Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Review: Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd-Robinson

As per most of the books I read, I was attracted to this one because of the gorgeous cover and intriguing title. I also love reading historical fiction, particularly stories set in Georgian times.

London, 1782. Desperate for her politician husband to return home from France, Caroline 'Caro' Corsham finds a well-dressed woman mortally wounded in the bowers of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. Her last words are "He knows". The Bow Street constables are swift to act, until they discover that the deceased woman was a highly-paid prostitute, but Caro has motives of her own for wanting to see justice done, and so sets out to solve the crime herself.

Before I started reading Daughters of Night, I discovered that the author had written a 'companion' book called Blood and Sugar, about the slave trade, so I read that first. The two books are not part of a series, but they feature some of the same characters. Blood and Sugar features Caro's husband, Captain Harry Corsham as the main character. In this story, it is Caro who takes centre stage.

Daughters of Night works on two levels: s an incredibly detailed look at the double-standards of the Georgian aristocracy - basically, do what you like provided you don't get caught - and also a deliciously twisty murder mystery. I thought I had worked everything out but the identity of the murderer took me completely by surprise. Another theme is the lack of power that women had in those days. Their wealth and property became their husbands as soon as they married. This is brought home to Caro when her brother cuts off her funding after she fails to do as she's told. She even begins to wonder if prostitutes, despite the obvious drawbacks to their lives, are far more free than she will ever be.

I can thoroughly recommended both books to anyone who enjoys a cracking good mystery, and for fans of authors such as Andrew Taylor and Antonia Hodgson.

Thank you to Laura Shepherd-Robinson and Mantle (Pan Macmillan) for my copy of this book, which I requested via NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Review: The Night Hawks (Dr Ruth Galloway Mystery #13) by Elly Griffiths

I love Elly Griffiths's books, particularly her Ruth Galloway series, so I was thrilled to receive an early copy of The Night Hawks. It is a wonderful gothicky murder-mystery, with a nod to The Hound of the Baskervilles, and it's my favourite so far.

Ruth has returned to Norfolk after being offered the role of Head of the Archaeology Department at the university. She is suffering from slight imposter syndrome, not helped by a particular member of staff undermining her at every turn, but she is still DCI Nelson's expert of choice whenever a body is found. In this case, a young man has been found washed up on the beach at Blakeney Point by a group of metal detectorists called The Night Hawks. At first DCI Nelson believes the man drowned accidentally, but then more murders are discovered at the nearby Black Dog Farm - named for the legendary Black Shuck, a harbinger of death... 

The Night Hawks is a fabulous traditional murder mystery, with humour and emotional conflict dished up alongside a fiendishly clever plot. Elly Griffiths takes care to write believable characters you can thoroughly engage with and care about. Ruth has finally landed her dream job, only to be undermined by an irritating mansplainer at every turn. She and DCI Nelson are still involved in their will/they won't they relationship, and fans will be delighted that Cathbad makes an appearance. I loved the gothic edge - a spooky old farm and a legendary ghostly dog. There's even buried 'treasure' - and bodies! I gave up trying to work out who the murderer was and just thoroughly enjoyed the story.

Although this book is number 13 in the series, you don't need to have read the others. Elly explains everyone's backstory deftly and succinctly before getting on with business. The Night Hawks is one of my favourite reads this year. Why isn't it a TV series yet?!!

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

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Saturday, 9 January 2021

Review: The Dressmaker of Paris by Georgia Kaufmann

I was attracted to this book by the absolutely gorgeous cover (a pair of scissors representing the Eiffel Tower). I also love historical novels.

Rosa Kusstatscher has built a global fashion empire upon her ability to find the perfect outfit for any occasion. But tonight, as she prepares for the most important meeting of her life, her usual certainty eludes her. As she struggles to select her dress and choose the right shade of lipstick, Rosa begins to tell her incredible story. The story of a poor country girl from a village high in the mountains of Italy. Of Nazi occupation and fleeing in the night. Of hope and heartbreak in Switzerland; glamour and love in Paris. Of ambition and devastation in Rio de Janeiro; success and self-discovery in New York. A life spent running - but she will run no longer.

The Dressmaker of Paris wasn't quite what I was expecting! I had thought it would be more a glamorous read, like one of those old 80s novels by Judith Krantz or Barbara Taylor Bradford. Instead it is grittier, even a bit dark in places, more like a family saga - so not really for me. The format is a story within a story, meaning we never get right into Rosa's head but witness her life at a distance. However, it is well-written and well-researched, and perfect for anyone who loves 20th century historical fiction, covering the 1930s to the 1990s. A solid four-star read.

Thank you to Georgia Kaufmann and Hodder & Stoughton for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.