Relativity – Antonia Hayes

Relativity - Antonia HayesISBN-10 1472151704

ISBN-13 978-1472151704

Author Antonia Hayes

Publisher Corsair

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review

From Goodreads

Twelve-year-old Ethan Forsythe, an exceptionally talented boy obsessed with physics and astronomy, has been raised alone by his mother in Sydney, Australia. Claire, a former professional ballerina, has been a wonderful parent to Ethan, but he’s becoming increasingly curious about his father’s absence in his life. Claire is fiercely protective of her talented, vulnerable son—and of her own feelings. But when Ethan falls ill, tied to a tragic event that occurred during his infancy, her tightly-held world is split open.

Thousands of miles away on the western coast of Australia, Mark is trying to forget about the events that tore his family apart, but an unexpected call forces him to confront his past and return home. When Ethan secretly intercepts a letter from Mark to Claire, he unleashes long-suppressed forces that—like gravity—pull the three together again, testing the limits of love and forgiveness.

Told from the alternating points of view of Ethan and each of his parents, Relativity is a poetic and soul-searing exploration of unbreakable bonds, irreversible acts, the limits of science, and the magnitude of love.

What did I think?

‘Relativity’ reminds me a lot of ‘The Theory of Everything’ and I’m sure that all rests on the fact that ‘Relativity’ centres around Ethan’s fascination with science and physics, certainly not an easy thing to write a book on! Especially seeing as Ethan’s fascination is deep, intricate and on genius level – Hayes had her work cut out for her when thinking up the story-line, but she executed it seamlessly and perfectly.

While I didn’t feel that ‘Relativity’ sucked me in from the start, Hayes slowly but steadily built up the story of Ethan and she made you start to connect with the characters so you couldn’t help yourself but carry on reading.

Whilst the story is quite heartwarming, it is equally as heartbreaking. Ethan has been through an awful lot for a 12 year-old and with ‘broken’ families being a common thing within the world I feel it is something that most people can relate to so you’re feeling his emotions as you read his story.

Relativity is an easy, relaxing read that evokes a lot of emotions within. I would definitely recommend reading it!

My Rating? ♥♥♥♥

Will you be adding this to your TBR pile?

See what else has been said on the final day of the tour!

Relativity - Antonia Hayes

Share This:

Book Tour – Fallow – Daniel Shand

Fallow

ISBN-10 1910985341

ISBN-13 978-1910985342

Author Daniel Shand

Publisher Sandstone Press

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review

From Goodreads

At the heart of this tense and at times times darkly comic novel is the relationship between two brothers bound by a terrible crime. Paul and Mikey are on the run, apparently from the press surrounding their house after Mikey’s release from prison. His crime – child murder, committed when he was a boy. As they travel, they move from one disturbing scenario to the next, eventually involving themselves with a bizarre religious cult. The power between the brothers begins to shift, and we realise there is more to their history than Paul has allowed us to know.
Excerpt - Chapter One

Something had been in the night and rubbish was strewn all across the grass. I hadn’t heard anything myself but there were crisp packets and beer cans and polystyrene trays scattered around the tent, our carrier bags torn open. We’d spotted some deer up in the hills a few days earlier but it could just as easily have been a fox or a badger or one of the other beasts that roamed around out there. I scanned the ground for human footprints and felt my blood go down when there were none to be found.

I pulled my head back inside the tent and wriggled into my jeans.

I must have disturbed Mikey. He mumbled something.

‘What’s that?’ I asked.

He unzipped the door to the sleeping area and stuck his head out, a mess of greasy hair and beard.

‘What’s going on?’ he asked.

‘Nothing’s going on. I’m just getting up.’

‘You don’t mind if I go back to bed?’

I told him to knock himself out and I crawled outside. The morning air nipped at my bare torso and I slid on dew as I skipped around, picking up the rubbish and stuffing it into a fresh bag. Once I’d tidied up I got the gas stove out from the tent and made myself some coffee. I sat on the groundsheet and rolled a fag while the coffee pot boiled.

A bird of prey swooped out from behind one of the mountains that flanked the meadow, flying in wide arcs, in perfect curves. I hoped it would spot some fluffy wee rodent down in the meadow, maybe even whatever it was that ripped apart our rubbish bag. I wanted to see it dive towards the earth and snatch up its prey. It didn’t though. I kept my eye trained on it until it went behind the mountain again, and then the coffee pot was whistling so I poured some coffee out into my tin mug and lit the fag.

I relished this quiet time in the morning, before Mikey woke. These were the only moments, apart from when I went to town for supplies, that I had for myself. I’d sit and have my coffee and my fag and listen to Mikey snoring and the mad gurgle of the burn down the hill. There was a road beyond the burn that cars rarely used and a house halfway between us and town. We’d selected the site for its remoteness.

Mikey yawned and began to move around inside the tent. Here we go, I thought. He squeezed past me carrying his boots. Same thing every morning. He’d hop around on the wet grass in his yellowing Y-fronts, trying to squeeze into his boots without untying them, before giving up and throwing them down beside the tent.

I watched his routine and sipped my coffee. It tasted horrible.

‘Fuck it,’ he said, chucking the boots away. He ran his fingers through his long hair and scratched at his beard. ‘Morning then,’ he said.

‘How did you sleep?’ I asked, knowing fine well that he slept like a log, because I was the one who had to listen to his snoring.

‘Good,’ he said, stretching and squatting. ‘Well, not bad. Here, mind if I nick a cup?’

‘Fine.’

He squeezed past me to get his mug out from the tent. He had no qualms about pressing his bare flesh against mine. Personal space was not part of his understanding. I poured him some coffee and he stood facing the mountains with his free hand on his hip. He drank a mouthful and I waited for his grimace.

‘Paul,’ he said. ‘I don’t really like coffee.’

‘No,’ I said. ‘I know.’

‘Do you mind if I…’ he asked, miming pouring the cup away.

I shook my head. This was also part of his routine, trying my coffee and inevitably not enjoying it and being timid about throwing it out. That wasn’t every day, like the boots. More like every other day.

After I’d finished the rest of the pot we collected our towels from the guy ropes and traipsed down to the burn for a wash.

‘So,’ said Mikey. ‘What’s the plan for today?’

‘Same as always. I’ll go into town for a bit of food and a paper once we’ve cleaned up.’

‘Right,’ he said, dropping his head.

‘Don’t sulk, Mikey.’

We faced away from each other once we’d taken off our boots and jeans and pants. It was difficult to wash in the burn, because of the cold and the shallowness. You had to scoop up handfuls of water to rinse your hair and squat down to let the water wash your arse and balls. I winced at the coldness that was also a kind of hotness.

Once we were dried off and back into our trousers we turned to face each other. ‘Feels better,’ I said.

‘Yep.’

I spotted a car down on the road as we were walking back to the tent. It was one of those big four-wheel drives and it was parked in a passing place.

‘Here,’ I said, tapping Mikey’s arm to make him stop. ‘See that?’

He peered past me. ‘It’s a motor.’

I tried to make out who was inside, but it was too far off.

Mikey shook some of the wetness out his hair. ‘Reckon they can see us?’

‘I don’t know,’ I admitted. It was about half a mile down to the road, but there was a good chance they’d be able to make us out. Still, it would seem more suspicious if we stood there and watched it like that. ‘Let’s keep going,’ I said.

Up at the tent I did my best to dry my hair before fetching a shirt from inside. All my clothes were getting foul and I knew Mikey’s would be ten times worse than mine. At some point I’d have to make a special trip into town to use the laundrette.

‘Right,’ I told Mikey. ‘I’m going to head down now. You going to be all right?’

‘Aye,’ he said. He was hunched in the tent’s entrance, his head hidden beneath the towel. ‘Like you said, same as always.’

‘What do you say if someone comes?’

‘That we’re ramblers.’

‘Good man.’

I walked down the hill towards the road and was relieved to see the car had moved on. It was only an hour or so into town, the road taking me past the wee house and then right down the valley. Again, this was time I tried to enjoy. There was the worry that some landowner or a group of hill walkers would chance upon Mikey and he’d panic and give them the wrong story, but I tried to ignore that.

What we called town was really just a village. There was a Spar and a pub and a butcher shop and all the other things you’d expect from a place like that. I kept my head down as I walked, never wanting to become a familiar face to the people there.

The butcher was a rancid man. He looked up at me and gave me one of his red-lipped smirks as I entered. He was obese and ginger and had streaks of blood up his forearms.

‘Hello,’ I said.

He winked. ‘Morning. What’ll it be?’

‘I’ll just take four…’

He interrupted. ‘Four sausages.’

‘Aye,’ I said. ‘Four sausages.’

He winked again. ‘Coming right up.’ There was a big basin behind him that he washed his hands in. I could see through the door to the back room, where his acolyte was hacking at a hanging carcass.

‘So,’ said the butcher, turning to me and plucking a piece of cling-film from the dispenser. ‘We’ve got Cumberland, we’ve got Lorne, we’ve got Lincolnshire, we’ve got ring.’

The back door creaked open and the boy emerged to gawk at me. His apron was soaked with blood.

I looked at all the sausages he’d named. ‘Just norm…’

‘Four normal sausages coming right up,’ said the butcher, smirking.

He scooped my order up in his cling-filmed hand and put it into a plastic bag. I had my money ready, the change gripped in my hand inside the pocket of my jeans. I knew exactly how much four normal sausages cost. My grip was so tight that the coins hurt my bones.

The butcher paused as he was handing the sausages over the counter. ‘Sorry,’ he said. ‘It’s just… Andrew and I were wondering…’

‘Yes?’

‘Well. You come in here nearly every morning and ask for four normal sausages.’

I was starting to sweat under my collar. I gripped hold of my change. ‘That’s right.’

He leaned over the counter, smirking, glancing back at the boy he called Andrew. ‘Only ever four sausages. For the past maybe two months.’

‘Aye. That’s true.’

He laughed. Andrew touched his bloodied apron. ‘Well. I mean. Why only four?’

‘I don’t understand. I only need four.’

‘What I mean is, what’s to stop you coming in half as often and buying eight sausages or so on? Stock up?’ He peered at me from under his orange eyebrows. ‘They would keep.’

I swallowed. I looked at the obese butcher, I looked at Andrew’s apron. ‘My fridge is broken. I’m saving up for another one.’

The butcher’s face fell. ‘Oh.’

‘Aye.’

‘That does make sense I suppose.’ He handed me the parcel of sausages and took the wet change from my hand and rung it up on the till. There was dried blood stuck to the cuticles of his fingers. ‘Me and Andrew were curious is all. Cheerio then.’

‘Right. Well. Cheerio.’

I kept walking until I was out of sight of the butcher shop, then I leaned again the wall of the Chinese and let my breath out. After a minute I ducked into the Spar to collect the rest of our supplies. Luckily they seemed to have a never-ending supply of teenage girls to employ; I never saw the same one twice.

I followed the road and then the burn out of town. I passed the wee house and noticed the car parked in the driveway for the first time. It was only the bloody four-wheel drive from before! I thought about sneaking into the garden to try and have a look inside, but getting caught was too big a risk.

Mikey was messing about outside the tent. I could see him hopping around from all the way down at the base of the hill. He didn’t notice me until I was right behind him. He was playing keepy-ups with a football.

‘What’re you doing?’ I asked.

Mikey flinched and turned, missing the ball. ‘Fuck Paul. You made me mess it up.’

‘Where did you get that?’

He pointed to the thickets and undergrowth that marked the edge of the meadow, leading to the mountain’s foot. ‘It was in the bushes there.’

‘Really?’

‘Aye.’

‘Did anyone come?’

He rolled the ball towards himself with his foot and kicked it into the air. ‘Nope.’

I said, ‘Good,’ and put the bags down. I found our stove and the frying pan and set up the sausages to fry. ‘When I was coming up, I went past the house further down the valley.’

‘Oh aye?’

‘Aye. The car from before was parked in the driveway. They must live there.’

‘Right.’

‘Doesn’t that worry you?’

He caught the football on top of his boot and held it in the air. ‘Why would it?’ he grunted.

‘Well, they seemed to be taking an awful interest, didn’t they?’

‘I suppose.’

‘I hope we won’t have to move on again,’ I said, pushing the sausages around with a lolly stick. I kept forgetting to pick up some tongs or a spatula from town.

We’d been up in the valley for a month or two, as the butcher had said. Before that we’d camped out by a loch but fishermen started to show up when the season changed, forcing us to pack up and move on. Before the loch we’d been in fields behind the town where we lived, miles and miles from this little sanctuary under the mountain.

I dished out the sausages onto two cardboard plates. ‘Leave the ball for now,’ I told Mikey, handing him his.

He sat cross-legged on the grass, blowing on his sausages. ‘Here, Paul,’ he said. ‘What’s a sausage made out of anyway?’

‘That’ll be pig in that one, but you get all sorts.’

‘Right. So it’s like chops then. Pork chops.’

‘Kind of. They put all the bits of the pig no one wants to eat in sausages.’

‘Why’re they so nice then?’ He’d already wolfed down both of his and was huffing on the steaming morsels still in his mouth.

‘I don’t know. They just are.’

Mikey eyed my one remaining sausage. ‘Are you going to finish yours?’

‘We’ll split it,’ I said, cutting it in half with a plastic knife and giving Mikey the bigger half.

‘Cheers Paul.’

I put the stove back in the tent once it was cool and threw away the plates. I dug the paper out from the Spar bag. ‘I’m going to check this,’ I told him. ‘You wanting to look with me?’

He shook his head. ‘Nah. It’s too nasty. I’m going to stick at the football.’

I lay down in the tent’s opening and leafed through the paper. I could hear Mikey kicking the ball from somewhere behind the pages. For the first few weeks after we’d left, Mikey had invariably been on the first page. He’d slowly descended through the paper over time and I was waiting for the day when he wasn’t featured at all. Maybe then we could go back.

I was nearly at the sport section when I found him. ‘Fuck,’ I said. They’d printed a recent picture with the article. He had his long hair in this one, and his beard. For a long time it was the police mug shot they used, which wasn’t so bad because the frog-eyed boy of thirteen didn’t look much like the fully-grown Mikey. I didn’t know if there’d been some court ruling that meant they could publish a new picture or perhaps they’d just stopped giving a shit.

I heard Mikey moan from behind my paper.

‘Gone in the burn?’ I called.

‘Aye,’ he said.

‘Listen mate,’ I said, laying the paper down on my chest. ‘We’re going to have to do it. They’ve got a new photo here. Your hair’s all long in it.’

He put his hands on his head. ‘We can’t, Paul. It’s the perfect length.’

‘We’ll have to, mate.’

His eyes started to redden. ‘Maybe we could just wait and see what happens…’

‘Fucken wait and see?’ I said. ‘How long you wanting to be stuck out here?’

‘It’s just…’

‘Never mind it’s just. Get your T-shirt off. Now.’

I found the scissors in my bag of supplies from the shop. I made Mikey sit on the grass and I kneeled behind him. I cut his hair right down and he cried the whole time. I turned him around, wiped the loose hairs from his face and cut his beard down too. I gave him the cheap pair of sunglasses I’d picked up from the rack in Spar.

‘Give them a try,’ I said.

He put the glasses on and had a look in the superfluous shaving mirror we carried around. His face crumpled. ‘I look like fucken… fucken Lou Reed.’

‘Don’t sulk. It had to be done.’

Mikey fished his ball out from the burn and I went back to the paper. We killed the afternoon like that. He practised his keepy-ups and I read every single article and completed every single puzzle. Once I was finished we played the football together. We used the gas stove and the frying pan as goalposts and I played goal. As Mikey was making shots past me he looked the happiest I’d seen him in some time, despite the haircut.

‘There’s this butcher in town,’ I told him as I caught a lob he’d tried to put past my head.

‘Oh aye?’

‘Aye. Asking questions.’ I threw the ball back.

Mikey caught it on his stomach. ‘What sort of questions?’

‘Asking questions like, how come I go in there so often and that.’

Mikey didn’t answer me, just tried to send the ball low across the ground. It collided with the stove.

‘Doesn’t that worry you?’ I asked.

‘He’s probably just taking an interest.’

‘I think he knows. Might recognise me. Maybe the family resemblance or something.’

‘How could he know?’

‘He handles meat for a living Mikey. He knows who’s lying.’

We got bored of the football soon enough. I tried to lie on the grass and have a sleep, but Mikey was too restless. He rolled around on the ground, pushing his head into the earth with frustration. ‘I’m so bored,’ he said. ‘Bored.’

‘I know. I am too.’

‘But you don’t get it. I’m really fucken bored.’

‘You think I’m not bored?’

He shook me to make me open my eyes.

‘But Paul,’ he said. ‘I’m really bored. Could we maybe, like, I don’t know, go into town tonight?’

‘Go into town for what?’

‘Perhaps, like, the pub or something…’

I closed my eyes again. ‘Forget it,’ I told him. ‘It’s not happening.’

Mikey had been obsessed with the idea ever since we’d arrived. The bus had stopped in the village’s main square and he’d spied this lassie, standing outside the pub, smoking, her heel up on the wall.

‘Maybe we should stop in there,’ he’d said. ‘Get some directions and that.’

I’d told him to forget it then as well.

I panicked when I woke up and Mikey was gone. I checked in the tent for him, reasoning he’d maybe nodded off himself. Nothing though. He wasn’t down at the burn either. I found him on the far side of the hill, facing the road. The four-wheel drive was back, parked up in its passing place.

‘Look,’ he said when he heard me approach.

I put my hand on his shoulder. ‘Stop fucken pointing at it,’ I hissed. ‘Wave.’

‘Eh?’

I tightened my hold on his shoulder. ‘Wave,’ I repeated.

The pair of us waved down at the motor until it pulled off and down the road. I turned on my heel and marched back up to the tent. Mikey was in hot pursuit.

‘What’s wrong?’ he asked as I began to sort out the stuff for dinner. We were having rolls with cold meat.

‘You know fine well what’s wrong. Standing there gawking at the car like that. It’s like you want us to have to move on again.’

‘What’s that you’ve got? That ham, is it?’

‘Aye Mikey. It’s ham.’

He nodded. ‘It’s always ham.’

Our routine for the evenings was that we would have our rolls or whatever we were having for tea and then when the sun went down behind the mountain we would put our jumpers on. Mikey would get to work, winding up the torch and the radio and once the sky was completely black, then we would allow ourselves to crack open the lagers I’d bought in the morning.

‘Ah,’ said Mikey as he took his first swig.

The beer was warm of course but it helped pass the days to have something to look forward to in the evening. Some nights we played cards, other times we had a go on the travel Monopoly board Mikey had brought along. It was important that I didn’t always beat him at Monopoly, as otherwise he’d become fractious and sour.

Mikey rolled the tiny dice and moved his Scottie dog. He landed on one of the reds. ‘Your turn,’ he told me.

‘Don’t you want to buy that? It’s a good property.’

‘Nah. I’m saving up for the big tickets. Park Lane. Mayfair. Those are where the real money is.’

I felt myself want to explain that he would have to get a bit of cash in his pocket if he was to have any chance of building on either of those properties, but I stopped myself. I would just end up upsetting him. He proceeded to go around the board five times without landing on either of the spaces he was waiting for.

I looked down at my pile of property cards. ‘Shall we just pack this in?’

‘Aye,’ he said. ‘OK then.’

‘You’re pissed,’ Mikey told me.

It was late and he was right. You could hear the murmurs of night beyond us – the burn curdling, grasshoppers and swallows fizzing.

‘I am pissed.’

‘No, but you’re really pissed.’

‘I said I was, didn’t I?’

Mikey was walking around in the darkness in front of the tent, kicking his legs out and squatting from drunkenness. I suppose he never got the opportunity to build up his tolerance during his teenage years.

He giggled. ‘Whatever you say Paul. I know when you’re pissed, and you’re pissed. Here, how many cans have we got left?’

I check the bag. ‘One each,’ I said and threw his last one out to him.

‘Cheers big ears. Did I ever tell you what we used to drink inside? At Polmont?’

‘No, you didn’t, but I don’t want to hear about it.’

He wasn’t listening. He was balancing the can on the back of his hand and attempting to drink it like that. ‘The older lads used to put orange juice from the canteen in a bag and hide it in the cupboard.’

I put my fingers on the tent’s zip. ‘If you’re going to talk about that then I’m going to sleep.’ I couldn’t bear it when Mikey talked about being on the inside. When he first came home and used to talk to Mum about it I would have to slip upstairs.

‘All right. Sorry. We can talk about something else instead.’

‘Like what?’

He ran his hand over his fresh scalp. ‘What do you reckon’s on telly right now?’

‘I don’t know. What time’s it? Back of eleven. Maybe a film or something?’

‘I think it’ll be a documentary that’s on.’

‘OK.’

‘Something about Africa.’

‘Right.’

We finished our final two cans and undressed inside the tent. Mikey wore an ancient Metallica T-shirt to bed. It was frayed to smithereens under the armpits. I just wore my pants. We crawled into our sleeping bags and I switched off the torch.

‘What’s the plan for tomorrow?’ Mikey yawned.

‘Same as always, mate.’

‘Mm. Maybe we could try walking up the mountain again.’

The last time we’d tried climbing the mountain we had only walked for half an hour before Mikey started to complain about his feet hurting. ‘Maybe,’ I said.

I was somewhere between dreaming and awake when I heard the footsteps outside the tent. Footsteps and ragged breathing. Mikey sat up and I put my hand over his mouth. Whoever was outside was messing around with the rubbish bag. They were opening it up and rustling its contents.

‘Shut it,’ I whispered, directly into Mikey’s ear.

The shadow of whoever was outside fell over the sleeping area. It poked something into the gauze.

‘Hoi,’ they said. A man’s voice.

I felt my brother lick his lips beneath my hand and I tightened my grip on his muzzle. He would want to answer back, I could tell.

‘I know you’re in there. There’s a pair of boots out here. I saw the two of you earlier on. Hello?’

Mikey closed his eyes. I had him right up against my chest, smelling the heat of his scalp.

‘Fine. Well. This is my land. You can’t stay here, it’s not allowed. If you don’t clear off I’ll call the police.’ A long pause, and then, ‘It’s not allowed.’

The voice trailed off and I let go of Mikey. Once I was sure the man had gone I slumped back onto my sleeping bag.

‘Jesus,’ said Mikey.

‘I know.’

‘What’re we going to do?’

What were we going to do? I couldn’t risk the man poking around again. What if he spotted Mikey? ‘We’ll maybe have to move on. Find a new spot.’

‘Really? But I like it here. We’ve got the burn and those sausages are dead nice.’

‘Well,’ I said. ‘I’ll think about it.’

‘Maybe since we’re clearing off and you cut my hair and that, we could pop into the pub for a swift pint before we go?’

I didn’t bother to answer him, just wound my neck up in the sleeping bag and forced myself to sleep.

We woke up to a barrage of rain on the tent, every drop a tiny explosion on the inside. I could tell Mikey was sitting up, awake, without having to open my eyes.

I said, ‘Have you left your boots outside again?’

‘Aye,’ he sighed.

We got dressed in silence and peered out of the tent’s opening. The sky was bruise coloured and water ran over our noses and into our beards. Mikey’s boots were lying in a puddle of caramel water, curled and wrinkled.

‘Have we got enough cash for another pair?’ he asked, streams of water distorting his features.

‘Don’t know,’ I said, bringing my head back inside to look for my own pair. ‘Maybe.’

The ditch that ran alongside the road to town had become waterlogged. So had the handful of potholes I had to step round on my way down. I stopped outside the butcher’s shop, on the other side of the road. Rain fell on the hood of my anorak and through the swirling water that cascaded down the shop’s windowpane I could make him out, behind the counter. He to-ed-and-fro-ed, busying himself with joints and racks and sides. The odd flicker of redness through the smears of rain – that was blood.

The butcher paused and looked through his window, right at me. Neither of us moved. He looked out for ten, fifteen seconds and then was away again, chopping and slicing.

So that was how he was going to play it, was it?

‘All right,’ I said to myself and headed for the square.

There was a shoe shop there. No one was on the till but they were open so I let myself in and made my way to the small display of men’s boots near the back. Mikey would want something cool, something motorbikey, but that was outside of our price range and the shop only seemed to stock hiking boots. I selected a pair that looked comfortable with good ankle support and took them over to the till, ringing the brass bell on the counter.

It took the owner a long time to arrive. She was a wizened old thing, the sleeves of her cardigan stuffed with a lifetime of handkerchiefs. She looked me up and down.

‘What?’ she croaked.

‘I was looking to buy some shoes.’

‘We’re not open yet. Didn’t you read the sign?’

I looked over my shoulder. There was no sign on the door. Before I could comment she went on. ‘But never mind. Never mind common courtesy. Pass them here.’

She rang the boots up on the till and asked for the money. My stomach dropped when I checked my wallet and saw how much we had left. Mikey’s boots would eat up the lion’s share of the cash I’d taken from our mother.

As I went out into the rain, pulling up my hood, the old woman muttered after me, ‘Some people.’

What were we doing to do? The cash we had would barely last us another week. I would need to find some sort of work, that much was clear. Maybe I could get some part-time hours in one of the village shops. Maybe I could join the roster of teenage girls that the Spar seemed to work their way through so quickly.

There was no chance I was going back to the butcher shop, so I ducked into the Spar again. It was quiet and I selected my produce in record time. I bumped into an old friend beside the meat chiller though. I was examining a pack of bacon, wondering whether we could fry it in our tiny pan, when a chubby, red-haired hand crept across my eye line.

The butcher was loading himself up with pack after pack of sausages. It took him a moment to notice me.

He said, ‘Oh.’

I looked from his face to the basket of sausages. ‘Hello,’ I smiled.

He looked at the sausages too. ‘Right,’ he said.

‘It’s all right…’ I started to say, but he interrupted me.

‘Had a bit of an issue with the fridges across the road. You’ll know about that better than most,’ he laughed.

‘Never mind,’ I said and watched him scurry away. He glanced back at the end of the aisle to give me a dirty look.

I paid for the supplies and was getting ready to face the rain again when I spotted the classified adverts by the door. Handwritten postcards for people selling golf clubs and pedigree puppies and used wedding dresses. I scanned the board until one of them caught my eye.

Strong young men wanted for tedious labour. Must be physically able and moderately conscientious. Minimum wage, no benefits. Contact Duncan Weddle on…

I slipped the card into my pocket, not wanting every other fucker in the village with working legs applying and spoiling my chances. The rain eased up as I was coming out of town and I began to sweat buckets inside the anorak. The car was gone from outside the wee house so I took my chances and jumped the fence into the garden. From what I could make out through the back windows it was a nice enough place. A dog whined from somewhere inside and the garden had a view of the mountains. They were a patchwork of peat and stone, smears of moss and long steps of dead rock.

I would let the owner make the next move. If he was so keen to move us on he would have to do it himself. He didn’t know who he was getting himself mixed up with.

 What did I think?
Fallow is a gripping tale of two brothers that hooks you from the very first page. Shand makes the book very realistic and paints the picture in your mind perfectly. I know I’ve said this for another book I’ve reviewed (The Insect Farm), but I can’t help getting the vibe of ‘Of Mice and Men’ from this book too. I guess it’s a book that has stuck out to me because of the brothers and the way one is more dominating than the other – that’s not saying it is a bad likeness to make as I did really enjoy ‘Of Mice and Men’!
At times it did feel a bit far-fetched with some of the scenarios that the brothers found them in, but Shand managed to keep the book on track and made it feel like it could in fact be a very normal occurrence for the duo. I did feel that it was a tad predictable and that’s the only reason why it’s a four heart review. Other than that, it is a fantastic read and Shand has impressed me with his story telling skills!

My rating? ♥♥♥♥

Will you be adding this to your TBR pile?

Share This:

Book Tour – Doorways – Robert Enright

I’m a huge fan of Robert Enright’s writing and gave a full five star review for his first book One by One so when I was offered the chance to take part in his book door for Doorways, I was more than happy to take part! I want to thank Robert Enright and Urbane Publications for giving me the chance to take part in this book tour for a fantastic book!

Doorways by Robert Enright

ISBN-10 1911129570

ISBN-13 978-1911129578

Author Robert Enright

Publisher Urbane Publications

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review

From Goodreads

The Otherside: a world that exists on the outskirts of our own, hiding in plain sight and living within our shadows. Shielded from humanity, the Otherside is watched over by the BTCO, a highly secret government agency whose agents are the few humans who possess “The Knack,” a genetic anomaly that allows them to see the truth of existence.

Franklyn “Bermuda” Jones is the BTCO’s finest agent, the only human to have passed to The Otherside and returned. Gifted with the ability to physically interact with The Otherside, he reluctantly stands between both worlds, pining for the life he had to leave behind. Teamed with the Otherside warrior, Argyle, the two of them are assigned a case of a missing woman, vanished under peculiar circumstances.

As Bermuda delves further into the disappearances, he uncovers a threat to humanity that will not only break the truce between the two worlds, but render them both obsolete.

Excerpt - Chapter One

The flashing blue lights erupted from the top of the police car, illuminating the front of the magnificent Cartwright Manor. The huge, stone structure stood with an overbearing grandeur, the large, solid pillars of the front door cast in intermittent blasts of blue. The smooth tone reached three floors high, the wall segregated by the door sized windows in perfect symmetry.

The drive to Eversley had been fairly straight forward, the dreaded M25 that linked him from Hertfordshire to Hampshire, was quieter in the middle of the night, instead of the usual stand still of regularity. The streets of Eversley were quiet, quaint little streets lined with small houses, all hidden behind their front gardens. A few country pubs that would have undoubtedly been full of locals earlier in the evening. On the outskirts of the town, Cartwright Manor sat in the centre of twenty acres of land. As he passed through the grand, iron gate and slowly cruised up the gravel path that cut through the vast, neatly trimmed lawn, Franklyn ‘Bermuda’ Jones whistled with admiration.

Gazing his green eyes over the immaculate grounds, he slowly rolled his black Honda Civic to a stop, the engine cutting out with a gentle purr. The two police officers stood fifty feet away, their arms folded across their stab proof vests as the car door swung open, the chill of the wind slapping Bermuda across his stubble covered face and throwing his light brown hair into disarray. With the moon hidden by thick, spring clouds, the only lights apart from those emanating from the downstairs of the house, were those of the police car.

Bermuda added his own, cupping his hand around his zippo lighter as the flame flickered, touching the end of his cigarette and casting smoke into the air. He flicked it, the metal lid clapping shut.

“Chilly night, huh?” Bermuda’s London accent filtered through the smoke.

As always, Argyle had met him at their destination. Partnered for over three years, Bermuda had become accustomed the Argyle’s ability to beat him to the scene of the ‘crime’. Although Bermuda stood at six foot tall, his partner towered over him by another eight inches. His muscular arms hung from his shoulders, exposed by the sleeveless armoured plate he wore over his colossal torso. His armoured legs stood firmly together and Bermuda was always impressed with the authority that Argyle’s stance commanded. He on the other hand, in his jeans, shirt and long, black jacket, looked comprehensively human.

Argyle’s grey, pupiless eyes, which sat deep in his dark face, betrayed his humanity. Not that it would be a problem. Especially as only Bermuda could see him. As Bermuda leant against his car, he cast his eyes around the acres of land as it flickered with sprays of blue.

‘I do not surrender any thoughts or feelings towards elements.’ Argyle’s response was firm, his voice carrying a low bass. Bermuda nodded, taking another puff on his cigarette. He looked up at Argyle.

‘I bet it’s a hoarder.’

‘We should assess the situation before reaching conclusions.’

‘Yeah, yeah. I know. And we will.’ Bermuda took another drag, smoke being snatched from the end of his cigarette by the whipping wind. ‘But I bet you ten pounds it’s a hoarder.’

“I have never understood your kind’s obsession with this monetary gain.” Argyle shook his head as he spoke, his words emphasising his disappointment. Bermuda looked towards the officers, their impatience obvious. A smile crept across his handsome face.

‘Let’s go see what the fuzz thinks.’ He pushed himself off from the car and took a final hit of nicotine before carelessly flicking the butt of the cigarette into the darkness. He slapped Argyle on the back, his hand a few inches from the long, razor sharp blade of the sword that hung from his back. Argyle was a fine swordsman and had saved Bermuda's life on a number of occasions with it. Argyle’s other weapon; the ‘Retriever’ was fastened securely around his powerful forearm.

As they walked towards the impatient officers, Bermuda’s own weapon hung from the latch on his belt, hidden by his long coat. His footsteps echoed as the gravel crunched beneath his feet. Argyle walked silently beside him.

‘So what’s the situation?’ Bermuda asked him, scanning the grounds again. He dipped a hand into his pocket and returned shaking a small box of tic tacs.

‘The woman’s husband has vanished. Along with their canine companion. Their maid and a home help worker have also vanished within the last few days. Their relatives have stated that this was their last known location.’ The two police officers stepped forward, getting themselves prepared as Bermuda approached.

‘How old is the woman?’ Bermuda asked, two tic tacs rattling in his mouth.

‘Mrs Cartwright is eighty two years old, a veteran of your people.’ Argyle spoke, his voice firm and authoritative.

‘You can just say old, Argyle.’ Bermuda smirked, hoping to extract a reaction.

‘Would seem strange for such an elderly person to be able to remove that many people.’

‘Well strange is why we are here, big man.’ Bermuda approached the two police officers, both of whom looked at him with caution. The shorter officer, mid-forties, thinning black hair and a shirt about to burst at the mid-section, spoke first.

‘You ok there, fella?’ He looked at his partner and smiled. ‘Having a nice old chat were you?’

‘Just getting updated on the situation.’ Bermuda retorted, accustomed to the idea that people thought he was crazy. He looked up at Argyle and raised his eyebrows. The policeman followed his gaze, saw nothing and readied themselves as if Bermuda was about to attack. ‘Is she inside?’

‘Hold on now.’ The younger officer, tall and muscular, reached out and put his palm into Bermuda’s firm chest. ‘We got a call about some ‘specialist’ coming down.’

Bermuda sighed to himself, and whipped his hand to the back pocket of his jeans. He pulled out the thin, leather wallet and flicked it open.

‘Bermuda Jones, BTCO.’ The two men squinted, trying to read the small print. The plastic card, covered by a sheet of clear plastic, bore his face and details pertaining to the organisation. The short officer scoffed and look up at him.

‘BTCO? Never head of it.’ He said, almost mockingly.

‘You wouldn’t have.’

Bermuda stepped through and once again, the young officer stepped in his way. Bermuda smiled at him politely.

‘Sounds like a load of nonsense to me.’

‘Could you please let me through? I have a job to do.’

Bermuda held his stare.

‘Well as far as I can see, that woman in there has something to do with the disappearance of three people. She doesn’t need a BCOT or whatever it’s called intervention. She needs to be taken in for questioning.’

As if he didn’t even hear it, Bermuda once again smiled politely, the wind snatching up his hair and tugging it in multiple directions.

‘Please let me through, Officer.’

The young officer glared at Bermuda, who politely waited. The elder officer stood to the side, a voice crackling through on the radio. Instantly his attitude changed and he pulled the other officer out of Bermuda’s pathway. As they argued, Bermuda walked slowly towards the large, semi-circular steps that lead up to thick, wooden doors. They were open, the brightly lit hallway welcoming him through with a warm grasp. Argyle followed, his colossal frame just fitting through.

The entrance to the house was as grand as the structure itself, the hallway stretching out towards a broad staircase that split into two directions, wrapping back around the wall underneath the high ceiling, from which an expensive chandelier hung. The walls were lined with large canvases of art, their value not worth guessing. In the far corner stood a suit of armour, the metal shining from good upkeep.

Bermuda popped another few tic tacs into his mouth and then walked through the open door to the right, entering an elegantly decorated living room. An oak table sat near the magnificent bay window, shutting out the world with its drawn curtains. A soft rug welcomed Bermuda as he strolled in, locking his eyes on the elderly woman who sat on the sofa, a roaring fire crackling in front of her.

Above the fire place was a large painting, depicting what Bermuda imagined was Lord William Cartwright, the missing husband. Stood in his hunting gear, he emanated wealth and nobility. Argyle walked calmly to the centre of the room, past a small cabinet which housed several expensive looking liqueurs. He stood powerfully, his short, black beard lining his powerful jaw. Bermuda crunched the remnants of his tic tac and approached the sofa.

‘Mrs Cartwright?’ He offered, his tone friendly. The old lady turned, her wrinkled face forcing a welcoming smile. Her eyes were red, the turmoil of the evening apparent. Bermuda calmly removed his jacket and placed it over the back of the chair. He checked his watch, pulling his shirt back to reveal a heavily tattooed forearm.

‘Please. Call me Eleanor.’

‘Eleanor. Nice to meet you. I’m Bermuda Jones from the BTCO.’

‘The what now?’ She looked at him, puzzled.

‘The BTCO. We deal with rather exceptional cases and believe that your husband is one such case.’

‘My poor William. Where has he gone?’ Bermuda had no doubts in his mind that she was innocent. Her grief for her husband was genuine. The last three years had shown him plenty of it.

‘That is what we are here to find out.’ Bermuda ran his hand through his hair, sweeping it into a side parting…

 

What did I think?

As I’ve already mentioned, I absolutely loved Enright’s first book ‘One By One’ and after conversing with the author about his upcoming book I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as it was completely different to his original thriller. That being said I was hugely surprised at just how much I loved ‘Doorways’.

As a self-confessed crime/thriller lover I was a little sceptical about reading a sci-fi book but much to my surprise, Enright really managed to get me hooked and I stayed fully engaged the whole time. The story line is gripping and at times I could feel my heart in my mouth due to how intense the story went.

Enright has a way of making you love and hate the characters, his writing style is brilliant and that just makes the story that much better. You don’t just read the story, you absorb the tale of Bermuda Jones and The Otherside. With unexpected twists and not fully predictable story lines, Enright  has written a truly fantastic 2nd book and I would love to read more of ‘The Otherside’ and of Bermuda Jones.

My Rating? ♥♥♥♥♥

Will you be adding this to your TBR pile?

Q&A with Robert Enright

Robert Enright

Where did you find the inspiration for ‘Doorways’? It’s a very unique story-line! Umm…I really have no idea. It originally started off as two completely different ideas, one of them being similar to the film limitless and the other being about two detectives searching for missing people who keep going missing in dark corners. Eventually, the two ideas collided and then the idea of this other world slowly filtered in and before I knew it, I had created this whole other world. Inspiration wise, I very much see elements of Men in Black and Hellboy’s BPRD. Like you said…..it’s quite unique.

How did you develop the characters and plot? Well Bermuda originally was a PI with a medical condition, who’s medicine allowed him to see things for only a few minutes. It was an intriguing concept but I found it limited what I could do. Eventually, I turned it into an actual ability, and when I pulled The Otherside in, it exploded. Being the only one to physically interact with The Otherside opened up a ‘doorway’ (do not pardon that pun) that allowed Bermuda to be seen as the exception in a bizarre world. Then when I paired him with Argyle, who I love creating storylines for, the whole dynamic and building their friendship began to write itself.

What was the hardest part to write? I’d say establishing this others world and not having it sound really silly. At its heart, Doorways is essentially a crime thriller of someone trying to find missing people. However, bringing in these monsters from another world, like the large Behemoth that Bermuda encounters, and not having it lose credibility, was a tricky task. I had a long discussion with my brother about the tight rope I was walking. Too campy and the book becomes a comedy but too dark and it will alienate a lot of people. It was a hard tone to balance but hopefully I think I managed it.

What were your goals/intentions with ‘Doorways’ and do you think you’ve achieved them? Well the fact that it has been picked up by Urbane means I have achieved my writing goal of being published! From there, I just want to see what I can achieve. I am fully invested and in love with the idea and the characters and I only hope that people join them for whatever bizarre story lines I have in store. I have received my first reviews as well and they were 5 star, which was fantastic as the reviewers were not fans of sci-fi type of books. So right now, I am just hoping it keeps up the positive buzz and will allow me to continue with a few more…

Will we get to read more about Bermuda Jones in the future? That’s the plan. I currently have another 5 or 6 big cases for them to investigate, as well as a lot of twists and turns on the lives of our two heroes. The next one, which is underway, see’s them head to Glasgow, on the hunt for a murderer with a very erratic selection policy but also a very gruesome calling card. Hopefully, you will be able to read that one day.

If so, will Bermuda ever get the life he so desperately wants? (I understand you may not want to give spoilers!) My lips are sealed. I think one of the most endearing characteristics of Bermuda is how much he has had to sacrifice against his will. I think it drives him and there will certainly be highs and lows throughout his journey. That’s all I will say.

Finally, as a huge lover of ‘One by One’ and also ‘Doorways’ – which book did you prefer to write? Do you think this will be the genre you tend to stick to for future books? Both hold a very dear place in my heart. I loved the vengeful hero of Lucas Cole and have another revenge book in the pipeline. However Bermuda is more my cup of tea and I have many of his tales as well as my own take on Vampires, Zombies and (most excitingly for me) Superheroes to come! I kind of just write whatever genre the idea slots itself into. Right now, I am fully in this weird crime thriller/urban sci-fi/mystery world of Bermuda Jones, and I am extremely happy to be here.

Again, a huge thank you to Robert Enright and Urbane Publications for letting me join the book tour. Check out the other stops on this tour to get further confirmation that this is a great book that you need to read!

Doorways by Robert Enright

Share This:

Book Tour – Devil’s Demise – Lee Cockburn

I’ve been invited to take part in the Clink Street Publishing Blogival. There’s loads of great authors and books taking part in this Blogival, but I chose to review Devil’s Demise by Lee Cockburn as it sounded like a book that I could really get in to! So here goes…my Blogival post!

Devil's Demise

ISBN-10 1909477265

ISBN-13 978-1909477261

Author Lee Cockburn

Publisher Clink Street

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review

From Goodreads

A cruel and sinister killer is targeting Edinburgh’s most powerful women, his twisted sense of superiority driving him to satisfy his depraved sexual appetite.

He revels in the pain and suffering he inflicts on his unsuspecting victims but a twist of fate and an overwhelming will to survive by one victim ruins his plans for a reign of terror.

His tormented prey will need all her courage if she is to survive the hunt.

What did I think?

Well, what can I say? Devil’s Demise has a dark, dark storyline. There were a lot of moments where my heart was in my mouth and I couldn’t stop reading. It is a great horror/thriller book that really keeps you wanting more.

The part I enjoyed about this book was that it was not a ‘whodunnit’ but more of a cat and mouse game. You know who the killer is from the start and you follow his story to find out why he got there.

There is one aspect of the book that I didn’t like and this is the only reason why it’s a four heart review! There’s a very ’50 shades’ side to this book and I personally don’t believe that the book benefited in any way from the ‘erotica’ parts. It did disappoint me a little bit because I really think the book would have thrived without these scenes. Each to their own though!

My Rating? ♥♥♥♥

Will you be adding this to your TBR pile?

Q&A with Lee Cockburn

Lee Cockburn

Where did you find the inspiration for ‘Devil’s Demise’? I never thought I’d ever write a book far less three, as I have finished book two and three is quarter or the way through. It comes down to reading a book that I’d read 200 pages and it hadn’t got to the point, so I decided to write a book the way I’d like to read one, gripping from the start, thrilling and frightening, with loves scenes longer that one line! Firstly my inspiration came when I was sunbathing on holiday, just little ideas here and there, so the thought was there. I then began reading a book, that after 200 pages it hadn’t got to the point at all and frankly it was pretty dull. The author a well established writer and millionaire many times over. So that is when I decided to put those ideas and thoughts from previously, to the test. I hoped to write a book with the style, pace and content I would enjoy reading, without unnecessary over description and a plot that would be easily understood. Thus, Devil’s Demise was written, a hard hitting, violent erotic crime thriller.

How did you develop the characters and plot? The characters came about from what I thought a mixed audience could relate too. I’m a gay woman, confident, strong willed, flirtatious, and hold my own in any situation, and I like Taylor because she’s like that, but very beautiful, Marcus is what I would want in a man if I was that way inclined, and many female readers already adore him, as I hoped they would, as many female readers like me like Taylor!
What was the hardest part to write? Writing the, at times, graphic scenes where Brennan is hurting women was quite unpleasant and it took a few attempts and rewrites for me to be entirely happy that they were gripping and accurate enough without being over-indulgently gruesome. However, if you chose to write a crime novel you have to be able to face your subject and I needed to build the suspense, fear and hatred for Brennan to make the book work. None of it was particularly hard to write, except for having two babies half way through who both sucked up a lot of my previously spare time and also you don’t want toddlers learning some of the words that are in the book and coming out with them at parties!
What were your goals/intentions with ‘Devil’s Demise’ and do you think you achieved them? My goal was to get it out there and achieve my dream of writing and publishing a book. It’s taken a total of 4 years in the making with the two years out where real life got in the way. I just wanted to have others read it – I think that was the most challenging part actually putting it out there and letting strangers read it rather than just my loving family and friends- but it’s out there and now I’ve got the writing bug it’s truly a passion and one I’m excited about continuing.
Will we be hearing more from DS Nicks and her story? Yes you will, Taylor and Marcus are the main characters in all three books, with others joining in along the way. So not one but a whole trilogy to look forward to – or at least look out for 🙂
A huge thank you to Clink Street, Lee Cockburn and Authoright for letting me take part in this Blogival. You can get involved on twitter by using/searching #Blogival.

Share This:

Book Tour – End As An Assassin – Lex Lander

I’d like to thank Lex Lander and also Rachel at Authoright for giving me the opportunity to appear on the ‘End As An Assassin’ blog tour.

End As An Assassin

ISBN-10 0994998139

ISBN-13 978-0994998132

Author Lex Lander

Publisher Kaybec Publishing

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review

From Amazon

André Warner is a professional killer, ex-British Secret Service. Thirty-nine contracts have made him a wealthy man, and his fortieth is to be his last.

The hit goes smoothly enough, and the victim – a degenerate drug baron – is dispatched with minimal fuss and no traces left to incriminate Warner. He drives off into the sunrise to hang up his gun and retire to his home in Geneva.

Then into his life comes Gina, a hauntingly beautiful divorcee, fugitive from a bad marriage. The timing is perfect, coinciding as it does with Warner’s new beginning. They soon become lovers, and all seems set fair for a life together.

Their idyll is shattered when a former associate turns against Warner, and he faces exposure and arrest. Accompanied by Gina, he flees his Geneva home, only to run from the clutches of the Swiss police into the far deadlier embrace of a Marseilles crime syndicate whose boss has a score to settle on behalf of Warner’s last victim. Suddenly Gina is at risk through her association with him, and in trying to protect her he only makes matters worse.

His retirement plans in shreds, his life on the line, Warner is forced to stage a comeback. Only this time it’s not for money. It’s for blood, pure and simple.

Excerpt - Chapter 1

The light was fading when I pulled the VW Golf – that most ubiquitous and therefore most anonymous set of wheels – off the Bundestrasse into the secondary road that snaked down into the village of Guntering. The rain had eased off in favour of a fine drizzle through which I glimpsed ragged clouds clinging to the hillsides like grey cotton candy. A Porsche swished past, throwing arcs of spray from its wide wheels. I held piously to my fifty kph. Confrontation with the police, notorious in Germany for enforcement of urban speed limits with instant fines, was to be avoided. For today, I was a model motorist.

The radio was on. A female singer belted out a rendering of the old Dietrich number, “Falling in Love Again”. In German, naturally. I chanted along with her. In English, naturally. Cool and relaxed as any nine-to- five commuter on his way to work. Cooler, even. No rush hour traffic to stress me out.

I was through Guntering, the houses and other buildings just houses and buildings. The next hamlet, Wasach, was more of the same. From there it was open road, a grade above dirt track. No other vehicles shared it in either direction.

The turnoff was a couple of kilometres beyond Wasach, announced by a shiny metal signpost: Schloss Thomashoff – Thomashoff Castle –3km. The pretentiousness of it had amused me yesterday, seeing it for the first time. Admittedly the place occupied an elevated site with views over the Ammersee, a large lake shaped like a prawn. It was made of stone: a grey, granite-like stone, coarse-textured, but the resemblance to a castle went no further. It was mostly a single-story building, with a dormer window in the steep roof, a portico entrance, and a cupola at one corner. Nothing to inspire awe.

Rain had made the dirt surface of the track treacherous. It forced me to go easy on the gas pedal. Among the trees the light was poor, and I flicked the headlights to full beam, sending white shafts through the gloom. A pair of yellow eyes sparkled; a fox probably. Then they were gone and I was slithering onward, holding the car in third, the trees seeming to press in on me, looming in the headlights then whipping past.

The road was climbing now, a succession of increasingly acute bends. Raindrops dripped from overhanging branches, making little explosions on the windscreen. I slowed and dropped down into second gear. An accident on this no-exit road would be as disastrous as a brush with the law.

The dashboard clock showed 15:26 and night was already draping its mantle across the land. Darkness was always welcome – the best natural protection going. Unless I was planning to use a rifle, and thus at a distance from my victim, I avoided making hits in daylight. Nosy neighbours and inconvenient passers-by posed less of a threat after nightfall. I had other codes of conduct, other axioms, whose observance had helped me stay in business. Enabling me to cross borders anywhere in the world without let or hindrance, like it says on my red British EU passport and my navy-blue Canadian one. Not so much as an unpaid parking fine besmirched my real name.

Lake Ammersee came into sight on my right, a dull gunmetal glint below the cliffs. No wind, eddies or currents ruffled its glossy surface. The car skated on a patch of mud and the front end slewed toward the verge, which was only spitting distance from a sheer hundred-foot drop. My grip on the wheel tightened as I lifted my foot off the gas pedal, slowing to a walking pace. At this point I dispensed with the headlights.

A hundred metres or so farther on, a rectangle of light glimmered between the trees at ground-floor level. Above it, a smaller rectangle. The exterior lamp, mounted above the front entrance, cast a yellow pool over a gravelled parking area. An expensive-looking hunk of Milan-built iron squatted there on fat tyres.

I rolled to a standstill short of the house, reversing into a space between the trees, and killed the parking lights. It was a spot I had pre-selected for this purpose. With its dark green paintwork the Golf would be virtually invisible from the track. As an extra precaution I draped an olive green groundsheet over the windscreen, the hood, and the indiscreet, reflective license plate, weighting it with a dead branch. The car now merged into its surroundings. Someone would have to walk into it to know it was there.

It was a few minutes to four. Under the trees, it was dark as midnight. The Ammersee was a flat monochrome through the pencil-straight trunks. No moon to reflect, only charcoal-grey clouds, their bellies bulging with more unshed rain.

I zipped my waterproof jacket up to my chin and pulled the hood over my head, listening to the intermittent beat of raindrops on the car and foliage. It was the only sound in that cathedral stillness, except –faintly – music from the house. So muffled and indistinct, I couldn’t even identify the tune. I was still straining my ears when the dormer light was extinguished and the darkness became Stygian.

For a while I stood there, the dampness climbing my legs and permeating my body. I stomped my feet, but the bed of pine needles offered no resistance. It was like stomping on jell-o. The minutes crawled by. Waiting was the worst part of a contract kill. But wait I must. My arrival had been timed to ensure I was off the road during the evening rush when the country dwellers streamed out of Munich to their neat, synthetic, dormitory towns. The getaway was subject to similar criteria. By then, the job done, all but the tail-end workaholics would be settled in front of their TV sets. Every motorist had to be considered a potential witness. It takes more than just a killer instinct and ability to shoot straight to make a successful assassin. Blending in with the law-abiding majority is no less important.

The drizzle was petering out, which was a relieft. I strolled across the track to stand on the bare cliff top and gaze out over the Ammersee. The far shore was black and shapeless, only relieved by a constellation of lights round the towns of Diessen and Lifting. In the daytime it was a million-euro panorama, and explained why Thomashoff had built his self-styled castle here.

In deadly boredom I whiled away the next two hours. My sauntering about left plenty of footprints to excite the police forensic team. So much the better; let them go chasing will-o- the-wisps. I bought my shoes from a market trader in Dar es Salaam, where I was hunting down a Portuguese drug trafficker. They were untraceable. Along with the waterproof jacket and gun they would be disposed of when I left. Just as I had already discarded the brown hairpiece, the matching stick-on moustache, and the brown contact lenses. I had no more need to hide my yellow-blond hair and my – some say piercing – blue eyes. In the Master Plan (revised), the hit and his mistress didn’t survive to assist the police making up photo-fit pictures after the event. From now on, Roger Townsend ceased to exist; just one of a succession of dead-end false identities. I would leave Germany under my real name of André Warner, Anglo-Québecois, respectable citizen and businessman.

At half-past six I got ready to move. I pulled on a pair of thin kidskin driving gloves and loaded six .357 magnum rounds into the Colt Python, stowing the gun in my coat’s side pocket. The six unwanted inches of barrel made it too long for the pocket, but I had cut a hole in the lining to accommodate them, binding insulating tape round the shallow triangular sight to smooth the profile and stop it snagging on the material. A small detail, but no less significant than all the other details.

Here at Schloss Thomashoff, it would be no use my going up to the front door and thumbing the bell push. The hefty door chain was bolt-cutter proof, and I expected it to be in place. I would therefore enter via the back door, the same as yesterday when I broke in to carry out my final reconnaissance of the empty building. The lock was of the deadbolt type and I had a skeleton key that fit. The only complication had been the surface-mounted bolt, thick as a man’s finger, at the top of the door. I had neutralized it by sawing three-quarters of the way through it, masking the cut with dirt, and clearing up the few metal filings. Now, all it would take to snap it was a nudge against the door.

Silent as a drifting snowflake, I crossed the open ground between the wood and the knee-high hedge that bordered the yard, past the cupola. The drapes of the lighted rectangular window of the living room were open, necessitating a wide detour. The TV set, a Bang & Olufson in a rosewood cabinet, flickered in a corner of the room. A dark head was visible over the back of an armchair. It could only be him; she was a blonde. No sign of her at all. The dormer window above was lit up, meaning she was back in her natural environment – the bedroom. Suiting up for more erotic games, I bet. The stuff I’d come across up there told its own tale: crotchless panties galore, leather corsets, thigh boots with twelve-centimetre heels, dildoes of many shapes and sizes, you get the picture.

The kitchen was in darkness. The door was locked as expected and the key had been left in the lock on the inside. Keys left in locks were a commonplace, and I had the means to deal with them. With the aid of my pencil flashlight and some long-nosed pliers of a pattern not generally found in any tool store, that obstacle was soon removed. The key made no sound when it hit the doormat.

I was putting the flashlight and pliers away when the kitchen light came on.

The vast window, with its outlook over the lake, was fitted with Venetian blinds. They were lowered, but the slats were open. The light bathed the lush lawn in white stripes, picking out drops of moisture on the grass. Pressed flat against the wall and in shadow, I would be invisible from inside. The only small worry was the key lying on the doormat. If spotted, it might arouse suspicion. Then again, it might be assumed it had fallen out of the lock. Then again…

The person in the kitchen was whistling out of tune. Cupboard doors were slammed and something fell with a metallic clatter, followed by a muttered ‘Merde!’ – it was the Frenchman, Fabrice Tillou himself. More doors banged, then a triumphant, ‘Ah … vous voila.’ Seconds later, the pop of a cork. Footsteps approached the door.

I stepped away from the wall, ready to blend with it if he came outside.

A clatter of metal to metal. The footsteps receded and the light went out.

My breathing resumed.

It was raining again with renewed enthusiasm. I glowered at the heavens to no effect. I gave the Frenchman a minute or so to settle down with his bottle of plonk, then leaned my shoulder against the door while depressing the handle slowly. It opened without effort on my part, meaning it was not bolted, and my sabotage had been unnecessary. I stepped inside the palatial kitchen, all black tiles and stainless steel, with mechanical aids in abundance. A mutter of voices filtered through the open door between the kitchen and the inner hall. Did they have company? I remained motionless, my head cocked toward the doorway. A police siren sounded, overlaid by a yelp of brakes and a ripple of gunfire. I remembered the flickering TV screen and grinned at nothing in my relief.

The Python was in my hand now, hammer cocked, ready to deliver its cargo. I crossed the kitchen, detouring round an island counter, and wedged myself into the corner behind the door. A spoor of wet footprints gave away my presence. No matter. Nobody would see them until it was too late.

‘Liebling?’ the Frenchman called in his accented German. He was in the hall, just a few feet away. ‘Bist du noch nicht fertig?’ Aren’t you ready yet? He sounded impatient.

The answer was inaudible; I guessed she was still upstairs. The verbal exchange ended and the yammer of the TV took over again.

Water dripped from my hair, coursing down my face in rivulets.

Presently, I took a cautious peep around the edge of the door. All was clear. I emerged from the kitchen into the carpeted hall. The carpet pile was thick, and I waded through it soundlessly, the TV noise removing any need for caution. The living room door stood ajar. I widened the gap with my toe and went in.

The room was as plush as a super-rich politician’s fortune could make it: a cornfield-deep cream carpet, the furniture all in rosewood to match the TV, the walls panelled in contrasting pale pine with knots galore. Not forgetting the hi-fi with its library of CDs I could have played nonstop for a month without hearing the same one twice. Shelves behind the mini-bar sagged under a profusion of designer label booze.

The drapes, tasteful brown velvet, were now drawn; one less precaution for me to take.

Tillou was back in his armchair, which was positioned sideways to the doorway. He didn’t notice me right away.

Raising my voice above the grating cops-and- robbers dialogue, I announced myself. ‘Bonsoir, Monsieur Tillou.’

His self-control was impressive. The glass of white wine that was halfway to his mouth slowed only momentarily before resuming its journey. He drank in generous gulps that I could see travelling down his throat, and then his head slowly turned toward me.

He was just past his thirtieth birthday, according to the dossier provided by Bonhomme. Pretty boy looks, with dark hair, not too long, dark hooded eyes, and full lips that a lipstick advertiser could have put to good use. Well groomed, dark blue pants and vest, shirt whiter than white. I knew him to be tall, an inch over six feet, about my own height. He was married, no children.

‘Qui êtes vous?’ he asked finally, reverting to his native tongue. He was still composed, disdainful even.

It’s funny how they always want to know who I am. As if it made any difference to the outcome.

‘Aucune importance,’ I said. Thanks to my Québecois mother my French was fluent, and I proceeded to tell him, as instructed, who had sent me.

His control slipped, face darkening, lips contorting. ‘So, he finally declares himself,’ he snarled. ‘And you? You are English? American?’

‘Neither, if it matters.’

He continued to smile, still more angry than afraid. ‘Have you come to kill me?’

I answered with a nod.

‘How much is he paying?’

I waved the question away as an irrelevancy. In this business, you don’t negotiate with your victims.

‘He just asked me to wish you a pleasant stay in Hell.’

He went white. His jaw tightened and his eyes flashed. For sure, he wouldn’t just sit there and let me finish him off. He knew he was confronting his quietus, so he had nothing to lose by trying to save himself.

For me, the squeezing of the trigger, while representing a perverse form of thrill, had always been a psychological fence, a hurdle to be cleared before the irrevocable ending of life. I was bracing myself for the leap when I heard the tattoo of high heels on wooden stairs.

What did I think?

From the get-go, you know that there is a depth to André Warner’s life that will keep you intrigued throughout the book. While Lex Lander hasn’t written the most original of books, I do think that there is a huge market for the ‘hit men’ style books and ‘End As An Assassin’ has a cat-and-mouse chase feel to it. The difference being that the hunter is now the hunted.

I did think that the love story was a tad predictable which is my reason behind the 4* review. That being said though, Lander has managed to provide a totally unexpected twist to the story. Right at the end of the book, just as I thought it was all over, I was completely and utterly shocked to read what I read. To say I didn’t expect it is a huge understatement.

This is the first book in the André Warner ‘Manhunter’ series, I’m intrigued to see where Lex Lander is able to take his story and I’m sure we will unearth more of Warner’s secrets along the way! I’m excited to learn more about the man behind the fake identities and kill contracts.

My Rating? ♥♥♥♥

Will you be adding this to your TBR pile?

Q&A with Lex Lander

Where did you find the inspiration for ‘End As An Assassin’? The inspiration for End as an Assassin came especially from wondering what makes a hit man tick. Can he be well-educated, humane ,cultured, sensitive etc. and still kill people for a living, albeit deserving cases. Another part, the more technical aspects, came from DAY OF THE JACKAL. which I saw first as a film, before reading the book.

How did you develop the characters and plot? Warner is based physically on a friend of mine from way back whom I haven’t seen for nearly 20 years. We were at uni together, and kept in touch until I moved to Canada. Aside from that I wanted to create a truly three dimensional character – educated enough to be able to express himself articulately (you need this for a first person viewpoint), but at the same time something of a romantic. A bit of a paradox in fact. At the start of the story he still carries a torch for his dead wife, but increasingly he is seeking a relationship with a woman, and some sort of normality in his life, maybe even children.  Somehow though, he knows, and maybe the reader knows too, that this will never happen, that he is destined to tread his chosen path until he gets killed or is too old. This becomes more apparent in Volume II.

What was the hardest part to write? The hardest part to write, oddly enough was the sex scene at the hotel in Monaco with ‘Dru’. I felt I might have gone a bit over the top, but I wanted to demonstrate that he was at rock bottom in his relationship with the opposite sex and in his life generally, and out of it would come a desire for change – a process already started by his retirement from the killing business.

What were your goals/intentions with ‘End As An Assassin’ and do you think you’ve achieved them? The only goal was to produce an entertaining, even gripping story. I wanted it to be off-beat, not follow the usual pattern of hero vs. villain, hero gets the girl, and all those other clichéd formats.  I have also tried to introduce a little humour at times, in Warner’s observations. I may not have succeeded! Also this was a slightly risky tactic as humour and contract killing don’t sit well together. Whether I have achieved my goal or not, only the jury that it is the reading public will be able to say. Commercially, I am naturally aiming to acquire enough of a following to enable me to write full time.

The story goes in to great depth of different areas/countries. Have you visited these places and which was your favourite? I lived in France and went to school there, so it is really like a second home. All the places mentioned have been visited by me, as I am reluctant to locate a tale in place I have never experienced first hand. France will always be my favourite, even though I hated going to school there, being the only British kid in the class. In Volume II Warner ranges further afield, though remaining in Europe.

I read the teaser chapter for the next book ‘I Kill’ – what does this have in store for Andre? Any teasers? Warner gets involved with a woman and her teenage daughter, and dreams of a normal life with an instant family. No chance!  He finds himself pulled into the sex slave trade and it becomes a vendetta to bring down a Dutch crime boss who makes a living out of pornography of the worst kind.  You ask for an additional teaser.  Warner and a seventeen year old girl sharing a house, with him trying to suppress his normal male instincts, her trying to break them down (she’s a provocative little minx), and the constant risk that an indiscreet word or phone call will blow his ‘respectable’ cover.

Again, a huge thanks to Lex Lander and Authoright for giving me the opportunity to appear on the blog tour for ‘End As An Assassin’!Be sure to check out the other blogs on this tour!

End As An Assassin

Share This: