Tuesday, 25 July 2017

House Of Lies by E.V. Seymour - Cover Reveal

I'm super excited to be sharing a gorgeous cover reveal for House Of Lies by E.V Seymour. But before you can see it in all it's glory, here is the synopsis to whet your appetite!

House Of Lies

A sudden disappearance…

When Roz Outlaw's partner Tom mysteriously vanishes, she knows his life is in danger. Tom has been distracted lately, afraid, as though he is being hunted…

A desperate search…

With the police showing little interest Roz knows it falls to her to find Tom. But as Tom's secrets are uncovered nothing can prepare Roz for the dark lies and twisted truths she finds. She thought she loved Tom, but quickly realises she has been living with a stranger – a man with murder in his past.

A house of evil.

The key to unlocking Tom's past lies in his childhood home – Vixenhead. A house of wickedness that keeps its secrets well hidden. Can Roz find Tom before it's too late or will the evil within Vixenhead claim her too…

Cover Reveal

How amazing does House Of Lies sound? And if that's not enough, here it is the cover you've been waiting to see


So tell me what you think of the cover? Will you be buying House of Lies? (You can get your own copy here). 

Monday, 24 July 2017

The Shield (The Finder Series Book 1) by C.J. Bentley - Blog Tour Review


Life Of A Nerdish Mum is hosting the blog tour for The Shield (The Finder Series, Book 1) by C.J. Bentley and I have both my review of the book and a super extract. 

The Shield

People lose their belongings. That is a fact of life. It can happen by accident, but sometimes it can happen when you put them in a very safe place and forget where that safe place is. Not many people are good at finding them again.
A young, gutsy girl with a kind heart, who’s searching for her own identity growing up in the 1960s, just happens to be very good at finding things. Can she be the one to help return whatever is lost – anywhere and at any time - to its original owner? 
With the help of a beautiful yet mysterious wise woman and a chivalrous knight she does just that. She finds and returns his shield, lost in battle, which unbeknown to her holds a secret that is important to his King, the safety of the Kingdom and the life of the daughter of his best friend.
The Shield is the first story in The Finder Series, taking our heroine on extraordinary journeys back in time. Her first adventure takes place in Medieval England in 1340 where she meets King Edward III, his wife Philippa and their son, who will later become the Black Prince.

My Review

The Shield took me right back to my childhood in the way it was written. The way the characters talk and the way the group of children interact, especially at the beginning remind me so much of books that I read as a child, such as The Famous Five and The Secret Seven. This meant that the story was a bit slower paced to start off with than I'm used to with more modern styles of writing, so it did take me a couple of chapters to get into it, but once I did I was hooked. 

This book is full of action and adventure and I know my step daughter is going to absolutely love this. The story is clever, and is on the perfect level for the age it's aimed at without talking down to them, which is definitely good to see. 

I loved the prologue and I thought it was really well written, a knight has to deliver an important message that is hidden in his shield but he is gravely injured after an ambush. I really got sucked into this and I really wanted to find out what was happening, what the message was and if the knight was ok, which I think is a really great start to a book. 

I thought it was a really nice touch at the end to have some historical facts at the end of the book s that children can learn a bit more about the time period that is covered in the book. Especially as York has such a rich history. 

Overall a really great book and I will now be passing on to my step daughter and I will definitely be keeping my eye out for the next books in the series. 

I gave this book 4 stars. 

Extract

The Past…..
The shield releases its secret and Sir Kay and the girl are taken back to 1340 and the time of King Edward the third a lawless time where the barons are planning to overthrow the King and the French are planning to invade the country. Peggy, brought back in time to become the Lady Eleanor questions everything and everyone, even the wise woman who seems to control time…….

Sir Kay dismounted and held my pony’s head while I did the same he then tied both sets of reins to the garden fence, allowing both mounts to graze on the grass growing outside of the garden.  We opened the gate and as we walked together up the garden path the door opened and a lady greeted us.  Not the ugly, grim witch like person I was expecting, far too young and quite pretty with long dark braided  hair and a big smile.  She was dressed in a blue dress like me so I immediately liked her.
“You have brought her then Sir Kay?  She looks well”, she addressed this to Sir Kay but her eyes were on me as she spoke in a light lilting voice.
“Er, excuse me but I am here, in front of you so please address me.”  I was not going to be ignored.  “I hope you are going to answer all of my questions because I have many and I am not playing along with this charade until all of them are answered”.  I spoke with authority but I didn’t really feel brave, I was more than a little worried about this meeting and knew I had to keep on her right side if I wanted to see my friends and family again.
We entered the cottage, it was gloomy inside but I could make out various herbs hanging from the ceiling beams which gave the inside a perfumed smell and the fire blazing in the hearth gave an orange glow to the rough wooden chairs either side of the fire.  A black pot was hanging over the fire with interesting smells coming from it which made me remember I had not had time for breakfast.  I was waved towards a chair and I sat down readying myself for the interview I was ready to give this wise woman but she handed me a spoon and not taking no for an answer she ladled contents of the pot into a wooden bowl which she then handed to me with a nod of the head for me to eat.  I didn’t need telling twice, it was a savoury stew, not sure what was in it but it was absolutely the most delicious meal I had eaten since arriving wherever I was, so I tucked in.  When I finished I really looked at her, (not being very good at telling ages I didn’t try to age her but I would have thought around my mum’s age, so between thirty and forty I guessed).  She had dark coloured hair which was braided like mine but her eyes were what drew me in, they were a very light blue but had darker blue centres, very strange indeed, different but having looked into them you would not forget them in a hurry.  I took a deep breath and launched into my speech.
“Right, I take it you are the wise woman Sir Kay has told me about and that you arranged for my being here, wherever here is and more importantly when, I seem to have been brought back in time somehow, so how and when and why?”  As usual it all came out in my usual sudden rush of words.  I looked at them both as they glanced at each other before their eyes rested on me again.

About The Author


Originally heralding from the North of England, C.J Bentley has travelled extensively and enjoyed living in a variety of countries across the world from Dubai to Doha, Qatar and now the countryside in the South of France. A background in teaching and childcare she has always enjoyed creating adventure short stories. However, it was when she became a grandma and with her grandchildren growing up  that she discovered that books seemed to contain only stories of vampires, zombies and farts that she decided seriously to take matters into her own hands and put pen to paper which today she calls The Finder Series.

Don't Forget To Check Out The Rest Of The Blog Tour


Sunday, 23 July 2017

Dying To Live by Michael Stanley - Blog Tour Review


I'm excited to be part of the blog tour for Dying To Live, which is the sixth book in the Detective Kubu series. Any time a new Michael Stanley book comes around you can be sure that I'll be reading it, so when Orenda Books got in touch to say Dying To Live was coming out, I jumped at the chance of reading it. 

Dying To Live

When the body of a Bushman is discovered near the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the death is written off as an accident. But all is not as it seems. An autopsy reveals that, although he's clearly very old, his internal organs are puzzlingly young. What's more, an old bullet is lodged in one of his muscles ... but where is the entry wound? When the body is stolen from the morgue and a local witch doctor is reported missing, Detective 'Kubu' Bengu gets involved. But did the witch doctor take the body to use as part of a ritual? Or was it the American anthropologist who'd befriended the old Bushman? 

As Kubu and his brilliant young colleague, Detective Samantha Khama, follow the twisting trail through a confusion of rhino-horn smugglers, foreign gangsters and drugs manufacturers, the wider and more dangerous the case seems to grow. A fresh, new slice of 'Sunshine Noir', Dying to Live is a classic tale of greed, corruption and ruthless thuggery, set in one of the world's most beautiful landscapes, and featuring one of crime fiction's most endearing and humane heroes.

My Review

Well they did it again, I absolutely loved this book. Detective Kubu is easily one of my all time favourite detectives. He isn't your usual grumpy, hard drinking detective. He's happy (well as happy as a murder detective can be) and has a loving and wonderful family and he genuinely tries to be good to everyone. This on top of being a really great detective. If they could get the casting right, this series should 100% be a tv series. 

The stories are always quite dark and in Dying To Live, that is still true. The stories always contain things that I've never read about and things that I wouldn't have even thought about and I love that about them. They are also incredibly well written and thought out. There are twists and turns which don't always lead to where you are expecting and will keep you guessing. As usual Botswana is a character in itself and you can feel its essence throughout the book.

It was really good to see more of Detective Samantha Khama and get to know her better after enjoying her character previously. All the characters though are very strong and there isn't any I can pick out as being weak. Ian Macgregor the pathologist is also another one of my favourite characters, even though he isn't in it quite as much. 

Though Dying To Live is the sixth book in the series, reading this as a stand alone is very easily possible. I would definitely recommend reading the whole series though just because of how good it is. 

Overall another excellent book from Michael Stanley and I'm already excited waiting for their next book. 

I gave this book 5 stars.  

About The Authors

Michael Stanley is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Both were born in South Africa and have worked in academia and business. On a flying trip to Botswana, they watched a pack of hyenas hunt, kill, and devour a wildebeest, eating both flesh and bones. That gave them the premise for their first mystery, A Carrion Death, which introduced Detective ‘Kubu’ Bengu of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department. It was a finalist for five awards, including the CWA Debut Dagger. The series has been critically acclaimed, and their third book, Death of the Mantis, won the Barry Award and was a finalist for an Edgar award. Deadly Harvest was a finalist for an International Thriller Writers’ award, and book 5, A Death in the Family, was an international bestseller.

Don't Forget To Check Out The Rest Of The Tour



Tuesday, 18 July 2017

The Mid Year Book Freak Out Tag!


Something a little different today on Life Of A Nerdish Mum, I'm doing the Mid Year Book Freak Out Tag. I have seen this around everywhere and kept meaning to do it so here it is! I don't know who created the tag, so if you know please tell me so I can give them credit, but the most recent version I read was on The Book Review Cafe.

Best book you’ve read so far in 2017? 

Ahhh I'm not sure any reader could ever choose only one book for this kind of question, so I'm cheating and putting two! 

The first is Hereafter by the ever lovely LeeAnne Hansen (my review is here). 




And the second is Walking Wounded by Anna Franklin Osborne (this review is here).




Best sequel of 2017 so far?


I could easily put Hereafter in this section too as it is a sequel. but I'd like to put something different for each section so I'm choosing Black Butler, Volume 19 by Yana Toboso. 




New releases you haven’t read yet, but want to?


I have a ridiculous amount of new releases, that are no longer new releases because I've had them so long, but I just haven't had time to read them yet even though I want to! So I'll pick just one and that is Heartless by Marissa Meyer, it was published in November 2016, but as I wanted a paperback, my copy was published in February 2017.


Most anticipated release of the second half of 2017?

Another question I could put loads of books to but most definitely I think the top of the pile is Monster by Michael Grant, I can't wait to revisit the FAYZ! 


Biggest disappointment of 2017?

This was a tough one, but I think it has to be Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. I read it many years ago but remembered nothing and reading it again I can see why. It was just not what I was expecting and didn't have the kind of impact I thought it would have. 


Biggest Surprise?

100% The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. I don't know why, but I always thought that I wouldn't enjoy anything by Margaret Atwood, but I absolutely loved this. (My review will be up soon). 


Favourite new author (debut or new to you)?

I have two, one is Anna Franklin Osborne (author of Walking Wounded, see the first question) and the other is Harriet Springbett the author of Tree Magic. I have been horribly remiss and my review isn't up yet, but I can honestly say it is a 5 star read! 



Newest fictional crush?


Hmmmm I don't think I've had any major new crushes this year (yet). I think the closest is kind of a cheat as I watched the film first, but I have read the book now too. So I'm choosing Galen Erso from Rogue One. 




Newest favourite character?


I'm currently reading Fairest by Marissa Meyer and I think Levana is my newest favourite character.



A book that made you cry?


There have only been two books that have made me cry this year and I've already mentioned both of them, the first was Walking Wounded by Anna Franklin Osborne and the second was Rogue One (yes, even though I knew what happened already I still cried). 





Books that make you happy?


Any book I enjoy is a book that makes me happy! 

Favourite movie adaptation of 2017?

I watch very few book - movie adaptations as they usually leave me enraged (I tried watching the Divergent movie and I had a three day rage headache, no joke). So I'll answer this slightly differently and give my answer for the best book to film adaptation I've seen rather than just this year, I have three, The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy (totally counting this as just one), Interview with The Vampire and The Devil Wears Prada. I love all of these adaptations. 

Favourite review you’ve written this year
I had no idea on how to choose my favourite review, so I have followed Lorraine over at Book Review Cafe's lead and I've picked the one that has had the most traffic. That review is for The Promise by Casey Kelleher


Most beautiful book you’ve bought or received this year?

It was published back in 2015 but I only just got round to picking it up and the cover is stunning, The Vagrant by Peter Newman.



Books you need to read before the end of the year?


There isn't enough room on the internet to list all the books I want to read before the end of the year so I'll just pop up a couple that are begging me to read them soon.






Nominations!

I'm not going to nominate anyone as it is a little late to do this as we're just over the middle of the year, but if you want to do this then I tag YOU! 

Monday, 17 July 2017

In Your Name by Rob Ashman - Blog Tour Guest Post


Life Of A Nerdish Mum is playing host to Rob Ashman today as part of the blog tour for latest release, In Your Name! Rob talks about just how long it took him to write that all important first book, but first here is the synopsis of In Your Name. 

In Your Name

Police detective Lucas has become consumed with tracking down the deranged killer, known as Mechanic, and bringing the murderer to justice. Nothing else matters, not even his wife. His marriage is falling apart.

Mechanic has not killed for eight months and the trail has gone cold, then Lucas receives a terrifying letter. In a desperate bid to reignite the case, he tries to convince his boss to mount an operation in Baton Rouge where the letter was posted.

But was the letter really sent by Mechanic?

Not knowing where to turn, with his marriage in turmoil and his career on the rocks, Lucas begins to spiral out of control.

When Mechanic meets the head of a drug smuggling cartel the situation takes a grave turn.

Meanwhile, a bizarre set of murders are taking place in Vegas and Detective Rebecca Moran is put on the case. She will stop at nothing to make a name for herself.

Is there a link between the murders and Mechanic?

Can Lucas apprehend the killer this time or will Mechanic remain one step ahead?  

Guest Post - How long did it take!

It took me 24 years to write my first book. Yes, you read that correctly. The story was stuck in my head for all that time and it drove my wife around the bend.

I only got serious about writing when my dad got cancer. It was a particularly aggressive illness so I gave up work for three months to look after him and my mum. Writing Those That Remain was my coping mechanism. After he died and I finished it, my wife and daughters read the book and said, ‘This is really good, you need to do something with it and besides the story isn’t finished.’

Now, like most married men, I always listen to my wife, but when she said ‘You need to do something with this,’ what I heard was ‘Why don’t you quit your job and write.’ Though I’m sure in retrospect that is not quite what she meant. However, not being one for half measures, I got myself made redundant, set myself up as self-employed so I could write more and four years later I had written the Mechanic trilogy. 

I never set out to write a trilogy and would probably not write one again. My wife reckons the only reason it turned out that way was due to a catastrophic lack of planning on my part – as usual she’s probably right.

I have recently completed my fourth novel and have started a fifth. I am pleased to say my writing is getting quicker, because at my previous rate I would be 96 years old by now.

About The Author 


Rob is married to Karen with two grown up daughters. He is originally from South Wales and after moving around with work settled in North Lincolnshire where he’s spent the last twenty-two years.

Like all good welsh valley boys Rob worked for the National Coal Board after leaving school at sixteen and went to University at the tender age of twenty-three when the pit closures began to bite. Since then he’s worked in a variety of manufacturing and consulting roles both in the UK and abroad.

It took Rob twenty-four years to write his first book. He only became serious about writing it when his dad got cancer. It was an aggressive illness and Rob gave up work for three months to look after him and his mum. Writing Those That Remain became his coping mechanism. After he wrote the book his family encouraged him to continue, so not being one for half measures, Rob got himself made redundant, went self-employed so he could devote more time to writing and four years later the Mechanic Trilogy is the result.

When he is not writing, Rob is a frustrated chef with a liking for beer and prosecco, and is known for occasional outbreaks of dancing.

Rob is delighted that all three books in the Mechanic Trilogy will be published with Bloodhound Books in 2017.

Those That Remain  –  22 June
In Your Name            –  13 July
Pay The Penance     –  8 August

Rob now writes full time and has recently completed his fourth novel titled Faceless.

Connect With Rob Ashman

Twitter - @RobAshmanAuthor
Website - www.robashman.com
Facebook - Rob Ashman Author

Don't Forget To Check Out The Rest Of The Tour


Friday, 14 July 2017

Lost In The Lake by A.J. Waines - Cover Reveal


I'm so excited to be part of the cover reveal for Lost In The Lake by A.J. Waines. Lost In The Lake is the second book in the Dr Samantha Willerby series which is due for release on the 7th of September 2017 and can be pre ordered from the 13th of July 2017. 

The cover is absolutely stunning and the bleak scene matches the tone of the blurb. and really makes you wonder what has happened! If that isn't enough, then I also have the synopsis for you - 

Lost In The Lake 

She came at first for answers…now she’s back for you

Amateur viola player Rosie Chandler is the sole survivor of a crash which sends members of a string quartet plunging into a lake. Convinced the ‘accident’ was deliberate, but unable to recall what happened, she is determined to recover her lost memories and seeks out clinical psychologist, Dr Samantha Willerby.

But Rosie is hiding something…

Sam is immediately drawn to the tragic Rosie and as she helps her piece the fragments together, the police find disturbing new evidence which raises further questions. Why is Rosie so desperate to recover her worthless viola? And what happened to the violin lost in the crash, worth over £2m?

When Rosie insists they return to the lake to relive the fatal incident, the truth about Rosie finally creeps up on Sam – but by now, she’s seriously out of her depth…

The second book in the Dr Samantha Willerby series, Lost in the Lake is a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat Psychological Thriller that will leave you glancing over your shoulder.

Pre-Order on Amazon from 13 July 2017
Release date: 7 Sept 2017

About The Author 


AJ Waines has sold over 400,000 books worldwide and topped the UK and Australian Kindle Charts in 2015 & 2016 with her number one bestseller, Girl on a Train. Following fifteen years as a psychotherapist, she is now a full-time novelist with publishing deals in France, Germany, Norway, Hungary and USA (audiobooks).

Her fourth psychological thriller, No Longer Safe, sold over 30,000 copies in the first month, in thirteen countries. AJ Waines has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The Times and was ranked a Top 10 UK author on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) in 2016. She lives in Hampshire, UK, with her husband. Visit her website and blog, or join her on Twitter, Facebook or on her Newsletter.  



Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Poor Hands by Oliver Tidy - Extract


As part of the blog tour for Poor Hands by Oliver Tidy, I am sharing an exciting extract which will definitely make you want to pick up Poor Hands to see what happened next, I know I want to!

Poor Hands

In a big old building on the south coast of Kent, David Booker runs a book-themed coffee shop and Jo Cash operates a private investigation business. They live there, too. But not like that.

Jo needs help with tracing a mystery client's living relatives. David needs help with his staffing problems. Will they both get what they are looking for?

Sometimes two heads are better than one. Sometimes a poor hand is better than none. But not always...

Extract

‘So which are you and why is it important?’ said Jo, sipping her usual.
The white mocha left a milky residue on her top lip – something innocently childish. Using her tongue like a windscreen wiper to remove it she shattered that illusion, seemingly oblivious to the effect on me.
‘Why is it important?’ I said. ‘You’d better keep your voice down unless you want trouble from locals with pride in their roots.’
Jo raised one eyebrow and the dimple on her right cheek appeared as she gave me one of her stock looks – the one she reserved for fools and flannel.
‘There is a long and bitter history involved,’ I said. ‘Less so now as we’ve become more interconnected, more joined, more … united. But things have not always been so amicable in the Garden of England.’
Jo shook her head. ‘Sometimes it would be nice if you just answered a simple question … simply.’
‘Where’s the fun in that?’
‘Why do you think all conversations need to be fun, David? I have to tell you, I can find that quite trying, especially when I’m not in the best of moods.’
‘They don’t. I don’t,’ I said, skating around the ‘outing’ of her mood. ‘Maybe fun was the wrong word. Maybe I should have said that to give a simple answer to a simple question might, in some cases, be to deny an opportunity for social intercourse.’
‘And that would be a bad thing because?’
‘Because … because I was brought up on BT ads. They’ve had a deep and meaningful psychological impact on my interpersonal skills.’
Now she was frowning at me. Like her raised eyebrow look, it was not something I was unfamiliar with. She said, ‘I know I’m going to regret this but: BT ads?’
‘It’s good to talk.’
Jo closed her eyes for a long moment, breathed in and out deeply. But there was something else, something to make my heart strings strum a melodious chord, something to suggest a thawing of her ‘mood’ – a twitch at the corner of her mouth giving me a glimmer of hope she was about to brighten up the room and my day with a smile. A crumb from her emotional table for my fantasies to feed upon.
I was in love with Jo. Truly, madly … unrequitedly. I’d tried fighting it. Tried to understand how my feelings for her risked the special friendship we were developing. My fancies were foolish and I knew it because Jo had been clear with me from early on in our odd relationship – we were not to be. But as Will once famously remarked: the course of true love never did run smooth. And I was ever the optimist.
I sensed it would be wise to provide explanations. ‘I am a Man of Kent, not a Kentish Man. You want details?’
‘Depends.’
‘On?’
‘You being simple …’ She waited a beat, ‘… with your explanation.’
I turned up the heat on her morning thaw with some of that direct simplicity she craved. ‘The traditionally accepted dividing line that separates Men of Kent from Kentish Men is the River Medway. North and west of the Medway are Kentish Men. South and east are Men of Kent. You want more?’ She had her mouth full so could only nod for yes. ‘Jutes settled in the east of the county about fifteen hundred years ago, while Saxons settled in the west.’
‘What’s a Jute?’
‘Jutes were one of the three main Germanic peoples of the time. The others were the Saxons and the Angles. Jutes invaded and settled southern England during the Age of Migrations in the fourth century.’
She said, ‘How do you retain this stuff? And why?’
‘It’s my history. History matters. Understanding the past shapes the way we view the present. And it’s important to know where we come from.’
She showed me what she thought of that with her neatly plucked raised eyebrows.
‘As for why?’ I said. ‘I can’t help it. Some things you learn you can’t unlearn.’
‘Unlearn? You mean forget. Unlearn isn’t a real word.’
Jo had developed a liking for finding fault with my English. I put it down to an inferiority complex.
She said, ‘Getting back to your sermon on local history …’
‘It’s not a sermon. Sermons address biblical, theological, religious or moral topics. It’s an … explanation.’
She said, ‘Well, you are starting to sound a bit preachy.’
I used my free hand to make a sign of the cross at her that finished with a karate chop in the general direction of her neck.
‘Getting back to your lecture,’ she said, ‘and the Saxons settled above the Medway.’
I was impressed with her grasp of the rudiments and let her know it with a smile. ‘Yes.’
She said, ‘So between them the Saxons and the Jutes had all the Angles covered.’
Her laugh at the expression I had for that encouraged a couple of nearby customers to turn and look in our direction. Because I owned the place I smiled nicely back.
Jo said, ‘What you’re saying essentially is the south-east of England is largely populated by people of Germanic descent?’
‘Maybe that’s why the south-east is so much more efficiently run than the rest of the country,’ I said, with a wintry smile. ‘For the sake of historical clarity, I should also like to add that the Men of Kent – my side of the Medway – resisted William the Conqueror in 1066 to the extent they were able to achieve an honourable peace settlement with that invader, which in turn led to them being granted certain rights and privileges. The Kentish Men of the day just surrendered to him – capitulated without a fight. And got nothing.’
‘So Men of Kent think they’re better men than Kentish Men for that, do they?’
I made a face indicating my reluctance to comment, while at the same time agreeing with her. It’s not an easy face to pull.
Jo said, ‘And that’s why the distinction is important? Because of something that happened a thousand years ago? Why does that strike me as pathetic?’
‘Remind me, where do your ancestors originate from?’
‘I don’t know and I don’t particularly care. One thing I remember from somewhere I’ve forgotten is what Henry Ford said: the only history that matters is the history we make today.’
‘He was an American; what do you expect? They’re just jealous because they haven’t got anything to be proud of in their short time on the planet. That’s why they’re always flocking over here, desperately searching for someone in their family tree to lay claim to.’
Jo gave me a strange look. It was the kind of look to have me reaching for a paper napkin and blowing my nose.
‘What?’ I said.
‘How weird.’
‘I hope you’re referring to your thoughts and not what you’re looking at – me.’
She did smile then. Something squirmed in my guts. Why couldn’t she have felt the same?
She took another sip of her coffee before saying, ‘Wait there. Don’t move and don’t let them take my drink. I’m not finished.’
Before I could say, where are you going? she was on her way. My gaze never left her retreating backside, perfectly formed and tightly wrapped in faded denim. Again, why couldn’t she have felt the same?
With a sigh I returned my interest to my newspaper. A shadow fell across the table. It was Linda, one of my ladies. She said, ‘When are you two going to stop pretending?’
I felt myself colour. Chuckling to herself, she moved on to clear tables.
We were about half full, which was fairly good and fairly typical for my coffee shop business for the time of day. After a stuttering and shaky start Bookers was becoming celebrated locally and regionally. We’d been featured in local papers, a couple of glossy Kent-based lifestyle mags, and I’d even done a short interview on Romney Marsh FM. Word of mouth, too, had spread news of our little oasis of culture in a seaside town characterised by honky-tonk tourist tat, and everything with chips to the extent that we were now ‘known’. We’d also enjoyed appreciative visits from foreign tourists who’d heard about the place on the tourist grapevine and dropped in for a look, some coffee and cake. People were driving good distances to Dymchurch, a little seaside village on the south-east coast of Kent with the intention of making coffee and cake in Bookers part of their jaunt. That made me prouder than anything I’d ever achieved in my thirty-something years. And I’d been a teacher.
The coffee was good. The cake was very good – all homemade and bespoke locally with ingredients to do the recipes proud. Truth was I didn’t make much profit on the cake, but it got people coming back. However, I believed the main reason Bookers attracted a certain kind of person and then encouraged them to return was the ambience.
The place used to be a second-hand bookshop. It had been run by my uncle and aunt forever. I’d inherited it after their untimely and nasty deaths at the hands of a trio of psychopaths. As sole beneficiary of their estate, instead of cashing in all assets and retiring to the sun I’d given up my day job, invested a significant amount of their stocks and shares money and turned the place into a book-themed coffee shop. It had seemed like a good idea at the time. These days it seemed like a better one. I don’t know that either of them would have approved but I know a lot of my customers did. Floor to ceiling books in glass fronted cases, thoughtfully arranged groups of seating, carefully considered lighting, the odd rampant and luxuriant green-leaved plant, soothing colours and, usually, a relaxing strain of jazz or classical music seeping quietly out of the sound system’s speakers. I saw Bookers as a refuge in a busy, noisy, stressful world. Somewhere people could come and be calmed by the atmosphere and their surroundings, take some time out to recharge their humanity and civility before once more stepping unto the breach of the real world. That was the theory anyway. It worked for me.
It’d been suggested, half-jokingly, that we have a visitors’ book. I’d laughed the idea off and then gone out and bought one. It sat on the far end of the counter and was almost full – a written testament to the growing success of the venture. Of all the thousands of books in the place – some of which would easily fetch several hundred pounds on second hand book sites – it was my most valuable. And so it was quite ironic that while all the others were securely locked away behind glass-fronted bookshelves from those with sticky fingers – in both senses of the expression – the visitor book was lying where anyone could knock coffee over it, smear it with greasy fingerprints or just pick it up and walk out with it. Wilde would have something pithy to say about it.
A young woman pushing through the front door in a hurry caught my attention. She shut it behind her and gave a long look down the high street in the direction she’d come from. Something about her struck me as odd. Maybe it was her clothes – they looked like they needed a good wash, or replacing. Maybe it was her restless body language. Maybe it was the itinerant look her grubby holdall gave her. And she was wearing an overcoat. It was summer. I continued to regard her as I sipped my drink.
She turned to see where she’d stumbled into. She looked like she could’ve done with something to eat and drink but had other things on her mind, like seeking sanctuary. Her face was lined and shadowed with anxiety. She was pasty and furtive. I recognised in her a fear of something, or someone. My interest increased a notch.
From behind the counter, Mel, another of my ladies, had also taken an interest in the visitor. Hers was centred on what she wanted to order. Mel had to address her twice before the young woman – she was looking more like a girl to me by now, I guessed it was her troubles that put the years on her – realised she was being spoken to. She flinched and shrank a little.
A bit louder and a bit slower, Mel said, ‘What can I get you?’ I caught the impatience that often infected Mel’s manner when dealing with the distracted and dithering that crossed Bookers’ threshold. We called them our ‘Twiglet Zone’ customers.
The girl blinked rapidly a few times. Her head twitched as her eyes darted between Mel and the window. ‘Coffee,’ she said. ‘Small, black.’
Mel turned to make it. Cautiously the girl approached the front window. Again, she looked down the high street in the direction she’d come from. She saw something that disturbed her. Pulling away from the window, almost colliding with someone on the way out but seemingly oblivious to it, she turned back to the room. She looked paler still and her eyes had widened. She seemed frightened.
‘You have toilet, please?’ she said.
With her back to the girl as she made her drink, Mel pointed to where they were at the rear of the premises. The girl hurried away from the counter clutching her holdall to her chest.
Mel called after her. The girl did not respond. Mel made a face, mumbled something, and set the drink down on the counter.
My attention strayed to the large picture window that gave on to the high street. A steady trickle of people drifted aimlessly up and down. I’d seen some of them more than once already – a sure sign the tide was in.
In the continuous flow of human traffic a man stopped. He was big, broad and bald. He made me think of a boulder dropped into a stream and the pedestrians were the water that had to find a way around him. He cupped his hands against the window and took a good unselfconscious look inside.
After several long seconds he turned back to scan the road, left and right, up and down – this was not difficult for him because he was a head taller than anyone else I saw – but he didn’t move away. His big barrel chest rose and fell, like he’d been hurrying and wasn’t used to it.
A young couple came in chatting loudly. The man approached the counter while the woman found them a table. Mel served him. I watched the man outside. He turned to look back into Bookers and I made a decision. I left my table and went to stand behind the counter with Mel. She shot me a look that said, what are you doing working? Sarcasm as well as impatience.
The man came through the front door. He took a long moment for his vision to adapt from the glare of outside to the shaded interior. His eyes roamed the tables. I felt my heart working. I wondered if, since working with Jo on her private investigator business, I was developing a radar for trouble. The man oozed it.
He turned his big head in my direction. I forced myself to smile a welcome.
He took two big strides towards me and said, ‘I’m looking for a girl.’
His voice was low and raspy, his accent not local. He smelled – a sour unwashed stink. I put him in his late forties. His face had a purple tint to it – booze and outdoor living. His bald head and his stubbly right cheek were lightly scarred. His hard little eyes, like polished black stones, peered out from beneath his jutting brow. I’d seen eyes like that before – the reptile house at Port Lympne zoo.
‘Sorry, we only serve drinks and cake,’ I said.
No reaction.
‘About this tall,’ he said, indicating with his hand the height of the girl in my toilets. ‘Blonde, scrawny. Wearing a green coat and carrying a bag.’
This was a man, I understood, who didn’t value the ‘fun’ of social intercourse, who wanted answers to his questions quickly and didn’t appreciate people wasting his time or lying to him.
‘A blue holdall?’ I said.
Like a wrecking-ball in slow motion, his big head swung round to face me. His beady eyes locked onto mine. I felt the unsettling intensity of his rigid stare bore into my skull like an electric drill-bit.
I said, ‘I just saw a girl who looked like that get into a van. It went that way.’ I pointed in the general direction of Hythe.
His jaw tensed and his nostrils flared. For a long and tense moment I thought he didn’t believe me. If the girl were to break cover now thinking the coast was clear, if Mel, was to contradict me and tell him where the girl really was then I could see him reaching across the counter with one of his well developed arms – they had the muscle tone of a professional athlete’s legs – grabbing me by the throat and choking the life out of me without much effort.
I found some bravado. ‘You want something to drink or not, mate? I’m busy here.’
He looked me up and down, letting me know he shit bigger things, scowled and turned to go. His hand on the door handle, he turned back as I was letting out the breath I’d been holding.
‘What was the make of van?’ He really did give the impression he asked questions for answers.
I shrugged. ‘Didn’t see.’ I turned away from him hoping he’d just leave.
‘Colour?’ he said.
‘It was white,’ said Mel.
Jo had to stand back or risk being knocked down as he went out. She scowled after his back. The big man hurried away – a boulder dislodged and on the move. The immovable object turned unstoppable force. I sincerely hoped I’d never see him again.
‘What a charmer,’ Jo said. ‘You really need to up the quality of your clientele.’
I said, ‘He wasn’t a customer, thank God.’ I smiled at Mel. ‘Thanks. What made you say that?’
Mel was still looking out of the window. Her top lip had developed a bit of a curl. ‘That was a bad man.’
‘You know him?’ I said.
She shook her head. ‘I know his type.’
Jo said, ‘Someone going to tell me what’s going on? What did I miss?’
Still talking to Mel, I said, ‘You want to tell her he’s gone?’
‘Tell who who’s gone?’ said Jo.
‘A young woman came in right after you left. She looked frightened. I think she was trying to avoid him. She hid in the loos and then the missing link walked in asking if we’d seen her.’
‘And you lied to him?’
I nodded.
Jo made a face. ‘Let’s hope he doesn’t come back then.’
‘That’s what I was thinking when you walked in.’
The door opened. We all looked round a little too quickly. It wasn’t him.
Jo said, ‘You want me to speak to her?’
‘Thanks,’ said Mel, pinning a smile to her face for the new customers.
I went back to our table and my coffee. I was sweating. Jo headed for the toilets. She was back in seconds.
‘That was quick,’ I said. ‘Where is she?’
‘Gone. Bogs are empty.’
We both looked towards the doors that gave out onto the gravel parking area at the back of the property and then the public car park beyond that. One of the fire doors was open and swinging in the light breeze.
‘That’s that then,’ said Jo.
‘Seems so,’ I said.
‘So, you want to know why I went upstairs?’
‘Sure,’ I said, but I was still looking at the open back door.
Jo waved the paper in front of my face, encouraging me out of my trance and to pay attention.
‘Sorry,’ I said. ‘I’m worried for her.’
‘Did you know her?’
‘No, but she looked so … lost and lonely, vulnerable and afraid.’
‘You want to go and look for her?’
I studied Jo’s face to see if she’d asked the question in earnest. I smiled and shook my head. I took and released a big breath. ‘Go on then – what are you so excited about?’

As Jo unfolded a piece of paper half my attention drifted back to the girl and her haunted look as she’d hurried past my table. I hoped that wherever she’d disappeared to she’d been able to evade the beast pursuing her.

About The Author


Oliver Tidy was born and bred on Romney Marsh, Kent. After a fairly aimless foray into adulthood and a number of unfulfilling jobs he went back to education and qualified as a primary school teacher.

A few years of having the life sucked out of him in the classroom encouraged Oliver abroad to teach English as a foreign language. The lifestyle provided him the time and opportunity to try his hand at writing.

Oliver's success as a self-published author has led to his Booker & Cash series of books, which are set mainly on Romney Marsh, being signed by Bloodhound Books. 

Oliver is now back living on Romney Marsh and writing full time. 

Connect With Oliver Tidy 

Twitter - @olivertidy
Website - https://olivertidy.com/
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