A Publication Day Extract from The Snow Killer by Ross Greenwood

The Snow Killer

I often say that lovely Ross Greenwood appears on Linda’s Book Bag more frequently than I do! Most recently we shared the cover of his brand new thriller The Snow Killer. The Snow Killer is out today from Boldwood Books and I am delighted to share an extract from the beginning of the book with you today.

Other posts on Linda’s Book Bag featuring Ross include:

A guest post all about seizing the day when his book Shadows of Regret was published in a post you can see here.

An introduction to Ross’s protagonist for Abel’s Revenge here.

My Lazy Blood interview with Ross here.

A guest post and my review of The Boy Inside here.

My review of Ross’s Fifty Years of Fear here.

Once you’ve read the extract from The Snow Killer I’m sure you’ll want to get a copy and you can do that here.

The Snow Killer

The Snow Killer

‘FEAR THE NORTH WIND. BECAUSE NO ONE WILL HEAR YOU SCREAM…’

A family is gunned down in the snow but one of the children survives. Three years on, that child takes revenge and the Snow Killer is born. But then, nothing – no further crimes are committed, and the case goes cold.

Fifty years later, has the urge to kill been reawakened? As murder follows murder, the detective team tasked with solving the crimes struggle with the lack of leads. It’s a race against time and the weather – each time it snows another person dies.

As an exhausted and grizzled DI Barton and his team scrabble to put the pieces of the puzzle together, the killer is hiding in plain sight. Meanwhile, the murders continue…

The first in a new series, Ross Greenwood has written a cracking, crackling crime story with a twist in its tale which will surprise even the most hardened thriller readers. Perfect for fans of Mark Billingham and Stuart MacBride.

And now’s your chance to read the opening of The Snow Killer

An Extract from The Snow Killer

Chapter One

I must have been ten years old when I first tidied up his drug paraphernalia. I didn’t want my sister crawling over it. We called her Special – a take on Michelle – because she was an enigma. She never spoke a single word and seemed more of a peaceful spirit than a physical entity. Give her a crayon or pencil and a piece of paper, though, and her smile filled the room.

I monitored my father’s habit through his mood swings or by how much time he spent in bed. The foil and needles increased rapidly just before we escaped London a few years back. I cried because both my parents left evidence of their addiction.

In many ways, my mother was as simple as Special. Swayed by my dominant father, she did everything he said, even though she had more common sense. Joining him in his heroin habit was inevitable.

Until the night we left, we took holidays and ate out in restaurants. I didn’t know where the money came from because I had no idea what my father did.

The evening we fled London, we packed our suitcases at ten at night and caught the last train to Peterborough, arriving at two in the morning. I recall beaming at my parents, especially when we checked into a huge hotel on the first night. My mum’s brother, Ronnie, lived nearby. When we eventually found him, he helped us move into a cottage in rural Lincolnshire, which was cheap for obvious reasons. The single storey building had five rooms and no internal doors. You could hear everything from any room – even the toilet.

Six months after we settled in our new home, I lay in the damp bed with my sister’s warm breath on my neck and heard my father casually say he’d shot the wrong man. The fact my mother wasn’t surprised shocked me more.

Life carried on. My parents continued to avoid reality. We ate a lot of sandwiches. Lincolnshire is only two hours north of London but it felt like the edge of the world after the hustle and bustle of the capital city. I walked the three miles to school. Special stayed at home where she painted and coloured. My mum sold Special’s pictures. She drew people and animals in a childish way, but they captivated people as the eyes in the pictures haunted the viewer.

One freezing night, my sister and I cuddled in bed and listened to another argument raging in the lounge. We had our own beds but only ever slept apart in the hot summer months. At six years old, she didn’t take up much room.

‘You did what?’ my mother shouted.

‘I saw an opportunity,’ my father replied.

‘What were you thinking?’

‘We’re broke. We needed the money.’

‘What you’ve done is put our family in danger. They’ll find us.’

‘They won’t think I took it.’

I might have been only fifteen years old, but I had eyes and ears. My parents constantly talked about money and drugs. By then, that was all they were interested in. That said, I don’t recall being unhappy, despite their problems. Normal life just wasn’t for them.

My mother’s voice became a loud, worried whisper. ‘What if they come for the money? The children are here.’

‘They won’t hurt them,’ my father said.

A hand slammed on the kitchen table. ‘We need to leave.’

‘It’s three in the morning and snowing. No one will look now. Besides, where would we go?’

‘We’re rich! We can stay where we like.’

Crazily, they laughed. I suppose that’s why they loved each other. They were both the same kind of mad.

That was the sixties and a different time. Not everyone spent their lives within earshot of a busy road. In fact, few people owned their own car. If you’ve ever lived deep in the countryside, you’ll know how quiet the long nights are. So it makes sense that I could hear the approaching vehicle for miles before it arrived. The put-put-put we gradually heard in unison that night sounded too regular for it to be my uncle’s ancient van. And anyway, good news doesn’t arrive in the middle of the night.

Mum understood and her bellow filled the cottage. ‘Grab everyone’s coats and shoes. I’ll wake the kids. Move!’

We slept more or less fully clothed due to the draughty windows and non-existent central heating. The warmth from the fire failed to reach the bedrooms. I rammed my boots on in seconds, and I slid Special’s warm feet into her little red wellies. Even at that time of night, my mother wore full make-up, but her beauty couldn’t disguise her wild eyes and trembling jaw. She hustled us kids to the back door where our jackets hung.

I held my hands out to my father. ‘Come on, Dad. Please, let’s go.’

My father peered through the window. Judging by the volume of the car’s engine ticking over, they had arrived. Then, a heavy silence. He glanced past me at my mother.

‘I’ll stay and talk to them. Get the children safe.’

Until that point, the extreme danger hadn’t registered. The expression of grim acceptance and resignation on my father’s face told me whatI needed to know. I grabbed his wrist and pulled him away from the window.

‘Please, Dad!’

‘Go. Don’t worry about me. See you at Uncle Ronnie’s when I get there.’

I frowned at him. If it was going to be all right, we wouldn’t need to go to my uncle’s. The loud, hard double knock on the front door jolted us from our inertia and my sister, mum and I fled through the back door.

We waited at the side of the house. Even the clouds seemed to hold their breath. The inches of settled snow cast an eerie light over the fields. I peeped around the corner at our visitors and recognised three men: a gaunt man, a fat man, and a man with weird sticking-out teeth. They’d been to our place on numerous occasions. Goofy, as I’d secretly nicknamed him, watched Special in a manner that gave me goose bumps. I always took her to our room if they arrived and we hadn’t gone to bed yet. I called the other two Laurel and Hardy for their different sizes.

Perhaps, it would be okay after all. Even though they talked down to my father, I thought they were friends. They joked that they all worked in the same line of business. Our front door opened. With the fire long dead and no electricity, the interior showed black and solid. Out of this darkness came my father’s outstretched hand holding an envelope.

A flash startled me, followed by a deafening, frightening bang. It lit my father up like a photograph. Terrified like rabbits, we panicked and left our hiding spot. Stupid, really. The cottage sat on a straight track. There wasn’t another house for miles. We ran in a line up the snowy lane towards the wood. If you run like that, holding hands, you can only go at the pace of the slowest runner. Special’s little boots slipped and skidded across the surface. She rarely went outside.

The first trees and only cover remained distant. I stole a glance back, knowing if they came after us, we would never make it. They stood in a line in the centre of the road, unmoving. Weirdly, considering the weather, they wore similar blue suits. Each had a raised hand. They were colour on a blank canvas, and clear as if it were daylight. We were sitting ducks. This time, multiple booms crashed around our ears.

Incredibly, we carried on running. A sound not dissimilar to a whip cracking whistled by my right ear. A lone crow in front of us launching into flight seemed to be the only consequence of the volley of bullets until my mother stumbled. She dragged herself up with gritted teeth and spat on the floor. Her eyes fixed on the distant tree line, and we continued to move forward. I heard the men laughing. Another torrent of cracks echoed from behind, and my mother hit the ground face first with a sickening thump.

I crouched and scraped the bloody hair from her cheek. Blood poured from her mouth. The snow devoured the liquid even though it gushed out. Her eyes lost focus and, with her dying breath, she gasped, ‘Run.’

The men’s footwear crunched closer. I swung Special onto my back. She adored that: playing horses. She weighed nothing but could hang on like the finest jockey. I set off much faster, terror loaning speed and strength to my legs. I reached the wood and burst in. Branches rustled and scratched my face. But just the trees at the edge were thick conifers, the ones beyond only skeletons. I prayed that our hunters would give up if I put enough distance between us.

It wasn’t a forest by any means, and soon I reached the edge. A large expanse of white opened up before me. The voices behind me echoed louder and closer. Special’s soft, slow breath warmed my ear. I clung to that fact. She didn’t understand. I had no choice and fled into the snow field. Beneath the covering of white, rutted uneven ground unbalanced me. I managed twenty stodgy paces when I heard chuckling again.

Special’s grip loosened after the next succession of shots boomed out. I grabbed her little arms to stop her sliding off my back. Another bang shattered the silence, and a stabbing pain seared my right thigh. After lurching a few more paces, my leg gave way. I collapsed onto my side and Special rolled off. She stared at me. She wasn’t sad or frightened. Her face only displayed kindness. Special had never uttered a word, but she tried that night.

‘Sorry,’ she mouthed. And then the light inside her died. My beautiful sister faded. My sister who gave the best hugs in the world.

A few seconds later, a man appeared in my vision. It was Goofy. He reached down and put his hand towards Special’s neck. I didn’t want him touching her. Energy coursed through me and I pushed up with my arms. The agony in my leg stole my power as I attempted to stand, and I crumpled backwards.

The killer shrugged and removed his hand from Special. His fingers came away dripping with blood. He ran a parched tongue over misshapen teeth and put a finger in his mouth. He regretted that she’d died, but only because it prevented him from having her.

A voice in the distance barked out, ‘Finish them off.’

Goofy leaned over me. I smelled the whisky my father drank when he couldn’t get what he needed. His eyes narrowed. I’d often been called Junior at school. A smattering of freckles below cautious green eyes hinted at an age beneath my years. My parents didn’t waste money on haircuts any more, and my mother was no hairdresser. One of the other kids in my class called me Oliver Twist. Perhaps my innocence made Goofy pause.

The wrinkles between his eyebrows deepened, and a cheek twitched. The snow fell again and flurried behind him. Maybe he thought twice, but he remained ruthless at heart. I stared at his eyes as he leaned back. I kept my gaze on him and implored for mercy until I peered into the barrel of his gun.

The next retort and flash were muffled as though the weather had taken the brunt. And darkness fell.

They left us in that bleak field in the depths of winter without a care. The papers would be full of the news for weeks. They called them the snow killings.

I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to read The Snow Killer immediately!

About Ross Greenwood

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Ross Greenwood was born in 1973 in Peterborough and lived there until he was 20, attending The King’s School in the city. He then began a rather nomadic existence, living and working all over the country and various parts of the world.

Ross found himself returning to Peterborough many times over the years, usually, so he says “when things had gone wrong.” It was on one of these occasions that he met his partner about 100 metres from his back door whilst walking a dog. Two children swiftly followed. And, according to Ross, he is “still a little stunned by the pace of it now.”

Lazy Blood book was started a long time ago but parenthood and then four years as a prison officer got in the way. Ironically it was the four a.m. feed which gave the author the opportunity to finish the book as unable to get back to sleep he completed it in the early morning hours.

Ross Greenwood’s second book, The Boy Inside, was picked up by Bloodhound Books, and in September 2017, Fifty Years of Fear was published. The year 2018 saw the publication of his next psychological thriller, Abel’s Revenge. All his books are thought provoking, and told with a sense of humour.

Ross Greenwood hopes you enjoy reading them.

You can find out more about Ross on his web site. You can also follow Ross on Twitter @greenwoodross and find him on Facebook.

Brad was Sad by M. C. Goldrick, Illustrated by Rebecca Alexander

Brad - front_hardcover

My thanks to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for children’s book Brad was Sad by M.C. Goldrick. I’m sharing my review today.

Brad Was Sad

There is also a lovely giveaway for US/Canadian readers to win one of three paperback copies of Brad was Sad through this link. Please note that this giveaway is independent of Linda’s Book Bag.

Brad was Sad is available for purchase on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Brad was Sad

Brad - front_hardcover

Did Brad’s dad make him sad?

Brad thought he had…until his dog, Plaid, proved he could choose his outlook and feel glad.

Kids learn best through stories. Empower your child to own their feelings with this beautifully illustrated picture book by award-winning author, M.C. Goldrick.

Brad’s dog Plaid shows him how to feel and deal with emotions. Though Brad is having a bad day, Plaid shows him that it’s in his power to choose his perspective and his feelings.

My Review of Brad Was Sad

Brad’s been told off and he’s sad!

Although this is a simple story for young children, there’s a lovely message behind Brad Was Sad because Brad is shown the truth about his emotions through his pet dog Plaid, and comes to realise he alone is responsible for his feeling through the way he responds to others. This would afford an excellent opportunity to explore feelings and emotions with a child at bedtime.

Told through rhyme, Brad Was Sad also allows language development, particularly through the consideration of spelling for homophones.

There are charming images to support the text throughout and the blue background fits perfectly the concept of feeling blue or sad. I really like the inclusion of a web address where there is a free activity book to be had too.

Brad Was Sad is a quick and easy read that children will enjoy and will be able to relate to perfectly.

About M. C. Goldrick

Brad Was Sad Author Photo

Award-winning author & mother of two, M.C. Goldrick sees feelings as our first language. Through her books she helps us identify and own our emotions. Her acclaimed Juvenile fiction series TIMEFLIES is an example of how stories can both enrich and entertain. She lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada with her family.

You’ll find M.C Goldrick on her website, Amazon, Facebook and Instagram.

About Rebecca Alexander

Rebecca Alexander, mother of two now-grown-up boys, is an accomplished artist with a private gallery. Her work has been featured on Canada Post Christmas Cards & stamps. She lives in St.Catharines, Ontario, Canada.

Brad Was Sad Full Tour Banner

The Name Beneath The Stone by Robert Newcome

The Name Beneath the Stone

What could be more appropriate on Remembrance Day than to feature Robert Newcome’s The Name Beneath The Stone: Secret Of The Unknown Warrior? My grateful thanks to Aimee at Bookollective for inviting me to participate in this blog tour and for sending me a copy of The Name Beneath The Stone in return for an honest review. It is my pleasure to begin the tour.

Published by Unicorn on 23rd September 2019, The Name Beneath The Stone is available for purchase in all the usual places including here.

The Name Beneath The Stone

The Name Beneath the Stone

Three generations, one family, connected by an historic secret.

1917: Private Daniel Dawkins fights at Messines Ridge and Passchendaele. He writes home to his true-love Joyce, but reveals little of his extreme bravery, his kindness, his loyalty to his comrades and the horrors they experience on the Western Front.

1920: Captain Peter Harding is tasked with a secret mission to assist in the selection of a body dug up from the battlefields of Flanders to be buried in Westminster Abbey as the ‘Unknown Warrior’. Events take place on that expedition that come to haunt him for the rest of his life.

2011: Sarah Harding discovers Daniel’s letters and Peter’s diaries. Together with historian James Marchant she pieces together the hidden truth behind the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior and must decide what to do with it. Values are challenged and characters are tested in this gripping novel which asks what if the identity of the Unknown Soldier was discovered – and should that secret ever be revealed?

My Review of The Name Beneath The Stone

The story of just who might be the Unknown Warrior.

In the interests of complete honesty, I have one very small criticism of The Name Beneath The Stone that I’m going to get out of the way before my review proper; whilst totally appropriate to the era and situations, I found too many expletives in the direct speech of those parts of the book set in 1917. This is purely my personal response and I’m sure others would not have the same opinion.

That said, I thoroughly enjoyed (if that’s the correct word as as times it’s quite harrowing) reading The Name Beneath The Stone because it’s absolutely fascinating, totally authentic and very thought-provoking. I thought the three strands of the story were woven together by Robert Newcome with great skill so that I was completely convinced by all the action. The blending of fact and fiction makes for a compelling narrative that educates as well as entertains. The level of reality in the depiction of army life and the quality of research that has gone in to The Name Beneath The Stone is exemplary. I was also surprised by some of the elements in The Name Beneath The Stone, not all of which I can mention as they would spoil the story. However, one such example is the inclusion of original photographs, which serve to give credence to the plot and descriptions and enhance the impact of the book.

I found the characters had depth and realism, especially Daniel, and I often found the 1917 passages quite uncomfortable to read because Robert Newcome presents the locations and situations that Daniel finds himself in so convincingly that I could hardly bear what he had to endure. Indeed, I think The Name Beneath The Stone is a wonderful book in making sure we remember those who fought and died in WW1. It is by no means just an entertaining read, it is an important one too. The quality of description is frequently heart rending.

The themes of guilt, bravery, cowardice, relationships and duty that might be expected in a book like this, are presented so well in all three timescales that the significance of the Unknown Warrior resonates just as much now in The Name Beneath The Stone as it would have done in 1920. However, even more interesting for me was the sense of mystery and the process of historical research that forms the 2011 sections. I was so intrigued I had to keep looking things up to see if they were real or invented.

The Name Beneath The Stone is an absorbing narrative. With high quality research underpinning a mystery story as well being historically accurate and engrossing, Robert Newcome’s writing intrigues the reader and draws them in. I hadn’t expected a fresh approach to writing about WW1 but Robert Newcome has certainly managed it. I really recommend The Name Beneath The Stone as it’s a book I’ll be thinking about for a very long time.

About Robert Newcome

robert

After five years serving as an officer in The Light Infantry, Robert studied Political Philosophy at Exeter University. Following this he had various management positions in the John Lewis Partnership, finally running management training. He then spent a number of years working for management consultants before setting up his own business with a colleague in 2007. Throughout this period he was writing articles, short stories and novels in his spare time.

Robert has just joined Twitter @NewcomeRobert.

A Name Beneath the Stone poster

The Christmas Wish List by Heidi Swain

the-christmas-wish-list-9781471185687_lg

Regular Linda’s Book Bag readers will know how much I love Heidi Swain, both as an author and as a person, so it will come as no surprise that I am thrilled to be part of the launch celebrations for her latest book, The Christmas Wish List, by closing the blog tour with my review today. My enormous thanks to Harriett Collins at Simon and Schuster for inviting me to participate.

Recently I reviewed Heidi’s Poppy’s Recipe for Life here and hosted a guest post from Heidi here all about what Christmas means to her when Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls at the Winter Wonderland was published.  You can read what happened when we ‘stayed in’ together to discuss Sunshine and Sweet Peas in Nightingale Square here, and read my review of Heidi’s Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market here.

Published by Simon and Schuster on 3rd October 2019, The Christmas Wish List is available for purchase through these links.

The Christmas Wish List

the-christmas-wish-list-9781471185687_lg

After being let go from her job in a swanky hotel just weeks before Christmas, Hattie is feeling lost. Even more so when her high-flying boyfriend announces he’s landed his dream job in Abu Dhabi and asks her to move with him. Luckily, Hattie’s long-time friend Dolly is on hand to help and invites Hattie to spend one last holiday in the small, festive town of Wynbridge, determined to give her a Christmas to remember . . .

Upon Hattie’s arrival, holiday preparations are in full swing. But for Hattie, whose Christmas cheer has long since run out, it’ll take more than mince pies and mistletoe to open her heart to the season once more. Relishing the task of reigniting Hattie’s Christmas spirit, Dolly suggests they create a wish list of all the things the season can offer, and with the helpful hands of Wynbridge’s resident handyman, Beamish, Hattie finds her frosty exterior is starting to thaw.

As Wynbridge prepares for its most spectacular Christmas yet, will Hattie leave snowy England behind for life in a sunnier clime, or will she in fact realise that her heart’s desire lies much closer to home?

The Christmas Wish List is the perfect read this Christmas, promising snowfall, warm fires and breath-taking seasonal romance. Perfect for fans of Carole Matthews and Cathy Bramley.

My Review of The Christmas Wish List

A return to Wynbridge will provide more than just a rest for Hattie.

I think it’s wonderful to be able to open a book by an author and know you’re guaranteed a wonderful read and that’s exactly what happens with a Heidi Swain novel; The Christmas Wish List being no exception.

I love the way Heidi Swain creates a festive atmosphere. She manages to weave traditions and cosiness into her narrative without being saccharine or twee so that The Christmas Wish List provides a compelling and uplifting setting that feels perfect for a winter read. Smatterings of snow, carols, winter wonderlands and roaring fires transport the reader to a world of pleasure and positivity. However, The Christmas Wish List isn’t all sweetness and joy, and elements of the story that I don’t want to reveal because they will be spoilers, provide a perfect balance and reality that give even greater depth and enjoyment.

Whilst characters I’ve met before in Wynbridge make an appearance, there’s actually quite a reduced cast list at the heart of this story so that there is an intensity to their relationships that touches the reader highly effectively. I’m sure I was just as much in love with Beamish as any Wynbridge resident, but it was Dolly’s attitude of making the most of life through her actual wish list that resonated most with me. The positive message behind the narrative is simply flawlessly portrayed. I also thought Hattie was such a realistic character. She is stubborn and sometimes quite foolish and her actions often frustrated me because I cared about her. Her relationships with her family, Dolly and Jonathan in particular made her embody a microcosm of many a young woman in today’s society. I was desperate for he to have a happy resolution in The Christmas Wish List but you’ll need to read the book to see if that particular wish of mine was fulfilled.

As ever when I read Heidi Swain, although I adore the storytelling, it is the underpinning themes behind the story that I find most appealing. A sense of identity and appreciating what really matters in life form a tapestry with friendship, relationships, a sense of community and love so that in The Christmas Wish List I think there is something for every reader to identify with.

The Christmas Wish List is yet another triumph of a book from Heidi Swain. It truly does embody the festive spirit of Christmas, but more importantly, it conveys the message of making the most of the lives we have. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

About Heidi Swain

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Heidi Swain is the Sunday Times bestselling author of five novels: The Cherry Tree CafeSummer at Skylark FarmMince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas MarketComing Home to Cuckoo Cottage and most recently, Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair. She lives in Norfolk with her husband and two teenage children.

You can follow Heidi on Twitter @Heidi_Swain and visit her blog or website. You’ll also find Heidi on Facebook and there’s more with these other bloggers too:

The Christmas Wish List Blog Tour Graphic (1)

Things That Art: A Graphic Menagerie of Enchanting Curiosity by Lochlann Jain

Things that art

My grateful thanks to Bei Guo at Midas PR for inviting me to participate in the launch celebrations for Things That Art: A Graphic Menagerie of Enchanting Curiosity by Lochlann Jain and for sending me a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Published by the University of Toronto, Things that Art is available for purchase here and directly from the publisher.

Things That Art

Things that art

Lochlann Jain’s debut non-fiction graphic novel, Things That Art, playfully interrogates the order of things. Toying with the relationship between words and images, Jain’s whimsical compositions may seem straightforward. Upon closer inspection, however, the drawings reveal profound and startling paradoxes at the heart of how we make sense of the world.

Commentaries by architect and theorist Maria McVarish, poet and naturalist Elizabeth Bradfield, musician and English Professor Drew Daniel, and the author offer further insight into the drawings in this collection. A captivating look at the fundamental absurdities of everyday communication, Things That Art jolts us toward new forms of collation and collaboration.

My Review of Things That Art

A series of drawn images with commentaries.

My word – or should that be ‘my image’? I don’t think I have encountered a book quite like Things That Art before and I’m not quite sure how to review it. I actually ‘read’ this book three times before attempting to summarise my thoughts. I loved the title Things That Art. Whilst it describes the contents of the book perfectly, it also generates the question, ‘Things that art what?’ so that the reader is immediately drawn into a more inquisitive frame of mind.

Firstly I simply looked at all the images and pondered their links and meanings. Whilst some were obvious, many of Lochlann Jain’s associations are startling, innovative and clever so that they reward time spend looking and looking again. I confess I didn’t understand all of them, even after reading the commentaries and looking (or reading) again but this is by no means a criticism. I researched some things, expanded my vocabulary, knowledge and understanding and felt Things That Art had not only been fascinating to explore, it had enhanced who I am because I now have a more acute and questioning attitude to objects around me than before. For example, I found myself adding items to some of the concepts presented too because Lochlann Jain had made me think differently. By way of illustration, I mentally included racism and sexism to ‘things that are institutionalized’ and I think this is one of the joys of Things That Art – it is more than a picture book or graphic novel, it’s a catalyst for thought.

The artwork has a naive quality that belies the meanings and references it embodies, and adds to the overall effect of the book in taking the reader by surprise. The commentaries are fascinating essays that enlighten the reader and make them appreciate Things That Art still further. Again, I felt my ignorance challenged (I didn’t know what ‘koan’ meant for example. It’s ‘a paradoxical anecdote or riddle without a solution, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and provoke enlightenment’ and fits this book perfectly) and having read the commentaries and looked again at Lochlann Jain’s images it was akin to being given entry to an elusive and elite club. This felt quite special!

I am unsure how to encapsulate Things That Art in a summary. It is peculiar, disturbing, thought-provoking and hugely entertaining. Things That Art is totally unlike any other book I’ve encountered before – and all the better for it!

About Lochlann Jain

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Lochlann Jain is a non-binary British academic and Professor of Anthropology at Stanford University and Global Health and Social Medicine at King’ College London. Jain has studied art at the Slade (London) and the San Francisco Art Institute. Whether in art or scholarship, their work aims to disrupt ways of knowing. Jain’s work has been praised as “a remarkable achievement,” (TLS), “a whip-smart read” (Discover Magazine), “brilliant and disturbing,” (Nature Magazine), and having “the phenomenological nuance of James Joyce.” (Medical Humanities) Jain is the author of Injury (2006) and Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us (2013).

Lochlann Jain has won numerous prizes for work in anthropology and medical journalism, including the Staley Prize, June Roth Memorial Award, Fleck Prize, Edelstein Prize, Victor Turner Prize, and the Diana Forsythe Prize. The work has been supported by Stanford Center for the Advanced Study of Behavioral Sciences, National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, and the National Humanities Center.

To find out more, follow Lochlan on Twitter @lochlannjain or visit Lochlan’s website.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Things That Art Blog Tour (1)

Sorry for the Dead by Nicola Upson

sorry for the dead

I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Sorry for the Dead by Nicola Upson and would like to thank Sophie Portas at Faber and Faber for inviting me to participate. Not only do I have my review to share, but I have an extract from the very beginning of Sorry for the Dead to whet your appetite.

Sorry for the Dead was published yesterday, 7th November 2019 and is available for purchase through the links here.

Sorry for the Dead

sorry for the dead

A compelling murder mystery in which events shift between a world on the brink of a devastating world was and the deadly aftermath of that war.

In the summer of 1915, the violent death of a young girl brings grief and notoriety to Charleston Farmhouse on the Sussex Downs.

Years later, Josephine Tey returns to the same house – now much changed – and remembers the two women with whom she once lodged as a young teacher during the Great War. As past and present collide, with murders decades apart, Josephine is forced to face the possibility that the scandal which threatened to destroy those women’s lives hid a much darker secret.

Sorry for the Dead is the eighth book in the Josephine Tey series, at once a compelling murder mystery and a moving exploration of love and grief.

An Extract from Sorry for the Dead

She waited on the step until Josephine was out of sight, then closed the front door behind her. The house seemed unnaturally quiet, and it took her a few moments to accept that she was finally alone. The book – a present she would never read – still lay on the table in the hallway. She unwrapped it and folded the brown paper neatly into a square, then went through to the sitting room to put it on the bookshelf with the others. Out of habit, she straightened the picture above the fireplace, wondering why she had lived for so long with something that she didn’t really like. In a moment of defiance, she lifted the canvas from its hook and put it face down on the floor.

The pointlessness of her days stared back at her from the tidy room: the vacuumed carpet and dusted shelves, everything pathetically in its place; only the coffee table showed any sign of dissent. She stacked the plates and cups carefully onto a tray and cleared away the remains of a fruit cake made the week before. It was past its best, stale and tasteless in her mouth, but it had served its purpose and the rest could be thrown away. She took it outside and crumbled it onto the low red-brick wall that separated her cottage from the one next door, smiling to herself when she imagined her neighbours’ indignation at the thought of a week’s dried fruit and sugar going to the birds. Already they thought her selfish and unfriendly, but she had been called much worse, and no doubt would be again.

April was barely a week old, but the heat could have passed for early June. She sat down on a sun-bleached wooden bench which stood just outside the back door, trying not to disturb the cat who invariably got there before her. It had taken her a long time to get used to such a small garden – just a plain, unimaginative rectangle in a terrace of the same – but she had planted it with all the things she loved most, nurturing a tiny wilderness of flowers and shrubs which had no purpose other than their beauty. A succession of warm days and spring showers had obliged her by bringing everything out before its time, and she was pleased to see the unexpected joy of early tulips. The promise of summer was everywhere, and the knowledge gave her comfort as well as pain; the rose that meant so much to her would be magnificent this year. Distracted by her thoughts, she stroked Percy’s head as he lay stretched out in the sun, thin and arthritic in his old age. He had been with her for years, a handsome white and black hunter who arrived on her doorstep on the day she moved in and stubbornly refused to leave. She had thought him a burden at the time, something else to care for and lose, but his company soon won her over; now, she couldn’t bear the thought of being parted from him.

In the distance, the clock at St John’s struck the hour with its customary lack of urgency, and she went inside to collect her purse and shopping basket. Her front door opened straight onto the pavement, and she walked out into the narrow, leafy lane and headed for the high street, taking the most direct route to make sure of reaching the butcher’s before he lowered his blinds for the weekend. She obviously wasn’t the only one to be waylaid by a fine afternoon: the last-minute queue for meat stretched out of the shop door and round the corner, and she took her place in it, nodding to one or two of the customers. Whenever she found herself in a crowd these days, she was increasingly struck by the emptiness in people’s faces, by a flat, going-through-the-motions air which she had never been conscious of before, not even in the depths of war.
It was as if this fragile peace, no matter how longed-for, lacked the exhilaration of wartime, the shared sense of purpose that had helped people forget their fear and their grief. The danger had passed, but gone too was the laughing in the street, the instinctive kindnesses from one neighbour to another – and it was these small, commonplace things that mattered to most people. Now, everyone looked so tired and worn down that she wondered if the world would ever recover.

Inside, the shop smelled faintly of blood and sawdust. ‘Two ounces of ham, please,’ she said, requesting the full ration when her turn came.

The butcher nodded, and she watched as he cut thick slices from the bone and weighed them. ‘What else can I get you?’

‘Nothing, thank you.’

He looked at her in surprise. ‘That’s all you want? I’ve got some of that stewing beef you like, fresh in yesterday. It’ll save you queuing again if you take it now.’

She looked at the meat and the nausea rose in her throat. ‘Just the ham,’ she snapped, feeling the eyes of the queue on her. ‘I really don’t need anything else.’

He shrugged and took her money, raising his eyes at the woman next in line, and she left the shop without another word. Across the street, a dress in the window of Jones’s caught her eye and she went over to look at it, drawn to the startling shade of green. Its tight-fitting waist and extravagantly flared skirts were so unlike anything she owned that, on a whim, she pushed the door open and went inside, conscious of her conservative shoes and the dull, shabby skirt that had seen too many summers. The counter was piled high with the new season’s accessories, a flashback to the time before all the beautiful, feminine things disappeared, and a young girl wearing too much rouge came over to greet her. ‘The dress in the window—’ she began, but was interrupted before she could finish her sentence.

‘Ah yes, madam. It’s only just come in, and I think you’ll find the fabric is—’

‘I’ll take it.’

‘You don’t want to try it on?’

The girl looked doubtful, and she wondered how many more people that day would question the fact that she knew her own mind; strange, because she had never felt more deliberate or more certain. ‘There’s no need,’ she insisted. ‘I know it will fit.’

With a shrug, the assistant went over to the window to set about undressing the mannequin, and five minutes later the dress was hers. Rather than retracing her steps, she decided to walk back via the castle. The steep climb through Castle Gate and into the Precincts beyond made her feel every year of her age, and she paused at the top to catch her breath. Beyond the outskirts of Lewes, the soft green downs spread out before her under a Wedgwood sky. It was a view she had always loved, a reminder of both the happiest and saddest times of her life, but today it was too much; she turned her back on it and headed for home.

She shook out the dress and hung it on her wardrobe door, then went back downstairs to the kitchen. Percy answered her call immediately, apparently oblivious to the strain in her voice, and she chopped the ham into a dish while he rubbed round her legs, making the small, familiar noises of appreciation that still seemed so out of place in a cat his size. The meat was as salty as brine and less tasty than it looked, and she felt a sudden surge of anger with herself for buying the wrong thing on this of all days. She picked him up and held him, and his ears flicked with irritation as he felt her tears on his fur. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said softly, choking back a sob. ‘I’m so sorry.’ He wriggled in her arms to be released and she let him have his way, then prepared the last of the milk and put both dishes down in the sunlight just outside the back door, making sure that he had the ham first. His enjoyment was little comfort to her, and, when he turned so innocently to the milk, she had to walk away.

As a distraction, she tidied the already tidy kitchen. Perhaps it was her mood, but the room seemed cheerless and neglected. When everything was as she wanted it, she found the Vim and scoured the oven until it was spotless, then climbed the stairs to change. She washed at the tiny sink in her bedroom, annoyed by the dripping tap which she had never got round to having fixed, and wondered what else had been left undone. As she took the dress from its hanger and put it on, the unfamiliar fabric felt dangerous against her skin and she smiled to herself. She had been right to trust her instinct: the dress could have been made for her, and for a fleeting moment in the mirror she caught a glimpse of the woman she had once been. The knowledge tormented her and she put it from her mind. ‘How do I look?’ she asked, but the only answer was a heavy, oppressive silence.

Back downstairs, she forced herself to go outside. Percy lay in the sunshine; she could have convinced herself that he was merely sleeping were it not for the shallowness of his breath. The tears came again, more forceful than ever, and this time she made no effort to stop them. She owed him that, at least. Gently, she picked him up and clutched him to her, then set him down in the chair that he had always made his own, talking all the time to him while she made her preparations. She closed the window on the spring day and laid a wet tea towel carefully along the sill where she knew the draughts came in, then did the same at the back door and the door into the hallway. When everything was ready, she left the note where it couldn’t be missed and sat by her cat while he took his final breath, then picked up the cushion from the other chair and walked over to the cooker. Astonished by how calm she felt, she turned the gas on and set the cushion in place, then put her head inside, as far as she could bear.

This time, there must be no mistake.

My Review of Sorry for the Dead

Returning to the past brings more than just memories for Josephine Tey.

Having previously read and enjoyed writing by Josephine Tey, I was intrigued by Sorry for the Dead by Nicola Upson as it features Josephine Tey as the protagonist. What immediately struck me was the authentic voice Nicola Upson has. Sorry for the Dead is perfectly attuned to its era and yet is completely accessible and familiar to a modern reader. There’s a sophisticated ease to the style, especially through direct speech and the natural descriptions, that makes the narrative a pleasure to read. I feel I have missed out by not finding this series of books sooner.

I confess that initially I was dismayed to find three different time periods in the early part of the book as I don’t usually enjoy that plotting approach, but in Sorry for the Dead, Nicola Upson manages it superbly and convinced me completely that I was mis-guided in my opinion. What is so brilliant is that the threads through the plot writhe along in a complex but completely believable manner so that I finished the book feeling quite stunned, surprisingly emotional and completely satisfied. Nicola Upson is a master storyteller.

I loved the intensity of the characterisation too. Josephine Tey may be the protagonist, but all the women involved in the story represent a microcosm of society at the time of the book. Through these women, Nicola Upson explores themes that are still pertinent to today’s society too. With sexuality, belonging, family, identity, loyalty, friendship and guilt all woven throughout the story, Sorry for the Dead has resonance for any reader. I was somewhat taken aback by the level of emotional involvement I felt as I finished reading, although to say more about why will spoil the read.

Sorry for the Dead is a perfect example of how a modern writer can draw upon the Golden Age of crime fiction and make it perfect for a modern reader. Although this story can be enjoyed simply as a crime novel, it has much more depth that I had imagined. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

About Nicola Upson

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Nicola Upson was born in Suffolk and read English at Downing College, Cambridge. She has worked in theatre and as a freelance journalist, and is the author of two non-fiction works and the recipient of an Escalator Award from the Arts Council England.

Her debut novel, An Expert in Murder, was the first in a series of crime novels whose main character is Josephine Tey – one of the leading authors of Britain’s Golden Age of crime writing.

She lives with her partner in Cambridge and spends much of her time in Cornwall, which was the setting for her second novel, Angel with Two FacesTwo for Sorrow is the third book in the Josephine Tey series, followed by Fear in the Sunlight.

You can follow Nicola on Twitter @nicolaupsonbook. You’ll also find her on Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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The Perseverance by Raymond Antrobus

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As you may know, I’m thrilled to be one of five UK bloggers acting as shadow judge for The Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award this year. You’ll find more about the award here on Linda’s Book Bag and on The Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer’s Award website.

Today it gives me enormous pleasure to feature one of those shortlisted authors, Raymond Antrobus and his poetry collection The Perseverance.

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Published by Penned in the Margins, The Perseverance is available for purchase though the links here.

The Perseverance

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An extraordinary debut from a young British-Jamaican poet, The Perseverance is a book of loss, language and praise. One of the most crucial new voices to emerge from Britain, Raymond Antrobus explores the d/Deaf experience, the death of his father and the failure to communicate. Ranging across history, time zones and continents, The Perseverance operates in the in betweens of dual heritages, of form and expression emerging to show us what it means to exist, and to flourish.

My Review of The Perseverance

An anthology of writing on the theme of d/Deaf.

The Perseverance is an eclectic collection that truly took me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting quite such a perfectly poised balance of personal experience and international cultural and historical references. This style lodges the writing within both familiar and unknown eras and events for the reader, making it an immersive experience. I thoroughly appreciated the illustrations that accompany some of the work because they give a credence to another form of language than the written words on the page.

A times, Raymond Antrobus made me feel quite uncomfortable as he uncovered my ignorance and he sent me scurrying off to investigate some of the references I hadn’t known about. The murder of three deaf women in Haiti explored in For Jesula Gelin, Vanessa Previl and Monique Vincent, for example, simply hadn’t crossed my consciousness before and I rather feel I may have had a similar attitude to deaf youngsters illustrated in Ted Hughes’ redacted poem that Antrobus counters so movingly in After Reading ‘Deaf School’ by the Mississippi. In The Perseverance Raymond Antrobus forces the reader to contemplate themselves as well as read the poetry and frequently I was found wanting.

The writing is elegantly crafted and yet at times is raw with anger, loss and grief so that the more I read of The Perseverance the more it touched me. Frequently techniques illustrate the content of the writing, from the sibilance in Echo, as if indeed echoing the sounds a person might experience in their ears or on their lips as they attempt to speak, to the broken text of Samantha’s mother’s dementia, giving an extra depth that ensnared me as I read. The one sided conversation in Miami Airport stirred a rage in me that helped me understand and appreciate not just the work in The Perseverance, but the writer himself. It made me glad to be me and taught me to appreciate what I have. Indeed, I experienced a range of emotions as a result of reading The Perseverance, and almost felt a sense of relief when the final poem Happy Birthday Moon because it concluded the anthology with greater possitivity than I had encountered in some of the other poems.

I was curious about the many references to water, wondering if they represented birth fluids or the possibility of suicidal death, or indeed both, in Raymond Antrobus’s complex and occasionally disturbing verse. The author’s poignant desire for acknowledged identity and belonging underpins so much of this collection. Feeling neither Jamaican nor British, he longs for acceptance from society, but more importantly, for recognition from his father whose time is so often spent in The Perseverance pub. There’s a brittle honesty here that insinuates itself into the reader’s mind and makes them empathise with the writer.

The Perseverance is more than just an anthology. It is a eulogy to the deaf, the dead, the disappeared, the silent and the invisible members of society who deserve more than so many of us have afforded them in the past. Reading The Perseverance has altered my perceptions and my attitudes and I have to thank Raymond Antrobus for the beauty of his writing and the depth of his enlightenment. This is a thought provoking, provocative and intriguing anthology.

About Raymond Antrobus

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Raymond Antrobus was born in Hackney to an English mother and Jamaican father. He is the recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem, Complete Works III and Jerwood Compton Poetry. He is one of the world’s first recipients of an MA in Spoken Word Education from Goldsmiths, University of London. Raymond is a founding member of Chill Pill and Keats House Poets Forum. He has had multiple residencies in deaf and hearing schools around London, as well as Pupil Referral Units. In 2018 he was awarded the Geoffrey Dearmer Award by the Poetry Society (judged by Ocean Vuong).

The Perseverance (Penned in the Margins, 2018), was a Poetry Book Society Choice, the winner of the Rathbones Folio Prize and the Ted Hughes Award, and was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize and Forward Prize for Best First Collection.

For more information visit Raymond’s website. You’ll also find him on Facebook and Instagram.