Books

The Paris Apartment – Lucy Foley

Writing reviews for thrillers is always tough – you can’t say too much, but you need to give the readers a flavour of what to expect. Well if you know Foley’s previous work then you will probably know what to expect, but I would say prepare for the unexpected.

Centred around an apartment in Paris, this book first of introduces us to Jess who has come to Paris, to see her half brother Ben. We know little about Jess, we find out more as the book goes on but we never get to know the whole story.

In fact that is a theme of the book, do we really know any of these people who are in this apartment block.

The concierge, an old lady, forever in the shadows and living in a place that would fit in one of the penthouse singles rooms.

The occupiers of the penthouse, Sophie and Jacques. One seen and one not, but regardless their presence is felt over every floor.

Antoine, drunk, his wife has just left him but for who? He cannot seem to rely on steady work and needs to find money from somewhere else but where?

Naivety and falling in love fast and hard is where Mimi is at, but she is indulged so it doesn’t matter until that one fateful day.

Nick, returned to live in a minimalist circumstances. Looking like he doesn’t want to really put down roots, but then a face from the past comes brings everything back.

Then there is Ben. But where has he gone? Why did he say to Jess that he would meet her and then not be there? Jess wants to know but what is she really about to discover about her brother?

The tension can be felt as you turn the page, it is almost like you are waiting for something to snap, something to give. When it does it will be what you least expect. I was hooked, I needed to know what happened and whilst I worked one of the characters relationships out, this book kept me guessing until the very end. Rarely do books do that.

I have to say that the author has created another wonderful novel, very much centred around one place, like her previous two novels. This one branches out slightly but really only into another self centred place where everyone is trapped.

Perfect for people who want to be gripped and trapped almost by their reading and need to what happens next. It could well surprise you!

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

The Paris Apartment is out now.

Books

The Twyford Code – Janice Hallett

If there ever was a book so difficult to write a review for – this is it. I was hooked by The Appeal and wanted to see if the second novel lived it up to. It did, but in a completely different way, I was expecting the same and got something totally different and it blew me away!

A famous children’s book, a famous author; Edith Twyford. Left on a bus and found by Steve Smith. It is 1983 and Steve can’t read so he takes the book to school to Miss Isles and she reads it out. Miss Isles is enthralled, the book contains a code and that leads Steve and his remedial English class to Bournemouth. Miss Isles never returns from that trip. What happened?

40 years later Steve is still puzzled by the mystery of Miss Isles, the book and what really happened. Having lived a life mainly behind bars, lost his wife, alienated from his own family and no longer part of anything, Steve wants to get to the truth. Although estranged from his son, he is given an old phone from him and Steve although still not as educated and well read uses it to record all of his thoughts and understandings of what happened all those years ago.

All the recordings are transcribed and this is what forms the book and we get to find out what happened to Miss Isles but also Steve’s past and how he has come to have been in and out of prison and the circumstances that have led him to record his past.

This is a complex book but fascinating and it draws you in and you find yourself being pulled back into the recordings and the voice of Steve. I admit it took me longer to get used to this novel than it did her first, but once I slipped into the way of the writing and the voice I was intrigued as the truth become closer and closer.

There are twists and turns and when the book reaches it conclusion, it had me wanting to go back and read from the beginning, knowing the ending to see the clues. A true sign of a thoroughly cleverly constructed mystery novel and I am still puzzling the final mystery.

If you want to try something different, it you want to be challenged, if you love word games, puzzles and have an understanding of language then pick up this book, you will not be disappointed.

I cannot wait to see how the author tackles this genre in her third novel, I know she is going to blow us all away with it.

The Twyford Code is out now.

The publisher via netgalley gave me the opportunity to read this book. However, I went an purchased my own copy as I wanted to make sure I experienced it as it was printed and formatted and sometimes with advanced review copies the formatting can be a bit off and that can spoil the impact of the book.

Books

Murder in First Class – Helena Dixon

If you have been following my reviews or blog you will know that I have been with this series of books since the beginning. The delightful sparky Kitty Underhay is still keeping everyone including her fiancée Matt Bryant on their toes and as readers we get to see it all played out with the delightful backdrop of Dartmouth as well.

Of course it wouldn’t be a murder mystery series unless there was at least one murder involving a train! Hoping for a quiet week off, Kitty and Matt find themselves called to help in the murder of Simon Travers on a train from London to stay with Matt.

Simon Travers was one of the passengers in the first class compartment, the others being a travelling salesman, a singer, a vicar, a young flapper, a poorly missionary and just to add to Kitty’s headache, Mrs Craven. Long term friend to Kitty’s grandmother and who always has an opinion of everything. The murder on this train is no different.

It all points to the travelling salesman but then his body is washed up.

Can Kitty and Matt find the truth as it appears at first that none of these people have any connection between each other. However as truths are uncovered and secrets from the past exposed, it leads Kitty nearer to the truth. But can she get there in time when she is suddenly face to face with her own past?

Another excellent book in the series, and if you discover it now you have some great mysteries to go back and solve. Kitty is very much before her time and it is always great to read books with strong female protagonists. Familiar characters to the series still feature, like Alice the maid and faithful companion to Kitty. We get to see more of her Alice’s family which is always a delight.

For fans of historical mystery fiction and those that want to lose themselves in a series well written and that keeps you hooked from beginning to end. I heartily recommend and look forward to the next as always.

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

Murder in First Class is out now.

Books

February Roundup

A quiet month in terms of reading, brain not wanting to process words after hours at work processing numbers and idiots, not necessarily in that order. The most I have been able to do is sleep. Even the crafts have taken a bit of a blip and I know that would make me feel so much better. So rather than giving anything up for Lent, perhaps I should do the reverse and start something instead.

Anyway on with the books, the first was Sharon Gosling – The House Beneath the Cliffs, originally requested via Netgalley and one that I forgot to download in time and because I was so interested I bought a copy. A really great read, took me away to Scotland and I have found an author I would like to read more of too.

Sometimes a book is like a big hug and you are transported to a place that feels just like that as if you could walk into the pages of the book and fit right in. That was the case with Helen Rolfe – The Farmhouse of Second Chances a heart breaking read but one that will equally fill your heart with joy.

Another place to escape to in all it’s magical form was Holly Martin – The Blossom Tree of Dreams, the first in a new series from this author where the main protagonists were male and that you are transported to the woods, the trees and nature in all its glory.

Sticking with transported away, of course our worlds have got really small in the last couple of years and travel has been a bit spares but of course you can always bring the holiday to your home as does Cressida McLaughlin – The Staycation. This is a slight change of direction for this author and whilst I enjoyed it, I wasn’t quite sure.

Not being quite sure was how I approached Janice Hallet – The Twyford Code, not because there is anything wrong with the book. It is so cleverly written it made my brain hurt! But in a good way and did I see the red herrings, was I suspicious, did I work it out? I think I would have to reread the book more than once to work it all out!

I enjoy reading by what it teaches me, what I discover that I didn’t know and how cleverly the writing can be. With the final book of February to tell you about was something I learnt by reading Lorna Cook – The Dressmakers Secret. Chanel is a name we all know. Her past wasn’t something I knew anythign about, perhaps a vague notion of something not the norm. This was a book that surprised me and showed me a different side to a well known person and brand,. Fascainting and this is one of th reasons I love hisotrical fiction.

One thing I will say, is writing reviews are a bit slow. Not sure why, I am reading but it seems to be taking a while for the words to come out the end of my fingers onto the keyboard and get it down to share. Doesn’t help when you have oodles of books to read either!

Better get on with March and reading some of them.

Books

The Christie Affair – Nina de Gramont

If you know your literature, if you know your Agatha Christie then you know in the mid 1920s the famous author disappeared for 11 days. No one knows the truth, no one knows what happened and why, until this book.

The person that knows the truth isn’t even Agatha herself, it is Nan O’Dea.

Who is this woman?

She is the woman that Archibald Christie went on to marry after he divorced Agatha, that makes her the mistress at the time of the disappearance.

Told from Nan’s point of view we not just learn about her life and upbringing but also what really happened in those missing days and how both their lives crossed over. Nan is convinced that Agatha has something of hers and it is not Agatha’s husband, he merely seems to be a pawn into getting what Nan really wants.

As the book moves backwards and forward, it takes a while to the change in pace and we are almost being told by the narrator that actually what she is saying is what happened and we are not to question any of it. Once you accept this ‘voice’ of the book you are swept away on this mystery, the red herrings and the possible plot twists and the fact that this book is based on real life people becomes irrelevant.

Nan’s back story warranted a book all of its own, and jarred slightly with the mystery element of the book, but again I think you have to forgive these styles if you are to simply enjoy the book for what it was.

For fans of Christie, this book gives you an idea of what may have happened. But if you know your Christie well and you know the background of the real Nan O’Dea, Nancy Neele in reality then maybe this won’t work for you. For me it was fiction, fiction that took fact and manipulated it into an interesting story and that was the draw that kept me reading and why I would recommend.

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

The Christie Affair is out now.

Books

The Maid – Nita Prose

Molly is a maid in one of the grandest hotels around – The Regency Grand Hotel.

She needs structure to her day, she needs structure to understand how the world works and this was in the main given to her by her grandmother. Now alone in the world Molly is looking for that support elsewhere.

From looking for that support Molly finds herself a nobody in a world where she knows exactly what is going on, but perhaps doesn’t process it like the rest of us would.

When cleaning one day she finds Mr Black dead. Suddenly Molly is not a nobody anymore she is a somebody but that means she is now more at risk than ever before.

This is not a dirty hotel room, to be put back to five start cleanliness that Molly can work to, this is something else and she needs to find support from the unlikely of places and has to start trust others to help.

As the secrets of the hotel and its residents and staff come to light, Molly finds herself in a bit of bother and has to reassess the simplicity and trust she seems to see in everyone. Whilst we has readers start to see how Molly becomes embroiled in something unpleasant and the race is on to see if the truth can be found and that freedom can be achieved.

Many things intrigue me about this book – where is the hotel? You never know, it has no definite setting, no city you can name and relate to. That makes it all the more intriguing. Some of the characters names, made me chuckle – the victim Mr Black, made me think of the dead body in Cluedo (Clue in the USA). I also had no picture of Molly in my mind from the beginning to the end; was she tall or short? Thin or fat? White or Black? What was her hair colour, there were no defining features to her, which added with her surname of Grey made me think her characterisation was meant to be as she if was a nobody someone who blended into the background and was not seen. It worked well.

A book full of layers, that had me in mind of Eleanor Oliphant or The Rosie Project but was every bit unique as they are. A mix of murder mystery, social observation and a cracking good storyline!

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

The Maid 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

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.