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Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

When she receives an email informing her that her twin sister is dead, Ava Antipova isn’t exactly filled with grief. To Ava, this sounds exactly like the sort of scheming she is used to from Zelda, the sister she has not seen for the past two years. Returning home in an attempt to unearth the truth, she soon finds herself on a scavenger hunt that has been set up by her ‘dead’ sister. With her family in a downward spiral, will Ava be able to discover the whereabouts of her missing sister?

I was initially drawn to this book by the cover and the premise of a mystery being solved by way of a scavenger hunt. Although this is being billed in some quarters as a ‘thriller’, I certainly would not agree – there is definitely an air of mystery but is more of a study of the main characters involved in the story. Despite this, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Dead Letters and, although some of the plot lines could be predicted, there were enough clever twists to keep you guessing.

The Antipovas are a dysfunctional family of immense proportions: Nadine (Ava’s mother) is a divorcee suffering from early onset dementia; Marlon (Ava’s father) has a new family who seemingly want nothing to do with his children from his previous marriage and the missing sister, Zelda, is a drug user who will use anyone to help her achieve her aims. Is there any wonder Ava has escaped her past and started a new life in France?! Having a family winemaking business has not exactly helped either as they are all, as Ava admits, alcoholics. Although the characters are not exactly likeable, I did find myself feeling sympathy towards Ava’s plight as she was, once again, manipulated by her sister.

Dead Letters is a strong debut from the author and I look forward to reading her next offering.

With thanks to Atlantic Books and Readers First for my ARC.

 

The Missing Man by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

61gMJQkjzYL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_After discovering the truth about his parentage, the time has finally arrived for forensic genealogist Morton Farrier to locate his biological father. The Missing Man takes him to the east coast of America to discover what exactly happened to Harley ‘Jack’ Jacklin after disappearing from the family home following a fatal fire. Knowing that his time in the States is limited, Morton faces a race against time before his father is lost forever.

Although this is a novella, Nathan Dylan Goodwin has managed to pack in an awful lot of story! The plot moves between three time frames, detailing the beginnings of Morton’s grandparents’ relationship, the lead up to and the repercussions of the fire and Morton’s search for his father. With so much jumping around in time, it could have been quite easy to become confused but the author has ensured that this does not happen and keeps you engrossed throughout.

In typical Morton Farrier style, he might be celebrating his marriage with a honeymoon in the USA, but you just know that much of his break is going to be spent on genealogical business! Never usually one to shy away from a difficult case, it was disheartening to see Morton come up against brick walls so it was good to see his new wife encouraging him not to give up. To find out if he does find his missing man, you’ll have to read the book! I will say, though, that it was nice to see Mr Farrier not having to protect himself from people trying to stop his research!

One of the things I like the most about Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s writing is his accurate use of genealogy resources, both online and in record offices. As a genealogist, I find the research side fascinating and I found it interesting to see how Morton applied his UK research skills in the records of another country.

For any fans of other genealogical fiction authors, I highly recommend Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s Morton Farrier books. I look forward to the next full-length installment!

 

 

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

img_0999Single mum Louise is content with her life until she meets David. Young, attractive and interested in her, she can’t believe her luck. Then she meets her new boss and, to her horror, it’s the same man. What makes matters worse, is that she also meets and befriends his wife, Adele. It doesn’t take Louise long to realise that there is something very wrong with their marriage but who is telling the truth? Is David the dangerous control freak he is being made out to be and is Adele as weak and vulnerable as she claims?

There has been a lot of online buzz about this book and so I felt I had to see what all the fuss was about myself. Although the blurb clearly states that there is going to be a killer twist, I was certainly not prepared for what it was! Knowing that there was going to be a twist, I spent most of the book desperately searching for clues to no avail – this is something that cannot be predicted!

It is quite hard to review this book without giving anything away, but I will say that the story is told mainly from the perspectives of Louise and Adele, both in the present and in the past. The characters are well-written and the author does a fantastic job in steering you away from the truth so that when that ending does come it hits you hard!

Behind Her Eyes was not the book I expected, but this is a good thing! It’s not often I am completely wrong-footed by a book so well done Sarah Pinborough! My advice would be to read other reviews of this book sparingly as there are a few spoilers out there…

With thanks to Net Galley and Harper Collins for the ARC.

The Silence Between Breaths by Cath Staincliffe **BLOG TOUR**

I am honoured to have been chosen to be one of the stops on Cath Staincliffe’s blog tour for her latest book The Silence Between Breaths.

The 10.35 train is making its way from Manchester to London Euston, each passenger heading to the capital for a different reason. Jeff, a young unemployed man, dreams of a successful job interview while Holly, the woman next to him, already has the job of her dreams. Rhona, on her way to work with two fellow employees, is desperate to be back at home with her unwell child and Naz, a rail employee, has aspirations beyond collecting rubbish. Meg and her partner are off on a walking holiday while Nick and his young family are on their way to a wedding. Caroline is looking forward to some respite from home where she has to deal with problem children and a mother with dementia. Then there is Saheel, a student, who has a backpack he won’t let out of his sight…

Often, when a book contains so many characters, it is extremely easy to become confused but, thankfully, this is not the case in The Silence Between Breaths. Initially, we are introduced to each character separately and their back story and reason for them being on the train is slowly revealed. As we become more accustomed to each person, the characters start to interact with each other and it is then that the setting of the story really comes alive.

From quite early on, it is apparent that the journey is going to be a traumatic one and, after becoming quite attached to some of the characters, the anticipation is, at times, unbearable. Cath Staincliffe does an excellent job in building up the tension so that when one of the characters realises what is going to happen, you begin to fear for the safety of all those on the train. When the inevitable happens, thanks to the author’s description, it is easy to visualise the utter destruction and sense the panic felt by those who have unwittingly become involved in a major incident. These scenes are not for the faint-hearted but are vital to show the carnage caused and the repercussions for everyone on the train.

One of the biggest strengths of this book is that we also get to meet the family of Saheel and how this event affected their lives. Saheel’s sister was probably my favourite character – a young lady with a very wise head on her shoulders. As this story is one of a very sensitive nature, it was good to get the point of view of different sections of society.

In the present climate, it is probably the wrong choice of words to say that I enjoyed this book, but I feel that Cath Staincliffe has succeeded in creating a gripping, emotion-filled story that is extremely relevant today. This is, by far, the best book I have read so far this year.

The Silence Between Breaths is available to purchase now.

With thanks to Net Galley and Little Brown Book Group UK (Constable) for the copy.

Take a look at some of the other great blogs that have contributed to this blog tour:

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Holding by Graham Norton

When a skeleton is unearthed in the Irish village of Duneen, Sergeant PJ Collins finally has something to sink his teeth into. Thought to be the remains of the missing Tommy Burke, the discovery stirs up memories for two of his former loves: Brid Riordan, an unhappily married mother of two, and unmarried Evelyn Ross. Do either of these woman know more about the skeleton than they are willing to divulge, or is someone else harbouring a shameful secret?

When I saw that TV presenter and comedian Graham Norton had written a novel, I was intrigued. Even more so with the realisation that it was based around the discovery of a body. Would his acerbic wit be evident in the characters or would this be a departure from what I was expecting?

What I read was a gentle mystery with a well-written, character driven plot. Such is the style of the writing, I could almost hear Graham Norton’s voice during certain sections of the text and his humour certainly comes through, albeit in a much more laid back way. In PJ, we have the very antithesis of a leading man – overweight, no social life to speak of and limited job prospects – and yet you quickly find yourself charmed by him. Likewise, I found myself willing Brid Riordan to get out of the rut she had found herself in and felt real empathy towards her plight.

Holding is a great debut from Graham Norton and I hope that this is the start of a new venture for him! It is published on October 6th and can be purchased on Amazon.

With thanks to Hodder & Stoughton and Net Galley for the ebook.

Ruth’s First Christmas Tree by Elly Griffiths

Now that her daughter, Kate, is old enough to begin to understand Christmas, forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway wants to make it special. A tree must be purchased, presents sourced and food bought – all while trying to figure out whether Max, who she has started a recent relationship with, can actually be called her boyfriend!

Ruth’s First Christmas Tree follows on from where A Room Full of Bones left off. Still juggling work and motherhood, we now get more of an insight into her personal life and how she is coming to terms with a new relationship and how this affects how she views Detective Inspector Harry Nelson.

As this is a short story to accompany the Dr. Galloway series of books, there is, of course, reference to a historical artefact in the shape of a missing piece of wood. Ruth manages to solve the mystery and it is a surprising culprit!

If you haven’t read any of the books in this series, it’s definitely worth downloading as an introduction – especially as it’s free on kindle. At only 41 pages long, what have you to lose?!

The Fire Child by S. K. Tremayne

Rachel seems to have the perfect life: a wealthy, handsome husband, an impressive home and a beautiful step-son. Behind closed doors, however, things are starting to take a turn for the strange. Young Jamie Kerthern’s insistence that he sees his dead mother coupled with his seeming ability to foretell the future, is starting to play havoc with Rachel’s mind. Why is David, her husband, so dismissive about what is happening and is there anything more to the supposed accident that killed Nina, his first wife? More pressing, though, is Jamie’s prediction that Rachel will be dead by Christmas…

By setting the story around the mines of Cornwall, the author has created an atmospheric psychological thriller that really does have you wondering what will happen next. Although it starts slowly, it soon gathers pace and, at times, tears along at breakneck speed as you desperately try to discover which direction the book is going in. This uncertainty is one of the strengths of The Fire Child as the unpredictability makes it a more enjoyable and exciting read.

It is hard to discuss the characters without giving away too much of the plot other than to say that we don’t really get to see their true personalities until towards the end of the book. This, again, helped to create a tense conclusion and one that I did not predict. Often in books of this genre, you are left trying to figure out some of the events; this was not the case in The Fire Child where all stories reached a satisfying outcome.

A superb read!

With thanks to Net Galley and Harper Collins UK for a copy of The Fire Child.

 

He Who Dares by Derek ‘Del Boy’ Trotter

The story of Del Trotter is one that will be familiar to most people. Known primarily for his wheeling and dealing around the Peckham area of London, He Who Dares tells the story of this entrepreneur’s life from his Rock and Chips days right through Only Fools and Horses until we reach the present day. This is a real rags to riches (and then back to rags) story of a man who dreamed of being a millionaire only to find it all taken away from him.

As a fan of Only Fools and Horses, this book appealed to me straight away and had me laughing out loud on several occasions despite already knowing what was about to happen. The book has been written in such a way that you can actually hear the voice of Sir David Jason as you read Del’s immortal lines. Credit must go to the family of John Sullivan, the late creator and writer of Only Fools, for getting the tone of the book just right.

My only criticism would be the omission of some of the stand-out moments from the series. Although it could be argued that people know these stories inside out, what is the story of Del Boy without the shattered chandelier or the fall through the bar? Another funny episode – the one with the blow-up dolls – is also only mentioned in passing. It would have been nice to read more about these iconic moments in British TV.

If you’ve never seen the series (is there anyone who hasn’t?), I’d advise watching that rather than reading this book, but for fans of the Trotter family, this book is highly recommended.

The Pearl Locket by Kathleen McGurl

imageInheriting a house when your husband is out of work and his redundancy money is quickly dwindling may seem like a dream come true. For Ali, though, her great-aunt’s house brings a wealth of problems. In serious need of renovation and a lot of TLC, Ali and her husband soon wonder if the task is too large to undertake. When writing dating from 1944 is discovered on a wall, the family soon find themselves uncovering a wartime secret that was never intended to be discovered,

Like Kathleen McGurl’s other books, The Emerald Comb and The Daughters of Red Hill Hall, The Pearl locket is set in two time frames, in this case, the present day and World War Two. The two eras intertwine well making the story easy to follow. Often with books of this genre, one setting is more interesting than the other; this was not the case here. The story of Joan and Jack in 1944 and that of Ali and her family in the present day were equally enjoyable and as one chapter ended, I looked forward to the next.

The story of Joan and Jack was incredibly poignant and showed the true cost to the everyday person during World War Two. Although I correctly predicted the fate of both of these characters, it did not spoil my enjoyment of the story. The parallels between Joan and Kelly, Ali’s daughter, were also interesting, showing how life for young people hasn’t really changed between the two eras.

Another great read from Kathleen McGurl.

 

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