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. 


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. 




The Chalet – Catherine Cooper

A debut novel, a setting that perhaps would have turned me off – the French Alps. The thought of skiing not something that has ever interested me. However, the luxury, the mystery and the murder had me hooked from page one.

1998 – Will and his brother Adam, with respective girlfriends find themselves skiing. Not necessarily the choice of them all but still a holiday that is going to change all of their lives forever.

Will and Adam have a testosterone fuelled one-upmanship that is simmering beneath the surface of both brothers and when the opportunity to perhaps put it to the test on the slopes presents itself it seems too good an opportunity to miss.

Cameron and Andy, ski guides meet Will and Adam, out of the four of them only three return and their lives are changed forever?

2020 – Hugh and wife Ria are here to impress Simon and his wife Cass to get Simon to invest in Hugh’s business. The one-upmanship has a different purpose now. But the slopes are the same, the snow is the same and amongst a fierce snowstorm the likes that no one has seen for over twenty years; a body is discovered.

Whose body is it?

And can the four people from the past and the four people from the future have connection to it?

Told across dual timelines, a plot device that I enjoy in historical fiction works really well in this novel. Not only are we getting the movement of back and forth we are seeing everything from the different point of view of the main characters. It doesn’t always work, in this book it excels and adds to the build up of tension.

Don’t make your mind up about what you think about one character? Immediately the author twists that on its head and shows you a different version?

All these versions, these sets of events and beliefs result in a real pacey novel which had me hooked and add to that the claustrophobia of being trapped in a chalet with people you don’t know, in the midst of a snowstorm. I felt I was trapped and the only way out was to solve the mystery.

An excellent debut novel and if this is what to expect in the future from this author then I am ready for the next novel. A contender for one of my favourite books of the year. And as for skiing – still not interested!


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

The Chalet is out now. 



The Cornish Cream Tea Summer – Cressida McLaughlin

I wanted a second book, a sequel, a follow on to the Cornish Cream Tea Bus and I have got it in abundance with story.

Charlie now settled into her way of life in Cornwall serving the best cream teas in the area and with the added bonus of being able to also provide tours of the local area as you drink in not just the views but the tea as well.

Of course nothing runs smoothly and when Charlie’s cousin, Delilah descends on to Porthoglow and straight into life with Charlie and life on the bus it seems that the perfect existence might be a but unsettled for a while.

Delilah is running from something, but it seems to follow her all the time. Delilah likes to become all consuming involved in things and when she signs up the Cornish Cream Tea Bus to be part of on site catering for a new period drama then there is bound to be a few issues. Especially when she doesn’t check with Charlie first!

But Charlie gives her a chance and along with her rather interesting coffee concoctions, she feels safe to leave Delilah alone on the bus whilst she goes away.

Surely nothing can go wrong?

In the midst of he glitz and the glamour of working on a tv set, it seems Delilah has had her head turned and she may have inadvertently found her niche in life where she was least expecting it.

What she also didn’t expect to find was love?

These things don’t happen to Delilah it will all end in disaster, so Delilah needs to react quickly. Are her actions the right ones and can she really find the thing she has been hiding from all these years?

This is another mouth watering tale from Cressida who writes such honest and warm books filled with delightful characters and delicious food. There has to be more to tell from this bus and the lovely characters created in this and the first novel and I am thrilled that there is to be a sequel.


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

The Cornish Cream Tea Summer is out now. 



Finding Love at the Christmas Market – Jo Thomas

Connie caters for the local care home and she has made friends with this eclectic mix of elderly men and women. So much so that they are just invested in Connie’s happiness as they are in their own. Connie is trying to find love and after some rather disastrous mistakes it seems she has forged a burgeoning friendship with Hendrich online and now it is time to meet.

Thanks to Pearl, one of the care home residents it looks like Connie is about to do that and she can see if he ticks all the boxes.

However Connie did not expect to be bringing Pearl and the other residents on a trip to Germany to a Christmas market along with her on her first date. It all seems to be going well until Connie finds herself stuck between two different versions of Christmas, of two Christmas markets, Christmas memories and also Christmas romance.

Is having a list the right way to start a relationship?

As we see Connie and Hendrich on various dates, we also see how Pearl and the gang start embarking on all the things they miss and love about Christmas. It seems that one Christmas market has the answer when the other perhaps doesn’t have what everyone is looking for.

I immediately warmed to Connie and her care home residents. It was as if she was giving them an adventure all of their own whilst the one she was planning was not going the way she wanted it to. Hendrich was not the man that I was expecting and was willing Connie to see what I could as the pages went by.

Was I going to get a happy ending?

Ha! That would be telling and why would I want to ruin your own trip to the Christmas Market. If you go, make sure you choose the right one!

I am relatively new to Jo Thomas novels and if this is the quality of the writing and the development of the characters then I am going to spend many a happy day going back and reading all her earlier work.


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

Finding Love at the Christmas Market is out now. 



Away with the Penguins – Hazel Prior

At 85 Veronica McCreedy thinks her life is almost done. Perhaps it was not the one she ever imagined but there you are. That is until she sees a documentary on Adelie penguins and decides that is what she wants to do, see these penguins for real and to make a lasting impact on the world. If helping other poor creatures than so be it.

What she doesn’t know that is perhaps Veronica is helping more than the penguins. Her very isolated life is kept busy with litter picking, telling Eileen her carer come companion of sorts to shut doors, the crossword in the Telegraph and wildlife documentaries.

The image that is painted of Veronica to begin with is a women who may well be determined, dogged in her ways but one whose mind is perhaps starting to fail her. The loss of the glasses, the mirrors needing to be removed (and then rehung) is written so beautifully that you cannot really believe the author then transports this woman to Antarctica.

Because that is where Veronica ends up, on the South Shetland Islands, accessible via a ship that docks every three weeks at a project for Adelie Penguins where three researchers have the basic facilities, food and tolerance for each other. They do not want anyone else and certainly someone who could perhaps end their days thousand of miles from anywhere.

Veronica makes an impact not just on the other researchers but also she starts to see some parallels in the life she has led with this penguins that she has grown fond of.

Miles away in Bolton, is Patrick. Initially thought of as a waste of space, a drain on the benefit system not stuck to anything, of little purpose now that his girlfriend has dumped him, who whiles away his days growing weed and trying to survive. But Veronica McCreedy enters his life too.

After a false start, Patrick becomes fascinated with Veronica and diaries reveal what happened to her in her past. When an email from one of the researchers startles Patrick into some action, he finds himself in this remote place with an old woman he barely knows, hand raising a baby chick penguin.

Can everyone reconcile themselves to their actions of the past and the events that may have shaped them and can this now move everything forward to a better future.

This book takes your breath away, the cold of the Antarctic so richly described you can almost feel it biting your nose as you watch Veronica amongst these penguins, learning about life and survival. This is a quiet book, the noise is absorbed in the snow that surrounds them all.

I came away from the story where I felt I knew Veronica’s life fully, there were no more secrets to be discovered and that she recognised that what happened to her was continuing to happen not just to Patrick but also these delightful penguins she fell in love with.

I don’t know what I was expecting from this book, the story that is contained delighted, humoured and humbled me in equal measure and was a great surprise and truly original.


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

Away with the Penguins is out now and was featured on Jo Whiley’s Radio 2 Show in the Book Club slot as well as Richard and Judy’s choice for this winter. 




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 really do not know what goes on behind palace walls, do we?

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. 


Christmas for Beginners – Carole Matthews

We first met Molly in Happiness for Beginners and her wonderful eclectic mix of animals and children on Hope Farm.

The farm having had to be moved has reinvented itself with more vim and vigour than before and with a new more spacious caravan with indoor facilities, Molly is starting to feel more at home here than ever before. Even Shelby Dacre, well known actor’s son Lucas seems to be thriving in such a place. It is a shame that the relationship between Shelby and Molly is not thriving.

Knowing that Molly is somewhat reliant on the funds provided by her boyfriend, she does not want to become beholden to Shelby and wants to look at a way of raising funds, to keep the farm the special place it has become for all waifs and strays be it animal or human.

An Open Day in the run up to Christmas with a full nativity seems to be the way to go, along with stalls, Christmas delights and of course a rather camp sequinned Santa. Molly cannot think of anything worse than having to interact with all of these other people, she is most happy interacting with the animals or challenged children. But she knows that she needs to face some of her own challenges if she is going to make a success of the day, the farm and hopefully her relationship with Shelby.

However, Shelby is facing his own challenges and it sees his career take a different path and if Molly wants to continue with her relationship some changes will need to be made. And what of Lucas in all of this, surely his feelings need to be considered?

As Christmas approaches and the thought of a lovely family time seems to be disappearing across the horizon, Molly has enough to deal with, teenage angst, domestic abuse, sickness, some misbehaved alpacas, an anti social sheep and a couple of turkeys. It seems that perhaps the hope at the farm and for Molly is no longer there.

Only some Christmas magic is going to help.

This is a wonderful follow up to Happiness for Beginners and I felt I was transported back to the farm and simply picked up where I left of as if I was part of the family. This is the beauty of Carole Matthew’s books, I was swept away with some real difficult issues but with an abundance of love and interesting characters I was going to have a magnificent second visit. Carole please can I come and visit Molly and Hope Farm again?

Perfect for anyone who wants a real lift in this difficult times and if you can pick up Happiness for Beginners first you are going to have the best time at Hope Farm and I am jealous that you get to discover it all for the first time.


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

Christmas for Beginners is out now. 






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. 




Winter Wishes At Swallowtail Bay – Katie Ginger

In conclusion to this trilogy we are approaching the most wonderful time of the year and what better way to spend it than at a wedding!

Nell runs Holly Lodge a small boutique hotel in Swallowtail Bay, but business is not great and when an incident at a competitor’s hotel starts to cause trouble for Nell, it seems she is going to have to try some different events to get business moving again.

One thing she has decided on is that hosting her friend Cat and fiancée Kieran’s wedding at the hotel is going to be the best event ever. Nell is a romantic and lives in her imagination with the help of all those wonderful romcom movies out there to pass the time. She wants to give Cat the best wedding that she can, the wedding that she wants but it seems that Cat’s mother wants to give Cat the wedding that she should have. Will Nell be able to steer the wedding to a happy ever after.

As well as dealing with difficulty mothers and fraught brides, Nell decides to host a wedding fair, a wreath making event for the local elderly residents and also holds the school’s carol concert. She relies on the help of her old university friend, Tom. There friendship is strong and tight, but it seems that Tom is hiding some life changing secrets of his own and cannot begin to share them with the one person he truly loves.

Whilst this might appear a light fluffy read full of weddings and Christmas cheer it brings a real sense of friendship, community and sticking with the ones you love.  Overcoming obstacles, is the key theme throughout the book and there are many to overcome, tyrannical mothers, loss of control, stray cats, disability, trolling on the internet, there is a lot that touches not just Nell but all the main characters in the book.

But for Nell will she every have that happy ever after she wants when she realises life is not a film?

A great read full of fun and frivolity and plenty of humour and heart warming moments. And let’s be honest – you can’t beat a winter wedding!

Bring your tinsel and tissues to this book and sit back and enjoy.


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

Winter Wishes at Swallowtail Bay is out now. 

All of the Swallowtail books can be read independently of each other, there are familiar characters but they only play background roles until it is time for them to shine in their own stories.