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Book Review – Lost Girl by Anne Francis Scott

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Anne Francis Scott is a Readers’ Favorite award finalist author in paranormal fiction. She has a fascination for haunted houses, ancient cemeteries, and ghostly mysteries with a twist–passions that fuel her writing, giving her the chance to take readers to an otherworldly place and leave them there for a while. She hopes that journey is a good one…

 

To read more about why Anne travels down the haunted trail, see link below: 

annefrancisscott.com/about-anne

At the bottom of that page, you’ll find the recording of her interview with Real Paranormal Activity – The Podcast, where she talks (okay, maybe rambles a little) about some of her personal paranormal experiences.

For news on upcoming releases, cover reveals, and more:
Subscribe to Anne’s newsletter: newsletter.annefrancisscott.com

You can reach out to Anne with any questions or comments here:

annefrancisscott.com/contact

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Lost Girl

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A chillingly atmospheric story brimming with a sense of unease and tension. 

Lost Girl captures perfectly the sense of eeriness of a big old and deserted house stuck out in the backwoods of nowhere. The central character, Alison, has had a troubled past and is still fragile from personal loss and recent events, and has moved there from the city for a fresh start and to find solitude and peace and quiet for her work as a sculptor.

I’m not totally swayed by notions of the paranormal and was therefore glad not to have had to suspend my disbelief right from the offset. The story starts off quite sedately, giving the reader some insights into Alison’s character and situation. From then on though, the author slowly builds the tension and sense of unease with lots of little-unexplained things, some of which she tries to write off as her imagination. There are too many pieces to the puzzle for it all to be coincidence though and she soon suspects there’s a lot of history in her new house, much of it connected directly to her, but how or why is a mystery.

I also enjoyed that the paranormal aspects of the story were intertwined with living people and more earthly bound motives, events, and mystery, which for me, made this chilling story all the more credible, allowing me to put aside any initial scepticism I have about the paranormal. Although there was an element of horror too, it wasn’t overdone; the strength and quality of Lost Girl come more from the sense of atmosphere and genuine fear it creates as the story progresses rather than adding unnecessary blood and gore, though what there was of that blended seamlessly into the overall story. Writing-wise, there was good dialogue and characterisation throughout but without padding out the peripheral characters, all of which played their part in adding to the overall picture.

Lost Girl is an excellent stand-alone story but clearly leaves enough doubt and speculation at the end to provide a solid foundation for book two in what will eventually be a trilogy. Book Two has now been added to my reading list, and if its anywhere near as good as the first, then I’ll definitely be adding book three when it comes out.

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See HERE for Anne Francis Amazon author page

                                            

Short story – Never-Ending Wrong-Turn

Story no: 87 – First draft of another of my little under 1000 words flash fiction tasters –  Just one from one of my upcoming short story collections …

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Never-ending turn-off …

coma5It had been a long drive and Mason Garvey was tired. The rain and poor visibility had meant he had had to concentrate harder on the road than that for his more usual leisurely driving trips, adding even more to the fatigue he was feeling.  He really should have stopped and parked in a lay-by or one of the motorway services. Instead, he thought it better to simply increase his speed and carry on driving through the night; the thought of splashing out on some dingy hotel room or spending an uncomfortable night in his truck in a lay-by didn’t appeal as much as his own nice warm comfy bed. He was especially anxious to get home too for some much-needed sleep. He wanted to enjoy the celebrations on the eve of the end of the millennium the following day.

Just another two hours and he would be home if he didn’t drop below 70 mph. That might have been okay if he was still on the motorway but he wasn’t. He was on a country road with lots of twists and turns and overhanging foliage. The rain was coming down harder, and there was only the glare of his headlights to see by.

The benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing. We can learn so much from it, much like experience. Sadly, it wasn’t much use to Mason Garvey or going to change what had happened.

coma6It was just a fraction of second between taking the corner too fast and ploughing into the motor-cyclist whose body and bike were now lying sprawled some twenty feet away from his 4 tonne Bedford lorry. Mason reached for his phone, ready to dial 999 … and then he stopped himself … he needed to think, clear his head.

He’d been driving too fast. He’d been drinking. The motorcyclist had had right of way.  Did he really want to risk a lengthy prison sentence? And for what? For hitting someone he didn’t know during a momentary lapse of concentration, someone stupid enough to be riding a motorbike on the road at night and in the rain? Already Mason was rationalising a decision that suited him best.

coma4He looked around his truck for signs of damage. It was pretty old, already sporting its fair share of bumps and scrapes, ideal camouflage for a few additional bumps and scratches to the paintwork the accident might have caused. He looked too at his road atlas; he was no longer bothered about getting home in any reasonable time, just getting there via a route that avoided for as long as possible any likely CCTV or other monitoring equipment. There appeared to be a turn-off a few miles ahead. He got back in his truck to continue his journey, not even bothering to check on the motorcyclist to see if he might still be alive?

The accident seemed to have given him a second wind fatigue wise. A few minutes later he spotted the turn-off. He’d reached it quicker than expected but didn’t give it much thought. The turn-off looked more like a dis-used track than the ‘B’ road indicated on the map. He wasn’t complaining – it would lessen even more the likelihood of anyone spotting and remembering his truck. He continued down the old road. It was a real test of his driving skills, navigating the meandering stony and uneven single track. The trees and foliage appeared to close in on him the further he went, though never quite enough to halt his progress.

It was over an hour before the road appeared to widen again. He’d feared that he had got himself lost, already sure this wasn’t the ‘B’ road he had meant to take. Seeing the turn-off coming to an end, he increased his speed, anxious to leave the somewhat eerie road he was on …

It was just a fraction of second between taking the corner too fast and ploughing into the motor-cyclist whose body and bike were now lying sprawled some twenty feet away from his 4 tonne Bedford lorry. Mason reached for his phone, ready to dial 999 … and then he stopped himself … he needed to think, clear his head.

Mason Garvey got out of his truck, already regretful of trying to get home in such a hurry. He wished too he hadn’t stayed on for those last few drinks with his mates. There was something familiar about the scene but he was still dazed by the shock of what had happened and put it from his mind. But whatever his state of shock, he had enough of his wits about to know there was no way he going to do a lengthy stretch in prison for some bozo he didn’t know.

coma2He was in luck. According to his map, there was a turn-off just a few miles away that would take him most of the way home without re-joining the motorway. He reached it quicker than he thought … it was an eerie looking road. Mason wondered if it was the same one on the map? He didn’t care. It was leading away from the dead motorcyclist, and that was all he cared about.

The Rhondda Gazette

coma7‘… A motorcyclist was killed in a hit and run collision late last night or possibly the early hours of the morning. The man believed to be the other driver was found unconscious a few miles away having driven his lorry into a tree along a dis-used farm track, presumably in an attempt to avoid discovery and prosecution. Forensics confirmed the unconscious man’s lorry to be the vehicle to have hit and killed the motorcyclist …’

*

Mason Garvey remains in a coma to this day.  He remains trapped in his own mind and body, perpetually reliving the events of that rainy night, each time remembering and interpreting them a little differently … all except the ending, that remains the same. That remains his punishment.

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Book Review – The Darkly Wood series – A Double-Dose of horror from the pen of Max Power …

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FbMaxpowerHaving already read and reviewed Darkly Wood by Max Power (my favourite book back of 2014), along with several other of this author’s books,  I was delighted to see that he had written a sequel, Darkly Wood II.

As well as being an author, Max Power is a prolific book reviewer/blogger, and a valued contributor to the Indie Author Support and Discussion Fb group. Further IASDpicinformation on Max Power and his writing can be found at the following social media below and via other links at the end of this blog post … and speaking of blog sites, when you’ve finished all the author’s novels, and are eagerly awaiting the next (I’ve still one more book to go), his blog site provides an equally entertaining collection of his other writings to fill the gap. 

 

Blog – www.maxpowerbooks.wordpress.com

On YouTube – Max Power

On Fb –  @maxpowerbooks

On Twitter – @maxpowerbooks1

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Darkly Wood II – Available in both eBook & print editions …

Amazon Description:

This chilling sequel to Darkly Wood brings us back to the mysterious wood perched above the sleepy village of Cranby. The mystery returns with love and terror walking hand and hand through the seemingly innocent paths of the place that has generated many fearful tales. This time however, there is an even more sinister presence. Much time has passed since Daisy escaped the terror of the wood and on the surface little has changed. But behind the tree line, a new danger lurks. Fans of the original will be taken to darker depths and first-time readers will discover the true art of storytelling from the mind of the award-winning author Max Power. Heart-stopping, fast paced, unrelenting danger lies waiting for you between the pages. Sometimes love is all you have. Sometimes, love is not enough. Darkness is coming …

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Darkly Wood II

The woman who never wore shoes

By Max Power

timberwolfamazonA sublime and majestic myriad of horror …

Max2Having read and enjoyed the author’s first book in this series I was looking forward to reading the sequel. I must confess I had some doubts that it simply wouldn’t have the same impact second time around given that some of the mystery of Darkly Wood would already have been revealed to readers of the first book.

I’m happy to say that Darkly Wood II is every bit as creepy and mysterious, and even better than Book One; Max Power doesn’t just write stories, he literally sculptures every word and sentence with the consummate skill of a Michael Angelo, bringing to life the image in the reader’s mind like the subtle brush strokes of the classical artist adding that indefinable something extra that creates a masterpiece.

Like its prequel, Darkly Wood II embodies many different themes i.e. bloody and horrific murder, tragic romance, unrequited love, mysterious disappearances, the paranormal, and a host of others. Likewise, the format is similar to the first book in that it reads much like a book of short stories, all tied together by the central theme of the mysterious Darkly Wood. This time, however, there is more of a central character and story in the form of the ‘evil personified’ Wormhole,  a man (or monster?) every bit as mysterious as Darkly Wood itself, anchoring everything together in a more coherent manner. 

Readers of the first book will immediately see that that events have in their way come full circle, with two new generations of characters following on from Book One. Holly Coppertop, the granddaughter of Daisy May from the first book, having read the mysterious Tales of Darkly Wood finds herself similarly trapped and imperilled by it. Can Daisy May draw on her own experience and nightmares of that place to save her granddaughter and her daughter, Rose? And will she have to sacrifice herself to do so? But apart from this one nod to a chronological timeline, Darkly Wood, its characters and their stories, all appear to exist in their own particular corner of time and space, detached from the real world.

The many twists and turns here are only matched by the equally rich array of fascinating characters. Who could not be intrigued to know the background and stories of the other equally enigmatically named cast? Charlie Callous Colson, Blenerhorn Mastiff Wormhole, Matthew Squelby, and Cathecus Flincher are but a few of the new characters to wet the appetite. And lastly, there’s Darkly Wood’s strange metamorphosis of two of them into the ‘beast boy’ Woody twins? 

Whilst this book is hardly lacking in blood and gore, its strength, readability, and sheer enjoyment stem from the author’s unrivalled ability to weave a complex array of gruesome and creepy tales and folklore into something far greater than the sum of its parts – it’s like the stories of Hansel and Gretel have been given an Edgar Allan Poe make-over to form one super sublime myriad of horror.

A must-read for any fan of the classical and psychological horror genres. Can’t wait to for book three in this captivating series!

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See also my review below for the first book in the Darkly Wood series …

Darkly Wood

By Max Power

timberwolfamazonSuperbly reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe …

Max1This is a book that embodies horror, romance, and the paranormal in a way I’ve rarely seen. With a good opening narrative, right from the start the author conjures up an atmospheric sense of creepiness and the macabre reminiscent of a latter-day Edgar Allan Poe or Dennis Wheatley, so much so that one can almost imagine Christopher Lee or Vincent Price playing the part of one of the characters, particularly that of Lord Terrence Darkly.

Initially we learn of the mystery and horror of Darkly Wood by way of the central character, Daisy May Coppertop, reading through a copy of a book of tales about Darkly Wood – a book within a book so to speak but at that point that’s all they are, just stories, but certainly nothing to be alarmed about, at least not yet.

What starts off as Daisy and Benjamin, intrigued by the apparent sight of a strange looking boy in the distance, taking a seemingly innocent and pleasant walk along the edge of a nearby woodland soon turns into a dark and fear filled battle not just to escape its clutches but simply to survive. Faced with ever-increasing danger and a sense of time running out for them, the bond between Daisy, and Benjamin, her new found friend from the local village, grows into something much more than simple friendship or first love.

The writing technique is both clever and imaginative, using descriptive narrative to set the tone and atmosphere early on, using the opportunity to inform the reader of many nuggets of information that come into play later in the book, gradually introducing just the right balance of dialogue and action. The numerous but short chapters make for a very readable style of writing, and by way of the different tales of the book within the book, the author keeps the story alive and fresh throughout. In books such as this the author often requires the reader’s implicit consent to suspend their disbelief, but here the reader is left in no doubt whatsoever as to the mystery and horror of the wood; in one of the chapters the author cleverly demonstrates the ‘other worldliness’ of the wood when in one particular tale, someone trying to find their way out of the wood tries using their field craft skills to escape only to find all the laws of nature and physics don’t seem to apply in the heart of Darkly Wood. As the story progresses the seemingly unrelated tales of the wood draw closer to form an intricate pattern; surprises and shocks keep the reader entranced, drawing you in just as Daisy and Benjamin are drawn further and further into Darkly Wood. Filled with twists and turns and new revelations at every juncture, an amazing and diverse array of characters, and a conclusion as eerie and unexpected as anyone could imagine, this is definitely one of my favourite reads of 2014.

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 Please visit Max Power’s Amazon Author page for more info about all the author’s work …

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Max Power on the IASD … click pic below for link …

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Teething Pains – Flash Fiction short story

IASDpicNumber 10 in my Flash Fiction series (just 90 to go – yayyyy). A hint of horror but with a very small ‘aitch.’ Got a a1FlashFictionbit carried away with this one, but with a bit of ruthless editing, still managed to keep it just under 1000 words (966 for those who are curious lol).

If you’re enjoying these flash fiction stories, for some even shorter 100-word microfiction from different authors, see link below:

IASD Micro-fiction

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Teething Pains

bran1Jack and Mary were a couple of twenty-somethings travelling around Eastern Europe. They made a living from travel writing and blogging about their adventures and way of life. For the past six months, they had settled in Romania, exploring its picturesque views, the historic villages and towns and the imposing stone castles that dotted the countryside. It was a country Jack knew well, being able to trace his ancestry back several generations there.

It was during a stay at one such Gothic fortress, Bran Castle, that Mary fell ill. It didn’t appear serious, but with Mary’s recently discovered pregnancy they were taking no chances.

 

“She’s a touch anaemic I’d say and has a slight fever. A virus would be my best guess until we get her test results back,” Doctor Miereanu of the Bucharest emergency hospital was telling Jack, “but let me assure you, there’s no danger to the baby,” he added, guessing that’s what they wanted to know.

“Thank you. But this virus? I mean, have you any idea how she may have contracted it, doctor?” Jack asked.

“I don’t know at the moment, but if you’re taking her back to Brasov today, I’d ask your local doctor. I’ll give you a letter for him, and I’ll be emailing your local surgery some patient notes.

Despite being widely travelled in some of the most remote and primitive parts of the world, when it came to health matters, particularly someone he cared for, Jack’s mindset was firmly geared to the high-tech facilities of a modern hospital.

Upon their return, Jack took Mary to their local surgery, just like the Bucharest doctor had suggested. Apart from all the usual health and lifestyle questions, Doctor Dragulescu asked how long they’d spent at Bran castle and if they’d done any wild camping in the area during their travels. Jack thought the doctor was merely going through the motions with his questions, at least until about where they’d travelled in Romania.

“Yes, as a matter of fact, we did some hiking through the Carpathian mountains and surrounding forests” Jack answered. The doctor gave a gentle, knowing nod of his head.

“Is that relevant, doctor?” Jack immediately asked, sensing the doctor was holding something back.

“Possibly. I suspect she may have been bitten by something. Some of our local insects transmit a harmless virus that induces temporary fever, but like my colleague in Bucharest told you, it’s nothing serious that might affect the pregnancy.”

 

Within the week, apart from her continuing anaemia, Mary had recovered. Three months later she gave birth to a seemingly healthy baby boy.

The local villagers were happy for them. It was an area where people tended to have large families, and childbirth was celebrated.

Because of her recent fever and anaemia, Mary and Jack had decided against breastfeeding, fearing that traces of the virus she had contracted might still be in her system and be passed to their baby.

 

Little Jack Jnr wasn’t doing well at all. He’d hardly put any weight on since his birth, and cried almost constantly; it was more like screaming, really, the sort you associate with being hungry, yet he refused to eat, bringing up whatever little milk he could be coaxed into taking from his bottle.

bran2Mary and Jack worried at how pale and sickly their baby looked. Their friends and neighbours never commented on it though and continued to make a fuss of the new baby, assuring Mary the lack of appetite and constant crying would soon pass. The doctor had dismissed the young couple’s concerns, explaining the frequent crying as being due to teething pains; Jack Jnr was a rarity being that 1 in 2000 babies born with natal teeth. Even rarer in Jack Jnr’s case was being born with two front upper incisors.

 

Jack Jnr continued to refuse food, and after just a month, Mary decided she was over the virus and tried to breastfeed him. Jack Jnr seemed to quieten when she brought his face closer to her. A moment after putting his mouth to her breast, Mary recoiled in pain when she felt a sharp pain akin to a needle piercing her nipple. Jack Jnr seemed oblivious to her discomfort and appeared to be feeding. Mary instantly forgot the momentary pain, elated at seeing that Jack Jnr was finally feeding and had stopped crying. He suddenly looked a picture of health; even a trace of colour appeared to fill his otherwise deathly pale complexion.

After ten minutes or so, Jack Jnr ceased suckling, and she slowly put him back in his cot, not even noticing at first the trickle of blood around her nipple.

She gasped in horror when Jack Jnr smiled. She saw the two tiny front teeth in his top gum. Jack Jnr may indeed have been ‘a rarity’ as doctor Dragulescy had put it, having been born with some natal teeth, but these seemed much bigger than they should be and were dripping a small amount of blood. She thought it must be his gums, and that the traces of blood around her nipple was from Jack Jnr.

After that first breastfeeding session, Mary felt no more pain when Jack Jnr suckled on her. The traces of blood in each case, the doctor assured her, were down to the premature development of Jack’s front teeth and was nothing to worry about.

 

bran3At just three months old, little Jack Jnr was already sporting two impressive quarter inch front incisors that would protrude over his lower lip whenever he was hungry.

The locals too were delighted at the progress little Jack Jnr was making. It had been several centuries since Bran castle had boasted an aristocratic Count in residence.        

Dracula’s Castle as legend more accurately knew it would once again be restored to its former glory in the coming years, no longer just another tourist attraction.

 

 

Book Review – The Salby series …

It is with great pleasure I present my review of Salby Evolution, the second book in the Salby Eco/Zombie thriller series/trilogy. In addition to this latest review, I’ve also included my review of the first book in the series towards the end of this post for those readers intrigued enough to want to read book 1 first (highly recommended, you won’t be disappointed!). First though, a little about the author himself  …

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IanpicIan D Moore, as well as being a fellow author, blogger, and book IASDpicreviewer is also an Admin and one of the founding members of the IASD Indie Author Support and Discussion group and website:

www.indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com

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As well as this, his second novel in the Salby Eco/Zombie thriller series, Ian D. Youre Not Alone 3d inamge (1)Moore was also the instrumental force in bringing together a multitude of Indie Authors from around the world when back in 2015 he put the call out for submissions for his highly acclaimed anthology ‘You’re Not Alone’ in aid of the Macmillan cancer charity, in which I feel honoured to have had one of my own short stories included, and  to again be contributing a story for the 2018 edition in aid of Macmillan.

Click Here for Amazon link to You’re Not Alone 

 

Prior to embarking on his writing career, Ian D Moore previously served as a soldier and engineer in the British army, worked as a self-employed truck driver, and still works in commercial and domestic transport in addition to running a small online writing services business.

Ian D Moore is a UK based author and family man, and someone I greatly admire and respect both as a writer and as a person.

 

Salby Evolution (Salby Trilogy – Book2)

timberwolfamazon                 A multitude of story-lines that gradually converge to a thrilling conclusion – great sequel!

Although intertwined with the first book of this ongoing series, Salby Evolution reads extremely well as a stand-alone instalment, though in all honesty, personally, I would still highly recommend reading Salby Damned first to enjoy this one to the full.

evo1In book one the story was very much a localised one, concentrating on how the authorities would deal with a combined ecological stroke biological ‘accident.’ In this second instalment, the story naturally expands to the international repercussions of what could easily have escalated into the sort of zombie apocalypse only previously imagined in wild speculation.

The action switches from the UK to Russia, where characters who were central to dealing with the first Salby virus outbreak have been drafted in to help deal with a possible new outbreak.

This new chapter starts with two main storylines, one which quite seamlessly follows on from just a few months after the first book finishes, but with sufficient references to the past to bring new readers up to speed while providing a subtle recap for those who read book 1 first. As the story progresses, the original characters diverge to cover different aspects of the story i.e. determining if the virus has spread, has it changed, tracking down possible new carriers of it, as well as dealing with other parties equally interested in the Salby virus. Secondly, we have what I would regard as the main thrust of the story, an offshoot from the original outbreak but threatening a future one, initially running parallel to the original Salby virus outbreak of the first book but gradually catching up and converging with other threads of the ongoing story here.

I did think a little way into the book that perhaps the author had been slightly over-ambitious in the scope of the sequel with everything that was going on, the switching of perspectives and slightly different timelines but he skillfully drew all the different elements into a complex but extremely well-constructed story.

I was impressed by the way the author handled the varying stories and sub-plots, some featuring several characters from the first book and written from a third person point of view, consistent with the writing style of that book. In another, the reader is introduced to a couple of new characters but from the first-person perspective of leading man Simon, a stark contrast to Nathan, the leading man, and hero of the first book; Simon in comparison is a bit of an anti-hero, older, not the same sort of macho character and having many more flaws and personal demons of his own to contend with but still proving his worth nonetheless.

The switching back and forth between these different threads worked surprisingly well, especially the way in which the different timelines and stories converged in their relevance to the overall picture.

I was pleased that this sequel also paid homage to book 1 in that we were treated to a few more encounters with victims of the virus i.e. the ‘Deadheads’ – they served as a timely reminder of the surreal and terrifying consequences of the Salby outbreak – but the author didn’t try to rehash them for any sort of dramatic effect but instead took the story forward, and in new directions; what started as a surprisingly intelligent and believable zombie outbreak in book 1 (but with a small ‘z’ I’d say),  has moved slightly away from that concept and evolved instead into an equally intelligent but more complex thriller, again throwing together some of the same elements – cutting-edge bio-engineering, viral infection, and a military interest in the virus, but this time adding manevolent scientists, political ambition, and the threat of world threatening consequences – and like any good thriller, some nice twists along the way (particularly relating to Simon but some other good ones too).

Not only does this sequel expand upon the first instalment, the quality of writing itself has evolved and improved too – I gave the first book in this series a five-star rating but with the proviso that I thought it fell just short of that at maybe a 4.7 to 4.8 on account of a slight over-emphasis on military terminology that might slightly confuse a non-military reader. In this book though I think the author has got the balance exactly right.

A first-rate book both in its own right and as a sequel, and indeed as a prequel to some as yet unknown conclusion, a very easy and solid five stars for me!

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For those of you sufficiently intrigued, my review of Book 1 in this superb series …

Salby Damned (Salby Trilogy – Book1)

timberwolfamazonA chillingly realistic and believable scenario… Enjoyed it!

Although a fan of the film and televised Zombie efforts this is the first time I’ve actually read anything in the genre, having previously been skeptical as to whether it would transfer well to the written word.

Whilst I’ve always had to totally suspend disbelief in order to enjoy the Zombie genre in the past, with Salby Damned I was presented with a chillingly realistic and believable scenario that had me hooked right from the start. This isn’t the story of a world-wide fantastical epidemic but a more likely and localised disaster borne out of the merging of two highly topical issues, namely biological warfare and the more recent and controversial gas shale fracking.

IanD6The book cover put me in mind of the TV series The Walking Dead, but whereas that concentrated on the individual survival of a specific and isolated group of people, Salby Damned, although it largely concentrates on a few individuals, it also deals with how the authorities tackle the problem of a zombie-like plague, and how inevitably the military would play a large part in that. The author pays great attention to military detail, creating a very real and authentic feel to how a military base would house and protect survivors; I don’t just mean in terms of military accuracy, I would expect that from the author given his background, but by the way in which he conveys his expertise to the written word. As anyone who has even a rudimentary knowledge of the British military will know, it is filled with innumerable acronyms that can be very confusing to civilians, but the author explains and accounts for them very simply in the narrative without resorting to all sorts of contrived dialogue. My only concern here is that there might have been a tad too much emphasis on the military detail for those with no knowledge or real interest in that side of things, but for me personally, it worked very well. Speaking of the military, it was refreshing that the central hero as it were was a just a regular ex-soldier rather than ex-special forces as it made him more believable as a character – far too often, unless being ex-special forces is central to the story, such characters are made to appear almost super-human in their abilities, whereas here, Nathan’s vulnerability and frailties are just as evident as his strengths.

If I had to categorise this book, I’d say it was more a thriller than Science fiction or horror, though there are indeed elements of the latter. The story itself unsurprisingly concerns an apparent accident that results in a zombie-like plague, and then, Nathan an ex-soldier and a beautiful doctor, and the part they play in the search for a cure. Amid the subplots, we have courage and heroism, political and industrial intrigue, a touch of romance, and action wise, plenty of deadly encounters with the undead victims of the plague. In fact, some of the subplots were a real bonus to this story and definitely added to the overall enjoyment rather than simply being there to flesh out the page numbers. What was also refreshing about this book though is that unlike the film and TV ventures, it didn’t rely at all on sensational blood and gore for its impact.

If I had but one small criticism to make, apart from the ‘possible’ over-emphasis of the military and weaponry detail, it would be the lack of any anger and resentment towards those responsible for creating the circumstances in which the plague occurred, but apart from that the story was clever and well written, with a good balance of superficial though very credible science to add authenticity to the wider story. I was also extremely impressed with the way the author concluded the story, i.e. in not leaving lots of annoying loose ends that demand a sequel just for its own sake, but nonetheless surprising the reader with a few unexpected twists that leave the door open to one. If I had to give an exact rating for this debut novel I would say 4.7 to 4.8, but since I don’t I can quite happily give it a five. Would I read a sequel? Absolutely yes!

 

 See Also:

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On Fb – OneStopAuthorServices

www.twitter.com/ianstories

www.iandmoore.net

&

See Ian D. Moore’s Amazon Author page for his full catalog of work: 

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A Triple Treat for Halloween …

IASDpicWell okay, I know we’re another nine months off from Halloween but hey, give it another couple of months and we’ll be seeing all the usual adverts for Christmas and whatnot. It’s with great pleasure I present my review of IASD member Lacey Lane’s 2nd book in her Halloween Pumpkin Horror short story series and another of her short story collections, The Little Book of Horrors (and for those of you that missed the first one of the Pumpkin series I’ve included my review of Book One of that as well).

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The Revenge of the Pumpkins  – Amazon Blurb:

It’s Halloween and the Smith family are having fun carving pumpkins. As the witching hour arrives and the pumpkins come to life will the Smith family live to regret the monsters they created?
Find out what happens when the pumpkins come to life and take their revenge…

 

The Revenge of the Pumpkins

timberwolfamazonA tiny tale of sheer horror genius!

Lacey5Anyone looking for a gory Halloween story for kids, say twelve or thirteen upwards need look no further than Lacey Lane’s The Revenge of the Pumpkins; we all know what happens on Halloween, or at least we think we do, when little boys and girls dress up for trick or treating, or carve shapes and faces in to unsuspecting pumpkins, and in that respect the story here is no different, or at least to begin with – what starts off as a fun filled day for the Smith family, dressing up, and indeed, carving their pumpkins in preparation for Halloween night, quickly descends into a scene right out of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

What Lacey Lane has done with a seemingly harmless tradition, but which actually has its origins in ancient Celtic tradition when spirits and ghouls supposedly come back to haunt and cause mischief, is nothing less than sheer genius. The start of the story could easily be that of any traditional children’s story or perhaps a Roald Dahl tale, but it very soon takes a giant step into the much darker world of bloody and psychological horror – this is most definitely not a ‘young’ child’s bedtime story. Within this tiny tale of horror and revenge, and I say tiny because this really is little more than a ten-minute read, the author has managed to take a traditional story format and turn it on its head; the combination of seeming innocence and normality with incredulous horror is done to perfection. Without giving any of the plot away, all I would say is never underestimate or take for granted the power of a child’s imagination.

***

The Return of the PumpkinsAmazon Blurb:

Peter Smith is a patient at West Hills hospital. He has been there for nearly a decade. At the age of thirteen, his parents were brutally murdered and Peter was tortured to near death by his Halloween pumpkins. Killer pumpkins haunt his dreams and his doctor thinks he’s delusional. Determined to turn his life around, he has eventually decided to join in with the Halloween festivities in the hospital and carves his first pumpkin. Will Peter survive the tenth anniversary of his parents’ death? Or will his pumpkin be the death of him?

 

The Return of the Pumpkins

timberwolfamazonAnother delicious slice of horror filled pumpkin flavoured terror

Lacey4A dramatic and scary flashback to the first book provides the perfect springboard opening for Return of the Pumpkins. This sequel is much longer and is more of a psychological horror story than its predecessor; set ten years after his first bloody encounter with the demonic knife-wielding pumpkins, Peter is now a patient in a psychiatric ward being treated for the trauma he suffered many years before. Needless to say, the doctors believe Peter’s stories about killer pumpkins being responsible for the brutal murder of his parents and he himself nearly dying in a fire to be his mind’s way of dealing with whatever happened – Peter’s far from sure of that though and still harbours very real fears of Halloween and any thought of pumpkins.

The hospital setting alone conjures up a mental image of an asylum and helps add to the increasingly sinister tone of the story, the classic scenario of being normal while everyone around you are the insane ones; added to the mix we have some less than sympathetic hospital staff and a downright creepy doctor. Fortunately for Peter, he finds an ally in fellow patient Sue, who seems determined to befriend and help him deal with  his traumatic past. With her help, Peter develops a new sense of confidence and hope for the future, but as in any good story, events take a different direction, placing the two of them in the gravest danger, leading Peter to believe the murderous knife-wielding pumpkins are indeed real and not just the delusional creations of his imagination. How Peter and Sue face that danger provides a clever and frightening climax whilst leaving sufficient scope for another instalment to the series should the author decide to write one, which I hope she does.

With just a couple of characters it would have been easy for the author to write this story from a first-person point of view to really get inside the main character’s mind but somehow manages to achieve the same result with a third person perspective, an excellent balance between narrative and just the right level of dialogue and action.

As a psychological short horror story, this (and its predecessor) really is as good as they come, a story that would stand out as a classic Hammer House of Horror episode if it were ever adapted for film/tv – impossible for me to praise this story more highly!

 

***

The Little Book of HorrorsAmazon Blurb:

A deliciously wicked treat, no holds barred horror served up bloody with a side dish of sex. The Little Book of Horrors is macabre, disturbing, viciously satisfying and definitely not for the squeamish.

 

The Little Book of Horrors

WPscreenshotAdult horror in every sense of the word, three bite-sized helpings of horror. 

Lacey3Another quick read from this extremely talented horror author, this time a trilogy of blood and gore filled tales encompassing a mix of karmic justice for someone most deserving of it, a blood and lust fuelled sexy vamp encounter that you probably wouldn’t want to have, depending which side of the encounter you were on of course, and finally a mix of all three in the last tale of poetic justice.

The author has blended horror and a touch of erotica to produce three entertaining horror tales. I must admit to finding the first story a tad obvious but still enjoyable to read nonetheless. The two remaining stories were definitely more to my taste and in each case held my attention from beginning to end. I enjoyed the way the author combined an erotic setting and situation with a violent and bloody conclusion, and then in the final tale, my favourite I might add, again it was a relatively simple story and a tad predictable in where it was headed but it was told in such a way to keep you guessing just how it would actually unfold. Once again, enough horror here to keep any devoted fan of the genre more than happy.

***

More about the author:

Lacey Lane was born in the UK and as a child loved writing stories. At the age of 31 she decided to rekindle her passion for writing.

Her debut ebook The Revenge of the Pumpkins was first published in October 2014. Since then she has published five more books. With the current exception of Revenge of the Pumpkins, all Lacey Lane’s books are available in both Ebook and paperback formats.

Lacey’s other passions include reading and gardening along with being an avid reader and book reviewer. For further info please links below:

@LaceyLaneAuthor
www.facebook.com/laceylaneauthor

Lacey Lane IASD entry

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&

Lacey Lane’s Amazon Author page for all the author’s books …

Lacey8 Lacey5 Lacey7 Lacey4 lacey10 Lacey3

2 Short Story Reviews – The Consuming & Survival by Rhonda Hopkins

 

 

IASDBanner4

IASDpicHere are my reviews of two short stories written by Rhonda Hopkins, an avid reader and prolific reviewer as well as being a valued IASD member and contributor. Having already read and enjoyed ‘The Consuming’ I knew  I was on safe ground taking advantage of the free download of ‘Survival’ (though it has now reverted to its original price. Having said that, both are free to read if you have Kindle Unlimited).

***

Amazon Description: Survival: Survival Series Prequel

When Sarah escapes from her brutal abductors, she promises to return to rescue her twin sister, but with the walking dead invading Fort Worth, TX, she is forced to rely on a competitive coworker who made her work life hell for years. With her coworker weakened by cancer treatments, her sister still imprisoned, and zombies looking for an easy meal, Sarah’s only plan, if she can pull it off, is Survival.

SURVIVAL is a 14,000 word (approx. 45 pages) short story and was originally published in the Let’s Scare Cancer to Death anthology.

 

Survival: survival series prequel

timberwolfamazonA great start to what could well develop into a gripping ongoing series …

Rhonda2I haven’t read all that much in the Zombie genre so I can’t say how this compares with similarly themed stories but it certainly sets off at a cracking pace with the fight for survival starting right from the opening sentence almost; it was a nice touch that the initial ‘survival’ efforts were quite unrelated to the Zombie apocalypse occurring. It’s probably premature to make comparisons but the opening scene could easily be one straight out of the hit tv series ‘The Walking Dead,’ though the cover does invite such comparisons, which given its current popularity, I’m not sure is such a good thing.

Although it would read quite well as a stand-alone story, I’m glad the author indicates there will be future instalments thus hopefully allowing the reader to explore the characters in greater depth. It’s impossible to tell what direction the story will take in the future but the story has been written in such a way as to leave open all manner of possibilities and a yearning to know the hows and whys of the current situation the characters have found themselves plunged into.

 

***

Amazon Description: The Consuming

Serena knows her late uncle wasn’t crazy. So when she inherits his sprawling Carolina mansion and leaves the big city to restore both his home and his name, she uncovers a mystery that could cost much more than her sanity. As the house slowly reveals its dark secrets, and the extent of her peril becomes evident, she’ll settle for escaping with her life—if it isn’t already too late.

***

The Consuming: A short story

WPscreenshotA classic ‘haunted house’ tale of long-dead restless family spirits … 

Rhonda1A supposedly haunted dilapidated old house you’ve just inherited, the sudden death of an uncle you haven’t seen since childhood, rumours of madness, the locals refusing to go near the place, and a psychic best friend who warns you not to go near the place … It’s hard to say too much about a short story without giving too much away but here we have all the ingredients of a spooky little ghost story, the sort that would make for a great episode of Hammer’s House of Horror. I liked the author’s style of writing, hints of a modern Edgar Allen Poe but obviously more current and without overdoing the gothic atmosphere, striking just the right balance at the beginning between outward normality while feeling and knowing something’s not quite right. Sometimes a short story will leave too many unanswered questions but in one such as this, a bit of mystery left to the imagination just adds to its enjoyment.

Taking just under an hour to read, this is the perfect story if you like a little mystery and the supernatural in your reading but aren’t in the mood to take on the challenge of a full-length novel. Personally, I would have preferred this to be a little longer, perhaps with more involvement of the psychic friend but overall a fine short story that horror fans will appreciate.

Peer reviews: 

 “The Consuming by Rhonda Hopkins is the literary version of what films like Paranormal Activity tried to be. This has the bumps in the night flying off the page.”  ~~  TW Brown, Author of the Dead, and the Zomblog series.

“The Consuming is a wonderful, chilling tale that leaves you listening too hard in the quiet of a dark night, and jumping at shadows in mirrors. Definitely looking forward to more from Ms. Hopkins.” ~~ Stacey Joy Netzel, USA Today Bestselling author of Beneath Still Waters and Lost in Italy.

“The Consuming by Rhonda Hopkins is the perfect example of gothic horror…” ~~ Jennette Marie Powell, Author of Hangar 18: Legacy and the Saturn Society series.

“…Rhonda Hopkins’ The Consuming had me turning on all the lights in the house and checking behind doors.” ~~ Stacy Green, Author of Into the Dark and Tin God (A Delta Crossroads Mystery).

“…This tale will give you shivers up your spine, make you take second glances in mirrors…Superb!” ~~ Penelope Anne Bartotto, The Library at the End of the Universe.

More about the author:

Rhonda4Award-winning romantic suspense and horror author, Rhonda Hopkins, has learned firsthand that truth is stranger than fiction. Her two decades of experience as an investigator for her state and family courts give her characters a depth and realism that gives truth a run for its money. In addition to stories published under her own name, Rhonda Hopkins has also contributed stories to a number of other multi-author IASDpicanthologies. You can find out more about Rhonda at:

www.rhondahopkins.com.

@Rhonda_Hopkins

On Fb – Author page

 

 

See also Rhonds Hopkins’ Amazon Author page for all the author’s books

Rhonda3

Salby Evolution – Ian D. Moore’s soon to be released new novel

IanpicFollowing on from the success of his debut novel, this post is to introduce Ian D. Moore’s forthcoming book, Salby Evolution. First though, a little about Ian himself: Ex-soldier in the Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers, internet entrepreneur, and truck driver, Ian D. Moore has a vast and varied array of life experience to draw on in his writing. Regular readers of my blog and book reviews will remember my first mention of him when I reviewed Salby Damned back in August 2015. Since then he has become an established and well-respected figure in the world of Indie writing and publishing, having been the driving force behind You’re Not Alone, an anthology of short stories by Indie Authors from around the world who graciously and freely contributed stories in aid of the cancer support charity Macmillan Nurses. In addition to the Salby series of books, Ian D. Moore has had a short story featured in Eric Lahti’s Holes: An Indie author Anthology. He is also an avid reader and book reviewer, an admin for a popular Fb author group and a founding member and admin of its accompanying website at: www.indieauthorsupportanddiscussion.com

cropped-headerbooks1holes-anthology-iasd  IASDpic

***

Salby Evolution is the eagerly awaited soon to be published sequel to Salby Damned. Salby Damned was a fresh and innovative take on the Zombie genre, combining elements of science fiction, big business, and the controversial topic of ‘fracking’ to produce an intelligently written eco-thriller with a zombie (with a small ‘z’) themed backdrop. It has been well received, accumulating impressive reviews on both sides of the atlantic, and on Goodreads …

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In Salby Evolution, the second book in the Salby series, the devastating virus that gave rise to the zombie deadheads of the first book is once again sweeping the country… In the author’s own words…

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One man holds the key to our future. One man holds the key to our extinction.

The merciless Salby viral strain, sweeping across the country, spawns a new breed of predator.

Simon Lloyd, borderline alcoholic, must vanquish the demons of his past and change his single-minded ways.

Filled with resentment, he enters a world far removed from his own. He must choose to take a stand or risk losing his estranged wife and children forever.

Against overwhelming odds, unethical science and the prospect of eternal exile, the decisions he makes will shape the future of mankind.

***

Intrigued so far? If so then read further the exclusive preview …

Available August 1st(kindle) / (paperback TBA ): for pre-order at: Click here:

evo1

Chapter 1 – Rude Awakening

Salby, North Yorkshire, 0100 hours, three hours before the viral outbreak.

The medicinal bottle, positioned in the middle of the table, beckoned me once more. The glass, my favourite crystal tumbler, specifically set aside for such occurrences, called to me. I couldn’t though, not before work. I wiped the back of my hand across two days of growth—satisfying the itch—removed my glasses and pinched the bridge of my nose. My routine, unchanged since the split, trudged onwards in an endless cycle of work, eat, drink, and sleep. The sorrows simply refused to drown, no matter how deep the liquid I immersed them in. After five years, you’d think I’d have snapped out of it by now, and yet as I sat here contemplating those very thoughts, the burden remained.

.

My bag contained an unappetising sandwich, a limp, soggy ham and cheese, a flask of tea that usually carried an undertone of the contents before it mingled with plastic, and a book for the long nights spent waiting.

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For the last few years, I’d done little but walk the moors, aimlessly looking for something, only to return ‘home’ empty-handed. This wasn’t home, at least, not the home I recalled.

.
In effect, my sentence was to serve the mundane, the flame inside me thwarted, extinguished to monotony with only the barest glimmer of hope in retirement for the future.

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This would do no good—it never did. I hauled my self-pitying bones from the chair, pushed it neatly back under the table and grabbed the workbag. I winked at the bottle.

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“I’ll be back for you, later.” I muttered.

*****

My day started normally—as mundane as the rest of the week, really. It wasn’t until the early hours that things began to get a little strange. I worked the graveyard shift as a railway junction box operator and signalman for a major rail freight company. While a lot of the signal boxes and crossings were being made electronic, controlled by computers and machines, the company still had certain places that required the presence of an actual body. Me.

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I was on shift at a rural, local signal box, one I’d done many, many times before, one that was usually just a two-operation night. The 2159 from Salby came out of the power station, across the junction heading south for more coal, and then it returned from Leeds railhead at 0509 the following morning with a full load. That would pretty much be it as far as the actual traffic was concerned.

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Last night, it hadn’t happened that way—at least not entirely. Sure, the 2159 rumbled through with a honked horn from the driver as it passed. The locomotive ambled its way from the power station terminus to pick up the mainline route south, pulling the usual fifty behind it.

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I counted each and every one, just as I always do.

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The phone rang five minutes before; the railhead operator at Leeds Central let me know the train was on the way through, a safety procedure just in case any of the mainline trains had been diverted for any reason. That would allow me time to stop the train until I was given the all clear. There were no such concerns last night, and the train passed as usual, without incident.

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After it had gone, I settled back down in the worn, threadbare easy chair to watch a little TV. I’d maybe finish another chapter of the current book I was into, an indie author novel from an unknown writer, werewolves of all things. To be fair though, the book was very good.

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As usual, my mind wandered back to the break-up of my marriage. This ritual became my nightly, futile attempt to figure out what went wrong, who was to blame, and what the future held. There hadn’t been much contact with my ex-wife since the split; what dialogue there had been, usually ended in bitter arguments. The filing of divorce papers hadn’t helped matters much either, let alone what I thought were vastly over-calculated maintenance payments for our two children.

.
Although I visited my son when he was little a few times, lately there hadn’t been much in the way of quality time with either him, or his sister, whom I had yet to meet. This was something I planned to resolve, and I’d reached a point where rationality dawned. It told me that no matter what, it could never be the fault of the children for the break-up. I was, and would always be, their father.

*****

Now, marginally calmer having reached this conclusion, I pulled the plug on the TV and turned on the small radio to listen to the news bulletin. It was usually all doom and gloom, but there were some uplifting stories, sometimes. The music they played was a little more to my taste, too, given the hour. I sipped at the tepid tea from the stainless wrapped plastic of the flask lid.

.
At 0400, the radio presenter announced that an additional “breaking news flash” would interrupt the usual programming. I turned up the volume a little, listening intently as the newsreader reported an explosion, close to my home on the outskirts of the town. It wasn’t a million miles away from where my wife—stupid—ex-wife and children still lived.

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I thought nothing of it. The report was pretty vague: people missing, presumed dead at some sort of gas drilling site. From the beginning, it was vehemently opposed by the residents of Salby anyway. Hell, I signed the petition against it myself.

.
When the 0509 to Salby failed to arrive, that was breaking news, at least as far as my job was concerned. It never failed to turn up, nor, if I remembered correctly, had there never been a phone call from the main rail office to let me know that it wasn’t coming. Very strange. The procedure was simple from here on in. Dial the number to the rail office, which was only a small control centre on the tracks that passed Salby town, inform the controller, and log the call. No response. The phone rang and then rang some more. I dialled again, this time, the central rail control office in Leeds.

.

The fact that the train hadn’t been seen would have to be reported; then it could be left in the hands of people who got paid a whole heap more than I did to worry about such things. Today, of all days, this had to happen. Why, oh why can’t people do their jobs properly?

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If there’s one thing that really gets on my nerves, it’s slackers.

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The merciless, nicotine-stained clock on the wall jeered on— it must have been there for years, the same uncaring, unknowing regulatory professor of time. Tick, tick, tick, tick!

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At 0600, I would be turning the points back over to remote control at Leeds. The power station line only operated during the night hours, due to the length of the trains. I began to pack my night bag ready for the sedate ride home.

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It was only a few miles, usually no more than twenty minutes. All of the roads were national speed limit, 60 mph stretches, and at that hour, I usually missed the first of the early commuters heading in. Despite trying to call for half an hour without response, I transferred the signal box back to the main signalling offices at Leeds.

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With a last look to the grimy interior, I closed the door to the raised cabin and locked it with the master key—just in case there should be any curious kids playing near the lines later in the day.

*****

Once the proud owner of a shiny 4×4 with a whopping 2.8 litre V6 in the front, I found its days were numbered after the separation. It had cost me a pretty penny to get new furniture, not to mention the sizeable deposit on the rented house, now called home. The badass, gas-guzzling monster had to go, replaced with a more efficient, but slightly-the-worse-for-wear Vauxhall.

.

That was another of the niggling grievances in my mind. Every time I drove it, I always felt that it wasn’t supposed to be like this, that it wasn’t fair, and more to the point, that it wasn’t my fault.

.
I got behind the wheel and slammed the driver’s door a little too hard, forcing the ignition and revving the engine a little too much as the car rattled into life. The dust and gravel track road leading to the points’ office proved no match for the tyres as they kicked up plumes of chippings. I vented my angst on the accelerator, and took out my frustrations on the car itself, before mounting the blacktop main road with a distinct squeal as the traction changed.

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“Screw it, and screw you for leaving me!” I snarled at the windscreen. The stressed, furrowed face glared back without compromise. I fumbled in my jacket for the crushed pack of smokes. With a well-rehearsed tap on the centre console, the filter rose just enough for me to get a hold with my lips and pull the cigarette clear. I dropped the pack as the car lighter clicked its indication of readiness, pulled out the glowing red-hot implement, and seared the tip of my fix.

.
That first long, slow, deep drag was always the best one, and it calmed me down a little. The familiar tingle as the toxins hit the back of my throat, despite the constant angel at my shoulder, which waggled an ethereal finger along with the words: ‘You really should quit,’ felt comforting. The wisps of smoke curled up around my face as I blew out through my nose, slowly, revelling in the moment and in utter defiance of my impromptu celestial saviour.

*****

There were some nasty turns as you got out towards Salby—if you didn’t know they were there, they could take you by surprise. With a certain sense of ‘I told you so’, I noticed a car at the side of the road, the front end embedded in the drainage ditch. Skyward tail lights created a luminescent beacon in the surrounding mist. The driver, not used to the road, must have lost control. I slowed the car to a crawl as I passed the stranded vehicle, which didn’t look like it had been there for very long. Curled smoke from the tailpipe suggested that it had only recently come to an abrupt stop. No sign of the driver; perhaps they had gone for help to the small-holding nearby, in the hope that the farmer might tow them out to continue their journey.

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Given the weird night I’d had and the dark mood I was in, I decided to carry on home and pushed down on the accelerator once more. The front end of the car rose slightly as the power surged through the front wheels.

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My focus shifted back to the road, just in time to round a sweeping bend, but too late to avoid the sickening thump as something bounced off the bonnet. In my wing mirror, I saw it catapulted to the roadside by the impact of my car, nudging 60 mph. Unsure of what I’d hit, I slowed and pulled over, the engine still running as I sat for a few seconds just staring into the rear-view mirror, hoping it was just an animal that had run out of luck.

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The undulating mist obscured my vision as I peered into the murky half-light. The sun began to warm the morning dew from the grassy fields on both sides of the main drag, which sent ethereal, spectral formations floating up and over the hedges. I looked back over my shoulder towards the car, the gesture more to reassure myself it was still there, rather than anything else. An odd, uneasy, churning sensation in the pit of my stomach urged me to turn tail, return to the car, and flee—but I couldn’t though, it wouldn’t be right would it? I mean, what if they, or it, were still alive, lying there injured? I had to know. I had to find out. I popped the door and walked back towards the location of the body.

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“Uh—hello, is anyone there?” I called out sheepishly. I prayed for a clear window through the rising vapour or any chance of an unhindered view.

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“H—hello. Are you hurt? I have a phone. Do you need an ambulance?” I was conscious of the waver to my voice.

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A shape forming in the swirling maelstrom just up ahead made me stare first in disbelief, and then in horror, as a gap in the mist shifted between us. No more than thirty feet in front of me, the grey, boiler-suited form of a man, but that wasn’t what made me tremble.
The impact of the car had caught the victim at his right knee-joint, literally spinning the man’s leg and foot around 180 degrees. His left foot faced forwards, and his right foot faced directly behind him, yet the man still attempted to stand and miraculously, made it to his feet. He began to limp towards me. His twisted leg dragged behind him as he drew closer.

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I could see the expression on his face, which sent a cold chill running through my whole body. It pushed the boundaries of my resistance to the fear welling inside me to the absolute limit.

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“Jesus Christ! Your leg, mate! How can you possibly stand?”

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The wounded man staggered towards me. His face appeared distorted by a grimace that I could only put down to the agonising pain of his injury, enhanced by a low, guttural growl that came from between his tightly clenched teeth. When he was less than ten feet away, the piece of wood protruding from his chest registered in my brain. It was all I could do not to double over, instead gasping in a lungful of air in amazement as my gaze locked onto it, clearly able to see that it passed right through his body.

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When my car hit him, he must have been flung into the air and landed upon the wooden fencing which ran alongside the fields, shrouded by the hedgerows. I deduced that the impact must have sheared off part of the fence which he had become impaled by, piercing him a fraction below the breastbone, which surely must have missed his heart by mere millimetres. Yet here he is, limping ever closer.

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“Stop! Get away from me, dammit. How the hell are you still alive?” The question, I knew, was utterly ludicrous.

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No response from the approaching figure, no cries of pain, and no visible blood trail either despite the horrific wounds to his chest and leg. His right foot dragged uselessly across the ground every time he moved forwards, the sound chilling me to the core.

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He struggled to maintain balance, which caused him to veer off farther into the centre of the wet, misty road. I kept my eyes fixed upon him, unable to break my compulsive stare towards the fence stake, which rose and fell as he advanced. I had the good sense to take slow and measured steps backwards and to the side, in an attempt to get to the relative safety of the grass verge. This road had a reputation for high-speed at the best of times, an accident blackspot, in fact.

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I heard the rumbling diesel engine a matter of seconds before two bright, white eyes pierced the mire. The bulk grain wagon ploughed through the swirling mist. It hit the staggering, overall-covered man full on. The impact caused his body to fly past my position, held by the inertia of the truck before the driver punched the brakes. In a surreal moment, my head instinctively turned to follow as the truck screeched past me, missing my car by a hair’s breadth. My eyes followed the grain wagon; I cringed when I saw the sickening sway of the chassis as the wheels passed over the body. The truck lurched forwards as the brakes finally brought it to rest. Several haunting hisses, followed by one long exhale, saw the truck roll no farther.

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The driver’s door opened and I could just make out the figure of a burly looking trucker. He rubbed his eyes and forehead with a bit of rag in disbelief at what had just happened, stuffing the torn piece of cloth into his back pocket, where it dangled as he walked. Both of us stared at the crumpled pile in the wake of the truck, the mangled mess almost indistinguishable as ever being human.

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The embedded fence post stood vertical, akin to a stunted flagpole, which marked the spot where the body lay. Roadkill.

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The truck belched hot steam from its punctured radiator, merely adding to the swirling mist.

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“Don’t go any closer if you know what’s good for you. Just get back in your cab and drive. I’m out of here! There’s some weird shit going on,” I barked, as the man began to edge closer.

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“I had no chance to avoid him, did you see? He was in the middle of the road, I had no chance to miss him. You … you must have seen,” the flustered trucker babbled.

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“I saw everything, graphically. Get back in your truck, light a cigarette to calm yourself, and then get the hell out of here. I gotta go, this is some freaky shit,” I reiterated, already moving towards the car and fishing in my empty pockets for my cigarettes.

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“Here, buddy, take one of mine,” the trucker offered—his hand shaking as he held the pack. “What the hell should I do? I mean, I killed him, right? He’s gotta be dead. I need to call someone, the police, ambulance—someone.”

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“Just hold on there—um—” I began.

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“Oh, Jack—the name’s Jack.”

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“Well, Jack, just hold on there before you do that. You see, I hit him first. Just like you, he came from nowhere, in the middle of the road. He should have been dead, his leg was—and he’d been impaled through the chest, a piece of wood musta gone clean through him.”

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It poured out of me, to this trucker I’d only just met, in as big a mess as I was. I took a deep breath in, matched Jack’s earlier brow wiping pose and offered up a solution. “Okay, we need to see if he’s still alive, though I don’t know how he could possibly be. I thought I was having a bad day but—I’ll get my phone from the car first,” I resolved, as my senses began to return.

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I flopped into the driver’s seat. What made me check the rear-view mirror just then, I’ll never know, but I did. The mist began to rise slightly, and I could see the crumpled pile just behind and to the side of the large truck. I noticed the fence post, which should have been vertical, was now horizontal. The impact had pushed the post back through the body of the man, so it stuck out even farther from the front of him.

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“Shit, no way, man. No way! Screw that, it can’t be—there’s no way.”

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The sight sent me into panic overload. My hands fumbled with the ignition keys as I yelled over my shoulder through the open window.

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“Jack, get in your truck and drive—now!”

.

I didn’t hang around to witness more as the car spluttered into life. I rammed it into first before I popped the handbrake, revving the engine enough to make the tyres deposit a layer of burnt rubber as they fought for traction. I slammed the car into second and my foot to the floor. I was heading for the centre of town. I had to pass through it to get home.

*****

I came across only one other vehicle for the remainder of the journey, a sporty-looking Ford parked up in the lay-by, opposite Salby’s one and only pub on the main drag. It wasn’t easy to see in the early morning light as I approached. The hazy, halo hue faded to reveal the car more clearly. My gaze on the road ahead faltered, drawn to the vehicle, and I peered through the driver’s window. Empty.

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“Stuff stopping again. Wherever you are, you’re on your own.” I stated, resolutely.

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The town centre, eerily quiet as I drove through and minus the usual steady trickle of cars city-bound, was also a little strange. Was it a national holiday? Did I miss something? I didn’t know and couldn’t focus. My mind raced over the imprinted images, trying to figure out what could possibly have allowed that man, that thing, to live after so much damage. He/it was either very lucky, or very unlucky, whichever way the coin landed. I drew too hard on the fresh fix. The hot ash fell from the tip, landed between my legs, and onto the seat. My eyes followed the rolling ember as it disappeared under my crotch, and I frantically tried to get to it before it could burn a nice, round hole in the cloth covering.

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The first thing to hit me was a pungent, singed material smell; the next was the bee-sting pain on the inside of my leg. In what can only be described as borderline panic and unable to see clearly, I anchored on, pushed open the driver’s door, and practically fell from the vehicle. As a matter of instinct, my hands shot to my burnt inner thigh, swatting and patting even though the heat had gone. Anyone watching would have thought I’d finally flipped out. Content that I wasn’t actually on fire, annoyed, and in shock, I resumed my journey, cursing the tobacco angel.

*****

I pulled up outside my rented property, scanned through the windows, and half-expected to see the mashed body of the man crawling towards me as I surveyed the street. I could almost hear the scrape of the wooden fence post on the ground as he moved closer—but there was no such thing, only my mind playing more vivid tricks.

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Could it have been a weird dream? I’d been doing a lot of overtime hours lately; could I have imagined the whole thing? Being a thinker didn’t help matters. That was a personality trait of mine—as well as being analytical, logical, and direct, just like my father was. He was a draughtsman in his day, precise and reasoned.

.
‘Everything in its place, a place for everything,’ he’d said.

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I remember his forefinger, stressing the importance of his imparted wisdom, waggled inches from my adolescent, acne-rife face.

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I locked the car before walking around to the front. The shallow dent to the corner of the wing provided visual confirmation. On balance, I resolved to deal with it after some sleep. It was just too much to think about right now, and the prospect of trying to explain it to a desk sergeant at the police station didn’t seem too appealing. Besides, I had twenty-four hours to report an accident and I wasn’t the last person to run over the guy.

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After a good few minutes of mental debate on my way into my second-floor apartment, I’d argued myself into a plausible plan, and finally, at 0730 as the sun broke through the veil, I pulled the blinds and fell to my bed.

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It took over an hour of tossing and turning before my mind committed to rest, and then only for a couple of hours of short, fitful sleep.

***

For further links to Ian D. Moore and his writing see:

Blog: The Quill Pen Writes

Blog: IndieAuthorsupportanddiscussion

Amazon: Author profile

Goodreads: Author profile

Twitter: @ianstories

Murderous Little Darlings – Book Review

Murderous Little Darlings is the first book by John Hennessey I’ve read and reviewed, another author from the IASD stable, but it certainly won’t be the last. I actually downloaded this little gem of a book on a whim when I saw a post in the IASD Fb group without even reading the Amazon freebie sample first… though the fact that the author had mentioned it was Free to download on kindle might have had something to do that considering I had already gone way over my monthly book buying budget! Having said that, I’ll be more than happy to pay for any future books I read from the is author.

hennessypicJohn Hennessy is the British author of paranormal fantasy horror for YA, psychological horror and murder mysteries, plus his own unique take on vampire lore. He has also written ghost stories and delved into high epic fantasy with a hint of romance.

A kung fu addict; he teaches martial arts full-time but writes at all other times, working on four series:- Dark Winter, Haunted Minds, Stormling and A Tale of Vampires.

When he doesn’t have a book in his hands, he likes to travel and see weird and wacky things. He admits to having an unhealthy addiction to Star Trek, Batman, Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to name but a few. He will also travel to reputed scary places in England, as he feels it makes his books more real.

John has an exclusive Readers Group where they can receive FREE Story Previews and Chapters from his books: available on his blog/website at: http://johnhennessybooks.blogspot.co.uk/

 

Amazon Blurb:

With two specimens of the undead on either side of her, Juliana knew there was no escape. Kill the one they had selected for her, or be killed, and become one of them. What had the neighbours in the road called them, back when their childhood pranks were just that?

Oh yes, she remembered now. Murderous Little Darlings. They had the faces of angels, but possessed the very soul of the Devil.

Marcus had fully embraced his vampire side from the moment he was born. Rocco was the second eldest, and had fought the temptation all of his life. Then Marcus finally broke him.

That just left Juliana. Will she resist them, or join in the hunt?

A vampire novella which is the first in a Tale of Vampires Series. In A Tale of Vampires, there will be seven short horror stories that can be read alone, but should really be read in order. Murderous Little Darlings could be considered a dark urban fantasy. When you’re finished reading this, go straight to The Blood and the Raven.

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Murderous Little Darlings

By John Hennessy

(Available from Amazon in eBook & paperback formats)

FREE on Kindle !!!

5Starscropped

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Pre-teen blood thirsty little monsters… or are they?, 24 Nov. 2015

hennessy9cI read this novella in under two hours but it was two hours of darkly humorous pure entertainment. I’m not really a fan of gory horror so a story involving vampires wouldn’t normally appeal but the humour and unusual scenario of triplet pre-teen vampires kept me hooked from beginning to end. For the real purist fans of the vampire genre expecting black cloaked Dracula like characters only coming out at night, avoiding crucifixes, and sizzling away at the touch of a drop of holy water, this might not be to their liking but if you enjoy your reading full of dark humour and the unexpected then this is definitely worth a go.

I particularly liked the line ‘Oh yes, she remembered now. Murderous Little Darlings. They had the faces of angels, but possessed the very soul of the Devil.’ I wasn’t sure at first if the three young siblings really were vampires or whether it was all just the over-active imagination of Marcus the eldest convincing the others of it. Whatever they are or turn out to be though, as the story progresses it becomes clear there is definitely something sinister and different about them. In terms of traditional vampire characters they defy all the usual traits and stereotypes but given their tender years and being ‘born’ of a vampire rather than ‘turned’ as it were, the reader can allow their own imagination to run wild with speculation. The indiscriminate violence along with the blood and gore was well handled without venturing into over elaboration of it – in fact it was well incporporated into the story when you consider Marcus’s extreme youth; it’s hard to conceive of such a young boy commiting gory acts of murder but Marcus knowing (or believing) himself to be a vampire with superhuman abilities but without all social constraints and discretion we learn as we get older, its easy to accept his violent behaviour, and the others too as they come round to his way of thinking. You do have to suspend disbelief at times but considering this is a tale of child vampires that’s hardly surprising; the siblings’ dialogue and manner of speaking is rarely what you would expect from youngsters but given their apparant vampire nature and existance the story remains entirely credible.

Just when you think you can see the direction the story is going or the end in sight, events take a totally unexpected and impossible to foresee turn. Were this a stand alone story I might have been a little disappointed, being left wanting to know more about these characters and perhaps their further developement and adventures. Thankfully this is just one of a whole series of related vampire tales, all of which will be going on my reading list for the future.

 

 

Further links to John Hennessy’s writing:

John Hennessy on Facebook:

https://twitter.com/_JohnHennessy

John Hennessy’s Amazon Author page:

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The John Hennessy collection: click on thumbnail for Amazon links:

……………………hennessy1 hennessy2 hennessy3 hennessy4

……………………hennessy5 hennessy7 hennessy8 hennessy9a

…………………..hennessy9 hennessy6 hennessy9b hennessy9c

Skin Cage – Book Review

nico3My easiest five star review of the year.  5Starscropped

Another amazing author from the Indie Author Support & Discussion Fb group, Nico Laeser is one of our most talented and prolific contributors. As well as being an excellent writer, Nico Laeser is also an extremely talented artist and graphic designer, who along with Eric Lahti, was responsible for the redesign of the IASD Fb & Website Banner.

IASDBanner4

Click on Banner for website link

Skin Cage is one of two books by the author, and he is near to completing a third at the time of this review. In addition to his two novels, he has also had short stories featured in two of the IASD anthologies, Ian D. Moore’s You’re Not Alone: An Indie Author Anthology – an international collection of authors supporting the cancer charity Macmillan nurses, and Eric Lahti’s Holes: An Indie Author Anthology – promoting the work of Indie authors…

……………………………………………holes       Youre Not Alone 3d inamge (1)

Holes: An indie Author Anthology  – You’re Not Alone: An Indie Author Anthology

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Further links to Nico Laeser and his writing can be found at:

Nico Laeser’s Amazon Author page:

Nico’s Facebook Author page

 Twitter – Nico @nicolaeser

Nico Laeser on Tumblr

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Note:  As you will see from the following review I’ve prefaced it with the author’s own Amazon blurb; it’s often a dilemma as to how much plot detail to include in a review without giving too much away or simply repeating what the author has already said. In the case of an Amazon review, not to include such detail doesn’t present a problem generally as anyone reading the reviews are already likely to have read the the said blurb, but with a blog review it’s likely this will be the first time the reader has even heard of the featured book hence my inclusion of the blurb here…

Amazon blurb for Skin Cage:

Daniel Stockholm was fifteen years old when a parasite hijacked his brain, rendering him paralyzed and reliant on machines that run day and night to keep him alive.
For nine years, Danny has been confined within a biological prison with only two small windows, through which to view the world around him; a silent witness to the selfless compassion of some and the selfish contrivance of others.
When the malicious actions of care worker, Marcus Salt, threaten to push Danny farther from the ones he loves, and deeper into the dark recesses of his skin cage, he is left with only one option. He must find a way out.

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Skin Cage

By Nico Lasaer

(Available from Amazon in both eBook and print formats)

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nico1A clever, skilfully told, and highly original story, bringing together subtle elements of science fiction, horror, and the paranormal, but in no way overly veering into any single genre. Initially the story explores what it’s like to be trapped in your own body, aware but unable to move or communicate in any way, a veritable living nightmare as it were. The story is narrated from a first person perspective, some of which is told via flashback, which considering the story is told very much from the mind and thoughts of Daniel the principal character, is to be expected and works exceptionally well for a full length novel. Daniel’s life is at times well worth living while at others it is made almost unbearable by those whose job it is to care for him … which of these particular states depends just on who is doing the caring at the time.

I won’t go into too much detail about the story itself as it would be all too easy to give too much away but what I can say is that it is both heart-warming and heart-breaking in equal measure, and full of surprises and unexprected turns. Some of the issues raised in Skin Cage are both emotive and thought provoking, which along with its page turning quality, compel the reader to take in every line and word as they imagine themselves in Daniel’s shoes; it’s impossible not to empathise with his lack of privacy, dependancy on others, the inevitably limited outlet for his emotions, and then hope for some miracle that might change Daniel’s life. In a way that miracle happens but not in any way the reader might have forseen. In retrospect it does take a leap of the imagination to accept the changes in Daniel’s world and surroundings as the story progresses but at the time of reading, the story flows quite seemlessly from one scene to the next. The story that follows is one that will stay in the mind for a very long time of those fortunate enough to discover this book.

Not only did the story itself hugely impress me but also the articulation and eloquence of the writing. Quite often a very good story or idea is let down by the latter but in this case the sheer quality of the writing propels the story into something quite phenomenal; the reader isn’t just a party to Daniel’s thoughts and emotions courtesy of the first person perspective,  but is immersed entirely in his world – his senstations, what he’s hearing, feeling, seeing and even tasting. Science fiction, the paranormal, and horror are not usually themes I would equate with what might be called literary fiction but in this instance the comparison would be well deserved.

I’ve read across many different genres over the past year so it’s hard to make comparions but this is probably my favourite book of the year, and probably the best written too. This is the first of Nico Laeser’s novels I’ve read but it certainly won’t be the last…

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Nico Laeser’s books: Click on thumbnails for Amazon links
nico2 nico1

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