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The Tin God by Chris Nickson

51SXPfKJzFL._SX315_BO1,204,203,200_It’s 1897 and the people of Leeds are about to go to the polls to vote for a new Poor Law Guardian. For the first time, women have decided to stand for election, leading to unrest amongst those who feel that a woman’s place should be in the home. When the women begin to be attacked, Superintendent Tom Harper has a particular reason for wanting this man off the streets – one of the candidates is his own wife, Annabelle. As the threats become worse, and deadly explosions begin to rip through the venues where the women are speaking, the detectives know they must find the culprit before more lives are lost.

The Tin God is the sixth in the Tom Harper series and is a very timely one with it being the 100th anniversary of women receiving the right to vote in the UK. One of the things I have always enjoyed about this series is the prominence the author gives to the female characters, so often overlooked in books set in this era. We have seen Annabelle Harper’s strength in previous books but, here, she really comes into her own when her own life is threatened. Chris Nickson really brings home how turbulent these times must have been with these forward-thinking women being met with resistance from those firmly stuck in the past.

It is always fascinating to read how the police force of that time solved cases without any of the modern techniques used today, relying instead on pounding the streets, looking for clues. Despite the slow search for a breakthrough, the plot moves on at a fast pace with bombs, murders, attempted abductions, attacks… late Victorian Leeds is not the safest place to live! There is also a sub-plot involving Billy Reed, an inspector now living and working in Whitby, who is investigating a smuggling ring. I do hope, at some point, we see Tom and Billy working together again back in Leeds.

The Tin God is a great read and I highly recommend this series to anyone with an interest in historical crime fiction. Although this is the sixth book, it could be read as a standalone.

With thanks to Severn House and Net Galley for my copy of The Tin God.

 

 

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The Night Caller by David Field

image001The women in the East End of London have just got over the horrors of Jack the Ripper when a new attacker appears on the scene – someone is breaking into their homes, stealing their underwear and leaving filthy, threatening messages. With the police refusing to take the crimes seriously, it is up to Esther Jacobs and her fiance, police officer Jack Enright, to investigate the wrongdoings. Are these women being targeted for a reason and just what is the connection to a new female ‘Alliance’? When the case takes a turn for the worse, someone will soon find their life is in grave danger…

The Night Caller is the second of the Esther and Jack Enright Mysteries, a detective series set in Victorian London, the first being The Gaslight Stalker. In the last book, our heroes met and, despite the horrendous circumstances they found themselves in, fell in love. Now planning their wedding, they find themselves involved in a case which becomes a little too close for comfort for Esther. Knowing Esther’s personality, it was not a surprise that she should find herself becoming involved in a female trade union and it was pleasing to see some historical fact being included such as the Bryant and May strike and the role of Annie Besant.

I found much of this book pitying Jack who has spent most of his life with his overbearing mother and is now embarking on a marriage with an equally strong woman. Esther appeared, at times, to be quite unlikable, but I found myself warming to her as the story progressed. It will be interesting to see what the next book has in store for Esther, as she is definitely not the sort of woman to be content with staying at home, looking after any children they have!

The Night Caller definitely transports you back to Victorian London and whereas, in the last book, we saw how the poorest and most unfortunate lived, here we see the lower classes finally trying to fight their way out of poverty. Of course, this would not be what everyone wanted and so we see these women being threatened and, eventually murdered. The mystery was a good one with enough red herrings thrown in to keep you off the scent, and it also had a satisfying conclusion.

I look forward to seeing how married life is treating the Enrights in the next book!

With thanks to Caoimhe O’Brien at Sapere Books for my copy of the book.

The Gaslight Stalker by David Field

512ZJVl391LIt’s London, 1888, and fear is spreading around the East End of London due to the shadowy killer who has become known as Jack the Ripper. One of the victims is known to Esther, a young, respectable Jewish seamstress and she becomes determined to aid the police in their investigations. Ably assisted by Constable Jack Enright, the pairing soon find themselves drawn in to the underbelly of the city where serious crime is an everyday occurrence. As they edge closer to identifying the killer, Esther and Jack have underestimated just how dangerous they are…

As a fan of crime fiction set in the Victorian era, particularly anything involving Jack the Ripper, I knew that this book would be right up my street before I’d even started reading.  Although it is quite a short book, David Field has evoked sounds and smells of the slums of Whitechapel and has created a true image of the horrors that existed at that time. By merging fact with fiction, he has also added an air of authenticity to the plot and I enjoyed reading about characters such as Abberline, Reid and the prostitutes we have all become so familiar with.

Esther is a fascinating character. As a Jew living in an area where antisemitism was rife, she has managed to forge out a humble career for herself – something which would have been extremely difficult for a single woman of that era. I found it interesting how she is living in a common lodging house, yet has managed to not live the life of so many other women at that time. I was pleased when the romance between her and Jack started to develop and, as someone who is not really a fan of romantic fiction, I felt that it was written in a way that was befitting of the time and that it fit in well with the plot.

For anyone who knows anything about the Whitechapel Murders, the plot will not come as a surprise, but what will is the culprit! It was a very different take on the murders and, although the more ardent Ripperologists will scoff, it must be remembered that this is a work of fiction and the ending reflects this.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the first in the Esther and Jack Enright series and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a quick, well-written read.

With thanks to Sapere Books for my copy of The Gaslight Stalker.

Mind of a Killer by Simon Beaufort

51mHX+TCFHLPall Mall Gazette reporter Alec Lonsdale is working on a fatal house fire when he is accosted by a woman telling him that there have been more deaths and she has information on them. After a post-mortem reveals that the victim, Patrick Donovan, was murdered and that part of his brain had been removed, Lonsdale is determined to put his journalistic skills to good use and investigate what has happened. Assisted by his colleague, the feisty female reporter, Hulda Friederichs, when more bodies are found, their attempts to uncover the truth are thwarted at every step. Exactly who is stopping them from uncovering the truth?

One of the things I enjoy most about well-written historical crime fiction is the ability to transport the reader back in time, giving you the opportunity to experience the sounds, sights and smells of the era. Mind of a Killer certainly does this, evoking images of downtrodden Londoners, doing anything they can to make ends meet. In stark contrast, we see how life differed for the upper classes, and how vast the divide between the two groups was. Simon Beaufort certainly takes you back to Victorian London to a time when people were distrustful of the new underground rail system  and how journalists were reluctant to print celebrity stories!

By having journalists as the main protagonists, Mind of a Killer moves the story away from it being a typical police procedural. Lonsdale is a great character but he is usurped in every scene by the inimitable Hulda, a strong woman if ever there was one! I was fascinated to read that the character was based on a real journalist who worked for The Pall Mall Gazette. Obviously, the author has taken some artistic licence, but after reading that she was the first female journalist to work on the same   pay terms as her male counterparts, there is certainly an element of the fictional firebrand there!

The mystery is a particularly gruesome one with people being found murdered, horrifically disfigured with their cerebrum removed. It soon becomes apparent that there is more than one killer on the loose and that there are several other conspirators bound to keeping the operation secret. Despite the nature of the crimes, the actual murders are mainly kept off the page meaning that it never becomes too much to read for anyone of a nervous disposition.

Mind of a Killer is a great read which will hopefully become part of a series. Lonsdale and Friederichs definitely have more to offer.

With thanks to Severn House Publishers and Net Galley for the ARC.

An Unquiet Ghost by Linda Stratmann

Cousins George Fernwood and Mary Clifton are engaged to be married but feel that they cannot go through with the wedding until an event from their past has finally been resolved. Twenty years previously, their grandfather died in his bed and it is thought that someone in the family poisoned him. Desperate to find out what really happened, the couple are keen to talk to a medium in order to communicate with their dead grandfather. Knowing that Mina Scarletti has a reputation for unmasking fraudulent psychics, they engage her in assisting in their quest for the truth.

Although I had read some of Linda Stratmann’s Frances Doughty series, I had not yet come across the books featuring Mina Scarletti. This is the third book in the series but I found it could be read as a standalone. Mina is a fascinating character, her scoliosis preventing her from participating in Brighton’s society. Despite her disability, however, she is the epitome of a modern Victorian woman, accepting that she will never marry and writing books published by her family’s publishing house. I admired her tenacity and her ability to use her brainpower to aid her investigations.

The search for a legitimate medium is a fascinating one and I enjoyed reading about the different methods undertaken by these charlatans in order to defraud the bereaved. Like Mina, I found myself searching for ways the ‘readings’ could have been fabricated and was intrigued by how these people were happy to play the ‘long game’ in order to achieve their aim.

Although beyond what Mina has been tasked, she nevertheless becomes interested in solving the murder of Thomas Fernwood. As she is unable to travel a lot due to her scoliosis, some of the research is done via letter. I enjoyed reading the letters that appeared throughout the book and, as well as giving an insight into Mina’s thoughts, it also provides the reader with an understanding of what went on behind Victorian closed doors. I was surprised when the poisoner was revealed although could understand why when the circumstances were explained.

An Unquiet Ghost is perfect for any fans of Victoriana who enjoy a gentle mystery.

With thanks to Caoimhe O’Brien and Sapere Books for my copy of the book.

 

Orchard View by Deborah J Miles

After purchasing the once grand Orchard View, builder, Bill Maynard, has his heart set on making a profit by converting it into bedsits. What he doesn’t bargain on is the discovery of human bones under the patio. After being told that the area was a burial site during the time of the Black Death, he has a decision to make – inform the police of his findings and risk losing money or cover the remains up and pretend they were never there. Whatever he decides to do, the discovery has set in motion a chain of events that will change the lives of many…

Recently, on the BBC, there was a television series detailing the history of 62 Falkner Street in Liverpool. This programme traced the people who had lived at the house from when it was built, telling their stories and linking them to the local and national events of the time. It was this programme I thought of while reading Orchard View, which tells the story of the house and its various residents. Although much of the tale is told from the perspective of the inhabitants, it was also a novel concept to give the house itself a voice. Like any reader, the house had its favourite characters and it was fascinating to see what it thought of the people who lived within it.

The story could have become very disjointed due to the different people living there over the years, so it was a clever to idea to have a constant character, a neighbour, who would remain there throughout. This provided a link between each of the stories and also gave the book a definite edge. You will have to read Orchard View to find out more about this though!

It is hard to say too much about the plot without giving too much away, but what I will say is that it is an intriguing look into the private lives of people and definitely a case of how we don’t always know what goes on behind closed doors. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began reading, but I found that I soon couldn’t put Orchard View down as I was desperate to see what tragedy would befall each resident. There was certainly a lot of death and misery for one house!

I would like to thank the author for giving me the opportunity to read this book and I thoroughly recommend it. A super read!

Buy Orchard View here: Amazon

 

 

The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths

Feeling troubled by the events in the previous book, Dr. Ruth Galloway is pleased when a face from her past, Dr. Angelo Morelli, contacts her, seeking her assistance on bones that have been discovered in a small Italian village. Accompanied by her friend Shona and their children, they head off to the continent, where they find a village still clinging on to memories of the Second World War and the Resistance. The past and present collide however, when the body of a local is found in the church. What secrets lurk that would make someone kill to protect?

I was very late in discovering the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths but since reading my first one two years ago, I have devoured the books and was eagerly anticipating this one. Taking Ruth out of her comfort zone is a big gamble but is one that’s has definitely paid off and it has enabled us to take a peek into her past whilst also exploring more of her relationship with best friend, Shona. Although Ruth is brought to Italy on the premise of assisting with recently discovered bones, the archaeology takes a bit of a back seat as she realises that there are more pressing matters that threaten their idyllic break. Somebody clearly doesn’t want Ruth there and she begins to fear, rightly so, that her life may be in danger.

I had feared that with the story being set in Italy, we would see less of the other characters we have come to know and love, but this was not to be the case. Running alongside the main plot, is a sub-plot about a released prisoner who bears a grudge against DCI Harry Nelson. Despite having this and huge upheaval in his personal life to contend with, Nelson finds his way out to Italy, accompanied by Cathbad, when news of a disaster reaches him. Throughout the books, we have seen Nelson struggle with his feelings for Ruth and this becomes even more heightened due to everything that is currently going on in his life. He is becoming more and more of a tortured soul and, depending upon the climax of a particular storyline, we could soon see him being tipped firmly over the edge!

The most shocking part of the book is reserved for the final chapters when a major event occurs that will have repercussions for several of the characters. Without going into too much detail, I was genuinely upset by what happened but, at the same time, can’t wait to see what the consequences will be.

If you have never read any of the Ruth Galloway series, please do as I don’t feel you will be disappointed. For anyone who is already a fan, The Dark Angel is a welcome addition to an already brilliant series.

With thanks to Quercus and Net Galley for my ARC.

 

The Blood Card by Elly Griffiths

The year is 1953 and the coronation of the new queen is imminent. When the murder of Colonel Cartwright, the former wartime commander of DI Edgar Stephens and Max Mephisto, is discovered, they begin to wonder if this is another link to the shadowy Magic Men after a playbill containing the name of another deceased comrade is found amongst his possessions. With investigations into the death of fortune teller, Madame Zabini, and Max’s forthcoming TV appearance, Stephens has his work cut out when he fears an anarchist group is plotting to make the coronation go off with a bang…

The Blood Card is the third of the Stephens and Mephisto series and sees the pairing being forced to embrace the moving times. The invention and growth in popularity of the television has been worrying Max for a while, fearing that it will put an end to his career on the stage. He finally agrees to take part in a show and it is amusing to watch his distrust of the medium compared to the way Edgar’s mother has welcomed it into her home. Edgar, meanwhile, is experiencing something new himself by travelling to New York on an aeroplane. The huge chasm between England and America is revealed as the detective feels like a fish out of water in this strange, huge place.

The mystery is a complicated one as there are numerous characters who you know are going to be interlinked in some way or other. As in the style of a good magician, there is a lot of misdirection so that you are never quite sure which character is good and which is involved with one of the crimes. It was pleasing to read a book where I was still wondering who the criminals were towards the end.

I am still not taken with Edgar’s choice of fiancée, Ruby. Edgar seems to have a lot more invested in the relationship, whereas it feels as though Ruby sees him as a stopgap until fame and fortune comes beckoning. I think it would also suit Max if the  couple were to split up!

The Blood Card is another great read and I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

The Malice of Angels by Wendy Percival

When Max Rainsford, a former journalist colleague of her late husband, Tim, arrives to quiz Esme about a story he was working on thirty-five years ago, the genealogist is reluctantly forced to revisit her troubled past. Meanwhile, Esme’s friend, Ruth, is desperate to know the story behind her aunt, Vivienne, a nurse during the Second World War who never returned home. As Esme starts her investigation, she soon realises that the two cases are linked and is forced to come face to face with the devastating truth about her husband’s death.

The Malice of Angels is the third full-length Esme Quentin mystery and is by far the most complex. At the start of the book, we see Esme preparing to relocate to Devon where she will be nearer some of her old friends. The appearance of Max Rainsford, however, makes her return to a particularly dark period in her life when her husband was killed whilst pursuing a story. Initially reluctant to help Max with his task, she is soon drawn in after looking at her late-husband’s notebooks from the time of his death. Ever since being introduced to Esme, it was inevitable that her past would, one day, be explored and Wendy Percival has done this with style. I really felt for Esme as she was forced to confront her past and finally discover the true circumstances behind Tim’s death.

The way the two stories intertwined was very clever and I particularly enjoyed reading about a part of World War Two that I didn’t really know too much about – the Special Operations Executive. The story of Vivienne, Ruth’s aunt, was a particularly harrowing one and was one that was filled with subterfuge and cover-ups. It was clear to see how much research the author had done in order to make this complicated plot into a story that was easy to follow. I also liked the short chapters, making you want to read ‘just one more’ before putting it down.

Lately, for fans of Esme, we have been spoilt with The Malice of Angels and, also, the short story Death of a Cuckoo. I hope it won’t be too long before we find out what Devon life holds in store for the genealogist.

The Malice of Angels is available now: The Malice of Angels 

 

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