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The Perfect Life by Nuala Ellwood

Looking online at houses that are for sale is something that many people enjoy and Vanessa is no exception. When she wants to escape from reality, she finds a home and arranges a viewing, adopting a different persona each time in order to convince the seller that she is a serious buyer. All harmless fun until one of the householders is found murdered and Vanessa is the main suspect.

Vanessa is the classic unreliable narrator. Clearly suffering from mental health issues due to events in her past, she has created a fantasy world for herself, one that sees her pretending to be in the market for an expensive property. While at first this seems an innocent pastime, we see this quickly becoming an obsession, especially when she starts to take little mementos from the houses.

Told in two time frames, we find out about Vanessa’s past, her ex-boyfriend, Connor, featuring prominently. We see how Vanessa is being manipulated by her controlling partner, even if she cannot see it herself. This helped to explain the situation she finds herself in as time goes on and helped me to develop a sympathetic attitude towards someone who could, potentially, be a killer.

As the book progresses, the plot starts to take a more sinister turn when Vanessa starts to realise that someone has been watching her. Could this person prove her innocence or even her guilt and what exactly do they want from her?

I have enjoyed Nuala Ellwood’s previous books and was just as gripped by this one. The Perfect Life has a gripping plot with superb characters, something I have grown to expect from this author’s writing.

With thanks to Penguin and Net Galley for my copy.

***BLOG TOUR*** The Rule by David Jackson

Chaos ensues when Daniel, not realising his own strength, unwittingly kills a man. His parents know that if the murder is discovered, their vulnerable son will be taken away and will be unable to cope away from everything he knows. Disposing of the body, they hope that it is all done and dusted but little do they know that this is only the beginning. With the police closing in and others with less than honourable intentions looking for them, just how far will they go to protect Daniel?

David Jackson is one of my favourite authors and his previous book, The Resident, was one of my favourite books of last year. The Rule is another standalone, filled with the great writing and dark humour that I have grown to expect from this author.

Daniel is an absolute delight and, although there are other people we see more of, he is the character that, in my opinion, has the most impact. I spent the book willing him to be safe and hoping that his father could do whatever he had to do to protect him.

Daniel’s father, Scott, is another fantastic character. A good man who would do anything for his family, we see how one unfortunate event can change everything you once believed in. He is far from being a criminal mastermind, his naivety showing throughout the book as he gets himself into some terrifying situations. This is where David Jackson’s wonderful writing comes to the fore, turning some genuinely tense moments into humour in the blink of an eye.

It is always a pleasure to read a David Jackson book and The Rule is no exception. Fast paced and exciting with a plethora of well-written, believable characters, this deserves to be a huge hit!

With thanks to Sahina Bibi for organising the blog tour and to viper Books and Net Galley for my ARC.

Take a look at my reviews of some of David Jackson’s other books:

A Tapping at My Door

Hope to Die

Don’t Make a Sound

Your Deepest Fear

The Resident

Did She Kill Him? by Kate Colquhoun

In 1889, there was outrage as the young American, Florence Maybrick, stood trial for the murder of her Liverpool-born, cotton merchant husband, James, at their home, Battlecrease House. Found guilty, and sentenced to death, this was later commuted to life imprisonment and, after many years of campaigning from her supporters, she was released. Kate Colquhoun examines the events leading up to the death of James Maybrick, the trial and the aftermath of what became a public scandal. Was Florence really the femme fatale as painted by many or was she simply a victim of an extremely biased justice system that clearly seemed to favour the male?

I first read this book when it was published as, being from Liverpool, this is a case that has always held a fascination with me. I decided to revisit it by listening to the audio book which is wonderfully read by Maggie Mash, even if her pronunciation of the word ‘Aigburth’ did frustrate me! (I daresay only locals would pick up on this!)

Kate Colquhoun does a superb job in providing an unbiased account of the life of the Maybricks, from their meeting, to their marriage and, ultimately, their deaths. It is clear how much research has gone into this book, and, even as someone who has read a lot about this ‘murder’, I learned a lot. It is clear that this was a completely mismatched couple, Florence looking for a man to provide her with the lavish lifestyle she felt she should have, and James wanting a younger wife he could show off to his colleagues at the cotton exchange.

The medical evidence in this case is particularly fascinating, Florence having been convicted of murdering her husband with arsenic. Doubt is cast as to whether there was enough arsenic in his body to kill him, especially when anecdotal evidence suggests that he actually took arsenic on a regular basis. Was evidence deliberately hidden in order to paint Florence in a bad light by a Victorian society who were outraged by her extra-marital relationship?

This is a well-written book that certainly makes you think about whether it was a safe conviction or whether she was tried on the basis of her womanhood. A fascinating look at the attitudes of late-Victorian Britain.

The Bodies at Westgrave Hall by Nick Louth

Local residents are not happy when Russian oligarch, Alexander Volkov, buys the historic Westgrave Hall, but are intrigued enough to visit when he throws a party for 1000 guests. While giving a private tour of the library, however, Volkov is shot dead, along with two other men. Knowing that he doesn’t have long before the local police are ousted by the security services, DCI Craig Gillard, is struggling to find evidence to show what actually happened. CCTV shows no one entering or leaving the library, everyone appears to have an alibi and the murder weapon is nowhere in sight. Is this a professional hit or the result of a love triangle? With the security services breathing down his neck, Gillard finds himself involved in his most prolific case to date.


I love a good ‘locked room’ mystery and in The Bodies at Westgrave Hall, Nick Louth has brought this genre bang up to date with a crime that is definitely of its time while still keeping you perplexed as to how the murders could have happened. In recent times, we have seen poisoning cases involving the likes of the Skripals and Alexei Navalny becoming worldwide news so the deaths of Russian oligarchs, albeit by a different method, is very topical. We are left, initially, to wonder whether politics are at play in the deaths or whether it is simply a case of old enemies finally calling time on their differences. I had my theories throughout, but found myself blindsided at the end, angry with myself for disregarding a piece of information that I had originally felt would prove to be important!


The plot is a complex one, showing how difficult it is for the police to mount an operation when there are other agencies involved, in this case the security services. The sheer size of the house also made it difficult for the police, meaning that they had to prioritise evidence, potentially missing clues which may prove to be useful. Although it was complex, I found the plot easy to follow, and felt it definitely had a ‘real time’ feel to it, as we saw the investigation unfold over the Christmas period.


As well as the characters we have got to know in previous books, Nick Louth has created a superb supporting cast in The Bodies at Westgrave Hall, some definitely more likeable than others. My favourite character had to be the man with a name that was so unpronounceable, he was known as Wolf. I once knew someone who learned English from watching episodes of Scooby Doo so I found Wolf’s Only Fools and Horses take on the English language hysterical. “Lovely bubbly!” as Wolf (not Del Boy) would say!

I’ve loved all of the Craig Gillard series, but I think I can safely say that this is one of my favourites to date. An engaging plot, superb characterisation and a mystery that keeps you guessing right until the end… hopefully it won’t be too long before we see what happens next to the Chief Inspector.

With thanks to Canelo and Net Galley for my ARC.

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

The Body in the Marsh

The Body on the Shore

The Body in the Mist

The Body in the Snow

The Body Under the Bridge

The Body on the Island


**BLOG TOUR** Alone in the Woods by Charly Cox

Teenager Addis Kensington arrives home with her friend, Emerson, to find her parents slaughtered in a scene straight out of a horror movie. While trying to contact her aunt, she makes a terrifying discovery: the killer is still in the house. On their arrival, the police, led by detective Alyssa Wyatt, find their worst fears have been realised when there is no sign of the girls anywhere, seemingly taken by the killer. To have any chance of finding the girls alive, Wyatt and her team must find out why private detective, Gabriel Kensington, and his wife were killed, uncovering a catalogue of crimes that have remained hidden for many years.

The Alyssa Wyatt series by Charly Cox have become some of my ‘must read’ books and I have been looking forward to reading this one. If you haven’t read the previous books in the series, this could be read as a standalone but I do thoroughly recommend the previous two, All His Pretty Girls and The Toy Box as they do give a great insight into Alyssa’s life and what makes her tick.

In Alyssa and her partner, Cord, Charly Cox has created hugely likeable characters with very realistic lives. Stories involving their families complement the main plot and do not overpower it unlike in many books of this genre. I find that many authors place too much emphasis on the detectives’ family life but here we see a very good balance, leaving you caring about Cord’s impending fatherhood and Alyssa’s relationship with her husband and children.

As well as seeing the police investigation into the murders and the missing girls, we also experience what the two teenagers are having to endure at the hands of their captor. We realise that there is more to this case than meets the eye and soon we are fearing for the safety of Addis and Emerson. I admired the tenacity of the girls who when faced with utmost danger somehow find the strength to continue.

There are a wide range of supporting characters in Alone in the Woods and I really liked how the author kept us guessing as to the motives of some of the people we meet. It is obvious that people are hiding something, but what? I found myself totally engrossed in the plot and couldn’t wait to see how everything fitted together, leaving me open-mouthed when the final reveal was made!

Charly Cox is becoming one of my favourite authors and Alone in the Woods has definitely confirmed my opinion. If you haven’t read any of this series yet, I recommend it highly – you won’t be disappointed!

With thanks to Hera Books and Net Galley and to Sarah Hardy at Book on the Bright Side for organising the blog tour.

Deadly Cry by Angela Marsons

A little girl is found in a busy shopping centre all alone, her mother, Katrina, having seemingly disappeared. When Katrina’s body is found in an abandoned building, DI Kim Stone is perplexed – why would anyone want to kill a mother out shopping with her young daughter? When a second body of a woman is found, killed in the same way, her young son missing, Stone fears that she has a serial killer on her patch. A letter purporting to be from the murderer addressed to Kim worries her even more – he needs to be found before something happens to the missing boy.

I think I am running out of words to say about the Kim Stone series as we are now thirteen books in and I am loving these books just as much as I did when it first started. From the first book, we have seen Kim’s team develop to the point where they are now like old friends to the reader, each person bringing their own skills to a close-knit group of detectives. I love how Kim trusts her team, letting them work on cases without too much interference, knowing that they can be relied upon to bring in the results.

The story has multiple plots, each one contributing towards a fascinating case for Kim. In addition to the murders, Stacey finds herself re-investigating two rapes where she wonders whether the right man has been convicted. Over the course of this series, we have seen Stacey’s character grow in confidence to the point where she now feels strong enough to question the work of other detectives. I found the end of the book intriguing and I can’t wait to see what plans Kim (and Angela!) has for Stacey in forthcoming books.

As well as the humour throughout the book, mainly in the interactions between Kim and Bryant, Angela Marsons is incredibly adept at pulling at the heartstrings. There is a very touching scene between Penn and his brother, Jasper, who are trying to come to terms with the death of their mother. Although a minor character, I have great affection for Jasper and enjoy the relationship he has with Penn and hope that he becomes a regular feature in later books.

The Kim Stone series is going from strength to strength and I am already looking forward to the next one. I’ve said it before but would a TV company please make this into a series?! It would be a sure-fire ratings winner!

With thanks to Bookouture and Net Galley for my ARC.

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

Silent Scream

Evil Games

Lost Girls

Play Dead

Blood Lines

Dead Souls

Broken Bones

Dying Truth

Fatal Promise

Dead Memories

Child’s Play

First Blood

Killing Mind

**BLOG TOUR** Close to the Bone by Susan Wilkins

When the bludgeoned body of local businessman Greg Porter is found at the apartments he was developing, the case becomes personal for DS Megan Thomas. Her sister, Debbie, had been working for Porter as a cleaner and she was not expecting to find herself so embroiled in a murder investigation. Megan faces a huge dilemma: which should she put first – family or her job?

Close to the Bone is the second in the Megan Thomas series and while I definitely enjoyed the first, Buried Deep, this one is even better. You do not need to have read the previous book as there are no spoilers in this one, but I feel that by doing so, I had acquired a good understanding of what makes Megan tick and a knowledge of her backstory is definitely beneficial.

We discover quite early on that the murdered man is not exactly a paragon of virtue and as the book develops, we realise that there are many people who may have wanted him dead. Due to the connection her sister has with the case, Megan is sidelined and is, instead, asked to work with the National Crime Agency as part of their investigation into human trafficking. With events that have been going on recently, this is a very topical plot and really brings home the plight of these people who are preyed upon by unscrupulous traffickers, their only ‘crime’ being to want a better life for their families.

Megan is showing herself to be a very competent detective, but events from her past are clearly affecting her mental well-being and preventing her from moving further up the promotional ladder. One name from her previous post keeps getting mentioned and I wonder if this is a person who we may meet in a forthcoming book.

This is turning into a very promising series with great plots and a range of believable characters. I’m already looking forward to seeing what Susan Wilkins gives us next!

With thanks to Bookouture and Net Galley for my ARC and to Noelle Holten for organising the blog tour.

 

 

**BLOG TOUR** Fifty Fifty by Steve Cavanagh

Earlier this year, I read, and thoroughly enjoyed, the latest in Steve Cavanagh’s Eddie Flynn series, Fifty Fifty. I am thrilled, therefore, to be able to share my review with you again as part of the blog tour and to, hopefully, persuade you to read one of my favourite books of 2020 so far!

A telephone call is received by the police from a young woman, stating that her father has been killed by her sister and that she is still in the house. Seconds later, another call is received from the sister, saying the same thing. One of them is lying. One of them is a cold-hearted killer. Both of them stand accused of murder but who should we believe?

Steve Cavanagh has become the author with the killer hook and this has definitely continued in Fifty Fifty. From the very start, where we have two separate calls being made to the emergency services, from two sisters each accusing the other of murder, I was immediately drawn in to this twisty, sadistic tale of cat and mouse.

In Fifty Fifty, we have two defendants, each protesting their innocence and each represented by a lawyer who believes in what their client is telling them. One of them is being played, but who? Eddie Flynn is defending Sofia Avellino, a messed up young woman with a history of psychological trauma. Does she have it in her to carry out such a horrific crime? New lawyer Kate Brooks is representing Sofia’s sister, Alexandra, a woman much more together than her sister, but does her calm demeanor hide something more sinister? Usually when reading a book like this, I have some sort of theory as to who the guilty party is but I truly could not make up my mind! Just when I’d think it was definitely Alexandra, something would happen to lead me to believe it was Sofia, only a few chapters later have me convinced, yet again that it was Alexandra! I loved how this plot kept me on my toes, keeping me guessing right to the end.

There was one part of the book that had me holding my breath, desperate to read the next part yet, simultaneously, not daring to as I knew that something horrific was about to happen. I do not want to give away any spoilers, but this was a magnificent piece of writing and all I can say is Steve Cavanagh, how could you? If you’ve already read the book, you will know which part I am referring to, if not, strap yourself in as you’re in for a bumpy ride!

The author’s last book was called Twisted, and this one definitely follows suit. Fifty Fifty has a gripping plot that kept me on my toes throughout, outfoxing me at every turn. If you’ve never read a Steve Cavanagh book, you won’t go far wrong with this one. Superb!

With thanks to Orion and Net Galley for my copy and to Alex Layt for organising the blog tour.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Once a week, four like-minded residents of a retirement village meet to discuss real-life murder cases. The Thursday Murder Club, as they are known, soon find themselves embroiled in something a lot closer to home, however, when a local property developer is killed after attending a meeting at their residence, Coopers Chase. With their unorthodox way of obtaining information, these four pensioners are determined to get to the bottom of this awful crime.

After hearing Richard Osman (one of the presenters on BBC’s Pointless) on the Two Crime Writers and a Microphone podcast, I knew that he had an interest in crime fiction, so when I saw that he had written a book himself, I was immediately interested. 

The Thursday Murder Club introduces us to four friends, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron who are not your typical pensioners! Residing in a retirement village, they have access to case files of unsolved murders from the past and, once a week, meet to discuss, and try to solve, the crimes. Each of their characters brings their own special skills to the table, Elizabeth being the driving force behind the group. My favourite, however, was, Ibrahim, an elderly gentleman who has moved with the times and has embraced technology, even if he can sometimes bore his friends when trying to explain how things work!

There are a plethora of supporting characters throughout the book, providing numerous twists and turns along the way. While the plot is certainly a good one, and one that keeps you guessing throughout, for me, it is the characterization that is the main selling point of The Thursday Murder Club. Most of the people in the book are incredibly likable, each with their own stories that help you to build up a complete picture of their lives. Richard Osman’s humour also shines through in each of them, and even the not-so-nice characters are well-written. 

After reading The Thursday Murder Club, I do hope that this is not a one-off for Richard Osman and that we get to read other books of this genre. With its gentle humour, out-of-the-ordinary characters and nostalgia that we can all relate to, this is a great read and one that, I am sure, will be a huge hit. I just hope that, in the future, if I have to go to a retirement village, there is room at Coopers Chase for me!

With thanks to Penguin Books (UK) and Net Galley for my ARC.

 

 

 

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