Anne Bonny #BookReview The Secrets On Chicory Lane by @RaymondBenson 5* Genius @skyhorsepub #CrimeFiction #AmericanNoir #DeathRow

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The Secrets Of Chicory Lane by Raymond Benson
Synopsis:

Sixty-one-year-old Shelby Truman, a romance novelist, has received a request to visit her childhood friend, Eddie, who is on Death Row. Though mentally ill, Eddie is scheduled to be executed for the disturbing, brutal murders of his wife and unborn child.

As Shelby travels home to Texas for the unnerving reunion, she steps back into memories of her past, recalling her five-decade-long relationship with Eddie in order to understand what led the beautiful but troubled boy who lived across the street to become a murderer. Shelby and Eddie used to visit an abandoned fallout shelter in his backyard, their “secret hiding place” where they could escape Eddie’s abusive father, enjoy innocent playtime, and, later, adolescent explorations. As they grow increasingly close, a tragedy occurs one July fourth, an event that sets in motion a lifelong struggle against an Evil—with a capital “E”—that has corrupted their all-American neighborhood.

With only a few days left for Eddie to live, Shelby braces herself for a reunion that promises to shed light on the traumatic events that transpired on her street, changing everything Shelby thought she knew about the boy on Chicory Lane.

My Review:

This novel lost me hours of sleep! I became engrossed in Shelby and Eddie’s past. Which resulted in not getting to sleep until 4am, which is quite a stretch even for me!
The story is just so brilliantly written, that you can’t finish one chapter without reading the next three and so on and so forth.
When I did eventually finish the novel, I was wide awake and consumed by the intricate storyline and what I had just discovered about Eddie.

*If you are going to read this novel, I would advise picking a morning hour. Especially if you value your sleep.

The synopsis is very intriguing and straight away I wanted to learn about Shelby as a writer and as Eddies childhood best friend. I was desperate to unravel Eddie’s past and couldn’t read the pages quick enough.
What I read, was one of the most powerful novels!
This novel was my 75th book of the year so far and the 8th on my list of favourites of 2018. It really is THAT good!

The opening offers a glimpse into the world of a bestselling author and I loved that the protagonist Shelby was a writer by profession. She receives a letter via overnight mail from Limite, Texas. She knows from the envelope that it is from Eddie’s attorney Robert Crane Esq. She is instantly curious as to where this will lead. She has not seen Eddie in 20yrs and her previous attempts to help with his court case, were declined.

‘The thing is, I’ve always thought about Eddie. We go way, way back, to when we were children living in Limite’

Now here is where the novel hooked me! Eddie is an incarnated inmate on death row. He is imprisoned for a violent and heinous crime. A crime Shelby KNOWS, he committed. Shelby comes across as a rational, educated and mentally sound woman. So why does she care? What friendship from the past, could tie you to such a person?
I didn’t find this novel to be of any form a psychological thriller and by that, I mean that I never thought Shelby was misleading me or leading me into a huge twist.

‘Why the hell does Eddie want to talk to me?’

We learn that Eddie’s lawyer has exhausted all attempts to appeal and that Eddie is scheduled to be executed, in just four days. Shelby is actually already pre-arranged to be in the area for a park dedication. She agrees to meet with Eddie prior to his execution. So, begins an emotional rollercoaster of a journey.

As Shelby makes her way to the town of Limite, is also where she internally recalls her childhood with Eddie. This becomes the narration for the novel. It is beautifully written but is also haunting. After I finished the novel, I felt emotionally drained and will admit I shed a little tear.

Shelby narrates her story on Chicory Lane and what took place in the summer of 1966. A summer Shelby would come to learn the true depths of human pain and the parental blame game.

‘I truly believe that evil – with a capital “E” – visited my neighbourhood that summer of 1966. It slithered inside at least three houses that I know of, and set about destroying lives and delivering misery’

The unique bond and life long connection between Eddie and Shelby is played out over various eras. The 60s, 70s and 90s all add depth to the story. The social and moral ‘norms’ are relevant to the theme and plot. At times the innocence of childhood is beautiful to read. But the vulnerability to abuse both physical and psychological lingers over the children’s path into adulthood. This may have a ‘coming of age’ feel at times, but it takes a very dark turn. . .

‘We all knew that Eddie was guilty of murdering the woman he was living with at the time’

The nature of Eddies crime is horrifying. This is not a crime of passion or an accident. But when you begin to understand Eddie as a child, adolescent and young man. You see that there were early warning signs of a broken mind. During the trial Eddie is hailed as ‘Evil Eddie’ in the headlines. This is a town that has demonised, the once ostracised little boy. At the time of the murder Eddie is thought to have been off his meds. During the sentencing at court Eddie curses the jury with a satanic spell.
This is NOT your average case!

Eddies lawyer reports that Eddie has always refused medical and psychiatric help from staff within death row. That he suffers from depression and anxiety and has retreated into his own world. Shelby organises a potential 4hr visit. But will Eddie talk to her? Will what he says make any sense, after years of solitary confinement?

We learn that as a child Eddie was cute, introverted and a keen art student. He is regarded as ‘weird’ by his peers and his only friend in the world is Shelby. Their young friendship blossoms into childhood love. I began to wonder if this was the only love Eddie had ever truly known? Did Shelby’s eventually rejection push him over the edge. What lead Eddie to commit the crime that shocked the world. . .

‘Evil Eddie made a statement for all the world to see’

Eddie grew into an eccentric young man. An outcast, a bad boy and a school dropout. Eventually he signs up to a career in the military, where he is swiftly sent to Vietnam. The relationship between Shelby and Eddie is on and off throughout the years. In one sense she watches Eddie struggle more and more with each growing year. She believes his service in Vietnam was a tipping point.

‘The experience pushed him further into darkness, and he came home a changed young man’

Despite the struggles Eddie has faced, with his family, friendships and social quirks. Shelby still insists the answers lay within Eddies psychology.

‘Eddie could not have been in his right mind when it happened’

Eddies mother was sickly during his childhood, his father was a bully and would regularly beat Eddie for minor infractions. The only person to show Eddie kindness in the neighbourhood, other than Shelby was Mr Alpine. Eddie would often venture to his residence alone. Mr Alpine is thought of as a local celebrity to the kids, as his brother is the towns major.
What I wanted to know was why does Shelby refer to him as a monster?

After the death of Shelby’s brother. Shelby is blamed by her mother who struggles with alcohol and prescription drug abuse all Shelby’s adult life. Suddenly both of them find their fundamental relationships flawed. What does this mean for their future.

‘In many ways, both our mothers were similarly damaged’

The novel has some strong themes of mental illness. But it also covers the other various social situations that contribute to a decline in one’s own sanity. Imagine being the most hated and talked about resident on your street. Imagine every neighbour knowing your past, and the fact that your own father couldn’t stand the sight of you. Being mocked and ridiculed by the local children and knowing that no one truly cares.
Except Shelby Truman.

A powerful novel of childhood trauma seeping into an adult’s psychology. Shelby’s patience and understanding towards Eddie is true kindness and unconditional love. I wish more people in society, thought a little more like Shelby, than adapt a bullying/shunning culture labelling a person a weirdo and invalidating their life experiences.
Tremendously moving. 5* Genius

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Raymond Benson
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Anne Bonny #BookReview The Strange Disappearance Of A Bollywood Star by @VaseemKhanUK 5* Genius @MulhollandUK #InspectorChopra #Ganesh #Mumbai #India

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The Strange Disappearance Of A Bollywood Star by Vaseem Khan
Synopsis:

The enchanting new Baby Ganesh Agency novel sees Inspector Chopra and his elephant sidekick investigating the dark side of Bollywood.

Mumbai thrives on extravagant spectacles and larger-than-life characters.

But even in the city of dreams, there is no guarantee of a happy ending.

Rising star and incorrigible playboy Vikram Verma has disappeared, leaving his latest film in jeopardy. Hired by Verma’s formidable mother to find him, Inspector Chopra and his sidekick, baby elephant Ganesha, embark on a journey deep into the world’s most flamboyant movie industry.

As they uncover feuding stars, failed investments and death threats, it seems that many people have a motive for wanting Verma out of the picture.

And yet, as Chopra has long suspected, in Bollywood the truth is often stranger than fiction…

My Review:

This novel is the third in the Chopra and baby Ganesha series. It is set in modern-day Mumbai and it is easily one of my favourite series. I read the second novel whilst in hospital with severe DVT. I was bedbound and in agony, yet when I opened the book I was able to completely escape. This series transports you to India and with the clever plot, keeps you engaged in the plot and the characters.
So here goes for my review. . .

Inspector Ashwin Chopra is back! His wife Poppy’s heart is filled with love and happiness due to addition to their family Irfan. Poppy really develops as a character within this novel. It is brilliant to see her becoming a more central character in the series. I am a huge fan of Poppy, she just comes across, so incredibly well to readers.
Poppy has convinced Chopra to take her to see a local Bollywood show. The show will feature a comedian Jonny Pinto and notorious Bollywood playboy Vikram ‘Vicky’ Verma. There is a magical disappearing and re-appearing act, which leaves Chopra with a bee in his bonnet!

‘He had met many privileged individuals in his life – so often their lives were shadowed by unhappiness’

Shortly after the show, Chopra is intrigued to learn that Vicky has been confined to his house by a mysterious illness. Then Chopra finds himself summoned to Vicky’s mother’s exclusive residence in the Malabar Hill area. He learns from Bijli (Vicky’s mother) that Vicky has gone missing with no trace of his whereabouts. The set of his latest Bollywood movie is on standby until he returns.

‘This was India, after all, where the impossible became merely improbable’

Bijli Verma is quite the Bollywood sensation herself. She was a huge star and gained a cult following, until raising a family with her husband Jignesh Verma became her sole priority. Bijli is regarded as outspoken and brave. Often courting controversy in her wake and not afraid to stand up to the right-wing organisations in India’s political circuit. Bijli is not a woman that can be controlled, dominated or told. But now she finds herself in a difficult position. With her son missing and a movie backed by the Indian Global Bank. Bijli can not turn to the police force and needs complete discretion. Chopra finds himself in-charge of his most glamourous case to date!

Chopra begins his investigation by meeting with the various professionals in the Bollywood movie scene. He discovers that Vicky is not well liked. He may have the looks, style, wealth and playboy image but that doesn’t always generate the right kind of attention. Described as ‘mentally unstable’ and a loner, Chopra is coming to see a different side to Vicky altogether.

‘That boy collects enemies like the rest of us make friends’

Chopra is informed of a series of threatening notes sent to Vicky. With one sent on the first day of each month and signed from ‘the people’s judge’. Is this a simple ransom demand? If so where is the demand?

Chopra also learns from assistant director Farukh Mehboob in film city, that he was forced to hire Vicky at his mother’s demand via producer P.K Das. The only person that Chopra can establish as a friend of Vicky’s is fellow Bollywood starlet Poonam Panipat.

‘Bollywood is a nest of vipers, and what vipers feed on is the milk of scandal’ Poonam Panipat

When Poonam explains to Chopra the inner workings of the Bollywood elite, he comes to see that it is far from its glamorous image held in the public eye. Chopra is further shocked, when Poonam recounts exactly how she got her break in the movie industry.
It’s not just Hollywood, that holds its shady and seedy secrets.

‘Revenge has its consequences, not just on those it was extracted upon’

As Chopra continues his Bollywood case. Across Mumbai his right-hand man, Abbas Rangwalla has a unique case of his own. Rangwalla has been asked by close friend Gerry Fernandes to investigate the eunchs of Mumbai. It is a case that will challenge everything he previously believed in.

At Chopra and Poppy’s residence, Irfan comes to the rescue of a homeless woman. Who in return, saves Poppy’s sanity! Chopra’s business and home life continues to thrive, thanks to Poppy.

Bijli receives a ransom demand for 20 million rupees, with threats to return Vicky in pieces if she fails to comply. The case of the missing Bollywood star, is heating up and a mother would do anything to protect her son, wouldn’t she?

‘The best way to get your head shot of was to stick it above the parapet’

As Chopra tries to assist Bijli with the ransom demand, he finds more unanswered questions and will come up against an old nemesis. Chopra’s will find his opinions on justice and power are fundamentally challenged.

‘A lifetime of policing had taught him that the word of a criminal was worth nothing’

The plot takes you on a journey through the Bollywood industry. Where stars will sell their soul to the devil for fame and status. The novel also has some strong emotional themes. The theme of parenting and raising offspring is a central theme. For a series that never boasts of having the ‘perfect couple’, Poppy and Chopra certainly are one!

The novel builds to a dramatic ending, layered with thought-provoking moments and a deep sense of unconditional love.
For me, this proves that Chopra is one of the finest diverse series.
5* Genius

‘The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others’ Gandhi

Vaseem Khan
Vaseem Khan
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The Unexpected Inheritance Of Inspector Chopra #1 Review and Q&A
The Perplexing Theft Of The Jewel In The Crown #2 Listed in Favourites of 2017
The Strange Disappearance Of A Bollywood Star #3

Coming Soon. . . . . . 

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Murder At The Grand Raj Palace
Synopsis:

In the enchanting new Baby Ganesh Agency novel, Inspector Chopra and his elephant sidekick investigate a murder at Mumbai’s grandest hotel.

For a century the iconic Grand Raj Palace Hotel has welcomed the world’s elite. From film stars to foreign dignitaries, anyone who is anyone stays at the Grand Raj.
The last thing the venerable old hotel needs is a murder…

When American billionaire Hollis Burbank is found dead – the day after buying India’s most expensive painting – the authorities are keen to label it a suicide. But the man in charge of the investigation is not so sure. Chopra is called in – and discovers a hotel full of people with a reason to want Burbank dead.

Accompanied by his sidekick, baby elephant Ganesha, Chopra navigates his way through the palatial building, a journey that leads him steadily to a killer, and into the heart of darkness . . .

Due for release 3rd May 2018 #CantWait 

Anne Bonny #GuestPost The Summer Will Come by @schristodoulou2 – Cyprus The Island of Aphrodite #HistoricalFiction #1950s #Cyprus @rararesources

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The Summer Will Come by Soulla Christodoulou
Synopsis:
Set in the 1950s, the story begins in Cyprus. EOKA, British rule, and the fight for Enosis (unity) disrupt the world of two Greek Cypriot families, living in different villages on the island. They are desperately trying to cope with the unpredictability of this fractious time. Circumstances over a five-year period push both families to escape to London where, as immigrants, they struggle to settle, face new challenges, trauma and cope with missing their homeland’s traditions and culture. Both families’ lives cross paths in London and it seems that happier beginnings could be theirs. But at what cost? A story of passion for a country in turmoil, family love, loyalty and treachery and how, sometimes, starting over isn’t always as imagined.

Guest Post:

Cyprus – The Island of Aphrodite

Thank you so much for inviting me to talk about Cyprus as part of the blog tour celebrating the release of my second novel, The Summer Will Come, on the 25th March. Cyprus is a country you can’t talk about without mentioning the passion of its people, the beautiful climate, landscapes and history. It’s a country full of the hospitality that is so much a part of its people as it is of its culture and traditions.

It’s the homeland of my parents and their parents and ancestors before them going back many generations and although I’m British born I have a deep love and affinity with the island said to be the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love. Tourists flock to Aphrodite’s Rock where she’s said to have risen from the waters and thousands visit her birthplace in the mountains of Paphos, where a waterfall marks the Baths of Aphrodite. I’ve been lucky enough to bathe in them before health & safety regulations made bathing in the waters unauthorised.

Cyprus is also the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea situated at the crossroads of three continents – Europe, Asia and Africa – and it’s the only country in the world which has its capital city divided into two halves marked by the United Nations Green Line – a peacekeeping line – which separates the Turkish north and the Greek Cypriot south of the island. So strictly speaking the country should be referred to as the Republic of Cyprus since the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974.
The country is also quite unique in that it is the only one whose flag depicts the map of the country on it and has been in use since August 16th, 1960 when Cyprus gained independence from Britain.

If you’ve never visited Cyprus there’s so much to do and see there from lounging on the beautiful sandy beaches to nature walks and trails, visiting old villages and towns, castles and forts as well as the many ancient ruins. It has beaches and mountains, rugged inner terrain and quaint villages which haven’t changed in centuries. The climate is such that it is warm for nine months of the year and so you can enjoy a holiday there pretty much any time between March and November. Tourism is a major source of income for the island and its people. There are orchards of fruit trees splashing colour across the dry earth in summer; lemon, orange, pomegranate, apricot, carob and almond trees as well as fig trees and prickly pear plants. These are things I didn’t see growing up in the UK! I remember as a child, my parents pulling the car over on a dusty road and picking the fruit. It tasted like real fruit; sweet, earthy, whole. I will always remember the vibrancy of the colours against the dull browns of the mountains and the scattered villages creating a patchwork of little white painted stone houses.

However, Cyprus’s modern history has, in contrast, been dominated by enmity between its Greek and Turkish inhabitants. And it is Cyprus’ turbulent history and its more recent history which inspired me to write the book The Summer Will Come. My research took me back to the early 1950s when the country was under British occupation. Despite the invasion of the island by Turkey in 1974, the people of Cyprus still hope for unification and for many it will give them the chance to return ‘home’.

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Aphrodite’s rock

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The green line

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Soulla Christodoulou
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Author Bio:

Born in London to Greek Cypriot parents Soulla Christodoulou spent much of her childhood living carefree days full of family, school and friends. She was the first in her family to go to university and studied BA Hotel & Catering Management at Portsmouth University. Years later, after having a family of her own she studied again at Middlesex University and has a PGCE in Business Studies and an MA in Education.
Soulla is a Fiction author and wrote her first novel Broken Pieces of Tomorrow over a few months while working full time in secondary education. She is a mother of three boys.
She is a compassionate and empathetic supporter of young people. Her passion for teaching continues through private tuition of English Language and Children’s Creative Writing Classes as well as proof reading and other writing services.
Her writing has also connected her with a charity in California which she is very much involved in as a contributor of handwritten letters every month to support and give hope to women diagnosed with breast cancer. One of her letters is featured in a book ‘Dear Friend’, released on Amazon in September 2017.

When asked, she will tell you she has always, somewhere on a subconscious level, wanted to write and her life’s experiences both personal and professional have played a huge part in bringing her to where she was always meant to be; writing books and drinking lots of cinnamon and clove tea!

She also has a poetry collection, Sunshine after Rain, published on Amazon and The Summer Will Come is her second novel. She is currently working on a third novel Trust is a Big Word about an on-line illicit relationship that develops between two people.

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