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

The Chalk Pit – Elly Griffiths – Blog Tour (#BookReview)

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction
5*s

I am a huge fan of this series which features the down to earth Dr Ruth Galloway and the surprisingly complex DCI Harry Nelson so I was thrilled to be asked to be part of the Blog Tour to celebrate the publication of The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths, the ninth book in the series which was published on 23 February 2017.

the-chalk-pit-blog-tour

To kick off the tour I give you my humble opinion of this great book!

Book Review

Another outing for Ruth Galloway and this time the action is firmly set in Norwich when bones are found in an underground tunnel under Guildhall, which is something of an inconvenience for Quentin Swain the architect who is looking to use the space to build a swanky restaurant. Ruth overcomes her dislike of enclosed spaces to take a trip below the city to take a look; she’s fairly sure that they are old bones so sends them off to be tested.

Meanwhile the police are investigating the disappearance of a homeless woman, Babs in Norwich who has disappeared without trace. Eddie who has made the police station his bedroom, has reported her missing and it is clear when the police starts talking to the other members of the community, that they are worried about her too, but many are cautious of the police. And then a housewife goes missing in very suspicious circumstances and the police are forced to consider whether there can be a link to Babs.

I have to say that this book treats the subject of homelessness with far more nuance than any other that I’ve read. Elly Griffiths has given each of the many men, and they usually are men, a realistic story of how they came to be on the street, and why they are unwilling to accept the help offered to them but she has resisted the urge to make them all out to be saints which means that her attempts to make them realistic characters is so much more effective.
One of the many aspects of this series which I love is the link between Ruth and DI Nelson through their daughter Kate and the peek behind their working lives into what can only fairly be described as muddled. These insights leak around the side of the main investigation, never overwhelming it but often cleverly linking or echoing the themes.

In this book Kate is offered the part in a play. Ruth isn’t too sure whether this is a good idea but a few words from her mother and outright disapproval from Nelson means that Kate winds up playing the child Alice in a quirky adaption of that famous story called Alice Underground. The adult Alice being played by Cassandra wife of DS Clough.

The other aspect I really enjoy is that upon opening up the latest in the series I feel like I’m meeting old friends with the characters, distinct and engaging as ever, we had plenty of news to catch up on while underground tunnels were being searched and pits opening up in the road are causing chaos in Norwich. Ruth Galloway also links back to past books with little asides so this really is one of those series which is best read in order although there is a helpful who’s who guide at the back of the book for those of you reckless readers who are happy to dive in straight at book nine!

The familiarity of the characters alongside the first person narrative really make me feel that I am part of the book. So I know what’s going on and I can often predict the individual character’s response, but the plotting is so devious that I am no match for the detectives, I am merely on the side lines waiting for them to crack the case in indomitable style.

Although to be honest there isn’t one of these books that I haven’t enjoyed, the plotting in this one seemed tauter and the links more robust than some of the previous books. When you combine the excellent mystery with some intriguing personal lives and a look at a community which rarely has an accurate spotlight trained on it whilst seamlessly providing the history of the underground tunnels in Norwich, The Chalk Pit was a sure fire winner.

ellygriffiths-c-sara-reeve-3
Elly Griffiths – Sara Reeve

Dr Ruth Galloway Books in Order

The Crossing Places
The Janus Stone
The House at Sea’s End
A Room Full of Bones
Dying Fall
The Outcast Dead
The Ghost Fields
The Woman in Blue

First Published UK: 23 February 2017
Publisher: Quercus
No of Pages:  384
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Sewing the Shadows Together – Alison Baillie

Crime Fiction 4*s
Crime Fiction
4*s

I like my crime fiction to feature past crimes which are bought into the present, that feeling of past and present becoming so tightly linked is really appealing and so the premise to Sewing the Shadows Together called to me from the moment I read the synopsis.

Shona McIver was raped and murdered over thirty years ago, she was just thirteen years old Her brother Tom and her family moved to South Africa following the shocking crime in in Portobello, the seaside suburb of Edinburgh. Her best friend Sarah remained in Portobello but what happened left a long shadow over both of their lives.

In the present day it is announced that the once young man, committed to hospital after being convicted of her murder, is to be released. Worse still it has been proved that he wasn’t the murderer. Tom is in Portobello at the time the police re-open their investigation having travelled over on family business and to attend a school reunion. What better background can you conjure up than a reunion organised by just the sort of woman who always organise such events, pushy and shallow with a conviction that everyone must have fun! The question is, is the real killer someone Tom and Sarah know; will the murderer be unmasked?

The emotions are so perfectly drawn in this novel. There is a bit of everything on the entire spectrum and because I was so drawn into the tale, I really felt the highs along with the lows. With a fast-moving plot with a surprising number of potential suspects who could have been part of the secret that Shona mentioned on the evening she disappeared. The result for the reader is many theories built and swiftly dashed to smithereens as another smidgen of information is revealed; just the kind of plotting I most enjoy. Although there was one moment when the coincidence seemed a little too convenient, on the whole I was convinced by the plot, in other words the clues were there.

And then there is the setting, which, because I chose to read Sewing the Shadows Together because Joanne from Portobello Book Blog and Alison Baillie have kindly provided a piece for the next Put A Book on the Map post which will be up tomorrow, is nothing but evocative. I have never been to Edinburgh and yet the seaside suburb of Portobello lends itself perfectly to the scene of the murder.  Don’t you think a murder committed in beautiful surroundings, seems so much more horrific? It is also presented as a fairly close-knit community back in the 1970s with enough key items from the time as markers but not so many that it feels like a trip into nostalgia. Not that all the action takes place in this setting, we journey to the Outer Hebrides to visit some of Tom’s scary relations and back to South Africa when he returns to visit his beloved aunt for one last time. There is no doubt in my mind that Alison Baillie is not only able to weave a convincing story but is able to make you feel as if you’ve visited the places themselves. Amazing as I have no first-hand knowledge of any of these settings.

There are a wide range of characters in the book, and as there are quite a few the author has managed to keep them distinct and interesting, although in some cases far from likeable and at times I couldn’t help wonder why this beautiful seaside setting hadn’t seen more murders over the years!

First Published UK: 23 July 2015
Publisher: Matador
No of Pages:  377
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Rush of Blood – Mark Billingham

Crime Fiction 4*s
Crime Fiction
4*s

So you’re on holiday in Florida, you’ve met up with another two couple’s from the UK, spent time together all fairly standard stuff and then on the last day, a girl goes missing from the resort. You’re interviewed by the police and allowed to return to the UK. Would you make a date to meet up with your fellow holidaymakers away from the sun?

Well that’s exactly what the couples in our story did. It has to be said some were keener than the others to get together but they grouped together round Angie and Barry’s table they begin to get to know each other on home ground so to speak. Inevitably the conversation becomes dominated by what could have happened to Amber-Marie and how she had disappeared so suddenly. Of course it goes without saying that one uncomfortable dinner party isn’t enough for these intrepid travellers, as Ed and Sue host one as do Marina and Dave. For the reader who doesn’t have to endure the actual company, these are brilliant parties with each character showing their hand a little bit more.
Over in Florida Amber-Marie’s mother Patti Lee Wilson is naturally distraught and the manager of the resort where she has camped out is fearing she is bad for business, or he’s simply run out of what little compassion he has.

Jeff Gardner is working the case in the US and left to voice the increasingly trite sounding reassurances that the case is getting the department’s full attention. And then there is a murder in the UK and a bright trainee PC, Jenny Quinlan decides to contact Jeff and so the investigation progresses both sides of the Atlantic.

In between the dinner parties themselves not only does the investigation gather pace but we hear what the characters are doing, what worries them and, for some, what have they found on the internet that they can mull over and dissect at the next meeting. We also hear the killer’s voice but I have to admit, it wasn’t who I thought it would be.

I can safely say that none of the characters have bucket loads of redeeming features but they are all recognisable, you probably work with at least one of them! There characteristics range from mousey through to an arrogant assumption that their opinion is what everyone is waiting for, from the geeky nerd to the wannabe actress and from the neurotic to the grumpiest man on the planet – why the couples are with each other is intriguing enough let alone why they would voluntarily chose to spend time with the other couples!

In a nutshell that is the beauty of Rush of Blood this standalone novel has a different feel to the Tom Thorne books, although fans will be pleased to hear he does have a cameo role. While there is a mystery to solve it is more firmly in a whodunit than a why which makes it possible for the author to experiment with the amusing character studies which contrasts behaviour between the couples themselves and how they behave in a group situation… and the author doesn’t neglect the detectives either but I’ll let you make your own minds up about them!

I found Rush of Blood an absolutely fascinating read whilst vowing to myself to make sure I look as unfriendly as possible on any future holidays I may take!!

I’d like to thank Grove Atlantic for allowing me to read Rush of Blood. This honest review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 2012
Publisher: Grove Atlantic
No of Pages:  400
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2017

The Cipher Garden – Martin Edwards

Crime Fiction 4*s
Crime Fiction
4*s

We are back in the Lake District with its unpredictable weather and beautiful scenery with the appealing Daniel Kind, historian who finds parallels between his specialism and the work of a detective, particularly when the crimes reach back in time.

I really enjoyed the first of Martin Edwards’ The Lake District Mysteries, The Coffin Trail and fortunately I had already purchased the second in the series. The key mystery in this book is the death many years ago of Warren Howe, a gardener, not greatly liked (in my opinion the best kind of victim as no energy is wasted mourning his loss) who was cut down in a customer’s garden with his own scythe. The case has come to the attention of Hannah Scarlett’s cold case team courtesy of an anonymous letter pointing the finger firmly towards his widow, Tina. But Daniel Kind is also seeking to find out whether there is a cipher in his garden and if so what does it reveal? This involves digging around in a different section of the past that the locals would equally like to be forgotten, but why?

Hannah Scarlett who is still not overjoyed to be heading up the ‘Cold Cases’ team, she would prefer to have been in the thick of the ongoing investigations, calls up the old files and is somewhat heartened to see the original investigation was led by one of life’s lazier policemen. It soon becomes very clear that there were a few likely suspects but in the absence of any real ‘hard-graft’ whoever it was has escaped justice for many years!
There is a proper mystery at the core of this book involving the brutal murder of Warren Howe and then there is the everyday lives of those investigating it but this is perfectly balanced with the lives of Martin Edwards’ chief protagonists Hannah Scarlett and Daniel Kind. In other words there is plenty to keep the reader entertained when the inevitable dead ends are reached.

I am really enjoying my crime fiction reads which have more of a classical feel to them, this isn’t a thriller, so the pace while never slow, is not so fast that everything passes in a blur until the inevitable confrontation. No this is a book that relies on a good plot and interesting characters to keep its reader’s interested. The characters are all exceptionally well-drawn from the teenage daughter of the dead man to the new husband of his widow, they all feel read by having a mixture of characteristics rather than cardboard cut outs waiting for their part in the plot. That said, there are a fair few of these characters to get to grips with and placing them, particularly if you haven’t read the first book, may cause a little consternation but not for long!

There is something I find very appealing about the small town setting and getting to know the inhabitants and the way they tick is at the root of the enjoyment, especially as they have all known each other for years and know where ‘the bodies are buried.’ This adds to the intrigue as Daniel Kind and Hannah Scarlett use very different techniques to get them to reveal the facts and although I had a fairly good idea before the reveal, I’m pleased to report that there was one secret I simply didn’t anticipate.

The Cipher Garden is the third of my Mount TBR reads (books I own and were purchased before 31 December 2016), so I’m bang on target so far but since there are another five books to read in this series, I’m not entirely sure that this is actually helping reduce the TBR, You can be sure I’ll have bought at least one more before the year is out!

mount-tbr-2017

 

First Published UK: 2005
Publisher: Allison & Busby
No of Pages:  352
Genre: Crime Fiction Series – Police Procedural
Amazon UK
Amazon US

The Lake District Mystery Series

The Coffin Trail (2004)
The Cipher Garden (2005)
The Arsenic Labyrinth (2007)
The Serpent Pool (2010)
The Hanging Wood (2011)
The Frozen Shroud (2013)
The Dungeon House (2015)

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads, Mount TBR 2017

After She Fell – Mary-Jane Riley

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction
5*s

Alex Devlin has moved since the truth of what happened to her sister’s children emerged at the end of The Bad Things, she now lives in London far from the wide open spaces of Sole Bay but she has secured herself a job as a journalist writing, at least in part, serious pieces. Sadly moving doesn’t stop time from marching on and while her beloved son Gus is off carrying out his own investigation travelling around Europe she feels at a bit of a loose end.

All that changes when she receives a call from a very old friend. Catriona is now a powerful woman, MEP and newly married to a younger man but the investigation she wants Alex to carry out is far from that world. Her seventeen year old daughter Elena Devonshire has committed suicide, it is official the Coronor’s inquest has deemed it so but Catriona simply doesn’t believe it. Promising money and an exclusive Alex can’t resist her friend’s pleas and sets of for North Norfolk, to her home country, to see the exclusive boarding school, The Drift, where Elena was at the time of her death.

With accusations of depression and anorexia levelled against Elena, Alex needs to get passed the highly controlling head teachers who are determined to protect the school’s reputation at any cost so she finds a teacher on the inside, to do the job for her but will he be able to come up with enough information to help the bereft Catriona?

Once again Mary-Jane Riley has painted a wonderful selection of characters, some nastier than others, against the brilliant backdrop of the setting all with a lightness of touch so that the picture is painted while the action is taking place.

The oldest working lighthouse in East Anglia, it was open to the public on certain days of the year. Thankfully, today was not one of those days.

There was no feasible excuse for her to be half-lying down in the middle of a rape field.

The village was the slightly brasher sister of Sole Bay, thought Alex, as she walked aong the beach road into Mundesley. An amusement arcade, one fish and chip shop on the front, and a couple of magnificent hotels built in the town’s heyday as a seaside destination, al made her feel as though she had stepped back forty years. It was a good feeling. Safe.

We meet the impatient second husband, the awful head teachers, the overly exuberant school receptionist and a raggle-taggle bag of teachers, and don’t even let me get started on the awful array of posh kids at the school, or their poorer relations in the village with whom a healthy rivalry is kept alive. The thing I like about Mary-Jane Riley’s characters is that there are elements of realism about them all, even those who don’t get a centre-stage part, those who often rely to a certain extent on clichés and prejudice, are given shading providing them with clear definition, thereby making them real. So real that I could easily imagine visiting Hallow’s Edge and walk into Hallow’s Edge Tea Parlour for a cup of tea and a piece of cake and giving a nod of recognition to those who grace the pages of After She Fell.

This is one of those books where the reader has more information to hand than the investigator because we hear Elena’s voice through her diary – labelled with the number of weeks before she dies, lest we forget for one moment. Elena’s voice is authentic, she isn’t an identikit teenager although from time to time she talks the talk, even if she doesn’t do the walk. Elena has one friend from her old life with her, Tara, a plump girl who longs to be part of the ‘in group’ the Queen Bees, whereas Elena has a different focus, one that she’s keeping secret, even from Tara. Will finding out what this secret is, enable Alex to give Catriona the real story of what happened that night?

I particularly love books that have multiple strands and while some of these seem more important than others, the author hasn’t let even the minor ones drift without some sort of tethering which makes for one tense ending, I can tell you.

This is book #2 in my Mount TBR Challenge as I purchased the book as soon as I finished The Bad Things in November 2016. Don’t miss the first Put A Book On The Map post on Saturday 4 February where Mary-Jane Riley will be talking about the setting of her books alongside one of my favourite bloggers Katherine from Bibliomaniac UK – in a show of blogger collaboration we are also linking with The Book Trail who will be providing her own unique map of the books.

mount-tbr-2017

 

First Published UK: 28 April 2016
Publisher: Killer Reads
No of Pages: 332
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Day That Never Comes – Caimh McDonnell

Crime Fiction 3*s
Crime Fiction
3*s

This is the second in the Dublin Trilogy written by stand-up comedian Caimh McDonnell and carries on his unique brand of crime fiction and humour from A Man With One of Those Faces onto the next part of Paul, Brigit and Bunny’s journey to see what happens after they form a private detective agency together.

The story doesn’t begin well though as Bunny is missing, Brigit and Paul have had a massive falling out and aren’t speaking and it looks as if their new venture is going to fail before it has even started. Due to the split with Brigit, Paul is holed up in their new office with Maggie, a German Shepherd dog for company. Despite appearances though there is plenty to laugh about from the start, in that ‘if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry’ kind of way. And then a woman in a red dress makes an appointment requesting information on one of the men who has made money in a building venture, to the detriment of taxpayers and investors alike. What she wants to know is who he is seeing behind her back and has chosen the MCM Agency to help her. Paul has to rely on his friend Phil to act as driver as he trails the man while Brigit is busy looking for Bunny who has gone completely to ground.

Once again we have multiple story-lines to follow and plenty of intrigue with absolutely brilliant characters this book has a far more political feel to it. Even those of us who don’t live in Ireland know about the Celtic Tiger and the rapid downturn during the crash in 2007 where the money that had been pumped into Ireland, most specifically Dublin, which left the country with debts and empty offices. In The Day That Never Comes, one such fancy building has become home to political campaigners and the homeless making a stand against those few who made millions through dodgy dealings leaving their investors with nothing, but it all turns particularly nasty when the fraud trial of Hartigan, Blake and Maloney, the three big names in this venture, collapses.

Despite the introduction of some new characters, especially those in the Gardaí I missed the rapport created when the three characters worked together. In this book although they all appear and so  we see their individual investigations moving at a pace, the humour has a slightly different feel to it, so while it’s still very much in evidence, it has a slightly more sardonic comedy – not so much slapstick and far more blackness.

As for the plot well that’s fast and furious and very well executed with the different strands of story winding closer together. If you haven’t read A Man With One of Those Faces you might equate the mentions of humour within this story with a cosy mystery; please don’t. There are some brutal killings in this book which have no place in that genre. This is not a book for those with delicate sensibilities at all.

In many ways this book could serve as a warning to politicians and police forces alike as to what happens when the community you serve gets really fed-up with the decisions made on their behalf.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers McFori Ink for allowing me to enjoy another outing with these brilliant, and funny characters. The Day That Never Comes was published on 23 January 2017

First Published UK: 23 January 2017
Publisher: McFori Ink
No of Pages:  344
Genre: Crime Fiction – Humour
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

The Sixth Window – Rachel Abbott

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction
5*s

I have followed this series since first discovering it soon after becoming a kindle owner back in 2010 and have eagerly awaited each new book ever since. Rachel Abbott creates believable scenarios which touch on the important, and gritty subjects, that we might like to close our eyes to but never forgets that what the reader wants is a cracking good story. Better still her lead detective, the handsome and caring DCI Tom Douglas, creates an attractive backdrop, well, in my mind anyway.

In The Sixth Window Natalie Grey finds something disturbing on her partner’s laptop which throws her into a panic. So much so that she wants to scoop up her daughter Scarlett and take her to a place of safety. But part of her can’t believe that what she’s seen is true. After all she’s known Ed Cooper since she was a teenager, all through her marriage to his best friend Bernie and he was the person she turned to when he was killed in a hit and run accident.

As a temporary measure Natalie finds Scarlett and herself a furnished flat to rent in an old building in Manchester. Scarlett is bored, it is the summer holidays and she is far from her friends but hey she’s got plenty of school-work to be getting on with and the library is close by. Yes, that isn’t what happens at all. As I said Rachel Abbott writes believable stories, not fairy tales! Instead Scarlett mooches around her new home bored and angry with her mother until she hears voices… having discovered that the apartment is built on the site of an old workhouse, Scarlett wonders if she is hearing echoes from the past, needless to say she decides to investigate.

Meanwhile the disturbing suicide of a young girl is keeping our favourite DCI busy and there is a link to Natalie and Scarlett which he can’t ignore and as Bernie’s name keeps coming up in his investigations Tom Douglas has to face the fact that the former policeman may have been hiding a secret that his wife isn’t ready to confront. By this point in the plot I was well and truly hooked and found myself turning the pages ever faster as my brain whirred around trying to cling onto the facts while the suspicions swirled all around. This really is a fast-moving plot with plenty of the intrigue which I love. The characters are well-drawn and even if Natalie is prone to putting her head in the sand over some of the discoveries made, I liked the fact that she was determined to protect her teenage daughter no matter what. This combined with the recent loss of her husband meant that I was able to sympathise with her, which was in direct contrast to some of the other characters I met during The Sixth Window, who were downright creepy, none more so than the janitor of the building, the description Rachel provides of this dear soul is far from flattering, I do hope it wasn’t based on anyone she knows!

As with all my favourite crime fiction novels, The Sixth Window has a number of strands which are deftly pulled together to provide a scary picture which sadly isn’t quite as far from the truth as we may like to believe. I don’t normally mention the endings of books, for obvious reasons, but this one had me literally gasping with disbelief as my jaw dropped. In conclusion this book is the best in the series yet, brilliant plot, contemporary storyline, great characterisation which culminates in what on reflection seemed to be the only ending possible.

I’d like to thank the author Rachel Abbott who kindly gave me a copy of The Sixth Window, not for review purposes, although how could I not review this! For any of you who use NetGalley it is available for request and you will be able to pre-order the kindle copy from Amazon soon. The publication date for this being 21 February 2017.

First Published UK: 21 February 2017
Publisher: Black Dot Publishing
No of Pages: approx 350
Genre: Crime Fiction Series

Amazon UK

Discover Rachel Abbott here

Web : http://www.rachel-abbott.com

Blog: rachelabbottwriter.com

Twitter: @RachelAbbott

Facebook: RachelAbbott1Writer

The Rachel Abbott DCI Tom Douglas Books in order:

Only The Innocent
The Back Road
Sleep Tight
Stranger Child
Nowhere Child (Novella)
Kill Me Again

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

The Facts of Life and Death – Belinda Bauer

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction
5*s

For some reason I didn’t get around to reading this book by Belinda Bauer despite being a big fan, and having bought a copy of Blacklands in 2010 I’ve read my way through her books pretty much as soon as they’ve been published. No matter, The Facts of Life and Death was well worth the wait, in fact, it is decidedly my favourite of Belinda Bauer’s entire work.

The book is told by the viewpoint of ten-year old Ruby Trick who lives in Limeburn, Devon where she lives with her Mummy who works at the posh hotel and her Daddy a lover of all things Cowboy. He no longer has a job since the industry he was trained for has dissolved. The summer that the killer came to the area was one of those wet, dank summers that we do so well in the UK. Occasionally the sun managed to make a half-hearted appearance but for the rest of the time, it was damp and dismal.

Limeburn is sandwiched between the forest on one side, Ruby is to go no further than the stile, and the sea on the other, the sea where Ruby’s father fishes for their dinner and occasionally to sell. The few children in the village stick together, they have to if they want any companions at all, because it is a way to the larger town and so Ruby spends time in the ‘haunted house’ with her friend Adam throwing sticks into the sea and the rest of her time living for her weekly copy of Pony & Rider and her Mars bar that take up the entirety of her pocket money which she takes back home to The Retreat.

It was owned by a family in London who had bought it and named it and then found ti was too distant, too dreary, too damp to retreat to – even just once a summer – and had rented it out until they could sell at a profit.

Meanwhile a twisted man is taking young women off the streets and getting them to strip and call their mothers to say goodbye. The mothers then get to watch and listen as the life is snuffed out of their daughters. Absolutely horrific, need I say more?

The absolute beauty of this book is that although much of what is happening is seen through Ruby’s eyes, with a childhood that is recognisable to many I should imagine, with petty jealousies, nasty boys, priggish girls and a fair smattering of boredom, Ruby is also worried about her Daddy leaving. Daddy is so much more fun than Mummy who is boring but there are rows which Ruby tries to remove herself from:

Whenever the row started, it always ended up at the job. It got there without her.

Then there is school where Ruby’s problems are magnified, not the most attractive of children with red hair and a fondness for sweets, which Daddy often indulges, she has a teacher Miss Sharpe who tells them all to write a diary daily. As any self-respecting child would, this meant that Ruby spent one day a week filling in her entries in her ‘Dairy’ Seriously I could have been Ruby and I adored Miss Sharpe’s character:

A couple of the other teachers tittered nervously. Not Miss Sharpe. If Miss Sharpe ever caught herself tittering, she’d give herself a good smack.

So it is a story of childhood, a world interpreted without the context to fully understand, it is also funny which makes it a real joy to read… and scary – I don’t want to think about the terror of those women, particularly those caught later on, who knew all about the murderer, or their poor mothers. The juxtaposition of childhood innocence with depravity makes for an incredibly powerful story and the outstanding plotting, the steady pace where there is not one scene too many, nor a single word seemingly without importance.

An outstanding read which was truly exceptional. If you haven’t read any of Belinda Bauer’s books, all of which I highly recommend, The Facts of Life and Death is up there with my favourite crime novels of all time, because it is about so much more than just crime; it is a reflection of a type of household, a type of community, a type of school and a type of man – all of which could be just around the corner from you or me.

First Published UK: 27 March 2014
Publisher: Bantam Press
No of Pages: 336
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Belinda Bauer’s Books – NB these are all standalone books, so no need to read them in order

Blacklands (2010)
Darkside (2011)
Finders Keepers (2012)
Rubbernecker (2013)
The Facts of Life and Death (2014)
The Shut Eye (2015)
The Beautiful Dead (2016)

Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2016, Book Review, Books I have read

Standing in the Shadows – Jon Stasiak

Crime Fiction 3*s
Crime Fiction
3*s

Tom Nowak is a photographer for the Jersey Evening Post, the local newspaper, but he does freelance work too and is planning his first exhibition of his work. He lives with his girlfriend, a nurse and life is certainly better than it was now that the break-up with his wife is in the past and on the mainland, Tom is free to appreciate the different way of life offered in Jersey.

When his oldest childhood friend comes for a visit a walk is planned in the local woods. Nothing odd there, a perfectly normal Sunday activity. Tom as always takes his camera and when viewing the photos back later, can see shadowy figures that weren’t visible to the group at the time they were posing. The next day a body is found, in the same spot that the group of friends stood and Tom is dispatched in his role of press photographer back to the scene. By the time he arrives it is common knowledge that this is a murder enquiry, the dead woman a Polish woman who’d moved to Jersey for a better way of life.

Now before I go any further with this review, I need to restate that I am not a fan of the paranormal, at all. Rarely do I keep reading when this phenomenon rears its head, but I kept going for two reasons: This book is set where I live and I rarely get an opportunity to read a crime novel set on an island with very little crime, and secondly, this is my last of my 20 books of summer 2016 – yes I know summer is long over but I was determined to make my way through the books I selected before the end of the year!

In short it appears that Tom is receiving predictions of murders through his photographs and he becomes more and more obsessed with the idea that he can help prevent more murders (the bodies keep coming) and give comfort to the grieving families. Although as I kept reading I got annoyed with Tom, as does his girlfriend, and friends as endless pages are taken up with his feelings, endless justification of letting his life slide as he reviews and re-reviews his photos which for me was fortunately broken up with accurate descriptions of an island that has been my home for over a quarter of a century.

Although the author doesn’t even attempt to describe the local politics in this book he covers many other truisms about Jersey like the fact that one of the private boy’s schools looks more like Hogwarts, than Hogwarts; when we have visitors arriving by plane, we all leave town at the expected landing time because the time to drive there is usually a perfect match to how long it takes for people to disembark and pick up their bags; we all have Jersey airport arrivals as a favourite webpage not least because of the fog which disrupts life constantly!  For those of us who live here for real, we’re lucky and don’t have a vast number of crime but the drunks in the beautiful park opposite the hospital are a permanent fixture, when I came to the island their predecessors were glue sniffers and the couple that won’t, or are unable to abide by the shelter rules sleep behind cars in the car-park around the corner, these truisms are deftly worked into the plot. However, because the story is local some of the author’s beliefs feel a bit too personal, as Tom remarks early on, you have to check that who you are speaking to, is not related to or friends with, the person you are making snide remarks about here. I definitely found it harder to be objective about details which would probably wash over me if the setting wasn’t one I know so intimately.

So although the plot dragged for reasons which I will put down to my antipathy for the paranormal aspects I was pleased I persevered because the ending was both a surprise and made some of my complaints about earlier sections of the book irrelevant thus boosting my overall enjoyment. Those of you who don’t have issues with ghosts and Ghoulies may enjoy this atmospheric read even more than I did.

First Published UK: 20 December2015
Publisher: Independent publishing
No of Pages: 322
Genre: Crime Fiction – Paranormal
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Coffin Trail – Martin Edwards

Crime Fiction 4*s
Crime Fiction
4*s

I have finally started Martin Edwards’ famed Lake District Mystery series with The Coffin Trail, the first in the series. The title has been chosen for the name given to the tracks which were used to transport bodies from the remote village to one with a graveyard. The symbolism of bodies being strapped to the horses for their final journey is one that resonates throughout this book.

As the book opens we meet Daniel Heard and his girlfriend Miranda buying Tarn Cottage in the fictional village of Brackdale on a whim while visiting the area for a short break. Daniel has tired in his role at Oxford University but it is Miranda who is the driving force behind the move, after all as a freelance journalist she can submit her copy from anywhere. Daniel has visited the area before, the last holiday before his policeman father left home to be with another woman and while there he met, and became friends with, Barrie Gilpin who lived in Tarn Cottage. The cottage is being sold for a song because Barrie Gilpin was widely suspected by police and villagers alike to have murdered a young woman. He died of an accident before the murder was discovered and his poor mother was shunned by the locals.

Meanwhile DI Hannah Scarlett is wondering if she can get her career back on track after a disastrous collapse of a trial compounded by even more disastrous public relations. She finds herself leading a new team set up to examine whether advances in forensics can solve any of the old cases. With a retired detective to assist and her trusty partner they begin leafing through the old files.
As Daniel probes the villager’s memories about Barrie, treating this personal quest he begins to ruffle a few feathers to say the least and Miranda is none too pleased. With some loose ends to tie up about his father, who died without Daniel ever making peace, who was on the original investigation the claustrophobic nature of life in a remote village becomes ever more apparent.

I enjoyed The Coffin Trail which was first published in 2004 for being a ‘real’ police procedural series. There were no clever tricks but straightforward investigations by both Daniel and Hannah Scarlet into what happened to the young woman who was laid out on Sacrifice Stone, it can’t be accidental that this was the place for pagan rituals. There are lots of characters within this book and of course being the first in the series, more time is spent giving these a background to be built on later, this gave the first section of the book quite a slow feel, but with solid writing and the fabulous scenery that Martin Edwards captures, keeping me entertained, I certainly didn’t have a chance to become bored.

Once the investigation gets underway it appears that the crux of the matter is going to be examining those old alibis rather than the more straightforward DNA results that DI Hannah Scarlett’s bosses were hoping for. And we all know what that means, yes my favourite, old secrets and lies will be exposed! There is no doubt at all that plenty of skeletons, of the kind that hide in cupboards, are rattled. As secret after secret is revealed the inhabitants of Brackdale will most likely never be the same again.

After really enjoying the characters of historian Daniel Head and the fairly level-headed and yet not to be pushed around, DI Hannah Scarlett I am now looking forward to reading the second in this series, The Cipher Garden which fortunately already resides on my kindle! I have a feeling this is a series I can trust to give me a solid mystery in a straightforward style relying on the writing alone to be the entertainment.

First Published UK: 1 July 2004
Publisher: Allison & Busby
No of Pages: 228
Genre: Crime Fiction – Police Procedural
Amazon UK
Amazon US