Friday Night Book Review: Finding Rebecca by Eoin Dempsey

finding Rebecca

Nothing could keep Christopher and Rebecca apart: not her abusive parents, or even the fiancé she brought home after running away to England. But when World War II finally strikes the island of Jersey, the Nazi invaders ship Rebecca to Europe as part of Hitler’s Final Solution against the Jewish population.

After Christopher and his family are deported back to their native Germany, he volunteers for the Nazi SS, desperate to save the woman he loves. He is posted to Auschwitz and finds himself put in control of the money stolen from the victims of the gas chambers. As Christopher searches for Rebecca, he struggles to not only maintain his cover, but also the grip on his soul. Managing the river of tainted money flowing through the horrific world of Auschwitz may give him unexpected opportunities. But will it give him the strength to accept a brave new fate that could change his life—and others’ lives—forever?

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I have to say that I was moved to tears and anguish at the atrocities of the Nazi Camps that are described in this story. The authors does not hold back on the brutality and utter evil of the Nazi SS. This is probably the most profound, emotional historical fiction book on World War II that I have read in a long time. At first I had to take the story in small dosages. Not because it wasn’t written well. Quite the contrary. The story was told so well that as I said above, I was moved to tears…

Each character in the book played an important role in the story and Christopher’s courage and honor to find Rebecca is extraordinary. What he witnessed and had to endure in Auschwitz will be forever stamped on my soul.

One can tell when reading this story that the authors detail to the Nazi Camps are extremely well researched and I admire the authors attention to the history of how the Nazi’s fooled for a time or deceived-if you will- all for their evil gain. Even many of the Nazi were brainwashed and really thought what they were doing was right. There was much I have to admit I didn’t know about and it was brought to light in this book.

I will remember this story for a long time to come and I highly recommend it.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Interview with Author Deborah Lincoln

Agnes Cannons War

Publication Date: October 1, 2014 Blank Slate Press

Formats: eBook, Trade Paperback

Pages: 300

Genre: Historical Fiction

“I saw a woman hanged on my way to the Pittsburgh docks…”

Agnes Canon is tired of being a spectator in life, an invisible daughter among seven sisters, meat for the marriage market. The rivers of her Pennsylvania countryside flow west, and she yearns to flow with them, explore new lands, know the independence that is the usual sphere of men.

This is a story of a woman’s search for freedom, both social and intellectual, and her quest to understand what freedom means. She learns that freedom can be the scent and sound of unsettled prairies, the glimpse of a cougar, the call of a hawk. The struggle for freedom can test the chains of power, poverty, gender, or the legalized horror of slavery. And to her surprise, she discovers it can be found within a marriage, a relationship between a man and a woman who are equals in everything that matters.

It’s also the story of Jabez Robinson, a man who has traveled across the continent and seen the beauty of the country and the ghastliness of war, as he watches his nation barrel toward disaster. Faced with deep-seated social institutions and hard-headed intransigence, he finds himself helpless to intervene. Jabez’s story is an indictment of war in any century or country, and an admission that common sense and reasoned negotiation continue to fail us.

As Agnes and Jabez struggle to keep their community and their lives from crumbling about them, they must face the stark reality that whether it’s the freedom of an African from servitude, of the South from the North, or of a woman from the demands of social convention, the cost is measured in chaos and blood.

This eloquent work of historical fiction chronicles the building of a marriage against the background of a civilization growing – and dying – in the prelude to civil war.

Hello, Deborah! It is a pleasure chatting with you today and I would like to say that you have done an absolutely splendid job writing your story, Agnes Canon’s War. I finished reading it last week and I greatly admire your attention to the culture of the American nineteenth century. What first drew you to this period?

Thank you! I’m happy to be here and so glad you enjoyed ACW. I’ve had a fascination for the Civil War era ever since my visited Gettysburg when I was probably ten years old. So when a cousin compiled the basic facts about my great-great-grandparents, Agnes and Jabez Robinson, I was intrigued by their experiences during that war and wanted to know more about what they must have gone through.

I have to admit I haven’t read much about the Civil War era in the border state of Missouri. Why did you chose this setting for your story?

The main reason is that northwest Missouri is where my ancestors settled, and where their actual story played out. Agnes Canon’s War is based on fact, and I tried to keep the novel as true to the actual history as possible. The town of Lick Creek in the novel is actually the town of Oregon, Missouri, a delightful and very rural village north of St. Joseph, not far from the Missouri River. The bonus for me was that many people don’t know much about the Civil War west of the Mississippi, or how affected the people of Missouri were by fighting that disrupted their homes. It helps ACW stand out, I think, from most other novels about the Civil War.

What is one of the challenges Agnes faces while searching for the freedoms she longs for?

Margaret Fuller, America’s first feminist (she lived from 1810 to 1850) railed against all the challenges women in the nineteenth century faced. “Education,” she complains, “was not to prepare women for professions and public life but . . . that they may become better companions and mothers for men.” That kind of attitude was a huge stumbling block for any woman who hopes to determine her own future.

That’s a challenge we’re all familiar with. But I think one challenge that Agnes felt most keenly was the inability to travel alone. It simply wasn’t done for women to head off for the west the way Jabez did, to see and experience new places, unless she was accompanied by male relatives. That, to me, is a restriction that had to be suffocating for her.

Please tell your audience a little about Agnes and Jabez Robinson’s relationship in the beginning…

They were attracted, immediately, both of them. The encounter in Cincinnati was one of those jolts when you know there’s something there, something to fantasize about. Jabez, though he loved his first wife, had by then lost his passion for her, and Agnes’s strength and intelligence captivated him. I think in the early years, after his first wife’s death, they became friends. The idea that she would never marry had become a comfortable habit with Agnes; Jabez wasn’t sure he could convince her that independence and equality between a man and a woman can exist within a marriage. The depth of their friendship and love eventually overcame those impediments.

Besides the civil war what are some of the challenges happening during the nineteenth century? Like for example, education, how civilization is growing and so forth.

Ethnic upheavals may have been the most difficult challenge of those times. What to do with freed slaves, of course, was a gigantic challenge – many people, including Abraham Lincoln, hoped to relocate them to Africa or to Caribbean islands. But relations with Native Americans were also a challenge throughout the war. In 1862, thirty-eight Sioux warriors were hanged (on Lincoln’s orders), the largest mass execution in American history.

There were challenges in assimilating other groups, as well. The Irish were discriminated against, Catholics weren’t welcome in many neighborhoods or professions. California legally prohibited Chinese immigration while the railroads were recruiting Chinese workers. Rapid industrialization after the war only exacerbated the differences between the haves and the have-nots.

Please tell me a little about Agnes’s Father and his relationship with her.

Daniel Canon simply did not understand his daughter. For one thing, she wasn’t a boy. And he was devastated by the fact that there would be no sons for him, no one to carry his name and his bloodline. The most he could hope for was a grandson, and to his way of thinking, that’s the only thing daughters were good for. It became apparent that Agnes was his only hope, and she disappointed him. Submissiveness, piety, passivity – that’s what he wanted from her. And there was no way she was going to give him that.

What motivates Jabez to travel across the continent during the ghastliness of war and what are some of the social conditions he encounters?

Jabez was a wanderer, an adventurer – as Eliza (his first wife) said, a rogue. He was restless, wanted to see the world, experience the wild, test himself against hardship and test his medical skills against the vast variety of diseases and accidents. He would have encountered primitive living conditions, greed and discrimination and avarice among the gold seekers, but also the excitement of a growing and expanding country in its “teen” years – the sense that anything was possible. When he was drawn into the war against Mexico in the southwest he would have encountered cultures that would seem almost exotic to him – a variety of different native cultures and the centuries-old Spanish and Catholic mission cultures of southern California.

Was there a particular scene in your story difficult to write?

Several. One that I had trouble with, though, was the scene where the men from Lick Creek visited Missouri’s Senator David Rice Atchison. Atchison wanted them to join him in claiming Kansas for the southern interests. The scene was difficult because I wanted it to be realistic, so I used actual phrases that Atchison used in speeches, but I needed the dialog and interactions to be natural, not stiff. It was hard avoid turning some of the historical characters into caricatures.

Which character are you partial to and why?

I love Agnes. She’s smart and funny and sassy, and didn’t let tragedy destroy her. But I have a special afinity for a couple of the minor characters, particularly Dick and Rose McDonald, the African American couple who are quietly capable and determined. And I adore little James with his black arrowhead.

Will you be writing other stories that take place during this era?

I’m working on one that takes place in the 1864 to 1868 time period, mostly in Montana during its wild territory days. And I’m noodling around with the idea of a sequel to Agnes Canon’s War: Agnes’s life in the gilded years of the 1870s and 1880s.

Thank you, Deborah!

Thank you, so much, for hosting me.

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Deborah Lincoln grew up in the small town of Celina, among the cornfields of western Ohio. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in Library Science from the University of Michigan. She and her husband have three grown sons and live on the Oregon coast.

Of her passion for historical fiction, she says: “I’m fascinated by the way events—wars and cataclysms and upheavals, of course, but the everyday changes that wash over everyday lives—bring a poignancy to a person’s efforts to survive and prosper. I hate the idea that brave and intelligent people have been forgotten, that the hardships they underwent have dropped below the surface like a stone in a lake, with not a ripple left behind to mark the spot.”

Agnes Canon’s War is the story of her great great-grandparents, two remarkable people whose lives illustrate the joys and trials that marked America’s tumultuous nineteenth century.

For more information on Deborah Lincoln please visit her website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Praise for Agnes Canon’s War

“Impressively researched, it captures the brutality of the war in the West and the complicated, divided loyalties of the people who are caught up in it. Agnes Canon’s War will have readers anticipating the romance and dreading the battles in equal amounts.” -Steve Wiegenstein, author of Slant of Light and This Old World

“The characters are likeable, intelligent, humorous, spunky and passionate people whose zest for adventure is met and then some! Superb historical fiction this reviewer highly recommends.” – Historical Novel Society

“Agnes Canon’s War is brilliantly researched and written. Deborah Lincoln has successfully described the occurrences of the Civil War era in the border state of Missouri and the resultant emotions upon the inhabitants of the area. Many neighbors were bitterly opposed to one another, and severe heartache touched everyone. Lincoln’s writing places the reader in the midst of that turmoil. Her research is accurate and lends to a skillfully-designed background for Agnes Canon’s story. An example is her reference to Westport Landing. It is a little-known fact (even to most Missourians) that this original port on the Missouri River, located in the vicinity of today’s Grand and Main Streets, resulted in present-day Kansas City. This heartfelt book will likely impress even the most seasoned historians.” -William R. Reynolds, Jr. author of Andrew Pickens: South Carolina Patriot in the Revolutionary War and The Cherokee Struggle to Maintain Identity in the 17th and 18th Centuries

“Years ago in fiction workshop, this manuscript leaped out at me with the most memorable opening line I’d seen in forever: “I saw a woman hanged on my way to the Pittsburgh docks.”

On revisiting this story several years after my first beta-read of the whole novel, I was struck by how many details and scenes I remember. Historical fiction is not for the lazy writer. The tremendous amount of research that skilled writers weave into the narrative are simply amazing.

I’m afraid I’ll be guilty of plot spoilers if I mention some of my favorite scenes or the tragic events that really happened. I will say Jabez has a first wife, and Agnes befriends her to her dying day. That first wife has a fascination for what today would sound like New Age mysticism. Any reader who hates reading about war should keep going, because all sorts of intriguing historical issues and beliefs come to light in Agnes Canon’s world.

The prose is polished, the story spellbinding, the authenticity both inspiring and heartbreaking. Five stars!” -Carol Kean Blog, Book Reviews, Cosmic Rants

Buy the Book

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Powell’s

Agnes Canon’s War Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, December 8 Review at Forever Ashley Review at Back Porchervations

Tuesday, December 9 Interview at Caroline Wilson Writes

Wednesday, December 10 Review at Too Fond

Friday, December 12 Review at Just One More Chapter Guest Post at Mina’s Bookshelf

Monday, December 15 Review at Luxury Reading

Wednesday, December 17 Review at Book Babe Guest Post at Let Them Read Books

Thursday, December 18 Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks

Friday, December 19 Review at Boom Baby Reviews Interview at Layered Pages

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Interview with Author C. Behrens

C. Brehens

C. Behrens grew up in Pearl River, N.Y. and graduated from Dominican College (Blauvelt, NY) in 2010. In his last semester at D.C., Chris wrote his debut short story, The Paladin, in a creative writing class that was taught by Author Stephanie Stiles. While The Paladin didn’t earn any awards in the Lorian Hemingway Contest that same year, Lorian praised the story and said it was in her top 100. Chris followed that up with another top 100 story in 2011. Chris recently finished two more short stories: “Balls & Strikes-Learning to Hit” & “One More Day”. And he had a poem accepted to be published in “Sunflowers and Seashells”.In June 2010, Chris was a guest-blogger for Kathy Temean, the head of the NJSCBWI. Chris loves spending time with his daughters, who were the biggest inspiration for his children’s book. Chris continues to work for a small town government and coach H.S. basketball in his spare time.

Hello, Chris! Thank you for chatting with me today about your book, Savanna’s Treasure. Please tell me about your story.

My story is about the unlikely friendship between an African field mouse named Shamba and a baby elephant named Kali and the troubles they face in one of the wild places on earth: Africa’s Serengeti region!

Early in the story Shamba and his best friend Panya are freed from a poacher’s trap and upon returning to the human tent camp where they were living, they find the camp in ashes, burned down by poachers. And all of their human friends/protectors are gone. As poachers chase Panya and Shamba from the tent camp, the mice friends become separated. It isn’t long before Shamba befriends Kali and travels with her and her herd as they migrate north in search of water and greener grass. However, another scary encounter with the same gang of poachers leaves Kali and the herd scrambling for safety. In a dramatic battle between the matriarch of the herd and the nasty poachers, the matriarch manages to save Shamba and encourage Kali to be strong. Unfortunately, the matriarch is not heard from again and the herd is split up with several of the elders being surrounded by the poachers.

From this point on, Shamba and Kali find themselves alone on the Serengeti, where they encounter wild dogs, leopards and eventually pirates. The battle with the pirates happens aboard a ship after a brief stay at an elephant orphanage. At the orphanage, Shamba was reunited with his human friend, Sarah. She was Shamba’s and Panya’s main protector at the tent camp, so their reunion was meaningful for both. With Sarah on her way to the U.S., it is suggested that she bring Kali with her, so she could live at an elephant sanctuary. The traumatic events with the poachers have left her emotionally distressed.

The battle with the pirates leaves Kali injured and the decision is made for her to return the orphanage, to recover. But, she seems proud of her bravery aboard the ship and she is ready to return to the orphanage and be the strong leader that her grammy wanted her to be. Note that the pirates are actually the same poachers in my story, so my villain is the same throughout. During my research, I came across credible sources that stated poachers were also acting as pirates in that region of Africa. (This is a lot of info. and gives away the ending, maybe you can revise it just a bit to leave more mystery and make people want to find out what happens!)

Savanna's treasure book cover

What age group does this story fall under?

Kirkus Reviews called it: “…a good fit for early readers…” And Midwest Book Reviews said, “…it will be an enchanting tale for children in grades 2-4…” Midwest also said it is a great read for children and adults alike. I agree that it is a book that can be read by children of all ages, and I think adults will enjoy it, too. All that said, my target age group is the 7-11 age group, give or take a year or two.

What made you chose African for the setting of your story?

When I first had the idea for this story in 2006, my daughters were still into the Disney stuff, and we were watching a lot of Discovery channel shows that were set in the Serengeti. I’ve always enjoyed watching shows about nature, especially those with lions and cheetahs and elephants. I am intrigued by it all. I loved the new African Park in Disneyworld, and we visited Disney in 2007. I remember watching one documentary where a baby elephant became separated from her herd and was struggling in some deep water. I was shocked when a passing herd ignored her and actually knocked her trunk down. I remember thinking that that would make for a good story. A seed was planted!

What is the message in your story you would like young readers to grasp?

I would like all my readers, young and old, to come away with a positive feeling. To realize that one should never give up on anything, ever, and that we can sometimes enjoy the most unlikely of friendships. I hope they learn how important it is for all creatures to help one another, and how important it is to respect and help wildlife. If we lose it, it will be gone forever. And that will be sad.

Please give an example of a fun fact in your story.

My favorite fun fact has to be that mice are considered a delicacy in eastern Africa! I will never forget the look on my creative writing instructor’s face when I told her about this. She was floored and didn’t know what to say. I had been struggling to find the driving force of my story, and when I found that, things just took off. I felt like I had something similar to Charlotte’s Web. In the first few pages, I mention that mice are “tasty little creatures” for the local villagers. A ton of research went into this story and this was just one thing that I discovered. I haven’t met anyone who was aware of this fact. Google it and you will see. They are hunted over there and sold as treats!

Initially, I used the word delicacy in the story, but removed it. I went with tasty little creatures instead!

How long did it take you to write your story and who designed your book cover?

I began this story near the end of my sophomore year of college in 2006. However, between working full time, raising my two daughters (by myself) and going to school, it had to take a backseat until I finished school. I did work on it between semesters and whenever I had some free time. And received some great feedback from my creative writing instructor in the spring of 2010. Once I graduated in 2010, I was able to do the necessary research and really put some time into it. But taking on a second job in 2011 slowed things down a little. I didn’t stop working on it and kept writing other stuff. As noted in my brief biography above, I continued to write short stories and received some recognition in 2011 from the Lorian Hemingway Contest. In the spring of 2013, I decided that it was time to finish. So, for one year straight, I worked with a second editor and hired my illustrator, Kim Johnson, and released it in late March of 2014!

Kim Johnson designed my cover, and she also did the 12 interior illustrations. She had some design work featured on The Today Show in New York, and she had already been published so I knew she was a professional artist. Her other works featured colorful illustrations of lots of animals. I knew she was right for the project. She did a great job.

Have you received any recognition for your story?

Kirkus Reviews gave me a great review for the story. They said it is a great fit for early readers and has an inspiring animal alliance.

Midwest Book Reviews gave it an even better review, saying it was a great read for young and old alike. MBR nailed the primary age group as being grades 2-4. MBR loved how I depicted my characters. Here are some quotes from the Midwest review:

 

“Be forewarned, Savanna’s Treasure is about surviving adversity- and being an animal on the African plane, this includes a degree of violence – tastefully depicted, but present nonetheless.”

“…an overall powerful story line with fine drawings and you have a winning tale.”

“…C.Behrens does a fine job of creating personable creatures that are engaging and fun.”

The entire review is well written.

 

A local newspaper gave me a great write-up back in July.

Just recently, B&N’s Small Press Department reviewed my book and information and is planning to order copies for its shelves! A portion of this letter can be seen on my Facebook cover picture.

 

What book project are you currently working on?

I have an idea for Savanna’s Treasure II, but it’s just an idea right now. I have an adult novel that needs a lot of revising. It’s the novel version of my short story: The Paladin. The Paladin placed in the top 100 of the 2010 Hemingway Contest. It’s a story based on a real event. The novel version spans a longer period of time and is near and dear to me. I am also working on another short story.

Where in your home do you like to write?

I can write anywhere. In fact, when I am working on a project, I find myself making notes wherever I am: out to dinner, at stores, at work, even at the gym. I thought all my little notes on napkins, coffee cup sleeves, etc., etc. were a little odd until I read that Virginia Woolf did the same thing. I also thought my constant revising was crazy until I read that Raymond Carver revised relentlessly. Know that the first draft of Savanna’s Treasure was hand written in a notebook, and I saved it. I even have the original cover illustration that I did for it when I handed it to my professor. I eventually bought a MacBook, and it became my desk. Most often I will write in my living room even if my daughters are around and doing their daily routines. I grew up with 3 brothers and 2 sisters, so I learned to focus on my work in a noisy house. Occasionally, I need things quiet, and that’s when I go into my bedroom and work at a makeshift desk. I enjoy writing in my living room on Saturday mornings the best when the house is quiet.

Where can readers buy your book?

Right now my book is available everywhere online, but it should be available on shelves at B&N stores soon. I am waiting to hear back from them about where and when! I suggest buying it online at B&N for now. It can also be purchased at Amazon.com. Other online stores include Alibris and Powell’s. I hope to see it on shelves at some Indie Bookstores in the near future.

Thank you, Chris!

Thank you, Stephanie!!

Author Links:

Digital Journal

North Jersey.com

alibris

Midwest Book Review

 

 

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

ONE INSULAR TAHITI

“My death in ’59 came the way I always feared it would: in the claustrophobic underground heat of a Cape Breton coal mine.”

Luke MacIsaac has shameful secrets. He lived a horrible life and now that he’s dead, he can’t shake the memories of his entire violent past. He wants out of death, and to escape, he needs to be born again.

He chooses to live and sets in motion the very thing he’d hoped to avoid: images of war, childhood abuse, and the tortured life of a brother he loved and failed. To make matters worse, his life costs his chosen mother a great deal–especially since she wasn’t supposed to survive her own birth.

From tragedy and loss, ONE INSULAR TAHITI is a coming of age literary novel about reincarnation and past lives from a Canadian author that demonstrates how sometimes the greatest light can come from the deepest darkness.

Genre: Literary Fiction

Author Website

indieBRAG

Book Review: Whither Thou Goest by Anna Belfrage

01_Whither Thou Goest

Publication Date: November 1, 2014 SilverWood Books Formats: eBook, Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction/Time-Slip Series: The Graham Saga

Whither Thou Goest is the seventh book in Anna Belfrage’s series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham.

In their rural home in the Colony of Maryland, Matthew and Alex Graham are still recovering from the awful events of the previous years when Luke Graham, Matthew’s estranged brother, asks them for a favour.

Alex has no problems whatsoever ignoring Luke’s sad plea for help. In her opinion Matthew’s brother is an evil excuse of a man who deserves whatever nasty stuff fate throws at him. Except, as Matthew points out, Luke is begging them to save his son – his misled Charlie, one of the Monmouth rebels – and can Charlie Graham be held responsible for his father’s ill deeds?

So off they go on yet another adventure, this time to the West Indies to find a young man neither of them knows but who faces imminent death on a sugar plantation, condemned to slavery for treason. The journey is hazardous and along the way Alex comes face to face with a most disturbing ghost from her previous life, a man she would much have preferred never to have met.

Time is running out for Charlie Graham, Matthew is haunted by reawakened memories of his days as an indentured servant, and then there’s the eerie Mr. Brown, Charlie’s new owner, who will do anything to keep his secrets safe, anything at all.

Will Matthew deliver his nephew from imminent death? And will they ever make it back home?

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When I finished reading this book, a couple of days later, I sat down to go over my notes about this story. Normally I do this after reading a book I have to write a review for. It kind of gives me help in what direction I want to go with in my review. By golly, I really struggled with this one. With the story you ask? No, not at all, but with what I wanted to say in my review. There is so much to cover and not enough words in my vocabulary to express my feelings for this story. The Grahams-you see- have become a part of my life it seems. At least that is how I feel. I don’t know what I’m going to do when the series ends….except read all the books over again.

There are few series that I have really enjoyed or that have truly made an impact on my life. As I read each book in the Graham Saga, I come away with something new every time. A new what? Well, let’s see. In this book, Whither Thou Goest, for example. The Grahams show how strong the bonds of family loyalty can be and how that it can give us courage to face anything that life throws at us. To preserver-never give up- in the face of the enemy.

Okay, I can see I’m rambling… and I’m not really sure this would be considered a review by any standards…this story is something you just have to experience for yourself. But I will try my best to give you a review.

I have often heard the question and discussion, what makes for a good Historical fiction read. There is solid plot, strong character development, well written prose, historical accuracy and so on…this story has all of those things and much more. I truly believe that Anna Belfrage is about the best writer of portraying the human condition I have ever come across. I do not say that lightly. Her character development is beyond brilliant…Is that possible? Well, I certainly think so. She also has a knack for drawing in the readers to the period and culture of the time. So good in fact when you’re reading her books you forget for a time that you actually live in the modern world!

If you haven’t read this series, I strongly recommend you pick it up as soon as you can. Start with book one….and I know, once you do, you won’t be able to hold off starting up the next book in the series. Truly addictive, profoundly and emotionally told. You will never forget the Grahams.

Stephanie Moore Hopkins

Graham Saga Titles

Book One: A Rip in the Veil Book Two: Like Chaff in the Wind Book Three: The Prodigal Son Book Four: A Newfound Land Book Five: Serpents in the Garden Book Six: Revenge & Retribution Book Seven: Whither Thou Goest Book Eight: To Catch a Falling Star (March 2015)

About the Author

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I was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result I’m multilingual and most of my reading is historical – both non-fiction and fiction.

I was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Instead I ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for my most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career I raised my four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive … Nowadays I spend most of my spare time at my writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and I slip away into my imaginary world, with my imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in my life pops his head in to ensure I’m still there. I like that – just as I like how he makes me laugh so often I’ll probably live to well over a hundred.

I was always going to be a writer. Now I am – I have achieved my dream.

For more information, please visit Anna Belfrage’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Whither Thou Goest Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, December 2 Review at Broken Teepee Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Wednesday, December 3 Review at Just One More Chapter

Thursday, December 4 Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Friday, December 5 Guest Post at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Monday, December 8 Review at So Many Books, So Little Time Guest Post at What Is That Book About

Tuesday, December 9 Review at Book Nerd

Wednesday, December 10 Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, December 11 Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews

Friday, December 12 Review at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog

Monday, December 15 Review at Kincavel Korner Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Tuesday, December 16 Review at Layered Pages Review at A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, December 17 Review at Flashlight Commentary

Thursday, December 18 Interview at Flashlight Commentary

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Book Blast: The Iris Fan by Laura Joh Rowland

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Publication Date: December 9, 2014 Minotaur Books Formats: eBook, Hardcover

Series: Sano Ichiro Mystery Series (Book 18) Genre: Historical Mystery

Japan, 1709. The shogun is old and ailing. Amid the ever-treacherous intrigue in the court, Sano Ichirō has been demoted from chamberlain to a lowly patrol guard. His relationship with his wife Reiko is in tatters, and a bizarre new alliance between his two enemies Yanagisawa and Lord Ienobu has left him puzzled and wary. Sano’s onetime friend Hirata is a reluctant conspirator in a plot against the ruling regime. Yet, Sano’s dedication to the Way of the Warrior—the samurai code of honor—is undiminished.

Then a harrowing, almost inconceivable crime takes place. In his own palace, the shogun is stabbed with a fan made of painted silk with sharp-pointed iron ribs. Sano is restored to the rank of chief investigator to find the culprit. This is the most significant, and most dangerous, investigation of his career. If the shogun’s heir is displeased, he will have Sano and his family put to death without waiting for the shogun’s permission, then worry about the consequences later. And Sano has enemies of his own, as well as unexpected allies. As the previously unimaginable death of the shogun seems ever more possible, Sano finds himself at the center of warring forces that threaten not only his own family but Japan itself.

Riveting and richly imagined, with a magnificent sense of time and place, The Iris Fan is the triumphant conclusion to Laura Joh Rowland’s brilliant series of thrillers set in feudal Japan.

The Sano Ichiro Mystery Series Titles

Shinjū Bundori The Way of the Traitor The Concubine’s Tattoo The Samurai’s Wife Black Lotus The Pillow Book of Lady Wisteria The Dragon King’s Palace The Perfumed Sleeve The Assassin’s Touch The Red Chrysanthemum The Snow Empress The Fire Kimono The Cloud Pavilion The Ronin’s Mistress The Incense Game The Shogun’s Daughter The Iris Fan

Buy the Book

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Book Depository

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About the Author

03_Laura Joh Rowland

Granddaughter of Chinese and Korean immigrants, Laura Joh Rowland grew up in Michigan and where she graduated with a B.S. in microbiology and a Master of Public Health at the University of Michigan. She is the author of sixteen previous Sano Ichiro thrillers set in feudal Japan. The Fire Kimono was named one of the Wall Street Journal’s “Five Best Historical Mystery Novels”; and The Snow Empress and The Cloud Pavilion were among Publishers Weekly’s Best Mysteries of the Year. She currently lives in New Orleans with her husband. She has worked as a chemist, microbiologist, sanitary inspector and quality engineer.

For more information please visit Laura’s website. You can also follow her on Facebook.

The Iris Fan Blog Tour & Book Blast Schedule

Tuesday, December 9 Book Blast, Excerpt, & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, December 10 Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book Book Blast at Literary Chanteuse

Thursday, December 11 Review at Buried Under Books

Friday, December 12 Book Blast at Queen of All She Reads

Monday, December 15 Book Blast at Layered Pages

Tuesday, December 16 Review at Book Dilletante Interview at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog

Wednesday, December 17 Book Blast at CelticLady’s Reviews

Friday, December 19 Review at Unshelfish Book Blast at I’d So Rather Be Reading

Monday, December 22 Review at Broken Teepee

Tuesday, December 23 Review at Book Nerd

Monday, January 5 Review & Interview at Jorie Loves a Story

Wednesday, January 7 Review at Book Babe Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

04_The Iris Fan_Blog Tour & Book Blast Banner_FINAL

 

Sunday’s Book Highlight: PERFIDITAS by Alison Morton

Perfiditas - Front Cover_520x800

Captain Carina Mitela of the Praetorian Guard Special Forces is in trouble – one colleague has tried to kill her and another has set a trap to incriminate her in a conspiracy to topple the government of Roma Nova.  Founded sixteen hundred years ago by Roman dissidents and ruled by women, Roma Nova barely survived a devastating coup d’état thirty years ago. Carina swears to prevent a repeat and not merely for love of country.  Seeking help from a not quite legal old friend could wreck her marriage to the enigmatic Conrad. Once proscribed and operating illegally, she risks being terminated by both security services and conspirators. As she struggles to overcome the desperate odds and save her beloved Roma Nova and her own life, she faces the ultimate betrayal…

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

“Alison Morton has built a fascinating, exotic world! Carina’s a bright, sassy detective with a winning dry sense of humour. I warmed to her quickly and wanted to find out how she dealt with the problems thrown in her path. The plot is pretty snappy too and gets off to a quick start which made it easy to keep turning the pages. There are a fair number of alternative historical fictions where Rome never disappeared, but for my money this is one of the better ones.” – Simon Scarrow, author of the Eagle (Macro and Cato) series  “I can’t resist an alternative history and Alison Morton writes one of the best. Powerful storytelling, vivid characters and a page-turning plot makes Alison Morton’s PERFIDITAS a must read.” – Jean Fullerton, author of the historical East London novels  “Pure enjoyment! A clever, complex plot set in the beguilingly convincing fictional country of Roma Nova. Scenes and characters are sometimes so vividly described that I felt I was watching a movie. This compelling tale rendered me inseparable from my copy right up to the last turn of the page.” – Sue Cook, writer and broadcaster

About Author:

Alison pic2

Alison Morton writes Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with strong heroines. She gained a BA in French, German and Economics and thirty years later went back and bagged a masters’ in history (with distinction!).

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, she has visited sites throughout Europe including the alma mater, Rome. But it was the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain) that started her wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by women…

Six years in the UK reserve forces (where she rose from private soldier to captain) not only reinforced her sense of common purpose and self-discipline, but provided her with experiences and opportunities no civilian would ever touch. Oh, and travel and fabulous mess evenings.

Setting about her novelist education with the persistence of a Roman road builder, she joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme, studied with the Arvon Foundation, joined the Historical Novel Society and attended numerous specialist workshops and conferences. Thanks to her independently published book sales figures, she has recently qualified as a full member of the UK’s Society of Authors. She has recently been accepted as an author member of International Thriller Writers.

Alison talks and writes about alternative history at conferences and workshops including for the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Historical Novel Society and in Writing Magazine. She also writes a monthly column in the local English language magazine and has published a collection of these as The 500 Word Writing Buddy: 25 Inner Secrets for the New Writer.

INCEPTIO, the first in the Roma Nova series, which was also shortlisted for the 2013 International Rubery Book Award, and PERFIDITAS, the second in series, have been honoured with the B.R.A.G. Medallion, an award for independent fiction that rejects 90% of its applicants.  Alison’s third book, SUCCESSIO, which came out in June 2014, was selected as the Historical Novel Society’s indie Editor’s Choice for Autumn 2014 and has also been awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion.

Alison is represented by Annette Crossland of A for Authors Literary Agency for subsidiary and foreign rights.

October 2014

Links

Connect with Alison on her blog

Facebook Author Page

Twitter @alison-morton

Goodreads

Buying links (multiple retailers/formats):

INCEPTIO

PERFIDITAS

SUCCESSIO

The Last Dance (A ROBERT YOUNG OF NEWBIGGIN MYSTERY) by Stuart S. Laing

Save the last dance

Edinburgh January 1746 

the streets of Edinburgh are no longer safe to walk  as a maniac stalks young women and the homeless.  His victims come from all levels of society but the  city council want things hushed up through  fear that they may lose their own privileged positions  it is down to Robert Young and his wife Euphemia to ensure  that justice is delivered.  Meanwhile for Sergeant MacIan ghosts from his past  return as flesh and blood and he is forced  to face a decision made in haste now  means life will never be the same again.

From the filth and squalor of the city’s back lanes  to the splendour of a country house in the  Pentland Hills, they face a race against time  to unmask a killer before the music dies on the last dance.

Slumped in a doorway of a tenement in Riddle’s Court was the body of an elderly man dressed in the dirty, threadbare clothes of a vagrant. To the casual observer he simply looked asleep and a dozen or more people had passed him that morning already without giving him a second glance but as MacIan knelt by him it was obvious the man was no longer in the land of the living. Pushing the head back to show the man’s face he shook his head as he failed to recognise him. There were no obvious wounds to be seen but with the other death of a homeless man still fresh in mind MacIan raised an eyelid to see an eye pink from broken burst vessels. Gently he lowered the head again before climbing back to his feet with an audible groan as his knees protested at the abuse.

Still looking down at the corpse he said quietly, “who found the body?”

“That girl over there sergeant” replied Guardsman Neil Anderson who stood by him.

“She doesn’t speak much in the way of Scots, but she saw us out on the Lawnmarket and practically dragged us in here.”

“Send her o’er and I’ll question her.” While Anderson went to fetch the girl MacIan snarled at the other guardsmen to clear the small courtyard of gawpers which they happily did much to the displeasure of those who hadn’t yet managed to get a good look at the body.

“Here she is sergeant, I don’t know her name” Anderson said as he gently pushed a familiar figure towards MacIan who found himself smiling at the nervous face before him. Behind Anderson the onlookers were forced back through the pend and into the other slightly larger courtyard closer to the main street.

“Hello again lass,” he said in Gaelic. “We seem to me meeting each other all the time these days eh? Where’s the wee one?”

The girl smiled weakly towards him while trying to keep her eyes away from the dead man who lay at their feet. “She’s with her Grandmother Sir. She’s seen enough death in her life already without letting her see this poor soul. I promised her that she would see no more killing or suffering once we got to the city.”

“Were you following the Prince’s army?” MacIan asked thinking the family had seen the aftermath of one of the battles fought over the last few months but the girl shook her head.

“You don’t need to follow them to see suffering!” she spat bitterly. “The war came to our own door, kicked it down, forced us out of our home at the point of their bayonets then burned it down while we watched!”

“Who did this?”

“The King’s soldiers from a ship. They came ashore with the sailors hunting for our men saying they were all out with the prince. When they couldn’t find them they punished us instead…” Her eyes sparkled with anger and grief but she raised her chin defiantly as she said, “the few men still there were the lame and the old. They were shot down or taken away in chains. We had nowhere left to go but Glasgow. We were made as welcome in that place as a mad dog. The Prince and his army had not long left there so it was made plain we couldn’t stay if we valued our lives so we came over the land to find ourselves here.”

“You say they shot the men? Why?”

“Why do you think? You wear that jacket soldier! They are saighdear dearg. It is what they do. They shot our men because they couldn’t find the men who wield the swords and muskets against them so our men had to die in their stead, and they call this fair punishment for rebellion! Not a man from my glen willingly joined the army of the Prince but were forced out or our chief would have been the one to burn down our homes for failing to answer his call.”

MacIan nodded slowly. “And your man? Is he with the rebels?”

She shook her head. “No. He thought himself a fisherman instead of a farmer, but he would have been safer on dry land. He drowned when Aliene was less than a year old. Stupid man! He never could do anything right!” She sighed deeply but still refused to show any weakness before a ‘red soldier‘ and her chin had a defiant tilt to it as she added.

“It is probably just as well he drowned for he would have been the first to join the Prince and think it all just a grand adventure then go and get himself shot the first chance he got.”

About Author:

Stuart Laing

Stuart S. Laing was born and raised on the east coast of Scotland in the ancient Pictish Kingdom of Fife Stuart grew up looking across the Firth of Forth towards the spires and turrets of the city of Edinburgh and its castle atop its volcanic eyrie.

He has always been fascinated by the history of Auld Reekie and has spent most of his life studying Scottish history in all its aspects whenever he finds the time between family, work and the thousand and one other things that seek to distract him.

Despite the vast panorama of Scotland’s history he always find himself being drawn back to the cobbled streets of the Old Town. Those streets have provided the inspiration for his stories and characters.

He would urge all visitors to Scotland’s ancient capital to (briefly) venture into one of the narrow closes running down from the Royal Mile to get a flavour of how alive with mischief, mayhem, love and laughter these streets once were.

Website

Buy the Book:

Amazon UK Link

Amazon US Link

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Alison Morton

Alison pic2

Alison Morton writes Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with strong heroines. She gained a BA in French, German and Economics and thirty years later went back and bagged a masters’ in history (with distinction!).  

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, she has visited sites throughout Europe including the alma mater, Rome. But it was the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain) that started her wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by women…

Six years in the UK reserve forces (where she rose from private soldier to captain) not only reinforced her sense of common purpose and self-discipline, but provided her with experiences and opportunities no civilian would ever touch. Oh, and travel and fabulous mess evenings.

Setting about her novelist education with the persistence of a Roman road builder, she joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme, studied with the Arvon Foundation, joined the Historical Novel Society and attended numerous specialist workshops and conferences. Thanks to her independently published book sales figures, she has recently qualified as a full member of the UK’s Society of Authors. She has recently been accepted as an author member of International Thriller Writers.

Alison talks and writes about alternative history at conferences and workshops including for the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Historical Novel Society and in Writing Magazine. She also writes a monthly column in the local English language magazine and has published a collection of these as The 500 Word Writing Buddy: 25 Inner Secrets for the New Writer.

Stephanie: Hello, Alison! I am delighted to be chatting with you today about your book, SUCCESSIO, which has been honored the B.R.A.G. Medallion. Praise indeed, and congratulations are in order. As I understand it, SUCCESSIO, is the third book in your Roma Nova alternate history thriller series. Could you please tell your audience the titles of the first two and how you came about to write this thrilling series?

Thanks for inviting me, Stephanie! It’s always a pleasure to be your guest. The first two books in the series are called INCEPTIO (the beginning) and PERFIDITAS (betrayal).

Their origin goes back into my own ancient history! I was 11 years old and on holiday in north-east Spain. Fascinated by the beauty and extent of the mosaics in Ampurias, a former Greek then Roman sea-port, I asked my father, “What would it be like if Roman women were in charge, instead of the men?” Maybe it was the fierce sun boiling my brain, maybe early feminism peeping out or maybe just a precocious kid asking a smart question. But clever man and senior ‘Roman nut’, my father replied, “What do you think it would be like?”

That idea bubbled away in my head until the novel writing trigger was pushed in 2009.

In one paragraph please tell your audience what SUCCESSIO is about.

Roma Nova – the last remnant of the Roman Empire that has survived into the 21st century – is at peace. Carina Mitela, the heir of a leading family, but choosing the life of an officer in the Praetorian Guard Special Forces, is not so sure. When a blackmailing letter arrives from a woman claiming to be her husband Conrad’s lost daughter and Conrad tries to shut Carina out, she senses danger crawling towards her. Trying to resolve a young man’s indiscretion twenty-five years ago turns into a nightmare that attacks the imperial family itself. With her enemy holding a gun to the head of the heir to the imperial throne, Carina has to make the hardest decision of her life…

SUCCESSIO_BRAG

I absolutely love the idea of “the last remnant of the Roman Empire that survives into the 21st century” and how this concept is woven into the modern world in your books. Alternate history is a new favorite of mine and there is so much a writer can do with this concept. To make it believable were there any challenges you faced in the history aspects of this story and what advice would you give someone who wants a hand at writing alternate history?

Briefly, the tools for writing alternate history are similar to regular historical fiction, plus an overactive imagination and a good overall sense of how history ‘works’. I have written whole articles on this! Readers might like to visit my blog for the detailed handout I provided for my recent talk on alternate history (here), but

My top tips:

  • Identify the point when your alternative timeline diverges from the standard historical timeline and make it logical;
  • Research the divergence point thoroughly so you can set the scene accurately;
  • Anchor the divergence point story with references to the past;
  • Use elements from the historic record carefully, but not fearfully;
  • Think through the setting that has formed your characters;
  • Make sure your characters live naturally within their world.

Why alternate history?

Good question! ‘Althist’ is based on the idea that the historic timeline split at a ‘point of divergence’ in the past and the new timeline follows a different path from the one we know. And there’s no going back. Classic ones are what if the Germans had won the Second World War, or the Spanish Armada had succeeded in 1588? I sometimes wonder how English history would have developed if Elizabeth I had married and had children…

The writer can exercise her imagination outside of the confines of known history. What would our world be like if X or Y had or hadn’t happened? I think we’ve all experienced events in our personal lives we’d like to have gone differently. I didn’t know you could change or ‘alternate’ the historical narrative until I read Robert Harris’ Fatherland. Perhaps my early idea of a women-led modern Roman society could turn into a real story…

What part of the Roman history fascinates you the most and how long have you studied the culture….

The first of those is very difficult to answer as Rome lasted in the West over 1229 years; it’s like stretching from AD 785 to today. I’m fascinated by all of it. My favourite emperor is Vespasian as he brought stability to Rome in AD 69, but I also admire the trio of Augustus, the first emperor, his wife Livia, and friend, supporter and ‘fixer’, Agrippa. I first ‘met’ Rome at age 11 and haven’t stopped since. I clambered over most Roman ruins in Europe with my parents, but I loved it. So much that was left was elegant and solid; their history so concrete and purposeful. As I grew older and studied the Romans and Latin more formally, I appreciated what a complex, clever and determined society they had made. With sheer force of will, they had progressed from mud hut tribal subsistence farming to the heights of the Pax Romana with its rule of law, art and literature, trade, engineering, and ability to learn; Romans set the template for the western nations that emerged over the following centuries. I don’t want to sound too much like the John Cleese video, but you get the idea I’m impressed! However, we should remember not everybody lived well, especially at the lower end of the social spectrum, but the majority of people had a standard of living that wasn’t achieved again until the nineteenth century.

…and please tell me a little about your research.

Roma Nova has strong roots in Roman culture, attitudes and values. I ‘mine’ the late Republican/early Empire period for those that I transfer to Roma Nova, but with an eye to how the situation was in AD 395 and the conditions that impelled the colonists to leave Rome and found Roma Nova.

Some sources are scarce but detailed, others are plentiful but frustratingly general. I use the methodology I learned while doing my history masters’: check everything three times. And then you can project that forward in a historically logic way.

As your series goes….do you write in new characters or do you pretty much keep the same ones throughout?

I mix and match! Conrad and Carina are central to all three books. Some secondary characters like Aurelia, Flavius and Lurio are in every book, others pop in and out. Like many readers, I love meeting familiar characters again, and seeing what’s been happening in their lives, but new actors bring in an extra dimension.

How would you describe Carina’s and Conrad’s relationship with each other?

Fraught! Conrad is a bone-and-blood Roma Novan and does not allow sentiment to interfere with his job as a senior Praetorian officer. Until one terrible day… He has a strong sense of duty and honour, but also hidden problems dating from his childhood as we discover in SUCCESSIO. But his sense of humour and his love for Carina let us see another side of him. Sometimes, he is driven mad by Carina but feels a visceral bond with her. He cannot imagine his life without her. She just loves him, and fights for him with all her strength. But she has her own set of values that don’t always chime with the Roma Novan ones…

Was there a particular scene in this story that was a challenge to write?

Not particularly. The one I had to do most research on was about illicit drugs – not an area I knew much about. But I have a friend who was a prison officer, so I grilled her!

When you are done with this series, what is next for you?

Well, I have just written book 4 – that’s gone to my structural editor and I’ve drafted part of book 5. These two, plus book 6, form another three book cycle based in 1960/70s Roma Nova, and tell the story of Aurelia Mitela, Carina’s grandmother. I think I’ll be immersed in Roma Nova for a little while longer!

Where can readers buy your book?

Online as an ebook at Amazon, B&N Nook, iTunes, Kobo, plus as a paperback at Amazon and Barnes and Noble online; all the direct links are HERE

Alison, it has been a pleasure chatting with you and I would like to say thank you for being such a big supporter of indieBRAG, self-publishing and for sharing your wonderful and thrilling stories. The world needs more people like you. Please come back to Layered Pages again soon!

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Alison Morton, who is the author of, SUCCESSIO, our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, SUCCESSIO, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

Book Review: The Seventh Link by Margaret Mayhew

The Seventh Link

The village of Frog End may be peaceful, but that doesn’t mean that the Colonel’s life there is quiet not with his friendly but nosy neighbour Naomi, desperate to know what he is keeping in his new shed; the curious Miss Butler, who tracks his every move with her German U-boat captain s binoculars; and the attentions of the local vicar, who’s keen to involve him in church affairs. That is not forgetting the demands of the aloof, imperious cat Thursday, who seems to have adopted the Colonel. So the Colonel is pleased when his old friend Geoffrey Cheetham invites him up to the village of Buckby for the weekend, to coincide with a RAF reunion event. After depositing an outraged Thursday at the Cat Heaven cattery, he drives up, and meets his fellow guests at the Cheethams B&B: including a Lancaster bomber crew, reunited for the first time. But everything is not as it seems, and the Colonel finds himself taking on the reluctant role of sleuth once more when tragedy strikes . . .”

I was so delighted to pick this up. I do love a good mystery and I enjoyed this one. This story is more of a mystery at a slower pace but not in any way does the book lose your attention. I was thoroughly engrossed and had many thoughts on the story-line and was into each character and their situation. Although there was a couple of things I would have liked to seen a bit tighter and expanded on. First, half way through the story you learn something about the Colonel. A situation that he tends to get himself in to-quite often it seems- that Naomi-a nosy yet caring lady- points out. I feel that should have been introduced closer to the beginning to the story to give it more depth. Secondly, the ending did not end as I would expect it to and I’m still undecided if it worked for me. I have to say it ends differently than how most mysteries end.

I really did enjoy the overall story and found the plot to be brilliant and how the title fitted in with the story was well executed. And I enjoyed the history of the Bomber Command that the author included in the story. That was a wonderful addition to the plot. The author’s rendition and attention to that particular detail was well written and intriguing. World War II enthusiasts would be interested in this aspect of the story. A good read.

Stephanie Moore Hopkins