Anne Bonny #BlogTour #BookReview and #QandA The Tin God by @ChrisNickson2 5* #HistoricalFiction #NewRelease @severnhouse #AnnabelleHarper #WomensRights #ThePoorLaw #Leeds Folk music, feminism and fire. . . .

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The Tin God by Chris Nickson
Tom Harper series
Synopsis:

When Superintendent Tom Harper’s wife is threatened during an election campaign, the hunt for the attacker turns personal.

Leeds, England. October, 1897. Superintendent Harper is proud of his wife Annabelle. She’s one of seven women selected to stand for election as a Poor Law Guardian. But even as the campaign begins, Annabelle and the other female candidates start to receive anonymous letters from someone who believes a woman’s place lies firmly in the home.

The threats escalate into outright violence when an explosion rips through the church hall where Annabelle is due to hold a meeting – with fatal consequences. The only piece of evidence Harper has is a scrap of paper left at the scene containing a fragment from an old folk song. But what is its significance?

As polling day approaches and the attacks increase in menace and intensity, Harper knows he’s in a race against time to uncover the culprit before more deaths follow. With the lives of his wife and daughter at risk, the political becomes cruelly personal …

My Review:

Folk music, feminism and fire!
A recipe for historical fiction, with a political spin.

1897 – Leeds, England. Is the era and the setting for the latest Tom Harper mystery. The series is of the crime fiction genre, with great historical accuracy. Annabelle Harper is a firm favourite of mine as a character. She is courageous, honest and a deep thinker. She knows exactly how she wants to change the world. If she can just get herself into a position where she can make a difference. Within this novel she sets her sights on being an elected poor law guardian. Only not everyone is happy about it.

‘Tories and the Liberals were deriding the women for trying to rise above their normal station’

In Leeds seven women are getting prepared to stand for election as poor law guardian’s. They face aggressive opposition from all side of the political spectrum. The opposition is backed heavily by the newspapers and they become well aware it will be no easy victory. But they cannot have foreseen it would turn deadly. . .

‘A woman’s place is in the home, tending to her family and being a graceful loving presence, it is not to shriek in the hustings like a harridan or to display herself in front of the public like a painted whore. . .’
– Letter sent to all seven women.

The women begin to receive anonymous and threatening letters. Local journalist Gerald Hotchkiss writes opinion pieces, lecturing women on their role in society. What we would call in 2018 ‘mansplaining’. He warns the women they should be guided by their husbands, live modestly and look solely to the welfare of their family. Gerald is condescending, using religious reasoning to attempt to control women.
But Annabelle Harper won’t be controlled by anyone!

The novel also has scenes with Harper’s old police partner Billy Reed. He has relocated to the northern coastal town of Whitby. Currently on the case of potential smugglers.
Harper provides police protection for the women and places undercover officers at the future meetings, within the crowd. However, before the police can reach the meeting at St Clements, there’s an explosion that leaves a man dead. Has the person sending the anonymous notes upped their game?

The political dominance and threats continue as the surrounding influences attempt to silence the women. Harper realises not only does he have a tough case on his hands with little clues, he also has a wealth of potential perpetrators. He calls upon the local barracks to provide assistance, in sweeping future meeting places for explosives. Will the bomber strike again?

Despite the terrifying threats Annabelle refuses to stand down.
‘I want to help the poor, not vilify them. They’re not outcasts. They haven’t sinned. They’re us. And that’s why I’d appreciate your vote, so I can do that. Thank you’

Vote Annabelle Harper for poor law guardian

Harper finds some notepaper at the scene of the explosion, some simple song lyrics scribbled down. But what does it mean? He requests the help of local music expert Frank Kidson, to decipher the lyrics and help with the creation of a profile, of sorts.

When one of the candidates is attacked by the railway and threatened with rape. Harper realises that it all just got a lot more sinister. What started has simple opposition has developed into political warfare. Harper has deep concerns for Annabelle’s safety. Across Leeds Annabelle continues to whoo the crowds, she has a determination like no other.

Annabelle speaks with conviction, she seeks to humanise the way the poor are treated. Offering a dignified, respectful future with better quality of life. What will her enemies make of her progressive ideas for the future of Leeds?

The novel is very well researched, the era of politics and women’s rights really draws you into the story. Annabelle is such a great fictional ambassador for women. You can really get a sense for the real-life Annabelle Harper’s who would go on to inspire a generation of women. Which would ultimately fuel and evoke a passion in women, long into the future.

The novel raises many thought-provoking questions regarding women’s liberation and the political oppression the women faced. I think this novel would be ideal for book groups. But I could also see how it could assist the younger generation. The Tin God could create great debate in GCSE English lessons or history class. The emotions of the era are portrayed so well on the page.
A fabulous historical fiction crime read. 5*

Q&A:

Q) For the readers, can you give us a little bit of background behind the inspiration for this novel?

A) It was sparked by a suggestion from a friend, a suffrage historian, who suggested Annabelle should run for office. With that, it all clicked into place. I love Annabelle, she’s the soul of the series, to the point where I honestly think of her as a real person, and I wanted to be able to bring her more into a book, but do it organically, so this was perfect. And the law changed in 1894 so that the working-classes, both men and women could vote in some local elections and run for office – essentially the first steps of the system we have now, and it was one person, one vote. So it all made perfect sense, and Tom and Annabelle’s story is largely the same tale in this. Interestingly, the historian who made the suggestion is curating an exhibition called The Vote Before The Vote which will run all May at Leeds Central Library, celebrating the Victorian Leeds women who battled for equality and the vote well before the Suffragettes. The ‘official’ launch for The Tin God is part of that exhibition, and we’re melding fact and fiction by giving Annabelle her own board as part of the exhibition. She’s become a Leeds Victorian icon, and I’m incredibly proud of that.

Q) Annabelle Harper, although a secondary character in this series. Is firmly one of my favourites, as is Lottie Armstrong. What drives you to write female characters that embody the feminism movement in the differing era’s?

A) I’m not sure anything specific drives me to that. I was raised by a strong woman, I’ve been in relationships with strong women. The world needs more of them! I write the characters that come to me, so I suppose those are the types I’m naturally drawn to describe, people I admire. Annabelle is quite daunting, really, she’s so able at everything she does. Lottie is different, quieter, but strong in her own way. They just feel right to me, that’s probably the best way I can describe it.

Q) To try and summarise this novel at the start of my review, I tried to think of three of the themes. I used Folk songs, feminism and fire. What words would you use to summarise this novel?

A) For me, justice and compassion are the important themes. Annabelle wants the poor to be treated fairly by a system that’s weighted against them. She wants justice – equality – for women. When the book takes place she’s been a suffrage speaker for four years, she’s been insulted and threatened. She stands up, not afraid to be counted.

Q) The poor law guardian’s, was a minor form of election in regard to women’s rights. But was a fundamental part of the journey. Can you expand further, why the moral dilemma of the poor would strike so deeply within Annabelle?

A) It was a huge part of it, women being able to run for some offices and vote for them was a massive leap forward. One of the first women elected as a Poor Law Guardian in Leeds in 1894 was a coal miner’s wife. That’s a huge slap at the establishment. For Annabelle, who grew up in an Irish immigrant family in the poorest part of Leeds and lives and works in a working-class area, poverty is everywhere. She’s known it all her life, she’s worked in a mill and as a servant. As a pub landlady, she has money and influence now, but she sees the effect of having no money and the spectre of the workhouse every day.

Q) In my review I mention the novel’s potential use within the education system. My own teenage daughter is very well read on the topic of women’s rights and the various, current political systems. With young adults becoming more and more invested in politics and their desire to re-write history in some respects. Do you see novels with these themes appealing to the YA readers?

A) Honestly, I’d never thought about that, and I’m flattered you think it might. I’d be very gratified if some political historical fiction did make classroom discussions. But right now, I think the older generation has more to learn from the young than the other way round. During the last election, when Corbyn spoke in Leeds, in a student area, he drew 3,000 people most of them young. They’re tired of a system that excludes them. The young people in Florida are a shining example. They’ve grown up always knowing school shootings and they’re saying enough to the old white men who run things. Change is rumbling, and hopefully the activist will remain more deeply-rooted than it did in the 1960s. My own generation has mostly failed, I admire the young and I hope they succeed.

Q) What is next for Tom and Annabelle Harper?

A) Well, I’m just revising the next Tom Harper book, which is quite different to this one, although Annabelle does play a part, albeit a much smaller one.
That’s probably as much as I should say about that…

CN
Chris Nickson
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Anne Bonny #Author #QandA Violet by @LSTateAuthor #Indie #NewRelease #LavenderBlues #ThreeShadesOfLove

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Violet – Lavender Blues: Three Shades Of Love by Leslie Tate
Synopsis:

The passionate, late-life love of Beth and James begins in 2003 on a blind date in a London restaurant. Attracted by James’s cheerful openness, Beth is drawn into an unlikely encounter between his larkiness and her own romantic faith. From then on they bond, exchanging love-texts, exploring sea walks and gardens and sharing their past lives with flashbacks to Beth’s rural childhood and her marriage to a dark, charismatic minister.

Telling stories runs in Beth’s family, so she keeps up with her friends, following their efforts to find love in a soulless, materialistic world. But Beth’s own passion for giving and commitment is pushed to the limits as she and James struggle with her divorce, problems with each other’s children, and life-threatening illness. In the end, tested by pain, they discover something larger than themselves that goes beyond suffering and loss.

Q&A:

Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?

A) I studied Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia and have been shortlisted for the Bridport, Geoff Stevens and Wivenhoe Prizes. I’m the author of the trilogy of novels ‘Purple’, ‘Blue’ and ‘Violet’, as well as my trans memoir ‘Heaven’s Rage’, which has been turned into a film. On my website https://leslietate.com/ I post up weekly creative interviews and guest blogs showing how people use their imagination in life, in many different ways. I run a comedy club, a poetry group and a mixed arts show in Berkhamsted, UK.

‘Violet’ is the third in my trilogy about modern love, but it stands on its own, without having to read the other two books. It’s a rite of passage novel about two fifty year-olds who meet and regain their youth together, only to find themselves tested by divorce problems, each other’s children, and life-threatening illness. In the words of the blurb: ‘The passionate, late-life love of Beth and James begins in 2003 on a blind date in a London restaurant. Attracted by James’s openness, Beth feels an immediate, deep connection between his honesty and her own romantic faith. From then on they bond, exchanging love-texts, exploring sea walks and gardens and sharing their past lives with flashbacks to Beth’s rural childhood and her marriage to a dark, charismatic minister…’

Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?

A) ‘Violet’ began as ‘Beth’ and was partly written on my University of East Anglia course. I wanted to capture the experience of older people falling in love, partly because it’s so common in today’s society, but also because I’d experienced it myself when I met my wife and author, Sue Hampton.
I wrote it very slowly, editing as I went – something I do because I write by feel allowing the characters to lead me, so one false step could easily send me off in the wrong direction. I aim in a novel to find a route in and out of unknown territory, rather than following a preconceived plot line.
I’m lucky if I complete 250 words a day, so the book grew slowly. The first half, switching between Beth’s late-life love affair with James and her unhappy first marriage, took two years to write. The second half, Beth’s diary ten years on when she’s ill, came more quickly. I then put on a sprint to reach the finishing line, followed by another six months of revisions.
Writing a book is a major feat of endurance. Only writers know the feeling of weariness at the beginning of the day, the hours spent agonising over single lines, and the double-edged feelings that follow after publication when the book goes off into the world and leaves the author behind. It’s like bringing up a child whose growing up travels the full story arc – from complete parental absorption to pride, separation and sudden loss of purpose. In the end the book stands in the world on its own, but the author can always see the child it used to be. So a book is a gift, a portion of someone’s life that cannot be measured by the bottom line or market forces.
Publication with Magic Oxygen Press, my green publisher, was all about spotting errors and didn’t involve rewrites. If I’d had a larger publisher the chances are I’d be told what to put in and what to cut out.

Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?

A) Carol Shields, particularly The Republic of Love; Drusilla Modjeska, The Orchard; Toni Morrison, Beloved; Marilynne Robinson, Home; Anne Tyler, Breathing Lessons; Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient and my classics – Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway and James Joyce, Ulysses.

Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?

A) Alice in Wonderland stretched my imagination, Arthur Ransom’s Swallows and Amazons offered adventure, and Jules Verne took me to other worlds. I moved on to Sons and Lovers by D H Lawrence and Portrait of an Artist by Joyce. These last two teenage reads allowed me to fantasise about being an author myself, something I didn’t achieve till much later in life.

Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?

A) When I watched the first showing of the film of ‘Heaven’s Rage’, based on my book of the same name. I’d acted in it, side by side with a 13 year-old boy playing my younger self, and experienced the long waits and endless retakes of tiny actions. But the result, when I saw it, was uplifting – full of wild, soulful, dream-like images. The director, Mark Crane, is a friend who used to work in Hollywood. Like the book, his film explores the power of the imagination.

Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?

A) My wife, Sue Hampton, who has written 30 books for both children and adults. We listen and suggest ways around blockages, comment on each other’s scripts and give each other love, support and pep talks on the way.

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Leslie Tate
Website
Facebook – ‘Leslie Tate’ where I post weekly interviews with people about their creativity
Facebook – ‘Violet by Leslie Tate’ where I offer pre-publication extracts from my forthcoming novel with commentaries revealing how I worked on them.
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Anne Bonny #BookReview The Ruin by @DervlaMcTiernan 5* #CrimeFiction #NewRelease #Ireland @LittleBrownUK

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The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan
Synopsis:

THE SECRETS OF THE PAST WILL EXPOSE THE CRIMES OF THE PRESENT . . .

On his first week on the job, Garda Cormac Reilly responds to a call at a decrepit country house to find two silent, neglected children waiting for him – fifteen-year-old Maude and five-year-old Jack. Their mother lies dead upstairs.

Twenty years later, Cormac has left his high-flying career as a detective in Dublin and returned to Galway. As he struggles to navigate the politics of a new police station, Maude and Jack return to haunt him.

What ties a recent suicide to the woman’s death so long ago?
And who among his new colleagues can Cormac really trust?

My Review:

The dark heart of Ireland’s religious past is explored in this gritty crime fiction novel.
I was absolutely hooked, as I raced from cover to cover.

Newbie Garda Cormac Reilly is sent to an isolated location by fellow cop Marcus Tully. The location is so remote, he begins to wonder if this a hazing, due to his short-time on the police force. Eventually, he locates Dower House in the small village of Kilmore. What he finds behind the doors, will shake him to his core and haunt him for many years to come.

A young girl opens the door to reveal a scene of neglect and despair. The house has no power, is cold and riddled with mould. The children appear emaciated and mistreated, with the small boy Jack showing signs of a recent beating. There are items of alcohol and drug use, laying around the property. Cormac is horrified, and he is yet to discover the body. . .

‘How were you supposed to handle traumatised children’

In the upper floor of the property lays the children’s mother. Her life has expired, and the children have been left to fend for themselves. Cormac spots what he thinks are track marks on the mother’s arms.
How did nobody know, what was happening at Dower House?

Cormac takes the young children to the hospital. He feels out of his depth and lost for words. The sight of Maude 15yrs and Jack 5yrs, is one he will never forget.
When Maude goes missing at the hospital, never to be seen again. It adds another layer of mystery, to an already baffling case. But no one asks questions and the case soon becomes forgotten by all.

‘The best interests of the child came second’

20yrs later in Galway, Ireland. A young woman named Aisling is contemplating her future with her partner Jack. She has recently discovered she is pregnant and as a young doctor, it fills her with apprehension for what her future will hold. Her dreams of a career in medicine, seem almost over. Then the Garda arrive. . .

Cormac has suffered a career fall from grace. No longer the golden boy of Dublin’s special detective unit. He must seek pastures new, or for Cormac pastures of old.
The police officers are also looking into the rape and murder of a student. The case draws comparisons to the cold case of Maura Hughes, a young girl who was rumoured to be having an affair with a teacher.

Through Jack’s suicide, Aisling becomes acquainted with his long-lost sister. A sister she never knew existed. The two women become increasingly concerned about the Garda’s assumption, this is a suicide. Jack had everything to live for.
So, who would want Jack dead?

Maude has returned from Australia and we learn she is now a woman of some considerable means. She is driven, determined and has a ruthless quest for justice.
The two women united by grief, won’t rest until they know the truth.

The novel covers various themes well documented in the history. But it does so, with such a personal touch, that you feel distraught at the plight of the young children. As you read on, you want them to have known love, peace and kindness in their adult lives. But life isn’t always fair, and an abused child is never promised a second chance.
A great novel with haunting historical references 5*

DT
Dervla McTiernan
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Anne Bonny #BookReview The Last Good Place by @RobinBurcell #CrimeFiction #AmericanNoir #SanFrancisco @BrashBooks #KrugAndKellog #Series

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The Last Good Place by Robin Burcell
Synopsis:

Sgt. Al Krug and his younger, college-educated partner Casey Kellog are investigating a string of strangulation killings when another victim is found at the Presidio…but a surprising, violent incident at the crime scene makes them wonder if everything is what it seems. The two miss-matched cops, with sharply conflicting approaches to detective work, are under intense pressure to get results. It’s a race-against-the-clock investigation that propels them into the deadly intersection of politics, real estate, media and vice… the fertile, fog-shrouded killing field of a ruthless murderer.

My Review:

This novel is the fourth in the Krug and Kellog series and my first read of the author. I was drawn to the plot surrounding a high-profile serial killer case such as the landmark strangler. I also enjoy American hard-boiled detective fiction novels and this one did not disappoint. Although I wasn’t keen on all the themes within the novel, that was more due to my personal taste, rather than the writing of the novel.

The novel opens with San Francisco resident Marcie Valentine heading out for her morning run. She takes the same route every morning with her best friend Trudy Salvatori. Only this morning not only is Trudy late, but Marcie is planning her downfall.
A Deadly downfall indeed.

Later that morning at Presidio promenade a dead body is discovered, strangled. Is this the work of the landmark killer? Who is the victim Marcie or Trudy?

Enter local cops Sgt Casey and Sgt Al. These cops are opposites in their personalities. But that only enhances the story telling. Casey is a young idealist, he believes in sticking to the rules by the individual letter. His partner Al on the other hand, is a seasoned cop. A widower in his 50s and old skool in his values. They’re on the case of a murdered witness in a drug dealing case. When they are summoned to the homicide at golden gate bridge. With something to prove to himself and his fellow cops, Casey is eager to take the case.

The landmark strangler has struck four times in the last four months. Leaving the bodies at famous San Francisco landmarks. The most recent corpse is not only at the golden gate bridge but the cops can see a clear view of Alcatraz from the scene. Is this this high-profile killer they so desperately seek? Or is this a mere coincidence. Al is cautious to jump to conclusions, without all the clues and evidence. But Casey is just too damn keen.

At the scene the cops are informed that it is park ranger territory, meaning it falls under their jurisdiction. But Casey refuses to let go of the case. They eventually agree to work alongside park rangers Becca Windsor and Glenn Powers. It isn’t long before the scene becomes chaotic, with witnesses and suspect on site. Casey and Al find themselves staring at the dead body of their alleged perpetrator.

The investigation uncovers various secrets and lies in the victim’s personal life. The tension amongst the neighbours is plain to see. There is various spin off themes, that leave you questioning if the victim was the intended target after all. Is someone else now at risk from the landmark killer?

Casey continues to be mocked by his fellow cops. But gets a sense of smug satisfaction when he is handed the murder book for the landmark killer.
Can Casey solve the case or is he just an over confident rookie?

The media pressure and obsession with the case also plays a part. Local journalist Jenn Barstow has her own personal agenda in gaining access to reporting the case. She is not afraid to go to great lengths to find a way into cop’s lives.
The media demand that the FBI be brought in, which leaves Casey desperately trying to align the clues and solve the case.

‘Dead hookers don’t sell papers. Murdered white women do’

When the victim is found to have ties to a local politician, the media think nothing of politicalising the entire case. Which only serves to make the case tougher for the cops to solve. As people begin to fret about their own reputations, they become tight lipped. Casey and Al must find the killer!

The novel has a fantastic ending, which I think will shock some readers. For me personally, I wasn’t overly engrossed in the theme of politics within the novel. This is not the authors fault at all. Under the current political climate, everyday life has fast become politicalised. Therefore, I enjoy my novels to be a form of escapism. It is also worthwhile noting, that the novel was published in November 2015 and it is not current politics that is the focus.

I found the characters believable and the plot very layered.
A fantastic piece of American noir set in San Francisco. 4*

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Robin Burcell
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Anne Bonny #BookReview The Good Daughter by @SlaughterKarin @fictionpubteam @HarperFiction #CrimeFiction #Sisterhood

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The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter
Synopsis:

One ran. One stayed. But who is…the good daughter?

Twenty-eight years ago, Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s childhoods were destroyed by a terrifying attack on their family home. It left their mother dead. It left their father – a notorious defence attorney – devastated. And it left the family consumed by secrets from that shocking night.

Twenty-eight years later, Charlie has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a lawyer. But when violence comes to their home town again, the case triggers memories she’s desperately tried to suppress. Because the shocking truth about the crime which destroyed her family won’t stay buried for ever…

My Review:

The novel opens at the temporary farmhouse residence of the two teen sisters Samantha and Charlotte aka Charlie. Samantha is the older sister at 15yrs old and Charlie is just 13yrs old. When the novel opens in 1989, it is just a mere 8 days after the lives of the family were destroyed in an arson attack at their home. Their father Rusty is a DA and the family often receive violent threats due to the nature of the crimes he defends. The mother is known as ‘Gamma’ due to her doctorate in two science subjects. The family appears from the outside in, to be very loving but with progressive attitudes towards justice and the law.

Then one day two men appear in the kitchen and their lives are changed forever. . .

‘Promise me you’ll always take care of Charlie’
Gamma to Samantha.

The novel then jumps to the present day, 28yrs later. Charlie is now a defence lawyer herself. She makes her way to Pikeville middle school, to return a phone to a one-night stand (a teacher). When shots ring out in the background and Charlie finds herself caught up in a terrifying school shooting. . .

‘The most violent hour of her life had snapped back into her waking memory’

The shooter is teenage girl, Kelly Wilson she is just 16yrs and appears to be suffering from some form of mental break. Charlie and Mr Huckabee attempt to assist Kelly’s apprehension and prevent her from being shot by the police. They find themselves facing obstruction of justice charges and nursing bruises. Why are the police so determined to shoot dead the suspect? Is Kelly likely to see a fair trial in this small community?

‘A just society is a lawful society’

The novel is very thought-provoking with regards to school shootings. The psychology of the suspect and arresting police officers are intriguing viewpoints. The media attention and the desperate search of a motive and all fully explored.

With Kelly found nearly catatonic after arrest. Rusty is keen to act as the defence attorney. Was Kelly a victim of bullying? Any motive will offer little comfort to the families of the victims. Mr Pinkman and Lucy Alexander (8yrs) shot dead on a normal school day, in what appears to be a premeditated act of murder. .

Charlie makes her way to the suspect’s family residence. What she finds, is a family in poverty. A yearbook full of vile abusive bullying. A child with a diminished capacity and a crime just waiting to happen. . .

When Rusty is stabbed, in an attempt on his life. Charlie rushes to the hospital, it is at this point she is urged to call her sister Samantha.

The novel is cleverly written, to combine the crimes of the past with the school shooting of the present. The sisters have a very complex relationship, which has been dictated by the crime that has scarred their lives. Sam is still living with the physical and mental scars of what took place that day in 1989. The chronic pain and daily struggles have taken their toll. The physical symptoms filter over to the psychology of her survival. This novel offers a unique perspective into the story of survivors.

The sisters are strong, determined and educated. Which adds to their journey and makes their story a truly powerful one indeed. The lengths we will go to, to protect those we hold dear, is a fascinating concept for a novel.
I am the oldest female sibling, I have an older brother, five younger brothers and two younger sisters. I like to think I could muster the bravery and physical/mental strength of Sam. But I could also see how this could impact the relationships going forward. If you sacrifice yourself for your sibling, how do they ever return the gratitude? Is it right/wrong to feel morally owed something emotionally or on principal in return?

‘The truth can rot from the inside.
It doesn’t leave room for anything else’

I think this is a very powerful novel and would work perfectly for book groups. There are multiple themes for debate. I myself was quite captivated with the psychology between the sisters and what sisterhood means to various individuals. 4*

KS
Karin Slaughter
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