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Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Narrow Bed by Sophie Hannah

This is devious crime fiction. Not in the category of Agatha Christie for me but something sharper, modern and with an edge.

Someone is killing pairs of friends. No apparent link between the pairs and seemingly random. The friends, partners, spouses of the victims are all in the clear. The first indication of a murder is the appearance of a blank book with an innocuous verse or sentence written in it. The books however are also not linked, just quotes from various sources.

The detectives in charge of the case face insurmountable odds. Till Kim Tribbeck a stand up comedian realises rather late in the day that she had also received one of these blank white books and has only now got to know its rather hideous significance. Working backwards, sideways and in every way possible our detectives have to deduce where and how the killer is going to strike next. Kim is obviously going to be the victim but why, how and where.

Edgy and full of suspense.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Hodder & Stoughton. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Death at Fountains Abbey by Antonia Hodgson

Thomas Hawkins has been sent on an assignment, blackmailed into accepting an assignment more or less. John Aislabie one of the wealthiest men in England has been threatened with murder and the murder threats are foul and frightening. Told ostentatiously to find from where the threat comes from, the actual reason for Thomas's visit is to find and return to the Queen a ledger which holds incriminating evidence that threatens the aristocracy, even going to the highest in the land the monarchy.

Aislabie himself finds himself in a complicated position. He lost his wife and daughter in a fire a long time ago but now he finds that his youngest daughter Lizzie has been returned to him, through a convoluted process. This has upset his second wife who fears that it is a fraud and an attempt to rob him though Lizzie herself has insisted that she does not want a cent of Aislabie's fortune because she is a well settled woman herself.

Thomas's life is in itself complicated. He has brought with him his partner Kitty whom he dearly loves and Sam his ward. Both of them are necessary to solve this crime and all of them are under personal threat while at the estate. The story unravels very slowly but the setting and the descriptiveness of the estate as well as of the unrest surrounding the property at the times is very well told.

The story is partly based on real life characters and is a good piece of historical fiction.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Hodder & Stoughton.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Mistletoe Mysteries - Tales of Yuletide Murder by Charlotte MacLeod

This was the only "Christmassy" read I could get into this year and though murder is not the most Christmassy theme, this was a delightful set of short stories all set in this time of year.

The set of stories are entertaining, short and all very different. It was ideal for this time of year where one cannot concentrate on complicated trials and plots.This was a very pleasant read.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Open Road Integrated Media.

The Line Between Us by Kate Dunn

This is an era where the demarcation between classes of society were very clearly marked. If you did step out of line it was usually detrimental not just for you personally, but very often for your family.

Ifor was a clever boy but circumstances made him become the gardener at the big house. Ella was the daughter of the house but their attraction towards each other and their sympathies for each other was automatic and immediate. It did not bode well for the rest of the story that followed.

The story that followed with Ifor trying to be the stronger of the two for the best of all was an emotional one. The war which followed left Ifor behind in Dunkirk joining the ships that were sent to bring the stragglers left alone. The bombing of the Lancastria and the loss of four thousand soldiers was a massive blow in the Second World War and one which is hardly known.

Ifor survives but his return to his home is still tinged with sadness because Ella is still out of reach.
The divisions amongst classes still remain and this is the early twentieth century where it still seems to matter.

Sensitively told Ifor and Ella's love story with the backdrop of the War is very evocative of the period. It is amazing that despite the flood of novels set in the backdrop of both World Wars, there can still be another book which brings another aspect of the War closer to the reader.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Endeavour Press.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Prodigal Daughter by Prue Leith

Angelica grows up privileged. Much loved daughter of Giovanni and Laura she grows up in the world of restaurants and good food. Her father hopes that she would one day be the heir to his restaurant world but Angelica has other plans.

Her love of French cuisine drives her to Paris for an apprenticeship under the best. Here she enters into a relationship with her cousin Mario, someone who is detested by her father but whom she falls in love with. Trying to straddle the heavy load of her training and also keep up with an unsteady partner who will not work and who depends on Angelica for everything proves to be hard.
Despite her realising that her parents are right Angelica returns home to England to work with her family, hoping that being back in England will help Mario to be more responsible.

Whilst Mario's life takes a downward turn, Angelica's career is on the up and up. Becoming a food writer in addition to her restaurant responsibilities she ends up working for the BBC as well. Making another break from her family she enters into a partnership with her cousin to operate a pub much to the dismay of her father who hopes that she is now settled in the family business.

Details of the restaurant trade plus descriptions of the fabulous food both in France and England kept this book delicious and tantalizing! I understand it is part of a series and that makes me sad as trying to find the rest will prove to be very difficult here.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Quercus Books this was a wonderful read.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Fell by Jenn Ashworth

The element of haunting in this story is poignant but it is not something I am very familiar with.
I am not a fan of fantasy or the paranormal so I was surprised how much this book appealed to me.

Annette returns after a very long spell to an empty house overshadowed by huge sycamore trees. The trees are symbolic of the dark shadowy house and all the stories and secrets that it hides.
Annette's childhood has not been straight forward or clear and she herself is trying to come to grips with what she wants to do for the future. The house is also a focal point in the story, having a character of its own.

Told in the voice of two ghosts it is not as surreal as it may sound and one feels sympathetic to the two spirits, (strange as it may sound) as they are so uneasy and unhappy over the state of their only daughter. They just want her to be happy and settled and this is something Annette definitely is not.

The story was slow but it did not detract from the essential goodness of the story telling. This is not a quick read nor one you can put down and pick up again easily. It was a very good story though.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Hodder & Stoughton.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

All the Time in the World by Caroline Angell

This was a hard hitting novel. It makes any reader take a step back and think about your own mortality. It only takes a second of carelessness to change not just your life but the lives of all
those around you.

Charlotte is a happy baby sitter. She has her masters in music studies but cannot find a niche in the music world. She is happy with the two boys she looks after, has a wonderful relationship with their parents and everything seems alright.  A freak accident and everyone's world turns topsy turvy. Now Charlotte seems to be the glue holding the boys' world together and her personal life as well as her
professional life seems to be put on hold. The story winding its way through Charlotte and everyone in her periphery brings together the elements of love, grief, survival of the spirit amidst the overwhelming sadness of loss.

Beautifully handled debut for this author.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of Henry Holt & Company. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Trespasser by Tana French

I've read her books not in order but I feel that it is perfectly alright as a stand alone.

The plot is seemingly straight forward but you do get it right away that it is not. It wouldn't
be a Tana French book if it were. We have Antoinette and Stephen - one abrasive, aggressive and clever and the other diplomatic, quiet and clever. A winning team whichever way one looks at it. The crime is seemingly straightforward as well. A woman killed apparently by her boyfriend. All the signs point to it, and all the other senior detectives on the Squad believe it is so. They cannot understand Antoinette dithering over the crime.

It seems to be too pat for our detectives and further investigations are called for, surreptitiously and without the knowledge of others on the Squad, also without the knowledge of their seniors. Both detectives know they are in for a host of trouble if word gets out and when the pointers are to one of their own, they know they are in for a lot of trouble.

The twists and turns of this investigation keeps the reader on edge. The characterization of the detectives were spot on, each one different to the other and each one showing up the investigation in different ways.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of Hodder and Stoughton.

Friday, December 16, 2016

FRACTURED by Catherine McKenzie

One of my fellow bloggers recommended this book and am I so grateful to whoever it was. Just cannot remember whom!

I loved the book. It was one of those that I could not put down and the fact that I had to, to attend to chores irritated the hell out of me!

Julie and Daniel along with their twins move states to avoid a stalker who has made Julie's life hell. Julie is a successful writer of a best seller and that has brought out a lot of negative feelings from a lot of folk. Moving to Cincinnati and trying to make another life for her family was her idea of dealing with this and also getting on with her second book. She did not expect the very close knit community of her lane to turn against her. Feelings of envy, animosity, anger, hatred and dislike were uppermost in most of their minds and though Julie was not the easiest person to deal with, I felt that she got a bad deal from the neighbours.

The story abounds in detail, all dovetailing to a climax. The characters are mixed and all are run of the mill everyday people with the complexes and prejudices of very normal folk. This was what set the book apart. We are dealing here with the average Joe or Jane and you take a step back to realise and think that what they can get up to and more importantly how they can act on their feelings are way out of line at times.

The book kept a fast pace throughout. It went on from incident to incident without any let on and you knew it was going to come to a blow out soon.

I've read this author before but did not have this edge of the seat feeling before.

Thank you to Lake Union Publishing for sending this book to me courtesy of Netgalley, for an unbiased review.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Herald of Joy by Pamela Belle

Set in a period after the Civil War,  England is just recovering after a long period of strife. At Wintercombe the inhabitants are now trying to get their lives in order, but with difficulty. The lady
at Wintercombe faces a coming winter of knowing definitely that her husband is losing his battle with his life. She now has to find out how she can protect the estate and her children as best as she could.

Silence is a strong chatelaine, but she finds the unfairness of her husband's will is going to divide the family and create dissension. However his death brings about her freedom and a longing for her lost love and the chance to make a new life for herself. She also seeks settlement for her young children in a way which will bring happiness to them.

However the way forward is not smooth. Charles II has again started his encounters into the English countryside and Nick Hellier is part of his brigade. It brings unwarranted attention to the Wintercombe household and suspicion on the whole family which can lead to forfeiture of their lands, unnecessary focus on the household and even jail for its inhabitants for treason.

With one member of the family disloyal to the whole, the entire structure can be torn apart and the security and strength of Wintercombe destroyed with one rash act and this is what eventually happens. How the family holds on together subsequent to this and support each other hoping that they can recover from this grievous blow is beautifully told.

Characterization was spot on in this story. Each family member had strengths and weaknesses which were very apt and added to the interest of the story. Historically the details were descriptive and for readers who like historical fiction, this book would be an interesting read.

Sent to me by Netgalley, for an unbiased review courtesy of Endeavour Press, this was a book I thoroughly enjoyed.

As a post note as I did this review weeks ago, we have had a bereavement in my family. My mother passed away after a very short illness. She died on Wednesday last and the funeral was on Friday. My mother enjoyed her life in full and I am just so very grateful for that.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Woman On the Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Ashford

Agatha Christie has been for me a comfort read from the time I was a teenager. I still like to re-read her stories. Knowing that this was about her was such a good reason to read this book and I loved it.\

Set on the Orient Express and so very descriptive of both the journey and its surroundings, we hear of the adventure of Agatha and two other women both destined for Iraq. One who is escaping her husband the other to Ur to an archaeological site and a very complicated personal life. Evocative of Agatha Christie's own books this story draws you into the life of these three women, each escaping London for reasons of their own.

Agatha has had an upheaval in her life. Her husband has asked for a divorce to marry his mistress and after the episode of Agatha disappearing for a while, she is "hot news". She just wants to disappear again to avoid the notoriety of a divorce which for this time period is still a scandal. Katharine wants to continue with her career and finds that other than through marriage there is no way a single woman will be allowed to work on the site and Nancy is hiding her pregnancy, trying to escape an abusive and philandering husband.

The widely differing lives of the three women, drawn together through personal suffering and loss is
very well told.

The book was sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Lake Union Publishing, for an unbiased review.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Lost Along the Way by Erin Duffy

Lost Along the Way

Three women whose friendships go back decades and who swore they would be friends forever. They find however that with time their friendship is tested as each encounters people and incidents which do not quite mesh with their lifelong friendships and they drift apart. Three adult women have to deal with issues of self confidence eroded by issue of abusive partners amongst other issues and learn how to stand on their own feet again.

Coming back together after life changing moves, they find that they still understand each other better than most, better than their partners in some cases. How each support each other and try to encourage the other to move on and forward with their lives is this story.

Interesting story lines in each women's case adds a lot of interest to the book.

Sent to me by Edelweiss.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine

I like stories told in two different time frames and this excelled in this. A debut novel by Sarah Maine I am so looking forward to reading this author again and again.

Hetty is our present day main character. Having inherited property in the Outer Hebrides she is faced with a quandary. She is drawn so much to the island, the house and its inhabitants that she wants to do what is best for all. She is swept towards her decision to convert the house into a hotel by Giles her partner and his team behind him who have grandiose plans for golf courses, helipads and all the accouterments of a fancy hotel whereas she is veering towards something else. She also did not realise before she arrived on the island the antagonism that a venture of this nature would have to face, neither did she take into account her own strong feelings both about the house and its history.

Going back to 1910 we have the famous inhabitant of the house, a famous painter Theo Blake and the history of the Blakes (not always good and certainly not a good or kind landlord). A real feudal lord of the manor, Theo for all his brilliance as an artist was indifferent to the needs and wants of his tenants, most of them who lived in abject poverty sacrificing their livelihoods for his artistic needs and the needs for hunting and sports of his friends.  The arrival of Beatrice his second wife was for a time a temporary lightening in his life and brought a fresh hope for the island itself but it dwindled in the face of overwhelming odds. Beatrice's subsequent love for Cameron, the factor's son was doomed from the beginning and you knew it would only lead to heartache.

How the two different time frames blended and came into a whole story was very descriptively handled and delicately balanced throughout the book. Characterization was splendid and the detailed description of the island, its birdlife and its natural beauty was beautifully told.

This book was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of Freight Books.