Frances Black leaves her domestic worries behind and travels to Devon to solve a family mystery featuring a suspicious death and a missing diamond.
1930. Frances Black is worried – divorce proceedings are underway and her solicitor has learnt of a spiteful letter sent to the court claiming that there is more to her friendship with her sleuthing partner, Tom Dod than meets the eye.
Fran takes Tom’s advice to get away, travelling down to Devon to help the Edgertons with their family mystery. After meeting the charismatic Eddie Edgerton and arriving at their residence, Sunnyside House, Fran soon learns that Eddie’s grandfather, Frederick Edgerton, died in mysterious circumstances when his wheelchair went off a cliff. Was it really an accident? And what happened to Frederick’s precious diamond which went missing at the time of his death? As Fran investigates, she uncovers family scandal, skulduggery and revenge, but can she solve the mystery of the missing diamond?
I received a copy of this book from Severn House via NetGalley in return for an honest review
This is the third book in the Black and Dod mystery series, and the first I’ve read. This book reads as a standalone, The mystery is solved within the pages of this story, but I did feel I was missing out on the connection between the two main characters.
This story puts one half of the sleuthing duo at the helm. Frances heads to Devon, to avoid jeopardising her long-awaited and much-needed divorce and becomes a temporary house guest at a lovely country house in Devon. The 1930s setting and the upper-class elegance puts you in mind of Agatha Christie’s novels.
The family are mostly charming, and Fran finds she is the subject of one family member’s admiration. The mystery is two-fold, auspiciously she is invited to solve the riddle of the missing diamond, but a recent death occurred at the same time and she questions whether the two are connected.
I found the pacing a little slow, but the mystery is clever, and there is darkness hiding beneath the household’s lighthearted ethos, which gives the story depth. If possible read the series in order, and you will become familiar with the writing style and pace.
Glasgow, 1972. Michael Mitchell
is ambitious, talented and determined to succeed. But he learns the hard way
that he will never achieve his goals in life – unless he plays by a different
set of rules.
He partners with a small-time crook to help the Glasgow underworld launder the proceeds of
their crimes. As the operation grows, Michael is forced to become more and more
ruthless to protect what he has built.
Shocked by who he has become, he
vows to leave the criminal world behind and start a new life. But the past has
a way of catching up. Finally, he gambles everything on one last desperate
attempt to break free.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
Set in Glasgow in the 1970s, this story’s ethos is gritty and full of moral dilemmas. Michael is a hard worker and he wants to succeed, but his efforts are overlooked, and soon he uses his powerful intelligence to become successful in a less orthodox way.
Like the author’s previous book set in 1970s Glasgow and London, Love’s Long Road, this story has excellent characters, a clever plot and you constantly question Michael’s choices, there are so many grey areas,
The pacing is fast, and there is a good balance of action, dialogue and introspection. The setting once again steals the show for me, it encompasses the desperation of the 1970s, a time of high unemployment, and the demise of British industry like coal, shipbuilding and steel. When for many crime was the only way out of poverty.
A good, thought-provoking thriller.
I was placed third in the 2015 Lightship Prize for first-time authors, won a 2016 Wishing Shelf Award Red Ribbon, been shortlisted at the UK Festival of Writing for Best First Chapter, longlisted in the 2017 UK Novel Writing Competition.
In 2017, I was one of twelve authors selected for Authors in the Spotlight at the Bloody Scotland book festival in Stirling, showcasing who they considered to be the best emerging talent in crime fiction, and was the only self-published author to be chosen. I have spoken at numerous other book events, including Blackwells’ Writers at the Fringe at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe; a stand-alone slot at the Byres Road Book Festival in Glasgow, and the Aye Write! Book Festival, also in Glasgow.
I went to Glasgow University in 1975 and lived in the city’s West End, the time and place for the setting of the majority of Love’s Long Road.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
What appeals about this story is its commitment and honesty. Georgina is a relatable, remarkable, yet ruthless character, who you would want on your side. Her love for her family and friends shines through, even though she commits and sanctions unspeakable acts as the head of a south London crime gang in the 1930s.
When her newly acquired gangland empire is under threat from men who think she should know her place, she only has one response; be better than them, and fight back. She symbolises the female fight for equality. The crimes are gritty, but the story is one of family, and this is why the protagonists are likeable.
A clever plot with plenty of depth and hidden twists complements the complexcharacters well and makes this a page-turning chapter of a compelling crime series.
Guest Post – Sam Michaels- The Birth of a Ruthless Woman
was born and bred in London and then lived in Surrey, Kent and Hampshire before
moving to Spain four years ago. It was here that I found I had the time to take
up writing. So, after lots of encouragement from my husband and mum, I sat on
my sofa and penned my first novel, Trickster.
probably imagine that living in a sunny climate is inspirational and blissful
for a writer but I doubt it’s anything like you might picture. There’s no
sitting in the sun, sipping sangria and dipping in the pool. It’s impossible to
use my laptop outside because I can’t see the screen. So instead, I sit at my
new desk in my spare bedroom with a ceiling fan on and the shutters closed.
It’s so peaceful and this is where I wrote my second novel, Rivals, the follow
up to Trickster.
a series of five books has been such an interesting journey. Normally, after a
novel is completed and published, the author will leave the characters behind
and move on to the next story. But with mine, I’ve had the wonderful
opportunity to delve deep into Georgina’s Garrett’s life from birth, growing up
and into adulthood. When I’d finished Trickster and started writing Rivals, I
was so excited to meet Georgina again and couldn’t wait to move her character
on through her complex life.
came about as I was driving with my hubby. I remember turning to him and
saying, ‘Georgina Garrett, the birth of a ruthless woman.’ She started off as
just a short single scene in my head – A young woman, beautiful, tough and on
the wrong side of the law. I could see her eyes, hair and the shape of her
body. I knew when she was born and that she’d had many struggles to overcome.
In the scene, Georgina was dressed as a boy and was thieving with her father.
For the rest of the drive with hubby, I blurted out the whole story, from the
day WW1 was declared and the birth of Georgina until she came to rule the
streets of Battersea.
hubby was flabbergasted and so was I – Trickster just needed to be written now.
I began typing, I found Georgina’s character changed slightly. I gave her more
of a heart and made her more caring. After all, I wanted my potential readers
to love her as much as I did! And I found that once the book was finished, I
missed her. So I was keen to get on with writing Rivals and now I’m almost
finished writing the third in the series.
so much more for Georgina to yet experience – and I can’t wait to share it with
you in the coming books!
Sam Michaels lives in Spain with her family and a plethora of animals. Having been writing for years Trickster is her debut novel. FacebookTwitter
Coronation hears of the murders before she even reaches the slave port of Bristol – six boys found with their throats slit. Horrified, she questions the locals’ readiness to blame the killings on Red John, a travelling-man few have actually seen. Coronation yearns to know more about the mystery. But first, she has to outsmart the bawds, thieves and rakes who prey on young girls like her: fresh from the countryside and desperate for work. When the murderer strikes shockingly close to Coronation, she schemes eavesdrops and spies on all around her until the shameful truth is out.
I received a copy of this book from Hookline Books in return for an honest review
I hope this is going to be a series.
Coronation (Corrie) the main protagonist is enigmatic, despite her youth. Her courage, cleverness, and compassion make her the perfect amateur sleuth and social activist. The historical setting is so well-drawn. It transports the reader to 18th Century Bristol on so many levels; criminal, economic, political, sensory and social class are all explored here. The vast disparity between the rich and the poor is clear. The setting is authentic and believable because of the author’s obvious knowledge and love of it.
From the first page, where Corrie is crammed in a coach bound for Bristol, It’s so atmospheric, you can visualise, the dilapidated interior, the appearance and manner of her travelling companions and the authenticity of their conversation. The story is told from her perspective, from a first-person point of view. This works well for historical fiction. It allows the reader to see the sights, sound and smells of Bristol, in a personalised way, making them more realistic.
The murder mystery is alluded to at the beginning, but this element of the plot forms the latter part of the story. The former part providing the necessary world-building and characterisation to make the story work. The mystery is plotted well and makes this element of the story satisfying.
‘A Pair of Sharp Eyes’ is a vividly portrayed historical fiction novel, fused with elements of mystery and crime fiction, the plot and setting sparkle with originality. As do the authentically created characters and a first-hand account of 18th Century Bristol and its ethos. A recommended read for historical fiction readers.
Kat Armstrong grew up in Bristol and became an English lecturer after writing a doctoral thesis on eighteenth-century fiction at the University of Oxford. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester and has written articles for The Guardian as well as a scholarly study of Daniel Defoe.
Kat’s debut novel, A Pair of Sharp Eyes, was published by Hookline Books in September 2019.
A family day out at Briar’s Hall ends in tragedy when a young boy goes missing – and his body is found at the bottom of a disused well in the orchard.
It looks like a simple case of an eleven-year-old exploring where he shouldn’t: a tragic accident. But Coroner Clement Ryder and Probationary WPC Trudy Loveday aren’t convinced. If Eddie had been climbing and fallen, why were there no cuts or dirt on his hands? Why would a boy terrified of heights be around a well at all?
Clement and Trudy are determined to get to the truth, but the more they dig into Briar’s Hall and the mysterious de Lacey family who live there, the murkier things become.
Could it be that poor Eddie’s death was murder? There are rumours of blackmail in the village, and Clement and Trudy have a horrible feeling that Eddie stumbled on a secret that someone was willing to kill for…
I received a copy of this book from HQ DigitalUK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This is the second Ryder and Loveday historical crime mystery I’ve read. Although the mysteries are standalone, the relationship between the two unusual detectives develops with each book. So, if you get the opportunity, start with book one.
Clement Ryder, former surgeon, now coroner, and Trudy Loveday, a probationary policewoman in the Oxford constabulary, in the early 1960s investigate cases referred to Ryder by various powerful sources. After their first meeting, Ryder sees the intelligence and potential detecting skill in Loveday, and always requests her assistance, despite the resistance of her misogynous bosses in the police force.
Loveday, is ambitious, intuitive and hard-working, the perfect police officer, yet in the 1960’s she is thwarted every time she seeks practical experience in police work, by jealous and bigoted colleagues and bosses. Their attitude to a working woman reflects the societal view of women in the workplace, and society. The idea of the 1950’s woman as a homemaker was challenged in the 1960s by women like Loveday and forward-thinking intelligent men like Ryder. The book showcases 1960s’ society and attitude well. I was a child in the 1960s, and recognise many of the attitudes and societal norms portrayed in this series, which is well- researched.
The plot is in the murder mystery style, nothing too graphic, although serious crime and issues are explored throughout the investigation. There are many suspects and numerous clues, many of which lead nowhere. The pacing is good, even though you follow Ryder and Loveday’s investigative pace. This is detective work in the 1960s, so forensics and technological help are minimal. Deduction and observation are key skills used here, and it makes interesting reading.
Perfect if you’re a fan of ‘Inspector Gently’, ‘Morse’ and ‘Prime Suspect. This series explores policing in the 1960s, with a unique partnership, astute observations of 1960’s society, and a well-plotted murder mystery.
Evie Kilgaren is a fighter. Abandoned by her mother and with her father long gone, she is left to raise her siblings in dockside Liverpool, as they battle against the coldest winter on record. But she is determined to make a life for herself and create a happy home for what’s left of her family.
Desperate for work, Evie takes a job at the Tram Tavern under the kindly watch of pub landlady, and pillar of the community, Connie Sharp. But Connie has problems of her own when her quiet life of spinsterhood is upturned with the arrival of a mysterious undercover detective from out of town.
When melting ice reveals a body in the canal, things take a turn for the worst for the residents of Reckoner’s Row. Who could be responsible for such a brutal attack? And can Evie keep her family safe before they strike again?
A gritty, historical family drama, full of laughter and tears from the author of Annie Groves’ bestsellers including Child of the Mersey and Christmas on the Mersey.
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I love reading a book that you become absorbed in from the first page. ‘The Orphan Daughter’, has this quality, and it’s an enthralling story, with historically authentic characters, whose lives you feel part of, especially the two main female protagonists Connie and Evie.
The historical period for this book, the post WW2 era, and the terrible winter of 1947 is a time I often heard my grandparents and parents talk about. The historic details are believable, and the setting and characters portrayed using vivid imagery, which brings the book to life.
Evie’s hardships are all too common during this time, the euphoria of the ending of war recedes, leaving the bombed cities, damaged infrastructure and relentless poverty for many. Life is hard in Reckoner’s Row, although the community is tight, it is wary of outsiders and unforgiving to those who break the unwritten laws. Evie wants to get out and make something of her life, but love and responsibility draw her back, into the world she longs to leave. This is an emotional family drama, where women are important, they keep families together, and have to subjugate their ambitions.
Angus is an outsider, there to investigate. He and Connie have an attraction, but she is loath to risk her heart and reputation on a fling. There is a mystery element, in this story, which adds to the family saga theme. The air of menace increases as the story progresses. Connie and Evie find that their daily hardship is not the only danger they face.
‘The Orphan Daughter’ has an authentic historical setting, complex characters, with intriguing elements of crime and mystery cleverly woven into the story. An enticing start to the ‘Reckoner’s Row’ series.
Extract from The Orphan Daughter – Sheila Riley
CHAPTER 1 SUMMER 1946 Nineteen-year-old Evie Kilgaren gathered her mane of honey-coloured hair into a loop of knicker elastic before taking a vase of heavy-scented lilies and freesias into the kitchen. The flowers were barely faded when she rescued them from the churchyard bin that morning.
Placing them in the centre of the table, she hoped their heady scent would mask the smell of damp that riddled every dwelling in the row of terraced houses opposite the canal and add a bit of joy to the place.
‘Who’s dead?’ her mother, Rene, asked. Her scornful retort was proof she had already been at the gin and Evie’s heart sank. She had wanted today to be special.
Surely her dead father’s birthday warranted a few flowers. Even if they were knockoffs from the church – at least she had made an effort, which was more than her mother had.
‘I got them for Dad’s…’ Evie was silenced by the warning flash in her mother’s dark eyes. A warning she had seen many times before. Rene gave a hefty sniff, her eyes squinting to focus, her brow wrinkled, and her olive skin flushed. Evie knew that when her mother had drunk enough ‘mother’s ruin’, she could be the life and soul of any party or, by contrast, one over could make her contrary and argumentative. ‘I thought they’d look nice on the table,’ Evie answered lightly, quickly changing her answer to try and keep the peace. She should have known better than to mention her father in front of Leo Darnel, who’d moved in as their lodger six months ago and taken no time at all getting his feet under her mother’s eiderdown. ‘I found a vase in…’ Her voice trailed off. Her mother wasn’t listening. As usual, she’d disappeared into the parlour to darken her finely shaped eyebrows with soot from the unlit grate – make-up was still on ration – dolling herself up for her shift behind the bar of the Tram Tavern. The tavern was barely a stone’s throw away on the other side of the narrow alleyway running alongside their house, so why her mother felt the need to dress to the nines was anybody’s guess.
Out of the corner of her eye, Evie noticed a sudden movement from their lodger, who was standing near the range, which she had black-leaded that morning. Leo Darnel didn’t like her and that was fine, because she didn’t like him either.
He was a jumped-up spiv who tried to pass himself off as a respectable businessman. Respectable? He didn’t know the meaning of the word, she thought, her eyes taking in the polished leather Chesterfield suite that cluttered the room and seemed out of place in a small backstreet terraced house.
‘None of your utility stuff,’ he’d said, pushing out his blubbery chest like a strutting pigeon. All the time he had a wonky eye on the bedroom door. He would do anything to keep her mother sweet and made it obvious every chance he got to show Evie she was in the way.
He’d been very quiet for the last few minutes, Evie realised. That wasn’t like Darnel. He was up to something, she could tell. He hadn’t interrupted with a sarcastic comment as he usually did when she and her mother were having a tit-for-tat. His elfsatisfied smirk stretched mean across thin lips as he hunched inside a crisp white shirt and peered at her.
His beady eyes looked her up and down as he chewed a spent matchstick at the corner of his mouth before turning back to the grate. His piggy eyes were engrossed in the rising flames of something he had thrown onto the fire. Her attention darted to the blaze casting dancing flares of light across the room.
‘No!’ Evie heard the gasp of horror and disbelief coming from her own lips. How could he be so callous? How could he? As he stepped back with arms outstretched like he was showing off a new sofa, Evie could see exactly what he had done.
‘You burned them!’ Evie cried, hurrying over to the range, pushing Darnel out of her way and grabbing the brass fire tongs from the companion set on the hearth, desperate to save at least some of the valuable night-school work.
Two years of concentrated learning to prove she was just as good as all the rest – reduced to ashes in moments. Thrusting the tongs into the flames again and again was hopeless Her valuable notes disintegrated.
‘Mam, look! Look what he’s done!’ Her blue eyes blazed as hotly as the flames licking up the chimney.
‘You are not the only one who can crawl out of the gutter? Mr High-and-mighty!’ Evie was breathless when her burst of anger erupted, watching the flames envelope her books, turning the curling pages to ash. She balled her work-worn hands, roughly red through cleaning up after other people and pummelled his chest. Why? She caught his mocking eyes turn to flint before being dealt a quick backhander that made her head spin.
Her nostrils, which only moments before had been filled with the sweet fragrance of summer freesias and Mansion polish, were now congested with blood as traitorous tears rolled down her cheek. Evie dashed them away with the pad of her hand, ashamed and angry because he was privy to her vulnerability. Her pale blue eyes dashed from the range to her mother, who was now standing in the doorway shaking painted nails.
Sheila Riley wrote four #1 bestselling novels under the pseudonym Annie Groves and is now writing a new saga trilogy under her own name. She has set it around the River Mersey and its docklands near to where she spent her early years. She still lives in Liverpool.
Deadly Prospects is book 1 in the
Scottish Mystery series. 1869, Sutherland, Scotland. For years the people of
this remote area of the Highlands have lived a hard life. Now a local Gold Rush
has attracted the Pan-European Mining Company to the area, and Solveig McCleery
is determined to re-open the Brora mines and give the population the riches
they deserve. But when work starts on re-opening the mines, the body of a
prospector is discovered, and odd inscriptions found on stones near the corpse.
Before the meaning of these strange marks can be deciphered another body is
discovered. Are these attacks connected to the re-opening of the mines? Will
Solveig’s plan succeed in bringing peace and prosperity back to the area? Or
has she put in motion something far more sinister?
I received a copy of this book from Urbane Publications in return for an honest review.
I love a good mystery, and this one set in Scotland in the late nineteenth century is full of atmosphere, historical detail, mysterious occurrence and realistic characters.
If you have a love literary fiction, this story will appeal, it’s not commercial fiction. The plot is complex and the characters historically authentic. There is so much historical detail, to let you see how it was to live in this place, at this time, that it slows to pace, and makes the story difficult to get into to.
The first part of the story set in Iceland is dramatic, full of vivid imagery and shocking. I expected the rest of the book to be similar in pace and impact, but truthfully, the pace didn’t find this level again, until the final chapters. When the story regained the adrenaline-inducing impact of the first part.
The mystery is complex and interesting, the connection with the first part is tied up nicely at the end. The setting is well -described, you can feel the desperation, isolation and poverty the workers felt when their livelihood was taken away. Solveig and her counterparts are well written and in the end, you feel the sadness of what has gone before, whilst feeling there is hope for the future. The mystery holds its secrets until the end, which is exciting and menacing.
Clio was born in Yorkshire, spent her later childhood in Devon before returning to Yorkshire to go to university. For the last twenty-five years, she has lived in the Scottish Highlands where she intends to remain. She eschewed the usual route of marriage, mortgage, children, and instead spent her working life in libraries, filling her home with books and sharing that home with dogs. She began writing for personal amusement in the late nineties, then began entering short story competitions, getting shortlisted and then winning, which led directly to a publication deal with Headline. Her book, The Anatomist’s Dream, was nominated for the Man Booker 2015 and longlisted for the Bailey’s Prize in 2016. Twitter