Today kicks off the Blog Tour for BONES IN THE RIVER with a review from the amazing Karen Cole at Hair Past A Freckle. Karen has taken a deep dive into the book and really got to the heart of what the story is all about in her perceptive, detailed review:

I’m thrilled to be launching the blog tour for Bones In The River today. Huge thanks to Zoë Sharp and Ayo Onatade for inviting me and for my advance digital copy of the novel.

When I reviewed Zoë Sharp’s DANCING ON THE GRAVE a couple of years ago, I concluded it with the hope that the standalone would become a series and so I was delighted to discover that yes, Grace McColl and Nick Weston were going to appear again in BONES IN THE RIVER, the second book in what is now the Lakes Thriller trilogy—although each story can easily be enjoyed as a standalone too.

The novel opens with the death of a child and though it was an accident, the killer makes a panicked decision to hide the evidence. His identity is revealed to the readers very early in the book but rather than diminishing the tension, knowing who was responsible ahead of the investigating team actually increases the sense of nerve-wracking anticipation to the proceedings. There’s a tantalising game of cat-and-mouse played out as the perpetrator takes progressively wilder steps to evade being caught even as a crucial piece of evidence lies in the hands of the police.

The discovery of the boy’s badly damaged and bloodied bicycle sparks a concerned investigation into his disappearance and if a missing child is always likely to stir up emotions in a community, the prospect of violence becomes even more probable here with the influx of Gypsies and Travellers arriving for the Appleby Horse Fair. Relations between locals and the Travelling Community are always strained but as a second body is discovered, the age-old stigma and mistrust of Gypsies means many are quick to accuse them of both crimes and to make it clear they are even less welcome in the area.

The Fair also brings with it the added complication of old arguments—among different Gypsy clans and with the locals. Usually the Shera Rom (head man) keeps a tight grip on things but Hezekiah Smith’s recent death means the position in waiting to be filled. More than one man wants the role and they won’t risk losing face even if it results in bloodshed. Zoë Sharp writes of the difficulties arising from hostilities between locals and the Travelling Community with empathetic insight and her use of Romany words throughout adds an authentic flavour to the story. She draws attention to the abiding bigotry directed at Gypsies whilst still acknowledging their own difficult issues—perhaps most notably regarding some of their less than enlightened attitudes towards women. With that in mind, Queenie Smith is undoubtedly one of the most engaging characters in the novel; her strength and courage in the light of all she endures here meant that I looked forward to every scene this superbly rendered woman appears in.

The strong characterisation extends beyond Queenie, of course; I loved Detective Nick Weston and CSI Grace McColl in the first book and that was cemented here as their contrasting roles and investigative styles perfectly complement one another. The chemistry between them continues to simmer and I welcomed the introduction of Grace’s mother, Eleanor who interferes just enough in her daughter’s life. Meanwhile, the acting Head of CSI, Chris Blenkinship is a thoroughly unlikeable man whose arrogant behaviour ensured I was desperate for his comeuppance. On that score, I particularly loved the fabulous Force Medical Examiner, Dr Ayo Onatade (that name will obviously be familiar to many crime fiction lovers!) whose cool attitude and depth of knowledge so ably puts him in his place on a few occasions.

BONES IN THE RIVER is a gripping police procedural and the intertwining investigations into both a tragic new case and the discovery of a body killed a decade ago are captivating throughout.With long-hidden and more recent secrets gradually being uncovered, the drama is never less than compelling, the sense of place is vividly evoked and the perceptive exploration of complex family issues is thoroughly engrossing. Zoë Sharp’s writing is always first-rate but there are moments when it becomes utterly beautiful and the lyrical poeticism she uses in her descriptions of the river or the day as a storm approaches are simply outstanding passages that I read twice just to savour them.

BONES IN THE RIVER is as brilliant as I’ve come to expect from an author who has become one of my favourites. It’s dark, shocking and exciting but is imbued throughout with intuitive empathy and a dry wit—I loved it!

If you’d like to comment on the review, please visit Hair Past A Freckle.

My Day 7 stop on the Blog Tour following the publication of the thirteenth Charlie Fox crime thriller, BAD TURN last week, is with the splendid Karen Cole at Hair Past A Freckle. Karen read the book to review for today’s post. I always wait for the verdict with bated breath…

I think it’s safe to say she quite liked it!

I’m thrilled to be hosting the blog tour for Bad Turn today, many thanks to Zoë Sharp and to Ayoola Onatade from for inviting me and for my advance digital copy of the novel.

I loved the previous Charlie Fox story, Fox Hunter and have been eagerly awaiting her return in Bad Turn. This is the thirteenth book in the series but Zoë Sharp certainly hasn’t let her protagonist stagnate and I was looking forward to discovering what she would be up to this time around.

At the start of the book she has reached a crossroads in her career having quit her job in close protection with Armstrong-Meyer. Unfortunately the position also came with an apartment—and her former boss, Parker Armstrong had rubber-stamped her Green Card and firearms licence. Having been essentially blacklisted from the world of close protection, she is house—and cat—sitting in rural New Jersey. However, trouble has a habit of finding Charlie and when she becomes involved in the attempted kidnapping of Helena Kincaid, the wife of billionaire arms dealer, Eric, she quickly realises she has little choice but to accept the position she is offered working with the Kincaids as Helena’s protection.

It soon transpires that although the world of arms dealers is a shady one, the major players had at least reached an agreement to not involve their loved ones in their dealings. Therefore, the foiled ambush on Helena could trigger a war between some very dangerous people. Helena’s response to her new bodyguard is intriguing and not what I expected at all. After a terrifying encounter which resulted in bloodshed on both sides, it would have been understandable for her to be grateful for the reassurance of a highly trained companion but the situation with Mrs Kincaid isn’t that straightforward. At first she isn’t a particularly likeable character but revelations about her upbringing and her past experiences help to explain her attitude and I thought the relationship between the two women was absolutely fascinating.

Read the rest of Karen’s review on Hair Past A Freckle.

Huge thanks to Karen Cole at Hair Past A Freckle for not only doing a great review, but also for letting me go through some of the genuine locations and settings for the book, with pictures to suit.

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It’s my pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for DANCING ON THE GRAVE by Zoë Sharp today, many thanks to the author and Ayo Onatade for inviting me and for my e-copy of the novel. Zoë has very kindly written a guest post about why she chose to set Dancing On The Grave in the Lake District and included some beautiful photographs which I’ll share after my review.

I loved FOX HUNTER when I read it last year despite not having read any of the other books in Zoë Sharp’s Charlie Fox series and so I was intrigued to read her latest standalone thriller, DANCING ON THE GRAVE. The book opens with a sniper about to take a shot; seconds later his intended victim has been killedbut he didn’t pull the trigger. This quiet corner of England is about to be shattered by a murderous rampage but first Crime Scene Investigator, Grace McColl has been called to examine the scene of what at first appears to be a straightforward case when a German Shepherd Dog is shot after massacring a field of sheep. Farmers are well within their rights to shoot dogs which are worrying their animals but the owner of this flock claims it wasn’t him and the evidence backs him up. Detective Constable Nick Weston is dispatched to the scene of the crimeand as the new face in the office, his colleagues omit to mention that the victim has four legs and a tail. This first meeting between Grace and Nick doesn’t have an auspicious start; she is cool and detached, he is hungover and angry. However, the pair quickly grow to respect one another, they are both outsiders and though he relies on instinct while she prefers physical evidence, they are both determined characters with pasts which mean they have something to prove as others wait for them to slip up.

Read the rest of Karen Cole’s excellent review here. And also my article on the locations behind the book:

A Plot Leads To a Plot—why I chose the Lake District setting for Dancing On The Grave: a standalone crime thriller

I ended up living in the Lake District more by chance than anything else. We’d been looking for land to build our own house, and when a plot came up in Mallerstang, part of the Eden Valley bordering the Yorkshire Dales National Park on the eastern side of the Lakes, I couldn’t believe our luck.

Previously, we’d lived in Kendal and whilst building rented a flat in Appleby-in-Westmorland, so I spent quite a bit of time in the surrounding towns and villages. The more time I spent there, the more I really wanted to set a book in that lesser-known area of the Lakes.

Orton from Orton Scar

Orton Village from higher up Orton Scar, with the white church tower just visible.

After the Washington Sniper attacks took place in the States in 2002, I’d been mulling over the plot involving a similar incident in a rural location in the UK. The wild areas of Orton Scar (which is how it’s known locally—officially it’s the Great Asby Scar National Nature Reserve) and Orton village itself with its distinctive white-towered church, seemed to cry out for dramatisation.

Read the rest of the blog post article after the review here.

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