Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Small Hours of The Morning – Margaret Yorke

Psychological Thriller 4*'s
Psychological Thriller

The beginning of this book recreated the feeling of a stage being set in readiness for a forthcoming play. The cast assemble; The librarian Cecil Titmuss who has a fondness for creating famous landmarks out of matchsticks, his wife June making a bid for independence outside the home, the driver Ted Jessop who ferries people around in his pride and joy, Mrs Malmesbury one of his weekly customers, the happily married dentist Mr Bryan Vigors, Lorna Gibson the standoffish dental assistant and Ray Brett the rogue with buckets of charisma all make an appearance within the first twenty odd pages.

It soon becomes clear that Cecil and June’s marriage isn’t as good a match as either of them had hoped but with two young children June is keen to do more than watch television, so she takes up Italian, here she meets Lorna Gibson. When elderly Mrs Malmesbury takes ill in the library soon after visiting the dentist she is taken to the hospital. With the local community rallying round as would only be expected in 1975 when this book was published, the other characters meet each other. Life in 1975 was very different to today, June who is by no stretch of the imagination a timid woman has to persuade her husband of the merits of her working mornings in the florist while her children are at school and giving a delivery man a 10p tip seems laughable until I remember the fortune of the 50p coin that a ‘rich’ uncle would press into my eager hand when we visited.

So what is the backdrop to the set? A small suburban town complete with florist, dentist surgery, library and banks. The local businesses deposit their cash in the night safe, this being the days before everyone paid with a card and Ray Brett is on the lookout for an easy way to make some money to escape life living at home with his Mum to the bright lights of London. With another of our cast developing a serious obsession about the life of another things take a turn for the sinister. With the lights turned off the watcher looks into a backlit room watching the daily goings on but soon this isn’t enough.

I really enjoyed the almost gentle unfolding of what is an exploration of the psyche of a number of characters as their actions reveal to the reader what they have managed to keep hidden from their nearest and dearest. This is a book that has a slow burn, as I got wrapped up in the characters lives, feeling sad for poor Mrs Malmesbury, worrying about timid Cecil Titmuss and wondering whether Ray would come to the sticky end I predicted for him when gradually the slow leisurely read became much more tense as the dénouement was played out with some unexpected results.

This is the second book by Margaret Yorke I’ve read, the first being A Small Deceit which was published more than fifteen years later, and have thoroughly enjoyed them both, if I’m honest for the transportation to some recent history is almost as enjoyable as the tale being told.

Posted in Weekly Posts

Friday Find (March 6)

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 I’m doing relatively well in resisting the lure of NetGalley, this week just one entry for a book that was published in January 2015 by Quercus, Can Anybody Help Me? by Sinéad Crowley.

Can Anyone Help me


It was crazy really, she had never met the woman, had no idea of her real name but she thought of her as a friend. Or, at least, the closest thing she had to a friend in Dublin.
Struggling with a new baby, Yvonne turns to netmammy, an online forum for mothers, for support. Drawn into a world of new friends, she spends increasing amounts of time online and volunteers more and more information about herself.
When one of her new friends goes offline, Yvonne thinks something is wrong, but dismisses her fears. After all, does she really know this woman?
But when the body of a young woman with striking similarities to Yvonne’s missing friend is found, Yvonne realises that they’re all in terrifying danger. Can she persuade Sergeant Claire Boyle, herself about to go on maternity leave, to take her fears seriously? NetGalley

I also received a lovely email from Daniel Pemberey about his collection of books about Henk van der Pol who is a cop in Amsterdam, The Harbour Master and have received a signed copy from him so I can read the first three books in one collection. Like lots of other bloggers and reviewers I get lots of review requests most of which I decline on the principle that the author hasn’t looked at my reviews whereas the email from Daniel was personal, he referenced some authors I’d praised and was polite!

The Harbour Master


Maverick cop Henk van der Pol is thinking about retirement when he finds a woman’s body in Amsterdam Harbour. His detective instincts take over, even though it’s not his case. But his bigger challenge is deciding who his friends are – not to mention a vicious street pimp who is threatening Henk’s own family…
Part two sees Henk rove further afield, to Rotterdam, Antwerp and Brussels – investigating a maze-like set of cases involving diamonds, fine art, drugs and high-class prostitution. What connects the cases, and what risks must Henk run to uncover the criminals? Impeding him is his rival and boss Joost, who has an equal but quite separate interest in the investigation’s outcome…
In the finale, a powerful Dutch politician is hijacked, bearing parallels with the 1983 kidnapping of Freddy Heineken. Henk, who worked on the Heineken case at the start of his career, is now operating outside of the official investigation. He becomes imprisoned himself, and, with rival cop Joost emerging as the winner, Henk must navigate dark currents at the highest level of Dutch society. Goodreads

And then… well I went to the charity shop looking for a chair and came away no chair but two books. In my defence these are adding to my collections.

First up is Elephants Can Remember by Agatha Christie featuring my favourite detective Hercule Poirot

Elephants Can Remember

Hercule Poirot is determined to solve an old husband and wife double murder that is still an open verdict! Hercule Poirot stood on the cliff-top. Here, many years earlier, there had been a tragic accident. This was followed by the grisly discovery of two more bodies — a husband and wife — shot dead. But who had killed whom? Was it a suicide pact? A crime of passion? Or cold-blooded murder? Poirot delves back into the past and discovers that ‘old sin can leave long shadows’. Goodreads

…and lastly Almost The Truth by Margaret Yorke

Almost The Truth


Bicklebury is a small village of some three hundred inhabitants, a church and a pub, but no shop, no school, and certainly no crime – until two ex-cons decide it is the ideal location to pull a robbery. Derek Jarvis and his daughter Hannah are home when the two armed men break in, and Derek, fearing for their safety, urges Hannah not to resist. The tactic backfires as one of the men brutally attacks her, leaving her broken and revolted. Derek’s marriage and his daughter are never the same again.
As his family falls apart, he finds his wife and daughter blame him for what happened, refusing to forgive him even after the men are caught. And so Derek Jarvis, a mild-mannered accountant, conceives a plan to avenge his family. But Derek has never truly looked at himself or anticipated the terrifying twist his quest for revenge may take, as it leads him down the darkest back alleys of the psyche, strips away his controls and confronts his soul with a shocking choice . . . Amazon

Have you found anything new to read this week?

Posted in Books I have read

A Small Deceit – Margaret Yorke

Crime Fiction 4*'s
Crime Fiction

I was recommended Margaret Yorke by a colleague who thought this would be an excellent author to add to my pile of crime fiction; I’m ashamed to say the 1993 winner of the CWA Golden Handcuff Award, for the most popular crime writer had passed me by.

A Small Deceit was first published in 1991 although the story it tells is set firmly in 1990. The first thing I noticed is how small the book seems, back in the early 90’s some paperbacks could still fit in a reasonably sized coat pocket although the size of the print has decreased to match resulting in a tidy 200 page book.

At the centre of our plot is William Adams a cold-hearted killer who sentenced for rape and assault has just been released from prison. He changes his name but when visiting a rural guest house he meets someone from the past who is not who he says he is. ‘From a small deceit, great crimes can grow…’

This book flits backwards and forwards building up the characters of both William and Judge Colin Drew, his wife Felicity and grown-up son Tim. Felicity is bored with the routine of her life so she has taken up buying and selling small antiques as a hobby, all this is kept secret from the judge who has kept her well but holds the school of thought that women are to be kept in the home and not encouraged to spread their wings but Felicity needs more than a twice-monthly visit from her pompous son and daughter-in-law to keep her spirits up. As befits her standing in the community Felicity has the faithful Mrs Hunter to help out with the house. This book gives a fascinating peek behind the window-dressing where all in the household is not well.
To the mix of characters we meet June a doctor’s widow who has transformed her home into a welcoming guest house where weary travellers or visitors to the area can rest-up and enjoy a good breakfast.

I found this to be a masterpiece of a crime novel, only slightly marred by too many soliloquies on the rehabilitation of prisoners. The characters really are key to this type of crime novel which keeps its bodies mainly out of sight. The plot tension was carefully tightened as the feeling of menace emanates from our known killer grows page by page.

I’m glad I found this little book particularly as one of the characters is a staunch monarchist and so it was also a snapshot in time of the year before the Queen stated; ‘1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an ‘Annus Horribilis.’ So within the pages of A Small Deceit our character was still able to revere a monarchy free from scandal.

A brilliant little book, I am very glad that I have two more books by Margaret Yorke to read on my TBR.

Posted in Weekly Posts

Friday Finds (July 11)

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).

So, come on — share with us your FRIDAY FINDS!

Well I was feeling smug having knocked 15 books off the TBR whilst on my holidays and the internet access was so poor that no new purchases were possible and then it all went wrong…

From NetGalley I have the following new finds:

I couldn’t resist Victorian Murderesses by Mary S. Hartman and published by Dover Publications on 14 June 2014.

Victorian Murderesses


This riveting combination of true crime and social history examines a dozen cases from the 1800s involving thirteen French and English women charged with murder. Each incident was a cause célèbre, and this mixture of scandal and scholarship offers illuminating details of backgrounds, deeds, and trials.
“The real delight is that historian Mary S. Hartman does more than reconstruct twelve famous trials. She has written a piece on the social history of nineteenth-century women from an illuminating perspective: their favorite murders.” — Time Magazine. NetGalley

I’m also delighted to have a copy of Because She Loves Me by Mark Edwards having recommended his solo debut novel The Magpies to everyone I know.  This novel will be published by Thomas & Mercer on 2 September 2014.

Because She Loves Me


When Andrew Sumner meets beautiful, edgy Charlie, he is certain his run of bad luck has finally come to an end.
But as the two of them embark on an intense affair, Andrew wonders if his grasp on reality is slipping. Items go missing in his apartment. Somebody appears to be following him. And as misfortune and tragedy strike his friends and loved ones, Andrew is forced to confront the frightening truth…
Is Charlie really the girl of his dreams – or the woman of his nightmares? NetGalley

I came across a review for The Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson at The Book Musings and Orion Publishing Group were kind enough to let me have a copy ahead of the publication date of 28 August 2014.

The Sea Garden


Present day. On a lush Mediterranean island off the French coast, Ellie has accepted a commission to restore an abandoned garden. It seems idyllic, but the longer Ellie spends at the house and garden, the more she senses darkness, and a lingering evil that seems to haunt her.
Second World War. Two very different women have their lives irrevocably changed: Iris, a junior intelligence officer in London and Marthe, a blind girl who works in the lavender fields of Provence and is slowly drawn into the heart of the Resistance. As secret messages are passed in scent and planes land by moonlight, danger comes ever closer…NetGalley

Lastly I have a copy of Your Beautiful Lies by Louise Douglas from the Random House UK. This book is due to be published on 14 August 2014.

Your Beautiful Lies

Annie Howarth is living a restless life in a restless town. It’s 1987 and for a mining community in South Yorkshire, the strikes mean tensions are running high. Then a murdered girl is found on the moors and the anxiety levels are pushed to a dangerous breaking point.
Married to the Chief of Police, Annie should feel safe – William can be secretive, though surely whatever he’s hiding is for her own good.
But Annie is keeping her own secrets. Ten years ago the man she loved was ripped from her life in a scandal that still haunts the both of them, and now his return will put her family, her marriage, even her life, at risk. NetGalley

I also had a birthday while I was on holiday and my lovely brother sent me two new books for my return. Rather meanly he also wrapped and posted a collection of scouring pads which I can’t even think about without pulling a face that looks like I’m sucking a lemon (I know a strange phobia but it does mean I can’t do any cleaning with this particular product!) Needless to say they were unwrapped and scattered as I shouted an impressive array of expletives.
Scouring Pads

So back to the books!
I have a copy of The Great Silence by Juliet Nicolson which details the period following the First World War from 1918 to 1920.

The Great Silence


The euphoria of Armistice Day 1918 vaporizes to reveal the carnage that war has left in its wake. But from Britain’s despair emerges new life. For veterans with faces demolished in the trenches, surgeon Harold Gillies brings hope with his miraculous skin-grafting procedure. Women win the vote, skirt hems leap, and Brits forget their troubles at packed dance halls. The remains of a nameless soldier are laid to rest in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Westminster Abbey. “The Great Silence,” observed in memory of the countless dead, halts citizens in silent reverence.
Nicolson crafts her narrative using a lively cast of characters: from an aging butler to a pair of newlyweds, from the Prince of Wales to T.E. Lawrence, the real-life Lawrence of Arabia. The Great Silence depicts a nation fighting the forces that threaten to tear it apart and discovering the common bonds that hold it together. Goodreads

..and I have a copy of Stranger In The House by Julie Summers which explores the effects of the Second World War.

Stranger in the house

‘It is as if I have been waiting for someone to ask me these questions for almost the whole of my life’
From 1945, more than four million British servicemen were demobbed and sent home after the most destructive war in history. Damaged by fighting, imprisonment or simply separation from their loved ones, these men returned to a Britain that had changed in their absence. In Stranger in the House, Julie Summers tells the women’s story, interviewing over a hundred women who were on the receiving end of demobilisation: the mothers, wives, sisters, who had to deal with an injured, emotionally-damaged relative; those who assumed their fiances had died only to find them reappearing after they had married another; women who had illegitimate children following a wartime affair as well as those whose steadfast optimism was rewarded with a delightful reunion. Many of the tales are moving, some are desperately sad, others are full of humour but all provide a fascinating account of how war altered ordinary women’s lives forever. Amazon

From Amazon Vine I have a copy of The Arsonist by Sue Miller based on the fact that I haven’t read any of her books for a few years. I don’t know why she dropped of my radar.

The Arsonist


Troubled by the feeling that she belongs nowhere after working in East Africa for fifteen years, Frankie Rowley has come home—home to the small New Hampshire village of Pomeroy and the farmhouse where her family has always summered. On her first night back, a house up the road burns to the ground. Then another house burns, and another, always the houses of the summer people. In a town where people have never bothered to lock their doors, social fault lines are opened, and neighbors begin to regard one another with suspicion. Against this backdrop of menace and fear, Frankie begins a passionate, unexpected affair with the editor of the local paper, a romance that progresses with exquisite tenderness and heat toward its own remarkable risks and revelations. Amazon

Lastly I had a delivery of two more of Margaret Yorke’s books, fortunately I enjoyed A Small Deceit which I read on holiday (review will follow but I have something of a backlog now) and can’t wait to sample more from this author.

False Pretences by Margaret Yorke was originally published in 1998 but has been reissued in 2013.

False Pretences

When Isabel’s god-daughter Emily turns up after years of no contact and in need of help she feels duty-bound to take her under her wing. To her surprise Emily is determined to be independent and takes a job as nanny. Emily’s charge turns out to be the illegitimate child of the naïve daughter of a well-to-do couple and a ne’er-do-well conman who disappeared before the baby was born. And now he is back intent on exploiting his parental status in return for cash.
Before she knows it Emily is caught up in his botched attempts at blackmail trying desperately to protect her charge from harm while also shielding Isabel from becoming entangled in the drama. But when events beyond her control force her to act instinctively with horrendous effect all their lives are put terribly at risk. Amazon

While my last find The Small Hours Of The Morning by Margaret Yorke was originally published nearly 40 years ago in 1975!

The Small Hours of the Morning


Lorna couldn’t stop spying on Cecil Titmuss. His life was her idea of perfection – a loving family and spouse, and respect in the community. But when she finds out Mrs Titmuss’s secret – which threatens Cecil’s security – Lorna must do something to save the family. How far will she go? Amazon

So by my reckoning my impressive 15 book reduction has rapidly reduced to 6 in the space of a few days!

What have you found to read?

Posted in Weekly Posts

Friday Finds (June 20)

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).

So, come on — share with us your FRIDAY FINDS!

So I am very soon departing for sunnier shores and have spent endless hours sorting out piles of books to take, both physical and kindle versions because I can’t take the risk of being without suitable reading matter. As always I have been wildly optimistic on how much I will read but I certainly won’t be short of choices.

First up, courtesy of NetGalley I have a copy of The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

The Good Girl

‘I’ve been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don’t know the colour of her eyes or what they look like when they’re scared. But I will.’
Mia Dennett can’t resist a one-night stand with the enigmatic stranger she meets in a bar. But going home with him might turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia’s life…
An addictively suspenseful and tautly written thriller, The Good Girl is a compulsive debut that reveals how, even in the perfect family, nothing is as it seems…NetGalley

This book is due to be published on 1 August 2014 by Harlequin UK

A colleague at work has suggested Margaret Yorke as an author I might enjoy so I now have a copy of A Small Deceit originally published in 1991. This is a small book so easily tucked into the suitcase.

A Small Deceit


William Adams is a killer who has never been convicted for murder. He has never confessed, even when convicted of rape and criminal assault. Nor has he admitted to the other attacks upon women. He feels no remorse, no pity for his victims. He despises them.
Now, having served his sentence in full, he is free, subject to no supervisory control. He has some money put away. He can assume a new identity and disappear.
At a quiet guesthouse on the outskirts of a country town, Adams recognizes someone from his past, someone also staying there under an assumed name, someone who must have recognized him.
From this chance encounter, a nightmarish chain of events is set in motion, and the lives of many people who should have been immune to threat and blackmail, fear and violence, are profoundly changed. Goodreads

I also have a copy of Rage Against The Dying by Becky Masterman following a particularly good review by Bibliobeth who convinced me with the phrase ‘can I just re-iterate how refreshing it is to read a crime novel where our main character is an intelligent and very feisty OLDER woman.’ Read her full review here

Rage Against The Dying


In her hey-day, ex FBI agent, Brigid Quinn, not only worked serial killer cases but became their prize. Small and blond, from a distance she looked vulnerable and slight…the perfect bait to catch a killer. But as Quinn got older, she realised she needed to find a protégé, a younger field agent to take her place. So Quinn trains a twenty-two year old and lets her loose in the field. The plan works. Until the Route 66 killer not only takes the bait, but kills the bait.
Years on, Quinn is trying to move past the fact that she has a young woman’s death on her conscience. She’s now the perfect Stepford Wife – until she gets a knock on her door. The girl’s body has finally been discovered. Quinn is pulled back into the case and the more she learns about the killer the more she comes to believe, despite the overwhelming forensic evidence to hand, that they have the wrong man. Amazon

Also under consideration is Buried A Man I Hated There by Adam Pepper. Doesn’t that title just scream beach read?

Buried A Man I Hated There

Jack Maddox is distraught after the mysterious deaths of his wife and young daughter. His head constantly aches and his memories are hazy and lost.
Heidi, his wife’s twin sister, does her best to help Jack cope. Ever reliable and dutiful, she encourages Jack to move on with his life.
Each Valentine’s Day, they meet in a field in rural Vermont for a picnic in the snow.
Jack has a secret that’s buried deep. Heidi has a secret of her own. Will they unravel their secrets, or will their secrets unravel them?
Salvation lies hidden in the snow, and in each other. Amazon

Also being considered is a book set in the Blue Mountains; Currawong Manor by Josephine Pennicott

Curawong Manor


When photographer Elizabeth Thorrington is invited to document the history of Currawong Manor for a book, she is keen to investigate a mystery from years before: the disappearance of her grandfather, the notorious artist Rupert Partridge, and the deaths of his wife, Doris, and daughter, Shalimar. For years, locals have speculated whether it was terrible tragedy or a double murder, but until now, the shocking truth of what happened at the Manor that day has remained a secret.
Relocating to the manor, Elizabeth interviews Ginger Flower, one of Rupert’s life models from the seventies, and Dolly Shaw, the daughter of the enigmatic ‘dollmaker’ who seems to have been protected over the years by the Partridge family. Elizabeth is sure the two women know what happened all those years ago, but neither will share their truths unconditionally. And in the surrounding Owlbone Woods, a haunting presence still lurks, waiting for the currawongs to gather…Goodreads

Please share your Friday Finds with me, because once I’ve put a severe dent in the TBR with the holiday reads I’m sure I’ll need some new books to replenish the gap.