Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Historical Crime Fiction, Murder Mystery

The Missing Diamond Murder Diane Janes 3*#Review #ABlackandDodMystery @severnhouse #DianeJanes #MurderMystery #CozyMystery #HistoricalFiction #CrimeFiction

#TheMissingDiamondMurder

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?

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I received a copy of this book from Severn House via NetGalley in return for an honest review

My Thoughts…

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.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Gangland Crime, Guest post, Historical Crime Fiction, saga, Thriller

Rivals Sam Michaels 4*#Review @Aria_Fiction @SamMichaelsGG #BlogTour #CrimeFiction #HistoricalCrimeFiction #OrganisedCrime #GeorginaGarrett #BookReview #GuestPost

#Rivals

Georgina Garrett is back and more daring than ever!

Follow Georgina as she builds up her own empire in the second thrilling instalment of the Georgina Garrett series.

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I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

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 complex characters well and makes this a page-turning chapter of a compelling crime series.

Guest Post – Sam Michaels- The Birth of a Ruthless Woman

I 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.

You 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.

Writing 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.

Georgina 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.

My hubby was flabbergasted and so was I – Trickster just needed to be written now.

As 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.

There’s so much more for Georgina to yet experience – and I can’t wait to share it with you in the coming books!

#SamMichaels

Sam Michaels lives in Spain with her family and a plethora of animals. Having been writing for years Trickster is her debut novel. Facebook Twitter

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Historical Romance

The Stationmaster’s Daughter Kathleen McGurl 5*#Review @HQDigitalUK @KathMcGurl #Timeslip #HistoricalRomance #Railways #SteamTrains #FamilyDrama #BlogTour @rararesources #Mystery

As the last train leaves, will life ever be the same?

Dorset 1935

Stationmaster Ted has never cared much for romance. Occupied with ensuring England’s most beautiful railway runs on time, love has always felt like a comparatively trivial matter. Yet when he meets Annie Galbraith on the 8.42 train to Lynford, he can’t help but instantly fall for her.

But soon the railway is forced to close and a terrible accident occurs within the station grounds, Ted finds his job and any hope of a relationship with Annie hanging in the balance…

Present-day

Recovering from heartbreak after a disastrous marriage, Tilly decides to escape from the bustling capital and move to Dorset to stay with her dad, Ken. When Ken convinces Tilly to help with the restoration of the old railway, she discovers a diary hidden in the old ticket office. Tilly is soon swept up in Ted’s story, and the fateful accident that changed his life forever.

But an encounter with an enigmatic stranger takes Tilly by surprise, and she can’t help but feel a connection with Ted’s story in the past.

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I received a copy of this book from HQ Digital via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

MyThoughts…

I’ve read most of this author’s timeslip novels, and they keep getting better in terms of mysteries to be solved, emotional, poignant life journeys to be explored, and believable characters that you empathise with from the first page. The genealogy connection between the past and present is always cleverly done and is the author’s unique selling point, something that makes her stories both engaging and original.

Both Ted and Tilly’s stories are very emotional and poignant, Ted’s tragic love story in the 1930s is particularly touching, his honesty and simplicity make him vulnerable, and whilst you empathise with him, you are also horrified by others manipulation of his innocence. Tilly is also on a knife-edge, after the abusive behaviour of her husband, whose lack of compassion is horrifying. Her emotional recovery with the help of her father Ken and friend Jo is heartwarming, and the railway restoration society plays its part too and connects the past and present in a believable, interesting way.

The story is complex but easy reading, as it slips convincingly and effortlessly from the present to the past. Connections are made, clues given, with insights into the time and place, moving the story on, but letting the reader enjoy the experience.

The perfect escape, which will appeal to a wide audience who like genealogy, history, mystery and romance.

Kathleen McGurl lives near the sea in Bournemouth, UK, with her husband. She has two sons who are now grown-up and have left home. She began her writing career creating short stories, and sold dozens to women’s magazines in the UK and Australia. Then she got side-tracked onto family history research – which led eventually to writing novels with genealogy themes. She has always been fascinated by the past, and the ways in which the past can influence the present, and enjoys exploring these links in her novels.

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Posted in Book Review, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noir

An Unsuitable Woman – Kat Gordon – 4* #Review @BoroughPress @katgordon1984 @HarperFiction @fictionpubteam #HistoricalFiction #Kenya #LiteraryFiction

Theo Miller is young, bright and ambitious when he and his earnest younger sister Maud step off the train into the simmering heat of Nairobi. Both eagerly await their new life, yet neither are prepared for the pain it will bring.

When Theo meets American heiress Sylvie de Croÿ, he is welcomed into her inner circle – the Happy Valley set – rich, dazzling expatriates, infamous for their scandalous lifestyles.

Yet behind Sylvie’s intoxicating allure lies a powerful cocktail
of secrets, lust and betrayal. As dark clouds gather over Kenya’s future and his own, Theo must escape this most unsuitable woman – before it is too late.

First published as The Hunters.

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I received a copy of this book from Harper Fiction – Borough Press via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Theo moves to Kenya with his father, an engineer, who was instrumental in pioneering the railway in the colonial world. Now a director, he is to establish a rail network in Kenya in the late 1920s. Theo adores his younger sister, but has a difficult, bordering on an abusive relationship with his mother, who is much younger than his father.

The colonial establishment in Africa is well described in this story, as is the political unrest and the rise of right-wing nationalism, in the mid to late 1930s. The main focus of the story against this tumultuous setting of privilege and political unrest is the ‘Happy Valley set.’

They are rather like the spoilt, immoral group of people, in ”The Great Gatsby, only in Africa, rather than America. After the horrors of the ‘Great War’, and the financial crisis of the late 1920s, this hedonist group, who disdain society’s rules, and live for the moment, have an obvious appeal for a young boy on the cusp of adulthood. His work absorbed father, and seemingly uncaring mother, allow Theo to the freedom to be influenced by this group, which has a tragic effect on his teenage and future life.

The story is rich in historical details and full of vivid imagery, both in terms of the African setting and the clash of colonialism and nationalism. It is complex and absorbing and the characters resonate. Most are emotionally damaged and have dark natures, but even so, you are invested and want to know what happens to them.

Maud is the most courageous of all the characters and is a true pioneer, willing to break through barriers even at the risk of her own comfort and safety.

The story portrays the fear, prejudice and unrest in Africa, during the 1930s well. It is not easy to read in parts, because it jars with 21st-century beliefs and norms, but if you can accept this, it is a worthwhile read.

Posted in Book Review

One Enchanted Evening – Anton Du Beke – 4* Review

London, 1936. Inside the spectacular Grand Ballroom of the exclusive Buckingham Hotel the rich and powerful, politicians, film stars, even royalty, rub shoulders with Raymond de Guise and his troupe of talented dancers from all around the world, who must enchant them, captivate them, and sweep away their cares.

Accustomed to waltzing with the highest of society, Raymond knows a secret from his past could threaten all he holds dear.

Nancy Nettleton, new chambermaid at the Buckingham, finds hotel life a struggle after leaving her small hometown. She dreams of joining the dancers on the ballroom floor as she watches, unseen, from behind plush curtains and hidden doorways. She soon discovers everyone at the Buckingham – guests and staff alike – has something to hide…

The storm clouds of war are gathering, and beneath the glitz and glamour of the ballroom lurks an irresistible world of scandal and secrets.

Let’s dance . . .

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My Thoughts…

A delicious, detailed, dance orientated novel, which unfolds against a background of class division, an unprecedented threat to the monarchy and a cosmopolitan hotel whose outward glamour hides a web of secrets.

The characters are believable and vividly depicted, they draw the reader into the story and engender empathy and dislike according to their behaviour. The setting epitomises polite London society in the 1930s. The ballroom’s importance, as a place to see and be seen, is a core theme of this story and is the focal point for the action and dialogue between the main characters.

Like ‘Upstairs Downstairs ‘ and ‘Downtown Abbey’, society’s class division is marked. The ‘lower class’ characters’lives are difficult and provide a thought-provoking reminder of poverty and hardship.

The political unrest in Europe and England make living life the limit a given, for those able to do so. When secrets unfold and people’s livelihood and reputations are in danger, the true heroes and villains emerge.

I received a copy of this book from Zaffre via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

Blog Blitz :The Killing Time – M.J Lee 4*Review

As tensions simmer in Shanghai, children go missing…

Shanghai 1932: Inspector Danilov hasn’t recovered from the death of his child… but across a Shanghai riven with communal tensions, children are going missing.

Missing, and then murdered. Who is responsible? Why have the children’s bodies been exhibited for all to see?

Just as Danilov thinks the stakes couldn’t be higher there is a new dimension, Japan, a rising power flexing its muscles. In fractious Shanghai, an explosion is long overdue. With the clock ticking can Danilov and his assistant Strachan solve the case? The fate of Shanghai may be at stake. So is Danilov’s job… And his sanity.

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Extract

Back at Central Police Station, the detectives’ room was empty save for Strachan and Danilov. The rest of the squad, or what remained of them after the Shanghai Volunteers had decimated the ranks, were at lunch, on patrol or simply avoiding work with all the professionalism of the accomplished loafer.

Strachan was hunched over the missing persons file, while Danilov was busy sending smoke rings up to the kippered ceiling, where they hung floating in the air before gradually dissipating like a wastrel’s fortune.

‘Why was the ear removed, Strachan?’

The detective sergeant knew better than to speak now. Danilov was only turning the problem over in his mind; he didn’t require a response.

‘And why slash the face but leave the birthmark? If anything identifies him, it is the mark.’ Another stream of smoke rose to the ceiling. ‘We need to go back to where the body was found.’

It was Danilov’s belief that a crime scene yielded as much information about the killer as the body itself.

‘When, sir?’

‘There’s no time like the present.’ He stubbed the cigarette out in the empty ashtray and adjusted the lamp over his desk so it was at exactly forty-five degrees. Anything less or more would be a distraction. ‘Have you found him yet in missing persons?’

‘Nothing so far. He might not live in the International Settlement.’

‘From the French Concession?’

‘Or any of the Chinese areas along the border: Chapei, Siccawei, Nantao, Hung Tsung.’

‘Hmm, but why risk transporting him? With all the recent tensions, the Volunteers are manning roadblocks at all the major crossing points.’ Danilov shook his head. ‘No, he came from the International Settlement. Too risky to move him around. Keep looking; you might want to check the Criminal Intelligence files too.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘I always thought Criminal Intelligence was the wrong name for the division. Criminals lack intelligence. That is precisely why we are able to catch them.’

‘An oxymoron, sir.’

‘A what, Strachan?’

‘A figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear next to each other, like “the young couple were alone together”.’

‘You’re spending too much time with my daughter, Strachan.’

The detective sergeant smiled at the thought. ‘I’m enjoying helping her with her English literature degree. We’re reading Jane Austen at the moment. I didn’t know a—’

He was interrupted by a knock on the glass that separated the detectives’ room from the rest of the station. A small, round woman entered.

‘Inspector Danilov, the chief will see you now.’ She lowered her voice. ‘He has five minutes, fitting you in between a committee on the uniforms of Sikh policemen and a meeting about the new filing system for criminal records. I’d hurry if I were you.’

‘Thank you, Miss Cavendish. I’ll come right away.’

The inspector stood up from his chair, feeling the ache in his knees. Winters were the devil to him, bringing back old pains he thought he’d left behind.

‘The chief inspector is in a jolly good mood today. They’ve approved his proposal on overtime pay for ancillary staff.’

‘Does that mean you will receive more money, Miss Cavendish?’ asked Strachan.

‘Less, actually. He’s removing all allowances. No more overtime pay, no more travel expenses, no more meal allowances. I don’t know when these budget cuts are going to stop.’

‘It’s what President Hoover calls the Great Depression, Miss Cavendish.’

‘Another oxymoron, Strachan?’

Miss Cavendish’s right eyebrow rose. ‘An oxy what?’

‘Don’t ask. My detective sergeant will have you reading Jane Austen next.’ Danilov put on his jacket. ‘While I’m gone, Strachan, ask around the station, see if anybody has heard anything about any kidnappings recently.’

‘Kidnappings, sir? Why?’

Danilov tapped the side of his beak-like nose. ‘A hunch. Back in 1912, when I was in London… ’

‘And I was in school.’

‘Thank you, Strachan, for reminding me of your youth and inexperience. As I was saying, back in 1912, there was a gang of kidnappers operating in Poplar who encouraged the families of their victims to pay up by sending them a severed ear. It invariably concentrated their minds as they haggled over the price.’

He turned to go.

‘Did you catch them, sir?’

‘Who?’

‘The kidnappers?’

‘Of course. Like all criminals, they became greedy. Demanding money once too often and removing far too many ears.’

Miss Cavendish tapped her watch. ‘The chief inspector is waiting.’

‘I’ll ask around, sir.’

‘And don’t forget to chase the report. I want it on my desk by the time I’ve finished with the chief inspector.’

‘Yes, sir.’

Danilov followed Miss Cavendish down the corridor to Chief Inspector Rock’s room.

‘I could ask around for you too, Inspector. People tell me things; I don’t know why,’ said the elderly woman over her shoulder.

‘People do it because you are an excellent listener, Miss Cavendish, with a capacity for gossip that puts Catherine the Great to shame.’

They both stopped in front of the chief inspector’s door.

Miss Cavendish played with the rope of pearls that surrounded a roll of fat on her neck. ‘You do say the nicest things, Inspector. But I’ll ask anyway.’

She knocked.

A loud ‘Come!’ from inside.

‘Into the dragon’s den. Good luck,’ she whispered, opening the door. ‘Inspector Danilov as you requested, Chief Inspector.’

‘Thank you, Miss Cavendish. Do come in, Danilov, and take a seat. I won’t be a moment.’

 

My Thoughts…

Shanghai in the 1930’s was a tinderbox, and this story captures this ethos perfectly. Japan’s annexation of Manchuria created additional tension between the Chinese and Japanese populations within Shanghai, and it’s against this setting the fourth Inspector Danilov tale takes place.

Dark and tragic crimes are the central theme of this story, and the child murders are difficult to read. Trying to solve them forces Inspector Danilov to confront his demons and personal tragedies. As this is the fourth book in the series, undoubtedly the reader has already learnt a great deal about Danilov and his colleagues and family in the previous books.

Authentic Danilov’s idiosyncrasies make him easy to like, he is the typical smart, driven detective, whose career is his life often to the detriment of his family and health. The plot has twists, and the pacing varies with the action. A little slow in the first few chapters, it gains motivation as the plot becomes convoluted.

As a standalone, read it is good, but it would be even better if you’d read the previous books in the series. This disturbing story has an evocative setting, enigmatic detective and exciting political theme, making it an absorbing read.

I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

M J Lee has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a university researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, TV commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites.

He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the north of England, in London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning advertising awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and the United Nations.

While working in Shanghai, he loved walking through the old quarters of that amazing city, developing the idea behind a series of crime novels featuring Inspector Pyotr Danilov, set in the 1920s.

When he’s not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, practising downhill ironing, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake, and wishing he was George Clooney.

Twitter: @WriterMJLee

Posted in Book Review

The Sapphire Widow – Dinah Jefferies – 5*Review