Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Small Hours of The Morning – Margaret Yorke

Psychological Thriller 4*'s
Psychological Thriller
4*’s

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 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

Blurb

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

Blurb

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

Blurb

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
Blurb

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

Blurb

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
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 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

Blurb

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
Blurb

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

Blurb

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?