#Bookreview – Maledicus by Charles F. French

book reviews

What Amazon says

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke) Roosevelt Theodore Roosevelt Franklin attempts to make it through life day by day. Roosevelt is a widower, who lost his beloved wife to cancer and a retired history professor, and he has not stopped grieving. He and his two closest friends, also retired and who have also lost loved ones, form a paranormal investigation group. They hope to find an answer to the question: is there life after death? When asked by a local teacher to investigate a possible haunting of her house, the group discovers an evil beyond anything they could have imagined. This is no mere ghost. Maledicus, who was in life a pimp, torturer, and murderer during Caligula’s reign in Rome, in death has become a sociopathic demon that attacks the weak and the innocent. Maledicus threatens a five year old child’s life and soul. Terrified by what they have discovered, Roosevelt and his friends must choose to either walk away from this threat , or to do battle with this ancient creature at the potential loss of their sanities, their lives, and their souls.

My review

Maledicus is the right hand man to Caligula, Emperor of the Roman Empire, and they are equally despicable, inhumane and outright evil. Maledicus has plans, great plans, whereby he will ascend to the top position of Emperor but he underestimates the incumbent, Caligula, and his many eyes and ears. Maledicus never achieves his aspirations and is dispatched to the afterlife in an unpleasant and painful way.

In the non world between Heaven and Hell, Maledicus lurks. He is not reconciled to his unnatural death and believes his chance to aspire to greatness will come. He sets about manipulating events and circumstances to achieve his ultimate goals of greatness.

Meanwhile, time has moved on and in the 21st century, three elderly and retired men, Roosevelt, Sam and Jeremy, have formed a ghost-investigating group, with the occasional help and support from Roosevelt’s nephew, ex-US Marine, Patrick. They have all suffered personal losses and this is a great way for them to keep themselves mental and physically active and to indulge in an interest in ghosts and the supernatural. When their Investigative Paranormal Society (“IPS”) gets its first really legitimate case, they find themselves up against an on-going evil that refuses to die. Can the IPS go up against an ancient and expanding evil and expect anything other than untimely deaths?

I enjoyed the characters of Roosevelt, Sam, Jeremy and Patrick and learning about their individual losses and life experiences, all of which weave together into the fabric of this well planned story.

The idea behind this book is fresh and clever and the ending was superb. I was really impressed by the author’s unique and thrilling ending.

Purchase Maledicus by Charles F. French


Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Writer – Baby farming in the late-Victorian Era Britain and Amelia Dyer by Robbie Cheadle

I am visiting Smorgasbord Blog Magazine today with a post about baby farming in the late-Victorian Era Britain and Amelia Dyer. Thank you, Sally, for hosting me today on you lovely blog. You can read more of Sally’s amazing posts and articles here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/

They were not really the good old days, especially for women and children, particularly the babies. Robbie Cheadle shares the truly terrible tale of Amelia Dyer……

Baby farming in the late-Victorian Era Britain and Amelia Dyer by Robbie Cheadle

What is baby farming?

Baby farming during late-Victorian Era Britain was the practice whereby individuals acted as adoption or fostering agents for children and infants in return for either an up-front payment or monthly payments from the mother.

Although baby farmers were supposed to provide care for the children they took into their custody, the name developed due to the fact this was rarely the case and improper treatment of the children frequently occurred.

A related business was the practice of taking in young expectant women and caring for them until they gave birth. Many of these women subsequently left their unwanted babies after the birth to be looked after as “nurse children”.

Unscrupulous baby farmers often starved the babies in their care, either to save money or to hasten their deaths. Alcohol and/or opiates, particularly Godfrey’s Cordial also known as Mother’s Friend, was administered to noisy and troublesome babies in order to sedate them. Such babies usually died of starvation and severe malnutrition as the opium made them disinclined for food.

Why did the practice of baby farming come about?

In 1834 the poor Law Amendment Act was introduced in Britain which removed any financial obligation from the fathers of illegitimate children. This left unmarried mothers in a dire financial position as single parenthood and illegitimacy were stigmatized by the society of the time.

Amelia Dyer

Continue reading this post at Smorgasbord Blog Magazine here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/04/23/smorgasbord-blog-magazine-guest-writer-baby-farming-in-the-late-victorian-era-britain-and-amelia-dyer-by-robbie-cheadle/https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/04/23/smorgasbord-blog-magazine-guest-writer-baby-farming-in-the-late-victorian-era-britain-and-amelia-dyer-by-robbie-cheadle/

#Flashfiction – No place for “friendly” men

Sannie and I spent an anxious night locked in the house with the four children. Earlier in the day a cloud of dust appeared on the horizon. As it drew ever closer, we could make out a great crowd of horseman and ox-wagons.

The Boer Commando* stopped in our yard and the commandant knocked on our door. He told us they would be resting at our farm overnight and asked for some milk. I was angry with the commandant. A lonely farmhouse inhabited by two women and four children was no place to rest with so many “friendly” men.

* – The Boer commandos or “Kommandos” were volunteer military units of guerilla militia organized by the Afrikaans-speaking farmers of South Africa. The term came into English usage during the Second Boer War of 1899-1902.

This 99-word flash fiction about gender was written for Charli Mills’ weekly prompt. You can join in here: https://carrotranch.com/2019/04/18/april-18-flash-fiction-challenge/

#Writephoto – Beyond

I stood in front of the judge, trembling, as the eyes of the thousands of spectators seated in the arena focused on me. I could feel their blood thirsty gazes stabbing into my back but no-one broke the complete silence.

How easy it is to sway the opinions of the masses, I thought in a hysterical sort of way. Faced with shortages and personal deprivation, together with a breakdown of civilization as we knew it, and any behaviour can be justified in their short-sighted eyes. My own eyes moved to the pale and shining face of my beloved son and I straightened my shoulders. I could do this. I would tell our story.

“Your Honour,” I said, “before the dropping of the great bombs that destroyed so much of our world and irradiated 90 percent of our water supply, my son was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder by a number of respected psychiatrists and psychologists. He had a number of experimental operations as a young boy to treat an unusual condition and, all but the last of the series of eighteen procedures, failed. The psychiatrists and psychologists that treated Thomas all agreed that he has an unusually high intellect and this, combined with the pain and mental anguish he suffered as a child had lead to his conditions, which centre around a horror of germs and illness.”

I paused and looked up into the dark brown eyes of the judge, was I imagining things or did I see a look of sympathy lurking in their depths. He was leaning slightly forward, listening intently, and this, together with the look I had seen, gave me the courage to continue.

“Thomas started treatment with the first psychologist when he was four years old. Mary was excellent but she was never able to advance her treatment beyond a certain point. She thought this was due to the fact she didn’t have the necessary specialist skills and experience with treating PTSD and OCD. She recommended I take Thomas to a psychiatrist and she gave us a name and contact details.”

I withdrew my diary from my bag and opened it at the first marker:

From the diary of Jennifer Saunders

I am so tired. I have a work deadline for tomorrow and my mother needed to be away today so she was not able to help me with Thomas. I called the agency yesterday, knowing that today would be a difficult day for me and they agreed to send a young man to play with Tom. I thought a male would work better as they could play ball games outside together.

It did not work out like this at all. Thomas like the young man, whose name was Brad, and, once I had them settled playing a board game, I slipped down the passage to my office and started working.

Less than 30 minutes later, the frantic sound of small footsteps running down the passage filtered through my intense concentration and my office door opened. There was Tom, his face as white as a sheet. “What’s wrong, Tommy?” I asked alarmed. “You were gone, Mommy. Don’t leave me alone.”

I got up and gave him a cuddle. “I’m right here, just down the corridor.” I took him back to Brad and re-settled him with another game. The whole morning was spent like this. I would work for a short while and then Tom would realise I was no longer in the room with him. He would run down the passage and I would have to comfort him and return him to Brad. Brad looked utterly confused and left as quickly as possible when 1 P.M. rolled around.

I could not get my work beyond a certain point as the next phase required focus and concentration. Putting it aside, with a sigh, I took Tom out for a walk in the park after lunch. We have a lovely afternoon and when I finally got him off to sleep at 7.30 P.M. I settled down to my work.

I finally finished at 2 A.M. and am just jotting down these few quick notes about the days activities so that I can show them to Mary when we see her again next week.

This post was written for Sue Vincent’s weekly Write Photo challenge. You can join in here: https://scvincent.com/2019/04/18/thursday-photo-prompt-beyond-writephoto-2/

Meet the author: Stephen Bentley

Those of you who follow this blog will know that I am one of eleven authors who have each contributed three short stories to a murder mystery anthology due to be released in early July. In advance of the publication of this book, I am running a series of posts to introduce you to some of the other contributing authors.

Death among us

This week I am introducing you to author Stephen Bentley. Welcome Stephen to Roberta Writes.

Author biography

Stephen Bentley

Stephen Bentley is a former UK police Detective Sergeant and barrister (criminal trial attorney). He is now a freelance writer and an occasional contributor to Huffington Post UK on undercover policing.

His memoir ‘Undercover: Operation Julie – The Inside Story‘ is a frank account of his undercover detective experiences during Operation Julie – an elite group of detectives who successfully investigated one of the world’s largest drug rings.

Stephen also writes crime fiction in a fast-paced plot-driven style including the fictional Steve Regan Undercover Cop Series.

When he isn’t writing, Stephen relaxes on the beaches of the Philippines with his family where he now lives, often with a cold beer and a book to hand.

You may find him on:

Twitter as @StephenBentley8




Tell us a bit about yourself

Other than what people learn about me from my bio, I guess I can add I possibly read as much as I write. My favourite genre is crime fiction but I have a fairly catholic taste in books so I do enjoy other genres such as historical fiction, and memoirs of interesting people.

Oh, I would also mention I am a big fan of Liverpool Football Club.

What drew you to writing short stories in the genre of murder mystery?

I spotted a contest on Goodreads, entered with three stories, and one of them won.

I was naturally delighted and encouraged me to write shorts. I do enjoy writing them as there is a completely different technique involved from writing longer books.

Who is your favourite murder mystery writer?

Difficult to pick out just one. If forced, I would say Michael Connelly.

What is your favourite murder mystery book or series of books and why?

The Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly. But I also like his books featuring Detective Renee Ballard, particularly The Late Show.

I love these books written by this author mainly because the characters, locations, dialogue, and plots simply ooze credibility. As a former detective turned writer, nothing galls me more than crime fiction lacking any basis in reality.

Connelly was for many years an LA crime reporter with the LA Times. It shows. He knows cops and what makes them tick and understands the murky depths of deadly crime and human weaknesses.

What is the overarching theme of your three short stories in Death Among Us?

The Rose Slayer

That one is easy. My three short stories were those I wrote for the Goodreads completion including an award-winner, The Rose Slayer.

Part of the competition rules was all submissions had to include this line of dialogue: “when I saw the bouquet of seven roses, I knew exactly who had murdered Mrs. O’Connell.”

Other than that, I would add the theme underpinning all three stories is human frailties that sometimes cause people to snap and go on to kill.

Thank you, Stephen, for your great answers to my questions. 

Undercover: Operation Julie by Stephen Bentley

Undercover: Operation Julie - The Inside Story: A Gripping True Story of Britain's Biggest Drug Bust. True Crime. by [Bentley, Stephen]

About Undercover: Operation Julie

‘Are you guys cops?’ the Canadian mobster asked.

Steve Jackson heard him. His blood ran cold.

Jackson was not his real name. He was an undercover cop.

Have you ever wondered what it takes to be an undercover cop? How you infiltrate a worldwide drugs gang?
What it feels like to live a double life? – to ‘live a lie.’

Read this gripping true story of Britain’s biggest drug bust and get inside the head of a real undercover cop, an infiltrator.

The underworld knew the author as Steve Jackson. How did he successfully infiltrate the two gangs? Did he have to take drugs? And how did ‘living a lie’ affect him?

The author, Stephen Bentley, was one of four undercover detectives engaged on Operation Julie, one of the world’s largest drug busts. Together with his undercover partner, he infiltrated the gang producing around 90 percent of the world’s LSD and uncovered a plot to import huge quantities of Bolivian cocaine into the UK.

He operated in the era of no undercover training, improvising as he went along: a pioneer infiltrator left to his own devices.

At the culmination of Operation Julie, fifteen defendants, including doctors, research chemists, a writer, and ‘professional’ drug dealers were sentenced to a combined total of one hundred- and-twenty-four-years imprisonment.

This huge and unique covert police operation is still today the point of reference for all British undercover operations and training. In 2011, the BBC claimed this massive operation was the start of the war on drugs.

The author and his book have featured on BBC Newsnight, BBC Wales News, BBC Radio 4 World at One and BBC Five Live, BBC regional radio in addition to Wales on Sunday, London’s Guardian and Sunday Express newspapers.

It is now optioned to be adapted for a feature film.

A recent review of Undercover: Operation Julie

Nate Bridges

5.0 out of 5 stars Cerebral, intense page turner. Turn off Netflix and read this true crime novel!

April 2, 2019

Format: Kindle Edition

We all love undercover cop movies but this book allows you to really get into the head of what’s it feels like to be deep uncover. Mr Bentley shares the gritty details with a touch of humor along with good old fashioned police work.

Purchase Undercover: Operation Julie


Glastonbury and the last Abbot of Glastonbury

Sue Vincent from Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo blog is hosting me today with a post about the last Abbot of Glastonbury and how I came to write my short story Murder of the Monk which will feature in Death Among Us.

About Glastonbury

Glastonbury was initially inhabited by stone age farmers. In 1892 the iron-age village near Glastonbury, now known as Glastonbury Lake Village, was discovered by a young medical student called Arthur Bulleid. The village was first constructed in approximately 250 B.C. by creating a base of timber and clay on which roundhouses were build. The village was abandoned about 50 B.C. possibly due to rising water levels.

Glastonbury is thought to have started as a small settlement which grew into a town after the Abbey was founded in the 7th century by the Saxons. The original stone church was enlarged in the 10th century by St. Dunstan who became the Abbot of Glastonbury and then the Archbishop of Canterbury in 960.

After the invasion and conquest of England by the Normans in 1066, the church was bettered by the addition of magnificent buildings. In 1086, when the Domesday Book was commission to provide records and a census of life in England, Glastonbury Abbey was the richest monastery in the country.

In 1184, the Abbey was destroyed by fire and reconstruction commenced almost immediately with the Lady Chapel, including the well, being consecrated in 1186. There is a school of thought that believes that in order to raise extra funds from pilgrims to rebuild the Abbey, the monks dug for the remains of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere and the bones from two bodies were raised from a deep grave in the cemetery on the south side of the Lady Chapel. The find is not considered to be authentic.

Read the rest of the article here: https://scvincent.com/2019/04/17/glastonbury-and-the-last-abbot-of-glastonbury-roberta-eaton/

#Bookreview – Memoir of a Mad Woman by Vashti Quiroz-Vega

book reviews

What Amazon says

A novelette from the award-winning author of The Fall of Lilith and Son of the Serpent, Vashti Quiroz-Vega.

Who can explain how madness begins?

This is the story of Emma. Reared by a religious fanatic, orphaned at a young age and sent to a mental institution and an orphanage. Molested and betrayed by the people who should be watching over her…

Who can say that madness has no logic?

During a fight, Emma’s best friend punched her in the abdomen. Since then, Emma has believed there’s something damaged inside of her.

Every month… she bleeds.
She tries to fight it all her life, but the pain and the blood return twenty-eight days later… and the cycle begins again.

But Emma, even in her madness, knows how to take care of herself.
She knows how to make things right…

You may not agree…
But, who can reason with insanity?

Read this tragic but fascinating tale and traverse the labyrinthine passages of madness.

My review

I read this book over a week ago and I have dwelled on it’s content and message, on and off, over that time. This book is not very long but it is deeply disturbing and really highlights the desperate plight of orphan girls who are institutionalized and who loose all control over their lives. Imagine being all alone in this world and having no-one to turn to when spiteful caregivers, who have no calling to go into their selected field, other than possibly a need for money, turn against you and allow other, even more evil people, to abuse you continuously. This is the fate of Emma, a young girl whose father abandons his family and whose fanatical mother dies in a fire.

Emma is placed in an institution but she does not thrive there. She is not liked by the woman in charge, Miss McKenna, and is disappointed even by her best friend, Jessica, who is self centred and selfish. After an altercation with Jessica, Miss McKenna turns completely against Emma and allows some very bad abuse of her to take place on an on-going basis. This ultimately leads to the complete disintegration of Emma’s mind and her ability to differentiate between right and wrong.

Considering the short length of this book, the author does manage to portray the breakdown of Emma’s mind fairly well. It is clearly demonstrated that, from an early age, that Emma reacts with strong resentment when people in her life let her down and that she is not able to identify any mitigating circumstances for their actions which would enable her to forgive them. This is indicative of what is to come in terms of the deterioration of her mental status when she suffers abuse later on in her life. I would have liked to see some further development of Miss McKenna and to have understood why she disliked Emma so much but the ability of this little book to disturb my peace of mind so effectively made it worthy of a five star rating.

Purchase Memoir of a Mad Woman