Anne Bonny #BlogTour #BookReview The Street Orphans by @Authormary Mary Wood #Saga #NewRelease #HistoricalFiction @panmacmillan ‘A stark portrayal of the Victorian era in Lancashire 5*’

The Street Orphans high res cover
The Street Orphans by Mary Wood
Review Copy
Synopsis:

Born with a club foot in a remote village in the Pennines, Ruth is feared and ridiculed by her superstitious neighbours who see her affliction as a sign of witchcraft. When her father is killed in an accident and her family evicted from their cottage, she hopes to leave her old life behind, to start afresh in the Blackburn cotton mills. But tragedy strikes once again, setting in motion a chain of events that will unravel her family’s lives.

Their fate is in the hands of the Earl of Harrogate, and his betrothed, Lady Katrina. But more sinister is the scheming Marcia, Lady Katrina’s jealous sister. Impossible dreams beset Ruth from the moment she meets the Earl. Dreams that lead her to hope that he will save her from the terrible fate that awaits those accused of witchcraft. Dreams that one day her destiny and the Earl’s will be entwined.

My Review:

I have previously read and loved Brighter Days Ahead by Mary wood. Which I thoroughly enjoyed as a ww2 fiction saga. This novel however, takes on a whole other angle. The Street Orphans is a much darker novel, which fully explores the themes of poverty in Victorian society. The plight of the children, whilst remaining factual accurate, is unbearable at times. It is just so painful and as a parent myself, I dreaded the thought of having to endure such harsh times.

The novel opens in 1850 when the lives of one young family are ripped apart. Ruth Dovecote is the oldest of five siblings, she finds herself the mother figure. After the death of their father in a recent accident, the family are served an eviction notice 24hrs after the funeral. They are cold, penniless and hungry. Their mother decides to make the trek to Lythe Fell in Blackburn, to her cousin’s residence.
Only the journey doesn’t go as planned.

On the journey the carriage of the Earl of Harrogate hits Ruth’s mother causing an instant death. Despite witnessing the death of their beloved mother, the children rally to save the passengers. The Earl is far from grateful and mocks Ruth’s club foot, with nothing but utter contempt for her. . .

‘And us within spitting distance of Pendle Hill, where they hanged a whole bunch of your kind a couple of centuries ago’ – Earl of Harrogate

The legend that surrounds Pendle Hill and specifically the witches of Pendle Hill, is well known. At least it is to me. I grew up in Lancashire and Pendle Hill could be clearly seen from the front doorstep of my grandmother’s house on Summer Street in Nelson. I can remember my granny Winnie filling my head with tales of her past in Lancashire. My Gran worked in the mills and my grandad worked down the pits. They had both known harsh childhoods, full of poverty and yet gave nothing but love their entire lives. My Grandfather himself was an Orphan at 17yrs of age. His father committed suicide after ww1, my grandad found his body at just 10yrs old. So, I suppose the themes of orphans/poverty hit me quite hard emotionally. I remember my gran telling me that at 17yrs old my grandad couldn’t afford shoes for his feet and that he had also endured sleeping rough. This is a man that would give you the shirt of his back, his last fiver or giant hug whenever you needed it. Lancashire might have a history of poverty and endurance under difficult times. But it also has an incredible history of love, friendship and warmth amongst its people.

Anyhow, back to the story before I am crying!
Ruth saves the Earl despite his vile attitude towards her. when he then makes violent threats towards her younger sister Elsie 4yrs old.
Ruth sees red and this leaves the Earl dead!
What will become of the children now?

Across Lancashire we are introduced to Katrina, daughter to a wealthy mill owner. She is betrothed to Lord Bertram Rollinson, the Earl of Harrogate. At just 21yrs old, she finds this a rather daunting prospect.
She is unable to marry for love and this she finds disheartening. . .

‘Lord Rollinson is trading a title for me, and daddy’s acceptance into society circles, just to get his hands on our money. How could you wish this to happen to me?’ – Katrina

However, Katrina is in for a surprise because Bertram is no longer among the living. Which will lead to his brother Frederick to take his place as Earl. Which brings a whole new dimension to Katerina’s marital woes.

‘Marriage in your society is no more than a business contract’ – Arkwright

The new Earl of Harrogate, Frederick is deeply concerned for the welfare of the children involved in the crash. He knows their actions allowed his mother Lady Eleonore to survive it. He hunts them down in a desperate attempt to help them. But these are street smart kids, who’s only experience of ‘toffs’ is one of exploitation and abuse. Ruth avoids the earl at every turn, which leads her to Ma Perkins and a whole new nightmare!

The novel covers a wide-range of themes as we follow not only the working-class characters but the society elite. Whilst the poor may fall prey to violence, rape and extreme poverty. The wealthy experience their own set of struggles. They live in s society built on reputations, where their status can be crushed in the blink of an eye. The women also experience being married off, as though they are pawns in a game of chess, being moved off to advance the males in the family. The author has done an outstanding job of covering the various people within the society and maintaining historical accuracy.
A stark portrayal of the Victorian era in Lancashire 5*

Mary Wood
Mary wood
Website
Twitter
My ReviewBrighter Days Ahead

***Don’t miss the other bloggers on the blog tour***
The Street Orphans - Blog tour 2018

 

Anne Bonny #BookReview Hydra by @ConcreteKraken Matt Wesolowski #SixStories #CrimeFiction #Thriller #Suspense #Horror @OrendaBooks ‘such a bloody great book! 5*’

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Hydra by Matt Wesolowski – Six Stories #2
My own copy from my TBR mountain
Synopsis:

A family massacre
A deluded murderess
Five witnesses
Six Stories
Which one is true?

One cold November night in 2014, in a small town in the northwest of England, 21-year-old Arla Macleod bludgeoned her mother, stepfather and younger sister to death with a hammer, in an unprovoked attack known as the Macleod Massacre. Now incarcerated at a medium-security mental-health institution, Arla will speak to no one but Scott King, an investigative journalist, whose Six Stories podcasts have become an internet sensation.

King finds himself immersed in an increasingly complex case, interviewing five key witnesses and Arla herself, as he questions whether Arla’s responsibility for the massacre was as diminished as her legal team made out.

As he unpicks the stories, he finds himself thrust into a world of deadly forbidden ‘games’, online trolls, and the mysterious black-eyed kids, whose presence seems to extend far beyond the delusions of a murderess…

My Review:

I really enjoyed the authors first novel Six Stories, it was clear to see that it was a fantastic debut novel and the author clearly had a natural talent for storytelling. I think the author brings something young and edgy to the crime fiction genre. It maybe the use of technology and crime novel surrounding a podcast. But I happen to think it is the writing style and knowledge of certain aspects of true life horror phenomenon. For example, when the lift footage of Elisa Lam was mentioned, I was instantly reminded of who creepy it is and yet it remains an unsolved case!

This podcast with Scott King revolves around Arla Macleod. A young woman who massacred her entire family one evening with a hammer! Why did this meek young woman commit murder? What drove her to kill those closest to her?

‘We rake over old graves’ – Scott king

The podcaster is able to video interview Arla, from her confines of Elmtree manor. Just the very theme of Arla being detained under the mental health act, rather than serving a lengthy prison sentence is cause for mass media speculation. Did Arla getaway easily with her crimes? Was she even mentally ill?
These are all themes Scott king wishes to explore with his podcast.

This is what makes Wesoloski’s novels so unique. They force you to question and explore why people do commit violent crimes and their personal reasoning for doing so.

In the first episode we hear directly from Arla. Although certain subjects are forbidden from discussion at the staff’s request. We also learn about Arla herself, the crime and the victims she killed. Arla lived with her mother and stepfather Stanley and sister Alice. Her biological father was violent and abusive and it was Stanley that ‘saved’ the family as they fled from Scotland to Stanwel. Stanwel is described as your typical run-down northern town, where nothing ever happens. That is until a young woman takes a hammer to her parent’s heads.

‘Her life was lived under the law her parents imposed’

Arla’s parents were right-wing Christians with firm and steadfast beliefs on issues such as abortion and LGBT rights. Arla began to reject her parents values in her teens and this seemed to inflame their attitudes towards her. With her sister Alice becoming the preferred ‘favourite child’.
Something happened to Arla, that much is clear.
But what occurred that day at 41 Redstart Road, Stanwel?

“I let them in. I let them in” – Arla

Arla talks of visions of ‘black eyed kids’ BEK, an urban myth amongst young teens. It is unclear if the BEK caused her to further seek out other occult behaviour or she was already actively seeking it out. Needless to say Arla was fascinated by the occult and the notion of escaping her current life.

Arla’s background is further explored and the details of her psychosis diagnosis. Is Arla mentally ill? Seems to be a common question in the novel and schizophrenia is known to present itself in the late teens/early 20s. So, there is more than enough room for speculation. Which I think makes for fantastic reading.

I typically avoid novels with a mental health theme, as that was my previous occupation and I hate to see it misrepresented in a novel. Statistically mentally ill people are more likely to harm themselves than others and too often it is distorted to fit a narrative in a crime fiction novel. But this was not the case at all within Hydra. The mental health aspects were backed up with knowledgeable facts. The central theme remained focused on understanding Arla, not condemning her due to her illness.
I must admit I really respect the author for that. It could have been too easy, to delve off into a tangent of mental health and loose sight of Arla completely.

As Scott King continues to interview people from Arla’s past such as her former teacher, childhood friend and holiday buddy. We learn more and more about why Arla was the way she was. Why she became so meek and introverted. Her obsession with the band Skexxixx and occult practices, is all explored.
At the same time Scott begins to receive personal threats to cease and desist with his Six Stories podcast. But he refuses to back down to the threats of an online troll.
But this troll just won’t simply go away!

‘No one wants you when the world tells you that you’re not important, that you don’t matter, that you’re an inconvenience – some people start to believe it; they make themselves unlikable’ – Angel Mawson

The novel has so many talking points, as it incorporates real-life themes within the story. In a comparison from Arla to the killers of James Bulger, we are forced to ask why the media was so quick to condemn two 10yr old boys instead of asking why they did it? The band Skexxixx is forced to shoulder some responsibility for the violent crime. Almost as if listening to a specific type of music can turn you into a killer.
But I can remember the exact same approach being used against Marilyn Manson in the aftermath of the Columbine shooting.

Why are we so quick to cling to meaningless reasons in the aftermath of a violent crime? Instead of seeking to understand the individual that felt the violent crime was their only way out!

I write my reviews days after reading the books. As I sit here now, I keep reflecting,
‘this is just such a bloody great book’.
So, there you go, this is simply put – such a bloody great book! 5*

mw
Matt Wesolowski
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Orenda Books