The Knave of Secrets by Alex Livingston

Publishing 9th June 2022 by Rebellion Publishing

A twisty tale of magicians, con artists and card games, where secrets are traded and gambled like coin, for fans of The Lies of Locke Lamora and The Mask of Mirrors.

Never stake more than you can afford to lose.

When failed magician turned cardsharp Valen Quinol is given the chance to play in the Forbearance Game—the invitation-only tournament where players gamble with secrets—he can’t resist. Or refuse, for that matter, according to the petty gangster sponsoring his seat at the table. Valen beats the man he was sent to play, and wins the most valuable secret ever staked in the history of the tournament.

Quinol’s hand is forced, he wins the secret and, despite passing it on as agreed, the lives of his family and friends are put in danger. Not only that, but the secret could cause war to break out. This was definitely not on the cards (sorry!) when he accepted the task.

He has to use all his cardsharp tricks, his unfinished, unrefined magic training and rely on the skills of his con artist wife and friends (the only family he has) to work out a way to stop the keepers of the secret killing anyone who learns the truth and prevent what looks like inevitable war breaking out. Not easy when he only has fragments of information and, unlike in the card games he is used to playing/fixing, cannot predict the other players’ next moves.

Livingston’s world building is creative and strong, based on a range of political goings on and that of unseen magic.

The world of gambling and card playing cons was an eye opener to me…so many tricks and tells. That Quinol is so good is evident in his reading of his friends when away from the casino tables.

The story is a slow burner to start with, as the scene is set with a lot of information about the characters and the backstory. However, once the secret is won, the action hots up. Telling the story via the point of view of several of the key characters works well and gives a rounded perspective.

I particularly enjoyed the fact that the “hero” was flawed and questioned his own motives and morals, whilst trying to protect the ones he loves.

One grumble…the blurb gives away too much of the storyline before you even start.

Thanks to Rebellion Publishing for the eARC as part of #TheWriteReads blog tour.

Wilthaven by Oli Jacobs

Blurb

A quiet English town that thrives on local produce, old fashioned values, and survival against the rule of an Eldritch Abomination. Here, you will enjoy endless walks, soothing sounds, forceful avatars, and the kind of joys that only an English township can bring!

(Please note: this dossier has been compiled by the BPD based on materials found relating to P1983 – or Wilthaven as you know it. Treat every sentence, word, image, and syllable with the utmost paranoia. Be safe.)

Wilthaven is a horror comedy.

Review

Wilthaven exists but it doesn’t.

The Bureau of Paranormal Discoveries (BPD) has been investigating it for many years. Reports, recordings and documents, as well as encounters with residents of Wilthaven, are presented here, building up the history of a place not in our dimension, in order to decide if it is threat to our way of life.

In Wilthaven, the normal rules of science and nature do not apply.

The Crest family has been in charge for generations. The Wilthaven Way is their code of conduct.

There is a nighttime curfew and severe consequences for those who do not comply with it, but not from the authorities of the town. For those that do comply, a good night’s sleep is not guaranteed.

Do not go into the Wilthaven woods. You may or may not come out. If you do, you will never be the same again.

How did the materials related to Wilthaven come to exist in different worldwide locations in our dimension? What happened and is still happening there? What are the origins of the scratching and screaming during the hours of darkness? Who are the avatars? So many questions (and also shivers) arise from reading this dossier. A few laugh out loud moments too.

The materials are presented in the order they were uncovered, not chronologically. This leaves the reader piecing the story together part by part, which I liked. The items recovered are not always complete. However, the missing/lost sections confidently leave a lot to the reader’s imagination: a feeling of unease, a building horror of what happens to the people who encounter whatever is actually ruling Wilthaven, because it is definitely not the Mayor.

The drip feeding of information, the frustration of missing (damaged or retracted) details, linking the story together as each item in the dossier is revealed was, for me, very reminiscent of reading Michael Crichton. High praise!

There is also a sub story concerning the agents who document and act on the materials. The dossier format cleverly allows us to follow this via the lead agents summaries and Director’s notes.

I will definitely be on the lookout for more of Oli Jacobs’ spine tingling work.

I received this book to read and review as part of the 2021 BBNYA competition and the BBNYA tours organised by the TWR Tour team. All opinions are my own, unbiased and honest.

BBNYA is a yearly competition where Book Bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors. If you are an author and wish to learn more about the BBNYA competition, you can visit the official website http://www.bbnya.com or twitter @bbnya_official. 

The sign-ups will soon be open for the 2022 BBNYA competition, be it for authors to enter their books, or for bloggers wanting to be part of the new panel, so keep your eyes peeled!!

Book Info

Publisher: Independently published

Length: 362 Pages

Date Published: April 27th, 2020

About the Author

Oli Jacobs is a bearded chap who enjoys spinning a yarn or two. While now a hermit, he has been rumoured to be seen drinking beer and enjoying chicken in the wilds of Southampton. If seen, please approach gently as he has severe anxiety and may cry.

As well as Wilthaven, Oli has also written other Horror (The Children of Little Thwopping, The Station 17 Chronicles), Comedy (the Kirk Sandblaster series), Thriller (the Mr Blank series), and short stories (the Filmic Cuts series).

As always, he hopes you enjoy.

Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi

Eight Detectives is cleverly structured. It is seven short stories within an overarching eighth story. It brought to mind Christie and Conan Doyle style set ups.

Julia Hart is a publisher who travels to a secluded island to meet an author who self published seven short, in some places gruesome, stories 30 years previously. She wants to republish the book of stories and delve deeper into his “mathematical rules for murder mystery” research paper, the basis for his short stories.

As she delves into his past the author, Grant McAllister, becomes increasingly less forthcoming. Why? This leads to her becoming the eighth detective.

Each short story is interspersed throughout, as the author and publisher go through each one. Julia points out what she feels are discrepancies in each story, trying to elicit information from Grant as to why he put them into his stories.

I do not want to give spoilers, however I will say I was left feeling short changed when information that had previously been hidden from me as reader was revealed towards the end. This went against the rules as set out by Grant in his theories of murder mystery by numbers. It would not have spoiled enjoyment of the book, or given anything major away, had readers been given a hint of what Julia was actually up to.