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September 2016

Smile and be a Villain by Jeanne M Dams

smileDorothy Martin and her retired police detective husband, Alan Nesbitt, are looking forward to a relaxing holiday on Alderney, a picturesque island in the English Channel. All is not what they anticipate, however, when on their first day, they discover the body of a man on a cliff path. Although there is no evidence to suggest that this is anything other than an unfortunate accident, their suspicions are piqued when some unsavoury revelations come to light that paints the victim in a not-too-pleasant way.

It was only once I started this book that I realised that it formed part of a series – a series I had not come across before. This always worries me slightly in case there are parts of the plot that I am unable to follow. Happily, this was not the case and Smile and be a Villain was a very easy read, with a gentle plot that any fan of the police procedural genre will enjoy.

I enjoyed the fact that with the victim, William Abercrombie, we were unaware throughout the book as to whether this was a simple accident or a case of foul play. The waters were muddied immensely by him being a character that divided the masses – was he a saint or sinner? As more about his past was revealed, this question was answered but we were still kept waiting until the very last chapter before we knew the full facts.

The main characters, Dorothy and Alan, are very likeable and it is easy to see why their tales have become a series. Based on the strength of this book, I will definitely be reading some more of Jeanne M Dams’ novels.

With thanks to Net Galley and Severn House Publishers for the ARC.

The Spyglass File by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

When a woman asks for help to discover information about her parents, forensic genealogist Morton Farrier, is less than keen. His recent cases have not gone well and with his wedding to Juliette and the prospect of finding out about his own father looming ever closer, his mind just isn’t on the task. He relents, however, and takes the case, leading him to World War Two Britain and an abundance of secrets and lies.

The Spyglass File is the fourth of Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s Forensic Genealogist series, and one that focuses less on the main protagonist and more on the mystery being solved. The amount of research undertaken by the author on the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and their involvement in decoding German transmissions is obvious and makes for a very accurate retelling of the roles of these often overlooked women. It was interesting to read that much of the plot was based on something that the author had discovered in his own family.

As in previous books, the characters are extremely well-written and it is easy to have empathy for the plight of Elsie Finch. Stuck in a loveless marriage at a turbulent time when nothing is the norm, I found myself willing her to have a happy ending. You will have to read the book to find out whether this is the case, but suffice to say the ending was a satisfying, if unexpected, one!

Of course, as in all Morton Farrier books, it would not be right if he did not experience some sort of danger throughout his investigation! If anyone tells you genealogy is a boring hobby, just refer them to this man! Thankfully for Morton, he just about gets away with his life once again!

The ending has set up the next book nicely, so I am presuming we shall be off to America in the next installment. I can’t wait!

The Spyglass File is available to purchase now.

Murder on the Serpentine by Anne Perry

imageThe year is 1899 and Thomas Pitt from the Special Branch has been summoned to Buckingham Palace by Queen Victoria herself. Knowing that her reign is drawing to a close, she has been concerned about the company that her son and heir, Edward, is keeping and had tasked her trusted friend John Halberd to investigate. One man in particular, Alan Kendrick, is of interest but before he could report back, Halberd is found drowned in the Serpentine. Although it has been declared an unfortunate accident, Queen Victoria is not convinced all is as it seems and asks Pitt to continue the investigation. Knowing he must work alone, Pitt finds himself in a dangerous situation which threatens the safety of those around him and the monarchy itself…

Victorian crime fiction is an interest of mine so I was pleased to get the opportunity to read Murder on the Serpentine. Anne Perry is not an author I had come across before, despite this being the 32nd book in this series! I had, therefore, some reservations before reading as the characters would obviously be well-established and would have lengthy back-stories that I would not be privy to. Although I did find keeping up with some of the peripheral characters slightly confusing, I found that the author had shared enough information about Thomas Pitt and his wife, Charlotte, to make the story easy to follow.

The plot is an interesting one and not one that I was expecting at the start of the book. I did, however, find that I enjoyed reading about Pitt’s investigative work more than the political aspect of the storyline. As all loose ends were tied up in the last quarter of the book, it became a fast-paced read as we discovered a completely different, more ruthless side of Thomas Pitt. On the strength of this book, I would definitely read more from the series.

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


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