Monthly Archives April 2016

Book review: Hiding the Past

An unusual hybrid of genealogy and record checking plus amateur detective stuff makes Hiding the Past by Nathan Dylan Goodwin a worthy page turner for a holiday week. Anyone who loves family tree research, and a good crime novel, will like this with its narrative stretching from World War Two to present-day politicians. Within days of taking on a new client, genealogist Morton Farrier knows this case is different: one, his client pays a fee of £50,000 straight into his bank account; two, the client shoots himself in the head. Or does he? Helped by his girlfriend Police Community Support Officer Juliette, Farrier studies the background of his, now dead, client, Peter Coldrick, a study which leads him to two key years: 1944 and 1987. Official records for Coldrick’s descendants have mysteriously disappeared, Morton is being followed by a glossy black 4×4, and it may be his imagination but a usually helpful archives officer is proving difficult to pin down. Morton is an interesting character, adopted, rubbing along awkwardly with his widowed adoptive father and soldier brother, quick with a sharp word whilst knowing he should be kinder and hating himself for it. I also liked the clear drawing of his
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Categories: Book Love and Family history research.

Family history: researching children’s homes

Lost children weren’t always adopted, as happens to Rose Haldane in Ignoring Gravity. If she had been born a century earlier, she may have been taken to one of many children’s homes in London. In 1739 London’s Foundling Hospital opened, a basket placed at its door to allow infants to be left anonymously. In the late 19th century poverty in London’s East End was notorious and this is where, in 1866, Thomas Barnardo established his first boys’ home. Lampson House Home for Girls [below] opened in London in 1894. If you are tracing a relative who was in a children’s home, the records may be held in a variety of places. Most children’s homes were privately run so the survival of documentation is inconsistent, records identifying individuals are widely held closed for 100 years. A useful website is The Children’s Homes which lists the location of existing records for many former homes. Other records which give an insight into lifestyle conditions [below] in children’s homes – such as reports of inspections, dietary diaries – can be found at the National Archives. Records for workhouses can be found in the appropriate county/metropolitan record office where you may also find records for workhouses
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Categories: Adoption and On Researching.

Guest Post: Helen J Christmas

Every writer is blessed with an over-active imagination. For Helen J Christmas [below], author of the ‘Same Face Different Place’ series, this led her to researching Britain and its social history. Here, she explains how her research was transformed into fiction. “I have a passion for writing. I have indulged it for most of my life but it wasn’t until 2011, my career as an author really took off. My current series (a combination of romantic suspense and noir fiction) was inspired while walking along the beach with our dog. I was just daydreaming about my life, when a set of characters and stories began to flood through my head. I was born in 1964 and remember the eras of the ‘70s and ‘80s – I thought ‘how great it would be to write an epic story that took the reader on a journey through the decades of Britain!’ My debut novel Beginnings (published in 2012) is the first book of my series ‘Same Face Different Place.’ It is a love story set in the criminal underworld of the 70s and the start of a mystery which rolls across four decades. I am lucky to be gifted with a powerful visual
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Categories: Book Love and On Researching.

Book review: The Murder Room

Written in 2003 this, the 12th in the Adam Dalgliesh crime fiction series by PD James, is preceded by an excerpt from TS Eliot’s poem ‘Burnt Norton’: ‘Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in time future, And time future contained in time past.’ Time is a theme layered throughout this book. Its setting is the Dupayne Museum on Hampstead Heath, so historical time is represented by the exhibits at the museum. Time, recently passed, is examined and re-examined as part of the murder investigation. Time future, is represented by the theme of Adam Dalgliesh’s love for Emma and his courtship of her, a path not easy or untroubled. Like all Dalgliesh novels, murder happens within a tight community. The Dupayne Museum has a small community of owners, staff and visitors. At first glance the victims are not clearly attached to the museum, but this is a James novel: of course they are, we just don’t know how yet. The murder doesn’t happen for quite a while as James takes her time introducing us to the circle of potential victims and criminals, their connection to the museum and their life outside it. There is an air of the
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Categories: Book Love.

New books coming soon

Isabel Costello Paris Mon Amour, a story of “desire, betrayal and devastating loss” by Isabel Costello, is to be published by Canelo on June 13, 2016. Set in France, Paris Mon Amour tells the story of one woman and two men, of love and loss. Costello [above] said: “Paris Mon Amour was inspired by my frustration with the double standards applied to women and men, especially when it’s about sex or age or both. But from the moment I started to write, it was Alexandra’s story and I’m delighted to be working with such an enthusiastic team at Canelo to share it with readers.” Read more about Isabel Costello at her blog, The Literary Sofa. Eimear McBride The Lesser Bohemians, the second novel by Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction winner Eimear McBride, will be published by Faber in the autumn 2016. Described as another imaginative novel, it is the story of innocence and love of an 18-year-old Irish girl, recently arrived in London to study drama, who meets an older actor. McBride [above] won the Bailey’s Prize, the Desmond Elliott Prize and the Goldsmiths Prize with A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, originally published by independent Galley Beggar Press. Faber
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Dead Simple

Book review: A plot that twists and turns, a dramatic beginning, a likeable detective in Roy Grace and a cleverly-drawn setting. Brighton is full of potential for a crime writer looking for a setting and it is clear Peter James knows and loves the Sussex seaside city. This is a page-turner with clever ideas and a couple of twists I didn’t see coming. The story opens with a stag night which does not go to plan, a missing groom, a car crash, an absent best man and a frantic bride. As the horrible realities of the situation become clear, with no witnesses and no clues, the police struggle to find the missing groom before the wedding on Saturday. But a few things do not ring true and that, coupled with Detective Superintendent Roy Grace’s controversial use of a medium, bring fresh, if confusing, clues. Peter James has created an authentic police community which feels real from page one, this is not the first in a series where the first novel is about setting the scene and the context. James hits the ground running with a believable detective. Roy Grace is a maverick, and I like him. James spends a day a
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Killing of Polly Carter

This is the first of the ‘Death in Paradise’ series by Robert Thorogood that I have read. It is the second in the series, and I picked it up unaware of the TV series of the same, the sixth series will be aired on the BBC this year. So, I am playing catch-up. My first reaction was that it seemed lightweight, but the story and the characters pulled me in. This definitely fits into the comfort crime category so effectively occupied by MC Beaton. Detective Inspector Richard Poole is a man out of place, an English policeman on a tiny Caribbean island, he is a proper chap who persists in wearing leather shoes and woollen suits even at the height of the summer heat. His team is small and their resources are limited, which makes this more of an old-fashioned tale as they put together clue after clue. The setting is luscious. Supermodel Polly Carter is dead, is it suicide or murder? In the true Agatha Christie fashion, of whom Thorogood is a childhood fan, this is a ‘closed room’ mystery where few people have the opportunity and motive. One by one, each of Polly’s family and friends are suspected,
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Little Red Chairs

The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien is a fictional portrait, a ‘what if’ scenario: what if a war criminal, a Balkan war lord, was on the run and pitched up in a small town in the West of Ireland. What if the locals took him at face value. What if one woman saw him as a way to bring a child into her childless marriage. What if his true identity was revealed. What then… would happen to the woman. This is the story of Fidelma, to reveal more about her would be to giveaway the drama of the book. She is a sad character, unsatisfied with her lot, reaching for the unattainable and ultimately suffering for her need. This book has attracted some outstanding reviews, but I hesitate. It sat for a while on my Kindle before I read it, I think because the subject matter is depressing and intimidating. O’Brien’s writing is at times flowing and lyrical especially when describing nature, at times her structure is a little wavy and the story a little flabby. Some passages are horrifying in their brutality, the war flashbacks are vivid. I find violence, when left to the imagination, more effective than violence
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Silent Twin

Blackwater Farm, an isolated farmhouse outside the town of Haven, is a creepy place: things move, are thrown and rattle, and not just because of the wind. In The Silent Twin by Caroline Mitchell, the new owners of the farm, a young couple with identical twin daughters, have plans to convert the place. But all is not well. When nine-year old Abigail goes missing, the cracks become ravines. Detective Constable Jennifer Knight is a policewoman, a Family Liaison Officer with an unusual skill. This is the third book in the Knight series by Caroline Mitchell and the first I have read, so it was a while before I realized she is a psychic. Jennifer is not an unreliable narrator as such, but her ‘take’ on things for me at times conflicted with what I expected from a police investigation. Is she a psychic first or a police officer? Everyone has something to hide and at one point I suspected each member of the family and their inner circle as the murderer. The story is told from three main viewpoints – Joanna, the young mother; Jennifer, who seems rather mysterious; and diary entries by an unknown person – and so starts
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Categories: Book Love.