Watching what I’m reading . . .

Oh my goodness, have seen what is happening in Tonga? My thoughts and prayers are with you all, and all those in low lying areas that may be impacted by tsunamis caused by the volcanic eruptions. The far north of the North Island has suffered some damage in marinas but thankfully no loss of life.

Currently I am reading The Night of the Party by Anna-Lou Weatherley. If I hadn’t had to go to work today I would have finished this. All I can say is that if you don’t have this on your radar, add it!

I am also reading Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty, purely for pleasure, and loving it!

I am currently listening to Fallen (Kate Burkholder #13) by Linda Castillo.

This week I plan on reading The Girl She Was by Alafair Burke

HOPE CAN BE A DANGEROUS THING…

She calls herself Hope Miller, but she has no idea who she really is.

Fourteen years ago, she was found thrown from an overturned vehicle, with no clue to her identity. Hope started a new life, but never recovered her memory.

Now she’s missing. With nowhere else to turn, Hope’s best friend, Lindsay Kelly, calls NYPD detective Ellie Hatcher.

In pursuit of answers, three women search for the truth beneath long-buried secrets. And when their searches converge, what they find will upend everything they’ve ever known.

And Where There’s A Will by Sulari Gentill. I absolutely loved the last book I read by this author and am really looking forward to reading this.

Hell hath no fury like a family disinherited…

American millionaire Daniel Cartwright has been shot dead: three times in the chest, and once in the head. His body is found in Harvard Yard, dressed in evening attire. No one knows who he planned to meet there, or why the staunch Oxford man would be caught dead at Harvard–literally.

Australian Rowland Sinclair, his mate from Oxford and longtime friend, is named executor of the will, to his great surprise–and that of Danny’s family. Events turn downright ugly when the will all but disinherits Danny’s siblings in favor of one Otis Norcross, whom no one knows or is able to locate. Amidst assault, kidnapping, and threats of slander, Rowly struggles to understand Danny’s motives, find the missing heir, and identify his friend’s killer before the clock–and his luck–run out.

A deft blend of history and mystery, WHERE THERE’S A WILL offers an alternately charming and chilling snapshot of Boston and New York in the 1930s, with cameo appearances by luminaries of the day including Marion Davies, Randolph Hearst, Errol Flynn, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and an arrogantly ardent Joe Kennedy, who proves no match for Rowly’s sculptress friend Edna.

I have read and enjoyed few books lately about families and inheritances, and loved this author’s previous book so I am looking forward to this.

I have another three books scheduled for this week, but as I am starting to train my replacement at work it’s unlikely that I will get to them on time. So apologies to authors and publishers.

Six new ARCs were approved this week; so much for keeping my TBR mountain under control!

This week I have been approved for: Local Gone Missing by Fiona Barton. I have absolutely loved everything I have read by this author so am looking forward to reading this.

The Baby Shower by S.E. Lynes, an author I follow avidly.

Dead End Street by Trevor Wood

A Village Secret by Julie Houston

The Killing Kind by Jane Casey

And the audiobook The Captain’s Wife by Norma Curtis and narrated by Josh Wichard.

I am honestly going to try and avoid Netgalley for the coming week. 🤣😂🤣😂 Well, you just know how successful that’s going to be!

Anyway, I’m off to bed. It’s been a long day at work and Pete has a 4am start tomorrow. I seldom go back to sleep after he goes to work so I need to cram as much sleep in before as I can.

Stay safe and keep reading. We’ve had our first community case of Omicron announced today so I guess we will soon be following in everyone else’s footsteps. We’ve had our boosters, and I interact with the public as little as possible, so I hope that will be enough to protect us.

Murder in Easy (Inspector Battle #4) by Agatha Christie

EXCERPT: Luke’s eyebrows rose. ‘Murder?’

The old lady nodded vigorously.

‘Yes, murder. You’re surprised, I can see. I was myself at first . . . I really couldn’t believe it. I thought I must be imagining things.’

‘Are you quite sure you weren’t?’ Luke asked gently.

‘Oh, no.’ She shook her head positively. ‘I might have been the first time, but not the second, or the third or the fourth. After that one knows.’

Luke said: ‘Do you mean there have been – er – several murders?’

ABOUT ‘MURDER IS EASY’: In a quiet English village, a killer is about to strike. Again and again.

Officer Luke Fitzwilliam is on a train to London when he meets a strange woman. She claims there is a serial killer in the quiet village of Wychwood. He has already taken the lives of three people and is about claim his fourth victim.

Fitzwilliam dismisses this as the ramblings of an old woman. But within hours she is found dead. Crushed by a passing car.

And then the fourth victim is found.

Each death looks like an accident. But in Wychwood nothing is as it appears….

MY THOUGHTS: I enjoyed this romp in a series by Agatha Christie that I hadn’t come across previously. Although quite why this is included in the Inspector Battle series I am unsure, as Battle makes only a brief appearance at the end.

The mystery is an excellent one; one that had me quite sure that I had the murderer in my sight until I found that I didn’t. There is a little romantic interest and an interesting cast of characters from which to select the murderer. Luke doesn’t seem to be the brightest lightbulb in the pack, but then his mind was not entirely focused on the murders.

I listened to the audiobook of Murder is Easy, written by Agatha Christie and narrated by Hugh Fraser, published by Harper Collins Audio.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

Smoke and Mirrors (The Brighton Mysteries #2) by Elly Griffiths

This was a catch up on my backlist read as Smoke and Mirrors was the only book in the Brighton Mysteries series that I hadn’t read.

EXCERPT: Stan entered stage left. Of course he did; he was the villain. Villains always enter from the left, the good fairy from the right. It’s the first law of pantomime. But, in this case, Stan Parks (the Wicked Baron) came running onto the stage in answer to a scream from Alice Dean (Robin Hood). He came quickly because Alice was not normally given to screaming. Even when Stan had tried to kiss her behind the flat depicting Sherwood Forest she hadn’t screamed; instead she had simply delivered an efficient uppercut that had left him winded for hours. So he responded to the sound, in his haste falling over two giant toadstools and a stuffed fox.

The stage was in semi-darkness, some of the scenery still covered in dustsheets. At first Stan could only make out shapes, bulky and somehow ominous, and then he saw Alice, kneeling centre stage, wearing a dressing gown over her Principal Boy tights. She was still screaming, a sound that seemed to get louder and louder until it reached right up to the gods and the empty boxes. Opposite her something swung to and fro, casting a monstrous shadow on the painted forest.

Stan stopped, suddenly afraid to go any further. Alice stopped screaming and Stan heard her say something that sounded like ‘please’ and ‘no’. He stepped forward. The swinging object was a bower, a kind of basket chair, where the Babes in the Wood were meant to shelter before being covered with leaves by mechanical robins (a striking theatrical effect). The bower should have been empty because the Babes didn’t rehearse in the afternoon. But, as Stan got closer, he saw that it was full of something heavy, something that tilted it over to one side. Stan touched the basket, suddenly afraid of it’s awful, sagging weight. But he saw Betsy Bunning, the fifteen-year-old girl who was playing the female Babe. She lay half in, half out of the swinging chair. Her throat had been cut and the blood had soaked through her white dress and was dripping heavily onto the boards.

It was odd. Later, Stan would go through two world wars, see sights guaranteed to turn any man’s blood to ice, but nothing ever disturbed him quite as much as the child in the wicker bower, the blood on the stage and the screams of the Principal Boy.

ABOUT ‘SMOKE AND MIRRORS’: Brighton, winter 1951.

Pantomime season is in full swing on the pier with Max Mephisto starring in Aladdin, but Max’s headlines have been stolen by the disappearance of two local children. When they are found dead in the snow, surrounded by sweets, it’s not long before the press nickname them ‘Hansel and Gretel’.

DI Edgar Stephens has plenty of leads to investigate. The girl, Annie, used to write gruesome plays based on the Grimms’ fairy tales. Does the clue lie in Annie’s unfinished – and rather disturbing – last script? Or might it lie with the eccentric theatricals who have assembled for the pantomime?

For Stan (aka the Great Diablo), who’s also appearing in Aladdin, the case raises more personal memories. Back before the Great War, he witnessed the murder of a young girl while he was starring in another show, an event which has eerie parallels to the current case.

Once again Edgar enlists Max’s help in penetrating the shadowy theatrical world that seems to hold the key. But with both distracted by their own personal problems, neither can afford to miss a trick. For Annie and her friend, time is running out…

MY THOUGHTS: This is the only book in the Brighton Mysteries series that I hadn’t read, so I was excited to stumble upon it on my Kindle when I was searching for something else, and started it immediately. I don’t know how I missed it originally, but apologies to both author and publisher for the tardiness of my review.

I have loved this entire series and Smoke and Mirrors, #2 in the series, is no exception. Set in Brighton, 1951 in the pantomime season in the lead up to Christmas, there is a definite similarity between the current murder and one which occurred of a pantomime cast member in Hastings in 1912. Some of the same pantomime cast members are even on hand.

Smoke and Mirrors is a deliciously twisty mystery with a tremendous range of red herrings and some sharp detective work from DI Edgar Stephens and Sergeant Emma Holmes. As always Elly Griffiths has created a charming but sinister atmosphere in which she sets her story. Two children have literally vanished into thin air, one of whom writes macabre and violent tales, and several characters associated with the children who are perhaps more than they seem combine to produce a clever, engaging and gripping story of magic and muder that had me reading through the night. My suspicions swung wildly from one character to another but never actually alit on the actual murderer.

The children, both the missing and the present, are the stars of this tale. The precocious and imaginative Annie, her friend and acolyte Mark, her younger sister Betty, apparently even more intelligent and imaginative than her older sister, and Richard who loves and admires his sisters provide much entertainment and speculation.

A ripping good murder mystery.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#SmokeandMirrors #NetGalley

: @ellygriffiths17 @quercusbooks

T: @ellygriffiths @QuercusBooks

#fivestarread #crime #historicalfiction #murdermystery #policeprocedural #detectivefiction

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 Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Smoke and Mirrors 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 is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean

EXCERPT: I wash up and listen for the front door.

That’s it.

The noise of the bolt.

Blessed relief. I breathe out and wait, scouring pad in hand, and then he’s there at the back field on his quad, a monster riding away on four wheels, riding off towards the pigs, his brethren. I wish upon him a heart attack and a bad fall, perhaps into the dike, drowning, the quad on top, and a lightning strike. But nothing ever happens to him, no consequences. He’s as solid and as basic as a concrete wall. The times I’ve begged to all the gods, to the horizon, to the four spires I can see to the north on a clear day and the three to the south, to the wind turbines, for some retribution to be brought, some penalty, and yet he thrives on.

The tapes are rolling. They’re always rolling. If I move, they start recording, that’s how he installed them. Leonard’s quite handy with electrics and plumbing. And he may come back. He says he’s off to feed the pigs, those royal animals luxuriating on their throne of filth, unaware of their relative freedom, but he could just as well race back in five minutes. To surprise me. To control his small world and keep things exactly as he likes them.

ABOUT ‘THE LAST THING TO BURN’: On an isolated farm in the United Kingdom, a woman is trapped by the monster who kidnapped her seven years ago. When she discovers she is pregnant, she resolves to protect her child no matter the cost, and starts to meticulously plan her escape. But when another woman is brought into the fold on the farm, her plans go awry. Can she save herself, her child, and this innocent woman at the same time? Or is she doomed to spend the remainder of her life captive on this farm?

MY THOUGHTS: The cleverly titled The Last Thing to Burn is an intense read, dark, gripping and heartbreaking. Trafficked from Vietnam, Thanh Dao is systematically stripped of everything, including her identity, by the cruel and controlling Lenn. Renamed Jane after Lenn’s mother, she is forced to live in a ramshackle dwelling in the Fens, to wear Lenn’s mother’s clothes, to cook the food she used to cook in exactly the same way, to clean the house to her exacting regime, and to submit to Lenn’s precise demands for sex.

This is not an easy read and nor should it be. Lenn is nasty, cruel and abusive, and yet every now and then he throws out a nugget of relative kindness to keep Jane off balance.

Jane is an amazing character. In spite of being stripped of her few precious possessions, her language and her identity, she remains Thanh Dao in her mind. She creates a space for herself where Lenn cannot go, where she can talk to her sister Kim-Ly who escaped Vietnam with her and whom she believes to be working in a nail salon in Manchester.

The story of Thanh Dao’s struggles is an emotional and heartbreaking one. It is one that, although fiction, depicts the plight of many and deserves to be shared. Will Dean has done his research well. I appreciated the fact that in the afterword he listed organisations able to help if you suspect someone needs help.

Well done Will.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#TheLastThingtoBurn #NetGalley

I: @willrdean @atriabooks

T: @willrdean @AtriaBooks

#contemporaryfiction #crime #humanrights #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Will Dean grew up in the East Midlands, living in nine different villages before the age of eighteen. He was a bookish, daydreaming kid who found comfort in stories and nature (and he still does). After studying Law at the LSE, and working in London, he settled in rural Sweden. He built a wooden house in a boggy clearing at the centre of a vast elk forest, and it’s from this base that he compulsively reads and writes.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Atria Books, Atria/Emily Bestler Books, for providing a digital ARC of The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean 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

Twenty Years Later by Charlie Donlea

EXCERPT: Two months before 9/11

Death was in the air.

He smelled it as soon as he ducked under the crime scene tape and stepped onto the front lawn of the palatial estate. The Catskill mountains rose above the roofline as the early morning sun stretched shadows of the trees across the yard. The breeze rolled down from the foothills and carried the smell of decay, causing his upper lip to twitch when it reached his nostrils. The smell of death filled him with excitement. He hoped this was because this was his first case as a newly minted homicide detective, and not from some perverse fetish he had never known he possessed.

A uniformed police officer led him across the lawn and around to the back of the property. There he found the source of the foul odour. The victim was hanging naked from a second story balcony, his feet suspended at eye level, and the white rope around his neck angling his head like a broken-stemmed lollipop. The detective looked up to the terrace. The rope stretched over the railing, tight and challenged by the weight of the body. The twine disappeared through french doors that led, he presumed, into the bedroom.

The victim had likely twirled for most of the night, the detective imagined, and had now unfortunately come to rest facing the house. Unfortunate because, as the detective walked across the back lawn, the first thing he saw was the man’s naked buttocks. When he reached the body he noticed welt marks covering the man’s right burr cheek and upper thigh. The contusions flared a faint lilac against the liver mortis blue of the dead man’s skin.

ABOUT ‘TWENTY YEARS LATER’: Avery Mason, host of American Events, knows the subjects that grab a TV audience’s attention. Her latest story–a murder mystery laced with kinky sex, tragedy, and betrayal–is guaranteed to be ratings gold. New DNA technology has allowed the New York medical examiner’s office to make its first successful identification of a 9/11 victim in years. The twist: the victim, Victoria Ford, had been accused of the gruesome murder of her married lover. In a chilling last phone call to her sister, Victoria begged her to prove her innocence.

Emma Ford has waited twenty years to put her sister to rest, but closure won’t be complete until she can clear Victoria’s name. Alone she’s had no luck, but she’s convinced that Avery’s connections and fame will help. Avery, hoping to negotiate a more lucrative network contract, goes into investigative overdrive. Victoria had been having an affair with a successful novelist, found hanging from the balcony of his Catskills mansion. The rope, the bedroom, and the entire crime scene was covered in Victoria’s DNA.

But the twisted puzzle of Victoria’s private life belies a much darker mystery. And what Avery doesn’t realize is that there are other players in the game who are interested in Avery’s own secret past–one she has kept hidden from both the network executives and her television audience. A secret she thought was dead and buried . . .

MY THOUGHTS: I liked Twenty Years Later a lot, but I didn’t love it. I failed to become totally immersed in the story and am not really sure if it was because the narrator didn’t narrate with much emotion, or because the reader is being told much of the story rather than experiencing it.

There are several different storylines going on, narrated in the present and in flashbacks, primarily by Avery, secondly by Walt, and thirdly by various other minor characters. It was the murder that opens the book that I was mainly interested in, but that is very much a secondary thread though, to me, it was definitely the more interesting. I really had no interest in Avery’s salary negotiations which went on, and on, and had no real relevance that I could fathom.

I found Avery’s character difficult to relate to and I never really warmed to her, although I did admire her cleverness in resolving her family problem.

I really liked the way Donlea tied everything up at the end, even if it was a little tedious in parts getting there.

But the absolute ending, where the solution to the murder is revealed, that is absolutely delicious and made wading through all the other stuff worthwhile.

⭐⭐⭐.8

#TwentyYearsLater #NetGalley

I: @charliedonlea @recordedbooks

T: @CharlieDonlea @recordedbooks

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #familydrama #murdermystery

THE AUTHOR: Charlie Donlea resides in Chicago with his wife and two young children.

He spends a part of each year fishing with his father in the far reaches of Canada, where the roads end and lakes are accessible only by floatplane.

DISCLOSURE: Thanks to RB Media, Recorded Books, via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of Twenty Years Later written by Charlie Donlea and narrated by Vivienne Leheney 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 . . .

Well here we are, the first Sunday of 2022. I am still very much in holiday mode and not looking forward to going back to work tomorrow, although it is only for the one day and then I have the remainder of the week off. I’m not sure that I can drag myself out of bed in time!

Currently I am reading The Woman Who Came Back to Life by Beth Miller. What characters!

And The Family Inheritance by Tricia Stringer, a library book. This is my first book by this Australian author and I am loving it.

I am also listening to an audiobook from the library, Murder is Easy (Superintendent Battle #4) by Agatha Christie. I haven’t previously read any of this series, but am enjoying this immensely. I have a firm suspect in mind for the murderer, but am I right?

This week I am planning to read The House Fire by Rosie Walker

Play with fire and you’ll get burned . . .

Who can you trust in this brand new edge-of-your-seat thriller.

A tired old seaside town hiding a series of unsolved arson attacks.

A derelict mansion in the woods with a long-buried secret.

A bundle of old love letters that mask a dark story.

When Jamie’s documentary investigation gets too close to uncovering the truth behind a series of deadly arson attacks that tormented Abbeywick in the 1980s, her family might be the ones who pay the price.

But for her younger sister Cleo, the secrets Jamie uncovers have the potential to get exactly what Cleo wants: to remove her mum’s toxic new husband from their lives, forever.

All it takes is one spark to send everything up in smoke . . .

And The Betrayal by Terry Lynn Thomas

Attorney Olivia Sinclair is shocked when she receives an anonymous video showing her husband Richard sleeping with someone else. After years of handling other people’s divorces, she thought she could recognise a marriage in trouble.

She angrily throws Richard out of the home they share. But days later she’s arrested—for the murder of his mistress.

Olivia knows she’s innocent but, with all the evidence pointing at her and an obvious motive, she must find the real killer to clear her name.

She may be used to dealing with messy divorces, but this one will be her most difficult case yet. Olivia’s husband has already betrayed her—but would he set her up for murder?

I received three new ARCs in the past week: The Bluebonnet Battle by Carolyn Brown

Shadow in the Glass by M.E. Hilliard

And, better late than never, The Bells of Christmas II: Eight stories of Christmas hope

What are you reading this New Year?

Happy reading my friends. It’s too hot to be out in the garden so I am going to stretch out on the daybed out on my deck where there is a little breeze and read some more. Enjoy your New Year reads my friends.

How the Dead Speak (Tony Hill and Carol Jordan #11) by Val McDermid 

EXCERPT: She’d always known that one day she’d hear a headline that brought the past right into the present. Other people seemed to have been convinced that their history was dead and buried along with the bodies in the linen winding sheets, but she’d known the truth. She’d read her Faulkner. ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’ She carried that past with her everywhere she went, every night when she laid her head down on the hard pillow, every morning when she opened her eyes after an apparently blameless sleep. The past didn’t keep her awake; instead it haunted her consciousness like a stalker.

ABOUT ‘HOW THE DEAD SPEAK’: When human remains are discovered in the grounds of an old convent, it quickly becomes clear that someone has been using the site as their personal burial ground. But with the convent abandoned long ago and the remains dating back many years, could this be the work of more than one obsessive killer? It’s an investigation that throws up more questions as the evidence mounts, and after their last case ended catastrophically, Tony Hill and Carol Jordan can only watch from afar. As they deal with the consequences of previous actions, someone with a terrifying routine is biding their time – and both Tony and Carol find themselves closer to the edge than they have ever been before.

MY THOUGHTS: ‘Poverty, chastity and obedience, Sergeant. And the greatest of these is obedience. Nuns don’t lie. We simply train ourselves to forget that which we are not supposed to know.’

Although Tony and Carol are relegated to the peripheral of the plot of How the Dead Speak, their own subplots are integral to the core of this novel.

Tony is languishing in what used to be Strangeways prison trying to find productive ways to fill his time. Carol is, finally, dealing with her PTSD and trying to find a new direction in life. Meanwhile, Paula and the REMIT team are struggling to find their feet under the direction of the obnoxious DCI Rutherford, while also trying to find the measure of their new team members.

How the Dead Speak is a recalibration: everything has changed from what has been before, and McDermid is setting the scene for what is to come. So while this is not the most thrilling nor suspenseful book of the series, it is a necessary one.

The chapters are short and told from many multiple points of view, including Tony, Carol, Paula and several others. Tony Hill’s vicious mother, Vanessa, makes an appearance, manipulating people to her own end as she always does.

The story at the core of the book, the bodies at the convent, is at times overshadowed by all the other threads. Sometimes less is more, and I have the feeling that we could have done with a bit less in the way of the number of plot threads.

If you are a fan of having everything tied up neatly at the end of a book, then How the Dead Speak is not for you. I don’t require a neat and tidy ending, but even I was left feeling a little disappointed.

Despite all my quibbles, I enjoyed this more than not and I am a definite starter for the next in this series. If you haven’t read any previous books in this series I recommend that you don’t start with this one as it requires the reader to be aware of a lot of back history.

Mcdermid’s writing is, as always, sharp, bleak and tempered with a little black humour. I can’t wait to see what direction she is going to send Tony and Carol in next.

⭐⭐⭐.6

#HowtheDeadSpeak #NetGalley

I: valmcdermid @groveatlantic

T: @valmcdermid @groveatlantic

#contemporaryfiction #crime #murdermystery #policeprocedural

THE AUTHOR: Val McDermid
is a Scottish crime writer, best known for a series of novels featuring clinical psychologist Dr. Tony Hill in a grim sub-genre that McDermid and others have identified as Tartan Noir. She writes full time and divides her time between Cheshire and Edinburgh. At Raith Rovers football stadium, a stand has been named after McDermid.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Grove Atlantic via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of How the Dead Speak by Val McDermid 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 . . .

It’s a beautiful, fine,hot Boxing Day here in New Zealand. Dustin and Luke left for Lake Taupo late this afternoon, and I have been pottering around the house, pausing every now and then to read a story from A Place Like Home, a wonderful collection of short stories by Rosamunde Pilcher published posthumously.

I am almost finished Survive the Night by Riley Sager

An also almost finished listening to Twenty Years Later by Charlie Donlea

I haven’t got anything scheduled for read for review this week other than Twenty Years Later, so I am going to read books picked totally at random from my backlist.

I received three new ARCs this week: The Child I Never Had by Kate Hewitt

Into the Dark by Fiona Cummins ( a widget from the publisher)

And Ocean State by Stewart O’Nan

A short post today as I am in holiday mode, and I am guessing that you all will be too. Happy holidays and enjoy your families and friends. And please, be kind.

The Silent Conversation by Caro Ramsay

EXCERPT: Do you ever hear anything at night like someone moving around? That might be Sven or Murdo.

Obviously, with the way this place was built originally, the first and second floors are continuous round the whole quad. So through the wall from me is one of the rooms where Sven runs his business. I think he must be up during the night. He looks like the sort who needs little sleep – he has a type of restless energy about him. Murdo collects all kind of weird stuff and stores it in the attic. Pauline told me he has a humidifier and everything.

Or it might be the noises of the spirit of the man who died in the vat of pure alcohol. However, sometimes when I am upstairs, looking out of the window the way you do when you can’t sleep, I see a face at the window on the corner. Or maybe that’s the gin. This is a weird place we live in.

ABOUT ‘THE SILENT CONVERSATION’: It’s been four years since four-year-old Johnny Clearwater disappeared without trace one hot summer afternoon. Now, a new TV documentary series is revisiting the case, dredging up memories perhaps best left forgotten.
On the night the TV show is broadcast, detectives Anderson and Costello are called out to investigate the murder of a female police officer. On arriving at the scene, they discover that nothing about this death is as straightforward as it would appear. What was the victim doing in the garden of the exclusive gated residence where she was found? How did she die? Why is the key witness so reluctant to speak to them? Even the off-duty police officer who was first on the scene isn’t telling them everything.
The pressure intensifies when a link is discovered between the dead woman and the disappearance of Johnny Clearwater four years earlier. What secrets are lurking behind the closed doors of this small, exclusive community . . . and what really happened to little Johnny Clearwater?

MY THOUGHTS: Although The Silent Conversation is the 13th book in this series, it is the first that I have read. The mystery is a complex one, multi-layered and twisting but is able to be read as a stand-alone despite references to an earlier case which is well-explained.

I really enjoyed the characters and getting to know them. By far the most interesting character is Carol Holman, a new resident at the Maltman. She is clearly an extremely intelligent woman, yet a recluse who has suffered some great trauma.

The two main characters are DCI Colin Anderson and DI Costello. Although they work well together, they often don’t see eye to eye. Costello, although dedicated, can be hard to like. She is often abrasive and has no home life, while Anderson sees the birth of his third child with Down’s syndrome as a chance to redress his work/life balance.

There’s a lot going on in this book, and an equally large cast of characters which, at times, became a little confusing. But, Ramsay has written a dark, gritty and gripping thriller which I read over the course of a day. There are plenty of secrets, manipulative characters, smoke and mirrors, and unexpected twists that kept me entertained and wanting more from this author.

I admit to initially being attracted by the title – it intrigued me, and am pleased that I followed my instinct. The title is perfect for the book.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#TheSilentConversation #NetGalley

I: #caroramsay @severnhouseimprint

T: @CaroRamsayBooks @severnhouse

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #mystery #suspense

THE AUTHOR: Caro Ramsay was born and brought up in Glasgow, and now lives in a village on the west coast of Scotland. She is an osteopath, acupuncturist and former marathon runner, who devotes much of her time to the complementary treatment of injured wildlife at a local rescue centre. (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Severn House, Canongate Books, via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Silent Conversation by Caro Ramsay 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

Past Life by David Mark

EXCERPT: He picks up a crystal from the circle surrounding the stones. It’s heavy and sharp: sparkling and brittle.

‘Liar,’ he says again, and hits her in the side of the head with such force that the jagged edges of the twinkling rock embed themselves in bone. There is a grotesque slurping sound as he pulls the gory crystal from the wound. She slumps forward. He hits her again. Harder, right at the back of the neck. Takes a fistful of her rosaries, and pulls.

The chain snaps.

Beads fall like hail.

He lets go before she dies. Pushes her onto her back. She’s heavy, and there’s a thud as she topples back onto the floor. One of the cats, nosing near her feet, gives a hiss before it darts away.

He crouches over her. Opens her eyes and peers in.

There’s life in there, he tells himself. A consciousness. Something that can still feel.

‘Charlatan,’ he says, leaning down so his lips are by her ear. ‘Deceiver.’

He considers the pupils in her dulling eyes. Changes his angle until he sees his own barely-there reflection in the glassy surface of the eyeball. Peers in as if searching for something. For someone.

Smiles as he finds it.

‘My love,’ he whispers, and puts one hand to his heart.

He pulls the blade from his pocket.

Reaches into her mouth and seizes her wet, dead tongue.

Begins to carve.

ABOUT ‘PAST LIFE’: The clairvoyant is found with her tongue crudely carved out, a shard of blue crystal buried deep within her mangled ribcage.
The crime scene plunges DS Aector McAvoy back twelve years, to a case from when he was starting out. An investigation that proved a turning point in his life – but one he’s tried desperately to forget.
To catch the killer, he must face his past. Face the terrible thing he did. But doing so also means facing the truth about his beloved wife Roisin, and the dark secrets she’s keeping have the power to destroy them both completely.

MY THOUGHTS: It is easy to tell when an author is passionate about his craft. The passion shines through the writing, enthusiasm and love rippling and tumbling through the words and the plot. David Mark is extremely passionate about his writing and I am equally passionate about reading it. But never has this passion shone through so brightly as it does in Past Life.

Aector MacAvoy is not at ease with the world or his place within it. He feels permanently displaced, dislocated, endlessly cast as an outsider. He’s a lumbering, red-haired Scotsman with a strange name. He became a policeman to do some good; to help people, to try and stop bad people from getting worse. But he just seems to bumble through, ridiculed by most of his fellow officers who understand neither the man nor his strange relationship with his boss, Trish Pharaoh. While he has a passionate relationship with his wife Roisin, and that is a whole wonderful story on its own, his relationship with Trish is more symbiotic. Where once they were master and apprentice, the balance of power has shifted. He needs her protection, her approval. She feels rudderless, adrift without his comforting presence. But he is a good man, something even his father-in-law has to admit, and he is a man who never thought he would countenance a policeman in his traveller family.

I think, like Pharaoh, that I have fallen a little in love with Aector. And greatly in love with this series. Past Life is definitely one of my top ten reads of the year. Dark, gripping, gritty and twisting, it has everything I want in a crime thriller, and then manages to deliver more.

Although Past Life is #9 in the Aector McAvoy series, it is able to be read as a stand-alone. It is written over two timelines, now and in the past, which provides most, if not all, the background information on the characters and relationships needed.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#PastLife #NetGalley

I: @davidmarkwriter @severnhouseimprint

T: @DavidMarkWriter @severnhouse

#fivestarread #contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #murdermystery #suspense #thriller

THE AUTHOR: David spent more than 15 years as a journalist, including seven years as a crime reporter with The Yorkshire Post – walking the Hull streets that would later become the setting for the internationally bestselling Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy novels.

His writing is heavily influenced by the court cases he covered: the defeatist and jaded police officers; the inertia of the justice system and the sheer raw grief of those touched by savagery and tragedy.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Severn House via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Past Life by David Mark 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