Love Story, with Murders – a review

Having discovered the quirky and dark Welsh detective Fiona Griffiths in Talking to the Dead, I had to read Book 2 in this unique series. I didn’t regret it and Book 3 beckons. [For my review of Book 1 see: https://rolandclarke.com/2016/04/11/talking-to-the-dead-a-review/ ]

Love Story

Love Story, With Murders (Fiona Griffiths #2)

by Harry Bingham (Goodreads Author)

The second novel featuring recovering psychotic DC Fiona Griffiths opens with as intriguing a pair of murders as you could imagine. Firstly, part of a human leg is discovered in a woman’s freezer, bagged up like a joint of pork. Other similarly gruesome discoveries follow throughout a cosy Cardiff suburb, with body parts turning up in kitchens, garages and potting sheds. And while the police are still literally putting the pieces together, concluding that they all belong to a teenage girl killed some ten years earlier, parts of another body suddenly start appearing, but this time discarded carelessly around the countryside clearly very shortly after the victim – a man – was killed.

Mysteries don’t come much more macabre or puzzling than this. Who were the two victims, and what connection could they have shared that would result in this bizarre double-discovery?

But that’s only half the story. The most gruesome moments are much more about Fiona and her curious mental state. There is a complex and very clever double mystery here, and what makes the story unique is the parallel unraveling of Fiona’s own mystery, and it’s her voice, established precisely in the first book but given even freer rein here, that makes it so compelling.

Review 5 stars

In this second novel in an engrossing series, DC Fiona Griffiths is once again challenged to apply her strange talents to solving a case or maybe it’s two cases. This DC is not like others and this is one of the winning formulas that Harry Bingham gives to the character.

With her personality traits being at times psychotic, the first person POV works as we discover more and more about Fiona’s past and about the cases. She has more than murder to handle and she needs to act off-piste to get things done and progress the cases. The violence, in the victim’s remains or the action, is not excessive or overtly gruesome, but some fans of the cosy approach might baulk at it. Fiona doesn’t, of course.

At this stage in her policing career, Fiona still has things to learn, often things she recognises and ignores at her cost – but what better way to keep the plot moving and the reader guessing. Her relationship with her fierce boss, DI Watkins, is unexpected and interesting – the secondary characters are all well portrayed, especially the DI. There are sub-plots surrounding some of them and these all add to the story.

Fiona’s attitudes are unusual but her flippancy and willingness to think her mind are what makes her unique – and believable. I wouldn’t want her to be ‘normal’ and boring – in fact, people aren’t when we get to know them properly as some of the characters prove over time.

The settings from Cardiff to the rural areas of South Wales are all vividly evoked, and through Fiona’s senses, so, we also discover more about her in the words she uses. Having lived in Wales – North Wales – there were descriptions that stirred memories – for instance:

“The valley narrows as it climbs. Pasture and snippets of woodland on the valley floor. Green fields pasted as high up the mountainsides as technology and climate can take them. The flanks of the hillside are grizzled with the rust-brown of bracken, humped with gorse and hawthorn, slashed with the rocky-white of mountain streams.”

Anybody that has negotiated Welsh roads will recognise the ones that Fiona needs to take on her rural investigation. Throughout, the settings felt realistic as did the way that the plot unfolded. Nothing is ever neat in a Fiona Griffiths case – nor in reality.

You never know what Fiona is going to do next, so the reader needs to keep going – and believing in her and the author. Fiona keeps the tension going with her decisions and actions. I was on the edge of my seat as I read, hoping that Fiona would survive – even if I knew there were sequels. That takes good writing to bring about.

I loved the Welsh attitude, even if not all Welsh people are as forthright as Fiona in saying, “Twll dîn pob Sais.” Later in the novel, she repeats this as a thought and translates -” Every Englishman an arsehole”.

After a stimulating ride for my head, I am ready for the next book, having recommended the first two without reservation – well, if you want a cosy mystery series look elsewhere. I want more of Fiona and her different approach to policing, to life – and I want to know what is at the heart of her behaviour, to discover more about her past.

Note that this was released in 2014, so, this comment from Fiona had me wondering if Harry Bingham was going to get tweeted by the US President;

“My newfound clarity allows me to look at the pole-dancing platform too. It’s got all the class of a Las Vegas casino personally styled by Donald Trump”

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

*

UPDATE: This review had to be edited for Amazon, as it was rejected in this version. I wonder why. Where did I stray from their guidelines? I removed three paragraphs in the hope that might evade the censors – 1. the comment about Englishmen; 2 &3. The paragraphs about Trump. Was it the profanity or the reference to the Twitter Man?

 

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Angela Wren on tour: Merle

After my review of Messandrierre, yesterday, I am pleased to be promoting Angela Wren’s second book in the Jacques Forêt series, Merle.

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Angela Wren

on tour

September 4-15, 2017

Merle cover

Merle

(mystery)

Release date: July 5, 2017
at Crooked Cat Publishing

208 pages

ISBN: 978-1546811985

Website | Goodreads

SYNOPSIS

Jacques Forêt, a former gendarme turned investigator, delves into the murky world of commercial sabotage – a place where people lie and misrepresent, and where information is traded and used as a threat.
The Vaux organisation is losing contracts and money, and Jacques is asked to undertake an internal investigation. As he works through the complexity of all the evidence, he finds more than he bargained for, and his own life is threatened.
When a body of a woman is found, it appears to be suicide. But as the investigation takes another turn, Jacques suspects there is more to it.
Who is behind it all…and why? Will Jacques find the answer before another person ends up dead?

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Merle Angela Wren

Angela Wren
I’m an actor and director at a small theatre
a few miles from where I live in Yorkshire in the UK.
I did work as a project and business change manager
– very pressured and very demanding –
but I managed to escape and now I write books.
I’ve always loved stories and story telling
so it seemed a natural progression, to me, to try my hand at writing.
My first published story was in an anthology,
which was put together by the magazine ‘Ireland’s Own’ and published in 2011.
I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work.
My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical.
I also write comic flash-fiction
and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio.
My full-length stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year.

Visit her website and her blog. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter

 

Buy the book on Amazon

***

GIVEAWAY

Enter here

Visit each blogger on the tour:
tweeting about the giveaway everyday
of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time!
[just follow the directions on the entry-form]

Global giveaway open to all
5 winners

***

CLICK ON THE BANNER TO READ REVIEWS,
EXCERPTS, AND INTERVIEW

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Oats, Hay and Rest

 

 

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Bookmark design by Jonathan Temples. Photo by Nick Perry.

 

I’m back home at Writing Wings for this final hitching post on ‘The Spiral of Hooves Blog Tour’. After a journey that has taken me to France, the USA, England, and Canada, the mare that I borrowed from Carly Tanner is ready for her oats and hay, while I bring this celebration of my novel’s August launch to a fitting close.

First, I must thank my fellow writers and bloggers who did so much to help me – Ailsa Abraham, Donna Galanti, Jane Bwye, Kristina Stanley and Cryssa Bazos – you are all amazing, as are those people that have given their support in other ways from sharing their knowledge at events to sharing their reactions to my novel.

There are still chances to win one of the signed copies of Spiral of Hooves that I am offering prospective readers. Giveaways are running at the following blog hitching posts where more is revealed about the book and about me. There is nothing to stop you entering at each site:

https://ailsaabraham.com/2017/08/05/the-spiral-of-hooves-tour/  (CLOSED – Winner: Sue Barnard)

http://www.elementtrilogy.com/the-spiral-of-hooves-blog-tour-signed-book-giveaway/  (CLOSED – Winner: Laura Thomas)

https://jbwye.com/2017/08/08/the-hitching-post/  (CLOSED – Winner: Jane Bwye)

https://kristinastanley.com/2017/08/08/new-release-spiral-of-hooves-by-roland-clarke/  (CLOSED – Winner: Kate Collier)

https://cryssabazos.com/2017/08/11/from-ostler-to-eventer-guest-post-by-roland-clarke-giveaway/  (CLOSED – Winner: Char Newcomb)

The last ‘hitching post’ is this one, so make a comment below, and you will be entered in the Writing Wings draw for Spiral of Hooves. This giveaway runs until August 31st to give you all more time.

But as they say in those TV promo ads – ‘that’s not all’. There is also a giveaway on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35838755-spiral-of-hooves and that runs until September 7th.

There is a bonus as every signed book has a bookmark in it. Do you think I should give away a signed bookmark to all you ‘hitching post’ responders? Let me know while I’m feeling generous.

Just in case you are new to this blog, here are the refined details about Spiral of Hooves, without the legal small print – there isn’t any that I recall.

BLURB:

In Canada, researcher Armand Sabatier witnesses what could be the murder of groom Odette Fedon, but traumatic images from his past smother his memory, and a snowstorm buries the evidence. Harassed by nightmares but fighting through them, Armand remembers the crime a few months later. By then he is in England, where he is dragged into a plot involving international sport horse breeding.

Suspecting everyone around him, Armand is forced to brave the past that he has kept buried. But what made Armand leave France? Where did he learn to survive and fight for justice? Why is the English rider Carly Tanner treading the same path as the first victim, Odette?

Can he save Carly before he has more blood on his hands?

What is Spiral of Hooves in brief?

An enthralling mystery full of twists, turns, and suspense, Spiral of Hooves is set against the competitive equestrian world of eventing. Characters are thrown together from different countries by their ambitions, ideals and desires, and by their passion for horses. Relationships are tested, and challenges surmounted as the mystery builds.

A thriller set in the high-stress, competitive environment of the horse riding life. Clarke mixes the excitement of the equestrian community with murder, romance, and friendships that are not what they seem. Clarke’s prose evokes vivid imagery, and the plot keeps you guessing. A thoroughly enjoyable read.” Kristina Stanley, Best-selling Author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series

Spiral of Hooves is available from Amazon on Kindle and for the first time in paperback https://bookgoodies.com/a/B073W3CLDV

Although nobody in the novel resembles anyone in my working career, I have interviewed five of the characters here at Writing Wings if you want to meet them at https://rolandclarke.com/spiral-of-hooves/. I suspect that my devious mind wanted to challenge you when I chatted with them

Don’t forget to please make a comment below if you would like to be entered in the Giveaway for a signed copy of the Second Edition of Spiral of Hooves.

Let me know what you think about signed bookmarks.  

Are my characters as devious as me?

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Bookmark design by Jonathan Temples. Photo by Nick Perry.

Launch Minus and Counting

Equestrian thrills return on August 7th with the re-release of my first mystery set in the horse world. (Yes, there is a second in the pile of drafts.)

First published in December 2013 but out of print since I left the publisher, “Spiral of Hooves” returns in a new edition revised to address readers’ comments. For instance, one of the sub-plots was out of character so I have removed it.

Although this is a new edition of the eBook, this is the first paperback edition – by ‘popular demand’. I am preparing for the August 7th launch on social media and I am looking for some input and assistance beforehand and in the week of the launch.

  • BLURB: In Canada, researcher Armand Sabatier witnesses what could be the murder of groom Odette Fedon, but traumatic images from his past smother his memory, and a snowstorm buries the evidence. Harassed by nightmares but fighting through them, Armand remembers the crime a few months later. By then he is in England, where he is dragged into a plot involving international sport horse breeding.

  Suspecting everyone around him, Armand is forced to brave the past that he has kept buried. But what made Armand leave France? Where did he learn to survive and fight for justice? Why is the English rider Carly Tanner treading the same path as the first victim, Odette?

  Can he save Carly before he has more blood on his hands?

  • Genre – Mystery-thriller
  • Tone of the book – serious but not gory
  • Target audience – young adult upwards interested in horses and mysteries

RolandEbookMax

I plan to write an ‘interview with ‘the author’ that re-lives my past before the stable door closes and I forget all the events that lead to me writing “Spiral of Hooves”. If you have any suggestions as to crucial questions I should ask myself, please ask them in the comments.

During the launch week, I would welcome other bloggers running the interview along with some blurb on the book and the cover image (as above). I can supply the post material beforehand if you let me know, either below or by sending an email via the Contact Me form.

If you would like to read an ARC [advance review copy] of the novel, I can supply one in exchange for an unbiased review. The more reviews that appear around the launch the wider the impact.

If you are on Goodreads, the Want to Read shelf is also important, so please add “Spiral of Hooves” to your shelf.

On August 7th, I will be on Goodreads to answer questions at https://www.goodreads.com/author/6828334.Roland_Clarke/questions and any asked in advance.

I will also be at https://www.facebook.com/roland.clarke.79 where I am hosting a Launch Party. If anyone is willing to co-host that event, then I would be grateful for a stand-in while I take a break on what will be a busy day.

Do you have any further suggestions that could make this a successful launch on August 7th?

 In The Midst Of Life -a review

When I devised my point system, I wasn’t expecting a book to slip to the third star position. But I hope my review justifies this score.

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In The Midst Of Life (D.I. Angel Mystery #1)

by Roger Silverwood

Twenty years ago, a nurse in a hospital for the criminally insane was brutally and savagely murdered by a patient.

It later turned out that the patient had had his medication withheld by another nurse, who had been stealing and selling drugs for her own gain – and her subsequent disappearance triggers the beginning of a gruesome trail of enquiries.

Then the disgraced nurse’s sister arrives in Inspector Michael Angel’s office with news of a murder, and fears for her own safety.

With some mysterious clues – a dead woman wearing one stocking inside out, an American class ring, and two dead cats – and a lot of clever humour, Inspector Angel scrambles to find the killer in south Yorkshire.

Despite obstruction from the Chief Constable, the doggedly determined and charismatic Inspector Angel stubbornly ferrets out the suspects.

By relying on his eternally willing right hand man, and resorting to an unusual strategy, he manages to narrow the long list of suspects down.

But are his suspicions right?

And can he stop the killer before anyone else is cut down In the Midst of Life…?

‘In the Midst of Life’ is the first novel in the DI Michael Angel series.

*

The blurb for “In The Midst of Life” intrigued me, and the opening chapter hooked me. But as I read more this novel proved a disappointment. Maybe it was because I had just read three excellent crime novels.

Or maybe it was Inspector Angel. I found him irritating, although some readers have called him a strong character. I disliked his attitude towards his colleagues, which was more than racist in places. Maybe he is based on real cops, but I hope he’s in the minority.

I felt uneasy about his approach to solving crimes, not least the way that he reacted to some video evidence. He also seemed to be more concerned about petrol station robbers than the murder. Or was that the writer? Was there a subtle clue here that I missed?

The plot had me guessing until the resolution, but too much was revealed at once, and it didn’t read right. This wasn’t an Agatha Christie reveal that has this captivated reader flicking back for clues. I felt cheated when Angel revealed things that were never set up earlier.

I came away wondering if that was his main reason for not worrying about the murder. Or was that because the victim was a woman? But then Angel’s not a misogynist just a stereotype. And what’s with a police force with no women?

However, Roger Silverwood still needs some credit for not only writing one book and getting it published, but also a whole series. That takes something. Shame the plot fell short.

*

So did I learn anything from reading “In The Midst Of Life”? Well, I realised that I must avoid putting off readers with my protagonist’s attitude. Researching the modern police force is essential, so I’m glad to be in touch with two North Wales police officers – one of them female. Finally, the plot resolution must tie into previous events, even if there are red herrings and hidden clues.

 

 

 

 

Bad Moon Rising – a review

I’ve been sticking with the crime fiction for my reading, although my next review is of a darker offering. But I was engrossed once again, not least because the forensics in this was so well researched and described.

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Bad Moon Rising (D.I. Paolo Storey #1)

by Frances di Plino (Goodreads Author)

*** SEMI-FINALIST in the KINDLE BOOK REVIEW 2012 competition ***
*** FINALIST for THE PEOPLE’S BOOK PRIZE 2014***

One more soul is safe.

Brought up believing sex is the devil’s work, a killer only finds release once he has saved his victims’ souls. Abiding by his vision, he marks them as his. A gift to guide his chosen ones on the rightful path to redemption.

Detective Inspector Paolo Storey is out to stop him, but Paolo has problems of his own. Hunting down the killer as the death toll rises, the lines soon blur between Paolo’s personal and professional lives.

For anyone that likes their crime fiction dark and gritty, then I recommend “Bad Moon Rising” by Frances di Plino. The killer is believably twisted by his religious calling, and his identity is cunningly hidden from Detective Inspector Paolo Storey, his colleagues and the reader.

Frances di Plino has crafted a memorable detective, complex and tragic like some of the finest flawed characters. When I finished the novel, I wanted to know more about him and where his life was going. I must read the next book in the series.

The depth of characterisation doesn’t end with the protagonist and antagonist. Even the minor characters are well portrayed, and stand out in their own right. There is also a strong sense of the complex workings of all aspects of the police, including forensics, but told believably.

The personal interactions weave around the investigation, especially with Paolo Storey, whose own attitudes often drive the action. This takes the story to another level, where all the elements are working seamlessly to create a relentless story…a dark tale that seeps into unexpected crannies.

The twist was unusual, but that is the sign of a clever author. Find a new angle and make it work. I’m intrigued what Someday Never Comes (D.I. Paolo Storey, #2)  will add to this excellent series opener.