The Hoax by Paul Clayton #BookReview #GuestPost #Giveaway #BlogTour

 Meet Frankie Baxter. She's trying to make ends meet and keep the boat afloat for her three kids.

She's harassed, sometimes impatient. but she's a fabulous mum. So imagine her distress when Henry, her youngest child, goes missing ...

Henry returns safety accompanied by a stranger, Cora, a fairy godmother who starts to change the Baxter family's lives in the best of ways. So why do things suddenly start going wrong? Is Cora fulfilling their dreams• or is she the start of a nightmare?

Funny, terrifying and a real page-turner, The Hoax puts a whole new slant on psychological thrillers.

I'm delighted to be sharing my Publication Day review of The Hoax and to be one of the bloggers opening the blog tour today. I also have a giveaway AND a fabulous guest post for you about what inspired Paul to write The Hoax and how lockdown affected his writing. Many thanks to Paul Clayton and Rachel Gilbey from Rachel's Random Resources for inviting me and for my advance digital copy of the novel.

A family visit to the local park ends in anguish for Frankie Baxter when her youngest son, ten-year-old Henry disappears. For Henry, it's a night of adventure, a chance to take part in the Blue Whale Challenge by staying away from home without telling anyone where you are for forty-eight hours but Frankie is terrified by the thought that he's lying hurt somewhere - until daughter, Shannon less than helpfully points out that it's far more likely he's been abducted.
I fell in love with the Baxter family within the first few pages; Frankie, Henry, Shannon and eldest son, Jonny are such believable characters. Their household is undeniably chaotic at times but they are all so refreshingly normal. This authentic, relatable depiction of the Baxters ensures that the delightfully dark humour which can be found throughout The Hoax is actually really quite warm at times too.
It's a relief, therefore, when a kindly woman, Cora comes across an ill-prepared Henry and though her decision to help him stay out for the night rather than immediately return him home is questionable, she appears to be a rather eccentric character who hasn't forgotten what it's like to be young. Like a colourfully-dressed Nanny McPhee, she seems to be the figure Frankie and her family didn't know they needed, and at first they enjoy the changes she brings to their lives.
However, there are little hints that she might not be quite the benign figure she appears to be and that her influence may not be quite as positive as it seems. Frankie still dares to hope that her life may be changing for the better but perhaps her trust is misplaced; without giving anything away here, I loved that there are some names used which rang alarm bells in my head, even if she was slower to catch on. That said, Frankie's volatile nature means she is more than capable of getting herself into trouble and I loved that there's an element of doubt introduced as to who is responsible for what, especially as the novel takes an increasingly darker turn. There are some shocking and gruesome scenes in the novel which some readers may find distressing but I never found them gratuitous and thought their inclusion was important to explain how the events of the past influence the present. 
The main storyline is intertwined with a subplot featuring two young girls with troubled pasts and these chapters are the more disturbing parts of the book. Lottie's experiences are depressingly familiar and she is a character I couldn't help but wish the best for, despite a horrifically upsetting moment in her childhood. The other character here is only ever known as Little Girl and her scenes are even more grim. It is obvious, of course that the two plots are linked in some way and though it's fairly easy to guess at least some of the revelations, this is still a compelling, suspenseful mystery which kept me glued to the pages as the tension builds towards the emotional, nail-biting finale.
I loved Paul Clayton's debut The Punishment when I read it last year and I'm delighted to say The Hoax is another fabulous read with its sharply insightful characterisation and an intriguingly sinister yet darkly funny plot. I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to reading more from this talented author in the future.

I think lockdown will have affected many stories as well as produced lots of tales of people’s time in our strange new world. I had planned to write a second book and a story in a newspaper caught my eye. It was about how the friendship between two women had broken down and the lengths to which one of them had gone to cause havoc for the other. It intrigued me. Where there are any moments in my life when a momentary desire for revenge may have led to something more complicated? Would I derive pleasure from setting up an extensive prank to play on someone who had caused me harm or hurt me in some way?
Most of us there is some sort of stop valve inside prevents the thoughts turning themselves into actions, but in this case, the story newspaper that hadn’t been in the newspaper began to form in my head. I had planned to go to my wonderful friends at Chez Castillon ( for a writing retreat to kickstart the book, but coronavirus had other ideas.
Once the full implications of the amount of time I was going to be spending at home had sunk in, I set up my writing program with a daily target and I set off with only the barest of outlines to see what would happen. One question that I’m often asked is “Are you a plotter or a pantser?” I would have always answered that I was the former. I like things laid out. Likewise, I like lists. I like to know what time we will arrive at the airport. I like a full rehearsal schedule on day one, and yet here I was starting a story with only the middle in my mind.
The joy is that characters emerged who I had no idea I would meet. I set a location in my head on a rainy early lockdown walk, but it peopled itself daily. Going back over the manuscript at the end of the year, it was a delight to find some of the creations who play a
vital if small role in the story. It’s a little like when you only spend two days shooting on a film, and you go along to the first preview. You know a little of the story but are constantly delighted by what other people have done. Your scenes act as a little marker of recognition, but you can find joy in the way the story pieces itself together.
That’s what’s happened with “The Hoax” my second novel. Hopefully, it makes the reader turn the pages as eagerly as it made me return to the computer each day to find out what would happen next in the story. It’s not a lockdown story, but lockdown certainly played its part. It cleared my diary to allow the story to have prominence in my head even when I wasn’t writing it. I can genuinely say that when I started, I didn’t know how it was going to finish. I was keen to find out, and I hope the reader will be too.

Thank you so much for this guest post, Paul; at least the lockdown and a newspaper story about bitter revenge resulted in your fantastic book!

The Hoax is published today (1st April 2021) and can be purchased from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

Giveaway to Win 3 x paperback copy of The Hoax (Open to UK Only)

Please note: This giveaway is courtesy of Rachel's Random Resources and in no way the responsibility of Hair Past A Freckle.

*Terms and Conditions - UK entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.
The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopte from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize. 

Good luck!

About the Author
Paul Clayton is best known to audiences for five series of the BAFTA award-winning Channel 4 sitcom "Peep Show” and for two series of the BAFTA winning comedy “Him and Her” from BBC 3. He has enjoyed stints as regular characters in soaps “Hollyoaks”, “Coronation Street” and “Doctors”. He is well known to viewers from a considerable volume of the television, most recently appearances in series 2 of "The Crown", "Black Earth Rising", "Wolf Hall", "The Split”, "Holby", “ This Time with Alan Partridge” “Shakespeare and Hathaway” and “Breeders". He is currently well known and loved by thousands of sci fi fans for his role as “Mr Colchester–terminator in a cardigan”- the leader of the Torchwood team, in the Big Finish ‘Torchwood’ audio dramas. He recently filmed “Danny Boy” for the BBC.
He is the author of "So You Want to Be a Corporate Actor?" and "The Working Actor" and is a regular columnist and feature writer for The Stage.
He is patron of the children's literacy charity Grimm and Co ( based in Yorkshire for whom he has staged young authors live dramas and facilitated six independent films written by 9–11 year olds.
His first novel “The Punishment” met with great reviews when it was published in 2019. "I LOVED this book. It's funny, dark, sexy and sharp as a knife. A brilliant story with three intricately woven strands that keep you hooked all the way through. Definitely recommend!"