Books

Running out of Road – Cath Staincliffe

Three different people. Not connected until today.

Scarlett; on her way home to her Nana who has looked after her since the death of her mother. Excited to be in the school show the following day. Dancing brings her so much joy.

Dylan; always trying to keep one step ahead, never staying in the same nest for long, picking off each victim and dealing the drugs and then moving on. One day he will make it and not be the one doing all the work. Aim big.

Ron; being a house sitter and pet sitter by default seems really a lot easier to handle than real humans. From his previous job as a firefighter, this is much more pleasant.

DS Laura O’Neil, a mother with a teething toddler who has left him at home with his father as she suddenly gets to know all these people.

All these people that are thrown together and for one wet, stormy and panicky night all their roads cross. As they all take different turnings, will Laura get to the truth?

This fast paced thriller left me exhausted without leaving my home. Whether it was the vast swathes of the Peak District that was covered physically as the hunt for all three of them takes over the pages of the book. Or the historic events that build up the characters of the here and now. The country line drug storyline was strong and frightening real as if you are reading a news reports. You have to remember the main events are just a mere twenty four hours. The skill of the writing made it feel like a week of my life.

If you want a great British thriller which covers many themes including guilt and grief and the overarching hope of a better future then this is simply the book for you. Highly recommend for a heart stopping read to keep you on the edge of your seat.

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

Running out of Road is out now.

Books

The Heron’s Cry – Ann Cleeves

This is the second novel in the Matthew Venn series from renowned author.

Can be read without having read the first, The Long Call but then why deprive yourself of such good storytelling. You will also get the background of the characters and the previous case which through witnesses does filter into this story.

DI Matthew Venn, uptight and determined to maintain a level response to what he sees in his work is back alongside his DS Jen Rafferty and ever eager DC Ross May. Jen is at a party when another guest, Dr Nigel Yeo approaches her to ask for her help. Jen, not fully sober, brushes him off.

The next day that man is found dead, stabbed with a piece of glass from his daughters glass blowing workshop. He seems such an unlikely victim and when his daughter turns out to be a friend of Matthew’s husband Jonathan, it seems this crime is always going to involve that Matthew knows.

When another body turns up, with a similar killing method. Matthew and his team dig deeper into these people and what Dr Nigel Yeo really wanted to tell Jen at that party. However the truth is sometimes hidden away amongst those in the community and are they all closing ranks as the police get to the truth.

This book is not a fast paced thriller, if that is what you are looking for then this is not the book for you. It is a book which develops as you turn the pages, the characters and their background build. The past is filled in and as the clues lead you to think that perhaps the answer is all so clear, the metaphorical rug is pulled out and you are turned to face the truth. Of course it was obvious – wasn’t it?

More is filled in about Matthew and the past life he has escaped as he tries to come to terms with the life he is leading now. We learn more about Ross May and his relationship with his wife. Jen is still coming to terms with living in a smaller town than the large city she left behind. All three of them seem unlikely work colleagues but somehow it works and the author uses the small team, the community, the setting to weave a great murder mystery tale.

If you want modern day crime fiction in the vein of those golden ages then always start with Ann Cleeves and you will enjoy every page, every book and every detective created.

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

The Heron’s Cry is out now

Books

The Bookshop Murder – Merryn Allingham

A quiet English Village in the 1950s, the South Downs the backdrop. You could almost be forgiven for expecting to see Miss Marple appear.

But let me introduce you to Miss Flora Steele, the young woman who owns the local bookshop in Abbeymead. Inherited from her aunt, she is determined to keep this legacy going.

When reclusive crime writer Jack Carrington enters the shop, he finds more than books – he finds a dead body. The police think it is nothing but a man breaking in and suffering an unfortunately timed heart attack. Nothing more to report. Everyone must get on with their lives

For Flora, she knows there is something not right about this and she wants to find the answers so at least she can help the shop to survive. She enlist Jack Carrington in her help to find out the truth, reluctantly he seems drawn to this spirited young woman. When another death occurs, it seems that Flora may well be onto something.

This is a lovely (not that murder is lovely) start to what is to be a series of books. Flora Steele lives up to her name and whilst she may be to some a flowery girl, she has a determined strength that makes me think that she might end up in some scrapes in the future! Let’s hope the mysterious crime author is always on hand.

For fans of all that is cosy about crime fiction, this book is for you.

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

The Bookshop Murder is out now.

Books

Loch Down Abbey – Beth Cowan-Erskine

This is the first novel from Beth Cowan-Erskine and was clearly born out of lockdown last year. What has resulted is a rather Wodehouse type novel of the cosy murder mystery vibe.

Scotland, the 1930s, Loch Down Abbey is suffering from a lack of servants as some mysterious illness sweeps through the country. There is a lack of certain items and many are having to adapt to a strange new time.

There are not enough toilet rolls, the Nanny has died and no one can control the children and their seems to be a problem with money.

Lord Inverkillen is found dead. It appears to be an accident to the lacklustre Inspector but to the force that is Mrs McBain, the housekeeper of the Abbey there is much more to it than meets the eye.

It has to be someone from the Abbey and because most of the servants have been struck down with this mysterious illness, it seems it therefore has to be one of the family.

But which one and what secrets are they all hiding?

The ‘upstairs’ characters were in abundance and I had to keep referring back to the character list at the beginning to work out who was who, who was married to whom and whose children were running wild across the house and the estate. After a while this became a little cumbersome, especially on a kindle and I don’t think I got to the end of the book really knowing everyone as I would have liked to have done.

That aside, there are twist and turns, red herrings and everything you would expect from a cosy mystery. The humour was subtle, the references to a pandemic quite obvious but the story would work quite happily without it. Clearly much inspiration is drawn on from Downton Abbey and with the author being American, I can see the fascination that our English or in this case Scottish history, big families and big houses can have. This may well have over influenced the whole of the book but for me, definitely the ending which I didn’t see coming and felt a little bit absurd.

A book for escapism and fun, nothing more taxing than that.

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

Loch Down Abbey is out now

Books

Murder at Elm House – Helena Dixon

If there is one thing you can rely on it is the fact that Kitty Underhay, the main protagonist in these stories is that she isn’t far from a dead body or two! Her Grandmother implores her to stay out of trouble and stick to running The Dolphin Hotel in Dartmouth, but Kitty now with ability to drive can go further afield now.

In this the sixth instalment, Kitty finds herself visiting Mrs Craven, one of her grandmothers friends and someone who always has their nose into everyone’s business. Kitty finds her quite a challenge and her acid tongue can be quite cutting. Recuperating from an operation at Elm House, Mrs Craven is convinced that something untoward is going on.

There are a lot of comings and goings at strange times of the night and whilst residents should be recuperating there seems to be a high amount of deaths. Kitty cannot help but investigate especially when it seems her attempt to find out what happened to her mother interests many people and puts her forefront of some rather unsavoury characters.

All of these threads that Kitty is investigating along with private investigator, Matt Bryant, who Kitty is now officially stepping out with seems all rather random and unrelated, but as the story goes one the body count gets higher and it seems that perhaps what Kitty was looking for was closer than she first thought.

Still featuring Alice, Kitty’s faithful employee at the hotel and one of my favourite characters for her forthrightness when it comes to Kitty’s behaviour coupled with her unwavering loyalty as well, they make an interesting duo when they investigate together. Dolly, Alice’s sister is working at Elm House and seems she might have innocently seen some of the answers to many of the questions that Kitty and Matt have. I do hope we get to see more of Alice and Dolly in future novels.

As the story reaches it conclusion, of course there are many questions answered, but still Kitty is seeking the truth about her mother and it looks like we might need to wait a bit longer for that one. And as for the fordable Mrs Craven, perhaps the events at Elm House might mellow her? I of course like everyone else will have to wait and see.

This is a delightful series of cosy mysteries set in Dartmouth, Devon in the mid Nineteen Thirties, full of humour, warmth and a bit of romance amongst the body count and the scrapes that Kitty and Matt find themselves in. I recommend you start at the beginning and catch me up!

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

Murder at Elm House is published on 7 June 2021.

Links to my reviews of the previous novels can be found below:

Murder at the Dolphin Hotel – Helena Dixon

Murder at Enderley Hall – Helena Dixon

Murder at the Playhouse – Helena Dixon

Murder on the Dancefloor – Helena Dixon

Murder in the Belltower – Helena Dixon

Books

February Roundup

12 months ago we were just starting to worry about this ‘thing’ out there in the world but now we are 12 months on and who knew! The constant has been reading over that time and it has continued in February with a real eclectic mix of books to lose myself in. I hope you have had the same feeling.

I must be one of the only people left on the plant who has yet to watch Bridgerton – I wanted to read the book first: Julia Quinn – Bridgerton: The Duke and I and what a delightful fluffy, fizzy escapist read it was with in my opinion little reference to the regency setting it is based in. No matter. I am now primed ready to watch and then I know I can pick up the second book when I just simply want to escape and not worry much about the writing, the plot and the glaringly modern references in an historical romance book.

Sticking with the historical theme, led me to Nancy Revell – The Shipyard Girls on the Home Front, the next in the series and it is so wonderful to be able to just walk through the front doors of these girls houses and join in with everything happening to them. Even if some of it isn’t that nice and there is a war going on, but it is now 1944 and the ending seems in sight.

I went even further back with Helen Fripp – The Champagne Widow which is definitely going to be one of those books that will be mentioned a lot. I knew nothing of the champagne houses in France other than their names and that I am not particularly fond of the drink. But this was a magical book, which taught me so much about such a fabulous women in the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars. A debut novel which fizzed with promise and delivered.

I always want to learn something when I am reading books that are based in a particular period of history or are based on real people and events and whilst the event that this book is based on was real, the setting and the time period have been changed. Emma Stonex – The Lamplighters take us to a lighthouse on the edge of Cornwall, to a mystery that will keep you awake at night and wonder during the day – where did they go and what really happened? This book is getting lots of press at the moment and is certainly one I would recommend if you want to be enthralled by a mystery.

Whilst holidays might seem a long time ago and there is some doubt as to the reality of getting one in in 2021 it is always great to escape abroad without the long haul flight. Of course with Robert Thorogood – Murder in the Caribbean you don’t really want a murder when on holiday but at least you can escape to the blue skies and warm waters of the fictional St Marie. Just solve the murder quickly so you can enjoy the rest of your break.

If you want to stay a bit nearer to home then of course Rachel Burton – The Summer Island Festival is the place to go. Relive your past music tastes and enjoy the Isle of Wight when it isn’t hosting the thousands for the main event held there. A smaller event is a bit more familiar of is it becoming too familiar and is it all going to fall apart.

Running away can be the only way to solve things sometimes and in Jane Lovering – Home on Folly Farm it was the perfect answer for Dora that is until her sister arrives bringing the past with her. Peace is shattered and so it seems is the future. This author was new to me and this was an enjoyable departure from real life with some great characters that get under your skin immediately! I will look out for more.

So that was February, some new, some old and some sheer joy. I hope March keeps the momentum up.

 

Books

Murder in the Belltower – Helena Dixon

Kitty Underhay is spending Christmas at her relatives home Enderley Hall, hopefully without the dead bodies that littered the place the last time she was there for a visit.

Alongside Kitty is her dependable maid Alice, taken from the Dolphin Hotel that Kitty runs alongside her grandmother in Dartmouth.

Now that Kitty is officially stepping out with Captain Matthew Bryant, she is delighted that an invitation has been extended to him as well. To make up the eclectic house party along with Kitty’s Aunt, Uncle and cousin; there is Hattie, a distant relation of Kitty’s Uncle, Lord Medford. Simon Frobisher; a botanist, The Cornwells; two Americans wanting to experience an English Christmas and Victor and Juliet Vanderstrafen who it turns out know Matthew Bryant from his previous work.

It seems this mix of people and the transudations in the house are going to make for an interesting Christmas.

When some village disputes make there way to a cocktail party given at Enderley Hall it isn’t long before a dead body turns up.

Enter Inspector Greville, it seems there is much to this death and when rooms are mysteriously searched and it appears someone might be watching Kitty, it only seems inevitable that another body is going to be found.

But this time it looks like suicide and it seems that Kitty cannot resist all the intrigue and questions she has and when she thinks Matthew is keeping something from her, she turns to sleuthing, ably assisted by Alice who innocently with her downstairs gossip possibly hits on a clue or two herself.

This really is a wonderful example of a murder mystery set in a country house. Who are all these people thrown together? What secrets are they holding? And is their behaviour a true reflection of who they really are?

Helena Dixon carefully weaves the tale and the mystery to it’s denouement in true Christie style and you could briefly imagine that Poirot was sitting in a corner nodding sagely at Kitty. All the characters are there to be liked and loathed in equal measure and you get a real sense of setting and place as the story progresses.

Whilst each of these books can be read as standalone, there is a common thread running through them all, of course there is the burgeoning relationship between Kitty and Matthew but also the disappearance of Kitty’s mother. I implore you to start at the beginning they are an absolute joy to read.

I cannot wait to see what Kitty gets up to next.

 

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

Murder in the Belltower is published on 1 February 2021.

 

Books

Jeeves and the Leap of Faith – Ben Schott

Without a doubt I am a fan of Jeeves and Wooster, first brought to my attention from the television series with Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie in respective roles. I think it is the only time I have actually gone and read a book (in fact more than one J & W story) after watching the programme.

But to this, a ‘homage’ to the great Wodehouse with all what you would expect in a tale of Wooster ups and downs, aunts and Gussie Fink-Nottle’s, Madeline Bassett’s and the Drones Club. If you had a tick list of everything to be included in the book then this ticked all of them.

Having caught up with Schott’s first tale I find myself back with Bertie and him being K.C he is called upon a gain to help His Majesty’s Government. There are some rather unsavoury sorts in black shorts infiltrating the academic world and we are taken to Cambridge via a swift snifter to catch up with the goings on with at the Drones club.

We encounter the fairy like Madeline Bassett who is uncertain of her current beaus commitment to her and eyes up Bertie from a distance.

Aunt Agatha one of the more feared of Bertie’s aunts has a few choice words about his matrimonial status and seeks to rectify it. But when a scheme to perhaps put Aunt Agatha off reveals more than it should it seems Bertie might be able to escape with his status in tact.

Some dodgy turf accountants, taxmen and newt lovers, Bertie finds himself caught up where he doesn’t want to be. Though where ever he seems to be so does the delightful Iona who has caught his eye and also that of Jeeves.

Might things be about to change for them all?

This book is spiffing good fun and just the tonic for any dark, down day when you need some spark of light, some chink of normality, because this is as close as we are going to get to new Jeeves and Wooster stories from Wodehouse. I hope there are many more to come.

 

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

Jeeves and the Leap of Faith is out now.  

Books · Jottings

November Roundup

Well only one month to go in 2020, thank goodness though I don’t think we are out of the woods just yet. But November was a month where I hit my annual target of 100 books – such a satisfying feeling and also a month where I have just simply read and not worried (well not too much) about the never ending netgalley request list.

So what was on my November shelf?

Only one Christmas book, I think I reached peak Christmas in the previous couple of months but Anne Marie Ryan – The Six Tales of Christmas was a quiet tale reminiscence of previous American styled Christmas novels that I read. It’s message was very lovely though.

Of course snow for many equals Christmas but the snow in Catherine Cooper – The Chalet was a lot more sinister and this debut thriller novel is one to watch out for. Excellent and kept me hooked quite happily and made a change from all the ‘nice’ books.

To contrast the snow what better than to go back to summer with Cressida McLaughlin – The Cornish Cream Tea Summer where I caught up with old friends and made some new ones on the lovely bus in Cornwall and with an added dollop of actors as well as clotted cream this made for a great read. I rushed out to buy the next in the series and have started that within the last couple of days of November.

Cornwall was the setting of Raynor Winn – The Salt Path a book leant to me by a friend who thought I would enjoy it. I did. I knew nothing of the South West Costal path and it was a joy to read an ‘actual’ book where I could quite happily flick back to the map at the beginning so I could see locations and get a sense of place. One of the downsides of kindle reading is this ability. Wild camping is not something I would want to do, but certainly walking and in Cornwall is a place I would like to be.

More Cornwall was featured in Emma Burstall – A Cornish Secret and Emma Burstall – The Girl Who Came Home to Cornwall. The latter of the two novels I had on my kindle for ages meaning to be read, but knowing it was book five and I had omitted to read book four and it turns out I bought that ages ago to. Anyway, enough of the procrastinating as I know I enjoy this author immensely so I just went from one to the other and it was delightful to just keep reading about the same place, same characters like watching a continuing drama without the break. I do wonder if Emma Burstall has any more plans for Tremarnock.

Now as there are six Mitford sisters, I know that there is more to follow after Jessica Fellowes – The Mitford Trial. These are really excellent novels and I got a lovely response on Twitter from the author, because I ‘got the book’ in the way she intended it to be written. I had to go and reread my review just in case I had said something insightful – well I can’t see it. But if the author is happy and then I am happy as the plots of all of these books are great and really tap into my love of history.

Feeling rather ‘out of sorts’ about many things, like many people across the globe no doubt. So I picked up Ben Schott – Jeeves and the King of Clubs again this was because I got the latest Schott novel featuring Jeeves and Wooster through netgalley and realised I had not read the first of these homages. It was spiffing, tip top and everything you would expect from Wodehouse and I have read many over the years. It was a sheer delight to be back in their world and I rush to read the latest and go back and relieve some of Wodehouse’s best. My heart was fair cheered.

Not a bad month overall and I made a dent in some old books on my netgalley list as well as reading some ‘actual’ books, I really much prefer this way, but the kindle has let me read so many more I probably would not have read. It’s a conundrum for many an avid reader I am sure?

So what was on your November shelf? Any plans for December?

Books

The Mitford Trial – Jessica Fellowes

Louisa Cannon who we have met in the previous three novels in this series is set to marry policeman Guy Sullivan. I feel you need to have read all three to get the real sense of Louisa’s character development and how she has got to where she is now in this fourth book.

However the British Union of Fascists have other ideas about how Louisa and Guy are going to celebrate their wedding day.

This brings Louisa back in touch with The Mitford Sisters, who she thought she had left behind. Diana, now separated from her husband Bryan has started a love affair with Oswald Mosley and with her sister Unity obsessed with the beliefs and values of the Fascists, it seems that Louisa is going to be plunged into the darker side of politics and ever growing problems in Europe.

After first off refusing to accompany Diana, Unity and their mother on a cruise, Louisa funds herself compelled by an outside source to take up the offer and without sharing the truth with Guy she finds herself all at sea.

Onboard everything is not calm, with arguments, love affairs and fights, the atmosphere turns to murder and Louisa finds herself tangled amongst all the lies and deceit. The confessions and lies seem to permeate everyone and when the ship docks in Rome the culprits are removed.

Two years later the case is at court and everyone that was onboard seems to be a witness to something.

But what Louisa saw that trip still remains a mystery.

This is an excellent golden age crime novel, with the use of the Mitford sisters as the landscape to fictionalise the story of historic crimes. The murder like the ones before is based on the truth, information provided in the book (read at the end!)  so you can get a sense of time and place. Yet the growing unrest in Europe, the rise of Fascists and Unity’s compulsion to become close to Hitler is throughout the book and I am sure gives a great grounding into book five.

The narrative of this story goes between Louisa’s time on the cruise and the courtroom where the trial takes place, it also brings into play Tom Mitford, the brother of the infamous sisters who works as a lawyer and always appears in the background of their lives.

The concept works, as you hear evidence and the questions being asked of the witness you can go back and see what really happened. For me it felt like I was in the public gallery watching the trial unfold, a totally immersive experience.

A well written murder mystery perfect for fans of history and the gold age of crime. Long may they continue. Highly recommended.

 

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

The Mitford Trial is out now.