#Review The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle by @stu_turton 5* #NewRelease #DebutAuthor #CrimeFiction @BloomsburyRaven @BloomsburyBooks #EPIC #DebutNovel

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The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
Synopsis:

‘Somebody’s going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won’t appear to be a murder and so the murderer won’t be caught. Rectify that injustice and I’ll show you the way out.’

It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.

But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.

The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…

My review:

When I finished this novel, I did casually comment on social media that the novel was ‘like playing Cluedo on acid’. Now, whilst I still stand by this short peculiar assessment. It is simply because, there is so much to process, and I read this in 24hrs. My brain was exhausted from the constant twists and turns. I still cannot even begin to fathom, just how, the writer put it all together. The flow of the novel and pace of the plot fits perfectly. I am AMAZED this is a debut novel. I will be pre-ordering ANYTHING the author produces next.
Purely to see what he concocts next, as this novel was original and epic on every level!

The novel itself, is beautiful and the artwork on the inside covers, makes be glad I own a physical copy. There is an invitation to the ball and a list of guests and household staff.
A who’s who of Blackheath is very important, as you’ll need to keep up!

We are made aware from the invite that guests must refrain from discussions of Thomas Hardcastle and Charlie Culver, of tragic events in the past. This instantly grabbed my interest.
What are the tragic events of the past?
What significance do they have to the ball?

‘How lost do you have to be to let the devil lead you home’

The novel opens on day one. Our protagonist awakes smelling of cigarettes, alcohol and body odour. He is aware of a woman fleeing and in need of help, with a killer on her heels. The killer hands him a compass and tells him to ‘head east’. When he arrives at the house, we will come to know as Blackheath. He is disorientated and dishevelled. He enquires of the woman, who he vaguely remembers as Anna. But no one is aware of such a guest. Who is Anna? Is she still in danger? Or dead?

‘The dead cannot expect a debt from the living’

Once the man is brought into Blackheath he uncovers his identity. His name is Dr Sebastian Bell, yet he has not recollection of this man. Even his own reflection is alien to him. It is a puzzle within a puzzle. Struggling with the effects of amnesia, he urges the guests to find the missing woman alive or dead. Whilst Dr Richard ‘Dickie’ Acker is summoned to attend the nasty bang to the head he has received. They also find defensive knife wounds on his arms.
What happened out there? Why is Dr Bell here? What does it all mean?

‘I’m a man in purgatory’

It isn’t long until Dr Bell is startled by a masked man, who we later come to know as the ‘plague doctor’. He warns him to be wary of the footman. Then he finds a note from Anna, arranging a meeting and offering to explain everything. Despite the two personalities inside Dr Bell, he decides to stay and solve the mystery…..

‘That’s the beauty of corrupt men, you can always rely on them to be corrupt’

Eventually we learn who Dr Bell is, his role at the ball. We also learn of the mystery surrounding Thomas Hardcastle and Charlie Culver and the lake where it all took place. The ball is being held on the 19th anniversary of the loss of Thomas Hardcastle. But it is so much more than meets the eye. With such a bizarre bunch of guests, this is going to be one hell of a party!

‘Wealth is poisonous to the soul and my parents have been wealthy a very long time’ Evelyn Hardcastle

The plague doctor returns and explains the situation of Blackheath to Dr Bell, only this time he is Donald Davies. He offers him a proposition……
‘Somebody’s going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won’t appear to be a murder and so the murderer won’t be caught. Rectify that injustice and I’ll show you the way out’
Through the plague doctor’s proposition, we come to understand just how Blackheath operates…..

‘I won’t return willingly to a madman’s game’

Our protagonist Aidan Bishop, must solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle. He will be able to enter various hosts, during his time at Blackheath. But never on the same day. He doesn’t have an unlimited number of hosts, he only has one per day. He isn’t aware of which host he will enter next and will have to fight their primal urges to behave in their own way. Every time he falls asleep, he enters a new host. There is no stopping or escape.
The game is well and truly afoot!

‘I know this isn’t the afterlife. Hell would have fewer servants and better furnishings’

Whilst attempting to solve the murder of Evelyn, Aidan warms to her personality. He then becomes focused on the dangerous task, of trying to prevent the murder ever happening at all….

‘Evelyn’s kind and gentle, and she’s been away nineteen years, who’d want to harm her now?’

Aidan will have to navigate other hosts trapped in the game, the violent and psychopathic footman and the illusive Anna. If he has any hope of solving the mystery and freeing himself from this eternal game of murder mystery.

‘Nobody has friends in Blackheath’ – Plague doctor

The various hosts Aidan finds himself within, are brilliantly written. They are (as said above) a unique bunch of characters. From the alcoholics, the drug users and the grabby handed perverts. Aidan must adapt to their attributes and friendship circles, to find clues.

‘You won’t get far in this house with sentiment’ – Stanwin

‘What kind of mind makes theatre of murder?’

As much as I was drawn to the mystery and scheming surrounding the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle. I was also still desperate to find out the mystery of the past. Early on, I was quite convinced there must be a link between the two and the writer did not disappoint!

‘Something evil happened here and it haunts the lake still’

The plague doctor, pops up every now and then. Usually to add a new twist into the plot and steer Aidan onto further clues he had previously missed or overlooked. You never truly know who’s side he’s on. Is he working to help Aidan uncover the mystery? Or leading him to mere distractions?

‘Too little information and you’re blind, too much and you’re blinded’

As you read you are desperately trying to unravel the plot. I loved the old-fashioned style era, the time hopping and the various spin off mysteries. The scheming, plotting and betrayal are brilliantly woven amongst all the guests. You never know if Aidan can trust anyone or if he can even trust himself……

A fantastic debut novel and an incredible novel to speed read! I would recommend to all bookworms, from those who read hundreds, to those who read just a few novels a year. The Seven Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle is a cracking novel, not to be missed! 5*

‘He means to kill us, though not before he’s had his fun’

ST
Stuart Turton
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#BlogTour #Review The Betrayal by @AnneAllen21 #WW2Fiction #HistoricalFiction #Guernsey @rararesources #KindleOffer #EbookDeal

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The Betrayal by Anne Allen
The Guernsey novels – Book 6 
Synopsis:

Treachery and theft lead to death – and love

1940. Teresa Bichard and her baby are sent by her beloved husband, Leo, to England as the Germans draw closer to Guernsey. Days later they invade…

1942. Leo, of Jewish descent, is betrayed to the Germans and is sent to a concentration camp, never to return.

1945. Teresa returns to find Leo did not survive and the family’s valuable art collection, including a Renoir, is missing. Heartbroken, she returns to England.

2011. Nigel and his twin Fiona, buy a long-established antique shop in Guernsey and during a refit, find a hidden stash of paintings, including what appears to be a Renoir. Days later, Fiona finds Nigel dead, an apparent suicide. Refusing to accept the verdict, a distraught Fiona employs a detective to help her discover the truth…

Searching for the rightful owner of the painting brings Fiona close to someone who opens a chink in her broken heart. Can she answer some crucial questions before laying her brother’s ghost to rest?

Who betrayed Leo?

Who knew about the stolen Renoir?

And are they prepared to kill – again?

My review:

The novel moves between two timelines the present day 2011 and the World War 2 era, with both located at the beautiful Channel Island of Guernsey.
I love coastal crime novels and the WW2 era, so this was a combination, I knew I would enjoy.
I live on a Channel Island and although I haven’t visited Guernsey yet! I have visited Jersey and its many tourist sites in relation to the German occupation. So, it was easy to visualise the setting and atmosphere that such a novel generates.
The author has brought Guernsey alive on the page.

The novel opens in June 1940, as Theresa and baby daughter Judith are being evacuated from the Island fearing a German attack. Guernsey and Jersey were de-militarised in the build up to the war. The only channel island, that I know of that wasn’t, was the Isle Of Wight. As the British feared if the Island fell into German hands, they’d effectively be able to launch their own D-Day assault on Britain.
I loved the historical accuracy and at times I could get a real feel for the characters helplessness. They had no idea what their future was, once the Germans invaded.

The novel then jumps to the modern day of 2011. There is a robbery turned fatal attack at a local antiques shop. Which leaves Nigel dead and the motives unknown. What was the assailant attempting to steal? Nigel and his twin sister Fiona moved to the Island after Nigel’s diagnosis of MS. They sought out a calmer, carefree existence. But what they uncovered, had roots reaching far back into the past……

In 1940, Teresa separates herself from husband Leo, as the ship leaves Guernsey. Neither of them knows what the future can hold and if they’ll even ever see each other again. I found this heart-breaking to read and it really brought home the deep emotional pain many withstood in this era of history.

“I shall miss you more than you can ever know, my darling” – Leo

In the modern day, Fiona returns to the antiques shop, only to discover the body of her brother. Nigel is found hanging and with his recent medical diagnosis; the police are quick to assume suicide. But Fiona is steadfast in her belief that he would never abandon her and cause her such pain and grief. She is determined to prove the police wrong and so begins her own investigation. With the help of ex-copper turned PI John Ferguson, Fiona sets out to uncover the truth in the mystery.

I would describe this novel as cosy ww2 crime fiction. Although the plot revolves around a murder. It focuses more upon the impact this murder has on the characters, both past and present. The reflective chapters offer an insight and comparison into the ww2 era and the modern day. Leo’s perspective of the German invasion and his shocking betrayal, is brilliantly written. I wish the novel had covered more scenes from the ww2 timeline and in-particular Leo’s story. But the emphasis is mostly from the 2011 perspective, searching for the truth via the history of the island.

The location of St Peter Port, really adds to the novel. The theme of betrayal works incredibly well. Who can you trust, when everyone turns informer, in order to survive?
I would definitely LOVE to read more in the series and will be downloading the authors work via kindle unlimited asap!

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Anne Allen
Author Bio –
Anne Allen lives in Devon, by her beloved sea. She has three children, and her daughter and two grandchildren live nearby. Her restless spirit has meant a number of moves which included Spain for a couple of years. The longest stay was in Guernsey for nearly fourteen years after falling in love with the island and the people. She contrived to leave one son behind to ensure a valid reason for frequent returns.

By profession, Anne was a psychotherapist, but long had the itch to write. Now a full-time writer, she has written The Guernsey Novels, six having been published and the seventh, The Inheritance, is due out in 2018
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****A Triple Celebration and a Price Reduction!****

For this week only, until 18th February, the price of books 2-6 of The Guernsey Novels is only £1.99/$2.99, with book 1, ‘Dangerous Waters, remaining at 99p/99c

This is in celebration of Anne Allen’s birthday, the 6th anniversary of the publication of ‘Dangerous Waters’ and the recent publication of book 6, ‘The Betrayal’.
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Still unsure, check out the other #BlogTour reviews on the following #Blogs
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#Review Close To Home by @CaraHunterBooks #DIAdamFawley #CrimeFiction #WhereIsDaisy @PenguinUKBooks @PenguinRHUK

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Close To Home by Cara Hunter
DI Adam Fawley #1
Synopsis:

HOW CAN A CHILD GO MISSING WITHOUT A TRACE?

Last night, eight-year-old Daisy Mason disappeared from a family party. No one in the quiet suburban street saw anything – or at least that’s what they’re saying.
DI Adam Fawley is trying to keep an open mind. But he knows the nine times out of ten, it’s someone the victim knew.
That means someone is lying…
And that Daisy’s time is running out.

Introducing DI Fawley and his team of Oxford detectives, and a Richard and Judy Book Club pick for Spring 2018, CLOSE TO HOME is the new crime thriller series to get addicted to.

My review:

This novel is the first in the DI Adam Fawley series.
It surrounds the disappearance of an 8yr old girl named Daisy Mason.
Daisy disappears from a neighbourhood barbeque on a quiet suburban street. From the outside Daisy has the picture perfect lower middle-class existence.
But once you get closer to home, you realise nothing, is ever as perfect as it seems…..

The police team called in to deal with the aftermath of the disappearance are a mixed bunch of characters. But as we learn over the course of the novel DI Fawley is carrying a deep personal pain. As the coppers try to ascertain the facts, the last known sighting of Daisy and the family’s lifestyle. Everything suddenly becomes so much more complex. The Mason’s are far from the perfect family. But do they have something to hide?

Daisy’s mother Sharon is a bossy, vain woman, more consumed with her own image than her two young children. Her father Barry was close to his daughter, but something recently made her retract from him and resent his presence. Older brother Leo is only 10yrs old. He is quiet, bullied and withdrawn, he presents as a child with the weight of the world on his shoulders.
I got the sense he felt unloved and ignored as the investigation unfolded.
I just wanted to give him a hug and tell him everything would be alright.
I may have felt that way, but neither his mother or father did.

The timeline in the novel moves around, from the present day to the days leading up to the disappearance. There is so much more to this family, this neighbourhood and this little girl, than meets the eye. The novel also has a series of Tweets and articles scattered throughout. They make the case feel more realistic and you can easily imagine the media pressure piled onto the police at work. The #FindDaisy becomes a national cause and the family are facing trial by Twitter. Where there every move/look is subject to scrutiny. I found this reminiscent of the Madeleine Mccann case, where the mother was made the ultimate villain. Is Sharon the villain of the story or just a selfish woman? Under intense media scrutiny, I think most ordinary people could have their actions taken out of context. This adds an interesting dynamic to the family’s story, you have to separate the fact from the speculation.

The police officer characters are written very accurately. The novel shows how the case of a missing little girl gets under the skin of the detectives. How policing can be more than just a job, it can be a way of life.
I wish we the reader, had gotten to know more about the detective’s personal lives. But I respect the fact that this is a first in a series and the author is laying the ground work for the series to continue. I hope we learn more about DI Fawley in the series in the future.

There are ample twists and turns within the novel, that keep you guessing. The writing style reminded me of Belinda Bauer, who is one of my favourite authors.
It finishes with a jaw-dropping ending and I look forward to the next novel in the DI Adam Fawley series. 4.5*

Cara Hunter:
Cara Hunter is the pen-name of an established novelist starting a new life of crime in a series of Oxford-based books to be published by Viking/Penguin. Though this is not the Oxford of leafy quads and dreaming spires but an altogether edgier, unkinder place. The first novel, Close to Home, will be out in January 2018, with a second slated for later that year. “So many people who’ve read Close to Home compare it to Broadchurch, and in my book, that’s a compliment to kill for…”
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#CharacterProfile Serjeant Catchpoll Marked To Die by Sarah Hawkswood @bradecote @AllisonandBusby #HistoricalFiction #Mystery

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Marked To Die by Sarah Hawkswood 
A Bradecote and Catchpoll mystery
Synopsis:
October 1143. His task dispatched, a mysterious archer melts back into the forest leaving a pile of corpses in his wake. The lord Sheriff of Worcester cannot ignore such a brazen attack on the salt road from Wich, nor the death of a nobleman in the wrong place at the wrong time. And so Hugh Bradecote and Serjeant Catchpoll are dispatched to hunt an elusive killer and his gang, and put a stop to the mounting attacks.

But it is not easy to get the culprits in their sights with a reeve keen to keep his position at all costs, a lord with his own ends to serve and a distrusting and vengeful widow to whom Bradecote is increasingly attracted.

Character profile:

SERJEANT CATCHPOLL
I never wanted my detectives to be flawless, or Holmesian in their ability to solve the crimes placed before them. What is important is that they are human, and also men of their time. In fact Catchpoll is very much a ‘proto-copper’ in the mould of Terry Pratchett’s Sam Vimes. I always think ‘Vimesy’ and Catchpoll would understand each other perfectly, and have an equal disregard for the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. They both fight dirty, have a deep sense of justice, and side with justice over the Law, which are not always totally in agreement. Both also know the power of creating their own myth, though neither would phrase it in that way.

Catchpoll, in terms of looks, has always been one man to me, taken from an image in a newspaper way back when the idea of the series formed in my head, and I saw a black and white portrait in a newspaper of the actor about to play a leading role at the RSC. I knew instantly ‘he’ was Catchpoll, from the gash of a mouth as a grim line in the grizzled stubble to the hard eyes with the deep crow’s feet at their corners, and the straggling, untrimmed hair. When I write him I see him as that every moment, and since Matt Addis has brought his voice to life in the audiobooks of the first two novels, I can hear the Worcestershire accent in every word. When it comes to the actual character of the man, he is in part someone I have known all my life. I am the product of three generations of Royal Marines senior NCOs, and, as some reviewers have noted, Catchpoll is your classic senior NCO. I drew heavily on my father’s pragmatism, practicality, and humanity. Catchpoll fulfils what he knows the people of Worcester expect the Sheriff’s Sergeant to be, unflappable, sometimes omniscient, tough and intolerant of fools. His view is that the criminals have to know that however mean and clever bastards they think themselves, Serjeant Catchpoll is for certain a meaner and cleverer one. He actively encourages this belief as a deterrence to crime in ‘his’ Worcester.

Thus Catchpoll seems as hard as nails, and prefers to be seen that way, but some things get through to his inner softness, which he then rushes to conceal. He is inclined to be tetchy, is always cynical, frequently insubordinate, and he has an inordinate and apparently illogical dislike of the Welsh, though that is explained in the sixth book in the series. He also talks to corpses, not in a ghoulish way, but because he is in essence ‘interviewing’ them as he would someone who could speak, and by asking the questions that their physical condition can answer, he finds it easier to see and store the information gleaned.

His relationship with Hugh Bradecote, the new Undersheriff, is one that develops gradually, from antipathy to grudging acceptance and then respect and trust. It had to be an arc, and a natural one at that, not some ‘buddy cop’ scenario. It has to be remembered also that outside of the important crimes, or crimes involving important people, he works alone, though he has now got Walkelin as his ‘serjeanting apprentice’, and imparting his knowledge to his protégé is something he quietly enjoys, though he would not tell Walkelin that. It also saves his creaky knees, of which he often complains.

Solving murder would not be an easy task in the twelfth century, and in reality the ‘cases’ where killers were caught were those where a community hue and cry brought in the perpetrator, not the Sheriff’s men hunting for clues. Having ‘detectives’ is an invention, but then the mediaeval murder mystery as a genre has to have them in some form. It would be a world where every piece of information and evidence has to be stored in memory, rather than annotated in a notebook, and the detective’s almost sole asset would be his ability to observe with all the senses and ‘read’ his fellow man. Both attributes are as useful to the modern detective too, of course, but now there are written statements, evidence bags, SOCOs etc. Sometimes Bradecote and Catchpoll make errors in their mental filing, forget something, give it too much value or not enough. I think it important that they can do that, and if the reader works out who did it before they do I do not think it matters. What is important is enjoying taking their journey to the solving of the crime. I certainly enjoy working with them.

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Sarah Hawkswood
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#BlogTour #GuestPost #Location #Cornwall Miss Boston & Miss Hargreaves by @RachelMalik99 @PenguinUKBooks @penguinrandom

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Miss Boston And Miss Hargreaves by Rachel Malik
Synopsis:
When Rene Hargreaves is billeted to Starlight Farm as a Land Girl, far from the city where she grew up, she finds farmer Elsie Boston and her country ways strange at first. Yet over the days and months Rene and Elsie come to understand and depend on each other. Soon they can no longer imagine a life apart.

But a visitor from Rene’s past threatens the life they have built together, a life that has always kept others at a careful distance. Soon they are involved in a war of their own that endangers everything and will finally expose them to the nation’s press and the full force of the law.

#GuestPost Location Cornwall:

Place is incredibly important in Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves. The two central characters, Elsie Boston and Rene Hargreaves, lose the first home they share – Starlight Farm in Berkshire – during the Second World War. For many years after, they must travel through England looking for work and for somewhere to live. They spend time near the Lakes, in Yorkshire, in Devon and in Cornwall, where they find, just outside the village of Rosenys, a cottage, Wheal Rock, to which they are strongly drawn.

Cornwall is famous as a literary setting and I was very aware of this when I was writing Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves. Far from the capital, Cornwall’s peninsular geography can make it seem like a separate country, surrounded on three sides by the dangerous possibilities of water. When Rene returns to Rosenys from London she feels the boundary that she crosses:

[A]s the train left Plymouth and Devon and crawled across the homely Tamar, the journey caught up with her. At last she was going home. And then as she looked out of the window, everything outside started to come vivid. The tide was well out and in the sandy sludge of the river she could see waders, probably redshanks though it was hard to be sure looking for food … Each stop seemed to take an age: the train would squeal to a halt outside the station, and a brief lull of warmth and summer sound would come wafting through the open window. Rene would look out, often she could see the platform, almost within reach.

Many writers who have written about Cornwall, also lived there. One of my favourites, Daphne Du Maurier, spent childhood holidays in Cornwall and, most famously, leased ‘Menabilly’ a house near Fowey on the South Cornish Coast where she lived for over twenty-five years. Frenchman’s Creek plays on the differences between rule-governed London and the wilder shores of Cornwall. In Rebecca, Manderley, as a place and way of living, is clearly distinct from the artifice of Monte Carlo where the narrator meets Maxim de Winter for the first time, or from London (depicted as a combination of bohemian Soho and orderly, domestic Maida Vale). At Manderley, nature and tradition appear to combine in some ideal way. Except that the house is haunted. The sea – central to the Cornish geography – is central to this haunting. There are places in the house where there is no sight or sound of the sea, others where it is insistent. The sinister housekeeper, Mrs Danvers explains to the second Mrs De Winter:

‘”You know now”, she said, why Mr De Winter does not use these rooms anymore. Listen to the sea”’

It is the sea that brings Rebecca back to life.
Winston Graham who wrote the Poldark novels moved to Perranporth on the North Cornish Coast in 1925 when he was only 17 (he already knew he wanted to be a writer) and lived there till 1960. The first Poldark novel starts in 1783, just after the end of the American Revolutionary War and was published in 1945. The last Poldark novel ends in 1820 – it’s a period of dramatic change and conflict. In the Poldark novels, Cornwall is represented as less socially fettered than many other parts of the country, and many days ride from London. One of my favourite things about these books is how they trace the interdependent lives of a whole community. Much of the hazardous adventure in Poldark stems from Cornwall’s closeness to various other dangerous places: Ireland and above all France.

The Cornwall in which Rene and Elsie live is very different. It’s the 1950s, some of the harshness of post-war austerity is ending, but money is still very tight. The cottage they come to love, Wheal Rock, close to the chimney of an old mine, isn’t by the sea though it is never far away and water becomes very important as the novel reaches its climax. They live outside Rosenys, but they are also a tentative part of it, accepted by the village. When the two women are faced with danger, there is support for them from neighbours, even if some find them odd.

Early in the novel, Rene and Elsie have to leave a place they love and become wanderers, they must follow the work and when the work ends they have to move on. Without work, they are, quite literally, homeless. When they rent Wheal Rock, Rene and Elsie are reminded of the long lost Starlight, but they also see the possibility of a new beginning. Wheal Rock seems to offer the chance to make a real home (and not just a place to live). This is one of the key things the novel is about: the struggle to build a home and what people are prepared to do when that home and the security it offers are threatened.

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Rachel Malik
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