Book Review: The Dark by Sharon Bolton

HE’S WATCHING HER. AND SHE HAS NO IDEA…

When a baby is snatched from its pram and cast into the river Thames, off-duty police officer Lacey Flint is there to prevent disaster. But who would want to hurt a child?

DCI Mark Joesbury has been expecting this. Monitoring a complex network of dark web sites, Joesbury and his team have spotted a new terrorist threat from the extremist, women-hating, group known as ‘incels’ or ‘involuntary celibates.’ Joesbury’s team are trying to infiltrate the ring of power at its core, but the dark web is built for anonymity, and the incel army is vast.

Pressure builds when the team learn the snatched child was just the first in a series of violent attacks designed to terrorise women. Worse, the leaders of the movement seem to have singled out Lacey as the embodiment of everything they hate, placing her in terrible danger…

What I Thought:

Goodness me! Sharon Bolton has made a welcome return to the Lacey Flint series with The Dark, which was published this week, and what a return it is!

I have been a firm fan of this series, since winning the first book, Now You See Me, in a Twitter competition some years ago and after an extended break – in which Sharon Bolton didn’t actually take a break, as she wrote several excellent standalone novels – Lacey is back with all of the ingredients that make these novels so compelling.

In The Dark, we delve a bit further into some of the details of Lacey’s life that we already know from previous novels, but then are bang up to date with terrorist activity from a group of incels who are terrorising London’s women. Using the quick connection methods of social media, they are gathering to disrupt a landmark event taking place in the capital – with Flint, and Mark Joesbury trying to stop them.

In this novel, as in all her other books, Sharon Bolton is expert at leading the reader up the garden path – like a good magician, you won’t notice the misdirection until she’s ready, but the payoff is just brilliant!

I think what makes Sharon Bolton’s novels so terrifying is that some of the crimes and plots she describes are perfectly believeable. Groups similar to that in this novel are in the news, we know they exist online, if you spend any time at all on social media, you see their hateful comments towards women, so it’s not a huge leap to consider that the events in this novel could happen.

Alongside this immediate threat, there is a direct threat to Lacey, which is tied to her early life – but could it explain some of what is happening to the rest of London’s women?

I can’t heap enough praise on this book, and this series. Sharon Bolton shows that there is plenty of life left in Lacey’s story and so many more threads that could be picked up in future and, if you’d like to, you could read this book in isolation, but you really would be missing a treat! I can’t recommend them enough.

The Dark is published by Orion Books.

About the Author:

Sharon (formerly SJ) Bolton grew up in a cotton-mill town in Lancashire and had an eclectic early career which she is now rather embarrassed about. She gave it all up to become a mother and a writer.

Her first novel, Sacrifice, was voted Best New Read by Amazon.uk, whilst her second, Awakening, won the 2010 Mary Higgins Clark award. In 2014, Lost, (UK title, Like This, For Ever) was named RT Magazine’s Best Contemporary Thriller in the US, and in France, Now You See Me won the Plume de Bronze. That same year, Sharon was awarded the CWA Dagger in the Library, for her entire body of work.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book, via Netgalley, for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own – but I did also buy a finished copy because it’s amazing…

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Blog Tour: Outcast by Chris Ryan

After single-handedly intervening in a deadly terrorist attack in Mali, SAS Warrant Officer Jamie ‘Geordie’ Carter is denounced as a lone wolf by jealous superiors.

Now a Regiment outcast, Carter is given a second chance with a deniable mission: locate SAS hero-gone-rogue, David Vann.

Vann had been sent into Afghanistan to train local rebels to fight the Taliban. But he’s since gone silent and expected attacks on key targets have not happened.

Tracking Vann through Afghanistan and Tajikistan, Carter not only discovers the rogue soldier’s involvement in a conspiracy that stretches far beyond the Middle East – but an imminent attack that will have deadly consequences the world over…

What I Thought:

Although I hadn’t personally read a Chris Ryan book prior to reading Outcast, my kids have read some of his books for younger readers and are always full of praise for them, and I have to say I agree.

This book is full of action right off the bat, and continues at a brisk pace to the dramatic conclusion, as ‘Geordie’ Carter embarks on a one-man rescue mission across Afghanistan, which is shrouded in secrecy and has no possibility of asking for backup. There is cross and double-cross – as ever when dealing with secret government organisations – but this book has an extra hook as it is bang up-to-date, taking place after Western forces withdrew from Afghanistan

Although I, obviously, enjoyed the action in the books, I also found the little details interesting, those things that clearly come from Chris Ryan’s experience in the SAS. I’m certainly not suggesting that reading this book with make you a survival expert, but there are certain tangental details around things like tracking and water conservation that could give you a boost if you were ever in a situation that needed it.

I worried that this book might be a little blood-thirsty but, while there was a good deal of death and destruction, none of it was gratuitous – it was all perfectly placed within the story to give an impression of Geordie Carter and the situation he was in.

At just over 300 pages, I flew through this book as the fast-pace leaves little time to catch your breath. It was a welcome introduction to Chris Ryan’s work and I’ll definitely be checking out more…

Outcast is published by Zaffre.

About the Author:

Chris Ryan was born in Newcastle.

In 1984 he joined 22 SAS. After completing the year-long Alpine Guides Course, he was the troop guide for B Squadron Mountain Troop. He completed three tours with the anti-terrorist team, serving as an assaulter, sniper and finally Sniper Team Commander.

Chris was part of the SAS eight-man team chosen for the famous Bravo Two Zero mission during the 1991 Gulf War. He was the only member of the unit to escape from Iraq, where three of his colleagues were killed and four captured, for which he was awarded the Military Medal. Chris wrote about his experiences in his book The One That Got Away, which became an immediate bestseller. Since then he has written over fifty books and presented a number of very successful TV programmes.

This post is part of a blog tour celebrating the publication of Outcast – check out some of the other participating blogs below for more reviews and exclusive content.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Cover Reveal: The Only Exception by Claire Huston

I’m thrilled today to reveal the cover of Claire Huston’s next ‘Love in the Comptons’ novel, The Only Exeption. Having read Claire’s previous book, Art & Soul, I’m really looking forward to it, and will be reviewing the book next month.

The blurb is below, so here’s the cover!

Lucinda Green knows something is missing from her life. But what? Her catering business is enjoying modest success and she loves her cosy house, even if she does have to share it with her irritating ex-fiancé.

Whatever’s making her unsettled and edgy, Lucinda’s certain that a lack of romance isn’t the problem. How could it be when she doesn’t believe in true love?

But Lucinda’s beliefs are shaken by a series of electric encounters with Alex Fraser, a newly-notorious actor who gradually proves himself to be infuriatingly funny and smart, as well as handsome.

Not that any of that matters. Because Lucinda doesn’t believe in all that ‘The One’ nonsense. That’s the rule.

But doesn’t every rule have an exception?

This uplifting grumpy-meets-sunshine romance is perfect for fans of Katie Fforde, Phillipa Ashley and Milly Johnson.

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Blog Tour: Sister Stardust by Jane Green

Claire grew up in a small town, far from the glitz and glamour of London. Ridiculed by her stepmother Linda, and harboring a painful crush on her brother’s best friend, she has begun to outgrow the life laid out before her. On the cusp of adulthood in the late 1960s, Claire yearns for the adventure and independence of a counter-culture taking root across the world.

One day a chance encounter leads to an unexpected opportunity. Whispers of a palace in Morocco. A getaway where famous artists, models, fashion designers and musicians – even the Rolling Stones – have been known to visit.

When Claire arrives in Marrakesh, she’s swept up in a heady world of music, drugs and communal living. But one magnetic young woman seems to hold sway over the entire scene. Talitha Getty, socialite wife of the famous oil heir, has pulled everyone from Yves Saint Laurent to Marianne Faithfull into her orbit. Yet when she meets Claire, the pair instantly connect. As they grow closer, and the inner circle tightens, the realities of Talitha’s precarious life set off a chain of dangerous events that could alter Claire’s life forever.

What I Thought:

I’m familiar with Jane Green from reading some of her early novels, so was really interested to see how she would approach a story that’s based in real-life. In Sister Stardust, Jane Green uses the eyes of a fictional character to evoke the atmosphere of swinging London and 1960’s Marrakesh, which allows a real depth of description as country-mouse Claire takes in all the experiences she is offered, thanks to her chance connection with the bold, beautiful and famous of the 1960s.

Although the book is primarily about Claire – by this time known as Cece – and her interactions with Talitha Getty, I felt that it was much more about that whole time in history, when the world was still recovering from a devastating war, the staid and repressed 1950s had passed and young people were discovering that they did not have to follow the same path as their parents and could remake themselves in any way they wanted.

Seeing this period through Cece’s eyes gives it a brightness and newness that is really fascinating and she, as a character is, a great device for viewing the world that the Gettys made for themselves in Marrakesh. Cece is able to sometimes participate in that way of living, but sometimes stand alongside what’s going on – she’s almost like a Greek chorus at times, providing a more innocent lens on what was a decadent way of living, unknown to most of us.

The Gettys themselves were really interesting, and this book is a great entry into their world, with an excellent list of further reading if you want to know more about them and the time.

Although the book, as described by Cece, is mostly upbeat it is easy to see the difficulties faced by Talitha Getty, her struggles with her mental health and dependence on drugs. Jane Green does touch on the trauma of her early life which must have inevitably taken its toll, and does an expert job in creating a real character out of Talitha – very often real-life characters in fiction can have a two-dimensional feel to them – but I felt that Talitha was fully fleshed-out here and, despite her riches and fame, you can’t help but feel sorry for the pain she experienced in her early life.

This book is very much a love letter to the 1960s, and Talitha Getty, and it will give you a really good feel for that era. The scenes in Marrakesh in particular are alive with the sights, sounds and smells of the souk and this is a welcome exploration from Jane Green of a style of novel that’s new to her.

Sister Stardust is published by Harper360.

About the Author:

Jane Green is the author of twenty-one novels, including eighteen New York Times Bestsellers, one cookbook and various short stories.

She is published in over 25 languages, and has over ten million books in print worldwide.

She has been part of the ABC News team covering royal weddings, has had her own radio show on BBC Radio London, and has made regular appearances on TV and radio.

She contributes to a number of newspapers and magazines, and is a graduate of the International Culinary Institute in New York. Green is an avid cook, amateur decorator, and passionate gardener. She is also a regular storyteller for The Moth. Her first story for The Moth, Greener Grass, was video taped and subsequently went viral on Facebook, with over three million views.

A resident of Westport, Connecticut, she lives there with her husband and a small menagerie of animals. Her children swear they have flown the nest, but she’s not sure she believes them. In her next life she wants to come back as Elin Hilderbrand.

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the publication of Sister Stardust by Jane Green – check out the participating blogs below for more reviews and exclusive content.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: The Great American Boogaloo by Paul Flower

From his woodland bunker in Michigan, Bo ‘Big Bruddah’ Watts has assembled a scratch army of gun-toting militiamen, and he’s ready to use it. Rumours are circulating that the liberal, female President of the USA is going to fight climate change by banning beef, snatching the great American hamburger from the mouths of patriots.

Big Bruddah missed the last militia uprising. That one, sparked by a conspiracy theory about a deadly virus and stolen cheese recipes, ended in failure when his now ex-wife, Miky Spike, stopped the potentially bloody conflict at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Wisconsin.

He is determined to stop the president, with the help of eccentric octogenarian Wilbur Tuttle, who runs Silver Eagle Security, the private military enterprise owned by the hapless former governor of Michigan, Bill Hoeksma.

The plan is to launch a coup in Tampa, Florida by kidnapping the President’s daughter and then installing Hoeksma as a puppet President.. With the support of Silver Eagle’s best men, Big Bruddah and Tuttle hope to ignite the long-awaited insurrection militia members call the “boogaloo.” What could possibly go wrong?

What I Thought:

After the first few pages of The Great American Boogaloo, I really wondered what on earth I was reading! I’m so glad I stuck with it though, as it’s both black comedy genius and a timely warning about the power of conspiracy theories.

Although we all like to think that we can’t be easily swayed by outlandish stories in the press, we are all susceptible to believing stories that feed into our worldview, so when Big Bruddah Watts reads that the female President of the US – who he and his militia are determined to hate anyway – wants to ban beef, and snatch away the Great American Burger, his plans to stage a coup are put in motion.

The book flits between Big Bruddah and his group as they travel across the US to put their plan in action, and a number of other interested parties, including Wilbur Tuttle of Silver Eagle Security and Bill Hoeksma who is not overly blessed in the brain department, but thinks it would be kinda nice to be installed as the President. As we meet this characters and the narrative builds, it becomes more and more like a screwball comedy, capped off when all these folks who don’t believe in climate change are delayed in their efforts by that very thing – extreme weather events!

There not much more of the plot I can go into without giving things away, but this really was a rewarding book – it was hilarious in places and horrifying in others and went some way to explaining just why some of those folks that – for example – follow Trump do so, and how they are whipped up into a frenzy by any perceived assault on their ‘freedom’.

There is a book that comes before this one – The Great American Cheese War – and, while it might give you some valuable background, you don’t need to have read it first. I’m going to go back and grab it because I really enjoyed Paul Flower’s writing and his unique take on the culture war that’s currently going on in the US.

The Great American Boogaloo is published by Farrago Books.

About the Author:

Paul Flower was born and raised in Michigan and still resides there. He has been writing professionally for more than 40 years. While much of his career has been spent in advertising and marketing, he worked in broadcasting for a short time. Paul has one previously published novel to his credit, and his writing has appeared in national and regional magazines. He and his wife have four grown children and a rapidly evolving number of incredibly beautiful and intelligent grandchildren.

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the publication of The Great American Boogaloo – for more reviews and exclusive content, check out the participating blogs below:

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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