Posted in Book Review, Cozy Mystery, Murder Mystery

Murder In Langley Woods- 5* Review -Betty Rowlands – @bookouture @BettyRowlandsFP

A body is found near a picture-perfect Cotswolds village… but the upstanding local residents couldn’t possibly be involved, could they?

Murder is the very last thing on Melissa Craig’s mind when one of her neighbours pops in to complain loudly about a minor local robbery. She’s far too busy thinking about her next book…

But when the evening paper lands, there is a shocking headline. A young woman’s body has been found in the nearby woods, and it seems the local robbery may offer a crucial clue. Suddenly the whole village is talking about the murder, but none of Melissa’s neighbours has come forward to say they know who the victim is.

Convinced that the police have got the wrong end of the stick, Melissa can’t resist doing some more digging. When she finds a photograph of the dead girl at her former family home, she realises this is the clue she needs, if only she can find out who took the picture…

Melissa finds an exciting new lead and rushes to follow it. But might she be walking into a trap? Can she work out the truth before she puts herself in harm’s way?

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

So lovely to be back in The Cotswolds with Melissa Craig and a cast of wonderful characters. The murders get darker and more menacing and even though this can be read as a standalone story. If like me you’re addicted to this cozy mystery series, you’ll enjoy the developments in Melissa’s life too.

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

4* Review – A Fatal Flaw – Faith Martin @HQStories @FaithMartin_Nov

1960, Oxford

As the city of Oxford prepares itself for the inaugural Miss Oxford Honey Beauty Pageant at The Old Swan Theatre, excitement is in the air.

But when one of the leading contestants is found dead, suspicion hangs over the competition.

Poisoned, the authorities assume her death was suicide. But after a malicious series of pranks and blackmail attempts are reported, WPC Loveday and Coroner Clement Ryder are called upon to solve the case.

In an atmosphere of fierce competition, the list of suspects is endless. Could what have started as harmless fun become a deadly race to win the prize?

With time running out, the duo need to spot the killer before tragedy strikes again…

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

A lovely example of an unusual pairing working in the world of crime detection. Loveday and Ryder bring youthful naivety and aged wisdom to solve a clever crime, against a background of sixties prejudice, chauvinism and social class divide.

Although this is the third book in the series, the other’s being ‘ A Fatal Obsession’ and ‘A Fatal Mistake’, this is the first book I have read. The setting is authentic but takes a little getting used to. The characters are interesting, but if you get the chance, read the other stories first, to get to know the character’s stories.

The story revolves around a suspicious death and a beauty contest, there are numerous suspects and secrets and the crime-detecting is subtle. The ending is realistic and leaves the reader with a cliffhanger and a moral dilemma for Loveday.

Worth reading if you like retro crime novels with a murder mystery theme.

Posted in Book Review, Crime, Indie, Murder Mystery

Next Victim – 4*#Review – Helen H. Durrant – @JoffeBooks @hhdurrant

A young man’s body is found burnt and tortured by a Manchester canal. Detective Rachel King investigates. But she has a secret, the love of her life is a well-known villain. He has recently come back on the scene. But what does he really want?

A brutal serial killer with a taste for good-looking young blonde men.

A student who believes she has a lost brother. But even her own father doesn’t believe her. She was involved with the first victim.

As the murders continue, can Rachel keep her family together and stop the killer?

THE DETECTIVE DCI Rachel King. Thirty-nine-year-old mother of two teenage daughters. Divorced from Alan. She lives in the Cheshire village of Poynton – about ten miles from central Manchester. She is good at her job, gets results but does make mistakes. One of them was getting involved with a budding villain in her teens. No one, family, friends or colleagues know anything about this.

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

A killer with a grudge and a taste for punishment, a detective with a secret and a girl searching for a missing sibling all intertwine to make ‘Next Victim’, an absorbing murder mystery.

Detective Chief Inspector Rachel King is good at her job but is this at the expense of her family life? A particularly grisly murder takes all her concentration, but someone from her past could damage everything. Rachel is a complex, realistic character. She’s flawed and dedicated to her job. Her ex-husband seems to want to be more than the father to her kids, but she has a secret she cannot share.

This is a well-written murder mystery/police procedural. All the characters are authentic and vividly portrayed and the crimes though terrible are not too graphic. The fast- pacing keeps the reader’s interest and this promises to be the start of a good series as Rachel’s past collides with her present

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

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.

 

 

Posted in 7 Days of Books

7 Days of Books I #AmReading #Reviewing @Jolliffe03

To keep me on track and to let you know what’s going to be on the blog in the next 7 Days, these are the #books I #amreading and #reviewing #nextweek on #JaneHuntWriter

Jane x

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

Murder at the Manor Hotel – Betty Rowlands – 5* Review @bookouture

 

As the stage is set for a local village play in a beautiful countryside manor, Melissa Craig plays the role of detective once again when one of the cast is mysteriously murdered… 

Melissa is delighted when she’s asked to help put on a play at her favourite local Cotswolds hotel. There’s nothing she loves more than getting to know the cast, who are just as colourful behind the scenes as they are on stage.

Rehearsals are running smoothly until the perpetually grumpy supporting actor is found spread-eagled at the bottom of a steep flight of stairs leading to a cellar.

As Melissa tries in vain to save his life, she is sure she can hear voices nearby and suspects there is more to this accident than meets the eye. Why on earth was he trying to get down to the hotel’s private cellar? And why does the hotel manager seem so angry about it?

When the hotel floorplans deliver some unexpected revelations, Melissa is convinced that she’s dealing with a murder. But when all of your suspects are actors, how can you tell the good liars from the bad? Can Melissa find the killer before the final curtain falls? 

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

If you enjoy an escapist read, the Melissa Craig Mysteries will be the perfect fit. The latest in the series takes place at a Cotswold Country Hotel. Melissa has been asked to write a short pantomime or ‘pantocrime’, as she calls it for the owner of the hotel’s birthday. A successful entrepreneur Mitch is popular but does he have a reason for wanting the play performed on his birthday, at the hotel?

The cast is vibrant and seems to be having fun, but when someone has a tragic fall, the mood changes and Melissa finds herself embroiled in the solving the mystery. The setting adds depth to the story, there is a rumour of ghosts and other funny goings-on. Melissa uses her crime writer detective skills, which inevitably puts her in danger, much to the consternation of her friends.

This is an enjoyable easy read, with a well-thought-out plot, believable characters with a little humour and romance to keep the story becoming too dark.

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

Posted in Book Review

The Hunting Party – 4* #Review – Lucy Foley @lucyfoleytweets @HarperCollinsUK

In a remote hunting lodge, deep in the Scottish wilderness, old friends gather for New Year.

The beautiful one
The golden couple
The volatile one
The new parents
The quiet one
The city boy
The outsider

The victim.

Not an accident – a murder among friends.

Amazon UK

My Thoughts…

Escaping to the wild and wonderful Scottish Highlands seems like the ideal venue for a New Year’s celebration, but what if everyone has a secret? Their university days are long gone, but the pecking order and rivalries are intensified. The cracks in the party atmosphere begin on the train journey north.

This story begins with the tragedy and uses a series of chronological multi-point of view chapters to illuminate the current situation. The characters are complex and realistic, and in most cases not likeable. Everyone has something to hide but how far will they go to keep it under wraps? The setting and inclement weather makes this an atmospheric read that compels you to turn the pages to see what happens next.

This is more of a murder mystery than a psychological thriller because the story is told through the eyes of several characters, both in the group of friends and the two people who work at the venue where they are staying, rather than an individual unreliable protagonist.

The plot is convoluted and sinister, there are multiple suspects and the identity of the victim remains hidden until the final chapters.

The remote party setting and the toxicity of the relationships has parallels with Sue Fortin’s The Birthday Girl, which I also enjoyed. Perfect holiday reading.

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