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Unholy Murder by Lynda La Plante

When builders discover a coffin buried in the grounds of an old convent, there are no surprises when the body inside is revealed to be a nun. What is shocking, however, are the scratch marks on the inside of the lid – the woman was clearly still alive when she was buried. Her superiors are keen to dismiss it as a cold case, but Detective Jane Tennison is not so sure and soon she is embarking on an investigation that will pit her against the church and open up old wounds for a member of the team.

Lynda la Plante knows how to tell a good story and she has managed to do it again in this, the seventh in the Tennison series. As each book progresses, we see signs of the detective becoming more like the Jane Tennison of the Prime Suspect series and is already beginning to get a bit of a reputation for doing things her own way. I have enjoyed seeing Jane move forward in time and now that we are in the 1980s, it has been interesting to see her becoming more accepted in her role as opposed to the very overt sexism she experienced during her time in the flying squad in previous books.

The subject matter is, at times, quite harrowing and there may be triggers for anyone who would not choose to read about child abuse. While this is only a small part of the plot, it does help to build up a complete picture of the crime and explains the reasons behind the views of one of the officers involved.

The Tennison series is one of my favourites but this can definitely be read as a standalone if you have not read any of the other books. I look forward to seeing what case Jane investigates next!

The Body Beneath the Willows by Nick Louth

The body of a man is found near to an Anglo-Saxon burial site but his dental fillings show that this is not an ancient burial. DCI Craig Gillard is tasked with solving the case but identification of the body is proving difficult. Everything seems to point towards it belonging to Ozzy Blanchard, a man who disappeared some months ago and was working for the same company that have now uncovered the body. When it is revealed that metal lodged in the neck is part of an Anglo-Saxon dagger, Gillard is perplexed. Just who is the body beneath the willows?

This is the ninth book in the series but can be read as a standalone if you have not read any of the previous books. There are some references to events in previous books but nothing that would spoil your enjoyment should you go back and read the rest.

This is, at times, quite a complex plot with a lot happening as, in addition to the murder, there are sub-plots involving some of the characters that we meet along the way. Thanks to the skilled writing of the author, however, the story is easy to follow and keeps you engaged throughout. There are a few surprises that long-time readers of the series will enjoy and some hints as to potential events in future books.

This is the first book I have read that mentions the Covid pandemic and I liked the way that Nick Louth handled this, referring to it but not making it a major part of the story. This definitely gave an added sense of realism to the book and I will be interested to read if other authors manage to do this as well in their books.

With thanks to Canelo Crime and Net Galley for my ARC.

The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett

Forty years ago, Steven Smith found a book written by the famous author, Edith Twyford. Noticing that the book contained lots of annotations, he took it to his English teacher who was convinced that the book was full of hidden messages. Then one day, while on a school trip, the teacher, Miss Isles, disappeared. Now, after an eventful life which has seen him spending time in prison, Steven has decided to try to find out just what happened to Miss Isles, revisiting the places of his youth and reconnecting with the people he knew back then. He soon realises that maybe Miss Isles was on to something and that the Twyford Code is something real and that he is not the only one trying to find the truth.

Janice Hallett’s previous book, The Appeal, was one of my favourite books of last year and I couldn’t wait to see if The Twyford Code lived up to my expectations. The selling point of The Appeal for me was the fact that it was told via a series of emails and messages, providing the reader with the means to solve the case themselves. In The Twyford Code, the author has, again, shunned the traditional way of writing, as this time the story is told in the form of voice recordings that Steven has made on his phone. This led to some funny moments at times due to the spelling mistakes made by the voice recognition system!

The plot is a clever one and one that took me back to my childhood reading of the mystery stories of Enid Blyton due to the search for clues and the group of people investigating. There are some aspects of the plot that I predicted but, on the whole, the numerous twists and red herrings kept me on my toes as I tried to solve the Twyford Code along with Steven. One of the places that features prominently in the plot is a location I know well and this really captured my imagination and gave the book an element of realism for me.

I read the ebook version but I do feel that this would be better to read as a physical book as, throughout reading, I constantly wanted to go back and reread sections to look for things that I might have missed. I think this will be a book that I will revisit at a later date to look for all the things I missed first time around. Janice Hallett is definitely becoming a force to be reckoned with and I can’t wait to see what she brings us next!

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

The Foundlings by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

In his latest case, forensic genealogist Morton Farrier aims to uncover the truth about three babies who were found abandoned in shop doorways in the 1970s. DNA evidence has connected these three babies but who, exactly, was the mother? The case also has a personal element for Morton as one of the foundlings is his recently-discovered half-aunt and there are potential revelations about his own grandfather. With time against him, what will Morton discover and will he want to share his shocking findings with those involved?

In recent years, popular television programmes such as Long Lost Family have used DNA testing to reunite family members and in The Foundlings, Nathan Dylan Goodwin uses this scientific advancement along with the more traditional methods of genealogy to piece together family histories that would otherwise stay hidden. The research is explained well and plays its part in an engrossing, highly readable plot.

The story is told in two time frames: the present day research of Morton and the actual events that the genealogist is researching. For the first time, we see Morton uncomfortable about his research, not sure whether he should share it with the foundlings due to the explosive nature of the information he finds out. The story is compelling and keeps you hooked right until the end and I enjoyed the humorous moments that provided some light relief.

One word of warning is that there are some references to events in previous books. While this will not spoil your enjoyment of The Foundlings, it will take away the element of surprise should you choose to go back and read the earlier stories. This is a series that is going from strength to strength and I thoroughly recommend each and every one of them.

The Appeal by Janice Hallett

Local amateur dramatics society The Fairway Players are about to stage a production of All My Sons but all is not well. Soon, one of the players will be dead and another will be in prison, convicted of a crime there is a strong possibility that they did not commit.

I have had this book on my Kindle for a while and finally got round to reading it. I am now kicking myself for not getting round to it before now! For those who are unaware of The Appeal, this does not read like a traditional ‘whodunnit’ but, instead, is a series of texts, emails and letters from the principal characters, each one providing valuable information to help you try to solve the case yourself.

We join the plot after the murder and after someone has been convicted, but we don’t know the identity of either of these people. Roderick Tanner QC feels that the wrong person is currently in prison and tasks students Femi and Charlotte to uncover the evidence that will stand up in a forthcoming appeal. The correspondence between these characters really helps to focus the mind, helping the reader to think about the evidence that we have been given from the other potential suspects.

Due to the novel format of this book, it took me a bit of time to get my head around what was happening but then, once I did, I was fully immersed, coming up with my own theories and looking for the evidence to back them up. The Appeal is a breath of fresh air and has definitely added a new dimension to the crime/mystery genre. I am looking forward to reading the next novel by this author, The Twyford Code, to seehow this one compares.

Darkness Falls by Robert Bryndza

After setting up their own private investigation firm, Kate Marshall and Tristan Harper have their first big case. Journalist Joanna Duncan disappeared without trace twelve years ago and after exhausting any leads they had, the police have consigned her disappearance to the cold case files. Joanna’s mother has never given up hope, however, and employs Kate and Tristan to find out exactly what happened to her daughter. When Kate uncovers evidence of other missing people, she begins to worry that maybe there is a killer hiding in plain sight, one that hasn’t finished yet…

Darkness Falls is the third in the Kate Marshall series and, in my opinion, is the best so far. While this could be read as a standalone, I feel that it is important to understand Kate’s backstory to fully appreciate the character and there is more than one spoiler to events in previous books in this one.

The story grabbed me straight away and its twisty plot kept me hooked right until the end. I enjoy a book where the killer is not obvious and even as I neared the end, I still couldn’t decide who the guilty party was due to the several plausible candidates that Robert Bryndza gave us!

Kate and Tristan are both great characters who bring their own skills to the investigation, Kate in particular using her police contacts to help when needed. Despite the macabre nature of the crimes, I did enjoy the occasional snippets of humour, particularly one of Tristan’s friends who has a good line in nicknames!

This is a great series, one that I highly recommend. I’m hoping it won’t be too long before we get to read book 4!

With thanks to Little, Brown Book Group and Net Galley for my copy.

Take a look at my reviews for the rest of the series:

Nine Elms

Shadow Sands

The Wind Chime by Alexandra Walsh

After the death of her mother, Amelia Prentice is clearing out her attic when she finds a box of Victorian photographs. Depicting the Attwater family who resided at a Pembrokeshire estate called Cliffside, Amelia sets out to discover who they were. When she finds the diaries of Osyth Attwater, she finds her interest piqued even more.

Back in 1883, young Osyth overhears a conversation which shatters her world and leaves her wondering what other secrets her family has kept from her. What exactly did happen to Osyth’s mother and is there any link in the present day to Amelia?

I am a huge fan of the Marquess House series by Alexandra Walsh and was pleased to see that she had written another timeshift book, this time set in my favoured period of historical fiction, the Victorian age. The author captures the era perfectly and I particularly liked how it deals with some of the subjects that would have been taboo in that age such as mental illness and relationships outside of marriage.

Initially, I found myself favouring the sections written in the present day due to my love of all things genealogical but as the book progressed and I found myself understanding the complex family relationships of the family in 1883, I began to enjoy both eras equally. Osyth soon became a firm favourite and I admired her tenacity despite her reputation for being a bit of a dreamer.

The Wind Chime is a beautiful, poignant book written with sensitivity. I have already downloaded the next in the series, The Music Makers.

Take a look at my reviews of the Marquess House series by the same author:

The Catherine Howard Conspiracy

The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy

The Arbella Stuart Conspiracy

The Weeping Lady Conspiracy

Stolen Ones by Angela Marsons

Twenty-five years ago, little Melody Jones was abducted and never seen again. Now, another child has been taken and, to the horror of D.I. Kim Stone, a bracelet belonging to Melody has been found at the scene. What has made the perpetrator strike again after all these years and what is the connection to a man who has presented himself at Halesowen police station claiming to have information? Kim and her team know that time is against them if they are to find the child alive but with Kim having to deal with an old adversary at the same time, will they be able to crack the case in time?

Over the last few years, Angela Marsons has easily become one of my favourite authors, the Kim Stone series being an absolutely cracking read. If you are a fan of police procedurals with hugely engaging storylines and characters you actually care about the this is a series you need to read!

This is one of those plots that you can easily picture being part of a Sunday night TV drama. From the moment Steven Harte walked into the police station, I was immediately drawn into the intrigue of this book, desperate to find what information he held and, more importantly, why he had chosen now to come forward.

This case really tests Kim in more ways than one and I could feel her frustration in trying to get information out of someone who really did seem to hold all the cards. Coupled with an appearance from an old adversary, Kim really does earn her money in this book!

If you have never read an Angela Marsons book, I cannot recommend them highly enough!

With thanks to Bookouture and Net Galley for my copy.

**BLOG TOUR** The Lost by Simon Beckett

Ten years after the disappearance of his young son, firearms officer Jonah Colley is summoned to the onimously named Slaughter Quay by an old friend. Not knowing what he is going to discover, he finds himself caught up in a huge murder enquiry and, with no other witnesses, is placed firmly on the suspect list. Questioning everything he thought he knew about the previous ten years, Jonah must revisit his past in order to help him make sense of the present.

This is one of those books that instantly grabs your attention and holds it right until the very last page. I have read one of Simon Beckett’s books before (The Scent of Death) and after reading The Lost, I really must read the rest as the story telling is superb and the whole plot is extremely well-written.

In Jonah Colley, the author has created a great lead character, tenacious yet damaged. We see how events in his past have made him the man he is today and I found it easy to feel sympathy towards him. Some of his actions were definitely questionable and he seems to have a knack of getting himself further into bother, but this only endeared him to me even more as I willed him to finally be able to exorcise his demons.

The Lost has an engrossing plot which, at times, has hints of violence. This is all integral to the plot, however, and helped to create tension which left me wanting to read ‘just one more chapter’ before putting the book down!

I am so pleased that this is the first in a series as I am eager to see where Simon Beckett takes onah Colley next.

With thanks to Orion and Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers.

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