Saturday 23 September 2023

Forthcoming Books from Canongate and Severn House Books

 January 2024

To The Dogs is by Louise Welsh. Jim Brennan is flying high. Against all odds, he is a big man at the university, tipped for the head job and an office at the top of the ivory tower. He has a beautiful, accomplished wife and two healthy children. Jim drives an Audi, and his dog is a pedigree bichon frise. Not bad for the son of a hardman who grew up in a room and kitchen.  But for every person who's watched his progress and wanted to hitch a lift, there's someone else desperate to drag him back down. When his son Elliot is arrested on drugs charges, Jim is approached by men he thought he had left safely in his past. Their demands threaten his family, students and reputation. As the pressure mounts, Jim discovers he is more like his father than he thought. The question is, how far will Professor Jim Brennan go to save the life he built?

Court jester Will Somers is drawn into another gripping and entertaining mystery when malevolent forces strike again at the court of Henry VIII – and Anne Boleyn is the target. Greenwich, Palace of Placentia, April 1536. Queen Anne is in peril. In the mid of night, court jester Will Somers is summoned to an urgent assignation when she discovers a body in her chamber. The queen wants Will to find out who the man is and how he ended up there. Is someone trying to frame her for his murder? Anne has many enemies at court, and to make matters worse, Henry VIII is lining up his next conquest and suspects her of treason. Has the formidable Oliver Cromwell been whispering vile lies in the king’s ears, and could Anne be the target of a Catholic conspiracy? As further attacks plague the court, Will is determined to uncover the truth behind the plotting and devilry, but he will need to keep hold of all his wits to do so! The Twilight Queen is by Jeri Westerton.

A Crust to Die For is by T.C.. LoTempio. The Bon-Appetempting Pizza Bake-Off has the small town of Branson, Georgia buzzing. Not least its organizer, Southern Style’s food critic and blogger Tiffany Austin. But right before the finals one of the celebrity judges falls ill, and to Tiffany’s horror the magazine replace him with none other than handsome TV star and restaurateur Bartholomew Driscoll. Tiffany once gave his restaurant a poor review, and she’s convinced he’s only accepted the job to get revenge. She fully expects Driscoll will find a way to ruin the contest . . . but she definitely doesn’t expect to trip over his dead body backstage! Soon, it’s clear Tiffany wasn’t the only person who had less than positive feelings towards the sharp-tongued Driscoll. She’s surrounded by suspects – but which of the motley crew of contestants, family members and scorned friends and colleagues had the guts to commit murder? With the help of her BFF Hilary and annoyingly handsome detective Bartell, and with cat Lily and puppy Cooper as emotional support, Tiffany investigates, only to discover that revenge is indeed a dish best served cold . . .

The Nubian's Curse is by Barbara Hambly. December 1840. Surgeon turned piano-player Benjamin January is looking forward to a peaceful holiday with his family. But the arrival of an old friend brings unexpected news – and unexpected danger. Persephone Jondrette has found Arithmus: a Sudanese man with extraordinary mental abilities who January last saw in France, nearly fifteen years ago, during a ghost-hunting expedition to a haunted chateau. January and his friends survived the experience . . . but Arithmus’ benefactor, the British explorer Deverel Wishart, did not. He was discovered dead one morning, his face twisted in horror, and shortly afterwards Arithmus vanished, never to be seen again. Did Deverel succumb to the chateau’s ghosts – or did Arithmus murder him and run away? January is determined to uncover the truth about the tragic incident from his past, and clear his old friend’s name – but even he isn’t prepared for what happens next . . .

June, 1982. Lydia Wienewski’s dream has finally come true: Lydia’s Lakeside Cafe and Bakery, selling delicious Polish-American fare on the shore of Lake Erie, is now open and her fortunes are looking up. Even her old nemesis and tutor, the irascible Madame Delphine, has made time to sample Lydia’s delectable pierogi, with some of her students in tow. But when Lydia finds Madame Delphine dead in the water, her lakeside dream turns into a nightmare. Was it a bizarre suicide, or brutal murder? As Lydia and Grandma Mary investigate, they discover that there was more to Madame Delphine than meets the eye, and quickly find themselves drawn into an increasingly perilous situation! Can they uncover the truth about Madame Delphine’s untimely death? The Piergoli Peril is by Geri Krotow.

The Son's Secret is by Daryl Wood Gerber. Maggie Lawson is the smart, capable dean of a boutique college, but even the most confident mother has a weakness – her child. When Maggie can’t reach her college senior son, Aiden, to tell him that his father has been shot, she starts to panic. She texts. She calls. Is Aiden ghosting her, or have the dangerous stories Aiden’s father, her investigative journalist ex-husband, pursues finally brought trouble to her door? Maggie is sure that something is very wrong, but no one believes her. As dark events unfold, she must rely on her own investigative instincts to find Aiden. But when Maggie uncovers a devastating secret, she faces a race against time to save him.

February 2024

The Stranger in the Asylum is by Alys Clare. London, April 1882. When cool-headed Phyllida visits the World’s End Investigation Bureau to offer a curious case concerning her fiancé, proprietor Lily Raynor is intrigued – and privately excited. For accepting the case means taking an unexpected trip abroad, to France. Phyllida’s fiancé, Wilberforce, is currently in an asylum in Brittany, after a tragic incident which resulted in the death of his father. Did he kill him on purpose – or was it an accident? Wilberforce’s innocence looks increasingly in doubt when another murder happens at the asylum – and the evidence points to Wilberforce being the culprit. Phyllida fears for Wilberforce’s wellbeing, but she can’t marry a murderer! With the engagement hanging in the balance, Phyllida wants to know the truth before it’s too late. Lily and her assistant, Felix Wilbraham, journey to rural France to uncover the truth, but the case takes an unexpected turn when they discover that the accused man has escaped the asylum and is nowhere to be found. Soon the intrepid investigators are in over their heads with much greater and unexpected powers at play . . .

Danni has seen more in her 8 years on this planet than most people see in a lifetime. The sole survivor of a motorway pile-up which took her mother’s life, she is now safe and thriving with her adoptive family. Until the day the bad people come knocking. Forcing Danni to face the memories she has done such a good job forgetting . . . Josie’s quiet life is dismantled with a knock at the door. When she and her daughter are violently kidnapped, Josie must act fast to survive. Danni has very little memory of the day her mother died, but these people are hell bent on finding the money her mother stole before her death, and they think Danni knows more than she’s letting on. Grace arrives at her big sister’s house to find her partner Pete beaten and tied up and her sister and niece taken. Josie has been her protector her entire life – but now she needs to be the strong one. Enlisting the help of a friend with the combat experience and skills she needs, Grace will stop at nothing to get her family back home . . . The Girl in the Smoke is by Matt Hilton.

The Holy Terrors is by Simon R Green. Welcome to Spooky Time, the hit TV ghost-hunting show where the horror is scripted . . . and the ratings are declining rapidly. What better way to up the stakes – and boost the viewership – than by locking a select group of Z-list celebrities up for the night in The Most Haunted Hall in England™ and live-streaming the ‘terrifying’ results? Soon Alistair, a newly appointed Bishop, actress Diana, medium Leslie, comedian Toby and celebrity chef Indira are trapped inside Stonehaven town hall, along with June, the host and producer of the show. The group tries to settle in and put on a good show, but then strange things start happening in their hall of horrors. What is it about this place – and why is the TV crew outside not responding? Are they even on air? Logical Alistair attempts to keep the group’s fears at bay and rationalise the odd events, but there are things that just can’t be explained within reason . . . Can he stop a cold-blooded would-be killer – even if it’s come from beyond the grave?

When death becomes entertainment, every life has a price. And Cassie West is about to find out how much hers is worth . . . Ready Player One meets Black Mirror in this stunning speculative thriller set in a future world in which virtual reality isn’t just a game, it’s daily life.Welcome to Earth+. The year is 2037, and nearly all human interactions have migrated to the virtual world. Now, true crime fans don’t just listen to podcasts or watch documentaries – they participate in hyper-realistic simulations and hunt for clues to solve the most famous and gruesome crimes in history. Criminal entertainment is a multibillion-dollar industry, and at the forefront is Past Crimes: known by its millions of fans as the Disneyland of Death. Cassie West licenses crimes for V.I.C.E, spending long hours convincing grieving families to allow her to sell their tragedies to the highest bidder. Life is hard, and the cost of living high, but she and her husband Harris have never been happier. After years of trying, Cassie is finally pregnant. But leaving work late one evening, Cassie starts to worry. Harris isn’t responding to texts or calls. Even worse, dozens of emergency drones seem to be heading in the same direction as she is: straight to their home. What she finds there changes everything. Soon, Cassie finds herself in a fight for survival, becoming a target in both the real and virtual worlds. But it’s not just her own life at stake. If Cassie can’t uncover the truth of what happened to her husband, thousands more may die . . . Past Crimes is by Jason Pinter.

At Any Cost is by Jeffery Siger. Chief Inspector Kaldis is initially dismayed to be asked to investigate a series of suspicious forest fires that took place last summer. In Greece, forest fires are an inevitability, and he fears he and his team are being set up to take the political blame for this year’s blazes. He quickly becomes suspicious, though, that the forests were torched for profit – and for a project on a far grander scale than the usual low-level business corruption. There are whispers on the wind that shadowy foreign powers intend to establish a surreptitious mega-internet presence on the island of Syros, with the intent to weaponize the digital world to their own dark ends. Can Kaldis and his team stop the hostile foreign takeover of the idyllic island – or will the rise of the metaverse set not just Greece, but the whole world, on fire?

Two rival queens. History’s greatest playwright. And a deadly plot for the crown. London, 1600. With no legitimate heir to Queen Elizabeth’s throne, and no clear successor, England finds itself in a supremely perilous moment. When spymaster Anthony Bacon commands esteemed playwright William Shakespeare to write a play on the poisonous history of Queen Elizabeth and the rival monarch she executed, Catholic Mary Queen of Scots, Will knows that Elizabeth’s one-time favorite, the powerful Earl of Essex, will use the play to try to seize her throne. Must Will be ensnared in a ruthless plot fated to tumble his country into civil war? Or can he navigate a treacherous path through the dark warrens of London and the tortuous world of Elizabethan politics to save his family, his country, and his Queen? The Sister Queen's is by Justin Scott.

March 2024

Crime-fiction librarian – and reluctant amateur sleuth – Ray Ambler gets mixed up in murder once again when he’s called to appraise a mystery-novel collection at an exclusive New York college. An invitation from a prestigious liberal arts college to buy their mystery-novel collection comes as a welcome surprise for Raymond Ambler, crime-fiction curator at New York City’s prestigious 42nd Street Library. But his pleasure quickly turns sour when the collection’s curator – Ambler’s friend Sam Abernathy – tells him he plans to fight the acquisition tooth and nail. The collection would make a fine addition to his holdings, but Ambler’s not looking for drama. It’s a shame, then, that drama’s looking for him. Just a couple of weeks later, one of Abernathy’s colleagues is shot dead from the library’s roof, and all signs point to the crime-loving professor as the perpetrator of the violent act. Why would Abernathy kill – and was it for his collection, for college politics, or for some dark secret yet to be revealed? Ambler’s not sure his old friend’s a killer, but he is sure he wants justice – for both the living and the dead. Working with his son John, he launches into an investigation at the college library, and it’s not long before he discovers missing manuscripts, explosive secrets and scandals amongst the faculty staff . . . and a cunning killer who’ll stop at nothing to cover up their crimes. Murder at the College Library is by Con Lehane.

Circles of Death is by Marcia Talley. Hannah Ives is staying at her idyllic vacation cottage in Elizabethtown with her husband, Paul, and is thrilled when she bumps into the young woman who used to babysit her grandchildren, Noel Sinclair, at a local supermarket. But when Noel pays a visit to the cottage, she unwittingly draws Hannah’s attention to some seriously ill eagles in her neighbour’s cornfield. Could these magnificent birds have been poisoned? As Hannah investigates, Noel uncovers some shocking news of her own when she and her sister receive the results of their DNA tests. As Hannah tries to work out who is tormenting the birds while delving into Noel’s family tree, the last thing she expects is a deadly connection between the two . . .

Leeds, October 1824. Thief-taker Simon Westow’s job seems straightforward. Captain Holcomb’s maid, Sophie, has stolen important papers that could ruin the family’s reputation, and he’s desperate for their return. But the case very quickly takes a murderous turn, and it becomes clear the papers are hiding a host of sins . . . During the search, Simon’s assistant, Jane, hears a horrific tale: men are snatching young girls from small towns for use by the rich. Those who are unwanted are tossed on to the streets of Leeds to survive among the homeless. With the help of an unlikely, deadly new companion, Jane will do everything to discover who’s responsible and make them pay. Can Simon and Jane recover Holcomb’s letters and get justice for the stolen girls? It becomes a battle that might result in them losing everything . . . including their lives. The Scream of Sins is by Chris Nickson

A serial killer, dormant for years, reawakens after viewing a Netflix docuseries depicting his string of homicides. The killer is not happy with his portrayal and no one in the cast and crew is safe! Siblings Cory and Crystal Pratt are still trying to get their lives together after a tragic accident which killed their parents years ago. The only thing that distracts them now is their jobs. With Crystal working as a newly minted detective at the Chicago Police Department and Cory owning a dog training academy with two human remains detection dogs of his own, their professional paths cross every now and then. Crime, and especially murder, in Chicago is nothing new, but when a string of killings happen that seem to be connected to a Netflix docuseries and its cast and crew, Cory and Crystal are called in to stop the number of bodies from piling any higher. But when the siblings start poking around the killer’s business, the killer sets their sights on the pair . . . and particularly on Cory and his dogs! Will they be able to escape the fury of the serial killer or become the newest victims? The Dead Years is by Jeffrey B Burton.

Knife Skills is by Wendy Church. Sagarine Pfister is a great cook but has been blacklisted by almost every restaurant in Chicago. She gets her chance at Louie’s, a below-average restaurant, the only place that will give her a job. Things change when she finds head chef Louie Ferrar dead in the walk-in freezer of his restaurant. But instead of closing the place down, the owner, Russian gang boss Anatoly Morzov, not only offers her Louie’s job, but also the position as his personal chef. Sagarine agrees, and while she knows she’s playing with fire, the chance to turn out extraordinary food at both the restaurant and for Morzov’s extravagant private parties is just too tempting. While the Chicago P.D. searches for Louie’s killer, the FBI pressures Sagarine to inform on the gang. She has no choice, but things take another dangerous turn when she falls for one of Morzov’s lieutenants. As Sagarine becomes more deeply involved with the gang and with her lover, the FBI’s demands put her at increased risk of discovery. She has to make a decision about where her loyalties lie as she finds herself running for her life.

Murder and the Missing Dog is by Susan C Shea. Ariel Shepard has spent the last year renovating her beautiful French château, while also ingratiating herself into the lives and hearts of the quirky locals of Noyers-sur-Serein. The shocking business of the murder of the local historian is behind her and she is finally feeling at home. However, it’s not long before murder and mystery once again seek Ariel out, when she and her friend Katherine find the body of the elderly Madame Toussaint in the doorway of Katherine’s flea market shop. Who would want to harm this lonely soul? Where is the bag the woman never leaves home without? And more importantly, where is her loyal, loving dog who never leaves her side? Could Raoul, Ariel’s stoic gardener, really have something to do with it? And could Madame Toussaint have been mixed up with the robberies increasing around the idyllic villages of France? Despite warnings from the rather handsome Brigadier Allard, Ariel, with help from Katherine and Pippa, once again dons her sleuthing hat . . .

The morning after his eighty-seventh birthday bash, former Posadas County sheriff Bill Gastner drives past a couple of vehicles stopped on the highway shoulder. It’s not an unusual sight: a sheriff’s patrol unit, emergency lights ablaze, pulled in behind a pickup truck. The female deputy hasn’t radioed for backup. But there’s something about the scene that makes him feel uneasy. The next day, Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman is called to a rather more dramatic and disturbing roadside scene, with the same truck the star of the show. But this time, its occupant is in no fit state to talk – his dead body stabbed through the chest with a Ka-Bar, a second corpse in the ditch beside the car. What happened to the two men? And what were the dead man and the deputy discussing in the quiet of pre-dawn the previous day? The truth is more twisty and complex than even Estelle and her long-standing friend and former colleague Bill are ready for, and it will take all their combined years of experience to untangle the sorry tale and ensure justice is served. Perfect opportunity is by Steven F Havill.

I know my husband is dead. But I don’t know whether I killed him . . . I‘ll never forget meeting Charles. We were law students at Santa Clara University when I fell head-over-heels. He was brilliant, charming, and handsome. Oh, and he loved me. We got married after a whirlwind romance and moved into a gorgeous new home while I continued with law school – until I became pregnant with Emma. My happiness was complete. But happiness can be deceiving . . . Now Charles is gone. I found his body in our living room, but I can’t remember what happened just before he died. I’ve tried, but I’ve been having blackouts for months. The police think I killed him, but I didn’t . . . did I? I keep reliving our relationship, desperate to unlock the truth. But if I do, will I be able to face it? Hanging with Hugo is by Katherine Boger Hyde.

April 2024

Ancient Crete, 1450 BC. When young bull leaper Martis finds Duzi, the newest member of the bull leaping team, dead in the bull pen early one morning. Made to look like he met his end on the horns of the bull, it’s clear to Martis that this was no accident . . . Martis once again finds herself thrown into a dangerous game of hunting down a murderer as the deaths start to mount. An old friend of Martis’ sister, and possible lover to Duzi, is the next person to be found dead, and Martis’ investigations lead her to believe love and jealousy are at the heart of these crimes against the Goddess. Is someone targeting the bull leaping community? Or is there something else at play? With only the Shade of her sister Arge to confide in, Martis struggles to untangle the growing web of secrets which stretch around her. On The Horns of Death is by Eleanor Kuhns.

May 2024

Friday 22 September 2023

October Books from Bookouture

The Nurse is by Jenna Kernan. “Can you start right away?” I can hear the desperation in Dr Roth’s voice. He’s longing for someone to look after his poor, sick wife Sabrina in their perfect Florida home. The job pays an awful lot. And I really need the money. As long as they don’t ask too many questions… I spend my days by Sabrina’s side. She has everything money could buy – a luxurious home, a handsome, doting husband who would do anything for her. I hate cleaning up her mess, picking her designer clothes off the floor, and driving her to the golf club. I hate how she sneers at me, no matter what I do. But I have to remember why I’m really here. Dr Roth has made it clear I have to make sure she takes her medication. Because if she doesn’t, there’s hell to pay. Three times a day, I count her sedative pills carefully. Sabrina rambles about the death of a child. About a terrible accident. Dr Roth shakes his head sadly. Delusions are a heartbreaking symptom of his wife’s illness, he says.But when Dr Roth leaves the house, Sabrina becomes more clear-headed. She tells me she’s done something terrible. And that her husband is lying. He keeps her trapped because of what she did. And I’m the only one who can help her escape.  Can I believe the words of a woman suffering from delusions? Or is Dr Roth not as trustworthy as he seems? Someone is lying. And if the Roths find out why I’m really here, this could take a deadly turn…

The doorbell chimes loudly. Her husband answers. Muffled voices. Then a crash. The sound of her husband’s body falling to the floor. “Joseph…?” Her voice wobbles. And she knows instantly—she should have stayed silent… Ex-cop Sally Fairburn has put the world of crime behind her, but when her old boss contacts her about working her first case as a detective, she can’t resist. The high-profile Austin case will be her first opportunity to prove herself. Retired accountant Joseph Austin has been found dead and his wife, Fiona, in a coma, in their exclusive Peakhurst mansion. It’s a suspected burglary gone wrong, but something about the murder scene doesn’t add up: why is nothing valuable missing Nobody seems to know who might want to hurt this sweet old pair, but as Sally investigates, she discovers the wealthy couple weren’t as popular as she first thought. They’d been embroiled in heated arguments with their neighbor, ex-con Salvador Sobral, for months. His is the strongest motive she can find. But before Sally can pounce, she receives a chilling call. Sobral has been brutally murdered with a thin strip of wire. Racing to find the missing link between the murders, Sally grows ever more desperate to catch the killer—especially when her violent ex-husband returns to his post with the Franklin police department, determined to discredit her. Fiona Austin holds the answers Sally needs. But will she come round from her coma before the murderer strikes again? Or will the killer lead Sally down a dangerous path that will leave her balancing on a knife edge between life and death? First Victim is by L A Larkin.

The Weekend Away is by Miranda Smith. My sister died. Her friends lied. And now I’m going to learn the truth…  A year ago, my twin sister Samantha left me a message: I need you. A day later, she was dead. I always knew it was suspicious, but no one would listen. But I’ve just found her journal, tucked into a hidden space in the window seat of our childhood bedroom. It shows who her best friends really are: the fraud. The liar. The cheat. The crush. Now, they’re all together on a weekend away, in a beautiful wood-panelled cabin in the mountain. And I’m going too. One of them killed her, and I’m going to prove it. But am I ready for the answers I’m seeking? Because I soon realize that my sister had dark secrets too…  And when fire breaks out on the mountain, leaving us trapped, I must decide: what will I risk to get justice for Samantha? Because finding the truth might cost me my life…

The house is deathly silent as the summer sun starts to creep in through the dusty windows. The children should be waking up, the parents should be cooking breakfast. But they all lay still, their heads on their pillows, lifeless eyes staring at nothing, their bodies waiting to be discovered… When a couple and their young twin boys are discovered brutally murdered in their beds, everyone suspects this is a home invasion gone tragically wrong. But as Detective Madison Harper walks into the run-down house that is eerily empty, she isn’t so sure. Talking to the neighbors, Madison soon discovers that the family only recently moved to the small town of Lost Creek, Colorado. No one has met them, and no one knows their names. With nothing to identify them in the house, or even to show that the house belonged to them, Madison is suddenly faced with not only having to find a cold-blooded killer, but needing to identify the victims too. Then, Madison’s heart stops in her chest when she discovers a small yellow t-shirt in the back of the family’s vehicle that says Daddy’s Girl. The couple must have had a daughter as well as the twin boys, but where is she? Madison suspects she’s been abducted, and vows to find the missing little girl before it’s too late. But as Madison makes a breakthrough in identifying the family, she discovers they had a secret that changes the whole course of the investigation. Madison knows with every second that passes the chances of finding the girl alive get smaller, but she’s prepared to risk everything to find her, even her own life… Her Lonely Bones is by Wendy Dranfield.

The Perfect Date is by Julia Crouch. I thought I’d found the one… But then I found him dead. The last time I saw Harry, he was smiling at me over a candlelit table. It felt like I’d known him forever. I sipped my wine, and let myself hope for a second perfect date. But this morning, out on a bright sunny walk, my rescue dog starts barking. I follow to see what he’s found. That’s when I see Harry’s body. His handsome face is cold and still. I back away, trembling. It should be the worst thing that has ever happened to me. But it’s happened to me before. The last two men I dated are dead. I can’t tell the police I knew them both. I’d be their number one suspect. But I need answers. Am I going mad, or is this my fault? And if I don’t find out who is doing this, will I be next?

Prom Queen is by Laura Wolfe. Twenty years ago, someone murdered my best friend the night she was crowned prom queen. Now I’m finally going to prove it… After Bailey died, I fled our small lakeside hometown and never returned. But now I’m forced back here and I can’t avoid the constant whispers about our prom night, the suspicious looks of the people I grew up with. Then I bump into a woman in a coffee shop and my eyes are drawn to the silver locket around her neck, glinting in the sunlight. My blood runs cold. I know it’s Bailey’s—she never took it off. And it’s been missing since the night she died. The shock of seeing it again jolts me back to that terrible night: Bailey under the glittering lights, blowing kisses to a crowd glaring furiously back at her. Bailey wasn’t supposed to be prom queen—and someone made her pay for it. Officially her death was ruled a tragic accident, but I knew better. I’ve never seen this woman before, so why does she have my best friend’s necklace? There has to be a reason, and this time I’ll stop at nothing to find out what really happened to Bailey the night she died. Everyone in this town has secrets. But as I edge closer to the truth, I’m afraid of what lengths they’ll go to protect them… 

As she opens her eyes and takes in the dark, damp earth, her heart races. She tries to move but the rope binding her feet cuts tight—she’s trapped underground. Heavy footsteps pace above. A tear falls down her cheek as she stifles a scream. He’s walking away. He’s left her for dead… When a shallow grave is discovered in the dark pine forest surrounding Black Rock Falls, Sheriff Jenna Alton rushes to investigate. After unearthing the old bones, Jenna scours the area for clues: and her heart beats wildly when she bumps into a teenage girl, breathless and covered in dirt. Wanda Beauchamp tells Jenna she was kidnapped from her foster home and buried alive. Could the kidnapper be linked to the shallow grave? Taking in Wanda’s thin frame, Jenna knows the poor girl is close to death. She’ll do everything she can to save her, but they’re miles from anywhere and night is falling fast. When Wanda falls, the kidnapper makes his move and Jenna is powerless to stop him taking the young girl’s life. Escaping the same fate, she is wracked with guilt and vows to catch the ruthless killer and bring him to justice. When another girl is reported missing from a foster home, Jenna and her deputy David Kane know they must act fast to save her. Jenna believes the murderer lives off-grid, and a clue at a local supply store finally leads her to a remote cabin in the woods. Still haunted by Wanda’s last moments, can Jenna lay a trap to outsmart this twisted killer preying on young girls? Or did she just put herself in unthinkable danger? Where Hidden Souls Lie is by D.K Hood.

The sunlight dances on the turquoise pool as I wait for our first guests. But my blood turns to ice when I recognise one of them as an old friend and a flood of guilt and fear comes rushing back. Is she here to ruin my life for a second time? ‘It’s been so long’, Saskia says as she hugs me. I plaster the smile back on my face, my hands shaking as I usher our guests into the traditional Spanish farmhouse we’ve spent years renovating to perfection. Saskia and I had been so close, until she betrayed me. Now I’ve started a new life here in Spain. I met José and fell in love with his deep brown eyes, and together we opened our own retreat nestled high in the mountains. But José has no idea about the real me – I know he wouldn’t be able to look me in the eye if he ever found out that I have blood on my hands. Then I discover our beautiful water fountain stained a deep red. My heart pounds with fear because it feels like a warning. And all my worst nightmares are confirmed when I find a note in my bedroom, revealing my terrible secret. I was with Saskia all day, so I know it can’t be her. Which means that someone else at the retreat knows the truth about me – and they’re here for revenge. But this perfect new life means everything to me. And I’ll do anything to protect it… The Retreat is by Karen King.

Her Last Words is by Carolyn Arnold. The glow from the fireplace throws an eerie light over the woman’s carefully arranged body, her lifeless eyes reflecting the flames that slowly burn the evidence of who did this to her… When Detective Amanda Steele is called to the brutal murder scene of successful local author Felicity Kelley, her blood runs cold. Because Amanda not only knew the victim, but was the last person Felicity called moments before she was murdered. Plagued with guilt that she never answered, Amanda is left wondering whether she could have prevented the murder, and vows to catch the killer, no matter what. Desperately searching the crime scene for clues, Amanda is shocked when she discovers a Queen of Hearts playing card, suggesting the murder could be an imitation of a scene from Felicity’s bestselling crime novel. Terrified that she is dealing with a crazed fan who could strike again, Amanda’s worst fears are confirmed when another innocent woman is viciously murdered, with the same chilling calling card left behind. But when Amanda connects the murders with a cold case from fifteen years ago, a case that Felicity appears to have been researching for her next novel, she is forced to question if the killer’s motive is even more sinister than she first suspected. But the closer Amanda gets to unearthing this motive, the closer she gets to becoming the next victim…

On the surface we were the perfect couple, but no one knows what we’ve been hiding .. Just six hours ago, Alex and I were married. It was a beautiful wedding by the sea, on the beach we’ve always loved. Our guests crowded outside our beach hut to raise a toast before our first midnight swim together as man and wife. And then, suddenly, he was gone, drowning in the water that meant so much to us. But instead of being able to mourn in peace, to get to grips with my awful new reality, the police are here. It seems they don’t think Alex’s death was an accident. And I’m the main suspect. I know I’m innocent, but I also know we both had secrets. And to my horror, it seems Alex’s were worth killing for. But who in our wedding party could have wanted him dead? I thought I knew the man I married but I couldn’t have been more wrong. But then again, he didn’t know the real me either. I’ve been hiding from the truth for so long. And then I realise: what if it wasn’t Alex’s past that was coming back to find him. What if it’s mine? How far will someone go to expose my darkest secret? Her Perfect Revenge is by Lesley Sanderson.

The Teacher is by Danielle Stewart. Daisy sobbed as she pointed at the picture of my darling son. “It was him,” she cried out distraught. “He was the one who attacked me.”Today all my worst fears came true. I thought I had escaped the dark secrets of my teenage years. But when my son is accused by one of my students of a crime I know only too well, my past comes hurtling into my present. Surely my beloved son Bryson, my kind and caring boy, who I raised to be nothing like the men of my past, couldn’t be mixed up with – or worse, be – what they are describing. Could he? But when Daisy comes to me in the classroom with tears in her eyes, trusting me with her confession, I vow that she won’t suffer the same fate I did. But what can I do? I love my son. I need to believe him no matter what. As I struggle to know who to believe, the threats begin. Notes on my car, messages saying you will pay for what happened. Just like last time. Only this time I don’t know if I’ll get out of it alive…

The Night of The Sleepover is by Kerry Wlkinson. Four girls close their eyes. Only one wakes up. Leah and her three best friends get changed into their pyjamas, eat pizza and argue about what film to watch. They laugh together until the early hours. But the next morning, Leah blinks open her eyes and sees three empty sleeping bags. The other girls are gone. Twenty years later. In her small hometown, still-haunted Leah has never been able to shake off the rumours and whispers. How could she have slept through it all? She must know what happened. Now, a documentary is being made about the night Leah’s best friends disappeared. Is the truth about to come out? Then an anonymous email arrives in Leah’s inbox. ‘Stop them’. Somebody out there knows what happened the night of the sleepover. Is Leah in terrible danger? And will she ever find her missing friends – or are some secrets meant to be kept forever?

‘Please – someone – help us. We’re at The Lodge, the snow is everywhere. We’re trapped. There was an argument last night… things got out of hand. Someone went missing in the middle of the night. We think they might be dead…’ Two days ago the Wilson family checked into the imposing, glass-fronted Lodge, surrounded by snow and perched perilously on the edge of a cliff looking out to a grey sea. Not everyone was looking forward to the family get-together. But mother-in-law Angela insisted the winter trip would help heal their rifts… Danni: The new wife who feels like an imposter. She doesn’t trust anyone – even her husband. But is she trustworthy herself? Fiona: The ex-wife who feels that all eyes are on her. She’s here for the sake of her children, but she fails to hide her seething jealousy towards her ex-husband’s new family… Angela: The mother-in-law who can’t help but interfere. She planned the family holiday to get everyone together, but does she really want to keep the peace? Scott: The husband torn between his ex-wife and his new wife. He says he wants to do right by his family, but he’s been telling lies to them all. Now his darkest secret is about to be revealed. After a night of arguments, morning breaks with a single scream. Not everyone came to The Lodge play to happy families. Someone came to get revenge… The Lodge is by Sue Watson.

The Day After the Party is by Nicole Trope. The perfect birthday or the perfect nightmare? Katelyn smiles around at her husband and friends, gathered to celebrate her thirty-sixth birthday in their beautiful home decorated with fairy lights. But the next day Katelyn wakes up shaken and terrified in a hospital bed… She doesn’t remember the sweet taste of birthday cake icing, or how angry her best friend was at midnight, or the terrible things her husband said. She doesn’t remember the party at all. When she asks her husband what happened the night of the party he says ‘nothing’. But her blood runs cold at the way his voice lilts slightly. The way it always does when he is lying. Did someone at the party harm her? What is her husband hiding? Or did Katelyn herself do something terrible? Only one thing is certain. Nobody can be trusted. And if Katelyn’s memories of the party do come back, it will tear them all apart…

Murder in a French Villageis by Merryn Allingham. Join bookshop owner Flora Steele and handsome writer Jack Carrington as they set off on a French adventure and solve a chilling crime! Jack is stunned to receive a call from his estranged mother, Sybil, asking him to drop everything and come to France. Together with Flora, his fellow sleuth, they pack their suitcases, dreaming of fragrant lavender fields and freshly baked pain au chocolat. It’s only when they arrive that they discover the shocking truth – Sybil’s friend was killed on a street in Paris, and she is desperate for their help. The case leads them to a picturesque village in the south of France where life should be rosé, but even the bright blue skies can’t hide the fact that something is very wrong. And the mystery only deepens when Flora discovers that Sybil was in fact the intended target. Who would want her out of the way? Perhaps Sybil’s relationship with wealthy Italian count Massimo Falconi has something to do with it. His darling daughter Allegra, ruthless business partner Pascal and his jealous estranged wife Isabella all have reasons for revenge… Then when another person in the small French town dies in suspicious circumstances, Flora is convinced the two untimely deaths must be connected. Just when the case seems impossible to crack, a chess box provides an unlikely clue. Can Flora discover the truth before Sybil meets her end? Or could trouble in paradise spell a final au revoir for the detective duo?

Why Write About What You Know? Researching The Mystery of Yew Tree House

I envisaged this as a homage to the Christie/Ngaio Marsh Golden Age, yet with a modern twist. The Mystery of Yew Tree House is set in a dual time frame of 1940 during WWII and the present day. Obviously, I know a bit about now, but to enter the spirit of the forties in wartime Britain – and then to take readers there - required research. 

The story was inspired by the many ‘pillboxes’ dotted around the Sussex countryside, where I live. Red-brick structures, square, hexagonal or octagonal, they were built by the coast in the South East and inland at key routes and waterways to defend against a Nazi invasion. Pill boxes were used by the Home Guard – not the jolly bunch of incompetents portrayed in Dad’s Army - but a serious and skilled men with day jobs who had to huddle in these pillboxes every night. 

While out with my dog I see many pill boxes. As is often the case, once my attention is caught by a location, in Kew Gardens, the Thames Towpath, I imagine a body there. What if that body was a skeleton dating back to the war? 

One joy of writing fiction is research. While an image - say a pillbox – might be a starting point, for me, research is as much an exploration of a subject that’s aroused my curiosity, as about giving ‘reality’ to my fiction. 

That adage of ‘write about what you know’ works better as, ‘what I don’t know, I’ll find out then I’ll write about it.’ This has led me out of my study into the world of other people’s chosen paths. I’ve ridden in the cab of a London Underground train listening to the driver describe his work. Exploring behind the scenes of a police station gaining a sense of what it was like to police London in the nineteen-eighties. I’ve interviewed botanists and visited ‘The Artist’s Room’ at Kew gardens to see a botanical illustrator at work. For The Playground Murders, at the Museum of Childhood, I ferreted through yellowing papers describing playground safety in the nineteen-seventies. and eighties. A child of the sixties, I was aghast at ways I could have been injured or worse in my local playground. When I wrote The Companion, I remained in my study to read about psychopaths. I did venture into the cellars at Sheffield Park House where I pondered on where that body might go. Who says writing is a lonely business?

For The Mystery of Yew Tree House, my research involved books on the Home Front, women’s diaries and newspaper archives. But as ever, I tramped the novel’s location . For fictional purposes, Bishopstone and Lindfield became one village. 

Delving into the Home Guard I discovered Churchill’s Secret Army. Men – and women – supposedly in the Home Guard, who were actually in an Auxiliary Unit. Trained at a secret location, this guerilla force – called Stay-Behinds –was armed with fearsome a Fairbairn-Sykes dagger with which to ambush a victim and cut his throat. Butcher and bolt. Stay-behinds were in reserved occupations or too young for the forces An ideal recruit knew the terrain, every ditch, every culvert, so could move at night with ease and speed. A blacksmith and farm labourers with practical skills, even poachers. Especially poachers, those used to committed crimes and playing dirty. 

I found my neighbour’s father’s name listed in a Sussex Auxiliary Unit. My neighbour had an inkling his dad – a farmworker had not actually been in the Home Guard. Once, his father had pointed towards a field near the farm on where he had worked and remarked, ‘that’s where we were holed up’. That was all. He would have been referring to his unit’s Observational Base, an underground bunker which not even locals knew about. My neighbour said his dad was ‘a gentle giant’, who hated pain or suffering. What had his father made of ‘butcher and bolt’? The Auxiliers were told they had a fortnight before they would be killed. 

After the war, cut loose without pensions or praise and, having signed the Official Secrets Act unable to say what they had done in the war. There were medals, but you had to pay for them.

An undercurrent of secrecy and violence lies beneath my ‘cosy’ picture of a village at war. My modern twist on the Golden Age is that nothing is what it seems…

The Mystery of Yew Tree House by Lesley Thomson (Head of Zeus) £20.00 Out Now

Eighty years of secrets. A body that reveals them all. 1940. At Yew Tree House, recently widowed Adelaide Stride is raising her two daughters alone - but it's not just the threat of German invasion that keeps her up at night. She is surrounded by enemies posing as allies and, while war rages, she grows sure that something terrible is about to happen. 2023. Soon after Stella Darnell begins her holiday at Yew Tree House, a skeleton is found in a pillbox at the bottom of the garden. The bullet hole in the skull tells her that the person was murdered. This triggers the unravelling of a mystery eighty years in the making. Soon, Stella will learn that Adelaide was right to worry - the fighting might have been happening abroad, but the true enemy was always much closer to home...

More information about Lesley and her work can be found on her website. You can also find her on X @LesleyjmThomson and on Facebook and on Instagram @lesleythomson.

Tuesday 19 September 2023

Extract from Murder at The Residence

 The old guy mumbles in his hospital bed.

‘What did you say?’ I ask, leaning closer.

‘Death says check mate.’

He’s not much more than skin hung on old bones. His skin is pale grey, stretched across bones that stick out as if all the meat has gone from them. His hair’s grey and sparse. But there’s life in his eyes. They’re blue-green like the deep sea. A pair of twinkling stars in a body close to death.

I’ve outsmarted death more than once,’ he continues. ‘And more than twice.’

His voice is faint, hardly more than a whisper.

‘Now my battle’s almost over and the doctors say I have at best a few days to tie up loose ends.’

Hákon has a drip in his arm that feeds him. A computer monitors his pulse that flickers at around fifty beats a minute. There’s an oxygen mask hanging down on his chest and occasionally he feebly pushes it up to his dry, parted lips.

I put my russet-brown briefcase on the floor in front of the monitor.

‘It’s been a marathon and it’s almost over. I’m not running away from death any longer. No point now.’

‘The nurse said you had a final wish. What’s that?’

‘The sin of neglect weighs heavy on me.’

‘Sin? Wouldn’t you be better off with a priest?’

‘Not that sort of sin,’ Hákon says.

A middle-aged nurse looks in when he starts to cough. She makes the old man comfortable in his bed. She moistens his dry lips, passes a damp cloth over his pale grey forehead.

‘There you go, Hákon. That’s better, isn’t it?’ she clucks, without expecting a reply. Then she’s gone back along the corridor. A merciful angel in human guise.

This place gives me the horrors. I swear to myself again that I’m not going to end my days here in death’s waiting room. I try to get this visit over as soon as I can.

‘So, what can I do for you?’ I ask.

‘Are you in a hurry as well?’

‘Yes. Always.’

‘I’d like to ask you to clear the way for me to complete a task I never had the energy to finish,’ Hákon says.

‘Let’s hear it.’

‘I’ve always found injustice hard to bear,’ he continues, his voice weakening. ‘It’s been a hell of a burden sometimes because in this world there’s so much that’s unjust. There are evil people running everything, and I’m sad to say I was never any kind of a hero. I often felt bad over the injustices I witnessed, and mostly never did anything.’


‘Except once.’

Hákon pulls at the oxygen mask with his right hand and presses it to his face. The hand shakes and trembles.

I look away, glance around for a chair. I pull a white stool up to the bed, and sit.

The old man’s stable, for the time being.

‘What happened that one time?’ I ask with impatience.

‘Come closer,’ he whispers.

I’m on my feet, closer to the bed. I lean down to his face. Even though I feel sick at the foul smell of death that’s coming from him.

‘I had to do something,’ he breathes.

‘What did you do?’

‘Killed a man or two.’

I’m taken uncomfortably by surprise. I’m not sure I’ve heard him right.

‘You killed a man or two?’ I repeat.

‘Aye. There were two of them.’

I straighten my back. Looking into his blue-green eyes. They look perfectly clear.

‘Are you messing with me?’ I ask coldly.


This makes me shiver.

‘I don’t regret it in the least,’ he whispers. ‘I had to do it to save my child from a terrible fate.’

‘What child?’

‘I’m asking you to find my child.’

‘What child are we talking about?’

‘She was about a year old.’


‘I don’t know what her name is now,’ Hákon whispers. ‘She was christened Ásthildur. She was given a new name when she was adopted.’

‘When was this?’

‘Summer 1972.’

I quickly do the sum in my head.

‘So now she’d be getting on for forty?’

‘Ásthildur will be thirty-eight at the end of May. Her birthday’s the twenty-fifth of May.’

‘Why should I search out this woman?’

‘I want my child to know the truth.’

’What truth?’

‘The truth about her parents. The truth about Hjördís and me.’

Hákon’s eyes flicker to one side, to the white table by the bed.

‘Open the drawer.’

I pull the handle on the white cabinet. There’s a brown cigar box held together with tough red tape.

‘Take the box with you.’

‘What for?’

‘You have to find my child,’ he whispers. ‘You have to tell her the truth.’

Murder at the Residence by Stella Blómkvist (Translated by Quentin Bates) Corylus Books

It’s New Year and Iceland is still reeling from the effects of the financial crash when a notorious financier is found beaten to death after a high-profile reception at the President’s residence.The police are certain they have the killer – or do they? Determined to get to the truth, maverick lawyer Stella Blómkvist isn’t so sure. A stripper disappears from one of city's seediest nightspots, and nobody but Stella seems interested in finding her. A drug mule cooling his heels in a prison cell refuses to speak to anyone but Stella – although she’s never heard of him. An old man makes a deathbed confession and request for Stella to find the family he lost long ago. With a sharp tongue and a moral compass all of her own, Reykjavík lawyer Stella Blómkvist, with her taste for neat whiskey, a liking for easy money and a moral compass all of her own Stella Blómkvist has a talent for attracting trouble and she’s as at home in the corridors of power as in the dark corners of Reykjavík’s underworld.