Books

An Expert in Murder – Nicola Upson

This is the first Josephine Tey novel and having read her second first I thought I would go back to where it started.

Nicola Upson has come upon the idea of using a real life author as a character in this crime series. Tey is not used as the main solving character that falls to Detective inspector Archie Penrose, but Upson weaves in the relationship that Josephine Tey has with his family, and him as well and what all links them together.

Tey happens to bump into a fan of her work on the train south from Inverness, and they strike up an instant friendship for the duration of the journey. However, tragedy strikes when the young girl is found dead, some moments after having said goodbye to Josephine. In steps Archie Penrose and he begins to discover that the murderer has left a number of odd clue that seem to all relate back to Josephine and her(written under a pseudonym) current play running in the West End, Richard of Bordeaux.

We are taken into the wonderful age of the Thirties; the Great War still has memories for a number of people, despite the threat of something else brewing over on the continent. The theatre is beginning to take off and plays, actors and agents are all fighting for something spectacular to put on. However amongst all this joy, there are many harbouring secrets and lies and another death causes Penrose much heartache as he realises that maybe Tey is the intended victim all along. The outcome is probably not what you would expect despite having worked some of it, it still came as a slight surprise, now I think I may have missed a clue or two, or maybe it is just the strength of Upson’s writing which took me to the end of the story without working it out in the first few pages.

Thrilling and exciting story, with many lovely characters, Penrose’s cousin Lettie and Ronnie bring humour to the blackest of moments and fit in very nicely with the back story. There are some racier moments put yourself as if you were in reading this in the Thirties, homosexuality was still illegal, and there is no hint but directness about what is going on between some of the cast in the theatres. I am sure it would have made some question such a book, however we are reading this in the twenty first century and perhaps now look at things differently, with the knowledge that we now have.
Yes it has elements of Agatha Christie and the ilk – but so what. It is a different way of making the basic murder mystery genre work and I think successfully, certainly to keep me reading once I was gripped by the whole story.

This review was first published on Amazon in early 2010 and is featured on this blog as part of my look back at the last ten years of blogging. 

Books

The Waffle House on the Pier – Tilly Tennant

The Waffle House on the Pier has been in Sea Salt Bay for what feels like forever and for Sadie it is a place she has grown up in and when the threat of it closing and being sold sees Sadie make some rather immediate life changing decisions.

Sadie feels that the Waffle House needs to be kept in the family and even though her grandfather has now sadly died, her grandmother can still help Sadie with keeping it going. The family have other ideas. But Sadie is determined.

However, Sadie is perhaps hiding from the truth, the truth that maybe her grandmother April is no longer capable of running the Waffle House nor perhaps even help there. And what does Sadie know about running a business? It seems everything and everyone is against her.

Being back in Sea Salt Bay means that Sadie is back with her friends Natalie and Georgia as well as in closer contact with her ex Declan. He has moved on, but has Sadie? When Luke bumps into her, perhaps she can finally see a different life in the town?

I was expecting one thing from this book, bringing a waffle house back from the brink, a common theme to be had amongst popular women’s fiction: cafes, pubs, shops all would fit the bill. I did not get that, this book very much focuses on family and how it copes dealing with death and the worry of those left behind and their strange behaviour. The waffle house became secondary and whatever was related to that part of the plot was rushed and glossed over.

Sadie’s family were strong and dominant throughout, in fact I could see why Sadie always felt pushed around by them, but I could not connect to her as much as some of the other secondary characters.  We went from family gatherings and debates to arguments and back again. This left me feeling a bit disappointed by the book.

It is a good book to while away a few hours, but lacked the fun and humour that I was expecting which might have made it stand out from some of the other books I have read so far this year.

 

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

The Waffle House on the Pier is published on 25 June. 

I have found Tilly Tennant’s books a bit hit and miss, not as consistent as you get with some of the authors I read and I felt like this book was a chore to read. It should never be that. I knew I have felt like this before about her work and I think perhaps it is time for me to move on from this author for a while. 

Books

June Roundup

What a start to the summer, as lockdown eases and we wait to see what happens next. It has sometimes been an absolute necessity to escape into the pages of a good book. Even better when you make a dent not just in your netgalley list but books on shelves too.

There are some nice gaps on the shelves now as I read Ken Bruce – Tacks of My Years. Published over ten years ago now, I think I picked it up in a charity shop. As a keen Radio 2 listener, it was great to put some background to the man who has probably been with me throughout my childhood and now my adulthood. A lot has happened in those last ten years and I wonder what Ken would write about now?

Another one gone is Jessie Burton – The Muse. The first book of this author that I have read, despite having watched The Miniaturist when it was televised a few Christmas back. Interestingly a book featuring black characters, set in the 1960s with mixed race relationship and the strange possibility of women being better than men at something came at the time when the Black Lives Matter was taking over the news broadcasts. I had no idea when I picked up the book to read. I was intrigued, it was wonderfully written and the story set in 1930s Spain just before revolution was most fascinating.

Finally a recent purchase which was on the shelf for hardly a moment Katie Fforde – Thyme Out. When all else fails and you are feeling out of sorts, Katie Fforde is bound to cheer and she did with a book I had not read before, so another one ticked of the oeuvre!

Reading old books and books that have been on my shelf for a while is incomplete contrast to the recent books that I have read and the ones that have yet to be published. I was somewhat disappointed with Tilly Tennant – The Waffle House on the Pier, it could have been a lot more and had a bit more to it. Tilly’s books are rather a hit or a miss with me in recent years.

In contrast an author who I came back to and have enjoyed immensely since those first novels is Ali McNamara – Kate and Clara’s Curious Craft Shop. This books is glorious, of course being set in Cornwall as many a book is nowadays does help but the dual narrative, the mystery and the wonder that is crafts makes it a must book for me.

Another place slightly closer to home is the Isle of Wight and it was a coincidence that is where I was taken with Carole Matthews – Sunny Days and Sea Breezes. A wonderful tale of boats, beaches and bossy friends. Guaranteed sunshine without leaving your house!

You need the sun if you are going to run a festival so it seems that everything is in there favour in Katie Ginger – Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay. I wait in trepidation in how winter and Christmas is going to come to Swallowtail Bay.

Two books which don’t fit into any particular genre but I feel must be read for many different reasons, some I have yet to even work out myself.

Rachel Joyce – Miss Benson’s Beetle, the latest took me very much back to the debut novel. It had that gentleness of it, despite the plot and you could almost feel yourself out there on a expedition yourself, in uncharted territory – a bit like the book.

This has to be on all my lists for 2020, Brenda Davies – The Girl Behind the Gates. It is a difficult read but it is one that must be read. It is both a disturbing but fascinating read and one is compelled to be drawn in and wince at the injustice, the treatment and more than anything the reality hat this actually happened. You need a strong constitution to read it.

Quite a mix of books, which is the best way. Sometimes reading too much of the same, can result in nothing more that a regurgitation of plot, setting and character. I like to think this month I have captured plenty of variety.

Which leads me on very nicely to more variety in the shape of the 2020 Six in Six meme. Click here to see all about it and please join in if you can. You just might add some more books to your list.

Books

Murder at the Playhouse – Helena Dixon

Kitty Underhay is definitely on track to be a popular favourite amongst fans of cosy mysteries and with this her third adventure.

Kitty having still not made it up with Matthew Bryant the debonair ex Army Captain and now private investigator from the previous two novels, she finds herself rather lost and missing him.

Matthew is much in the same mood, but that is all forgotten when a knock at his door reveals the police come to arrest him for murder.

Kitty rushes to his aid.

The deceased is a young actress on the cusp of something bigger, Pearl Bright, found strangled with one of Matthew’s bootlaces. There is a straightforward believable explanation from Matthew.

Stanley Davenport a theatre impresario and on verge of a knighthood is as well as Matthew’s neighbours seemed convinced it his him and that there is no need to look any further, especially not at Stanley Davenport and his family and associates seem to have a lot to hide.

Kitty manages through Mrs Craven to get to know the Davenport’s and she finds herself centre stage with helping with a local theatre show for a charity. Being this involved means she might be able to get to the truth if it all plays out right.

It will be alright on the night – surely?

Regular characters are back, including the insurmountable Mrs Craven as well as Kitty’s maid at the hotel, Alice who is a great character and I am pleased she is featuring more dominantly. Her sound advice and obvious observations are a great for Kitty.

The sub plot of Kitty’s missing mother is still throughout this book and Matthew is kept occupied with this and we start to find out a bit more of what might have happened to her.

All in all a great mystery with good characters both likeable and absolutely dreadful that you love them and the continual mystery makes we excited to read book four!

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

Murder at the Playhouse is published on 30 June. 

Catch up with Kitty from the beginning:

Murder at the Dolphin Hotel

Murder at Enderley Hall 

 

Books

Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay – Katie Ginger

If you want something organised in Swallowtail Bay then you go to Hetty. She can do pretty much anything, she is not afraid to get her hands dirty and whether it is anniversary parties or birthday parties for hyped up children she can deliver. Events management is what she does the absolute best.

But Hetty is looking for that next big project and when she thinks she can pull off bringing back the local Strawberry Festival bigger and better than ever before within four weeks she sees it as a make or break moment.

The only problem she can foresee is persuading the residents of Thornhill Manor that it is a good idea and that it will be beneficial for them. John Thornhill, youngest son takes a lot of convincing, but it seems Hetty has something that he has never encountered before.

As plans gather pace with, food stalls, bouncy castles, fairground rides and a outdoor cinema, it seems that Hetty is going to pull it all together.

Trouble is she is also having to deal with her mother who has made decision which shocks not just Hetty but her father as well.

Then Ben, the man Hetty finished with is suddenly back in her life with a plan – one that Hetty could never see coming.

Hetty is not the only one having trouble, John Thornhill is dealing with the fallout of his father’s actions, his mother is retreating further into her shell and his older brother is about to make the worse decision for the family without consulting anyone. Surely he can rely on Jaz his personal assistant to sort out everything else – it seems not.

So much is packed into this story, that you almost forget about the success of the festival. Brought to life from visiting potential fairgrounds, tasting food as well as the wonders of dealing with the general public. It feels like you are there walking round the stalls, tasting the food, listening to the music, letting it all wash over you.

Of course that is what Hetty and John want you to feel? What do they feel and will they be able to solve it all before the festival finishes and becomes the success they both want?

A second visit to Swallowtail Bay, but it doesn’t matter if this is your first, a great summer story for any point in the year.

Like perfect strawberries with a big dollop of luscious cream on top – simply irresistible.

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

Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay is published on the 24 June. 

 

Books

The Little Shop in Cornwall – Helen Pollard

Where better to be than by the sea. Where you can breathe in the clean air, listen to the waves crash and retreat against the shore as your worries drift away and you start to heal.

What better place to visit that Healing Waves, Claudia’s little shop at the end of the beach road. Claudia escaped here from her frantic city life and re-balanced herself and made friends with the locals, her neighbours and the tourists that come to her shop. With her cat Pudding, Claudia has found the life she wants.

Jason and teenage daughter Millie, have moved to be nearer Millie’s grandparents. Life has been tough for them in recent months and Jason is hoping a change of scenery will be what they both need. What he wasn’t expecting was Millie’s fascination with Claudia’s shop and her interest in things that Jason has no understanding of.

Jason is scared of the unknown which is why he has taken an immediate dislike to what he thinks Claudia stands for. When he learns of a new shop opening in the seaside town and that Claudia’s friends are perhaps slightly usual he starts to question the rights and wrongs of his move and the influence over impressionable teenagers.

But it seems that someone else in the town is none too take with Claudia and her shop, as natural disasters and man made ones seem to hit Claudia perhaps there is some sort of curse hanging around.

Help comes for Claudia where she least expects it and it seems that opposites can attract and that getting under the skin of someone and making them question is perhaps what she has been missing in life.

A bright sunny book which has so much spark in it, the interaction between some of the characters jumps right off the page and you find yourself fully immersed in the story and the setting. I was writing my own worries and problems on the sand and watched the sea take them away.

Escape to Cornwall this summer and heal all your troubles and meet some new friends. I hope we get to return here again soon.

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

The Little Shop in Cornwall is published on 15 June. 

 

 

Books

The Little Teashop in Tokyo – Julie Caplin

Julie Caplin this time takes us half a world away to Japan, Tokyo in her wonderful series of Romantic Escapes. If you cannot go holiday, then let the holiday come to you.

Fiona is a travel blogger and is always found with her camera, she almosts hides behind that lens and her blog but given the opportunity to go to Tokyo and the prospect of an exhibition at work, means that Fiona needs to get out and find whos he really is. Going to Tokyo to be mentored by a famous photographer is an ideal opportunity.

Except that the famous photographer is not able to help and sends Gabe instead.

Fiona knows Gabe from an rather embarrassing episode ten years ago and he broke her heart. But does Gabe recognise Fiona?

Fiona stays with three generations of one family above a tea shop and she is immediately immersed in Japanese life. But Gabe seems very reluctant to mentor her and thinks he can simply dump her at various tourist spots and scuttle off and hide.

Fiona steps out from behind the lens and challenges Gabe in more than one way and as the sparks fly, memories are reignisted and both Gabe and Fiona find that photography is not the only thing they may have in common.

Can Fiona risk having her heart broken a second time?

Can Gabe remember why he enjoys photography?

This is a wonderful sweet romance with a few ups and downs as you would expect in such a book. However the setting and clearly the research that has gone into the setting – Tokyo – is apparent to see. I was transported to Mount Fuji, to the cherry blossoms that I could almost smell them. The tea ceremony and the meaning behind the old traditional Japan and the bright vibrant modern version that is emerging is covered so well in this book. As with all previous books, food makes a welcome appearance and you can visualise the plate as Fiona is introduced to whole a new food culture.

This is a book to transport you away to somewhere else, to somewhere you may never get to visit and you can do it all for the cost of a book. What better form of escapism.

Where next for Julie Caplin to explore? Can I put in a request and perhaps go to Canada?

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

The Little Teashop in Tokyo is published on 11th June. 

Have a world tour so far with Julie Caplin – all links to my reviews. 

The Little Cafe in Copenhagen

The Little Brooklyn Bakery

The Little Paris Patisserie

The Northern Lights Lodge

The Secret Cove in Croatia

 

 

 

Books

Daughters of Cornwall – Fern Britton

In a change from perhaps what I was expecting from Fern Britton, I am transported to Cornwall as is to be expected but I am submerged into the past in this excellent piece of historical fiction.

Clara is making the journey from London to Cornwall after the Great War to meet the family that she could have been apart of. She is taking with her a secret, one that only one other person knows about.

Hannah wants to know more about her past but her mother’s reluctance makes her even more curious. With the outbreak of the Second World War looming, Hannah and her brothers want to make a difference. They don’t think they can from their corner of Cornwall. But Cornwall always calls them back.

Caroline discovers her families history through a trunk which looks like it has come all the way from Penang. She embarks on a discovery. Caroline wants to show her daughter how a life can be lived and that all it takes is determination and an inner strength that all the women in the family clearly have.

This story starts like a whisper as all the characters are introduced and you are immediately caught up in love affairs, war, secrets and lies. The book is rich in description at the breathtaking views of Cornwall of the horror of war, of death and birth and shows how strong women can be no matter what the path in life they have chosen to be on. as the secrets come tumbling out or are kept hidden until the end, the story draws you right in. A story that will stay with you long after you have finished reading.

If you like Fern Britton’s previous novels this will be a change – but it is worth every word on the page.

Great for fans of historical fiction with multiple narratives, a book to get lost in.

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

Daughters of Cornwall is published on the 11th June. 

 

Books

The Second Chance Hotel – Rachel Dove

If you enjoy Cornwall as a backdrop for your stories then you are going to adore the latest novel from Rachel Dove.

April has runaway, now divorced she has put as much distance between her old life in Yorkshire and her new life at Shady Pines Chalet Park on the Cornish coast. She has not just escaped their she has bought it and ploughs her money and her life into starting again.

Cillian O’Leary can’t runaway far he has young daughter Orla to deal with and an ex partner who does not value their daughter at all. He needs to start again so when his old job as general handyman comes up again at Shady Pines he spots his chance in starting again.

He didn’t bank on the whirlwind that is April though nor permanent curmudgeonly resident Martha’s reluctance to accept change.

April and Cillian’s burgeoning friendship and relationship seems doomed from the start. Not only trying to contend with April’s clumsiness and lack of confidence. Cillian constantly sstomps about grunting and falls into a sulk over the smallest thing.

But it is Orla’s innocence which keeps drawing April back and makes her realise what the future may have held if she had stayed where she was.

Martha starts to soften as she can see what settling for one life and love can do for you and when relations with April that slightly she lets her in to a secret, to one that will perhaps give her a second chance to.

This is a lovely book to lose yourself in, perhaps not as polished as it could be, a bit clunky in parts and I found myself a bit lost with who was who. Not sure though if that was me or the writing. However, these points are easily overlooked and the joy of the story comes off the pages and a perfect holiday escape if you cannot get to one yourself. I could see myself waking up in a chalet and walking the cliffs and eating fish and chips!

 

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

The Second Chance Hotel is published on the 29th May. 

Books

Highland Fling – Sara Sheridan

I have been absorbed with this series since the beginning. For fans of murder mysteries set in the past this is for you. To make it different from many other series of books out there – this has strong female characters, it is the 1950s, racism is still clearly prevalent and the memories of war are still not quite in the long forgotten past. Mainly based in and around Brighton this time we take a train journey to the Highlands.

For Mirabelle this is a holiday with Superintendent Alan McGregor her beau and very much intellectual equal. They are to visit Alan’s family home and meet some of his family, the Robertsons.

Being embraced into a glamorous family life with big houses, servants and cocktails is a bit of a shock for Mirabelle but she finds she instantly warms to these people.

Then a body is found in the orangery.

No matter where Mirabelle or Alan go, crime seems to surround them.

The body is an American fashion designer with links to Russia. As the Cold War is very much at the forefront of everyone’s minds, it seems that there may be more to this murder.

The urge to investigate and find out what happens is too much to resist and when it seems there is mysteries unsolved about the house and the Highlands, Mirabelle finds herself questioning people about the murder but also her own actions and limitations to her relationship with Alan.

This holiday is going to be one to remember for them.

Great to see Mirabelle and Alan’s relationship flourish and there is no doubt that they are not sticking to the conventions of the time. Even the Robertsons recognise this and it was a breath of fresh air to see such things, but to also know that is was still of time of great change.

Whilst the world changed, so did Mirabelle and Alan. The Highlands was definitely a place they could say was a turning point for them.

A big house murder mystery, spies, servants, ghosts and secrets. Everything you want from a book and one of the best examples of this type of story.

For me well written and constructed and probably the best of the series (so far) and whilst I always recommend starting at the beginning, this would be a good book to dip into as the main characters are away from their normal lives and surroundings. You can then have the joy of catching up with the rest of the series – lucky you!

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

Highland Fling is published on 4 June.