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World War Two

The Girl From Bletchley Park by Kathleen McGurl

The Present

The Past

In 1942, Pam decides to defer her place at Oxford University to help with the war effort, joining a team of codebreakers in Bletchley Park. Finding herself the subject of the affection of two young men, she makes her choice, setting in motion a series of events that could change her life forever.

The Girl From Bletchley Park is another superb dual timeframe book from Kathleen McGurl. Kathleen seems to have the knack of choosing the perfect eras for these books and she has done it again here, the Buckinghamshire estate being the perfect setting for a book about mystery and betrayal. I visited Bletchley Park several years ago and would thoroughly recommend it as it really brings home how brave and intelligent women like Pam were.

The theme of betrayal runs through both timeframes, albeit betrayal in very different ways. I admired the strength of both women, Pam and Julia, and enjoyed reading a book with such strong female characters who were not afraid to take matters into their own hands when faced with an earth-shattering situation.

I always look forward to Kathleen McGurl’s books and am eagerly waiting to see which historical era she takes us to next.

With thanks to Net Galley and HQ Digital for my copy.

Take a look at my reviews of other books by Kathleen McGurl.

The Emerald Comb 

The Pearl Locket

The Daughters Of Red Hill Hall

The Girl from Ballymor 

The Drowned Village

The Forgotten Secret

The Stationmaster’s Daughter

The Secret of the Chateau

The Forgotten Gift

The Lost Sister

**BLOG TOUR** The Clockmaker’s Wife by Daisy Wood

London, 1940: After their house is destroyed in the Blitz, Nell Spelman flees to the countryside with her baby, Alice, leaving her husband, Arthur behind. Arthur has an important job to do – he is one of the men tasked with keeping the Great Clock at Westminster working and the famous Big Ben chiming.

New York, Present Day: When Ellie discovers a watch belonging to a grandmother she never met, she embarks on an investigation to find out more about her family’s past. When another discovery shocks her to the core, she begins to wonder whether she really wants to know the truth.

The first thing I would like to say about The Clockmaker’s Wife is how pleased I was that the blurb does not give away too much of the plot. Enough to grab my attention, I found myself instantly engrossed in the story, wondering where the author was going to take us. The World War Two setting opens up so many potential twists and turns and we definitely have many of them here!

Although this is told in two time frames, it was the chapters set during World War Two that were the strongest for me as this was where the core of the plot took place. All aspects of the war were covered from the Blitz to evacuation, rationing to the changing role of women. There is a huge element of mystery and intrigue making up the focus for both time frames which was exciting and at times, highly emotive.

The Clockmaker’s Wife is a well-written piece of historical fiction which kept me gripped right until the end and I will definitely be looking out for more books by this author.

With thanks to Ellie Pilcher for organising the blog tour and to Avon and Net Galley for my copy.

**BLOG TOUR** The Lost Girls of Foxfield Hall by Jessica Thorne

Grief-stricken gardener Megan Taylor, tries to put thoughts of her missing in action brother out of her mind by taking a job at Foxfield Hall, restoring the maze in the overgrown gardens. She soon becomes interested in the mystery of the hall’s most famous resident, Lady Eleanor Fairfax, who disappeared in 1939 during the harvest festival. Although no body was ever found, Megan begins to wonder if she could have been murdered. There is also the possibility that she ran away in order to avoid a marriage to someone she didn’t love or could it even have something to do with her father’s war work? Megan finds the maze drawing her in, feeling that the truth could lie inside. Will she discover what happened to Eleanor or will she become the next woman to simply disappear without a trace?

If you had the opportunity to prevent a past tragedy from happening, not knowing how your actions would affect the future, would you do it? This is the dilemma faced by Megan when she is somehow transported back to 1939, days before the disappearance of Lady Eleanor Fairfax. Ellie, as she is known, is about to find her world turned upside down due to the outbreak of World War Two, her fiancé’s involvement in the armed services and her father’s secret war work meaning that she is left in the care of Ava Seaborne, her father’s new secretary. Ava was a mysterious character, this feeling of forebording becoming stronger when Megan encountered a Dr Faye Seaborne. A familial connection or something else entirely?

The Lost Girls of Foxfield Hall packs in an awful lot, switching genres effectively throughout. Part mystery, science-fiction, history and romance, it was the time travel element that fascinated me the most. The two lead characters, Megan and Ellie, were both strong women, Ellie in particular showing great tenacity when faced with her future. Knowing the fate that was about to befall her, yet not knowing exactly how it was to happen, I admired Ellie’s determination to get to the truth, not letting the aforementioned Ava Seaborne stop her in her tracks.

Jessica Thorne managed to blindside me numerous times, leaving me wondering which characters were on the side of Ellie and Megan and which ones were not. This definitely kept me on my toes throughout! In such a complex plot, I was pleased that there were no loose ends left at the end, the story reaching a satisfying conclusion.

With thanks to Bookouture and Netgalley for my ARC and to Noelle Holten for orgainsing the blog tour.

Buy  Link:         

Amazon: https://geni.us/B08WPZDM5GCover

Apple: http://ow.ly/Hg8l50DDmJl 

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**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 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.

 

An Evening With Jo Nesbo

This week, I was fortunate enough to attend an evening with the multi-million selling author Jo Nesbo. Celebrating the twentieth anniversary of his most famous creation, Harry Hole, Jo is currently embarking on a UK tour, promoting his latest book, The Thirst.

In an interview with Jake Kerridge, Jo recalled how Harry Hole first came into being. When asked to write about life on the road with his band, he decided that the old adage, ‘what goes on tour, stays on tour’ was true and so used the lengthy flight to Australia to plan out the first Harry novel, The Bat. His love for his native Oslo is apparent when he speaks and so it was not too long before his books were being set in the Norwegian capital. It could be argued that Harry Hole is now one of Norway’s biggest exports although he does, according to Jo, have a rival in the Norwegian cheese knife!

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His new book The Thirst is, literally, one of Harry’s most blood thirsty cases, dealing with clinical vampirism. A serial killer is stalking the dating app, Tinder, in order to find victims whose blood he can drink. When asked if he’d consulted convicted murderers to aid his research, Jo revealed that he had spoken to a couple but had never been able to use anything in his books. He also spoke about the end of the Harry Hole series which may come fairly soon.

One of the most interesting parts of the evening was when he discussed The Redbreast  his favourite self-written book. This book, set partly during World War Two, had some of its inspiration thanks to Jo’s father’s involvement in the war, fighting on the side of the Germans whilst his mother was part of the resistance in Norway.

One of the biggest laughs came as he talked about his pride in seeing strangers on aeroplanes reading his books, unaware that the author was sitting next to them. He also is known for signing people’s books when he spots them on an unattended sun lounger on the beach. I wonder how many people have been furious when discovering that someone had written on their book, unaware that it was actually Jo’s signature!

The Thirst is available to buy now.

 

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.

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