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

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

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

Angel with Two Faces – Nicola Upson

Do you want a murder mystery story? Do you want it set in on an Estate which employs and houses a number of the village? Do you want characters such as the strange woman who seems to have the answer for everything? Do you want it set in the 1930s? Do you want it to resemble Miss Marple but with a touch of Daphne du Maurier bringing that mysterious edge? If you say yes to all these things or at least some of them then Nicola Upson’s second novel Angel with Two Faces is for you.

Upson uses the real life character of Josephine Tey and the real places of the Penrose Estate, Rowena Cade, Minack Theatre and location as a vehicle to show Inspector Archie Penrose on his local ground as opposed to the life in London. Penrose and Tey’s relationship is obviously dealt with in the first of Upson’s book. However not having read it(which I will now rectify) makes little difference to this story. Penrose has gone on holiday from London to his family home in Cornwall. He takes Tey with him for company and to enable her to work on her next book.

Penrose is launched into being a pall bearer at a local funeral of Harry Pinching, a young lad of the villager and worker on the estate whose body was dragged from the lake after being missing. However Harry’s death is not as straightforward as it seems and his two sisters, seem to have differing views on how he was.

With Harry gone, Penrose is also asked to step into his place in the local play the villagers are putting on at the famous Minack Theatre which is situated dangerously close to the edge of the cliffs of Cornwall. Here during the play he witnesses another murder, the curate Nathaniel holding onto his own demons is pushed off the cliff behind the Minack Theatre. His holiday turns into work as he feels he cannot just witness a murder and then leave it to others to investigate.

As Penrose starts to question the locals including his own relatives and starts to learn about his own past which has been kept hidden from him and others for years. Tey is his right hand woman in helping to discover much about the locals using her famous identity to her own advantage and learns things about Penrose and what he thinks of her along the way.

This is an excellent novel and the characters have depth and a back story which is the catalyst to the whole book. The characters of Harry and his sisters Morwenna and Loveday have similarities to the relationship Penrose has had in his past, with his cousins and this goes further back also with Penrose’s parents as well. There is other tales interweaved throughout, the relationship between Beth Jacks and her husband and the vicar. The missing of Christopher Snipe the village undertaker’s son. These stories are not as a diversion but they all are important to the main story – was Harry Pinching’s death murder or suicide and why would someone kill the curate, Nathaniel – what did he know and what was he hiding?

This review was first published on Amazon in 2009 and is featured on this blog as part of my look back at the last ten years of blogging. 

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. 

 

 

Books

The Windsor Knot – S.J. Bennett

There is only one Queen of Crime (Agatha Christie if you don’t know) but what if the Queen was involved in solving crime. Well she needs to fill her days somehow between all the papers, visits and family battles surely?

After a small gathering of a select few people, a Russian pianist is found dead in his room in rather strange circumstances.

As the police, secret services and other government departments descend at Windsor Castle what originally looked like suicide is in fact murder and it needs to be kept to minimum information not just for the public but also for the Queen. She does not need to be bothered with such things.

But when her servants seem to be targeted as preparators because of their backgrounds or interests, the Queen is bothered and the so called Russian interference seems to be the obvious conclusion.

Helping the Queen is her new Assistant Private Secretary, a young dynamic former solider called Rozie, who has some very useful skills and had no idea about the Queen’s other interests until she realises why her predecessor left her certain instructions.

However, Elizabeth is a lot more canny than her faithful servants realise and when she can see that the police are heading in the wrong direction, she does in her inimitable way direct them back. Of course she makes it look like it was all their own idea!

This really is an exuberant take on the cosy mystery genre and has some good research done on it, to understand the workings of the the Royal Family and also the descriptions of Windsor Castle. There are some humorous moments and it had me laughing out loud and what seems like the absurdity of it all but then do we really know what goes on behind palace walls?

Perfect for fans of crime, the Royals it is all just terribly British and l loved it!

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

The Windsor Knot is out now. 

Books

Murder on the Dancefloor – Helena Dixon

It seems that even if Kitty Underhay tries to live a normal life, murder seems to follow her around. In this her fourth outing, murder is found at the dinner table at the Imperial Hotel. Kitty and her close friend Captain Matt Bryant are also at the table.

The victim it seems has ingested potassium cyanide and is a pompous unpopular local councillor Harold Everton.

He previously has spoked to Matt and asked him if he could help with something in his capacity as a private investigator.

Also at the table is the councillor’s downtrodden wife, his equally downtrodden daughter, a nephew who seems to have money, a married solicitor who was always advising Everton as well as a brother and sister hotel owners who seem to want answers from Everton as to why planning applications were not being approved.

It is a lot for the police to check through and Kitty and Matt soon find themselves embroiled in the affair and when an accident turns out to be murder it seems that perhaps those who know too much might be the next victim.

Are Kitty or Matt in danger?

This is an equally interesting read to the previous books in the series. It can be read as a standalone and is a good introduction to the series, you meet all the main characters. Kitty’s grandmother, Mrs Treadwell, her bumptious and annoying friend Mrs Craven who makes me smile every time she appears on a page. Then there is Alice, an employee of the hotel but also when needs must she comes to Miss Kitty’s aid as a confidante, friend and ladies maid when the role suits.

What perhaps you don’t get a sense of is the back story which runs through this story and we start to get some answers about Matt’s past and his experiences of war. Plus the disappearance of Kitty’s mother is also investigated more and it seems more questions are raised than answers given. It is therefore reassuring to know that there will be more Miss Underhay.

Great for fans of historical mysteries, with plenty of diversions and twist with a bit of threat involved, these really are gentle reads but show the spark that Kitty has and how perceptions are changing about women in more dominant roles. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

 

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

Murder on the Dancefloor is published on 28 October. 

 

 

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.