A solid series opener. 3/5 stars.
Thank you to Bloomsbury, Raven Books and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.
The blurb: The start of an enticing new historical series set in Victorian London; introducing Leo Stanhope: a transgender coroner’s assistant who must uncover a killer without risking his own future
Leo Stanhope. Avid chess player; assistant to a London coroner; in love with Maria; and hiding a very big secret.
For Leo was born Charlotte, the daughter of a respectable reverend. But knowing he was meant to be a man – despite the evidence of his body – and unable to cope with living a lie any longer, he fled his family home at just fifteen and has been living as Leo: his secret known to only a few trusted people. But then Maria is found dead and Leo is accused of her murder. Desperate to find her killer and under suspicion from all those around him, he stands to lose not just the woman he loves, but his freedom and, ultimately, his life.
I’m partial to stories set in the Victorian period, a mystery and original characters, and The House on Half Moon Street promised all three.
The descriptions of Victorian London are very successful. The details are excellent, and the passages which conjour up the dingier, fogbound parts of the city were particularly evocative.
A gripping story let down by its final act. 4/5 stars.
Thank you to Penguin UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.
Breaking: Nuclear weapon detonates over Washington
Breaking: London hit, thousands feared dead
Breaking: Munich and Scotland hit. World leaders call for calm
Historian Jon Keller is on a trip to Switzerland when the world ends. As the lights go out on civilization, he wishes he had a way of knowing whether his wife, Nadia and their two daughters are still alive. More than anything, Jon wishes he hadn’t ignored Nadia’s last message.
Twenty people remain in Jon’s hotel. Far from the nearest city and walled in by towering trees, they wait, they survive.
Then one day, the body of a young girl is found. It’s clear she has been murdered. Which means that someone in the hotel is a killer.
As paranoia descends, Jon decides to investigate. But how far is he willing to go in pursuit of justice? And what kind of justice can he hope for, when society as he knows it no longer exists?
This is certainly an attention-grabbing scenario! You may read the blurb and think, “yeah, but how real will the story seem?” The answer? Scarily so. Maybe it’s because the narrator is a historian and attempting to record everything as factually as possible that makes the narrative feels very realistic. The reactions of all the characters to the end-of-the-world scenario are believable and as varied as they are. The hotel guests are an interesting mix of nationalities and personalities which makes for some dramatic clashes. Also, obviously, being cut off from the world with winter setting in and food supplies dwindling puts pressure on everyone that has to boil over in places.
A tough, moving story about learning to live with loss. 4/5 stars.
Thank you to the author and Inanna Publications for providing me with an e-copy of this book.
The blurb: Kavita Gupta is a woman in transition. When her troubled older brother, Sunil, disappears, she does everything in her power to find him, convinced that she can save him. Ten days later, the police arrive at her door to inform her that Sunil’s body has been found. Her world is devastated. She finds herself in crisis mode, trying to keep the pieces of her life from falling apart even more. As she tries to cope with her loss, the support system around her begins to unravel.
In the wake of tragedy, if a fresh start is possible for Kavita? Will she escape her problems and start over? Or will she face the challenges of rebuilding the life she already has? Side by Side is a story about loss, growth and the search for meaning in the wake of tragedy,
From reading the blurb, you’ll appreciate this isn’t an easy read. Side by Side is an unflinching look at loss and, more specifically, survivor’s guilt and the maelstrom of emotions experienced when losing a loved-one to suicide.
However, this is not a depressing book. The story is structured in three acts entitled Fall, Crawl and Rise. As this makes clear, while you’ll reach a point where things look rather bleak for the main character they do eventually start to get better. And although the story is tough, it is definitely worth sticking with, as it’s wonderful to see how Kavita grows through her darkest moments of grief and emerges stronger and wiser.
An ambitious murder mystery. 3/5 stars.
Thank you to HarperCollins UK and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book.
The blurb: During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.
They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.
Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.
The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.
Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.
Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?
I was excited to read this as it looked like an interesting combination of some classic murder mystery tropes with darker thriller elements. Perhaps I went in with inflated expectations because sadly I was left disappointed.
I appreciate that the author is trying to take a different approach to a classic murder mystery problem. Like many “closed suspect pool” mysteries, the story starts with the discovery of a body, leaving the characters and us to work out who the murderer is. The Hunting Party runs another mystery in parallel to the “whodunnit” by also keeping back who the victim is until confirming the identity of the deceased at about the 80% mark. Continue reading…
Thank you to HQ Digital and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.
Outback Australia, 1981
After a terrible childhood, Jane comes to Thornfield as nanny to the adorable Adele, watched over by the handsome and enigmatic Edward. Plain and inexperienced, Jane would never dream of being more than his hired help. But swept up in the dramatic beauty of the Outback, she finds herself dawn to Edward. And, to her surprise, he seems to return her feelings.
But Jane is not the first woman Edward has pledged to make mistress of Thornfield.
As a child, Betty was taken from her English home and sent for adoption in Australia. At first, no-one wanted her, deeming her hair too curly, and her skin too dark. Until the scheming Mr Mason sees a chance to use Betty to cement a relationship with the rich and powerful Rochester dynasty…
When Jane discovers Betty’s fate, will she still want to be the next Mrs Rochester?
Earlier this year I read and reviewed Juliet Bell’s first novel, The Heights, an excellent retelling of Wuthering Heights. I enjoyed seeing how the story worked when moved to the twentieth century, so was pleased to hear Juliet Bell’s next novel would be a reimagining of Jane Eyre, one of my all-time favourites. I was particularly intrigued when the blurb made it clear this was a radical shift from the original, moving the story over a hundred years closer to the present and thousands of miles away from its English setting.
As the temperature drops outside, curl up with heart-warming novella. 4/5 stars.
The blurb: Sometimes hot cocoa just isn’t enough to keep you warm in the snow…
Eloise is too busy juggling the chaos of three kids, an ever present ex-husband and a demanding boss to even remember the last time dating crossed her mind.
But as soft snow falls silently all around, romance twinkles with the flakes.
After being single for so long, Eloise suddenly has a lot of choices. Too many choices. Will anyone be worthy of melting the guard around her heart to let love in?
Whether you’re a fan of the festive season or dreading its approach, you have to admit that November is zipping past and December 25th will be here in a blink. So if you fancy reading something wintry to get you into the holiday mood or escape from the crush of Christmas advertising, B. R. Maycock’s new novella, Snowday, is for you.
This is a fun, heart-warming romance with a sympathetic main character. If you’ve ever had too much on your plate or struggled to juggle everything in your life, you’re sure to empathise with Eloise’s many dilemmas. I mean, who hasn’t resorted to making the kids/themselves dinner from a box from the freezer more often than they think they should?!
Bask in some winter sun with this charming holiday romance. 4/5 stars.
The blurb: When Annie Roberts has the chance to escape rainy Accrington for the glamour of sunny Nice, it seems like a dream come true, even if it does involve dog-sitting a pampered pooch for the winter.
But, once in France, despite trying to adopt a classy persona, Annie attracts the attention of all the wrong people: from Jacques, an attractive waiter, to Reen, a perma-tanned expat from the Costa del Sol. And just who is the charming Monsieur Xavier who is so keen to befriend her? Dare she enlist his help to solve the mystery left behind by her France-obsessed mother? Can Annie find her way through all the lies, intrigue and deception or is she just too nice for Nice?
Last year I was delighted to read and review Lynn Forth’s debut, Love in La La Land (click on the title for my review). I’m very pleased to report she’s back with her second novel: a story set slightly closer to home than the bright lights of LA. In Love, Lies and Cafe au Lait we follow the main character, Annie, to Nice as she takes a break from the greyness of her life in Manchester, propelled to the south of France by her more colourful friend, Sophie. If you can only dream of getting away to some winter sun, this novel has it in spades as we join Annie exploring the old town, trying to blend in with the locals at the market and finding a regular cafe where she can simply relax and soak up the atmosphere.
A cracking yarn retold for today. 4/5 stars.
Thank you to HarperCollins UK and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book.
The blurb: Beautiful, brilliant, ruthless – nothing can stop Becky Sharp.
Determined to leave her poverty-stricken roots behind her, Becky Sharp is going to take every opportunity offered to her to climb to the top. Whether it’s using her new BFF Amelia Sedley to step up into the rarified world of London’s upper classes, or seducing society’s most eligible bachelors, Becky Sharp is destined for great things – at any cost.
From London to Paris and beyond, the world is there for Becky’s taking – even though some people are determined to stop her along the way…
Vanity Fair (1848) is one of my favourite books, so I jumped at the chance to read The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp.
This is a fun retelling of Vanity Fair in a contemporary context. Free from all of Thackeray’s more (perhaps) long-winded sections, the story zips along, honing in on what makes the original book so brilliant – Becky Sharp – and refocusing the narrative so we’re under no illusions as to which character is the star. That said, just like in Thackeray’s version, Manning’s Becky is also made to earn her time in the limelight, leaving the other characters, and us, slack-jawed in her wake.
Irish Gothic is alive and well. 4/5 stars.
Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book.
A Keeper will be published on 4th October 2018.
The blurb: The mystery of Elizabeth Keane’s father is one that has never been solved by the people of Buncarragh – not for lack of speculation.
Her mother Patricia had been assumed a spinster, until she began dating a mysterious man from out of town, and within months had left Buncarragh and had married. Less than two years later, Patricia was back, with a new baby in her arms, but no new husband by her side and unbendingly silent about her recent past. A secret she would take with her to her grave.
Now, as Elizabeth returns to the village after her mother’s funeral, bringing with her her own regrets and wounds, she finds a thin pile of ribbon-bound letters at the back of a wardrobe that may at last hold the key to her past.
I must apologise if this review comes across as muddled. I’m trying incredibly hard to avoid spoilers as I think you’ll get the most from this book if you go in knowing as little as possible, as I did.
This story is a fascinating mix of a present day thread which seems all too familiar – someone coming home to deal with the estate of a dead relative and unearthing family secrets – and a past thread which made me think “WHAT?!” more than once. I have to be vague to avoid spoiling it, but this past part of the narrative is brilliant, moving flawlessly from a sweet, if slightly unusual romance, to something more sinister but not altogether unexpected (the seeds of doubt are sown subtly, but they’re there).
Everything you’d expect from Poirot, if that appeals to you! 3.5/5 stars.
Thank you to HarperCollins UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.
The blurb: The world’s most beloved detective, Hercule Poirot – the legendary star of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and most recently The Monogram Murders and Closed Casket—returns in a stylish, diabolically clever mystery set in 1930s’ London.
Returning home after lunch one day, Hercule Poirot finds an angry woman waiting outside his front door. She demands to know why Poirot has sent her a letter accusing her of the murder of Barnabas Pandy, a man she has neither heard of nor ever met.
Poirot has also never heard of a Barnabas Pandy, and has accused nobody of murder. Shaken, he goes inside, only to find that he has a visitor waiting for him — a man who also claims also to have received a letter from Poirot that morning, accusing him of the murder of Barnabas Pandy…
Poirot wonders how many more letters of this sort have been sent in his name. Who sent them, and why? More importantly, who is Barnabas Pandy, is he dead, and, if so, was he murdered? And can Poirot find out the answers without putting more lives in danger?
It hasn’t been long since I read an original Poirot story and so I can confidently say I’m impressed with how convincingly Sophie Hannah imitates Christie’s style. I also like that she gives us more narrative viewpoints than you get in most classic Poirot stories. We get to see events from Catchpole, Poirot and a few of the minor characters’ POVs and it’s a great way to drip feed us information as the puzzle pieces slowly slot into place.