Archives for crime fiction

#BookReview ‘The Diabolical Bones’ by Bella Ellis @brontemysteries

If you’ve never read a novel by one of the Brontë sisters, it doesn’t matter. There is plenty to enjoy about the Brontë Mysteries by Bella Ellis without figuring out the innumerable references to Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The Diabolical Bones is second in the crime series after the impressive first, The Vanished Bride. This one is better, and darker. When bones are found interred in the walls of a local house on the moor, the three detecting sisters and reluctant brother Branwell set out to confirm the child’s identity so it can be respectfully buried. There are few clues; the location of the find, the father and son who live in the house, the age of the child, and a medallion found with the bones. Top Withens, the remote house concerned, is said to be Emily’s inspiration for the house of the Earnshaw family, Wuthering Heights. Ellis has constructed a convincing world for the sisters; the parsonage, their blind father, housekeeper Tabby, the villagers in Haworth and wider circle of acquaintances. The charm of this portrayal of the Brontës is the strength of the series. Branwell’s presence is key as in 1852, lone
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Guest List’ by @lucyfoleytweets #crime #thriller

The Guest List by Lucy Foley is a cracking crime mystery set on an isolated Irish island. The guests are there for the wedding of the year – magazine entrepreneur Jules Keegan is marrying reality TV star Will Slater. What follows is a closed room mystery recognisable from Agatha Christie novels. From the beginning you wonder, who in this group of thirty-somethings is going to be killed? Who is the killer and why? Foley expertly plays with our expectations, manipulating our first impressions of the characters as they are introduced. Old friends. Family. School days rituals. Hidden jealousies. Secret wrongs. The atmosphere on the exposed windswept island with its treacherous bogs, cliffs, caves and haunting churchyard is cranked up to full notch. We experience the weekend wedding almost hour by hour as each key character tells their own story, with the narrative chopping forwards to the present during the ceremony and reception. This switching of viewpoint and timeframe can be very sudden but it does ramp up the tension. The murder takes place quite late in the timeline making this more a psychological thriller, building up to the killing you know will happen. The basic plot questions are – how
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Heartstone’ by CJ Sansom #Tudor #detective

The Matthew Shardlake series by CJ Sansom continues to get better. Heartstone, the penultimate book of the six, involves a puzzle which kept me guessing until the reveal. Despite Shardlake vowing to take a back seat from Royal intrigues, the Tudor lawyer/detective is pulled into a case at the behest of Queen Catherine Parr. This is a great series to lose yourself in. A tutor, son of one of the Queen’s staff, has alleged an injustice done against a former pupil, Hugh Curteys, by the Hobbey family who adopted Hugh and his sister Emma after the death of their parents. This complaint takes Shardlake before the Court of Wards, not Shardlake’s natural territory, where the lives and rights of orphaned minors are protected. In truth, it is rife with fraud and abuse and the case brings Shardlake face-to-face with old and new enemies. A journey into Hampshire at the time King Henry VIII is mobilising his army and navy south to oppose the expected invasion by the French, is ill-advised. Normal life is suspended as Henry distributes new coinage, devalued to pay for his war, and men are conscripted in the fields and the streets. But Shardlake, as ever driven
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘A Snapshot of Murder’ by @FrancesBrody #crime

In 1928, a Photography Society outing to Haworth to see the opening of the new Bronte Parsonage Museum has an unexpected outcome. One of the group does not go home alive. A Snapshot of Murder by Frances Brody is tenth in the Kate Shackleton 1920s detective series, a satisfying story about jealousy, long lost love and betrayal. Kate’s friend Carine Murchison runs a photographic studio with her boorish husband Tobias. Derek, friend of Kate’s niece Harriet, has a theory that Tobias wants his wife dead so he can inherit the studio. But the story is so much more complicated. Throw in a long lost lover returned, the wonderfully scratchy mother and daughter landladies of Ponden Hall near Haworth where the Photography Society stays, the flamboyant Rita who dresses in Indian silks and works in a pharmacy, and a London policeman and former love of Kate who arrives to investigate the murder, and there are plenty of options for arguments, jealousy, upsets and both rejected and reciprocated love. The echoes of the Brontes are welcome too, but Brody never allows this to dominate her story. This is a character-led crime drama. Kate’s world is created with skill by Brody, I particularly enjoyed Mrs Sugden, Mr Sykes
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Revelation’ by CJ Sansom #Tudor #detective

I’m sorry if I’m beginning to sound like a cracked record, but I continue to love the Matthew Shardlake Tudor detective series by CJ Sansom. Fourth in the series, Revelation, is a roller-coaster ride of killings motivated by the Book of Revelation’s fire and damnation. Shardlake and his assistant Barak race around London struggling to second-guess the murderer’s motivations and identify his next likely target. Sansom achieves a difficult feat for a historical novelist, he balances world-building – the Tudor toxic politics and Tudor gossip-mongering – will Lady Catherine Parr say yes to the King’s proposal – with Shardlake’s legal world and the fascinating detail and colour which brings London in Spring 1543 to life. Once again we see Shardlake’s vulnerability – when an old friend is murdered in mystifying and frightening circumstances – and his moral strength as he faces the dangers of investigation. These dangers do not threaten only his life but of those around him; they also threaten his position and future, as he is drawn unwillingly again into the circle of the Tudor court where queens, and courtiers, often last only a short time. These are the only historical novels I have read which are truly
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Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ‘The Last Protector’ by Andrew Taylor @AndrewJRTaylor #Historical

Fourth in the 17th century crime series by Andrew Taylor, The Last Protector sees the return to London of Richard, Oliver Cromwell’s son, and last Protector of England before the restoration of the king in 1660. And it also heralds the central plot return of Cat Lovett. Ever since the first book in the series, I have waited for Cat to have a key role in the plot again. The story begins as James Marwood, clerk to the Under secretary of State to Lord Arlington, is sent to secretly observe a duel between two lords. Meanwhile Cat, now Mistress Hakesby and married to a frail elderly architect, meets a childhood acquaintance in the street. This is Elizabeth Cromwell, daughter of Richard. Remembering their friendship as a fleeting thing, Cat is confused by Elizabeth’s eagerness to rekindle their relationship. Until, visiting Elizabeth at her godmother’s house, she is introduced to a fellow guest John Cranmore. But a peculiar habit of tapping a finger on the table brings back memories for Cat, to the time when she and her father moved in elevated political circles, and she realizes Cranmore is a false name. Elizabeth, it becomes clear, is seeking a precious object hidden by her grandmother. The
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘The Benefit of Hindsight’ by @susanhillwriter #crime

The Benefit of Hindsight is the tenth book in the Simon Serrailler series by Susan Hill and she covers a lot of ground. At the book’s heart, as with its predecessors, is the town of Lafferton and the Serrailler family. Crime, when it happens, affects so many people and Hill shows this effectively as more and more people are drawn into the aftermath. The themes of this book are post-traumatic-stress-disorder, pre-natal premonition and post-natal depression, art robbery and private v public healthcare. Written in a list it can seem clinical, but Hill is expert at winding together the personal lives of ordinary people so that you care about them. The continuity of the Serrailler family throughout the series adds the familiarity of real family issues that are not crime-related, just ordinary family stuff. Simon is struggling with the aftermath of his injury, not physically, but with panic attacks. His sister Cat has settled into her job with private GP service Concierge and it is Cat who meets two people central to the story; pregnant mum Carrie who unshakingly believes her baby will be born damaged; and Cindy, wife of businessman and charity supporter, Declan McDermid. When a lonely house is burgled in
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Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ‘The Art of the Imperfect’ by @KateEvansAuthor #Yorkshire #crime

The Art of the Imperfect by Kate Evans starts with a murder but this mystery set in a Yorkshire seaside town is not a thriller, it is not a police procedural, it is not cosy crime; it a story about the psychology of the people concerned and the after-effects of the event. Evans is a counsellor, like her protagonist Hannah Poole, and this allows her to bring an emotional depth and understanding to her characters. This is the first in the Scarborough Mysteries series and was longlisted for the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger award in 2015. Like Emma Woodhouse, Hannah is a serial not-finisher. She has failed to finish training to be an accountant, a plumber and, twice, to be a counsellor. This is the third time she’s tried the counselling thing, and now she discovers a dead body. Her boss. A large number of characters are introduced in the first few pages, and names are littered around which I found dislocating. But I love the drawing of the Yorkshire setting, the town of Scarborough– my home town, so I am biased – the train journey to York, all done with a light hand. For example, ‘The sea is below
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Sovereign’ by CJ Sansom #Tudor #detective

Sovereign by CJ Sansom is third in the Matthew Shardlake series and the best so far. Taking true events –Henry VIII’s Royal Progress to York in 1541, the northern rebellion against the crown and the rumours of Queen Catherine’s infidelity – Sansom writes a complex story of rebels, betrayal, bastards and inheritance that keeps one more page turning. Lawyer Shardlake is in York at the bequest of Archbishop Cranmer ostensibly to present legal petitions to the King, but he also has a secret task. To watch over the welfare of a Yorkist prisoner, ensuring the man is kept alive and able to be interrogated in London. Shardlake agrees reluctantly, aware he will be keeping alive a man destined for torture and the rack. But a series of odd events make him question his role in York and whether his life is in danger. This is a densely plotted novel with many clues and dead ends as Shardlake tries to find answers – to the murder of a local glazier removing glass from church windows, to an old legend about royal succession, to the connivings and hidden intentions of some of the ladies employed by the Queen, and why an old enemy
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Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read Susanna Beard @SusannaBeard25 #books #Pooh

Today I’m delighted to welcome psychological crime writer Susanna Beard. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is Winnie-the-Pooh by AA Milne. “I first read this collection of stories in 1972 when I was an A-level English student at Pate’s Grammar School in Cheltenham. Our wonderful English teacher, Miss Smith – probably the only teacher in our school who inspired me — would read from it at the end of term. We would have worked hard during the term, finished our homework and our exams, and would be looking forward to the holidays. I came to see this book as the ultimate way to wind down. “Whenever things seem overwhelming and difficult, I pick up this book and dip into the world of Christopher Robin, Pooh et al. I’m transported into their kind, friendly, uncomplicated lives and live for a short time in the Hundred Acre Wood with them, observing nature and enjoying the company of friends. AA Milne writes with humour, compassion and simplicity, yet the stories are so insightful and the messages universal. “I’m drawn to this book by the memory of my teacher sitting on one of our desks in front of the class, her feet on the chair,
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Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

#BookReview ‘Five Days of Fog’ by Anna Freeman @Anna_F_writes #thriller #crime

Five Days of Fog by Anna Freeman about the queen of a female crime syndicate coming out of prison reminds me of Martina Cole’s books. It is 1952 and as Florrie Palmer waits for her mother Ruby to return home, she must make a decision about the direction of her own life. London remains in the grip of ruins from the war and Florrie is firmly embedded in the family gang, donning disguises to steal, feeling secure in the circle of women who support each other. But she also applies for a job as a telephonist, carefully practising her accent. The action is framed by five days of fog, both physical and perceived. So dense is visibility that cars crash, chemicals cause lung infections and people are coughing up dirt. The fog offers opportunities for thieves but it also disguises the truth and lies told to each other by the gang as they face a turning point. Old lies are perpetuated, new lies told with a smile, some members are out for their own benefit; others are tired of the secrets and politicking, and just want to get back to what they do best. Freeman’s fog is based on the real
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Categories: Book Love.

#BookReview ‘Dark Fire’ by CJ Sansom #Tudor #detective

Dark Fire by CJ Sansom is a story of political intrigue, whodunit and a Tudor weapon of mass destruction. Second in the series about Tudor lawyer Matthew Shardlake, Dark Fire combines two criminal mysteries; the appearance and subsequent disappearance of the alchemical formula to make an ancient terrifying weapon, and the impending trial and expected sentencing of a young woman to death by pressing. Despite a tenuous connection between the two cases, and a somewhat meandering pace at times, I enjoyed this book for its further development of Shardlake, first seen in Dissolution. It is 1540, King Henry VIII wishes to anul his marriage to Anne of Cleves, recommended to him by Thomas Cromwell, and marry instead the teenager Catherine Howard. At the beginning of the book Cromwell’s relationship with Henry is weakening and this imposes time pressure on both the novel and on Shardlake. As the novel opens, the lawyer is defending Elizabeth Wentworth, a teenage girl accused by her family of killing her cousin by pushing him down a well. She languishes in the Hole in the cellars of Newgate Prison and refuses to speak. Shardlake, though convinced of her innocence, despairs of being able to help her. The alchemical
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Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read… Sue Featherstone @SueF_Writer #books #humour #chicklit

Today I’m delighted to welcome chick lit novelist Sue Featherstone. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie. “It’s hard to pin down a single Porridge & Cream read because there are a number of old favourites that fit into my comfort-read category. Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels, for instance, Noel Streatfield’s children’s stories and Josephine Tey’s whodunits. But I’m going to choose Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie, which I first read in my early teens in the late 1960s when I sneaked it off my dad’s bookcase. “Truly, Christie is the queen of crime fiction.” BUY Sue Featherstone’s Bio Sue Featherstone is a Midlander, who has spent most of her life living and working in Yorkshire. Her debut novel A Falling Friend, co-authored with Susan Pape, was published by Lakewater Press in 2016 and a sequel A Forsaken Friend followed in March 2018. The pair, who have also written two journalism text books together, are currently working on the final book in their Friends trilogy. Sue was a journalist and public relations practitioner before moving into academia 20 years ago to teach news and magazine journalism at Sheffield Hallam University. Married with two grown-up daughters, she recently welcomed her first granddaughter Iris who is ‘the
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Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

#Bookreview ‘Down to the Woods’ by @mjarlidge #crimefiction

One thing you know to expect from a DI Helen Grace book; the first theory and suspect she comes up with will not be the killer, usually the second one isn’t either. And you believe her each time. So just when you are wondering who the killer can possibly be, the book races to its conclusion and you never guessed it though the clues are there. Down to the Woods is the eighth in the Grace series by MJ Arlidge. He is expert at twisting, turning, somersaulting the plot and part of the fun as a reader is figuring out the puzzle he has set. In the New Forest, campers are disappearing from their tents and being chased through the isolated woods before being killed. I didn’t dwell on the gruesome bits; I prefer the puzzle part of crime novels, the answers are always with the people. Apart from PD James and Susan Hill, this is the series of crime novels I keep on reading. Why? Because Helen Grace is an unusual heroine; she is strong but vulnerable, confident yet quaking inside, spiky but desperate for companionship. For the moment that support comes from her team. The secondary story of her
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Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read: LM Milford @lmmilford #books #crimefiction

Today I’m delighted to welcome crime writer LM Milford. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is 4.50 From Paddington by Agatha Christie. “My Porridge and Cream novel is 4.50 From Paddington by Agatha Christie. I think it may even be the first Agatha Christie book I read and began my love affair with her writing. It’s the book I pick when I’m feeling tired and want something easy to read. I almost wrote ‘simple to read’ but of course Christie’s plots are never simple. The copy I have is old and battered and I think bought from a second-hand bookshop while browsing. I couldn’t tell you exactly when I read it, but it’s probably back in my early teens and it helped me to find the writing genre where I belong. “Miss Marple is one of my favourite characters. She looks like a fluffy old lady but underneath that outward appearance is a core of steel and a very quick brain. I love the way she solves the crime by using just her wits and her experiences of living in a quiet country village. Her knowledge of the psychology of human behaviour is what makes her so formidable. I also love Lucy Eyelesbarrow, quietly competent and
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Categories: Book Love.

#Bookreview ‘Dissolution’ by CJ Sansom #Tudor #detective

Oh my goodness why have I taken so long to read the Shardlake series by CJ Sansom? I was absolutely gripped by Dissolution, first in this Tudor series of mysteries featuring Matthew Shardlake, commissioner for Thomas Cromwell. And now I want to read all the others. It is 1537. Henry VIII is king and supreme head of the Church of England. A year has passed since Anne Boleyn was beheaded and her successor as queen, Jane Seymour, has just died following childbirth. Cromwell’s team of investigators, or commissioners, are reviewing every monastery across the land. The dissolution of these institutions is expected as Catholic worship is reformed and anglicised. Lawyer Shardlake is sent by Cromwell to the monastery of Scarnsea on the Sussex coast where the investigating commissioner Robin Singleton has been murdered. Cromwell wants a quick solution to the murder so he can tell the king the problem and solution at the same time, and so puts pressure on Shardlake to find the murderer within days. Shardlake is a great central character; a hunchback, as a boy he turned to his studies when sports and girls seemed impossible. ‘My disability had come upon me when I was three, I began
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Categories: Book Love.

#Book review ‘The Comforts of Home’ by @susanhillwriter #crime #thriller

Another Simon Serrailler novel by Susan Hill? I admit to excitement at this, the ninth outing for the Lafferton detective. It is three years since the eighth novel, The Soul of Discretion, and I feared Hill wanted to write about other things and there would be no more. And now, The Comforts of Home. I saved it to read on holiday, in the same way as a child I saved my favourite chocolate bar from my Christmas Selection Box. To be enjoyed at leisure. I admit to forgetting how The Soul of Discretion ended, so the beginning was rather a shock but also fascinating. After life-changing surgery, Serrailler goes to the remote Scottish island of Taransay to convalesce. The descriptions of this bleak but beautiful place made me want to go there. He is quickly accepted by the tight-knit community where mutual support is a necessity, where consequently everyone knows everyone else’s lives in minutiae, but where you know a death is inevitable. As temporary cop-in-charge, given the local force’s short-handedness, Serrailler uncovers a secret no one had guessed. Serrailler’s injury beings a new layer of damage to his solitary wounded soul, he would rather get up and face the day
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Categories: Book Love.

My Porridge & Cream read: Kelly Clayton

Today I’m delighted to welcome crime author Kelly Clayton.  Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is Naked in Death by JD Robb, pen name of Nora Roberts. “I first read Naked In Death over 15 years ago. I was reading a considerable number of books a week and was a regular visitor to the local library. I read most genres but was buried deep in a Nora Roberts phase at the time. I was searching through the Nora books when I realised I had read them all. Panic! So I kept looking along the alphabetical shelf, and almost the next author was JD Robb [Nora Roberts’ pen name for her crime series].  The book, Naked In Death, was the first of a series and it sounded good – set slightly in the future, it followed a New York homicide detective, Eve Dallas. I borrowed it as part of that week’s haul and headed home. I was back at the library the next day for the following two books in the series. The In Death books cover crime, slight sci-fi element (but very subtle), romance, friendship, the destructive nature of humans and how the past doesn’t have to define us. Eve Dallas is a tortured kick-ass
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Categories: Book Love and Porridge & Cream.

Book review: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton is a whodunnit version of Groundhog Day set at a country house party. There is a twist: the Bill Murray character must live each day in a different body, a host, and solve a murder or never escape back to his normal life. I found this to be a tortuous, convoluted and mystifying plot, impossible to review without giving away clues (intentionally or not), but I will have a go. If you like conventional detective stories which follow the rules of crime fiction, presenting a challenge to be solved, this may not be for you. If you like going on a mystery journey where nothing is as it seems, you will like it. Mysteries work when the reader has something to cling onto, to make them identify with a character, to make them care, to give them someone to root for. This story has so many unknowns I spent most of the story in a state of confusion. Like Coco Chanel dressing for the evening and then removing two elements to ensure she wasn’t over-dressed, I finished this book wishing the author had undertaken a similar cutting exercise. The solution to
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Skull Beneath the Skin

A classic closed room whodunit, The Skull Beneath the Skin is the second of only two Cordelia Gray private detective mysteries by PD James. I wonder why she didn’t write more? Gray’s fledgling detective agency is relying on finding missing cats when Sir George Ralston arrives unannounced to request Gray ensure the safety of his actress wife, Clarissa Lisle, at her next performance. Lisle has been receiving threatening letters and worries about freezing on stage. Sir George seems unconvinced of Clarissa’s danger. ‘The job I’m offering is a mixture of functions. You’d be part bodyguard, part private secretary, part investigator and part – well, nursemaid.’ Which sounds unpromising but the job pays well. So Cordelia leaves for Courcy Island, location of an amateur private performance of The Duchess of Malfi in which Lisle will play the starring role. As with all James’ novels, there is a delicious laying of pragmatic fact about those in attendance mixed with literary references and poetry. Of course, Clarissa Lisle is murdered. The police arrive and Cordelia finds herself one of the suspects. There is the usual ragbag of potential murderers. The cuckolded husband; the dying former lover; the pampered stepson; the unsuccessful sister; the silent and
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Categories: Book Love.