Blog Tour: The Whole Truth by Cara Hunter

An attractive student. An older professor. Think you know the story? Think again.

She has everything at stake; he has everything to lose. But one of them is lying, all the same.

When an Oxford student accuses one of the university’s professors of sexual assault, DI Adam Fawley’s team think they’ve heard it all before. But they couldn’t be more wrong.

Because this time, the predator is a woman and the shining star of the department, and the student a six-foot male rugby player.

Soon DI Fawley and his team are up against the clock to figure out the truth. What they don’t realise is that someone is watching.

And they have a plan to put Fawley out of action for good…

What I Thought:

The dreaming spires of Oxford are once again touched by crime in The Whole Truth, the fifth book in the Adam Fawley series from Cara Hunter.

Fawley and the team at St. Aldate’s Police Station are thrust into the the middle of a high-profile investigation where perpetrator and victim both have a lot to lose – but as they investigate, Fawley is forced to confront his own past in the most dramatic way.

This book is another stellar installment in the Adam Fawley series – Cara Hunter uses traditional storytelling in combination with text messages, podcast transcripts and Twitter comments to pull together an intricate and gripping story which is, I think, the best one yet in the series.

Although this book is part of a series, I appreciated the character recap at the front of the book which will allow anyone to drop in to this book and get going straight away. Having said that, though, if you have read the other books in the series, you’ll find the pay off in this one immensely rewarding!

The main cast of characters has grown since the first novel, but they are really well-balanced as a team, and there is something to admire even in those whose behaviour has let them down in the past…there’s hope for them to redeem theselves at least.

In a market that is jam-packed with crime novels, the Fawley series is a real standout, and I can’t wait to see what Cara Hunter has in store for Fawley and his team next!

The Whole Truth is published by Penguin Books.

To find out more about Cara Hunter and the Adam Fawley series, you can connect with her on Twitter.

This post is part of a blog tour celebrating the release of The Whole Truth. For more reviews and exclusive content, you can check out the other 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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Blog Tour: The Settlement by Ruth Kirby-Smith, Guest Post

Today I’m delighted to welcome Ruth Kirby-Smith to the blog. She is the author of The Settlement, a powerful historical novel of Northern Ireland, based on real events within her family. Ruth tells us all about the origins of her novel below…

About the Book

It’s 1984 and Olivia is returning home for her grandmother Sarah’s funeral. Sarah was a loving matriarch in small Irish village Lindara, so why would someone spit at her coffin? When Olivia finds Sarah’s red leather notebook, she unearths the se- cret her grandmother took to her grave…

In 1910 Sarah promises her anti-home rule husband Theo that she’ll keep her free thinking, suffragette views to herself. But one night Sarah finds she’s drawn into something which com- promises her principles. Later, when Theo gets dementia, he pesters Sarah about something called ‘The Settlement’. She’s mystified, but on opening a letter all is revealed. As the truth unfolds, we watch as Sarah is faced with an impossible decision – will she protect her stepson or her unborn child?

The Origins of The Settlement

It is ironic that I ended up writing a historical novel as history was my least favourite school subject.  As an insouciant fourteen-year-old I was cheeky to the toughest history master at Methodist College Belfast, and he gave me such a roasting that it was still remembered at our 50-year reunion in 2017. I never turned a hair, as the Irish saying goes, meaning it did not bother me, but I had enough sense to drop the subject.

I had wanted to write a book for as long as I can remember but university, travel, career and children got in the way.  When my father died, I began to question his unusual childhood and the stories he has told us of being fostered at three days old, going home to his real parents aged ten to get an education, being ‘kidnapped’ by his foster sisters who drove 50 miles across country to secretly take him back and then having no further contact with his biological parents until he was 19.  This presented an interesting family history but when I investigated what was happening in Ireland during those years, I found a fascinating story which I knew nothing about.  The two things together gave me the basis for my book.

The main characters in the book, Sarah and John, are based on my grandparents although the story is totally fictional.  My grandfather was a lot like John – go-getting, shrewd and successful but his fortune was made with hard work in a legitimate business.  He lived until I was in my 20’s and I remember him as a kind, well-informed and interesting man. 

My grandmother was quite different from the character in the book.  I did not know her well as she died when I was nine, but I do remember a rather cold and reserved character who showed me little affection.  We children did not enjoy the monthly Sunday visits to see her because we had to sit quietly on her prickly horsehair dining chairs to have afternoon tea and I remember stuffing my dresses under my legs to protect them.  My cousin George tells the story of his mother taking him as a young baby from Belfast to Co Armagh to show grandmother her new grandson.  She was turned away at the door as she had no appointment, and my grandmother was ‘not receiving’.  Odd indeed, and I suspect she had some mental health problems.

This gave me carte blanche for the character of Sarah in the book.  The social setting is Protestant anti-home rule Northern Ireland, and I needed my main character to challenge this position and present another point of view.  And so, the independent free thinking feisty Sarah came into being and she was a joy to write. In retrospect there is a lot of myself in the main character – questioning, prepared to go against the grain, outspoken and rebellious at times.  As a teenager in the 1960’s I was the first person to attend the Sunday morning church service without a hat and it caused quite a ruction.  Our minister, Reverend Lavery, listened to the complaints from members of the congregation and then said that it was better that I come to church without a hat than not come at all.  I loved him for that, and he finds a place in the book as the local minister in Lindara taking the news of war casualties to his flock. 

I also used names of friends and family.  Lizzie, Sarah’s cousin is the name of two of my oldest friends, Violet was a kind a funny aunt, Miss Henderson my favourite teacher in primary school and Miss Blakeley is a tribute to David Blakeley who taught me social studies in 6th form at Methodist College and finally awoke in me an interest in studying. 

The colonel is based on my aunt’s old gardener and there are many stories of his comic character.  The one included in the book where he is rude to the church ladies having tea is true except that it was a local titled Lady who was his target.

The book is truly a mixture of fact and fiction and the grain of my family runs all the way through it.

Many thanks to Ruth for telling us a bit about the origins of The Settlement. The blog tour continues with the blogs below, and I’ll be reviewing the book next week.

The Settlement is published by 2QT.

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Blog Tour: The Assistant by Kjell Ola Dahl tr. Don Bartlett

Oslo, 1938. War is in the air and Europe is in turmoil. Hitler’s Germany has occupied Austria and is threatening Czechoslovakia; civil war rages in Spain and Mussolini reigns in Italy.

When a woman turns up at the office of police-turned-private investigator Ludvig Paaske, he and his assistant – his one-time nemesis and former drug-smuggler, Jack Rivers – begin a seemingly straightforward investigation into marital infidelity.

But all is not what it seems. Soon, Jack is accused of murder, sending them on a trail which leads back to the 1920s, to prohibition-era Norway, to the smugglers, sex workers and hoodlums of his criminal past … and an extraordinary secret.

What I Thought:

Historical crime fiction? Be still my heart! Once again, Orenda Books highlights the wealth of quality novels currently being written in languages other than English. This time, we’re in pre-war Norway where Jack’s (The Assistant) criminal past catches up with him and puts him in the frame for murder. Plus! Added covert Nazis for an espionage twist…

I really enjoyed the format of this book where we alternate between the 1920s and 1930s, as it carefully reveals where each of the seemingly disconnected threads links up, until the truth – or certain parts of it – are revealed. There are facts cleverly concealed until just the right time to push the story forward and the whole think is brilliantly paced.

Once again, I have to commend the publisher on their choices as Don Bartlett’s translation captures the tone of the two time periods so very well. There is definitely a classic, American noir feel to the book which I’m sure is a result of both author and translator putting in the work – even the femme fatale is complicated and multi-layered!

I very much enjoy both crime and historical fiction, so to see both genres come together in such an exciting story is just great for me – I’ll definitely be looking out for more of the same…

The Assistant is published by Orenda Books.

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eighteen novels, the most prominent of which form a series of police procedurals- cum-psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix, and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015 (published in English by Orenda books in 2019). His work has been published in fourteen countries. He lives in Oslo. Follow him on Twitter.

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate the publication of The Assistant by Kjell Ola Dahl, tr. Don Bartlett. For more reviews and exclusive content, why not 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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Book Review: The Housing Lark by Sam Selvon

Set in London in the 1960’s, when the UK encouraged its Commonwealth citizens to emigrate as a result of the post-war labor shortage, The Housing Lark explores the Caribbean migrant experience in the “Mother Country” by following a group of friends as they attempt to buy a home together. Despite encountering a racist and predatory rental market, the friends scheme, often comically, to find a literal and figurative place of their own. Will these motley folks, male and female, Black and Indian, from Trinidad and Jamaica, dreamers, hustlers, and artists, be able to achieve this milestone of upward mobility? Unique and wonderful, comic and serious, cynical and tenderhearted, The Housing Lark poses the question of whether their “lark,” or quixotic idea of finding a home, can ever become a reality.

What I Thought:

I first came across Sam Selvon a couple of years ago, when the TV show The Novels That Shaped Our World increased my TBR by many, many volumes! I really like these types of programmes and book lists as, although they are based on the opinions of others, they do lead to exposure to some wonderful books which could otherwise never come to my attention.

The Housing Lark is an incredibly hard-hitting novel that hides its social commentary very cleverly beneath a layer of comedy. Battersby and friends make the decision to club together to buy their own house, and their failure to put any money away to do so – as so many young people often do – is hilarious, but the reasons why they want to dream big are always bubbling away underneath. Lack of decent accommodation and exorbitant rents and a pall of racism over the rental market are all taken in stride by this resourceful group.

This book is very much a character study and as we learn about each member of the group – Harry Banjo who is put in prison in place of someone else and Jean who works as a prostitute at Hyde Park, for instance – and their hopes and dreams, whether they get the house in the end is neither here nor there. It’s more about viewing these characters as representatives of those Commonwealth citizens who came to the UK after WW2 and have been grossly exploited and let down ever since.

It’s great to see books such as The Housing Lark back in print, and making it onto these lists of must-read novels as they are usually so full of what have traditionally been ‘the classics’. Books like this have so much to say in the present day, particularly with today’s generation of young people struggling themselves with the rental market.

The Housing Lark is published by Penguin Classics.

For more information on Sam Selvon, there’s a great profile on The British Library website.

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

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Blog Tour: Shooting Stars Over Bluebell Cliff by Della Galton

There’s someone out there for everyone… you just need to know where to look…

Unlucky in love Poppy Allen is the producer of a brand-new TV show, ‘Date for a Day’ – think ‘Take Me Out’ meets ‘It’s a Knockout’!

Lovelorn contestants must perform a series of seaside challenges to win the hand of the starring lady and a ‘Date for a Day’.

Left heartbroken when Stephen, her childhood sweetheart eloped with her best friend on her hen night – Poppy has no plans to risk her own heart again. Besides, she’s far too busy filming contestants against the backdrop of the beautiful Bluebell Cliff Hotel and the stunning Jurassic Dorset coastline.

However, when sabotage on set threatens to stop shooting, Poppy discovers soulmates can be found in the most unexpected places…

What I Thought:

A little while ago, I reviewed Della Galton’s Moonlight Over Studland Bay, and said then that I was thrilled to find an excellent romance novel that was set in my local area. Well now I’m thoroughly spoiled as Shooting Stars Over Bluebell Cliff is another one!

This time, we’re focused on the Bluebell Cliff of the title – a hotel in Dorset where dreams come true – and the filming of a brand new reality dating show, Date for a Day. At the helm is local girl Poppy Allen who has been unlucky in love, but will making her own dating show lead to success for her in the dating stakes?

The concept of this book is really great, allowing a whistle-stop tour of the best parts of Dorset, while touching on a subject that (whether you like it or not!) is a huge part of our culture. Regardless of your views of dating shows, Poppy and the crew are a great cast of characters which leads to some really funny moments.

Poppy’s family also play a huge part in the book, being a close-knit blended family that have each others’ backs. They seemed like a really lovely lot and their trials and tribulations gave a sometimes quite emotional turn to the story.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Bluebell Cliff, as everything resolved to my satisfaction! What luck for me, then that I picked up Della Galton’s first book about the hotel – Sunshine Over Bluebell Cliff – to read next…

Shooting Stars Over Bluebell Cliff is published by Boldwood Books.

Della Galton is a Dorset-based author, and you can catch up with her on Twitter, or why not sign up to her newsletter to be among the first to know about her latest books?

This post is part of a blog tour celebrating the publication of Shooting Stars Over Bluebell Cliff. Why not check out the 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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