Books

The Girl in the Maze – Cathy Hayward

How much can you learn about someone when they have died? For Emma Bowen, in the last few years of Margaret, her mother’s life she has been distant and removed. Her mother was clearly a difficult woman. But Emma discovers some letters that it seems her mother had a past and one that she least expected.

It seems the will is the first of the surprises for Emma and when a painting is left to a friend of Margaret’s, Emma is trying to piece together everything from her mother’s past which she knew nothing about. The solicitor seems to know more than he is willing and allowed to say apart from one thing “some things are better left in the past”.

Then there is the discovery of a birth certificate, a sister, and actions that are wrong at any point in history. The story that the author tells is from the point of view of Emma in the present and Betty, her grandmother, Margaret’s mother in the late 1930s.

As the past is revealed in the present, Emma learns a lot about what happened to the generation before and how it has shaped the generations that follow. I was shocked by events and the secrets that come tumbling out and the ones that are still kept because the truth does not always help resolve the present.

This is with out a doubt a powerful and disturbing novel and not for the fainthearted, with some powerful subjects which will undoubtedly upset. The impact of the storyline will stay with me for a long time.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

The Girl in the Maze is out now.

Books

Call of the Penguins – Hazel Prior

We are now a year on from meeting Veronica McCreedy, now at 87 there cannot be possibly anywhere else she can go in the world. But then if David Attenborough can do it, so can Veronica.

And when inspired by the delightful Daisy, who at nine has no fear and can only see the good in everything despite the problems she currently faces, Veronica and Daisy this time find themselves miles away from home and looking at penguins yet again.

So whilst we are taken to the Southern hemisphere and the penguins there with Daisy and Veronica and the promise of a television nature programme being filmed. We are also taken back to Locket Island, to the place Veronica first visited where she left behind her grandson Patrick and Pip the beautiful Adelie penguin that started this adventure off.

Life is not being easy for any of them, isolated in different parts of the world and with differing troubles Hazel Prior takes us on quite an emotional journey as there are reunions, discoveries and death. Amongst it all we get to meet Petra the Rockhopper and Tony the Macaroni who bring as much joy to the page as Pip did previously and all the characters do.

I thought the first book was original but it has been surpassed by this one and if I recommend anything, I would say read them both one after the other, for the sheer joy it will bring you and the uniqueness of Hazel Prior’s writing.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

Call of the Penguins is out now.

Books

The Mitford Vanishing – Jessica Fellowes

Following the fifth Mitford, Jessica we are back with Louisa Cannon who it seems cannot escape the pull that the Mitford Sisters seem to have on her.

Louisa, settled and married to Guy a former policeman and with a small daughter, life is full and busy. With their own private investigation business starting to prove busy, Louisa finds herself intrigued by a client who comes to ask about her missing sister when she has no luck with the police. Having watched how sisters can relate to each other Louisa says she will help.

Then Nancy Mitford contacts Louisa and says that her younger sister Jessica, known as Decca has gone missing. What are the chances of two cases at work to do with missing sisters? Knowing the pull that the Mitford’s have both Louisa ang Guy concentrate on trying to locate Jessica.

But the world is rapidly changing, it is 1937. Negotiating peace seems to be the order of the day between Britain and Germany to prevent a war, whilst in Spain a civil war is already raging. Louisa and Guy find themselves travelling to Spain both separately and together to where it seems Jessica has decided to run away to.

Along with Jessica’s cousin, Esmond Romilly, the pull of doing the right thing and supporting what you believe in is a driving factor in this race across Europe. Despite war, wedding bells are mentioned and it seems both the Mitford’s and the Romilly’s have a lot to lose in this potential partnership.

Can Louisa and Guy give everyone the answers that they are looking for? Will Jessica realise the conflict she has brought on an already divided family? And what of the other missing women, does she know Jessica Mitford?

Following the previous novels, Jessica Fellowes cleverly blends, factual events, the truth, real life characters with fiction and gives you a crime story that you can lose yourself in as well as learn some history along the way. Whilst I don’t think this is the stronger of the books, it is still a good read, but unless you know your history and the story of the Mitford’s then a lot of it may be lost on you. I recommend starting at the beginning of this series and indulging.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

The Mitford Vanishing is out now.

If you wish to start this series then you need to go back to

The Mitford Murders – Jessica Fellowes – Nancy Mitford

Bright Young Dead – Jessica Fellowes – Pamela Mitford reissued as The Mitford Affair

The Mitford Scandal – Jessica Fellowes – Diana Mitford

The Mitford Trial – Jessica Fellowes – Unity Mitford

Books

Winter at Cliff’s End Cottage – Sheila Norton

You could almost be forgiven you were about to embark on reading some gothic novel about a reclusive women who lives in a cottage on the cliff edge, where strange sounds come from and that local villagers think of as a witch and that the lady is probably a witch.

However what you get with this new novel from Sheila Norton is something much much more and I thoroughly enjoyed the developing friendship between two lonely women across the generations.

Stella lives at Cliff’s End Cottage, it has been her home since she was in her early twenties, now in her eighties, as she is slowing down the cottage is slowly disappearing as the cliff begins to erode, taking part of the cliff face with it often. Everyone thinks she should move, but Stella is determined to stay.

Holly, single mum to the wonderful Maisie, is a freelance journalist and part time cleaner and determined to make her new piece for a magazine stand out she deicides to go out and see this woman at Cliff’s End Cottage. Faced initially with suspicion, a strange respect grows between these two women. With plenty of home made cake and tea made in a teapot, Holly starts to listen to Stella’s story.

As Holly finds out about Stella’s life, so do we, as we are taken back to Stella as a five year old evacuee, with a cockney accent and away from everything she knows. Until she sees the sea and decides that perhaps this is the best place. As Stella grows, she makes friends and decides to take up violin lessons. Those memories of the past are still very much in the present and it seems that the secrets of Stella are not all that they seem.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable read and one that you can lose yourself in as the wind batters the rain against the window and you can snuggle down and simply escape. I enjoyed all the strands of the story whether it be past or present and they weaved together nicely. Nothing is shied away from or made light of and it really was an impactful book about how friendships can come and go at any time during your life and that age is no barrier. All friendships can show us lies and truths, coldness and warmth, hate and love and we can learn from them all.

A warm hug of a book for all those that need it.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

Winter at Cliff’s End Cottage is out now.

Books

A Three Dog Problem – S.J.Bennett

This is the second in what I hope to be a series of books about HM The Queen helping to solve mysteries all the while going about state business and unassuming having no idea what is really going not just in the world outside of those palace walls, but certainly inside of them too.

Back is APS (Assistant Private Secretary) Rozie who fulfilled something The Queen had been looking for and became her partner in crime solving. When out on a visit The Queen spots a painting that used to be hanging outside her bedroom door, she asks Rozie to make some discreet enquiries about its odd misplacement from the palace walls to the walls of the Royal Navy.

When a body is found in the palace swimming pool, suicide is suspected and seems to be the neatest conclusion, but all is not what it seems about the deceased. Opening up a can of poison pen letters, missing items, rare paintings and secret tunnels it seems Rozie and her boss have a lot to consider.

Can a conclusion be reached before there is more murders and perhaps The Queen has to start considering a new APS?

For me you do really need to have read the first one to get a sense of whose everyone is and how Rozie comes to be in the position she is in as well. It is terribly (in a good way!) British and may not translate across other countries, but there are plenty of references to recent events from Brexit, Trump election and the like that it is very much a book of it’s time. All the Royal stuff is a fascinating bonus!

This is the perfect cosy crime book and the fact it features The Queen as one of the main characters just brings me sheer joy. Why shouldn’t she have her own fun, with only a small select few knowing about it!

A great fun distracting read needed in these turbulent times.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

A Three Dog Problem is out now.

Books

December Roundup

Another strange December, will they ever be the same again? Well the reading luckily stayed the same and I had plenty of time for it.

Plenty of time for making a dent in the ever expanding Netgalley list – note to self, must try harder. Further note to self – this is probably not achievable but always worth a go, like reading more books on my shelf.

I did that with Delia Owens – Where the Crawdads Sing. A bit late to the party with this one perhaps, but it was a lovely book to be lost in and one that was tangibly in my hand for me to experience. I can see why it was so popular.

Another actual” book was the last Christmas book I read for the year, I think I was all Christmas booked out by mid November, but I had seen Cathy Bramley – The Merry Christmas Project and knew it would be a prefect gentle read, well written and would be joyous in these uncertain times.

When everything around is you uncertain we do tend to go back to what we know, and all my other reads were from authors I had read before.

In terms of murder and history I was delighted to be taken along the coast from me with Merryn Allingham – Murder on the Pier. 1950s rural England, quite bucolic if it wasn’t for the dead bodies!

Further back a few decades, to the last years of the 1930s and this time to Hong Kong with the delightful young adult book Robin Stevens – A Spoonful of Murder, Now on Hazels home ground so to speak, Daisy takes more of a back seat and doesn’t quite like not being in the spotlight.

Staying in the 1930s with Jessica Fellowes – The Mitford Vanishing. War is clearly looming in Europe and it all depends on which side you wish to be on. And for one of the sisters it will be a decision that splits a family even further. I look forward to seeing how the final Mitford sister is treated in this series.

Of course using ‘real’ people in your stories is a good vehicle to tell a tale and certainly The Queen has been busy in many a book I have read. She is back this time with her crime solving team in S.J. Bennett – A Three Dog Problem. It seems her keen eye has spotted a problem and she sets up everyone else to solve it, whilst playing the innocent. Or so you think!

Playing the innocent is something you could say about Veronica McCreedy, her ability to seemingly be a dotty old lady with a passion for penguins is reignited in Hazel Prior – Call of the Penguins, the follow up to Away With the Penguins. There is something so gentle about these two books and if you want a recommendation then please pick up the first and lose yourself.

Books and subsequently stories can take you away to far away places and to the ends of the earth, even when that end of the earth might be claimed back by the sea. Shelia Norton – Winter at Cliff’s End Cottage is a hug of a book, which brings cross generational friendships to the forefront of the story and teaches us what we can learn and also benefit from when you expand your horizons.

Hugs of books are the best sometimes, Christie Barlow – Heartcross Castle part of the Love Heart Lane series is one of those. Any of the series is but this one particular touched at my heart strings and reminds everyone on the importance of being yourself – something I try to do every day!

So that was December, and that was 2021. I have yet to do my year round of up books, I need to decide what format I want it to take and perhaps along the way I will do a round up of all the craft projects I have completed – who knows. As I sit here typing this I have all these fanciful ideas of what I will do with this blog, but they never materialise or they tail off after an initial spurt of inspiration. Perhaps I will go with the flow….

Books

Murder on the Pier – Merryn Allingham

This is the second in the Flora Steele series of novels, which features the aforementioned and crime writer Jack Carrington set in the 1950s in the South Downs.

Time has moved slightly on, since we last saw Flora. Determined to keep the bookshop going and concentrating more on than that than murders it seems that in Abbeymead, peace has resumed.

On a day trip to Brighton, Flora does not expect to find a body floating under the pier and even more she doesn’t expect it to be someone she knows; Polly Dakers.

Polly had her whole life in front of her and was determined to be a model and be noticed, but probably not in this way. Clearly looking like an accident to others, Flora is convinced there is some foul play at work and she is determined to find the truth.

However, with possible suspects and motives stacking up, Flora’s determination finds herself hanging on to life on more than one occasion. All the while at her side is crime writer Jack. A strong friendship developed in the first novel is progressing nicely in this one and it seems that both Flora and Jack are destined to be more than friends. That is if Flora stops getting both of them into scrapes!

This was a delightful sojourn to a cosy crime, and I was thoroughly delighted to have worked out the murderer which is a rare occurrence for me. Always great to have seen the clues and see how it all fits together in the end.

Great historical cosy crime to take you away from everything, even if someone people meet a grizzly end, there seems to be just a gentleness of Flora, Jack and the other residents of Abbeymead. I look forward to going back there.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

Murder on the Pier is out now.

Books

The Girl from Bletchley Park – Kathleen McGurl

I am always fascinated about stories to do with Bletchley Park, whether fact or fiction, so this choice of book was a must for me.

1942 – Pamela has the chance to go to university and study maths. But she has the opportunity to do something for the war effort and it seems rather unrealistically her skills are in need. Deferring university she finds herself, in the uniform of a Wren and at Bletchley Park. Here she meets lifelong friends, Clarissa, Norah, Edwin and Frank. But whilst she is swept away in the work of the Park and the thought of potential love there is something not quite right about one of these people. Where exactly do their loyalties lie in a time of war?

Julia is Pamela’s granddaughter. Julia’s life seems idyllic, own software company, big house, two growing sons and a happy marriage. However it seems that all is not what it seems in the present day. Julia’s time is completely filled, but when with the help of her brother she find some photos of her grandmother in the place that was Bletchley Park, Julia becomes fascinated by a part of her grandmothers life she knew nothing about.

Whilst the secrets of Pamela’s life comes out through photos and reminiscences of a friend, it is the solace with which Julia finds her self seeking whilst her own life has imploded with it’s own worst kept secrets. As life changes beyond recognition for Julia, she finds herself in the position of thinking about secrets both past and potentially future.

This dual timeline novel was interesting, I liked the strength of both of the main female characters, but found the men to very weak. Perhaps that was the point? But I would have like a bit more of a mix. I could positively have shaken Julia’s husband. This is a great insight into the work of those at Bletchley Park and a good piece of historical fiction.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

The Girl from Bletchley Park is out now.

Books

A Murder Inside – Frances Brody

It is 1969 and this is the first in what will be a series of books from the author. Dealing with strong female characters find us the readers meeting Nell Lewis, the new governor at HMP Brackerly Edge in Yorkshire.

This is to be the first open prison for women and Nell is tasked with bringing this palace into a more modern setting, not just in terms of buildings but also those who work within the walls, the grounds and the local area.

However, there is some background with these female prisoners who are towards the end of their sentences. Surely it can’t have anything to do with the previous governor being found dead his garden – found dead by Nell herself.

Nell finds herself drawn back to her previous days as a WPC and calls on the support of a former colleague all the while trying to help these women, all who have their own paths to forge once they can escape the prison system and stigma.

This is a great start to a series and the setting and the idea behind it is unique and one that fascinates me. I hope we don’t have to wait too long before we can catch up with Nell and see how HMP Brackerly Edge is faring as the world starts changing around them all.

If you are a fan of the historical cosy mystery, female dominated and like the idea of starting a new series then I think this is one to keep your eye on.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

A Murder Inside is out now.

Books

Christmas Carols and a Cornish Cream Tea – Cressida McLaughlin

Meredith is not a fan of Christmas, and does her utmost to avoid for the last ten years. However her new job in a Cornish gift shop means that she has no choice but to embrace the festive season.

When her boss wants to give hampers to the great and good of Porthglow, Meredith finds herself suddenly thrust into the festive season. Coupled with helping her best friend Anisha to create a last minute Christmas spectacular for Porthglow, Meredith cannot help become swept away.

Then enters Finn, as Meredith emerges from her cold water swimming, she meets Finn. And he seems to keep popping up everywhere around the little village and volunteers to help deliver the hampers. Finn embraces the true Christmas spirit and is determined for Meredith to see what Christmas can really be like, but he is not telling all and seems to be keeping something hidden.

This booked is packed full of Christmas, Cornish coastlines, Cold Water swimming, Carols, Charm and plenty of Curiosity to keep the reader guessing about whether; the festive hampers will be a success; the blossoming relationship between Finn and Meredith and who really owns the house on the cliff, that Meredith has dreamed about for a long time.

This is not a follow on from the previous Cornish Cream Tea novels, but some familiar faces do appear, but no matter if this is your first encounter with this authors work. It is an excellent Christmas read to get you in the spirit full of light, life and love. Perfect!

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

Christmas Carols and a Cornish Cream Tea is out now.