#BlogTour Castle Shade (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes17) by Laurie R. King @AllisonandBusby

Castle Shade Blog Tour Twitter graphic

Welcome to the final stop on the blog tour for Castle Shade by Laurie R. King, the 17th book in the author’s Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes series. My thanks to Christina Storey at Allison & Busby for inviting me to take part in the tour. You can read an extract from the book below and also listen to Laurie reading from the book here.

Laurie R King Giveaway CarouselIn addition, the publishers are currently running a giveaway (open to UK residents only) with the chance for one lucky person to win a set of paperbacks of the Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes series and a pot of beautiful honey. Three runners up will also receive copies of The Beekeepers Apprentice, the first book in the series, and some honey. You can enter via this link where you can also find terms and conditions.

Castle Shade Promo CarouselAnd If you’re tempted to treat yourself to a copy of Castle Shade, the publishers also have an exciting promotion running at the moment. Purchase a copy of Castle Shade for £15 and get an exclusive signed bookplate from Laurie herself. There are a limited amount of these so don’t delay. Use the code ‘share15’ at checkout. You’ll get free postage & packing as well.


Castle ShadeAbout the Book

A queen, a castle, a dark and ageless threat – all await Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes in this chilling new adventure.

The queen is Marie of Roumania: the doubly royal granddaughter to Victoria, Empress of the British Empire, and Alexander II, Tsar of Russia. A famous beauty who was married at seventeen into Roumania’s young dynasty, Marie had beguiled the Paris Peace Conference into returning her adopted country’s long-lost provinces, single-handedly transforming Roumania from a backwater into a force.

The castle is Bran: a tall, quirky, ancient structure perched on high rocks overlooking the border between Roumania and its newly regained territory of Transylvania. The castle was a gift to Queen Marie, a thanks from her people, and she loves it as she loves her own children.

The threat is…now, that is less clear. Shadowy figures, vague whispers, the fears of girls, dangers that may only be accidents. But this is a land of long memory and hidden corners, a land that had known Vlad the Impaler, a land from whose churchyards the shades creep.

When Queen Marie calls, Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes are as dubious as they are reluctant. But a young girl is involved, and a beautiful queen. Surely it won’t take long to shine light on this unlikely case of what would seem to be strigoi?

Or, as they are known in the West…vampires.

Format: Hardcover (384 pages)   Publisher: Allison & Busby
Publication date: 8th June 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction, Crime, Mystery

Find Castle Shade (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes #17) on Goodreads

Purchase links
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Extract from Castle Shade by Laurie R King

‘But sir, madam – you know, strange things are happening in Bran, in recent times,’ the butler admitted. ‘It is why you are here. No doubt there are explanations, but still, the ignorant talk. A cow dies in a family having troubles with a neighbour – that enemy must have done it. A man goes into the forest and does not come out, evil is thought, not accident. Strange marks appear on walls, girls walking home hear noises in the night, dogs bark at nothing – sir, madam, you are educated people. I do not need to tell you that the simple person’s imagination picks up the unknown and builds a mountain of it. And the talk feeds itself.’
‘What kind of talk?’ Holmes pressed.
The butler was practically squirming in his chair. ‘Wicked talk. Irresponsible talk.’
‘Saying what?’
‘Evil things! Things she would never permit to enter her mind! I have served her since the day she first came to Bran, five years ago. If anything … like that was entering this castle, I would know.’
I could feel Holmes settle, a reflection of my own thought: At last, we arrive at the core of the matter. ‘You are saying that gossip has started up around Queen Marie? Rumours of evil and corrupt doings, of her … taking advantage of the young women of the vicinity?’
‘Her Majesty is beautiful in her own person! She rides out for the joy of riding this countryside that she loves, she stops to talk to the people in their cottages because she cares for them, not because she …’ Again, his tongue froze rather than finish the sentence.
‘Because she is looking the place over with an eye to victims?’
Florescu looked ashamed, perhaps for having permitted the words to have been pronounced within this place.
‘Tell us about these “strange marks” on the walls,’ Holmes said.
‘I have only seen some. Most are scrubbed away quickly. By the fathers, you know? They fear they may be words their daughters should not see, and their sons should not learn.’
‘So these are obscenities?’
‘Some. When they started, in the spring, nobody knew – until a person who knew that word noticed and told the others. Now, when they appear, some may be bad, others not, but it is better to be safe and wash them away. They come at night, they are in simple chalk so a bucket of water deals with them, but they are disturbing. Some threaten girls – all girls, no names. “Girls here are not safe.” Which is very much not true. Others are not, er…’ His eyes flicked sideways at me, and he changed what he had been going to say. ‘They are not normal? Not the kind of words boys teach each other. They talk of pain, and power over the weak, using words many villagers have never heard. Words that are in no dictionary.’
‘And these words and threats are aimed at the queen?’
‘No. The other way. It is as if … as if she is the one saying them.’
‘What, you mean they’re signed with her name? Or, I suppose, title?’
‘That is not necessary. Not when they are written in her own tongue.’
‘Ah. They’re in English, then, these “strange marks.”’
‘Some of the marks are words, yes, and English. Others just marks.’
‘Obscene drawings?’
‘Some, I heard. The two I saw were symbols, of some kind. I took those down myself, as the villagers would not.’
He was clearly hiding something, and when Holmes spoke, his voice was crisp with irritation. ‘Mr Florescu, I would appreciate your help in this matter. I cannot work without cold, hard facts. I see that this causes you discomfort, but we are adults, and we both wish to present Her Majesty with a solution to her problem. Do we not?’
The man flushed, his very moustache quivering with indignation at the thought that he might not wish to serve his queen. He jerked open the top drawer of his desk and slapped a pad of paper down on the blotter, snatched up a pencil and threw a few lines on the page.
The first was a star inside a circle. The second was the overlapping W we had seen marked into the forest trees. ‘Those are just apotropaic – just marks meant to turn away witches,’ I said.
‘Yes. Superstition – pah! My village is small, but we are educated. The people here know better.’ His shame was palpable.
Holmes nodded thoughtfully. ‘So to be clear: the chalk marks that have been appearing are either rude words in English or obscene sketches. The residents take those down. But others are the marks meant to repel witches, and they sometimes leave those up. Is that right?’
‘I wash them, when I see,’ he declared.
‘Yes. Is it possible the villagers themselves are putting those up?’
He looked away. ‘Some are paint,’ he said, admission enough.
We had exhausted the question of the mysterious marks, I thought, and to rescue him from the embarrassment of his people’s gullibility, I returned to the question that had brought us here. ‘Before we go – Gabriela’s friend, the girl with the “active imagination”? What does she say happened to her?’
Before, Florescu had been uncomfortable, reluctant. Now his face shut down entirely. ‘Nothing happened.’
Holmes’ gaze snapped onto him. ‘That is not what we have heard, Mr Florescu.’
‘Nothing happened to the girl.’
Silence fell. We let it lie there.
After a moment, the moustache twitched. ‘The girl was walking home last night.’
‘From …?’
‘Here. She works in the kitchen – a new girl. Vera Dumitru. They finished cleaning later than usual.’
‘What time was it?’
‘Near to midnight.’
Not long before Holmes and I went out. I did not look at him, but I knew his expression would be as chagrined as my own.
‘Was she alone?
‘Three girls left together. Two live on the other side of the village, Vera on this. They stopped at the road – probably smoking a cigarette, if I know them – and then the two went left and Vera to the right.’
‘The road to Brașov?’
‘The small road, past the churchyard. She says she was passing the church and heard a voice call to her. She was surprised, but not afraid, or so she says. This is a quiet village, you understand? Things that happen in cities are not found here. And there are houses all around, to hear if a girl …’
‘Is being attacked,’ I supplied.
‘Exactly! So she looked to see who it was, thinking maybe one of her brother’s friends was teasing at her, and she kept her voice small so as not to wake those sleeping. She said, who was there.’ He paused, noticed the pad still sitting on the desk and returned it to the drawer. ‘Who is there? The voice says, “Andrei.” This is a common name, so she says, which Andrei? And the voice says, “The one killed near Fagaraș during the War.” This was a boy she knew, a boy we buried. His body came here.’ Florescu looked up, the moustache lifted in an awkward smile. ‘She ran. Down the road to her home.’
Holmes, clearly not as disturbed by what that smile had revealed as I was, asked him for the boy’s name, and whether the girl Vera was generally flighty, and I think some other question that went past me, and Holmes may have asked to speak with the girl and Florescu replied that he would ask her father, and then perhaps some other conversation happened but not much, because we were on our feet and out into what seemed to be a beautiful spring morning, and I turned to Holmes and hissed, low, so as not to be overheard.
‘Holmes, did you see that?’
‘I saw that the man was hiding something, yes.’
‘No – I mean his teeth. When he smiled? The queen’s butler has fangs!’


Laurie R KingAbout the Author

Laurie R King has has been writing crime fiction since 1987 and won many awards for her work in fiction including the prestigious John Creasey Dagger, the Edgar, the Nero and Macavity Awards. Her background includes such diverse interests as Old Testament theology and construction work, and she is the author of highly praised stand-alone suspense novels and a contemporary mystery series, as well as the Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes series. She lives in North California.

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#BookReview A Ration Book Daughter (East End Ration 5) by Jean Fullerton @rararesources @CorvusBooks

A Ration Book Daughter

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for A Ration Book Daughter by Jean Fullerton, the fifth book in her series featuring the Brogan clan and set in World War 2 London. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Corvus for my digital review copy via NetGalley.

I’m delighted to say there’s also a giveaway (UK only) with a chance to win one of six paperback copies of A Ration Book Daughter. Enter via this link.

Giveaway Terms and Conditions

  • UK entries only
  • The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter 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.

A Ration Book DaughterAbout the Book

Not even the Blitz can shake a mother’s love.

Cathy was a happy, blushing bride when Britain went to war with Germany three years ago. But her youthful dreams were crushed by her violent husband Stanley’s involvement with the fascist black-shirts, and even when he’s conscripted to fight she knows it’s only a brief respite – divorce is not an option. Cathy’s only solace is her little son Peter.

When a telegram arrives declaring that her husband is missing in action, Cathy can finally allow herself to hope – she only has to wait 6 months before she is legally a widow and can move on with her life. But in the meantime she has to keep Peter safe and fed. So she advertises for a lodger, and Sergeant Archie McIntosh of the Royal Engineers’ Bomb Disposal Squad turns up. Kind, clever and thoughtful, their mutual attraction is instant.

But with Stanley’s fate still unclear, and the Blitz still raging in London’s East End, will Cathy ever have the love she deserves?

Format: Paperback (416 pages)  Publisher: Corvus
Publication date: 6th May 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction

Find A Ration Book Daughter (East End Ration #5) on Goodreads

Purchase links
Bookshop.org
Disclosure: If you buy a book via the above link, I may earn a commission from Bookshop.org, whose fees support independent bookshops

Hive | Amazon UK
Links provided for convenience only, not as part of an affiliate programme


My Review

I’ve enjoyed all the previous books in this series that I’ve read having first been introduced to it by winning a copy of A Ration Book Christmas in a Readers First giveaway.

One of my favourite characters remains Queenie, Cathy’s grandmother and matriarch of the Brogan clan, who has a particularly interesting way of marking Sunday worship and family celebrations. Fiercely protective of her family, you definitely do not want to get on the wrong side of Queenie. This is amply demonstrated in the book when the recipient of Queenie’s ire results in someone returning home ‘with a face like a gargoyle with a wasp stuck up its nose’. However, she does have a softer side, demonstrated by her tender care for ailing priest Father Mahon.

The introduction of new characters such as Glaswegian widower Sergeant Archie McIntosh and vicar’s wife Mrs Paget allows the author to explore prejudice in its various forms. I also liked the way Archie’s artistic talent challenges the expected stereotype and, in fact, comes to play an important role in the plot. Providing the characters we love to hate this time are Violet Wheeler, Cathy’s horrendous mother-in-law, who refers to ‘that nice Mr Mosley’ and will hear no wrong when it comes to her vile son Stanley, and Archie’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Monkman, who was definitely away the day they conducted discrimination awareness training.

Archie’s role in the Royal Engineers’ Bomb Disposal Squad provides a timely reminder of the courage of those who quite literally took their life in their hands every time they were called out. And while we’re talking about Archie, can you blame Cathy for her reaction when she first gets a glimpse of the ‘corded muscles of his back, shoulders and arms’ as he washes at the kitchen sink? No, neither can I.   Cathy’s role in the Women’s Voluntary Service and her sister Jo’s work in a munitions factory also reveal what a vital role women played in the war effort.

The atmosphere of wartime London simply oozes from the page whether that’s the spread at a christening party – sardine and spam sandwiches or eggless fruit cake anyone? – or the menu at the Brogans’ favourite East End pie and mash shop – stewed and jellied eels or individual beef pies served upturned, all accompanied by a pile of mashed potato and smothered in parsley sauce.  And it being 1942 there’s the sound of the almost nightly air raids on London with the ‘ear-splitting clamour of falling bombs…joined by the whistles of the ARP wardens, police claxons and fire engine bells’.

As with previous books in the series, A Ration Book Daughter contains a wealth of fascinating information. For example, that the distinctive taste of the sauce just mentioned can be attributed to the water having been used beforehand to stew the eels. Or that responsibility for dealing with unexploded bombs was split between the Royal Engineers and the Royal Navy depending on the type of bomb involved. Or that there is such a thing as a camouflet when a bomb explodes underground creating a pocket of deadly carbon monoxide. The author also takes the opportunity to introduce real events into the story resulting in one particularly memorable and dramatic scene, the true scale of which was kept under wraps for fear of its effect on morale.

It was a joy to catch up with the seemingly ever expanding Brogan clan. As is said more than once in the book, ‘If it wasn’t for the Brogans, people would have nothing to talk about’. It was also wonderful to be introduced to new characters like Archie.

In A Ration Book Daughter, Jean Fullerton once again skilfully combines a convincing picture of daily life on the ‘Home Front’ with an engaging love story that, for me, stayed just on the right side of sentimentality. In fact, I’ll admit to becoming a little tearful towards the end of the book. For fans of historical sagas set in World War 2 this is a series I can’t recommend highly enough. Although I was delighted to learn there is another book on its way soon, I was sad to learn it will be the final one in the Ration Book series. I’d better keep my spirits up by putting the kettle on for another brew.

In three words: Heart-warming, authentic, emotional

Try something similar: The Walls We Build by Jules Hayes

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Jean FullertonAbout the Author

Born and bred in East London Jean is a District Nurse by trade and has worked as a NHS manager and as a senior lecture in Health and Nursing Studies. She left her day job to become a full-time writer in 2015 and has never looked back.

In 2006 she won the Harry Bowling Prize and now has seventeen sagas published over three series with both Orion and Atlantic all of which are set in East London.

She is an experienced public speaker with hundreds of WI and women’s club talks under her belt, plus for the past fifteen years she has sailed all over the world as an enrichment speaker and writing workshop leader on cruise ships.

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