Posted in 5 Of the Best

Five of the Best (September 2014 to September 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.

One of the fascinating things I find looking back over these posts is some months seem to have far more varied types of reads than others – I’m beginning to suspect September has that whiff of ‘back to school’ about it with an urge to broaden my horizons being evident.

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

In September 2014 though it was very much an old favourite which is the winner. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie had me caught up in what may have been express travel in the 1930s when the book was written but seemed to be anything but to a modern reader. I loved the range of characters, the level of research undertaken by Agatha Christie to make sure the details were correct, as well as pitting my inferior little grey cells against Hercule Poirot’s vastly superior ones.

The plot is ingenious, and I can only imagine how it was received as this book doesn’t really meet the conventions of crime fiction for the time it was written. With a cracking pace alongside a despised victim the pleasure was all about seeking to fit the clues together into a fitting scenario. The ending has to be one of the best ever with all the travellers called to the fine dining car as Poirot outlines two possibilities of what could conceivably explain what happened in carriage number 2. I can’t imagine a more perfect finale.

Blurb

Just after midnight, a snowdrift stopped the Orient Express in its tracks. The luxurious train was surprisingly full for the time of the year. But by the morning there was one passenger fewer. An American lay dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside.
With tension mounting, detective Hercule Poirot comes up with not one, but two solutions to the crime. Amazon

In September 2015 I was blown away by The Night Watch by Sarah Waters, a fabulous historical novel of the like that could only have come from the pen of this incredibly talented author.

Set in the 1940s this book tells a story in reverse starting with 1947, travelling back to 1943 before ending at the beginning with 1941.

Knowing the ending, or at least part of it, before you get to the beginning of a story lent this book a peculiar feeling of poignancy, as well as inevitably giving the reader a few ‘ahh’ moments as the actions of our main characters begin to make a little more sense once we know what had happened in the past. This way of revealing the story also meant that I wanted to go back to the beginning, willing the 1947 part to go just that little bit further, to give me some sense of completeness to the character’s lives that hold the promise of a future never to be told.

This was simply superb and reading my original review makes me want to pick up the story again while still hoping that the ending/beginning will somehow reveal something different…

Blurb

Moving back through the 1940s, through air raids, blacked out streets, illicit liaisons, sexual adventure, to end with its beginning in 1941, The Night Watch is the work of a truly brilliant and compelling storyteller.

This is the story of four Londoners – three women and a young man with a past, drawn with absolute truth and intimacy. Kay, who drove an ambulance during the war and lived life at full throttle, now dresses in mannish clothes and wanders the streets with a restless hunger, searching . . . Helen, clever, sweet, much-loved, harbours a painful secret . . . Viv, glamour girl, is stubbornly, even foolishly loyal, to her soldier lover . . . Duncan, an apparent innocent, has had his own demons to fight during the war. Their lives, and their secrets connect in sometimes startling ways. War leads to strange alliances . . .

Tender, tragic and beautifully poignant, set against the backdrop of feats of heroism both epic and ordinary, here is a novel of relationships that offers up subtle surprises and twists. The Night Watch is thrilling. A towering achievement. Amazon

September 2016’s entry is a psychological thriller; Before I Let You In by Jenny Blackhurst. I love it when friendship is the basis of this sub-genre as these are often more complex than any romance.

In Before I Let You In there are three friends, Karen a psychiatrist, Eleanor a mother to a young child with relationship problems and Bea a single woman whose problems stem from the past. And then Jessica walks in for an appointment with Karen and seems to know all about Eleanor!

The plotting was superb, and despite me having an inkling where the fishy smell was strongest, there was plenty to ponder over, actions to be contemplated and of course trying to fix the pieces of the puzzle into a whole picture. If you enjoy a psychological thriller which features realistic characters and a strong storyline, you should definitely consider reading this one.

Blurb

Karen is meant to be the one who fixes problems.

It’s her job, as a psychiatrist – and it’s always been her role as a friend.

But Jessica is different. She should be the patient, the one that Karen helps.

But she knows things about Karen. Her friends, her personal life. Things no patient should know.

And Karen is starting to wonder if she should have let her in . . . Amazon

2017 saw me wowed by another historical fiction, this time The Other Mrs Walker by Mary Paulson-Ellis.

Margaret Penny returns to Edinburgh after some thirty years away and returns to her mother’s home. She is not given a warm welcome, or even a proper bed but given that she feels she has no choice except to leave London, she has to take the scant comfort on offer. Margaret takes up a job offer to locate the family of the recently deceased to save the local council spending money on their funerals.

One of Margaret’s first jobs is to sift through the belongings in one flat of an elderly woman. With a beautiful green dress seeming out of odds with the rest of the detritus of a life the hunt begins.

This is a book full of themes which while at times quite a dark tale flicking backwards between the 1930s and the present day from London to snowy Edinburgh as well as moving between one claustrophobic household to another; I loved every minute of it.



Blurb

Somehow she’d always known that she would end like this. In a small square room, in a small square flat. In a small square box, perhaps. Cardboard, with a sticker on the outside. And a name . . .

An old lady dies alone and unheeded in a cold Edinburgh flat on a snowy Christmas night. A faded emerald dress hangs in her wardrobe; a spilt glass of whisky pools on the floor.

A few days later a middle-aged woman arrives back in the city she thought she’d left behind, her future uncertain, her past in tatters.

She soon finds herself a job at the Office for Lost People, tracking down the families of those who have died neglected and alone.

But what Margaret Penny cannot yet know, is just how entangled her own life will become in the death of one lonely stranger . . . Amazon

There was a clear winner for this year’s entry for the five star award and that was The Shrouded Path by Sarah Ward. I’m not sure how this author keeps producing crime fiction set in Derby of such high quality but, this number four in the DC Connie Childs series, is even better than those which preceded it.

With the tale split between the past in 1957 and an equally evocative present, the mystery has its heart in an old railway tunnel near Bampton. A girl went into the tunnel never to reappear and it seems that now someone wants to be certain that the secrets from the past stay firmly hidden.

One of my favourite aspects is that all the characters are great, they are all genuine people, police as we like to imagine our local police force to be; caring and diligent with an absolute drive to get to the truth. And boy do they show their tenacity in this novel.

Blurb

The past won’t stay buried forever.

November, 1957: Six teenage girls walk in the churning Derbyshire mists, the first chills of winter in the air. Their voices carrying across the fields, they follow the old train tracks into the dark tunnel of the Cutting. Only five appear on the other side.

October, 2014: a dying mother, feverishly fixated on a friend from her childhood, makes a plea: ‘Find Valerie.’ Mina’s elderly mother had never discussed her childhood with her daughter before. So who was Valerie? Where does her obsession spring from?

DC Connie Childs, off balance after her last big case, is partnered up with new arrival to Bampton, Peter Dahl. Following up on what seems like a simple natural death, DC Childs’ old instincts kick in, pointing her right back to one cold evening in 1957. As Connie starts to broaden her enquiries, the investigation begins to spiral increasingly close to home. Amazon

Five of the Best 2018

January 2018
February 2018
March 2018
April 2018
May 2018
June 2018
July 2018
August 2018

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

The Shrouded Path – Sarah Ward #BlogTour #BookReview

Crime Fiction
5*s

I was absolutely thrilled to be contacted by Faber & Faber to see if I wanted to be part of the Blog Tour to celebrate the publication of the fourth book in the DC Connie Childs series, The Shrouded Path by Sarah Ward. I have thoroughly enjoyed the previous books in this series, written by the blogger Crimepieces, one of the earlier crime fiction bloggers I found all those many moons ago when I started blogging.

With its tale split between the past in 1957 and the present, this book certainly didn’t disappoint and at the risk of being repetitive this was even better than the three that preceded it.

One November evening in 1957 six teenage girls walked into the train tunnel at The Cutting, but only five made it out again. What happened to the sixth is shrouded in a mystery as murky as the mists that swirled around the Derbyshire landscape.

In 2014 Mina Kemp is sitting by her mother’s bed in hospital. Hilary is dying but she has become unusually agitated believing that she has seen her childhood friend. She begs Mina to find Valerie and despite not knowing where to start, her mother never having mentioned Valerie before Mina determines to do her bidding.

Meanwhile the Bampton police should be having a quiet time of it. With just one natural death on the books to follow-up while DI Sadler is on his holidays it is only the temporary elevation of Matthews in his absence that is causing the work to be more arduous than needs be. However there is the new DC, Peter Dahl to show the ropes to so they pay a visit to the deceased, Nell Colley’s home, to see if there is anything at all suspicious about her death.

This series is everything you could want from a crime fiction novel. Even though it is part of a series each book is entirely self-contained, although of course the characters develop from book to book. One of my favourite aspects is that all the characters are great, they are all genuine people, police as we like to imagine our local police force to be; caring and diligent with an absolute drive to get to the truth. This isn’t a series overburdened by police politics or gripes about how the force has changed. These are detectives in the old mode, ones that really want to detect. Of course one of the most striking qualities is that the setting is superb. As one who has holidayed in the area the village of Bampton is as you’d imagine a typical village in the area to be and by taking us back as far as 1957 that feeling s reinforced even more in The Shrouded Path. Best of all there are multiple threads that are meticulously plotted so that there is a real sense of satisfaction at a well-told story by the time you turn the last page.

In a book that changes from past to present and back again we get a flavour of life in the 1950s not by way of obvious signposted items but from the everyday context from a girl not allowed to sing carols before Christmas Eve (and not arguing about her father’s strict order) to the simpler times where life was about making your own entertainment, riding bicycles to choir practice and secrets being hidden well away from prying eyes.

This is the perfect autumnal read – my only disappointment is now I need to wait a while before I learn what Sarah Ward will serve up next for DC Connie Childs.

First Published UK: 4 September 2018
Publisher: Faber & Faber
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous Books in the DC Connie Childs Series

In Bitter Chill
A Deadly Thaw
A Patient Fury

Don’t miss out on the other posts on this Blog Tour

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (September 5)

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

With August having been a decidedly mixed bag in terms of reading I’m thrilled to be starting September with a great set of books which have relight my fire so to speak!

I am currently reading The Shrouded Path by Sarah Ward, the fourth book in the DC Childs series set in Derbyshire which is simply fab. The Shrouded Path was published yesterday, 4 September 2018.

Blurb

The past won’t stay buried forever.

November, 1957: Six teenage girls walk in the churning Derbyshire mists, the first chills of winter in the air. Their voices carrying across the fields, they follow the old train tracks into the dark tunnel of the Cutting. Only five appear on the other side.

October, 2014: a dying mother, feverishly fixated on a friend from her childhood, makes a plea: ‘Find Valerie.’ Mina’s elderly mother had never discussed her childhood with her daughter before. So who was Valerie? Where does her obsession spring from?

DC Connie Childs, off balance after her last big case, is partnered up with new arrival to Bampton, Peter Dahl. Following up on what seems like a simple natural death, DC Childs’ old instincts kick in, pointing her right back to one cold evening in 1957. As Connie starts to broaden her enquiries, the investigation begins to spiral increasingly close to home. Amazon

The last book I finished was a psychological thriller The Night She Died by Jenny Blackhurst which had me gripped in its twists and turns. The Night She Died will be published tomorrow, 6 September 2018.

Blurb

On her own wedding night, beautiful and complicated Evie White leaps off a cliff to her death.

What drove her to commit this terrible act? It’s left to her best friend and her husband to unravel the sinister mystery.

Following a twisted trail of clues leading to Evie’s darkest secrets, they begin to realize they never knew the real Evie at all… Amazon

And next up is another book that will be published tomorrow; Gallows Court by Martin Edwards promises a blend of a Golden Age mystery with modern suspense and is written by a man whose knowledge of the history of crime fiction is phenomenal!

Blurb

LONDON, 1930.

Sooty, sulphurous, and malign: no woman should be out on a night like this. A spate of violent deaths – the details too foul to print – has horrified the capital and the smog-bound streets are deserted. But Rachel Savernake – the enigmatic daughter of a notorious hanging judge – is no ordinary woman. To Scotland Yard’s embarrassment, she solved the Chorus Girl Murder, and now she’s on the trail of another killer.

Jacob Flint, a young newspaperman temporarily manning The Clarion’s crime desk, is looking for the scoop that will make his name. He’s certain there is more to the Miss Savernake’s amateur sleuthing than meets the eye. He’s not the only one. His predecessor on the crime desk was of a similar mind – not that Mr Betts is ever expected to regain consciousness after that unfortunate accident…

Flint’s pursuit of Rachel Savernake will draw him ever-deeper into a labyrinth of deception and corruption. Murder-by-murder, he’ll be swept ever-closer to its dark heart – to that ancient place of execution, where it all began and where it will finally end: Gallows Court. Amazon

So admittedly this is a crime heavy week but one that has so much promise… What do you think? Any of these books take your fancy?

Posted in Weekly Posts

Weekly Wrap Up (August 26)

It’s a couple of weeks since I’ve done a weekly wrap up – last weekend we attended the wedding of some very dear friends which coming on top of what seems like endless summer fun means that my reading has been somewhat on the backburner, but fortunately I’ve managed to keep it ticking over despite distractions.

This Week on the Blog

My week started with my review of Murder Mile by Lynda La Plante, the fourth in her series that features Jane Tennison in the 1970s. To complement this we have just started watching Prime Suspect, the original Tennison series on Netflix. Let me tell you 1991 looks slightly dated – all that smoking, typewriters and chauvinistic behaviour!

My excerpt post was from Gallows Court by Martin Edwards which is set in 1930s London.

This Week in Books featured the authors, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Jenny Blackhurst and Jennifer Johnson.

My second review of the week was for When the Lights Go Out by Mary Kubica, a psychological thriller that was published on 23 August 2018.

This was followed by my review for The Poisoner by Stephen Bates for my 20 Books of Summer Challenge – Having recalibrated the challenge I was hoping to make 15 books read before the time is up but I fear I will miss this target too.

But yesterday I did manage to squeeze a review for my review for book 13 with Flying Shoes by Lisa Howorth.

This Time Last Year…

I was reading the superb non-fiction Stranger in the House by Julie Summers. This book takes a look at the women, be they wives, mothers, sisters or daughters who welcomed back their menfolk from the Second World War. How did these women adapt to the men who returned from battlefields or prisons? How did they begin to cope with all too apparent trauma that returned with them? A moving book which has sought to extract the truth from those who lived through the outcome.


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

Blurb

‘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 fiancés 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

Stacking the Shelves

I have acquired quite a few lovely looking books since I last updated you so here’s a taster.

I was delighted to receive a copy of The Shrouded Path by Sarah Ward from the publishers. This is the fourth in the DI Childs series set in Derbyshire will be published on 4 September 2018.

Blurb

The past won’t stay buried forever.

November, 1957: Six teenage girls walk in the churning Derbyshire mists, the first chills of winter in the air. Their voices carrying across the fields, they follow the old train tracks into the dark tunnel of the Cutting. Only five appear on the other side.

October, 2014: a dying mother, feverishly fixated on a friend from her childhood, makes a plea: ‘Find Valerie.’ Mina’s elderly mother had never discussed her childhood with her daughter before. So who was Valerie? Where does her obsession spring from?

DC Connie Childs, off balance after her last big case, is partnered up with new arrival to Bampton, Peter Dahl. Following up on what seems like a simple natural death, DC Childs’ old instincts kick in, pointing her right back to one cold evening in 1957. As Connie starts to broaden her enquiries, the investigation begins to spiral increasingly close to home.

And from one blogger turned author to another, Ronnie Turner’s debut psychological novel Lies Between Us will be published on 1 October 2018 and I was thrilled to be given a copy to read prior to publication.

Blurb

Will they ever learn the truth?

Three people, leading very different lives, are about to be brought together – with devastating consequences . . .

John has a perfect life, until the day his daughter goes missing.

Maisie cares for her patients, but hides her own traumatic past.

Miller should be an innocent child, but is obsessed with something he can’t have.

They all have something in common, though none of them know it – and the truth won’t stay hidden for long . . . Amazon

From Amazon Vine I have a copy of Murder in the Caribbean by Robert Thorogood. Not only do I love the TV series Death in Paradise, I’ve read the previous three books in this series as has my son-in-law who turns his nose up at most of my library for being too ‘harrowing’ but enjoys the generous nod to this Agatha Christie style murder mystery. This book will be published on 27 December 2018.

Blurb

DI Richard Poole is hot, bothered and fed up. He’s stuck on the tropical island of Saint-Marie, forced to live in a rickety old shack on a beach, and there isn’t a decent cup of tea to be found anywhere.

When a boat explodes in the harbour, Richard and his team soon realise there’s a new murderer on the loose. But who is it? And why did the killer leave behind a ruby at the scene of the crime?
As the police dig deeper, they uncover secrets that go back decades, and a crime from the past that can never be forgiven.

Worse still, they soon realise this is only the beginning. They’ve got to catch the killer before there’s another death in paradise… Amazon

tbr-watch

Since I last reported my figures I’ve read 6 books and somehow in the same time I’ve acquired 11! The total is therefore up to 175!
Physical Books – 115
Kindle Books – 41
NetGalley Books –17
Audio Books –2

 

I have however added 6 reviews of my own books which means I get to add 2 complete tokens to the one I already had – up to a massive 3!