#BlogTour #BookReview Blasted Things by Lesley Glaister @sandstonepress

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Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Blasted Things by Lesley Glaister. My thanks to Ceris and Niki at Sandstone Press for inviting me to take part in the tour and for my review copy.

Blasted ThingsAbout the Book

1920: Britain is trying to forget the Great War.

Clementine, who nursed at the front and suffered losses, must bury the past. Then she meets Vincent, an opportunistic veteran whose damage goes much deeper than the painted tin mask he wears.

Their deadly relationship will career towards a dark and haunting resolution.

Format: Paperback (352 pages)              Publisher: Sandstone Press
Publication date: 16th September 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction

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My Review

Structured in three parts – Before, During and After – the opening chapters of Blasted Things transports the reader to the mayhem and horror of a Casualty Clearing Station close to the Front and the Allied trenches in 1918. The job of nurses like Clementine (Clem) and the other medical staff is to ‘patch up’ the wounded for the journey to hospital; many of them will not make it, dying on the operating table or from infection. The sheer awfulness of what Clem witnesses – the results of what human beings can do to other human beings – is vividly depicted. I loved the imaginative metaphors, such as the descrption of the sounds Clem hears as she lies exhausted on her bunk in her cramped quarters: ‘the rat-tat-tat of gunfire, rapid and snippy like the keys of two vast, duelling typewriters battering out threats to each other in a paper sky’.  Snatched moments of joy are intense and serve as a temporary distraction. Just how temporary, the reader will discover. The dramatic event which ends part one of the book is conveyed in a quite remarkable way. 

Part two of the book, set in 1920, sees Clem, now married and with a young child, suffering the after-effects of her wartime experiences. Taking the form of something between shellshock and post-natal depression, it brings Clem to the brink of a monstrous act. She spends the next few months confined to bed, isolated and in a drug-fuelled haze as a result of the medication prescribed by her doctor husband, Dennis. ‘Months, months after months, a blur. Fingers on the arms, a steel shaft in a vein, sparkle of drug in blood, limbs loose, child cries, someone always looking in…’  Clem imagines her brain as ‘a house with an upstairs room and a basement: the basement locked with a long, serious key’ containing the traumatic memories she dare not face, the memories Dennis urges her to put behind her.  Gradually, Clem recovers but she finds herself restless – ‘There is not enough – though enough of what she was not clear’ – and finally determined to assert herself. 

Chance brings an encounter with Vincent Fortune, left with severe facial wounds by his time in the trenches. Clem is drawn to him by a resemblence – real or imagined – to someone she once cared about deeply.  The mask Vincent wears seems as much a way of concealing the baser aspects of his nature as a means of hiding his injuries. Yet, as we learn more about his background, his wartime experiences and impact of his injuries, he becomes a slightly more sympathic character.  I was especially touched by his pathetic devotion to his landlady, Doll, imagining his feelings are returned despite all evidence to the contrary.  The events that follow will have consequences for Clem, revealing an unexpected source of love and loyalty, but even more so for Vincent.  His is a story of misfortune, not fortune, and the final sections of the book will surely tug at the heartstrings.

As Clem observes at one point, ‘It was normal to be damaged these days, visibly or not’. Blasted Things explores the multiple ways in which that damage can manifest itself and the struggle to overcome it, if indeed it ever can be. The book left a deep impression on me both for the quality of the writing and the power of the story it tells. 

In three words: Intense, compelling, moving

Try something similar: The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason

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Lesley Glaister (c) Gayle McIntyre - University of St AndrewsAbout the Author

Lesley Glaister is a fiction writer, poet, playwright and teacher of writing. She has published fourteen adult novels, the first of a YA trilogy and numerous short stories. She received both a Somerset Maugham and a Betty Trask award for Honour Thy Father (1990), and has won or been listed for several literary prizes for her other work. She has three adult sons and lives in Edinburgh (with frequent sojourns to Orkney) with husband Andrew Greig. She teaches creative writing at the University of St Andrews and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

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#BookReview A Better Part of Valor (Valorie Dawes Thrillers Book 3) by Gary Corbin @garycorbin

A Better Part of ValorAbout the Book

While jogging off-duty along the riverfront, rookie cop Valorie Dawes discovers the body of a young girl  – and ignites a manhunt for a serial killer.

The Shoeless Schoolgirl Slayer has remained a step ahead of the Clayton, CT police for months. All of his victims drowned. All were found barefoot. And all bear the same strange, fresh tattoo. Then rookie cop Val Dawes notices patterns that eluded the department’s more traditional senior detectives. Following her intuition, she discovers clues that convince her she’s closing in.

But is she? Or is the clever and elusive Slayer laying a trap to make Val the next victim?

Format: eARC (423 pages)                      Publisher: Double Diamond Publishing
Publication date: 21st September 2021 Genre: Crime

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My Review

I seem to be making a habit of reading Gary’s books part way through a series! For example, I’ve previously read The Mountain Man’s Badge, book three in the Mountain Man Mysteries series, and Lying in Vengeance, the follow-up to courtroom drama, Lying in Judgment.  True to form, A Better Part of Valor, published on 21st September 2021, is the third book in the author’s Valorie Dawes series. The book can be read as a standalone but the references to key events in Valorie’s life and the previous investigations she’s been involved in would be spoilers for the earlier two books. So if you fancy embarking on a new police procedural series, start with the first book, A Woman of Valor.

The book contains meticulous detail of police procedure and the step-by-step process of a murder investigation: narrowing down suspects, cross-checking alibis, interviewing witnesses, identifying connections between the victims, trawling social media for background information on victims and suspects, not to mention recording every piece of evidence, every conversation and interaction in minute detail. As the hunt for the killer progresses, the long hours take their toll on everyone involved in the investigation, including Valorie who seems to exist solely on a diet on coffee and the odd snatched breakfast.  How she finds the energy for runs and punishing gym sessions I don’t know! The team also have to put up with interference from the Mayor, Megan Iverson, anxious for a crime wave not to jeopardize her political ambitions, shared by her husband.

Val’s back story, the details of which are slowly revealed, helps the reader understand why she is so driven to solve the case, why she often underestimates her abilities and can at times take unnecessary risks. Luckily, she has former partner, Gil, to provide wise advice. Recovering from a serious injury incurred in a previous case, Gil is the person who knows Valorie best and one of the few people from whom she will accept advice – and actually take it! Gil’s description of Valorie as ‘intelligent, intuitive, relentless, and gutsy as hell’ sums her up nicely and makes her an engaging protagonist. I really liked the relationship between Gil and Valorie, and his wise advice when Valorie doubts herself, ‘Find the best part of you. That’s the key’.

Given the nature of the crime, the suspects are all male most of whom are rather unpleasant characters or suspiciously too helpful.  I had various suspicions about who the perpetrator might be but the author skilfully led me up several blind alleys before returning to main street. The tension ramps up in the final chapters in which the hunter becomes the hunted.  But is the real conflict within Valorie’s heart as she ponders the risks of crossing the boundary between friendship and something more?

A Better Part of Valor is a chunky read but its intricate plot, likeable central character and sense of authenticity kept this reader turning the pages way past her bedtime.  My thanks to the author for my digital advance review copy.

In three words: Intriguing, detailed, suspenseful

Try something similar: Payback (DI Charley Mann #1) by R.C. Bridgestock

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GaryCorbinAbout the Author

Gary Corbin is a writer, editor, and playwright in Camas, WA, a suburb of Portland, OR. In addition to eight published novels, his creative and journalistic work has been published in BrainstormNW, the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, and Global Envision, among others.  His plays have enjoyed critical acclaim and have been produced on many Portland-area stages.

Gary is a member of the Willamette Writers Group, Nine Bridges Writers, the Northwest Editors Guild, PDX Playwrights, and the Bar Noir Writers Workshop. He serves as treasurer of The Pulp Stage, and participates in workshops and conferences in the Portland, Oregon area.

A homebrewer and home coffee roaster, Gary is a member of the Oregon Brew Crew and a BJCP National Beer Judge. He loves to ski, cook, and root for his beloved Patriots and Red Sox. And when that’s not enough, he escapes to the Oregon coast with his sweetheart.

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