Category Archives: cosy mystery

Sunday Post – 29th April, 2018

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

I should have kept quiet – we are back to cool, showery weather with really chilly nights. Though the cherry and blackthorn trees are all looking fabulous and branches are now disappearing under the profusion of new leaves, so Spring is thoroughly under way. Not that I’ve been out to enjoy it…

It’s been a mare of a week, where I’ve been running on the spot to keep a nose ahead of all the deadlines thudding into play. Normally, I am far more organised – the reason being that I don’t cope well up when taking everything up to the wire. It didn’t help that the stress of it caused my headache to make a return during the whole of Monday, easing up just sufficiently for me to stagger into college for the first session of the term in the evening. But I was still thick-headed and below par right up until Friday. The good news – I managed to hit all those targets and Tim passed his Speaking and Listening exam with flying colours. Miranda’s Tempest will be going to the editor on time, I’ve finished my short story and my summer term Creative Writing course is now under way. Phew! I’m hoping the coming week is a LOT easier…

This week I have read:

Witch at Heart – Book 1 of the Jinx Hamilton series by Juliette Harper
Jinx Hamilton has been minding her own business working as a waitress at Tom’s Cafe and keeping up with her four cats. Then she inherits her Aunt Fiona’s store in neighboring Briar Hollow, North Carolina and learns that her aunt has willed her some special “powers” as well. They say admitting you have a problem is the first step and Jinx has a major problem. She’s a brand new witch with no earthly clue what that means. Throw in a few homeless ghosts, a potential serial killer, and a resident rat and Jinx is almost at her wit’s end. Thankfully she has the unfailing support of her life-long BFF, Tori and it doesn’t hurt that there’s a hot guy living right next door.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one, particularly when I wanted an upbeat, chirpy read while coping with a low-grade headache that nonetheless made life less than fun… And this engaging offering ticked all the boxes – review to follow.

 

Before Mars – Book 3 of the Planetfall series by Emma Newman
After months of travel, Anna Kubrin finally arrives on Mars for her new job as a geologist and de facto artist-in-residence. Already she feels like she is losing the connection with her husband and baby at home on Earth–and she’ll be on Mars for over a year. Throwing herself into her work, she tries her best to fit in with the team.

But in her new room on the base, Anna finds a mysterious note written in her own handwriting, warning her not to trust the colony psychologist. A note she can’t remember writing. She unpacks her wedding ring, only to find it has been replaced by a fake…
I have loved this series so far and this tense thriller doesn’t disappoint. Newman’s nuanced protagonist had me turning the pages later than I should have been, as I was very keen to find out what will happen next. I’ll be reviewing this one during the week.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 22nd April 2018

Review of Still Me – Book 3 of the Me Before You series by Jojo Moyes

Teaser Tuesday featuring The Hyena and the Hawk – Book 3 of the Echo of the Falls series by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring Crimson Ash by Haley Sulich

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Head On – Book 2 of the Lock In series by John Scalzi

Friday Face-off – When a knight won his spurs… featuring Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Guest Post – Lindsey Duncan discussing how she developed entertainment in her sci fi novel Scylla and Charybdis

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Smorgasbord Laughter Lines – Observations on Life – Old Farmer’s Wisdom and the Centre of the Universe! https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/04/24/smorgasbord-laughter-lines-observations-on-life-old-farmers-wisdom-and-centre-of-the-universe/ It’s been the kind of week where I needed a few laughs along the way – and these made me chuckle…

A Short Analysis of Emily Dickenson’s ‘I Started Early – Took My Dog’ https://interestingliterature.com/2018/04/26/a-short-analysis-of-emily-dickinsons-i-started-early-took-my-dog/ Another storming offering from this oh-so-interesting site…

Girls, Girls, Girls – Why Are There So Many “Girls” in Mysteries and Thrillers? https://thebookishlibra.com/2018/04/24/discussion-girls-girls-girls-why-are-there-so-many-girls-in-mysteries-thrillers/ An excellent article about something under our noses that needs examining in a bit more detail.

Self Editing: 7 Tips to Tighten the Story & Cut Costs http://authorkristenlamb.com/2018/04/self-editing-writers/ The mighty Kristen Lamb at her fabulous best.

Dying for Space: A Review https://powerfulwomenreaders.wordpress.com/2018/04/25/dying-for-space-a-review/ Yep. I know – it’s my own book. But when this plopped into my Inbox, I was on the floor and it cheered me up immensely, reminding me why I do this. So I’m sharing it with you…

Have a great week and thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site.

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Shoot for the Moon 2018 Challenge – February Roundup

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Mhairi Simpson, and I, once again, sat down to write a series of very ambitious targets for 2018 when the year was only a few days old. After the success of the last few years, I have become a real fan of this process as it has given me clear targets to work towards throughout the year and then at the end of every month, hold myself to account in fulfilling these goals. So how did I do in February?

• Rewrite Miranda’s Tempest
After completing Miranda’s Tempest and sending it out last year, I am hoping to have my rewrite completed by the end of March, using the feedback from an agent who has shown interest in the manuscript. She further suggested that I send it to a professional editor before resubmitting it to her, which I intend to do.
 As is often the case, now that I have the completed manuscript, I can see how to improve it further. Though I shall be glad to finish this one – it rides on my shoulders like a demon… I have contacted an editor who is willing to plough through the manuscript in June – so I now have a hard deadline to work to, which is always a help.

• Learn to market my books
I conducted my first giveaway for Running Out of Space along with an Amazon ad and given it was only for 24 hours, I was pleased with the result. I have some extra keywords to add and I’m going to be tweaking my description on Amazon. I have also added the covers for my two self-published novels to my blog site.

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog
I read 13 books in February – and the standout ones for me were the space opera adventures – Into the Fire by Elizabeth Moon; The Hyperspace Trap by Christopher Nuttall and Queen of Chaos by Sabrina Chase.
I have undertaken to read at least 24 books this year written by women authors previously unknown to me as part of the Discovery Challenge, thanks to Joanne Hall’s post. In February, the 4 books I’ve read towards my Discovery Challenge 2018 are:-

Keeper of the Watch – Book 1 of the Dimension 7 series by Kristen L. Jackson
Chase Walker is beginning to doubt his own sanity. From the moment he turned eighteen, a strange paranoia has taken over his mind. It all started the moment he discovered his uncle’s old watch… The watch calls to him. Though it beckons, he resists. His body strains toward it, blood pulsing, heart pounding in a mysterious and primitive need to connect with his uncle’s old beat up watch.
An entertaining parallel dimension adventure that really got going after an unexpected twist halfway through which I found original and engrossing.

Going Grey – Book 1 of The Ringer series by Karen Traviss
Who do you think you are? Ian Dunlap doesn’t know. When he looks in the mirror, he’s never sure if he’ll see a stranger. After years of isolation, thinking he’s crazy, he discovers he’s the product of an illegal fringe experiment in biotechnology that enables him to alter his appearance at will…
Tense contemporary sci fi thriller tale with plenty of action and adventure. While the writing is good, there were aspects regarding this book that I didn’t like, so I decided not to review it.

Fire and Bone – Book 1 of the Otherborn series by Rachel A. Marks
Sage is eighteen, down on her luck, and struggling to survive on the streets of Los Angeles. Everything changes the night she’s invited to a party — one that turns out to be a trap.
Thrust into a magical world hidden within the City of Angels, Sage discovers that she’s the daughter of a Celtic goddess, with powers that are only in their infancy. Now that she is of age, she’s asked to pledge her service to one of the five deities, all keen on winning her favor by any means possible. She has to admit that she’s tempted — especially when this new life comes with spells, Hollywood glam, and a bodyguard with secrets of his own. Not to mention a prince whose proposal could boost her rank in the Otherworld.
I really liked how this story draws on the myths of the Celtic gods and goddesses and look forward to reading more about this world.

The Magic Chair Murder: a 1920s English Mystery – Book 1 of the Black and Dods series by Diane Janes
The night before she’s due to make a speech to the Robert Barnaby Society on the subject of the famous writer’s ‘magic chair’, committee member Linda Dexter disappears. When her body is discovered two days later, fellow members Frances Black and Tom Dod determine to find out the truth about her death. Could Linda have discovered something about Robert Barnaby that got her killed? Or does the answer lie in the dead woman’s past? As they pursue their investigations, Fran and Tom find the Barnaby Society to be a hotbed of clashing egos, seething resentments and ill-advised love affairs – but does a killer lurk among them?
I loved this one, which firmly follows in the footsteps of Agatha Christie’s whodunits in realising the time and the intricate plotting. Highly recommended for fans of historical murder mysteries.

• Continue teaching TW
We are now working on the final elements of this two-year syllabus for Tim’s COPE project, which needs to be handed in by Easter, so it’s a rather stressful time. Tim is also in the throes of editing the film that was shot last autumn and making very good progress with that. When I see what he now achieves on a daily basis and measure that against what he could manage only a couple of years ago, I cannot get over just how much he has progressed and continues to do so.

• Continue to improve my fitness
I have now resumed my Pilates and Fitstep classes – I wish they weren’t on the same day, but at least I get to jig around once week. With the continuing cold weather, I have gained more weight than I wanted, though I’m hoping to lose most of it for the summer. My hip has been a bit grumbly during the cold, but it is easily sorted out, these days.

I have read a total of 24 books this year, including 7 towards my 2018 Discovery Challenge and 5 towards my Reduce the TBR Pile Challenge. My wordcount for the month, including blog articles and teaching admin as well as work on my novel, was just under 43,000, bringing my yearly total to the end of February to just over 86,000 words.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Magic Chair Murder: a 1920s English Mystery – Book 1 of the Black and Dods Mysteries by Diane Janes

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Once again, it was the cover that attracted me to this offering, along with the emphasis on it being a 1920s murder mystery. I really like that era, being a fan of Agatha Christie and an even bigger fan of Dorothy L. Sayers, so I hoped that Janes would prove to be an entertaining read.

1929. The night before she’s due to make a speech to the Robert Barnaby Society on the subject of the famous writer’s ‘magic chair’, committee member Linda Dexter disappears. When her body is discovered two days later, fellow members Frances Black and Tom Dod determine to find out the truth about her death.

This is the very simple premise that sets up the story, where a guest speaker inexplicably disappears during a conference and when her body is later discovered, it is assumed she has committed suicide. Both Frances Black and Tom Dod don’t believe this is the case and are determined to get to the bottom of why Linda is murdered.

I loved this one – Janes has taken care to set up the story and establish the characters in much the same way as Christie did. There is also no shortage of likely candidates when it comes to working out who the murderer is. As the investigation proceeds, we also learn more about Frances and Tom – and why the pair of them might be very willing to spend time and energy worrying about a problem that has nothing to do with their own daily routines. Despite this story consciously harking back to the past, there is no sentimentality in Janes’s depiction of the 1920s. The shadow of the Great War is still lying heavily across the country and although women have been granted the vote during the previous year, the manner in which Frances is frequently dismissed makes me very glad that I wasn’t born in that era.

I was also impressed with the worldbuilding and the level of historical detail throughout – at no time did any of it jar. What you don’t get with this book is foot to-the-floor action as the story builds steadily while Frances and Tom discover yet more facts and clues surrounding Linda’s life. Nonetheless I was immersed in the world and wanting to know exactly why Linda was murdered and who did it.

One of the pleasures in reading this type of crime novel is trying to guess the culprit and while I won’t claim to be particularly good at it, I can report that I didn’t guess whodunit, yet the murder and why it was committed made complete sense. I came to really like Frances and I’m going to be looking out for more books in this series – luckily it seems that Diane Janes is a prolific author. Yippee! While I obtained an arc of The Magic Chair Murder from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10

Sunday Post – 25th February, 2018

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

I’ve been back in the thick of it as term time has resumed at Northbrook. We had a department meeting this week, which was the most exciting in years with a new head who is very focused on expanding the role of Adult Learning in the college and in the community. I am now thinking about next year’s courses.

On Wednesday evening we had a great meeting with our Writers’ Group and are discussing the possibility of going on a week-long writers’ retreat in Devon at the start of October. During Thursday, my staunch writing buddy Mhairi came over and we discussed our projects, when she stopped me taking Miranda’s Tempest off on a new shiny direction that was luring me away from my former narrative arc. That’s what writing friends are for, people!

On Friday, Himself and I collected Frances from school so we were able to catch an early train to London on Saturday, as Grimbold Publishing were part of a featured event laid on by Forbidden Planet. I’ve never been to this store before – and found I’d arrived in heaven. In addition to being able to catch up with wonderful folks like Kate Coe and Jo Hall – there were all these books… shelves and shelves and shelves allll devoted to science fiction and fantasy! Frances was equally thrilled at the range of manga comics, so after a lovely afternoon chatting about books, browsing among books and buying books, we came home again… Though the trip home on the train was a tad quiet as we’d all buried our noses into our favourite reading matter.

Writing-wise, it hasn’t been a great week, but let’s hope I can do better in due course. Though it has been a very good reading week, given that I had some time after my meeting on Tuesday and a train journey to and from London to fill…

This week I have read:

The Hyperspace Trap by Christopher G. Nuttall
A year after the Commonwealth won the war with the Theocracy, the interstellar cruise liner Supreme is on its maiden voyage, carrying a host of aristocrats thrilled to be sharing in a wondrous adventure among the stars. The passengers include the owner and his daughters, Angela and Nancy. Growing up with all the luxuries in the world, neither sister has ever known true struggle, but that all changes when Supreme comes under attack…
This is a really enjoyable adventure set on a passenger liner – think Titanic in space. I loved the slow build so we get to know the characters and care about them, before it all hits the fan. There are plenty of twists, though I did see a couple of them coming. All in all, an excellent read for fans of quality space opera.

 

Into the Fire – Book 2 of Vatta’s Peace by Elizabeth Moon
When Admiral Kylara Vatta and a ship full of strangers were marooned on an inhospitable arctic island, they uncovered secrets that someone on Ky’s planet was ready to kill to keep hidden. Now, the existence of the mysterious arctic base has been revealed, but the organisation behind it still lurks in the shadows, doing all it can to silence her.
I loved Cold Welcome, the first book in this series, so I was delighted when I realised this offering was now available. It picks up immediately after the first book, when everyone has returned home and should be relaxing with their loved ones after such a terrible ordeal – only that isn’t happening. Once more Moon is cranking up the tension in this, well told futuristic thriller.

 

The Magic Chair Murder: a 1920s English Mystery – Book 1 of the Black and Dods series by Diane Janes
1929.
The night before she’s due to make a speech to the Robert Barnaby Society on the subject of the famous writer’s ‘magic chair’, committee member Linda Dexter disappears. When her body is discovered two days later, fellow members Frances Black and Tom Dod determine to find out the truth about her death.
This cosy murder is consciously set in the 1920’s tradition with a slow buildup and plenty of prospective suspects. I thoroughly enjoyed the historical details of Fran Black’s life, which takes a hard look at the lot of a woman living on her own at a time when they had only just got the vote. This one held me right to the end and I am definitely going to be looking out for more books, in this entertaining series.

 

The Writer’s Guide to Training Your Dragon: Using Speech Recognition Software to Dictate Your Book and Supercharge Your Writing Workflow by Scott Baker
As writers, we all know what an incredible tool dictation software can be. It enables us to write faster and avoid the dangers of RSI and a sedentary lifestyle. But many of us give up on dictating when we find we can’t get the accuracy we need to be truly productive.

This book changes all of that. With almost two decades of using Dragon software under his belt and a wealth of insider knowledge from within the dictation industry, Scott Baker will reveal how to supercharge your writing and achieve sky-high recognition accuracy from the moment you start using the software.
This book is certainly well written and very clear. While there are a number of excellent tips which should help me improve my mastery of Dragon, I’m not sure that I will ever get to a stage where my accuracy will rival my typing – after all I was a fully-trained touch-typist who earned a crust as secretary in a former life. But as my hands and wrists are getting increasingly unhappy at cranking out 400,000+ words a year (NOT all novels or stories, I hasten to add) I need to do something before it turns into a full-blown repetitive strain injury.

 

Into the Thinnest of Air – Book 5 of the Ishmael Jones Mystery series by Simon R. Green
Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny are attending the re-opening of Tyrone’s Castle, an ancient Cornish inn originally built by smugglers. Over dinner that night, the guests entertain one another with ghost stories inspired by local legends and superstitions. But it would appear that the curse of Tyrone’s Castle has struck for real when one of their number disappears into thin air. And then another . . .
This is another entertaining adventure in this paranormal murder mystery series. There is certainly plenty of tension as guests disappear one by one in the creepy castle that is cut off from the outside world. I was hooked into wanting to know what happens next and will be writing a review in due course.

 

Escaping Firgo by Jason Whittle
When a bank worker takes a wrong turn in life and on the road, he finds himself trapped in a remote village hiding from the police. Before he can find his freedom, he has to find himself, and it’s not just about escaping, it’s about settling up. Because everybody settles up in the end.
This is a delightfully quirky read – and at only 52 pages, moves along at a decent clip. I thoroughly enjoyed following our protagonist’s adventures, as he endeavours to escape from Firgo and will be reviewing this one.

 

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 18th February 2018

Review of Defender – Book 2 of the Hive Mind series by Janet Edwards

Teaser Tuesday featuring Into the Fire – Book 2 of the Vatta’s Peace series by Elizabeth Moon

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring The Magic Chair Murder: a 1920s English Mystery – A Black and Dod Mystery:1 by Diane James

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Fire and Bone – Book 1of the Otherborn series by Rachel A. Marks

Friday Face-off – Halfway up the stairs isn’t up and isn’t down… featuring Murder Must Advertise – Book 10 of the Lord Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy L. Sayers

Review of Killbox – Book 4 of the Sirantha Jax series by Anne Aguirre

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

It Comes Down to Reading https://jenniefitzkee.com/2018/02/22/it-comes-down-to-reading/ Just in case anyone has gone away thinking that learning an appreciation for books and reading is now an outdated irrelevancy superseded by newer technology…

Let’s Discuss – Predictability in Fiction and Film https://www.spajonas.com/2018/02/23/lets-discuss-predictability-fiction-film/ Accomplished indie author S.J. Pajonas raises this topic and has some interesting things to say regarding this topic. Do you like knowing what is coming up?

Blackwing: LITFIC edition https://edmcdonaldwriting.com/2018/02/19/blackwing-litfic-edition/ Genre author Ed McDonald pokes gentle fun at some of the snobbery that still pervades certain corners of the writing world…

Bar jokes for English Majors https://bluebirdofbitterness.com/2018/02/20/bar-jokes-for-english-majors/ I loved these – though there were one or two that had me blinking and wondering what the joke was…

Do Not https://zenandtheartoftightropewalking.wordpress.com/2018/02/19/do-not/ I love this poem by talented writer Viv Tuffnell – it contains a strong message for anyone who is feeling pressured and manipulated.

Have a great week and thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site.

Friday Faceoff – Halfway up the stairs isn’t up and isn’t down…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is a cover featuring stairs, so I’ve selected Murder Must Advertise – Book 10 of the Lord Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy L. Sayers.

 

This cover, produced by HarperTorch in May 1995, is boringly generic. They have taken one of the original images and plonked it into the middle of a white cover. The best part of this cover is the period feel of the font, which is well done.

 

This edition was produced by Four Square Books in 1962 and is a far better effort. There is a real sense of drama conveyed by the crumpled body at the bottom of the twisting staircase with all the advertisements behind him on the wall. My big quibble with this cover is that ugly black block for the title font – if it wasn’t for that, this one would be my favourite.

 

Published in 1967 by Avon Books, this edition is my favourite. I love the marble effect of the cover and the lovely art deco effect produced on both the image and the fonts for the author and title, which look as if they have actually been designed to complement each other.

 

This edition, published by HarperPerennial in 1993 is another good effort. The staircase looks far more seedy and shadow of the hapless victim on the wall while falling to his death gives a rather creepy feel to the cover.

 

This Dutch edition, produced by Uitgeverij Het Spectrum is another blast from the past as it was produced in 1961. I like the punchy effect of the cream and black against the red, which I think would have been a much stronger colour before it faded with age. The figure falling headfirst down the stairs gives lots of drama to the cover, making it appealing and eye-catching. Which is your favourite?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Liar in the Library – Book 18 of the Fethering Mysteries by Simon Brett

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Simon Brett is patron of the West Sussex Writers club, so I have had the pleasure of hearing him speak a number of times. His witty take on the world pervades this pleasing cosy mystery.

When an author event at the local library ends in murder, Jude finds herself a suspect in the waspishly witty new Fethering mystery. Having been booked to give a talk at Fethering Library, successful author Burton St Clair invites his old friend Jude to come along. Although they haven’t met for twenty years, Jude is not surprised to find that St Clair hasn’t changed, with his towering ego and somewhat shaky relationship with the truth. What Jude hadn’t been suspecting however was that the evening would end in sudden, violent death. More worrying, from Jude’s point of view, is the fact that the investigating police officers seem to be convinced that she herself was responsible for the crime. With the evidence stacking up against her, Jude enlists the help of her neighbour Carole not just to solve the murder but to prevent herself from being arrested for committing it.

Set in a small village literally a stone’s throw from where we live in Littlehampton, which is mentioned several times in the book, I’ll freely admit that one of the attractions with this entertaining whodunit is the fact that I recognise the towns they visit. It is rather fun to so clearly visualise the setting during the investigation, even if the village of Fethering is a construct. Of course, the book would be a downright trudge if that was the only thing going for it, so the fact that I really like Jude and her relationship with her rather prickly neighbour, Carole. It’s a bonus they are both retired and of a certain age – while I haven’t yet retired, I’m also well into middle age and it’s a solid pleasure to read a book with two female protagonists who reflect my own age-group. It doesn’t happen all that often…

Jude is a thoroughly likeable protagonist, who during the story becomes the chief suspect in the murder. These days, with our overloaded justice system, it’s all too believable to see a scenario where she could be imprisoned for perpetrating a crime she didn’t commit, so the stakes in this case are far higher than terminal boredom. What turns this readable adventure into pure delight, however, are the acidic observations Jude and Carole both have on the world and the characters around them. Brett doesn’t hold back from having a pop at the state of the publishing industry and the struggles rural libraries are having to keep going, amongst other aspects of life in modern England – as well as the protagonists’ observations about the other characters they come into contact while on the case. Several times I giggled aloud at a nicely pithy phrase.

Any grizzles? Well, I was rather taken aback at having a crucial scene in the book where Jude is explaining the denouement glossed over in half a page, rather than being given the reactions of the characters involved. As the stakes were so high at this stage, I expected at least the first section to be fully depicted and the fact it wasn’t jarred with me. This is, after all, one of the planks of this particular genre and while Brett often successfully plays with readers’ expectations, this time it didn’t work. However, that is the only niggle and it certainly isn’t a dealbreaker. I found the ending not only satisfying, but unexpectedly poignant. If you are looking for an entertaining cosy mystery with a thoroughly modern take on the genre, then go looking for this offering – it reminded me all over again why I enjoy Brett’s writing so much. While I obtained an arc of The Liar in the Library from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 20th December, 2017

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t Wait offering – The Liar in the Library – Book 18 of the Fethering Mystery series by Simon Brett

#cosy murder mystery #contemporary #southern England setting

When an author event at the local library ends in murder, Jude finds herself a suspect in the waspishly witty new Fethering mystery.

Having been booked to give a talk at Fethering Library, successful author Burton St Clair invites his old friend Jude to come along. Although they haven’t met for twenty years, Jude is not surprised to find that St Clair hasn’t changed, with his towering ego and somewhat shaky relationship with the truth. What Jude hadn’t been suspecting however was that the evening would end in sudden, violent death.

More worrying, from Jude’s point of view, is the fact that the investigating police officers seem to be convinced that she herself was responsible for the crime. With the evidence stacking up against her, Jude enlists the help of her neighbour Carole not just to solve the murder but to prevent herself from being arrested for committing it.

Simon Brett is the patron of the West Sussex Writers club that I belong to and has frequently been a guest speaker. He is an excellent speaker, funny and self deprecating as well as being the author of the Charles Paris series, which have been dramatised on Radio 4 with the wonderful Bill Nighy taking the part of Charles – wonderful stuff! This should be a cracking read – well plotted with plenty of memorable characters and a twist of sharp humour running throughout.

ANNDDD…

O.D. Book Reviews features an excerpt from Dying for Space as well as a guest post where the main protagonist, Elizabeth, reflects on why she feels she has to reveal what happened.

 

ANNDDD…

T’s Stuff features an excerpt from Dying for Space in addition to a guest post where I talk about five favourite science fiction books that also use food as part of the scene setting.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Book Review of KINDLE Ebook The Devil’s Cup – Book 17 of the Hawkenlye Mysteries by Alys Clare

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I selected this book on Netgalley as I enjoy well-told historical mysteries – and this one looked interesting.

September, 1216. A foreign army has invaded England. The country is divided. Some support the rebel barons and Prince Louis of France; others remain loyal to the king. His rule under threat, King John summons Sir Josse d’Acquin to support him. But can Sir Josse save the king from himself? Meanwhile, Josse’s daughter Meggie is summoned to Hawkenlye Abbey to attend a sick patient in a very distressed state. The elderly woman is warning of terrible danger unless she can complete her mission. What she learns from her patient will set Meggie on a perilous journey to retrieve a cursed treasure. But will she be in time to prevent a tragedy?

This was an impressive blunder even by my standards – to find myself reviewing the final instalment in a seventeen-book series – and it is to Clare’s credit that I was able to crash into this world without any undue floundering whatsoever. While I am sure I would have better appreciated the characters and their final outcomes had I read the previous books, there was no stage where I felt unduly adrift. Indeed, the strength of the book for me are the characters and the worldbuilding, which is excellent. Clare manages to evoke the uncertainty of times and I very much enjoyed the way we get an insight into both sides of this conflict. I was particularly impressed with the characterisation of King John, who has always seemed to be an interesting character full of contradictions. The famous scene at The Wash was described with suitable drama and pulled me into the story – I only wish that we had spent more time following the King, rather than other aspects of this tale.

It is also a treat to read a story where religion and its impact on everyday life is fully acknowledged – I get a tad fed up with stories set in these times when it is all about the swordplay and lack of modern amenities, yet somehow omitting how much people prayed and looked to God for guidance throughout the day.

The protagonists in this unfolding story are all well depicted and cover a range of ages – another plus for me, as I rarely get to see my own age group represented as a main character in this type of story. However, one of my misgivings is the huge amount of freedom the main female characters seem to have. Helewise is able to retreat to a small cottage in a wood – despite being the wife of a landowner. She would be responsible for running the house and trammelled by a host of tasks that modern women would not have to consider, even if she had a number of servants performing chores for her – especially if she had a number of servants. Likewise Meggie is also able to wander off on an adventure, leaving the Forge and adjoining home shut up and idle. It simply wasn’t an option. Most households had a pig and chickens, along with a piece of land that would need tending to keep producing food for the table. The Queen’s experience would be the lot of most women of the time – and while she may well have felt frustrated at being so confined, it would not be unusual for high-born women to be kept tucked away in fortified homes and castles, given the custom of kidnapping noble family members and holding them as surety or ransom.

However, the one issue with this book that did compromise my enjoyment of the story is the lack of narrative tension. Due to the title and cover art – the reader already has a very good idea what the cursed object is, while Clare writes the story as if this is part of the mystery. It wasn’t a dealbreaker, as there was much else to enjoy about this tale – but a shame that this fundamental issue wasn’t addressed at some stage during the book’s production process. However, I will be looking out for more books in this series and am pleased to have discovered another talented author.

While I obtained the arc of The Devil’s Cup from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
7/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE EBOOK The Student Body – An E.J. Pugh Mystery by Susan Rogers Cooper

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The blurb and arresting cover caught my attention and as I felt in the mood for an amusing contemporary whodunit, I requested the Netgalley arc.

Graham Pugh should be having a ball as a first-year student at the University of Texas in Austin. Unfortunately for him, his roommate, Bishop ‘Call Me Bish’ Alexander, is an arrogant asshole he can’t stand, to the point of dreaming of killing him in his sleep. Even more unfortunately for Graham, when he wakes up early one morning for a lecture, he finds that Bishop actually is dead on the floor. With Graham the prime suspect, E.J., Willis and the girls race up to Austin immediately. Unsurprisingly, it just so happens that Bishop annoyed a lot of people on campus, not just Graham. But who killed him? E.J. is soon facing a desperate battle to prove her son’s innocence.

This story, told in multiple pov with E.J.’s viewpoint in first person, was a bit grittier than I’d originally assumed. There were regular flashes of humour and plenty of snarky dialogue – but E.J. was too genuinely distressed at the prospect of her son being accused of murdering the unspeakable Bish for it to be truly comedic. In true whodunit tradition, no one appeared to care much for Bish, who was greedy, insulting and manipulative such that even his own mother wasn’t shedding too many tears.
As for the hapless Graham – despite the fact that there wasn’t any hard and fast proof that he had done it – the local police commander heading up the investigation decided early on that he was the only viable suspect. While I haven’t read any of the previous E.J. Pugh murder mysteries, I did get the sense that in this one, she is further out of her comfort zone than usual. What worked really well, was the uncomfortable dynamic between Graham and E.J.

Under normal circumstances, children leaving for college helps to establish them as adults. Though often needs parental assistance, it tends to be from a distance. Not so when Graham finds himself the chief suspect in a murder investigation that has the campus buzzing. When he calls his mother in, the two of them are clearly floundering. E.J. is concerned and protective, while Graham is terrified and wanting help – but not so that any of his peers would notice that it’s his mother offering the much-needed assistance.

Indeed, I found E.J. a fascinating protagonist. She certainly has edges. As well as battling her overly protective maternal instincts, she seems very ambivalent towards her husband. I had expected him to be the rock on which she leans as she negotiates this tricky investigation – but that role falls to Luna, her neighbour and local policewoman, who travels to Austin out of her jurisdiction to work with the crusty, recently divorced Champion heading up the case. Getting the measure of her character was every bit as interesting as the murder mystery, which has plenty of twists and turns – though I would have liked a sense that the victim was more than just a complete tosser who was universally unpleasant to everyone.

As for the denouement – while one of the key suspects was early on easy to spot, I certainly didn’t guess the motive or the actual murder suspect before the climactic reveal. This is an entertaining cosy murder mystery with plenty going on and an interesting protagonist. Recommended.

While I obtained the arc of The Student Body from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
8/10

Review of Chocolate Chocolate Moons by Jackie Kingon

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I enjoyed Kingon’s quirky cosy murder mystery featuring her irrepressible protagonist Molly Marbles in Sherlock Mars – see my review here. So when the author contacted me, offering me the opportunity to read and review the prequel, I jumped at the chance.

It is a novel set in the future that tells the story of plus-sized Molly Marbles, who wins a scholarship to Armstrong University on the Moon, a haven for the plus-sized set where her weight drops from 287 Earth pounds to 47.6 without so much as passing up a piece of pie. When boyfriend Drew Barron dumps her, then jumps at a job at Congress Drugs, a company that makes low calorie food supplements, Molly’s weight is the least of her woes. And when her favorite treats, Chocolate Moons are found poisoned, she finds she has bitten off more than she can chew.

This space opera cosy mystery featuring food tells of how Molly recovers from her initial lost love and rebuilds her life – and about a crime that causes a number of chocolate lovers to fall into a coma. I love the details of the future depicted by Kingon’s breezy writing style – some of it is plainly a bit nonsensical, driven more by the word-play and humour, rather than any real possibility. So it is far more space opera than hard-core science fiction.

There is a large cast in this busy story, where by necessity a chunk of the narrative is told in semi-omniscient point of view. The plots and counter-plots where a number of the characters are trying to outwit each other and gain access to business opportunities or expensive works of art means I had to pay attention. Though I was far more interested in Molly than these nefarious deals, which tends to make the plotting something of a hot mess.

What kept me riveted to Molly’s narrative arc is the fact that she is a hefty lady who loves her food – and in Mars, where children are naturally born much slimmer and taller than Earthborn humans, she attracts a lot of attention, much of it hostile. I have read science fiction stories where the different body shape caused by different gravity drives a racist reaction – but what Kingon has done is to have a population define themselves by their body shape, which impacts on their diet and what they want to eat. In this book, Kingon highlights this consequence mostly as a humorous backdrop to the main action – but I did find this a really interesting aspect. Perhaps the reason why I zeroed onto this issue is because most of my family, including me, are allergic to dairy products, including milk, cheese, yoghurt and butter – and we are also vegetarians. So we also have foods we classify as ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

While I found some of the humour and word play not particularly funny, I did really enjoy Molly’s character. Overall, this book isn’t without some structural flaws, but Kingon writes with such sunny energy that pings off the page, I was drawn into the story and enjoyed the originality and quirkiness. Recommended for someone who likes to read something a bit different.
8/10