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Monday, March 30, 2020

Writers & Lovers by Lily King

Being on lockdown, the reading and reading and reading is going on apace. At least I hope I will be able to finish my March reads to be a bit upto date on what I have undertaken to do.

Casey cannot get to grips with her mother's unexpected death and to top the disasters up a break up of a relationship. She has also not been able to get a proper job commensurate with her qualifications because she wants to write and finish her novel. She gets this time by waitressing and uses her free time in trying very hard to make sense of what she sees as a good story just waiting to be written.

Falling in love with two different men, holding down a difficult job though it was only waitressing the undercurrents were huge! and trying to make sense of insurmountable student debt was too much for Casey who was breaking down under the strain.

I could get where Casey was coming from. In her mid twenties, all her friends are either getting married or having babies. They are all career girls balancing homes and careers or either married well with husbands who take care of all the problems of money. In Casey's case she is all alone and with a brother three thousand miles away she feels so alone, and so burdened by her life that she is literally cracking up.

The book touches on all the subjects that most modern women are subject to - the having it all theory, the beautiful balancing act of home and career, the glamour of looking well at all times and the effort it takes to get there, to have well behaved children because somehow it is your fault if they turn out to be jerks, fertility or rather lack of it can also be a women's problem it doesn't seem to end. Casey suffered from most of it at various stages in the story and this resonates with a lot of young women.

A well written thought provoking story.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Grove Atlantic.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

A Reasonable Doubt by Phillip Margolin

The book had a very nice background to it which was unusual. It was magic and illusion at the very highest level.  Chesterfield considered himself the very best, but he was greedy - he came from a very poor and harsh background and he made up a story that he was from an aristocratic home. He married well and was determined to get his hands on a fortune as well.

He also had a gambling problem which he thought he could wish away but would not go away with increasing debts. When he was indicted for murder he turned to a law firm and the lawyer who had got him free on two previous charges of murder. It seemed so suspicious when he was indicted for the third time. There seemed to be a pattern for the murders but Robin Lockwood was clever and the defense was very poorly prepared and so Chesterfield got away with it once again.

But his end was coming soon and when he was killed in front of a huge audience with no clues as to how it was done and by whom, Robin was again in charge of the case and through a clever process of detection and deduction the trail was found and followed.

The story runs between two time lines - that of Regina's defense of Chesterfield years ago and then coming to Robin's defense of today. It was not exactly confusing but may have been done with less of the past and more of the present.

The story is a quick read and the final outcome was a surprise.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of St. Martin's Press.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Liberation of Brigid Dunne by Patricia Scanlan

Having studied in a convent from the age of four plus, I have a liking for anything convent or monastery like and this one fitted the bill.

Starting in Toronto Marie Claire seems to have it all - a career going places, a very handsome boyfriend with whom she sees a steady future ahead and everything looks rosy until she overhears a telephone conversation and her world is shattered. Determined to go out with chin up she moves away from Toronto back to Ireland to the comfort of what she knows best. Her family.

The timing is right - her beloved grand aunt's eightieth birthday and her retirement from the nunnery and the religious life and getting to meet her mother and father who will return to Ireland and meet up with her grandmother irascible though she is.

Woven into the strands of Marie Claire's life is also the life of Brigid (the nun) and Imelda her grandmother. Both are complicated lives with secrets hidden deep for decades. Then there is Marie Claire's mother and father with plenty of secrets of their own. At the eightieth birthday party with friends and religious present Imelda's viciousness holds no bounds and she lets it all rip apart destroying all pretense of family togetherness.

How to calm everyone down and bring some kind of peace to the family is the work of Brigid who wants to end the festering bitterness and animosity hidden. This is done in a particularly remarkable pilgrimage which was totally new to me (I am now looking into that aspect as it was a fascinating one).

A family saga with lots of history thrown in especially the role of the Church in the lives of Irishwomen and what disadvantages they faced as women by being part of the Church which was an intrinsic part of their lives.

This was a wonderful novel to read.

Thanks to Netgalley who sent it to me for an unbiased review, courtesy of Atria Books

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Dennis Bisskit and the Basset Hound from Beacon's Bottom and Continental Crimes by Martin Edwards (vintage detective stories)

This was a fun read and what both Dennis and Stinky do so well is that they are good detectives and now they are getting a bit of notice and action. The chance to protect an aristocratic dog at the best dog show in town is a plum assignment but have they bitten more than what they could chew.

Hilariously funny and a good read for all ages.

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

Always a favourite of mine the British Classic Crime series. I think it should be classified as a separate genre. Dignified even in murder, detectives slowly go about their daily work with precision and class.

Set in cities, idyllic countrysides and in the Riviera the stories change the tone with the change of scenery.

A lovely read for all seasons.

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

Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Girl On The Roof by Debra Moffitt

For a couple of pages into this book, I did not quite get the entire gist of what was happening.

Annecey like most French towns under the yoke of Nazi brutality are trying their best to live. To just survive. In this scenario we have an ordinary family - one young daughter working for the Nazis in town - hates them but pretends to be subservient just to get as many secrets as she could to help the resistance. A young brother working for the Resistance and a little sister who gets murdered by a sadistic paedophile who is a Nazi but where it cannot be proved that he is the murderer.

Aurelie is the restless spirit in this story who for sometime has to be convinced she is dead and that none of her beloved family can actually see or hear her. Those like her sister Claire and her best friend Ginny sense her presence and what she says to them in a dream but then they brush it away as a figment of their imagination.  Aurelie is one of the girls found dead but then other bodies also come up and Aurelie senses that Ginny is next.

The focus of the book then shifts as to how Aurelie is going to protect and warn Ginny of the danger she is in from the Nazi officer who has befriended her and whom Ginny is infatuated with. The dangers of espionage in Nazi occupied France are also highlighted in the story and this also forms the backdrop to the suspenseful tale.

Unusual storyline, the background of occupied France and rural Annecey all add to a very good story.

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

Friday, March 20, 2020

Lost at Sea by Erica Boyce

Living in a small town everyone knows everyone else's business. There is no secret that can be kept quiet for long. Eventually it may not be gossiped about, but its known. The good thing is that there is a line of invisible support and in this small town it is more than most when fishermen's wives are left suddenly bereft with the loss of a husband.

The story revolves around the sudden disappearance of John Staybrook from his fishing boat and as to why he took the boat out in very difficult circumstances. His little daughter Ella refuses to accept that he is dead, believing he is still missing and somewhere out there waiting to be found. Apart from the basic heart break of sudden loss the story goes into many, many stories such as adoption, alcoholism, drug addiction, relationships, family ties.

It seemed overwhelming to be faced with many issues in one straight forward story but little by little the book settled into an easy reading pace and proved to be a good, interesting story.

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

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Silent House by Nell Pattison

This was my first foray into reading intensively about the deaf community, about signing language and the intricacies that lie behind actually living in a deaf household. It was a fascinating story.

Lexie a toddler is found bludgeoned to death in her bedroom sleeping beside her siblings. All little children. Her stepmother was sleeping next door, the father of the children after a night out on the couch downstairs. No broken windows or doors, no forced entry. The step mother discovers the child and the investigation takes on from there.

An interpreter has to be called in as this is household which needs help in the investigation. The story is told from mainly the angle of the interpreter who is emotionally involved with the family from the beginning. The detectives find it hard going through a third party but the story unravels slowly - going through the lives of normal people like anyone else, having secrets in plenty to hide but which you know will come out eventually.

I guessed who the murderer was three quarters through the story but I was non plussed as to the reason why and this was revealed at the end. It was a tense, emotional, gruesome story but very well told.

Extremely good characterization and an unusual story line. The difficulties of step families.

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

Monday, March 16, 2020

This Won't End Well by Camille Pagan

This book is mainly about relationships and though I am not a fan of delving too much into the emotional issues of such, the writing in the form of emails for the most part interspersed with chapters of the story added a variance to this book.

Annie is left nonplussed by her fiancée. He telephones her on the way to the airport, saying he is going to be away for a month in Paris (he loves everything French) and also says he does not want communication from her for this period. This is in the midst of them planning a wedding. To everyone it seems as if he has got cold feet but Annie surprisingly unlike others decides to take him at face value at what he says and thinks she should continue as before.

Ignoring his instructions not to write, she continues a series of emails to him outlining her views, her feelings on all matters to which there are no replies. When he does reply almost at the end of the month with entreaties for her to join him because what he wants to explain can only be done in Paris (!!) Annie herself is beginning to doubt her feelings for him and whether this relationship is going anywhere or whether she has just got used to him. The fact that there is another man with whom she is very comfortable with and can easily converse on any subject also adds to her change of feeling.

Going to Paris eventually, and returning with her relationship restored. It is after this that she realizes that the spark has gone from their relationship and decides to end it. Definitely better late than never in Annie's case. It seemed to be a relief for Jon too!

The ups and downs of modern relationships - in this case all amicably settled. It actually ended very well.

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

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Charles Finch's two books - The Vanishing Man and The Woman in the Water

I am doing two reviews of books by the same author in this post. Charles Finch is a new author for me and the Charles Lenox series is also new. I only hope there will be more in this series as I did enjoy reading both books very much.

Lenox is from the aristocracy. His forays into detective work have not found favour with the high and mighty and he has in fact suffered direct snubs as well as even invitations given and then withdrawn for social events. Lenox feels that his family also suffers the indignity of having one of their own doing a job as it were as this is beyond the pale for members of their kind, but on the contrary his father and mother are proud of his achievements and understand his feelings that he wants to use his analytical mind and seek logical conclusions for problems that he tries to solve.

In this story in the 1850s, the Duke of Dorset seeks his help in finding a lost painting. The painting itself does not amount to much - one of the ancestors - but Lenox soon finds that there is much more than the missing painting that meets the eye and the Duke has not been very honest in seeking Lenox's help. Unraveling a mystery painting, plus in the meantime trying to find one of the lost works of Shakespeare amidst red herrings thrown their way Lenox and his faithful valet Graham, even more capable than Lenox try to solve the mystery.

Methodical and systematic, the story will appeal to a logical mind and it did to me!

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of St. Martin's Press.

In this book Lenox is disillusioned. His efforts do not seem to be appreciated by Scotland Yard who deride his position as an aristocrat and do not seem to be able to see the man beyond that. On the other hand his own kind the aristocrats themselves look on him as some kind of aberration and an insult to their kind doing a job which is demeaning. This was London in the 1850s.

When one woman is found dead, followed by another one quite swiftly Scotland Yard themselves realize that action will have to be taken quickly to prevent rising hysteria amongst its citizens. Lenox and Graham are up against a very skilled and manipulative killer who is clever if not cleverer than all the detectives put together.

Descriptive of London in the 1850s both within the upper and the very lower classes of society added much interest to the whole story. Characterization was spot on and the entire book was a delight of the mystery/detective genre.

Sent to me by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of St. Martin's Press.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

The Burning Men by Will Schindler

One man died in a fire, but now the fire fighters who helped to put out that blaze are being targeted systematically and it is very personal. They are all being burned to death and in the most horrific ways imaginable.

All the clues point out to one major blaze in the city, and of course to money in some form. Four of the men seem to have money much more than their means - fancy weddings, posh cars and lifestyles way beyond their pensions. It is upto the detectives trying to solve the first burning to find out who and why this is happening.  The killings do not affect anyone else - the murderer is very careful to see that the fire does not spread and it only affects one man at a time but time is running out for the other remaining men.

Very well written both from the story line as well as the detective side this was a book you could not put down till it was done.

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

Monday, March 9, 2020

A Country Dilemma by Sasha Morgan

This was the ideal book to read after a dose of two or three rather strong detective novels!

Set in Trewenham the setting is idyllic. The history of the characters if turbulent but that is a previous story. Right now we have the heir to the Castle being the apple of his parents eyes, then we have a fairytale wedding of Matt and Finula, we have the sad breakup of Christie and her husband almost on the eve of their setting up a new home and then devastating news of Sebastian's illness and how to cope with it, then Daniel facing his marriage breaking up and fighting a desperate custody battle for his little girl Emily.

These are the stories which form the backdrop of this book and each one is dealt with in a way which is very pleasant to read.

It is a light hearted read, though the subjects of child custody, divorce, multiple sclerosis are not happy subjects. All dealt with very well.

I enjoyed the story telling in this novel.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Head of Zeus.

In Plain Sight by Marion Todd

A toddler goes missing during a crowded day at the beach, just before a marathon takes place. At the same time a protest against the setting up of a plastic bottling plant is also taking place. In the ensuing crush no one has noticed how this toddler went missing.

Claire is the Detective in charge working against time to find the baby as in this case the child Abigail has a heart complaint which needs medication. Whilst the whole team at her local police plus teams drawn from the area work against the clock putting clues together, the child's mother falls under suspicion but there are no obvious signs of any collusion. Putting together the pieces of a puzzle where the pieces are all there, but how do they fit together to form a cohesive whole is this story. There are drugs, there are dealers, there are itinerant rogues and car jackers, there are former drug addicts and persons on the fringe. Are they all linked to this missing baby?

Add to that people pulling rank in the Detective's own office trying to gain popularity, trying to get and lobbying for the senior positions coming up all adding more stress to an already stressful situation.

Very well written, with just the correct amount of  being politically incorrect adds interest to the story. Tense and a page turner.

Sent by Netgalley for an unbiased review, courtesy of Canelo

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Answer in the Negative by Henrietta Hamilton

Sally and Johnny Heldar are requested by a friend to check out some anonymous letters sent to a colleague which are steadily becoming more vitriolic and descending into utmost vulgarity.

At the National Press Archives Frank Morningside is someone who is not particularly liked or disliked. A rather tedious person he has many enemies and but when he is found bludgeoned to death the investigation takes a more serious turn.

Negatives are missing and whether these lead to particular instances where people could be blackmailed is the question. When a second death occurs made to look like an accident the Heldars know there is a murderer who will not stop at anything to cover his tracks.

It was a good detective story with a well planned story line.

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

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Above the Bay of Angels by Rhys Bowen

Another riveting read from one of my favourite authors.

Set in Victorian England in the Palace itself and then moving on to Nice this relates the story of Isabella a girl of good family, thrust by an uncaring father into service - a drudgery of the worst kind and one she is definitely not suited for. Isabella is adaptable, quick thinking and it is this that lands her the job at the palace as an undercook. It is also the reason why she can get blackmailed, having taken on the name of someone else.

The story interspersed with tales of the Royal Family - gossip and innuendo aside the doings of Victoria and her son Prince Albert were numerous and how she kept her hand on the tiller till the end is amazing.

The best part of the book for me however was the food. Victoria had an enormous appetite for good food and so did the royal party who travelled with her and the descriptions of the food is mouth watering.

The side story of Isabella alias Helen and her romances are also piquant and add a touch of interest to a historical fiction tale.

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

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

The Waxwork Corpse by Simon Michael

In a vast reservoir whilst on a dive a tightly wrapped body is found. Whilst a young woman has been missing, it is discovered this is not that woman. The woman whose body is found is someone who went missing thirteen years ago - a wife of a Judge and one who is very eminent now.

Judge Steele is a pillar of the community - three young children, stellar character and there is no one who will talk ill of him. On the other hand, there is no one either personal or professional who will talk well of his late wife - the stories are lurid and ugly and each one is worse than the other. That he stayed in the marriage "for the sake of the children" is the theory flouted but even that wears thin.

On discovering blood in the ceiling and on the floorboards of their former house the Judge is taken into custody and then the trial emerges. The prosecuting lawyer Charlie has his own demons - Jewish and not comfortable in an orthodox household he has broken away from family and has a bitter relationship with his mother. He puts together the pieces of Judge Steele's marriage and the final breakdown where he murdered his wife. The Judge however due to clever lawyering and an epic display of emotion masterfully crafted swings a jury for his acquittal.

It is only after the acquittal that Charlie puts together pieces of a puzzle which he knows is incomplete upto now and the final piece is very surprising. 

Well written, masterfully played out by the two main characters of Judge Steele and Charlie and the supporting cast of family this was a very good book.

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

Sunday, March 1, 2020

The Measure of Malice by Martin Edwards (Short Story - Detective)

An excellent collection of short stories in the detective genre in the style of Sherlock Holmes.
The opening one is actually a Sherlock Holmes wonderful story and sets the tone and elegance of writing which is so characteristic for all the writers.

Apart from the style of writing which is calm and collected and not frenzied in the least despite the goriness of the actual murders, there is a great deal of intelligent detective skills utilized throughout and a measure of scientific deduction which adds to the interest.

Another great publication under the Classic Crime category.

Thanks to Netgalley for the book sent for my unbiased review, courtesy of Poisoned Pen Press.