Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Review: Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson

The striking cover of this book caught my eye but I wasn't sure if it was going to be my 'thing', because I am not keen on stories told in the format of letters. But my friends were raving about it so I thought I'd take a chance, and I'm so pleased I did.

On impulse Tina Hopgood writes to Professor Glob, who dedicated his book on the Tollund Man to her and her classmates over fifty years ago, asking whether she should visit his museum in Denmark. Unfortunately, the professor died some time ago and instead she receives a reply from Anders Larsen, the current curator. Tina and Anders begin a correspondence, tentative at first, then confiding personal aspects of their lives until they are more than just penpals.

Meet Me at the Museum is a sweet story that reminded me a bit of The Shop Around The Corner, although the two main characters don't secretly know each other or work in a shop! It is a leisurely, subtle read that some might find a bit slow, but once I got into it I did enjoy learning about the very different lives of these two characters, their hopes and dreams, and the tragedies that have made them the people they are. I particularly enjoyed reading about Anders' life in Denmark as I know little about that country, and it was also refreshing to read about characters who are in their (I think) sixties. I loved the snippets of historical detail about the Tollund Man and the way the story ended (no spoilers!). So I have no hesitation in recommending this one - and that cover is gorgeous!

Thank you to Anne Youngson, Transworld/Random House, and NetGalley for my copy of this book, which I received in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Review: The Brighton Mermaid by Dorothy Koomson

My main reason for picking this book was the beautiful cover (at the time I hadn't read Dorothy Koomson's previous book, The Friend). I also liked the idea of a woman so obsessed by a twenty-five year old murder she's determined to solve it herself.

Nell and her friend Jude found the body of a young woman on Brighton beach when they were teenagers and from that moment their lives were changed irrevocably. No spoilers, so I'll just say that every member of Nell's family felt the pond-ripple effect of her discovery.

Twenty-five years later and the mystery of who killed the woman who became known as 'The Brighton Mermaid' is no nearer to being solved. Although Nell now works as the deputy manager in a supermarket, she has developed a sideline in helping people find long-lost relatives using family trees and DNA testing. (She has an ulterior motive with the DNA!) The story starts as Nell takes a year's break from work to use these skills to finally discover the Brighton Mermaid's real identity - she's hoping this will lead to the woman's killer.

I absolutely loved this book! It has all the ingredients I adore - an old mystery, believable but flawed characters, a fabulous heroine, a dysfunctional family, a bit of a romance - and lots of twists! I liked that everything wasn't wrapped up neatly at the end and that I didn't guess the identity of the murderer. I thought the plot was clever and twisty, and it caught me out more than once. I also loved the thoroughly nasty villain. I can't say much more, because of spoilers, but this was one of my favourite reads this year. Recommended, especially for fans of family/domestic murder mysteries and authors such as Lisa Jewell and Harlan Coben.

Thank you to Dorothy Koomson, Cornerstone Digital, and NetGalley for my copy of this book, which I received in exchange for an honest review.

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Thursday, 3 May 2018

Review: Thunder and Roses by Mary Jo Putney

I downloaded this book because it was (a) free (don't judge me!) and (b) I had heard good things about the author. With hindsight, I was a bit too quick to download it because the trope of the heroine offering herself to the rakish hero to save her village is not the kind of story I like. It jars in the current 'Me Too' climate, but mainly it has been done too many times before. Although, to be fair, the story was originally published twenty-five years ago. 

However, the characters are likeable, the story was well-written and the hero-in-peril plot kept me reading. The 'demon' Earl wasn't really bad (surprise!) and the heroine, a Methodist minster's daughter struggling with her religious beliefs, made a refreshing change. The romantic suspense plot revolved around the Earl's coal mine, now leased to an ex-friend, which has become dangerous. As the Earl can't persuade his friend to make the mine safer, he decides to begin quarrying slate on his estate and lure the workers away. Obviously this doesn't end well! I particularly liked that the story is set in Wales and there is mention of Penrhyn Castle, which is just down the road from me.

I wavered between giving this story three or four stars; with hindsight three seems a little mean of me, but I do prefer the romances I read to have some humour in them. However, if you are a particular fan of historical romances, you might consider this a four star read.