An Extract From Night Flight to Paris by David Gilman

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I’m absolutely thrilled to be part of the launch celebrations for Night Flight to Paris by David Gilman and would like to thank Florence Hare at Head of Zeus for inviting me to participate. As Night Flight to Paris is very firmly on my TBR, following the extract I have to share with you today, I just can’t wait to read the whole of the book.

Published by Head of Zeus on 9th August 2018, Night Flight to Paris is available for purchase here.

Night Flight to Paris

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Paris, 1943.

The swastika flies from the top of the Eiffel Tower. Soldiers clad in field grey patrol the streets. Buildings have been renamed, books banned, art stolen and people disappeared. Amongst the missing is an Allied intelligence cell.

Gone to ground? Betrayed? Dead? Britain’s Special Operations Executive need to find out. They recruit ex-Parisian and Bletchley Park codebreaker Harry Mitchell to return to the city he fled two years ago.

Mitchell knows Occupied Paris – a city at war with itself. Informers, gangsters, collaborators and Resistance factions are as ready to slit each other’s throats as they are the Germans’. The occupiers themselves are no better: the Gestapo and the Abwehr – military intelligence – are locked in their own lethal battle for dominance. Mitchell knows the risks: a return to Paris not a mission – it’s a death sentence.

But he has good reason to put his life on the line: the wife and daughter he was forced to leave behind have fallen into the hands of the Gestapo and Michell will do whatever it takes to save them. But with disaster afflicting his mission from the outset, it will take all his ingenuity, all his courage, to even get into Paris… unaware that every step he takes towards the capital is a step closer to a trap well set and baited.

An Extract from Night Flight to Paris

1

Paris

February 1943

The darkness moved. The night sky, black and heavy with menace and constant drizzle, curled in on itself as the massive swastika rippled in slow motion. Languid authority ruling over silent cobbled streets below. The gusting wind threw curtains of light rain, rushing over the echoing sound  of running footfalls. A desperate clattering of fear in the curfew hours.

In the blacked-out room on the third floor of a five-storey walk-up, a curtain twitched. Through the sliver of glass, an old woman peered down at the dark street in the Eighteenth Arrondissement. Dim figures raced around the corner. Across the street others dared to ease back a curtain or a shutter, dousing their house lights, fearful of being seen, not wanting to be drawn into whatever was happening to the desperate fugitives below. The curtain twitcher saw two men and two women running for their lives. The older of the women snatched at a younger girl’s arm as she almost stumbled on the wet cobbles. Ahead of them one of the men, perhaps inhis forties, ran into doorway after doorway, desperate to gain access and escape from whoever was pursuing them. As he beat his fist on one door, the second man did the same to the next.

Every door was locked and no one who cowered in the dimly lit rooms was foolish enough to let the strangers in, despite their cries for help. The sound of fast-approaching studded boots told the old woman behind the curtain that the men and women were facing certain death. A dozen German soldiers turned the same corner, a couple skidding on the wet street. But then a command rang out: the soldiers stopped and raised their rifles. The old lady let the curtain fall back and retreated into her room. There was no need to witness what would happen next. She settled herself in the threadbare chair and pulled her shawl around her, bowing her head, gnarled hands covering her ears. Dreading the shattering crack of rifle fire.

Hail Mary, full of grace…

*

Despite the chilling rain, Alain Ory was sweating. Fear and desperation kept him banging on every door as they ran down the street. He begged; he cried out for help. There was no response. Soldiers appeared in the distance, spectres in the shifting rain. A voice called for those running to halt. Alain turned to the women, who had faltered. Suzanne Colbert had kicked her shoes off so she could run silently and with less risk of slipping. He had always desired her. She was similar in age to him, a courageous and beautiful woman. Now she huddled with her daughter in a doorway. In this desperate moment, he felt a surge of sadness that threatened to overwhelm him. He would have to abandon them.

He did not hear the German officer’s command to shoot. Rifle fire rang out. Suzanne and her daughter clung to each other. Alain threw himself across them, smelling the musk of her daughter’s hair and the acrid tang of urine as terror emptied her bladder. Bullets tore into the running body of their companion. The young man pirouetted silently, arms akimbo, turning almost gracefully on his toes. The illusion was shattered by the ripping of flesh and the sickening crunch of bone as he fell face first on to the cobbles. Blood seeped from beneath his body.

Alain pulled the women out of the doorway. He heard the mechanical slide of rifles being cocked, then pressed the women against the wall as another volley rang out. Bullets ripped stone fragments above where they crouched. A ricochet hit Suzanne’s leg. She stifled a cry of pain and limped behind the others as Ory turned into an alley, hurrying the younger woman with him. He pressed against the wall, dared to peer around and then stepped back into the street to drag Suzanne after them. The soldiers were running and would not fire again until one or more of them saw their targets and then stopped and aimed. One leg was twisted under Suzanne; blood flooded her hand, which squeezed the wound. Her agonized look told him everything. She wasn’t going to make it.

‘Go!’ she gasped.

He could not help her. She was pushing her identity card down the street drain. He turned and ran back into the alley.

‘Save her!’ cried the terrified girl.

He gripped her arms and tried to push her further into thedarkness. ‘No. We leave her!’

The girl wept, ‘I can’t. She’s my mother,’ and pulled back from him.

‘Christ, you fool. Danielle, come on!’

She shook her head and tried to run past him back into the street. He pressed her shoulders against the wall, but she threw him off, her terror more powerful than his strength. For the briefest instant he cupped her distraught face in his hands. ‘I can’t help you. Good luck.’ He turned and ran into the void as she spun around and stumbled to her mother.

‘Danielle. No. For God’s sake!’ Suzanne begged, raising a hand to stop her.

No sooner had Danielle knelt next to her wounded mother than headlights flooded the street and the soldiers dragged her away, screaming. Tyres skidded to a halt, doors opened, and she was bundled into the back of one of the cars. It quickly reversed and turned. The headlamps of the second car, parked off to one side, threw long fingers of light across the wounded woman and the soldiers, standing with rifles now slung, smok-ing cigarettes as their officer spoke to one of the men in the car. Soldiers toed the man’s dead body as others stood over Suzanne. She raised a hand to shield her eyes from the light and saw her daughter’s face pressed against the back window as the car sped away. A German officer barked something and two of his men leant down and grabbed her arms; then they dragged her across the cobbles to the waiting car. Suzanne cried out as her wounded leg scraped on the uneven surface. The pain made her vomit. They cursed and one of them hit her on the back of the head with his fist. Stunned, she smelt the warm comfort of the car’s leather seats and was flooded with fleeting images, memories of better days. A lover who became her husband; a leather sofa and the excitement of their first sexual encounter. Love and warmth. All that had long since fled. Now only cold dread remained.

(And now you can see why I’m desperate to read Night Flight to Paris!)

About David Gilman

Gilman Publicity

David Gilman has had an impressive variety of jobs – from firefighter to professional photographer, from soldier in the Parachute Regiment’s Reconnaissance Platoon to a Marketing Manager for an international publisher. He has countless radio, television and film credits before turning to novels. From 2000 until 2009 he was a principal writer on A Touch Of Frost.

You can visit David’s website and follow him on Twitter @davidgilmanuk for more details. You’ll also find David on Facebook.

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The Beedog by Addie Broussard and Illustrated by Joyeeta Neogi

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Although, for family reasons, I haven’t been able to take part in many blog tours this summer, I’m delighted to support fellow blogger and tour organiser Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources in participating in this blog blitz for the children’s book The Beedog by Addie Broussard and illustrated by Joyeeta Neogi. I’m sharing my review today.

The Beedog is available for purchase on Amazon.com and Amazon UK.

The Beedog

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An award-winning picture book that will get little ones excited about science.

While building a unique sandcastle, Cora and Manny spot a rather curious insect. Soon, the little scientists keep a watchful eye on the insect’s movements, while learning about the natural environment along the way.

My Review of The Beedog

During a day at the beach Cora and Manny discover a creature they think might be a Beedog.

The Beedog is an entertaining and educational book for children aged around 6-9. I think some words like ‘recess’ instead of ‘playtime’ make it slightly more applicable to an American audience but even so I think this ‘different’ vocabulary could lead to some interesting research and discussions about language use in different parts of the world.

The story is simple and entertaining and gives a smashing prompt to children to look at, and find out about, nature. I really liked the extra activities that are available to go with the story so that there is the opportunity for art, creative writing, exercise and geography to name just a few things to go alongside the environmental science in the narrative.

The illustrations are lovely, being bright and colourful and balancing the amount of text really well.

I think The Beedog will appeal both to children and the adults sharing it with them because it is a fun tale with strong educational aspects. Great stuff!

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About Joyeeta Neogi

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Joyeeta Neogi is a children’s book illustrator who has worked with international authors and publishers. Her engagement with worldwide clients and multicultural themes has allowed her to create captivating original animal and child characters. Her art captures the expressions, movements and vibrancy of life within simple compositions to bring the author’s story to life. In her free time, Joyeeta is busy with painting and music. She loves to paint in oil and acrylic, and has also developed a passion for watercolor.

About Addie Broussard

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Addie is an avid traveler, and once went on a solo journey to fifteen countries in one year. When she encounters something unique, she writes about it. Her first published picture book, The Beedog, is about a curious insect that she found in southern Portugal.

Addie began her writing journey when she was just nine years old, with a book called Doggienauts. That book has been updated and is set for publication in 2018. Addie is originally from the United States and is currently a full-time traveler. Home is where her suitcase is.

You can find out more about Addie on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook and by following her on Twitter @TwoUmbrellasPls. Extra book resources are to be found on the website.

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An Extract from Keep Her Silent by Theresa Talbot

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I can’t believe how long it is since I read Penance by Theresa Talbot, my review of which you’ll find here. Having so enjoyed that book, I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Theresa’s latest book Keep Her Silent. I have a fantastic extract for you today.

Keep Her Silent was published by Aria on 21st August 2018 and is available for purchase from Amazon, Kobo, iBooks and Google Play.

Keep Her Silent

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Ooonagh O’Neil is back with another dark and chilling investigation…

‘Do that which is good and no evil shall touch you’

That was the note the so-called Raphael killer left on each of his victims. Everyone in Glasgow – investigative journalist Oonagh O’Neil included – remember the murder of three women in Glasgow which sent a wave of terror through the city. They also remember that he is still at large…

When the police investigation into the Raphael killings reopens, Oonagh is given a tip off that leads her straight to the heart of a complex and deadly cover-up. When history starts to repeat itself, it seems the killer is closer than she thinks. Could Oonagh be the next target…?

Authentic and gritty, Keep Her Silent is a gripping and page-turning thriller that will leave you breathless. Perfect for fans of Susie Steiner, and Karin Slaughter, Patricia Gibney.

And just so that you can see for yourself, here’s an extract!

An Extract from Keep Her Silent

Glasgow 2002

Oonagh stared at the screen, which was threatening to give her snow blindness.

Three months into her six-months deadline and her book still hadn’t materialised. She’d written every day of her professional life for the past twenty years, yet she was struggling when it came to this.

The building work would be finished shortly and then there would be really nothing else to occupy her. She wandered from room to room and wondered if this place would ever feel like home again.

Writing a crime novel had seemed like the natural thing to do. Of course, she’d got an agent and a publishing deal within days. She wasn’t vain enough to believe it was her writing prowess that clinched the deal. Oonagh knew she was a marketable commodity. Her name would guarantee free publicity with press interviews and put bums on seats at book festivals. Even if her book was shite, it would sell enough copies in the first run to make it worthwhile for the publishers. But her book wasn’t shite. It just wasn’t there at all.

She opened up her emails. Upsetting as they were, they provided an almost welcome relief from her deadline. Just a few had trickled in at first, then they’d gained momentum until there were a dozen or so each week. People from all over the world contacted her detailing the abuse they’d suffered, some as kids, but not all. Some at the hands of the church, but again not all.

I was given up for adoption when I was just three days old. Your programme brought home the horrors of thousands of families torn apart by the Magdalene institutes…

My mother was born in a Magdalene laundry. She never spoke of her past, or her experience, but I now feel I have a better understanding of the pain she felt…

I was fourteen when my scout leader first abused me… I’m a grandfather now and have never told a living soul what happened. But I’m slowly realising that it wasn’t all my fault…

She slammed the lid closed. ‘Damn.’ Of all the stories she’d covered in her career, the abuse that went on behind the doors of Glasgow’s Magdalene Laundry had opened up the floodgates and provoked a bigger response than she could ever have imagined. Normally Oonagh would have been chuffed to bits, but there was just too much shit in the world, too much unhappiness to deal with.

She sat on the top step, hugging her knees to her chest.

Outside was threatening rain, so fairly decent weather for Glasgow. Cat head-butted her leg. She’d considered getting rid of him after her attack. But found that, despite the fact he’d tried to eat her face to finish her off, she’d grown quite fond of him. She had little memory of the attack itself, just a vague fuzzy recollection of lying at the bottom of the stairs and Cat lapping the blood that had gathered in a pool by her head. That memory gap should have been a good thing, blotted everything out, but instead she filled the gaps herself, each image more gruesome and horrific than the last.

She grabbed her jacket from behind the door and checked her car keys were in her bag. ‘Mind the house whilst I’m out and don’t open the door to any strangers.’ Cat glanced at her for a moment, sniffed the bottom of the stairs then darted out of the front door.

The traffic was fairly light and she made her way along Byres Road to the studio. She pulled into a parking space just as Ross was pulling out. He gave her an exaggerated wave and a smile that she didn’t trust; Oonagh noticed the baby seat was missing from the back and guessed he’d be off on a hot date.

She had a few minutes to spare and nipped into Make-up. ‘Oh, Oonagh, I wasn’t expecting you here.’ Abby looked at the clock and Oonagh touched her arm.

‘No. It’s OK, I’m not booked in.’ She slipped the square silk scarf from her neck. ‘Can you just do me a quick repair job?’

Abby was the make-up of make-up artists. A genius who could obliterate hangovers, forty-eight-hour drug binges and the red-eyed evidence of a broken romance with a wave of her magic brushes. She examined Oonagh’s neck with apparent impartiality. ‘You know, hon, you can hardly see it; it’s really faded.’

‘Mm… maybe, but can you just dab a bit of powder and paint on it anyway?’ Abby complied and in less than ninety seconds all trace of Oonagh’s scar was gone. She examined herself in the mirror. ‘Thanks, Abby.’ She reached over and kissed her before heading off to Alan’s office.

(I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to bump Keep Her Silent to the top of my hundreds high TBR!)

About Theresa Talbot

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Theresa Talbot is a BBC broadcaster and freelance producer. A former radio news editor, she also hosted The Beechgrove Potting Shed on BBC Radio Scotland, but for many she will be most familiar as the voice of the station’s Traffic & Travel.

Late 2014 saw the publication of her first book, This Is What I Look Like, a humorous memoir covering everything from working with Andy Williams to rescuing chickens and discovering nuns hidden in gardens. She’s much in demand at book festivals, both as an author and as a chairperson.

You can follow Theresa on Twitter @Theresa_Talbot and visit her website. You’ll find Theresa on Facebook.

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_ARIA_ Keep Her Silent Blog tour Poster (1)

Discussing Ribbons in Her Hair with Colette McCormick

Ribbons in Her Hair cover

It was a real pleasure hosting a smashing guest post from Colette McCormick here on Linda’s Book Bag where she explained the process in getting to publication for her novel Things I Should Have Said And Done.

Today I’m thrilled to welcome back Colette as she stays in with me to tell me about her latest book.

Staying in with Colette McCormick

Welcome back to Linda’s Book Bag, Colette.

Thank you so much for having me Linda. It’s a joy to be here on your blog again. I love what you’ve done with the place.

Glad you like it. Those new carpets help I think! Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

It’s my pleasure.

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening? 

Ribbons in Her Hair cover

I’ve brought my new book Ribbons in Her Hair with me.

Love that cover Colette. What can we expect from an evening in with Ribbons in Her Hair?

I hope you’ll enjoy a conversation with Jean and Susan, the mother and daughter who are the main characters. It’s written in a conversational style because I wanted it to feel like they were there with you on the room telling you what happened. Maybe when you get to see both sides of the story you’ll understand why they both behave the way that they do, and while they see things very differently they both have a similar goal. I hope that at the end of the day some things are more important than keeping up appearances.

(Ha – that’s an important message I think!)

What else have you brought along and why?

Me in a red dress

I hate having my picture taken and I’m not one for sharing photos of myself but I’ve brought this one along as it has now found a special place in my heart. As you can see, my hair is pulled away from the front of my face and though you can’t see it, I can tell you that the front parts of my hair are tied at the back of my head with a black velvet ribbon. Mum wasn’t keen on the full pony tail. It was taken in a hotel in Jersey where my parents and I were on holiday and we had to ‘dress for dinner.’ I remember her doing her own hair and then doing mine and then we got dressed together. These were the things that I took for granted in my childhood.

(That’s such a lovely photo.)

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I’ve also brought along a DVD of ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ because my sister took me to see it at the cinema when I was a little girl and I haven’t seen it in years. My sister is twelve years older than me but unlike Susan’s older sisters who pretty much ignore her for the most part, my sister took me to the cinema and to pantomimes, she baked me birthday cakes and she taught me how to knit.

(My sister is nine years older than me and she took me to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang when I was 7!)

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Finally I’ve brought some chocolates for no other reason than I like chocolate and it’s a long film.

(Now you’re talking. And we won’t need to share them with my husband either as he doesn’t like this film so all the more for us!)

It’s been lovely spending the evening with you Colette. I think we share a very similar childhood and I’ve found hearing about Ribbons in Her Hair very nostalgic. Thanks so much for staying in with me.

Ribbons in Her Hair

Ribbons in Her Hair cover

Jean seems the perfect wife and mother but she struggles to love her daughters whose material comforts mask emotional neglect. When the youngest daughter, Susan, brings ‘shame’ on the family, Jean can think of only one response. She has to make the problem disappear.

Finding the strength to stand up to her mother for the first time in her life, Susan does the only thing that she can to save her baby.

What Susan doesn’t realise is that her mother’s emotional distance hides a dark secret of her own.

Examining the divide between generations, between mothers and daughters, this emotionally charged novel asks whether we can ever truly understand another, however close our ties.

Published by Accent Press yesterday, 23rd August 2018, Ribbons in Her Hair is available for purchase here.

About Colette McCormick

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Colette McCormick was born and raised in Sheffield but has made the North East her home for over 30 years. Writing is her love but her job is as a charity shop manager for a leading children’s charity. She has a husband, two sons and a daft dog.

You can follow Colette on Twitter @colettemcauthor, and find her on Facebook and Instagram or visit her blog.

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Giveaway: Smart Moves by Adrian Magson

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My grateful thanks to Emily Glenister at The Dome Press for a copy of Smart Moves by Adrian Magson in return for an honest review and for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for the book. Not only do I have my review to share today, but I have a copy of Smart Moves to give away to a lucky UK reader. You can enter at the bottom of this blog post.

Smart Moves was published by The Dome Press on 16th August 2018 and is available for purchase here.

Smart Moves

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International troubleshooter Jake Foreman loses his job, house and wife all in one day. And when an impulsive move lands him in even deeper water – the kind that could lose him his life – he decides it’s time to make some smart decisions.

The trouble is, knowing the right moves and making them is a whole different game. And Jake, who has been happily rubbing along things he always suspected were just a shade away from being dodgy, finds it all too easy to go with the flow. Now he’s got to start learning new tricks.

If he doesn’t, he could end up dead.

My Review of Smart Moves

Jake is not having a good day. Losing his job is just the start of his troubles!

Now, if I’m honest I shouldn’t really like Smart Moves. With a fairly ‘blokey’ man as a protagonist in Jake who often views women in quite a sexist way and sometimes shares similar humour with his friends, Smart Moves ought not to have appealed to me. However, it did completely! I thought it was a great book. I think it’s because at the same time as being a little bit sexist and ‘macho’, Jake is an enormously likeable person. Life keeps kicking him when he is down and he is actually quite diffident and self-effacing behind his public persona. Much of the sympathy for, and empathy with, him comes through the brilliant first person viewpoint, Jake’s sense of humour and the fact that he’s incredibly stoical so that I was really desperate for his life to improve. I think this is very skilled writing. Here’s a man, Jake, whom I found myself entirely supporting almost in spite of myself – so much so, in fact, that I’d like to meet him again in a future book.

Smart Moves begins at a cracking pace and doesn’t let up so that it’s a quick and highly entertaining read. From the very first moment I had a terrible sense of foreboding as far as Jake was concerned and he does lurch from one less smart move to another as the story progresses, but each is a really well crafted and self contained adventure as he runs frequently questionable errands in a variety of countries. Whilst I may have had willingly to suspend my disbelief at times, I think Adrian Magson may well have been introducing me to a whole world totally outside my own experience and I found it fascinating. I don’t usually make comparisons, but Smart Moves did remind me of Fargo in many ways because it has a similar pithy dark humour and sense of intrigue.

I was drawn into Smart Moves by the hectic pace initially and became ensared by great writing, smashing chapter endings that drew me on and a character I truly believed in. I love an author who knows when one word can convey everything without embellishment and Adrian Magson has that ability in spades. Smart Moves is quirky, funny, pacy and exciting. What more could you want for a book?

About Adrian Magson

Adrian Magson

Adrian Magson is a freelance writer and reviewer, the author of 22 crime and spy thrillers, a writer’s help book, a YA ghost novel and 2 collections of short fiction.

You can follow Adrian on Twitter @AdrianMagson1 and find him on Facebook. You can also find out more by visiting Adrian’s website or reading his blog.

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Giveaway – A Paperback Copy of Smart Moves by Adrian Magson

Smart Moves cover

For your chance to win a paperback copy of Smart Moves by Adrian Magson, click here.

UK only I’m afraid. Giveaway closes at UK midnight on Monday 27th August 2018.

Please note that I am not responsible for sending the winner’s prize and that I will not retain personal details once the competition closes.

Discussing Death in Provence with Serena Kent

Death in Provence

A couple of years ago I was delighted to feature 300 Days of Sun by Deborah Lawrenson here on Linda’s Book Bag when Deborah wrote all about A Question of Identity. Since then Deborah has been having a bit of a change of identity herself and today I’m so pleased to welcome her back as one half of Serena Kent with her husband Robert Rees!

Staying in with Serena Kent

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Deborah Lawrenson and her husband Robert Rees

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Robert and welcome back again Deborah! Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Thank you for having us, Linda!

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it? 

Death in Provence

Death in Provence. It’s a cosy mystery but also the story of how a middle-aged Englishwoman makes a new life for herself on her own in France. Divorcee Penelope Kite is intelligent and optimistic, and the countryside, the people she meets and her personal circumstances are just as important as the mystery, and serve to deepen her understanding of the region made famous by Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence.

It sounds a delightful read. What can we expect from an evening in with Death in Provence?

Some good laughs, we hope – with an edge of psychological truthfulness and an accurate picture of the Luberon area of Provence, a landscape of perched hill villages, orchards, vineyards and lavender fields. We own a crumbly old farmhouse, similar in some respects, to Penelope Kite’s and know well the joys and pitfalls of owning such a property. Some of the incidents – not the body in pool! – are based on fact, though imaginatively enhanced, naturally.

(I’m quite relieved to hear you haven’t had a body in the pool – yet!)

We’ve been thrilled with the early readers’ reviews like this one on Amazon:

After years at everyone’s beck and call, Penelope Kite’s had enough. She leaves behind her ex-husband, ungrateful adult step-children, and chilly old England to pursue the good life in Provence. Blissfully busy with a beautiful – though dilapidated ‒ new house and a never-ending supply of pain au chocolate, Penelope’s found her paradise … until a dead body turns up in the swimming pool. She must channel skills learned at the Home Office Department of Forensic Pathology to unravel the murderous mysteries of her adoptive French town. And if that’s not enough, attempts on her life, hot flushes and non-existent willpower over the siren call of the local patisserie leave her convinced retirement’s not for sissies.

This humorous and entertaining romp is coloured with delightful Provençal details that will have you booking flights long before the murderer is revealed. Quirky characters abound, like the petitely perfect Madam Valencourt, who avoids croissants like a delivery of anthrax, and Penelope’s larger-than-life best buddy, Frankie, who pours third (fourth? fifth?) glasses of wine with no apology. A drop-dead gorgeous mayor, a secret love and unsettling neighbours add to the fun.

(…)How refreshing, therefore, to meet Penelope Kite; smart and funny with all the strengths and flaws of maturity. She deserves her own book series – as do we, the well beyond thirty-something crowd looking for a relatable laugh.”

(What a smashing response. You must both be thrilled.)

What else have you brought along and why?

Robert: I would bring along a chilled bottle of rosé. There is little better in life than sitting on a vine-covered Provençal terrace while the sun goes down, sipping a glass of cold rosé. Apart maybe from repeating the exercise immediately when the glass is empty. And as with wine, so with food. I could discuss the myriad of French dishes that we love, from bouillabaise to ratatouille, and the happy evenings spent devouring such dishes under the stars with friends. But my single greatest food love comes from a local baker. Simply the most delicious bread in the world – the pain tradition from the Boulangerie St Pierre in Apt.

Rob's piano in music room. Provence

Rob’s Music Room

For more spiritual pursuits, I would bring my piano and a few special pieces. One or two songs and miniatures of my own composition, as I suffer (along with most performers) with an acute desire to show off (especially after the rosé).

(Sounds like we’re in for an entertaining evening then Rob!)

But also something by Chopin, the greatest of all piano composers, and something by Debussy, Ravel from the host of French genius which flowered at the beginning of the 20th century. Music, and in particular piano, is my greatest passion. My father (a better pianist than I and an amateur composer) inculcated a great love of classical music in me for which I can never thank him enough. He never quite got pop, but for anything before that he was like a walking encyclopedia. He also taught me the greatest lesson in life. Just before the curtain rose on one of the greatest operas, he leaned over and whispered ‘You know, we are terribly lucky to be living in this day and age, aren’t we!’

Candle lantern

Deborah: I’d bring some of our collection of candle lanterns, and some of the glass jars we put tea lights in and wire to the fig tree in the courtyard to make the evening feel special. If I could bring the fig tree, too, I would. Especially in that summer phase when the leaves release their sweet, milky, musk-spice scent in the warmth of the sun.

cheese - dinner outside

At the end of August, you could even have some of the purple fruit that we and our guests gorge on with goats’ cheese and jambon cru. Also the twenty minutes each evening when the sun’s last rays send red flames up the hillside and turn the rippled mountain russet and indigo.

Luberon sunset

(I’m not sure I’m inviting you two back. You’re making me so jealous!)

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We’d also bring our tales of Provence, the trials and tribulations (no house renovation ever goes quite to plan) as well as the incomparable memories of laughter with friends and outdoor concerts and dancing in village squares under the plane trees.

Oh my goodness. What wonderful photographs. Thank you both so much for being here and staying in with me as Serena Kent. I’ve loved hearing about Death in Provence and having a look at your beautiful home and surroundings. It’s been lovely and has made me want to dive right in to Death in Provence.

Death in Provence

Death in Provence

When Penelope Kite swaps her humdrum life in Surrey for a picturesque farmhouse in the south of France, she imagines a simple life of long lunches and chilled rosé . . . What she doesn’t imagine is the dead body floating in her swimming pool.

Convinced that the victim suffered more than a drunken accident, Penelope plunges headlong into local intrigue and long-simmering resentments to uncover the truth.

But with a meddling estate agent, an unfriendly Chief of Police, a suspiciously charming Mayor, and the endless temptation of that second pain au chocolat, life in the delightful village of St Merlot is certainly never simple. . .

Death in Provence is available for purchase through the publisher, Orion’s, links here.

About Serena Kent

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Serena Kent has been a journalist, a banker, a music composer and a sheep-shearer – and is also the nom de plume of Deborah Lawrenson and her husband Robert Rees. They live in Kent in a house full of books, and own a ramshackle old farmhouse on the slopes of the Luberon hills in Provence which is also in desperate need of some more bookshelves.

You can follow Serena Kent on Twitter @SerenaKentBooks and visit the website. You’ll find Serena Kent on Facebook too.

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Wilderness Wars by Barbara Henderson

Wilderness Wars

I’m genuinely delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Wilderness Wars by Barbara Henderson – partly because I’ve met Barbara who is utterly lovely, but also because she is a fantastic author. I’ve featured Barbara here on Linda’s Book Bag before and you can see the following posts:

My review of Fir For Luck here (also one of my books of the year in 2016).

A smashing guest post from Barbara about Fir For Luck publication day here.

Another super post about why a book launch matters to celebrate Punch here.

Today, alongside my review of Wilderness Wars I have another fantastic guest post from Barbara, this time about the nature in her childhood.

Wilderness Wars is published by Pokey Hat, an imprint of Cranachan Publishing and is available for purchase here.

Wilderness Wars

Wilderness Wars

What if nature fights back?

Still in a daze, I take it all in: the wind, the leaden skies, the churning moody sea.
And, far in the distance, a misty outline.
Skelsay.
Wilderness haven. Building-site. Luxury-retreat-to-be.
And now, home.

When her father’s construction work takes Em’s family to the uninhabited island of Skelsay, she is excited, but also a little uneasy. Soon Em, and her friend Zac, realise that the setbacks, mishaps and accidents on the island point to something altogether more sinister: the wilderness all around them has declared war.

Danger lurks everywhere. But can Em and Zac persuade the adults to believe it before it’s too late?

Nature and Me

A Guest Post by Barbara Henderson

My new novel Wilderness Wars celebrates the beauty of natural world, but it also warns of imposing our will on it lightly. A respect, an awe, a reverence for the wild places all around us – for me this goes right back to my childhood and to my father. My mother loved the water, the garden, the flowers and the vegetable patch. My dad was about the wild places.

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Barbara with her father around 1980

My earliest memory? It is often hard to be sure, but I am certain Dad was part of it. He passed away five years ago, but he was a child of the woods. His parental home, still in the family, was the last house of the village, where scattered houses gave way to sweeping forest. He was a child of the war, too – foraging for mushrooms, berries and goodness knows what else: if you needed to know what is edible and what isn’t, my father was your man. The most exciting mornings of my young life involved heading into the woods, going off-piste. He made me clamber up a hide and sit still. It wasn’t long before roe deer grazed on the clearing, oblivious to my presence, or his. I was hooked.

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Another walk in the woods

Like most young people, I went through a phase where going for a walk simply didn’t cut the mustard anymore. But when my father added ‘through the forest’, there was a sense of adventure, of possible danger, however imagined. To my young mind, this was undoubtedly the forest of Hansel and Gretel. Rapunzel’s tower was bound to be around here somewhere, and there was even an old water spring with circular stonework. The Frog Prince dwelt there, I was sure of it. The imagination and the wilderness are connected in my mind still.

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Climbing trees was one of Barbara’s favourite pastimes

Holidays invariably took us away from the small town where I lived: beaches, mountains – the wider (and wilder) the view the better. My father was a treasure hunter, a spotter, a counter. Someone who needed a mission. Thus, the car screeched to a halt when a bird of prey soared over, until that bird could be identified. Bird houses were erected, and soon you’d hear his voice, calling me over, demanding my attention: Barbara, come, quick. Look, a male bullfinch, look at those clouds, have you ever seen lightning like this before. Look, look: two, four eight, nine deer! Look at those antlers. Look at those tracks, see them? Wild Boar, that’s what that is. (not common, but not unheard of in the area of Germany where I grew up). Look, a wasps’ nest. Look, that moving mound of earth; there is a mole under that right now. Look, a grass snake.

My mum, in turn, tried to interest me in flowers and shrubs, neatly planted in rows of tidy rows. Beans climbing up domesticated poles, salad leaves bending under the dew. But my eyes were always drawn to the wild things. Wild and unpredictable creatures, wild waves, dramatic rocks, sweeping sands, trees towering high against the sky: the untamed.

I am convinced that this was part of the reason I was so attracted to Scotland and why we eventually chose to live in the Highlands. When my children came along we began to spend endless summers rock-pooling, walking and spotting. I had grown into my father’s daughter.  Now it was my turn to say: look, a coral beach. Look, a golden eagle. Look, look at the colours of all the wildflowers on the machair.

It’s funny how memory works, isn’t it?

It is indeed Barbara. And I can see how those memories have woven themselves into Wilderness Wars. Here’s my review:

My Review of Wilderness Wars

Em’s family relocate to the remote Scottish island of Skelsay where her father will be part of a team building a new leisure complex, but not all will go according to plan!

Oh my goodness. Wilderness Wars is an absolute cracker of a book. It may be aimed at children, who I know will be utterly captivated by it, but I adored it too. Barbara Henderson really is the most fantastic storyteller. She holds the reader captive so that it is impossible to put down the book until every last drop of it has been drunk.

The characters at the heart of the story are perfectly drawn – and this includes the island of Skelsay too. Within just a few pages I felt as if I’d known them for years. Em and Zac are so identifiable for children and it is a stroke of genius to give both sexes a starring role as all children will find a character just right for them. I usually find children in fiction completely unrealistic creations but in Wilderness Wars the are such vivid and three dimensional people who feel completely real.

The plot is fabulous. It races along with a pitch perfect balance between the mundane elements of a child’s life, like homework, acting as a foil to dramatic and exciting events that take the breath away. There are some hugely pulse racing moments. I loved the way in which these events are set against the concept of nature, of how we exploit and manipulate nature and how we ought to be just that bit more respectful and careful in our actions. There’s so much to think about and enjoy in Wilderness Wars.

I’m finding it hard to praise Wilderness Wars highly enough. I think it is absolutely brilliant. If I were to write a children’s book, Wilderness Wars would be the one I would have liked to be able to put my name to. Fantastic!

About Barbara Henderson

barbara-henderson

Barbara Henderson has lived in Scotland since 1991, somehow acquiring an MA in English Language and Literature, a husband, three children and a shaggy dog along the way. Having tried her hand at working as a puppeteer, relief librarian and receptionist, she now teaches Drama part-time at secondary school.

Writing predominantly for children, Barbara won the Nairn Festival Short Story Competition in 2012, the Creative Scotland Easter Monologue Competition in 2013 and was one of three writers shortlisted for the Kelpies Prize 2013. In 2015, wins include the US-based Pockets Magazine Fiction Contest and the Ballantrae Smuggler’s Story Competition.

You can find out more by following Barbara on Twitter @scattyscribbler and reading her blog. You’ll also find her author page on Facebook.

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Wildernes Wars poster