Ben Field was good looking and charming, and as a passionate English literature student, knew the power of words to seduce. In the village of Maids Moreton in Buckinghamshire, 69-year-old Peter Farquhar, an eminent teacher and author, found Ben’s presence irresistible. They set up home together, underwent a ‘betrothal’ ceremony at a church, but all along Ben was gaslighting his partner and secretly poisoning him. A year later Peter was dead.
Ben moved on to a neighbour in the same street, Ann Moore-Martin, who also fell helplessly in love with him. All the time Ben was setting her up to redraft her will so that Ben would benefit on her death.
Remarkably, Ben described in intimate detail his manipulations and scheming, his perverse fantasies and desires in numerous journals and diaries, providing a unique insight into the mind of a psychopathic personality.
I never liked True Crime - I think I always thought life was awful enough without reading in depth about awful crimes! However, lockdown seemed to change that. The lovely thing about true crime is that there is often a clear resolution - something which I felt was very lacking in life overall. So I embarked on reading everything I could find - and In Cold Blood by Truman Capote was a particular favourite.
Let Us Prey takes a cue from that - and is a truly gripping account of the crimes of Ben Field - a seemingly innocent and friendly church warden, whose manipulative actions led to the death of one man, and the duping of one woman.
Through examining Field's diaries, author Smith truly communicates to the listener the inner thoughts of this psychopath - and the cold, clinical disconnection of Field serves as a stark contrast to the rather more provincial goings on of the small home counties village of Maids Moreton where the crimes took place.
Gripping, insightful, and mercifully not exploitative, "Let Us Prey" explores the truth behind these crimes and takes a hard look at the man who comitted them - well worth a listen!
Ireland, the 1990s. Eight missing women. Did a serial killer prowl the vanishing triangle? And if so, were they ever caught?
Between 1993 and 1998, eight women went missing from an area around Dublin that became known as the ‘Vanishing Triangle’. Was there a link? Speculation abounded. There were whispers of a serial killer, responsible for some, if not all, of these cases. But nobody was ever brought to justice.
Twenty years later, the brutal murder of Jastine Valdez disturbs crime Novelist Claire McGowan into action. Reminded, like many in Ireland, of those previous missing women, McGowan brings her skills as a novelist to the real world, setting out to uncover the truth of the vanishing triangle. As she digs deeper, she finds something terrible lurking behind the idyllic image of rural Ireland and the 21st century success story of the ‘Celtic Tiger’. An incompetent police force, a traumatised nation and, a rank, murderous misogyny.
But are the disappearances linked? Are they linked with other murders? Was there, is there, a serial killer on the loose?
Claire McGowan is a writer and lecturer - perhaps best known for her crime/thriller books published under her own name, but also known for her other books published under the name of Eva Woods. McGowan has also had several radio dramas broadcast on Radio 4, has a number of scripts currently under development, and has written articles for a number of leading publications.
Claire McGowan's skill as a novelist translates hugely well to this step into non-fiction - and it's that skill which elevates this from just being a fascinating listen about some horrific crimes, to a state of the nation piece which explores the wider socio and economic factors that would affected the deaths, coverage, and investigations into these 8 missing women.
There can often be a rather seedy theme that runs through 'True-Crime' books - and they can often glamorise the violence and the killings rather than investigating what truly happened. McGowan is careful to ensure that this isn't a line that ever gets crossed her - and in examining in great detail the background that led to these crimes happening and the way that they were responded to, she is able to give life and voice to the missing women, whilst also providing a social history for Ireland at the time of the disappearances, and ensuring that the listener feels, much like the author (and narrator) justifiable anger for those affected by these crimes, and the lack of justice that still haunts the families to this day, over 20 years later.
Chilling and gripping, but never gratuitous or sordid - The Vanishing Triangle is a fascinating listen that shines light on an unsolved series of crimes and the wider circumstances surrounding them.
Many thanks to MidasPR for my copy!
Welcome to The Glory - the world’s biggest VR tournament.
In front of millions of viewers, teams compete in a battle royale where they clear dungeons, complete quests and slay other players in a race to score the most points.
The winners are instant celebrities, and it's time Bash the Berserker joined their ranks. One win away from going pro, his dreams of fame, fortune and that iced coffee sponsorship are finally coming true...until he’s kicked off his team mere hours before registrations close.
With everything on the line, Bash manages to cobble together a new rag-tag team. A washed-up semi-pro who hates his guts, a talented analyst who’s never actually competed and a streamer whose ego is only surpassed by her love of throwing swords.
Oh, and if they want to earn their glory, Bash will have to trade in his war hammer and play as a three-foot-tall, tree-hugging elf....
Alex Knight grew up a sun-baked, outdoorsy Floridian and has lived in several places around the world. As an author of LitRPG and Fantasy his work includes the Nova Online Trilogy. In the past Alex has worked as everything from a dish washer at Busch Gardens to the Communications Coordinator at the Florida Attractions Association.
After deciding he didn’t like stability or predictable pay checks he made the jump to being a freelance writer. Soon that turned into ghost-writing romance novellas, then ghost-writing full-blown science fiction novels, and finally, writing his own books.
Hello - I'm Luke, and two things I love are Fantasy, and Video Games. So, rather unsurprisingly, Rise to Glory was right up my street! If you combined The Hunger Games with Ready Player One, with a little bit of Lord of the Rings and Skyrim thrown in good measure, you'd end up with Rise to Glory - and as a melting pot of all those brilliant options, it's clearly extremely fun.
As a big video game fan I enjoyed how the world is represented here - the fact that the character exist mostly in this virtual world allows the author to have them abide by rules that are set and strict, but are nonetheless different from everyday life. If you're a fan of fantasy but struggle with the excessive world building that can sometimes go into Fantasy books, then 'Rise to Glory' will be a great fit for you - plunging you into the action, and allowing you to discover things as Bash and the other characters do.
Crucially, and I think particularly fitting given the time in which this audiobook has come out, is how the story focuses on the idea of 'found families'. As someone who has made some of his best friends through posting on an X-Men message board in the early 2000's, I know all too well that geekdom brings security and closeness with others, who, for whatever reason, can often feel seperated from the rest of society. Alex Knight subtly covers those themes here - and they weave along nicely with the fun of the overarcing plot, whilst also bringing in themes about the world of competitive and professional online gaming, which we've seen take off in recent years.
Kudos goes to voice artist Christopher Ragland for his great narration too - brilliant to have someone so immersed in the video game world (he's done voices for Homefront, Horizon Zero Dawn, Star Wars Battle Front II and Xenoblade Chronicles II, amongst others) do the voiceover here - extremely fitting!
Many thanks to Midas PR for the opportunity to give this a listen
At a moment when powerful men everywhere are being exposed for their crimes, Celia receives an email out of the blue, accusing her ex-husband of committing a rape decades before. She feels compelled to investigate, but where should she even begin? Together with Carly, her millennial colleague at the Harland Herald, she revisits a past she thought she’d left behind, full of partying, drugs and free love. At the time, she’d thought she was at the centre of something - she’d been swept up in the maelstrom of the summer of love - but did she miss something rotten at its core?
Carole Hayman is a Writer, Producer & Presenter. She was born in Kent, which has featured in her trilogy of novels, “The Warfleet Chronicles”. Her early work was with The Bristol Old Vic, The Royal Court and Traverse Theatres, from which she went on to become a founder member and first woman director of the Joint Stock Theatre Company. She was an Associate Director of The Royal Court Theatre, for which she directed many World Premieres.
Carole writes for radio, television and film. On radio, she is well known as writer of the Radio 4 hit series “Ladies of Letters” with Prunella Scales and Patricia Routledge, which has run for twelve series on radio and three series on ITV . She has written many other TV series and films, including The Refuge with Sue Townsend for Channel Four and Rides, the first ever all female TV drama, for BBC1.
The #metoo movement has been the subject of a huge amount of coverage over the last few years, and rightly so - it's a timely and massively important wave of recognition towards the massive power balances that exist in many, many industries - but specifically within the entertainment industry. This is where 'Legacy' takes place, with lead character Celia forced to examine her past as the former wife of a rock star, and to try and piece together hazy memories from a decadent past.
Trying to uncover the truth behind allegations of rape, Celia and her young colleague Carly are forced to uncover shocking truths about the past - and Hayman also uses this as an opportunity to explore the differences in attitudes and experiences between the two - making for a listen that is honest, intriguing, and ultimately, hugely gripping.
This is aided in no small part to Zara Ramm's excellent narration, who brings the characters to life, and embues the slightly unreliable narrator with drive - Celia makes mistakes, but the reader is inevitably on her side.
The whole conceit of the unreliable narrator works wonderfully well here too - with Celia not untrustworthy, more a victim of a past that involved raucous parties and overindulging on intoxicants. Time and time again we have seen women in rape cases disbelieved due to them daring to have a drink or a good time, and this is explored with openness and, completely understandably, a fair degree of rage.
Given the prominence of #metoo in the media, this book could be called 'of the moment', but in truth it's only in recent years that the truth around women being systematically abused and disbelieved has come to true light - so this book isn't 'of the moment' at all - the moment has been happening for hundreds of years, and it's time that more light is shone on it in as many ways as possible. With Legacy - it just so happens that you get a gripping listen at the same time.
Many thanks to MidasPR for the copy of this audible Original book.
High Risk is a dark, raw and uncompromising tale of the human condition in extremis, drawing on the many lives of Ben Timberlake: as an archaeologist, special forces soldier, combat medic and drug addict.
Ben pursued the rush, and often the chase took him over the edge. Instead of asking why, he asked, why not? Blending confessional narrative, classic reportage and acerbic humour, this memoir takes a gonzo look at terrorists, junkies, soldiers and strippers through the tale of one extraordinary life.
Starting with Ben’s first near-death experience in a Nazi-themed bar in wartime Yugoslavia, High Risk is a whirlwind tour of everything from service in the SAS, combat in Iraq, encounters with a gambling-obsessed 9/11 hijacker and steroid-fuelled mercenaries, to veterans blissed out on MDMA, hook-ups in the world of extreme sex, and battling a heroin habit on a remote Scottish island.
Ben Timberlake’s undercover missions have concerned nuclear terrorism, the Far Right, and the trafficking of people, wildlife, looted antiquities and organs. He has written for the Financial Times, The Guardian and The Economist, and made Channel 4 and Discovery films on topics from Japanese mummies to prehistoric rock art.
Over the last year, I've been reading a lot to relax - when in the middle of a global pandemic, it's always nice to have a book that has a neat and tidy ending - allowing you to rest easy in the knowledge that somewhere, somehow, things do come to an end.
'High Risk' is not the thing to pick up if you're looking for something relaxing. It's high octane, and at times jaw-dropping. But it's also far more than it appears at first glance. Yes, it covers author Ben Timberlake going into some insane situations and escaping by the skin of his teeth, but it doesn't stint when it comes to exploring just what effect those situations can have on a person, and how they can be driven to seek more and more danger.
Timberlake is remarkably open - and his humour breaks up the tension wonderfully - there's a dry wryness which makes Timberlake both a charming author and a great narrator. At times it felt like listening to a slightly mad mate tell his stories down the pub - which at this point in time is something I had sorely missed!
With the humour and the action though, comes a raw honesty and a human emotion. Timberlake explores what has driven him to such extremes during his life - and from that comes a rather wonderful reflection on the human condition and how it can be shaped by external factors, and Timberlake also explores the nature of addiction in it's many forms.
Speaking personally, I come from a family with a history of addiction, so have always walked a tightrope personally, wanting to live life to the full but also conscious that doing so may result in unpleasant circumstances. Timberlake explores addiction and the effects they can have in minute and fascinating detail, and does so in an honest, open fashion.
I started this prepared to be overawed at Timberlake's bravery in the SAS, and I came away overawed by his bravery at being open, straight talking, and admitting his own flaws. Any book that can help people whilst also entertaining is worth it's weight in gold, meaning that 'High Risk' is very valuable indeed.
Many thanks to MidasPR for a copy of the Audio Book
Tineka Smith always knew that growing up Black in America meant certain restrictions. Don’t talk back to white people; expect to be stopped by the police; always be on your guard. So, when she moved to the UK – and fell in love with Alex Court, a white man – she wondered if things might be different.
When Alex proposed to Tineka, it was the easiest decision in the world. What he didn’t anticipate was the reaction – sometimes subtle, sometimes overt – from friends and strangers alike. Nor did he expect to have to think about Tineka’s race, and his own white privilege, every single day.
Tineka has always felt the burden of calling out and educating people, only now she has to teach her new husband at the same time - asking him to see, hear and think with a new perspective about the things he had never noticed before.
But what does this mean for Tineka and Alex’s relationship? With anecdotes, analysis and honest conversations, Mixed Up has the pair attempting to navigate their new and challenging world, confronting race and relationships in the 21st century head on.
I grew up woefully undereducated about race - in a small Northern English town, there was little diversity, so understanding the pressures, pains and daily aggressions that black people face, was not something that really crossed my mind until my early 20's, when I moved to London.
That interest in understanding the mindsets of people from different backgrounds has been with me since then, but over the last year i've been working on educating myself on this as much as possible - sparked by movements such as Black Lives Matter that have opened up my eyes to the injustices and unequalities that Black people face every day.
And as for the inequalities that women face every day? I'm a proud feminist and I consider myself very well educated on these issues from an equality stand point - but as a homosexual cisgendered white man, I'm aware that my privilege speaks volumes - I'm never going to fully understand these perspectives as they're not lived experiences for me, but I'm always highly interested to read more on this.
With that in mind, I was delighted to be asked to review 'Mixed Up - Confessions of an Interracial Couple' - a fantastic audio book from Audible, by Tineka Smith and Alex Court.
There's an openness and an intimacy to the writing and the reading - perhaps enhanced by the fact that these insights to a couple's struggles was being read directly into my ears.
'Mixed Up' discusses the true life relationship of Tineka and Alex, and there are multiple layers to unpick and discuss here - from Tineka's experiences as a black woman in America contrasting with Alex's experiences as a white man in Britain, the judgements and microagressions that Tineka faces as both a black person and as a woman, and the journey of understanding that both, with a highlight on Alex, experience over the course of their relationships.
It's a listen that's eye opening, emotional, and necessary - there's been a huge amount written about the experiences that different races and genders experience, but it's rare to see those experiences highlighted in such an emotive and personal fashion - Tineka Smith and Alex Court deliver these with style, skill, and serious amounts of substance.
I received a copy of this audio book in exchange for an honest review - many thanks to Audible
In this Audible Original audiobook, Emma J. Bell tackles the ultimate question: why go through life merely surviving, when you could be thriving?
Drawing on the insights of 50 inspiring people who have suffered a wide range of trauma but are thriving nonetheless, Emma J. Bell has extracted nine enlightening secrets from their experiences. You’ll listen as they talk about how they found renewed purpose in life; how they learned to forgive rather than hold on to resentment; and how they developed practices to create calm and live authentically. Whether you want to apply their life changing lessons to your relationships, your work or the way you deal with setbacks or challenging past experiences, each story offers something different and inspiring for you to draw on.
Traditionally I've avoided books that I thought looked a bit 'self-helpy' - I think my inner repressed brit balks at the thought of asking anyone (even a book!) for help, and it's this same inner sabuteur that prevented me from dealing with my mental health until my early 30's.
Had I known that a book like '9 Secrets to Thriving' existed though, I may have thought very differently...
Yes - this is a book that shows the readers they can thrive, grow, and persevere, and the advice is clever, wise, and not remotely patronising - there's a practicality and an understanding that not everybody is going to be willing, or able, to make some of the change suggested here.
What makes this book so brilliantly well though, are the real life stories that are threaded throughout - shocking, thought provoking true tales that allow the reade to empathise, but also gave me a wonderful sense of perspective.
As a former lawyer and judge, author and narrator Bell has clearly seen more than her fair share of the world, and of the many issues that people in it face, and overcome. As such, her prose and narration is wise - but also friendly and kind - there is no judgement here, but understanding and advice.
I finished this audio book feeling both emotional and empowered, and I'll be returning to it in the future!
Many thanks to MidasPR for the copy.
Afro-Brazilian filmmaker Ren is recovering from a romantic betrayal. Kayla is a Black British artist and journalist keen to make her mark. Thrown together during a string of interviews in New York for Ren's latest film, they’re struck by an irresistible attraction. The two surrender to one night of searing honesty and passion, which leaves them with more questions than answers about the future.
With secrets lurking between them, letting their romance continue could upend the separate lives Ren and Kayla have so carefully built. But can they really risk losing their miraculous connection?
Born in Camberwell, author Sareeta Domingo spent her formative years in Bahrain. An editor for Harper Collins by day, and a writer by night, Sareeta has oreviously had various erotic short stories and an erotic novella published, and her first full length novel, 'The Nearness of You' was published in 2016.
So - a romance novel. Not something I would necessarily seek out, but then I feel that categories can be rather limiting for books - the "Chick Lit" field, for example, leads people to ignore the deep and often moving work that authors like Marian Keyes create in that genre.
Romance is one where I would, perhaps, have assumed that the majority of books would be swooning 'mills and boon' type romances that involved a lot of bodice ripping and copious amounts of straight sex which, as a gay man, I rather got bored of reading about after a while.
However, I'm well aware of how much an ass I am for relying on assumptions, and I'm hugely glad that I was asked to review a book rather out of my comfort zone, as 'If I Don't Have You' is thrilling, contemporary, and hugely memorable - mostly due to the authors fantastic writing, but also due to excellent narration from Jakobi Diem and Jessye Romeo - bringing the characters to vivid life, and allowing the listener a compelling narrative that alows them to view the perspective of both Ren and Kayla as their relationship grows and changes.
No romance would be complete without some stumbling blocks, and there are plenty here - but not the cliches one might expect from a romcom, but instead ones that feel remarkably real and grounded.
As for my worries about being a bit bored with another straight romance? Absolutely not. This pair is hot, sexy, and hugely readable, and there's no element of "virtous woman overpowered by body-ripping brute" - kayla is fiery, independent, and very much in charge of her sexuality, which is wonderful to read.
Compelling, Sexy, and Contemporary, If I Don't Have You is available now from Audible. I received a copy from Midaspr in exchange for an honest review.
The first in a series, Clockwork Sherlock follows ex-soldier Captain Jo Barnes. The mysterious VR detective singles her out as his own Dr Watson, but he’s about to find out she’s no fawning sidekick.
When tech giant Robert Fairfield is found dead of a suspected drug overdose, fingers are pointed at the two women who stood most to gain from his death: his fiancée and leader of the New Ludds, Greta Blackstone, and Beth Fairchild, Robert’s ambitious daughter. But when Beth is found dead and the evidence shows she was killed before her father, the suspect is obvious. To everyone, that is, except Sherlock Holmes.
Using futuristic tech and good, old-fashioned sleuthing, Captain Barnes and the famed detective set out to find the killer
Author Ian W.Sainsbury has had a varied career - running away from University to join the circus, playing in a band providing accompaniment for monkeys riding on pigs. As you do...! His musical career continued from there, with Ian playing piano on cruise ships before spending over a decade singing in European piano bars. He has also run a choir or two! After five years as a stand-up comic, Ian turned to writing - and the success of 2016's 'The World Walker' has seen Ian able to focus his attentions on writing, whilst living in East Anglia with his wife, two children, and a flatulent dog.
This Audible original audio book is narrated by the fantastic actress Shvorne Marks - who has appeared on our screens in programmes such as Endeavour and Silent Witness, and has narrated a considerable number of high profile audio books, including the award-winning "Queenie" by Candice Carty-Williams.
So, I am a big fan of Sherlock Holmes. My Dad was (and still is), a big fan of Arthur Conan-Doyle, and prominent books of my childhood were the exceddingly large Sherlock Holmes collections we had sitting in our living room, as well as copies of other books like 'The Lost World', alongside rather stranger volumes focusing on Conan Doyle's interest in the Supernatural. With the UK TV Show 'Sherlock' and US tv show 'Elimentary', interest in Sherlock Holmes has surged over the last few years - and I was initially wary of 'Clockwork Sherlock' in case it was an excuse to jump on the back of a popular bandwagon.
However, 'Clockwork Sherlock' takes the world's most famous detective in a whole new direction - one that's wholly original, and yet familiar for those who love the original tales.
Jo Barnes serves as the 'Watson' here - and her relationship with 'Sherlock' serves as the backbone of this book - with the two working together to solve the central mystery, but building a partnership that, I hope, will be developed in further installments.
As this is a book featuring Sherlock Holmes, it would be nothing without a good mystery - and Robert Fairfield's death is a fascinating case that Barnes, Holmes, and the listener are invited to crack, working through a series of puzzles and seemingly impossible situations, to a rewarding resolution.
Sainsbury is an excellent writer, who carefully balances the tension of the overarcing plot, with descriptive writing that fully pulls the listener into the world of Captain Jo Barnes. This is hugely complimented by superb narration from Shvorne Marks, bringing the steely Jo Barnes to life, alongside the ever enigmatic detective Sherlock Holmes
Many thanks to Ben at MidasPr - I received a copy of this audiobook in exchange for my unbiased review.
Twenty-seven bodies, vacuum-packed, buried in a woodland trench. Some have been there for years, some for just days.
When DI Brendan Foley recognises one of the Warrington 27, he knows this case is about to shake his world.
Detective Sergeant Iona Madison is a skilled boxer and a vital support for Foley. Theirs is a newly established police force, and loyalties are about to be tested to the extreme.
Pressure mounts as news of the mass grave is plastered over the news. Brendan knows they can’t crack this case alone, but he’s not letting a rival force take over.
Their investigations lead them into the murky underworlds of Manchester and Liverpool, where one more murder means little to drug-dealing gangs, desperate to control their power bases.
But as Madison steps into the ring for the fight of her life, the criminals come to them. It’s no coincidence that the corpses have been buried in Foley’s hometown. The question is, why?
Rob Parker lives in a village near Manchester, UK. A married father of three, Rob is also the author of the Ben Bracken books A Wanted Man, Morte Point, The Penny Black, Till Morning Is Nigh and the standalone post-Brexit country-noir Crook’s Hollow. He writes full time, as well as organising and attending various author events across the UK - while boxing regularly for charity.
One of my favourite things is a good, well crafted crime thriller - and despite the amount of them on the shelves of bookshops across the country, ones that truly grip whilst also building character and avoiding cliches are really rather hard to come by. So it was with great delight that I listened to the Audible book of Rob Parker's 'Far from the Tree' - a story that I found myself unable to press pause on, so wrapped up was I in the grim yet real world that Parker has created.
No good crime thriller is without a successful duo at the heart of it - and 'Far from the Tree' is no exception. Brendan Foley and Iona Madison work brilliantly together as foils for the listener, and whilst they do tick some of the crime cliches (troubled backgrounds, skeletons in closets etc.) it doesn't matter here, as the author brings these characters to life with such vivid work that the cliches instead become key aspects of both character and plot, and at no point feel unrealistic. These are real, working policemen who I could see on the job in the real world - and it is absolutely to Parker's credit that no suspension of belief is required at any point.
I won't go into the plot too much - as the twists are frequent, brilliant, and at times rather breathtaking. Suffice it to say, this is a dark, brooding read (as any book that starts with the discovery of 27 corpses is rather likely to be), and plunges the reader deep into the criminal underbelly of the North West, but the author has care to ensure that it is a balanced read also - the violence isn't of the gratuitous kind that often stalks books of this nature, and the deaths are handled with sensitivity and care - with the deceased being handled as people who had lives and backstories rather than just tools for plot development. I've seen this described as suitable for fans of both Ian Rankin and the tv show Line of Duty, and that's exactly how I would pitch it - the world and character building of Rankin combined with the breathtaking twists that Line of Duty is so known for.
I would be remiss not to mention Warren Brown's excellent narration too - Warren Brown is best known for leading roles in shows such as 'Luther' and 'Strike Back', although he's firmly embedded in my head as the evil (and impaled) Andy Holt from Hollyoaks. He's excellent here - being from Warrington his accent is (unsurprisingly!) spot on, and whilst I already rated him as an excellent actor, he excels himself here - spending multiple hours with just one voice can be difficult if the narrator is poor, but Brown is an excellent guide to the dark and shadowy corners of the world that Rob Parker has skilfully created.
Many thanks to Amber at Midas PR for a copy of the Audio Book in exchange for an honest review