Posted in Book Review

Murder in the Morning – Betty Rowlands – 4* Review

Melissa Craig is settling in nicely to a new teaching position in the quaint little village of Upper Bembury, getting to know her way around, drinking tea with the eccentric staff, even sewing the first seeds of romance…

But when she arrives one morning to find police outside her classroom, Melissa is shocked to hear that her beautiful colleague Angelica has been found dead in her home.

As everyone in Angelica’s life comes under suspicion, Melissa makes it her mission to go in search of the truth, not least because she’s romantically entangled with none other than the police’s prime suspect.

The discovery of a vandalised portrait of the murdered girl might be just the clue that Melissa needs to clear her lover’s name, but when a second body surfaces, she knows she needs to act quickly. Can Melissa uncover the ugly truth in this beautiful village before another innocent life is taken?

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My Thoughts…

I eagerly anticipated the next cosy mystery featuring crime writer Melissa Craig, but sadly didn’t enjoy this as much as the first in the series.

Diversity doesn’t feature in this story, which is lacking in political correctness. However, written and set in the late twentieth century it is an accurate representation of the culture.

The story has all the right ingredients, infidelity, domestic abuse, romance and prejudice to make a worthwhile cosy mystery, but the characters are a little sketchy in parts and lack necessary development to make them potential suspects. The real murderer is obvious, but perhaps that is the intention?

The story starts with an incident that introduces significant characters, and then there is a jump in time to the present day when the mystery develops. There are incomers to the village who are also critical to the story, and Melissa’s celebrity status means she’s invited to a party at the village gossips’ house to meet them.

Clues and misinformation are plentiful in this story, which concentrates more on Melissa’s new job and the people she encounters. The beautiful village where Melissa lives takes a back seat in this story, and that’s a shame because the vivid descriptions of the setting and the suspense created there is what I loved about the first book.

The ending while, not a surprise is well-paced suspenseful and even poignant.

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

Posted in Book Review

Betty Rowlands – 5*Review Murder at Hawthorn Cottage

Meet Melissa: cat lover, caring mother… daring detective? 

Melissa Craig is absolutely delighted with her new life in an old crumbling cottage, spending her days pruning the primroses and getting to know Binkie, the ginger cat next door. She only wishes she had made the move to the countryside sooner.

But when a knock at the door brings news of a shocking discovery, she suddenly finds herself thrown into the middle of a baffling mystery: the bones of a young woman have been found in the woods just behind her new home.

Perhaps the little village of Upper Bembury is not as idyllic as it first seemed? 

Strange phone calls in the night convince Melissa that the police are barking up completely the wrong tree, so she can’t resist doing a little digging of her own. From the bingo hall to the beauty salon and beyond, her search ruffles a few feathers and uncovers many of the village’s most scandalous secrets, but gets her no closer to finding the culprit…

The discovery of a tatty old photograph in a drawer is the final piece of the puzzle she needs, but as a newcomer in this close-knit community, does Melissa have what it takes to get to the bottom of this extraordinary murder mystery alone?

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My Thoughts…

The quintessential cosy mystery a beautiful rural setting, a village full of quirky, nosy characters and female crime writer who courts danger and trouble in the same way the characters in her books do.

Melissa seems much older than her mid-forties, I have to admit I imagine Miss Marple and Jessica Fletcher when I visualise her but apart from this misconception, she is the perfect protagonist for a cosy mystery. Initially published under a different title in the twentieth century, the book is only dated by its philosophy on relationships and women living on their own.

The storyline is fast-paced and engaging. Melissa’s independent character and mindset come across well in the story, and the plot twists are just the right side of believable. The suspense in the final chapters builds to adrenaline fuelled ending, full of action and powerful imagery.

An enjoyable, escapist read that I suspect may become my secret addiction.

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

Posted in Book Review

The Antique Dealer’s Daughter – Lorna Gray – 3* Review

In the aftermath of war, Emily Sutton struggles with being a young woman in a world irrevocably changed by conflict. When she refuses to follow the traditional expectations of a job in her father’s antiques business – or marriage – her parents send her for an ‘improving’ stay with her spinster cousin in the quiet Cotswold village of Washbrook. But Emily arrives to find her cousin’s cottage empty and an elderly man brutally attacked by an unknown assailant and realises that even in peacetime, the spectre of death is never far away.

Emily knows of the scandal that rocked the village last winter – the death of John Langton, the rumours of his looted treasure – leaving his older brother, Captain Richard Langton, to face the disgrace. Despite his cool manner, Emily is drawn to Richard, and as they work together to expose the shadows stalking the village, they discover that John’s ghost will not be allowed to rest, with terrifying results…

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My Thoughts…

Steeped in historical detail and authentic characters you could undoubtedly find in post-war Britain, ‘The Antique Dealer’s Daughter’ follows Emily’s endeavours as she forges a life for herself in the rural idyll of the Cotswolds.

World War 2 changed lives and gave women chances and certain emancipation that would have happened much more slowly without the impetus of the war. This story illustrates this and the frustration many women felt when they were expected to return to their post-war roles. The post-war era and life in the rural Cotswolds immerse the reader, but the slow pacing and length of the story sometimes negate the powerful messages both social and political and the depth of the characters.

It’s not an easy read, there is perhaps a little too much historical detail and the characters’ behaviour and attitudes, while realistic makes them hard to understand and empathise. The mystery and the danger the heroine finds herself in underlines the story but only seeing it from Emily’s point of view reduces its impact; always being in her head is often confusing for the reader.

If you are a devotee of historical fiction in the 1940s, this is an absorbing read, but if you are more interested in solving the crimes and mystery, you may find it difficult to discover and keep the clues in your mind. The romance is gentle and rather lovely, entirely in keeping with the period.

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

 

Posted in Book Review

An Unfinished Murder – Ann Granger – 4* Review – A Campbell and Carter Mystery #6

 

Posted in Book Review

The Death Chamber – Lesley Thomson – 4* Review

Queen’s Jubilee, 1977: Cassie Baker sees her boyfriend kissing another girl at the village disco. Upset, she heads home alone and is never seen again.

Millennium Eve, 1999: DCI Paul Mercer finds Cassie’s remains in a field. Now he must prove the man who led him there is guilty.

When Mercer’s daughter asks Stella Darnell for help solving the murder, Stella sees echoes of herself. Another detective’s daughter.

With her sidekick sleuth, Jack, Stella moves to Winchcombe, where DCI Mercer and his prime suspect have been playing cat and mouse for the past eighteen years.

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My Thoughts…

Even though this is the sixth in the detective daughter series, you can read as a standalone.

The story begins with the circumstances surrounding the first murder in 1977. After the disappearance of another girl in 1999, the body of the first victim is found. Stella and Jack are offered the case by another detective’s daughter whose father wants them to prove that the murderer is still at large. Other members of the team are not sure if they should take the case, but someone closer to home is keeping secrets that will need to be solved too.

The characters’ stories are sketched out in the first part of the story, so even if you are new to the series, like me you get a feel for who they are. Quirky is the word that sums up both Jack and Stella, both are good people but are damaged by life and find it difficult to relate to others outside their immediate team. There is a good team dynamic both in the ‘Clean Slate’, cleaning company and the detective agency. Everyone has a role and it more of a family than a business.

The crime-solving takes place in the last two-thirds of the story. It is a detailed and lengthy book but is well-paced. The factual details seamlessly merge with clues, misinformation and the characters’ internal and external conflicts. I liked the dynamic between Stella and Jack, they are vividly described and come across as believable.

The plot is intricate with numerous twists, even when you think you’ve solved it something alters to move the goal posts, and you discover you’re only partly correct. Atmospheric and suspenseful twists make ordinary events and settings menacing and chilling.

The ending leaves no loose ends and manages to retain its surprises.

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

Posted in Book Review

Bring Me Back B. A. Paris 5*Review

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The Disappearance
Twelve years ago Finn’s girlfriend disappeared.

The Suspicion
He told the police the truth about that night.
Just not quite the whole truth.

The Fear
Now Finn has moved on.
But his past won’t stay buried…

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My Thoughts…

Fast-paced, totally addictive suspense fiction that draws you in from the first lie until the final terrifying twist. Written from Finn and his missing girlfriend’s point of view, you learn their past and current thoughts, without slowing down the story.

Finn is troubled he has a shady past that occasionally resurfaces with devasting results, his obsessive love of Layla his missing girlfriend makes him an obvious suspect in her disappearance but his well-placed lies and excellent legal advice leave him free to rebuild his life.  Twelve years later, Finn has moved on, but random events collide to make him believe the past hasn’t done with him yet.

Focusing on Finn, his current girlfriend, a longtime friend and ex-girlfriend, the cast of this sinister thriller is small. As the menace escalates, Finn cannot trust anyone, and this sense of isolation builds his anger to boiling point.

The gripping final chapters reveal an unexpected twist, with horrific consequences for the story’s major players. I guessed this before the end, but even then, the ultimate revelation is not quite as I envisaged. For me, part of the enjoyment is trying to foresee the outcome before the story’s end. 

The tagline #forgetsleep is true. I read this book through the night yesterday.

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

 

30 July 2018:- P.S. There is another ending to this story, which will please the romantics amongst us,

but the first ending wins for dramatic impact.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review

Scandal – Sasha Morgan Extract and 4* Review

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As the new custodian of the ancestral home, Treweham Hall, Tobias Cavendish-Blake soon discovers exactly what he’s inherited. Instant financial action is needed if the Hall is to survive the mounting debts it’s racking up. Adding insult to injury the family is forced to sell the Gate House on the estate to lottery winners Gary and Tracy Belcher – not the kind of neighbours Tobias was hoping for.

Megan Taylor inherits her grandmother’s country cottage in the village of Treweham and decides to make a fresh start there, taking a job at the local country pub.

When Megan meets Tobias, the attraction is clear, but she is determined to resist his charms, put off by his reputation and that of his best friends – the rakish Seamus Fox, son of a millionaire racehorse trainer and dastardly jockey Dylan Delany. But Tobias is a hard man to resist…

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Extract

‘‘I’m due a race soon,’ Dylan chipped in. ‘A substantial wager would bring in the bacon.’

Tobias grinned. ‘What if you lose?’

‘I never do, not when it matters,’ replied Dylan with confidence and a wink. Dylan’s ocean-blue eyes twinkled with mischief. He was fiercely competitive, and his athletic physique made him the hugely successful jockey he was. His ancestry dated back to Romany travellers, and he attributed his gift of the gab to this, as well as his success with the ladies. Dylan Delany was a real catch, everyone knew that, but the trouble was he refused to be caught. He weaved his way through various relationships, ducking and diving, avoiding any commitment. The more unobtainable he became, the more he was desired.

Dylan had a reputation, and it took some upholding. He couldn’t help it if he loved women. He genuinely did like their company. He appreciated their femininity, the way they dressed so elegantly, their fragrance, their beautiful shiny, long hair, or sassy short hair, for that matter – he liked both. He was a sucker for any damsel – he was only human, after all. But deep down Dylan was a decent man and hated to see one of his close friends in any kind of trouble. Seamus was equally protective of his best friend.

‘True,’ agreed Seamus, ‘but it’s too much of a risk in the current climate.’

Dylan looked at him. ‘Says the Fox for whom I’ve made a fortune.’

‘True again,’ said Seamus with a laugh. Fox was a fitting name for him, with his ginger hair and sly, cunning wit.

‘Sometimes I feel like selling the whole bloody place, lock, stock and barrel to some rich American… throw in the title, too,’ moaned Tobias.

‘Surely it’s not that bad,’ sighed Seamus. He’d grown to love Tobias’ home, spending many a childhood summer there, and he smiled wistfully remembering the scrapes they’d got into. He’d also grown to love the family, who always made him feel so welcome. In later years Treweham Hall had acted as a temporary retreat when he had fallen out with his father. Sean Fox was a formidable force. He had a driving ambition where his horses were concerned and ran his stables with a cast-iron fist. Although he loved both his sons, he wouldn’t tolerate any form of subordination and treated them as he would any other member of staff, strictly but fairly. A young Seamus didn’t agree with his father’s authoritarian methods, and his defiance had got him booted out of the Fox household. The Cavendish-Blakes came to the rescue, giving him the full use of the Gate House on their estate. This had proved to be the perfect solution, especially to Seamus’ mother, whose desperate pleas to bring Seamus home had been totally ignored by her hardened husband.’

My Thoughts… 

Treweham is a quintessential English village, full of camaraderie, family life, gossip and the occasional scandal. There are a plethora of characters who are realistic; each has their role in the village life and a story to tell.
An easy to follow the plot, written from multi-points of view, in short chapters, interlocks nicely as the book progresses. Fast- paced the story has multiple themes; saving the ancestral home, winning the lottery, secret love and tabloid scandals being the main ones. Gentle romance, sensual affairs and a mystery hidden in the depths of the cottage Megan inherits from her beloved Grandmother are all explored and make this an interesting read.
This story is pure escapism and has the makings of an excellent series of books.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Morgan, SashaSasha lives in a rural, coastal village in Lancashire with her husband and Labrador dog. She has always written stories from a very young age and finds her fictional world so much more exciting than the real one.