#BlogTour #Review : The Lingering by SJI Holliday. @SJIHolliday @OrendaBooks #TheLingering

Today I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for The Lingering. Many thanks to Orenda Books and Anne Cater for having me on this tour.

Blurb: Married couple Jack and Ali Gardiner move to a self-sufficient
commune in the English Fens, desperate for fresh start. The local village is known for the witches who once resided there and Rosalind House, where the commune has been established, is a former psychiatric home, with a disturbing history.

When Jack and Ali arrive, a chain of unexpected and unexplained events is set off, and it becomes clear that they are not all that they seem. As the residents become twitchy, and the villagers suspicious, events from the past come back to haunt them, and someone is seeking retribution…

My Review: I don’t quite know what to say about this book. I’m not really a fan of creepy stories but the comments I heard about this book made it clear I had to read it. It started off as intriguing, right from page one woth some little snippets and then Jack and Ali’s arrival at the house. It was a strange book right, from the beginning I felt unsettled reading it and then came the scary parts. I thought I deal with them quite well, that was until I left the lovely lit room I was in and walked into the rest of my flat. I have a habit of not switching lights on unless absolutely necessary, something, I think, connected to being told as I was growing up to switch off lights that weren’t needed. If I can see in the dark I tend not to bother using the light but that’s not something I would advise others to do while reading this book. My home is safe, quiet and nothing odd happens but even knowing that, walking into a dark hallway had me a little jumpy and the suddenly creaky bathroom door just made things worse! If you’re the sort of person who reads in the bath I would perhaps choose a different book for that and stick to reading this one somewhere dry.

This is a very unsettling book, it gets under your skin in a different way from others I’ve read. I’m convinced you could read this on a sunny day in a huge, empty field and still feel claustrophobic and like you were being watched. Quite how the author created that feeling I don’t know but it’s there constantly. You can put the book down and come back to it the next day and within seconds of picking it up the unsettled, claustrophobic feeling is back. This is what makes this book work. The writing creates something so believable that you could put anything in the story, from talking cats to aliens to furniture that can move and I would have read it in the same questionning way that I read the actual book.

There are so many aspects of this story, some known at the beginning and others revealed as the story progresses and I think that adds to the unsettled feeling. Most people like to feel they have some element of control over their lives but when reading this book you have no control, you can believe that you know what is going on but you don’t actually know much at all.

I still don’t quite know what to make of this book. I know I enjoyed it, the visualisation I had throughout and the fact that I lost track of time while reading are definitely signs I enjoyed it but I still feel slightly unsettled even after finishing it. This book is going to stay with me for some time. Something tells me I’m not going to escape that trace of underlying creepiness any time soon.

No one has come in from the rain recently so where did those wet footprints come from……………..

About the author:

S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday is a pharmaceutical statistician by day and a crime and horror fan by night. Her short stories have been published in many places and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham prize with her story ‘Home from Home’, which was published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in spring 2017. She is the bestselling author of the creepy and claustrophobic Banktoun trilogy (Black Wood, Willow Walk and
The Damselfly) featuring the much-loved Sergeant Davie Gray, and has
dabbled in festive crime with the critically acclaimed The Deaths of

Her latest psychological thriller is modern gothic with more than a hint of the supernatural, which she loved writing due to her fascination and fear of ghosts. She is proud to be one of The Slice Girls has been described by David Mark as ‘Dark as a smoker’s lung.’ She divides her time between Edinburgh and London and you will find her at crime-fiction events in the UK and abroad.


#BlogTour #Review : The Cairo Brief by Fiona Veitch Smith. #TheCairoBrief @lionhudson @RhodaPR2013 @fionaveitchsmit

Blurb: “I’ve heard all about you, Miss Denby. Everyone knows you have a nose for murder.” Poppy Denby is intrigued when she is invited to attend the auction for the Death Mask of Nefertiti. Held on the country estate of Sir James Maddox, a famous explorer, the auction promises to be a controversial and newsworthy affair. Representatives from the world’s leading museums are gathering to bid on the mask, which was discovered in Egypt. Poppy quickly sniffs out that the mask was not the only thing found that night: the underground chamber also contained a dead body. Poppy and her colleagues from The Daily Globe, who are trying to stay one step ahead of their rivals from The London Courier, dismiss rumours about the mask’s ancient curse. But when one of the auction party is murdered, and someone starts stalking Poppy, the race is on to find the killer before ‘the curse’ can strike again…

My Review: This is the fourth book in the Poppy Denby series and having read and enjoyed the first two (somehow I missed the third one) I was keen to read this one when I heard about it. An added interest was the fact that I love Egyptian history and while this book is not set in Egypt it does the main focus of the story because it centers around the Death Mask of Nefertiti and the doubt on the ownership claim of the person putting it up for auction.

As with the previous books I’ve read this was a brilliant read. The stories are easy to follow but get you hooked on what’s happening next and where the adventure is going to take Poppy.

While it may give more depth if you read the books in order there is enough background on the characters that this could be read as a stand alone. The characters are well rounded and leap off the page and while it’s not what I’d class as a psychological thriller there is definitely tension there and an underlying current of suspicion and intrigue.

I really enjoy these books, I need to get the third so I can catch up on the adventures I’ve missed. These are the sort of books you can curl up with on a horrible, wet evening (or weekend) and let them transport you back in time and forget about the real world for a while. Quite simply a joy to read and I hope there are many more of them to come.

About the author:

Fiona Veitch Smith has worked as a journalist in South Africa and the UK and is now an Associate Lecturer in Journalism at Newcastle University. She also teaches Creative Writing at Northumbria University.

#BlogTour #GuestPost : Small Town Nightmare by Anna Willett. @damppebbles #damppebblesblogtours #SmallTownNightmare

Blurb: A young drifter is in deep trouble, his sister is his only hope…
Lucy’s younger brother has gone missing. When she sets out to find him, the trail takes her to Night Town. It’s a rural backwater deep in the forests of south western Australia.
Lucy tries to enlist the help of the local police, but she is met with hostility. She befriends a man who might help her cause. Yet he is not quite who he says he is.

As the locals begin to resent her presence in the town, danger quickly mounts. The town has secrets and they seem to centre on the enigmatic Samuel Nightmesser, its wealthy benefactor.

What connects her missing brother to this grim boondock? And why do the townsfolk want rid of Lucy?

As the story unfolds we are immersed in a creepy, claustrophobic drama in which everything is at stake. If you like books with a strong female lead that keep you on the edge of your seat, you’ve found your next favourite read.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/SMALL-TOWN-NIGHTMARE-gripping-thriller-ebook/dp/B07GVNGNW9/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/SMALL-TOWN-NIGHTMARE-gripping-thriller-ebook/dp/B07GVNGNW9/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1542140273&sr=8-2&keywords=small+town+nightmare

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/anna-willett

Guest Post:

What’s in a Name?

Names are important. As children, the first thing we learn to write is our name. Once mastered, a good deal of our self-image and self-esteem comes from being able to recognise our name in print and sign our school work. For writers, our name is our brand. If you’re good at what you do and manage to develop a readership, your name’s all that’s needed to sell books.

A name is never more important than when writing fiction. Part of creating a character is finding a name that works. It has to work in the context of the story and, in many ways add to the character. Memorable characters need memorable names. Names that are easy to pronounce and stick in the reader’s mind. That’s not to say an unforgettable name, one that rolls off the reader’s tongue and evokes a powerful image can take the place of a well-drawn believable character, but it’s a good place to start.

Great books of the past hundred years are peppered with some very memorable character names. Scarlett O’Hara the main protagonist in Margret Michelle’s 1936 classic Gone with the Wind, springs to mind as an iconic character with a name to match. Beautiful, intelligent, vain, spoiled and often shameless, the name Scarlett is a stroke of genius. Would Scarlett have been as iconic with any other name? Probably, but the perfect name sure didn’t hurt.

While a colourful name like Scarlett sits beautifully with the image of a strong-willed Southern Belle, an ordinary name like Harry Potter works as a playful contrast to the extraordinary boy wizard’s life. So which way to go? Plain or colourful? Ordinary or strange? Meaningful or bland? The choices are endless. Maybe that’s why writers get so hung up on names.

In my second book, Retribution Ridge, the two main characters are sisters. I wanted names that sounded sisterly, if that makes sense and added something to the women’s back-story. I decided upon Judith and Millicent, names I chose for a number of reasons. First, I wanted old-fashioned names because their mother wrote historical romance novels and it made sense that she’d give her daughters classic names. Secondly, the sisters have a shared dislike for their names which gave them some common ground even in the midst of a terrifying situation where they’re not sure who to trust. Thirdly, both names can be shortened and therefore easier to write and read.

So once the decision’s made about the type of name, the question becomes where to find it? Writers use all types of devices to come up with names. With Google, there’s no shortage of options, but just by chance I discovered a new source of inspiration. While attending a funeral, I happened to notice some very old headstones and found myself captivated by the names.

As I walked around the manicured lawns reading stone after stone, I was struck by the magnitude of interesting and unusual names. Maybe it was because these names are somehow more compelling because they belonged to real flesh and bone people. Some stones even had faded black and white photos of the deceased. Whatever the reason, I found myself inspired. One name jumped out at me so violently, I knew I’d found a name I would use when creating a haunting character in my next book. The name that grabbed my attention was Lucy Hush. And, from the name, a new character was born. A reporter in her early thirties, Lucy lives a somewhat lonely life until she finds herself searching for answers in a place called Night Town. The book, Small Town Nightmare is a crime thriller set in the fictional town in Western Australia and opens with the disappearance of Lucy’s brother.

Now I’m not suggesting that the cemetery is my new hunting ground (for names), but it’s something to keep in mind.

Here’s a list of my top five favourite iconic fictional names. Do you agree with my choices?

Hannibal Lecter

Jane Eyre

Count Dracula

Jack Reacher

Sherlock Holmes

About the author:

Anna Willett is the author of Backwoods Ripper, Retribution Ridge, Forgotten Crimes, Cruelty’s Daughter and the best-selling thriller, Unwelcome Guests. Her new release, Small Town Nightmare is available on Amazon. Raised in Western Australia Anna developed a love for fiction at an early age and began writing short stories in high school. Drawn to dark tales, Anna relishes writing thrillers with strong female characters. When she’s not writing, Anna enjoys reading, travelling and spending time with her husband, two children and their dogs.

Social Media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Anna-Willett-1732961043643247/

Website: https://www.annawillett.info/

Pinterest: https://au.pinterest.com/AnnaWauthor/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15315859.Anna_Willett

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Anna-Willett/e/B01HU1SG3E/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1542140218&sr=8-1

#Blog Tour #Extract : Earth Quarantined by D.L. Richardson @DLRichardson1 

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for Earth Quarantined. This book sounds amazing and is on my to-read list. To see if you’re going to add it to yours, why not read on and find out more about it and read the extract that I have for you today.

Blurb:  World peace came with rules. We’ve just broken them.

In the year 2055, millions of humans were wiped out by a deadly virus known as EMB-II, a bioweapon strain of Ebola that could not be stopped. The need to get off the planet and into space was never stronger. Before the ships could be launched, First Contact was made. A dozen spaceships arrived, carrying twelve Criterion Advocates – peacekeepers of the universe – and thousands of Criterion soldiers, aides, workers, and engineers. To stop the virus getting into space, Earth was placed under quarantine and work begun to save the planet and humanity. Through tough control measures, world peace was achieved.

The year is now 2355. The virus is gone. Humanity is eager to get into space. Yet the Earth is still under quarantine. The Criterion are lying to us. What they don’t know is that we’re lying to them.

Kethryn Miller is an award-winning actress, but nothing will prepare her for the role she’ll take on when a strange woman who shouldn’t be alive turns up in the city, threatening to expose the lies that have kept peace on Earth for 200 years.

$2.99 ebook for only $2.99


Also available in print
Earth Quarantined is available to buy
at any of these great online retailers:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon AU

Amazon CA



Barnes & Noble


Giveaway Giveaway Giveaway Giveaway Giveaway

The author
is giving away to one lucky winner one $15 giftcard. Easy to enter. No purchase
necessary. And you can choose between amazon, Kobo or Barnes & Noble

<span style="font-family:

Enter to win a $15 Amazon, Kobo or B&N GC


Extract:  Damn world peace. It wasn’t worth her happiness.

Kethryn Miller drained the last of her wine before turning her scornful gaze to the shimmering lights below. City Prime was beautiful at night, yet the millions of lights, in every imaginable color, did little to stop the loneliness settling in.

Far below, lights blinked like neon lovers communicating in code. At least until midnight. After midnight, the power conserves came into effect, and buildings disappeared from the skyline as holo-advertisements and electricity mains shut down. Complete darkness lasted no more than the blink of a neon light; like children afraid of the dark, buildings flickered into life as insomniacs reclaimed the night.

As Kethryn watched over the world from the balcony of the forty-second floor, she wondered what kept her fellow insomniacs awake. She would swap her troubles for theirs any day.

A Criterion ship popped into view. Reflexively, Kethryn took a step back. The Divinity was gold and elliptical with sensor arrays that resembled incandescent roots reaching for the ground. One of a hundred border patrol ships, one for each Earth state, this alien hawk followed a pre-plotted course around the ten cities of State Seven. A citizen could tell time by the patrols. Each noon and midnight, the Divinity floated over City Prime. Each night when it hovered by, Kethryn sensed the co-operatives inside – humans who worked security detail for the Criterions – watching her watching them.

She reached for the bottle of wine on the table and the movement activated the Visual Imaging Device – VID – pulling her attention to the image projected onto the screen. It showed an invitation for the presidential inauguration in two weeks, one she couldn’t avoid since this was her inauguration. Spending her adult life dodging the inevitable now seemed like a waste.

She shifted her gaze from the lights to the full moon that sat to the right of the border ship. Long ago that moon had lured man to reach it. And they had. They lived in permanent habitats in self-imposed seclusion for three months at a time. It granted them little contact with family or friends, and when they returned to Earth they complained of the noise and begged to go back. Their bodies slowly decayed from constantly applying aluminum gel as protection against radiation. Their flesh festered from bedsores that never healed because of the implanted mood-gauging sensors that monitored their vital signs and mental stability. Mooners were a weird lot, and yet she envied them.

She took a sip of wine. Too sweet. It belied her current mood. The quarantine of Earth, placed by the Criterion three centuries ago, should have been lifted by now and the technology to launch a spaceship beyond the end of the Solar System granted. And yet it hadn’t. Why were humans still on Earth? Why had the Criterion not gone home after ridding the planet of the deadly virus? Why did nobody care that mankind’s peace and freedom came with chains?

These were questions to ask a Criterion advocate, and a wry smile tugged at her cheeks that she’d get her chance in two weeks.

About the author:

D L Richardson writes speculative fiction, which encompasses science fiction, light horror, supernatural fiction, and fantasy. When she’s not writing, she can be found wandering in her yard waging war on weeds, watching back-to-back episodes on Netflix, playing her piano or guitar, curled up on the couch reading a book, or walking the dog.
Other books by D L Richardson:

Welcome to the Apocalypse – Pandora

Welcome to the Apocalypse – CyberNexis

Welcome to the Apocalypse – Primal scream

Resident Spy

One Little Spell

The Bird with the Broken Wing

Poison in the Pond – A Shivers Novella Vol 1

Evil in the Embers – A Shivers Novella Vol 2

Danger in the Dirt – A Shivers Novella Vol 3

Space Junk – 4 short sci-fi stories

You can follow and contact the author
at these sites:







#BlogTour #Review : Snowed in at the Little Duck Pond Cafe by Rosie Green @Rosie_Green1988 @rararesources

Blurb:  The biggest snowfall in years has blanketed Sunnybrook, cutting the village off from the outside world. For Fen, who finds herself snowed in at The Little Duck Pond Cafe, it’s little more than a minor inconvenience. Her love life is finally running smoothly; it looks as if she’s found the perfect man for her.

But then a shocking secret threatens to destroy Fen’s new-found happiness.

Will being snowed in be the final straw? Or will Fen find a way through the snowdrifts to the perfect love?

 Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/2Cg99ki 

My Review: I’ve read and enjoyed all of the books set at the Little Duck Pond Cafe so I couldn’t not read this one. The story picks up where it left off at the end of the previous book and continues Fen’s story. There is enough background information dotted throughout that means it could be read as a standalone but I think you’d get a lot more out of it reading the series in order. 

This is a lovely, cosy read. I went shopping while reading and nearly bought mince pies which is saying something as I usually hold off till December. It’s obviously really appropriate at this time of year to read a book set at Christmas/New Year but as with all of the books in the series it is a warm, cosy read that had me reaching for tissues at one point, and clutching hot chocolate for most of my reading time. 

If you want a new romantic read that is full of warmth, strong female characters and a lovely friendly village then I would highly recommend this series of books. 
About the author:

Rosie Green has been scribbling stories ever since she was little. Back then they were rip-roaring adventure tales with a young heroine in perilous danger of falling off a cliff or being tied up by ‘the baddies’. Thankfully, Rosie has moved on somewhat, and now much prefers to write romantic comedies that melt your heart and make you smile, with really not much perilous danger involved at all, unless you count the heroine losing her heart in love.

​Rosie’s brand new series of novellas is centred on life in a village café. The first two stories in the series are: Spring at The Little Duck Pond Cafe and Summer at The Little Duck Pond Café.

Twitter – https://twitter.com/Rosie_Green1988 

#BlogTour #Extract : Where the Truth Lies by M J Lee. @canelo_co @ElliePilcher95 @WriterMJLee

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for Where the Truth Lies and I have a gripping extract for you. I love M J Lee’s books and would normally review but sadly other committments have meant I don’t have time at the moment, though it is on my to-read list. Many thanks to Ellie Pilcher at Canelo for inviting me to take part in the tour. 

Blurb:   The case was closed. Until people started dying… 

The unputdownable first DI Ridpath crime thriller from bestseller MJ Lee.

A killer in total control. A detective on the edge. A mystery that HAS to be solved.

DI Thomas Ridpath was on the up in the Manchester CID: a promising young detective whose first case involved capturing a notorious serial killer. But ten years later he’s recovering from a serious illness and on the brink of being forced out of the police. Then people start dying: tortured, murdered, in an uncanny echo of Ridpath’s first case.

As the investigation intensifies, old bodies go missing, records can’t be found and the murder count grows. Caught in a turf war between the police and the coroner’s office, digging up skeletons some would rather forget, Ridpath is caught in a race against time: a race to save his career, his marriage… And lives.

When a detective goes missing everything is on the line. Can Ridpath close the case and save his colleague?

Extract: The cemetery was on a spur overlooking the flood plain of the river Mersey. Morning mist hovered over the water, sneaking like a thief into every tiny nook and cranny. The sun was just trying to peer over the horizon, its weak rays lightening the dark skies. The bare whispers of a north-east wind hustled over the ground, creeping between the gravestones and rustling the branches of a row of lime trees.

Ridpath pulled his thick coat over the woollen fleece. The teal-blue scarf around his neck was nearly choking him, but he had promised Polly he’d wear it.

The doctors had warned him to be wary of catching cold or flu. If he did, he would be whisked off back into the isolation unit of Christie’s. Bloody doctors and their bloody fears. There was no way they were getting him inside the hospital again. Not in a million years.

He would have loved to smoke a fag right now. The tarry aroma of tobacco in the early morning air like the first cough of spring, but he had promised Polly he would cut down. Not eliminate, just cut down. 

God, she was good at getting him to make promises. Almost as good as he was at breaking them.

The undertaker, Albert Ronson, had already erected blue plastic sheets on three sides of the grave, leaving the side hidden from the main road open. 

The message on the headstone was simple:

Alice Seagram, 1990–2008.

Taken from us far too early.

In front of the headstone, a bunch of flowers bought from Tesco wilted in the early morning gloom. 

‘I didn’t inter this client.’ The undertaker spoke out of the side of his mouth, not looking at Ridpath, whispering so as not to wake the dead. 

The undertaker was almost a cliché of his profession: tall, dressed in black and with a sallow complexion which hadn’t seen sunlight since the Dark Ages. ‘Only one customer in the grave, so it should be a simple exhumation.’

The voice was monotone, without any sort of inflexion or stress. Funereal was the adjective to describe him, Ridpath decided.

‘The last time, I had three caskets on top and two cremation urns. Delicate job…delicate job.’ He blew on the ends of his sallow fingers in a futile attempt to warm them up in the cold morning air. Ridpath kept his hands in his pockets.

The gravediggers had already started to remove the grass that grew over the plot, putting the sods on top of a tarpaulin on one side. ‘Won’t use a mechanical digger on this customer.’ Albert looked over his shoulder. ‘Treat her with respect just in case the family comes down to watch.’

‘Do families normally come?’

‘Some do. Some don’t,’ said Albert enigmatically.

A car, its headlights cutting through the early morning mist, was parking at the side of the road.

‘It’s him, checking up as usual.’

A large, rotund man approached them wearing one of those dark-blue duvet jackets that made him look like a miniature version of the Michelin Man. ‘Morning, Albert,’ he nodded at the undertaker. ‘You must be the new coroner’s officer. I’m Health and Safety.’

He held out his hand. ‘Morning. Inspector Tom Ridpath, on temporary secondment to the coroner from Manchester Police.’

‘Lovely morning for it.’ He stared at the gravediggers and tut-tutted. ‘Albert, you know they should be wearing their masks before they start digging. See to it, will you?’

Albert glanced across at him mournfully, sneering with all the panache of a Professor Snape, before moving off to talk to the transgressing gravediggers.

‘Always tries to cut corners, does Albert.’ The man stomped his feet on the cold ground. ‘Been working long with the coroner?’

‘First day.’

The man made a moue, his tiny eyes being swallowed up by the large red cheeks. He leant in closer. ‘Got a reputation, has Mrs Challinor.’ He leant in even closer until Ridpath could smell his breath. ‘Man-eater,’ he whispered. ‘But you didn’t hear it from me.’

The spades of the gravediggers cut through the damp earth with a rhythmic ease, breath puffing out of their mouths like aged steam trains as they carefully laid each clod of turf on the tarpaulin, under the watchful eyes of the undertaker and Mr Health and Safety.

‘And watch out for Carol Oates. Ambitious, that one is. Not happy just being area coroner, is she?’

‘I don’t know, is she?’

The man stopped smiling for a moment, wondering whether he was being made fun of. Ridpath kept his face still and unmoving.

‘She is. Wants to be head coroner, that one does, but Mrs Challinor is sitting in the hot seat.’

‘You seem to know a lot about what’s going on.’

‘Health and Safety, mate. I keeps my ears and eyes and nose close to the ground.’

An image of a jowly bloodhound with the man’s face leapt into Ridpath’s head as another car arrived at the side of the road.

‘Looks like the family has finally come.’

But only one man exited the car. Ridpath recognized the thin, tall, slightly bowed shape.

‘Morning, Charlie, what are you doing here?’

Charlie Whitworth stroked his moustache. ‘Wouldn’t miss your first day on the job, would I, Ridpath? And anyway, this is about that bastard Dalbey. Me and John Gorman were the ones who put him away.’

Mr Health and Safety leant into their conversation with his hand held out. ‘Rob Campbell, Health and Safety.’

Charlie Whitworth ignored the hand and continued speaking to Ridpath. ‘Alice Seagram was his fourth victim. You caught him with the fifth, remember?’

How could he forget? The day he had chased after James Dalbey, catching him in the lock-up next to the allotments. The police arriving. Looking up and seeing the girl – Freda Scott was her name. Naked and shackled to a blood-spattered wall at the rear of the building. Covering her with his jacket as she shivered in his arms. Her words’: ‘Save me…save me…save me,’ repeated again and again and again.

‘No…no…no…Albert, they need to be wearing their masks. They can’t take them off to breathe.’ Mr Health and Safety matched off to the graveside.

‘Dalbey’s trying to wriggle out of it. Prove his conviction was dodgy to get a pardon.’

‘He was a vicious bastard, Charlie.’

‘Aye, but we nicked him.’

The gravediggers had put their masks back on and returned to digging.

‘How did yesterday go?’

‘Mrs Challinor doesn’t have much time for Jim Howells.’

‘Who would? But let us know what’s going on there, Ridpath. Wouldn’t like it to get away from us.’

Ridpath turned to face his boss for the first time. ‘Second time you’ve asked me. I’m no nark, Charlie.’

‘Never said you were, but—’

The sound of the tip of a spade hitting wood.

‘Looks like we’ve hit the mother lode,’ Campbell shouted back towards them. ‘And she’s in good condition, too, from the sound of it.’

The gravediggers quickly removed the remaining earth covering the casket and jumped out of the grave. The undertaker took his own time putting on a white Tyvek suit, finally pulling on a pair of bright-pink plastic gloves given to him by Mr Health and Safety. He lowered himself into the grave, carefully placing his boots on either side of the coffin.

‘Apparently I have to observe this part,’ Ridpath said, moving to the graveside.

The undertaker was bent double, carefully scraping the last remnants of soil off the tarnished brass nameplate on the lid of the coffin. ‘I can read the name. It’s Alice Seagram.’

Ridpath remembered the words from the file he was supposed to say at this time. ‘Please remove the coffin, Mr Ronson.’ He then stepped back to allow the gravediggers to move the trestle, with its lifting ropes, over the grave.

The undertaker removed himself from the grave with an athleticism which surprised Ridpath.

‘Fancy breakfast? There’s a good greasy spoon next to the flower shop,’ said Charlie Whitworth, now standing beside him.

‘I’ll hang on here till the undertaker’s put the coffin in his van, and the thing is on its way to the pathologist.’

‘Following the rules to the letter, are we?’

Ridpath ignored him. The gravediggers, with the help of Ronson, were manoeuvring the ropes under the coffin so it could be lifted out of the grave. One of the gravediggers tugged on a rope attached to a pulley and the click of a ratchet echoed through the air. 

The sun was fully up now, the mist being burned off by its rays. Off to the left, a blackbird was proclaiming his dominance of this graveyard from the top of an ancient yew tree.

Mr Health and Safety was encouraging the gravedigger. ‘Up a bit, slowly, that’s it, she’s coming up.’

The gravedigger was ignoring him, just going about his work with a singular concentration.

The ropes were taut and the dark, earth-stained wood of the coffin slowly rose into view. Ridpath expected a strong smell, perhaps of a rotting corpse, but there was nothing. Just the scent of the earth: a rich, black, fertile aroma.

They held the coffin above the grave as one of Ronson’s assistants brought out the gurney from the back of the van. He locked the two sets of wheels and trundled it across the grass, positioning it next to the grave.

Mr Health and Safety’s voice rang out again, loud enough to wake the dead. ‘Swing it round, gentlemen. Watch the straps.’

The gravediggers, with Ronson on one side, ignored him again, carefully moving the coffin from above the grave to the gurney. As they did so, Health and Safety decided they weren’t moving quickly enough and pushed the side of the coffin with his gloved hand. The edge caught on the side of the gurney, before wobbling for a moment and then settling down.

‘That was close,’ he said, ‘nearly fell off the straps.’

As he finished speaking, one of the straps snapped and the end of the coffin slipped down, crashing to the soft earth. 

The two gravediggers and Ronson jumped backwards as the coffin landed on the ground with a loud thud. The lid popped open and slowly slid off to one side.

The undertaker recovered his composure quickly, leaning over to peer into the coffin. Then he stood upright and, in the loudest voice he had used in years, said, ‘Inspector, I think you should come and look at this.’
About the author:  M J Lee has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a university researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, TV commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites. 

He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the north of England, in London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning advertising awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and the United Nations. 

While working in Shanghai, he loved walking through the old quarters of that amazing city, developing the idea behind a series of crime novels featuring Inspector Pyotr Danilov, set in the 1920s. 

When he’s not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, practising downhill ironing, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake, and wishing he were George Clooney.

#Blog Tour #Review : Antiques and Alibis by Wendy H. Jones. @WendyHJones #LoveBooksGroupTours 

I am delighted today to be taking part in the blog tour for Antiques and Alibis. I first heard about this book earlier this year and it sounded right up my street so when the blog tour was mentioned I jumped at the chance. Many thanks to Kelly and to Wendy for giving me a copy of the book and a space on the tour. So, read on and find out what I thought about the book.

Blurb:  Cass Claymore, a red headed, motorbike riding, ex-ballerina inherits a Detective Agency, and accidentally employs an ex-con dwarf and an octogenarian. Hired by a client who should know better, Cass has no leads, no clue and a complete inability to solve a case. Still a girl needs to eat and her highbred client’s offering good money. Join her as, with bungling incompetence, she follows a trail littered with missing antique teddies, hapless crooks, a misplaced Lord of the Realm and dead bodies. 

Will Cass, and Scotland, survive?

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My Review:  As I’ve said I heard about this book earlier this year and then was reminded about the tour when at Bloody Scotland in September. I bumped into Wendy who said if I liked the Stephanie Plum novels then I would like this and she was spot on. I don’t read many Stephanie Plum novels now but am a huge fan of the early ones and this book definitely will be one that fans of that series will enjoy.

Cass Claymore is not your typical private investigator but that’s part of the appeal of the story. She’s inherited her private investigator business but has very little idea of how to actually investigate anything. She’s disorganised and gets her investigating tips from Sherlock Holmes and a variety of other, non-professional, sources. Add to this her unexpected and accidental hiring of two highly unsuitable employees and her dog which causes chaos wherever it goes and you have the recipe for an enjoyable madcap adventure in Dundee and the surrounding areas as Cass investigates a missing person and a missing teddy bear. 

Cass is a brilliant character, quirky and different but trying to make ends meet by running her business even though she doesn’t know how to run it. While suddenly inheriting a private investigator business is not something likely to happen to any of us, the way Cass investigates is probably how most people would investigate.  It’s hard to describe this novel without just saying, read it and find out for yourself. It’s a complete rollercoaster from start to finish. Cass is clearly out of her depth but despite that and her mistakes I found myself wanting her to succeed, mainly so I can read more books with her in them. 

Aside from Cass my favourite character has to be Quill. I suspect he might irritate me if he was real but as a fictional character he’s brilliant. I love his dress sense and the way he listens but doesn’t listen to instructions. He’s trying to improve his life and is quite endearing at times, a comment which he might be embarrased by, but it’s true. 

If you love Stephanie Plum or want a crime fiction read that is completely different then you should definitely give this book a try. It’s chaotic, funny and a bit bonkers and sometimes that’s exactly what you need in life.

About the author:  Award Winning Author Wendy H. Jones lives in Scotland, and her police procedural series featuring Detective Inspector Shona McKenzie, is set in the beautiful city of Dundee, Scotland. 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. This took her all over the world including Europe, the Middle East and the Far East. Much of her spare time is now spent travelling around the UK, and lands much further afield. As well as nursing Wendy also worked for many years in Academia. This led to publication in academic textbooks and journals. Killer’s Countdown is her first novel and the first book in the Shona McKenzie Mystery series. Killer’s Crew won the Books Go Social Book of the Year 2107. There are now six books in this series with Killer’s Crypt being released in August, 2017. The Dagger’s Curse is the first book in The Fergus and Flora Mysteries for Young Adults. This book is currently shortlisted for the Woman Alive Magazine Readers Choice Award Book of the Year. She is also a highly successful marketer and she shares her methods in the book, Power Packed Book Marketing.