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. 

 

 

 

Books

A Year at Appleyard Farm – Emma Davies

Previously released as four short stories, covering the four seasons all combined into one book to lose yourself in.

Staring in Winter we meet the main characters who feature throughout all four seasons; Freya and Sam.

Having only recently lost her father, Freya is now struggling to keep hold of Appleyard Farm and it looks like she is going to have to sell to her nearest neighbours, brothers Sam and Stephen. Trouble is there is a lot of history with these three.

As Christmas is looming, Freya throws herself into her mistletoe sales quite literally and it looks like she will be spending her last Christmas alone at Appleyard Farm but a guardian angel seems to be working for Freya and all the history becomes present and it seems that perhaps that and Freya and the farm have a different future.

Moving into Spring, whilst Freya’s story still runs it is in the main dominated by her friend Merry. Embarking on a new adventure in moving, staring up a new business and bringing up a little baby, Merry throws herself into it all.

But the house and shop she has bought has a history and there is something about it all which is seeming into Merry and she has visions of how things should be. The house and it’s previous occupant had a colourful if not sad past and Merry wants to pay tribute to them forever and it seems the house is going to give up all its secrets.

As Summer bursts onto the page, Merry has her dream life up and running, Freya is settling into something different and Willow, another of Freya’s friends appears and she has a plan of her own.

Willow was picked on as a child because of her mother’s strong sixth sense and it seems Willow has inherited it. When a bad dream affects all parts of her life and her husband seems to be drifting away, Willow knows she needs a back up plan – and that plan is ice cream.

What could be better than using ingredients that Freya is growing at her farm as well as foraging in the fields around where she lives, producing glorious products and selling it all in Merry’s shop. As the dreams change, Willow realises she has been carrying something else and it seems that all she hopes is about to come true.

Autumn arrives just as Summer fades and it seems that we are back full circle to Freya and Appleyard Farm, but with relationships progressing, it has suddenly become infectious and love is blossoming in all seasons. Laura thought her love had blossomed and died but she was fascinated by Freya’s regular visits to the graveyard and in turn Freya was fascinated by the wreaths that Laura leaves by the gravestones.

Could the two of them have a potential future together, can Laura provide the decorations that Freya needs and can Freya prove that love can blossom once again?

This is a wonderful book to get completely lost in and experience all four seasons in one day because you will not want to put it down. Emma Davies writes some wonderful stories and they cover so much in emotional depth and are certainly not all fluffy and frothy. A book to be read at any time of the year – because you know no matter what happens the seasons will come round again and again, and next time it might be just the season for you!

 

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

A Year at Appleyard Farm is out now. 

 

 

 

 

Books

Us Three – Ruth Jones

This is the second novel from well known actress and screen writer Ruth Jones. A different take on women’s fiction than her first novel, but extremely enjoyable and captivating. In fact any nonsense about second books being notoriously difficult does not apply in this instance.

Having finished their A-Levels Judith, Lana and Catrin are about to embark on one of those life affirming moments when they take a trip to Greece to celebrate the fact that they have made it thus far and that their long standing friendship since the age of eight will last a life time.

But life has a funny way in playing out and sometimes those moments made when you are eight or eighteen are difficult to maintain throughout life. Especially when you thought it would be forever.

As the book goes on through key moments in all their lives, it is being told from the perspective of each of the girls as they become women, as they move between close friends and further distance. You move from feeling sympathy, to anger throughout the actions of the three women’s lives. I could relate so much to being the ‘third wheel’ in some friendships from my own past, if you can too, then this book is for you!

To say anymore will ruin it for all those who have yet to read it. This is a book full of strong female characters, with such depth and warmth you will think you have known them a lifetime. In fact you can relate to aspects of all of them and I think that is the key to making this an excellent book.

A book about friendships and about how they work and how they don’t. How life choices affect sometimes more than yourself and that sometimes life has a funny way of turning out.

Ruth Jones has this novel writing business cracked!

 

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

Us Three is published on 3rd September. 

 

 

Books

V for Victory – Lissa Evans

Here we are taken back to the wonderful characters of Noel Bostock and Vee Sedge who we first got to know in Crooked Heart. For me you need prior knowledge and background of Noel and Vee and the circumstances that lead them to where they are now.

It is late 1944 – it is clear that war is coming to some sort of conclusion. However there is still the risk of death as the V2 rockets seem to be destroying an uncharted path through London.

Noel and Vee now live in a large house, Green Shutters, adjacent to Hampstead Heath. Vee takes in lodgers to keep roofs over heads and mouths to feed, but she is still not quite telling the truth to the world.

All of the lodgers are of varying occupations and differing personalities, and they are educating in their own way young Noel, now 15 instead of him attending school. But then Noel is also not quite telling the truth to the world either.

Both Noel and Vee are locked into the secrets of their past but it seems that events in the present are going to change everything.

The other strand of the novel is taken over to Winnie Crowther, who is a senior ARP warden. Married but having not seen her husband for the majority of the war, she simply exists until such times when the world will be righted again and she can live her life. Her twin sister, Avril on the other hand is as far removed from Winnie but when she uses Winnie’s life as an idea of a book, little does she realise what work her sister is actually doing until she experiences it for herself.

Winnie does meet Noel, there is a connection to the past, to Matilda Simpkin, the original owner of Green Shutters and Noel’s former godmother. Winnie knew Matilda. Winnie also knew someone else close to Noel and it seems all of these past lives are going to come crashing together in the final pages of the book.

Evans writing is unique and the books is unstructured which adds to it’s flow and narrative. When I found myself in the midst of an incident that ARP Winnie has to deal with, you could almost taste the brick dust. With just as much ease we are sat at the table in Green Shutters as an eclectic mix of people gather to see what food rations and Noel have created for supper.

The stories of Matilda Simpkin, Noel and Vee are brought to a conclusion in this novel and whilst there is enough information to understand all these people without having previously read the other novels. I appeal to any readers sense of completeness and read Old Baggage and Crooked Heart. You can then experience the great writing of Evans but also the wonderful characters for a lot longer.

A book worthy of any fans of historical fiction.

 

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

V for Victory is out now. 

Books

The Killings at Kingfisher Hall – Sophie Hannah

Anyone taking on the task of taking Hercule Poirot and carrying on his tales is gong to always come in for some criticism – not least because it can never be the same. Very true but in a world where nothing is ever going to be the same, it is refreshing to revisit a familiar character doing what he does best – using the little grey cells to solve crime.

In this case, Poirot is waiting to board a coach to the Kingfisher Hill Estate. The coach is full and whilst he intends to sit with his friend and colleague Inspector Catchpool of Scotland Yard, the ramblings of a woman who thinks she will be killed if she sits a certain seat means that the journey Poirot and Catchpool take is very different.

Whilst one of them sits next to someone convinced they are going to be murdered, the other site next to someone who confesses to having done such a thing.

It is all very unsettling for Poirot, especially when the real reason for going to Kingfisher Hill is at the bequest of Richard Devonport. His fiancee is waiting to be hanged – for killing his brother Frank Devonport. The rest of the Devonport family are not to know why Poirot is really there.

But when another disclosure prevents Poirot from remaining undercover and unnoticed it seems that there is much to learn about the Devonport’s and the Kingfisher Hill Estate.

With numerous confessions, lies and truths littered throughout the book, it seems that it can only take Poirot to the right answer – which it turns out has been obvious from the beginning of his quest.

Can you see what Poirot can see?

Poirot’s nature, his use of his little grey cells, the way that his sidekick, Catchpool’s seemingly innocent in what is taking place round him and with some twists along the way, make it for an entertaining and intriguing read. Likeable and loathsome characters, changeable sympathies with the people along the way, the reader is drawn right in to the puzzling mystery.

If you can think of the best Christie you have read and team it with the best David Suchet Poirot adaptation you have seen then you have captured the essence of this book (and Hannah’s three previous Poirot novels). It works, don’t ask me how it just does.

Sophie Hannah’s novels are the closet we are ever going to get to wishing for more Agatha Christie stories – they are a must for all Golden Age Crime fans.

 

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

The Killings at Kingfisher Hill is out now. 

Books

The Thursday Murder Club – Richard Osman

In a retirement village where the facilities are seemingly far superior than your average holiday resort, there is plenty to keep you occupied with various clubs, fitness activities, visits and committee meetings. Just a word of warning, do not park where you shouldn’t!

One of the clubs is the aforementioned title The Thursday Murder Club – four members, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim. All of these four bring something different to the club as they investigate unsolved cases from the past.

Elizabeth has connections with pretty much everyone or anyone, she clearly worked in mysterious ways in her past life. Joyce is a former nurse, useful for some of the medical elements. Ron or ‘Red Ron’ as known to many is a former union leader and can antagonise with the best. And quiet Ibrahim, former psychiatrist, who works without and question and methodically to find all the answers.

Of course little do they know, that a murder is going to happen in their little world – but so it does.

Now it is time for The Thursday Murder Club to use all their wit and wiles to solve the murder or at least direct the police in the right direction.

Much will be made of this book simply because of who it is written by. Richard Osman has a very acerbic wit which is evident in this book and for me it resembled a Wodehouse novel in parts, very character rich. There are plenty of references to typical British places, products and behaviours and it very much centres the setting as well as the plot in that of a British cosy crime novel.

The book is clearly dominated by the murder story line but it also focuses on the thoughts and feelings of those in the retirement village as well. The Murder Club all have personal histories of their own and how they come to be gathered all together in this village. Osman deals with it gracefully and it adds a richness to the story.

A great fun light-hearted read which everyone will be talking about. I do hope there is more from Osman.

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

The Thursday Murder Club is published on 3rd September.

Books

August Roundup

So what was your August like – as you planned? Or like most people’s taking it as it comes. As the world around us changes, pivots, tilts and decides what is going to happen next I have sought much solace from being at home, reading, crafting and just being. Luckily enough now I can go back swimming which has been an absolute balm to soothe and has helped my mental health no end. As I go back to work and wait to find out what happens in terms of hours and contracts I just hope that all the things that help me continue to do so.

August was a real mix of books and were just what was needed – Louise Candlish – The Disappearance of Emily Marr has been sat on my shelf for awhile and as I make some dents in these books I picked this one up. The first I have read by this author and it was different from perhaps what I am used to and was a great change, I must seek more of her work out. Sometime you need a book that finishes and you just don;t know what happens!

Of course when it comes to murder mystery you have to know what happens, otherwise what would be the point! The book you will no doubt see a lot of is Richard Osman – The Thursday Murder Club. Sadly the formatting on the advanced copy was poor and that did make it harder to read, but once I got over my fastidious and got into the book I was hooked. If you want a book that says everything about being British – then this is it.

Of course if you want fastidious then look no further than Hercule Poirot. I can accept a tribute to such a great character and a great author and I know there are some naysayers out there but Sophie Hannah – The Killings at Kingfisher Hall is an excellent novel and a great introduction to good old fashioned golden age murder mystery.

Sticking with the golden age theme then picking up Anthony Horowitz – Moonflower Murders which took be back to Atticus Pund and his author Alan Conway, it is a novel within a novel. And if you think that can’t possibly work – trust me it does.

A book with no definite chapters can be a troubling read – it can work and it can fail spectacularly and reminds me of a colleague who writes emails and notices in a stream of what I can only call verbal diarrhoea. However when it works it works brilliantly as it does with Lissa Evans – V for Victory. A book that takes you to the heart of the conclusion of the war on the home front and the devastation still be wrought across London.

If you want devastation then imagine not having enough hay to feed the animals for the next year, or enough lambs to be able to sell or breed. Imagine doing that miles from any where and with nine children in tow. Well known on the television for their programme on Channel 5. I picked up Amanda Owen – The Yorkshire Shepherdess, Amanda Owen – A Year in the Life of The Yorkshire Shepherdess and Amanda Owen – Adventures of the Yorkshire Shepherdess as a treat for not having a holiday this year. Amazing, what a life and again there is many critical of her chosen life and the way she has decide to raise her children – but I feel that they will be more well rounded adults than many of their generation to come. Their playground is acres of land and if that is the only way you can enjoy the outdoors then I implore you to read the books and watch the programmes.

Books are a great place to escape to other places and what better than to experience Holly Martin – Autumn Skies over Ruby Falls who manages to always achieve this and throws in a big dollop of romance too. I am booked into visit Jewel Island again I hope.

I also want to go and stay in Christie Barlow – Starcross Manor or even the little B & B in Heartcross because I know I will be welcome and there will be plenty of people to catch up on and you can walk for miles, breathe the fresh air and reconnect with nature.

Of course it can be whatever season you wish but what better than a Katie Fforde – A Rose Petal Summer where I was taken from London to Scotland to France and all back again. I simply enjoy Katie’s novels and they are just like old friends, pick one up and you are immediately whisked away.

Talking of old friends what about when you have made a pact with your oldest friends that it is the three of you forever? What happens to Ruth Jones – Us Three life has a funny way of making it a lot harder than you imagined and perhaps only giving you things you can actually deal with. Some friendships are just not meant to be forever.

Friendship betrayal and forgiveness can lead to all sorts of disaster and even escaping to Helen Rolfe – The Little Cottage in Lantern Square can have consequences . When it threatens your whole world surly the answer is to confront it head on and not run away again?

I don’t think I was disappointed with any of these books they all proved to be the right books at the right time. Serendipitous you could say!

How was you August?

 

Books

Moonflower Murders – Anthony Horowitz

I first met Atticus Pund in Magpie Murders, I thought it was a one off, it seemingly started at the end of what could have been a series of books. However four years later Atticus is back and his creator Alan Conway long since dead is still making an impact from beyond the grave.

Susan Ryeland, former editor of Conway’s novels of Atticus Pund has recovered from her ordeal in the first novel, (this works as a standalone without prior knowledge of the first book) and is living with her boyfriend Andreas in Crete, slogging away in a hotel. It is a far cry from the world of publishing.

That is until two people turn up at the hotel, Lawrence and Pauline Trehearne – they want Susan to help them. They think she must have some prior knowledge to help with the disappearance of their daughter Cecily.

How can Susan help someone she has never met before?

It turns out that Cecily was reading Atticus Pund Takes the Case by Alan Conway and believes it holds the answer to a murder that took place on her wedding day at the Branlow Hotel. Before Cecily can tell anyone why she disappears.

Susan sees this as an opportunity to return to England, to think over what her life has become and to perhaps escape Andreas and the slog of the hotel work and temperamental staff and stagnant relationship.

Being paid by the Trehearne’s is an added bonus and surely the answer will be obvious within the book she has edited.

As Horowitz tried out successfully in Magpie Murders, we are treated to a book within a book, a novel within a novel, a murder within the investigation of something else. Everything clearly hidden in plain sight and in the style of the great Golden Age authors.

Can you work out the clues in Atticus Pund Takes the Case?

Can you work out what Susan has discovered through all her investigation?

The reader is treated to a skilfully written novel, the clues are all there, and whilst I had the wrong person for a while, I did have the right reasons but the most obvious simply passed by Susan Ryeland as well as me! If the lead character can be fooled as much as the reader – the author must be on to something.

It would be a great delight if there were more of these novels from Horowitz. I am sure there is much Atticus Pund has to tell us.

A must for all fans of great murder mysteries.

 

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

Moonflower Murders is out now. 

 

 

Books

The Little Cottage in Lantern Square – Helen Rolfe

Hannah is running a business from her little cottage in Lantern Square – Tied up with String. Bringing individual and unique care packages to anyone who requests one. Her only company is her two cats Smokey and Bandit. It is far cry from the life she left behind, a high powered accountancy job, a man with even higher aspirations and a best friend.

Now it is just her and Hannah is adapting to life in Butterbury where Lantern Square is based and she is throwing herself into community life. We get to meet the gardener Rhys, the local Doctor Joe, the rather fearsome next door neighbour Mrs Leadbetter as well as some more interesting characters in the local old peoples home where Hannah volunteers.

This book has a real community feel about it and as Hannah starts to fit in, her past starts to appear.

Luke the man she left to come to Butterbury seeks her out and tries to make her see that she was making a mistake by leaving him. Trouble is Hannah’s heart is torn when she finds herself interested in others in the village. Luke is going to have to work hard to win her back, but is he trying too hard?

Then Georgia her former best friend appears, begging forgiveness for an event from their past and Hannah looking for the good in everyone thinks that maybe it is time to move on. But there is something about Georgia that just does not sit right with Hannah and she doesn’t know what it is?

As the year progresses and events within the community show how much Hannah loves being in Lantern Square and she soon realises where she should be and who she should be with. But will it all happen in time?

This is a great comforting read that can be devoured in pretty much one sitting as you feel you are part of the place, you know the characters so well; some lovely, some downright destructive. The events described make you want to join in and feel part of something. It all jumps off the page with great warmth.

Previously published in four part novellas, this is the complete story in one book – a way I much prefer. This book won’t leave you disappointed which the previous one I read did, sometimes books just hit the right spot and this one certainty did.

 

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

The Little Cottage on Lantern Square is published on 20 August. 

 

Books

Knife Edge – Simon Mayo

London. Rush Hour.

Seven people started their day thinking it was going to be what they knew.

What they did not know was that they would never get to work.

Seven seemingly random people stabbed.

What connected them all?

Famie Madden, journalist watches the terror unfold. But there is a familiarity to some of those killed and it seems that what links them all can also be linked to Famie.

Is the danger over or is Famie potentially the next victim.

If ever a book was relevant, was of its time, it is this book.

You are immediately throw into the action and you are carried along on a wave of adrenaline which inevitably peters out. But that is probably a good thing as you start to slow down and look around to what is really going on just as Famie and other investigative journalists start to pick up the pieces put them together and can see the inevitably of the next point of danger.

The pace picks up and does not stop until the conclusion, it is almost a race to get there, but draws everything to a conclusion.

I found I needed to concentrate on all the references to terror groups from the past which were throughout the book, some passages for me needed some rereading just so I could get to understand the purpose.

Terrorism can take many guises and it was a interesting concept to pick something so unsophisticated as using a plan that was “off grid”, coded advertisements in newspapers, messages in invisible ink, no phones, nothing of the modern day technology we all know. This made it particularly appealing when in reality this books is probably a reflection on modern day life.

An interesting thriller that starts well, sort of wobbles a bit in the middle but reaches a rather interesting climax which will set the heart racing right until the end.

 

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

Knife Edge is published on 20 August.