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Monday, September 30, 2019

Last Pen Standing by Vivian Conroy


It is an idyllic story. You use your inheritance to set up a partnership in an idyllic village background to do what you love to do. This was the beginning of Delta's dream to set up a paper craft business in association with her best friend in an area which was a village but also a tourist destination.

They never expected to find on the their first day of their much anticipated workshop, a body of a well known figure murdered whilst a full scale party was going on, and that her friend's brother seems to be implicated upto his neck in the whole thing. Her friend Hazel trying her best to protect her brother and not divulging very much does not help the scenario and she ends up getting arrested too. It is now upto Delta to try to figure out who had to gain by the death and by a series of elimination work out who was responsible.

With a Chief Constable who is more obstructive than helpful, and not wanting assistance of any kind Delta battles it alone with the help of Jonas an ex cop himself unpopular with the local police.
Complicated plots and characters abound but with all the hallmarks of a good cozy mystery murder this is a good one.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Poisoned Pen Press.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

A Shadowed Livery by Charlie Garratt

On the brink of war, Inspector Given is trying to deal with the wave of Anti Antisemitism sweeping the United Kingdom. Two people who were caught in the latest killing are being hanged though the masterminds behind the attack are still free and very much pursuing constant attacks against Jewish businesses.

Surprisingly he is taken off the case and given another one - a triple murder cum suicide (apparently) for the flimsiest of reasons. Suspicious about the reasoning behind the murders and thinking it is an inside job Inspector Given is swept into a case with much wider repercussions. It is not a family saga, with family secrets to hide but goes back decades and uncovers a very long trail of coercion, deceit, cover up and many secrets.

Told in a slightly old fashioned style, not detracting from the story or the detection the story is well told. Characterization was spot on and very good reading.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Sapere Books.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Today We Go Home by Kelli Estes

My knowledge of American history is scant. I think this was a good one for me. Set in 1861 and present day times, we deal with women (and to a lesser degree men) involved in the military not in a supporting role of nurses and carers but both front line soldiers.

We have Emily who after the death of her father and brother, joins hands with her surviving brother Ben to join the Army to fight not as a woman, but disguised as a man. She goes through several skirmishes, and when she is found out she is demoralised to see that her achievements as a soldier are not taken into account - only the fact that she disguised herself as a man. The story of "Jesse" and her brother Ben in the heart of the Civil War fights and how the only survivor was Jesse is remarkable. Because she maintained a diary which was found by Sarah who was one of her descendants and this in turn came into the hands of Larkin, our present day soldier.

Larkin has her own devils to contend with. A survivor from Afghanistan, she carries the overwhelming guilt that she was directly responsible for the death of Sarah, her best friend and Anahita a girl she befriended in Afghanistan. Suffering from PTSD and unwilling to seek counselling or therapy Larkin is battling it alone, with just the help of her grandmother and her cousins.
Till Larkin comes to peace in her own mind with Sarah's death, she knows she will have no solace at all in her life.

What must be a common problem amongst many soldiers, unable to bear the overwhelming guilt of death - whether to friend or foe is dealt with, with  empathy in this story. The personal lives of both Larkin and Emily and how they cope with their worlds is handled delicately. The history of both periods are also detailed well and gives one an inside view of life on the ground in both situations.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Sourcebooks, Landmark.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Sweep Out the Ashes by Mary Clearman Blew

Diana took up an appointment at a University in Versailles to find out the truth about her father. Set in Northern Montana the landscape is icy and bleak at times and fellow colleagues in the university are antagonistic, misogynists mainly, racist and basically unpleasant.

Diana has to learn how to balance her teaching career, give of her best to her students, handle her superiors who seem determined to either get her into bed and failing that get her sacked and also find her father. Finding her father was very fast track. The man was in plain sight, he knew her the moment he saw her and things seemed good. Handling a relationship with someone who was of mixed race, and in a town where strong feelings about race existed was a harder task.

Like now in America, the 1970s seem not very different where strong feelings survive re mixing between two races.

Informative read.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of University of Nebraska Press. 

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Art of Dying by Douglas Lindsay

This book with its Scottish setting was very atmospheric. Starting out with a murder after an altercation at a football stadium, it appeared to be one of those type of random murders. We then get involved in big corporations, the Russians, forgery of paintings, retirement homes with people getting murdered there as well.

All seemingly random, all seemingly unconnected but our detective knows that there are dots that just have to be connected. It comes about through the most unlikely candidate - a woman who is considered psychotic, never having spoken for years who sits in front of  one of the most horrific paintings imaginable, and just stares at it all day.

How the detective connects the dots and finds out the solution to the puzzle is amazing and this is what makes this thriller so good.

With touches of spirits in the form of ghosts from past experiences the Detective combines them all into a very good read.

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

Friday, September 20, 2019

Relative Fortunes by Marlowe Benn

1920's New York was not a good place for women. Independence was scorned on, working for a living was considered not quite right, a woman's inheritance passed from her father to her guardian (brothers who were tyrants) and then to husbands who could squander the whole thing away and no one questioned the right.

When Julia is thrust into the Rankin's life through the sudden death of Naomi, she little knew that by befriending Glynnis whose character and personality are totally different to Julia, that she would raise the antagonism of the entire Rankin clan who close ranks against Glynnis and in turn Julia for raking over this sudden death. Within a couple of days, with no post mortem and a death certificate issued by an ancient family doctor, Naomi is cremated.

Unraveling the sordid story of Naomi's death was sad. A life lived in penury, all because her brother did not let go of the purse strings, his need to dominate and get his sisters to acquiesce to his strict standards of how society viewed them and the need to maintain the showmanship amongst high society in New York was uppermost in all their minds. If getting rid of someone who proved to be over and over again an embarrassment, so be it. Even murder could be excused because what was important was the family name.

This was not an easy story to read. You felt the hopelessness and the huge odds against which Julia was fighting for. Not just for Naomi but for herself personally in her war with her guardian brother who refused to acknowledge that she was part of her father's will. For women of today, this is not an easy read at all. This was a good story and however hard it was to accept women's role in society at the time it depicted it very well.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Lake Union Publishing.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

If ever a book could persuade you to leave your present hectic life, and escape to a countryside town where you could bury yourself in the local life, have an income in the form of a bookshop and be so very comfortable, this is it.

Shaun has a bookshop catering for a very wide, eclectic audience. The requests are wide ranging and very often accompanied by bizarre statements. Shaun is also easily put upon and is easy going from offering coffee free to the free wifi to the facilities. He seems to have utmost patience with adults and children who rummage, involve him in inane conversation and finally end up buying nothing.

In the form of a daily diary, this book was a delight to read. I carried my kindle with me to appointments in order that I could sneak in a few pages as this was one of those unputdownable books.

Loved it from the word go. I understand it is to be made into a TV series. Wonderful.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Profile Books.

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Last Post by Renee Carlino

Laya has been widowed very young and is finding it hard to cope with widowhood. She felt that her husband courted death with his dare devil antics and escapades and that he was constantly seeking a new thrill (sponsored of course). Having watched him actually die was not going to make it easier on her and she resorts to Facebook posts giving the impression that he is going to come back (some day). Much to the distress of his family.

Trying to get back to what is considered a "normal" life for Laya was not easy. A promising surgeon she gave up on life and seemed to be just existing until she met up with Micah a architect in her father's firm and one who was attracted to her from the beginning but who did not know how he could get through to her - let alone falling in love, to just acknowledge his presence.

The story of survival, of letting go, of coming to grips with the fact that the world just goes on despite all the heartache and despair you may have is not an easy story.. It made for an interesting read though. Not emotional to the point that you are overcome with sadness and throw the book away. On the contrary it made for a page turner.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Atria Books.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Murder in the Mill Race by E.C.R. Lorac

I got my computer working again and it makes writing reviews so much easier!
I'm slow on the Ipad with reviews.

The British Classic Crime series is a style apart from the myriad excellent mystery/murder/thrillers which abound. There is a sort of slowness and a quiet deduction, which has its own attraction.

Dr Raymond Ferens is taking over a practice by a doctor who lived in the village for decades. It will be a very long time, however good Ferens is , to be totally accepted by the village as one of their own. There are several fixtures of village life from the gossipy post mistress, to the lady of the manor who seems to rule everyone with her ways, and then there is the spinster caretaker of the local orphanage who is strict, gives no quarter, but not a single word will be spoken against her.

When she is found dead, drowned in a nearby stream the consensus is determinedly that she slipped and fell despite the local Constable having his suspicions of it being a murder. He is not merely shut up, but to the extent that he calls on higher powers that be because he realises very early on that the village has decided to gang up against him and not give him any clues as to what really went on.

The story takes on from there and slowly the plot unravels. Very little will surprise me when dealing with villagers in England or otherwise. Human beings are all complicated and this story illustrates this in full measure.

Sent to me by Netgalley, for an unbiased review, courtesy of Poison Pen Press.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan

I've been to Paris just once. I want to go again. What Colgan does is that she makes me want to now. Just up and go because there seems to be a myriad things I've not experienced.

Anna lives a humdrum life. In her little world,  to her family and friends she has it all. Tight knit family, few friends, nights out at the local, blokes interested in her. Till a freak accident makes her ill, despondent and depressed and her former French teacherdecides to step in and send her for a kind of apprenticeship to a chocolatier in Paris. There she discovers another world of taste and luxury, of fine distinction between mediocre mass produced chocolates and chocolates produced with so much passion. She also discovers discreet good taste, a palate for the finer things and love as well.

With its ups and downs Anna comes to terms with life and love, reconciling two people who've left it very late to find the love they once had (this part was sad. Of what might have been if things were different). But Anna finds out she is stronger than what she thought she was to face a future alone, if the path of love does not run smoothly for her.

Descriptive of Paris, and very matter of fact about relationships this was an excellent read.

Sent to me by Netgalley courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark, for an unbiased review.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Beyond The Moon by Catherine Taylor

We have it all in this story. Time travel, a good deal of history, a love affair, the tragic workings of a mental hospital in the present century. This book was good. The story fascinating. Almost too good to be true. So though you know its a bit of fantasy, deep down you'd like it to be true.

1916 Captain Robert Lovett is convalescing at Coldbrook Hall. He cannot see though doctors have assured him that there is no physical impediment to him getting his sight back.
In 2017 Louisa Casson through a number of sheer coincidences, finds herself in a mental health institution called Coldbrook Hall. The premises is their connection and one day Louisa disappears and turns up as Rose Ashby a Volunteer Nurse. Her stay as Rose is not permanent as she keeps going back and forth to 2017, until she realises she wants to be with Robert despite him returning to the Front, and so goes back to Amiens to the battlefront herself.

The two time frames are both intense - not everyday life. One is an institution run like a prison with Victorian attitudes to mental health and brutality and cruelty to match. Then we have both England and Europe in the grip of WWI , Robert a POW the harshness of life at the front, and the sheer numbers one is faced with in the hospitals. In the midst of this the love story is the only hopeful, bright spark amongst the misery.

Characters spot on, descriptiveness very good, fascinating story.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of  The Cameo Press.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Snap Shot by Marilyn Todd

1895. London is rather strait laced at least on the surface. Taking risqué photographs is not the occupation you'd expect a young woman to follow, but photography is her passion and if this is the only way she can achieve her dream to travel, see the world and photograph it, then so be it.

When her models start dying one by one, in the most awful manner however, Julia knows she is being set up. Despite her covering her back at every turn, she knows the law in the shape of the canny Detective Collingwood is going to catch up with her. To top it all, she really likes the detective, and hoodwinking him is not going down well with her personally.

This was Victorian England, veiled in hypocrisy as to the way one should live and Heaven help you if you were discovered not keeping to the straight and narrow.
I enjoyed the contrasts in the story - the character of not just Julia but the other models as well and their very matter of fact approach to the photography which was very unusual for the times.

Ending was a complete turn around for me. Never saw it coming.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Sapere Books.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Death on a Summer Morning by Betty Rowlands

Arthur Soames missed his footing on the stairs and died. Retired school teacher living a quiet life in this rural village his death seemed straightforward enough. But we have his youthful fiancée and angry young daughter both insisting that the Police investigate the death, as they suspect foul play.
They cite the other party as suspects with reasons to support their arguments.

The Police dutifully follow up but Arthur had no enemies, no colorful past history to hide or so it seems, until Sukey on her own, with no reference to her seniors starts an investigation into the case and she really unravels a can of worms. With each fact being uncovered, as to who could be responsible for his death widens. The final outcome is totally surprising.

Set in a beautiful rural area, the descriptiveness of both the geography and the characters is old fashioned but spot on.

Love this series of old fashioned detective work.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Bookouture.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Daughter of Hardie by Anne Melville

Lucy and Gordon had a big family of boys and one girl. Lucy was intrepid and courageous and daring. She ran away to be with Gordon who was in "trade" despite being in the wine business, still below Lucy's background. She adapted to her life of being wife and mother though what she longed for was the expeditions to China, looking for that elusive specimen.

Their daughter however was mild, subservient and at times for want of a better word a plodder. Despite changing times, WW almost upon them, the position of women becoming more and more important, conscription into the military depriving her of her brothers, Grace seemed to be cocooned into a small world of her own. She did not hanker for change, for excitement, she felt that marriage and children would naturally follow and when a "suitable" partner appeared she accepted his proposal.

Grace came into her own much later as a young woman. Single, independent, determined to make her own way and save the family firm almost single handedly. From being a wishy washy individual she became a confident person.

Though Grace's story was rather simple, the setting and accompanying background was anything but simple and this carried the story till the adulthood of Grace came about. Then it became all systems go and almost beamed with anticipation for what the next page would bring.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Agora Books.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Grave Expectations by Heather Redmond

This book deals with several aspects of Charles Dickens personality apart from his superior writings. Dickens was a champion of the under dog and the marginalized part of society and suffered much personal trouble as a result of constantly being embroiled in others affairs. In this case the story starts with the murder of an elderly, reclusive lady in unusual circumstances and then begins a rather complicated story going back decades and involving long lost relatives and lovers.

Dickens despite penury was supported by his very patient fiancée who saw with every episode her chances of having a wedding sooner rather than later fading away. Dickens had to maintain his newspaper job, whilst balancing his detective work and trying to cope with a family who tried his patience and was a huge burden on his purse.

The sleuthing was one aspect of this book. I enjoyed very much the exposure of the person Dickens was and for me, this was the real story.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Kensington Books.