Blog tour & review: Winterscroft by Anita Waller.

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I was so excited when I heard that Bloodhound Books were publishing another book by Anita Waller. I had read and really enjoyed one of her previous books, 34 Days, and so I really wanted to read Winterscroft. As is often the case when I read books by authors that I’ve previously read and enjoyed, I didn’t know anything about the book, only that it was by an author that I’ve previously enjoyed and published by a publisher that I trust to release good books.

My 4* review:

Having read and enjoyed the author’s previous book, 34 days, I was keen to read this one. I started it without knowing anything about the book, I hadn’t read the blurb, which is something that is often the case when I read books by authors that I’ve read before. I quite like it that way, I have no expectations and can just enjoy the journey that the book will take me on.

I’m especially pleased that I hadn’t read the blurb for Winterscroft because if I had, I’m not sure that I would have read the book. I don’t believe in ghosts, or unsettled spirits coming back to seek revenge and so I expect that had I read the blurb I probably wouldn’t have read this book.

So I am pleased that I hadn’t read the blurb as I did enjoy this book. I did have to just go with the book and not think too much about how unbelievable it was. This was generally easy to do as it was such a good read, and I loved the characters. Lavender’s family were genuinely lovely, believable and interesting characters who I enjoyed reading about and spending time with.

The author writes well, weaving the story and sucking the reader into the lives of the characters within the book. I liked them, I wanted to read more about them and although I thought that it was all a little bit silly, I wanted to know what was going to happen. In fact, I was very frustrated when the book finished as I wanted to know what was going to happen next and how the family would move on from the events in the book. And, having finished the book, I have found myself thinking of them quite often and wondering how they’re doing. Definitely a sign of a good book and believable characters.

Thank you to Bloodhound books for my copy of Winterscroft by Anita Waller. All thoughts are my own.

Blurb:

When the beautiful Lavender is killed in a tragic car accident her family and fiancee Matt are left devastated. As the year’s pass and wounds begin to heal Matt, who has remained close to Lavenders family, meets Beth and falls in love again. When the happy couple announce their engagement it sparks a series of bizarre and disturbing events. Then when Matt and Beth make plans to wed at Lavenders family home, Winterscroft, the frightening truth becomes apparent. Lavender is back. And she is not happy. From the bestselling author of 34 Days comes a tale of love, death and revenge.

About the Author:

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Anita was born in Sheffield, South Yorkshire and has lived all her life there. She has three adult children and seven grandchildren ranging in age from 9 months to 21 years. Anita and Dave have been married almost 49 years!

She wrote Beautiful in 1985 and had it accepted for publication. They were the contract stage when the publishing house went into liquidation.

Like many another book it ended up in the loft until two years ago when she resurrected it, retyped all 100,000 words (it was orginally written on an Amstrad 8256 and all she had was a hard copy!) and sent it off to Bloodhound Books.

She is now retired from my life of being a Patchwork Tutor and HGV driver’s wife and concentrates on patchwork for the pleasure of it and writing. She started writing at around the age of 8 – she clearly remembers writing ‘novels’ at that age which were actually short stories split into chapters!

Anita’s genre is murder – but murder with a good reason behind it!

Winterscroft is out now and available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Blog Tour & Review: No Safe Home by Tara Lyons.

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My 4* review:

I have to admit that I haven’t read the first book in the DI Hamilton series, In The Shadows, but I don’t feel that this mattered. I quickly got into this book and its characters. I have read The Caller which Tara Lyons co-wrote with M.A. Comley which I really enjoyed (and am still waiting for the next in the series, nudge nudge), so I was keen to read more by the author.

As a single parent, I think that the premise of No Safe Home got under my skin, my home is my sanctuary and the thought of someone coming in and hurting myself and/or my children is frankly horrifying.

The story of No Safe Home focuses on Katy, a single mother whose home is no longer her safe place. Thankfully she fought off her attacker but now she needs to face her past and learn to trust others in order to save herself and her son.

I really liked the characters in this book, the investigation team trying to help Katy and solve the horrific murders were all interesting and the newcomer, Rocky, particularly so. I hope to read more about him in the future as I think that he’s a great character. DI Hamilton, as leader of the team he showed us why he is the leader, but that he also had his Achilles heel, something that makes him feel more human and interesting.

The author writes well, creating believable characters and an engaging storyline. I will for sure be reading In The Shadows and look forward to reading more from Tara Lyons. Definitely an author to look out for.

Thank you to Bloodhound books for a copy of No Safe Home by Tara Lyons.

Blurb:

Detective Inspector Denis Hamilton is haunted when the suspicious death of a teenage girl triggers suppressed memories. With a stalker targeting vulnerable women in Central London, and his team rapidly diminishing, Hamilton must conquer his emotions before another family is destroyed.

In a sleepy town in Hertfordshire, Katy has worked hard to rebuild her life after leaving behind everything she knew. But when her past catches up with her, and her young son’s life is threatened, Katy must admit her true identity if she has any hope of surviving.

A home should be a safe place, shouldn’t it? But sometimes it is hard to know who you can trust…

London’s murder investigations team returns in the second novel from the bestselling author of In the Shadows.

 

No Safe Home by Tara Lyons is out now and available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Blog Tour: Games People Play by Owen Mullen.

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Today is the final stop on the blog tour for Games People Play by Owen Mullen. I have content from the book and my extract carries on from where Emma The Little Bookworm left off.

Extract:

‘The water was freezing. What the hell had Jen been thinking? This was Scotland, for Christ’s sake. He swam to where he’d last seen her and went under. Mark was a good swimmer but it was dark. His frantic fingers searched until the pressure in his chest forced him to the surface. He took in as much air as he could and went back. Something bumped against him. He grabbed hold and dragged it up. Two boys ran into the water to help: the footballers.

They hauled her body the last few yards and Mark fell to his knees. Jennifer wasn’t breathing. People appeared on the beach, silent witnesses to the nightmare the day had become. Where had they been when he needed them? He shouted, half in anger half in desperation. ‘Somebody call an ambulance!’ The crowd kept a respectful distance, they believed what he believed, that he’d lost her. Jennifer’s face was white. Mark covered her mouth with his and breathed into her. His hands pressed against her chest demanding she come back to him. One of the boys took over with no better luck. Mark tried again, refusing to let her go. He pumped her heart, whimpering like a child, sobbing for himself as well as his wife. Jennifer’s eyes fluttered; she retched and vomited water. Mark turned her on her side and rubbed her back, whispering reassurance, blinded by tears, aware his prayers had been answered. A siren sounded in the distance; it was going to be alright. She was safe. They would be together again. The three of them. He raised his head and saw ambulance-men racing towards him across the sand. Mark jumped to his feet. They must have drifted… except the boat was there. His voice rose from a cry to a scream. ‘Lily. Lily!’ He spoke to the group who had offered nothing. ‘I left a baby here, somebody must’ve seen her.’ They stared, no idea what he was talking about. A new terror seized him. He ran a few steps up and down the beach, lost and afraid. The bag lay where Jennifer dropped it. But no push-chair. No sign his daughter had ever been there. Lily was gone.’

Sounds good doesn’t it?!! Games People Play by Owen Mullen is out now and available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Blurb:

A powerful new crime thriller:

Thirteen-month-old Lily Hamilton is abducted from Ayr beach in Scotland while her parents are just yards away.

Three days later the distraught father turns up at private investigator Charlie Cameron’s office. Mark Hamilton believes he knows who has stolen his daughter. And why.

Against his better judgment Charlie gets involved In the case and when more bodies are discovered the awful truth dawns: there is a serial killer whose work has gone undetected for decades.

Is baby Lily the latest victim of a madman?

For Charlie it’s too late, he can’t let go. His demons won’t let him.

 

Blog Tour & Review: Dark Minds by Bloodhound books.

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Publishers, Bloodhound books, have done something very special. They have brought together a group of crime authors and each of them has written a short story that together makes up the new book, Dark Minds. The proceeds of the book go to two amazing charities, Hospice UK and Sophie’s Appeal making the book even more special.

You can watch a promo video of the book to get you in the mood, but there are so many authors contributing to Dark Minds that everyone is bound to find something that they enjoy. Perfect Christmas present I think, so much so that my brother will be getting a copy.

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I was sent one story to read but I really wanted to support the book and was keen to read many of the stories by some of my favourite crime authors so I also bought an ebook of it. I’m still reading the book but loving it, I’ve never read short stories before, it’s something that I’ve never really been interested in but I think that Dark Minds has changed my mind. I’m enjoying the fast pace and the stories are short meaning that I can read one or two in a sitting which works well for me. At 400 pages the book is a big one, but broken down into smaller stories it is easy to read. As I haven’t finished the whole book yet I’m just going to talk about the stories that I have read.

15542133_1185300924868380_8347541699500614332_nAuthor B.A.Morton kicks the book off with the story Ten Green Bottles, telling the story of Zoe who wakes up in hospital, covered in blood that isn’t all her own she slowly pieces together the pieces of what happened and faces the full consequences of her actions. Is it her fault that people died?

londoncrawling-darkminds Next Emma Pullar gives us something completely different. Jody leaves work to find London deserted, a thick fog covers everything and she has no mobile reception. As she walks the empty streets she can’t help feeling spooked but is there a good reason for that? Of course there is! This book was really creepy and definitely got under my skin!

theshoe-darkmindsThe fabulous Louise Jensen‘s The Shoes Maketh The Man gives us some twists and turns as Bill, an old man living in a nasty area fearful of being attacked in his own home like many other pensioners in the area. When he hears his upstairs neighbour Bill’s reaction is not what you think it will be, that’s for sure! She has another book out this week, The Gift, and this short story has made me determined to read it soon.

15621584_1313581865350367_6086013827764944870_n-1Then comes Never Tell a Lie by Tara Lyons who co-authored The Caller which I really enjoyed. I loved her story about a man working in a coffee shop and looking for the woman for him. He has some unusual ideas about what that might mean though!! Yikes.

15590180_1313623128679574_8747783979732814351_nRichard Burke gives us his story, A Christmas Killing about a man who gets an intriguing delivery and has some very strange things in his fridge. The story leaves you guessing and trying to get your head around just what it is that is in his fridge.

15622219_1314657988576088_4639021279306110985_nAuthor Betsy Reavley who has published two brilliant book this year, The Optician’s Wife and Frailty, doesn’t disappoint with the unsettling By The Water, about a woman who finds herself in a river covered in blood, did a doctor’s attempt to cure her from her mental health problems actually cause more damage?

15578915_1315061125202441_1666168732298414783_nNext up is Tony Cox with his story, A Cup of Coffee and a Slice of Life. A man in a cafe overhears two old ladies talking about old times, it all seems innocent until the woman start to talk about events that are anything but innocent. This story gave me the shivers.

15349549_1315098708532016_7459202053480914597_nS.E. Lynes gives us Slow Roast Pork, a woman’s husband goes missing and she deals with it by cooking. Guests get given plenty to eat, including the police who particularly enjoy her roast pork. But is all as it seems?! This one got under my skin, and the end was not what I was expecting!

dark-minds-strangers-eyesFinally, I read Paul Gitsham‘s story, A Stranger’s Eyes. In this story, we follow a man who wakes up in a hotel room, beaten and bloodied he can’t remember anything, not even who he is. In his room, he finds a stash of money and soon enough a knock at the door tells him that whatever he has done, the police want to talk to him about it. Panicked he runs, but what is it he did and will he get caught by the police?

 

So far I have enjoyed all of the stories and I hope that many of you are tempted enough to buy a copy for yourself or for someone as a present. It always feels even better buying something when the proceeds go to two amazing charities. I will be publishing my full review when I have finished the complete book.

Dark Minds is out now and available from Amazon UKAmazon USWaterstones and all good book stores.

Blog Tour: Guest Post by Angela Corner Author of The Hidden Island.

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I’m delighted to have Angela Corner, author of The Hidden Island on If only I could read faster today giving us some writing advice. As I’m still trying to finish my NaNoWriMo project I’m still really interested in getting all the advice that I can and I have to say that I found a lot of what Angela had to say interesting. I hope that you do too!

Writing Advice

Do you write every day or wait for inspiration to strike?

One of the things I learned for writing for soaps is that if you get up in a morning and wait for inspiration to strike then you’ll never finish anything.  There are days when writing feels easy. The ideas flow, your sentences seem to appear on the page as if by magic, you are ‘in the zone’ and it feels great.  But then there are the days when your mind is blank. The keys on your keyboard might as well be in Chinese. The temptation to eat cake and chocolate or even do some house work is almost impossible to resist.  It is those days when you have to battle and sweat and just write something. Anything. It will feel like total rubbish, and may well be total rubbish, but you have to force yourself to keep writing. It’s a habit, a discipline. And even on those bleak, painful days you may produce something worth keeping. Or the germ of something worth keeping.  

Where do you get your ideas from?

Everywhere. From the news, from family and friends, from eavesdropping on conversations on trains, in pubs and in shops.  There’s a thing called the creative bubble or the creative cloud.  It’s populated by everything going on in the world, locally and nationally.  Everyone can access it and draw inspiration and ideas from it. Sometimes people will reach into the bubble, pull out the same things and come up with very similar ideas at similar times.  It then looks like people are copying each other when in fact they’ve simply got the same ingredients from the bubble and put them together in the same way.

Using friends and family’s experiences – including the most shocking and upsetting ones – as a basis for stories can be difficult to reconcile.  Every time someone confides in you the writer part of you will be thinking of ways it could be made it into a story whereas the ‘human’ part of you will be sympathising and trying to help or console.  It’s a conflict that all writers have and it is essential to keep enough distance between real life experiences and what you use in your stories, either by time or by altering aspects of the story. Otherwise you may end up with no friends and lots of family conflict.

It’s a good idea to have an ideas notepad. You might be working on something else but have a new idea. Write it in your ideas notepad for future reference. It’s very easy – and tempting – to have a great new idea and abandon whatever you’re currently working on to start the new idea. It’s the grass is always greener phenomenon.  New ideas always seem better than the one you’ve been sweating over for weeks and months.  A bit like the excitement of a new relationship. But if you constantly move onto the newest idea you’ll never finish anything. All writers are guilty of it.

Do you plan or make it up as you go along?

All writers are different. Some plan to the nth degree. Others start at chapter one with no idea where they will end up. Most writers are somewhere in between. If you are a writer who has started many books but not managed to finish any then I think planning the structure and major events/turning points is a sensible idea.  It gives you a framework and keeps you focused with certain points to aim for.  With The Hidden Island I started with a fairly detailed plan of each chapter.  This did change to varying degrees as I went along with some aspects removed and others added in.  The original plan included lots of flashbacks to Beckett’s previous investigation on the Island but during the writing process I found this slowed the action too much.   The other big change to the original plan was the ending. This changed when I was writing the synopsis to send off to publishers and agents. In writing the two page synopsis (easily the most difficult part of novel writing!) I realised the original ending wasn’t working as well as I’d liked and a different ending popped into my head.  I put the new ending in the synopsis and then rewrote the final chapter.

My writing day

It’s important, or at least to me, to get into a writing routine. Most writers seem to have a routine that suits them and their lifestyle and mine has had to adapt to changes in my own life.  My preferred time of day to write is actually in the evening and on into the early hours.  However this routine is not conducive to a healthy relationship!  I also struggle to write if anyone else is in the house.  Complete immersion in my made up worlds requires no real world distractions.  So my writing routine now means writing during the day whilst the house is empty. I have a minimum word count of 1000 words a day.  If the writing is going well then I will continue on past 1000 words and keep going until I get beaten by the clock or simply feel too tired to carry on.  If it’s one of those struggling days I will write my 1000 words and then stop but I will make myself do a 1000 words however long it takes and however horrible those 1000 words feel.

Edit as you go or just keep going?

It’s tempting to start each new day by going back over what you’ve written the day before and rewriting it.  But this can really stall all forward motion.  I will edit as I go during the day but once that day’s writing is done, in general, I won’t go back over it the following day. There are exceptions to this – if something really isn’t working, or if I get a lightbulb moment that evening about a new way of doing things or an extra story strand to add.  It’s important to keep going and bury any self-doubt until you’ve got to the final full stop, of the final sentence, of the final chapter.  Then put the manuscript aside for a few weeks, or months. Work on something else. Start a new book, or at least the research and planning of a new book, before picking up your first draft and beginning the editing process.

The Hidden Island by Angela Corner is available now from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Blurb:

The Hidden Island: an edge of your seat crime thriller

Sex. Drugs. Murder.

Hidden behind the crystal seas and beautiful beaches of a Greek Island dark and dangerous secrets lurk. Beckett has had his fill of adrenaline fuelled criminal investigation and with a broken body and damaged career goes to the Greek Island of Farou to head up the Criminal Investigation Bureau. Serious crime is rare, the weather is great and the beer is cold but his ‘retirement’ is cut short when a pagan cult resurrects and bodies start showing up.

With doubts about his mental and physical ability to do the job, a British police detective is sent to help with the investigation. DI Lee Harper is everything Beckett is not – young, ambitious and by the book.

As well as tackling the new case Beckett must overcome the demons from his past.

Family loyalty, power and money are at the source of the investigation where appearance is everything and nothing is what is seems.

Can Beckett and Harper work together to find justice for the victims?

Will the idyllic island ever be the same again?

Sometimes paradise can be hell.

“This gritty thriller is a brilliantly plotted and refreshing read. Angela Corner is one to watch for those who like their books with a bit more bite” Betsy Reavley, best-selling author of The Quiet Ones, The Optician’s Wife and Frailty.

Angela Corner is a debut author who mastered her craft as a screenwriter on top serial dramas including Eastenders and Hollyoaks. The Hidden Island is the perfect read for fans of authors like Lisa Hall, Katerina Diamond, Kathryn Croft and Caroline Mitchell

Blog Tour: Only The Dead by Malcolm Hollingdrake

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Today on If only I could read faster we have Malcolm Hollingdrake answering some questions about writing including where he does it, what he finds hard and what he reads.

Where do you write?

 I write wherever I can, providing that place is stationary! Trains, planes, boats and cars are out of bounds. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to but I suffer from acute travel sickness so that’s out. I’ll write anywhere at home but a favourite spot is with my back to a south-facing window at the end of the dining table. Unfortunately, my detritus, research really, tends to be spread alongside me too. In an ideal world, I’d like a room where I can leave everything and just close the door. One day!

Ideas

Ideas come at the most inopportune times. I now use my phone to jot down notes and ideas or make a voice memo. On so many occasions in the past something has come to mind and I have arrogantly said to myself that it’s so important I’ll not forget and then…gone! It was ever thus. Now, next to the bed, I keep a notepad and pencil for when, on rare occasions, I have an awakening Eureka moment.

I have always been a people watcher and this is a wonderful writer’s trait. Noting the way people move, the way they interact and speak can only help create and develop real characters. Sometimes, a chance conversation, a saying or colloquialism will often spark an idea that can be used or developed. The other week, my wife was on the phone and she was put on hold during which time music was played, you know the type, as if it’s played on a Jew’s harp; it was Handel’s Water Music. She turned and said, “This music is making me want to pee!” I nearly wet myself and so it was used in the latest book.

The hard part for me, names!

 Names! Naming characters is the bane of my writing life. If I had a pound for the number of times I’ve ended up with two characters with the same surname in the same novel! Christian names are fine providing you don’t have three in the same book. That can be confusing! Strange, but as I’m writing I’m blind to the errors. It’s only when I sit and read through do I see the mistakes. I’m grateful too for the sharp eyes of the editors who have found the odd faux pas.

I take names from everywhere, directories, and advertising, even the side of vans if they seem appropriate. Occasionally, people will ask to be added to a novel, selecting the character to suit their inner angel or devil! I know authors who have offered this service as a prize. A great idea! Anyone want to be in a novel?

 What do I read?

 Strangely, I try to leave crime fiction alone for fear of either picking up an idea or an author’s style. I like my own. In the past I have enjoyed reading Robert Ryan, his blend of fact and fiction really captivates. Ranulph Fiennes has a similar style and for me he’s a real hero. ‘The Feather Men’ has to be a favourite. The other year I was lucky enough to hear him speak about his experiences, truly staggering achievements. I also love short stories, any collective cornucopia that I can dip into in no particular order appeals; one of my favourite writers has to be Saki. Most of my reads at present tend to be non-fiction, books related to Northern Art and artists. If I were to be honest, my writing takes a good deal of my time and I just love creating a different world! As someone said, I just make it up and write it down!

If I were to take three books to read again on a desert island;

‘Sagittarius Rising’ – Cecil Lewis

‘The Shepherd’ – Frederick Forsyth

‘Nangaparbat Pilgrimage’ (The Lonely Challenge) – Herman Buhl

Thank you so much for coming to visit us, Malcolm!

Malcolm’s book, Only The Dead, is out now and available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Blog Tour & Review: Frailty by Besty Reavley.

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I loved The Optician’s Wife by Betsy Reavley, it was an incredibly well-woven story that at times turned my normally strong stomach. So I was excited when I heard that the author had another book coming out and even happier when I was given an ARC of Frailty to read and given the opportunity to be part of the blog tour. So here is my review.

My 5* review:

I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I started to read Frailty, I knew little about it, only that it involved child abduction, a topic that can be hard to read, especially for those of us that are parents ourselves. Was I sure that I really wanted to read it?

Of course I did! I rarely shy away from reading a book about a difficult topic and so with Frailty bumped to the top of my TBR pile I started to read it. I was quickly drawn into the story, it often takes me a while to get into a book but not this one, from the very start I had to know what was going to happen.

When Hope goes missing her parents, Libby and Danny are thrust into a nightmare that they never wanted to be part of. They don’t know who to trust and where to turn as the police seem to keep coming up blank, they have no idea where little Hope could be.

The parents descend further and further into the nightmare, both behaving and thinking things that they had never believed that they would or could think or do. It was heartbreaking to read, and I really felt like I was there with them, powerless to help them.

Periodically we heard from little Hope herself, and those chapters were especially hard to read but were also an essential part of the story.

As her father, Danny struggled with Hope’s disappearance, he felt that as the man of the house is role was to keep his family safe. And at that he had failed, something that felt like a heavy burden to him and eventually forced him into something that clearly showed the reader how he had been destroyed by the disappearance of his eldest daughter. This was the one part of the book that I wasn’t quite sure about, would someone be driven to go so far and to act so out of character?

By the end of the book I felt as though I wasn’t quite breathing normally, I’m sure that I held my breath through a number of chapters while I waited to find out what had really happened to Hope. And although I had a big part of it worked out, that didn’t detract from the story in any way.

The emotions that I felt reading Frailty tell me how well the story was woven and how as a reader I was drawn into the story. After I finished it I thought about the book a lot, another sign that it had got under my skin.

I’m aware that someone reading this review might question why I would want to read a book such as this, and why I think that someone else should too. That is an easy question to answer, I love a book that takes me on a journey and that immerses me into the story, the author does both very well. This really is a special book.

I received a copy of Frailty from the publishers but was under no obligation to review the book. My opinions are my own and have not been affected by this.

Blurb:

How far would you go to protect your family?
Danny and Libby are about to face every parent’s worst nightmare.

When eight-year-old Hope Bird disappears without a trace, from the idyllic village where she lives, life for her family will never be the same again. Her parents know she would never have gone off alone and the police have no idea where she is. Then a child’s shoe is discovered and the case takes an unexpected turn. Soon a suspect is identified but this is only the beginning.

Will they ever find Hope?

Frailty is a haunting, gritty, psychological page-turner about the choices we make. How far would you go to protect your family?
Danny and Libby are about to face every parent’s worst nightmare.

When eight-year-old Hope Bird disappears without a trace, from the idyllic village where she lives, life for her family will never be the same again. Her parents know she would never have gone off alone and the police have no idea where she is. Then a child’s shoe is discovered and the case takes an unexpected turn. Soon a suspect is identified but this is only the beginning.

Will they ever find Hope?

Frailty is a haunting, gritty, psychological page-turner about the choices we make.

 

Frailty is out now and available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.