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Broken Dolls by Sarah Flint

51KZWGJbBJLWhen the body of a premature baby is found in a carrier bag, thrown away with the rubbish, DC Charlie Stafford and her team commence an investigation that will lead them to some of the most vulnerable and exploited women in society. After the body of a young prostitute is found with horrific injuries, the team soon find themselves stretched, dealing with prostitution, crack dens, trafficking and now murder. Are the cases linked or is there more than one killer on their patch? Meeting with obstructions at every turn, the police know that time is running out before more lives are damaged forever.

Broken Dolls is the fourth of Sarah Flint’s Charlie Stafford series and, having read the rest, I think I can safely say that this has definitely been my favourite. Charlie is a great character, a no-nonsense copper, devoted to her job and determined to bring the guilty to justice. Like most lead characters in police procedurals, Charlie has a less-than-perfect past, but I like how this only plays a background role in the story, the author preferring to concentrate on the case instead.

The case itself is a pretty emotional one, dealing with the trafficking of women from Europe and forcing them to work as prostitutes in brothels. It is easy to imagine how these women, desperate to provide for their families, fall into the trap of believing the promises of work and accommodation in a foreign country. I particularly liked how the author gave us the backstories of the women involved in the sex trade, showing how society had failed them and making me feel incredibly angry at how this was allowed to happen.

There are several unlikable characters in Broken Dolls, namely ‘Razor’, ‘Dimitri’ and ‘The Punter’. Each of these men use and abuse women and I was desperate for each of them to get their comeuppance. I found the conclusion of each of these story lines very satisfying and was quite surprised by what I read! The ending was very clever and left the possibility of the story being picked up in a later book.

This is a great series and I look forward to the next installment!

With thanks to Aria and Net Galley for my ARC.

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Why Mummy Swears by Gill Sims

It’s the start of the school holidays and Ellen is exhausted. Tired of being ‘just’ a mother, she longs to get back to work and feel useful once again. After managing to bag her dream job, she soon realises, though, that this brings with it a plethora of other problems which threaten to overwhelm her. With a dysfunctional family, a less-than-supportive husband, childcare problems and now a starring role on the PTA, we really do get to find out Why Mummy Swears!

Although I have not read the previous book Why Mummy Drinks, I have been privy to some of the very funny Facebook ‘Peter and Jane’ posts about Ellen’s children so had some idea of what to expect. What I got was a laugh-out-loud book which, at times, was also very poignant. Gill’s writing is spot on and you can almost hear Ellen’s voice as she talks you through each disastrous day.

I imagine that plenty of people, when reading this book, are nodding their head as they recall similar events that have happened to them although I am yet to hear of anyone who has had a Christmas quite like the one described here! I shall never look at a gravy boat in quite the same way again… I definitely had a knowing look on my face when reading about the attempt to split a restaurant bill, something I think many of us have experienced!

Although most of the book is written in a light-hearted way, the problems of modern parenthood are also dealt with – I’m sure many parents have had the social media argument with their children and are also trying to juggle their work and home life without feeling they are neglecting one of them. There is also a very topical nod to the mildly irritating Fortnite that all children seem to have become obsessed with.

As the title suggests, there is a lot of swearing but even this had me chuckling – some of Ellen’s phraseology was incredibly descriptive and I was surprised that Peter and Jane were not copying on a regular basis!

If you are looking for a book to make you laugh out loud, then Why Mummy Swears could just be the book for you. An excellent read and I will now be going back to read Why Mummy Drinks.

With thanks to Rosie Margesson and Harper Non Fiction for my copy of Why Mummy Swears, which is published on July 16th.

The Tin God by Chris Nickson

51SXPfKJzFL._SX315_BO1,204,203,200_It’s 1897 and the people of Leeds are about to go to the polls to vote for a new Poor Law Guardian. For the first time, women have decided to stand for election, leading to unrest amongst those who feel that a woman’s place should be in the home. When the women begin to be attacked, Superintendent Tom Harper has a particular reason for wanting this man off the streets – one of the candidates is his own wife, Annabelle. As the threats become worse, and deadly explosions begin to rip through the venues where the women are speaking, the detectives know they must find the culprit before more lives are lost.

The Tin God is the sixth in the Tom Harper series and is a very timely one with it being the 100th anniversary of women receiving the right to vote in the UK. One of the things I have always enjoyed about this series is the prominence the author gives to the female characters, so often overlooked in books set in this era. We have seen Annabelle Harper’s strength in previous books but, here, she really comes into her own when her own life is threatened. Chris Nickson really brings home how turbulent these times must have been with these forward-thinking women being met with resistance from those firmly stuck in the past.

It is always fascinating to read how the police force of that time solved cases without any of the modern techniques used today, relying instead on pounding the streets, looking for clues. Despite the slow search for a breakthrough, the plot moves on at a fast pace with bombs, murders, attempted abductions, attacks… late Victorian Leeds is not the safest place to live! There is also a sub-plot involving Billy Reed, an inspector now living and working in Whitby, who is investigating a smuggling ring. I do hope, at some point, we see Tom and Billy working together again back in Leeds.

The Tin God is a great read and I highly recommend this series to anyone with an interest in historical crime fiction. Although this is the sixth book, it could be read as a standalone.

With thanks to Severn House and Net Galley for my copy of The Tin God.

 

 

The Dancer by John Nixon

When a woman is found dead at the bottom of a cliff, the only clue to her identity is a note found on her person detailing an appointment with genealogist, Madeleine Porter. After it is determined that this is no accident, the investigation stalls, prompting Madeleine to do some investigating of her own. Just what was it that the dead woman wanted help with and did this lead to her untimely death?

The Dancer is the latest installment in the Madeleine Porter mystery series and, although I wouldn’t say it is one of my favourites, it is still a good book, especially for anyone wanting a quick, easy read.

As in previous books, Madeleine uses her genealogical knowledge to help solve a mystery, in this case the identity of a woman suspected of being pushed off a cliff. As someone who researches my own family, I always like to predict the methods about to be used by fictional genealogists and am pleased when our strategies match! From a genealogy point of view, the author clearly knows what he is talking about and the sources he uses are spot on.

I enjoyed the mystery in The Dancer, and although it is easy to predict what is going to happen in parts, I loved how the different strands tied together to create a well-balanced story. I would have liked to have found out more about the dead woman but I suppose that was even beyond the great Madeleine Porter!

I look forward to Madeleine sinking her teeth into another case soon!

False Accusations by Cora Harrison

The quiet village of Willowgrove is shocked when one of the residents, Mrs Trevor, is murdered. When someone confesses to the crime, it should be an open and shut case, the only problem being that the ‘culprit’ is Rosie, the victim’s daughter, a young woman with learning difficulties. Flora Morgan, a retired headteacher who knows Rosie, is called in to act as her ‘appropriate adult’, firmly believing that she is innocent of the crime. Why did she confess and why is she lying? Flora must find out who actually did it before Rosie is found guilty of a crime she didn’t commit.

Over the years, there have been many mystery books written where the person investigating the crime has no involvement in the police force, Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, probably being the most famous. This is the case in False Accusations where Flora Morgan’s involvement in the murder of Mrs Trevor comes as a result of her being the ‘appropriate adult’ of Rosie Trevor, a person who safeguards the rights and welfare of a child or vulnerable adult who is being questioned by the police. In books of this genre, the way in which the main protagonist comes across the crime can, at times, seem contrived but I thought that this was a good way of explaining how she could potentially be involved in other cases too.

I liked how, at the start of the book, we were already introduced to the person who had admitted to the crime and the mystery wasn’t so much ‘who done it?’ as ‘how can we prove that she didn’t do it?’ Rosie was a fascinating character whose condition meant that we are never quite sure if she is telling the truth. The author has included several other potential candidates for the true culprit  and I was genuinely surprised when the big reveal occurred – it was not someone who was on my radar! I did feel, however, that there were far too many characters in the book and I found myself confused as to who was who, especially when some of them were referred to as characters from Wind in the Willows.

False Accusations is a slow burner but I felt that the ending was quite rushed and Flora’s illness towards the end didn’t really add anything to the plot. This was a shame as I do believe that this could be a good series if some of the problems are ironed out.

With thanks to Caoimhe O’Brien at Sapere Books for my copy of False Accusations.

 

 

Monthly Round Up – June 2018

The end of June already – just where has the year gone?! I’m ahead of schedule on my Goodreads challenge despite having hardly any reading time over the last few months. I had, however, managed to reduce my Net Galley shelf until books by some of my favourite authors appeared on there this month!

Books I’ve Read

Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

Known for his courtroom dramas featuring lawyer Eddie Flynn, Steve Cavanagh has produced this masterpiece which can be read as a standalone. When a young starlet is found brutally murdered, the lawyer meets his match when the killer finds himself not on trial but a member of the jury. An absolutely brilliant read.

First to Die by Alex Caan

When a senior civil servant is found dead, seemingly killed by a highly contagious virus, Kate Riley, Zain Harris and their team have their work cut out to stop it spreading before panic sets in. The second in a series where i feel it would have been beneficial to have read the first.

I Know You by Annabel Kantaria

Happy that she is finally widening her social circle, Taylor is blissfully unaware that someone is stalking her and that this is about to lead to deadly consequences. As a fan of Annabel Kantaria’s writing, I found this another fantastic read.

Conan Doyle for the Defence by Margalit Fox

The true story of Oscar Slater who, in 1908, was found guilty of the murder of an elderly spinster in Glasgow. This would become one of the most well-known miscarriages of justice in Scotland, not least because of the involvement of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in trying to secure his release and pardon.

False Accusations by Cora Harrison

The first in a new series featuring former headteacher Flora Morgan who, after acting as an ‘Appropriate Adult’ for a girl with learning difficulties, decides to help find her innocent of a murder charge. A great plot but not one to sink your teeth into.

Books I’ve Acquired

Beneath the surface lie forgotten secrets…

A village destroyed

It’s the summer of 1935 and eleven-year-old Stella Walker is preparing to leave her home forever. Forced to evacuate to make way for a new reservoir, the village of Brackendale Green will soon be lost. But before the water has even reached them, a dreadful event threatens to tear Stella’s family apart.

An uncovered secret

Present day, and a fierce summer has dried up the lake and revealed the remnants of the deserted village. Now an old woman, Stella begs her granddaughter Laura to make the journey she can’t. She’s sure the village still holds answers for her but, with only days until the floodwaters start to rise again, Laura is in a race against time to solve the mysteries of Stella’s almost forgotten past.

Haunting and evocative, The Drowned Village reaches across the decades in an unforgettable tale of love, loss and family.

A baby lies abandoned amongst the rubbish;her tiny face as white as alabaster, her body as stiff as a miniature doll.

A young prostitute lies beaten, her figure lying like a mannequin on the frozen concrete, her blood spilt, her life ebbing away.

As DC ‘Charlie’ Stafford and her boss DI Hunter struggle to identify the victim from the violator their hunt brings them to the crack houses of Lambeth, littered with damaged people, their lives scarred by tragedy and violence, most broken beyond repair.

As further lives hang in the balance Charlie must enpower the weak to speak out against those who seek to cause harm.

But can a broken doll ever truly be mended; or will the wounds of the past, fashion the events of the future?

The fourth in the Sunday Times bestselling Jane Tennison thrillers, MURDER MILE is set at the height of the ‘Winter of Discontent’. Can Jane Tennison uncover a serial killer? 

February, 1979, ‘The Winter of Discontent’. Economic chaos has led to widespread strikes across Britain.

Jane Tennison, now a Detective Sergeant, has been posted to Peckham CID, one of London’s toughest areas. As the rubbish on the streets begins to pile up, so does the murder count: two bodies in as many days.

There are no suspects and the manner of death is different in each case. The only link between the two victims is the location of the bodies, found within a short distance of each other near Rye Lane in Peckham. Three days later another murder occurs in the same area. Press headlines scream that a serial killer is loose on ‘Murder Mile’ and that police incompetence is hampering the investigation.

Jane is under immense pressure to catch the killer before they strike again.Working long hours with little sleep, what she uncovers leaves her doubting her own mind.

Why Mummy Swears is the much anticipated new novel from Gill Sims, author of the hilarious Why Mummy Drinks and online sensation Peter and Jane.

It’s every parents’ nightmare – the start of the school holidays – and instead of sitting in the sun, reading a book over a cold, crisp glass of Pinot Grigio, Mummy has two bored moppets to attend to. After frantically booking sports camps, child minder slots, not to mention time off work, Mummy is exhausted. But this is only the beginning…

After being dragged to join the school’s PTA in the new term by an annoyingly kind-spirited neighbour, Mummy is stuck with organising the Christmas Fayre and pleasing all the overly disapproving parents. In combination with getting to know her father’s surprise new glamorous (and much younger) wife, and being forced to spend more time with her narcissistic mother, life isn’t cutting her much of a break. What more could possibly happen?

One spring day a young woman is found dead on a beach at the bottom of a cliff. She has no identification on her, just a scribbled note for an appointment that morning with Madeleine Porter, a local family historian. Did she fall or was she pushed? The police struggle to identify the mystery woman and Madeleine, intrigued by the case, decides to do her own investigation. She uncovers a mixture of adultery, ballroom dancing and greed before discovering the reason behind her presence on the beach.

 

 

I’ve got so many good books on my Kindle at the moment, I don’t know what to read next!

Conan Doyle for the Defence by Margalit Fox

Conan Doyle for the DefenceIn 1908, an 82-year-old spinster, Marion Gilchrist, was found bludgeoned to death in her own Glasgow home. The police soon had who they believed was the culprit – a German Jew called Oscar Slater. Despite having an alibi, Slater was convicted and sentenced to death before having his sentence commuted to life imprisonment in Peterhead Prison. Seventeen years later, William Gordon, a fellow inmate, was released, taking with him a smuggled message from Slater to someone who he thought could help him to clear his name – the writer Arthur Conan Doyle. This is the story of how the Sherlock Holmes writer helped to free the man who had become the subject of a huge miscarriage of justice.

In recent years, mainly thanks to the BBC Sherlock series, there has been a renewed interest in the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The TV adaptation of Arthur and George by Julian Barnes also introduced the public to how, although Sherlock Holmes was a fictional character, Conan Doyle was certainly not and, he too, dabbled in detection.

Conan Doyle for the Defence has police corruption, ineptitude and racial prejudice at its core. Shortly after the elderly woman’s murder, those responsible for finding the culprit had their sights firmly set on Oscar Slater. Despite him having an alibi, having no knowledge of the dead woman and there being no evidence whatsoever, Slater was arrested, tried for her murder and subsequently sentenced to death. This was commuted to life imprisonment and he would spend the following decades incarcerated in one of the toughest prisons in Scotland. Conan Doyle would spend many years trying to help to free him and even published The Case of Oscar Slater in 1912.

It is clear that the author has done much research into the case and, as a result, has provided a comprehensive overview of the trial, incarceration and release of Slater. The transcriptions of correspondence between himself and his family were particularly moving and really brought home how his family, themselves suffering due to the First World War, never gave up hope that, one day, justice would finally prevail.

I found Conan Doyle for the Defence a fascinating read, leaving me with a sense of despair that the justice system allowed this to happen. Highly recommended to those who enjoy reading true crime and any Sherlock Holmes fans.

With thanks to Net Galley and Serpent’s Tail / Profile Books for my ARC.

Purchase the book here: Conan Doyle for the Defence

I Know You by Annabel Kantaria

Having recently moved to the UK from her native USA, Taylor is lonely. Her husband is at work most of the time and with her being heavily pregnant, she is finding it hard to make new friends. All seems to change, however, when she is invited by a neighbour to join a book club and she decides to take part in a local walking group. Has she finally found the friends she craves for or is one of them not exactly what they seem?

Before going any further, it would be useful in sharing the book’s blurb with you:

You trust me.

You shouldn’t.

That picture you just posted on Instagram? I’ve seen it.
The location you tagged? I’ve been there.

You haven’t been careful enough, have you?
Because I know all about you.

But when I meet you, I won’t tell you that.
I’ll pretend. Just like you do.

You’ll like me though. You’ll trust me enough to let me into your life.

And then I’ll destroy it.

Throughout the book, which is mainly told from Taylor’s perspective, we are privy to the thoughts of another, unknown character: the character from the blurb. From the outset, then, we realise that someone in Taylor’s life is not who they say they are and the author does a good job in introducing several characters who could, quite easily, be candidates for this dubious role. Could it be her newly-found friends at the walking group or one of the women at her book club? Aspersions are cast on all of these characters at different times in the book, helping to keep you guessing until all is revealed.

I liked the way the story was written in that although we know that there is a threat towards Taylor, she is blissfully unaware of what is going on around her. In most books of this genre, we are used to seeing the main protagonist becoming more and more paranoid as their world starts to implode. Here, however, she has no clue as to what is about to happen to her, meaning that it is a huge shock when it finally does!

Although I Know You is a fast-paced book anyway, once the event that the unknown character is preparing for finally takes place, I found I could just not put it down! It is difficult to say too much without revealing any spoilers, so all I will say is that I found the ending satisfying and worthy of the build up.

I am a big fan of Annabel Kantaria’s writing after reading The One That Got Away and The Disappearance, so I am pleased that I Know You lived up to my expectations. Highly recommended.

With thanks to HQ and Net Galley for my ARC.

 

 

First to Die by Alex Caan

51vvx8RPkCL._SY346_When the body of a man is found the morning after a demonstration by a group of protesters known as Anonymous, Kate Riley and Zain Harris from the Police Crime Commissioner’s Office are called in to investigate. Discovering that the body is covered in strange pustules, fear strikes when it is revealed that the man could be a victim of a lethal virus; potentially, anyone who has come into contact with the victim could be a carrier. The body is soon identified as that of a senior civil servant with strong government connections. As another person goes missing, the race is on to find an antidote whilst also trying to discover the motive behind the attack.

With recent events in Salisbury, the idea of someone being infected with a potentially lethal virus is very topical, and it was this that drew me towards reading the book. I found the premise a fascinating one and enjoyed reading about the precautions that needed to be taken due to them not knowing what had caused the death. The descriptions of the body are graphic and helped to explain the need to ascertain exactly what happened before the public were informed.

The two lead characters, DCI Kate Riley and DS Zain Harris, are an intriguing pair and I liked how their investigation styles were very different yet complemented each other. I did find, however, that the plot of the book was often slowed down by the references to their back stories. Whereas I often find this useful, especially if you haven’t read the previous book in the series, here, I found it distracted me from the main plot. I felt that Kate’s back story, whilst obviously a fascinating one, was a bit of a ‘red herring’ in this book. I found myself wanting to know more about the mysterious character who was watching her, only to find that the story was not resolved in this book.

I did enjoy reading First to Die, but I definitely feel that this is one where I should have read the first in the series prior to reading this one.

With thanks to Zaffre and Readers First for my ARC.

 

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