The Missing Ones [review]

the-missing-ones-patricia-gibney

[Synopsis]

The hole they dug was not deep. A white flour bag encased the little body. Three small faces watched from the window, eyes black with terror.

The child in the middle spoke without turning his head. ‘I wonder which one of us will be next?’

When a woman’s body is discovered in a cathedral and hours later a young man is found hanging from a tree outside his home, Detective Lottie Parker is called in to lead the investigation. Both bodies have the same distinctive tattoo clumsily inscribed on their legs. It’s clear the pair are connected, but how?

The trail leads Lottie to St Angela’s, a former children’s home, with a dark connection to her own family history. Suddenly the case just got personal.

As Lottie begins to link the current victims to unsolved murders decades old, two teenage boys go missing. She must close in on the killer before they strike again, but in doing so is she putting her own children in terrifying danger?

Lottie is about to come face to face with a twisted soul who has a very warped idea of justice.

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[My Review]

The Missing Ones is a fantastic start to what promises to be a brilliant new crime/ detective series (Detective Lottie Parker series).

I was intrigued from the very first page – it’s really well-written, with engaging characters who I really felt like I cared about by the end. Detective Lottie Parker is a bit of a wild card, often breaking the rules slightly to get the outcome she wants, and her partner Mark Boyd who I really warmed to as well! They’re both flawed in their own ways – neither of them are perfect – but  this only makes them more likable, in my opinion! Lottie is certainly not the perfect mother but her heart is in the right place and she has her own demons to struggle with. The personal lives of the officers added an extra element to the story, on top of the already gripping investigative storyline.

The theme of corruption in 1970’s Ireland, particularly in the Catholic Church, is a well-known one and I found it really interesting (if not quite uncomfortable) to read about. It felt well-researched and full of interesting details.

The pace moves along quickly, with no time for me to get bored or disinterested. There’s elements of humour, very dark parts and others which are entertaining. The case gets very personal for Lottie and some parts felt a little unbelievable, but I feel that readers always suspend their disbelief with novels like this, and I truly enjoyed every page- a fantastic new series which I’ll definitely be reading more of!

[Rating: 4.5/5]

Many thanks to Bookouture and Netgalley for a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

The Idea Of You [review]

The Idea Of You - Amanda Prowse

[Synopsis]

With her fortieth birthday approaching, Lucy Carpenter dares to hope that she finally has it all: a wonderful new husband, Jonah, a successful career and the chance of a precious baby of her own. Life couldn’t be more perfect.

But the reality of becoming parents proves much harder than Lucy and Jonah imagined. Jonah’s love and support is unquestioning, but as Lucy struggles with work and her own failing dreams, the strain on their marriage increases. Suddenly it feels like Lucy is close to losing everything…

Heart-wrenching and poignant, this latest work by bestselling author Amanda Prowse asks the question: what does it mean to be a mother in today’s hectic world? And what if it’s asking too much to want it all?

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[My Review]

The Idea of You is an emotional, touching story of a woman’s struggle, not to conceive but to keep her unborn child from miscarrying. In doing this she simultaneously has to deal with tricky family situations which really test her and an awful incident in the past that keeps coming back to haunt her.

The characters in this novel are easy to identify with and likeable, making you actually care about what happens to them. The protagonist, Lucy, seems really great and I warmed to her instantly; she’s not always perfect in the way she handles things but she seems real, like someone you’d know and probably like. I really felt for her as things just seemed to get harder and harder, and sometimes the situations that were thrown at her with her ‘new’ step-daughter Camille were so difficult – I won’t give away any key plotlines but it just felt like things got more and more difficult for her with Camille’s behaviour and insensitive  – although well-meaning – comments from family and work colleagues.

Her partner, Jonah, is also really likable, even though I didn’t always agree with how he acted, and at times he really messed up. However,  when reading The Idea of You I felt it was really important to remember that no one knows how they’d feel in this situation until it actually happens to them (and hopefully it never will).

The issues in this novel are dealt with really sensitively, and without any undue ‘drama’ to make it more impactful – it didn’t need that as it was so moving anyway. It felt like any of this could happen to someone you know – and indeed it probably is, sadly – but the story line didn’t feel hammed up or over-exaggerated; it just portrayed the heightened, upsetting emotions which show in some limited way how going through this feels – and, as we see at the end of the book, Amanda herself has experienced miscarriages too, which therefore must be so difficult to write about.

There are plenty of different examples of mothers in this novel, which I felt was great as it demonstrates that motherhood comes in many forms – and not always as actually giving birth yourself. I felt for Lucy strongly and to say I ‘enjoyed’ reading it is probably the wrong word, but it made for an absorbing and heart-wrenching story.

Full of raw emotion and honesty, The Idea Of You is a touching novel that really highlights an issue that isn’t always discussed as openly and in as much detail.

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Amanda Prowse for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

Goodreads Monday: All The Good Things

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners . To take part, you simply choose a random book from your TBR and show it off. Don’t forget to check out her blog and link back to Lauren’s Page Turners, and add your own links!

Today I’m going to pick the last book I added to my TBR list:

All The Good Things - Clare Fisher
Title: All The Good Things
Author: Clare Fisher
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Viking UK

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[Synopsis]

Twenty-one year old Beth is in prison. The thing she did is so bad she doesn’t deserve to ever feel good again.

But her counsellor, Erika, won’t give up on her. She asks Beth to make a list of all the good things in her life. So Beth starts to write down her story, from sharing silences with Foster Dad No. 1, to flirting in the Odeon on Orange Wednesdays, to the very first time she sniffed her baby’s head.

But at the end of her story, Beth must confront the bad thing.

What is the truth hiding behind her crime? And does anyone-even a 100% bad person-deserve a chance to be good.

Has anyone read this already (and if so what did you think) or have you got it on your TBR list? 

Let The Dead Speak [review]

let-the-dead-speak-jane-casey

Title: Let The Dead Speak
Author: Jane Casey
Publisher: HarperCollins UK


[Synopsis]

When eighteen-year-old Chloe Emery returns to her West London home she finds her mother missing, the house covered in blood. Everything points to murder, except for one thing: there’s no sign of the body.

London detective Maeve Kerrigan and the homicide team turn their attention to the neighbours. The ultra-religious Norrises are acting suspiciously; their teenage daughter and Chloe Emery definitely have something to hide. Then there’s William Turner, once accused of stabbing a schoolmate and the neighborhood’s favorite criminal. Is he merely a scapegoat, or is there more behind the charismatic facade?

As a body fails to materialize, Maeve must piece together a patchwork of testimonies and accusations. Who is lying, and who is not? And soon Maeve starts to realize that not only will the answer lead to Kate Emery, but more lives may hang in the balance.

With Let the Dead Speak, Jane Casey returns with another taut, richly drawn novel that will grip readers from the opening pages to the stunning conclusion.

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[My Review]

As someone who hasn’t read any of the other books in the Maeve Kerrigan series, I was approaching Let The Dead Speak with completely fresh eyes, hoping to judge it as a standalone book in its own right. I have to say, I LOVED this book and am so glad I gave it a go – I only wish I hadn’t waited this long to read it!

As this was my first encounter with Maeve Kerrigan I wasn’t sure if I’d warm to her, but she is truly a great character; sharp, witty, prone to rash decisions (but most fictional Detectives seem to be!) but with a heart of gold. However she’s not perfect, which I like – she seems to really dislike new recruit Georgina and doesn’t seem to try and hide it. I liked her no-nonsense attitude and loved her relationship with Derwent – they are great to read about as a pair and I found some of their interactions really comical. Derwent himself seems like a likeable, if grumpy and irritating, character and his dry humour made me laugh at various points. Great characters are what I feel elevates a crime novel from good to great – and Jane Casey has certainly managed that with Let The Dead Speak!

The storyline itself is so well written – tightly plotted and believable but whilst still retaining plenty of drama and tension. It really keeps you guessing – packed full of characters who you constantly wander about (not about the police themselves, just the civilians!)… and with very good reason! There’s plenty going on in the neighbourhood where Kate Emery has gone missing and where the investigation is taking place, and everyone seems to have something to hide. It throws up plenty of questions and kept me completely enthralled, racing through the novel in no time at all. What a brilliant read – bring on the rest of the series!

[Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to HarperCollins UK and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel, on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

Everything But The Truth [review]

Everything But The Truth - Gillian McAllister

Title: Everything But The Truth
Author: Gillian McAllister
Publisher: Michael Joseph


[Synopsis]

Just how much can you trust the person you love?

Everything but the Truth is Gillian McAllister’s stunning breakthrough thriller about deceit, betrayal and one woman’s compulsive need to uncover the truth

It all started with the email.

Rachel didn’t even mean to look. She loves Jack and she’s pregnant with their child. She trusts him.

But now she’s seen it, she can’t undo that moment. Or the chain of events it has set in motion.

Why has Jack been lying about his past? Just what exactly is he hiding? And doesn’t Rachel have a right to know the truth at any cost?

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[My Review]

I really enjoyed this great psychological thriller. It’s a pacey, fun read which kept me completely absorbed.

The characters are great; I really liked Rachel and felt for her, even though she made some questionable decisions at times. Gillian McAllister has a great way of presenting the characters because she makes you think about the human side to their decisions – I can’t say much without giving too much away but she manages to make you think about whether what her boyfriend Jack may or may not have done is actually as bad as we may think, given the circumstances. And that is a key theme in this book, I felt – the idea that behaving in a certain way might not be quite so bad depending on the context surrounding it. I definitely enjoyed the moral questions it threw up, and felt that McAllister really portrayed Rachel’s conundrum in a great, convincing way. Rachel loves Jack, that much is obvious, but things that have happened in her past (as well as his) which threaten to ruin what seems like a perfect (albeit whirlwind) relationship, and that coupled with what seems to be lies, begins to ruin her trust in Jack.

There are questions at every turn in this book, and I liked that it seemed quite realistic, overall – the storyline, though dramatic at times, wasn’t overly ridiculous or unbelievable. It was crazy enough without making me think, “this is stupid” – something I unfortunately do feel a lot with books in this genre. It had just the right balance, and it makes you think about human nature and what you’d do in this situation.

I hugely enjoyed this novel and found it was a brilliant, riveting read which left my feeling satisfied.

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Michael Joseph for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

Dead Embers [blog tour]

Dead Embers - Matt Brolly

Title: Dead Embers
Author: Matt Brolly
Publisher: Canelo


Today I’m really excited to be a part of the blog tour for Dead Embers, the newest release in the DCI Michael Lambert series. Read on to find out what I thought, and see the bottom of the post for the other stops on the tour!

[Synopsis]

An explosive fire. A double murder. And that’s just the start…

When DCI Michael Lambert is called out to an apparent house fire, he knows it can’t be routine. Instead he finds the remains of a burnt house, a traumatised child and two corpses – one of whom is a senior police officer.

Lambert’s got other problems. Anti-corruption are onto his boss. His relationships is on the rocks. He can’t get over his ex-wife and he keeps blacking out.

But when a detective has been murdered the stakes are too high to get distracted. All is not as it seems. As the investigation continues Lambert realises he is getting drawn into something altogether bigger and more terrifying than he could ever have imagined…

Trust no one.

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[My Review]

Dead Embers is an interesting, pacey crime-thriller that I hugely enjoyed. I didn’t know exactly what to expect from this book having not ready any others in the DCI Michael Lambert series, but having read this novel I now want to read the others and see if they live up to this one!

I often feel that what makes a great crime-thriller (in my opinion) is great characters and a well-crafted, clever plot. This has both of these – the people within the pages, both good and bad, are interesting and fun to read about. One thing I did notice is that, having not read previous novels, there were a lot of names to remember who’s who, but I can confidently say that you really don’t need to have read the previous two novels in the series. This can be read as a stand-alone novel, as enough is explained, but I guess starting from the beginning is always good if you have that option, eh!

Lambert is an intriguing Detective, with his rebellious, daring streak… as is the case with many Detectives in series like this, but I felt Lambert was particularly likeable, and not too perfect. It’s interesting to learn about his private life and marriage, and I liked that he makes mistakes but he still gets the job done! You feel confident that he knows what he’s doing, so there’s never really an element of worry for his safety, but that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story. In addition to Lambert, Matilda is another great character who  was really likable and I enjoyed reading about Tillman, too, with his often slightly mad moments!

Dead Embers jumps right into the storyline without much preamble, and continues moving quickly at a great pace that isn’t too fast but is never, ever slow. I really enjoy police procedurals anyway, and this obviously had elements of that but with added action and suspense – hence the ‘crime-thriller’ category!

There were some themes and parts which were quite eerie, with often disturbing imagery  which upped the tension, and twists and turns which keep the plot interesting. I don’t want to ruin any of them, so I’ll just say that this is a really enjoyable, fast-paced read with plenty of tension and intrigue – definitely recommended and a series I plan to read more of!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to the publisher, Canelo, and Faye Rogers for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

Buy Dead Embers in ebook format from Amazon here.


matt brollyAbout the author:

Following his law degree where he developed an interest in criminal law, Matt completed his Masters in Creative Writing at Glasgow University. He reads widely across all genres, and is currently working on his Michael Lambert thriller series. Matt lives in London with his wife and their two young children.

Find Matt here:
Website: http://mattbrolly.co.uk/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MatthewBrolly
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mattbrollyauthor/

Other stops on the blog tour:

Dead Embers blog tour 1

Black Widow [review]

Black Widow - Chris Brookmyre

Title: Black Widow
Author: Chris Brookmyre
Publisher: Little Brown

[Synopsis]

There is no perfect marriage. There is no perfect murder.

Diana Jager is clever, strong and successful, a skilled surgeon and fierce campaigner via her blog about sexism. Yet it takes only hours for her life to crumble when her personal details are released on the internet as revenge for her writing.

Then she meets Peter. He’s kind, generous, and knows nothing about her past: the second chance she’s been waiting for.

Within six months, they are married. Within six more, Peter is dead – and Diana on trial for his murder, a nightmare end to their fairytale romance.

But Peter’s sister Lucy doesn’t believe in fairytales, and tasks maverick reporter Jack Parlabane with discovering the dark truth behind the woman the media is calling Black Widow…

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[My Review]

I LOVED this book. Great writing, an intriguing storyline and fantastic writing skill that kept me speeding through without ever feeling bored or losing interest. It’s another testament to what a great story this is because it’s a fairly long book compared to others in the genre, clocking in at over 400 pages, but at no point did I start feeling bored or uninterested. It held my attention to the very last page.

Black Widow is the first novel I’ve read by Chris Brookmyre but not having read the others hasn’t impacted my enjoyment (or understanding) of the novel one bit. Firstly, the characters are hugely interesting – not always hugely likeable but there’s something about them that made me want to read more. I really liked Diana Jager despite not knowing throughout the story whether she was guilty or not. She was a strong and independent (although often spiky and, at times, rude) feminist who I really enjoyed reading about. Jack Parlabane was satisfyingly curious and determined to unearth the truth, but I felt like he actually seemed like a secondary character until the end of the story, with Diana and others at the forefront of the book; having not read other novels in the series I’m not sure if Jack always takes a bit of a backseat in the storyline, staying kind of in the background, or if this novel is an exception…

The story itself has plenty of twists and turns, and the different points of view that the reader gets (mainly Diana, some of the police officers, and Jack Parlabane)only adds to the fantastic narrative that really drew me in. There’s humour sewn into the pages, too, with some observations and comments by characters striking me as really amusing. It hops back and forward in time, with the trial kicking the novel off and the story then moving backwards to note how things happened the way they did. All the time you’re wondering if things are exactly as they are described by witnesses, people close to Peter, etc, and it’s not until the end, that it’s all tied up – and rather satisfyingly, in my opinion!

I’m so impressed with this book – definitely recommended!

[Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to Little Brown and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman [review]

The Last Act Of Hattie Hoffman - Mindy Mejia

Title: The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman
Author: Mindy Mejia
Publisher: Quercus


[Synopsis]

Seventeen-year-old Hattie Hoffman is a talented actress, loved by everyone in her Minnesotan hometown. So when she’s found stabbed to death on the opening night of her school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of the community.

Local sheriff Del Goodman, a good friend of Hattie’s dad, vows to find her killer, but the investigation yields more secrets than answers; it turns out Hattie played as many parts offstage as on. Told from three perspectives: Del’s, Hattie’s high school English teacher and Hattie herself, The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman tells the story of the real Hattie, and what happened that final year of school when she dreamed of leaving her small town behind . . .

Wonderfully evocative of its Midwestern setting and with a cast of unforgettable characters, this is a book about manipulation of relationships and identity, about the line between innocence and culpability, about the hope love offers and the tragedies that occur when it spins out of control

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[My Review]

I found this novel intriguing and a good read, with some interesting characters and a satisfying ending.

I really enjoy novels that are told from multiple perspectives, and The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman is told from three – Hattie herself, local English teacher Peter, and police officer Del. Each have a different part to play in this story, which combines suspense, mystery, relationships and murder. It’s an interesting story, and one that I can’t really say much about without giving  too much away.

Hattie herself isn’t always the most likeable character; she has her faults, as do all the characters really, but you’re nevertheless rooting for Del to uncover what’s happened to her. The story hops back and forward in time – obviously Hattie’s narrative is before she’s killed (no surprise there!) whilst Peter and Del’s move between the past and present, revealing more about the situation surrounding Hattie’s disappearance.

Around the middle of the book I found the story slowed down a little and I wasn’t sure what to think, but it soon picked up and by the end (ah that ending!) I was hooked once again. Perhaps some of the middle could be cut down a little?

This feels like a slightly different style to many other psychological thrillers – you get a more rounded impression of the events surrounding the murder and an insight into what life, and growing up, must be like in that small American town. You learn more about Hattie’s relationships and friendships, and her state of mind. Everyone seems to have a different impression of Hattie, but is that because she changed with different people without realising, or is it all intentional? Is she as innocent as many thought?

The characters are interesting and well-crafted, and some are more likable than others, which gives it a more convincing feeling. The story is easy to read and I enjoyed finding out more. I would recommend this novel; it had the right levels of suspense, description and mystery to keep me intrigued.

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Quercus Books for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman will be published on 9 March 2017.

Where I Lost Her [review]

Where I Lost Her - T Greenwood

Title: Where I Lost Her
Author: T. Greenwood
Publisher: Corvus


[Synopsis]

Eight years ago, Tess and Jake were considered a power couple of the New York publishing world—happy, in love, planning a family. Failed fertility treatments and a heartbreaking attempt at adoption have fractured their marriage and left Tess edgy and adrift. A visit to friends in rural Vermont throws Tess’s world into further chaos when she sees a young, half-dressed child in the middle of the road, who then runs into the woods like a frightened deer.

The entire town begins searching for the little girl. But there are no sightings, no other witnesses, no reports of missing children. As local police and Jake point out, Tess’s imagination has played her false before. And yet Tess is compelled to keep looking, not only to save the little girl she can’t forget but to salvage her broken heart as well.

Blending her trademark lyrical prose with a superbly crafted and suspenseful narrative, Where I Lost Her is a gripping, haunting novel from a remarkable storyteller.

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[My Review]

Where I Lost Her is packed full of suspense, with great characters and – to top it all off –written so well. It really draws you in, and avoids too many overused clichés which can pop up so much in this genre (though it is one of my favourite genres!)

Firstly, the storyline has just the right balance of mystery, with the big question mark over what happened to this little girl that Tess swears she saw. Then, there’s the creeping doubt as you read that perhaps she never saw anything at all – could her past be affecting her judgement? And there’s also the element of Tess and Jake’s relationship and what happened when they tried to adopt many years ago – can they survive another stressful situation as a couple?

Where I Lost Her is really well-written and manages to convey the sense of confusion and bewilderment that Tess is feeling, followed by the panic and worry for this mysterious little girl. I liked the conclusion and felt it wasn’t too ridiculous or over-dramatic, which was a big plus, and the characters were believable and interesting. One thing I will say, though, is that I was surprised that any police force would act the way they did in the novel – but then I am in England and I have heard police in America, and the way they conduct themselves, differs hugely between states. They were frustrating men and I disliked them all… apart from one…

I loved every page, racing through the book at a quick speed, and I would 100% read any other releases by T Greenwood – I am pleased to see she has many new releases. So, although this is a new author for me, I hope to familiarise myself with lots of her other novels soon. Definitely recommended.

[Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to Corvus Books for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

Where I Lost Her is out in paperback and ebook formats on 2nd March.

The English Agent: the real-life inspiration behind the story + my review

The English Agent

Title: The English Agent
Author: Clare Harvey
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK

I’m very excited to be part of the blog tour for Clare Harvey’s The English Agent, which is available to buy now!

Read on for a brilliant guest post by Clare, all about how a fascinating real-life story inspired the novel, and also my review!


[Synopsis]

How far will two women go to survive a war?

Having suffered a traumatic experience in the Blitz, Edie feels utterly disillusioned with life in wartime London. The chance to work with the Secret Operations Executive (SOE) helping the resistance in Paris offers a fresh start. Codenamed ‘Yvette’, she’s parachuted into France and met by the two other members of her SOE cell. Who can she trust?

Back in London, Vera desperately needs to be made a UK citizen to erase the secrets of her past. Working at the foreign office in charge of agents presents an opportunity for blackmail. But when she loses contact with one agent in the field, codenamed Yvette, her loyalties are torn.

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[Clare Harvey – The story-behind the story: what inspired The English Agent]

Author Clare HarveyThere were two things that led to the creation of The English Agent. The initial seed was planted more than six years ago, in the autumn of 2010, before I had even begun writing my debut, The Gunner Girl. Back then we were living in Kathmandu, Nepal (my husband was posted there with the British Army to support the Ghurkha recruitment). Sometimes, when I felt a little homesick, I’d have a look online for news local to Devon, which is where I grew up, and where my parents still live. There was one story that particularly captured my interest: a cat-loving old woman who’d died alone in a Torquay flat was discovered to have been one of the heroines of WW2. Perhaps it was because of her codename, ‘Rose’, the same as my youngest daughter, but more likely it was because of the details of her exploits (parachuted into France aged 22, captured whilst transmitting secret messages, escaping from prison camp), but Eileen Nearne’s story lodged itself at the back of my mind. There was something fascinating about this brave young woman who’d worked undercover behind enemy lines at the height of the Second World War.

In 2011 we were posted back to the UK, and I wrote The Gunner Girl – inspired by my mother-in-law’s time on the ack-ack guns in WW2 – when my husband was away on an operational tour of duty in Afghanistan with the army in 2012. By the time The Gunner Girl was accepted for publication in 2014, my husband was undertaking his final army posting, supporting the Special Forces (SAS & SBS). Now, just to make it clear, my husband wasn’t, and never has been, a member of the Special Forces himself. He was a major in the Royal Engineers at the time; however for his last two years of army service he acted as the Special Forces’ ‘tame’ engineer, advising them on building projects in the UK and overseas. What this meant in practice was that, because he’d signed the Official Secrets Act, we never knew where he was. For a whole two years he never wore his army uniform; he was always in civilian clothes. He’d come home on Fridays (sometimes suspiciously suntanned and with a sandy passport), we’d have a regular family weekend, and then on a Sunday night, he’d pack up his bags and prepare to set off again. If he were working in the UK, I’d have an idea where he’d be, and would know how to contact him. But quite often he’d say, “I’m overseas this week.” And I’d know I could not ask where in the world he was going to be, or who with, because if he told me, even by making an inadvertent slip of the tongue, he risked imprisonment. So all this was going on in the background, whilst I was thinking what book to write next.

I began to wonder: did the Special Forces exist in WW2? If so, what did they do? I’d been surprised when I discovered that there were women soldiers on active service in the Second World War, and this revelation was what had spurred me on to write The Gunner Girl. Could there have been women recruited into special forces-type roles, too? Then I remembered the news piece I’d seen about Eileen Nearne, and I knew there was a story just waiting to be written.

The forerunner to today’s Special Forces was the Secret Operations Executive (SOE). Originally an offshoot of the Foreign Office, it was set up by Winston Churchill with the stated aim to ‘set Europe ablaze’. SOE agents were not spies; they were saboteurs. The idea behind the organization was foment resistance to Nazi rule in Occupied Europe. Intelligence gathering was left to the spies of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). The SOE was all about arming, supporting and training freedom fighters, by any means necessary. Importantly (and excitingly for me as a writer), women were also recruited into the SOE – as many as forty may have worked undercover in Occupied France alone (there is still some argument about the actual numbers involved) – parachuted into enemy territory under cover of darkness.

Once I started researching I found many stories of incredible bravery amongst the female SOE agents, like Eileen Nearne. And I discovered that SOE’s French section’s agent handler was also a woman, Vera Atkins, and that there was a huge conflict of interest right at the heart of her situation. She was impossible to ignore. So I decided then to twist the real-life story of agent handler Vera with a fictitious agent, codenamed ‘Yvette’ (who some of you might remember as Edie from The Gunner Girl).

Researching The English Agent was fascinating and humbling. I was blown away by the courage and stoicism of the young women who worked within this top-secret organization. I was so engrossed that at times it felt as if the book were writing itself. Who wouldn’t be inspired by the lives of these incredible women, pioneers of the Special Forces, amidst the chaos and carnage of World War Two?

The English Agent is out now in hardback, paperback and e-book.

You can catch up with me here:

Twitter: @ClareHarveyauth
Facebook: ClareHarvey13
Web: http://clareharvey.net


[My Review]

The English Agent is a well-written, enjoyable novel about a subject that doesn’t always get as much coverage as it should: the women’s effort during the war, particularly female agents that risked their lives to help the resistance against the Nazis in France.

The story unfolds from two perspectives: agent Edie (codename Yvette) who is fresh out of training on her first mission abroad, in Nazi-occupied France, and Vera, who trains and looks after the agents. This way you see snippets of info about the war from both France and London. You really get a feel for what life must be like for both women, and the danger that Edie in particular faces.

The story is fast paced and kept me enthralled. I love novels set in WW1 or WW2, so hoped I’d really enjoy this – and I definitely did!

The English Agent felt like a well-researched story, and two of the characters were apparently based on real people. There were parts that were probably over-dramatised for the purpose of the story, but none of it felt completely unbelievable, which was good. I liked that the characters weren’t completely ‘good’ or ‘bad’ depending on whether they were Allies or not (and perhaps this is partly because . Most of the characters had their own faults  or errors in judgement, despite being generally good people, whilst people you’d assume would be bad through and through weren’t necessarily presented in such an obvious way. There are some really inspirational women in this novel that I loved reading about, and found it fascinating to read about people involved in the war that we don’t often hear much about.

There is quite a lot of the story that jumps around, and sometimes I got a little confused as to whether we were in the present day or ‘remembering’ past events. Bits of the characters’ memories are sort of ‘teased’ out throughout the novel, which I really enjoyed reading and added extra tension to the story!

Clare Harvey’s other novel, The Gunner Girl, features Edie in it too, and I’d like to read more about her (though I suppose that would be a sort of prequel to The English Agent) – still, I’ll definitely still be adding it to my reading list!

The English Agent is definitely a truly entertaining, well-written and enjoyable read that I’d really recommend!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Simon & Schuster UK for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an unbiased and honest review, and for the spot on the blog tour!

Here’s who else took part in the blog tour:

the-english-agent-blog-tour