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July 2018

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

Georgina (or Geo as she is known) seems to have it all with her high-powered job and wealthy fiance. It all comes crashing down, though, when the body of her high school friend is discovered over a decade after she went missing. Geo’s then boyfriend, Calvin, is found guilty of her murder and Geo is also sentenced for her part in covering it up. Calvin is also convicted of the killings of several others and has now has the moniker Sweetbay Strangler. 

Now, five years later, and Geo is about to be released from prison. She knows that it is going to be hard to readjust to the outside world, but she wasn’t bargaining in having to protect herself from her ex who has escaped from prison. When other bodies are discovered bearing the hallmarks of the Sweetbay Strangler, Geo knows that her own life may be in danger. Are the bodies a message to her and is she going to be the next victim?

Books that grab me from the very first page are few and far between but this was exactly what Jar of Hearts did. We are introduced to Geo, who despite the crime she has been accused of, seems to be an ordinary woman who, for some reason, has helped to conceal the murder of her best friend. We then follow her to prison, and here we witness the first of several disturbing scenes in the book. My heart really went out to Geo as I was sickened by what she had to endure.

The book jumps about in time as we discover what really happened to Angela Wong, Geo’s best friend. Sometimes, this can become a bit confusing but I didn’t find this here. If anything, it helped to build up the suspense in several of  the plot lines: Why did Angela get killed? Where is Calvin? Is Geo the next victim? I found that, as I reached the end of each chapter, I needed to read the next one, then the next one, then the next one…

I love a book where, all of a sudden, you have a ‘lightbulb’ moment when all becomes clear. This definitely happened here, making me actually declare my discovery out loud! Despite this, I did not anticipate what was going to happen at the end – a great twist I did not see coming.

Jar of Hearts is a well-written, twisty thriller that I could not put down. This is the first of Jennifer Hillier’s books that I have read but it will definitely not be the last!

With thanks to Corvus and Readers First for my ARC.

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The Drowned Village by Kathleen McGurl

51JZymFAkPLWhen a lake dries up and reveals the remnants of Brackendale Green, an old deserted village, Laura is spurred on by her grandmother, Stella, to visit. The village has a particular significance for Stella as it was where she grew up before having to leave to make way for the new dam. What secret does the village hold and will Laura be able to uncover it before Brackendale Green, once again, disappears underwater?

Like Kathleen McGurl’s previous books (The Pearl Locket, The Emerald Comb, The Daughters of Red Hill Hall and The Girl from Ballymor), The Drowned Village has a dual time frame, told from the modern-day perspective of Laura, and her grandmother, Stella, in 1935, then an eleven-year-old girl. The stories told in both eras are equally as compelling and their plots tie together seamlessly to provide an entertaining read.

While there are elements of the plot that came as no surprise as the story progressed, this was not a problem as I was so engrossed in what was happening. It is testament to the author’s description that, as I was reading, I was transported back to 1935, and could truly visualise the landscape and houses making up the village of Brackendale Green.

In stories of this genre, the two time frames are often generations apart so it was nice to have the same character, Stella, featuring in both. This also provided a stark reminder to anyone interested in their own family history that they should speak to older relatives now while they have the chance. Although Laura was able to discover the circumstances surrounding her grandmother’s past, she realised that if it wasn’t for the re-emerging of the village, there would be a fascinating and emotive story that would have gone undiscovered.

Due to my love of crime and genealogical fiction, Kathleen McGurl’s books tick all the boxes for me and The Drowned Village is no exception. This is a great, easy read that is highly recommended.

With thanks to HQ and Net Galley for my ARC.

 

 

 

**COVER REVEAL** Kiss Her Goodbye by Susan Gee

Today I’m thrilled to be able to share with you the cover for Kiss Her Goodbye, and what a breath-taking cover it is! The author, Susan Gee, was a finalist in the Daily Mail Write a Bestseller competition as well as a finalist in The Good Housekeeping fiction competition. This, her debut novel, has been described as ‘tightly-plotted and tense’ with a ‘heart-stopping twist’.

About the Book

Kirsten Green is my best friend,

Kirsten Green has gone missing,

I killed Kirsten Green.

Seventeen year old Hayley Reynolds is unwanted at home, and an outsider at school. Pushed away by her best friend Kirsten Green, she makes a deliberate, chilling decision – if Kirsten can’t belong to her, then she won’t belong to anyone…

DI Beverley Samuels has the body of a schoolgirl on her hands – a murder that brings back the hauntingly painful memories of the case she’s tried so desperately to forget.

There’s something deeply disturbing about this crime – and yet with little hard evidence, it’s up to her to decide who she will believe…

The Cover

Sounds very intriguing!
Follow Susan on Twitter: @SusanGeeWriter and Instagram: @susangeewriter
With thanks to Vicky Joss from Aria / Head of Zeus

Broken Dolls by Sarah Flint

51KZWGJbBJLWhen the body of a premature baby is found in a carrier bag, thrown away with the rubbish, DC Charlie Stafford and her team commence an investigation that will lead them to some of the most vulnerable and exploited women in society. After the body of a young prostitute is found with horrific injuries, the team soon find themselves stretched, dealing with prostitution, crack dens, trafficking and now murder. Are the cases linked or is there more than one killer on their patch? Meeting with obstructions at every turn, the police know that time is running out before more lives are damaged forever.

Broken Dolls is the fourth of Sarah Flint’s Charlie Stafford series and, having read the rest, I think I can safely say that this has definitely been my favourite. Charlie is a great character, a no-nonsense copper, devoted to her job and determined to bring the guilty to justice. Like most lead characters in police procedurals, Charlie has a less-than-perfect past, but I like how this only plays a background role in the story, the author preferring to concentrate on the case instead.

The case itself is a pretty emotional one, dealing with the trafficking of women from Europe and forcing them to work as prostitutes in brothels. It is easy to imagine how these women, desperate to provide for their families, fall into the trap of believing the promises of work and accommodation in a foreign country. I particularly liked how the author gave us the backstories of the women involved in the sex trade, showing how society had failed them and making me feel incredibly angry at how this was allowed to happen.

There are several unlikable characters in Broken Dolls, namely ‘Razor’, ‘Dimitri’ and ‘The Punter’. Each of these men use and abuse women and I was desperate for each of them to get their comeuppance. I found the conclusion of each of these story lines very satisfying and was quite surprised by what I read! The ending was very clever and left the possibility of the story being picked up in a later book.

This is a great series and I look forward to the next installment!

With thanks to Aria and Net Galley for my ARC.

Why Mummy Swears by Gill Sims

It’s the start of the school holidays and Ellen is exhausted. Tired of being ‘just’ a mother, she longs to get back to work and feel useful once again. After managing to bag her dream job, she soon realises, though, that this brings with it a plethora of other problems which threaten to overwhelm her. With a dysfunctional family, a less-than-supportive husband, childcare problems and now a starring role on the PTA, we really do get to find out Why Mummy Swears!

Although I have not read the previous book Why Mummy Drinks, I have been privy to some of the very funny Facebook ‘Peter and Jane’ posts about Ellen’s children so had some idea of what to expect. What I got was a laugh-out-loud book which, at times, was also very poignant. Gill’s writing is spot on and you can almost hear Ellen’s voice as she talks you through each disastrous day.

I imagine that plenty of people, when reading this book, are nodding their head as they recall similar events that have happened to them although I am yet to hear of anyone who has had a Christmas quite like the one described here! I shall never look at a gravy boat in quite the same way again… I definitely had a knowing look on my face when reading about the attempt to split a restaurant bill, something I think many of us have experienced!

Although most of the book is written in a light-hearted way, the problems of modern parenthood are also dealt with – I’m sure many parents have had the social media argument with their children and are also trying to juggle their work and home life without feeling they are neglecting one of them. There is also a very topical nod to the mildly irritating Fortnite that all children seem to have become obsessed with.

As the title suggests, there is a lot of swearing but even this had me chuckling – some of Ellen’s phraseology was incredibly descriptive and I was surprised that Peter and Jane were not copying on a regular basis!

If you are looking for a book to make you laugh out loud, then Why Mummy Swears could just be the book for you. An excellent read and I will now be going back to read Why Mummy Drinks.

With thanks to Rosie Margesson and Harper Non Fiction for my copy of Why Mummy Swears, which is published on July 16th.

The Tin God by Chris Nickson

51SXPfKJzFL._SX315_BO1,204,203,200_It’s 1897 and the people of Leeds are about to go to the polls to vote for a new Poor Law Guardian. For the first time, women have decided to stand for election, leading to unrest amongst those who feel that a woman’s place should be in the home. When the women begin to be attacked, Superintendent Tom Harper has a particular reason for wanting this man off the streets – one of the candidates is his own wife, Annabelle. As the threats become worse, and deadly explosions begin to rip through the venues where the women are speaking, the detectives know they must find the culprit before more lives are lost.

The Tin God is the sixth in the Tom Harper series and is a very timely one with it being the 100th anniversary of women receiving the right to vote in the UK. One of the things I have always enjoyed about this series is the prominence the author gives to the female characters, so often overlooked in books set in this era. We have seen Annabelle Harper’s strength in previous books but, here, she really comes into her own when her own life is threatened. Chris Nickson really brings home how turbulent these times must have been with these forward-thinking women being met with resistance from those firmly stuck in the past.

It is always fascinating to read how the police force of that time solved cases without any of the modern techniques used today, relying instead on pounding the streets, looking for clues. Despite the slow search for a breakthrough, the plot moves on at a fast pace with bombs, murders, attempted abductions, attacks… late Victorian Leeds is not the safest place to live! There is also a sub-plot involving Billy Reed, an inspector now living and working in Whitby, who is investigating a smuggling ring. I do hope, at some point, we see Tom and Billy working together again back in Leeds.

The Tin God is a great read and I highly recommend this series to anyone with an interest in historical crime fiction. Although this is the sixth book, it could be read as a standalone.

With thanks to Severn House and Net Galley for my copy of The Tin God.

 

 

The Dancer by John Nixon

When a woman is found dead at the bottom of a cliff, the only clue to her identity is a note found on her person detailing an appointment with genealogist, Madeleine Porter. After it is determined that this is no accident, the investigation stalls, prompting Madeleine to do some investigating of her own. Just what was it that the dead woman wanted help with and did this lead to her untimely death?

The Dancer is the latest installment in the Madeleine Porter mystery series and, although I wouldn’t say it is one of my favourites, it is still a good book, especially for anyone wanting a quick, easy read.

As in previous books, Madeleine uses her genealogical knowledge to help solve a mystery, in this case the identity of a woman suspected of being pushed off a cliff. As someone who researches my own family, I always like to predict the methods about to be used by fictional genealogists and am pleased when our strategies match! From a genealogy point of view, the author clearly knows what he is talking about and the sources he uses are spot on.

I enjoyed the mystery in The Dancer, and although it is easy to predict what is going to happen in parts, I loved how the different strands tied together to create a well-balanced story. I would have liked to have found out more about the dead woman but I suppose that was even beyond the great Madeleine Porter!

I look forward to Madeleine sinking her teeth into another case soon!

False Accusations by Cora Harrison

The quiet village of Willowgrove is shocked when one of the residents, Mrs Trevor, is murdered. When someone confesses to the crime, it should be an open and shut case, the only problem being that the ‘culprit’ is Rosie, the victim’s daughter, a young woman with learning difficulties. Flora Morgan, a retired headteacher who knows Rosie, is called in to act as her ‘appropriate adult’, firmly believing that she is innocent of the crime. Why did she confess and why is she lying? Flora must find out who actually did it before Rosie is found guilty of a crime she didn’t commit.

Over the years, there have been many mystery books written where the person investigating the crime has no involvement in the police force, Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, probably being the most famous. This is the case in False Accusations where Flora Morgan’s involvement in the murder of Mrs Trevor comes as a result of her being the ‘appropriate adult’ of Rosie Trevor, a person who safeguards the rights and welfare of a child or vulnerable adult who is being questioned by the police. In books of this genre, the way in which the main protagonist comes across the crime can, at times, seem contrived but I thought that this was a good way of explaining how she could potentially be involved in other cases too.

I liked how, at the start of the book, we were already introduced to the person who had admitted to the crime and the mystery wasn’t so much ‘who done it?’ as ‘how can we prove that she didn’t do it?’ Rosie was a fascinating character whose condition meant that we are never quite sure if she is telling the truth. The author has included several other potential candidates for the true culprit  and I was genuinely surprised when the big reveal occurred – it was not someone who was on my radar! I did feel, however, that there were far too many characters in the book and I found myself confused as to who was who, especially when some of them were referred to as characters from Wind in the Willows.

False Accusations is a slow burner but I felt that the ending was quite rushed and Flora’s illness towards the end didn’t really add anything to the plot. This was a shame as I do believe that this could be a good series if some of the problems are ironed out.

With thanks to Caoimhe O’Brien at Sapere Books for my copy of False Accusations.

 

 

Monthly Round Up – June 2018

The end of June already – just where has the year gone?! I’m ahead of schedule on my Goodreads challenge despite having hardly any reading time over the last few months. I had, however, managed to reduce my Net Galley shelf until books by some of my favourite authors appeared on there this month!

Books I’ve Read

Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

Known for his courtroom dramas featuring lawyer Eddie Flynn, Steve Cavanagh has produced this masterpiece which can be read as a standalone. When a young starlet is found brutally murdered, the lawyer meets his match when the killer finds himself not on trial but a member of the jury. An absolutely brilliant read.

First to Die by Alex Caan

When a senior civil servant is found dead, seemingly killed by a highly contagious virus, Kate Riley, Zain Harris and their team have their work cut out to stop it spreading before panic sets in. The second in a series where i feel it would have been beneficial to have read the first.

I Know You by Annabel Kantaria

Happy that she is finally widening her social circle, Taylor is blissfully unaware that someone is stalking her and that this is about to lead to deadly consequences. As a fan of Annabel Kantaria’s writing, I found this another fantastic read.

Conan Doyle for the Defence by Margalit Fox

The true story of Oscar Slater who, in 1908, was found guilty of the murder of an elderly spinster in Glasgow. This would become one of the most well-known miscarriages of justice in Scotland, not least because of the involvement of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in trying to secure his release and pardon.

False Accusations by Cora Harrison

The first in a new series featuring former headteacher Flora Morgan who, after acting as an ‘Appropriate Adult’ for a girl with learning difficulties, decides to help find her innocent of a murder charge. A great plot but not one to sink your teeth into.

Books I’ve Acquired

Beneath the surface lie forgotten secrets…

A village destroyed

It’s the summer of 1935 and eleven-year-old Stella Walker is preparing to leave her home forever. Forced to evacuate to make way for a new reservoir, the village of Brackendale Green will soon be lost. But before the water has even reached them, a dreadful event threatens to tear Stella’s family apart.

An uncovered secret

Present day, and a fierce summer has dried up the lake and revealed the remnants of the deserted village. Now an old woman, Stella begs her granddaughter Laura to make the journey she can’t. She’s sure the village still holds answers for her but, with only days until the floodwaters start to rise again, Laura is in a race against time to solve the mysteries of Stella’s almost forgotten past.

Haunting and evocative, The Drowned Village reaches across the decades in an unforgettable tale of love, loss and family.

A baby lies abandoned amongst the rubbish;her tiny face as white as alabaster, her body as stiff as a miniature doll.

A young prostitute lies beaten, her figure lying like a mannequin on the frozen concrete, her blood spilt, her life ebbing away.

As DC ‘Charlie’ Stafford and her boss DI Hunter struggle to identify the victim from the violator their hunt brings them to the crack houses of Lambeth, littered with damaged people, their lives scarred by tragedy and violence, most broken beyond repair.

As further lives hang in the balance Charlie must enpower the weak to speak out against those who seek to cause harm.

But can a broken doll ever truly be mended; or will the wounds of the past, fashion the events of the future?

The fourth in the Sunday Times bestselling Jane Tennison thrillers, MURDER MILE is set at the height of the ‘Winter of Discontent’. Can Jane Tennison uncover a serial killer? 

February, 1979, ‘The Winter of Discontent’. Economic chaos has led to widespread strikes across Britain.

Jane Tennison, now a Detective Sergeant, has been posted to Peckham CID, one of London’s toughest areas. As the rubbish on the streets begins to pile up, so does the murder count: two bodies in as many days.

There are no suspects and the manner of death is different in each case. The only link between the two victims is the location of the bodies, found within a short distance of each other near Rye Lane in Peckham. Three days later another murder occurs in the same area. Press headlines scream that a serial killer is loose on ‘Murder Mile’ and that police incompetence is hampering the investigation.

Jane is under immense pressure to catch the killer before they strike again.Working long hours with little sleep, what she uncovers leaves her doubting her own mind.

Why Mummy Swears is the much anticipated new novel from Gill Sims, author of the hilarious Why Mummy Drinks and online sensation Peter and Jane.

It’s every parents’ nightmare – the start of the school holidays – and instead of sitting in the sun, reading a book over a cold, crisp glass of Pinot Grigio, Mummy has two bored moppets to attend to. After frantically booking sports camps, child minder slots, not to mention time off work, Mummy is exhausted. But this is only the beginning…

After being dragged to join the school’s PTA in the new term by an annoyingly kind-spirited neighbour, Mummy is stuck with organising the Christmas Fayre and pleasing all the overly disapproving parents. In combination with getting to know her father’s surprise new glamorous (and much younger) wife, and being forced to spend more time with her narcissistic mother, life isn’t cutting her much of a break. What more could possibly happen?

One spring day a young woman is found dead on a beach at the bottom of a cliff. She has no identification on her, just a scribbled note for an appointment that morning with Madeleine Porter, a local family historian. Did she fall or was she pushed? The police struggle to identify the mystery woman and Madeleine, intrigued by the case, decides to do her own investigation. She uncovers a mixture of adultery, ballroom dancing and greed before discovering the reason behind her presence on the beach.

 

 

I’ve got so many good books on my Kindle at the moment, I don’t know what to read next!

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