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.

Merle banner (2)

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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Messandrierre – a review

July 5th saw the launch of Angela Wren’s Merle, the second novel in the Jacques Forêt crime series, about which I will post about next.  So, I knew that I needed to re-visit Messandrierre where I first encountered Angela Wren’s intelligent investigator, Jacques Forêt. This release of Merle is a chance to expand on my initial review of Messandrierre.

Messandrierre

Messandrierre (Jacques Forêt #1)

by Angela Wren (Goodreads Author)

Sacrificing his job in investigation following an incident in Paris, Jacques Forêt has only a matter of weeks to solve a series of mysterious disappearances as a Gendarme in the rural French village of Messandrierre.

But, as the number of missing persons rises, his difficult and hectoring boss puts obstacles in his way. Steely and determined, Jacques won’t give up and, when a new Investigating Magistrate is appointed, he becomes the go-to local policeman for all the work on the case.

Will he find the perpetrators before his lover, Beth, becomes a victim?

Messandrierre – #1 in a new crime series featuring investigator, Jacques Forêt.

Also in the series:
Merle (#2)

Review 5 stars

I enjoyed every page of this mystery, so read the novel twice. The pace suited the setting that felt as real as the memorable characters. Messandrierre may not exist – or maybe it does. The Cevennes is my favourite region in France, and Angela Wren captures the nuances perfectly. The location came alive so much that I was convinced that I had been there.

The people felt real, from the principals of Jacques and Beth to all the secondary characters that made up the vibrant picture of a French community, and the wider area beyond. Each one had their idiosyncrasies, and some had secrets that added clever threads and red herrings to the mystery.

The plot developed steadily with the additional plotlines adding to the investigation. Jacques is not exactly alone in unravelling who is responsible for the disappearances that set the case simmering.

Messandrierre neatly built to a climax, that I guessed but not in the manner it happened. I was tricked into a bit of wrong thinking a few times – on the first reading. On the second, I saw how Wren had created her cunning red herrings – or should I say harengs rouges.

This novel is a mystery that I highly recommend for those that don’t need a fast-roller-coaster ride and want to savour the story. I also recommend Messandrierre for those that like indulging in exploring the France off the beaten track – but don’t expect a tame tourist guide.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

 

#IWSG – Surprising Myself

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

I’m tackling my monthly post for Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day in two parts, not because I have two answers but because I have two different thoughts churning through my scrambled head. On then to this month’s optional question and Part I:

September 6th Question: Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing?

(For example, by trying a new genre you didn’t think you’d be comfortable in?)

If I look at my teens and early tweens, SF was the genre I escaped into in my creative life while all things ‘country/rural’ were my journalistic fare. An equestrian mystery when I retired seemed a natural progression, although a few decades late. So, no surprise there then, nor when a small press published it after my writing group was positive about the drafts of Spiral of Hooves.

However, I was surprised when the horse world ignored the novel despite my career as an equestrian journalist and event organiser. Better luck the second time around?

On the genre side, I surprised myself by attempting children’s stories – that came to nothing, so far. Plus, I just found some old poems and those surprised me. I’m still reverting to mysteries for now.

*

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting:  The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

The awesome co-hosts for the August 2 posting of the IWSG are Tyrean Martinson, Tara Tyler, Raimey Gallant, and Beverly Stowe McClure.

 

joker_quote_written_in_blood_by_meho41-d5zeey2

Joker quote written in blood by meho41 on DeviantArt meho41.deviantart.com

 

Part II – Written in Blood

Having multiple sclerosis creates challenges every day and I have been pushed to create new daily regimes, adapting to my initial surprise when diagnosed in 2000. I was learning to live with my MS symptoms, and although they can be excruciating plus debilitating, I knew other suffer worse illnesses. MS is not a death sentence. Life expectancy is normal or close to normal for most people with MS, although it is a chronic illness.

Then, on 23rd August, my doctor told me that I had some sort of blood cancer. I’m remaining positive – except when my computer glitches – as the series of blood tests since the Spring indicate its slow-growing and the oncologist will tell me more on September 18th.

However, I decided it was time for a bucket list – as long as nobody suggests skydiving; the wheelchair can do that solo. Among the list of things I must do, like going to Canada, exploring all of Idaho, arranging a Steve Hackett concert in Boise, and maxing three MMORPG avatars, is the crucial Writing Legacy.

In short, I need to get my 9+ WIPs in order, of course aiming to publish them all = another 13 years, if not 117 by the rate releasing Spiral of Hooves.

The Writer’s Cut

Roland_PBookV1

You are invited to the launch of my equestrian mystery Spiral of Hooves: The Writer’s Cut aka The Second Edition on August 7th, 2017, which is incidentally my 64th birthday.

Join me on Facebook or Goodreads as I discuss how the novel came about, my horse world, being an MS warrior, and my future from motorbikes and longboats to spacecraft and airships. I will answer any question posed…within my ability to do so. Of course, there will be prizes from signed copies to other goodies.

The party begins at 9 am. MDT (1600 BST; 1100 EDT; 0800 PST) on Facebook – see HERE for details and invite. (Facebook says in Boise but the party is online so come as you are.) I will also drop in and out of Goodreads to chat and answer questions – HERE – whenever I can slip off Facebook. I am running Giveaways for signed paperback copies of “Spiral of Hooves” – one copy on Facebook, one on Goodreads, and one on each Blog running my ‘interview-promo’ post.

If any authors are willing to join the Facebook party it would let me sit back and chill for an hour – or visit Goodreads – while you entertain the fans and promote yourself. Just ask for a slot and I can add you to the schedule.

ARC copies are still available to read in PDF format, and there is still time to review Spiral of Hooves before the release on August 7th.

I can also supply blog copy to anyone willing to post about the novel and my world. Each blog will be invited to run a Giveaway for a signed paperback copy.

The following links should also direct you to specific Amazon sites:
https://www.createspace.com/3893100
http://www.amazon.com/dp/1548508411
http://www.amazon.ca/dp/1548508411
http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1548508411
http://www.amazon.de/dp/1548508411
http://www.amazon.es/dp/1548508411
http://www.amazon.fr/dp/[1548508411
http://www.amazon.it/dp/[1548508411
…………………

  • 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

I hope to see you at The Writer’s Cut Party.

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Lina Jardero ~ Scientist & Adviser?

English: Rancocas ( Helis Stock ) Farm is an A...

English: Rancocas ( Helis Stock ) Farm is an American thoroughbred horse racing stud farm and racing stable located on Monmouth Road (County Road 537) in Springfield Township, Burlington County, New Jersey, Jobstown, New Jersey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Having finally interviewed Gilles Boissard, I feel that is time to talk to his friend, Lina Jardero, who he described as “our nutritionist” and said “I can rely on her advice”. Hopefully she can reveal more about her major role in ‘Spiral of Hooves’, and what she knows as the tale opens.

Before you met Gilles Boissard, what were your hopes for the future? What changed that?

My life wasn’t going anywhere meaningful. Studying Animal Biology at McGill University and meeting Gilles was the chance to apply myself. I believed in his dreams and could apply mis talentos to make them real.

Your abilities – talents. So what kind of talents? How did they help Gilles?

Sólo mi educación. He needed my knowledge to improve the breeding of the horses. Without me, his father, Roman would have destroyed Du Noroît, our Canadian stud. Caramba, that man is a menace.

What are you willing to do to stop him?

[Lina laughs] No estoy loco. I have my science. The horses are healthier since my regime was implemented. He’s the crazy one. Ask him what he will do to stop us.

But what crime might you commit if the need arose?

I know what being a victim is like. So I don’t feel I can discuss that. Change the subject.

My apologies. It’s hard not to pry. So can I ask, who is your favourite author?

In my teens I discovered ‘The Mixquiahuala Letters’ by Ana Castillo, which rang very true as a young woman struggling with discrimination. Now if I read it seems to be all scientific papers. Just don’t tell Loup that I used to read literature, he’s such a bookworm that he might misunderstand me.

Cover of "The Mixquiahuala Letters"

Cover of The Mixquiahuala Letters

By Loup you mean Armand Sabatier, who you live with. Is he your partner?

[Lina laughs] He’s sweet but just a friend. I sometimes wish he wasn’t so like shy. That idiota, Roman calls him shifty but I know Loup means well. Perhaps he can be odd and evasive sometimes. So?

But you would trust him in a difficult situation?  

Naturalmente, although I am unsure how useful he would be. That was why he gave me my dog for protection. If you want my choice of hero, it would be Gilles. Maybe with Loup as his sidekick.

Your raven hair and stunning looks – apologies – tell me that you are Latina. Does that influence your personality as well?

Apology accepted. But if you are suggesting that I’ve a fiery temperamento, you’re wrong. And work comes before pleasure. Next question.

Who then is your favorite superhero?

Wonderwoman, as I always wanted to be her. But my origin is not so interesante.

What was your life like growing up? You mentioned discrimination.

It was hard, being a Latina – an outsider. Even among my own I felt different. So I left home and made my own life. No fue fácil – it wasn’t easy. Until I met Gilles… and Loup.

Did your parents understand? Did they support you?

Only mi madre shared my pain. After I left home, it was her that needed the support, when I could send her anything. But I can no longer help my family. I’ve been forced to move on.

So this is now your family, here in Canada? Is this what Gilles called “the team”?

Si, mis amigos. Gilles and Armand, and our head groom, Odette Fedon. They are now mi familia.

A strong unit then. So you don’t fall out with each other?

Like all friends, si. We argue, shout and get upset. But it never lasts. Friends forever. Or is that tempting destino?

Probably, so what do you think is going to happen next?

We’ve been discussing that. Gilles wants to move to the new stud in England, Fenburgh. It’s the one he found with Odette.  I fear that Roman will try to stop us.

How can he do that? Gilles suggested murder, but does he hate anyone that much?

We could give you a list. But I fear most for Odette. She has crossed Roman many times. But I hope I’m wrong. She is very special, and a crucial member of the team.

Muchas gracias, Senorita Jardero. I am grateful for your time. It has been fascinating to talk with you and…

“Tabernac, who gave you permission to interview her?”

“Your son and that’s good enough for me. If you want to be interviewed Monsieur Roman Boissard, I can make an appointment for next week…”

“I make the appointments here, not some insignificant writer. And definitely not my useless boy. Jardero, back to work at once. Haven’t you got something better to do, Clarke?”

blood in the snow

blood in the snow (Photo credit: Anosmia)

Other ‘Spiral of Hooves’ interviews:

Carly Tanner ~ Leading Lady & Athlete

Gilles Boissard – heroic playboy?