Category Archives: mystery

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

 

Midnight Blue By Simone van der Vlugt, translated by Jenny Watson.

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The Blurb:

A gripping story of ambition and heartbreak set against the backdrop of the fascinating Dutch Golden Age.

Amsterdam, 1654: following the sudden death of her husband, twenty-five year old Catrijn leaves her small village and takes a job as housekeeper to the successful Van Nulandt merchant family. Her new life is vibrant and exciting in a city at the peak of its powers: commerce, science and art are flourishing and the ships leaving Amsterdam bring back exotic riches from the Far East.

When an unwelcome figure from her past threatens her new life, Catrijn flees to Delft. There, her painting talent earns her a chance to try out as a pottery painter. Slowly, the workshop begins to develop a new type of pottery to rival the coveted Chinese porcelain – and Delft Blue is born. But when tragedy strikes, Catrijn has a hard choice to make.

Rich and engrossing, Midnight Blue is perfect for fans of Tulip Fever and Girl with a Pearl Earring.

My Review:

“Midnight Blue”, written by Dutch author Simone Van Der Vlugt and translated by Jenny Watson is an interesting book.


It follows a short period in the life of a Dutch woman, Catrin. During this time, she marries Govert, but very soon, she realises her mistake, as Govert is a wife beater. It is with a certain amount of relief that her husband dies quite soon after their marriage, but Catrin feels she must sell her property and leave her home village. On her travels, she works in a several towns and cities, including Amsterdam and Delft.


The year or so in which we come to know Catrin is a tumultuous time for her. She falls in love, discovers a great talent for painting pottery, but also faces uncertainty and threats from her past. The plague is also a fearful enemy. As I read this story, I came to admire Catrin more and more. Some of her choices in life may not have been completely sound or moral, but her ability to rise above adversity is admirable, I think. I found that I cared about what became of her and followed her tale with interest.


Although set in the 17th century, this is a genre-defying novel. Yes, it is historical, but it is also a murder mystery and a love story, which makes it appealing on several levels. I also enjoyed the descriptions of Holland and especially of Delft; for anyone interested in the development of Dutch Porcelain, this is a good read, as the process is described in considerable detail. Using some real historical figures in the story also piqued my interest – Quentin and Angelika van Cleynhoven, Rembrandt, Nicolaes Maes and Johannes Vermeer are all part of this novel.


I thoroughly enjoyed “Midnight Blue” and wish to thank Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review.

About the Author:

Simone van der Vlugt is an acclaimed Dutch author, well known for her young adult novels. The reunion was her debut novel for adults, it sold over 200,000 copies and was translated into German, French and English.

The author was born in Hoorn and started writing at an early age, submitting her first manuscript to a publisher at 13 years of age. Her first published novel (The Amulet, 1995, a historical novel about witch persecution, for children) was written while working as a secretary at a bank. She went on to write ten further historical novels for young adults.

In 2004 Simone Van der Vlugt wrote her first novel for adults, The Reunion, a psychological suspense thriller. This was followed by another six standalone crime novels. In 2012 she started a series of detective stories featuring Lois Elzinga, based in Alkmaar.

Van der Vlugt lives with her husband and two children in Alkmaar.

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Another You by Jane Cable

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Jane Cable’s “Another You” has much to recommend it.

A contemporary romantic novel, with a mysterious twist, it is set in a beautiful part of England, mainly focusing on the area around Studland Bay in Dorset. I loved the author’s descriptions of this setting, having visited the region many times myself.

Against this backdrop, the story of Marie and her turbulent relationships unfolds. Marie and her estranged husband, Stephen own and run a pub, with the help of their son, Jude, and two other employees.  To escape the arguments with Stephen, Marie often walks along the cliff tops and this is when she meets an attractive American named Corbin.  He is a soldier and she assumes he is staying in the area for a commemoration and re-enactment event concerning the Second World War.

After a while, Corbin seems to disappear from the area, but a different American soldier appears on the scene. Marie finds Paxton very attractive and they embark on an affair.  This is only one strand of this novel, which also looks at the important decisions that Jude has to make about the direction he wants his life to take.

There is much more to the plot than I’ve written about here, but to reveal more would spoil the book for future readers.

I enjoy Jane Cable’s writing very much. There is a flow to her work which makes it such a pleasure to read.  In “Another You” and her  previous novels, she shows such a talent for setting the scene, not by lengthy description, but using well-chosen words. There is also the element of “other-worldly” mystery that I enjoy immensely.  I also like the realistic depiction of the characters and their relationships – Marie’s stressful life with an unpleasant estranged husband and a son, about to take steps into the unknown, were authentic and rang true for me.

All in all, a very good, satisfying read! 

The Spider by Maria Savva

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“The Spider”, latest novel by Maria Savva, has to be one of my favourites by this talented author. I have enjoyed all of her work – novels and short stories – but this one , with its blend of paranormal horror and normality is a real page turner.

 

George, Roisin and their little boy, Robbie, seem to be living “the normal life”, until a meeting with the handsome next door neighbour, Hugh, threatens the solidity of their marriage. George, at the same time, has heard stories of strange happenings in a supposedly unoccupied house in another part of the town where he lives. He and his close friend, Glen, decide to investigate the rumours that people who have entered the house recently have not been seen again. This escapade unleashes all sorts of horror and speeds the unravelling of several relationships.The author successfully entwines the plot lines until a satisfying conclusion is reached.

“The Spider” is full of suspense and chills, but it also delves into the real life problems of infidelity, distrust and loneliness. All in all, a well written and entertaining novel!

More Than This by Patrick Ness

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This is a review that I wrote in July,2015, after my first Patrick Ness experience!

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Seth is drowning. He struggles to survive, but the ocean is too powerful for him and he is dashed against the rocks. He dies.
When Seth regains consciousness, lying half naked on a concrete pathway, he is utterly confused. In a weakened state, he manages to rise and look around him. There is something vaguely familiar about the derelict street in which he finds himself. But what is it? Where is it? How can this be?
Layer upon layer of this fantastical story is laid back to reveal what has really happened to Seth…..or does it?

“More Than This”is an amazing Young Adult story by Patrick Ness. I had not read anything by this author, so had no idea what to expect. What I found was imaginative, wonderful writing, a real page-turner. The story raised many questions for the reader, not only about what exactly was happening in Seth’s life, but also about life itself. Even at my age – a grandmother and in my mid sixties – I found myself thinking deeply about some of the points raised by the author.

This is a novel which looks at the meaning of our lives; friendship; love; guilt; betrayal; the need to know ourselves. These themes were faced by the characters in the book and also presented to us, the readers to think about and to look at their impact on our own lives.

Although I realise that this genre is not for everyone, I think “More Than This” is well worth reading. I shall certainly be looking for more of Patrick Ness’s work in which to lose myself