Category Archives: mystery

The Watch House by Bernie McGill

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The Blurb:
In the vein of Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites, The Watch House by Bernie McGill is the story of the modern world arriving on Rathlin, a remote Irish island, at the very end of the nineteenth century, with dramatic consequences for a young woman named Nuala.

As the twentieth century dawns on the island of Rathlin, a place ravaged by storms and haunted by past tragedies, Nuala Byrne is faced with a difficult decision. Abandoned by her family for the new world, she receives a proposal from the island’s aging tailor. For the price of a roof over her head, she accepts.

Meanwhile the island is alive with gossip about the strangers who have arrived from the mainland, armed with mysterious equipment which can reportedly steal a person’s words and transmit them through thin air.

My Review:
“The Watch House” by Bernie McGill is an intriguing novel.

Set on Rathlin island, just off the coast of Ireland, it tells the story of Nuala Byrne and her search for love and family. Her parents emigrate to Newfoundland, leaving her with her grandparents, but with the promise that they will send for her. However, the promise is not fulfilled and Nuala finds herself with the possibility of having no home. She accepts the proposal of the Tailor, a man much older than she is, and moves in with him and his sister, Ginny.

Nuala’s dull, loveless life is changed when several men, including Italian Gabriel Donati, arrive on the island at the behest of Marconi. They are there to experiment with wireless communication and Nuala is employed to cook for them. From this time onwards, Nuala’s life takes a different course.

I found this novel to be very interesting. The author had obviously researched the subject of Marconi’s experiments thoroughly and her love of the landscape of the island is plain to see from her descriptions. However, this isn’t a novel that is merely a vehicle for explaining facts. It tells a very moving story of a young woman finding and losing love; of deep friendship and of loyalty. Well worth reading!

I am grateful to NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this novel.

Meet the Author:
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Bernie McGill lives in Portstewart in Northern Ireland. Her first novel The Butterfly Cabinet was published in the UK and Ireland in August 2010 by Headline Review and in the US by Free Press in July 2011. It is available in an Italian translation – La donna che collezionava farfalle – published by Bollati Boringhieri and in Dutch – Charlotte’s vleugels – published by De Fontein. A new edition including new material on the origins of the story appeared in Autumn 2016 by Tinder Press. Bernie’s new book The Watch House was published by Tinder Press in 2017.

Sleepwalkers, Bernie’s first collection of short stories, was published in May 2013 by Whittrick Press and shortlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize 2014. The title story was first prizewinner in the Zoetrope: All-Story Short Fiction Contest (US) and the collection includes ‘Home’, a supplementary prizewinner in the 2010 Bridport Short Story Prize and ‘No Angel’, Second Prizewinner in the Seán Ó Faoláin and the Michael McLaverty Short Story Prizes. Her work has been anthologised in The Long Gaze Back and in the forthcoming The Glass Shore. She is the recipient of a number of Arts Council Awards including an ACES Award in association with the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University, Belfast and an award from the Society of Authors.

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Bring Me Back by B.A.Paris

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My review:

“Bring Me Back” by B.A.Paris is a psychological thriller that I really wanted to like! The blurb had intrigued me – a happy couple on their way back from a holiday; stopping for a break; the young woman has disappeared when her boyfriend returns to the car.

This is how the novel begins and it did draw me in. Finn, the young man, is devastated at the loss of his lovely Layla. After searches had been made, it’s decided that Layla has died. Twelve years pass and Finn’s life improves no end when he meets Ellen, Layla’s sister. Eventually, they fall in love and Finn proposes to her. However, the future which they envision is badly ruffled when it appears that Layla may, in fact, be alive.

Up until this point, I was enjoying the novel, but for me, the middle section dragged and was repetitious. About two thirds of the way through, I had guessed how it would end. I’ve read quite a number of crime novels and prefer more intricate plots than is offered in “Bring Me Back.” The pace picked up again in the final section which helped redeem it for me.

I liked the fact that the story was told through the eyes of both Finn and Layla and although the pace was uneven, the writing flowed. I think this is ideal as a quick, uncomplicated read for the beach or a cold winter’s day.

Thank you to Netgalley for allowing me to access this novel, in return for an honest review.

Meet the Author:

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B A Paris grew up in England but has spent most of her adult life in France. She has worked both in finance and as a teacher and has five daughters. Behind Closed Doors is her first novel.

The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-time by Mark Haddon

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The Blurb:

Fifteen-year-old Christopher has a photographic memory. He understands maths. He understands science. What he can’t understand are other human beings. When he finds his neighbour’s dog lying dead on the lawn, he decides to track down the killer and write a murder mystery about it. But what other mysteries will he end up uncovering.

My Review:

This is another book that I’ve had on my book shelf for years – just like “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “In Cold Blood.” When I eventually thought I should read them, I was delighted to have unearthed such amazing books from my rather large collection of un-read books. I have to admit that I feel much the same about “The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-time”!

The narrator of this well-known tale is Christopher Boone, a fifteen year old, who is on the autistic spectrum. He has Asperger’s Syndrome. His mathematical skills are way ahead of his chronological age and in many spheres of learning, he succeeds despite his disability. As with many people who fall within the spectrum, Christopher has enormous difficulties with social interaction and has developed strategies to help him to cope with overwhelming situations. These include covering his ears and groaning, working out complicated mathematical problems and looking for patterns.

Christopher is also keen on the truth and when a neighbour’s dog is murdered, he is determined to find out the truth behind Wellington’s death. Unfortunately, Christopher’s pursuit of the truth uncovers more than he imagined and leads to all sorts of problems for the boy, his family and neighbours.

This book gives an interesting insight into the mind of a person with Asperger’s Syndrome. We feel his pain when his brain overloads with information and the confusion of his meltdowns. I have taught children with this condition and also have an autistic granddaughter, so I can say that Mark Haddon has done an amazing job in his portrayal of Christopher.

The book is funny, but also tragic. A whole range of emotions are to be found within the pages, but it is such a worthwhile read. I would recommend it to anyone who wants something a little different – I think it is a book that one will remember for a long time.

Meet the Author:

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Mark Haddon is a British novelist and poet, best known for his 2003 novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. He was educated at Uppingham School and Merton College, Oxford, where he studied English.

In 2003, Haddon won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and in 2004, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Overall Best First Book for his novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, a book which is written from the perspective of a boy with Aspergers syndrome. Haddon’s knowledge of Aspergers syndrome, a type of autism, comes from his work with autistic people as a young man. In an interview at Powells.com, Haddon claimed that this was the first book that he wrote intentionally for an adult audience; he was surprised when his publisher suggested marketing it to both adult and child audiences. His second adult-novel, A Spot of Bother, was published in September 2006.

Mark Haddon is also known for his series of Agent Z books, one of which, Agent Z and the Penguin from Mars, was made into a 1996 Children’s BBC sitcom. He also wrote the screenplay for the BBC television adaptation of Raymond Briggs’s story Fungus the Bogeyman, screened on BBC1 in 2004. He also wrote the 2007 BBC television drama Coming Down the Mountain.

Haddon is a vegetarian, and enjoys vegetarian cookery. He describes himself as a ‘hard-line atheist’. In an interview with The Observer, Haddon said “I am atheist in a very religious mould”. His atheism might be inferred from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time in which the main character declares that those who believe in God are stupid.

Mark Haddon lives in Oxford with his wife Dr. Sos Eltis, a Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford, and their two young sons.

After the Fire by Jane Casey

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The Blurb:

After a fire rips through a North London tower block, two bodies are found locked in an 11th floor flat. But is the third victim that ensures the presence of detective Maeve Kerrigan and the murder squad. It appears that controversial MP Geoff Armstrong, trapped by the fire, chose to jump to his death rather than wait for rescue. But what was such a right wing politician doing in the deprived, culturally diverse Maudling Estate?

As Maeve and her senior colleague, Derwent, pick through the wreckage, they uncover the secret world of the 11th floor, where everyone seems to have something to hide…

My review:

“After the Fire” is the fourth Jane Casey novel, featuring D.C Maeve Kerrigan, that I have read and I enjoyed this one as much as the others. Unfortunately, I haven’t read them in order, but that has not detracted from my enjoyment in the least.

This book, the 6th in the series, is sadly topical. It deals with the aftermath of a fire in a tower block of flats, but unlike the awful reality of the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, the death toll is less and the novel deals with the distinct possibility of arson and murder.

The police are quickly involved in the aftermath of the fire, when it is discovered that a politician has died, seemingly by throwing himself out of a window to escape the flames and two more bodies are found in a locked room. There are enough pointers here that police involvement is needed and the ensuing tale unfolds many secrets. One of the early surprises is that the politician, Geoff Armstrong, was strangled before being thrown out of the window. The painstaking murder investigation, alongside the search for an arsonist, kept my interest throughout.

As before, one of the reasons I liked this book so much is the relationship between the characters, especially Maeve Kerrigan and her boss, Josh Derwent. These are not two dimensional; there is real depth to their characters which adds so much to this crime fiction. Jane Casey writes in a style which flows, holding interest. For me, this was a real page turner!

Meet the author:

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Jane Casey is an Irish author of crime fiction novels. She writes the Maeve Kerrigan series. Jane is married to a criminal barrister, which gives her insight into the criminal underworld. Her novels have been shortlisted for the Irish Crime Novel of the Year Award and the Mary Higgins Clark Award and longlisted for the CWA Dagger in the Library Award. She lives in London with her husband, James Norman, and their son.

Jane Casey made her debut as a published novelist in 2010 with the standalone novel The Missing. She followed it up later that very same year with the novel The Burning, which began her Maeve Kerrigan series. Below is a list of Jane Casey’s books in order of when they were originally released:

The Other Hoffmann Sister by Ben Fergusson

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The Hoffmann sisters, Ingrid and her older sibling, Margarete, are taken to German Southwest Africa in 1902, to live on land bought by their father from Baron von Ketz. The Baron, his wife and son, Emil live nearby and “give” their servants Nora and Hans to the Hoffmanns, to help them settle and to make their life more comfortable. It soon becomes clear that Margarete is not emotionally stable and that the hot, arid country does not suit her particularly well.

In some ways, Ingrid settles better. She has her books to read and is given language lessons by Hans. He is well educated and speaks German and French. Time is taken away from these lessons when he has to escort Margarete over to the von Ketz home every week. It is not totally clear to Ingrid why these trips are occurring.

The Hoffmanns eventually leave Africa in a hurried manner, after Baron von Ketz is murdered at the start of a Herero uprising. Hans and Nora are missing, and this is a source of anguish for Ingrid. This younger Hoffmann sister is full of questions about what has happened and what is to come. She loves her sister deeply and cares for her well-being and these feeling for her sister continue on their return to Germany. When Margarete becomes engaged to the young Baron von Ketz, Ingrid has some misgivings. On the wedding night, Margarete disappears and it is presumed that she is dead – drowned in the lake. The rest of the novel is about Ingrid’s search for knowledge of her sister’s disappearance and her reawakened desire to discover what happened to Hans.

A considerable amount of the story takes place in Berlin after the First World War, where Ingrid becomes tentatively involved with the revolution in the city. At times, her searches for the missing are set aside so that she can follow her passion for translating poetry from English and French into German. However, on return to the von Ketz country estate, the anguish of her loss re-emerges, along with her determination to discover the truth.

This was not a particularly easy novel to read, as the pace is variable. At times, the plot seems to come to a standstill, but then, with a new piece of information, or change of scene, it moves along again. Thinking about this, however, I feel now that this is a mirror of Ingrid’s feelings and actions. She was surrounded by unanswered questions and deception; at times, the confusion seemed to overwhelm her and she, herself, came to a standstill. Then, something was revealed to her and she could move on with her quests.

I am glad that I read this book. It gave much food for thought and I was interested in the sections on post war Berlin and the revolution. Much is written about the post war world, but I hadn’t read anything that looked at it through German eyes.

Thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to read “The Other Hoffmann Sister” in return for my honest review.

Meet the Author:8153785

Ben Fergusson is an award-winning novelist. He was born in Southampton in 1980 and grew up near Didcot in Oxfordshire. He studied English Literature at Warwick University and Modern Languages at Bristol University. Since leaving university he has worked as an editor, translator and publisher in London and Berlin and currently teaches at the University of Potsdam.

​Ben’s debut novel, The Spring of Kasper Meier, was selected for the Waterstone’s Book Club, WHSmith Fresh Talent and the BBC Radio 2 Book Club. It was longlisted for the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award and shortlisted for The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. It won the 2015 Betty Trask Prize for an outstanding debut novel by a writer under 35 and the HWA Debut Crown 2015 for the best historical fiction debut of the year. His second novel, The Other Hoffmann Sister, will be published by Little, Brown in 2017.

Let the Dead Speak by Jane Casey

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My review:

 

Although “Let the Dead Speak” is the seventh in a series of crime novels featuring Police Officer Maeve Kerrigan, this is the first that I have read……..and it certainly will not be the last!

Jane Casey’s superb crime novel is so full of intrigue and suspense, that it is difficult to describe the plot in great detail without spoiling the book for others. What appears at first to be a classic case of a bloody and vicious murder turns into much more. Child abuse, fraud, blackmail – all appear as the plot unfolds.

The maze of intrigue and investigation begins when young Chloe Emery returns home unexpectedly, to find her mother is missing and her home looking like an abattoir. The murder squad team, which includes newly promoted D.S. Maeve Kerrigan and D.I. Derwent, are called in and the investigation begins. What appears at first to be a fairly straightforward case becomes anything but when Kate Emery’s body cannot be found and neighbours act suspiciously when questioned.

With each new piece of evidence, with each apparent dead end, the suspense and intrigue grows, making this an unputdownable crime novel. As I said earlier, I have not read the previous six books in this series, but it worked well as a standalone. It has piqued my interest and curiosity to find out more about Kerrigan and Derwent and other cases they have been involved in.

I enjoyed Jane Casey’s writing style. Without being too wordy, she portrays characters and scenes in such a way as to make them live in my imagination.  The characters all have depth and are “real”, to the extent that I cared about what happened to them – or I detested them! I am particularly interested in the past relationship of Kerrigan and Derwent and look forward to back-tracking.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good crime novel     and would like to thank NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review it.

Find out more about Jane Casey and her work on her Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jane-Casey/e/B003VNABHU/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1490280613&sr=1-2-ent

The Riviera Express by T.P. Fielden

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“The Riviera Express” by T.P.Fielden is the first in a series of Riviera Murder Mysteries, featuring Miss Judy Dimont.

Described by some reviewers as a “cosy” mystery novel, this has much more to offer than some books in this sub-genre. It is true that this murder mystery does not contain the blood and violence of many grittier novels, hence the “cosy” label, but “The Riviera Express” is full of intrigue.

When the train, known as the Riviera Express, arrives in Temple Regis, a beautiful seaside town in Devon, it is met by local journalist, Judy Dimont and news photographer, Terry Eagleton.  They are there to meet the famous actor, Gerald Hennessy, who is due to arrive that afternoon. Against all expectations, there is to be no exclusive interview, as Mr Hennessy is found to be dead on arrival! Another death follows fast on the heels of this – that of Arthur Shrimsley, who is found dead at the bottom of the cliffs. It appears that these two deaths are not suspicious, but Judy Dimont soon comes to other conclusions after interviewing several people connected to the two deceased men. It also appears that there was a connection between the two men, which may cast doubt on the coroner’s verdicts of death from natural causes and accidental death.

As well as an intriguing plot, “The Riviera Express” also has some well- drawn characters, particularly the feisty main character, journalist Miss Judy Dimont. This is a woman with a past. We don’t know a great deal about her role in the War, but the many hints are enough for us to know that it was important and secret. Apparently, it was during the War that she gained experience of looking for clues in people’s actions and words, all of which enhanced her post-war role as a journalist for a provincial newspaper, The Riviera Express. This is certainly no cardboard cut-out character and I look forward to reading more of her exploits.

Another aspect of this novel that I enjoyed was the style in which it is written. Set in the late 1950s, the author has written in a way which evokes the era. The novel is rich in vocabulary not in common use – Miss Dimont thinks of the actor-manager of the local theatre as “the old poodlefaker”; the view from a hotel window is described :”….the sea beyond and the still effulgent clouds suspended above, allowed eventide to enter the room and bestow upon its furniture a special glow.” Later, travelling journalists are described as “crumpled journeyman scriveners”.  These little gems, plus touches of humour, enhanced the reading of the book.

All in all, “The Riviera Express” was a thoroughly enjoyable read for me; I hadn’t expected to like it as much as I did, if I’m honest.

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with the opportunity to read and review this book.

Published by Harlequin U.K.

Available from Amazon.co.uk:

Hardcover: The Riviera Express: £12.08

Kindle : The Riviera Express: £7.99

Audio: The Riviera Express: £11.37 or £7.99 with Audible Membership.

Also available from Amazon.com:

Hardcover:The Riviera Express: $9.76