The Night Gate by Peter May

EXCERPT: A sound that whispers like the smooth passage of silk on silk startles him. Movement in the darkness ahead morphs into silhouette. Momentary light catches polished steel, before he feels the razor-like tip of it slash across his neck. There is no real pain, just an oddly invasive sensation of burning, and suddenly he cannot breathe. His hands fly to his neck, warm blood coursing between cold fingers. He presses both palms against the wound as if somehow they might keep the blood from spilling out of him. He hears it gurgling in his severed windpipe. Just moments earlier he had been consumed by anger. Now he understands that he is going to die, but somehow cannot accept it. It is simply not possible. Consciousness rapidly ebbs to darkness and he drops to his knees. The last thing he sees, before falling face-first to the floor, is his killer. Caught in a fleeting moment of moonlight. And he simply cannot believe it.

ABOUT ‘THE NIGHT GATE’: The body of a man shot through the head is disinterred by the roots of a fallen tree.

A famous art critic is viciously murdered in a nearby house.

Both deaths have occurred more than 70 years apart.

Asked by a forensic archaeologist in Paris to take a look at the site of the former, Enzo Macleod quickly finds himself embroiled in the investigation of the latter, and two narratives are set in train – one historical, unfolding against a backdrop of real events in Occupied France in the 1940s; the other contemporary, set in a France going back into Covid lockdown in the autumn of 2020.

At the heart of both is da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

Tasked by de Gaulle to keep the world’s most famous painting out of Nazi hands after the fall of France in 1940, 28-year-old Georgette Pignal finds herself swept along by the tide of history. Following in the wake of the Mona Lisa as it is moved from chateau to chateau by the Louvre, she finds herself both wooed and pursued by two Germans sent to steal it for rival patrons – Hitler and Göring.

What none of them know is that the Louvre has secretly engaged the services of the 20th century’s greatest forger to produce a duplicate of the great lady, one that even those who know her well find hard to tell apart. The discovery of its existence is the thread that links both narratives. And both murders.

MY THOUGHTS: The Night Gate is the seventh in the Enzo Files series by Peter May. It is a superb blend of contemporary fiction, historical fiction, and ‘whodunnit’ that switches between WWII in France and the current Covid pandemic.

In the 1940’s we follow Georgette Pignall as she lays her life on the line to protect La Jaconde from the Nazi invaders. This is a fascinating thread full of intrigue and action, and one that will leave you wondering about the provenance of what is probably the most famous painting in the world.

In 2020 the remains of a ranking officer of the Luftwaffe with a bullet hole in his skull are discovered in the tiny medieval village of Carennac on the banks of the River Dordogne when a dead tree is dislodged by a slip. Enzo is called in to cast a professional eye over the ‘grave’ when the forensic archaeologist Professor Magali Blanc is unable to travel to the site.

While he is there another, contemporary, murder is discovered and the local gendarmes, unused to dealing with such a crime, make use of Enzo’s expertise.

May’s characters are, as always, superb. They seem to jump from the page and stride about, such is the realism. The intertwining stories are intriguing, and the links between the timelines, other than the Mona Lisa (La Jaconde) not apparent until the end.

Many of the characters in The Night Gate are real, and many of the events actually occurred – the evacuation of artworks from the Louvre to various Chateaux around France; the Nazis burning of paintings; the shooting of Maquis fighters in Saint-Cere; the courageous action of Berthe Nasinec in preventing a massacre of the citizens of Saint-Cere; and the extraordinarily selfless work of Rose Valland in cataloguing the art the Nazis stole so that it could be tracked down, post-war, and returned to its rightful owners. And these are just a small portion of the actual historical events Peter May has woven through his narrative.

While The Night Gate is not my very favourite of the Enzo series, it is right up there. I don’t recommend that The Night Gate be read as a stand-alone as there is too much background of the contemporary characters that you would be missing out on and which would impact on your understanding of some of the events and references to the past storylines that are included in this book. But I do strongly recommend that you read it.

NOTE: The Night Gate is, apparently, the finale to the Enzo series.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#TheNightGate #NetGalley

#authorpetermay #quercusbooks

@authorpetermay @quercusbooks

#contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama #historicalfiction #historicalfaction #murdermystery #WWII

THE AUTHOR: Peter May was born and raised in Scotland. He was an award-winning journalist at the age of twenty-one and a published novelist at twenty-six. When his first book was adapted as a major drama series for the BBC, he quit journalism and during the high-octane fifteen years that followed, became one of Scotland’s most successful television dramatists. He created three prime-time drama series, presided over two of the highest-rated serials in his homeland as script editor and producer, and worked on more than 1,000 episodes of ratings-topping drama before deciding to leave television to return to his first love, writing novels.

He has won several literature awards in France. He received the USA’s Barry Award for The Blackhouse, the first in his internationally bestselling Lewis Trilogy. In 2014 Entry Island won both the Scottish Crime Novel of the Year and a CWA Dagger as the ITV Crime Thriller Book Club Best Read of the Year.

Peter lives in South-West France with his wife, writer Janice Hally, and in 2016 both became French by naturalisation. (Peter May)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Quercus Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Night Gate by Peter May for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

The Incredible Winston Browne

EXCERPT: His ankle was acting up, and he was pretty sure he’d pulled his groin. He hadn’t moved this fast since he wore catcher’s gear. By the time he reached the chicken house, he was limping like a lame horse and his ankle was throbbing. Whatever was making the noise was tangled in the homemade booby trap of pots and pans. Before he opened the door, he handed the lantern to Robbie. ‘You hold the light, I’ll scare him! Whatever you do, don’t let him get away!’

After a few deep breaths, Jimmy cocked the rifle, kicked open the door to the coop, and used such force he almost brought the little building down.

Chickens screamed. Virgil fluttered his wings like he was possessed by the Devil. White feathers went everywhere. Jimmy barged inside, rifle in both hands. Robbie stayed beside him, holding the lantern outward.

Jimmy dropped the rifle. He expected to see an old drunk, or a few teenagers, or a hobo tangled in wire and tin pots. But it was no man.

‘That’s your chicken thief?’ said Robbie.

It was a little girl.

ABOUT ‘THE INCREDIBLE WINSTON BROWNE’:
In the small, sleepy town of Moab, Florida, folks live for ice cream socials, Jackie Robinson, and the local paper’s weekly gossip column. For decades, Sheriff Winston Browne has watched over Moab with a generous eye, and by now he’s used to handling the daily dramas that keep life interesting for Moab’s quirky residents. But just after Winston receives some terrible, life-altering news, a feisty little girl with mysterious origins shows up in his best friend’s henhouse. Suddenly Winston has a child in desperate need of protection—as well as a secret of his own to keep.

With the help of Moab’s goodhearted townsfolk, the humble and well-meaning Winston Browne still has some heroic things to do. He finds romance, family, and love in unexpected places. He stumbles upon adventure, searches his soul, and grapples with the past. In doing so, he just might discover what a life well-lived truly looks like.

MY THOUGHTS: I honestly don’t know how to describe this book. I loved the characters and the setting, and I really, really wanted to love this overall, but I just didn’t. I liked it. I liked it a lot, but I just didn’t quite fall in love with The Incredible Winston Browne.

I loved the character of Winston Browne. He is everything to the town of Moab, and the town and its people have been everything to him, but now that he is dying there are a few things he realizes he has missed out on, including the love of a good woman. He has never married – and there is a story behind that – and has no children. But it’s obviously too late for all of that – or is it? Life has a strange habit of filling the gaps in the most unexpected ways.

I also loved the growth in Eleanor’s character. I was amazed at how old the characters seemed for their age. They all acted a lot older than their age if you compare them with people of the same age today. But then they didn’t have all the labour saving devices that we enjoy today either. If you look back at photos of people in the 1950s, they even look older.

Jessie is the sort of character you can’t help rooting for. She is determined and loyal.

This is a good story that defies categorization. There is a little romance, a little thriller, a little drama. A little like life.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#TheIncredibleWinstonBrowne #NetGalley
#thomasnelsonpublishing #seanofthesouth
@ThomasNelson @seanofthesouth1
#historicalfiction #sliceoflife #romance

THE AUTHOR: Sean Dietrich is a columnist, podcaster, speaker, and novelist, known for his commentary on life in the American South. His work has appeared in Southern Living, The Tallahassee Democrat, Good Grit, South Magazine, The Bitter Southerner, Thom Magazine, and The Mobile Press Register, and he has authored ten books.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Thomas Nelson via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Incredible Winston Browne by Sean Dietrich. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

After a week of cool,wet and stormy weather, the weekend has been magnificent. Clear blue skies, and hot. Just how I like it. 🏖

I have been working every day since my 2-i-c left, and will work right through until my new one starts after Easter. I have had Luke this weekend too, so other than Luke’s books, I haven’t read anything.

Currently I am reading The Incredible Winston Browne by Sean Dietrich.

and listening to The Good Neighbour by R.J. Parker

This week I am planning on reading The Night Gate by Peter May

In a sleepy French village, the body of a man shot through the head is disinterred by the roots of a fallen tree.
A week later a famous art critic is viciously murdered in a nearby house.
The deaths occurred more than seventy years apart.
Asked by a colleague to inspect the site of the former, forensics expert Enzo Macleod quickly finds himself embroiled in the investigation of the latter.  Two extraordinary narratives are set in train – one historical, unfolding in the treacherous wartime years of Occupied France; the other contemporary, set in the autumn of 2020 as France re-enters Covid lockdown.

And Enzo’s investigations reveal an unexpected link between the murders – the Mona Lisa.

Tasked by the exiled General Charles de Gaulle to keep the world’s most famous painting out of Nazi hands after the fall of France in 1940, 28-year-old Georgette Pignal finds herself swept along by the tide of history. Following in the wake of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa as it is moved from château to château by the Louvre, she finds herself just one step ahead of two German art experts sent to steal it for rival patrons – Hitler and Göring.

What none of them know is that the Louvre itself has taken exceptional measures to keep the painting safe, unwittingly setting in train a fatal sequence of events extending over seven decades.

Events that have led to both killings.

And Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy

Newlyweds Sam Statler and Annie Potter are head over heels, and excited to say good-bye to New York and start a life together in Sam’s sleepy hometown in upstate New York. Or, it turns out, a life where Annie spends most of her time alone while Sam, her therapist husband, works long hours in his downstairs office, tending to the egos of his (mostly female) clientele.

Little does Sam know that through a vent in his ceiling, every word of his sessions can be heard from the room upstairs. The pharmacist’s wife, contemplating a divorce. The well-known painter whose boyfriend doesn’t satisfy her in bed. Who could resist listening? Everything is fine until the French girl in the green mini Cooper shows up, and Sam decides to go to work and not come home, throwing a wrench into Sam and Annie’s happily ever after.

This week I received 4 Kindle ARCs and 1 audiobook from Netgalley.

The Lights of Sugarberry Cove by Heather Webber

A Million Things by Emily Spurr

The Dead Husband by Carter Wilson

Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson

and the audiobook is The Whole Truth by Cara Hunter

I am super excited about both The Dead Husband by Carter Wilson and Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson.

And now I had better get back to Luke…he has devised another game for us to play, one that requires me to make a tent 🤣😂

Watching what I’m reading . . .

Luke has been with us for the weekend. I picked him up Friday afternoon and we have had a fun and busy time. My cousin had kept some eggs for him that she was sure were double yokers, which I scrambled for his dinner Friday night. They weren’t, but he enjoyed them anyway. Yesterday we baked cookies. I took photos but they’re too dark to post. We also made garages for the cars out of shoeboxes. Today we made sleeping bags for his favourite cuddlies for when he and Dustin go camping. They have just left to go home. Luke is one tired bunny as he didn’t sleep well last night, so of course I didn’t either!

I am still reading Lost Souls by Chris Merritt. Although I have read a lot this weekend, not much of it was for me.

And I am listening to The Paris Dressmaker by Kristy Cambron.

This week I am planning on reading The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

You won’t want to leave. . . until you can’t.

Half-hidden by forest and overshadowed by threatening peaks, Le Sommet has always been a sinister place. Long plagued by troubling rumors, the former abandoned sanatorium has since been renovated into a five-star minimalist hotel.

An imposing, isolated getaway spot high up in the Swiss Alps is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But Elin’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when her estranged brother, Isaac, and his fiancée, Laure, invite her to celebrate their engagement at the hotel, Elin really has no reason not to accept.

Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge–there’s something about the hotel that makes her nervous. And when they wake the following morning to discover Laure is missing, Elin must trust her instincts if they hope to find her. With the storm closing off all access to the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.

Elin is under pressure to find Laure, but no one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they are all in…

And The Dare by Lesley Kara

When teenage friends Lizzie and Alice decide to head off for a walk in the countryside, they are blissfully unaware that this will be their final day together – and that only Lizzie will come back alive.

Lizzie has no memory of what happened in the moments before Alice died, she only knows that it must have been a tragic accident. But as she tries to cope with her grief, she is shocked to find herself alienated from Alice’s friends and relatives. They are convinced she somehow had a part to play in her friend’s death.

Twelve years later, unpacking boxes in the new home she shares with her fiancé, Lizzie is horrified to find traumatic memories and paranoia suddenly surfacing. Is the trauma of the accident finally catching up with her, or could someone be trying to threaten her new-found happiness?

Twelve years is a long time to wait, when you’re planning the perfect revenge . . .

I have only one new ARC this week –

The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin

I introduced Luke to Roald Dahl’s poems, and Mole and Toad of The Wind in the Willows this weekend. What have you been reading with your grandchildren or children?

Have a wonderful week. Mine is very busy workwise, and Pete is working long hours so it looks like the lawns will also be on my ‘to do’ list this week.

An Ordinary Life by Amanda Prowse

EXCERPT: . . . the memory of her lover’s palm running over her back beneath the winter sunshine on a stolen afternoon, as they lay close together on a tartan blanket among the ruins of war was, even now, enough to make her weep like the willow beneath which they had sought shelter. His face, captured in her mind like a picture, a particular smile, lips closed, one side of his mouth raised more than the other, his hair flopping forward, his eyes mid-laugh…It had always been him.

And now, here she was. Lying alone on a trolley in a corridor, unable to imagine whatever might come next, able to think only about what had gone before: each step, each breath and each day that had led up to that point in time. Her body quite useless now, but oh! The miraculous thing it had done: bearing a child, a boy! A beautiful son . . .

She cursed her inability to finish the note she had started, wishing nothing more than to place it in the hand of the boy who had shaped her whole life. She needed to tell him of her history. Her story, her ordinary life, and thus his story, the full truth he’d never known but that she’d promised, finally, to tell him. The truth that now he might never know.

ABOUT ‘AN ORDINARY LIFE’: Christmas Eve, 2019. Ninety-four-year-old Molly lies in her hospital bed. A stroke and a fall may have broken her body—but her mind is alive with memories.

London, 1940s. Molly is a bright young woman, determined to help the war effort and keep her head up despite it all. Life becomes brighter when she meets and falls in love with a man who makes her forget everything with one dance. But then war forces her to make an unforgettable sacrifice, and when she’s brought to her knees by a daring undercover mission with the French Resistance, only her sister knows the secret weighing heavily on Molly’s heart.

Now, lying in her hospital bed, Molly can’t escape the memories of what she lost all those years ago. But she is not as alone as she thinks.

Will she be able to find peace—and finally understand that what seemed to be an ordinary life was anything but?

MY THOUGHTS: This is a steady-paced but extremely emotional family drama that had me in tears several times during the read. Amanda Prowse is very adept at that.

I adored and admired Molly. She was an extremely strong and courageous woman, but that strength was also her undoing. No matter what befell her, she picked herself up and kept going, until she could go no further.

I didn’t think that I would enjoy An Ordinary Life when I first began it. It felt like it was going to be a ‘soppy romance.’ But I should have known better. Amanda Prowse has never let me down yet, and she certainly didn’t this time either. A few twists, and the book went off in an entirely different and unexpected direction.

I enjoyed An Ordinary Life. Molly wormed her way into my heart as I celebrated her successes, cried with her at her heartbreak, held my breath when she was in danger, and took pleasure in her joy.

An Ordinary Life is proof that Prowse can turn her hand to any genre, successfully. Every book she writes is different, yet every book stirs my emotions.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#AnOrdinaryLife #NetGalley @MrsAmandaProwse

#familydrama #historicalfiction #mentalhealth #romance #WWII

THE AUTHOR: Amanda Prowse was a management consultant for ten years before realising that she was born to write. Amanda lives in the West Country with her husband and their two teenage sons.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Amazon Publishing UK, Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of An Ordinary Life by Amanda Prowse for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

It’s been a sad day for us today. We farewelled a friend who was far too young to die. I am glad that his death was sudden, and instantaneous, but his timing was off. His youngest son was due to get married next Saturday. That has now been postponed. Michael, thanks for all the fun times over the years. We will miss you, mate.

Currently I am reading The Night Hawks by Elly Griffiths, #13 in the Ruth Galloway series.

And listening to The Shadow Man by Helen Fields

This week I am planning on reading An Ordinary Life by Amanda Prowse

Christmas Eve, 2019. Ninety-four-year-old Molly lies in her hospital bed. A stroke and a fall may have broken her body—but her mind is alive with memories.

London, 1940s. Molly is a bright young woman, determined to help the war effort and keep her head up despite it all. Life becomes brighter when she meets and falls in love with a man who makes her forget everything with one dance. But then war forces her to make an unforgettable sacrifice, and when she’s brought to her knees by a daring undercover mission with the French Resistance, only her sister knows the secret weighing heavily on Molly’s heart.

Now, lying in her hospital bed, Molly can’t escape the memories of what she lost all those years ago. But she is not as alone as she thinks.

Will she be able to find peace—and finally understand that what seemed to be an ordinary life was anything but?

Lost Souls by Chris Merritt

Standing at the school gates, he waits until the last child leaves the safety of the playground. And then he follows at a distance, keeping to the shadows. Only he knows what’s going to happen next.

In a quiet church, on a busy London street, 12-year-old Donovan Blair is found dead. His hands are clasped together as if in prayer. Just hours ago, he was happily playing with his friends at school, but now his body is lifeless, and his killer is long gone.

Detective Dan Lockhart is working alone on his wife’s missing person’s case when he receives a call telling him to get to the crime scene at St Mary’s Church immediately.

Bringing in psychologist Dr Lexi Green to help profile the murderer, Dan is convinced that the killer has provided a clue by leaving the body in a prayer position, and Lexi agrees. As they try to get into the mind of the person responsible, another victim is found. A 13-year-old girl, left in a different church, posed in exactly the same way.

Fearing the murderer may already have another child in his sights, Dan and Lexi work together to establish links between the two deaths, and soon discover that not only were both children in care – they had attended the same school. And when it emerges that Lexi’s new boyfriend works there, things become difficult between her and Dan. How much can he tell Lexi about the case? And could she be at risk?

As Dan makes a breakthrough in the investigation, he receives devastating news about his wife, Jess. But with children’s lives at stake and Lexi in danger, Dan must put his personal emotions aside and chase the killer. Can he and Lexi work out who is behind the murders before another vulnerable child is taken?

I have received 3 e-book and 1 audiobook ARC from Netgalley this week:

The audiobook is Olive by Emma Gannon

The e-books are: The Dare by Lesley Kara

The Perfect Father by Charlotte Duckworth

The Show Girl by Nicola Harrison

So that’s me for the day….. live life to the max. You never know when it may be your last day.

❤📚

The Lady in Residence by Allison Pittman

EXCERPT: Only later would I mark how he watched my approach with both sadness and trepidation.

‘Oh!’ I exclaimed, dragging up some vestige of coquettishness. ‘A late Christmas present for me?’

‘Yes,’ he said, refusing to meet my eye. ‘Take it as such. I won’t be charging you. Truth be told, I don’t know if I should give it to you at all.’

And then he was gone, disappeared like a puff of dark dust. Upon closer inspection, I saw the package had been wrapped, sealed and tied with the string circled three times around. Unable to open it with my own power, I walked to the desk and asked Mr Sylvan to lend me his letter opener. Silver and sharp, it weighed heavy in my hand as I sliced through the string and along the sealed edges.

‘It’s my Christmas portrait,’ I said as much to myself as to Mr Sylvan. I unwrapped the layers and uncovered the image printed on heavy paper. I felt myself frown at first. Haley had promised a tint, but I saw nothing but ordinary black and white.

Then the image blurred in my trembling hand.

‘Mrs Krause?’ Mr Sylvan’s voice lurked beyond the roaring of the rush of blood in my ears.

I dropped the image to the desktop and braced my hands beside it. A sob caught in my throat, perfectly timed to Mr Sylvan’s un-Sylvan-like gasp.

The Christmas tree it seemed, had failed in its spell to protect me from the ghost of Sallie White. For there she was, in the photograph. Right behind me. Her hand resting on my shoulder.

ABOUT ‘THE LADY IN RESIDENCE’: Young widow Hedda Krause checks into the Menger Hotel in 1915 with a trunk full of dresses, a case full of jewels, and enough cash to pay for a two-month stay, which she hopes will be long enough to meet, charm, and attach herself to a new, rich husband. Her plans are derailed when a ghostly apparition lures her into a long, dark hallway, and Hedda returns to her room to find her precious jewelry has been stolen. She falls immediately under a cloud of suspicion with her haunting tale, but true ghost enthusiasts bring her expensive pieces of jewelry in an attempt to lure the ghost to appear again.

In 2017, Dini Blackstone is a fifth-generation magician, who performs at private parties, but she also gives ghost walk tours, narrating the more tragic historical events of San Antonio with familial affection. Above all, her favorite is the tale of Hedda Krause who, in Dini’s estimation, succeeded in perpetrating the world’s longest con, dying old and wealthy from her ghost story. But then Dini meets Quinn Carmichael, great-great-grandson of the detective who originally investigated Hedda’s case, who’s come to the Alamo City with a box full of clues that might lead to Hedda’s exoneration. Can Dini see another side of the story that is worthy of God’s grace?

MY THOUGHTS: An enjoyable read, but not a particularly gripping or memorable one. I guess I was expecting more ‘gothic’ atmosphere.

The Lady in Residence is a combination of romance and a ‘paranormal’ mystery set over two timelines. I enjoyed the characters of Dini and Quin, but I found Hedda to be quite cold and calculating. Although I guess that had I found myself in her circumstances in that time, I might be much the same.

I have to admit to skimming large tracts in the second half of the book when my interest began to wane and it seemed that we were just rehashing old ground. So I may have missed it, but I can’t recall seeing any reference to ‘true ghost enthusiasts bring her expensive pieces of jewelry in an attempt to lure the ghost to appear again’. If there are indeed references to this, please don’t hesitate to correct me.

I found the author’s notes at the end of the book most interesting. ‘There’s a Russian nesting doll structure to The Lady in Residence. Sallie haunts Hedda, Hedda haunts Dini,’ which explains the central theme of the novel perfectly. That and obsession.

‘The story of Sallie White is true, and the details of it depicted in The Lady in Residence fall in line with the newspaper accounts of the time.’

Pittman also talks about the beauty of the Menger Hotel in San Antonio, calling it ‘historically exquisite, but there is a sense of heaviness to it too.’

So please do read the Author’s note, but not before the book as it contains at least one spoiler that I can think of.

⭐⭐.8

#TheLadyinResidence #NetGalley
#contemporaryfiction #historicalfiction #christianromance #mystery #paranormal

‘She fixated on the idea that a man who had sisters knew how to be kind to a woman.’ – I snorted at this! I have three brothers and they spent most of our days enjoying making mine miserable!

THE AUTHOR: Allison Pittman is the author of For Time and Eternity, Stealing Home, the Crossroads of Grace series, and her nonfiction debut, Saturdays With Stella. A high-school English teacher, she serves as director of the theater arts group at her church. She is also the co-president of a dynamic Christian writers group in the San Antonio, Texas area, where she makes her home with her husband and their three boys.

DISCLOSURE: Thanks to Barbour Publishing for providing a digital ARC of The Lady in Residence by Allison Pittman for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

The Silence by Susan Allott

EXCERPT: This is the thing she couldn’t put her finger on, that she should have known was wrong from the start. Her dad hasn’t called her in the decade she has lived in London. It’s her mum who makes the phone calls, leaves messages on the answerphone. Her dad writes letters. He hates the phone.

‘What is it?’

‘I didn’t want you to hear it from your mother. She hasn’t taken it well. I wanted to tell you myself.’

She drops her head between her knees. She thinks, if he’s going to die, I’ll need a drink. Cold, practical thoughts: she will finish this call and she will put her clothes on. There’s an all night take away at Clapton Pond where they sell six-packs of beer under the counter.

‘The police came to see me,’ he says.

‘The police?’

‘They’re looking for a woman I used to know.’

Isla lifts her head. She’s sweating. She runs her hand through her damp hair. ‘What woman?’

‘She was a neighbour of ours, back when we first moved to Sydney. You wouldn’t remember.’ He coughs. ‘It looks like she’s been missing a long time. Nobody’s seen her in thirty years.’

‘What’s this got to do with you?’

‘The police think her disappearance is suspicious,’ he says. ‘They think I was the last person to see her, before she went missing.’

And were you?’ She tries to sound calm. ‘Were you the last person to see her?’

‘I can’t have been. She moved away with her husband. ‘I told them there must be some mistake.’

He lights a cigarette. Exhales. She thinks of Dom, smiling behind a flame.

‘Is she dead?’

ABOUT ‘THE SILENCE’: It is 1997, and in a basement flat in Hackney, Isla Green is awakened by a call in the middle of the night: her father phoning from Sydney. Thirty years ago, in the suffocating heat of summer 1967, the Green’s next-door neighbor Mandy disappeared. At the time, it was thought she fled a broken marriage and gone to start a new life; but now Mandy’s family is trying to reconnect, and there is no trace of her. Isla’s father Joe was allegedly the last person to see her alive, and now he’s under suspicion of murder.

Isla unwillingly plans to go back to Australia for the first time in a decade to support her father. The return to Sydney will plunge Isla deep into the past, to a quiet street by the sea where two couples live side by side. Isla’s parents, Louisa and Joe, have recently emigrated from England – a move that has left Louisa miserably homesick while Joe embraces his new life. Next door, Steve and Mandy are equally troubled. Mandy doesn’t want a baby, even though Steve – a cop trying to hold it together under the pressures of the job – is desperate to become a father.

The more Isla asks about the past, the more she learns: about both young couples and the secrets each marriage bore. Could her father be capable of doing something terrible? How much does her mother know? What will happen to their family if Isla’s worst fears are realized? And is there another secret in this community, one which goes deeper into Australia’s colonial past, which has held them in a conspiracy of silence?

MY THOUGHTS: ‘Is she dead?’ This is the crux of The Silence by Susan Allott. ‘She’ is Mandy, the neighbour who looks after Isla while her mother Louisa works. Mandy is the woman who Isla admits, as a child, she loves more than her real mother.

The story is told in two time frames, 1967 when Isla is a child, and 1997. The Silence is an amazing debut novel, cleverly weaving the story of Australia’s stolen children in with a missing person mystery and the emotional perils of relocating ‘down under’.

The mystery is intense, and layered like an onion. Almost every character is hiding a secret, and telling lies in order to conceal it. But after thirty years, it seems that the truth about these dysfunctional families must out. Isla is about to shatter her rose tinted spectacles and her memories of her idyllic childhood.

The Silence is a compelling, complex, and thrilling read. I can’t wait to see what is next from this author.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#TheSilence @DiversitySusan @boroughpress @susanallottauthor
#australiancrimefiction #historicalfiction #domesticdrama #mystery #suspense

THE AUTHOR: Susan Allott is from the UK but spent part of her twenties in Australia, desperately homesick but trying to make Sydney her home. She completed the Faber Academy course in 2017, during which she started writing this novel. She now lives in south London with her two children and her very Australian husband. (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of The Silence, written by Susan Allott, narrated by Melle Stewart and published by Harper Audio via Overdrive. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

It was Pete’s 65th birthday yesterday so we decided to have a day out. We had originally planned to go down to Awakino and Mokau, stopping at the Awakino pub for lunch. We have stopped there a few times recently and the food is great. But when we checked the road report there were a lot of roadworks and long delays. Pete has been carting concrete out to Raglan quite a bit recently so we decided to go there for the day. I haven’t been there for two years and it’s grown like crazy in that time. We drove around all the lovely little bays, then went for lunch at the Wharf Kitchen and Bar. The fish and chips were lovely, the Heineken cold and we had views out over the water.

It was a lovely day out culminating in calling in on Dustin and Luke on the way home.

We also bumped into Harley who used to chef for us. He has just started working back in the area so tomorrow we are going to lunch at his restaurant at Waitomo, as it’s a long weekend here. We have two in a row!

Currently I am readin House of Correction by Nikki French.

Over half way through. Compelling. Character driven. Totally hooked.

I am listening to The Silence by Susan Allott, an Australian mystery. Almost half way through and enjoying it, but have no idea what happened to Mandy. The husband? (Where is he, anyway?) The neighbour? The neighbours wife? Or is she simply somewhere else, living as someone else?

This week I am planning on reading Hadley and Grace by Susan Redfearn

Needing to escape her abusive marriage, Hadley flees with her two kids, knowing it might be her only chance. A woman who can’t even kill a spider, Hadley soon finds herself pushed to the limits as she fights to protect her family.

Grace, new mother of baby Miles, desperately wants to put her rough past behind her for good, but she finds it impossible when her path crosses with Hadley’s, and her quest for a new start quickly spirals out of control and turns into a terrifying flight for survival.

Stronger together than apart, the two find their fates inextricably entwined, and as the danger closes in, each must decide how much she is willing to risk for the other.

And The Lady in Residence by Alison Pittman.

Can a Legacy of Sadness be Broken at the Menger Hotel?

Visit historic American landmarks through the Doors to the Past series. History and today collide in stories full of mystery, intrigue, faith, and romance.

Young widow Hedda Krause checks into the Menger Hotel in 1915 with a trunk full of dresses, a case full of jewels, and enough cash to pay for a two-month stay, which she hopes will be long enough to meet, charm, and attach herself to a new, rich husband. Her plans are derailed when a ghostly apparition lures her into a long, dark hallway, and Hedda returns to her room to find her precious jewelry has been stolen. She falls immediately under a cloud of suspicion with her haunting tale, but true ghost enthusiasts bring her expensive pieces of jewelry in an attempt to lure the ghost to appear again.

In 2017, Dini Blackstone is a fifth-generation magician, who performs at private parties, but she also gives ghost walk tours, narrating the more tragic historical events of San Antonio with familial affection. Above all, her favorite is the tale of Hedda Krause who, in Dini’s estimation, succeeded in perpetrating the world’s longest con, dying old and wealthy from her ghost story. But then Dini meets Quinn Carmichael, great-great-grandson of the detective who originally investigated Hedda’s case, who’s come to the Alamo City with a box full of clues that might lead to Hedda’s exoneration. Can Dini see another side of the story that is worthy of God’s grace?

I am also planning a Read/Listen of The Shadow Man by Helen Fields.

Elspeth, Meggy and Xavier are locked in a flat. They don’t know where they are, and they don’t know why they’re there. They only know that the shadow man has taken them, and he won’t let them go.
 
Desperate to escape, the three of them must find a way out of their living hell, even if it means uncovering a very dark truth.
 
Because the shadow man isn’t a nightmare. He’s all too real.
 
And he’s watching.

And oh, Susan, you are going to laugh at this. You know how I have been saying that I have been requesting books and a lot of them I have either heard nothing about, or they have gone to ‘wishlist’? Well I have had an absolute avalanche of approvals this week….seventeen!!!! So here they are:

The Reach by B. Michael Radburn (Taylor Bridges #3), Australian fiction

A Home Like Ours by Fiona Lowe

Lost Souls by Chris Merritt

In Her Tracks (Tracy Crosswhite #8) by Robert Dugoni

The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean

The Receptionist by Kate Myles

The Best of Friends by Alex Day

The Ocean in Winter by Elizabeth de Veer

The Girls from Alexandria by Carol Cooper

The Broken Ones (Detective Gina Harte #8) by Carla Kovach

One Perfect Grave (Nikki Hunt #2) by Stacy Green

The The Ladies Midnight Swimming Club by Faith Hogan

The Perfect Lie by Jo Spain

Dog Rose Dirt by Jen Williams

The Night Gate by Peter May

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

And the audiobook of The Paris Dressmaker by Kristy Cambron

Stay safe, keep calm and read on! I will leave you with photos of Whale Bay and Manu Bay in Raglan, New Zealand.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Please note: this book is nothing to do with the Fifty series…

EXCERPT: They took me in my nightgown.

Thinking back, the signs were there – family photos burned in the fireplace, Mother sewing her best silver and jewellery into the lining of her coat late at night, and Papa not returning from work. My younger brother, Jonas, was asking questions. I asked questions, too, but perhaps I refused to acknowledge the signs. Only later did I realise that Mother and Father intended we escape. We did not escape.

We were taken.

ABOUT ‘BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY’: Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously—and at great risk—documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives.

MY THOUGHTS: I had previously read Salt to the Sea by this author and really enjoyed it. Over Christmas I saw the movie based on this book, Ashes in the Snow, which I enjoyed, and did not know until the end that it was based on Between Shades of Gray. Although I enjoyed the movie, the book is much better. It is far more detailed and I felt more invested in the characters.

Ruta Sepetys writes simply and beautifully about one of the darkest periods in our history. The beautiful writing only serves to intensify the horror of the atrocities that happened, that she describes so clearly and dispassionately, that she brings to life with her prose.

It is impossible not to fall in love with her characters: Lina is a talented artist with a determination and strength of character that astounded me; she protected her younger brother Jonas with all the fierceness of a lioness protecting her cub, a trait I believe she inherited from her mother; Andrius is the boy/man whom Lina loves and another source of her strength.

This is a harrowing story of hardship, loss, torture and cruelty. Yet it is also a story of strength, love and compassion.

Don’t expect any resolution at the end. The book ends rather abruptly (as did the film) leaving the reader to decide their fate.

This is a story that needed to be told, a truth that needs to be heard, an atrocity that must never be repeated.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

“Was it harder to die, or harder to be the one who survived?”

THE AUTHOR: Ruta Sepetys was born and raised in Michigan in a family of artists, readers, and music lovers. The daughter of a refugee, Ruta is drawn to underrepresented stories of strength through struggle and hopes to give voice to those who weren’t able to tell their story.

DISCLOSURE: I borrowed my copy of Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, published by Penguin Books, from Waitomo District Library. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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