Thursday, 3 October 2019

Review: Now You See Them (The Brighton Mysteries #5) by Elly Griffiths

I've just read the first four books in this series, back-to-back, so to get my hands on this one was an absolute treat! I love Elly's books but I can't decide whether I love her Dr Ruth Galloway series best or this one. Do I have to choose?!!

The first four books in the Brighton Mysteries were set in the 1950s and many of the ongoing plot strands were resolved in the fourth book. Now You See Them is almost a reboot, in that we rejoin the characters nine years later. Some of them are no longer with us (I won't say who, but noooo!) but there are several new characters introduced. If you haven't read the others in the series, you could start with this one.

Now You See Them is set in Brighton in 1963. Edgar Stephens has been promoted to Superintendent and is married to Detective Sergeant Emma Holmes. They have three children and Emma has given up her career. Ed's wartime 'Magic Men' colleague Max Mephisto, a music hall magician, is a Hollywood film star but returns to Britain for the funeral of one of their old friends. Edgar, Emma and Max swiftly become involved in the case of a missing schoolgirl, which ends up being a little too close to home.

At first I was grumpy that the series had skipped nine years (and that my favourite character had been killed off!) but I was immediately caught up in the story about three young women who go missing, one after the other, with apparently nothing to connect them. I loved the new characters, WPC Meg Connolly, who is frustrated that she gets all the boring jobs because she's a woman, and female reporter Sam (who we originally met in The Vanishing Box; she has a bigger part to play here) who is similarly frustrated. Female empowerment is an ongoing theme, because Emma has realised that living happily ever after with the man she loves is starting to feel a bit...dull...and longs for the excitement that she once had working for the police.

As well as writing a entertaining mystery (I am never able to work out the villain!) Elly's particular skill is to create brilliant, totally believable characters. She writes with humour and her stories are well-researched with lots of amazing detail. The way Now You See Them ended makes me hope there might be another one coming along soon?

One of my favourite reads this year, Now You See Them is recommended for anyone who loves historical mysteries and the kind of murder mystery that has a puzzle to solve but isn't too violent.

Thank you to Elly Griffiths and Quercus for my copy of this book, which I requested via NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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Thursday, 12 September 2019

Review: The Shape of Night by Tess Gerritsen

I've been a fan of Tess Gerritsen for years and I love her Rizzoli & Isle crime series. Reading the blurb for The Shape of Night, I thought this book might be a return to the romantic suspense Tess used to write. I was partly right; the story is an interesting mix of domestic thriller and ghost story.

Something terrible has happened in Ava's past, something so bad she has cut herself off from her family and rented Brodie's Watch - a spooky old house, high on a cliff, once owned by a Victorian sea captain. But Ava begins to get the feeling the house really doesn't want her there. But does she have more to fear from the living than the dead? Or is the weight of her guilt causing her to slowly lose her mind?

The Shape of Night is basically The Ghost and Mrs Muir meets Fifty Shades of Grey. I did enjoy the story and I read it very quickly because I was so keen to find out what happened! But this is the kind of ghost story where the ghost is real enough to chat and romance the heroine. I much prefer jump shocks! I loved the 'small town murder mystery' vibe, the gothic house and Ava's cute cat, but I really didn't like the BDSM bits, which I felt came over as abusive rather than erotic (this might be what the author intended). And if you've read a lot of crime books, the villain is easy to spot.

Although I enjoyed the story and I'm happy to give it four stars, I'm not sure what kind of reader to recommend this book to. Perhaps fans of cosy mysteries who don't mind a ghost story and a bit of BDSM? The closest thing I've read that compares would be While You Sleep by Stephanie Merritt, although The Shape of Night is not as dark.

I was lucky enough to receive an early copy of The Shape of Night, which will be published in the UK on 3rd October 2019.

Thank you to Tess Gerritsen and Bantam Books (Transworld/Random House UK) for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Review: Mistletoe by Alison Littlewood

I chose this book because I adore ghost stories, particularly Christmas ones, and I loved the sinister-looking cover.

After tragedy strikes, Leah buys the Maitland Farmhouse on a wild impulse. It had belonged to her family decades ago, although she hadn't appreciated how isolated and rundown it is until she moves in and spooky things begin to happen. She can hear voices and children's laughter, catches glimpses of shadowy figures in a mirror, and then finds a sinister old doll...

Alison Littlewood excels at creating a deliciously creepy atmosphere, with the hint of a supernatural presence around every corner. Even plain old mistletoe (which I'd quite liked before!) becomes something more sinister - an allusion of something reaching out from beyond the grave. I had expected more jump shocks but the ghosts, when they do appear, are very solid. Therefore Mistletoe is more time slip than ghost story, as Leah is given glimpses into the lives of those lived in the farmhouse during Victorian times. As a bonus, there is a murder mystery to solve - with a few unexpected last minute twists!

Mistletoe will appeal to anyone who loves Christmas murder-mysteries and ghost stories that take their time creating a truly chilling atmosphere - in more ways than one!

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book, which will be released on 10th October 2019.

Thank you to Alison Littlewood and Jo Fletcher Books (Quercus) for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

I was attracted to this book because of the utterly gorgeous cover and I loved the sound of the 'doorways to other worlds' plot. 

The story starts in the early 20th century. January Scaller is the ward of the super-wealthy Mr Locke. Although his servants and friends sometimes sneer, Mr Locke is kind and courteous to her (provided she does as she is told!) and January lives a privileged life in his huge mansion filled with precious artefacts. As the years pass, January realises her life in a gilded cage, devoid of free will, isn't so great. And that Mr Locke views her in much the same way as the rest of his collection. She takes refuge in a strange old book, about a girl who discovers a doorway to another world, but what if that doorway was real? 

The Ten Thousand Doors of January is a rollicking adventure story that I didn't want to put down. It's a story-within-a-story, a tale of magic realism set in the late 19th century and early 20th century. It reminded me of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series, especially The Subtle Knife, with it's strong female characters and moving between worlds. Whereas His Dark Materials dealt with the use of religion to oppress, this story discusses racism and segregation.

I fell in love with this book and its brilliant characters, and I really didn't want it to end. Thoroughly recommended. My favourite read this year!

Thank you to Alix E. Harrow and Orbit (Little, Brown Book Group UK) for my copy of this book, which I requested via NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Monday, 19 August 2019

Review: Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay

I've been a fan of Linwood Barclay's right from his first book. He is the absolute master of the heart-stopping thriller and Elevator Pitch is one of his best.

The story starts when four people board an elevator in New York. One works for a movie studio and one is a wannabe screenwriter who has blagged his way into the building to hand deliver his latest script. She gives him the chance to pitch her the script before she reaches her floor - but the elevator keeps going, right to the very top - and then plummets. A random accident? Except the next day the same thing happens, and then repeats the day after that. Someone is deliberately sabotaging elevators - but why?

Linwood Barclay is an expert in creating tension and suspense. As much as I enjoyed seeing how the mystery played out, I LOVED how the tension built up each time someone got into an elevator. And Linwood plays with us too, so that every time something different happens. Brilliant!

The characters were great, thoroughly engaging - even the bad guys! And Linwood encourages us to keep changing our allegiances. There's Barbara, the news reporter who has her sights set on the Mayor - but is he as corrupt as he seems? There are also two detectives, trying to solve a murder that may or may not be linked, and a couple of would-be terrorists.

Jam-packed with thrills and literal spills, this was a fabulous five-star read for me and one of my favourite books this year. Recommended for fans of Harlan Coben and Lee Child, and for anyone who loves a cracking good thriller.

Thank you to Linwood Barclay and HQ for my copy of this book, which I requested via NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Review: The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell is one of my favourite authors so I was thrilled to get my hands on an early copy of The Family Upstairs. I was utterly gripped right from the start - I read the second half in a day! It has everything I love in a book - an old family mystery, a big spooky house, and a thoroughly creepy atmosphere.

Libby Jones works hard selling designer kitchens to the rich and famous but still only scrapes a living. She has a long-term plan: a few more years in her job and, if she's not been promoted, she's off. Then she receives a letter. She's inherited a house in the famous Cheyne Walk in Chelsea, worth millions. The drawback? Once the home of a weird cult, it was supposedly the scene of a bizarre suicide pact twenty-five years ago -  the only survivor was baby Libby. But what really happened that night?

The story is told from three points of view. Libby, Henry (a young boy who lived in the house), and a middle-aged woman now living a hand-to-mouth existence in the South of France. How are these very different people connected?

It would be far more fun for you to read this story without knowing too much about it! So I'll just say I loved the old house, with it's 'hidden' (servants') staircase and sinister locked rooms. Henry was my favourite character, along with Miller - the slobby investigative journalist who helps Libby uncover the secrets in her past. There's a nod to a famous 90s movie about a real-life murderer, the story is jam-packed with twist after twist, the characters are thoroughly engaging, and the final line is an absolute classic. Brilliant stuff!

The Family Upstairs is my favourite read this year and I have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone who loves a clever, twisty mystery with a dollop of chilling gothic suspense.  

Thank you to Lisa Jewell and Cornerstone (Random House) for my copy of this book, which I requested via NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Review: Dead Man's Lane (Wesley Peterson #23) by Kate Ellis

I love Kate Ellis's Wesley Peterson crime series and I've read all of them! It is the combination of a fiendishly difficult puzzle to solve running alongside a historical mystery that pulls me in every time.

No one knows how Dead Man's Lane got it's name but everyone's heard of the notorious Strangefields Farm. Twenty years ago, an artist by the name of Jackson Temples murdered four beautiful young girls before he was caught and sent to prison - protesting his innocence all the way. Now someone appears to be copying his murders - or was Jackson innocent all along?

It is hard to review this book without giving away any spoilers! Although I read it in sizeable chunks, I did find it hard to work out who-was-who at the start. There are a lot of characters, but there is a good reason for this, and murder mysteries do need a good choice of potential suspects and victims! Once I got into the book, I was completely gripped and read the last half in one go!

I particularly enjoyed the historical parts, explaining the origins of how that road got its name, and the gruesome deaths (and burials!) that happened at the farm over the centuries. And Kate's plots are always so clever I can never work out 'whodunnit'. I also enjoy catching up with the regular characters and getting a glimpse into how their lives are progressing. (Memo to Rachel: Don't do it!) 

It is not essential to have read the previous books in this series but I feel you would definitely get more out of this story if you have. It would appeal to anyone who loves the 'puzzle' kind of murder mystery or fans of authors who mix murder mysteries and archaeology, such as Elly Griffiths.

Thank you to Kate Ellis and Piatkus for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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Thursday, 25 July 2019

Review: The Wallflower Wager (Girl Meets Duke #3) by Tessa Dare

I do love reading historical romances, especially the funny ones! Tessa Dare wrote one of my all-time favourites, When a Scot Ties the Knot, but this one comes a close second!

The Wallflower Wager is the third in the Girl Meets Duke series but it can also be read as a stand-alone. While the heroes of the first two books were a duke and a duke's heir, the hero of this one has Duke as his surname (a neat twist!). Being a self-made man also made a nice change!

Lady Penelope lives alone in a large house in London, apart from her servants, her elderly companion, and a positive menagerie of rescued animals. The house next door has been bought by Gabriel Duke, who intends to renovate it and sell it at a vast profit. While one huge selling point is the aristocratic neighbour (Lady Penelope) an equally huge minus is her mini-zoo. But the only way Penny will agree to part with her pets is if Gabe promises to find new owners for them. How hard can that be?

The thing I enjoy most about Tessa Dare's books are her lovable, engaging characters and their funny banter. I also loved Delilah the parrot - her language is a running joke throughout the book - and I thought the ending was a nice twist on what usually happens in romantic novels (no spoilers!).

Recommended if you love your historical romances modern, funny and sexy, and enjoy reading authors such as Julia Quinn and Lisa Kleypas. I thoroughly enjoyed The Wallflower Wager and have no hesitation in giving it five stars.

Thank you to Tessa Dare and Mills & Boon for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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Friday, 19 July 2019

Review: A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier

I adore Tracy Chevalier's books and couldn't wait to read this one, which jumped straight to the top of my TBR pile.

A Single Thread is set in the 1930s, when single women were considered 'surplus' because so many men of that generation had died during the First World War. Violet Speedwell lost both her fiance and her brother. After years being worn down by her mother's relentlessly negative comments and outlook, Violet realises she has to make some drastic changes to her life. She starts by moving from Southampton to Winchester and taking on a new job. At first she is lonely, as the women in her office are much younger and they don't seem to have anything in common. But she relishes her independence and soon makes friends with a group of women who embroider kneeling cushions at Winchester Cathedral. Yet soon the threat of another war looms.

While I love historical novels, I hate sewing and anything 'crafty', so in theory I'm not the target audience for this story! However, Tracy's skill at creating fascinating characters soon drew me in and I couldn't put the book down. I particularly loved Violet's fellow 'broderers'; Gilda and her sweet love affair with Dorothy, and also Louisa, who rebelled against the Nazis in her own unique way. I know Winchester and the cathedral very well, and enjoyed reading about all the familiar landmarks. The only thing I wasn't so keen on was the man Violet became obsessed with, as I didn't feel he deserved her. I did like the ending though!

I really enjoyed reading A Single Thread, which is almost a love letter to Winchester Cathedral and the unsung heroes who have worked there over the centuries. I can see it appealing to anyone who enjoys historical novels, particularly those set in the early 20th century.

Thank you to Tracy Chevalier and The Borough Press (Harper Collins UK) for my copy of this book, which I requested via NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Review: Three Days in Florence by Chrissie Manby

I've always loved Chrissie Manby's books, so I couldn't resist downloading Three Days in Florence - particularly as I'd just returned from spending three days in Florence! The book wasn't quite what I was expecting - it's more behind-the-scenes rather than touristy - but I enjoyed it very much!

Florence has always been a bit of a legend in the Courage family. Kathy's parents spent their honeymoon there and always promised to take her back, but it never happened and now her father has died. When Kathy and her boyfriend are invited to Florence to attend a family wedding, Kathy is thrilled - but it doesn't turn out the way she's expecting and it's a disappointing trip. Then a mix-up with the flight home means Kathy is unexpectedly stranded alone for three more days. Will she hole-up at an airport hotel? Or head out to discover if Florence really is the city of her dreams?

Although we don't see Kathy tick off visits to all the tourist hotspots in Florence, we get to see the 'real' city as she's adopted by an adorable Italian family (I LOVED Manu, Henry and Faustino!) and she ends up literally having to sing for her supper. There is a sweet romance and humour - little Manu's attempts to teach Kathy Italian don't go quite the way she is expecting, and Kathy rediscovers the person she was always meant to be. 

I loved Three Days in Florence. It's the perfect holiday romcom and one of my favourite reads this year. I wish the Innocenti family would adopt me! Oh, and I love that cover!

Thank you to Chrissie Manby and Hodder & Stoughton for my copy of this book, which I requested via NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.