Blog Tour: After the Eclipse by Fran Dorricott @franwritesstuff @TitanBooks

Release date: March 5, 2019

Publisher: Titan

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Blurb:

Two solar eclipses. Two missing girls.

Sixteen years ago a little girl was abducted during the darkness of a solar eclipse while her older sister Cassie was supposed to be watching her. She was never seen again. When a local girl goes missing just before the next big eclipse, Cassie – who has returned to her home town to care for her ailing grandmother – suspects the disappearance is connected to her sister: that whoever took Olive is still out there. But she needs to find a way to prove it, and time is running out. 

Good morning everyone! As part of the blog tour for After the Eclipse I have a fabulous guest post from the author to share about powerful places!

Guest Post:

Powerful places

 

As part of my research for After the Eclipse, which is set in a small English town cobbled from some of my favourite Derbyshire villages (and which also has a strong preoccupation with the superstitious) I spent a lot of time reading about common superstitions people hold, and how they differ around the world. For instance, did you know that many 19th century Vermont farmhouses were built with slanted windows so witches couldn’t fly in? Or that in Egypt leaving scissors open is bad luck? And sleeping with them beneath your pillow is believed to prevent nightmares? Superstitions are a part of most cultures, and they vary from place to place.

 

Solar eclipses, it seems, are viewed differently from culture to culture but the consensus is generally negative. In Bishop’s Green they have become synonymous with loss and grief. But on a lighter note: below is a fun collection of what I like to call Powerful Places located around the world. These are places you’d definitely want to see for yourself if you were nearby.

 

1. The Charles Bridge – Prague, Czech Republic

The 14th-century bridge that connects Old Town and Mala Strana is lined with statues – an impressive sight to behold. Perhaps most interestingly, a travel superstition that endures is that rubbing the plaque below the statue of the martyred St. John of Nepomuk will bring you good luck and a safe return to the city. I visited Prague a few years ago and even I wasn’t immune. I’ll think myself very lucky if I get to go back!

 

 

(photo credit: https://www.amazingczechia.com/sights/charles-bridge/)

 

2. The Blarney Stone – Cork, Ireland

Here’s one for the introverts among us. An old superstition says that if you climb the steps of Blarney Castle, lean backwards and upside down, and kiss the Blarney stone (a rock that’s been in the castle since 1446) then you will be blessed with the gift of the gab. That is, the ability to flatter and speak with eloquence – perfect for salesmen, or booksellers, might I add! It used to be that visitors would risk life and limb to kiss the stone, hanging precariously over the edge with the aid of an assistant, but now there’s a very sensible guard rail. Clearly a research trip to Ireland is in order, though I don’t fancy the upside down part…

 

3. Carnac Stones – Brittany, France

In Brittany more than 3,000 stones have stood in careful rows since as early as 4500 BCE. One popular legend has it that when the Roman army was marching on Brittany the wizard Merlin appeared and turned them to stone. Or they could simply have existed to delineate a sacred space and lead people towards an area of worship, but where’s the fun in that? As with many of these megaliths, it’s the mystery that has always intrigued me.

 

 

(Image credit: https://www.amusingplanet.com/2016/06/the-carnac-stone-alignments.html)

 

4. Hagia Sophia – Istanbul, Turkey

Christian cathedral, Ottoman mosque, and now modern museum, the Hagia Sophia is renowned for its stunning mosaics and revolutionary dome. But perhaps what intrigues me most is the legend that if you stick your thumb in a small hole in the “Weeping Column” and it emerges damp then all of your illnesses and ailments will be cured! Mhmm maybe I won’t do that.

 

5. Stonehenge – Wiltshire, England

No list on Powerful Places would be complete without it! I went here one summer and it was stunning. The size of the stones is remarkable (each one is 7 feet high and weighs 25 tons!), and you do feel a little buzz, although whether that’s just the reverent atmosphere is hard to tell. Once again some legends credit that fabled wizard Merlin with its creation, but any which way you look at it, it’s something special. The Triplet Stones in After the Eclipse have nothing on this beauty but they’re certainly inspired by it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Image credit:  https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2018/06/20/stonehenge-builders-used-pythagoras-theorem-2000-years-greek/)

Excerpt: I Invited Her In by Adele Parks

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: February 5, 2019

Publisher: MIRA

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Blurb:

Imagine the worst thing a friend could ever do.

This is worse.

When Mel receives an unexpected email from her oldest friend Abi, it brings back memories she thought she had buried forever. Their friendship belonged in the past. To those carefree days at university.

But Abi is in trouble and needs Mel’s help, and she wants a place to stay. Just for a few days, while she sorts things out. It’s the least Mel can do.

After all, friends look out for each other, don’t they?

I Invited Her In is a blistering tale of wanting what you can’t have, jealousy and revenge from Sunday Times bestseller Adele Parks.

I’m excited to be participating in the excerpt tour for I Invited Her In today! This one sounds so good, it’s definitely on my TBR.

Excerpt:

When I told Abi that I was pregnant, she was, obviously, all wide eyes and concerned. Shocked. Yes, I admit she was bubbling a bit with the drama of it all. That was not her fault—we were only nineteen and I didn’t know how to react appropriately, so how could I expect her to know? We were both a little giddy.

“How far on are you?” she asked.

“I think about two months.” I later discovered at that point I was officially ten weeks pregnant, because of the whole “calculate from the day you started your last period” thing, but that catch-all calculation never really washed with me because I knew the exact date I’d conceived.

Wednesday, the first week of the first term, my second year at university. Stupidly, I’d had unprotected sex right slap bang in the middle of my cycle. That—combined with my youth—meant that one transgression was enough. And even now, a lifetime on, I feel the need to say it wasn’t like I made a habit out of doing that sort of thing. In all my days, I’ve had irresponsible, unprotected sex precisely once.

“Then there’s still time. You could abort,” Abigail had said simply. She did not shy away from the word. We were young. The power, vulnerability and complexity of our sexuality was embryonic, but our feminist rights were forefront of our minds. My body, my choice, my right. A young, independent woman, I didn’t have to be saddled with the lifetime consequences of one night’s mistake.

There had been a girl on my course who’d had a scare in the first year. I’d been verbose about her right to choose and I’d been clear that I thought she should terminate the pregnancy, rather than her education. The girl in question had agreed; so had Abi and pretty much everyone who knew of the matter. She hadn’t been pregnant, though. So. Well, you know, talk is cheap, isn’t it?She’s the chief financial officer of one of the biggest international fast-moving consumer goods corporations now. I saw her pop up on Facebook a couple of years ago. CFO of an FMCG. I Googled the acronyms. She accepted my friend request, which was nice of her, but she rarely posts. Too busy, I suppose. Anyway, I digress.

I remember looking Abi in the eye and saying, “No. No, I can’t abort.”

“You’re going ahead with it?” Her eyes were big and unblinking.

“Yes.” It was the only thing I was certain of. I already loved the baby. It had taken me by surprise but it was a fact.

“And will you put it up for adoption or keep it?”

“I’m keeping my baby.” We both sort of had to suppress a shocked snigger at that, because it was impossible not to think of Madonna. That song came out when I was about five years old but it was iconic enough to be something that was sung in innocence throughout our childhoods. The tune hung, incongruously, in the air. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that the irony hit me: an anthem of my youth basically heralded the end to exactly that.

“OK then,” she said, “you’re keeping your baby.”

Abigail instantly accepted my decision to have my baby and that was a kindness. An unimaginably important and utterly unforgettable kindness. She didn’t argue that there were easier ways, that I had choices, the way many of my other friends subsequently did.

Nor did she suggest that I might be lucky and lose it, the way a guy in my tutorial later darkly muttered. I know he behaved like an arsehole because before I’d got pregnant, he’d once clumsily come on to me one night in the student bar. I was having none of it. I guess he had mixed feelings about me being knocked up, torn between, “Ha, serves the bitch, right” and “So, she does put out. Why not with me?” I tell you, there’s a lot of press about the wrath of a woman scorned, but men can be pretty vengeful, too.

 

Review: Trap by Lilja Sigurdardottir @Lilja1972 @OrendaBooks

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: August 30, 2018

Publisher: Orenda

Genre: Crime Fiction

Blurb:

Happily settled in Florida, Sonja believes she’s finally escaped the trap set by unscrupulous drug lords. But when her son Tomas is taken, she’s back to square one … and Iceland.
Her lover, Agla, is awaiting sentencing for financial misconduct after the banking crash, and Sonja refuses to see her. And that’s not all … Agla owes money to some extremely powerful men, and they’ll stop at nothing to get it back.
With her former nemesis, customs officer Bragi, on her side, Sonja puts her own plan into motion, to bring down the drug barons and her scheming ex-husband, and get Tomas back safely. But things aren’t as straightforward as they seem, and Sonja finds herself caught in the centre of a trap that will put all of their lives at risk…
Set in a Reykjavík still covered in the dust of the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption, and with a dark, fast-paced and chilling plot and intriguing characters, Trap is an outstandingly original and sexy Nordic crime thriller, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.

So thrilled to be one of the stops on the blog tour for Trap today!

Review:

This is the second book in a series, I loved the first, Snare and highly recommend reading that before this one as it’s awesome and you’ll be properly caught up because the first book really sets the stage for what takes place in the second. It picks up soon after the first book ends and is just as tense and exciting as it’s predecessor.

You hear from Sojia, Bragi and Agla again and I was thoroughly invested in each of their stories, especially as they’re all connected in complex and interesting ways. While some of Sonja’s issues may have been resolved in the first book there are still many dangers to be found this time around and it had that same great sense of intensity and action. Once again, this was highly atmospheric both in the setting of Iceland but also in the great sense of paranoia and sheer panic that the author creates. She always manages to make me feel the same emotions and feelings as her characters, Sonja’s fear and desperation was a palpable thing that consumed me.

I cannot wait to see how things end in the third book and expect it to be another wild ride. If you’re a fan if Nordic Noir, don’t miss this and if you’ve never read this sub genre before this series is an excellent place to start.

Trap in three words: Exhilarating, Intense and Compelling.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Blog Tour: The Ancient Nine by Ian Smith

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: September 18, 2018

Publisher: St. Martin’s

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Cambridge, Massachusetts, Fall 1988

Spenser Collins

An unlikely Harvard prospect, smart and athletic, strapped for cash, determined to succeed. Calls his mother—who raised him on her own in Chicago—every week.

Dalton Winthrop

A white-shoe legacy at Harvard, he’s just the most recent in a string of moneyed, privileged Winthrop men in Cambridge. He’s got the ease—and the deep knowledge—that come from belonging.

These two find enough common ground to become friends, cementing their bond when Spenser is “punched” to join the Delphic Club, one of the most exclusive of Harvard’s famous all-male final clubs. Founded in the nineteenth century, the Delphic has had titans of industry, Hollywood legends, heads of state, and power brokers among its members.

Dalton Winthrop knows firsthand that the Delphic doesn’t offer memberships to just anyone. His great-uncle is one of their oldest living members, and Dalton grew up on stories of the club’s rituals. But why is his uncle so cryptic about the Ancient Nine, a shadowy group of alums whose identities are unknown and whose power is absolute? They protect the Delphic’s darkest and oldest secrets—including what happened to a student who sneaked into the club’s stately brick mansion in 1927 and was never seen again.

Dalton steers Spenser into deeper and deeper recesses of the club, and beyond, to try to make sense of what they think they may be seeing. But with each scrap of information they get from an octogenarian Crimson graduate, a crumbling newspaper in the library’s archives, or one of Harvard’s most famous and heavily guarded historical books, a fresh complication trips them up. The more the friends investigate, the more questions they unearth, tangling the story of the club, the disappearance, and the Ancient Nine, until they realize their own lives are in danger.

I’m so excited to be one of the stops on the blog tour for The Ancient Nine today. I have a Q & A with the author and a sneak peek at the book, enjoy!

Excerpt:

PROLOGUE

Halloween Night, 1927

The Delphic Mansion

Cambridge, Massachusetts

EMPTY ROPES CLATTERED against flagpoles, and street signs flapped

helplessly in the shadowy night. Two boys sneaked down a cobblestone path

crowded with heavy bushes and enormous signs that warned against trespassing.

They stood there for a moment, their bodies dwarfed by the gigantic

brick mansion

“That’s enough, let’s turn around,” Kelton Dunhill whispered. He had large competent hands and knots of compact muscles that bulged underneath his varsity letter sweater. He carried a long silver flashlight he had borrowed from the superintendent’s office of his residential house.

“I’m going all the way,” Erasmus Abbott said firmly. “I didn’t come this far to chicken out. Just a few more minutes and we’ll be inside.”

Dunhill looked up at the tall wrought-iron fence that had been reinforced with solid wood planks to obstruct any potential view into the rear courtyard. He was a tough, scrappy kid, a varsity wrestler who had been undefeated in almost three years of college competition. He was many things, but a quitter was not one of them. Very little intimidated Dunhill, the son of a banker and elementary school music teacher, but when he looked up at the mansion’s towering spires and turrets set against the ominous sky and the royal blue flag that snapped so loudly in the wind, something made him feel uneasy. At that very moment, if Erasmus Abbott had not been standing next to him, he would’ve turned on his heels and run like hell. The only thing that kept his feet planted was his greater fear of the humiliation he would face once the others got word that the scrawny Abbott had showed bigger nerve.

“If we get caught, we’ll be fried,” Dunhill said in his most persuasive voice, trying to sound rational rather than scared. “Technically speaking, we’re trespassing, and they can do anything they want to us since we’re on their property. I don’t need to remind you of what happened to A. C. Gordon.”

Erasmus Abbott took the milk crates they had been carrying and stacked them in a small pyramid against the fence, then slipped on his gloves and pulled his hat down until it settled just above his eyes. He was dressed all in black. Now completely disguised, he turned and faced Dunhill.

“There’s no proof Gordon ever made it this far,” Abbott contested. “And besides, I never believed the whole business about his disappearance anyway.” Abbott turned toward the platform of milk crates, then back at Dunhill, and said, “So what’s it going to be? I’m making history tonight with or without you. The answer is in there, and I’m not gonna stop till I find it.”

“Jesus Christ,” Dunhill mumbled under his breath before pulling down his own skullcap and stepping up to the fence. It all started out as a dare, but Abbott had taken it more seriously than anyone expected. This would certainly not be the first time a student had tried to break into the well-guarded Delphic mansion. There had been many attempts over the years, but according to legend, the farthest anyone had gotten was the external foyer. No one had ever penetrated the interior. What most worried Dunhill, however, was that few had lived to share their story.

“And what’s your plan once we get on the other side of the fence?” Dunhill said.

Abbott ran his hand over the small canvas bag strapped to his waist. “Everything we need is in here,” he said. “Once we get to the back door, I’ll have the lock open in well under a minute.”

Abbott had been practicing on diferent doors all over Quincy House in the middle of the night. His best-recorded time was twenty-nine seconds with a blindfold covering his eyes and a stopwatch hanging around his neck.

Abbott was not particularly athletic, but he scaled the crates easily and in one motion hoisted himself over the top of the fence and its row of pointed spears. Dunhill heard him land hard on the other side, then made a small sign of the cross over his heart, climbed onto the crates, and hurled himself over the fence. He landed on the firm slate tiles with a jolt.

They stood on the perimeter of a large courtyard dotted with elaborate marble sculptures and a fountain whose water sat motionless in a wide, striated basin. There were no lights to guide them, but moonlight cut through the heavy canopy of trees that towered overhead. A formidable, sturdy brick wall that was even taller than the fence they had just climbed surrounded them on two sides. Abbott had correctly chosen their entry point into the yard.

A gust of wind sent small piles of leaves flying sideways from one corner of the courtyard to the next. The mansion was eerily dark except for the dull flicker of a light in a small window just underneath the sloping angle of the tiled roof. The enormous building looked cold and menacing and unforgiving.

“She’s massive,” Abbott whispered. “I didn’t think she’d be this big. Must’ve cost them a king’s fortune to build it.”

“It’s not empty,” Dunhill said, pointing at the lighted window. “I still say this isn’t a good idea. We’ve already proved our point. Let’s get the hell out of here while we still can.”

Abbott pretended he hadn’t heard a word Dunhill said. He walked quietly across the courtyard toward a set of stairs that led to a large door with small panes and a brass doorknob that glistened under the moonlight’s glow. He cupped his face to the glass and looked inside. He turned and waved Dunhill over, but Dunhill remained motionless underneath the fence, still not believing they had actually gotten this far.

Abbott unzipped the canvas bag, pulled out a couple of tools, and quickly went to work on the lock. That’s when Dunhill glimpsed a shadow moving across the courtyard. He looked up toward the lighted window and saw something that he would never forget. It was the ugliest, scariest, blackest face he had ever laid eyes on. His heart tightened in his chest, and his lungs constricted. He tried to scream but couldn’t get the air to move in his throat. He turned to Erasmus to warn him, but it was too late. The door was open, and he was already inside.

1

Harvard College

Cambridge, Massachusetts

October 2, 1988

IT SHOULDN’T HAVE been enough to wake me, but I had just drifted off on the couch in the common room that separated my bedroom from my roommate’s. It was a short scratchy sound: a pebble or sand being dragged across the linoleum floor. I looked toward Percy’s bedroom. His door was closed and his light off. I sat up on the sofa, swiveling my head in the darkness to see what could’ve made the noise. Mice were not exactly uncommon sightings in these old Harvard houses, some of which had been built more than a century ago, so I was preparing myself for vermin out on a late-night scavenge. But when I turned on the lamp and looked down at the floor, what sat there took me completely by surprise.

Someone had slipped a small cream-colored envelope underneath the front door. There was no postage or return address, just my name and room number elaborately inscribed.

Spenser Collins

Lowell House L-11

I turned the envelope over, hoping to find some indication of who might have sent it, but what I discovered was even more puzzling.

Embossed on the flap were three torches—so dark blue, they were almost black—arranged in a perfect V shape.

I heard footsteps just outside the door, slow at first, but then they began to pick up speed. I pulled the door open, but the hallway was empty. Our room was on the first floor, so I grabbed my keys and ran a short distance down the hall, jumped a small flight of steps, then rammed my shoulder into the entryway door, forcing it open into the cool night. I immediately heard voices echoing across the courtyard, a cluster of three girls stumbling in high heels, dragging themselves in from a long night of drinking.

I scanned the shadows, but nothing else moved. I looked to my right and thought about running across the path that led to the west courtyard and out into the tiny streets of Cambridge. But my bare feet were practically frozen to the concrete, and the wind assaulted me like shards of ice cutting through my T-shirt. I retreated to the warmth of my room.

Percy’s bedroom door was still closed, which was not surprising. He wouldn’t wake up if an armored tank tore through the wall and opened fire.

I sat on the edge of the couch and examined the envelope again. Why would someone deliver it by hand in the middle of the night, then sneak away? None of it made any sense. I opened the book flap slowly, feeling almost guilty ripping what appeared to be expensive paper. The stationery was brittle, like rice paper, and the same three torches were prominently displayed in the letterhead.

The President and members of the Delphic Club

cordially invite you to a cocktail party on

Friday, October 14, 7 o’clock

Lily Field Mansion at 108 Brattle St. Cambridge.

Please call 876-0400 with regrets only.

I immediately picked up the phone and dialed Dalton Winthrop’s number. Fifth-generation Harvard and heir to the vast Winthrop and Lewington fortunes, he was one of the most finely pedigreed of all Harvard legacies, descending from a family that had been claiming Harvard since the 1600s, when the damn school got its charter from the Bay Colony. Dalton was a hopeless insomniac, so I knew he’d still be awake.

“What the hell are you doing up this time of the night?” Dalton said. “Some of us around here need our beauty sleep.” He sounded fully awake.

“What can you tell me about something called the Delphic Club?” I asked.

The phone rustled as he sat up.

“Did you just say ‘the Delphic’?” he said.

“Yeah, do you know anything about it?”

There was a slight pause before he said, “Why the hell are you asking about the Delphic at this ungodly hour?”

“They invited me to a cocktail party next Friday night. Someone just slipped the invitation under my door, then ran.”

“Are you fucking kidding me? The Delphic invited you to a cocktail party?”

“Unless there’s another Spenser Collins I don’t know about.”

“No offense, Spenser, but don’t get your hopes up,” he said. “This is probably some kind of prank someone’s pulling on you. The Delphic isn’t just a club, like any fraternity. It’s the most secretive of Harvard’s nine most exclusive clubs. They’re called final clubs. The Delphic goes all the way back to the 1800s and has some of the world’s most prominent men as members. An invitation to their cocktail party is like an invitation to kiss the papal ring.”

“So, what you’re really trying to say is that they would never give an invitation to a poor black kid from the South Side of Chicago.”

“Spenser, you know I don’t agree with that kinda shit, but that’s how these secret societies operate. They haven’t changed much over the last century and a half. Rich white men passing off the baton to the next generation, keeping their secrets shielded from the rest of the world. Yale has Skull and Bones, but here at Harvard we have the final clubs. It’s no exaggeration when I tell you that some of the country’s biggest secrets are buried in their old mansions.”

“If I don’t fit their image, then why did someone just slip this invite under my door?” I said.

“Because it’s not real,” Dalton said.

“What do you mean?”

“Guys joke like this all the time. This is the beginning of what’s called punch season, which means the clubs are secretly nominating sophomores to enter a series of election rounds. Whoever survives the cuts over the two months gets elected into the club. You’ve heard of the hazing they do in fraternities. Well, this is a little like that, but it’s a lot more formal with much bigger stakes.”

“What makes you so sure my invitation is fake when you haven’t even seen it?”

“Are you alone?”

“Percy’s here, but he’s out cold.”

“Pull out the invite and tell me if you see torches anywhere.”

I was sitting in the chair underneath the window, still eyeing the courtyard, hoping I might see who might’ve dropped off the envelope. The ambient light cracked the darkness of our common room. I held up the envelope.

“There are three torches on the back of the envelope,” I said.

“What about the stationery?”

“There too.”

“How many?”

“Three.”

“What color?”

“Dark blue.”

“Is the center torch lower or higher than the others?”

“Lower.”

Dalton sighed loudly. “Now take the stationery, turn it over, and hold it up to a light,” he said. “Tell me if you see anything when you look at the torches.”

I followed Dalton’s instructions, carefully removing the shade from one of Percy’s expensive porcelain lamps that his grandmother had proudly given him from her winter house in Palm Beach. I held the invitation next to the naked bulb. “There’s a thin circle with the initials JPM inside,” I said. “But you can only see it under the light. When you move it away, the letters disappear.”

“Jesus fuckin’ Christ, Spense, it’s the real deal!” Dalton yelled as if he were coming through the phone. “The Delphic really has punched you this season. I can’t believe this is happening. Tell me the date of the party again.”

It was rare to hear this level of excitement in Dalton’s voice. Few things got him going, and they typically had to do with either women, food, or his father, whom he hated more than the Yankees.

“Next Friday at seven o’clock,” I said. “It’s at a place called Lily Field Mansion.”

“Lily Field, of course,” Dalton said. “It’s the biggest one up there on mansion row, and it’s owned by the Jacobs family, one of the richest in the country. Stanford Jacobs used to be the graduate president of the Delphic, so it makes sense that he’s hosting the opening cocktail party.”

Secret society, mansions, ultra-wealthy families, an invitation delivered under the cloak of darkness. It was all part of a foreign world that made little sense to me, the son of a single mother who answered phones at a small energy company.

“So, what the hell does all this mean?” I asked.

“That you’re coming over here tomorrow for dinner, so we can figure out some sort of strategy,” Dalton said. “This is all a long shot, but if things go well for you on Friday night, you might make it to the next round. I’m getting way ahead of myself—but one round at a time, and you might be the way we crack the Ancient Nine.”

“The Ancient Nine?” I asked. “Is that another name for the clubs?”

“No, two different things,” Dalton said. “The Ancient Nine are an ultrasecret society of nine members of the Delphic. A secret society within a secret society that not even the other Delphic members know much about. Most around here have never even heard of the Ancient Nine, but for those who have, some swear it exists, others think it’s nothing more than another Harvard legend.”

“What do you think?”

Dalton paused deliberately. “I’d bet everything I own that they exist. But no one can get them to break their code of silence. According to rumors, they are hiding not only one of Harvard’s most valued treasures but also century-old secrets that involve some of the world’s richest families.”

Copyright © 2018 by Ian K. Smith in The Ancient Nine and reprinted with permission from St. Martin’s Press.

Sounds intriguing, right?! Now for the Q & A.

Q & A with Dr. Ian K. Smith regarding THE ANCIENT NINE

1. To begin with your beginnings, how did you get into writing?

A: I have always wanted to write stories since I was in college and read John Grisham’s The Firm, long before it became the international sensation. I enjoyed how that book made me feel, heart racing, unable to focus on anything else but the book, literally reading pages while stopped at traffic lights. I wanted to be able to create the same kind of story that had a similar effect on someone else. I like stories. I like creating. I have loved books my entire life. I decided that while my principle area of academic study would be biology and eventually medicine, that I would always keep an open mind and ambition to write and publish. That writing itch I had harbored for so many years just never went away and I refused to ignore it. Despite what many of my colleagues thought while I was in medical school, I believed both medicine and creative writing could be pursued passionately in parallel.

2. You’ve written many bestselling books about health and nutrition. What made you decide to pivot and write a thriller now?

A: Thrillers and crime fiction have always been at the top of my list for entertainment. I like to write what engages me, so I decided to sit down and create a story in the fashion that I like to read them. I love suspense and plots lines that are fast-moving and constantly make you think. I like the feeling of not wanting to put a book down and getting excited for the next time I have a break in my schedule to pick up that book again to read the next chapter. I wrote my first novel, THE BLACKBIRD PAPERS back in 2004, a thriller based on the campus of Dartmouth College where I finished my first two years of medical school. I had such great feedback from readers across the country. I would be on tour for one of my health and wellness books and invariably, someone would come up to me in the airport or a bookstore and ask me when I was going to write another thriller, because they enjoyed THE BLACKBIRD PAPERS so much and wanted more. Every time this happened, my heart would jump, and I would profusely thank the person for reminding me of my other passion and my need to go back to it and create more stories to share. I’ve been wanting to publish another thriller for a long time, and this was the perfect time in my career to do so. Fans of my fiction had waited long enough.

3. This is a novel you “waited years to write.” What is it about this story that was just begging to be told?

A: This story has everything that I love to read. There’s mystery, murder, suspense, history, and a love story. I’ve been writing this book for more than 25 years. I started when I was a senior at Harvard. While I was a very young and unpolished writer back then, I knew that it was a story that was so compelling that it needed to be told, and I knew that one day I’d be able to finish the story and publish it. This is a fish-out-of-water story with a coming-of-age feel that I think will appeal to people across the spectrum. Everyone likes a story about an underdog, and THE ANCIENT NINE captures that feel and spirit. I learned during my research that no one had ever written extensively about the Harvard final clubs. There were remote mentions in magazine and newspaper articles, but never anything that really penetrated this rarefied world of power and privilege. I just felt like this was a story begging to be told.

4. What was your personal experience with “secret societies” like? How did you decide what details to include as elements of the story in The Ancient Nine?

A: I was everything you would expect a prospective member WOULD NOT be. I was the wrong color, no pedigree, blue-collar family, and completely unaware of the elite circles in which these members traveled and inhabited. When I started to understand the lineage of the members and graduate members, I couldn’t understand why they would invite me to join. I have always been sociable, easy-to-like kind of guy, but I didn’t fit the image of a member nor did I have the money or access to privilege that the majority of members had. I wanted to include the elements as I experienced them. I wanted readers to see this world like I did for the first time, unsuspecting, unexpecting, an undaunted. I met many great guys when I was a member and remain friends with many of them to this day. Being a member was like a dual existence on campus. I was a regular student like everyone else most of the time, then I was a member of this final club that was a world of its own, including a staff that served us in our mansion and dinners with wealthy, powerful alums who were leaders of their fields throughout the country. I sat down to tables to eat and share jokes with amazing men who were extremely successful and influential, and at the same time fun to talk to and share experiences. Being a member taught me a lot about life and discrepancies and how pivotal networking can be as one tries to advance in life.

5. The Delphic Club is a very important part of the story, just like the mysteries around it. How did you come up with the mystery? Did you know how it would be solved from the beginning or did you come up with it as you wrote?

A: When I first started writing THE ANCIENT NINE, I wasn’t completely sure how it would end. I had a good idea of some of the plot twists and most of the narrative, but I had not worked out the entire mystery. As I was researching the history of the clubs—something that was very difficult to do since there has been very little written about them through the years—I discovered some amazing occurrences and legends not just about the clubs, but of Harvard itself. These discoveries were like a small, unknotted thread that once I started pulling, the story unraveled before me and everything began falling into place. I spent a lot of time in libraries, in the stacks of Widener Library at Harvard and Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago, digging into the historical connections. It’s amazing how you can reach a point where a story can actually write itself, and you just become the vessel through which it’s told, trying your best to stay out of its way while you transcribe it as best as you can without losing its feel and meaning.

6. Have you received any negative feedback as a result of writing about your real-life experiences in these secretive organizations?

A: I don’t know what the feedback will be until more people have had a chance to read it. I have had some of my clubmates read it and others who are familiar with the clubs and they gave me really positive feedback. They found the book to be engaging and informative. They felt like I captured the essence of an experience that can only be felt by someone like myself who was foreign to this world. This book is not an expose or hit piece on the final clubs. This is a book that is based on real events, secrets that have been tightly guarded for hundreds of years. As the clubs are in serious and overdue conversations about opening their doors to a broader membership, some of this information will enter the public forum much easier and more fluidly than it has in the past. I would think that many current and graduate members of the clubs will find this entertaining, especially since they know very well the lay of the land on which the story is built.

7. How much does the main character in The Ancient Nine have in common with Ian Smith? How much of the story is autobiographical?

A: Spenser is based on me. His emotions, worries, thoughts, and experiences are based on mine. There are some creative changes I made such as where he was from and some of the family dynamics, but a lot of who he is and what he thinks is autobiographical. I’ve held on to this story for a long time as I wrestled with the best way to tell it and when it should be told. I was a tough, fearless kid who wanted to excel at everything and wanted to make my single mother and family proud. For those times, I was not the typical Harvard student—no trust fund or Ivy connection or renowned academic family pedigree—but I had what was most important for a student from any walk of life, the confidence that I could make it on Harvard’s storied campus. I was unafraid to try new things, mix it up, and learn as much as I could. I played sports intensely all my life, and I think that taught me a lot about the world, our many differences, the rigors and benefits of competition, and the importance of resiliency. I’ve never been one to be intimated by the chasm between what I have and what others have. Spenser sees and feels the world in exactly the same way as he remains proud of his humble beginnings and constantly works to do what is right.

8. In this novel you introduce a highly varied cast of characters, ranging from comical to mysterious, sporty

to academic. Who was your favorite character to write?

Which one would you most likely want to grab a beer with?

A: This isn’t an easy question as it’s like asking you to pick a favorite child. There are different things an author loves about the characters he or she creates, and there are different reasons why the characters appeal to the author. I will say, however, that it tends to be fun to write about characters who are very different from who you are, because it allows you to explore and imagine in a space that is not completely familiar. Writing Ashley Garrett was a lot of fun. I liked and admired her at lot. She’s from the other side of the tracks, brilliant, tough, witty, romantic, and unimpressed. If I had a daughter, I’d want her to be like Ashley. Dalton Winthrop was also a lot of fun to write, because he was rich—something that I was definitely not—and rebellious and so determined to cut his own way in life despite the overbearing expectations and interventions of his imperious father. I don’t drink alcohol, but several of the real people who the characters are based on I actually did sit down with over the poker table and a box of pizza. I think it would be great fun to sit down to dinner with the obscenely wealthy but uproariously gregarious graduate member Weld Bickerstaff class of ’53 who lived in New York City. You just wind him up and let him go.

9. The Ancient Nine delves deep into the history and underbelly of Harvard. What was your process for researching this story?

A: I spent many months researching Harvard’s history and some of the less known facts about John Harvard’s book collection he donated to the college and the infamous 1764 fire that destroyed almost all of it. Over the years of writing this book I would find new pieces of information and the web of history and mystery would grow even larger. Little is publicly known or discussed about these clubs, and lots of secrets and knowledge have gone to the grave with many of the graduate members. Harvard has one of the most expansive library systems in the world, and I spent countless hours in many of the libraries mentioned in the book, digging up old newspapers and magazines and examining rare books. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun at the same time to connect the dots and delve into the layers of such an important university and the secret societies that have long been a perpetual irritant to the school’s administration.

10. During your research, did you find out anything surprising that didn’t make it into the book?

A: I gathered piles of research and discoveries while working on this book, but alas, an author must decide what to include and what to discard. Those decisions were gut-wrenching at times, but for the sake of the reader not having to sit down to a 600-page tome, the cuts had to be done. One thing that surprised me that didn’t make it into the book was how conflicted many of the school’s former leadership really were with regards to the clubs. Many of them publicly spoke against the clubs and the need for them to either be disbanded or opened to a more diverse membership, but privately, these administrators and school trustees had been members of a club themselves and as graduates, still supported them financially in ways that their identities and participation wouldn’t be exposed.

11. Readers will know you from your work in health and nutrition. In stepping away from that world, and into the world thriller writing, what surprised or challenged you the most?

A: It has always been fun and rewarding to write books in the genre of health and nutrition. I have enjoyed immensely helping and empowering people. My books through the years have literally been life-changing for millions of people. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to produce that type of impactful work. Writing thrillers has been equally gratifying as it has allowed me to be more imaginative and tap deeper into my creative side. I believe that a person can tap similarly and effectively into the left (science, math) and right (creativity, arts) sides of the brain. Contrary to what some have suggested, I don’t believe it’s one or the other. One thing vastly different about writing thrillers is that the plots are not linear, and therefore requires a vigilant attention to detail and great effort to maintain continuity. There are all kinds of dead ends, interweaving threads, surprises, disappointments, and moments of excitement that you must work into the story, knowing that you need to entertain your reader and keep them engaged for hundreds of pages. Accomplishing this is no small feat, but the work it takes to achieve it is worth every grinding second of it once you do.

12. What’s next for you? Will you continue to write thrillers and do you have an idea for your next novel?

A: I will definitely continue to write more thrillers. I love reading this genre, and I love writing it. My creative mind has a natural proclivity for this type of storytelling. I’m currently working on a different series of crime fiction/mystery books based on a character named Ashe Cayne who’s an ex-Chicago police officer and now a private investigator. I have learned a lot from my friends in CPD who have shown me the ropes and explained procedure. Ashe is smart, sarcastic, handsome, tenacious, morally compelled to right wrongs, broken-hearted, and a golf addict trying to bring his scoring handicap into the single digits. I LOVE this character and Chicago as the setting. The expansive, energetic, segregated, volatile, notoriously corrupt Chicago becomes an important secondary character in the book. Ashe Cayne takes on only select cases, and people of all walks of life from all over the city come to him to get answers. The first book in the series is called FLIGHT OF THE BUTTERFLY, and it’s about the daughter of one of the city’s richest men who mysteriously goes missing on the night she’s supposed to sleep over her best friend’s house. Her aristocratic mother hires Ashe Cayne to find her missing daughter. But it’s a lot more complicated than a missing person case. I expect to publish this book in the fall of 2019.

Follow Dr. Ian on Instagram: @doctoriansmith

Twitter: @DrIanSmith

Facebook Page: The Ancient Nine

Blog Tour: Ribbons In Her Hair by Colette McCormick

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: August 23, 2018

Publisher: Accent Press

Blurb:

Jean seems the perfect wife and mother but she struggles to love her daughters whose material comforts mask emotional neglect.

When the youngest daughter, Susan, brings ‘shame’ on the family, Jean can think of only one response. She has to make the problem disappear. Finding the strength to stand up to her mother for the first time in her life, Susan does the only thing that she can to save her baby. What Susan doesn’t realise is that her mother’s emotional distance hides a dark secret of her own.

Examining the divide between generations, between mothers and daughters, this emotionally charged novel asks whether we can ever truly understand another, however close our ties.

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Ribbons In Her Hair! I have a guest post from the author to share today.

Guest Post:

The inspiration to write ‘Ribbons in Her Hair’ came from a conversation.

I saw a little girl with her hair tied up in a red ribbon and commented to the person that I was with that I remembered when I used to have ribbons in my hair. I said something like, ‘Those were the days.’ My companion, and I don’t want to say anything that might identify them, told me sadly that they’d had never had a ribbon in their hair.

That statement stayed with me and I thought about a little girl who had never had a ribbon in her hair. For me, that simple act represented a bond and I can still remember sitting on a chair as my mother brushed and dressed my hair. In my head, the little girl without the ribbons, became someone who didn’t know what it was like to feel a mother’s love.

I called the girl Susan and she had a story to tell.

I tried to imagine what it would be like to be in a family where your mother doesn’t seem to care if you exist. How would she feel? How might she behave? Then, I started to think about Susan’s mother. I have children of my own and the idea of not hugging them and showing my love for them is very strange to me and I wondered what would make Jean (Susan’s mother) behave the way that she did.

I decided that we needed to hear her side of the story too.

It has been said that my book is about the shame of being an unmarried mother and I suppose that to a certain extent it is, especially in Jean’s case, but for me it’s more about two women who are trying to do the best for their unborn child. They both need to decide whose needs have to be put first. Is it their own or their child’s? The decision they make will shape their adult life and they will both have to live with it and its consequences.

Because of the way that she treated her children I didn’t want to like Jean but when I discovered more about her story I started to sympathise with her. She is as much a product of her upbringing as Susan. She made the only choice she could and when history repeats itself she can only see one way out for her daughter. Is that her fault or society’s?

I tried to show that behind closed doors things are not always as they appear to those on the outside and that even families have secrets from each other.

Review: The Long Revenge by Andrew Barrett @AndrewBarrettUK @Bloodhoundbook

Amazon

Release date: August 15, 2018

Publisher: Bloodhound

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

They say you can always trust a policeman. They are lying.

They lied thirty years ago and they are still lying today.

When a booby-trapped body is discovered in a long-abandoned chapel, CSI Eddie Collins and his team are called to investigate. But when the scene examination goes horribly wrong, Eddie and DI Benson are injured and one of the team killed.

Heartbroken by the death, Eddie is also guilt-ridden. But more than that he is angry. Very angry.

Eddie will stop at nothing to bring the guilty to justice, and will teach them that even when served cold, revenge is a killer dish.  

I’m thrilled to be one of the stops on the blog tour for The Long Revenge today!

Review:

This was my first introduction to Barrett’s work though it’s the fourth book in his Eddie Collins series. I wasn’t bothered by this and never felt like I was missing out on any pertinent information, but I have added the first three books to my ever growing TBR.

Eddie Collins is not a detective like the protagonist in most crime novels, he’s a CSI. I loved this, it made for a really unique and fresh point of view to see things from that perspective instead of a cops perspective. That type of stuff has always been interesting to me and couple that with a character like Collins? Well you’ve got quite a set up. He’s a cheeky guy and very sarcastic, which I adore because sarcasm is my first language. I didn’t always agree with him but I always found him highly entertaining and I especially liked any scenes between him and his father Charles.

The case Collins is working is a series of historical murders which is one of my favorite storylines in crime fiction. I always think the killer must be pretty smug after thirty years have passed and they’re still flying under the radar, until something or someone unearths their darkerst secret.

The pacing was pretty mild to start (but never boring) but the tension was slowly mounting and by the last quarter of the book things really ramped up.Eddie being a CSI means that the reader gets a graphic look at how this profession works and there is also abuse and some violence, but as most of you know by now that doesn’t bother me. Barrett uses some great dark humor that balances out the heavy stuff which I always appreciate and wonderfully lightens the mood just when you need it the most.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Blog Tour: The Bridesmaid Blues by Tracey Sinclair @Thriftygal #BridesmaidBlues

Goodreads|Amazon

Blurb:

Luce knows she should be thrilled when Jenna asks her to be bridesmaid – after all, they’ve known each other since childhood and Jenna is the best friend any girl could have. But it’s hard to get excited about weddings when you’re terminally single and the best man is the boy who broke your heart: Jamie, the groom’s dashing and irresistible brother. How can she face the man who dumped her when she’s still so hopelessly in love? Then again, maybe this is the perfect opportunity – after all, where better to get back together than at a wedding?

So Luce has six months to figure out how to win back her ex, but she has plenty else on her plate – from an old friend returned to Newcastle with an announcement of her own, to a youthful colleague who may or may not have a crush on her and a mother who is acting very strangely indeed… and that’s all before a mysterious, handsome American walks into her life.

Sometimes being a bridesmaid isn’t all confetti and champagne…

‘A smarter, funnier Bridget Jones’ Diary for the 2010s – great pithy writing and instantly likeable characters’ Cass Green, Sunday Times/USA Today bestselling author of In a Cottage in a Wood’

I’m so delighted to be the stop on the blog tour for The Bridesmaid Blues today, this sounds like such a fun read, I have an excerpt to share today.

Excerpt:

Novel extract – The Bridesmaid Blues, Tracey Sinclair

Luce was late, as usual, but for once Jenna didn’t mind getting to the bar first. She needed a drink before she did this. She’d ordered their traditional bottle of white straight away and, despite her usual restraint, had already managed to gulp down a full glass and she’d only been here 10 minutes. Calm, she thought, just be calm. How bad could it be? Then again, knowing Luce, it could be very bad. Nuclear meltdown, global bio-warfare, imagine-Simon-Cowell-in-hot-pants bad. Cursing herself for own cowardice, Jenna had chosen a table at the back of the pub, so that if Luce did lose it and make a scene, at least there would be fewer witnesses.

She couldn’t believe how stressed she was. She was nearly 40 and a professional woman, for God’s sake. She managed a team of 11 people and could comfortably converse with MDs, CEOs and any number of other impressive initials. Yet here she was, desperately wishing she smoked so that her hands would have something to do other than shake. Nervously, she twisted the ring on her finger, not yet used to it being there. This is ridiculous, she told herself sternly, as she gulped down another mouthful of wine. How hard can it be to tell your best friend you’re getting married?

Pretty hard, as it turned out, although not for any of the reasons Jenna had expected. Of course, with Jenna’s best friend, things were never exactly easy, so why should this be an exception? Luce’s shrieks were so loud that half the pub’s customers were looking round to see what was happening and the staff were nervously craning their necks from behind the safety of the bar, trying to figure out whether they should be calling the police to prevent someone being murdered. And Jenna hadn’t even managed to tell her the actual information

yet. She’d got as far as “I’ve got some news” and Luce had dissolved into hysterics.

“Oh, my God!” she screeched, and Jenna was surprised that none of the glass around them broke. “Oh, my God, you’re sick, aren’t you? Is it cancer? What do the doctors say? Is there anything I can do? Oh, Jen…”

Jenna looked at her friend in sheer, open-mouthed horror. She would have been speechless had there even been a possibility of getting a word in edgeways. She watched Luce continue in this vein for several minutes, helpless to stop her. Finally, seeing an opportunity as Luce took a tear-filled breath to gear up for another round of wailing, she took her chance and jumped in.

“What are you talking about? I’m not ill!” she snapped, louder than she meant to, so that the last three remaining people in the pub who weren’t already looking at them turned around sharply to see what was going on.

“No? No! Thank God! What is it then?” Luce’s expression darkened in sudden fury. “Is Michael having an affair? That bastard, I never liked him!”

“Luce! Of course Michael isn’t having an affair! Why would you even say that?”

“God, Jen, it’s not you? I don’t believe it! Michael is so lovely! How could you?”

Jenna could feel what little patience was left to her rapidly evaporating.

“Luce, for God’s sake! No one is ill. No one is having an affair. Bloody hell. It’s good news.”

“Good news? Good news?” Luce stared at her, affronted. “Then why didn’t you say that? People say, ‘I’ve got good news.’ No one says, ‘I’ve got news’ if it’s good news. ‘Something to tell you’ is always bad!”

Jenna goggled at her friend, amazed. “Who says?”

Luce scowled at her as if she were stupid.

“It’s a universal conversational rule. News-no adjective is always bad. It’s a basic principle. That’s why people always say ‘I’ve got good news’. It’s politeness! You scared the bloody life out of me!”

Jenna took a long, deep breath and tried to banish all thoughts of violence. She loved Luce like a sister, but sometimes she was like the irritating, pigtail-pulling little sister who coloured in eye makeup on your Girls’ World styling head with indelible felt-tip pens and cut

the hair off all your Sindy dolls.

“Luce, you read way too many women’s weekly magazines. Most people, when told, ‘I’ve got something to tell you’ do not automatically start playing Guess The Tragedy.”

Luce opened her mouth to protest but Jenna put a hand up to silence her: let Luce get a word in now and that would be it for the rest of the night.

“Do I get to tell you now then, or not?”

Luce took a deep breath, flapped her hands in front of her face in an ineffectual effort to stop the tears that had sprung to her eyes at Jenna’s opening remark and nodded, in an exaggerated gesture of calm.

“Of course. Go on, I’m excited now. Really.”

Jenna sighed and sat back, taking a moment to compose herself.

“Michael proposed to me. We’re getting married in February.”

There was a long moment of stunned silence, then Luce let out a squeal so shrill that Jenna feared for the hearing of any local dogs.

“Oh! Jen! Jen! That’s great! I’m so thrilled!”

She lunged across the table and enclosed Jenna in a fierce hug, Jenna just managing to rescue the wine bottle that her friend sent spinning in her enthusiasm. Extricating herself from Luce’s embrace, she smiled, placated by her friend’s obvious delight.

“I want you to be bridesmaid, of course.”

“Of course! Of course! I’d sulk otherwise!” Luce clapped her hands in glee. “It’ll be great! Tell me all the details. I want to know everything – the proposal, the venue… show me the ring! And what are you going to wear? What am I going to wear?”

Jenna’s smile wavered. Before her best friend disappeared too far down this path, she knew she had to tell her.

“Luce… Lucy…”

“Will there be other bridesmaids? I get first choice of frock though, right? Something classy and stylish that won’t make me look fat. I mean, I’ve known you longer than anyone, I should get first say…”

“Luce…”

“Not that I won’t go along with whatever you want, of course, but I was thinking…”

There was nothing else for it.

Lucinda!”

The use of Luce’s full name was so rare that it silenced her. She looked at Jenna suspiciously.

“What?”

Jenna took a deep breath, and when she spoke her voice was carefully kind.

“Honey, Jamie will be there. He’s going to be best man.”

About the Author:

Tracey Sinclair works as a freelance writer and editor.

Her novel and collection of short stories (Doll and No Love Is This, respectively) were published by independent publisher Kennedy & Boyd, and Dark Dates is her second novel and the first in the Cassandra Bick series.

Her work has appeared online and in print in magazines as diverse as Sky, Printer’s Devil, Yours and Woman’s Weekly, and has been performed on the radio. Her first play, Bystanders, was premiered as part of the New Writing Season at Baron’s Court Theatre in 2011 and later staged at both the White Bear and Tristan Bates Theatre.

She is theatre lover and regular contributor to online theatre magazine Exeunt (www.exeuntmagazine.com).

Twitter: @Thriftygal

Blog Tour: The Man on the Roof by Michael Stephenson @filmbooksbball #TheManOnTheRoof #TMOTR

Release date: June 22, 2018

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Someone has been creeping in the dark while the others sleep, and they’ve done terrible, terrible things.

“There was a man on your roof,” claims curmudgeonly lane-hermit Herbert McKinney. Then, he initiates an unprovoked fight with a local punk. Drama escalates when that punk’s dead body is found hanging at mid-street one August morning—a boastful killer messaging their next prey. All fingers point to Herbert as the culprit. Soon, the five couples he calls neighbors come under suspicion, too. When detectives divine blackmail as the motive, eyes cross to find who hides the most shameful secret. Husband versus wife, friend versus friend, the shiny suburban veneer of innocence has been forever tarnished. As hidden deviousness boils from their pores, there lurks a thief, a pill addict and a sadist—secrets worth killing for.

Now, as the man on the roof helps guide justice and watches devious neighbors slip in and out of sleepy houses, confusion and questions persist. Who dies next? What have they learned? Who is becoming a monster? Who already is one? And just how many secrets can a small group of multi-ethnic Ohioans have? Only one cemented truth exists: the killer will kill again.

A taut domestic mystery-suspense thriller, The Man On The Roof propels the reader through a tangled, volatile and suspenseful thicket of deception, murder and friends, inviting the reader to discover the murderer and who hides which lie. First there was Gone Girl. Then there was The Girl on the Train. Now, there’s The Man On The Roof.

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Man on the Roof! I have a guest post from the author to share today.

Guest Post:

The Great Lure of Mystery: Why we’re Enamored with Mysterious People

Eve probably only ate the fruit because she wanted to know what it would taste like, or why it was forbidden. Scientists say that it’s one of the reasons we even began to build tools, and also why we were able to evolve to dominate the world. It’s why we learn, why we ask questions when we look up at the stars and why we sometimes find ourselves eavesdropping conversations of strangers on trains, planes and buses. Curiosity is to the brain what appetite is to the stomach, and it is no better, no easier satiated than by solving a good mystery. But why, out of all the wonderful mysteries in this great big universe, are we most enamored by the one that seems most easily understood: people? That is the great modern curiosity.

“Every one is a mystery, sometimes even unto themselves.” That is the premise on which I based my latest novel The Man On The Roof. A psychological mystery-thriller, The Man On The Roof follows in the footsteps of other recent hits like Gone Girl, In A Dark, Dark Wood, The Girl on the Train and The Woman in the Window, challenging readers to discover who is lying and who has really committed the heinous crime. Here, it is in its simplest form that we find out why we love not only a good mystery but a good mysterious person.

We’ve all heard the saying a woman must maintain an aura of mystery about her when it comes to courting. In other words, ladies can’t share all their secrets with their beau even after marriage. Why? Because he’ll get bored? Is that it? Are we obsessed with mystery simply because it keeps us from being bored. Maybe, but I believe there’s more there.

A good mystery keeps us active, keeps the brain churning, invites us into a world of new experiences. All of those things counter boredom. They also help us to think, learn, desire. When a potential lover maintains a mystery about them, it makes us work and shows us just how interested we are in keeping them. It’s a primitive form of testing our heart. Still, it goes deeper than that.

Mysteries in book form have a set structure. Authors introduce the players, set the stage, give them a puzzle to solve (a murder in the case of The Man On The Roof), then go about deconstructing the way and/or reasoning behind said puzzle. There is a concrete beginning, middle and end. In that way, mysteries supply us with structure to chaos in a world that increasingly seems to have little structure or cause for any effect. These fictional stories allow us to see justice done when in real life real justice is such a fleeting concept. But a psychological mystery-thriller is often different.

A psychological mystery-thriller thrives on the idea of people as mysteries. Instead of always supplying justice, they give us an often bleak look into the mind of the person who committed the crime. One might think that morbid, yet we’ve become engrossed in this genre of mystery now more than ever. Look on TV and you’ll find a glut of true crime stories, mysteries that didn’t always end with the right verdict. These allow us to sit in judgment of those around us, comparing and contrasting our own life to theirs. We can lose ourselves in wondering if we’d do the same as them, in trying to piece together the puzzle of a person.

Speaking of, there’s a feeling of accomplishment that we get from solving mysteries, from learning something new, from putting together the last puzzle. Time drips away at such a fast interval that we often need something to stake within the ground in order to feel as if we aren’t wasting it. During our schooldays we would burst at the seams at having accomplished passing from one grade to the next. There was always something to look forward to. In adulthood, there are not as many milestones. Years can float by where one feels as if they’ve done nothing. Mysteries give us a definite goal to achieve before the novel’s counterpart does. People are similar in that their mystery unfolds to us like a video game. We are able to notch our progress by recalling just how much we’ve been allowed to learn or “solve” about this person. It’s one thing to look out your window and see your newlywed neighbors and think they are happy. It’s an entirely different thing to look out and see her cheating. Level up! You just got a secret achievement.

Ultimately, we are drawn to mysterious people and look forward to the unknown in other humans because they make us feel and do it so effortlessly. We feel accomplished. We feel aroused. We feel a little smarter. We feel a little more accepted. We feel we’ve learned something. We feel a little less bored with our own lives. We feel alive! A person is a most pure mystery because they’re always changing, always challenging, always filled with secrets just waiting to be found out and explored. And in doing such exploration, we discover just as much about ourselves as we do about them. Mysteries, and mysterious people allow us to remember that we are so much more even on days when we think less of ourselves. I believe that everyone is a mystery, sometimes even unto themselves, so it is our duty to go out, have an adventure and discover the secrets we didn’t know we had. But first read The Man On The Roof (tee-hee)!

Check out the other stops on the tour!

Blog Tour: Girlfriend, Interrupted by Patricia Caliskan @Caliskaniverse_ @Saperebooks #GirlInterrupted

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: June 28, 2018

Publisher: Sapere

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Blurb:

What do you do when the love of your life is already somebody else’s dad…?

Brown-eyed, brunette, 25.

Enjoys walking barefoot across shards of broken home. Likes loaded silences, resentment and insomnia. Dislikes romantic weekends, lie-ins and any chance of future happiness.

Former GSOH. Developing PTSD.

Ella Shawe was undomesticated, unattached and uninhibited.

Until she met Dan.

Sexy, charming and funny, Dan ticked all the right boxes and Ella threw herself head-first into the whirlwind romance.

But now she’s moved into his family home, complete with two demanding children and a hyperactive dog.

Throw in Dan’s impossibly perfect ex-wife, Ella’s interfering sex therapist mother and the snooty and dismissive mother-in-law from Hell, and Ella is almost ready to throw in the towel.

But, ready or not, Ella is part of the family now, and getting it right for Dan’s kids means getting it right for everyone. She just needs to figure out how to include herself in the mix…

Girlfriend, Interrupted will have you laughing-out-loud, gasping in embarrassment and rooting for Ella all the way. This British romantic comedy is packed full of humour and has a delightful contemporary heroine at its heart.

I’m so pleased to be one of the stops on the blog tour for Girlfriend, Interrupted, I have an extract from the book to share today!

Chapter One: Capital Punishment

It hadn’t occurred to me that the love of my life would turn out to be somebody else’s dad. If I’d thought about it long enough I’d have realized, the best thing that happened to me ended up being the worst thing that happened to Dan’s kids. Well, at least since the divorce anyway. And, if it was any consolation to them, I got a second-hand romance. It wasn’t exactly the kind of thing you’d look out for in a dating profile:

Brown-eyed, brunette, 26.

Enjoys walking barefoot across shards of broken home.

Likes loaded silences, festering resentment and insomnia.

Dislikes romantic weekends, sexy lie-ins and any chance of future happiness.

Former GSOH. Developing PTSD.

But, as with all great love affairs, it hadn’t started out that way. Those two, very separate worlds had slowly collided. We never really talked about what that meant. I mean, how could a man love you if his children didn’t even like you? You’ve probably already guessed, but that was exactly the question I’d been trying to avoid lately as I made my way into the office Friday morning. Only a few hours ahead of being utterly useless around the children for yet another weekend. Although, I thought, glancing over at reception, it was a far better option than falling in love with somebody else’s husband…

‘I am going to leave her, Karen!’ Harry Collins, Head of Digital, was leaning over the reception desk. ‘I promise I will, but it’s not that easy. I’ve got three children to think —’ He flinched at my footsteps. ‘So, those er … those staples? We’ll need at least another two boxes up there…’

Suddenly scrutinizing her to-do list, Karen-From-Reception, all blow-dry and diamante earrings, rearranged her cardigan. Scribbling everything down with a professionalism bordering on the provocative.

‘And those A5 notebooks, please, like we said.’ He pretended he’d only just noticed me. ‘Not the A4.’ He raised a hand. ‘Ah, morning Ella!’

‘Morning, Karen. Harry…’

The three of us exchanged polite smiles as I carried on towards the stairs, avoiding the lift in case I ended up stuck in there with him.

Steen & Heard Communications was located on the second floor of a listed building on Hanover Street. Sunlight streaked through the blinds as I fixed my jacket onto my chair and opened my first email of the day:

URGENT!

FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION.

ACCOUNT DATA FOR PREVIOUS 12 MONTHS!!!

This was a typical greeting from Heather Constantine, Public Relations Manager extraordinaire. I’d found the best way to deal with her emails was to pretend they were computer-generated by a machine too primitive to know any better. Although, the ‘Read Receipt’ she included on every message was particularly annoying. Especially when she sat close enough to accept my offer of a Smint without leaving her seat.

I glanced over at her, peering behind her bifocals. Her short, sharp, red hair, hinting at her short, sharp disposition. She scrutinised her screen, searching out juicy worms of commission fit for the taking. First thing in the morning, her lack of hello, eye contact, please or thank you, had the same effect as having a jug of iced water poured over your head. In fact, I’d have chosen the ice bucket challenge every time.

Heather Constantine was the reason I dreamt about being sacked the way other people dreamt about winning the lottery.

Initially, I had worked for James Steen (who was really posh and semi-retired, which is what really posh people aged around sixty seemed to do), and his partner, Audrey Heard, as a copywriter. I was initially hired to write press releases, manage website copy, oversee editorial pieces for our clients, that kind of thing. But within weeks, Heather made me into her unofficial personal assistant and psychological punch bag. Nowadays, I took care of her admin, weekly diary and, on one occasion, a furious outbreak of cystitis, rather than becoming some kind of capable business protégé to her wise mentor-figure, the way Audrey seemed to think it worked.

‘Morning, Ella!’

Leah, Office Support, walked in behind Harry. Her neon-painted grin brightened the shadow of Heather, looming permanently over the rest of our day.

‘Morning, Heather…’

The typing continued.

Leah hung up her coat and straightened her skirt.

‘Would you like a cup of tea, Heather?’

Heather glanced at her watch.

‘Ten minutes ago. I trust you’ll be deducting the time from your lunch hour?’

I gave Leah a sympathetic look. Heather classed five-past-nine as unforgivably late. The only time she’d left the office for anything other than a meeting was when she gave birth to her son.

‘Would you like a coffee, Ella?’

‘I’d love one, please.’ I was deliberately perky. I hoped Heather might pick up on more pleasant ways to interact with other human beings. ‘Thanks for asking. Hey, Leah — we made it! No matter what happens, they’ll never take Friday away from us…’

‘Make sure you use my almond milk.’ Heather’s fingernails clawed at high-speed across her keyboard.

Almond milk? I’d never heard of it. I wondered if they made it especially for people like Heather, who must have problems with turning the regular stuff sour.

‘Will do.’ Leah smiled, not wasting another minute. She paused briefly at Harry’s desk to take his order as he fired up multiple screens on the digital bank.

Harry headed up a team of three almost identical lads. They all wore beards, checked shirts and sprayed-on jeans. As far as I knew none of them had any interest in harvesting trees, but you’d’ve sworn they’d just trekked back from an Alaskan Lumberjack convention. Either that or been knitted as a matching set by someone’s well-meaning grandma. I’d tried striking up conversation with them in the past, but they only communicated in instant messages. And, while the rest of us lived on the stuff, none of them drank tea or coffee, even though it was the lingua franca of our offices. Maybe there’d been some sort of technological advancement, I thought. Apple had launched the iRefreshment while the rest of us still stood around, boiling the kettle.

‘Is almond milk good for you?’

Heather caught my eye, standing to unlock her filing cabinet.

‘Well, obviously.’ She inhaled a laugh, combing through an assortment of colour-coded files. ‘I wouldn’t be drinking it if it were bad for me, now would I?’

I wasn’t sure if she was trying to make a joke or not.

I’d never learned to speak fluent Dictator.

‘It’s vegan friendly. Cholesterol and lactose-free. Those things are bad for you,’ she explained as if talking to a three-year-old. ‘So, yes. It is.’

She shut the metal drawer with a thunk!

Heather was vegan? I was surprised. You’d have imagined most vegans being quite nice to the people they worked with, considering they were so kind to animals.

‘Good morning!’

All heads turned as Audrey Steen, lady boss and agency owner, walked in, looking chic as ever. All curled lashes and nude lip gloss. Wearing my favourite outfit of hers, the grey trilby and pastel pink trench combo.

Audrey was utterly fabulous. One of those gorgeous, older ladies who crystal and diamonds cried out for, rustling up timeless glamour every morning.

‘How’s everything going, Heather?’ She cast a brief smile of hello my way. ‘Apollo doing well?’

If we hadn’t already worked out Heather had a messiah complex, she’d humbly named her first-born after a Greek god.

‘He’s doing brilliantly.’

‘Good to hear it. Did I tell you Peter’s wife’s expecting in the next few weeks?’

‘You must be thrilled.’ Heather still managed to look glacial despite the baby talk.

I’d tried mentioning Dan’s kids, Grace and Ethan, to Heather once. She’d looked at me as if I’d been clipping my toenails at my desk. I’d decided to drop the topic indefinitely.

‘We are. We are.’ Audrey smiled. ‘Listen, we really must have that catch-up. I’ve been meaning to put some time aside, see where we’re up to.’

‘Everything’s back on track.’ Heather squinted at Audrey with what I think was meant to be a smile, unless the sun was in her eyes. ‘I’d like to schedule in a meeting with you today if that’s convenient, Audrey? Four o’clock?’

‘Right-o!’ Audrey said. ‘Well, nothing pressing springs to mind…’

‘Ella?’ Heather rearranged her desk. ‘Could you update my diary?’

‘Of course, Heather.’ I wished I could schedule her in for a routine personality transplant while I was at it.

‘And, by the way.’ Audrey took off her hat, running her fingers through her perfect hair. ‘It’s great to have you back, Heather. Oh.’ She glanced at Leah’s desk then looked my way. ‘Have I missed the first brew of the morning?’

‘Coffee?’

‘Please. Do you mind? I’m always in need of a complete transfusion by the end of the week.’

I noticed a faint sneer from Heather as I walked past her desk, possibly because I wasn’t taking IMMEDIATE ACTION on compiling her account data. Instead, I made my way into the staff kitchen and found Leah standing against the counter, mobile in hand.

‘What’s the matter?’

‘I’m fine.’ She put her phone inside her pocket and took a teaspoon from the drawer. Then stopped, eyes flooding. ‘I split up with my boyfriend.’

‘Oh. That’s not good.’

‘But then we got back together.’

‘And that’s bad?’

‘He’s just messaged saying he thinks we should leave it tonight. And.’ She checked her reflection in the mirror. ‘I just can’t handle Heather today. Urgh.’ She wiped inkblots of mascara from the corners of her eyes. ‘I missed the early train, doing my makeup. Now it’s ruined and I’m not even seeing him…’

‘Here.’ I grabbed another cup for Audrey. ‘You go and get yourself fixed up. I’ll finish the drinks.’

‘You sure?’

The kettle clicked to a halt as I busied myself at the counter.

‘Thanks, Ella. Oh.’ She paused on her way to the door. ‘Make sure you use her special milk, whatever you do. Heather’s almond milk’s in there. Bottom shelf. She’s labelled it.’

Of course she has, I thought. Even though everyone else in the office shared the same two-litre carton, it obviously wasn’t good enough for the Constantine constitution. Almond milk. I stared at the weird, peachy liquid. It didn’t look all that bad, but it definitely smelled a bit funny. Sod it. If Heather was going to stress us all out, the least she could do was lower our Cholesterol. I gave us all a free sample.

Back at my desk I found another email lying in wait to sabotage my happiness:

URGENT: FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION.

Re: SUBJECT HEADING.

Re: Previous email: Account data for previous 12 months!!!

I couldn’t help but look over again.

Not a flicker.

Working with Heather was like catching a virus. You started slightly off-colour and ended up wanting to crawl under the covers, slayed by a highly contagious case of her utter misery. I found the files on the system and opened a new document. It was so bad that the thought of meeting mum for lunch formed an emergency raft in my mind that saw me safely through to half-past twelve.

About the Author:

Following a childhood spent writing her first books, most notably, Our Book about Jesus – a self-help guide for fellow young Catholics, and, The Sleepover – a compelling tale of a midnight feast, shockingly intercepted by fictitious parents with badly drawn hands, Patricia Caliskan always liked to play with words.

Patricia first saw her name misspelt in print aged 17, interviewing hungover rock stars and illegible actors for an Arts and Entertainment magazine. After graduating from the University of Liverpool, Patricia joined Trinity Mirror Newsgroup, working as editor across a portfolio of lifestyle magazine titles.

Patricia likes a good pair of boots, wearing perfume with her pyjamas, and laughter. Lots of laughter. Because without it life feels far too grown up for her liking. Told with mischievous humour, Patricia’s stories explore family dynamics, office politics, and the divergent roles of women throughout their lives.

Girlfriend, Interrupted is Patricia’s second novel: her first, Awful by Comparison, will be reissued by Sapere Books this summer.

#BlogTour Absolution by Paul Hardisty @Hardisty_Paul @Orendabooks

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: March 30, 2018

Publisher: Orenda

Genre: Thriller

Blurb:

It is 1997, eight months since vigilante justice-seeker Claymore Straker fled South Africa after his explosive testimony to Desmond Tutu’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In Paris, Rania LaTour, journalist, comes home to find that her son and her husband, a celebrated human rights lawyer, have disappeared. On an isolated island off the coast of East Africa, the family that Clay has befriended is murdered as he watches.

So begins the fourth instalment in the Claymore Straker series, a breakneck journey through the darkest reaches of the human soul, as Clay and Rania fight to uncover the mystery behind the disappearances and murders, and find those responsible. Events lead them both inexorably to Egypt, where an act of the most shocking terrorist brutality will reveal not only why those they loved were sacrificed, but how they were both, indirectly, responsible.

Relentlessly pursued by those who want them dead, they must work together to uncover the truth, and to find a way to survive in a world gone crazy. At times brutal, often lyrical, but always gripping, Absolution is a thriller that will leave you breathless and questioning the very basis of how we live and why we love.

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Absolution! I have an extract from the book to share today.

Extract:

*1*

Guns and Money

26th October 1997

Latitude 6° 21′ S; Longitude 39° 13′ E, Off the Coast of Zanzibar, East Africa

Claymore Straker drifted on the surface, stared down into the living architecture of the reef and tried not to think of her. Prisms of light crazed the many-branched and plated corals, winked rain- bows from the scales of fish. Edged shadows twitched across the shoals, and for a moment dusk came, muting the colours of the sea. Floating in this new darkness, a distant echo came, hard and metallic, like the first syllables of a warning. Clay shivered, felt the cold do a random walk up his spine, seep into the big muscles across his back. He listened awhile, but as quickly as it had come, the sound was gone.

Clay blew clear his snorkel, pulled up his mask, and looked out across the rising afternoon chop, searching the horizon. Other than the weekly supply run from Stone Town, boats here were few. It was off-season and the hotel – the only establishment on the island – was closed. He could see the long arc of the island’s southern point, the terrace of the little hotel where Grace worked as caretaker, the small dock where guests were welcomed from the main island, and away on the horizon, a dark wall of rain-heavy cloud, moving fast in a freshening easterly. He treaded water, scanned the distance back toward the mainland. But all he could see were the great banks of cloud racing slantwise across the channel and the sunlight strobing over the world in thick stochastic beams, everything transient and without reference.

He’d lost track of how long he’d been here now. Long enough to fashion a sturdy mooring for Flame from a concrete block that he’d anchored carefully on the seabed. Long enough to have snor- kelled every part of the island’s coastline, to know the stark difference between the life on the protected park side, and the grey sterility of the unprotected, fished-out eastern side. Sufficient time to hope that, perhaps, finally, he had disappeared.

The sun came, fell warm on the wet skin of his face and shoulders and the crown of his head. He pulled on his mask, jawed the snor- kel’s mouthpiece and started towards the isthmus with big overhand strokes. Months at sea had left him lean, on the edge of hunger, dark- ened and bleached both so that the hair on his chest and arms and shorn across the bonework of his skull stood pale against his skin. For the first time in a long time, he was without pain. He felt strong. It was as if the trade winds had somehow cleansed him, helped to heal the scars.

As he rounded the isthmus, Flame came into view. She lay bow to the island’s western shore, straining on her mooring. He could just see the little house where Grace lived, notched into the rock on the lee side of the point, shaded by wind-bent palms and scrub acacia.

And then he heard it again.

It wasn’t the storm. Nor was it the sound of the waves pounding the windward shore. Its rhythm was far too contained, focused in a way nature could never be. And it was getting louder.

A small boat had just rounded the island’s southern point and was heading towards the isthmus. The craft was sleek, sat low in the water. Spray flew from its bow, shot high from its stern. It was some kind of jet boat – unusual in these waters, and moving fast. The boat made a wide arc, steering clear of the unmarked shoals that dangered the south end of the island, and then abruptly changed course. It was heading straight for Flame. Whoever was piloting the thing knew these waters, and was in a hell of hurry.

Clay floated low and still in the water, and watched the boat approach. It was close enough now that he could make out the craft’s line, the black stripe along the yellow hull, the long, narrow bow, the raked V of the low-swept windscreen. It was closing on Flame, coming at speed. Two black men were aboard, one standing at the controls, the other sitting further back near the engines. The man who was piloting wore sunglasses and a red shirt with sleeves cut off at heavily muscled shoulders. The other had long dreadlocks that flew in the wind.

Twenty metres short of Flame, Red Shirt cut power. The boat slowed, rose up on its own wake and settled into the water. Dread- lock jumped up onto the bow with a line, grabbed Flame’s portside mainstay and stepped aboard.

Clay’s heart rate skyed. He floated quiet in the water, his heart hammering inside his ribs and echoing back against the water. Dread- lock tied the boat alongside and stepped into Flame’s cockpit. He leaned forwards at the waist and put his ear to the hatch a moment, then he straightened and knocked as one would on the door of an apartment or an office. He waited a while, then looked back at the man in the jet boat and hunched his shoulders.

‘Take a look,’ came Red Shirt’s voice, skipping along the water, the local accent clear and unmistakable.

Dreadlock pushed back the hatch – Clay never kept it locked – and disappeared below deck. Perhaps they were looking for someone else. They could be just common brigands, out for whatever they could find. All of Clay’s valuables – his cash and passports – were in the priest hole. His weapons, too. It was very unlikely that the man would find it, so beautifully concealed and constructed was it. There was nothing else on board that could identify Clay in any way. Maybe they would just sniff around and leave.

Nine months ago, he’d left Mozambique and made his way north along the African coast. Well provisioned, he’d stayed well off- shore and lived off the ocean for weeks at a time – venturing into harbour towns or quiet fishing villages for water and supplies only 10 paul hardisty

when absolutely necessary, keeping clear of the main centres, paying cash, keeping a low profile, never staying anywhere long. He had no phone, no credit cards, and hadn’t been asked to produce iden- tification of any sort since he’d left Maputo. Then he’d come here. An isolated island off the coast of Zanzibar. He’d anchored in the little protected bay. A couple of days later Grace had rowed out in a dinghy to greet him, her eight-year-old son Joseph at the oars, her adolescent daughter in the stern, holding a basket of freshly baked bread. He decided to stay a few days. Grace offered him work doing odd jobs at the hotel – fixing a leaking pipe, repairing the planking on the dock, replacing the fuel pump on the generator. In return, she brought him meals from her kitchen, the occasional beer, cold from the fridge. He stayed a week, and then another. They became friends, and then, unintentionally, lovers. Nights he would sit in Flame’s darkened cockpit and look out across the water at the lamp- light glowing in Grace’s windows, watch her shadow moving inside the house as she put her children to bed. One by one the lights would go out, and then he’d lie under the turning stars hoping sleep would come.

After a while, he’d realised that he’d stayed too long. He’d made to leave, rowed to shore and said goodbye. Joseph had cried. Zuz just smiled. But Grace had taken him by the hand and walked him along the beach and to the rocky northern point of the island where the sea spread blue and calm back towards the main island, and she’d convinced him to stay.

But now Clay shivered, watching Dreadlock move about the sail- boat. The first drops of rain met the water, a carpet of interfering distortions.

‘Hali?’ shouted Red Shirt in Swahili from the jet boat. News? ‘No here,’ came the other man’s voice from below deck.

‘Is it his?’ said Red Shirt.

‘Don’t know.’

‘It looks like his.’ ‘Don’t know.’

‘No guns? No money?’ ‘Me say it. Nothing.’ ‘Fuck.’

‘What we do?’

‘We find him. Let’s go.’

The jet boat’s engines coughed to life with a cloud of black smoke. Dreadlock untied the line, jumped back aboard and pushed off. The boat’s bow dipped with his weight, then righted. Clay dived, watched from below as the craft made a wide circle around Flame, buffeting her with its wake, then turned for shore.

It was heading straight for Grace’s house.