ARC REVIEW: The Shadow Man – by Helen Fields

Title: The Shadow Man
Author: Helen Fields
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: February 4th 2021
Publisher: Avon
Finished reading: November 25th 2020
Pages: 400

“Time stood still here, the same ritual repeated, until the grave was little more than a revolving door between one world and the next.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Avon in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’ve been meaning to start the D.I. Callanach series for ages now, so when I saw Helen Fields was having a new stand-alone coming out in 2021 I just couldn’t resist the temptation to finally try her work. I have to say that I’m most definitely a fan now! Thriller fans: make sure to add The Shadow Man to your 2021 wishlist, as you will be in for an absolutely thrilling as well as shocking ride.

I’ll keep things short to avoid spoilers, but what I can say is that in The Shadow Man you will find yourself an extremely fascinating and terrifying serial killer in the spotlight. Being able to get a glimpse inside his head and learn more about the reasons behind the way he is and why he does what he does is absolutely intriguing. Definitely kuddos for originality here! The other character in the spotlight, forensic psychologist Connie Woolwine, makes for an excellent counter character too and I loved both her kick-ass personality and personal background with the achromat details. The cast of characters overall makes for a very interesting mix and with the help of different POVs we get a full perspective of the different angles in play.

The plot and building up of suspense was solid, and I really liked the focus on the psychological angle suplementing the police investigation. Connie and DI Baarda make for a great team and I liked how some of the bantering made for a great balance in between the more shocking scenes. There is also plenty of action in The Shadow Man, and the writing makes it really easy to just keep turning those pages. Fast, suspenseful, disturbing and action-packed: you won’t find a boring minute as you sit on the edge of your seat and keep your fingers crossed they will able to stop him before it’s too late.

All in all, The Shadow Man is an excellent crime thriller featuring an unique and shocking serial killer I won’t forget any time soon. Highly recommended if you enjoy the genre!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #190 – Cemetery Boys & One By One

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two more Goodreads Choice Awards nominees belonging to completely different genres… Cemetery Boys is a YA fantasy with a Latinx trans main character which I now understand all the hype about. And I’ve enjoyed Ruth Ware‘s books in the past, so there was no way I could resist One By One for long… Sadly I ended up feeling underwhelmed by the story though.


Title: Cemetery Boys
Author: Aiden Thomas

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: September 1st 2020
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Finished reading: November 14th 2020
Pages: 352

“Why do you have to prove anything to anyone?”
“It{s just how it is, how it’s always been. In order for them to let me be a brujo—”
“You don’t need anyone’s permission to be you, Yads.”


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I’ve been seeing Cemetery Boys mentioned a lot and as it was nominated in two Goodreads Choice Awards categories, I decided to see for myself what the hype was all about. And I must say that I definitely understand now why so many people rave about this debut! I haven’t seen many books with a well developed trans representation before, and to have a Latinx trans main character at that? Talk about a double bonus! I especially loved the building up of the fantasy/paranormal part of this YA urban fantasy, as it’s packed to the brim with Latinx culture and references to the Dia de Muertos celebrations. On top of this, we have a lot of diversity in the cast and I just LOVED both Yadriel and Julian. Sure, I wish some of the other characters would have been fleshed out beyond a few key characteristics, as some fell a bit flat for me… But the spark of Yadriel and Julian mostly made up for that. And I most definitely didn’t see those final twists coming! I liked how everything was wrapped up too and this is without doubt an excellent read for anyone who enjoys a well written YA urban fantasy that will both make you cry and bring a smile to your face.


Title: One By One
Author: Ruth Ware

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: September 8th 2020
Publisher: Scout Press
Finished reading: November 17th 2020 
Pages: 384

“They think that life can’t touch them – just like I used to do.

Only now it has. Now life has them by the throat. And it won’t let go.”


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 Well well well, what do we have here? I guess it’s another unpopular opinion review to add to the pile. While I tend to have mixed reactions to Ruth Ware‘s books, I did love her previous two titles so I had high expectations her newest One By One would be another winner. Especially since I always love a good locked room mystery in the first place, and the blurb sounded absolutely brilliant… Sadly, somehow I ended up feeling quite underwhelmed by this story. It’s not a bad read perse, but it’s considerably slow and I found the whole thing to be rather boring most of the time? Not up to the point that I would DNF of course, but I never felt invested in the story either and there were a lot of parts that dragged for me. I also saw at least one of the big twists coming quite early on, which put a damper on things… And the whole Snoop stats each chapter were quite annoying. The dual POV is cleverly done to get a better perspective on what is going on and I really liked the setting, but I didn’t feel anything for the characters in play so it was more difficult to connect to them or care what happened. All in all not my favorite read of hers by far, but I know others who have loved it so don’t give up on my account.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #189 – Dead Girls Don’t Lie & Beach Read

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a TBR jar pick and a new release belonging to different genres… Dead Girls Don’t Lie sadly ended up being a miss for me, but I’m happy to say that Beach Read most definitely lived up to the hype for me.


Title: Dead Girls Don’t Lie
Author: Jennifer Shaw Wolf

Genre: YA, Mystery, Thriller
First published: September 17th 2013
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Finished reading: November 11th 2020 
Pages: 352

“Everyone is equal, right? Just some people are more equal than others.”


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It has been months since my TBR jar decided it was about time for me to finally read Dead Girls Don’t Lie, but somehow I never actually picked it up until now. The blurb sounded interesting enough, and I was curious about it, but I guess in the end my instincts did smell something funny and made me look in the other direction for months. Don’t get me wrong; it is not necessarily a bad read, but most of it turned out to be just so darn cliche! Sure, the ending came as a surprise, but overall there were so many cliches involved, both relating to high school, teenage relationships and immigrant talk (some even felt a bit racist?!)… Especially the way the Mexican community was described and Eduardo’s constant use of ‘boba‘ was a really turn off for me, but that might just be a personal thing. The characters themselves fell rather flat for me, or were at least partly described with cliches and weren’t exactly easy to connect to as a result. What I thought was going to be an investigation into Rachel’s death turned out to be a rather bland and slow journey packed with cliche references to Mexican gangs and high school jocks and students. Dead Girls Don’t Lie didn’t end up being my cup of tea at all, but if you enjoy the genre and don’t mind cliches/bland characters/a slower pace, this story might work better for you.


Title: Beach Read
Author: Emily Henry

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 19th 2020
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: November 12th 2020
Pages: 384

“Happy endings don’t matter if the getting there sucks.”


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I’ve honestly been a bit hesitant to pick up my copy of Beach Read. There has been a lot of hype around this title, and you all know how hyped books and me tend to get along… But my curiosity won in the end and I just couldn’t help myself reading it despite the sometimes mixed reviews. And guess what? Beach Read turned out to be an exception to the rule and I loved my time with this story! I’m glad of the warnings this wasn’t going to be a light read though, because I would definitely have expected a romcom judged by the cover… But I think I liked what I found even more. Both January and Gus managed to grow on me quite quickly and I loved the bookish element in Beach Read. Sure, there might be some cliches involved and I felt like the whole ‘enemy to lover‘ trope didn’t reach its full potential, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this was exactly the kind of story I was craving. Heavier topics and sad moments are mixed with lighter ones and I loved the banter between January and Gus. And to my surprise the sexy scenes didn’t even bother me that much, which once again proves I can tolerate them as long as they are written in a certain way… I also liked how everything wrapped up in the end, although I do admit the secondary characters lacked fleshing out a bit. Still, as a whole Beach Read is without a doubt one of my romance highlights of the year and I do hope she will write more similar stories in the future as I like the way she writes her romance.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #188 – He Started It & Only Mostly Devastated

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two Goodreads Choice Awards nominees belonging to different genress. He Started It sadly didn’t live up to expectations for me; something I’m still surprised about… Only Mostly Devastated turned out to be a great read though.


Title: He Started It
Author: Samantha Downing

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: April 30th 2020
Publisher: Penguin
Finished reading: November 10th 2020
Pages: 400

“I wonder how many bad things have been explained by such a simple phrase, a simple idea. Because I could. Because no one stopped me. Because it was easy.”


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Well, well, well, what do we have here? I guess it’s unpopular opinion time again… So many people have praised He Started It and after loving her previous book My Lovely Wife I was fully expecting to have a repeat experience with this one. Especially since I always enjoy road trip stories in the first place… I’m not sure if it’s because psychological thrillers don’t seem to work as well for me right now, but the fact is: I was bored. A LOT. Up to the point that I kept wondering when the cursed road trip was finally going to end so I could get this story over with. The pace was just way too slow for me, which is strange as the characters are basically in constant movement… But there was just something static about the whole story. Top this with highly unlikeable characters and I had a really hard time to stay invested. True, there were some surprises including the ending, but overall sadly I can’t say I enjoyed my time with this one.


Title: Only Mostly Devastated
Author: Sophie Gonzales

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: March 3rd 2020
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Finished reading: November 13th 2020
Pages: 272

“We had no way of knowing what the future held. People changed their minds, people passed away, people moved unexpectedly. The only thing we could ever really do was play it by ear.”


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I admit that I was sold as soon as I saw the Grease mention… I must have watched that movie a million times as a kid, so I simply HAD to read Only Mostly Devastated for nostalgic reasons alone. I must say that I was expecting more of a fluffy romcom after the cover and blurb, which I can confirm that this story is not. In fact, Only Mostly Devastated is quite heavy on the more serious topics and has a healthy dose of drama as well as heartbreaking moments. And no, they are not just relating to the relationship between the main characters as the blurb might make you think… There is a big focus on Ollie and his parents trying to help his aunt and her family as she is fighting cancer, which might be triggering for some readers. That said, I did think this topic was quite well handled. Thankfully we will see lighter moments too, and I especially loved seeing Ollie interact with his new friends as well as his niece and nephew. Both Will and Ollie could get a little frustrating at times, but overall I did have a great time reading this story. Would I have loved to see more Grease elements? Most definitely. But I liked this spin off very much and it has a great cast of characters that will most likely appeal to those who enjoy the genre. Just make sure to brace yourself for quite a few heartbreaking moments thrown in instead of just your regular dose of fluff… Chocolates and tissues are probably mandatory.


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ARC REVIEW: Deadly Betrayal – by OMJ Ryan

Title: Deadly Betrayal
(Detective Jane Phillips #4)
Author: OMJ Ryan
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Detective
First published: November 22nd 2020
Publisher: Inkubator Books
Finished reading: November 15th 2020
Pages: ?

“Now she wondered if she had been spared each of those times because her fate was to die in the place where she had been born: Hong Kong.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Inkubator Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’ve been following this series ever since the first book came out last year, and Deadly Betrayal is already Detective Jane Phillips book number four… And without doubt another action-packed and entertaining ride! Technically you might be able to read this one as a stand-alone, but I don’t recommend it as you will be missing out on character background that might make it harder to understand the dynamics between the different characters. The case itself stands on its own though, and Jane Phillips and her team without doubt have another intriguing case on their hands.

The first thing that stands out in Deadly Betrayal is that this time around we don’t just stay in Manchester and its surroundings. Oh no, we get to travel all the way to Hong Kong for a few chapters as well! I really liked how this aspect of the investigation was incorporated into the plot and the descriptions and personal connection to Jane Phillips really made that setting come alive for me. And such shocking scenes too! The whole possible Triad connection in general managed to raise this story to the next level for me, and really gave the story an original touch.

These books always read superfast and Deadly Betrayal is no exception. This is one of those detective series where it’s best to clear your schedule, as you won’t even notice hours have passed until you reach that final page and stare at the clock. You won’t find a boring minute in Deadly Betrayal as it is packed with suspense, danger as well as your typical murder investigation. I had a brilliant time following Jane and her team as they try to get to the bottom of what is going on… And there is no doubt that this story ends with a bang too.

As for the characters… I’m still a fan of both Jane and her team. They are easy to like and their banter is a nice contrast with some of the heavier and action-packed moments of the story. Fox is still enormously frustrating though, and the story ends with a hint a different irritating character is going to be coming back in the next book… Overall, the plot and writing made up for those minor frustations though.

In short, if you enjoy the detective thriller genre and like your stories fast, suspenseful and action-packed, this series will always provide you with an entertaining ride.


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ARC REVIEW: Breathe Your Last – by Lisa Regan @bookouture

Title: Breathe Your Last
(Detective Josie Quinn #10)

Author: Lisa Regan
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Detective
First published: December 9th 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: November 6th 2020
Pages: 350

“If they knew what I’d done, I’d probably go to prison. If I went to prison, I wouldn’t be able to play my little game. Where would be the fun in that?”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Bookouture in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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We all have our series we cannot wait to get back to, those characters and settings that feel like old friends every time you have the pleasure to return to when you pick up a new installment. The Detective Josie Quinn series is exactly that for me. I’ve been a fan of this detective series ever since I read the first book back in 2018, and I’ve devoured every single sequel since then. This series is known for its lightning fast and action-packed plots, and I can definitely recommend clearing your schedule as it will be really hard to stop reading once you’ve read the first chapters. These books are highly addictive and simply exhilarating!

While technically you could read Breathe Your Last as a stand-alone, I would suggest reading the books in order as you will be missing out on significant character background otherwise. And trust me, you will be missing out on hours and hours of detective thriller entertainment in the first place! Breathe Your Last has once again a very interesting plot as well as developments on a personal level for Josie Quinn. It might not be all too credible to have that many criminals and serial killers running around in the small town of Denton, but I’m not complaining as it means more Josie Quinn adventures to enjoy! Things can be said about the credibility in general, but I personally don’t mind as I’m always too busy turning those pages and having fun.

We get to see the story unfold both through the eyes of Josie and the killer. The chapters with the killer’s POV were particularly interesting, as I always appreciate an opportunity to get a glimpse inside the head of a serial killer. The plot was another interesting one, and you will find yourself on the edge of your seat as the case starts to develop. It definitely won’t be easy to guess the identity of the killer early either! You will also find a healthy dose of action and suspense, and I confess at one point towards the ending my heart nearly stopped and I suddenly wanted to throw my kindle at the wall… Trust me, you will know exactly what I’m talking about as soon as you reach that point in the story. I really liked how everything was wrapped up though, and I’m already looking forward to the next one. What a read!

If you enjoy a well written, fast and action-packed detective thriller series that just keeps delivering, you should definitely find the time to schedule a meeting with Josie Quinn. This is without doubt one of my favorite detective series, and Breathe Your Last is another winner!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #186 – We Were The Salt Of The Sea & Anxious People

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Today is translated fiction day with two translations… The first, We Were The Salt Of The Sea, somehow sadly didn’t work for me at all, but I absolutely loved my time with Anxious People. No surprise here, as I adore everything Fredrik Backman writes in general…


Title: We Were The Salt Of The Sea
(Enquêteur Moralès #1)
Author: Roxanne Bouchard

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: 2014
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: October 25th 2020
Pages: 300
(Originally published in French: ‘Nouse étions le sel de la mer’)

“Sometimes all we want is for time to stop catching up with us.”


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Okay… I’m not sure what happened here, but I guess it’s unpopular opinion time again? I’m still surprised as I’ve never had an Orenda miss before and fellow bloggers seem to love We Were The Salt Of The Sea… But somehow this story just didn’t seem to work at all for me. It might just have been the wrong time for me to pick up this story, but the fact this that I really struggled with both the writing style and plot in general. Somehow, I was never able to connect to the writing, and the catch phrases of some of the characters (‘Heee’ and ‘Christ in a chalice!’) REALLY got on my nerves after a while. Instead of making it easier to recognize the characters, it only made me like both the characters and the story considerably less… Always a complication but even worse in a mostly character-driven story. And as much as I loved the setting and the many descriptions of the sea, the plot was a bit all over the place for me as well. On top of this, We Were The Salt Of The Sea also included one of my mayor pet peeves: cheating. I never react well to this element and although this is a personal reaction, it made me dislike Morales considerably. It didn’t really help improving my reaction to the story in general either… All in all We Were The Salt Of The Sea definitely wasn’t my cup of tea, but most people do seem to enjoy it a lot better so don’t give up on my account.


Title: Anxious People
Author: Fredrik Backman

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 25th 2019
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: November 3rd 2020
Pages: 336
(Originally written in Swedish: ‘Folk med ångest’)

“Anyone can nurture a myth about their life if they have enough manure, so if the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, that’s probably because it’s full of shit.”


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This was easily one of my most anticipated releases this year and I simply couldn’t wait to pick it up… I know that I am a bit biased when it comes to Fredrik Backman‘s books, but I absolutely adored every single minute I spent with Anxious People. There is just something about his writing and humor that is a match made in heaven for me and this newest story has once again shown me why he is one of my absolute favorite authors. He is an absolute master in creating flawed and strangely likeable characters, and we have another fantastic cast in Anxious People. True, there are a lot of different characters in play here, but each is so unique that it is really easy to keep them apart… And they all add there little something to the plot too. I liked the structure of the plot, with different POVS mixed with police interviews with the different witnesses. You are kept in the dark along with the police officers about what really went on inside that apartment, and I thought that the different twists and the hidden identity of the bank robber was cleverly done. Humor and heavier elements are blended perfectly, and I found myself snickering more than once along the way. Fredrik Backman‘s characters have once again won over my heart and this is hands down one of my favorite stories I have had the chance to read this year.


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ARC REVIEW: Harrow Lake – by Kat Ellis

Title: Harrow Lake
Author: Kat Ellis
Genre: YA, Thriller, Horror
First published: July 9th 2020
Publisher: Penguin
Finished reading: November 2nd 2020
Pages: 320

“But when you’re alone in the dark, impossible things grow bones and flesh.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Penguin in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’ve been curious about Harrow Lake ever since I first read the blurb. The horror movie element, the small town where strange things happen… It sounded like the perfect premise for a creepy read, and also a perfect story to read close to Halloween. And while I did end up having mixed thoughts, I can’t deny that Harrow Lake nailed that creepy and eerie vibe.

There is no doubt that the star of the show is the town, Harrow Lake, itself. Between the many descriptions, background as well as what is happening in the present, this town gives us the perfect backdrop for the story. Creepy, eerie and with a hint of the supernatural… It gives us that perfect ominous feel and a hint of foreboding; you just feel in your bones things are going to get out of hand fast. The history behind Harrow Lake was intriguing, and I loved how seamlessly the story switched between the supernatural and the ‘real’ world. I could also really appreciate the important role the horror movie Nightjar played throughout the story. As Lola revisits the many places that were part of the movie her father filmed there, you will learn more about the town itself as well as her missing mother… The upcoming movie festival also adds that little something extra to the plot.

That said, I can’t say that I was charmed by the main characters at all. Especially Lola started to get really annoying, and I swear that if she says ‘Optimal‘ one more time I’m going to smack her in the head. I found her personality itself to be rather bland too… And I didn’t really get a proper feel off the rest of the characters either. Like I said before, the town itself is the true star of the show and I almost felt like it had more personality than the characters itself… I can’t say that I was a fan of the ending either, and I saw some of the twists coming quite early on. The writing did make it quite easy to keep reading though.

All in all it wasn’t a bad read and I most definitely loved the horror movie element as well as that eerie Harrow Lake setting, but there were also elements that didn’t work that well for me. If you like creepy reads with a hint of the supernatural and a thoroughly developed eerie small town setting, Harrow Lake might just be for you.


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ARC REVIEW: The Last Thing To Burn – by Will Dean

Title: The Last Thing To Burn
Author: Will Dean
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: January 21st 2021
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton / Atria Books
Finished reading: November 4th 2020
Pages: 256

“There is no handcuff keeping me here, there is no manacle locked around my ankle. And yet I am imprisoned.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton/Atria Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I really enjoyed Will Dean‘s writing in his Tuva Moodyson series, so I knew I wanted to read this stand-alone as soon as I first heard about it. I mean, have you seen that blurb?! A man keeping an illegal woman trapped in his home, pretending to be his wife… That most definitely sounds like a rock solid premise to build your story around. I had a feeling that I was going to enjoy my time with The Last Thing To Burn, and my instincts turned out to be absolutely right. You will want to clear your schedule for this one, as it will be REALLY hard to stop reading before you reach that final page. Unputdownable indeed!

Like I said, the premise itself is rock solid. While you can argue that nothing much is going on, as it is basically the two main characters inside the same house in the middle of nowhere during most of the story… But its power is in its simplicity. With other distractions stripped away, the sole spotlight is on that house and what happens inside. This gives the story an even bigger impact, and the descriptions of the tired house and its surroundings most definitely set the right tone for the story. An air of desperation, loneliness and a hint of foreboding… You will know things will escalate, and the future seems bleak, but you won’t be able to stop reading to see if things will improve against all odds.

The Last Thing To Burn is a character-driven story, and the focus is mainly on Thanh (Jane) and her ‘husband’. We see the events unfold through Thanh’s eyes as we learn a little about the past, but mainly about what happens in the present. It’s a truly terrifying and inhumane situation she finds herself in, something so hopeless that it is hard to imagine how she could ever find a way out of it all… Plot developments and twists will arrive along the way, both showing her strength and moral dilemma as she considers the consequences of her actions if he finds out. The last part of The Last Thing To Burn definitely amps up the suspense and action, and I was literally biting my nails as I kept turning those pages. The ending was more than satisfying!

All in all The Last Thing To Burn is a brilliantly written, atmospheric and suspenseful character-driven thriller and a title to watch out for in 2021. Enjoy thrillers and wonder what to put on your wishlist for next year? You have found your next addition.


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BLOG TOUR EXTRACT: The Coral Bride – by Roxanne Bouchard #extract #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @RandomTTours

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Coral Bride Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. Today, I will be sharing an extract of the second Detective Morales book set in Canada. Originally written in French and expertly translated by David Warriner, in The Coral Bride Roxanne Bouchard returns to main character DS Joaquin Moralès as he once again struggles to conduct a proper investigation without interference. Curious already? Let’s look at the summary before we continue to the extract itself…

What an introduction! It sounds like our main character will have his hands full once again… The sea theme seems to be a trademark of this series, and will again play an all important role in the plot. Are you ready for more? Below an extract to entice you further…

EXTRACT Continue reading