In a crumbling old mansion in the English countryside, eleven people gather, each one famous in their field. They have been invited for a three-day house party, to celebrate the launch of a groundbreaking virtual reality game that promises to unite the worlds of technology, politics and the environment.
DCI Maarten Jansen has been summoned to join the house party. His instructions are to offer police protection in case of an outside attack. Instead, he finds simmering tensions, long-buried secrets – and a murderer in their midst…
This book was straight up addictive. Packed across three tense days, it jumps between height of the crisis and the build-up. The chapters are short and suspenseful, divided into the perspectives of Maarten, Filip, Lois, and Iqbal. There is a sense of watching each scene through a smudged magnifying glass. I felt simultaneously imbued with the heightening tension between the characters and kept at arm’s length from the truth simmering beneath them – right up until the last moment.
The secluded countryside mansion setting adds a layer of claustrophobia to the taut atmosphere. The threads binding the guests together wind tighter with each conversation. Each page vibrates with energy. Rachael Blok’s writing has an urgency that keeps the reader almost stumbling in excitement to read the next sentence.
Into the Fire hits that spot between a totally unputdownable mystery and a fascinating delve into human emotion and relationships. It totally engrossed me and gave me a much-needed shake from my lockdown lethargy.
Thank you to Midas PR and Head of Zeus for having me on the blog tour!
Today I’m part of the blog tour for Nemesis by Anthony Riches, and I’m excited to be sharing an extract below! If you like the sound of it, scroll down for links to where you can grab a copy.
First off, a little about the the book…
They killed his sister. Now he’ll kill them all.
Mickey Bale is an elite close protection officer. That’s why the Met police has given him the toughest job of all: guarding the Minister of Defence at a moment when Chinese-British relations have hit a deadly boiling point. And when Mickey’s life isn’t on the line for his work, he’s taking his chances waging war on a powerful London gang family. Their dealer supplied a lethal ecstasy pill to his sister, and Mickey is determined to take them down, one at a time. But will he get away with it – or will his colleagues in the force realise that the man on an underworld killing spree is one of their own?
The black Loake boots, Mickey decided. A perfect match for black Wrangler Arizonas, and freshly resoled in rubber. A midnight-blue shirt, and that was him ready. Externally, at least. Looked in the mirror and got a quizzical stare back. Michael James Bale. Age forty-three, no distinguishing marks. A nondescript face, nothing to make him stand out. Not the tallest of men at six foot one, but solid. One hundred and eighty-five pounds of gym-toned muscle honed at his local boxing club. Good genes too. Strong, and in good shape. In his prime, pretty much.
Roz met him at the bottom of the stairs. The usual examination, before letting him out for the night. Looking up at him with that expression. The all-knowing, all-commanding, straight-to-the-point woman who’d charmed him over a decade before. And who still had him in the palm of her hand after all that time. With her dark hair that she wished was blonde. The all-seeing brown eyes that she wished were green, like Mickey’s. And a body that she kept very, very well toned. ‘Giving you no excuses, Mickey Bale,’ as she frequently told him. Not that Mickey wanted any excuses. A childhood spent watching his friends struggling through the debris of their parents’ failed relationships had taught him the value of holding on to what worked. And not letting go for anything.
‘Shaved? Sure there’s no-one waiting for you?’
He grinned in the way that always disarmed her.
‘Oh they’ll be waiting all right. Empty glasses and “where you been all this fucking time?” looks.’
She laughed with him. Knowing his friends well enough.
‘You will keep drinking with that lot. What do you expect?’
He let his face assume what she called his chump look. Lips pursed, eyes rolled up. Waited a moment, timing being the secret of comedy. Then face-palmed and shook his head.
‘Now you tell me?’
‘Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing.’
‘Wait… what? You’ve seen through my plan?’
A swift prod in the breadbasket to reinforce her point.
‘You come it the poor me, but really you love it. Talking shop with the boys, playing up to the image. Flash Mickey. With the guns and the cars and all that.’
He shrugged. ‘Beats the alternative, doesn’t it? Beats actually working. You know how that would have gone.’
‘Yeah.’ She turned him round and pushed him to the door. Slapped his backside for emphasis. ‘Go on. Back by eleven though; you’ve got an early start.’
He grinned at her again, accepting the heavy-lipped kiss. The door closed behind him as he stepped out into the early spring night. Down the Crescent and out onto the High Road. Warm enough in his black Belstaff jacket that had cost a fortune the previous month. Strolling under the streetlamps, he zipped it up to his neck. Clicked the placket pop-studs shut. Checked that the wrist and pocket studs were closed too. Knowing they would clatter if left unfastened. Then fastened the neck strap, not wanting the buckle to flap around.
He paused on the corner with Jervis Road. Looked up at the CCTV camera above his head. Frozen, lifeless on its gimbal mount. Still out of action. Just the way Warren liked it. Mickey quietly slipped into a doorway and squatted down. Affecting to fiddle with a bootlace. Peeped round the corner, looking down the pavement. The club opposite Warren Margetson’s pitch would still be nine-tenths empty. Its drinks too expensive while the pubs were open. But Warren was already on duty. As any good dealer would be. A professional, of a sort, Warren. And there was more than one sort of client in his line of business. Some of them dabbling. Some of them hardened recreational users. Some of them functioning addicts. And some just victims. Like Katie.
About the author Anthony Riches, coming from a family with three generations of army service, has always been fascinated by military history, psychology and weaponry – which led him to write the Empire series set in ancient Rome. The idea for his first contemporary thriller, Nemesis, came to him under the influence of jetlag at two in the morning in a Brisbane hotel room. He lives in rural Suffolk with his wife, two dogs the size of ponies and a bad tempered cat.
I was tagged to take part in this on Instagram, but my answers ended up exceeding the allowed character count – so I’m putting the full Q&A on here!
A book that changed my life
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I read this at 15 and it totally blew my mind. It was such an intense read; I felt like my mind was breaking down alongside Raskolnikov’s. It was so deeply atmospheric and immersed me so strongly that it left an incredible impression on me. It’s one of my favourite books to this day. I’m also consequently obsessed with the idea of visiting St Petersburg, which I haven’t managed to do yet – but one day!
A book I’m looking forward to reading
The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper. It’s set in Pompeii’s lupanar, focusing on the lives of the women who worked there. It’s such a fascinating topic and I really can’t express just how excited I am for it!
My favourite read of 2020
It’s a tie between The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel and Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo. I’d been waiting for The Mirror and the Light for 8 years before finally getting to read it, and it was a strong end to a brilliant series. Girl, Woman, Other was so original and powerful. Even if 2020 was one hell of a year, at least I read some great books!
A book I obsess over
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami (My favourite novel of his. I’ve reread it more times than I can count). Turkish Delight by Jan Wolkers and The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I’m excited to expand on these in individual reviews! Also Wolf Hall again (sorry to be repetitive!).
My favourite classic
Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, and (as mentioned) Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Goodbye to Berlin and Crime and Punishment both fall into the ‘atmospheric’ categories, with the locations of the books being characters in their own right. This always appeals to me because it makes the whole reading experience more immersive and I’m always left with a feeling of nostalgia for places I haven’t even visited. Which is some pretty powerful writing! Lolita was so masterfully crafted, I couldn’t put it down. The hideous subject is wrapped in the beauty of Nabokov’s writing, leading to a simultaneously repulsive and riveting window into Humbert Humbert’s twisted mind.
A book I didn’t really like
Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James. This isn’t because I have a problem with romance or erotica, because I don’t at all! But I did find this book problematic. Its representation of kink and BDSM was worrying and potentially harmful as it inspired many readers to dip their toes into BDSM, but misinformed them. There was a total lack of consent, communication, and boundaries. Which isn’t presented as a good thing – but it is BDSM that is vilified, rather than Christian Grey’s violation of boundaries. Eventually, Christian abandons the dom/sub style relationship, and he and Ana transfer to vanilla. I think this portrayal of BDSM as something messed up or inherently harmful totally ignores how essential trust and communication is in order for this type of relationship to be healthy and successful – which it absolutely can be. It’s good that people raised this issue and it became a discussion, but considering how much the book exploded in popularity, I do worry about its message.
An enemy is dangerous. A traitor is lethal. They call them the Taskforce. Designed to operate outside the bounds of law, trained to exist on the ragged edge of human capability, their existence is as essential as it is illegal. Recruited from top operators in the intelligence spheres and led by ex-Special Forces Operator Pike Logan, they’re a formidable unit. Prepared for anything. And they need to be. Whilst aiding an ex-Taskforce member on the run from Chinese agents, Logan uncovers a plan to bait Taiwan into all-out war by destabilising their government and manipulating their artificial intelligence-controlled defence system. With the threat of conflict reaching boiling point, Logan alone realises that all is not what it seems. For a man used to confronting his enemy in close-quarters combat, he faces a dilemma: how do you defeat an enemy that you can’t see? Read the latest book in the electrifying Taskforce thrillers from New York Times bestselling author and former Special Forces Officer Brad Taylor
I ventured into new territory with this book since its subject isn’t one I’m well-versed in. However, one of my resolutions this year was to expand my reading repertoire – and I’m so glad I did! American Traitor was exactly what I needed to inject some excitement into a January lockdown filled with grey skies and apathy.
Brad Taylor doesn’t waste any time. He pulls the reader in right away, and the plot is fast paced from the get-go. An action-packed page turner that kept me reading late into the night, it was also very informative. I learnt a lot about China’s relationship with the West. The book deals with complex issues, but the clear explanations make them both easily digestible and interesting.
The book is written from variety of perspectives. There’s an interesting mix of first person for Pike, the protagonist, and third person for surrounding characters. This really fleshes out the novel and allows readers to understand the feelings and motivations of other characters, while keeping the focus on Pike. Reading the opposing POVs of both Pike and the antagonists gives the whole reading experience an edge, particularly during a chase!
Pike Logan is a fascinating hero. Like steel forged in fire, he’s strong and adaptable, converting his emotion and hot temper into cool-headed action. I especially loved his relationship with Amena, the Syrian refugee he rescued then adopted.
American Traitor is unflinching. Taylor is unafraid to show the violence of reality; he doesn’t wrap his readers in cotton wool. Part of what makes the book so absorbing is how close to home it feels, even for those who aren’t that familiar with this particular strand of foreign affairs. Having read this book, I certainly feel encouraged to do more research into them.
I haven’t read the other books in the Taskforce series, but plenty of background was given and I was able to follow the story and understand what was going on. I’m definitely planning to pick up the other books in the series! I absolutely recommend American Traitor – it’s a great read both for a dull winter and every season in-between.
A huge thanks to Aries Fiction for having me on the blog tour!
About the author
Brad Taylor is the New York Times bestselling author of the Taskforce series, with nearly 3 million copies sold. He channels his decades of experience as a Special Forces Commander in the US army into his thrillers. In the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment—Delta, Taylor commanded multiple troops, a squadron and conducted operations in classified locations. Now he lives in Charleston, South Carolina, with his wife and two daughters.
A Perfect Paris Christmas was the second book I won in @tangentsbb and @ariafiction‘s giveaway! What better setting for an atmospheric Christmas than the streets of Paris?
Keeley has received an offer that most people would kill for: the opportunity to spend two weeks in Paris, all expenses paid. The only thing is, it comes from the mother of the woman who donated her kidney so that Keeley could live. Still grieving from the loss of her sister, Keeley has a choice: to hide from her fears, or face them. When she meets Ethan, a handsome French hotel owner, maybe she’ll discover that facing them isn’t as scary as she anticipated…
Another brilliant Christmas romance from Mandy Baggot, and I enjoyed it just as much as the last one. At a point in time where travel feels like a distant memory, living vicariously through Keeley wandering through all the beautiful areas of Paris was exactly what I needed. Mandy Baggot describes settings so evocatively. I really felt like I was right there rummaging for gorgeous vintage finds at Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen or walking over the cobbles of Rue des Barres. With this book you get a wonderful guide to Paris as well as an enchanting story!
I loved reading from the perspectives of both Keeley and Ethan and delving into their thoughts, feelings, and pasts. Baggot is sensitive and insightful in her exploration of grief, loss and healing.
I really enjoyed this moving and original novel, and would absolutely recommend it to anyone looking for their perfect Christmas read.
I was so excited to win this book (and A Perfect Paris Christmas) in @tangentsbb and @ariafiction‘s giveaway! It’s been a rough year for everyone, and this book provides the heartwarming, festive, and very timely escapism we all need.
Set in London, the novel’s heroine is schoolteacher Emily, who’s having a Christmas nightmare. Her flatmate’s moved out and she’s been charged with writing the school Christmas musical despite being no virtuoso. Meeting disgraced superstar Ray in an unlikely encounter could be the answer to all her problems with the show – and with her own heartbreak.
I loved Emily, a protagonist who is quirky, interesting, and easy to root for. It’s wonderful to see how much she cares for her pupils, who are all written with individuality and nuance. I especially enjoyed Emily’s vintage obsession (as a fellow vintage fanatic)!
Mandy Baggot also explores serious issues such as grief, loss, abuse, and alcoholism. These themes sit perfectly at the heart of the novel, giving it gravity while not displacing its lighthearted atmosphere.
The end result is a book with a perfect blend of warmth, humour, and depth.
I read this book in one sitting. That’s how good it was. A true thriller, it kept me reading on and on, desperate to discover what happened next. The book is about Kate, an artist and super-recogniser for the police. Six months ago, she had a car accident that took away her ability to recognise faces. While recovering from the crash at the hospital, she met Rob, a 29-year-old tech entrepreneur who was organising a charity art exhibition at the hospital. A few short months later, things have gotten serious and she’s already convalescing at his house in Cornwall. One day, he confides his greatest fear to her: his doppelgänger. He’s already met him once. The day he sees him again, says Rob, will be his last.
The next morning, something about Rob seems different. Are Kate’s super-recogniser powers coming back? Could Rob have indeed been replaced by his double? Or is she sinking into a vortex of paranoia? And was her car accident really an accident?
We aren’t just limited to Kate’s perspective and also get to hear from Jake, Kate’s writer ex, and Silas, her ex-boss policeman. Also prominent in the book is Bex, Kate’s ebullient Northern best friend.
This book takes you on a dizzying journey of tightly constructed plot twists, and delves deeply into the question of how well we really know anyone we love. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a read they will be completely unable to put down.