Paws by Kate Foster

I really wanted to read this book, because I felt it would be helpful to my son, who is in a similar position to the main character in Paws – Alex, who is eleven, autistic and about to start high school.

The cover of the paperback is gorgeous – a beautiful illustration by Ayesha L. Rubio is of a little boy (Alex) in blue clothes, resting his back against a tree trunk and cuddling his white dog (Kevin), his pet cockapoo.

The book is 237 pages with black and white illustrations inside of balls, bones, collars and so on. The chapters are a good size – not too long, not too short. It looks a fun book that any child would enjoy, but I would say it was aimed at 9-12 year olds.

The story begins on Monday 7th November – “five days to PAWS”. It is written in the first person from Alex’s viewpoint. He lives with his mum, dad and older brother Ned (14) in Jessops Lake, on the Gold Coast of Australia. He doesn’t fit in at school and what he would like most in the world is a real friend. When he finds out that PAWS, the famous dog show, is coming to Jessops Lake, he vows to enter his cockapoo Kevin and win a trophy, believing that will earn him friends.

I loved this book, it is so well written with so many important messages about being different, and accepting others who are different. I also love a book with a dog in and Kevin the cockapoo is adorable. The relationship between Alex and Kevin is beautiful, you can see the bond between them and how it benefits both boy and dog. It is written so realistically, but of course, pets do this job so well, as we know.

My one tiny criticism is that it is set in Australia, so British kids may be unfamiliar with some bits, like the native wildlife. I’ll have to reassure my son that he’s unlikely to come across dangerous snakes and spiders in England!

But there’s so much to love about this book! Not only is it fun, with great characters and an interesting story, but it’s an IMPORTANT book too. The more books we have aimed at children on the autistic spectrum, the better. I think my son will relate to this on so many levels and it is vital that books contain characters that every child can relate to.


Alex’s best friend is Kevin the cockapoo, although what he wants most of all is a friend at school. A charming and gentle story about how life isn’t one size fits all.

Everything is changing for 11-year-old Alex and, as an autistic person, change can be terrifying. With the first day of high school only a couple of months away, Alex is sure that having a friend by his side will help. So, he’s devised a plan – impress the kids at school by winning a trophy at the PAWS Dog Show with his trusty sidekick, Kevin. This should be a walk in the park … right?





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Elodie’s Library of Second Chances by Rebecca Raisin

Elodie (Ellie) is a thirty-something woman who is used to the red carpet, but would much prefer to be reading. Her younger brother Teddy is in love with actress Louise, who isn’t interested in him. Their mother Dorothea is very pushy and rather intimidating and bossy.

When Ellie sees a newspaper article announcing Willow Grove library is at risk of closure, she decides to apply for the job of head librarian and try to save it. After all, that would be much closer to her dream job than working for her mother’s media empire, where it’s all about profit. But she doesn’t want to be recognised as the face of Astor. She needs a less glamorous look…

Being readers, we will all relate to the power of books and the need to keep libraries open. There are so many things in Ellie’s character that I relate to. She realises the importance of libraries as a venue for people to meet people too and how important that social interaction is for so many.

As well as Ellie being a wonderful character (We’d definitely be mates in real life!), I also really loved Harry the homeless man and Alfie the autistic eleven-year-old child (and as the mother of a daughter with Aspergers, I can tell you the autism is described perfectly). Then there’s Finn, the local journalist, who’s really rather lovely…

This is the first book by Rebecca Raisin that I have read, but I really enjoyed it and it won’t be the last. It’s so heart-warming and beautiful. It’s an easy read, but one you want to stick with to find out what happens to the characters you quickly come to care about. I recommend it 100%, you won’t regret it!


Elodie’s Library of Second Chances

An uplifting story about fresh starts, new beginnings and the power of stories, from the bestselling author of Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop!

When Elodie applies for the job of librarian in peaceful Willow Grove, she’s looking forward to a new start. As the daughter of a media empire, her every move has been watched for years, and she longs to work with the thing she loves most: books.

It’s a chance to make a real difference too, because she soon realises that there are other people in Willow Grove who might need a fresh start – like the homeless man everyone walks past without seeing, or the divorcée who can’t seem to escape her former husband’s misdeeds.

Together with local journalist Finn, Elodie decides these people have stories that need sharing. What if instead of borrowing books readers could ‘borrow’ a person, and hear the life stories of those they’ve overlooked?

But Elodie isn’t quite sharing her whole story either. As the story of the library’s new success grows, will her own secret be revealed?

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Author Bio – Rebecca Raisin writes heartwarming romance from her home in sunny Perth, Australia. Her heroines tend to be on the quirky side and her books are usually set in exotic locations so her readers can armchair travel any day of the week. The only downfall about writing about gorgeous heroes who have brains as well as brawn, is falling in love with them – just as well they’re fictional. Rebecca aims to write characters you can see yourself being friends with. People with big hearts who care about relationships and believe in true, once in a lifetime love. Her bestselling novel Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop has been optioned for film with MRC studios and Frolic Media.

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Hopes and Dreams for the Variety Girls by Tracy Baines

I do enjoy a saga, especially those set in England during WWII, so I was very keen to read Tracy Baines’s Variety Girls series. The fact it was set in Lincolnshire (where I’m from) and was about theatre just jumped it to the top of my pile.

This is the second book in the Variety Girls series, but can easily be read as a standalone.

The story begins in Cleethorpes in September 1939. Frances O’Leary (23) and Jessie Delaney (18) are both Variety Girls, but are now worrying that war is approaching. Jessie’s fiancé Harry is in the RAF, so she is worried about his future safety. As it is indeed announced that the country is at war, it is also declared that all places of entertainment are to be closed. That includes the Empire Theatre and the Variety Girls are suddenly without a job.

Frances and Jessie live in Geraldine’s terraced house in Barkhouse Lane along with Grace (Jessie’s mother) and a former ballerina, Eddie (Jessie’s younger brother, nearly fifteen) and Geraldine herself.

The third Variety Girl is Virginia (Ginny) Thompson who is 19 and a dancer. Rita, Kay and Sally make up the rest of the troupe, but those three leave when the war is declared. Frances, Jessie and Ginny vow to continue singing and dancing somehow and include Dolly too, who works at the theatre. It turns out Frances and Ginny may both be hiding a similar kind of secret…

The girls are all wonderful characters, very believable and you quickly start to care about them. The book is full of ups and downs, friendships and relationships, secrets and drama – and all beautifully written. I do enjoy books where there’s a great group of female friends.

I loved seeing all the little normal bits that make up the women’s days – household chores, cooking and preparing food, etc. It sets the scene really well for everyday life at the start of the war and is very evocative. But then we have the more exciting side of the theatre, all the singing and dancing to provide escapism from the horrors of the war to come.


Hopes and Dreams for the Variety Girls

As war is declared can The Variety Girls keep smiling through…

Cleethorpes – September 1939

Struggling to keep their spirits up as the reality of war hits home and theatres are closed, friends Jessie Delaney and Frances O’Leary search for work to see them through until they can sing and dance again.

Frances, once upon a time followed her dreams of becoming a dancer but soon found herself with a broken heart and a precious secret when her lover abandoned her. Keeping her secret from her friends grows more difficult as time passes and their friendship grows..

But with her lover returning to England from a successful tour of America, how long will it be before the truth comes to light?

Secrets aren’t good for anyone and Frances isn’t the only one hiding things from her friends. Ginny Thompson, another Variety Girl is hoping for the best. But is hope enough?

Can the Variety Girls pull together to help each other through the tough times or will their secrets tear them apart?

A gritty and heart-warming saga perfect for readers of Elaine Everest, Nancy Revell and Pam Howes.

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Tracy Baines is the bestselling saga writer of The Variety Girls series, originally published by Ebury, which Boldwood will continue with. She was born and brought up in Cleethorpes and spent her early years in the theatre world which inspired her writing. The first title of her new saga series for Boldwood – set amongst the fisherfolk of Grimsby – will be published in October 2022.

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The Little Theatre on Halfpenny Lane by Clodagh Murphy

This is Book One in the Halfpenny Lane series.

Set in southern Ireland, it follows the story of three Carroll sisters – Aoife (27), Sive (22) and Mimi – who inherit a theatre on Halfpenny Lane in Dublin from their Great-Aunt Detta. It turns out that a share in the theatre was also left to Jonathan Hunt, Detta’s godson. The sisters are unhappy about this, as they have a vision of how to make the theatre a success and they hadn’t factored in anyone else being involved. But now they have to work with Jonathan and his plans for the theatre are very different…

I loved the sisters straight away, they have a great relationship. They are all very different characters, so it’s easy to get to know them. I loved the theme of the theatre too, it reminded me a bit of my favourite children’s book – Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild – where one of the girls wants to be an actress and I noticed the sisters are mentioned as being fans of Noel’s books! I loved Mimi’s no-nonsense stance and dress sense. Aoife is more like me, but I felt she often kept her mouth shut when I might have said something!

In this novel, two of the sisters love acting, Aoife is more of a reluctant performer, being practical and realising someone needs a “proper job” in the household. But all the girls love the theatre that Detta built up and want to bring it back to its former glory. I enjoyed the romantic element too and felt it was a good balance of everything you want in a story.

I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more. It felt like something different with the theatrical aspect and I loved that. I also liked the setting of Dublin and other parts of Ireland because I have never been there, but felt the story brought those places to life.


The Little Theatre on Halfpenny Lane

Aoife and her sisters know exactly what to do when they inherit their Great-aunt Detta’s theatre on Halfpenny Lane:

  • Restore the dilapidated building to its former glory.
  • Perform together on its stage to packed houses and rapturous applause.
  • Live happily ever after.

But they didn’t count on Detta leaving a share in the theatre to her godson, Jonathan. Now they’ll have to persuade him to buy into their vision of stardust and magic – or find the money to buy him out.

As they fight to save the theatre, Aoife also battles her growing feelings for Jonathan. Because she can’t let herself fall for the man who’s about to bring the curtain down on their dreams.

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Clodagh Murphy lives in Dublin, Ireland. She has worked as a bar waitress, cleaner, secretary, editorial assistant, mystery shopper and movie extra. But she always dreamed of being an author, and after more jobs than she cares to (or can) remember, she now writes full-time. For more information about her books or to sign up to her newsletter, visit her website at

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The Highland Hens by Judy Leigh

I have read several of Judy Leigh’s books and loved them all. She is one of my favourite authors and besides her style of writing and wonderful characters, I love how she writes about older people. In The Highland Hens, the cover has the tagline “Because being old enough to know better, doesn’t mean your dancing days are done…” and it’s that kind of positivity about older women that makes her novels stand out.

So I was really looking forward to reading her latest novel – and of course, it didn’t disappoint!

The star of this story is Mimi McKinlay, 88 years young, who lives in the impressive Glen Carrick House near Loch Ness. Back in the 1950s, she was a chorus girl and still loves to dream about the good old days of singing and dancing on stage. She lives with her three sons – Finlay (64), Angus (61) and Hamish (57).

Isabella Ballantyne is Mimi’s Italian friend. She’s 82 and was a fashion model in the 1960s. Just like Mimi, she’s not ready to grow old gracefully, but wants to live life for as long as she has left. She drives a red sports car and is a complete hoot! Isabella and Mimi together are brilliant. But on her own, Mimi seems sad, is eating too little and drinking too much.

So her sons decide that what she needs is a companion…

Jess Oliver is enjoying her first holiday to the Scottish Highlands. She is 59 years old and a divorced mum to Saffy (25). But her housing plans don’t quite work out, so she ends up taking the job as Mimi’s live-in companion.

I won’t tell you anything else, you’ll have to read it for yourself – and please do, because it’s an excellent book. Judy’s books are always very accessible, easy to get into and then you fall in love with the characters and need to keep reading. Do they get their Happy Ever Afters? You really hope so.

The Highland Hens is another great read that takes you through a variety of emotions, but always ending up feeling happy and with a big smile on your face – albeit a bit tinged with sadness at the end, when you realise you have to leave the characters behind. Though I suspect the wonderful high-kicking Mimi will stay with me a while…


The Highland Hens

In the imposing Glen Carrick House overlooking Scotland’s famous Loch Ness, lives eighty-eight-year-old Mimi McKinlay, cared for by her three adult sons. Hamish has inherited his mother’s musical talents, Fin is the responsible brother, and Angus has the complicated and brooding personality to match his dashing good looks.

But what all the brothers share is a concern that their beloved mother is living in her memories of her days on stage, while letting her present days pass her by.

Jess Oliver is at a turning point. Amicably divorced after years of being married, this trip to the Highlands is a first taste of independence. It isn’t long before the beauty and hospitality of Scotland captures her heart.

When Mimi and Jess’s paths cross, a friendship is formed that will change both women’s lives.  And as together they find ways to look forward instead of to the past, long forgotten dreams are within reach, and every new day is fresh with possibilities.

Take a trip to the Highlands with Judy Leigh for an unforgettable story of glorious pasts and fabulous futures, of love, friendship, family and fun. The perfect feel-good novel for all fans of Dawn French, Dee Macdonald and Cathy Hopkins.

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Author Bio –

Judy Leigh is the USA Today bestselling author of The Old Girls’ Network and Five French Hens and the doyenne of the ‘it’s never too late’ genre of women’s fiction. She has lived all over the UK from Liverpool to Cornwall, but currently resides in Somerset.

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Dead Man Deep by Lynne McEwan

This is Book 2 in the series, but can easily be read as a standalone.

Detective Inspector Shona Oliver of Dumfries and Galloway Police also works as a volunteer at the Kirkness Lifeboat Station. She is married to Rob. Together they run a boutique B&B and have a daughter called Becca, who is fifteen.

When she is called out to an emergency in the middle of the night, she discovers a dead man and a seriously injured boy. They are on Kilcatrin Island, surrounded by phosphorus grenades which causes chemical burns. Things become even worse when she realises it’s her friend’s husband and son…

I liked Shona very much and enjoyed seeing the professional working side of her, but also the mum struggling with a teenage daughter (who wants to get her nose pierced underage and is generally pushing the boundaries) and fighting for her marriage, after Rob has faced issues in his personal life and his previous job.

There’s also an important environmental message to the book. The effects on the local community grow, with the beaches having to shut for safety reasons and tourists being deterred from the area. You can see how the local economy suffers and the tension events cause among the locals.

There’s a lot going on in the book and I always enjoy following a police force trying to solve a crime, so I especially enjoyed this aspect, but also seeing Shona’s different roles – at work and at home. She is the star of the show for me and came across as completely real.


Nothing stays buried forever

Lifeboat volunteer DI Shona Oliver receives a Mayday call coming from Kilcatrin Island. Upon the beach is the badly burned body of a man, and a boy lies gravely injured nearby. Strewn around them are scores of Second World War incendiary bombs, presumably washed up by the tide from Beaufort’s Dyke, an offshore arms dump deep in the Irish Sea.

The dead man is a local fisherman – his son the other victim – and it rocks the tight-knit community on the shores of the Solway Firth. As lead detective, Shona has to maintain a professional distance. But she can’t ignore the hardship that her neighbours who make a living at sea are experiencing. Anger is directed at the Ministry of Defence when the fallout threatens tourism, and livelihoods including Shona’s own family B&B business are at risk.

Suspicious behaviour seems to be found at every turn. It’s impossible for Shona to get to the truth unless she can gain the trust of those who know more than they’ve been willing to reveal. But blind loyalty may mean she’s too late to save those still in danger – including herself.

The second instalment in an exciting new Scottish crime series featuring a detective with nerves of steel. Perfect for fans of Neil Lancaster, G. R. Halliday and Ann Cleeves.

Marriage and Mayhem for the Tobacco Girls by Lizzie Lane

This is Book 5 in the Tobacco Girls series, but can be read as a standalone. This was the first one I have read, but it was easy to understand what was going on. I would like to read them all from the first one though, to discover more about what the characters have been through previously.

This book begins in May 1944 from Maisie’s point of view. Maisie works at the W. D. & H. O. Wills tobacco factory in Bristol. She had started working there after leaving school and loves the friendships she has made there. She doesn’t have much family, so the girls feel like sisters to her.

Carole is Maisie’s lodger. She’s 18 and a single mum to baby Paula (3 months) who she is considering having adopted. Maisie thinks this is a bad idea and tries to persuade Carole to keep the baby.

Her friends Phyllis and Bridget have moved away – Bridget married an American and is training to be a nurse in London. Phyllis is in Malta with her Australian boyfriend Mick, who she plans to marry. We follow their stories too. All their partners are affected by the War. Maisie’s boyfriend Sid is incarcerated in a Japanese POW camp, but they write letters to each other.

I love these kinds of novels where we see how women coped in England during World War II. Obviously they are fictionalised, but you can tell how well-researched they are and everything feels very realistic. These books also show how much important work women did at home, often doing what had previously been thought of as men’s work. It also illustrates how women were treated in such a poor way if they had children out of wedlock and – in Bridget’s case – how only unmarried women could train to be nurses!

It’s an easy read, nice short chapters and a storyline that you are interested in right away. I loved Maisie from the first page and she’s a brilliant character, definitely my favourite. I also felt sorry for Carole. I liked how you could follow each woman’s story and they all had plenty going on in their lives, complicated by the background of the War and all it meant for each one.


Marriage and Mayhem for the Tobacco Girls

War is fleeting, but true love last forever…

May 1944

Hope and excitement is in the air when news breaks of the allied forces landing in Normandy. D Day has arrived. However, the day-to-day struggles for the Tobacco Girls continue.

Carole Thomas wants her old life back. She is burdened with the guilt of being a young single mother and considers having baby Paula adopted, but Maisie Miles will do anything to stop her.

Phyllis Mason having found the love of her life is getting married in Malta to Mick Fairbrother, but will the dangerous legacies of war plague her happy day?

Bridget O’Neill finds herself posted to one of the hospitals receiving the injured from the D-Day landing beaches. Her most fervent hope is that her husband, Lyndon, does not become one of them.

Peace is on the horizon, but will their wishes and dreams win through and bring them a happy ever after?

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Lizzie Lane is the author of over 50 books, a number of which have been bestsellers.  She was born and bred in Bristol where many of her family worked in the cigarette and cigar factories.  This has inspired her saga series for Boldwood The Tobacco Girls.

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The Choice by Penny Hancock

The blurb for this book sounded really intriguing, so I was very keen to read it. The plot is quite psychological thriller, but it’s written more like literary fiction, so the pacing is slower than what you might expect. (This is an observation, rather than a criticism!)

Renee Gulliver is the main character. She’s a relationship therapist, married to Tobias (who has had a stroke), mother to three grown up children (Irena – who they have lost touch with, George and Mia) and grandma to Mia’s little boy Xavier, who’s six. One day, she gets a phonecall from Mia asking to speak to Xavier, as she’s away in Amsterdam and had asked her mother to pick him up from school. But Renee has forgotten…

I could relate to Renee in several ways. I’m also dealing with some of the hot flushes and menopause symptoms she has to cope with. I also feel stretched in different directions being a mother, a grandma and a carer to my mother. So I enjoyed reading a book from Renee’s perspective.

The writing is beautiful, often lyrical. I haven’t previously read any books by Penny Hancock, but I am very impressed with how skilled she is as an author. Her dialogue is particularly well-observed and realistic. I liked how all her characters were believable, they all had faults and non-one was perfect.

The story shows really clearly how a family can unravel and how those seemingly solid foundations can crumble under secrets and bad decisions. This is of course beautifully ironic as Renee is a well-respected relationship therapist. I was particularly interested in the different relationships she has with her adult children. It’s not a very long book (around 280 pages) but there’s a lot packed in there!



Penny Hancock

To be published by Mantle in hardback on 21 July 2022 at £16.99 in hardback|9781509867905 and EBOOK at £14.99 |9781509867936

An estranged daughter. A missing grandson. A mother faced with an impossible choice.

Renee Gulliver appears to have it all: a beautiful house overlooking a scenic estuary on England’s East Coast, a successful career as a relationship therapist, three grown-up children, and a beloved grandson, Xavier. But then Xavier vanishes after Renee fails to pick him up from school, and the repercussions are manifold.

Renee is wracked with remorse; the local community question her priorities, clients abandon her; and, as long-held grievances surface, her daughter Mia offers her a heartbreaking ultimatum. Amid recriminations, misunderstandings and lies, can Renee find a way to reunite her family?

For fans of Jodi Picoult and If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman, Penny Hancock’s The Choice is an engrossing, thought provoking novel about family secrets and the way that even the smallest decisions can sometimes have far-reaching consequences.

Penny Hancock is the author of internationally bestselling novels including Tideline a Richard & Judy book club pick, The Darkening Hour and A Trick of the Mind and I Thought I Knew You. She writes articles and short stories on family psychology for the national press. Penny divides her time between a village outside Cambridge and her children and grandchildren in London. The Choice is her fifth novel.

The Lodger by Valerie Keogh

After an intriguing scene-setting first chapter, the second chapter takes us back to five years earlier. Leigh Simon goes to her usual coffee shop for a cappuccino before work. The usually bubbly barista Gina isn’t her normal self that morning and confides to Leigh that she needs to move out of her current place and find somewhere else to live. Leigh says she has a spare bedroom and Gina moves in. But is everything as it seems?

Leigh isn’t particularly happy at work and her long-distance relationship with Matt isn’t the best either. She thought having Gina around would be company, but only a few hours after she’s moved in, Leigh is wondering if she has done the right thing.

Wow! What an exciting, twisty-turny book this is! Poor Leigh is put through so much, you feel really sorry for her and she’s very likeable, you want her to be happy. You’ll want to set aside a spare day or two for this book, because you won’t want to tear yourself away too much.

You meet characters and think you know what they’re like, then something happens and your opinion of them changes. Oh, this is such a clever book, it keeps you guessing all the way through and there are lots of threads going through the book – not so many that it gets confusing, just the right amount to keep your interest sustained from the first page to the last. And the last couple of chapters … well, it doesn’t disappoint on any level!

9.5 out of 10


The Lodger

She’s in your home…

Leigh Simon can’t say for sure what made her do it. A moment of madness, perhaps, but when the young, loud and gorgeous waitress at her favourite coffee shop reveals she is homeless, Leigh offers her the empty room in her house.

In your head…

Gina is the perfect lodger; Leigh, lonely and frustrated with her life, becomes infatuated with the woman – her boldness, her zeal. If only Leigh could be more like Gina…

And missing without trace.

So when Leigh returns from a work trip she’s shocked to find Gina missing. Where could the young woman have gone…and why?

Leigh fears that something terrible has happened – why else would Gina leave her?

But as she sets out to find her missing lodger, what Leigh discovers changes everything she knows about Gina….and her own life, too.

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Valerie Keogh is the internationally bestselling author of several psychological thrillers and crime series, most recently published by Bloodhound. She originally comes from Dublin but now lives in Wiltshire and worked as a nurse for many years. Her first thriller for Boldwood will be published in August 2022.

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The Whisper House by C S Green

The Whisper House is the second novel in a series featuring lead character DC Rose Gifford, but can easily be read as a standalone.

Rose is 30 years old and works for UCIT – the Uncharted Crimes Investigation Unit. Uncharted in this case means supernatural. She fancies her colleague DC Adam Lacey, divorced dad of two daughters.

I hadn’t read anything like this before – a police drama/thriller with a supernatural element to it, so I fancied giving it a go.

Anton Fuller (a teacher), his wife Gwen (a housewife) and their twelve-year-old son Gregory live at 42 Wyndham Terrace. They have been reporting “neighbour harassment” to the police for months, though the neighbours seem to be innocent. When Rose and Adam go round to the house, Gwen is open to the idea of a supernatural cause, whereas Anton is not. Gregory is just strange…

It’s a really intriguing story, I wasn’t sure which way it was going to go. I have read lots of crime and thriller books, but this one is unique. It had excellent pacing and was a real page turner.

It is a really well-constructed story too. Just as you think it’s going off in one direction, something happens to make you rethink. It never becomes confusing though, it is beautifully handled by the author.

Although this is the first novel by C S Green that I have read, I am sure it won’t be the last. I was really impressed and would love to read more of DC Rose Gifford’s adventures.

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