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Thursday, April 29, 2021

Until Vienna by Heather B. Moore

Gina is accompanying her aunt to Vienna on the luxurious Oriental Express. There are another two older ladies, friends of her aunt travelling with them and Gina is expected to be an additional partner for whist and card games and a sort of travelling companion. The actual story of why Gina was chosen is more complicated. Aunt Rowena was instrumental in driving away Gina's former boy friend and has now set her sights on the present guide for their tour the enigmatic and handsome Professor Clyde Haskins. He has all the attributes which the Aunt considers necessary and it is only a matter of time she feels, before it all comes together neatly. The settings of all the various cities through which the journey takes them is glorious. The descriptions are really good and the journey itself on the Oriental Express is detailed and descriptive. I enjoyed this part of the story more than the actual romance and its ups and downs. Sent by Covenant Communications for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Home Front Lines by Brenda Sparks Prescott

A military base and the year 1962. The restrictions, the divisions of color demarcate every part of the women's lives. So many rules, written and unwritten and all equally humiliating to these women who strive to live within the rules, uphold their dignity and at the same time not endanger the jobs of their husbands who are totally beholden to the white folk (particularly the wives) The story opened an aspect of life that was hitherto not even thinkable to me - the American women planned evacuation of their children, the Cuban women planned the same to send their children across the waters but this was the important part - without the knowledge of their husbands. Taking their children's lives into their hands they planned all this meticulously. Not that the husband's did not have their own secrets as well. All cocooned in their little worlds. The story was intriguing, and revealing. People put together will not follow rules however much rules are in place and indiscretions and breaking of these rules will happen. Consequences always follow. The book sent by Bookouture for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Revelations by Mary Sharratt

I like the convent/monastery settings in books. Must be my Catholic convent background I guess. This story dealing with almost the mystic "Margery Kempe" and Julian set in the 15th century deal with the prejudices faced by women in their daily life as housewives, wives and mothers and more importantly if they sought a spiritual life as well. Lollardy was a feared aspect of life and anyone found preaching, or even out of the ordinary in a spiritual sense was suspect and Margery Kempe ticked off all the boxes. A mother of fourteen children, leaving her husband on pilgrimage to the Holy Land and all alone was thought to be mad and someone who should be brought in line. She faced persecution of the worst kind but her faith was strong and she pursued a journey which was so fabulous, so fraught with danger at every turn that even today most people would have given up at the first hurdle. The story was a fascinating one of a woman who was definitely different and who sought the spiritual freedom she thought was her birthright. This was a fabulous read. Sent by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Duchess if You Dare by Anabelle Bryant

The Regency period is not filled with independent, non judgemental women and when one meets the Maidens of Mayhem one is filled with admiration that they do what they do in the face of steadfast opposition from men from all walks of life - their fathers, brothers, husbands will all oppose what they are doing, not just out of an idea of protecting them, but also with the idea that women should not get ideas above their station and that all decisions should be in the hands of the men in the family (even in fact if it leads to their ruination). Scarlett is one such woman. A misty, shady past which she never enlightens one very much and meeting Lord Ambrose in the middle of an investigation where they are both seeking one woman is a meeting which will end in a burst of fireworks. Ambrose has not met women of Scarlet's ilk and she is usually distrustful of all men. She hasnt met very many who are straight and honest and when she does meet one, she does not trust him at all. A mix of detection, a lot of sparks and romance all add to a light hearted Regency story. Sent by Kensinghton Books for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch

This was my first foray into the world of Lenox and Charles Finch. I am sorry I never got to it earlier. I loved the style of writing, the slower pace of vintage detection and the overall atmosphere of cleanliness, style and a certain innocence which is certainly lacking in the present detective genre. Lenox just wants to relax as a gentleman in his library with his books, his maps, his travel plans but this is not always to be. His lifelong friend Lady Jane, living next door appeals for his help in finding out the murderer of a maid who worked in her employ and who then subsequently worked for another. The other is a very high up in the present government, wants to shush the whole thing up for the most unbelievable of reasons and wants the murder to pass as a suicide. Despite so many things written oddly in this book (the geography, the americanisms, the mistakes of addressing aristocracy, even the odd title) I found the overall story to be unbelievable but charming, and Lenox though I have seen so many criticisms of his character - totally loveable! I will be looking out for more Charles Finch books but the cost even for the Kindle versions is astronomical! Sent by St Martin's Press for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Transient Desires by Donna Leon (No 30 in the Commissario Brunetti series)

The thirtieth in the series and still the interest in Brunetti and of course Venice never dies. Crimes abound and the past is very much alive in all present crimes with family links and old history and activities very much part of the present day scene. In this one as usual the setting of Venice takes a predominant part in the story (for me anyway) and Brunetti comes a close second! Two injured American girls have been left on the dock of a hospital. One is with a broken arm, the other is unconscious for days. There is no sexual assault and the CCTV cameras distinctly shows who was responsible. A little sleuting on Commissario's part and the culprits are identified. This is where it begins to get complicated. One of the boys is connected to a businessman who has been on the radar of the police for sometime, but with absolutely no proof of any wrong doing. He is doing very well, has risen from the ranks but there is no indication of how he gets his money. When Brunetti stumbles upon some clues leading to human trafficking, the detectives know the story is linked to their suspects but now they have to connect the dots, and get foolproof evidence to obtain a warrant and an arrest. Described as crime fiction with a dose of culture, I could not describe it better. Sent by Grove Atlantic for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay

Matt is a student at university. Life has dealt him some very hard knocks. His brother David has been convicted of murder and is presently in prison. Living in a small town was hard, the aggression faced by the family was difficult to take and they have all moved far away. The disruption to his sister Maggie and to their parents particularly was hard. Fortunately Tommy who is very young, never faced the brunt of the negativity. When Matt is given the devastating news that his entire family (other than David) have been wiped out in what looks like an accident (gas poisoning) in the town of Tulum in Mexico in what appeared to be a holiday, Matt accepts it for it is until he is told that the authorities in Mexico are not willing to hand over the bodies to the US Consulate but insists on a member of the family identifying the bodies. A series of events makes Matt realises that someone in Mexico badly wants him out of the way. Going back further he finds that Maggie has in her dying moments sent a photo which identifies people who are known to the authorities and his mother's interactions with the new governor (who was her former boyfriend) also uncovers a plot which is so long standing and so convoluted. There were many strands in the story and they had to be brought together to make a whole. It centred around David's conviction for a murder where he was innocent, and only Evan the father believed it was so. It was Evan who set the ball rolling to their deaths when he decided to follow a false lead which took them to Mexico, and then to their death. A good story though a little complicated. Sent by Aria and Aries for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

The Girl from Berlin by Kate Hewitt

The story covering the traumatic period of 1936 to post liberation of Berlin encompasses the most evil period of the Nazi regime and their determination to get rid of what they called aliens from society. They did this not just in Germany but in every country they took over. So much has been written from every perspective possible, but each new story we find comes up with another angle and this one is just it. Liesel Scholz lived a protected, very comfortable life in the German hierarchy. Her father was a chemist who had made important discoveries. He was not blind to the faults of the Nazi regime, but was comfortable to turn a blind eye as long as his own family were not affected by any of what was happening around. The detention of his son was a turning point in his life and one which was a pivot for him as he became more and more ensnared by the system. Friedrik had a deformed foot and the family thought the protection of their father was enough to prevent his detention and his death. Fast forward to 1946 and Liesel now changed her name to Anna seeks employment with the Americans. One of a few with good English and with a calm demeanour she gets the job of assisting Sam Houghton with finding out Nazis living in plain sight and then more importantly chemists. Unknown to Sam, Anna's entire focus was to get justice for her family by finding her father and showing his betrayal and then his punishment by the Americans for his role in the destruction of German society. Very emotional, fairly descriptive in the workings of the Nazis, not a soothing read but nevertheless something we should not forget that happened in our lifetime and something that is most probably happening in many parts of the world right now, as we speak. Sent by Bookouture for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths

A 90 year old dying in a care home should not be considered suspicious. Detective Harbinder Kaur does not think so, until Peggy's carer Natalka uncovers whilst clearing out the room a lot of information which seems slightly askew for a ninety year old. Apart from heaps of crime novels and detective stories, she discovers cards indicating that Peggy was a "murder consultant" and that many of the books in her room had acknowledgements and recommendations to Peggy, who apparently helped with ideas and suggestions to many authors re murder. The idea that Peggy was murdered is without foundation until Natalka and Edward another inmate are confronted by a masked gunman who only takes a single book from them and disappears. This has to be taken into account, and Harbinder reluctantly joins forces with Natalya and Edward, especially since an author was also found shot dead. He was one of Peggy's admirers and now several links pop up. The story told in a series of unconnected links all gradually link up to form a cohesive whole, giving the whole thing an unrealistic air. Harbinder's personal story linked with Natalka along with Edward's adds so much added interest to all Sent by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Mystery by the Sea by Verity Bright (Eleanor Swift series No. 5)

Eleanor Swift has returned to England in 1921 and she does not quite fit in with the other ladies of the aristocracy. She is modern, non judgemental and willing to look at everyone on an equal platform. Quite unlike other people of her status of the era. When she decides to take her full domestic entourage and encamp to Brighton for a holiday, she did not think she will encounter dead bodies almost as soon as she arrived, and worse the body of her husband whom she thought had died six years before. She also did not think she would be the prime suspect in the murder despite no evidence to connect her with the murder. Unravelling why Hilary was murdered at Brighton at the very same hotel she was occupying was too much of a coincidence and trying to put the clues together with her very efficient major domo was this story. Beautiful setting, excellent detective skills, and a vintage historical feel to the entire story. Excellent reading. Sent by Bookouture for a unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Beginning French by Les Americains (travel memoir)

This is in the realm of Frances Mayes and makes me very envious (the only time Americans make me feel envious) that you can just up and go and buy a farmhouse and live without visa issues (or rather visa issues that can be sorted out!) and have the best of both worlds. Eileen and Marty first took French lessons. Eileen persevered and was good at it and Marty failed! then they thought about a house in France and they did it. They bought a dilapidated stone farm house and the story of their travails of one of them at a time attending to the million things that old houses entail including a burst boiler and the destruction it resulted in amongst many others. At the end they did have a beautiful second home, memories and a place to call home. Excellent story telling skills made this memoir really good reading. Sent by Biographies & Memoirs/Travel for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

An Earl, The Girl and A Toddler by Vanessa Riley.

I've not read anything in this series, so I was confused here and there but I soon got the gist of the story. Daniel our hero, a lawyer upright but hiding secrets of his own. A little daughter whom he is determined to protect at all costs. Jemima who has a fascination for Daniel and vice versa, suffering from amnesia, knows she was married, had a child and was incarcerated at Bedlam by her husband's family for two years. Also a group of ladies known as the Widow's Grace - finding support and succor for women in need especially those who are cheated by family and society of what is rightfully theirs. A very intriguing setting with characters not normally found amongst women of that age, this was a mystery well told. Sent by Kensington Books for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Monday, April 5, 2021

The Dog Share by Fiona Gibson

Paula and Suzy have a happy go lucky relationship. He seems to be a gadfly, nothing interests him for long, but since Suzy is happy she just goes along with whatever he does. In her mid 40s Suzy maybe should have questioned his motives a bit more, but after investing in a distillery in a remote Scottish island Paul just absconds, Suzy is left literally holding the baby. There is a lot of antagonism amongst the islanders to this newcomer who has run a perfectly run business to the ground in just two years through bad marketing, sheer indifference and horrible management. Suzy now decides to take on the distillery on her own, trying to salvage the business and the jobs for her employees. This is how Scout the dog comes into the picture. An abandoned dog he wins her heart and mind, and despite never having had a dog (even when her children begged her for one) she now finds herself totally at peace with this dog. How Scout finds friends for Suzy who is right now, bereft of any support is a lovely comforting story. This is a real feel good story, and though may be a bit cheesy fits the bill for when one is feeling down. Sent by Avon Books UK for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

A Plot For Murder by James R. Callan

A writers conference and workshop organized for a number of years and several writers attending and looking after the general workings of this conference. Maggie was one of them. She did not expect to find Rod Gravet the man who robbed her of her book, being a guest speaker there and she openly denigrated him, saying he should get what he deserved. When his body is found the next day, Maggie becomes the prime suspect for Detective Bark of the local police, who seems to have a personal grudge against both Maggie and her brother the local priest at the Catholic church nearby. Father Frank is concerned for his sister because she has a fiery temper and does not moderate her speech. However his private enquiries and working with the Texan Rangers he does uncover many people who had a grudge to face with Rod Gravet. His womanising had left several victims behind and the net could be spread wider but still Detective Bark was only focussed on Maggie. The story involves the priest's moral dilemma of using information given to him not as a confession but as a conversation to protect his sister as against another girl's fiancee. A story nicely told with good characterization. Sent by Books Go Social for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Nocturne for a Widow and The Poisoned Chocolates Case (Amazon downloads)

Nocturne for a Widow Sybil is an actress on the London stage but she does know that her allure is now on the decline. Accepting a proposal from a wealthy American she decides is a good option and she goes ahead with her journey to America. Arriving there, she finds her bridegroom a travesty of what he was, and although the marriage takes place, he dies on their wedding night. She also realises he is bankrupt and a house left to his widow in the far countryside is her only option as a residence. Taking up residence in an isolated place is not Sybil's idea of living but with no choice, she does so. What she did not plan for was the emergence of an antagonistic step son, nor the dislike of neighbours to "foreigners" and "actresses" who in their opinion were more or less common prostitutes. The story involving hidden fortunes, a fountain of youth, avaricious lawyers, neighbours and romance is a lighthearted read. A free download from Amazon. The Poisoned Chocolates Case by Anthony Berkeley Another free download from Amazon. Five "people interested in crime" a sort of a book club but whose main interest is crime. Amongst them leading lawyers, detective story writers and others. Handling a recent crime of murder by poisoned chocolates where it seems that the victim was not the one supposed to eat these chocolates is puzzling. The story builds up with basic facts and each member is given a day and time when he builds his case. Surprisingly all five of them come up with different scenarios, they do take snippets from each others accounts but the suspects, the methods, the scenarios are widely different. However what does come up is that there are common strands between all the suspects and the victims and supposed victim as well and that is how the story ends. An unusual take on crime detection.