underbelly reach Wales, and their presence throws the close-knit community into stark relief, the chance to settle old scores could prove too tempting.

With no choice but to try and hide the RTA victim from people who want to kill him, Cobb’s not sure he’s ready to rejoin the world he’s running from, when that means putting another woman in the firing line. Meanwhile, Branwen’s not sure she can face the revelation of her darkest secret.

But as they face the final showdown, a race over the snowed-in mountain, will anyone survive unscathed?

The Review

This tense and gripping thriller is set in North Wales. I had just finished reading Torn by Karen Moore set in Wales and Sicily and prior to this, I do not think I had ever read a book set in Wales. I am delighted that I have rectified this. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and it grabbed my interest right from the beginning. Both the plot and characters are credible and the story is exciting.

I became invested in the main characters early in the story because they were so well drawn and had interesting back stories. The backdrop of the Welsh mountain, Cader Idris, and the harshness of the way of life in the little village where the story was set added interest for me. There was an increasing feeling of jeopardy that developed as the story progressed. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more novels by G.B. Williams.

The Author

I like to walk on the darker side, thankfully there are people and publishers willing to walk there with me.

Once upon a time I was going to walk around Europe. Then I met a guy. I kept the guy, kissed the travel goodbye.

Now I live and work and write in old South Wales, and frequently get mistaken for Clair from New Zealand – no idea why the Clair, but I grew up in Kent, and New Zealand is sort of halfway between Kent and South Wales – if you go the long way around.

Val Penny

Torn by Karen Moore

I had never read any works by Karen Moore, but I had heard a lot about her novel, Torn, and was keen to read it.

The Blurb

Like any mother, Hanna would do anything to protect her small daughter, Eva.

When she discovers that her husband, Luciano, is not all he seems and their blissful life on the island of Sicily is threatened, she wastes no time in seeking refuge abroad. But just as they are settling into their new life in North Wales, Eva disappears. 

In a race against time, Hanna is forced to return to Sicily and face the dark world of organised crime in a bid to secure her daughter’s safe return. She must also confront the truth about Luciano’s business dealings and their horrific consequences.

But will Hanna succeed in getting Eva back and bring Luciano to justice?

Or are the stakes just too high?

The Review

Torn is Karen Moore’s debut novel, but it does not read like a debut novel. It is an assured, gripping tale of a young woman who progresses from a carefree job as a tour guide in Sicily to protecting her young child in a Welsh village.

The story builds gradually as the reader is introduced to Hanna, her daughter Eva, best friend Ceri and Ceri’s brother Rhys. The action jumps between Wales and Sicily as the author weaves the tale of Hanna and how she finds herself hiding in the Welsh village seeking safety for herself and Eva.

Hanna’s husband, Eva’s father, is an exciting, handsome man that Hanna falls completely in love with. It is only after Eva’s birth that she begins to discover more about her husband and his family than she knew when they married.

I usually do not enjoy books that jump either in time or place, and this story does both. However, the changes in place and time were so clearly marked in this book that they posed no problem for me.

The story is carefully constructed and layered so cleverly that the tension mounts and the reader is drawn into the problems Hanna encounters. As a result of the character building in this book the reader lives every emotion and struggle that Hanna encounters.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and think it would be an excellent read for a book group as discussions would be wide ranging and varied.

The Author

Karen Moore is passionate about all things noir – crime, mystery, thrillers – and writes in that genre.

She has been writing all her life, mostly for work purposes, and is now delighted to be able to spend more time developing her own creative work.

Her debut novel, Torn, is a dark tale of intrigue and betrayal set in Sicily and North Wales. She is currently working on the sequel.

Karen worked as a tour guide across Europe, North America and Canada, followed by a career in PR and marketing. She has lived in France and Italy and is now based in Cheshire, England.

https://www.facebook.com/karenmooreauthor/

Val Penny

Gentlemen of Fortune by A. J. Roberts

I have known A. J. Roberts for several years, but I had never read any of his writing, so, when his first book, Gentlemen of Fortune – A Swashbuckler Tale, was published, I was keen to secure a copy and read. it. The book is slim, only 59 pages in all, that is not a criticism, I was able to read it quickly.

The Blurb

Jamaica 1690

Rosanna Barclay has arrived in Port Royal from England, in search of her missing father. Upon arrival, she meets wandering scoundrels Kestrel and Scar, whom she hires as bodyguards.

She soon learns that her father was a pirate who disappeared after attacking a French payroll carrier. Worse, he double-crossed a powerful information broker who had originally bankrolled the theft.

Rosanna and her companions bluff their way aboard a pirate vessel in order to reach the island where the treasure might be. But their new captain isn’t in favour of a treasure hunt, and the broker’s agents are close behind.

The Review

Gentlemen of Fortune is a short book set in the West Indies in the late seventeenth century. It tells the tale of Rosanna Barclay and her search for her father with the help of two rogues, Kestrel and Scar.

The story is fast-paced and laced with humour that made me laugh out loud. The characters are well described as are the settings. The author avoids a predictable ending and leaves the possibility open for a sequel involving the interesting characters he has created.

I really enjoyed the book and look forward to reading more works by this author.

The Author

Born in Lancashire, A. J. Roberts has been writing as a hobby since the age of seventeen. This initially stemmed from writing campaigns for pen-and-paper roleplaying games and later developed into short stories reminiscent of the pulp magazines. Always a fan of swashbuckler fiction (especially Zorro), he wrote a story featuring a pair of wandering scoundrels partly inspired by Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. It was while writing this he found that he wanted to see the protagonists he created get into all kinds of trouble in different stories.

After discovering an annual writers’ retreat in Derbyshire (Swanwick Writers’ Summer School), he decided he wanted to take things further. In 2018 he left his job as an accountant to begin studying for a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing. While he’s experimenting with new mediums on his course, he hasn’t forgotten the old pulp style he was originally inspired by.

Val Penny

Dreamer by Lorette Kendall

It is a great pleasure to be included in the tour for Dreamer by Loretta Kendall @LorettaKAuthor arranged by Love Books Group @LoveBooksGroup. The book is published by @CayellePub. You can read all about the tour.

The Blurb

Luna suffers from an undiagnosed illness causing hallucinations and blackouts that have plagued her for years. The root of her bazaar illness comes to light when she meets her pro-wrestling hero, Gunner Cain, and his wrestling faction friends, The Tribe. Luna discovers her romantic connection to Gunner isn’t just a fangirl crush, he is her eternal soulmate.

After eight years of seeing visions of his mate, Gunner has fallen in love with Luna through their dream connection. He wants the human woman to become his Alpha dreamer mate in this steamy shifter tale of prophecy and romance.

As part of a prophecy written in the Lycan Oracle. Luna must choose to bond to the Alpha of the Tribe wolfpack, or all will be stuck in wolf form, forgetting their humanity forever. Luna learns that the steps they must take to complete the bonding ritual could also end a centuries-old curse, saving lone wolves abandoned by their packs and plagued with the dreaded Lycan fever. Gunner’s connection to Luna is more than prophecy fulfilled; it is hope for Lycan kind.

The Extract

New York, Madison Square Garden—Ten years ago.

Extreme Wrestling International (EWI)…

“That was one hell of a return, buddy! You were on fire out there, and the crowd ate it up. That’s the biggest pop I’ve ever heard. I’m so proud of you, Gunner. To think, when we first met, you were just some lanky kid straight out of the training center. I’m happy to say you are the top guy right now, and I was here to see it.”

Holding the phone to his ear, Gunner Cain beamed with pride at his best friend’s words.

“Thanks, Zane. It was a rush. Can you believe that crowd?”

Gunner removed his wrestling boots and pulled on his street shoes. He stretched his back to relieve the nervous tension he had from the first night back in front of a live audience. It felt good to be back in his element. Of course, he hadn’t had a match on his first day back, just a video promo with his long-time on-screen rival, Drake Black. After eight months of surgery and therapy to repair his torn ACL, he was back in the game.

“It was exhilarating. I never thought I would be able to come back. Not many do. I don’t think it ever felt this good out there.” Gunner pulled his leather jacket over his black shirt, worn tight to accentuate his muscular biceps and hard chest, and took a gulp from his water bottle. “Zane, when are you coming back?”

“As soon as I am cleared by the staff doctors, and our Tribe signs their contracts, it’ll be time to rock. I’ll be back in a few weeks to rock the house.”

Witnessing Zane’s fall from the top of the cage onto the steel barricade during a match with Steve Steel, Gunner had feared his friend had snapped his neck.

“That fall was the worst thing I have ever seen. I don’t know why you do those dangerous high-flying moves. You’re going to kill yourself one day.”

“It’s what I do best. I can’t wait until we actually get to have all five of us together for the first time on stage. But it’ll be a secret for a while, until it’s all planned out. Mister Hargrove wants the element of surprise. He always thinks he has to make an overly elaborate show of power with his top guys in the company. It’s all about money for Albert Hargrove. Part of being the biggest wrestling promoter in the world, I guess. Money, ratings, more money.”

Thirty-year-old Gunner rolled his eyes. “Eh. I guess. For me it’s about the business and the fans. Giving them what they want is what gets them in the seats. It’s going to be cool having our old crew back at EWI. Just like the old days. Too bad this storyline didn’t happen back when we were in our early twenties.”

Zane flopped back in his recliner in his Texas mansion, adjusting the phone to his ear. Checking out his sexy wife’s backside as she walked into the room, he gave a sly smile.

The Author

Loretta started her life with a dream and a story in mind. For as long as she can remember, she was a storyteller, sharing tales with her friends from an overactive imagination. Spending hours spinning stories for their entertainment, derived from her love of books.

After twenty-two years as an image consultant and professional photographer in the entertainment industry, she revisited her love for books and writing. She continues her love for creating photographic images and graphic design telling a story through the visual arts.

Loretta began writing fan fiction in 2017 that put her on an amazing writing journey leading to the completion of several novellas and novels on popular book apps. Her most popular series reaching 70k readers across the globe. She is a traditionally published and self-published author with a passion for creating happily ever after romance with the perfect mix of steamy and slow burn moments.

The Honest Lies by Elizabeth Lyvers

I had heard a great deal of chatter about The Honest Lies, Elizabeth Lyvers’ debut novel. Naturally, I wanted to read the book to form my own opinion and one thing I can tell you straight off: this does not read like a debut novel. The author tells the story in a most assured way.

The Blurb

Jack Murphy’s past died with his parents. Since then, he’s crafted a lonely but successful life operating the family’s drug wholesale business in a place miles and years away from Detroit. He’s even falling for his next-door neighbor Megan, a young woman grieving the recent death of her husband.

But when twenty million dollars’ worth of drugs disappear from one of Jack’s warehouses, he grapples to connect past mistakes with a new, as yet invisible enemy. Someone remembers. Someone is settling the score.

Megan loved her husband, enough to move a thousand miles before asking questions about his past. With nothing but their memories left to protect, she struggles to reconcile the documents she finds in his closet – evidence tying him to a robbery committed months after his death.

It isn’t until Megan is kidnapped that she grasps how deeply her husband’s sins were intertwined with Jack’s past. Only then can she begin to unravel the complex relationship between truth and love – and lies told with the best of intentions.

The Review

The Honest Lies is a confident, assured novel that weaves between past and present to develop the great characters early in the book. The author makes the characters vivid and well-rounded. She allows the reader to really care for them and what happens to them. This makes the book very hard to put down. The mystery begins at the very beginning of the book when Jack’s mother dies of cancer and he takes over the family’s multi-million dollar pharmaceutical company.

Jack’s neighbour, Megan, recently lost her husband after he was hit by a car. Jack and her husband, Lane, had been at high school together and that connection holds the key to some peculiar things which happen. Then, the author grabs the reader again when an important incident occurs within the plot which creates havoc within Jack’s life and everyone seems to be against him. All the way through the novel I had doubts about who was on Jack’s side, and the half-truths the characters told were confusing, as the author intended!

After this the story picks up even more pace and, having been gripping beforehand, it suddenly becomes even more exciting. Some of the incidents in the book are brutal and bloodthirsty and there are some vile characters. However, the author sprinkles in relief by way of humour in the shape of building manager, Mrs Carp and some scenes between Jack and his friend Pete.

I often get confused with a story that jumps between time frames, but the  author dealt with that clearly, so I did not find it overly problematic in this book. I did find the many refences to faith annoying, but again, the author keeps those within the characters lives which made it credible and minimised my irritation. I found the end completely satisfying and highly recommend this thrilling and captivating debut novel. I am sure it would create excellent discussions in book groups.

The Author

Elizabeth Lyvers grew up in West Virginia, part-time in the library and part-time on the basketball court. As insinuated, she read voraciously – at the dinner table, on the bus to basketball games, occasionally in the locker room. At some point between Ivanhoe and The Woman in White she grew to believe that story is the clearest way to understanding Life. She most loves a book that doesn’t shy away from exploring darkness but that can still find its way to beauty and truth.

She currently lives in Texas with her best friend, chief reader, and husband. They have a dog and a brand new baby who enjoys walks, car rides, and staying up past bedtime.

The Honest Lies is her first published novel.

Val Penny

Cultivating a Fuji, Edition 2 by Miriam Drori

I am delighted that bestselling author Miriam Drori has made time to stop by the blog today to tell me about writing a second edition of her novel Cultivating a Fuji. Thank you for your time, Miriam.

The Extract

“But… I can’t believe it. How can they send Martin?” Carol’s voice rose to a squeak and a frown appeared below her fringe.

“I know. But the powers-that-be have pronounced verdict. And we’re supposed to pretend that it’s absolutely normal, so no laughing in front of Martin, okay?”

The grin that had formed on Carol’s face vanished as she bit her lower lip. “Okay. But they’ll murder him in Japan.” She burst into a fit of laughter, displaying a bright red smudge on her upper teeth.

“None of that. I mean it.” Sue’s lips twitched unintentionally.

Yes, Martin is being sent to represent the company in Japan, and Carol, Sue and the rest of the staff think it’s a big joke. Apart, that is, from Ian and John. They’re sad about Martin’s imminent failure, because they know it will shut down the company.

The above excerpt comes near the beginning of this story of transformation, a tale that is poignant, humorous and ultimately uplifting.

Why is there now a second edition of this novel? There are two reasons.

The first is out of necessity. The book left my publisher, Crooked Cat, who is now publishing only dark novels (crime, horror, thrillers, etc.) under its imprint, Darkstroke. That led to the second reason.

I had long wanted to make minor modifications to the text. The changes are dotted around the novel, but focus on the beginning and the ending. The opening words didn’t appeal to me as much as they did when I wrote them, and opening words, as we all know, are vitally important to a novel. So, I changed them. I like the beginning now. I hope that lasts!

The new ending is the one I really wanted for the first edition, before I allowed myself to be persuaded by a suggestion from an author I admire. Instead of explaining why my ending worked better, or simply ignoring the suggestion, I told myself that she knew better.

So, for me, this novel has been a lesson in trusting myself as an author. It’s important to listen to what readers have to say, but ultimately the decision must remain with the author.

Fortunately, this novel has been enjoyed by many and I hope it continues to satisfy readers and cause them to reflect.

Cultivating a Fuji is available on Amazon.

Miriam Drori can be found on Facebook, Twitter, her website and elsewhere.

The Author

Miriam Drori took up creative writing following careers in computer programming and technical writing. Her books span several genres: romance, historical fiction, uplit, crime and non-fiction. Her short stories and poems have appeared in anthologies. She is passionate about raising awareness of the widespread but little-known disorder called social anxiety.

Born and raised in London, Miriam now lives in Jerusalem with her husband and one of three grown-up children.