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The Leaden Heart by Chris Nickson

51UbsxvrAiL._SY346_It’s July 1899 and the crime rate in Leeds has been unusually low. This all changes when Superintendent Tom Harper receives word of a particularly daring burglary at one of the city’s more expensive residences. Meanwhile, his ex-colleague, Billy Reed, is seeking some assistance after the suicide of his brother who was facing an extortionate rent increase. Investigation uncovers a web of corruption involving some of the area’s influential residents. Who are the ringleaders and will Harper be able to apprehend them before the death toll rises?

I’ve always enjoyed reading historical crime fiction, particularly those books set during the Victorian era. In the Tom Harper series, we are now reaching the end of the nineteenth century, a time which has seen great changes for the Leeds detectives. As in all of his books, Chris Nickson has created a very vivid picture of the time, creating characters that feel real and who you can certainly feel empathy for. Again, we see Tom’s wife, Annabelle, taking a central role in the plot, her new position as poor law guardian giving her a platform to help those unable to help themselves. Annabelle has always been my favourite character, her ongoing fight for women’s equality being a great theme running throughout the books. With her daughter, Mary, seemingly being a chip off the old block, I think we are in for some entertaining times ahead!

It was pleasing to see Tom and his old friend Billy attempting to build bridges as they investigated the reason behind the suicide of Billy’s brother. Although this was set over a hundred years ago, the story is all too familiar to many people nowadays with those in power preying upon the poor and less fortunate. It was easy to imagine Harper’s frustration as he faced brick walls when trying to uncover the identities of those involved, especially seeing as he was desperate to close the case for the sake of Billy. The crooks doing the dirty work, the Smith brothers, are a particularly nasty pair, leaving a trail of death and destruction wherever they go. I spent the whole book willing for their capture!

If you are new to the Tom Harper books, please don’t be put off by the fact that this is the seventh book in the series as it can definitely be read as a standalone. This is, without a shadow of a doubt, my favourite so far, and I eagerly anticipate what the next installment brings for Tom, Annabelle and the rest of the characters we have grown to love.

With thanks to Severn House Publishers and Net Galley for my copy.

 

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The Sinclair Betrayal by M J Lee

There is one family that genealogist Jayne Sinclair has been reluctant to investigate – her own. After discovering that the father she thought had died when she was a child is, in fact, still alive, old wounds are opened up. To compound the issue even further, she finds out that he is currently residing in prison after killing a civil servant in cold blood. Claiming that the life he took was an act of revenge for his mother’s betrayal during World War Two, Jayne must try to uncover the truth about her grandmother’s past in order to solve an age-old mystery.

From the beginning of the series, it has always been apparent that there was something interesting lurking in Jayne’s family history. Spurred on by her stepfather, who urges Jayne to find out about her past before it is too late, we are taken on an emotive journey back to World War Two where we discover the secret life of her French grandmother, Monique.

The action flips between two time frames – Jayne’s modern-day research and Monique’s life in World War Two as a member of the Special Operations Executive (SOE). The dual time frames work well together and I particularly like how we see Jayne discovering something during her research and then reading about the actual event during the war. Both time frames were as enjoyable to read as each other, and I found myself flying through the book, desperate to know what was going to happen next.

One of the things I enjoy most about books like this is the historical aspect and the chance to learn new things. Although I had previously read about the SOE, M J Lee paints a vivid picture of life for the operatives and there were some genuine ‘heart in the mouth’ moments when reading about the dangers these brave people put themselves in. The story was, at times, heartbreaking, especially when the fate of Monique was revealed and was made even more poignant when reading about the real-life women of the SOE and their tragic ends.

I have read all of the other books in this series but I think that this my favourite so far. If you have never read any of the Jayne Sinclair books before, I can heartily recommend them, although you do not need to have read them before reading this one – it can be read as a standalone.

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

The Irish Inheritance

The Somme Legacy

The American Candidate

The Vanished Child

The Silent Christmas

 

The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh

After years on the throne of England, Elizabeth I, the daughter of Henry VIII, was the last of the Tudor monarchs. Or was she? With two more legitimate heirs, known only by a select few, the question of who will take control after Elizabeth’s death is a hotly-debated subject. Now Phillip II of Spain has discovered the secret and it is feared that he will use it to his advantage to claim the throne as his own.

Fast forward over 400 years, and Perdita Rivers and her twin sister, Piper, are ensconced in Castle Jerusalem in Andorra, after their research uncovered a new Tudor bloodline that certain agencies would kill to keep hidden. With their latest discoveries, the sisters are, once again, placed in danger. Is revealing the truth worth more than their own lives?

The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy is the second book in the Marquess House trilogy and follows on from The Catherine Howard Conspiracy. For this reason, it is advisable to read this series in sequence so you can fully understand the circumstances the Rivers sisters have found themselves in.

I really enjoyed the first in this series so was looking forward to reading the next installment. In this book, we spend more time in the past than The Catherine Howard Conspiracy, and this was understandable seeing as we already know Perdita and Piper and the reasons behind them being where they are. Both time frames are as intriguing as the other and I really enjoyed how the two parts were woven together.

As someone who is interested in Tudor history, I especially enjoyed the importance the author has placed on the women of the time, in particular the relationship between Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. At a time when the men in power were intent on war, I liked reading about the machinations of the Ladies of Melusine who were covertly discovering more about potential plots than those whose job it actually was! I think we have also been given a hint here as to something that may occur in the third book: Melusina, a female spirit of fresh water… Rivers… hmm…

In The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy, we read about an alternative take on the Tudors which, if true, would change the face of British history. The twist relating to the death of Elizabeth was definitely not one that I was expecting!

For fans of dual timeline stories, this is a great read. I am looking forward to reading the final part of the trilogy and seeing where Perdita and Piper’s research takes them next.

With thanks to Netgalley and Sapere Books for my copy.

The Ghost of Hollow House by Linda Stratmann

The year is 1872 and Mina Scarletti has been invited to Hollow House in Sussex to investigate the strange occurrences that have been troubling its occupants, Mr Honeyacre and his wife, Kitty. With the servants refusing to stay at the house due to sightings of ‘the woman in white’ and unexplained noises, the health of Kitty Honeyacre is beginning to deteriorate. Confirmed sceptic, Mina, knows that with the assistance of her trusted friends Dr. Hamid and Nellie, she can solve the mystery of Hollow House.

The Ghost of Hollow House is the fourth in the Mina Scarletti series and, while it does make references to previous events, it can definitely be read as a standalone. For anyone who hasn’t been introduced to Mina before, she is not exactly your average Victorian heroine. Afflicted with a severe curvature of the spine, the diminutive protagonist has accepted that, unlike most women of her status, she will never marry and have children. She, therefore, has carved out a career writing ghost stories under a male nom de plume, spending her spare time uncovering fraudulent spiritualists.

It was during this era that spiritualism became big business and Linda Stratmann has painted a vivid picture of life at this time. Hollow House is the perfect setting for a ghost story with its mysterious history and cast of characters with secrets to hide. The tension is ramped up even further when bad weather forces the house to be cut off from the rest of the outside world and the strange happenings continue to terrify those in residence.

Mina, once again, encounters her nemesis, spiritualist Arthur Wallace Hope, who brings with him a Mr Beckler, a photographer keen to capture images of spirits. They are a nefarious pairing, Beckler in particular making my skin crawl with his intentions towards Mina. It is also obvious that another character, Mr Stevenson, is not who he says he is, adding to the mistrust and suspicion in the house.

I enjoyed trying to solve the mystery and there are certainly clues to help you along the way. Mina is very impressive in the way she handles the case and I thought the retelling of the story at the end, written by her nom de plume was a great way of ending the book. A great read!

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

 

**BLOG TOUR** Foul Deeds Will Rise by Elizabeth Ireland

I’m really pleased to be on the blog tour for Foul Deeds Will Rise by Elizabeth Ireland and to be able to share an extract with you. Set against the backdrop of the Gilded Age, the Backstage Mystery Series stars Lillian Nolan, an unconventional member of Chicago’s upper class who dreams of a career of fortune and fame in the theatre. Talented and ambitious, she possesses a hidden skill which she is extremely reluctant to use—the ability to communicate with those who have died and now live in the world of “The Beyond.”

The series chronicles her adventures in which she continually becomes enmeshed in solving mysteries which often require her accessing the realm of the paranormal. Filled with an incredible cast of characters—factual, fictional, and sometimes non-physical—who either help or hinder her quest for the truth, the stories take place during a a period considered to be the golden age of both acting and spiritualism in America.

 

 

By 1875, Lillian Nolan believes she has successfully shut off any connection to the spirit world. That winter she is thrilled when she wins the role of Ophelia in a new production of Hamlet in her home town of Chicago. Everything changes when the body of the managing director is found sprawled across the steps of the dress circle and all the investors’ money is missing. Lillian fears, once again, her career is over before it begins.

After her dearest friend is arrested for murder, Lillian commits herself to discovering the truth. Her search is complicated by a strange man who is following her, the romantic overtures of her co-star, and a reunion with an old nemesis. But nothing is what it seems. What she does find puts a member of her own family at risk and leads to the unmasking of the killer with lethal consequences for herself.

 

 

After a performance of Hamlet at Ellicott’s Theatre in 1875, Lillian Nolan, actress and sleuth, finds her mentor, Regina Ellicott, in danger:

Regina left to go meet Mr. Hearne and I went back to my dressing table and finished taking off my makeup. My anxiety level began to increase and I felt a deep need to follow her. I picked up my coat and went down the stairs and around to the front of the house. It was very quiet. No one was there. I didn’t see Regina anywhere. I called out her name. It was then that I heard a faint cry for help.

“Regina?”

Heart pounding, I ran into the theater. I could hear her cries clearly now.

“Lillian. Help! Help! Up here.”

I looked up and to my horror saw Regina dangling from the railing of the dress circle. Both her hands were wrapped around the lower railing and she was frantically holding on as tightly as she could. Immediately, I ran out to the lobby, up the stairs, through the double doors, and down to the railing of the dress circle. Regina was directly below me. I held out my hand.

“Take my hand, Regina.”

“I can’t. I can’t!”

“Try. Let go with one hand and I’ll grab it with both of mine.”

She let go but couldn’t reach my hand. She was now holding on with one hand and her body was swinging back and forth.

“I’m going to fall!”

Below her, Edward and Mr. Ferris came running up the aisle.

Edward shouted, “Regina, good God!”

“Edward, help me! I can’t hold on!”

“Regina, you must. Help is coming.”

“Help me, Lillian, Help me!”

“She’s letting go,” yelled Mr. Ferris.

Edward ran over to directly below where Regina’s body was suspended and reached out his arms, Mr. Ferris stood right next to him.

I watched helplessly as her hand lost its purchase on the railing. She screamed as she fell straight down and landed on top of Edward who knocked Mr. Ferris over. As she fell, Edward managed to pull her away from the back row of seats and they all fell into a heap on the carpet in the aisle.

I heard another scream, this one in pain.

 

 

Elizabeth Ireland discovered her passion for theatre early. After receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees in Theatre, she accepted a teaching position in a vibrant performing arts department at a college in northern Illinois. For ten years, she taught, directed and ran front-of-house operations. American Theatre History—particularly that of the 19th century—has always been of particular interest to her.

She has been a quarter-finalist and a semi-finalist for the Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowship in screenwriting sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Two of her screenplays have been optioned, but remain unproduced. Her nonfiction work, Women of Vision: Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Lives, was published in 2008. Her work has also been published in a collection of paranormal short stories, Paramourtal: Tales of Undying Love and Loving the Undead. She lives in metro Atlanta with her ever-patient husband, and two quirky dachshunds.

With thanks to Elizabeth Ireland and to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for organising the blog tour.

**BLOG TOUR** A Walking Shadow by Elizabeth Ireland

I’m really pleased to be on the blog tour for A Walking Shadow by Elizabeth Ireland and to be able to share an extract with you. Set against the backdrop of the Gilded Age, the Backstage Mystery Series stars Lillian Nolan, an unconventional member of Chicago’s upper class who dreams of a career of fortune and fame in the theatre. Talented and ambitious, she possesses a hidden skill which she is extremely reluctant to use—the ability to communicate with those who have died and now live in the world of “The Beyond.”

The series chronicles her adventures in which she continually becomes enmeshed in solving mysteries which often require her accessing the realm of the paranormal. Filled with an incredible cast of characters—factual, fictional, and sometimes non-physical—who either help or hinder her quest for the truth, the stories take place during a a period considered to be the golden age of both acting and spiritualism in America.

 

 

In 1871, Lillian Nolan accepts a small role in Macbeth, and finally fulfills her dream of becoming an actress. That is until the renowned, but venomous, female star of the production is murdered onstage opening night. When her enraged spirit haunts the theater, Lillian is shocked to discover she can communicate with her. Offered a Faustian bargain in which she will be given talent and expertise way beyond her ability in exchange for uncovering the killer, Lillian can’t resist.

Her quest for the truth causes her to descend into the Underworld, the den of inequity below the streets of Chicago. What Lillian finds soon embroils her in a battle between her passion for performing and control over her own body as it all plays out in a supernatural game of good and evil.

 

 

Lillian Nolan, protagonist and reluctant sleuth, follows a lead in solving the murder of renowned actress, Irene Davenport which brings her to the Underworld, the notorious den of inequity in 1871 Chicago:

I thought of Macbeth and screwing my courage to the sticking place so I said, “I don’t know what is so funny.”

At least that stopped their laughter.

“You are my sweet. Welcome to hell,” growled Ann.

Again, they laughed, finding Ann’s statement infinitely amusing.

“Make yourself comfortable. Sit down and I’ll be right with you,” said Ann.

I took stock of my surroundings and found I was being watched by the other, younger women who were sitting around as if they were waiting for something to happen. The two women conferred and Ann drew a bundle of money from her bodice, peeled off a number of bills and handed them over to Sally who nodded and left.

Then Ann turned to me, and said, with a smile that was not reflected in her eyes, “You cost me a pretty penny but I think you’ll be worth it.”

She walked over to me, reached out her hand and ripped the bodice of my dress straight down to my waist. Outraged, I tried to slap her across the face, but she punched me in the head so hard that in the next moment, I knew nothing.

 

 

 

Elizabeth Ireland discovered her passion for theatre early. After receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees in Theatre, she accepted a teaching position in a vibrant performing arts department at a college in northern Illinois. For ten years, she taught, directed and ran front-of-house operations. American Theatre History—particularly that of the 19th century—has always been of particular interest to her.

She has been a quarter-finalist and a semi-finalist for the Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowship in screenwriting sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Two of her screenplays have been optioned, but remain unproduced. Her nonfiction work, Women of Vision: Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Lives, was published in 2008. Her work has also been published in a collection of paranormal short stories, Paramourtal: Tales of Undying Love and Loving the Undead. She lives in metro Atlanta with her ever-patient husband, and two quirky dachshunds.

With thanks to Elizabeth Ireland and to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for organising the blog tour.

**BLOG BLITZ** A Tale of Two Sisters by Merryn Allingham

Today, I’m pleased to be one of the blogs featuring on the blog blitz for A Tale of Two Sisters by Merryn Allingham, an emotional historical drama which was published by Canelo on 21st March 2019. I’m particularly thrilled to be able to share an extract with you that I’m sure will whet your appetite for the book.

 

 

Separated by time and distance, two sisters seek answers for all they’ve lost

When Alice Verinder’s beloved sister Lydia goes missing, Alice boards the Orient Express bound for Topkapi Palace in Constantinople, determined to find her.

Lydia was governess to the Sultan’s young children and though her letters spoke of exotic delights and welcoming hosts, the reception Alice receives is decidedly cold and answers unforthcoming.

Now, as Alice digs deeper into the secrets of a land foreign to her she has only Englishman Harry Frome to help her. But as their search uncovers unforeseen dangers and exposes an unexpected ardour, is Alice ready for the truths they’ll uncover?

 

ALICE

London, February 1907

 

Another day and no letter. Alice snatched up the pile of envelopes from the console table and shuffled through them, one by one. She had been so certain that today she would hear, but there was nothing. Still not a word from Lydia. What was happening to her sister that she could find no time to write? A note only, that’s all she asked, some reassuring lines to say all was well, all was happy in a palace several thousand miles away. It surely wasn’t too much to expect, after all the trouble her sister had caused, unless… but Lydia should be safe. As governess to two small girls, there could be nothing that would stop her writing.

For minutes, Alice stood motionless. Her eyes were fixed on the dark oak of the front door, but it was not its fine mouldings she saw, nor the decorative glass splashing colour across an otherwise gloomy space. It was Lydia’s face. She had dreamt of her sister last night, but didn’t she always? This had been different, though. Last night she had been with Lydia again; she had searched and she had found her. Old resentments had dissolved to nothing and instead she had thrown her arms around the girl and hugged her slight frame, never to let go. Lydia’s stubbornness, her irresponsibility, were forgotten. She had found her dear sister and that was all that mattered. The waking disappointment had been almost too much to bear. And now these letters. Or rather, no letter. Another day of pretending that nothing was amiss, of putting on a reassuring smile. She would need time before she faced her parents again.

She was at the bottom of the stairs on her way to her bedroom when she heard her name called.

‘Alice.’ Her mother’s voice held the suggestion of a quaver, but fretfulness was uppermost.

She felt a tremor of impatience, instantly suppressed. She must not blame her mother for the constant need of attention. Edith Verinder had never coped well with life and, since Charlie’s death, what little fortitude she’d possessed had faded without a fight.

‘Alice!’ The fretfulness had become peremptory. ‘When will your aunt be here?’

‘I’m not sure,’ she answered, retracing her steps into the sitting room. ‘Very soon, I would think.’

Her mother was sitting by the window wearily resplendent in a wing chair, a thick wool shawl around her shoulders, a blanket at her feet. Alice automatically retrieved the blanket and laid it across the bony knees.

‘You will bring Cicely to me, won’t you, when she arrives?’

‘Of course, Mama, I’ll bring her immediately. I’m not certain when the York train gets in but there’s always such a crush at King’s Cross. I expect Aunt Cissie has had to queue for a hansom.’

Her mother gave a long sigh as though she, too, were queuing for the hansom. ‘Make sure that Dora has the tea things ready – and the best china, mind.’

‘And don’t put out too many madeleines.’ She hadn’t noticed her father hunched into a matching chair at the other side of the room. He spoke without taking his eyes from his newspaper. ’Your aunt has rather too healthy an appetite.’

‘I’ll tell Cook,’ she said a trifle distractedly, halfway back to the door.

There were a hundred jobs waiting to be done and Cicely’s room had still to be made up. Her aunt enjoyed the freedom of wealthy widowhood, travelling when and where she chose from her home in the shadow of the Minster, but why she had decided to visit London at such short notice, Alice had no idea. It was another burden on a household already besieged.

‘And Alice,’ her mother called after her. ‘Fetch Lydia’s letters from your room. Cissie will want to read news of her niece.’

She felt her chest tighten. She had letters, certainly, a tidy sheaf of them, but if she were to show them to her aunt, Cicely was quick-witted enough to notice that the last message from Lydia was dated months ago. So far Alice had managed to keep this knowledge from her parents by dint of reading the letters aloud, selecting passages from here and there, and pretending the news had arrived only that morning. Before the letters stopped entirely, they had become less frequent and less informative, but she had still kept up the pretence. She couldn’t allow them to know that Lydia had seemingly vanished without a clue to her whereabouts. Not in their weakened state.

She gave swift instructions to Cook to fetch down the bone china from a top shelf and made a strict count of the number of madeleines to appear on the tea trolley before she climbed the stairs to the guest bedroom. Dora was already there and giving the satin counterpane a final smooth when Alice put her head around the door.

‘What else needs doing?’ she asked the maid.

‘Just the flowers, miss. Dibbens delivered the narcissi an hour ago and they’re soaking in the kitchen, but they need a bit of arranging. I’ll run down and get them.’

‘Bless you. My legs have turned to jelly.’

‘And no wonder. You’ve been up and down these stairs all morning, fetching and carrying.’

Dora sniffed loudly, but she allowed the moment to pass. Alice knew the maid’s opinion of her mother’s illness. Domestic servants did not have the luxury of nerves. But Dora was wrong. Her mother had always been fragile. It was her husband who had given Edith stability and, when he’d fallen ill so shortly after Charlie’s death, the spirit had gone from her completely.

She arranged the narcissi as best she could in a favourite Murano vase and was making her way downstairs again when the thud of the door knocker echoed through the empty hall. Aunt Cissie. King’s Cross could not have been that busy. Her aunt’s arrival would at least bring cheer to the house. When the telegram had first arrived, Alice had thought of confiding her worries, but realised almost immediately that Cissie was likely to go straight to her sister with Lydia’s tale. The two women were closer than twins. And if her father learned that his younger daughter was missing, possibly in danger, it could prove fatal. His heart attack had left him vulnerable to a final blow, which would be enough to seal her mother’s fate, too. No, she couldn’t tell. She must keep up the pretence that Lydia was alive and well and enjoying teaching in a foreign land. And believe, believe, that her sister would write soon – from wherever she was.

Alice had written to Topkapi – the Sultan seemed to own a bewildering array of palaces – but Topkapi was the address Lydia had written on each of her letters. The official who responded had been adamant that her sister was no longer with them. There remained at the palace only a few of Lydia’s personal possessions that he would be happy to send: two pens, several photographs, a few watercolours and a book. His letter had been brief and its curt disapproval had shone through the uneven English. Sultan Selim was most displeased. His daughters’ governess had left without warning and no one had an idea where she was. Alice could not quite believe that. If it were true, it would be completely out of character. Lydia might be impulsive, thoughtless even, but Alice was certain she would never simply disappear without telling her family.

‘Darling, how are you?’

Cicely’s substantial figure filled the hall. The cabbie bundled in behind her, puffing heavily from dragging several large pieces of luggage up the front steps. Alice wondered just how long her aunt was intending to stay. The older woman held her at arms’ length and gave her a prolonged stare.

‘Not too well, by the look of it,’ she said, answering her own question. ‘You’re not just pale, my dear. You look positively sickly. What ails you?’

‘Really nothing, Aunt,’ she protested. ‘I have two invalids to look after. I’m not able to leave the house for long and this winter seems to have gone on forever.’

‘Well, now I’m here, I shall make sure you do get out. Put some pink back into those cheeks. I’ll sit with Edie and keep her amused. It won’t be difficult.’

Cicely was right. She knew just how to handle her sister. Her brother-in-law, too, if it came to that. It might give Alice more time to think, space in which to decide just what to do, or even if there was anything she could do. In the meantime, she must find a way to keep her aunt occupied this evening and as far from Lydia’s letters as possible.

‘And how is Theo?’ Her aunt had divested herself of a voluminous coat, several bright scarves and a large felt hat.

‘Papa is doing well, I think.’

‘That’s good to hear. It was a bad business about Charlie. A foolish young man, I’m afraid, but still a very bad business.’

Alice stiffened. A sharp sense of loss battled against her aunt’s seeming indifference. She wanted to leap to her young brother’s defence, but she knew Cissie was right – Charlie had been foolish. Attempting to scale Balliol’s medieval walls in the dead of night, after drinking heavily, was foolhardy in the extreme. He had paid a dreadful price for it, and so had they all. Even Lydia. But foolish or not, Charlie had been a loved brother. A sunny, carefree individual who had breezed noisily through every day of his short life with a smile on his face. He had brought joy to the staid house in Pimlico. So she said nothing and instead led her aunt into the sitting room.

‘Aunt Cissie is here, Mama,’ she announced as cheerfully as she could.

 

 

Merryn Allingham was born into an army family and spent her childhood moving around the UK and abroad. Unsurprisingly it gave her itchy feet and in her twenties she escaped from an unloved secretarial career to work as cabin crew and see the world.

Merryn  still loves to travel and visit new places, especially those with an interesting history, but the arrival of marriage, children and cats meant a more settled life in the south of England, where she has lived ever since. It also gave her the opportunity to go back to ‘school’ and eventually teach at university.

She has written seven historical novels, all mysteries with a helping of suspense and a dash of romance – sometimes set in exotic locations and often against a background of stirring world events.

With thanks to Ellie Pilcher at Canelo for organising the blog blitz.

Death at Hungerford Stairs by J C Briggs

When the body of a young boy is found at Hungerford Stairs close to the River Thames, Charles Dickens is relieved to find that is not the missing child he has been searching for. Presumed drowned, Superintendent Jones of Bow Street soon has a murder case on his hands when a different cause of death is discovered. After more bodies are found, the detective’s worst fears are realised – they have a serial killer on their hands.

Death at Hungerford Stairs is the second book to feature the author Charles Dickens as one of the main characters, the first being The Murder of Patience BrookeIn the previous book, I was particularly impressed with how the author managed to paint a vivid picture of early-Victorian London, especially the more downtrodden areas. This has continued in the second book, making you feel that you are actually walking the London streets.

I like, again, how the author has merged fact with fiction, with true aspects of Dickens’ life providing an air of authenticity to the plot. Dickens is written as a generous man, keen to help the underprivileged and the down at heel, the references to his early life possibly providing a reason for his benevolence. There is a rich supporting cast, providing some tragic as well as some humorous moments.

The hunt for a child killer could be a difficult subject matter, but the author handles it in an informative yet sensitive way, culminating in a very different motive and culprit to most books of this genre. Although there were a few hints dropped throughout the book, the ending was still a surprise – a clever one at that.

I’m definitely looking forward to reading the next in the series.

**BLOG TOUR** The Peacock Bottle by Angela Rigley

I’m pleased to be one of the blogs taking part in the 5-day blog blitz for The Peacock Bottle, a historical dual timeline book by Angela Rigley. If you’d like to win a copy of this great book, then keep reading…

In the 1890s, Amelia Wise and her stepmother are overwhelmed by the task they have to undertake when they inherit a house in the Lake District. Having been left to fall into a state of disrepair, the house requires a great deal of work to make it inhabitable. After becoming determined to improve the long-forgotten, overgrown garden, Amelia’s interest is piqued when she finds a discarded perfume bottle. Why would someone throw away such a beautiful thing?

Moving back in time to several decades before, we meet two sisters, Daisy and Mary Jane, privileged young women whose aim in life appears to be to meet and marry a pair of eligible bachelors. With a middle-class life that appears to be going according to plan, what can possibly happen to destroy this happiness?

I really enjoy reading dual timeline stories and liked how The Peacock Bottle differed slightly to other books I have read, with both narratives being set in different years of the Victorian era. Even though they are a mere fifty years apart, it was interesting to see how the expectations for young women had changed, with Amelia being a lot more independent and feisty than her 1840s counterparts. Amelia was by far my favourite character, and although she had ‘gone down in the world’, I loved her interaction with the servants, showing what an empathetic, down-to-earth young lady she was.

It took a while for me to like Daisy and Mary Jane, finding them frivolous and rather self-important. When a particular incident occurs, however, we get to see a different side of these young women and I felt that we got to see their true personalities. The incident also provided a link between the two time frames, helping to explain why Amelia found the house in the state it was.

The Peacock Bottle is a gentle, easy read ideal for those interested in women’s fiction with a historical slant.

Would you like to win your own copy of The Peacock Bottle? Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources is hosting a giveaway for not one, but two copies! Details below:

Giveaway to Win 2 x Paperback copes of The Peacock Bottle (UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter link below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494209/?

With thanks to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for organising the tour and for providing my copy of the book.

 

 

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