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Monday, July 13, 2020

Murder at the Playhouse by Helena Dixon

Captain Matt Bryant seems to be made the fall guy for the murder of a girl on the golf course. It was he who first made the detectives aware that he was the last person to have seen the murdered girl . The Davenports are the rich family of the area and seem to be able to make a lot of noise so it is upto Kitty Underhay who has worked with Matt before to make sure that he is not made the scapegoat for the Davenport's actions.

The Davenports seem to be a rum lot. Peter the son is typical of a high flyer - lots of money, no sense or purpose and then there is his "friend" Seb giving rise to lots of speculations as to his sexual identity, the daughter who is a frumpy girl but the brains in the family ignored by both father and mother, the mother the neuroitic dipsomaniac and the father only wanting to keep his reputation clean with an impending peerage in the reckoning.

Uncovering a trail which is complicated and involves blackmail, a second girl is killed and when an attempted murder of Kitty goes unsuccessful those who are sleuthing know that the killer is now becoming desperate.

Full of contrasting characters all which added depth and color to the story, the second in the Kitty and Matt series this was a page turner set in a slightly older vintage than the current thriller reads.

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

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Lies to Tell by Marion Todd

A complicated case going on with someone turning witness and under threat, an ethical hacker working with the Police in Scotland trying to find a leak and a corrupt policeman and a young student found murdered and his best friend missing.

Detective Clare has her hands full. The workload is heavy and all the cases are ongoing and have to be sorted out as quickly as possible.  The links between the murdered student and the witness turning against her husband came out almost three quarter of the way through the story so the strands were not pulled together till the end. Each story was distinct but the way they were brought together was very good reading and wonderful detective work.

The hacker was another piece of magic and the ending was totally unexpected and out of the blue. It was excellent writing.

I loved the various bits of the story - the touch of a romance was just that - a light touch but it did add a bit of lightness to an otherwise sober read.

Sent by Canelo via Netgalley for an unbiased review.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

The West End Girls by Elaine Roberts

Girls from a remote village in England want desperately to see London. One of them has also aimed very high - the stage albeit an almost impossible task for a girl with no training other than a very good voice and good looks. No influence, no connections. In this escapade Annie is joined by her friend Rose and they link up with Joyce who is already in London and all of them want to seek their fortunes.

The girls are brave and forthright but they have huge odds stacked against them. They are naïve and trusting and this almost lands Annie especially in spectacular trouble. It is also the very beginning of WWI and although this is a new aspect to everyone's lives, it is something that is going to affect all of them immensely.

The story and setting is very good reading. How life was in the theatre at the time, the background and workings of it was imaginatively described. It was a bit too idyllic and the endings were too sweet to be true, although it does make for comfortable reading.

Set against the London and a rural background and the way the two areas run as well as the onset of WWI makes this an interesting read.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Aria.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

A Village Murder by Frances Evesham

Imogen has to return home for the funeral of her father. Dying in a car crash was not a surprise for Imogen as he was a rotten driver. Imogen is returning to her roots after a very long time because she is also trying to put behind her memories from thirty years past. A school girl incident which left one of their number dead, and which no one wishes to talk about at all.

Finding her estranged husband's body in the orangery during her father's funeral adds to Imogen's misery as she now finds several clues not adding up at all. Detectives in charge of the case seem to find Imogen as their chief suspect in the murder of her husband anyway but it is retired detective Adam who runs the local pub who sees a link between not just the death of her husband, but also her father and the death of the school boy thirty years ago.

How to link the three together in this village of eccentrics, cranks and those hell bent on revenge is the task before both Adam and Imogen.

Set in beautiful Somerset countryside the story is full of characters of a village where everyone knows everyone else's business. This adds to the atmosphere of the story. The mystery murder is just one component.

Sent by Boldwood Books via Netgalley for an unbiased review.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

The Double Dilemma by Lynn Shurr

After a spate of gruesome mystery murder books, this was a welcome change.

Rather frivolous but sometimes we need this kind of light hearted read. Twins insistent only on marrying another set of twins. Rather hard to find but their brother scouts around and does find an unlikely pair.

A fun read.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Backlit PR

Friday, July 3, 2020

Interviewing The Dead by David Field (victorian mystery)

The year of 1892 and a spiritualist is whipping up a frenzy in London, saying that the spirits of a mass grave discovered where hundreds were buried in 1665 are going to rise up and create chaos, mayhem and revenge for their death two centuries before.

Before long, several citizens have actually seen these horrible sights and died as a result and now the hysteria is spreading.  Turning to a local cleric Matthew West seems logical for the parishioners but he himself is nonplussed and turns to a local doctor who may have a more clinical view on the happenings. Is this some phenomenon beyond their understanding or is a clever serial killer let loose on unsuspecting Londoners.

As usual more than the actual mystery, my interest lay in the description of London of 1892. This was spot on. Methods used were unorthodox but then we are talking of 1892 and it seems perfectly alright at the time!

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

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Old Girls' Network by Judy Leigh

Pauline and Barbara are sisters with widely different personalities. Pauline recently widowed is a bubbly person willing to look on the bright side of anyone and Barbara is a negative, gloomy pessimist always thinking that everyone is out to either cheat her, rob her or do something to her. It does not make for a good mix when Barbara comes to convalesce at Pauline's home

From the word go you realize that sparks are going to fly as Barbara is critical not just of Pauline's home to her friends and to Bisto the man Pauline accidentally runs over and who to all accounts looks like a tramp. The story goes on covering a whole series of events in  a rural village with all the usual characters from the lord of the manor to the publicans to the doctor and his wife, to the newcomers who seem a bit distant. Each one is a different type of person and the characters make up for an interesting whole.

Dealing with relationships, mellowing and relaxing as you get older, getting less judgemental are the lessons to be learnt from the older sisters in this story.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Boldwood Books.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

A Body In the Village Hall by Dee Macdonald

I love depiction of British village life whether it was in the past or in the present. This book typifies it most. The characters are iffy some of them, most of them are quite the average Joe but the few eccentric ones make up for it all.

When Fenella was found stabbed at a Women's Institute meeting with a dozen women in the next room waiting for refreshments, the detectives know that something is quite wrong. The killer has to be extremely bold to carry this out with so many people around. Fenella herself seems to be a character - there are a dozen wives who could be called suspects because Fenella seemed to have had no problems in spreading her charms far and wide (quite indiscriminately it seems).

There is the husband of course apart from the various wives who are suspect and several others and when Kate who discovers not just this body, but the next that turns up - Kate feels that it is upto her to uncover the reason and who the murderer is. 

Balancing her personal life with a sister who seems intent on getting drunk all the time, her job as a nurse in the medical centre and sleuthing keeps Kate busy. The fact that the handsome detective in charge of the case has also got eyes for Kate helps in making this a lighter read than just murder.

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

Sunday, June 28, 2020

A Dangerous Language by Sulari Gentill

My fascination for this author is that I can never reconcile in my head the image she conjures with 1920's style Melbourne and Sydney with the present day cities as I find them. My children are immigrants who have been there for a while but still you look at life in a slightly different angle. Sulari Gentill's angle fascinates.

We have Rowland Sinclair aristocratic but simple, and his cohorts a mixed bunch if ever there was one from the bohemian to the communist. All raging red flags to his conservative brother who feels the respectability of the Sinclair name must be maintained at all costs though what Rowland does is actually nothing disgraceful. The idea of not having anything about the family in the gutter press is the worst thing that could happen to the Sinclairs and this time around, Rowland outbeats all his previous endeavours !

I loved the quick pace of the story, the characterization of everyone and the settings for this story covering several cities in Australia.

History of early 20th century Australia at its best.

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

Friday, June 26, 2020

Mis Cecily's Recipes for Exceptional Ladies by Vicky Zimmerman

Kate felt for me a complete wimp. I was getting to the point that I wanted to throw the book away as I thought my gosh how long more is she going to make excuses for that nerdy boyfriend or hang on to him. That amount of neediness and making excuses makes me want to just walk away. But then the story changed, fortunately at just the correct time of my exasperation and turned into something quite delicious and different.

Packed with lessons on how not to hang on to any one (let alone a man!), plus recipes and recipes for every occasion and the saddest lesson of loneliness and ending your days all alone - mentally alive and well and physically deteriorating the story became riveting.

Sent by Sourcebooks Landmark via Netgalley for an unbiased review, this was a very good one after a shaky and an angry beginning!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Hidden Hearts (Book I) Marci Bolden

The HEARTS agency deals with a myriad of domestic problems - cheating husbands, small time crimes but when two women go missing and there is no apparent link between the two, other than a close physical similarity, Holly and her team must dig deep to find out what is it that they cannot see.

When the Police Department in the form of Detective Jack enters the scene, a kind of romance enters the story and though I went into this thinking it was just a mystery murder sort of read, the romance did not detract from the story.

The story was serious - two missing women finally turning up dead and the third escaping at the last minute but at the same time the romance sizzling between Holly and Jack was reminiscent of Miss. Fisher in the TV series!

Sent by Pink Sand Press via Netgalley for an unbiased review.

Mystery at Seagrave Hall by Clare Chase

Eve is a amateur detective and lives in a picturesque village. When a sudden death of a celebrity under rather unusual circumstances happen, despite everyone trying to pass it off as a genuine accident, Eve's suspicions are aroused as she feels that things are not quite right.

There is Rupert who was Verity's fiancée - this should have been a happy time but arguments are overheard, there is dissension within Rupert's family with his mother and adopted sister not happy with his choice of bride. There are too many undercurrents in Verity's own professional life to be ignored and Eve who is an obituary writer (I did not know there was a profession like this before) knows she has to investigate further if she is to get to the truth of Verity's death. When a second and a third death takes place, one deliberate, one seemingly accidental there is no room for coincidences and a full scale investigation is on with Eve putting herself right in the middle of a ruthless murderer.

Nice setting, myriad characters and a good story to boot. What's not to like.

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

Monday, June 22, 2020

The Ascent (a true story) by Carmela Cattuti

Angela an immigrant came to America with high expectations. They were not met in her marriage but she did something that she had earmarked herself to do. She made herself independent, created a business for herself, and a standing in the community - both amongst Americans and her own people who were insular.

Angela also brought up her sister's children despite grave odds and indifference on the part of her brother in law after her sister died. She was determined that they should have a better future in whatever field they chose for themselves. Nunzio the military, Joe away from home because he was homosexual and Alicia in a hopeless abusive marriage which she clung to.

Another notable point in Angela's life was that despite being a Sicilian immigrant whose strong links to the Catholic church were steadfast, she did not personally believe in the religion but more in the spirituality. She maintained a façade of following the religion, just not to be noted as a rebel.

Stories of immigrants are always colorful, intriguing and painstakingly real. They bring with them a whole sense of history, of secrets, of new beginnings, old traditions and some things best left hidden. This was just one such story.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Three Towers Press.

An Oxford Revenge by Maxine Barry

Like Paris anything with Oxford in the title, I seem to gravitate to! I love the scenic beauty of Oxford as depicted in the mystery series Lewis and earlier Morse so this was a good choice for me.

The story of straightforward revenge on a tutor at Oxford because he supposedly was responsible for her brother's death is the bottom line. As the story progresses, we realize that revenge is not as sweet as it should have been for Davina and that the tables are slowly turning on her as the story progresses.

I liked the depiction of Oxford and all its traditions but the story left me disappointed.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Joffe Books.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Paris Runaway by Paulita Kincer

Paris Runaway

Anything with Paris in the title, I will pick up so this had a head start from the word go. It would be most mother's nightmares. Your young daughter just ups and flies away to Paris to meet up with someone she imagines is a boyfriend.

Of course the fantastic part of it was part of the magic. It cannot happen in real life - not here anyway. No teenager would be given an ad lib credit card to charge a flight to France, then there would be a visa issue. It would take all the romance out of the flight. In this case however mother follows daughter to try to track her down in a vast city with no known place to start.

This mother however is very successful and ends up with a romance of her own which was even more interesting than the daughter's romance which was a damp squib anyway!!!

I was almost sure of a good ending and the book did not disappoint me that way. I liked the engaging style of both mother and the angst of teenager daughters! I could not relate to either but it was a very interesting story nevertheless with Paris as a huge background always and Parisians added to the atmosphere and interest of the story.

A free download from Amazon.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

The Beauty of Broken Things by Victoria Connelly

Luke is devastated by the sudden loss of his wife in a tragic train accident.  In retrospect he feels he never acknowledged Helen's intrinsic goodness, her needs and her desires and only on her death he discovers little at a time that she had interests which she did not share with him purely because he did not give any indication he was interested.

Orla lives alone and isolated by choice on a remote castle in Suffolk. She has been disfigured in a revenge attack and has since then hidden from society, surviving alone but fearful for her life.

When Luke decides to visit Orla he did not know what was in store for him, he was following one of Helen's last wishes to deliver a birthday present for Orla and to help Orla in her distress, even though she did not know what Orla's situation was.

The story takes off from that point when the two eventually meet and how Luke persuades Orla to step back into the real world and meet and interact with people. Both begin to heal only when they help each other to come to terms with their past.

The story is an emotional one, descriptive of the Suffolk region as well and a gentle and quiet read.

Sent by Amazon Publishing UK for an unbiased review, via Netgalley.

Death on the Beach by Anna Johannsen

An ultra conservative religious group, closing guarding their members from any attention is not the ideal group when a teenager of one of their families is found murdered on the beach.  Seen as uncooperative and unwilling to divulge any information, not allowing access to their houses, cars is not helping the detectives on the case.

Set on an island off the Danish coast, the people are already well known to each other. Everyone seems to be stone walling the detectives and pressure is mounting to solve the case at the earliest. Even in this day and age arranged marriages within the community, implicit obedience, and the husband as head of the house prevents the detectives from getting any information vital to the case.

At the onset it seems as if the parents do not care - her father did not even join the group in its initial search and this strikes most people as odd but Lena the detective knows there is more than meets the eye.  Is everyone actually shielding the murderer and how do they unravel the very few pieces of evidence they have to link to their killer.

It was a good story but I figured the killer very early on which is not always the case for me! I also liked that Lena had a personal life and this was very much part of the story as well. It added a different perspective to the story too.

Interesting read. Nice setting.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Amazon Publishing UK.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Small Mercies by Alex Walters

DI Annie and her partner Zoe are off duty and on a walk in the desolate moor highlands. The last thing they expected to find was a mutilated body with indications from the markings that it is indicative that the person belonged to a cult.

At the same time Annie and her partner Sheena an MP are facing personal threats culminating in shots being fired at Sheena and then an attack on her whilst leaving the hospital. Further investigations reveal cameras in trees around their home and all this facing an unknown enemy who has not indicated upto now what he wants.

When not just one but two other bodies turn up with the same markings,  the detectives know that they are linked but other than being from the same area, known small time drug dealers and general bad boys there is no reason why they should be involved in any cult. When the dots start adding up into a pattern Annie and Zoe realize that they are facing someone much bigger than they previously imagined and it is going to take a lot of resources and hard slog to get anyone convicted and first arrested.

The story is similar to the killing of a British MP and the investigation and police work would be interesting for those who like following police procedures. Told in almost two separate tales, with the overlap only happening towards the end even I the reader could not see where it was going.

A good take on a mystery detective story.

Thanks to Canelo who sent it to me via Netgalley for an unbiased review.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

The Inconvenient Need to Belong by Paula Smedley

A story told in two time lines of a carefree youngster Alfie in 1953 England and then moving to his late eighties living out his days in a care home.

Cantankerous now, keeping everyone out, socially inept Alfie has not changed especially the social part. Brought up by a strict dominant father whose word was law and who was to be feared, whose mother just followed his father's orders, the only person he loved was his sister Betty. But to get out from these suffocating circumstances, he crept out in the dead of the night and a reconciliation was never possible.

Now Alfie reminisces about his past with Fred a youngster who joins him on Saturday mornings on a park bench. Alfie sees in Fred a younger version of himself and gives an account of how his life panned out hoping that Fred will not make the mistakes he made. Befriending Anne on a pen pal site was a way of reaching out of his solitude and putting to paper what he has bottled up for decades.

I seem to be reading a lot of stories of people who are loners, who are socially not upto fitting into groups in a casual way and as a result are thought to be arrogant, evasive and just difficult. Alfie fits all the descriptions of being a cantankerous old man, whilst deep down he is just lonely and someone who has never got around to not being judgemental and to accept people as they are.

This was an eye opener of a read for older people - to live and let live, to realize that the end is closer than one thinks.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of BooksGoSocial.

Friday, June 12, 2020

The Fool's Folly by Keith Moray

1485 England. King Richard on the throne and though he is a good king, the countryside is rife with rumours - about his marriages, the deaths of his own wife and son, the two famous nephews whom no one has seen (the King also admits he has not seen them for a long time).

In this setting Sandal Castle has not been without its murder and mayhem. One murder in the castle under the watchful eyes of the heir to the throne is bad enough, but then when more grisly murders take place, seemingly random, no connection to any known opposition the entire castle is on full alert as to whether what is taking place is actually with an aim of toppling King Richard off the throne and for the Tudors to get hold of it.

A lot of treachery, scheming and the manipulative greed of the aristocracy and the never ending wars and plunder in order to be on top of it all seems to epitomize England's politics at the time. There was a never ending stream of deaths all with the aim of maintaining one's position.
How many families were torn apart, children orphaned women widowed long before their time, did not seem to matter to these families.

Representative of its times, the story is a good one for lovers of history.

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

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Private Lives by J G Harlond

Bob Robbins is a detective, but he is presently on holiday enjoying a short walking holiday in the countryside. Stumbling upon a shooting, one man dead, one man missing both of whom he actually saw he now finds himself embroiled in a peculiar mystery of linking pieces of an immense family puzzle.

I lost track of who was related to whom halfway through but I think in small country villages all over the world, everyone is interconnected by marriage going back generations. This village was no different. That was part of the charm of this story because history of clans seemed to be taken very seriously and accounted for various squabbles, ill feelings and stories never allowed to actually fade away - good or bad.

A classic mystery murder detective story this was a nice one set in a rural setting in  wartime England.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of BooksGoSocial.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Rules for Moving by Nancy Star

Lane Meckler and her husband Aaron were living in the same house as virtual strangers. They were on the brink of divorce but Lane, intensely private, intensely reserved had not spoken about it to anyone. Henry their little boy was very sensitive, was probably aware of the tension and in the midst of it all Aaron dies in a car accident with his supposed girl friend beside him.

Lane did not experience the outpouring of grief that is expected of a young widow and she also did not know how to cope with the barrage of sympathy from office mates, neighbours and parents of children in the same school as Henry.

Like another book I read just a little while ago, the story highlights the difficulties of when one is different and when one does not know the normal way to react to social situations, which many of us, the majority really take for granted. The telling of a white lie, the effusiveness of greetings, the reality of cut throat office politics took both Lane and her son by storm leaving them bereft and rudderless not knowing which way to turn.

Unlike Sheldon in the Big Bang Theory, Lane and Henry had no support system of friends and family empathizing with what was considered an aberration - and people do not know what to say, how to react to people who are different.

The story evolves in Lane's fight for her son and why he has gone mute of a sudden, changes which they must adapt to and how they are going to survive alone in this little world of Two.

A very strong emotional read, this was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Lake Union Publishing.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

The Prodigal Priest by Andre Csta

From a small Irish town to Namibia is a huge jump. For Father David Callahan it is also a leap of faith and one that is going to be tested over and over again.

Finding someone close to you murdered by extremists is a hard  situation to face. Going as a priest to live with scientists who are following leads on human existence and the cause and reason for it is a test of your faith, especially under the circumstances Father David had to face. Will he succumb to scientific reason or will his faith sustain him. A touch of romance as well in this novel story.

An unusual read sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of BooksGoSocial.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Very Nearly Normal by Hannah Sunderland

Effie is not the usual run of the mill 29 year old. The story highlights very much the problems faced by someone who is a square peg in a round box. However much she has tried to be the "average Jane" Effie has never fitted the mould much to the dismay of her mother. From her school years she has been brash, I would say never considering what to say before she says it so that she has ended up at this age with no friends, no family life and very much alone, sad and bitter.

The only person who seemed to see a glimmer of a person within the person was Arthur her employer who treated her with distance and care at the same time which seemed to be the way to go. That is until she met Theo who saw the rough diamond that Effie was and who was determined to bring the person out.

The travails of Theo and Effie form the crux of the story - emotional, heart breaking but thank the Lord with a happy ever after ending. I couldn't have borne it if I saw Effie disillusioned again!
How our books drag us into a fantasy all the time!

The story was sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Avon.

PS On a covid note, I did go out today for the first time in eight weeks for a hair color and pedicure . It was almost alien!

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Letters from Bath Or A Friend in Exile (tongue in cheek humour) British style

Letters from Bath; Or, A Friend in Exile (The Merriweather Chronicles) by [Meredith Allady]

Story is all done in a series of letters and after reading one book like this (Helene Hanff) I loved the style.

The story is set in the times of Jane Austen so should have been a polite, ladylike way of writing - but it is sarcastic, witty and very modern. The writer taken against her will to Bath to be presented almost, by her fashionable distant mother who beneath the surface is condescending to her daughter for being insipid and not worthy of the name mainly because she has a limp. This is highlighted as one of the main obstacles to her marriage and must have been so hard for the girl in society at the time.

Nevertheless the story surrounds another lady and her mother who are being brow beaten in the most respectable way just because of genteel poverty as they are under the guardianship of one of their relations who is taking utmost advantage of their insecurity. Ann is determined to whisk them away from their yoke of being subservient and arranges successfully through a series of planned meetings a most eligible bachelor and his aunt much to the dismay of Ann's mother who was very annoyed at her daughter for allowing this rich young man to get away.

I understand that there are more from this author in similar vein and now I will try to track them down.

I am reading vintage and classic authors in between the more modern ones for just a change of pace.

This was a free download from Amazon. Thank you Amazon.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Murder to Music by Margaret Newman

Superintendent Simon intends proposing to his girl friend Delia at the appropriate moment. It never seems to come. Going for the Metropolitana Choir practices and the final concert is his part in being part of her world but when the conductor is murdered right in front of a live audience with no one the wiser as to who shot him, Simon is put on the spot both physically and metaphorically.

Detective story dealing with a lot of history going back decades going back to WWII and revenge kept on the boil. Petty passions aside, the depth of feeling kept buried and brought bubbling to the surface not helped by the nasty personality of the conductor himself who did himself no favours with literally anyone.

Interesting setting, good characterization and plot.

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

Monday, June 1, 2020

Patricia Brent, Spinster by Herbert Jenkins

Patricia Brent, Spinster

Patricia Brent lives in a mundane boarding house and one day overhears the others talking about her lack of a partner in rather condescending tones. She outrageously tells them that she does have a partner and is meeting him this evening.

The whole situation spirals out of control, when the busybodies follow her to the hotel to find out who she is actually meeting. Having been very bold to approach a young man and pleading with him to act the part the story proceeds from there becoming more complicated when she realizes she is attracted to the young man (who incidentally is a Lord!) and he himself realizes he is in love with her.

Not wanting to appear to be a gold digger, Patricia wants out of the so called engagement but friends and family conspire to keep things going till Patricia sees sense. It all ends happily.

It was the ideal read for me amongst the doom and gloom of Covid 19. I downloaded this from Amazon for free and enjoyed every minute of this old fashioned story.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Hunted by Darcy Coates

22 year old Eileen goes missing whilst hiking - alone. The nightmare for any parent. Especially when one of the guidelines for hiking in this particular forest is to go with a group.

Fast forward to anxiety on the part of a friend Todd and a group of friends led by her brother Chris to try to find out what happened to Eileen, particularly as the local police seem rather lethargic about the whole thing.

On the other hand we have a detective whose spirit has been worn down by personal nightmares whilst in the course of duty, and a constant putting down by her superior. No wonder the investigations do not lead anywhere, just trying to get to the daily workload seems enough for Carla.
When pressure mounts however Carla has a Eureka moment when she digs out the dusty archives and sees exactly how many people have gone missing over the last couple of years. A more systematic approach reveals many things ignored upto now.

When Chris and his friends provide photographs of what seems to be a huge animal hovering over Eileen (when her camera was discovered in a stream) though initially skeptical Carla has to rethink strategy.

With a cast of very different youngsters - cranky, self centred, clever and foolish at the same time, focused and unfocused at the same time we are dealing with a story that was imaginative and fantastic and quite possible also.

A bit of a mixed read for me but quite a change from the usual mystery books I read. My first read of this author and I've got another one to read as well.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Dreaming of Italy by T A Williams

A book from a prolific writer who knows his geography very well. Apart from the romance angle, the book was almost a travel memoir covering Piedmont, Umbria, Assagio, Florence, Pisa and every town and village in between.

Although the story revolved around Emma a senior administrative officer in a film unit, hell bent on her career and doing the best she can, love hits her unexpectedly on her travels in Italy trying to scout out locations for their new best seller film. She has to focus on that, and having the boss's son with her on training adds to her responsibilities. Richard seems like a sensible guy but he has a "history" and Emma has to keep that also at the back of her mind. On top of that the arrival of Mark as a guide and historian who is knowledgeable about the areas does not help her sensibilities. He is a distraction she could do without considering that she has to also balance two hugely acclaimed actors at the same time and prevent them having any spats (which they are inclined to do). We also have an eccentric director on the scene who comes out with statements which are ludicrous but because he is brilliant, everyone just tries to appease him and move on.

I liked the story mainly for the travel descriptions part. It was ideal for me an armchair traveler right now who dreams of places like this and this author does make it seem very real.

Sent by Canelo via Netgalley for an unbiased review.

Sing me a Secret by Julie Houston

Four sisters all very different, but very loyal to each other, and like all families having secrets some common to them, some private to one or a couple of them.

The story set in Scotland is in itself picturesque. The loyalty that all of them have to their original place of birth is very nice to see. The sisters despite their difficulty in coping with a romeo type father and a mentally depressed mother who was besotted with her husband were not judgemental of either party though they did accept their limitations.

How the sisters whose paths were so diverse came together in a mix of family secrets unearthed, blackmail, domestic abuse, infidelity and a super performance of a musical in a village is this story.

Funny as in laugh out funny, but with strong overtones of a family story, I do hope there will be a sequel. The author will have to find something if there is a sequel because there is a lot going on in this busy story.

Enjoyed the read tremendously.

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

On a covid 19 note, we are "supposed" to be lifting restrictions tomorrow but it is very restricted actually. Only people going to work can use public transport, only those whose Identity cards ends with one and two can go on Monday etc. I hope everyone follows these rules. Shops can open, not salons no liquor or wine shops can open. Entry to offices are restricted - it is tough because for the last few weeks I am trying to get into a Land Registry type of office to attend to a legal matter and cannot. I've been told maybe in June! I doubt anyone will go for breaking the rules - violation is upto two years rigorous imprisonment and a fine!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Given in Evidence - A collection of ten short stories. (Detective/mystery genre)

Ideal read for a time like this for readers who want a mystery but not too much psycho babble going on.

Short stories with punchy theories. A haunted hotel, a typical country village and diverse characters and scenes. Very good reading. very good characterization.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Lume.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

The First Emma by Camille di Maio

A true story of Emma Koehler - a success story at a time when women did not become professionals or enter business and especially this business which started with a brewery. This told in the form of a dictated memoir to a young employee begins at the very end of Emma's life and is such a rewarding, but sad story.

Emma had two distinct lives. One her married one, which she tried so hard to make a success of. Her husband Otto was not interested. His biggest love was making money and after that two women both named Emma, both nurses of his wife who looked after her very well. It was a strange arrangement in one house until he moved both the mistresses into one house with his wife in another. His death or rather murder became the crime of the decade because his mistress admitted to it, and she got off by a very sympathetic jury.

Emma was not bitter about her marriage and towards the two girls. Her love was for her employees and she was always thinking of them particularly because she knew no one else would. The book details much of American history from the Prohibition and the fight against it and the emergence of women though this was a slow process.

Very fascinating reading of a remarkable woman.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Wyatt Mackenzie Publishing.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Orphans of War by Leah Fleming

Maddie was being evacuated to the Yorkshire countryside after she was bombed out of her home in London where she lost the only relation she knew she had, her grandmother. Quite lost and forlorn she was going into the unknown to relations she had only heard about and never seen. Her parents were overseas and would eventually pick her up from her aunt and uncle.

Enroute to Yorkshire in the crowded train, a young mother thrusts her two children with no directions and no idea of where they will end up, hoping that they would be looked after. Maddie befriends Gloria and Sid and this unlikely meet up ends with them being friends forever.

The story proceeds in Yorkshire where taken in by a kind aunt and a stern grandmother who wants nothing to do with the evacuees and washes her hands off them , the children try to settle down to a life which is alien to them. This must have been the case with the many children who were sent to the countryside for their own physical safety with the bombings going on in London during the War.
The way in which the children all grew up, finding their own feet knowing they were on their own was sad. None of them had a shoulder to cry on or someone to confide in and though the Aunt was a kindly soul she had problems of her own to manage and cope with.

The story was detailed and descriptive of the emotional state of the children as they grew up and Maddie becoming adult and independent and finding a life of her own amidst heartbreak.   Another book with the backdrop of the War, and the amount of damage it did to people not just as statistics but with their lives as well. A story of loss and survival.

Sent by Harper Collins UK Avon through Netgalley, for an honest review.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Good Stranger by Dete Meserve

A modern day sort of Robin Hood story. No one is robbing the rich to give to the poor, but someone is giving to the needy - and not just money but tokens of appreciation from bunches of flowers, to prepaid coffees, restaurant meals, even rental payments for those who are desperately trying to make ends meet.

Kate is the newest journalist in town. Her background as being a Senator's daughter does not help her in her career. The channel is coercing her to cover political news whereas her interest lies elsewhere. Kate has to uncover this story so that she can keep the lead on this one, and maintain readers interest and most importantly ensure that her boss is happy (he is not upto now).

When Kate gets threatening mail and videos asking her to stop the pursuit of uncovering who is gifting all this to the poor, she is even more determined to get to the source and particularly to find out the story behind it all.

Trying to get to grips with living in New York for the first time, getting over a break up with her boyfriend Kate is befriended by Scott a host of another show and together they team up to try to sort this riddle.

An interesting premise (which will be nice to be duplicated) and a romance in the budding made this an enjoyable read.

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

Monday, May 18, 2020

The Lost Girls by Jennifer Wells

When one reads a story like this, set in 1912 (does not seem so very long ago) you begin to realize what advances have been made in police procedures, methods, detective work. When May Day dawned and when the May Queen and her chief attendant are missing it sets up a furore in the small village especially since one was the local manor's daughter and the other the daughter of a former vicar.

Discovery of blood stained clothes found near the house of a vagrant sees that he is in prison for the abductions and murders despite no bodies being ever found. Fast forward decades and an old grainy film is shown from the archives and an image of the girl and this man at the time of the fair, seals his fate and he is bound to hang.

The story goes along from that point with a surprising ending.  Told from the point of view of one of the victims mothers - you can see the idea and morality of the time that whatever happens you must seal over the cracks and even though presumed dead you must maintain the characters of the girls and nothing must sully that - truths or untruths all hidden so that it all becomes very palatable. The hypocrisy and moral standards of the time.

Very good language and descriptive this was a good read.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Aria.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

An American Princess by Annejet van der Zijl

More than being a Princess (she was for a time being married to a Prince) her life was much more colorful and interesting than being a mere princess.

Born into a pioneering family in a very raw part of the country, Allene Tew aspired for a world much beyond the narrow confines of a conservative, traditional family of modest means. Her first step was her marriage to Tod Hottstetter and though opposed and ostracized for years, she was one determined young lady to show everyone that she was not one to shirk from the first hurdle. Going on after his unexpected death to even better and wider horizons she was astute and clever in business, always expanding her business, landing on her feet and despite the Great Depression made and lost and regained fortunes.

Personal sadness in spades did not diminish this woman and for readers who enjoy history this would be a very good read of a period of American history from the 1800s to beyond the crash of 1929. Detailing her various husbands, their characters and the role they played in her life took up a great part of the book.

Interesting factual read.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Amazon Crossing.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Royal Flush by Margaret Irwin

The book deals with Princess Henrietta and the role she played - the many roles she was forced to play from a marriage without any feeling, to royal alliances and secret affairs.

The story is quite rich, occupied by many who are all important in their various positions and in court but at the same time the story is lengthy, quite wordy and though historically so very rich, it took me quite a while in getting to grips with the book.

This is a part of history that is interesting to those who like historical fiction but it was not an easy read.

The language is old fashioned but that may be due to the times of publication which was in the 1930s.

The book was sent to me by Agora Books courtesy of Netgalley for an unbiased review.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

After she Wrote Him by Sulari Gentill (inventive fiction)

For someone to be able to be so inventive, you have to be a genius. For the first few pages I did not quite get it.

Madeline is an author, quite a successful one. She is now branching into a new character and a new kind of genre in her writing. Edward is the main character - gentle and kind. Madeline's marriage is already under some stress - multiple miscarriages, lack of communication and a husband who is just busy. Madeline is left on her own with her imagination and her books (this situation she is extremely happy with). She merges into the books and the characters become part of her where when you read you have to keep reminding yourself that Edward is a character ONLY in a book, not a flesh and blood person at all.

I've read Sulari Gentill's books where Rowland Sinclair overwhelmed me with his antics! I also like that the author is of Sri Lankan origin and I get to read one of her best sellers. This book left me so overwhelmed that at the end I had to stop and think - how much of invention went into the story and how it affected Madeline herself so badly.

This was a tantalizing read.

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

Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Body in the Garden by Katharine Schellman (London 1815 detective )

London 1815 was a very nice place to be when you were part of the aristocratic and upper crust circle. Lily has been widowed for three years and has been now forced to face upto society. She is no stranger to this world but she finds that years away from them has made her aware of how brittle, insensitive and careless the upper classes are. She is thrust into a ball on her first day in London and all she wants to do is show her face and then escape to the house she has taken for the period of her stay..

What she did not think was that she will overhear a conversation where one man was being blackmailed by the other, and which ended in one person being shot dead. Lily is no shrinking violet and she is determined along with the help of the Captain to uncover who is behind this murder. She did not think however that her friend's husband will be involved and that her getting too close to the real facts of the case would put her in danger.

London society was very well depicted and the manner in which ladies should and must behave if they are to maintain some standing in society even if it looks ridiculous and barbaric. The history and action of the Bow Street runners was detailed as well giving an insight into how society seemed controlled by the rich and everyone including justice had to heed them very carefully.

The book was sent to me for an unbiased review from Netgalley courtesy of Crooked Lane Books.

Friday, May 8, 2020

The Caretakers by Eliza Maxwell

The Caretakers

Tessa is an award winning film maker. Her films are on very hard hitting events and people and the latest was a huge scoop. She firmly believed in a man's innocence and felt he was framed by a corrupt police administration. The man was subsequently freed in a huge blaze of publicity. She is naturally not the local police precincts favourite. The accolades and offers keep pouring in until the bubble bursts when her former accused abducts the chief police constable's daughter and then sends dire messages which are cryptic indicating that he has murdered the young woman.

Tessa needs a bolthole and despite estranged from her twin sister, her mother insists that it is now high time a reconciliation is done. Everything arranged to coincide with her mother's birthday, the sudden very shocking death of her mother unleashes a will which takes both sisters by total surprise. Her mother was adopted, the grandparents they loved and cherished are not their biological grand parents and there is a whole family, plus an inheritance of a substantial property and more relatives which are coming their way.

Family secrets like this make for intriguing stories and this was much more intriguing than most. A decrepit house, two elderly sisters, a really chequered family background all lead Tessa to not only a bolt hole which is very necessary right now to escape from the clamouring paparazzi but also a way of coming to terms with her sister as well.

The two stories - one of a personal nature and the other a professional one intertwine at the end. Each story was engaging and held enough interest for two separate stories. The only irritation was that the bickering between the two sisters was a bit too intense for me.

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

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Strangers by C.L. Taylor

The story is told by several characters. All of them are not connected in anyway and their stories are different and disparate. I continued for almost sixty percent of the book or even more before I could see anyway that they were going to be drawn together.

That was the key point of interest for me. When was it all going to be drawn together because without it, you knew there was no story. Alice,  Gareth, Ursula were the three protagonists each of them battling various issues Alice and being alone, Gareth and again he being alone and with a mother with severe dementia and Ursula never gotten over the loss of her love, insecure but brash and trying to keep it together.

The stories were long and complicated but not boring. Each of them were realistic enough that one could see parallels in people around us and it is only when it is put together that one realizes that all you need is one person off kilter to set normal lives haywire.

This was a good story (ies) all put together very nicely.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Avon Books U.K.

Monday, May 4, 2020

A Dish of Spurs by Robert Low (historical fiction)

It is good that I am reading this during a period of curfew as it is one which needs a slower pace to take it all in.

Set in Scotland just after the birth of Mary Queen of Scotland the era is marked with violence of an unimaginable kind. Enmities and grudges are carried on for centuries over generations and nothing seems to be forgotton - not the smallest slight.

All Mintie wanted was to find out who her father's murderer was and to seek revenge for it. To also get back his belongings and his horse from whoever murdered him. What she did not envisage was bringing on a time of sheer intermittent warfare between two sides with no signs of stopping. In her search for avenging the death of her father Mintie herself lost so much of herself, her spirit and her youth.

The sense of belonging to a clan and that the clan reigned supreme was apparent because it was the clan and the family you belonged to which gave you support, succor and protection. Lose it and you are done for. There was no chance of survival if you were alone.

This is good for readers of historical fiction but there is nothing light in this book. It is all quite heavy stuff and you need time to assimilate it all.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Canelo.

P S Going back to the current situation, the curfew has been relaxed for some districts in Sri Lanka but not in others. We come into the other category! but though curfew relaxed it is reimposed every night at 8 pm till the next morning. There is no travelling between districts other than for exceptional purposes and permission very rarely given. Quarantine is strictly enforced and for the very very rare flight that comes in (mainly students returning home) they have to be quarantined in government determined places under army control. This is because we had some foolish people trying to escape (and they did) from the airport prior to being taken for quarantine. This resulted in several cases of the virus appearing in pockets here and there, all traced back to what we call foreign returnees! Not very popular with the local populace after those antics.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

That Affair Next Door by Anna Katherine Green

Image result for that affair next door anna katharine green

This who dun it is very precise. Miss Butterworth is somewhat older version of Miss Marple but is even more clinical, more logical and again very precise.

Working in tandem with Mr. Gryce a murder of a young woman, the wife of quite wealthy people is one that gets a lot of attention and when the young husband is the chief suspect it gets even more so. Public opinion and the paparazzi even then account and judgements can be swayed by them.

Miss Butterworth of course has different opinions (otherwise there would be no story to entice us) and this she sets out to prove. Written in the language of 1897, this is a classic vintage mystery murder series. Rather slow, a bit convoluted but for those who like the vintage reads, this is a must.

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

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Summer in Provence by Lucy Coleman

Fern and Aiden had what it takes to make a marriage last - or so it seemed. Both had married young, put aside ideas of higher studies, dug deep into jobs and settling down. An unexpected windfall resurrects Aiden's dreams of travelling, of adventure into the beyond. For Fern unexpected though this was, shocked really, she is willing to let Aiden go, both take a gap year from their marriage and both pursue their respective dreams.

For Fern it was painting. Something she loved to do and had no opportunities, no training and no money for all this time. Now with a years sabbatical ahead of her, she volunteers for a villa in Provence which runs various courses for people.

Very descriptive on the one hand of Provence which sounds fabulous and on the other hand a disintegrating relationship, when you add the stresses of long distance, lack of communication and the niggling feeling that things are getting away from you and with no idea of how you can get it back on the former keel it was, takes us into this story.

Very well written.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Boldwood Books.

On another note, we are not just in lockdown in Sri Lanka but in an unending curfew for the last month. No lifting of curfew for anything. If you need medicines or urgent needs you've got to apply to the police for a temporary pass which is very strictly enforced. No crossing of districts and no frivolous reasons. I marvel at the leniency in other countries and who then wonder why their infection rates and death rates are so high.  It is tiresome and difficult and one gets on anothers nerves  for no apparent reason but this is it, right now.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Forbidden Promise by Lorna Cook

Delightful setting, two very interesting time frames and some strong women. Perfect for a good read.

1940 Scotland Invermoray Constance is a young woman, very protected and her parents do not even consider her "working" or doing anything other than to make a good marriage. Slightly antiquated considering that Britain was in the midst of a war and there were lots of women doing extremely good work for the war effort. Not the Mclay's. Mr and Mrs Mclay wanted life to go on as before with as little disturbance to their own.

Fast forward to 2020 and Kate arrives at Invermoray to turn the falling down house into a presentable B&B so that at least it can remain in the family and be a haven for James who now lives there with his mum. James has mixed reactions to Kate's arrival which he views with slight disbelief in her capabilities, much to Kate's dismay. She was hoping that the six months away from London will give her balance in her life. She soons becomes intrigued in the inconsistencies found in the McLay family and digging into past history unravels so many mysteries which were not known before.

The story told in the two time frames was fascinating. Scotland during the war and the attitudes of the rich as against the suffering of most Londoners and then present day Scotland as well.
Romance, history, lots of intrigue all threaded through this story.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Avon Books UK.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

An Exhibition of Murder by Vivian Conroy

Retired Scotland Yard investigator Jasper wants to have a holiday in the beautiful city of Vienna. He does not envisage being dragged into a murder with leading figures of the art world all involved in one way or another.

An exhibition of a gold mask from an archaeological site is the highlight and the curse that follows this mask seems to be true as one by one people connected to the excavation are murdered.
Jasper has to work hard to unravel the pieces of the puzzle. Being an outsider to the Viennese police does not really help as they feel this is their job to solve. But there are too many high ranking people involved and there seems to be many conflicting interests.

I liked the various strands that played into the story - neurotic, highly strung women, a beautiful city though not as descriptive as other cities in other books, lots of psychology, a lot of star crossed lovers, then intrigue where all are jockeying for wealth position and power. Lots of things to interest one and keep a story going and go it did.

I only wish Vienna was brought a bit more into the story.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Canelo.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Hide Away by Jason Pinter

In this small town, Rachel Marin does not cause any extra interest. Keeping a low profile is what she seeks and being a single mother of two kids is all she hopes for. Just to lie low after the horrific events that tore her family apart and left her children bereft and tormented.

When a former mayor turns up dead, and especially since the detectives want to deem it suicide, Rachel steps in with theories that support her view that it was murder. Both detectives find Rachel intrusive but they are helpless because she seems to be always one step ahead of them with definite supporting evidence for all her theories.

The story was very good, the characters were strong and appealing - from the detectives going in blind into an investigation which was overcast with political intrigue and corruption and then we have Rachel herself - her inner core of steel where all she wanted to do was protect her children.

Very entertaining read. Beautifully written.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review courtesy of Thomas & Mercer.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Problem Child by Victoria Helen Stone

You either think this book is totally about a sociopath, psychopath woman and then you doubt yourself. The beginning and the end were good, kept me on my toes, I did not know what to expect next.

We are looking at a woman who cannot "feel" emotion of any kind. The closest she comes is with her present partner but she is quite clinical about him too. Her dealings in her office are so brutal but the cleverness of no one realizing how brutal she is, is part of the fascination of this character.

On a search for a niece, who is a copy cat of herself and when she tries to "rescue" her from her present predicament, does she think that she is on a slippery slope and that the whole episode could ricochet on her in the future.

This was a strangely tense, strangely riveting read.

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

PS I thought I had done this review and it had disappeared somewhere!