Her by Garry Disher

EXCERPT: 1909 – out in that country

Out in that country the sun smeared the sky and nothing ever altered, except that one day a scrap man came by with his wife, who had cost him twelve shillings once upon a time, and a wispy girl, who had cost him ten.

The people of the hut heard them first, the clop two three four of hooves, the creature-in-torment shriek of an axle and a mad symphony of rocking and rattling. They froze. Then, from the scrub line, came a bony horse, a wagon hung with pots and pans, a dog panting along in the lurching shade and three faces, dusty and gaunt.

‘Whoa!’ said the man, spying the hut and hauling on the reins.

The dust settled over the clearing. The pots and pans fell silent on their hooks. The horse hung its head and the dog belly-flopped onto the dirt.

After a while a child appeared, wearing a flour-bag dress and slipping soundlessly from beneath a sulky parked broken-backed in a collar of grass. Other figures joined her, the odds and ends of a used-up family, materialising from the hut, a barn, a post-and-rail fence and the tricky corners of the mallee scrub. Count them: a mother, a father and eleven children, ranging from a baby on a hip to a boy whose voice had broken, all staring at the apparition.

ABOUT ‘HER’: Out in that country the sun smeared the sky and nothing ever altered, except that one day a scrap man came by . . .

Her name is scarcely known or remembered. All in all, she is worth less than the nine shillings and sixpence counted into her father’s hand. She bides her time. She does her work.

Way back in the corner of her mind is a thought she is almost too frightened to shine a light on: one day she will run away.

MY THOUGHTS: Dark. Unsettling. Heartbreaking.

We follow the unfortunate existence of ‘You’, a child sold into a life of slavery with the scrap man for the princely sum of nine shillings and sixpence. She becomes one of his possessions, his ‘assets’, along with Wife and Big Girl. She learns to read human character, not least that of Scrap Man, who is a lazy drunken wastrel, and abuser of women and children.

Her is not a pretty book. It is bleak, but beautifully written. It is a portrait of a time that I am glad I never had to live through. It is a time my grandparents lived through and sometimes spoke of, although their upbringing was somewhat easier than Hers. It is a time of making do, scratching a living, dressing in clothes made from flour sacks, and avoiding the authorities who might take a child away and put into care. For no matter how terrible life may be, it was better the known than the unknown. No school – she could not count, add, subtract, spell, read or write. She could pick pockets and act whatever role was required of her, and quietly rob a house while the Scrap Man kept the homeowner otherwise occupied.

If you have ever thought longingly of the past, this is the book to disabuse you of your romanticized notions. Just like now, vulnerable people were victimized, abused, and left powerless. The gap between the haves and the have nots was just as wide then as it is now. We are, with our constant communication, just far more aware of it today than it was possible to be then. Not that this ‘awareness’ has made any inroads into fixing the problem.

There are also certain parallels with today’s Covid crisis. The country’s population, already short of able-bodied men after the first world war, is then decimated by the Spanish Influenza. No more than five people in a shop. A five minute time limit to enjoy a beer in the pub. Social distancing, although that term had not then been coined. And, of course, the mandatory masks, made from whatever was at hand, a pillowcase, an old rag.

If Her teaches us anything, it is that the more things change the more they stay the same.

Her is a powerful book. I loved it. I hated it. It ripped my heart out, but still I came back for more.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

THE AUTHOR: Garry Disher was born in 1949 and grew up on his parents’ farm in South Australia.

He gained post graduate degrees from Adelaide and Melbourne Universities. In 1978 he was awarded a creative writing fellowship to Stanford University, where he wrote his first short story collection. He travelled widely overseas, before returning to Australia, where he taught creative writing, finally becoming a full time writer in 1988.

DISCLOSURE: I borrowed my copy of Her, by Garry Disher, published by Hachette Australia from the Waitomo District Library. I actually went to borrow ‘Hell to Pay’, the first in a trilogy of which I have the second and third books, but it was out on loan. This was the only of his books sitting on the shelf. I am so glad that I picked it up.

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

The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths

EXCERPT: Natalka turns back to Peggy. She looks at peace, that’s what Patricia will say to Nigel. Passed away peacefully. There’s a book open on the arm of Peggy’s chair. ‘Highrise Murder’ by Dex Challoner. Peggy’s binoculars are on the table beside her. There’s also a pen,completed crossword and a pill dispenser, the sort that has the days of the week on it. There’s something else too, a piece of paper just poking out from under the crossword. Natalka slides it out. It’s a business card, very official, with black, curly writing.

Mrs M. Smith, it says. Murder Consultant

ABOUT ‘THE POSTSCRIPT MURDERS’: PS: thanks for the murders.

The death of a ninety-year-old woman with a heart condition should absolutely not be suspicious. DS Harbinder Kaur certainly sees nothing to concern her in carer Natalka’s account of Peggy Smith’s death.

But when Natalka reveals that Peggy lied about her heart condition and that she had been sure someone was following her…
And that Peggy Smith had been a ‘murder consultant’ who plotted deaths for authors, and knew more about murder than anyone has any right to…
And when clearing out Peggy’s flat ends in Natalka being held at gunpoint by a masked figure…

Well then DS Harbinder Kaur thinks that maybe there is no such thing as an unsuspicious death after all.

MY THOUGHTS: ‘No one knows the hour,not even the angels in heaven, or the Son himself…’ – Matthew 24

There is something almost Christiesque about The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths. It has that feel of a Christie murder-mystery. The slow buildup, rather like a steam train pulling out of the station, the multiple suspects, the red herrings. But Griffiths murders and characters perhaps have a few more teeth than Christie’s, and she is not above a bit of sarcasm, which I enjoy.

Although this is #2 in the Harbinder Kaur series, unusually for a series, the detective is not the focus of the book. The murder/s are firmly front and centre, with an ill assorted cast of amateur detectives playing the major role.

Natalka, carer for Peggy and a few of the other elderly residents of Seaview Manor, a residential care complex, has a past, one that she fears is catching up with her. Benedict, ex-Monk, now barista. He left because he fell out of love with God, although his faith is as strong as ever. And Edwin, in his eighties, ex BBC and a gentleman to the core, gay, and very observant. Convinced that Peggy’s death was not natural, and that the police aren’t taking it seriously enough, these three set out to investigate on their own. Although they do DS (who would love to be DI) Harbinder Kaur the courtesy of keeping in touch by text.

DS Kaur, who is almost 40 and still lives at home with her parents, is in turn frustrated and impressed by the skills and dedication of this group. Kaur is also gay, still hiding it from her parents, and disappointingly single. She has a nice line in sarcasm, and often thinks of her partner, Neil, as a little woodland animal, a cute squirrel who often nibbles at nuts somewhat larger than he is. Neil himself would have preferred to live in the times where detectives trampled all over the crime scene, pausing only to beat up suspects and drink beer, rather than having to worry about all the intricacies of forensics.

Although this series is immensely different to Elly Griffiths Ruth Galloway series, she still holds me spellbound with her use of words, both in her character and scenery descriptions, and her setting of atmosphere . . . ‘…the spaces beneath them. Old mining tunnels. Caverns measureless to man. Death and dread.’ and ‘ghost cottages with the gardens still in flower.’

I loved The Postscript Murders. I loved the characters. I loved the plot with its red herrings and twists. I loved the solution. It was something that I had not even considered! An altogether wonderful read.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.8

#ThePostscriptMurders #NetGalley

‘It’s such a civilised world; books, libraries, tea and cake.’

THE AUTHOR: Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway novels take for their inspiration Elly’s husband, who gave up a city job to train as an archaeologist, and her aunt who lives on the Norfolk coast and who filled her niece’s head with the myths and legends of that area. Elly has two children and lives near Brighton.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Quercus via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths 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

Deadly Cry (DI Kim Stone #13) by Angela Marsons

EXCERPT: I did it. I killed her, and there was a satisfaction to the twist of the neck that was morbidly gratifying for me. A slight thing, she didn’t put up much of a fight, but it wouldn’t have mattered if she had. She was going to die regardless.

ABOUT ‘DEADLY CRY’: In a busy shopping centre, a little girl clutches a teddy bear, clinging to it in the absence of her mother, Katrina. Hours later, Katrina’s body is discovered in an abandoned building. For Detective Kim Stone, it looks like a quick, functional murder. But Kim’s instincts tell her there’s more to this senseless murder than meets the eye. What was the motive for killing a young mother out shopping with her child?

Days later, a second victim is found in a local park, her neck broken just like Katrina’s and her six-year-old son missing.

But with her colleague, Detective Stacey Wood, working on another unsolved crime and a member of the team grieving the loss of a close relative, Kim is struggling to make inroads on what is fast becoming a complex case. And when a handwritten letter from the killer lands on Kim’s desk addressed to her, and pleading for help, she knows time is running out to bring the little boy home alive.

With the support of a handwriting analyst and profiler, Kim and the team begin to get inside the mind of the killer and make a shocking discovery.

Some of the victims have scratch marks on their wrists.

But these are no random scratches. The killer is using them to communicate with someone. The question is… with whom?

And if Kim doesn’t find them soon, another innocent soul will die.

MY THOUGHTS: 13 books, and Marsons still gets me every time! You know how some books are promoted with the claim ‘massive twist you won’t see coming!’ . . . there’s no need for Marsons to claim this, but that is what you get. Unexpected, well executed twists, a gripping suspenseful plot, and our favourite characters complete with all their idiosyncrasies and shared histories. So, there’s a clue. This is book #13 in a series. You might read this as a stand-alone and enjoy it. But I guarantee that you will get a lot more from Deadly Cry if you start this series from the beginning. It is a series where the first book is really good, and each successive book is even better.

DI Kim Stone is the focus of this series. I didn’t much like her initially, but the writing and the plotting were superb, so I continued with the series. Since then I have become quite fond of Kim. She doesn’t have much of a filter. What she thinks she tends to say. Occasionally she will demonstrate great restraint, but only occasionally, and the stakes have to be high. She can be very rude, to everyone. Even her friends, her team. She doesn’t discriminate. She admits to not being good at playing nice, not even with her dog who is her best friend. She has a love/hate relationship with pathologist Keats, who gives as good as he gets. Their mutually disparaging banter provides some light relief in amongst the tension and suspense. Kim must drive her boss, DCI Woodward, totally insane with her total disregard for authority, although he has enough trust in her to give her free rein when she seems to need it most.

Regulars, Stacey, Bryant and Penn, Kim’s back up team and the closest thing she has to friends, continue to support her and are joined by ‘profiler’ Alison (read this book and you will understand why I have placed ‘profiler’ in quotation marks), who also appeared in the previous book. I hope that we see more of her in the future. The characters personal lives take the back seat compared to the cases the team is working on, but there’s enough going on with them to keep our interest in them as individuals and not just crutches for Kim.

I have finished Deadly Cry (previously titled ‘Death Score’) in less than 24 hours. I now have only one question – when can I have #14?

⭐⭐⭐⭐.8

#DeadlyCry #NetGalley

THE AUTHOR: Angela is the author of the Kim Stone Crime series. She discovered a love of writing at Primary School when a short piece on the rocks and the sea gained her the only merit point she ever got.
Angela wrote the stories that burned inside and then stored them safely in a desk drawer.
After much urging from her partner she began to enter short story competitions in Writer’s News resulting in a win and three short listed entries.
She used the Amazon KDP program to publish two of her earlier works before concentrating on her true passion – Crime.
Angela is now signed to write a total of 16 Kim Stone books.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Deadly Cry (DI Kim Stone #13) by Angela Marsons 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

Magic Lessons (Practical Magic #0.1) by Alice Hoffman

EXCERPT: Hannah came around from the apothecary garden as Maria was studying the pin that had been cast into the tall grass. In the girl’s hands, the silver turned black in an instant, as if brushed with dark paint, though the rubies shone more brightly because of her touch. Hannah clutched the leeks she had gathered more tightly to her chest, and felt an ache inside her bones. The wide-brimmed straw hat she wore to protect her from the sun fell from her head, and she didn’t bother to go after it. What she had long suspected had now been shown to be true. She’d felt it from the start, that first day under the junipers when she spied the baby in her basket, a rare sight that had spread cold pinpricks along her spine. As she’d unwrapped Maria from her blanket, she’d spied an unusual birthmark in the shape of a star, hidden in the crease of the girl’s inner elbow. Right away she wondered if this was the cause of the child’s abandonment, for bloodline witches were said to be marked in such sly, concealed places, on the scalp, upon the small of the back, at the breastbone, along the inner arm. It was one thing to learn magic, but quite another to be born with it.

ABOUT: MAGIC LESSONS (PRACTICAL MAGIC 0.1) – Where does the story of the Owens bloodline begin? With Maria Owens, in the 1600s, when she’s abandoned in a snowy field in rural England as a baby. Under the care of Hannah Owens, Maria learns about the “Unnamed Arts.” Hannah recognizes that Maria has a gift and she teaches the girl all she knows. It is here that she learns her first important lesson: Always love someone who will love you back.

When Maria is abandoned by the man who has declared his love for her, she follows him to Salem, Massachusetts. Here she invokes the curse that will haunt her family. And it’s here that she learns the rules of magic and the lesson that she will carry with her for the rest of her life. Love is the only thing that matters.

MY THOUGHTS: Love potion #9? There’s a recipe contained in Magic Lessons. But there is a tenth love potion, an enchantment only fit for those so desperate that they do not fear the consequences. There are always consequences.

It is said that love makes the world go round. But some swear by revenge. It must always be remembered though, that whatever you cast out into the world will come back to you threefold. Cast a spell in haste? Repent at leisure.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned . . . from remedies for fevers, salves for cuts, scrapes and infections, a cure for colic, and for dysentery, (no recipes, but it makes for interesting reading) to spells for all manner of things.

But this is mere embroidery for the cloth of the story, of how it all began, the heritage and the legacy of the Owen women.

Despite that we are told the story, rather than experiencing it, it did not take long for Hoffman’s beautiful writing to enchant and bewitch me. The descriptions are vivid, as are the characters. It is an intense blend of history, love and family saga. The witch trials of Salem are touched on, as is the inhumane treatment of women in the 1600s, usually at the hands of men who felt threatened by them, or who simply saw it as a sport.

Prepare to have your heart shattered, and shattered again. Neither the characters nor the plot are predictable. Having just finished Magic Lessons, I am not sure that I am ready to be reimmersed in the 21st century. I may need to brew some calming tea. Oh, and I must remember not to cut my parsley with a knife; to add Hyssop and Horehound to my shopping list; and to buy my own paper copy of Magic Lessons.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.6

#MagicLessons #NetGalley

These are the lessons to be learned:
Drink chamomile tea to calm the spirit.
Feed a cold and starve a fever (I remember both my Nan and my Mum telling me that).
Read as many books as you can.
Always choose courage.
Never watch another woman burn.
Know that love is the only answer.

THE AUTHOR: Alice Hoffman is an American novelist and young-adult and children’s writer, best known for her 1995 novel Practical Magic, which was adapted for a 1998 film of the same name. Many of her works fall into the genre of magic realism and contain elements of magic, irony, and non-standard romances and relationships. (Wikipedia)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia for providing a digital ARC of Magic Lessons (Practical Magic #0.1) 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

The Housewarming by S.E. Lynes

EXCERPT: Ava

When I think about that morning, it is beat by beat, like a heart – my own heart, my daughter’s, at the time so enmeshed it seemed she was part of me: my body, my tissue, my bones. She is part of me. She will always be part of me.

When I think about that morning, I watch myself, over and over, as if from above. I watch myself like you watch your children in a school play or a sports match, silently willing them to succeed, to shine, to not get hurt. I watch myself bleeding on the sidelines of slowly unfolding disaster, alive with the pain I know is coming but she, the me of that moment, does not.

I do this every minute of every hour of every day. And I have done this for almost a year.

I watch myself: there I am, making my way downstairs with an armful of laundry. I can’t see over the top. I take it slowly, both feet on one step before I lower myself to the next. Another step down, another. I am always so careful these days. I used to be carefree, but now I see danger everywhere: an electric socket is a hazard, a glass left too near the edge of a tabletop risky, a staircase perilous.

Another step. I call her name. Abi.

ABOUT THE HOUSEWARMING: Everyone is going to the housewarming party.
All the same people who lived on the street the day Abi vanished…
Will her mother finally learn the truth?

Ava only left her daughter in the pushchair for five minutes. The buckle was fastened, and she was sure it was safe. But when she came downstairs, the door was open and Abi was gone – she walked down the road, past the Lovegoods’ house, and was never seen again.

A year later, the Lovegoods throw a housewarming party, showing off the results of their renovation. Ava doesn’t want to go. She can’t bear to look down that end of the road, to see the place where Abi vanished, and she doesn’t want to spend time with people who don’t share her grief. Her husband Matt persuades her: he’s worried about her. A night out might do her good.

But as her friends and neighbours chat, and the drink and gossip flows, Ava learns something new about the day she has re-lived a thousand times. A throwaway comment which could change everything.

Ava thought she knew every last detail of that day.

She’s about to find out she was wrong…

MY THOUGHTS: The opening chapters left me stunned and breathless. And it didn’t stop there. The pace is relentless. The tension palpable. As is the grief, the despair, the guilt. Lynes has written a blockbuster of human emotion that left me exhausted, drained, wrung out, and absolutely certain that this is the best book she has ever written!

The characters are superbly depicted. They are complete. They are you. They are me. They are our husbands and wives, our friends and neighbours. They gossip and assume. They are horrified, and smug. They have their own pristine lives that they don’t want touched by tragedy. Ava becomes isolated, a prisoner of her anxiety and her feeling of being contagious in her unresolved guilt and grief.

Her neighbour Jen is the only person she feels any connection with. Jen, who never pressures her, who lets her just be. So when Jen throws a party to celebrate the end of the renovations on their house, Ava reluctantly agrees to attend, just for an hour. And there begins the unravelling of everything Ava thought she knew about Abi’s disappearance.

Gripping. Heartwrenching. Devastating. Dark. The Housewarming lives up to every promotional promise.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#TheHousewarming #NetGalley

‘My eyes are incontinent.’

THE AUTHOR: After graduating from Leeds University, S E Lynes lived in London before moving to Aberdeen to be with her husband. In Aberdeen, she worked as a Radio Producer at the BBC before moving with her husband and two young children to Rome, where she lived for five years. There, she began to write while her children attended nursery. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She combines writing with teaching at Richmond Adult Community College and bringing up her three children in Teddington, Middlesex.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Housewarming by S.E. Lynes 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

My Darling by Amanda Robson

EXCERPT: Jade: We move into our new house, Fairlawns. A large Victorian detached, near the river in Henley-on-Thames. Top end comfort. Top end price. Arriving in our Porsche, just as the removal men are entering the house with our walnut dining table, I look up and see a man and a woman standing at the side window of the house next door, staring down at us.

The woman is seriously tarty. Long blonde hair, bleached, not natural. Smelling of Botox. Not wearing very much clothing. Her short house coat does not leave much to the imagination. Very much your sort of thing, Tomas. Not a woman, but a stereotype. As I watch her looking down on us, I determine you will not get away with it again. Don’t even try it, I tell you with my eyes.

ABOUT MY DARLING BY AMANDA ROBSON: A new couple moves in next door.
And nothing will ever be the same again…

I watched you move in and thought we might be friends.

I saw you watching from the window – and knew I’d have to keep you away from my husband.

I started to trust you. Confide in you.

I started to mistrust you. Suspect you.

I was confused when I blacked out after an evening at your place. Was I really that drunk?

I came up with a plan. A plan to make you both pay . . .

MY THOUGHTS: are liable to be quite incoherent. Firstly, when you plan on reading My Darling by Amanda Robson, don’t plan on doing anything else until you have finished the book. It’s that good. I only planned on reading a few pages before I went to sleep last night. I read the whole book. Couldn’t put it down. Didn’t even think about going to sleep.

Twisty doesn’t even begin to describe the plot. It’s like a corkscrew that has been tied in knots! Breathtaking. Heart pounding. Diabolically clever. Dark. Wicked. Absolutely sublime. There was barely a moment in which I was able to stop and draw a breath!

I loved the characters. I hated the characters. I loved to hate them. I admired their ingenuity. I admired Robson’s ingenuity. I don’t ever want to cross her. But I do want to read everything she has ever written, immediately.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: After graduating, Amanda Robson worked in medical research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and at the Poisons Unit at Guy’s Hospital, where she became a co-author of a book on cyanide poisoning. Amanda attended the Faber novel writing course and writes full-time. Her debut novel, Obsession, became a #1 ebook bestseller in 2017. She is also the author of three more domestic suspense novels: Guilt, Envy and My Darling. (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: A huge thank you to Avon Books UK via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of My Darling by Amanda Robson 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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Another Sunday, and another week’s reading completed. I even managed to sneak in an extra book this week . . . I picked it up last night, intending to read just a chapter or two before I went to sleep. Instead I read the whole thing. But more about that later in the post.

I am currently reading The Whisper Man by Alex North. Two of my Goodreads.com reading groups, the Crime, Mystery and Thriller group and the All About Books group, have picked this as the October group read.

I am about to start You Can Trust Me by Emma Rowley

Currently I am listening to Bodies From the Library 2: Forgotten stories of mystery and suspense by the Queens of Crime and masters of Golden Age detection.

I am also planning on reading The Book of Carol Sue by Lynn Hugo this week.

CarolSue and her sister, Louisa, are best friends, but haven’t had much in common since CarolSue married Charlie, moved to Atlanta, and swapped shoes covered with Indiana farm dust for pedicures and afternoon bridge. Louisa, meanwhile, loves her farm and animals as deeply as she’d loved Harold, her late husband of forty years.

Charlie’s sudden death leaves CarolSue so adrift that she surrenders to Louisa’s plan for her to move back home. But canning vegetables and feeding chickens are alien to CarolSue, and she resolves to return to Atlanta–until Louisa’s son, Reverend Gary, arrives with an abandoned infant and a dubious story. He begs the women to look after the baby while he locates the mother–a young immigrant who fears deportation.

Keeping his own secrets, Gary enlists the aid of the sheriff, Gus, in the search. But CarolSue’s bond with the baby is undeniable, and she forms an unconventional secret plan of her own. How many mistakes can be redeemed?

I am keeping my reading load deliberately light this week as I have a busy week ahead at work, culminating next Sunday so am probably going to be very late with my Watching what I’m reading post – like Monday!

Four new ARCs this week:

The Girl Who Never Came Home by Nicole Trope

The House at Magpie Cove by Kennedy Kerr

Consolation by Garry Disher

And The Open House by Sam Carrington

Now, the extra book that I read this week? My Darling by Amanda Robson. WARNING: don’t start reading this unless you have cleared the rest of your day. Yes, it is THAT good. Review coming tomorrow!

Have a wonderful weekend to all of you who still have some left to enjoy. It’s time for me to start planning the meals for the rest of the week….

Happy reading!

The Butterfly Room by Lucinda Riley

EXCERPT: Admiral House, Southwold, Suffolk, June 1943

. . . I tripped up the stairs that turned round and round quickly before Daisy returned. When I reached the top, I put my hand to the knob of the big oak door and twisted it. Daisy clearly hadn’t locked it, because it opened, and one step later, there I was in Daddy’s secret office.

It smelt of polish, and light illuminated the circular walls that surrounded the windows Daisy had just cleaned. On the wall directly in front of me hung what must be an entire extended family of Red Admiral butterflies. They were lined up in rows of four behind glass enclosed by a gilt frame.

As I took a step closer, I was confused, because I wondered how the butterflies could stay so still, and what they had found to eat inside their little glass prison.

Then I saw the heads of the pins that stuck them to the backing. I glanced at the other walls and saw that they too were covered with the butterflies we’d caught over the years.

With a groan of horror, I turned and pelted down the steps and out into the garden. Seeing Daisy approaching from the house, I turned and ran around the back of the Folly and into the woodland that surrounded it. When I was far enough away, I sank down onto the roots of a big oak tree, gulping in breath.

‘They’re dead! They’re dead! They’re dead! How could he have lied to me?’ I shouted in between sobs.

I stayed in the woods a very long time, until I heard Daisy calling for me. I only wished I could ask Daddy why he’d killed them when they were so beautiful, and then hung them up like trophies so he could look up and see their deadness on the walls.

Well, I couldn’t ask, because he wasn’t here, but I had to trust and believe there was a very good reason for the murders in our butterfly kingdom.

As I stood and began to walk slowly back to the house, I couldn’t think of a single one. All I knew was that I never wanted to set foot in the Folly again.

ABOUT THE BUTTERFLY ROOM BY LUCINDA RILEY: Posy Montague is approaching her seventieth birthday. Still living in her beautiful family home, Admiral House, set in the glorious Suffolk countryside where she spent her own idyllic childhood catching butterflies with her beloved father, and raised her own children, Posy knows she must make an agonising decision. Despite the memories the house holds, and the exquisite garden she has spent twenty-five years creating, the house is crumbling around her, and Posy knows the time has come to sell it.

Then a face appears from the past – Freddie, her first love, who abandoned her and left her heartbroken fifty years ago. Already struggling to cope with her son Sam’s inept business dealings, and the sudden reappearance of her younger son Nick after ten years in Australia, Posy is reluctant to trust in Freddie’s renewed affection. And unbeknown to Posy, Freddie – and Admiral House – have a devastating secret to reveal . . .

MY THOUGHTS: I loved this multi-generational family saga beginning in the 1940’s when Posy is a child and culminating with Posy’s 70th birthday. The timelines do go back and forth, but do so in a logical and seamless way that in no way interrupts the flow of the story.

It has all the ingredients I expect of a family saga: a big old crumbling family home, mystery, sibling rivalry, romance, secrets, lies . . . But the biggest secret? I never could have guessed what it would be, and it left me stunned.

This is a big book at 628 pages, but it oozes atmosphere and I quickly became entrenched in Posy’s life. Riley’s characters are magnificent; from Posy with her inherent wisdom and dignity, to her sons, both very different and both of whom are facing disasters in their private lives, their families, and finally Freddie, a great love from Posy’s past – they will all worm their way into your heart and occupy your mind from the first to the last page.

I meandered through the first half of this book, content to dip in and out of it between other reads, but once I hit the halfway point I devoured the second half in one sitting, totally engrossed, unable to put it down.

Be warned – you will need tissues. Close to the end I found myself sobbing violently, not pretty crying with tears rolling silently down my cheeks, but the full on waterworks as I railed against the injustice of fate. But I finished with a sigh of pleasure and a smile of satisfaction.

The Butterfly Room is my first book by Lucinda Riley. It definitely won’t be my last. Spellbinding. ❤

⭐⭐⭐⭐.6

#TheButterflyRoom #NetGalley

‘It suddenly struck me that I hadn’t really thought the future through; and now here I was in it.’

THE AUTHOR: Lucinda Riley is an Irish author of popular historical fiction and a former actress. She spent the first few years of her life in the village of Drumbeg near Belfast before moving to England. At age 14 she moved to London to a specialist drama and ballet school. She wrote her first book aged twenty four.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Blue Box Press, Author Buzz via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Butterfly Room by Lucinda Riley for review.

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

Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz (Susan Ryeland #2)

EXCERPT: ‘So, let me get this straight,’ I said. I had the sense of facts tumbling on top of each other, yet I knew there was something they hadn’t told me. ‘You believe that maybe, despite all the evidence, not to mention the confession, Stefan Codrescu did not kill Frank Parris and that Alan Conway came to the hotel and discovered – in a matter of days – who the real killer was. He then somehow identified that person in Atticus Pund Takes the Case.’

‘Exactly.’

‘But that makes no sense at all, Pauline. If he knew the killer and there was an innocent man in prison, surely Alan would have gone straight to the police! Why would he turn it into a work of fiction?’

‘That’s precisely why we’re here, Susan. From what Sajid Khan told us, you knew Alan Conway better than anyone. You edited the book. If there is something in there, I can’t think of anyone more likely to find it.’

‘Wait a minute.’ Suddenly I knew what was missing. ‘This all started when your daughter spotted something in Atticus Takes the Case. Was she the only one who read it before she sent it to you?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘But what was it she saw? Why didn’t you just call her and ask her what she meant?’

It was Lawrence Treherne who answered my question. ‘Of course we called her,’he said. ‘We both read the book and then we rang her several times from France. Finally we got through to Aiden and he told us what had happened.’ He paused. ‘It seems that our daughter has disappeared.’

ABOUT MOONFLOWER MURDERS BY ANTHONY HOROWITZ: Retired publisher Susan Ryeland is living the good life. She is running a small hotel on a Greek island with her longterm boyfriend Andreas. It should be everything she’s always wanted – but is it? She’s exhausted with the responsibilities of making everything work on an island where nothing ever does, and truth be told she’s beginning to miss her old life in London.

And then a couple – the Trehernes – come to stay, and the story they tell about an unfortunate murder that took place on the same day and in the same hotel in which their daughter was married, is such a strange and mysterious one that Susan finds herself increasingly fascinated by it. And when the Trehernes tell her that their daughter is now missing, Susan knows that she must return to London and find out what really happened …

MY THOUGHTS: I simply devoured Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz, the second in the Susan Ryeland series. This is an intricate and ingeniously plotted murder mystery; one murder mystery contained within another – or, if you like, two books for the price of one!

The first mystery, that of the Treherne’s daughter’s disappearance is set in the present time. The second murder mystery, contained in Alan Conway’s novel Atticus Takes the Case is set in the 1950s, before the advent of the internet and the mobile phone. Conway was of the opinion that the internet was the worst thing ever to happen to detective fiction, which is why he set his own works in the fifties. He believed that it was hard to make your detective look clever when all the information in the world is instantly available to anyone who cares to look for it.

Conway, as I mentioned in my review of Magpie Murders, likes to insert his own little jokes into his manuscripts, which are full of anagrams (play around with the name ‘Atticus Pund’ and see what you come up with!), codes, and cruel caricatures of people he has met. Again there are literary references aplenty, particularly with regard to Agatha Christie, whose work he plundered mercilessly.

In the current time, Susan and Andreas are again at a crossroads, and she leaves Crete both to gain a little perspective, and in order to inject £10,000 into their struggling hotel.

There is a brilliant cast of characters in both books, but I particularly enjoyed the two sets of sisters. Cecily Treherne, who is missing, and her sister Lisa, are sisters at war. They have fought about anything and everything all their lives, to the point where Cecily once threw a knife at her sister, and Lisa was left with a permanent scar on her face. Lisa is cold blooded and determined, while Cecily is quieter and likes to please. Diametrically opposite to this pair is Susan, our intrepid editor/hotel proprietor/amateur sleuth, and her sister Katie who have absolutely nothing in common other than their enduring fondness for one another. Susan has never married and is childless, although she is in a relationship with Andreas, while Katie’s life is more traditional with an accountant husband, the requisite two children, the house, the garden and the community work.
Trouble will not confine itself to the warring sisters!

Moonflower Murders is a fun and fulfilling read. I love the clues that are scattered throughout (take note of the missing Mont Blanc pen, and of the dog who barked in the night!), and even the denouement, which is classic Christie, with everyone- suspects and otherwise – gathered together for the big reveal.

I hope that there are going to be many more books in this wonderful series.

If embarking on this series, I strongly recommend that you begin at the beginning with Magpie Murders, as there are references and a spoiler contained in Moonflower Murders.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#MoonflowerMurders #NetGalley

‘The greatest evil occurs when people, no matter what their aims or their motives, become utterly convinced that they are right.’

THE AUTHOR: Anthony Horowitz’s life might have been copied from the pages of Charles Dickens or the Brothers Grimm. Born in 1956 in Stanmore, Middlesex, to a family of wealth and status, Anthony was raised by nannies, surrounded by servants and chauffeurs. His father, a wealthy businessman, was, says Mr. Horowitz, “a fixer for Harold Wilson.” What that means exactly is unclear — “My father was a very secretive man,” he says— so an aura of suspicion and mystery surrounds both the word and the man. As unlikely as it might seem, Anthony’s father, threatened with bankruptcy, withdrew all of his money from Swiss bank accounts in Zurich and deposited it in another account under a false name and then promptly died. His mother searched unsuccessfully for years in attempt to find the money, but it was never found. That too shaped Anthony’s view of things. Today he says, “I think the only thing to do with money is spend it.” His mother, whom he adored, eccentrically gave him a human skull for his 13th birthday. His grandmother, another Dickensian character, was mean-spirited and malevolent, a destructive force in his life. She was, he says, “a truly evil person”, his first and worst arch villain. “My sister and I danced on her grave when she died,” he now recalls.
A miserably unhappy and overweight child, Anthony had nowhere to turn for solace. “Family meals,” he recalls, “had calories running into the thousands&. I was an astoundingly large, round child&.” At the age of eight he was sent off to boarding school, a standard practice of the times and class in which he was raised. While being away from home came as an enormous relief, the school itself, Orley Farm, was a grand guignol horror with a headmaster who flogged the boys till they bled. “Once the headmaster told me to stand up in assembly and in front of the whole school said, ‘This boy is so stupid he will not be coming to Christmas games tomorrow.’ I have never totally recovered.” To relieve his misery and that of the other boys, he not unsurprisingly made up tales of astounding revenge and retribution.

Anthony Horowitz is perhaps the busiest writer in England. He has been writing since the age of eight, and professionally since the age of twenty. He writes in a comfortable shed in his garden for up to ten hours per day. In addition to the highly successful Alex Rider books, he has also written episodes of several popular TV crime series, including Poirot, Murder in Mind, Midsomer Murders and Murder Most Horrid. He has written a television series Foyle’s War, which recently aired in the United States, and he has written the libretto of a Broadway musical adapted from Dr. Seuss’s book, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. His film script The Gathering has just finished production. And, oh yes, there are more Alex Rider novels in the works. Anthony has also written the Diamond Brothers series.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Cornerstone, Century for providing a digital ARC of Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz 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

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

EXCERPT: 23 July 1955

There was going to be a funeral.

The two gravediggers, old Jeff Weaver and his son, Adam had been out at first light and everything was ready, a grave dug to the exact proportions, the earth neatly piled to one side. The church of St. Botolph’s in Saxby-on-Avon had never looked lovelier, the morning sun glinting off the stained glass windows. The church dated back to the twelfth century although of course it had been rebuilt many times. The new grave was to the east, close to the ruins of the old chancel where the grass was allowed to grow wild and daisies and dandelions sprouted around the broken arches.

The village itself was quiet, the streets empty. The milkman had already made his deliveries and disappeared, the bottles rattling on the back of his van. The newspaper boys had done their rounds. This was a Saturday, so nobody would be going to work and it was still too early for the homeowners to begin their weekend chores. At nine o’clock, the village shop would open. The smell of bread, fresh out of the oven, was already seeping out of the baker’s shop next door. Their first customers would be arriving soon. Once breakfast was over, a chorus of lawnmowers would start up. It was July, the busiest time of the year for Saxby-on-Avon’s keen army of gardeners and with the Harvest Fair just a month away roses were already being pruned, marrows carefully measured. At half past one there was to be a cricket match on the village green. There would be an ice cream van, children playing, visitors having picnics in front of their cars. The tea shop would be open for business. A perfect summer’s afternoon.

ABOUT MAGPIE MURDERS: When editor Susan Ryeland is given the manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has no reason to think it will be much different from any of his others. After working with the bestselling crime writer for years, she’s intimately familiar with his detective, Atticus Pünd, who solves mysteries disturbing sleepy English villages. An homage to queens of classic British crime such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, Alan’s traditional formula has proved hugely successful. So successful that Susan must continue to put up with his troubling behavior if she wants to keep her job.

Conway’s latest tale has Atticus Pünd investigating a murder at Pye Hall, a local manor house. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but the more Susan reads, the more she’s convinced that there is another story hidden in the pages of the manuscript: one of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition, and murder.

MY THOUGHTS: Magpie Murders is a book about a book and its author. I love it. I want to read it again, right now. It is fiendishly clever, inventive, compelling, and deliciously dark in its own twisty way. This is a book that will have you puzzling, scratching your head, and occasionally saying, ‘but of course!’ Magpie Murders is vastly different to anything that I have ever read before.

There are multiple references to Christie, anagrams and cryptic clues. I think that it would be impossible to read this book and not try to solve the mysteries, the murders as you read. There are plenty of red herrings (and even a publishing company called Red Herrings!), plenty of suspects.

There are characters to love, and characters you will love to hate. Everyone has secrets, some worth knowing, some not. But there is someone who knows all the secrets.

Susan Ryeland is the character who unites the two halves of this book. She is editor to the author of Magpie Murders, Alan Conway, a man she can’t stand. She has devoted her whole life to books, to bookshops, booksellers, and bookish people like her boss Charles Clover, owner and CEO of Cloverleaf Publishing, and her authors. She is starting to feel that by doing so, she has wound up like a book: on the shelf. She is at a crossroads in her life, with a new opportunity opening up for her. But will she take it?

I have always wondered how authors come up with their characters, how they round them out, make them realistic, relatable. Conway’s methods are explored in some detail, and are a little wicked.

I love Magpie Murders and will, at some point, be giving it a second read. I will also be buying myself a copy. There was not one word in this book that I didn’t enjoy.

Magpie Murders is #1 in the Susan Ryeland series.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

THE AUTHOR: Anthony Horowitz’s life might have been copied from the pages of Charles Dickens or the Brothers Grimm. Born in 1956 in Stanmore, Middlesex, to a family of wealth and status, Anthony was raised by nannies, surrounded by servants and chauffeurs. His father, a wealthy businessman, was, says Mr. Horowitz, “a fixer for Harold Wilson.” What that means exactly is unclear — “My father was a very secretive man,” he says— so an aura of suspicion and mystery surrounds both the word and the man. As unlikely as it might seem, Anthony’s father, threatened with bankruptcy, withdrew all of his money from Swiss bank accounts in Zurich and deposited it in another account under a false name and then promptly died. His mother searched unsuccessfully for years in attempt to find the money, but it was never found. That too shaped Anthony’s view of things. Today he says, “I think the only thing to do with money is spend it.” His mother, whom he adored, eccentrically gave him a human skull for his 13th birthday. His grandmother, another Dickensian character, was mean-spirited and malevolent, a destructive force in his life. She was, he says, “a truly evil person”, his first and worst arch villain. “My sister and I danced on her grave when she died,” he now recalls.
A miserably unhappy and overweight child, Anthony had nowhere to turn for solace. “Family meals,” he recalls, “had calories running into the thousands&. I was an astoundingly large, round child&.” At the age of eight he was sent off to boarding school, a standard practice of the times and class in which he was raised. While being away from home came as an enormous relief, the school itself, Orley Farm, was a grand guignol horror with a headmaster who flogged the boys till they bled. “Once the headmaster told me to stand up in assembly and in front of the whole school said, ‘This boy is so stupid he will not be coming to Christmas games tomorrow.’ I have never totally recovered.” To relieve his misery and that of the other boys, he not unsurprisingly made up tales of astounding revenge and retribution.

Anthony Horowitz is perhaps the busiest writer in England. He has been writing since the age of eight, and professionally since the age of twenty. He writes in a comfortable shed in his garden for up to ten hours per day. In addition to the highly successful Alex Rider books, he has also written episodes of several popular TV crime series, including Poirot, Murder in Mind, Midsomer Murders and Murder Most Horrid. He has written a television series Foyle’s War, which recently aired in the United States, and he has written the libretto of a Broadway musical adapted from Dr. Seuss’s book, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. His film script The Gathering has just finished production. And&oh yes&there are more Alex Rider novels in the works. Anthony has also written the Diamond Brothers series.

DISCLOSURE: I decided to read Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz because I have #2 in this series, Moonflower Murders, to read. I borrowed my copy from Waitomo District Library. Publishers Orion Books are also mentioned in Magpie Murders.

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