Murder at the Mill by MB Shaw: Excerpt and US Giveaway

Description:

Iris Grey rents a quaint cottage in a picture-perfect Hampshire village, looking to escape from her crumbling marriage. She is drawn to the neighboring Wetherby family, and is commissioned to paint a portrait of Dominic Wetherby, a celebrated crime writer.

At the Wetherby’s Christmas Eve party, the mulled wine is in full flow – but so are tensions and rivalries among the guests. On Christmas Day, the youngest member of the Wetherby family, Lorcan, finds a body in the water. A tragic accident? Or a deadly crime?


Prologue

Christmas Day 2017

The sound of the water was deafening. This stretch of the River Itchen was narrow, little more than a stream in places, but it was deep, and the current was fast, causing the ancient waterwheel to churn and splash and creak with unexpected ferocity, like a battlefield’s roar. Somewhere in the distance, church bells were pealing, fighting theirway through the din. Five o’clock. As good a time to die as any.

Tying on the stone was easy, despite the darkness and the noise and the cold that numbed one’s fingers. Everything had been easy, in fact. All that fear, the stomach-souring anticipation of the act, had been for nothing in the end. Everything had gone exactly according to plan. So far, anyway. There was a symmetry to that, at least, the satisfaction of a job well done. One could even call it a pleasure of sorts.

Across the bitterly cold water, the lights of Mill House glowed warm and inviting. Through the sash windows of the Wetherbys’ grand draw- ing room, a Christmas tree twinkled. Gaudy and colourful, rising out of a shiny sea of discarded wrapping paper, torn from joyously opened gifts, it had clearly been decorated by children, as all Christmas trees should be.Few things in life were sadder than an ‘adult’ Christmas tree, tastefully decked out in themed colours. Where was the magic in that?

Not that it mattered anymore. Nothing mattered anymore.

The water was as cold as stone, cold enough to make one flinch. But only momentarily. It was time to let go. The river opened up eagerly to receive its Christmas gift, pulling it down into the familiar black depths with the cloying, greedy embrace of a lover.

Feet first. Then legs. Torso. Head.

Gone.

On the opposite bank of the river, a torchlight danced.
Lorcan Wetherby, youngest son of the celebrated author Dom Wetherby and his wife, Ariadne, had ventured outside to play with his Christmas presents: a Scooby-Doo flashlight and a motorised toy boat, his pride and joy. Lorcan could still feel the excitement of the afternoon, when his oldest brother Marcus had pulled the big parcel wrapped in holly-sprigged paper out from under the tree. Handing out Christmas presents one by one under the tree after lunch was a family tradition, prolonging both the agony and the ecstasy for generations of Wetherby children.

‘ “To Lorcan”,’ Marcus read aloud. ‘ “Merry Christmas and all our love, Mummy and Daddy.’”

Lorcan had torn at the paper like a puppy, emitting a squeal of pure delight when he saw it. Exactly like the one on TV.

‘Remoke control!’ He beamed at his mother. ‘It’s remoke control!’ Ariadne beamed back. She adored her son. ‘That’s right, darling.’ Waiting for his father to put the batteries in and set the boat up had been torture. But after inhaling two slices of Ariadne’s homemade Christmas cake so quickly Marcus could have sworn he saw marzipan chunks coming out of his little brother’s nose, the boat was finally ready and Lorcan had raced down the sloping lawn to the banks of the Itchen to play with it.

Dark had long since fallen. Recently Lorcan had felt afraid of the dark, and particularly of ‘ghosts’, which he saw constantly, hovering around every tree or lichen-covered wall. His father, Dom, blamed it on Scooby-Doo, a new obsession. His mother wasn’t so sure.

‘I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss it. Maybe he’s really seeing something.’

‘Like what?’ Dom Wetherby frowned. ‘Things that go “bump” in the night?’

Ariadne smiled patiently. For a writer, Dominic could be terribly unimaginative at times. ‘This house is over four hundred years old, darling,’ she reminded him. ‘There may well be ghosts here. Children like Lorcan often see things other people don’t, or can’t. Maybe he’s just more attuned to the supernatural than we are.’

Attuned or not, Lorcan wasn’t afraid tonight. He had seen a ghost as it happened, less than an hour ago, moving through the woods, white and tall and looming. But the ghost hadn’t seen him. He was too busy with whatever he had in his hands. Besides, Lorcan had his Scooby-Doo torch, it was Christmas, and he was at home at the Mill with Mummy and Daddy. He was safe. Cocooned. It was like Mummy said: ‘Ghosts are only people, Lorcan. Ordinary people. It’s just that you’re seeing them in an extraordinary way.’ Lorcan wasn’t sure what that meant exactly, but it made him feel better.

Ghosts were people.
People, in Lorcan’s experience, were nice.
He played with his boat till his hands were so cold they hurt. The church bells rang. He counted them. One, two, three, four, five . . . six. Time to go in.

Crossing at the bridge safely, where his father had shown him, he reached down gingerly to pull his boat out of the reeds. Behind him, he could hear the waterwheel turning, the familiar sound of rushing water that was the soundtrack to his life. Lorcan Wetherby loved the river. He loved it like a person. He loved the waterwheel and the Mill. He loved his home. His family.

The boat was stuck. The spiky part at the bottom – the ‘keel’, Marcus had called it – had become entangled in something, some part of the cold, watery underworld of the Itchen. Lorcan tugged harder, but still it wouldn’t budge. Carefully setting down the remote-control handset next to him on the bridge to get a better grip, he tried again, with both hands this time, plunging his arms into the frigid water right up to the elbows. Leaning back, he pulled as hard as he could, his muscles burning with exertion as he yanked and twisted the precious boat, willing it to break free.

Beneath the surface, something snapped.

A small movement at first, then a bigger one, then in one great rush up came the boat, rising out of the water like the kraken. It was still heavy, still caught up in something, but Lorcan had hold of it now, the whole, beautiful vessel safe in his two strong hands. He sat back tri- umphant and exhausted. After a few deep breaths, he began to try to unwind the slimy strands still coiled round the boat’s bottom.

And then he saw it.
It wasn’t reeds that had wrapped themselves, vise-like, round the keel. It was hair.
Human hair.
Lorcan stared down in horror into the face of the corpse, its skin stretched tight and ghoulish from being pulled by the scalp. White, sightless eyes stared back at him.

Not even the sound of the river could drown out Lorcan’s screams.


About the author:

M.B Shaw is the pen-name of New York Times bestselling writer Tilly Bagshawe. A teenage single mother at 17, Tilly won a place at Cambridge University and took her baby daughter with her. She went on to enjoy a successful career before becoming a writer. As a journalist, Tilly contributed regularly to the Sunday Times, Daily Mail, and Evening Standard, before turning her hand to novels.

Tilly’s first book, ADORED, was a smash hit on both sides of the Atlantic, becoming an instant New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller. She now divides her time between the UK and America, writing her own books and the new series of Sidney Sheldon novels.



Advanced Praise for MURDER AT THE MILL and M.B. Shaw

“A rich, mystery debut… Tilly Bagshawe… makes a smooth transition to the world of puzzlers.”

—Kirkus Reviews Starred Review

“The principled, smart, and courageous Iris is bound to garner enthusiastic fans.”

—Publishers Weekly

“A most enjoyable and energetic cozy.”

—Booklist

“Complicated relationships create a strong backdrop for a complex mystery, and one hopes, the foundation for more books to come.”

—Library Journal

“Murder at the Mill by M. B. Shaw is a great sweeping adventure.

Ideal for holiday reading.”

—M. C. Beaton, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author

“M.B. Shaw has penned a wonderfully layered mystery with a multifaceted amateur sleuth, artist Iris Grey. Ms. Shaw’s English village setting made me feel like I was right there, and kept me reading until late into the night. I can’t wait to see where Iris Grey’s next artistic commission takes us.”

—Paige Shelton, New York Times bestselling author

“Be sure to start reading M.B. Shaw’s evocatively written mystery early in the day, or else you’ll be up late into the night—it’s that unputdownable.”

—Ellen Crosby, author of The Vineyard Victims

“A festering box of secrets, providing a Christmas cocktail of family lies and deliciously conceived murder.”

—Mandy Morton, author of The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency series

“A snowy Christmas in a country village, intriguing characters and a twisty-turny plot…I loved this book and couldn’t put it down. Fabulous!”

—Jill Mansell, International Bestselling Author

“A contemporary-set cosy crime novel that harks back to The Golden Age of detective fiction. Author Tilly Bagshawe writing under a pseudonym, introduces us to society portraitist Iris Grey whose Christmas country retreat is anything but when a body is found floating by the mill on Christmas Day, instead of tucking into turkey and all the trimmings, Iris finds herself caught up in all manner of sleuthing and intrigue.”

—Red Magazine

“A nice little slice of festive who dunnit – just right for cosy winter afternoons”

—Katherine Woodfine, author of The Sinclair’s Mysteries


US Giveaway

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Go To My Grave by Catriona McPherson

Go To My Grave by Catriona McPherson

October 2018 – Minotaur Books

Review copy courtesy of Minotaur and NetGalley

Description:

Donna Weaver has put everything she has into restoring The Breakers, an old bed and breakfast on a remote stretch of beach in Galloway. Now it sits waiting—freshly painted, richly furnished, filled with flowers—for the first guests to arrive.

But Donna’s guests, a contentious group of estranged cousins, soon realize that they’ve been here before, years ago. Decades have passed, but that night still haunts them: a sixteenth birthday party that started with peach schnapps and ended with a girl walking into the sea.

Each of them had made a vow of silence: “lock it in a box, stitch my lips, and go to my grave.”

But now someone has broken the pact. Amid the home-baked scones and lavish rooms, someone is playing games, locking boxes, stitching lips. And before the weekend is over, at least one of them will go to their grave. (publisher)

My take:  When her B&B is rented for a weekend Donna is very excited. She’s worked so hard to get the old place in shape. Now its ready for the first guests. The guests who arrive are related by marriage or blood and don’t seem overly fond of each other or the guests of honor – a sibling and his wife celebrating a special anniversary. As soon as the house is full odd things begin to happen. The reactions of everyone involved could be deemed telling – to someone who knows what’s going on. At times I was reminded of an Agatha Christie mystery. There’s the beautiful Inn, loosely related guests, and things that disappear or appear at unexpected times. But then something big happens and the smaller incidents don’t seem that minor anymore. I found the reveal interesting but, honestly, I almost gave up on this book a couple of times. Most of the characters were self-involved boors who acted horribly at one time or another, if not most of the time. The novel is mostly set in the present time but occasionally moves to the early 90s – one night in particular when unspeakable things happened. This group thought they’d go to their graves with the secrets from that night. But will they?


Praise for Go To My Grave:

“GO TO MY GRAVE is both a classic ‘country house mystery’ and a thriller. Atmospheric, with mind-bending twists, a narrator who may or may not be reliable, and an ending that will take your breath away and leave you astonished.” – Louise Penny

“A Gothic feast of a novel, this is a country house book with a difference: contemporary, punchy and disturbing, but using the tricks and twists of the best of Christie.” – Ann Cleeves

“GO TO MY GRAVE is a terrific mystery—sharp, devious, and suspenseful. Catriona McPherson has written another winner.” – Meg Gardiner


 

The Lies We Told by Camilla Way

The Lies We Told by Camilla Way

October 2018 -Berkley Trade Paperback Original

Review book courtesy of the publisher

Description:

Beth has always known there was something strange about her daughter, Hannah. The lack of emotion, the disturbing behavior, including the apparent delight in hurting others; sometimes Beth is scared of Hannah and what she could be capable of doing.

Luke comes from the perfect family, with the perfect parents. But one day, he disappears without a trace, and his girlfriend, Clara, is desperate to discover what has happened to him. As Clara digs into the past, she realizes that no family is truly perfect, and uncovers a link between Luke’s long-lost sister and a strange girl named Hannah. Now Luke’s life is in danger because of the lies once told and the secrets once kept. (from the publisher)

My take:  How much do we really know about the people in our circle – the really important people? The Lies We Told will have readers wondering! Well-paced and tightly edited (always a good thing) Camilla Way’s mystery/thriller kept me on edge and turning the pages. Just when I was sure I’d figured it out she threw another possibility into the mix. I loved that! And I loved how the answers to my questions were revealed little by little. I’m excited to read what she dreams up next.


About the author:

Camilla Way has been an editor and writer for magazines in the UK and is the author of Watching Edie. Follow her on Twitter @CamillaLWay.

THE LIES WE TOLD has already been drawing comparisons to We Need to Talk about Kevin, it’s been been called “deftly plotted” (Emerald Street), “compelling” (Prima), a “top class psychological thriller” (The Sunday Mirror), and been called readers’ “insomnia buddy” (Stylist).


 

Spotlight: The Girl From Berlin by Ronald H. Balson

The Girl From Berlin by Ronald H. Balson

Liam Taggart & Catherine Lockhart Series, #5

October 9, 2018 – St. Martin’s Press

Book Summary:

In the newest novel from internationally-bestselling author Ronald. H. Balson, Liam and Catherine come to the aid of an old friend and are drawn into a property dispute in Tuscany that unearths long-buried secrets

An old friend calls Catherine Lockhart and Liam Taggart to his famous Italian restaurant to enlist their help. His aunt is being evicted from her home in the Tuscan hills by a powerful corporation claiming they own the deeds, even though she can produce her own set of deeds to her land. Catherine and Liam’s only clue is a bound handwritten manuscript, entirely in German, and hidden in its pages is a story long-forgotten…

Ada Baumgarten was born in Berlin in 1918, at the end of the war. The daughter of an accomplished first-chair violinist in the prestigious Berlin Philharmonic, and herself a violin prodigy, Ada’s life was full of the rich culture of Berlin’s interwar society. She formed a deep attachment to her childhood friend Kurt, but they were torn apart by the growing unrest as her Jewish family came under suspicion. As the tides of history turned, it was her extraordinary talent that would carry her through an unraveling society turned to war, and make her a target even as it saved her, allowing her to move to Bologna―though Italy was not the haven her family had hoped, and further heartache awaited.

What became of Ada? How is she connected to the conflicting land deeds of a small Italian villa? As they dig through the layers of lies, corruption, and human evil, Catherine and Liam uncover an unfinished story of heart, redemption, and hope―the ending of which is yet to be written.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

RONALD H. BALSON is a Chicago trial attorney, an educator and writer. His practice has taken him to several international venues. He is also the author of The Trust, Karolina’s Twins, Saving Sophie, and the international bestseller Once We Were Brothers.

PRAISE FOR RONALD H. BALSON:

“Weaving together history with mystery, Ronald H. Balson crafts a compelling tale.”Us Weekly on The Trust

“Secrets, friendships, survival, and the Holocaust are woven together in Ronald H. Balson’s haunting Karolina’s Twins.”Family Circle on Karolina’s Twins

Once We Were Brothers tells a great story . . . gripping…”The Chicago Tribune on Once We Were Brothers


Spotlight on: Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey

 

Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey

St. Martin’s Griffin;  August 21, 2018

Description:  

Emma Grace Townsend. Five years old. Gray eyes. Brown hair. Missing since June.

Emma Townsend is lonely. Living with her cruel mother and clueless father, Emma retreats into her own world of quiet and solitude.

Sarah Walker. Successful entrepreneur. Broken-hearted. Abandoned by her mother. Kidnapper.

Sarah has never seen a girl so precious as the gray-eyed child in a crowded airport terminal—and when a second-chance encounter with Emma presents itself, Sarah takes her, far away from home. But if it’s to rescue a little girl from her damaging mother, is kidnapping wrong?

Amy Townsend. Unhappy wife. Unfit mother. Unsure she wants her daughter back.

Amy’s life is a string of disappointments, but her biggest issue is her inability to connect with her daughter. And now she’s gone without a trace.

As Sarah and Emma avoid the nationwide hunt, they form an unshakeable bond. But her real mother is at home, waiting for her to return—and the longer the search for Emma continues, Amy is forced to question if she really wants her back.

Emotionally powerful and wire-taut, Not Her Daughter raises the question of what it means to be a mother—and how far someone will go to keep a child safe.


About the author:

Rea Frey is an award-winning author of four nonfiction books. She lives in Nashville with her husband and daughter. NOT HER DAUGHTER is her debut novel.

Read more at:

reafrey.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/reafrey_author?lang=en

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/reafrey/

photo credit:  Alex Holguin


 

Praise for NOT HER DAUGHTER:

Not Her Daughter is a cleverly constructed novel that will have you questioning everything you believe about right or wrong. Frey skillfully tangles you up in these two women’s lives and never lets up on the tension all the way until the dramatic conclusion. A remarkable portrayal of motherhood, in all its beautiful glory and heart-wrenching despair.” —New York Times bestselling author Chevy Stevens

“In Not Her Daughter, Frey pulls off a difficult task: balancing a nail-biting plot with a thought-provoking question — is a crime committed with the best intentions still a crime? A chilling, powerful tale of love and sacrifice, of truth and perception, Not Her Daughter will make you miss your bedtime, guaranteed. A stunning debut.” —Kimberly Belle, Internationally Bestselling Author of The Marriage Lie

“NOT HER DAUGHTER is a deft and beautifully written examination of taboo maternal fantasies: Can a kidnapping ever be justified? Can motherhood be undone?  Engrossing and suspenseful, Frey writes her characters with depth and compassion, challenging readers to question their own code of ethics.”  —Zoje Stage, author of Baby Teeth

I couldn’t put Rea Frey’s NOT HER DAUGHTER down, and once finished, couldn’t let it go.  So much more than an engrossingly suspenseful novel, it’s a thoughtful exploration on the extremes to which motherhood and love and loss can drive us.  An amazing debut.” —Christina Kovac, author of The Cutaway

“Women who do not embrace motherhood or “bad mothers” are a taboo subject — in both real life and fiction — but Frey tackles it with aplomb in her taut debut, NOT HER DAUGHTER. The story begs the question: who is more mother — the one who gives birth or the one who rescues? The plot twists here are brave, the themes are both poignant and unsettling, and the resolution is deeply resonant. A page-turner with heart!” – New York Times bestselling author Kate Moretti

Harrowing and heartfeltNot Her Daughter is a gripping novel about the amazing power of mother love.” —Rebecca Drake, author of Just Between Us

A compelling mix of high wire tension and superb writing. Not Her Daughter will linger in the memory long after the final page has been turned. “—Laura Elliot, author of Guilty, Sleep Sister, and The Betrayal

“Tightly paced and impossible to put downNot Her Daughter is a cleverly written story that challenges what it means to be a mother—or not to be one. A thought-provoking and poignant debut.” —Clarissa Goenawan, author of Rainbirds

Not Her Daughter is an interesting and emotional debut about women stuck in lives they never wanted and the desperate decisions they’ll make to get out. Certain to keep readers turning pages and guessing as to who the real villain is.”—Cate Holahan, USA Today Bestselling Author of The Widower’s Wife and Lies She Told


 

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser

  • Title:  Not That I Could Tell
  • Author:  Jessica Strawser
  • Genre:  Mystery
  • Pages:  320
  • Publication date:  March 27, 2018 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher, NetGalley

Description:  An innocent night of fun takes a shocking turn in Not That I Could Tell, the next page-turner from Jessica Strawser.

When a group of neighborhood women gathers, wine in hand, around a fire pit where their backyards meet one Saturday night, most of them are just ecstatic to have discovered that their baby monitors reach that far. It’s a rare kid-free night, and they’re giddy with it. They drink too much, and the conversation turns personal.

By Monday morning, one of them is gone.

Everyone knows something about everyone else in the quirky small Ohio town of Yellow Springs, but no one can make sense of the disappearance. Kristin was a sociable twin mom, college administrator, and doctor’s wife who didn’t seem all that bothered by her impending divorce—and the investigation turns up more questions than answers, with her husband, Paul, at the center. For her closest neighbor, Clara, the incident triggers memories she thought she’d put behind her—and when she’s unable to extract herself from the widening circle of scrutiny, her own suspicions quickly grow. But the neighborhood’s newest addition, Izzy, is determined not to jump to any conclusions—especially since she’s dealing with a crisis of her own.

As the police investigation goes from a media circus to a cold case, the neighbors are forced to reexamine what’s going on behind their own closed doors—and to ask how well anyone really knows anyone else.  (publisher)

My take:  It’s a mystery to her neighbors what exactly happened to Kristin and her young twins. The night before all the neighbor women were enjoying a rare night “out” around a backyard fire-pit and the next day Kristin and her kids had disappeared. Each woman will examine her own version of what transpired as they, along with the local PD, try to solve the mystery.

The background of each neighbor is examined. This sometimes had me hoping the pace would step up a bit but the author held it steady as the plot unfolded. There were times, interactions at the local school – to name one, when I laughed. Relatable kernels of real life I guess. It really seemed like more of a character study for most of the novel until things revved up near the end. I’m ok with that and smiled as I turned the last page. I enjoyed Jessica Strawser’s style of telling her story and look forward to her next novel.