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Death of a Cuckoo by Wendy Percival

4631636995_252x379When Gina Vincent’s mother dies, she is shocked to find a photograph that challenges everything she thought she knew about her life. Calling upon the services of genealogist Esme Quentin to help her make sense of it all, their search takes them to an abandoned property formerly used as a home for young pregnant women. Secrets run deep in this building and Gina soon finds herself facing danger as she tries to uncover the truth about her past.

It has been some time since we last read about Esme Quentin (Blood-Tied and The Indelible Stain) so this book was long overdue! Death of a Cuckoo is not a full-length novel, but Wendy Percival has still managed to write a superb page turner, linking mystery and genealogy effortlessly. For anyone who hasn’t read the previous books in the series, this could be read as a standalone and would provide a good introduction to the character of Esme.

In Death of a Cuckoo, Esme takes a back seat in the investigation, providing the main character, Gina, with advice and recommendations of where to go next. As in most books of this genre, this turns out to be more than just a straightforward case of family research as secrets from the past start to impact on the present, putting the lives of all those involved in danger. The mystery was an interesting and plausible one and I felt for Gina as she tried to find out who she really was in the most awful of circumstances.

This is a well-written short read and I hope that the wait for the next Esme Quentin story isn’t as long!

 

Thorne at Christmas: A Short Story Collection by Mark Billingham

51-hzthgjflThorne at Christmas is billed as a collection of two short stories featuring Mark Billingham’s Detective Inspector Tom Thorne. In Underneath the Mistletoe Last night, Thorne, who has volunteered to work on Christmas Day, has to deal with the body of ‘Father Christmas’ who has been found dead under a Christmas tree by a young boy. In Stepping Up, a retired boxer, who was once a minder for underworld criminals, is persuaded to attend an exercise class by his daughter. When he sees a female face from the past getting into trouble with another member of the class, he knows he has to intervene, regardless of any consequences.

This book should come with a disclaimer, as only the first story features Thorne – he’s not even mentioned in the second one! As a result, I felt a bit conned as I was looking forward to reading two stories about what cases the inspector was involved in at Christmas. A third part of the book was also a preview of a novel I had already read so, needless to say, this was not the best 99p I’ve ever spent!

Despite this, I did enjoy the first story (the one about Thorne) although the second one ended in a quite confusing manner. I think I’ll stick to the novels in future!

 

Hidden Killers by Lynda La Plante

51dispit6tl-_sx320_bo1204203200_When WPC Jane Tennison is commended for her bravery after successfully ensnaring a man wanted for a series of sexual assaults, she is rewarded with the chance to start her career as a detective. Her first call-out, the non-suspicious death of a young mother found drowned in her bath, leaves her feeling uneasy, as she doubts whether the death is, indeed, accidental. With her also experiencing doubts about the reliability of statements signed by the attacker she so bravely fought off, Jane must now battle with her conscience and decide whether she should put her career before honesty.

With 2016 marking the 25th anniversary of the original Prime Suspect series and the forthcoming ‘Tennison’ TV series about to air, Hidden Killers is a welcome addition to the Jane Tennison backstory. Picking up from where the previous book, Tennison, left off, we find Jane about to complete her probationary period as a WPC. Again, we see the problems she faces being a woman in a predominantly male profession and how she has to overcome these barriers in order to achieve recognition.

Jane’s tenacity is apparent throughout the book and we start to see the ‘never give up’ attitude we have grown to love throughout the Prime Suspect television series. One of the things am really enjoying about these prequels is that  Lynda la Plante has stayed loyal to the later stories and it is easy to see how the woman we are reading about progresses into the character we know so well.

One thing that has always fascinated me about Lynda la Plante’s novels is the use of the word ‘schlepp.’ This word always appears several times in her books and I admit to awaiting its appearance when I am reading! I was not disappointed with this book!

Another 5 star read and I await the next one eagerly!

Dark Water by Robert Bryndza

imageDetective Chief Inspector Erika Foster is disillusioned with her job. Moved to a unit where all she seems to do is convict drug dealers only to find them replaced by another, she aches to have something more complex to sink her teeth into. Her wish is granted when, on a search for a vast amount of narcotics, something else is discovered – the remains of a young child. The body is soon identified as Jessica Collins, a girl who vanished without trace twenty-six years ago. What follows is a case that will test Erika’s resolve to its limits. Someone does not want this murder solved and will do anything to stop the detective from doing so.

Dark Water is the third of the Erika Foster novels and is arguably the best of the three! Although this is not as fast paced as The Girl in the Ice or The Night Stalker, Robert Bryndza has you hooked from the first few pages as, once again, we find Erika in danger. Her doggedness is evident from the start, however, and continues throughout the book as she tries to solve a case that left the original investigating team in disarray. In a previous review, I compared Erika to Lynda La Plante’s legendary Jane Tennison and I feel that this is even more apparent here – DCI Foster is certainly becoming a force to be reckoned with in crime fiction!

The subject of the book is a very emotive one as we learn of the family’s despair in never knowing what happened to their daughter coupled with their grief and subsequent unraveling after the discovery of her remains. The scenes with the original suspect and the police officers are particularly well written, as we see Erika being the consummate professional, disguising her feelings well, whilst her colleague’s revulsion is made crystal clear.

Throughout the case, we see Erika doing what she does best – working flat out until the conclusion is reached. Throughout the book, however, we do, occasionally get to see a different side of our leading lady with the arrival of her sister and her family and also when a relationship appears to be blossoming.

This is another fantastic book by Robert Bryndza and one that is screaming out to become a TV series!

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

False Nine by Philip Kerr

False NineAfter the events of the previous book, Hand of God, Scott Manson has found himself out of work and looking for a new managerial position. It’s not as easy as he hoped it would be, however, and the promise of a job in Shanghai soon turns out to be fraudulent. Knowing that the press will have a field day over his part in the scam, Scott jumps at the chance of working for Barcelona. The only problem is, it’s not as a manager but as a private detective, hired to locate a missing footballer. As his investigations take him to Paris, Antigua and Guadeloupe, he finds himself embroiled in yet another story that the press would love to get hold of…

This is the third book in the Scott Manson series and while it’s not vital to have read the others, there are hints in this book that may spoil some of the previous plots for anyone who chooses to go back to read the series from the start. False Nine is slightly different from the other books as there is less of an emphasis on football and more about Scott’s investigation. As a football fan who enjoyed reading about the day-to-day workings of London City, I hope that in the fourth instalment, we get to see a managerial return for Scott.

The mystery is an interesting one although I did have an inkling as to what the twist would be quite early on in the book. This did not spoil my enjoyment, however, as it was fascinating to see how Scott dealt with this new information he had discovered. I grew to like Jerome Dumas (the missing footballer) and really hoped that he would be able to tackle his demons and further his career.

I did, however, find myself on several occasions disliking Scott Manson. He has never been a faithful, one-woman man but I found his philandering in this book a bit uncomfortable and had sympathy towards his unwitting girlfriend back home in London.

The ending of False Nine has made the next book a very interesting prospect!

 

The Irish Inheritance by M J Lee

Genealogical investigator, Jayne Sinclair, is contacted by an American billionaire who is seeking help in order to trace his father. Adopted at a young age, and with no recollection of his early life, John Hughes is desperate to discover his true identity before he succumbs to the illness that threatens to end his life in the following months. With few clues to help her, the former police detective has to use all of her investigative skills in order to make connections to Ireland’s Easter Rising of 1916 and the later death of a British Officer on a hillside near Dublin.

Genealogical fiction has, in recent years, become a fast-growing genre with authors such as Steve Robinson, Nathan Dylan Goodwin and John Nixon leading the way. M J Lee has shown that there is now another author to add to the list. In Jayne Sinclair we have a solid lead character whose doggedness is evident throughout the book whether it be in her professional life or in the strained relationship with her husband. We also, however, get to see her softer side when she is with her father. The interaction between these two characters is, at times, touching as both of them try to come to terms with his early dementia.

The story is told in two timeframes: present-day Manchester and Ireland during the First World War and ensuing years. Writing about an issue as controversial as British rule in Ireland was always going to be a difficult task but the author deals with it in a sensitive and informative way, showing the events from the perspectives of those on different sides of the argument.

Something that authors of genealogical fiction occasionally get wrong is the methods used by their characters to research – this is not the case here. The steps Jayne uses are logical, using the Internet, record offices and interviews in order to discover the true parentage of John Hughes.

On the strength of this book, it is safe to say that the Jane Sinclair series promises to be a welcome addition to the growing genre of genealogical fiction.

The Irish Inheritance is available to pre-order on Amazon prior to its release on June 15th.

Thank you to the author for providing me with an ARC.

 

 

 

The Secrets of Gaslight Lane by M. R. C. Kasasian

51+8vPu11UL._SX306_BO1,204,203,200_After being hired by a young woman to investigate the murder of her father, personal detective Sidney Grice is, once again, on the trail of a Victorian criminal. Nathan Mortlake, has been found slaughtered in his bed in a house that would rival the Tower of London for security measures. What makes this even more interesting is that, ten years before, Nathan’s uncle, aunt and servants were butchered in their sleep at the same house. Is this a co-incidence or has the murderer returned to continue their killing spree?

As a fan of Victorian crime fiction, I had come across M. R. C. Kasasian’s Gower Street Detective series before but had never actually read any of them. I was pleased, therefore, to be given the opportunity to read the fourth book in the collection, The Secrets of Gaslight Lane. Whenever I read a book that it not the first in a series, I am always apprehensive: will I understand the characters’ backstory and will there be past plots referred to that will spoil my reading of any of the previous texts? Thankfully, the author addresses this issue and, within a few chapters, I felt I knew enough about Sidney Grice and March Middleton to fully enjoy the story.

In the two main characters, we have complete polar opposites. Sidney Grice is a thoroughly unlikeable man with very few redeeming features whereas March Middleton is the very antithesis of a Victorian heroine. With a penchant for gin, cigarettes and the frequenting of public houses, Grice’s goddaughter is very much the modern woman. The two characters work well together, however, and the ending of the book has made me want to discover more about their past lives before they came to live and work together.

Sometimes, a period crime novel can fall into the trap of making the plot slightly too convoluted. In The Secrets of Gaslight Lane, however, the author has succeeded in building a complex plot and a simple yet realistic solution. As Sir Arthur Conan Doyle famously quoted, “…when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth…” This is certainly true about the murders in this book – a ‘locked room’ mystery can always be explained in a much less baffling way.

My only negative concerning this book is that it took me a long time to warm to the cantankerous Sidney Grice and I acknowledge that, if I had read the previous books, this would not be the case.

If you are a fan of Victorian crime fiction and authors such as Alex Grecian and Linda Stratmann, then this book is highly recommended. The Secrets of Gaslight Lane is published on 2nd June 2016 and can be purchased from Amazon.

Thank you to Net Galley and Head of Zeus for an advance copy.

 

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