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Poisoned at the Priory by Antony M Brown

In 1876, disaster struck the London area of Balham when Charles Bravo, a newly-married lawyer, was found to have ingested an unknown poison, ultimately killing him. Initial evidence seemed to show that it was a case of suicide, an inquest ending with an open verdict. Such was the interest in the case, however, a second inquest returned a verdict of willful murder, with no guilty party ever brought to justice. Poisoned at the Priory, the fourth in the Cold Case Jury series, examines the evidence, inviting the reader to draw their own conclusions – was it suicide and, if not, who did kill Charles Bravo?

I really enjoyed the previous Cold Case Jury book, Move to Murder, and so I was delighted to see that the author had decided to tackle an unsolved crime that I have, for a long time, been intrigued by. The main players in the story are like characters straight out of a Victorian crime novel: the young, wealthy wife with a dubious past, the controlling husband, reliant upon his wife’s fortune and the lady’s companion, keen to keep her position, whatever the cost. In Poisoned at the Priory, Antony M Brown gives a complete picture of the lives of these characters, his extensive research being apparent.

The thing I like most about these books is that all theories are presented to you, the evidence for each one being given to help you make up your own mind as to what actually happened. I think that this is a great idea as in other books of this genre, what you generally get is an overview of what happened, the presented evidence pushing you towards the author’s way of thinking. Instead, we are presented with four theories, some more plausible than others, and we are even treated to the opinion of the great mystery writer Agatha Christie. I have always had my own theory about this case and after reading Poisoned at the Priory, it has not changed. I will let you decide for yourself though!

Although this is the fourth in the series, you do not need to have read any of the previous books as each one is a self-contained case. If you have an interest in true crime, then this is a series I can highly recommend and you won’t go far wrong by starting with this one.

With thanks to Net Galley and Mirror Books for my copy.

 

 

**BLOG TOUR** The Last by Hanna Jameson

Historian Jon Keller is on a work trip to Switzerland when the unimaginable happens – nuclear bombs start dropping on the major global cities, signifying the end of the world. Holed up in a hotel with other survivors, Jon has no way of knowing whether his family back in the United States are still alive. Then, the body of a young girl is found at the hotel – one of the residents is a killer. As he investigates, paranoia begins to surface – just who, if anyone, can he trust and is he putting his own life in danger by trying to uncover the truth in a strange new world?

I had heard so many good things about this book so was ecstatic to be given the opportunity to read it as part of the blog tour and was equally pleased to find that it certainly lives up to the hype. I admit that dystopian novels have never been something that have interested me, but I loved the premise of the book and was so glad that I decided to expand my horizons (even if it was the crime element that pulled me towards it!).

One of my favourite books is Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, where a group of people being murdered one-by-one realise that the killer is one of their number. It was for this reason that I wanted to read The Last, as there seemed to be echoes of this plot. This was not the case, however, and although there are certainly deaths in the book, I would not say that this is the main focus. Instead what we have is a thought-provoking tale of ‘what ifs’ – especially scary given the instability in the world at the moment. In an age where we are so heavily reliant upon the internet and other media sources, it was easy to imagine the panic of the people at the hotel, not knowing what was happening or whether their loved ones had made it to safety.

I liked the mix of characters and felt that the slow pace of the book gave the author chance to develop them fully. It was fascinating to read how personalities changed and that, faced with such extreme circumstances, some people stepped up to take control whilst others were keen to survive at all costs, no matter who they hurt in the process. There were some genuinely tense moments when they left the confinement of the hotel in search of supplies, not knowing if there were other survivors out there and whether they would make it back alive.

The Last is a very tense, claustrophobic read and one that certainly makes you question what you would do should you be faced with that situation. It is a very clever book that grabs your attention and holds onto it until the very last page. This looks like being one of the books of the year and one that could be easily be imagined as a TV mini-series. Highly recommended.

With thanks to Emily Burns at Brand Hive and Viking / Penguin for giving me the opportunity to review The Last.

 

 

A Very British Murder by Lucy Worsley

18042000For a long time, the British public has had an interest in murder, whether it be fictional or true crime. In A Very British Murder, Lucy Worsley looks at this interest in great detail, exploring cases such as the Ratcliff Highway and Road Hill Murders, before moving onto how crimes were reported and how they inspired detective fiction.

This is a book that has been on my TBR pile for a while and, as it’s been a while since I’ve read anything non-fiction, I decided it was time to give it a try. After watching the accompanying television series, I was looking forward to reading Lucy Worsley’s take on some of the cases I have enjoyed reading about over the years.

If you are looking for a straightforward compendium of British crime, then this is not the book for you. It does mention some of the more well-known crimes (I was particularly pleased to see the murder of Julia Wallace included, albeit fleetingly) but the emphasis is firmly placed on the public fascination for these events. I must admit, though, that these were the sections I enjoyed the most, even though I had read about most of the cases before!

Much of the book is devoted to the growth of the crime fiction genre from the likes of Wilkie Collins and Arthur Conan Doyle to the ‘golden age’ of detection with authors such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers. There is even a modern slant where Worsley briefly discusses how these books and cases are being brought to life on television in the guise of Whitechapel, Ripper Street and The Suspicions of Mr Whicher. My only concern here is that the author gives out some major spoilers and there are certainly now some books that I no longer need to read!

Lucy Worsley’s writing style is very easy to follow and makes for an enjoyable read.

Trust Me by Angela Clarke

51O73PAHCPL__SY346_While undertaking some online research for her work, Kate stumbles upon a live video which is seemingly showing a young woman being murdered. After calling the police, she discovers that the video has disappeared and that people are reluctant to take her seriously. How can she prove that this was not a figment of her imagination and that, somewhere, is a girl in need of help? Meanwhile, Sergeant Nasreen Cudmore and her friend Freddie Venton are working on a missing persons case – could the two incidents be connected?

Trust Me is the third of Angela Clarke’s Social Media Murders series, following on from Follow Me and Watch Me and, again, deals with the dark side of the internet. This time the spotlight is on Periscope and how people, anywhere, can watch video clips that are put online. It is, in many ways, a modern twist on the Agatha Christie classic, The 4.50 from Paddington, where instead of Elspeth McGillicuddy witnessing the strangling of a woman when passing on a train and nobody believing her, we have Kate witnessing the rape and murder of a young woman online and the video being removed before her story can be corroborated.

In Trust Me, we see a different side to Freddie’s character in that she is struggling to come to terms with feelings she has never felt before. This angst does not stop her impulsiveness, however, and she is soon infuriating her friend, Nas, who is more adept at playing by the rules. There are times, though, when we see Nas acting without thinking, showing that the friends’ personalities are beginning to rub off on each other.

One of the things I liked most about this book was that, although it is a police procedural, it is not a traditional whodunit. The naming of the culprit is secondary to the actual investigation and the police search for the girl in the video. It is still a fast-paced story, though, especially in the last fifth of the book when one of the characters is placed in mortal danger.

I’ve enjoyed reading all of the books in this series so far and I hope that Angela Clarke has some more in the pipeline!

With thanks to Net Galley and Avon Books UK for the ARC.

 

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