#Review #EvilGames by @WriteAngie Angela Marsons @bookouture 5* #CrimeFiction #Series

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Evil Games by Angela Marsons
Synopsis:

The greater the Evil, the more deadly the game…

When a rapist is found mutilated in a brutal attack, Detective Kim Stone and her team are called in to bring a swift resolution. But, as more vengeful killings come to light, it soon becomes clear that there is someone far more sinister at work.

With the investigation quickly gathering momentum, Kim finds herself exposed to great danger and in the sights of a lethal individual undertaking their own twisted experiment.

Up against a sociopath who seems to know her every weakness, for Detective Stone, each move she makes could be deadly. As the body count starts to mount, Kim will have to dig deeper than ever before to stop the killing. And this time – it’s personal.

My review:

I have heard lots about this series, from my blogger friend Sarah Hardy over at By The Letter Book Reviews. But sometimes it takes me awhile, to get round to reading a book recommendation. I am so glad I finally got round to reading the DI Kim Stone series. I now plan on buying ALL the others in the series. I must acknowledge for fairness, I started with this one, not at the start of the series. I often do this, if a specific synopsis appeals to me. Having worked in adult mental health previously for ten years, this was the perfect novel for me.
There are some amazingly on point, examples of mental health. So to my review…

I would describe this as police procedural and also very realistic. As DI Kim Stone and her team battle to solve multiple cases. I really liked Stone, as broken as she is inside, it only made me admire her more! She is savvy, feisty and ruthless in her pursuit of justice. The novel opens with her raiding a paedophiles property and taking his two young daughters into protective custody. You can feel Stone’s anger at the dire situation the young girls were placed in and she completely empathises with the victims.
She is determined to uncover everything about what took place, in Leonard Dunn’s cellar of depravity.

Across town Dr Alexander Thorne is attempting to help rape victim Ruth, heal after her brutal attack. The knowledge that her attacker has been released from prison, has caused a recent suicide attempt. Ruth is not well and desperately needs some support. Alex asks her to visualise stabbing her victim and obtaining ‘her light back’ and so the manipulation begins……..

Stone is called out to a crime scene where a convicted rapist has been found murdered. Viciously murdered in a stabbing. The reader is obviously aware of the two overlapping victims. But Stone is not, what comes next will pit these damaged women against each other. The developing mind games between Stone and Alex plays out, almost reminiscent of Batman and the joker. Both determined to break the others will.

There is a wealth of characters in the novel and many struck at my heart strings. The character of Shane, a childhood sexual abuse survivor, was heart-breaking. I began to despise Alex myself and every manipulative stunt she pulled angered me more and more. I would possibly go as far as saying she is one of the vilest characters I have ever read!

When the team discover evidence that another person was present in Leonard’s cellar, they rush to find out who. Attempting to gather information from the young victims Daisy and Louisa, proves fruitless. But then DNA evidence is uncovered, now the team just need to find a credible suspect. As Alex begins to dig into Stone’s past, Stone is returning the favour. One thing is clear, when these two finally come head to head. It is going to be, one epic showdown! The novel had me hooked from beginning to end and the author even saved an epic twist, for right at the very end. I am now off to buy the rest in this series and devour them as and when I can!
Highly recommended.
A huge bright and shiny 5*

AM
Angela Marsons
Authors links:
Website: http://angelamarsons-books.com/
Twitter: @WriteAngie
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7942666.Angela_Marsons
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AngelaMarsonsAuthor/

#BlogTour #Review and Q&A #DeadLands by @LloydOtisWriter 5* Genius @urbanebooks #DebutNovel @urbanepub

*I received an arc via the publisher in return for an honest review*

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Dead Lands by Lloyd Otis
Synopsis:

Dead Lands is a thrilling crime story set in the 1970s. When a woman’s body is found a special team is called in to investigate and prime suspect Alexander Troy is arrested for the murder. Desperate to remain a free man, Troy protests his innocence, but refuses to use his alibi. Trying to protect the woman he loves becomes a dangerous game – questions are asked and suspicions deepen. When the prime suspect completes a daring escape from custody, DI Breck and DS Kearns begin the hunt. Breck wants out of the force while Kearns has her own agenda and seeks revenge. Breck has his suspicions and she wants to keep it from him, and a right-wing march provides an explosive backdrop to their hunt for Troy. Dead Lands is the thrilling debut of award winning short story writer Lloyd Otis, and intelligently covers issues of race, discrimination and violence in a changing 70s landscape.

*Release date 12th October 2017.

My review:

Very few novels do I contact the publisher directly and ask to read a ‘coming soon’ title as soon as physically possible. This was one of those times! Dead Lands has an eye-catching cover and an intriguing synopsis. I was left dying to know more, little did I know I was in for one hell of a read………..

The location is London and the year is 1977, which makes for atmospheric reading but also an entirely different pace to a contemporary crime novel. Policing in the 1970s isn’t what it is today! A different era with its own approaches to racial profiling. Cransham, Lewisham and New Cross areas still left reeling from the ‘Rivers Of Blood’ speech of 1968 and its impact on London communities.
The backdrop of a right wing march in this novel offers a staggering reminder of that 1970s era.

The novel opens with violently brutal scene, it drew me in from the very first page! Police officers Detective Inspector Arlo Breck and Detective Sargent Patricia Kearns arrive on the scene. They are from the Sensitive Crimes Unit (SCU), basically dealing with cases that involve wealthy and influential people.
Money Talks!

The victim Janet Maskell has suffered a violent death. The scene offers little in the form of evidence except a name written on a magazine and a credit card both stating Alexander Troy. Who is Alex Troy? How does he fit in with the victim? Janet was a dedicated career woman and held a prestigious job with an investment firm. She had a routine life and no time for friends outside of work.
Who would want Janet dead and why?

The papers cite of the upcoming ‘war on our streets’ fuelling the far-right march. The area’s deprivation and hopelessness adds to the racial tension and mistrust. With all this happening Detective Superintendent Anil Bashir wants to override his detectives and run Janet’s case his way. Leaving Breck disillusioned with police work altogether.

Breck is dealing with a distressed girlfriend, who appears to be suffering with mental health issues from the flashbacks of a recent attack. He also faces verbal abuse from fellow copper Riley. Kearns is divorced, lonely and has virtually no interaction with her only child. The role of a female police officer in the 1970s is fully explored. The police officer’s backgrounds adds to the complexity of this novel.
There are revelations, secrets and lies. They read brilliantly as a police duo.

The police finally trace Alex Troy and bring him in for questioning. He works at the same investment firm and was facing a disciplinary hearing that day, which Janet had run against him. Is this his motive? He is completely baffled with their accusations. He pleads his innocence but refuses to give an alibi.
There is confusion, when another Alex Troy is linked to the case.
Then Troy escapes……….

The case of the two Alex Troy’s is fascinating reading. Identify theft in the 1970s, easily done and impossible to unravel. With one a person of interest (POI) and the other, the prime suspect. The prime suspect is desperate and on the run!

Nosey neighbour Wynda Brodie, informs the police that Janet did have one frequent visitor. Her gardener and lover Benjamin Genta. Stating her dislike at the thought of ‘half-caste kids’ running up and down the street! It would appear Wynda, is uncomfortable with the colour of Benjamin’s skin.
But who is Benjamin Genta and how does he tie into the case?

The investigation continues, there are searches for the two Alex Troys, interviews with people connecting to the victim and searches of property. But they throw up more dead ends than leads. Breck decides to approach Benjamin and discover more about the victim Janet. Benjamin has a clean record and a serious distrust of the police. His brother was an innocent victim in a stabbing and he recites cases of police harassment and brutality from an officer named Riley. But he was in love with Janet and they held the same political beliefs with regards to the anti-fascist movement against the far-right march. Was Janet’s death politically motivated? How involved was she?

“We’re in the dead lands, a place where you’re judged solely by the word of others. No one ever gets out. They stay trapped forever” Benjamin Genta
*Still poignant 40 years later.

There are chapters written from ‘the messengers’ perspective that make for harrowing reading. But they add thrills, fear and mystery. Who is the messenger? With a fellow officer proving there is a fine line between police work and police corruption. With his potential involvement in the march. Then one of the Alex Troy’s dead body is discovered the case is blown wide-open. Breck and Kearns must solve this case and fast! Before more dead bodies pile up.

A multifaceted complex novel, with themes of violence, past secrets, lies, police corruption, betrayals, racial tension and civil unrest. 5* Genius

Q&A:

Q) As a duo DI Arlo Breck and DS Patricia Kearns, come alive on the page. They are an unlikely pair and I often thought to myself they are chalk and cheese. But when you dig a little deeper into their pasts, the reader discovers they are both just trying to survive their own personal secrets. Was this intentional, to have two police officers so different but yet so alike?

A)It was, because as we know, opposites attract but when you scratch beneath the surface, you’ll find that they are both desperate to make amends. It’s the common denominator that secretly binds them together as individuals. Having them be different characters allowed me to provide a few interesting moments between them.

Q) I was very surprised to discover that DS Kearns was a female, due to the era. What made you decide to cast the role of Kearns as a female?

A) I wanted to create a more equal playing field in the story. Career opportunities for women across many industries were sadly extremely limited during the 70s, which is one of the reasons why I put Kearns in a specialist unit. A place where the skillset of an individual surpasses gender. There, the fact she is a woman, wouldn’t be such an obstacle as in other areas. I also felt that Breck and Kearns would bounce off each other better if one was male and the other female.

Q) Breck faces a dominating and bullying relationship with fellow police officer Riley. Which made me utterly despise Riley. Was this also part of the writing process to give an honest portrayal of the police in the 1970s?

A) To some extent, yes. The 70s had a lot of controversies, so there are some things that I just couldn’t underplay when setting its core in London. The stories about people being wrongly arrested, being discriminated against on a regular basis back then, and corruption, have already been well documented. To not have a character like Riley around wouldn’t be true to the decade. Having said that, not all officers were bad and that’s where Breck comes in. He’s Riley’s opposite in a sense.

Q) With themes of corruption and coercion, sometimes it was difficult to take the individual characters at face value. This added to the mystery and suspense feel of the novel and I was desperately trying to figure it out, before I got to the end. Is this sort of layered writing difficult to write, do you have to remind yourself who’s who? Does the direction of a character every change during the writing process?

A) Yes, this sort of layered writing is difficult to write because if there are multiple layers to a story, it can’t be rushed. Those layers have to understood by the author inside out. Once the author has that understanding, then the ultimate direction of the characters won’t change, their responses to situations may fluctuate, but their true direction will remain intact and the author won’t get confused with who’s who.

Q) Writing a novel set in 1977, is very different to the novels that flood the market. what was the inspiration behind this era? What was the research process for understanding policing in 1977?

A) For my debut I wanted create a story that you could say was under represented in the crime fiction market. Readers don’t want all books to be the same and we authors are creative, so we can try new things. I think there needs to be individualism in writing that continues to offer readers as much choice as possible. In terms of research, I underwent a lot for the period. From sifting through newspapers of the time, to speaking to someone who was present at ‘the march’ which serves as the backdrop to the story, and I was able to get on-the-job insights from a retired police sergeant that served during the decade.

Q) Breck identifies with Benjamin in the novel, almost as if he can imagine life thorough his eyes. We the reader also then witness Benjamin appear to let down his guard around Breck. How do you plan how various characters will interact with each another?

A) Good question. I think the keyword here is backgrounds. The background of a character leads me to decide how best that particular character would interact with others, especially in one-to-one scenes.

Q) If I had to sum up your novel in 5 words, I would say it is edgy, tense, unique, intelligent and thought-provoking. What 5 words would you use?

A) Thank you, Abby, that’s very kind. I honestly don’t think I could choose any different, or better, words than those.

Q) Finally, the question I am dying to know the answer to, is this debut novel the start of a Breck & Kearns series? If so are you working on ideas/themes for the next novel?

A) Breck & Kearns deserve their moment. I spent a lot of time considering who they were and what they were supposed to represent. Dead Lands is their story, from the beginning to the end, alongside a piece of real history. Will they return? Never say never.

LO2
Lloyd Otis
Author Bio:
Lloyd was born in London and attained a BA (Hons) in Media and Communication. After gaining several years of valuable experience within the finance and digital sectors, he completed a course in journalism. Lloyd has interviewed a host of bestselling authors, such as Mark Billingham, Hugh Howey, Kerry Hudson, and Lawrence Block. Two of his short stories were selected for publication in the ‘Out of My Window’ anthology, and he currently works as an Editor.
Authors Links:
Web: http://www.lloydotis.com/
Via Urbane: http://urbanepublications.com/book_author/lloyd-otis/
Twitter: @LloydOtisWriter
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LloydOtisWriter

 

 

 

 

#Review and Q&A #SugarMoney by @blablafishcakes JaneHarris @FaberBooks 5*

*I received an arc via the publisher in return for an honest review*

SUGAR MONEY jacket
Sugar Money by Jane Harris
Synopsis:

Martinique, 1765, and brothers Emile and Lucien are charged by their French master, Father Cleophas, with a mission. They must return to Grenada, the island they once called home, and smuggle back the 42 slaves claimed by English invaders at the hospital plantation in Fort Royal. While Lucien, barely in his teens, sees the trip as a great adventure, the older and worldlier Emile has no illusions about the dangers they will face. But with no choice other than to obey Cleophas – and sensing the possibility, however remote, of finding his first love Celeste – he sets out with his brother on this ‘reckless venture’.

With great characters, a superb narrative set up, and language that is witty, bawdy and thrillingly alive, Sugar Money is a novel to treasure.

My review:

“Cane is sugar, sugar is money” Emile

This novel is almost like three separate novels in one! It is a sensational story of a brave adventure. Yet there are obviously added dark elements, due to the slavery theme. It is also a story of the bonds of brotherhood and love. It really will pull at your heart strings and you will root for brothers Lucien and Emile, with love and hope on every page!

Firstly, to start my review, I should say this is a beautiful book cover. The maps on the inside of the cover, give it the piracy and adventure feel. I am really glad I own a physical copy! I should also mention that this novel is based around a true story.

The novel opens in St Pierre, Martinique, Western Antilles. In December 1765, the location and era is fully explored throughout the novel. The novel is told from the narrative of slave Lucien. He is summoned to the morgue by his master Father Cleophas. His master is content with hacking at the innards, of a dead field hands corpse. His older brother Emile is present and they are both unsure as to why. Lucien being the younger brother at just approximately 15 years old and Emile being approximately 30 years old. Their story of their ancestry and brotherhood, makes for quite the dark tale.

Father Clophas gives them a long winded explanation of how he wants them to return to Grenada and bring back 42 slaves. He informs them how badly the English treat the slaves and that they are, his rightful property. They will be joined by a Spanish skipper named Captain Bianco, who is a deaf mute. The master is clever in how he lures the men into the mission. As he suggests that Emile will be reunited with lost love Celeste and that they may grow into old age together upon returning. There is some squabbling amongst the brothers and we learn Emile doesn’t wish for Lucien to sail. Father Cleophas is adamant that they must work together as Emile is more cunning, but Lucien speaks the necessary English for the journey.
Never the less they sail on the morrow…………

“Listen, Lucien. This is no adventure, nor a child game. Sometimes, I wonder if you still have the sense you came born with” Emile

Throughout the sailing, between Lucien’s thoughts and the brother’s conversation. We learn of life with the Fathers and monks. We also learn the dark secret of their parentage, which is shocking. Lucien is wary of the risk they will take on their vessel ‘The Daisy’. Emile formalises the plan, they must speak to the slaves at night, under the cover of darkness. He is well aware of what will become of them, if they fail this mission. Whilst Lucien dreams of killing the skipper and sailing to Africa. Neither man is quite prepared for what they will experience on this journey.

“No real harm could come to us while we were together” Lucien

“I knew that nobody could break the bond of blood – good and bad- between us” Lucien

The memories and conversations between the men about Celeste, are fascinating. We learn she means quite a lot to both men. Having raised Lucien and being Emile’s sole love interest. I could not what to find out what had become of her in the seven years apart. The journey, is insightful into the character development and I really liked both Lucien and Emile immensely.

When they arrive at the island, they are reunited with some close friends and family. However, they also learn the fate of some and it does not make for easy reading. They learn of the punishments inflicted upon the slave. They are methodical, barbaric and designed to break the will of the slave. The pass a man naked, bones visible he is so starved. The man has a vacant expression, he is shackled with his ear nailed to the hut and has an ointment on to attract flies to bite him. You could imagine the sheer despair of the mind, at being forced to endure such a torturous punishment.

This novel by no means, down plays slavery. The degradation, brutality and dehumanisation is fully explored. Exactly in my opinion, as it should be. Any novel that is written about slavery has a duty for it to be as an accurate portrayal as possible. I would say I found this similar in one sense to the violence portrayed in The Book Of Night Women by Marlon James. Another author, not afraid to depict slavery honestly. There is a part where you will learn the story of Marital Medicine. It is possibly one of the darkest things I have ever read. I was completely taken aback, with the levels of depravity slavery had.

The men are reunited with friends including Angelique, Leotine, Therese, Lejeune and finally Celeste. But when their eyes meet Celeste they are left shocked to their core……… They are warned of a dangerous drunken overseer named Addison Bell.
A man so insanely violent, he is feared by all…..

“English been working us to death” – Angelquie

“He could…. It could get us all killed” – Celeste

The brothers get world out amongst the slave and begin to build a plan of the escape. This is no easy adventure and capture could be fatal. The novel continues at fast pace and you are left on the edge of your seat. I was genuinely trying to read as fast as I could. So that I could learn what will become of all the slaves including Lucien and Emile. It builds and builds, to an exceptionally emotional ending. I was left reeling and tearful at the same time. There is a note from the editor and an afterword by the author, which serve to add more depth to the characters, long after the novel is finished!
A fantastic historical adventure story, that details the colonial history and pulls at the heart and soul.
5*

“What I saw can never be unseen, never forgotten. All my life, over and over again, that same scene repeating in my mind” – Lucien

Q&A:

Q) Due to the author’s note and details at the end of the novel, I am aware of the inspiration for the novel. But for the readers, can you enlighten them on the true story and how you came across it?

A) I first came across the true story in a history book about the island of Grenada in the Caribbean. The events were described in just a few paragraphs. Basically, a group of French monks in Martinique hired a man (described only as ‘a mulatto slave’ in the original sources) and ordered him to ‘recover’ some slaves from Grenada where the monks had, until recently, managed a hospital and plantation. Although the British had since seized control of Grenada and the hospital estate, the monks maintained that the enslaved people there still belonged to them.

In essence, they ordered this poor man to steal the slaves from under the noses of the enemy. I was shocked that such a thing could have happened and fascinated by the courage of this man – the ‘mulatto’ – at the centre of the story. He became the character of Emile in Sugar Money.

Q) Can you tell us about yourself and your writing career?

A)I didn’t start writing until I was about 30 years old and by then I’d had a number of careers, as a singer and performer, in administration and management, and so on. At one point, I set off to work my way around the world but only got as far as Portugal and that’s where I began to write short stories, while I was waiting to begin work as a teacher at a language school. Very quickly, I knew that fiction-writing was what I wanted to do, so I gave up my teaching job and returned to Britain to try and get the stories published. Fortunately for me, various Scottish literary magazines and anthologies accepted my first efforts.

For several years thereafter, I continued working in various menial jobs while publishing stories here and there. I also undertook a Creative Writing MA and a PhD, and then worked for film companies as a script reader and editor.

After a short detour into writing for the screen, I returned to prose. One of my abandoned stories grew in length and finally became The Observations, my first novel. Thereafter, I wrote Gillespie and I, and it was while writing this second novel that I came across the historical event that would eventually become Sugar Money.

Q) Lucien and Emile have considerable depth as characters, their parentage, relationships with Celeste etc. How do the personalities form? Is it as you write? Do you plan them out?

A)Thank you for your kind words about character! I do try to put a lot into my character work. In the research stage, I write character notes and biographies, family trees and so on, in order to get a general idea of what the characters are like. I often take elements from my own character and from people I know or have met. Developing the voice of the narrator also helps me get to know the protagonist.

In this case, the sibling rivalry between Lucien and Emile was important in defining their personalities, as was how they, as individuals, relate to Emile’s first love, Celeste. This triangular relationship is at the heart of the novel, and my aim was to use these more intimate character motivations to add depth and warmth to the ‘bigger picture’ and the weightier themes of slavery, freedom, justice, escape and so on.

Q) The novel has very graphic portrayals of the brutality and violence of slavery. Which I personally, think is important to cover in a novel with a slavery theme. In particular, the story of Martial Medicine, is exceptionally brutal. Is this difficult to write? and did you have to research into slavery punishments?

A) I did carry out extensive research into all aspects of slavery, particularly as it operated in the Caribbean. Everything in the novel, in terms of punishment, is taken from original sources. For instance, what I call “Martial Medicine” is adapted from something known as “Derby’s Dose” as described in the diaries of Thomas Thistlewood, an overseer and slave-owner in Jamaica, who was breathtakingly frank about his horrific treatment of enslaved people. Without giving too much away, I did find parts of the story difficult to write and – at times, in the process – I became quite depressed.

Q) The ending left me broken, yet there are so many themes of love and hope within the story. Which makes it tough to review. I have done my best to get across to blog readers the various themes etc. How would you describe the novel?

A) I think fellow novelist Amanda Craig summed it up well when she said that Sugar Money is ‘a tale of slavery and freedom, innocence and experience, love and despair.’ That’s what I wanted it to be from the start, and I really hope that I’ve gone some way towards achieving that.

Q) I get the sense this novel would have been a huge project and dominated a large amount of your time. How do you celebrate upon a novel’s completion?

A) This might sound daft, but I don’t celebrate completion until, perhaps, the launch of a book, because there never seems a moment when it’s actually finished. Even once you write “The End” you know there will be endless revisions to be done before submitting to your agent and publisher, then further revisions, then proofing, and finding the right cover, responding to publicity requests and so on. Also, I’m a bit superstitious about celebrating anything too early. However, no doubt, I will be raising a glass of something on the night of publication!

Q) Finally, do you have another project lined up and can we have any snippets of information?

A) I do have a couple of ideas but I’ve been so busy with moving home and various other chores that I haven’t had time to really pin down what exactly I’m going to do next. Every time I finish a book, I always say I’m not going to write another historical novel – but let’s see!

*Huge thanks for being part of a Q&A on my blog and I wish you every success with the release of your novel.

 JH:Many thanks for inviting me to respond and thanks so much for your interesting questions!

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Jane Harris
Authors links:
My website is at www.janeharris.com
My Twitter name is @blablafishcakes
My Facebook Author Page is at: https://www.facebook.com/Author-Jane-Harris-140719536001399/

 

#BookReview Q&A #BluebirdBluebird by @atticalocke @serpentstail 5*

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Bluebird Bluebird by Attica Locke
Synopsis:

Southern fables usually go the other way around. A white woman is killed or harmed in some way, real or imagined, and then, like the moon follows the sun, a black man ends up dead.

But when it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules – a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger working the backwoods towns of Highway 59, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about his home state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home.

So when allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he is drawn to a case in the small town of Lark, where two dead bodies washed up in the bayou. First a black lawyer from Chicago and then, three days later, a local white woman, and it’s stirred up a hornet’s nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes – and save himself in the process – before Lark’s long-simmering racial fault lines erupt.

My review:

I picked this novel via netgalley, as I am a huge fan of novels with a diverse theme. I then saw a blurb from one of my favourite authors, Joe Ide giving praise for the novel and knew it must very special indeed. I knew the novel dealt with strong themes of racial inequality and the unbalanced justice system of the USA. However, at this point my knowledge of this, was limited to the infrequent news reports here in the UK and fiction/non-fiction reading. I have never visited the USA so have never witnessed the complexity of the issue, well that was all about to change! I picked up Bluebird Bluebird and only a few days later the Charlottesvile neo-Nazi’s formed their march, that left one woman dead and many injured. Suddenly this novel felt very poignant!

“For black folks, injustice came from both sides of the law, a double-edged sword of heartache and pain”

The novel surrounds the case of two dead bodies found in the bayou. One a black lawyer from Chicago and the other a local white woman. The racial tension of the setting of Larks, is evident on every page. This is a place that is divided by race and refuses to change. The novel details the crooked unbalance in the American justice system, one that will continue to define generation after generation. Black history meets white privilege head on, in this rollercoaster of a read. The novel is incredibly thought provoking, especially against a backdrop of current politics. I found myself questioning why the president of the USA, is so keen to condemn and discredit, the black lives matter movement. Whilst allowing white supremacist movements like the Aryan brotherhood to thrive!

The novel opens in 2016 Texas, USA. We are initially met with Geneva, a local café owner, the difference between justice for a black/white victim is explored. As the body of the black lawyer, has barely been investigated by the local police. But for the white local victim they are pulling out all the stops! In my eyes, a victim is a victim, end of!
But in rural America, it is not that way at all.

We meet protagonist and Texas ranger Darren Matthews, he has recently been suspended from work, his wife’s kicked him out and he is lonely and a little bit broken. He is called as a witness at an indictment case in San Jacinto county. The case involves Darren’s close friend Rutherford ‘Mack’ McMillan, who Darren has known for 20yrs. Mack is possibly being indicted for the crime of murder! The police believe he has shot and left for dead Ronnie ‘red rum’ Malvo. The case is one of extreme complexity, with Malvo being a member of the Aryan brotherhood Texas (ABT). Two days prior to the discovery of Malvo’s body, Darren was summoned to Mack’s property. Malvo was trespassing and harassing Mack’s granddaughter Breanna. When Darren arrives on the scene, Mack has his gun aimed at Malvo. Darren diffuses the situation and Malvo leaves.

Two days later Malvo is found dead in a ditch. A circumstantial case is built that Mack, holding vengeance for the incident, he tracked down and killed Malvo. Mack is facing death row! Prior to his suspension, Darren was working on a multi-agency task force. Their sole reason for assembly, is to dismantle the ABT and jail them for their various drug/gun operations they run. Darren knows that Malvo had turned snitch and any member of the ABT could have had him taken out. But he can’t declare this in court due to the level of secrecy on the task force.
The reader is led to believe Mack will just become another statistic, another black man wrongly convicted!

“How easily a coloured man’s general comportment could turn into a matter of life and death”

Darren leaves court frustrated with the system and angry that he can’t speak out! He meets up with agent Greg Heglund from the criminal investigation division (FBI). They discuss the task force and its intentions. We learn the task force only truly cares about taking down criminal activity of the ABT. They have no intention of dealing with the racial hatred. It’s at this moment we learn Darren has been greenlit and the ABT have targeted his property with faeces. Greg urges Darren to discreetly look into another case for him, whilst he is on suspension. A case in Lark, Shelby county.

Lark a small town with a population of just 178. Is no stranger to racial murders. But with the last case having been in 1998, what has driven somebody to murder in 2016. The 1998 case was when James ‘Jasper’ Byrd Jnr was dragged through the town, until his head came off. The murder was savage, but what has made this racist savagery return!

“He felt ashamed of his country and ashamed of his home state”

We get some more background on Darren and we learn of his desire to enter law school and of his own parentage. His father having died in Vietnam at just 19yrs old. His 16yr old mother couldn’t cope and he was raised by his uncles. His mother is now a crafty alcoholic, surviving on her wits. After visiting with his mother and pondering his own roots. He decides to take the case.

As he drives the US highway 59, the meaning of this is explained to the reader. With its links to the northern border and slavery. We also hear Darrens internal thoughts on the ABT. The ABT being born in a Texas prison, half their members incarcerated at any one time. The initiation process requiring a dead black body, removed of its skin. The Lark case involves victim one, Michael Wright, a Texas native now living in Chicago. He is a lawyer by profession and has a similar background to Darren. He is married but separated and no-one appears to know what he was even doing in Lark. Victim two is Missy Dale, a local waitress, enrolled in beauty school. She is married to Keith Avery Dale, who is fresh out of jail. Is he ABT?

Darren arrives in town and is quickly acquainted with local café owner Geneva, Michael’s wife Randie and sheriff Parker Van Horn. The Sheriff is quick to label Michaels murder as a drunken accident, despite the evidence to the contrary. It isn’t long until Darren is faced with local members of the ABT and the tension starts to build.

The case and the plot are extremely cleverly written. They keep you guessing until the very last page. The characterisation is insightful and intense. Why does the world look out for the likes of Missy Dale, whilst ignoring the victims like Michael Wright and Mack? Having been made aware so clearly of the unbalanced and unfair justice system. Why do the ABT feel they are the victims? Why are they so obsessed with hating on black citizens who have done them, no harm? And as stated above, why does the US president defend them? Although this is a work of fiction, the roots of its inspiration are clear.
White supremacy is a poison and it is killing America. 5*

“Criminality, once it touched black life, was a stain hard to remove”

Q&A:

Q) The novel displays the strong racial divides and small town mentality of Lark as a setting. As a British woman, born only in 1983, I find the fact that places like Lark really exist frightening. What was the inspiration behind the rural small town setting? Was there are real-life situation that created the idea of Bluebird Bluebird?

A) All of my family come from towns along Highway 59 in east Texas, so that was the inspiration for the location. I’ve always been fascinated by the culture of these small towns and the secrets I always imagined must be lurking the pine trees. There has, of course, over the years been racial violence in east Texas, but there was no one true incident for which I took inspiration for this book.

Q) The protagonist Texas ranger Darren Matthews, comes across extremely honest and decent. Whilst he is not without his faults, his dedication towards the case, I found admirable. How did you create his character?

A) Like all the characters, I kind of build them slowly in my head by filling out their world. Knowing that Darren was raised by his twin uncles was my first clue into who he is. The fact that they were so different and that he felt split between their two ideological ideas about role of the police in the protection of black life is the most significant thing about his character. And once I knew that his mother gave him up and once I “met” her—wrote the first scene with the two of them together—I felt I understood him even better.

Q) The novel also feature the Aryan Brotherhood Texas (ABT). The novel must have required some researching and exploring of how these networks operate. The emotion fully comes across on the page, as the plot unravels. Is it difficult emotionally, as the writer to imagine and write about these characters, such as the ABT?

A) No. It’s scary to know they exist, but writing about them wasn’t difficult. I will say that sometimes I would write something that felt too over the top—in terms of its racism—then I’d find a piece of research that suggested things are even worse than my imagination, in terms of what the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas has been accused of doing.

Q) Within Bluebird Bluebird there are many references to the civil rights movement. I have read numerous non-fiction novels on the US civil rights including The Blood Of Emmett Till. There is a wealth of fictional novels also being produced currently, with a similar theme. In my opinion America is producing some of the finest diverse fiction! Were you influenced by current politics in the theme of this novel?

A) Of course. All of my books are political and influenced by the world around me. I will say that I wrote this before Trump was elected, so it’s been discomfiting to see how timely this book is.

Q) As referenced in my review, I read Bluebird Bluebird, whilst watching the current news reports of marches in Charlottesville. Suddenly the entire novel became so very poignant and I realised this wasn’t a new political issue for the USA, it was an issue that had never gone away. I watched a news interview yesterday (21st Aug 2017) where US author, Colson Whitehead cited this is due to having a white supremacist in the white house. In your opinion what is it that is bringing the racists out of their closets?

A) Obama. I think a black president represented a level of cultural change that a good number of white Americans are uncomfortable with. Most polls now are revealing that anxiety about racial progress for people of color is the number one reason people voted for Trump. The people marching in Charlottesville and other places want a country that no longer exists. They want to go back to time when they are in charge of everything and singularly benefit from the country’s wealth and politics.

Attica-2017
Attica Locke
Authors links:
Twitter: @atticalocke
Website: http://www.atticalocke.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2829019.Attica_Locke
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/atticalocke/

*Huge thanks to the author for agreeing to take part in a Q&A on my blog!*

 

 

 

#BlogTour #Review Q&A #MyMothersShadow by @nikola_scott @Headlinepg 5*Genius

*I received an arc via the publisher in return for an honest review*

I must also add an apology, for some reason I have only just noticed that I have a date mix up! Sincere apologies to the author and the publisher.

My Mother's Shadow jpeg
My Mother’s Shadow by Nikola Scott
Synopsis:

Hartland House has always been a faithful keeper of secrets…

1958. Sent to beautiful Hartland to be sheltered from her mother’s illness, Liz spends the summer with the wealthy Shaw family. They treat Liz as one of their own, but their influence could be dangerous…

Now. Addie believes she knows everything about her mother Elizabeth and their difficult relationship until her recent death. When a stranger appears claiming to be Addie’s sister, she is stunned. Is everything she’s been told about her early life a lie?

How can you find the truth about the past if the one person who could tell you is gone? Addie must go back to that golden summer her mother never spoke of…and the one night that changed a young girl’s life for ever.

My review:

I wanted to read this novel, as it is debut and I always like to support debut authors. What I will say is, this novel absolutely blew me away! I was left emotional and teary, just staring at the book and thinking ‘I can’t believe this is a debut novel!’. It had me gripped from the start and is loaded with scenes that pull at the heart strings!
I cannot recommend this novel enough!

The novel is set between two eras, with two central protagonists. In 1958 the protagonist is Liz. A young woman, coming of age and also enduring the agony of losing her mother. Liz’s story pulled at my heart strings immensely as I was only 21yrs old when I lost my own mother! I felt I could relate to her pain and anguish at watching someone you love dearly, slowly wither away in front of your eyes. “I envy them, all those families with all their jolly children” Liz’s parents decide to shelter her from the trauma and agree to send her to Hartland House for the summer. She realises this means she will no longer be able to read with her mother, offer her comfort or be there with her, when death surely comes……..

“But most of all, I know it is death himself, who has started his slow, inevitable descent on this house, who is hovering above our roof and telling everyone that we are not good company”

I read the passage where Liz reads with her mother one last time with tears in my eyes. I was with my own mother at the end and this novel transported me right back to that room. But these weren’t tears of grief/pain, these were tears of a mother I loved so much.

“Saying goodbye to someone you love is like a small death in itself”

“Death is eyeing up our house. That she wants me to be free, at least for a while”

So Liz reluctantly makes her journey to Hartland House, for a summer she will never forget……….

The second protagonist is Addie, Addie is set in the present era and the eldest child of Liz’s. The family is in turmoil as the gather for the year anniversary of Liz’s death. Liz having died in an accident. The family has so many unique characters and is so realistic. The father Graham, is not dealing with the death well and has his own health issues to contend with. Little sister Venetia, is heavily pregnant and quite the madam. Venetia is a hotshot architect and used to getting her own way or dictating to others. There is a younger brother Jasper who is a high-flying surgeon. They each deal with their grief differently and I found this again to me reminiscent of my own mother’s death. We each assigned ourselves roles to play and this in a way enabled us to help each other through our grief. Addie had a strained relationship with her mother, often feeling less loved than her siblings or a career failure. Sadly, I could also relate to this……

“That’s how things had been, between my mother and me”

As the family and Mrs Baxter, a family friend gather round the house there is a knock at the door. Standing on the doorstep is a woman, with a revelation that will shake everything that Addie holds dear to its core.
A revelation that leads right to her roots and Liz’s time at Hartland House………………

Summer July 1958 Liz having nearly arrived at Hartland House, becomes acquainted with the other youngsters. Liz meets Beatrice, Harry, John, Felicity and will. The group are all in their 20s and spend their summers boating in the lake and on the estates grounds. The lady of the house is Janet Shaw, and quickly settles Liz in.
They begin preparations for Liz’s 17th birthday, with excitement.

Present The woman on the doorstep reveals herself to be Phoebe Roberts. She has recently discovered some documents that link her to Liz and more importantly to Addie. Documents that detail ‘charitable sisters of hope, Brighton 12 Dec 1959’. Addie is left reeling and feels she needs time to figure it all out. Venetia verbally attacks Phoebe, asking her how dare she show up on the anniversary and calls her a liar. This family is a family in crisis, and it has only just begun………
“A stranger in this house, a stranger in my own life” Addie

July 1958 Liz starts to enjoy life at Hartland House. She regularly writes to her mother and even begins to fall for John. On her 17th birthday party, she receives a call from her mother. Her party is one of cake, dance, love and romance. Only sadly and unknowingly to Liz her mother will pass away that very night………

Present Addie begins to investigate her mother’s history and eventually works with Phoebe to find the answers they so desperately seek. Addie recalls memories of her life and relationship with her mother. She is desperate to know what is this secret and what does this mean for her. What they discover will shake you to your core……….
“I would never forget your birthday, Addie. Never” Liz

That is as much as I can share with regards to the plot, as I do not wish to include spoilers. the chapters between Liz’s past and daughter, Addie’s present unfolds mystery after mystery. This is an incredible debut novel and has some very thought-provoking themes. It covers the victimisation of women in the 1950s/1960s era, with historical accuracy and vivid emotion. It is also a story of the relationships family members have and how grief impacts upon them. This novel is perfect for book groups, there is so much to debate and discuss. I would also additionally add, that if you consider yourself a feminist, you NEED to read this book! There were so many quotes in my notes, as I detailed all the parts I loved. I shall treasure this novel forever. I shall leave you with this quote about death and the loss of a mother, it made me smile, more than you can imagine.

“We should talk about her more” “We should talk about her all the time. It’s the only way to remember people, to talk about them”

5* Genius!

Q&A:

Q) For the readers can you give a summary of your novel and your background?

A) Addie Harington’s relationship with her mother has always been complicated. Forty years of trying to please her mother, brilliant and demanding Elizabeth, have taught Addie to be reticent and wary of other people’s expectations. All this changes on the anniversary of her mother’s death, when a woman appears on her doorstep claiming to be Addie’s long-lost twin sister Phoebe. At first, Addie refuses to believe that her parents have lied to her all her life. But before too long, she and Phoebe embark on a journey into their mother’s past, trying to understand what exactly happened to them in 1960.

Woven into the present-day London plot, diary entries from the late 1950s tell the story of seventeen-year-old Liz, who, reeling from the death of her mother, makes one wrong choice that changes her life and that of her daughters forever.

About me

My life has always revolved around books. I studied English and German literature at university and then became a fiction editor, first in New York and then in London, working mainly with women’s fiction and crime authors. I absolutely loved my job – where else do you get to read and talk about books all day, plus work with fabulous authors! – but I’ve also always had a variety of book ideas rattling around in my head. So when my husband’s job took us to Germany, I decided to change my path and do something different. It takes a little while to get your life and family sorted when you move countries, but eventually everyone was settled at school and nursery. The next day I sat down at the kitchen table and started writing. And that’s where I’ve been ever since

Q) The novel is set at Harland House, is there a real-life inspiration behind the location? *Please add images if possible and I can use them with my Q&A

A)I’ve been a National Trust addict ever since we moved to the UK and we’ve always loved poking around the countryside and old country houses on the weekends. Hartland is loosely based on a beautiful stately home called Polesden Lacey, which is about an hour south of London. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the particulars of my story or the characters, but it was always at the back of my mind when I tried to put myself into the layout and gardens of Hartland.

Polesden Lacey pic
Polesden Lacey

Q) The novel is set in 1958, what pulled you towards this era in historical fiction?

A) The 1950s still feel close to us, with so many immediate family stories and living memories at hand, and it was driven by forward-thinking developments and efforts at modernisation. At the same time the moral attitudes towards women’s roles, emancipation and sexual enlightenment were stuck someplace in the Victorian age. That juxtaposition – being so close to us in years and yet miles away from our own understanding of the world – is an intriguing starting point for a story, I think. And there’s something nostalgic about that time period that adds a lovely texture and atmosphere to the historical setting.

Q) The novel focuses on the mother and daughter relationship. The depths of love and bond, can go either way. With people’s individual experiences very unique. What was it that drew you to the mother/daughter theme?

A) There tend to be so many stereotypical and formulaic views in the public mind with regard to mother-daughter relationships when, in reality, they’re probably one of the most complex, most lovely and most infuriating things we know. I tried to capture some of that, tried to show that none of the relationships in the book are straightforward or black and white. All of them are fuelled by love, regret, guilt and even dislike, and all of them require a tremendous capacity to forgive and understand – just like real life!

Q) The novel also has a theme of past, reflection and the mistakes we make that can echo into generations. Was there a real-life incident that inspired you?

A) The story of the lost sister was inspired by a friend who met a ‘new’ sister for the first time in her forties. It got me thinking about how complicated that encounter would be and how I would feel in a situation like that – again, not something that is straightforward at all. Generally, I find it endlessly fascinating that one (potentially small) moment in time can have such a monumental impact. It’s a thought that haunts you, particularly when facing big decisions in your life, until you remember that not only does it work both ways – a small act of kindness can have an equally powerful effect – but that you can’t really ever control the reverberations of that one moment in time. An excellent premise for a novel, I think!

Q) The protagonist in the novel is shocked to discover a potential sister may exist. Sisterhood is proving to me a very popular theme in novels. I myself have five brothers and two sisters, the relationships are very unique. I would say that my relationships, with my sisters are very emotionally based. The secrets we share and the way we mother each other, since the loss of our mother in 2005. Is it difficult to write about raw emotion? Does it leave you feeling as though you have lived through the experience with the characters?

A) I do often find myself close to tears as I write but it is a cathartic kind of crying. You can allow yourself to feel very deeply but remain within the ‘safe’ structure of your story and because you’re writing it, there’s a sense of control. The research, on the other hand, was much, much harder for me. Reading about forced adoptions, women’s homes, the stern family environment, the absolutely crippling social stigmata these women faced and the horrendous emotional fallout from the separation – all that was harrowing.

Q) Finally, What is next, do you have a future novel planned? Are we allowed any snippets of information?

A) My next project isn’t related to My Mother’s Shadow, although it shares a similar time structure in that it brings together a historical and a contemporary plot. The historical strand is set in the late 1930s where a group of friends come together for a country house weekend at Summerhill before the start of WW II. Summerhill is a beautiful, remote estate on the Cornish coast belonging to the young Hamilton sisters, Madeleine and Georgiana. It promises safety and shelter against the looming threat of war, but before the weekend is over tragedy will have struck and none of their lives will ever be the same. Seventy years later, in 2009, Chloe – a young photographer living in Plymouth – crosses paths with old Madeleine Hamilton, now a famous children’s book artist. An unlikely friendship develops as they uncover an intricate web of love and loyalty, secrets and lies.

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Nikola Scott
Credit: Shelley Jager

Authors Links:
Get in touch with Nikola via her website www.nikolascott.com
@nikola_scott (Twitter),
@nikolascottauthor (Facebook),
@nikolascottauthor (Instagram)

*Huge thanks to the author Nikola Scott for agreeing to take part in a Q&A on my blog.