Can Josiah solve the puzzle before more people die, or is he out of his depth?
In 1841, at the height of the
industrial revolution in the North West of England, Josiah Ainscough returns
from his travels and surprises everyone by joining the Stockport Police Force,
rather than following his adopted father’s footsteps into the Methodist
While Josiah was abroad, five men
died in an explosion at the Furness Vale Powder Mill. Was this an accident or
did the Children of Fire, a local religious community, have a hand in it. As
Josiah struggles to find his vocation, his investigation into the Children of
Fire begins. But his enquiries are derailed by the horrific crucifixion of the
Now Josiah must race against time
to solve the puzzle of the violence loose in the Furness Vale before more
people die. This is complicated by his affections for Rachael, a leading member
of the Children of Fire, and the vivacious Aideen Hayes, a visitor from
Can Josiah put together the
pieces of the puzzle, or is he out of his depth? Children of Fire won the
Writing Magazine’s Best Novel Prize for 2017
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
A curious mix of the historical fiction and murder mystery genres. The story is rich in historical detail and has a well-plotted murder mystery. The suspects are plentiful and the murders are vividly written. Josiah is a complex detective, who is ambitious, with secrets of his own.
The setting of the story in Victorian England, in an industrial setting, is of intrinsic interest, and the focus on a radical religious group explores, prejudice, religion and the communities that evolved, in the wake of the industrial revolution.
Its originality is appealing and it will suit those who appreciate historical fiction with a contemporary dash of a murder mystery.
His latest novel, Children of Fire,
is a Victorian murder mystery set in 1841 at the height of the industrial
revolution. It won the Writing Magazine’s Best Novel Award in November 2017 and
is published by The Book Guild Ltd.
Paul lives near Manchester in the northwest of
England. Children of Fire is set against the hills of the Peak District as well
as the canals and other industrial infrastructure of the Cottonopolis know as
the City of Manchester.
women at opposite ends of the social scale, both brutally murdered.
Officer Dan Foster of the Bow Street Runners is surprised when his old rival
John Townsend requests his help to investigate the murder of Louise Parmeter, a
beautiful writer who once shared the bed of the Prince of Wales. Her jewellery
is missing, savagely torn from her body. Her memoirs, which threaten to expose
the indiscretions of the great and the good, are also
Frustrated by the chief magistrate’s demand that he drop the investigation into the death of the unknown beggar woman, found savagely raped and beaten and left to die in the outhouse of a Holborn tavern, Dan is determined to get to the bottom of both murders. But as his enquiries take him into both the richest and the foulest places in London, and Townsend’s real reason for requesting his help gradually becomes clear, Dan is forced t face a shocking new reality when the people he loves are targeted by a shadowy and merciless adversary.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
The third book in the Dan Foster Mystery series reads well as a standalone, but to fully appreciate Dan’ previous life, I presume reading the first two books in the series would be best.
Two murders, both women who died brutally. One lived on the fringes of the gentry, the other in abject poverty. Yet both were victims, and ultimately in death, they were the same.
Dan is channelled into investigating the murder of the ex-mistress of the Prince of Wales but wants justice for the poorer woman too. A third mystery has personal significance for Dan. The plot is complex, but well-paced and the three mysteries keep the reader interested and intrigued.
The Georgian era is the perfect setting for crime fiction. The disparity between the wealthy and poor is marked, and both classes, prey on the other, in many criminal ways. The historical details and detection skills, show intricate care and give the reader a sense of time and place, which is essential for good historical crime fiction.
An absorbing walk on the dark side of Georgian London, with a likeable detective and heinous crimes. Whilst exploring the social class divide and the low status of women in the 18th century.
Boyce writes historical fiction, non-fiction and biography. After gaining an MA
in English Literature (with Distinction) with the Open University in 2007,
specialising in eighteenth-century fiction, she published her first historical
novel, To The Fair Land, in 2012, an
eighteenth-century thriller set in Bristol and the South Seas.
Her second novel, Bloodie Bones: A Dan Foster Mystery (2015) is the first of the Dan Foster Mysteries and follows the fortunes of a Bow Street Runner who is also an amateur pugilist. Bloodie Bones was joint winner of the Historical Novel Society Indie Award 2016 and was also a semi-finalist for the M M Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction 2016. The second Dan Foster Mystery, The Butcher’s Block, was published in 2017 and was awarded an IndieBrag Medallion in 2018. The third in the series, Death Makes No Distinction, was published in 2019. In 2017 an e-book Dan Foster novella, The Fatal Coin, was trade published by SBooks.
2013, Lucienne published The Bristol
Suffragettes, a history of the suffragette movement in Bristol and the west
country. In 2017 she published a collection of short essays, The Road to Representation: Essays on the
Women’s Suffrage Campaign.
to other publications include:-
So Militant Browne’ in Suffrage Stories: Tales from Knebworth, Stevenage, Hitchin and
Letchworth (Stevenage Museum, 2019)
Lidiard’ in The
Women Who Built Bristol, Jane Duffus (Tangent Books, 2018)
Tommies and the Vote’ in Bristol and the First World War: The Great Reading
Adventure 2014 (Bristol Cultural Development Partnership/Bristol Festival
of Ideas, 2014)
interviews and reviews in various publications including Bristol Times,
Clifton Life, The Local Historian, Historical Novels Review (Historical
Novel Society), Nonesuch, Bristol 24/7, Bristol History
Lucienne has appeared on television and radio in connection with her fiction and non-fiction work. She regularly gives talks and leads walks about the women’s suffrage movement. She also gives talks and runs workshops on historical fiction for literary festivals, Women’s Institutes, local history societies, and other organisations. She has been a radio presenter on BCfm and a course tutor.
2018 she was instrumental in devising and delivering Votes for Women 100,
a programme of commemorative events by the West of England and South Wales
Women’s History Network in partnership with Bristol M Shed and others. She also
campaigned and raised funds for a Blue Plaque for the Bristol and West of
England Women’s Suffrage Society.
She is on the steering committee of the West of England and South Wales Women’s History Network and is also a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Society of Authors, and the Alliance of Independent Authors.
She is currently working on the fourth full-length Dan Foster Mystery and a biography of suffrage campaigner Millicent Browne.
was born in Wolverhampton and now lives in Bristol.
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.
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.
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.
‘All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…’
When an undercover assignment for the Bow Street magistrate sees prostitute Lizzie Hardwicke trade Ma Farley’s Bawdy House in Soho for life as a seamstress the theatre on Drury Lane, it becomes clear quite quickly – what goes on in the wings is much more intriguing than the theatrics being played out on stage…
Soon Lizzie is once again thrown together with the handsome Inspector Will Davenport when a high profile investor is brutally hanged at centre stage and Lizzie discovers the body. With the suspect list rivalling any casting call, Lizzie will have to use every trick she’s hidden up her sleeves to unravel the tangled threads and bring the culprit into the spotlight.
I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Another eighteenth-century adventure with the irrepressible Lizzie Hardwicke and the self-contained detective Davenport.
If you haven’t read the first book in the series, ‘Death and the Harlot’, there is enough backstory in this to enjoy this standalone story, but you’re missing out if you don’t read book one.
Lizzie remains a believable historical character, with flaws, a clever mind, courage and compassion. The tentative friendship between her and Davenport develops in this story, the opposites are perfect counterpoints for the other, leading to humour and witty dialogue. The possibility of love hangs in the air, but both are emotionally damaged, and the trust between them will take a while to build.
Lizzie goes undercover as a seamstress in the famous Drury Lane Theatre, a wonderfully atmospheric setting for a historical murder mystery. The disruptive incidents that have occurred soon turn into something more deadly and Lizzie has to find the culprit.
There are lots of suspects, clues and drama in this story, with a medley of historical figures and authentic fictional characters, it holds your interest, proving to be as enthralling as any play staged in the famous theatre.
A lovely, original story with realistic characters and a clever plot.