Shauna Bickley

Lies of the Dead

Lies of the Dead
Published: June 26, 2013
What would you risk to find the truth? When Liam disappears in a suspected suicide, his brother Tom is propelled into a world of lies and crime. Liam’s legacy of deceit is dangerous, and when Tom and his sister Andi find themselves in a dangerous showdown, Tom realises the truth may have too high a price. How well do we know those closest to us? When the police accept Liam’s disappearance as suicide, his older brother Tom needs to know more. Tom and his sister Andi search for answers, but don’t know who they can believe as they discover Liam’s friends and associates aren’t the people they claim to be. They are propelled into a world where their ideas of right and wrong don’t exist, and where people demand what neither of them possesses. Liam’s legacy of deceit is dangerous, and when Andi and her twin daughters find themselves in a dangerous showdown, Tom realises the truth may have too high a price. What would you risk to find the truth?

Reviewed 

 

Great Scenes & Well-Written Passages

Lies of the dead is an enjoyable mystery that becomes a thriller at the end. The book held me as I read to find out what Tom and Andi’s brother had been doing to warrant them being hounded after his death by a crime boss and his thugs. I soon found myself caring about the characters, who were ordinary people and easy to relate to. Would they get out of this difficult situation, and if so, how?

Tom thought he knew his brother Liam, but after his apparent suicide, he discovers that much of what he knew of Liam was a lie. I can’t say what Liam had been up to to get a huge debt to a crime boss without giving the mystery away, but I can say that the boss transfers the debt to the dead man’s family (Tom and Andi) and that the race to find the money and escape the thugs throws Tom and Andi’s life into turmoil. They find themselves faced with decisions that no one should be forced to make and doing things way outside their comfort zone.

Tom is a simple fellow who lives in a small sea-side village and earns his money renting out his boat. His sister, mother of teenage twin girls, lives elsewhere and is estranged from her husband. Her relationship, or lack of it, adds another thread to the story.

There is a lot to recommend this story. The plot is well constructed; the characters are well drawn; their dialogue and interactions are realistic, and the action scenes are engaging. The author builds the tension well throughout and culminates in a situation worthy of a novel. It’s an easy, undemanding read, simply entertaining with no pretensions, and as that, it works well, but if you’re looking for anything with deep themes, bold statements, or a creative vision, this isn’t it.

The characters develop well as the story progresses, reacting to events as you imagine that they would, and the spark between Janine and Tom is a nice touch in amongst the difficulties. The romantic aspects, though fairly minimal, allow for a satisfying ending.

The book has some great scenes and well-written passages. When I first read this, the prose suffered from bouts of passive writing, but the author attended to these issues after I mentioned them to her. The copy-editing is clean.

All up, this is a very enjoyable read.

Reviewed by Amy Spahn

This is a fabulous story. Bickley paints beautiful backdrops in which to set her books, and this is no exception. When the characters are on the shore, you can smell the salt water.

The characters are realistic and well-drawn, and you quickly come to care about their family struggles as you would for the worries of a close friend. Bickley seems to specialize in taking ordinary individuals with ordinary problems, and putting them in extraordinary circumstances that challenge them without minimizing the importance of their everyday struggles. This book is a mystery, but it is also an exploration of relationships and parenting, and it interweaves both themes flawlessly.

The plot moves quickly and keeps the pages turning right from the beginning. The subplots integrate smoothly and seamlessly, leading to a believable, if not completely comfortable conclusion.

All in all, a great read for fans of mysteries and/or family dramas.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

 

Awesome Allshorts: Last Days, Lost Ways

Awesome Allshorts: Last Days, Lost Ways
This superbly written short story anthology showcases talented Awesome Indie authors from around the globe. Though from a variety of genres, the stories are all entertaining, contemporary and thought-provoking.   Indulge your taste for good fiction with this short story anthology by authors with bold new voices. Though from diverse genres, the stories share a contemporary and contemplative feel that will linger long after the reader has read the last one. Awesome Allshorts showcases talented authors from around the globe, many whose novels have received multiple honors, including Awesome Indies approved status. Stories selected by Tahlia Newland, Dixiane Hallaj and Richard Bunning.

Reviewed by Bill Kirton

First, a disclaimer. This volume contains a flash fiction story of mine but the review relates to the other 26 contributions. It’s entirely objective. If it weren’t, I’d be undermining my credibility as a reviewer.

The enigmatic subtitle of the collection, Last Days, Lost Ways, hints at disjunction, reflection, scenes in which a variety of voices recount departures, frustrations, lost or decaying loves. In fact, as you read from story to story, the variation in styles and subjects, the movement from striking characters to bleak or funny situations, the range of emotions provoked – all combine to make this a rich experience.

The authors all know how to grab the reader and draw him/her very quickly into the specifics of their settings and the mysteries of the characters and their obsessions. The mood swings from anxious to loving, sinister to funny, despairing to whimsical, futuristic to domestic, romantic to dystopian. Some stories are firmly set in an apparently mundane everyday world, but one unpicked by a character’s reactions to its pressures and interpretations of its moments. Others move straight into the paranormal or historical. But all touch on aspects of life, fears, relationships which will have echoes in readers’ own experience.

The anthology exemplifies the flexibility and continuing relevance of a form which is nowadays enjoying an overdue revival.

Reviewed by Amy Spahn

Full disclosure: One of my short stories appears in this anthology. This review is about the others.

I did not expect these stories to move me as deeply as they did. Short works often struggle to pack a significant punch in their diminished wordcount, but the pieces contained in this collection rise to the occasion. Some had me on the edge of my seat in suspense. Some brought tears to my eyes with their emotional depth. And some utilized unique writing styles so artfully that they should be studied in literature classes.

Like with any anthology, not everything in this book will appeal to every reader. But the breadth and depth of the writing styles, storylines, and people explored make it deserving of a spot on any avid reader’s shelf.

Reviewed by

Ignite

 

This is a collection of stories subtitled Last Days and Lost Ways. I received an Advanced Review Copy. It is not the final version. I don’t know if the stories will appear in this order but I found I didn’t really get on with most of those in the first half. The second half of the book picked up for me, but if I hadn’t been reading to review, I might easily have lost interest and abandoned it.

The writing was good. It was the definition of ‘story’ which didn’t click with me in some cases. To me, and I suspect, to many readers, a short story is a complete tale. Some of these read as, or maybe even were, excerpts from some longer work and I didn’t like that. I wanted closure.

The stories I liked best were Pearls, Home late, The Creator, Recipe for a Dinner Party, Standin’ at the Crossroads, Waitin; for the Devil to Show and A Matter of Trust. I enjoyed these stories and the feeling of having savoured a complete experience with them.

Reviewed by

Justin Spahn

As the husband of one of the authors in this anthology, I was given the opportunity to read an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. So, here it is!

I’ve read a few short story anthologies, and this one is definitely the most interesting. The collection is richly diverse in terms of subject matter, national origin and setting, narrative tone, length, and literary style. As I read, I found myself jumping from fantasy to vignette to full plots inspired by true events, and the transition somehow is fluid and seamless rather than jarring or distracting. Awesome Indies has managed to build an enjoyable whole out of various and disparate components!

Among my favorites in the lineup were ‘Clearing the Shed’, ‘Quarantine’, ‘I, Zombie’, ‘Chasing Dreams in the Time Left Over’, ‘Traffic’, ‘Standin’ at the Crossroads, Waitin’ for the Devil to Show’, ‘Home Late’, ‘A Matter of Trust’, ‘Pearls’, and what is likely the stylistic jewel of this collection, ‘Recipe for a Dinner Party’.

This anthology asked me interesting questions, presented me with some of my greatest fears in life, introduced me to new ideas not common in conventionally published shorts, and fed an interest in diverse snippets of literature that I didn’t even know I had.

To sum it up best, I’ll paraphrase one of the author’s descriptions regarding the virtues of the short stories collected in this anthology: The short form gives authors the opportunity to write in ways that couldn’t be sustained for an entire novel.

I recommend reading these shorts–open yourself up to unique experiences from authors all around the world who love writing so much that they publish themselves.

Reviewed by

Sandra Padgett

This collection of wonderful stories covers a variety of themes. From satire to thriller to contemporary life and much more. Each story gets your attention and keeps it from start to finish. They are thought provoking, with characters, dialogue and themes that are believable, but sometimes out in the twilight zone, which is what I like. I will be looking for more works by the various authors and follow them in the future. I received this free from Simon Townley for an honest review. Outstanding! Recommend to any and all.

Reviewed by

Annie Evett

Both emerging and established writers from Europe, the USA, Australia and New Zealand present a peek into the spectacular moments everyday life holds, but with a twist.

The collection opens with a bang with a story by Tahlia Newland. Intriguing to the last paragraph, I was surprised to find it was an excerpt from her newest project. It sits perfectly as a short story and a wonderful teaser into what looks to be an exciting premise.

Each story has an incredible depth and texture to them, that, although is specific to its own style, melds beautifully as a collection. The human condition is explored where the reader is challenged to reassess their perspectives on stereotypes and events. Post apocalyptic tales sit comfortably with personalised stories like fragmented memories; separate, but with a golden thread holding them together. Heart-wrenching, whimsical, tear-jerking and lighthearted there is a story to suit all moods and readers tastes.

It is difficult to chose a favourite story, with a wrestling loving gran meeting her idol, to emotional trials of marriages breaking apart or forming, futuristic zombies and maids from a gentler time.

Authors are recognised in their own right with multiple honours and prizes and although the anthology is an eclectic mixture of genre, reading one after the other only highlights the complexity and intrigue each story brings.

A great book to stash into someones Christmas stocking for some fireside holiday reading, Awesome Allshorts is set to be a winner in your readers life.