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Friday 17 November 2023

The Antique Hunter's Guide to Murder by C. L. Miller


I do love it when an author makes a debut with an absolute cracker of a novel. This is just that. It's a book of many layers: it starts with some tantalising hooks, and gradually, the layers are peeled away to reveal how and why a beloved antique dealer is murdered, and how and why his prodigy hasn't spoken to him in twenty years. It's all to do with Cairo, you see. And a bird. Full synopsis here.

The author's upbringing involved being surrounded by antiques, so, that and meticulous research has resulted in a convincingly authentic basis for a murder. There's a brilliant cast of characters: Freya, Arthur the antique dealer's resentful prodigy, her deliciously flamboyant and a teensy bit eccentric aunt and then, of course, those dodgy family members residing at Copthorn Manor, any of whom could have snuffed poor old Arthur out.

Well written, well characterised, well strategised. Thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyable and a very commendable debut novel. I want more from this author!

Friday 3 November 2023

Paw Prints and Problems by Carly Winter

I enjoy the odd cozy mystery or two…they don't have to be credible, but they do have to be entertaining (and well written and well edited).

This didn't quite tick those three boxes. Gina is a pretend Miss Marple (and a dog rescuer), who has a talking dog (that only she can hear, of course), and is on a mission to exonerate her restaurant-owner friend whose chef is found murdered. The local sheriff seems to think she's guilty. Gina, naturally, believes otherwise. Full synopsis here.

It's all a bit silly. Again, I don't mind silly, but it's that 'E' word again…it has to be entertaining. It wasn't really. It's poorly edited, and as far as Gina's concerned everyone's a 'jerk' (the word was used sixteen times), including the poor golden retriever, Zeus, that was dumped on her doorstep. A jerk is 'a useless or idiotic person'.  Dogs, and Zeus especially, aren't 'jerks'…only their owners are.

I'd recommend it for a very easy read that requires little concentration, but if you want something that's fun, a bit gritty and satisfying, sadly this isn't it.

Monday 23 October 2023

The Kamogawa Food Detectives by Hisashi Kashiwai


I rarely enjoy translated books because many of them are translated by people for whom English is a second language, and the result is invariably a bit stilted. This, though, was extremely well translated and the prose flowed very fluidly.

However, I struggled a bit with the actual story. A father-and-daughter detective duo…food-detective duo, in fact…try to recreate dishes for their customers for whom a dish from their pasts is sentimentally significant.  (Full synopsis here)

Each of the six chapters focusses on a different client. Whilst each has a different memory and reason for recapturing the essence of the pertinent dish, the format of each chapter was the same. I found this a little tedious and repetitive. Maybe it's because I don't understand the Japanese food culture, but the endless description of every food that went into the dishes (do onions from different areas really matter? An onion is an onion to me).

It was quite a departure from my usual diet of crime thrillers, but it didn't really grab me. I was actually quite glad it was a short book. If you live to eat rather than, like me, eat to live, I reckon you'll find this a treat.

Saturday 21 October 2023

And Then There's Margaret by Carolyn Clarke


It's a bold move to banner a book with 'laugh-out-loud dramedy'. It really does have to live up to that, and that's always tricky because comedy is subjective.

Honestly? There's very little comedy, laugh-out or otherwise, in this: perhaps the odd wry phrase/remark, but that's about all. However, if you read this and forget the promised 'comedy' flavouring, you do actually get a very decent read.

It's a bit clichéd (mother-in-law from hell), but it's worth committing to it to see how Ally (the hard-done-by daughter-in-law) deals with her, and how (and why) the pair finds a middle ground. (Full synopsis here)

Very definitely five-star worthy but for the lack of promised comedy and many very naughty editorial oversights, for example: 'between Hank and I…' (dear oh dear), many apostrophe sins and the detention-worthy 'was sat'. It's a classy novel, so this was disappointing.

Nevertheless, highly recommended.

Friday 6 October 2023

Mrs Pargeter's Patio by Simon Brett


Not having read a book by Brett before, it only took a few pages for me to realise I was really going to enjoy this book. I was a smidge concerned, this not being my first Mrs Pargeter mystery, that I might be a bit at sea, not knowing what's gone before, but this is perfectly stand-alone.

This is a cozy mystery, Mrs P being a present-day Miss Marple (a rather startling discovery under her patio requires her enlisting the assistance of her late husband's 'business associates'.) (Full synopsis here) It's very well written, wonderfully tongue in cheek and a joy from start to finish. (I will forgive the erroneous use of 'less' for 'few' and the 'head nodding' tautology.)

Having subsequently discovered Brett's written dozens of books, I wanted to shelve all the books on my TBR and just zip through all of his, but I shall honour my reading list and settle for punctuating with the occasional Brett penmanship!

Wonderful characters with wonderful names and some wry humour in sparkling dialogue: just a lovely, entertaining read. I can't wait to read more.

Wednesday 27 September 2023

The Icehouse by J J Richards


I feel this author still has his L plates on. This was very much a work in progress. There are a whole lot of rookie errors, the worst being that the services of a good editor must have been completely overlooked. Grammatical errors were rife, as were spelling errors (here, here for 'hear, hear' and broach for the jewellery accessory 'brooch' amongst the many), two characters had momentary name changes and the continual use of the very incorrect 'was stood' and 'was sat' wore me down. Add to that the inexplicable use of Americanisms (gotten, math, meter) and, well...

And that's just for starters. DCI Walker and PC Briggs pair up to solve a seemingly ritualistic murder(s) and one that has alarming similarities to a cold case of particular interest to Walker. (Full synopsis here). The irritating thing was Richards insisted on referring to Walker and Briggs and all their colleagues constantly with their titles. The reader is well aware of their positions by about the third or fourth reference, so the constant use of them was very tedious.

Although the dialogue is bland and awkward and sometimes a bit inane, the plot had legs until the rather silly and unbelievable ending.

Not a satisfying read and a very poorly edited one.

Monday 18 September 2023

Just Keep Climbing by Barry Finlay


I don't often pick up books of this genre, which is really silly because every time, I'm glad I did. This is no exception.

I'm no stranger to Finlay: I've read and thoroughly enjoyed three of his novels, so I needed no persuasion at all to read this.

This is a collection of a handful or so people's life-changing challenges. The people are very diverse: age, circumstance, colour, nationality. The contrast to their diversity is their one commonality: they have a goal, or rather, a 'mountain to climb', a summit to reach, all of which require a great deal of strength (mental and physical) and gritty determination. (Full synopsis here)

Interesting and inspiring though they are, what I enjoyed just as much was the author's own mountain to climb: a literal one, as it happens! That and some background of his life, along with what steered him along the authorial path after a completely different career, are as fascinating as the stories of inspiration.

A truly wonderful read.

See Also:

Searching for Truth
The Burden of Darkness
The Guardians of Truth

Wednesday 6 September 2023

Missing in Shadows by Tanya Nellestein


This book is very definitely worthy of five stars but, sadly, due to poor editing, one's got to go. Any editor who misses the plethora of apostrophes used to pluralise needs to be 'let go': especially if that same editor keeps confusing 'too' with 'to'. Too many schoolboy errors here tainted the whole book, just a bit, alas.

But for that, it's a cracking story: a newly-relocated-to-USA Aussie ex-detective teams up with a young and, of course, very handsome widowed police chief. In between the will-they-won't-they vibe, they're a force to be reckoned with when they team up to get to the bottom of a mysterious bodyless car accident, the nature of which dictates that there really ought to be a very injured person if not a dead one. Full synopsis here.

Really well written (bad editing notwithstanding) and well balanced. The crime and solving thereof is perfectly weighted against the attraction between the two crime solvers.

I was delighted to discover that the next Townsend and Gray is imminent. I'm really looking forward to that (but better edited) and hopefully, many more thereafter.

Sunday 3 September 2023

Murder on the Dance Floor by Shirley Ballas and Sheila McClure


Strictly used to be a firm favourite in our house, but it became a bit too much of a (repetitive) good thing after a few series, so highlights and snippets are now enough. Shirley Ballas is very personable and an entertaining head judge, so I was intrigued by her first foray into the literary world.

Partnering with a Mills and Boon author, though, probably wasn't the best idea: this book is predictable, clichéd, stereotyped. I really do hope it was all tongue in cheek because it's all a bit daft. It's overly wordy and hard to take any character seriously, with names like Cyril de Boeuf and Marmaduke.

As the title suggests, someone's knocking off people in the dance world. The revelation of the perpetrator's beef and his final intended victim causes some serious eye-rolling.  (Full synopsis here)

So with the very silly story, seriously bad e-reader formatting and rather poor editing, I can't rate this very highly. It's difficult to assess on Ballas's skill as a writer, as the book was co-written. Perhaps she needs to go it alone.

Monday 14 August 2023

The Holiday Bookshop by Lucy Dickens


My favourite genre is thrillers, in which, of course, for the most part, bad things happen! So every now and then, it's nice to read something light and refreshing. This fits that bill: once you've got familiar with the characters and a general gist of the plot, you know more or less how it's going to end and that it will be pretty much how you wanted and happily. Okay, yes: predictable! But, it's easy to read and untaxing for the ol' grey matter.

In this, we've almost got a bit of a travel guide thrown in, as two besties, who co-own a coastal bookshop in southwest England, take a break from each other after a minor disagreement: one in Las Vegas, ticking off her bucket list with her boyfriend, and the other in The Maldives, where she's taken a three-month job to turn around the fortunes of an on-site bookshop in a luxury holiday complex.

It's an enjoyable story of a friendship that's rock solid, wobbles a bit, then goes back to being rock solid. Throw in some romance and you've got your summer beach read.

But, Mr or Ms Editor: when you get on a bike, you pedal, you don’t peddle (seriously?). And please, learn the difference between less and few.

That aside, an entertaining, fun, light-hearted read that's well written.

Monday 24 July 2023

The Beach Party by Nikki Smith

Smith is not an author I'm familiar with, but the signs I was going to enjoy her work were good when I found myself engrossed after only a few pages. But…oh yes, there's a but…I am not a fan of present-tense narrative. I absolutely hate it. I've never found an instance where it works, and it certainly doesn't here. It's almost strangulating. As the story is told over two time frames, about thirty years apart, I did hope the past story, at least, would be in the past tense. But no, more stultifying present-tense narrative. Alas. One star lost, I'm afraid.

Nevertheless…it's a gripping story about revenge. Revenge is a dish best served cold, they say. In this instance, I'd say it's frozen pretty solid…it's had over thirty years to ice over. Six university friends go on a Spanish holiday, and the partying takes a dramatic turn. Thirty years later, the events of one tragic night come back to haunt them.

Despite the fact that it's hard to like any of the six…they range from an arrogant bully to a compliant minion…it's a gripping story, well written for the most part (spelling/grammatical errors), and the characters, despite their unlikeability, contribute to a tense and gripping story.

Despite the oh-so-tiresome present-tense narrative, I'll definitely read more of this author.

Monday 17 July 2023

Terminal Threat by DV Berkom


My reading year is only complete when a Leine Basso thriller is in it. It's Leine: it's always going to be a rollercoaster ride. So, when you learn our favourite ex-assassin Leine is about to settle into a new, peaceful life in a small coastal Italian town, you know that just isn't going to happen. Trying to save the locals from an extortionist inadvertently finds her at the business end of revenge. You can't be an assassin without making enemies who have long memories, especially when one of them who thought she was dead, discovers otherwise. (Full synopsis here)

At which point, you can forget about enjoying Leine's sun, sea and gelato-filled siestas and prepare for your roller-coaster adrenaline fix! Leine is just as skilful and magnificent as ever.

This is my twentieth book by Berkom. It's every bit as compelling, fast-paced and brilliant as the first. This is an author (without doubt my favourite) who packs a mighty punch in everything she writes and 'The End' always makes you sigh a 'how long till the next book?'. I hope there's another Basso thriller. She's never going to have a quiet life, now, is she?

See also:

Tuesday 4 July 2023

Perfect Strangers by Araminta Hall


Despite the messy ending of Our Kind of Cruelty, the first book I read by Hall, I was impressed enough to pick up another novel by the author.

This is a story of three good friends and how two of them cope with their grief after one is murdered. (Full synopsis here) Of course, it's not just a case of life after the loss of their best friend, it's also about the secrets about the deceased each has.

Whilst I enjoyed this and found it compelling, I did find it a little intense, and the endless unparagraphed passages of each of the women's insecurities and dissatisfaction with their lot were rather tedious…to the point I very nearly just wanted to shake them and tell them to grow up and either stop moaning and deal with it or change it. Ultimately, they were each victims of their own life-style choices, so the incessant 'poor me' outpourings are rather grating.

No messy ending for this book: neatly conclusive in a rather 'wow, I wasn't expecting that' way. On the whole, an enjoyable book, but I have to say, the editing is dreadful: countless grammatical and punctuation errors, missing or misplaced words. 'Were sat' can never be forgiven: new editors required, Ms Hall.

See also:

Fast Cash by J. Gregory Smith


I first 'met' Kyle Logan five years ago in book #1, so it was a pleasure to catch up with him, albeit three books later.

He's still…let's say 'equalising'…righting wrongs outside the parameters of the law, but getting the right results. This time he's got two projects: fraudsters preying on the elderly and getting them to hand over their life savings. The trouble is, these swindlers are operating from India. Secondly, virtually on his doorstep, Kyle's receiving distressing reports of a fast-growing band of home fixers who won't take no for an answer. But for Kyle and his merry band, all in a day's work! (Full synopsis here)

As with the first Kyle Logan book, it's smart, sharp, fast-paced and gripping. There's a great cast of characters and snappy dialogue. My tick list for a compelling thriller has been very satisfactorily all checked off.

I might just have to do a bit of filling in and catch up with books #2 and #3!

See also:

Tuesday 20 June 2023

Who She Was by Tony Parsons


I've read three of Parsons's books, all of them in the very enjoyable DI Max Wolfe series, so it was intriguing to read something quite different by him.

"Secrets and lies eat away what is good and leave only destruction." (Cassandra Clare) They very certainly do. This has you scratching your head throughout. Who's lying, who's telling the truth, who’s keeping secrets? How can one mysterious woman change so many lives? (Full synopsis here).

I enjoyed this, but I was just a smidge frustrated by the either/or ending. However, that's just a little niggle. Parsons's expertise and talent for writing a captivating story is all in there in bucket-loads.

See also:

Saturday 3 June 2023

Fear the Silence by Robert Bryndza


Bryndza is one of my favourite crime thriller authors. So far, I've read books in his Erika Foster and Kate Marshall series, so this is a first, for me, of his stand-alone books.

It's always a pleasure to read Bryndza's books: not only is he an excellent writer who pens a cracking story, but a very considerate and humble one too. His first port of call in his acknowledgements ia his readers. I love that…to all authors who forget their readers, please take note!

I thoroughly enjoyed this (full synopsis here). My heart was in my mouth virtually from page one…the suspense is heart-stopping. And what an explosive ending. At about ninety per cent, Bryndza gives the impression that it's all over bar the shouting and almost has you thinking, 'really…is that it?', and then pow!

Series or stand-alone, whatever. If Bryndza's written it, I'm going to love it!

See also:

Monday 29 May 2023

The Vulture Fund by Jeff Buick


My fifth book by this author. I'm quite the fan. Buick never disappoints. Quite the contrary, in fact: he wows every time.

This is the third in the Curtis Westcott series, in which Curtis and his team are investigating two seemingly isolated deaths. The investigation uncovers how greed, inevitably, leads powerful people to do unspeakable things.  (Full synopsis here)

Once again, Buick makes you buckle up, fasten your seat belts and enjoy a fast and furious ride on the journey to the truth, dipping and diving the whole way. Every single Curtis Westcott mystery has been a joy to experience and leaves you wanting more. Buick writes with conviction, gives you characters with credibility, and if you like a book you can't wait to pick up and never put down, then his are those books.

I want more, a whole shed-load more, of Curtis Westcott.

See also:

A Killing Game
No End of Bad Guys
One is Evil
The Wrong Side of Murder

Saturday 13 May 2023

The Wrong Side of Murder by Jeff Buick


I've read three books by this author, the last one about two and a half years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed them all, but it only needed one to put him in my favourite-author list. He's a very talented writer, who packs a punch with some deliciously meaty crime thrillers. So it was very exciting to dive into the second of the Detective Curtis Westcott series.

Gosh, I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed Buick's penmanship. I was immersed from page one and firmly hooked right to the last page. Research and attention to detail is second to none, and I love that the main (very likeable) character, Westcott, is generous enough to give centre stage to a member of his homicide team, Aislinn, as she investigates an unsolved twenty-year-old cold case. (Full book blurb here)

Complex, but utterly compelling, with characters you can truly invest in, there's a nail-biting (and wonderfully unpredictable) finish.

I'd forgotten that getting to The End with Buick's books fill you with a bit of dread…in an 'oh no, how am I going to follow that' sort of way. But, this time, I was enormously relieved by the fact that I was able to dive straight into the third in the series.

Excellent, just excellent.

See also:

Wednesday 26 April 2023

Grave Expectations by Alice Bell


I didn't quite know what to expect with this…a thirty-year-old medium, Claire, and her seventeen-year-old ghostly companion, Sophie, trying to solve a (maybe murder) mystery.

I thoroughly enjoyed it. The dialogue between Claire and Sophie is wonderful, and there are some laugh-out-loud moments. It's entertaining and, quite simply, jolly good fun. It reminded me a bit of the TV comedy, Ghosts. In fact, I can quite easily see this on TV.

The only thing that irked me a little was the gender neutrality of one of characters. 'They' was thoroughly confusing; I really thought it referred to more than one person every time. And the gender of the character (which was obvious in any case) was mentioned in one slip-up. But, it was to the characters in the book to whom 'they' wanted to be gender neutral. I didn't think it was necessary for the reader (yes, yes, I know it's all very woke).

But…I loved the book, the story, and the premise. It's delightful, great fun, amusing and well-written.

More please, Ms Bell!

Saturday 15 April 2023

Nothing Ventured by Jeffrey Archer

It's a good couple of decades since I've read a book by Jeffrey Archer. The only reason is that so very many (hundreds!) other books have ended up on my TBR, they pushed those by my favoured authors out of my mind. So I thought I'd revisit one of my erstwhile favourites with this, the first in the Detective William Warwick books.

Archer hasn't lost his knack, that's for sure. It's really well written, easy to read, totally absorbing, moves along at a cracking pace and great fun. I love that the series starts right at the beginning of Warwick's police journey. In this, we see him embark on his detective career with the arts and antiquities squad, investigating the theft of a priceless Rembrandt. His success no doubt will determine his future. The art interest also gifts him with his love interest, all expertly interwoven to provide an enjoyable and entertaining read. I did, in fact, guess the little twist at the end, but it still raised a smile of satisfaction.

Note to self: don't wait another twenty years to read the William Warwick #2.

Sunday 2 April 2023

The Monk by Tim Sullivan


I adore Sullivan's DS Cross books. Cross is a highly intelligent, meticulous and autistic detective. In this, he has to apply his uniqueness to finding the person who murdered a monk. The how was evident, but the why was the elusive question because why would anyone want to kill a monk? We have a further insight into his personal life (and personality) when he finally learns why his mother left him when he was a young boy. Details he, with his very special acuity, finds it not altogether straightforward to process.

Sullivan has the knack of giving you an easy read, despite twists, turns and complex plot. It's enthralling, fast-paced and he gives you not only the charismatic DS Cross, but wonderful characters in his police team.

Sullivan is a brilliant author and in Cross gives us a wonderful, intriguing and enigmatic character, who isn't hard to like.

I've now read two Cross books. Very fortunately, I have at least two more to look forward to.

See Also:

Tuesday 21 March 2023

Confessions of an Indian Immigrant: Dawn of IT Opportunities in the Land of Promise by Aithal


The first book I read by Aithal was 'India was One', which is absolutely charming. Shortly afterwards, I learnt he is an Indian living in America. The question did vaguely cross my mind, 'I wonder how/why he finds himself in the US'. Well, now, from this very engaging and interesting account, I do!

Fortunate to be in the path of opportunity, he didn't really have to overcome extreme adversity whilst building his new life in the US; it all worked out comparatively hassle-free for him. It was, yes, a big, big leap, a massive change of culture and very distressing to leave his nearest and dearest for a while, but a job, a (modest) income, some good friends and relatives were all instrumental in making his transition that bit easier.

It's a very enjoyable 'memoir', learning how Aithal gradually fitted into his new way of life with his wife and family, and how he gradually adapted to the very different customs, family dynamics, food and way of life in the US.

It's an easy read…Aithal engages the reader as if he or she is sitting right there beside him having a bit of a chitchat! Pop it on to your ereader…you won't regret it.

See also:

Thursday 2 March 2023

Summer's Runaway by Rebecca L. Marsh


After this, my fifth book by this author, I can safely say Marsh is most definitely in my 'favourite authors' list.

Apart from her immense skill in writing with emotion and conviction, Marsh brings you characters you can totally believe in and get wholly immersed in. Where Hope is Found's story continues here, its characters and their lives having moved on a couple of years. But a new one enters: runaway, twelve-year-old Hallie. And how brilliant Marsh is at getting into the head of a pre-teen. It's not an easy thing. Whilst you may remember what you were like at twelve (I don't), a generation (or two!) later, twelve-year-olds are quite different. It's a joy to be in the former characters' company again and Hallie is an added bonus.

Have the cast and their lives got legs for another book? I don't know. It would be lovely to meet up again, of course, but actually, I'll be happy with anything Marsh writes next.

I just hope it's not too long a wait.

Sunday 26 February 2023

Where Hope is Found by Rebecca L. Marsh


I didn't need any introduction to Rebecca Marsh. I've read three of her books. I guess the fact I've read more than one more or less confirms what I think of her as author. Her skill is taking a tragedy or trauma, cramming it full of heartbreak, managing to wring out every last bit of emotion from her readers, but then bringing the story to an uplifting end. And…manages to leave you wanting more. How's that for skill?

The tragedy in this is quite a whopper, but it's all about dealing with loss, facing a different future and finding hope in what that brings. Not just for the main character, Marissa, and her eight-year-old daughter, but Marissa's brother too, who faces a different kind of upset. Cleverly done, it's powerful, emotional, poignant, but Marsh very subtly gives you confidence that you will turn that frown upside down by the end.

As for the wanting more…well, in this case, not a problem: there is a sequel (don't panic, they're both stand-alone!). So it was with the greatest of pleasure that I dived straight into the next book.

Saturday 25 February 2023

In a Thousand Different Ways by Cecelia Ahern


My first Cecelia Ahern book. Perhaps not the best choice for my debut with this author.

Pet hate number one: present-tense narrative. This just didn't work (it never, ever does) and especially when used during a flashback.

There was a lot of toing and froing between past and present, but there was no indication of the change, so it got very messy and confusing. There was a dramatic leap in the last ten per cent, where the main character went from being pregnant with her first child, to then having three children, then eight grandchildren. Bish bash bosh…all done in a few pages.

It's an intriguing story about Alice, who sees people's energies and emotions in colour: synaesthesia, and how it affects her. Well executed and for the most part well written. The present-tense narrative was a big negative for me as were some bad grammatical errors…even the editor didn't pick up the misuse of 'less and few' amongst them.

Despite the reader being totally overlooked in the author's acknowledgements (we do matter, you know), I was somehow quite immersed and I was impressed by the writing. The big question is, will I read more of this author? Hmm. Maybe. Hopefully, the next book won't be the ghastly present-tense narrative.

Wednesday 15 February 2023

The Trial by Rob Rinder


How disappointed I was…

…to finish this book. I just wanted it to go on and on. Not just to be in Rob Rinder's authorial company, but also in trainee barrister Adam Green's.

Rob Rinder's legal background certainly gives this courtroom drama authenticity and he uses it well. Turns out Judge Rinder is quite the gifted writer. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel following Adam Green's first case: a tricky one in which he is to second his pompous disinterested pupil master in the defence of an ex-con accused of the murder of a seemingly exemplary police officer.

There are twists and turns and surprises all the way, all skilfully interwoven. I will forgive his editor's oversights: was stood/was sat (oh so naughty) and a date that was a year out…because Rinder has a glowing future in the literary world. If Adam Green has future cases to solve, I'll be all over them like bees to a honey pot. Or indeed any other novel by Judge Rinder.

Monday 6 February 2023

The Cat Who Caught a Killer by L T Shearer

It's only after the first few pages that Conrad the calico cat (the one in the title) appears. No problem with that, I like cats. It just that…he talks. I thought, oh good grief, really? But I'm a 'I started so I'll finish' kind of reader, so after a few more pages in, I was surprised to find I was enjoying this. Really enjoying this!  It's a bit silly, yes, but fun silly.

There's incredibility, of course (you know, talking cats and that), and some not very believable characters, but essentially, there's a good plot in there. Suspend your disbelief and it's an entertaining read. The main character is a recently widowed retired police detective whose elderly mother-in-law, Emily, dies unexpectedly. A bit too unexpectedly, dementia notwithstanding, so her detective instincts kick in and she investigates. And the cat? Well, the cat walks onto her houseboat one day. And talks to her—as they do.

As I said, quite daft. But the author writes really well, and gosh, she managed to keep me entertained and glued to the end.

Dare I say, I'm rather hoping there's another instalment of the Lulu and Conrad adventures!


Wednesday 1 February 2023

Girl, Forgotten by Karin Slaughter

Though slightly irked by slack editing in the three Slaughter books I've read, she is without doubt a terrific author, so I can't resist her books. 

This picks up a character from Pieces of Her. One who, in that book, actually developed quite dramatically: Andrea. She transformed from a rather aimless and ambitionless young lady…and if I'm honest, slightly irritating…to being a trained US Marshal. Her intelligence and rationality really blossom. Her first official case is a hard one; it's a cold case with a personal connection to her. I must confess I enjoyed this more than Pieces of Her. 

A case that's forty years old means there's chopping and changing between two time frames, but this is done well, and there's a good pace to the story. I was unable to predict the dramatic outcome, and despite all ends being neatly tidied up, the latch isn't quite on the door. There's just the smallest chink of light, which I hope means we'll meet Andrea again. Slaughter's talent is in giving us diverse and interesting characters, a compelling plot and intelligent writing. I'm that much of a fan of hers, I will forgive her for forgetting to thank her readers in her profuse thanks to Tom, Dick and Harry and all in her acknowledgements.

See Also:

Monday 9 January 2023

The Library Suicides by Fflur Dafydd


Not my cup of tea at all. Firstly, there's no indication at all that this is fantasy/dystopian, and I'm not a fan of those genres. I spent the first few pages wondering why there were no temporal or geographical roots to the story. It just seemed in limbo. Could have been any country, any time.

Secondly, not one character is remotely likeable: not twins Ana and Nan, who are hell-bent on killing the novelist/critic, Eben, whom they believe sent their mother, Elena, to her suicide. Not Eben, not feminist Elena, not Dan, the ex-con porter working in the library where the whole plot plays out. 

There is no doubt that Dafydd is a skilled writer, but I found this to be laboured and over-intense and if I'm honest, rather tedious. I always finish a book but it was hard-going and not that enjoyable.

There's a long list of people to thank in the author's acknowledgements. Very nice. However, she seemed to have forgotten the most important people: her readers. I'm not impressed.

Monday 2 January 2023

Death of Television: The COVID Murders Mystery: Book Two of Two by Conal O'Brien


I think it's important to point out that this is not a sequel, but part two. It quite literally picks up where it left off at the end of book 1. Imagine a two-part TV drama with an ad break in between (in this case a year-long ad break!). With no recap or reminders, I confess I did struggle a bit to remember the many characters and slightly complex plot, as it's been twelve months since I read the first part, with quite a number of books in between displacing its memory!

However, everything did fall into place eventually, and I soon fell into step with Artemis Bookbinder, erstwhile member of the NYPD turned NYPD advisor. Book 1 was very prescient, as we were still in the grip of covid and its harsh restrictions: Artemis's character is a germaphobe, so he didn't fair too well in that climate; he's still assisting in the hunt for his wife's murderer and the resurgence of evidence relating to an unsolved thirty-year-old priceless-art theft, but learning to cope better in the less constrictive post-covid world.

I was reminded how much I enjoyed the first part and, importantly, of the author's writing talent. The conclusion was one I never saw coming, one which makes you utter 'wow, I'd never have guessed that!', which I always think confirms a story well written.

Whilst in all honesty I'd have preferred the two parts to have been one book, this was still a cracking read, and I hope Artemis has many more challenging cases to solve.

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