#BlogTour ‘The Counterfeit Candidate’ by Brian Klein

Berlin, 30th April, 1945 

As the Russian Army closes in on the war-torn City, Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun take their own lives. Their bodies are burned and buried in the Reich Chancellery garden, above the Führer’s bunker. 

Buenos Aires, 9th January, 2012 

Three audacious thieves carry out the biggest safe depository heist in Argentine history, escaping with more than one hundred million dollars’ worth of valuables. Within hours, an encrypted phone call to America triggers a blood-soaked manhunt as the thieves are tracked down, systematically tortured, then murdered. 

San Francisco, 18th January, 2012 

Senator John Franklin, hailed as the ‘Great Unifier’, secures the Republican Presidential nomination and seems destined for the Oval Office. Despite the sixty-seven year interval and a span of thirteen thousand miles, these events are indelibly linked. 

Chief Inspector Nicolas Vargas of the Buenos Aires Police Department and Lieutenant Troy Hembury of the LAPD are sucked into a dark political conspiracy concealing an incredible historical truth stretching from the infamous Berlin bunker to Buenos Aires and to Washington, which threatens the very heart and soul of American democracy.

It’s a delight to be able to share with you an excerpt of ‘The Counterfeit Candidate‘ by Brian Klein today. I’m sure the extract will leave you wanting more. If so, ‘The Counterfeit Candidate‘ is available now.

My thanks to the author and Midas PR for my advanced review copy.

Vic x

According to accepted twentieth century history, on 30th April 1945, Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun said their final goodbyes to a small group of close friends and colleagues who were gathered in a sitting room, deep inside the underground bunker in Berlin. The pair retired to the Führer’s personal study where, a few hours later, they took their own lives. Braun bit down on a wafer-thin glass cyanide ampoule and Hitler shot himself in the right temple, using his own Walther PPK pistol. The bodies were then carried above ground, via the bunker’s emergency exit, and buried in the Reich Chancellery Gardens, after being doused in petrol and set alight.

Thirty-six hours earlier, the couple had married in a simple ceremony, where they declared they were of pure Aryan descent and free of hereditary disease. The only witnesses were the Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, Party Secretary, Martin Bormann and the Führer’s personal valet, Heinz Linge. The ceremony was followed by a modest lunch of spaghetti in tomato sauce, one of the Führer’s favourite meals, prepared by his personal chef, Constanze Manziarly.

Hitler was dressed in full Nazi uniform and Braun wore a calf-length black dress, broken up by a print of small white roses around the neckline. The Führer then dictated his last will and testament in which he declared he chose “death over capitulation” and left his vast personal fortune to the Nazi Party.

Three months after the Nazi regime declared unconditional surrender, the victorious political leaders met in the German city of Potsdam, just outside Berlin, for a post-war conference to discuss the new order in Europe. On 17th July 1945, Stalin and Truman sat down for an intimate lunch in one of the small banqueting suites inside the spectacular Cecilienhof Palace.

The only people present were their respective Foreign Secretaries, Molotov and Byrnes, who acted as translators. Truman was astonished when Stalin disclosed that rumours of the discovery of Hitler and Braun’s bodies were fabricated and that a painstaking search, by his Red Army soldiers of the Reich Chancellery grounds, had failed to discover any sign of the Führer’s remains. Stalin was convinced Hitler had escaped his clutches.

Review: ‘Such A Quiet Place’ by Megan Miranda

Welcome to Hollow's Edge - a picture-perfect neighbourhood where everyone has each other's backs. At least, that's how it used to be, until the night Brandon and Fiona Truett were found dead...

Two years ago, branded a grifter, thief and sociopath by her friends and neighbours, Ruby Fletcher was convicted of murdering the Truetts. Now, freed by mistrial, Ruby has returned to Hollow's Edge. But why would she come back? No one wants her there, least of all her old housemate, Harper Nash. 

As Ruby's return sends shockwaves through the community, terrified residents turn on each other, and it soon becomes clear that not everyone was honest about the night the Truetts died. When Harper begins to receive threatening, anonymous notes, she realizes she has to uncover the truth before someone else gets hurt... Someone like her.

'Such a Quiet Place' is a really great read. I found Miranda's description of Hollow's Edge and its surroundings very vivid, reminiscent of Stepford or Wisteria Lane. Although the idea of the perfect neighbourhood hiding some dark secrets may not be new but Megan Miranda has certainly found a new spin to put on it. The way the story - told from Harper's point of view - is interspersed with copies of the private neighbourhood message board is a cool technique to show readers other viewpoints.  

The characters felt utterly believable and I really enjoyed trying to guess whether Ruby really was to blame for the Truetts' deaths or if someone else was at fault. 

On the face of it, 'Such a Quiet Place' works well as a thriller but it's also, on a deeper level, a study into human nature and how people cope in adverse situations and what they're willing to do to keep their secrets safe.

Vic x

Review: ‘The Stranding’ by Kate Sawyer

Ruth, a teacher, lives in London. She works, she drinks, she falls in love. Her life isn’t simple or straightforward and the news around her, which she eschews, is increasingly bleak.

As her relationship disintegrates, Ruth decides to leave everything behind to travel to the other side of the world, hoping to work with whales in New Zealand. On arrival, however, the news that Ruth has been ignoring has now become inescapable. Away from all she knows and with no hope of survival, Ruth climbs into the mouth of a beached whale with a stranger.

When they emerge, life – and the world – has changed forever.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy for review.

The Stranding‘ isn’t the kind of book I would usually pick up but something about it intrigued me and I was hooked from page one.

Told through dual timelines, we see Ruth trying to create a new life following a catastrophic global event – and the life experiences that brought her to this point. ‘The Stranding’ is beautifully written and is a meditation on family, femininity and reinvention.

I really liked that, although this huge world-altering event happened, Sawyer never delves too deeply into it, simply choosing to allude to certain possibilities. Another great thing about this novel is that it doesn’t stray too far from its focal point: the characters.

Kate Sawyer has created believable, nuanced characters who engage the reader and stay with you beyond the span of the book. I spent the time I wasn’t reading this book thinking about it. I suspect I will spend the rest of my life thinking about parts of this incredible novel. The scene in the airport between Ruth and her parents will stay with me forever.

Overall, ‘The Stranding‘, although terrifying at times, is hopeful and optimistic, championing the triumph of the human spirit against all odds.

Vic x

Review: ‘When They Find Her’ by @liamiddlet0n

Naomi had always wanted to be a mum. But three years ago, her husband left, taking their daughter with him.

Now, her daughter has come to stay, and Naomi knows it's her chance to re-build her family.

But the night ends in a terrible accident. And Naomi has no memory of what happened.

Panicking, desperate, Naomi finds herself telling a lie: 'My daughter is missing.'

From the outset, 'When They Find Her' had me gripped. 

This confidently-written debut grabbed me with its utterly unthinkable opening and kept me emotionally invested until the final page. 

Lia Middleton's writing is so visceral that, at first, I wasn't sure I could continue to read this book as it felt too uncomfortably close to home for me (as someone with a young child). However, I couldn't leave it alone - I HAD to know how it would end. I was completely swept up in Naomi's nightmare and her split second choice with catastrophic consequences. 

'When They Find Her' is perfectly-plotted and intelligently written on a subject which continues to remain taboo: mental health, more specifically the mental health of new mothers. This novel is dark and, at times, uncomfortable to read - this is not, however, a criticism but a testament to Middleton's skill as a writer. She captures the terror of being a new mum and puts it to chilling use. I absolutely identified with Naomi and her fears - and how those fears affected her family. 

An absolutely stellar debut.

Vic x

Review: ‘The Last Thing He Told Me’ by Laura Dave

Before Owen Michaels disappears, he manages to smuggle a note to his new wife, Hannah: protect her. Hannah knows exactly who Owen needs her to protect - his sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. And who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.

As her increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered, his boss is arrested for fraud and the police start questioning her, Hannah realises that her husband isn't who he said he was. And that Bailey might hold the key to discovering Owen's true identity, and why he disappeared. Together they set out to discover the truth. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen's past, they soon realise that their lives will never be the same again...

My thanks
to the publishers and NetGalley for my advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

'The Last Thing He Told Me' is domestic suspense of the highest order, it's intense, quick-paced, thoughtful and moving. I was unable to put it down. I'm not surprised it was a Reese Witherspoon book club pick or that it's going to be produced for TV by the makers of 'Big Little Lies'.

Unlike many other thrillers out there, it manages to be thrilling and comforting - a real trick to pull off. It was actually rather refreshing to read characters that were, generally speaking, decent human beings. I felt like Laura Dave was going against the grain in that respect.

The characters are beautifully imagined, making them truly memorable. Dave manages to create a believable teenager in Bailey and, in Hannah, a woman dropped well and truly in the deep end.


This novel is a meditation on the ties that bind us; trust, love and honesty - and what happens when those values are called into question. Dave's beautiful prose is yet another reason to pick up this novel.

'The Last Thing He Told Me' is a layered thriller that gives you all the feels.

Vic x

Review: ‘Founders, Freelancers & Rebels’ by Helen Jane Campbell

In this book Helen Jane Campbell interviewed inspiring, brave and creative experts across the UK and US, tapping into some incredible insights and pulling them together into this friendly guide, to offer that support which we all need from time to time.

This book’s for you if you’ve stopped feeling ‘hungry’ for new client work, you’re starting up for the first (or second or third!) time, or you’ve simply run out of steam. The author's intention is to offer a wealth of ideas and fresh perspectives to inspire you at any stage of your independent creative career.

Whether you're chasing a better quality of life, finding your calling, leaving a legacy or focused on reaching your potential, this book can help you succeed when working on your own feels like an uphill struggle. It also offers a reality check and support for anyone who has the appetite to go solo, but who is nervous about taking the plunge.

My thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for my advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. 

I really liked Helen Jane Campbell's writing style, her strong voice comes through in a friendly, chatty style so that even when she's talking about certain aspects of freelancing that some may find uncomfortable (eg finances), it feels completely natural and not at all intimidating. Starting up a business can feel like an insurmountable challenge at times but Campbell's style helps reassure the reader and make everything seem totally possible. 

Campbell covers a number of topics that could be stifling your creativity or putting you off trying to go it alone. She uses case studies alongside her own experience to give practical advice and demonstrating her credentials to be the one giving this advice.

Vic x

Review: #Nighthawking by @thevoiceofRuss

Sheffield’s beautiful Botanical Gardens is an oasis of peace in a world filled with sorrow, confusion and pain. And then, one morning, a body is found in the Gardens. A young woman, dead from a stab wound, buried in a quiet corner. Police quickly determine that the body’s been there for months. It would have gone undiscovered for years – but someone sneaked into the Gardens and dug it up.

Who is the victim? Who killed her and hid her body? Who dug her up? And who left a macabre marker on the body?

In his quest to find her murderer, DS Adam Tyler will find himself drawn into the secretive world of nighthawkers: treasure-hunters who operate under cover of darkness, seeking the lost and valuable . . . and willing to kill to keep what they find.

In 2020, I was introduced to DS Adam Tyler in ‘Firewatching‘ by the wonderful Russ Thomas, check out my review here. I was lucky enough to be treated to an early copy of the second in the series, ‘Nighthawking‘. Big thanks to Simon & Schuster, Jess Barratt and, of course, Russ Thomas for my advanced copy.

Some series struggle after a strong debut but, in my opinion, Russ Thomas’s writing has only improved. ‘Nighthawking‘ is intense, dark and suspenseful and an absolutely compulsive read. It’s perfectly plotted and the pace builds well as we hurtle towards the denouement.

One thing I really love about this series is that Russ Thomas blends the criminal investigation along with the personal lives of his coppers. Tyler is still enigmatic, deep, and even troubled but his softer side shines through in his encounters with Callum. Mina, Tyler’s enthusiastic DC, shows real growth in this sequel. Yes, I am still Mina’s biggest fan – she’s immense! Similarly, there are new characters in this novel that I truly cared about, Thomas has a real skill for making the reader care for the people in the story.

Nighthawking‘ also explores police powerplays and internal politics, adding yet another layer to this stunning narrative.

Thomas has carried over the fantastic characters from ‘Firewatching‘ and adds yet more compelling people, integrating them into a truly original idea and setting.

I’m already looking forward to Book #3!

Vic x

Review: ‘Blackstoke’ by Rob Parker

WEALTH. SECURITY. PROSPERITY. NONE OF IT MATTERS IN THE DARK.

In a quiet cul-de-sac on the newly-opened, much sought-after Blackstoke housing development, the first handful of families are moving in. These neighbours, thrown together for the first time, are looking forward to settling into their bright new lives—with varying degrees of enthusiasm. The estate couldn’t be nicer, but it’s a big change for everyone.

Then things start to happen. Bad things. As if something doesn’t want them there.

As the new residents try to make sense of events, the buried history of the area makes itself suddenly, deeply apparent—with a series of shocking, violent escalations.

Soon, no one is safe, as the original powers of Blackstoke return to reclaim their territory and birthright in a final night of dark revelations, gore and bloodshed.

My thanks to Rob Parker for my ARC of ‘Blackstoke‘ which is available in e-book, paperback and hardback now.

It is quite difficult for me to write a review of ‘Blackstoke‘ without giving too much away. It starts off sedately enough, introducing the reader to the residents of the cul-de-sac. In this respect, Rob Parker does an excellent job in building up strong mental images of his characters, their idiosyncrasies and backstories. The descriptions he uses about the setting and characters are strong and, at times, almost lyrical. But don’t be fooled by the niceness of this new estate and the folks moving into it.

Despite it’s gentle start, ‘Blackstoke’ is eminently readable and I found, even in those early chapters before the horror kicked in, I didn’t want to stop reading it. Parker has such a way with words – and clearly understands what drives people – I didn’t want to step away from this narrative. To be fair, even if he had written a novel where very little happened, I’d still be inclined to read it because the prose is so strong.

But – fear not – plenty happens in ‘Blackstoke‘ – more than you could ever imagine when picking this book up, in fact. I must warn you now, however, if you’re squeamish, this may not be the book for you. I liked its refusal to shy away from the really dark and vicious. This book does not leave things to the imagination, it’s graphic and horrifying but I still wanted to keep reading it.

The female characters in this book are particularly well-drawn and utterly kick-ass which I think was my favourite element of ‘Blackstoke’.

I had in my mind when beginning this book that it was going to be reminiscent of an episode of ‘The X Files’ (‘Arcadia‘; Season 6, episode 15 – also known as the “garbage monster”) and, although it has similarities, there is another episode of ‘The X Files’ that ‘Blackstoke‘ resembles far more. I can’t say more than that episode is in Season 4 – I wouldn’t want to inadvertently give spoilers!

Blackstoke‘ is a real departure from the thrillers you’ll be used to reading from Rob Parker but it’s a compelling trip into horror that is impossible to put down.

Vic x

Review: ‘Lie Beside Me’ by Gytha Lodge

You wake up.
You can’t remember what happened.
The man lying next to you is not your husband.
And he’s not breathing . . .

Louise wakes up. Her head aches, her mouth is dry, her memory is fuzzy. But she suspects she’s done something bad.

She rolls over towards her husband, Niall.

But it’s not Niall who’s lying beside her. In fact, she’s never seen this man before.

And he’s dead . . .

As Louise desperately struggles to piece her memories back together, Detective Jonah Sheens and his team mark her as their prime suspect.

But she’s not the only one with something to hide . . .

Did she do it?

And, if not, can they catch the real killer before they strike again?

My thanks to NetGalley, Gytha Lodge and Penguin for the ARC of this novel.

This, the third in the Jonah Sheens series, is proof that Gytha Lodge is becoming stronger with each novel she writes. The hook for ‘Lie Beside Me‘ is brilliant, the opening pulls the reader in and refuses to let you go.

Louise has an alter ego: Drunk Louise. Louise sometimes loses hours, sometimes she wakes up with a stinking hangover but never before has she woken up beside a dead man.

Gytha Lodge has created a complex plot which will compel you to continue reading long after you should have put the light out. She builds up a number of potential suspects, giving them all motive. Lodge is adept at leading you down one path only to switch directions. The unraveling of the investigation demonstrates the intricate plotting that must have been done.

The pace is fast and the prose is sharp. I really liked the way the investigation chapters are interspersed with a excerpts of a letter written by Louise to her husband – it demonstrates to the reader how discombobulated Louise is by the events that unfolded when her alter ego, Drunk Louise, was in control. I thought it was a clever device to demonstrate that Louise knew she was an unreliable narrator.

The themes in ‘Lie Beside Me‘ include coercive control and alcohol addiction which are not easy subjects to portray empathetically but Gytha Lodge manages just that.

As always with this series, I was heavily invested in the lives of the investigation team as well as the subjects of their investigation. I am particularly interested in Juliette’s backstory and how that will continue to unfold in forthcoming books.

Lie Beside Me‘ is an intense, multi-faceted novel that will have you questioning everything you know.

Vic x

Review: ‘Anthrax Island’ by D.L. Marshall

FACT: In 1942, in growing desperation at the progress of the war and fearing invasion by the Nazis, the UK government approved biological weapons tests on British soil. Their aim: to perfect an anthrax weapon destined for Germany. They succeeded.

FACT: Though the attack was never launched, the testing ground, Gruinard Island, was left lethally contaminated. It became known as Anthrax Island.

Now government scientists have returned to the island. They become stranded by an equipment failure and so John Tyler is flown in to fix the problem. He quickly discovers there’s more than research going on. When one of the scientists is found impossibly murdered inside a sealed room, Tyler realises he’s trapped with a killer…

Thanks to the team at Canelo for my ARC of ‘Anthrax Island‘. It’s available as an e-book now and will be released in paperback on 6th May. To get a signed copy, order through my lovely local independent bookshop Forum Books.

This, the debut novel from D.L. Marshall, is a tense, taut, pacy thriller which weaves fact and fiction together seamlessly.

I absolutely cannot rate ‘Anthrax Island‘ highly enough. D.L. Marshall has created a whip smart character in the form of John Tyler. I love the fact that Marshall trusts his readers to understand the subtext in the novel without always having to spell out what he’s insinuating. I really enjoyed the political barbs as well as Tyler’s one-liners.

It’s clear from the first chapter that Marshall has done a large amount of research into Gruinard Island and the testing that was carried out there. Marshall uses his knowledge to add extra tension to the fact that there’s a killer prowling the place: if the murderer doesn’t catch you, the anthrax might.

Given the fact that any time one of the small – but suspicious – cast of characters ventures outdoors, they must wear protective suits, Marshall uses this to create a cloying atmosphere in his prose. The way he describes being in the suit was so deftly done that I felt I was in the suit with Tyler. I could feel the claustrophobia the characters were experiencing.

The desolate setting is evoked perfectly through detailed descriptions that really bring the place to life. But don’t think that because he’s so good at setting that this is a gentle story – ‘Anthrax Island‘ is a high velocity read that will leave you breathless. The way in which each chapter ends on a cliffhanger means that it’s almost impossible not to read on.

With cinematic action sequences and adept plotting, ‘Anthrax Island‘ is a classic locked-room mystery crossed with the greatest of action thrillers. If Lee Child and Agatha Christie co-wrote a book, ‘Anthrax Island’ would be that novel.

Vic x