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The Weeping Lady Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh

Perdita and Piper Rivers are now settled into their new life at Marquess House, but a violent storm threatens to uncover more secrets. In this short story, following on from the previous three books, what new mysteries are about to be revealed?

I really enjoyed reading the Marquess House trilogy and so, while I was pre-ordering Alexandra Walsh’s next book, The Wind Chime, I was thrilled to see that there was also a short story about Perdita and Piper that I hadn’t yet read. This does contain some spoilers, so if this sounds like your sort of book, it would definitely be worthwhile reading the others first.

Told in two time frames, we learn of a convent in 1486 where the bones of a suspected saint have been discovered. Before a sacred shrine can be erected, Mother Superior, Sister Non, knows she has to intervene to prevent her secret from being revealed. Just who do the bones belong to? This story is taken up in the present day by the Rivers sisters, as they aim to uncover the truth behind a centuries-old ghost story.

The Weeping Lady Conspiracy moves on at a good pace and is a perfect read for anyone who enjoys dual time frame novels. I am also pleased to see that the trilogy has now become a saga and I am eagerly awaiting the, as yet, unnamed fourth book in the series.

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

The Catherine Howard Conspiracy

The Elizabeth Tudor Conspiracy

The Arbella Stuart Conspiracy

Death at Hungerford Stairs by J C Briggs

When the body of a young boy is found at Hungerford Stairs close to the River Thames, Charles Dickens is relieved to find that is not the missing child he has been searching for. Presumed drowned, Superintendent Jones of Bow Street soon has a murder case on his hands when a different cause of death is discovered. After more bodies are found, the detective’s worst fears are realised – they have a serial killer on their hands.

Death at Hungerford Stairs is the second book to feature the author Charles Dickens as one of the main characters, the first being The Murder of Patience BrookeIn the previous book, I was particularly impressed with how the author managed to paint a vivid picture of early-Victorian London, especially the more downtrodden areas. This has continued in the second book, making you feel that you are actually walking the London streets.

I like, again, how the author has merged fact with fiction, with true aspects of Dickens’ life providing an air of authenticity to the plot. Dickens is written as a generous man, keen to help the underprivileged and the down at heel, the references to his early life possibly providing a reason for his benevolence. There is a rich supporting cast, providing some tragic as well as some humorous moments.

The hunt for a child killer could be a difficult subject matter, but the author handles it in an informative yet sensitive way, culminating in a very different motive and culprit to most books of this genre. Although there were a few hints dropped throughout the book, the ending was still a surprise – a clever one at that.

I’m definitely looking forward to reading the next in the series.

The Catherine Howard Conspiracy by Alexandra Walsh

51UcdiN3gyL._SY346_After having no contact with her grandmother throughout her life, Dr Perdita Rivers is shocked to discover that on her death, she has inherited Marquess House, her vast estate in Pembrokeshire. Finding herself wealthy beyond her wildest dreams, Perdita sets out to discover the reason behind her estrangement from her grandmother. She soon realises that something is afoot at Marquess House after discovering documents claiming that the fifth wife of Henry VIII was not, in fact, executed, but instead managed to escape his tyranny. Will Perdita discover the fate of the Tudor Queen and find out just how her grandmother is connected?

I am a fan of fiction containing a dual timeline and so The Catherine Howard Conspiracy was definitely a book that appealed straight away, especially with its Tudor link – another of my interests. I was intrigued to read about Henry VIII’s fifth wife, as she is one of the Tudor Queens that I know least about and I loved how the author has merged historical fact with fiction, to the point that I began to wonder which parts were real and which were not!

History has perceived Catherine as a flirtatious, naive young woman but Alexandra Walsh paints a completely different picture of the ill-fated queen. In The Catherine Howard Conspiracy, we see her constantly in fear of her husband, whose behaviour is becoming increasingly erratic. Several scenes were truly heartbreaking as we see how she is being mistreated and I was willing her to escape his clutches. I particularly enjoyed the relationship she had with Henry’s previous wife, Anne of Cleves, the only other woman who truly knew what it was like to be married to the king.

Perdita, I found, to be quite a complex character and my feelings towards her changed throughout the book. I did, however, find myself incredibly envious of her having all of that priceless historical documentation at her disposal! I admired her tenacity when, faced with a potential life-threatening situation, she was determined to uncover the truth about what had happened to Catherine Howard.

As I knew that this was the first in a trilogy, I couldn’t wait to see how the author would end this first installment. I liked how, although the main mysteries in the book had been solved, there is a clear indication of what is going to happen in part two.

This is a fantastic read and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

With thanks to Sapere Books and Net Galley for my ARC.

 

The Slum Reaper by David Field

The year is 1894 and a slum clearance is in operation in the East End of London. With some of the tenants refusing to leave their homes, Sergeant Percy Enright is rightfully concerned when five local people are found dead. With those in charge of the clearances claiming the deaths were as a result of accidents, Enright knows that they were murdered. When his nephew and colleague, Jack, and his wife Esther are informed that the niece of one of their neighbours has gone missing, Percy fears that there could be a connection. Again, Esther is called upon to go undercover to find the true extent of what is happening.

Although he has been a prominent character in the previous three books, The Slum Reaper sees Percy taking more of a central role. Injured in the course of duty, Jack has been sidelined, placed behind a desk in the records department and hating every moment! Of course, this doesn’t stop Percy from using Jack’s new role to his advantage, causing problems for his nephew in the process! It was good to see more of Percy in this book, a character who has no problems about bending the rules to secure a conviction.

Again, Esther plays a pivotal role in the plot, this time using her skills as a seamstress to infiltrate the house of a suspect. Her evidence leads to the case taking a rather unexpected turn, giving the police the proof that they need to take the case forward. Esther is a character I enjoy reading about, a traditional Victorian wife in one respect but a forward-thinking modern woman in another.

With the launch of a new department, I look forward to seeing what the future holds in store for Percy and Jack and I’m sure it won’t be too long before I read The Posing Playwright!

 

False Accusations by Cora Harrison

The quiet village of Willowgrove is shocked when one of the residents, Mrs Trevor, is murdered. When someone confesses to the crime, it should be an open and shut case, the only problem being that the ‘culprit’ is Rosie, the victim’s daughter, a young woman with learning difficulties. Flora Morgan, a retired headteacher who knows Rosie, is called in to act as her ‘appropriate adult’, firmly believing that she is innocent of the crime. Why did she confess and why is she lying? Flora must find out who actually did it before Rosie is found guilty of a crime she didn’t commit.

Over the years, there have been many mystery books written where the person investigating the crime has no involvement in the police force, Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, probably being the most famous. This is the case in False Accusations where Flora Morgan’s involvement in the murder of Mrs Trevor comes as a result of her being the ‘appropriate adult’ of Rosie Trevor, a person who safeguards the rights and welfare of a child or vulnerable adult who is being questioned by the police. In books of this genre, the way in which the main protagonist comes across the crime can, at times, seem contrived but I thought that this was a good way of explaining how she could potentially be involved in other cases too.

I liked how, at the start of the book, we were already introduced to the person who had admitted to the crime and the mystery wasn’t so much ‘who done it?’ as ‘how can we prove that she didn’t do it?’ Rosie was a fascinating character whose condition meant that we are never quite sure if she is telling the truth. The author has included several other potential candidates for the true culprit  and I was genuinely surprised when the big reveal occurred – it was not someone who was on my radar! I did feel, however, that there were far too many characters in the book and I found myself confused as to who was who, especially when some of them were referred to as characters from Wind in the Willows.

False Accusations is a slow burner but I felt that the ending was quite rushed and Flora’s illness towards the end didn’t really add anything to the plot. This was a shame as I do believe that this could be a good series if some of the problems are ironed out.

With thanks to Caoimhe O’Brien at Sapere Books for my copy of False Accusations.

 

 

The Night Caller by David Field

image001The women in the East End of London have just got over the horrors of Jack the Ripper when a new attacker appears on the scene – someone is breaking into their homes, stealing their underwear and leaving filthy, threatening messages. With the police refusing to take the crimes seriously, it is up to Esther Jacobs and her fiance, police officer Jack Enright, to investigate the wrongdoings. Are these women being targeted for a reason and just what is the connection to a new female ‘Alliance’? When the case takes a turn for the worse, someone will soon find their life is in grave danger…

The Night Caller is the second of the Esther and Jack Enright Mysteries, a detective series set in Victorian London, the first being The Gaslight Stalker. In the last book, our heroes met and, despite the horrendous circumstances they found themselves in, fell in love. Now planning their wedding, they find themselves involved in a case which becomes a little too close for comfort for Esther. Knowing Esther’s personality, it was not a surprise that she should find herself becoming involved in a female trade union and it was pleasing to see some historical fact being included such as the Bryant and May strike and the role of Annie Besant.

I found much of this book pitying Jack who has spent most of his life with his overbearing mother and is now embarking on a marriage with an equally strong woman. Esther appeared, at times, to be quite unlikable, but I found myself warming to her as the story progressed. It will be interesting to see what the next book has in store for Esther, as she is definitely not the sort of woman to be content with staying at home, looking after any children they have!

The Night Caller definitely transports you back to Victorian London and whereas, in the last book, we saw how the poorest and most unfortunate lived, here we see the lower classes finally trying to fight their way out of poverty. Of course, this would not be what everyone wanted and so we see these women being threatened and, eventually murdered. The mystery was a good one with enough red herrings thrown in to keep you off the scent, and it also had a satisfying conclusion.

I look forward to seeing how married life is treating the Enrights in the next book!

With thanks to Caoimhe O’Brien at Sapere Books for my copy of the book.

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