Books

The Darkest Evening – Ann Cleeves

Making her way home through a blizzard, DCI Vera Stanhope comes across an abandoned car, the door open, the driver clearly gone but in the back a small boy.

Taking the boy into her safety she then makes her way to the nearest house.

That house happens to be Brockburn, a big house, slightly worse for wear and one Vera recognises from her past. This is where her father, Hector grew up.

Inside the house is a party and Vera is about to interrupt them.

Outside in the snow is a dead body.

Are all of these occurrences related?

It is all pointing to a new investigation for Vera and her team, including Joe Ashworth, Vera’s closest colleague and Holly, desperately trying to impress and live up to Vera’s expectations and her own.

I always enjoy a ‘big house’ type mystery and this one is no different, peeping behind doors we see secrets of Vera’s relatives as well as the comings and goings of those that live on and near Brockburn.

By nature of the setting, the wilds of the Northumberland setting and the fact that it is December, Christmas is round the corner it is a dark book – the unknown is a dark place as is revisiting parts of Vera’s past which have an affect on perhaps the way she deals with the investigation and all of the potential suspects.

Nothing is quite as it seems and everyone is holding something in the dark, but through the shadows, Vera stumbles across the truth. Will it be the one her family accept?

In the main I know of Vera from the ITV series broadcast in the UK. The books are better but with that knowledge of the wonderful Brenda Blethyn’s portrayal you can hear her voice and smile wryly at her put downs as she gets to the truth. If you ever want a detective’s character to pop from the page then Ann Cleeves Vera Stanhope is a mighty fine example.

A must for all fans of Cleeves, Vera and good old fashioned detective stories.

 

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

The Darkest Evening, the ninth DCI Vera Stanhope book is out now. 

 

 

 

Books

The Diver and the Lover – Jeremy Vine

The background to this book is fascinating and I was intrigued by the presence of a well known painter, Salvador Dali and one his controversial pieces of art – Christ of Saint John of the Cross. A painting I knew nothing about, which forced me to look it up and to understand the background to it’s creation and subsequently it’s arrival in a Glasgow art gallery in the 1950s.

All of this is subsequently weaved into the book.

Ginny and Meredith, sisters have only just found each other when their father dies and Ginny discovers she has a half sister.

Meredith is traumatised by past experiences and is in an asylum. Ginny becomes her rescuer and with an ulterior motive vows to heal Meredith. This is what leads them to Spain, to Catalonia, where Meredith’s passion for art, is the path that Ginny sees can heal her.

With a famous artist in the area, it seems that Meredith can indulge in this passion. Ginny has her head turned by another passion and when these collide with the politics of the time and the execution of this famous painting, the book takes a somewhat nasty turn.

I wanted to like this book, but I found it descend into a bit of a muddle and mess but it had these brilliantly handled passages of prose which worked so well, especially the affects of the asylum on Meredith.  For me the rest of it did not fit together so well and I found myself skim reading just so I could see how it concluded.

I learnt a lot despite not enjoying the plot and for that I am grateful, but I was left disappointed overall.

 

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

The Diver and the Lover is out now. 

Books

Parish Notices

I hope you are all well in your part of the parish? Trying to stay upbeat and smiley in this part of the parish, especially as it seems that there are changes (and not good ones) on the horizon. I don’t want to bring everyone down with that and to be honest, I am exhausted thinking and discussing it. So what better solace than some books.

You might have missed some of these in recent months

London. Rush Hour.

Seven people started their day thinking it was going to be what they knew.

What they did not know was that they would never get to work.

Seven seemingly random people stabbed.

What connected them all?

Full Review here

The reader is treated to a skilfully written novel, the clues are all there, and whilst I had the wrong person for a while, I did have the right reasons but the most obvious simply passed by Susan Ryeland as well as me! If the lead character can be fooled as much as the reader – the author must be on to something.

A must for all fans of great murder mysteries.

Full Review here

In a retirement village where the facilities are seemingly far superior than your average holiday resort, there is plenty to keep you occupied with various clubs, fitness activities, visits and committee meetings. Just a word of warning, do not park where you shouldn’t!

Much will be made of this book simply because of who it is written by. Richard Osman has a very acerbic wit which is evident in this book and for me it resembled a Wodehouse novel in parts, very character rich. There are plenty of references to typical British places, products and behaviours and it very much centres the setting as well as the plot in that of a British cosy crime novel.

Full Review here

Anyone taking on the task of taking Hercule Poirot and carrying on his tales is gong to always come in for some criticism – not least because it can never be the same. Very true but in a world where nothing is ever going to be the same, it is refreshing to revisit a familiar character doing what he does best – using the little grey cells to solve crime.

If you can think of the best Christie you have read and team it with the best David Suchet Poirot adaptation you have seen then you have captured the essence of this book (and Hannah’s three previous Poirot novels). It works, don’t ask me how it just does.

Full Review here

I promise you there is no reason that I appear to have been on some sort of killing spree with my reading but there is more to come…..

Making her way home through a blizzard, DCI Vera Stanhope comes across an abandoned car, the door open, the driver clearly gone but in the back a small boy.

By nature of the setting, the wilds of the Northumberland setting and the fact that it is December, Christmas is round the corner it is a dark book – the unknown is a dark place as is revisiting parts of Vera’s past which have an affect on perhaps the way she deals with the investigation and all of the potential suspects.

Full review coming to soon to this blog.

The reading has taken a lighter turn as the Christmas books are stacking up fast and I am after some joyous, happy reading for a while.

How’s things in your parish?

Books

A Year at Appleyard Farm – Emma Davies

Previously released as four short stories, covering the four seasons all combined into one book to lose yourself in.

Staring in Winter we meet the main characters who feature throughout all four seasons; Freya and Sam.

Having only recently lost her father, Freya is now struggling to keep hold of Appleyard Farm and it looks like she is going to have to sell to her nearest neighbours, brothers Sam and Stephen. Trouble is there is a lot of history with these three.

As Christmas is looming, Freya throws herself into her mistletoe sales quite literally and it looks like she will be spending her last Christmas alone at Appleyard Farm but a guardian angel seems to be working for Freya and all the history becomes present and it seems that perhaps that and Freya and the farm have a different future.

Moving into Spring, whilst Freya’s story still runs it is in the main dominated by her friend Merry. Embarking on a new adventure in moving, staring up a new business and bringing up a little baby, Merry throws herself into it all.

But the house and shop she has bought has a history and there is something about it all which is seeming into Merry and she has visions of how things should be. The house and it’s previous occupant had a colourful if not sad past and Merry wants to pay tribute to them forever and it seems the house is going to give up all its secrets.

As Summer bursts onto the page, Merry has her dream life up and running, Freya is settling into something different and Willow, another of Freya’s friends appears and she has a plan of her own.

Willow was picked on as a child because of her mother’s strong sixth sense and it seems Willow has inherited it. When a bad dream affects all parts of her life and her husband seems to be drifting away, Willow knows she needs a back up plan – and that plan is ice cream.

What could be better than using ingredients that Freya is growing at her farm as well as foraging in the fields around where she lives, producing glorious products and selling it all in Merry’s shop. As the dreams change, Willow realises she has been carrying something else and it seems that all she hopes is about to come true.

Autumn arrives just as Summer fades and it seems that we are back full circle to Freya and Appleyard Farm, but with relationships progressing, it has suddenly become infectious and love is blossoming in all seasons. Laura thought her love had blossomed and died but she was fascinated by Freya’s regular visits to the graveyard and in turn Freya was fascinated by the wreaths that Laura leaves by the gravestones.

Could the two of them have a potential future together, can Laura provide the decorations that Freya needs and can Freya prove that love can blossom once again?

This is a wonderful book to get completely lost in and experience all four seasons in one day because you will not want to put it down. Emma Davies writes some wonderful stories and they cover so much in emotional depth and are certainly not all fluffy and frothy. A book to be read at any time of the year – because you know no matter what happens the seasons will come round again and again, and next time it might be just the season for you!

 

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

A Year at Appleyard Farm is out now. 

 

 

 

 

Books

Us Three – Ruth Jones

This is the second novel from well known actress and screen writer Ruth Jones. A different take on women’s fiction than her first novel, but extremely enjoyable and captivating. In fact any nonsense about second books being notoriously difficult does not apply in this instance.

Having finished their A-Levels Judith, Lana and Catrin are about to embark on one of those life affirming moments when they take a trip to Greece to celebrate the fact that they have made it thus far and that their long standing friendship since the age of eight will last a life time.

But life has a funny way in playing out and sometimes those moments made when you are eight or eighteen are difficult to maintain throughout life. Especially when you thought it would be forever.

As the book goes on through key moments in all their lives, it is being told from the perspective of each of the girls as they become women, as they move between close friends and further distance. You move from feeling sympathy, to anger throughout the actions of the three women’s lives. I could relate so much to being the ‘third wheel’ in some friendships from my own past, if you can too, then this book is for you!

To say anymore will ruin it for all those who have yet to read it. This is a book full of strong female characters, with such depth and warmth you will think you have known them a lifetime. In fact you can relate to aspects of all of them and I think that is the key to making this an excellent book.

A book about friendships and about how they work and how they don’t. How life choices affect sometimes more than yourself and that sometimes life has a funny way of turning out.

Ruth Jones has this novel writing business cracked!

 

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

Us Three is published on 3rd September. 

 

 

Books

Autumn Skies over Ruby Falls – Holly Martin

Autumn always brings with it, the golden colours of the season’s coming to a close, of everything closing down in preparation for winter before something new and wonderful starts to emerge again in the spring.

It is almost as if Clover Phillips, one of the three sisters who owns the Sapphire Bay Hotel on Jewel Island, knows this. Back now on the island, having left her previous life and not being able to trust anyone she throws herself into her dance classes that have started at the Hotel not just for the guest but the locals as well.

As she sees her older sister Aria so wrapped up in love with Noah and her own twin, Skye battling the love and lust of a long distance relationship, Clover feels that to be able to move on she needs to break out of the fence she has put round herself.

What better way to do that than with a friend. Enter Angel Mazzo who we met in the first novel and who also happens to be Noah’s faithful, dedicated and hardworking assistant. Clover and Angel became friends very quickly.

Back for a while, Angel finds himself at the hotel when it is full and the only spare bed to be found is in Clover’s cottage. What can be wrong with two friends sharing a house?

But both Clover and Angel are starting to look at their life differently and it seems they be ready to change their friendship, their relationship and even themselves.

The book moves along at a step and you are immediately brought into life on the island as the Hotel starts to makes it mark for everyone. Halloween events are a plenty and give time for Clover and Angel to find out what each other are really like, without proper dates.

But surely proper dates are what Clover wants?

But the Angel doesn’t really do commitment does he?

Can friends ever move into other territory and can then ever go back?

As the seasons change and Autumn moves to Winter, Clover and Angel move towards a different future but will there be the happy ever after that Clover, Angel and of course the reader wants?

That would be telling of course – you will need to read the book!

This is another wonderfully romantic book from Holly Martin, which swept me away to another place. I fell in love with all the characters, I wanted to participate in the community fun for Halloween and the little mishaps along the way for all of the characters brought some much needed light relief.

Can be read as a standalone but you will more than benefit of reading the first in the series Sunrise over Sapphire Bay to get a real feel for the place as well as Clover and her sisters, Aria and Skye. I cannot wait to return because I can tell that Skye has a story to share and she definitely needs her happy ever after.

 

Thank you to the author who kindly provided me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review. I have received nothing in return and the only thing I give is the recommendation to read this book. 

Autumn Skies over Ruby Falls is out now. 

Books

The Killings at Kingfisher Hall – Sophie Hannah

Anyone taking on the task of taking Hercule Poirot and carrying on his tales is gong to always come in for some criticism – not least because it can never be the same. Very true but in a world where nothing is ever going to be the same, it is refreshing to revisit a familiar character doing what he does best – using the little grey cells to solve crime.

In this case, Poirot is waiting to board a coach to the Kingfisher Hill Estate. The coach is full and whilst he intends to sit with his friend and colleague Inspector Catchpool of Scotland Yard, the ramblings of a woman who thinks she will be killed if she sits a certain seat means that the journey Poirot and Catchpool take is very different.

Whilst one of them sits next to someone convinced they are going to be murdered, the other site next to someone who confesses to having done such a thing.

It is all very unsettling for Poirot, especially when the real reason for going to Kingfisher Hill is at the bequest of Richard Devonport. His fiancee is waiting to be hanged – for killing his brother Frank Devonport. The rest of the Devonport family are not to know why Poirot is really there.

But when another disclosure prevents Poirot from remaining undercover and unnoticed it seems that there is much to learn about the Devonport’s and the Kingfisher Hill Estate.

With numerous confessions, lies and truths littered throughout the book, it seems that it can only take Poirot to the right answer – which it turns out has been obvious from the beginning of his quest.

Can you see what Poirot can see?

Poirot’s nature, his use of his little grey cells, the way that his sidekick, Catchpool’s seemingly innocent in what is taking place round him and with some twists along the way, make it for an entertaining and intriguing read. Likeable and loathsome characters, changeable sympathies with the people along the way, the reader is drawn right in to the puzzling mystery.

If you can think of the best Christie you have read and team it with the best David Suchet Poirot adaptation you have seen then you have captured the essence of this book (and Hannah’s three previous Poirot novels). It works, don’t ask me how it just does.

Sophie Hannah’s novels are the closet we are ever going to get to wishing for more Agatha Christie stories – they are a must for all Golden Age Crime fans.

 

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

The Killings at Kingfisher Hill is out now. 

Books

The Thursday Murder Club – Richard Osman

In a retirement village where the facilities are seemingly far superior than your average holiday resort, there is plenty to keep you occupied with various clubs, fitness activities, visits and committee meetings. Just a word of warning, do not park where you shouldn’t!

One of the clubs is the aforementioned title The Thursday Murder Club – four members, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim. All of these four bring something different to the club as they investigate unsolved cases from the past.

Elizabeth has connections with pretty much everyone or anyone, she clearly worked in mysterious ways in her past life. Joyce is a former nurse, useful for some of the medical elements. Ron or ‘Red Ron’ as known to many is a former union leader and can antagonise with the best. And quiet Ibrahim, former psychiatrist, who works without and question and methodically to find all the answers.

Of course little do they know, that a murder is going to happen in their little world – but so it does.

Now it is time for The Thursday Murder Club to use all their wit and wiles to solve the murder or at least direct the police in the right direction.

Much will be made of this book simply because of who it is written by. Richard Osman has a very acerbic wit which is evident in this book and for me it resembled a Wodehouse novel in parts, very character rich. There are plenty of references to typical British places, products and behaviours and it very much centres the setting as well as the plot in that of a British cosy crime novel.

The book is clearly dominated by the murder story line but it also focuses on the thoughts and feelings of those in the retirement village as well. The Murder Club all have personal histories of their own and how they come to be gathered all together in this village. Osman deals with it gracefully and it adds a richness to the story.

A great fun light-hearted read which everyone will be talking about. I do hope there is more from Osman.

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

The Thursday Murder Club is published on 3rd September.

Books

August Roundup

So what was your August like – as you planned? Or like most people’s taking it as it comes. As the world around us changes, pivots, tilts and decides what is going to happen next I have sought much solace from being at home, reading, crafting and just being. Luckily enough now I can go back swimming which has been an absolute balm to soothe and has helped my mental health no end. As I go back to work and wait to find out what happens in terms of hours and contracts I just hope that all the things that help me continue to do so.

August was a real mix of books and were just what was needed – Louise Candlish – The Disappearance of Emily Marr has been sat on my shelf for awhile and as I make some dents in these books I picked this one up. The first I have read by this author and it was different from perhaps what I am used to and was a great change, I must seek more of her work out. Sometime you need a book that finishes and you just don;t know what happens!

Of course when it comes to murder mystery you have to know what happens, otherwise what would be the point! The book you will no doubt see a lot of is Richard Osman – The Thursday Murder Club. Sadly the formatting on the advanced copy was poor and that did make it harder to read, but once I got over my fastidious and got into the book I was hooked. If you want a book that says everything about being British – then this is it.

Of course if you want fastidious then look no further than Hercule Poirot. I can accept a tribute to such a great character and a great author and I know there are some naysayers out there but Sophie Hannah – The Killings at Kingfisher Hall is an excellent novel and a great introduction to good old fashioned golden age murder mystery.

Sticking with the golden age theme then picking up Anthony Horowitz – Moonflower Murders which took be back to Atticus Pund and his author Alan Conway, it is a novel within a novel. And if you think that can’t possibly work – trust me it does.

A book with no definite chapters can be a troubling read – it can work and it can fail spectacularly and reminds me of a colleague who writes emails and notices in a stream of what I can only call verbal diarrhoea. However when it works it works brilliantly as it does with Lissa Evans – V for Victory. A book that takes you to the heart of the conclusion of the war on the home front and the devastation still be wrought across London.

If you want devastation then imagine not having enough hay to feed the animals for the next year, or enough lambs to be able to sell or breed. Imagine doing that miles from any where and with nine children in tow. Well known on the television for their programme on Channel 5. I picked up Amanda Owen – The Yorkshire Shepherdess, Amanda Owen – A Year in the Life of The Yorkshire Shepherdess and Amanda Owen – Adventures of the Yorkshire Shepherdess as a treat for not having a holiday this year. Amazing, what a life and again there is many critical of her chosen life and the way she has decide to raise her children – but I feel that they will be more well rounded adults than many of their generation to come. Their playground is acres of land and if that is the only way you can enjoy the outdoors then I implore you to read the books and watch the programmes.

Books are a great place to escape to other places and what better than to experience Holly Martin – Autumn Skies over Ruby Falls who manages to always achieve this and throws in a big dollop of romance too. I am booked into visit Jewel Island again I hope.

I also want to go and stay in Christie Barlow – Starcross Manor or even the little B & B in Heartcross because I know I will be welcome and there will be plenty of people to catch up on and you can walk for miles, breathe the fresh air and reconnect with nature.

Of course it can be whatever season you wish but what better than a Katie Fforde – A Rose Petal Summer where I was taken from London to Scotland to France and all back again. I simply enjoy Katie’s novels and they are just like old friends, pick one up and you are immediately whisked away.

Talking of old friends what about when you have made a pact with your oldest friends that it is the three of you forever? What happens to Ruth Jones – Us Three life has a funny way of making it a lot harder than you imagined and perhaps only giving you things you can actually deal with. Some friendships are just not meant to be forever.

Friendship betrayal and forgiveness can lead to all sorts of disaster and even escaping to Helen Rolfe – The Little Cottage in Lantern Square can have consequences . When it threatens your whole world surly the answer is to confront it head on and not run away again?

I don’t think I was disappointed with any of these books they all proved to be the right books at the right time. Serendipitous you could say!

How was you August?

 

Books

Moonflower Murders – Anthony Horowitz

I first met Atticus Pund in Magpie Murders, I thought it was a one off, it seemingly started at the end of what could have been a series of books. However four years later Atticus is back and his creator Alan Conway long since dead is still making an impact from beyond the grave.

Susan Ryeland, former editor of Conway’s novels of Atticus Pund has recovered from her ordeal in the first novel, (this works as a standalone without prior knowledge of the first book) and is living with her boyfriend Andreas in Crete, slogging away in a hotel. It is a far cry from the world of publishing.

That is until two people turn up at the hotel, Lawrence and Pauline Trehearne – they want Susan to help them. They think she must have some prior knowledge to help with the disappearance of their daughter Cecily.

How can Susan help someone she has never met before?

It turns out that Cecily was reading Atticus Pund Takes the Case by Alan Conway and believes it holds the answer to a murder that took place on her wedding day at the Branlow Hotel. Before Cecily can tell anyone why she disappears.

Susan sees this as an opportunity to return to England, to think over what her life has become and to perhaps escape Andreas and the slog of the hotel work and temperamental staff and stagnant relationship.

Being paid by the Trehearne’s is an added bonus and surely the answer will be obvious within the book she has edited.

As Horowitz tried out successfully in Magpie Murders, we are treated to a book within a book, a novel within a novel, a murder within the investigation of something else. Everything clearly hidden in plain sight and in the style of the great Golden Age authors.

Can you work out the clues in Atticus Pund Takes the Case?

Can you work out what Susan has discovered through all her investigation?

The reader is treated to a skilfully written novel, the clues are all there, and whilst I had the wrong person for a while, I did have the right reasons but the most obvious simply passed by Susan Ryeland as well as me! If the lead character can be fooled as much as the reader – the author must be on to something.

It would be a great delight if there were more of these novels from Horowitz. I am sure there is much Atticus Pund has to tell us.

A must for all fans of great murder mysteries.

 

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

Moonflower Murders is out now.