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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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Origin by Dan Brown

Former student, Edmond Kirsch, has invited professor of symbology, Robert Langdon, to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to witness his unveiling of something that will challenge existing views on the origin of our species. What already promises to be an explosive event turns catastrophic and Langdon is forced to flee the museum accompanied by its director, Ambra Vidal. Embarking on a quest across Barcelona to try to locate a password that will launch Kirsch’s theory into the world, Langdon’s life is, once again, in danger. Will he be able to share Kirsch’s discovery before the forces acting against him catch up with him?

I know that there are a lot of readers who sneer at the thought of a Dan Brown book but, as far as I’m concerned, any book that encourages people to read is a good one. The fact that his books have sold over 200 million copies and have been translated into 56 languages must mean that there are a lot of fans out there! Origin is the fifth book to feature symbologist Robert Langdon and the action sees him returning to Europe, this time to Spain, to partake in another battle between science and religion.

From the outset, we know that Edmond Kirsch has discovered something that threatens the doctrine of all world religions but we do not find out until near the very end of the book what the discovery is. This was a very clever move as, throughout my reading, I was desperately looking for clues as to what it was, and it was not until a few paragraphs before the big reveal that I worked out part of it. I enjoyed this ‘not knowing’ as it built up an air of anticipation and when it was finally revealed, it made me think about how this could actually happen.

For me, the thing I enjoy most about Dan Brown’s books is the setting. Through this series, I have been introduced to many historical places, museums and galleries that I did not know about and I find that, as I am reading, I am often looking them up online to find out more information. In Origin, Brown paints a picture of the Guggenheim Museum so detailed that I could imagine I was there. Other locations visited include Casa Milà and the impressive Sagrada Família.

As with Dan Brown’s other books, it will not be seen as a classic but it is an entertaining, fast-paced read which allows you to have a few hours of escapism whilst reading it. I, for one, will be awaiting the next Robert Langdon book eagerly!

 

The Forgotten Room by Ann Troup

51C90-oXxsL._SY346_Nurse Maura Lyle has been having a hard time of it lately so when she is personally requested to work at Essen Grange to care for its owner, Gordon Henderson, she sees it as a good opportunity to get her life back on track. On arriving at the house, however, she soon senses that all is not right and that there seem to be secrets lurking around every corner. She should have trusted her instincts…

I loved Ann Troup’s previous books so had been looking forward to reading this one and I am pleased to say that it did not disappoint. From the first chapter, the author draws you in and you fear for Maura’s safety in the old, mysterious house she has found herself in. Although Maura knew something was amiss, due to her circumstances, it is easy to understand why she stayed even though her head was telling her to get out of there!

If you are looking for a book with multiple deaths and a psychopathic killer then this is the book for you, although it must be said that not all of the deaths are at the hand of the said killer. The amount of characters and how they interconnected did, at times, get slightly confusing and I wished I’d drawn up a family tree to help me understand exactly who was who! Once I’d established the relationships, however, what followed was a tangled web of deceit and intrigue with more than a touch of the macabre.

Although the story starts from the perspective of Maura, there’s is a shift part way through when we get to see more of the police investigation into the goings-on at Essen Grange. I felt that this enabled the story to move along nicely and allowed us an insight into the minds of some of the other characters.

Ann Troup has, once again, written a page-turner, full of twists and turns, that I could not put down. A great read!

Thank you to NetGalley and HQ Digital for my ARC.

The Lost Child by Patricia Gibney

51Ce958tbdL._SY346_When an elderly woman is found murdered and her daughter cannot be found anywhere, Detective Lottie Parker begins to fear for the safety of the whole family. Then a nearby house is set on fire, exposing secrets that threaten the make this the biggest murder case Ragmullin has ever seen. For Lottie however, it proves to be much more personal, as there appears to be a connection to a case that her father was working on shortly before he took his own life. Could Lottie be finally about to discover the truth about her father’s death?

The Lost Child is the third in Patricia Gibney’s Lottie Parker series and, like the others, is a tale of murder and deeply buried secrets. Here, we find Lottie, once again, struggling with her past, relying upon the use of prescription drugs and alcohol just to get her through the day. Determined to find out the truth about her father’s suicide, the strain on the relationship she has with her mother is becoming even more pronounced and the addition of a new baby to the household is doing nothing to help her stress levels.

What starts out as, potentially, a home invasion gone wrong, soon turns into a large-scale murder and missing person investigation when Tessa Ball is found killed in the home of her daughter who has subsequently gone missing. The name of the deceased soon strikes a chord with Lottie and leads her off into a dangerous investigation with links to her father and a cover-up of the highest level. As the death count rises, Lottie and her team have to try to piece together all the clues and link all the main players – of which there are many! With so many key characters, it could have been confusing to keep up with who they all were but Patricia Gibney’s style of writing makes the plot easy to follow.

Ever since discovering the cause of death of Lottie’s father, it was inevitable to the reader that she would not give up her search for the truth. There was always going to be more to the story but I was not prepared for what was about to come! The circumstances surrounding his life and death have made a particular relationship in the series more understandable and certainly makes any future books interesting! A very clever twist!

The Lost Child is a great addition to the Lottie Parker series and I look forward to the next one!

With thanks to Bookouture and NetGalley for my ARC.

 

***BLOG TOUR*** Trust Me by Zosia Wand

Lizzie loves the life she has made for herself in the Lake District with her partner, Jonty, and his teenage son, Sam. Being only ten years older than Sam, however, Lizzie does sometimes miss the friendship of people her own age. This changes when she meets Rebecca, a woman with a zest for life who is soon showing Lizzie how to be young again. Meanwhile, something more disturbing is happening with Sam – why hasn’t he been attending school and just what has made his personality alter so dramatically? Lizzie knows something is wrong but people are beginning to think that she may be the cause of the problem…

The start of Trust Me sets the tone for the rest of the book with headstrong Jonty showing how, despite being the elder, he could be the more immature person in the relationship. We also get our first glimpse of the closeness between Lizzie and Sam. Although Lizzie sees their relationship as that of a step-mother and step-son, I felt that she was incredibly naive in her interactions with him and could fully understand how the wrong conclusions could have been reached.

Zosia Wand

As the story progressed, I started to get really annoyed with Lizzie and her reluctance to talk to the people who could have helped her to remedy the issue. As Sam’s behaviour became more erratic, Lizzie constantly put her trust in the wrong person and it soon became obvious that this relationship was going to prove toxic. I was not prepared for exactly what happened next, however, and, without giving too much away, my severe horror at Sam’s actions became something entirely different as we discover just how much he is being manipulated. I applaud the author for dealing with a ‘taboo’ issue in a clever and sensitive way.

Although I did enjoy this book, I did feel that it could have been shorter as there were times that I found myself skipping through the text in order to find out what happened next in the main plot. The characters were well-written and had a very ‘real’ feel to them and the setting for the book provided a good back drop for the story.

A good debut.

With thanks to Clare Gordon at Head of Zeus for my ARC.

Take a look at the rest of the blogs participating in the tour:

Blood’s Game by Angus Donald

IMG_1162Close to poverty, young Holcroft Blood can’t believe his luck when he begins working for the Duke of Buckingham, one of the most powerful men in England. Noticed almost immediately for his ability to decode ciphers, Holcroft is soon promoted to a position that enables him to betray his master. Meanwhile, Holcroft’s father, Colonel Thomas Blood, has fallen on hard times and makes a living by any means necessary so when he is tasked to steal the Crown Jewels, he knows he is putting the lives of himself and his family in danger.

Charles II is my favourite king (yes, I have a mental list of favourite monarchs!) so when I saw the premise of this book, I knew that this would be right up my street. Although he does not appear much in the book, the first time we encounter the king is certainly a memorable experience with him attempting to evacuate his bowels! He certainly lives up to his ‘Merry Monarch’ nickname, and I was happy to find that although some of his antics are definitely questionable, Blood’s Game does not besmirch his memory in any way!

I initially thought that this would be mainly about Colonel Blood and his attempt to steal the Crown Jewels and, although this is one of the plots in the book, the main character is his son, Holcroft. I really enjoyed reading the rise of Holcroft from the boy who was bullied on the streets of London to the trusted helper of the Duke of Buckingham. Nowadays, he would definitely be classed as being on the autistic spectrum, but back in the Stuart times, his ability to remember card sequences and decode complicated ciphers would have made him an oddity. I was pleased to see that, rather than ridiculing him, Holcroft’s talents were recognised and used to advance his career.

Although this is a piece of historical fiction, the author has stayed close to the facts of the stealing of the Crown Jewels by Blood, embellishing where it is needed. As a direct contrast to his son, Colonel Blood is a thoroughly unlikeable character although, even though I already knew the outcome of his crime, by the end of the book, I was willing him to get away with it! The writing of the characters in Blood’s Game is one of its biggest strengths and Angus Donald has created realistic portrayals of some of the most interesting people in British history.

I am pleased to see that this book is now going to be part of a series – something I will definitely be awaiting with interest!

With thanks to Readers First for my copy of Blood’s Game.

 

***BLOG TOUR*** The Good Mother by Karen Osman

I am thrilled to be today’s stop on the blog tour for the fantastic new book from Karen Osman, The Good Mother.

Keeping secrets from her husband is not usually something Catherine would do but when she begins writing to Michael, a convicted killer, she knows her family would not approve. In another part of the country, Kate is trying to bring up two children with an out of work husband and a severe lack of money. When she meets someone who begins to recognize her talents, she knows she is playing with fire. Lastly we have Alison, a university student who has managed to gain a place on her dream course. University life is not what she hoped for, however, and she finds herself lonely and unhappy. That is until one of her professors takes an interest in her. All of these women have secrets which threaten to come to the surface once Michael is released from prison…

First of all, I would like to say how much I loved this book! Told from the perspective of three women, it took a few chapters before I fully engaged with the characters but once I’d got a handle on who was who, I couldn’t wait to find out how each of their stories progressed. Often in books written in this style, I find myself wanting to read about one of the characters more than the others, but The Good Mother had me hooked on all three story lines.

One of the underlying themes running throughout the book is the impact keeping a secret has, whether it be Catherine’s reluctance to tell her husband about her prison pen-pal, Kate’s growing friendship with her tutor or, more seriously, the toxic relationship Alison has with her professor. Although I could see why Catherine and Kate kept their secrets, I was willing Alison to speak out about what was happening to her and had a sense of foreboding throughout the chapters dedicated to her story. It was Alison who had the most impact on me whilst I was reading and I was desperate for her to have a happy ending.

Karen Osman

Throughout the book, it is obvious that the women’s lives were going to collide at some point and, although I was right about some of the connections, there was one part of the story that I did not see coming at all. It is great when you read a book and you get that ‘Eureka’ moment when all of the pieces slot into place. The Good Mother certainly had one of these moments and provided the story with a satisfying, if heartbreaking, conclusion.

It is hard to say too much without giving away the plot, so my advice is to grab a copy of this well-written, emotive book and read it yourself!

With thanks to Melanie Price at Aria – Head of Zeus for my ARC.

Take a look at the rest of the blog tour:

The Suffragette’s Secret by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

With the imminent arrival of his first child, genealogist Morton Farrier has set himself the task of researching the family tree of his wife. During the course of his investigation, Morton finds himself fascinated by one ancestor in particular, his wife’s great-grandmother, Grace Emmerson, a militant suffragette. With his mother-in-law convinced that Grace was a respectable woman, Morton must try to discover the secrets that have been hidden deep in the past.

I am a big fan of the Morton Farrier series so I was pleased to discover that Nathan Dylan Goodwin had written a new installment, albeit in the form of a short story. For anyone who is already acquainted with Morton, this book sees a departure from his normal investigations in that, for once, there is no element of danger! Instead, we see him researching the life of a suffragette, mixing fact with fiction to create a well-researched snapshot of the campaign to give women equal voting rights.

During the course of the books, we have seen Morton change from a confirmed bachelor to a married father but this is not the most surprising transformation. It was amusing to see his least favourite archivist have a complete personality transplant upon finding out the news of his new child! This was a very funny aside and I am assuming that she will back to her old cantankerous self by the next book!

If you have not read any of this series, then I would advise you go back and start from the beginning in order to build up the full story of Morton’s life but for existing fans, this will certainly whet the appetite for a new book!

Monthly Round Up: September 2017

September is always a busy month for me so I don’t get time for much reading. I have managed to read a few good books, though, including one which is probably going to make my top 10 of the year!

Books I’ve Read

91YZv6g5fHLNothing Stays Buried by P J Tracy

The eighth book in the series sees the Monkeewrench team, along with the detectives Gino and Magozzi, investigating the disappearance of a young woman and a serial killer that is leaving playing cards on his victims.

 

51m7HvpItPLThe American Candidate by M J Lee

The third in the Jayne Sinclair series has the genealogical investigator researching the family history of a potential candidate for the US presidency. Her most dangerous and thrilling case to date.

 

51zX2mZDnyL._SY346_Cold Blood by Robert Bryndza

Another fantastic book featuring detective Erika Foster sees her trying to apprehend callous and vicious killers who are dismembering bodies and leaving them in suitcases.

 

My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood

After returning from a war zone to sort out her late mother’s estate, Kate begins to realise that all is not right in Herne Bay. Is the medication she is taking to blame for the unexplained occurrences or is there something more malevolent at play? One of my favourite books of the year so far.

 

The Good Mother by Karen Osman

Three women are all keeping secrets but what links them to each other and what is their connection to the soon-to-be-released prisoner Michael? Read my review when it is published as part of the blog tour on October 6th.

 

Books I’ve Acquired

Can the past ever be forgotten?

As soon as nurse Maura Lyle sets foot inside the foreboding Essen Grange, she feels shivers ripple down her spine. And the sense of unease only increases when she meets her new patient, Gordon Henderson.

Drawn into the Henderson family’s tangled web of secrets and betrayals, Maura can ignore the danger lurking behind every door no longer. Even the door she has been forbidden from opening…

Essen Grange is a house with dark and cruel intentions. But now that darkness has turned on her, can Maura escape before it’s too late?

 

They placed me in here and threw away the key. I look down at the gown they’ve put on me. I want my own clothes. I don’t know how long I’ve been here.

An elderly woman is found murdered in her own home, and Detective Lottie Parker and her partner Detective Boyd are called in to investigate. When they discover that the victim’s daughter is missing as well, they start to fear for the safety of the whole family…

Two days later as a nearby house is set on fire and with the body count rising, Lottie and her team begin to unpick a web of secrets and lies, as the murders seem to link back to a case investigated by Lottie’s father before he took his own life.

With little knowledge of what really happened to her father, Lottie knows this is a case that could give her some answers. But how much does she want to know? And how far is Lottie prepared to dig to uncover the truth?

 

Here’s to a great October!

 

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