The Killer in the Snow by Alex Pine

EXCERPT: There was a set of shoeprints in the otherwise pristine snow, and Robert was sure that they hadn’t been there earlier. They were coming from the road and leading over to the steps on the right side of the house, the ones that descended to the cellar door. And yet there were no prints going in the opposite direction.

It puzzled him because the cellar door was always locked and there was only one set of keys, which hung from a hook in the kitchen. What’s more, Mary rarely ventured down there because she’d convinced herself many years ago that it was haunted.

He tightened his grip on the bag and went to investigate. What he saw made him frown further.

The shoeprints went down the steps and stopped in front of the door, which suggested that whoever had gone in there hadn’t yet come out.

But who could it be?

He was about to go down and check when the sound of raised voices came from inside the house. They were loud enough to cause a blast of alarm to shoot through him.

Instinct told him that whatever was going on in the house had to be more important than what might be happening in the cellar, so he turned sharply on his heels and rushed towards the front door.

Just as he reached it, the shouting was drowned out by a high-pitched scream that sent his pulse racing.

ABOUT ‘THE KILLER IN THE SNOW’: The first fall of snow can be fatal…

A year has passed since DI James Walker cracked his biggest case yet, and he’s hoping for peace and quiet this festive season.

But across the fells, a local farmer returns home on Christmas Eve to find footsteps in the fresh snow that lead down to his unused basement – and no footsteps leading away. Days later, his body is found, alongside those of his wife and daughter.

Without a neighbour for miles, there are no witnesses and little evidence. And the crime scene has strange echoes of another terrible murder committed at the farmhouse, twenty years earlier…

James knows that to catch this killer, he needs to solve a case that has long since gone cold…

MY THOUGHTS: A good plot, but I found the writing style somewhat dry and lacking suspense. While I didn’t struggle to get through my listen/read, neither did I pick it up every chance I got. And that’s always a tell.

It was difficult to feel any connection with the characters. They all felt very formal and stiff, as was the dialogue. Other than DC Jess Abbott and James’ wife Annie, the women in this story are all portrayed as rather weak characters or mentally unbalanced.

I enjoyed the mystery being linked to what had happened on the farm twenty four years earlier, even though it was pretty apparent what had happened. It was the ‘how’ that kept me reading.

Initially there are a handful of suspects for the current killings and I did enjoy the resolution. I just wish that it had been a bit less plodding and a lot more suspenseful. I also think that the inclusion of a gangster ‘out to get James’ was unnecessary and distracted from the main storyline. It just didn’t seem to ‘fit’, and served no useful purpose.

I enjoyed the narration of Sid Sagar, but overall this was only an okay, but totally forgettable read.

⭐⭐.6

#TheKillerintheSnow #NetGalley

I: #alexpineauthor @avonbooksuk @harperaudio

T: #alexpineauthor @BooksAvon @HarperAudio

#audiobook #christmasfiction #contemporaryfiction #crime #domesticdrama #detectivefiction #murdermystery #policeprocedural

THE AUTHOR: Alex Pine was born and raised on a council estate in South London and left school at sixteen. Before long, he embarked on a career in journalism, which took him all over the world – many of the stories he covered were crime-related. Among his favourite hobbies are hiking and water-based activities, so he and his family have spent lots of holidays in the Lake District. He now lives with his wife on a marina close to the New Forest on the South Coast – providing him with the best of both worlds! Alex Pine is the pseudonym of a bestselling author who has also written books under the names Jaime Raven, James Raven and JP Carter.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Avon Books UK for providing the digital ARC, and Harper Collins UK audio for providing the audio ARC of The Killer in the Snow by Alex Pine for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching what I’m reading . . .

It’s probably a bit indulgent of me, but I have lit the fire as it’s a miserable grey, windy day with occasional smatterings of rain. It’s not particularly cold, but looking at the fire makes me feel better.

Currently I am reading The Curse of Morton Abbey by Clarissa Harwood

and A Letter From Nana Rose by Kristen Harper

both of which are due for publication this coming week.

I am listening to The Last Time She Died by Zoë Sharp for which I received both digital and audio ARCs this week.

This week I am planning on reading Survivor’s Guilt by Michael Wood

A TEAM TORN APART

Nine months ago DCI Matilda Darke survived a bullet to the head. The brutal attack claimed dozens of lives, including those she loved most, and the nightmares still plague her every waking thought.

A MEMORY SHE’D RATHER FORGET

Now, she’s ready to get back on the job. But a new terror awaits. A woman is found murdered and her wounds look eerily similar to several cold cases. Desperate to find a lead, DCI Darke and her team must face a terrifying truth: a serial killer is on the loose in Sheffield.

A THREAT CLOSE TO HOME

Matilda has led countless murder investigations before but the lingering emotional scars from her ordeal and the uneasiness within her once-tight team have left tensions high. As the body count rises, Matilda realises that this might just be where it all ends.

And Every Little Lie by Lesley Sanderson

Lie #1 was to my new friends, about why I moved here.
Lie #2 was to my husband, about who I was before I met him.
Lie #3 was to myself, that I would get away with what I’ve done.

When I met Seb, it was like everything fell into place. My daughter Evie finally had a proper dad, and I had found the husband of my dreams – and what Seb didn’t know about my past wouldn’t hurt him.

But lately he’s been acting strangely. He won’t look me in the eye, he keeps coming home late and the other day at the school fair I saw him arguing with an unknown woman – the same woman I’ve seen hanging around outside our house.

And just as I start wondering whether I’m not the only one with a secret, Evie goes missing…

Oh, dear! 15 new ARCs this week! I fell off the wagon big time 😂🤣😂🤣❤📚 and I still have 28 pending requests.

My new ARCs are: Goodbye Again by Mariah Stewart

The New Neighbor by Carter Wilson

Stolen Ones by Angela Marsons, DI Kim Stone #15

Why She Left by Leah Mercer

The Cranberry Inn by Barbara Josselsohn

The Widow by K.L. Slater

Old Sins by Aline Templeton

Backstory by William L. Myers, Jnr

A Cornish Christmas Murder by Fiona Leitch

Such A Good Wife by Seraphina Nova Glass

A Tidy Ending by Joanna Cannon

Her Dying Day by Mindy Carlson

Afraid by Lisa Jackson, Alexandra Ivy, and Lisa Childs

The Secret in the Wall by Ann Parker

And, of course, The Last Time She Died by Zoë Sharp, which I have already started.

Yes, well . . . What can I say?

In the past week I have travelled to: Tinworthy, Cornwall; Edinburgh, Scotland; Derbyshire, England; New York City; and New Ross, Ireland.

We are still in lockdown, so this last week was the first time in I don’t know how long that I was able to read and review all the books on my list for the week!

It doesn’t look like it is going to end any time soon, so I plan on making the most of it. I still pop into work every second day just to check the chiller temperatures and make sure everything is secure. My home office is almost ready to have the carpet laid, we’re just waiting on a new piece of skirting board to be fitted and painted. Then I plan to paint my library nook. The ceiling will need some work as there are quite a few little holes in it, almost like someone has repeatedly pushed a pool cue into it.

A little later this afternoon I will videocall my son and grandson, whom I had been planning on seeing on Tuesday when I was going to Hamilton to have my hair done. But, of course, that’s not going to happen. I will also call my youngest son in Australia and have a chat with him. I called my older brother in Sydney, Australia during the week as it was his birthday. They have recently come out of lockdown, and he is enjoying being able to get out and about again.

Have a wonderful week everyone. Stay safe and read on.❤📚

A Body at the Tea Rooms

By Dee MacDonald

EXCERPT: In the medical centre Kate went about her duties, without comment, as all around everyone voiced their theories about Locker Man’s identity. News traveled fast in a small place like this.

‘Your sister must have got the shock of her life when she found that body,’ Sue said, with a delighted shiver, as she and Kate stood chatting to Denise at the reception desk later.

‘Yes, she did,’ Kate agreed.

‘But how come Polly Lock never found it then?’ Denise asked. ‘She must have had that place a good ten years. And Larry had it before that. It’s funny that Angie was the one to find it…’

Kate was aware that Angie could be a suspect in the minds of the villagers who had no idea how old the body was. After all, she was a newcomer to the village and not everyone knew her very well.

ABOUT ‘A BODY AT THE TEA ROOMS’: Meet Kate Palmer! A semi-retired nurse with a sweet tooth for cake and a talent for solving crimes.

Kate Palmer is most disappointed when renovations at her sister Angie’s new tea rooms are derailed after a body is discovered in the cellar. She was looking forward to clotted cream teas with a seaside view. Instead she has another murder mystery to solve…

If the village gossip is to be believed, the unfortunate man was connected to the wealthy Hedgefield family. Kate is reluctant to get caught up in the investigation but a curious card in the victim’s jacket pocket sparks her interest. Not to mention the ridiculous rumour Angie is somehow involved! Keen to clear her sister’s name so she can finally eat cake in the charming tea rooms, Kate teams up with handsome retired Detective ‘Woody’ Forrest to untangle the baffling case.

After quizzing the locals over copious cups of tea, Kate begins to realise the Hedgefields, who live in a grand mansion and own half the village, are not as perfect as they make out. They’re hiding a long-buried family secret and plenty of people have a grudge against them, including a number of their ex-employees.

But who could have murdered a member of Lower Tinworthy’s most enviable family? Was it the old gardener? The seemingly sweet cook? Or the bitter maid?

Just as she inches closer to the truth, Angie goes missing. Does amateur sleuth Kate have what it takes to get to the bottom of this extraordinary puzzle and save her sister at the same time?

MY THOUGHTS: A Body at the Tea Rooms is the first book I have read by Dee MacDonald, but it’s not the last. I enjoyed this so much I have already begun the next in this series, A Body at the Altar.

I am really enjoying reading books about older characters, and by older I mean not in their first flush of youth, who still have a zest for life and a penchant for ‘sticking their noses in’. Kate Palmer is a fifty-nine year old semi-retired nurse, dubbed ‘Cornwall’s Miss Marple’ after she has become involved in solving a series of murders. Her partner is Abraham Lincoln Forrest, mostly known as ‘Woody’ except when Kate is trying to make a point, a retired detective. Kate and her sixty-one year old sister Angie live in Lavender Cottage, a property they purchased together. Angie has been what is known as ‘a free spirit’, but seems to be setting down and is working on opening a café/bistro with Fergus, an Irishman she has become attached to.

It’s in the cellar of the old building that Angie is renovating that a body is discovered, and Kate decides to get involved in the investigation as some of the locals are blaming Angie. No one knows whose the body is, but a DNA test provides some interesting information.

I love both the characters and the plot development in A Body at the Tea Rooms. Kate and Woody have an interesting relationship. While Woody is rather proud of Kate’s investigative prowess, he is also concerned about the danger she puts herself in and from time to time tries, unsuccessfully, to rein in her endeavours and this does lead
to the occasional discord between them. I love Kate’s thought processes, her penchant for making lists, and the numerous questions she inevitably comes up with. She and Angie row quite often, but love each other fiercely.

Although I guessed most of the twists and the eventual outcome by playing ‘if I were the author, what would I plot?’, I absolutely loved A Body at the Tea Rooms. It was great fun solving the murder, and I am enjoying getting to know the many and varied residents of Tinworthy who will, no doubt, appear in other stories to come.

Although A Body at the Tea Rooms is #3 in the Kate Palmer series, it is easily read as a stand-alone. Personally, I intend to get my hands on #s 1 and 2 in the series so I can discover how Kate and Woody meet and begin their relationship.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.4

#ABodyattheTeaRooms #NetGalley

I: #deemacdonald @bookouture

T: @DMacDonaldAuth @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama #murdermystery

THE AUTHOR: Dee MacDonald wrote her very first book – at around seven years of age! This was a love story which she duly illustrated before sewing all the pages together up one side. Writing was what she ‘was good at’ in school and she won several essay competitions, but then life got in the way and she didn’t pick up a pen again until after retirement.

Dee left Scotland and headed for London at the beginning of the swinging sixties. After typing her way round the West End she became an air stewardess on long haul routes with BA (then BOAC) for eight years. After that she did market research at Heathrow for both the government statistics and for BA, she became a sales rep and was the receptionist at the Thames Television Studios in Teddington when they had the franchise.

She then ran a small B&B for ten years in Cornwall, where she lives with her husband. Dee has one son and two grandsons who live locally.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Body at the Tea Rooms 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

A Surprise for Christmas and Other Seasonal Mysteries

EXCERPT: ‘After all,’ said our host, ‘it’s Christmas. Why not let the skeleton out of the bag?’

‘Or the cat out of the closet?’ said the historian, who likes to be precise even about clichés. ‘Are you serious?’

‘Yes,’ said our host. ‘I want to know if it’s safe for anyone to sleep in that little room at the head of the stairs.’

He had just bought the place. This party was in the nature of a house warming; and I had already decided privately that the place needed one. It was a long damp, high-windowed house, hidden behind a high hill in Sussex. The drawing-room, where a group of us had gathered around the fire after dinner, was much too long and much too draughty. It had fine panelling – a rich brown where the firelight was always finding new gleams – and a hundred little reflections trembled down it’s length, as in so many small gloomy mirrors. But it remained draughty.

Of course, we all liked the house. It had the most modern of lighting and heating arrangements, though the plumbing sent ghostly noises and clanks far down into the interior whenever you turned on a tap. But the smell of the past was in it; and you could not get over the idea that somebody was following you about. Now, at the host’s flat mention of a certain possibility, we all looked at our wives.

‘But you never told us,’ said the historian’s wife, rather shocked, ‘you never told us you had a ghost here!’

‘I don’t know that I have,’ replied our host quite seriously. ‘All I have is a bundle of evidence about something queer that once happened. It’s all right; I haven’t put anyone in that little room at the head of the stairs. So we can drop the discussion, if you’d rather.’

‘You know we can’t,’ said the Inspector: who, as a matter of strict fact, is an Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. He smoked a large cigar, and contemplated ghosts with satisfaction. ‘This is exactly the time and place to hear about it. What is it?’ – Taken from Persons or Things Unknown by Carter Dickson.

ABOUT ‘A SURPRISE FOR CHRISTMAS’: Two dead bodies and a Christmas stocking weaponised. A Postman murdered delivering cards on Christmas morning. A Christmas tree growing over a forgotten homicide. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, except for the victims of these shocking and often elaborate murders. When there’s magic in the air, sometimes even the facts don’t quite add up and the impossible can happen — and it’s up to the detective’s trained eye to unwrap the clues and put together an explanation neatly tied up with a bow. Martin Edwards compiles an anthology filled with tales of seasonal suspense where the snow runs red, perfect to be shared between super-sleuths by the fire on a cold winter’s night.

MY THOUGHTS: This is one of the better collections of short stories that I have read in some time. All are set at Christmas, although Santa only features in one story.

The stories range from extremely short and pithy, to very long and rambling.

I was not particularly impressed by the first two stories, but once I got past them, there were several in a row that I absolutely adored. Overall this is an excellent collection. I have read stories by some of the authors before, other authors were new to me, as were all the stories.

Below is my rating for each story:

1. The Black Bag Left on a Doorstep by Catherine Louisa Pirkis ⭐⭐⭐

2. The Hole in the Wall by G.K. Chesterton ⭐⭐.5

3. Death on the Air by Ngaio Marsh ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

4. Persons or Things Unknown by Carter Dickson ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

5. Dead Man’s Hand by E.R. Punshon ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

6. The Christmas Eve Ghost by Ernest Dudley ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

7. Dick Whittington’s Cat by Victor Canning ⭐⭐⭐⭐

8. A Surprise for Christmas by Cyril Hare ⭐⭐⭐⭐

9. On A Christmas Day in the Morning by Margery Allingham ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

10. Give Me A Ring by Anthony Gilbert ⭐⭐⭐

11. Father Christmas Comes to Orbins by Julian Symons ⭐⭐⭐.5

12. The Turn-Again Bell by Barry Perowne ⭐⭐⭐⭐

My absolute favourite was the Ngaio Marsh story featuring Inspector Roderick Allyen, followed by the Margery Allingham story, On Christmas Day in the Morning.

If you are looking for a Christmas treat to dip into over the festive season, this is it, or it would make a wonderful gift for the mystery lover in your life.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#ASurpriseforChristmasandOtherSeasonalMysteries #NetGalley

I: @medwardsbooks @poisonedpenpress

T: @medwardsbooks @PPPress

#christmasfiction #cosymystery #crime #detectivefiction #historicalfiction #murdermystery #mystery #shortstories

THE AUTHOR: Kenneth Martin Edwards is a British crime novelist, whose work has won awards in the UK and the United States. As a crime fiction critic and historian, and also in his career as a solicitor, he has written non-fiction books and many articles.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Poisoned Pen Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of A Surprise for Christmas and Other Seasonal Mysteries compiled by Martin Edwards 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, one week down the track and we are still in lockdown. Our 75th Jubilee has been cancelled, and we are waiting to hear tomorrow whether or not we will remain in lockdown. I am not hopeful that we will be coming out any time soon. Still I am enjoying the break and getting caught up on lots of little jobs around the house and garden. On nice days my neighbour and I sit outside on our respective sides of the fence and have coffee and chat.

I bumped into Allison from the library book group in the pharmacy in town yesterday and she said the thing that she misses most is human contact; actually being able to touch someone. She is in her eighties, lives alone and has no family close by. We ended up crossing the street to sit at either end of a park bench in the sun and talking for quite some time. So I hope that, for her sake and the sakes of everyone else in the same position, that we will soon be allowed to move around a little more freely. Though having just glanced at today’s figures, it’s not looking all that likely.

Currently I am reading Oh William by Elizabeth Strout. I love her writing; reading Strout is like sitting down having a ‘remember when’ conversation with a friend.

The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas, which is set in an old mental asylum – although they were called lunatic asylums in 1903 which is one of the two time periods in the book. The other is 1993 when it is a boys school.

I am listening to The Killer in the Snow by Alex Pine which is certainly an interesting murder-mystery/police procedural.

This week I plan to read A Body at the Altar by Dee MacDonald

Jilted grooms, sudden deaths, broken hearts and threatening letters. All in a day’s work for super sleuth Kate Palmer!

Nurse Kate Palmer thought the pretty Cornish village of Tinworthy would be the perfect place for a peaceful retirement. She couldn’t have been more wrong! But even she is shocked when she attends a beautiful wedding at St. Pirin’s Church and the handsome groom drops dead in front of her very eyes.

While the rest of the wedding party panics, Kate notices the strange behaviour of the not-so-blushing bride and the posh mother-in-law – and vows to find out the truth behind the poor young man’s sudden demise. Especially when the new detective Charlotte Martin makes it known that she doesn’t want Kate involved – and also shows an interest in Woody Forrest, Kate’s partner in crime-solving.

Undeterred, Kate discovers this isn’t the only wedding to have been sabotaged. A series of peculiar letters contain the clues Kate needs to get to the heart of the matter. But is the mystery letter writer behind the unusual deaths? Or is more than one person responsible for the strange goings on in the seaside village…

As Kate digs deeper, she adds more suspects to her growing list: the world-weary vicar, the unlucky-in-love cleaner and the bride’s former flame. But, as a pair of boots bring Kate closer to the killer, it becomes clear their investigation has placed Woody in danger.

Can Kate solve the murder and save the man she loves at the same time?

The Geometry of Holding Hands by Alexander McCall Smith

Isabel finds herself entangled in some tricky familial and financial situations that will require all of her kindness, charm, and philosophical expertise to navigate.

Just when Isabel and Jamie finally seem to have some time to connect and unwind, a wealthy Edinburgh resident reaches out to Isabel with an unusual request–he would like her to become the executor of his large Highland estate. Though Isabel initially demurs, he presses on. He has only a short time to live, and, without any direct heirs, is struggling to determine which of his three cousins would be the best caretaker. Should it go to the bohemian artist, the savvy city property developer, or the quiet, unassuming bachelor?

As if this weren’t enough to keep Isabel occupied, she’s also spending more time helping her niece Cat at the deli. Cat, perennially unlucky in love, seems to have finally found her match in the leonine Leo. But Isabel is beginning to suspect that Leo might be interested in more than Cat’s charms, namely her access to the family trust. Isabel will need to rely upon remarkable reserves of intelligence and compassion in order to give all parties exactly what they want and deserve–no more, and no less. 

And I have made up for the excesses of the previous few weeks with only one new ARC this week:

The Life She Wants by Mel Sherratt

I still have 27 requests pending, though there are quite a few that have already been published so I presume that I will never see them. I do wish that the publishers would hit the ‘decline’ button though, and remove them from my pending list.

In the past week I have been to Sydney, Australia; Glasgow, Scotland; Sweden; various locations in England in the mid-1900s; and Exeter, England. Have we crossed paths anywhere?

Safe travels and happy reading. ❤📚

The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou

EXCERPT: Heavy footsteps were soon around her ears, hands on her hair pulling backwards, dragging her limp body further east. They were leaving the oval, heading for the copse of gum trees behind the scoreboard. Dry sheets of sharp bark clawed at her skin, leaving dark red whiplashes across her milky white back. The next sound was of her spine crunching against one of the thick trunks as she was moved into position and fixed with a thick roll of gaffer tape around her shoulders, breasts, torso, thighs, ankles.

She was left there for some time – several minutes. Ample opportunity for her to be found had it not been such a late hour or desolate part of town. She hung there, strung like a puppet. Something began to crawl up her leg.

ABOUT ‘THE STONING’: A small town in outback Australia wakes to a crime of medieval savagery.

A local schoolteacher is found taped to a tree and stoned to death. Suspicion instantly falls on the refugees at the new detention centre on Cobb’s northern outskirts. Tensions are high, between whites and the local indigenous community, between immigrants and the townies.

Still mourning the recent death of his father, Detective Sergeant George Manolis returns to his childhood hometown to investigate. Within minutes of his arrival, it’s clear that Cobb is not the same place he left. Once it thrived, but now it’s a poor and derelict dusthole, with the local police chief it deserves. And as Manolis negotiates his new colleagues’ antagonism, and the simmering anger of a community destroyed by alcohol and drugs, the ghosts of his past begin to flicker to life.

MY THOUGHTS: Set in the fictional town of Cobb, somewhere in outback Australia, The Stoning is a richly atmospheric story of the brutal stoning to death of a young woman, a much loved and admired teacher in the community.

DS Georgios Manolis is sent out from ‘the city’ to oversee the investigation, the local police force of three being largely inept and mostly drunk, with the exception of Kate Kerr, the only female on the force. Even she carries a baseball bat in the boot of her car to ward off unwanted attention and even she, initially, resents Manolis’ intrusion.

Manolis, a man used to doing things by the book and following procedures, struggles with policing in this small town where there’s no chain of command and no recognition given to the need to preserve the scene of the crime or establish a chain of evidence.

The people are a mystery to him. Angry, resentful and bigoted, they seem content to blame Molly’s death on the inmates of the local refugee detention centre. After all, it’s their sort of crime. But for Manolis, there’s a few things that just don’t seem to add up.

As much as I loved this story, there were a few things that didn’t add up for me either. Molly must have had some friends amongst the townspeople. No mention is made of them, the question is never asked, and thus no one, other than the principal of the school where she worked, is interviewed about her.

Small towns like this thrive on gossip. That is never tapped. And believe me, the men gossip just as much as the women. Georgios could have done with spending a bit more time on a bar stool in the top pub, shouting a few rounds, with his ears open.

And speaking of women, where are they? Other than the dead Molly, Kate the copper, Ida the old gin soak and newspaper thief who found Molly’s body, and Vera from the holiday park, there are no women!

I would also have liked a better sense of place. Beyond the fact that we’re in the Australian outback, which is two-thirds of Australia, a bloody big place, we have no idea where we are.

But, beyond that, the writing is superb. Manolis portrays an impoverished and dying town, badly impacted by the detention centre meant to bring jobs and prosperity to the area, but which has instead brought crime and drugs and hostility.

I loved the underlying thread of Manolis’ family background that runs through this story. In the course of the investigation into Molly’s death, he learns more about his own family, and clears up a mystery from his childhood.

The ending to The Stoning was unexpected, but strangely satisfying.

I believe this to be the first in a series featuring Georgios Manolis. I will definitely be in line for the next.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#TheStoning #NetGalley

I: @petepapathanasiou @quercusbooks

T: @peteplastic @QuercusBooks

#australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #murdermystery #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Peter Papathanasiou was born in northern Greece in 1974 and adopted as a baby to an Australian family. His debut book, a memoir, was published in 2019 as “Son of Mine” by Salt Publishing (UK) and “Little One” by Allen & Unwin (Australia). His debut novel, a work of crime fiction, was published in 2021 as “The Stoning” by MacLehose Press (UK) and Transit Lounge (Australia), and in 2022 by Polar Verlag (Germany). Peter’s writing has otherwise been published by The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, The Seattle Times, The Guardian UK, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Good Weekend, ABC and SBS. He holds a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from City, University of London; a Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Sciences from The Australian National University (ANU); and a Bachelor of Laws from ANU specialising in criminal law. (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: Thanks to Quercus Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Stoning 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

1979 (Allie Burns #1) by Val McDermid

EXCERPT: Muttering a prayer to the God she didn’t believe in, Allie slid her fingers through the letterbox and groped for the string. At first, she couldn’t feel it but when she slid her hand to one end, her fingertips brushed the nub end of the knot. She struggled to grasp the string, realising it was snagged around something on the inside. She feared it had been tied but at last she worked it loose and pulled the key through.

Sweating now, she let herself in. Hopefully the neighbours hadn’t heard her. She wasn’t planning on being there long, but she would still prefer the police to be unaware of her visit. Allie headed for the kitchen. She knew that’s where she’d find what she was looking for.

There on the wall above the table in the bed recess was a family photograph. Danny, his parents and his brother Joseph. The man most likely to have a flash car with Paragon folders on the front seat. Allie reached up and lifted it from the hook. She was about to put it in her bag when she heard a sound that turned her guts to water.

The front door that she’d carefully locked behind her was opening.

ABOUT ‘1979’: Hailed as Britain’s Queen of Crime, Val McDermid’s award-winning, internationally bestselling novels have captivated readers for more than thirty years. Now, in 1979, she returns to the past with the story of Allie Burns, an investigative journalist whose stories lead her into world a corruption, terror, and murder.

The year started badly and only got worse–blizzards, strikes, power cuts, and political unrest were the norm. For journalist Allie Burns, however, someone else’s bad news was the unmistakable sound of opportunity knocking, and the year is ripe with possibilities. But Allie is a woman in a man’s world. Desperate to get away from the “women’s stories” the Glasgow desk keeps assigning her, she strikes up an alliance with wannabe investigative journalist Danny Sullivan. From the start, their stories create enemies. First an international tax fraud, then a potential Scottish terrorist group aiming to cause mayhem ahead of the impending devolution referendum. And then Danny is found murdered in his flat. For Allie, investigative journalism just got personal.

MY THOUGHTS: McDermid writes great crime fiction and 1979 is an excellent start to what promises to be a great new series.

While not as graphic nor dark as some of Mcdermid’s work, 1979 is a compelling look at a time in the not so distant past, but a time that was very different to today. Women were still very much second class citizens, struggling to make their way in a man’s world. There are no computers, no mobile phones.

Allie has ambition. And talent. So when an opportunity arises to collaborate on a story that doesn’t involve items for the women’s desk, she jumps at the chance. Then, knowing that a reporter’s reputation is only as good as her last story, she embarks on a dangerous exposé.

Allie is a wonderful character, determined, bright and dedicated, and her growth as a person in 1979 is phenomenal as we see her confidence in her own ability increase, along with others respect for her.

Mcdermid’s writing is, as always, excellent. Her characters are humanly flawed and relatable, the plot superbly crafted. I can always ‘hear’ her characters as I read, and 1979 was no exception.

It is going to be exciting to see where McDermid is going to take Allie’s character in the future. I will be at the front of the line waiting to find out.

In her acknowledgements, McDermid pays tribute to the booksellers, who she describes as having been ‘heroic’ and ‘innovative’ over the past year (2020/2021).

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#1979 #NetGalley

I: #valmcdermid @groveatlantic

T: @valmcdermid @groveatlantic

#crime #historicalfiction #murdermystery #series #thriller

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

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Grove Atlantic via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of 1979 by Val McDermid for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Bad Apples by Will Dean

EXCERPT: An arm catches around my neck. I fall.

A body on top of me. Heavy. Smells of waxed jacket. A forearm to my face.

‘Get off me!’

‘Please,’ she says.

I roll away and she is staring at me, her eyes bulging and red, her fingers bloody.

‘Please.’

‘Who are you?’ I ask, the fog managing to drift between us, her face breaking up behind the static.

She gets to her knees and stands and I see her jeans are red. Stained. Splattered.

I pull my knife from my bag and she says, ‘No’ and puts her palms to her face, and she says, ‘No, no, no.’

I take a deep breath of forest air, dense with spores and rotten leaves. It’s thick autumn air laced with the tang of rot and decay.

‘Over there,’ she says, pointing into the mists.

I swallow hard and stand up and move to where she’s pointing. A fallen pine, its root system flat and sprawling like a metro map. A dash of colour behind. A coat? I clamber over the pine, its rough bark scratching at my trousers like the nails of a grasping hand.

Two boots.

And two legs.

‘Dead,’ she says.

ABOUT ‘BAD APPLES’: It only takes one…

A murder

A resident of small-town Visberg is found decapitated

A festival

A cultish hilltop community ‘celebrates’ Pan Night after the apple harvest

A race against time

As Visberg closes ranks to keep its deadly secrets, there could not be a worse time for Tuva Moodyson to arrive as deputy editor of the local newspaper. Powerful forces are at play and no one dares speak out. But Tuva senses the story of her career, unaware that perhaps she is the story…

MY THOUGHTS: Dark. Intense. Spine chilling. Unsettling. Gory. Almost nightmarish. And set at Halloween.

I read Bad Apples, my first book by Will Dean, with a kind of fascinated horror. I was constantly on edge, at times not daring to breathe as I read.

The setting is the fictional towns of Gavrik and Visberg, a few hours north of Karlstad, a real city, in Sweden. Surrounded by the Utgard Forest, the winters are cold and dark, the animals wild, the towns sparse, insular, and isolated. Even the difference in the inhabitants of Gavrik and the even more isolated Visberg is noticeable.

The characters are outstanding and many exude an air of mystery and menace. There is a pair of elderly sisters who carve trolls, adorning them with animal parts; a clock maker with a macabre basement museum; a mother and son who run a strange storage facility; a Bosnian pizzeria owner reputed to be a war criminal; and twins who run an eerie 24 hour gaming parlour. There are many more characters who range from eccentric to downright scary, so there’s no shortage of suspects, and there’s plenty of red herrings to exercise those little grey cells.

But there are tender moments too, such as with Danny, the delightful and lovable small child of the warring couple who live next door to Tuva. There is definitely something about this couple, and I am sure that they will feature more in future books.

While Dean may lack the finesse of Mr King, he still knows how to create an atmosphere.

I haven’t read any of the previous books in this series, but that is something I intend to remedy. I didn’t have any problem with continuity, and Bad Apples is easily read as a stand-alone.

Bad Apples ends on a cliffhanger, but I am sure that there is more to come.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.3

#BadApples #NetGalley

I: @willrdean @oneworldpublications

T: @willrdean @OneworldNews

#contemporaryfiction #crime #murdermystery #thriller

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

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Oneworld Publications, Point Blank, for providing a digital ARC of Bad Apples by Will Dean for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

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

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

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

I am currently reading a very atmospheric piece of Australian fiction, The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou. I keep expecting my furniture to be covered in a fine layer of red dust whenever I surface from this read.

I am listening to Trick or Treat by Katerina Diamond, which I have only just started, and which received this week.

This week I am planning on making a start on my Christmas reads, with A Lighthouse Christmas by Jenny Hale. I have heard such wonderful things about this author and am looking forward to reading this.

When her beloved grandmother passes away, Mia Broadhurst returns to the snow-covered seaside village of Winsted Cape, where Grandma Ruth ran the lighthouse overlooking the golden beach.

This will be Mia’s first Christmas without her, and she can’t bear to part with the lighthouse that has been in their family for generations. As she steps into it, childhood memories rush back to her. She can almost hear them playing tag on the steps… But her life is back in New York, dedicated to a busy PR firm, and she has no choice but to sell.

With the snow falling, turning the grounds into a winter wonderland, Mia works with real estate agent Will Thacker. As they restore the historical building, she tries not notice how handsome he is. After all, she’s only home for Christmas… And Will’s deep blue eyes, as stormy as the Atlantic Ocean, tells her he has his own heartbreak to contend with.

Warmed by a crackling fire, Mia packs up Grandma Ruth’s belongings with the help of her mother and sister. But waiting for them is a black-and-white photograph with a faded inscription. The mysterious message is the key to a family secret that has been hidden for decades––one that changes everything.

When Mia finds out the truth, will it save the precious lighthouse and show Mia where her heart belongs? Or will it tear her from Winsted Cape––and Will––for ever?

And The Mother’s Fault by Nicole Trope, an author I always enjoy.

I am cooking spaghetti, his favourite, while he plays in the garden. But when I look up, he’s gone. I call the police, my hands shaking so much that I hit the wrong digits twice. ‘My son is missing.’

When the police turn up, I’m trapped in the web of my lies.

I have hidden the truth from eight-year-old Riley, my little boy who loves climbing trees and always has scraped knees. I have hidden my secret from everyone.

Riley knows his father is dead but he has no idea why. He doesn’t know his dad’s real name, and there are no pictures in the house. Not a single person knows what happened eight years ago.

I love my son more than anything but the truth is, I have always feared for him. When the first gift arrived in our mailbox, wrapped in blue paper with silver stars, I realised I was right to be afraid.

Now, I can see the question in the detectives’ eyes. Am I a mother with a missing child or a mother with a lot to hide? I need them to save my son – but how much can I tell them without losing him forever? 

I have 9 new ARCs this week, two of them audiobooks, one of which, Trick or Treat, I have started listening to. I still have 31 requests pending.

My new ARCs are: The Maid by Nita Prose

The Heretic by Liam McIlvanney

A Surprise for Christmas and Other Seasonal Mysteries edited by Martin Edwards

The Silent Conversation by Caro Ramsay which, when I requested it, I was unaware was #13 in a series!

A Body at the Altar by Dee MacDonald. I also have the previous book in this series, A Body at the Tea Rooms to catch up on.

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

Put Out to Pasture by Amanda Flower

and the audiobook Touching Strangers by Stacey Madden

Thank you to all my enabler friends who provided fodder for my book list this week. You know who you are. ❤📚

My posting has been a bit irregular this week for a number of reasons starting with the brutal, senseless and cowardly murder of one of my husband’s workmates last weekend while we were away. Antz was an all round good guy and father of six who will be greatly missed. We are grateful that two suspects have been apprehended.

I have also been helping to care for a friend who started chemotherapy this week and who has had a very violent reaction to it.

And we went back into lockdown at midnight on Thursday night. So Friday was spent going through all the lockdown procedures as we have no idea how long this will be for. It doesn’t affect the whole of New Zealand, just from the middle of the North Island, north. Case numbers are continuing to rise daily with an alarming number not connected to current cases. We had our Club’s 75th Jubilee scheduled for the last weekend this month and, depending on the news tomorrow afternoon, are probably going to have to postpone it again. We were meant to have it last year, but the same thing happened. Maybe we should just wait for the 80th now!

I had planned to go to visit my son and grandson this past week, but they went into lockdown a week ahead of us, so I am having to make do with videocalls. Aren’t we lucky to have this technology available to us. I also had a long videocall with my son in Western Australia earlier today. It was lovely to be able to see and talk to him.

So that was my week. I didn’t get all the reading done that I had planned, but that’s life and I am grateful that I and all my loved ones are safe. I hope your week wasn’t as eventful as mine.

Happy reading all. ❤📚

Brutal Crimes by Michael Hambling

EXCERPT: They watched as the pumps started up. The plastic pipes jerked like injured snakes as water began to move through them on its short journey to the next pool, hidden from view some four hundred yards away. At first it was difficult to believe anything was happening, other than the discordant sound of the generators. It was ten minutes before Sophie could spot any sign of a drop in the water level. She walked away to make a quick phone call to Matt Silver, her boss at headquarters. He’d been less than pleased about the cost of the operation and was obviously still jittery about it. By the time Sophie returned, the level had dropped a foot. As time slowly wore on, a few scattered bits of junk started to appear, dripping with muddy liquid. Some were unrecognisable, thickly coated in an orange-brown layer of muck. Bits of piping, tin buckets and an old set of bed springs. Sophie looked at Greg and shrugged.

By mid-morning the pool had shrunk to half its original volume and more objects were beginning to appear, all coated in slime. It looked like something from a ghastly horror movie or art tableau. The macabre scene wasn’t helped by the stink of decay. Several suspiciously lumpy shapes appeared, impossible to identify from the bank. All were coated in a brown slimy ooze.

‘I don’t like the look of them,’ Sophie said to Barry and Rae, both of whom had just arrived from the incident room.

The onlookers ranged around the rim of the pit watched in silence as the water level fell to a few inches and more grotesque shapes appeared in the sticky ooze. Greg Buller gave a thumbs up and several of his team, clad in chest high waders, moved into the remaining puddles, each roped for safety to a colleague on the bank above. They carried hoses and sprayed water over the lumpy shapes as they advanced, revealing their original form. An ancient bicycle. Several half-rotted tree stumps. A couple of sheets of corrugated iron. An old mattress near to another set of bedsprings. A hose was played onto a lumpy shape that could have been another tree trunk. It wasn’t.

ABOUT ‘BRUTAL CRIMES’: Ten-year-old Amy Birkbeck is checking her bat boxes late one cold January evening in the woods by her house.

She witnesses something no child should ever see — a group of men rolling a body into the deep pool of the disused old clay pit.

Meanwhile, DCI Sophie Allen’s team is falling apart.

Local officer — and suspected bent copper — DS Stu Blackman is missing.

And new recruit, DC Tommy Carter, is knocked off his bike in a serious hit and run.

Then a second body is found in the disused clay pit. And it seems the dead man is connected to a suspected arms dealer . . .

There are dangerous goings-on in Detective Allen’s quiet patch of Dorset, and she doesn’t know who to trust.

MY THOUGHTS: Although I didn’t enjoy Brutal Crimes as much as I did other books in this series, it is still a good read.

I loved the character of Amy Birbeck – she is an incredibly resilient and resourceful child – and she was definitely the shining star of this story.

There’s a lot going on to keep Sophie and her team occupied – a missing child, and two missing policemen to start with – and the situation just gets worse from there. But for some reason, this read just didn’t flow as easily for me as previous books in this series have.

One reason I enjoy Sophie’s character is that she is strong female lead detective who isn’t carrying loads of baggage and who lives a relatively normal life. A female Alan Banks. DCI Sophie Allen is happily married to the father of her two adult daughters. She has a great relationship with both her daughters and with her mother, who’s quite a colorful character. She works well with her team. A nice woman who gets the job done. A breath of fresh air!

One of the downfalls of Brutal Crimes is I missed the insights into Sophie’s personal life. She has a delightful family and we see nothing of them in Brutal Crimes.

A good solid addition to, but definitely not the best book in this series.

⭐⭐⭐.6

#BrtalCrimes #NetGalley

I: @joffebooks

T: @JoffeBooks

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #policeprocedural

THE AUTHOR: The mystery writer Michael Hambling is a novelist very much one of his background, hailing from Dorset in the United Kingdom. Writing with a definite British set of sensibilities, he manages to convey a different style of writing through his books, which is why so many have taken to his work. Using his British surroundings as the backdrop for most of his works, he creates mysteries that really keep his readers guessing constantly throughout.

Michael Hambling is not a social media user.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Joffe Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Brutal Crimes by Michael Hambling 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