Stalker by Lars Kepler (tr. Neil Smith) #BookReview #BlogTour

The internationally bestselling authors of The Sandman and The Hypnotist return with a terrifying new thriller: Detective Joona Linna--recently returned from compassionate leave--reunites with hypnotist Erik Maria Bark in a search for a seemingly unassailable sadistic killer. 
The Swedish National Crime Unit receives a video of a young woman in her home, clearly unaware that she's being watched. Soon after the tape is received, the woman's body is found horrifically mutilated. With the arrival of the next, similar video, the police understand that the killer is toying with them, warning of a new victim, knowing there's nothing they can do. Detective Margot Silverman is put in charge of the investigation, and soon asks Detective Joona Linna for help. Linna, in turn, recruits Erik Maria Bark, the hypnotist and expert in trauma, with whom Linna's worked before. Bark is leery of forcing people to give up their secrets. But this time, Bark is the one hiding things. 
Years bef…

#WithAKissAndAPrayer by Ellie Dean #BookReview #BlogTour

Cliffehaven, May 1944

The tension is rising for Peggy Reilly and the inhabitants of Cliffehaven as the planes continue to roar above the town and there is still no news of the long-awaited Allied invasion into France. There seems to be no end in sight of this war which has scattered her family and brought conflict right to the door of Beach View Boarding House, but Peggy cannot work miracles and the toll of the war is beginning to weigh on her slender shoulders.

Meanwhile, Ron Reilly has landed himself in hot water with his sweetheart, Rosie – and this time, his Irish charm will not be enough to get him out of trouble.

The war has forever changed the lives of Peggy’s loved ones, but with the promise of an Allied invasion comes the hope that her beloved husband and family will at last be coming home. It will take an enormous amount of spirit to keep that hope alive and bring harmony back to Beach View.

I'm delighted to be hosting the blog tour for With a Kiss and a Prayer by Ellie Dean today. Many thanks to the author, publishers and Becky McCarthy for inviting me and for my copy of the novel.
I only discovered the Cliffehaven series last year when I read the previous book, The Waiting Hours and settling into With a Kiss and a Prayer was like meeting up with an old friend again. New readers to the series shouldn't be concerned however, Ellie Dean ensures that enough back story is included to make it easy to catch up. I may not have had the pleasure of experiencing the long story arc in full but nevertheless the books I written in such a way that I couldn't help but become invested in the characters' lives.
It's now 1944 and as the tide finally seemed to be turning against the Nazis, families are glued to their wirelesses to hear news of the latest victories in Europe, particularly in Italy. The sense of anticipation and longing in the war weary country, desperate for news of the Allied invasion of France is almost palpable. Meanwhile though, life goes on and the day to day concerns of the inhabitants of Cliffehaven - and the residents of Beach View Boarding House in particular - become interwoven with their deeper worries for the country and their loved ones. Sagas set during the Second World War are hugely popular and I can really see why this series is so well regarded. Ellie Dean has clearly spent hours researching the period and it pays off as she authentically combines the heightened anxieties and mundane struggles of wartime living with involving and often moving domestic dramas.
 As before, Peggy Reilly is the glue that holds their lives together but even she is struggling with the constant fear and uncertainty, the prolonged separation from her family, and the sheer grind of rationing and having to make do and mend. She longs for more news of her husband, Jim who is still serving in Burma. Although most of the action takes place in Cliffehaven, the gripping scenes in Burma really bring the conflict there to life and there is a genuine sense of danger in the chapters featuring Jim.
The people living in Beach View Boarding House have their own troubles though and Peggy's natural instinct to try and solve everybody's problems eventually become too much of a strain for her. With a Kiss and a Prayer really brings home just how hard it was for the people - and particularly the women left behind. As well as the long hours she works, in a factory, at home and as a Red Cross volunteer, Peggy has to contend with so much; anticipation for the longed-for invasion coupled with her fears for the men fighting; her yearning for her daughters and sons who are growing up without her; her concerns over the young women for whom she has become almost a second mother to; her family's various woes - from Ron's latest exploits to her sister-in-law, Pauline's intense grieving that has made her become needy and resentful, to her sister, Doris' continued  pretentious selfishness. It's not surprising then that this book finally sees Peggy struggle to cope with the load on her overburdened shoulders. However, With a Kiss and a Prayer is still imbued with a touching warmth, there is much humour to be found here, often thanks to the antics of Ron's various animals and there is no shortage of love, wisdom and kindness too.
Obviously we have the benefit of hindsight and so know that D-Day is imminent but the steady pacing of the plot and the gradual unfolding of events gives a real sense of the frustration that must have been felt. Towards the end there's an incident that is really quite shocking and is a reminder that although the Allied invasion of France was the beginning of the end, there were still losses and heartache to be endured. I must confess to feeling slightly conflicted as to the outcome here. I think a different result could have made for a more dramatic conclusion, although as things stand I'm looking forward to seeing how things develop  - I predict fireworks! The war may be drawing to a close but no doubt there will be more secrets and problems to be uncovered and shared in the next Cliffehaven book, due to be published in August 2018. Entitled As the Sun Breaks Through, it does at least suggest things will be starting to look a bit brighter for Peggy and her loved ones. As a confirmed fan of the series now, I will definitely be reading it!

With a Kiss and a Prayer is published by Arrow and can be purchased from Amazon, Hive or from one of the fabulous bookshops near you. Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Ellie Dean lives in a tiny hamlet set deep in the heart of the South Downs in Sussex which offers the tranquillity so necessary for an author.   Ellie finally married her childhood sweetheart eight years ago, and together they share two daughters, three sons and six grandchildren, who are scattered all over the world.

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