Watching what I’m reading . . .

We’ve had a particularly vicious tropical storm through the North Island of New Zealand over the past couple of days and it seems it’s not finished with us yet. Personally, we have escaped unscathed. My cousin and her husband are marooned in their home, they can’t get down their drive due to flooding, and if they did they’d be unable to go anywhere as their road is closed in both directions. The Mangaokewa burst its banks yesterday afternoon and houses along the riverside were evacuated. But if we think we got it bad, Auckland had it much worse with three confirmed dead and one still missing. It’s the heaviest rainfall recorded in 24 hours since records began. Although clean up has begun, it is going to be a long slow process with rain being forecast for all the coming week.

Currently I am reading One Day With You by Shari Low

One day, five lives, but whose hearts will be broken by nightfall?
It started like any other day in the picturesque village of Weirbridge.

Tress Walker waved her perfect husband Max off to work, with no idea that she was about to go into labour with their first child. And completely unaware that when she tried to track Max down, he wouldn’t be where he was supposed to be.

At the same time, Max’s best friend Noah Clark said goodbye to his wife, Mya, blissfully oblivious that he would soon discover the woman he adored had been lying to him for years.

And living alongside the two couples, their recently widowed friend, Nancy Jenkins, is getting ready to meet Eddie, her first true love at a school reunion. Will Nancy have the chance to rekindle an old flame, or will she choose to stay by Tress’s side when she needs her most?

The Other Half by Charlotte Vassell #coverlove

The night before
Rupert’s 30th is a black tie dinner at the Kentish Town McDonald’s – catered with cocaine and Veuve Clicquot.
The morning after
His girlfriend Clemmie is found murdered on Hampstead Heath. All the party-goers have alibis. Naturally.

This investigation is going to be about Classics degrees and aristocrats, Instagram influencers and who knows who. Or is it whom? Detective Caius Beauchamp isn’t sure. He’s sharply dressed, smart, and as into self-improvement as Clemmie – but as he searches for the dark truth beneath the luxury, a wall of staggering wealth threatens to shut down his investigation before it’s begun.

Can he see through the tangled set of relationships in which the other half live, and die, before the case is taken out of his hands?

And listening to The Mystery of Four by Sam Blake

Tess Morgan has finally made her dream of restoring beautiful Kilfenora House and Gardens into a reality.

But during rehearsals for the play that forms the opening weekend’s flagship event, her dream turns into a nightmare when a devastating accident looks set to ruin her carefully laid plans.

There are rumours that Kilfenora House is cursed, but this feels personal, and becomes increasingly terrifying when more than one body is discovered. Could someone be closing in on Tess herself?

Clarissa Westmacott, ex star of stage and screen, certainly believes so, particularly when she learns that purple-flowered aconite has been picked from the Poison Garden. And Clarissa will stop at nothing to protect the friend she has come to see as a daughter…

Four tragic accidents. Or four brutal murders? Unravel The Mystery of Four . .

This week I am planning to read The Doctor’s Wife for which I have both an audio and digital ARC.

My husband is a doctor. He’s smart and charming and everybody trusts him. Except me.

On the surface, it looks like I have it all – the perfect marriage, the perfect husband, the perfect life. But it’s far from the truth.

Doctor Drew Devlin is not the respectable figure he makes out to be. The reason we moved to this beautiful, old property with a gorgeous view of the sea was because we needed to put our past behind us. It should’ve been a fresh start for us both.

Except I’ve discovered my husband has been lying to me again. He’s using the power he has in his job to mess with people’s lives, and to get exactly what he wants – no matter who it hurts.

But he’s underestimated me. I’ve had plenty of time, in this big, isolated house, to think about all of his mistakes.

And my husband has no idea what’s about to happen next…

All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham

One year ago, Isabelle Drake’s life changed forever: her toddler son, Mason, was taken out of his crib in the middle of the night while she and her husband were asleep in the next room. With little evidence and few leads for the police to chase, the case quickly went cold. However, Isabelle cannot rest until Mason is returned to her—literally.

Except for the occasional catnap or small blackout where she loses track of time, she hasn’t slept in a year.

Isabelle’s entire existence now revolves around finding him, but she knows she can’t go on this way forever. In hopes of jarring loose a new witness or buried clue, she agrees to be interviewed by a true-crime podcaster—but his interest in Isabelle’s past makes her nervous. His incessant questioning paired with her severe insomnia has brought up uncomfortable memories from her own childhood, making Isabelle start to doubt her recollection of the night of Mason’s disappearance, as well as second-guess who she can trust… including herself. But she is determined to figure out the truth no matter where it leads.

In the two weeks since I last posted, I have received seven ARCs for review. They are:

Dinner Party by Sarah Gilmartin

Old God’s Time by Sebastian Barry

The Last Passenger by Will Dean

Beginning of Forever by Catherine Bybee

The Edinburgh Mystery by Martin Edwards

The Little Board Game Cafè by Jennifer Page

The Last Dance by Mark Billingham

Do you have any of these titles on your reading radar?

Thank you to all my bookish friends who offered moral support during my husband’s recent surgery. It was greatly appreciated. Unfortunately, they have found more cancer and further surgery is on the horizon, so I will be disappearing again at some point in the reasonably near future.

Have a wonderful week of reading. ❤📚

Watching what I’m reading . . .

BRILLIANT BOOK ALERT! This book, which I finished today – a one day read – has earned every star in the Galaxy from me.

I am too emotional at the moment to write a review about this book, but please watch for it in the coming days. I cried, and laughed, and cried some more. I now want to read everything this author has written.

Currently I am reading The Sisters We Were by Wendy Willis Baldwin

I am continuing with my read of the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths with #4, A Room Full of Bones.

and doing a read/listen of Devil’s Way (Kate Marshall #4) by Robert Bryndza, which I am loving in both formats.

This week I have six books to read for review in addition to The Sisters We Were. They are:

A Winter Grave by Peter May

It is the year 2051. Warnings of climate catastrophe have been ignored, and vast areas of the planet are under water, or uninhabitably hot. A quarter of the world’s population has been displaced by hunger and flooding, and immigration wars are breaking out around the globe as refugees pour into neighboring countries.

By contrast, melting ice sheets have brought the Gulf Stream to a halt and northern latitudes, including Scotland, are being hit by snow and ice storms. It is against this backdrop that Addie, a young meteorologist checking a mountain top weather station, discovers the body of a man entombed in ice.

The dead man is investigative reporter, George Younger, missing for three months after vanishing during what he claimed was a hill-walking holiday. But Younger was no hill walker, and his discovery on a mountain-top near the Highland village of Kinlochleven, is inexplicable.

Cameron Brodie, a veteran Glasgow detective, volunteers to be flown north to investigate Younger’s death, but he has more than a murder enquiry on his agenda. He has just been given a devastating medical prognosis by his doctor and knows the time has come to face his estranged daughter who has made her home in the remote Highland village.

Arriving during an ice storm, Brodie and pathologist Dr. Sita Roy, find themselves the sole guests at the inappropriately named International Hotel, where Younger’s body has been kept refrigerated in a cake cabinet. But evidence uncovered during his autopsy places the lives of both Brodie and Roy in extreme jeopardy.

As another storm closes off communications and the possibility of escape, Brodie must face up not only to the ghosts of his past, but to a killer determined to bury forever the chilling secret that George Younger’s investigations had threatened to expose.

The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels by Janice Hallett

Open the safe deposit box. Inside you will find research material for a true crime book. You must read the documents, then make a decision. Will you destroy them? Or will you take them to the police?

Everyone knows the story of the Alperton Angels: the cult-like group who were convinced one of their member’s babies was the anti-Christ, and they had a divine mission to kill it – until the baby’s mother, Holly, came to her senses and called the police. The Angels committed suicide rather than go to prison, and Holly – and the baby – disappeared into the care system.

Nearly two decades later, true-crime author Amanda Bailey is writing a book on the Angels. The Alperton baby has turned eighteen and can finally be interviewed – if Amanda can find them, it will be the true-crime scoop of the year, and will save her flagging career. But rival author Oliver Menzies is just as smart, better connected, and is also on the baby’s trail.

As Amanda and Oliver are forced to collaborate, they realise that what everyone thinks they know about the Angels is wrong, and the truth is something much darker and stranger than they’d ever imagined.

The Village Vicar by Julie Houston

Three devoted sisters… One complicated family.

When Rosa Quinn left her childhood home in Westenbury, she never expected to return over a decade later as the village vicar. But after a health scare and catching her boyfriend cheating, Rosa jumps at the chance to start over and live closer to her triplet sisters Eva and Hannah.

But Rosa’s isn’t the only old face in the village, and when her role in the parish throws her into the path of her ex, she begins to wonder if she’s made a terrible mistake. Meanwhile, Eva and Hannah face their own troubles, as secrets about their family threaten to emerge.

Can Rosa make a life for herself in Westenbury? Or will the sisters discover you can’t run away from the past?

That Night at the Beach by Kate Hewitt

As mothers we never dare to delve into our worst-nightmare scenarios. What if… we might murmur to each other, and then shake our heads, telling ourselves it’ll never happen to us if we’re just good enough mothers. Yet here we are. And the steady beep of the heart monitor is the only evidence the child in front of us is alive…

It’s Labor Day weekend, so of course we went to the beach. Like we do every year. For a barbecue picnic with my best friend Rose. It’s the perfect tradition—drinks, games, burgers, music, laughter. Together with our husbands, my two teenage sons and her two daughters, we all arrived as the sun was still shimmering over the water, the whole evening ahead of us.

But nothing goes to plan. Old secrets emerge, tempers flare. And so we parents decide to leave the beach, telling the teenagers to enjoy themselves, reassuring them someone will be back to collect them in an hour or two.

But when I return a little while later, I know something is really wrong. Our teens are slurring their words, stumbling to the car. It’s clear they have been drinking and I’m shocked. I never expected our kids to behave this way. I’m bracing myself to have firm words with them in the morning, but the next day my concerns fade to nothing, when seventeen-year-old Bella claims my son Finn assaulted her.

Finn insists he would never do that. And I so want to believe him. Because I brought my son up right. Because a mother would know, wouldn’t she?

What I don’t know is that the answer to what happened that night on the beach may be a matter of life and death for one of our beloved children… 

The Other Half by Charlotte Vassell

The night before
Rupert’s 30th is a black tie dinner at the Kentish Town McDonald’s – catered with cocaine and Veuve Clicquot.
The morning after
His girlfriend Clemmie is found murdered on Hampstead Heath. All the party-goers have alibis. Naturally.

This investigation is going to be about Classics degrees and aristocrats, Instagram influencers and who knows who. Or is it whom? Detective Caius Beauchamp isn’t sure. He’s sharply dressed, smart, and as into self-improvement as Clemmie – but as he searches for the dark truth beneath the luxury, a wall of staggering wealth threatens to shut down his investigation before it’s begun.

Can he see through the tangled set of relationships in which the other half live, and die, before the case is taken out of his hands?

One Day With You by Shari Lowe

One day, five lives, but whose hearts will be broken by nightfall?
It started like any other day in the picturesque village of Weirbridge.

Tress Walker waved her perfect husband Max off to work, with no idea that she was about to go into labour with their first child. And completely unaware that when she tried to track Max down, he wouldn’t be where he was supposed to be.

At the same time, Max’s best friend Noah Clark said goodbye to his wife, Mya, blissfully oblivious that he would soon discover the woman he adored had been lying to him for years.

And living alongside the two couples, their recently widowed friend, Nancy Jenkins, is getting ready to meet Eddie, her first true love at a school reunion. Will Nancy have the chance to rekindle an old flame, or will she choose to stay by Tress’s side when she needs her most?

One Day with You – two fateful goodbyes, two unexpected hellos, and 24 hours that change everything. 

I have received two new ARCs from Netgalley for review this week.

the audiobook The Mystery of Four by Sam Blake and narrated by Aiofe McMahon

A Mischief of Rats by Sarah Yarwood-Lovett

I have 17 requests pending. I have had lot of requests declined this week. 🤷‍♀️

My husband is undergoing major surgery this week, so I am not going promise to post regularly, nor to interact with other bloggers to my normal level. Please keep Pete in your prayers. ❤

The Charity Shop Detective Agency by Peter Boland

EXCERPT: Sarah Brown was in her hallway face down. Ted swore and rushed in, assuming she’d had a fall.

In a second he was by her side. ‘Sarah! Sarah! Can you hear me?’ Her lack of response led him to believe she must have hit her head and knocked herself out.

Ted flinched, panicked, not knowing what to do. He felt her neck for a pulse. He’d seen it a million times on the TV. That was what they did first, wasn’t it? Fumbling with two fingers, he sought out Sarah’s carotid artery.

All he found was cold skin. Then he noticed the damp, dark patch below one shoulder blade. In it’s centre, a deep narrow wound, wet with blood.

His breath caught in his throat. Hands shaking, he reached for his phone. As he fumbled to dial for an ambulance, something made him jump.

A small, dark object slid out of her left hand.

A domino, with a name scratched onto it.

ABOUT: THE CHARITY SHOP DETECTIVE AGENCY: A serial killer is stalking the elderly of Southbourne. The only clue left behind is a domino in the hand of each victim — with a name scratched on the back.

Eighty-six-year-old Sarah Brown is found dead in her hallway one morning by her delivery man. She was stabbed in the back.

Fiona, Sue and Daisy, volunteers at the local charity shop, Dogs Need Nice Homes, can’t believe their favourite customer is dead. The ladies vow to bring the killer to justice.

With plenty of tea and cake along the way, and despite squabbles with their rivals, the Cats Alliance across the street, the Charity Shop Detective Agency is born.

Fans of The Thursday Murder Club, Janice Hallett, Simon Brett, Ian Moore and Sarah Yarwood-Lovett will adore this exciting new voice in cozy crime.

THE DETECTIVE – Level-headed Fiona has found a quiet sanctuary volunteering at the local charity shop, Dogs Need Nice Homes. And she’s found firm friendship with the strong-willed Partial Sue (she’s ever so partial to a cup of tea) and the kindly — and surprisingly tech-savvy — Daisy. Together, these ladies, with Simon Le Bon, Fiona’s scruffy haired terrier cross, investigate murders as the utterly charming Charity Shop Detective Agency.

MY THOUGHTS: This is a light hearted murder mystery which, it seems, is going to become a series.

I enjoyed the storyline, although the writing was a little stilted at times. There doesn’t seem to be a clear motive for the murder, which is quickly followed by another, and another.

Fiona, Sue and Daisy have all kinds of theories, which they try to make what little evidence they have, fit. This gets them into a fair bit of trouble with the investigating officers, and they become dispirited and consider giving up their quest. But a new discovery soon has them back on the trail, reinvigorated. Wash, rinse, repeat.

I didn’t find the characters particularly realistic. While they stopped just short of being caricatures, they weren’t really relatable either. Just like this is almost, but not quite a ‘cute’ cosy,neither is it quite an intelligent one.

Even though the three main characters aren’t particularly relatable, they are likeable. Fiona is normally a logical sort of person, resolute and self assured, but the business of trying to find a murderer makes her quite indecisive, and she frequently feels out of her depth. Partial Sue, so named because partial is her favourite word, had been a talented accountant before retirement. She has more money than Fiona and Sue put together but is a master in the art of frugality. And hoarding . . . Daisy is just Daisy. Warm-hearted she is a surprising technology whiz.

I liked this, but didn’t love it and I’m unsure, if it does develop into a series, whether I will continue to read it.

I did enjoy author Peter Boland’s own story of his writing career in the acknowledgments.

⭐⭐⭐.1

#THECHAITYSHOPDETECTIVEAGENCY #NetGalley

I: #peterboland @joffebooks

T: @PeterBoland19 @JoffeBooks

#contemporaryfiction #cosymystery #murdermystery

THE AUTHOR: I have a confession to make. When I wrote this book, I was on the brink of giving up. You see, my writing career hadn’t exactly gone to plan. After fifteen years trying my hand at all sorts of genres, the rejections had stacked up.

‘Why am I bothering?’ was a question I was asking myself more and more often. I made a decision. I’d have one last crack with writing a cosy, and if that didn’t work then I’d call it a day. And here I am . . .

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Joffe Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Charity Shop Detective Agency by Peter Boland 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 is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Midwinter Murder: Fireside Mysteries from the Queen of Crime by Agatha Christie

EXCERPT: taken from ‘A Christmas Tragedy’
‘My Dear, these things are very common – very common indeed. And gentlemen are especially tempted,being so much the stronger. So easy if a thing looks like an accident. As I say, I knew at once with the Sanders. It was on a tram. It was full inside and I had to go on top. We all three got up to get off and Mr Sanders lost his balance and fell right against his wife, sending her headfirst down the stairs. Fortunately the conductor was a very strong young man and caught her.’

‘But surely that must have been an accident.’

‘Of course it was an accident – nothing could have looked more accidental! But Mr Sanders had been in the Merchant Service, so he told me, and a man who can keep his balance on a nasty tilting boat doesn’t lose it on top of a tram if an old woman like me doesn’t. Don’t tell me!’

‘At any rate, we can take it you made up your mind, Miss Marple,’ said Sir Henry. ‘Made it up then and there.’

The old lady nodded.

‘I was sure enough, and another incident in crossing the street not long afterwards made me surer still. Now, I ask you, what could I do, Sir Henry? Here was a nice contented happy little married woman shortly going to be murdered.’

ABOUT ‘MIDWINTER MURDER’: There’s a chill in the air and the days are growing shorter . . . It’s the perfect time to curl up in front of a crackling fireplace with this winter-themed collection from legendary mystery writer Agatha Christie. But beware of deadly snowdrifts and dangerous gifts, poisoned meals and mysterious guests. This compendium of short stories, some featuring beloved detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, is an essential omnibus for Christie fans and the perfect holiday gift for mystery lovers.

MY THOUGHTS: For some reason, the edition that I have does not include the story ‘Three Blind Mice’ which went on to be developed into the stage play ‘The Mousetrap’. This omission disappointed me.

There are twelve stories in this collection, one for each day of Christmas.

1. The Chocolate Box ⭐⭐⭐.5 the title gives the method away, but the killer was most unexpected.
2. The Christmas Tragedy ⭐⭐⭐⭐ featuring Jane Marple. A diabolically clever murder!
3. The Coming of Mr Quin ⭐⭐⭐⭐ in which a murder is solved ten years after the fact.
4. The Mystery of the Baghdad Chest ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Although I enjoyed this story, and Poirot is undeniably clever, I dislike the man. “As it happens, in my own particular line, there is no one to touch me. C’est dommage! As it is, I admit freely and without hypocrisy, that I am a great man. I have the order, the method, and the psychology in an unusual degree. I am, in fact, Hercule Poirot!” Insufferable, but ingenious.
5. The Clergyman’s Daughter ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5 featuring Tommy and Tuppence is an amusing and heartwarming mystery.
6. The Plymouth Express ⭐⭐⭐⭐ features Poirot and was later expanded to become The Blue Train.
7. Problem at Pollensa Bay ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Love and manipulation – and not a murder in sight.
8. Sanctuary ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5 Bunch and her godmother, Jane Marple, solve a mystery and find a murderer.
9. The Mystery of Hunters Lodge ⭐⭐.5 an uninspiring tale that has Poirot laid up with the influenza and Hastings investigating in his stead.
10. The World’s End ⭐⭐ Mr Quin makes an appearance. I didn’t enjoy the story at all, but loved the character of the Duchess. I imagined her being played by Stephanie Cole.”
11. The Manhood of Edward Robinson ⭐⭐⭐⭐ a tale of adventure and romance.
12. Christmas Adventure ⭐⭐⭐ A Poirot in which a practical joke backfires.

I had fully intended to read just one story a day, but just like with chocolate, I cannot control my consumption of Agatha Christie.

It’s not often that Christie gets all philosophical on us, so I particularly enjoyed the following quote from Problem at Pollensa Bay: ‘What are the years from twenty to forty? Fettered and bound by personal and emotional relationships. That’s bound to be. That’s living. But later, there’s a new stage. You can think, observe life, discover something about other people and the truth about yourself. Life becomes real – significant. You see it as a whole. Not just one scene – the scene you, as an actor, are playing. No man or woman is actually himself (or herself) till after forty-five. That’s when individuality has a chance.’

⭐⭐⭐.8

#MidwinterMurders

I: @officialagathachristie @harpercollinsaustralia

T: @agathachristie @HarperCollinsAU

THE AUTHOR: Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie is the creator of two of the most enduring figures in crime literature-Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple-and author of The Mousetrap, the longest-running play in the history of modern theatre.

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.

DISCLOSURE: I own my copy of Midwinter Murders by Agatha Christie. 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 is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Isabel Puddles Abroad by M.V. Byrne

EXCERPT: Fred and Ginger were nowhere to be seen by the time Isabel chugged her way up the drive and reached the house, completely out of breath. She called their names in between breaths, but nothing. She went up to the front door and knocked to see if there was any chance Hyacinth had let them inside, but there was no answer. Then she heard barking coming from behind the house. She rushed around the back and was overcome with relief when she saw Fred and Ginger in the garden. Unfortunately they were up to no good, both digging frantically in a freshly planted flower bed with dirt flying out behind their rumps. She yelled at them to stop as she rushed over, but they were oblivious to her pleas. When she finally grabbed their leashes and tried to pull them away, they refused to budge.

And then she noticed something strange in the flower bed, something the dogs were desperately trying to uncover. They began barking again as they dug, then kept looking back at her as though trying to bring something to her attention.

Isabel bent down for a closer look. She couldn’t quite make it out at first, but when she did, she nearly fainted. An ashen-coloured, dirt-covered human hand.

ABOUT ‘ISABEL PUDDLES ABROAD’: Isabel has crafted a life she loves in her Lake Michigan hometown, but she’s eager to use her golden years to make up for missed opportunities. That’s why she’s traveling to England for the first time to visit her pen pal, Teddy Mansfield, an acclaimed mystery writer who lives just outside the village of Mousehole, Cornwall. First impressions are charming–Isabel is staying in the guest cottage on the grounds of Teddy’s beautiful country manor, and Mousehole is home to an assortment of characters as colorful as any in Teddy’s books.

Teddy’s housekeeper, Tuppence, is a dab hand at baking–her scones are regularly runner-up in the village bake-off, and this year she’s determined to scoop top prize. But it appears that other, possibly more dangerous rivalries have been brewing in Mousehole. And when a resident is found pushing up daisies in a flowerbed, Isabel is drawn into an investigation that will require all of her newly honed skills to solve–and to survive . . .

MY THOUGHTS: This is my first outing with Isabel Puddles, and it was fun. But it is the characters I enjoyed far more than the actual mystery.

Isabel is delightful. She is kind, adventurous, and has a sense of humour that I can relate to. I do find Puddles such a strange surname though, and wonder about its origins. Something for me to follow up.

I also enjoyed the character of Tuppence, Teddy’s housekeeper, who bakes magnificent scones and tells it like she sees it. Her observations are very astute. Teddy himself is a bit of a sweetie; not a bad or nasty bone in his body, but he does have a penchant for bad puns. He is diametrically the opposite of his sister Matilde, who is not only bitter, but downright nasty.

The mystery itself is a slow burn with the body not being discovered until almost halfway through the book. But don’t let that put you off. Isabel is entertainment enough, as are the other characters. The village scone bake-off is another source of entertainment and sets the scene for the unexpected death. There is no shortage of suspects as the victim was not well liked. But who disliked her enough to actually kill her? And why now? Just like suspects, there is no shortage of motives.

Isabel Puddles Abroad, although one of a series, is perfectly able to be read as a stand-alone. The mystery within is complete and there are no references to previous books or mysteries.

An entertaining read. I look forward to more outings with Isabel.

⭐⭐⭐.6

#IsabelPuddlesAbroad #NetGalley

I: #authormvbyrnes @kensingtonbooks

T: #AuthorMVByrnes @KensingtonBooks

#contemporaryfiction #cosymystery #friendship #murdermystery

THE AUTHOR: M.V. Byrne was born in East Lansing, Michigan and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, although he spent his summers on Lake Michigan with family. He later returned to East Lansing to attend Michigan State University. After years of living in both NYC and LA, he has settled in LA full time where he continues to work as a writer/producer in unscripted TV, though he can now add the job title of “Author” to his resume.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Kensington Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Isabel Puddles Abroad by M.V. Byrne 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 is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Happy holidays my bookish friends. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas Day filled with love and laughter. Our Christmas Day was quiet, but fun. Then Boxing Day we had an open house and friends dropped by throughout the day. It was a fun day and good to catch up with people we hadn’t seen for a while.

Currently I am reading The Girls by Bella Osborne which was published earlier this year. I am only a few pages in, so no comment as yet.

Four old friends. Thrown back together after fifty years apart. What could possibly go wrong?

In the 1970s, The Girls were best friends sharing a flat and good times: Zara the famous diva actor, Val the uptight solicitor, Jackie the wild child and Pauline the quirky introvert. Now they’re in their twilight years, and Zara suggests that they live with her to support each other through old age.

Initially, being housemates again is just as much fun as in their heyday. But then Zara reveals the real reason she asked them to move in with her, and suddenly things take a sinister turn.

As the women confront their demons they come under the spotlight of the press, the police and an angry parrot. With their lives spiralling out of control can they save their friendships and each other?

No One Saw it Coming by Susan Lewis, due to be published early January 2023. I h also only just started this.

Secrets lie at the heart of every family…

When the unthinkable happens…

Hanna’s world is crumbling.

An unimaginable crime has been committed, and everyone’s looking for someone to blame. Her loved ones are under suspicion.

Now Hanna must work out who is threatening her family – before it’s too late.

No one could have seen this coming…

And I am listening to The Olive Tree by Lucinda Riley, purely for pleasure. I have listened to quite a bit of this today as I have been pottering around the house and garden. It’s shaping up nicely.

It has been twenty-four years since a young Helena spent a magical holiday in Cyprus, where she fell in love for the first time. When the now crumbling house, ‘Pandora’, is left to her by her godfather, she returns to spend the summer there with her family.

Yet Helena knows that the idyllic beauty of Pandora masks a web of secrets she has kept from William, her husband, and Alex, her son. At the difficult age of thirteen, Alex is torn between protecting his beloved mother, and growing up. And equally, he is desperate to learn the truth about his real father . . .

When Helena meets her childhood sweetheart by chance, a chain of events is set in motion that threatens to make her past and present collide. Both Helena and Alex know that life will never be the same, once Pandora’s secrets have been revealed.

I again don’t have any reads for review scheduled for the week ahead so will just be picking reads at random from my backlist and perhaps making a start on my January reads for review.

I have received three new ARCs for review since my last Watching what I’m reading post ten days ago. They are:

The Doctor’s Wife by Daniel Hurst. I have just finished my second book by this author, Til Death Do Us Part, and it was great. I’m really looking forward to this.

The Island of Longing by Anne Griffin, a new author to me.

And The Other Half by Charlotte Vassell, another author new to me.

So, that’s my week all nicely wrapped up. Enjoy your holiday break and make marvellous memories with your loved ones. ❤📚🎄

The Murder Question (A Beth Haldane Mystery #3) by Alice Castle

EXCERPT: Beth’s breath was rapidly misting up the window as she squinted this way and that, trying to work out what was going on. She stepped back a little to wipe the condensation down with the sleeve of her coat. Suddenly, a twig snapped somewhere behind her in the dense mass of dripping darkness that was the garden. In the quiet, it was as loud as a gunshot going off. She clutched her chest. Her heart had started pounding. Was it a fox? Or maybe Jen’s beloved cat, Meow? She knew from Magpie that sometimes you could see cats’ eyes glittering in the darkness. She swung round, suddenly supremely conscious that she shouldn’t be here. But there was no sign of the cat, or anything else. Thank goodness. She turned back again.

Instantly, there was a flurry of movement right behind her. Then pain exploded through her skull as something hard and heavy connected mercilessly with the back of her head.

ABOUT ‘THE MURDER QUESTION’: When her best friend goes missing, amateur sleuth Beth Haldane is determined to do some digging of her own… but can she crack the mystery before it becomes a murder?

Beth Haldane is worried. First her dear friend and fellow single mother Jen suddenly gets married to a new man who seems too perfect to be true, then she moves out of leafy Dulwich Village – and now seems to have disappeared without a trace.

Beth knows Jen would never leave her little daughter to handle playground predicaments or her sneaky stepmother alone. Heading to Jen’s new home for answers, Beth’s knocks on the periwinkle-blue front door go unanswered. Police are convinced the lovebirds are on an extended honeymoon: but Beth suspects Jen’s new husband is up to no good… why does no-one in Dulwich know where he came from? Are his looks hiding a dark past?

With Jen’s unpleasant ex popping up at every turn, and gruff but handsome policeman DI Harry York insisting Beth should leave things to the professionals, it’s going to take all her sleuthing skills to track Jen down. But searching Jen’s overgrown garden for clues, Beth hears a twig snap… and next thing she knows, she’s woken up in a hospital bed.

Someone in normally peaceful Dulwich Village will do anything to stop her reaching the truth. Can Beth get to the bottom of this mystery before she’s the next to disappear?

MY THOUGHTS: I don’t know quite what it is about this series that keeps drawing me back. I love a good mystery, but in The Murder Question, the mystery definitely takes a back seat to Beth’s life. Yet, I enjoyed it. It’s entertaining. Amusing. I could easily be friends with Beth. I wouldn’t employ her, but we could be friends.

Beth’s friends and workmates are ganging up on her, saying that after almost a decade of being a widow it’s time she got back on the dating bandwagon. Beth is slowly coming around to their way of thinking. She misses the companionship of a relationship. And her friend Jen’s sudden marriage to the unknown Ted has only reinforced her own loneliness. But while she is browsing a dating website one day, she finds something disturbing. Then, Jen disappears.

I like the way Beth bumbles around in her ‘investigations’. She has no finesse, no real idea of what she is doing. Probably just as I would do in her place. She’s relatable. Ordinary. She’s not beautiful, but rather resembles a Shetland pony with her long thick fringe, sturdy build and short stature. She has a bit of a thing for local DI Harry York, who always seems to be rescuing her from whatever predicament she finds herself in, but doesn’t believe her feelings are reciprocated. Harry, a DI addicted to the works of Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and Margery Allingham, has a disastrous love history. He has all but given up when he is called to a flat where the body of an elderly pensioner has been laying undiscovered for some time, and he wonders if this will be his fate.

The characters are definitely what attract me to this series. From the smug newly married, pregnant Janice to the head ‘yummy mummy’ at the school gates, they are all beautifully drawn and realistically portrayed.

Every book in this series gets better and now I’m ready for book #4, The Murder Plot.

⭐⭐⭐.9

#TheMurderQuestion #NetGalley

I: @alice_castle_ @bookouture

T: @AliceMCastle @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #cosymystery

THE AUTHOR: Alice Castle lives in South London with her two children and two cats. She was a feature writer on the Daily Express for many years and has written for most other national newspapers. She has a degree in Modern History from St Andrews University, is the British Royalty expert for Flemish TV, and lived in Brussels for nearly a decade.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Murder Question (A Beth
Haldane Mystery #3) by Alice Castle 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 is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

On Spine of Death (by the Book Mysteries #2) by Tamara Berry

EXCERPT: Tess knew the exact moment the blood started dripping down her hands.

The frigid air of the cellar where she was trapped had long since caused her skin to grow numb. She couldn’t feel the sharp slices of the zip ties digging into her wrists or the thick trickle of blood moving down her fingers, but that didn’t matter. As soon as her veins opened up, the enormous, mangy rat in the corner would lift his nose, twitch his whiskers, and come in for a taste.

ABOUT ‘ON SPINE OF DEATH’: In the aftermath of solving their first murder, bestselling author Tess Harrow and her teenage daughter Gertrude have decided to stay in Winthrop permanently. Now that they’ve made some updates to their cabin in the woods, they’re turning to the family hardware store that Tess inherited and converting it into the town’s first independent bookstore. But when renovations unearth bones from a cold case and send them toppling—literally—onto Tess’s head, the work comes to a grinding halt. With the whole town convinced that her grandfather was a serial killer, Tess has to call in a fellow horror author for reinforcements. Together, they’ll come up with a perfect story to make all the clues fit…and solve a mystery more than thirty years in the making.

MY THOUGHTS: Not my cup of tea. On Spine of Death – even after finishing the book, I just don’t get the title – is more slapstick comedy than an intelligent cosy. I spent much of this read rolling my eyes, and muttering ‘Really?’

On Spine of Death is a quick easy read, but I deplore the lack of depth in both the characters and the plot. However, as I haven’t read the first book in the series, which may have provided some much needed background information, I will give this the benefit of the doubt and ⭐⭐.6 stars.

The shining light in this story is definitely Gertrude, Tess’s teenage daughter who is obsessed with death and doing her work experience in the local morgue.

⭐⭐.6

#OntheSpineofDeath #NetGalley

I: @tamaratamaralucy @poisonedpenpress

T: @Tamara_Morgan @PPPress

#contemporaryfiction #cosymystery #murdermystery

THE AUTHOR: Tamara Berry is a part-time author and part-time freelance copywriter/editor. She has a B.A. degree in English Literature from Eastern Washington University. In addition to books, she has mad love for all things TV, movies, and pop culture.

She also writes romances under the pennames Lucy Gilmore and Tamara Morgan.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Poisoned Pen Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of On the Spine of Death by Tamara Berry 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 is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Watching what I’m reading . . .

You’re going to think it never does anything but rain on a Sunday where I live, and today you might be forgiven for that. We’ve had heavy rain off and on – more on than off – since sometime last night. Though we have so far been spared the forecast thunderstorms. It’s meant to clear by 4pm, but it’s after 3.30 now and by the look of the sky, that’s not likely to happen.

Currently I am reading The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor, my first book by this author. This is a ‘purely for pleasure’ read.

One night, Annie went missing. Disappeared from her own bed. There were searches, appeals. Everyone thought the worst. And then, miraculously, after forty-eight hours, she came back. But she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say what had happened to her.

Something happened to my sister. I can’t explain what. I just know that when she came back, she wasn’t the same. She wasn’t my Annie.

I didn’t want to admit, even to myself, that sometimes I was scared to death of my own little sister.

I featured this as my First Lines Friday selection this week, so if you missed it, you can find it here: https://sandysbookaday.wordpress.com/2022/12/09/first-lines-friday-10/

and All That We Are (Wyndham Beach #3) by Mariah Stewart which is due for publication Dec 13th 2022. You can trust Mariah Stewart to just rip your heart clean out of your chest!

In the decade since Emma Dean’s husband died, she’s maintained a peaceful and organized life in her hometown of Wyndham Beach—until she finds evidence of her husband’s longtime affair. How, Emma wonders, can a man who’s been gone for ten years still break her heart?

Still reeling from the betrayal, Emma must focus on the group of artists she’s invited to take up residence at the art center she founded, one of whom is secretly seeking refuge from her abusive ex. Toss in a charming businessman who’s returned to town with eyes for only Emma, and it’s becoming a most interesting summer.

And the biggest surprise of all is about to ring Emma’s doorbell and turn her life completely upside down yet again.

As Emma struggles between what was and what is, she discovers that the life she really wants—however unexpected—is just within reach, if she’s willing to fight for it. 

I am still listening to The Angel Tree by Lucinda Riley, which I am also loving.

This week, in addition to All That We Are by Mariah Stewart which I have already started, I have two other books to read for review. They are: The Charity Shop Detective Agency by Peter Boland

A serial killer is stalking the elderly of Southbourne. The only clue left behind is a domino in the hand of each victim — with a name scratched on the back.

Eighty-six-year-old Sarah Brown is found dead in her hallway one morning by her delivery man. She was stabbed in the back.

Fiona, Sue and Daisy, volunteers at the local charity shop, Dogs Need Nice Homes, can’t believe their favourite customer is dead. The ladies vow to bring the killer to justice.

With plenty of tea and cake along the way, and despite squabbles with their rivals, the Cats Alliance across the street, the Charity Shop Detective Agency is born.

And Shadow Sands (Kate Marshall #2) by Robert Bryndza

When Kate Marshall finds the bloated body of a young man floating in the Shadow Sands reservoir, the authorities label it a tragic accident.

But the details don’t add up: why was the victim there, in the middle of the night? If he was such a strong swimmer, how did he drown?

Kate is certain there is more to this case than meets the eye. As she and her research assistant Tristan Harper dig deeper, they discover a bloody trail that points towards an active serial killer hiding in plain sight. People have been silently disappearing for years, and when another woman is taken, Kate and Tristan have a matter of days to save her from meeting the same fate. 

This is a backtitle that I am reading playing catch up on this series before I read #4 which is being published in January 2023.

I received 3 new ARCs from Netgalley in the past week. They are: A Winter Grave by Peter May

Murder Visits a French Village by Susan C. Shea

A Cryptic Clue by Victoria Gilbert

and I still have 22 requests pending.

It’s been a bit of a disastrous week this week. There’s been a young man riding an unregistered trail bike up and down our street, no protective gear, revving the engine loudly, usually on a Saturday afternoon, but also at other random times including in the middle of the night. I know several people in our street have complained, including us and the hospital across the road as he sometimes rode through the hospital as well. Last Sunday, he was riding on the riverbank, came up onto the road without looking, swerved to miss a car and instead crashed into a concrete power pole. He is now in a critical condition still in hospital. Why are these young men such idiots?

Monday my debit card was hacked. Nothing I did, I’m glad to report and I will be getting all the money back, but it took until midday Friday to sort out and gave me a real fright. I’ve always been paranoid about security on my devices and not shopping online unless it’s a known and trusted site, so I thought that it couldn’t happen to me. But the bank assured me that it can happen anyway. Now I’m just waiting on my new card which, as it’s coming via New Zealand Post, could take weeks.

Tuesday, my son in Western Australia wound up in hospital overnight after getting concussion playing touch rugby and had to have scan to discount damage to his

Wednesday a good friend and Pete’s fishing mate died suddenly following a cardiac arrest. Stan was a great guy and will be missed. It was a very large and very sad funeral on Saturday. Now we are concerned for his wife who suffers from Parkinson’s disease as Stan cared for her.

I am glad to see the end of this week.

Happy reading my friends and stay safe. ❤📚

The Murder Museum (Beth Haldane Mystery #2) by Alice Castle

EXCERPT: It was quite possible to walk past this set of two creepy rooms without knowing their purpose – and Beth heartily wished she had never been curious enough to find out about it. Although she quite liked the joke that the art dealers had made a spectacle of themselves, her twenty-first-century mind recoiled from the reality of death. And after the recent events which were still horribly vivid, she was all the keener to canter past the whole business.

And that’s what she started doing. But as she sped on to the last gallery, containing the current exhibition, she stopped for a second opposite one of her favourite canvases – the spectacular red, white and blue bouquet of Jan van Huysum’s still life; one of the jewels of the collection. She’d heard that eighteenth century flower painters were paid extra for insects, and it was one of her little habits to try and spot the wriggling wildlife every time she came. This time, it wasn’t a beastie in the bunch of flowers that caught her eye, though. It was something on the very edge of her peripheral vision. Something that, she realised with dread, was in the mausoleum antechamber. Something that meant, however much she did not want to, she had to turn back and look.

Beth’s heart started to thud. It was a flash of scarlet.

ABOUT ‘THE MURDER MUSEUM’: Caring mother, school historian, and amateur sleuth Beth Haldane loves to while away an afternoon in the Museum of Art. But will she be next in the frame… for murder?

Beth Haldane is gazing at enchanting paintings of the rolling English countryside when her daydream is rudely interrupted: by the discovery of a teenage girl unconscious on a marble bench.

Shocked, Beth realises this is no snoozing schoolchild. Someone dastardly has carefully crossed the girls’ hands across her white dress, as if she’s in a painting herself. And the girl’s discarded red backpack found in a corner of the museum is totally empty. Is someone suspicious hiding evidence? And who would want to harm this innocent soul?

With poor Sophia in hospital, and the parents of Dulwich Village in uproar that their little darlings might be next, Beth pesters police for updates. And with her keen eye for detail and research skills, Beth is perfectly placed to do some sleuthing of her own… but why are Sophia’s gaggle of friends so close-lipped? Has some typical teenage drama taken a dark turn?

But her questions are ruffling feathers at every turn. With Sophia’s life hanging by a thread, can Beth find her attacker before it’s too late – and before the finger points at Beth herself?

MY THOUGHTS: There’s something strangely endearing about the main characters in this series. Beth Haldane is a young widow, mother of nine year old Jake, and archivist at one of the two local ‘posh’ schools – Wyatts. She’s a local girl and knows an awful lot about what’s going on in Dulwich. She’s like a magnet for information. Harry York is the local detective who, although he keeps lecturing Beth about keeping her nose out of police investigations, often turns to her for information, usually revealing more than he should in the process. Reading is his passion – who isn’t going to love this man? – and he is a devotee of the Golden Age of crime fiction. He also has a twinge of an Irish accent which becomes stronger when he is getting emotional about something. There’s a definite attraction between these two characters, but the mechanics of police investigations keep getting in their way.

It really is the characters who carry this story. The Murder Museum is an unconventional cosy. It embraces the subjects of bullying and fat-shaming, and toxic teenage friendships.

Although I didn’t find the ending particularly satisfying – I had a few unanswered questions – overall I enjoyed this read and am looking forward to the next in the series.

⭐⭐⭐.5

#TheMurderMuseum #NetGalley

I: @alice_castle_ @bookouture

T: @AliceMCastle @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #cosymystery

THE AUTHOR: Alice Castle lives in South London with her two children and two cats. She was a feature writer on the Daily Express for many years and has written for most other national newspapers. She has a degree in Modern History from St Andrews University, is the British Royalty expert for Flemish TV, and lived in Brussels for nearly a decade.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Murder Museum (A Beth
Haldane Mystery #2) by Alice Castle 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 is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com