Belial’s Teachings by Vlad Tudosie

I am delighted to be part of the tour for Belial’s Teachings by Vlad Tudosie run by Love Book Tours. You have the chance to follow the tour this week.

The Blurb

Living alone and forgotten by almost all those he loved, life does not seem to have much in store for a depressed writer. That until one day, when a mysterious apparition from outside the physical world decides to show him new ways of thinking through intelligent and sometimes humorous observations that challenge the status quo, which will bring change to his life forever. A change that, as he will soon learn, comes first and foremost from within himself.

The Excerpt

I used to sit all day on a wooden chair that wasn’t even mine, at a desk that wasn’t mine, working on a notebook that I had gotten from work, so one might say that that also wasn’t mine. The only things that were mine were my ideas. I used to earn my bread by writing philosophical bullshit for a local newspaper. I had them send me my paycheck through the mailman, which I didn’t even sign for on my own. I ended up without the money a few times, but violently complaining about my situation with no real intent to reaching for a solution was well worth avoiding the whole ordeal of calling in the police and having to deal with another round of people having no real interest in my well-being and putting up a whole show to make me believe they actually cared. The only human interaction I had left was one sweet old lady in her 90’s who also happened to be my neighbor, possessing excellent abilities in terms of copying one’s signature and with a deep concern for a ‘poor, sick youngster’ like me. Missis Kowalski, who seemingly had both better physical and mental conditions than I did, would bring me all the groceries that I needed twice a month and helped me with paying the rent, utilities and other stuff of that sort. Must have been the Polish genes keeping her so strong and lively at an age by which most people would have already died for five times in a row, minimum. Even if I had asked her to buy me the cheapest products she could find at the store, at the end of the month, I would be left with just enough money to afford a new pair of socks. That was pretty much all the worth of my ideas. Survival and a pair of socks. I could decide to take the drinks out of the equation, but they perfectly fit the definition of ‘survival’ for me. Then, there was this particular cheap drug I had her get from my high-school ‘buddy’, just another person that had betrayed my trust in a way I would have never imagined, accusing me of being the school’s dealer in front of the principal. Funny how the tables turned and I had to resort to him for the same drug with which he had gotten me in trouble. Still, it was cheap and effective. I had no idea what it was, and I liked the way it could make darkness appear colored, looking like rainbows shot out of nowhere. A great percentage of it must have been dust, because I could never seem to overdose on it and die a heroic death, but I had begun coughing and sneezing quite often since using it. I knew my lungs weren’t in the best of shape because of it, but I thought I could compensate through the lack of smoking in my life. It was my belief, which I lived by, that men weren’t made for putting long things into their mouths. And, frankly, I could never grasp the concept of drawing something different from air into my lungs without then coughing up to the point where I would literally feel my guts working their way up into my esophagus.

The Author

Vlad Tudosie’s first story was influenced by a chain of events in my life which led to me trying to form my own perspective of life, as a means of coping with what was and what will be. He writes a little bit daily, to keep my mind engaged. I can just return to that certain page or paragraph later and make changes with a fresh perspective.

Just a pharmacy graduate who spent one year of his studies being dedicated to his writing project. Could be because pharmaceutical chemistry just wasn’t interesting enough, but it’s more likely a result of finding a very special way of expressing thoughts and feelings in making a book, and wanting to share them with others.

An Unkindness of Ravens by S.E.Smith

it is a privilege to be involved again in the tour for another in the series of Young Adult novels by S.E.Smith run by Love Books Group. You can read a fascinating extract below.

The Blurb

When Symington, Earl Byrd is called in to investigate the murder of Robert Langley, he’s confused. Why shoot a man when you’ve already poisoned him?

Much to the prime minister’s disgust, a trip to Wales complicates matters further. But the prime minister is the least of Byrd’s worries. Rumour has it, Jack the Ripper’s back – tying up loose ends.

But when did Jack start using poison?

The Excerpt

From the Casebook of Symington, Earl Byrd.

Mayfair, London, Monday 25th February.

Like most things, my involvement in the case of the Southwark body came as the result of a visit from my cousin, CC. A chief inspector in His Majesty’s constabulary, he came a knocking – usually at the behest of the prime minister – when something gruesome, or scandalous, threatened the empire. Not that scandal brewed. Since Christmas, all was quiet. Nothing to indicate I could possibly be needed in any other capacity than a friend to the new King. And as for that … I was the wrong gender for the kind of companionship His Majesty required. So, unusually, I sat at home, grateful for the company.

Naively, I expected a convivial evening. Two like-minded men, seeking refuge from their womenfolk.

Stupidity should be the middle name of the Byrds.

Yet, to give CC his due, he lulled me into a gorgeous sense of false security. Dinner excellent; our conversation ranging. He didn’t mention Violet. I didn’t mention Serena. Neither of us mentioned ‘her’. Sampson, always efficient, ensured wine flowed like water and port flowed like wine … until an innocuous little question. Slipping under my defences. Blindsiding me.

“Tell me what you can about Sir William Gull?”

I stopped mid-sip and gave the question careful consideration. “Late Queen’s physician,” I said flippantly. At sight of CC’s baleful glare, I altered tack. “Who wants to know?”


I downed my port, sighed, and carried on. “Solid. Reliable. Died in 1890. Buried somewhere in Essex. Why’d ya ask?”

CC chose his words carefully. “His name came up recently, and I wondered what you heard about him.”

“The king wants to know?”

He shook his head and the penny dropped. The prime minister asked.

Given the plethora of scorpions that rushed from the darkest recesses of my mind to sound their warning, I gave in with good grace. “Not much. For all his excellent medical work – especially with anorexia – undeserved scandal followed him around; especially in his later years.” I poured another port.

“Really? Where’d you get the idea Gull was scandal-prone?” CC retorted. “Are you sure you’re not thinking of Gully? Similar name; similar connections.”

I stared at him. CC stared at me. Until the dam of tension broke and …

The Author

S.E. Smith, known as Sarah to her friends, and ‘Miss’ to her students, was born into a naval family and now lives on a 65 foot broadbeam boat with her husband, Steve, and her two rescue dogs – Ben and Eva.

Crediting her Nana May for instilling in her a love of history, and an encyclopedic knowledge of the East End of London at the turn of the 20th Century, Sarah took on board the adage ‘write about what you know’ and created Symington Byrd: a gentleman detective whose foray into the East End leads him into all kinds of danger.

A great fan of the West Wing, Pokemon Go, and Doctor Who, Sarah’s biggest claim to fame is the day spent with the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, chasing Daleks down The Strand.

Marketing Matters by Wendy H. Jones

I enjoy the fiction books Wendy H. Jones has written. Her crime novels are amongst my favourite books and my granddaughter loves her children’s character Bertie the Buffalo, so I was amazed when this busy, talented author had time to produce a non-fiction book, Marketing Matters, designed to help other authors sell more books.

The Blurb

Right now is the time to start marketing your book and getting it into readers’ hands. Whether you’re a first time author, or a publishing veteran looking to revitalise your sales, this book is here to help. It is jam packed full of simple strategies, hints and tips which will take you through every step of the marketing process. From running a buzzing book launch, and building your mailing list, through to effective social media marketing, you will explore how to get your books noticed and bought by readers. Each of these techniques has been used successfully by the author to build a growing platform designed to revolutionise your book sales. Learn from her what works and what doesn’t and use this book to build a marketing plan which will see your book sales soaring.

The Review

Marketing Matters is a brilliant, helpful book and so easy to read. it is designed with sound advice and exercises at the end of each chapter. It is well worth taking the time to do the exercises as the author touches on so many points and gives helpful examples.

Marketing is a minefield and the author shares her experience using different sites and methods of marketing. The book gives the reader a great insight what to expect. The writing is clear so that all levels of writers, even those new to writing can understand it and find helpful hints. I bought the paperback and find it easy to refer to and find relevant chapters. I unreservedly recommend Marketing Matters to authors. I am sure that they will all find it helpful.

The Author

International Award Winning Author Wendy H. Jones lives in Scotland, and her police procedural series featuring DI Shona McKenzie are set. Wendy has led a varied and adventurous life. Her love for adventure led to her joining the Royal Navy to undertake nurse training. After six years in the Navy she joined the Army where she served as an Officer for a further 17 years.

Killer’s Countdown was her first novel and the first book in the Shona McKenzie Mysteries. Killer’s Crew won the Books Go Social Book of the Year 2017. The seventh book in the series. Killer’s Curse will be released early august 2020. The Dagger’s Curse, the first book in The Fergus and Flora Mysteries, was a finalist in the Woman Alive Magazine Readers Choice Award Book of the Year.

Turning to humorous crime the Cass Claymore Investigates series was born. She is also a highly successful marketer and is currently in the process of rereleasing her completely updated marketing book Marketing Matters. This will be part of the Writing Matters Series following the release of Motivation Matters.

She is also the author of the Bertie the Buffalo picture book and associated soft toy and colouring book. Wendy is delighted to be one of the authors in two anthologies aimed at empowering women – The Power of Why, and Women Win Against All Odds. She is proud to be the President of the Scottish Association of Writers and is the host of The Writing and Marketing Show podcast, a writing and marketing coach. and CEO of Writing Matters online writing school, Authorpreneur Accelerator Academy.
Val Penny

Waiting for Aegina by Effie Kammenou

I am thrilled to be involved in the blog tour for Waiting for Aegina by Effie Kammenou run by Love Book Tours. You can follow the tour this week.

The Blurb

In 1961, five little girls moved into a suburban neighborhood and became inseparable, lifelong friends. They called themselves the ‘Honey Hill Girls,’ named after the street on which they lived. As teenagers they shared one another’s ambitions and dreams, secrets and heartaches. Now, more than thirty years later, they remain devoted and loyal, supporting each other through triumphs and sorrows.

Evanthia’s Gift follows the life of Sophia Giannakos. In Waiting for Aegina the saga continues from the perspectives of Sophia and her friends as the story drifts back and forth in time, filling in the gaps as the women grow to adulthood.

Naive teenage ideals are later challenged by harsh realities, as each of their lives takes unexpected turns. Now nearing their fiftieth year, Sophia, Demi, Amy, Mindy and Donna stand together through life-altering obstacles while they try to regain the lighthearted optimism of their youth.

The Excerpt


January 1999

Barely a hint of light escaped the outer edges of the Roman shade covering the large window in Sophia and Dean’s bedroom. It had snowed the day before, continuing far into the night, the ominous black clouds advertising there would be no relief for some time to come.

Dean was asleep; his body spooned into his wife with one hand splayed over her belly as if possessively protecting the child within her. Sophia looked at the time on the clock and began to slip out of the bed, but Dean, roused awake from the feel of her body parting from his, wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her back toward him.

“Not yet,” he mumbled drowsily. Sliding his hands under her nightshirt, he found her breasts—a little fuller now that she was in her fifth month.

Turning to face him, Sophia kissed him good morning, a sensual purr innately rumbling from her throat as she ran her hands through his silky, brown hair. He wore it longer these days, and not in the conservative style he’d worn for years as an executive at a Manhattan-based hedge fund—his ex-father-in-law’s hedge fund. To Sophia, Dean’s hair was like a symbol signifying that her true Dino had returned to her—her Dino—the teenager with the long, silky mane, sparkling eyes, a smile that made her weak in the knees, and the spirit of a rebel.

“It’s cold. You need to keep me warm,” Dean said, pulling her on top of him.

“I need to? Is that an order?” Sophia asked playfully. “Maybe you should keep me warm.”

“I intend to. For the entire morning.”

And how could she resist? Why would she want to? The children were at Demi and Michael’s home for a sleepover. There was nothing keeping them from making love all day if they chose to.

The children—Sophia loved them more than life itself, but a tiny break from them, even just one day, would restore her strength. The last two years had been trying. The loss of their father left each of her children scarred differently: Nicky more private in his thoughts than before, and seemingly armored in anxiety, and Evvie was mad at the world. Well, maybe not the world—just me, Sophia admitted to herself. It was as though Evvie looked for reasons to blame her mother for anything that didn’t go the way she wanted it to—her yiayiá’s death, Sophia’s marriage to Dean, and now a new baby on the way.

The Author

Effie Kammenou is a believer that it is never too late to chase your dreams, follow your heart or change your career. She is proof of that. At one time, long ago, she’d thought that, by her age, she would have had an Oscar in her hand after a successful career as an actor. Instead, she worked in the optical field for 40 years and is the proud mother of two accomplished young women.

Her debut novel, Evanthia’s Gift, is a women’s fiction multigenerational love story and family saga, influenced by her Greek heritage, and the many real life accounts that have been passed down. She continues to pick her father’s brain for stories of his family’s life in Lesvos, Greece, and their journey to America. Her interview with him was published in a nationally circulated magazine.

Evanthia’s Gift: Book One in The Gift Saga was a 2016 award finalist in the Readers Favorite Awards in the Women’s Fiction category. Waiting for Aegina: Book Two in The Gift Saga is Kammenou’s latest release.

Effie Kammenou is a first generation Greek-American who lives on Long Island with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not writing, or posting recipes on her food blog,, you can find her cooking for her family and friends.

As an avid cook and baker, a skill she learned from watching her Athenian mother, she incorporated traditional Greek family recipes throughout the books.

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts from Hofstra University.

For updates on promotions and the release of Book Three in The Gift Saga
Follow Effie on Twitter @EffieKammenou

In a House of Lies by Ian Rankin

It had been a long time since I had read a novel by Ian Rankin. Several of his books in the recent past had not grabbed me as much as his earlier books, but during lockdown I bought several novels by my favourite authors and In a House of Lies was one of those books.

The Blurb

Private investigator Stuart Bloom was missing, presumed dead.
Until now.

His body is discovered in an abandoned car – in an area that had already been searched…

Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke combs through the mistakes of the original investigation. After a decade without answers, it’s time for the truth.

But it seems everyone involved with the case is hiding something.

None more so than Siobhan’s own mentor: former detective John Rebus. The only man who knows where the trail may lead – and that it could be the end of him.



The Review

There is no doubt that Ian Rankin is one of Britain’s finest crime fiction writers. However, he has a problem of his own making and it is an issue the author himself acknowledges: he allowed John Rebus to age in real time therefore his main character is well past 60 and therefore at a point he can no longer serve in the police force. So the choice Rankin has made is to use John Rebus as a non-serving source of information and assistance to Police Scotland. Siobhan Clarke, is used by the author as the link between Police Scotland and Rebus and in In a House of Lies she has his aid whether she wants it or not.

When skeletal remains turn up in the boot of a car, found in a deep gulley close to the Edinburgh. Rebus is sure he knows the name of the deceased. It is the body of a man who disappeared over a decade ago. Rebus was involved in the original and much criticised missing person operation.

For much of the first half of the book Rebus is side-lined as Clarke and the rest of team kick-off the murder investigation. Another of Rankin’s creations, Malcolm Fox, is parachuted in to join the team. Now I find Fox a dull and humourless character so, about half way through this book, I was getting restless. Then, Clarke asked Rebus to look into a separate matter, involving a young man who had confessed to the murder of his girlfriend and the story improved.

The pages contained Rebus’s dry one-liners and the energy of the whole thing seemed to increase exponentially. There is no doubt that the pages light up when Rebus is about. However in this book the author seemed unable to decide which was to be the main character: Rebus, Clarke or Fox. There are a number of potential murderers, loads of cops and too many faces from the past as organised crime bigwigs Big Ger Cafferty and Darryl Christie both make an appearance, but neither seems to add much.

I remain a huge fan of this series, now in it’s 22nd instalment, and of Ian Rankin. I do wonder where Rankin takes things next time around. Whatever he does, I hope he manages to write another gripping novel. Despite the faults of In a House of Lies, it is a great read and I must recommend it, if you enjoy crime mysteries.

The Author

Ian James Rankin, OBE, DL, FRSE was born in Fife, Scotland on 28 April 1960. He is a Scottish crime writer, best known for his Inspector Rebus novels. He

graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1982 and then spent three years writing novels when he was supposed to be working towards a PhD in Scottish Literature. His first Rebus novel was published in 1987; the Rebus books are now translated into 22 languages and are bestsellers on several continents.

Ian Rankin has been elected a Hawthornden Fellow. He is also a past winner of the Chandler-Fulbright Award, and he received two Dagger Awards for the year’s best short story and the Gold Dagger for Fiction. Ian Rankin is also the recipient of honorary degrees from the universities of Abertay, St Andrews, and Edinburgh.

A contributor to BBC2’s Newsnight Review, he also presented his own TV series, Ian Rankin’s Evil Thoughts, on Channel 4 in 2002. He recently received the OBE for services to literature, and opted to receive the prize in his home city of Edinburgh, where he lives with his partner and two sons.

Val Penny

Tipping Point by Michelle Cook

I had had Tipping Point, the debut novel, by Michelle Cook in my To Be Read pile for a long time and had heard lots of good things about this novel. Eventually, I could bear it no longer and I shuffled my pile so that I could make up my own opinion.

The Blurb

Essie Glass might have been a typical eighteen-year-old – had life not dealt her an early blow. Struggling to come to terms with the loss of her family in a terrorist attack, and left with nothing, Essie’s not kidding herself about her world. She wants change, and she’ll be honest about it, whatever the cost. From behind her keyboard, that is…

After all, this is England, 2035. Earth’s climate continues its accelerating collapse. A powerful elite controls the disaster-weary population with propaganda, intimidation, and constant surveillance.

By all appearances, Alex Langford is a respected local businessman – until Essie discovers that he’s a murderous conspirator who’d see the planet die for his fortune.

When their paths collide, Essie must decide: how much is she really willing to pay for her honesty?

Her choices, and the events she sets in motion, pit her against both enemies and supposed friends as she risks more than just her life to thwart them.

Will she succeed in revealing the truth? And will she survive?

The Review

Tipping Point is set in England, fifteen years into the future, and has as its backdrop a severe climate change scenario. It is a gripping, dystopian thriller but the message has never felt more relevant and important. The main protagonist, Essie, is a young woman who has suffered a family tragedy and finds herself drawn into an environmentalist group who are determined to work to save the world they believe is at Tipping Point where the ecosystem is about to transition to a new state, never to return to how it used to be. 

Their activities start well but things soon unwind. The repercussions of the groups’s actions have a destructive effect and although Essie tries to continue with her life, she cannot escape. Then, her best friend goes missing after a mission that goes wrong and Essie realises the the establishment is dangerous. Friendship and trust become everything to Essie as her mission unfolds, but there is also a lovely thread of romance too. This provides an uplifting contrast to the tense and, often violent action. When you think things cannot get worse, they do and the story takes a turn that pushes Essie right to the edge.

But there is hope amongst the grief. The bleak visual landscape is broken up with lovely sensual descriptions of ‘lemony parma violet towels’ and a vicarage which smells of vanilla. Still, this author does not shy away from difficult themes including grief and domestic violence. At the same time she questions what it means to survive and stand up for what you believe in.

I found this novel gripping and gruelling in equal measure. It is well-written, thought-provoking and original and would make for lively discussions in a book group. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend Tipping Point by Michelle Cook.

The Author

Michelle Cook writes thrillers and dystopian fiction. She lives in the UK with her husband, their two young children, and a cat called Lyra Belacqua.

Her first joyful steps into creative writing were at the age of ten, when the teacher read out her short story in class. A slapstick tale of two talking kangaroos breaking out of a zoo, the work was sadly lost to history. Still, Michelle never forgot the buzz of others enjoying her words.

More recently, she has had several flash pieces published, was long-listed for the Cambridge 2020 prize for flash fiction, and placed first in the February 2020 Writers’ Forum competition with her short story The Truth About Cherry House.

Tipping Point is her debut novel.

Val Penny

Another Life by Owen W Knight

I am pleased to be taking part in the tour for Another Life by Owen W Knight and run by Love Books Group. You can follow the tour here.

The Blurb

Oliver believes his life to be one of disappointment and failure. Haunted by the memory of a mysterious woman he encountered thirty years ago, and obsessed with finding her, he embarks on a  journey embracing grief, hope, myths and legends to find her.

He is drawn into diverse worlds, from ancient rural beliefs and traditions to emerging medical science, as he and the reader are led to question the boundaries between dreams, reality and imagination.

The Excerpt

On a spring morning, many years ago, I set off from my home in Essex to visit a friend who had moved to a village close to Stratford-upon-Avon. I had left before dawn and had chosen not to take the direct route. My plan was to visit some Cotswold villages to take photographs. Even as a child, I had a fondness for vernacular architecture, although of course, I would not have described it as such at the time.

I had another mission: to buy some books. I intended to visit a small independent printing company, the Walnut Tree Press. It was a new venture, founded two years earlier, and had quickly built a reputation for its small print runs of hand-printed books and its poetry imprint. Many of the books on their list were illustrated with engravings, by new and established artists, and had already become collectors’ editions. Some people bought them for their investment potential. I admired them both for their content and as well-crafted artefacts, as objects of beauty that combined interest and quality with appealing design.

I had spent hours browsing their catalogue. It was difficult to make a final decision on which to buy. Once I had produced a shortlist, I could have placed an order, either by post or telephone (this was in the days before the Internet). I was hesitant to do so; I wanted to hold them in my hands and to turn the pages, feeling the quality of the paper, to touch and smell them before confirming my purchase. They were expensive, understandably, although would no doubt hold their value, in the unlikely event I should ever need to sell.

The press was located in a small village. I had not telephoned to ask whether it would be open. Such was my indecision as to whether to spend what was to me at that time a large sum of money on inessential items. By leaving it to chance, the acquisition, or otherwise, would be resolved by destiny. I was, after all, just passing through on my journey to another place.

The village was not as I thought it would be. The single main street was narrow, with half a dozen lanes leading from either side. There were no shops and, unusually for a village in those days, no inn. Many of the cottages were of a similar design. Some were empty and falling towards dereliction. I had the impression that they formed all or part of a collection of workers’ cottages, from an estate that was in the process of being sold or dissolved, its owners’ dynasty at an end.

The Author

Owen W Knight is a writer of contemporary and speculative fiction. His works include Another Life, described as ‘It’s a Wonderful Life for the 21st Century’ and The Invisible College Trilogy, an apocalyptic dystopian conspiracy tale for young adults, described as ‘1984 Meets the Book of Revelation’.
Owen was born in Southend-on-Sea at a time when children spent their days outdoors, creating imaginary worlds that formed the basis of their adventures and social interaction.
He has used this experience to create a world based on documented myths, with elements of dystopia, mystery and science fiction, highlighting the use and abuse of power and the conflicts associated with maintaining ethical values.
Owen lives in Essex, close to the countryside that inspired his trilogy.

The Vagabond Mother by Tracey Scott-Townsend

What a pleasure it is to be included on the tour for The Vagabond Mother, the new novel by Tracey Scott-Townsend. The Tour is run by Love Books group and you can follow it here.

The Blurb

All Maya Galen wanted was a happy family, stifling her inner urges to explore the wider world for the sake of being there for her children. But parenting with her husband, Con, wasn’t always easy. Their eldest son, Jamie, broke off all contact some years ago and now Joe, the apple of her eye, has done the same after an argument with his parents about his chosen way of life. Maya and Con are left rattling around ‘The Cottages’ – their enormous home in a Lincolnshire village, wondering what they did wrong.

When they are called to Australia to identify the body of a young man, Maya is given her son’s journal. After a sleepless night she makes the decision to follow in her youngest son’s footsteps and become a vagabond, leaving her husband and daughters to return to the UK without her. From now on she needs to rely on her own physical and emotional strength.

Following Joe’s hand-drawn maps and journal entries, Maya travels from Australia to Denmark and beyond, meeting many young people like Joe along the way and trying to discover what it means to be alive. As months turn into years she can’t bear to go back to the opression of her perfect home. Slowly, she comes to understand that what she is discovering is her most basic human self.

Another family crisis, involving one of her twin daughters, eventually forces Maya to return home. As she treads carefully through the wreckage of her marriage, unfinished business is tied up and the family once again becomes complete, but in a different way from before.

The Excerpt


Melbourne, Australia. November 2014

Somebody brought them pale, sweet tea. Not exactly hot. Maya wondered how many corridors the tray had been carried down before reaching them. The remaining members of their family each held a cup between their shaking hands.

‘But I don’t take sugar,’ said Lola. Her eyes looked enormous to Maya, bewildered. Just like when she was a toddler and the health visitor had given her a sugar cube after a vaccination. The sugar in her tea would no more take away her pain now than the cube had done then.

A woman, – a nurse perhaps – spoke to Lola in a gentle voice. ‘You ought to drink the tea darl. It’ll help with the shock.’

Maya saw Daisy encouraging her twin by taking the first sip. it was always Daisy’s mouth Maya had aimed for first with the feeding spoon when they were babies, as Lola would copy her sister. On Maya’s other side sat a white-faced man whom she recognised as her husband. Con’s hand lifted a cup to his lips in a mechanical sort of way, and brown liquid leaked down his chin. Maya found that she had taken tea into her own mouth. She watched her hand reflecting Con’s movements.

‘Are you ready, Sir?’ The officer reappeared in the room, directing his question at Maya’s husband.

‘Yes.’ Con placed his cup somewhere to one side. He stood but his body immediately collapsed back onto the chair. He tried again.

‘Where are you going?’ Maya surprised herself with the loudness of her voice. She snapped her mouth shut.

‘Madam forgive me,’ said the officer. What the hell for, he hadn’t killed her son, had he? ‘I’m taking your husband to identify the body.’

The Author

Tracey’s novels have been described as both poetic and painterly. She is also a poet and a visual artist. All her work is inspired by the emotions of her own experiences and perceptions. She has a Fine Art MA (University of Lincoln) and a BA Hons Visual Studies (Humberside Polytechnic). She has exhibited throughout the UK (as Tracey Scott). Most importantly, she is the mother of four grown-up children, who have astonished and inspired her.

Tracey and her husband Phil travel regularly in their campervan with their two dogs, and next year plan to buy and convert a library van as a more permanent home.

A Cowardice of Crows by S.E. Smith

What a treat to be included in the book tour for A Cowardice of Crows by S.E.Smith and run by Love Book Tours. There is an exciting Excerpt to read today and follow the tour this week.

The Blurb

When a House of Commons cufflink, stuffed in the mouth of Millie Jones, turns suicide to murder, Symington, Earl Byrd, the prime minister’s personal detective, soon finds his killer. A ruthless East End pawnbroker not known for carelessness.
Forced to re-evaluate his position following a trip to the Houses of Parliament, Symington is left with more questions than answers.
Like, who wants to destroy the pawnbroker and why? Is the cufflink a clue or a red herring? And more importantly why did Millie Jones have to die?

The Excerpt

Note from: William Melville MO3, and sent to Arthur James Balfour, Prime Minister, July 1902


Unless otherwise indicated (as extracts from individual reports, journals and diaries) the following account is compiled from the testimony of eyewitnesses, and those closely involved with the case. For ease, they have been identified purely as “From Reports” – rather than naming the individuals concerned.

From Reports.

London, Thursday October 4th, 1900.

Muffled against the night, an ugly-looking brute barged past an elderly lady, slammed his money under the nose of the ticket seller, and demanded a return to Brighton. Then he ran – as though possessed by the devil, along the platform towards the engine. There were plenty of empty carriages, but he was focussed on one door in particular, and reached it just as the train was beginning to chug slowly on its way. The carriage door opened, and the man swung himself into the compartment.

“Strange place for a meeting! Would have thought you’d have been better working out of a hotel, given what you do for the old man,” he said to the willowy – tartily dressed, and a little overdone with the make-up – woman who let him in.

Millie didn’t bother to acknowledge the newcomer’s arrival or move her handbag, forcing the man to sit opposite, with his back to the engine. “Trains are private,” she told him when she eventually deigned to speak. “Carriage like this. Two exits. Can see who’s coming and you don’t get no interruptions. ‘Specially if you bribe the conductor.” Millie leant forward, allowing the man a good glimpse of bosom. “Want a bit of bribery, love?” He flushed and she sniggered. “Don’t recall you being a shy one.” Her laughter grew louder.

Attempting to ignore her, the man went to open the window, causing smoke to gush into the confined space.

“Oi don’t do that,” Millie snapped. “We’re coming up to Merstham tunnel. It’ll smoke like Canton Sue’s bleedin’ opium den if you don’t shut the window.” She pushed past the man and slammed it so hard the window rattled in its casing. “Look stop crowdin’ me,” Millie ordered as the man moved towards her.

He held his ground, blocking the door to the corridor as he did so. “Where’s the stuff, Millie?” he snarled. “You got them on you … in that purse of yours?”

“Not so fast,” she replied as her eye darted to her bag. “You’ll get your photographs and the letter when I get me money. All of it. Every last shilling.” The carefully turned out blond emphasised her point by poking her companion with a kid gloved finger.

“You little cow!” He lunged for her purse but Millie was too quick for him, hiding it behind her back – firmly out of his reach.

“Takes one to know one.” She laughed again – a shrill bitter sound that ricocheted around the compartment.

The Author

S.E. Smith, known as Sarah to her friends, and ‘Miss’ to her students, was born into a naval family and now lives on a 65 foot broadbeam boat with her husband, Steve, and her two rescue dogs – Ben and Eva.

Crediting her Nana May for instilling in her a love of history, and an encyclopedic knowledge of the East End of London at the turn of the 20th Century, Sarah took on board the adage ‘write about what you know’ and created Symington Byrd: a gentleman detective whose foray into the East End leads him into all kinds of danger.

A great fan of the West Wing, Pokemon Go, and Doctor Who, Sarah’s biggest claim to fame is the day spent with the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, chasing Daleks down The Strand.

Forgotten Lives by Ray Britain

I am delighted to be part of the blog tour for Forgotten Britain by Ray Britain @ray_britain run by Love Book Group Tours @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours. You can follow the tour:

The Blurb

A man is murdered with quiet efficiency on his doorstep. A strange emblem left behind suggests a gang killing but when more bodies are found with the same emblem, and one of them a cop, DCI Doug Stirling’s investigation takes a sinister turn.

But what linked the victims in life, and now in death?

When more deaths are uncovered, miles away and years apart, but all with the same emblem left behind, pressure mounts on Stirling. Is it the work of the same person? If so, why are they killing again, and why here? One thing is clear. The killer is highly skilled, ruthless, and always one step ahead of the investigation. Is someone feeding information to them?

Working in a crippling heatwave with too few investigators, too many questions and not enough answers, when wild media speculation of a vigilante at work sparks copycat attacks, demonstrations for justice and with politicians fearing riots, Stirling needs a result – fast!

Meanwhile, Stirling’s private life is falling apart, not helped when Lena Novak of the National Crime Agency is assigned to his team. But is she all that she seems? Things could not get worse. Stirling takes a call from a retired cop. Things just got worse!

As Stirling closes in on the killer he finds the killer’s trademark inside his home – he is being targeted.

The Excerpt

A child alone

Asleep for so long, as she struggled into wakefulness she had no idea of the time of day but was aware that something was different. The bed was different and smelt clean. The air felt cool and clean too, not the fetid atmosphere she had been used to. Feigning sleep, she squinted through one eye at the unfamiliar room, while trying to remember how she got here. Next to the bed was a simple wooden chair. On it, a small pile of clothes. Across the room, maybe five steps from her, was a pinewood cabinet with wide three drawers and an oval shaped mirror on top. Beside the mirror, a matching china basin and jug and something flatter covered with a cloth. Fearful of what she would discover, she slowly reached behind her for the heat of another body, but the bed was cool. She was alone.

Now awake, she sat up, drew her knees into her chest and wrapped her arms around them tightly as she surveyed the room apprehensively before settling on a door at the corner of the room. Once white, it had yellowed with age. On the other side of the bed, sunlight lay in thin laddered stripes on bare floorboards. When she followed the light to see a window, boarded from the outside, her heart sank as she realised she had exchanged one prison for another. She turned her head back to the door, wondering how long it would be until a stranger entered the room and it started again.

As she drew her hand across the clean sheet, lifting the pleasant scent of laundry, she tried to remember how she had got here. But it had happened so fast, and she had been so frightened: the hated man on the ground who looked dead, the gloved hand hastening her from the house to the motorbike in the street, the frightening journey into the night, so fast she had closed her eyes against the wind and hung on as tightly as she could. Somewhere in the darkness a bright light had flashed, blinding her when she had looked at it and frightening her still more, so she had held the rider even tighter still for fear of falling off, for fear of being left alone. How long the journey had lasted she had no idea and when it ended, it was very dark. She remembered nothing after that.

Was she drugged, or had she just fainted, because she had no memory of being brought to this room?  Was something done to her while she was unconscious? The thought prompted a sudden awareness of cotton on her body, and that she was naked. She lifted the sheet and examined her body, contracted her muscles but could not be sure. Cautiously, she reached down and shuddered again at the memories. How could she ever face her family again with such shame.

The girl cocked an ear to listen for movement from outside the room or below but heard only silence itself. On top of the clothes on the chair lay a pair of knickers. She grabbed them and smelt them. Not new but clean. She slipped them on and dressed quickly in the loose shirt and jeans put out for her, all of them second hand but clean, and the right size too. But no shoes, which started a new anxiety. To stop her running away.

With slow, light steps, she crossed to the window where she saw it was covered not by boards, as she had thought, but by folding wooden shutters. With a faint hope rising in her chest, the girl opened the window as far as the shutters allowed and then pressed on the shutter. Hope died again when it didn’t budge, held fast from the outside. She was indeed a prisoner again. Peering down through the thin angled slats she could see into a garden, badly overgrown with grass that had fallen over and lay scorched and dry. Through the slats she could breathe summer and pressed her face against the shutter to draw in the warm, light peppery scent of dry grass.

When had she last felt sunshine on her face, she wondered, and closed her eyes to listen to the call of a songbird.

The Author

Ray Britain is a crime writer with a difference – he’s investigated serious crime.

His second novel ‘Forgotten Lives’ will publish on 10th January 2021, and follows his debut novel of ‘The Last Thread’ (2017).

As a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) Ray led many specialist investigations. He was also a Hostage & Crisis Intervention Negotiator, a voluntary role, that saw him involved in hostage situations, many firearms operations and numerous suicide interventions, not all of which ended happily. In those specialist roles he supported national counter-terrorism capabilities, and travelled to the USA, India, Europe, Australia and elsewhere. He received several Commendations for his work.

He also worked with the Serious Fraud Office and the Home Office, London, and the Economic Crime Directorate of the City of London Police.

Ray’s real-world experience gives an authentic edge to his stories, immersing the reader in the grim realities, uncertainties and frustrations of crime investigation, and of human nature.

If not writing Ray might be found mountain hiking, watching rugby, skiing, reading, sailing or in the gym. | @ray_britain

Buy Link