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Second World War

The Sinclair Betrayal by M J Lee

There is one family that genealogist Jayne Sinclair has been reluctant to investigate – her own. After discovering that the father she thought had died when she was a child is, in fact, still alive, old wounds are opened up. To compound the issue even further, she finds out that he is currently residing in prison after killing a civil servant in cold blood. Claiming that the life he took was an act of revenge for his mother’s betrayal during World War Two, Jayne must try to uncover the truth about her grandmother’s past in order to solve an age-old mystery.

From the beginning of the series, it has always been apparent that there was something interesting lurking in Jayne’s family history. Spurred on by her stepfather, who urges Jayne to find out about her past before it is too late, we are taken on an emotive journey back to World War Two where we discover the secret life of her French grandmother, Monique.

The action flips between two time frames – Jayne’s modern-day research and Monique’s life in World War Two as a member of the Special Operations Executive (SOE). The dual time frames work well together and I particularly like how we see Jayne discovering something during her research and then reading about the actual event during the war. Both time frames were as enjoyable to read as each other, and I found myself flying through the book, desperate to know what was going to happen next.

One of the things I enjoy most about books like this is the historical aspect and the chance to learn new things. Although I had previously read about the SOE, M J Lee paints a vivid picture of life for the operatives and there were some genuine ‘heart in the mouth’ moments when reading about the dangers these brave people put themselves in. The story was, at times, heartbreaking, especially when the fate of Monique was revealed and was made even more poignant when reading about the real-life women of the SOE and their tragic ends.

I have read all of the other books in this series but I think that this my favourite so far. If you have never read any of the Jayne Sinclair books before, I can heartily recommend them, although you do not need to have read them before reading this one – it can be read as a standalone.

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

The Irish Inheritance

The Somme Legacy

The American Candidate

The Vanished Child

The Silent Christmas

 

**BLOG TOUR** Wojtek: War Hero Bear by Jenny Robertson

When a bear cub is adopted by a group of Polish soldiers during the Second World War, little did everyone know that he would become a fully-fledged member of the army, helping out his comrades in some of the fiercest battles of the campaign. Not knowing anything other than army life, when the war is over and the soldiers move to Scotland, what will happen to Wojtek?

Although this book is aimed at 9-12 year-olds, I think that all ages will enjoy this delightful tale of how friendship and hope can exist even in the darkest of times. Orphaned at a young age, Wojtek finds a kindred spirit in Piotr, a Polish soldier who has been forced to leave his wife and children in order to fight in the war. It was heartbreaking to read about how these men had endured tremendous hardship, not knowing if their families had survived or even where they were. The author has done a tremendous job in conveying the horrors of war without making it too difficult to read for younger readers.

Even if this had been a complete work of fiction, I would have found the character of Wojtek truly fascinating and entertaining. Wojtek, however, is not fiction and was a member of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company, helping to move ammunition during the Battle of Monte Cassino. I often found myself laughing at his antics whether it be at the thought of him sitting alongside Piotr in one of the army trucks or when he was indulging in one of his favourite pastimes – drinking beer! This was a stark contrast to how I felt when reading about Piotr’s missing family, which was unbelievably heartbreaking.

Although some of the account has been fictionalised, such as some of the army characters, much of the book is based on real events. When reading a book such as this, a sign that the author has succeeded in telling the story well is that I have a desire to find out more about the facts behind the fiction. I have already read up on Wojtek and some of his exploits during and after the war since reading this book so that is definitely a good sign!

Wojtek: War Hero Bear is a great read – you don’t have to be a child to enjoy it!

With thanks to BC Books for my copy of Wojtek and also to Kelly at Love Books Group for organising the blog tour.

Take a look at the rest of the blogs on the tour:

The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths

Feeling troubled by the events in the previous book, Dr. Ruth Galloway is pleased when a face from her past, Dr. Angelo Morelli, contacts her, seeking her assistance on bones that have been discovered in a small Italian village. Accompanied by her friend Shona and their children, they head off to the continent, where they find a village still clinging on to memories of the Second World War and the Resistance. The past and present collide however, when the body of a local is found in the church. What secrets lurk that would make someone kill to protect?

I was very late in discovering the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths but since reading my first one two years ago, I have devoured the books and was eagerly anticipating this one. Taking Ruth out of her comfort zone is a big gamble but is one that’s has definitely paid off and it has enabled us to take a peek into her past whilst also exploring more of her relationship with best friend, Shona. Although Ruth is brought to Italy on the premise of assisting with recently discovered bones, the archaeology takes a bit of a back seat as she realises that there are more pressing matters that threaten their idyllic break. Somebody clearly doesn’t want Ruth there and she begins to fear, rightly so, that her life may be in danger.

I had feared that with the story being set in Italy, we would see less of the other characters we have come to know and love, but this was not to be the case. Running alongside the main plot, is a sub-plot about a released prisoner who bears a grudge against DCI Harry Nelson. Despite having this and huge upheaval in his personal life to contend with, Nelson finds his way out to Italy, accompanied by Cathbad, when news of a disaster reaches him. Throughout the books, we have seen Nelson struggle with his feelings for Ruth and this becomes even more heightened due to everything that is currently going on in his life. He is becoming more and more of a tortured soul and, depending upon the climax of a particular storyline, we could soon see him being tipped firmly over the edge!

The most shocking part of the book is reserved for the final chapters when a major event occurs that will have repercussions for several of the characters. Without going into too much detail, I was genuinely upset by what happened but, at the same time, can’t wait to see what the consequences will be.

If you have never read any of the Ruth Galloway series, please do as I don’t feel you will be disappointed. For anyone who is already a fan, The Dark Angel is a welcome addition to an already brilliant series.

With thanks to Quercus and Net Galley for my ARC.

 

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 

 

The American Candidate by M J Lee

Genealogical Investigator, Jayne Sinclair, is about to undertake her most high profile case to date after being tasked to research the family history of a potential candidate for the Presidency of the United States of America. When the man who commissioned the research is shot dead in front of her eyes, Jayne realises that someone will stop at nothing to prevent the research from being carried out. Exactly who is the candidate’s mysterious grandfather and why is someone so keen to keep his secrets well hidden? Jayne knows that, if she is to continue with this case, her life is in the utmost danger.

The American Candidate is the third of the Jayne Sinclair series and, in light of recent upheavals in American politics, deals with a very topical subject. Although the first two books in the series (The Irish Inheritance and The Somme Legacy) had an element of danger, this one really ups the ante and is quite violent from the start when someone she has just met is killed in cold blood in front of her. What follows is a mad dash through the streets of London as Jayne and her companion endeavour to escape from assassins disguised as police. This part of the book was very reminiscent of the Dan Brown book The Da Vinci Code and, indeed, even mentioned one of the same locations – Temple Church. I found this chase sequence very exciting and, due to the skills of the people chasing them, was desperate to discover how they would manage to get away.

Like the other books in the series, The American Candidate is set in two time frames, the other era being prior to and during World War Two. We discover quite early on that the candidate’s grandfather was heavily involved in the Nazi movement and, at times, this was quite disturbing to read due to its subject content. It is obvious that the author has done a great deal of research and it was fascinating to read about the English supporters of Hitler’s ideology and their campaigns under Oswald Mosley. It was easy to see how some young men could be seduced into believing what they were being told about the ‘enemy’ – again a very topical subject today.

It’s not often that a book with a genealogical slant has a twist so I was not expecting it when one occurred towards the end of this book. This was a very clever move and was one that all seemed so obvious when it was explained!

The American Candidate is a great addition to the series and I look forward to reading the next one.

The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo

Finding himself carrying out surveillance duties after being reassigned, Harry Hole is quite happy spending some time working alone. It is not long, though, before he discovers that a rare high-calibre rifle has been smuggled into the country – one that is favoured by assassins. When a former Nazi sympathiser is found with his throat cut, Harry wonders if there could be a connection between the two occurrences. As the body count rises, it soon becomes apparent that there is someone out there, determined to mete out their own brand of justice. Will Harry be able to find out who he is before more bodies are found?

The Redbreast is the third of Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series and is definitely my favourite so far. Indeed, Jo himself, in a recent Q&A session, declared that this is his favourite too. The start of the book is quite harrowing as we are taken back to the trenches of World War Two where a small group of Norwegian soldiers are fighting on the side of the Germans. This section of the book was, at times, a bit confusing but all is explained very clearly in the concluding chapters and is essential in understanding the rest of the plot.

Fast forward over fifty years, and Norway is dealing with a new enemy – the neo-Nazi. Harry and his colleagues must try to find out if there is a connection between the rise of this group and the Marklin rifle that has turned up in the country. Just who is the target of the alleged assassination plot and which of the ex-soldiers is the would-be assassin? From the outset, it was obvious that one of the soldiers mentioned in the opening chapters would be the guilty party but Nesbo has done a good job in throwing you off the scent until the very end.

As seems to be the theme of all of these early books, Harry, once again, has to endure a personal tragedy and so, inevitably turns to drink. Although this case was, to all intents and purposes, resolved, there was still a major part of it that was not – I am sure that this story line will rear its ugly head in one of the following books.

In all, a fascinating read that was a solid mystery story and one that also taught me some aspects of World War two that I did not know too much about.

 

Unearthed by John Nixon

unearthedWhen skeletal remains are discovered in the garden of their new house, Adam and Ruth Porter know that there is only one person who can get to the bottom of it – Madeleine, Adam’s mother and professional genealogist. What ensues is a taxing investigation which exposes long-hidden secrets and an unknown wartime romance.

Unearthed is the fifth of John Nixon’s ‘Madeleine Porter’ novels and, like the others, is based on an event that occurred in the past that has repercussions in the present. This book is slightly different to the others, however, in that there is less of Madeleine and more of the other present-day characters. There is also more emphasis on tracing living people rather than the ancestors of people who have hired the genealogist.

I found that I enjoyed reading the sections set during the war more than I did the modern-day elements of the story. The chapters set in the past were, at times, heartbreaking, as we saw the effects World War Two had on women of that era. I felt, however, that the modern aspect of the story relied a lot upon coincidence and one part in particular was a tad unbelievable.

I did enjoy reading this book as it was a quick read and the parts about the war were beautifully written. It can be read as a standalone but, if you are interested in this genre, the previous books are well worth a read.

The Spyglass File by Nathan Dylan Goodwin

When a woman asks for help to discover information about her parents, forensic genealogist Morton Farrier, is less than keen. His recent cases have not gone well and with his wedding to Juliette and the prospect of finding out about his own father looming ever closer, his mind just isn’t on the task. He relents, however, and takes the case, leading him to World War Two Britain and an abundance of secrets and lies.

The Spyglass File is the fourth of Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s Forensic Genealogist series, and one that focuses less on the main protagonist and more on the mystery being solved. The amount of research undertaken by the author on the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and their involvement in decoding German transmissions is obvious and makes for a very accurate retelling of the roles of these often overlooked women. It was interesting to read that much of the plot was based on something that the author had discovered in his own family.

As in previous books, the characters are extremely well-written and it is easy to have empathy for the plight of Elsie Finch. Stuck in a loveless marriage at a turbulent time when nothing is the norm, I found myself willing her to have a happy ending. You will have to read the book to find out whether this is the case, but suffice to say the ending was a satisfying, if unexpected, one!

Of course, as in all Morton Farrier books, it would not be right if he did not experience some sort of danger throughout his investigation! If anyone tells you genealogy is a boring hobby, just refer them to this man! Thankfully for Morton, he just about gets away with his life once again!

The ending has set up the next book nicely, so I am presuming we shall be off to America in the next installment. I can’t wait!

The Spyglass File is available to purchase now.

The House at Sea’s End by Elly Griffiths

Dr Ruth Galloway is, once again, needed when the bodies of six men are discovered by archaeologists during an investigation into coastal erosion on the Norfolk coast. Tests reveal that the bodies have been there since the Second World War and soon Ruth and DCI Harry Nelson are trying to uncover the truth. There is still someone, however, that wants what happened to stay hidden – someone who is prepared to kill.

In The House at Sea’s End, we find Ruth trying to come to terms with motherhood – something she is not finding easy due to her determination to carry on with her job at the university and her work with the police. Through her astute writing, Elly Griffiths has shown how hard it is for a single mother trying to juggle her home and work life whilst also being convinced that she is, in some ways, failing her young daughter. Ruth’s relationship with Nelson is also becoming blurred and it is surely a matter of time before the identity of Kate’s father becomes common knowledge.

The story of the six bodies is a fascinating one and gives an insight into the world of the Home Guard during World War Two. Let’s just say that it’s a million miles away from Dad’s Army! It was also interesting to find out a bit more about Ruth’s past with the revelation that she spent some time assisting with the war graves of Bosnia. The appearance of an old friend from that time also gives Ruth the opportunity to think about her life and how she should cherish her child.

Another enjoyable book from the series!

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