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A Tale of Two Sisters

Monthly Roundup – April 2019

I think I may have read a few more contenders for my favourite books of the year this month, one of which was one of my most eagerly anticipated books of 2019!

I’ve been part of a few blog tours this month with reviews of Final Betrayal by Patricia Gibney  and The Peacock Bottle by Angela Rigley. I also hosted an extract from A Tale of Two Sisters by Merryn Allingham.


Books I have read

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper, by Hallie Rubenhold

While the crimes of Jack the Ripper have been written about on countless occasions, Hallie Rubenold provides an alternative take, looking at the lives of the five canonical victims. This is a fascinating look at how circumstances, often beyond their control, changed the lives of these women and put them in the situations they found themselves in.


Death by Dark Waters by Jo Allen

The first in the DCI Satterthwaite series set in the Lake District is a great read for all fans of police procedurals. Telling the story of the discovery of the burnt remains of a child, there are many twists and turns that make this story not what it at first seems… (Review to follow as part of the blog tour)


Death at Hungerford Stairs by J. C. Briggs

The second in the series to feature Charles Dickens as an investigator has a great plot and paints a very vivid picture of life in Victorian England. I’m really enjoying these books!


Your Deepest Fear by David Jackson

This was one of the books that I couldn’t wait to read and I was not left disappointed! The latest in the Nathan Cody series sees the detective returning to duty and investigating a particularly horrible murder. For long time fans, we finally discover more about the event that has been haunting Nathan… (Review to follow).


Their Little Secret by Mark Billingham

The Tom Thorne books just keep getting better! The sixteenth in the series is probably one of Mark Billingham’s twistiest tales to date and has become one of my favourites. Do we really know our friends?…


The Family by P. R. Black

I was drawn to this book by the dark cover and ‘dark’ is definitely a word I would use to describe the plot! Ritual killings, deranged murderer, the dark net, shady secret societies – this book has it all! (Review to follow as part of the blog tour).


Books I Have Acquired

‘If you’re reading this, I’m dead.’

Rejected by her family and plagued by insomnia, Rose Shaw is on the brink . But one dark evening she collides with a man running through the streets, who quickly vanishes. The only sign he ever existed – a journal dropped at Rose’s feet.

She begins to obsessively dedicate her sleepless nights to discovering what happened to Finn Matthews, the mysterious author of the journal. Why was he convinced someone wanted to kill him? And why, in the midst of a string of murders, won’t the police investigate his disappearance?

Rose is determined to uncover the truth. But she has no idea what the truth will cost her…


One missing. One a murderer. One trying to find the truth.

Flora has her whole life ahead of her – until the summer night she vanishes.

Her sister Heather was a good girl – until the spring morning she kills two people.

Jess Fox was once like a sister to them both.

But called home to investigate Heather’s crime, she begins to wonder if she really knew either sister at all . . .


Holly Wakefield works for the NHS as a criminal psychologist specialising in serial killers. She has particular reason to be good at her job – but she keeps that to herself.

When DI Bishop from the Met Police approaches Holly to investigate a recent killing, Holly is horrified by the dismembered bodies and the way they have been theatrically positioned. More shocking still is when the pathologist reveals this is not the first time she has seen these mutilations. It means a serial killer is out there, and they’re going to kill again – soon.

Holly is used to chasing serial killers. But this killer has something in common with Holly that she’s kept hidden for as long as she can remember. And for the first time since she was a child, Holly is forced to face the darkness of her past…


An investigation leads Kelly back to her former command… and the ex who betrayed her

A brutal murder in the Lake District.

A double assassination in a secret lab in London’s west end.

Seemingly unconnected, unexpected links between the gruesome crimes emerge and it’s up to DI Kelly Porter to follow the trail – all the way to the capital.

Back amongst old colleagues and forced to work alongside her calculating ex, DCI Matt Carter, Kelly must untangle a web of deceit that stretches into the highest echelons of power. A place where secrets and lies are currency and no obstacle is insurmountable.

Hopefully there are a few books here that you like the sound of! Happy reading!


**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?



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.

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