Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (September 10)

 

Sadly no cute cat photos to lure you in this week as my time has been taken up by work and sleep with of course some obligatory reading squeezed into any spare time.

This Week on the Blog

My week started with my review of One Day in December by Shari Low, a very enjoyable story about four people and the events that changed everything in just 24 hours.

My excerpt post came from My Last Confession by Helen FitzGerald which is about a Parole Officer and a murderer.

This Week in Books featured the authors Caimh O’Donnell, Susie Steiner and Chris Curran.

On Thursday I reviewed the psychological thriller Lost in the Lake by A.J. Waines on its publication day. This compelling tale features some musicians, an accident, a psychotherapist and a lost memory.

My review on Friday was for The Other Mrs Walker by Mary Paulson-Ellis, one of my holiday reads from back in June – I awarded this original story of the search for a dead woman’s identity, the full five stars.

It was back to a psychological thriller for my final review of the week; Her Deadly Secret by Chris Curran, proved to be a five star read involving a missing child.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading The Trespasser by Tana French, the sixth in the Dublin Series by this oh so talented author. Each book in this series can be read as a standalone as unlike many crime fiction series there isn’t a single story arc, or indeed a chief protagonist. Instead one of the characters from earlier in the series may feature in a later book.
The centre of the plot of The Trespasser is about the murder of Aislinn Murray a young woman, identikit to the numerous other women with straight blonde hair and a pout to match, who has had her head bashed in. There is no forced entry to the house and the table is set for two. All the detectives need to do is find the dinner date!

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

Blurb

You can beat one killer. Beating your own squad is a whole other thing.

Being on the Dublin Murder squad is nothing like Detective Antoinette Conway dreamed. Her working life is a stream of thankless cases and harassment. Antoinette is tough, but she’s getting close to the breaking point.
The new case looks like a regular lovers’ quarrel gone bad. Aislinn Murray is blond, pretty and lying dead next to a table set for a romantic dinner. There’s nothing unusual about her – except that Antoinette has seen her somewhere before.

And her death won’t stay neat. Other detectives want her to arrest Aislinn’s boyfriend, fast. There’s a shadowy figure at the end of Antoinette’s road. And everything they find out about Aislinn takes her further from the simple woman she seemed to be.

Antoinette knows the harassment has turned her paranoid, but she can’t tell just how far gone she is. Is this the case that will make her career – or break it? Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

I was lucky to receive a copy of The Blackbird Season by Kate Moretti complete with black feathers that scared me half to death when I stuck my hand in the envelope! This book will be published on 26 September 2017.

Blurb

Where did they come from? Why did they fall?

In a ​quie​t​ town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a high school field, unleashing a horrifying and unexpected chain of events that will rock the close-knit community. Beloved coach and teacher Nate Winters and his wife, Alecia, are well respected throughout town. That is, until one of the​ ​reporters investigating the bizarre bird phenomenon catches Nate embracing a student, Lucia Hamm. Lucia soon buoys the scandal by claiming that she and Nate are ​having an affair, throwing the town into an uproar and leaving Alecia to wonder if her husband has a second life. And when Lucia suddenly disappears, the police only have one suspect: Nate.

Nate​’​s coworker, Bridget Harris, is determined to prove his innocence. Bridget knows the key to Nate​’​s exoneration and the truth of Lucia​’​s disappearance lie within the walls of the school and in the pages of ​t​h​e missing girl’s journal.

The Blackbird Season is a haunting, psychologically nuanced suspense, filled with Kate Moretti​’​s signature chillingly satisfying twists and turns. Amazon

I was contacted by the author of a new crime fiction series and despite repeatedly reminding myself that I don’t need to add any more of these to the burgeoning pile, I couldn’t resist his kind offer as an ARC. The Last Thread by Ray Britain will be published on 1 October 2017.

Blurb

Accused of pushing a boy to his death in a failed suicide intervention, DCI Doug Stirling is suspended from duty. Attacked in the media and haunted by the boy’s smile as he let go of Stirling’s hand, he must look on helplessly as an incompetent colleague intent on destroying him investigates the boy’s death, supported by the vindictive Deputy Chief Constable, McDonald.

Weeks later, an anonymous call leads the police to a remote location and the discovery of a burnt out car containing the body of an unidentified man who has been savagely murdered. Short of experienced senior investigators, ACC Steph Tanner has no choice but to take a professional risk. Throwing Stirling the lifeline he needs to restore his reputation, Tanner appoints him as SIO to lead the investigation.

But with no witnesses, no forensic evidence and more theories than investigators, Stirling’s investigation has far too many ‘loose threads’ as he uncovers a complex, interwoven history of deception, betrayal and sadistic relationships. Was the victim connected to the crime scene? Is the murder as complex as it appears? Or is there a simpler explanation?
Still traumatised by the boy’s death and with time the enemy, does Stirling still have what it takes to bring the killer, or killers, to justice before McDonald intervenes?

Things are already difficult enough when DC Helen Williams joins the investigation, a determined woman who seems intent on rekindling their past relationship. And is Ayesha, the beautiful lawyer Stirling has grown fond of, connected to the murder somehow? Amazon

I was also the proud recipient of The Frozen Woman by Jon Michelet with the book named Norway’s Best Crime Novel which has been translated into English for the first time and will be published on 21 September 2017.

Blurb

A FROZEN BODY
A MURDERED BIKER
A RADICAL LAWYER WITH A MURKY PAST

In the depths of the Norwegian winter, the corpse of a woman is discovered in the garden of a notorious left-wing lawyer, Vilhelm Thygesen. She has been stabbed to death.

A young biker, a member of a gang once represented by Thygesen, dies in suspicious circumstances.

As Thygesen receives anonymous threats, investigating detectives Stribolt and Vaage uncover a web of crime and violence extending far beyond Norway’s borders.

Does the frozen woman hold the key? Amazon

And if that wasn’t enough I had to buy a copy of A Patient Fury by Sarah Ward which was published on 7 September 2017 having fallen in love with this DC Childs series (In Bitter Chill and A Deadly Thaw)



Blurb

When Detective Constable Connie Childs is dragged from her bed to the fire-wrecked property on Cross Farm Lane she knows as she steps from the car that this house contains death.

Three bodies discovered – a family obliterated – their deaths all seem to point to one conclusion: One mother, one murderer.

But D.C. Childs, determined as ever to discover the truth behind the tragedy, realises it is the fourth body – the one they cannot find – that holds the key to the mystery at Cross Farm Lane.

What Connie Childs fails to spot is that her determination to unmask the real murderer might cost her more than her health – this time she could lose the thing she cares about most: her career. Amazon

And I also had to buy a copy of The New Mrs Clifton by Elizabeth Buchan after reading so many great reviews from around the blogosphere of this book

(here’s just one to wet your appetite)

Blurb

‘Wrapped in the roots of the sycamore was a skeleton; the remains of a woman, between twenty-five and thirty. She had carried a child . . .’

At the close of the Second World War, Intelligence Officer Gus Clifton returns to London. On his arm is Krista, the German wife he married secretly in Berlin. For his sisters, this broken woman is nothing more than the enemy. For Nella, Gus’s loyal fiancée, it is a terrible betrayal. These three friends wonder what hold Krista has over decent, honourable Gus. And, they ask themselves, how far will they have to go to permanently get her out of their home, their future, their England? Amazon

 

What have you found to read this week? Any of these take your fancy?

tbr-watch

Since my last post I’ve read 3 books, discarded 1 and gained 5
Making a Grand Total of 179
Physical Books – 100
Kindle Books – 62
NetGalley Books – 17

Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2017

20 Books of Summer 2017 – Round-Up Post

So I finished the 20 Books of Summer Challenge, one that started on 1 June with the finishing line being 3 September and I thought I’d take the opportunity to reflect on the books I read.

As Cathy of 746 Books is so good, she sets no rules for this challenge but I chose to select my twenty books from my own bookshelves, ones that I’d bought, or been given as presents.

 

In line with previous years the selection was mixed but featured Agatha Christie and Reginald Hill who are obligatory entrants, although technically re-reads from years ago.

Bones and Silence by the fantastically talented Reginald Hill was based around medieval play with Dalziel holding centre stage by playing God. As always the mystery was inventive, the author ensuring that all the emotions well and truly ridden, with the whole book emphasising a real sense of being in the hands of a master of the English language. I love the Dalziel and Pascoe series and very few police procedural writers manage to weave so many strands of a story so satisfyingly into a story.

 

Although I find it hard to believe I hadn’t read Agatha Christie’s Murder is Easy before, if I had, I didn’tremember one iota of this story. I’m surprised not to see this one featured more often on lists of her best books, although neither Poirot or Miss Marple feature there are a whole bunch of brilliant (and inventive) murders to entertain – murder by hat paint being the top of my own personal list. This was the first book referenced in my earlier read A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup – if you are an Agatha Christie fan I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

 

This year has been the year I have explored the different ways of presenting true crime and my journey has taken me back to the Victorian times to crimes committed far more recently – my remit being to confirm that the best examples are not about sensationalism but far more often in a bid to understand the criminal mind.

The Ripper of Waterloo Road by Jan Bondeson tells the tale of an unfortunate high class prostitute in the earliest years of Victoria’s Reign with Eliza Grimwood meeting her death following a night at the theatre in London. This is an unsolved murder where the author proposes a credible suspect and puts Eliza, and later murders, fully in the context of the times they lived in. With Eliza apparently being the inspiration for Charles Dickens’ Nancy in Oliver Twist. Jan Bondeson proposes that this unknown serial murderer terrified London’s population 50 years before the notorious Jack the Ripper acquired his moniker

Just a few years later in 1849 in County Tipperary is the setting for The Doctor’s Wife is Dead by Andrew Tierney tells a quite different type of crime. Andrew Tierney makes the case that Ellen Langley, the doctor’s wife, is killed (possibly poisoned but certainly ill-treated) because her husband wanted a younger model. This story told is a court room drama with secrets and lies exposed. Ultimately though this is the story of the life and death of a woman who has been lost in the midst of time but sheds light upon many women who would have endured a similar life, even if the end result wasn’t an untimely death.

Midnight in Peking by Paul French has a very different feel to it, not unexpectedly, with the setting being the more unfamiliar setting of Peking, just before the occupation by the Japanese. In 1937 Pamela Werner was found brutally murdered. Her killers were never identified although the author presents a compelling case with suspects. Although the author takes us through the known facts and investigation, this is as much a story of the time and place and I have to say, a victim who seems to be a mystery all of her own.

 

Truman Capote is of course widely acknowledged to be the father of the true-crime genre and In Cold Blood is the book that many true-crime writers aspire to. Here for the first time we get to know the murderers outside the narrow confines of the crime committed, in far more detail than the other books I’ve read; this is their story of the awful night when the four members of the Clutter family are slain in their Kansas home in 1959. Perhaps because the crime is solved we don’t only hear about the perpetrators but the victims, the investigators and the wider circle in the community who were touched by the murders.

The Spider and the Fly by Claudia Rowe is a different type of read again. This is her story about writing, and meeting a murderer as a journalist. Kendall Francoise lived in Poughkeepsie, New York and he murdered eight women between 1996 and 1998. When he was arrested, a search of his home discovered his parents and sister living amongst the empty larvae casings in a home that was at odds with their public personas. Claudia freely admits she was drawn to the darkness of Kendall (and his family’s) story to try and make sense of her own life. A fascinating mix of memoir and true crime.

Another theme in my reading this year is seeking out those writers who use true crime to inspire a fictional novel; think  Burial Rites by Hannah Kent or Little Deaths by Emma Flint to name just two.

The main and probably true entrant to this section (the other two are more loosely linked) is Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood with her amazing story of Grace Marks who was tried for the murder of Thomas Kimner and his housekeeper cum mistress Nancy Montgomery in 1843. This story is very much set in the place and time but has the introduction of a doctor using experimental psychological methods to find the truth to the many conflicting statements attributed to Grace Marks. Using the backdrop of quilting patterns there is so much depth to this superb book.

Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch explores a fictional author who uses the disappearance of a man in the 1970s in his most successful novel to date. But forty years on his neighbour from the upstairs apartment becomes obsessed with the author. As the reader we explore the link between the presumed dead high school teacher, and the fact that he was having an affair with one of his pupils, and the success the resulting novel gave the author especially as his many war novels have not hit anywhere near such dizzy heights. While this book is full of themes, mainly of the dark variety the true crime is where it all seems to start, or is it?

Before the Poison by Peter Robinson features a grief-stricken composer who buys the house of a murderess; the fictional Grace Elizabeth Fox (I know to be wary of women bearing the name Grace now!) was hanged for the murder of her husband, Dr Fox by means of poison on New Year’s Day in 1953. Our protagonist Chris Lowndes becomes somewhat obsessed with the murder and more crucially of the guilt or innocence of Grace. His investigation into the crime mirrors those actions taken by the true crime writers featured earlier and it took a while for me to convince myself that this was in fact a work of pure fiction.

 

In no way is this section intended to be sexist but the following four books are marketed for women. I used to read far more ‘women’s fiction’ than I do now and this was a foray into the wide variety on offer.

The Island by Victoria Hislop tells the story of the island of Spinalonga, an island in Crete which was a leper colony until surprisingly recently. Leprosy obviously is the backdrop for a story which is in part saga of a woman growing up in the shadow of the island, one the encompasses all those raw human emotions of jealousy, grief and loneliness but doesn’t forget to take in the most important counterbalance of hope. This is far from some slushy story and the historical research that backs up the novel shines through taking this beyond the romance and family story to something that says more about humanity itself.

The Judge’s Wife by Ann O’Loughlin is set in 1950s and 1980s Ireland with a foray to India. The book tells of a young woman married under sufferance to an older Judge who ends up committed to an asylum following the birth of her daughter Emma. Grace Moran (again – what are the chances of three of my reads featuring a woman called Grace?) mourns the loss of her child and her life at the asylum is far from easy, especially given her fall from grace (pun fully intended) There are themes of inter-racial love along with the injustice of a life stunted by fear of judgement from the community. A beautiful tale told without resorting to cheap tricks to raise the emotions.

In contrast The Summer House by Santa Montefiore is a lighter read, the subjects being the family of Lord Frampton who are confronted by the arrival of an illegitimate daughter at his funeral. With an odious lawyer, a sour-puss dowager along with the quiet restraint of Antoinette Frampton, wife of the Lord and mother to his three surviving sons all complete with an almost invisible butler this story is entertainment with no obvious message to impart. An ideal summer read to while away the hours sat in the curiously absent British summer this year.

The Girl from Nowhere by Dorothy Koomson has an ‘issue’ right at the centre and to the forefront of this novel. Clemency Smittson is adopted, raised in white family where her heritage is at odds with that of her adoptive parents. Her father is more open to celebrating her difference whereas her mother tries to ignore it and is fearful that if Clemency were to be introduced to her birth family then she would become redundant. If this all sounds a like a hard read, think again; Dorothy Koomson is an incredibly talented writer with a real gift for creating appealing characters with a strong sense of realism.

The World Wars had such a lasting impact on the lives of everyone who lived through them it is unsurprising that such a large body of writing features these times. For the challenge this year I read a novel and a non-fiction book, both of which brought something new to this period of history.

Starting in Berlin and finishing at Autwitz Concentration Camp nine year old Bruno tells his story in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne. Uprooted by his father’s job Bruno misses his house and his friends when the family moves to the place he calls ‘Out With.’ Set in the distance from the new, and in Bruno’s view, inferior new house Bruno spots a barbed wire fence and many people walking around in striped pyjamas. When he investigates he meets Shmuel a Jewish boy and the two become friends. Moving and a great way to introduce the realities of World War II to younger readers.

Stranger in the House is a compilation of the memories of women at the close of World War II. Many women were welcoming home men that had been fundamentally changed by their experience as well as physically damaged. Julie Summers provides the reader with a wide range of recollections from mothers, daughters, widows and mothers to the change in their own lives when the men returned. I was very impressed that the book touched on the more complex subjects of adultery and illegitimate children as well as the familiar rationing and lack of housing in this very difficult time.

Of course I widely read crime fiction and I didn’t deprive myself of catching up with some of those that had been sat patiently on my bookshelves.

An archaeological dig is the setting in New Zealand for a two-stranded mystery in What Remains Behind by Dorothy Fowler. With the archaeologists exploring the worship place for Kaipara Harbour community which had burnt in the 1880s and coming up with some theories in the more recent past the chief protagonist and archaeologist becomes embroiled in the mystery of a farmer who went missing in the more recent past. This slower paced crime fiction was unlike that which I usually read as although far from lacking in action, it has a less frantic need to find answers than a modern police investigation.

I read a lot of series books which probably partly explains my huge TBR and the Nicci French series featuring the psychotherapist Frieda Klein is on my list of must-read books. The books started on Monday and Saturday Requiem is the sixth and Frieda, after a difficult investigation has sworn-off working with the police any longer. This book was full of the trademark brilliant characters who I love and had a complex mystery at its heart with the story arc that has been running from the start surely nearing its conclusion?

 

Broken Heart is the seventh book in the David Raker series written by Tim Weaver. This crime fiction series of books starts with the premise of missing people rather than dead ones. This book, like the others in the series is a complex mystery which involves a woman entering a car-park in Somerset and disappearing, seemingly into thin air. The woman was married to a talented film director who on being expelled from America uses his talents to produce horror movies in Spain. There is a lot of detail about film making and I fear that the difficult circumstances I was in whilst reading this book meant I was unable to fully appreciate it.

In Beryl Bainbridge’s novel The Winter Garden we go on a wonderfully airplane journey to Russia with Douglas Ashburner and Nina who he is having a clandestine affair with. The couple aren’t alone though they are with a party of peculiar characters. Once they arrive in Russia all sorts of illogical regulations are imposed on the group and Nina goes mysteriously missing for a large portion of the action. A novel illustrating the Kafkaesque nature of the country in the 1980s perhaps missed its mark a little with this reader.

 

For someone who often feels far too much of her reading is set in the UK I travelled far and wide to:

Amsterdam
Canada
China
Germany
Greece
Ireland
India
Netherlands
New Zealand
Poland
Russia
Spain
Switzerland
USA

I also managed to read three books where a chief protagonist was named Grace and bizarrely two books which featured the name Phaedra!

So with 20 physical books read and reviewed from my bookshelves the total outstanding should have dropped by 20 too? End of May count was 107 and today I have 100 – something hasn’t quite worked out here!! I guess I have to keep my fingers crossed that Cathy will organise this challenge next year as I appear to have lots of books still to read.

I hope you enjoyed my whistle-stop tour of my 20 Books of Summer Challenge as much as I enjoyed reading them all – the original reviews can be found by clicking on the book covers.

I want to finish by saying a huge thank you to Cathy who organises this challenge and to the other participants who have entertained me throughout the summer with their excellent reviews and updates on their progress. Goodbye Summer 2017.

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

Love Like Blood – Mark Billingham

Crime Fiction
5*s

There is something doubly appealing about crime fiction with a strong contemporary feel and Mark Billingham has chosen this, his fourteenth book in the Tom Thorne series to highlight honour killings. The fact that he does this within a brilliantly constructed mystery certainly makes for compelling reading.

DI Nicola Tanner is on compassionate leave after the death of her partner who was murdered inside their shared home. Having worked with Thorne when he makes a brief appearance  in Die of Shame, she seeks him out convinced that those in charge of the investigation into Susan’s death are not interested in her belief that her murder was a case of mistaken identity, and it is actually her own life they meant to take.

The relationship between Tanner and Thorne is brilliantly handled as they work off the grid to find out the truth. When a couple of teenagers go missing Thorne and Tanner fear their own families know more than they are letting on but are they reading too much into the case?

I was delighted that Hendricks, the gay pierced and hugely sarcastic doctor who carries out the post mortems on any of the stray bodies that are sent in his direction, was back to lighten the plotline when it all becomes a bit too dark. Black humour is infinitely better than no humour at all and in all honesty, whilst she might have had ample reason to be so, Tanner is the most entertaining of detectives.

Thorne is in the form of the fictional detective is more than happy to bend the rules to suit himself although with the normally rule-abiding Tanner pushing him to do more, he has the occasional doubt about whether this is the right thing to do in this instance.

You might fear from the earlier paragraphs that this is a worthy piece of crime fiction that is tackling a sensitive subject with little knowledge of the issues. Not so. Mark Billingham has clearly researched his subject matter speaking to those who have been part of those families where the younger generation are resistant to following the rules their parents are keen to uphold for fear of becoming outcasts in their own community. The idea that murdering your own child to protect the family’s reputation is rightly abhorrent to many even within these communities, but sadly not to all. Whilst Mark Billingham more than nods his head at the former, this is not a book that preaches, he lets his characters display the emotions that echoed in my own mind but managing to steer clear of a commentary that didn’t fit the natural direction of the investigation being undertaken.

As has been the case with each of the Mark Billingham books I have read the pace is fairly furious, if you are anything like me, you will not want to put this book aside even though you are in much need of a breather from the latest piece of action. The plot is complex and involved with enough facts to underpin the occasional surprise the author springs on his reader. Just the way I like my crime fiction.

I’d like to thank the publisher Grove Atlantic for allowing me to read an advance copy of Love Like Blood ahead of publication on 20 June 2017. This honest review is my thanks to them and to Mark Billingham for an in-depth look at an issue brilliantly threaded through a captivating crime novel.

First Published UK: 20 June 2017
Publisher: Grove Atlantic
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Mark Billingham Books

Sleepyhead [Aug 2001] Tom Thorne #1
Scaredy Cat [Jul 2002] Tom Thorne #2
Lazybones [Jul 2003] Tom Thorne #3
The Burning Girl [Jul 2004] Tom Thorne #4
Lifeless [May 2005] Tom Thorne #5
Buried [May 2006] Tom Thorne #6
Death Message [Aug 2007] Tom Thorne #7
In the Dark [Aug 2008] Standalone Novel
Bloodline [Aug 2009] Tom Thorne #8
From the Dead [Aug 2010] Tom Thorne #9
Good as Dead [Aug 2011] Tom Thorne #10
Rush of Blood [Aug 2012] Standalone Novel
The Dying Hours [May 2013] Tom Thorne #11
The Bones Beneath [May 2014] Tom Thorne #12
Time of Death [April 2015] Tom Thorne #13
Die of Shame [May 2016] Standalone Novel
Love Like Blood [June 2017] Tom Thorne #14

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (May 17)

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

At the moment I am reading The Escape by C.L. Taylor which is one twisty and thrilling ride!

Blurb

“Look after your daughter’s things. And your daughter…”
When a stranger asks Jo Blackmore for a lift she says yes, then swiftly wishes she hadn’t.
The stranger knows Jo’s name, she knows her husband Max and she’s got a glove belonging to Jo’s two year old daughter Elise.
What begins with a subtle threat swiftly turns into a nightmare as the police, social services and even Jo’s own husband turn against her.
No one believes that Elise is in danger. But Jo knows there’s only one way to keep her child safe – RUN. Amazon

The last book I finished was Blood Tide by Claire McGowan the fifth in the Paula McGuire who works for the missing persons unit in this great series set in Ireland.

Blurb

Called in to investigate the disappearance of a young couple during a violent storm, Paula Maguire, forensic psychologist, has mixed feelings about going back to Bone Island. Her last family holiday as a child was spent on its beautiful, remote beaches and returning brings back haunting memories of her long-lost mother.

It soon becomes clear that outsiders aren’t welcome on the island, and with no choice but to investigate the local community, Paula soon suspects foul play, realising that the islanders are hiding secrets from her, and each other.
With another storm fast approaching, Paula is faced with a choice. Leave alive or risk being trapped with a killer on an inescapable island, as the blood tide rushes in… Amazon

Next up I intend to read Go To Sleep by Helen Walsh for my Mount TBR Challenge 2017, having bought this book in April 2015.

Blurb

Hours from now, Rachel Massey will become a mother. Terrified and excited, there is nothing she wants more.

But motherhood is not as she had imagined. The sleepless nights turn to weeks, the weeks to months, and while Rachel loves her son as much as any mother, she can’t escape the feeling that something has gone terribly wrong.
Honest, uplifting and often shocking, Go To Sleep is a powerful and heart-wrenching story. Amazon

So what are you reading this week? Have you read any of these choices? Do you want to?

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (April 16)

Weekly Wrap Up

First up I want to wish you all a very Happy Easter full of eggs, and books of course!


We’ve just said goodbye to a family with a delightful couple of young boys who have kindly left me their shell collection in the bathroom after we spent a wonderful few hours on the beach – there really is nothing quite like seeing our island through a child’s eyes!

This Week on the Blog

My week started with my review for The Restless Dead by Simon Beckett, a very well told crime thriller set on the marshes in Essex.

On Tuesday I hosted a post by Simon Beckett as part of The Restless Dead Blog Tour where he describes how he developed book one, The Chemistry of Death into a series.

My This Week in Books featured books by Sarah R Shaber, Emma Kavanagh and Emma Flint – you’ll have to wait to hear what I made of this selection!

On Thursday I posted my review of A Time For Silence by Thorne Moore which I actually read a while ago and it is definitely one of those books that linger in your mind.

Next up was my review of The Conversations We Never Had by Jeffrey H Konis which he was kind enough to leave a comment on explaining why the imagined conversations were conducted in the formal manner presented.

Yesterday was another post on the Put A Book On The Map feature, this time superbly executed by Booker Talk and Thorne Moore as they put A Time For Silence firmly on the map for Wales.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading Tammy Cohen’s When She Was Bad a brilliant psychological thriller set in an office which was scarily accurate. Even more scary was the Team Building exercise that the staff were forced to take part in – the very words send shudders down my spine!!

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

Blurb

YOU SEE THE PEOPLE YOU WORK WITH EVERY DAY.

BUT WHAT CAN’T YOU SEE?

Amira, Sarah, Paula, Ewan and Charlie have worked together for years – they know how each one likes their coffee, whose love life is a mess, whose children keep them up at night. But their comfortable routine life is suddenly shattered when an aggressive new boss walks in ….

Now, there’s something chilling in the air.

Who secretly hates everyone?

Who is tortured by their past?

Who is capable of murder? Amazon

Stacking The Shelves

I have had some great luck in securing new books over the last couple of weeks so here’s a selection of my favourites

Firstly from NetGalley I have a copy of The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich a non-fiction true crime read with a difference, which will be published on 18 May 2017 by Pan Macmillan.

Blurb

Before Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich begins a summer job at a law firm in Louisiana, working on the retrial defence of death-row convicted murderer and child molester, Ricky Langley, she thinks her position is clear. The child of two lawyers, she is staunchly anti death penalty. But the moment Ricky’s face flashes on the screen as she reviews old tapes, the moment she hears him speak of his crimes, she is overcome with the feeling of wanting him to die.

Shocked by her reaction, she digs deeper and deeper into the case, realizing that despite their vastly different circumstances, something in his story is unsettlingly, uncannily familiar. Crime, even the darkest and most unspeakable acts, can happen to any one of us, and as Alexandria pores over the facts of the murder, she finds herself thrust into the complicated narrative of Ricky’s childhood. And by examining minute details of Ricky’s case, she is forced to face her own story, to unearth long-buried family secrets, to reckon with how her own past colours her view of his crime.

As enthralling as true-crime classics such as In Cold Blood and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and broadcast phenomena such as Making a Murderer and Serial, The Fact of a Body is a groundbreaking, heart-stopping investigation into how the law is personal, composed of individual stories and proof that arriving at the truth is more complicated, and powerful, than we could ever imagine. NetGalley

I was lucky enough to be approved for a copy of Lisa Jewell’s Then She Was Gone, I’m a huge fan of this author and this, her latest book, will be published on 27 July 2017

Blurb

MISSING GIRL
A BURIED SECRET

THEN
She was fifteen, her mother’s golden girl. She had her whole life ahead of her. And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone.
NOW
It’s been ten years since Ellie disappeared, but Laurel has never given up hope of finding her daughter.
And then one day a charming and charismatic stranger called Floyd walks into a café and sweeps Laurel off her feet.
Before too long she’s staying the night at this house and being introduced to his nine year old daughter.
Poppy is precocious and pretty – and meeting her completely takes Laurel’s breath away.
Because Poppy is the spitting image of Ellie when she was that age. And now all those unanswered questions that have haunted Laurel come flooding back.
What happened to Ellie?
Where did she go?
Who still has secrets to hide? NetGalley

Added to which another favourite author, Mark Billingham, is waiting publication of Love Like Blood in June 2017.

Blurb

DI Nicola Tanner needs Tom Thorne’s help. Her partner, Susan, has been brutally murdered and Tanner is convinced that it was a case of mistaken identity—that she was the real target. The murderer’s motive might have something to do with Tanner’s recent work on a string of cold-case honor killings she believes to be related. Tanner is now on compassionate leave but insists on pursuing the case off the books and knows Thorne is just the man to jump into the fire with her. He agrees but quickly finds that working in such controversial territory is dangerous in more ways than one. And when a young couple goes missing, they have a chance to investigate a case that is anything but cold. NetGalley

I also have a copy of The Other Us by Fiona Harper which will be published on 4 May 2017 which is billed as one for those who loved The Versions of Us, which I did!

Blurb

If you could turn back time, would you choose a different life?
Forty-something Maggie is facing some hard truths. Her only child has flown the nest for university and, without her daughter in the house, she’s realising her life, and her marriage to Dan, is more than a little stale.
When she spots an announcement on Facebook about a uni reunion, she can’t help wondering what happened to Jude Hanson. The same night Dan proposed, Jude asked Maggie to run away with him, and she starts to wonder how different her life might have been if she’d broken Dan’s heart and taken Jude up on his offer.
Wondering turns into fantasising, and then one morning fantasising turns into reality. Maggie wakes up and discovers she’s back in 1992 and twenty-one again. Is she brave enough to choose the future she really wants, and if she is, will the grass be any greener on the other side of the fence?
Two men. Two very different possible futures. But is there only once chance at happiness? Amazon

What have you found to read this week? Do share, as you can see I’m always on the lookout for a good book!

tbr-watch

Since my last post I’ve read 5 books and gained 4 so the grand total is hurtling downwards to 190
Physical Books – 113
Kindle Books – 59
NetGalley Books – 18

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (February 19)

Weekly Wrap Up

I didn’t post a wrap up last week as I had gone away on a little jaunt, firstly to London where I met up with Bibliobeth to attend a Book Blogger event organised by Headline books – I had a great evening, had long chats with publicist Georgina Moore (Chief Communications Officer) and authors: Julia Crouch, Alison Weir, Colette McBeth, Amanda Reynolds and Adele Parks as well as some other bloggers – this goes some way to explaining some of the recent additions to my TBR. I had a fantastic evening.

From there I made a trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon where unfortunately the great Bard was fairly silent but myself and my oldest (in that we’ve been friends the longest) friend had a wonderful weekend catching up and having fun. I then made a trip to Malvern to visit relatives before making it back to Jersey via a Post Office so I could send my books home as they wouldn’t fit in my carry-on case!

This Week on the Blog

Well I’m going back to the week before because I simply have to feature my review of He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly which is my favourite read of the year so far. A story of a coupling interrupted in 1999 leads to a court case with a young man charged with rape. What really happened on the day of the solar eclipse that day will have long lasting consequences for all involved.

My extract post this week was from The Legacy by Yrsa Sigurdardottir the first in the Children’s House Series.

My This Week in Books post featured among other’s The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell, another book to count towards my Mount TBR challenge.

On Thursday my first review of the week was for The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer which I enjoyed far more than I would have been expected since it contained strong supernatural elements.

On Friday I posted my review for Sewing the Shadows Together by Alison Baillie. This story of a past murder in Portobello, Edinburgh was then the subject of yesterday’s Put a Book on the Map feature written by Joanne of Portobello Book Blog and Alison Baillie. I’m really enjoying the posts that are the collaboration between the author and book bloggers which really add some context to the books being discussed.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett. This sliding doors novel which has three different versions of a life, kicked off by a student falling off her bike in 1958 was exceptionally well written and one of my favourite novels of last year. Each version of Eva and Jim’s life is full of minor details as well as the bigger events which steer them down different paths which made for a satisfying and enjoyable read.

If you click on the cover you can read my full review

The Versions of Us

Blurb

What if you had said yes . . . ?
Eva and Jim are nineteen, and students at Cambridge, when their paths first cross in 1958. Jim is walking along a lane when a woman approaching him on a bicycle swerves to avoid a dog. What happens next will determine the rest of their lives. We follow three different versions of their future – together, and apart – as their love story takes on different incarnations and twists and turns to the conclusion in the present day.
The Versions of Us is an outstanding debut novel about the choices we make and the different paths that our lives might follow. What if one small decision could change the rest of your life? Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

So back to the wonderful Headline Book Blogger event where I picked up a much wanted copy of An Act of Silence by Colette McBeth which is due out in June 2017,  which Colette kindly signed for me.

an-act-of-silence

Blurb

These are the facts I collect.

My son Gabriel met a woman called Mariela in a bar. She went home with him where they had sex. They next morning she was found in an allotment.

Mariela is dead.

Gabriel has been asked to report to Camden Police station in six hours for questioning
Linda Moscow: loving mother to Gabriel. Linda promised herself years ago that she would never let her son down again. Even if it means going against everything she believes in – she will do anything to protect him. She owes him that much.
Gabriel Miller: the prodigal son. He only ever wanted his mother’s love, but growing up he always seemed to do the wrong thing. If his mother could only see the bad in him – how could he possibly be good?
How far will a mother go to save her son? Linda’s decision might save Gabriel, but it will have a catastrophic impact on the lives of others. What would you do if faced with the same impossible choice? Amazon

After having a wonderful chat with Amanda Reynolds I was delighted that she signed my copy of Close to Me which will be out in April 2017.

close-to-me
Blurb

When Jo Harding falls down the stairs at home, she wakes up in hospital with partial amnesia – she’s lost a whole year of memories.
A lot can happen in a year. Was Jo having an affair? Lying to her family? Starting a new life?
She can’t remember what she did – or what happened the night she fell.
But she’s beginning to realise she might not be as good a wife and mother as she thought. Amazon

Bibliobeth bought me her spare copy of Girls On Fire by Robin Wasserman
which is due out in May 2017

girls-on-fire

Blurb

This is not a story of bad things happening to bad girls. I say this because I know you, Dex, and I know how you think.
I’m going to tell you a story, and this time, it will be the truth.
Hannah Dexter is a nobody, ridiculed and isolated at school by golden girl Nikki Drummond. But in their junior year of high school, Nikki’s boyfriend walks into the woods and shoots himself. In the wake of the suicide, Hannah befriends new girl Lacey and soon the pair are inseparable, bonded by their shared hatred of Nikki.
Lacey transforms good girl Hannah into Dex who is up for any challenge Lacey throws at her. The two girls bring their combined wills to bear on the community in which they live and think they are invulnerable.
But Lacey has a secret, about life before her better half, and it’s a secret that will change everything . . . Amazon

In the post I was delighted to receive Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton – one of my favourite authors which is being published on 20 April 2017.

dead-woman-walking

Blurb

Just before dawn in the hills near the Scottish border, a man murders a young woman. At the same time, a hot-air balloon crashes out of the sky. There’s just one survivor.

She’s seen the killer’s face – but he’s also seen hers. And he won’t rest until he’s eliminated the only witness to his crime.

Alone, scared, trusting no one, she’s running to where she feels safe – but it could be the most dangerous place of all . . . Amazon

From NetGalley I was delighted to be given a copy of Let the Dead Speak by Jane Casey which is out next month – and it features Meave and Josh!!

 

let-the-dead-speak

Blurb

When an 18-year-old girl returns home to find her house covered in blood and her mother missing, Detective Maeve Kerrigan and the murder squad must navigate a web of lies to discover the truth…
When eighteen-year-old Chloe Emery returns to her West London home she finds Kate, her mother, missing and the house covered in blood. There may not be a body, but everything else points to murder.
Maeve Kerrigan is young, ambitious and determined to prove she’s up to her new role as detective sergeant. In the absence of a body, she and maverick detective Josh Derwent turn their attention to the neighbours.
The ultra-religious Norrises are acting suspiciously; their teenage daughter definitely has something to hide. Then there’s William Turner, once accused of stabbing a schoolmate and the neighbourhood’s favourite criminal. Is he merely a scapegoat or is there more behind the charismatic façade? As the accusations fly, Maeve must piece together a patchwork of conflicting testimonies, none of which quite add up. Who is lying, who is not? The answer could lead them to the truth about Kate Emery, and save the life of someone else. NetGalley

Surprisingly I have more books added to the TBR which will be revealed next week…

What have you found to read this week?

tbr-watch

Since my last post I’ve read 6 books and gained 10!! so the grand total is 192
Physical Books – 115
Kindle Books – 65
NetGalley Books – 12

Posted in Put A Book On The Map

Put A Book On The Map #BookOnTheMap #EastAnglia

british-isles-eastanglia

I am delighted to welcome Katherine Sunderland who blogs at  Bibliomaniac and Mary-Jane Riley to put the very first book on the map in East Anglia.

The Bad Things and After She Fell form the first two books in the Alex Devlin series which uses the back drop of Norfolk and Suffolk to these crime thrillers with a strong psychological edge. Susan from The Book Trail has also created maps for these two books on her site so you can hop over to see her for an East Anglian extravaganza

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For those of you not from the UK, or like me whose geography is a little on the weak side Norfolk is a county on the East of England, it borders the counties of Suffolk, Cambridgeshire which together with Norfolk make up the region known as East Anglia and is about 100 miles north-east of London. As Alex Devlin does a fair bit of travelling as the journalist turned investigator, it seemed appropriate to give her the whole region of East Anglia rather than a mere county or town.

Although I’ve visited Norwich many times as Owen went to Norwich University of the Arts, and we’ve had family visits to Norwich Castle, walked around this picturesque town and had a wonderful and hilarious evening in the Revolution Cuban Restaurant Bar,sadly I haven’t explored further afield and so I was delighted that Katherine and Mary-Jane have bought the places mentioned in these two excellent books to life!

 

Mary-Jane Riley – Author

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I like to think my earliest memory of East Anglia is of me as a two-year-old, running across the beach at Mundesley, laughing. Perhaps I can remember the sparse luxury of the converted railway carriage in which we stayed. Or maybe it’s when I’m a little older, sheltering from the cold east wind inside a tent on the same beach with my father, eating ham sandwiches while my brothers sand-surfed. I know I can remember walking around Sheringham on a treasure hunt, looking for the clues in shop windows. And the time we went to the Summer Theatre at Southwold – though I can’t remember what we saw.

Some years later, quite by chance, I came to live in Norfolk with my new husband. We’ve moved around Norfolk and Suffolk once or twice, moves dictated by children and jobs, but for more than half my life now I have lived in this wonderful area of England.

I love it here. I love the isolated villages, the desolate salt marshes and reedbeds, the mysterious forests, the sandy beaches, the crumbling cliffs. The sky is wide and often grey, the air is crisp, the winds sharp from the North Sea.

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East Anglia, with its contrasts and edginess is the perfect place to set a crime novel – as many writers have discovered – P.D.James, Ruth Rendell, Nicci French, Dorothy L Sayers to name only four – so what better place for me to use for my first crime novel?

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With children and dogs, we have spent many hours trudging along beaches in summer and winter. The seaside has a very different feel about it in the cold months, and that is what I wanted to capture with The Bad Things. I didn’t want the light and sunny feel of a town in the summer, I wanted people huddled in coats, waves crashing on the shore, grey sky meeting grey sea. I wanted isolation, desolation. But I wanted a family place too, where a family should be happy, but where dark secrets lay just below the surface. Southwold was perfect, only it would be known as Sole Bay to enable me to play around with the geography (and not upset people!). It has beaches, a harbour lined with wooden sheds selling fresh fish, salt marshes and a wide horizon. In the winter the cold sea can be cruel – breaching sea defences, eroding the beaches and the coastline, flooding buildings.

 

I wanted the ‘Fine City’ of Norwich to play a part too… the vibrant market that sells everything from artisan bread to foam pads for cushions, the Forum building that houses the Millennium Library and is ultra-modern in design, juxtaposed with the beautiful old St Peter Mancroft Church. Scenes set in the city also gave the book a space to breathe, before plunging back into the events happening in Sole Bay.

Absolutely perfect.

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It was on a visit to North Norfolk that inspiration struck for my second book, After She Fell. On a lovely day we took a trip to the village of Happisburgh (known as Hallow’s Edge in the book). Over the years, I had written many news stories about coastal erosion in the area, and I wanted to see it for myself. We walked along the edge of the cliff, and came across a road that ended in – nothing. It had fallen into the sea. I peered over the edge, and down below were the granite rocks that were supposed to protect the cliff, then there was the sea. When I looked to my left, I saw a beautiful Arts and Craft house.

That was it. I had always wanted to write a book set in a boarding school – blame too much Enid Blyton and a lonely childhood for that – and in my imagination I saw that house as a private school. What if a pupil from the school fell off the end of the road? I also wanted to explore the realities of youngsters living in an isolated village, and the tensions between private school pupils and local teenagers. There is also a beautiful lighthouse in the village, perfect for…. you will have to read the book to find that out.

And then, just down the road is Mundesley…. of course my characters had to go there. It is still a typical Norfolk seaside town, with cafes that do tea and coffee and shops that sell buckets and spades and windmills, and beautiful, golden beaches. I thought it would be somewhere where the characters could breathe – just for a while. It would also serve as a suitable contrast to the claustrophobic village and school.

It was also a chance for me and my husband to eat fish and chips on a bench near the town’s tiny museum and to walk on the beach and picture that two-year-old me, laughing.

 

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THE BAD THINGS out in ebook and paperback: getBook.at/TheBadThings
AFTER SHE FELL out now as ebook and paperback: getBook.at/AfterSheFell
Mary-Jane Riley @mrsmjriley
Katherine Sunderland of Bibliomaniac – Blogger
 katherine-sunderland

I was absolutely thrilled to be asked by my Book Blogger Heroine Cleo to take part in her new series of blog posts which looks at the setting and location of reader’s favourite novels.

I’m going to talk about Norfolk. The best place in the world!

Book: Mary Jane Riley “The Bad Things

Location: Suffolk and Norfolk Coast

We have been going to Norfolk at least 3 or 4 times a year for the last ten years. I love the huge skyline that stretches on forever, the never-ending flatness of the countryside and the sense of remoteness and isolation as you travel along the winding lanes. There is also an immediate sense of having to slow down, sometimes very literally when you get stuck behind a tractor on the meandering single lane roads but I think it’s also because of the simplicity of the horizon and the unspoilt coastline. My husband loves it because of the patchy mobile reception and temperamental WiFi meaning he can become unreachable for a few precious days!

beach-norfolk

Every beach along the North Norfolk coast line is different. There are the popular sandy beaches and seaside resorts; there are the lesser known sandy beaches, there are beaches framed with colourful beach huts and then there are the marshlands that stretch as far as the eye can see until the grassland merges into the murky water. There are beaches which are good for surfing, swimming, building sandcastles, flying kites, epic walks and crab fishing.

 

beach-norfolk-2-ks

For us, Norfolk has always been one of “The Good Things” in our family, but that said, a busy beach, a crowded resort, an isolated headland and sinking marshlands are all prefect locations for stories about crime, mystery and tragedy – how many times has your mind envisaged missing children, a drowning, a devastating argument……

 

And what’s better than a beach at winter? I love the bleakness of the coast line and the exposure to the chilling wind. What of Norfolk’s eroding coastline -it’s unable to protect itself so how will it protect you? And those marshlands with their unpredictable tides – the way the water feeds in along its many invisible rivulets, weaving its way in and out of the higher land until before you know it you are completely cut off and cast adrift into the sea. Oh yes, a perfect setting for a novel!

When we were in Norfolk last year, I read a few thrillers set in the area. I was attracted to Mary Jane Riley’s book because the font cover reminded me of Holkham beach. It could have easily have been a photo from my album with my children wandering off to play while I put my head in a book!!

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Although the setting for “The Bad Things” is a fictional town based on Southwold in Suffolk, the coastline is very similar to Norfolk and I think Riley has used elements of Norfolk towns in her writing.  I enjoyed Riley’s novel because her descriptions of Suffolk/Norfolk are so vivid and incredibly easy to picture. They lend themselves perfectly to the atmosphere of the story and Riley uses the location to increase the tension and suspense in “The Bad Things“. I suppose reading a gripping thriller, with the most terrifying premise for any parent, which is set in a place where you always feel relaxed and safe should make me feel more unsettled, but it didn’t spoil my break at all and actually I just enjoyed being able to really “see” the novel.

If in doubt, make sure you have chosen to read your novel at one of the many friendly, bright and cheerful cafes that are sprinkled throughout the county!

cafe-norfolk-ks

Thanks so much Cleo for letting me take part in your #PutABookOnTheMap! To read my full review of “The Bad Things” by Mary Jane Riley please click here:

Bibliomaniac’s Review of The Bad Things

For a list of other books set in Norfolk click here:

Bibliomaniac’s Norfolk Reading Suggestions

You can find Katherine on twitter @KatherineSunde3

The Bad Things Book Reviews from the blogosphere

The Bad ThingsThe Bad Things by  Postcard Reviews and can be found on twitter @TracyShephard

The Bad Things by Grab This Book who can be found on twitter @grabthisbook

The Bad Things by The Book Review Café who can be found on twitter @ReviewCafe

The Bad Things by Cleopatra Loves Books – that’s me, I can be found at @cleo_bannister

 

After She Fell Book Reviews from the blogosphere

after-she-fell
After She Fell by The Book Lover’s Boudoir who can be found on twitter @pscottwriter

After She Fell was written by Lizzie Hayes of Promoting Crime Fiction, this review can also be found at the wonderful resource for crime fiction lovers Mystery People

After She Fell by Relax and Read Book Reviews who can be found on twitter @callejajos

 

And Claire Knight has provided a review of both books at Crime Book Junkie  she can be found on twitter @ClaireKreads

 

the-booktrail-logo

Now don’t forget to hop over to see Susan The Book Trail to see the details of the book settings on her wonderful maps.

 

I do hope you’ve enjoyed this visit to East Anglia as much as I have and there are lots more wonderful destinations full of crime coming up on Put A Book On The Map.

Thank you so much to Mary-Jane Riley for writing two (five star) reads set in this great destination, and to Katherine for providing a piece and her pictures which illustrates how a setting that we know well, can add a special something to the reading experience.

All books featured in this #BookOnTheMap project will get a place on the master page listing crime fiction by their destination with links to the wonderful collaboration between authors and bloggers.

Please email me at cleopatralovesbooks70@gmail.com if you would like to participate in this feature.

Posted in Uncategorized

Reading Bingo 2016

reading-bingo-small

This is one of my favourite posts of the year so there was no question of me repeating this following my relative success in filling in the squares in both 2014 and 2015

I purposely don’t treat this like a challenge by finding books to fit the squares throughout the year, oh no! I prefer to see which of my (mostly) favourite books will fit from the set I’ve read.  As you can imagine this becomes a bit like one of those moving puzzles where one book is suitable for a number of squares… and then I’m left with empty squares which I have to trawl through the 136 books I’ve read and reviewed to see if any book at all will fit! This keeps me amused for many, many hours so I do hope you all enjoy the result.

Click on the book covers to read my reviews

A Book With More Than 500 Pages

Small Great Things

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult clocks in at 512 pages covering the injustice of a Ruth Jefferson, the only African-American nurse on duty when a baby gets into difficulty. With the parents white supremacists who want to blame someone Ruth is charged with murder. Not a comfortable read and I applaud the author for wanting to address racism and using an absorbing tale to do so.

A Forgotten Classic

Harriet Said

I came late to Beryl Bainbridge so I’m going to count this as a modern classic. I’ve read three of this author’s books so far, my favourite being Harriet Said. The story is based upon a murder case involving two teenaged girls in New Zealand, a case that was also the inspiration for the film Heavenly Creatures. The author creates two young teenage girls using them to reveal the push and pull of their relationship which is ultimately their undoing.

A Book That Became a Movie

Testament of Youth

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain has lots to recommend it although I admit some of the politics towards the end, went over my head, but the tale of a young woman nursing through World War I, having put her hard one academic ambitions on hold, was incredibly poignant. With the inevitable loss of friends and family her grief for herself and her generation is palpable The film was released in 2014 to great acclaim.

A Book Published This Year

The Ballroom

As a book reviewer I have read lots of books published this year but decided to feature one from my historical fiction selection. The Ballroom by Anna Hope tells the tale of life in an asylum in West Riding, the year being 1911. With a mixture of men and women housed in the asylum the author not only writes us a great story, but has accurately researched what life was like from the perspective of inmates and attendants.

A Book With A Number In The Title

The One in a Million Boy

I give you not one but two numbers in this title: The One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood is a book I denoted  ‘quirky’ but I’m so glad I read it. The story concerns the relationship between Ona Vitkus, a Lithuanian immigrant who has lived in the US since she was just four, and a boy Scout with a passion for the Guinness World Records. Touching without ever being overly sentimental this is one that will linger in my mind for quite some time.

A Book Written by Someone Under Thirty

Fiver Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain

Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain was written by Barney Norris who was born in 1987. This book not only touches on the history of Salisbury but weaves stories of five fictional characters in a literary, but oh so readable way. An accomplished novel that doesn’t let an obvious love of language interfere with a great story.

A Book With Non Human Characters

Little Stranger

Well I’m giving you double for your money with this book, not only is there a ghost in The Little Stanger by the fabulous Sarah Waters, there is also a Labrador that plays a key role in the subsequent downfall of the Ayres family. This spooky story is narrated by a country doctor in 1940’s Warwickshire and has plenty of other themes to enjoy even if you, like me, are not a fan of ghostly goings-on.

A Funny Book

A Man With One of those Faces

A Man With One Of Those Faces is a crime fiction novel written by stand-up comedian Caimh McDonnell. I know crime mixed with humour doesn’t sound as if it should work, but it does! A Man With One of Those Faces is full of observational humour with some truly entertaining characters without sacrificing a great plot with a whole heap of action to keep you on the edge of your seat.

A Book By A Female Author

My Husband's Wife

So many great books by so many fab women – in the end I chose My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry which falls into one of my favourite genres, psychological thrillers of the domestic variety. This tale mixes past and present with a whole heap of flawed characters and is told by two separate narrators Lily and Carla and they reveal more and more about themselves, and those around them. An extremely tense read which was utterly satisfying.

A Book With A Mystery

Pictures of perfection.jxr

What better mystery can there be than that of a missing policeman on Dalziel’s patch? Pictures of Perfection is the fourteenth in the Dalziel & Pascoe series written by the outstandingly talented Reginald Hill and this book was an absolute delight to read. With a horrific opening scene, the book then switches to the more genteel setting of a country fair in 1980s rural Yorkshire. Fear not though this isn’t window dressing, the plot is superb with a proper mystery to be solved.

A Book With A One Word Title

Viral

Like last year I have read six books that have a single word as their title but I have chosen Viral by Helen Fitzgerald because of the very contemporary storyline. Viral examines what happens when a sex act carried out in Magaluf ends up online for all Su Oliphant-Brotheridge’s friends and family to see but despite that taster, this story didn’t go in the direction I expected it to.

 A Book of Short Stories

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Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel is a collection of five novellas all looking at manipulators and the effect on the lives of those they choose to manipulate. The author picked five different characters and settings to explore this theme and I have to admit, not being a huge fan of short stories, the common thread was far more appealing to me than some other collections.

 Free Square

Lying in wait

For my free square this year I have decided to go with the book with the best opening sentence; Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent:
My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.’
With the rest of this book more than living up to the first line there was so much to love not only does the author keep the tension stretched as taut as could be, despite that opening revelation we have a wonderful Irish setting as background.

A Book Set On A Different Continent

The Woman on the Orient Express

The Woman on the Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Ashford is a novel that ends up in Baghdad recreating a trip to an archaeology dig that Agatha Christie made following the divorce from her first husband. This wasn’t so much of a mystery rather a historical novel using Agatha Christie herself as the centre of the story of three woman all making this trip for very different reasons. An unusual and rewarding read with an exotic setting along with a fantastic mode of transport.

A Book of Non-Fiction

Did She Kill Him

I have read some brilliant non-fiction books, mostly about murders, and a fair proportion about poisoners, my interest (or obsession) of the year, so I am going with Did She Kill Him? by Kate Colquhoun. Florence Maybrick is the subject of this book, a middle-class woman living in Liverpool in 1889 when she stood trial for the murder, by arsenic, of her husband. While the majority of the book is relatively sympathetic to Florence, the author cleverly takes apart the arguments in the last section leaving the reader to make up their own mind if she was guilty or not.

The First Book By A Favourite Author

In Bitter Chill

I enjoyed In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward so much earlier in the year that I had to buy the second in the series, A Deadly Thaw. The setting in Bampton Derbyshire was stunning which made the awful tale of the disappearance of two girls back in 1978 all the more shocking, especially as only one of those girls returned home. Rachel Jones went  home but now an adult a suicide prompts her to find out what really happened all those years ago.

A Book I Heard About Online

The Versions of Us

Since blogging I find most of my new author finds on-line and to be honest, it is fairly easy to persuade me I must read crime fiction or psychological thrillers, I’m more resistant to other genres. But all the rave reviews about The Versions of Us by Laura Bennett, a sliding-doors novel had me intrigued – and what a great find this was. The incident that kicks off the three different lives in The Versions of Us is a student falling off her bike whilst studying at Cambridge University in October 1958 and the three tales that follow are all equally brilliant. This was an absorbing read especially taking into consideration the complicated structure.

A Best Selling Book

Love You Dead

Peter James’ Roy Grace series consistently makes the best seller list, and also happens to be my favourite police procedural series so it is only right and fitting that Love You Dead is featured for this square. For those of you who also enjoy not only the mystery but also reading about Roy Grace (and his beautiful wife, Cleo), some key story arcs are cleared up in this, the twelfth book in the series. Mystery fans don’t need to worry either, the key plot is a good one featuring a pretty woman at its heart.

A Book Based Upon A True Story

Buriel Rites

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent turned out to be one of my favourite reads of the year! With the Icelandic landscape as a backdrop to Agnes Magnúsdóttir’s final months awaiting trial for the murder of two men, we see the family she had been sent to stay with learning to adjust to the stranger in their midst. Be warned if you haven’t read this book, it is devastating, I had grown to love Agnes and yet her fate was sealed and no amount of wishing can change the course of history.

A Book At the Bottom Of Your To Be Read Pile

The Mistake

The Mistake by Wendy James is a book inspired by a true event rather than based upon it and one that had been on my TBR for a couple of years.  In The Mistake we meet Jodi Garrow whose comfortable life as the wife of a lawyer unravels when a nurse in a small town hospital remembers her from years before when she gave birth to a little girl, there is no sign of that baby and Jodi does her best to cover up the truth but the media are determined to find the truth.

 A Book Your Friend Loves

blood-lines

I introduced a friend to the wonders of DI Kim Stone this year and she loved the series, in fact, despite not being a book blogger, she told me about the upcoming release of Blood Lines by Angela Marsons before I knew it was happening!  This series goes from strength to strength and her characterisation underpins a fantastic multi-stranded mystery as our protagonist tries to find the link between the stabbing of a compassionate, well-loved woman and a prostitute.

A Book That Scares You

A Tapping at my Door

I rarely get scared by a book but from the opening excerpt of The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe this book had me well and truly spooked by A Tapping At My Door by David Jackson. With opening scenes of a woman hearing a tapping sound, I was glad I wasn’t reading this on a dark night on my own. But this isn’t just a spooky police procedural, it is incredibly clever – I can’t tell you exactly how as that would spoil it but this was a book with a superb plot, probably one of the best I’ve read this year. That with a lively and interesting character in DS Nathan Cody, a Liverpool setting and more than a dash of humour, means it was an all-round great read.

A Book That Is More Than 10 Years Old

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

I decided to pick the oldest book that I’ve read this year and this one was first published in 1926 so in fact 90 years old; The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is considered by many to be one of the best written by Agatha Christie and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this book narrated by a doctor and one of my very favourite detectives, Monsieur Poirot leading the search for the murderer of Roger Ackroyd, killed in his very own study if you please – oh and of course the door was locked!

The Second Book In A Series

the-kill-fee

I have a love of 1920s London and Fiona Veitch Smith’s creation Poppy Denby, journalist at The Daily Globe had her second outing in The Kill Fee, this year. The mystery had its roots in Russia and the revolution and Poppy romps her way around extricating herself from ever more tricky circumstances made for a delightful and informative read.

A Book With A Blue Cover

The Museum of You

I can’t let this square go without asking has anyone else noticed the increase in blue covers? The one I’ve chosen was my surprise hit of the year; The Museum of You by Carys Bray – a story about a twelve-year-old girl putting together an exhibition about her mother wouldn’t normally make it onto the TBR, let alone be loved so much… but the lack of overt sentimentality in this book along with an exceptional array of characters made it a firm favourite for 2016.

Well look at that, for the first time ever I have completed every square!

How about you? How much of the card could you fill in? Please share!

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

For All Our Sins – T.M.E. Walsh

Crime Fiction 3*s
Crime Fiction
3*s

This book opens with the horrific murder of a priest who is then left discarded in the church. Enter DCI Claire Winters who is juggling a somewhat unruly team, not helped by the fact she has mixed business with pleasure with her junior Sergeant Michael Diego.

I’ll be honest, it took me a little while to get into the swing of this book. I’m not a fan of explicit violence and Father Wainwright’s murder which occurred early on, didn’t help. As is the norm with police procedurals there was a whole cast of characters with the police eagerly questioning those who were known to see the priest on his last day. The man identified as being the last to meet the priest was one of his close friends, Mark Jenkins who was also involved in Shrovesbury Manor, a retreat for spiritual enlightenment, where Father Wainwright worked as well as being a regular at his church.

Alongside the police procedural we had flashbacks from the murderer as well as the mysterious Guardian whose identity is shrouded in mystery. The change in viewpoints can be quite brief which can be a little disconcerting, especially early on in the novel. With the team of detectives on the case being well-represented, with banter and egos cropping up in equal measure adding another layer of credibility to the novel. I liked Claire Winters who was strong without ever becoming overbearing and I felt a far more realistic portrayal of a woman in her role than other books in this genre. With the glimpses of her personal life leaking into her time at work was a great, and realistic way of giving the detective character without making the book more about her than the murders.

Despite putting the hours into the investigation it isn’t too long before another murder is committed! This time the victim is as far removed from a priest as is possible and the police struggle to find any commonality, except method, to link the two. As the police pick away at the few clues they have, they are left probing at half-truths and outright lies, with a few manipulative tears thrown in for good measure. With some of those they want to question are not willing to oblige, I felt we got a realistic view of a typical murder enquiry and the author handled this aspect really well, I felt involved rather than bored by the investigation because I was busy putting the same clues together, albeit with a bit of extra information.

Often when the identity of the murderer is half-revealed at the start, as in this novel, it is hard to keep the mystery element alive and kicking. After all we know the motive for the murders early on and we also know who is next on the hit-list but despite the author making life unnecessarily hard for herself, there was plenty still to discover and by the time I was a third of the way through I was busily turning the pages at a rate of knots to find out the missing parts of the puzzle. And I can reveal the ending… was terrific!

I’d like to thank Carina who sent me a copy of For All Our Sins which was published in paperback format on 6 October 2016.

First Published UK: February 2011
Publisher: Carina
No of Pages: 512
Genre: Crime Fiction
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Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Death at the Seaside – Frances Brody

Historical Crime Fiction 4*s
Historical Crime Fiction
4*s

Well I came a little bit late to this party as this is the eighth of Frances Brody’s novels set in the 1920s featuring private investigator Kate Shackleton. I’m delighted to say it didn’t matter and I thoroughly enjoyed the character without needing the background from the previous books.

In this book Kate Shackleton is on holiday. She’s travelled to Whitby to visit an old school friend Alma, a woman she hasn’t seen for some time although she has met up with her daughter Felicity who is Kate’s god-daughter. The holiday begins well with Kate co-ordinating her plans with her assistant Jim Sykes and housekeeper Mrs Sugdon staying close by. Oh for the days when everyone was on holiday together and life was so much simpler!

Sadly Kate’s visit takes her past the jeweller’s shop where her husband proposed to her, sadly he lost his life during the war and there is a moment of poignancy before Kate decides to enter the shop to buy Felicity a present. What she finds instead of a gift is a dead body. In the 1920s phones were rare so Kate is forced to leave the jeweller’s shop and raise the alarm, this action, plus her being an outsider leads her to being suspected of committing the murder. Added to that Felicity has gone missing and Alma is frantic.

This is a solid mystery novel, in a wonderful setting at one of my favourite times in recent history, a time that lends itself to secrets required to maintain respectability to others, and we all know where secrets lead, especially in crime fiction! When Kate catches up with her friend Alma she finds her living in the most peculiar of houses, a grand place which is literally disintegrating around her and the man who owns the other half of the house! She also finds out that Alma rents a space on the pier and acts as the local fortune-teller, abiding by strict regulations about hours of occupancy to keep this position while a more genuine spiritualist can be found. All of which lends itself to a varied and colourful mystery, where any violence is ‘off-page’ and yet the strong character of Kate gives the book real structure and stops it slipping into fluff.

For the most part the book is narrated by Kate herself, she is a practical woman, but a ‘real’ woman, she misses her husband but doesn’t dwell too much on her loss, she is also open it would appear to another husband, but only if the right man makes the offer, she isn’t going to accept a life that won’t make her happy. And it appears that being a private investigator does make her happy, we get the feeling that she is better able to carry out her sleuthing when she is part of the community rather than in Whitby where she is an outsider but I’d need to read the other books to be certain. Because Kate is a practical woman, and one loyal to her friends, some of which lead to mini-adventures such as tracking down Alma who is busy ‘communing with the moon’ leading the local police to wonder if Kate knows about the local smuggling of whisky that they are trying to clamp down on but at least we have a woman who will climb a steep and unfamiliar hill in the dark with no wailing for a man to come and rescue her. The remaining parts of the book are narrated by Alma with very short sections by Felicity whose entries are much darker and more mysterious tone.

A very enjoyable read which despite the title made the perfect autumnal read. I was given my copy of this book by Little Brown Books, and I reciprocate with this honest review.

First Published UK: 6 October 2016
Publisher: Little Brown Book Group
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Historical Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US