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Thursday, May 6, 2021

All My Lies by Sophie Flynn

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things tour for Sophie Flynn's All My Lies!

Anna is going to leave James. Today. 

But when Anna tells her lover, Sam, the one that got away, that she's put a deposit down on a cottage for the two of them, he bolts. He stops returning her calls, he stops answering her texts. Out of desperation, she goes to the police, convinced James has found out and done something to Sam. But the police say Sam is fine. What's more, Sam's own family says he fine and that he wants nothing more to do with Anna. 

Anna knows that can't be true. And she can't go back to her old life. Determined to find out what's going on, she's forced to confront the secrets and lies that have haunted her for so long. 

This is the kind of book where each chapter reveals new hidden details our narrator, Anna, is keeping from everyone—including the reader!

So Anna's relationship isn't great. Once upon a time, it was. But her husband is manipulative and controlling to a really exhaustive point. But it's the return of her high school sweetheart that gives Anna the courage she needs to leave. 

See, she's convinced that James will find her no matter what. But with Sam by her side, she knows she'll be safe. 

And it seems like Sam is all for them leaving together. Until it becomes a reality. 

Sam and Anna have a very complicated past, as becomes clear throughout the book. Anna believes she knows him better than anyone, even though they've been apart for some years now. And in spite of everything his family tells her. 

But does she really know Sam as well as she thinks? 

All My Lies is a tense and perfectly paced suspense!

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

The Woman With the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff

Happy Book Birthday to Pam Jenoff whose latest, The Woman With the Blue Star, is out today!

Sadie's life has been forever changed now that the Germans have a hold on Poland. 

Her family was forced to move from their cozy apartment to the ghetto and her father's firm had to let him go because he was a Jew. But when the Germans start emptying the ghetto, Sadie and her family manage to escape to Krakow's sewers. 

Their new life is miserable—limited food brought in by the one person they can trust to help them, everything dank and wet, and the smell is awful. But it is life! 

And then Sadie makes a friend from the streets above. 

Ella lives comfortably enough. There is always food on the table, even if it comes from her stepmother's new friends. But Ella has no one she can trust or rely on. Now that her father is missing, presumed dead, Ella only lives in the house by the grace of her stepmother. And she hates it.

But when Ella sees Sadie, through a grate in the street, she knows she has to do something to help. Something to make a difference. 

I've never read In the Sewers of Lvov by Robert Marshall. It is the true story of the account that inspired Jenoff's latest. But I have actually seen In Darkness, the film based on that book. The Woman With the Blue Star is not that story, but again, it is inspired by it. 

Sadie once had dreams of attending medical school. She and her family led a happy and comfortable life—her father was an accountant and Sadie was the couple's only child. But then the Germans came. 

Sadie is eighteen when we meet her in 1942. She barely escapes being hauled off by German soldiers during a daytime raid of the ghetto, and her parents know things have gone from bad to worse. A few months later, her mother now pregnant with a much wanted second child, the family goes into hiding below the city streets. 

Ella, meanwhile, lives alongside the Germans in Krakow. But like many, she doesn't support the war or the Germans. Her existence is precarious, she knows. Her father enlisted and has been reported missing. Her boyfriend has gone off to fight, breaking their relationship and her heart before setting off, certain he won't return. Left alone with her stepmother, who she's never gotten along with, she fills her days painting and waiting for the end of the war. All the while hiding out from her stepmother's endless parties with German soldiers. 

So when Ella meets and decides to help Sadie, she's taking a huge risk. 

And that's the draw to a story like this: average people fighting, even in small ways, against evil. 

Jenoff's author's note at the end draws comparison to writing about Sadie's experienced isolation and the events of the past year. And it's virtually impossible not to feel the suffocation and claustrophobia of Sadie's existence. It's also completely impossible not to have your heart torn to pieces reading her story, knowing that even though this particular story is fiction, the events the story are based on happened not so very long ago. 

Jenoff herself is a fascinating person. She's a bestselling author who lived in Krakow once upon a time, working at the US Consulate there. Her expertise in WWII history and her deft hand at building rounded and fully developed characters are both things that make her books so adored by readers. 

The Woman With the Blue Star is an emotional read that will remind you that there are indeed heroes amongst everyday people and that even in the worst circumstances, hope, hard as it may be to hold on to, can be all the difference in the world. 


Monday, May 3, 2021

Dial A For Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Meddy desperately wants to break free from the confines set by her family. 

As the last of her generation to stick around, she always heard about the disappointment associated with her cousins leaving. So she chose a college close to home and when she graduated, she joined the new family business. Where she's been ever since. 

But on the weekend of one of their biggest weddings, she begrudgingly agrees to go on a blind date with the owner of the new resort where the wedding will take place—and accidentally kills the man. With the help of her three aunts and her mother, they plan to dispose of the body, but everything goes completely upside down with it's delivered to the wedding by mistake. Throw in some very unusual wedding day drama, some unhappy local officials, and a brewing storm and you have the recipe for a hilarious madcap disaster!

Oh, how I loved this book! 

Meddy is a wonderful narrator! A woman stuck between her own hopes and dreams and the expectations of family, with the added complication of her being a first generation American in a family of immigrant women whose own parents moved from China to Indonesia. 

Meddy admits that her Mandarin and Indonesian are terrible. But otherwise she's done pretty much all she can to keep her mother and her three aunts happy. And if that means sticking around in a job that's very much less than exciting, that's what she'll do. 

But she's been single since college and her mother really wants her to settle down. Which is how she finds herself on a blind date with a man her mother has been chatting to (as Meddy) on a dating app. And things do not go well!

Meddy's aunts are fabulous! Though she is the narrator, each of the aunts and her mother all come through as splendidly built characters with huge personalities! And they each comprise one component of the family wedding business: the oldest of them is the pastry chef, next in line does hair and makeup, Meddy's mother is the florist, and the youngest is the singer. And then Meddy is the photographer. And things have gone really well for their business. But Meddy isn't happy. And hasn't been for some time. 

Until now, her biggest issue has been trying to find a way to broach the topic of leaving the business...

Dial A For Aunties is a great read! It's all about family, relationships, and the weight of culture and expectations. And it comes in a lighthearted and funny package that had me laughing out loud and desperate to find out what would happen next!

This is definitely going to be one of my favorite reads this year :)

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Thursday, April 29, 2021

This Will Make It Taste Good by Vivian Howard

I am always on the hunt for new, fabulous cookbooks that will add something unique to my own cooking experience. Vivian Howard's This Will Make It Taste Good: A New Path to Simple Cooking is certainly that kind of cookbook!

While I appreciate the standard cookbook formatting, divisions mostly made up of type of dish, Howard's approach is very different. Chapters in her book are actually what I would call mother recipes. And each dish within that chapter uses the header/mother recipe as a component. 

In other words, recipes that will make the other recipes (some of them otherwise standard fare) taste good!

The book opens with Little Green Dress, a briny, herby condiment that is then used to transform dishes such as biscuits, a twist on deviled eggs, ranch dressing, and tuna salad, amongst others. In addition to each chapter's actual recipes, there's also a list of simple ideas for using the mother recipe that includes things like adding it to basic dishes like baked potatoes, mixing it into guacamole, using it as a topping for soups, you get the idea. 

There are a total of ten of these mother recipes: Little Green Dress, R-Rated Onions, Can-Do Kraut, Red Weapons, Citrus Shrine, Community Organizer, Herbdacious, Quirky Furki, V's Nuts, and Sweet Potential. All of these can be used in sweet and savory dishes and some of them can even be doubled up—the I Wish I Was a Cheese Baller is a fantastic baked cheese dip that uses both V's Nuts and Sweet Potential, for example. 

Each of the mother recipes keeps for a bit (depending on how you store them) and are essentially canning and pickling recipes, if you really think about it. 

I'm still just so blown away by how different this book is compared to the others on my cookbook shelves. And if you follow Howard on Instagram, she's been featuring one of the recipes each month, inviting folks to cook along with her and show off all of your creations with the recipe!

This is the perfect cookbook for anyone looking for something a little different. Nothing is overly complicated, everything is incredibly tasty, and you'll have a pantry and fridge stocked with some amazing and versatile new must haves :)

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Facets of Death by Michael Stanley

Happy Wednesday! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things Tours for the latest Michael Stanley mystery, Facets of Death

It's Detective David Bengu's (aka Kubu) first day on the job and it appears he'll be delving into an exciting case of missing luggage. 

But then, an armored vehicle is reported stolen. 

Shortly after it goes missing, the vehicle is found. Two of the employees of the shipping company have been shot, a third is missing. And the cargo—a case from a local diamond mine—has disappeared. 

The case is one that fascinates the new detective and it's his first opportunity to work out in the field. The company usually transports their diamonds via plane but just that day the plane in question caught fire, landing the pilot in the hospital. And so an emergency plan was enacted: three identical cases would be loaded onto three different armored transport vehicles. Two of the cases are filled with gravel and the third is filled with uncut diamonds. No one is to know which case has the actual diamonds until they arrive at their destination. 

It's supposed to be a foolproof plan and one that only a small number of people know the details of. Obviously, the plan isn't as foolproof as believed and someone has been carefully planning this heist for some time!

I think that it would be safe to say that this is the book every Michael Stanley fan has been waiting for! 

Back in 2008, the authors made their debut in the series with A Carrion Death, but there were hints about Kubu's early days as a detective. Facets of Death is a prequel to the series, set before A Carrion Death. Which also means it's a great starting place for anyone who isn't familiar with the South African detective series!

Kubu comes across a bit like a Columbo in this one. His mind is always going and his very different track to detective—recruited rather than working his way up the ranks—means he has a different approach to the investigations at hand. Not that that's always a great thing! He's called out after questioning the airfield employee and pilot for not quite asking the right questions!

It's fun to see Kubu learning his way into the role! And as always, I enjoy the peek inside a culture and country that are so literally foreign to me!

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Her Last Holiday by C.L. Taylor

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC blog tour for C. L. Taylor's Her Last Holiday

Fran's sister has been missing for two years. Everyone is certain that Jenna is dead. And self-help guru Tom Wade is sure to be responsible. After all, he was charged in the deaths of two other people at the same retreat Jenna was attending when she disappeared. But Tom has never confessed. 

And now Tom is free. And hosting another wellness retreat with the help of his wife, Kate. And Fran's mom wants Fran to go undercover in hopes that she can finally learn what really happened. 

From the start, Fran is sure that they're on to her. Especially when she struggles to keep to her scripted cover story. But it's not until she starts to fear for her own life that she realizes just how dangerous this trip might turn out to be!

Two women, two retreats two years apart! So yeah, it's clear from the start that there's something fishy about Tom Wade and his SoulShrink business, considering we know the man has been in prison for just over a year, but it's not immediately apparent exactly what the danger might be. 

The book is split into two timelines: then, with Jenna's trip to Gozo, and now, which alternates between Fran's and Kate's perspectives. 

In Jenna's timeline, the first hint that things are off occurs to the reader but not Jenna herself. When she arrives, nail polish she didn't pack has spilled all over her clothes. And that right there sets the tone for what readers can expect in her story. It's a gray cloud of foreshadowing that looms over what's supposed to be a great opportunity for Jenna. 

In the present timeline, though, we immediately learn there's trouble in paradise. Kate has helped her husband build his business and she's determined to get it back up and running now that he's free. But Tom has come out of prison changed. It's apparent to the reader, though, that there have been issues between Tom and Kate for some time and his apprehension about getting back in the game sets her off pretty quickly. 

Fran herself isn't meek, but she isn't one to stand out. And while she'd already traveled to Gozo to look into Jenna's disappearance, she's not jumping at the opportunity to play detective at her mother's behest. And yet, she does it anyway. Because she feels guilty about her last interaction with her sister. 

All of these threads are woven together as the story begins, drawing the reader into a plot that is as carefully built as a spider's web. And as impossible to pull yourself out of, too!

Her Last Holiday is an incredibly immersive read. A perfect page turning thriller that explores family drama and the shady side of the self help industry...and that's just part of the story!

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official tour page here

For more on the author and her work you can visit her website here. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and subscribe to her YouTube channel!

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Friday, April 23, 2021

Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

Happy Friday! 

Today I'm super excited to be part of the Random Things Tours for Carole Johnstone's debut, Mirrorland!

When her twin sister El goes missing in Scotland, Cat returns to her childhood home certain that her twin is still alive. What she finds there are clues not only to El's fate, but reminders of a past she'd buried long ago.

Mirrorland is an unsettling read about the bond between sisters who've shared deep trauma. 

Throughout their early childhood, El and Cat used their budding imaginations to cope with things that only become clear as the book progresses. 

They live in a creaky old house with their grandfather and their mother, both of whom have temperaments that are as tempestuous as the sea their grandfather once made a living on. 

Each of the rooms in the house has a different theme. There's a clown room,  a jungle room, a princess's tower, and through a secret door in the pantry, there's Mirrorland. 

Mirrorland was their secret and their salvation. 

But Cat left years ago. And now El has disappeared. Cat feels in her soul that her sister is alive, and that feeling is spurred on by notes Cat begins to receive. Notes that hint at El's fate. Notes that bring up memories Cat has long forgotten. 

It quickly becomes clear that Cat has something of a hard time determining the difference between what she remembers as fiction and her very real past. Johnstone's debut is both twisty and disturbing, forcing the reader to face—alongside the main character—a very dark history and the ways in which Cat has coped with that for so long. 

As I said, it's unsettling, to say the least. And parts of the story are quite disturbing as well. But in Cat, and El, Johnstone has built two characters who are complicated and full of depth. Characters who clearly have been through things. 

Johnstone is such an immense talent! The pacing is so exquisitely thought out, and it's really all I could do not to jump ahead just to find out what happened to El and how Cat would come through it all!

Mirrorland is out now in the UK and in the States!

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Creep by Jennifer Hillier

Sheila Tao would appear to have it all. In fact, she’s recently engaged and planning a wedding to a man she loves very deeply. 

But Sheila has secrets. First and foremost is her sex addiction, which she’s been working on for three years. Second is the affair she’s been having with one of her teaching assistants. 

She knows it’s time to come clean to her fiancé. But she’s afraid it’ll mean losing him. She’s certain, though, that it’s time for her affair to end. Unfortunately, her lover doesn’t agree!

The good folks over at Simon & Schuster just recently rereleased Jennifer Hillier’s debut, Creep, and I figured what better time to read it :)

I have to admit that while I’ve been familiar with Hillier’s name for a while, I only just started reading her during The Covid Times with her latest, Little Secrets. But of course I knew I had to read more once I’d finished that one!

Creep is a pretty dark read. And, I should mention, the first in a duology (followed by Freak). 

When we meet Sheila, she’s about to end her affair with her TA Ethan Wolfe. It’s an affair that we learn began in the wake of hearing of her father’s death. Obviously, given that we learn that Sheila is a regular attendee of Sex Addicts Anonymous and in therapy as well, the death of her father was a bit of a breaking point for her. She’d been doing well until then, and had even become involved seriously with her now fiancé. But...

Sadly though Sheila is a well respected psychology professor, she missed some key clues as to Ethan’s personality. 

Ethan is not willing to let Sheila go. And he makes that abundantly clear!

Sheila is a hard character to actually like. Which is not to say that I didn’t empathize with her. Reading her story, though, is like watching a horror movie: you’re yelling at her the whole time not to do the thing she’s about to do!

She does feel very real as a character, as well. Her issues make her vulnerable to Ethan and his ilk. They also lead to a very real problem in her relationship. And this is a big part of her story. Even if she hadn’t been cheating, even if she hadn’t crossed paths with a sociopath, even if she hadn’t strayed off the path of recovery that she’d been working so hard to uphold, she still knowingly keeps key information from her fiancé. And that was always going to be a problem for her. 

Of course her relationship issues with her fiancé are just a small part of the plot :)

I really enjoyed the twist ending in Creep! Of course, reading it now as opposed to when it originally released, I was well aware that there was a sequel and the whole time I was reading I was wondering how the story would continue. I can’t say that I didn’t have my suspicions, but I was still very pleased with how the story played out!

If you haven’t read Hillier yet, now is the perfect time to start! The rerelease of Creep is out now—I’d also recommend scooping up a copy of Freak alongside it because you’re definitely going to want to dive straight in!

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Sunday, April 18, 2021

In the Company of Men by Véronique Tadjo

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the Random Things Tour for Véronique Tadjo's In the Company of Men

In 2014, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone became the site of a horrific Ebola outbreak. As the virus raged through the countries, it spread fear and death far and wide. It was two years before the epidemic was declared over and it claimed many thousands of lives. It is this outbreak that inspired In the Company of Men: The Ebola Tales

This was not an easy read both for the topic and the times. I've read about Ebola before, but in a more clinical and distanced way. Here, Tadjo brings readers inside the Ebola epidemic with vignettes told by everyone from nurses on site and people tasked with safely burying the bodies to the trees that witness the epidemic wreaking havoc on the human population. 

Each chapter is a different viewpoint. A different experience of the virus. And reading it amidst a global pandemic, it's hard not to see similarities. 

As a nurse outlines the fear that results in those around her when they learn that she works with Ebola patients, it's impossible not to think of all the hospital workers who have been dealing with Covid. That particular piece was moving also when the nurse touches on lack of funding and patients having to buy their own first aid materials to bring with them. 

There are so many parts of this book that made my heart ache. A paragraph about a young girl waiting for her parents' bodies to be removed. Waiting so long that she herself becomes infected. In another chapter, we return to a daughter who was sent away—her father hoped she'd be spared and yet, she's already infected. She survives but her family and even her village are gone. 

The human stories are counterbalanced by nature's voice. The baobab tree, the bat, and even Ebola itself. And when people declare the virus gone, all three know that humans face many threats. The worst threat, though, is humankind itself. 

In the Company of Men is a moving book. The chapters are short, but this is, as you'd probably expect from the subject, a heavy read. It's one that makes you think and one that sits with you well beyond the final pages. 

Friday, April 16, 2021

Vanished by James Delargy

Happy Friday! Or a hopefully Happy Friday! I'm set to get my second vaccine dose today :)

I'm also a part of the Random Things Tour for James Delargy's latest, Vanished!

A family has gone missing and the police have a growing suspicion that foul play is involved. 

Lorcan, Naiyana, and their young son, Dylan, have been making a go of living in an abandoned mining town in rural Australia. According to Lorcan's parents, they last heard from the family at Christmas and the lack of contact since is definitely abnormal. 

When the police arrive, they find the family's commandeered house abandoned and no evidence of anyone in sight. Alive that is. They find blood, a vehicle with slashed tires, and a barely charged phone hidden in the dirt. 

It seems apparent that something bad has happened to the family. It also becomes apparent that the family weren't just roughing it for fun—they were hiding from something. 

What a fabulously fun thriller! 

The book alternates between Detective Emmaline Taylor, who's been called in as one of the officers investigating the disappearance, and the family themselves. So the how and why plays out in parallel to the actual missing persons case. 

It's a clever format because it means the reader gets to see what's going on with the family and experience their points of view leading up to the actual disappearance while also following the detectives and discovering clues alongside them. 

The pacing was also pretty brilliant. We meet Lorcan and Emmaline when they arrive in Kallayee and there are only hints of why they're actually there. Much of the earlier chapters are their attempts to fix up the house, find water, and chronicle those efforts for YouTube views and a possible book. But there's a dark cloud that's clearly hanging over everything. 

Meanwhile, Emmaline herself proved to be probably my favorite character in the book! A single woman in her twenties, pressured by her family to settle down, but perfectly happy as an investigator moving up in the police ranks! 

This is a great example, too, where setting becomes a bit of a character itself. An abandoned mining town that was the scene of a collapse that resulted in the deaths of a number of miners. Rickety falling down buildings and dirt and dust as far as the eye can see. The skeleton of a dead kangaroo greets the family and later becomes a landmark for the police as well. Reading this in the midst of a spring snowstorm couldn't prevent me from almost being able to feel the sun and the grit on my own skin!

Vanished is my introduction to Delargy's work and I absolutely cannot wait to read more!

Monday, April 12, 2021

The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman by Julietta Henderson - Excerpt

It's a brand new week and I'm super excited to be able to share an excerpt from a brand new book hitting shelves tomorrow!

Today I get to feature Julietta Henderson's debut, The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman. But first, here's a bit about the book from the publisher:

Little Miss Sunshine meets Wonder in this delightfully charming, uplifting book club debut about a twelve-year-old would-be comedian who travels across the country to honor his dead best friend’s dream of performing in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe—the only problem being that his friend was the funny one of their duo.

Twelve-year-old would-be comedian Norman has got a lot going on, including a chronic case of psoriasis, a distinct lack of comic timing and a dead best friend. All his life it’s just been him, his single mum Sadie, and Jax, the ‘funny one’ of their comedy duo. So when Jax dies not only is Norman devastated, it’s also the end of the boys’ Five Year Plan to take their comedy act to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe when they turned fifteen.

But Norman decides to honor Jax by performing at the Fringe, on his own. And not when he’s fifteen—but rather in four weeks’ time. But there’s another, far more colossal objective on Norman’s plan that Sadie wasn’t quite ready for: Norman wants to find his father. Eager to do anything that might put a smile on her boy’s face, Sadie resolves to face up to her own messy past and track down the father who doesn’t even know Norman exists, and whose identity Sadie herself isn’t quite sure of.

Thus begins a road trip from Cornwall to Scotland, featuring a mother and son who will live in the reader’s heart for a long time to come.

I've been craving some lighthearted, feel good reading of late, and this fits the bill exactly! 

And now, here's a taste of The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman:

1
SADIE


When I was born my insides lay outside my body for twenty-one days. Which is unexpected but not nearly as unusual as you might think. For every 3,999 other babies that come out with everything tucked in neatly and sealed away exactly where it should be, there’s one like me. Nobody really knows why. Luck of the draw, my father used to say.

For those three weeks while I lay spread-eagled in an incubator like a Nando’s special, a crowd of doctors gathered every morning to discuss their cleverness and, as my organs shrank to their correct size, bit by bit they gently posted a little more of the me-parts that had made a break for it back inside.

Well that’s the way my mother told it anyway. The way my father told it, the doctors gathered around the incubator every morning to discuss whether they’d be having my large intestine or my liver for their lunch, and whether it’d be with chips or salad. And that right there might tell you almost everything you need to know about my parents.

On my insides’ final day of freedom the head surgeon pushed the last bit through the slit in my stomach and stitched it closed, presumably with everything in its rightful place. I was declared whole and sent home to begin life like almost nothing had ever happened.

Except that even when the regular hospital check-ups stopped, and the scar on my stomach that I’d never lived without faded to a thin silver seam, I can always remember still feeling the tugging behind it. Something I could never quite name, nudging at the fleshy edges whenever things were going badly, or too well. Or just for fun. To remind me how easily those parts of me that never really fit could come sliding out. Any time we like Sadie. Any time we like.

It wasn’t until I held my own son for the first time that the constant, dull pressure of keeping the scar together receded. When a nurse placed that slippery, crumpled up bundle of boy on my chest, I tightened my grip on a handful of hospital sheet as my world creaked on its axis, bumped into a comfy spot and was finally facing the right way.

I didn’t feel the tug on the scar again until a different boy died, and to say I wasn’t ready for it isn’t even the most important thing. Because by then there was a lot more at stake than just my own stupid insides spilling out into the world. I was as scared as hell and I had no idea how to fix any of it. And that right there might tell you almost everything you need to know about me.

2
NORMAN

First rule of comedy: Timing is everything

Timing is everything. First rule of comedy, Jax says. Because when push comes to shove, if you can get the timing right you can get a laugh. He says. Well I don’t really know how to tell when push is coming to shove but I’ll tell you something I do know. That rule works the other way too. Because when the you-know-what starts to hit the fan, if your timing’s wrong there’s pretty much zilcho you can do to stop it from splattering all over the place.

Stare straight ahead and think about nothing. That’s a world famous Jax Fenton tactic for what to do when you get yourself into a bit of a mess. Works every time he reckons and he should know. Only maybe it doesn’t. Because when I stare straight ahead all I can see is that big shiny wooden box and instead of nothing I’m thinking about everything. And loads of it. Like does any light get in through the joins and did they let Jax wear his Frankie Boyle Tramadol Nights tour t-shirt. And does whoever put him in there know he only likes to sleep on his side.

The massive scab on my chest feels so tight that I’m scared to breathe too deep in case it splits down the middle and bleeds all over my new shirt. Stare straight ahead. I move just a bit so I almost can’t see the box behind a couple of heads and my arm touches Mum’s. When I feel her, straight away the mess on my chest relaxes and lets me take half an almost good in-breath. Nearly a whole one. Right before it stabs me all the way through to my back and kazams like a rocket down to my toes. I’m pretty sure I can hear it laughing. Timing is everything, sucker.

And by the way, that’s another thing I know. That you can’t trust your timing no matter how good it’s been in the past. Not even for people as excellently funny as Ronnie Barker or Dave Allen or Bob Mortimer. Or Jax.

Because even if you nick a little bit of money for sweets every week-day morning from your mum’s purse, even if you accidentally-on-purpose leave your stepfather’s car door open so the cats get in and wee on the seats, and even if you’re the naughtiest kid in the whole school by a long shot, when you’re eleven years, 297 days and from what the paramedics can tell anything between twelve and sixteen hours old, it’s definitely not a good time to die.

Stare straight ahead and think about nothing.

3
SADIE

Squashed into the end of the pew with my body leaning into the shape of the space that Norman’s made, I could feel the tense and release of his arms as his small boy hands curled in and out of fists. The buttoned down cuffs of his sleeves rode up ever so slightly with every movement to reveal the trail of psoriasis that spread triumphantly down to the second knuckles. His face was blank as a brick. Dry eyes staring straight ahead.

‘Just hold on. Hold on son. You’ll get through this.’ I murmured reassuringly. Telepathically. But Norman’s hands kept on curling and flexing and then I noticed his chest was keeping time, rising and collapsing with the movement of his hands. I knew what was lying in wait underneath the thin fabric of his shirt, so then I had another thing to worry about.

I had to admit it looked like he wasn’t getting my message, possibly because my best telepathic motherly voice was being all but drowned out by the other, very much louder one that lived in luxury inside my head. Fuck you Sadie. You can’t even get this right. As usual it wasn’t pulling any punches.

The priest who had never met him declared the end to Jax’s life and people began shuffling out of the pews as fast as they could, as if death might still be hanging around looking for company. They knocked our knees, murmured apologies and spilled their overflow of sadness all over us. Like we needed it. The moving huddle in the aisle parted from the back as Jax’s parents set off on their million mile walk, and without turning my head I felt more than saw Josie Fenton hesitate ever so slightly as they passed us. But then they were gone. And my son’s eyes remained fixed on some invisible point that I could only hope lay somewhere far, far beyond the awfulness of the moment.

A good forty minutes after the last person had left, I reached for Norman’s nearest hand and closed it gently between mine. The chill of the empty church had sidled deep into my bones and I was shocked at the heat of his raw knuckles on my palms. The voice in my head began stage whispering nonsense louder and louder and Norman’s hand stayed rigid in its fist. But I didn’t need that voice to tell me what I’d already figured out about thirty-eight minutes before. I wasn’t going to be nearly enough for this.

Excerpted from The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman @ 2021 by Julietta Henderson, used with permission by MIRA Books.

About the Author: Julietta Henderson is a full-time writer and comedy fan who splits her time between her home country of Australia and the UK. The Funny Thing about Norman Foreman is Julietta’s first novel.

For more about Henderson and her work you can visit her website here. You can also follow her on Twitter and Instagram

Huge thanks to the publisher for letting me share this with you today!

The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman is officially out from Mira tomorrow. 


Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman

Happy Book Birthday to Clay McLeod Chapman! His latest, Whisper Down the Lane, is out now from Quirk books!

In 1983, a single mother and her son move to a new town for a new start. Instead, they find themselves at the center of a case alleging abuse and satanism at the child's school.

In 2013, a teacher at a small private school finds a mutilated rabbit with a birthday card addressed to that little boy from so long ago.


This latest from Chapman is inspired by the very real McMartin Preschool Trials and Satanic Panic that so gripped the nation in the late 80s and early 90s.

I really wasn't expecting this book to be quite as unsettling as it turned out to be. I'm a seasoned horror reader and most of the stuff I dive into doesn't bother me. 

This one was a bit different.

I've definitely noticed that since I had my son certain themes bother me a lot more than they used to. Don't get me wrong, there are themes that always bothered me, but there are more now that I have a kid and this book hit on some of those HARD!

Richard is still something of the new guy in town. He's recently married to a fellow teacher who has a young son Richard is still trying to bond with. But he doesn't talk about his past and no one knows all that much about him. 

Except someone apparently does. 

The school's dead rabbit left with a birthday card just for him? He's able to cover that one up by being the first person on site. The dead bunny is reported but the card isn't something he's going to share. 

More and more, though, it becomes clear that someone has it in for Richard. And it becomes harder for him to cover that up. 

The parallel story taking place is that of Sean, a five year old who's just moved to a new town with his mother. And he becomes the main witness in a growing case against the teachers at his school. 

The horror here isn't Satanism. It's the human factor. The McMartin Preschool Trials were the Salem Witch Trials of their day. There was a frenzy to the paranoia that drove the case and that's the central horror that is present in Whisper Down the Lane. 

Chapman weaves a story that not only delves into how something like this can come about but how the events and their effects can echo through multiple generations. And yeah, it's deeply disturbing!

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Friday, April 2, 2021

The Distant Dead by Heather Young

It’s Friday! Today I’m a stop on the Random Things Tour for Heather Young’s The Distant Dead.

The new math teacher has been murdered. 

A small town in Nevada, where nothing really happens, is the unfortunate scene of a shocking murder. A local math teacher who had only recently moved to town has been found burned to death. And it was one of his own students who discovered the body. 

Adam Merkel was quiet, but he'd managed to form a few strong bonds in the short time he'd been in Lovelock. No one has any idea why he'd be killed. It's a fellow teacher who makes it her goal to find out who would want him dead. 

The Distant Dead is a sneaky kind of book. It wasn't at all what I'd expected—but in such a good way!

This is the kind of book you want to savor. The narrative shifts between Sal, a quiet boy with a big imagination who'd been befriended by Merkel, and Nora, a fellow teacher in Lovelock. 

Both Sal and Nora shine through Young's prose! And Merkel, even though he's dead, is so vividly painted through their eyes and their stories. 

Both Sal and Nora know loss. They both know loneliness, too. And though Merkel is clearly a damaged person, which the reader can glean from the very first interactions between him and the other characters, he brings something wonderful out in both Sal and Nora. Which is why Nora in particular is determined to find out who killed him. 

The Distant Dead is that wonderful blend of captivating storytelling under the guise of suspense that turns into something much different. To tell what that is would be spoiler-y but I will tell you that this is a bit of a sad story that will stick with you long after you turn the final pages. 

The Distant Dead is out now in the UK from Verve. It's also out in hardcover here in the States and due out in paperback in August. 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

The Source by Sarah Sultoon

Happy Thursday, readers! Today I’m a stop on the Random Things Tours for Sarah Sultoon’s The Source!

1996: Carly’s mother hasn’t been right for some time. Most days, she’s too drunk to take care of herself, much less Carly and her infant sister. So it’s up to Carly to do whatever it takes to keep them in food and clothing. 

2006: Marie is part of team of journalists who’ve worked to land a massive story on England’s trafficking industry. But just as they’re about to go live, a much delayed update on Operation Andromeda—the army sex scandal—is about to happen. 

Carly’s desperation and Marie’s determination are on a collision course as the story plays out, but just how they’re connected only becomes clear in the end. 

Carly is just thirteen in 1996. She and her baby sister live at home with their mother while their older brother has enlisted in the Army and lives on the nearby base. There's no father—he was killed in the line of duty—and there's no money thanks to their mother's most recent affair. 

Carly is tough. She spends her day in school and comes home to care for her sister, knowing that her mother hasn't been capable of doing so for quite some time. Carly is the reason they get by. 

Marie is an assistant producer in 2006 and has worked hard on the a story about trafficking. The book begins with the culmination of all of those efforts as she and another journalist record a secret meeting with actual traffickers. And she's not going to let their story get sidelined—not when it means the people behind these kinds of deals will get off without being brought to justice. 

This was a hard one for me. It’s the latest in a string of books I’ve read about human trafficking, but Carly’s storyline made this one even harder to read. Sultoon definitely adds a human element to the desperation that is involved in this kind of tale and it is an absolutely heartbreaking read. And it’s not one for the fainthearted by any means.  

Sultoon is incredibly talented and I can only assume that elements of this story come from things she herself learned about and possibly covered in her time as a journalist herself. Her acknowledgements imply as much. I think she's done a very good job with, as mentioned, the human element. I can't imagine anyone walking away from this book without being deeply affected. 

Note: The Source is available now in the UK and will be available in the States in November!

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Bound by Vanda Symon

Good morning, readers! Today I’m a stop on the Random Things Blog Tour for Vanda Symon’s latest, Bound

A couple has been attacked. The husband shot, at close range, and his wife beaten and bound to a chair. Their teenage son discovered them and is likely not a suspect, but Sam Shephard is given the task of interviewing both him and his mother. 

It’s a case that appears to be professional. It’s clear the killers had a motive, though what it is still baffles the police. But they came prepared and left behind little to know evidence. 

Just what the couple was involved in becomes the biggest question, especially when the suspects are finally identified. Not only are the suspects known to the police, but they've been able to skirt prosecution before. Sam and the rest of the team know that the case has to be airtight if the killers are going to be brought down for good!

This is the fourth book in the Sam Shephard series. So, first things first, this is my introduction to this series and I absolutely found it easy to dive in and did not feel one bit lost! Whew! 

(That said, I've already bought two of the prior three books!)

This is also, as far as I know (this is going to be a rabbit hole situation for me) my introduction to New Zealand crime fiction. And I adored it!

Bound is a pretty traditional police procedural. Sam is the main character and the plotting of the crime and investigation are excellent. Even more than that, though, the book focuses a lot on Sam's personal life. Enough so that even if this is your intro to the series (like me!), you get a fabulous sense of who Sam is and what motivates her. 

She's a great detective. Not seriously flawed in the way many traditional leads in these kinds of books are. But she's in a not-so-secret relationship with a coworker that could definitely draw the wrong kind of attention. She's also a bit of a verbal punching bag for her boss. 

Oh, and her relationship with her mother isn't great either. 

I really loved this book and cannot wait to read more of the series!

As an added bonus, I had the extreme pleasure of being able to attend yet another in-conversation event hosted by Orenda that paired Simone Buchholz (you can read my review of her excellent latest here) and Vanda Symon—moderated by Craig Sisterson, who, it was revealed, was the person who pitched Orenda on Symon’s series. And I’ll go ahead and extend a thanks there because I don’t think I’d otherwise have had the chance to discover this series at all!

It was a true delight to hear Symon and Buchholz both talk about their writing and settings. Sisterson asked some really great questions, which made it even more fun to dive into more of Bound!

Quick note, Bound is readily available in the UK and will be available in the US November 1—plenty of time to read the first three books: Overkill, The Ringmaster, and Containment. I promise, you will not be disappointed!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm super excited to be part of the Random Things Blog Tour for Kate Quinn's latest, The Rose Code

WWII is raging on and England is preparing for the worst. The highly classified work that takes place at Bletchley Park is key to winning the war. But what brings together three very different women is also what tears them apart. 

Eight years later, two of them have gotten on with their lives and the third has been institutionalized. They no longer speak to one another, much less consider themselves friends. But when the one who's supposed to have suffered a mental breakdown reaches out, they're brought together once again. 

For over three years, this woman has been living in a sanitarium under a name that's not her own. And it's quite possible she was never supposed to be there in the first place. Because she suspects someone at Bletchley was a spy. And she needs the help of the other two to not only prove it, but to help catch the traitor once and for all. 

Right about the time I snagged an ARC of this one, I'd been thinking about how much I really missed Bletchley Circle, a show that found former codebreakers working together to solve murder mysteries post WWII. And it was fabulous! 

So to say that The Rose Code landed in my lap at the perfect moment isn't an exaggeration!

The book begins in 1947, leading up to the marriage of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Osla Kendall, goddaughter to Philip's uncle, has found herself the focus of tabloids like the one she writes for thanks to her own relationship with Philip, which means preparing to attend said wedding is something that requires careful consideration. 

But it's a letter that arrives in the mail that really kicks off the story. 

The letter is in code and it not only leads her to reconnect with someone she thought she'd left firmly in her past, but it takes the story back to Osla's days at Bletchley Park. 

Osla is a society girl, born in Canada and raised in England. And when her mother ships her off to safety during the war, Osla stubbornly returns, determined to get a job doing her part! She's working building planes when she gets a letter ordering her to Bletchley Park for an interview.

It's there that she meets Mab and Beth. 

Mab is the daughter of a single mother, determined to meet a man worthy of marrying. Her goal isn't love, but support and comfort. Enough so that she can secure a better future for her youngest sister. Which is why she scrimped and saved to put herself through secretarial school. And lands an interview at the mysterious Bletchley Park.

Beth is the twenty-four-year-old daughter of Osla and Mab's landlord. A shy woman seemingly meant for spinsterhood and primary caregiver to her domineering mother. But she excels at crosswords, which is why Osla has the idea to put her name forward for a job. 

The three women aren't allowed to speak about their work, even with one another. But they forge a strong bond nonetheless. And they couldn't be more different from one another! But the war and their work are what they have in common. 

The reader learns fairly early on that they no longer speak to one another, but the why plays out over the course of the story. We're brought back to their days just before Bletchley and through their experiences there, alternating with their present time—the days prior to the royal wedding. 

I loved how Quinn built each of the woman, taking time and care to create three very different personalities, while also focusing on the historical aspects of the war and Bletchley Park. I thought the research that must have gone into the book was so well integrated into the story, that even though I'm no expert by any means, I was convinced Quinn was true to the era and the people who would have found themselves at Bletchley. 

The Rose Code is a hefty read, but it doesn't fell like it! It's so easy to get swept away in Osla, Mab, and Beth's stories to begin with that the espionage aspect feels like an added bonus. In short, this is a highly entertaining read perfect for anyone who loves spy fiction, WWII fiction, or even just stories about strong female friendships!

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

The Lost Village by Camilla Sten

Alice Lindstedt's dream is to become a well known filmmaker and her fist film is a passion project she's long wanted to produce: The story of Silvertjarn and the disappearance of all of its residents, including Alice's grandmother's family. 

No one knows what happened in Silvertjarn. Everyone seems to have vanished without a trace overnight. Everyone except a newborn baby. And she's not all the villagers' left behind either. This story has followed Alice's family for three generations and now she wants to be the one to solve the mystery. 

Alice has enough funding in place for an exploratory visit, the goal of which is to map out the film's script while also filming enough B-roll to put together a crowd funding campaign. But almost as soon as she and her crew arrive, things start to turn sour. And it soon becomes clear that they're not alone in the abandoned town. Someone is watching them. Someone is playing with them. And that someone seems intent on not letting them leave!

Camilla Sten's US debut is so much fun! Billed as The Blair Witch Project meets Midsommar, it's a perfectly creepy blend of horror and thriller elements to appeal to readers of both genres!

Alice doesn't keep secret the fact that she has a personal connection to Silvertjarn. But she is keeping a secret or two from her crew. And it's those secrets that are the beginning of the problems for her. 

Well, those and her history with an old classmate and fellow crew member. 

They begin with five: Alice and her friend Tone; Max an old classmate and her first backer; Emmy, a talented filmmaker who has a history with Alice; and Robert, Emmy's boyfriend and second cameraman.

The story alternates between present day and 1959 leading up to the town's disappearance. And while Sten does a great job of building suspense and tension from the start, things really get moving when it's revealed exactly what searchers discovered in Silvertjarn after everyone vanished. 

This book just oozes atmosphere! I loved everything about it and absolutely cannot wait to see what's we're in for from Sten next! And I sincerely hope this means we'll be seeing her backlist in translation here. Sten is the author of, best I can tell, five books to date including one coauthored with her mother, Viveca Sten. The Lost Village is the first title available here in the States and I'm dying for more!

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Hotel Cartagena by Simone Buchholz

Good morning, readers. Today I'm a stop on the Random Things Blog Tour for Simone Buchholz's Hotel Cartagena!

A hotel bar has been besieged by armed men. Amongst the hostages are a prosecutor, a retired officer, and a handful of active police. 

Outside, their colleagues wait, hopeful they can put things to an end calmly and without losing some of their own people. 

Inside, things are becoming increasingly tense. 

Well, I didn't actually realize until today that Hotel Cartagena is actually the ninth book in a series. Huh! Fortunately, this latest from Simone Buchholz can be read easily on its own or as an introduction to the series as a whole. 

We begin with a few short chapters that set the tone for the book, if not the scene. These short, clippy chapters don't immediately make it clear what's going on, but we do soon learn that the plot is one of revenge. And while Chastity Riley is our narrator, she isn't so much the focus of the book. Instead, we're taken back to the eighties where we meet a German named Henning. 

Henning makes a life for himself in a not so legal venture and eventually lands in hot water. And he knows exactly who's to blame for his situation. His is a story that plays out through decades, leading to this one fateful night. 

Buchholz and her work are new to me. Her style is pretty unique, if this book is any indication, influenced no doubt by classic noir detective novels and movies. Translated from German by Rachel Ward, who has surely captured Buchholz's aesthetic wonderfully!

Hotel Cartagena is a fast paced, frenzied crime fiction that bounces from Germany to Colombia and back again. The plot moves back and forth between Chastity and Henning. Ultimately, though, it's Henning who takes the lead. Which again makes this one a great one to start with if, like me, you're new to Buchholz. 

If you do want to start from the beginning, though, there are only a handful translated into English so far. They are, in order:

Blue Night
Beton Rouge
Mexico Street
Hotel Cartagena

If you have the chance, Buchholz will be in conversation with fellow Orenda author Vanda Symon on Tuesday, March 30, to celebrate the launch of Symon's latest, Bound

Note: Hotel Cartagena is out now in the UK. It's out in the States in September and available for preorder now.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Are We There Yet? by Kathleen West

Happy Book Birthday to Kathleen West whose latest, Are We There Yet? hits shelves today!

Alice, Meredith, and Nadia have been friends since their kids started kindergarten together. But now, with all three in middle school, the dynamic has changed. 

Alice's son has been accused of bullying and the neighbors are ready to pin defacement of property on him as well. Meredith's daughter is caught in the middle and Meredith isn't willing to do anything to risk her daughter's well being. Nadia's son has long been viewed as the troublemaker of the bunch, but she too is caught in the middle when tension between Alice and Meredith comes to a head. 

But while the kids are facing their own drama, Alice herself is facing increased drama as well when her own mother reveals a secret she's been sitting on for decades! 

I don't think I can adequately sum up everything going on in this book in a quick little synopsis, but I tried!

This book was such a stressful read!

Like her debut, Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes, Are We There Yet? features lots of over involved parents and schoolyard drama. 

Alice is feeling the pressure as a parent almost as soon as the book begins, attending a parent/teacher conference—alone—and pinched for time on a client meeting. But it's her son who quickly becomes the source of her stress. Her son and her job.

Meredith is the picture of an over involved parent. Her one and only daughter is the focus of ALL of her attention. And that means spending ample time on the school app, checking on her daughter's grades, obsessing about said grades, obsessing about her daughter's diet, obsessing about her daughter's activities...And the thing is, her daughter is a good kid. 

Meanwhile, Nadia has been a bit on the outside of the trio for a while. The judgement both moms lump on her is clear in the opening chapter when she expresses concern about something her son mentioned regarding Alice's son. 

Oh, the drama! 

But it's not just the moms that get all the attention here. West focuses part of the book on the kids as well, giving readers a chance to see the full picture as the story unfolds. Who said what and why and how it affected who...

So first, re the parents, I thought this kind of mess got left behind when you left school. Now that I have a kid and I realize that's not the case...And holy crap the things kids do to one another! I had the benefit of growing up WITHOUT SOCIAL MEDIA! And how I really wish it didn't exist today, especially when it becomes the basis for a book like this. 

Yeah, this book had me thinking about ALL THE THINGS I'll have to worry about as my own kid gets older. 

If you're a fan of contemporary fiction/suburban drama, you should definitely dip into Wests's novels. They're full of heart (and anxiety) and tension surrounding family dynamics (I didn't even get into the subplot...). But maybe, if you have kids of your own, it'll make you step back a bit and think before acting the way her characters do...

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Monday, March 15, 2021

Excerpt: The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson

Happy whatever day it is, readers! No seriously, what day is it? We're snowed in! 

Today I am thrilled to be sharing a taste of the highly anticipated first in the Inspector Anjelica Henley series, The Jigsaw Man. But before we dive in, here's a bit about the book from the publisher:

Detective Inspector Anjelica Henley has a lot to deal with on her first day back her from leave from the Serial Crimes Unit of Scotland Yard. After nearly becoming a victim of the vicious serial killer, The Jigsaw Man, just before he was put behind bars, she also has to contend with the subtle digs and microaggressions that come with being the unit’s only black female detective. Add a new trainee and a rocky marriage to the mix, and DI Henley nearly has a full plate. Until the first call comes in...

Along the Thames, a fan of the Jigsaw Man and copycat killer has scattered two dismembered bodies along the shores like a jigsaw puzzle. When DI Henley sees one of the victims, a young black woman, is already being written off by her colleagues, she makes it her mission to solve the case, driving her to seek help from the original Jigsaw Man himself, Peter Oliver. Oliver, however, is determined to get to his copycat before Henley can, and sets into motion a series of events that puts Henley and her family in the crosshairs of two monstrous serial killers.

I cannot wait to dive into this one, and we don't have to wait long! The Jigsaw Man releases tomorrow from Hanover Square Press. 

And now, a look at The Jigsaw Man:

Chapter Two

‘How long have we got until the tide comes in?’ Henley was facing the river watching the small waves crashing against the derelict pier. She checked her watch. Nearly two hours had passed since the first 999 call.

‘I checked online, and high tide is at 9.55 a.m.’ Ramouter replied as he stepped around a half-submerged car tire, his eyes glazed with anxiety. ‘Low tide was at 3.15. Sunrise was at 6.32. A three-hour window for someone to dump whoever this is and hope that someone would find it before the tide comes in?’

‘Maybe,’ Henley acknowledged. ‘But for all we know it could have been dumped after sunrise or was dumped earlier upstream before being washed up here.’ She inspected the glass façade of the Borthwick Wharf, empty commercial spaces and work units that opened to the terrace and lacked security cameras. Henley doubted that the local council would have extended their own CCTV cameras to this part of the street. They had been neglecting this part of Deptford for as long as she could remember.

‘Has it been touched?’ Henley asked Anthony who had appeared at her side.

‘As far as I’m aware, it’s in situ. It wasn’t touched by the woman who found it. Matei, your builder, said that he hadn’t touched the legs but unhelpfully, it’s covered in his vomit. I had a quick look at the arms that were found downstream before I came here. From the looks of things, the treasure hunters may have prodded around a bit.’

‘There’s always one.’

The wind dropped and the air softly crackled with the electricity generated from the substation nearby.

‘We’re isolating the recovery of evidence to the direct path from the alleyway to the torso,’ said Anthony. ‘I doubt very much that whoever it was sat here and had a coffee afterwards.’

‘They may not have had a coffee, but if we go with Ramouter’s theory and the body parts have been dumped then whoever it was certainly knows the river,’ Henley replied. ‘We’ll let you get on. Ramouter and I are going to take a walk.’

‘Where are we going?’ asked Ramouter.

‘To meet Eastwood.’

‘And you want to walk it?’

Henley did her best to push aside her frustration when Ramouter pulled out his phone. ‘Google maps says that Greenwich pier is almost a mile away,’ he said.

‘Your body-part dumper isn’t the only one who knows the river,’ Anthony shouted out as Henley began to walk determinedly along the riverbank.



The gold scepters on the twin domed roofs of the Old Royal Naval College pierced the cloudless sky. The bare masts of the restored Cutty Sarkcompleted the historical panoramic view that Greenwich was known for. It was a resplendent, whitewashed version of history that contrasted with the sewage that washed ashore. Henley stopped walking when she realized that she could no longer hear the sounds of Ramouter’s leather soles slipping on wet pebbles.

‘Where are you from?’ Henley asked, waiting for Ramouter to take off his jacket and loosen his tie. She moved closer towards the moss-covered river wall as the tide began to encroach.

‘Born in West Bromwich. Moved to Bradford when I was twelve.’ Ramouter tried to brush off the bits of mud that had stuck to his trousers, but they only smeared more. ‘Lots of moors, no rivers. Surely it would have been quicker in the car.’

‘This is quicker. Unless you fancy sitting in traffic for the next half hour while they raise the Creek Road Bridge.’

‘You know this area well?’

Henley ignored the question. She didn’t see the point in telling him that she could have walked this path with her eyes closed. That this small part of South-East London was ingrained in her. ‘Whoever dumped the torso would have taken this route. It doesn’t make any sense to come down here, go back up to the street level and then drive up to Watergate Street. Out of sight, below street level. Lighting would have been minimal.’

‘Body parts are heavy though,’ Ramouter tried to quicken his step to catch up with Henley. ‘The human head weighs at least eight pounds.’

‘I know.’ Henley pulled out her mobile phone, which had started to ring. She saw who it was and ignored the call.

‘Head, torso, arms, legs. That’s at least six individual body parts.’

‘I know that also. So, tell me, what point are you making?’ Henley waited for Ramouter to reach her before maneuvering him towards the river wall as though she was chaperoning a child.

‘I’m just saying that that’s a lot of dead weight to be carrying around at three in morning.’ Ramouter paused and placed his hand against the wall, trying to catch his breath.

Henley didn’t openly express her agreement. She fished out a black hair band from her jacket pocket and pulled her thick black curls into a ponytail. She had forgotten how much energy it took to walk across the gradient slope of the riverbank. Worse, she felt mentally unprepared for the job ahead, with a trainee struggling behind her who had no idea this was her first time as senior investigator in almost a year.



‘It’s a bit grim, isn’t it?’ DC Roxanne Eastwood shouted out as Henley finally reached the first crime scene. ‘Morning, Ramouter. Not a bad gig for your first day.’

Henley had always thought that Eastwood actually looked and carried herself like a detective. Now, Eastwood was poised on the riverbank, the sleeves of her jacket rolled up with her notebook in her hand. She had come prepared for the river and was wearing a pair of jeans and trainers that had seen better days.

‘Morning, Eastie. How does it feel to be out of the office?’ Henley asked, her eyes drifting to a crime scene investigator who was putting an arm into a black bag.

‘I should be asking you that,’ said Eastwood, with a look of concern.

Henley silently appreciated the empathy and placed her hand on Eastwood’s shoulder.

‘But since you asked, it’s bloody terrible. I think I’ve got sunburn.’ Eastwood rubbed a hand over her reddening forehead. ‘Forensics are going to be wrapping up in a bit. Not that there’s much for them to do. Bag it and tag it.’

‘Where’s Mr Thomas?’

‘Ah, our illustrious treasure hunter. Last time I saw him he was heading towards the shops. Said that he needed to get some water for his dog.’ Eastwood shook her head, obviously not believing a word of it. ‘I’ve got an officer keeping an eye on him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d already uploaded pictures of his find onto Instagram.’

‘I want him taken back to the station. Ramouter can take another statement from him.’ Henley said it purposely so that Ramouter would sense she was in control. ‘If he’s like most mudlarkers, he would have been out here first thing this morning waiting for the tide to go out. Where exactly were the arms found?’

‘Just over there.’ Eastwood pulled down her sunglasses and pointed towards the foamed waves created by a passing river bus. The tide had already come in where X had once marked the spot. A sense of urgency filled the air as the river regained its territory.

‘Did he say anything else?’

‘Only that he found the second arm about three feet away from the first.’

‘It’s a sick trail of breadcrumbs,’ said Henley.

‘You’re telling me and before you ask about CCTV, there’re loads of cameras—’

‘But none aimed at this part of the river.’

‘Exactly.’

Henley’s mobile phone began to ring. She pulled it out and answered. After a quick chat, she ended the call.

‘That was Dr Linh Choi. You wouldn’t have met her yet but she’s our go-to forensic pathologist. She’s just arrived,’ Henley explained to Ramouter. She wiped away the sweat from the back of her neck.

‘So, we’ve got two arms, both legs and a torso,’ said Ramouter. ‘Where’s the head?’

Good question. Henley thought of the places between the two locations. A primary school, two nurseries and an adventure playground among the flats and houses. The last thing she needed was to find a head in the kids’ sandpit.

‘Can I have a quick look?’ Henley asked the assistant from Anthony’s CSI team, who had just bagged up the arm and was scribbling in her notebook.

‘Sure.’ The assistant unzipped the bag and pushed the plastic apart.

‘Fuck,’ Henley said under her breath. Her heartbeat quickened, her stomach flipped.

‘Oh,’ said Ramouter as he peered over Henley’s shoulder. One arm was covered with gravel. Slivers of seaweed criss-crossed old scars. The second arm. Slender wrist, the ring finger slightly longer than the index, broken fingernails. Black skin. Henley could hear Pellacia’s words from earlier ringing in her ears.

‘Too early to say if it belongs to the same victim or if it’s more than just one.’

‘Call DSI Pellacia,’ Henley told Ramouter. ‘Tell him that we’ve got two possible murder victims.’

Excerpted from The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson, Copyright ©2021 by Nadine Matheson Published by Hanover Square Press

About the Author: Nadine Matheson is a criminal defense attorney and winner of the City University Crime Writing competition. She lives in London, UK.

Huge thanks to the publisher for providing today's content! For more on Nadine Matheson and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Instagram