Thursday, 25 May 2017

Joel Hames

A writer whose work I've previously loved has brought out a novella. I snapped it up!

Victims link

My review -

Sam Williams is in the very early stages of a relationship with a new girl and learns she’s been abused by a previous partner. This man is still pulling her strings and Sam agrees to help. He has an enemy at work, too, and as the plot progresses, we find out that nothing is really as it seems.

This makes an excellent ‘amuse bouche’ for the longer and more complex story, The Art of Staying Dead, which takes place ten years later. The style is slick and clever and the characters feel well-rounded, not easy to do in a short work. Be aware that the last 30% is the first chapters in The Art of Staying Dead. I prefer a link, myself, as I never read teaser chapters out of context. Nevertheless, in its own right, Victims is a small but beautifully proportioned gem of a story.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Angie Smith

This has got to be a contender for the best title award (if there is one!)

The Spy Who Chipped the China Teacup link

My review -

Taylor Hudson’s husband wants her dead. He’s paid someone to make sure she is. However, another someone offers to keep her safe. Why should she trust him? Her husband is swimming in very murky waters and she gradually finds out what he’s capable of. The Secret Intelligence Service are involved and there are good and bad within that organisation. We are pulled from side to side, not knowing who is trustworthy and who’s a villain.

I’ll admit that at the beginning I kept mixing Taylor up with another woman who has important scenes – Stephany Pascal. Once I’d got my brain in gear, the action flowed inexorably. Angie Smith can weave a multitude of threads into a single story and take you by surprise as you round each corner. She writes a really mean baddie! The book takes us to various parts of the world and the added detail makes the story come alive. A treat for espionage lovers and an exhilarating read.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

David Haynes

Another modern horror from a great storyteller.

The Church of Broken Pieces link

My review - 

Frank Wilson makes his living finding and sourcing items, usually old and rare, for clients. His friend John Donovan works with him, and they are approached by a man who wants them to find something for him. His mother’s soul, which he believes someone has stolen. Initially they refuse – it’s too weird. Eventually they go to the run-down town of Hemlock Mill where the lady in question is in a facility where she suffers from Lock-in syndrome. The town is on its last legs and Frank and John meet the doctor and the reverend, both involved with the hospice.

This is a great modern-day horror story. The situation, in a ghost town, where the few authority figures are uneasy with one another, builds as we find out more about what is going on. Wilson begins to feel ill with a presumed heart complaint and this gets worse when he’s in the hospice. The reverend and his associates are not what they seem. I really enjoyed this story and it feels horribly real. Another great book from a really good writer.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Angela Marsons

Number six in the Kim Stone series. They get better!

Dead Souls link

My review - 

Kim Stone is sharing a case with her ex-colleague Travis. It’s fair to say they don’t get on but the bones they are investigating were found on the boundary of the two police forces. There’s a strange relationship between the land owner and the lease-holder and Kim realises that they are all lying. The hate crimes of thirty years ago begin to find a horrifying echo in the present and one of Kim’s team is in danger.

I now feel I know these characters and yet in each book a little more background is revealed. We learn more about Travis and Stacey’s past lives and once again, understand them better. The dynamic of Kim’s own team is shifted slightly in her absence and it’s great to see how they grow without her constant influence. I love these characters and the cases they get tied up with. Long may this series continue!

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Keith Dixon

I can't be the only person who jumps into a series midstream? A good series will take it and this book is a very good stand-alone.

One Punch link

My review -

Paul Storey is an ex-copper, now working as a driver/security man and One Punch is the nickname of his new employer, Bran Doyle. Doyle made his money through boxing – not always legal fights, either – and now has a business as a property dealer and developer. He’s having money troubles, family troubles, old acquaintance troubles. In fact, none of the characters in this book seems to be who they appear to be superficially. Its great strength is the way it unfolds their individual stories.

This is the second in a series but is perfectly good as a stand-alone. I haven’t read anything else by this author but I can see that changing! The writing is very good, pulling you into the story. The characters are three-dimensional and complex. Unlike many a crime book these days, which seem to strive to find the most shocking twist, the power of this book is that it all feels extremely plausible. I enjoyed this a great deal and highly recommend it.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Andrew Barrett

This is a short story - actually, a novelette, and encapsulates everything we love about the Eddie Collins books. A great introduction.

The Note link

My review - 

Eddie Collins, CSI, is at a crime scene and the weather’s vile, the locals as bad, and he’s being hindered by his colleagues. You could say that by then he wasn’t in a good mood. Back at the station, he finds a note left for him. A very personal and threatening note.

This story, though short, packs a punch. Eddie’s past comes up to bite him and he’s in a very difficult situation with a volatile person. Even in extremes, he can’t keep his tongue in check and there are some very scary but very funny moments in this. Eddie is a character who has grown on me. The older I get the more angry I get at idiocy – especially my own – so I feel for him in his predicaments. If you know Eddie Collins, you’ll enjoy meeting him again. If you don’t, this is an excellent place to start. I’m very happy to give this five stars. 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Lexie Conyngham

Another Murray of Letho. I never tire of them!

Thicker than Water link

My review -

Charles Murray, Laird of Letho, is in St Andrews and visits his old tutor, who is taking the education of young Walter in hand. Walter makes a better student than he ever did junior servant. While Murray is there, a young man is found dead in the garden, apparently deliberately drowned in the fish pond. Murray and the constable try to discover who was responsible. It seems that many of their apparently respectable social circle have something to hide.

This, the tenth Murray of Letho novel, is, for anyone who has followed the series and its early nineteenth century setting, like spending time with old friends. Many of the characters are new but the old Letho crowd didn’t let me down. These stories, though filled with solid and believable characters, are nevertheless driven by plots as complex as the people who inhabit them. It’s not at all clear who has done the deed but as the story unfolds, we discover that so many people had a motive. Trust Murray to sort it out, even at danger to himself. Another addition to a fantastic and well-written series, though it would stand alone very well. 

Steve Robinson

The latest Jefferson Tayte story and this time it's personal!

Dying Games link

My review - 

Jefferson Tayte is summoned home to DC because the FBI want his help. Someone well up in genealogy and its research methods is killing people in a manner to echo the death of one of their ancestors. Tayte is involved because they are all related to past clients of his. The killer is leaving clues – it’s a sick game and if Tayte doesn’t play it, they die. If he’s clever, he might get there before the deadline and save the victim.

Because of the structure of the story – the fact that there are several families and puzzles to sort out from Tayte’s old files, the story builds in excitement. Will he solve it? Imagine failing to solve a puzzle in time to save a person’s life. You’d feel terrible about yourself. At least he’s happy that Jean is safe in England. Tayte has more than a suspicion he knows who’s behind it but the FBI think differently. This story touches on JT’s personal life and previous contacts more than any other and I found it exciting and terrifying in equal measure. It’s a dead sure winner and I enjoyed it immensely.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an early copy of this book.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Angela Marsons

Another cracker in a great series.

Blood Lines link

My review - 

DI Kim Stone and her team investigate a murder involving a single, unhesitating knife thrust. When more deaths occur with the same method of killing, the investigators are desperate to find what connects the dead. It takes Kim Stone to work out what’s really going on – but that’s only half the battle. Her chain is being yanked from inside prison by the sociopathic psychologist Dr Alexandra Thorne, who knows Kim well enough to understand what her weaknesses are.

I’m really growing to like the characters in this series. They all have their strengths and their faults, just like the rest of us. Whatever else, though, her team trust and have faith in Detective Kim Stone. Angela Marson’s stories are a little different from the run-of-the-mill detective stories which are out there in seemingly huge numbers. I enjoy the threads which run throughout, the stories within the story, and the way they are unravelled for us. A very good read indeed.

Anita Shreve

An old favourite author of mine, I know I'll enjoy her style right from the start.

The Stars are Fire link

My review - 

This story is based in a true event which took place in Maine seventy years ago. After an unusually hot and dry season, Grace’s home is destroyed in a wildfire and she and her children narrowly escape with their lives. Her husband, Gene, with whom she had a deteriorating relationship, is missing, presumed dead. Grace takes a job at the local doctor’s and moves into the home of her late mother-in-law. Her life settles down with her mother and a lodger – a brilliant pianist. Things are not at all as settled as she hopes.

As with a previous novel, Sea Glass, Anita Shreve uses the New England coast to set her scenes and its wild storms for a backdrop to the personal tales of the family. Grace feels like a captive. She’s tied to her children, tied to her husband and very much a product of the age in which she was raised. Anita Shreve’s style of cool and considered prose follows Grace’s self-discovery without making it over-dramatic it. It’s a great display of inner strength and I found it an encouraging story. 

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Erik Therme

I came across this author in a review group. I love his style.

Roam link

My review - 

Sarah and her boyfriend Matt have a fight on her birthday when her car breaks down. She finds him threatening and frightening and decides to walk off to find help. She’s offered a lift by two younger boys, which she isn’t keen to accept. One of them, Kevin, the car owner, offers to take her home but she wants to go to see her childhood friend. The night seems to stagger from one disaster to another.

There’s a theme here, it seem to me, about our evaluation of people. Are they who they want us to think they are, or who we remember them as? Do we ever really know? With a small cast of well-drawn characters, this plot reeled me in and I cared about what would happened to Sarah, Matt and Kevin. A very good, engaging and enjoyable story.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Shalini Boland

This is an author whose work I've thoroughly enjoyed each time.

The Millionaire's Wife link

My review - 

Anna, an ordinary girl, met and married Will, a rich man, though she didn’t know that at the time. She’d been involved with Fin, a boy she met at school and they eventually moved in together. Eventually, things fell apart, as they do, and her best friend Sian saw her through the worst of it. Now she has the relationship she’s always wanted – and the money doesn’t hurt! A single text message throws it all up in the air.

This is just the sort of book I love. Characters I can believe in, a plot which pulls me in and makes me care about those characters. Suspense and intrigue all the way through, and the last quarter was so exciting, I could feel my heart rate climbing. Since I read my first Shalini Boland novel I’ve enjoyed her style of writing. It’s comfortable to read and never trips me up. She’s excelled herself here. Highly recommended.

I received an advance copy of this book.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

B Fleetwood

New to me but this is the first in a trilogy which I know I'll follow up.

Imogen's Secret (Chroma Book 1) link

My review -

We all think we’re different from others when we’re young. In this book, Imogen is totally correct, but she doesn’t yet know how different. She is able to read people’s ‘chroma’, the colours of their aura, so she can see if they’re telling the truth, afraid, angry or in love. She’s also able to mute her own so that anyone else (very few) who can read the chroma can’t tell what she’s thinking.

There’s much more to this book but without spoiling the story I can only encourage you to read it. It’s marketed as for young adults but as with all good stories in this genre it has plenty to offer the older adults too. By the end we know Imogen’s secret but what she intends to do about it will carry us over into another book. I’ll be delighted to read it! The story was fast and in parts, quite exciting, and, like Imogen, I wasn’t sure who could be trusted. I still have my doubts about some and look forward to seeing if I’m right in the next book of this proposed trilogy. A great read in the fantasy genre.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Kelly Clayton

Book 2 of the Jack Le Claire crime/mysteries. Can't wait for Book 3!

Blood Ties link

My review - 

This is the second of the Jack Le Claire novels and I read it almost straight after the first. In this book, a wealthy man is found dead in a swimming pool after a party. He’s found by his cousin who works for Jack’s family. Blood ties are explored here with estranged families, family businesses, and a bit of their recent personal history all thrown into the mix. Add to that drugs, prostitution and blackmail and you have a potent brew.

Once again, Kelly Clayton has combined several plot strands with a selection of truly believable characters. They are no two dimensional cut-outs, each having enough background detail, light and shade, to make you feel you know them. The author writes cleanly and elegantly and I look forward to more. I long to find out more about Le Claire’s enigmatic side-kick, Emily Dewar. I hope there’s more about her personal journey in Book Three, which I eagerly await!

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Kelly Clayton

I've only just got around to reading this book, though I've had it on my radar for ages. Should have read it sooner!

Blood in the Sand link

My review - 

A rich widow apparently overdoses on her insulin and falls to her death from her balcony. Things are just too perfect, though. Can it really have been an accident? This is just the beginning of an increasing body-count for DCI Jack Le Claire. The holiday island of Jersey suddenly has a surfeit of ‘blood on the sand’

This author and her books have been on my radar for some time but I’ve not had a break in my reading schedule until now. I bought this and read it – devoured it – in two days. The story is complex, interesting, plausible and exciting. It’s peopled with three-dimensional characters who are so real, so human, that you can’t immediately say who is the perpetrator. Everyone has some financial need or some family feud and it’s only right at the end that the tangle is sorted out. I enjoyed it immensely and I’m going to do what I very rarely do and immediately buy Book 2 in this series.

Highly recommended.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Susan Hill

A novella which really sets the atmosphere.

The Small Hand link

My review - 

Adam Snow, antiquarian book dealer, is lost and comes upon an abandoned and isolated house. As he stands looking at it, he feels a small hand take his. From this, the story is born.

Susan Hill masterfully evokes an unsettling and creepy atmosphere, not only in the isolated countryside but in Oxford and in a remote monastery. The owner of the small hand haunts him. The link is not what I expected and this short and intense story hit the spot for me.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Lorraine Cannell

A new author - I like to go outside my comfort zone and it's well worth doing.

The Hollow link

My review - 

Fifteen year-old Liv knows she was in an accident three years ago and has no memories of her early years. Like her Aunt Marie, she has the gift of seeing the spirit world. She’s been seeing young women of her own age, but with their faces replaced by a rippling effect so she can’t tell who they are. They want her to find them. Then her own friend, Katie, goes missing. Her parents are over-protective and her relationship with them is strained and damaged. This gift of hers is all tied up with her inability to see her own past; to look into ‘the Hollow’.

This is a very spooky and exciting story which I read in a couple of days. It’s hard to put down. We know Liv can see spirits who need help but she herself finds it hard to get help from her own family. The feeling that, even though supposedly for her own good, things are being kept from her is well portrayed and the reader shares her frustration. This book combines the classic murder mystery with an exciting supernatural element which I really enjoyed.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Paul Dale

Final part of a trilogy I've loved every word of!

The Dark Lord's Handbook: Empire link

My review -

Dark Lord Morden Deathwing has finally conquered the whole world. He’s supreme ruler. All he has to do is stay there. That’s always been the hard bit. He loses a couple of his right-hand men to death but he won’t let them go easily. His charming, sweary late wife Griselda won’t keep quiet either. The elves and the Fae, armed with a dragonslayer who’s only ten years old and keeps needing a wee, intend to finish the interminable war between good and evil. Ah, if only it were that simple.

This is the final book in the Dark Lord trilogy and you really need to have read the other two. I’ve followed this series from the first and love the gentle pokes at the genre, the genuine homages, the brilliant flashes of dark humour. I love it all. It’s a world I have happily immersed myself in. If you’re looking for a nod in the direction of Tolkien, Pratchett and more, yet with its own story and concepts, this trilogy will get under your skin, as it has mine. I’ve looked forward to this final book for a long time and it was well worth the wait. Fabulous.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

C L Taylor

Tense, fraught, enjoyable!

The Escape

 My review - 

Jo Blackmore is a sufferer from anxiety and agoraphobia but is taking medication and getting her life back under control. Her husband Max is an undercover reporter and spends lots of time away or arriving home late and she keeps a part-time job and her daughter Elise’s nursery juggled, though with difficulty. Then she meets a strange woman, Paula, who says that that Jo has something which Max stole. She threatens her, and her daughter. The balance is tipping. She thinks Paula is reporting her to the police and social services, so as to get Elise taken from her. Her option, she believes, is to run.

This book gets into the mind of a woman struggling with mental illness but managing, on the whole, to keep above water. Some of the chapters are from Jo’s point of view and you can feel it’s a battle for her. Some are third person and see Jo as possibly unstable. It becomes very exciting towards the end, especially as her mother’s ghosts are faced and laid, and the villain of Jo’s story is not obvious. I really enjoyed this and would recommend it.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

David M Kelly

New to me but I love a bit of Sci-fi!

Mathematics of Eternity link

My review - 

Joe Ballen, driver of flying cabs, takes a customer home one night as is witness to his apparent suicide. Things immediately go wrong for Joe. His customer was a scientist and soon some of his colleagues are killed and Joe is fingered for the crimes. Someone is trying to stop their research being made public and Joe is just the convenient man to take the blame.

This is an intelligent and fast-moving science fiction book in which the action mainly takes place on earth. There’s something of the dystopian future about this story, liberally laced with action, adventure and quite a lot of fun. I can see more possibilities for this concept as the science and the political background are convincing. The characters are well fleshed too, and it would be good to see some of them again. This is a long book but it never drags and if this is your genre, you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Maggie James

I really enjoyed this one. Suspicions, lies, it's all there.

After she's Gone link

My review - 

Lori Golden’s sister Jessie is killed at sixteen years of age. It pulls the family apart. Their mother, already suffering from kidney disease, falls to bits and her new partner’s son is arrested on suspicion of murder. Lori has always felt that Jessie was her own dad’s favourite and he, too, is shattered at the news. Lori’s suspicions range widely. So many of the people in her little circle seem to be hiding something or behaving suspiciously. She doesn’t believe the police have the right person.

Maggie James always writes fluently and eloquently and After She’s Gone is no exception. The story flows so well and the reader, through Lori’s thoughts, chases one theory after another as to why her sister was killed. You may guess who did it but the reason is a complete surprise. I found it a compelling story and read it very quickly. I could wait to find out!

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a review copy of this book.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Diane Jeffrey

A debut thriller from Diane Jeffrey and a great promise for more to come.

Those Who Lie link

My review -

Emily wakes in hospital on the day of her husband’s funeral. She has survived the car crash in which he died – and she was driving. Her memory isn’t clear on the moments just before the accident and as that returns, so do traumas from her earlier life. Someone is trying to convince her that her husband is still alive. She doesn’t know if she can trust her friends, her family, or even herself. The accident is being investigated by the police but when she fears her house in being invaded by a stranger, she doesn’t want to tell the police as she’s keen to draw attention away from the problems of her early life. She’s in a bind and it’s easy to sympathise with her.

This is a nicely paced book in which we range back and forth between Emily’s teen years, the more recent past and current times. I enjoyed the way the story unfolded. It became obvious to me before the end who was responsible but the whys and wherefores were still to be explained. A very enjoyable read.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Wendy Percival

This is a short read and would make a good introduction to the series if you haven't come across them before.

Death of a Cuckoo link

My review -

This is described as an Esme Quentin Short Read and, having read two Esme novels, I jumped at this. Gina Vincent is clearing out her late mother’s home. She finds information in a letter of condolence which rocks her world, and Esme, a genealogical researcher, helps her to unpick the tangle.

Wendy Percival tells a good story and right to the end I wasn’t sure what the outcome was going to be. If you haven’t read any of these mysteries, this is a good introduction to her work, as it doesn’t depend on the earlier novels. Then you’ll want to read the rest! Highly recommended.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Dean C Moore

A new author to me and his book is fun, cheeky, dowright rude and very thought-provoking. 

My review -

It’s not often I finish a book and think, well, I’ve never read anything like that before. The futurists are FBI personnel who detect scientific and technological advances which will put the future of humanity in danger. They are in the top 1% of humanity, not in terms of income but of intelligence. Our little group of protagonists are trying to find who is behind an unkillable man, first brought to their notice through dead bodies which become reanimated.

The first part of the book is a real action-packed ride but the second part became, to my mind, more thoughtful. The vision opened out and the view it gave was unexpectedly broad. There’s a lot of humour and invention in this book but if you’re allergic to sex and violence in your reading matter, be warned and don’t upset yourself by reading it. I felt in some cases that the author was writing this with a big wink. There was a brilliant scene towards the end when four of the characters drove a psychiatrist to the end of her tether. However, this layer floated upon another which was deeper, more philosophical and, if you let yourself take it up, very thought-provoking. A most unusual book and challenging to some, but I enjoyed it very much.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Jane Casey

Another new author for me and what a great story!

Let the Dead Speak

At the time of writing, this is only available in print in the US.

My review - 

Chloe, an eighteen year-old, returns early from a visit to stay with her dad and his family, to find her mother missing and the house splashed with blood. Her neighbour who has given her a lift home from the station rings the police. DS Maeve Kerrigan finds herself looking at two dysfunctional families whose lives have become involved. The neighbours accuse one another and Chloe and her friend Bethany refuse to speak. There is no body, yet they have to conclude it’s murder from the amount of blood. It all seems hopeless.

I enjoyed this so much and was impressed enough to have a quick look at what else the author has written. It was only at this point that I realised the book is seventh in a series. To me, that means it’s very well done. It was obvious that there was some back-story with Maeve and her DI but the plot never at any point depends on it. It’s a very twisty and highly exciting story and I enjoyed it very much.

I received a review copy from Netgalley.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Alex McGilvery

A new author to me but I like a tale of a dark future. Makes today seem not so bad!

My review -

It’s two hundred years into the future and the old have it all. The ruling Council consists of Methuselahs – people so old that many are on life-support. They resent the young and use them almost as slave labour or spare parts. Trey is brought up in a Youth Reserve where people are educated to do the menial tasks and are kept compliant with drugs. He escapes and finds a place in the Underground, a movement working to change society.

I found this dystopian tale really intriguing. The concept that the old would fight death even to the extent of attempting cloning or harvesting organs from their own young is chilling. The sociology explores in this story challenges the modern idea that the elderly are soaking up resources and puts them in the driving seat. These old people are active, not passive, in ensuring they can live for an unfeasibly long time. Some have the ambition to become immortal but members of the Underground want to return to a fair society. I really enjoyed this story.

I received a review copy of this book.

Monday, 6 March 2017

M L Stedman

I can see why this is a best seller.  

The Light Between Oceans link

My review -

The book is set in Australia after the first World War. Tom, who has had a difficult war, takes up the job of lighthouse keeper as he feel he wants to save lives now. He marries the bright and lively Isobel and they settled on the remote island of Janus – the light between oceans of the title. After two devastating miscarriages and a stillbirth, Izzy is burying her latest dead child when she hears the cry of a baby. A little girl washes up in a small boat with her dead father and her mother’s cardigan and Tom, slave to duty, wants to log it. Izzy wants to bury the father and keep the baby, seeing it as a gift from God. After their three year term, when they get shore leave, they discover that the mother didn’t drown. The choice they made has fulfilled their lives but devastated hers.

This is the most fantastic book and will be one of my books of the year, for which I thank my local book group who chose it. It’s so beautifully written that the reader’s opinion swings from one person’s view to another. The characters are real and their dilemma affects one trusting little girl. It’s a gripping conflict between duty and love, loyalty and honour, and the rights of a blood mother to bring up her own child. Tom and Izzy are in pieces because of their humanitarian choice. It’s a stunning story and I heartily recommend it.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Mark Tilbury

This is a difficult read involving abuse of teenagers but stick with it. It's horrible but it has to be faced.

My review -

Michael Tate wakes in hospital to find he is paralysed from the waist down and suffering from the effects of a fractured skull. He is told by a policeman named Carved that he has killed his girlfriend and, as soon as he's sufficiently recovered, he'll go to a demand centre until his trial. Michael begins to suffer hallucinations and feels himself transported to his earlier life. His memory gaps are gradually filled in and he rediscovers the horrors of his childhood.

I've read an earlier book by the author but I feel he has really upped his game with this one. It's not an easy read and covers horrifying abuse. The reader feels Tate's despair and total lack of faith in his fellow man. He doesn't believe that justice will be done, either for himself or for those who suffered with him in a corrupt regime in a children's home. Mark Tilbury doesn't gloss over the grief and unfairness but pulls a wonderful ending out of the hat. A very good story which I enjoyed a great deal.

I received a review copy of this book.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Anita Waller

If you like a bit of spooky, this is for you!

Winterscroft link

My review - 

This is a really gripping story, whether or not you believe in ghosts. Lavender, the younger of three sisters, died with her grandparents in a road accident when she was nineteen. Five years later, Matt, who was about to become her fiancĂ©, is preparing to marry, and Rose, Lavender’s sister, offers the gardens of her home, Winterscroft, for the wedding reception. Soon things begin to go wrong. Sprigs, and the scent, of lavender presage inexplicable events in the lives of the two families. Lavender, it seems, is a restless spirit who won’t stop at harming, or even killing, to get her way.

I first came across the author’s work in an anthology and loved her graceful, fluent style. In this book, my only doubt, that a happy and loving girl would become malicious and spiteful after death, was explained in a way that grounded me in the story again. I read this book in under twenty-four hours. It’s that exciting! I’d love to see it made into a film. It gives an updated nod in the direction of the Dennis Wheatley books I devoured as a teenager. I know the area in which it’s set and the detail, together with the intimate lives of the families involved, kept the story from becoming too abstracted from real life. Highly recommended for a totally different kind of murder mystery.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Jim Webster

A great collection of Jim's blog posts about his farming life.

Sometimes I Sits and Thinks link

My review - 

and sometimes I just sits.

This is a selection of anecdotes about life as a farmer in Cumbria. The writer grew up on his farm, and generations of his family before him farmed the land. You develop a real feeling for the land you are hefted to and this comes across in these stories. We hear of the cattle, the sheep, his succession of working dogs, the weather and the neighbours, in an amusing and chatty style as the snippets of Jim Webster’s countryman’s wisdom fall gently. I love this collection.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Steven Manchester

A new author to me, Steven Manchester has created a new kind of road trip with this book. It's darkly funny and I enjoyed it a great deal.

Ashes link

My review - 

Brothers Tom and Jason Prendergast have been summoned to their late father’s lawyer’s office to be told that, unless they fulfil his wishes and scatter his ashes in Seattle, they may not inherit the contents of an envelope he’s left for them. The men, both in their fifties, have been at loggerheads for years. This looks like being the most uncomfortable road trip ever. The story moves between the present day and their constant bickering, back to their childhood, and scenes of the monstrous bullying their father subjected them to. They had each other, though, until things fell apart.

The relationship between the brothers, whose lives had taken such different paths, was initially very prickly and filled with animosity. As the story progressed, they reminisced and their relationship evolved. Their father’s final instruction brought them to the place of his choosing. At this point, they found something he’d kept from them since they were small. They found it almost too late.

The story had a lot of dark humour in it, which I enjoyed. I also loved the growing sense of trust between the warring brothers. The whole book had a kind of roundness to it, a fitness and a satisfying ending. Steven Manchester’s writing style suits this story which I enjoyed very much. Be aware that the story finishes at 81% of the book and you won’t be taken by surprise, as I was, by the end arriving when it did.

I received an advance review copy of Ashes.

Rachel Abbott

Rachel's a firm favourite author with me. Crimne, thriller, spychological fiction - they include something of all these categories.

The Sixth Window link

My review - 

Natalie’s husband was killed by a hit-and-run driver and she has found a safe haven, with her fifteen year-old daughter Scarlett, in the home of his old best friend, Ed. It’s not long, though, before she begins to believe that Ed might have certain proclivities which make him a danger to her young daughter. Natalie and Scarlett move to an apartment which Scarlett hates. She can hear things which her mum can’t, and she’s afraid. She’d rather go back home to live with Ed.

This is a masterclass in tension from the queen of the genre. You can feel Scarlett’s frustration at being treated as too young to have her fears taken seriously. You can also feel Natalie’s genuine concern for her daughter and agree with the clues she has picked up on to bring her to that conclusion. In this story, however, the old adage of Trust No-one is the underlying theme. This is a scarily believable, tense and compelling thriller and it’s impossible to ration yourself to a few pages at a time. Go on. I dare you!

I received a pre-publication review copy.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Kate Hughes

This is a story for the younger element but it's a great read for any age.

My review -

Jez lives with his two younger half-brothers, his mum and his stepdad, Steve. Steve drinks, Mum is scared of leaving the house and Jez is effectively bringing up the young ones on his own. He’s disruptive at school until the class gets a new supply teacher, Mr Brown.

This book is intended for young readers but it’s a lovely story for any age group. We see Jez facing the unfairness of life – his stepdad’s behaviour and the peer-pressure from older boys, wanting to look cool, hating to be seen to cry – all the things so important for an eleven year-old boy. It’s a story with great strength and hope and I really enjoyed it.