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December 2020

Silent Night by Nell Pattison

A school for the deaf are on a trip to a cabin in the woods when one of the teenage boys goes missing. His disappearance is soon followed by that of a member of staff, a teacher whose body is soon found deep in the forest. Sign language interpreter Paige Northwood is brought in to assist the police and it soon becomes clear that while many have motives, they also have alibis. With still no clues as to the whereabouts of the missing boy, Leon, finding him becomes vital as it is obvious that there is a killer ready to strike again.

This is the second in the Paige Northwood series, following on from the previous book The Silent House. This can be read as a standalone, however, or it could be read out of sequence if you haven’t yet read the first. Like in the previous book, I liked looking at the investigation from an perspective other than the police, enjoying Paige’s involvement and how her skills provided alternative angles to investigate. She did, at times, infuriate me though when she was unaware whether to share her suspicions with DS Singh. I kept wanting to shake her, telling her, “Yes! Tell him!”

From early on in the book, it soon becomes apparent that this group of teenagers are keeping secrets but are they related to the murder or is it a case of self-preservation? These secrets are gradually revealed throughout the book, keeping you on your toes as you try to work out exactly what has been going on in the school. To complicate matters further, Paige discovers that her ex-boyfriend, Mike, is now working at the school, raking up painful memories for her. It was good to find out more about Paige’s life, helping us to gain a better understanding of her past and about the sort of person she is.

The plot twists and turns and I changed my mind several times about who the murderer was. I felt that it came to a satisfying conclusion and wished I’d taken more notice of a clue that was given earlier in the story that would have helped me to uncover the motive! This is promising to be a really good series and I look forward to reading Nell Pattison’s next book.

With thanks to Avon Books UK and Net Galley for my copy.

The Christmas Carol by M J Lee

Genealogist Jayne Sinclair finds herself with an unusual request when an antiques dealer asks her to discover the provenance of a first edition of ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens. With the only clues being a hand-written dedication, a name, a place and a date, she only has three days to complete her task before the book is due to be auctioned. With Christmas fast approaching and with the prospect of spending the festive season on her own, Jayne must try to unearth the truth of what happened in Christmas 1843.

This is the latest book in M J Lee’s Jayne Sinclair series and this time we see the genealogist taking on a different sort of mystery. Instead of being asked to trace the family tree of a client, she is tasked to prove that a copy of ‘A Christmas Carol’, dedicated to a local man in 1843, is indeed a first edition. The value of the book could increase dramatically if this could be ascertained although trying to find information about the man could prove impossible in the time frame she has been given to solve the mystery.

Like in all of the previous books in the series, I loved reading of the research that Jayne undertook and was particularly pleased to see her exploring the libraries of Manchester instead of just relying on online sources. I always like reading about places I have visited and the comments about the John Rylands library mirrored my own when I visited, albeit briefly, a few years ago. After being reminded of this wonderful place, I have made a mental note to revisit once the pandemic is well and truly behind us.

Crime fiction set in the Victorian era is a particular favourite of mine and I have been enjoying the Dickens and Jones series by J. C. Briggs. I was pleased, therefore, to see that this would also feature Dickens as a character in the chapters of the book set in 1843. M J Lee paints a vivid picture of Victorian Manchester, showing the sort of lives that the mill workers of the north had to endure. In most books of this type, it is the slums of London that we read about so it was good to read about somewhere different.

The Christmas Carol is a quick read, heartwarming and perfect for this time of year. I hope it won’t be too long before we get to read about Jayne’s latest adventure, possibly with a tie in to her forthcoming holiday with her step-parents?

Lost by Leona Deakin

An explosion at a military ball causes mayhem and destruction but when eight ambulances arrive at the scene and only seven arrive at the hospital, something else appears to be afoot. Dr Augusta Bloom is contacted by an old friend, Karene, who tells her that her partner, Captain Harry Peterson is missing, seemingly the occupant of the suspicious ambulance. When he is found three days later, the mystery deepens: why has he got no memory of anything that has happened in the past four years? How can Bloom get to the bottom of the mystery when the only person with the answers has no recollection of what has actually happened?

Lost is the sequel to Gone, and again features the talents of psychologist Dr Augusta Bloom and former MI6 operative, Marcus Jameson. I would recommend that, if you haven’t read the first in the series, you do so before reading this, as events in the first book definitely impact on the plot of this one. While it could be read as a standalone, I feel that an understanding of the characters will definitely be beneficial. There are also several huge spoilers in Lost, that would give away huge chunks of the plot from the previous book.

I think it is fair to say that this is a book that kept me on my toes throughout as there is so much going on and so many different elements to the plot. I did wonder several times how on earth the author was going to join all the threads together but she manages to do this successfully by the end of the book. With an explosive start, we are quickly thrown into the world of Captain Harry Peterson, a character who I found myself liking despite not knowing anything about his recent life due to his memory loss. We soon learn that he knows something that others are trying to discover, but what? This is gradually revealed as the book reaches its fast-paced conclusion but not before we find ourselves reacquainted a character from the previous installment, realising the role that they have played in the case.

I found Lost a very entertaining book that had me totally gripped in the final third. You do have to suspend belief a bit, but I have no problem with that as fiction gives you the license to do this! I’m looking forward to seeing where Leona Deakin takes Bloom and Jameson next.

With thanks to Net Galley and Random House UK, Transworld Publishers.

People of Abandoned Character by Clare Whitfield

In London in 1888, former nurse Susannah thinks that she is about to start a new, secure life with her doctor husband Thomas. The honeymoon period is short, however, as Thomas begins to stay out late returning home covered in blood and with a temper that makes his new wife fear for her life. When a woman is murdered in Whitechapel, Susannah begins to take an interest in the newspaper reports, reading everything she can. When other women are killed in horrific circumstances, Susannah begins to realise that the deaths coincide with her husband being away from home. Could Thomas be the one they call Jack the Ripper?

I am always looking for a a different take on the Jack the Ripper story, whether it be fiction or non-fiction and so People of Abandoned Character piqued my interest immediately. What I found was that, although the premise of the book is that the protagonist suspects her husband of being the notorious killer, this is only the backdrop to what is a wonderful take on life for the poorer classes in London, in particular the plight of women who were unfortunate enough to find themselves in the slums of Whitechapel.

In People of Abandoned Character, we see Susannah, a product of Whitechapel, managing to secure herself a position as a nurse, providing her with a way out of the misfortune that befell her own mother. Despite this, the life of an unmarried woman in Victorian Britain was a precarious one and so it was easy to see why her head was turned by Thomas, a doctor several years her junior and why she felt compelled to marry him. The marriage was by no means a happy one and Clare Whitfield paints a terrifying picture of what Susannah had to endure at the hands of her husband and his housekeeper, Mrs Wiggs.

The descriptions of life in Whitechapel were incredibly clear and I could visualise the desperation of the people who lived there as they tried to survive. Although, as I wrote earlier, the murders are a backdrop to the rest of the plot, I was pleased to read about the victims when they were alive, the author giving them a voice instead of just portraying them as dead prostitutes.

As the book reached its exciting conclusion, I couldn’t wait to see if Susannah’s fears would be realised. The ending was full of shocks and was particularly macabre and gruesome. You will have to read the book to see if Thomas was Jack however…

People of Abandoned Character is a fantastic debut and I shall look forward to reading more of Clare Whitfield’s work.

With thanks to Head of Zeus and Net Galley for my copy.

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

*This review is of the picture book illustrated by Tom Clohosy Cole*

Michael Morpurgo’s book about the friendship between a boy and his horse has become a modern classic and with this new illustrated version for younger readers, he is destined to get a whole new audience.

When Albert’s horse, Joey, is sold to the army at the start of World War One, Albert joins up as a private, determined to seek out his friend amongst the thousands of other horses on the battlefields of Europe. As the conflict progresses, both boy and horse witness the horrors of war, never giving up hope that one day they will be reunited.

This book has been adapted by Michael Morpurgo from his original novel, the key events from the story being given in a way that makes it very approachable for young readers. It is hard not to be moved by the story as you see the bond between Albert and Joey and Albert’s determination to find his friend once again. Heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measures, this is a powerful tale of friendship and determination that will appeal to all readers.

The illustrations by Tom Clohosy Cole are out of this world, helping to enhance the child’s understanding by providing clear images of life on the battlefront. One illustration in particular made the book for me, that is the depiction of no man’s land. There is so much detail, from the fearful expressions on the soldiers’ faces, the desolation of the battlefields and the distant explosions and fires.

This adaptation of War Horse is a fantastic introduction to Morpurgo’s work for younger readers but it also has so much to offer for all ages. It is worth purchasing for the illustrations alone.

Monthly Round Up: November 2020

With the end of the year drawing ever near, I was glad to read one of my most anticipated books of the year this month – Shadow Sands by Robert Bryndza.

Books I Have Read

The Searcher by Tana French

This slow-paced novel is a superb look at the relationship between two characters when one seeks the help of the other to find their missing brother. A perfect look at how many secrets a village can hide…

Deadly Cry by Angela Marsons

The thirteenth in the Kim Stone series sees the team taking on a case that confuses them from the outset. Why would someone kill a woman whilst out shopping with their young daughter? When the killer makes contact with Kim, she knows that she must solve the case before a little boy becomes the next victim.

How Love Actually Ruined Christmas by Gary Raymond

A witty synopsis of the famous film, full of astute observations that will make you watch with a different perspective. I’m still a huge fan of the film though!

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

This classic tale of the relationship between a boy and his horse during World War One has been adapted by the author for younger readers with amazing illustrations that will appeal to old and young alike.

Shadow Sands by Robert Bryndza

The second in the Kate Marshall series was definitely worth the wait as Kate and her researcher Tristan investigate the strange deaths at the Shadow Lands reservoir.

Books I Have Acquired

Welcome to The Island.

Where your worst fears are about to come true…

It was supposed to be the perfect holiday: a week-long trip for six teenage friends on a remote tropical island.

But when their guide dies of a stroke leaving them stranded, the trip of a lifetime turns into a nightmare.

Because someone on the island knows each of the group’s worst fears. And one by one, they’re becoming a reality.

Seven days in paradise. A deadly secret.

Who will make it off the island alive?

London’s latest art installation is a real killer . . .

An underground artist leaves three glass cabinets in Trafalgar Square that contain a gruesome installation: the corpses of three homeless men.

With the artist promising more to follow, newly-promoted Detective Inspector Grace Archer and her caustic DS, Harry Quinn, must race against time to follow what few clues have been left by a savvy killer.

As more bodies are exhibited at London landmarks and live streamed on social media, Archer and Quinn’s pursuit of the elusive killer becomes a desperate search.

But when Archer discovers that the killer might be closer than she originally thought – she realises that he has his sights set firmly on her . . .

He is creating a masterpiece. And she will be the star of his show.

Time to start compiling my list of favourite books of 2020!

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