All about Books, Book review

Book Review: Black Hearts by Doug Johnstone

I’m excited today to review Black Hearts by Doug Johnstone for his blog tour. This was my first time reading about the Skelf women but I’d heard great things about the series so couldn’t wait to jump in.

Book Review: Black Hearts by Doug Johnstone

Book cover for Black Hearts by Doug Johnstone
Celtic cross gravestone with a magpie perched on it. Has tagline Death is just the beginning
Black Hearts by Doug Johnstone

Title: Black Hearts

Author: Doug Johnstone

Publisher: Orenda Books

Genre: Crime

Release Date:  29th September 2022

Blurb

The Skelf women live in the shadow of death every day, running the family funeral directors and private investigator business in Edinburgh. But now their own grief interwines with that of their clients, as they are left reeling by shocking past events.

A fist-fight by an open grave leads Dorothy to investigate the possibility of a faked death, while a young woman’s obsession with Hannah threatens her relationship with Indy and puts them both in mortal danger.

An elderly man claims he’s being abused by the ghost of his late wife, while ghosts of another kind come back to haunt Jenny from the grave … pushing her to breaking point.

As the Skelfs struggle with increasingly unnerving cases and chilling danger lurks close to home, it becomes clear that grief, in all its forms, can be deadly…

My Thoughts

Apart from the unusual set up where the novels and investigations are based in a funeral parlour, the thing that leapt from the page was the beauty and personality of the city, Edinburgh. I haven’t been since I was a child but has been on my wish list to return and this book intensified that longing. The descriptions brought it alive and if you do know the city, I imagine it would lead to a greater reading experience.

I loved the intriguing concept of a private investigating business entwined with a funeral parlour. Both the investigations the Skelfs take on and the multi-generational family interactions kept me turning the page. Despite reading this as a standalone with no previous knowledge of the characters, I became immersed in their lives and felt their heartache, grief and fear as the story progressed. The emotions displayed were authentic. Grief was not washed over and sanitised, nor was the post trauma experienced by Jenny after the death of her ex-husband. Reading about the aftermath of a horrific event made me want to forget all the other books on my TBR pile and read the back catalogue to catch up.

The investigations required no previous knowledge of the family affairs. The case which stood out was Udo who is convinced he is being attacked by his late wife and hearing her through the wind phone. These phones give the ability to people to talk to lost loved ones which I’d never heard of before. This thread added emotional depth and a spiritual element to the book and these phones would be useful everywhere.

Would I recommend?

Oh yes. With the authentic writing, strong women and an immersive location this is a book to read. It can be read as a standalone, but it won’t be enough. You’ll want to read the rest of the series so be prepared to increase your TBR pile.

Author Biography

Photo of Doug Johnstone. White male with blond short hair, smiling wearing a black tropical shirt.
Doug Johnstone

Doug Johnstone is the author of twelve novels, most recently The Great Silence, described as ‘A novel [that] underlines just how accomplished Johnstone has become’ by the Daily Mail. He has been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year three times, and the Capital Crime Best Independent Voice one; The Big Chill was longlisted for Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year. He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions, and has been an arts journalist for twenty years. Doug is a songwriter and musician with five albums and three EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He’s also player-manager of the Scotland Writers Football Club. He lives in Edinburgh.

Thank you Random Thing Tours for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

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All about Books, Book review, The Enchanted Emporium's Bookshelf

Book Review: Demon by Matt Wesolowski

From a delightful romance yesterday, I am excited to share a review for a horror novel, Demon by Matt Wesolowski. I love the paranormal and crime thrillers so when I saw the blurb for Demon, I needed to know more. Scroll down to see if this excitement was justified.

Book Review: Demon by Matt Wesolowski

Book cover Demon by Matt Wesolowski
Demon by Matt Wesolowski

Title: Demon

Author: Matt Wesolowski

Publisher: Orenda books

Genre: Horror/Crime

Release Date: 20th Jan 2022

Blurb

Scott King’s podcast investigates the 1995 cold case of a demon possession in a rural Yorkshire village, where a 12-year-old boy was murdered in cold blood by two children. Book six in the chilling, award-winning Six Stories series.

In 1995, the picture-perfect village of Ussalthwaite was the site of one of the most heinous crimes imaginable, in a case that shocked the world.

Twelve-year-old Sidney Parsons was savagely murdered by two boys his own age. No reason was ever given for this terrible crime, and the ‘Demonic Duo’ who killed him were imprisoned until their release in 2002, when they were given new identities and lifetime anonymity.

Elusive online journalist Scott King investigates the lead-up and aftermath of the killing, uncovering dark and fanciful stories of demonic possession, and encountering a village torn apart by this unspeakable act. And, as episodes of his Six Stories podcast begin to air, King himself becomes a target, with dreadful secrets from his own past dredged up and threats escalating to a terrifying level. It becomes clear that whatever drove those two boys to kill is still there, lurking, and the campaign of horror has just begun…

My Thoughts

I’m a lover of podcasts so this unique format suited me and this creepy tale well. Based in the depths of the Yorkshire Moors, the descriptions captured the brooding atmospheric location and added to the eeriness of the crime. This novel has a great sense of place. Setting plays a huge part in the narrative; the old kilns left over from when the village relied on the mining industry are the forbidden playground for the village children lured there by the warnings of danger and whispering of the presence of the devil. The murder of Sidney Parsons by the Demonic Duo adds to this lore.

Scott King’s podcast focuses on this horrific crime but the true horror is revealed when listening to the six people’s versions of the events. The deeper Scott digs the more immersive it becomes and creepier truths are revealed. The spotlight on the village inevitably has consequences and tensions rise when one of the murderers new names is set to be leaked. With twists I wasn’t expecting and superb storytelling, this was a chilling read where less is more and the reader is allowed to use their own imagination to terrify themselves. While some of the threads told can be explained with logic and other versions with supernatural leanings remain unexplained and it’s only when seen as a whole the true story is told.

Not only is this a fantastic horror/crime novel, it has a deeper message about society, prejudice and the increased influence of social media.

Would I recommend?

Yes, Demon is a well-crafted story in a clever format that adds to the atmospheric terror of the tale. This is the sixth novel in the Six Stories series so I’m happy to have more books to add to my TBR. With its supernatural leanings, Demon is a horrifying addition to The Enchanted Emporium Bookshelf that will give some nightmares.

Author Biography

Photo of author Matt Wesolowski
Matt Wesolowski

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- an US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror story set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was a bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WH Smith Fresh Talent pick, and TV rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio. A prequel, Hydra, was published in 2018 and became an international bestseller, Changeling (2019), Beast (2020) And Deity (2021) soon followed suit.

Thank you Random Thing Tours for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

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