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August 2022

Blue Murder by Cath Staincliffe

When the body of a deputy head teacher is found on an allotment, his stomach cut open, Detective Chief Inspector Janine Lewis is reluctantly given the task of investigating the murder. A pregnant single mum, Janine only has two witnesses: a dying elderly man and a seven-year-old girl. With her superiors breathing down her neck to get the case closed and her prime suspect conveniently missing, Janine knows that this is not going to be a walk in the park.

A number of years ago I watched and enjoyed the ITV series Blue Murder starring Caroline Quentin as Janine Lewis. I was not aware that there were books based on the series so was pleased to see that they had recently been reissued. This, the first in the series, is a perfect way of introducing the characters and I found myself picturing all the actors as I was reading!

Janine is a great character and in her, the author has written someone who comes across as very real. Recently separated but heavily pregnant, we see the detective taking on a new role while having to deal with a chaotic home life. Again, this served as a great introduction to the character and helped us to understand why she was so determined to succeed in closing the case.

The plot moves on at a good pace and introduces us to a plethora of engaging characters and several potential suspects. With sub-plots involving some of these characters making us wonder if they are connected to the murder or simply involved in another crime altogether, I was invested in the story right until the end.

I’m so pleased to have discovered this series and am looking forward to reading book 2, Hit and Run.

A Dark Steel Death by Chris Nickson

The First World War is in its third year and Deputy Chief Constable Tom Harper is called out in the middle of the night when a huge explosion rips through a Leeds munitions factory. When fire making material is found a month later in an army clothing depot, Harper realises that they have a saboteur in their midst, one who is not afraid to kill to achieve his aim. With life at home occupying his mind and pressure doubling at work, will Harper find the saboteur before he leaves too much destruction in his path?

I’ve followed this series from the beginning and have become very fond of the characters and the ways in which they have developed. Tom has now progressed to the upper echelons of the Leeds police force although his actions in A Dark Steel Death clearly show how he is still keen to do his share of regular policing. This has become even more essential now that many of the force have been called up to help with the war effort.

As always, the research is spot on, taking us back to wartime Leeds and introducing us to some of the real events of the time. Fact and fiction are merged really well, Chris Nickson, once again, delivering an engaging and tense plot where you really don’t know what is going to happen next.

Like all good series, eventually there is an end point and I have read that there is only one more to go after this book. There is definitely an air of building up to this as we see Harper contemplating the end of his career and, sadly, see the decline of his much-loved wife Annabelle. Her story arc has been one of my favourite parts of this series and I wait with bated breath (and trepidation) to see how it concludes.

With thanks to Net Galley and Severn House for my ARC.

The Mercy Killings by David Field

The year is 1896 and Detective Sergeant Jack Enright, now working in Essex, is dealing with a particularly gruesome case involving the discovery of three babies’ bodies. After consulting his uncle Percy, who works at Scotland Yard, it soon becomes apparent that these are not isolated cases as he is also investigating the discovery of the corpses of infants. Someone is clearly killing babies in the south of England but why and can they be stopped before more bodies are discovered?

It’s been a while since I read any of David Field’s books but the characters came flooding back straight away. Jack is no longer working in the capital but the cases have not got any easier as he is faced with investigating the murders of several young babies. He is once again paired with his uncle Percy, still working as a detective in London, when he realises that their cases cross paths. The case is a sad one and one that is very much of its time, showing the divide between the rich and poor in Victorian England.

One of the strengths of this series is the characterisation and the relationships between the main protagonist. Jack’s wife, Esther, is very much a forward-thinking woman and her husband and uncle-in-law are always keen to involve her in their investigations. It is Percy who is my favourite, however, and I love how he is highly regarded in his work life yet a downtrodden husband at home!

Despite the grim subject matter, The Mercy Killings also contains a fair amount of humour, not least when poor Jack encounters a lady of the night! This definitely lightened the mood!

This is a great series and while this can be read as a standalone, I would highly recommend reading all of the previous books as they are all engaging and cracking reads.

A Sliver of Darkness by C J Tudor

A Sliver of Darkness is the debut short story collection from the author of best-selling books such as The Chalk Man and The Burning Girls. With elements of horror, dystopia and science fiction, C J Tudor takes us into her twisty world where everything is not how it seems to appear.

I have loved all of C J Tudor’s books and could not wait to get started on this one. I knew it would be worth the wait! Starting with an introduction to explain how this book came into being, I was immediately invested in it, knowing how difficult it had been for the author to write. The introduction to each story was an excellent addition to the book as it really helped to explain the author’s thought processes and the inspiration behind each plot.

Each short story is very different and readers will definitely have their own favourite depending on their preferred fiction genre. What links them all, however, is the unexpected and the way in which the author hits you with a twist you were not expecting. As someone who would not class horror as their favourite fiction genre, my favourite stories were End of the Liner, a dystopian mystery with a superb ending, and The Copy Shop, a plot that had me laughing out loud and wondering how I would utilise it!

This has really whet my appetite for C J Tudor’s next novel, The Drift. Fans of the author are going to love this collection and if you have never read any of her books, this is a perfect introduction to her work.

With thanks to Michael Joseph, Penguin Random House and Net Galley for my ARC.

The Jane Seymour Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh

London 1527

A young Jane Seymour arrives to take her place in the court of Katherine of Aragon. With Henry VIII desperate for a son to continue his dynasty, he already has his eye on another woman, namely Jane’s cousin, Anne Boleyn. Jane soon realises that those at court are beginning to side with each of the women and when both fall out of favour with Henry, she fears he may begin to look in her direction.

Pembrokeshire 2020

When a document, The Pentagram Manuscript, is discovered, Perdita and Piper are once again thrown back into the world of Tudor England uncovering evidence that could completely change public perception of Jane Seymour. Trouble is also close at hand when their cousin, Xavier, once again is determined to ensure that Marquess House and everything else the sisters inherited from their grandmother, is passed down to his daughters. Knowing he will stop at nothing to achieve his goal, they find themselves in grave danger, fearing for their lives and the lives of those they love.

When I found out that what was originally The Marquess House trilogy was being extended, I was ecstatic and have waited patiently for this fourth instalment. Alexandra Walsh again takes us back to Tudor England, painting a vivid picture of life at the court of Henry VIII, introducing us to the many fascinating characters of the period. I love how fact and fiction are merged seamlessly, leaving us trying to work out what is historically accepted and what is straight out of the imagination of the author.

The modern sections of the book are equally readable and kept me on the edge of my seat as I waited to discover what secrets they would discover at Marquess House this time. I love the ‘race against time’ aspect of these books and am quite jealous of the archives the sisters have access to in order to carry out their research! In Xavier, we have an antagonist of the highest order and with his world crumbling around him, it was terrifying to see how he would do anything to remove Perdita and Piper from what is rightfully theirs.

The Jane Seymour Conspiracy is another excellent addition to the series and I hope that this isn’t the end for Perdita and Piper and their adventures at Marquess House,

With thanks to Sapere Books and Net Galley for my copy.

This Much is True by Miriam Margolyes

Actress Miriam Margolyes has had (and continues to have) a fascinating life and now, at the age of eighty, she has decided to share her stories in a very detailed autobiography. Deciding that the purpose of an autobiography is to tell the complete truth about her life, This Much is True is a perfect title for what is an honest and, at times, graphic retelling of her story so far.

Miriam Margolyes is, in my opinion, a national treasure and I knew that her autobiography would be one that would not sugar coat her past. If you have ever seen any of her television interviews on the likes of The Graham Norton Show or This Morning, then you will know that she does not shy away from controversy and this is definitely the case in This Much is True. Crude in parts, her sexuality plays a huge role in many of her stories, but not in the way you would expect! No spoilers, but a warning that this is not for the faint of heart!

This book is not all crudity and innuendo however: Miriam’s intelligence shines through and she is not scared to give her opinion on controversial issues. Her political leanings are clear (let’s just say that she is no fan of Boris Johnson!) and she has a firm view on the Israel/Palestine situation. Her views are fascinating and educational and she is definitely someone I would love as a guest at my dream dinner party. I was particularly interested in her genealogical stories and as a fellow family history researcher, enjoyed the tales of her ancestors.

I knew I would love this book before I read it and I was not wrong. She may be eighty but she is showing no signs of slowing down – long may this national treasure continue to educate and entertain us!

Monthly Round Up – July 2022

I’ve read a good range of books this month and was pleased to actually read one from my TBR pile and revisit a series I haven’t read for a while!

Books I Have Read

The Reunion by Polly Phillips

A university reunion gives Emily the chance to finally get her revenge after a major event that changed the course of her life. I really enjoyed this twisty tale of revenge and loved how the plot was slowly revealed in two different time frames.

The Mercy Killings by David Field

The sixth in the Esther and Jack Enright series sees the Victorian detective investigating the discovery of the bodies of young babies. Great characters and an engaging plot.

This Much is True by Miriam Margolyes

An incredibly honest autobiography from the actress who has become a national treasure. Probably known for her often risque comments just as much as her stellar acting career, this book is not for the faint of heart!

A Sliver of Darkness by C J Tudor

This book of short stories by the author of The Chalk Man is a mix of horror, mystery and the supernatural. I loved the dark humour and the unexpectedness of some of the plots. A great quick read for C J Tudor fans.

The Jane Seymour Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh

The latest in the Marquess House series sees Jane Seymour taking a starring role although with a supporting cast including Anne Boleyn and Katherine of Aragon. Another superb dual timeline novel where the Tudor history we know is well and truly challenged!

Books I Have Acquired

This serial killer doesn’t just want your life. He wants your identity…

No one sees him coming.

A stock-market trader is pushed from a high-rise balcony and falls to his death on the street below. The only clue the police can find is a box of matches.

No one survives for long.
The decomposing body of a member of the Saudi Royal Family is discovered in a car. Evidence suggests the killer took the man’s life, then stole his identity, wore his clothes and lived in his hotel room – before vanishing into thin air like smoke.

Nothing but matchsticks are left behind.
Dr Bloom realizes the only thing linking these murders is a trail of burnt matches and broken lives. Time is running out – and if she isn’t careful, she might be the next to burn …

Marquess House is under threat…

London, 1527

Nineteen-year-old Jane Seymour arrives at court to take her place with Queen Katherine of Aragon. Discovering a court already beginning to divide into factions between Katherine and Jane’s second cousin, Anne Boleyn, Jane finds herself caught between the old world and the new. Determined to have a son, the king appears to be prepared to take whatever steps he deems necessary to secure the Tudor dynasty.

When King Henry VIII finally succeeds in his pursuit of Anne, Jane witnesses the slow unravelling of his interest in the new queen as she, too, fails in her task to deliver a son. Having watched both Katherine and Anne fall from grace, Jane has no ambition for the throne, but when the king begins seeking her out, Jane realises the decision may be out of her hands…

Pembrokeshire, 2020

When a set of papers called The Pentagram Manuscript makes its way to Perdita and Piper at Marquess House, they find they have a new mystery to unravel. The manuscript is the tale of five women on a quest to find true love, written while Anne Boleyn was queen. As Perdita begins to unravel the text, she discovers a code that leads to a whole new outlook on Henry’s relationship with Jane Seymour.

But before they have a chance to reveal all, the twins find themselves under threat from a different source. Their second cousin, Xavier Connors, is determined to wrest Marquess House from them. As Marquess House must be passed down through the female line, and Perdita and Piper do not have children, Xavier sees his twin daughter as being next in line. And when Piper is nearly driven off the road, they realise he will stop at nothing to get what he wants…

What really happened to Henry VIII’s Tudor queens? Why was history rewritten?

Will Piper and Perdita be able to unravel all of the secrets before it’s too late…?

DS Cassie Fitzgerald has a secret – but it’s one she’s deleted from her memory. In the 1990s when she was at school, she and her friends killed a fellow pupil. Thirty years later, Cassie is happily married and loves her job as a police officer.

One day her husband persuades her to go to a school reunion and another ex-pupil, Garfield Rice, is found dead, supposedly from a drug overdose. As Garfield was an eminent MP and the investigation is high profile, it’s headed by Cassie’s new boss, DI Harbinder Kaur. The trouble is, Cassie can’t shake the feeling that one of her old friends has killed again.

Is Cassie right, or was Garfield murdered by one of his political cronies? It’s in Cassie’s interest to skew the investigation so that it looks like the latter and she seems to be succeeding.

Until someone else is killed…

Meet Janine Lewis. A single mum of three and Manchester’s newest detective chief inspector. Her cheating husband walked out the day she got promoted. Now she’s six months pregnant with his baby and in charge of her first murder case.
The body of a deputy head teacher is found on a lonely allotment. Gutted — his stomach sliced open — and left for dead.

The only witnesses are a dying elderly man and a seven-year-old girl.

And now the prime suspect has disappeared . . .

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