Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Jeweller’s Wife – Judith Lennox

Historical Fiction 4*s
Historical Fiction
4*s

In the best tradition of saga novels The Jeweller’s Wife has at its centre a complex couple, a fabulous house, sumptuous jewellery and enough of those seven vices to keep the momentum turning.

Having opened in Cairo just as the Second World War was going to start young Juliet is in dire need of money and takes her fifteenth birthday present from her father to a jeweller to sell it. Henry Winterton was in the shop looking for rare gems, but he didn’t just walk away with the pearls, he had married nineteen year old Juliet within two weeks and bought her to his home in Essex. Grand Marsh Hall on the edge of the Blackwater salt marshes in Essex, a large home for Juliet to learn new skills as a wife, and before too long a mother, but it doesn’t take long for that old adage ‘marry in haste repent at leisure’ to become increasingly insistent. It’s fair to say Henry Winterton is not an easy man to live with. Fortunately the family jewellery business on London’s best street keeps him busy.
Judith was in a way a woman born before her time, or perhaps a woman who was born before time allowed her to fulfil her personality. With Henry so difficult from the beginning she made friends with her sister-in-law, Helen and as her children grew used her artistic talents for the good of the local school and putting on concerts at the house.

Nearby to the women with their comfortable lifestyle is a young woman who lives in a cottage on one of the islands. Frances has twins and feels like she’s been imprisoned away from her family and friends, she knows why she’s a secret but that doesn’t mean she is happy about it. Frances’s story reminds us of the perils of biology at a time when options were few and reliance on the father of the child to do the right thing was the only way to survive.
Of course in any saga that spans more than thirty years there are gaps in the story as the story is moved forward to take in the younger generations as they also find their own way in life. It is here, as the choices, both good, and bad, of their parents begin to have a real impact and Juliet realises that some of hers are at the heart of the somewhat fracture family.

The setting is superb, the unpredictable water rushing in and out of the salt marshes makes for a treacherous and somewhat bleak landscape, the perfect backdrop for a story which has its fair share of low-points for most of the characters although with some artists in the family the ever-changing tides could provide inspiration.

After a slowish start where the scene was set I was really drawn into this read, following the two generations as they suffered all manner of calamities, especially in the latter chapters which brings the story up to the 1960s and a changing world illustrated by the need of one young mother to work as well as have a child. A world where unlike poor Juliet, it was possible to walk away from a marriage that looked sure to bring nothing but unhappiness.

The writing style seemed a little bit remote at first, describing scenes rather than from the point of view of any particular character, but I realise this is probably because of the numerous books that I now read in the first person present tense and in time got to appreciate the wider viewpoint that this afforded the reader.

This is an enjoyable saga for those readers who want to be absorbed in another world; in fact perfect autumnal reading.

I’d like to thank the publishers Headline for allowing me to read a copy of this book. This honest opinion is my thank you to them.

First Published UK: 8 September 2016
Publisher: Headline
No of Pages: 512
Genre: Historical Fiction (family saga)
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

Posted in Author Interview

Q & A with James Henry Author of Blackwater

Blackwater book jacket

Back in March I received a copy of this book from the author and simply couldn’t wait until closer to publication date to read it – yes my strict scheduling was broken for this author who also wrote the prequels to the Inspector Frost series, which he executed with the spirit of R D Wingfield.

You can read my review to Blackwater here and even better it’s published today!

I’ll start with the obvious question:

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? Did you write stories as a child?  

I never thought about writing until the opportunity presented itself (with First Frost), and then it was more to see if I could, rather any burning passion to do so.

What were your five favourite childhood books?

Richard Scarry’s The Great Pie Robbery, The Magic Faraway Tree, The Fantastic Mr Fox, Comet in Moominland, Moominland Midwinter.

Oh yes! All of those were in our house too!

You wrote the three excellent prequels for R D Wingfield’s Inspector Frost series: Were you asked to or did you volunteer?

Thanks. I volunteered. I am a fan, the TV had drawn to a close and the author had sadly passed away. It is a rare privilege to be associated with the great R D Wingfield and his fantastic creation, Jack Frost.

Blackwater is set on the Essex shoreline particularly around Mersea Flats and your writing really evokes the sense of place. Is it somewhere that you have spent a lot of time?

Yes, I love it there. I have been windsurfing off West Mersea for over twenty-five years, but also visit on still days to walk on the sea wall at Cudmore Grove.

Where did the inspiration for DI Nick Lowry come from? Is he based on someone you know?

He’s not based on anyone I know (though like Lowry I keep my sherry in the fridge, but that’s where the similarity ends). His name is borrowed from the writer Malcom Lowry, a favourite of mine.

How would you introduce Nick Lowry at a party?

He’s not the party type!

Being a teenager in the 1980s I particularly enjoy stories set at this time so what one thing best evokes the 80s to you?

The music. A lot of it was truly dreadful, but on the other hand it was undeniably a varied decade, if you think about it.

It was indeed and there are some bars of music (good and bad) that instantly conjure up that time for me.

I felt quite sorry for WPC Jane Gabriel at the beginning of the book since she really is subject to the male whims of her colleagues who either dismiss her or see her as a sex object? This aspect of the book really did hammer home quite how far attitudes have changed. Was it a deliberate choice to make her quite so attractive to highlight this?

Yes – that and I wanted a new recruit from another industry/environment. Gabriel was a model and so was familiar with the drawing stares – the fact that she cannot escape this even behind a uniform made it an appealing attribute to her character.

Which book set in the 80s would you recommend to me?

It would have to be A Touch of Frost.

The pace of this thriller is far faster than Frost’s more meandering way at solving a case; which is easier to write?

Frost was easier to write, as there are (very good) precedents. Although the prequels aren’t by any means the same, the originals provide a guide to follow, with regard to structure.

Do you have a writing schedule? Perhaps you have a target of a set number of words per day?

In a way – I know how much I need to do in a month…and have deadlines (which I consistently miss).

With Colchester being a garrison town some of the members of the armed forces are under observation in relation to suspected drugs smuggling. How much research did you have to do to get the scenes where the Police force and the armed forces have different priorities right?

I didn’t research too deep, as that would have affected how I drew the characters and how they might interpret situations. That said I did get a general overview from people who were there at the time, and the whole book is influenced by stories I picked up on by dint of living in the area. For example in the 1930s Colchester Police had a boxing team that won the European Championship. The team was run by a Chief Constable who was keen to recruit sportsmen like Sparks in Blackwater. Whether they actually sparred with the army, I have no idea, but it seems feasible from a fictional point of view.

Where do you write?

On the train when I commute into London, and in very untidy room in Essex.

Are there any more books in the pipeline and do they feature DI Lowry?

There are. I’m just about to start…

The information I received with Blackwater says you work in publishing and enjoy long lunches? What do you do? Are there any openings as I like long lunches too!

Ha, yes I do work in publishing as an editor. The long lunches are infrequent now, but enjoyable when they occur… shout when you’re in town and we’ll what we can do!

James Henry_MG_5361

Thank you James for answering my questions with such good humour, I wish you every success with Nick Lowry and look forward to that book you are about to start…

Publication Date UK: 14 July 2016
Publisher: riverrun
No of Pages 496
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

The Frost Prequels
First Frost
Fatal Frost
Morning Frost

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Blackwater – James Henry

Crime Fiction 4*s
Crime Fiction
4*s

Well James Henry has worked hard to shake off the shadow of Inspector Jack Frost who he brilliantly recreated in the three prequels he wrote following the demise of their creator R.D. Wingfield. In Blackwater there isn’t a whiff of Jack, although as these books are set in the 80s, the policing isn’t quite what we expect in these more enlightened times. This has the added advantage that the police are far more interested in actual action than meeting targets and getting overly involved in the politics of policing, although the whiff of them is just blowing faintly on the breeze!

Our chief protagonist in the force in Blackwater is Detective Inspector Nicholas Lowry, a sympathetic character who is struggling with his approaching fortieth birthday albeit with fortitude. His decision to stop smoking whilst those around him continue with abandon and to give up his position on the Boxing team is giving his boss serious cause for concern. Nick Lowry is married to a nurse, Jacqui, and although he may not fully understand why, his marriage isn’t as healthy as his New Year’s resolution. Conveniently our book covers the time the clock strikes midnight on 31 December 1982 and before too long a headless corpse is discovered on the salt marshes of Blackwater.

Meanwhile we get to hear from some smugglers with a shipment who have lost their way but are determined to start 1983 with the money they were promised but luck isn’t on their side. The discovery of the corpse has delayed them further and without the name of the buyer, it looks like they may have a long wait. Without mobile phones to handily use to pass on messages through the food-chain to explain themselves, life quickly becomes very complicated.

James Henry brilliantly gives us a sense of time period and place. The complexities of Colchester’s CID co-operation with the smaller, and often cut-off West Mersea police force are engagingly recreated for our pleasure. With the larger force at least making a nod towards more progressive policing, West Mersea are very much stuck in another time, where knowing someone is a ne’er-do-well, is reason enough to arrest and charge them for the next available crime. The author gives us some of the much loved products and historical facts to reinforce the time, without going over the top and trading on reader’s nostalgia. The setting helps here too, Colchester is a garrison town and the army features strongly as tensions rise between them and the locals, any patriotic goodwill from winning the Falklands War certainly doesn’t trump the soldiers spending their Christmas leave on using their wages to woo the local ladies.

The plot is complicated and with quite a few characters, including a very promising young female officer, to keep track of this isn’t a book to read if you don’t have plenty of concentration. Fortunately each change of view or place is helpfully signposted by giving the date, time and place, take note dear reader, especially at the beginning or I fear you may get in a terrible muddle! The switches frequent the viewpoint ever changing and with both actual and moral crimes being committed you do want to know what is what. With a steadier hand than our original two smugglers though, James Henry brings this to a fitting conclusion in the very model of a proper police procedural, with the loose ends tied up but leaving one thread to enable him to give us another episode, hopefully in the not too distant future.

I was given a proof copy by the author well ahead of the publication date of 14 July 2016 and I’m afraid I couldn’t wait until nearer this date to sample the goods!!

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (March 9)

This Week In Books

Hosted by Lypsyy 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

I am currently reading Blackwater by James Henry,  a new police procedural series featuring DI Nick Lowry which is set in 1980s Essex.

Blackwater

You can read the synopsis and excerpts from this book in yesterday’s post.

I have recently finished Mrs Maybrick by Victoria Blake, a short non-fiction book which examines this infamous convicted poisoner.

Mrs Maybrick

Blurb

Florence Maybrick was a 19 year old Alabama belle when she married Liverpool cotton-broker James Maybrick in 1881. She was convicted of his murder in 1889 after arsenic was found in his corpse. However, it was never established whether she administered the poison or whether Maybrick himself took the fatal dose. This Crime Archive title examines the murder, trial and controversy through Home Office files held at The National Archives. Amazon

Next up is No One Knows by J.T. Ellison which is due to be published on 22 March 2016.

No One Knows

Blurb

The day Aubrey Hamilton’s husband is declared dead by the state of Tennessee should bring closure so she can move on with her life. But Aubrey doesn’t want to move on. She just wants Josh back. It’s been five years since he disappeared, since their blissfully happy marriage—they were happy, weren’t they?—screeched to a halt and Aubrey became the prime suspect in his disappearance. Five years of emptiness, solitude, loneliness, questions. Why didn’t Josh show up at his friend’s bachelor party? Who anonymously sent Aubrey her favorite cocktail at the bar where Josh stood her up? Was he murdered? Did he run away? And now, all this time later, who is the mysterious and strangely familiar figure suddenly haunting her new life?
As her heroine faces the possibility that everything she thinks she knows about herself, her marriage, and her husband is a lie, New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison expertly peels back the layers of a complex woman who is hiding dark secrets beneath her unassuming exterior. In a masterful thriller for readers who love Gillian Flynn, Liane Moriarty, and Paula Hawkins, Ellison pulls you into a you’ll-never-guess merry-go-round of danger and deception. Round and round and round it goes, where it stops…no one knows. NetGalley

So that’s my reading sorted! What are you reading this week?

 

Posted in Weekly Posts

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (March 8)

First Chapter

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

My chosen book for this week is Blackwater by James Henry, the author who wrote the three prequels to the Frost series.

Blackwater

Blurb

January 1983, Colchester CID
A new year brings new resolutions for Detective Inspector Nicholas Lowry. With one eye on his approaching fortieth birthday, he has given up his two greatest vices: smoking, and the police boxing team. As a result, the largest remaining threat to his health is now his junior colleague’s reckless driving.
If Detective Constable Daniel Kenton’s orange sports convertible is symbolic of his fast track through the ranks, then his accompanying swagger, foppish hairstyle and university education only augment his uniqueness in the department. Yet regardless of this, it is not DC Kenton who is turning station heads.
WPC Jane Gabriel is the newest police recruit in Britain’s oldest recorded town. Despite a familial tie to top brass, Gabriel’s striking beauty and profound youth have landed her with two obstacles: a young male colleague who gives her too much attention, and an older one who acts like she’s not there.
January 1983, Blackwater Estuary
A new year brings a new danger to the Essex shoreline. An illicit shipment, bound for Colchester – 100 kilograms of powder that will frantically accelerate tensions in the historic town, and leave its own murderous trace.
Lowry, Kenton and Gabriel must now develop a tolerance to one another, and show their own substance, to save Britain’s oldest settlement from a new, unsettling enemy. Amazon

~ ~ ~

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro

PROLOGUE

10:45 P.M., Friday, New Years Eve, 31st December 1982
Blackwater Estuary, Essex

Though they couldn’t have been travelling at more than six knots, the din when they unexpectedly beached the boat was horrific The older man’s panic subsided once the racket of the small outboard motor was silenced and he realised they weren’t going to sink; that they had in fact run aground. Now all was quiet. And eerily dark.

Saturday, New Year’s Day, 1983

-1-

1 a.m., Saturday, Colchester CID, Queen Street

The telephone’s sudden ring jolted DI Nick Lowry awake and he knocked over a mug of coffee Lowry, thirty-nine, ex-Divisional athletic and boxing champion, was too big for the 1950s wooden desk he’d slumped asleep on, and he started as the cold liquid reached his prone elbow. Realising where he was, he yawned and scratched his dark brown hair, glancing sheepishly at his younger colleague, opposite, who was scribbling notes under a grimy Anglepoise lamp

Please note that these excerpts come from a proof copy ahead of publication on 14 July 2016


So what do you think? Would you read on?

Posted in Weekly Posts

Stacking the Shelves (February 20)

Stacking the shelves

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you’re adding to your shelves, be it buying or borrowing. From ‘real’ books you’ve purchased, a book you’ve borrowed, a book you’ve been given or an e-book they can all be shared.

I am going to share the new additions to my bookshelves without any further ado!

From the wonderful Twenty7 Books whose imprint focusses on debut novelists I have The Last Thing I Remember by Deborah Bee which will be published in e-Book format on 3 March 2016.

The Last thing I remember

Blurb

Sarah is in a coma.
Her memory is gone – she doesn’t know how she got there. And she doesn’t know how she might get out.
But then she discovers that her injury wasn’t an accident. And that the assailant hasn’t been caught.
Unable to speak, see or move, Sarah must use every clue that she overhears to piece together her own past.And work out who it is that keeps coming into her room.
A novel that grips from the very beginning and that will live long in the memory, The Last Thing I Remember is Deborah Bee’s startling debut thriller. Goodreads

From NetGalley I have The Shadow Hour by Kate Riordan which is graced by a particularly striking cover.

The Shadow Hour

Blurb

Nineteen twenty-two. Grace has been sent to the stately and crumbling Fenix House to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps as a governess. But when she meets the house’s inhabitants, people who she had only previously heard of in stories, the cracks in her grandmother’s tale begin to show. Secrets appear to live in the house’s very walls and everybody is resolutely protecting their own.
Why has she been sent here? Why did her grandmother leave after just one summer? And as the past collides with the present, can Grace unravel these secrets and discover who her grandmother, and who she, really is?

I also have a memoir, Castles in the Air by Alison Ripley Cubitt which was published in November 2015.

Castles in the Air

Blurb

An eight-year-old child witnesses her mother’s secret and knows that from that moment life will never be the same.
After Molly, her mother dies, Alison uses her legacy to make a film about Molly’s relationship with a man she had known since she was a teenager. What hold did this man have over her mother? And what other secrets was her mother hiding?
Castles in the Air follows the life of Molly Ripley through the eyes of her daughter Alison. From Molly’s childhood in colonial Hong Kong and Malaya; wartime adventures as a rookie office girl in the far east outpost of Bletchley Park then as a young nurse in the city; tangled romance and marriage… to her challenging middle-age when demons from the past seem set to overwhelm her.
The writer in Alison can’t stop until she reveals the story of Molly’s past. But as a daughter, does she have the courage to face up to the uncomfortable truths of Molly’s seemingly ordinary life?
As she unravels the private self that Molly kept secret, Alison realises that she is trying to find herself through her mother’s story. By trying to make sense of the past, can she move on with her future?
Honest yet unsentimental and told with abundant love and compassion, this is a profoundly moving portrait of a woman’s life, hopes and dreams. We learn not only about Molly, but about mothers and daughters, secrets and love. A story for readers struggling to come to terms with the trauma of losing loved ones. NetGalley

As well as another book about children exploring their parent’s lives in The People in the Photo by Hélène Gestern

The People in the Photo

Blurb

The three figures in the photograph are frozen forever, two men and a woman bathed in sunlight . . .
The chance discovery of a newspaper image from 1971 sets two people on the path to learning the disturbing truth about their parents’ pasts.
Parisian archivist Hélène takes out a newspaper advert calling for information about her mother, who died when she was three, and the two men pictured with her in a photograph taken at a tennis tournament at Interlaken in 1971. Stéphane, a Swiss biologist living in Kent, responds: his father is one of the people in the photo. Letters and more photos pass between them as they embark on a journey to uncover the truth their parents kept from them. But will the relics of the past fill the silences left by the players? NetGalley

And finally a bit of crime with The Innocent Killer by Michael Griesbach which is linked to the recent TV series Making a Murderer, which I didn’t watch.

The Innocent Killer

Blurb

The story of one of America’s most notorious wrongful convictions, that of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who spent eighteen years in prison for a crime he did not commit and now the subject of the hit series Making a Murderer. But two years after he was exonerated of that crime and poised to reap millions in his wrongful conviction lawsuit, Steven Avery was arrested for the exceptionally brutal murder of Teresa Halbach, a freelance photographer who had gone missing several days earlier. The “Innocent Man” had turned into a cold blooded killer. Or had he? This is narrative non-fiction at its finest and the perfect companion read for fans of Making a Murderer.

Lastly I was contacted by James Henry who wrote the three prequels to the much loved Frost series written by R.D. Wingfield who had promised to let me know when his first book not based on Frost was ready so I am the proud owner of Blackwater which I can’t wait to get stuck into. Blackwater is due to be published in July 2016.

Blackwater

Blurb

January 1983, Colchester CID
A new year brings new resolutions for Detective Inspector Nicholas Lowry. With one eye on his approaching fortieth birthday, he has given up his two greatest vices: smoking, and the police boxing team. As a result, the largest remaining threat to his health is now his junior colleague’s reckless driving.
If Detective Constable Daniel Kenton’s orange sports convertible is symbolic of his fast track through the ranks, then his accompanying swagger, foppish hairstyle and university education only augment his uniqueness in the department. Yet regardless of this, it is not DC Kenton who is turning station heads.
WPC Jane Gabriel is the newest police recruit in Britain’s oldest recorded town. Despite a familial tie to top brass, Gabriel’s striking beauty and profound youth have landed her with two obstacles: a young male colleague who gives her too much attention, and an older one who acts like she’s not there.
January 1983, Blackwater Estuary
A new year brings a new danger to the Essex shoreline. An illicit shipment, bound for Colchester – 50 kilograms of powder that will frantically accelerate tensions in the historic town, and leave its own murderous trace.
Lowry, Kenton and Gabriel must now develop a tolerance to one another, and show their own substance, to save Britain’s oldest settlement from a new, unsettling enemy. Amazon

PicMonkey Collage TBR

TBR WATCH
Since my last count I have read 8 books, and gained, 6, so the total has reduced by a massive 2  giving a tiny total of  172 books!
83 physical books
73 e-books
16 books on NetGally

 

What have you found to read this week?