The Latest Reading Agenda

me III

Hi, everyone!

Its been a while since I last blogged on Layered Pages. I wanted to share with you some of the upcoming books I will be reading. I’ve already started, The Space Between. I’m reading this one for review through NetGalley. I’m behind as usual on my reviews. Hoping to knock them out by reading at least one or two of them a month. I know that doesn’t seem like a lot but I don’t want to feel overwhelmed. My next blog post will be about books a dear friend gave me and I am really excited about them and can’t wait to share. This year I am focusing on expanding on the topics/themes I don’t usually read about. Much love to you all. -Stephanie Hopkins

The Space Between IThe Space Between by Dete Meserve -NetGalley Review

The truth isn’t what it seems in this stirring novel of suspense.

After presenting a major scientific breakthrough to a rapt audience across the country, renowned astronomer Sarah Mayfield returns home to a disturbing discovery. Her husband, Ben, a Los Angeles restaurateur, has disappeared, leaving behind an unexplained bank deposit of a million dollars, a loaded Glock in the nightstand, and a video security system that’s been wiped clean. The only answers their son, Zack, can offer are the last words his father said to him: keep the doors locked and set the alarm.

Sarah’s marriage was more troubled than anyone suspected, but now she is afraid that her husband’s recent past could be darker than she dares to admit. Suspecting that nothing about Ben’s vanishing is what it seems, Sarah must delve into the space between old memories, newfound fears, and misleading clues to piece together the mystery of her husband’s disappearance—and find what she hopes in her heart is the truth.

The Lies We ToldThe Lies We Told by Camilla Way

The highly acclaimed author of Watching Edie returns with a new novel of dark psychological suspense that explores how those closest to us have the most to hide…

When Clara’s boyfriend, Luke, disappears, everyone believes that he’s left her, but Clara thinks she knows the truth. Recent evidence suggests that Luke had a stalker, and Clara worries that he’s been kidnapped. Then Luke’s older sister, Emily, who vanished twenty years ago, suddenly reappears.

Emily wants to help Clara with her search for Luke, but she refuses to talk about what happened–even though it nearly destroyed her family when she vanished. And the deeper Clara digs into Luke’s mysterious disappearance, the more convinced she is that the two incidents are connected.

Forgotten Bones by Vivian BarzForgotten Bones by Vivian Barz

An unlikely pair teams up to investigate a brutal murder in a haunting thriller that walks the line between reality and impossibility.

When small-town police officers discover the grave of a young boy, they’re quick to pin the crime on a convicted felon who lives nearby. But when it comes to murder, Officer Susan Marlan never trusts a simple explanation, so she’s just getting started.

Meanwhile, college professor Eric Evans hallucinates a young boy in overalls: a symptom of his schizophrenia—or so he thinks. But when more bodies turn up, Eric has more visions, and they mirror details of the murder case. As the investigation continues, the police stick with their original conclusion, but Susan’s instincts tell her something is off. The higher-ups keep stonewalling her, and the FBI’s closing in.

Desperate for answers, Susan goes rogue and turns to Eric for help. Together they take an unorthodox approach to the case as the evidence keeps getting stranger. With Eric’s hallucinations intensifying and the body count rising, can the pair separate truth from illusion long enough to catch a monster?

The Soul’s Code by James HillmanThe Soul’s Code by James Hillman

Plato and the Greeks called it “daimon,” the Romans “genius,” the Christians “guardian angel.” Today we use the terms heart, spirit, and soul. To James Hillman, the acknowledged intellectual source for Thomas Moore’s bestselling sensation Care of the Soul, it is the central and guiding force of his utterly compelling “acorn theory” in which each life is formed by a unique image, an image that is the essence of that life and calls it to a destiny, just as the mighty oak’s destiny is written in the tiny acorn.

In this new look at age-old themes, Hillman provides a radical, frequently amusing, and highly accessible path to realization through an extensive array of examples. He urges his readers to discover the “blueprints” particular to their own individual lives, certain that there is more to life than can be explained by genetics or environment. As he says, “We need a fresh way of looking at the importance of our lives.”

What The Soul’s Code offers is an inspirational, positive approach to life, a way of seeing, and a way of recovering what has been lost of our intrinsic selves.

 

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Book Review: Dead Silence (Stillwater Trilogy #1) by Brenda Novak

dead-silenceThere’s a body buried behind a Mississippi farmhouse

Grace Montgomery knows who it is, and she knows why it happened. She was only thirteen the night it all went wrong. And now, like then, she has no choice but to keep her mouth shut.

Grace left the town of Stillwater thirteen years ago, trying to forget, trying to make good. As an assistant D.A. in Jackson, she’s finally achieved the success that was supposed to change her life. But it hasn’t so she’s come back to confront her own history. Which means returning to the farmhouse now owned by her brother and facing the people of Stillwater, a number of whom suspect the truth.

Widower Kennedy Archer is one of those people. He’s running for mayor and needs to stay as far away from Grace as possible. And yetshe’s an enigma he can’t resist. Even though her enemies are close to finding out what really happened and that could ruin them both.

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me-iiMy thoughts:

I connected with Brenda Novak a few years ago on Facebook and even though I followed her post, I hadn’t read her books. Until recently. Dead Silence is the third book I have read by her and I must say, she writes a heck of a story. Having said that, I am not a romance reader or reviewer. Sometimes I make an allowance. The story has to have more than just romance and the plot has to be solid. I do love a good crime thriller and mystery, so her stories fit that bill nicely. I also have to admire how she is not heavy on the romance but gives you realistic relationship situations.

Dead Silence is the first book in the Stillwater Trilogy and I’m really looking forward to the next book. I think what first appealed to me about this book was the setting. As a southerner myself, I am always on the lookout for stories that take place in the South. The second thing that drew my attention was the premise. A body buried on a farm and the family is trying to forget but how can they when the body is buried on their property and they know why? One of the family members Grace-who was probably affected the most-left years ago to only return and face the secrets her family tried to bury along with the body and a town who is suspicious of what happened. Now that makes for a great story!

When she returned to town, she did not expect to stay long or get find a connection in the most likely of men-Widower Kennedy Archer. I enjoyed their interaction and how they come to grips with their problems and how their relationship develops. I look forward to reading more about them in the next book and will be cheering for them!

Last but not least, I really thought Novak did a great job with the supporting characters and they really enriched the story and I thought the small town feel she gives you was perfectly told.

I rated this book three and a half stars!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

stay-calm-and-support-book-bloggers

Wish-List 5: A Bookish Halloween

I am mixing up things a bit this month with my wish-list: 5. I thought it would be cool to share what I want to read for the month of October in-line with Halloween coming up. One most get in the spirit of things… Plus, share with you my wish-list I hope to get to this fall. I am completely obsessed with reading, talking about books, sharing titles and fall time is a splendid time for thrillers and ghost stories. Don’t you think?

What is on your wish-list for fall time?

October Reads

the-dead-will-tell-by-linda-castilloThe Dead Will Tell by Linda Castillo

Everyone in Painters Mill knows the abandoned Hochstetler farm is haunted. But only a handful of the residents remember the terrible secrets lost in the muted/hushed whispers of time―and now death is stalking them, seemingly from the grave.
On a late-night shift, Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is called to the scene of an apparent suicide―an old man found hanging from the rafters in his dilapidated barn. But evidence quickly points to murder and Kate finds herself chasing a singularly difficult and elusive trail of evidence that somehow points back to the tragedy of that long ago incident. Meanwhile, Kate has moved in with state agent John Tomasetti and for the first time in so long, they’re both happy; a bliss quickly shattered when one of the men responsible for the murders of Tomasetti’s family four years ago is found not guilty, and walks away a free man. Will Tomasetti be pulled back to his own haunted past?
When a second man is found dead―also seemingly by his own hand―Kate discovers a link in the case that sends the investigation in a direction no one could imagine and revealing the horrifying truth of what really happened that terrible night thirty-five years ago, when an Amish father and his four children perished―and his young wife disappeared without a trace.

And, as Kate knows―the past never truly dies . . . in The Dead Will Tell by Linda Castillo

the-constables-taleThe Constable’s Tale: A Novel of Colonial America by Donald Smith

Set in a tumultuous period that helped to forge a nation, a riveting mystery that takes a volunteer constable through the wilds of colonial North Carolina to track down a shadowy killer

When a traveling peddler discovers the murder of a farm family in colonial North Carolina whose bodies have been left in bizarre positions, circumstances point to an Indian attack. But Harry Woodyard, a young planter who is the volunteer constable of Craven County during a period in America’s past when there was no professional police force, finds clues that seem to indicate otherwise. The county establishment wants to blame the crime on a former inhabitant, an elderly Indian who has suddenly reappeared in the vicinity like an old ghost. But he is a person to whom Harry owes much.

Defying the authorities, Harry goes off on his own to find the real killer. His investigation takes him up the Atlantic seacoast and turns into a perilous hunt for even bigger quarry that could affect the future of Britain in the American continent.

theses-shallow-gravesThese Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

From the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of A Northern Light and Revolution, comes a thrilling mystery that’s perfect for fans of The Cellar and Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls. This is a story of dark secrets, dirty truths, and the lengths to which people will go for love and revenge.

Jo Montfort is beautiful and rich, and soon—like all the girls in her class—she’ll graduate from finishing school and be married off to a wealthy bachelor. Which is the last thing she wants. Jo dreams of becoming a writer—a newspaper reporter.

Wild aspirations aside, Jo’s life seems perfect until tragedy strikes: her father is found dead. The story is that Charles Montfort shot himself while cleaning his revolver, but the more Jo hears about her father’s death, the more something feels wrong. And then she meets Eddie—a young, smart, infuriatingly handsome reporter at her father’s newspaper—and it becomes all too clear how much she stands to lose if she keeps searching for the truth. But now it might be too late to stop.

The past never stays buried forever. Life is dirtier than Jo Montfort could ever have imagined, and this time the truth is the dirtiest part of all.

an-english-ghost-storyAn English Ghost story by Kim Newman

The Naremores, a dysfunctional British nuclear family, seek to solve their problems and start a new life away from the city in the sleepy Somerset countryside. At first their perfect new home seems to embrace them, its endless charms creating a rare peace and harmony within the family. But as they grow closer, the house begins to turn on them, and seems to know just how to hurt them the most – threatening to destroy them from the inside out.

 

 

the-ghosts-of-idlewood-by-m-l-bullockThe Ghosts of Idlewood by M.L. Bullock

When a team of historians takes on the task of restoring the Idlewood plantation to its former glory, they discover there’s more to the moldering old home than meets the eye. The long-dead Ferguson children don’t seem to know they’re dead. A mysterious clock, a devilish fog and the Shadow Man add to the supernatural tension that begins to build in the house. Lead historian Carrie Jo Stuart and her assistant, Rachel K must use their special abilities to get to the bottom of the many mysteries that the households.
Detra Anne and Henri get a reality check, of the supernatural kind and Deidre Jardine finally comes face to face with the past.

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Wish-List 5 -Fall Reads

blood-harvest-by-s-j-boltonBlood Harvest by S.J. Bolton

The Fletchers’ beautiful new house is everything they dreamed it would be. Built between two churches in Heptonclough, a small village on the moors that time forgot, it ought to be paradise for this young family of five, but they barely have a chance to settle in before they find that they’re anything but welcome. Someone seems to be trying to drive them away–at first with silly pranks but then with threats that become increasingly dangerous, especially to the oldest child, ten-year-old Tom Fletcher, who begins to believe that someone is always watching him.

The adults in Tom’s life are trying to help, including his parents; the vicar next door, younger and more dashing than you’d expect a vicar to be; and a therapist, Evi Oliver, who believes him more than she wants to.  But there are other clues that something isn’t quite right in Heptonclough, including the mysterious accidental deaths of three toddlers over the last ten years.  It is not until Tom’s siblings, two-year-old Milly and five-year-old Joe Fletcher, go missing in turn that the little village’s evil secret turns the Fletchers’ dreams into a nightmare.

With Sacrifice, Awakening, and now Blood Harvest, S. J. Bolton displays time and time again her remarkable talent as a beguiling storyteller, a master of thrills, and the mistress of her own brand of modern Gothic tale.

the-harvesting-by-melanie-karsakThe Harvesting by Melanie Karsak –Award winning book/B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

“The world, it seemed, had gone silent. It was something we knew but did not talk about. We were alone.”

While Layla Petrovich returns home to rural Hamletville after a desperate call from her psychic grandmother, she never could have anticipated the horror of what Grandma Petrovich has foreseen. The residents of Hamletville will need Layla’s cool head, fast blade and itchy trigger finger to survive the undead apocalypse that’s upon them. But even that may not be enough. With mankind silenced, it soon becomes apparent that we were never alone. As the beings living on the fringe seek power, Layla must find a way to protect the ones she loves or all humanity may be lost.

This exciting new dark fantasy/horror hybrid blends the best of the zombie genre with all the elements a fantasy reader loves!

It’s all fun and games until someone ends up undead!

the-last-queen-of-englandThe Last Queen of England (Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery) by Steve Robinson

While on a visit to London, American genealogist Jefferson Tayte’s old friend and colleague dies in his arms. Before long, Tayte and a truth-seeking historian, Professor Jean Summer, find themselves following a corpse-ridden trail that takes them to the Royal Society of London, circa 1708.

What to make of the story of five men of science, colleagues of Isaac Newton and Christopher Wren, who were mysteriously hanged for high treason?

As they edge closer to the truth, Tayte and the professor find that death is once again in season. A new killer, bent on restoring what he sees as the true, royal bloodline, is on the loose…as is a Machiavellian heir-hunter who senses that the latest round of murder, kidnapping, and scandal represents an unmissable business opportunity.

The Last Queen of England is a racing thriller with a heart-stopping conclusion. It follows on from In the Blood and To the Grave but can be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel.

the-winter-peopleThe Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter.

Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara’s farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that has weighty consequences when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished. In her search for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea’s diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother’s bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked into the historical mystery, she discovers that she’s not the only person looking for someone that they’ve lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.

the-girl-on-the-train-by-s-j-boltonThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

EVERY DAY THE SAME

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

UNTIL TODAY

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

Here are some of the wish lists from a few of my friends this month:

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired-Coming Soon

Erin @ Flashlight Commentary

 

 

Review: No One Knows by J.T. Ellison

No one knows II

In an obsessive mystery as thrilling as The Girl on the Train and The Husband’s SecretNew York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison will make you question every twist in her page-turning novel—and wonder which of her vividly drawn characters you should trust.

The day Aubrey Hamilton’s husband is declared dead by the state of Tennessee should bring closure so she can move on with her life. But Aubrey doesn’t want to move on; she wants Josh back. It’s been five years since he disappeared, since their blissfully happy marriage—they were happy, weren’t they?—screeched to a halt and Aubrey became the prime suspect in his disappearance. Five years of emptiness, solitude, loneliness, questions. Why didn’t Josh show up at his friend’s bachelor party? Was he murdered? Did he run away? And now, all this time later, who is the mysterious yet strangely familiar figure suddenly haunting her new life?

My thoughts:

When I began reading this story the jumping back and forth to the present and past was getting on my last nerve. I think it was the way it was done starting in the beginning. At first I couldn’t see where it was going and I thought it might be too much back story on things that did not matter to the plot. Well, I was dead wrong. I started to see a pattern and when I thought I had the whole story figured out, BAM-there is a total plot twist that had me so shocked! I did not see it coming at all!

For the characters, Aubrey actually annoyed me. I disliked Daisy until I realized that she was right about a few things and I sort-of changed my opinion of her. Okay, I really didn’t but I sympathized with her a little. Though she was wrong about a lot of things. As for the other characters they are just as messed up.

This psychological thriller has all the right twisted, disturbing, dysfunctional characters and situations. I found myself about half way racing through the pages to see what happens next. Things get really intense and when you think you have it all figured out, everything you thought will turn out differently in the end.

I rated this book three stars.

I received a copy from NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Wish-List Five: Mysteries & Thrillers

This month for the five books I’ve chosen on my wish list are mystery and thrillers-again. Yes, I have been on a serious kick lately of these two genres-or the mix of the two one might say. These stories you will see below will hopefully captivate you, have you biting your nails and provoke your thoughts you never could imagined. Well, at least for me I hope they do. I LOVE a good THRILL! Let’s get started, shall we?

The Crooked House

The Crooked House by Christobel Kent

Published in the United Kingdom in early 2015, Christobel Kent’sThe Crooked House has already drawn comparisons to works by the pantheon of British female literary suspense writers–Daphne du Maurier, Agatha Christie, P. D. James, and Kate Atkinson. In this darkly atmospheric psychological thriller, she accomplishes what those celebrated writers do best: she creates an insular world (a single house, a small town) where something sinister has occurred, and subtly inflects each page with the toxic residue of violence.

Much like the unnamed narrator of Rebecca, Alison lives her life under the radar. She has no ties, no home, and she spends her days at a backroom publishing job. Which is how she wants it. Because Alison used to be a teenager named Esme, who lived in a dilapidated house by a bleak estuary with her parents and three siblings. One night, something unspeakable happened in the house, and Alison emerged the only survivor. In order to escape from the horror she witnessed, she moved away from her village, changed her name, and cut herself off from her past.

Only now her boyfriend invites her to a wedding in her old hometown, and she decides that if she’s going to have any chance of overcoming the trauma of what happened, she’ll have to confront it. But soon Alison realizes that that night’s events have left a terrible mark on everyone in the village, and she begins to suspect that they are all somehow implicated in her family’s murder.

The Forgetting time

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

Noah wants to go home. A seemingly easy request from most four year olds. But as Noah’s single-mother, Janie, knows, nothing with Noah is ever easy. One day the pre-school office calls and says Janie needs to come in to talk about Noah, and no, not later, now – and life as she knows it stops.

For Jerome Anderson, life as he knows it has stopped. A deadly diagnosis has made him realize he is approaching the end of his life. His first thought – I’m not finished yet. Once a shining young star in academia, a graduate of Yale and Harvard, a professor of psychology, he threw it all away because of an obsession. Anderson became the laughing stock of his peers, but he didn’t care – something had to be going on beyond what anyone could see or comprehend. He spent his life searching for thatsomething else. And with Noah, he thinks he’s found it.

Soon Noah, Janie and Anderson will find themselves knocking on the door of a mother whose son has been missing for seven years – and when that door opens, all of their questions will be answered.

Sharon Guskin has written a captivating, thought-provoking novel that explores what we regret in the end of our lives and hope for in the beginning, and everything in between. In equal parts a mystery and a testament to the profound connection between a child and parent, The Forgetting Time marks the debut of a major new talent.

The Life we bury

The Life We Bury Allen Eskens

College student Joe Talbert has the modest goal of completing a writing assignment for an English class. His task is to interview a stranger and write a brief biography of the person. With deadlines looming, Joe heads to a nearby nursing home to find a willing subject. There he meets Carl Iverson, and soon nothing in Joe’s life is ever the same.

Carl is a dying Vietnam veteran–and a convicted murderer. With only a few months to live, he has been medically paroled to a nursing home, after spending thirty years in prison for the crimes of rape and murder.

As Joe writes about Carl’s life, especially Carl’s valor in Vietnam, he cannot reconcile the heroism of the soldier with the despicable acts of the convict. Joe, along with his skeptical female neighbor, throws himself into uncovering the truth, but he is hamstrung in his efforts by having to deal with his dangerously dysfunctional mother, the guilt of leaving his autistic brother vulnerable, and a haunting childhood memory.

Thread by thread, Joe unravels the tapestry of Carl’s conviction. But as he and Lila dig deeper into the circumstances of the crime, the stakes grow higher. Will Joe discover the truth before it’s too late to escape the fallout?

The Hanged Man

The Hanged Man by Gary Inbinder

Like many fin de siecle Parisians, Inspector Achille Lefebvre is looking forward to a pleasant summer holiday at a seaside resort with his wife, Adele—but a body found hanging from a bridge in a public park interferes with the inspector’s plans.

Paris: July, 1890. Inspector Achille Lefebvre and his wife Adele are enjoying their stay at a seaside resort—until a body found hanging from a bridge in a public park demands the Inspector’s attention. Is it suicide or murder? A twisted trail of evidence draws Inspector Lefebvre into a shadowy underworld of international intrigue, espionage, and terrorism. Time is of the essence; pressure mounts on the Sureté to get results. Achille’s chief orders him to work with his former partner, Inspector Rousseau, now in charge of a special unit in the newly formed political brigade. But can Achille trust the detective who let him down in another case?
Inspector Lefebvre uses innovative forensics and a network of police spies to uncover a secret alliance, a scheme involving the sale of a cutting-edge high explosive, and an assassination plot that threatens to ignite a world war.

Two Evils

Two Evils by Mark Shennen

DI Charlotte Savage has been warned to lay low. After a string of high profile cases, her infamous reputation precedes her.

But when a vulnerable child goes missing, for Savage, it’s too close to home. She’s not the kind of detective who can sit back and watch events unfold.

Then a second child is snatched – echoing a terrifying incident that happened over two decades before. It soon becomes apparent that there is a more chilling motive behind the disappearances.

History looks set to repeat itself. It’s down to Savage to seek out the cold blooded killer. Before it’s third time unlucky. Before it’s too late . . .

Book Descriptions from Goodreads.

Other Blogger’s Wishlist 5: The Maiden’s Court ,  A Bookaholic Swede , A Literary Vacation , 2 Kids and Tired Books

Interview with Author Stuart S. Laing

Stuart Laing

Born in 1966 and raised on the east coast of Scotland in the ancient Pictish Kingdom of Fife. Stuart has been married to the love of his life for 20 years and they have blessed with a daughter. Completing the household is a cat which is also female leaving him heavily outnumbered. He has always been fascinated by the history of Edinburgh and has spends most of his adult life studying Scottish history in all its aspects but always find himself being drawn back to the cobbled streets of the Old Town. 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.

Stephanie: Thank you for chatting with me today, Stuart. It is always a pleasure. You have written so many wonderful stories. Today I want to talk with you about, The Children in the Shadows. Great title by the way. Tell me a little about your story.

Stuart: While Robert and his friends and family attend an engagement party the murder of a young girl casts a grim pall over the evening. Everyone seems convinced that the woman who carried the body into the town Guardhouse is guilty and no investigation is necessary. Robert is pressed to do what he can to help the woman and by doing so he opens up a can of worms that certain people in high office want closed for their own reasons.

The story also allowed me to shine more of a light on the female characters who come to the fore in this. I have always sought to allow them to be as strong and outspoken as they wanted to be and in TCiTS they seize the opportunity with both fair hands.

Alice Galbraith especially truly came into her own when she decides she is going to solve the crime. While this decision places her in great danger as she is kidnapped by the murderer she is not the type of girl who is prepared to set back and wait to be rescued.

Faith also plays a strong part in the book. It serves both as comfort at times of sorrow and inspiration to stay the course and bring the guilty to justice.

Stuarts book cover

Stephanie: What was your inspiration?

Stuart: There has been much said in the British media over recent years regarding ‘people trafficking’ and ‘economic migrants’ from Eastern Europe coming to our shores in search of a better life as though this was something new. Throughout the 18th Century people from the Scottish Highlands had been trickling southwards to find hopefully a better life in the cities of the central Lowlands. Glasgow and Edinburgh had probably hundreds of Gaels struggling to eke out a new life for themselves by 1745 alone. I took that fact and mixed it with my fictional creation of a heartless man who lures children from the Highlands with promises of a happy and wealthy future only to put them to work in the worst sort of brothel.

It was the sad fact that such places existed and the fact that the victims were hidden from sight that gave me the title. That and the fact that certain people wanted the children to remain hidden in the shadows so that their own sins would remain unseen.

Stephanie: Tell me a little about Captain Travers.

Stuart: Charles Travers is a young man aged 25. Formerly an officer in the regular army who sold his commission and returned to his hometown where he was able to secure the position of captain in Edinburgh’s Town Guard. He is looked upon as a popular figure but other than Robert has no’one he can call a true friend. His single interest is solving crimes and this has been to the detriment of his social life. He has allowed nothing else to come before that and it was through work that he first met and then became close friends with Robert. Romance has never really figured in his thoughts.

His parents died when he was a child and he had been raised by an elderly relative who passed away while he was in the army so has no family left.

It was while he was attending Kitty’s to make an arrest that he met Miss Estelle Cannonby who he fell in love with at first sight. He is convinced she is his soul mate and the woman he wishes to make his wife.

Stephanie: What is the most dangerous encounter that Robert Young, Captain Travers have had?

Stuart: For Charles it is when he corners the murderer in A Pound of Flesh in the climactic scene when he finds himself unarmed facing a desperate man armed with a pistol. He tries to persuade him to surrender but…

Robert has largely managed to avoid placing his life in real danger, although like Charles he is there when the killer is confronted in ApoF. However his luck runs out dramatically in The Children in The Shadows when he discovers the identity of the man responsible for exploiting children. Rather than wait for Charles and the Town Guard he attempts to capture the man himself trusting in his own skill with a rapier. His skills may not be all that he hoped however!

Stephanie: Out of all the characters you have written about, which one are you most partial to?

Stuart: Arghhh! Does it have to be only one? Obviously I have to say Robert Young himself as the driving force of the stories but I love his wife Euphemia who has to deal with worrying about him when he is investigating a dastardly crime while looking after two young children. I also have a real fondness for Sergeant MacIan of the Town Guard who believes in ‘traditional’ methods of policing while dear Captain Travers prefers a modern, analytical approach to a crime scene. One character who is always an absolute pleasure to write is Alice Galbraith, a high class prostitute who delights in causing mischief for Robert and Captain Travers whenever she speaks to them. She is not a malicious character in any way, more just a saucy minx with a wicked sense of humour. She really came into her own in the most recent book The Children in The Shadows where she revealed herself to be much more than just an amusing supporting character. Even as I wrote her scenes I was cheering her on.

Stephanie: Is there a scene you wrote where you burst out laughing? If so, do tell.

Stuart: There is a short scene in A Pound of Flesh where Captain Travers and Robert visit Kitty’s (a gentleman’s club for games of chance and meeting young ladies of negotiable affections) to arrest a dubious character. He is busily engaging with two ‘ladies’ in a bedroom and while they arrest him the women, naked as the day they were born, applaud their efforts while they cringe with embarrassment. It was just one of those little scenes that is both important as it leads to a break in the investigation and just amusing for the sheer awful embarrassment for the men as they try to arrest the villain while doing their best not to stare at the naked flesh on display.

Stephanie: Where in your home is your favorite place to write? Do you have a favorite coffee or tea by your side when you write?

Stuart: Normally my armchair with my netbook perched on my lap. I like the small size of the netbook compared to a full size laptop when I am writing. Now, coffee or tea? The eternal conundrum! I tend to stick with coffee when writing but a mug, never a cup, of strong tea is always welcome. Just don’t add sugar!

Stephanie: I write at my desk, living room, kitchen and sometimes in my bed early in the morning. When writing, what is your process?

Stuart: I generally work out the full plot from beginning to end before I write the first word, I even work out a chapter by chapter guide of who does what, when and where in advance. However…pretty much as soon as I get past the first chapter things start to move, if not in a completely different direction, then in a way which I had not planned in advance. Generally only the very beginning and the end will remain unchanged. The crime and the criminal will be as I planned but anything else between the first and last page tends to weave its own path. Characters have a bad habit of doing their own thing. When I am actually writing though I prefer to have the TV switched off and have music playing in the background. Mumford and Sons, Marillion and the Scottish band from the 1980’s Big Country all feature fairly regularly on my writing playlist.

Stephanie: Yes, I agree. Characters do tend to do their own thing. I have noticed a lot of writers like having music on while writing. I’m must be strange, because I need complete silence and no distractions. How many books a year on average do you read?

Stuart: A rough estimate would be somewhere in the region of 50-60 full length books a year on average. I generally read at least one novel a week and goodness only knows how many short stories!

Stephanie: That is about the amount I read. Good number of books. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to try their hand at writing?

Stuart: Do it! Work out your basic storyline, plot and main characters and then just write. It doesn’t matter if you miss words or letters or even have gaps in the plot in that first draft, just get your idea down on paper (or on the computer screen these days) Once you have written that first draft then you can go back over it and catch the things you missed first time around. The single most important piece of advice I could possibly give is simply this. Do it! And have fun while you are doing it! Is that two pieces of advice? Do it and have fun!

Stephanie: Agreed!  

What is up next for you?

Stuart: I am nearing completion of the fourth Robert Young tale, so I think it is safe to say he doesn’t die when he confronts the cad in TCiTS. It has the working title of Major Weir’s Dark Legacy and is about an ongoing argument between two elderly booksellers. When one is murdered and the other found standing over the body with a knife in hand Charles is prepared to see things as an open and shut case. His attention is focussed on an upcoming wedding and he doesn’t want any distractions to get in the way of that. Robert, at his wife’s insistence agrees to do what he can for the accused. Meanwhile a sneak thief is plaguing the town, Robert’s adopted daughter Effie has discovered boys and a demon raising lunatic from the past haunts the dark rooms of an empty mansion.

 Stephanie: How exciting!  

Is there a message you would like to give to your readers?

Stuart: I think the only message I would dare try to give to my readers is that no matter how grim things may seem at the moment, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. With some of my characters that light is provided by their belief in Jesus Christ as their Savior. Others settle for the contents of a bottle! What I hope readers would take from my books is that our troubles, even on the darkest days can be overcome. I would suggest that faith was a better source of hope than a bottle though!

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

Stuart: All three novels are available on Amazon in ebook and paperback. A short story featuring the regular cast is also available for the Kindle.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stuart-S.-Laing/e/B007B5H19U/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1