Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Murder Mystery

Murder at Larkfield Barn – Betty Rowlands – 5*Review @bookouture @BettyRowlandsFP

Bright mornings and brisk walks… spring has arrived in the Cotswolds. But the atmosphere is positively wintery in Upper Benbury after a series of murders shake the close-knit community.

Since her move to the country, Melissa Craig has become firmly established in village life. So, when one of the older residents fails to show up for a drinks party, Melissa goes to check on her. What she finds chills her to the bone: her dear neighbour has been murdered, and the killer has painted a hideous smile onto her face…

Melissa soon realises that the death in her village bears the same trademark as a series of recent murders in the Cotswolds. When will The Smiler strike again?

With a dangerous killer on the loose, Melissa realises she needs to solve this case quickly. But as she starts to look closely at the people around her, she realises the killer may be closer to home than she could ever have imagined. What dark secrets are the villagers of Upper Benbury hiding? And can Melissa crack this deadly case before another life is taken?

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

I read Book Seven in the series out of sequence by mistake, the perils of starting a book at four o’clock in the morning when you can’t sleep. The upside to this being I can vouch that it reads well as a standalone, but this series is so entertaining that you want to read all the books.

This story is darker and more personal to amateur sleuth, crime writer Melissa Craig. Discovering the body of a friend and neighbour has a believable, profound effect on Melissa, which means she is reticent to be at the forefront of the investigation. Aside from the murder mystery, this book marks a turning point for both Iris, her close friend and neighbour and Melissa.

The characters are numerous and varied and this is perhaps one of the most difficult mysteries to solve. It does have its lighthearted moments, but there is also an air of menace not present in earlier books coupled with an overriding sense of loss and poignancy.

Despite the change in ethos, this story is as enjoyable as previous books, just deeper and more personal for the main character. Left on an emotional cliffhanger, I eagerly await Book 8 ‘Murder in Langley Woods.’

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

 

 

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Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Murder Mystery

Murder in the Orchard -Betty Rowlands- 5* Review @bookouture @BettyRowlandsFP

A beautiful house nestles in an orchard, where a blackbird sings at dawn each morning from a branch laden with rosy fruit… but underneath the trees, a body lies too still to be asleep.

Melissa Craig is struggling with her new novel, so when the invitation arrives to visit a nearby country house for some writing time, she decides a bit of peace and quiet is just what she needs. The house is everything she could have hoped for, even if the staff do seem rather unsettled…

She has barely unpacked when the owner of the house persuades Melissa to investigate some threatening notes he has received. But before she can do any digging, he is found murdered in his own orchard.

As she starts to probe further, Melissa realises that the dead man was universally disliked. Controlling, tight with money and nasty, he certainly made some enemies. But who could have hated him enough to resort to murder? His seemingly timid wife, the secretary with whom he previously had an affair or perhaps the gardener with an old secret?

With the police looking for an outsider, Melissa is sure the murderer is close at hand. But can she prove it? And can she unmask the killer before they strike again?

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

Another enjoyable instalment of the Melissa Craig Mysteries. I’ve read all of them so far and Melissa is an engaging sleuth and memorable character. There is a definite flavour of the early Nineties in this series, but it adds to the ambience and authenticity. 

Melissa is worried about her relationship with  Detective Chief Inspector Ken Harris, is she ready for the commitment he seeks? The chance to visit a writers’ retreat seems the perfect opportunity to take time out and decide what she wants.  Things, of course, do not go to plan and she finds her investigative skills are needed.

Conspiracy, lies, murder and secrets provide a difficult mystery for the intrepid crime writer to solve and bring her into close contact with the very person she was avoiding. The plot is particularly twisty, with several people having excellent motives for murdering the victim and it takes all her skill and strength of character to discover the truth.

An entertaining, retro story, for everyone who enjoys authentic English murder mystery.

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

Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

5* Review- The Winter Mystery – Faith Martin @JoffeBooks @FaithMartin_Nov

Jenny Starling is spending Christmas in a snowed-in country house cooking all the traditional food she loves. But the family she’s working for are not full of the seasonal spirit. In fact, they seem to hate each other. On Christmas Eve, someone is found dead on the kitchen table. And the head of the family is blaming Jenny! But with an incompetent detective called in, and seemingly no motive for the murder, Jenny will have to give the police a hand. She will stop at nothing to clear her name and find the real murderer.

THE SETTING A snowed-in farmhouse in rural Oxford. A big Cotswold-stone Georgian house with stables, outhouses, cobbled courtyard and resident sheepdog. Charming, but cold and uncomfortable in winter.

JENNY STARLING In her late twenties, Jenny Starling is an impressive woman. Physically, she stands at 6ft 1inch and has shoulder-length black hair and blue eyes. Curvaceous and sexy, she’s a modern single woman, living the lifestyle that suits her – that of a travelling cook. Her famous (and now very rich) father, is a ‘celebrity’ cook, divorced from Jenny’s mother. Jenny drives a disreputable cherry-red van and is happy travelling the country catering events and cooking great food. She is on a one-woman crusade to bring back ‘real’ food. And definitely doesn’t like having to divert her attention from achieving the perfect Dundee cake or creating a new sauce recipe by having to solve a murder. She finds crime very distracting, especially when there is chocolate to temper or pike to poach. Nevertheless, she is very good at reading people, and with a quick and agile brain, becomes very good at unmasking killers. And her always-undaunted sense of humour goes a long way in keeping her sane when all around her people are dropping like flies.

Amazon UK

 My Thoughts…

This aptly named mystery is the perfect book for a cold, Winter’s afternoon. Jenny Starling is a strong, likeable character with a talent for crime solving. The cast of characters in this particular mystery is not easy to empathise, but when the most likeable of them is murdered, Jenny is first on the scene and becomes involved in solving the crime.

This is an old-fashioned crime mystery with false clues, numerous suspects and a particularly nasty murder. The slow pacing fits the story and the reader, aside from reading an interesting story can try and work out #whodunnit.

An easy to read, but cleverly plotted mystery with complex, realistic characters, and a memorable amateur detective.

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

Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

Murder on a Winter Afternoon – Betty Rowlands – 4*Review @bookouture

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A snow-covered cottage is nestled in the hills, all ready for Christmas… but inside a body lies dead upon the floor.

Melissa Craig is enjoying her first winter in the Cotswolds, taking brisk walks through the snowy fields and basking in the winter sunshine. The only thing Melissa is plotting is her Christmas shopping.

But after the unexpected death of local writer Leonora Jewell, Melissa is asked to complete Leonora’s final book. However, on her first visit to the cottage, she finds a gruesome object overlooked by the police: a metal bar covered with dried blood.

Terrified, Melissa rushes to the nearest telephone box to call the police. But by the time they reach Leonora’s cottage, the murder weapon has mysteriously vanished.

With no murder weapon, the detective in charge of the case scoffs at Melissa’s suspicions. Furious and frustrated, Melissa focuses on finishing Leonora’s novel. But as she reads Leonora’s notes for the book, she starts to wonder… did Leonora accidentally plot out her own murder?

As Melissa does some investigating of her own, she uncovers some pretty suspicious local characters. But with the police unwilling to help, can Melissa solve this vicious crime alone? By hook, by crook, or by the book, Melissa must find the killers before they strike again…

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

Winter always seems to enhance the attractiveness of murder mysteries, especially typically English ones like the Melissa Craig series. This is a particularly atmospheric story both in terms of snow and frost and the air of menace that follows the intrepid crime writer around as she becomes embroiled in another murder mystery.

This story sees the reappearance of Bruce, from earlier books in the series and he definitely brings out Mel’s impulsive personality traits. There is a lot going on in the background of this story, some of which seems superfluous to the plot. I worked out whodunnit, early on, this is possibly the author’s intention, as it shows up Mel’s fallibility, and increases the danger she faces.

Perfect for reading on a cold, stormy Winter’s day like today.

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

Posted in Book Review

Faith Martin- 5* Review – Hillary’s Final Case

Hillary Greene has returned to Thames Valley Police HQ, acting as a cold-case consultant for the Crime Review Team, looking into murders which the police have never been able to solve. This is a crime mystery full of well-observed characters, which will have you gripped from start to the absolutely thrilling conclusion.

THE DETECTIVE DI Hillary Greene An attractive, single woman nearing the landmark age of fifty, Hillary Greene was a police officer of many years’ experience (earning the rank of DI) and came up through the ranks. Consequently, she knew how the system worked and was always fiercely loyal to the force without being blinkered to its faults. Forced to retire early through no fault of her own, she has now returned to the force as a civilian consultant on cold cases.

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

The final book in the Hillary Greene series answers all the questions both in her professional and personal life. The cases in this concluding book are a continuation from the storyline in the previous book ‘Murder in Mind’.

The crime solving is believable and engaging, not everything is solved, but this adds to the authenticity. All the main characters are featured in ‘Hillary’s Final Case’ and there is a satisfactory resolution of Hillary’s personal life.

I have only read two books in this series, but as they read well as standalone stories this isn’t a problem, Cold cases featuring missing girls are the theme of this book, and all the stories are absorbing and poignant. There are many twists, but it’s rewarding to follow the clues and solve the mysteries and crimes with Hillary Greene and her team.

If you enjoy crime novels and cosy mystery this is a series worth reading.

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

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?

Amazon UK

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

Murder at the Grand Raj Palace – Vaseem Kahn – (Baby Ganesh Agency Investigation #4) – 5* Review

For a century the iconic Grand Raj Palace Hotel has welcomed the world’s elite. From film stars to foreign dignitaries, anyone who is anyone stays at the Grand Raj.

The last thing the venerable old hotel needs is a murder…

When American billionaire Hollis Burbank is found dead – the day after buying India’s most expensive painting – the authorities are keen to label it a suicide. But the man in charge of the investigation is not so sure. Chopra is called in – and discovers a hotel full of people with a reason to want Burbank dead.

Accompanied by his sidekick, baby elephant Ganesh, Chopra navigates his way through the palatial building, a journey that leads him steadily to a killer, and into the heart of darkness.

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts…

If you’re looking for a 21st-century take on the cosy mystery, this is a must-read. I love Miss Marple, Poirot and Midsomer Murders and this series encompasses the best of these with an enthralling taste of life in India.

Chopra, a retired policeman, is an inherent crime solver and even ill health can’t prevent him from doing what he loves. He is an honest, loyal man who values truth and justice. Sometimes his personal life gets sidelined by his investigations, like this one, which threatens to rock his marriage after twenty-five years. Chopra is a surrogate parent to an orphaned baby elephant called Ganesh, with a talent for crime solving and a young boy who is inseparable from the young elephant. These young characters provide the light relief to Chopra’s often grisly investigations.

The plot plays out like an Agatha Christie with numerous suspects, misinformation and sub-plots. The steady pacing makes these easy to follow, but the storyline keeps its secrets well. Poppy, Chopra’s wife, has her investigation adding to the story’s diversity. Indian culture and society are intrinsic to this series, and there are also pertinent comments about politics, colonialism, religion, and multi-national corporations, which give the story its authenticity. 

I haven’t read the previous books in this series, but this one reads well as a standalone. However, it’s addictive reading, and  I’m sure I will read the other books in the series soon. If you like whodunnit mysteries, charismatic characters and charming animals, this is a book you’re sure to enjoy.

I received a copy of this book from Mulholland Books, Hodder& Stoughton via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review

The Windmill Cafe Summer Breeze Poppy Blake 3 *Review

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The Windmill Cafe is open for business!

As Rosie Barnes serves glasses of tangy lemonade and ice-cold prosecco at her summer garden party, she couldn’t be happier. The Windmill Café, with its peppermint green sails, is a roaring success and has given Rosie a chance to escape the heartbreak of her busy life in London.

But then disaster strikes when popstar Suki Richards is taken unexpectedly ill at the party. Now all eyes are on Rosie…have her famous raspberry cupcakes poisoned her most high-profile guest? Or is someone else trying to damage Suki’s chance of stardom?

If Rosie wants to save her picture-perfect life, and the reputation of her beloved Windmill Café, she’s going to have to get to the bottom of the mystery…and fast!

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Thoughts… 

A windmill cafe is a delightfully quirky idea. Although the windmill doesn’t take centre stage in this story, the plot is also quirky, a cosy mystery mixed in with a romantic comedy.

This story lacks imagery. I want to know about the windmill and the glorious Norfolk countryside and coast but the details are sketchy, and so for me, the setting doesn’t have the impact it should.

I like cosy mysteries, lots of characters, a beautiful setting, an enigmatic detective or two and foul play. This story has all the necessary ingredients for a fun read, but they need more mixing and cooking to achieve their full potential.

The story’s protagonists are immature and naive; they remind me of the children’s characters,’The Famous Five’. They need to develop as the story does and unfortunately, they don’t, remaining two dimensional rather than complex and three dimensional.

An okay read but needs to be faster paced, with more suspense, plot twists and character development.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Book Review

Inspector Hobbes and the Bones – Wilkie Martin 4* Review

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‘I was grateful for having been born human’

There’s going to be trouble. Andy Caplet’s wife goes away, someone is out to get him, and he loses nearly everything in a storm. Amazing both himself and his unhuman friend Inspector Hobbes, he heroically rescues flood victims and uncovers something shocking.

Is Andy being set up for blackmail by the apparently charming young woman who attempts to seduce him, or is something even more sinister afoot? Hobbes certainly believes so, and he’s getting worried.

This is the fourth in Wilkie Martin’s unhuman series of standalone cozy comedy crime fantasies.

Suitable for teenage and upwards. Set in the English Cotswolds and featuring the unhuman British detective Inspector Hobbes as told by the chaotic reporter Andy Caplet. It is not necessary to have read the previous books in the series

Amazon UK

Amazon

Click on the book cover below for an excerpt from the book.

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My Thoughts…

A lovely mix of cozy mystery and fantasy set in a quirky Cotswold town. This was my first Inspector Hobbes novel and it’s been on my reading list for almost a year now. After reading it, I’m anxious to read the other mysteries.

Designed to be read as a standalone, you get all the backstory you need to enjoy both the characters and the mystery. Inspector Hobbes is an enigmatic, witty character but I’m still not sure what he is? It certainly didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story, just made visualising him difficult.

Andy, our narrator attracts misfortune and this makes him both a vulnerable and comic character. He did exasperate me at times but he is a good person and makes a perfect ‘sidekick’ for the inspector.

The setting is vividly described and the plot easy to follow, allowing the reader to concentrate on the enthralling characters. There is a noticeable preoccupation with food, so make sure you have some snacks handy when reading this.

An addictive, humorous read.

I received a copy of this book from The Witcherley Book Company via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

4* Review: The French Retreat – Sue Fortin (Falling for France #1)

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Blurb 2016- 2

Losing her job and her home, wasn’t on Marcie Grainger’s wish list for the new year. In a bid to reassess her life, she heads off to the only place she has ever felt content – her brother’s farmhouse retreat in rural France.

Marcie isn’t the only one looking to escape. Ex-soldier Will hopes the gentle pace of French life will help to banish the ghosts of his past and offer him the fresh start he desires.

However, all is not what it seems at The Retreat. Fuelled by a string of strange happenings and local rumours, Will and Marcie are pushed together as they try to discover who or what is behind it all. In so doing, they are faced with a moral dilemma and question if doing wrong is doing right?

The French Retreat is a story of human compassion, hope and love.

Buy Links 2016 -2

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Review

The French Retreat (French Mystery Series Book 1)

Marcie and the establishment have come to blows when she seeks solace in France, at her brother’s aptly name home, ‘The Retreat’. The mystery starts when she meets Will, an ex soldier who is staying at the retreat. Will’s attraction to Marcie is undeniable but can it overcome the demons he is battling?
The vividly described setting is lovely and makes the perfect backdrop for the mystery that unfolds. Although the plot isn’t complex, there are enough twists to make you think one thing, when in fact the truth is something else entirely. The fast paced story keeps you interested and the moral dilemma it poses, makes you wonder what you would do faced with the same set of circumstances. The unsurprising, romantic ending, is satisfying and sets the scene perfectly for book 2.

 

The French Retreat by Sue Fortin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The French Retreat (French Mystery Series Book 1) by Sue Fortin

Sue Fortin

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