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

Blackmail, Sex and Lies – Kathryn McMaster

Historical Crime
4*s

There are few stories as old as that of forbidden love and perhaps that is in part why the question of whether Madeline Hamilton Smith really did murder her lover Pierre Emile L’Anglier in Victorian Glasgow or not, has stayed in public consciousness for over one hundred and sixty years.

In Blackmail, Sex and Lies Kathryn McMaster has created a fictionalised tale using the actual letters between the lovers Madeline and Emile, as he was known, as the backbone of the book.

Madeline was part of the upper-middle classes, the daughter of an architect, albeit a man whose origins were far humbler whilst Emile worked as a packing clerk for Huggins a cotton merchants which was not an acceptable match in the year 1855 which is when the two first came into contact with each other. From Kathryn McMaster’s description Emile didn’t display his less than acceptable status, being well-dressed and a bit of a flatterer with his French accent and tales of daring dos in battles in France. The latter is subject to scepticism since Emile L’Anglier actually moved to Glasgow from Jersey in the Channel Islands where he was born on 30 April 1823.

Madeline was a mere 19 years old when she first met and was charmed by the older Emile and the pair initially had clandestine meetings until the wagging tongues of the gossips in Glasgow meant that word reached her mother. Her father banned the young Madeline from meeting or talking to Emile ever again and had she heeded his warnings the tale of course would have been much different.

As it was at the age of twenty-one, Madeline found herself on trial for his murder, the method, good old arsenic, the means a cup of cocoa and the opportunity a meeting to avail herself of very compromising letters which she hoped he would return to her to save her reputation, particularly as she was now engaged to the far more suitable William Harper Minnoch.

The fictionalisation of the story was incredibly convincing, even to this reader who has read a fair few accounts of the alleged  Victorian poisoner. The letters are inserted throughout the text in italics, so although the author has pin-pointed a time where young Madeline realised that Emile actually wanted to marry her so desperately to elevate his social position, the letters with pet-names and seeming promises of devotion are read in the context of a young woman who begins to realise the error she has made.

The book also contains some pictures to illustrate the text so that we see the house where Madeline and Emile exchanged the dynamite love letters through the convenient placement of her bedroom window, the lodging house where Emile met his agonising death and the likeness Madeline had taken to send to her lover.

A crucial element to the fictionalisation of historical murders is to tell a good story and the author certainly managed that. This is the first book I’ve read where the length of time Madeline and Emile carried on their relationship was really bought home to me – one of them was certainly playing the long game. To my immense pleasure what happened post-trial isn’t overlooked either, with enough details given even at this point for further insight into Madeline’s character to be made. The author has created her characters, added a plausible plot based on historical fact and woven that together creating the events, some of which are mentioned in the letters and others that must be entirely of her imagination and yet, so believable.

Did Madeline Smith murder her lover? I don’t think we will ever know and although the author’s explanation is incredibly convincing, even she can’t absolutely rehabilitate this young woman who behaved shockingly given the mores of the time.

For those who buy the kindle version of Blackmail, Sex and Lies, there is an opportunity to receive the full transcripts of the letters sent in the main by Madeline, Emile’s return post not having survived. Those that had envelopes with postmarks (although there is some doubt about whether the letters were returned to the correct envelopes have the added details of when they were posted and delivered which is enlightening as to the efficiency of the Victorian postal service! This collection is a lovely postscript to the book.

This is the second book of the year in my Mount TBR Challenge 2018, and since I bought my copy of Blackmail, Sex and Lies in December 2017 is also worth another third of a book token!

First Published UK: 30 August 2017
Publisher: Drama Llama Press
No of Pages: 198
Genre: Historical Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Books I’ve read that reference Madeline Smith

A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup
A Gallery of Poisoners by Adrian Vincent
The Poison Principle by Gail Bell
The Secret Poisoner by Linda Stratmann
Victorian Murderesses by Mary S. Hartman

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

My Last Confession – Helen FitzGerald

Psychological Thriller
3*s

I love the way Helen FitzGerald tackles widely different subjects within her writing of psychological thrillers and in My Last Confession, we have a newly appointed Probation Officer and one of her ‘clients’, a murderer.

Krissie is a single mum and she’s moved in with Robbie – I believe these two characters appeared in the author’s debut novel Dead Lovely, which I haven’t read but may explain why some of the details about how they came to be together seemed a little illusive. She uses her previous skills working with child protection and move into supervising adult offenders.

Jeremy is one of Krissie’s cases, in prison for murder, although a conviction which Krissie begins to doubt whether he has been wrongly convicted and so she turns detective. Of course Jeremy is only one prisoner who makes up Krissie’s workload and so we have a number of characters to get to know while Krissie battles with her job and her son who steals the show more than once.

Krissie is a mass of contradictions, on the one hard a caring woman, one who is trying to build a family but she also does some incredibly stupid things over the course of the book. There were times when I just wanted to shake some sense into her, after all this is supposed to be an educated woman but obviously one whose heart rules her head. At times, despite playing detective with gusto, I had to despair at Krissie’s inability to read the clues given to her – maybe she needs to read a few more crime fiction novels to give her some pointers.

The book really does beg you to sit up and take notice with some attention grabbing scenes. For those of a nervous disposition, there are some racy scenes too. Having read four other books by this author I think perhaps the more subtle look at modern life worked slightly better for me. Those themes are ever-present in this book, particularly the Glasgow setting which is terrifically well created. Although I’ve not worked in a prison or in any type of related position, the work-place scenes are easily transposed to anyone who has colleagues and they had me chuckling away frequently.

There were some bizarre scenes though which I didn’t really quite work for me but it really was worth persevering because the second half of the book is exceptionally gripping with an ending which was perfectly fitting.

This is an ideal book if you want to read something a little bit different, a bit of crime, a little bit of women’s fiction, a few racy scenes and a whole dollop of fun. This is the ideal lighter type of reading, one that should be approached with a sense of irony which would iron out the earlier scenes that had me slightly confused.

My Last Confession
was my twenty-fourth read in my Mount TBR Challenge having been purchased in November 2016.

mount-tbr-2017

 

 

 

First Published UK: 25 April 2011
Publisher: Faber & Faber
No of Pages:  275
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Great Reads by Helen FitzGerald

Bloody Woman
The Cry
The Exit
Viral

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

The Long Drop – Denise Mina

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction
5*s

This is the story of Peter Manuel, not a recreation of his crimes scrawled baldly across the page but a nuanced look at the man, both behind the vile acts he perpetrated and the one that he was in his own mind. In Peter’s head there was still the possibility to be another Peter, the one who was a writer and was famous for something other than burglarising, vandalising and raping. When he met the long drop (the method used for hanging in Scotland) he wasn’t the other Peter though, he was the man who wasn’t as clever as he thought he was.

Denise Mina has created a night Peter spent with the father of one of his victims. A father, husband and brother-in-law to three women who didn’t live to say what their last night was like but William Watt wants to know, particularly as he was arrested for the crimes himself, and so his lawyer Laurence Dowdall, having secured Manuel’s agreement, accompanies the men on a meeting in a restaurant one wintry Glaswegian night in 1957. Laurence Dowdall leaves the two men to it and they spend the entire night drinking, visiting clubs before finally winding up drinking a cup of tea in a car outside Manuel’s house, his mother a mere shadow behind the curtains.

The nuanced and assured storytelling is gripping with details oozing out of each sentence, not just about the crimes but about the characters, the essence of the lives they lived and the Glasgow of that age before the slums were cleared and Glasgow was cleaned up. It tells the story of a whole community which had violence running through it. The men jostling for position, just as Manuel and William Watt did in the pub, desperate to hold prime position, not to be outdone by lesser men. Being hard was what it was all about and the men who both protected and beat their women with fierce pride.

Of course we do learn about Manuel’s crimes too in a similar fashion, this isn’t a linear story telling, it is all the more captivating because we wait for the details; the half-eaten sandwich left abandoned at the murder scene, the empty bottle of whisky left on the sideboard for the police to find after the shock of the broken bodies left in the bedroom have been discovered. There is no doubt that Peter Manuel was not a nice man but we also see him through his parent’s eyes. One particular scene about their visit to the prison is one that I suspect is seared into my memory for ever, the emotions roll off the page in an understated manner which pulled at my heart-strings all the more for those that remained unsaid. I have a particular respect for writers who leave the reader the space to fill in the gaps, to allow them to put themselves in the shoes of a mother of a murderer without justifying the emotions she felt and what she might feel in a week hence.

This without a doubt is one of the best books I’ve read based on a true crime with this relatively short book being jam-packed with details which are wide-ranging. It did help that I had recently watched the television drama In Plain Sight, because previously I hadn’t heard of this man, although I’m now aware that for years afterwards his name was used as a synonym for the bogeyman for Glaswegian children.

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of The Long Drop prior to the publication by Random House UK on 2 March 2017. This unbiased review is my thank you to them and of course the incredibly talented Denise Mina.

First Published UK: 2 March 2017
Publisher: Random House UK
No of Pages: 240
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Rat Run – Caro Ramsay

Crime Thriller 4*s
Crime Fiction
4*s

In an insular community just seven miles from Glasgow the shadow of the murder of Sue Melrose and her two young sons back in 1992, still casts darkness over a row of houses. Up on the hill above the street Jock Aird sits and surveys all that he owned, watching the current inhabitants of the street. The man convicted of the young mother’s murder and that of the two boys and the family dog sits in prison protesting his innocence.

Meanwhile DCI Colin Anderson is waiting to hear if he is to be allowed back to work after a year on sick leave since his last case which saw him lose his lover and nearly his life. DI Costello is anxious, not sure whether he is fit to come back to work or not, but also longing to get away from her desk bound job and back to action.

Fortunately a new discovery means that action is about to come DI Costello’s way, and against a brooding backdrop of relentless rain which only serves to increase the claustrophobic atmosphere we meet the characters who live in the street in August 2015. The old case is reviewed with an aim to shore up the conviction against the man sat in prison, Andrew Gyle, reviewing those horrific images from twenty-three years before, combing the files and carrying out the necessary traces on those who were connected to the case.

Caro Ramsay executes this dark tale with a deft pen. The plot is fairly complex with many characters from the past and the present all seemingly with something to hide or infected by dark minds makes this far from a cheery read, but one that digs deep into the souls of all those involved. This is an author that doesn’t depend on left-field revelations, the clues are there for the denouement and I’m proud to say that I used these to work out the whodunit although I wasn’t quite there with the why. Not an easy task when there are many suspicious events, lots of people with nefarious intent but also some shining examples of the better side of human nature to keep this story from becoming so bleak that it seemed impossible to finish.

This is the seventh in the Anderson and Costello series and none of the books I have read, and no I didn’t start from the beginning (just for a change) read like the more traditional police procedural. Aside from Anderson’s return to work interviews and the brief that as much information about the new discovery was to be kept from the media, this story doesn’t concern itself with police politics. The members of the team are all individuals borrowing little from the stereotypical police cardboard cut-outs that are commonly used in such tales. We do hear a little about the protagonists private lives, mainly about Anderson’s struggle to overcome the psychological damage inflicted on him, and his family, but refreshingly the core of the story is kept to the forefront at all times.

If you like your crime thrillers to be full of thrills, you can’t go far wrong with this one but be warned, there are fairly graphic descriptions and if rats freak you out, this is not a bedtime story for you!!

Published UK eBook: 1 August 2016
Publisher: Severn House
No of Pages: 256
Genre: Crime Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Laidlaw – William McIlvanney

Crime Fiction 4*s
Crime Fiction
4*s

I read this book on Fiction Fan’s recommendation since this book was gave this her FictionFan Crime Thriller Award Winner back in 2013, yes I know, I don’t like to rush to read promising books!!

Detective Inspector Jack Laidlaw is investigating the rape and murder of pretty young Jennifer Lawson who was recently reported missing by her father. Detective Constable Harkness is there to assist him, newly transferred he has been warned about Laidlaw’s unorthodox methods. But the police aren’t the only ones investigating this crime – Jennifer’s father is determined to find the killer first.

Set in 1970s Glasgow hardly a page is turned that doesn’t have a snarl or a raised fists which alongside the nervousness of the women all reinforce the menace that stalks through this book. Times are hard in Glasgow with the national industries closing down and so these hard men need to make their mark on the world in the way they know best, through violence.

Unsurprisingly since this book was originally published in the 1977 the sense of time is shockingly well done including the bigotry that ran rife in Glasgow at that time. I’m not sure that poor Jennifer would have put up with the way her father ruled her and her mother quite as meekly in this day and age. His uncompromising manner had meant that there were hints of a secret boyfriend after she chose someone unsuitable in his eyes a while earlier, but was her murder committed by someone she knew, or was it perhaps a chance killing. That’s what the maverick that is Laidlaw intends to find out. But, he is considered unusual for a policeman in those macho times, because he cared about the causes of crime as a fellow officer commented:

“You’ll have to wear wellies when you work with him. To wade through the tears. He thinks criminals are underprivileged.”

Whilst the mystery itself is fairly run of the mill when you discount that this is the first of the genre now known as ‘Tartan Noir’ the beauty of this book is in its language. It is a joy to turn the page and find something pretty much quotable on practicably every page.

Sunday in the park – it was a nice day. A Glasgow sun was out, dully luminous, an eye with cataract. Some people were in the park pretending it was warm, exercising that necessary Scottish thrift with weather which hoards every good day in the hope of some year amassing a summer.

Partly because of the lyrical language this reads quite unlike most crime fiction; it isn’t a book to be devoured to find out whodunit because we know who the perpetrator is fairly on, the question is who will get to them first, the police or local justice? This is book to savour to think about the views of all involved even those who are apparently viciously elbowed out like Jennifer’s mother by the men determined to find their man and make him pay.

The one element which worried me ahead of reading this novel was the inclusion of the dialect; I’m not a big fan of dialect in a book but I honestly didn’t struggle with the inclusion in this one either in terms of meaning or with the inevitable slow-down it usually causes adapting to unfamiliar letter patterns which tend to pull me outside of the story. This was one book where those short and infrequent bursts of dialect did add rather than detract from the story particularly when I worked out Laidlaw’s use of it himself gave a pointer to the type of person he was conversing with!

An all-round enjoyable read which I’m delighted to have finally read – the next two in this trilogy are now on the wishlist and I don’t intend leaving it quite so long to get around to reading them.

First Published UK: 1977
Publisher: Cannongate Books
No of Pages 304
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Dead Hour – Denise Mina

Crime Fiction 4*s
Crime Fiction
4*s

I really enjoyed the first book in the Paddy Mehan trilogy: The Field of Blood and the slightly overweight, under confident trainee journalist in the sexist environment of the news room in 1980s Glasgow really got under my skin. Denise Mina has come up with an incredibly appealing combination of a thriller mixed with a hint of nostalgia at a particular time in history when everything was changing.

The Dead Hour is set about three years later and Paddy riding in the ‘night call car’, the one that follows the police radio around the city looking for newsworthy stories when they are called to one of the better areas in Glasgow. It seems to be a case of domestic violence, one that the attending police officers aren’t too interested in and despite being disturbed by the woman’s appearance there isn’t a great deal to call in about this on, and well the woman didn’t want Paddy’s help and the man had pressed a £50 note into her hand which Paddy hasn’t declared… until the next morning when a woman’s body is discovered. She was murdered; brutally beaten, tortured and left to die, Paddy has to readjust what she saw against this new knowledge.

What follows is a well-timed mystery set against the back-drop of this Scottish city largely struggling with poverty. Paddy is the only wage earner in her household, and the family’s position looks more precarious when the newspaper is forced to make cuts to the workforce. With office intrigue, a personal life that is over-shadowed by her Catholic upbringing and a fierce ambition which is at odds with society’s ideas of what should be important to a young woman.

I loved the 37 short chapters that move the story along at a pace which simply begged for just another one before I closed the book and although the underlying storyline wasn’t quite as compulsive as the previous one, there was never any doubt that this was a story being told by an assured writer. There are plenty of opportunities for Paddy to put in her black throwaway lines that make these books such a joy to read.

“It was Lord of the Flies without table manners.”

And of course there is plenty of references to the eighties, that decade of superb fashion:

“Paddy saw short ra-ra skirts and ski-pants and nipped waists. It was a bad time for big girls.”

But running through the book is the scourge of drugs, a less welcome aspect of the decade which is possibly why I didn’t enjoy this story quite so much. Reading about drug dealers and their petty rivalries and the effects on those who fall under their spell just isn’t really my cup of tea, although I’m sure that Denise Mina has accurately captured them in all their glory as she has done with the local police who have a whiff of corruption surrounding them.

“You’re only a year older than me. How come you dress like Val Doonican?”
He sat back and smiled at her, pulling his V-neck straight. It wasn’t his usual toothy matinee-idol smile but a coy asymmetric face crumple. “I’m a polis. This gear is cool in the polis.”

As this book ends on a bombshell, there is no doubt in my mind that I will be reading the last episode of this trilogy, The Last Breath, in the not too distant future and I can tell you I big plans to investigate the entire back-catalogue of work. After all if I can be captivated by a book that focusses on my least favourite aspect of crime I know for sure that this is one author that will be forever on my watch list!

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

The Field of Blood – Denise Mina

Crime Fiction 5*s
Crime Fiction
5*s

Look at me starting a series right at the beginning! This is the first in Denise Mina’s Paddy Mehan series set in early 80s Glasgow. Young Paddy Mehan is a copyboy, with ambitions to become a journalist on a Glasgow paper, full of youthful anxiety about her well-covered figure, equally in awe of, and disturbed by the older male journalists and their antics in the bar, a place they seem to spend most of their time.

There were so many fascinating layers to this story and not just connected to the horrific crime, the kidnap and murder of four-year-old Brian Wilcox and the swift arrest of two ten-year-old boys as a result. There is discourse on the divide between the Catholics and Protestants in the city, the unemployment rife at this time, the expectations of a family on the youngest daughter in terms of her behaviour and the disapproval of the wider community that Paddy Mehan managed to bring down on her young head at one point in this tale. And key to the tale is that of Police corruption.

The time is eloquently set, this is the era just before my teenage years and subsequently the one which shines brightest in my mind. I can’t remember the last time I bought a packet of refreshers, but when Paddy did so, I could feel and taste them popping on my tongue – Paddy’s clothes, her view of the world around her felt authentic to both her age and the time period. The sense of place also felt real, I could easily visualise the places described, despite never having visited Glasgow in my life, a testament to the skill of this author.

Alongside the main crime and Paddy’s investigative and journalistic skills, we also hear about an older Paddy Mehan, this man was a career criminal who was kept in solitary confinement for seven years for the murder of a young woman, a crime he insisted he had never committed. Our Paddy, the wannabe journalist had become fascinated with this man, her namesake and her ambition was to write, as journalists had in the 1960s, true investigative journalism probing and finding evidence that had never before seen the light of day. These excerpts from the 60s are fascinating and even more so when you reach the afterword and realise why the author chose to insert these into what on the face of it appears to be a completely unrelated crime to the central mystery of this book.

I’ve talked about everything but the crime to be solved, and that’s because this book made me think of all the periphery subjects whilst the mystery of what happened to the victim Brian Wilcox on the day he disappeared from his garden. This is a horrendous crime and although it is quite graphically described at the outset the author didn’t revisit the horrors of that day, rather the emphasis was on his family and the community following the arrest of the two young boys. During the course of this book our young Paddy finds evidence, she makes bold moves, but this is crime fiction and so she learns that what she is looking at may not be the real answer, perhaps it is a red-herring?

The number of themes, the protagonist who is unlike any other I have come across, the whole press room alongside the time period meant that I found this to be a truly exceptional read. I was devastated to find that I had mistakenly believed I had another book by this author within my TBR stack, sadly I don’t and I’m trying hard to resist buying every single one of her other books! I’m fairly sure that the first on the list will be the next two books in this trilogy as I want to see how Paddy grows and develops because this was a truly stunning opening shot.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Now That You’re Gone – Julie Corbin

Psychological Thriller 4*'s
Psychological Thriller
4*’s

This is a mystery set very firmly in Scotland with realistic characterisation and rather more unexpectedly, an examination of how family relationships evolve over time.

Isla McTeer is devastated when she is called to identify the body of her twin brother, Dougie who has pulled from the Tyne River in Glasgow. Dougie, a former marine had returned to Edinburgh following Isla’s separation from her husband and in turn became an even larger part of her life, even working for a different branch of the same company; Isla works in insurance and Dougie was a Private Investigator. After the initial shock subsides Isla starts to question why Dougie had gone to Glasgow and this is the question no one can answer.

Isla’s father comes to stay with Isla for the funeral while her younger sister Marie makes a flying visit from Norway, unable to leave her young children for long. When Marie starts pushing to sell Dougie’s house his ex-wife Tania gives Isla a piece of information about his trip to Glasgow that she can’t forget. Isla raises concerns about Dougie’s death but the police are adamant that it was an accident, he simply fell into the river while drunk.

I liked the format of this book with the current action, and there is plenty of this, is interspersed with episodes from Dougie’s life as remembered by his twin in the form of a conversation with him. These are effective in building a picture of the family as well as being a realistic tool in illustrating Isla’s grief as she lives with the loss of her brother. She had depended on him so much during her life and now she wants to return the favour by finding out exactly what happened on the night he drowned.

There is quite a lot crammed into this book and not all the stories are followed through to a neat conclusion so if you are a reader that likes everything tied up in a big bow, this isn’t the book for you, although neither is this a completely open ending, there are answers, just not to everything.

For me the psychological look at families as a whole, and not as you’d imagine specifically twins, was an interesting twist. Our interaction with our siblings and parents changes over the years but frequently these references are simplified into the children taking on the role of parents as the later age, but in Now That You’re Gone the context is much wider providing a really satisfying read on many levels.

I am very grateful to the publishers, Hodder & Stoughton, who provided me with a copy of this book in return for my honest opinion. Now That You’re Gone was published on 5 June 2014

Previous Books by Julie Corbin

Tell Me No Secrets

You can bury the past but it never dies …Her name was Rose and she was nine years old when she died. I’m not going to make excuses for what I did. I’m going to tell my story as it is and as it was. This isn’t the beginning but it’s a good place to start …Grace has lived in the same village on the east coast of Scotland for almost her entire life. Safe and secure, it is the perfect place for her and her husband Paul to bring up their twin girls. And so, despite having to contend with the trials and tribulations of her adolescent daughters and the increasing onset of Alzheimer’s in her beloved father-in-law, Grace feels that, finally, life is good. Until, that is, a phone call from her old best friend, a woman she hasn’t seen in years – and for good reason – threatens to take away everything she holds dear. Grace is about to discover that some secrets can’t remain buried forever … Amazon

This was one of the first books I bought on kindle and awarded it five stars and instantly purchased her next book,

Where the Truth Lies

Claire’s husband has been keeping secrets. About the whereabouts of the witness to the murder trial he’s prosecuting . And about the letters he’s been getting, threatening to kill their three-year old, unless he tells the blackmailer where the witness is hiding. With their daughter’s life at stake, it is left to Claire to untangle the web of lies and half-truths and find out just who might be responsible. And to stop them. Before it’s too late. Amazon

This was followed up by an equally accomplished book in

Every Vow You Break

When her teenage son Robbie’s drink is spiked, Olivia Somers is devastated. She has spent her adult life trying to protect people and keep them safe – not only as a mother, but also in her chosen profession as a doctor. So she tries to put it down to a horrible accident, in spite of the evidence suggesting malicious intent, and simply hopes no-one tries to endanger those she loves again. But someone from the past is after revenge. Someone closer to her family than she could possibly realise. Someone who will stop at nothing until they get the vengeance they crave. And, as she and her family come under increasing threat, the oath that Olivia took when she first became a doctor – to do no harm to others – will be tested to its very limits. Amazon

Posted in Books I have read

The Murder Tree – Alan Veale

Historical Crime 4*'s
Historical Crime
4*’s

Based upon fact that in 1862 Jessie McLachlan was tried for murder of her friend, another servant also named Jessie McPherson this really is a unique read because this isn’t just a rehash of a crime rewritten for people like me who are fascinated by such things. The Murder Tree is, if anything, more weighted towards Chrissie Ferson and her companion Billy Vane than what really happened that fateful 4 July 1862 in a house in Glasgow.

A great genealogical mystery underpins The Murder Tree with a very determined Chrissie Fersen on the trail in Glasgow determined to find out what links her to the murder of a servant Jessie McPherson, in 1862.

Having suffered a great loss in her life the seemingly tenuous link between her family and the terrible murder that took place at 17 Sandyford Place appears to be just the right kind of focus she needs to take her mind off recent events. Billy Vane a local librarian also needs a distraction in his life and so when wealthy Chrissie meets him with a fantastical tale of ghosts they decide to solve the mystery together.

This book covers the murder, a family mystery twisted by lies both past and present, ghosts along with a smattering of madness and even a surprising smattering of romance all carefully mixed to produce an engaging read. I say carefully mixed as this combination could easily have gone badly awry! I’m not a lover of the supernatural and early on I did wonder if this would undermine the book for me; it didn’t I couldn’t wait to find out, well… everything!

I like books based on true stories and although the author makes it clear that this is a work of fiction the inclusion of some of the statements from the trial added a layer of intrigue for me.

To my delight this author has provided a fantastic The Murder Tree website which is the best example I have come across. This is a great addition to this book with pictures of 17 Sandyford Place, a family tree as well as notes about the author.  In answer to the author’s question posted there, this reader would certainly love to read a second book.

I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in return for this honest review.

The Murder Tree Amazon UK

For other examples of Genealogical crime read my previous post that lists some books available in this fascinating genre