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Thursday, December 30, 2021

Summons to Murder by J C Briggs

I am glad that I am ending my year with a book by J C Briggs. I've not always been successful in getting the books but am very appreciative to Sapere Books for sending this on to me. 1851 London - Detective Sam Jones and Charles Dickens are good friends. They also know a kind of fatalistic feeling that they are working against great odds. Especially when one of the aristocracy is involved. London is not kind to the poor and helpless, the system of law and justice is weighted heavily in favour of the rich, the famous and the powerful. Depicting London at its worst one could be forgiven for thinking that this is not part of the developed world even in 1851 - the primitive way of living, the squalor and dirt and illness found in the slums of London cheek by jowl to the houses of the rich and famous was in itself upsetting to read about. The callousness and indifference of those who had it all to those who worked for them and came from the lower economic and social classes was immense and hard to even read about. Here the two men have to find a murderer of a friend of theirs. Pierce Mallory was found with a gunshot wound to his head, deemed as a suicide but Dickens knows that this is not the case. Uncovering a story of bigamy, murder, cruelty (forcible incarceration of a wife in an asylum) and using his wits and cleverness to acquire more and more wealth our suspect is a legal luminary much respected and feared by his peers and a member of the aristocracy to boot. Getting him acquitted is not going to be an easy task. The story is both of the historical and mystery murder genre and covers both in great detail. The plot is complicated the suspects and victims are many but the story weaves a good tale to keep the reader engrossed. Sent by Sapere Books for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Accomplished in Murder by Dara England

Combining a combo of two things I like - a vintage mystery murder and a female sleuth both hard to find in books made this an interesting read for me. Celeste is a long standing friend of Drucilla and when she gets a letter with underlying tones of her being scared Drucilla sets off on a long, tedious journey to frozen Cornwall ostensibly to see her friend Arriving at the house and being welcomed and then warned by two of Celeste's in laws before being told that their friend was dead is a shock for Drucilla but one mystery she is determined to get to the bottom on. Uncovering a story which is common for the era of almost a forced marriage, bigamy, and finding a fortune from a rich wife to bolster the family fortune was a very common occurrence at the time. But when it involved murder the story changes. Intriguing and interesting to read, the backdrop of an aristocratic family - the limitations of the law when dealing with such people protected by their own where even the law backs off for fear of repercussion is sadly prevalent at the time. A download from Amazon.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

The Son and Heir by Alexander Munninghoff

An emotional epic story of the author's own journey to his past and the slowly unraveling of something that was quite hard to fathom and understand. That his father had a Nazi background and things slowly became discovered about his past. How he tries to reconcile the past of a tortured early 20th century Europe and the ramifications of war on ordinary citizens and how it changed their lives and their children's lives forever and how on earth do you try to reconcile the two worlds. Both World Wars changed the lives of people not just in Europe but all over the world but Hitler and Nazi Germany brought about a brutishness and a brutality which was by far very harsh. How many people still like to cover the traces of what their ancestors did during this period, especially if you were from the wealthy and aristocratic classes in Europe. A book that gets you to think. What your ancestors did is not your responsibility. A download from Amazon

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Murder at St. Anne's by J R Elliz

This was a very good story. It combined so much - the ecclesiastical scene in modern times but with its age old ideologies and sometimes old fashioned ideas so out of place in modern times, then you get the clergy themselves trying to keep up with the 21st century, also trying to appease those parishioners who are slightly behind them, and the myriad secrets that people all over the world have. We have a murder. The vicar - a woman popular, compassionate and friendly has been brutally murdered and even the weapon that was used is a puzzle to the detectives. No outward clues. No scandals in the background. She was ear marked for a bishopric and could this be the cause for the women hating members of her congregation. The detection set against a harsh wintry landscape is very descriptive and the two Detectives on the case go forward very slowly because clues keep getting unearthed - but mainly of secrets that people would want hidden but which really do not have a bearing on this murder. When the second murder happens we know that the ghost of St Annne's is definitely not behind the murders and then a foiled murder attempt sets the pace up a bit faster as we know our murderer is not going to stop. The book is a page turner. One that will please any mystery murder reader never mind those of a eclesiastical bent. Sent by Amazon Publishing Uk for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Boy Underground by Catherine Ryan Hyde

1941 America. Steven Katz from a well to do farming family, who are ultra conservative is different. He has found friends which are not in keeping according to his mother of their status in the community. One of them is Japanese origin, born and bred in America but with Pearl Harbour harsh treatment meted out to the Japanese on the one side and his friend and his family get incarcerated in a camp. Another close buddy of his is on the run, because his own father has lied to the police on a battery charge intimating to them that it is the son who is responsible when Steven knows very well on the day in question four of them were on a hike. The actions of the adults in the situation draw the four boys closer and closer together. One volunteers for the Army and on the journey out his ship is torpedoed. So then there were three. Nicky is hidden on the farm away from detectives and kept till it is safe for him to try to find his mother who had abandoned him as a child. That does not end well either. The Japanese are releaed eventually and Steven finds that the insularity of his family is holding him back and he is just waiting for his eighteenth birthday to leave home. The fact that he has discovered he is homosexual and has feelings for Nicky does not help the situation, and once his family knows this it certainly makes him very isolated. The story of a young boy facing responsibilities and pressures well before his time, facing situations which he cannot imagine and trying to deal with them whilst at the same time being under his parents control being under eighteen was hard. Steven did not openly rebel which would be the option of most. He bided his time, waiting for the opportunity to do what he had to do. A fabulous coming of age story, set in hard circumstances of family who were constrained by their upbringing and could never see the bigger picture. A family who preferred to lose their son, rather than acknowledge him for what he was. Sent by Lake Union Publishing for an unbiased review courtesy of Netgalley.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

At Midnight in Venice (Charles Dickens and Superintendent Sam Jones. Book No. 5)

I adore this series and have bought them off Amazon because I could not resist. I love the English setting specially the contrast between the so very rich and aristocratic society always brought into the stories (as in this one) and then you get the stark contrast with the bone shattering poverty and crime that seemed to abound in London just metres away from the rich and famous. The poor were brought into the rich homes as menials in domestic service, in suppliers of all goods and services and how a rebellion did not happen earlier is a mystery! Two cities - one vision. Venice a few years before where Charles saw a vision of a murder and then fast forward to London where a young woman employed in an aristocrats house goes missing at the same time as the young music master. Add to this the case of the missing daughter of the house "sent to the country" due to ill health, the terrified nature of the Lady of the house and Dickens knows there is more to unravel. Very slowly unravelled with a host of characters, these stories are not for the ones who want fast paced action. This is slow detection work against the odds of having to be very careful when dealing with the high and mighty who have no compunction in using whatever powers that be to protect their name and family to the detriment of everyone else. It further highlighted the hopelessness of the poor and those who did not have family support and these people inhabiting the stories did not have much. Victorian London at its best with a mystery murder thrown in.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Murder at the Castle (A Belinda Pendhurst Mystery Book 2) by Lisa Cutts

Belinda is attracted to Harry though they are two very different characters. They've solved one murder mystery and are now on their second. The local Detectives are a bit miffed that the two seem to get the upper hand on solving the mysteries whenever they occur and have to remind them that they are not police detectives but this definitely does not hold back Belinda who drags the slightly unwilling Harry on. This was a pleasant cozy mystery murder - set in very English surroundings with the usual inhabitants knowing everyone else's business and if they don't finding out by one means or another. Nothing is very private so that when a murder takes place, every one in the village has an opinion of what and how and who. Very engaging and full of humour, this was a very pleasant read. It does well as a stand alone. Sent by Bookouture for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

The Music Makers by Alexandra Walsh

A dual time line fascinates me and most readers. This one was particularly evocative. 1875 London Victorian and we have young women who are not timid nor retiring but who want to make a stand for themselves. Esme Blood and Lynette are young women with theatre in their blood but they now want to spread their wings and see what the wider world holds. They step out into a newer, more sophisticated one than the one they left behind and are successful in their fields. Fast forward to 2020 Wales - Eleanor has been diagnosed with an auto immune illness which has had her hospitalized for a long time. She is now recovering albeit slowly and is building up her business as an online one. She specialises in the theatre - clothes, memorablia and particularly programs. She is very good at her job and when she comes upon a set of programs she is drawn to them almost magnetically as if they are telling her something. Eleanor is also well versed in Tarot card reading and all her readings point her in a direction which she is careful to follow. The similarities between the cards and stories she unearths from 1875 show that there are links between Esme and herself even though they are centuries apart. The story was beautifully descriptive of all the characters involved - especially the 1875 ones and in 2020 the main characters of the story. Family details and how the story is evolving are also minute and very well explained. It is a real page turner and one book which is hard to put by for a later read. Sent by Sapere Books for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

The Dangers Of An Ordinary Night by Lynne Reeves

A small town on the outskirts of Boston. A high school but one which has a good reputation for its performing arts students. Students here hope that they, depending on their performances get picked by one of the talent scouts invited for performances and this will be their stepping stone into the big world of the arts. June and Tali have been friends for a long time, and one night after auditioning for a play the two girls go missing. Two days later they are found, one dead one suffering from amnesia, badly scratched and bruised with no account of what happened, other than a man pushing them into a car. Detectives have to work blind - looking into any strange people in the area, anyone with a track record for abduction. and the tedious work of detection and elimination begins. Focus on both girls families as always, then on their circle of friends and their families and small details emerge which dont quite add up. The final denouement is difficult to fathom and understand but it is very well done in the whole drama of this performance. Because it is a performance. Very good characterization, good outline of the story. Perfectly unbelievable till it becomes fact a good mystery suspense thriller. Sent by Crooked Lane Books for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Friday, December 10, 2021

The Midnight Hour by Elly Griffiths

1965 Brighton England. Bert Billington rich and famous impressario is found dead in his own home it seems very natural. He was in his 90s but when his own son blurts out to the police that he suspects his mother had a hand in the death, the police have got to take action, especially since a post mortem shows that he died of rat poisoning being ingested over a period of time. Brighton Police have got competition in the form of a private detective agency of two women - one a journalist and one a former detective herself who married the Chief Inspector and retired. Emma and Sam are hired by Verity - Bert's wife and slowly they untangle so much in the past life of Verity and Bert (who seemed to have no end of people who would be happy to see him dead). What especially marked it for me, was that women whether it was 1930s England or as recent as 1965 their position had not changed much. Slightly derogotary was the attitude of the Police towards fellow workers and did not give them the dignity of their position at all. It was an upward task all the time and women seemed to have to fight to get a position. Many just gave in timidly it seems. The detective story was an interesting one. Old characters coming up again. Sent by Mariner Books for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

The Complete Provincial Lady Series - Five Novels - E M Delafield

1930s England. The setting mainly a village in Devon full of self important characters - the Vicar's wife for one and we have our very self effacing lady. Who would like to retort cleverly and smartly and never does and gets taken advantage of left, right and centre. The stories are a collection of five pieces - each interesting and details the Provincial Lady's travels and pursuits from Russia to America to wartime England. There are trips back and forth home but the children are growing up fast and she though particularly sentimental over her children, has accepted the fact that they are now grown up. Her relationship with Robert is a bit sad - she loves him dearly, but he is typified as the usual stoic Englishman who is frightened to even show the slightest bit of emotion or feelings - not a new age man definitely and I do so wish he could have been a bit warmer! The stories are tailor made for an Anglophile - they may not appeal to all because they are old fashioned, the women somehow give in to the men at all levels whether husband, bosses, uncles or anyone around. But it is descriptive of the age in which they were set and the conditions of the time. The stories apart from describing the conditions, the characters of the times also depicts the domestic front which was in operation at the time. England's homes still had a cook, a maid and the change had not yet fully come. I enjoyed reading it very much. Was just happy that Amazon put this out in a collection at such a reasonable price too.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Gated Prey by Lee Goldberg

One in a series but good as a stand alone we have our female Chief Detective facing as usual the barrage of bad feeling from her colleagues with just a few supporting her work. Her success is the cause for the antagonism, never mind that she almost died in the case and the fact that the last case is going to be cast into a TV series has not won her any followers amongst her fellow workers. When a series of robberies takes place in gated communities with so called security guards and plenty of preventive measures in place Eve follows up on the latest robbery. A trail which leaves the three robbers dead all not caused by her own hand, anyway gets her the notoriety she hates and which her boss is going to use to his best advantage for the advancement of his own political career. Uncovering a racket which seems to go beyond just three youngsters on a stealing spree, a murder of a woman and a baby is uncovered which adds to the complications in the story. The story is fast paced, and an eye opener on how easy it is to get into even a gated community when the community itself becomes lax on security and warnings. Everyone gets very settled into an easy pace and then the trouble begins. Sent by Thomas & Mercer for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Sherlock Holmes and the Rosetta Stone Mystery by Linda Startmann

1876 Holmes has already garnered a reputation of being odd, eccentric, not quite following the rules and the bane of London Police Chiefs. They do not like his unorthodoxy, his so called modern methods and his way of doing things just out of the box. When the priceless Rosetta Stone is found missing from the museum - no break in, no obvious sign of damage it is extremely puzzling to all including the Police. Followed by a ransom note to say that unless paid, the Stone would be cast into the sea - it sends everyone on a wild goose chase to the Docks to see whether the stone is being hid on a ship there. But how did it get there as it was a cumbersome thing to move. When one employee who was coshed on the head dies during the burglary, and the other suffering from amnesia Holmes considers it an inside job and slowly starts to unravel the pieces of the puzzle. Quite slow on the detective angle, at times lingering and repetitive, the story picks up rapidly and then moves on with a number of characters involved and different sets of people and places. Interesting angle on Holmes, Watson and Stamford. Sent by Sapere Books for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Murder on the Pier by Merryn Allingham (A Flora Steele Mystery No. 1)

Again this can be read as a stand alone though there are references to the earlier story (also in the same genre). Flora is a bit of a day dreamer, also a amateur detective also owner of a bookshop which she inherited from her aunt. She loves her job, she loves her village but like the Midsomer Murder series, this idyllic village area harbours very vicious people. When Polly a beautiful girl from the village is found murdered and discovered near a pier by Flora and Jack, who are out for a day outing with the boy Charlie the detection has to start on the part of Flora because the Detective Inspectors assigned to the case call on it as an accident if not suicide. They are not willing to even admit to the fact that Polly had her life in front of her and it could never be considered suicide - or the theory of Flora's that it was no accident but that the girl was pushed. When Flora herself is pushed at the same pier and escapes a gruesome death, very narrowly Jack is convinced that someone is trying to cover up Flora's enquiries because she is the only person who is pursuing the line that Polly's death is murder. Jack and Polly have a way to go to uncover clues because the murderer is someone whom they least suspect. In this case there are plenty of suspects but the final closure is different. A very nice cozy. Sent by Bookouture for an unbiased review, courtesy of Netgalley.