Monday, 15 August 2016

Secrets in Stone Blog Tour with Tessa Harris

 Roll up, roll up for the mystery tour. Today I am very pleased to welcome author Tessa Harris to the blog, taking us to her Top 5 favourite haunts that feature in her Dr Thomas Silkstone mystery series. I do love a good historical exploration around a city so I might have to go have a wonder around London soon!

One of the best things about being an historical novelist has to be the research. You can lose yourself for hours amid the murder, mystery and mayhem of the past. So if, like me, you love a gruesome tale from days of yore, here are some hidden gems I’ve discovered while researching my series that features an American anatomist in 18th century England.

1.Hell-Fire Caves, West Wycombe.

Don’t go here alone. You could easily lose yourself in the labyrinthine passages that wind deep into the Chiltern Hills. The caves date back to the mid-18th century when they were dug out by men in the pay of the notorious Sir Francis Dashwood. Journey through the Banqueting Hall and past various chambers until you reach the final destination of the Inner Temple. Reached by crossing the River Styx, this is where members of the infamous Hell-Fire Club used to hold its riotous meetings, several hundred feet below the church on top of the hill. Oh and watch out for the many ghosts that are supposed to inhabit the system. You have been warned!

2. The Old Operating Theatre and Apothecary’s Garrett, London SE1 http//

Just a stone’s throw away from a busy London market and up a winding staircase, you’ll reach a temple to medical macabre. Rediscovered by chance in 1957, it’s an attic in the eaves of St Thomas’s Church in Southwark. The space is where the apothecary used to store his herbs and medicaments and a pungent smell still lingers in the air. There are terrifying instruments, too, that look more suited to torture than healing, and in the adjacent operating theatre students would cram the room to watch surgeons perform their art on patients without the help of anaesthetics.

3. Benjamin Franklin’s House, London WC2
This isn’t just the world’s only remaining house of the great American polymath – although that is, of course, remarkable in itself, but what really gets the goose-bumps going for me is the basement. During restoration of the house, in 1998, archaeologists came across a one metre deep pit containing over 1200 pieces of bone. These were the remnants of an anatomy school run from the House by William Hewson, son-in-law of Franklin’s landlady, Margaret Stevenson. Ironically Hewson died when he nicked himself with a scalpel and contracted septicemia.

4. Newgate Jail, London EC1

On the surface, there’s nothing to tell you that you are standing on the site of what remains of one of the most notorious prisons in history when you step into The Viaduct. It’s the last surviving Victorian gin palace in London and lies opposite the Old Bailey, where Newgate Prison once stood. The beer cellars are former cells of the prison. Ask the staff nicely and they’ll take you to the beer cellars which were, in fact, the cells where many a hapless prisoner dwelt (and died) in abject misery. The cells are still dark, dank and wretched and one of them is very popular with ghost hunters.

5. Dennis Sievers House, London EC1

Step back in time when you enter this amazingly preserved former home of a family of Huguenot silk-weavers from 1724. It was created by the late artist Dennis Sievers, who lived in the house in much the same way as its original occupants might have done in the early 18th century. He imagined how the Jervis family might eat, sleep and entertain themselves in the narrow, five-storey townhouse in Folgate Street. There’s no electricity and no talking as you tour, and the candle light and the noise of the clock ticking and the occasional sigh just adds to the extraordinary ambience. As it says on the website: “To enter its door is to pass through a frame into a painting, one with a time and life of its own.”

Secrets in the Stones, the sixth book in the Dr Thomas Silkstone Mystery series, by Tessa Harris,
published by Little Brown, is out now, price £8.99.
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Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Review: The Games Afoot: The Interactive Sherlock Holmes Experience

 Move over Cumberbatch there's a new Sherlock in town...

I think we all know by now how much we at Dark Reders love a piece of  interactive theatre.... I love to be taken into another world and have an experience with the performers in such a real and immersive way.

Produced by Les Enfants Terribles, a company that I have now fallen in love with and have the highest esteem for The Game's Afoot is a great take on the classic Sherlock Holmes tales, bringing you into the world and putting you in the title role. There's been a murder (Gasp!) and Sherlock is missing (Gasp gasp - i hope you are gasping along) so you have been enlisted by Scotland Yard to solve the crime. Challenge accepted...if anyone can solve the crime its me! (that's the right attitude to have as a police officer I believe)

I was a little sceptical going into this as I have been with events like this before, because when I think of Madam Tussauds I generally think of the wax statues so I didn't know what to expect from this experience..

You are lead down a staircase, the temperature is dropping and the cobbles are feeling colder and suddenly you're in Victorian London outside 22b Baker Street infamous home of Sherlock Holmes.

So how does one solve a crime...well I've read enough crime books to  know you have to look for clues in everything. Paranoia is the name of the game. Interview the wife, because it's almost always the wife right? Or anyone who has an agenda with our everyone. So that's what I did.

Like any great murder mystery if you've ever been to one, or play Cludo, each section had a set character who you could interact with. They built their stories so well, embodying their characters with such whit and skill. There was even a sharp barb the stupider the question got. I found I was quickly falling into the role of Police officer and trying to be smart. Don't try and be smart, they know and this is a testament to the writing skills of Oliver Lansley and Anthony Spargo, I loved the costumes and the drama that they played out with each other. Victorian soap operas we're so much more exciting! Think Penny Dreadful!

And Samuel Wyer's sets...woof (though I would expect nothing less form this company)! The complete set itself wasn't on such a large scale, more it was like a little maze but each places was beautifully constructed with so much in it that you could explore and interact with. Sherlock's study particularly was resplendent, decked out with artefacts and books from his travels and a working phone that I had an interesting conversation on. There was a lot of thought put in here, the rooms were carefully constructed to create a great feeling of actuality so that could could act within your role not just walk through, so mega 'props' to Aoife Flynn for her prop work.

The one flaw that I has was that time flew by. By the time that I was really getting into it, conspiracy theories raging around my head, in typical Conan Doyle style picking at all the pieces that were left to you trying to find the red herrings, the game was up. S I would have loved a little longer to explore everything in detail, but that's more my compulsive need to live in a world like this and explore everything than a real fault!

This is a great show that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and perfect for the summer holidays, running until September 30th 2016 at Madam Tussades. Tickets can be bought HERE

If the BBC ever need a new Sherlock I am ready and available.

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Monday, 25 July 2016

Signs Of You by Emily France BOOK REVIEW

                       SIGNS OF YOU
                by Emily France 

Title: Signs of You
Author: Emily France
Publisher: SOHO Teen
Format: Paperback, 240
Release Date: July 19th 2016
Rating: 4.5/5
Since sixteen-year-old Riley Strout lost her mother two years ago, her saving grace has been her quirky little family in the grief support group she joined as a freshman. Jay, Kate, and Noah understand her pain; each lost a loved one, and they’ve stuck together in spite of their differences, united by tragedies only they understand.

When Riley thinks she spots her mother shopping in a grocery store, she fears she is suffering some sort of post-traumatic stress. Then Jay and Kate report similar experiences. Only Noah hasn’t had some kind of vision, which is perhaps why he’s become so skeptical and distant.

When Noah disappears, Riley fears she’s lost another loved one. As they frantically search for him, she, Kate, and Jay are drawn into the mystery surrounding a relic that belonged to Jay’s dead father and contains clues about the afterlife. Riley finds herself wrestling with her feelings for both Noah and Jay—which have become clear only in Noah’s absence. If Riley is to help those she loves, and herself, she must set things right with the one she’s lost.

*This book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

To describe this book in one word is impossible. Signs of You, covers a variety of different book genres - contemporary, mystery and magical realism all twirled into one FANTASTIC story.
If you're someone who also enjoys history, this one might be for you. Emily France, takes a non-ficiton story and turns it into an eye catching YA novel that had me hooked from the first line. The premise of this story is unlike any YA book out there. I found myself completely engaged with the story and lives of every character. You felt the hurt and anger between the different griefs everyone was dealing with. I loved seeing how strong the friendships were. And how they were able to find each other through a difficult time in their lives. The middle of the story was probably my favorite. Ever time I told myself, "okay, this is the last chapter before bed." Something interesting happened and I couldn't look away. The mystery aspect of this book had been just enough to have the hairs on the back of my neck stand up! Wondering if there's any sort of romance? Why yes! By all means, this isn't a romance book, but the growing connected between the two characters was so well done. I believe if this book started with full blown romance, it would have taken away from the true meaning of this story. Everything truly fell into place, and was so organic Signs of You, is a story that won't be forgotten. I am deeply moved by it in many ways. It shows the beauty of one's strength to move forward in life after a loss. That it is okay to hurt and be angry, but to know that we can move on in peace is even more uplifting. Emily France, debut novel is not one to miss! 

Xo, Nicole
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