Watching what I’m reading . . .

Happy Sunday afternoon. We were supposed to have heavy rain all day, but other than a couple of light drizzly showers, there’s been nothing, so I have had to water the vege garden. I picked another seven cucumbers for Luke’s roadside stand, but I fear that’s the last of them. It doesn’t look as though there are many feijoas on the tree, and there’s no sign yet of mandarins, so he may have a bit of a dry spell for a while. Dustin and Luke have been down for the afternoon and have just left to go back home so that they’ve time to give Timmy a run before it’s dark. Daylight saving ends here next week, so it will get dark even earlier.

Helen and I went and investigated the two new antique shops in the area Friday morning. We had a lovely time and finished with coffee out.

Currently I am reading, and almost finished, The Only Suspect by Louise Candlish. I’m not over-enamoured, but reserving my final opinion as she often pulls something out of the hat right at the end.

I am still listening to the family saga, The House at Riverton by Kate Morton.


I am not quite caught up with my March reads yet, hopefully this week. I have two reads for review due this week: Those Empty Eyes by Charlie Donlea

Alex Armstrong has changed everything about herself—her name, her appearance, her backstory. She’s no longer the terrified teenager a rapt audience saw on television, emerging in handcuffs from the quiet suburban home the night her family was massacred. That girl, Alexandra Quinlan, nicknamed Empty Eyes by the media, was accused of the killings, fought to clear her name, and later took the stand during her highly publicized defamation lawsuit that captured the attention of the nation.

It’s been ten years since, and Alex hasn’t stopped searching for answers about the night her family was killed, even as she continues to hide her real identity from true crime fanatics and grasping reporters still desperate to locate her. As a legal investigator, she works tirelessly to secure justice for others, too. People like Matthew Claymore, who’s under suspicion in the disappearance of his girlfriend, a student journalist named Laura McAllister.

Laura was about to break a major story about rape and cover-ups on her college campus. Alex believes Matthew is innocent, and unearths stunning revelations about the university’s faculty, fraternity members, and powerful parents willing to do anything to protect their children.

Most shocking of all—as Alex digs into Laura’s disappearance, she realizes there are unexpected connections to the murder of her own family. For as different as the crimes may seem, they each hinge on one sinister truth: no one is quite who they seem to be . . .

And A Pen Dipped in Poison by J.M. Hall, which I can’t wait to get to. I loved the first book in this series and am looking forward to catching up with Liz, Pat and Thelma again.

Signed. Sealed. Dead?

Retired schoolteachers Liz, Pat and Thelma never expected they would be caught up in a crime even once in their lives, let alone twice.

But when poison pen letters start landing on the doorsteps of friends and neighbours in their Yorkshire village, old secrets come to light.

With the potential for deadly consequences.

It won’t be long until the three friends are out on a case yet again…

Only one publisher’s Widget this week, and one ARC. The widget is Summer at the Cornish Farmhouse by Linn B. Halton

And ARC is The Widow of Weeping Pines by Amanda McKinney

I am back at work fulltime from Monday. Hopefully not for too long. I will still be going to aquarobics, but other interests will be taking a back seat while I deal with the end of the financial year and training someone new for my job. *sigh* I have a meeting with the outgoing manager tomorrow. She walked off the job at lunchtime Friday after having, only days earlier, agreed to work through to the end of March. 🤷‍♀️

Enjoy however much remains of your weekend. I’m making toasted sandwiches for dinner tonight – ham, cheese, mustard. Then I will sort out the menu for the rest of the week and make a shopping list. We’re a bit like Mother Hubbard’s cupboard here as I haven’t done a grocery shop for two weeks.

Happy reading!❤📚

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni

EXCERPT: My mother was not the object of their interest. It seemed that when the doctor had placed me upon my mother’s stomach to cut the umbilical cord, I’d finally opened my eyes. And that’s when the euphoria became bewilderment. The doctor froze, slack jawed. The attending nurse let out a yip, which she belatedly tried to cover by placing her hand over her mouth.
‘Give me my son,’ my mother had said amid the silent stares, whereupon the nurse had swaddled me in a blanket and handed me to her.
This was how my father found us when he waded through the crowd for a closer inspection and looked me in the eyes for the first time.
‘What the Sam Hell?’ he whispered.

ABOUT ‘THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF SAM HELL’: Sam Hill always saw the world through different eyes. Born with red pupils, he was called “Devil Boy” or Sam “Hell” by his classmates; “God’s will” is what his mother called his ocular albinism. Her words were of little comfort, but Sam persevered, buoyed by his mother’s devout faith, his father’s practical wisdom, and his two other misfit friends.

Sam believed it was God who sent Ernie Cantwell, the only African American kid in his class, to be the friend he so desperately needed. And that it was God’s idea for Mickie Kennedy to storm into Our Lady of Mercy like a tornado, uprooting every rule Sam had been taught about boys and girls.

Forty years later, Sam, a small-town eye doctor, is no longer certain anything was by design—especially not the tragedy that caused him to turn his back on his friends, his hometown, and the life he’d always known. Running from the pain, eyes closed, served little purpose. Now, as he looks back on his life, Sam embarks on a journey that will take him halfway around the world. This time, his eyes are wide open—bringing into clear view what changed him, defined him, and made him so afraid, until he can finally see what truly matters.

MY THOUGHTS: I wanted to like this a whole lot more than I did. Where do I start?

There were medical errors that made me cringe. Occular Albinism is not merely a case of having red eyes. There would have been multiple other complications affecting Sam’s sight and life. Also, Sam leaves the surgery for a child’s detached retina for a few weeks. This is an injury that is treated by immediate surgery. Delaying surgery is both dangerous and negligent.

Sam’s life isn’t particularly extraordinary. Any child who has a disability or is ‘different’ in any way experiences all the same prejudices and ostracism that Sam did. And any mother worth her salt will stand up and fight for her child, just as Sam’s did.

Mickie was the outstanding character for me, and I would have loved more of her story incorporated into the book.

There were parts of the story that I enjoyed and which touched me, particularly in the second half of the book, and parts that bored me. I didn’t dislike it, but nor did I love it.

⭐⭐.5

#TheExtraordinaryLifeOfSamHell #NetGalley

I: @robertdugoni @amazonpublishing

T: @robertdugoni @AmazonPub

#familydrama #friendship #historicalfiction

THE AUTHOR: A writer turned lawyer turned writer.
Robert Dugoni was born in Idaho and raised in Northern California the middle child of a family of ten siblings. Dugoni jokes that he didn’t get much of a chance to talk, so he wrote. By the seventh grade he knew he wanted to be a writer.

Dugoni wrote his way to Stanford University, receiving writing awards along the way, and majored in communications/journalism and creative writing while working as a reporter for the Stanford Daily. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and worked briefly as a reporter in the Metro Office and the San Gabriel Valley Office of the Los Angeles Times.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Lake Union via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Watching what I’m reading . . .

We’re currently having lovely warm days and very cold nights, something I can live with. But we have more rain forecast next week and apparently a cold spell as well that may see me hibernating.

The Eastern Bay of Plenty region of the North Island of New Zealand has been hit by a swarm of earthquakes over the past 36 hours. To all my bookish friends in that region, my thoughts are with you and I hope you are all safe.

I am currently reading A Gentle Murderer by Dorothy Salisbury Davis, set in the 1950s. It took me a wee bit to settle into, but now I’m enjoying it immensely. It’s not quite a murder-mystery as we meet the murderer making confession early in the book, but it’s the police and the Priest to whom he confessed trying to ascertain just who he is, and then trying to find him, that provides the entertainment.

I am also reading #1 in a New Zealand crime/detective series by Vanda Symon, Overkill. I read the 5th in the series last week and loved it so much that I decided to begin at the beginning. Loving it. At this point it’s looking like another 5 star read.

Book 1 in the PC Sam Shephard series. Action-packed, tension-filled and atmospheric police procedural set in rural New Zealand.

When the body of a young mother is found washed up on the banks of the Mataura River, a small rural community is rocked by her tragic suicide. But all is not what it seems. Sam Shephard, sole-charge police constable in Mataura, soon discovers the death was no suicide and has to face the realisation that there is a killer in town. To complicate the situation, the murdered woman was the wife of her former lover. When Sam finds herself on the list of suspects and suspended from duty, she must cast said her personal feelings and take matters into her own hands. To find the murderer… and clear her name. A taut, atmospheric and pageturning thriller, Overkill marks the start of an unputdownable and unforgettable series from one of New Zealand s finest crime writers.

I am listening to The House at Riverton by Kate Morton, narrated by Emilia Fox. This was originally published as The Shifting Fog.

The House at Riverton is a gorgeous debut novel set in England between the wars. Perfect for fans of “Downton Abbey,” it’s the story of an aristocratic family, a house, a mysterious death, and a way of life that vanished forever, told in flashback by a woman who witnessed it all.

The novel is full of secrets – some revealed, others hidden forever, reminiscent of the romantic suspense of Daphne du Maurier. It’s also a meditation on memory and the devastation of war and a beautifully rendered window into a fascinating time in history.

I, again, have only one read for review due this week, just as well as I am still reading books that were published two weeks ago. Her Deadly Game by Robert Dugoni is due for publication 23rd March, and hopefully I will be caught up by then.

A defense attorney is prepared to play. But is she a pawn in a master’s deadly match? A twisting novel of suspense by New York Times bestselling author Robert Dugoni.

Keera Duggan was building a solid reputation as a Seattle prosecutor, until her romantic relationship with a senior colleague ended badly. For the competitive former chess prodigy, returning to her family’s failing criminal defense law firm to work for her father is the best shot she has. With the right moves, she hopes to restore the family’s reputation, her relationship with her father, and her career.

Keera’s chance to play in the big leagues comes when she’s retained by Vince LaRussa, an investment adviser accused of murdering his wealthy wife. There’s little hard evidence against him, but considering the couple’s impending and potentially nasty divorce, LaRussa faces life in prison. The prosecutor is equally challenging: Miller Ambrose, Keera’s former lover, who’s eager to destroy her in court on her first homicide defense.

As Keera and her team follow the evidence, they uncover a complicated and deadly game that’s more than Keera bargained for. When shocking information turns the case upside down, Keera must decide between her duty to her client, her family’s legacy, and her own future.

I have received two publishers widgets this week, and one ARC via Netgalley. The Netgalley ARC is Summer Nights at the Starfish Cafe by Jessica Redland. I’m excited about this as I haven’t previously been approved for any of her books.

The two publishers widgets are: Black Thorn by Sarah Hilary

And The Seventh Victim by Michael Wood. This is a series that has consistently been 5 star reads.

I’ve done quite well with my posting this week. I’m not promising the same for this week.

I’ve a shoulder of lamb in the oven for tonight’s dinner and it smells delicious. The vegetables are just waiting to be tipped into the roasting dish. I’ll be sneaking a slice or two before I dish up and putting between two slices of the fresh bread I bought from the bakery today slathered in butter, salt and pepper. That’s one of life’s guilty pleasures for me.

Enjoy your weekend!❤📚

The Mysterious of the Alperton Angels by Janice Hallett

EXCERPT: You have a key that opens a safe deposit box.

Inside is a bundle of documents, archived research material for a book that has just been published.

You must read it all and make a decision.
EITHER:
Replace the documents and the box, then throw the key where it will never be found . . .
OR: Take everything to the police.

ABOUT ‘THE MYSTERIOUS CASE OF THE ALPERTON ANGELS’: 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.

This story is far from over – and it won’t have a happy ending.

MY THOUGHTS: DNF @ 53%

I began intrigued by the opening page. Early on I expressed my doubts about the format of the book which is told entirely in transcripts of interviews, phone conversations, WhatsApp, emails and various other documents.

Because of the format used, it’s very drawn out, there’s no clear storyline and a confusing multitude of characters, and I use this word loosely as we never actually meet any of them, who may or may not reappear later in the book.

By the time I abandoned this read I had no idea what was going on and really didn’t care.

This book may well appeal to true crime readers.

#TheMysteriousCaseoftheAlpertonAngels #NetGalley.

I: @janice.hallett @serpentstail

T: @JaniceHallett @ViperBooks

#contemporaryfiction #crime #cultfiction #historicalfiction #murdermystery #mystery

THE AUTHOR: Janice Hallett is a former magazine editor, award-winning journalist, and government communications writer. Her enthusiasm for travel has taken her around the world several times.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Serpent’s Tail/Viper/Profile Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels by Janice Hallett 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, we are all hunkered down and waiting for Cyclone Gabrielle to hit. All the outdoor furniture is stowed away. The northern part of the North Island and Coromandel are apparently already feeling the effects. It’s raining lightly at the moment and the wind isn’t too bad, but we’re not expecting to feel full force of it until Tuesday. Tomorrow we have to drive to the city as Pete is booked in for a CT scan. I’m not really looking forward to making the trip, but it’s not something we can put off.

Currently I am reading The Dead of Winter by Stuart MacBride

It was supposed to be an easy job.

All Detective Constable Edward Reekie had to do was pick up a dying prisoner from HMP Grampian and deliver him somewhere to live out his last few months in peace.

From the outside, Glenfarach looks like a quaint, sleepy, snow-dusted village, nestled deep in the heart of Cairngorms National Park, but things aren’t what they seem. The place is thick with security cameras and there’s a strict nine o’clock curfew, because Glenfarach is the final sanctuary for people who’ve served their sentences but can’t be safely released into the general population.

Edward’s new boss, DI Montgomery-Porter, insists they head back to Aberdeen before the approaching blizzards shut everything down, but when an ex-cop-turned-gangster is discovered tortured to death in his bungalow, someone needs to take charge.

The weather’s closing in, tensions are mounting, and time’s running out – something nasty has come to Glenfarach, and Edward is standing right in its way…

The Mistress Next Door by Lesley Sanderson

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni, a title from my 2018 backlist.

Sam Hill always saw the world through different eyes. Born with red pupils, he was called “Devil Boy” or Sam “Hell” by his classmates; “God’s will” is what his mother called his ocular albinism. Her words were of little comfort, but Sam persevered, buoyed by his mother’s devout faith, his father’s practical wisdom, and his two other misfit friends.

Sam believed it was God who sent Ernie Cantwell, the only African American kid in his class, to be the friend he so desperately needed. And that it was God’s idea for Mickie Kennedy to storm into Our Lady of Mercy like a tornado, uprooting every rule Sam had been taught about boys and girls.

Forty years later, Sam, a small-town eye doctor, is no longer certain anything was by design—especially not the tragedy that caused him to turn his back on his friends, his hometown, and the life he’d always known. Running from the pain, eyes closed, served little purpose. Now, as he looks back on his life, Sam embarks on a journey that will take him halfway around the world. This time, his eyes are wide open—bringing into clear view what changed him, defined him, and made him so afraid, until he can finally see what truly matters.

And The Christmas Pig by J.K. Rowling. We bought this for my grandson the Christmas before last, but he stopped reading when Jack lost his cuddly toy, DP. I was talking to Luke earlier today and told him I was reading it and was several chapters on from where he stopped reading. He was busily questioning me about what was happening, but I would say nothing other than Jack and the Christmas Pig hadn’t yet found DP, but they were trying their best. I think that now he’s probably old enough to read it without becoming distressed, so we can give it another try once I’m finished. And, yes, I’m rather enjoying it.

I am scheduled to read two further books this week: Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six by Lisa Unger

Three couples rent a luxury cabin in the woods for a weekend getaway to die for in this chilling locked-room thriller by New York Times bestselling author Lisa Unger.

What could be more restful, more restorative, than a weekend getaway with family and friends? An isolated luxury cabin in the woods, complete with spectacular views, a hot tub and a personal chef. Hannah’s loving and generous tech-mogul brother found the listing online. The reviews are stellar. It’s his birthday gift to Hannah and includes their spouses and another couple. The six friends need this trip with good food, good company and lots of R & R, far from the chatter and pressures of modern life.

But the dreamy weekend is about to turn into a nightmare. A deadly storm is brewing. The rental host seems just a little too present. The personal chef reveals that their beautiful house has a spine-tingling history. And the friends have their own complicated past, with secrets that run blood deep. How well does Hannah know her brother, her own husband? Can she trust her best friend? And who is the new boyfriend, crashing their party? Meanwhile, someone is determined to ruin the weekend, looking to exact a payback for deeds long buried. Who is the stranger among them?

Blind Eye by Aline Templeton

DCI Kelso Strang is led to believe that something very odd is going on around the prosperous fishing port of Tarleton on Scotland’s south-east coast. Firstly, a young Detective Inspector is traumatised after witnessing a doctor throwing herself off a cliff, and accusations of extortion have riven the local community.

And when the ugly death of a young farmer sets off a murder investigation, Strang finds himself caught in a spider’s web of criminality. He is entirely unprepared when he is struck by the worst tragedy of his career, even though it has also brought him into contact with a young advocate’s assistant called Catriona, daughter of DI Marjory Fleming.

I have received four ARCs via Netgalley this week. They are:

The Lost Wife by Georgina Lees

Two titles by Martin Edwards, The Puzzle of Blackstone Lodge

And Sepulchre Street

and To Die For by Lisa Gray

Are any of these on your reading radar?

To all my Kiwi book buddies, stay safe.

The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth

EXCERPT: Patrick’s face was pale. He stared at my stomach, and after a silent curse, I followed his stare. My hospital shirt was dry now, but it had become stiff, making my belly look, if anything, larger than it actually was. I assessed my options and found only one. I had to tell him. I was going to tell him sometime and there was no hiding it now. I may as well have screamed, Hello! There’s a life growing inside me! Come and take a look!’
‘You’re pregnant.’
‘Yes.’
For once, smooth-talking Patrick couldn’t seem to find any words. ‘Who’s . . . who’s the father?’
I sighed. ‘This is awkward. I don’t know how to say this, but . . . it’s yours.’
Apart from his lips, Patrick’s face didn’t move an inch. ‘It’s mine?’
‘Yes.’
‘You’re sure?’
‘One hundred percent.’
He wandered over to the chair in the corner and sank into it. I watched, unspeaking, as he picked up a matchbook from the table and turned it over between two fingers. ‘That’s weird. Since we’ve never had sex.’
‘Oh, right!’ I forced a laugh. ‘So it’s not yours. Whew! That must be a relief.’
Patrick didn’t laugh. I can’t believe you’re joking about this. Whose is it, Nev?’
I couldn’t believe I was joking either. What was wrong with me? I should just tell him the truth. He wasn’t Grace. He wouldn’t fire questions at me or demand an answer. And the idea of sharing the burden – well, it was like a hot shower after a brisk swim at the beach. But something held me back. ‘It’s . . . mine.’
‘And who else’s?’
‘Just mine.’

ABOUT ‘THE SECRETS OF MIDWIVES’: THE SECRETS OF MIDWIVES tells the story of three generations of women devoted to delivering new life into the world—and the secrets they keep that threaten to change their own lives forever. Neva Bradley, a third-generation midwife, is determined to keep the details surrounding her own pregnancy—including the identity of the baby’s father— hidden from her family and co-workers for as long as possible. Her mother, Grace, finds it impossible to let this secret rest. For Floss, Neva’s grandmother and a retired midwife, Neva’s situation thrusts her back 60 years in time to a secret that eerily mirrors her granddaughter’s—a secret which, if revealed, will have life-changing consequences for them all. Will these women reveal their secrets and deal with the inevitable consequences? Or are some secrets best kept hidden?

MY THOUGHTS: My first 5 star read in 2023! I read this in less than 24 hours. I loved it and couldn’t put it down!

The Secrets of Midwives is an emotional read. I loved Floss’s character from the outset. I wavered on Grace who, at times, comes across as cold and remote, while at other times she is warm and empathetic. Neva took a bit of understanding. But, despite her predicament, she is a warm, caring and loyal person.

The book is cleverly written, alternating between the perspectives of Floss, Grace and Neva. The midwifery background of the three characters covering many years has obviously been well researched. Although rather graphic in places, it’s very realistic and I was fascinated.

The Secrets of Midwives is a book of multigenerational family relationships, of friendship, of secrets and the lies fabricated necessary to keep those secrets, of love and of loss. It is beautifully written.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#TheSecretsofMidwives #WaitomoDistrictLibrary

I: @sallyhepworth @macmillanaustralia

T: @SallyHepworth @MacmillanAus

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #friendship #historicalfiction #romance #womensfiction

THE AUTHOR: Drawing on the good, the bad and the downright odd of human behaviour, Sally writes incisively about family, relationships and identity. Her domestic thriller novels are laced with quirky humour, sass and a darkly charming tone.

Sally’s novels are available worldwide in English and have been translated into 20 languages.​

Sally lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three children and excels at burning toast.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Waitomo District Library for the copy of The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

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. ❤📚

The Love Letter by Lucinda Riley, narrated by Camilla Rockley

EXCERPT: It was the morphine turning his brain to jelly. Tomorrow he’d have none, and then he’d remember what it was he must do before he died.
‘Okay. You just relax and try to get some sleep,’ she soothed him, her hand stroking his forehead. ‘The doctor will be here soon.’
He knew he mustn’t go to sleep. He closed his eyes, desperately searching, searching . . . snatches of memories, faces . . .
Then he saw her, as clear as the day he’d first met her. So beautiful, so gentle . . .
‘Remember? The letter, my darling,’ she whispered to him. ‘You promised to return it . . .’

ABOUT ‘THE LOVE LETTER’: 1995, London. When Sir James Harrison, one the greatest actors of his generation, passes away at the age of 95 he leaves behind not just a heartbroken family but also a secret so shocking, so devastating that it could rock the English establishment to its core.

Joanna Haslam is an ambitious young journalist assigned to cover the legendary actor’s funeral. The great and the good of the celebrity world are there.

But Joanna stumbles on something dark beneath the glamour: the mention of a letter James Harrison has left behind, the contents of which others have been desperate to conceal for over 70 years.

As she peels back the veil of lies that has shrouded the secret, she realizes that there are other forces attempting to prevent her from discovering the truth. And they’ll stop at nothing to reach the letter before she does.

MY THOUGHTS: The Love Letter took a bit more for me to become fully immersed in than is normal for this author. At first I thought the storyline very similar to The Angel Tree, which I had just finished. But then the story took a turn that I wasn’t expecting, and everything changed.

The Love Letter is a sweeping novel that encompasses secrets, murder, treachery, love, lies, and questions of identity and loyalty spread over two timelines – the period immediately before and after George VI coming to the throne, and 1995 when actor Sir James Harrison dies without fulfilling a promise he had made many years earlier.

A blend of thriller, drama and romance involving MI5, the royal family, an acting dynasty and a young investigative reporter eager to make a name for herself, Lucinda Riley seems to have added a new dimension to her writing with the Love Letter, not entirely successfully in my honest opinion.

The narrative doesn’t flow as smoothly as it should and I had some problems with the ending where I was required to suspend my belief and just go with the flow. It then finishes on a bit of a cliffhanger which, in this case, I enjoyed.

Despite my reservations regarding the choppy nature of the narrative at times, I did enjoy this read, although not to the same extent as other titles I have read by Riley. The Butterfly Room remains a clear favourite.

Camilla Rockley is a superb narrator. I don’t think this particular cover does the book justice.

⭐⭐⭐.7

#TheLoveLetter #WaitomoDistrictLibrary

I: @lucindarileybooks @wfhowes

T: @lucindariley @WFHowes

#historicalfiction #mystery #romance #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Lucinda Riley is an Irish author of popular historical fiction and a former actress. She spent the first few years of her life in the village of Drumbeg near Belfast before moving to England. At age 14 she moved to London to a specialist drama and ballet school. She wrote her first book aged twenty four. Lucinda died in June 2021.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Waitomo District Library for the loan of the audiobook The Love Letter by Lucinda Riley 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

The Whispering Dead by David Mark

The Whispering Dead by David Mark

EXCERPT: ‘I’m a bit confused,’ says Cordelia. ‘I don’t even know if this is right for me. I don’t agree with half of what we seem to do. It’s not exactly glamorous, is it? And look at the mistakes we’ve made. Nobody ever seems to answer a question properly. I mean, is there any point to any of it? Intelligence, counter-intelligence, stealing secrets, selling secrets, finding out who’s selling to who and whether what they’re selling is worth the price. It’s just, I don’t know, I suppose that I had it in my mind that the people who knew these things, who made the big decisions – I thought they’d be a bit more . . .’

‘Impressive?’ asks Walt, sucking his lips back over his teeth and pulling a face. ‘Yes, we are something of a disappointment, aren’t we?’

ABOUT ‘THE WHISPERING DEAD’: Cordelia Hemlock is teetering on the verge of joining MI6 when she meets the enigmatic Walt, a high-ranking member of the Secret Intelligence Service, who tells her: They won’t want you to do well. They won’t ever trust you. They don’t trust me and I’m one of them. She takes this as a challenge rather than a warning. She wants to protect the nation. Serve Queen and country. Who would turn down such a glorious opportunity?

Fourteen years later, Cordelia is desk-bound after finishing an undercover operation and going quietly mad with boredom. So when the call comes through on the top-secret Pandora line – so-called after the locked-box the telephone is kept in – she answers it.

It’s Walt. No longer officially MI6, he still inhabits the murky world of intelligence, where information always comes with a price. He tells her he has a secret to share with her – and only her. And once she knows it, nothing will ever be the same again . . .

MY THOUGHTS: To quote from The Whispering Dead itself, ‘about as inviting as a crocodile’s mouth’ and ‘something of a disappointment’.

I struggled throughout most of this, confused and bewildered. Occasionally I felt like I had found my feet, only to have the rug pulled out from under them only a page or two later.

I can now appreciate how Alice felt, tumbling down the rabbit hole.

I am not a spy thriller aficionado in the first place, although I have read a few wonderful ones, but I rather think that this experience may have put me off the genre for good.

⭐⭐

#TheWhisperingDead #NetGalley

I: @davidmarkwriter @severnhouseimprint

T: @davidmarkwriter @severnhouse

#contemporaryfiction #friendship #historicalfiction #spythriller

THE AUTHOR: David spent more than fifteen 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 Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy novels.

He has also written for the theatre and has contributed articles and reviews to several national and international publications. He is a regular performer at literary festivals and is a sought-after public speaker. He also teaches creative writing. (Amazon – abridged)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Severn House via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Whispering Dead 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