My Book Reviews for April 2024 (Part One)

My Book Reviews for April 2024 (Part One)

My Book Reviews for April 2024 (Part One) include a suspenseful mystery set in Ireland and a horror thriller set in Alaska. All the books are review copies I had the privilege of reading. I thank the authors, publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read early copies in exchange for independent reviews.

Dark Road Home by Sheila Bugler

Leah returns to her small home town in Ireland after 18 years as a lawyer in Australia. It is a difficult reunion with her brother, mother and her two former friends, Aisling and Coco. And things get even worse when Leah’s ex-boyfriend, Eamon, is found murdered. Eamon is the twin brother of Aisling and the husband of Coco. Completing the cast are Tom (Aisling and Eamon’s father), Isabelle (Coco’s mother) and Gerry, a detective, who links the murder to a hit and run two decades earlier that left Leah’s mother with brain injuries.

The writing flowed and the author did a great job of creating her small-town Irish setting. I suspected the culprit early on, but I still found it a page turner and took smug delight when my inkling turned out to be right. It’s the second book I’ve read by this author, having previously reviewed Black Valley Farm, and I intend to work my way through her back catalogue.

I’m also delighted to say Sheila Bugler has agreed to be a guest on Front Page Fridays and I’ll be welcoming her and Dark Road Home to the blog on 3rd May.

The Gathering by C.J. Tudor

At its cold, dark heart, this is a police procedural. A fifteen-year-old boy has been murdered and an out-of-town detective, Barbara Atkins, has been brought in to investigate the case. But the difference is the murder has all the hallmarks of a vampire attack.

In this alternative world, skilfully built by C.J. Tudor, vampires are a protected species forced to live in remote compounds known as colonies. Contrary to popular folklore, these vampires don’t need to feed on humans and live instead on animal blood. Because their physiology is such that they age very slowly, the author cleverly lays out parts of the puzzle going back decades, centuries in fact.

Many of the townsfolk have a long-standing resentment towards the colony and hark back to the days when they and their ancestors were free to hunt and kill vampires. They see the boy’s murder as an excuse to cull the entire colony, whereas Detective Atkins and her reluctant but memorable sidekick Tucker, only want to bring the individual killer to justice.

The story takes place in a small Alaskan town, cut off by the weather and inhabited by characters perfect for a horror novel: striking-looking vampires, lawless reactionaries, disaffected teens, religious maniacs and opportunist criminals. Somehow, amidst the smoke, mirrors, suspense and folklore, I spotted one source of the evil very early on and my suspicions proved right. (Chance of a sequel, perhaps?)

It felt like a long book – longer than the books I usually read – but the tension crackled through every page and kept my interest. The author doesn’t shy away from describing guts and gore, but the horror is controlled and never overdone – although I think I’d struggle not to look away if I saw it in all its gory detail on Paramount +, which is, I’m sure, where this novel will be heading very soon.

The Burning Girls was my favourite read of 2021, but The Gathering is even better. It’s C.J. Tudor’s best book so far.

Long Time Dead by T.M. Payne

When a cold case resurfaces, DI Sheridan Holler and her team find themselves embroiled in a complex and shocking investigation. This is the first book in a new Liverpool-set police procedural series that features a determined, likeable lead detective whose overarching backstory is the unsolved murder of her young brother. Ideal for fans of no-nonsense crime fiction with straightforward storytelling.

The Blessed Hills by Scott Preston

Ideal for readers who like literary character studies that explore a topic little covered in fiction, in this case the effect of foot and mouth disease on a Cumbrian sheep farmer. The writer ably captures the voice of his protagonist.

Death Under a Little Sky by Stig Abell

Straightforward and descriptive storytelling with a sleuth engaged in solving a slow-burn mystery.


As the title, My Book Reviews for April 2024 (Part One), suggests, this won’t be my only review post this April. Part Two will be along at the end of the month and include: a mystery by Daniel Aubrey, set in Orkney and featuring a likeable, determined journalist;  and a well-written, authentic mystery by Julie Anderson, set in post-war London.

My Writing News 

The countdown is underway to the relaunch of Her Deadly Friend on 23 April, to be closely followed by the publication of Her Charming Man on 14 May.

I had some lovely reviews for Her Deadly Friend, when it came first out, and two authors, who kindly bought and read it, have let the publishers quote from their reviews on the new cover:

‘Wow – what a page-turning triumph!’ Anita Faulkner

A cleverly constructed police thriller with a startling twist’ Jennie Ensor

Her Charming Man is out on review right now. Multi-published suspense writer, Linda Huber, has read it and provided a lovely cover quote:

‘A fast-paced and intricately woven murder mystery, packed full of secrets and lies. The book with the ultimate twist.’ Linda Huber

By Rachel Sargeant

Rachel Sargeant is a British author. She writes the Gloucestershire Crime Series, published by Hobeck Books. The first title is Her Deadly Friend, and the second is Her Charming Man. Her titles with HarperCollins are: The Roommates, a psychological thriller set in a university during freshers' week; The Good Teacher, a detective mystery, featuring DC Pippa “Agatha” Adams, and The Perfect Neighbours, a psychological thriller set in Germany. Rachel studied at Aberystwyth University, spent several years living in Germany and now lives in Gloucestershire with her family. She holds a PhD from the University of Birmingham.

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