Posted in 5 Of the Best

Five of the Best (July 2014 to July 2018)

 


5 Star Reads

In 2015 to celebrate reviewing for five years I started a series entitled Five of the Best where I chose my favourite five star reads which I’d read in that month. I will be celebrating Five years of blogging later this year and so I decided it was time to repeat the series.

July tends to be a bumper month for great books as I’m writing my reviews for all the fab books I read in June on holiday so some tough choices have had to be made!

 

You can read my original review of the book featured by clicking on the book cover.

My choice for July 2014 is Little Lies by Liane Moriarty – I can’t believe I read this was a whole five years ago and it should be noted that having been turned into a TV series it is now marketed as Big Little Lies in the UK.

The stage is set at Pirriwee Public School at a und-raising Trivia Night where someone is dead. Who is killed is a mystery long before the reader is compelled to find out who the killer is. The brilliance of this book is the everyday setting, how dangerous can a school quiz night be after all? This alongside the observational humour, I guarantee you will recognise far too many of the character types involved.

An absolutely compelling read that shouldn’t be missed.

Blurb

Perfect families, perfect houses, perfect lives.
Three mothers, Jane, Madeline and Celeste appear to have it all . . . but do they? They are about to find out just how easy it is for one little lie to spiral out of control.
—————————–
Single mum Jane has just moved to town. She’s got her little boy in tow – plus a secret she’s been carrying for five years.

On the first day of the school run she meets Madeline – a force to be reckoned with, who remembers everything and forgives no one – and Celeste, the kind beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare, but is inexplicably ill at ease. They both take Jane under their wing – while careful to keep their own secrets under wraps.

But a minor incident involving the children of all three women rapidly escalates: playground whispers become spiteful rumours until no one can tell the truth from the lies.

It was always going to end in tears, but how did it end in murder? Amazon

In July 2015 I was wowed by Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica , a story about a young woman with her child who is rescued from the streets by the kindly Heidi. Taking Willow and her young child into their home seems to her to be the right thing to do, but not everyone agrees. Unsurprisingly, the path ahead does not wind pleasantly.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the complex characters that drive the story on. The book being told from three separate viewpoints was a brilliant psychological examination backed up by a tension-filled plot.

Blurb

A chance encounter

She sees the teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms. She boards a train and is whisked away. But she can’t get the girl out of her head…

An act of kindness

Heidi has always been charitable but her family are horrified when she returns home with a young woman named Willow and her baby in tow. Dishevelled and homeless, this girl could be a criminal – or worse. But despite the family’s objections, Heidi offers them refuge.

A tangled web of lies

As Willow begins to get back on her feet, disturbing clues into her past starts to emerge. Now Heidi must question if her motives for helping the stranger are unselfish or rooted in her own failures. Amazon

I’ve chosen a nonfiction read for 2016’s choice, The Curious Habits of Doctor Adams by Jane Robins which takes us back to another age albeit not one as far back in history as those I usually explore in my true crime exploration.

We are in the gentile world of the rich, a time when doctors still went to call on their wealthy clients, the NHS having only recently come into being. Favoured doctors if they were lucky, and a charitable assumption could be that Dr Adams was very lucky, could be given bequests when their charges died. It was the death of one wealthy woman who started an investigation that led back to the 1930s which had the Metropolitan Police convinced that Dr Adams wasn’t quite who he seemed to be.

This was a well-researched and entertaining read that had me well and truly gripped.

 

‘Was rich Mrs Gertrude Hullett murdered at her luxurious 15-room home on Beachy Head? Detectives are tonight trying to establish the cause of the 50-year-old widow’s sudden death . . . ‘ Daily Mail, 1957

Blurb

In July 1957, the press descended in droves on the south-coast town of Eastbourne. An inquest had just been opened into the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of Mrs Bobbie Hullett. She died after months of apparent barbiturate abuse – the drugs prescribed to calm her nerves by her close friend and doctor, Dr John Bodkin Adams.

The inquest brought to the surface years of whispered suspicion that had swept through the tea rooms, shops and nursing homes of the town. The doctor’s alarming influence over the lives, deaths and finances of wealthy widows had not gone unnoticed – it was rumoured that the family doctor had been on a killing spree that spanned decades and involved 300 suspicious cases. Superintendent Hannam of Scotland Yard was called in to investigate.

The Curious Habits of Dr Adams brilliantly brings to life the atmosphere of post-war England, and uses a wealth of new documents to follow the twists and turns of an extraordinary Scotland Yard murder enquiry. As expertly crafted as the best period detective novel, this book casts an entertainingly chilling light on a man reputed to be one of England’s most prolific serial killers. Amazon

 

My pick for 2017 is one of the best psychological thrillers I have read in a long time; Little Sister by Isabel Ashdown which explores what can be the closest of bonds, that between sisters.

Set on the Isle of Wight there are two sets of sisters; Ellie and Jess who were estranged for many years but are now looking to find the close bond they previously shared. To this end Jess moves in with Ellie to care for her daughter, Daisy. Daisy has a big sister, sixteen years old, she adores her half-sister and is devastated when Daisy disappears from her cot in the early hours of New Year’s Day.

Brilliantly drawn characters along with a real feeling of depth to the story makes this a real winner for lovers of the genre.

Blurb

After sixteen years apart sisters Jessica and Emily are reunited. With the past now behind them, the warmth they once shared quickly returns and before long Jess has moved into Emily’s comfortable island home. Life couldn’t be better. But when baby Daisy disappears while in Jess’s care, the perfect life Emily has so carefully built starts to fall apart.

Was Emily right to trust her sister after everything that happened before? Amazon

I had no hesitation at all in picking my winning read, reviewed in July 2018 – the prize goes unreservedly to Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.

This innovative read which explores the life (or rather lives) of one Ursula Todd born into the sort of idyllic family that could only exist in 1910 at the whimsically named Fox Corner. As multiple options are presented for Ursula to survive, or maybe die trying, we get to witness a whole heap of events, and characters that take us from one place to another. None of this would work if it were not for the author’s brilliant writing skills or the wonderful characters she provides as a vehicle to tell the stories. Most amazingly these characters grow throughout the novel no matter which circumstance Kate Atkinson chooses to place them in.

If you haven’t read this book, I truly urge you to do so.



Blurb

What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.
During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.

What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?

Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, Kate Atkinson finds warmth even in life’s bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here she is at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves. Amazon

Five of the Best 2018

January 2018
February 2018
March 2018
April 2018
May 2018
June 2018

Posted in 5 Of the Best

Five of the Best – Five Star Reads (March 2014 to 2018)

5 Star Reads

In 2015 to celebrate reviewing for five years I started a series entitled Five of the Best where I chose my favourite five star reads which I’d read in that month. Later in 2018 I will be celebrating Five years of blogging and so I decided it was time to repeat the series.

You can read my original review of the book featured by clicking on the book cover.

My choice of review for March 2014 is That Dark Remembered Day by Tom Vowler which is a very cleverly presented book with the groundwork precisely laid before revealing what happened on That Dark Remembered Day.  In 1983 Richard had returned from the Falklands, his final posting before discharge from the arm and at its heart, this book is a reflection on the damage that war inflicts on those who are sent to fight. Part the story of a reluctant soldier, part the story of growing up in a small town but absolutely unforgettable. That Dark Remembered Day was longlisted for the Guardian Not the Booker Prize in 2014.

 

Blurb

One family, one town, devastated by one tragic event.

Can you ever know what those closest to you are really capable of?

When Stephen gets a phone call to say his mother isn’t well, he knows he must go to her straight away. But he dreads going back there. He has never been able to understand why his mother chose to stay in the town he grew up in, after everything that happened. One day’s tragic events years before had left no one living there untouched.
Stephen’s own dark memories are still poisoning his life, as well as his marriage. Perhaps now is the time to go back and confront the place and the people of his shattered childhood. But will he ever be able to understand the crime that punctured their lives so brutally? How can a community move on from such a terrible legacy? Amazon

I was spoilt for choice for five star books reviewed in March 2015 but have decided to chose a non-fiction book The Magnificent Spilsbury and the case of The Brides In The Bath by Jane Robins which recreates the story of Bernard Spilsbury’s rise to become, what today we know as expert witnesses. To do this she principally uses the trial of George Smith of three women who died after drowning in the bath to examine both forensic scientist and his methods. Spilsbury worked night and day testing his ideas, either in the mortuary or in the lab in his house and soon bodies were exhumed and theories espoused. In one chilling experiment to work out how the women could have been killed without a struggle female swimmers dressed in bathing costumes were recruited for experimentation. This book is a great mixture of a historic murder trial with some well-researched information about the scientist whose word could spell the end for the accused.

Blurb

Bessie Mundy, Alice Burnham and Margaret Lofty are three women with one thing in common. They are spinsters and are desperate to marry. Each woman meets a smooth-talking stranger who promises her a better life. She falls under his spell, and becomes his wife. But marriage soon turns into a terrifying experience.

In the dark opening months of the First World War, Britain became engrossed by ‘The Brides in the Bath’ trial. The horror of the killing fields of the Western Front was the backdrop to a murder story whose elements were of a different sort. This was evil of an everyday, insidious kind, played out in lodging houses in seaside towns, in the confines of married life, and brought to a horrendous climax in that most intimate of settings – the bathroom.

The nation turned to a young forensic pathologist, Bernard Spilsbury, to explain how it was that young women were suddenly expiring in their baths. This was the age of science. In fiction, Sherlock Holmes applied a scientific mind to solving crimes. In real-life, would Spilsbury be as infallible as the ‘great detective’? Amazon

I love crime fiction and struggle to keep the number of series I follow to a minimum. In March 2016 I picked up In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward and fell in love with the Derbyshire setting and the police team which includes DI Francis Sadler and DC Connie Childs.

This is an intricate mystery which has its roots in 1978 when two girls went missing in Bampton, but only one returned. Even better The ending was perfect, the book whilst having plenty of surprises does not bring a motive and character out of left field, rather staying true to the more ‘old-fashioned’ crime novels where the perpetrator is justly identified from combing the evidence which all makes for an incredibly satisfying read.

Blurb

Bampton, Derbyshire, January 1978. Two girls go missing: Rachel Jones returns, Sophie Jenkins is never found. Thirty years later: Sophie Jenkins’s mother commits suicide.

Rachel Jones has tried to put the past behind her and move on with her life. But news of the suicide re-opens old wounds and Rachel realises that the only way she can have a future is to finally discover what really happened all those years ago.

This is a story about loss and family secrets, and how often the very darkest secrets are those that are closest to you. Amazon

In March 2017 I posted my review of Everything But The Truth by Gillian McAllister and was delighted to find this is a psychological thriller with a moral dilemma at its heart.

Rachel and Jack are going to have a baby.

One night Jack’s iPad lights up and half-asleep Rachel reads the email sent which mentions an event that she knows nothing about. Rachel begins to wonder how well she knows Jack especially when the short reply he gives the next morning, isn’t wholly convincing.

With the reader gaining insight into Rachel’s life and her persistent digging into the lie she believes Jack has told her this is a taut and brilliant psychological thriller. There is no doubt that Gillian McAllister knows how to weave a tale that is complex and has space built into the narrative that allows the reader to put themselves into the character’s shoes, and yes to make judgements on that tricky morality scale.

Blurb

It all started with the email.

Rachel didn’t even mean to look. She loves Jack and she’s pregnant with their child. She trusts him.
But now she’s seen it, she can’t undo that moment. Or the chain of events it has set in motion.
Why has Jack been lying about his past? Just what exactly is he hiding? And doesn’t Rachel have a right to know the truth at any cost? Amazon

My choice for March 2018 is a really tough one with two excellent non-fiction books as well as a number of fiction reads that gained the magic five stars I am going to pick The Killing House by Claire McGowan on the strength that this is the best wrap-up of a story arc I’ve read for a long time.

Claire McGowan created Paula Maguire, a forensic psychologist who finds missing people. The team she works for is on the border between North and South Ireland so inevitably there are links back to The Troubles. In fact Paula’s own mother went missing when she was just thirteen, and whilst each individual book has its own mystery, what happened to Margaret Maguire is a thread that runs through the series.

I love the style of storytelling, and in The Killing House, we are transported back in time to hear the voice of one person held by the punishment team who have them held captive to find out the information for their cause. There are some horrific characters in this book but all held together by the basic goodness of many others, even those who may have done wrong in the past. The author has a way of differentiating between those who got caught up in the times, and those who enjoyed being part of it, exceptionally well so that the reader is able to look at this point in history at a personal level.

Blurb

When a puzzling missing persons’ case opens up in her hometown, forensic psychologist Paula Maguire can’t help but return once more.
Renovations at an abandoned farm have uncovered two bodies: a man known to be an IRA member missing since the nineties, and a young girl whose identity remains a mystery.
As Paula attempts to discover who the girl is and why no one is looking for her, an anonymous tip-off claims that her own long-lost mother is also buried on the farm.
When another girl is kidnapped, Paula must find the person responsible before more lives are destroyed. But there are explosive secrets still to surface. And even Paula can’t predict that the investigation will strike at the heart of all she holds dear.
Amazon

If you want to see what the five books featured on Five of the Best for March 2011 to 2015 were you can do so here

How many of these have you read? Did you enjoy them as much as I did? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Five of the Best 2018

January 2018
February 2018

 

 

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

White Bodies – Jane Robins

Psychological Thriller
5*s

I can’t deny I was excited to hear that Jane Robins whose non-fiction books The Magnificent Spilsbury and the case of The Brides In The Bath and The Curious Habits of Doctor Adams  I thoroughly enjoyed and which sit proudly on my bookshelf, was writing a psychological thriller. I also can’t deny that I am reading far fewer books in this genre, because many fail to delight me in the way that they once did. But boy did this one work. The plot was tight, the writing engaging and the characters were weird enough to be chilling but normal enough to be believable.

Callie and Tilda are twenty-seven year old twins with Tilda being the more outgoing and outwardly successful of the two, Callie somewhat hampered by an obsessive nature who dwells on every conversation, every look and every perceived slight to the nth degree. It is Callie that waits for invitations for movie nights with her sister but rarely meets up with Tilda’s fun-loving friends. So imagine her excitement when Tilda introduces her to her new man, Felix. But Callie’s overwhelming need to make sure her twin is safe means that she is on her guard.

It isn’t long before Callie hears and sees things that convince her that Tilda is in an abusive relationship and she trawls an on-line forum, obsessively, for confirmation and advice.

This is one of the creepiest psychological thrillers I have ever read. The premise is similar to many others in the genre – these are not people on the whole that you’d want to spend any length of time with, but there are so many aspects of their behaviour that you will have come across in your friends, family or colleagues that all the way through, I had a feeling that this could be true. This genre really does work best when you believe – a bit like fairies – and because it feels so real, as Callie goes searching for clues, it is impossible to separate the truth from the fiction. Added to that the bizarre but sadly only too believable on-line tales that draw Callie into endless discussions about abusive men, the story becomes not only claustrophobic but has a hue of ghastly inevitability.

White Bodies was absolutely compelling, it was one of those wonderful books which from the moment I read the first page I was sure I would enjoy. I don’t know what it is that makes some books far more ‘readable’ than others but this was one of them. What I do know is that this book is solidly underpinned with brilliant writing. Since childhood, I have been drawn to stories about twins, although I sincerely hope that some aspects of twin behaviour, mentioned in this book were dreamt up in Jane Robins’ imagination! Of course there are twists, that is what the genre is all about, but the author hasn’t gone all out to do a complete about face, the book hanging solidly together from the first to the last page and the book doesn’t rely on the twists for a great reading experience, there is much more to enjoy!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Touchstone who granted my wish to read White Bodies which will be published in the US on 19 September 2017. UK readers apparently have to wait until after Christmas to read this book, which is somewhat bizarre as the author is British and the book is firmly set in the UK. Anyway despite the wait, if you enjoy a good psychological thriller, and live in the UK, mark this one down as To Be Read and if you are in the US please note your cover is different to the one above – enjoy!

First Published UK: 28 December 2017
Publisher: HQ
No. of Pages: 384
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

 

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (September 13)

This Week In Books
Hosted by Lipsy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

At the moment I am reading She Did It by Mel Sherratt, her new standalone psychological thriller which will be published on 19 September 2017.

Blurb

A successful businesswoman, Tamara enjoys her champagne lifestyle to the full. At least, that is the front she displays to the world. As well as being lonely, she’s running out of money. A promising new member of staff brings the injection of fresh blood needed to win the contract that will turn things around.

Working for Tamara is a perfect ruse for Esther. But, along with fake references and qualifications, she also has a plan for revenge. Sensing Tamara’s vulnerability, Esther uses their acquaintance as a way of getting close to someone who hurt her in the past.

Tamara is keeping things secret. Esther has a dark side she is trying to hide. For both of them, lying is a habit. But when mistakes begin to catch up with Esther, and people start dying, Tamara realises she’s chosen the wrong person to trust as a friend. Amazon

I have recently finished White Bodies by Jane Robins, a stunning psychological thriller which is also out on the 19 September 2017 in the US but UK readers need to wait until 28 December 2017 before they can read it.

Blurb

Sometimes we love too much

Callie loves Tilda. She’s her sister, after all. And she’s beautiful and successful.

Tilda loves Felix. He’s her husband. Successful and charismatic, he is also controlling, suspicious and, possibly, dangerous. Still, Tilda loves Felix.

And Callie loves Tilda. Very, very much.

So she’s determined to save her. But the cost could destroy them all… Amazon

Next I plan to read The Many Deaths of Mary Dobie by David Hastings which is one of the finalists in the Ngaio Marsh Award for the best Crime Novel.



Blurb

Dreadful murder at Opunake’, said the Taranaki Herald, ‘Shocking outrage’, cried the Evening Post in Wellington when they learned in November 1880 that a young woman called Mary Dobie had been found lying under a flax bush near Opunake on the Taranaki coast with her throat cut so deep her head was almost severed. In the midst of tensions between Maori and Pakeha, the murder ignited questions: Pakeha feared it was an act of political terrorism in response to the state’s determination to take the land of the tribes in the region. Maori thought it would be the cue for the state to use force against them, especially the pacifist settlement at Parihaka. Was it rape or robbery, was the killer Maori or Pakeha? In this book, David Hastings takes us back to that lonely road on the Taranaki coast in nineteenth-century New Zealand to unravels the many deaths of Mary Dobie – the murder, the social tensions in Taranaki, the hunt for the killer and the lessons that Maori and Pakeha learnt about the murder and about themselves. Amazon

What do you think? Any of these take your fancy? Please do leave your thoughts in the comments box below.

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (September 3)

My time looking after Bertie is coming to an end as my daughter returns from her holidays later today. As you can see he has thrived under my tender care and I have quite fallen in love with this beautiful tom cat. When sending the latest picture to my daughter and informing her that I was tempted to keep him I got the response “I’m sure I gave strict instructions not to love him too much as I know how adorable he is” Indeed she did, I had a whole A4 sheet of paper of instructions on how to care for Bertie which finished with “Don’t fall in love with him”

This Week on the Blog

It’s been a busy old week beginning with my review of The Judge’s Wife by Ann O’Loughlin, a book set in Ireland split between the 1950s and the 1980s with one of the settings being an asylum.

My excerpt post was for One Day in December by Shari Low which was published on 1 September 2017.

My review of a non-fiction book; Stranger in the House by Julie Summers was a fascinating account of the way lives changed at the end of the Second World War when the men returned. With many perspectives and experiences this made for superb reading.

On Thursday I reviewed Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch, the third book I’ve read by this author and by a whisker possibly my favourite of the bunch.

Friday saw me reviewing my last book for the 20 Books of Summer 2017; The Summer House by Santa Montefiore which was a light read set amongst the upper classes.

This was followed by my review of Wendy Percival’s novella, Death of a Cuckoo which has convinced me to give the genealogist Esme Quentin series a go.

As a bonus post because I am so chuffed that I finished the 20 Books of Summer Challenge this year I sorted these twenty books into categories for a round-up post with a few facts and figures.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading The Ice Beneath Her by Camilla Grebe an intriguing psychological thriller that is set in Sweden. Told by three narrators; Emma Boham a sales assistant, a Policeman Peter, and a Henne a psychologist. All three have issues but they are determined to find the killer of a young woman and to discover if the similarity to a crime committed ten years previously or not. This is an example of character led crime fiction at its best and I was instantly drawn into the story.

You can read my full review here or click on the book cover



Blurb

A young woman is found beheaded in an infamous business tycoon’s marble-lined hallway.

The businessman, scandal-ridden CEO of the retail chain Clothes & More, is missing without a trace.

But who is the dead woman? And who is the brutal killer who wielded the machete?

Rewind two months earlier to meet Emma Bohman, a sales assistant for Clothes & More, whose life is turned upside down by a chance encounter with Jesper Orre. Insisting that their love affair is kept secret, he shakes Emma’s world a second time when he suddenly leaves her with no explanation.

As frightening things begin to happen to Emma, she suspects Jesper is responsible. But why does he want to hurt her? And how far would he go to silence his secret lover? Amazon

Stacking the Shelves

I was delighted to receive a copy of the psychological thriller White Bodies by Jane Robins courtesy of my wish being granted on NetGalley. I have been eyeing this novel up ever since I first heard about it having thoroughly enjoyed this author’s non-fiction books The Magnificent Spilsbury and the Case of the Brides in the Bath and The Curious Habits of Dr Adams. This book is being published in the US on 19 September 2017 but UK readers will have to wait until 28 December for a copy.

Blurb

Sometimes we love too much

Callie loves Tilda. She’s her sister, after all. And she’s beautiful and successful.
Tilda loves Felix. He’s her husband. Successful and charismatic, he is also controlling, suspicious and, possibly, dangerous. Still, Tilda loves Felix.
And Callie loves Tilda. Very, very much.
So she’s determined to save her. But the cost could destroy them all… Amazon

After seeing And The Birds Kept On Singing by Simon Bourke on What Cathy Read’s WWW post, I couldn’t resist buying a copy for myself. I’m a huge fan of writers that can pull off alternative versions of the same premise.

Blurb

Pregnant at seventeen, Sinéad McLoughlin does the only thing she can; she runs away from home. She will go to England and put her child up for adoption. But when she lays eyes on it for the first time, lays eyes on him, she knows she can never let him go.

Just one problem. He’s already been promised to someone else.

A tale of love and loss, remorse and redemption, And the birds kept on singing tells two stories, both about the same boy. In one Sinéad keeps her son and returns home to her parents, to nineteen-eighties Ireland and life as a single mother. In the other she gives him away, to the Philliskirks, Malcolm and Margaret, knowing that they can give him the kind of life she never could.

As her son progresses through childhood and becomes a young man, Sinéad is forced to face the consequences of her decision. Did she do the right thing? Should she have kept him, or given him away? And will she spend the rest of her life regretting the choices she has made? Amazon

I was also lucky enough to be asked by Anne Cater to review The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler which will be published on 5 October 2017 – after all what book lover can resist a book about books? Having read the foreword I know I’m going to love this book, the tone is just right!

Blurb

Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. It makes people think you’re dead.

So begins Christopher Fowler’s foray into the back catalogues and backstories of 99 authors who, once hugely popular, have all but disappeared from our shelves.

Whether male or female, domestic or international, flash-in-the-pan or prolific, mega-seller or prize-winner – no author, it seems, can ever be fully immune from the fate of being forgotten. And Fowler, as well as remembering their careers, lifts the lid on their lives, and why they often stopped writing or disappeared from the public eye.

These 99 journeys are punctuated by 12 short essays about faded once-favourites: including the now-vanished novels Walt Disney brought to the screen, the contemporary rivals of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie who did not stand the test of time, and the women who introduced us to psychological suspense many decades before it conquered the world.

This is a book about books and their authors. It is for book lovers, and is written by one who could not be a more enthusiastic, enlightening and entertaining guide. Amazon

What have you found to read this week? Any of these take your fancy?

tbr-watch

Since my last post I’ve read 4 books, discarded 2 and gained 3
Making a Grand Total of 178
Physical Books – 100
Kindle Books – 69
NetGalley Books – 18

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

The Curious Habits of Doctor Adams – Jane Robins #20booksofsummer

Book 5

Non-Fiction 5*s
Non-Fiction
5*s

Oh how I love a well-researched piece of historical crime and was very impressed by this author’s account of George Smith the ‘Brides in the Bath’ murderer and Dr Spilsbury who was an expert witness at this man’s trial in her book The Magnificent Spilsbury and the case of The Brides in the Bath. It was only natural then to seek out this, her next book about a Doctor who was a suspected serial killer.

John Bodkin Adams was born in Ireland, a God-fearing man born of devout parents and moved to Eastbourne with his sister and mother in 1922 where he took up a post as a General Practitioner. It must be remembered that these were the days before the NHS and so the practice was populated by the wealthier patient than a typical GP would see these days. He soon made his mark as a doctor who would turn out at any time of the day or night to attend his wealthy patients. So fond of them, especially the elder ladies, was he, that he often paid visits whether his attendance was needed or not. Jane Robins gives us an account of his years in practice, including his rather dire performance as an anaesthetist at the local hospital.

As interesting as this background is of course I wanted to know about the investigation and subsequent trial. It all started in July 1956 Eastbourne Police received a call about the death of one Gertrude known as Bobbie Hullett who had died, unexpectedly whilst in Dr Adams care, she was only 50 years old. A month later the Metropolitan Police took over from the local force. Detective Superintendent Herbert Hannam and Detective Sergeant Charles Hewett interviewed many residents of genteel Eastbourne where all manner of rumours were uncovered reaching back to the 1930s of inheritance of money and cars and other strange bequests but equally there were testimonials from those who adored the portly doctor. So death certificates were examined, as were wills because Hannam was convinced that Dr Adams was killing for cash and so began the laborious task of sifting through the paper trail.

Jane Robins is brilliant at presenting the facts and opposing views of this trial without seemingly steering the reader’s opinion one way or another for the bulk of the book. This could have been really heavy going with prescriptions for heroin, morphine and other sedatives frequently appearing as evidence along with bequests or presents of the odd gold pen here or a Rolls Royce there and a seemingly never-ending ream of elderly ladies doting on Dr Adams, but it wasn’t I just became more and more fascinated by the tale told complete with contemporary news stories and advertisements and a brilliant reconstruction of the world of the genteel inhabitants of Eastbourne at that time. All of this served to increase my interest in the hidden character of the man. And that is where the author comes into her own when at the end of the book, after the trial and when life in Eastbourne had recovered from all the excitement, she examined the psyche of the Doctor and presented her conclusions, with the help of a couple of expert witnesses of her own.

An absolutely brilliant read which I can’t recommend enough and for those of us who remember the more recent trial and conviction of Dr Harold Shipman, there are plenty of comparisons to be made.

This was addition to my 20 Books of Summer 2016 Challenge, and one I certainly won’t forget in a hurry.

Posted in Challenge

20 Books of Summer 2016! #20booksofsummer

20 Books of Summer 2016

Cathy at Cathy 746 has a yearly challenge to read twenty books over the summer months starting on 1 June 2016 and running until 5 September 2016, and I’ve decided to join her. In preparation I had already decided not to read ARCs during June to get me off to a flying start.

As I’m competitive I’m signing up for the full twenty. My personal challenge is to read these twenty books from my bookshelf, physical books that I already own before today. Funnily enough I have plenty to choose from… a whole 95 in fact!

Because I know that facts in one book tend to lead me to seek out other books in my tangential reading style, I’ve decided to start with a spread of genres and authors for the first ten books – fat books, thin books and books inbetween! I will post the next ten when these are all finished hopefully mid-July, if I’m on schedule!

The links below will take you to the Goodreads description

The Testament of Youth by Vera Britten

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

The Poison Principle by Gail Bell

The Curious Habits of Doctor Adams by Jane Robins

Other People’s Secrets by Louise Candlish

You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz

An Awfully Big Adventure by Beryl Bainbridge

Pictures of Perfection (Dalziel & Pascoe #13) by Reginald Hill

Buried Angels (Patrik Hedström #8) by Camilla Läckberg

The Shrimp and the Anemone by L.P. Hartley

I will be joining Cathy by tweeting my way through the challenge using the hashtag #20booksofsummer and I will provide (a yet to be decided logo) to demonstrate when one of my reads is part of this challenge!

PicMonkey Collage

Like last year there will be a master page linking the titles to my reviews as they are posted, and of course eventually listing the entire twenty books.

There’s still time to join in and Cathy has also provided a 10 Books of Summer image or even a 15 Books of Summer image for those of you who feel aiming for 20 is quite frankly ridiculous. Visit Cathy to get the full details here

So what do you think to my choices? Do you have any suggestions on where I should start or perhaps you think some of these need to be put back on the shelf and forgotten about? All comments welcomed!

Posted in Weekly Posts

Stacking the Shelves (June 6)

Stacking the shelves

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you’re adding to your shelves, be it buying or borrowing. From ‘real’ books you’ve purchased, a book you’ve borrowed, a book you’ve been given or an e-book they can all be shared!

Well after a week’s break to share my 20 Books of Summer 2015! challenge post I seem to have acquired a few more books!

First up from NetGalley I am thrilled and delighted to have a copy of After The Fire by Jane Casey featuring the brilliant Maeve Kerrigan and Josh Derwent, this book is due to be published on 18 June 2015.

After The Fire

Blurb

Arson, accident or murder?
After a fire rips through a North London tower block, two bodies are found locked in their 11th floor flat. But is the third victim that ensures the presence of detective Maeve Kerrigan and the murder squad. It appears that controversial MP Geoff Armstrong, trapped by the fire, chose to jump to his death rather than wait for rescue. But what was such a right wing politician doing in the deprived, culturally diverse Maudling Estate?
As Maeve and her senior colleague, Derwent, pick through the wreckage, they uncover the secret world of the 11th floor, where everyone seems to have something to hide… NetGalley

and I’m equally as thrilled and delighted to have received a copy of First One Missing by Tammy Cohen which is due to be published on 2 July 2015.

First One Missing

Blurb

There are three things no-one can prepare you for when your daughter is murdered:
– You are haunted by her memory day and night
– Even close friends can’t understand what you are going through.
– Only in a group with mothers of other victims can you find real comfort.
But as the bereaved parents gather to offer support in the wake of another killing, a crack appears in the group that threatens to rock their lives all over again.
Welcome to the club no one wants to join. NetGalley

Now comes the naming and shaming for all of you bloggers who have made me stray…. First up is The Book Trail who are constantly tempting me with their original reviews complete with maps. They had a competition to win a copy of The Illusionists by Rosie Thomas and I was lucky enough to win!

The Illusionists

Blurb

London, 1885
As a turbulent and change-filled century draws to a close, there has never been a better time to alter your fortune. But for a beautiful young woman of limited means, Eliza’s choices appear to lie between the stifling domesticity of marriage or a downwards spiral to the streets – no matter how determined she is to forge her own path.
One night at a run-down theatre, she meets the charismatic Devil Wix – showman, master of illusion, fickle friend. Drawn into his circle, Eliza becomes the catalyst of change for his colleagues – a dwarf, an eccentric engineer, and an artist – as well as Devil himself. And as Eliza embarks on a dangerous adventure, she must decide which path to choose, and how far she should go when she holds all their lives in her hands. Goodreads

or click on the link to read The Book Trail review

And then there is Sonya at A Lover of Books who also has a wonderful selection of books on her blog. She had a competition to win a copy of Set Me Free by Daniela Sacerdoti and I won that too.

Set Me Free

Blurb

In London, Margherita’s marriage has slowly been falling apart since her little Lewis’ birth, a surprise baby much wanted by her but not by her husband. To add to her problems, her adopted daughter, Lara, is going through a rough patch and all of a sudden she’s gone from quiet and introverted to constantly angry, burdened by the unhappy memories of her early childhood. Then Margherita’s husband, Ashley, suddenly announces he needs a break from the marriage and from family life. He couldn’t have chosen a worse time, just when Lara needs him most.
As Margherita struggles to come to terms with what’s happening to her, she decides that maybe this is the chance for Laura to spend some time away from London, and for her mother and daughter to reconnect. So, together with three-year-old Lewis, they decide to spend the summer in Glen Avich, where Margherita’s mum and stepfather have opened a coffee shop, La Piazza. To keep herself busy, Margherita agrees to help Torcuil Ramsay get his crumbling estate in order, with Lara’s help. And as her plan begins to work, Lara increasingly finds peace in the beautiful house and its huge library, and in a new friendship with a mysterious local boy, Mal.
And as Margherita discovers, Glen Avich can have a strange effect on people and soon her heart is reawakened by shy, awkward Torcuil in a way she’d never thought possible again. But Mal is hiding a secret, and the summer won’t last forever . . .
Spellbinding and emotional, Set Me Free is a beautifully written story of a family in crisis and a secret that will change their lives forever. Goodreads

And then I’m blaming Fiction Fan for the next book which I purchased on her recommendation following my review of The Magnificent Spilsbury and the case of the Brides in the Bath by Jane Robins, so I have a copy of The Curious Habits of Doctor Adams by the same author.

The Curious Habits of Doctor Adams

Blurb

‘Was rich Mrs Gertrude Hullett murdered at her luxurious 15-room home on Beachy Head? Detectives are tonight trying to establish the cause of the 50-year-old widow’s sudden death…’ Daily Mail, 1957
In July 1957, the press descended in droves on the south-coast town of Eastbourne. An inquest had just been opened into the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of Mrs Bobbie Hullett. She died after months of apparent barbiturate abuse – the drugs prescribed to calm her nerves by her close friend and doctor, Dr John Bodkin Adams.
The inquest brought to the surface years of whispered suspicion that had swept through the tea rooms, shops and nursing homes of the town. The doctor’s alarming influence over the lives, deaths and finances of wealthy widows had not gone unnoticed – it was rumoured that the family doctor had been on a killing spree that spanned decades and involved 300 suspicious cases. Superintendent Hannam of Scotland Yard was called in to investigate.
The Curious Habits of Dr Adams brilliantly brings to life the atmosphere of post-war England, and uses a wealth of new documents to follow the twists and turns of an extraordinary Scotland Yard murder enquiry. As expertly crafted as the best period detective novel, this book casts an entertainingly chilling light on a man reputed to be one of England’s most prolific serial killers. Amazon

When Kay from Kay’s Reading Life started reviewing the Days of the Week series by Nicci French she reminded me that I still hadn’t read Thursday’s Child, you can read her review here

Thursday's Child

Blurb

Two crimes, generations apart . . .
Twenty years ago teenager Frieda Klein was brutally attacked in her own home. No one believed her – not the police, not her mother, not her friends. She left town, trained as a psychologist and never went back.
Now an old classmate has shown up. She wants help with her daughter, who claims to have been attacked at home. An attack eerily similar to the one on Frieda. No one else believes the girl’s story.
Now – with a school reunion in the offing – Frieda returns to the darkness she fled. To the small town which refused to help her and which hides a terrible secret. Because someone at the reunion knows what happened.
And they’ll stop at nothing to prevent Frieda discovering the truth . . . Amazon

Search as I might I can’t find a culprit for my purchase of You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz but I’m sure one of you are guilty.

You Should Have Known

Blurb

Grace Reinhart Sachs is living the only life she ever wanted for herself, devoted to her husband, a pediatric oncologist at a major cancer hospital, their young son Henry, and the patients she sees in her therapy practice. Grace is also the author of You Should Have Known, a book in which she castigates women for not valuing their intuition and calls upon them to examine their first impressions of men for signs of serious trouble later on. But weeks before the book is published, a chasm opens in her own life: a violent death, a missing husband, and, in the place of a man Grace thought she knew, only a chain of terrible revelations. Left behind in the wake of a spreading and very public disaster and horrified by the ways in which she has failed to heed her own advice, Grace must dismantle one life and create another for her child and herself. Goodreads

Lastly I was delighted that Lovereading saw fit to provide me with a copy of A Game For All The Family by Sophie Hannah which will be published on 13 August 2015.

A Game for all the Family

Blurb

Justine thought she knew who she was, until an anonymous caller seemed to know better…
After fleeing London and a career that nearly destroyed her, Justine Merrison plans to spend her days doing as little as possible. But soon after the move, her daughter Ellen starts to seem strangely withdrawn. Checking Ellen’s homework one day, Justine finds herself reading a chillingly articulate story about a series of sinister murders committed at the family’s new house. Can Ellen really have made all this up, as she claims? Why would she invent something so grotesque, set it in her own home and name one of the characters after herself? When Justine discovers that Ellen has probably also invented her best friend at school, who appears not to be known to any of the teachers, Justine’s alarm turns to panic.
Then the anonymous phone calls start: a stranger, making accusations and threats that suggest she and Justine share a traumatic past – yet Justine doesn’t recognise her voice. When the caller starts to talk about three graves – two big ones and a smaller one for a child – Justine fears for her family’s safety. If the police can’t help, she’ll have to confront the danger herself, but first she must work out who she’s supposed to be… Goodreads

Any of these take your fancy or perhaps you’ve already read them?
What have you found to read this week? Please do share in the comments below

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

The Magnificent Spilsbury and the case of The Brides In The Bath – Jane Robins

Non-Fiction Historical Crime 5*'s
Non-Fiction Historical Crime
5*’s

This book is about Bernard Spilsbury a forensic pathologist whose scientific mind was compared to that of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes through his appearances at murder trials as an expert witness in Edwardian Britain.

Dr Spilsbury  The Guardian
Dr Spilsbury
The Guardian

As a backdrop to the man himself, Jane Robins retraces the story of three suspected murders known at the time as The Brides In The Bath because in each case the woman in question had been found dead in the bath shortly after being married. In the case of the first two women the deaths were put down to fitting or fainting whilst bathing, but when the father of one of these women read a newspaper article about a very similar death he campaigned to Inspector Neil to investigate. In turn Neil turned to Spilsbury, but there was one problem, murder by drowning is unusual, the only records were the pitiful bundles where mothers had murdered their offspring. That wasn’t to stop Spilsbury though, he worked night and day testing his ideas, either in the mortuary or in the lab in his house and soon bodies were exhumed and theories espoused. In one chilling experiment to work out how the women could have been killed without a struggle female swimmers dressed in bathing costumes were recruited for experimentation.

She slipped under easily, but to me, who was closely watching, she seemed to make no movement. Suddenly I gripped her arm, it was limp. With a shout I tugged at her arm-pit and raised her head above the water It fell over to one side. She was unconscious. For nearly half an hour my detectives and I worked away at her with artificial respiration and restoratives. Things began to look serious, and then a quick change began to take place, and her pretty face began to take on the bloom of young healthy womanhood. It had given us all a turn, so practical demonstrations in baths were from that moment promptly discontinued.

Thank goodness for that!

Jane Robins does far more than simply recount the murders of the women in question though, with a chapter devoted to each of the murder victims, she also seeks to explain why they would have married a man so quickly and then proceeded to acquiesce so totally to their husband’s demands, such as visiting a doctor with symptoms of a headache, writing letters to their families which had clearly been dictated and agreeing to bathe in a boarding house without securing the door. The answer proposed is the need for marriage was at the forefront of every woman’s mind, there was a shortage of men even before the First World War and the need to keep that man, the place woman held in society and in part the way the man George Joseph Smith behaved, some suggested his approach was hypnotic.

George Joseph Smith  Watford Observer
George Joseph Smith
Watford Observer

Of course the subject of the book didn’t just spring to prominence as a forensic expert, Jane Robbins also uses the case of Dr Crippen who was tried for murder in 1910 to illustrate how Spilsbury became so prominent in the field.

Under cross-examination, Spilsbury supported Augustus Pepper, stating that the person who had removed the viscera ‘must have had considerable dexterity and considerable anatomical knowledge’…. Re-examined by the prosecution he said, loud and clear: ‘It is beyond doubt that this is a scar…. There is my opinion, no room for doubt that the mark was a scar’

It was this trial that really sealed the role of the medical expert in criminal trials of this nature and although with the advances in science over the last one hundred years may have thrown some doubt on Spilsbury’s assertion, in this case a man was hanged on his evidence.

 

Wikipedia
Dr Crippen Wikipedia

This is a fascinating book following the investigations into two major trials in the early part of the twentieth century when forensic evidence was being used for the first time. This, as pointed out by Jane Robins, dovetailed neatly with the popularity of a new type of fictional detective, the esteemed and scientifically minded Sherlock Holmes. From this time on, murderers could no longer rely on luck to escape the law, science was allowing the victims a voice and men like Spilsbury were able to read the clues left behind. I suspect from reading this book that Bernard Spilsbury as well as being incredibly dedicated to his role got something of an ego boost from the unusual type of fame it afforded him.

I recommend this book to any lover of historical true crime, Jane Robins writes in an accessible way neatly separating the book into chapters complemented by a light historical lesson in the changes that this period was experiencing.

Posted in Weekly Posts

Friday Finds (December 12)

Friday Finds Hosted by Should be Reading

FRIDAY FINDS showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list… whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased).

Well another successful week for book acquisitions! First up I finally have a copy of The Defence by Steve Cavanagh. I saw Rebecca Bradley’s blog where it was featured on ‘What’s Your First Draft Like?

The Defence

Blurb

The truth has no place in a courtroom. The truth doesn’t matter in a trial.
The only thing that matters is what the prosecution can prove.
Eddie Flynn used to be a con artist. Then he became a lawyer. Turned out the two weren’t that different.
It’s been over a year since Eddie vowed never to set foot in a courtroom again. But now he doesn’t have a choice. Olek Volchek, the infamous head of the Russian mafia in New York, has strapped a bomb to Eddie’s back and kidnapped his ten-year-old daughter Amy.
Eddie only has 48 hours to defend Volchek in an impossible murder trial – and win – if wants to save his daughter.
Under the scrutiny of the media and the FBI, Eddie must use his razor-sharp wit and every con-artist trick in the book to defend his ‘client’ and ensure Amy’s safety. With the timer on his back ticking away, can Eddie convince the jury of the impossible?
Lose this case and he loses everything. Amazon

I also have a copy of Shallow Waters by Rebecca Bradley whose blog I avidly follow, see item above, so I can’t wait to see what horrors await in this book!

Shallow Waters

Blurb

When the naked, battered body of an unidentified teenager is found dumped in an alleyway, post-mortem finds evidence of a harrowing series of events.
Another teenage death with the same MO pushes DI Hannah Robbins and her team on the Nottingham City division Major Crimes Unit, to their limits, and across county borders. In a race against the clock they attempt to unpick a thick web of lies and deceit to uncover the truth behind the deaths.
But it doesn’t stop there. When catching a killer isn’t enough, just how far are the team willing to push themselves to save the next girl?

And from the modern to some historical true crime, starting with The Magnificent Spilsbury and the case of the Brides In The Bath by Jane Robins

The Magnificent Spilsbury

Blurb

Bessie Mundy, Alice Burnham and Margaret Lofty are three women with one thing in common. They are spinsters and are desperate to marry. Each woman meets a smooth-talking stranger who promises her a better life. She falls under his spell, and becomes his wife. But marriage soon turns into a terrifying experience. In the dark opening months of the First World War, Britain became engrossed by ‘The Brides in the Bath’ trial. The horror of the killing fields of the Western Front was the backdrop to a murder story whose elements were of a different sort. This was evil of an everyday, insidious kind, played out in lodging houses in seaside towns, in the confines of married life, and brought to a horrendous climax in that most intimate of settings — the bathroom. The nation turned to a young forensic pathologist, Bernard Spilsbury, to explain how it was that young women were suddenly expiring in their baths. This was the age of science. In fiction, Sherlock Holmes applied a scientific mind to solving crimes. In real-life, would Spilsbury be as infallible as the ‘great detective’

The Maul and The Pear Tree the Radcliffe Highway Murders. 1811 by P.D. James and T.A. Critchley has also arrived this week which has the appeal of a terrific author and a historical murder mystery.
The Maul and The Pear Tree

Blurb

In 1811 John Williams was buried with a stake through his heart. Was he the notorious East End killer or the eighth victim in the Ratcliffe Highway Murders? Drawing on contemporary records and newspaper cuttings, the authors reconstruct the events. Goodreads

And to finish off my collection I have bought a copy of a book I had ma but appear to have lost it before I’d read it; The Invention of Murder by Judith Flanders which is ‘filled to the brim with swindlers, forgers and poisoners, the mad, the bad and the utterly dangerous. The Invention of Murder is both a tale of crime and punishment, and history at its most readable.’

The Invention of Murder

Blurb

Murder in the 19th century was rare. But murder as sensation and entertainment became ubiquitous – transformed into novels, into broadsides and ballads, into theatre and melodrama and opera – even into puppet shows and performing dog-acts.
In this meticulously researched and compelling book, Judith Flanders – author of ‘The Victorian House’ – retells the gruesome stories of many different types of murder – both famous and obscure. From the crimes (and myths) of Sweeney Todd and Jack the Ripper, to the tragedies of the murdered Marr family in London’s East End, Burke and Hare and their bodysnatching business in Edinburgh, and Greenacre who transported his dismembered fiancée around town by omnibus. Amazon

What have you found to read this week? Do share!