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

Letters from the Dead – Steve Robinson

Crime Fiction
5*s

For the seventh outing of Jefferson Tayte, a genealogist now based in the UK with his wife Jean, JT as he is more fondly known, is asked to discover the four-times-Great-Grandfather of his client, Damian Sinclair. His trail takes him from a crumbling, literally, pile in the Southern Highlands of Scotland, Drumarthen, to Rajputana (now known as Rajasthan) with strong links to the East India Company.

If you have followed JT’s previous adventures you will have learnt that genealogy can be a dangerous business, something JT himself seems to forget with a sense of abandon as soon as any juicy mystery comes along.

Damian Sinclair is unlike most of JT’s clients, he and the wider family have done a massive amount of research into their family. It’s soon revealed that this isn’t out of simple curiosity about their family heritage but because wrapped into the history is a missing ruby, one that would significantly change the owner’s life and there is no better motivation than a treasure hunt to help fill in those gaps on the family tree. Damian Sinclair assures JT he is not interested in the ruby and even though the reader can hear the audience hissing, JT puts his scepticism about the truth of this statement aside, and agrees to work on the case.

JT is introduced to the wider family and it is revealed that packet of letters were found that might hold the link to the jewel written in 1820s from a travelling companion in India back to the woman’s brother. These seem to be missing, all apart from one. Do these letters hold the key to the mystery?
The characters are brilliantly portrayed, Steve Robinson has ensured you will be able to tell them all apart by making them distinct, if in the main, individuals that you don’t need to waste a whole heap of sympathy on. After all you don’t want feelings of sorrow for these fictional characters to slow the trail to finding the truth, do you?

While JT is seeking the truth from the past, there are disturbing events in the present with an ‘Golden Age’ type mystery involving a syndicate formed to find the ruby. We therefore have Detective Inspector Alastair Ross being kept busy with the odd dead body too.

As with the previous books in the series, not only are the stories incredibly informative showing the impeccable research carried out by the author, they also have a sense of fun too. The story as it unfolds by letter from life in Colonial India completely transported me to a very particular way of life. The historical part alone was a fabulous story while with the danger in the present and a mystery which seems to hinge on greed provides a puzzle which seems to confound the finest of minds. Steve Robinson created a thoroughly interesting, informative and entertaining read in Letters from the Dead.

I’d like to thank  and the author Steve Robinson and the publishers Thomas & Mercer for allowing me to read an advance review copy of Letters from the Dead which was published on 14 August 2018. Perfect for lovers of genealogy as the author manages to weave some actual resources into the book without overshadowing either the historical angle or the mystery playing out in the present it also caters for a wide range of interests from history to those who crave a damn good mystery!

First Published UK: 14 August 2018
Publisher: Thomas Mercer
No of Pages: 348
Genre: Crime Fiction – Genealogical
Amazon UK
Amazon US

If you haven’t read the previous books in this series, not to worry, each of the books stands alone with only a very fleeting mention of anything in JT’s private life that has gone before.

Previous Books in the JT series

In The Blood

Two hundred years ago a loyalist family fled to England to escape the American War of Independence and seemingly vanished into thin air. American genealogist Jefferson Tayte is hired to find out what happened, but it soon becomes apparent that a calculated killer is out to stop him.
In the Blood combines a centuries-old mystery with a present-day thriller that brings two people from opposite sides of the Atlantic together to uncover a series of carefully hidden crimes. Tayte’s research centres around the tragic life of a young Cornish girl, a writing box, and the discovery of a dark secret that he believes will lead him to the family he is looking for. Trouble is, someone else is looking for the same answers and will stop at nothing to find them.

To The Grave

A curiously dated child’s suitcase arrives, unannounced and unexplained, in a modern-day Washington suburb. A week later, American genealogist Jefferson Tayte is sitting in an English hotel room, staring at the wrong end of a loaded gun.
In his latest journey into the past, Tayte lands in wartime Leicestershire, England. The genealogist had hoped simply to reunite his client with the birth mother she had never met, having no idea she had been adopted. Instead, he uncovers the tale of a young girl and an American serviceman from the US 82nd Airborne, and a stolen wartime love affair that went tragically wrong.

The Last Queen of England

While on a visit to London, American genealogist Jefferson Tayte’s old friend and colleague dies in his arms. Before long, Tayte and a truth-seeking historian, Professor Jean Summer, find themselves following a corpse-ridden trail that takes them to the Royal Society of London, circa 1708.
What to make of the story of five men of science, colleagues of Isaac Newton and Christopher Wren, who were mysteriously hanged for high treason?
As they edge closer to the truth, Tayte and the professor find that death is once again in season. A new killer, bent on restoring what he sees as the true, royal bloodline, is on the loose…as is a Machiavellian heir-hunter who senses that the latest round of murder, kidnapping, and scandal represents an unmissable business opportunity.

The Lost Empress

On a foggy night in 1914, the ocean liner Empress of Ireland sank en route between Canada and England. The disaster saw a loss of life comparable to the Titanic and the Lusitania, and yet her tragedy has been forgotten.
When genealogist Jefferson Tayte is shown a locket belonging to one of the Empress’s victims, a British admiral’s daughter named Alice Stilwell, he must travel to England to understand the course of events that led to her death.
Tayte is expert in tracking killers across centuries. In The Lost Empress, his unique talents draw him to one of the greatest tragedies in maritime history as he unravels the truth behind Alice’s death amidst a backdrop of pre-WWI espionage.

Kindred

Jefferson Tayte is good at finding people who don’t want to be found. For years he has followed faint genealogical trails to reunite families—and uncover long-hidden secrets. But Tayte is a loner, a man with no ties of his own; his true identity is the most elusive case of his career.

But that could all be about to change. Now Tayte has in his possession the beginnings of a new trail—clues his late mentor had started to gather—that might at last lead to his own family. With Professor Jean Summer, his partner in genealogical sleuthing, he travels to Munich to pick up the scent. But the hunt takes them deep into dangerous territory: the sinister secrets of World War II Germany, and those who must keep them buried at any cost.

Dying Games

Washington, DC: Twin brothers are found drowned in a Perspex box, one gagged and strapped to a chair. It’s the latest in a series of cruel and elaborate murders with two things in common: the killer has left a family history chart at each crime scene, and the victims all have a connection to genealogical sleuth Jefferson Tayte.

Hoping his insight and expertise will help solve the case, the FBI summon Tayte back to the capital. But as he struggles to crack the clues, the killer strikes again—and again. Tayte is known as the best in the business, but this time he’s up against a genealogical mastermind who always seems to be one step ahead.

With the clock ticking and the body count rising, Tayte finds himself racked with guilt, his reputation and career in tatters. The killer is running rings around him; is it only a matter of time before he comes for the ultimate target?

 

Posted in #20 Books of Summer 2017, Book Review, Books I have read

The Judge’s Wife – Ann O’Loughlin #20booksofsummer

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

The heart of this book is set in 1950s Dublin when Grace is married to the much older Martin Moran who will go on to become a prominent judge. Grace isn’t given much choice in the matter, young women at that time weren’t, particularly if they were dependent on their spinster aunt for support.

Grace’s story is pieced together by her daughter Emma, some thirty years later, following the death of the Judge, who was by this time estranged from Emma who viewed her childhood as a cold comfortless challenge in a household bereft of maternal love since her mother had died at the time of her birth.

The first clues are a packed case with beautiful clothes and a letter that was never posted. What Emma finds will take her back in time to the asylum where her mother was incarcerated following the birth of her child, a child she only saw for a short time before being bundled into a ward with the other inconvenient women.

‘Scuffles of clouds framed by rectangular, dirt-encrusted windows danced overhead. The sound of laughter drifted up from downstairs, where the two attendants puffed on cigarettes and relayed to the staff canteen every detail of the committal of the judge’s wife to the asylum’

In a world far removed from Emma’s discoveries in Ireland, a young woman in Bangalore India is struggling with an errant husband. Devoted to her Uncle Vikram who wants to take a trip back to Ireland, the land that nearly destroyed him thirty years ago. His sister Rhya, Rosa’s mother, is dead set against the trip but the two are making plans and Rosa hears Vikram’s tales of his lost love in Ireland and the awful events that meant he had to leave without saying goodbye to her.

The Judge’s Wife is an inviting tale, full of emotion of a time where appearances were everything and true emotions were buried out of sight. I loved the little historical details especially those around clothes – Emma wears Grace’s old clothes delighting in their beauty while in Bangalore Rhya sighs over her beloved saris which hold memories, both happy and sad. The author’s chosen settings are evocatively recreated for the reader’s pleasure. The brightness of the colours in Bangalore contrasting with the absence of colour in Grace’s life in the asylum.

There is a lot of drama in this book from the horrors of a healthy young woman being incarcerated in an asylum to Vikram’s broken heart as he retreats to the coffee plantation a life far removed from his training as a doctor. The judge also turns out to have been misread during his life-time and Emma comes to understand his remoteness to her as a child, was not because he didn’t love her. As is necessary in these types of book, there are a fair few coincidences to keep the story moving along, but that doesn’t detract from a story that is about people, injustice and above all betrayal can inflict terrible wounds causing damage far wider than could ever have been anticipated. On the flip-side the characters all reveal how much the hardest challenge is if you have someone backing your corner and so countering the destructive relationships we have episodes where a friendship, romantic relationship or that of a devoted sibling can ease the hardships of life.

An enchanting read that had the power to transport me to a time and place quite unlike home.

The Judge’s Wife was my seventeenth read in my 20 Books of Summer Challenge.

First Published UK: 1 July 2016
Publisher: Black and White Publishing 
No of Pages: 312
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Teatime for the Firefly – Shona Patel

Historical Fiction 4*'s
Historical Fiction
4*’s

Having been born under an inauspicious horoscope Layla is sure her future lies in taking over from her beloved Dadamoshai, her Grandfather, at the English school. One day a visitor opens her eyes to a different life within a changing India. The drive for independence from British rule is gathering momentum and combined with the Second World War this means that life will never be quite the same again.

I really enjoyed this gentle and thoughtful book with some delightful characters who bring this historical novel to life. Learning what the war meant to Indians was a revelation; I didn’t realise that food was rationed there too. Inevitably given the setting in the tea gardens of Assam there was lots to absorb about how this famous tea was planted, pruned and harvested along with the management and rituals employed by the English managers with their own customs to uphold.

To be honest I was unsure whether I had chosen a book that I wouldn’t be able to finish not being a great lover of boy meets girl novels but turning the first page I immediately knew that this book was so much more than the romance.
I have to admit I was becoming a little worried about how this book was going to end but it managed a dramatic conclusion after the tender beginning.

If like me you are drawn by the beautiful book cover then rest assured this is one book that can be judged by it.If you like a book with a difference, love historical novels, reading about different cultures and meeting some fantastic characters I’m sure you will enjoy this book which is due to be published 24 September 2013
I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this book from the publisher in return for my honest review.

Posted in Weekly Posts

WWW Wednesday (September 18)

WWW Wednesday green

Hosted by Shouldbereading.wordpress.com

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

I am reading Teatime for the Firefly by Shona Patel which is so much more than I ever expected. This is a tale set in a different time (1943), a different culture and has informed me so much of what World War II meant in India as well as including loads of information about the tea gardens of Assam.

Teatime for the Firefly

Blurb

My name is Layla and I was born under an unlucky star. For a young girl growing up in India, this is bad news. But everything began to change for me one spring day in 1943, when three unconnected incidents, like tiny droplets on a lily leaf, tipped and rolled into one. It was that tiny shift in the cosmos, I believe, that tipped us together-me and Manik Deb.

Layla Roy has defied the fates. Despite being born under an inauspicious horoscope, she is raised to be educated and independent minded by her eccentric Anglophile grandfather, Dadamoshai. And, by cleverly manipulating the hand fortune has dealt her, she has even found love with Manik Deb-a man betrothed to another. All were minor miracles in India that spring of 1943, when young women’s lives were predetermined-if not by the stars, then by centuries of family tradition and social order.

I have just finished Bellman & Black by Diane Settterfield
which is going to be published at the beginning of October

Bellman & Black blue
Click the book cover to see my review

Next on my list is The Bridesmaid by Jenny Scotti

Jenni Scott contacted me to see if I would be interested in reviewing this and I looked at the blurb and couldn’t resist (again) This looks like it has everything I will enjoy in a murder-mystery. It is set in England, the victim has secrets to be uncovered and best of all it has connections to the past.

Wedding Bouquet

  Blurb

Haddley, a quiet English village in the Midlands. Kelly Evans — a sixteen year old girl — is brutally murdered. Her body is discovered by a neighbour, and the police are called in to investigate. Kelly was young and beautiful, and her untimely death comes as a shock to all who knew her … or does it really?

The dark side of Kelly’s personality soon comes to light. She was ruthless and promiscuous, and stopped at nothing to get what she wanted, even if it meant wrecking other people’s lives. She made quite a few enemies, and among close friends and neighbours are some who might have had a very good reason for wanting to get rid of her.

The investigation takes a new and unexpected turn when a locket goes missing, and a connection is made with the twenty-year-old murder of a wartime movie star. As the police search the past for answers and gradually piece the mystery together, the respectable veneer starts cracking exposing a web of jealousy, sexual intrigue and deceit.
Goodreads

Posted in Books I have read

Monsoon Memories – Renita D’Silva

Women's Fiction 4*'s
Women’s Fiction
4*’s

I was intrigued by the blurb when contacted by the publisher to see if I would be interested in reading this book. What follows is an unbiased review but I am really glad I was chosen to read this book that has that unique something that makes it immensely readable.

Monsoon Memories is an evocative book describing the life of Reenu, an eleven year old girl. Reenu visits her Grandmother in Taipur and finds a picture of a girl hidden in the family photo album. Having decided to be a sleuth like her heroine Nancy Drew she is determined to find out who the girl is and why she has been erased from history. Far away in England working as a programmer is Shirin, a woman haunted by the past and torn between enjoying the happy memories of her life as a child in India and being afraid of acknowledging the events that led her to leave. Between them Shirin and Reenu tell us a painful story of a family torn apart.

The heart of this story is family relationships including all the variations. The characters are brilliant; I loved Aunt Anita, Madhau the servant and the spirited Reenu. The heat of India, the monsoons and the casual poverty that surrounds the family is well described, as is the food. In fact food seemed to be mentioned continually; illustrating how important it was to the structure of the day, I found this occasionally intrusive (possibly as I haven’t eaten many of the Indian dishes described in loving detail.)

The structure of the story is measured and steady; at no point did I feel it was drawn out unnecessarily. The reader has different parts of the tale told from both Shirin’s and Reenu’s viewpoint which drew me in so that I was rooting for a happy ending for all the lovely characters, both minor and major bought to life in this book.