Today it is my great pleasure to be taking part in the blog tour celebrating the release of the third in the Cathy Connolly series of books by Sam Blake, No Turning Back. My thanks to Imogen Sebba from publishers Bonnier Zaffre for inviting me to join the tour. I read the first in the series, the brilliant Little Bones and so I’m delighted to be able to share with you an extract from the book, as well as my thoughts, First though, here is what it’s all about.
About the Book
For fans of Alex Barclay and Niamh O’Connor, Little Bones introduces Cathy Connolly, a bright young heroine set to take the world of crime fiction by storm.
Attending what seems to be a routine break-in, troubled Detective Garda Cathy Connolly makes a grisly discovery: an old wedding dress – and, concealed in its hem, a baby’s bones.
And then the dress’s original owner, Lavinia Grant, is found dead in a Dublin suburb.
Searching for answers, Cathy is drawn deep into a complex web of secrets and lies spun by three generations of women.
Meanwhile, a fugitive killer has already left two dead in execution style killings across the Atlantic – and now he’s in Dublin with old scores to settle. Will the team track him down before he kills again?
Struggling with her own secrets, Cathy doesn’t know dangerous – and personal – this case is about to become…
by Sam Blake
The door to the back bedroom hung open.
Pausing at the top of the narrow wooden stairs, Garda Cathy Connolly could just see inside, could see what looked like the entire contents of the wardrobe flung over the polished floorboards, underwear scattered across the room like litter. The sun, winter weak, played through a window opposite the door, its light falling on something cream, illuminating it bright against the dark denim and jewel colours of the tumbled clothes on the floor.
Cathy’s stomach turned again and she closed her eyes, willing the sickness to pass. There was a riot of smells up here, beeswax, ghostly layers of stale perfume, something musty. She put her gloved hand to her mouth and the smell of the latex, like nails on a blackboard, set her teeth on edge.
Until thirty-six hours ago Cathy had been persuading herself that her incredibly heightened sense of smell and queasiness were the start of a bug. Some bug. But right now her problems were something she didn’t have the head space to deal with. She had a job to do. Later, when she was on her own in the gym, when it was just her and a punch bag, that was when she’d be able to think. And boy did she have a lot to think about.
Pulling her hand away from her mouth, Cathy impatiently pushed a dark corkscrew curl that had escaped from her ponytail back behind her ear. Too thick to dry quickly, her hair was still damp from her early-morning training session in the pool, but that was the least of her worries. She folded her arms tightly across her chest and breathed deeply, slowly fighting her nausea. Inside her head, images of the bedroom whirled, slightly out of focus, blurred at the edges.
When the neighbour had called the station this morning, this had presented as a straightforward forced entry. That was until the lads had entered the address into the system and PULSE had thrown up a report from the same property made only the previous night. The householder, Zoë Grant, had seen a man lurking in the garden. Watching her. Cathy would put money on him doing a bit more than just watching. One of the Dún Laoghaire patrol cars had been close by, had arrived in minutes, blue strobes illuminating the lane. But the man had vanished. More than likely up the footpath that ran through the woods from the dead end of the cul-de-sac to the top of Killiney Hill.
And now someone had broken in.
Little Bones by Sam Blake is the first book in a new series featuring Irish Detective Cathy Connolly. A twenty-four year old kick boxing champion, Cathy already has quite a history in the police force, having experienced more in her short career than some officers can experience in a lifetime. As a result of this past she has a close working relationship with her boss O’Rourke, but she has something going on in her personal life that she is too scared to even tell him about. Something which could change everything for her.
The premise of this book is intriguing to say the least. Artist Zoe Grant has reported a strange person in her garden at night and then the following day, while she is out at an appointment, someone breaks into her house. This in itself is worrying enough but when the Garda, namely Cathy and O’Rourke, arrive to investigate they find a wedding dress, torn to shreds, in which a collection of small bones are found stitched into the hem. When the bones turn out to be human, Cathy and O’Rourke have a job on their hands to discover the source of the bones. It is made especially hard by Cathy’s personal issue, the fact that the investigations keeps hitting barriers and that O’Rourke is somewhat distracted by the search for a fugitive wanted by the FBI for a series of murders in the US, a man now thought to be in Dublin.
In amongst Cathy and Zoe’s stories, there are interludes taking us to London where a woman known as Mary is found wandering dazed and confused. Quite how and why Mary fits in with the story in Ireland is not clear until the end, although it is fairly easy to guess where the story may be leading. That said, I don’t think even I expected the slant that Sam Blake put on this story, a story as rolling as the Wicklow Mountains which form the backdrop to the city. It is beautifully crafted, and the flow back and forth between the central characters is seamless. There are several points of view covered, several voices to be heard, and by using this technique Blake manages to keep several key plot points cleverly disguised. I was taken by surprise more than once, which is no mean feat these days believe me. They weren’t jaw dropping, what-the-heck kind of surprises, but more subtle and therefore more effective, leaving a certain amount of satisfaction and a feeling of wanting to tell the author ‘fair play’ for what she had managed to keep hidden, mostly, it has to be said, in plain sight.
This wasn’t a book which needed or suited a major shock factor. The story unwinds slowly, perhaps reflecting the pace of life I associate with my many visits to Ireland (I’m in Dublin every month), the intersecting and interwoven nature of the individual stories, and also the almost cold case nature of the crime Cathy is investigating. That said, there are still moments of real tension, particularly where the American fugitive is involved, and Blake manages to infuse enough menace and pace into these sections without jarring the reader out of the novel. And the ending… Well, that certainly sets us up nicely for book two and I am really intrigued to know quite what, how and why what occurs comes to pass and the impacts it will have on Cathy and O’Rourke.
The writing in this book is sound, the description of setting quite wonderful and with a real feeling of authenticity. The mental battles the Cathy has with herself certainly rang true given her situation and the political and religious climate of the culture of Ireland. I really enjoyed the book and was drawn in to all elements of the story. The characters were all likable and the chemistry between the two lead police officers was perfectly balanced. That said, and this is purely a matter of personal taste, it was a little slower in pace than I have been used to of late, particularly from a police procedural, and it took a little settling into, forcing me to slow my own pace down to read it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that and I would still class this as a page turner, but it is more a gradual uncovering of deeply buried family secrets than it is an action thriller type. I’m not quite sure what I’d been expecting when I picked this up, and as an opener to a series this is a very high quality offering and I will definitely be going back for more.
Sam Blake has definitely won me over, and I can’t wait for book two.
If you’d like to pick up a copy of the books for yourself, they are available at the following links:
About the Author
Sam Blake is a pseudonym for Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, the founder of The Inkwell Group publishing consultancy and the hugely popular national writing resources website Writing.ie. She is Ireland’s leading literary scout and has assisted many award winning and bestselling authors to publication. Vanessa has been writing fiction since her husband set sail across the Atlantic for eight weeks and she had an idea for a book.
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