Tag Archives: Netgalley arc

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Garden Club Murder by Amy Patricia Meade – Book 2 of the Tish Tarragon series #Brainfluffbookreview #TheGardenClubMurderbookreview

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I requested this one as I hadn’t read anything by this author and recently I’ve read a number of cosy murder mysteries and thoroughly enjoyed them as a palette cleanser after reading something darker and heftier.

Literary caterer Letitia ‘Tish’ Tarragon is preparing her English Secret Garden-themed luncheon for Coleton Creek’s annual garden club awards, but when she is taken on a tour of some of the top contenders with the garden club’s president, Jim Ainsley, Tish is surprised at how seriously the residents take the awards – and how desperate they are to win. Wealthy, retired businessman Sloane Shackleford has won the coveted best garden category five years in a row, but he and his Bichon Frise, Biscuit, are universally despised. When Sloane’s bludgeoned body is discovered in his pristine garden, Tish soon learns that he was disliked for reasons that go beyond his green fingers. Have the hotly contested awards brought out a competitive and murderous streak in one of the residents?

This one started promisingly enough – Meade took us straight into the story and effectively introduced us to the main character. The setting was convincingly portrayed, I liked the supporting cast, the murder was committed with plenty of drama and a satisfying number of suspects with strong motives were introduced.

However I found Tish increasingly annoying – the woman was a veritable saint in all but name. Everyone immediately liked and trusted her, so tended to confide in her no matter how nosey and intrusive her questions became… the sheriff was suitably awestruck at her ability to winkle out telling details to the extent that he took her into his confidence… her gorgeous and implausibly nice lawyer boyfriend would have crawled to the Moon and back on his knees to please her… despite gadding off to sniff out said telling details, she still managed to whip up a delicious meal with her long-suffering staff without breaking a sweat. By the end, I was fed up to the back teeth with her.

Another detail that also jarred – Meade has evidently been told not to use the word said in speech tags, so we had all sorts of odd expressions. He deemed was the worst example, but there were plenty of other clunky phrases that marred the dialogue scenes. However, I probably could have overlooked these details if it wasn’t for the really odd way this story was wrapped up. I was very uncomfortable with the way the victim had taunted the perpetrator, so Meade ensured that no one could possibly feel any sympathy for him, and at the same time, neither was I entirely sure that the justice system would have played out in that way. And cosy mysteries aren’t supposed to leave those kinds of issues dangling in the wind. Though, given I am not a US citizen, there might be something going on here that I’m missing, therefore I haven’t taken off another point, which I otherwise would have done.

The ebook arc copy of The Garden Club Murder was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
7/10

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Killer in the Choir – Book 19 of The Fethering Mysteries by Simon Brett #Brainfluffbookreview #TheKillerintheChoirbookreview

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I was delighted to see this offering on Netgalley, having only recently had the pleasure of reading the previous book, The Liar in the Library – see my review here. So I was still in the groove with the Fethering regulars, as well as easily able to recall the foibles of the main protagonists, Jude and Carol.

Although she hadn’t known Leonard Mallett very well, nor liked him particularly, Carole Seddon feels duty bound to attend her fellow committee member’s funeral. As she suspected, the hymns, readings and sermon are all very predictable — not unlike Leonard himself. What she couldn’t have predicted was that the deceased’s daughter would use the occasion to publicly accuse her stepmother of murder. Did Heather Mallett really kill her husband, as many Fethering residents believe? Deciding to get to the heart of the matter, Carole’s neighbour Jude joins the new community choir – and discovers that amidst the clashing egos and petty resentments lurk some decidedly false notes. At least one chorister would appear to be hiding a deadly secret — and it’s up to Carole and Jude to unearth the truth.

What I particularly enjoy about this series, is that while the murder investigation is the engine that powers the plot, Brett also gives us a real slice of life within the Fethering community. We get an insight into what matters to this community – both good and bad – and Brett isn’t afraid to take a pop at the frailties of the characters he depicts. There is an edge to his observations and I enjoy seeing how he plays with our assumptions – and then throws in a twist, such as the fact that buttoned-up Carol previously had a fling with the village landlord. In fact, I don’t particularly like Carol, whose self-righteous, rather jealous behaviour frankly gets on my nerves – however those traits help to make her effective at worrying at a mystery until she has solved it to her satisfaction. It certainly doesn’t impact on my enjoyment, as her rather jaundiced, sour observations are also insightful and rather funny – and while I don’t like her, I do like the more easy-going, relaxed Jude.

I found this investigation even more enjoyable than the previous one – there were several real surprises that had me reading far into the night to find out what was going to happen next. I’d figured out what happened and why – until the denouement, when I realised that I’d got it completely wrong. Nonetheless, despite my complete misreading of the situation, the perpetrator and the reasons for the wicked deed made absolute sense – and the clues were there. In short, Brett writes a cracking whodunit with a very well-plotted mystery which is a joy to read.

I haven’t read all nineteen of these entertaining books – but given just how much I have enjoyed these last two, I am definitely going to be visiting Fethering again. This series is far too much fun to miss out on. While I obtained an arc of The Killer in the Choir from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Know Your Rites – Book 2 of the Inspector Paris Mystery series by Andy Redsmith #Brainfluffbookreview #KnowYourRitesbookreview

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I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, Breaking the Lore, so immediately requested the arc when I saw this sequel come up on Netgalley – and was delighted to be approved.

Inspector Nick Paris, now also known as ‘the one who stopped the demons’, has become an unlikely celebrity in the magical world. He is desperate to return to tackling more ordinary crimes on his home turf of Manchester. However, the fates aren’t in his favour when he is called upon again by his more unusual police colleagues to solve a gruesome killing. The only suspect is a dwarf trying to make it in the rap business. But are there more mysterious matters afoot? Paris is thrust back into the world of magic and murder – but who will face the music?

I remembered the first book clearly so it was a pleasure to be reunited with Nick Paris, his magical girlfriend Cassandra, Bonetti his rather thick sergeant, and the team who helped him in the last desperate adventure. Once again, I found the contrast between Nick’s worldweary, rather cynical outlook and the world of elves, dwarves and talking crows an enjoyable one. The storyline carries on from the adventures in the previous book, so my firm advice would be to read Breaking the Lore first, otherwise you will be missing too much of the backstory to make sense of what is going on.

Humour is highly subjective. What has one person roaring with laughter will leave someone else blank-faced and yawning, so do be aware of that with regard to my following comments. While I initially enjoyed the humorous aspect of the story, I quickly decided that Redsmith is trying too hard to make me laugh, rather than immerse me in an engrossing portal fantasy whodunit. There are too many times when scenes are included or extended for the sole purpose of yet another pun or wordplay, rather than for the sake of deepening the characterisation or advancing the storyline. Consequently I felt that the jokes got in the way of the story, rather than embellishing it.

That said, I still had no trouble turning the pages and finishing this murder mystery and will be very happy to read another slice in Nick Paris’s adventures. Recommended for those who enjoy paranormal murder mysteries – but please be aware that this series is nothing like Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant mysteries. The ebook arc copy of Know Your Rites was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
7/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Old Bones – A DCI Bill Slider Case by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles #Brainfluffbookreview #OldBonesbookreview

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In case you are experiencing a slight case of deja vu, yes… this is a book I’ve previously reviewed back in 2017, which I didn’t realise when I requested the arc. There didn’t seem any point in writing a different review, given that when I reread it, nothing new jumped out at me…

‘You can’t upset anyone looking into old bones.’

DCI Bill Slider’s out of favour in the force – for accusing a senior Met officer of covering up an underage sex ring. As a punishment, he’s given a cold case to keep him busy: some old bones to rake through, found buried in a back garden, from a murder that happened two decades ago, and with most of the principal players already dead. Surely Bill Slider can’t unearth anything new or shocking with these tired old bones?

Slider’s desert-dry viewpoint is a joy. He is an old fashioned copper who is heartily sick of all the new management-speak, but nonetheless straight as a dye without being remotely starchy. His irreverent humour bubbles continually away in the background, annoying his superiors and exasperating his subordinates. For a nice change, he isn’t some grizzled loner but has a happy marriage to a professional musician.

I liked the fact that the loss of a little girl isn’t just treated as some dry academic puzzle – there is a real sense of poignancy of a life unfulfilled as Slider and his team try to grapple with who had murdered her and buried her in the back garden. I also enjoyed the fact that we don’t have a CSI-type approach where they have shedloads of forensic evidence to answer all the questions. In fact, there is precious little to go on, except the faulty memories of those involved all those years ago.

As with all the best police procedural mysteries, there are a number of candidates and possibilities, though I did guess one of the major twists well before it was revealed. Not that it mattered all that much – I was too invested in the main characters to mind and besides, there were still some interesting developments. There is a lovely subplot that develops regarding one of Slider’s team and a youngster caught up in the system.

I appreciated the absence of any grisly details, undue violence or gore – but I certainly wouldn’t peg this in the cosy mystery genre. All in all, a thoroughly entertaining read that comes highly recommended.

While I obtained the arc of Old Bones from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
9/10

NEW RELEASE SPECIAL – Review of NETGALLEY arc The Warehouse by Rob Hart #Brainfluffbookreview #TheWarehousebookreview

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I found this a really, really uncomfortable read – and have been thinking about it a lot since I finished this one. Those of us who have increasingly got into the habit of shopping online in the comfort of our own homes need to think long and hard about the ongoing consequences on not just our local High Street – but the power we are ceding to powerful multi-national companies. This cautionary tale brought that home to me…

Paxton never thought he’d be working for Cloud, the giant tech company that’s eaten much of the American economy. Much less that he’d be moving into one of the company’s sprawling live-work facilities. But compared to what’s left outside, Cloud’s bland chainstore life of gleaming entertainment halls, open-plan offices, and vast warehouses…well, it doesn’t seem so bad. It’s more than anyone else is offering. Zinnia never thought she’d be infiltrating Cloud. But now she’s undercover, inside the walls, risking it all to ferret out the company’s darkest secrets. And Paxton, with his ordinary little hopes and fears? He just might make the perfect pawn. If she can bear to sacrifice him.

In this dystopian world, there has been a widespread collapse of the economy, taking all Government services and a lot of jobs with it. Cloud is still thriving, however – so its employees are hugely grateful for the accommodation, medical services and meals that go with the job. Surely working hard in return makes it a reasonable bargain…

Hart uses three protagonists to demonstrate just how the system works – Paxton, whose own small firm was squeezed out of existence by Cloud, who also took over his own nifty invention for a pittance; Zinnia, who has been employed as an undercover agent; and Gibson, founder and figurehead of Cloud, who has his own reasons for reflecting upon his life’s work.

As I continued to read, I felt a chilly recognition. I happen to be a historian by training and one of my study areas had been the early Industrial Revolution when runaway capitalism stripped workers of any rights and turned them into foundry-fodder. It took years of grinding poverty and degradation before workers in this country were able to band together and win back the dignity of a fair day’s wage in return for a fair day’s work.

Without any kind of political spin or widening the scope of this story, Hart skilfully depicts what happens when there aren’t any checks and balances on any large conglomerate where the profit margin is the sole goal. I couldn’t put this one down as the plausible chain of events led to a state of affairs that seems unstoppably to be just over the horizon. And neither can I forget it. I find myself less enthusiastic about online shopping, these days. The ebook arc copy of The Warehouse was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
9/10

Teaser Tuesday – 6th August, 2019 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

The Heart of the Circle by Keren Landsman
52% I shrugged. “All I’ve been hearing is ‘Reed’s going to die according to their plan so that…’” And I stopped. They had chosen me because I wasn’t significant enough, and yet I wasn’t just a random choice. I was someone who put himself in the line of fire, like Sherry said, but only for friends. Or for a worthy cause. And someone on the Sons of Simeon’s side knew this and intended to take advantage of it.

BLURB: Throughout human history there have always been sorcerers, once idolised and now exploited for their powers. In Israel, the Sons of Simeon, a group of religious extremists, persecute sorcerers while the government turns a blind eye. After a march for equal rights ends in brutal murder, empath, moodifier and reluctant waiter Reed becomes the next target. While his sorcerous and normie friends seek out his future killers, Reed complicates everything by falling hopelessly in love. As the battle for survival grows ever more personal, can Reed protect himself and his friends as the Sons of Simeon close in around them?

I am absolutely loving this one! I THINK someone recommended it – and me, having the memory of a goldfish cannot recall who. But if you did – let me know and I’ll happily let you take the credit.

Because unless it all slides away in the second half – this is set to be one of my favourite reads of the year so far. Clever, layered characterisation, a grimly convincing world and growing tension as Reed becomes aware that the risk to his ending up a shredded ruin after being blown up by terrorists is getting ever greater… All the more poignant as he also is falling in love with Lee, his ex’s ex.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Till Sudden Death Do Us Part – Book 7 of the Ishmael Jones series by Simon R. Green #Brainfluffbookreview #TillSuddenDeathDoUsPartbookreview

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I was delighted to see this one on Netgalley as I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this paranormal thriller series featuring non-human Ishmael and his attractive sidekick, Penny – see my review of Murder in the Dark. Would I enjoy this latest offering, too?

Although he hasn’t seen Robert Bergin for 40 years, Ishmael feels duty bound to respond when his old friend calls for help. Robert’s daughter Gillian is about to be married, and he is afraid she’ll fall prey to the ancient family curse. Arriving in rural Yorkshire, Ishmael and his partner Penny learn that the vicar who was to perform the ceremony has been found dead in the church, hanging from his own bell rope. With no clues, no evidence and no known motive, many locals believe the curse is responsible. Or is someone just using it as a smokescreen for murder? With the wedding due to take place the following day, Ishmael has just a few hours to uncover the truth. But his investigations are hampered by sudden flashes of memory: memories of the time before he was human. What is it Ishmael’s former self is trying to tell him …?

The main ingredients I’ve grown to enjoy were still in place – Ishmael’s rather grumpy, over-developed sense of responsibility; the tongue-in-cheek humour; the solid teamwork between Ishmael and Penny; the creepy sense of tension; the sudden, shocking deaths… I did like the poignant aspect of him being confronted with his former partner, now an old, rather frail man while he is still in his prime. And in this offering there is a doozy of a death that had me spluttering into my breakfast cup of tea with horrified hilarity.

However, we had more of an insight into who or what Ishmael actually is as his non-human side is starting to emerge after some sixty years. It was a nice touch – while he has to be constantly alert that he doesn’t give away his heightened senses and unnatural strength, those attributes do mean that not much can actually threaten him. So the idea that the alien monster within is stirring – and Ishmael has no idea exactly what that entails gives a nicely creepy spin on the story. I particularly liked the part where Penny is feeling a tad wounded because Ishmael appears to be distancing her, where in actual fact he is trying to protect her from whatever is struggling to surface – and he doesn’t know if she is safe in his company.

The tale is brought to a suitably satisfactory ending, although I will be surprised if Ishmael’s issues with his alien persona are over. This series is one of my solid favourites and at no stage have I felt let down or disappointed by any of the books – and this latest addition is no exception. I’m aware that with seven books in the series, you might be wary of jumping midway into all the mayhem, but while some events in the backstory are given a mention, it really isn’t necessary to read all the books to appreciate the unfolding action.

Highly recommended for fans of paranormal whodunits with a slightly OTT gothic twist. The ebook arc copy of Till Sudden Death Do Us Part was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia #Brainfluffbookreview #GodsofJadeandShadowbookreview

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This was a no-brainer for me as I love Moreno-Garcia’s writing – see my review of Certain Dark Things, which also gives the links for my reviews of The Beautiful Ones and Prime Meridian.

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own. Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room – and opens it…

I have yet again shortened and tweaked the rather chatty blurb as the story arc is far too well crafted to be spoilt by prior knowledge of one of the main plotpoints. Suffice to say that once more, this remarkable writer has pulled me into her colourful world. I really liked and sympathised with Casiopea, who is the Cinderella-type character – however, don’t go away with the impression that she is anything like the Disneyfied saccharine character who coos over mice and trills to birds. Casiopea is much too coolly self-possessed to do such a girly thing. Indeed, it is her unspoken defiance and evident intelligence that nettles her unpleasant cousin, Martin – how dare the poverty-stricken drudge be their grandfather’s favourite? He is only too aware that if she’d been born a boy, she would have inherited the family fortune and even now, she forgets her place to answer back when he taunts her. So when a particular event takes place after she opens the box and she is offered a new life away from the family home, Casiopea is happy to leave without a backward look.

The character who she follows requires really good writing to portray effectively – he isn’t innately sympathetic, being aloof, cold and not particularly concerned with humanity, other than how the species can best serve him. He certainly isn’t someone I would generally care about – but then it is all about context. Moreno-Garcia is clever in setting him and his interests in opposition to someone much, much worse.

But one of the strengths of Moreno-Garcia’s writing – and one of the main themes she explores throughout this delightful adventure, is one of change. Casiopea and her companion affect each other. She is less angry and bitter away from the long list of dead-end chores she was forced to perform and finds a softer, kinder version of herself who isn’t afraid to intervene to stop someone being harmed. She also finds herself experiencing the world in ways she could only have dreamt of, which forces her to examine what she actually wants, as opposed to what she doesn’t want.

As for her companion, this remote, icily hostile character is shocked to find himself increasingly drawn to the girl, her mortal charm and her kindness, even though he is aware that his evident attraction to her is a sign that all is not well. The other character who undergoes a major change throughout the book is obnoxious Martin. I’m a fan of writers who give us a real insight into what makes their baddies behave so nastily – and Moreno-Garcia gives us a ringside seat to Martin’s plight when he is sent out by his grandfather to coax Casiopea to return home.

The Mexican setting, the 1920s era and above all, the increasingly dangerous tasks faced by these two mortals unwittingly caught up in a power struggle between two immortals who hate each other with a passion only reserved for sibling rivalry. I was fascinated as to how it was going to play out – and I have to say that the ending worked really well. I have found myself thinking about this one since I finished it – always the mark of a book that has sunk its claws into me.

Just a quick word, however – this retelling is a sophisticated, nuanced read designed for adults and is not suitable for youngsters, a detail that Moreno-Garcia is keen to make clear as it has been advertised as a YA read in certain quarters. Very highly recommended for fans of well written fantasy adventure. The ebook arc copy of Gods of Jade and Shadow was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone #Brainfluffbookreview #ThisIsHowYouLosetheTimeWarbookreview

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With a title like that – how could I resist? Though I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting… Whatever it was – it wasn’t what I got.

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?

So… no set battles. No gripping accounts of being adrift in unfamiliar time threads with climactic chases between adversaries. This is an essentially epistolary novel where the two protagonists communicate by letters they hide for each other. Expert assassin Blue, for vague reasons she isn’t wholly aware of – reaches out to her opposite number, Red, whose work she knows well and admires. Slightly burnt out with all the violence of her assignments, she wants something… more. And that is how the correspondence starts. I don’t think I’m providing any major spoilers if I disclose the Red doesn’t ignore the letter – or report it to her superiors.

What makes this book an extraordinary read is the poetical beauty of the prose, juxtaposed with some of grim, bloody tasks both Blue and Red are tasked with. And while both are slightly alienated by aspects of their work – there’s no getting away from the fact that they do both revel in their skills, too.

The sheer delicacy of their communication, sharply contrasted by the gory reality of their daily round made this a constantly surprising read – it isn’t often these days that I get absolutely no sense where a book is going. Although, there were a couple of clues – I still wasn’t sure if the authors had seeded a couple of false trails and there would be a different sort of ending. And no… I’m not disclosing anything more – this is one where I think it’s important that the reader fully experiences the story without any spoilery expectations. So kudos to the blurb-writer who respected that imperative – I was pleasantly surprised to be able to include the whole backcover copy without having to edit it.

So did I enjoy it? Oh yes – this is a triumph. Splendidly ambitious and quirky, only exceptionally talented writers could pull this off. This savage, sublimely beautiful book will stay with me for a long, long time as I ponder what it says about our need for connection with someone who can understand. Highly recommended for science fiction fans who enjoy lush poetical prose and flawed desperation. The ebook arc copy of This is How You Lose the Time War was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.
10/10

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

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

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