#blogtour ‘The Family Lie’ by @PLKane1

Thank you to HQ and P L Kane for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for Paul’s latest novel: ‘The Family Lie‘. I’m thrilled to be sharing the prologue of the novel with you today.

P L KANE is the pseudonym of a #1 bestselling and award-winning author and editor, who has had over a hundred books published in the fields of SF, YA and Horror/Dark Fantasy. In terms of crime fiction, previous books include the novels ‘Her Last Secret‘ and ‘Her Husband’s Grave‘ (a sell-out on Waterstones online and Amazon), the collection ‘Nailbiters’ and the anthology ‘Exit Wounds‘, which contains stories by the likes of Lee Child, Dean Koontz, Val McDermid and Dennis Lehane.

Kane has been a guest at many events and conventions, and has had work optioned and adapted for film and television (including by Lionsgate/NBC, for primetime US network TV). Several of Kane’s stories have been turned into short movies and Loose Cannon Films/Hydra Films recently adapted ‘Men of the Cloth’ into a feature, ‘Sacrifice‘, starring Barbara Crampton (‘You’re Next) which sold to Epic Pictures/101 Films.

Kane’s audio drama work for places such as Bafflegab and Spiteful Puppet/ITV features the acting talents of people like Tom Meeten (‘The Ghoul‘), Neve McIntosh (‘Doctor Who’ / ‘Shetland’), Alice Lowe (‘Prevenge‘) and Ian Ogilvy (‘Return of the Saint’). Visit Paul’s website for more details. 

Vic x

The Family Lie

Prologue

It was the noises outside that woke them. Woke him

Noises outside the tent they were sharing, camping in the woods, part of the region known as Green Acres. Todd had woken first, sitting bolt upright when he became aware of the sounds – of someone . . .  something out there in the undergrowth. The snapping of twigs on the ground, the swish of leaves and branches being pushed aside. He glanced across at Candice in the dimness, tucked up in the sleeping bag beside him. She was just starting to stir, though whether it was because of his movements or the ones not far away beyond the thin material surrounding them was unclear. 

‘D-Did you hear that?’ Todd asked her, trying and failing to say it without his voice cracking. 

Bleary-eyed, Candice gaped at him. ‘What time is it?’ 

Todd had no idea. Late. Middle of the night. It only felt like he’d been asleep for a few minutes, having taken ages to drop off in the first place. Candice, on the other hand, had been fast asleep as soon as her head hit the inflatable pillow. And, in lieu of any kind of proper rest, he’d simply watched her by the light of the small battery-powered lamp before he’d had to turn it off, as she breathed in and out softly. That beautiful face, skin the colour of caramel, jet-black hair that hung in ringlets, Todd reckoned he was pretty much the luckiest man alive. And not for the first time he wondered just how he’d managed to end up with her. 

They’d met at uni, both studying psychology – a class taught by one Dr Robyn Adams, who worked with the police on certain cases so was a bit of a celebrity on campus. They’d been best friends first, then it had developed into something more. And when they’d finished their course, he’d suggested this holiday because who knew where they’d end up in the future. Something cheap, because they were skint, and he knew Candice loved the outdoors. They could go on walks in the daytime, cook on an open fire and eat under the stars. Didn’t get much more romantic than that.

And at night-time, snuggle up in a sleeping bag and . . . well, you know. 

Hadn’t exactly turned out the way he’d imagined though, had it? First, they’d spotted those creepy-looking folk out and about, when they’d been searching for somewhere to set up camp. Just two or three of them out for a walk in nature probably – but they’d all been wearing the same thing, those weird cream-coloured tunics and trousers. 

‘They look like they’re in a cult or something,’ Candice had joked, fan of horror movies that she was. ‘Probably doing a bit of Devil worshipping!’ But Todd hadn’t found it funny. Hadn’t found it funny at all and was glad when they’d passed by out of sight. 

Then there was getting stung by that wasp which apparently set a precedence. Everything that walked, flew or crawled in those woods seemed to have it in for Todd, it was like they knew he wasn’t used to being out here. He was also absolutely knackered, had barely slept since they got here – and not in the fun way. Todd just found it so hard to drift off with all the strange noises around him, was too much of a city boy he guessed; and this was just such a long way from it all. The sounds of nature were louder in his own skull than the hum of traffic and buzz of people he’d grown used to. More alien to him than anything, though nothing like the noises that particular night. 

‘Listen!’ he whispered to Candice. 

‘What . . . ?’ she answered, looking for her phone so she could find out the time, flicking on the light. ‘I can’t hear anything.’ 

‘There!’ said Todd, who could distinctly hear something stumbling about outside. Maybe it was those people in tunics back again?

‘It’s just the sounds of the woods, babe,’ Candice told him. The same thing she’d been saying for ages. ‘Probably a deer or something.’

‘A deer?’ He was aware he wasn’t really coming off as manly by this point, but the thought of something trampling their tent with them inside it wasn’t exactly relaxing. 

Candice couldn’t keep the grin from her face. ‘Yeah, you know. A deer. Don’t worry about it. Won’t hurt you.’

‘Doesn’t sound like a deer to me,’ he informed her. And it didn’t. It sounded bigger than that kind of animal. What if it was something else, some other kind of wild creature? 

Something more ferocious. 

As if reading his mind, Candice said, ‘Hey, did you ever see that movie with the soldiers and the werewolves? How that started, with one of those things ripping into the tent?’ She was doing this deliberately to wind him up. Candice knew he didn’t care for those kinds of films, that he had a tendency to let his imagination run riot. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.’

Might not be a werewolf – because those didn’t exist, he wasn’t that stupid – but what if it was something else? A nutter or whatever, a crazy cabin person living in the woods with a taste for human flesh? Or a witch, like in that old found footage movie people had thought was real at the time? This place definitely had a history. And hadn’t he read somewhere it was also a UFO hotspot, out in the middle of nowhere? That there had been abductions and such? Those kinds of things he did believe in, Close Encounters and all that. Spoilt for choice with the options . . .

He thought about voicing his concerns, but he was already going down in his girlfriend’s estimation he realized. God, who’d want to be with such a wuss?

Then the noises came again and this time Candice looked up. Looked worried. ‘Now that I did hear.’ 

Thank Christ for that, it was loud enough! Sounded like Godzilla and King Kong wrestling out there. ‘What should—’

‘We should probably take a look,’ she suggested. ‘At least see what we’re dealing with.’

But what if it deals with us first? thought Todd, who’d changed his mind. He was beginning to wish this was a horror flick, because then he could simply switch it off. Or be safe in the knowledge that good triumphed over evil. Usually. 

‘Really?’ he asked. 

Candice nodded and took his hand. ‘We’ll look together.’

‘O-Okay,’ he said, voice cracking again. 

His girlfriend led the way, unzipping the tent and peering out. After a few moments, she turned and said in hushed tones, ‘I can’t see anything. Can you?’

Todd joined her and his eyes searched the space in front of him. It was pitch black out there, and he had a job even making out the shapes of trees, of branches. Maybe they should flash that phone light around, or grab the lamp? Would that attract attention? Would it be worse to see than not? ‘No, I—’

He froze, squeezing her hand. The loud rustling noises were coming again, only this time he could see the source of it. Something was lit up, stumbling through the darkness: a figure. Todd’s mind went to those UFOs again, to glowing aliens. 

More alien to him than anything. 

‘Is that . . . Jesus, Todd – I think that’s a person!’ cried Candice. ‘But what’s . . . Is that a torch they’ve got or—’

No, definitely not a torch. Because the whole figure was shining with the kind of brightness not even the strongest torch would give off. And the light was coming from everywhere at once. 

That was when he smelled it, the unmistakably sweet aroma of cooking flesh – similar to the smell of the meat they’d been cooking themselves on campfires. That they’d cooked earlier on the one outside, before making sure it was totally out. It was also then Todd realized what the figure reminded him of. Not an alien at all, but a certain figure that was thrown onto the bonfire every fifth of November in this country. 

Because the shape, stumbling through the undergrowth and making all that noise – looking for all the world like some kind of stuntman – was, from head to toe, on fire. Ablaze, covered totally in flames. How it was still moving was a mystery to Todd, but moving it was. Crashing on and on towards them, the noise of crackling and popping accompanying the other sounds now. 

Then all of those noises, the ones that had woken them – woken him, Todd – were drowned out by something. The sound of screaming, high-pitched and blood-curdling. 

The sounds of someone who’d finally realized, who understood now that they were being roasted alive. 

Or, more accurately, were burning to death. 

#BlogTour ‘The Idea of You’ by @robinnelee @PenguinUKBooks

To the media, Hayes Campbell is the enigmatic front-man of a record-breaking boyband.

To his fans, he’s the man of their dreams.

To Solène Marchand, he’s just the pretty face that’s plastered over her teenage daughter’s bedroom wall.

Until a chance meeting throws them together . . .

The attraction is instant. The chemistry is electric. The affair is Solène’s secret.

But how long can it stay that way?

OK, how am I going to review this book? Well, I’m going to tell you that this book had such an impact on me that I read it in under 48 hours. I’m married, have a toddler and have plenty of things to keep me busy but, much like Solène Marchand, I willingly let a lot of it fall by the wayside so I could fall into ‘The Idea of You‘.

Prior to reading ‘The Idea of You‘, I’d seen the hype and had friends rave about it and the proof that came through my door exclaimed ‘This will keep you up all night!’. Immediately, I was put off – it couldn’t possibly live up to the hype, could it?

For me, ‘The Idea of You‘ far surpassed my expectations although I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into.

A young lad, only seven years older than Solène’s daughter, takes a shine to the almost forty year old when they meet backstage at a gig. There were times when I felt uncomfortable with Hayes’s proximity in age to Solènes daughter and some of the comments that were made. However, much like the protagonist herself, I kept returning to his thrall.

In addition to the age difference, there’s also the added complications of a teenage daughter, an ex-husband, millions of adoring fans and the tabloid media. Oh, and social media too. This novel is bang up-to-date with plenty to keep you turning the pages.

In terms of a read that will captivate women of many ages and fulfil a long-held desire that your favourite celebrity might not only look your way but be interested in what he sees, ‘The Idea of You‘ is perfect. There are trips all over the world, yachts, beyond five star hotels, designer clothes as well as deep desire and beautiful people. In addition to the surface stuff, though, there’s something more… there’s a discussion around feminism and sexism as well as the nature of celebrity and the impact it has.

When I wasn’t reading ‘The Idea of You‘, I found myself grinning as though I was Solène! I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I doubt I’ll be able to stop thinking about it any time soon. I’ve been in touch with lots of my female friends to discuss it with those of us who’d read it – and to tell the ones who hadn’t read it yet to rectify that immediately.

The Idea of You‘ is the perfect holiday read. It’s hot, it’s sultry, it’s sexy. There were moments when I was completely caught up in the breathless excitement of what was going on.

Do yourself a favour and read ‘The Idea of You‘. Thank me later 😉

Vic x

PS – I predict a spike in childbirths in the next nine months…

#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: ‘Safe at Home’ by @Lauren_C_North


Anna James is an anxious mother. So when she has to leave eleven-year-old Harrie home alone one evening, she can't stop worrying about her daughter. But nothing bad ever happens in the sleepy village of Barton St Martin.

Except something goes wrong that night, and Anna returns to find Harrie with bruises she won't explain. The next morning a local businessman is reported missing and the village is sparking with gossip. Harrie is not the girl that was left behind that night, overnight she's turned into an argumentative, troubled girl who refuses to talk to her mum.

Anna is convinced there's a connection and that Harrie is in trouble. But how can she protect her daughter if she doesn't know where the danger is coming from?

In addition to an out-of-character daughter, Anna is also struggling with an MIA husband and two other children as well as money worries. The fact that Anna and her family have had to flee London to escape their financial woes leaves Anna as "the new mum in town".

Lauren North has outdone herself with this intriguing thriller. I completely identified with anxious Anna and sympathised with the situation she found herself in. I thought the inclusion of WhatsApp group chats was a clever device put to good use to suggest that Anna may not be a completely reliable narrator.

The interactions between residents and village-life in general is well-described and adds a lot to the story.

By scattering breadcrumbs of doubt, North leads the reader to the same conclusions as her protagonist. The denouement is pitch perfect. A brilliant read.

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