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Monday, May 31, 2021

The Venice Sketchbook by Rhys Bowen

Set in two time lines a few decades apart the story of Juliet and now her grand niece Caroline is a beautiful one. Caroline is just discovering that her marriage has fallen apart, and above all her husband in New York has no intentions it seems of sending her son back to her. On top of it all, her grand aunt Juliet dies, and on her deathbed mutters a most cryptic message for her. Knowing that she has to follow up on this beloved Aunt's instructions, Caroline sets off on a mission to throw her Aunt's ashes in the canals of Venice and armed with three keys and no idea at all to what they belong. The story set in 1938 Venice, just before the Nazi invasion of Europe shows the prim and proper Julet that Caroline knew to be someone else totally. Unravelling a story of passion, a child born out of wedlock, work for the British Resistance and incarceration in a Nazi camp reveal a part of Juliet that no one knew or could ever imagine. An intensely private person in England no one could ever imagine such a varied and interesting life had been spent in Europe as a young woman. Caroline is left to follow very vague clues and this she does and finds peace for herself as well. WWII background once again, stunning characterization, descriptive of Venice (you want to go there asap) and a lot of history very well told. A winner all around. Sent by Lake Union Publishing for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

The House of Hidden Secrets by C E Rose

Serena is trying to escape an abusive, manipulative relationship. Scarred by a deliberate act she and her daughter Lana have arrived at Ramsay Hall to turn a new leaf in their lives, get a respite from the previous abuse and then decide what to do. Serena did not envisage meeting up Hayden who seemed a harmless man incapacitated by a fall along with his two grown up sons, Hugh and Jack. Serena fits in well with the household quickly with Hayden and Hugh but cant understand Jack's antipathy and coldness towards her and especially towards Lana. The story as a psychological thriller proceeds on several fronts. Apart from Serena's own story, Hugh has hiw own twisted background to deal with including a homosexual incident of his past blown out of all proportion and which has now scarred him, Jack dealing with the trauma of his ex wife and Hayden hiding secrets from his children, but known to many others. There were surprising twists till the end, the very end which added interest to the story. Sent by Hera Books for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

The Moonlit Murders (Fen Churche mystery No. 3) Fliss Chester

The war is over and it is 1945. There is a lot of jubilation to be returning home from France for Fen Churche. She hasn't seen family and friends for years and is looking forward to going home. An overnight journey to Southampton turns into a longer journey to New York on the invitation of Eloise and her snooty aunt Mrs. Archer to join them and act as companion to Eloise. On the outward journey when Mrs. Archer's jewels of which she is inordinately proud, are lost and when a body is discovered in a lifeboat by Fen and Eloise all hell breaks loose on the ship. The Captain wants to keep the matter as closed as possible, as this kind of publicity can lead to uneasiness amongst all his passengers. At least till they reach New York and can hand it over to the Police there. Sleuthing on behalf of Mrs Archer (reluctantly on her part) Fen and James (her friend from stories past) try to solve the mystery of the dead German and then find the missing jewels, all on the few days they have left to them, before they dock at New York. A lot of history interspersed with detection was well told. Descriptive too. Sent by Bookouture for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

A Witch Hunt in Whitby by Helen Cox

Hints of the occult and the paranormal in this story with three murders in three different locations all within Yorkshire. The victims are first warned with a V painted on their front door, and eleven days later they are murdered. When the V is painted on Ruby's door a ninety year old harmless Tarot reader, private Investigators Kitt and Grace spring into action to protect Ruby and get to the bottom of this mystery which has baffled the police. The local constabulory does not like private investigators getting involved in their investigations but because of Kitt's relationship with Mal a local Detective, they both keep each other in the loop with whatever each has turned up hoping to find who is responsible for the three deaths so far. The story moves on far beyond the surface and now goes back decades to uncover a history of hidden resentments, and revenge being sought for damages and humiliation suffered so many years ago. The link between the three murders first thought to be only the occult now shows up further links to the women killed. Being Whitby there is a lot of goth action, vampire cults and references to Dracula. It was not easy to work out who the killer was because there were so many suspects who were very plausible for playing the role of murderer. I did not get it myself till the end. Nice setting of Whitby and Yorkshire in general, good characterizations and very detailed detection. Sent by Quercus Books for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

The Chinese Puzzle by J C Briggs

London 1851 the Great Exhibition has opened and it is so attractive to the masses of visitors who keep coming and coming to gape at all the wonders of the world exhibited in one spot. This mystery which covers Canton and London covering the Chinese who are involved in trade and who have lived in London and the Englishmen who have made their fortune in goods ranging from Opium to Tea from China. When a high ranking person is found murdered, Dickens is asked to help Superintendent Jones discreetly handle the enquiry. When it is revealed that their are so many controversial threads coming up - the opium trade, a Chinese wife, children living in London and questions regarding a second will and then the unsavory elements of the London underground Dickens and Jones have to get justice served and also with no publicity. When the body count starts rising they know that it is a cover up for a cover up by one particular man who is going to be very hard to catch. Told in such beautiful language and tone, this was a delight to read. A must for those who love history, as well as this setting of the 1850s in England and for those who love vintage detective mystery. Sent by Sapere Books for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Friday, May 21, 2021

The Garden House by Linda Mahkovec

Miranda has turned fifty and she is very unsettled. Living in an idyllic home, her two children have both left home almost at the same time and she feels that her entire life other than being a wife and a mother - has left her no time for her own aspirations or her own ideas of what she wants to do with her time. At the same time, Miranda is very undecided, has no confidence in her own abilities (she is very talented obviously) but does not have the gumption to go ahead with any idea of her own, dismissing herself as either too old, or not talented enough or has been out of the workforce for so long - very negative indeed. When Miranda and Ben rent out their extra garden house as they call it to William, Miranda starts having dreams in the night. Very specific ones regarding a couple of children in distress and this is not taken much notice of - it is after all a dream and there are no immediate children in the neighbourhood who could be in any danger. The dreams persist though. How the subconscious of some can be stronger than others is known and acknowledged though why and how this happens no one knows. The story delves into this and is very well told though not technical or boring in the least. It makes for a happy ending as well. Sent by BooksGoSocial for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Chasing the Sun by Judy Leigh

Molly is celebrating her seventieth birthday and is feeling unsettled. Molly has always been a free spirit, doing whatever she wants to do and doing it impulsively. She is very unlike her sister Nell who is upto now unimaginative, living in a rut and quite pleased with her lot. When Nell arrives on her doorstep, distraught over an unfaithful husband who has taken up with a young woman, Molly decides to move from the familiar to Spain to an apartment by the beach and see what happens there. The freedom of a new place seems to be the best thing for both sisters and Molly and Nell have adventure after adventure and Nell surprisingly finds a romantic interest as well. Molly now becomes bored with Spain and decides to move on to Mexico, also to give Nell a chance to settle down with the man of her choice. Mexico opens a new vista for Molly. The story specially in the background of Covid is a fantasy - the dream of disappearing somewhere exotic for just three or four months on a whim. It was a lovely spin on what could be and I am happy if someone out there could actually do this. To read about it was also encouraging - both Molly and Nell were not young and this was definitely a youthful adventure. Sent by Boldwood Books for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Murder at the Met by E W Cooper

November 1928 and Penelope Harris is in the thick of it. Another murder and she would like to be anywhere but here. She would really prefer to be with Thom Lund all the time but murder seems to follow Penelope wherever she goes, and this happens at the opera, not just one but two murders in the presence of a couple of hundred people. Lund is investigating a suicide, which hints more and more to murder which is being covered up very well. The two murders at the opera are also in the process of being "cleaned" up as the family do not want to be associated with murder (father and daughter murdered at the same time) not something to be lived down and that is what the violent Violet mother and wife wants done. So far she has been successful in controlling her family to behave just the way she wants, but this time around she is facing something not quite within her control. The book has to be read slowly because there are multiple characters all very relevant to the story, and all with their differing points of view, motives and reasons for being part of the story. It could get confusing if you try to rush through the book. The characters were very well placed and the setting was descriptive. Sent by Ink Dog Press for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

An American In Paris by Siobhan Curham

This was a story on many levels. The present and the past brought together by a journal of 1937 Paris and found on a simple farm in Arkansas, USA. Florence is our original stalwart who has come to Paris as it has always been a dream of hers to live the Parisian life and savour it to the full. Meeting Otto was a life changing event for her - it was simply asking directions to her pensione! and everything changed. The story goes on to document the changes in Paris and Florence's own life when Otto decides to go back to his country in Austria (with a very dire future) with what we know happened in Austria. Florence pursues her life in Paris in a different style - still entertaining people at the club she originally joined, but now her clients are the upper rank Germans whom she despises but whom she must patronize if she is to glean any information which will be useful for the British for whom she clandestinely works. The story is complicated and the journal is written as a memoir of Florence as a much older lady. Her grand daughter Sage escaping an internet trolling goes to Arkansas to try to leave her influencer background and followers behind. It is she who is given the journal and then discovers the background of her grandmother, and her mother and the relations she never had. Always believing that she was unwanted and abandoned, she now finds a family. History in the form of historical fiction well told, with a poignant love story told and two distinct time lines as well. Sent by Bookouture for a unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

The Unkindness of Ravens by M E Hilliard

I was attracted by the title, and then I went and looked it up! I did not know that a group of ravens is known as an "unkindness" meaning a sort of conspiracy. A murder mystery, setting is a library and Greer Hogan who has a habit of finding murdered bodies on her doorstep literally opens a door and a body falls out. The story takes off from there with theories abounding as the body count rises and Greer has to also take a step back and think carefully, whether her previous testimony actually sent an innocent man to jail. This was a good debut novel. Quirky characters and the library setting was particularly good. This was no modern library but a rather character filled scenario with a long history. Sent by Crooked Lane Books for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The Truth About Unspeakable Things by Emily A. Myers

This was not an easy book to read, but it is a subject that people avoid. Like the elephant in the room, it should be addressed more. Rape - an ugly subject, marital rape almost glossed over and then rape in a committed relationship which is so hard to move away from, when you've trusted someone and hope that you are going to be together for a long time. This is what happened to Emma. Engaged to be married to flashy, bright Beaux she did not see the violence just simmering below the surface. When it exploded, she had the courage to break off the relationship but she did keep it all bottled inside. Her parents were the last people she could talk to on the subject - her mother particularly came across as being vacuous, selfish and an egoist. Till Emma met her knight in shining armour in the form of Julian Cole, next door neighbour who was an answer to a damsel in distress! The story flows from the abuse and is very well handled. Like most abused women, Emma hid her hurt and her fears. Sent by the Independent Book Publishers Association for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Mystery At The Abbey Hotel by Clare Chase (Eva Mallow Book No. 5)

Eve has won a stay at the luxurious and very private Abbey Hotel and she is thrilled to be there. When the owner Debra is found murdered in the gardens, just minutes after being seen by Eve, everyone who was present is suspect. The suspects include an ex husband, a sister from whom she has been acrimoniously separated for years, a young protege and her husband (whom Debra is sponsoring) and a Manager who appears to be more than just a manager, and several friends. . There are several other characters on the fringes of this story as well and they are all suspect, including Eve. Eve who has solved mystery murders before, much to the chagrin of DI Palmer who views Eve with suspicion because death seems to follow her where she goes, works in close tandem with Robin who is working undercover as it were. Eve who found Debra to be charming is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, especially when a second murder takes place in a very similar fashion. Pursuing clues, she is flummoxed by a third murder and it is only after that the strands are put together to catch a very clever murderer who has covered his tracks so very well. Sent by Bookouture for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

The Car Share by Zoe Brisby

A ninety year old lady with Alzheimers, also one with decided views and opinions and a mild young man whose heart is broken go on a trip to Brussels, sharing a journey which is rife with so many ups and downs, quirky incidents and eccentricities which add to the story. The book combines Maxine (Max) who is a thirty year old in an older body. Confident, sassy and bold she is going to Brussels to be euthanized. All this without informing the Retirement Home where she was resident. Alex is escaping the humiliation of a rejection and finds in Maxine a fascinating character who in turn attracts him (for her confidence and sass) and frightens him when he becomes a wanted character for abduction and kidnapping! The book is charming (for Maxine's malapropisms) her way of handling situations and Alex's manner of a sort of "follow the leader". Amusing read. Sent by Hodder & Stoughton for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The Last One Home by Victoria Helen Stone

Lauren is estranged from her mother. She does not want to have anything to do with her because she believes that it is her false testimony that put her dad in prison for years. Now exonerated, he lives a good life with his new wife and family and has a good relationship with Lauren as well. Lauren has been gifted a ranch house by her grandmother and she is presently renovating this and is very happy in her surroundings. When her mother contacts her after years, Lauren is reluctant to even talk to her but against her judgement she does indicating to her that she does not want past history dug up and dissected again. Disaster strikes when the man she was in love with, indicates that it is all over and that she was just a casual love affair but that it is now history. Demolishing walls in anger, she comes across proof of what her mother said all along was true - her father was actually a murderer and her grandmother was complicit in the murder. The story of tracking the lives of Lauren, her mother, her grandmother (scheming and vicious), and her father (irresolute and easily influenced) and unravelling strands of a decade old story is very well told in this suspense detection read. Sent by Lake Union Publishing for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

The Custard Corpses by M J Porter

Described as a historical mystery, it has a good deal of police procedural work involved and would interest readers of that genre as well. Set in the 1943 period the story involves a decades old unsolved murder of a little boy which troubles the Detective at the station. When he gets the go ahead to further investigate from his superior officer, Detective Mason and his constable O'Rourke start a systematic search of all possible clues and come up with missing information, wrong procedures followed and then link up with a stream of other cases across Scotland, Northern Ireland and England with a very similar form of death. Putting the pieces together and bringing closure to several families was an act of mercy and though justice could not be meted out as the murderer had already died, the story was a good, methodical piece of detection work. Sent by BooksGoSocial for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

The Art of Betrayal by Connie Berry (Kate Hamilton series)

Eve is an American working for her friend Ivor in his antiques shop, managing the business while he recuperates from an illness. She loves the quaintness of this village she is working in, gets on well with its inhabitants and has found someone whom she loves. She is also a detective and murder and mystery seem to follow her wherever she goes. This does not endear her to one particular Detective Inspector who looks on all her actions with suspicion. Meeting Evelyn who brings in a very expensive piece of Chinese pottery and indicates there is much more to follow makes Eve sit up and take notice but when Evelyn is murdered in the shop almost immediately after sets off an investigation which has to go back eighteen years to find out where is Evelyn's daughter the heir to everything. Lucy disappeared years ago and has not been heard of since. Investigations reveal so many suspicious links that getting to the murder is one thing, and getting to the robbery of the Chinese antique is another. The story was set in beautiful surroundings, the characterization was interesting and varied and the story had different strands to be brought together - which was done well. Sent by Crooked Lane Books for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.