UK Giveaway: The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

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Having previously loved reading Ruth Ware (you can read my review of In a Dark, Dark Wood here), I’m thrilled to be part of the launch celebrations for her latest novel The Lying Game.

Published on 15th June 2017, by Vintage Books, an imprint of Penguin, The Lying Game is available for purchase in ebook and hardback, with paperback pre-order, here.

However, if you live in the UK you could win a signed copy of The Lying Game by taking part in the giveaway at the bottom of this blog post. It’s a little bit different to the usual ones!

The Lying Game

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Four friends. One promise. But someone isn’t telling the truth. The twisting new mystery from bestselling phenomenon Ruth Ware.

The text message arrives in the small hours of the night. It’s just three words: I need you.

Isa drops everything, takes her baby daughter and heads straight to Salten. She spent the most significant days of her life at boarding school on the marshes there, days which still cast their shadow over her.

At school Isa and her three best friends used to play the Lying Game. They competed to convince people of the most outrageous stories. Now, after seventeen years of secrets, something terrible has been found on the beach. Something which will force Isa to confront her past, together with the three women she hasn’t seen for years, but has never forgotten.

Theirs is no cosy reunion: Salten isn’t a safe place for them, not after what they did. It’s time for the women to get their story straight…

About Ruth Ware

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Ruth Ware’s first two thrillers, In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10, were international smash-hits, and appeared on bestseller list around the world, including the Sunday Times and New York Times. The film rights to her debut were snapped up by New Line Cinema, and her books are published in more than 40 languages.

Ruth lives near Brighton with her family.

You can follow Ruth on Twitter @RuthWareWriter and visit her website.

Giveaway of The Lying Game

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To be added into the names pulled out of the hat, all you need to do is choose which of the following facts about me is a lie! UK only I’m afraid.

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The winner will receive a signed copy of The Lying Game. To enter simply leave a blog post comment and/or tweet your response using the #TheLyingGame to @Lindahill50Hill by UK midnight on Sunday 18th June 2017. If you include @RuthWareWriter, @vintagebooks or @DeadGoodBooks in your tweet you’ll be given an extra entry for each one! Good luck and don’t forget the hashtag #TheLyingGame!

Young Lovers, A Guest Post by Katarina West, Author of The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice

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I’m delighted to welcome Katarina West, author of The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice to Linda’s Book Bag today. Being of a certain age, I found Katerina’s guest post today highly relevant!

The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice is available for purchase here. As part of the celebrations, Katerina is also running a giveaway which you can enter at the bottom of this blog post.

The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice

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Meet Irene Nylander, a frumpy housewife from Finland … and a yo-yo dieter. She feels trapped in an unhappy marriage, looking after her domineering mother-in-law and living vicariously through romantic movies.

Meanwhile, in Florence, Mimi Kavanough’s star is rising. She has the body of a Barbie princess, the iron will of an army sergeant – and Hollywood in her sights.

On her fiftieth birthday, Irene discovers her husband is having an affair. Devastated, she prays for a way out: she wants to die.

In heaven, a mischievous angel called Aaron hears her prayers. He decides to make Irene and Mimi swap bodies.

How will the two women cope with their unexpected, and very different, second lives? And will Aaron’s meddling get him evicted from heaven? What will happen if he has to transform into a human being and live on Earth?

Four Weddings and a Funeral and Young Lovers:

can middle-aged women have boyfriends half their age?

A Guest Post by Katarina West

Last summer was a hectic wedding season in Florence, where I live with my husband and ten-year-old son: four couples got married under the relentless glare of the Tuscan sun.

And mind you, weddings in Italy are a serious affair… Oh yes, they are. Foreigners think that all Mediterranean weddings are carefree, cheerful affairs, the equivalents of a lively country-dance or a tarantella, but this couldn’t be further from the truth in the elegant and stiff Florence, where centuries of socializing have transformed weddings and other gatherings into elaborate minuets with eight-course lunches or dinners. So not exactly your big, fat Greek wedding – except that the calorie consumption is the same, which means that after four weddings in one summer you’ve got a serious bikini crisis going on for the rest of the season.

Anyhow. What made last summer’s weddings even more delicate was the fact that I was still writing my latest novel, The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice.

A mixture of chick lit and fantasy, it tells the story of a frumpy, middle-aged housewife from Finland who changes bodies with an oh-ah gorgeous Hollywood celebrity… And obviously, the latter is aged twenty-five. And obviously, the fifty-something housewife, now possessing the body of the likes of – say – Kim Kardashian, falls in love with a Justin Timberlake lookalike, who (obviously) is not many years older than thirty.

So, let’s recap: a frumpy housewife, going on fifty-one. Dating a Justin Timberlake clone, and looking like Kim Kardashian. Except no one knows that it’s not her body.

How’s that for a relationship crisis?

But the curious thing was that all of my girlfriends (who, just like me, are closer to the Finnish housewife’s age, rather than Kim Kardashian’s) were passionate about my heroine’s fate in a way that they’d never been with my previous fictional protagonists.

Yes, you heard me. With The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice, things were different. This wasn’t just a chick lit novel. No, this was personal. This was a fifty-something woman with cellulite and varicose veins. Snatching a thirty-something hunk.

This was… oh my God… political.

Yes, that’s it. Talking with my girlfriends I sometimes felt that I’d got a promotion. I was no longer a mere novelist penning down their next beach read. No, I was nothing more and nothing less than the Instagram age’s Karl Marx and Joseph Engels, breathing life into a new political manifesto. Everywoman’s manifesto.

A manifesto about middle-aged woman and thirty-something men.

And obviously, the men look exactly like Justin Timberlake.

Can you now understand my delicate position last summer, especially as we all met regularly at those long and calorie-rich weddings? We all sat at the same table. We rarely talked about kids, work, hobbies or summer plans.

No, for all they wanted to know was how my novel was coming along. And whether that frumpy housewife was still dating the Justin Timberlake doppelganger.

And if that could truly happen in real life.

‘Girls,’ said a forty-something stay-at-home mum during the first wedding. ‘Listen to me. It’s a question of a car. I mean, it’s a statistical fact that when men have a midlife crisis, they get rid of their first wives and buy a Porsche. That’s how they get that gorgeous twenty-something girlfriend.’

I looked at her, understanding. Her husband, a lawyer, drove a shiny Audi SUV so big that whenever she borrowed her husband’s car to do the school run the access road to the school was blocked for a good twenty minutes.

Her car, on the other hand, was a run-down Nissan the license plates of which had been registered in the last millennium. Not to mention that the inside had a wonderful patina of ice cream stains and candy wrappers. And dog and child vomit.

Though maybe she had a point. Because would Justin Timberlake ever sit in a car like that?

Our conversation evolved a few weeks later, when we met at the second wedding. It was the height of the presidential primaries in the United States, and all my girlfriends talked about was Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Or, no. Correct that. Because there was someone still more interesting than Donald and Hillary.

It was my middle-aged Finnish housewife. And the question if she could keep on dating that thirty-something hunk.

‘Politics,’ one of my best friends said. She was a university researcher – she should know. ‘Girls – study men in politics. Look what happens to them when they gain even a modicum of power. Look at Trump. Or Hollande. Or Clinton… I mean, Bill Clinton. Or even the goddam JFK. What unites all these men?’

A subdued silence settled into our table. ‘I know,’ someone sighed. ‘It is just so unfair.’

Someone laughed humourlessly. ‘Of course, we Italians are leading in this field,’ she said. ‘After all, Berlusconi outwitted everyone with his harem of showgirls.’

‘Bunga bunga,’ a fifty-two-year-old brunette added, in a rather bleak tone.

Another silence. ‘Even so,’ my researcher friend continued, ‘could you imagine women doing anything similar? Imagine Angela Merkel boasting in a video clip that she can grab any private parts of her male assistants… and then later on dismissing it all as aerobics lesson locker-room talk? Or Theresa May having her very own Lewinsky affair in Downing Street?’

Everyone turned to look at me. ‘Don’t you dare let that Justin Timberlake dump the Finnish housewife,’ the stay-at-home mum said to me. ‘This is a question of rights. Human rights.’

Ouch. Suddenly I felt that if I made the wrong plot move, half of my girlfriends would never speak to me again.

The discussion was more pragmatic – even cynical – at the third wedding, and this was simply because we had a new woman sitting at our table. A boutique owner in the chic parts of Florence, she was a bona fide fashionista. And was dating a man eight years her junior.

‘Oh, come on, girls,’ she said. ‘You really think a frumpy housewife could date a Justin Timberlake lookalike? Give me a break!’

‘Men do it,’ someone said stubbornly.

‘And Madonna did it,’ the fashionista replied. ‘And Demi Moore. But you know what Madonna and Demi possess, apart from money and fame?’

No one said anything.

‘They both have bodies most twenty-somethings would die to have,’ she continued. ‘And it takes an entire war of attrition to get a body like that. You must suffer. You must sweat. You must starve.’

Suddenly none of us was hungry any more.

‘Anyone care to have my dessert?’ my researcher friend asked in a tiny voice. ‘I’m… er… on a diet.’

The Madonna-cum-Demi talk was a game changer, and during the fourth and the final wedding our attitude was hardened to say the least.

‘Money talks,’ the fashionista said. ‘If you’ve got money, you can have all the Justin Timberlakes you want. Even if you look like a walking, Botox-ed zombie. With liver stains on your hands.’

‘Who was that superbly rich woman who died some ten years ago?’ the stay-at-home mum asked apropos of nothing. ‘That New York based hotel billionaire?  The one who was notorious for her meanness?’

‘Ah, yes. The Queen of Mean. Leona Helmsley.’

‘So, did she look like Demi Moore?’

Silence. ‘No,’ someone finally says. Slowly. ‘She actually looked rather nasty.’

Another silence. Everyone’s thinking.

‘And did she, you know… date younger men?’

There is unmistakable hopefulness in the stay-at-mum’s voice as she utters these words. We all turn to look at an American expat married to an Italian.

She looks at us. She smiles apologetically. Then, eventually, she shrugs.

‘Sorry, girls,’ she says. ‘But Leona Helmsley was into… lapdogs. And when she died, her Maltese became the richest dog in the world.’

None of us know what to say.

‘And the most hated, too,’ the American woman continues. ‘Trouble was the dog’s name.’

When we are back home from the fourth and the last wedding, I look at my Bergamasco shepherd dog with new, fresh eyes. For, let’s face it, that dog has never asked for much.

All he wants is a little bit of kibbles and affection.

Plus, after a handful of dog obedience lessons, he comes to me when he must come to me, and he stops barking when he must stop barking.

And… He is four years old.

Which converted to human years means that he is exactly the same age as my Justin Timberlake lookalike in The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice.

It is then that the truth hits me.

I’m middle-aged. I’m no Demi Moore.

I drive a car that is a far cry from your average shiny Porsche.

But still, there is a thirty-something male who follows my each and every step.

Who would give his dear life for me.

Now who said it again, that women can’t have it all?

(Who indeed? – Thanks Katarina from all we middle aged women!)

About Katarina West

Katarina

Katarina West was born in Helsinki, Finland, into a bilingual family.

She spent time travelling in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and went on to study at Queen Mary and Westfield College in London and the European University Institute in Florence, where she completed a PhD in political science and published a book based on it, Agents of Altruism. During those student years she started work as a journalist, and continued writing for various Finnish magazines and newspapers for over ten years, writing on various topics from current events and humanitarian issues to celebrity interviews and short stories. She also briefly worked as a university lecturer on humanitarian issues in Northern Italy.

Katarina lives in an old farmhouse in Chianti with her husband and son and when not writing, she is fully immersed in Tuscan country life, from jam-making and olive-picking to tractor maintenance.

You can follow Katarina on Twitter, visit her website and find her on Facebook.

Giveaway

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For your chance to enter Katerina’s giveaway to win one of 10 e-copies of The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice, click here.

Spotlight and Extract: Being Simon Haines by Tom Vaughan MacAulay

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I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Being Simon Haines by Tom Vaughan MacAulay and have an extract from the very beginning of the book to share with you today.

Being Simon Haines will be published by Red Door in e-book and paperback on 22nd June 2017 and is available for purchase pre-order here.

Being Simon Haines

Being Simon Haines

Meet Simon Haines.

For a decade he’s been chasing his dream: partnership at the legendary, family-run law firm of Fiennes & Plunkett. The gruelling hours and manic intensity of his job have come close to breaking him, but he has made it through the years and is now within a whisker of his millions: in less than two weeks, he will know the outcome of the partnership vote. He decides to spend the wait in Cuba in an attempt to rediscover his youthful enthusiasm and curiosity, and to clear his mind before the arrival of the news that might change his life forever. But alone in Havana he becomes lost in nostalgia and begins to relive his past…

Set against the backdrop of an uncertain world, and charged with emotion, Being Simon Haines is a searching story about contemporary London and aspiration, values and love. Painting a picture of a generation of young professionals, it asks the most universal of questions: are we strong enough to know who we are?

An Extract from Being Simon Haines

I flew to Havana in memory of earnestness. I was thirty- two years old, professionally accomplished but lacking in wisdom, financially secure but privately adrift, at the point in life when a lawyer recalls Purpose, becomes indignant at the stability afforded by general malaise. It was April 2012 and I had a moment: my eight-month ‘Campaign’ at the law firm of Fiennes & Plunkett, that family-run, exclusive financing and insolvency boutique of the City of London, was over, and I had to wait for two weeks to see if I would be voted in as a new junior partner; if this blue-eyed boy from Lincoln would become a millionaire. During Campaign, the firm, led by the long legs and mighty silver quiff of Rupert Plunkett, had worked me to a level of nervous exhaustion that required not only a period of recuperation, but also an illusion of escape. Sophie Williams, my now ex-girlfriend, had left me only recently. In London spring had been withheld and even the April showers’ vitality curbed, so that instead a fine rain, incessant in its listlessness, drifted through cold, hurried streets below a sky of gloom.

‘Just disappear for a while, Simon – it’ll do you good. God, that sounds banal.’

Dan Serfontein and I had been friends since university – all the way through law school, the training contract and the associate years at Fiennes & Plunkett. Son of a fund manager from Cape Town and his beautiful wife, Dan’s towering alpha- male physique held up a boyish, infuriatingly handsome face and a head of thick blond hair. Dan had poise, that special assurance of all of Belgravia’s children, but unlike them he had an admirable, manic determination too – despite, or rather because of, the family money. All this Dan Serfontein had – but he did not quite have the mind, the obsessive attention to detail, the neurotic speed of thought, to go all the way at Fiennes & Plunkett. He had left just a couple of weeks before the horror of Campaign had begun, burnt out and unable to go on, and now swam the calmer waters of in-house law.

‘No idea how you got through it, mate. You should be proud of yourself, whatever happens – you’re far stronger than I am.’

After much pondering, one morning the apotheosis of strength that was Mr Simon Haines decided where to go. Selecting the age category of 28–35s, I booked myself on a group tour of Cuba, through an agency specialising in bona fide trips for bona fide travellers. Cuba was, I supposed, a place that I had always wanted to see; and those friends of mine who had made me wince when speaking of ‘re-connection with your spirit’ did perhaps have a point, albeit atrociously expressed. For the idea of a faraway land, of new air, brought about a flicker of an old emotion that lay deeper than consciousness …

About Tom Vaughan MacAulay

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Tom Vaughan MacAulay was born in Chester and now lives in North London. Tom is a solicitor and has worked in both London and Milan. He is in the process of completing his second novel.

You can follow Tom on Twitter and visit his website.

There’s more about Tom and Being Simon Haines with these other bloggers too:

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The Thousand Lights Hotel by Emylia Hall

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I have loved other of Emylia Hall’s books so I was utterly delighted to receive her latest, The Thousand Lights Hotel thanks to Millie Seaward at Headline. You can see my review of Emylia’s The Book of Summers here and of The Sea Between Us here.

The Thousand Lights Hotel will be published in e-book on 1st July 2017 and in paperback on 13th July 2017 and is available for purchase through the links here.

Please return to Linda’s Book Bag on 10th July when I’m so excited that I’ll be interviewing Emylia about her writing and The Thousand Lights Hotel in particular.

The Thousand Lights Hotel

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When Kit loses her mother in tragic circumstances, she feels drawn to finally connect with the father she has never met. That search brings her to the Thousand Lights Hotel, the perfect holiday escape perched upon a cliff on the island of Elba. Within this idyllic setting a devastating truth is brought to light: shaking the foundations upon which the hotel is built, and shattering the lives of the people within it.

A heartbreaking story of loss, betrayal, and redemption, told with all the warmth and beauty of an Italian summer.

My Review of The Thousand Lights Hotel

When Kit’s mother dies, she decides to search for the father she has never known.

I cannot begin to say how amazing I found this book. Emylia Hall has the ability to transport me to another place, both physically, in Elba, and emotionally, so that whilst reading The Thousand Lights Hotel I frequently had to pause to allow myself to process the depth of feeling created. I think it is her elegant style in using such a range of sentence structure that has the ability to stop the reader in their tracks, heart breaking and tears streaming, as emotion after emotion washes over them. Who would have thought a semi-colon could reduce a middle aged woman like me to an emotional wreck! The way direct speech is fractured and fragmented makes it naturalistic and affecting and Emylia Hall knows exactly when less is more. She can convey more emotion in one monosyllabic word than many writers can convey in pages.

The Thousand Lights Hotel is a gorgeously crafted book. The plot is urbane, graceful and believable, but also surprising with tantalising hints of mystery. Elba as the main setting is inspired. A place of exile, all the characters seem to be looking for, or hiding, a part of themselves and as these aspects are gradually revealed the reader is completely entranced. The use of the senses transported me completely to every setting so realistically and the smattering of literary and cultural references, including Italian, enhanced the total credibility of every single word.

The characters themselves are outstanding creations. Although physically present for only a few pages, Rosa is at the very heart of the narrative. Of all the ‘thousand lights’ she burns most brightly in a sense. I found I didn’t much like her, but that I understood her completely and desperately needed to know how the lives of those touched by her were affected. This is such clever story telling. I saw Valentino as a kind of King Lear with Kit almost Cordelia and I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say the strength of emotion in Emylia Hall’s The Thousand Lights Hotel equals Shakespeare’s writing.

It’s hard to articulate how much I adored The Thousand Lights Hotel. I thought it was exceptional.

About Emylia Hall

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Emylia Hall was born in 1978 and grew up in the Devon countryside. She is the author of The Book of Summers, which was a Richard & Judy Summer Book Club pick in 2012, A Heart Bent Out of Shape, The Sea Between Us and The Thousand Lights Hotel. She lives in Bristol with her husband, the writer Robin Etherington, and their young son.

You can follow Emylia on Twitter and visit her website. You’ll also find her on Facebook.

Own Voices: A Guest Post by Andrea Jones, Author of Offshore

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As an aspiring writer I’m always interested in what authors have to say about writing what you know, as that seems to be a constant piece of advice. Today, Andrea Jones, author of Offshore, tells me what she thinks about who gets to write what in fiction.

Offshore is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.

Offshore

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Girl Meets boy. East meets West. Worlds collide.

Two damaged souls from very different worlds meet in a secretive offshore detention centre where nothing – and no one – is what they seem.

Own voices: who gets to write what in fiction?

A Guest Post by Andrea Jones

The shadowy, shape-shifting possibilities of Brexit and the Trump administration have had some positive effects – in publishing at least.

Diversity is in demand. Agent and Editor calls for ‘own voice’ narratives are at an all-time high.

Some observers call it a trend, and that’s the wrong word. The movement is more well-intentioned than ‘trend’ suggests.

More likely it’s a way to resist. To prove that we don’t live in a monochrome, monosyllabic world. We have vibrancy, colour and nuance. And we want to hear, see and read these things in people’s own words.

It’s right and important.

But … as a fiction writer (whose job it is to put themselves and their readers into worlds they can never experience) ‘own voices’ presents some heavy existential questions:

        Can/should you write what you don’t know?

        And if you do, is it cultural appropriation?

I struggled with these questions for years.

Because I had two stories that I equally needed to tell.

One narrative was familiar: about a bitterly frazzled career woman, leaning out of the relentless and toxic 9-5 culture that we´re told defines us here in the West.

The other narrative was about a Syrian refugee. A Middle Eastern male. Someone with the kind of psychological fault lines I hope to never, ever know.

Ostensibly, he couldn’t be further away from my culture and experience, and so I told myself: you can’t do this. You shouldn’t do this. Why the hell are you doing this?

The answer was simple. I wanted (needed) to humanize beyond news spin and statistics; to create empathy in an increasingly dark world. But as much as I wanted to document, I was aware of the political tension on my page. I was scared to misstep, or screw up, or cross that fine, fine line between exposition and exploitation.

My character only came good when I pushed through doubt and learned this lesson: as writers, we need to focus on our common humanity, rather than the identity markers that separate us.

Research and verification are the foundations of documenting what we don’t know. But it’s digging deeper, hunting for the common threads, that gives us the confidence to write outside our own worldview.

And what you don’t know, you can almost surely extrapolate.

I’ve never been forced out of my home, for example. But I have voluntarily immigrated, and I know what it feels like to have to start again.

I don’t know what it feels like to be in detention. But I do know what it feels like be trapped in a cubicle for forty precious hours a week; my bones itching with the knowledge that I should be being and doing something else.

There are realities common to us all. Whoever we are, and wherever we come from.

So if you’re doubting your project, but can’t let it lie, just write it out.

Balance research with your humanity, and you might just have fiction for our times.

About Andrea Jones

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Andrea Jones is a British journalist, author and outlier. She looks at the status quo and instead of just saying sure, asks: why?

The question that usually follows is what if … ? What if everything dark and destructive in our society could be challenged by the power of subversion and storytelling…?

You can follow Andrea on Twitter and visit her website to find out more.

Giveaway: Day of the Dead by Mark Roberts

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I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Day of the Dead by Mark Roberts. Day of the Dead is the third in Mark’s Eve Clay series.

Published by Head of Zeus in e-book and hardback on 4th May 2017 Day of the Dead is available for e-book and hardback purchase and paperback pre-order here.

To celebrate Day of the Dead I have two hardback copies to give away in the UK thanks to Head of Zeus. Links to enter the giveaway are at the bottom of this blog post.

Day of the Dead

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Vindici is a hero to many. He is also the nation’s most dangerous criminal…

The man who calls himself Vindici broke out of prison last year. Now he’s filmed himself torturing and killing paedophiles in Liverpool’s affluent suburbs. Half the city are celebrating: the streets are safer for their children. But for DCI Eve Clay and her team at the Merseyside Police, it’s a nightmare. Their job is to solve the crimes and lock up the killer – hard enough without being despised by the public they are trying to protect.

And now, just when they think they’ve cracked the case, they receive a photo of Vindici, at a Day of The Dead parade in Mexico. So if Vindici is 5,000 miles away, who are they hunting in Liverpool? DCI Eve Clay must draw on all her cunning to unmask a killer who is somehow always one step ahead…

About Mark Roberts

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Mark Roberts was born and raised in Liverpool. He was a teacher for twenty years and now works with children with severe learning difficulties. He is author of What She Saw which was longlisted for a CWA Gold dagger award.

You can follow Mark on Twitter and find him on Facebook.

Day of the Dead Giveaway

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UK only I’m afraid. For your chance to win one of two hardbacked copies of Day of the Dead by Mark Roberts, click here. Giveaway closes at UK midnight on Saturday 17th June 2017.

There’s more about Mark Roberts and Day of the Dead with these other bloggers:

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Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh

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I adore Africa and am thrilled to be part of the launch celebrations for Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh, especially as it is set in Kenya.

Leopard at the Door is published by Penguin and is available in e-book, hardback and paperback here.

Leopard at the Door

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Stepping off the boat in Mombasa, eighteen-year-old Rachel Fullsmith stands on Kenyan soil for the first time in six years. She has come home.

But when Rachel reaches the family farm at the end of the dusty Rift Valley Road, she finds so much has changed. Her beloved father has moved his new partner and her son into the family home. She hears menacing rumours of Mau Mau violence, and witnesses cruel reprisals by British soldiers. Even Michael, the handsome Kikuyu boy from her childhood, has started to look at her differently.

Isolated and conflicted, Rachel fears for her future. But when home is no longer a place of safety and belonging, where do you go, and who do you turn to?

My Review of Leopard at the Door

In 1952, after six years in England Rachel arrives home to Kenya. But it isn’t the Kenya she left.

Leopard at the Door is, quite simply, outstanding.

Within two paragraphs of reading Leopard at the Door I was totally ensnared by Jennifer Mc Veigh’s spellbinding prose. She instantly transported me to the Africa I know and love through fantastic use of the senses to convey the sights and smells that make this such a unique place. The heat, the dirt, the brutality all come through with vivid accuracy.

Leopard at the Door has a mesmerising intensity that made me horrified and enthralled in equal measure. I think I felt every one of Rachel’s emotions as I read. The writing is so intelligent. I can’t believe it’s coincidence that the title refers to a supreme hunter and can be applied to Mau Mau, Steven Lockhart and the creature itself, as well as the way in which the white population has treated the Kenyans in the past. Similarly, the fact that Rachel means ewe or lamb, and innocent purity, had me anxious for her welfare from the very first page.

The characterisation is wonderful. It felt absolutely right that both Sara and Steven’s names begin with an evil sibilance as they impact so negatively on Rachel’s life. My heart contracted with pity for Harold but it was Rachel herself who completely enchanted me. Her grief for her mother, her lost childhood and the events that happen as the magnificent plot unfolds absolutely overtook my life as I read.

Meticulously researched, the political events of the novel taught me so much so that I feel I have a far better understanding of Kenya both then and now. However, Jennifer Mc Veigh manages to present those events inextricably wound into realistic, everyday lives of ordinary people through her beautiful prose.

Leopard at the Door is simultaneously disturbing and enthralling and my life has been enriched by reading it. I adored it.

About Jennifer McVeigh

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Jennifer graduated from Oxford University in 2002 with a degree in English Literature. She went on to work in film, television, radio and publishing, before leaving her day job to do an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. She graduated in 2011.

She has travelled in wilderness areas of East Africa and Southern Africa, often in off-road vehicles, driving and camping along the way. The Fever Tree and Leopard at the Door were inspired by those experiences.

In 2014 The Fever Tree won the Epic Novel Category at the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards.

You can follow Jennifer on Twitter, find her on Facebook and visit her website. There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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