#BlogTour ~ City of Ghosts by Ben Creed @ed_pr @welbeckpublish

Welcome to my spot on the blog tour for City of Ghosts by Ben Creed.

City of Ghosts is published on 15th October 2020 by Welbeck Publishing.

The first in a trilogy, City of Ghosts is set in the Leningrad of 1951 where the shadows of the war and the threats of Stalinism loom large.

When five blackened corpses are found neatly arranged between three parallel railway lines, even Revol Rossel – once a Conservatoire-trained violinist, now a humble state militia-cop – is sickened by the gruesome scene.

Whether victims of the MGB or a crazed yet methodical killer, these bodies soon lead Rossel back into the dark and ruthless heart of the Soviet classical music establishment, a place where his dreams were shattered and his ghosts barely laid to rest.

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A big thank you to Megan Denholm at Ed PR for my copy of the book and for inviting to take part on the blog tour. I am happy to host an extract on my blog today!

Saturday 13 October, 1951

They lay as straight as scaffolding, stark in the glare of the train engine’s headlight. A quintet of bodies on the snowy tracks, parallel and neat. Feet together, arms straight, with their heads turned delicately to one side. As though Death had asked them all to form an orderly queue, and each damned soul had politely obliged him. 

Revol Rossel, lieutenant in the Leningrad militsiya, drew on his cigarette, blew out a ring of grey smoke and observed the crime scene from a distance with studied impassivity. It was a habit now, that face. An expression that so far, even though he was thirty-four years old, had kept him out of the camps. ‘Every man must have one face for the world and another for himself, Revol,’ his father had once told him, with a stoic wink. At the time, neither his father nor Rossel had properly understood what a sound piece of advice this was, the kind that could help any Soviet citizen live a little longer. Especially one who lived in Leningrad, a city for which Stalin was known to harbour misgivings. 

As Rossel watched on from the front passenger seat of the Moskvich, he could hear the car’s engine wheezing. Away to the left and across a deep field of snow, a black steam engine wheezed and stood still. Behind the engine and its cargo, the track was flanked by trees for kilometre after kilometre but here, before him, it was crossed by another line of rails, forming a small clearing.

‘Come on, then, gentlemen. Time for us to take our bow.’ 

The car doors beat a tattoo of slams as Rossel and his fellow cops got out. They moved together, lifting their knees high to make progress in the deep drifts. Under their regulation coats, sporting the insignia of their respective ranks in the militia, they wore a variety of pullovers, trousers and thick underwear. Standard uniform alone was no match for a winter’s night. A few hours ago, the radio had said it was minus twenty-seven. ‘Cold enough to turn good hot Russian piss into icicles,’ as Sergeant Grachev had put it the last time he had regaled them all with another story of how he had slaughtered members of the 33rd Waffen SS en route to Berlin. 

Next to the steam engine stood two men, frozen and forlorn. Rossel looked to the right at the second track. It met the main line at a forty-five-degree angle, turned and ran parallel for a few dozen metres, merged at a points system and veered off again into the pines. 

One of the two men next to the train moved forward to meet them – the train driver, Rossel guessed. He wore a thick, quilted coat over his overalls and a large fur hat that seemed to almost swallow up a shrunken head, and he reeked of burnt coal. 

‘What kept you?’ the driver grumbled. 

Rossel ignored the question and looked over him at the other man, from the local militia. This must be the one who had phoned in. He was short and thin and looked like a frightened animal – in his early twenties, practically a boy. The youngster and the driver had sullen faces. They’d been quarrelling, no doubt about it. Rossel guessed the driver had wanted to shunt the corpses out of the way, to hell with it, and get going again; the lad would have been too terrified to touch a thing – a policeman from the sticks refusing to budge until someone else took command. 

‘What kept you, eh?’ repeated the train driver. 

Rossel looked at him and returned fire. ‘Driving nearly fifty kilometres at four in the morning in a blizzard so thick it would turn a snow fox blind. That may have had something to do with it,’ he said. 

It had been snowing for three days and it was only mid October. Nothing like it since the winter of ’42, according to survivors of the Siege of Leningrad. Once the militia officers had got outside the city, it had been more like skiing than driving.

To follow the rest of the blog tour…

About the Authors

Ben Creed

Ben Creed is the pseudnoym for Chris Rickaby and Barney Thompson.

Chris found his way into advertising as a copywriter and, after working for various agencies, started his own called Everything Different.

Barney is a classically trained musician who studied under the legendary conducting professor Ilya Musin at the St Petersburg Conversatory for two years. He is fluent in Russian and is now an editor.

#BlogTour #Extract ~ The Peacock Room by Anna Sayburn Lane @BloomsburyLane @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Peacock Room by Anna Sayburn Lane.

The Peacock Room is published on 1st October 2020.

A literary obsession. An angry young man with a gun. And one woman trying to foil his deadly plan.

When Helen Oddfellow starts work as a lecturer in English literature, she’s hoping for a quiet life. But trouble knows where to find her.

There’s something wrong with her new students. Their unhappiness seems to be linked to their flamboyant former tutor, Professor Petrarch Greenwood, who holds decadent parties in his beautiful Bloomsbury apartment.

When Helen is asked to take over his course on the Romantic poet William Blake, life and art start to show uncomfortable parallels. Disturbing poison pen letters lead down dark paths, until Helen is the only person standing between a lone gunman and a massacre.

As Helen knows too well, even dead poets can be dangerous.

THE PEACOCK ROOM is the intriguing follow-up to the acclaimed thriller UNLAWFUL THINGS, which introduced the literary sleuth Helen Oddfellow.

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Thank you to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part on the blog tour and for providing me with an extract of the next book in the Helen Oddfellow series.

He weighed the weapon in his gloved hand, the heft of it reassuring. A proper gun, a man’s gun. No questions, he’d been told by the guy in the south London pub. You don’t want to know where it came from. He could guess, though. It smelled of grease and sweating hands, drugs gangs securing their turf and swaggering kids trying to impress each other.

He examined the black casing, then arranged on the table a bottle of isopropyl alcohol, a toothbrush and a soft cloth. He wanted it properly clean, a fitting tool for the work he had planned. He didn’t want its history in here, stinking the place out with desperation and petty crime. Disgusting. He frowned at the particles of grit gumming up the trigger mechanism, the dirt embedded in the grip. If he could, he would have bought a new gun, box fresh and shining with a gleaming mahogany stock.

Bring me my bow of burning gold.

It would have to do. He put down the cloth, peeled off the plastic gloves and threw them in the trash, reached automatically for his bottle of hand sanitiser. The clean, cool scent soothed him.

It had been surprisingly difficult to get hold of a gun. He was used to the US, where you could pick up a semi-automatic and enough ammunition to take out a junior high along with a quart of milk. Guns were harder to come by in England. But not impossible, if you had cash and connections and knew your way around the Dark Web.

He needed to practise. Eight rounds in the magazine, and he didn’t know if he’d have time to reload. They all had to count. His face relaxed into a smile as he ran through the targets. Who to take out first? There would be so much choice. Personal, or political? He could pick them off, one by one.

He picked up the gun.

There was a shooting club along the coast, where guys in grubby khaki T-shirts with beer bellies blasted away at clays. He’d been down a couple of times, used the range and had some beers in the grim little bar. It had been useful. And on Sunday mornings, the noise from the range was good cover for his own practice. He could hear them now, the crack of shotguns echoing over the marshes.

He loaded the pistol and stashed it in his inside jacket pocket. He hated to think where it had been kept before. Stuffed down a pair of sweatpants, probably, nestling against pimpled buttocks.

Then he took a walk along the seashore, to the clump of scrub and bushes where he’d set up his targets. No-one came down this end of the beach, except a few lonely fishermen when the tide was high. He arranged the cardboard figures with painted faces. He’d taken more time on them than perhaps was necessary, considering what he was about to do.

He stood with his back to the trees, lifted the pistol and lined up the sights. He squeezed, firm but gentle, like he’d been taught. He had a good eye, a steady hand. By the time he’d finished, eight cardboard heads hung in tatters.

He walked forward to collect them, satisfied. At the top of the shingle shelf, he saw what he first thought was a body, prone on the beach. Shit. He broke into a run. Had he hit someone?

As he approached, it leapt up, a bundle of ragged clothes and a wild head of hair. The guy looked terrified, his eye fixed on the gun.

Rags flapping, the figure turned and hared along the beach, scrambling up the bank and disappearing into the distance. The gunman stood and watched him go. A tramp, maybe. A hobo. Nothing to worry about. He gathered up the cardboard figures and carried them back to the caravan

To follow the rest of the blog tour…

About the Author

Anna Sayburn Lane

Anna Sayburn Lane is a novelist, short story writer and storyteller, inspired by the history and contemporary life of London. Unlawful Things is her first novel.

She has published award-winning short stories in a number of magazines, including Mslexia, Scribble and One Eye Grey.

Her Mslexia award-winning story Conservation was described by judge and Booker-longlisted author Alison MacLeod as “a powerful and profound contemporary piece in which one man’s story stands for an entire nation’s… it’s a punch to the heart, a story that will haunt and touch its readers deeply”.

She has told stories at London club The Story Party and One Eye Grey’s Halloween event, Moon Over the Lido.

#BlogTour ~ Those Who Know by Alis Hawkins @Alis_Hawkins @DomePress

A big welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Those Who Know by Alis Hawkins.

Those Who Know was published on 28th May 2020 by The Dome Press and is the third in the Teifi Valley Coroner series.

Those Who Know: Teifi Valley Coroner (Paperback)

Harry Probert-Lloyd has inherited the estate of Glanteifi and appointed his assistant John as under-steward. But his true vocation, to be coroner, is under threat. Against his natural instincts, Harry must campaign if he is to be voted as coroner permanently by the local people and politicking is not his strength.

On the hustings, Harry and John are called to examine the body of Nicholas Rowland, a radical and pioneering schoolteacher whose death may not be the accident it first appeared. What was Rowland’s real relationship with his eccentric patron, Miss Gwatkyn? And why does Harry’s rival for the post of coroner deny knowing him?

Harry’s determination to uncover the truth threatens to undermine both his campaign and his future.

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A big thank you to Emily at The Dome Press for issuing me with my review copy of the book and for inviting to take part on the blog tour.

Those Who Know is the third installment in the Teifi Valley Coroner series which is set in West Wales in 1851. We follow Harry Probert-Lloyd as he is acting as coroner whilst also on the election trail to become the permanent coroner. When you throw in the suspicious death of a teacher following a fall from a hayloft – he has his hands quite full!

I have become really fond of Harry throughout this series and have really enjoyed the development of his character, a nearly blind coroner was probably not the norm in 1851 but Harry is something else and uses his other senses and sharp brain to discover the truth in the cases he has dealt with. Harry and John are the perfect foil for each other with John acting as Harry’s eyes and helping him with his cases.

Alis Hawkins always writes with such vigour and her descriptions of the Welsh landscape are perfect along with the incredibly well researched history of Wales during this time which really highlights the differences (and not so different) of classes and even gender inequality in society today. 

Those Who Know (in my opinion) is the best so far, although the others are also brilliantly written. (I may have to go back and read the others again now….!)

To follow the rest of the tour….

About the Author

About Alis – Alis Hawkins

Alis Hawkins grew up on a dairy farm in Cardiganshire. Her inner introvert thought it would be a good idea to become a shepherd and, frankly, if she had, she might have been published sooner. 

However, three years reading English at Corpus Christi College, Oxford revealed an extrovert streak and a social conscience which saw her train as a Speech and Language Therapist. She has spent the subsequent three decades variously bringing up two sons, working with children and young people on the autism spectrum and writing fiction, non-fiction and plays. She writes the kind of books she likes to read: character-driven historical crime and mystery fiction with what might be called literary production values. 

As a historical writer, Alis takes her research very seriously which sometimes has unexpected consequences. Research into the techniques of medieval charcoal burning led to a fascination with the craft and she and her partner are now regular members of the team that keeps the earth burn charcoal-producing technique alive in the Forest of Dean.

Series: The Teifi Valley Coroner historical crime series, featuring Harry Probert Lloyd and John Davies, published by The Dome Press. #1 – None So Blind (2018),#2 – In Two Minds (2019), #3 – Those Who Know (2020)

Testament, a split time narrative set in fictitious university town Salster in both fourteenth and twenty-first centuries – published by Sapere Books July 2019.

The Black and The White, a historical psychological mystery set during the time of the Black Death will be published by Sapere Books (publication date March 30th 2020)

You can find more on Alis and her writing on her website: www. AlisHawkins.co.uk, on Facebook – Alis Hawkins Author – and on Twitter: @Alis_Hawkins