The Devil’s Day by Andrew Michael Hurley @johnmurrays

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Devil’s Day by Andrew Michael Hurley   John Murray Ltd  October 19th 2017

John Pentacost is returning, as he does every autumn, to his families Lancashire farm where he will gather the sheep in from the moors and take part in the traditional rituals which will keep the sheep safe from the devil.

This year is different. He will be accompanied for the first time with his pregnant wife Katherine and they will bury his Grandfather, the Gaffer. The future of the farm is uncertain and John hopes that Katherine will feel as he does, that it is their duty to stay to help his father, and secure the farm for their children. What John does not expect is the resurfacing of old feuds, secrets and superstitions.

Hurley’s debut novel, The Loney,  was huge and won the Costa First Novel Award so expectations are understandably high for The Devil’s Day.

Hurley is excellent at dealing with the numerous characters and I particularly liked that it was told from John’s perspective, as he looks back to his own childhood. John remembers his mothers death, the persistent bullying he received from another local family, the Sturzakers, until finally he reveals his own secret, long buried at the back of his mind.

The community view outsiders with suspicion and John’s wife Kat is no different. Their reluctance to accept her and her lack of understanding of the old ways push Kat to the edge, as she urges John to take her home. Will she stay or return to her cosy home is the question you ask yourself throughout the novel.

What captivated me from the start was the wonderful imagery. The bleak, remoteness of the moors, the swirling mists and driving snow leapt from the page, creating a deeply eerie and chilling feel to the novel. The graphic descriptions of animal killings may not be to everyone’s taste but are suitably fitting to the story.

I particularly enjoyed his description of the rituals,  which were both chilling and deeply disturbing, and did not make for comfortable reading. What I did find interesting was the ingrained suspicions held by the community and the fear that they often provoked.

This novel is primarily a story of family and the inherent secrets that bind them together. It is a story of a family that will stop at almost nothing to ensure their farms future survival, that will inevitably plunge them into the depths of superstition and sinister practices.

Hurley has written a deeply disturbing, gripping and evocative novel, perfect for the stormy autumnal days we find ourselves in.

Thank you to Netgalley and John Murray Ltd for the opportunity to read and review.

About the author
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Andrew Michael Hurley has lived in London and Manchester and now lives in Lancashire.

His debut novel, The Loney was published by small independent publisher Tartarus Press with a limited print run of 300. It was republished  up by John Murray and won the Costa Best First Novel Award and Book of the Year at the British Book Industry Awards in 2016.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell @spookypurcell @BloomsburyRaven

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The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell  Raven Books October 5th 2017

Elsie Bainbridge is young, newly married and newly widowed. Pregnant with her dead husbands baby she is sent to The Bridge, a crumbling mansion in the middle of nowhere to wait for the babies arrival. Travelling with her is her husbands cousin, Sarah, quiet and bookish and not the companion Elsie was perhaps hoping for.

On arrival they are greeted by indifferent, untrained staff and a village who believe the house is cursed with bad omens and bad luck.

A search of the mansion uncovers a family diary and a cast of carved wooden figures, known as the Silent Companions, and Elsie and Sarah are soon embroiled in a nightmare they may not survive.

I love a good spooky story and this does not disappoint. Told via multiple timelines, we learn the history of the house and The Silent Companions, the experiences of Elsie and Sarah, and the aftermath as Elsie finds herself in a mental institution accused of a crime she is not sure she actually committed.

Sounds confusing??? It really isn’t and the various storylines fit seamlessly together increasing the intensity and the drama surrounding events in the house.

The characters are multi dimensional, Elsie so recently widowed, seems cold and harsh yet underneath, is grieving deeply for the husband she had for such a short time. Her time in the mental institution is brilliantly done, Purcell conveying the raw emotion and damage that Elsie has suffered but also posing many questions for the reader about Elsie’s innocence.  Sarah is the intelligent, quiet one, dependent on Elsie for her hospitality, yet there is something that I found quite unsettling about her and couldn’t quite work out until later on in the story!

The scariest character has to be Grace, a mute with a love for gardening and growing herbs, an innocent young girl or is she?!

The crumbling mansion is the perfect setting and my imagination certainly went into overdrive thanks to Purcell’s brilliant vivid descriptions. Purcell is excellent at creating an atmosphere that is both very eerie and extremely spooky. When dead bodies start to appear the novel becomes even more chilling and disturbing.

I loved the ending, even if I did guess what it might be, and it certainly sent a shiver down my spine.

The Silent Companions has all the qualities of a good Gothic, Victorian novel.  It is disturbing, deeply unsettling and the perfect book to curl up with on a dark chilly autumn night.

Thank you to Netgalley and Raven Books for the opportunity to read and review.

About the author.

Laura Purcell is an author of Gothic Victorian novels. She lives in Colchester with her husband and pet guinea pigs.

Her next novel, The Corset, will be published in 2018

#blogtour The Winters Child by Catherine Parkin @cassandrajaneuk @Legend_press

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Thank you to Legend Press and Imogen Harris for the opportunity to be part of The Winter’s Child BlogTour.

Susannah and John appeared to have the perfect life until their 15 year old son, Joel disappears. Five years later, Susannah and John are no more, their marriage ripped apart. Susannah finds herself alone, reliant on her sister for support. She fills her time writing a blog warning others people of the perils of using mediums and psychics, just like she did, who prey on the vulnerable giving them the answers they want to hear.

When, on impulse Susannah visits a fortune teller at the Hull Fair who tells her son will return on Christmas Eve, she finally submerges into a deep and all consuming obssession to discover exactly what happened to her son.

If you are expecting a fast paced thriller/mystery then this is not the book for you if you like a book that delves into the depth of its characters then you are going to love The Winter’s Child.

Susannah is a complex character, a person who wanted marriage and children. Marriage was the easy part, having children very definitely the hard part. When it becomes obvious that having their own children is impossible John and Susannah adopt Joel. This is where the problem starts. Susannah is almost obsessive in her love for Joel, smothering and protecting him to the exclusion of her husband. As Joel becomes older and his truancy and drug taking increase so does Susannah’s efforts to cover up and protect him. I found her behaviour hugely annoying and frustrating to read, in fact I didn’t really like Susannah, but knew that the actions and behaviour that so annoyed me were essential to the story.

Parkin’s depiction of Susannah’s increasingly manic behaviour is brilliant and you begin to realise that something about Joel’s disappearance isn’t quite right. Yet Parkin keeps us guessing, drawing us further and further into Susannah’s downward spiral and the truth is finally revealed. I did guess but that in no way spoiled my enjoyment, such is the quality of Parkin’s skillful narrative.

Other characters play their part yet remain secondary to Susannah, and it would be too revealing of the plot if I was to write about them!

The novel is well researched and it was interesting to read how some psychics and mediums operate, how they can hook seemingly intelligent but vulnerable people giving them hope where perhaps there isn’t any.

Cassandra Parkin has written a hugley atmospheric and dark novel that will stay with you long after you have turned the last page.

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The Winter’s Child By Cassandra Parkin. Legend Press September 15th 2017

About the author.

Cassandra Parkin grew up in Hull and now lives in East Yorkshire. New World Fairy Tales won the 2011 Scott Prize for Short Stories. her previous novels include. The Beach House and The Summer We All Ran Away. The Winter’s Child is her fourth novel.

#blogtour The Magicians Lie by Greer Macallister @theladygreer @Legend_Press

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I am delighted to be part of The Magicians Lie blogtour and would like to thank Legend Press for the opportunity to read and review the novel.

Iowa, 1905, in a small town theatre, the female illusionist, The Amazing Arden performs her most notorious illusion of sawing a man in half, swapping the saw for an axe. Hours later her husband is found dead and all suspicion falls on Arden.

As she flees the scene she bumps into young police officer Virgil who promptly arrests her and takes Arden back to the station, handcuffing her multiple times to a chair, and begins questioning her, trying to coax out a confession that might well help to save his own career.

As night flows into morning, it is not a confession Virgil hears but the story of how Arden, real name Ada Bates became one of the most revered and successful female illusionists in America.

This is a novel that will surprise those who read it. Like Virgil I was waiting for Arden’s confession but instead found myself  drawn into this wonderful story of a young girl discovering her growing talent for magic.

Arden or Ada is a tenacious, determined character who found the courage to run away from her family farm and her cousin Ray’s indecent advances. Taken in by Madame Herrman, herself a magician, Ada grows in confidence as she learns the tricks of the trade. I was worried that the actual mechanics of the illusions would be overbearing or even boring, but I need not have worried. Greer handles them extremely well fitting them seemlessly into the narrative, in a timely and relevant fashion.

Whilst Ada’s story was captivating and highly entertaining, what stood out for me was the relationship between Virgil and Ada. Stuck in a small room both are wary of the other giving little away about their personal circumstances. Yet, as the night progresses their defences slowly fall and a mutual respect for each other emerges. As Virgil probes further he begins to understand more about Ada and begins to question her guilt, slowly unlocking each set of handcuffs as trust slowly builds between them. He also becomes quite introspective, looking back on his own life and gains some perspective on his marriage and his current issues.

The novel is not fast paced but the narrative is full of imagery and the settings beautifully staged by Macallister. It perfectly conveys the excitement of the theatre and the drama of the magical illusions, holding your attention and drawing you in.

This novel has a bit for everyone, murder, history and a love story. It may not be to everyone’s liking but i loved it and cannot wait to read the next novel by Greer McAllister.

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The Magicians Lie by Greer Macallister Legend Press October 2nd 2017

About the author.

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Greer Macallister was raised in the American midwest and is a short story writer, poet, novelist and playwright. The Magician’s Lie is her debut novel and was a USA Today bestseller. The actress Jessica Chastain has optioned it for film.

Manahattan Beach by Jennifer Egan @egangoonsquad @CorsairBoo

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Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan  Corsair Books October 3rd 2017

Egan’s novel the Goon Squad garnered both the Pulitzer and the National Book Circle awards and expectations for Manhattan Beach are understandably high.

Manhattan Beach is no Goon Squad and in a complete departure Egan turns to the genre of historical fiction.

Set in the depression years of New York, it tells the story of Anna Kerrigan. Anna is 12 years old when we first meet her, accompanying her father, Eddie to the house of Dexter Styles, a nightclub owner with links to the New York criminal underworld.  Her father has business that will have ramifications for Anna and her family. It is not until some years later that Anna will understand the true nature of their business.

As Anna reaches adulthood America enters World War II and Eddie simply disappears leaving Anna to support her disabled sister Lydia and her mother by working in the naval shipyards. By sheer will and determination Anna becomes a diver, mending warships, in what was a male dominated profession.

When Anna once again meets Dexter Styles in his nightclub, the course of her life changes forever and the mystery of her fathers disappearance is finally solved.

The scope of this novel is vast, covering the role of women as part of the war effort, the bravery of the Merchant Navy and the illegal spoils of war.

Anna herself, is tenacious, and determined and more than holds her own in a man’s world bucking the narrow minded view of women held by many of her generation. She has few friends but at the centre is the relationship with her father, a man she clearly adored, yet held responsible for the fate of her family. It is perhaps the love she has for him that pushes Anna to take great risks to solve the mystery of his disappearance.

The villain of the  novel is undoubtedly Dexter Styles, a man seemingly in control, with a beautiful wife and adorable children. At times he comes across as a man of morals, disdainful of those men who have affairs, yet underneath he will think nothing of removing those who threaten his business interests, a man of contradictions.

Then you have Anna’s father, Eddie, a man with an instinct for survival, a man who clearly loved his family yet still left them. Eddie’s story was particularly good and the imagery conjured up by Egan’s writing of his time at sea was wonderfully evocative.

The attention to historical detail is fantastic and skilfully done without drowning out the story. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of the naval shipyards and was amazed at the roles and jobs women undertook. Women still faced prejudice and belittlement, and had to fight hard to be recognised as equals to men. Anna is testament to that fight for equality and it is to Egan’s credit as a writer that she has written a novel that so wonderfully portrays their efforts.

The novel will not be to everyone’s liking as it does not have the originality of the Goon Squad but it is a novel that is certainly impressive in both its scope and narrative.

Thank you to Corsair Books for a proof copy to read and review.

About the author

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Born in Chicago and raised in San Francisco, Jennifer Egan is the author of  the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for her novel A Visit from the Goon Squad. She written short stories for the New Yorker, Granta and numerous other publications.

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