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Blood’s Game by Angus Donald

IMG_1162Close to poverty, young Holcroft Blood can’t believe his luck when he begins working for the Duke of Buckingham, one of the most powerful men in England. Noticed almost immediately for his ability to decode ciphers, Holcroft is soon promoted to a position that enables him to betray his master. Meanwhile, Holcroft’s father, Colonel Thomas Blood, has fallen on hard times and makes a living by any means necessary so when he is tasked to steal the Crown Jewels, he knows he is putting the lives of himself and his family in danger.

Charles II is my favourite king (yes, I have a mental list of favourite monarchs!) so when I saw the premise of this book, I knew that this would be right up my street. Although he does not appear much in the book, the first time we encounter the king is certainly a memorable experience with him attempting to evacuate his bowels! He certainly lives up to his ‘Merry Monarch’ nickname, and I was happy to find that although some of his antics are definitely questionable, Blood’s Game does not besmirch his memory in any way!

I initially thought that this would be mainly about Colonel Blood and his attempt to steal the Crown Jewels and, although this is one of the plots in the book, the main character is his son, Holcroft. I really enjoyed reading the rise of Holcroft from the boy who was bullied on the streets of London to the trusted helper of the Duke of Buckingham. Nowadays, he would definitely be classed as being on the autistic spectrum, but back in the Stuart times, his ability to remember card sequences and decode complicated ciphers would have made him an oddity. I was pleased to see that, rather than ridiculing him, Holcroft’s talents were recognised and used to advance his career.

Although this is a piece of historical fiction, the author has stayed close to the facts of the stealing of the Crown Jewels by Blood, embellishing where it is needed. As a direct contrast to his son, Colonel Blood is a thoroughly unlikeable character although, even though I already knew the outcome of his crime, by the end of the book, I was willing him to get away with it! The writing of the characters in Blood’s Game is one of its biggest strengths and Angus Donald has created realistic portrayals of some of the most interesting people in British history.

I am pleased to see that this book is now going to be part of a series – something I will definitely be awaiting with interest!

With thanks to Readers First for my copy of Blood’s Game.

 

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***BLOG TOUR*** The Good Mother by Karen Osman

I am thrilled to be today’s stop on the blog tour for the fantastic new book from Karen Osman, The Good Mother.

Keeping secrets from her husband is not usually something Catherine would do but when she begins writing to Michael, a convicted killer, she knows her family would not approve. In another part of the country, Kate is trying to bring up two children with an out of work husband and a severe lack of money. When she meets someone who begins to recognize her talents, she knows she is playing with fire. Lastly we have Alison, a university student who has managed to gain a place on her dream course. University life is not what she hoped for, however, and she finds herself lonely and unhappy. That is until one of her professors takes an interest in her. All of these women have secrets which threaten to come to the surface once Michael is released from prison…

First of all, I would like to say how much I loved this book! Told from the perspective of three women, it took a few chapters before I fully engaged with the characters but once I’d got a handle on who was who, I couldn’t wait to find out how each of their stories progressed. Often in books written in this style, I find myself wanting to read about one of the characters more than the others, but The Good Mother had me hooked on all three story lines.

One of the underlying themes running throughout the book is the impact keeping a secret has, whether it be Catherine’s reluctance to tell her husband about her prison pen-pal, Kate’s growing friendship with her tutor or, more seriously, the toxic relationship Alison has with her professor. Although I could see why Catherine and Kate kept their secrets, I was willing Alison to speak out about what was happening to her and had a sense of foreboding throughout the chapters dedicated to her story. It was Alison who had the most impact on me whilst I was reading and I was desperate for her to have a happy ending.

Karen Osman

Throughout the book, it is obvious that the women’s lives were going to collide at some point and, although I was right about some of the connections, there was one part of the story that I did not see coming at all. It is great when you read a book and you get that ‘Eureka’ moment when all of the pieces slot into place. The Good Mother certainly had one of these moments and provided the story with a satisfying, if heartbreaking, conclusion.

It is hard to say too much without giving away the plot, so my advice is to grab a copy of this well-written, emotive book and read it yourself!

With thanks to Melanie Price at Aria – Head of Zeus for my ARC.

Take a look at the rest of the blog tour:

The Suffragette’s Secret by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

With the imminent arrival of his first child, genealogist Morton Farrier has set himself the task of researching the family tree of his wife. During the course of his investigation, Morton finds himself fascinated by one ancestor in particular, his wife’s great-grandmother, Grace Emmerson, a militant suffragette. With his mother-in-law convinced that Grace was a respectable woman, Morton must try to discover the secrets that have been hidden deep in the past.

I am a big fan of the Morton Farrier series so I was pleased to discover that Nathan Dylan Goodwin had written a new installment, albeit in the form of a short story. For anyone who is already acquainted with Morton, this book sees a departure from his normal investigations in that, for once, there is no element of danger! Instead, we see him researching the life of a suffragette, mixing fact with fiction to create a well-researched snapshot of the campaign to give women equal voting rights.

During the course of the books, we have seen Morton change from a confirmed bachelor to a married father but this is not the most surprising transformation. It was amusing to see his least favourite archivist have a complete personality transplant upon finding out the news of his new child! This was a very funny aside and I am assuming that she will back to her old cantankerous self by the next book!

If you have not read any of this series, then I would advise you go back and start from the beginning in order to build up the full story of Morton’s life but for existing fans, this will certainly whet the appetite for a new book!

Monthly Round Up: September 2017

September is always a busy month for me so I don’t get time for much reading. I have managed to read a few good books, though, including one which is probably going to make my top 10 of the year!

Books I’ve Read

91YZv6g5fHLNothing Stays Buried by P J Tracy

The eighth book in the series sees the Monkeewrench team, along with the detectives Gino and Magozzi, investigating the disappearance of a young woman and a serial killer that is leaving playing cards on his victims.

 

51m7HvpItPLThe American Candidate by M J Lee

The third in the Jayne Sinclair series has the genealogical investigator researching the family history of a potential candidate for the US presidency. Her most dangerous and thrilling case to date.

 

51zX2mZDnyL._SY346_Cold Blood by Robert Bryndza

Another fantastic book featuring detective Erika Foster sees her trying to apprehend callous and vicious killers who are dismembering bodies and leaving them in suitcases.

 

My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood

After returning from a war zone to sort out her late mother’s estate, Kate begins to realise that all is not right in Herne Bay. Is the medication she is taking to blame for the unexplained occurrences or is there something more malevolent at play? One of my favourite books of the year so far.

 

The Good Mother by Karen Osman

Three women are all keeping secrets but what links them to each other and what is their connection to the soon-to-be-released prisoner Michael? Read my review when it is published as part of the blog tour on October 6th.

 

Books I’ve Acquired

Can the past ever be forgotten?

As soon as nurse Maura Lyle sets foot inside the foreboding Essen Grange, she feels shivers ripple down her spine. And the sense of unease only increases when she meets her new patient, Gordon Henderson.

Drawn into the Henderson family’s tangled web of secrets and betrayals, Maura can ignore the danger lurking behind every door no longer. Even the door she has been forbidden from opening…

Essen Grange is a house with dark and cruel intentions. But now that darkness has turned on her, can Maura escape before it’s too late?

 

They placed me in here and threw away the key. I look down at the gown they’ve put on me. I want my own clothes. I don’t know how long I’ve been here.

An elderly woman is found murdered in her own home, and Detective Lottie Parker and her partner Detective Boyd are called in to investigate. When they discover that the victim’s daughter is missing as well, they start to fear for the safety of the whole family…

Two days later as a nearby house is set on fire and with the body count rising, Lottie and her team begin to unpick a web of secrets and lies, as the murders seem to link back to a case investigated by Lottie’s father before he took his own life.

With little knowledge of what really happened to her father, Lottie knows this is a case that could give her some answers. But how much does she want to know? And how far is Lottie prepared to dig to uncover the truth?

 

Here’s to a great October!

 

My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood

After the death of her mother, Kate Rafter is forced to return to the family home in Herne Bay from Syria where she has been working as a war reporter. Having not returned for many years, Kate is troubled by past memories and is also traumatized by the events she has witnessed in Aleppo. With a sister who drinks to excess and who seemingly has a self-destruct button, Kate’s only ally is her brother-in-law, Paul, who has been struggling to keep his life together. When Kate begins to hear screams and sees a young boy in the garden, are they hallucinations from the medication she is taking or is there something much more sinister going on?

From the outset, we know that Kate has committed a crime as she is undergoing a psychological assessment at a police station. What we don’t know, however, is what she has been accused of doing. Through these interviews, we get to see two sides of Kate – the tough, determined woman who risks life and limb on a daily basis to report from the horrors of Aleppo and also the emotional, caring person who is distraught by the memories of a young boy she befriended in Syria who, we assume, has since died. It soon becomes apparent that she has hurt someone since being back in Herne Bay, but who? I loved the way the author shifts between the psych interviews and the events taking place at Kate’s mother’s house as this left me desperately wanting to know what happened to link the two.

Kate is a very difficult character to understand – are the strange occurrences really happening or are they figments of her imagination? With all she has witnessed in her past, there is no doubt that it would be understandable if she was hallucinating but then there are more tangible events like an open door or a marble placed in the garden.

I was surprised when, halfway through the book, the focus shifted to Kate’s sister, Sally, the alcoholic who has lost all interest in life. This is a very clever move as it enables us to see some of the same events from a different point of view. I grew to like Sally much more and started to question some of the things that we had been previously been told. She cut a very tragic figure who, although she had not been treated badly by her father like her sister had, was going through her own personal torture having not seen her daughter for many years.

My Sister’s Bones is quite a slow burner but towards the end, I could not put it down as we discover what everything has been leading towards. It was at this point that the book became truly shocking and we realise that we don’t always know what goes on behind closed doors. I had enjoyed the book up to this point, but the closing chapters really upped the stakes for me and made this one of my favourite books of the year so far.

With thanks to Penguin UK and Net Galley for my ARC.

COVER REVEAL: The Malice of Angels by Wendy Percival

If you are a fan of mystery stories with a genealogical slant or even just a fan of mystery stories in general, then I can definitely recommend Wendy Percival’s ‘Esme Quentin’ series. The Malice of Angels is the third full-length story and sees the mystery of a nurse’s wartime disappearance open up old wounds for genealogical investigator, Esme Quentin.

Here is a taste of what is to come:

1

It wasn’t until she turned into the narrow medieval passageway of Fish Street that Esme Quentin suspected she was being followed. He – if it was a he, it was difficult to be sure, encased as the walker was in a hooded trench coat – seemed to be keeping his distance. He slowed as she slowed, held back if she paused, as though biding his time before approaching her. Perhaps she should grab the initiative and challenge him? Demand to know who he was and what he thought he was doing creeping up on a middle-aged woman in the dark?

She stopped and deliberately looked round, but he must have pulled back out of the halo of the street lamp as he’d disappeared into the shadows.

IMG_1139

The Malice of Angels will be published on 13th October 2017.

Take a look at the author’s website: http://www.wendypercival.co.uk

 

Cold Blood by Robert Bryndza

51zX2mZDnyL._SY346_Erika Foster has seen many dead bodies but the one that has just been found, dismembered, in a suitcase is particularly gruesome. When a link is made to a similar discovery a few weeks before, the detective realises that she has another serial killer on her patch. With limited clues as to the identity of the culprit, Erika’s task is made even more difficult when she is, herself, the victim of a brutal attack. When the loved ones of someone close to the case are threatened, will the reign of terror end or will another family be mourning a loss?

It is hard to imagine a time when Erika Foster did not exist but it has been less than two years since we were first introduced to her in The Girl in the Ice. During this time, we have grown to love the damaged detective who, since the untimely death of her husband, has made work her focus, often to the detriment of her personal life. In this, the fifth instalment, Erika is struggling to define the relationship she has started with a fellow officer whilst putting all of her energy into finding the killer of the man in the suitcase.

Cold Blood shows, once again, how Robert Bryndza has quickly become one of the writers of police procedural novels with a tight storyline and characters that genuinely come to life. The antagonists in this book are particularly well-written and are probably the most heinous to date. Some of the crimes that are committed are truly horrific but by telling the story, in part, from the point of view of one of the killers, we also develop empathy for what they, themselves, are enduring. Whereas Max was more experienced with definite psychopathic tendencies, Nina was younger and more easily manipulated. I spent most of the book willing her to escape his evil clutches but you will have to read the book yourself to see if she succeeds!

Cold Blood is an unpredictable page turner that you definitely don’t want to put down once you have started. The Erika Foster books are fast becoming one of my favourite series and I hope it won’t be too long until the sixth book!

With thanks to Bookouture and Net Galley for my ARC.

 

 

The American Candidate by M J Lee

Genealogical Investigator, Jayne Sinclair, is about to undertake her most high profile case to date after being tasked to research the family history of a potential candidate for the Presidency of the United States of America. When the man who commissioned the research is shot dead in front of her eyes, Jayne realises that someone will stop at nothing to prevent the research from being carried out. Exactly who is the candidate’s mysterious grandfather and why is someone so keen to keep his secrets well hidden? Jayne knows that, if she is to continue with this case, her life is in the utmost danger.

The American Candidate is the third of the Jayne Sinclair series and, in light of recent upheavals in American politics, deals with a very topical subject. Although the first two books in the series (The Irish Inheritance and The Somme Legacy) had an element of danger, this one really ups the ante and is quite violent from the start when someone she has just met is killed in cold blood in front of her. What follows is a mad dash through the streets of London as Jayne and her companion endeavour to escape from assassins disguised as police. This part of the book was very reminiscent of the Dan Brown book The Da Vinci Code and, indeed, even mentioned one of the same locations – Temple Church. I found this chase sequence very exciting and, due to the skills of the people chasing them, was desperate to discover how they would manage to get away.

Like the other books in the series, The American Candidate is set in two time frames, the other era being prior to and during World War Two. We discover quite early on that the candidate’s grandfather was heavily involved in the Nazi movement and, at times, this was quite disturbing to read due to its subject content. It is obvious that the author has done a great deal of research and it was fascinating to read about the English supporters of Hitler’s ideology and their campaigns under Oswald Mosley. It was easy to see how some young men could be seduced into believing what they were being told about the ‘enemy’ – again a very topical subject today.

It’s not often that a book with a genealogical slant has a twist so I was not expecting it when one occurred towards the end of this book. This was a very clever move and was one that all seemed so obvious when it was explained!

The American Candidate is a great addition to the series and I look forward to reading the next one.

The One that Got Away by Annabel Kantaria

 

A Facebook-organised school reunion after fifteen years is hardly top of Stella’s to-do list but she is intrigued as her ex, the renowned businessman George Wolsey will be there. Ever since they split up at the age of eighteen, in rather acrimonious circumstances, they have not been in contact, but that night changes everything. Embarking on an affair built on a web of lies, it soon becomes apparent that once someone gets you back, they may never let you go…

On paper, this is not the sort of book I would usually read, but after being enthralled by Annabel Kantaria’s last book, The Disappearance, I had to give this one a go. I am so glad I did even though I am now suffering from lack of sleep through not being able to put it down!

At the start of the book, my heart went out to Stella, a woman who, despite her highly successful catering company, has always been missing something from her life. George, on the other hand, came across as a bit of a playboy, a ‘jack the lad’ who is used to getting everything his own way. When they met at the reunion, I cringed as he tried it on with Stella despite his wife, Ness, being in the same room. Ness appeared to be the sort of woman content with turning a blind eye to her husband’s misdemeanours as long as she was able to wear the finest clothes and receive the latest cosmetic procedure.

What happened next completely shifted my opinion of all three characters as Annabel Kantaria gives a masterclass on how we can’t always know what goes on behind closed doors. Appearances can certainly be deceiving and this is definitely the case in The One That Got Away as George descends into a spiral of despair and Stella’s manipulations come to the fore. By the end of the book, my opinions of the characters had changed so much that I was willing George to return to the philandering ways we experience at the start.

My only concern was the ending. Don’t get me wrong – it was a very unexpected and worthy finale, but I really wanted a different form of closure for George. That is just my personal opinion though!

The One That Got Away is another fantastic read from Annabel Kantaria and I thank her, Net Galley and HQ for the ARC.

 

 

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