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

Still Me – Jojo Moyes

Contemporary Fiction
5*s

2019 whilst being a little poor on the actual reading front has been a great year in respect of the audio book having followed on from great success I had with this format especially with non-crime fiction genre.

Still Me is the last part in the trilogy written by the fabulously talented Jojo Moyes which started with Me Before You which I read as back in January 2013 where Lou Clark takes on a job being a nurse/companion to a quadriplegic man. This story was so popular, being later made into a film that Jojo Moyes bought Lou Clark back for more adventures. In After You we see her living a new life, meeting new people and coping with grief and her journey kept me company during my walks home from work and preparing food that I missed Lou Clarke so very much when this book finished and felt that the narrator Anna Acton now encapsulated the story for me so despite having a physical book it seemed obvious to continue in audio format.

In Still Me Lou Clarke has takes up a new job in New York through an old friend. New York is new and exciting and although Lou misses her boyfriend Sam in London, at times he seems very far away. With a whole new cast of characters in New York and this really is how Jojo Moyes captures the hearts of her readers – they are so well drawn, multi-layered and as far removed from clichés and stereotypes that lesser authors employ. There is no doubt in my mind when I was listening that Lou Clarke was a real woman, with problems not so very different to those that I have suffered, and despite being a fair bit younger than I am, it still manages to feel relevant as the cast of characters takes in the whole spectrum of people. We have the fussy old woman with her beloved dog, the unfriendly housekeeper, the spoilt rich wife, the personal trainer, the jock, the vintage clothes shop owner to name but a very few.

So although the characters are the chief pull of course even the most captivating of studies can’t stand up without a plot. Perhaps this novel has more of the general romance pitfalls than the previous two books, chiefly misunderstandings that are left to fester rather than spoken about on both sides, but despite this I was still swept along hoping for a good result for Lou whether that be a good man or no man at all. Pleasingly the latter is always a possibility especially as we also catch up with Lou’s brilliantly portrayed parents and sister as they come to terms with life not following the predictable route they thought it would. In fact Lou’s mother and her father’s reaction to life’s changes provided some of my favourite comedic moments in the book.

I finished Still Me quite some time ago but I won’t forget Lou Clarke in a hurry. It takes a special kind of skill to pen a story that has all the ranges of human emotions without it tipping into the sickly sweet arena and for someone like me who has an antipathy to ‘romantic’ tales that is high praise indeed!

First Published UK: 24 January 2018
Publisher: Penguin Books
No of Pages: 496
Listening Length: 13 hours 37 minutes
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2019, Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective – Susannah Stapleton #20BooksofSummer

Non-Fiction
5*s

 

I had high hopes for this book after all what self-respecting crime fiction lover with a strong interest in women’s history could resist. This book more than surpassed those high expectations, so much so that despite having other books to review (a whole stack of them) I couldn’t wait to share this one.

Maud West was good at self-promotion. She advertised in the press and submitted to interviews telling of her daring deeds both close to home and in far flung places. She dealt with blackmail, drugs and divorce cases from an office in Albion Place, opposite the British Museum in London.

Susannah Stapeton is interested in Maud West’s daring deeds, although right from the start she takes them with a hefty pinch of salt, for some reason doubting the gun toting spinster really had quite so much excitement when she set up her detective agency back in 1905. But what the author is more interested in is the woman behind the public face. So she goes a searching in the archives:

‘The age was off by a few years, but she undeniably showed the right amount of pluck. Besides, who better to catch villains than a former master criminal?’

This is a book that manages to balance a flavour of the reality of Maud West’s life as a ‘lady detective’ whilst providing the reader with a picture of life from the start of her detective work up to the outbreak of the second world war. While Maud West proclaims on her shadowing for divorce work, the author provides us with some real life examples of cases that were reported at the time emphasising the points of law that were required to secure a break from an unhappy life. We take in Maud’s skill at disguise, we take a trip to drug manufacture and its use in the 1920s, we touch on suffragette movement and the romance frauds more easily committed due to the large imbalance of women to men following the first world war. It’s fair to say we get a taster of so much social history set against an investigation into the private face of the public lady detective.

‘In fiction the woman detective is always young and fascinating; her skill in handling delicate situation and in solving the most puzzling mysteries arouses admiration. She is fearless and knows how to handle an automatic pistol. Prepare to be astonished: greet one in real life!’

I am hard pushed to decide which part I enjoyed more because hearing how Susannah Stapleton tracked down the ‘real’ Maud West was equally fascinating and will be of interest I’m sure to anyone who has dabbled in genealogy because here we have the author making the similar leaps and links, not all successful, that is required to get to the truth. I was honestly just as thrilled watching the author wondering about those other people living cheek to jowl on census night and putting their names to one side, and then seeing why they were there many pages further on. The style might not be to everyone’s taste but for me I found it leant an air of realism to the research is usually hidden from the reader.

One of the great problems with reviewing this non-fiction book that concentrates on a less than well-known subject is that there is little I can say because in a sense this is a detective novel in its own right and I would have been gutted if I’d had even an inkling of some of the information I discovered whilst reading it. I can say that there are some aspects of ‘real-life’ incredibly pleasing such as finding that Hawley Harvey Crippin worked from the same building as Maud West and it was here that Inspector Dew first interviewed him.

This style wouldn’t have worked as well had the author not adopted a light touch in terms of writing style. Whilst not a laugh out loud level of looking on the wry side of life…

‘… however it ended – Maud was plainly better off out of it. George Stafford Howell was a chancer. He admitted to the judge that he dropped the ‘Howell’ from his name when it suited him, and his business enterprises all seemed doomed to failure.’

So in short, if you want a non-fiction book with a difference then don’t miss out on this gem.

I am extremely grateful to the publishers Pan Macmillan for providing me with an advance copy of The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective, and of course to Susannah Stapleton for bringing this previously unheard lady detective to my attention. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.

This book encapsulates why I love reading; to be educated and entertained at the same time is a pleasure indeed and so it is fitting that this was the first of my 20 Books for Summer 2019 Challenge!

First Published UK: 13 June 2019
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
No. of Pages: 320
Genre: Non-Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

The Evidence Against You – Gillian McAllister

Psychological Thriller
5*s

Gillian McAllister has already cemented herself as an author whose books I must read so it is fair to say I had very high expectations for The Evidence Against You. Once again the author almost poses her question from the first page of the book, in this case how would you feel if your father, a man who has been in prison for the last seventeen years for the murder of your mother, wants to convince you of his innocence. Yes I acknowledge it’s unlikely that that happens to many people but what Gillian McAllister is great at doing is that after she has posed her question she introduces you to characters that you can absolutely believe in.

Izzy’s mother Alex was murdered. Her body was found in woods some twenty years ago and her father was imprisoned for her murder. But that was then, now Izzy runs her mother’s restaurant even though she isn’t particularly fond of the industry or that interested in the food created there but she has the support of her cousin. Izzy is married to Nick, a police analyst who is her ‘rock.’ Nick would rather her father, Gabe, was left in the past and he’s undoubtedly worried when Gabe turns up seeking Izzy’s undivided attention, seeking to prove that he was innocent of any wrongdoing.

So we have a great premise, some well-drawn and convincing characters and into the mix the author places them all on the Isle of Wight. This being a small community which of course gives us endless secrets either kept close to chests by those islanders who either didn’t want to get involved or those who thought that they would benefit more from keeping quiet. Of course when Gabe makes his way back to the island the news is out – Gabe and Izzy can’t meet without being spotted by someone. A small town setting gives the reader a whole spectrum of levels of secrecy to deal with and it is one I am particularly fond of; living on an island myself I know how precarious secrecy can be depending who knows the secret!

The structure of the story is that of flitting backwards and forwards through town to the events before and immediately after Alex’s murder to those in the present day. The author has done a great job of making the character of Izzy consistent enough to recognise that it is the same person while providing some aspects to show both character growth and change due to the trauma that she has had to deal with since that day.

Once again I found this to be an incredibly addictive read. I did not want to put the book aside, I needed to know what conclusion Izzy would come to and how she would deal with whatever that might be. I was not disappointed and so I’m left hoping that this brilliant author has another incredible idea up her sleeve for me to consume soon.

I am extremely grateful to the publishers Penguin UK The Evidence Against You, and of course Gillian McAllister. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 18 April 2019
Publisher: Penguin
No. of Pages: 448
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous Books by Gillian McAllister
Everything But The Truth
Anything You Do Say
No Further Questions

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

No Way Out – Cara Hunter

Crime Fiction – Series
5*s

Having been blown away with the quality of the first two books featuring DI Adam Fawley I had high expectations of this, the third in this series set in Oxford. The expectations were completely met in this topical thriller.

The crime this time is arson, a particularly brutal means of killing and in this the victims appear to be a young boy Zachary Esmond who has been killed in his home in North Oxford. His elder brother Matty is desperately ill in hospital and their academic father and mother are nowhere to be found. Family annihilation is suspected but only time will tell if the facts fit the theory. First job is to find Michael Esmond and find out if he has deliberately sought to wipe his family off the earth and that is Adam Fawley’s job.

I particularly enjoy the style of Cara Hunter’s writing. All her crime fiction books have been pacey with the main story told in the first person present tense while the reader is treated to news extracts and on-line comments at regular intervals throughout. In this book we are provided with the storyline on what led to the fire, a story covering the best part of a year. The investigation is rapid and a master in police procedural while the on-line excerpts keep the storyline feeling exceptionally current given how most of us digest the news these days and I enjoy having a flavour of the crime being investigated alongside some more generic local news from the Oxford area.

The plotting was, as always, superb. The author manages to provide the reader with a whole host of red herrings without giving this reader the feeling that it is simply a complex puzzle to be solved. I need to feel the potential suspects are there because that’s how the investigation has unfolded rather than they are being conjured up just for the story’s sake.

One of the things I enjoy about this police procedural series is that the team get along with each other. There is little in the way of politics and they provide the reader with a solid team that although aren’t devoid of personality, this isn’t the defining part of the story. I will admit I often like the forays into personal lives of our detectives but I have to admire those writers who manage to keep the investigation itself in the frame through any personal ups and downs the team may encounter. Cara Hunter’s writing falls into the latter camp.

Of course in crime fiction it isn’t just the detectives that need to keep you entertained, we also need to feel something for the victims, the potential perpetrators and all the witnesses that we meet along the way. Cara Hunter has a real knack for bringing the whole cast together with a lightness of touch that certainly kept me turning the pages as the book worked its way towards an accomplished finale.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Penguin Books UK who allowed me to read a copy of No Way Out which was an enormous honour. I’ve already put the fourth in the series (due out in December 2019) onto my wishlist.

Previous Books in the DI Fawley Series
Close to Home
In the Dark

First Published UK: 22 March 2019
Publisher: Penguin Books Uk
No of Pages: 367
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

Cruel Acts – Jane Casey

Crime Fiction – Series
5*s

Maeve Kerrigan is my kind of protagonist and so I was absolutely thrilled to see that she was back and I’m pleased to say my high levels of anticipation were fully met.

When double murderer Leo Stone is freed because of irregularities with the jury process. Superintendent Godley tasks Maeve Kerrigan and Detective Inspector Josh Derwent to re-examine the evidence, and quickly, to ensure that the case against him is absolutely watertight – the thought of such a dangerous man being allowed to roam free is completely repellent to the hardworking officers. Maeve is quick to alight on another potential victim of Leo Stone but before she has time to devote too much attention in that direction there is another killing similar to those Leo Stone was convicted of. Could it be that the team are investigating a miscarriage of justice after all?

I love this series so much because in part, the characterisation is superb. Maeve is a strong, tenacious and capable officer who knows her own mind and that alone is very appealing. The fact that she is a bit standoffish with her colleagues only serves to endear her to me even more as she is often quietly funny in her dealings with them. But her role is backed up by a whole host of old friends from the previous books. I’m particularly enjoying watching Maeve’s slightly tense relationship with the younger officer Georgia while slipping into a slightly easier relationship with Josh in this episode. Although we have some of the back story of Maeve’s life outside the police this perhaps doesn’t have as much room in this episode as it has done so previously, but fear not there is enough to keep things interesting…

It doesn’t matter how good the characters are in crime fiction if there isn’t a jolly good mystery to be solved and once again Jane Casey far from disappoints. This is a fairly complex investigation given that we know who the key suspect is, the time-line, the forensics and pretty much everything in between, or do we? This is the beauty of the plotting one bit of information can turn everything on its head and unfortunately there are multiple strands to be teased out and worked individually before the team can be certain what happened to the poor women that crossed the path of a murderer.

With engaging writing to finish the triad for the pinnacle of success in crime fiction, Jane Casey reminded me she really is one of the best of the new generation. While the storyline featuring serial killers are nothing new, she manages to keep it feeling fresh with her sharp observational writing that all too easily conjures up the desperate need to catch a killer that must infiltrate such a major investigation in real life.

A most satisfactory read finishing with a solid resolution – I do hope Maeve is back soon.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers HarperCollins UK who allowed me to read an advance copy of Cruel Acts ahead of publication on 18 April 2019.

The Maeve Kerrigan Series in Order

The Burning
The Reckoning
The Last Girl
The Stranger You Know
The Kill
After The Fire
Let the Dead Speak

First Published UK: 18 April 2019
Publisher: HarperCollins UK
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

The Secretary – Renée Knight

Psychological Thriller
5*s

I was a huge fan of Renée Knight’s debut novel Disclaimer and so I had that inevitable mixture of excitement and conscious lowering of expectations as I approached this, the author’s second book. I didn’t need to have a moment of worry, I loved it.

This is a claustrophobic book which is mainly set within the mind of the titular secretary, Christina Butcher. Christina was employed by Mina Appleton as a secretary, almost on a whim, back in the day before personal assistants became de rigour, but essentially that is exactly what Christina was. She wasn’t just employed to help Mina with the family business, a supermarket, she was there to interview the nannies for her children, by the gifts for everyone and anyone, and be on call day and night to do Mina’s bidding.

You might imagine that Christina is a single woman free to devote her time and energy to her role for eighteen years but not so, as Christina tells us her story, we find that she was happily married with a young daughter.

This is exactly the type of psychological thriller I most enjoy, it isn’t a fast moving sweeping and swooping novel, instead it is a study of a relationship albeit one between two women in a business environment, just think given the nature of the work, how many dynamite pieces of information both personal and work-related that Christina has picked up over the years. We also get to see just what Christina has given, and sacrificed, in order to appease her whip-cracking boss.

Neither woman is particularly likeable, if you need to like at least one of the lead characters you probably won’t enjoy this book quite as much as I did. However, both came across as real, in fact, one of the aspects I particularly appreciated was how realistic this book felt. As I mentioned Mina is in the supermarket business and this strand of the storyline isn’t glossed over, we hear and witness some meetings with farmers, and we can easily compare the ethics with those we have read about with the national supermarkets. All interesting and giving every appearance as being researched and not just plonked into the book as a pet cause.

As the book develops there are several minor storylines featuring more sympathetic characters and these build towards what is an absolutely explosive ending. So although the book is what could be called a slow burn, for me it didn’t feel long enough – I was left knowing that we’d exhausted every avenue so I wasn’t left longing for me from that perspective, but having been so caught up within the storyline I was sad to say goodbye.

I’m sure the ending will divide readers, and for this reason alone I would definitely recommend The Secretary as a book club read, but I wasn’t disappointed by it as I enjoyed the sentiment and felt it was entirely in keeping with all that came before.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Random House UK for allowing me to read a copy of The Secretary before it is published today, 21 February 2019. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and to Renée Knight for a completely addictive read.

First Published UK: 21 February 2019
Publisher: Random House UK
No of Pages: 304
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

Dead Memories – Angela Marsons

Crime Fiction
5*s

Wow! Just for a change I’m going to start this review by saying how much I love this crime fiction series and its chief protagonist DI Kim Stone. I gave the very first book in the series, Silent Scream, the full five stars when I read it in 2015 – sadly despite the subsequent books being even better – five stars is the maximum. Angela Marsons has truly surpassed herself with Dead Memories, the tenth book in the series.

The scene opens on the notorious Hollytree housing estate, specifically the fourth floor of Chaucer House which just happens to be a few floors below where Kim Stone was found next to her dead twin, handcuffed to a radiator. Can it be a coincidence that today two youngsters have been found handcuffed to a radiator? Let’s face it, it’s going to be a no!

This series is firmly wedded to its setting in the Black Country and many of the books take in the Hollytree housing estate with Chaucer House being designated the block which is the roughest of them all, at some point. But this book gets to the heart of Kim Stone’s life. With Bryant, Stacey and Penn, at her side she is going to have to confront some of the many traumas that she has met in life being recreated for someone’s sick game. But that won’t be easy because spiky Kim doesn’t want to share those details with anyone, let alone her colleagues!  Because of the basis in the crimes being committed it was a more traumatic read than most and one that made me realise quite how fond of the detective I have become. Yes, I know its fiction, but when I was reading, it was as real as anything else!

I’ve mentioned in my many reviews of crime fiction series of how much I like meeting up with old friends, in this case the small team that Kim Stone is part of. Angela Marsons has managed her reader’s expectations and interest levels very well on this score with different team members playing larger roles in some of the books and in this episode we have a return of the Alison Lowe a profiler who has been brought on board to keep an eye on Kim herself. This gives a satisfying and fresh injection into the characters and their interactions.

As always the plotting is faultless and although I’d gauge the crimes committed at the top end of my personal gore rating, the black humour that runs through the books means that what could be an unrelenting book of horror doesn’t have that overall feel at all. This really is the mark of a writer who knows her craft and injects a small dollop of humour at the right moment, never inappropriately, to keep the reader engaged but not depressed.

With an enterprising killer at work we also get a full insight into those traumatic incidents in Kim’s life, from the first moment of being left to die next to her twin Mickey to the more recent tragic fatality of a close colleague. So with each murder we get a double whammy of concern for the victims and their families in the present and a second-hand one for Kim, which only served to make me enjoy her company even more.

If you haven’t read this series, start now – they are fantastic but to my mind, you need to read them in order. This the tenth is absolute the cherry on the crime fiction cake!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Bookouture for allowing me to read a copy of Dead Memories before it is published on 22 February 2019. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and Angela Marsons for another brilliant episode in the Kim Stone series.

First Published UK: 22 February 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
No of Pages: 459
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous Books featuring Kim Stone
Silent Scream
Evil Games
Lost Girls
Play Dead
Blood Lines
Dead Souls
Broken Bones
Dying Truth
Fatal Promise

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

The Shape of Lies – Rachel Abbott #BlogTour


Crime Fiction
5*s

 

I’m going to start by saying I’m a huge fan of Rachel Abbott’s writing and of Tom Douglas in particular. This series of books set in Manchester is now up to number eight. Now there will be some book-lovers who will say, ‘the series is already too far through, I can’t start now!’ I disagree (although don’t tell the author) as although I have read these books, eagerly, in order, the stories are all unique and so although we have DCI Tom Douglas to lead the way through the mysteries, he doesn’t have a huge back story to keep track of and therefore I am certain that these books would all work really well as standalone reads. Of course once you’ve read one you may well need to catch up on the rest but that’s a book lover’s problem for another day, right?

As with all crime fiction you probably don’t want me to spend too much time rehashing the synopsis so instead I am going to talk about why I enjoy this series so much with a few hints along the way to let you know what The Shape of Lies has in store for you.

I like books where even though my life is (thankfully) far more boring than the chief protagonist, Anna Franklyn, I could put myself in her shoes with no problem at all. We’ve all listened to variations of the cheesy radio shows where people ring in with tales of lost loves… in this version called ‘The One That Got Away’ well how would you feel if one day it seemed to be your story? What’s worse the man Scott is threatening to tell all, and the thing is he’s dead! I tell you I read this part and could feel the hairs on the back of my neck raise, and at that point I had no idea quite what Anna had to fear.

Books that have a moral dilemma, something to make me think about what I would do in the same situation, or more prosaically at what point in a relationship do you come clean about some of those big things in the past, always get me thinking, and I like thinking whilst I read.

There is a lot made these days of crime fiction being full of twists and turns and while I’m not sure I set as much store on this aspect as the marketing bods seem to think I should, I can’t deny there is a certain amount of pleasure in being surprised. Rachel Abbott always surprises me. The entire premise of this book takes a look at an aspect of crime that hasn’t been covered in any of the previous books by this author, and it isn’t one of those that comes up frequently in crime fiction either.

In amongst the lies, deceit and quite frankly odd coincidences that are unsurprisingly preoccupying Anna as she tries so desperately hard to keep a lid on things at home in front of her stay at home husband and two small children, DCI Tom Douglas and DI Becky Robinson have two murders to solve… oh yes, this is crime fiction at its most complex.

But one of the key things after the basics of plot and pacing is the characterisation. Now I don’t need to like the character, after all they are created to be judged, aren’t they? I wasn’t a huge fan of Anna’s but I think she was pitched perfectly. Professionally she is extremely capable, a headteacher of an Academy, respected by staff and children alike but she has another side, one that doesn’t seem to have moved on all that far from the days when she was in a relationship with Scott and she lives caught between the stories she’s told so often that she almost believes them herself. As my mother would have quoted ‘What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive’

In short this is a book that had me gripped! It is a great author that leads you to the edge of the story and then immerses you in a world you never really knew existed.  My poor emotions  see-sawed as the revelations made me re-evaluate what I knew to that point. This is not a book to start if you don’t have time to finish it!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Rachel and Maura for providing me with an advance review copy of The Shape of Lies and allowing me to marvel at Tom Douglas once more. This unbiased review is my thank you to them.

First Published UK: 12 February 2019
Publisher: Black Dot Publishing Ltd
No of Pages: 339
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

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
The Sixth Window
Come a Little Closer

Psychological Thriller

And So it Begins

 

About Rachel Abbott

Author of one of 2018’s Times crime books of the year, Rachel Abbott, the UK’s no.1 bestselling independent author, proves once again why she is ‘the queen of psychological thrillers’ with an intense and compelling examination of the toxic impact of lies, deception and guilt.

Rachel Abbott, born and raised in Manchester, founded her own interactive media company in the 1980s, before selling it and retiring in 2005. She then moved to Italy where she worked on the renovation of a 15th century Italian monastery, and it was here that, one day, she found herself snowed in and decided to begin writing for pleasure. This became her debut novel, Only The Innocent, which she went on to publish via Kindle Direct Publishing, topping their chart for 4 weeks.

A true self-publishing pioneer, The Shape of Lies is Abbott’s ninth novel. She splits her time between Alderney in the Channel Islands and Italy.

Rachel Abbott is available for interview and to write articles.

http://www.rachel-abbott.com • @RachelAbbott • http://www.facebook.com/RachelAbbott1Writer

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

The Stone Circle – Elly Griffiths

Crime Fiction
5*s

Well we are up to a fabulous number eleven in the Ruth Galloway series and to my mind the split between investigation and catching up with some, by now, much-loved characters makes for the perfect read.

First to the mystery at the heart of The Stone Circle and I’m glad to say the brief foray to foreign lands of the last novel is over and we are back in Norfolk once again. Not that I have anything against other places but Ruth and Harry Nelson really do belong at home. That means that Dr Ruth Galloway is at the university and ready and waiting to oversee an archaeological dig at a henge, or stone circle. Within the henge, bones are found and more modern than the bronze age structure would account for. And then Suddenly it is as if the clock has turned right back to the first case that Ruth assisted DCI Nelson with, The Crossing Places.

To the personal side of the story, well it is all go with a great deal of suspense about how life will change once Nelson’s wife Michelle gives birth… And so as good as the plot of the mystery is, it is here that the flesh and blood are put upon our characters. This is where life is lived, not mourned but sometimes it isn’t easy and there are no answers, well definitely none that are underlined with certainty. Into this mix is Ruth herself, she’s contemplating her future, her career and debating whether staying put is really the best decision for her and Kate, and of course dear old Flint. I am biased I want her to stay put, if she moves away from the University of Norfolk I’m doubting whether we will see as much of Cathbad, whose flowing cloaks are being abandoned to spare his son’s blushes, or Shona who only makes a brief appearance in this novel, or the entire Norfolk police force who are like friends to me now. But she has her career to consider…

At the end of the book Elly Griffiths states that the idea was that there would be ten books in the Ruth Galloway series so perhaps it is fitting that there are many echoes in this book of the very first one – in fact so much so I was tempted to go back and re-read The Crossing Place. But I rarely go back and somehow I think I would be tempted to read my way back through and I simply don’t have enough spare time to re-read all ten books – well not until I am put on that desert island with my kindle! Anyway without the plot which mirrors that early case with a young girl’s body being found and a cold case being reviewed with all the resultant wounds that opens, and hopefully heals, we also have DCI Nelson receiving some disturbing letters. Now I don’t know about you but if I was choosing to send someone anonymous letters, I doubt that I’d choose a policeman, but hey there’s none so queer as folk!

This series as a whole, and this book in particular, also addresses the somewhat shocking aspects of what has come before. Elly Griffiths keeps a grip of her characters so it isn’t only the big events that she ensures continue as a thread but some of the more minor events also . I’m a bit of a nerd in this respect so give a little smile when I spot an event being played forward in a later book.

So as always for this series it is a resounding recommendation from me and a huge amount of gratitude to the publishers Quercus who allowed me to read an advance copy of The Stone Circle before the publication day of, today!

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
The Chalk Pit
The Dark Angel

First Published UK: 7 February 2019
Publisher: Quercus
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

After You – Jojo Moyes

Contemporary Fiction
5*s

I read Me Before You way back in 2013 and loved it. You are right, this isn’t crime fiction and nor is it particularly gritty but even though Jojo Moyes was telling the story about a young woman who falls in love with her boss, a quadriplegic, I found it an irresistible read.

In 2015 Jojo Moyes bought out a sequel, called After You and I considered whether to read it and decided it would ruin the original for me (something that I always dread with sequels) and so I ignored it. And then… in 2018 a further episode to Louisa Clarke’s life was published called Still Me. At this point, a colleague read the entire trilogy after hearing about Me Before You and asked my advice on if it was worth a read. I said yes and then she raved about the other two books, and I cracked and decided to listen to After You as an audio book. My previous rambles on audio books will confirm that light-hearted contemporary fiction is my preferred listening fare.

So how was it? In short I loved it. The narrator Anna Acton is perfect for telling the next episode in Louisa’s story as she learns to live with the emotional fall-out from Me Before You. The narrator manages to get the humour to come across in her voice without it ever feeling forced and the sadder parts are also almost underplayed allowing the author’s words to work the magic and complementing them rather than overegging the pudding so to speak.

Louisa isn’t the same young woman she was. She’s more thoughtful and suffering but she also has something special to offer. What I love is although she’s undoubtable a ‘good person’ she isn’t so good it’s sickly. Jojo Moyes created a ‘real’ woman character and then has developed her, realistically to deal with the next chapter in her life.

What makes Jojo Moyes such a wonderful author – I am now a confirmed fan – is that she manages to take her readers (or listeners) through the entire gamut of emotions and I travelled unashamedly through Louisa’s despair, her hope for others and then bit by bit herself, her sympathy, her embarrassment and her joy. They are all held up for examination and our inspection. I may be considerably older than Louisa but in many ways the story she tells is a timeless and relevant to us all.  Yes, there is romance and love and all those nice things which are all made entirely palatable with a rich seam of humour to take the edge off the sweetness. I have walked and listened to Louisa laughed at her observations, winced at the embarrassment of wearing an awful Irish costume as part of her job in the airport bar, loved it when she got one over on the pompous boss and wept alongside her when life unfairly conspires against her.

I loved meeting Louisa again as well as catching up with the Traynor’s and some new characters too, all as rich and as powerful as the original book, perhaps more so because on the surface the ingredients appear to be less obvious. In fact I loved it so much that I hadn’t finished this one before I bagged the audible version of the next book in the series, I wasn’t going to miss out any longer.

First Published UK: 24 September 2015
Publisher: Penguin Books
No of Pages: 411
Listening Length: 11 hours 8 minutes
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US