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July 2016

Ruth’s First Christmas Tree by Elly Griffiths

Now that her daughter, Kate, is old enough to begin to understand Christmas, forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway wants to make it special. A tree must be purchased, presents sourced and food bought – all while trying to figure out whether Max, who she has started a recent relationship with, can actually be called her boyfriend!

Ruth’s First Christmas Tree follows on from where A Room Full of Bones left off. Still juggling work and motherhood, we now get more of an insight into her personal life and how she is coming to terms with a new relationship and how this affects how she views Detective Inspector Harry Nelson.

As this is a short story to accompany the Dr. Galloway series of books, there is, of course, reference to a historical artefact in the shape of a missing piece of wood. Ruth manages to solve the mystery and it is a surprising culprit!

If you haven’t read any of the books in this series, it’s definitely worth downloading as an introduction – especially as it’s free on kindle. At only 41 pages long, what have you to lose?!

Donny Trumpet Goes to the Election: The Story of a Yuge Yellow Bird by Nazan Saatci

It’s a busy time in Birdland: current leader, Blackbird is retiring and it’s time to elect a new leader. Many birds put themselves forward but it is a big yellow bird called Donny Trumpet that is making the most noise. Birdland appears to be in danger but will the old eagle be able to save the day?

As I am currently reading a weighty tome, I had hoped that this would provide a bit of light relief. The idea behind the book is, undoubtedly, a good one – turning the current political dramas in America into a light-hearted metaphor that would appeal to adults and children alike. Unfortunately, I felt it did not hit the mark. I would have liked to have seen more humour included, especially if it is to appeal to the younger generation.

Another slight criticism was the ending. Due to reading this on the Kindle Touch, the final passage of verse was written in black text on a black background, making it impossible to read.

With thanks to Net Galley and Fairy Hill Publishing for the copy of the book.

Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas

Out of the blue, Francesca Howe receives a phone call. It’s the call she has dreaded for so long: the body of her best friend, Sophie Collier, has been found. Last seen nearly twenty years previously, the only clue was a trainer that had been left behind on an old pier. Convinced that someone knows more than they are saying, Sophie’s brother, Daniel, summons Francesca (or ‘Frankie’ as she was known when she was younger) back to the seaside town where it all happened to assist with his enquiries. Soon, though, as ghosts from the past emerge, she wishes she had stayed away. Someone out there knows something, but will it be at the expense of another life?

Having one of the main characters die in the first chapter is certainly one way of drawing you into the book! From the outset, it is obvious that there is much more to the story than a simple ‘whodunnit’ and the further Frankie and Daniel probe, even more secrets from the past threaten to rise to the surface. Just who is sending Frankie threatening notes and what secret are they referring to?

The story is told from the point of view of the two main protagonists. With Frankie, of couse, we explore the investigation being undertaken by herself and Daniel and also find out about her life at the time Sophie went missing. Sophie’s story is told in a series of diary entries which contain clues (and red herrings) about what exactly happened to her. The character of Sophie is that of a tragic young woman who has gone through so much in her short life whereas Frankie is the girl who appears to have it all. Appearances can be deceiving, however, and it is definitely a case of no one really knows what goes on behind closed doors.

The book contains numerous twists and turns and the ending was not one I saw coming. There was one aspect of the plot that I had figured out but even that wasn’t fully! I had one issue with the ending but, thankfully, the epilogue contained at the end explained my concern.

In Local Girl Missing, Claire Douglas has succeeded in creating an edge of your seat thriller with a satisfying ending. Well, I say  ‘satisfying’, there still could be another incident waiting to be played out…

With thanks to Net Galley and Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for the copy of the book.

A Room Full of Bones by Elly Griffiths

Room Full of BonesWhen forensic archaeologist, Ruth Galloway, visits the Smith Museum in King’s Lynn prior to the opening of a coffin purportedly containing the remains of Bishop Augustine, the last thing she expects to find is the lifeless body of the museum’s curator lying beside it. Once again, Ruth is destined to cross paths with Detective Inspector Harry Nelson as he investigates the untimely death. With the police already stretched to their limits investigating a drugs ring, will the case be solved without the loss of any more lives?

A Room Full of Bones, the fourth in the Ruth Galloway series, welcomes back the characters that we have grown to love in the  previous novels. The main difference, however, is that, whereas we have become used to seeing Ruth actively involved in the investigation, here she takes a back seat and the characters of Cathbad, Judy and Clough take centre stage. This has given the author the opportunity to develop their characters and, in some cases, set up storylines for further books.

The setting of the story, around a horses’ yard, was surprising as the previous books have been based around archaeological digs. I also liked the new character of Bob – a perfect foil for Cathbad! I did miss Nelson, however, as (without giving too much away) he was incapacitated throughout a lot of the book. The strained relationship between Ruth and the Inspector is one of the highlights of this series so I anticipate the next stage in the next book.

Another great read from Elly Griffiths and a relief that, for once, Ruth did not have to fight for her life!

 

Cold Kill by P. J. Tracy

When two men are killed in different parts of Minneapolis, detectives Gino and Magozzi soon discover that they knew each other and that their deaths appear to have been targeted attacks. With CCTV and other evidence mysteriously missing, they, again, have to rely upon Grace and the rest of her Monkeewrench team and their computing skills. As the body count rises, realisation sets in that this case dates back over sixty years – someone has to be stopped before even more lives are put in danger.

I’ve been a fan of the P. J. Tracy ‘Monkeewrench’ series since 2003 after reading the first book, Want to Play? It was with trepidation, however, that I read the latest instalment as I struggled with the previous novel Two Evils. Thankfully, Cold Kill (also known as The Sixth Idea in the US) is a return to form for the mother and daughter writing team.

The premise of the book is an interesting one, linking the production of the hydrogen bomb during World War Two to modern-day cyber attacks. Although there are lots of unrealistic elements to the book, it does pose interesting questions and makes you think about exactly what would happen if some sort of attack did destroy a country’s infrastructure.

Although this is the seventh book in the series, it is not essential to have read the previous six and it can be read as a standalone. Some back stories will be missed, however, such as the development of the relationship between Grace and Magozzi. The ending of Cold Kill was a huge surprise and would not have had the same effect if I had not read the other books.

An enjoyable and fast-paced read!

With thanks to Net Galley and Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for the advance copy.

Mummy’s Favourite by Sarah Flint

When a mother and her son disappear, DC ‘Charlie’ Stafford and the rest of her colleagues wonder, at first, if it’s simply a case of a woman leaving her abusive husband. Why, though, would she leave her other son behind? When another mother and child go missing, however, it soon becomes apparent that there is something more sinister afoot. With very little to go on, will the Metropolitan Police be able to apprehend the culprit before one of their own is targeted?

Mummy’s Favourite is the first of a series of police procedurals featuring DC Charlie Stafford as the chief protagonist. Charlie’s tardiness and lack of care for her appearance coupled with her determination to earn justice for those who have been wronged make her very real and likeable character. The attention to detail and accuracy of the detective work is also good and clearly comes as a result of the author’s own experience in the Metropolitan Police.

Like a lot of police procedurals, as well as detailing the investigation, we see chapters written from the point of view of the abductor. What I particularly liked about these chapters was that there was no hint as to who the culprit was. This made the reveal at the end one that could not be foreseen and was definitely a surprise. Although his methods were totally heinous, the author also manages to create a feeling of empathy towards this character as we find out about his own horrific childhood.

Another thing I particularly liked about the book was Charlie’s relationship with her superior officer, DI Geoffrey Hunter. In many books of this type, there is conflict between officers of different ranks so it was refreshing to see an Inspector who had a good working relationship with his team. Ben was another fascinating, well-written character – it will be interesting to see if he continues to battle his demons and whether his relationship with Charlie develops.

A very strong debut and hopefully the start of a great series!

With thanks to Net Galley and Aria for the advance copy.

 

Mission Atomic by Sarwat Chadda

After discovering that The Outcast was none other than their grandfather, Nathaniel Hartford, Amy and Dan Cahill know that they have a race against time to stop him from recreating one of the world’s most notorious disasters – a nuclear meltdown. All is not how it seems, however, and soon the young brother and sister are turning to a former enemy in order to help them save mankind.

Mission Atomic is the latest instalment in the ’39 Clues’ series of adventure novels for children, the first having been published in 2008. I admit that, as an adult, the series has become a guilty pleasure of mine and the next book is always pre-ordered on Amazon as soon as I finish the current one! The next book, Outbreak, is reported as being the final one.

Initially, I was drawn to the series because of the treasure hunt aspect – children are sent on a mission around the world to locate the ingredients of an age-old serum. What I have enjoyed the most, however, are the historical aspects and how children are being introduced to some of the infamous (and sometimes not-so-famous) events that have occurred all over the world. Even as an adult, I often found myself googling some of the places that were mentioned and discovering new facts.

Like the other books in the series,  Mission Atomic is a quick and easy read. I admit to being a bit disappointed that the series is coming to an end!

The House at Sea’s End by Elly Griffiths

Dr Ruth Galloway is, once again, needed when the bodies of six men are discovered by archaeologists during an investigation into coastal erosion on the Norfolk coast. Tests reveal that the bodies have been there since the Second World War and soon Ruth and DCI Harry Nelson are trying to uncover the truth. There is still someone, however, that wants what happened to stay hidden – someone who is prepared to kill.

In The House at Sea’s End, we find Ruth trying to come to terms with motherhood – something she is not finding easy due to her determination to carry on with her job at the university and her work with the police. Through her astute writing, Elly Griffiths has shown how hard it is for a single mother trying to juggle her home and work life whilst also being convinced that she is, in some ways, failing her young daughter. Ruth’s relationship with Nelson is also becoming blurred and it is surely a matter of time before the identity of Kate’s father becomes common knowledge.

The story of the six bodies is a fascinating one and gives an insight into the world of the Home Guard during World War Two. Let’s just say that it’s a million miles away from Dad’s Army! It was also interesting to find out a bit more about Ruth’s past with the revelation that she spent some time assisting with the war graves of Bosnia. The appearance of an old friend from that time also gives Ruth the opportunity to think about her life and how she should cherish her child.

Another enjoyable book from the series!

Her Turn to Cry by Chris Curran

To the outside world, Joycie Todd seems to have it all: a highly successful modelling career, a luxurious home, a man that would do anything for her… Looks can be deceiving however. When she was aged eleven, Joycie’s mother let the family home with a new man. Or did she? Joycie remembers the night her mum left; she also remembers the bloodstained rug under the bed which disappeared the next day. Twelve years later, after the death of a family friend, Joycie decides that it is finally time to find out the truth once and for all. What exactly did happen to her mother?

Although ‘Her Turn to Cry’ is billed as a psychological thriller, the setting of the story (the 1950s and 1960s) meant that it wasn’t as fast-paced as those set in the modern day. This is not a bad thing, though, as the author is able to build up a true image of the era and shows how life had changed in Britain for young people in the post-war years. The characters were likeable and you definitely find yourself willing Joycie to find out exactly what happened in the past whilst also hoping she finds happiness in the present.

One of the main strengths of this book is that the author manages to keep you in the dark until the very end as to the whereabouts of Joycie’s mother. Several other plot lines are successfully weaved into the story and, again, the author manages to blur how they are linked. The ending was not expected and was quite shocking. Without going into too much detail and potentially spoiling part of the plot, Chris Curran also deals with a issue that would have been extremely controversial in this era. This is handled in a very sensitive way and there is definitely empathy felt for the characters involved.

I found this to be a fairly quick read but one that is recommended.

With thanks to Net Galley and Killer Reads for my copy of the book.

 

 

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