Jenny Starling has her dream job cooking for Lord and Lady Avonsleigh in a genuine castle. Then one of the castle’s treasures, a fabulously jewelled dagger, is used to murder one of the staff members. The victim is found stabbed through the heart in the conservatory. Lady Avonsleigh insists that Jenny help the police find the murderer. But how can Jenny solve this case when the murder was committed in front of several reliable witnesses, none of whom saw a thing? This is the fourth in a series of enjoyable murder mysteries with a great cast of characters and baffling crimes which will keep you in suspense to the final page.
I received a copy of this book from Joffe Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Jenny Starling, travelling cook and reluctant sleuth, has found a job where she might like to stay. Life as a cook in a castle full of historic artefacts, for people who appreciate her skilled cookery, seems like a dream come true. Unfortunately, Jenny’s penchant for attracting murder means that someone dies in mysterious circumstances and Jenny finds her detective skills are needed once again.
This is a murder mystery reliant on detective skills, which Jenny has in abundance and the police detectives, less so. Set apart from the world of forensics and psychological profiling, this story will appeal to those who like a cozy mystery, concentrating on knowledge of people and what motivates them and a dazzling array of suspects, clues, red herrings in an atmospheric, vivid setting.
This is an enjoyable read, with an enigmatic main character reminiscent of Miss Marple with Mary Berry’s cookery skills.
This is the fourth in the Jenny Starling series but reads well as a standalone. A perfect escapist read.
The trees are green and hedgerows are bursting with new life as spring arrives in the Cotswolds, but inside a house that Melissa Craig used to know well, something terrible has happened…
Melissa has just finished writing her latest mystery novel and is enjoying the arrival of spring. She’s decided to let her fictional detective retire at last, and perhaps put her own days of investigating behind her too. But the ink has barely dried on the page when Melissa receives shocking news: her estranged father has been found dead in the family home and her mother, Sylvia, is under suspicion of murder.
Melissa hasn’t seen her parents for nearly thirty years, but on hearing the dreadful news she rushes to her mother’s side. Melissa is sure that Sylvia could never commit a murder, but Sylvia does seem to be keeping secrets…
With no-one else to turn to, Sylvia begs Melissa to investigate the case. Melissa knows her father was a difficult man, but now she needs to work out who wanted him dead… A disgruntled employee, the controlling family lawyer or perhaps the woman with whom he was having an affair?
When another body is found, Melissa realises she’s dealing with a ruthless killer. As the police close in, trying to pin both deaths on her mother, Melissa must act fast. Can she find a way to unmask the true killer before she loses her mother for a second time, and possibly forever?
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
My Thoughts …
The latest Melissa Craig mystery focuses on her personal life, but there is still a murder to solve, with numerous suspects, an unhelpful police detective and danger for the intrepid, crime writer and unwilling detective.
Melissa has finally finished her long-running detective series and decides it’s time for some relaxation, vowing to stop investigating murders in real life too. It’s time for a change in her personal life too with the departure of Ken Harris her longtime love interest but unsurprisingly, fate catapults her back to a former life with the unexpected death of her estranged father.
When she travels to her childhood home, she finds her mother a shell of the woman she remembers and the prime suspect for her father’s murder. Despite the way, they treated her when she was at her most vulnerable, she has to help, find the real killer.
Melissa faces her most dangerous and difficult investigation, without Ken’s calming presence. However, she is not alone, as someone who she has kept out of her personal life, offers her much needed support.
The characters are as expected, complex and authentic, the police detective is not only dismissive of Melissa’s investigative talent but in danger of missing the obvious because of his lack of experience and skill in detecting crime.
The plot twists are well thought out, the pacing fast, and the characters and setting perfect for this type of cozy mystery. The ending is cleverly crafted and ties up all the clues perfectly.
‘Murder at the Old House’ can be read as a standalone mystery, but this series is addictive, and every murder mystery lover deserves to read the whole series.
Two desperate criminals. Something she never saw coming.
In Manchester, two hardened gang members on the run take Catherine Blake and her one-year-old son hostage at gunpoint. She is in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Held in a Transit van, Catherine needs a plan fast. But it means diving into her captors’ risk-drenched world, and playing them at their own game.
Catherine has been through cancer, miscarriages and five draining years of IVF in order to have her son Ethan. He is the most precious thing in the world. She may be terrified out of her wits, but she’d do anything to protect him. Anything, no matter the cost…
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
From the first page, this suspenseful thriller is intriguing.
Primarily told from Catherine’s husband’s point of view. He assumes the role of the story’s narrator, a unique and unusual role in this type of thriller. His insight is uncanny and the reader has to accept this until the pieces of the puzzle start to reveal themselves. When it becomes clear why he has this unusual insight into her thoughts, it’s probably not what you think, and so becomes a more compelling viewpoint.
Catherine is in a nightmare scenario and as the story unfolds you can understand what motivates her behaviour. Like me, you may wonder what you would do in the same situation. Catherine’s husband’s admiration of her is apparent throughout. She is a clever, driven character, who has fought to bring her child into the world and will never relinquish him. You empathise with her strongly but then, as you think it’s all over, it isn’t.
Gangland crime is at the heart of this plot but there are no stereotypes, the antagonists are believable and have no redeeming features, you are very much on the side of Catherine and Ethan her innocent child.
The twist is masterful and unexpected and makes the final chapters of the story enthralling.
Contemporary crime, authentic police procedures, and an intense, original plot, make ‘Trapped’ one of my favourite thrillers this year.
Guest Post – Nick Louth – Inspiration for Trapped
The original spark of inspiration for Trapped came after I read the brilliant novel Room by Emma Donoghue. I asked myself, could I write something that is even more claustrophobic than that? A story where the walls close in even tighter, where the threats are not mere confinement, but death. That’s when I came upon the idea of a woman and her child being imprisoned in the back of a squalid Transit van, inside a multi-storey car park surrounded by armed police. I wanted a dark, gritty setting, where the odds of survival were low. The next stage was to build a collision of temperament and outlook between prisoners and captors, to create a cauldron of conflict. Catherine Blake is the ultimate risk-averse mother, having finally given birth after years of trying, enduring miscarriages and IVF. Her protective nature involves shielding this precious child from even the most remote risks, by planning and foresight. Fretwell and Cousins, the gangsters who capture her and her child, are two men for whom long-term planning is a few minutes or at most a few hours. They get a kick from risk, a thrill from danger. Normally, these contrasting types of people do not run into each other. The power of the book comes from throwing them together in a believable way, under massive external pressure when the police arrive.
It’s not difficult to build scary gangsters, but what is hard is to steer away from the many cliches and stereotypes which infest the genre of crime fiction. In this case, I started with the names, courtesy of my own late father who used to tell me stories when I was a child of his national service in the 1950s. Amongst the many memorable characters, were the fearsome London hooligans Fretwell and Cousins, who intimidated even the sergeant major in my father’s regiment. The characters are completely different from those he described, but the names have a marvellous rhythm and are grafted onto two new characters. We spend very little time in the gangsters’ heads, but their actions reflect their impulsiveness. Our view into Catherine’s head is far more detailed and comes through her husband, who has a special all-seeing viewpoint that becomes ever clearer as the narrative progresses. His love for her and the ominous portents that he reveals are designed to create a shadow of foreboding right from the beginning. I’m very pleased with the reception that this unusual narrative voice has received from reviewers.
Nick Louth is a best-selling thriller writer, award-winning financial journalist and an investment commentator. A 1979 graduate of the London School of Economics, he went on to become a Reuters foreign correspondent in 1987. It was an experience at a medical conference in Amsterdam in 1992 while working for Reuters, that gave him the inspiration for Bite, which was self-published in 2007 and went on to become the UK No. 1 Kindle best-seller for several weeks in 2014 before being snapped up by Sphere. It has sold a third of a million copies and been translated into six languages.
The terrorism thriller Heartbreaker was published in June 2014 and received critical acclaim from Amazon readers, with a 4.6 out of 5 stars on over 100 reviews. Mirror Mirror, subtitled ‘When evil and beauty collide’ was published in June 2016. The Body in the Marsh, a crime thriller, is being published by Canelo in September 2017. Freelance since 1998, he has been a regular contributor to the Financial Times, Investors Chronicle and Money Observer, and has published seven other books. Nick Louth is married and lives in Lincolnshire.