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A Cut Like Wound By Anita Nair

A Cut Like Wound‘A Cut Like Wound’ is the latest book by Anita Nair and is the first book in The Inspector Gowda Series.

So sit back and enjoy an extract from the Indian story.

MONDAY, 1 AUGUST
It wasn’t the first time. But it always felt like the first time as he stood in front of the mirror, uncertain, undecided, on the brink of something monumental. On the bare marble counter was a make-up kit. He ran his finger along the marble to check for dust. Only when he was satisfied that it was clean did he touch the quilted cover of the lid. The satin shirred under his fingers. Something leapt in him, a wave of pure delight that was enough to set him off.

A giggle emerged. A snickering sound of pure joy, girlish glee and unfettered excitement.

He switched on the series of light bulbs that circled the mirror. The electrician had stared when he had asked for the light bulbs to be placed so. The electrician’s assistant had sniggered and asked his boss, ‘Why does he want so many lights? Who does he think he is? Rajinikant? Is he going to put make-up on?’

But he had set his heart on it after seeing it in a film. And so he had frowned and said in his coldest voice, ‘If you don’t know how to, I can always find someone else.’

That had settled it.

In the mirror, he gazed at himself just once. Fleetingly. Then it was time. He opened the kit and started working quickly with a practised hand. The concealer to cover the shadows on his chin and around his mouth. The foundation, the fine creamy talc to smoothen the complexion, eyes enhanced with the kohl pencil, and a twirl of the mascara brush on the eyelashes for the wide-eyed look. He wet the tip of his finger with Vaseline and traced his eyebrows. A pat of blush and then carefully he outlined his lips with a lip pencil and filled it with a deep pink lipstick. He pressed his lips together and applied a coat of gloss. Glistening lips smiled shyly at the reflection in the mirror.

He took a tissue from a box and carefully wiped the counter. Marble was like skin, it showed up how it was used. He crumpled the tissue into a ball and flicked it into the bin. Then he stepped out of the track pants he was wearing and hung it from a hook behind the door. He averted his eyes as he slid off his briefs and, making a moue of his lips, tossed it into the basket that held the T-shirt he had been wearing.

Naked and wearing just his painted face, he walked out of the bathroom. Then he paused and went back again to the dressing table. He opened a drawer in which were six vials of the finest attar.

He opened the stoppers one by one and sniffed at the mouth of the perfume vial. Nag Champa. Raat Shanthi. Roah al Oudh. Shamama. Moulshree. And his favourite, Jannat ul firdous.

He chose Shamama. Tonight he would be a garden of flowers. A complex scent would herald his arrival and trail his footsteps.

The last door of the walk-in wardrobe was locked. Only he had access to it. He hummed under his breath as he opened the door. Green, green, tonight he felt like wearing green, he told himself as he pulled out a shimmery green chiffon sari.

From one of the drawers, he pulled out a pale-green petticoat and blouse. Then, with a smile, a padded bra and the matching panty. He was still humming as he adjusted the blouse and pinned the sari so it hung low, showing off his waist and his navel piercing. He touched the topaz in his navel. A frisson of excitement unfurled in him.

From the shelf on top, he chose a wig of waist-length hair. He placed it on his head and, as he looked into the mirror, something about the way his eyelids drooped told him who he wanted to be tonight.

With elaborate care he arranged himself so he was the woman from a Ravi Varma painting, fresh from a bath. He brought his hands to his chin and laced his fingers so the tip of the forefinger of the right hand touched the edge of his lower lip.

Hair to her knees, loose and flowing. The sari clasped between fingers, an attempt to cover herself but hinting at the nakedness of her breasts. The fullness of flesh. Shy, yet seeking more. All woman.

He laid out the earrings. He always wore the same pair. Old-fashioned pearl earrings with hooks so he didn’t have to fumble with screws. He clipped a necklace around his neck and slid glass bangles on both wrists. The tinkle of green glass as he lifted the hem of the sari and stepped into two- inch-high green-and-beige sandals made him smile again.

You can buy ‘A Cut Like Wound’ from Amazon.

After Sundown Edited By Mark Morris

After Sundown‘After Sundown’ is a collection of a short stories that is guaranteed to keep you awake at night.

This new anthology contains 20 original horror stories, 16 of which have been commissioned from some of the top names in the genre, and 4 of which have been selected from the 100s of stories sent to Flame Tree during a 2-week open submissions window. It is the first of what will hopefully become an annual, non-themed horror anthology of entirely original stories, showcasing the very best short fiction that the genre has to offer.

With it coming up to Halloween, there’s not much opportunity for trick or treating with the pandemic so, why not settle into a collection of horror stories about things that go bump in the night, paranormal and disturbing people.

The book is packed with some well known authors from CJ Tudor, author of ‘The Chalkman’ and Avon Books author Paul Finch as well as some new names who submitted their own stories.

Packed with 20 stories and dependent on your type of horror, there’s something for everyone who enjoys unsettling reading. There’s stories of ghosts, flesh eating butterflies and women who are really swans. These stories are genuinely disturbing and as I got closer to the end of each of story, I found myself tensing up for the big reveal.

This collection of short stories makes for fascinating and unsettling reading, injected with a bit of humour to decrease the fear factor. A book filled with all types of horror, from new and established authors, ‘After Sundown’ is a must read for all horror fans.

You can buy ‘After Sundown’ from Amazon.

The Nesting By C.J. Cooke

The Nesting‘The Nesting’ is the latest book by C.J Cooke.

Deep in a remote Norwegian forest, Lexi has found a new home with architect Tom and his two young daughters. With snow underfoot and the sound of the nearby fjord in her ears, it’s as if Lexi has stepped into a fairy tale. But this family has a history – and this place has a past. Something was destroyed to build their beautiful new house. And those ancient, whispering woods have a long memory. Lexi begins to hear things, see things that don’t make sense. She used to think this place heavenly, but in the dark, dark woods, a menacing presence lurks. With darkness creeping in from the outside, Lexi knows she needs to protect the children in her care. But protect them from what?

‘The Nesting’ was a book that caught me completely by surprise. It’s a gothic thriller set in Norway but there is an element of humour in the story from the lead protagonisit which made for a fun reading in this dark story.

The story is seen primarily through the eyes of Lexi who tries to take her own life but when that doesn’t work, she realises that she needs to make a change to her life. Dumped and now homeless, she hops on a train and upon hearing a conversation between 2 friends becomes Sophie, a nanny to little girls called Gaia and Coco in an isolated part of Norway. Settled into her new role and identity, Sophie finds herself loving her new job but finds the house that she’s leaving spooky especially when she’s told to stay away from the basement.

Not only is the story seen from the narrative of Lexi/Sophie but there’s elements of insight from Aurelia who’s the mother of the 2 little girls who had sadly died from suspected suicide. Her insights feature her battle with her mental health as well as living in a forest surrounded by folklore and urban myths. Her husband, is determined to build her the house of her dreams but is constantly faced with issues and pitfalls along the way. The locals maintain it’s down the magic surrounding the land and in the end back away from the project.

The story is an atmospheric and vivid story. Right from the beginning, the author creates vivid descriptions of the forest and the surrounding areas as well the scary Norwegian folklores that make for unsettling but fascinating reading.

I loved the characters in this story. Lexi a great protagonist, she’s witty and self deprecating and fits easily into her role, even though she is making it up as she goes along. The theme of mental health is very prevalent in the story, as both Aurelia and Lexi have their own issues and this makes for sad reading at times as they try to decipher what is real and what is a hallucination.

Beautifully written against the snowy backdrop of the Norwegian landscape, ‘The Nesting’ is a stunning and chilling story that takes the reader deep in creepy folklore where secrets and ghosts lurk and nothing is what it seems.

You can buy ‘The Nesting’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

My Top Ten Favourite Festive Activities By Heidi Swain

Christmas RoomToday on the book tour for her new book Christmas book called ‘The Winter Garden’, Heidi Swain is sharing her Top Ten Favourite Festive Activities because she is a HUGE fan of Christmas!

So, here we go…

“Heidi

Reading
I’m sure it’s no surprise that books bagged the number 1 spot! December 1st is always reserved for Mr Dickens. The month simply wouldn’t work if I hadn’t reacquainted myself with A Christmas Carol. I also read Trisha Ashley’s Twelve Days of Christmas too and treat myself to new festive fiction. Louise Marley, Sophie Claire and Victoria Walters are on the list this year and I’m starting earlier than usual because otherwise I won’t fit them all in.

Carols from King’s
My Christmas Eve revolves around this choral festive treat. My to-do list has to be completed so I can be ready to watch and listen with a cup of tea and a mince pie. As a person of Pagan persuasion, I find this much-loved tradition of mine something of a surprise, but the voices are so stirring as the light begins to fade. I love it!

Christmas shopping
I love Christmas shopping, as long as I have my trusty list. The chilly weather, bustling streets and frequent tea and cake top ups make it all the more pleasurable. I know it won’t be the same this year, but I can hang on to the memory of those wonderful excursions for now.

Finding the right gift
Nothing beats the pleasure of watching someone opening their gift and seeing their face light up. Finding the perfect present isn’t always easy, but it’s totally worth the effort.

Baking
I’m certainly no Jemma from The Cherry Tree Café, but I do love some festive baking. My repertoire is limited, but nothing says Christmas like a stint in the kitchen assembling my easy cheat mince pies and sausage rolls, with the festive tunes cranked up, a glass of mulled wine to hand and my Santa apron in place.

Scents of the season
Not strictly an activity you might argue, but it can be! Mulling your own wine with festive spices and studding oranges with cloves to release that seasonal smell feels like a pretty good way to spend an afternoon to me.

Decorating
Dressing the house is always a favourite festive activity and generally happens the second weekend in December. I know exactly what’s packed in the boxes in the loft but opening them is always a treat. The hearth is dressed with holly, ivy and mistletoe and the tree is topped with two angels, both created by my son and daughter in Year R. Given that they are 25 and 20 now, the loo rolls and pipe cleaners have certainly seen better days, but up they go!

Festive films
I love snuggling under a blanket to watch a festive film. Like everyone else, I have a teetering pile of DVD’s and it’s an annual treat working my way through them all. I also love the Hallmark channel and all the made for TV films. A totally festive indulgence! I don’t think I could pick a favourite, but ‘Love Actually’, ‘Elf’, ‘Muppets Christmas Carol’, ‘Nativity’… nope. I can’t do it! I’ll just end up listing the lot!

Winter walks
As you may already know, I’m always trying to get folk outdoors in the fresh air, whatever the weather. Although I draw the line at heading out in driving rain! I love getting wrapped up in warm layers and striding out for a bracing walk around my local patch. It’s a great mood soother and in the run up to Christmas, when it’s tempting to stay inside, a super way to recharge the batteries. Throw some snow in the mix and I’m even happier!

'The Winter Garden

Taking in the sights of the season
This is a separate trip to the shopping expedition and with a completely different purpose. Norwich always has beautiful light and window displays and I really enjoy going up to the city, towards the end of the day, to simply admire the decorations and soak up the atmosphere. We’d had the lovely of tunnel of light for the last few years and then there’s the animatronic tableau in the Forum and Jarrolds. All so superbly seasonal!

Crikey, that was the speediest Top Ten I’ve ever written and I could have easily added more favourite festive activities to the list. I know there’s nothing unusual or surprising written here, but these are all things I love to do in the run up to Christmas and beyond and this year more than ever, I’m going to take comfort in the familiarity of them all.

Wishing you all a safe and healthy festive season.

With love
Heidi x

You can buy ‘The Winter Garden’ from Amazon and is available from other good bookshops.

The Good Samaritan By CJ Parsons

The Good Samaritan‘The Good Samaritan’ is the latest book by CJ Parsons.

When her five-year-old daughter disappears from the park, Carrie’s world shatters. She is tortured with worry and she blames herself. What if her inability to read facial expressions has put her child in danger? But just days later, a stranger finds Sofia and brings her home. Carrie should be relieved, but the abductor is still out there, still unknown. Still after her child. And are those who have offered their help really the good Samaritans they seem… or has Carrie missed the warning signs?

‘The Good Samaritan’ is an intriguing and gripping story that I consumed in one sitting.

The story is primarily seen through the narrative of Carrie, who one day when taking her daughter Sofia to the park, Sofia is abducted. Distraught for her daughter’s safety, Carrie calls the police and DCI Juliet is in charge of the case. But days later, a man turning up at the house with his Sofia in his arms claiming her found her. With the kidnapper still at large, Carrie has to fear for her daughter’s safety and Juliet and her team have to find the perpetrator.

If you’re a fan of twisty thrillers, then I would thoroughly recommend this book. A sharp and fast paced story with an unreliable newcomers that all make for suspicious characters with dodgy characters. Carrie, as the protagonist is a fascinating character, now a single mother after her relationship broke down, she’s a successful architect who suffers from a condition called Prosopagnosia, where she is unable to read people’s expressions and this effects her ability to make friends. Even though Sofia is only 6 years old, she’s very aware of Carrie’s condition and is able to help her when she’s unsure of how to react. As Carrie deals with the aftermath of Sofia’s abduction, she’s trying to move on but is finding it hard when the kidnapper is still at large and Sofia has nightmares of his return.

But after Sofia’s kidnapping, it brings 2 new people into Carrie’s life, a woman called Tara who becomes her friend and helps bring Carrie out of her self and Josh, the man who brought Sofia back to Carrie. They share mutual interests and have an attraction to each other so it makes sense that they get together.

But as DCI Juliet, a young detective who’s leading the case delves into both people’s backgrounds, she wonders if they are genuine as they seem.

Not only is there a great leading character in the story but the supporting characters are compelling as well. Sofia is wise beyond her years. With her mother’s condition, she notices things that Carrie fails to notice and is a sweet and kind little girl. She doesn’t come from a stereotypical family with a mother’s condition and an absent father battling mental health issues.

An original thriller that pulled me in right from the dramatic first page, this cleverly crafted and keenly written book has all the signs for a great thriller. Speedy, with clever dialogue and characters that keeps the reader on their toes, ‘The Good Samaritan’ is a first rate thriller that is a guessing game throughout.

You can buy ‘The Good Samaritan’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.