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On Copper Street by Chris Nickson

51zeLbgjVpLThe day after he is released from prison, in March 1895, Henry White is found stabbed to death at his home in Copper Street, Leeds. Local people are reluctant to speak to the police so DI Tom Harper knows that he will have a hard time trying to solve the case. Meanwhile, in a seemingly unprovoked incident, a young boy and girl find themselves victims of a serious acid attack. As the death toll rises, Harper knows that unless he gets a big break, the culprits will remain at large for ever.

On Copper Street is the fifth of Chris Nickson’s books to feature the main protagonist, Tom Harper, and is arguably his most complex to date, dealing with issues that wouldn’t look out of place in a contemporary crime novel. His descriptions of late-Victorian Leeds, however, place this book firmly in the past and it is this imagery that I love the most about this author’s books. Chris Nickson always succeeds in putting a clear picture in my mind of where the story is set, whether it be the police station, the public house of the crime scene. It is clear how much the author knows about the places he talks about in his books.

The mystery is a fascinating one and gives us a chance to see how most of Victorian police work came down to the legwork of the detectives. It was also interesting to see a new role being undertaken by Harper and poses a conundrum for future books – will he be content with being based, mainly, in the office, or will he find himself longing to be back out on the streets?

I have always loved the prominence the author gives to women in this series of books, and Harper’s wife, Annabelle, continues to be a strong character, largely due to her work with the Suffragettes. In an era where a lot of men controlled their wives’ lives, it is refreshing to see a fictional Victorian marriage where the couple appear to be equals.

Another excellent addition to the series.

With thanks to NetGalley and Severn House Publishers for the ARC.

The Sixth Victim by Tessa Harris

Like the rest of Whitechapel, Constance Piper is living in fear of the unknown killer that roams the streets at night – Jack the Ripper. After witnessing a stage hypnotist perform his act, however, Constance has not been feeling herself and begins to think that she has somehow acquired the powers of second sight. She is soon contacted by a lady who fears that the latest victim may be her missing sister – can Constance use her skills to unmask the killer? Just when she needs her help the most, Constance’s teacher and friend, Emily Tindall, has also gone missing. Is her disappearance linked to the man known as the Whitechapel Killer?

The Sixth Victim is a fictional tale set during 1888 when the infamous serial killer, Jack the Ripper, was striking fear across the whole of the east end of London. I originally thought that this was going to be another take on this age-old mystery but was pleased to discover that it merely provided a backdrop for the main plot and the focus was placed on the missing women and a torso that had been found in another part of London.

I warmed to Constance very quickly – a girl who, although living amongst abject poverty, longs to better herself in order to find a way out of the slums of the east end. In The Sixth Victim, the author has managed to create a very colourful image of Whitechapel, showing a stark contrast between the lives of the unfortunate inhabitants to that of the more well-to-do who live in the grand houses and hotels of London. It was easy to imagine (even with out the aid of Constance’s second sight) the sounds and smells of the area and understand why the women of that time lived in constant fear.

I was not sure what to expect when a supernatural element was introduced to the story as this is not my favourite genre of writing, but I felt that it was written well and allowed the plot to move on at a steady pace. It also appears to show how other subsequent books in the series could take shape. Overall, the plot was a good one and I liked how the author has seamlessly merged fact with fiction.

A great read which promises to be the start of a fascinating new series.

With thanks to Net Galley and Kensington Books for the ARC.

The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo

Finding himself carrying out surveillance duties after being reassigned, Harry Hole is quite happy spending some time working alone. It is not long, though, before he discovers that a rare high-calibre rifle has been smuggled into the country – one that is favoured by assassins. When a former Nazi sympathiser is found with his throat cut, Harry wonders if there could be a connection between the two occurrences. As the body count rises, it soon becomes apparent that there is someone out there, determined to mete out their own brand of justice. Will Harry be able to find out who he is before more bodies are found?

The Redbreast is the third of Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series and is definitely my favourite so far. Indeed, Jo himself, in a recent Q&A session, declared that this is his favourite too. The start of the book is quite harrowing as we are taken back to the trenches of World War Two where a small group of Norwegian soldiers are fighting on the side of the Germans. This section of the book was, at times, a bit confusing but all is explained very clearly in the concluding chapters and is essential in understanding the rest of the plot.

Fast forward over fifty years, and Norway is dealing with a new enemy – the neo-Nazi. Harry and his colleagues must try to find out if there is a connection between the rise of this group and the Marklin rifle that has turned up in the country. Just who is the target of the alleged assassination plot and which of the ex-soldiers is the would-be assassin? From the outset, it was obvious that one of the soldiers mentioned in the opening chapters would be the guilty party but Nesbo has done a good job in throwing you off the scent until the very end.

As seems to be the theme of all of these early books, Harry, once again, has to endure a personal tragedy and so, inevitably turns to drink. Although this case was, to all intents and purposes, resolved, there was still a major part of it that was not – I am sure that this story line will rear its ugly head in one of the following books.

In all, a fascinating read that was a solid mystery story and one that also taught me some aspects of World War two that I did not know too much about.

 

The Somme Legacy by M J Lee

51vc6ddce-lWhen genealogist Jayne Sinclair is tasked with finding details of a 1916 marriage, she takes on what should be an easy case. The only problem is there appears to be no documentation to support the fact that a marriage ever took place, with the recollections of the bride, a long-term resident at an asylum, being the only ‘evidence’. Could lowly shop girl, Rose Clarke, really be the bride of army officer David Russell, heir to the Lappiter estate? With only a few days until the estate passes to the Crown, Jayne has to solve a hundred-year-old mystery that has destroyed the lives of many.

The Somme Legacy, the second of M J Lee’s books to feature genealogical investigator, Jayne Sinclair, was one of my most eagerly anticipated books of 2017, and I’m delighted to say that it lived up to my expectations. The follow-up to The Irish Inheritance is told in two time-frames so we get to see the events as they were unfolding in 1916 and also Jayne’s investigation one hundred years later. Like the previous book, I was pleased with how the research was carried out, showing that researching your family history is not just a case of logging onto a website! Jayne’s determination to find documents that might not even exist adds an air of authenticity to this work of fiction.

The plot is an extremely emotive one, dealing with one of the great horrors of British history – the Battle of the Somme. As someone who lost a family member in this battle, I found the description of the trenches particularly harrowing and felt that the author created an accurate representation of the atrocities experienced by the soldiers. Similarly, Rose’s involvement in the Suffragette movement provided another fascinating aspect to the plot, showing the inhumane way these brave women were treated. The reason behind Rose’s incarceration in an asylum is not revealed straight away, but when it is, it really pulls on the heart strings and makes you despair of the cruelty of some people.

In The Somme Legacy, M J Lee has succeeded in creating a heart-warming love story with more than an air of sadness and intrigue. The main characters are extremely likeable and, I particularly enjoyed the relationship Jayne shares with her father who is suffering from the beginnings of dementia.

For any fans of genealogical fiction, this book is a must read and I hope that a third book is in the pipeline!

The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths

img_0987After bones are discovered in the network of tunnels under Norwich, DCI Nelson has a murder to investigate when it is revealed that they are part of a recent burial. To add a macabre twist, Dr. Ruth Galloway has suspicions that the bones have been boiled – could a cannibal be at large? Meanwhile, a homeless woman has gone missing, the only clue seemingly being that she has ‘gone underground’. Are the two cases connected and what, if anything, links them to the disappearance of another local woman? It is up to Nelson and Dr. Ruth Galloway to unearth the mysteries of The Underground before it is too late…

Over the past year, I have read all of Elly Griffiths’ ‘Ruth Galloway’ books and The Chalk Pit was on my list of most anticipated books of 2017. Ruth has become one of my favourite fictional characters and it has been fascinating to see the character development of her and other favourites such as Cathbad and Nelson. All of the characters are extremely well-written, likeable and very realistic.

With homelessness seemingly on the rise, The Chalk Pit is a very topical read and Elly Griffiths deals with the issue in a sensitive and sympathetic way. It is hard not to feel for the plight of the rough sleepers, and people’s differing attitudes towards them is all too true. DS Judy Johnson really comes into her own in this book and the obituary written by her at the end of the book is very moving.

As someone who loves historical as well as crime fiction, I have found Elly Griffiths’ books a perfect read. Although there is less of a historical angle in The Chalk Pit, there is still enough about old bones and communities to whet the appetite! As you would expect with any book involving DCI Nelson and Dr. Galloway, there are some murders to investigate along the way, which tie in neatly to the disappearance of the women.

Elly Griffiths has written another fantastic book and one that, in my opinion, cements her place as one of the best writers of a crime series. My only regret is that I have now finished all the Ruth Galloway books and know that there will be a while until the next one!

With thanks to Net Galley and Quercus for the arc.

The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths

After being summoned by DCI Harry Nelson to look at the body of a World War Two pilot discovered in a buried plane, forensic archaeologist, Ruth Galloway, soon realises that all is not what it seems. The body is identified as Fred Blackstock, whose plane was reported to have crashed at sea and, to confuse matters even further, there is a bullet hole in his head… When human remains are found at a nearby pig farm and another member of the Blackstock family is attacked, Nelson is tasked with bringing an unknown murderer to justice.

The Ghost Fields is the seventh in the Ruth Galloway series and, like all of her previous books, Elly Griffiths has created another ‘unputdownable’ read. By linking a historical case with the modern crimes, the story moves on at a steady pace and manages to throw in a few red herrings to keep you guessing right until the very end.

One of the things I enjoy most about this series is the characterisation. Throughout the books, we have seen the characters develop to the point where I almost believe they are real people! Ruth is fast becoming one of my favourite fictional characters and fully deserves to have her story made into a TV series.

My only problem with this book is that, as I read the next book in the series, The Woman in Blue, before the others, I have now reached the end of the Ruth Galloway story! Roll on 23rd February 2017 when The Chalk Pit is published!

 

The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths

imageEver since I started reading the Ruth Galloway series, this is the book I have been longing to read as I have a huge interest in Victorian crime. The references to baby farming and the resurrectionists gave the story of Jemima Green an authentic feel and, although this was only a small part of the plot, I did develop a great deal of sympathy for the child killer and hoped that Ruth would be able to prove her innocence.

The main storyline – the child abduction – was a very emotive one, and, at times, it was hard to put down the book as I was desperate to find out the outcome. We also get to see a different side to many of the characters as the case unfolds. It was fascinating to see how the abduction affected Clough and how he was willing to accept advice from unconventional sources. I was also pleased to see the return of Cathbad after his sojourn in Pendle!

Although I have enjoyed all of Elly Griffiths’ books immensely, it is safe to say that this is my favourite one of the series so far!

The Spyglass File by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

When a woman asks for help to discover information about her parents, forensic genealogist Morton Farrier, is less than keen. His recent cases have not gone well and with his wedding to Juliette and the prospect of finding out about his own father looming ever closer, his mind just isn’t on the task. He relents, however, and takes the case, leading him to World War Two Britain and an abundance of secrets and lies.

The Spyglass File is the fourth of Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s Forensic Genealogist series, and one that focuses less on the main protagonist and more on the mystery being solved. The amount of research undertaken by the author on the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and their involvement in decoding German transmissions is obvious and makes for a very accurate retelling of the roles of these often overlooked women. It was interesting to read that much of the plot was based on something that the author had discovered in his own family.

As in previous books, the characters are extremely well-written and it is easy to have empathy for the plight of Elsie Finch. Stuck in a loveless marriage at a turbulent time when nothing is the norm, I found myself willing her to have a happy ending. You will have to read the book to find out whether this is the case, but suffice to say the ending was a satisfying, if unexpected, one!

Of course, as in all Morton Farrier books, it would not be right if he did not experience some sort of danger throughout his investigation! If anyone tells you genealogy is a boring hobby, just refer them to this man! Thankfully for Morton, he just about gets away with his life once again!

The ending has set up the next book nicely, so I am presuming we shall be off to America in the next installment. I can’t wait!

The Spyglass File is available to purchase now.

Murder on the Serpentine by Anne Perry

imageThe year is 1899 and Thomas Pitt from the Special Branch has been summoned to Buckingham Palace by Queen Victoria herself. Knowing that her reign is drawing to a close, she has been concerned about the company that her son and heir, Edward, is keeping and had tasked her trusted friend John Halberd to investigate. One man in particular, Alan Kendrick, is of interest but before he could report back, Halberd is found drowned in the Serpentine. Although it has been declared an unfortunate accident, Queen Victoria is not convinced all is as it seems and asks Pitt to continue the investigation. Knowing he must work alone, Pitt finds himself in a dangerous situation which threatens the safety of those around him and the monarchy itself…

Victorian crime fiction is an interest of mine so I was pleased to get the opportunity to read Murder on the Serpentine. Anne Perry is not an author I had come across before, despite this being the 32nd book in this series! I had, therefore, some reservations before reading as the characters would obviously be well-established and would have lengthy back-stories that I would not be privy to. Although I did find keeping up with some of the peripheral characters slightly confusing, I found that the author had shared enough information about Thomas Pitt and his wife, Charlotte, to make the story easy to follow.

The plot is an interesting one and not one that I was expecting at the start of the book. I did, however, find that I enjoyed reading about Pitt’s investigative work more than the political aspect of the storyline. As all loose ends were tied up in the last quarter of the book, it became a fast-paced read as we discovered a completely different, more ruthless side of Thomas Pitt. On the strength of this book, I would definitely read more from the series.

With thanks to Net Galley and Headline for the advance copy.

 

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