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February 2017

Black Widow by Chris Brookmyre

51vg2nga1ql-_sx314_bo1204203200_Surgeon Diana Jager has had a troubled past and so when she meets and falls in love with I.T.expert, Peter Elphinstone, she can’t believe her luck. A wedding soon follows but it’s not long before cracks begin to appear in the marriage. When Peter is killed in a car accident, his sister, Lucy, is convinced there is more to it and engages journalist, Jack Parlabane, to investigate Diana’s involvement.

Why have I never discovered this author before?! When I realized that this was the seventh book in the series, I was quite apprehensive as I had not read any of the previous books. From quite early on, however, it became apparent that, although the series is about Jack Parlabane, he would only play a minor role in the book, with the main focus being on what actually happened to Peter Elphinstone. It is not until towards the end of the book that Jack really comes into his own and, although it is clear that he has had problems in his past, a previous knowledge of the character is not essential and, therefore, Black Widow can be read as a standalone.

The story is told, mainly, from the points of view of Jack and Diana and also of the police officers investigating the accident. This is a clever tactic as we get to see the story from all angles and helps to place doubt in your mind as to who is telling the truth. Throughout the book, I didn’t really know how I felt about Diana – was she the arrogant surgeon as perceived by her work colleagues or was she really a lonely, vulnerable woman desperate for a family of her own? By the end of the book, I knew the answer…

I love a book with a good twist and Black Widow certainly ticks all the boxes on that count. Although I had my suspicions about what happened, the truth came as a shock and was one that I did not see coming.

Black Widow is highly recommended and, on its strength, I shall be reading the rest of the series as soon as possible!

With thanks to Little, Brown Book Group UK and NetGalley for the ARC.

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Unearthed by John Nixon

unearthedWhen skeletal remains are discovered in the garden of their new house, Adam and Ruth Porter know that there is only one person who can get to the bottom of it – Madeleine, Adam’s mother and professional genealogist. What ensues is a taxing investigation which exposes long-hidden secrets and an unknown wartime romance.

Unearthed is the fifth of John Nixon’s ‘Madeleine Porter’ novels and, like the others, is based on an event that occurred in the past that has repercussions in the present. This book is slightly different to the others, however, in that there is less of Madeleine and more of the other present-day characters. There is also more emphasis on tracing living people rather than the ancestors of people who have hired the genealogist.

I found that I enjoyed reading the sections set during the war more than I did the modern-day elements of the story. The chapters set in the past were, at times, heartbreaking, as we saw the effects World War Two had on women of that era. I felt, however, that the modern aspect of the story relied a lot upon coincidence and one part in particular was a tad unbelievable.

I did enjoy reading this book as it was a quick read and the parts about the war were beautifully written. It can be read as a standalone but, if you are interested in this genre, the previous books are well worth a read.

Top 5 Wednesday: Books to Get You Out of a Reading Slump

I’ve been looking for ideas for something different to post on my blog so was pleased to discover the Goodreads ‘Top 5 Wednesday‘ group. While I can’t promise to partake every Wednesday, I’m going to give it a good try!

Today’s topic is an interesting one. While I’ve never really experienced a reading slump, there are some books that, over the years, I’ve returned to numerous times when I didn’t really know what to read next. There are also a few series where I know I could pick up any one of the books at any time to read.

1. Ruth Rendell, Shake Hands For Ever

img_1038I have been a huge fan of Ruth Rendell’s Inspector Wexford novels ever since seeing the first one on TV. This one is, by far, my favourite and one that I have read and watched numerous times. When a woman is found strangled in her own home, Chief Inspector Wexford undertakes an investigation that soon turns into an obsession, threatening his career. He knows who the killer is, but can he prove it before it is too late?

2. Sue Townsend, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13¾

img_1040I remember reading this book at a fairly young age and, despite probably not understanding everything at the time, finding it incredibly funny. This series is one that I pick up every few years as each book is a quick read and guarantees me a good laugh. Detailing the trials and tribulations of teenager Adrian Mole, he writes candidly about his parents’ marital troubles, teenage angst and his love for Pandora Braithwaite.

3. Enid Blyton, The Mystery of the Missing Necklace

img_1039Enid Blyton’s ‘Five Find-Outers’ books were probably what encouraged my love of crime/mystery books. As a child, this one was always my favourite, and I remember taking it out of the school library to read at least once every year! I recently purchased a box set of this series and can’t wait to revisit my childhood in one of those rare reading lulls! In The Mystery of the Missing Necklace, someone is stealing jewels but when an expensive necklace goes missing and the police are stumped, it is up to the children to save the day.

4. Elly Griffiths’ ‘Ruth Galloway’ series

img_1041A recent convert to the novels of Elly Griffiths, I have, over the past year, read each one of the ‘Ruth Galloway’ series. Ruth, an archaeologist, teaches at university but is also developing a reputation for being the go-to person when the local police unearth human remains. These are books that I know, in time, I will read over and over again.

5. Steve Robinson’s ‘Jefferson Tayte’ series

img_1042Genealogical mysteries are a fairly new addition to the world of fiction and there are some great authors writing in this genre. For me, however, the best has to be Steve Robinson and his Jefferson Tayte novels. Tayte, a genealogist, tackles the family mysteries that others can’t solve and, more often than not, finds himself in danger when doing so! Even though I have only read these books once, I know that they will definitely be revisited at some point as they are so well-written.

 

 

 

 

 

The Missing Ones by Patricia Gibney

51uedmjr1slWhen a woman is found murdered in a cathedral and a man is found hanging from a tree, Detective Lottie Parker is called in to lead the investigation. When the same tattoo is discovered on the legs of both victims, is becomes obvious that they are connected, but how? The trail leads Parker to the former children’s home, St. Angela’s, and a cover-up that has existed for decades. When two teenage boys go missing, Parker is under extreme pressure to close the case before the killer strikes again.

By using the line, ‘I wonder which one of us will be next?’, Patricia Gibney has you hooked right from the start of the book as we are introduced to three children witnessing the death and subsequent burial of another child. Although it is obvious from quite early on in the story who some of the children are, the full significance of the event is not revealed until the end and leaves you feeling horrified and traumatised at the same time.

There have been many books written about abuse in children’s homes but what I particularly liked about The Missing Ones is that it deals with the repercussions for all those involved – the abusers and the abused. Patricia Gibney has created a very atmospheric book that paints a very vivid picture of what life was like at St. Angela’s and, at times, your heart bleeds for those who were unfortunate enough to be incarcerated there.

In Detective Lottie Parker, we have a strong female lead who, after losing her husband, is battling her own inner demons. Her relationship with her children is strained as she struggles to find a balance between her work and home life and she is in danger of losing control of her children altogether. I really liked Lottie and felt that she handled situations in a ‘real’ way, making her character very believable.

On the strength of this book, I hope that this is a series that will run and run. I look forward to reading the next stages of Lottie’s life.

With thanks to Bookouture and NetGalley for the ARC.

 

The Somme Legacy by M J Lee

51vc6ddce-lWhen genealogist Jayne Sinclair is tasked with finding details of a 1916 marriage, she takes on what should be an easy case. The only problem is there appears to be no documentation to support the fact that a marriage ever took place, with the recollections of the bride, a long-term resident at an asylum, being the only ‘evidence’. Could lowly shop girl, Rose Clarke, really be the bride of army officer David Russell, heir to the Lappiter estate? With only a few days until the estate passes to the Crown, Jayne has to solve a hundred-year-old mystery that has destroyed the lives of many.

The Somme Legacy, the second of M J Lee’s books to feature genealogical investigator, Jayne Sinclair, was one of my most eagerly anticipated books of 2017, and I’m delighted to say that it lived up to my expectations. The follow-up to The Irish Inheritance is told in two time-frames so we get to see the events as they were unfolding in 1916 and also Jayne’s investigation one hundred years later. Like the previous book, I was pleased with how the research was carried out, showing that researching your family history is not just a case of logging onto a website! Jayne’s determination to find documents that might not even exist adds an air of authenticity to this work of fiction.

The plot is an extremely emotive one, dealing with one of the great horrors of British history – the Battle of the Somme. As someone who lost a family member in this battle, I found the description of the trenches particularly harrowing and felt that the author created an accurate representation of the atrocities experienced by the soldiers. Similarly, Rose’s involvement in the Suffragette movement provided another fascinating aspect to the plot, showing the inhumane way these brave women were treated. The reason behind Rose’s incarceration in an asylum is not revealed straight away, but when it is, it really pulls on the heart strings and makes you despair of the cruelty of some people.

In The Somme Legacy, M J Lee has succeeded in creating a heart-warming love story with more than an air of sadness and intrigue. The main characters are extremely likeable and, I particularly enjoyed the relationship Jayne shares with her father who is suffering from the beginnings of dementia.

For any fans of genealogical fiction, this book is a must read and I hope that a third book is in the pipeline!

Blink by K L Slater

img_1033Three years ago, five-year-old Evie Cotter disappeared from school. With no evidence or eyewitnesses, the police are at a complete standstill in their investigation, not even knowing if the child is dead or alive. Toni, Evie’s mum, blames herself – if only she’d paid more attention to what was going on around her. Convinced that her child is still alive, she knows that she must do anything possible to get Evie back…

Told in two timeframes, the present day and three years ago, Blink tells the story of a woman who is spiralling out of control after the death of her husband. At times, I wanted to shake Toni and tell her to trust her instincts – she knew that someone was messing with her head but put it all down to paranoia. From the start, it was obvious that someone close to home was involved, but with so many people in the frame, it was impossible to work out who it was. The author throws in enough red herrings to muddy the waters and keep you guessing right until the end. One of the things I liked about this book was the number of characters. Too often, a book can become confusing with too many characters, but the author has the balance just right.

The cover of the book states that Blink is ‘a psychological thriller with a killer twist’, and I do admit that I spent a lot of the book trying to work out what the twist was! Without giving anything away, I am pleased to say that I did work out part of what was going to happen, but not all of it, which definitely added to my enjoyment of the plot.

For me, a sign of a good book is one that cannot be put down and I managed to read this in less than a day. Written in short chapters, K L Slater has ensured that the plot of Blink moves rapidly to the point where you just want to read one more chapter before putting it down!

A must-read!

With thanks to Net Galley and Bookouture for the ARC.

Walter Dew: The Man Who Caught Crippen by Nicholas Connell

51z4a1hexblPerhaps most known for his transatlantic chase to apprehend the suspected murderer Dr. Crippen and his alleged accomplice Ethel Le Neve, Walter Dew: The Man Who Caught Crippen tells the story of the detective’s humble beginnings to his retirement from the police force after almost thirty years of service. Containing original research and excerpts from Dew’s own biography, Nicholas Connell gives a fascinating insight into one of the twentieth century’s most notorious criminal cases.

As someone who has an interest in nineteenth and early twentieth century crime, this book begged to be bought when I saw it at a local bookshop. I had also wanted to read more about Walter Dew after reading the fictional The False Inspector Dew by Peter Lovesey. I have read many books of this genre and find that, sometimes, there can be too much emphasis placed on quoting trial transcripts ad verbatim. This was not the case here and I found this book a very easy yet informative read.

Although much of the book is taken up, understandably, by the Crippen case, I was pleased to see that there was also a large section devoted to Dew’s involvement in the Jack the Ripper investigation. Dew’s recollections of being one of the first policemen on the scene of the Mary Jane Kelly murder were absorbing and gives readers an awareness of how horrific it must have been to witness what he did.

I was also pleased to see a little cameo role for the pathologist Bernard Spilsbury – a personal favourite of mine!

Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in true crime.

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