Well, that’s where you come in. Step into the shoes of Midsomer CID’s newest recruit, choose your own path and decide which way the story goes.
Will you get to the bottom of the mystery? Will you bring the perpetrator to justice? And perhaps most importantly of all, could you avoid an untimely, and possibly bizarre, death… will YOU survive Midsomer? Your task is to make the right choices, solve the case and – most tricky of all – stay alive!… Good luck.
An official Midsomer Murders Interactive novel set in ITV’s most celebrated and murderous county.
I used to absolutely love Midsomer Murders, so when I saw this book everywhere at the end of last year so I knew I had to pick myself up a copy.
If you don’t know Midsomer Murders, it’s a show set in what seems to be the most deadly village of all time where residents are killed in a variety of ways, some more unusual than the rest. It’s also verges on cozy mystery territory where the murder is really described in detail and it ends up being more of a puzzle for the detectives.
Could you survive midsomer is a grown-up version of a pick your own adventure book (I sort of remember them from when I was a kid) where you have to figure out who the murderer is before you get murdered yourself or face demotion.
This book was so much fun! It was quite a quick read, so you don’t need to worry about spending too long cracking the case, although I probably spent a little too long myself pondering over which was the right path to pick.
I didn’t figure out the whodunnit the first time around, nor did I end up dead (yay!). The second read I managed to figure it out, but what was enjoyable was how picking one different path completely changed the story.
Once you’ve figured out the whodunnit aspect, while it would still be fun to see the different outcomes, I felt it lost a tiny bit of the fun.
I would recommend this to any fans of Midsomer Murders, but also to anyone who considers themselves an armchair detective like myself.
John T. Buckley is a 47-year-old writer from Maine who’s been writing most of his life. He also loves to paint and seeing the world. He studied at University of Southern Maine as well as at SMTC in Cape Elizabeth. Fun fact, John T. Buckley was once the lead singer in a band called Mammyth.
Quarter to Midnight is the first thrilling novel in a brand new series by Sunday Times bestselling author Karen Rose, set in New Orleans.
Rocky Hebert walks into his death at quarter to midnight one New Orleans night. His son Gabe cannot accept the official verdict of suicide and enlists the help of the Burke Broussard Private Investigation Agency to discover the real cause of death.
PI Molly Sutton knows what it’s like to lose a father in tragic circumstances and will go to any lengths to crack the investigation, as she tries to fight off her growing feelings for Gabe. They soon realise Rocky was working on an investigation of his own; one that threatened to expose the deep corruption going all the way to the top of the police department. And that the key to the puzzle lies with a young witness to a murder that happened years earlier: Xavier Morrow.
Just what did Rocky know? And who might have shut him up?
As they get closer and closer to the truth, they realise that the killer is not going to stop at Rocky. And that Xavier is in very real danger. Someone will go to any lengths to protect what he witnessed that night coming out…
I was provided with a copy of Quarter to midnight by the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
t’s been a while since I’ve picked up a Karen Rose book, so when I saw this, I thought as it’s the first in a series set in New Orleans, it would be the perfect place to pick up from.
Rocky Herbet’s son Gabe can’t accept the fact his dad committed suicide, so he goes to his old partner, turned PI Burke Broussard, to investigate. Burke, feeling too close to the investigation, hands it over his employee Molly. Sparks file between the pair, but they must put that aside to solve the case.
It becomes obvious that Rocky had been doing his own investigating, which leads them to young med student Xavier Morrow, who witnessed a murder when he was a child. The bodies start dropping and it’s clear that Molly and Gabe need to solve the case and keep Xavier safe.
Quarter to midnight is a romantic suspense, with no shortage of murders to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Molly and Gabe are likeable characters who I rooted for throughout. Molly is a former marine, on the surface, is unruffled, calm and organised, but underneath she’s carrying pain from her and her family’s past. Gabe is a minor celebrity chef, who, like many in his profession, is a bit of a hothead, but his caring nature shines through.
We know quite early on who the bad guy is, but there’s still a bit of mystery in regards to his full identity.
The book is 600 pages long, which is around the usual amount for Karen Rose’s books, but the snappy pace always makes them feel much shorter, although I felt this one was a bit more slow burn than usual.
There’s also a wealth of side characters with the potential to be the lead in future books which I’m looking forward to.
If you’re looking for a book full of murder, mayhem and some steamy romance, then I’d highly recommend this book to you!
About The Author:
Karen Rose was introduced to suspense and horror at the tender age of eight when she accidentally read Poe’s The Pit and The Pendulum and was afraid to go to sleep for years. She now enjoys writing books that make other people afraid to go to sleep.
Karen lives in Florida with her family, their cat, Bella, and two dogs, Loki and Freya. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, and her new hobby – knitting.
Sitting side by side on the clifftop, he turns to her solemnly and says, ‘The water witch is real.’ She rolls her eyes and grins, teasing him. ‘Sure. A psycho mermaid. Got it.’ But now he’s gone forever… will she find the truth beneath the waves?
Brittany, France. Ariadne Walker’s fiancé Simon drowned in the stormy Atlantic Ocean doing what he loved: searching for the lost underwater city of Ys. Local legend says it was destroyed centuries ago when the princess of Ys became a water witch, cursing the name of the man who betrayed her.
Ari never believed these tall tales. And the letter Simon sent before he died finishing their relationship is a devastating secret she’ll take to the grave. But arriving in Brittany, Ari encounters a man emerging from the sea in a rocky cove, saltwater dripping from his dark hair. Rafael swears the legends are true: and his ancestor was cursed by the water witch. Now, his own life is in terrible danger. And the secret to breaking the curse lies hidden in the lost city.
When Ari finds a strange engraved mask on the sea bed, and a cryptic map amongst Simon’s things, she has no choice but to believe Rafael’s plea. Can they follow the trail and save Rafael’s life? Poring over the map by candlelight, the flickering flames only add to the heat between them… but will Ari’s fragile heart soon be shattered all over again? And will they ever find Ys and break the curse – or will the water witch demand another sacrifice?
An absolutely addictive romantic fantasy read filled with passion and mystery, that will sweep you away to the wild coast of northern France. Inspired by real myths and legends from this magical place, The Water Witch is perfect for fans of Luanne G. Smith, River of Shadows and Jennifer L. Armentrout.
I received an ARC copy of The Water Witch from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
I read Jessica Thorne’s Hollow King books and enjoyed them, so when I saw the blurb for The Water Witch I knew I had to read it.
Ari lost her fiance Simon several years earlier, looking for the place he was obsessed with, the missing underwater city of Ys. Her brother calls her back to Saint Sirene, convinced that he might have found proof of the city’s existence, but he needs her help. Once there she meets Rafael Du Lac. The water witch has cursed all the men of his family to die young and he’s desperate to end it. Together, they set out to find Ys and break the curse once and for all.
The Water Witch is an action-packed romance with an air of mystery and a dash of the fantastical.
There’s great description and some vivid imagery that draws you into the story and gives you a genuine sense of place.
The mythology and folklore of Brittany is weaved expertly through the book. From the missing city of Ys, the power hungry princess who later becomes the water witch, along with a guest appearance from the servant of death, I just loved every minute of it!
Ari and Rafael are great characters. Their banter and chemistry was fun to read. Ari is still deeply scarred by Simon’s death, even quitting a career she loves because it reminds her too much of him. Rafael is headstrong, used to getting what he wants by throwing money at it. The romance between them was nicely done, slow burn and didn’t feel too rushed.
I wasn’t the biggest fan of the ending, but it made sense once I put the book down and thought about it.
If you love romance with a sprinkle of adventure and splash of fantasy, then I’d highly recommend The Water Witch to you!
About the author:
Jessica Thorne saw Star Wars at an impressionable age and life was never the same. She’s loved fantasy, romance and science fiction ever since and spends her time looking for adventure – in the pages of her books.
Sometimes she is Ruth Frances Long and won the European Science Fiction Society Spirit of Dedication Award for Best Author of Children’s Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2015.
Leigh Simons can’t say for sure what made her do it. A moment of madness, perhaps, but when the young, loud and gorgeous waitress at her favourite coffee shop reveals she is homeless, Leigh offers her the empty room in her house.
In your head…
Gina is the perfect lodger; Leigh, lonely and frustrated with her life, becomes infatuated with the woman – her boldness, her zeal. If only Leigh could be more like Gina…
And missing without trace.
So when Leigh returns from a work trip she’s shocked to find Gina missing. Where could the young woman have gone…and why?
Leigh fears that something terrible has happened – why else would Gina leave her?
But as she sets out to find her missing lodger, what Leigh discovers changes everything she knows about Gina….and her own life, too.
I received an ARC copy of The Lodger from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
I’ve enjoyed several of Valerie Keogh’s thrillers in the past, so I was eager to get stuck into The Lodger.
On the spur of the moment, Leigh offers barista Gina a place to stay after she reveals she’s homeless. When she goes away for work, she returns to find Gina has disappeared. Everyone around her tells her to drop it. Gina is a grown woman, but the why tortures Leigh. In her quest to find the young woman, her life starts to unravel around her.
Valerie Keogh combines an extraordinary situation with ordinary characters that makes you think ‘wow, this actually could happen!’
Leigh is the type of character who thinks she had the perfect life, but as you read on, the cracks start to appear and you watch reality slowly dawn on her.
There’s so many creepy yet realistic moments throughout the story. At one point, I actually looked over my shoulder while I was reading it to check there was nobody lurking there!
I found it a bit sluggish to start off, but the tension was built up nicely, with plenty of shocks and surprises along the way.
The lodger is a brilliant and twisted psychological thriller and I’d highly recommend it if you love this genre!
About The Author:
Valerie Keogh is the internationally bestselling author of several psychological thrillers and crime series, most recently published by Bloodhound. She originally comes from Dublin but now lives in Wiltshire and worked as a nurse for many years. Her first thriller for Boldwood will be published in August 2022.
Lauren has spent years running away from her home town, her childhood and the memories of her best friend, Hannah.
Until the tenth anniversary of Hannah’s death forces her to return home and to the group of friends she abandoned there. It should be a quick visit, just so Lauren can pay her respects.
At home, Lauren finds Hannah’s old diary. A diary full of secrets. The terrible things Lauren did, the lies she’s told, the reason she ran away. And she receives a message:
‘I don’t know why you’re back, but I know why you left.’
But no-one else has seen the diary, and Hannah’s dead, isn’t she?
A suspenseful psychological thriller full of twists and turns – you won’t be able to stop turning the pages of The Diary. Perfect for fans of The Sister, The Girl on the Train and We Were Liars.
I received an ARC copy of this from Bookouture via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Another book that has been on my TBR for too long!
The Diary is a slow burn psychological thriller, all about secrets and how they can eat away at you if you hang onto them for too long.
The story goes back and forth between the present and ten years in the past following Lauren facing up to things that happened in the past and secrets which have been kept bottled up for the last ten years.
The characters really made this story. Realistic yet extremely flawed and mostly unlikeable.
I really felt for Lauren throughout the story and enjoyed seeing her journey from guilt-ridden and ashamed to the strong person she really is.
The past storyline took me back to my own teen years, reminding me how horrible people can be at that age. Hannah was an especially hard to like character and through most of the story, I really didn’t understand Lauren’s affection for her. One minute she’d be loving, the next cruel. When Hannah’s entire backstory comes out, it makes her actions a lot more understandable.
The book tackles tough subjects like bullying, suicide and sexual assault, so if these are triggers for you, I’d be careful going into this book even though the author handles them with care.
As I said earlier, it was slow burn, at times a little too slow burn for my liking, but of course, that’s just my opinion.
The Diary is a thought-provoking debut that was both realistic and compelling.
About The Author:
This author is also published under the pen name Victoria Hawthorne.
Vikki Patis is the bestselling author of psychological thrillers In the Dark (2021), The Wake (2020), Girl, Lost (2020), The Girl Across the Street (2019), and The Diary (2018). Girl, Lost, a top 100 bestseller on Amazon, was later longlisted for the Not the Booker Prize 2020. Her latest psychological suspense novel, Return to Blackwater House, will be published in March 2022 by Hodder & Stoughton.
She is represented by Emily Glenister at DHH Literary Agency and also writes historical fiction as Victoria Hawthorne. Her first historical suspense novel, The House at Helygen, will be published in April 2022 by Quercus.
Hello lovelies! Today I’m bringing you a cover reveal for the standalone psychological thriller, Behind Closed Doors by Carol Wyer, out on 6th December 2022. First, a bit about the book:
Two kidnappings, thirty years apart. Can Stacey face her own dark past in order to save her stepdaughter?
When Stacey’s ex-husband turns up on her doorstep begging her to help save his kidnapped thirteen-year-old daughter, Lyra, the terror is all too familiar. Stacey’s own violent kidnapping thirty years ago was never solved, and while a severe case of amnesia spares her from recalling the specific horrors, she remembers enough…
Stacey knows her father never paid the ransom—she has the missing pinkie finger to prove it. She knows she was only saved because of an anonymous tip-off to the police. And she knows her captor was never apprehended.
Lyra’s kidnappers have made it clear the police must not get involved. But Stacey can’t shake the eerie similarities between the two cases, and she’ll use whatever she can, from her journalistic powers to her shady contacts, to save Lyra from the same nightmare. Desperate to find any link between Lyra’s abduction and her own, Stacey forces herself to revisit her forgotten, traumatic past for clues.
But can she make sense of the terrible secrets she unearths in time to save Lyra? And if she does, is she ready to face her own tormentor?
Sounds fantastic, right? Now for the brilliant cover:
Carol Wyer is a USA Today bestselling author and winner of the People’s Book Prize Award. Her crime novels have sold over one million copies and been translated into nine languages.
A move from humour to the ‘dark side’ in 2017, saw the introduction of popular DI Robyn Carter in Little Girl Lost and proved that Carol had found her true niche.
In 2021, An Eye For An Eye, the first in the DI Kate Young series, was chosen as a Kindle First Reads. It became the #1 bestselling book on Amazon UK, USA and Australia. Since then, two further books in the series have been published, with a fourth and fifth due out in 2023.
A standalone psychological thriller, Behind Closed Doors, will be released on December 6th, 2022, and is available to preorder now.
Carol has had articles published in national magazines ‘Woman’s Weekly’, featured in ‘Take A Break’, ‘Choice’, ‘Yours’ and ‘Woman’s Own’ magazines and written for the Huffington Post. She’s also been interviewed on numerous radio shows and on Sky and BBC Breakfast television.
She currently lives on a windy hill in rural Staffordshire with her husband, Mr. Grumpy . . . who is very, very grumpy.
To learn more, go to www.carolwyer.co.uk, subscribe to her YouTube channel, or follow her on Twitter @carolewyer
Looking for a brilliant bestselling crime mystery with great detectives?
SOMETHING BAD’S GOING DOWN — AND NO ONE WILL TALK.
One of the Hobfield estate’s newest tenants is horrified when her cat returns home with a human foot in its mouth.
The foot belongs to 16-year-old Noah Crosby, whose decomposing remains are found in a rubbish-strewn alleyway. He was wearing an expensive gold watch, high-end trainers and had a top-of-the-range mobile phone on him when he died. The motive clearly isn’t robbery.
But how could a young lad from the wrong side of the tracks afford such expensive gear?
The post-mortem reveals that the letter X has been carved into Noah’s skin. The signature of a killer known as the Shadow, who plagued the estate more than twenty years before. A killer who was never caught.
Could the Shadow be back at large?
Detective Tom Calladine and his partner DS Ruth Bayliss are finding it difficult to make headway. People are scared. No one will talk.
At the same time, Tom’s new girlfriend’s shop is targeted — and it’s clear she’s not telling him the whole truth about the attack. Just what is Kitty hiding? And when an old flame returns to Leesdon, Tom senses trouble ahead . . .
Love Angela Marsons, Rachel Abbott, Mel Sherratt, Ruth Rendell, or Mark Billingham? You’ll love this bestselling crime fiction writer.
DEAD REAL is the brand-new book in the series of detective thrillers featuring DS Ruth Bayliss and DI Tom Calladine.
WHAT READERS ARE SAYING ABOUT THE CALLADINE & BAYLISS MYSTERY SERIES:
“Yet again an absolutely amazing book. I love the characters and how the storyline flows from book to book. I can’t wait for the next one already.” Michelle G.
“Classic Helen Durrant . . . Just when you think you have worked it out there is another twist!” Carol S.
“Addictive.” Christina M.
“Helen Durrant is a master storyteller. Be it the mystery or the character development or keeping the readers hooked on to the story till the end, Helen is the best.” The Book Decoder
“A gritty novel with great characters. The series gets better and better.” Trina D.
THE DETECTIVES Tom Calladine is a detective inspector who is devoted to his job. His personal life, however, is not so successful. Having been married and divorced before the age of twenty-one has set a pattern that he finds difficult to escape.
Ruth Bayliss is in her mid-thirties, plain-speaking but loyal. She is balancing her professional life with looking after a small child.
THE SETTING The fictional village of Leesdon is on the outskirts of an industrial northern English city. There is little work and a lot of crime. The bane of Calladine’s life is the Hobfield housing estate, breeding ground to all that is wrong with the area that he calls home.
I want to thank Joffe books for providing me with a copy of Dead Real. All opinions are my own.
This is the twelfth book in the series, it can be read as a standalone, but I would highly recommend reading a few of the other novels first to get a better feel for the characters.
Sixteen-year-old Noah Crosby is found dead in an alleyway in the infamous Hobfield estate. He has a high end watch and trainers on him, but how was he able to afford it all? The case ramps up quickly for Calladine and Bayliss, getting a little too close to home for Calladine when his girlfriend is targeted by a masked gunman. It’s up to Calladine and his team to stop the brutal killer before someone else dies.
It’s nice to get back to a series I haven’t read in a while, a bit like I’m coming back to see old friends.
Calladine is still his stubborn self, although this time he’s trying to take care of himself a bit more due to a health scare. His love life is still a bit of a mess, but I’d honestly be worried if it wasn’t! I felt Bayliss took more of a secondary role in this story, but is always there to put Calladine in his place.
Like previous novels, there’s several storylines woven through the book. I felt some storylines got pushed to the side and overshadowed when they should have been more prominent in the story.
Dead Real is a solid police procedural with likeable detectives and plenty of clues and red herrings to keep you guessing along the way.
About The Author:
OVER 1 MILLION BOOKS SOLD!
Helen is one of the ‘baby boomer’ generation and began writing when she retired from her job at a local college. Born in Edinburgh to an English father and Scottish mother the family settled in a Pennine village between the counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire. It is an environment which has shaped her stories. Writing is a second career and, despite having a bus pass, keeps her busy, and tuned in.
Helen’s children are all grown-up and she has five grandchildren.
BOOKS BY HELEN H. DURRANT
CALLADINE & BAYLISS SERIES:
DEAD & BURIED
DI GRECO SERIES:
DI MATHEW BRINDLE SERIES:
HIS THIRD VICTIM
THE OTHER VICTIM
DCI RACHEL KING SERIES:
DETECTIVES LENNOX & WILDE SERIES:
THE GUILTY MAN
THE FACELESS MAN
DETECTIVE ALICE ROSSI MYSTERY SERIES:
THE ASH LAKE MURDERS
DETECTIVES CALLADINE & BAYLISS BOOKS 1-3
THE DETECTIVE CALLADINE & BAYLISS MYSTERY SERIES BOOKS 1-9 BOX SET
DETECTIVE STEPHEN GRECO BOOKS 1-3
THE COMPLETE DETECTIVE STEPHEN GRECO BOX SET
THE DETECTIVE RACHEL KING BOOKS 1-3
DETECTIVE MATT BRINDLE DOUBLE-BOOK BOX SET
JOFFE BOOKS MURDER MYSTERY & SUSPENSE SHORT STORY COLLECTION
Check out this thrilling new YA Dystopian novel, Year Zero! This is the first book in a new trilogy called Revolution’s Children and I have an exclusive excerpt for you all today!
Title: Year Zero (Revolution’s Children Book 1) by David Dean Lugo
Publication Date: May 24th, 2022
Genre: YA Dystopian
A thrilling new YA dystopian novel has dark parallels to a conceivable future America.
It’s been two years since the establishment of the brutal dictatorship The Incorporated Precincts of America and its governing Board and CEO, as well as the death of the old America. Sixteen-year-old Joey Cryer has two missions: to keep their six-year-old sister, Julia, safe, and to not die.
America first. America last. America always. This is the vow that the CEO leader of the IPA—The Incorporated Precincts of America—pledges to his suffering citizens. With violent protests breaking out in every city, attacks against immigrants, and the national crisis of the Capitol Event, young Joey must keep their vigilance in staying clear of the IPA’s ever-watching Sons of Liberty—its ruthless police force—to avoid becoming “disappeared” with his little sister. This means not maligning the governing body, The Corporation, with any thought, word, or action, or else suffer the consequence. One such sanction for disobeying citizens is being forced on to the required viewing television show “Manhunt,” where they fight for their lives against the Sons, upholding The Corporation’s domination over society.
Two years earlier, before the Second Revolution ended and before the election, Joey’s biggest concern was sitting at the right cafeteria table at his high school or if the girl they liked liked them back. Avoiding the school bully, Harlan Grundy, was always a plus, and so was not getting pummeled. So, it was no big surprise that Harlan became a Son, loyal to The Corporation and carrying out their dirty deeds to keep citizens in check and in fear. The only correct response to a Son? Everything is goodly.
Having lost everything in the revolution’s aftermath, Joey takes an unfathomable risk by helping the near-dead leader of the rebellion, John Doe. Having anything to do with Doe will skip you right past penalties and sanctions all the way to the death penalty, not only for you, but for anyone you love. And yet Joey’s sole mission is keep Julia safe until they can secretly escape to freedom. To do so, they finds they have an unlikely partner in a recently betrayed Harlan. Trusting their former enemy may be the only way to ensure their future—but is it worth the risk for Joey, Julia, and his community?
No law respecting the established religion, prohibiting its free and compulsory practice, may be passed. All citizens free or otherwise are responsible for their speech, as is the press. The Board may sanction the people or the press should they choose to malign The Corporation or its representatives in print, thought, word, or action.
—First Amendment, Constitution Incorporated Precincts of America
A hand grabs my shoulder, and I know I’m screwed. The flickering light from the Jumbotron across the street dispels the concealing darkness. What was I thinking trying to sneak my way across town square after dark? I pull my hat lower, hoping that he won’t recognize me.
Especially if curfew has started.
Dan and Katie are starting the Manhunt preshow on the Jumbotron, which isn’t a good sign. Manhunt rarely starts before seven.
My mouth is dry, and my heart’s hammering fills my ears. It’s the fight-or-flight response kicking in big time. Except in my case, it’s the flight-and-still-get-pommeled response.
Even knowing how it will end, I still think about running.
Just for a second.
Old habits die hard.
I move my eyes to the hand, hoping it’s not covered by a white glove. Crap. It is. So, the he attached to the hand isn’t a regular cop. A cop will just shake me down and let me go. But not this guy.
He’s a Son of Liberty.
I’m surprised he hasn’t shot me yet. They usually do. I mean, it’s kinda their go-to move. I glance from his glove to his face.
I silence a scream. This guy isn’t any old Son. He’s Harlan Grundy. That name alone makes most kids cry. Always has.
Harlan’s been bullying kids since the old days, back when we still lived in a place called the USA. By the time The Corporation ran things and changed the name to The Incorporated Precincts of America, or IPA, Harlan had transformed bullying into an art form. I mean, watching him terrorize a kid is like watching Michelangelo turn a hunk of stone into a statue. Pure artistry.
Unless you’re the rock.
All the Sons are big, but Harlan’s bigger. Not like Schwarzenegger big. It’s more natural. Like a gorilla. Most let his stocky form, with its squashed nose, thick fingers, and stubby legs, fool them. But he possessed a speed unheard of, even among Olympic athletes.
And I, underneath this big ass coat, am just a scrawny sixteen-year-old. Exercise and me are not the best of friends. I mean, we wave when we pass by in the halls. Unless running from Harlan counts. Because if it does, I’m a gold medalist.
Okay, maybe a bronze because he always catches me.
“Hold it, citizen,” he says loud enough for me to hear over the Jumbotron’s droning voices. That is quite a feat since they always have it turned up to like a million.
He doesn’t recognize me.
He says something, but Dan speaks over him from the Jumbotron. “We’ll be back after this message.”
A second later, tolling bells replace his smug voice, sounding out the half hour. I glance at the screen, hoping it says six thirty. Instead, a robotic voice says, “The time is now seven thirty. Curfew is in effect.”
I’m doubly screwed.
After curfew, you get arrested or worse, unless you’re on official IPA business. It won’t take anyone more than one look to know I’m not. And Harlan’s fists and I have known each other since I was eight, and he was eleven. It’s only a matter of time until his dim brain dusts off the cobwebs and the first faint itch of recognition dawns on him.
If he doesn’t shoot me, which I doubt, I have two simple choices left. But I won’t get to choose. Instead, an Inquisitor will decide between sending me to a Liberty Camp or inducting me into the army.
The second is most likely. They’re drafting more people every day. Younger and younger too. I mean, except for like Ward Commanders, Inquisitors, and Auditors, the whole Corporation is getting younger. I guess they figure the young don’t have as much attachment to the way things were.
The CEO says we’re winning the war, and the extra troops are for the last push into Ottawa. But I’ve heard the rumors. Who hasn’t?
Some say Mexico, Canada’s ally, has won ground in the Southwest. Others say the early winter weather has paralyzed our troops in Ontario and Alaska. What’s happening in Europe is anyone’s guess.
So, whatever the Inquisitor decides, it’s better if Harlan shoots me.
Usually, I’m home before curfew, but I had forgotten it’s earlier now. That’s thanks to the Does—John and Jane Doe—and their rebels blowing up stuff. Last Tuesday, the day most Sons get their rations, they blew up the rationing center. Now, the rest of us are still living off our last pitiful portion.
Movies make rebellion seem exciting and heroic. I guess it is, fighting oppression or whatever. But from where I sit, trying to get by and staying off The Corporation’s radar, it’s terrifying. It doesn’t help people like me. Maybe it will someday, but I’m not holding my breath.
I burrow deeper into my father’s coat, trying to avoid eye contact. The coat must be the only reason Harlan hasn’t recognized me. There’s no point in trying to hide the bag of contraband I’m holding.
I mean, it’s right there.
Besides, it’s just dumb cans of stupid beef stew I bought at the black market. E-rations don’t hardly give anyone enough food. So, most people, leastways those who can afford it, turn to the black market. Even Block Watch Commanders like Harlan.
It’s not totally the Does fault, though. Food, at least the unpowdered kind, was scarce even before they blew up the rationing center. The troops passing through on their way north to the wall, took most of what we had. They didn’t bother leaving much for us citizens.
I’m not sweating the stew, though. I expect he’ll “impound” it. I’m more worried that what’s stuffed into my belt will spill out. If it does, he’ll definitely shoot me.
He’s eyeing the bag though. His mouth might even be watering. We both stand there, playing our weird freeze tag while waiting for the stupid bell to stop tolling.
As soon as it does, Harlan says, “You’re behind curfew, citizen. Slice me the stew, and I won’t donate a one.”
It takes me a moment to translate his words to regular English. If I give him the stew, he won’t give me a class one penalty. I can’t speak because he’ll recognize my voice, so I nod. Kneeling, I set the bag down and take off.
I don’t look back.
You never look back.
If you do, they might see your face, connect it to a list of subversives, rebels, or whatever list you didn’t know you were on.
I’m two blocks away before a grin spreads across my face. Dumbass Harlan was so preoccupied by the bag that he didn’t notice the cans crammed in my pockets.
I decide to go home through the woods. It’s longer and a thousand percent spookier, but it has more cover. Plus, The Corporation hasn’t put cameras in the forest. At least not yet anyway. That might change if they suspect the squirrels of treason.
Plus, Harlan lives two houses away from me. If he’s heading home, it’s worth the extra twenty-minute walk to avoid him.
I trudge along. I can’t see a thing in the inky blackness. Everything is a muddied silhouette, and I don’t want to trip on something and break my neck. I used to find the sounds of leaves crunching under my feet satisfying. But I don’t anymore.
They just tell the Sons or the rebel squirrels where you are.
My breath comes quick now. Heart racing. It’s my anxiety getting the better of me. I don’t bother fighting it because I’m too busy cursing myself. If Harlan is out on patrol, he’s nowhere near his house. Then again, it might be dumb luck that we ran into each other.
Either way, I don’t really care right now because I’m sure Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers has spotted my dumbass alone in the woods. I stop for a second, but the sound of crunching leaves doesn’t.
A twig snaps.
A half-naked figure lunges from the darkness, falling to the ground.
I almost scream.
A man lies motionless. I get a little closer and notice he’s covered in blood. Against my better judgment, I turn him over. A few holes leak his blood.
Someone shot him.
The only people with guns these days are Sons or rebels. Which means they’re probably out searching for him. That thought alone makes me nope my sorry ass out of the woods as fast as I can.
I emerge, unharassed by either rebel squirrels or a fictional slasher, near the non-Harlan end of my block. My breath comes in short, panicked gasps. I’m more than a little embarrassed by how fast I’m moving down the block.
I turn the corner. My house blazes bright in the frigid night. It’s almost enough to chase away the harsh twilight glow from the screens on the telephone poles.
Julia, my little sister hates being alone, but she isn’t right now. Unless Winnie’s wandered off again. She has turned on every light, which means he probably did. The Sons don’t pay him much mind, so he’ll be okay. Hopefully, she hasn’t used up our electricity ration for the month.
I linger in the driveway, eyes darting. I need to make sure I wasn’t followed.
An angry orange flower of fire blooms over the nearby hills. Must be the rebels blowing something up or being blown up themselves. Either way, a bunch of people are dead. A tenth of a second later, a dull roar reaches my ears, and everything shakes.
Every porch light in the neighborhood blinks on, and people spill out from their houses, scurrying around like angry ants. A few have wide eyes, their O-shaped mouths gulping the chilly night air. Which reminds me of the fish that Dad and I used to catch. Others just sigh, wringing their hands. A few look furious.
I’ve lived here for like forever and recognize everyone.
That is everyone except the young man with the neat dark hair walking along the walkway in front of the house next door. His hands are in his pockets, posture crisp but relaxed.
I do a double take because I didn’t expect to see anyone coming from there. It and the house across the street have stood vacant since the Perrys and the Youngs disappeared a year ago. He might be a zig though.
Zig is short for zigzag. They’re the people who refuse to go along with The Corporation but won’t join the resistance either. So, they zigzag between the two opposing forces that shape the IPA. They usually come in small groups, no more than four. There’s not a lot of them. At least as far as anyone can tell. Anyway, neither side likes them much, and both will see them wiped out just as soon. Which is why, if he is a zig, he certainly wouldn’t be so careless and let everyone know where he lives.
He might be a rebel. They sometimes hunker down in vacant buildings. That thought both excites and frightens me.
As he draws closer, there’s no mistaking this man for a zig or a rebel. He wears a suit, but the distant flames give everything a crimson tone, so I can’t tell what color it is. Something on his jacket flickers. He reaches the end of the walkway, and I notice that the light glints off a bunch of Corporation commendation pins on his lapel.
At first, he acknowledges no one as he crosses his arms and stares straight ahead. He appears calm, but his breath comes in peculiar fits like he’s out of breath but doesn’t want anyone to know. Maybe he’s asthmatic? I don’t know. His eyes don’t watch the distant flames like everyone else; they’re watching the streetlights.
Something glistens on his forehead like sweat, but the night is cold, so that’s impossible. He appears to sense me gawking and gives me a nod.
By reflex, I wave.
Another fireball blossoms, this one almost bright enough to read by. The windows rattle from the blast. The neighborhood lights blink a few times before going out. Someone screams as we’re plunged into a weird twilight of flickering screens since those never stop.
I swear Pinman smirks.
A second later, old Doc Salazar asks, “Do you think it’s the Canadians?”
That isn’t as silly as it sounds, since if you’re lucky enough to own a car, it’s like three hours to the border.
“Nah. I bet it’s the Does and the rebels,” Mr. Taylor replies.
Everyone stares at him for a moment. Calling the Does rebels is against the law.
“You mean terrorists,” a throaty unfamiliar voice—my new neighbor—says.
“Yes, y-yes,” Mr. Taylor stammers. He probably noticed every commendation on Pinman’s jacket. He chuckles nervously, running a hand across the back of his neck.
I don’t want to call attention to myself, but Taylor was my dad’s fishing buddy. I can’t count the number of times that the Taylors shared a meal with us after a good day on the lake.
A familiar voice breaks the uncomfortable silence. “Mr. Taylor is scaredly is all. He’s not trying to be outside the box.”
I look around, trying to find who spoke. For some reason, everyone’s staring at me like I punched a nun or something.
Well, everyone except Taylor. He’s got a grateful smile pasted on his stupid round face. The looks confirm my growing suspicion. The voice was familiar because it’s mine.
Pinman doesn’t reply, just cocks his head.
“Well, um, good night, sir,” Mr. Taylor croaks as he scurries back inside his house.
A second later, the loudspeakers atop every telephone pole on the block crackle to life. On the screens, a severe looking yet appealing middle-aged woman appears with her hair wrapped tight around her head. Everything can go dark but not PR Polly, the voice of The Corporation.
There’s a whine of feedback, and Polly stares with a Mona Lisa smile on her lips, waiting for it to pass. It fades to a crackling static and clears.
Her familiar, faintly British voice sounds out. “Return to your homes. All is goodly. We have the situation under control.” As always, she adds the Corporate slogan. “America first. America last. America always.”
Another squeal of feedback sounds out. Dan and Katie return to the screens, laughing about the ratings bonanza it’ll be when the real Does are caught and put on Manhunt. But since Manhunt is required viewing, ratings are a bonanza every day anyway. I’m also not sure how we’d know if they’re the real Does. I mean, every time they think they’ve got them, it turns out they’re regular rebels.
No one even knows what the Does look like.
A weird sensation tingles my leg. It’s my phone vibrating in my pocket. I put aside my stray thoughts for now as I fish it out.
“What did you think of this Realnews brief” flashes on the screen. Underneath, like always, are two emoji:
a smiley one,
and a frowning one.
I tap the smiley face to show that I loved it. No one clicks the other one anymore. Well, no one without a death wish.
Soft clicking echoes around me as my neighbors do the same. By the time I’m done, they’re scurrying back into their homes. I guess they’ve all realized it’s after curfew, so we are all technically criminals right now.
Pinman still stands there with his arms crossed, staring at me. I try not to meet his gaze and mumble something about how my little sister is waiting for dinner inside.
In the distance, sirens blare. A lot of them. All isn’t goodly. I sense the stranger watching me as I walk into my house.
Author David Dean Lugo often gets ideas for his stories by wondering what if? In his new young adult dystopian novel, Year Zero, he probed this when writing about a future fascist America run by a governing body called The Corporation and its CEO. Lugo believes that today’s trend of people judging one another too harshly—whether based on their political party, gender identity, or something else—is causing people to drift too far away from one another. His story explores potential extreme ramifications of this.
Lugo believes a great book is one that has believable characters that readers can identify with and relate to. He hopes his stories evoke emotion and thinking from his readers long after the book is closed.
When he isn’t writing thought-provoking YA novels, Lugo enjoys playing guitar, watching movies, playing video/board games, and hanging out with his amazing family. He lives in southwest New Hampshire with his wife Meredith, son Jacob, and their rascally Labrador/Collie mix named Astrid. Year Zero is the first volume in his The Revolution’s Children trilogy.
Title: A Very English Murder (A Lady Eleanor Swift Mystery 1) by Verity Bright
Date Published: 7th April 2020
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Move over Miss Marple, there’s a new sleuth in town! Meet Eleanor Swift: distinguished adventurer, dog lover, dignified lady… daring detective?
England, 1920. Eleanor Swift has spent the last few years travelling the world: taking tea in China, tasting alligators in Peru, escaping bandits in Persia and she has just arrived in England after a chaotic forty-five-day flight from South Africa. Chipstone is about the sleepiest town you could have the misfortune to meet. And to add to these indignities – she’s now a Lady.
Lady Eleanor, as she would prefer not to be known, reluctantly returns to her uncle’s home, Henley Hall. Now Lord Henley is gone, she is the owner of the cold and musty manor. What’s a girl to do? Well, befriend the household dog, Gladstone, for a start, and head straight out for a walk in the English countryside, even though a storm is brewing…
But then, from the edge of a quarry, through the driving rain, Eleanor is shocked to see a man shot and killed in the distance. Before she can climb down to the spot, the villain is gone and the body has vanished. With no victim and the local police convinced she’s stirring up trouble, Eleanor vows to solve this affair by herself. And when her brakes are mysteriously cut, one thing seems sure: someone in this quiet country town has Lady Eleanor Swift in their murderous sights…
If you enjoy witty dialogue, glamorous intrigue and the very best of Golden Age mysteries, then you will adore Verity Bright’s unputdownable whodunnit, perfect for fans of Agatha Christie, T.E. Kinsey and Downton Abbey!
I saw this for free a couple of weeks ago on Amazon and immediately snapped it up as I love a good cozy mystery, especially one set in the early part of the twentieth century.
A Very English Murder is the first in the Lady Swift mysteries and sets it up nicely for the rest of the series.
Lady Eleanor Swift inherits Henley Hall from her uncle after his untimely demise. A little overwhelmed on arrival, she heads out into a storm with elderly Bulldog Gladstone and ends up stumbling upon a murder. When the police finally arrive and she takes them to the scene of the crime, there’s no sign of a body or blood. Not to be deterred, she vows to get to the bottom of it, even if it puts her life in danger.
Eleanor, or Ellie as she likes to be known, is an interesting character. Her parents disappeared when she was young, so her uncle packed her off to boarding school, but the second she could, she escaped abroad and went on some fascinating adventures. I found her a little bossy and abrasive at times, but I warmed up to her by the end.
Another intriguing character is her uncle’s butler, Clifford, who seems to appear out of nowhere and is always sneaking about. As her uncle’s right-hand man, he knows a lot of secrets about her uncle who doesn’t seem to just be the aloof and cold man that Eleanor thought he was. We don’t find out much about her uncle, but it leaves it open to find out more in future stories, which I’m looking forward to.
The mystery was packed with clues and red herrings. Even though I figured out whodunnit a bit early, it was fun to read along to see when Ellie would decipher all the clues.
A Very English Murder is a must if you love a classic style mystery.
About The Author:
Verity Bright is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing partnership that has spanned a quarter of a century. Starting out writing high-end travel articles and books, they published everything from self-improvement to humour, before embarking on their first historical mystery. They are the authors of the fabulous Lady Swift Mystery series, set in the 1920s.