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What the blurb says:

Northeast Mississippi is hill country, rugged and notorious for outlaws since the Civil War, where killings are as commonplace as they were in the Old West. To Quinn Colson, just back from a tour of Afghanistan, it’s home. But home has changed.

Quinn returns to a place overrun by corruption. His uncle, the county sheriff, is dead – officially it was suicide, but others whisper murder. In the days that follow, it will be up to Colson, now an Army Ranger, to discover the truth – not only about his uncle, but also about his family, friends, hometown and himself.

Quinn Colson, what a gent. I think that Jack Reacher may have finally found a decent competitor. And they have their similarities, the army affiliations, the silent-but-sturdy type and that hot-dang animal magnetism; but Quinn is the new kid on the block, a little fresher and a little less dog-eared.

His story is one of growth, having returned from the army, he seems an outsider in the world in which he grew up. There’s the ex-girlfriend, now married, the mother, now with the sister’s child in tow, and his old buddies. It’s a frightful mix of no-one to trust, because double crosses are rife in Mississippi.

I loved the setting of this novel. ‘Redneck noir’ is my favourite description of the book. It always seems that small-town America gets a bad rep in novels and to be honest, this book doesn’t really showcase any different, but it gives a truthful perspective as our protagonist, Quinn, has grown up there, moved away and been dragged back by a family death. Mississippi, comes across as a collage of trailer parks, meth labs and truck stops.

Quinn’s is not the only story, however, that we follow in The Ranger. We also follow a sixteen year old pregnant girl whose main reason for existing appears to be attracting trouble. As she goes off in search of her baby-daddy, she lands in the heart of corruption and at the hands of some pretty nasty characters.

As Quinn unravels the mysteries surrounding his uncles death, the plot-lines draw closer together and the answers cause some violent show-downs. My only complaint about the novel is the lack of romantic interaction for Quinn. Although the police officer offers a tempting character, their relationship doesn’t quite tread the line of unbearable tension. Subtle hints are not always enough.

Truthful, fast-paced and gripping. Mr Atkins, bring on the next book please.

4/5

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I’m very excited to get to be a part of the blog tour for Victoria Lamb’s The Dark Lady. 

For all the details of the rest of the tour check out the gorgeous poster below:

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I am about 3/4 of the way through this compelling novel and will be posting a review as soon as I’ve finished (which I don’t think will be long as I’m currently whizzing through).

Until my review, here’s an interview with the lovely author herself:

What are your inspirations behind writing the Lucy Morgan trilogy?

 A few years ago, I was living near Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire, where the first book, The Queen’s Secret, is set. I was fascinated by their lavish exhibition about Elizabeth I’s visit there in 1575. I began to plan a novel set during that time, with my main narrative character as one of the Queen’s ladies. During my research, I came across the shadowy character of Lucy Morgan and her possible candidacy for Shakespeare’s “Dark Lady of the Sonnets”. The plot began to fall into place. But of course Shakespeare, a local Warwickshire lad, was eleven years old in 1575. That was when I realised it would have to be a trilogy, set over several decades, and with multiple narrators.

 Is there something specific about Shakespeare’s time that interests you?

I became fascinated by Shakespeare and early Elizabethan drama while at university. It seems such a vibrant and influential period of English history, with huge talents at work in London, and yet also incredibly dangerous, with religious persecution and fanaticism still very much dominating everyday life. I couldn’t help wondering what it would have been like to be alive and involved in theatre at such a dynamic time, when the English language itself was evolving at an incredible pace and writers became part of that evolution.

 What are you working on at the moment (if you are currently writing)?

 I’m always writing! At the moment, I’m dividing my time between a poetic version of the Middle English poem Gawain and the Green Knight, and an idea for a new novel set in Cornwall, where I’m currently living. Later this year I will be writing the third book in my Tudor Witch series for Young Adult readers. (The first book in the series, Witchstruck, just won YA Romantic Novel of the Year.)

Where do you write? (It’s interesting that you live in Bodmin, I’m a Cornish lass myself)

 I write at home mostly, in a small office, but like to get a change of scene most days, so frequently also work in cafes. When I’m up against a deadline, I book a quiet country cottage for a fortnight and hunker down there on my own to thrash out the last few chapters …

 What are your favourite types of books to read?

I read huge amounts of non-fiction and poetry, and have a lively interest in languages, so tend to collect books on translation and linguistics. Where fiction is concerned, I prefer to read anything which does not distract me from the work in hand. So mostly old favourites in romance, historical fiction and adventure – Georgette Heyer and H. Rider Haggard, for instance – or newer novels in any genres I don’t write in, i.e. literary fiction or crime. Though if I started writing crime, I would not find those books so pleasurable to read. It’s rather like working in a fish and chip shop all day, then being offered fish and chips for supper. No thanks!

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your free time?

Translating and/or learning dead languages, particularly Latin. Latin is a fascinatingly tricky language; I’ve been studying it for three decades now, and still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. I also like to walk in the countryside, and since we live on the edge of Bodmin Moor, do so quite often.

 Who is your favourite writer that is still currently writing?

One writer I deeply admire is Ursula Le Guin, an American fantasy and sci-fi novelist. I’ve enjoyed some of her sci-fi; it’s marvellously rich and clever. But her Earthsea novels are in a class of their own. They have been hugely influential over me as a writer, from my childhood onwards. Her ability to build worlds and to keep the pages turning is phenomenal, and her characters are so real, they live in your imagination for years after closing the book. I highly recommend her to any reader who enjoys fantasy writing.