Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Lie of You – Jane Lythell

Psychological Suspense
3*s

An intriguing story of psychological suspense rather than a thriller The Lie of You dives beneath the surface of the reason why Heja is obsessed with the minutia of Kathy’s life.

Kathy has recently returned to the workplace following the birth of her son and Heja is watching and waiting for her it would seem. Heja is efficient and a former darling of Finland’s TV it is a mystery as to why she has ended up in a junior role on a magazine. Heja’s own portrayal of the situation is done well. This is a fascinating book to read as a snapshot of how some women judge each other and the author has taken the everyday comments you hear and magnified them into the storyline which gives a feeling not only of a genuine working relationship, but also makes the reader think about the interactions we have with our colleagues.

Fortunately because the structure of the book is to have each woman’s narration, we get to see Kathy’s view of the relationship too. Here things don’t seem quite as simple and if Kathy is right then there are some clear malevolent acts carried out by Heja with small but spiteful ways designed to undermine her boss in the workplace. What could have caused all this angst?

We then meet Marcus Kathy’s husband and everything we’ve been told seems is now seen in a slightly different frame. In true psychological suspense style the reader is likely to feel that their feelings about the situation change as the book progresses which I have to admit I always admire.

So there is lots to admire and I really was keen to see how the story would progress and of course was itching to know what the resolution would be. I think the characterisation and the observational aspect of the interactions of both women was well done, however Marcus seemed to remain a somewhat sketchy character. His actions didn’t quite match up with how we were told, mainly by Kathy, that he behaved and this was a little disconcerting because I have no issue with unreliable narrators but this seemed a little bit more disconnected than a deliberate rose-tinted view of the world.

The story got off to a cracking start and it should be noted that this isn’t a roller-coaster ride of events, more a slow unveiling of the truth and in that regard it kept a steady pace with the revelations mostly evenly presented. I have to admit I’d expected more office scenes than we actually got with much of the drama being of a far more domestic nature and therefore domestic details and less of the high-powered working woman than I expected. That said it was easy to imagine the scenes in London of the hustle and bustle carrying on as a background to the relationship Kathy and Heja becoming more and more tense and claustrophobic.

An enjoyable read that did all the good things you expect of this genre which was of course less crowded in 2014 when this book was written.

First Published UK: 1 January 2014
Publisher: Head of Zeus
No of Pages: 320
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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

Gallows Court – Martin Edwards #BlogTour

Crime Fiction
5*s

Martin Edwards is an expert in classic crime springing from the Golden Age so I was thrilled to be asked to be part of the blog tour to celebrate the publication of Gallows Court, a book written in the model of all the greats. His study of the sub-genre combine with the fact that I have experienced nothing but pure joy when reading his modern crime series set in the Lake District set my expectations high; they were met.

The main setting is London in the smog but we are also drawn back to the past to an island off the coast of Ireland by way of some letters. Two more atmospheric places would be hard to find and Martin Edwards sets his pen about making sure we know it.

On the Island of Gaunt a young girl, Juliet Bretano pens her thoughts on Rachel Severnake, the woman she believes murdered her father. Ooh I love a female killer, particularly from this age as you know that there has to be some ingenuity involved.

But then in London the headless corpse of a woman is found and Scotland Yard are determined to find the killer. Meanwhile Jacob Flint has been trying to make his name at the crime desk for The Clarion and he has his eye on Rachel Severnake who recently solved a high profile case to Scotland Yard’s embarrassment. Rachel Severnake is the daughter of the man who was known as the ‘hanging judge’ but as he aged his behaviour became something of a concern and he took himself off to the island of Gaunt with his young daughter. But Rachel is in London, a London where no respectable lady would dream of walking in the particular darkness of the smog where visibility is so poor you don’t know who is lurking around the next corner.

That’s all I am going to say about the plot itself. The writing as you might expect is brilliant. The plot is complex and depends on those false clues not least what part does Gallows Court play? The fantastic scene setting mentioned earlier has a big part to play, the author using both the dangerous darkness of London and the remoteness of Gaunt to their full advantage. The characters are for the most part wily and definitely not those you should put your trust in and also for the most part are of the higher reaches of society. So far so Golden Age but I felt that the bodies piled higher and the murders more ‘on stage’ with some more modern themes as motives than perhaps you’d expect to see from that time. It is a clever author indeed who can play such obvious flattery to a style and yet gently update it for the more modern taste in crime writing. This book did have the feel of a more modern day thriller with the tension perhaps higher than those solved by our favourite crime detectives from the age. Make no mistake the stakes are high for our characters and no-one is safe until the culprit is found!

I absolutely modestly raise my cloche hat to the ingenuity of Gallows Court. I was totally immersed in trying to solve the puzzle and would like to say I was ‘on it,’ but I wasn’t really until fairly near the end.

First Published UK: 6 September 2018
Publisher: Head of Zeus
No of Pages: 416
Genre: Crime Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the Blog Tour and before anyone points out to me that I’ve posted this on the wrong day – let’s just say there was some confusion!

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane – Paul Thomas Murphy

Non-Fiction 4*s
Non-Fiction
4*s

This historical true crime happened in 1871 in the Greenwich are of Victorian London. Poor Jane Coulson had been found in a terrible state with her face bashed in on a footpath by a policeman following his beat in the area. The girl was at last unidentified so extreme were her facial injuries and in the week or so that it took to discover who she was a few other girls, sadly of disrepute, were named as the victim. Eventually the truth was discovered but Jane Coulson didn’t, couldn’t, survive her injuries.

This is a well-researched book of a crime that I hadn’t come across before and doesn’t just concentrate on the police’s investigation into the murder but also the three trials the suspect underwent with the accompanying views of both the media and the local population at the time. With a sense of the place impeccably reconstructed for the reader as well as a detailed look at the various stages of the investigation and the trial I was absorbed by this reconstruction. With enough doubt to whether the right person had been arrested from the outset the author has pieced together the details including those that didn’t appear at the trial. Of course, after such a long period of time, there is little hard evidence to re-examine but that didn’t stop the author applying principles known today that were not at this time, being used to make a reasonable assessment of the case.

The author also captures the characters who make up the background to the story. From the reluctant witness of the shop-keeper who was unable to identify the man who bought the hammer which was the alleged weapon to the righteous Mr Henry Pook who defended the alleged perpetrator Edmund Pook, no relative. Edmund Pook was supported by his father a grandly named Ebenezer Pook along with his brother and other family members. The victim, Jane Coulson had worked as a maid of all work for this middle-class family and as a result we get to see how the Victorian class system operated at that time. Maids of all work were by far the most common servants of the time with middle-class families keeping one to do long hours as a status symbol as much as anything. The Pooks were not so well-off that Jane even had a pokey attic for a room, she actually shared with the victim’s cousin!

All in all a fascinating and immensely readable account of the crime, its investigation both into the identity of the victim and the murderer, the trials that followed and just as intriguingly the reaction of the public both on the streets and through the media of the day. In some ways this reaction was split along class lines but not entirely which in itself was interesting.

In the end my conclusion ties in with the authors but read the book yourself, you may well think that another scenario is equally as likely as to who did kill Jane Coulson.

I’d like to thank the publishers Head of Zeus who allowed me to read an advance copy of this book. This unbiased review is my thank you to them.

Published UK: 14 July 2016
Publisher: Head of Zeus
No of Pages 352
Genre: Historical True Crime
Amazon UK
Amazon US – Not Available

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

The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and the Missing Corpse – Piu Marie Eatwell

Historical Crime 5*'s
Historical Crime
5*’s

Piu Marie Eatwell has chosen one of the most fantastical of legal trials that spanned the late Victorian to the Edwardian period for another entry into the genre of turning well-researched historical crimes into an accessible book for non-academics.

The journey the author takes us through started in 1898 when a widow named Anna Maria Druce applied for the exhumation of the grave of her late father-in-law, Thomas Charles Druce. Mr Druce had been a furniture dealer, owning the Baker Street Bazaar, a forerunner of what we know as a department store, but Anna Maria believed that he had been the alter ego of the eccentric 5th Duke of Portland. Her claims meant that Tomas Druce had faked his death in 1864 and spent the next fifteen living at the ducal seat, Welbeck Abbey in Worksop, Nottinghamshire.

WelbeckAbbeyJonesViews1829

Welbeck Abbey 1829 – Wikipedia

 

This real life drama ended up spanning an entire decade after Anna Maria’s request for the grave in Highgate Cemetery being refused but with the discovery that Thomas Druce had been married before. Both men were eccentrics, Thomas Druce refused to reveal any details about his early life, he had fixed habits and moved his family frequently from property to property whereas the Duke was rarely seen in public, had an aversion to sunlight and spent his time at Welbeck Abbey constructing a series of tunnels and rooms underground. Who can deny that fact is often stranger than fiction?

The beauty of this book, and others of its ilk like The Suspicion of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale or The Magnificent Spilsbury and the case of the Brides in the Bath by Jane Robins, is that they give a real feel for the time as well as providing us with well-researched historical evidence. This tale is complex, particularly as it is full of claim, counter-claim, hypothesis and, on the flip-side lies and forgeries, but the chapters are divided up to give background to the next part as well as the new revelations that kept the courts, and the media, busy. A story running for so long had the public eager to find out the latest, especially as the revelations uncovered some behaviour that was definitely against the morals of the time.

The story doesn’t end when the mystery is resolved, the police were also kept busy following up some of the claims made including Inspector Dew who became known for his apprehension of Dr Crippen which meant for me, this story had links to other true crimes committed in the same period, presumably so few were the members of the newly formed CID that his career saw a wide variety of criminals. Mentions are also made of the love of Sherlock Holmes but without it feeling like the author was trying to cram every detail into the book.

Apart from in the first chapter where the author gives us a potted history of the ownership of Welbeck Abbey, the book couldn’t read less like a history book so well thought out is the structure making it an immensely readable and enjoyable piece of what must have been months of research.

Dcwalterdew

DC Walter Dew Circa 1887 – Wikipedia

I’d like to thank Midas PR or allowing me to read a copy of this book for review purposes, it will now stand next to the rest of my historical crime selection on my bookshelf. The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and the Missing Corpse was published by Head of Zeus in hardback in September 2014 and the author will be on tour in the UK during the summer of 2015.

Piu Marie Eatwell Piu Marie Eatwell has a fascinating background – an ex-lawyer and TV producer, she      used to produce a number of historical documentaries for the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. She now lives in Paris with her family. Her first book They Eat Horses, Don’t They? busted common myths and misconceptions about the French and was highly acclaimed.