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.
You can read my original review of the book featured by clicking on the book cover.
My pick for May of 2014 is The Broken by Tamar Cohen, now better known as Tammy Cohen, and this book was her first fully-fledged foray into the psychological thriller genre.
The story is centered around two couples their friendship and the subsequent fall-out when one of the husbands decides his marriage is over, Unfortunately and confides in the friend before his wife.
What follows is an expose of a breakdown of a marriage… and a friendship brilliantly exposing the ripple effect of one man’s decision. Chilling stuff indeed.
Best friends tell you everything; about their kitchen renovation; about their little girl’s schooling. How one of them is leaving the other for a younger model.
Best friends don’t tell lies. They don’t take up residence on your couch for weeks. They don’t call lawyers. They don’t make you choose sides.
Best friends don’t keep secrets about their past. They don’t put you in danger.
Best friends don’t always stay best friends. Amazon
In May 2015 I reviewed an amazing book that covered a real-life and fantastical trial that spanned from the late Victorian to the early Edwardian eras. Piu Marie Eatwell named her book The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and the Missing Corpse which also wins my award for the best title for a book!
In 1898 a widow named Anna Maria Druce applied for the exhumation of the grave of her late father-in-law, Thomas Charles Druce. Mr Druce had been a furniture dealer, owning the Baker Street Bazaar, a forerunner of what we know as a department store, but Anna Maria believed that he had been the alter ego of the eccentric 5th Duke of Portland. Her claims meant that Tomas Druce had faked his death in 1864 and spent the next fifteen living at the ducal seat, Welbeck Abbey in Worksop, Nottinghamshire.
The book covers claims and counter claims aplenty with a hefty dash of insight into the social history of the time. It made for absolutely fascinating reading aided by accurate research alongside a dramatic and complex case rendered easy to read by this talented author.
The extraordinary story of the Druce-Portland affair, one of the most notorious, tangled and bizarre legal cases of the late Victorian and Edwardian eras.
In 1897 an elderly widow, Anna Maria Druce, made a strange request of the London Ecclesiastical Court: it was for the exhumation of the grave of her late father-in-law, T.C. Druce.
Behind her application lay a sensational claim: that Druce had been none other than the eccentric and massively wealthy 5th Duke of Portland, and that the – now dead – Duke had faked the death of his alter ego. When opened, Anna Maria contended, Druce’s coffin would be found to be empty. And her children, therefore, were heirs to the Portland millions.
The legal case that followed would last for ten years. Its eventual outcome revealed a dark underbelly of lies lurking beneath the genteel facade of late Victorian England. Amazon
There were quite a few contenders in May 2016 but it had to be Daisy in Chains by one of my favourite authors, Sharon Bolton.
Hamish Wolfe is in HMP Isle of Wight prison, convicted of the murder of three young women, fat young women. All is not lost there is a campaign for his freedom and one of the key people they want on side is lawyer and true true crime writer Maggie Rose. This woman has managed to assist in securing the release of seven other prisoners.
I defy anyone to read this book and not to be drawn by these captivating characters who are dancing a dance of attraction, but what are they attracted to? Beauty or brains? Who exactly is manipulating who?
Sharon Bolton is a skilled writer and this book is one of my favourite of all her creations.
Famous killers have fan clubs.
Hamish Wolfe is charming, magnetic and very persuasive. Famed for his good looks, he receives adoring letters every day from his countless admirers. He’s also a convicted murderer, facing life in prison.
Who would join such a club?
Maggie Rosie is a successful lawyer and true-crime author. Reclusive and enigmatic, she only takes on cases she can win.
Hamish is convinced that Maggie can change his fate. Maggie is determined not to get involved. She thinks she’s immune to the charms of such a man. But maybe not this time . . .
Would you? Amazon
The Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins was both engaging and memorable and I immersed myself into a story of a book about a book. There is always something absolutely irresistible in a this device, but The Night Visitor has taken this kernel and added the most memorable characters.
Olivia Sweetman is making her way to address all two hundred guests gathered at The Hunterian Museum, Royal College of Surgeons in London. All those people are amongst the jars of organs to celebrate the publication of historian Olivia Sweetman’s book, Annabel, a study of a Victorian woman who became one of the first surgeons, a woman who also had a sensational personal life too, captured within Annabel in her own words. But, all is not as it should be as we find out as this superior psychological novel unfolds and the intricate storyline full of fascinating detail will stay with me for a long time to come.
You have the perfect life . . . How far would you go to protect it?
Professor Olivia Sweetman has worked hard to achieve the life she loves, with a high-flying career as a TV presenter and historian, three children and a talented husband. But as she stands before a crowd at the launch of her new bestseller she can barely pretend to smile. Her life has spiralled into deceit and if the truth comes out, she will lose everything.
Only one person knows what Olivia has done. Vivian Tester is the socially awkward sixty-year-old housekeeper of a Sussex manor who found the Victorian diary on which Olivia’s book is based. She has now become Olivia’s unofficial research assistant. And Vivian has secrets of her own.
As events move between London, Sussex and the idyllic South of France, the relationship between these two women grows more entangled and complex. Then a bizarre act of violence changes everything. Amazon
The book I’ve chosen for May 2018 is one that I ‘found’ through blogging. Anne Cater invited me onto the blog tour to celebrate the recent publication of The Dissent of Annie Lang by Ros Franey, and I was drawn to the description of a girl who is the youngest daughter of strict and religious parents. A hint at a stay in an asylum for her brother sealed the deal for me.
Annie Lang’s story is set in the Nottinghamshire during the 1920s and 30s when children certainly had no voice but that doesn’t mean they don’t have eyes, or ears and that the secrets that their elders and betters may think are safe, have probably not gone unnoticed.
The characters are brilliantly depicted, Annie’s friendship with Marjorie Bagshaw in particular, the two girls thrown together because of where they live have little in common and the delicate tussle of power is shown as both keep secrets when it will be to their advantage, at one point Annie admits that neither particularly likes the other.
The combination of sparky Annie Lang complemented by a varied cast of characters and combined with a captivating story meant that this book ticked all the boxes for this reader.
‘My story starts and ends at railway stations, though of course I can’t know this yet as I clamber off the boat-train at Victoria that warm May afternoon… ‘
Growing up in a strict religious family in the 1920s, Annie Lang is witness to disturbing events that no one will explain. Only the family dog may know the answers.
Six years on, student Annie returns from France to find her beloved brother in a mental hospital and her ally, the Sunday school teacher, vanished without trace. With the help of her childhood diary, and sister Beatrice, Annie turns detective to unearth the truth.
Her journey leads to a discovery so disturbing that she believes it will ruin all their lives, unless they can atone for the past.
Ros Franey beautifully captures that point when a child can sense, and indeed dissent against, secrets that adults think they are too young to grasp. Impulsive, brave and lovable, Annie Lang is formidable when she takes matters into her own hands.
If you want to see what the five books featured on Five of the Best for May 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