Review | Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

An entertaining puzzle mystery tailor-made for bookworms. 4/5 stars.

Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson book cover

Thank you to Faber & Faber for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

A series of unsolved murders with one thing in common: each of the deaths bears an eerie resemblance to the crimes depicted in classic mystery novels.

The deaths lead FBI Agent Gwen Mulvey to mystery bookshop Old Devils. Owner Malcolm Kershaw had once posted online an article titled ‘My Eight Favourite Murders,’ and there seems to be a deadly link between the deaths and his list – which includes Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History.

Can the killer be stopped before all eight of these perfect murders have been re-enacted?

My take:

This is such a hard book to review without giving anything about the plot away… but I’ll do my best!

Firstly and most importantly, take a look at the list of books on the main character’s ‘Eight Favourite Murders’ list. If you haven’t read any of the titles and would like to read them at some point without having the endings spoiled, please read them before you read this book! The story here pulls no punches and reveals exactly who did it and how for each of the books on the list.

Rules for Perfect Murders is an entertaining puzzle mystery which plays with a lot of the most popular tropes of the murder mystery genre. It will instantly be of particular interest to bookworms: the main character is a book seller, a lot of the story takes place in a specialist bookshop and the plot revolves around the plots of other books. You’re sure to find this an interesting read if you are a fan of classic whodunnits in the vein of And Then There Were None.

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Review | Paris Adrift by E. J. Swift

More exciting in theory than practice. 3/5 stars.

Paris Adrift by E. J. Swift book cover

Thank you to Solaris for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

Determined to escape her old life, misfit and student geologist Hallie packs up her life in England and heads to Paris. As a bartender at the notorious Millie’s, located next to the Moulin Rouge, she meets Gabriela, who guides her through this strange nocturnal world, and begins to find a new family.

But Millie’s is not all that it seems: a bird warns Hallie to get her feathers in order, a mysterious woman shows up claiming to be a chronometrist, and Gabriela is inexplicably unable to leave Paris. Then Hallie discovers a time portal located in the keg room. Over the next nine months, irate customers will be the least of her concerns as she navigates time-faring through the city’s turbulent past and future, falling in love, and coming to terms with her own precarious sense of self.

My take:

Paris Adrift opens with a scenario familar to all sci-fi fans: a disastrous war in the future can only be prevented by travelling back in time to disrupt the events which will lead to humanity’s destruction. However, after an attention-grabbing opening chapter set a few hundred years hence, most of the story then takes place in the Clichy area of Paris in the early 21st century, with brief trips to other past time periods.

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Review | Mystery on Hidden Lane (Eve Mallow Mystery 1) by Clare Chase

An entertaining whodunnit

Mystery on Hidden Lane by Clare Chase

Thank you to Bookouture for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

Seasoned obituary writer Eve Mallow has a new assignment: to tell the life story of famed musician Bernard Fitzpatrick. A chance to spend a few days in the sweet little village of Saxford St Peter, walking the country lanes with her beloved dachshund Gus and meeting new people sounds like a dream. But it turns out that Bernard’s life was much less interesting than his death. On the day she arrives, news breaks that the charismatic cellist was the victim of a grisly murder. Could this quaint English village be hiding a dark secret?

As Eve starts to interview Bernard’s friends and colleagues, she finds that he’d ruffled a few feathers. In fact, from the keepers of the Cross Keys Inn to his own staff at High House, there’s barely a person in town who doesn’t have some reason to hate him… is one of the friendly villagers a cold-blooded killer?

Eve hoped Saxford St Peter would be the perfect escape from her busy city life. But there is darkness even in the most sunlit of settings. And when a second body is found, Eve becomes certain that one of the people she’s met must be the murderer. She has never done any detective work before… but is there something in her notes that can crack the case?

My take:

This is a very classic mystery in the style of Marple or Midsomer. A beautiful rural setting, small village gossip, a “genteel” murder (and by that I mean the death doesn’t involve gallons of blood and serial killers) … you know what to expect! So if you usually enjoy this sort of classic whodunnit, I highly recommend this book.

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Review | Secret Lives of Mothers and Daughters by Anita Kushwaha (@MsAnitaKushwaha)

Happy UK and US publication day!

Secret Lives of Mothers and Daughters by Anita Kushwaha book cover

Thank you to the author and HarperCollins Canada for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb:

Veena, Mala and Nandini are three very different women with something in common. Out of love, each bears a secret that will haunt her life—and that of her daughter—when the risk of telling the truth is too great. But secrets have consequences. Particularly to Asha, the young woman on the cusp of adulthood who links them together.

On the day after her eighteenth birthday, Asha is devastated to learn that she was adopted as a baby. What’s more, her birth mother died of a mysterious illness shortly before then, leaving Asha with only a letter.

Nandini, Asha’s adoptive mother, has always feared the truth would come between them.

Veena, a recent widow, worries about her daughter Mala’s future. The shock of her husband’s sudden death leaves her shaken and convinces her that the only way to keep her daughter safe is to secure her future.

Mala struggles to balance her dreams and ambition with her mother’s expectations. She must bear a secret, the burden of which threatens her very life.

Three mothers, bound by love, deceit and a young woman who connects them all. Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters is an intergenerational novel about family, duty and the choices we make in the name of love.

My take:

Tackling difficult and emotional themes such as the immigrant experience, mental health and identity, Secrets Lives of Mothers & Daughters is a moving story of the affection, obligations and traditions which maintain and break family bonds.

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Review | Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau

High drama in an evocative setting. 4/5 stars.

Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau

Thank you to Endeavour Media for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

The year is 1911 when twenty-year-old heiress Peggy Batternberg is invited to spend the summer in America’s Playground.

But the invitation to Coney Island is unwelcome. Despite hailing from one of America’s richest families, Peggy would much rather spend the summer working at the Moonrise Bookstore than keeping up appearances with New York City socialites and her snobbish, controlling family.

But soon it transpires that the hedonism of Coney Island affords Peggy the freedom she has been yearning for, and it’s not long before she finds herself in love with a troubled pier-side artist of humble means, whom the Batternberg patriarchs would surely disapprove of.

Disapprove they may, but hidden behind their pomposity lurks a web of deceit, betrayal and deadly secrets. And as bodies begin to mount up amidst the sweltering clamour of Coney Island, it seems the powerful Batternbergs can get away with anything… even murder.

My take:

Although I felt Dreamland got off to a slow start, once the action moves the Coney Island, I found myself becoming increasingly gripped by events. Stick with it!

The descriptions of the area are very atmospheric. I found the period details, particularly the clothes (for some reason!), highly evocative and the author clearly did a lot of research. Setting the story during a heat wave is also a great touch as it adds pressure to all the characters and brings a bit of madness to a already tense situation.

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Review | The Festival Murders (Francis Meadowes 1) by Mark McCrum

A good start to a new mystery series. 4/5 stars.

The Festival Murders by Mark McCrum

Thank you to Black Thorn for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

At the start of one of the English summer’s highlights, the annual literary festival in the pretty little country town of Mold-on-Wold, famous critic Bryce Peabody is found dead in his bed at the White Hart Hotel. At first it seems as if fifty-something Bryce might have succumbed to a heart attack, but the forensics team soon uncover evidence of something more sinister.

Bryce had made many enemies in the past, with his scandalous private life and scathing reviews. Could it be that one of the many writers he insulted in print has taken a bitter revenge? Or perhaps there’s a more personal reason? Unable to help himself, crime writer Francis Meadowes, who is also staying at the White Hart, is drawn into a role he knows only from his own fiction, that of amateur detective.

My take:

This is an entertaining whodunnit. Francis Meadowes gradually becoming the centre of the story, in the role of crime-writer-turned-sleuth, worked well because it gave him a plausible reason to know the details of police procedure. When pondering the circumstances of the murders he tries to imagine they are in one of his plots, particularly when it comes to drawing up a list of suspects. This reminded me slightly of Castle – if any of you are familiar with that TV series – although Francis is far more low key and self-effacing than Richard Castle!

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Review | This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Strange and beautiful. 5 stars.

This is how you lose the time war by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone book cover

I got a copy from my local library. Please use your library as much as you can!

The blurb:

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading.

And thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more.

Except discovery of their bond would be death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war. That’s how war works. Right?

My take:

This book contains so many elements which appeal to me: it’s essentially an epistolary novel while also a sci-fi tale of time travel multidimensional malarkey and an improbable romance struggling to survive against the odds.

The result of this genre mash-up is beautiful, poetic, epic… I run out of adjectives! And this short but perfectly formed book is a particularly staggering achievement given that it’s a collaboration between two authors, one that is completely seemless.

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Review | Gone (Dr Bloom #1) by Leona Deakin

A promising series opener which sadly faded towards the finish. 3/5 stars.

Gone by Leona Deakin book cover

Thank you to Random House and Transworld for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

Four strangers are missing. Left at their last-known locations are birthday cards that read:

YOUR GIFT IS THE GAME.
DARE TO PLAY?

The police aren’t worried – it’s just a game. But the families are frantic. As psychologist and private detective Dr Augusta Bloom delves into the lives of the missing people, she finds something that binds them all.

And that something makes them very dangerous indeed.

As more disappearances are reported and new birthday cards uncovered, Dr Bloom races to unravel the mystery and find the missing people.

But what if, this time, they are the ones she should fear?

My take:

Gone is the opening installment of a new series which features an intriguing heroine. And Dr. Augusta Bloom comes as a breath of fresh air if you feel you’ve read about enough brilliant detectives with apparently obligatory issues with drink, drugs or family. The good doctor is instead a PhD psychologist, specialising in psychopathy, who collaborates with the police and, all in all, appears to be a fairly together individual who is still good at her job!

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Review | The Family by Louise Jensen

Another suspense-packed page turner from Louise Jensen. 4/5 stars.

The Family by Louise Jensen book cover

Thank you to HQ for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

ONCE YOU’RE IN, THEY’LL NEVER LET YOU LEAVE.

Laura is grieving after the sudden death of her husband. Struggling to cope emotionally and financially, Laura is grateful when a local community, Oak Leaf Organics, offer her and her 17-year-old daughter Tilly a home.
 
But as Laura and Tilly settle into life with their new ‘family’, sinister things begin to happen. When one of the community dies in suspicious circumstances Laura wants to leave but Tilly, enthralled by the charismatic leader, Alex, refuses to go.
 
Desperately searching for a way to save her daughter, Laura uncovers a horrifying secret but Alex and his family aren’t the only ones with something to hide. Just as Laura has been digging into their past, they’ve been digging into hers and she discovers the terrifying reason they invited her and Tilly in, and why they’ll never let them leave…

My take:

I’ve read and reviewed all of Louise’s previous books (The Sister, The Surrogate, The Gift and The Date) and I’m very pleased to say that in The Family she has produced yet another page-turner. In fact, trying to find something original to say has proved almost impossible as this book is more of her winning formula. Safe to say: if you have enjoyed all/any of her previous psychological thrillers, you should put The Family on your Christmas list!

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Review | Bone China by Laura Purcell

Another creepy dose of gothic madness and melancholia. 4/5 stars.

Bone China by Laura Purcell book cover image

Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft’s family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken. But Dr Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the same disease in the cliffs beneath his new Cornish home. While he devotes himself to his controversial medical trials, Louise finds herself increasingly discomfited by the strange tales her new maid tells of the fairies that hunt the land, searching for those they can steal away to their realm.

Forty years later, Hester Why arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralysed and almost entirely mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try and escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers that her new home may be just as dangerous as her last…

My take:

I’ve read and enjoyed Purcell’s previous two books. The Silent Companions is a masterclass in creating an oppressive atmosphere and a big spooky house for characters to rattle around in. I didn’t feel The Corset was quite as successful, but it was another entertaining story with plenty of twists and turns. Continue reading…