Books

The Three Dahlias – Katy Watson

You can’t beat a house party in the country for entertainment and if it comes with murder mystery then all the better.

The home is Aldermere, staying are the occupants of the house of the Davenports. Hugh, his wife Isobel and their granddaughter. High is the nephew of the famous crime writer Lettice Davenport, long since passed.

Also present are three Dahlia Lively’s, Lettice Davenport’s most famous creation, Of course fictious, but having been played on the screen big by aging actress Rosalind King. Caro Hopper the small screen version for numerous series and then Posy Starling, ex wild child about to start the latest film version.

The murder that happens is meant to be staged as part of the weekend convention for all the fans of the books and screen adaptations. However it seems that someone else has real crime on their mind and when items go missing and strange notes keep being left it doesn’t seem to far fetched to think a body will turn up next. But surely it must have been a heart attack…….

Pooling their knowledge, the book is told from the perspective of the Three Dahlias (hence the title). They use the skills they simply learnt by rote or in the case of the newest Dahlia, by learning fast from the available books that Lettice Davenport wrote. A strange concept, but one that seemingly works and makes for a fun novel.

Is the answer obvious, are the clues real or just copied from the books and can they prevent any more bodies turning up ?

Definitely a book and plot which is a homage to Agatha Christie, sneaky little elements here and there that you can pick up if you know your Christie well enough. It moves along with a meandering pace at times, but stick with it as I think we are forming the three main characters in this book which is clearly the start of a series.

Perfect for fans of characterful mysteries with a nod to some of the great crime writers of the past. I enjoyed the escapism and the humour of the book.

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

The Three Dahlia’s is out now.

Books

Murder at the Charity Ball – Helena Dixon

It’s book eleven, its the week before Christmas and finally Matt and Kitty are going to tie the knot on Christmas Eve. What could be more romantic and what could possibly go wrong?

A murder at the ball?

Kitty’s father the prime suspect?

Kitty and Matt are invited to a Charity Ball by Lady Eliza Foxley, well known for perhaps not the right reasons but still not averse to organising and giving something back. Present is Edgar Underhay, Kitty’s father who is back from America for the wedding and came across the Atlantic accompanying Eliza.

All seems to going well, dancing, drinking and enjoying life. Until Eliza is found dead, strangled by one of her own silk stockings and Edgar standing over her.

With his reputation, it’s clear who the focus goes onto. But with some persuasion Kitty and Matt try and convince the police that perhaps there is more to this than meets the eye. When some of the potential suspects all have something to hide, including Eliza’s sister, niece, secretary, financial investor and old nursery nurse it seems Kitty is going to be focusing on something else before her wedding.

This is like picking up with stories of old friends every time I return to The Dolphin Hotel and Kitty, Matt as well as the wonderful Alice and her sister Dolly. As the series has gone on, the characters have grown and the plot moves on. This was a lovely way to finish my reading year as it felt I was closing some chapters with Kitty but also at the same time opening some more up and moving forward.

I look forward to the next chapter of Kitty’s life. Though I wonder if she can get through her honeymoon unscathed and without any bodes?

This book, this series is perfect for those who like the warm hug of a story even if slightly scattered with dead bodies and criminals. The supplementary characters make for fun diversions and back stories and the fact that it is set in churches, big houses, hotels, trains to name a few adds to that golden age feel of the books.

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

Murder at the Charity Ball is out today.

Books

The Mitford Secret – Jessica Fellowes

It has come to the end for this series and we have finally reached the last Mitford Sister. Deborah or ‘Debo’ was as well known for her married life in later years as that of her siblings escapades.

Newly married to Andrew Cavendish and going to be the poor relations to the heir to the Chatsworth estate, Deborah is determined despite war, despite some of her sisters being all over the world or in prison that she will make the best Christmas they can have. she invites the constant throughout this eries of books Louisa Cannon, who was her elder sisters nursery maid and been involved in their ives for a long time.

Time has moved on, Louisa now married and with a daughter is glad to escape the bombs of London but not to leave Guy, her husband behind to run their detective agency. However it seems that the house party this Christmas is going to be a bit more interesting. A psychic arrives one night and claims that a maid once died in this house and her body never found. Surely this woman is stirring up trouble until she is found dead.

It seems ideal that a private detective is staying at the house and Deborah along with older sister Nancy, look to Louisa to try and solved this very cold case as well as the most recent death. With many house guests staying all with something to hide it seems that Louisa is going to have her work cut out. What she really needs is help from her husband and luck would bring him to Chatsworth.

With the facets of a locked room mystery – surely it must have been one of the house guests, this is a great historical mystery for fans of big houses and the upstairs, downstairs life. Plenty of class and society struggles and a reflection of the time, perhaps some of the dates have been manipulated a bit so some of the characters such as Kick Kennedy and Adele Astaire appear. However all in all this is a well researched and great book showing the sphere that the Mitford Sisters lived in. I have enjoyed all in there series and the historical notes at the end are as fascinating.

A must for historical fiction fans, murder mystery really is the vehicle to get to know these Mitford Sisters more informally. I am sorely disappointed that it has had to end.

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

The Mitford Secret is out now.

Books

Murder at St. Saviour’s – Merryn Allingham

For whom the bell tolls and it tolls unexpectedly in Abbymead and it draws Flora and Jack to church. Here they find the bell ringers, and the body of the curate, recently joined the church, fallen from the bell tower.

Surely it must be a tragic accident. But something seems off to Jack and Flora and with past experience of discovering bodies and solving mysteries it seems that there initial thoughts may be true.

It gets even more complicated when they discover the dead curate, isn’t really the dead curate and strange faces in the village start to make the duo question everyone and their motives. Then the lead suspect is found dead, is it one of these mysterious faces that is guilty or should they be looking closer to home.

Alongside the investigating the relationship between the two main characters is developing and the gentle courtship adds to the gentle pace of these novels, despite the dead bodies! Of course there is much we don’t know about Flora and her background and it seems as this series progresses we are going to find out more if the ending of the book is anything to go by.

Perfect series for those who want that Midsomer Murder vibe but set in in the past.

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

Murder at St. Saviour’s is out now.

Books

Murder Most Royal – S.J.Bennett

This series of books for me are terribly British and celebrates everything about how unique we are as a nation and our ability to poke fun at ourselves as we all know the world around us is doing the same.

What can be more British than the Queen at Christmas? What can be more British than a murder mystery to while away the hours.

The book set within the last 8 years, clearly has much it can mention about Brexit, Prime Ministers and current girlfriends of royal princes. At Christmas it was well known that HM The Queen decamped to Sandringham, a house owned privately by her and where she spent over a month until her accession day. This year is no different, apart from the fact that her and Phillip are suffering from colds and flu, oh and a severed hand ends up on the beach next to the estate.

The severed hand has a signet ring on it and The Queen recognises it as belonging to Edward St Cyr, a neighbour and someone who used to play with Charles when he was a small boy. Not without his eccentricities, finding the rest of Edward and who actually committed the murder is going to keep the Queen and her APS Rozie, quite busy over the festive period.

Like any place, whether it be large or small, gossip and rumours abound even when you have Royalty as neighbours. With Rozie tasked to find out certain information, the Queen uses her unique position to question, influence and probe without anyone realising. The truth will always out. The Queen will help and no one will ever know. Or only those that need to know.

This book, this series, is just a delightful warm tribute to her late majesty and you can only but imagine that she would have found such a thing amusing. Of course we never know what really goes on, and if we did that would ruin the mystique and if this is as close as we can get with it then I am all for it and cannot wait for more.

For fans of cosy mysteries, historical fiction, royalty and everything British.


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

Murder Most Royal is out now.

Books

Murder on Board – Helena Dixon

It is with trepidation that I read book ten in this series, because I know at some point it has to come to an end and actually for Kitty in this book it could come sooner than we think.

Planning for her wedding underway, Kitty thinks she has found her new manager, Mr Lutterworth for the Dolphin Hotel, as she knows once she is married things will be different and her grandmother is also wanting to step back. He certainly has a baptism of fire, as a body turns up on the paddle steamer that was used to host a dinner party before the main event being held in the hotel.

The body is someone Kitty’s fiancé has been watching for his government contacts.

The party is the daughter of the Chief Constable.

The suspects can only be those that were on the boat, so Inspector Greville, has to investigate his boss and associates.

Then a diamond necklace goes missing for a short space of time.

It is going to be a tough case to tackle for the Inspector so he relies on Kitty and Matt to help. Of course that is going to put one of them in danger and the new manager finds himself searching the local area for his new boss pretty quickly. What sort of place has he come to work at ?

The sort of place, where all walks of life come to stay and pass through and with the wonderful kindness of Alice, Kitty’s Maid. Her Sister Dolly who helps in the office, the Night Porter and of course Bernice the skittish dog it makes for an interesting start for Mr Lutterworth. But if you have been with the series from the beginning then it is just par for the course for these two delightful characters.

This series goes from strength to strength, the introduction of characters along the way, means it can move off in different directions but without losing sight of the main focus – murder mystery. Cosy crime seems a misnomer, they are simply cracking good stories that serve to escape from the realities of life with for me a great big dollop of history thrown in for good measure.

I look forward to as many more as the author wishes to write.

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

Murder on Board is out now.

Books

October Roundup

With only two months of the year left, I am just about on target for reading 100 books and I think it could possibly go to the wire this year. Let us no dwell on that and plough through the October books read.

Of course the Christmas books do tend to dominate in October and there is always a risk I could be all Christmas read out by the time the festive period is really upon us so I have tried to mix it up with other books as well.

I have spent Christmas in October in many places. Completing her trilogy set in Wishing Wood was Holly Martin – The Christmas Tree Cottage, where back in the tree houses we finally get to make sure that Heath the only brother not with someone, settles down and what better way with someone called Evergreen Winter. Holly Martin does manage to conjure up such wonderful settings and characters.

If treehouses are not your thing then maybe Chateaus’ are. Jo Thomas – Celebrations at the Chateau is in fact last years Christmas read and I tripped across to France and wrapped my taste buds round some delicious Apple treats. The bonus of a Christmas wedding and a restart for everyone was the perfect story to lose myself in.

You can travel with your home as well and whilst this one is full of cocktails in Caroline Roberts – Mistletoe and Mulled Wine at the Christmas Campervan, it was lovely to go back and visit places from previous Roberts’ novels and see it all pull together. Plenty of snow and snuggly moments.

If you are a fan of reading then a bookshop has to be your ultimate place to be surely. Continuing her Cornish series Cressida McLaughlin – The Cornish Cream Tea Bookshop took me to a place I have visited in a previous novel and one where the new bookshop is open and a whirlwind new employee is trying to make her mark.

I don’t remember there being that many books featuring Christmas in my past reading years. Perhaps I did not pay any attention, or perhaps there was not that interest. They are the perfect escape to perhaps find that perfect Christmas that we all sort of want, but don’t want the hassle or stress. But what if Christmas was your job. In Phillipa Ashley – The Christmas Holiday, Christmas is a time of rest for the main character, where you have done all your work whilst everyone else enjoys the fruits of your labours.

Again all the books for this month have been on my kindle and via netgalley. I did pick up one book which had been on my 20 Books of Summer challenge, but abandoned it. It was just not working for me or holding my attention which meant it sat by my bed simply gathering dust. I must read more actual books in November.

As for the rest of the kindle books this month, I start with Anna Stuart – The Bletchley Girls a new author to me. This was a wonderful book, set in the fascinating place of Bletchley Park and had me hooked and is one of the best historical fiction books I have read this year.

Another author who seems to excel at historical fiction is Tracy Rees – The Elopement. It was an absolute joy to go back to characters introduced in The Rose Garden and to be immersed in those in high society and those on the outskirts. Tracy Rees has done it again.

Sticking in the historical period with the latest Miss Underhay novel in Helena Dixon – Murder on Board. Cosy mystery, not so much blood and guts than red herrings and nosy maids. I am delighted to hear that these books are to continue for a while longer.

One of the first proper Blog events I took part in was the promotion of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, now ten years ago. So I was delighted to be able to access the novella that completed this journey with Rachel Joyce – Maureen Fry and the Angel of the North. We hear Maureen’s voice, go with her on a journey so very different to Harold and Queenie’s but beautiful just the same.

On with November and some reading actual books of my actual shelves!

How was your October? Any Christmas novels I should know about?

Books

Marple: Twelve New Stories – Various Authors.

How do you review short stories without giving the plot away?

How do you review short stories that are in tribute to the greatest crime writer of our timer?

I am not sure to the answer to either of these questions, so please excuse what could be called a pitiful review.

The aim of this collection of 12 short stories is to introduce a whole new generation to the wonderful little old lady, Miss Marple. If you have never heard of her, quite frankly where have you been! The original creation by Agatha Christie featured in a limited amount of novels and short stories unlike her other protagonist Hercule Poirot.

The other aim is, for those that do know Miss Marple, we have just got another glorious 12 stories to indulge our passion for all this St Mary Mead, village gossip, tweed skirts and afternoon tea with a good dollop of murder in.

I devoured each story and think actually that I will devour them again. Some were better than others, some you could tell were not the original author and without a doubt some you couldn’t tell. Of the authors of each, 12 women, I only recognised a few and read even less of those. All to be rectified having now read this collection.

The perfect collection of stories and has made me want to devour even more of the wily old spinster lady, knitting and observing every aspect of human nature in such a glorious way.

Many thanks to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

Marple: Twelve New Stories is out now.

Books

Shrines of Gaiety – Kate Atkinson

I have always found Kate Atkinson books hard to review, they are so rich, deeply layered with detailed events, backdrops and characters that to do it any form of justice would take someone much more literary than me.

Shrines of Gaiety is no exception – set after the First World War, the Bright Young Things of the Twenties is all anyone is focusing on. In this book in the depths of Soho nightclubs, we are subjected to women, dance, song, drugs, debts, criminals, gangsters, money, corruption, gambling and sex.

Nellie Coker is the matriarch, released from Holloway back into her family, to her six children. Her stay in prison clearly an oversight by the policeman in her pay to keep this sort of thing happening. It seems Nellie Coker has other plans for the future. And the world and her family need to look out.

DCI John Frobisher, is brought in to clean the streets up and has a special interest in the vast amount of young girls going missing. He believes they are being somehow sucked into Nellie Coker’s world and her nightclubs. When Gwendoline Kelling arrives in his life, herself looking for two teenage girls from York who have come to seek their fortune in London, he thinks he may have a plan to finally clear up these streets.

When these worlds collide, it seems that all is not what it should be and actually are they all simply pieces in a very elaborate game.

Very rich in character, with many people to learn about in the first few chapters to see how they all interact the book then gets going through twists and turns. I couldn’t think of one character who wasn’t well thought out or well rounded., each of them playing a part, no matter how small or big. From Nellie Coker herself to the maid in her own house. Everyone is important to show London and the underbelly of life there in the Twenties. It works and I was enthralled to see where it was all going to take me and I wasn’t disappointed. Neither will you be.

This book is full of romance, history, murder and mystery to name a few genres that it could possible fit into. It doesn’t need to, it fits in as a Kate Atkinson genre.

Think P.G. Wodehouse meets Peaky Blinders.

Think this is the book you must read this year.

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

Shrines of Gaiety is out now.

Books

The Twist of a Knife – Anthony Horowitz

As plot devices go I think putting yourself as a main character in a novel is a pretty clever one and clearly it works as we are here with the fourth Hawthorne and Horowitz mystery.

Putting yourself in as a main character and also mentioning other works you have written as well, is pretty genius too. Here in this fourth outing Horwitz finds himself distracted by his new play Mindgame which is about to open in London. It done well on tour, surely that can translate to the stage at the Vaudeville theatre.

It does and the opening night is a success. Apart from one scathing review from a well known critic who as well as remarking on the actors performance is particularly ruthless over the writing.

The critic is found dead the next day. Stabbed by an ornamental dagger a gift, from the producer to all the cast and the writer.

The dagger has fingerprints all over it. They are Anthony’s. An arrest is made and it seems that only one person can help – Hawthorne. Why should he help? Hawthorne is an enigma Hortwitz has yet to fathom but will he ever know the truth?

Full of twist, turns, clues, red herrings this classic crime novel in the vein of Christie is one of the best I have read in a long time. I had some doubts at one point that it was actually true, and I was reading a fictionalised version of real events, that absorbed I was in the plot. Of course I came to my senses but it did add to the desperation I had in finishing the novel just to make sure it all ended up as it should. I can’t say if it did or not, but the classic dénouement scene in the theatre was pure theatrics at its best.

I hope there is more to come.

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

The Twist of a Knife is out now.