Tag Archives: contamporary murder mystery

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Clutter Corpse – Book 1 of the Decluttering Mysteries by Simon Brett #Brainfluffbookreview #TheClutterCorpsebookreview

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I’m a fan of Simon Brett’s murder mystery series – his slick, well crafted prose always draws me in and it doesn’t hurt that they are usually set in my neck of the woods, so it’s always a treat to see place names I know and like pop up in amongst the story and this one is no exception. See my reviews of Death on the Downs, Mrs Pargeter’s Public Relations, The Liar in the Library, and The Killer in the Choir.

BLURB: Introducing an engaging new amateur sleuth, declutterer Ellen Curtis, in the first of a brilliant new mystery series.

And that’s all there is of the blurb, which is a refreshing change in these days of long paragraphs full of spoilery details. It also does exactly what it says on the tin. While I really enjoyed the whodunit aspect of this story, as Brett is a solidly good craftsman in producing interesting murders and a raft of likely suspects, that wasn’t the highlight of this book. For me, what stands with this one is the gripping backstory that unfurls as the book progresses regarding Ellen’s past life. It is a staple of this genre that private investigators often have a lurid past, but they also often bear the war wounds. It generally doesn’t take the reader long to appreciate that our feisty protagonist is lugging around more baggage than your upper-class Victorian explorer – not so this time around.

Ellen’s job of decluttering houses is clearly a second career, as she has two grown-up children and no husband in evidence. There’s nothing unusual in that. She has an edgy relationship with her mother and daughter – nothing unusual in that, either. Brett does a very nice line in difficult female relationships. I enjoy reading of the unexpressed anger simmering between a daughter who feels her mother made a poor job of bringing her up – it’s a dynamic that isn’t often depicted so honestly. I get a tad tired of seeing fictional family members, both in books and on TV, saying all sorts of scaldingly honest and hurtful truths that would in real life mean permanent estrangement, yet next time around, everything seems to be normal.

Not so, here. Ellen keeps her thoughts about her mother’s behaviour to herself. But then, she doesn’t wear her heart on her sleeve at all. She comes across as kind and caring, but also briskly efficient and resourceful. And certainly not a victim – and then as the story wears on, we learn what happened in her marriage and the ongoing consequences of that. And my eyes filled with tears at her sheer gutsy courage and quiet fortitude.
Yes… I know she’s a fictional character, but I’ve fallen for her, hook, line and sinker. Ellen is such a refreshing change in these days where everyone’s emotions are on their sleeves and they share all their gladnesses and sadnesses online.

I also appreciated the supporting cast of characters – particularly Ellen’s mother – and that complicated, beautiful best friend. I’m delighted to have encountered this series, because I know Simon Brett is a prolific author and I’m very much looking forward to reading more intriguing murders in this setting – but above all, I’m desperate to meet up with Ellen, again. Highly recommended for fans of intelligent cosy murder mysteries with an awesome protagonist. While I obtained an arc of The Clutter Corpse from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
9/10
26.3.20


April 2020 Roundup – Reading, Writing and Blogging… #BrainfluffApril2020Roundup

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I’m conscious that I’ve never experienced a month like it in the whole of my life – and I’m not sure I ever will again… Or perhaps I will. Perhaps May and June will continue being in social isolation with lots of handwashing and staying at home. But what has kept my head straight is my love of reading and writing – thank goodness for both! I’ve also loved the wonderful sunny weather – it’s been a joy being able to sit in the garden and watch Spring springing… I’m conscious that I am very blessed. And given that none of us can guarantee if we will survive this, I’ve determined to be as thankful for every coming day as I can be. So despite everything, this has been a very precious April.

Reading
I read eighteen books in April, which isn’t quite as marvellous as it sounds, as one of those was a short story and another was a novella. This is the list:

The Book of Koli – Book 1 of the Rampart trilogy by M.R. Carey
The Last Emperox – Book 3 of the Interdependency series by John Scalzi
Shorefall – Book 2 of The Founders Trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett
Scythe – Dimension Drift prequel NOVELLA #1 by Christina Bauer
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. This is my EBOOK read of the month
Dead Eye – Book 1 of the Tiger’s Eye Mystery series by Alyssa Day
Arkadian Skies – Book 6 of the Fallen Empire series by Lindsay Buroker
Q by Christina Dalcher
The Hedgeway SHORT STORY by Vivienne Tuffnell
A Little Bit Witchy – Book 1 of the Riddler’s Edge series by A.A. Albright
The Dark Side of the Road – Book 1 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green
Firewalkers by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The Mirror and the Light – Book 3 of the Thomas Cromwell series by Hilary Mantel. This is my AUDIOBOOK read of the month
The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing – Book 2 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
The Palm Tree Messiah by Sarah Palmer – manuscript read
Witch Dust – Book 1 of the Witch series by Marilyn Messik
Girls of Paper and Fire – Book 1 of Girls of Paper and Fire series by Natasha Ngan
After Seth by Caron Garrod

Writing
I continued working on my Creative Writing How-To Book on Characterisation and I’m pleased with the progress, but I woke up on 11th April with an epiphany about some issues that had been niggling me with Mantivore Warrior – so I dropped my How-To book and immediately dived back into the manuscript to fix it. I’ve learnt from hard experience not to ever put those kinds of moments off – otherwise they pass and I forget!

I have also been working on another project that I’m hoping to be able to discuss in another couple of weeks. I don’t normally flit between so many different writing projects – but right now everything is extraordinary. So it makes sense that my writing patterns would suddenly go AWOL, too… Overall, I wrote just over 43,000 words in April, with just under 17,000 words on my blog and just under 25,500 words going towards my writing projects, which brings my yearly total to just under 180,000 words so far.

Blogging
I have found keeping up with my blog such a source of comfort and encouragement – I know social media can be responsible for some dark acts, but I happen to be fortunate enough to inhabit a really lovely corner, where I meet some of the nicest people on the planet. But that’s not a surprise, because they are readers, or writers, or both. I hope May is a good month for you and that you stay safe. Take care.xxx






Sunday Post – 3rd May, 2020 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost

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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.

While we needed the rain, I found it really hard to suddenly have to deal with the lower light levels and colder temperatures. Thank goodness I woke up yesterday to find bright sunshine pouring in through the window, so we went out into the garden to do some weeding and move some plants. The fresh, shiny leaves are bursting into life and they look fabulous. I am wrapping my head around the fact that during this terrible time, this has been the most beautiful Spring I can remember. Our echiums just go from strength to strength…

Non-gardening news: I sat in my sister’s garden last weekend more than 6 feet apart from her and caught up – I miss her so… She is still working flat-out at the chemists and returns home each night exhausted, as she finds wearing all the protective clothing hot and stifling – although she is very aware how important it is. Upsettingly, some customers have been incredibly rude. One man told her colleague that she looked ‘ugly and ridiculous in that get-up’ – as if it was some kind of fashion choice! Thank goodness people like that are in the minority…

Last week I read:

AUDIOBOOK The Mirror and the Light – Book 3 of the Thomas Cromwell series by Hilary Mantel
England, May 1536. Anne Boleyn is dead, decapitated in the space of a heartbeat by a hired French executioner. As her remains are bundled into oblivion, Thomas Cromwell breakfasts with the victors. The blacksmith’s son from Putney emerges from the spring’s bloodbath to continue his climb to power and wealth, while his formidable master, Henry VIII, settles to short-lived happiness with his third queen before Jane dies giving birth to the male heir he most craves. Cromwell is a man with only his wits to rely on; he has no great family to back him, no private army. Despite rebellion at home, traitors plotting abroad and the threat of invasion testing Henry’s regime to the breaking point, Cromwell’s robust imagination sees a new country in the mirror of the future. But can a nation, or a person, shed the past like a skin? Do the dead continually unbury themselves? What will you do, the Spanish ambassador asks Cromwell, when the king turns on you, as sooner or later he turns on everyone close to him?
This has been a complete joy. My only sorrow is that my journey with this wonderfully realised, complex man is now over. Review to follow.


The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing – Book 2 of the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall
Murder is no laughing matter. Yet a prominent Indian scientist dies in a fit of giggles when a Hindu goddess appears from a mist and plunges a sword into his chest. The only one laughing now is the main suspect, a powerful guru named Maharaj Swami, who seems to have done away with his most vocal critic. Vish Puri, India’s Most Private Investigator, master of disguise and lover of all things fried and spicy, doesn’t believe the murder is a supernatural occurrence, and proving who really killed Dr. Suresh Jha will require all the detective’s earthly faculties. To get at the truth, he and his team of undercover operatives—Facecream, Tubelight, and Flush—travel from the slum where India’s hereditary magicians must be persuaded to reveal their secrets to the holy city of Haridwar on the Ganges.
This has been another entertaining read in an excellent series that so far has delivered every time – but I think this one is my favourite so far…


Witch Dust by Marilyn Messik
For Sandra, daughter of illusionists, Adam and Ophelia, life’s never been run of the mill! But when Adam’s wandering eye lights on yet another conquest, it proves a chorus girl too far, and Sandra’s caught in the reverberations of her parents acrimonious parting. Coerced into restoring her depressed Mother to the bosom of a family Sandra never knew existed, she’s sucked into a situation that even for her is unnerving.
From being without a single relative, she suddenly acquires several she’d rather do without, and learns a few home truths she’d prefer not to know.
This was fun! I loved the paranormal hi-jinks that Sandra was plunged into, the humour and real creepy tension was nicely balanced. Review to follow.


Girls of Paper and Fire – Book 1 of Girls of Paper and Fire series by Natasha Ngan
Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it’s Lei they’re after — the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest.
I enjoyed this lush YA fantasy adventure, though I did feel that perhaps another character would have made a more effective protagonist. Review to follow.




After Seth by Caron Garrod
At Seth Jameson’s funeral, three women gather at the graveside… But they aren’t there to mourn him. Detective Inspector Beatrice (Billie) Nixon is about to retire. Her last job is to investigate whether Seth’s death was misadventure, as previously thought, or murder. As she hears their stories, a different picture of Seth emerges from the one presented to the world.
•Roz – driven to alcoholism after years of physical, mental and financial abuse.
•Eleanor – withdrawn from the world after a terrifying and life changing experience.
•Imogen – obsessed and delusional.
And Beatrice begins to wonder not did anyone kill him, but why did they wait so long? But there were other women in Seth’s life and, as she hears all their experiences, Beatrice discovers a story of strength, friendship and love. And after a lifetime dedicated to the law, she is forced to ask herself… Can murder ever be justified?
It was a wonderful treat to discover that one of my former writing students has released a novel she was working on when attending my class. I have read it to discover how it turned out – and I was so impressed! Review to follow.


My posts last week:

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Dark Side of the Road – Book 1 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green

Friday Face-off featuring Dogs of War by Adrian Tchaikovsky

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Q by Christina Dalcher

Can’t-Wait-Wednesday featuring Set My Heart to Five by Simon Stephenson

Review of INDIE Ebook Bringing Stella Home – Book 1 of the Gaia Nova series by Joe Vasick

Sunday Post – 26th April 2020

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

My crazy challenge to play and sing the whole Cats musical without words or music in one go https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agBiKQm5zbM&feature=youtu.be My student has been finding ways to occupy his musical talent during lockdown…

Wyrd and Wonder: adventurers wanted https://onemore.org/2020/03/01/wyrd-and-wonder-2020/ If you enjoy reading and reviewing or discussing fantasy books of any description – then check this out…

Taking care of others vs taking care of ourselves https://www.michellescrazybusylife.net/index.php/2020/04/28/taking-care-of-others-v-s-taking-care-of-ourselves/#.Xq6u4Jl7kaE Michelle raises an important point here…

The Wee Lassie’s Top Ten Foods that keep your Immune System Healthy https://weewritinglassie.home.blog/2020/04/26/the-wee-lassies-top-ten-foods-that-keep-your-immune-system-healthy/ It’s more important than ever, to keep yourself as fit as possible, given the new information about COVID-19…

The #parenting and #writing #lifeathome: #Music to #write by, #laugh by, and #hope by https://jeanleesworld.com/2020/04/27/the-parenting-and-writing-lifeathome-music-to-write-by-laugh-by-and-hope-by/ Writing buddy Jean suggests uplifting music when you hit that wall of misery…

Thank you for visiting, reading, liking and/or commenting on my blog – I hope you and yours have a peaceful, healthy week. Take care.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Kindle EBOOK Lethal White Book 4 of the Cormoran Strike novels by Robert Galbraith #Brainfluffbookreview #LethalWhitebookreview

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I didn’t enjoy Career of Evil – see my review here – as much as the previous two books and was a bit worried that this was a series that would be sliding further down into the gritty grunge of the murder mystery spectrum, as it’s not what I prefer to read. However this time around, I absolutely loved this one – it’s my favourite so far…

“I seen a kid killed…He strangled it, up by the horse.”
When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike’s office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic. Trying to get to the bottom of Billy’s story, Strike and Robin Ellacott—once his assistant, now a partner in the agency—set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside.

This story spans the full range of the social class system in England – from a mentally ill young man, clearly unable to adequately look after himself to a Minister of the State with a complicated family life. Cormoran Strike, dogged private investigator, cannot shake the feeling that Billy wasn’t hallucinating about the horrific murder he described.

As part of the investigation, Robin goes undercover in the Houses of Parliament as an intern and that made for fascinating reading, given that Rowling got access to the overcrowded, shabby offices where most of the admin work is carried out. The murder mystery part of the book twists in all sorts of directions, until the crime-fighting duo finally pull enough clues together to work out what was going on. Which is when that title really comes into its own…

This long book isn’t solely about the murder mystery element – at least half the book is given over to Cormoran and Robin’s complicated private lives. In fact the book starts with a major event in Robin’s life that also impacts upon Cormoran – and if you have crashed midway into this series, you’ll be forgiven for wondering if you’ve somehow ended up with a romance. Though there isn’t all that much that is happy or romantic in this book. Both Cormoran and Robin are finding it difficult to keep their partners happy, given the demands the Agency is making upon their time. While Cormoran frequently finds the inevitable walking and standing he has to do creates real problems with his artificial leg, Robin is also battling with panics attacks caused by the last case where she was attacked and injured. I really like the fact that these protagonists aren’t Teflon-coated – they are brave and both crave adventure, but also have to deal with the fallout when an incident becomes terrifying and life-threatening.

This is a long book, but at no time did I feel I was trudging through it. The final denouement was a genuine shock – I hadn’t guessed who the culprit was – and the book managed to tie up all the loose ends, leaving me wanting more…
10/10

Sunday Post – 1st 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.

Thank you so much for all your kind good wishes for my sister’s speedy recovery. She is staying with us over the Easter week-end and feeling a lot better. We are hoping the weather will improve tomorrow so we can have a wander around Highdown Gardens and enjoy the fabulous display of spring flowers there.

And here we are – into April with the Spring term’s Creative Writing class behind us, apart from the Snow Day catchup session which will be held at the end of the Easter break… When did that happen? It seems that Christmas was only the day before yesterday! I have had a couple of rather lazy days with lie-ins before I have to get cracking on next term’s course and winding up the admin from last term, in addition to preparing for Tim’s upcoming exams. In the meantime, have a lovely Spring break.

This week I have read:

The Children of the Shaman – Book 1 of the Children of the Shaman series by Jessica Rydill

When their aunt is taken ill, thirteen-year old Annat and her brother are sent from their small coastal town to live with their unknown father. Like Annat, Yuda is a Shaman; a Wanderer with magical powers, able to enter other worlds. As Annat learns more about her powers, the children join their father on a remarkable train journey to the frozen north and find a land of mystery and intrigue, threatened by dark forces and beset by senseless murders that have halted construction of a new tunnel.
Despite the protagonist being a child, this isn’t a children’s read or even a YA book. There is plenty of adventure with a really interesting magic system and a nuanced, layered examination of family relationships. I shall be reviewing this one in due course.

 

Meet Me in the Strange by Leander Watts

Davi tries to help a new friend, Anna Z, escape a cruel and controlling brother, and the teens end up running away to follow the tour of their rock idol, the otherworldly Django Conn. The story is set in a weird and wonderful retro-futuristic city of glam-girls and glister-boys and a strange phenomenon that Anna Z calls the “Alien Drift.”
This YA offering is an extraordinary read – the worldbuilding and futuristic vibe reverberates through the punchy, inventive writing. Watt manages to evoke the stage when the youngsters define themselves through the music they hear – and then puts a paranormal twist on that…

 

The Green Man’s Heir by Juliet McKenna
A hundred years ago, a man with a secret could travel a few hundred miles and give himself a new name and life story. No one would be any the wiser, as long as he didn’t give anyone a reason to start asking questions. These days, that’s not so easy, with everyone on social media, and CCTV on every street corner. So Daniel Mackmain keeps his head down and keeps himself to himself.

But now a girl has been murdered and the Derbyshire police are taking a closer look at a loner who travels from place to place, picking up work as he goes. Worse, Dan realises the murder involves the hidden world he was born into. When no one else can see the truth, who will see justice done?

A modern fantasy rooted in the ancient myths and folklore of the British Isles.
This is a delight. An unusual urban fantasy which doesn’t feature werewolves or vampires – the supernatural creatures that people this engrossing read are dryads, boggats and shucks. I love how McKenna has woven the old folk tales that cris-cross this small island into her story. It was impossible to put down until I’d finished it.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 25th March 2018

Teaser Tuesday featuring Children of the Shaman – Book 1 of the Children of the Shaman series by Jessica Rydill

Can’t-Wait Wednesday featuring The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Burn Bright – Book 5 of Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs

Friday Face-off – You can’t sow an apple seed and expect an avocado tree… featuring The Seeds of Time by John Wyndham

Review of Queen of Chaos – Book 3 of the Sequoyah trilogy by Sabrina Chase

 

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

The First Ever Poet in the World: The Woman Writer, Enheduanna https://interestingliterature.com/2018/03/30/the-first-ever-poet-in-the-world-the-woman-writer-enheduanna/ This is a fascinating article which is worth reading.

The Cartography of the Solar System – Mars http://earthianhivemind.net/2018/03/30/cartography-solar-system-mars/ Steph once more has pulled together yet another jaw-dropping article showing the latest maps of our neighbouring planet…

#Author #Interviews: #writer Peadar Ó Guilín discusses setting & #pointofview in #writing. Thanks, @TheCallYA https://jeanleesworld.com/2018/03/29/author-interviews-writer-peadar-o-guilin-discusses-setting-pointofview-in-writing-thanks-thecallya/ This fascinating interview gives an insight into the decisions that a writer has to make – and what this particular master wordsmith takes into account when making those decisions.

Discussion Post: Who Are You? Finding Your Voice as a Blogger https://thebookishlibra.com/2018/03/29/discussion-post-who-are-you-finding-your-voice-as-a-blogger/ This is a really good piece of advice for bloggers starting out and wondering how to appear to their audience.

5 New Poetry Collections to Watch Out For https://librarystaffpicks.wordpress.com/2018/03/28/5-new-poetry-collections-to-watch-out-for-2/ Another helpful and interesting post from this great library-based blog.

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