Exit by Belinda Bauer

EXCERPT: In the front bedroom an old man was leaning out of a bed by the window, trying to reach a walking stick that had apparently fallen on to the wooden floor. He propped himself on an elbow, glared at Felix and grumbled:
‘You took your time!’

Felix froze.

Took in the gaunt grey face, the frail body, the bedside table filled with pills . . .

Then he stepped backwards out of the room and pulled the door smartly shut behind him.

Amanda was at his shoulder now. ‘What is it?’ she said, but Felix couldn’t speak because all the words he’d ever known seemed to be whirling round inside his skull like bingo balls.

The ones he needed finally dropped slowly from his numb lips.

‘We killed the wrong man.’

ABOUT ‘EXIT’: IT WAS NEVER SUPPOSED TO BE MURDER …Pensioner Felix Pink is about to find out that it’s never too late … for life to go horribly wrong.

When Felix lets himself in to Number 3 Black Lane, he’s there to perform an act of kindness and charity: to keep a dying man company as he takes his final breath … But just fifteen minutes later Felix is on the run from the police – after making the biggest mistake of his life.
Now his routine world is turned upside down as he tries to discover what went wrong, while staying one step ahead of the law.

MY THOUGHTS: Belinda Bauer’s books always take me by surprise. Exit starts out as a gentle slow burn then veers off in directions I could never have foreseen.

I love Bauer’s characters . . . they just jump right off the page, they are so realistic. The main two characters are Felix, a seventy-five year old widower who became an Exiteer after his son died of cancer, then his wife of dementia. The second main character is policeman Calvin Bridge who suffers from a lack of confidence, exacerbated by his wife leaving him. Neither of these characters have gotten over their losses, and both are vulnerable.

Bauer injects the subject of assisted dying with wit and humour, but doesn’t lessen the gravity of the subject at all. She cleverly presents both sides of the argument wrapped up in a heartrending and heartwarming story that could almost be called a comedy of errors. I both laughed and cried during this read.

This is one of those stories that grew on me as I read and became embroiled in the characters lives. Bauer has written an entertaining piece of crime fiction that also poses a moral dilemma.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#Exit #NetGalley

#contemporaryfiction #crime #mystery

THE AUTHOR: Belinda Bauer grew up in England and South Africa. She has worked as a journalist and screenwriter, and now lives in Wales.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Transworld Publishers, Bantam Press, for providing a digital ARC of Exit by Belinda Bauer for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Murder in Paradise: Thirteen Mysteries from the Travels of Hercule Poirot by Agatha Christie

ABOUT ‘MURDER IN PARADISE’: Train journeys through rolling countryside and cruises across the open ocean might sound like paradise, but when murder strikes mid-journey, they’re anything but. Even on vacation, tensions can bubble beneath the surface, and when the end of the line leads to murder, everyone’s a suspect.

STORIES IN THIS COLLECTION: ·The Plymouth Express ·The Submarine Plans ·Problem at Sea ·How Does Your Garden Grow? ·The Market Basing Mystery ·The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan ·The Million Dollar Bond Robbery ·The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb ·The Affair at The Victory Ball ·The King of Clubs ·The Lemesurier Inheritance ·The Cornish Mystery ·The Adventure of the Clapham Cook

MY THOUGHTS: What a treat it was to have David Suchet narrate this collection! A few of these stories are also included in the Poirot Investigates collection, but they were just as interesting second time around.

This collection of short stories, also featuring Poirot’s sidekick Hastings and occasionally Inspector Japp, although lacking the depth of the Poirot novels, were still entertaining and stretched ‘the little grey cells!’ Oui!

⭐⭐⭐⭐

THE AUTHOR: Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born in Torquay, Devon, England, U.K., as the youngest of three. The Millers had two other children: Margaret Frary Miller (1879–1950), called Madge, who was eleven years Agatha’s senior, and Louis Montant Miller (1880–1929), called Monty, ten years older than Agatha.

Before marrying and starting a family in London, she had served in a Devon hospital during the First World War, tending to troops coming back from the trenches. During the First World War, she worked at a hospital as a nurse; later working at a hospital pharmacy, a job that influenced her work, as many of the murders in her books are carried out with poison. During the Second World War, she worked as a pharmacy assistant at University College Hospital, London, acquiring a good knowledge of poisons which feature in many of her novels.

Her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, came out in 1920. During her first marriage, Agatha published six novels, a collection of short stories, and a number of short stories in magazines.

In late 1926, Agatha’s husband, Archie, revealed that he was in love with another woman, Nancy Neele, and wanted a divorce. On 8 December 1926 the couple quarreled, and Archie Christie left their house, Styles, in Sunningdale, Berkshire, to spend the weekend with his mistress at Godalming, Surrey. That same evening Agatha disappeared from her home, leaving behind a letter for her secretary saying that she was going to Yorkshire. Her disappearance caused an outcry from the public, many of whom were admirers of her novels. Despite a massive manhunt, she was not found for eleven days.

In 1930, Christie married archaeologist Max Mallowan (Sir Max from 1968) after joining him in an archaeological dig. Their marriage was especially happy in the early years and remained so until Christie’s death in 1976.

Christie frequently used familiar settings for her stories. Christie’s travels with Mallowan contributed background to several of her novels set in the Middle East. Other novels (such as And Then There Were None) were set in and around Torquay, where she was born. Christie’s 1934 novel Murder on the Orient Express was written in the Hotel Pera Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, the southern terminus of the railway. The hotel maintains Christie’s room as a memorial to the author. The Greenway Estate in Devon, acquired by the couple as a summer residence in 1938, is now in the care of the National Trust.

Christie often stayed at Abney Hall in Cheshire, which was owned by her brother-in-law, James Watts. She based at least two of her stories on the hall: the short story The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, and the novel After the Funeral. Abney Hall became Agatha’s greatest inspiration for country-house life, with all the servants and grandeur which have been woven into her plots.

To honour her many literary works, she was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1956 New Year Honours. The next year, she became the President of the Detection Club.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of Murder in Paradise, written by Agatha Christie, narrated by David Suchet, and published by Harper Collins during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, via Overdrive. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Happy weekend everyone!

My son and grandson have been in the South Island this week. They couldn’t have picked a much worse week in summer. The weather has been diabolical. Cold, wet and windy, with snow on two days. But they have had a wonderful time despite the weather and have sent us photos of their adventures each evening. They were going whale watching in Kaikoura this morning and flying home from Christchurch this afternoon. It is still quite windy, but not gusting like it was this morning, so hopefully the trip home won’t be too bumpy.

Couldn’t tell what time it was!

Currently I am reading Exit by Belinda Bauer. She is an author I always enjoy.

And I am listening to Dry Bones (Enzo #1) by Peter May.

This week I am planning on reading The Rosary Garden by Nicola White

It was Ali who found the body of a murdered newborn baby, hidden in the garden of her convent school. In an Ireland riven by battles of religion and reproduction, the case becomes a media sensation, even as the church tries to suppress it. But this is not the first dead baby Ali has found.

For Detectives Vincent Swan and Gina Considine, the pressure to discover the identity of the dead child is little help against a community with secrets to protect. Gina knows all too well how many of Ireland’s girls are forced to make difficult decisions in terrible circumstances, silenced by shame. Is Ali one of those girls? Because what evidence there is, points to Ali herself…

And Life Sentences by Billy O’Callaghan

At just sixteen, Nancy leaves the small island of Cape Clear for the mainland, the only member of her family to survive the effects of the Great Famine. Finding work in a grand house on the edge of Cork City, she is irrepressibly drawn to the charismatic gardener Michael Egan, sparking a love affair and a devastating chain of events that continues to unfold over three generations. Spanning more than a century, Life Sentences is the unforgettable journey of a family hungry for redemption, and determined against all odds to be free.

I have received two ARCs from Netgalley this week: Win by Harlan Coben

And Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I l❤ve that cover!

So that is all from me today. I hear Belinda Bauer calling my name!

Have a wonderful week. Take care and be kind. ❤📚

Ask No Questions by Claire Allen

Published 21 January 2021

EXCERPT: I was ten years old when I found out that monsters are real and they walk among us. I can pinpoint the exact day that everything changed, when the world I’d found to be fun and innocent and good turned into something dark and frightening.

Looking back, I pity my mother having to find the words to tell my brothers and me what had happened. I pitied all the mothers and fathers who were forced to have that same conversation with their children at the dinner table that evening.

There’d be no playing out in the street any more. There’d be no nipping in and out of neighbours’ houses, or knocking on doors looking for a glass of water when we were parched from playing Tig or Red Rover, or riding our bicycles all over the estate in and out of the dark alleyways.

We were never to go out on our own. Nor walk back from school on our own. Even though it would still be light then. We were absolutely not allowed to take the shortcut through the overgrown fields at the back of the school, either.

And we were never, ever, ever to go into anyone’s house on our own. No matter how well we knew them. No matter how many times we’d been there before.

Because Kelly Doherty had been found and she was dead.

ABOUT ‘ASK NO QUESTIONS’: Twenty-five years ago, on Halloween night, eight-year-old Kelly Doherty went missing while out trick or treating with friends.

Her body was found three days later, floating face down, on the banks of the Creggan Reservoir by two of her young classmates.

It was a crime that rocked Derry to the core. Journalist Ingrid Devlin is investigating – but someone doesn’t want her to know the truth. As she digs further, Ingrid starts to realise that the Doherty family are not as they seem. But will she expose what really happened that night before it’s too late?

MY THOUGHTS: This is the second excellent book that I have read by this author, the first being Her Name Was Rose.

Ask No Questions is very aptly titled. I have never known anyone who was murdered, but I would imagine that if I had, it would never leave me. I would always, like Ingrid, be wondering if there was something I could have done to prevent it. And like Ingrid, if I had the chance to make sure that person was not forgotten, I would take it. However, I doubt that I would be as single-minded or as hard-nosed about it as Ingrid, especially once the threats started. But Ingrid is a person who doesn’t mind rocking the boat to see what the waves will dislodge.

Claire Allen had me hooked from the beginning. She has skillfully built up an air of mystery and menace, and doubt as to the guilt of Jamesy Harte, who was convicted of Kelly Doherty’s murder. Told over the periods of 1994 and 2019 by Ingrid, the journalist writing the twenty-five year anniversary piece on Kelly’s murder, and Declan, one of the Heaney twins who discovered Kelly’s body, the storyline is dark and gritty, the twists plausible and unpredictable, the characters engaging and realistic, if not always likeable.

I often found myself holding my breath – in anticipation, in dread – as I suspected almost everyone of killing Kelly.

Ask No Questions is an engaging and emotional read that occasionally unnerved me. And while I may have had a solid suspicion as to the identity of the killer, I had no idea of the how and why. That was a climactic revelation that had me shedding a few tears, and not for the first time during this read.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#AskNoQuestions #NetGalley

‘We all get lonely. Even those of us in big houses with partners and children.’

THE AUTHOR: Claire Allan is a Northern Irish author who lives in Derry~Londonderry with her husband, two children, two cats and a very spoiled puppy.

She worked as a staff reporter for the Derry Journal for 17 years, covering a wide array of stories from court sessions, to the Saville Inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday, health and education and human interest features.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Avon Books UK via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Ask No Questions by Claire Allen for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Friday Funnies….

Thanks to my Aussie friend Grumps again for supplying the Friday Funnies. They were just what I needed to read when I got home from work all tense and stressed!

Have a laugh on me, and a very happy Friday!

 

Vorona                                                           Cirus

Very Clever

Very                                                           Clever

Funny But True

Funny But                                                           True

Seems Like They’ve Had Some Bad Customers

Seems                                                           Like They've                                                           Had Some Bad                                                           Customers Caw                                                           Caw

Doctors Be Like

Doctors                                                           Be Like

This Synagogue Sign In Toronto

This                                                           Synagogue Sign                                                           In Toronto

You’re Obsessing About This!

You’re                                                           Obsessing                                                           About This!

We All Know That One Guy

We All                                                           Know That One                                                           Guy

Target

Target

Sign In India

Sign In                                                           India

F

Noah

Noah

No Trespassing

No                                                           Trespassing

The Good News Is We Do Accept Debit Cards

The Good                                                           News Is We Do                                                           Accept Debit                                                           Cards

Heard

Heard

#39 

Wonder How Many Times Someone Knocked Before The Sign Was Made

Wonder                                                           How Many Times                                                           Someone                                                           Knocked Before                                                           The Sign Was                                                           Made

That’s A Big Muffin

That's A                                                           Big Muffin

Strip Clubs Quarantined Sign

Strip                                                           Clubs                                                           Quarantined                                                           Sign

Well…

Well...

What’s your favourite? I love both the Algebra one (I was never any good at algebra, or geometry….letters are for reading, and numbers for counting!) and the wet floor sign.

I hope that I have brightened up your day. ❤📚

Family by Owen Mullen

HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY!! January 2021, to author Owen Mullen and publisher Boldwood Books

Photo by Anna-Louise on Pexels.com

EXCERPT: There was no warning. The car left the road, lifted by the force of the blast. Pieces of metal and glass ripped through a bus queue waiting for the 185 to Victoria. In that moment lives were irrevocably changed: people fell to the ground, blood pouring from wounds they hadn’t had a second ago; the windscreen of a Vectra coming in the opposite direction shattered, blinding the driver, who lost control and ploughed into a West Indian fruit and veg shop, crushing a teenage assistant at the beginning of only her second day on the job; on the pavement, a man in his thirties hurrying to the beat from his iPod suddenly collapsed, his leg severed at the knee.

In the immediate aftermath of the explosion, silence hung in the smoke, then the full horror hit, people with blood on their faces screamed and ran and burst into tears. Sam lay in the gutter, undamaged apart from a patch of singed fur. The device had been hidden under the driver’s seat so the new guy didn’t exist any more.

Cheryl and Rebecca Glass died without knowing it.

ABOUT ‘FAMILY’: Family – might be the death of you…
The Glass family business is crime, and they’re good at what they do. Vengeance took Luke Glass behind bars – but now he’s free and he’s never going back. Luke wants out of the gangster life – all he has to do is convince his family to let him go.

His brother holds the reins of the South London underworld in his brutal hands – nobody tells Danny Glass no and expects to live – not even DCI Oliver Stanford, bent copper and one of the Met’s rising stars. The way Danny sees it, his younger brother and sister Nina owe him everything. The price he demands is loyalty, and a war with their arch enemy gives him the leverage he needs to tie Luke to the family once more.

Luke can’t see a way out, until Danny commits a crime so terrible it can’t be forgiven. Love turns to hate when secrets are unearthed which pit brother against brother. Left with no choice but to choose a side, Nina holds the fate of the family in her hands.

MY THOUGHTS: I have read everything that Owen Mullen has written to date and have loved every word of every book. Family is no exception.

I approached Family with trepidation. Organised crime and gang warfare are not my thing. But once started, I couldn’t put this down, and read it overnight. My day didn’t start until I had turned the last page, sighing with regret that it was finished. I hadn’t expected to get so immersed in the lives of this family.

Mullen has created a superb cast of characters, from the cruel and manipulative Danny, scion of the Glass family, to Luke the younger brother who has spent nearly a decade in jail for a revenge killing, to Nina, their sister who, although she never wanted it, is part of their organisation. There are bent cops, a greedy accountant, a reluctant prostitute, and a rival gang who cause more than a few problems for Danny, who becomes an unwitting and unwilling YouTube star.

This is a gritty, gripping gangland crime thriller and, honestly?, I hope there’s more to come.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#Family #crimethriller #gangland

THE AUTHOR: Owen Mullen graduated from Strathclyde University, moved to London and worked as a rock musician, session singer and songwriter, and had a hit record in Japan with a band he refuses to name; Owen still loves to perform on occasion. His great love for travel has taken him on many adventures from the Amazon and Africa to the colourful continent of India and Nepal. A gregarious recluse, he and his wife, Christine, split their time between Glasgow, and their home away from home in the Greek Islands where all of his crime thrillers were created.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to author Owen Mullen for providing a digital ARC of Family, published by Boldwood Books for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and my Goodreads.com

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

EXCERPT: The track eventually led to the town of Balamara – a single street, really – which catered loosely for a scattered population that could almost fit into one large room when gathered together. Fifteen hundred kilometres further east lay Brisbane and the coast.

At scheduled times during the year, the sky above the stockman’s grave would vibrate with the roar of a helicopter. The pilots worked the land from the air, using noise and movement to herd cattle over distances the size of small European countries. For now, though, the sky loomed empty and large.

Later – too late – a helicopter would fly over, deliberately low and slow. The pilot would spot the car first, with its hot metal winking. The grave, some distance away, would draw his attention only by chance as he circled around and back in search of a suitable landing site.

The pilot would not see the dust circle. It was the flash of blue material against the red ground that would catch his eye. A work shirt, unbuttoned and partially removed. The temperature the past few days had hit forty-five degrees at the afternoon peak. The exposed skin was sun-cracked.

Later, those on the ground would see the thick and thin marks in the dust and would fix their eyes on the distant horizon, trying not to think about how they had been made.

The headstone threw a small shadow. It was the only shade in sight and its blackness was slippery, swelling and shrinking as it ticked around like a sundial. The man had crawled, then dragged himself as it moved. He had squeezed into that shade, contorting his body into desperate shapes, kicking and scuffing the ground as fear and thirst took hold.

He had a brief respite as night fell, before the sun rose and the terrible rotation started again. It didn’t last as long on the second day, as the sun moved higher in the sky. The man had tried though. He had chased the shade until he couldn’t any more.

The circle in the dust fell just short of one full revolution. Just short of twenty-four hours. And then, at last, the stockman finally had company, as the earth turned and the shadow moved on alone, and the man lay still in the centre of a dusty grave under a monstrous sky.

ABOUT ‘THE LOST MAN’: Two brothers meet at the border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of outback Queensland. They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old, no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish. Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…

MY THOUGHTS: I cried several times during this read, tears slipping silently down my face as my heart broke with grief for this fractured family. Liz, family matriarch, lost her husband, Carl, some years ago. A hard, unforgiving man, he was not greatly missed by his family.

Nathan, eldest son, lost his wife Jacqui. She took off to Brisbane with their son Xander, blithely ignoring the custody agreement and almost breaking Nathan both emotionally and financially as he fights for access to his son. He has also lost the support of the locals, effectively isolating him. He is stuck between a rock and a hard place, unable to leave for both financial and practical reasons, and although at times he hates the place, sometimes, quite a lot of the time, he feels connected to the outback in a way he loves.

Then golden boy Cameron is found dead miles from where he ought to be. What was he doing there and why is his car, full of life-saving water and supplies, almost ten kilometres away? He leaves behind a wife, Isle, and two daughters.

Bub is the youngest son, the one who has never really fitted in, never been thought of as up to much, never given any say or real responsibility.

Harry Bledsloe, ‘Uncle Harry’, though not actually any blood relation, has worked on the three and a half thousand square kilometre Burley Downs since before any of the boys were born.

Simon and Katy are the latest in a string of backpackers employed at the station to help out – Katy around the house and with the girls schooling, and Simon wherever he’s needed. But Sophie, the elder of Cam and Isle’s two girls doesn’t believe they are who they say they are. And why was Jenna Moore, from Cameron’s distant past, suddenly trying to contact him?

The Lost Man, in my opinion, is the best book that Jane Harper has written to date, and I have now read them all. She has captured the isolation, not only the physical but the mental, of living in the outback where your closest neighbour may be three hours away. Not only has she captured the landscape, but the people who inhabit it, their secrets, their grudges, and their loyalty. She slowly reveals family tensions and secrets that turn what we think we know about these people on its head, culminating in a heartwrenching denouement.

This was a library book, but I am going to buy my own copy. This is a book that I will want to read again and that has earned a place on my ‘forever’ shelf.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

THE AUTHOR: Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK, and now lives in Melbourne. This is her third novel.

DISCLOSURE: I borrowed my copy of The Lost Man by Jane Harper and published by Pan Macmillan Australia from the Waitomo District Library. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Weekend Pass by Paul Cavanagh

Published 19 January 2021

EXCERPT: ‘So here I am,’ Tasha says. ‘Back in the real world.’

‘How does it feel,’ Milt asks.

‘The truth?’

Milt nods.

‘Terrifying,’ she says.

ABOUT ‘WEEKEND PASS’: Who can forgive a mother who poisons her eight-year-old son? Even if it was an accident.

Tasha thought she had everything under control – her family life, her career as a nurse – until her son got into her stash of painkillers. Now, during her first weekend home from drug treatment, she must come to grips with the damage she’s done and somehow pick up the pieces. Told from the points of view of four different family members, Weekend Pass is a story about the lies we tell ourselves and the people we love. And it’s about struggling to rise above the mistakes that threaten to define us.

MY THOUGHTS: The excerpt I have quoted from Weekend Pass comes from the end of the first chapter. Milt, Tasha’s father, has collected her from the treatment centre for her first weekend pass since being admitted. I have worked with alcohol and drug addicts during my psychiatric nursing career, and this was a common emotion; the fear that being back in the same place with the same triggers will lead to a relapse. It is a perfectly justified fear. I thought I was in for an emotional roller coaster of a read.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that this author’s style of writing gets the full potential from this story. At the half way point I made this comment: ‘Meh. I hope this improves soon. I am not enjoying being ‘told’ what is happening. I feel quite removed from the characters, and not really interested in them with the exception of Jake. Really only reading on to see what happens to him. Have started skimming as this is failing to hold my attention.’

There was plenty of potential here to play with. There are complex family relationships dealing with death, addiction, betrayal, guilt, denial, abandonment issues, and infidelity. There is drama when Jake goes missing (that piqued my interest and earned an extra half star). Yet the majority of the story is narrated in a plodding manner that left me bored and restless.

I admire what the author was trying to do. It didn’t work for me. That doesn’t mean it isn’t going to work for you. Reading is a personal and subjective experience, and what appeals to one may not please another. So if you enjoyed the excerpt from The Ocean House, and the plot outline appeals, please do go ahead and read it. Many other people have read and enjoyed Weekend Pass and rated it higher than I have. Please also check out their reviews.

I do love the cover.

⭐⭐.5

#WeekendPass #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Paul Cavanagh burst onto the international literary scene when he was crowned the world’s first Lit Idol at the London International Book Fair in the UK. The novel that won him the title, After Helen, was published by HarperCollinsCanada to glowing reviews. His deft touch for creating compelling characters comes in no small part from working for some 30 years in health care. He developed his literary talents at the Humber School for Writers and Western University. He currently lives in London, Ontario, Canada. (Goodreads.com)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Not That London Writer, IBPA, via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Weekend Pass by Paul Cavanagh for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Pianos and Flowers: Brief Encounters of the Romantic Kind by Alexander McCall Smith

EXCERPT: This is an extract from the title story, Pianos and Flowers.

She read constantly, almost a novel a day. She devoured Maugham’s ‘The Casuarina Tree’, saying to herself, ‘Yes, yes, that’s exactly right,’ although her friend wrote to her from Penang to say how angry they were that he had abused their hospitality by writing about them. ‘That man,’ she steamed, ‘accepted the hospitality of a whole lot of people – some of whom you and I actually know, Francie – and then writes about them like that! As if adultery and back-biting were the only things we thought about from the moment we get out of bed – rarely our own bed, in Mr Maugham’s view – until the time we turn the lights out. If you could hear some of the things they are saying about that man here, and his so-called secretary…’

ABOUT ‘PIANOS AND FLOWERS’: A delightful compendium of short stories inspired by images in the renowned photographic archive of The Sunday Times.

A picture can paint a thousand words, but what about a vintage photograph?

In 2015 Alexander McCall Smith wrote a book entitled Chance Developments: Unexpected Love Stories, in which he imagined the stories behind five chanced-upon black and white photographs. Who were those people, why were they smiling, what made them sad? He so enjoyed the experience that when The Sunday Times generously offered him access to their early 20th century photograph archive he jumped at the opportunity.

MY THOUGHTS: 14 short stories accompanied by the photos which inspired them. Some are clever, some are witty, some sad, some touching, and I found only one to be mundane.

There’s one photo that particularly touched my heart, that of a group of boys, many in sixth or seventh hand shoes.

The stories themselves are varied in subject matter: there are stories of families, friendship, romance, obligation, business and travel. They are stories of every day people going about their lives in the 1800s, their trials and tribulations, the things that make them happy and sad.

A lovely book designed, I think, to be dipped into from time to time rather than be read in one sitting. There is certainly food for thought in more than one of these stories, and I am sure that I will be picking this book up again.

⭐⭐⭐.6

THE AUTHOR: Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the international phenomenon The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie Series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, and the 44 Scotland Street series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served on many national and international bodies concerned with bioethics. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and he was a law professor at the University of Botswana. He lives in Scotland.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Pianos and Flowers by Alexander McCall Smith for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Flesh House by Stuart MacBride

EXCERPT: ‘I’ve been waiting for you for fifteen minutes!’ Dr Isobel MacAlister, Aberdeen’s chief pathologist, wearing an expression that would freeze the balls off a brass gorilla at twenty paces. ‘You might not have anything better to do, but I can assure you that I have. Now are you going to listen to my preliminary findings, or shall I just go home and leave you to whatever it is you feel is more important?’

Logan groaned. That was all they needed, Isobel winding Insch up even further. As if the grumpy fat sod wasn’t bad enough already. The inspector turned on her, his face flashing angry scarlet in the IB spotlights. ‘Thank you so much for waiting for me, Doctor. I’m sorry if my organising a murder enquiry has inconvenienced you. I’ll try not to let something so trivial get in the way again.’

They stared at each other in silence for a moment. Then Isobel pulled on a cold, unfriendly smile. ‘Remains are human: male. Dismemberment looks as if it occurred some time after death with a long, sharp blade and a hacksaw, but I won’t be able to confirm that until after I’ve performed the post mortem.’ She checked her watch. ‘Which will take place at eleven am precisely.’

Insch bristled. ‘Oh no it won’t! I need those remains analysed now -‘

‘They’re frozen, Inspector. They – need – to – defrost.’ Emphasising each word as if she was talking to a naughty child, rather than a huge, bad tempered detective inspector. ‘If you want, I suppose I could stick them in the canteen microwave for half an hour. But that might not be very professional. What do you think?’

Insch just ground his teeth at her. Face rapidly shifting from angry-red to furious-purple.

ABOUT ‘FLESH HOUSE’ (Logan McRae #4): Panic grips The Granite City as DS Logan McRae heads up a manhunt for ‘The Flesher’ – one of the UK’s most notorious serial killers. The case was closed. Until the killer walked free When an offshore container turns up at Aberdeen Harbour full of human meat, it kicks off the largest manhunt in the Granite City’s history. Twenty years ago ‘The Flesher’ was butchering people all over the UK – turning victims into oven-ready joints – until Grampian’s finest put him away. But eleven years later he was out on appeal. Now he’s missing and people are dying again.When members of the original investigation start to disappear, Detective Sergeant Logan McRae realizes the case might not be as clear cut as everyone thinks Twenty years of secrets and lies are being dragged into the light. And the only thing that’s certain is Aberdeen will never be the same again

MY THOUGHTS: I took every possible opportunity to listen to Flesh House, but I have to admit to not eating much meat while I was doing so! If you don’t have a strong stomach and a love of gore, I strongly suggest that you bypass this. But me? I loved every minute of it.

I don’t know why, but everyone seems to pick on Logan; he’s everyone’s whipping boy. He is treated abominably by all his superiors and his ex-girlfriend. And yet he has good ideas, sees possibilities that no one else recognizes.

Flesh House is grim, but has flashes of (dark) humor in unexpected places. It is needed. Be prepared for the eating of human flesh, torture, imprisonment and graphic descriptions of the killing of people.

I had the identity of the killer worked out a little ahead of the police, which pleased (and surprised) me no end. The ending was completely unexpected, and I laughed, which was probably highly inappropriate, but I did.

Definitely the pinnacle of this series thus far. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

THE AUTHOR: Stuart MacBride is a Scottish writer, most famous for his crime thrillers set in the “Granite City” of Aberdeen and featuring Detective Sergeant Logan McRae.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of Flesh House written by Stuart MacBride, brilliantly narrated by Steve Worsley and published by Harper Collins Audio, via Overdrive. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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