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Blog Tour Review - The Only Way Out is Death by Varun Gwalani

 Blog Tour Review - The Only Way Out is Death by Varun Gwalani Twelve powerful people are kidnapped and imprisoned in an empty hotel. Each one of them has three choices: Live out the rest of their days peacefully in the hotel, Die by suicide so the rest of their companions can go free, Or murder one of their companions so they alone can go free. The Only Way Out is Death follows the story of these twelve people from the perspective of a young lawyer, Kiriaki, told as the events unfold. She has to forge messy alliances, navigate complex relationships and feuds, and, above all, try to stay alive. Meanwhile, the mastermind of this death game is lurking just out of view, watching them closely, making sure they are primed for murder. Will Kiriaki find the mastermind before it's too late for her? Will she outmanoeuvre the cutthroats before they cut her throat? There are twelve selfish lives in the hotel. Will it end in twelve selfish deaths? The Only Way Out is Death is a fascinating nov

Blog Tour Review - Red Runs the Witch's Thread by Victoria Williamson

 Blog Tour Review - Red Runs the Witch's Thread by Victoria Williamson

Paisley, Scotland, 1697. Thirty-five people accused of witchcraft. Seven condemned to death. Six strangled and burned at the stake. All accused by eleven-year-old Christian Shaw.

Bargarran House, 1722. Christian Shaw returns home, spending every waking hour perfecting the thread bleaching process that will revive her family’s fortune. If only she can make it white enough, perhaps her past sins will be purified too.

But dark forces are at work. As the twenty-fifth anniversary of the witch burnings approaches, ravens circle Bargarran House, their wild cries stirring memories and triggering visions.

As Christian’s mind begins to unravel, her states of delusion threaten the safety of all those who cross her path. In the end she must make a terrible choice: her mind or her soul? Poverty and madness, or a devil’s bargain for the bleaching process that will make her the most successful businesswoman Paisley has ever seen?

Her fate hangs by a thread. Which will she choose?

This has to be one of the darkest, creepiest books I've read in a long time! Considering that it is a fairly short book, there is a lot in there to unpack. It's the kind of story that really gets under your skin, sinks its claws in and lingers in the imagination long after you've finished reading it.

It's a historical novel, a fictionalised version of real events in Scottish history. The persecution of innocent people under the pretence of witch hunting is something that has been addressed before, but I think this is the first time I've seen the story told from the perspective of the accuser. Christian is the one whose actions led to the death of seven people, and as such she is a hard POV character to like. She's not presented as a particularly sympathetic character, but that's partly what makes this so fascinating. But where sympathy is hard to find, there is a level of empathy there. That's why Victoria Williamson is such a skilled story teller. Because although it is very hard to like Christian, the way she is presented, the way her side of the story is told, we can see why she did what she did, and we're never asked to excuse it. 

The story unfolds across two different time periods. We see Christian as a grown woman, trying to keep her family business going and expand into new markets through scientific innovation and industrial development, which is all very admirable, particularly for a young woman in the early 18th century. We can see, though, how her actions when she was younger have influenced the townsfolk and some of her own family against her. There's a definite sense of fear and suspicion from the outside and resentment from within. What actually happened in her past is slowly told in alternating chapters, as we see her as a young girl. These sections are told in a way that is deliberately confused, events obscured through the unreliable narrator, so it takes a while before the full horror is revealed. 

At its dark heart, Red Runs the Witch's Thread is a story about shame and guilt. It's about what our shame will drive us to do, and about how far people will go to cover up both their shame and their guilt about it. Tied up in this thread is a lot about historical attitudes to women, to periods, childbirth, sex, and how so much of it was seen as something to keep secret, something to be ashamed about and hide from people, and how much this can totally mess someone up. 

I also loved the supernatural elements of it, and how open to interpretation this was left. The whole thing had an amazing way of letting the horror slowly, relentlessly creep in as I, as a reader, began to put Christian's confused ramblings and memories together and see just what she'd been doing with her red cord. 

Creepy, powerful and moving, Red Runs the Witch's Thread is a dark masterpiece.


Red Runs the Witch's Thread by Victoria Williamson is published on 11th April 2024 by Silver Thistle Press.

I was given a review copy in exchange for this honest review and participation in this The Write Reads blog tour.


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