Trafficked Dreams by Heather Osborne – Publication Day

Today sees the publication of Trafficked Dreams by Heather Osborne. It’s the first in a new crime fiction series and tells a tale of human trafficking, set in the dark side of San Francisco. Here is the book cover with the blurb:

“Help me…please.”

Three words will launch Inspector Briana Ryu of the San Francisco PD into the forefront of an investigation into the darker side of her city. When a young boy reaches out to Bri, begging her to save him and his sister, but then vanishes into the night, Bri thinks that will be the end of it—that is, until he is found dead six months later.

Catapulted into the violent and horrifying world of human trafficking, Bri races against time to find his missing sister.
Will she manage the unfathomable task, or will the girl be swallowed up by the city Bri holds dear?

My thoughts:
I have read previous books by Heather and enjoyed them, but she has upped her game with this novel. This is an interesting and at times, highly emotive story that will have you rooting for Briana to solve the case and hunt down the bad guys. I particularly liked the inclusion of short chapters that focus on Lina, the young woman that Briana is trying to find. They give an insight into what Lina is going through, and work well alongside knowing how the investigation is progressing.

If you enjoy faced paced crime fiction that isn’t afraid to face the dark side of human nature, then I recommend you grab a copy.

Buy link: mybook.to/TDBrianaRyu1

 

About the Author:
Heather Osborne, an author of crime and historical novels, was born and raised in California. She has a Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Victimology. In 2009, she moved to Scotland. Along with her novels and short stories, Heather also has written and directed several plays. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, writing (of course!), and theatre, as well as caring for her young son. Among her published titles are: The Soldier’s Secret, a historical romance set during the American Civil War; Bitter Bonds, a tale of black magic in the deep South in the 1840s, and the Rae Hatting Mysteries series.

 

As always, thank you for your continued support.

Best wishes,

Mark.

Reading Round Up – April 2020

I didn’t read as much through April as I’m getting ready for the release of The Last One To See Her, but what I did read I enjoyed. Here are the books I read and my reviews.

 


Damaged by Dan Scottow
What a dark and twisted tale this debut is.
When Emily returns to her childhood town to look into the case of a missing young girl, little does she know what she’ll uncover. Emily’s childhood friend also went missing when they were 12 and she wonders if the two cases are linked.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The prologue is dark and atmospheric, followed by a story that has many twists and turns. The pace of the story is spot on and there were plenty of times where I kept changing my opinion about who did what to who.

I mean this as a compliment when I say that this book has earned Dan the #sickoauthor tag.
You’ve been warned!

 

Shadows of Regret by Ross Greenwood
Katie has lived a troubled life. In care as a child and then she spends time in prison for a murder she committed when she was 18.

I liked the structure of the story. Some chapters are set in the present day, whilst others are Katie’s memories of her childhood and teenage years, and what led up to her committing murder.

The events in Katie’s life got me thinking about right and wrong, criminality and justice. Are there any circumstances in which you could feel sorry for the murderer rather than the victim? Every action has a consequence and although some of Katie’s actions may be classed as criminal, they were consequences of other people’s actions.

This is an excellent piece of crime fiction, that is also very thought provoking. I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys this genre.

 

The Missing by C. L. Taylor
When 15 year old Billy goes missing, his family are frantic. After they take part in a police appeal for information, lies and secrets begin to be uncovered.

There are so many book descriptions or sub-titles that claim a book is ‘twisty.’ Well, this book IS twisty! I never really knew who did what to who, or why one character was behaving a certain way until near the end, where the truth is uncovered.

This is a fast paced read. I was always wondering what was going to happen next. I also had no idea that that the story would end in the way that it did. I have been left with mixed feelings about one character in-particular, in as much as I can’t decide if one action can make up for all the pain and hurt of previous dark deeds.

A highly recommended psychological thriller.

 

Primed to Kill (The Dead Speak #2) by Emmy Ellis
Banks and Langham are back, and Banks begins to realise that he has more psychic skills than he thought he did.

This is a relatively quick read and one that is full of action. After being violently attacked and left in an alley, Adam and his brother Dane move to a small village. When curiosity gets the better of them and they see what happens in a local barn, they become part of a major police investigation.

Like Banks, Adam experiences a psychic ability for the first time and as the story progresses it’s a good job he does. I’d have liked to know more about the warehouse/barn groups. What made them tick? What was their motivation?

A pacy and interesting plot. I’m now looking forward to book 3 in the series.

 

A special mention this month has to go the cover design for Shadows of Regret. I think it’s a fantastic design.

Reading Round Up – March 2020

So far this year I’ve been very lucky with my choice of books. Here’s what I’d read and reviewed throughout March.

Dead Inside by Noelle Holten
This debut crime thriller from Noelle made for an interesting read. Using her knowledge of the probation service, she has woven a tale of domestic abuse and murder.

I enjoyed the story and how so many ‘bookish’ people’s names were used in it. There was always something to think about and developments in the cases under investigation kept me reading.

The characters made me feel a range of emotions from loathing (Patrick and Mick,) to sympathy (Vicky and Lucy.)

I’d recommend this to those who enjoy crime fiction with a bit of a difference – it’s not just a police procedural story, there’s more to it than that.

 

The Taking of Annie Thorn by C. J. Tudor
I’ve seen a mixture of reviews for this book, some positive, some comparing it to to King’s Pet Semetary. As I was reading it I could see how the comparison could be made, but there are plenty of differences between the stories. It doesn’t just try and copy King.

Moving back and forth from the present day to Joe’s childhood, the story tells about horrific events in a Nottinghamshire town, and why Joe returns as an adult. I liked Joe. He has good intentions, but some of his decisions lead to trouble.

I would have liked an explanation for what the children find in the mine. It’s described, but there’s no reason given for it’s existence. This could have helped explain what happened to Annie and Ben.

Overall I thought this was a good story. I was expecting it to be creepier, but the story was interesting and well written.

 

Forced To Kill (The Dead Speak #1) by Emmy Ellis
This is the first in a series featuring DI Langham and psychic, Oliver Banks. Oliver helps his local police force out with their murder cases as he often gets dead crime victims talking to him. Not an ability I wish I had, but it does enable the police to start apprehending criminals much faster.

Langham and Banks make for a great pairing. One needing the information the other can provide, leads to the odd disagreement about protocol. But, they always look out for each other.

The case at the centre of the story is symbolised/illustrated perfectly by the cover, and it’s scary how something like ‘Sugar Strands’ could really happen. This is a well written, fast paced and interesting twist on a police procedural story.

 

Providence by Caroline Kepnes
Jon goes missing on his way to school and the reappears 4 years later, unable to remember his time held captive. His friend Chloe never gave up hope of Jon returning, but is again lost when he goes missing a second time.

I really liked the vast majority of this book. It is vastly different to You, so anyone who has read that and is expecting more of the same – don’t. I feel as though the ending let the rest of the book down. An aspect of the story that runs through most of it needed more of an explanation. I feel as though I don’t understand why certain things happened the way they did.

I actually enjoyed this story more than You, and I liked how the 3 main characters took turns in named chapters. I’m not sure what genre to put this book in, but it was an interesting and entertaining read.

 

In Her Veins by Emmy Ellis
Carmel has had a tough life, gone through experiences no child should have to, and never felt loved or cared for by her mum.

The first part of the story is Carmel’s childhood from the ages of 5 – 16. I couldn’t help but think that although fiction, the things Carmel experiences are unfortunately real life for many children. The whole book is emotive, but especially this part. No child should be so used and ill treated.

Annette is Carmel’s mother. A heroin user and prostitute. Throughout the book I was horrified at what she put Carmel through. Her head is seriously messed up (not just from the drugs,) but by the end of the book I still couldn’t muster up any sympathy for her.

As Carmel reaches her teens she begins to speak up for herself and leaves home at 16. Has she escaped her past, or will it always haunt her? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

In Her Veins was also my top read of the month. I highly recommend it!

Reading Round Up – February 2020

I’d read some excellent books in February. Here are my reviews.

Would You Die For Her by Linda Prather.
Dakota has been through a terrible ordeal that has left her broken, both physically and mentally. In an effort to forget what happened to her she’d built walls to protect herself, but when other young women begin being treated like she was, she vows to track her tormentor down.

This book was perfectly paced. There was always something happening, something new discovered about what Dakota had been through. As the walls she built begin to crumble she wonders if she can trust herself. I really liked the four main protagonists, and also thought that the contradictions in Christian’s personality were really well done.

As I got further and further into the book and found out Dakota’s plans, I kept thinking (and hoping,) that surely that won’t happen. But it did. This was a great read and I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fast paced, action packed and dark, crime thriller.

In The Woods by M. K. Farrar
Throughout most of this story the main character, Cass, is alone after being abducted and chained/handcuffed to a tree. Although alone, Cass has support from an unexpected source.

This book, at times, did remind me of Gerald’s Game (by Stephen King,) due to how, Like King, Farrar manages to keep you interested in just one character for so long. Both books focus on a lone female being left in a dangerous situation but manage to maintain the tension.

I like the supernatural edge to the story and how it enabled Cass to give a voice on behalf of other women. This is the first book I’ve read by this author and I’m interested to see what else she has written.

The Escape by C. L. Taylor
Parents Jo and Max both say that they only want what is best for their 2 year old daughter, Elise, but they disagree on what that ‘best’ should be.

Jo is threatened by a woman who seems to know too much about her her and then things go down hill fast as Jo battles to keep Elise with her.

This story moves along at a good pace and there’s plenty of times that things were revealed that I didn’t see coming. The chapters from the POV of someone following Jo work well to increase the tension.

This was a really good thriller in which I didn’t know what I thought of Jo and Max until near the end – I kept changing my mind. The ending gathered all the threads of the story together nicely.

 Into The Darkness by Sibel Hodge
I was pleased to discover that both Mya and Mitchell feature in this story after meeting them in Untouchable. It was nice to see how they both were, but this novel can still be read as a stand alone.

Mitchell is called to track down Toni, his best mate’s teenage daughter. He soon realises that she is in danger. At the same time the police are looking into the murder of an elderly couple. How are the cases linked?

I liked Mitchell’s personality in Untouchable and still do. We’re on the same page with how we see many things. The chapters from Toni’s point of view give glimpses of what she’s about to endure and how she deals with it. These chapters are very tense.

I don’t think there’s any chance of me having a look into the darkness. Hodge has done a great job highlighting the dark web and all the dangers of getting lost in it. Highly recommended.

You by Caroline Kepnes
I’d watched the Netflix series based on this book and then wanted to see how the book compared.

Joe falls in love with Beck at first sight and then makes it his life’s mission to keep an eye on her and remove toxic things from her life. The book is written from Joe’s POV, so every thought and conversation he has makes it into the story.

I liked how the book examines Joe’s motivations, morals and thoughts about relationships. There were times that I found myself agreeing with him even though he is portrayed as the antagonist.

I didn’t like Beck in the TV series, and my opinion wasn’t changed by the book! She’s selfish and just out for what she get, and I kept wondering what the hell Joe saw in her.

Some of the language is coarse and seemed to be used a little too much, but overall this is a well written and thought out psychological thriller.

 

What have you been reading recently? What would you recommend?

Thank you for the continued support.

Best wishes,

Mark.

The Abattoir of Dreams: Still Being Discovered Three Years On

On 28th February 2017, The Abattoir of Dreams was published. With the help of some supportive and enthusiastic book bloggers, the book began to gather some fantastic praise and reviews. Although the story does include the subject of institutional child abuse, readers have also said that the friendship, love and trust between the two main protagonists, Michael and Liam, are what has kept the book in their minds a long time after reading it. Here are just a few of the reviewers thoughts on the book:

‘I have to mention briefly Michael’s relationship with his childhood pet Oxo as well as Liam who he befriends in the boys home. These relationships moved me to tears and are ones that will stay with me for a long time to come.’
5* from Sarah Hardy @ By The Letter Book Reviews.

‘The characters in the book grabbed my heart – Michael – seriously my heart was torn out reading his journeys – the wasted opportunities for him to be saved; the adults who let him down and horrors he faced, I wanted to reach into the pages and rescue him! Liam – I loved – he was not willing to stand back and let the bad guys win and I cheered for him throughout, what a strong and determined character!’
5* from Sharon Bairden @ Chapter In My Life.

‘Liam Truman is someone we meet along the way and my heart went out to this kid. Tough on the outside, his loyalty, friendship and desire to protect those he cared about …no matter what the cost….really pulled at my heartstrings!’
5* from Noelle Holten @ Crime Book Junkie

Here’s an extract from the book that shows the friendship and humour that can be shared, even in difficult situations. Michael and Liam have run away from Woodside, a children’s home. They’ve found a way into a run down and empty pub:

‘We’re in luck,’ Liam said.
I could think of better words to describe the place. Shithole, sprang to mind. ‘What?’
He pointed at a small plastic square set in the bottom of the door. ‘It’s got a cat-flap.’
I was about to remind him we weren’t cats, when he unhooked his rucksack, dropped onto his knees, and tugged at the flap. Within a few seconds, it came free. He held up a hand triumphantly, and then pushed his way inside. I wouldn’t say it was a tight squeeze, but it had probably been easier for his mother to give birth to him. He pushed and grunted, shoes scrabbling on the ground for a foothold. Eventually, he
popped through the hole.
A few seconds later, he poked his head back through the hole.
‘Come on, Mikey. Pass your bag and my rucksack through. Then,come in.’
He looked so happy, as if, for the first time in his life, he’d played a game and won. I didn’t fancy my chances of getting through there. I was slightly bulkier than him, and a damn sight less enthusiastic. But, it was better than nothing, and nothing was all we had right now. I passed the rucksack and my small canvas bag through.
‘Careful. You’ll squish the cakes,’ he said, grinning like a clown.
I suppose it was inevitable. I got stuck halfway through. To tell the truth and shame the devil, as my Aunt Jean used to say before she got her loyalties all muddled up, my arse got stuck.
And then one of my shoes fell off.
It’s hard to explain the panic that sets in when you can’t move. I couldn’t breathe. I felt dizzy. Liam grew two grinning heads. He tried to pull me through the flap, but the harder he pulled, the more I flapped (no pun intended). To make matters worse, I caught my knackers on the metal rim of the blasted thing. Searing pain ripped up into my belly.
‘Can’t you push with your feet at the same time as I pull?’
‘I’m trying.’
‘Well try harder.’
‘You pull harder.’
He did. And virtually castrated me. ‘YOW! My nuts. My fucking nuts.’
He stopped pulling. ‘How am I supposed to help you if you keep squealing like a girl about your bollocks?’
‘Girls haven’t got bollocks,’ I shouted.
‘I doubt they’d make as much fuss as you if they did.’
‘Seriously, Liam. They feel as if they’re in my guts.’
He laughed. ‘Watch you don’t get yourself pregnant.’
‘Ha, ha, very—’
Without warning, he yanked again. Harder. Short sharp jerks, like Oxo on his lead when he saw a cat. And then I was through. Lying on a filthy kitchen floor, with my chin resting on a large coconut mat.
‘What a girl.’
I was off that mat and up in an instant. I think Liam thought I was going to hit him. I never told him the real reason for my sudden burst of energy: a spider. More related to a money-spider than a tarantula, but a spider all the same.

Later on the book both Liam (Truman) and Michael (Tate) have been ‘charged’ with criminal offences in a kangaroo court in the boiler room underneath Woodside. DI Carver, and teachers Kraft and Malloy, play judge and jury as Liam maintains his strength and courage:

Carver referred to his notebook. ‘Truman is charged with theft, criminal damage, unauthorised absence, wilful neglect, assault, arson, carrying a weapon with intent to endanger life, resisting arrest, abusing a man of the cloth, blasphemy, and dereliction of duty.’
Kraft nodded, as each of the trumped-up charges was read out. He shouted across the room to Liam. ‘Do you understand the charges, Mr. Truman?’
Liam hung from the railing, like an animal in a butcher’s shop window. ‘Fuck you.’
Kraft shook his head. ‘I see the prisoner has lost none of his appetite for insolence. Have you anything to say in your defence, Mr. Truman?’
Liam didn’t answer. He made a hacking noise in the back of his throat and spat on the floor.
Kraft turned to Malloy. ‘Can defence offer any mitigation for the prisoner?’
Malloy shook his head. ‘Unfortunately not, your honour. Truman has always been an awkward character. He has consistently shown a flagrant disregard for authority. On reflection, he might have benefited from a stricter approach regarding discipline, but,
as I’m sure you’re aware, your honour, hindsight is a wonderful thing.’
‘Indeed. But, it is not the duty of this court to rake over the ashes of a prisoner’s past. What’s done is done. I understand the prisoner’s father committed suicide?’
Malloy preened himself like a strutting peacock. ‘That is the case, your honour.’
Kraft looked at Liam. ‘The apple never falls far from the tree, does it, young man?’
Liam held his head as high as he could and looked Kraft in the eye. ‘No. And sometimes people end up swinging from that same tree.’
Kraft banged his mallet down hard enough to split the wood.
‘I see that tongue of yours makes a very effective noose. I would like to remind you that you’re in a court of law. Everything you say can and will be used as evidence against you.’
Liam turned away, his face crushed by pain.
Kraft addressed Carver again. ‘You say the prisoner resisted arrest?’
‘Yes, your honour. We pleaded with both defendants to see sense, but Truman seemed to take some sort of perverse pleasure in taunting us. He said he’d poured petrol down the cellar steps, and he would set fire to it if anyone came through the door. We didn’t have a key, your honour. The best we could do was try to appeal to their better nature.’
Kraft adjusted his wig and dabbed at his forehead with a handkerchief. ‘It might be fair to surmise characters such as these don’t possess a better nature.’
‘I fear you’re right, your honour,’ Carver said. ‘That has already been made apparent by the prisoners’ behaviour in the church.’
‘As I can unfortunately bear witness to. His language was both foul and abhorrent.’ He turned to me. ‘Why did you go to the church, Tate?’
To rob the place. ‘I don’t know.’
‘If I might offer a suggestion, your honour,’ Carver intervened. ‘They went there to steal.’
‘Steal what, Mr. Carver?’
‘Perhaps the gold candlesticks?’
Kraft wrote something down on a jotter. ‘Is that true, Tate?’
‘No.’
Kraft turned to Carver. ‘I’d be interested to know why they went to the church, Detective Inspector. The vicar is a personal friend of mine. I’m sure he would appreciate an answer. It might be prudent to see if you can elicit one from Truman.’
‘Certainly, your honour.’ He walked over to Liam and stood a few feet in front of him. ‘You heard the judge. He wants to know the real reason why you went to the church.’
Liam tried to straighten his head and look Carver in the eye. His breath rattled in the back of his throat. His glasses were perched precariously on the end of his nose. ‘We… went…there… to… pray…’
‘Pray for what, boy?’ Kraft said. ‘Salvation?’
‘To… pray… you… lot… die… a… slow… and… painful…death…’

If you’d like to see how Michael and Liam became friends and what happens next, then you can find the book using this link. I hope that you enjoy the rest of it.

As always, thank you for your continued support, and special thanks to all those who continue to praise and recommend The Abattoir of Dreams.

Best wishes,

Mark.