Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Mile End Murder – Sinclair McKay

Non-Fiction
4*s

Sinclair McKay re-examines a crime right at the heart of the Victorian era in 1860. A murder that was committed against an elderly woman in her own home in the East End of London.

Mrs Emsley was no cuddly granny-type lady though, she was a miser worthy of a part in one of Charles Dickens (more of him later) novels. Born in the East End of London under the bells of St Anne’s in Stepney she came from humble beginnings but by the time she met her end she’d been married twice and amassed an enormous amount of wealth in the form of housing stock. Although she employed some men to collect her substantial rents she also visited the hovels packed with families who lived close by to her own home, not known for her compassion she would frequently evict her struggling tenants if they were even a week behind with their payments. She was therefore fairly universally disliked. All in all the best kind of murder victim for a good mystery; anyone and everyone can be a suspect.

                      Mary Emsley clutching a role of wallpaper

Mrs Emsley had bought some wallpaper which she was attempting to sell and so it came to be that her badly bludgeoned body was found in her house with the rolls of precious wallpaper close by. For a woman known to be suspicious of visitors the lack of forced entry suggests that she admitted her killer herself. The only clue was a a bloody footprint on the landing when the body was discovered by one of her rent collectors by which time it had attracted some maggots for good measure!

The police were called and soon fixed on a suspect and indeed this man was hung for the crimes committed. Unsurprisingly, and those of you who have read my previous reviews of Victorian true crimes will also detect a theme developing here, dear old Charles Dickens was apparently one of the 20,000 people who attended the public hanging while of course decrying the ghoulishness of those citizens eager for a bit of excitement.

In a twist to the tale in 1901 Arthur Conan Doyle took a look at the case as he wasn’t sure that the man who hung deserved his fate, his thoughts were published as a serialised book The Debatable Case Of Mrs. Emsley. In 2017 Sinclair McKay took up the baton and went back to the evidence and builds a case for another perpetrator entirely.

This is an incredibly readable book of the type I enjoy most in this sub-genre; Sinclair McKay keeps a running commentary of the social history alongside the background to the victim, the suspect and the resultant trial and hanging. There is also a substantial information on how relatives came out of the woodwork to claim her fortune and to keep it out of the hands of Queen Victoria since our miserly widow had not made a will.

I found it a fascinating read and whilst I have to admit that the author has perhaps hit upon a more worthy suspect than that of the police, I wasn’t altogether convinced that he had a watertight case either, but coming up with a credible alternative at the distance of more than 150 years is no mean feat.

I’d like to thank the publishers Aurum Press for allowing me to read a copy of The Mile End Murder and for Sinclair McKay who transported me back to a darker, dingier and poverty ridden East End of London.

First Published UK: 7 September 2017
Publisher: Aurum Press
No of Pages: 320
Genre: Non Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Family Secrets – Derek Malcolm

Non-Fiction
3*s

This non-fiction book tells the tale of a supremely unhappy family, one that is marred by a secret of the highest order, a murder.

Film critic Derek Malcolm tells the story of the murder committed by his father from the distance of many years. This rather strange tale tells the story of Derek’s early years, his relationship with his father who loves his country sports and his mother who craves attention. There are moments of pathos surrounding his school years where the couple, who at times lived apart, visited him. Awkward moments where any signs of a less than affluent nature were kept hidden as much as possible. There is no doubt that this was a different time, and the rules were very different indeed.

Despite the tone of the book, very much stiff-upper-lip, the reader can only wonder how Derek coped with the warring couple who were his parents. There seemed to be no bond between them and yet the two stayed together in disharmony throughout his childhood albeit in different locations for a while. As an only child I can only imagine that school was his salvation and his success in later life is testament that even a strict boarding school aged a tender four is possibly better than living in a domestic war zone. Anyway mummy sent him fond messages on the back of postcards… Of course she was busy entertaining her male friends and lapping up the attention.

“Isn’t this a nice picture? Much love, Mummy”

A possible source of the disharmony at home is an event in 1917 when Douglas Malcolm, on leave from Western front determined to save his wife, Dorothy’s honour by killing a man who she was having an affair with. This was seemingly a planned event, Dorothy had asked Douglas for a divorce, he declined. The scene in the Paddington boarding house where the confrontation took place was quite probably not a pretty one.

More than thirty years later Derek stumbles across the details, something his sixteen year old self didn’t feel the need to share with his father. he Judges and the Damned was the book and while browsing through the Contents pages Derek reads, ‘Mr Justice McCardie tries Lieutenant Malcolm – page 33.’ But there is no page 33. The whole chapter has been ripped out.

The most interesting part of the book in my opinion was the murder trial itself. I can’t imagine a court would take the same view nowadays or even that any man claiming to murder another to save his wife’s honour would achieve anything but incredulity. But that was the defence. That’s not to say that the standing of the two men involved didn’t also play its part in the snobbishness of the courtroom.

This was an interesting story, told almost completely without emotion, as if Derek Malcolm was telling the tale to men very much of his background and his standing. The upper lip is often so stiff I felt the words could barely make their way out as we are told of bullying and beatings at Eton as if these are real badges of honour. Of course to a man of his time, they probably were but I can’t deny there was a gap between the raconteur and his audience.

First Published UK: 2003
Publisher: Hutchinson
No of Pages: 224
Genre: Non Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (September 12)

This Week In Books
Hosted by Lipsy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

My current read is this month’s choice for The Classics Club, The Prime of Miss Brodie by Muriel Spark which I’m greatly enjoying.

Blurb

‘Give me a girl at an impressionable age, and she is mine for life…’

Passionate, free-thinking and unconventional, Miss Brodie is a teacher who exerts a powerful influence over her group of ‘special girls’ at Marcia Blaine School. They are the Brodie set, the crème de la crème, each famous for something – Monica for mathematics, Eunice for swimming, Rose for sex – who are initiated into a world of adult games and extracurricular activities they will never forget. But the price they pay is their undivided loyalty …

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is a brilliantly comic novel featuring one of the most unforgettable characters in all literature. Goodreads

The last book I finished was a non-fiction entry albeit one that is firmly in the Victorian True Crime sub genre; The Mile End Murder by Sinclair McKay had me travelling back to 1860 to the East End of Victorian London.


Blurb

In 1860, a 70 year old widow turned landlady named Mary Emsley was found dead in her own home, killed by a blow to the back of her head.

What followed was a murder case that gripped the nation, a veritable locked room mystery which baffled even legendary Sherlock Holmes author, Arthur Conan Doyle. With an abundance of suspects, from disgruntled step children concerned about their inheritance and a spurned admirer repeatedly rejected by the widow, to a trusted employee, former police officer and spy, the case led to a public trial dominated by surprise revelations and shock witnesses, before culminating with one of the final public executions at Newgate.

This is the case Conan Doyle couldn’t solve and, after confounding the best detectives for years, has finally be solved by author Sinclair McKay. Discover ‘whodunit’ as the real murderer is revealed for the first time exclusively in this captivating study of a murder case in the nineteenth century, a story never told before. Amazon

Next I plan to read The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton which will be published on 20 September 2018. I’ve been a firm fan of this author for years so this is a real treat!

Blurb

My real name, no one remembers.

The truth about that summer, no one else knows.

In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor in rural Berkshire. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins.

Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist’s sketchbook containing a drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.

Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? Will she ever give up her secrets?

Told by multiple voices across time, The Clockmaker’s Daughter is a story of murder, mystery and thievery, of art, love and loss. And flowing through its pages like a river, is the voice of a woman who stands outside time, whose name has been forgotten by history, but who has watched it all unfold: Birdie Bell, the clockmaker’s daughter. Amazon

So a bit more of a selection this week with a classic novel, a non-fiction read and a bit of historical fiction.

What does your reading week look like?

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Shrouded Path – Sarah Ward #BlogTour #BookReview

Crime Fiction
5*s

I was absolutely thrilled to be contacted by Faber & Faber to see if I wanted to be part of the Blog Tour to celebrate the publication of the fourth book in the DC Connie Childs series, The Shrouded Path by Sarah Ward. I have thoroughly enjoyed the previous books in this series, written by the blogger Crimepieces, one of the earlier crime fiction bloggers I found all those many moons ago when I started blogging.

With its tale split between the past in 1957 and the present, this book certainly didn’t disappoint and at the risk of being repetitive this was even better than the three that preceded it.

One November evening in 1957 six teenage girls walked into the train tunnel at The Cutting, but only five made it out again. What happened to the sixth is shrouded in a mystery as murky as the mists that swirled around the Derbyshire landscape.

In 2014 Mina Kemp is sitting by her mother’s bed in hospital. Hilary is dying but she has become unusually agitated believing that she has seen her childhood friend. She begs Mina to find Valerie and despite not knowing where to start, her mother never having mentioned Valerie before Mina determines to do her bidding.

Meanwhile the Bampton police should be having a quiet time of it. With just one natural death on the books to follow-up while DI Sadler is on his holidays it is only the temporary elevation of Matthews in his absence that is causing the work to be more arduous than needs be. However there is the new DC, Peter Dahl to show the ropes to so they pay a visit to the deceased, Nell Colley’s home, to see if there is anything at all suspicious about her death.

This series is everything you could want from a crime fiction novel. Even though it is part of a series each book is entirely self-contained, although of course the characters develop from book to book. One of my favourite aspects is that all the characters are great, they are all genuine people, police as we like to imagine our local police force to be; caring and diligent with an absolute drive to get to the truth. This isn’t a series overburdened by police politics or gripes about how the force has changed. These are detectives in the old mode, ones that really want to detect. Of course one of the most striking The setting is superb, as one who has holidayed in the area the village of Bampton is as you’d imagine a typical village in the area to be and by taking us back as far as 1957 that feeling s reinforced even more in The Shrouded Path. Best of all there are multiple threads that are meticulously plotted so that there is a real sense of satisfaction at a well-told story by the time you turn the last page.

In a book that changes from past to present and back again we get a flavour of life in the 1950s not by way of obvious signposted items but from the everyday context from a girl not allowed to sing carols before Christmas Eve (and not arguing about her father’s strict order) to the simpler times where life was about making your own entertainment, riding bicycles to choir practice and secrets being hidden well away from prying eyes.

This is the perfect autumnal read – my only disappointment is now I need to wait a while before I learn what Sarah Ward will serve up next for DC Connie Childs.

First Published UK: 4 September 2018
Publisher: Faber & Faber
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous Books in the DC Connie Childs Series

In Bitter Chill
A Deadly Thaw
A Patient Fury

Don’t miss out on the other posts on this Blog Tour

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2018

The New Mrs Clifton – Elizabeth Buchan

Historical Fiction
4*s

The Second World War is the basis for a whole raft of historical novels and The New Mrs Clifton takes a different approach in viewing the conflict from a different angle.

Gus Clifton returns from the war to the home he shares with his two sisters with his new wife. This turn of events would always cause shockwaves because he was expected to marry their friend, his fiancée Nella. But Gus hasn’t just broken this loyal woman’s heart, the one who waited for his return, he has married a German woman Krista.

Of course along with the rest of Britain Gus’s two sisters have seen the brutal effects of the war on their country, and those they love the most. Julia is a widow while Tilly is determined to live life to the full.

Elizabeth Buchan recreates the time and place with haunting accuracy. There are bombed buildings, rationing and queues and the concrete fury at the Germans for causing the war. How can Krista damaged by her own experiences of the war can ever be happy in a country where she is hated?
Gus was a member of the British Intelligence forces based in Germany during the conflict and the reader along with his sisters and fiancée are forced to wonder what happened there to choose such an unsuitable wife.

Not only has the author meticulously documented the aftermath of the war in England she has also created some complex characters who interact with each other in an entirely believable manner. The legacy of the polite society is still firmly in place with the snubs against Krista of a low level but persistent nature rather than the locals storming the house and throwing bricks through the window. But the reader gets to peek behind the curtains soon realises that there is something other than love that binds this couple together with Krista battling vivid nightmares and clearly having had no choice but to bind herself to a man she does not love and travel to a country where she is viewed with the highest level of suspicion.

This slow burn of a novel examines how the war has fundamentally changed both Gus and Krista but it also looks at the lives and expectations of those who had no choice but to wait out the conflict with hope diminishing with every piece of bad news. The three British women, Julia with the loss of her love, Tilly with her tentative approaches to their new sister-in-law and Nella who is bewildered and shamed by the turn of events have to find a way to carry on, and to heal. This is a story that will have you asking yourself some difficult questions and to put yourself in the shoes of a woman whose quest for survival has led her into a hostile environment.

The New Mrs Clifton is a deeply moving and sympathetic portrait of life which had the power to examine the way that the perception that a whole nation of people were rotten through the actions of its leaders still persists till this day. It is far easier use the broad brush strokes of the atrocity to paint a picture than to acknowledge that war isn’t kind to anyone, least of all the civilians that are innocent bystanders.

I bought my copy of The New Mrs Clifton after reading a whole heap of great reviews from my fellow bloggers – my friends you did me a great service!

First Published UK: 2016
Publisher: Penguin
No of Pages: 405
Genre: Historical Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (September 9)

I know I’m getting old because each time I come to write one of these posts I am shocked at how far through the year we are already – I mean how can the summer holidays have passed in such a blur. It’s been fun, we’ve had a number of guests, a wedding and fortunately there is more to look forward to with a trip to Stratford next week for a surprise birthday party. I have to admit that I am secretly looking forward to the autumn getting started so that I can sit quietly at home and read to my heart’s content.

This Week on the Blog

My week started with my review for A Double Life by Flynn Berry which used the disappearance of Lord Lucan as inspiration.

My excerpt post was from The Lost Letters by Sarah Mitchell as I looked for something a little less crime heavy in my future reads.

This Week in Books featured the authors Jenny Blackhurst, Sarah Ward and Martin Edwards.

On Thursday I took part in a Blog Tour which is running to celebrate Roald Dahl day on 13 September and featured four of the collection of books aimed at adults; Fear, Innocence, Trickery and War.

Friday saw me reviewing The Night She Died by Jenny Blackhurst, a brilliantly constructed psychological thriller about a woman who jumps to her death on the night of her wedding.

Yesterday’s review was from a book I read back in June on holiday; Sisters of Mercy by Caroline Overington was another winner from this Australian author.

 

This Time Last Year…

I was reading the terrific Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner. This multi-layered story uses real-life issues as well as having a crime at its centre, with an involved and intricate plot.

A man murdered in a park sets off a police investigation but this book feels less like a standard police procedural and could be considered a commentary on the time we live in. The storyline is linear with the main part running over a few weeks starting in December with each section featuring the date and chapter headed up by the name of the narrator and where necessary the place because whilst for the most part the action is in Cambridge, some takes us back to Kilburn, London.

I was hooked right from the start.

 

You can read my full review here or click on the book cover

 

 

Blurb

A brutal murder. A detective with no one left to trust.

A YOUNG MAN MURDERED
A city banker bleeds to death yards from a Cambridgeshire police headquarters.

A DETECTIVE OUT OF HER DEPTH
DI Manon Bradshaw’s world is turned upside down when the victim turns out to be closer to her than she could have guessed.

WHO SHOULD SHE BELIEVE?
When even her trusted colleagues turn their backs on her, it’s time to contemplate the unthinkable: are those she holds dear capable of murder? Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

I have added just one book to the bookshelf since my last post, but it is one I’m very excited about! Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty will be published on 4 October 2018.


Blurb

The retreat at health-and-wellness resort Tranquillum House promises total transformation.

Nine stressed city dwellers are keen to drop their literal and mental baggage, and absorb the meditative ambience while enjoying their hot stone massages.

Miles from anywhere, without cars or phones, they have no way to reach the outside world. Just time to think about themselves, and get to know each other.

Watching over them is the resort’s director, a woman on a mission. But quite a different one from any the guests might have imagined.

For behind the retreat’s glamorous facade lies a dark agenda.

These nine perfect strangers have no idea what’s about to hit them . . . Amazon

 

tbr-watch

Since I last reported my figures I’ve read 8 books and somehow in the same time I’ve acquired just 1! The total is therefore down to the record low of 167!
Physical Books – 110
Kindle Books – 40
NetGalley Books –15
Audio Books –2

 

I have also added 3 reviews of my own books which means I get to add another complete tokens to the one I already had – up to a massive 4! I can feel a spending spree coming on…

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads, Mount TBR 2018

Sisters of Mercy – Caroline Overington

Psychological Suspense
5*s

Agnes Moore disappears on the day that she is supposed to board a plane to return to England from Sydney. She had made the epic journey to meet up with her younger sister Snow. Agnes had supposed she was an orphan having been left in an orphanage but all these years later she’s learned that she is a beneficiary of her father’s will, and that she has a younger sister. Her family at home in England have no idea of what has happened to her.

Until the reading of the will Snow was also unaware of her sibling living a different kind of life on the other side of the world. Unlike Agnes who was full of excitement at the thought, Snow was not so keen.

The third main character in this story is a journalist New South Wales journalist Jack ‘Tap’ Fawcett who first reports the story Agnes’s disappearance after her daughter Ruby travels to Australia to make an appeal. Then he starts receiving letters from a prisoner.

Caroline Overington uses her settings judiciously. The disappearance of Agnes was the day of a red dust storm, an event that is used by the journalist to nudge at his reader’s memories to conjure up the day and time in their minds. It is also an event that gives the reader something unusual to picture somehow making the disappearance part of an eerie day.

I was really impressed with the way this tale unfolds but unusually for me I will caveat this review with the fact that there are some scenes of suffering that are upsetting. Snow’s letters to the journalist from prison form the backbone of the story. She starts writing to him because she believes that he is misreporting the facts behind the disappearance of her sister and wants to correct them.

People say that I don’t seem to care that my sister went missing after coming all the way out to Australia to visit me, but think about it from my point of view. I didn’t want her to come out in the first place.

As the reader is pretty much in the dark as to what her supposed crime might be at the start the clues come from these letters.

Although Sisters of Mercy might be judged from its premise to be a mystery story, it is really a character study of a woman. If you are a reader who has to like the main character it is possibly not a book for you but I was fascinated as Snow reveals herself, in her own words seemingly naïve about the reaction of the recipient.

I already had a huge respect for Caroline Overington having read a couple of her previous books and I’m glad she is one of the few authors whose work has travelled across the world from Australia. This is an author who steers well away from a formula, her books are all different but all I think, incredibly engaging. Sisters of Mercy is not a story that is wrapped up neatly at the end and because the author chose this method I find myself wondering about the events in it long after I turned the last page.

I’d like to thank the fabulous blogger, Margot Kinberg, for prompting me to buy a copy of this book following her feature of it in a spotlight post on her blog Confessions of a Mystery Novelist…

First Published UK: 2012
Publisher: Random House
No of Pages: 320
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous Books by Caroline Overington Reviewed by Cleopatra Loves Books

I Came to Say Goodbye
Last Woman Hanged

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Night She Died – Jenny Blackhurst

Psychological Thriller
4*s

I have read far fewer psychological thrillers in 2018 than previous years and those that I have chosen have been of a high quality with the successful authors using a premise which is a little out of the ordinary. That is exactly what Jenny Blackhurst has done in The Night She Died as she builds on her outstanding success of her previous books in this genre.

Picture the scene of lovely wedding between a happy couple. Move to the next frame and you see a woman in her wedding dress looking over the bay and then she is gone. Below the clifftop she stood on are rocks so the outcome doesn’t look great. And sure enough after that there is no trace of Evie, no body and no one knows quite why, or do they?

Evie White is the bride who disappears, she leaves no note and so her heartbroken groom is left with nothing except unanswered questions. Evie’s best friend is Rebecca and it is obvious to the reader that she knows something, but what it is she is keeping quiet about.

The book is told in two narratives, the past by Evie going back to her childhood to explain the woman she became, and the present, by Rebecca. Rebecca is propping up the groom who became a widower before he had any chance to enjoy his marriage. Unsurprisingly he isn’t coping too well especially as the police are trying to unravel the mystery of Evie’s apparent suicide which inevitably means that Richard finds out about the aspects of Evie’s life that she had kept hidden from him. It probably won’t surprise you to be told that both women are soon revealed to be what could be considered ‘complex characters.’

For those readers who love a tense and imaginative foray, this will be a book that you’ll enjoy and fortunately the author keeps the magic and the surprises coming from the first to the very last page. If I was going to be picky I’d probably state that I’m not sure that the police would expand quite so much energy on a suicide even if they did suspect foul play at the outset but if a book is well written and engaging then I’m prepared to overlook such quibbles.

Jenny Blackhurst hasn’t just come up with a good premise here she follows it through by writing appealing characters. Admittedly both women are complex but there is something appealing about them both and they are real. Most of us have met both an Evie and a Rebecca in our lives and so the author’s obvious investment in her characters pays off. I cared about them both even while trying to work out what had happened to cause Evie to throw herself off the cliff.

The timing is also impeccable. For me the joy of reading a psychological thriller is that hook that keeps you turning the pages. I tend to read this kind of novel faster than other types of books and the author has the format down to a tee. The short chapters the alternating time periods and narrators works so well to keep me turning the pages to find out the next piece of information and has me constantly changing my mind about what is relevant to the plot and what is not.

I’d like to thank the publishers Headline for allowing me to read an advance review copy of The Night She Died, and to Jenny Blackhurst for providing me with a compulsive read!

First Published UK: 6 September 2018
Publisher: Headline
No of Pages: 368
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous Books by Jenny Blackhurst

How I Lost You
Before I Let You In
The Foster Child

Posted in Blog Tour

The Roald Dahl Collection #BlogTour


September 13 is Roald Dahl Day so put it in your diaries. As a child I adored Danny the Champion of the World, was fascinated by the awful characters in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and as I made my way through a predictably turbulent adolescence was delighted and terrified by Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. I was particularly lucky as Roald Dahl continued to create brilliant stories for children and The BFG was a huge hit with my daughter who read this as her first chapter book at the tender age of four. From then on our trips to London referenced The BFG although her exceptional love of this book didn’t mean that she could visit the Queen at Buckingham Palace. Seeing the delight my own children gained from his books just meant that my admiration for the author grew and grew so imagine my delight when I was given four of the books in the adult collection as part of the celebrations.

Recollected for the first time since their original publication; FEAR, INNOCENCE, TRICKERY and WAR depict some of Dahl’s most sinister tales, including those he greatly admired, focussing on aspects of the human condition that he found most fascinating. Complete with stunningly thought-provoking illustrations, courtesy of renowned artist Charming Baker, Britain’s most seminal author reveals even more about the darker side of human nature.

Fear – Tales of Terror and Suspense.

Following an insightful introduction to this collection by Roald Dahl of how he read all the ghost stories he could lay his hands on marking each one out of ten. He’s not one to fool his audience and cheerfully admits that many received nothing at all so you can be sure that this collection is the cream of the crop of ghosts. Not being a great lover of ghouls and ghosts I was easily tempted in when I saw that the first story was written by the author L.P. Hartley of The Go Between fame.

L.P. Hartley’s story called W.S. features a writer who receives postcards signed off with the intials W.S., coincidently the author’s own initials his name being William Streeter but he brushes this aside commenting that Shakespeare also shared them. Then the pictures on the postcards get closer until they get to Gloucester, very close to where William Streeter lived. The police are convinced they are a hoax, the author wonders whether he is schizophrenic but what is there is another explanation – when the doorbell rings William Streeter finds out. Although I declare myself immune to ghosts and ghoulies I must admit there was a frisson of fear to accompany my delight at this clever tale.

Blurb

These fourteen classic spine-chilling stories are collected from Dahl’s extensive research of over 700 ghost stories. Fear includes timeless and haunting tales such as Sheridan Le Fanu’s The Ghost of a Hand, Edith Wharton’s Afterward, Cynthia Asquith’s The Corner Shop and Mary Treadgold’s The Telephone.

Innocence – Tales of Youth and Guile

The largest part of this book is given over to Roald Dahl’s autobiographical book Boy which I had previously read but some years ago now. If anything I enjoyed this re-reading far more, being charmed all over again by the stories from childhood that would work their way into his books for children. brilliant to read the flashes of inspiration as he plundered his own memories of mice and gobstoppers and chocolate tasting to create the wonders of The Witches and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The illustrations that accompany the stories give us more hints and a glimpse at the author’s Norwegian heritage.

Blurb

What makes us innocent and how do we come to lose it? Combining autobiographical stories from his childhood – such as the much-loved, Boy – as well as four further tales of innocence lost, Dahl touches on the joys and horrors of growing up. Among other stories you’ll read of the wager that destroys a girl’s faith in her father and the landlady who has plans for her unsuspecting young guest.

Trickery – Tales of Deceit and Cunning

The ten stories within this book vary in length from a single page to far more substantial ones and they all tell of the kinds of daring deeds that don’t rely on strength and brute force but the cunningness of a fox. Once again my favourite was the story which was clearly the forerunner to Danny the Champion of the World – a story I loved when it was read aloud to my primary school class aged seven or eight. Once again I chuckled as two grown men in Champion of the World (no Danny in this version) doctored the raisins to poach the pheasants thereby neatly outwitting the gamekeeper and giving the pheasants a far better send off than being blasted by a gun!

Blurb

To what depths of deception would you stoop to get what you want? In these ten dark and twisty tales, Dahl reveals that we are at our smartest and most cunning when we set out to deceive others – and sometimes ourselves. Here you will read of a husband and wife and the parting gift which rocks their marriage, the light fingered hitch-hiker and the grateful motorist, and discover how sleeping pills can aid a little bit of serious poaching.

War – Tales of Conflict and Strife

The last of the four books I received is again given over to Roald Dahl’s autobiographical work with Going Solo detailing his career as a trainee fighter pilot and then his time in active service. As the book progresses you can’t help but visualise the harsh reality of war which the author punctuates with brilliant descriptions of the people and places he met along the way. Although incredibly moving in places and much darker than the other books in the collection for dint of this being real life I was once again amazed at the breadth as well as depth of Roald Dahl’s story telling prowess.

Blurb

Including famous short stories such as Over to You, War presents the gripping
autobiographical account of Dahl’s experiences working in East Africa as well as his life as a fighter pilot during WWII. As he travels across the British Empire, you’ll read about the pilot shot down in the Libyan Desert, the fighter plane lost in mysterious fog and the soldier who returns from war irrevocably changed.

Roald Dahl, the brilliant and worldwide acclaimed author of Charlie and the Chocolate
Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda and many more classics for children, also wrote scores of short stories for adults. These delightfully disturbing tales present a side of Dahl that few have seen before; this stunning collection is most certainly a darker side of Dahl.

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (September 5)

This Week In Books
Hosted by Lipsy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

With August having been a decidedly mixed bag in terms of reading I’m thrilled to be starting September with a great set of books which have relight my fire so to speak!

I am currently reading The Shrouded Path by Sarah Ward, the fourth book in the DC Childs series set in Derbyshire which is simply fab. The Shrouded Path was published yesterday, 4 September 2018.

Blurb

The past won’t stay buried forever.

November, 1957: Six teenage girls walk in the churning Derbyshire mists, the first chills of winter in the air. Their voices carrying across the fields, they follow the old train tracks into the dark tunnel of the Cutting. Only five appear on the other side.

October, 2014: a dying mother, feverishly fixated on a friend from her childhood, makes a plea: ‘Find Valerie.’ Mina’s elderly mother had never discussed her childhood with her daughter before. So who was Valerie? Where does her obsession spring from?

DC Connie Childs, off balance after her last big case, is partnered up with new arrival to Bampton, Peter Dahl. Following up on what seems like a simple natural death, DC Childs’ old instincts kick in, pointing her right back to one cold evening in 1957. As Connie starts to broaden her enquiries, the investigation begins to spiral increasingly close to home. Amazon

The last book I finished was a psychological thriller The Night She Died by Jenny Blackhurst which had me gripped in its twists and turns. The Night She Died will be published tomorrow, 6 September 2018.

Blurb

On her own wedding night, beautiful and complicated Evie White leaps off a cliff to her death.

What drove her to commit this terrible act? It’s left to her best friend and her husband to unravel the sinister mystery.

Following a twisted trail of clues leading to Evie’s darkest secrets, they begin to realize they never knew the real Evie at all… Amazon

And next up is another book that will be published tomorrow; Gallows Court by Martin Edwards promises a blend of a Golden Age mystery with modern suspense and is written by a man whose knowledge of the history of crime fiction is phenomenal!

Blurb

LONDON, 1930.

Sooty, sulphurous, and malign: no woman should be out on a night like this. A spate of violent deaths – the details too foul to print – has horrified the capital and the smog-bound streets are deserted. But Rachel Savernake – the enigmatic daughter of a notorious hanging judge – is no ordinary woman. To Scotland Yard’s embarrassment, she solved the Chorus Girl Murder, and now she’s on the trail of another killer.

Jacob Flint, a young newspaperman temporarily manning The Clarion’s crime desk, is looking for the scoop that will make his name. He’s certain there is more to the Miss Savernake’s amateur sleuthing than meets the eye. He’s not the only one. His predecessor on the crime desk was of a similar mind – not that Mr Betts is ever expected to regain consciousness after that unfortunate accident…

Flint’s pursuit of Rachel Savernake will draw him ever-deeper into a labyrinth of deception and corruption. Murder-by-murder, he’ll be swept ever-closer to its dark heart – to that ancient place of execution, where it all began and where it will finally end: Gallows Court. Amazon

So admittedly this is a crime heavy week but one that has so much promise… What do you think? Any of these books take your fancy?