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May 2016

The Pearl Locket by Kathleen McGurl

imageInheriting a house when your husband is out of work and his redundancy money is quickly dwindling may seem like a dream come true. For Ali, though, her great-aunt’s house brings a wealth of problems. In serious need of renovation and a lot of TLC, Ali and her husband soon wonder if the task is too large to undertake. When writing dating from 1944 is discovered on a wall, the family soon find themselves uncovering a wartime secret that was never intended to be discovered,

Like Kathleen McGurl’s other books, The Emerald Comb and The Daughters of Red Hill Hall, The Pearl locket is set in two time frames, in this case, the present day and World War Two. The two eras intertwine well making the story easy to follow. Often with books of this genre, one setting is more interesting than the other; this was not the case here. The story of Joan and Jack in 1944 and that of Ali and her family in the present day were equally enjoyable and as one chapter ended, I looked forward to the next.

The story of Joan and Jack was incredibly poignant and showed the true cost to the everyday person during World War Two. Although I correctly predicted the fate of both of these characters, it did not spoil my enjoyment of the story. The parallels between Joan and Kelly, Ali’s daughter, were also interesting, showing how life for young people hasn’t really changed between the two eras.

Another great read from Kathleen McGurl.


The Irish Inheritance by M J Lee

Genealogical investigator, Jayne Sinclair, is contacted by an American billionaire who is seeking help in order to trace his father. Adopted at a young age, and with no recollection of his early life, John Hughes is desperate to discover his true identity before he succumbs to the illness that threatens to end his life in the following months. With few clues to help her, the former police detective has to use all of her investigative skills in order to make connections to Ireland’s Easter Rising of 1916 and the later death of a British Officer on a hillside near Dublin.

Genealogical fiction has, in recent years, become a fast-growing genre with authors such as Steve Robinson, Nathan Dylan Goodwin and John Nixon leading the way. M J Lee has shown that there is now another author to add to the list. In Jayne Sinclair we have a solid lead character whose doggedness is evident throughout the book whether it be in her professional life or in the strained relationship with her husband. We also, however, get to see her softer side when she is with her father. The interaction between these two characters is, at times, touching as both of them try to come to terms with his early dementia.

The story is told in two timeframes: present-day Manchester and Ireland during the First World War and ensuing years. Writing about an issue as controversial as British rule in Ireland was always going to be a difficult task but the author deals with it in a sensitive and informative way, showing the events from the perspectives of those on different sides of the argument.

Something that authors of genealogical fiction occasionally get wrong is the methods used by their characters to research – this is not the case here. The steps Jayne uses are logical, using the Internet, record offices and interviews in order to discover the true parentage of John Hughes.

On the strength of this book, it is safe to say that the Jane Sinclair series promises to be a welcome addition to the growing genre of genealogical fiction.

The Irish Inheritance is available to pre-order on Amazon prior to its release on June 15th.

Thank you to the author for providing me with an ARC.




The Secrets of Gaslight Lane by M. R. C. Kasasian

51+8vPu11UL._SX306_BO1,204,203,200_After being hired by a young woman to investigate the murder of her father, personal detective Sidney Grice is, once again, on the trail of a Victorian criminal. Nathan Mortlake, has been found slaughtered in his bed in a house that would rival the Tower of London for security measures. What makes this even more interesting is that, ten years before, Nathan’s uncle, aunt and servants were butchered in their sleep at the same house. Is this a co-incidence or has the murderer returned to continue their killing spree?

As a fan of Victorian crime fiction, I had come across M. R. C. Kasasian’s Gower Street Detective series before but had never actually read any of them. I was pleased, therefore, to be given the opportunity to read the fourth book in the collection, The Secrets of Gaslight Lane. Whenever I read a book that it not the first in a series, I am always apprehensive: will I understand the characters’ backstory and will there be past plots referred to that will spoil my reading of any of the previous texts? Thankfully, the author addresses this issue and, within a few chapters, I felt I knew enough about Sidney Grice and March Middleton to fully enjoy the story.

In the two main characters, we have complete polar opposites. Sidney Grice is a thoroughly unlikeable man with very few redeeming features whereas March Middleton is the very antithesis of a Victorian heroine. With a penchant for gin, cigarettes and the frequenting of public houses, Grice’s goddaughter is very much the modern woman. The two characters work well together, however, and the ending of the book has made me want to discover more about their past lives before they came to live and work together.

Sometimes, a period crime novel can fall into the trap of making the plot slightly too convoluted. In The Secrets of Gaslight Lane, however, the author has succeeded in building a complex plot and a simple yet realistic solution. As Sir Arthur Conan Doyle famously quoted, “…when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth…” This is certainly true about the murders in this book – a ‘locked room’ mystery can always be explained in a much less baffling way.

My only negative concerning this book is that it took me a long time to warm to the cantankerous Sidney Grice and I acknowledge that, if I had read the previous books, this would not be the case.

If you are a fan of Victorian crime fiction and authors such as Alex Grecian and Linda Stratmann, then this book is highly recommended. The Secrets of Gaslight Lane is published on 2nd June 2016 and can be purchased from Amazon.

Thank you to Net Galley and Head of Zeus for an advance copy.


Then She Was Gone by Luca Veste

Until he disappears, Sam Byrne is heading towards being one of the youngest MPs in Britain. With no real clues and a wall of silence, Detectives Murphy and Rossi face an uphill battle to discover his whereabouts whilst trying to keep any conjecture out of the press. At the same time, languishing in prison is Tim Johnson – accused of a murder he says he did not commit. What has occurred in the past that connects these two men and will the Liverpool detectives be able to close the case before more people become victims?

Yet again, Luca Veste has succeeded in writing a real page-turner of a thriller in Then She Was Gone and in Murphy and Rossi we have two increasingly strong lead characters. The relationship between the two detectives is one of the main strengths of this book series and it is hard to try not to picture potential actors should it ever be filmed!

As in all of Luca Veste’s books, the plot is quite dark and is made more so by the use of real locations – when you actually know where all these places are, you don’t look at them in the same way again! Initially, after reading the blurb, I was confused as to how the Tim Johnson part of the story was connected but, once all the pieces started to fit together, it all formed part of a web of deceit that had existed for many years.

Something that I really liked about this book is that I genuinely had no idea who the perpetrator was. Luca Veste has done a fantastic job in making you think you have the plot worked out until… wham… the twist happens and makes you rethink everything!

The Murphy and Rossi books get better with each one and I await the next one eagerly!

This book was received from Net Galley and Simon & Schuster UK in return for an honest review.

The Night Stalker by Robert Bryndza

When the body of a local doctor is found naked with a plastic ‘suicide’ bag tied over his head, it is, at first, assumed to be a case of auto-erotic asphyxia. Not convinced, DCI Erika Foster heads the investigation into the murder and is soon shown to be correct when a second body is found with the same modus operandi. It is up to Foster to find the link between these men and stop ‘The Night Stalker’ before they strike again…

This, the second book in the DCI Erika Foster series, is arguably better than the first and that one (The Girl in the Ice) was pretty amazing! In addition to the case she is investigating, we get more of an insight into Erika’s personal life and discover exactly how she is coping in the aftermath of the death of her husband. The contrast between her hard professional persona and the vulnerability of her home life is written really well, especially when she comes into contact with the killer. It is not often that you feel empathy towards a serial killer, but Robert Bryndza’s writing manages to make this happen! Several times, whilst reading, I felt that there were comparisons between Erika Foster and Lynda La Plante’s legendary Jane Tennison – this is definitely not a bad thing!

One thing I really liked about this book was that it was clear quite early on who the killer was. It was nice to avoid the usual batch of red herrings that are found in books of this genre and, instead, be able to concentrate on the motives behind the murders.

The Night Stalker is extremely descriptive in parts and, as a result, the content makes your imagination run riot! I imagine there will be many readers carefully checking windows and looking under their beds before they go to sleep at night!

I am really enjoying Robert Bryndza’s foray into crime fiction and I eagerly await the third installment of Erika Foster’s story.

The Night Stalker is due to be published on June 2nd and can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

This book was received from Net Galley and Bookouture in return for an honest review.

The Emerald Comb by Kathleen McGurl

51gHd5j42SL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Whilst researching her family history, Katie Smith falls in love with Kingsley House, the crumbling former home of her ancestors, the St Clairs. To her surprise, when the house appears on the market, her husband is very keen to purchase it. As he doesn’t share her love of genealogy, Katie decides to keep her connection to the building secret. This subterfuge ends, however, when a terrible discovery is made and Katie must come to terms with the fact that her family is harbouring a dark secret.

The story is told from the perspectives of two people – Katie in the twenty-first century, and Bartholomew St. Clair in the nineteenth century. Despite being almost 200 years apart, the two stories collide as we discover the truth about Bartholomew, his young wife Georgia Holland and her trusted lady’s maid, Agnes Cutter. Without giving too much away, it is quite apparent early on in the book that Agnes is going to play a larger role than that of just a servant but the extreme measures she takes to secure her needs were a bit of a surprise!

Like Kathleen McGurl’s latest book, The Daughters of Red Hill Hall, there are similarities in the stories that are being told in the past and the present, namely that of disfunctional families and the secrecy surrounding them. It is interesting to see, however, how society has changed in that time and how an indiscretion that happened in the past would be dealt with differently nowadays.

Although the ending does not give complete closure to the story, it is real-life as it is acknowledged that not every genealogical mystery can have a complete conclusion. Enough clues are given, however, to infer that Katie has her own suspicions and I would like to think that she carried on to discover what really happened.

After receiving an advance copy of The Daughters of Red Hill Hall from Net Galley, I was keen to read other books by Kathleen McGurl and I am pleased to say that this one lived up to my expectations. Superbly written with great characterisation, I am looking forward to reading The Pearl Locket next!

Play Dead by Angela Marsons

Detective Inspector Kim Stone is back! Picking up after the previous book, Lost Girls, Stone and her team find themselves at Westerley research facility – otherwise known as a ‘body farm’. What should be an opportunity to discover how science is aiding police investigation soon takes a grim turn when the body of a young woman, complete with a smashed-in face, is found amongst the slowly-decomposing corpses.

Soon, a second woman is found on the same site. Like the previous victim, she has been drugged and her mouth filled with soil. This time, however, she is clinging on to life. Will Kim be able to discover the motives behind the killer’s crimes and will she be able to apprehend him before the body count increases?

Ever since reading Lost Girls, I have been waiting for the next installment of the Kim Stone Series and, happily, I was not disappointed! In Kim Stone, Angela Marsons has succeeded in creating a likeable lead character with a multifaceted personality. In Play Dead, we get to see her dedication to the job and how she will stop at nothing to ensure she gets her own way – her meeting with nemesis newspaper reporter, Tracy Frost, in the cafe is a prime example of this. We also, however, get to see her softer, more caring side in scenes with her dog and also, more poignantly, when dealing with the back story of one of the Westerley employees.

Play Dead is a gripping story and, just when you think you have the plot worked out, a curveball is thrown to make you rethink what is happening! Like many thrillers, there are interspersed chapters penned by the killer. What differs here, though is, thanks to Angela Marson’s brilliant writing, you feel a genuine empathy towards them because of their extremely troubled upbringing. This is at complete odds with how you feel about them whilst reading the rest of the book!

If you have never read one of the Kim Stone books before, don’t be put off because this is the fourth in the series. Although previous cases are referred to, they do not form part of this plot so it can be read as a standalone. (You will want to read the others after reading this, however!)

Play Dead is very highly recommended and can be pre-ordered from Amazon for just £1.99. It will be published on 20th May 2016.

This book was received from Net Galley and Bookouture in return for an honest review.

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