Category Archives: netgalley

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 19th September, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #Can’tWaitWednesday

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – The Consuming Fire – Book 2 of The Interdependency series by John Scalzi

#epic science fiction #political thriller #space travel

The Interdependency, humanity’s interstellar empire, is on the verge of collapse. The Flow, the extra-dimensional conduit that makes travel between the stars possible, is disappearing, leaving entire star systems stranded. When it goes, human civilization may go with it—unless desperate measures can be taken.

Emperox Grayland II, the leader of the Interdependency, is ready to take those measures to help ensure the survival of billions. But nothing is ever that easy. Arrayed before her are those who believe the collapse of the Flow is a myth—or at the very least, an opportunity that can allow them to ascend to power.

While Grayland prepares for disaster, others are preparing for a civil war, a war that will take place in the halls of power, the markets of business and the altars of worship as much as it will take place between spaceships and battlefields. The Emperox and her allies are smart and resourceful, but then so are her enemies. Nothing about this power struggle will be simple or easy… and all of humanity will be caught in its widening gyre.

I have read the preview chapters, provided by Netgalley and mostly enjoyed them, after loving the first book. Scalzi uses omniscient pov in this book, which gives it a slightly old fashioned feel, harking back to those epic adventures written in the last century. He manages to pull it off successfully, which isn’t all that easy to do. That said, there is a rather indigestible info-dump in the first chapter. Fortunately, it doesn’t last all that long, because Scalzi’s more usual, bouncy, irreverent voice punches through and whisks us up into this unfolding catastrophe. I’m really looking forward to getting hold of the whole book…

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Nyxia – Book 1 of The Nyxia Triad series by Scott Reintgen #Brainfluffbookreview #Nyxiabookreview

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I’ve been seeing this one around and hearing lots of good things about it, so when it became available on Netgalley, I immediately requested it and was delighted when I was approved to read it.

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family. Forever.

Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe. But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.

I have seen various references to Red Rising and The Hunger Games series in relation to this one and they are both apt. There is an ongoing contest where those who lose will never get to land on Eden and as you’d expect from a competition with such high stakes, there are some savage tactics employed. I really liked Emmett’s reluctance to adopt the most ruthless, violent route to try to achieve a place on Eden – and the fact that though he is very poor, he is also from a tight-knit, loving family. The cultural diversity of the youngsters taking part worked well and Reintgen managed to keep up the pace and tension throughout, despite the relatively large number of characters he was handling.

There is a steady progression of unpleasant discoveries about the project and the substance nyxia as the youngsters are mercilessly drilled and pitted against each other in order to hone their skills in mining and controlling nyxia, while coping with the environment. Eden doesn’t sound remotely like paradise if these exercises are any indication of the conditions prevailing on the alien planet. I like the fact that Emmett isn’t one of those who is right at the top – instead he is bumping along at the bottom and in constant danger of being flushed out of the project.

It was a shock when a couple of likeable, major characters died along the way, which raised the stakes and made it harder to put the book down. The ending is well handled, bringing the book to a climactic conclusion with another nasty surprise that genuinely made my jaw drop – I love it when that happens…

Any niggles? I could have done without the romance. It felt rather tacked on and certainly added nothing to the storyline. However, it’s not a dealbreaker and I am keen to read the next book in this trilogy, Nyxia Unleashed. While I obtained an arc of Nyxia from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Kindred Spirits – Book 5 of the Gabriel Ash and Hazel Best series by Jo Bannister #Brainfluffbookreview #KindredSpiritbookreview

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I wanted a break from my usual diet of SFF reads and this cover caught my eye. I requested it, as I generally like the output from Severn House Publishing, who release a steady stream of well written and well edited crime and adventure fiction.

A kidnap attempt outside the school gates in broad daylight convinces Gabriel Ash that his renegade wife is trying to steal their sons from him. Only the intervention of his friend Constable Hazel Best kept them safe. It’s a simple if alarming explanation, but is it the truth? Hazel uncovers disturbing information about another crime, the repercussions of which are still threatening innocent lives seventeen years later.

That is half the blurb, but it gives you a good idea of what is going on. And no… I haven’t read any of the previous four books in the series – I did my usual trick of crashing midway into this series and once again, got away with it. Bannister drops in any details about the protagonists’ backstory that impacts on the action and characterisation without resorting to any info dumps. It helps that both characters are good people striving to do their best under tricky conditions. Gabriel Ash has clearly had a torrid time of it in previous books and is busy putting his life together as a single father running a book shop. Clever, sensitive and rather battered, he also has a dog who communicates telepathically with him… he thinks.

Hazel Best is a bright, determined woman whose police career has been compromised by previous shenanigans earlier in the series. One of the few people who now give her the time of day, other than a rather busy Gabriel, is Dave Gorman, her superior. When she gets a bee in her bonnet about exactly who was the target in the attempted kidnapping outside the school, events take off.

This well-written police procedural rolls forward at a reasonable clip, with a good mix of possible suspects. My one grizzle is the dog’s role in unravelling the mystery – given that everything else is so very much set in the world of fact, the dog chatting to Gabriel didn’t convince me. I would have preferred it if this had been left more open so that while Gabriel thinks it’s down to the dog, the rest of us could see another option – and if Bannister intended it to read like that, she didn’t quite succeed.

However, that isn’t a dealbreaker. I would happily pick up another book in this series and it is recommended for fans of cosy crime, particularly dog lovers. While I obtained an arc of Kindred Spirit from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Foundryside – Book 1 of the Founders series by Robert Jackson Bennett #Brainfluffbookreview #Foundrysidebookreview

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I spotted this one on several book blogging sites I respect, but when Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog featured it as one of her upcoming reads, I scampered across to Netgalley and managed to get approved for it. And we agreed to buddy read it…

Sancia Grado is a thief, and a damn good one. And her latest target, a heavily guarded warehouse on Tevanne’s docks, is nothing her unique abilities can’t handle. But unbeknownst to her, Sancia’s been sent to steal an artifact of unimaginable power, an object that could revolutionize the magical technology known as scriving. The Merchant Houses who control this magic–the art of using coded commands to imbue everyday objects with sentience–have already used it to transform Tevanne into a vast, remorseless capitalist machine. But if they can unlock the artifact’s secrets, they will rewrite the world itself to suit their aims. Now someone in those Houses wants Sancia dead, and the artifact for themselves. And in the city of Tevanne, there’s nobody with the power to stop them…

Part of the rather chatty blurb above makes it clear the magic system is complex with a long, involved history. Back at the height of a lost civilisation, the ancients were able to wield magic to do unimaginable things and it is the discovery of some of their magical objects that has allowed the brightest minds to work out how to rekindle magical power, albeit in a bastardised form. It is the discovery of this magic powering the rise of the four merchanting families, who have a stranglehold on Tevanne. Furthermore, those who are not born into the service of these houses, or are thrown away after they have outlived their usefulness, scrabble for survival in the Commons. And there’s Sancia, whose backstory is different again…

I loved the premise and the world. It seems entirely plausible that a capitalist system would reward those with the magical skills and artefacts, while neglecting those who aren’t so fortunate. Sancia is a brilliant protagonist – one of the best I have read this year. Gritted, determined and focused on surviving, with a special ability that she would love to lose, she is a thief. Bennett writes her ability brilliantly and I found myself engrossed in her plight.

So I was more than a tad fed up when the action scenes were halted by chunks of explanation of how the magic works in omniscient point of view. The most egregious example occurs about halfway through the book during a fight – where the courageous hero is left hanging in mid-realisation that his attackers are flying, while we break off for a detailed explanation as to why flying is technically a really tricky business and therefore illegal… It was the only sheer quality of the writing and characters saved the book from flying across the room at this point. I would prefer an appendix where the magic system is explained in detail for those who like drilling into such details of the worldbuilding, rather than crashing across the story so intrusively.

Rant aside, this book is a joy. Fortunately the info-dumps decrease significantly in the second half of the book, allowing the pace to pick up. The world is well described and the characters gripped me – I like the fact that despite the patriarchy running Tevanne, there are plenty of strong, not necessarily likeable female characters who punch through the institutional obstacles in their path. But the character who shines through all of this is Sancia – I dreamt of her… Damaged, scarred and struggling with mental issues, she is still battling to move forward and strive for something better. The climax works brilliantly and I liked the ending, which nicely sets this one up for the sequel, which I look forward to reading.

Highly recommended for those who enjoy detailed, urban fantasy tales peopled with awesome characters – if that appendix was in place this book would have scored a 10. While I obtained an arc of Foundryside from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Teaser Tuesday – 21st August, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Kindred Spirits – Book 5 of the Gabriel Ash and Hazel Best series by Jo Bannister
50% Severick shrugged. ‘Nobody said it would be easy. Find a line of enquiry and I’ll try to help. But now right now. Right now I’m ready for my tea.’ He headed determinedly for the door and Gorman moved aside to let him pass. ‘I have it on good authority it’s Black Forest gateau for afters. I’d invite you to stay but…’
‘But what?’
‘You might accept.’

BLURB: A kidnap attempt outside the school gates in broad daylight convinces Gabriel Ash that his renegade wife is trying to steal their sons from him. Only the intervention of his friend Constable Hazel Best kept them safe. It’s a simple if alarming explanation, but is it the truth? Hazel uncovers disturbing information about another crime, the repercussions of which are still threatening innocent lives seventeen years later.

Once again Hazel finds herself at loggerheads with her superiors. Did they really conspire to protect a murderer? And this time she isn’t getting the support she needs from Ash. She’d thought they were kindred spirits: now she’s not sure what his motives are.

I was overdue for an interesting, well-written whodunit featuring sympathetic protagonists. Just as well I spotted this arc on my TBR pile waiting for me to get around to it. So far it’s been a joy and as long as the ending is well handled, it should continue to be so. The review will appear on or around 1st September when Kindred Spirits is due to be released.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Garrison Girl – Book 1 of the Attack on Titan! series by Rachel Aaron #Brainfluffbookreview #GarrisonGirlbookreview

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I like Rachel Aaron’s writing – see my reviews of Fortune’s Pawn and Nice Dragons Finish Last – so when I saw her name on this one, I immediately requested it. I had no idea the world was set in a very successful manga series. And frankly, I offer up this nugget of information as a point of interest, because if I hadn’t told you – other than the rather indigestible info-dump right at the beginning, you wouldn’t know.

An original novel, with all-new characters and a new story set in the world of Attack on Titan! Fans of the series and readers alike will enjoy this immersive and engaging experience of the pop culture phenomenon and manga mega-hit.

With the last vestige of the human race threatened by unstoppable carnivorous giants, a brave young woman decides to defy her wealthy family and join the military to fight against humanity’s enemies. But Rosalie Dumarque soon finds out that bloody sword fights with monsters aren’t the only dangers faced by the Wall Rose Garrison. Can she earn the trust of her fellow soldiers, stand up to a corrupt authority, navigate a forbidden romance…and cut her way out of a titan’s throat?

Aaron is accomplished at dropping us into a situation and giving us all the necessary details as we go along, so that rather tedious opening info-dump is out of character. I’m guessing it was a stipulation by the publishers, it certainly feels that way… Once that is out of the way, this one picks up the pace. We are largely in the viewpoint of Rosalie, who has been raised to honour the military tradition of her noble family and is determined to do more than marry and continue the bloodline.

I love the setting of the wall and the steampunk feel to the gizmos that assists the soldiers in the insanely dangerous business of killing the titans. Any other wound the monsters suffer from, they can regenerate – doubtless fuelled by all the human flesh they keep gobbling at any available opportunity.

Rosalie has first to surmount the hurdle of being accepted by her fellow soldiers as she appears in an immaculate dress uniform and far too much luggage, whereas most of her comrades in arms are desperate refugees who watched their friends and family eaten. It makes for a rocky start… I like her idealism and determination to do her duty. It would have been all too easy to make her some heroic, adrenaline-fuelled protagonist who excelled when alongside her poor, commoner companions – and I’m very glad Aaron resisted the urge to do so.

The action scenes are well written, with plenty going on. While I realised early on there would be a romantic thread, it doesn’t impact too much on the gritted struggle to keep the titans at bay. I like Jax, but my favourite supporting characters are Willow and Emmet, who are part of Rosalie’s team. They are a lovely pair of warm-hearted characters with a tragic backstory, who I really cared about.

I had sort of guessed how the climax and denouement would pan out – and I was utterly wrong. It was far more gritty and shocking. The story was wrapped up satisfactorily, but I was left with a lot of questions about the titans, which the book raises but doesn’t remotely answer. I guess that’s okay – it is, after all, the first in the series. Will I be interested in reading more of this world? Absolutely. The world ravaged by ravenous giants makes for page-turning adventures. Recommended for fans of action fantasy with plenty of fighting and a side-order of romance.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY Arc Like Never and Always by Anne Aguirre #Brainfluffbookreview #LikeNeverandAlwaysbookreview

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I was looking for something just a bit different, when I read of this premise during Can’t-Wait Wednesday (thank you who recommended it – and sorry for not name-checking you, but I simply cannot remember). So I was delighted when I was approved for the Netgalley arc.

On a hot summer night, a screech of brakes and shattering glass changes two lives forever. Liv wakes in the hospital, confused when they call her Morgan. She assumes it’s a case of mistaken identity, yet when the bandages come off, it’s not her face in the mirror anymore. It’s her best friend Morgan’s. Morgan always seemed to have the perfect life, yet Liv must navigate endlessly disturbing secrets of the criminal and murderous variety—and a romance that feels like a betrayal. Torn between the boy she loved as Liv and the boy she’s grown to love as Morgan, Liv still has to survive Morgan’s last request.

It’s an interesting premise – and that intriguing title comes from a Pablo Neruda poem. So does this YA thriller live up to the promise of a cracking read? Oh yes. I enjoy Aguirre’s writing, particularly her excellent space opera adventure featuring adrenaline-junkie pilot Sirantha Jax – see my review of Grimspace. The dramatic beginning hooked me in and I slummucked in bed, reading this offering in one greedy gulp. Liv’s first-person narrative is well realised. Although she suffers serious physical injuries and keeps encountering nasty discoveries of the knee-buckling sort, Aguirre manages to avoid her becoming some put-upon victim. Given the nature of some of the secrets that float to the surface, as she continues investigating Morgan’s life, that is harder to pull off than you might think.

I found myself rooting for Liv throughout and was even able to endure the dreaded love triangle. In fact, it actually made sense within the story’s premise. The character progression also works well and I was also pleased to see that while Liv initially dreads getting any kind of professional counselling, when it becomes crucial she does avail herself of it. I would have liked to see her make more use of it – and have her still attending some ongoing counselling sessions for the foreseeable future.

Other than that quibble, I thoroughly enjoyed this YA adventure, which had me turning the pages to find out what happens next. It’s an entertaining thriller that delivers plenty of surprises featuring a well-realised, sympathetic protagonist. Recommended for fans of family-based mystery thrillers. While I obtained an arc of Like Never and Always from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Redemption’s Blade: After the War by Adrian Tchaikovsky #Brainfluffbookreview #Redemption’sBladeAftertheWarbookreview

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After producing a steady stream of excellent, thought-provoking books, Adrian Tchaikovsky has now become one of my must-read authors – see my review of Spiderlight. And when I saw this one appear on Netgalley, I thought Christmas had come early – I just loved the premise…

Ten years ago, the renegade demigod known as the Kinslayer returned. His armies of monsters issued from the pits of the earth, spearheaded by his brutal Yorughan soldiers. He won every battle, leaving burnt earth and corruption behind. Thrones toppled and cities fell as he drove all before him. And then he died. A handful of lucky heroes and some traitors amongst his own, and the great Kinslayer was no more. Celestaine was one such hero and now she has tasked herself to correct the worst excesses of the Kinslayer and bring light back to her torn-up world. With two Yorughan companions she faces fanatics, war criminals and the monsters and minions the Kinslayer left behind as the fragile alliances of the war break down into feuding, greed and mistrust. The Kinslayer may be gone, but he cast a long shadow she may never truly escape.

So… the epic battle has been fought and won by the forces of good against the terrible evil threat. We are now in the realms of ‘and they lived happily ever after…’ Except they’re not. All manner of creatures ripped apart and horribly disfigured by the Kinslayer are still struggling to put their lives together in a land that has similarly been mutilated. Celestaine has devoted her live and the services of her magical blade to hunting down those still determined to carry out the wishes of their dead master. While she is feted as one of the heroes who overthrew the tyrant, she is left with far too many memories of her fallen companions and a burning need to make their sacrifice worth it by trying to make the world a better place.

It turns out that she isn’t the only one seeking powerful magical gismos and given that her two closest companions were created in the bowels of the earth by the Kinslayer for the express purpose of killing on his behalf (think orcs…) they don’t generally get a great welcome. Her intrepid band overcome all manner of obstacles and adventures on this quest – which makes this an engrossing read with plenty at stake…

I absolutely love this one. Tchaikovsky has taken many of the classical fantasy tropes and given them a thorough shaking, so along with high drama and adventure, we get asides on the nature of faith and what happens to gods once they are overthrown, given they are immortal. The supporting characters are wonderful – I love the two Yorughan warriors, particularly Heno with his snarky asides, as well as Dr Catto and his accomplice Fisher who are the delightfully insouciant antagonists intent on scooping up anything magical after Celestaine and her band have gone to the effort of overcoming the opposition. The character who tugged at my heartstrings is Kul, the prince of flying people, whose wings were savagely mutilated during the war, so there is no one now alive to teach youngsters how to fly. This means they drag their wings around as they join the earth-bound drudgery that is the lot of their parents, or hack them off… I’ve thought a lot about Kul since I completed this book.

This being Tchaikovsky, he brings this adventure to an entirely satisfactory end. I’d love to see more stories set in this world – please? But even if there isn’t, I’m glad to have been along for this particular ride – another outstanding addition to this author’s canon. While I obtained an arc of Redemption’s Blade: After the War from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Wild Dead – Book 2 of The Bannerless Saga by Carrie Vaughn #Brainfluffbookreview #TheWildDeadbookreview

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I loved Vaughn’s YA space opera adventure Martians Abroad – see my review here – so when this one popped up on Netgalley, I immediately requested it and I’m so very glad I did…

A century after environmental and economic collapse, the people of the Coast Road have rebuilt their own sort of civilization, striving not to make the mistakes their ancestors did. They strictly ration and manage resources, including the ability to have children. Enid of Haven is an investigator, who with her new partner, Teeg, is called on to mediate a dispute over an old building in a far-flung settlement at the edge of Coast Road territory. The investigators’ decision seems straightforward — and then the body of a young woman turns up in the nearby marshland. Almost more shocking than that, she’s not from the Coast Road, but from one of the outsider camps belonging to the nomads and wild folk who live outside the Coast Road communities. Now one of them is dead, and Enid wants to find out who killed her, even as Teeg argues that the murder isn’t their problem. In a dystopian future of isolated communities, can our moral sense survive the worst hard times?

Post-apocalyptic society is slowly recovering, though with far less resources. As far-flung communities live hard-scrabbled lives by scavenging and living off the land, law and order is imposed by travelling investigators. Enid is one such investigator, paired with a newbie and on a straightforward assignment that should have her returning home for the birth of a longed-for baby. And then, just as they are in the process of wrapping up the issue that brought them to Estuary, a dead body is found, washed up on the mud flats…

The world is beautifully depicted through Enid’s first person viewpoint. I felt the humidity, the reek of the mud and got to know the shocked, cagey characters living there. They were already wary of investigators due to a twenty-year-old scandal involving one of the women cutting out her birth control implant – a major infraction in a society where resources are so very scarce and birth rates are rigidly controlled to ensure no one starves. Even after all this time, Neeve is still ostracised by her neighbours and banished to Far House, where she lives with others who don’t really fit in. So no one is freely talking the investigators and Enid is left with a sense that there is something else going on…

This is a cracking whodunit. Enid is a sympathetic, capable protagonist with years of experience behind her and yet yearning to return home in time to be there at the birth of the baby – a baby that her efforts have helped to bring into being by earning the banner that allows her family to reproduce. She is further hampered by her raw new partner, who pounces on a pet theory and won’t let it go. The tension rises, along with the stakes, as Enid is determined to discover who the unknown young woman is and why she has been murdered. I picked this one up and couldn’t put it down until I reached the end. Though I had guessed part of the puzzle, I was still shocked to discover the perpetrator. Highly recommended for fans of science fiction murder mysteries. While I obtained an arc of The Wild Dead from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 18th July, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #Can’tWaitWednesday

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t Wait offering – Kindred Spirits – Book 5 of the Gabriel Ash and Hazel Best series by Jo Bannister

#cosy mystery

A kidnap attempt outside the school gates in broad daylight convinces Gabriel Ash that his renegade wife is trying to steal their sons from him. Only the intervention of his friend Constable Hazel Best kept them safe. It’s a simple if alarming explanation, but is it the truth? Hazel uncovers disturbing information about another crime, the repercussions of which are still threatening innocent lives seventeen years later.

Once again Hazel finds herself at loggerheads with her superiors. Did they really conspire to protect a murderer? And this time she isn’t getting the support she needs from Ash. She’d thought they were kindred spirits: now she’s not sure what his motives are. One thing is certain: with her life in imminent danger, Hazel’s going to need friends like never before …

I enjoy cosy mysteries and I liked the sound of this one, so requested it on Netgalley – and found I’d done my regular trick of crashing midway into a series. Never mind… it’s a while since I’ve enjoyed a whodunit and I’m really looking forward to tucking into this one during the summer holidays.