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And the magic word is?

Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets Book Cover Amanda Cadabra and The Cellar of Secrets
(The Amanda Cadabra Cozy Paranormal Mysteries) #2
Holly Bell
humour, fantasy, female sleuths
Independently published
(24 Dec. 2018)

Amanda Cadabra, asthmatic furniture restorer and covert witch with irascible feline familiar, always said that was no place for a research centre. The lost village in Madley Wood, where the leaves don’t grow, and the birds don’t sing.

An old secret. A new build. A body. Only one witness. Only one person who can see that witness: Amanda Cadabra.

Only one place that can tell the story: the Cellar of Secrets, in 1940. And only one person who can go there: Amanda Cadabra. With, of course, only one grumpy cat.

Only one person who might help: the personable but intractable Inspector Trelawney. But this is a peaceful English village … who would do anything as criminal as murder? Will she find them before they find her?

Please note that to help the reader to be immersed in Amanda's world, this British-set story, by a British author, uses British English spelling, grammar and usage, and includes accents, dialects and a magical language.

Well not abracadabra of course… What a strange name, but of course, one that is very memorable.

So we have a cosy mystery novel set in a strange village with ghosts and witches and hidden secrets.

At times, I thought I was reading a book for teenagers or for US readers who wanted to have a traditional English village with all the traditional English characters in it. Including funny names and so on.

That said, it was an enjoyable and humorous tale with engaging lead characters – Amanda herself and her feline familiar and the detective who can’t know the real truth about witch-craft, but sort of knows about ghosts.

Very light reading but ..

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In Which Nick isn’t Trapped

Trapped Book Cover Trapped
Nick Louth
murder, mystery, police, thriller
Canelo
28th January 2019

Two desperate criminals. Something she never saw coming. A searing suspense thriller from bestselling author Nick Louth

In Manchester, two hardened gang members on the run take Catherine Blake and her one-year-old son hostage at gunpoint. She is in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Held in a Transit van, Catherine needs a plan fast. But it means diving into her captors’ risk-drenched world, and playing them at their own game.

Catherine has been through cancer, miscarriages and five draining years of IVF in order to have her son Ethan. He is the most precious thing in the world. She may be terrified out of her wits, but she’d do anything to protect him. Anything, no matter the cost...

Brace yourself.

A nerve-shredding suspense thriller you won’t believe until you have experienced it yourself, Trapped is perfect for fans of Cara Hunter, JP Delaney and Rachel Abbott.

Author Interview with Nick Louth

The book ideas I get flow most strongly in the time when I’m just waking up and I lie in bed turning them over in my mind. Sometimes the ideas come very quickly, almost tumbling over themselves in their hurry to emerge, but sometimes it takes a lot longer for me to see how they would work. For example, I have just been devising a piece of misdirection for a future DCI Gillard crime thriller, one that will send detectives and hopefully the reader in and entirely wrong direction when looking for the murder victim. The course is particularly challenging when the title of my books offers a clue: The Body in the Marsh, The Body on the Shore and so on. This particular idea I’ve been working on in the back of my mind for two or three days, and I’ve yet to write down any part of it. But it’s still there ticking over, like an engine kept warm.

I do write notes, I have a notebook that I have with me at all times, and if it’s an inspiring name for a character, or a place, I need to write it down quickly. But the big concepts, the reversals, the misdirection, ideas that give the book a ‘bang’ I tend not forget.

In the case of Trapped, the basic story on the idea for its creative tension came to me all in one go. It’s the contrast between black and white, not just the evil of the gangsters and the goodness, or at least the normality of Catherine the hostage, it’s a bit extra. I wanted to contrast two ways of living a life. Our heroine is an extraordinarily risk averse woman, who plans everything in her life, even more so now she has been blessed with the child that she took so very long to conceive. For her, nothing is left to chance. But the gangsters are seemingly driven by impulse. They plan very little, certainly not far ahead, and rely on quick reactions drive and energy to live the life they want. I really wanted to smash together these two life philosophies, and pack them into the smallest possible space to see what would happen. That space is the back of a dirty, smelly transit van, surrounded by armed police. Total claustrophobia. For a long time I thought that would be enough, straight story that would have the reader on the edge of her seat, particularly given an innocent one-year-old child was in danger. I had written the book thus far almost 8 months before I got the idea for a very strong twist. I’m particularly proud that I was able to pack in to what is a bit particularly short novel all the action and a series of shocking twists.

I’m a journalist by training, and meticulous research underlies everything I do. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to make contact with a retired senior detective with extensive experience from drugs, murder, Special Branch work and undercover operation, plus a government forensic scientist who has allowed me to come with him to an occasional murder trial. I’m also fortunate to have a very senior criminal defence lawyer who has helped me extensively with work on my next book The Body in the Mist. The role of research isn’t to dump on the page everything you have learned, rather it is to convince the reader that you know what you’re talking about. Approaching those in authority is something I’ve done for many years as a journalist so it doesn’t make me nervous or intimidate me. However that doesn’t mean to say that I was good positive response. PR people for police forces or corporations, for example, often need quite a lot of handholding before they know what it is you really trying to get from them. But others fall into your hands, so delighted are they to be involved in the process of creating fiction.

I have been rejected countless times by many literary agents, amazingly even after I had a number one UK bestseller the previous year. I sometimes struggle to find what it is that agents are looking for, but feel I have a better rapport with publishers. In the case of Canelo, I was lucky enough that they approached me after a former agent of mine, now a non-fiction publisher, recommended me to them.

Author Name: Nick Louth

Previous Books: The Body in the Marsh, The Body on the Shore and Heartbreaker

Genre: Thriller

Links to Book:

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

Author Bio:

Nick Louth is a best-selling thriller writer, award-winning financial journalist and an investment commentator. A 1979 graduate of the London School of Economics, he went on to become a Reuters foreign correspondent in 1987. It was an experience at a medical conference in Amsterdam in 1992, while working for Reuters, that gave him the inspiration for Bite, which was self-published in 2007 and went on to become the UK No. 1 Kindle best-seller for several weeks in 2014 before being snapped up by Sphere. It has sold a third of a million copies, and been translated into six languages.

The terrorism thriller Heartbreaker was published in June 2014 and received critical acclaim from Amazon readers, with a 4.6 out of 5 stars on over 100 reviews. Mirror Mirror, subtitled  ‘When evil and beauty collide’ was published in June 2016. The Body in the Marsh, a crime thriller, is being published by Canelo in September 2017. 

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Which Testament?: Extract

A Testament to Murder Book Cover A Testament to Murder
A Murder Will Follow Mystery Book 1
Vivian Conroy
Cosy Crime
Canelo
18th February 2019

Book Blurb: Suspenseful from the first page to the last, A Testament to Murder is perfect for fans of And Then There Were None, Murder on the Orient Express, and Crooked House A dying billionaire. Nine would-be heirs. But only one will take the prize...  At the lush Villa Calypso on the French Riviera, a dying billionaire launches a devious plan: at midnight each day he appoints a new heir to his vast fortune. If he dies within 24 hours, that person takes it all. If not, their chance is gone forever. Yet these are no ordinary beneficiaries, these men who crossed him, women who deceived him, and distant relations intent on reclaiming the family fortune. All are determined to lend death a hand and outwit their rivals in pursuit of the prize. As tensions mount with every passing second, retired Scotland Yard investigator Jasper must stay two steps ahead of every player if he hopes to prevent the billionaire’s devious game from becoming a testament to murder…

A 1920s murder mystery to keep you guessing

“Anna!” Kenneth ran up to the figure in white who was cutting a few roses at the back of the garden. “I didn’t see you at breakfast. I was worried that you had left anyway.”

She didn’t look at him as she reached out for another soft yellow rose, resting it in the palm of her hand a moment, before cutting it and putting it with the others in the basket on her arm.

“Anna?” Kenneth studied her tight profile. “Is something wrong?”

“Of course not. I had breakfast in the kitchen earlier with the other servants. I was only at dinner last night because Mr Bryce-Rutherford wanted to make his revelation.”

“He can’t let you eat with the servants. You’re not like them.”

“How would you know?” Anna asked, but he saw the smile tugging at her lips.

Encouraged, he continued, “I’ll ask Uncle Malcolm if you can eat with us every day. I bet he’ll think it’s a great idea. He must like you. He doesn’t have any people around him who are…” Young, fresh, breathtaking. “Who can cheer him up. I think he needs that. He thinks he’s dying. But perhaps he isn’t. Perhaps he’s only depressed because everything is so sad here and everybody treats him like an invalid. We could make things different for him.”

“You honestly think he isn’t dying?” Anna asked. A frown hovered over her eyes.

Kenneth shrugged. “I would feel ill if everybody treated me like I was ill all of the time. Theodora with her things that he has to eat because they are good for him. And that darkened room. He needs to do something fun.”

Anna held his gaze. “Can we take him on our boat trip?”

Kenneth suddenly saw his whole boat trip where he would impress Anna with his skills and his strength ruined by the presence of a nagging old man. Or worse even, an old man who would look at him with knowing eyes, smirking at the schoolboy trying to win a woman of the world.

He said quickly, “I think that would be too dangerous. The sea could be rough and rock the boat. What if he fell out of the boat and drowned?”

Anna’s eyes were a deep endless blue. “Yes,” she said slowly, “what if…”

Here outside the house her smooth skin didn’t seem so porcelain-like but had more of a tan, a healthy glow, blending out her freckles. Her hands moved with quick determination as she chose just the right rose to snip off and put in her basket.

One threatened to slip off from the top of the bunch and she grabbed it. “Ouch!” She retracted her hand and a drop of blood sat on her fingertip. She stared at it with a pained expression.

Kenneth pulled out his handkerchief and offered it to her. She used it to dab at the blood, leaving a bright red stain on the handkerchief. She smiled at him as she handed it back to him. “Thank you. How clumsy of me.”

Kenneth put the handkerchief back in his pocket and studied the blue skies above. “We could go boating now. Uncle Malcolm doesn’t need you right away.” He said it in a blunt, confident tone.

Anna looked doubtful. “I promised to bring in these roses and arrange them for him in a vase.”

“Theodora can do it. There she is.” Kenneth pointed at the drab figure in grey which had come out of the house and stood on the terrace.

“She doesn’t like me,” Anna said. “I don’t know why. I take good care of my patient.”

Kenneth shrugged. “Some people think they can do everything better. That’s just the way they are. Let me take the basket to her. You go get a cardigan or something. It can be chilly on the water.”

Anna suddenly laughed out loud. She handed him the basket and the cutting tool and then threw her arms up in the air and cheered. “Ken, you’re a doll.” She ran off around the house to where the kitchen entrance was.

Kenneth stood motionless, his cheek burning as if she had leaned in and kissed him there and then. He thought she might have wanted to do that if Theodora hadn’t been watching them.

He turned to the woman with resentment clawing at his stomach. That ugly old witch had to ruin everything for everyone. If anybody ought to die here, it ought to be her.

He carried the basket to her, holding the tool out like a weapon.

Theodora was studying the view and only noticed him at the last moment. She yelped and clutched her hands together. “Kenneth! What are you doing?”

“Here are some roses for Uncle Malcolm. I thought you would like to arrange them in a vase and take them up to him.” Kenneth held the tool and basket out to her. “He’ll appreciate all the trouble you go through for him.”

Something lit in those dull eyes over the long, forever sniffing nose. She said in a surprised tone, “That’s very kind of you, Kenneth.”

He shrugged. Her eyes made him uncomfortable as if she could see right through him. “I think you care very much for him. And he needs that.”

The eyes lit even more. “Yes, he needs that.” Theodora ran a finger over the soft petals of one of the roses. “Even if he will never admit it.”

Kenneth pulled back his shoulders and repeated something he had heard his mother say to her friends, “A man will never admit he needs a woman.”

Theodora nodded. “How true. You’re extremely intelligent for your age.” She cast a long loving look at the roses and then turned away. Before she entered the house, she called to him, “Remember one thing though: Anna can’t swim.”

Links to Book:

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

Author Bio:

Armed with cheese and chocolate, Vivian Conroy sits down to create the aspirational settings, characters with secrets up their sleeves, and clever plots which took several of her mysteries to #1 bestseller in multiple categories on Amazon US and Canada. Away from the keyboard, Vivian likes to hike (especially in the Swiss mountains), hunt for the perfect cheesecake and experience the joy in every-day life, be it a fiery sunset, a gorgeous full moon or that errant butterfly descending on the windowsill.

Twitter: @VivWrites

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The Sea is no-one’s friend

Cold Bones Book Cover Cold Bones
DS McAvoy #8
David Mark
police procedurals, murder, mystery, thriller
Mulholland Books
January 24, 2019
368

It's the coldest winter in Hull for years. When McAvoy is told by a concerned stranger that an elderly woman hasn't been seen for a few days, he goes to check on her - only to find her in the bath, encased in ice: the heating off; the windows open; the whole house frozen over. It could be a macabre accident, but when McAvoy finds a series of cryptic messages, he senses murder. Someone watched her die. As he starts to uncover the victim's story and her connections to a lost fishing trawler, his boss Trish is half a world away, investigating a mysterious death in Iceland. Hull and Iceland have traditionally been united by fishing -in this case, they are linked by a secret concealed for half a century, and a series of brutal killings that have never been connected. Until now - when the secrets of the dead have returned to prey on the living.

This is a haunting story that disturbs the emotions and emphasises the problems that a toxic masculine culture brings upon a community. Where fists are tools of the trade and used with abandon.

It is a tale of revenge and punishment in a fishing town, by fishermen and their relatives, that is carried to extremes by a belief in the righteousness of violence being the answer.

At times I found the story confusing, especially the opening scenes, as the various characters take their parts and lie with abandon.

But take heart any reader, all is explained in the end – and the very culture that spawned this way of dealing with life is now much more rare as certainly the fishing industry in Hull, and towns like it, is diminished, on a larger scale of boats (and thus less of a tight grouping of men), and more automated.

I might have understood a little better if I had read previous novels in the series.

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