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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

The Shadow of Memory by Connie Berry (A Kate Hamilton mystery)

Right now in our country there is no official lockdown. Schools are open, some universities are open, public service employees have all gone back to work (no roster now) (no working from home), restaurants and hotels are open with social distancing, masks on at all times, sanitising constantly but the spectre of omnicron and Delta persists. There are figures every day of the number of infections and the number of deaths and that does not seem to go down. Whether we just adapt and live and go on in this state or continue to isolate is a personal choice. Not an easy decision especially if you have the elderly or the sick in your homes. On the reading side actually things are looking pretty good. I am reading, putting up reviews regularly and generally am up to date. But in my personal life, everything seems to be on hold. I think this is true for a lot of my generation. Getting back to books! Kate Hamilton is helping run an antiques business - it was meant to be temporary but meeting Tom and deciding on getting married to him has put them both in a quandary. She has a home and a business back in America and Tom is well established in England. Their wedding date is fluid but she knows that this has to be decided. Tom's mother is the proverbial difficult mother in law and that problem has also got to be solved. The fact that Kate gets drawn into mystery and murders is part of the charm. Called with her boss Ivor to assess a painting which the owners believe is worth millions, despite everyone else's thoughts on the subject, Kate holds back sensing something is wrong. This literally sets the cat amongst the pigeons. A decades old story and several bodies turning up makes sure that Kate who is not the kind to let go of an investigation, doggedly pursues the case despite high ranking people influencing others to let it lie. Set in a small town atmosphere, the cozy is a good one. Good as a stand alone too. Sent by Crooked Lane Books for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Where There's a Will by Sulari Gentill (Rowland Sinclair No. 10)

Sulari Gentill brings to life a period in Australian history that is not very much written about. The mid 1930s urban Melbourne was very British, with all the good but with all the racism and so much more that was not so good. The story a very good blend of history, suspense and murder highlights life for the rich and famous (Rowland Sinclair) and also the way in which life was lived. The story is perfectly good as a stand alone though it is No. 10 in the series. Rowland Sinclair, rich, privileged is a different man to his peers - he has never let his wealth make him arrogant though he may be unaware of how he appears to outsiders at heart he is a straight forward, kind man. He leaves the machinations of power and wealth to his brother Will who he has to call upon in times of emergencies though. In this story we go to America where Rowland has been declared the executor of his friend Daniel Cartwright's will. Not straightforward at all, the will ruthlessly cuts out Daniel's brothers and sister, even turfing them out of the house they've always lived and handing over the entire huge estate to a total unknown. Finding Otis involves Rowland and his faithfull crew into one serious mess after another. The claimants to the will apart from people who know who Otis is and who are pretending otherwise do not want enquiries made. They want Rowland to go away leaving them to share their late brother's fortune which they think is their right. Rowland will not give up and several dangerous mishaps happen. The story is convoluted but extremely interesting. Going from Australia to America it delves into the underworld and how gangsters operate in every part of the world. Sent by Poisoned Pen Press for an unbiased review, I am very appreciative that I got this book. Sulari Gentill is originally from Sri Lanka and that gives me a personal stake in reading all her books! Sent via Netgalley.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

The Body on the Moor

A story based on a horrible true story of two cold blooded, sadistic murderers who tortured and killed young people as they took pleasure in the killing and how the sudden disappearance of seven year old girl triggered the hunt for not just her, but then all the people who had disappeared over the years in this area without a trace. Manchester 1965 an urban setting. Connie is a single mother, careless and indifferent to her daughter Kathy. Kept inside a car while her mother and boyfriend are in a pub for hours on end Kathy opens the door of the car and wanders towards the sound of lambs bleating inside a lorry. This is the beginning of Kathy's adventure and disappearance. Simultaneously Ronald and Tom two single men run a farm on the far moors. Isolated and desolate they harbour a major secret of their own and for this reason eschew any company. The appearance of Kathy on their farm like an apparition becomes the focus of Tom's life and even Ronald though he knows, he should inform the authorities keeps Kathy protected and guarded as she obviously has been physically abused by her mother. Alongside these stories, is the one of Connie now bereft of her daughter, her partner chief suspect in the missing girl and her world disintegrating into pathos and guilt. With the help of cheap whiskey and Valium. Her friend Myra is suddenly totally different, crude and wicked and Myra's boyfriend Ian is even more so. Connie was a naive, simple girl who could not read characters or behavior very well and who accepted everything at face value. The setting of the story alternating between urban Manchester and the isolated moors could not be more of a contrast for this fast paced thriller. Some of the coincidences are too good to be true, but the story holds your interest throughout. Sent by Bookouture for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley. On another note, covid cases are rising but everything is unrestricted right now. Schools have fully opened (children being vaccinated though), universities open, everyone in public service has to report for work, no rosters anymore and restaurants are fully open with measures in place for social distancing masks etc. I do not know how long these will be effective. We just wait and see.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

The Dressmaker's Secret by Lorna Cook

Combining one of the most tense periods in Parisian history - the time Hitler swept into Paris and took it over completely and the shock of the average French person who could not believe this unimaginable thing that befell their country. The story also featured the enigmatic and controversial Coco Chanel - herself described as a collaborator but one who was very clever at disguising the truth and who eventually got away with the whole thing. The main story however is about Adele, Chanel's assistant who from very humble beginnings started work as an assistant to Chanel and when the occupation of Paris happened became a jack of all trades for Chanel, her right hand man almost handling all Chanel's work and thus knowing much more of her activities than anyone else did. Adele was horrified at the proximity of the Nazis at the Ritz Hotel where Chanel lived and the fact that Chanel actively participated in all Nazi social gatherings. Chanel was a survivor and her way was to join them rather than fight them. Adele was swept into it because she had no other option. Being an orphan she had no home to go to but her meeting an American doctor brought her love and help in a great way for the one act of Resistance she did. Finding and keeping a Jewish infant (an act which would have brought instant death if discovered) she provided a refuge for the child and Dr. Dixon helped her out in this. The story continues with Dr Dixon's disappearance in a raid and the end of all Adele's hopes for the future. The end of the story was a happy one and a totally unexpected one. The story however has a dual timeline and we also face Chloe who is in fact ADele's grand daughter. She has taken a gap year and works in Paris. Never knowing anything about her French ancestry and what Adele did during the war, she is now drawn into the story of where her grandmother worked, and finding a friend who is more knowledgeable than she is she starts on unraveling the story of Adele and Chanel. WW stories are so sad, so emotional in so many aspects the fact that this ended well years later was something that was different and very pleasing to read. The story of Chanel was as much a part of the story as Adele's story and this added a great deal of impact to the story. The story of Chloe in present times and her part in bringing a story that remained buried for decades (Adele's story) was a part of this story. Sent by Avon Books UK for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

The Ghost of Glendale by Natalie Kleinman

Regency England. Phoebe Marcham is 24 years old and by the standards of the day practically on the shelf. She has not been successful in finding a husband despite two seasons in London, much to her Aunt's dismay but fortunately for an enlightened father who sees no reason to chivy her to find a partner, she lives a well settled and contented life in Glendale, their family home. A visit from her Aunt upsets all her serenity and her father's as well as the lady can be a demanding one. She is bringing her daughter with her which compensates as the cousins get on well. Entertainment has to be arranged and Phoebe calls on her friend Rupert to help. Rubert's good friend Duncan from Scotland is also there and there seems to be an immediate attraction between the two men and the two young ladies. There is however a resident ghost whom Phoebe is adamant lives in the house and is restless because of a love affair which was doomed and which ended in his beloved dying in a storm. Duncan is very keen to help Phoebe uncover the history of the story and finding journals and diaries in her mother's drawing room and then calling on the help of the other side - the girl who died, they try to piece the pieces of the tragic story. The story is thus two genres - one the love story between Phoebe and Duncan and the ghost who is restless and is finally put to rest. A little bit of a historical romance coupled with the paranormal this was a pleasant story to read. Sent by Sapere Books for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

A Three Book Problem by Vicki Delaney

The story was attractive for me because of the Sherlock Holmes connection. There was a Sherlock Holmes bookshop (what could be better than that) complete with all the gee gaws that made up Holmes and his side kick. We have a Sherlockian David having a massive weekend do at the old world manor with a full Sherlockian theme including dress and food of the era. We have Jayne serving the food and various others helping out from housekeeping to bartending all different from their usual jobs. When the host gets killed by a poisoned dart of all things, the frolic stops and the serious work of detection starts. Gemma who was the co ordinator for the weekend is now on full alert to find out whatever she could to help the detectives, though sadly they feel that her help is more hindrance than anything else. This does not stop her though. This was a pleasant cozy and my first introduction to the series. Good as a stand alone. Sent by Crooked Lane Books for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Before the Crown by Flora Harding

1943 England and the present Queen was just a very young girl. A particularly sheltered young woman despite the future she knew and her family knew she had to face. Tutored to accept the responsibility of the Crown and all it entailed Elizabeth was not frivolous but very grounded even at that age. She knew what was expected of her and did not shirk from it but in her choice of husband she stood very firm. Philip of Greece despite his royal connections and background was impoverished, without a country, without a home with an eccentric mother and a libertine father. His parents lived separate lives and this put together did not give a very comfortable picture for not just the British administration but also the people who looked on him as a foreigner. He had the further disadvantage of three sisters married to very senior SS officers during the Hitler regime and this was hard to live down. Surprisingly Elizabeth who was mild had decided very early on that he was the most suitable husband for her, and despite that love was not discussed in the initial stages the couple felt that they were comfortable with each other and that progress could be possible. It was a very prosaic way to start a marriage but their feelings of friendship gradually developed over time (a prolonged period which was insisted on by Elizabeth's father) mainly hoping that the relationship would break up! The story covers the period upto Elizabeth's fairy tale wedding to Philip. Even without knowing the future, it augured very well the way it started. Very pleasant read. A download from Amazon